The Next Level

"So how was your tour, Jackie?" Gibbs asked as everyone sat down for lunch.

"Absolutely fascinating," Jackie immediately replied. "Charity told us so much about the history of the school. She knows a lot about Ilvermorny, too."

"Burbage said she had a friend that teaches there, and then could hardly take Jackie's attention away from the subject," Vance teased good naturedly.

"Well, Minerva and Filius have both offered to let you sit in on their afternoon classes, if you're interested," said Gibbs. "Transfiguration and Charms."

"What do you think, Agent McGee?" Vance asked, turning to his escort for the day.

"We could go to a session of each," McGee suggested. "Both subjects are very interesting, and McGonagall and Flitwick really know what they're talking about."

"It's nice to know you say good things about me behind my back as well as to my face, Agent McGee," said McGonagall as she slid into her customary seat between Gibbs and Dumbledore.

"I don't think there's many negative things to be said, Professor," McGee said.

"Oh, I'm sure you'd find plenty, if you spent a little more time among the students," McGonagall said drily as she set her napkin into her lap. "So what will it be, Director and Mrs. Vance? Will you split your afternoon like McGee suggested?"

Vance and his wife shared a look before he answered, "I think that'd be a good use of our time, Professor. Who should we go to first?"

"Professor Flitwick has first years right after lunch," said McGonagall. "I thought that might appeal to you."

Jackie grinned. "Charms first, then. And who will we be observing you teach?"

Lunch passed quickly with the Vances chatting easily with McGonagall, though Gibbs did look toward the ceiling in annoyance several times as McGonagall and Vance continued to bond at his expense.

Just before lunch ended, McGee introduced the Vances to Flitwick and then escorted them to the professor's classroom.

"Has Vance been up to your quarters yet?" McGonagall asked as she and Gibbs wound through the halls.

"No," Gibbs answered.

"My third years have a written quiz at the end of class," said McGonagall. "He can sneak out then."

"Or he could come up after dinner, like we were planning," Gibbs said irritably.

"Dolores wasn't at lunch, Jethro," McGonagall hissed. She gave a sideways look to a few students who quickly corrected their wayward behavior and scampered off. "She's up to something, and I think it'd be a good idea for the lot of you to be seen as a completely united front whenever possible."

"You think she's going to pit us against each other, somehow?" Gibbs asked with a small laugh.

"I don't know what she's planning, Jethro, and that is why I am so concerned."

Gibbs let the smile fall from his face. "Alright, Minerva, I'll keep close tabs on everyone," he assured. "We'll all come to dinner together."

The pair stopped outside McGonagall's classroom door.

"You'd let me know if you found something out?" Gibbs asked.

"That's rich," McGonagall snorted. "You, accusing me of holding back information? Pots and kettles, Jethro."

Gibbs smirked as he walked away to tend to his own business.

"This is where you've been for the past two months?" Vance asked as he walked slowly around the cramped room. He stopped and pivoted to look at his employees. "And no one's dead yet?"

"There've been a few close calls," said Gibbs with a twitch of his lips.

"Castle this big, it shouldn't be a problem to find somewhere else for you," Jackie mused as she looked around in horror.

"Umbridge doesn't want us spread out," Tony supplied.

"Figured that'd be Dumbledore's call, not Umbridge's," said Vance.

"Dumbledore had to make certain compromises to get us here," said Ziva.

"How d'you know that?" McGee asked, brows furrowed in confusion.

Ziva's response was only to raise her eyebrows challengingly.

"I like to think it's brought us closer together," said Tony. "Just last week, I learned that McGee has a scar on – shutting up, Boss," he said contritely upon being smacked on the back of the head.

"We've managed to make it work," said Ducky, settling himself onto the edge of his bed. "Oh, Jethro, I'll be going to spend some time with Poppy after dinner."

"Can I come with you, Dr. Mallard?" Jimmy eagerly asked. "I've really been looking forward to seeing Madam Pomfrey again."

Vance stepped next to Gibbs as the group settled into the room. "You teach tomorrow, right?"

"19:30," Gibbs answered.

"I can't wait to see that," said Vance with a chuckle.

"Who said you were invited?"

"I'm sure I can get Professor McGonagall to show me to your class, if you don't," Vance came back with. "Speaking of," he continued as Gibbs rolled his eyes, "she got some news while we were in her classroom that she was not happy about."

Any trace of amusement left his face as Gibbs looked at Vance expectantly.

"Another professor came in and they had a hushed conversation," said Vance. "That's all I know."

"What'd the professor look like?"

"A little on the short and heavy side," Vance answered. "Had a lot of dirt on her clothes."

"That'd be Sprout," said Gibbs, now only half paying attention to Vance. "The news could have to do with Hagrid."

"Tony!" Abby suddenly called before Vance could make a response. "You left your towel on my bedpost again! I told you what would happen, remember?"

"It was an accident, Abbs," said Tony quickly. "It won't happen again."

"That," said Abby with her hands on her hips, "is what you said last time." She held her hand open. "Hand it over."

"Abbs," Tony said with a charming smile. "Abby, you wouldn't really?"

"Either you give it to me, DiNozzo, or I take it after I have incapacitated you," Abby said with such an even tone it was creepy.

"But it's my favorite," Tony objected. "Limited edition. Couldn't get another one even if we were able to get out of this hellscape of being under that frog-woman's control."

"The tie, DiNozzo," Abby coldly insisted.

"You can cut up the tie later, Abbs," said Gibbs as he checked his watch. "Dinner. Let's go."

Tony vaulted over McGee's bed and was the first one to the door.

"'Managed to make it work,' huh?" Vance asked snidely as the rest of the group followed Tony at a more sedate pace.

Gibbs shrugged.

"Professor McGonagall," Vance greeted as he approached the head table. "Is Professor Dumbledore coming to dinner today? I was hoping to chat with him a bit."

"Professor Dumbledore had to step out on an errand," said McGonagall shortly.

Vance and Gibbs exchanged a look as they took their seats.

"What's happening, Minerva?" Gibbs asked, so quietly he was nearly inaudible.

"You'll find out soon enough, Jethro," McGonagall bit out. "I'd rather not say more than I need to. My head hurts enough already."

"Your vision isn't going screwy again, is it?" Gibbs asked concernedly.

"Oh, do I regret telling you that," McGonagall sighed. "I'm fine, Jethro."

"Could have fooled me. Is it Hagrid?"

"No," was all McGonagall said before she began pointedly ignoring Gibbs.

Gibbs wisely chose to leave McGonagall to her own musings, and so turned and devoted all his attention to NCIS personnel. Things continued in such a fashion until a terrible screech sounded through the hall.

"Minerva," Gibbs said slowly, turning to face her. "What's that?"

McGonagall slammed her napkin onto the table and rose as students bolted out of the hall, eager to be among the first to see the cause of the commotion. "Your explanation," she bit out.

"Gibbs, explain," Vance demanded.

"Tony, you and McGee be ready to get Director and Mrs. Vance out of here at a moment's notice. You get them somewhere safe. No one gets past you," Gibbs ordered as the team rose.

"Got it, Boss," Tony dutifully replied as another scream reverberated.

Gibbs shoved his way through the crowd of students, the rest of NCIS following, until he was right behind McGonagall.

The rarely seen Professor Trelawney was in the middle of the entrance hall. She looked an absolute mess, complete with a sherry bottle in her hand. Her trunks were haphazardly beside her, as though they had been thrown. Umbridge stood on a nearby staircase, surveying the scene with sadistic pleasure.

Vance spun to look intently at Tony and McGee. "Get my wife out of here," he demanded.

"Director, you should really come too," McGee bravely whispered as Trelawney began shrieking intelligible words.

"I need to see this," said Vance. He grabbed his wife's hand and squeezed it.

"I understand," said Jackie, "but don't you think for a moment that I'm happy about it. You better come back to me in one piece, Leon."

Vance's lips twitched upward before he resumed his stony demeanor. "Go," he said to his agents. "That's an order."

Tony and McGee pulled Jackie back with them and disappeared into the crowd.

"You c-can't!" howled Professor Trelawney, tears streaming down her face from behind her enormous lenses, "you c-can't sack me! I've b-been here sixteen years! H-Hogwarts is m-my h-home!"

"It was your home," said Professor Umbridge cruelly.

"What do you need from me, Minerva?" Gibbs asked lowly.

"Nothing, Jethro," McGonagall breathed back.

Umbridge finished her clear dismissal of Trelawney, who continued to bawl pitifully as she slumped onto one of her trunks.

McGonagall broke from the crowd to begin comforting Trelawney.

Gibbs began to feel uneasy and started shifting his weight between his feet. He knew McGonagall's temper well, and was not at all keen to find out what would happen if she lost it.

Fortunately, before Umbridge could say more than one challenging thing to McGonagall, Dumbledore entered and took over the proceedings.

"This is a crap show," Vance muttered to Gibbs as Dumbledore and Umbridge began discussing the minutiae of Trelawney's firing.

"Been waiting for the crap to hit the fan for a while now, Leon," Gibbs answered, his eyes still trained on the scene before him.

"And how much is going to hit us?"

Gibbs heaved a quick sigh, looking concernedly at McGonagall as she began leading Trelawney back up the stairs. "We've got a buffer," he replied. "For now."

Sprout and Flitwick joined McGonagall's efforts of restoring Trelawney to her proper place in the castle.

"Ziva," Gibbs said over his shoulder. "Go."

Ziva slipped quickly out of sight.

If he were to say he did not immensely enjoy the look on Umbridge's face when Dumbledore introduced a centaur as Trelawney's replacement, Gibbs would have been lying. To say Vance's face upon catching sight of said centaur was anything less than priceless would have been a lie, as well.

"Let's get out of here before Umbridge locks onto us," Gibbs suggested as the students stood in awe of Dumbledore's guile.

Gibbs, Vance, Ducky, Jimmy, and Abby made quick work of returning to NCIS's room.

"That was horrible," Abby burst with feeling the moment the door closed. "How could she do that, Gibbs? What did Trelawney ever do to her? I mean, I know Trelawney's a little on the strange side, and Divination is a scam, but that's no excuse for how Umbridge treated her!"

"So that's the real state of things, is it?" Vance asked, electing to ignore Abby's outburst and let her pace furiously as she vented her feelings.

"No, that's a new level," Gibbs admitted, walking over to one of two windows in the room. "He knew it was coming. Dumbledore. That's the news Sprout brought to McGonagall. He stopped by the greenhouses on his way to the forest to get the centaur."

"And McGonagall's orders?" Vance queried.

"Stall," Gibbs said with a shrug. "Make sure Trelawney didn't go anywhere."

"What makes Trelawney so important?"' Vance asked as he straightened his tie. "Staff's gonna catch a lot of blowback from that episode. Would have been better for them to just let her go, bring her back after the dust settled."

"I don't know, Leon," Gibbs answered. "Whatever it is that makes her so important, Dumbledore's keeping quiet."

Vance stepped closer to Gibbs and said quietly, "Can we trust him?"

Gibbs stared out at the setting sun as he considered his answer. "For now."

"That doesn't inspire confidence, Gibbs."

"Trelawney is settled back in the North tower," Ziva announced, entering and closing the door soundlessly. "Umbridge has left the grounds, no doubt to go complain to Fudge."

"Anything else we need to know?" Gibbs asked as he checked how much ammunition was in his gun.

"Nothing we haven't already discussed," Ziva answered coolly.

"You stay with Ducky and Abby," Gibbs ordered. "Director, you packing?"

Vance gave Gibbs a smirk before beginning to step toward the door.

"Palmer, let's go," said Gibbs, leading the way into the hallway.

"Where are we going, Gibbs?" Vance asked once they had successfully slinked off the grounds.

"Well, Director, I told Tony to take Mrs. Vance somewhere safe," said Gibbs, walking confidently towards Hogsmeade. "That's not your rooms at the inn."

"What kind of backwater bunker did DiNozzo take my wife to?" Vance said acidly.

Gibbs smirked. "If I'm right, you'll approve wholeheartedly."

Vance stuffed his hands into his pockets irritably and continued scanning all around him as he followed Gibbs through the streets of the small town.

Finally, Gibbs turned and headed between two cottages, stopping at the back door of a modest abode with a large shed in the backyard. He knocked confidently. After a few moments, a woman with short, spiky hair opened the door and leaned on the frame.

"You know, Gibbs," said the woman, "I didn't give DiNozzo my address so you could interrupt my dinner to request asylum."

"Madam Hooch, good to see you," Gibbs greeted with a bemused smile.

Hooch's only response was to shake her head in amusement before stepping aside to allow Gibbs, Vance, and Jimmy into her house.

As soon as she saw him, Mrs. Vance rushed forward from where she had been sitting to hug her husband.

"Gibbs, you have got to try some of Pietro's cherry pie," said DiNozzo. He stood behind the counter in the kitchen, a plate quite close to his face as he shoveled its contents into his mouth.

"This your idea of 'no one gets past you,' DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked impatiently.

Tony immediately looked properly chastised. "Well, Rolanda and Pietro are much more qualified to see to the protection measures in this – I'm going to shut up now."

Gibbs nodded, confirming Tony had made a wise decision, before firmly turning away from his agent.

"Gibbs, my husband, Pietro," said Hooch, gesturing to a tall, lanky man sat at the kitchen table.

"It's nice to finally meet you," said Pietro, abandoning his silverware to shake Gibbs's hand. "I hear you're fluent in Russian?"

Gibbs's reply was in the language. He and Pietro had a short conversation before reverting to English.

"Where is McGee, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked, narrowing his eyes at his agent.

Tony quickly swallowed a bite of pie and placed his plate on the counter. "McGee went to do a short-term stakeout on the Vances' rooms to see if there'd be any visitors. He should be back to check in in fifteen minutes."

Gibbs looked at Tony's slice of pie before turning his back on Tony to discuss options with Vance. Before long, it was agreed that, as long as McGee came back with a favorable report, the Vances should return to their inn. Pietro helped put everyone at ease by volunteering to sweep the room for magical interference daily before the Vances retired.

"Alright now, Gibbs," said Hooch, flopping down onto her couch beside Mrs. Vance, with whom she had decided to abandon all forms of ceremony. "Tell me what sort of hole Albus and Minerva have dug for themselves."

Gibbs briefly summarized the situation, and Vance added a few more details.

Madam Hooch exchanged a loaded look with her husband. "The lot of you better stay on your leash," she advised sternly. "Umbridge has a list of people she's looking to get rid of. Albus and Minerva are up high on it. If she takes them out, you'll be out in the streets and easy pickings for Death Eaters."

"You've got such a way of putting people at ease, Rolanda," said Tony sarcastically.

"I'm a realist, Tony," Hooch replied. "I am being completely serious when I tell you not to do anything that will upset Umbridge and speed her journey down her warpath. I know you well enough to say with confidence that you enjoy pushing people's buttons."

"Only when we have to, Madam Hooch," said Gibbs.

Hooch scoffed in reply.

When someone knocked on the back door, Pietro answered with his wand drawn, then stood aside to welcome McGee in.

"What've you got, McGee?" Gibbs asked without preamble.

"I didn't see anyone," McGee answered, "but that doesn't mean someone wasn't there earlier. Plus, I think we all know that witches and wizards have their ways of getting around unseen."

Gibbs turned to look at Hooch with raised brows.

"Oh, am I in charge now?" Hooch asked lightly.

"Your house, your husband," said Gibbs in reply. "Your call."

Hooch hid none of her smugness as she looked to her husband. "Take Tony with you, Pietro. He'll show you the room. I'll clean up from dinner."

While Gibbs was occupied in a somewhat friendly stare down with Hooch, Tony stuffed one last bite of pie into his face before grabbing his suit jacket off the back of a kitchen chair and following Pietro into the rapidly approaching night.

"You and I will have to discuss strategy at some point, Madam Hooch," said Vance with a smile. "I usually have to work much harder for Gibbs to roll over."

Hooch laughed before extracting herself from the couch and making her way to the kitchen to begin cleaning up.

"Like doing things the Muggle way, do you?" Gibbs asked, grabbing a towel to dry dishes as Hooch settled in at the sink.

"Well, I don't want to make you feel inferior," Hooch quipped as she handed Gibbs a dripping plate.

Gibbs humored her with a low chuckle. "Who d'you think is on Umbridge's list next?"

Hooch sighed. "Probably Hagrid. Poor bloke would have been high on her list to begin with, but he hasn't exactly endeared himself to her.

"Haven't you discussed this with Minerva?" Hooch asked.

Gibbs considered his words carefully. "She doesn't react well when I bring it up."

"Since when do you care if you're upsetting Minerva?" Hooch snorted. "I thought that was one of your favorite hobbies?"

"Do you know the last time she was checked out by Pomfrey?" Gibbs asked.

Hooch turned off her sink, crossed her arms, and leaned against her counter to face Gibbs. "Alright, now you've got me really worried."

Gibbs's eyes roved Hooch's features for a few moments before he reached around her and turned the sink back on, then returned to drying dishes.

Author's Note

Heeeeeey, Vance, welcome to Hogwarts, where everything is terrible because Umbridge is made of fear and nightmares and your opinion doesn't matter!

In case you're curious, the bolded parts are directly from Order of the Phoenix.

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