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The Gringotts Account

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Summary: The new International Slayers and Watchers Council is having a hard time finding one of their largest accounts.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Literature > ActionLancerFourSevenFR13120,3563194,2449 Apr 139 Apr 13Yes
Title: The Gringotts Account
Category: TV Shows » Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Author: Lancer47
Language: English, Rating: Rated: K+
Genre: Adventure/General
Published: 11-14-10, Updated: 04-09-13
Chapters: 5, Words: 21,458



Chapter 1: Chapter 1



The Gringotts Account

By

Lancer47

aka STFarnham

A/N: This is my first Harry Potter crossover, which I had to start writing just after I finished the HP Saga. I had no intention of reading Harry Potter at all, believing that I wasn't included in the intended audience, but a certain evil person of my acquaintance left the first volume lying around, knowing that I would idly pick it up and check it out, and next thing I knew I'd ordered the complete set from Amazon and four thousand one hundred pages later the world is a dimmer place because there will be no more new Potter books. Sigh, at least there's still Fan Fiction.

Don Sample, in his intro to The Key of Dagon, suggested the following guidelines:

1) No one is anyone's long lost relative.

2) Giles is not a Hogwarts graduate who has been hiding his wand in a drawer for seven years.

3) Draco Malfoy is a nasty little git.

These strike me as eminently sensible, so I adopted them for this story.

I'll attempt to have the English characters speak in a British accent (designated by English spelling, but since my idea of English Spelling is to insert unnecessary u's, double up l's for no particular reason, reverse logical and comprehensible words that end in 'er' so they end in the illogical and much less comprehensible 're', and to randomly replace respectable z's with flighty s's, I don't know how successful I'll be.) The American characters will, of course, speak real English. ;-)

Disclaimer: I'm trespassing on land owned by J. K. Rowling and Joss Whedon. I'm not making a dime off this stuff and all characters will be returned unharmed, although some of them may require a short period of therapy.



Chapter One

The Hole in The Ground

"Giles!" Buffy asked with a frown, "how're we gonna come up with the moola to replace this building?"

"Moola?" inquired Giles with raised eyebrows.

"I guess you'd say brass, although I have no idea why since I thought brass money was fake money and I'm talkin' the real deal here, but whatever."

"Quite."

Giles and Buffy strolled around the large pit that used to be the London Headquarters of the International Watcher's Council. Peering over the safety railing into the depths of the now open-air sub-basement left them a little shell shocked.

"Thankfully," said Giles, "the rubble has been cleared away already. I don't think I would have been up to sifting through it, separating body parts from building material."

"You and me both," Buffy grimaced as she stared into the depths. "At least it's not as big as the hole we left in Sunnydale."

Giles shuddered as he contemplated the horror of a Sunnydale sized crater in the centre of London.

Buffy asked, "Did we ever get a reasonably accurate list of victims?"

"Our list, as of last Friday, included fifty-six identified and four unidentified remains. And of course, we still have twelve injured, which were mostly passers-by."

"Two of which are suing us?"

"Yes. They're Americans, of course. Bloody lawsuit-happy wankers," grumbled Giles.

"Giles! Language! Now that I'm living in England I've been looking up the meanings of these weird words you use, so I know what you're saying now!"

"Erm, these days that word is surprisingly common these days, Buffy."

"You never would have said 'wanker' when you were the Sunnydale High School Librarian. I mean seriously, it's kind of crude, don't you think? Imagine me or Dawn saying 'jerk-off' within hearing distance of my mother, for instance."

Giles frowned and said, "Of course Joyce would've disapproved, and washed your mouth out with soap, I should think. But if there's anything wrong with my use of language it's because I've spent entirely too much time in the corrupting atmosphere of Southern California."

Buffy, bored of lexical nitpicking, zipped back to the previous subject and asked, "But the lawsuits, Giles, how can they do that? I thought it was more difficult to start useless suits under English Law."

"Yes of course, but they're suing us in the States; they filed in some small town in Texas. According to our solicitor chap it's a place renowned for being friendly to specious lawsuits against larger, more well-financed organizations. The juries there are notorious for according huge awards on little solid evidence."

"Giles, we are are not that well financed."

"No, but they think we are."

"So we're getting sued because this building exploded, killing most of the inhabitants. What's their justification?"

"They claim that even though the name has changed and almost all of the personnel have changed, it's the same organization – which is hard to argue against – and they seem to think we must have done something to attract terrorists to our facility even though that would have been the fault of the late management. This subsequently has caused them pain and emotional distress that can only be alleviated by forcing us to part with large sums of money. Apparently our pain and distress is of no consequence, legally. And furthermore, they're somehow implying that it's our fault that pieces of the blown-up building landed on the pavement, right in front of, or worse, on top of innocent pedestrians who were walking along minding their own business."

"Speaking of finances," said Buffy, dismissing possibly years of litigation with a flip of her hair, "what have you and Willow found out about the IWC's accounts?"

"Willow and Dawn have done most of the work. They've managed to find several small accounts, enough to keep us in food and mortgage payments for the next six months. But the Bank of England is giving us the run-around on a couple of bigger accounts, which we will need for our capital fund, but I believe I'll be able to prise them from the banker's grasp soon. The insurance company is a bigger problem; they are claiming that since this was a terrorist bombing, they aren't obligated to pay; it was an 'Act of War' as defined in the contract. It's hugely ironic that it's so very hard to refute the terrorism rumours that we planted. Worse, if we somehow convince them that the First Evil was actually responsible, then they'll call it an 'Act of God', and still won't pay. We may eventually get our money though, because Quentin actually managed to bamboozle the Insurance Company with some of the fine print he inserted into the contracts. Since it was quite clearly an 'Act of Evil' – God having nothing to do with it – I expect we'll prevail when our policy is fully deciphered and explained with the proper backup at hand."

Buffy shook her head, "I'd rather face an army of vampires than be forced to read Insurance contracts."

"And you have faced an army of vampires, so you know whereof you speak." Giles paused to stare into the hole and contemplated an explosion big enough to cause this. He shook his head at the general destruction, and turned back towards Buffy. "So, speaking of Quintin, we've also started the paperwork to access Traver's Swiss bank account – the bounder had managed to embezzle two million pounds before his death, which is looking more and more timely to me, if it weren't for all the other deaths. Luckily, his will named the Council as his major beneficiary, so we won't have any difficulty reclaiming his ill-gotten gains."

"So it's all good. Two million pounds, that's like, what, almost four million in real money?"

"Now Buffy, it is real money, backed by the Bank of England, good to buy all the Italian shoes any Slayer would ever need."

"How would you know how many shoes I might need?" Buffy retorted, "And the money thing? Pounds and Euros still don't seem as real as Dollars to me. Although I imagine that will change once I actually get to spend some. So anyway, no more money worries?"

"Not precisely. By far the biggest entry in the Council's ledger is referred to only as 'The Gringotts Account', and, unfortunately, we have yet to identify what financial institution that might be. The millions we've accounted for already may sound like a lot, Buffy, but you'd be amazed at how much our activities suck down – remember, the scope of the Council is international. Why, the retirement and benefits obligations alone account for... I don't even want to think about it. And on top of that we're finally paying a stipend to all Slayers. If there were only one or two it would have been a breeze, it could have come out of petty cash, it wouldn't have been noticed, it ..." Giles belatedly noticed the unpleasant frown on his Slayer and hastily skipped a few pithy phrases, "but when we need to come up with payroll every month for more than four hundred Slayers, that's a horse of another color.

"The thing is Buffy, all these accounts I've been talking about are financed by the annual interest from the Gringotts Account, which appears to be our primary capital account; if we can't find it, we're going to be out of cash in about two years and we will be forced to borrow against, or worse, sell some of our real assets. That will allow us another year, or two and then we'll be living on what income we have from rents and such. The fate of the world rests in our duty, and we can't do our duty without a great deal of money, so we need to find the missing account."

Buffy frowned, "I'm beginning to see the problem. Are you sure that 'Gringotts' is an actual financial institution and not some sort of dodge from the old Council? Like the persistent rumors of Council alchemists changing lead into gold or something?"

"The good news is we actually do have alchemists on staff, and most of them survived the First, and they can indeed make gold from lead. But the bad news is that it turns out to cost more in energy and material than the gold is worth. Alchemists are excellent for making small amounts of impossible-to-find materials that are used for magical spells and such, but not very useful in the capital gains department."

"Oh," said Buffy, "too bad. So, not to change the subject or anything, but why don't we just sell this plot of land, it must be worth quite a lot as it's in the middle of London, and build a new place somewhere cheaper? And maybe more private." Buffy waved her arm at the land under discussion.

"It's more complex than simple ownership. It seems that we have an incorporeal hereditament concerning this land and the surrounding block."

Buffy looked utterly baffled, "What? What's that in American?"

"Oh, quite, it's merely the opposite of a corporeal herditament."

"Geez Giles, way to clear it up!"

"It turns out that this plot, and the buildings on it, is owned by interests of Buckingham Palace in an alliance with the Church of England – I don't actually know all the details yet – and the Council merely has the right of use, including rents, in perpetuity as long as we occupy a substantial portion. And that means it's not ours to sell, but, we get the rent-money from the surrounding block, which is a significant percentage of our current income."

"Oh," said Buffy. She waving her hand towards the other buildings that shared the block with the former Council and continued, "You mean we're making money off these buildings even though we don't really own them?"

"Yes. These rents, inadequate though they may be for the long-term, are what's keeping us afloat right now."

"Wow! That actually sounds kind of amazing, sort of like cheating."

"In a way I suppose it is, Royal edicts sometimes have that effect. But I think we earned it."

"Oh yeah. Well, the Slayers earned it through the ages, but the old Council reaped the benefits."

"That's about right. But we are changing things now."

"True. So, how did you figure all this out?"

"Actually, it was really quite amusing; when investigators from Scotland Yard and MI-5 first started nosing around after the explosion, asking impertinent questions of the surviving Watchers, no one could find a record of anyone paying property taxes for this land. Since the Council has occupied this spot since the Great Fire of London, the Inland Revenue people were positively gleeful while contemplating the amount of money we might owe. But word came down from Buckingham Palace, and just like that, everything was straightened out."

"I thought the Queen was just a figurehead, with no real power anymore."

"Perhaps not much direct power, but a great deal of influence. Especially in certain areas, such as in our world."

"I see," said Buffy, "or really, I don't see, but I'm fast catching up."

They both looked into the crater some more, and glanced around at the nearby property while continuing their stroll. Finally, Buffy asked, "Are you sure it's wise to make Dawn our Chief Financial Investigator? On top of her research duties and everything?"

"Yes, she learned a lot about money flow from Anya."

"Not to put too fine a point on it Giles, but you do remember how good she was at shoplifting? I mean, she's outgrown it, but still, I worry."

"That's one of the reasons she's good at identifying fraud herself."

"Now Giles, having sticky fingers isn't anything at all like cooking books, I mean really."

"Buffy, you need to have more faith in your sister."

"The last thing we need is Faith in Dawn!"

"Er, ah, I didn't actually mean it like that!"

"Gotcha!"

Giles polished his glasses and said after a moment, "She's been instrumental, along with Willow, in identifying most of our lost funds so far. It seems she picked up a number of skills that enable her to spot financial mischief in lists of numbers at a glance. Oh, we'll still need a CFO, and the actual counting and bookkeeping will be done by people who enjoy adding, subtracting, and writing down precisely shaped numbers with sharp pencils. But she's surprisingly good at understanding the deeper meaning of dry and stuffy financial twaddle such as double-entry ledgers and balance sheets and..."

"And if you think it's dry and stuffy," interjected Buffy, "then..."

Giles interrupted with a frown, "If I may be allowed to continue? Yes, thank you Buffy. It would appear that Dawn, with an assist from Willow, is just what we need to prevent some other unreconstructed old Watcher from slipping a few million quid out from under our noses."

Buffy nodded, with a faintly surprised expression, "Huh. Well, I guess I have to face the fact that my li'l sis really is growing up. It's not easy, is it?"

Giles smiled gently at Buffy, "No, it's not easy."



Chapter 2: Chapter 2

Finding Gringotts

Andrew walked along the sidewalk on Charing Cross Road, err, pavement as they called the sidewalk here for some incomprehensible reason he thought, clumsily dodging the tourists while intently noting each street sign and every commercial entity. So he wasn't really watching his every step when he crashed headlong into a stout English gentleman, complete with city suit, hat, and umbrella. He was surprisingly solid, so much so that Andrew bounced off of him like a rubber ball and crashed into the wall. Only, it turned out not to be a wall, but a door.

That's odd, thought Andrew, a moment ago it was a wall, and now it's a door? So naturally, after throwing a belated, "Excuse me!" over his shoulder to the departing crashee, he opened the door and walked into an Olde English Pub – with emphasis on the olde.

Andrew looked around with delight as he noticed a handful of patrons dressed in robes straight out of a magical fantasy book, the old fashioned atmosphere, the lack of electric lights, and the decidedly odd appearance of some of the patrons, even excluding their weird idea of appropriate attire.

"This is so cool!" he exclaimed nasally, "this is like the bar on Tatooine! You've already got the weird patrons, now all you need is some aliens! And music in odd tones! Maybe a theremin band over in the corner!"

Tom the barkeep eyed his newest customer with loathing. "And what'll ye 'ave young sir? A butterbeer per'aps?"

"Oh, well, maybe something non-alcoholic? You see, I break out when I drink too much alcohol, which turns out to be two sips, so, no spirits of any kind for me." He paused to dig some money out of his pocket, "and besides, I can't afford much, I've only got a fifty pence coin and two of these pound things. Oh, and some 20p coins – I bet you call them something cool like quints or quinces or something, am I right?"

"You've entirely the wrong money and you don't belong 'ere," said Tom.

"Oh," said Andrew sadly, "do I need shillings, quids, guineas or something? Florins and Crowns? I thought you didn't use those anymore."

"Never you mind any of that," Tom said as he brought out his wand, waved it in Andrew's direction, and said, "Petrificus totalus!"

Andrew fell over and hit the floor with a resounding thud, his coins dropped from his stiff fingers, rolled across the wood planks and swirled to a stop around his feet. He was unaware when, a few minutes later, a humourless old man dressed in black robes stood over him, sketched an intricate pattern with his wand, and intoned, "Obliviate!"



While waiting for her troops to arrive at the Watcher's Library in the Council's leased offices at the end of the day, Buffy asked Giles, "Anything new?"

Giles leaned back in his chair and said, "Not really. I've gone over these ledgers with a fine tooth comb and still can't find any further reference to Gringotts, other than a reference to the annual withdrawal of interest. I don't understand why they don't mail us the check or electronically transfer it like most other banks – maybe it has to do with security or something. The Bank of England sent over a scan of the last check from Gringotts that Quentin deposited, but it was less than helpful as there was no address or phone number, just a Royal Mail PO box."

"And these other notebooks? What are they?"

"These are Quentin's journals. I'm still not certain what he meant by 'diagonally', but there are many other entries to study. Don't worry, I'm sure we'll eventually find it."

The other Watchers, Slayers and Scoobies had all finally gathered and settled down after getting snacks and drinks. Buffy asked them, "Any luck? Anyone at all? Every street that's diagonal to Charing Cross Road and anywhere near a bookstore has been checked?"

Xander said, "You know, there's a lot of bookstores on Charing Cross."

Giles said, "Yes, they do congregate there. However, we need to compare notes just to make certain we've covered everything."

They went round, one at a time to the Slayers, Watchers, or unassigned assistants, each describing exactly the steps taken during the day, which road they found that was even a little off perpendicular – which was pretty much all of them – and how many blocks they checked to either side of Charing Cross.

When it got to Andrew's turn, he pointed to a block on the map and said, "I went down Charing Cross Road here, I noted down each cross street and alley I passed," he leaned forward and held his hand to the side of his head, "then I bumped into something, and came home." He idly rubbed the back of his head, wincing when he pressed too hard on a sore spot.

"Bumped into something?" asked Buffy.

"Uh, yeah. I guess. I ran into this guy wearing a pinstripe Savile Row – a bespoke suit from Gieves & Hawkes I think – which made me crash into a wall. But it didn't turn out to be a wall, it was a door to a pub called the Leaky, uh, something or other. Yeah, then...," he trailed off uncertainly.

"What happened then?"

"Uh, I don't know, I remember opening the door, but I can't remember seeing anything inside, so I, I guess I came back." He paused in confusion and finally whined, "Somethings missing, isn't it?"

Willow leaned over and peered intently into Andrew's eyes. He blinked in response. Willow said something in Latin under her breath. She sat back in surprise.

"Uh oh," she said, "someone's been messing with memories. Andrew has had a chunk that's been overwritten with darkness. Hmm, I may be able to reverse this, given time. This is a very crude use of magic, not at all subtle."

"What?" asked Buffy, "how could that happen?"

"Someone attacked Andrew magically. In other words, Andrew saw something that a magical someone else objected to and they attempted to erase his memory."

Buffy said, "Well, that's just wrong. We're the only ones allowed to mess with Andrew. I think first thing tomorrow we will visit this mystery door. This may be the break we've been looking for. Good job Andrew." Buffy frowned at Andrew and added, "God, I can't believe I just said that."

Andrew beamed, "Thanks Buff, I'm always ready to back you up!"

"Andrew," Buffy said dangerously, " 'Buff' sounds like the name of a Golden Retriever, and you really don't want to be comparing me to a female dog."

"Uh sorry, won't happen again, Buff – ee."

Willow mused, "I wonder if I can whip up a spell to protect us from this memory erasing magic?"

"That sounds like an excellent plan," said Xander, "I really hate it when someone messes about with my head."

" 'Messes about'?" said Buffy, "going native there, Xand?"

Xander smiled, "Yeah, next thing you know I'll be wearing tweed jackets and carrying an umbrella."

"And don't forget the hat!"

Giles, sitting on a dark red leather chair in a windowed alcove overlooking the street, had been studying Travers' personal notebook, again. Everyone ignored him until an exclamation escaped him: "Good Lord!"

Buffy rolled her eyes and said, "Now what?"

"Hmmm?" murmured Giles without looking up from the pages.

"Giles! Pay attention! You said 'Good Lord', what's the problemo?"

Dawn interrupted, "Geez Buffy, it's problema, no hay problem-a, not -o! When will you get that right? Unless you were speaking Esperanto – you weren't speaking Esperanto were you?"

Buffy, looking at Dawn with a distracted and baffled expression, said, "Huh?"

Dawn, seeing that her interjection was out of order, said, "Sorry Buffy, I had a momentary brain fart, what were you saying?"

"Giles? What's your," with a frown directed at Dawn, "problem."

"Oh, ah, I was just muttering to myself Buffy. Not to worry."

"Giles! Whenever you get all 'lordy', sooner or later we find ourselves fighting for our lives trying to avert an apocalypse, usually sooner. Now spill!"

"Surely not every time?" questioned Giles, "We'd be knee deep in apocalypses if that were true. And this is not an apocalypse – not even close. I just realized that I may have misinterpreted Quentin's chicken scratchings. Upon closer inspection of his notes, there appears to be a space between the 'n' and the 'a'. Furthermore, the 'a' is apparently uppercase and—"

"Giles!"

"Hm? Oh yes, well, I should think that the street we're looking for isn't necessarily diagonal to Charing Cross Road after all, but rather we are looking for a street named 'Diagon Alley'. An entirely different cup of tea."

"Oh goody," said Willow, "since almost every street that intercepts Charing Cross is angled at something other than ninety degrees to it. London streets are not laid out in any kind of reasonable manner. I don't think English surveyors ever heard of overlay grids."

"I didn't know they used surveyors," said Xander, "I thought London streets must have originally been paths made by wandering hairy oxen or something."

Giles sighed deeply, "Something like that, I suppose. Now, we just need to find Diagon Alley. Willow, would you Google for it?"

"Let's see, what do we have here, hmmm?" Willow tapped her keyboard and grabbed her mouse. A moment later she said, "Wow, did you know that Charing Cross Road starts at Trafalgar Square and ends at," Willow laughed, "St. Giles Circus?"

"Saint Giles?" queried Buffy, "Giles was named after a Saint? A saint of what, librarians?"

"No, no..." attempted Giles.

"Saint Giles is the Saint of hermits and lepers," said Andrew.

"Now Andrew," Willow lectured sternly, "we call it Hanson's Disease now – nobody wants to be called a leper."

Buffy said wryly, "Revelation much?"

"But what about Giles' circus?" asked Xander, "Do they have clowns dressed in tweed, except with huge buttons, with big floppy shoes going around in worn out old Citroen's and tripping on each other going 'Oh dear lord!' "

Andrew spoke up, "No, I think a circus is just a round-about."

"A round what now?"

"For traffic! Geez, what's with you guys! Poor Mr. Giles is doing his best to save the world and all you want to do is screw with his head!"

An irritated Giles humphed, "It's more an intersection than a round-about anyway."

Willow said, "Sorry Giles, but it is kind of funny. I mean, there's Giles' everywhere here: St. Giles-Church-in-the-field—except I didn't see a field, St. Giles Centre—and how 'bout that, a shopping center named after Giles? There's a Giles Street in Oxford, and I think I even saw a St. Giles Pub. There's Giles this and Giles that all over the country, it seems to me that the Giles family oughtta pretty much own everything that isn't nailed down by the Windsors by now."

"Please stop," said Giles, annoyance writ clear on his face.

Willow shot him apologetic look and said, "But to get back on topic, look what I found: there is a Diagon Alley listed. Unfortunately it seems to be a snack bar, not an actual street or alley. But at least it gives us us a starting place as it looks to be right about where Andrew lost his mind."

"I did not lose my mind!" Andrew exclaimed indignantly. "A few brain cells, maybe."



The next morning most of the scoobies walked determinedly down the street.

"Okay, this should be it," said Willow. "Oof! Faith, drat it! Didja have to run into me like that?"

"Sorry Red, didn't see you stop. Did everyone notice how the 'Leaky Cauldron' just appeared out of a blank wall like that?"

"Yeah," said Buffy and Dawn simultaneously.

Giles was studying the spatial relationship between the next door establishments and the the Leaky Cauldron. He looked baffled.

"Yep, it was just like that yesterday, not there one moment, and when I tripped on those steps, shazam! There it was!" said Andrew.

Willow frowned and said, "Damn, look at that stupid sign!"

Faith said, "Flying witches on brooms? Isn't that right up your alley Will?"

"Are you kidding me? I hate that stereotype. I'm already getting mad! Hmmph!" Willow snorted huffily. After a calming pause, she added, "There's pervasive magic protecting this spot from from anyone except magic users. I'm sort of holding back the glamour so none of us gets lost, but it's still kinda worrisome. Do you want all of us to go in?"

"Yeah," answered Buffy, "we're just going to the bank, how dangerous could it be?"

"Okay," said Willow, reaching for the door knob, "let's go."

They stepped inside. At first it seemed like any other old English pub, just dirtier and with an even weirder clientèle than most. But the longer they looked around the odder it seemed – first the oil lamps instead of electric lights seemed out of place, then the lack of advertising. There was not a single neon sign extolling the virtues of beer or any other beverage.

Xander said, "I have a hard time believing that these oil lamps are allowed by the London fire and building codes."

"They don't sell Guinness here," said Dawn, looking around carefully. "Isn't it the law or something? I mean, we are still in the middle of London, aren't we?"

The bartender looked at them suspiciously.

" 'Ey," said the barkeep to Andrew, "didn't I chuck you out yesterday? Your kind isn't welcome here!"

"Our kind?" Buffy repeated quietly, "just what do you mean by that? And if I were you, I'd be real careful about your answer."

"Thrice bedamned muggles!" muttered Tom as he rummaged about under the bar, "I need to see about renewing the repellent charms. Ah, here it is." He came up with his wand and started to enspell the whole group. Two other patrons brought their wands up to back up Tom.

"Hey now!" said Willow, "I'll have none of that!" She waved her hand authoritatively and all the wands in the room zipped to her palm with a 'Snap!'.

Tom looked utterly baffled. "How'd you do that? I thought you were muggles!"

"I have no idea what a muggle is, but I kinda doubt it applies to us," said Faith.

"Are you American wizards? We don't get many Colonials here. Uh, may we have our wands back?" Tom asked, a lot more respectfully now.

Willow said, "Yeah, I'm a witch. And as long as you promise not to attack us, here's your wands back." Much to the amazement of the English Wizards, she opened her hand, palm up, and each wand floated back to their respective owners.

"Wandless magic?" asked a young woman with garish purple hair, "how do you control it so well?"

Willow was a little embarrassed when she replied, "Uh, well, you see, I never had a wand. I'm mostly self-taught, and the few magic teachers I had never mentioned wands."

Faith said, "As long as we're here, how 'bout six pints of your finest lager, if you please barkeep." She said in as aside to the others, "Might as well try the local brewskis in this joint, as long as were here."

Tom, his suspicions allayed, smiled and said, "Sit where ye like then, I'll bring 'em."

"Make two of 'em half-pints," said Buffy, indicating Dawn and herself.

"Yeah, a half-pint for me too," said Willow.

Andrew said, "Make mine a coke."

"We don't have coke, sorry," said Tom, "how about a butterbeer – it's non-alcoholic." Tom hadn't forgotten Andrew's visit the day before even though he wanted to.

"Sure, okay," Andrew agreed.

"And I'll have a pint of premium bitter," said Giles.

The handful of other patrons went back to their conversations when Tom brought their drinks and made wizarding change for their pounds.

Faith drank deeply of her beer and when she was done said, "Well, this is pretty good beer!"

Giles didn't say anything as he was swallowing his brew in large satisfying gulps.

The others agreed, although Dawn didn't seem quite as appreciative as the rest. And while Buffy didn't finish hers, she liked what little she did drink. The purple-haired girl walked over and asked, "May I join you?"

Several nodded yes. She sat and said, "My name is Nymphadora Tonks. But call me Tonks."

"I'm Willow Rosenberg, this is Buffy and Dawn Summers, Faith Lehane, Rupert Giles and Andrew Wells."

"So what brings you to London?"

"Business, bunch of financial crap, actually."

"Sounds dull."

"Sometimes our job is exciting, we work for the International Watcher's Council."

Tonks raised her eyebrows in surprise. "The Watcher's Council? I thought they were out of business."

"The old headquarters and most of the old Watchers got blown up," said Willow, "but the Council still exists. After all, Slayers still need training and vampires still need slaying."

"Wow, you mean there really is a Vampire Slayer? I thought the Council just dabbled in hedge magic and spread unfounded rumours about Slayers."

"There's really such a thing as a Slayer. But now we're trying to reorganize and rebuild after getting mostly destroyed."

"Sounds like big job."

"Maybe you can help us. The Council has an account at something called Gringotts, and we need to audit the account. But we haven't been able to locate Diagon Alley, so we're a little bit unsure of where this Gringotts establishment is located."

"Easily remedied, I can take you to Gringotts as soon as you're ready."

They quickly gulped down what was left of their beers and got up. "Let's go," said Buffy.

Following Tonks to the back wall of the tavern, they barely hid their surprise when she tapped out a pattern on the bricks which promptly twisted in on themselves and folded back to form an archway to a whole new street. A place that surely couldn't exist in modern London. Except it did.

"Behold!" said Tonks with a theatrical flair, "Diagon Alley!"

"So that's where it's hidden!" exclaimed Andrew.

They followed Tonks and looked around with astonishment and delight. As they strolled along they pointed out fascinating things to each other: fighting books, flying broomsticks, luscious ice cream, magical ingredients, magical wheezes, magical creatures, odd characters. It was more than they could take in easily.

"Oh look!" said Dawn, bouncing a little, "ice cream! And they have chocolate!"

"Maybe on our way back," said Buffy.

After awhile, they noticed that some of the denizens of the Alley were looking at them with distrust.

Buffy asked Tonks quietly, "Why are those guys looking at us like that?"

"Erm, ignore those wankers, every society has bad apples. They think the way you're dressed means you don't belong here."

"So let's head over to Gringotts."

Faith said, "You guys go on, I'm gonna wander around."

As they approached the bank, Buffy stopped and appeared to be listening to something only she could hear.

Buffy asked, "Can anyone else hear that rumbling?"

"No," replied Tonks. But she paused, for at that moment, she felt the ground heave. Then she could hear rumbling. "Uh yeah, I can hear it now. What do suppose could cause that?"

"Could it be an earthquake?" asked California bred Buffy.

"Earthquakes aren't common in London; flood and fire, sure, but not earthquakes."

Loud noises came from the white marble building ahead and the goblins on guard outside started to look around nervously. After a particularly loud crash, a large group of goblins and wizards rushed out the door and into the street just ahead of a large and obviously ancient dragon with three people riding on the back which burst through the bank's huge metal doors, leaving them buckled and hanging from their hinges.

The dragon staggered and flapped its wings, nearly dislodging one of the passengers before leaping into the air and winging away to the north.

Tonks and several other wizards standing around lifted up their wands and started a variety of curses and hexes. Buffy noticed Willow whispering quietly. Buffy couldn't see that the wizard's curses were having any effect on the dragon or its riders. When Willow stopped whatever she was doing, Buffy leaned her head over and asked very softly, "What was that?"

Willow, mindful of being overheard, whispered, "They had nearly pure auras Buffy, whatever they stole, it wasn't money. So I put a little protection around them."

Buffy nodded softly.

Tonks looked fit to be tied. "Stonking bodge! Why didn't the 'halt and come back' curses work?"

One of the other wizards, apparently a colleague of Tonks, stepped over and said, "Perhaps there was some sort of spell on them."

"I didn't see anyone but Aurors casting spells. I suppose they could have planned ahead. Did anyone identify the passengers?"

There was a general shaking of heads. Tonks abandoned her charges and ran towards Gringotts.

"Wow," said Dawn, "you don't usually see dragons rampaging in London."

"A first for me," said Giles.

"Uh," whined Andrew, "doesn't that method of exiting a building cause structural damage?"

Meanwhile, Goblins boiled out of the destroyed doorway like ants from a kicked mound, yelling, "Thieves, robbers! Help! Get them!"

Dawn shook her head and laughed softly. "That's gotta be our bank; trust the old Watchers to have found the only bank in the world that could get robbed by dragonriders."

Andrew wondered, "Do they they have FDIC here?"

"They bound to have something," said Buffy, "Come on, let's see if they'll do any business with us."

But it quickly became obvious that there would be no more banking that day, so they turned to leave. Buffy asked Willow, "Will you be able to open up the door at the back of the Leaky Tavern without us finding another guide?"

"Yeah, I could feel the magics they used for the spell, elementary really."

"Good. I'm not sure how much I trust these people, with their casual use of curses and the whole hiding from the world thing."

Giles agreed, "Yes, listen cautiously and double-check would be applicable when dealing with the Wizarding world." After a pause he added, "Shall we go find Faith and head back?"

"Let's go to Fortescue's and try some of that wizarding ice cream," said Dawn.

"That sounds great," Buffy agreed, with Willow nodding along. Giles was agreeable, if not quite as excited, when they couldn't help but notice a commotion up ahead by the intersection with a smaller street called Knockturn Alley.

"Hey," said Buffy, "Faith is in the middle of that crowd of people." And she rushed away towards Faith's side. "What's got everyone in such a lather?" she asked.

Faith said, "I wandered down this street, looking around, and these assholes started making nasty comments about me. Not wishing to start a big deal, I turned and left. They followed and attacked me just as I got to this intersection."

Giles and Willow arrived. Willow glared at two people dressed in black from head to toe, including face masks, who were lying unconscious on the ground. She said, "These two have very nasty auras – not just dark, but a sort of negative dark. They're unadulterated evil. They've murdered innocents, many times, singing and dancing while they did it."

Tonks, in a far more official tone than earlier, asked, "What about that one?" Pointing to a third unmoving man in black.

"That one's just dead. Although I wouldn't stand too close, an evil miasma seems to be seeping from the corpse."

One of the other Aurors said authoritatively to Faith, "Come on girl, let's see your wand, we need to see what spells you've been casting." His tone of voice was decidedly unfriendly and he held his wand at the ready.

"I'm not a witch, I don't have a wand."

"What! How could you defeat three Death-Eaters without a wand?"

"I kicked their asses. It's kinda what I do, my thing," Faith said with an ill-concealed smirk.

Willow stepped in front of the Auror and said, "I put some protection spells around her, all of us actually. If you have a way to determine what these guys were doing, some sort of forensic magical analysis method, then you might get your answers. I believe they're suffering from their own attacks on Faith."

"I never heard of such powerful protection spells," said one of the junior Aurors, "at least not from a young American witch." Apparently, he considered 'American magic' to be a lower form.

All four Aurors looked disbelieving, to greater and lesser extents depending on their dispositions. But one bent down and confiscated the Death-Eater's wands. After a few moments he said, "Yes young lady, we can read the wands and determine what spells were used."

He did various things to the wands while everyone else watched and waited, and finally said, "Huh, these two," pointing at the unconscious ones, "did cruciatus curses and they both appear to be suffering from being hit by the same curse. The dead one's wand registers an avada kedavra killing curse, and he is indeed dead. So the American witch's claim may well be true."

There was a sudden 'POP!' which surprised the scoobies, but no one else, and a man wearing formal office-robes appeared. He ignored everyone except the other Aurors and said officiously, "Right then, what's the situation?"

"Sir! This American muggle was attacked by these Death-Eaters..."

"Who attacked them? And why haven't the muggles been obliviated?"

"She, and perhaps the others, seem to have protection hexes which reflects all spells back to the issuer..."

"Stuff and balderdash! She's just a muggle, I mean, look at her! Obviously a powerful witch defeated these wizards and that person is a muggle, doesn't even have a wand. Along with her muggle friends." He turned towards Faith and said, "You! Young lady, who attacked these wizards! These people here, on the ground!" He spoke loudly and slowly, as if her lack of magic caused cognitive deficiency.

"My name is Faith Lehane, what's yours?"

"Never mind that, just answer the question, there's a good girl."

"My name is Faith Lehane, what's yours?"

"What's the matter with her?" he asked Tonks.

"Er, nothing sir, but I believe she wants to know your name before answering any questions."

"Hell and damnation! The silly bint's gonna forget everything anyway!"

"Well no sir, as I said, she has powerful protections. And while she isn't a wizard, I think that she is technically a magical creature."

"Are you injured? You're aren't making sense Auror Tonks." Turning to Faith he said, "I am Auror Dawlish. Now girl, tell me who defeated these wizards!"

"Dawlish. Hmm, okay. There was no one but me near them when they attacked. I punched one in the face, kicked that one in the goolies – and what a great word, I'm takin' that one back to the states with me – then I picked up that butthead over there and tossed him into the wall. I didn't hit them hard enough though, 'cause they all staggered upright and started in with their little sticks and did this to themselves."

Dawlish said to Tonks, "We won't get anything out of her, she's obviously deficient. Go ahead and obliviate her."

"No sir, I won't. That would be the same as obliviating myself."

"Oh for... All right, I'll do it myself."

"Oh no sir, don't do –"

"OBLIVIATE!"

A blue flash sprung from the tip of Dawlish's wand, stopped just before it got to Faith and bounced back on the reverse course and hit Dawlish square between his eyes. His hands and fingers relaxed, allowing his wand to fall unremarked to the ground. His jaw slacked open and he stared around in gormless wonder. He noticed Tonks standing next to him and asked, "Uh, hi, you're pretty, I'm, uh – who am I?"

"Merlin's beard! He's buggered himself but good, hasn't he?" said Tonks, disgusted. "Jenson, would you escort Auror Dawlish to St. Mungos? Be sure to bring his wand along."

Jenson gently took hold of Dawlish, stuck Dawlish's wand in his pocket, and apparated both of them to the hospital.

Dawn asked, "Will he be alright?"

"Oh yeah," said Tonks, "they'll set him straight at St. Mungos, but it may take 'em awhile. I think he managed to remove all knowledge of magic from himself, and since he's spent his whole life in the wizarding world, that means he's ignorant about pretty much everything now. The only thing he remembers is how to talk. I just hope he remembers how to use the loo."

One of the Aurors said, "At least for a few weeks we won't have to listen to him chuntering on about cack he knows nothing about."

Tonks said, "Hey, he's the gaffer, show a little respect."

"Yeah, 'bout as much you did."

Tonks sighed in agreement.

Willow asked, "But if the obliviate spell removes knowledge, how will they fix him?"

"Oh, you see the spell works by disconnecting the information from the rest of the brain. It's just a matter of reconnecting what's there. Removing knowledge completely is another thing entirely, and not usually done, except by medi-witches in certain types of mental illness."

"Oh, I see," Willow said, "sort of like FAT tables in computer hard discs. The data's still there, only the disc address is missing from the table." She knew now that she could fix Andrew's little memory loss from the other day.

Tonks looked puzzled. "What's being fat got to do with anything?"

"No, no, it's computer stuff, you know, how they work under the hood."

"No," sighed Tonks, "I just barely know what a computer does, certainly nothing about how they work."

"Don't worry about it," said Willow.

Tonks looked at her prisoners and frowned. She said, "Get cuffs on these chaps, including the dead 'un, just in case he decides to come back to life."

"You really think he could?"

"No I don't, but we've seen his leader come back from the dead, so we'll keep this one both manacled and magically restrained until the coroner-wizard declares him completely dead. No need for the likes of us to take chances with these nutters."







Chapter 3: Chapter 3


I have an anonymous correspondent who has taken me to task for making Willow too powerful. Two points: one, it is well established in BtVS canon that Willow is a very powerful witch; and two, she has yet to meet the most powerful wizards in the wizarding world. Mind you, I don't know what will happen when (or if) she does meet Dumbledore, or Voldemort, or a couple of others, we'll all have to find out together.



The Key

The next morning Giles, Willow and Buffy walked towards the Leaky Cauldron. Giles, in the lead, said, "Where is it? The door doesn't appear to be there today."

Willow asked, "Buffy, can you see it?"

"Not yet. Maybe it's out of business, you know, like Giles' favorite pub that used to be around the corner from our headquarters."

Giles frowned.

"Not this one," said Willow as she sketched a quick pattern in the air with her right hand while she mumbled a Latin phrase. "How about now?"

Both Giles and Buffy said simultaneously, "Oh, there it is."

Giles stepped up and held the door open for the Willow and Buffy. They walked through, nodded to Tom and approached the back. Faith and Dawn rushed in behind, both of them scarfing down Egg McMuffins. Tonks had been sitting at a table, just finished with her morning tea and breakfast, and got up to open the door to Diagon Alley with her wand when Willow marched up to the wall confidently, and the bricks snapped out of her way like an automatic door.

"How'd you do that?" Tonks asked in amazement.

"Isn't that supposed to happen?" Willow answered with impossible innocence.

"Uh, well, something like that, I guess," Tonks replied, not really sure what to say. She wondered about Willow and her friends, she felt under-informed.

A few minutes later they were at Gringott's front door, waiting impatiently for the bank to open, while Faith again took to wandering around to check the place out in more detail. Tonks caught up with Faith and offered to guide her. Tonks was certain that Faith was hiding something from her, too. There was no doubt in her mind that these people were a lot more than mere muggles; but it required more study.

At the bank, Buffy studied the huge door looming so far over her head. She said, "That's pretty fast work, you can't even tell the doors and frame and part of the wall were destroyed yesterday."

"Umm," said Willow, "they used magic to fix it, of course. These people would be helpless if their magic suddenly stopped working."

Dawn read the inscription over the front door:

Enter, stranger, but take heed

Of what awaits the sin of greed

For those who take, but do not earn,

Must pay most dearly in their turn.

So if you seek beneath our floors

A treasure that was never yours,

Thief, you have been warned, beware

Of finding more than treasure there.

"So Willow, how certain are you of the people who robbed this place yesterday? I mean, you helped them get away, did you do the right thing?"

"Yes; going strictly by their auras I don't believe they took anything they didn't have a right to take. And these goblins must have had that poor dragon chained up in the caverns below for years. That wasn't very nice of them."

"The same goblins who look after our money?"

"Yep."

Giles looked around, still coming to terms with the very concept of the wizarding world. He asked Willow, "Are you sure the protections you've provided for us will work?"

"Pretty sure. For all these people's use of magic, for all their vaunted but self-proclaimed expertise, they really use fairly elementary and low-power magics; although codified through the centuries and concentrated through the use of wands. Still, I haven't felt anyone who's particularly powerful. Of course I can't be 100% sure; there's always the possibility that they have something I hadn't thought of and the we may not have met any high-powered wizards yet, but with these amulets any spell or curse should reflect back to the caster. And I provided secondary backup protection against their 'obliviate' spell. That one's just plain nasty."

Giles nodded, "Let's hope for the best."

"It worked for Faith yesterday," said Dawn.

"Yes, that does bode well," Giles agreed.

"Those guys yesterday though," said Willow, "were foot-soldiers and cannon-fodder. I'm pretty sure they were neither the best nor the brightest of dark wizards."

A low rumbling coming from the bank proved to be the outer doors opening slowly and majestically. An honor guard of uniformed goblins marched outside. They proceeded to go through several minutes of military-like exercises, complete with twittering fife and tapping snare drums and the twirling of military staffs – in lieu of rifles – ending finally with two guard goblins marching to either side of the door and taking up parade rest. The rest of the troop marched off around the building, apparently setting guards at various strategic locations.

Giles looked at his watch and said, "Humph, nine AM on the dot. Bankers hours only, it would appear."

Buffy said, "Let's go." She marched in and the others followed.

A goblin in a very fancy uniform walked up and said, "Good morning gentleman and ladies. My name is Mr. Highwall, how may Gringotts Bank be of service?"

"We're from the International Watcher's Council and we're here to audit our account." Giles refrained from confusing the goblin bankers with the Council name change to International Slayers & Watchers Council just yet.

"Excellent, we always advise our customers to verify and check from time to time. Mr. Lockwasher and Mr. Vitrophyre will be able to attend to your needs." He pointed to a pair of desks towards the end of the main counter.

Willow, Dawn and Giles sat in front of the desks. The senior of the two said, "I am Mr. Vitrophyre. Mr. Lockwasher and I will be your personal bankers. First thing, we need your identification."

"Technically, by your standards at least, we're muggles. So our IDs are from the muggle world. Is that going to be a problem?" asked Giles.

"No, no. As we are an international bank, we must, of necessity, interact with the world at large. Although it is unusual for muggles to have accounts with us," said Mr. Vitrophyre.

Willow said, "Yeah, but we aren't really muggles, we just never heard of your world before yesterday. Some of us are witches, and we have one or two magical creatures in our group, and all of us know about the supernatural and vampires and magic and such."

The goblin nodded, "I suspected as much. Your driver's licenses should be sufficient."

Giles handed over his California license, as did Willow and Dawn. And he added his membership card from the Council of Watchers. Vitrophyre carefully wrote down all the information on a ledger. He tapped the ledger with his wand and waited a few moments. He looked up with a frown and said, "I don't see that we have accounts in any of your names."

"But you do have an account for the International Watchers Council, right?"

"Yes, but none of you are authorized signers."

"Yet," said Giles. "The Council has suffered a major loss of the top ranks, and I am the new Head Watcher."

"Oh, I see," said Mr. Vitrophyre, "then we merely need the key."

Dawn went white as the blood drained from her face. She felt light-headed. "Wha', what...?"

Buffy swiveled in their direction with an angry glare.

Giles eyes narrowed dramatically. He asked ominously, "To what do you refer?"

Mr. Vitrophyre did not miss the danger signals behind the mild tones. He said cautiously, "The key to your vault, they look like this." He cautiously retrieved a small golden key from his right hand vest pocket. As odd as it appeared, it was still unmistakably a mechanical key for a mechanical lock. Dawn drew a breath of relief; across the lobby Buffy turned back to the pamphlet she was studying and Giles smiled lightly.

"I see," he said. "What procedures do we have to go through to replace a lost key?"

"Oh dear," said the goblin. "That is an involved process, particularly if the authorized signers are dead. It would be much faster if you could find the missing key." The quick glances that passed back a forth among his customers was intriguing, but he was unable to decipher any of it.

Dawn said, "We are nearly certain our vault-key was destroyed when the Council headquarters building was destroyed. And even if it somehow survived the explosion, the debris has already been removed to the land-fill. I doubt we could find it now, unless there is some sort of unique magical field around it."

Mr. Lockwasher spoke up, "There is a magical field around each of our vault-keys. Unfortunately for you, the purpose of said field is to prevent it from being found by magical means; security, you see, is the larger problem. If wizards with bad intent could magically retrieve other peoples keys with a spell – well, it would be disruptive to the smooth operation of Wizarding finance, wouldn't it?"

"They do, however, have an additional hex," Mr. Vitrophyre said, "that keeps the key attracted to any authorized account holder, and no one else. But I gather the only authorized persons are dead."

"Yes. The next person in line would be me," said Giles.

"I see. In order to change to locus of the holder hex, we would need to have the physical key in hand," Mr. Lockwasher said.

"I thought as much – we shall have to start the replacement procedure."

Mr. Vitrophyre sighed heavily and signaled to a junior. After a whispered consultation, the junior scurried off. He returned several minutes later with a foot-high stack of rolled parchment forms on a polished pewter tray, which he solemnly placed on the desk.

"You will need to fill these out and go before the Wizengamot to verify that you are who you say you are and that you have diligently looked for, and not found, the vault-key and are authorised to access this account. Unfortunately, the Wizengamot is notoriously fickle about these forms: every 'f ' must be properly crossed, every 'j' must be dotted – but on no account may any upper case J be dotted – every empty space must be correctly filled in, and you must use wizard certified goose quill pens and magically enhanced India ink; all in strict accordance to Wizarding precedent and law. So you will need the help of a Wizarding Solicitor or risk multiple time-wasting rejections."

"I see," said Giles, "And where would we find Wizarding Lawyers, and how do we evaluate these firms in order to make a reasonable choice?"

"Most of them have offices on League Alley, which is the next street over from Knockturn Alley. Although there are some lawyers that have offices on Knockturn Alley but you should avoid those for their reputations are of the unenviable sort."

"I'm sure. After we go before the Wizengamot and successfully jump through the hoops, what next?"

"Then you fill out more forms," Vitrophyre snapped his claws and the junior hurried over with more rolled parchment forms on yet another metal tray, "again with the help of a Wizarding – or perhaps this time a Goblin lawyer. Then you go before a Wizard Judge and they will provide a court order for us. Then, and only then, we will be able to start the replacement process – which takes about six working days."

"So from start to finish, we're talking …?" asked Dawn.

"Four to eight weeks."

"I guess it could be worse."

"If I may be so bold," said Mr. Vitrophyre, "I would recommend either of two law firms: Backfill, Auger, Roofjack & Kingpin, Ltd., and Anticline, Retort & Friable, LLP. I believe that either of these firms would be suitable for your needs in this affair. And as they both have senior partners that are goblins, as well as a few wizards, squibs, and even a knowledgeable muggle or two on staff, I think you'll find that they can expedite this matter as much as possible."

"We'll keep them in mind," Giles said.

"BARK and ARF?" Dawn wondered aloud, "These are highly respected law firms?"

"Indeed they are," assured the goblin, "at least here in the Wizarding world."

"I wonder if Wolfram and Hart has an office here?" asked Buffy.

The two goblin bankers frowned at that name. "Yes," said Vitrophyre, "they have offices on Knockturn Alley. That would be one of the firms I suggest you avoid."

"We do have an in with them."

"Only the LA branch, I think the other branches are semi-independent. Anyway, I wouldn't trust them within throwing distance of our finances," said Willow. "I think we need do a little research before making a decision."



Faith and Tonks wandered up Diagon Alley, talking about nothing in particular. Tonks was trying to think of a subtle way to ask questions about Willow and her power while Faith was content to see the sights.

"So Tonks, why do they call these streets 'alleys'? This one at least looks pretty street-like to me."

"I've never really thought about it, but I'd guess because they're hidden in between the streets on the London map, kind of like alleys."

"Hmm, makes sense, I suppose. What the hell is that?" Faith drew back as a small pinwheel of exploding colors spun out the door of a what appeared to be a joke shop, right in front of the two sightseers.

Tonks was about to answer when she was interrupted by a stern, "Ahem!"

"Oh! Mr. Malfoy, I didn't see you there," said Tonks.

Faith looked back and saw a very tall man with white hair down to his shoulders, expensive looking black robes, and a patrician air of expecting everyone around him to bow and scrape.

"Auror Tonks, is your time best spent escorting muggles? Don't you have anything more important to do while on the Ministry's payroll?" He made 'muggle' sound like an unwholesome affliction.

"Sir, Faith is not a muggle, technically. She's one of the representatives from The International Watchers Council."

She was going to continue but Malfoy interrupted, "One of Quentin Travers little researchers?" He apparently didn't think any better of researchers than he did muggles.

Tonks started to explain but Faith broke in, "Nah, I'm more of a troubleshooter. But you're behind the times, Quentin and all the top echelons of the Council have been replaced."

"Really," he drawled, "News from the muggle world doesn't percolate through the Wizarding community very well." His whole attitude fairly screamed that news from outside couldn't possibly be of interest.

Faith was staring at the space between her and the senior Malfoy with intense interest. Tonks looked and saw a myriad of magical sparks flying back and forth in ever smaller arcs until they disappeared. It was apparent that Malfoy was trying to use magic on Faith.

"Oh sir, I told you that Faith isn't an ordinary muggle. She is protected by powerful magics."

"Yesss, Auror Tonks, as am I." He stepped around them and continued serenely on his way, dismissing Faith and Tonks only by tipping the head of his cane in their direction as he passed.

Tonks shivered. Faith said, "He surely does try to be quietly menacing, don'tcha think?"

"He doesn't 'try' at all, I think it's as natural to him as breathing. What did he try to do to you?"

"Beats the shit outta me. Some sort of magical fuck-a-hicky, I guess. It looks like his magic stood up to Willow's protection, although he didn't break though, he also stopped the bounce-back thing from affecting him. So who was that smirking asshole?"

"Lucious Malfoy. A pureblood pompous arse with an inflated ego. You want to watch your back around him – he's a bigwig nabob in the Wizengamot; a man with a lot of power – in several senses of the word. Most of the Aurors think he's a Deatheater and belongs in Azkaban, but so far he's managed to weasel out of being directly implicated."

"Azkaban?"

"Our prison for nefarious wizards. It's not a nice place."

"Hmm." Faith's expression was unreadable.



The next day, Dawn and Willow hurried up the road for they were running a little late and they were to meet Giles in the lobby before heading to their appointments. League Alley was a narrow street paved with cobblestones. The sidewalk was beautifully inlaid slate and the buildings were mostly old-fashioned; many were built with what appeared to be notably ancient construction methods. The styles varied from what appeared to be piled-up-rock to Tudor, with plenty of steps in between.

"Now, where do you suppose #47 League Alley is?"

"Look, there's number forty-six."

"Ye-ah. But the next one is labeled five. And across the street is 1001."

"The building numbers don't seem to be in any particular order," said Dawn. "It's as if the individual owners just choose their own street number."

Willow looked around at the various building in sight. "Yeah, I think you're right. I guess we have to stop and ask to find number forty-seven. It makes you wonder why they bothered to number them at all."

"Maybe it has to do with numerology. If we could just figure out the system, maybe we could find it."

"Look, there's Giles. He seems to be wandering aimlessly."

"Makes sense if he's just as lost as we are."

Giles spotted Dawn and Willow and they headed towards each other. Upon meeting, Giles asked, "Have you had any luck spotting #47? I thought it was confusing to navigate ordinary London streets, but this could drive one to insanity."

"Yeah," said Dawn, "we think they're using numerologically important numbers, or something equally stupid. Look, there's someone we can ask." They walked across the street to where a shopkeeper had just opened up and was sweeping the sidewalk in front of his establishment.

"Number forty-seven, you say? Well, let me think," said the shopkeeper. He stared at the pavement, scratched his chin, and mumbled quietly, "...carry the six, add seventeen, divide by the product of the last two numbers, add the number from across the street, round down, if it's a repeat add a hundred..."

When he finished mumbling he smiled and looked at Dawn and said, "Yes, yes, it's several blocks to the right. You'll find League Alley splits into a 'Y', they're both named League Alley of course, but you want the one to the left and it'll be seven buildings down on the right. Be careful, two of those seven building appear as one, but they're really two."

All three looked a little shell-shocked at those instructions, but said their thanks and found their way to #47. Which appeared to be a stone shack set in the middle of a block which was otherwise a rock garden. They made their way along a paved path to the structure, which turned out to be a foyer on the inside. There was a directory and a set of stairs leading down into the earth.

"Huh," said Giles, "it must be entirely underground."

Dawn and Willow agreed. Willow said, "Hmm. Okay, let's see what firms we want to visit."

Willow and Dawn turned to the directory and saw listed under 'Legal;:

Adit, Decline & Stope, Ltd. -- Suite 1820

Anticline, Retort & Friable, PLC - Suite 1620

Backfill, Auger, Roofjack & Kingpin, LLP - Suite 0400

Caseharden, Dragline, Bolter & Smectite, Ltd. -- Suite 1010

Fracture, Blackdamp, Slurry, & Sinkhole, LLP -- Suite 1205

Pithead, Slatebar, & Bore, Ltd. -- Suite 1407

Wolfram & Hart – Goblin Division -- Suite 0247

"Oh right," said Dawn, "Fracture, Blackdamp, Slurry & Sinkhole sounds like such a stand-up bunch of lawyers."

"Ha," Giles laughed, "but probably not as funny if you're facing them in court."

"And Wolfram & Hart has offices here on League Alley as well as Knockturn Alley. We keep running into them, I wonder if that's some sort of sign that we should use them?"

"I should think not," said Giles. He considered the list again. "You know, this list seems almost exclusively to be Goblin owned firms, if I have interpreted the typical Goblin name correctly. I wonder where we can find legal firms runs by wizards? And I also wonder which is better for us."

"We could always go back to the Leaky Cauldron and see what the average man in the street says. Or at least the average man in a bar," said Willow.

"Or," said Dawn with a bright smile, "we could go to Fortescue's and talk to sober people and have ice cream!"

"That's not a bad idea. Better than hanging around here anyway."

Later, at Fortescue's, enjoying a variety of ice cream dishes in flavors not common elsewhere, Faith and Tonks rejoined them. Dawn was plowing through something that looked like a banana split, except it wasn't a banana and Faith decided not to inquire about the other flavors. Most of the others seemed to be enjoying more ordinary looking ice cream and shakes. Faith said to the waitress, "I'll have a chocolate cone."

"We don't have those."

"What? Chocolate or cones?"

"Cones of course. Everybody in the world has chocolate."

"Okay, how about that," pointing at Willow's parfait-looking sort of thing, "except in chocolate."

"Good choice." The waitress tapped her wand against the table and a dish popped into existence in front of Faith – she was able to control her surprise, but it was close.

"So Faith, find any more Deatheaters today?" Dawn said, only slightly sarcastically.

"Well, just one, I think."

"Really? What happened? Anyone die?" Willow asked rapidly.

"Nothing actually, this guy, what was his name again?"

"Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy, a right blagger. If he's not a Deatheater then I'm the Queen of Scotland."

"But Scotland hasn't had a Queen in three hundred years... Oh, I see," said Willow.

Giles said, "So Miss Tonks, do you have any idea where we might go to find good legal help around here?"

"Hmm, well you might try the firm of Desolation, Marque, Nutmeg & Consolation, Ltd. They have an excellent track record."

"I don't know, sounds awfully depressing."

"They aren't, I assure you. Quite a lively bunch, actually. Oh, another one that may be just what you're looking for: Ackerly, Ackerly & Ackerly. Small enough to provide personal service, large enough to have the resources you require to see this through. And the newest partner was a classmate of mine."

"I'll bear that in mind, Miss Tonks," said Giles.

The next day they steeled themselves to head down League Alley again, this time taking the right-hand fork. On the next block they could see a towering office building – towering for a totally hidden street at least. It looked about twelve stories tall and had intricate detailing all over the outside stone surfaces.

As they got nearer, the building took on a very strange aspect.

"Willow," asked Dawn, "what the hecks holding that thing up? Twelve stories of glass, stone and possibly some steel and it looks like they've taken the European way of putting the first floor on the second and really run with it by not having anything at ground level at all."

"Yeah, actually, I think they skipped two stories. Except for the small central core and a few spindly looking columns, I really don't understand why it doesn't fall over."

They paused in stared in wonder. "Is this the place?" asked Dawn.

Willow looked around, found a street sign and an address. "Yep, I'm afraid it is."

Willow studied the building some more and muttered a few Latin and Summerian phrases under her breath. After contemplating for a minute or two she said, "Well, on the bright side, they aren't using magic to directly hold it up. That would be dangerous since instant disaster would follow any minor disruption of the magical field. But I think they used magical means to strengthen some of the material that went into building it. Also, I can feel some sort of emergency spell, a set of spells really; none are active, but they're ready at a moments notice to straighten things out if needed, in case of something causing the structure to lean too much. So, it may not look safe, but I think it is."

The two of them gingerly followed a paved path under the building to the central core. There was a large double door that opened automatically and majestically as they approached. Inside was a very beautiful lobby made from polished granites and semi-precious stone inlaid in a mind-boggling pattern. Giles was waiting by the directory.

"Ah, there you Willow. I think us mere non-magical folk are not welcome here, since I have yet to detect a method of accessing the building proper. But I have seen wizards arrive and disappear – I believe it's what they refer to as 'apparating'. Apparently, that's the only way to get to the offices above."

Willow said, "Hmmm, I'm not entirely certain if I can carry both of you along."

Dawn spoke up, "I think I can do it myself, if you take Giles."

Giles and Willow both looked surprised. "You can?"

"Yeah, all this magic around us is getting more and more visible – more real – to me. You do remember, I do have a bizarre background compared to most people. And I read about apparating at the bookstore. You just have to be careful not to squinch and bob's your uncle!" Dawn smiled brightly.

"Bob?" asked Willow.

Giles said, "It's a British saying. But I don't think it's common among your generation."

"Yeah, yeah, I know that Giles. I was just surprised that Dawny here is going British."

"How could I avoid it? I mean, I spend more time than anyone else hanging around Giles here."

"Okay. So what's squinching?" Willow asked curiously.

"Well, I didn't actually get far enough to find out," Dawn said, looking a little embarrassed, "since we didn't have any wizarding money I couldn't buy the book."

Giles shook his head. "Then maybe you shouldn't try it yet, at least until you're certain that you can avoid squinching, or any other difficulty."

Willow said, "Actually, it won't be necessary. There are stairs here, they're just invisible."

"Really?"

"Yeah, watch this!"

Willow walked over to the long planter that was towards the opposite wall, walked around it to what appeared to be empty space, and starting walking up in the air. "See?"

"Cool! Now where're we going?"

Giles looked at the directory:

Ackerly, Ackerly & Ackerly, LLP.

Colossus, Enigma & Turing, PLC

Dirdir, Chasch, Durdane and Wankh, LLP

Finnigan, Tristan & Wake, Teo.

Grimstone, Bagshot, High & Gudgeon, Ltd.

Desolation, Marque, Nutmeg & Consolation, Ltd.

Waffling, Turnabout & Shiver, Ltd.

"Yeah," Dawn said uncertainly, "Anyone know what 'Teo.' means?"

"It's something incomprehensible for 'incorporated', I think," said Giles.

"Okay, so Ackerly, Ackerly & Ackerly it is."

"I don't know, 'Waffling, Turnabout & Shiver' has certain flair to it, doncha think?"

"No!"

Dawn and Giles followed Willow up the invisible steps. The ceiling seemed to retreat as they advanced and suddenly they were standing in front of a receptionist.



Chapter Four

The Plot Thickens



"Giles!" said Buffy, "I can't be twiddling my thumbs here in jolly old England any longer. That business in Cleveland is nearly come to a head, and I really need to be there, plus I think I see a way to get more money out of those Chicago gangsters, which we need right now!"

"But Buffy, I need you here until we get this financial codswallop cleared up."

"But you don't need me. Ackerly and Ackerly and the other Ackerly will be handling things for awhile, and I really hate talking to lawyers."

"So you're leaving it to me?"

"Of course, you're a Watcher, it's your job."

"And I thank you Buffy."

"Hey, you don't need to thank me, I'm thanking you, if it weren't for you, I might slay a lawyer and have to go to prison."

"But you assume that I can handle it?"

"Sure, if you could handle Travers, then you can handle Ackerly, any of the Ackerlys."

Giles sighed, "Yes, I suppose so."

"And if you need muscle there's still plenty of junior slayers hanging around, plus you have Faith. Besides, I'm only a plane ride away; so if you need me for session in court or something, just call."

"Why must Americans be so argumentative?" Giles asked plaintively.

"Because we're independent and rebellious?" suggested Dawn.

"Hmmm," he glared. "All right Buffy, you win, as per usual. And what's this about forcing gangsters to pay us?"

"Oh, now that we've won the Cleveland court case against those mobbed-up real estate developers, we're getting ready to sue them for legal costs, and I thought I'd add a generous amount for the non-legal costs, too. I think I can get it with just a little-arm twisting."*

"And by 'arm-twisting', you're speaking metaphorically, yes?"

"Well, maybe if they agree soon enough."

"I didn't hear that, you're on your own, and I trust you'll have sufficient assault weapons and solicitors at hand." Giles got up and went to his office.



The next morning, Buffy slouched into the breakfast room off the kitchen at the leased headquarters in London.

"Mornin' Buff," said Xander, looking up from his coffee.

"Hi Buffy!" said Willow, waving.

"Good morning Buffy," said Giles, putting his paper aside.

Dawn said, "Oh, oh, wait till you see what Andrew's cooking for breakfast this morning!"

Buffy raised her eyebrows. "Ah, it's a surprise, is it?" she asked doubtfully, "Will I need my scythe?"

Giles said, "It has quite a luscious aroma, a pleasant surprise, I should think, no weapons required."

"Okay, first, coffee," demanded Buffy, "second, surprises."

"Yep," said Willow, pouring a cup for Buffy.

"Mmmmmmm!" said Buffy from deep inside as she sipped dark roasted ambrosia from her Queen Anne cup. "Where's Faith and the others?"

Giles said, "Kennedy and Faith took the junior slayers out for early – or late depending on your viewpoint – patrol and training."

Andrew came out of the kitchen with a large tray; he set individual rectangular dishes in front of everyone.

Buffy sniffed appreciatively. "Whatever it is, it sure smells good."

"TA-DA!" Andrew said dramatically, "A super special breakfast in honor of our super special Head Watcher: Classic English Toad-in-the-Hole!"

"Does anyone else think the title 'Head Watcher' sounds a little fatuous in these more modern times?" asked Giles.

"Pass the English muffins, willya Dawnie?" said Xander.

Giles, puzzled, asked, "Why do you call them English Muffins? They're neither English nor muffins."

"Toad in the hole!" exclaimed Buffy, "Is there something disgusting in this? Darned English cooking..." She poked it suspiciously with her fork. "There's no actual toads in this, right?"

"Well Giles, that's a legitimate concern," said Dawn, "I mean, whose heads do you watch? And I can quickly go to a very squicky place, if you want."

"No, no, Buffy," said Andrew, "it's got eggs and butter and flour and salt and pepper and bangers – "

"Please don't go there Dawn," said Giles

"Bangers! What the hell are bangers?" asked Buffy. "It's got blood in it, doesn't it? Go on, tell me, if I taste blood in this I'm gonna hit you!"

"Oh Giles, spoil my fun why don't'cha?" said Dawn.

"Is there anymore coffee?" asked Xander.

"No, no, bangers is just English sausage, like American sausage except with some bread crumbs and a slightly different mix of spices," said Andrew. "It's really good, taste it! No blood, I promise you. You're thinking of black pudding, that's got blood cooked in, but neither bangers nor sausage does."

"A fresh pot of coffee'll be ready in a few minutes Xander, but you could have some tea?" said Willow.

Giles said, "The point being, Dawn, perhaps it's time to think of a new title." He turned and said, "You know Buffy, Black Pudding is really quite rich and delicious – you should broaden your horizons and stop being so parochial."

Andrew explained, "I think, Giles, that early American colonists were trying to make scones, but didn't have quite the right ingredients and no written recipes and came up with these muffins instead, and well, they called them English – possibly it was early enough in history that they still thought of themselves as English – and the name just stuck, inauthentic as it is."

"Willow," Xander said sadly, "Tea? Really? In what universe do you think I would want to drink tea?"

"Giles, how about something altogether more dignified and stuffy, like 'The Big Head'," said Dawn.

"Grrrr," said Giles.

Buffy looked at Giles in disbelief. "No, it can't be delicious, it's got blood in it, how could it even be edible? And you better not have been growling at me!"

"But it's cooked, Buffy," said Andrew.

"Giles! You growled at me!" exclaimed Dawn.

"So what!" said Buffy, "it's blood!"

"Of course I didn't growl, 'The Big Head' is too dignified to growl," Giles growled.

"Buffy's got a point, G-man," said Xander. "Blood, even animal blood, is just not something we're prepared to accept as an ingredient in food." Even Willow shook her head apologetically at Giles. Andrew was about to mention how much Spike liked his black pudding, but he held his tongue as that would win no arguments at this table.

Giles sighed deeply and held up one finger, "Hold on a moment Dawn; Buffy, Toad-in-the-Hole is not made with blood; taste it, if Andrew cooked it properly you'll like it. After all, it's really just Yorkshire pudding with sausages baked in."

Dawn said, "Okay, seriously Giles, how about CEO? Chief Executive Officer is nice and contemporary, and doesn't stand out. Just what the doctor ordered."

Buffy put down her fork with the untasted morsel, again. "Yorkshire pudding? Is that another one of those British code-words for something repulsive? So what is it, deep-fried fat? Or some gross organ that that no civilized person would ever think of eating? Or something that looks like industrial lubricant and tastes even worse than it looks?"

"Dawny, CEO is perhaps a little too straightforward," said Giles.

Andrew, getting a little steamed, said, "BUFFY! This is made it with organic flour, farm fresh eggs from delightfully funny free-roaming chickens, lovely whole fresh milk, Mediterranean sea salt, cracked peppercorns, delicious homemade sausage made from a pampered pig who ate well, died happy, and went to heaven, rich pan drippings from last nights roast, a little fresh thyme and rosemary from my garden, plus red pepper flakes which isn't real authentic but English food could use a little spice, and that's ALL!"

Dawn asked, " 'CEO' isn't mysterious enough for you?"

"Pan drippings...?" asked Buffy.

"Well Dawn, I wouldn't have put it that way, but yes," said Giles. "We are, after all, an organization that hunts down vampires and demons whilst identifying and training vampire slayers."

"Oh for...!" Andrew said, "Buffy, you ever eat your mother's gravy?"

Willow said, "Arrrgh! Giles, do you have any idea how stilted, ancient, and thoroughly British you sound when you say 'whilst'? I mean, sheesh, that word so grates on my ears."

"Well sure, mom's gravy was to die for," said Buffy.

"And you're shocked and surprised, Willow?" said Giles. "I'm slowly exorcising those obnoxious Californications from my speech patterns, I have high hopes that one day I will again sound as if I were a native of the British Isles."

"What do you think gravy is made from, Buff?" said Andrew. "Would you stop being so rude and picky and just taste it?"

Willow said, "Really, Giles, 'Californications'? That's not a word you'll find in the Oxford English Dictionary – you're just working at being grouchy. But if you ask me, I really don't think you have to worry about not sounding British."

Buffy frowned at Andrew but took a bite. She chewed thoughtfully and had another bite. After swallowing, she said, "Okay, I take it all back, this is wonderful! You're a culinary genius Andrew. But it sure could use a better name."

Giles smiled ruefully. "Perhaps you're right Willow."

Andrew beamed.

Dawn said, "So Giles, how about Director? Or Director of something?" She took a bite of Yorkshire pudding with a generous chunk of sausage.

"That's not bad, although I'm not at all certain that I actually direct very much. Mostly I try to keep ahead of the rest of you." He thoughtfully ate half a banger.

"Chief of Running in Front as Fast as You Can," said Dawn after consuming another forkful.

"Okay 'Director' is fine. Better than 'Head Watcher' anyway." Another couple of bites.

They all gradually stopped talking as they were too busy scarfing down Andrew's excellent rendition of 'Toad in the Hole'.



Dawn flipped through the mail. "Trash, trash, trash, incredibly revolting trash, Giles, Buffy, more trash... Oooh, shoes!" A few minutes later she put aside the circular from Harrods, and resumed sorting the mail.

"Trash, Buffy, Giles, oh boy – me, and, what the hell?"

She studied the large buff-colored envelope carefully. It had only the name 'Gringotts' as the return address. No wait, Dawn thought, there's a PO box in tiny little letters. But why was it addressed to 'Edwin Travers' at the IWC headquarters?

"Giles!" said Dawn.

From the next room she heard a muffled, "Hunh?"

She got up and went to see Giles. "Hey, we got somebody named Edwin Travers working here?"

"No, unequivocally not," said Giles, looking up from a messy stack of paper. "Edwin is Quentin Travers son, and he's even more of an unprincipled bounder than his late unlamented father."

"Well then I wonder why Gringotts bank is writing to him? And why do they think he could be found here?"

"Let me see that!" Giles nearly grabbed the envelope out of Dawn's hand. He studied it for a moment, then ripped it open.

"Hey Giles, isn't opening other people's mail a Federal crime?"

"Can't be Federal, this is England."

"Okay, then a crime against the Royal Post Office? You aren't worried that they'll take you up the Tower and lop off your head after a few turns of the rack?"

Giles was deep into the letter. A few seconds later he began hyperventilating and swore, "God's teeth! Bugger and damnation! Do you know what that rotter has done?"

Dawn, worried now, said, "No, what?"

"He's representing himself as the new Head Watcher! That fucking mong is trying to steal the Gringott's Account!"

It was the first time in their long acquaintance that she had ever heard Giles drop the f-bomb – which made it all the more shocking to her ears. "Giles, what are we gonna do?"

"I think you and I, as well as Willow, Buffy and Faith, need to go back to the wizarding world and make sure this doesn't go down the wrong direction."

"Okay, except Buffy's getting ready to go Heathrow this morning. I think maybe we'll add Kennedy."

"I'd prefer Buffy to be with us, but, perhaps she's not irreplaceable for this trip."

"Of course she's irreplaceable!" said Dawn.

"Who's irreplaceable?" asked Buffy, walking in the office.

"Errr, no one," said Dawn, "no one's irreplaceable."

"That's good to know."

"Quentin Travers' devil spawn," said Giles, "Edwin Travers, is trying to steal the Gringotts account; so we need to visit Gringotts and make sure he can't. This is vitally important to the future of the Council, the Slayers, and the world, I dare say, so I want both you and Willow with me."

"Ah, yeah I see. Okay, I can postpone flying back a few days. Let's take Kenn also."

Willow wandered in with a small stack of papers in her hand, wearing a puzzled expression. "Did I hear you say 'Edwin Travers'?"

"Yes, why?" said Giles.

"Because I was going through the paperwork sent us by our Texas lawyers about the pedestrian lawsuits, you know, the people who claimed they were injured by the First's blowing up the Council building, and one of the sue-ers is one Edwin Travers. I don't suppose there's all that many folks named Edwin Travers in the world."

Giles sat down heavily. "Well, he's a persistent bugger, isn't he?"

Dawn, with a dangerous glint in her eye, said, "I'm beginning to think Edwin has it in for us. Maybe it's time to fight back."

"Yeah," agreed Buffy, "especially since we didn't even know about the fight until today. That asshole has been digging around under our feet, silently, in the dark while we've been oh-ing and ah-ing over the scenery."

"Hmmm, I'm surprised Quentin left so much money to the Council, and not to Edwin."

"That does suggest there might have been bad blood between them. I suppose it's possible that Edwin is angry at the Council, old and new, instead of us personally."

"Well, it doesn't matter, he's been outed as our sworn enemy, what are we gonna do about it? Slay him?" asked Dawn.

"Can't, he's human."

"Yeah, but..."

"No buts, we don't assassinate humans," said Buffy.

"Can't we make an exception in this case?"

"Make it look like an accident?"

"I'd rather stretch him on the rack," said Giles darkly.

"Yeah, but no, we can't."

"You wanna leave it up to the lawyers?"

"That's what we pay them for."

"But this is starting to look like a conspiracy..."

"For it to be a conspiracy, you need a number of conspirators, and I only see one, and one isn't enough for a conspiracy," said Willow.

"Okay," Dawn answered, "just because we haven't identified any other conspirators doesn't mean they aren't out there."

"Hmm, very possible," said Giles. "I've only met Edwin on a few occasions, but unless he's changed dramatically, he's not really clever enough to come up with something like this. In fact, he struck me as a short-sighted prig who doesn't believe civilization extends beyond the shores of England, so the idea of suing us from Texas would have been a non-starter unless someone was feeding him ideas."

"See! I told you so."

Dawn, tapping at her laptop, said, "Ah HA!" She looked up and noticed everyone looking at her. "I googled Edwin Travers, he's done time in prison for fraud, could be that's why his old man disinherited him."

"You may be right, we need to access Quentin's personal files, see if he kept any correspondence with him."

"It's starting to look like Edwin wants money and thinks we're an easy mark."

"Say, you don't suppose the First Evil could have been working through Edwin? I wonder if he's the one responsible for blowing up the old Council?"

"It's a possibility that deserves enquiry," said Giles. "If it's true, if Edwin was instrumental in killing his father, then he's even more of a..." He trailed off in thought.

"What?" asked Buffy.

"Hmm, it's hard for me to believe that Edwin is so lacking in civility that he would stoop to patricide. But what he does lack is spine, I can easily see him succumbing to the vile murmurs of the First Evil."

"Would it make any difference in court? Could he use it as a defense: 'Your honor, I was driven to murdering my father by the earthly incarnation of the First Evil'?"

"That would be a sticky defense tactic, not one likely to work."

"Well," said Willow, "this is all speculation. First we need to frustrate Edwin's attempt to steal the Council's money, and let's hope that Edwin hasn't confused the situation – goddess, I hope he doesn't have the damn key to the vault. Second, we'll investigate young Travers. Actually, let's start the investigation simultaneously to scotch his dastardly deeds."

The others looked at her strangely.

"Uh, too much drama?" she asked.

Xander laughed, "Oh no Will, I'd say just the right amount."

Dawn, who had been furiously typing away at her laptop, looked up and said, "Uh guys? You remember the other day, when we were in Diagon Alley and Faith was wandering around with that Auror girl, Tonks?"

"Yeah."

"And she ran into that guy named Lucious Malfoy?"

"Yeah."

"Well, I found some more of Quentin Travers private papers the other day, and I ran across some stuff... Well, never mind how I found it; what I found, and just now confirmed, is that Quentin Travers is related to the Malfoy family, although I'm not sure just how since he seems to have been written out of the family for some reason. It sure would be easier if these people weren't so frickin' secretive."

"Ah, so that's how he knew about Gringotts bank."

Dawn said, "That's not why, the Watcher's account itself is old, I mean, really old. The vaults in Gringotts are assigned in order of customers opening accounts, and the Council's vault numbers are: '5', '47', and '1283'. Apparently, back in the dark ages, when the Wizards were splitting themselves off from the rest of humanity, the Council of Watchers was right there, part of the wizarding world."

"Huh," said Giles, "that's very strange, no one has ever mentioned the Wizarding World, or Gringotts Bank to me, neither Quentin, nor my own father, nor any of the other Watchers of any generation. And I'm certainly curious as to what might be filling up not one, but three vaults."

Dawn said, "Rather than guess, I'm gonna research some more. But now I know where to look, so I'm sure I'll find out what happened. In the meantime, let's go back to the bank, and I definitely want to stop at Fortescue's again."

"Huh, that's odd," said Willow, looking over Dawn's shoulder.

"What?" asked Dawn.

"Those vault numbers are prime numbers."

"Oh I remember those," said Xander, "It's where the number can only be divided by one and itself, right? And, umm, why would that matter?"

"I don't see how it could matter, it's just coincidence," said Willow.

"Unless it's numerologically important, like those stupid street numbers," said Dawn.

"Probably means nothing at all." Willow reiterated.



*This refers to an unfinished, unnamed, and unpublished story which may see the light of day later this year.

A/N:

1: I have no idea why the vault numbers being prime would matter to anyone in the Wizarding world or the Council. They're a special kind of prime, too. The story, as it came to me, insisted on these numbers. Any suggestions as to the significance would be welcome.

2: The breakfast conversation was a little experimental on my part. It was fun to write, but I would like to know if the result was comprehensible or not.



Chapter Five

"So young witchling, next ye'll be a' tellin' me that you were the witch that shut down the hellmouth in California all by her lonesome!"

"Well..." Willow started.

"Don't even try missy, it took a half dozen of the most powerful witches and wizards in the wizarding world – all imbued with white magic and good intentions mind – a couple of sennights to shut down a hellmouth o' that size. I know, because we done it afore, in Mayalsia."

"A, a, a dozen witches? Sennights?" wavered Willow.

"What's a sennight?" asked Xander.

"You probably call them fortnights o'er in the colonies."

"You couldn't prove it by me," said Xander.

"Those words are not unknown stateside," said Willow, "but we usually just say two weeks."

He looked at them like they were rude and ignorant third-worlders.

Xander and Willow were in the Leaky Cauldron, drinking Tom's best lager with Tonks. Once they mentioned they were from Sunnydale, they were joined by a couple of old-timers wearing frayed and crudely patched robes who had immediately started questioning them about life on the hellmouth.

Willow said, "And what I was about to say, sir, is that while I didn't shut down the hellmouth all by my lonesome, I was the only witch in attendance."

"Wot!? How could that be?"

"You see, the throat of the hellmouth was full of those horrifying Turok-han..."

"Those are...?"

"The original sort of vampire, very powerful, very hard to kill, nasty creatures."

"How many did you face?"

"Me? None. My role was to empower all the potential slayers, and that's exactly what I did."

Old-timer #2 stared with a shocked expression, #1 Old-Timer said, "How is that even possible?"

"Oh, see the senior slayer, Buffy, found an ancient magical weapon that had been forged especially for slayers. Using that I was able to craft a spell that reached out to all the potentials; and it worked. Today there's more than a thousand full fledged slayers around the world."

"A thousand...!?" said O-T one.

"The senior slayer is named 'Buffy'?" wondered O-T two.

"Yep," said Willow, "imagine more than a thousand slayers; all of whom look up to Buffy and Faith."

"So if either Buffy or Faith wanted to raise a super-powerful army..."

"There's no 'want' about it, they have a super-powerful army any time they need one."

Tonks looked thoughtful, O-Ts one and two looked horrified.

"You needn't be worried," said Willow, "These girls were chosen by the powers-that-be," she pointed up, "sort of like angels, really, and they didn't choose power-mongers or dictator wanna-be's. All the slayers have the built-in predilection to help people and save the world. Bunch of super-powered do-gooders, really." Willow added under her breath, "Except for Dana."

They were silent for a minute, until Tonks asked, "So I want to know how you could teach yourself witchcraft, what with all that dark magic swirling around you on the hellmouth?"

"Simple, I didn't know any better," said Willow, "it was just normal to me; I remember getting so excited about succeeding at my first attempts at magic, like turning ice into fire, that I just didn't realize how dark the background was. One time I was floating a pencil and I kinda got all emo and angry about something unrelated and without my doing anything special, that pencil streaked away and embedded itself halfway into a tree. Now I know it was because of the dark vibes from the hellmouth, but I didn't know that then. I kinda paid for that ignorance later on."

"Yeah? How?"

"Well, you know I'm mostly self-taught. I mean, Giles helped by providing a little general guidance and setting some rules, which I often ignored I'm sorry to say, but mostly it was books and the Internet."

"What's an 'enter net'?" asked old-timer #2.

"The world-wide network of computers which is used to exchange information."

"Ahh, and computers are...?" asked old-timer #1.

"Magic boxes of full of numbers," said Tonks.

"Sounds like the first cousin to a box of cobblers to me young Tonks."

"No, no," said Willow, "I wouldn't know what to do with boxed cobblers, but numbers are useful because they can describe the whole of existence."

"Hmmm," said old-timer #1.

"Hmmm," said old-timer #2.

"Hmmm," said Tonks.

"Why are all of you looking so baffled?" asked Willow. "You know we're not just talking about integers here, but the whole number line from minus infinity to plus infinity which includes both rational and irrational numbers!" Willow spread her arms wide to illustrate the infinite number line. She looked at her left hand, then her right, and gave up, putting her hands on the table. She paused with a frown for a moment, then said, "Well, maybe not irrational numbers now that I think about it, except for a few special approximations. But let's not forget imaginary numbers – they're so cool! And oh, oh! Zero gets a special mention! And don't forget hyperreal, superreal and surreal numbers! Although some of those might be hard to represent accurately in a computer, still, there's p-adic numbers to prime-number bases! And quaternions! And all the super important special numbers like pi, and the log of minus ten, and tau, and e, and, and e to infinity – that's my favorite number! – and the square root of two, and the golden ratio, and s the silver constant, and 5, 9, 42, 47 and a bunch of others in pop culture – oh gosh am I just the nerdiest nerd you ever saw?"

Xander said, "No, not at all Will, math is very exciting."

"You don't have to be quite so sarcastic, Xander."

"I was agreeing with you."

"Uh huh."

"You do get a little overexcited, you have to admit."

"No I don't," said Willow. "The funny thing is, a computer doesn't actually understand anything except on and off, and with just that it's able to represent every kind number and math that we been able to imagine, and I don't know what could be more exciting than that! Unless maybe it's calculating pi out to trillions of places and finding a secret message from the Powers-That-Be."

"I think you've made your point," said Xander.

"Yes," said Tonks, "numbers are important, I understand."

Willow added, "Oh, I almost forgot transcendental and transfinite numbers!"

"Willow! Breathe! Slow down, enhance your calm," said Xander.

"Okay, okay, sorry, I got a little carried away."

Xander leaned in and whispered in her ear, "Good job changing the subject away from Darth-Willow."

Willow smiled wanly.

Old-Timer #2 asked petulantly, "How do you fill a box with numbers? Why don't they fall out?"



Dawn was browsing in Flourish and Botts, trying to winnow down her selection of books to match her budget – she had discovered that Gringotts was happy to change Pounds to Knuts even though their account wasn't fully theirs yet. She mumbled under her breath, "I've just got to own every damn book in this store!"

She hadn't noticed a young woman, just a year or two older than her, passing behind until she laughed and said, "Oh yeah, you and me both! No such thing as too many books."

Dawn looked up: "Oh, sorry, I didn't realize anyone was there."

"That's all right. My name is Hermione, what's yours?"

"Dawn, Dawn Summers." She stood up holding a pile of books, two started to slip out of the stack but Hermione grabbed them.

"Thanks."

"So, excuse me for being blunt, but you're a yank, right?"

"I'm from California, we don't think of ourselves as 'yanks', that's reserved mostly for the New England states."

"Really? I thought all Americans were called yanks."

"Nopers. You need to be careful because there are some who consider 'yank' an insult."

"I'll remember that."

"But not me. You want to get some ice cream?"

"Fortescues? Sure, let's go."

A few minutes later they were enjoying towering concoctions of ice cream and various fruits and topped with a bewildering variety of nuts and sauces.

Dawn said, "This wizarding world of yours is amazing! I just love it here!"

Hermione frowned slightly. "You're not a witch? Then how...?"

"I'm not a witch, no, but I do have familiarity with magic and I am capable of certain types of spells and summonings. The people I work for, the Watcher's Council, has ties with this world that go back to the founding of Gringotts, or even further. So I have every right to be here."

"Oh, I didn't mean to imply you didn't, I was just worried about breaking the secrecy laws."

"Not to worry, we fall under a special category reserved for semi-magical people of a certain, ah, influential weight."

"In other words, Minister Fudge is frightened of your organization."

"That's about right." Dawn paused for another bite of ice cream slathered with pumpkin sauce and chopped Bokuop nuts, then asked, "Is it just me, or is Fudge kind of lightweight to be in his position?"

Hermione sighed deeply, "Oh, it's not just you. As far as I can tell, he's spectacularly good at licking the boots of powerful people, but doesn't have any useful leadership qualities."

Dawn laughed. "Yeah, I've run into that kind of mindset all over the world."

Willow joined them. "Hey Dawnie, introduce me to your friend."

"Willow Rosenberg, this is Hermione Grainger."

"Hi Hermione, so what's it like to ride on the back of a dragon?"

Hermione choked on a bite of fruit, tried to cough and started to turn blue. Dawn got up and gave her a solid whack on her back. Hermione spit out the errant wild berry that had started down her windpipe.

"Are you all right?" Dawn asked urgently. Willow smiled gently at her.

Hermione, after she finished coughing, said, "I'm fine, fine. And I wouldn't know anything about dragon rides."

"You can't fool me missy, but don't worry, even though you lie badly, I think you're a good person, and I certainly won't go around telling people you helped to rob Gringotts."

Hermione looked ready to burst into tears. She hesitantly reached for her wand, but couldn't find it. When she noticed her wand was in Willow's hand, she started to really worry.

"Oh, stop, really, we're friends," said Dawn, looking uncertainly at Willow. "Aren't we?"

"Yes we are, but Giles and I are going to have a long talk with Miss Grainger.



Giles, Willow, and Dawn, followed by two of the Ackerlys, walked into Gringotts bank the following morning.

"Mister Giles!" said Mr. Lockwasher with a bow, "how may we help you this morning?"

"Miss Ackerly here has the necessary paperwork to finalize the replacement of our key."

"Hello Mr. Lockwasher," said Miss Ackerly while handing over a stack of paper scrolls all tied with small black ribbons. "I think you will find this is in order. I request and require that you turn over the replacement key as soon as you have satisfied yourselves of the bonefides."

Lockwasher signaled to an assistant to take the paperwork. The two bustled over to a more senior manager and they spent a few minutes studying the wording, interspersed with a few fidelity spells.

Lockwasher came back to the group, who were seated on a row of hard wooden chairs, and said, "As it happens, all of this became quite unnecessary this morning. You see, one of your own managers, a Mr. Edwin Travers, has already presented his key and became the new representative of the Watcher's Council. He is down in the vaults doing an inventory even as we speak."

Before Giles could explode in anger, Ackerly Senior stood up and said, "I am sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but you you were taken in by a fraud, Mr. Lockwasher. I do fear that you will find that your bank will be on the hook for anything at all that Travers manages to abscond with."

Lockwasher looked stricken. "F, f, f, fraud?" he whispered, horrified beyond belief.

"Yes, fraud," Ackerly senior reiterated sternly. "Mr. Edwin Travers has served time in gaol for fraud, and was disowned by his father. If he possess the genuine key, then he stole it."

"Ah, ah, ah, ah!" said Lockwasher, stumbling backwards, just barely keeping his balance. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. He seemed to recover his calm through sheer force of will, folded his handkerchief carefully and deliberately replaced it in his pocket. Finally, he turned to his assistant and said, "Find the Head of Security and have Mr. Travers detained as soon as possible. And make certain his key is returned to me."

The assistant, Mr. Jackleg, scurried off to find the Security Chief, Colonel Rockcrusher, as fast as he ever could.

Lockwasher invited the group to the Customer Lounge, where all retired to wait. Everyone refused refreshments, to the disappointment of Mr. Headframe who had offered a large array of delectable snacks and drinks.

It was about fifteen minutes later when a strong-jawed goblin in a Gringotts Bank uniform marched in and declared, "The miscreant, young Travers, has been secured. The Ministry is sending several senior Auror investigators, they would like to speak to you as well as Travers."

Giles smiled, the Ackerlys looked satisfied.

It took several hours for everything to conclude, but the Auror Senior Inspector Goshawk was a happy woman when she finished reading the materials supplied by the lawyers Ackerly and Ackerly as she wouldn't have to do anything but turn Travers over to the prosecutorial arm of the ministry. She had a check in the 'cleared' column and a guaranteed conviction, all without doing much work; a win for any detective in the world.

Finally, Lockwasher smiled at the group, accepted a key-ring from the Auror investigator, and handed it to Giles with a flourish.

Giles looked at the tag attached to the keys, and smiled. He showed it to the others. The tag had the words: MALFOY MANOR SECURITY DEPARTMENT written in small type across the top. Under that were several identification markers, clearly identifying the three keys as Gringotts keys to Vaults 5, 47 & 1283.

"Huh," said Dawn, "how do you suppose Malfoy got a hold of our key?"



Several Watchers, Slayers and Aurors were gathered at a conveniently vacant house three doors down from Malfoy Manor. The huge expanse of gardens around each impressive house made that a long distance, but this was the closest they could get before tripping the Malfoy alarm system.

"Hah!" said Willow, "he has magical alarms only, no physical systems other than the wrought iron fence."

"Not too surprising," said Giles, "these Wizards place a low value on our 'muggle' putterings."

"Yes," said Tonks, "it is one of our blind spots." She held up a sheaf of papers and said, "So, we have the requisite Warrants from the Ministry as well as from your Queen. We've 'analyzed' the manor house and grounds, we have a plan; shall we go?"

"Well," said Buffy, "aren't you chomping at the bit to arrest your Lord Malfoy!"

"Yes, yes I am. Who gets to give the word to go?"

"By all means Tonks, the privilege is yours."

Tonks raised her wand dramatically and shouted, "EXECUTE!"

They had to physically punch through the doors and windows due to the magical protections being too strong to drop them in a hurry. They yelled going in and immediately ran into groups of Deatheaters who fought back in their usual cowardly fashion with curses. But the Deatheaters couldn't advance against the overwhelming force of the Aurors, Watchers and Slayers. As varied spells seared back and forth, some splattering against the stone walls or shields, others going true and resulting in an outraged yelp, or an ominous thump followed by silence.

The Deatheaters had to escalate to grenades and magic bombs, which they found preferable to surrender. Giles jumped when a hand grenade rolled between his feet. He had started to bend down to pick it up when Buffy slammed into him frorm the side, wrapped her arms around his torso and leaped through a large, but closed, window. They landed on the beautifully landscaped lawn in a shower of glass and started to run; Buffy holding back so as not to leave Giles behind.

"Hurry Giles, in here!" Buffy exclaimed urgently as they ran.

They ducked behind a low wall and into a storage shed, and got knocked off their feet by the explosions outside. They tumbled to a stop against a stone wall.

Giles said, "Marvelous, I can't see a bloody thing."

Buffy said, "Here, I've got some matches."

A naked flame lit up the dark shadows, wavered, moved closer stacks of boxes labeled:

Danger – High Explosive

"Do put that out," Giles said with exaggerated calmness.

Buffy shook out her match, darkness fell.

"There's a good girl."

Buffy exclaimed, "Oh come on Giles, if anything explodey was leaking, we would've gone kablooey as soon as I struck the match and we wouldn't have felt a thing."

"That's so comforting."

"Well I think so; in my experience when it comes to dying, the quicker the better."

Giles was empty of any possible reply.

After a minute of silence, Buffy said, "I think the coast is clear."

"Yes, yes, let's see what's left of the manor."

Buffy held the door open for Giles. He stepped out, squinting against the sunlight, polishing his glasses. They walked over to where several Aurors and Slayers were gathered around a half-dozen manacled men and another dozen dead bodies. Tonks said, "We've snatched the nutters and disabled their explosives, it's safe now, guv-nor."

"So you've set straight this argy-bargy?"

"Oh yes. Although we'll have to wait for the fire brigade before we can finish our reports."

Buffy pointed across the lawn and said, "There's a bunker of high-explosives over there. You might want to send the bomb squad."

Tonks waved a spell in the direction of the bunker and wrote herself a note.

"Did you find Malfoy senior?" asked Giles.

"He wasn't here, but the 'B' squad came across him in his club, off Diagon Alley." Tonks paused and laughed, "He was easy to nick, they found the bleedin' toff taking a bath. He couldn't find his wand for the suds in his eyes so it wasn't any trouble to slap the cuffs on 'im. He's still tetchy about it."



Lucius Malfoy sat across the wide expanse of the conference room table, staring at Rupert Giles. A servant brought tea and scones, and deferentially set the trays down on the table between them.

Giles said, "Tea and scones, Mr. Malfoy?"

"That's Lord Malfoy to the likes of you," he sneered, his contempt palpable.

"Not in Great Britain. The Queen isn't familiar with your name, and you're not on any honors list that I could find, you're not an English peer – and I have the complete list available – so no, you're no Lord, thus you will remain mister Malfoy in these walls, and indeed, anywhere outside that lunatic asylum you call the wizarding world."

Malfoy fumed, but he didn't let it show. After all, this mere muggle could not possibly affect him in any meaningful manner. "Why am I here? And where is my wand, you do not have the right to remove my possessions from my person."

"Ah, well, we can't have you going around magicing us with your little tricks now, can we?"

'Little tricks? I'll show you tricks,' Malfoy mentally snarled, imagining in great detail how Giles would be ripped apart by a well-timed reducto conseco.

"And we've taken steps to prevent you from accessing your magic wandlessly, if you are capable of that particular discipline."

Malfoy glared murderously.

Giles said, "You are here, mister Malfoy, because it has come to my attention that you are the instigator of a plot to steal money from the Watcher's Council. This cannot be countenanced, will not be allowed. How a mere wand-waver such as yourself expected to get away with a crime of this magnitude is beyond me." Giles fancied he could see steam rising from Malfoy's ears.

"This is intolerable," answered Malfoy with counterfeit calm composure, "I do not answer to you, you are beneath me. You know nothing of Wizards, you know not the class of trouble that you have brought down upon your heads from these precipitate actions."

"Oh now that is simply not true, mister Malfoy. Perhaps you didn't realize the significance of the Council's vault numbers? No? The Council of Watcher's was instrumental in the founding of Gringott's Bank, along with several members of the Wizengamut, and the founders of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft. There was a time when the Council was inextricably linked with the wizarding world, although that did change over the millenia."

"Ancient history, it's in no way relevant today."

"Really? It should interest you to know that Salazar Slytherin was, for the first half of his life, a Watcher. Oh yes, he rode two horses simultaneously, with one stirrup in the Wizarding World and one stirrup in the world of muggle magic."

"You should be cautious about spreading such obvious falsehoods, Salazar would not have had anything whatsoever to do with muggles." Lucius was shaken, this muggle-man was just making this up to deceive, must be.

"It is written in the ancient journals," Giles continued, "he really was a watcher for quite a few years. But Slytherin being Slytherin, there was a falling out, and he ended up trying to push the Watcher's completely out of the Wizarding world after the great 'Hiding of the Wizards', and he may have been responsible for at least two assassinations of Watchers. He was not immediately successful in his endeavor; but eventually the Council severed most of their ties with the Wizarding world of their own free will because they felt the Wizard society was just too unstable."

"Hah, not a likely story. I'm certain the muggles were ostracized and no doubt richly deserved their ignoble fate."

"That turns out not to be the case; our organization is surprisingly powerful, according to our scribes we just didn't feel the need to remain friends with you lot, you being so far beneath us."

After a moment Giles continued, "Interesting footnote, according to one journal in our possession Salazar Slytherin's life was ended when a young girl thrust a wooden implement through his chest and he burst into dust, but I freely admit our researchers could find no corroboration."

"Of course that's false, Salazar Slytherin died in bed, surrounded by his loyal wives and children."

"Oh, I doubt that very much – it's much more likely that he was murdered in his sleep by an unhappy concubine, although since it is true that much of Salazar Slytherin's history is lost, we may never be certain. My point being, mister Malfoy, that the Watcher's Council is well versed in the antics of you self-styled Wizards."

Malfoy didn't see fit to acknowledge this.

Giles paused to look at his file and flipped to the next sheet. "Now mister Malfoy, you have a house on Chipping Crescent Square, correct?" There was no reaction but a baleful glare. "Well, to be sure, I should have used the past tense, as much of your house seems to have gone up in smoke."

Malfoy glared twice as hard. "Impossible! You miserable little muggles can neither see nor access Malfoy Manor. And the protections built in afford immunity to to physical mischance. You are trying to insult my intelligence, but – it – will – not – work!" He came near to displaying his emotional upheaval.

Giles removed a tablet computer from his valise, placed it on the table in front of Malfoy, and swiped his finger across the face a few times. Malfoy was startled when pictures appeared on the glass surface of the instrument, some of them even moved, and when Giles stopped flipping through and pointed at a single picture of Malfoy Manor, he was taken aback to see one wing destroyed with nothing but blackened spires sticking up out of a mass of burnt wood and tumbled stone, firetrucks all around, and people sifting through the smoking remains. The view slowly panned around the central structure.

"Was this not your house?" asked Giles.

Malfoy peered at the mysterious device, the image certainly looked like it could have been his manor, or what was left of it. "What manner of magic is this?" he inquired coldly, forcing his self-control to be ascendant by sheer will-power.

"It's called technology, a very powerful magic that's not available to you wizards. As for your manor, our staff witch hardly noticed your protection charm, she blew through it as if it were mere gossamer. But the fire was an unfortunate accident. Our people were attacked most viciously by several persons wearing frightfully ugly masks. Were they perhaps criminals of some kind? Invading your house? No? They were there by your invitation then. Whatever, as my young colleagues like to say, they weren't much of a challenge, but they did throw around a number of magical forces and managed to start the fire, which we were unable to control until after it did a great deal of damage. We were able to save much of the central and all of the south wing of your house, as well as your wife and your son, if that makes you feel any better."

"If this be true," said Malfoy, "you and your criminal organization will be prosecuted by the Ministry of Magic to the fullest extent of the law – you will wish you'd never been born! I assure you, the Ministry doesn't overlook muggle attacks like this!"

"Ah, but you misunderstand the situation, this was all entirely legal by your inclinations. The coordination between Her Majesty's government and the Ministry of Magic wasn't easy, but we managed it in the end; a number of your Aurors fought alongside us after delivering the requisite warrants from, erm, MoM." Giles couldn't hide a small chuckle at the acronym.

"Impossible! This is insufferable! I demand you return my wand and..."

Giles interrupted, "We were finally able to defeat your mask-wearing deatheaters, who fought us to the bitter end, but so far identification has proved elusive, as their masks seem to have fused to their faces, due to the extreme heat of the fire, you see. DNA analysis seems to be the only option left, but for the fact that we have nothing to compare it to."

Malfoy had no idea what deeinay analysis was, so he latched on to what he did understand and sneered, "In my world, educated gentleman don't end their sentences with prepositions."

Giles replied, "DNA analysis seems to be the only option left, but for the fact that we have nothing to compare it to, dolt."

Malfoy's eyes narrowed in anger. "If you value your life, you will not mock me," he growled softly.

"I'm not worried about you. And anyway you're wrong about your supposed grammatical rule on prepositions – there is no such rule in the English language and there never was such a rule."

"Not in my world," Malfoy said.

Giles said, "Forget those irrelevancies Lucius, may I call you Lucius? Excellent, I am very glad to inform you that your attempts to steal the Gringotts account have come to naught. We know you attempted to distance yourself by using the young and impetuous Travers spawn to actually do the deed, but by doing so you opened yourself up to charges of conspiracy, which increases the legal difficulties which are now piling ever deeper on your head. It seems that 'conspiracy' is a potent legal contrivance in magical as well as non-magical law-enforcement."

Giles picked up a small silver bell and gave it a shake.

"I believe, mister Malfoy," said Giles, "that you're all mouth and no trousers, you're not really up to what my organization usually fights."

The doors opened and several people came in. "These are police officers from your society – I believe you call them Aurors. You see, we don't wish to be unfair about this by confusing you with muggle laws and customs, nor do we wish to allow you the opportunity to cloud the minds of muggle judges and jurors with your brand of magic. We have already given the Aurors boxes of evidence concerning your perfidy, they are here to take you into custody."

"BLOODY HELL! I am Lord Malfoy, a senior member of the Wizengamut! A senior ministry official! You fucking Aurors report to me!" he roared, his fear and anger at last cracking the thin veneer of his civility.

The senior Auror removed a paper from her jacket pocket, and read from it: "By the order of the Supreme Mugwump of the Wizengamut, and countersigned by the Minister of Magic, Lucius Malfoy is to be delivered into the custody of the Aurors of the Ministry of Magic, and held over for trial – etc., etc. – all the fiddly legal details are here if you care." She looked up from the paper and said, "I am Auror Tonks, you are under arrest, sir, your wand?" She was trying to be coldly polite, but she was obviously very pleased to finally slap cuffs on Malfoy senior, something she'd only dreamed of doing before.

Giles handed her a long thin box. "Here is his wand my dear Nymphadora."

Malfoy was beyond making sense of any of this. He was Lord Malfoy, he could do anything he wanted to anyone he wanted! None of this was possible!

Giles flipped a page off the stack of papers in front of him, picked up a silver filigreed Montblanc fountain pen, made a note in the margins, then signed it with a flourish and handed it to Tonks. Malfoy noticed that the filigree was an expression of ancient runes – he was alarmed that he could not decipher the full meaning. What manner of muggles were these?

As he was being led away in magical handcuffs by the troublesome Tonks, he looked over his shoulder and stared at Rupert Giles. The man had spoken to him in clipped precise tones, never raised his voice, never blustered, never threw crucios furiously about, never appeared angered, yet he frightened Malfoy beyond all reason. This calm gray-eyed man, who to all appearances didn't have a tool any more dangerous than an expensive pen, had destroyed Malfoy's life.

And yet, while Malfoy still lived his shriveled black heart spewed hope while his eccentric intellect spun insane plans that he might yet serve his lord and master and destroy these maddening muggles in the fullness of time.

The End



A/N: Clearly, there is room for a sequel, especially since I have several scenes that haven't paid off yet.

The End

You have reached the end of "The Gringotts Account". This story is complete.

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