Banks, part 1
Federal agents trooped into Miami's CSI unit, going upstairs silently with their backpacks and notebooks. The lead one signed them in and presented a list to the receptionist then took the last elevator up. They were all waiting for him and Horatio was in their way. He pulled out a paper. "We were told you were needed on a federal level case so therefore we were going to be able to give our interns their field training here and New York," he announced.
"Interesting. I hadn't heard about this." He looked the paper over and groaned. It stated his whole lab, Eric, Ryan, everyone, was coming with them. "When did this come across?"
"Last night, sir. Some small part of Interpol needed the help with some international thefts and murders. Yours and New York's labs were both recommended and accepted."
Horatio knew then who had set it up. He would be killing Alex Dumass. "At least one of my staff will probably be staying and most of them are out on crime scenes."
"If that's what you want."
"His sister's ill."
"That's also fine. I've run the FBI lab's intern program now for ten years after eight in the field." He presented his credentials. "When you get back, we'd be more appreciative of you doing case reviews to see who has the better skills."
"If we can. Let me get my team together. It'll be this afternoon. That'll give them a day to get you up to speed." That got a nod. "Wait here and I'll get someone to take you on the tour."
"We've got maps, Lieutenant," one female said, her hair in a severe bun. "We don't want to overtax your staff."
"That's nice but I'd feel better if you took the tour." He went to call in one of his own trainees, telling them what was going on and what they were to do. They hurried off to do that while he called everyone on a conference call. "Get back here as soon as you can. We're being released from the lab for a federal level assignment. There's an internship class here from the FBI who're going to be you for the week."
"Can't," Eric told him.
"I've already told him you'd be here, Eric."
"Thanks. Do they have a babysitter?"
"They have their internship director with them. There's ten of them. Today they're taking the tour and all that. Tomorrow they do it on their own. They have asked for us to do a case review when we get back."
"I'll look over their shoulders," Eric agreed. "Be back there soon, H." He hung up.
"Alex is so dead when I find him," Speed offered. The others made agreeing noises. "All of us?"
"All of you, including Ryan."
"Yipee," Ryan said blandly, getting a laugh from Calleigh. "We'll be done soon." He hung up.
"Alexx just came to gather our bodies," Calleigh agreed. "Tell them we'll brief them when we get in."
"Agreed." He hung up while Speed was still muttering. He went to find the director. "Your team will be taking over current cases since we'll be leaving tomorrow."
"Of course. Do you think pairs would be needed or just a single CSI."
"Pairs. There's three crime scenes. That leaves you people open."
"Yes, sir." He smiled. "Thank you for not fighting. They really don't understand more than the lab at this point. They're all eager and uptight. The only one who's got an experience is Reeds. She's the one with the bun and the map. She transferred from the medical research field. She wants to move to our Seattle office."
"That's fine. My staff will be back soon. We'll introduce you to everyone today and let my team brief you and see what they can get done today." That got nods. He walked off again, going to mentally curse at Alex. And to call Mac in case he hadn't been ambushed yet.
Mac walked in and found a lot of people with coats that said 'FBI Intern' on the back. "What is going on?" he demanded loudly.
"They're taking over our labs while we're out helping on a federal and Interpol investigation," Stella offered from her lab. "They were waiting on us and went out on our cases with us already. Danny's got two shadows. Hawkes has one. I have two. Lindsey's got one." She came out to look at him. "So far they're okay. They've done the work without complaint. They've got a director over them. Whoever we leave can watch them." Mac groaned. "It's all right so far."
"Alex," he muttered.
"Apparently he was serious about needing us, Mac. It's got to be a bad thing." Mac groaned and went into his office, finding it holding someone who was chewing someone a new one.
"Sorry, sir." She glared at the young man and he hung his head and left. "Playing in the labs." She smiled and shook Mac's hand. "Special Agent Diedre McPherson."
"Detective Mac Taylor. What is going on?"
"We're the other half of the internship class for the FBI's labs. Since yours and Miami's labs were requested to help with an Interpol case and would probably not be able to attend your duties here for a few days we brought the interns up so they could get their field time in. This way we don't have to farm them out to sub-labs and listen to them whine about not getting into the field. We managed to get here in time this morning to go out on morning calls with your staff. We'll take over for the staff that will be leaving and your remaining staff can yell at them all they want to get them into shape. I'll be watching over their shoulder. I run the LA lab." He nodded once at that. "Have for six years now."
"Okay. Will this be overloading my people?"
"No, sir. Because if they pull shit my foot goes up their asses. Like the one that was telling dirty jokes." She moved closer. "Really, this is better for them. When we ship them to the our sub-labs for field time, they usually only get handed cold cases and old files to look over. This way they're actually doing the work. It'll allow us to separate the field techs from the lab techs. It also gives my kids the chance to see some of the better CSIs in the country at work. That way they've got a realistic view of the field. Even if we don't get much in the way of going out to crime scenes, we do a lot more after analysis, it'll still help them."
"That wasn't noted in the paperwork." She handed it over. "Here you go. From those on the high setting." He cracked a smirk at that. "We did the same to Miami's but they couldn't get an early enough flight so they're being briefed after the techs get in. It really is good training for them and you're more than welcome to do case reviews when you get back."
"Thank you." He read through them, then nodded. "I can accept this," he decided. His phone rang. "Taylor." He listened. Then he wrote out an address. "On it. Have me and whichever CSI is up next responding." He listened. "Danny's good." He hung up, hitting the button to page Danny and sending it mentally to him. "I'm on a case, who am I taking?"
"You go out too?"
"Of course. I don't make my staff do things I don't do. Except trash barges." She laughed at that and assigned two students to go with him. He grabbed his kit and headed, finding Danny in the doorway. He nodded at his two techs. "Someone snagged a floater while fishing."
"Yummy. I hope they tossed back the fish." He followed him. "Come on, kids." They trooped out.
"But you've already had one case this morning," one of them noted.
Danny nodded. "And so has everyone else so we're back to my name. On my desk are about twenty open cases and another ten considered cold. Welcome to the labs." He got in and they got into the back of the SUV. One of them had to squeeze in and he sighed. He looked at Mac. "Meet you there?"
"Go ahead." Danny nodded and went to get another car and his students followed. Mac looked back at his, who weren't shifting. "You two want to switch?"
"That'll kill more time, sir, and evidence is dying."
"Good point." He drove off, taking them to that address. He parked and got out, signing them into the crime scene. He let them sign their own names under his once he put 'and trainees' after his. He walked over. "What do we have?"
"Floating person, detective," the officer in uniform offered. "Fished out. He said he caught the wrist and then hauled the rest out." He pointed at the half body. "We're not sure if we should get divers."
Mac looked at the body, then nodded. "Yeah, you should." That got a nod and he went to call that in. Danny showed up and signed in. "We've got a half a body."
"I'll work with the divers once they get here," he agreed, coming over to look. "Dressed but not well dressed." He checked her throat once he started taking pictures. "No bruises that I can see. Some bloating."
"So it hasn't been long. We might find the rest of her," Mac admitted. He checked the incision. "Or maybe not. It's sealed." Danny looked. "I didn't know you could amputate that far up."
"It's not common but I saw one on a talk show that was done just at her pelvis," one of the students offered.
Mac pressed gently. "That is in there. You may be right." He looked behind him. "Any chance of a wheelchair?"
"No, detective." A diver showed up then two more. "Half a body."
One of them looked at him. "I know her. She's in that group of homeless that go to my church's soup kitchen," he admitted. "Ebony, something like that, sir."
"So she's been like this?"
"Yes, sir, but we need to drag the river anyway," he admitted dryly. "We haven't done it in two weeks. Our boss said to do it anyway." He nodded at Danny. "We catch anything we'll let you handle it. Our soup kitchen is the Ladle of Hope. They'd know her there. She's there almost every day."
"Thank you," Mac said, giving him a smile. "Do you know what sort of chair she used?"
"Pretty standard. Light blue. Darker blue backrest. Looked like she stole it out of a hospital really." That got a nod and they went to dive in.
"That's good clues," Mac agreed, making notes on that. He waved the ME in. "All yours if Danny's done."
"Sure am," he agreed. "Have fun, I'll wait to see if they pull anything up." That got a nod and he left with his trainees. They went to talk to the fishermen. Danny looked at his. "You gonna be sick, do it somewhere it won't contaminate anything, including the water." One ran to do that. "Yeah, bloated bodies are gross, but charred ones are worse," he assured the remaining one, getting a nod. "Did some field work?"
"Transferred during my rookie year, detective," she said quietly. "I decided I wanted to be on this end instead of chasing down parking tickets and muggers."
"Plenty of us made that choice." He looked over as one of the divers came up with a hand raised. "Already?" That got a nod. "How many?" Two fingers were held up. "Charming. Let me suit up so I can get pictures." He shook his head. "No why?"
He took off his air hose. "No, you can't. We didn't bring you one." Danny moaned at that. "We can take pictures and haul them in." Danny nodded, going to get the camera for him. "Two tied down, detective. Tied to old tires so they're pretty shallow."
"Bring 'em tires and all."
"Of course." He went back down to do that.
Danny looked at the one coming back. "Report to dispatch that we've found two more floaters, they're coming up with the dive team, it'll be about an hour but we'll need an ME then." She nodded, calling in to do that. He looked at the one who had been sick. "It's gonna be gross. Get into the top of my case. Get the little thing of mint balm, put some under your nose. That's how we do it." She nodded, doing that. She found a swab case and held it up. He looked at it. "I was looking for that," he admitted. "Put it into the tray. Must've slipped." She nodded, doing that. "It happens when the cases get bounced around." The divers came up with the bodies, making him grimace. "Eww, been a while." Both the kids ran for the bushes this time. "Welcome to the field," he called grimly, taking the stretchers to help them onto the ground. "I didn't know we had flesh eating fish in the East River."
"You never know what you're going to find down here," one of them noted. "We'll do another shore sweep in this area then head in, if that's okay?"
"Yeah. You find anything, you'll tell me. Thanks, guys." They nodded. "Kids!" he bellowed. They came walking back. The diver looked at him oddly. "Federal lab trainees. They're going to be all over the lab for the next few days."
"Sure. Guess someone's gotta get them off to a good start. They gave you two?"
"Me two, Mac two, Stella two. Hawkes and Monroe each got one for being so new." He shrugged and got to work with the pictures. "Someone did you two wrong. Busted bones," he noted, pointing at them. He took the camera from his students and got to work cataloging. "Now, what do you think did it?"
"Something hard, blunt, and square. Most of them seem to have marks on either side of the bruises I can see," the one who hadn't gotten sick first offered. She took the camera and put down a measuring square, taking pictures of the ones she could see. She glared at her fellow trainee. "You don't get to just watch." She got to work with them. The dive team came up with another one. "Three today?"
"Hey, it was a party. Same MO?" The divers nodded. "Great. Thanks, guys."
"Welcome, Messer." They did another check then left to make their reports.
Danny sighed, looking at this new one. It was going to be a long, stinky morning. "I hope you guys brought changes of clothes. Otherwise you're gonna stink all day." They both nodded at that. "Good. Don't just wear the jumpsuits either. People can tell." He found something in one's hair and took a picture before gathering it to put it into a small envelope. "A wise CSI keeps at least three changes of clothes in their locker at all times. We've had days when that's not enough." He looked up at the sound of a car, waving at the detective. "Hey, Maka. Come see. Broken and dumped."
"Why me?" she complained dramatically.
"Yay. Have you heard about our trainees?"
"Yup. Are you going on the Interpol case?"
"Probably." He found something else and took pictures. They finished that one then moved onto the second one, by then the ME was pulling up. "They found a late one, doc," he called.
"Thanks for the warning." He brought out an extra bag. "Charming. Tires and all?"
"If you can please." He grinned. "Since they're all missing their feet and all that. That'll let us gather it there." He got a nod and Danny finished up with that one, moving to the third body while they bagged the first two and took them to the van. "Hmm. Two types of bruises," he noted. He waved them closer. "See, another one with hard edges, but this pattern and size is usually baseball bat marks," he instructed. They nodded and took pictures of them. "I used to have a folder with types of bruises that were common and other things so I could do a quicker identification. You'll get past that within six months." They nodded at that.
Maka smirked. "You two are so cute."
One of them looked at her. "I don't do cute. I'm from Jersey, Detective. I do bitch." She laughed at that, nodding in appreciation. She got back to work. She and Danny shared a look because the other one wasn't keeping up. He nodded that he had noticed and took pictures of the guy's broken pelvis. "Do you think it was organized crime related?"
"Probably. Three guys without feet, bound to tires, beaten with similar objects? Probably. Or some odd serial killer." He gathered something out of this guy's hair. "Did you find confetti in the second body's hair?"
"No, Detective," they reported.
"Huh. Got some in his and the first one's. Interesting." He put it into his case after writing on it. Then he snapped his fingers. "We'll do the rest when he's dry."
"That works for us. We even gathered the water from the tires in case, Messer."
"Bless ya." He took the bottles and handed them to the girl who wasn't doing much. "To the truck." She nodded, carrying them that way. He helped gather the water on this one then closed his case, checking around. He found that one swab case again and put it back with a moan. "It doesn't want to be processed."
"Jumping beans?" the other tech teased.
"Now and then." They headed back to the car and back to the station. He checked with the ME downstairs. "I'm sending you three with tires instead of feet. Let me know when you're ready for my trainees if it isn't today, Sid. Yeah, so we could collect them there. Ropes were soaked into the ankles too deep to cut. Figured we'd get it in all one go. Let me know." He hung up and headed back through traffic. "What did we learn on that one?"
"That bloated bodies are really gross," the girl in the backseat offered. She was ignored. That was a very obvious statement.
"Confetti in two out of the three bodies' hairs could lead to a signature or a place they were taken or killed," the other offered. "Or it could've been floating in the water. Did they look similar to you?"
"They did. I'd say that at least two of them were related or from the same general area of the city since you get a lot of clumping of ethnic groups. Again, first and third."
"Maybe the second's an in-law," the one in the back offered.
"Could be. Could be unrelated if this leads back to organized crime. We'll have to see." They nodded at that. "When we get back, you two go see Sid and gather the tires and stuff under his careful watch. Look for more trace as well. They'll prep the bodies by washing them, make sure you're done before they do that and that you watch, helping if possible, so you get it all." They nodded. "Then shower and change. Meet me in fingerprints once you've got some off them." He parked and they got out, heading inside while he got his case and the water after a few minutes.
Mac looked at the team later that night. "Apparently we're being called to assist Interpol. They're taking most of Miami's lab and some of ours. Sheldon, did you want to come?"
"No. Not really. Is this a project from down that short hallway you were muttering about?" Mac nodded. "Then definitely not. I'll stay and run blocking like a sheepdog with a herd."
"Am I going?" Lindsey asked.
"Not this time. They wanted experienced techs," Mac told her. "Sheldon was offered because of his ME skills. It was thought we might need some." She pouted at that. "It's a robbery/homicide/bank theft ring." She nodded and sighed. He looked at Stella, Danny, and Don. "Do I even have to ask?"
"Nope," Don admitted. "I got invited specially. The person over the kiddies gave my boss the paperwork personally."
"Wonderful," Danny agreed. "We all going?" Mac nodded. "We sure they can handle it?"
"If not, Sheldon can call us for some long distance help," Mac reminded him. Danny sighed and nodded. "Stella, any comments?"
"Will we have time to walk on the beach at night?"
"I hope so. Hopefully this case won't that long to crack. Even though it looks like none of the suspects have even heard of DNA profiles." He grimaced. "All right, we're being picked up tomorrow at Danny's. Sheldon, you have all our numbers. If you can't get through we might be in a non-signal area but I'll make sure to check voice mails pretty regularly. Don, you handed over cases?"
"Yup. Gibbs sent two trainee agents to take my place. He wants to make sure they can hack the job since they didn't have any sort of law enforcement experience outside of being an MP. Are we meeting Gibbs and them?"
"We are, all but Ziva since she's still on injury leave," Mac agreed. He took a deep breath. "All right. We need to gather things we'll need, like books we want to read on the flight and at night, plus pack and those things. Go do that. Meet me at Danny's at 0700. We leave at 0800. Got it?" They all nodded. "Lindsey, I realize your trainee isn't doing things your way, but give her a chance. She's very methodical. If you have to, switch off and take one of Danny's."
"Take Christine," he offered. "She's wanting to be lazy, you could install some work ethic." She nodded, making note of that. "The other one? She's got a good start," he admitted. "Former PD too. Left her rookie year. Stella?"
"Mine are okay. One's really hot to be a DNA tech but they're handling it okay so far. That one squealed when we had to take blood samples."
Mac nodded. "Both mine took notes and helped. They were respectful and quiet. It was like they were following a master and sucking in his vibe." Danny gave him an odd look. "Speed described his that way earlier."
"I heard." He shook his head. "Okay. Sheldon?"
"Mine is okay," he admitted. "Not too terrible. She'll make it but she's really hyper and can't concentrate. I wanted to suggest ritalin for her." Mac smirked at that. "Really. Six different directions at once."
"So, we've got a Greg wannabe, a spastic boy, one who's not really wanting in the field, and then some really great techs in the making?" Don asked.
"My spastic one has it, but she's got to learn to focus," Sheldon assured him. "She's lacking that intense focus on the body that we get with training. She'll make it once she gets that. The DNA happy one?"
"He'll be happier in the lab," Stella agreed. "He agreed with me already. The one that needs to quit being so slow and slightly lazy?"
"A few good nudges. I'm wondering if she's like a diesel engine. Slow to start but then zippy and peppy." Everyone looked at him. "She's thinking out loud a lot. She starts by stating the obvious and then moves on," he warned.
"I can handle that," Lindsey agreed. "I did the same thing for the first few months of my training year. Then I went to making lists." She looked at Mac. "Where are you guys heading?"
"I'm not sure," he admitted. "It's listed as 'secret' and that's it."
"Bring me back a t-shirt if you can," Sheldon said, grinning at him.
"Sure," Danny agreed. "One for you too, Monroe?"
"Sure. I can always use another work shirt." She looked at Mac. "We done?" He nodded. "Then I've got to go bug DNA." She got up and headed out. "Have fun," she called as she walked off.
Sheldon nodded. "Do have fun. I hope you get at least one day on the beach." He left too.
Don looked at Danny then at Stella. "Meet you at Danny's for dinner?" She nodded. "Suits?"
"Jeans," Mac told him. "Bring one if you want but expect to be in the vaults and things since it's to do with the bank." He looked at Danny. "Do we have books on being a CSI like they would use? I want to bone up on the various methods."
"We can find some," Danny promised. He stood up. "Going to the book store." He called Speed, who said he'd join him. "Someone get dinner." He walked out, heading to take the subway that way. Speed handed him a cup of ice cream when he ran into him, getting a grin. "Mac wants reference books."
"So does Horatio." They walked into the bookstore together and the clerks sighed at them. "CSI and lab related stuff?"
Danny gave the salesgirl a glare. "No. Telling spells, forensic spells, those things." She pointed at the potions section. He groaned, looking at Speed. "Diagon?"
"It's going to be too late, it'll be closed," he offered. Danny looked at him. "You know that's not encouraged," he said, licking off his spoon.
"Point." They linked arms, chanted the spell quietly, then cast the apparation charm. Who needed a time turner when you had some wandless spells that compensated.
The salesgirl blinked. "You can't do that! It's impossible," she called. Her boss glared at her. "They did wandless magic to slip time."
"They were yanking you."
"Messer and Speedle?"
He hesitated. He was a new salesclerk when they had been in school. He remembered them and their third. "Probably." He went back to shelving. "What were they looking for?"
"CSI stuff? Fornesics?"
"There's not been much written on that field," he admitted. "We'd have sent them to Diagon anyway for the more obscure texts." He went back to shelving. "Time check?"
"Ten more minutes."
Danny and Speed landed back in Danny's apartment, sighing in pleasure. They dropped the two boxes of books and Speed went to get dinner out of the freezer. His phone rang and he groaned, answering it. "What?" He listened. "Why would you have felt.... Oh. No, we're back home. I'm sure. In the right time and everything. Thanks for asking, Ryan. No, I'll be down there in a bit." He hung up and looked at Danny, nodding at the kitchen. He got a knowing smirk. "Got to brief him with Tony and Gibbs," he complained, heading home.
Danny went to finish getting dinner out and started, then he went to pack. Stella walked in and dropped her bag. "Hey."
"How did you get back already? And why did you go blank?"
"We went to Diagon." He kissed her on the cheek and finished his bag, then dropped it in the living room, then went for potions things. That got more carefully put down. Don and Mac walked in together. "Books are in the boxes. Watch out for my second bag, it's got potions stuff." He went back to the kitchen to flip the meat he had browning. Don followed and kissed the back of his neck. "Thanks."
"We had to make it before Flourish and Blotts closed," he said quietly. "We did." He grinned and went back to work, then poured sauce into the pan and put it into the oven. "There, give it thirty minutes." He walked out there, going to pick up some of the books to flip through.
Mac pulled the books out of his hand. "How did you do that?"
"Wandless time turner."
Mac considered that. "You can do wandless stuff?"
"We got bored in our sophomore year. We got into shit like you wouldn't believe," he said proudly. "That's why we went to handle the demonic thing at the bank. We studied all the forbidden sections and got into stuff that made some of our teachers shudder in horror when we started to branch out in our papers. Then Stephi turned us in our junior year for leaving some of them laying around. We made the headmistress have ulcers trying to monitor what we were doing. We stole a room in the basement to set up as our private work area. She still probably can't get into it since Tony and Speed set it up together." He smiled sweetly. "Books?" They were handed back and Danny went to check on dinner while he read.
Don flopped down, finding a few books for curse breakers. He handed a few to Stella too. Mac got a few from the second box and they settled in to read for a while, making notes so they could practice. They each found things that could be integrated into what they normally did. It would give them a wider range of skills.
Speed landed last, looking at the people he had made the portkey for. "We all here?" he asked. Gibbs grunted at him. Tony handed him back his coffee. "How long?"
"Eight," Don called, waving a hand. "Anyone need refills? I made a fresh pot of *good* coffee. Come and get it before I turn it off." The coffee addicted went to empty the pot and make sure the kitchen was ready for them to leave. Don looked around. "What's the spanking order for Alex?"
"Oooh, me," Willow said, waving a hand. "I want to spank the Xander."
Ryan looked at her. "He called us off work without permission."
"Yeah, because the bank demanded someone's got to find the people that've broken into seventeen vaults, killed four goblins, three dragon guardians, and a few curse breakers," Alex said from his chair, where he had managed to appear without anyone noticing. "Unfortunately, this is an international emergency. If Gringotts falls or if there's too big of a scandal, most of the Ministries in this world will fall. They are the backbone of the wizarding world." He stood up. "We need help finding and stopping this blight before the Ministries start to fall and we end up with an anarchy situation in some of the less stable countries and that'll start to collapse the more stable governments. That's why we needed CSI and detective support. Because I'm fucking clueless about who did it," he admitted dryly. "That and we know, it is a certainty, that they're using both types of magic in different casters. It's a mixed team."
"How big of a team?" Willow asked. "Vampires?"
"Impossible. The bank's offices all have wards that would forcefully eject any vampire trying to get through the door. Now, where we're going is a tropical paradise. It is the physical location of the vaults. No one will ever find this island. It is cloaked. It is hidden. It is not on any map. All the other banks access the vaults by way of portals." They all nodded at that. "While we're there, we'll have goblins watching our every move. Any cursebreaker with a clue can dismantle a vault. We can see what's going on. The one thing we can't is the blood keys, those are wandless and elven magic. Which is similar in nature to the chaos magic," he said, looking at Ryan. "Only nature based." He smiled at that. "That's how we *know* they're using wandless as well since they've broken into two of them. One of them mine with artifacts. One of them Draco's with money."
"How are they picking them?" Mac asked.
"The bigger vaults are all in certain number ranges. The same as all five digit vaults are complexes instead of single ones. The bigger vaults are in certain ranges. We are not sure if they have goblin support or not. There is a working lab if you need it and think it can help." He created a portkey. "Let's go. Everyone grab on." Everyone grabbed on and he cast the camp moving spell around their things, linking it to the portkey. "Horatio, bag inside the circle to quit smashing Willow into Danny," he said quietly.
"The blue bag has potions stuff."
Horatio nodded and put his bag beside it since it was on top. "The books?"
"Reference on magical CSI stuff," Don offered. "We all on?" Everyone grabbed hold. Willow shifted but they got it. Xander cast a sticking charm and Speed got sucked closer. Then Ryan did. He activated it and they were off. They landed on the beach. "Wow."
"Very," Xander agreed happily. "This way." He led them through a doorway that looked like it led to a cellar in the midwest. Once inside, he pressed his hand and wand against a plate. It lit up and scanned him. Then a glow went over him. "Alexander Michal Dumass," he said quietly. "On special assignment for Case 3." The doors opened and he led them inside. "To the left." They filed in an he counted heads, summoning the missing person who was with the gear. "Yes, you were invited, Willow." She traipsed after the others. He looked up then followed them. "The red door. The blue one is for the dragon handlers, Don." He went through the red door. "Okay, this is the main exterior lab for Gringotts. This is where we fix technology to work in the bank. The computers are that way," he said, pointing. McGee went that way. "Pull up Case 3. That's what you're looking at." He waved a finger and led them back through the door, which now led to somewhere else. "This is the lab. It should match up to what you're used to. We've been working on the blood key problem since so many families' keys have been diluted through the ages, even with the inbreeding among the purebloods." He looked at them. "The seventeenth vault was broken into last night. We've tried everything magical we could think of. Who wants to go down there?"
Mac looked around. "Danny, Speed, Tony, you go with Horatio. Stella and I will set up and check the lab. Ryan, Don, Willow...."
"Willow, let's start you with the computer stuff. Go help McGee. Concentrate, it's a switching doorway." She nodded, concentrating and heading back to the other room. "Ryan, Don, let's let you go too. There's things that you could notice in your specific areas." They nodded and followed him back through the doorway. "See the bright red door? Walk through it and come out crispy. These are very mean dragons. They're all trained to be mean except to two goblins and the handlers. That's why we think they were killed. Anything red marked like that is dangerous. Bank wide." He walked them to a solid wall and put his hand on it. "Case 3, CSI support, scan and allow." The glow came out and scanned them all. "Authorization Gruinth and Alexander Michal Dumass." The wall slid open and he walked them down. "Vault 3548." He nodded at the cart goblin. "CSI support for Case 3. A few others are working in the lab. Get to know them." The goblin nodded and let them into the bigger cart to take them there. He looked back at them. "All the vaults link to this one by way of spells on the rails. All the attacks, we think, have come through the Paris branch. With one exception, that came through London. Paris is the main European branch. Again, that is elven magic, Ryan."
"I can feel the spells. There's another cart behind us?" he asked, looking.
"No, it's phased around us." He concentrated. "It's from Malai."
"Malai is a very small branch," the goblin agreed. "Only a few families. We lose profits there most years."
"Yes, but they get cranky and they're all fire specialists," Xander reminded him. The goblin shuddered. "The burning from the last time they threatened to close it is why we keep it open." He patted him on the head. "Okay. We're almost there. Which goblin is watching us?"
"None. They don't want to upset their scans and things," the cart goblin admitted. "Security is monitoring from a distance."
"That works for me," Xander agreed, getting out when they landed. He sighed as he looked at it. "Mine," he explained. "My work vault. There was enough stuff in there to take over Gringotts and enough power stored in the artifacts to take down the British Ministry. We have work vaults for when something is too dangerous to work on in our usual work spaces."
Don looked at him. "I've seen your two work areas at the castle, Alex. What do you consider too dangerous?"
"Um, stuffed Gods, the highest of the High Court of demons, things that can open a hellmouth if magiced improperly. Stuff that we would've handled in Sunnydale," he said dryly. "Some of them date back to when I was your age the first time, Don." Don moaned. He opened the vault with a knock. "It's a magic key instead of a blood key. It reads my innate magical signature. Some day, Don will have one of these of his own." He waved a hand. "Go for it. Don't touch anything that's left. This whole vault should have a red lightbulb."
"Can we dust them for fingerprints?" Danny asked.
Alex looked at him and shook his head. "Do not touch them. No matter what. I can't save you if they eat you. I'll be more concerned saving the world."
"Okay," Danny agreed, going to start on the vault door with Ryan.
Don stared at the door. "They warped the power," he said quietly.
"I noticed that," Alex agreed. "Step to the next one and study." He moved and did that, frowning. "That's right, they got that one, and notice it's not a sequential number. Move to the next one up, it's been untouched as far as we know." Don did that, then studied the others around there. He came back to the one that wasn't touched, then suddenly grinned and nodded, moving back to whisper in the goblin's ear, getting a nod. Alex looked at him. "Find something good?"
"Yeah, they used a lever." He brought him closer, exposing the spells for them. "See?" He pointed at the area. "That's how they're exposing the locking mechanism, then the wandless person is making them move."
Alex moved closer, tipping his head to the side, then squatting down to study it. "They are," he agreed, grinning. "They've definitely got some skills in our area." He stepped back, looking at him. "Danny?" He came out. "I know you guys did shit out the ass that no one realizes. How hard was it to find curse breaker spells in New York?"
"Hard. We barely got stuff on power flows at the school. The local bookstore didn't have that much either. We ended up ordering some but even then we couldn't get the training manuals, only stuff on the power flows, breaking spells, making spells and curses, that end. The other stuff is classified by the bank."
"So it could be a curse breaker or family of one of us," Don said thoughtfully, looking at Alex. "How many of us could do this?"
"Anyone among us that's passed the first levels. That's when you learn how to expose spells and warp them backward. So, no one that flunked out of the first level." He looked up. Then at Don. "Can you tell which way they warped it? I'm getting the Gringotts standard instead of a more unique style."
Don tested, then nodded. "So am I. That's pretty textbook. It's also hesitant. There's places where the power isn't smooth, like when you showed me. It's more like what I started out doing." Alex looked, then nodded. "Then again, now that I use your method it's easier."
"It is. That rules out my students," Alex pointed out. He looked up again. "We need a list of the people who still use the first level method of warping and pressing the magic out of the way." A folder appeared next to him. "They are on the ball."
"Yeah, but that's a list of how many names?" Don asked, taking them. "If there's only one on the team...."
Alex frowned and moved to check the vaults. "I've got two different signatures on the three vaults." He looked at them. "Give me twenty to check the others for power signatures." He went to do that.
Horatio looked at the vault. "It's very well organized. I had no idea Alex knew what organized was." He looked at his temporary team. "Can anyone find anything that shouldn't belong?"
"I've got sand and cornstarch," Danny offered. He handed over the samples.
"I've got a fingerprint, maybe," Calleigh suggested. "Maybe." She took pictures of it then lifted it, handing over that. "The wall's a bit rough."
Speed was squatting down to look at something. "He labeled some of these." He took pictures. "We need an inventory."
"Not a clue," the goblin assured him. "We don't go into here and we're not sure that Dumass still has all his memories from his first life." He came in and pointed at something. "That one we confiscated three years ago. We had to, we ended up draining it."
Alex walked back in. "No, you drained two of the souls in it and handed it back," he noted dryly. He reached up, then growled and jumped. He handed over the book he had rescued off the higher shelf. "My work journal." He looked around, then up at the shelf. "They took my spare wands in here?"
"Probably," the goblin admitted. "Do you see your power stores?"
Alex looked around and shook his head. "No, I don't."
"When was the last time you were in here?" Speed asked, looking at him. "The last date in the journal was sixteen months ago."
"I popped in to put...." He looked around and pointed. "Those two cuffs in here about eight months ago. Since then I've only worked at the castle, on site, or with three things that went into Bank Storage for the serious things that *have* to be stored immediately."
"Okay. Was anyone with you when you popped in?" Speed asked, talking him off to sit on a table, which he checked first. Probably a good idea with what was labeled as being on it.
"If I remember right, Ron was part of that dig and I brought him down. He was wondering what we did in these work vaults. I brought him down to show him the difference in what we *can* work on and what we *store*. Even though I ride the line because I do have a lot of dark arts experience." The goblin gave him a 'no shit' look and he glared back. "No comment from the short people."
"Short people rule the world," Danny assured him, smirking at him. "Especially this one."
"We keep human slaves for amusement," the goblin said blandly. "Are there other things you'll need to see?"
"The other violated vaults," Horatio ordered. "We'll split off for that." That got a nod and they went to do that, breaking into Stella/Speed, Danny/Eric pairs while Horatio stayed to finish processing this one. "Alex, does anyone else have access to these vaults? I know you said part of the lock was a magic signature. Is anyone else keyed to yours or would anyone know how to mimic it, fake it, or get access around it?"
Alex thought about it. "Mimic it? Vaguely. Yeah, I could mimic a signature. Theoretically speaking anyway." Horatio frowned a bit. "This is bordering heavily on quantum physics and theoretical magic. It's actually leaning more toward hypothetical magic in this case. See, long time ago, a Nazi bastard working on their A-bomb project came up with a formula that he didn't know the reason for. It basically, he said, came to him in that happy half-awake state that you get ideas in. He thought it was for power transformation and distribution. Which it is in a way. It's really more about the quantum reflection stuff." Horatio nodded slowly at that. "Now, I flunked algebra, mostly because it's so different from magical math and numerology, but this is a takeoff of the formula that the guys doing cold fusion are working with. This is like a subset of that math arena. It's also what your nephew used when he slipped reality streams." Horatio nodded more firmly at that. "The various reality streams are different quantum reflections in this theory and that seems to run as a matter of belief really as far as I've read. Pearls, strings, mirrors, Sliders, whatever your version of alternate reality theories is, it seems to work on the 'believe strongly enough and it's there for you' principle as far as I can tell."
"Ray believed wholeheartedly that he could reach Danny, Speed, and Tony, and his magic made it happen by finding a reality that mirrored the picture?"
"It had to mirror the circumstances. Them being together. Them being that age. The picture acted like a candle for focusing during meditation. You stare at it hard enough and use it to drop into your mind. But it burns an image on your retina that follows you down," Xander explained. "That's why there's a myth that you can go blind doing it that way." Horatio nodded, understanding it. "Ray's magic took the focus and found the nearest situation that mirrored it. To do this to my vault, they had to either know my signature or have something to use as a focus, then they brought it *here* onto themselves or onto something that they used as a key."
"Do most of you learn this?" Horatio asked.
"Yes and no. We all learn mimics. It's part of the training because we need the lesser applications to break some types of locks. I usually start off that lecture by teaching my students house elf magic because their magic flows on that principle. They *know* they can do anything to please their masters. To them that's a soul-deep truth and it hinges on how they see magic and how they relate to it. Ron and Harry are just now starting into mimics."
"How wide spread is that theory? The higher one?"
Xander shrugged. "It was well published in the journals of the time. It crossed over into ours so the curse breakers of the day looked it over. You forget, I'm naturally about ninety, Horatio. I was around then. A lot of theoretical stuff came off those bastards. There's a whole section in the Gringotts library on their stuff. We all say a prayer for the victims when we walk into it, but it's up there. That means any higher ranking Ministry member, or one that had permission for private research, any curse breaker, any goblin could've gotten into it."
"All right. How many would study this?"
Alex shrugged. "It's an individual thing. I doubt anyone who knows me knows I study the theoretical aspects of magic. Not even my aunts and students. I know Bill was shocked when I spouted off theory one day during a training exercise. I tend to teach the practical and live the practical, but I have the gift of turning the theoretical into the practical for my own use. That's why I can use the camp moving spell. You have to dig into the theoretical magical maths for that spell to work. Most people don't work it out for themselves. I used it as a project back in my fifth year and my teacher looked over my work, correcting it where needed. I got it down to the level of a formula, which can then be made into a spell and wand action. Very few others got that one to work. The same as very few managed to do what Voldemort did and hijack portkeys."
"Could anyone studying arithmancy do this?"
"Nope. Arithmancy is the lower levels. Like algebra and geometry both lead back to calculus and whatever's above calc. Arithmancy is the algebra and geometry of magical math. In my day, arithmancy was a third and fourth year class and then you moved onto true magical math. The calculus and theoretical maths."
"Which means they're either very smart and doing the research, around your natural age, or have access to someone's work who did use them," Horatio noted.
"Back in the day, to get into the program you had to have at least magical math one. So they had to have at least passed an OWL in arithmancy," Alex offered. "If it's someone with someone's research notes, it'd probably be a student or a child. Unless it's a fluke and it was found during an auction in the back of a desk or something." Horatio smiled at that. "Been known to happen. That's how Flammel got the stuff for his alchemy studies. He found a personal journal in the back of a drawer of a desk he bought at auction and realized where they had went wrong in the formula. That's another magical math application. How Greg did it at nineteen I have no clue."
Don leaned in. "He said he took the formula and turned it into potions and worked it out that way through trial and error as a senior project," he said dryly. "When do I learn house elf magic?"
"Next year sometime, when you quit leaking and you settle down to do the work. You're still a month behind where you should be, Don."
"Yes, Mom." He ducked back out. "What's the one with the slimy, nasty feel?"
"Those are power keys to some of the more pureblood families," the goblin admitted, going to talk to him and remind him why he couldn't tell anyone anything he learned down here. "Ah, that vault. That one takes the heart's blood of a dragon to open. A living dragon." Don looked at him. "The 'slimy' feel is the feel of sacrificial magic according to others. Hasn't he worked on you with that?"
"I'm behind," Don agreed. "I work full time and do this stuff." He went to move closer, frowning. "It's open."
"It can't be."
"It is." He pushed on the door and it swung open. "See?" They looked inside and found someone in there.
The goblin moved forward. "Key please?" The man produced his key, giving him a nasty glare. "We're checking the more serious vaults today. I was to be informed if anyone was brought down to this level." He handed it back. "Thank you. Did you need help?"
"No, that's fine. Is there a problem?" he sneered.
"No, we're doing a vault check," Don said, casually leaning in the doorway. "What dragon did you nearly kill? The ones at Hogwarts?"
"No," he snorted. "They're much too impure." He gathered what he needed and tucked it into his jacket pocket. "Who are you?"
"Cursebreaker Flack." Alex leaned on his shoulder. "And Dumass." The sneer vanished.
"Someone tried to get into my vault, Dimitri. You didn't try the dragons at Hogwarts, right?"
"No, my own pet Fireball." He walked out and the vault closed behind him. "Were we robbed?"
"I had something removed," Alex admitted quietly. "That's why they're doing a vault check. We also found a few dead dragons. Are you still doing autopsies?" That got a silent nod. "Good. Let him look at the dead dragons." The goblin nodded, leading him off. He looked at Don. "Good instincts," he said quietly. "Evil bastard of the universe. He's getting too much fun watching the good guys scramble to try his own takeover event." He gave him a hug. "Tonight, we're going to do another accelerated learning thing, Don. I can't have you this behind. If something happens, I need you able to work with the others to be able to save yourself or my ass." He nuzzled him on the cheek. "Get over it." He walked back into his vault. "One of the major evil bastards of the universe. He considers it great fun to watch us good guys scramble and work."
"I've met others like that. They usually pull strings."
"No, Dimitri likes to throw out ideas and watch us freak when someone manages to make them come true in the lesser evil ranks." He sat on his table again. "Dimitri came over for the Triwizard Tournament in my generation. He was Drumstrang's chosen. I know he's crappy at math magic. The maze test required some magical math transformations. Which, definitely not my area. Transfiguration and Potions I'm hopeless at. Theoretical charms and that area, that's my shit."
Horatio smiled at that. "We didn't get that much theory."
"That's because most of the big theories had been changed into spells and categories of spells by your generation, Horatio. They got to dumb it down for you, and then further dumb it down for Harry and Ron's year. They didn't even hear about theories until their fifth year." He shuddered at that. "You probably got some your first or second."
"Inventors and the basis of the categories and spells," he agreed.
"They don't teach theory now because they're all in use," the goblin told him.
"They said that right after I graduated and then gee, someone made the A-bomb," Alex said dryly, glaring at him. "And then what happened? We get power and transformation theories out the tail." The goblin huffed off. Alex leaned closer. "Technically I'm working on one at home right now. Thankfully not here and not anywhere in the castle that anyone can find me when I'm working. I've got it working but two types of locks don't fit into it yet. Generations of curse breakers will swear at my name for taking some of the glamour out of the job and letting the regular folk be able to do it. It's based on some ancient works and some new theoretical stuff where we've rediscovered and warped it. Draco would stop me if he knew."
"I'll keep that secret, Xander. Are there others doing theory work?"
Xander nodded. "Yeah. A few here and there. Mostly the older generation and guys like Sev. Maybe Philip with a language theory here and there that relates how languages and magical runes relate and are formed. The present one in that area is pretty pathetic and only goes back to Thinial's runes. There's too many others out there." Horatio smiled at that. "I know, I'm a book nerd at times. Now you know why my baby had to add onto the library." That got a laugh from the doorway. "He did. I still don't like the tower on a tower idea." He yawned. "That is one bad thing about working down here. You start to feel like you're lacking oxygen after a few hours." He yawned again. "Anything?"
"Some. They wore gloves. Did you put your name in for the Triwizard?"
Alex shook his head. "I was a year too young and grieving. It was thought best not to let me. Even though I could've warped the age line to let me across, I agreed, it wasn't the wisest idea. Besides, I was being a Future God of Quidditch and busy doing that in those days," he said happily.
"Future God?" Danny snickered.
"There's press clippings calling me that. That was the same year Marendale joined his team. Of course, he fell sixteen months later during his first and only World Cup qualifying match. He went on to create the firebolt and nimbus lines of brooms, plus the Vega one."
"Why didn't he make more?"
Alex grinned. "I asked him about them. He said he created the spell matrix while drunk on tequila one night. He later stored it in a pensieve and it got stolen on him. That's why it's such a limited run."
"I let someone look at mine but she's still stuck on the layers."
"It's a matrix of spells. They're woven together like a tapestry, Danny. Not layered." Danny's face lit up. "Yeah, so go study them and recreate it. There's a ten thousand galleon prize if you do. Plus whoever you sell the rights to." He looked at Horatio again. "The upside of the mimicking theory is that they won't be able to uncreate it. They can destroy the key they made but they can't undo the magic associated with that. It's got to be anchored too firmly. If they tried it could rip a black hole or a reality hole."
"That does give us a place to start. Can we detect a key like that."
Xander considered it. "I'd have to grab some of my earlier works out of my other work vault and read tonight. Let me think." He got up and went to the ledge, looked down, then jumped down onto another set of tracks. He walked for a while, then grabbed the one above him and pulled himself up and onto them. He kept going, taking a right, then three lefts, then another right. He patted the dragon in front of the gateway. "I know, I haven't been here in a while. How are you, dear? Still being cranky with the spouse?" The dragon glared at him. He smirked. "I told you to quit fucking around on my son," he said with an evil smirk. "Since he's dead.... Have fun with that." She tried to toast him and he pulled his wand, making her back off. "Thank you. Getting into my other vault." He walked through the gateway and into a very pink corridor. He walked up the tracks, then hopped down onto one, went three feet, then floated himself up three levels, then stepped onto the ledge. A cart goblin stopped beside him. He looked at him. "Mine."
"Which one are you?"
"Dumass." He got into his vault complex and went to his workroom, finding the three books he needed in there, plus one that would hopefully help him with the stymied theory work he was doing at home. Then he spotted a new journal. "Who was in here?" He grabbed it, looking at the note holding his place. "Hey, I managed to break space and time for a few hours," he said proudly, grabbing something out of his desk and stuffing it into his pants pocket before walking out. He closed the vault and headed back, walking around the dragon as he read. Going this direction he could concentrate really hard and end up on the same ledge with the portal spells but it never worked getting to the gated vaults for him. Part of the protective magic. He walked back in and hopped back up onto his table, nudging something with his behind. He looked. "Aww. For Don?" The small doll nodded. "Sure. Tonight, boss." It disappeared. He got back to work.
Danny looked over his shoulder. "Not all locks have keys. Some have pushbuttons and some have gears," he said quietly. Xander's whole face lit up and he kissed him soundly, then he disappeared back to the castle to finish up what he was working on. Danny shook himself free of the stunned feeling. "Wow. No wonder he got to sleep with half the world." He went back to work, considering it.
Xander smugly walked into the lab, handing Danny a folder. "I gave you partial credit as an inspiration source," he said, giving him a hug. "Very, highly theoretical." He walked on and put a book in front of Horatio. "Yes, you can."
"I'm not sure. You can build a detection spell that could. It won't be easy and we'll have to know if they're warping dimensions, realities, or time and space to build it."
"How would we find out?" Mac asked.
"Play connect the dots. How many of those people would still be alive in other realms? How many of them would be accessible by someone in modern times to get something that would give them a signature?"
"None," Stella admitted. "I can't even get a radiation signature off you most of the time, Alex."
"Yup. With age comes shielding. You should try it." She blushed and got back to work. "Really, like tonight. I'm doing lessons tonight. We're all going to be doing accelerated learning apparently." He looked at Horatio. "If the answer is what I think it is, it's probably time and space. Which is really hard theoretical magic at the larger scales you'd need. Because one of those people died out when I was an infant." That got a slow nod from everyone. "Okay, long theory short, to mimic the signatures to get past the magic keys, they'd have to create a mimic. The only way they can do that is with Einstein's theory of Equitablenss, subset q specifically. That book is so unheard of, no one in the muggle world even *knows* about it. Doing that means they'd have to create an anchor to mimic the signature on. Which can be destroyed but not uncreated. Horatio wanted to know if we could build a detector."
"How do you know theories when you couldn't pass algebra?" Willow asked timidly.
"Because it has nothing much in common with arithmancy or magical math. I did pretty good in those but algebra was like speaking a foreign math language to me." He shrugged and grinned. "It happens. Some decade we'll run into aliens who believe two plus two equals five and a quarter."
"But that would be wrong," she noted.
"To you. Who says that on their world, in their math, it isn't right?" He looked at Horatio again. "If I'm thinking correctly, they're breaking time and space to do it, which would also explain how security didn't catch them. A time turner's one thing, doing decades is another. They're lucky they haven't created a paradox yet. Which is why Danny can't put that theory out for another five years."
"I wondered why you dated it five years from now," Danny offered. He put it beside him. "Breaking time and space that way is really hard. Speed and I can do it like a time turner, for a few hours."
"I accidentally did it once by a week," Willow offered.
"Yes, I remember praying to the Goddess that you be fixed and sent back," Xander said dryly. He looked at Horatio again. "So, finding out how they're breaking it would give us a major clue. Because stealing their wands wouldn't give you what you need. You need a physical magic match, from the body. That usually takes a still-living internal organ or a very intense scan that can't be done overnight."
"How intense?" Mac asked.
"It'd be like mapping the nervous system on a body by hand, without any machines, by using a tuning fork."
Don shuddered at that image. "Okay.... so we've got an idea. The who is up in the air. Any idea why?"
Stella nodded. "Yeah. Looking at what was stolen. Money and things that hold power. I asked one of the goblins if the greater majority of these all appear in the same rite. He said three of the eighteen do but that's it. One of them is in common with a few things."
"The Orb that has some of Dawn's power," Alex agreed dryly. "It's like the black dress of power."
"Can it be used to slip time?" Speed asked. Xander shook his head. "You're sure?"
"Realities, not time. Or dimensions really."
"So what could they use it for with what they have?" Horatio asked.
Xander looked at the list, then grimaced. "Opening hell on earth? But that's pretty easy to do. Calling something up to bring it to earth maybe? Again, not that hard. I've seen kids who've done it by accident." He looked at the list again. "We've got a bunch of stuff that people associate with Athena but aren't really. Mostly misrepresentations and the like. They're probably not that stupid. She's not that forgiving and she liked women more." He kept going. "Maybe they're trying to wake or bring back a pantheon? Which again, not that hard. We woke up a god by accident in Malgadesh." He considered it. "Those are my best guesses." He looked at them. "I can have the artifact's sheets pulled so you can look them over." Horatio nodded at that so he went to have that done by one of the goblins, bringing them back in a stack. "Here we go, all but a few from mine because there was no known reference of them."
"Why do they call this one case 3?" Don asked.
"Because two other times someone's managed to steal out of a vault and get away with it. Well, one broke in and exchanged some stuff and left other stuff," he admitted. "A contemporary of Merlin's. That's how we found the storehouse by Stonehenge. They think he had some of the lost knowledge that let him move the earth around him. The other was a ship moving the spells to the New World back in the 1600's and they used the stuff they rescued from the ship they sank to break in. They were basically our version of pirates."
"One of the ships at the castle?" Mac asked.
"No, they robbed the British." He went back to looking at the sheets. Then he moved to get post it notes. "Purple for Gods, yellow for demons, white for power storing." The little doll appeared again. "Don, you're getting initiated tonight."
Alex looked at him. "Come on." He led him off, taking him back through the lab to the room where their God was waiting. He sealed the door and leaned against it, safely out of harm's way. He knew the stronger a curse breaker was the more they wanted to fall on their knees to suck Loki's cock, and he knew he was about third next to the balls of their god.
Loki, or Professor Armwrench at times, looked at him. "Fourth on that scale. You forgot the wife."
"I thought you married her to use her," he said, quirking a small grin. "Something about snakes and...." Loki glared at him. "Sorry."
"Behave, or at least try. He needs this so he can finish his education and attune himself to the net of us." He pulled a small bottle out of his waistband, exposing who he really was to Don.
"Pr...professor?" he asked, stunned by the glow. "No, uh-uh. You're not Armwrench."
"Oh, but I am. Who better than me to teach a bunch of horny teenagers sex ed," he noted dryly. "Plus I get to pre-mark most of mine before they can get cults and dragons." He looked Don over, seeing the desire that he was holding back. He gently and temporarily blocked the bond, watching as he fell to his knees. "As I thought. The power is strong in you, even if you don't work in the field. You're still mine. No matter what else you are, you are mine, Donald." He uncapped the bottle and drew his mark on Don's forehead, letting it soak in. Don moaned at that. "Say it."
"Good boy." He smiled at him and capped the bottle then reduced his profile back to normal 'professor' levels. He put one leg over the arm of the chair he was sitting in and leaned in the other direction. "What you feel is natural. The stronger one of you is the stronger the desire to please and serve me. As is natural. You were mine from birth. No matter what other faith you have, know that I watch over you as well." He smiled and stroked through his hair, integrating that knowledge but hiding it so he wouldn't be too concerned by religious thoughts. "You are mine."
"Good. I do approve of your relationship. The do well for you, Don. The same as I'm disappointed that you've been slacking off in your studies. You will correct that tonight, Alex."
"Of course. Him and Stella. Doesn't mean I can do transfiguration very well." His mentor sighed and looked at him. "At least I'm being honest."
"You are." He looked at Don again. "Do you understand more now?" He nodded. "Good boy. Now, go help find those who have fouled my name and essence." He removed the block, smiling at him. "Thank you for indulging me, Don."
"Welcome, Professor." He coughed and got up. "Um...."
"It's normal. Draco likes to growl at him for it," Alex promised. "How high up the list is he?"
"Tied with the terrible trio." He looked at him, smirking slightly. "Tell Harry he has my blessing since she's family anyway." He waved a hand and disappeared.
Don shook his head and looked at him. "Was that...." Alex nodded. "And he just...." He touched his forehead at the nod. "Is it soaked in?"
"As it did for all of us." He winked. "Expect to see Ginny in a professional capacity now and then too." He nodded. "Let's go, before you make them worry more."
"Danny's gotta be muttering," he agreed. He looked at him. "What am I learning tonight?"
"What you should've done on your own and then I'm going to make you and Stella work your asses off." He put an arm around his student's shoulders as he walked him back to the labs. "All done." Mac, Stella, and Danny all glared at him. "He was safe. Our patron saint wanted to see him."
"The doll?" Horatio asked.
"Our patron saint," Alex repeated.
"Armwrench is a saint?" Speed asked dryly.
"Only to cursebreakers," Don noted dryly. "I'm fine." Danny came over and stared into his eyes, then flipped him really hard on the forehead. "Ow!"
"What we all wear, Danny. It'll be gone withing a few minutes. All cursebreakers go through this, it helps keep down the chaos. By the way, he likes you guys together." He called Harry over the tattoo, giving him that message. He got a groan back. He looked at the clock on the wall. "It is well past time for lunch. Let's head to the hotel and do that then come back here after a quick walk around?" They nodded and followed him to the rooming house the goblins kept. All their stuff was already there, put away, and there were house elves waiting to wait on them hand and foot. "Okay, here we are." He led them inside. "On the other side of the inn is a village you can wander for local color. No one there can get here." He handed out metal divots on necklaces.
"This is the key to get back in here and back into the bank. You lose it, they're going to sew every orifice shut and then watch you die slowly and horribly. Not kidding," he said at Don's chuckle. "We can't prove it but we think it may have happened in the past. All right, girls up the left staircase, boys up the right staircase. Those of you in a relationship figure out where you're sleeping. There's three house elves, they're here to spoil you rotten. One even gives great massages. Go eat lunch, come back in three hours with new ideas." He clapped his hands and got out of the way, going to his usual room. Once in there, he got multiple reports, including on what killed the dragons. He read that one and the contents lists of the other vaults over, then sent them to Horatio's room. Since he was single he was hopefully relaxing instead of trying to do something. Alex decided to settle into the bed and call his boys, see how they were dealing.
Harry landed and looked at his coach. "Alex has the most inconvenient timing," he noted impatiently.
"He does, kid. They're going to ask questions." Harry showed him his tattoos. "I've seen those. You're a Bane?"
"In many ways," he agreed dryly, cracking him up and making him nod. He sent a thought to the leaders of the group, telling them that Alex had nearly made him fall and he had clutched his arm in front of the press. He needed to tell his coach something.
Tipsy showed up a few minutes later with Ron and kissed him on the forehead. "We got praised in public for our good works during the war, Harry. It's not like you're outing the secret. Only for yourself." He nodded. "Don't proclaim it unless they ask, but yeah." She grinned. "What *was* that cryptic message about anyway?"
"Professor Armwrench likes Abby and myself together."
"I think you're terminally cute," Ron offered. He grinned. "Then again I hear that a lot too." Tipsy nodded at that. "You'll hear a bigger stink because she's not fully one of us."
"Plus, remember, all heirs must be conceived in the big bed in Draco and Alex's room," she said happily. "He'll have to set your bed up as being just as good."
"He already did," Ron assured her, patting her on the back. "Okay, let's go." Harry nodded, grabbing his bag and towel, plus his brooms, walking out with them.
"Mr. Potter!" someone yelled. "Why did you grab your arm?"
"My uncle was passing on a note of interest."
"Your uncle?" one of the other reports asked. "How?"
Harry looked at Ron, who shrugged. Close enough. He rolled up his sleeves to show his tattoos off. They all gasped. "What? Did you think I was a death eater, people? Really! That would've been the stupidest assumption yet." He let down his sleeves and went back to walking away.
"I heard you've got a girlfriend," a male reporter called. "What's her name?"
"Abby, leave her alone please. She works in the muggle world."
"Is she a muggle?" the reporter demanded.
Harry stopped to look at him. "No, she's a nature path witch. The kind that helped us terribly a lot during the war. Unfortunately I didn't know Abby then. She's a beautiful girl who makes me be less shy and who wants me to be myself. Yes, we're dating. That's as fast as we're going right now, mostly because of you lot hunting me all the time."
"Plus your work schedule," Ron reminded him.
"True, plus my incredible work schedule. Now, you're making me late for practice with Uncle Alex. Do you mind?" They backed off. "Thanks. Leave Abby alone." They disapparated once they hit the edge of the shields, heading for the castle. He shook his head and pulled out his cellphone to call her. "Abby, love, press hounds just pounced me about my tattoos and you, love. I told them to leave you alone, but well, they are the blight of the universe at times. No, I told them you were a nature path witch and that you needed to be left alone since you worked as a muggle. I hope they won't tell anyone there. Are you there alone?" He smiled. "Tell Ducky I said hello and I'll pop around for tea today if you wanted." He beamed. "Excellent. Let me change. I'm sweaty." He chuckled. "Uncle Alex called while I was in practice and the reporters were taking pictures for the upcoming season. Hmm? Oh, Professor Armwrench approves of us. Called us cute. Well, actually that is but I can't let that out over the airwaves. One never knows who's listening. Love you. See you soon. Yup, if I can." He hung up and went to go shower and change, then talk the house elves into making some peach scones he could bring Ducky.
Ron and Tipsy shared a look, then shook their heads. Looks like the family's ballroom would be having another wedding besides Dawn's soon.
Harry carried his packages into the NCIS building, smiling at the guards he knew. "My people made Ducky some treats," he said happily. "Oh, reporters might come bother Abby. Thanks to the name thing, they caught us out walking the other day."
"That's fine, Mr. Potter," he said with a smirk. "Agent Gibbs likes us to bash reporters for him. We can do it for her."
"Oh, good. Excellent really. I wanted to earlier when they jumped to assumptions. Catch a tattoo on a bloke's arm and start asking if he's a death eater." They laughed. "I quite rightly wear my marks that proclaim me to be a Bane." They laughed louder. "So, we're having tea in her lab or in the morgue? Do we know?"
"Her lab probably, Harry. Let me scan those." He ran them through the x-ray and smiled at the one small package. "Well. Pretty." Harry blushed at that. "I think she'll love it." He handed them back and went to get the elevator for him. "There you go."
"Thanks, Charlie, right?" He smiled and nodded. "Thanks. I hope she adores it like the ice cream I got her for dinner the last time." He blushed and got onto the elevator, heading to the lab. He walked in and she squealed, coming to take the packages. "Um, well, one's not for Ducky, but for you, dear," he offered, kissing her on the cheek. "I warned the guards about the blight of reporters too." She smiled and he grinned back. "Want tea now?"
"Sure." She went to put on water and call Ducky. "Harry's here. You have presents and I have a present." She walked out and found one of the guards bothering him. "What are you doing?"
"Is he signed in?"
"Yes, I was watching the security camera. They did sign him in at the front desk."
"How did he get here?"
"The same way he usually does. Why?" He glared at her. She glared back. He turned into a lizard. "Ooops."
"Could've been me, dear," he soothed.
"Or me," Draco said from the doorway. He strolled in and floated the lizard onto the desk, then looked at her. "We must chat, future niece." She blinked at that. "Some family obligations." Harry moaned. "And things he's not thinking about."
"Just an FYI?" she suggested. Draco nodded. "That's fine. Ducky, Draco came too."
"Splendid. I went to school with a lot of young men like Draco," he said happily, smiling at him.
"He's going to embarrass me horribly," Harry pouted.
Ducky patted him on the back. "True love is often like that, Harry. Here you go, Abby, you make the tea for us. I'll get us another cup."
"I can make one," Draco assured him with a smile. "Need the practice anyway really." They all laughed at that. "I do, our house elves spoil me rotten while Alex is gone." They all went into Abby's lab and sat down, him turning a styrofoam cup into fine bone china, and watched as Ducky unwrapped his gifts.
"Peach scones. Thank the elves for me, Harry. I've missed these." He unwrapped the next two as well. Sandwiches and coffee cake. The last one he scooted toward Abby. "Since he said one was yours, that should be it, my dear."
She tore into it with a grin, then squealed as she pulled out the heavy iron circlet with ruby cross on it. "Oh, this is beautiful work!" She let Harry hitch it on. "A bit tight, but I'm sure I can get a small chain to fix that."
Harry tapped his wand and it expanded, hanging more loosely around her neck. "Found it on the dig in Rio. Just got done cleaning it a few months back and I thought it'd look smashing on you, Abby. I was right." She hugged him and gave him a light kiss.
"Thanks," he said with a blush. "Small history on it, not pleasant. It was thought to belong to a leading wizard's slave concubine. His favorite woman, higher loved than his wife. That's how he marked her. Even though I know I'd rather be your slave, I thought it would look good on you."
"Awww." She settled into his lap to cuddle and kiss him. "You don't have to be a slave, Harry. Now, what did Uncle Alex say?"
"Professor Armwrench thinks we're cute together."
"Is that all?"
"He's our patron saint, Abby," Draco said firmly. She stared at him. He nodded. "So that is one thing. He usually, according to the histories the bank keeps, doesn't care but for him to come out and say that you two are well suited or cute together is a high mark of favoritism." He poured tea, making Ducky smile. "There you go."
"Thank you, Draco. Which one was Armwrench?"
"Tall, thin, dark hair, pale skin. Charming laugh," Harry offered.
"Wears a lot of embroidered pieces or brocade," Draco offered. "Favors gold and brown a lot this last year."
"Oh, yes, I believe I saw him in Alex's library the last time we were over. It's adorable that Loki watches out for you boys so personally."
Abby stared. "You're kidding?"
Harry shook his head. "He's our Patron Saint," he said quietly. "He protects all cursebreakers, usually from ourselves."
"Wow. That's like a major thing. This could change philosophy and religious thought for generations to come." He put a hand over her mouth and shook his head. "Fine, I can't tell?" He smiled and shook his head. "Poo."
"I know but he needs to try to stay inconspicuous."
"Wait, what was he doing in the castle's library?"
"Trying to keep Alex from doing something stupid," the boys said in unison. She burst out in giggles.
"Alex is unfortunately one of the highest of the high cursebreakers according to power and accomplishment," Draco said, sounding a bit proud. "That means that chaos loves him ever so much more than the rest of us. It's necessary." He sipped his tea.
"Often," Harry agreed. "But they got this new cult of his stopped. Wanted to deage and go fight demons," Harry told her, making her cackle and hug him. "I'm not kidding. Don's cult is rather fun though. Oh, Draco, you might want to make sure one of the New York ones knows that the procreation spell managed to make it into public hands somehow. It's loose in the wizarding world." He shuddered at that. "Gruinth said he wants to have it banned in Britain as dark magic. He's trying really hard."
"It's not, just disturbing to think about," Draco noted. He looked at Ducky, he had some respect for the older man. "Someone, thanks to Potter's blunder, managed to find a way for me to have my own heir with Alex."
"Surrogate?" he suggested.
"Myself." He spluttered his tea. "Exactly. Now you know why certain grumpy beings that like to give my mate assignments halfway around the world don't like it."
"Oh, I dare say." He considered it. "Is it hard?" Harry shook his head. "How did this come about?"
"The papers were starting to speculate that Dawn was pregnant because she was buying baby gifts for the twin's first set of twins. I, in my nicest fashion, called them up to protest on her behalf so Ron wouldn't kill the reporter this time, and said no, the twins were pregnant." Draco moaned at that. "The paper printed it just that way and they had to correct it so that their *wife* was pregnant but one very nice Hufflepuff woman figured it out so they wouldn't overtax their wife."
Ducky moaned at that. "Why do they like Ron and Dawn?" Abby asked, sipping her tea.
"Because he helped me. My first interview, they asked to see him. Amazed him to no end when he started to get more fanmail than I did. I'd get letters of support and he got mash letters."
"Which was how he and Dawn finally got together. A pair of panties with an indelicate lipstick print on them got sent. She drug him off to the closet to protest, and McGonagall caught her about the third octave up her range of screaming in pleasure," Draco finished, sipping his tea. "They were engaged that day."
Abby giggled at that. "Sometimes you guys are so old fashioned."
"Yes, well, we are British. We are the backbone of the European groups. Stodgy and Victorian much of us are, but oh well."
"Thankfully Alex lets some of us move ahead. Though, he's working on something."
Draco nodded. "A theory. He said it'll make all of us scream for generations at him while on the job."
"Interesting. About?" Harry asked.
"He won't tell me. He thinks I'll stop him."
"Ah." Harry nodded. "So, harder locks and traps?"
"Quite possibly." Someone, an older male, walked in. "Another agent?"
"Temporary boss. Yes, sir?"
He frowned at her and stomped that way. "Who are these people?" he asked in a quiet, demanding voice.
Harry stared him down. "Since she was clear, I brought her things for tea and some presents from home for Ducky," he said at his most regal. He sipped his tea and put his cup down. "I am her boyfriend Harry. This is my coworker Draco, he and Abby have worked on something in the past, and I'm sure you know Ducky since nearly everyone seems to." The man gaped. "We did sign in. Charlie's seen me a few times when I've come over to take her to lunch or pick her up for a walk or some such."
"I... Are you American?"
"No, British. Why? I'm told it's not illegal to court someone who lives over here yet. Nor make them happy and squeal either." He went pale. "I'm also not in intelligence. Actually, Draco and I work with antiquities at a bank and with a group that rescues antiquities from dangerous or combat riddled areas."
"The film from Iraq," he said, his brow furling.
"That was sent to me by my uncle and I handed it to her and Gibbs," Harry agreed. "She's also helped Draco set up his family library."
"Oh. Well, I'm sure she has work to do."
"Nope," Abby admitted. "I'm clear until someone brings me something. It was this or proofread a paper and Harry's very sweet. He even brought Ducky treats from home."
"Let me know the next time you're missing home and I'll have some sent over. They're horribly bored just spoiling us," Draco pointed out. He finished his tea and put his cup down.
"They're the ones who sent me that fantastic strawberry angel food cake with the strawberries already inside," Abby reminded him.
"Yes, I remember, that was heavenly," he agreed happily. He looked back at the temporary director. "I'm afraid I'm also clear until I get my consulted autopsy later on today. I'm sure Mr. Palmer will come find me when it comes in."
"Fine. Don't make this a habit," he ordered, then walked off. He checked with security but both visitors had signed in and her boyfriend was well known.
"Charming reaction. Thank you for not hexing him, Draco," Ducky said dryly, smirking at the younger man.
"Waste of energy really." He smiled at him. "More tea?"
"Please." He let them refill their cups, watching as the couple cuddled. "Are your aunts really that bored?"
"Oh, yes. Nagging and bored. Very nagging and bored. Though, Aunt Ephania is still quite blushing whenever she talks about your charming nature." Ducky smiled at that. "I dare say she'd tie you down if you came back over for a bit."
"I must consider my mother, Draco."
"She takes care of four other aunts and the herd, Ducky. Your mother and her dogs would simplify her life."
"Point. I'll talk with Mother tonight about dating that nice, younger woman."
Abby looked at him. "She's only four years younger, Ducky. You make it sound like a scandal."
"Not hardly. She's from an excellent family and quite a good cook." He broke off a piece of his coffeecake and nibbled on it, smiling. "Mother would still have to approve."
"I'll call her for dinner?" Draco suggested.
Ducky sat up. "That might be most welcome. Yes, let me call the house first." He grabbed the phone and called his mother's keeper. "Ah, how is she?" he asked because his mother was screeching in the background. He smiled, she was having problems with the fairies in the house. "Well, do tell her to get pretty, I'm bringing home a nice woman to dinner. Yes, Ephania. She's a beautiful woman." He smiled. "That's fine. Thank you." He hung up. "We must do something about the brownies that moved in. They keep setting off mother's fits." He sipped his tea.
"Leave a small offering and a note for them," Harry offered. "North corner of the kitchen. Explain that she's fading mentally and not quite all there sometimes, and others she's fully capable. Ask them to please watch over her without making the dogs go insane. Because it seems, from what Abby told me, that they're setting off the dogs, which sets her off."
"Interesting. I'll have to try that tonight. Thank you, Harry." He smiled at him.
"I thought it was the east corner," Draco said, looking at him.
"Remus said the north when we had problems with the one in his kitchen. Anyway, fruit, bread, and milk." Ducky nodded at that. "You can even sit and wait to talk. Tell them you wish to talk about your mother. They do love to listen. As does Ephania. She was repeating one of your stories the other day to one of the unicorn foals."
Ducky blushed at that.
"That's a true sign of love," Abby agreed, smiling at Harry. "The same as moving out of your comfy environment and buying a computer so you can talk to me is." She kissed her boyfriend soundly, making him blush and stutter.
Draco smacked him on the head. "Every now and then he needs a kickstart, Abby."
She hugged the poor head to her. "It's all right. I'll never abuse you." He relaxed against her shoulder, kissing it gently. "My boy."
"Yours," he agreed. He pulled her back into his lap to cuddle some more. He really did like this cuddling thing a lot. No wonder Alex never got out of bed with Draco!
To next part