Title: You Want Me To Do What?!?
Email address: email@example.com
Pairings: Xander, Ron; Xander/Snape
Fandom: BTVS/HP xover
Archive: no, not unless the women who challenged me agree. They of course have free access to it and it will eventually end up on my page.
Other website: www.e-fic.com/~voracity
Disclaimers: have you seen me in the press taunting all the fic writers with my ownership? No? Then I guess I don't own them.Summary. Um, prophecy management takes a step to the left and the strange and wacky have to happen to make sure the prophecy happens? If that makes sense, you've had as little sleep as I have. The muses demanded, they got stuck on these two challenges, so therefore they're going on with it. Blame the little eight-inch-high creatures and the two challengers.Warnings. Probably some swearing here and there. Possibly a few moments that make you go 'huh' but those will usually be explained later. <G> I won't be following both challenges to the letter, but I have managed to incorporate both of them for the most part. Also, I'm going to put a length warning on this puppy. I have a feeling it'll need it. Those who have read me will understand. Since both of the lovely challengers have signed off and said they were delighted with this one, then I'm going to do something I don't usually do, post this directly to a list.Notes: since the books put both fandoms on the same timeline, and S7 of Buffy is roughly about three years after graduation, I'm going to put both groups having been out of school for three years as of the start of this fic. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR S7 AND ALL THE HP BOOKS and I will be messing with the timeline a bit! Sorry, but I can't really avoid it with this one.*** = time jump. %%% = present time, Xander's present thoughts and moods - will go back to the old time unless noted by a time jump. ### = scene break.
THE CHALLENGES:1) Hi Everyone;I have a new challenge to share. It's Xandercentric of course.Someone comes to Sunnydale to claim Xander so that he can live up to his part of a prophecy. When the person meets up with Xander they realize that there is a love/lust spell on Xander that makes him obsess about Anya. When confronted about the spell it turns out that Anya forced Willow to cast the spell on Xander. Why or how is up to you. I would prefer that Willow not remember that she did it.In the end Anya leaves Sunnydale in fear of her life and the mystery guest takes Xander with
him/her.I would love for this to be a crossover with Xena/Herc, Anita Blake or Harry Potter.ThanksCalia2) Subject: Xover Bunny Needs Home...Spoilers for BuffySorry if you get this more than once :) and don't read if you don't want to be spoiled about the end of Buffy! And yeah, I know this will get lost in the OOTP release but...oh well.Ok, I'm on my last day of vacation and should be reading OOTP but I've got this blasted bunny that won't leave me alone! And be warned, it's long! So I'm going to share it and hope someone else takes it (or bits of it)....(I'm using the song stuck in your head theory :)Basic pairing is Xander/Snape. They're both such underused and underappreciated characters, they deserve someone :) Some of this is pretty specific, but some is pretty vague.1. Xander goes to England with Giles and Willow. However, Willow can't heal his eye through *her* magic.2. Xander possibly goes to pick up a magic item for either G or W, and finds another man reaching for the same thing-Snape. Xander talks him into splitting the item so they can both have some.3. Xander goes out for drink, and finds the Leaky Cauldron. I'm thinking Xander has wizard magic, but it wasn't noticeable near the Hellmouth-sort of like a cell phone ringing at a concert? I see him as more of an adult Neville :)4. While there, he meets Snape again, and here's a scene in my head-Xander interrupts a confrontation, stumbling and falling against Snapes aggressor, and breaking his wand :) Can't you just imagine Xander getting up off the floor and handing (Knott? Lucius?) his wand back saying "Oh hey, I'm really sorry, didn't mean to break your...ummm, stick?"5. For whatever reason, Snape ends up taking Xander to Hogwarts-protection? to find out why he was never schooled in wizardry? SEX!??6. Now the very first thing Xander does is start complimenting Hogwarts-the architecture, the style, the building materials, etc., with the result that Hogwarts itself sort of falls for him-you know, doors open of their own accord, stairs rearrange themselves just for him (no matter that Dumbledore is now stuck in the middle of a hall, stairless :), rooms rearrange themselves, and so on. Zebee put up a great challenge a few weeks ago, about Snape not having great plumbing because it's old, has to be talked to first, etc-I'd love to see Xander get Snapes plumbing fixed when Snape can't :)7. Also, they test Xander and he doesn't have the normal reaction to specific classes. Such as DADA-he runs. That's what you do when someone attacks, right? Care of Magical Creatures-he won't even go-voluntarily go near monsters? Are you nuts?? Transfigurations-nope, no thanks, already been possessed a couple of times, don't feel like having a physical transformation too...
Divination-Actually, I see Xander either driving Trelawney crazy-"Hey, what's the value of my Star Trek Plate collection going to be? Do I win the lottery? What's for lunch next Tuesday? etc" or brushing her off "Nah, no thanks, I already know all the prophecies-big bag, destroy world, we fight, we kill, we win, pizza party afterwards."However, considering the jobs Xander has had in the past, the one class he actually does good at-is potions. He didn't work in fast food place after fast food place without learning something...8. Somehow they fix Xander's eye!And that's it. I don't have a plot, just some fluff and fun, but please, if this tickles anyone's fancy or catches anyone's attention, I'd really love to see this or bits of this written.Thanks for reading this "book"Oreocat
You Want Me To Do What?!?
Xander opened his book, smiling at the inside cover. It had been a present from his best friend ever. He looked at his sleeping lover and laughed at the picture he made. Severus never noticed when he substituted the big teddy bear for himself when he wanted to get up and wander in the middle of the night. It was endearing in a number of ways. The least of which was how they got to this point. That's why he was sitting here with his journal. He wanted to see if he had missed any of the best parts when he had gone back and reviewed the events through that portal. It was his story, as told by a few people. He was going to gift it to Ron for his next birthday, because the poor guy was still so confused about how it all had been his fault. Xander snorted and turned to the first page, getting lost in the memories. Fortunately, Ron had written the first part down already.*** Six Years Earlier, The End of Everything ***Ron looked at his former Headmaster, shaking his head. "You want me to do what?" he asked in disbelief."I don't want, I need," Albus Dumbledore corrected gently. "Unfortunately, you are the only candidate who might pull this major miracle off, Mr. Weasley. The prophecy must be fulfilled or the world might end.""Yeah, but if I can't tell him anything, then how am I supposed to gain his trust and get him to let me help stop the end of the world?" Ron asked. Dumbledore shrugged. Ron gave him the most disbelieving look before he stood up. "Let me get this straight. I have to go to the worst town in the world for magic users." Dumbledore nodded. "While there, I have to gain the *absolute* trust of someone who's about as jumpy as Harry is. I can't tell him what I am or show him magic works, or someone will probably snap my wand, but I have to help save the world without being obvious." Dumbledore nodded, smiling. "What happens if we run into that other version of magic? I did my research when you told me to think about it last night. That place has loads of those other sorts."Dumbledore leaned back in his chair, thinking about it. "I suppose that would be a decent cover story," he admitted. "You won't be able to show him the normal wizarding world of course.""Oh, that's the other thing I forgot, I'm not supposed to arouse the suspicion of the Slayer, the witch who nearly ended the world last year, or anyone else."Dumbledore nodded. "I know it seems fantastic, even for me to suggest, but it is necessary," he repeated. "Only you can do this one. We've been over the prophecy and it's either you or your brother Percy." Ron bristled and stiffened at his brother's name. "I doubt he could pull it off either," he said, trying to soothe the young man back into a relaxed state. He was no good to him all bent out of shape. "While there, you'll have to be circumspect, unless you can learn how to do some of that other form of magic.""It...that's dangerous!" Ron said finally. "You forget, my mother saw her. She was so far out of control she wasn't even sure which planet she was on," he said harshly. "I won't risk anyone's life like that!""I'm not asking you to get lost in it, Mr. Weasley, only supporting it as an option for your cover.""You know what, get Percy," he said, walking away. "I'm not risking everyone's lives to do this.""I was afraid you were going to say that," Dumbledore said sadly. "It's too bad. Now we'll have to do it the hard way." He turned to his floo to make a call.###Ron woke up the next morning in an odd place. It certainly wasn't his modest flat. His flat didn't have polka dot curtains. Or a scratchy bedspread. Or even muggle music playing from next door. He sat up and rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he looked around. He found a note beside his bed and groaned, picking it up to read. He hadn't expected it to be from his father.Sometimes, we all have to pay a heavy price for freedom, son. Think on this as an adventure. He is a very nice boy from what Willow told us. Your wand is tucked under your pillow and there's food in the fridge. We'll be forwarding your pay while you're there so you still have some cash to do things with. We've also set you up an appointment to try out for a job on his crew; Albus thinks it's the easiest way to gain the boy's trust. Remember, you have to hide what you really are, but I trust that you can do that. After all, the twins did teach you something.Much love,Your father.Ron groaned and flopped backwards, but a shiny part caught his attention.PS: if you want to use another form of magic as cover, we've sent you two books to try and learn from. It's not that hard, but we're sure you'll be careful and keep your nose clean. No dark deals, son. Love, your mother.Ron nearly laughed out loud. His mother, encouraging him to become like that creature she had tried to help last year? When had he whacked his head one too many times? Had it been in a fight, was he even now lying in St. Mungo's and this was all a dream?Next door, the music was stopped by a piercing wail, making him jump. "Bloody hell," he sighed, standing up. He went to investigate this prison he had been assigned to hide in. Normal food in the fridge. Appliances that weren't *too* different from his at home. In the cabinets was just what he had expected his mother to pack him, it was the same as she had put into his apartment many times in the past when she had decided he wasn't eating properly. The last cabinet held glasses on the top shelf, plates and bowls on the next one down, and candy on the last. He smiled. "Dad," he said in appreciation, picking out a Bertie Bott's to nibble on while he checked everything else. A small living room with one of those muggle tele things. A radio. The bathroom looked familiar and all the taps worked like he expected, though the hot water took a long time to warm up. In the mirror cabinet he found a few muggle things. His toothbrush from home. A ten pack of razors. A few condoms. He nearly blushed when he saw those. What were his parents thinking? He shook his head and headed back to his tiny bedroom, checking his clothing. Everything but his usual robes were here, and one was hanging off to the side of his closet. "I guess that's if I find someone like me hiding here," he mused, pulling out a decent outfit so he could bathe. He felt nasty and sticky for some reason. Must have been a side effect of the spell.The hot water came sooner this time and he was enjoying the feeling of the warm water when someone knocked on the door. He cursed silently as he got out and wrapped a towel around his waist, heading over to answer it. On the other side was a gruff looking older man, a bit older than his father's age. "Yes?" he asked."Mail," he said, shoving it at him. "Special delivery." He looked Ron's body over and licked his lips. "Remember, rent's due in two weeks.""Thanks, I'll remember that." He shut and locked the door before the creepy man could get through it and sat down to open his package. From home. Some money changed over. His lease. A short note from Charlie, who was subletting his flat for him for a few months. More candy and a small bag from the twin's shop. He smiled at that and tucked it away before checking the lease. It said he had paid three months in advance. Hmm. He'd have to do something about this place. Maybe obliviate the landlord? No, that would be mean and his parents would kill him. He went back to his shower, but the water was now cold, so he settled for washing quickly and getting back out. Once he was dried and dressed, he wandered into the kitchen. On the fridge was a board that had written on it the day's date and a note about having that appointment at ten this morning. He checked the time on the radio. More than enough time to eat.%%%Xander folded the note back into the journal and turned the page. This started his writing in with Ron's. He kept a very tidy journal. The two handwritings were nothing alike, but Ron had added his account of the first few days in as well.%%%Xander looked at the new guy, kind of strong looking but he didn't look like he did hard labor. He was eager though, new in town. Xander looked at his qualifications and shrugged. He would either learn or leave. He could use the help on his crew. He looked at the boy again, seeing the easy grin and the relaxed attitude. Maybe he should warn him as well? "So, Ron, you've never worked construction?""I've done a bit now and then around my parent's house," Ron admitted. "Nothing too major, but I'm willing to learn. I'm good with my hands." He gave him another grin. "I really would like to work with you, Xander. I asked around and a few of the guys said that you were good to the new guys, didn't raz them or anything."Xander grinned back. "I try not to. I was a newbie not too long ago and I don't like remembering some of the tricks the guys played on me." He looked the resume over again then shrugged. "Can you start tomorrow?"Ron nodded. "Sure. Are the guys going to give me a hard time about my accent?""Not really. They might try and mimic it, but none of them are that good. Why did you come over here anyway?""I'm taking a year away from my folks. Being the youngest son, and second youngest over all, means that every now and then you get stifled by the rest of them. I picked a spot on the map and pointed. It landed me here." He waved a hand around. "I guess it was fate.""Yeah, I guess so," Xander said, staring at him. "Do you use magic?"Ron gaped for a moment, then cleared his throat. "A bit, but I never knew this place existed before now. Like I said, I pointed at the map. More fated than not I guess," he said a bit more bitterly."You could always leave.""Nah, I can't. My folks set me up a place in town and everything.""Sorry to hear that." Xander leaned closer. "Since you know things go bump in the night, let me give you some free advice. Don't go out after dark. Not alone, not with a group of friends, and not even with a weapon you're sure will work. Usually it'll get used on you instead of you using it."Ron smirked. "I've fought before, Xander. I'm not weak or helpless. I'm one of the good guys and I'm still back at the beginnings of using magic.""Really?" Ron nodded. "How new?""I've gone and done one or two things right, but I'm still missing some stuff. Little things, but I'm being careful," he said quickly."Been warned?" he asked with another grin.Ron nodded. "Yeah, there's been a lot of talk among my family's friends about witches and wizards who go dark and never make it back. I'm hoping I don't even find the line to the dark.""If you want to stay a white lighter, you will. Remember, power isn't an excuse to use it." He stood up. "Eight tomorrow?""Sure," Ron agreed, standing up. "I'll head to sleep early just in case." He shook his hand. "Feel free to pop around in a few days, once I finish unpacking and make the place liveable," he invited."Around here, never say that randomly," Xander warned lightly."I felt your pulse and your hand's warm. I kinda figured you weren't undead.""Good point," Xander agreed, smiling at him. "You do know.""Yeah, there's always something going on around the family home." He winked. "What about my place? Any problems that way?""Yeah, any anti-invite spells won't work there. Your apartment complex has the highest rate of death of tenants of anywhere in town. I'd think about moving.""I can do that. Got any recommendations?""Not a clue," Xander admitted. "I'm staying with friends because they need me. My old one's already snatched up. I'll look around and see if I can get you a number or something. If you're any good, we'll want to keep you around.""Hey, I'm all for living," Ron agreed. They shared a short laugh then he went back outside to walk home."You don't drive?" Xander called. Ron shook his head. "Then come back around dark and we'll go looking together, Ron. I'm sure I can get you up to American driving standards within a few days." He waved and jogged back to fix one of the guys, who was trying to pound a pipe into place.Ron thought about it as he went home. They had clicked on some level. Xander had been nice. This was going to be harder than he had expected!###Ron walked into his apartment and dropped the minimal tool set onto the couch before heading to get a drink. He found someone waiting for him in his bedroom. "Get out!" he told him."Don't be like that," the man said smoothly. He smiled and picked up Ron's wand. "What a puny stake."Ron pulled one out of his pants pocket and staked him. "That's because it's not." He picked up his wand and went to try and charm the door. Maybe his way would work better. Otherwise, he was going to tell his mother and let *her* bitch out Dumbledore and his father for him. Before he could finish, someone knocked on the door. He put his wand in his back pocket and opened it. "Yeah?" he asked the landlord."I heard visitors. You have to pay extra."Ron gave him a steady look. "According to my lease, I don't. Nor do I owe you money for three more months. Since I'm going to be filing a complaint about you letting people into my apartment to rob me, I don't think you want me to go on, do you?" The landlord took a step back. "Fortunately, he left and I'm still here. Go away." The landlord ran off, his greasy shirt flapping behind him. "Git." He closed the door and finished laying the protection charm on it, sighing when he felt it take hold. He sat down with his tools to unrwrap and put them into the new belt. The other guys all wore them so it was probably a pretty good idea. When he finally got hungry, he went in and grabbed some food from the freezer, reading the directions on the box. He looked at the thing he didn't recognize, deciding it was probably the microwave. He carefully followed each step, then looked at the unfamiliar machine. He found the one that said 'time cook' and made happy noises as it worked like it should. He opened the door and put the food in, then hit the start button again, cheering for himself. A loud 'pop' let him know he wasn't alone."I was thrilled the first time I figured out how to use one of those as well," Arthur said, giving his son a fond smile."If I hadn't been faster, I might be dead right now, father.""What?" he asked, starting to look worried. "The town's that bad during the day?""No, I walked in and there was a vampire standing in the bedroom with my wand," he said angrily. He looked at his father, scowl already in place. "You and mum are going to have to go a long way to make this up to me. Not only did you take me away from my girlfriend, the one mum's been so anxious to meet, but someone hopefully told my boss and all that good stuff?""We arranged for a paid leave. Dumbledore fixed all that for you," Arthur said, sitting at the table. "If you want to move, we're all for that. If I had known, I would have set you somewhere better, Ron. I'm sorry."Ron lost his anger. "It's not your fault," he sighed, going out to hug him. The microwave beeped a few times. "I have to stir that, I'll be right back." He went to stir the concoction. It didn't look appetizing, but he could eat it. He set it back in and reset the time then went to sit across from his father. "Dad, is this really that important? I mean, I know it's stopping an apocalypse, but do we have to do it this way?""We'll have to stop this, but the rights of the wizarding world also have to be taken into account."Ron grimaced. "Then I should probably tell you I saw magic floating around him. Someone's cast a lot of stuff at him and it's stuck.""Oh, dear." Arthur picked up a screwdriver to play with. "Can you remove them without him knowing?""No. I don't know what they are and that's not my best area."Arthur put down the tool and straightened up. "Then I'll pop over to Willow and talk with her.""Is she still dangerous?""Not that I'm aware of," he said with a small smile. "She came home fine.""I'm surprised she didn't get thrown into prison for that stunt," Ron put in. The microwave beeped. "Want some?""If you want to share, I wouldn't be against it," his father said with a smile. He watched as Ron went to fix their plates, then grimaced as they were shown to him. "What is that?""It's supposed to be beef stew." Someone knocked on the door and Ron went to answer it. "Xander," he said, smiling at him. He checked the halls. "Come in." He let the guy in, smiling when his father was stunned stupid. "Dad, this is going to be my new boss, Xander. He's the one who advised me to move." He let Xander have his plate of stew and went to get himself something closer to food-looking food. "Was there a problem?""I thought I'd pop in on you, make sure you made it home okay." He shook Arthur's hand. "Xander Harris.""Arthur Weasley," he introduced himself. Xander looked confused and he knew he had made a mistake somehow.Xander took the free seat. "I know I've heard that name somewhere before.""I certainly hope it was in relation to something good," Arthur quipped with a smile."Probably, I tend to remember the bad named first." He shrugged. "It'll come to me." He smiled at Ron as he joined them again. "I see you got tools."Ron nodded. "I saw it was a requirement. Am I missing anything?"Xander looked at the selection. "Not really. That sort of screwdriver will be limiting, you might think about getting one with the other sort of interchangeable heads, the ratchet kind, but I'll lend you mine if I don't have to fill in for someone tomorrow. We're doing pipes tomorrow, so it's good that you have wrenches." He nibbled on the stew. "Private Selections," he said in appreciation. Ron grinned at him. "I'm a single guy, I eat a lot of microwave meals. Stay away from their chili, or anything with beans, it's nasty." Ron nodded. "So, you're ready?""I'm sure I'll do my best," Ron told him."Good." Xander patted him on the shoulder. "I like you. You remind me of me when I was younger. And freer." He grinned. "I also come with an invitation. The witch I work with wants to meet all the witches in town tonight. They're doing a little meet and greet thing if you wanted to go to the Magic Box." He looked at Arthur. "I didn't out you, right?""Nah, he knows. Not too fond of a subject, but he knows," Ron admitted."Is that the local equipment shop?" Arthur asked.Xander nodded. "Plus herbs, books, emergency 'I screwed up, help me' spot, all those good things." Arthur chuckled. "It's part shop advertising and part scoping out the new people to make sure they're not going to cause us more trouble. There'll be about sixteen witches and one guy there tonight besides those of us in the core group, who'll be working the shop. So if Ron wants to come, he's more than welcome.""Sure," Ron agreed. "How should I dress?""What you've got on now is a bit too casual, I'd change my shirt," Xander told him. "Other than that, most of us will be coming off work." He shrugged. "I never bother to change unless I'm sweaty and nasty.""Cool. Let me quaff this and I'll find a dress shirt.""We packed you some," Arthur told him, giving him a look. "Are you being careful?""With the exception of the pile of dust, yeah," Ron agreed."I noticed. Landlord?" Ron nodded. "Cool. I felt a protection on the door, good luck.""I'm hoping it'll stay until it's time for me to move," Ron told him."Ah-ha! The other reason I came over. There is an apartment in a *good* building, one with security and a manager who's been attacked before, open. The tenant just died and I saw the sign in the window." He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "It's more centrally located so it should be easier to find things."Ron looked at the number. "Where is it?""It's run by a management corporation. You have to call to get an appointment. Of course, I'll be a nice boss and let you off. I don't want to lose a good worker, and you seem like you'll fit in well on my crew. We're all quirky and odd." They shared a smile. "Hurry up and I'll give you a ride over until you can get an American license.""I've used public transport most of my life," Ron admitted as he scraped the plastic plate. "What do I do with this?""You toss that away because it'll melt the next time you put it into the microwave," Xander told him. "I tried that, it didn't work too well. I got really upset when I lost those nachos." Ron nodded and tossed it away, then went to change. So he looked at the father and smiled. "Did you want to come too? I'm sure I've heard Willow say your name.""No, that's all right," he said with a smile. "I just popped over to check on Ron. It's the first time he's been so far from home." He finished his meal and stood up. "I'll leave you two alone.""No hurry, dad, you can come if you want," Ron called."No, son, I have to get back, before your mother throws a fit."Ron stuck his head out of the room. "Going to tell her about the pile of dust?"Arthur thought a second, then came up with the perfect response. "Son, I enjoy my present state of living. I don't want to join him on the floor. I'd make a horrible looking pile of dust." He smiled at his boy and walked out the door, apparating from the hallway.Xander looked up at the 'pop'. "What was that?""The neighbor did it all last night," Ron covered as he walked out. "Good enough?""Perfect," Xander agreed. The green shirt brought out Ron's eyes and hair very well. It also hung off him very well. "Tailored?""Every chance I get," Ron agreed. He grabbed his keys and wallet, then followed him out to his car. "I need to get some more work clothes.""Walmart. Cheap, but good enough. And if you get something irreversibly stained, it's cheap enough to toss out and buy a new one," he told him. Ron shifted to look at him. "Really. We make pretty good salaries. You'll be making ten dollars an hour." Ron whistled so he grinned. "Once you get up to my level, you start making the big bucks, I make twenty-two.""Wow." Ron watched as the town moved past, trying to figure out where everything was. "Where is this Walmart?""Further outside of town. Oh, forgot." He pointed at the cabs. "Never, ever, take them. They're demon run and okay enough, but all the night drivers are vampires and most of them will try to play pranks. They won't eat you, there's charms on the cabs, but they're not nice.""I'll keep that in mind," Ron said, staring at the cab as they passed. "The demons live openly?""Most humans ignore the little things around here." Xander laughed bitterly. "They even ignored a twenty-five-foot snake demon showing up at a graduation ceremony to eat them. It's easily forgotten around here," he explained. He pulled up in front of the Magic Box. "Go ahead in while I park."Ron unbuckled and got out, walking into the shop. The women smiled at him. "Xander invited me. I'm the new guy on his crew."A stunning redhead he had briefly seen the year before came over to shake his hand. "I'm Willow.""Ron," he said, smiling at her. "I'm at the dabbling stage."She nodded. "I remember that well. If you have any problems, come right for me and I'll do what I can to help you."Ron crossed his arms. He had tried something simple out of the books earlier, but it had been so hard. "How did you train your concentration? That's my most major problem at the moment.""Oh." She perked up. "I meditated. Plus, practice makes it easier," she assured him, leading him further into the store. "What were you trying?""Fairy glows. I wanted a nice blue one for a corner of my apartment." She giggled. "I know, it's vain, but it'd hide a nasty stain on the carpet."She nodded. "I bet. I used to use pink ones for that reason." She sat down with him. "I think some practice might ease that, or some meditation, or even finding your comfy mental spot. That place where you can let everything else go to think without really exerting yourself." Ron looked interested. "It's not easy to find, but once you have it, everything becomes a lot easier. The simple spells will become more automatic once you slip into that spot and the harder ones will be able to be done.""Cool. I think I know what you're talking about. I've found a similar thing when I was fighting.""Yeah, it's basically the same thing," a blonde woman said as she walked over with some punch. "Buffy Summers," she said, shaking his hand."Ron." He smiled at her. "And I see someone lurking behind you.""Oh, that's my younger sister, Dawn." Dawn waved from behind her biology book. "She's got a test tomorrow.""I remember studying for those," he said with a smile. "I did pretty good with animals.""She's got frog body parts," Willow told him. She tipped her head. "You look like a witch I know, Molly.""She's my mum's cousin," Ron lied. Willow perked up. "I flipped open the map and pointed at it. I didn't understand why my mother laughed when I told her where I was coming to."Willow nodded. "I'm sure your mother's cousin will be watching on you from afar."Ron nodded. "Me too. She's like that." The girls laughed and Buffy left them alone. "So, Willow, what's the story with Xander? Does he use?"She shook her head quickly. "Not a bit. He understands, but he doesn't touch the magic himself. Why?""Because I can sense magical currents all around the poor guy.""Oh!" She frowned. "Some of that's from me. Protection spells and things like that.""That's cool. Does he know?""Not a bit," she said quietly. She leaned closer. "Can you kind of not tell him? They're older spells but I worry about him.""Sure," he agreed. He grinned at her again and patted her hand. "So, what do we do around here for fun?""We go to the movies, we hang at Walmart. We patrol and kill the slimy things," Xander said as he walked over to them. He clapped Ron on the back. "I met his father, Arthur. I remember you said that name to me.""Yeah, I did," Willow said, looking at Ron. She smiled at Xander. "Dawn needs help with frog parts.""I can do that. I did a messy job of cutting up my own but I did manage it." He clapped Ron on the back again and left them alone."Your mother's cousin?" she asked.He shrugged. "I'm not here because of you," he said quietly."Are you in trouble?" He shook his head. "Being trouble?"He laughed. "My mother would kill me." She nodded. "No, I'm here to check on a few things, none of which is you," he assured her."Good. I won't nark." She glanced around. "What about your wand?""I'm learning the other side, I'm not allowed to use it here," he groaned."Then find that same comfy spot where you were when you were fighting. You'll be able to do something," she assured him. She leaned closer. "Not me?""Not you," he agreed. "There's a bad feeling so little auror me got sent."She smiled. "Brilliant of them. If you need me, yell my way." She stood up and went to talk to the witches gathered around the new books. "We've got a new remedies book in," she told them. They looked at her and started to talk to her about what was in it.Ron watched the ebb and flow of energies around the room, noticing that Buffy was powerful in her own right, but not a witch. Xander's glow nearly blinded him. Someone had shielded the boy so he wouldn't be found out. He nearly frowned, but kept it internal for later. The girl, Dawn, had both a magical signature and a magical nature. He wondered about that too, but he could write a letter home to find out. When the clock hit ten, he stood up. "I'd best head home," he said, smiling at Xander. "Not the cab?""I wouldn't," Xander agreed. "Not until you know the lay of the land." He glanced over at Buffy. "Hey, Buff, are you heading toward the West side tonight?" She shrugged. "Can you walk him home?""Sure. Not of the driving variety?""I used public transport at home," he told her."Must be nice to have busses and things," Buffy said as she walked him out. "So, what areas of magic are you learning?""I'm still back at the beginning. I'm having a few troubles with fairyglows, but Willow gave me some great advice earlier," he told her as they walked. "You?"She laughed. "I don't do the magic thing, I'm more magic than using it."He smiled over at her. "Well, for a magical creature, you're very pretty. Most of them are meaner than you appear to be."She patted him on the back. "Appearances can be deceiving.""I know. You'd think that some of the creatures were the prettiest things, but they turn out to be the most deadly of them all."She nodded. "I fit in there somewhere."He beamed at her. "Near the top of the prettiness scale, so you must be *really* deadly."She laughed. "Are you flirting with me?"He nodded. "I have to try it with every girl, otherwise my mother will be disappointed because I'm not trying to settle down."She laughed long and hard about that one, even leaning against him. "Thank you, I needed that laugh. You're cute, but not my type.""I know," he sighed, giving her a squeeze. "If I were, you'd have already snatched me and made me blush.""Probably," she agreed. "So, I caught you staring at the Willow.""She knows some of my family.""Ah! Last year?" she asked. Ron nodded. "But she's better.""I know. It was an accident that brought me here. I picked a spot on the map and pointed." She snorted. "Really. I had no intention of ever coming near a Hellmouth.""Good. That's always a wise decision. Leaving once you have enough money?""Hopefully," he agreed with a slight touch of wistfulness. "I'd love to see home again." He pointed at his building. "I live over there if you'd be willing to see me to my door." She made a face. "Xander told me and I have the number to call for a decent place tomorrow.""Good. This place is a cemetery waiting to happen.""Yeah, well, I already dusted one vampire," he admitted. "Standing in my bedroom mocking my clothes."She snorted. "That is so like them, and they don't have taste themselves!" she agreed. "How can they mock Gucci when they can't even spell it I ask.""I can't either," Ron admitted. She nudged him, shoving him against a building."Oops, sorry, Ron.""It's okay, I have older brothers."She looked interested. "Any I might like?""A few, but they're mostly wrapped up in their work. I have a brother who's a lot like Willow, very studious and solemn. Bit of a prat for the most part. Hate to be around him. The two directly above me and between the prat and I are twins, jokers both. The older two are farther away working on important things.""Wow. You have a huge family! I thought having a sister was bad.""Oh, I have one of those too. She's younger. We all share a bathroom. Our parents had to add another on last year for her.""I can understand that. Dawn takes forever in there, and it's always right when I need it."Ron nodded. "Yeah, I can understand that. The twins blew up the main one last year just as Ginny, my sister, was on the rag." Buffy shuddered. "The rest of us had a stomach virus.""Oh, damn, that must have been bad," she said, giving him a soothing pat. "Are they still living?""Barely. Mother made them go stay with the prat until she wasn't mad at them and it was fixed." He opened his front door. "Thank you for the charming escort, m'lady. I hope to see you again under similarly pleasant circumstances.""I hope so too. Remember, behave with the magic. Power is addictive, Ron." She gave him a pat on the arm. "Go upstairs, I'll wait to make sure I don't hear screaming."He grinned and headed up the stairs, pulling his wand when he noticed his door was open. He pushed it open carefully and saw the blonde sitting on his couch. "Do I have to stake you too?""Get in here, Weasley," Spike said. "I'm not going to eat you.""Night, Buffy," Ron called, walking in and closing the door. He looked the vampire over. "Who're you?""Name's William.""As in 'the Bloody'?" Ron asked. Spike nodded, smirking at him. "Then why shouldn't I stake you? You were a research paper for one of my friends, you and all your family.""They're mostly dead or changed," Spike said, lighting a cigarette. "I got a message for you from Dumble.""Really?" Ron sat down across from him, his back to the wall. "What?""Be careful.""I ran into Willow earlier," Ron admitted. "Told her I wasn't here for her, just to check up on things."Spike nodded, grinning at him. "Good. You getting anywhere?""With the new magic? Willow told me how to get it right." He shrugged. "I'll learn. Why did he send you?""Because I've got the only other wand in town and I'm doing this so he'll release a curse on me," Spike told him."Do I need to help?"Spike shook his head. "Nah." He handed over a baggie. "But he thought you might need this someday soon."Ron looked at the bag, then at the vampire. "Your hair?""Polyjuice, you nit."Ron grimaced. "Why?""Because I'm going to have to leave and it's a cover," Spike reminded him, standing up. "You stay out of trouble.""I'm trying. Did he tell you everything?"Spike nodded. "So I'm going to give you some advice of my own. Stay away from his ex. She's a witch herself and powerful enough to mess up lives.""Gotcha," Ron agreed. "Thank you. Now, who were you originally? She refused to tell me."Spike smirked. "If you don't know, you'll have to ask Dumble to tell you." He strolled away, heading out into the night.Ron recast the protections on his door so he could sleep easy, doubling them this time. The hair went into his sock drawer until he needed it. He pulled out the books and found that spot, trying the spell again. The fairy glow was pretty, but not blue. He snorted as he canceled it. "Better than I did with most charms," he noted as he went to bed.###Xander looked at his crew as they ate dinner around the Summer's couches. "So, what do you think of him?" he asked"Ron's a nice guy," Willow told him. "Won't be any trouble."Buffy looked at her. "Are you sure?"Willow nodded. "Unless something out of his control happens, he won't cause us any troubles.""A duffer?" Xander asked.She shook her head. "No, the whole family has power. He's careful. Not in it for the power or the things it could bring him.""Then why is he here?" Buffy asked."He picked a spot on the map and came here by fate," Willow told her.Buffy snorted. "Yeah, because most magical families come here to get away from each other.""I don't think he knew more than the name before he came," Xander put in. "Knowing theoretically and knowing personally can be a big difference. I trust the guy, but I'm not sure why.""Because you can sense his intent not to cause harm probably," Willow told him. "When we talked, I made sure of it. He's still having problems at the basic levels. Concentration and all that stuff. He's not causing us any problems.""Good," Buffy decided. "What about the new witch to the group?""Her I'd worry about. She wants things, great things," Willow said sadly. "She'll use the magic to get them.""Then we'll put her on the watch list," Buffy decided. "Anyone else we should worry about?""Nah," Willow told her. "Everything's about the same. The pretty wiccans working on love charms for their boyfriends and girlfriends. The chaos witch doing her thing. She's finally figured out she's not going to Janus, instead she's going to hit another God. Where was Spike?""He was lurking in the middle of town when I came back through," Buffy told her with a shrug. "Where was Anya? Shouldn't she have been there tonight?""She should have," Xander agreed. He put his fork down. "Maybe it was a good thing that she wasn't.""Maybe," Buffy agreed, giving him a sympathetic look. "It'll get better soon, Xander.""I hope so because I'm currently not liking this in-between spot we're in." He put down his empty plate. "What else was on the list for tonight?""Just this," Buffy said happily. "Low vampire count in town. Did a patrol. I'd say it's movie night."Willow laughed. "Cool. Is the rental place still open?""Yeah," Xander said, looking at the clock. "For another few hours." They headed out to his car to find something they could all stand.*** Two Months Later ***Ron noticed a new spell over his friend. He and Xander had become close mates, even drinking buddies on occasion. Ron had even started to be included in the more mundane patrols. Wouldn't his mother throw fits if she knew about that. He wandered over to look at his friend, but Xander shook his head and walked the other way. "I was going to invite you over to try my first attempt at cooking," he said as he caught up with him."Not tonight, Ron. Tell me how it went.""Wanna talk?""Nah, it's all right," Xander told him, clapping him on the shoulder. "Go back to work before I have to get mean.""Sure." He went back to his spot, not liking this new glow at all. It was highlighting an older spell, one that was at least a few years old. He thought as he laid in the cabinets, only getting hurt once when he set something down on his foot. When lunch break came, Xander was gone for the day, so he ate alone, still thinking about the problems. He decided he needed another opinion in this case. Xander needed more help than he could give. The thought that came next made him cheer up. He could get Harry to come over for a day. He hadn't visited at all and he missed his buddy. He finished his sandwich and went back to work a little early. No one would say anything if he left five minutes before the end of the day so he could hit the owlry. Surprisingly enough, there was one in town. For not having any others of his type, the town was well set up for them. Someone must have been hoping to attract his kind but most of them were smart enough to stay away from this cursed town. Smart of them really. If he never saw another vampire, he'd be happy.###Ron walked into his apartment and smiled at the homy touches he had managed over the last few months. This new place was much better. Not only did his protections stick, there wasn't a noisy neighbor who seemed to charge by the minute for his time, and was loud while he did it. Nor were there other neighbors who played Eastern Mystical music, their answer to 'what the bloody hell was that', at six in the morning as high as their tinny radio could go. He settled onto the couch with a sigh of relief. He had worked on framing and his arms hurt. The pop behind him alerted him that his father had shown up. "Hi, Dad. Grab me a beer?""I will not," his mother said primly.Ron grinned back at her. "I've worked outside all day, mum, I deserve one."She grimaced but went to get it for him. "What is this?""German micro-brew," Ron said fondly, taking his first sip. "Sit, mum, chat and all that. I need advice anyway."She looked around the apartment as she walked around to the chair. "This is nicer than the place that your father arranged," she admitted."Yeah, and my protections stick and I'm not living next to a rent-a-poof either," he said with a fond smile for her. She looked at him. "Honest. That and a wannabe yogi."She shook her head. "Had I known, I would have insisted on somewhere nicer," she assured him. She smiled at the picture on top of the television. "I see you did find that. I packed it for you.""Yup, found it and wrote him earlier.""Good. Harry was wondering where you were.""You think it'd be okay if he came over for a night? I'll make sure he doesn't die by creature bite.""It's that bad?" she asked. Ron nodded, finishing off his beer and putting the bottle onto a coaster. "How is the job?""Which?""The main one, son.""It goes, that's why I needed advice. I found another spell on him today and it's making me worry. It's like it's activated an older one and made it stronger, but I know it's not a protection." She frowned. "I can't tell what it is without some magic though.""Good point." She looked around the room again, then shrugged. "Can you get him to come help you do something?""I can," Ron agreed, happier now. "There's been something I've been meaning to try and I'll need a second anyway.""What about the main problem.""That's been going a bit funny," Ron said quietly, shifting closer. "Mum, someone's hunting Slayers and pre-slayers. Buffy's gotten a lot of them dumped on her recently. This feeling of something bad is horrible and I'm not in it.""Can you figure out what and stop it?" she asked.Ron shook his head. "Not a bit, mum. I'd love to say this is something I can defeat with a little help, but it's not. I've got the feeling that this is horrible. Even the locals are feeling it and not being so cocky about going out at night.""Then I want you to be careful," she told him."I'm trying, mum. I really am." Someone knocked on the door. "Let me get that." He stood up and walked over, answering it. "Hey, Xander. Come in and meet my mum?""First, are you involved?""No, mate, I'm trying to help stop it but you're shutting me out.""Oh." He walked inside and let Ron close the door. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Weasley. Ron's a very good worker, puts in a full day of real work instead of goofing off half the day." He looked at Ron. "You're not involved because we're not sure what is coming.""Xander, I have access to other forms of information," Ron told him. "I'd like to help this time. It's not right that you have a bunch of untrained girls do it.""That's their job," Xander pointed out."Mine too, prat," Ron said good naturedly. "Haven't I proved that by now?""I'll talk to Buffy tonight about including you in the meetings," he agreed. He relaxed. "Now, you said you were going to try and cook?""I was, but then my mum showed up." He grinned at her. "Mum, wanna help me make food?""I'll definitely watch you and tell you where you're going wrong," she told him.He nodded. "Okay. Let's move to the bar then. Beer, Xander?""Sure, I've had a rotten day," Xander admitted as he sat down."Do you need a hug?" Mrs. Weasley asked him, holding out an arm."No, that's okay," Xander told her. He gave her a smile. "Why can't I find nice women like you?""There's plenty of them where we are," Mrs. Weasley told him. "You could always come over when Ron comes back." Ron dropped his knife and looked at her. "It would be acceptable.""Okay. If he wants to, he can come stay with me and find a job and women over there," Ron agreed. He grinned at Xander. "If you can put up with me.""I probably can. I put up with Anya." His head sunk down onto his crossed arms on the bar. "I really hate what happened between us.""Bad breakup?" Molly asked sympathetically. Xander nodded, not looking at her. "They happen, dear, even when you try to be nice.""I thought I was saving her from something worse, a bad life," he admitted. "Now she's human again."Ron shook his head. "She needs to make up her mind, Xander."Xander looked at him. "This time it wasn't her idea. She got forced into it," he told him.Ron snorted. "She could have done things differently, couldn't she?" Xander nodded. "Then it was her choice and not yours.""Good point, but I still feel miserable. If it hadn't been for me, she wouldn't have been mortal in the first place and we never would have gotten together. It never would have plagued her with a conscience."Mrs. Weasley patted him on the back. "I know it's hard, but she'll forgive you some day, Xander. You're a very nice boy and I know she understands this.""Yeah, hopefully. I just wish I wasn't starting to feel mushy toward her again."Ron and his mother shared a look. "Xander, want a salad with this, mate?""Eww, green stuff," he said, shuddering. He looked at his friend. "You've never shown a desire so sickening before.""Before it wasn't my mother watching me eat chili fries either," Ron pointed out with a grin. Xander chuckled. "We're having sloppy joes, mum.""I'll make allowances for your age and sex," she assured him. "None of you boys eat well enough." She looked at Xander. "Doesn't your mother nag?""My mother doesn't see me," he told her."I'm sorry. Is she blind?""No, she ignores me like I'm not there every time we run into each other in town," he said honestly. She clucked and gave him a hug. "Thanks. It must be nice to have a real family."Ron nodded. "Usually. Unless there's a problem in the bathroom." His mother laughed. "Remind me to tell you the story about the twins and them blowing up the bathroom while we were all sick and my sister was on the rag."Xander snickered. "I'm now living with six girls. I understand all too well how horrible that can be." Molly gave him a smile. "You're a very nice mother.""Thank you, dear. I try." She gave him a pat on the hand. "Ron, how goes your training?""Not great, mum, but I'm working on it." He looked at Xander. "I've been meaning to try a visualization spell. Wanna help later? It'll get you away from the girls for hours on end.""Maybe," Xander agreed. "Is it hard?""No, not really. A concentration exercise. We'll peek in on the girls."Xander smirked. "You just want to see Buffy in the shower.""Nah, I don't like my women that aggressive. I like them nice and soft and able to cook," he said as he opened a can. "Not a microwave in sight.""Or plastic," Xander agreed. "I'm happy for you, man. My first year all I ate was microwave stuff and cereal.""And beer," Ron teased."And beer," Xander admitted. "Plus some soda thrown in for good measure.""Speaking of, tell me the next time you head out to Walmart. I've got some stuff I could pick up if I can mooch a ride with you.""Sure. If we're not too fragged, I can take you tonight. There's always something I can pick up out there."Ron's mother shook her head. Boys. And they say men didn't like to shop. "Which way is the restroom so I can clean up?""The light tan door, mum," Ron told her. "Watch out, I bought the industrial size toilet paper and it's blocking part of the door until I break it down." She looked at him. "It's cheap and I don't have to buy it that often. It saves me shopping every few weeks." He shrugged. "The beauty of Walmart."Xander nodded. "Industrial sized everything."She went into the bathroom and saw what they meant. Why would a single person need to buy 24 rolls of toilet paper at once? Boys.###Ron canceled the visualization spell, it had been better than tele. Buffy had taught the girls how to quip as they slayed. He turned his attention to Xander and frowned. "When did you get that spell put on you?" he asked.Xander looked at himself. "What spell?""I'm not sure what it is, but I can see the edges of it glowing around you. It's a light purple." He could see it, but how to tell someone that they were the victim of a love spell? A powerful, long- lasting love spell.Xander looked at his arms. "I don't see anything. What is it?" He looked at his friend. "Could it be a protection spell?" He blushed. "Willow doesn't know that I know, but I know she put one on me a long time ago, before she had her accident.""Maybe," Ron agreed. That had given him an idea. "If it is, it's holding up really well.""She's a good witch, even if she does have her problems," Xander said as he stood up. "Need help?""Nah, I'm good. Is Thursday my day off?""Sure is," Xander said happily. "I hate that the budget is coming out that way, but at least you'll be able to go grocery shopping during the day for a change.""True, and there's other things I'll need to get that I can't get on Sunday," he said happily. He walked Xander to the door. "You be careful with those scary women, Xander. Don't let them pounce you or anything." Xander laughed all the way to his car.Ron leaned against the door and smiled. Yes, he would be talking with Willow on Thursday, when he went to buy a few more meditation candles.###Ron strolled over to where Willow was straightening books. "We need to talk," he told her. She looked at him. "I caught something last night and need you to look at it." She nodded and followed him back to the back corner of the store, where all private conversations were held. "I found a love spell on Xander, but it was purple," he said quietly. She frowned. "It's all over him and it's old, and it's got your fingerprints on it, but it's been reactivated."She shook her head. "I never cast one on him.""Then I'd figure it out because someone's using your magic," he told her. "It's popped up strongly in the last few days. I saw it clearly last night. Love and devotion.""Huh." She grimaced toward the front of the store. "I'll have to check that out. How's it going?""I'm doing okay. He and I did a visualization spell the other day," he said with an easier air."I know, I felt it. Did you like watching the Buffy?""Not really, but it's better than pay-per-view."She laughed. "I'll tell her you said that." She punched him on the arm. "You okay otherwise?""Missing my friends. I've got one I invited over the other day, still waiting on him to show up." He winked. "Let me know if you need help." He walked away, going back to his candle selection. "Hey, Anya," he called. "No more pine candles in the three wicks?""They're on back order," she called back."Shit," he sighed, picking out his next favorite scent, oranges. He liked those things now that he had access to fresh ones all the time. He brought them to the counter. "Tell me when you get the pine ones in, okay?""Sure, Ron. How's the meditation going?""Better. I'm adding it to my tai-chi routine. Thanks for the suggestion by the way. It's really nice to get some normal exercise in." She smiled as he paid her. "How long do you think?""Maybe a week. They claimed they had trouble getting supplies of the scent." She handed him his change. "How is Xander?""Good. Today's my day off so I'm guessing he's working hard." He took his things. "See you next week." He walked out, whistling all the way home. When he got there, he found Willow waiting on him. "That was fast.""I think Anya has the place bugged." She settled herself in. "So, love spell?""Purple for some reason," he agreed, setting his bag down. "It's strongest around his shoulders and neck instead of his chest." He grabbed them some sodas and nearly ran into the person popping in behind him. "Hey, Harry. You're just in time to give us an idea.""If you want," he said with a grin. He looked around. "This is bigger than your pad in London.""I know, isn't it great?" He handed him one of the sodas and grabbed another one. "Harry, this is Willow. Mum helped her a while back."Harry looked at Willow. "I remember."She sighed. "So do I. How is the fighting, Mr. Potter?"He grinned. "Better every day. We've got them on the defensive again.""Good on you," Ron said happily. "Wish I could be there when all that went down, but I'm stuck here helping an apocalypse from going off." He sat down on the coach. "Come listen, Harry. You know a bit about love spells.""Yeah, one or two things," he agreed dryly. He had been the victim of a few of them so he had studied up on the subject, just in case. "What's going on?""The guy I'm here to protect has one major one on him. Few years old. Purple, heavier around his arms and shoulders.""Demonic?" Harry asked.Willow frowned. "Demonic?" She looked at Ron. "Huh?""Purple, that's their spells usually," Harry said as he took a sip. "Diet, Ron?""It's all they had," he said with a shrug. "Mum was with me.""Oh." He nodded. "I saw her yesterday. She brought me permission to pop around sometimes. How much longer do you think you're going to be stranded over here?"Willow laughed. "The problem we're dealing with looks to be fixed within a few more months, Harry. You can have him back after that hopefully.""Yeah, I can see that. How's Spike?""How do you know about Spike?" Willow asked."He came to me. Gave me some of his hair," Ron told her.She hopped up. "Polyjuice?""If I have to. Will I?""He was tortured recently. We're not sure he's sane.""Tell me if he leaves," Ron told her. "It takes a month to brew the nasty crap.""I can do that," Willow agreed. "I'll even make sure you can't be staked." She looked at Harry. "Did you want to help too?""I like to take my battles one at a time," he told her. "Ron's brilliant, trained beside me, so he should be able to handle anything."Ron nodded. "Hopefully. What do you want to do about Xander's spell?""I want to check it out first," she admitted, worrying her bottom lip. "Then I'll probably have to remove it. It's not good to be under a love spell." She turned to look at him. "Want to work on a house protection with me tonight? Since you seem to excel at them?""Sure," Ron said happily. "Tonight?""After midnight. After everyone's asleep. Meet me in the back yard." She smiled at them. "Nice seeing you under better circumstances, Harry. Keep up the good work and yell if you want me to come help." She waved. "I'd like to kick his ass once for making fun of me." She disappeared, heading for the shop.Ron shifted to look at his friend. "I figured out why you never let Dumbledore talk you into anything anymore," he said dryly. "I did and look at me now."Harry laughed, hugging his friend. "It's good to see that you haven't lost your sense of humor.""Yeah, well, the twins had to bleed some of theirs into me since they got the triple dose, it having missed the prat and landing all on them." Harry laughed some more. "Want some food? I've been learning how to cook and I have leftovers.""Sure," Harry agreed. "It's the middle of the night at home and I was a bit hungry anyway when your mother popped around." He followed his friend into the kitchen, filling him in about what was going on at home.###Xander walked out into the backyard. "Buffy wanted to know what you're doing to the house," he called."We're laying protections," Willow called back. "Come help. You can hold the light so we can see the books." She glanced at Ron, who hid his wand up his sleeve. Xander walked over and took the oil lamp from her hand. "Thanks. That's very helpful." She looked at him, and *looked* at him, then shook her head. "I didn't lay that.""Lay what?" Xander asked.Ron looked at him. "I found a love spell on you the other night, Xander. In purple magic.""Purple?""Purple. Demonic," Willow told him. She reached out to touch him. "Don't move," she said when he flinched, cutting across the lines to cancel them. "It is my spell, way back when.""Oz?" he asked."No, Anya," she said, looking at his face. "I don't know what happened, Xander, and I'm sorry."He gave her a one-armed hug. "That's okay. She was stronger than you back when we first got together. Is it that old?" She nodded against his chest. "Then remove it and we'll be even.""I don't remember casting it.""I know. We'll pounce her together." He looked at Ron. "Anything else you wanted to share?""Yeah, I have to use funny implements to cast really well. Do you mind if I do?" he asked."Go ahead. Oh, a wand," he said when it appeared. "Why didn't you get one of those, Willow?""I never thought about it," she admitted. "It's helped him a lot." She finished removing the spell, cleaning most of the ones she had done off him, with the exception of the protections. "Hey, Dru put a protection on you," she said with a frown."Probably during that botched love spell," Xander pointed out. She smiled at him. "What else can I do so I don't have to rebuild the windows?""This'll cover a magical attack, not a physical one," Ron told him, showing him the book. "It'll be a safety net, catching any and all magic before it can penetrate the walls.""Cool. We could use that." He held the lamp while they worked, watching Ron. He seemed so much stronger than he had the other night. Maybe he had a breakthrough similar to Willow's? Or maybe having a focus like the wand really was that important? If so, he'd craft Willow's himself if it would help her. He wanted to see her happy again and her magic had made her that way.After they were done, Willow stopped Ron. "Make that stuff you were thinking about," she said quietly. "It'll be needed soon." He nodded before disappearing. He still had a guest. Willow walked back into the house with Xander, arm-in-arm. "How did you think he did?""I think that if a wand makes that big of a difference, I'm willing to find you the perfect wood and make yours," he admitted.She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "If I thought it'd help, I'd help you," she told him. "I don't think it would. It's too late for that, Xander.""I figured, but the offer stands," he reminded her.She smiled and gave him a hug. "Go to bed. You've got a long day tomorrow.""And Ron just told me he's got visitors so he won't be coming.""Yeah, a friend from home popped around," she said with a smile. "From his school days.""Wow. How are they getting here?"She shrugged. "I don't ask those questions, Xander, you know that." She pinched him on the chin. "Go to sleep and see if you feel better tomorrow. I'm going to find Anya and kick her demon butt for that." She strolled away, thinking about what she could do that wouldn't arouse suspicion from Giles. She found him waiting in the living room. "You felt the shield?" she guessed. She noticed the wand and looked at him. "Gee, Giles, something you wanted to tell me?"He looked at her. "Who's been helping you, Willow?" he asked gently."Ron Weasley."He nodded. "Thank you. I had thought he was one of that dratted family.""He's a good guy, Giles. All of his family are. Otherwise, you wouldn't have left me in Molly's care." She looked him over. "Now, are you going to try and warp the shield?"
"No, I think you did it correctly and it could only help," he told her. "Go to bed, Willow.""You'll leave Ron alone?""Is he checking up on you?""Yes," she lied."What's the big deal about Ron?" Xander asked as he joined them. "He's a nice guy.""He is, he's also been lying to you," Giles told him.Willow sighed and looked at him. "He's more powerful than he lets on, Xander. The wand is his natural form of magic. Unlike what he's learning now, which isn't native to his kind of wizard." Xander looked stunned. "He's much more powerful than we see daily, but he lets it out during patrols.""I noticed he managed to slay nearly everything," Xander said thoughtfully. "So, big lies, little lies?""Small ones of omission," Giles told him. "A whole family of meddlers.""Who helped me," Willow told him. "Molly, his mother, helped me regain my footing after I had my accident." Xander pulled her into his arms for a hug. "Ron's a good wizard. He was sent to watch over me," she lied.Xander gave her a squeeze. "Then we could probably use his help now.""I won't work with him," Giles told him. "If he's hiding this, what else is he hiding?"Willow glared at him. "He's hiding the fact that he trained with a certain Potter boy, Giles. Fought beside him until he came over here to watch over us." Giles backed off. "You leave him alone or I'm going to have to do something old-meish." She got free and walked up the stairs. "We don't need this now," she called as she stomped.Xander sat down and looked at him. "You had more to add? I'm willing to listen to reasons.""The boy could well be tainted, having to use both magics," Giles told him, sitting down himself. "It is easy enough to do.""I know Ron, Giles, he's not tainted. He's always been a good guy. A little secretive and now that I know there's a lot we're going to talk about on Saturday."Giles looked at him. "Are you sure that's wise?""Are you sure having you, Willow, and Andrew being the only magic people around is wise?" Xander countered. "Little lies to protect his true purpose being here won't stop him from saving the world with us. He's already asked to be added. He helped Willow earlier with a few things. I think I can trust him. After all, I never told him everything about me." He stood up. "He's part of the team. Deal with it." He went to his room to sleep.Giles slumped. "That didn't go well. They'll have to see how dangerous it is." He looked over as the fireplace flared up. "Aunt Narcissa," he said with a smile. "How are you?""Fine, nephew. How are things on your side of the pond?" she asked with a faint smile of her own."Not so great, but we'll pull through again." He shifted closer. "Why is a Weasley here?"She looked stunned. "I don't know. Percy? He's a toady at the Ministry.""No, Ron," he said with a grimace. "Potter's friend.""Hmm. I'll have to ask about that for you." She tossed something and the bag landed beside him on the floor. "There you are, the treats you said you needed.""Thank you, Aunt Narcissa. I wish my mother and you had been closer so I hadn't had to wait to meet you.""Rupert, I'm only about as old as you. There wasn't any way for us to be closer unless we played together." She smiled again and disappeared.He picked up the bag of treats, pushing through them to find the protection amulet at the bottom. He'd make it later and give it to Buffy.###Ron watched as Willow walked into the Magic Box and shut everything down since there weren't any customers. "Anyanka, we have to talk," she said coldly. Anya gave her a fearful look. "You had me cast on Xander. A love spell with devotion wound into it." Anya backed up. "Guess what? I removed it." She walked closer. "I want the truth and I want it now, Anyanka. Before I decide to destroy you," she said in an even icier voice."I did what I had to do so I could have a protector," she sniffed. "It didn't hurt him. Besides, he deserves it. No one would let me get vengeance, but he deserved it!""Anya, he left you so you'd have a chance at a better life than what he foresaw for you both. That doesn't deserve punishment, that deserves a medal for being able to walk away from the spell's effects." She grabbed the other witch and shook her. "How dare you force me to cast against my friend!" She took a deep breath, she would not lose control.Ron shut off the portal when he saw that she wasn't going to go dark again. That was all he needed to see. He looked over at Xander, who motioned him closer. "What?""Who were you watching?""Willow.""Oh. You're really here to watch her?""Among other things," Ron admitted. "She told you?""Giles told me. He had a sparkly little piece of wood like you do.""Really?" Ron said dryly. He glanced around then stepped closer. "I hadn't known that. Wish I had earlier. Is he telling lies?" Xander nodded. "Then come over tonight and I'll tell you what I can, Xander. There's stuff I can't tell you, but I'm sure you'll learn some day." He went back to his part of the job, leaving Xander to think about things.Xander leaned against the work table and frowned. He'd have to make sure Ron told him the full truth soon.*** One Month And Six Days Later ***Ron, in his brilliant disguise as Spike, pushed Xander away from Caleb and hurried him out of there. He had nearly been too late. "I'm sorry," he told him, letting the women fall back. "He needs help.""Xander!" Buffy shouted, coming over to check on him. "What did you do!""Shut it! He needs help!" Ron told her. "He'll bleed to death if you don't!""Fine. Ambulance," she called. One of the potential slayers called for one. "You saved him.""Yeah, I did," Ron agreed. He took a sip from his flask and put it back. "Xander, stay calm, help's coming." He looked at the injury, thinking about what he could do. He couldn't regenerate it. He wasn't sure if a medi-witch or a healer could, but he knew he couldn't. He did cast a subtle pain relief spell to help ease the pain the guy must be in. His eye had popped and it wasn't the grossest thing he'd seen, but it came close. As soon as the paramedics got there, he darted into the shadows until he could change back. He'd meet up with Xander soon. The other guys on the crew would be livid that Xander had gotten so badly hurt, so he'd have to come up with a good excuse for them. He was now Xander's second in command on the site and a section chief over some of the slower guys. He really liked the plumbing stuff. He'd have to think about that as a second career. It paid well, without having to risk his life - that alone made it better than his present job as an auror. As soon as he was back to normal he'd be sending off a message and go to the hospital.###Ron held Xander's hand, looking down at him. "I wish I could have stopped him," he said quietly to the sleeping man."Wasn't your fault," Xander whispered, opening his good eye. He looked at him. "It was you?" Ron opened his mouth. "I knew it wasn't Spike, there was too much insecurity." He sat the bed up, groaning the whole way. "Ow. My head hurts."Ron glanced out the door before pulling his wand. "I've asked my mum to ask about to see if your eye could be regrown, but I can't do it," he said gently, smoothing the hair off the damp forehead. "All I can do is help the pain go away.""Please," Xander begged. "It still feels like it's throbbing.""That's phantom pain, Xander, but I'll numb it." He cast the numbing spell, one he had gotten good at using on his own injuries during fights, and let him go. "How's that?""Better," Xander admitted. He looked at him. "Where's everyone else?""At home. They left to get some sleep and they'll be back in the morning. I'm staying tonight and I'll stop by the site. Tell them that you were jumped and that you got severely injured in a fight. That'll cover for this." Xander nodded slowly. "Then I'll bring you the papers so you can take some time off.""Thanks, Ron." He gave him a hug. "I wish my girlfriends were more like you.""Yeah, well, if I liked guys, I'd rather have one like you any day," Ron said with a grin. "You should be resting before the nurse comes back.""I am." Xander settled himself. "They had to take it out?""The remains of it," Ron agreed, pulling a chair over with his wand so he could sit down. His wand went back into his special hidden pocket on his thigh. "The guy popped it fairly well. They said there wasn't any way they could fix it, even cosmetically. They're going to give you a fake eye in a few weeks, once you're fully better.""I guess I can live with that," Xander admitted. "How long before I heal?""A few weeks for the swelling to go down and to make sure you don't have any infections. Buffy grilled your doctor for a good quarter-hour before she let him go. Then Willow started on him when she came back." Xander frowned. "She went to get your insurance stuff so they could finish the paperwork.""Yay me, good insurance.""Kind of a necessity in your line of work," Ron teased."What about yours?" Xander asked."Being a plumber in training?""The real one, Ron. I know you don't do this all the time because you used the ball part of a ball- peen hammer to put in nails that first day."Ron leaned closer and took his hand to hold. "I'm what's called an auror. I chase the bad guys in my world.""Like Willow?"Ron shook his head, smiling. "No, we have people who kill for the fun of it. Like your serial killers, only they've banded together. My world is presently at war.""And I pulled you away from that," he said flatly."Yeah, because otherwise both worlds would end," Ron reminded him with a grin. "There's this one auror who's not even mostly human anymore. He's a mass of scar tissue and replacement parts. He's been doing it so long that no one remembers what he used to look like.""So you carry good insurance too?" Xander quipped."Yup, great insurance. As a matter of fact, I called mum to see if there was anything our kind could do. I figure we owe it to you since you're keeping our part of the world alive as well.""Wow." Xander looked toward the door. "A nurse just walked past.""Let them. They've been in and out for a few hours now." He looked over his shoulder as the yelling started. "It sounds like Anya's here.""Send her away, Ron. I don't want her to pity me.""You're sure?""Yeah, love spell aside, old habits die hard.""Okay." Ron got up and walked out. "Anya, he said to come back some other time. He's trying to rest," he said gently."He's awake?" the nurse asked.Ron nodded. "Yeah, he is. I've already told him. He's got the bed propped up but he's bound and determined to sulk before his friends get back." He looked at her. "Shoo.""Fine," she snorted. "If you want him that badly, you can have him. You'll probably need a devotion spell too," she said snidely.Ron pinned her to the wall with his arm across his throat. "First, Xander and I are friends. Very good friends. He's like an extra brother to me. Second, I like girls. I don't know about him after the way you fucked him over. Feel happy, you may have turned him off women forever. Third, the man just had an eye painfully broken open and had to go through surgery to remove the rest of it. He doesn't need this petty shit at the moment. If you can't be his friend, then don't come back until you've cast yourself into that role." He let her go. "Leave.""Fine." She stormed off.Ron gathered his temper again and looked at the nurse. "His real friends will be back in the morning. I'm going to go back in and sit with him.""The doctor will be up soon, you'll have to leave then.""I'll walk down and get him a soda or something while he's in there. I'm not leaving him unattended. Not after what happened," Ron told her, slipping back into the room. "I told Anya off for you," he said more cheerfully.Xander chuckled. "I heard. Good job, though I think I still like girls." He barely moved his shoulders in a shrug. "I'll figure that out. Maybe guys would be better to try. At least they'd understand.""I'm sure you could find a few brilliant men who'd love your nature," Ron agreed. "You've got great hands that are very talented and would make anyone a good husband. Except my sister of course," he finished with a renewed grin.Xander laughed. "No, I won't hit on your sister, Ron. I try very hard not to hit on little sisters." The nurse came in and checked him over. "How long before I get to go home?""A few days," she chided gently. "Would you like to see her again?""Only if she's quit screaming," Xander told her. "She's my ex.""Oh, you poor thing. Hooking up with someone like her." The nurse gave him a pat. "He can't have caffeine," she told Ron."Bet me, I need it to live," Xander told her."We'll give you something to help with the cravings, Mr. Harris.""Xander.""Fine, Xander," she agreed, making notes on his chart. "We need your head to go back down some if you wouldn't mind. That way no accidental bleeding can occur." He put the head of his bed back down most of the way. "There we go, that's fine," she said with a smile. "Push the button if you need anything.""Can I have some water and a long straw, or even some juice?""I'll get you some," she agreed, hurrying out to do that."Our nurses are a lot more brisk with the patients," Ron said in amusement. "My school's nurse used to hate seeing me. Used to give out this big, huge sigh of disgust every time I had to walk into the infirmary." The nurse came back with a long straw and a glass of juice, handing it to Ron. "Thanks." He waited until she had left again. "Must be nice to have more than one nurse on a floor.""It is," Xander agreed. He sipped the end of the straw Ron held out. "That feels good.""I bet." He let him finish it then went to get him some water from the sink. "It's warm.""It's liquid. I hate anaesthesia. It always makes me thirsty."Ron smiled as Xander drifted back off, staying with him until his friends came back, then doing as he said he would. Going to tell the guys at the site. Including the boss since he had shown up when Xander hadn't. He coughed to get his attention."He'll know," one of the guys told the boss, pointing at Ron. "Where's Xander?""He got jumped last night and is in the hospital," he told them. "He asked me to bring him papers for sick leave." The boss looked down at him. He was a larger than average man, but one of the gayest big pussycats you've ever met. "The guy who jumped him popped his eyeball.""Out?""No, deflated. They had to remove it," Ron told him. The boss shuddered and turned green under his tan. "He'll be off for at least a few weeks before they think about putting in a replacement orb. He wanted to know if he could go on sick leave, sir.""I'll get the papers for you. Are you taking today off?""To do the errands he asked me to do," Ron agreed. "I'll be back tomorrow.""That's fine. I'm sure Xander needs a lot of stuff done. Mugging?""I don't know, I wasn't with him at the time," Ron admitted. "All I got told was that he was jumped."The boss nodded. "There's a lot of that in this town. Surprising, the amount of gang activity." He found the papers and handed them over. "Tell him we'll come in and visit soon.""Yes, sir." Ron took the papers back to the house so Willow could start on them for Xander, picking up a bag for him since she had come home to get it. He found her crying on the couch. "Hey now, none of that," he said, sitting down to give her a hug."I can't heal it," she sobbed, resting against his chest."Neither can I," Ron admitted, "but we'll figure out what we can do together. All right?" She nodded, pulling back to wipe off her face. "Come on, I'll walk you back." She nodded, gathering everything together. He walked her back to the hospital and found Anya in the room with him. "Here we are. Jammies and forms." He smiled at Anya. "Feeling better this morning?""Yes," she told him. "Why are you still here? Willow's clearly better.""Because I can help the current situation," he told her "I'm not about to lose my friends and family because I didn't help when I could. It's the way I am." She made a sound of derision and turned away from him. "The boss said he'd see you soon, Xander, and said the rest of the guys would be visiting."Xander smiled. "Thanks, Ron. Are you taking today off?""Yeah, I figured there'd be more errands that would need to be run sometime soon.""Thanks." Xander buzzed the nurse. "Can I please change into my own clothes?""Of course," the pretty young nurse said. "Everyone out." She smiled as his friends withdrew. "Any particular outfit?""I don't usually dress to impress. Something that covers my butt would be really nice though." He gave her a smile and let her pick out his pajamas for him.*** A Few Weeks Later ***Ron ditched his disguise before apparating back to Xander's side. Xander and Willow both gave him a knowing look, but they walked away with him. "Xander, I got a message earlier, I'm to bring you and Willow back with me," he said quietly."Really?" Willow asked. "Why?""Because Voldemort is going to plan a big finale sort of attack and they need you, Willow Rosenberg," he said seriously. "I've been authorized to bring you back and my mother wanted Xander to come stay with us for a while since he knows damn near everything already.""Okay," she agreed. "I still want to kick him once for his crack about me deserving it for caring."Xander looked at her. "How did you meet this big bad menace?""He snuck up to where she was being shielded and tried to get her to join him," Ron told him, shrugging at Xander's dirty look. "I wasn't there. He was nearly caught when someone heard Willow going off on him." He looked at his friends. "We can leave right now if you want.""I want," Willow decided. She patted her pockets then went back onto the bus to get their stuff. She said a quiet word to Buffy, who was crying. Buffy hugged her and ran over to give Xander one as well. "We'll be fine," she assured her friend as she walked back to her side. "I promise, we'll be fine. I'm going to finish my training and Xander can become my houseboy." He nudged her. "Sorry, boy toy?" He groaned and shook his head.Buffy laughed. "Thank you for at least telling me." She looked at Ron. "Where were you?""Behind you," he said honestly. She nodded. "I'll be listening in case you need me, Buffy. We'll probably meet again some day." He winked and took their hands, letting them grab their bags with the other hand, and apparated away. He landed them in his mother's backyard. "Mum, it's us," he called.Arthur rushed out and hugged him. "Ron," he said, sounding relieved. "We heard it was bad." He smiled at Willow. "Oh, Xander too?""Dumbledore said so," Ron said with a shrug. "So did mum." He smiled at his father. "It was messy and nasty inside the hellmouth, father, but it's closed for good. I'm going to make a report on the mess before my boss tracks my dirty butt down. Have fun filling Willow in. Xander, rest. Let mum pamper you senseless." He wiggled his fingers and disappeared again, going to tell on himself.Xander smiled at Ron's father. "They said it was okay.""Of course it is," Molly said from the doorway. "Dear Merlin, what happened!" she demanded, walking out to grab his chin and look at the eye patch. "Who did that? Ron didn't tell me you did that much damage.""He said he told you," Xander said."He told me you had a damaged eye, and that he was fine, nothing more. He must have told the real story to the other aurors. Inside, now." She ushered Willow in. "Dear, you look tired.""A bit," Willow admitted. "It's been a long, hard fight.""Yeah, but activating the slayer lines was pretty neat," Xander told her."You did what?" Arthur asked."We needed them, Arthur. So I activated all the potential slayers in the correct age range." She shrugged. "We won against the First Evil."He sought for a seat and sat down hard. "That's why they sent Ron?" Xander nodded. "Oh, dear." He took his wife's hand. "Is Ron really all right?""He pretended to be Spike," Xander said as he sat down, carefully because his lack of depth perception meant that the edge of the chair wasn't always where he thought. Molly tutted and went to make him some tea. "He was right in the thick of it, but he survived without any visible injuries.""Which is the important thing," Willow agreed. "He survived."Molly gave them both hugs. "I'm sorry you had to go through something like that, children.""We're the same age Ron is," Xander pointed out."As I said, children," Molly said as she went back to the stove.Arthur swallowed. "What happened?""When the First was defeated, the Hellmouth turned into a big, sucking hole," Willow told him. "Sucked the whole town into it.""We managed to evacuate nearly everyone," Xander said at the uneasy look. "They're on buses heading out of the area.""Oh, dear," Arthur repeated. "What will you do now, Xander?""I don't know. With the eye thing, I can't exactly do my old work. I'm thinking about going to school to learn a new trade. Maybe something related since I'm so good with my hands.""You could do stonework if you stayed over here," Molly pointed out.Arthur nodded quickly. "There's a lot of us who have stone houses. Especially if you learned how to thatch." He looked at his wife. "The school was looking a bit worn as well.""Dumbledore did send for us," Willow told him. "Should we call him now?""I'll do that," Arthur told them, hurrying to the fireplace."They talk into the fireplace?" Xander asked."That's the floo network," Willow told him. "It's like a videophone.""Cool. Didn't Ron say you could travel across it?""Yeah, it's public transportation as well," she agreed. Xander groaned. "Finally getting why he didn't need a license?" Xander nodded. "You okay? You're starting to sweat.""I need my pain medicine," he admitted. He looked at her. "Guess what the potentials forgot to pack?""Let me, I can do an anti-pain charm," Molly told him, using her wand to numb the area again. "How did that happen, Xander?" she asked as she put food on the table."The guy had both..." Willow shook her head. "Sorry, too graphic?""Very," Willow reminded him. "Caleb, a minion of the First, got him. Popped it.""That sounds painful," Molly said, sitting down to pour tea. "Arthur, would you like some?""Please, love.""All right." She sent a cup at him, making him smile. "Just how you like it." She turned back to the children. "Xander, are you a wizard?""No, I'm normal guy," he told her. Molly frowned. "I am.""You're not," Willow told him. "You've never been normal. You lived on the Hellmouth for seventeen years and only got a broken arm." She looked at Molly. "I could never tell. He's easy to do magic on, but he tends to make it go funny.""Often," Xander put in. Willow smiled at him. "I'm not magical.""You could be," Arthur said as he rejoined them. "If you've never been tested. The hellmouth may have been cloaking you all this time." He sipped his tea. "Dumbledore will be here in about an hour, Molly." She got up and he grabbed her arm. "He said not to clean for him.""Bet me," she retorted. "You don't invite a man like him into your house without cleaning up a bit." She bustled off to straighten up the tidy house.Arthur shook his head. "She'll be in a fuss until after he leaves," he assured them. "Xander, are you feeling better?""Much." He sipped his tea and licked his lips. "Giles' tea never tasted like this.""He prefers bitter blends," Willow told him. She pulled over a biscuit to nibble on. "What can I do to help the fight, Arthur?""We'll need you to either cause a diversion or to be a force behind the lines," he told her. "There's a final strike planned tomorrow in London.""Hey, I'm there," Willow told him. "I'll need a nap before then, but I'm there.""I think you could both use a bath and a nap," Molly said as she walked behind them to get some warm water. "Arthur, come help.""Molly, the house is spotless," he complained, but he followed her.Xander smiled. "This is so very odd compared to our families.""Yeah, tell me about it," Willow said. "Want to use the bathroom first? You've got dirt on your face.""I'm good. I think I'll make myself useful." He went to ask Molly what he could do and she sent him outside to rest in the sun. He shrugged and went outside. As soon as he sat down, a little potato went running across his foot, making him yelp and pull it away. The thing laughed. "You little creature," he said in disgust.Willow stuck her head out. "Those are garden gnomes, they're pests," she explained. "You can toss them all you want.""Cool," he breathed. "I can take out my stress on them?" Willow nodded. "Cool!" He waited, then snatched one of them. Then he stood up and tossed it as hard as he could toward the woods. "Take that!" He made a grab, coming up with a few more that he tossed."Oh, Xander, you don't have to do that," Arthur told him."He's blowing off post-battle stress," Willow told him. "Let him." She patted him on the arm and went to help Molly clean the front windows. The cloths were moving themselves so she straightened up with a breeze spell.Arthur watched as these children did his own children's job. He wasn't sure about these Americans. Did they all just jump in? He went to check on his wife, making her slow down her cleaning spells in the bathroom. "They'll get it nasty again in a few minutes, Molly. We should let them sleep.""They can sleep after Dumbledore's seen them," she chided, moving him out of her way.%%%Xander laughed as he read that part, turning the page. From here on, it was all his remembrances. Ron had been off preparing for the war while he had been introduced to his destiny. The old coot had no idea of what would happen when he had introduced him to the school.%%%Xander was led up the lane with his new bag of stuff, frowning at the building. "I think it needs some help.""It's an illusion. As we get closer, it will look better," Dumbledore assured him gently. This boy was an anomaly. The prophecy had said that he would be coming home. Home to what, he wasn't sure, but home. The school was probably the best place to start. Xander sighed in delight as they breached the illusion, hurrying forward to touch the stones. He looked at him in confusion."You are very well constructed," he told the stones, examining the joints between the stones. "You haven't slid in the time you've been here. Your stones are clean and trim. No chipping. Someone did a loving job on you." He looked up. "Someone's even taken great care to keep you up to date as well." He ran a hand over the stone. "Oh, you're warm." He looked up. "The sun isn't shining on this part of the school." He looked at the headmaster. "What sort of stone is this?""That's granite," he told him."It was very well done. Someone put their heart and soul into this school." He gave it one last loving touch. "What's it look like inside?""Mostly marble and more granite, with the occasional painting and other decoration," the Headmaster said tolerantly as he let Xander into the school. The boy jogged over to a staircase to look at the carvings. He nearly shook his head but the boy might see his confusion and he really shouldn't let it out. He looked over as people came his way. "Ah! My dear Minerva. We'll have to test this boy tonight, after he gets some rest."Xander was still babbling. "Magic to trim but joined by hand. Good workmanship and ethics."Minerva McGonagall looked at him. "Isn't the one Mr. Weasley was watching over?""Yeah, but we destroyed the town instead of losing to the First Evil," Xander called, continuing to touch the smooth carvings. "So many centuries of grubby hands and you're still clean and pure. Still bright and sharp. Truly magic." He turned to look at them. "Sorry, I'm a carpenter by trade.""I had forgotten about that," Dumbledore admitted. He led the way to his office, calling for the other teacher they would need. Severus joined them not long after they had settled themselves. "I think we have a most extraordinary occurrence. I believe young Mr. Harris was never found due to the interference of his hellmouth." Severus gasped."Yeah, I come from Sunnydale. I'm a hellmouth baby," Xander told him, giving him a wry smile. "It's gone now though, you can relax. We killed it." He smiled."How did you kill a portal?" McGonagall asked."Easy, Willow activated all the slayers and we walked into it to fight the First Evil. When she was beaten, it turned into a sucking portal. Sucked the whole town in and shut itself for good." He grinned again. "The pain medicine is making me so chipper, relax, gloomy guy. I'm not insane.""Are you sure?" Snape asked.Xander paused to think about it, then nodded. "Yeah, most of the time. Like I said, the pain medicine." He touched his eyepatch."What happened?" McGonagall asked."Caleb." She hissed. "He kind of decided I had to see in a different manner. So he used both thumbs on it. It's totally gone. Ron said he wrote someone about it." He slumped down a little. "It happens I guess.""I'm sure something can be done," she said gently. She looked at Severus, who nodded. "You have something?""There is a better pain medicine.""Mrs. Weasley used her wand," Xander told him, brightening up again. "Can it be regrown?""I don't know," Severus said carefully. "It will take a bit of research.""I'm good at research," Xander offered. "I've been doing it since I was fifteen.""We'll let you loose in the books after we test you," Dumbledore said kindly. He handed over a wand he kept as a spare. "Take this, Xander.""A wand," he said, looking at it closely. "Ron's is lighter.""You've seen his?""Yeah, Giles broke the surprise." He held it and waved it around. "I was wondering if a wand would help Willow more.""Focus!" Snape snapped."I am." Xander looked at him and pointed the wand at him. "Lighten up!" The man started to float off, squeaking in outrage."Put me down!"Dumbledore canceled the spell and smiled at Xander. "I would say it was like a cellphone during a symphony movement."McGonagall pursed her lips. "He's very old, Albus.""If I could find enough to be useful again, it'd be a great help," Xander told her, looking at the wand. "It feels like cotton candy.""It should. That wand's not meant for you. We'll have you fitted for one," Dumbledore assured him with a smile. He looked at Severus. Then at Xander. "Should we sort him?""No," she told him. "He'll end up in my house.""Not necessarily." Snape backed away as the boy looked at him. "If he has enough cunning to plan battles, he may not be in your house.""I doubt he has the mean intent.""You don't have to be mean to plan battles," Severus countered stiffly. "Some of us weren't originally cruel and cold.""Life turns many people that way," Xander agreed. He looked at the professor, meeting his eyes. "I haven't let it get me down yet. No matter how many vampires I've had to kill and no matter how many times I have to watch people die. Instead, I shut it off.""Becoming emotionless isn't any better," Snape told him. "At least I feel.""I feel with people I feel safe around," Xander countered gently. "I have a small group of friends. Willow among them.""Then you've been around magic?""Some. I've never practiced before." Xander grinned. "It's not been a priority. Surviving was higher on my list.""Such places should be avoided," Minerva said firmly.He looked at her. "I was born there. Not much chance of that." He looked at Dumbledore. "What next, oh great one?"Dumbledore laughed. "First, it's late. We'll be introducing you around tonight. Tomorrow we'll take you to be fitted for your wand." Xander nodded. "I have to ask, are you willing to take some lessons?""I'll try to be good," Xander agreed. "But I have to tell you before hand that I'm going to react strangely to some stuff.""Such as?""If I have to face another vampire, I'm probably going to run. I'm not in fighting shape.""We'll take that into account," Dumbledore said gently. He stood up. "Let's get him settled into a guest room and then go to dinner." Xander stood up, looking eager. "Hungry?""A little bit. I haven't felt like eating for the last few days. The battle was a bit nerve racking.""I understand," Dumbledore told him. He looked at the two professors. "Where should we put him?""Put him down in the security wing," Severus told him. "It would make him feel more comfortable.""An excellent idea. Will you show him down there?""Of course." He led Xander away, taking him down the halls. He watched as the boy stopped to examine a corner. "What are you doing?" he asked."I'm a carpenter by trade," he explained. "This castle is really old, but it's in magnificent shape. I'm guessing it's the magic, because even the ones which are cared for correctly look much worse at six hundred.""The school is over a thousand years old," Snape told him. Xander's mouth fell open. "It is the magic.""I'm impressed," he said, patting it on the stone. "You look great for your age, don't look over a year or so." He followed the teacher down the hall. "Why are there so many pictures?""Some of them are decoration, but others hide doorways." He stopped in front of one. "This is your room. There will be a password."Xander looked at the picture, smiling at the kitties playing with yarn. "You're cute. You look like Willow's kitty." The kitty batted at him. "What's the password?""Right now, it's yarn.""Yarn," Xander said, and the portrait opened. "Wow." He stepped through and looked at the room. "This is really nice.""This is the security wing," Severus said, following him. He frowned. "I see that the room has changed a bit since the last time I was in here." He tore his eyes away from the new picture of nymphs waving at the boy, looking at the bed, which had a velvet cover. One that suited the boy's coloring. He looked at the young man. "It seems the castle likes you.""I like it. It's amazing and wonderful and beautiful," Xander told him. "Can I learn how to do things like build the castle? It'd fit in with what I already do.""If it suits you," Snape agreed. He watched as the boy bounced on the bed. "As I was saying, this is the security section. Once I leave, only you will be able to open the door. The school itself is shielded, but I thought this might make you feel better.""It does," Xander agreed, smiling at him. He saw the relaxed state the man had. "Food?""Get cleaned up and I'll lead you to the Great Hall.""Yes, sir." He hurried into the bathroom to scrub his face again. He whooped once he saw the tub. "It's big enough for six people!" he called. "What are all the taps for?""It depends on the tub's mood," Snape called. "Some are water, some are scented, some are bubbles. You can test that later."Xander came out. "That bathroom is the most amazing thing I've seen yet." He smiled at the older man. "You live like this every day?""Not as regally," he assured him. "The castle likes you. Come along." He led the boy to the Great Hall, smirking at the three teachers in there. "These are some of the other professors.""Cool." Xander shook their hands. "What's the what?""I am surprised. You do not know a seer when you see one?" Trellawny asked."No, my ex girlfriend wears Armani when she gets the chance. No baubles or scarves." He sat down. "So, when will I win the lottery? Or better yet, was saving my fandom memorabilia be worth it in ten years?"Snape held in his laughter at her offended look. "Usually people take my sight much more seriously."Xander gave her a steady look. "I know about the sight. It sees the next emergency. I plan. I fight. We get beat up but usually no one dies if we're lucky. We party with lots food once we're healed. I pick up my next girlfriend, who will probably set off the next crisis. What else is there?"She stood up. "I don't think he needs my teaching," she said stiffly, walking away."Sorry," Xander called, waving. "It's just my bad experiences. It's like that in my life." He looked at the other teachers and tried to look innocent. "Sorry.""That's all right, Xander," McGonagall assured him. "She can be a bit touchy when people don't ask her to tell them what's going to happen in their lives.""What's the point in that? It takes the fun away," he told her. "It might take away some of the crises, but then you'd know what you'd be missing, which is just as bad. It takes all the anticipation that you feel each morning when you wake up.""That and she's a quack," Snape said as he sat beside the young man. Xander looked at him. "There are real seers.""I know. My ex gets messages from the PTB.""PTB?" Dumbledore asked."The Powers That Be. They're running her boss as a warrior for the light. Which is really odd if you had ever heard of Angelus.""The vampire?" McGonagall asked. Xander nodded. "How is he working for the light?""He's got a soul. Willow stuck it the last time, this time for good. He's atoning," he said with a naughty grin.She laughed. "It couldn't have happened to a nicer vampire. Unless it was his family.""Spike's got a soul and is insane. Ron pretended to be him after he left. Darla was dusted, came back, had a kid with Angel, then died again. Dru may or may not be alive, no one's sure." He shrugged when everyone looked at him. "Buffy dated Angel, Angelus drops the 'us' whenever he has a soul. We met them all at one point in time."McGonagall smiled. "I'm sure you have many interesting stories to tell, Xander Harris.""Yup, but none of them are suitable for food." He looked at the tiny man sitting next to her. "Hi. What do you do?""I teach charms. I'll be teaching you how to use your wand." He blushed. "No innuendo meant.""That's cool, I'm probably going to be blowing your room up a lot then." He smiled at the very large man at the other end of the table. "What about you?""I'm Hagrid, I teach Magical Creatures.""Then you won't be seeing much of me," Xander said with a smile."It's a mandatory class," Snape told him.Xander smiled at him. "I don't care. They all want to eat me. The only way you're getting me near a creature is to tie me up and float my big heavy butt out there while listening to me beg and whine."Hagrid laughed. "I'll keep it to gentle ones if you want."Xander looked at him. "I'm sure they're nice and all, but *all* creatures want a piece of me. From dogs on. I am not only a demon magnet, I am a magnet for the creatures. Even when my friend, who was a werewolf, got loose he chased after me instead of his girlfriend. I think you're really neat, but please don't drag me out there.""We'll try it once," Dumbledore told him. "Something without any teeth and not much brains.""Flobberworms," Hagrid agreed. "Simple little creatures." Xander gave him an uneasy look. "You see, it'll be fine.""If you say so." Xander looked at McGonagall. "What do you do?""I teach transfiguration. That's changing one thing into another thing.""Okay. I might be okay at that." He turned to Snape. "You?""Potions.""Is it much like cooking?"Snape nodded, looking impressed. "You cook?""I've had sixteen fast food jobs and two as a short order cook. I'm not great, but I tend to be okay at the measuring stuff. Not that Willow notices. She never lets me help with that stuff. Plus, there's the mixing of mortar and solvents in my old job. Putty and things like that come cheaper in powder so I've had to mix all those.""Relax, Xander. We like you already," Dumbledore said gently, smiling at him."I know, but I'm having a really bad day," he told him. "I lost my last ex, I lost my car, most of my possessions, the town they were stored in. Little things like that get to a guy, even me.""I'm sure you can replace most of that," McGonagall assured him in her best motherly voice."Don't muggles have insurance?" Hagrid asked."They do, and I had some, but I'm guessing the insurance agent isn't going to be very happy with me. With any luck, it won't be called an act of God and therefore invalidate everything, which means I'd still have to make payments on my former car.""You could disappear from the muggle world," Dumbledore suggested."That would make it really hard to find a job," Xander reminded him."Not among us," Dumbledore told him."Yeah, but how will I support myself until I get done with my training?""I'm sure it will go fast enough if you want it to. You don't need to be technically proficient in everything if you only want to go back to the sort of job you had," Flitwick told him."Good point," Xander agreed. "Not a happy one. If I've got this strange magic stuff, then I want to harness it to the point where I don't pull a Willow.""I'm sure we can do that," Snape assured him. "We'll start tomorrow.""After I get the wand?" Xander asked."After you get your wand," Snape agreed."Since you two seem to hit it off, maybe you should take him," McGonagall suggested."Um, they told Willow there's a battle tomorrow in London, are we sure we want me to go there?""No, but I'm sure we can do something before it happens," Hagrid said happily. "She's back?""She's with the Weasleys," Dumbledore told him. "You'll be seeing her tomorrow.""Good. She likes my dog and he's been missin' her." He handed food down to Xander. "Eat. You'll need it so you can study hard.""Yeah, I probably do," Xander agreed, but he stood up. "I think I'm going to go back to my room. I'm a little tired." He walked away, heading the way he had come up. He didn't notice it when doors opened for him. Or even when the tub was filled before he walked in. A bubble floating out alerted him to the tub being ready so he went that way. Apparently this magic stuff was more complex than he thought if it could read his mind. He stripped and sank down into the lightly scented water. It was a manly smell and he liked it. "Thank you, tub. This was really nice of you. I like this scent." He let himself sink further, letting the water come up to his neck. He let the grief wash over him, letting himself think about the people who had died."I liked her," he told the tub. "She was a manipulative brat most of the time, but she was mine for a long time." A sponge floated over to him. "Thanks. I guess I'll stop missing her soon," he told the tub. "I quit missing everyone else after a while. I wonder how Buffy's doing." He used the sponge to scrub his arms. "Now what do I do?"The tub discharged a few new bubbles and he laughed as they mated in midair. "I know, I'll get over it and find someone new. Without the problem of them being the reason for the ending of the world hopefully. Maybe I'll take Anya's suggestion. Just to spite her." He laughed bitterly. "Tub, do you think she'll mind?" The tub discharged a few more bubbles, which mated in the air again, then popped. "Was that a no?" Someone pounded on the door. "I'm not hungry." They pounded again. "Come in!" Snape walked in with a tray. "I'm not hungry.""I'm under orders from McGonagall to make you eat, even if I have to force it down your throat," he told the boy. He looked at the bubbles. "I see you found the good taps.""It was run for me when I got in here." Snape looked stunned. "It was." The tub discharged a bubble at him. "It's helping me rationalize losing my ex earlier today."Snape pulled over a table and set the tray on it. "I'm sorry. I hadn't known.""No one really did. Willow lost her latest girlfriend, but they weren't that close," he put in at the panicked look. "I lost my ex, Anya."Snape sat down. "What was she like?""She was a former vengeance demon. She made Willow put a love spell on me," he said sadly. "Then she made her forget it. She embarrassed me every day." He looked at the other man. "She wasn't a prize, but I didn't want her to die.""She wasn't a prize but she was yours," Snape offered. Xander nodded. "Is that why you're hiding?"Xander nodded. "It kind of hit me at the table. It was this or having a screaming fit about no one understanding.""We probably would. Many of us have lost people to this war."Xander nodded. "I know, but it always feels like you're alone when you lose someone. It was the same way last time." He splashed half-heartedly. "What is this scent?"Snape sniffed. "I can't tell," he lied. Xander looked at him. "It's the red tap and the blue tap equally. I use it myself.""Cool. Thank you for sharing. Do I share a bathroom with you?""No, only the wall between them. My bathroom isn't near as elaborate as all this." He stood up. "If you want to talk, I'll understand." He walked away.Xander relaxed again. "He's very nice, tub." The tub warmed up. "I know he doesn't have to, but he's very nice to offer sympathy. I wonder how Willow's doing." Someone knocked. "I'm naked!" The door opened and the headmaster walked in. "I thought no one could do that.""No one but me," he said with an understanding smile. "Do you feel better now?"Xander shook his head. "I'm processing."Dumbledore sat down. "Processing what?""My ex died in the battle. It hit me at the table. I'm sorry if I was rude.""No, you weren't rude. Most of us figured it was something like that." He looked at the food. "I see Minerva has visited you.""The other nice guy," Xander admitted. "He's very nice, he seems to understand."Dumbledore looked shocked for a moment, then forced his face back into a neutral expression. "I'm sure he'll be a good listener while you work with him." He gave him a pat on the head. "As it turns out, you were right. I checked and Diagon is going to be shut down tomorrow as a precaution. We'll be keeping you here instead and letting you sample some of the classes. We'll get you your wand in a few days, when everything is safe.""Okay. How am I going to pay for it?""I think we can swing enough to deal with that issue," he said with a smile. "While you're in town, you can even call your assurance agent.""Insurance agent," Xander corrected. "I don't know who to call.""Well, which company was it?""State Farms. I guess I have a phone card in my pocket and my cellphone in my bag. Will it work in London?""I don't know, you'll have to check," Dumbledore said as he stood up. "I know it won't work here.""Okay. Thank you, Professor.""You're welcome, Xander. We want your life resolved and resolidified as soon as possible so you can move on.""I'm not sure what I'm going to do," Xander admitted."If you wanted to learn how to do magical carpentry, it could be arranged. There is a small trade school we can refer you to once you have some control.""Thank you.""You're welcome. You rest." He smiled at the bathroom. "I had no idea this was down here.""Neither did Professor Snape.""I see." He nodded. "Have a good rest, Xander. I'm sure you need the time to think." He gave him another smile. "If you have a desire to go outside, stay away from the forest. There are many bad things down there." Xander nodded. "Good boy." He left him alone.Xander relaxed and thought about all the offers. "I guess I could do that. At least I'd have compensation for my eyesight problem." The tub bubbled. "You don't like the eyepatch? They never got around to putting in a fake eye. Sorry." It settled down. Xander grabbed the plate and licked up the potatoes. He might need a fork, but he could do without it.###Xander walked out to the front stoop, unaware that the staircase he had to take up had moved just for him, stranding Hagrid on a landing until it changed back. He sat down and listened to the air flow past the castle. A planter shifted closer so he had something to lean against. "Thanks," he murmured. He looked up at the stars. "Willow?" She appeared. "Are you all right?""Fine." She sat down beside him and gave him a little nudge. "It just caught up with you?""Yeah. Earlier, when I was meeting people." He leaned on her shoulder. "This sucks.""I know, but it gets better. I'm going to make sure we're not going to lose another person to the dark. Not a chance in hell am I going to lose another person." She rubbed his back for him, smiling as the big man walked past them. "Hey, Hagrid."He smiled down at her. "Did you just come in?""Just now. Xander needed a hug. He lost his ex girlfriend earlier.""I heard it was a bad one." He patted Xander on the head, smooshing him a bit. "If'n you wanna talk, I live in that little hut."Xander smiled up at him. "Thanks. You guys are really nice.""They put up with me, they can put up with you mourning," Willow said gently. She gave him a hug. "Wanna give me nasty ideas to do to the git?""I don't know, turn him into something and make him bendy so you have a permanent desk statue?" Xander suggested. Hagrid shuddered. "Sorry. Over the years, we've had to come up with some inventive things to punish people with." He looked at Willow. "Turn him into ice and watch him melt?""Nah, that'll take too short a time. I'm liking the bendy desk statue idea," she admitted. She kissed him on the cheek. "I'll come back after the battle and let you put on bandaides. You behave until then and make fun of Professor Snape." Xander shook his head. "No?""No. He's been the nicest to me so far." She gave him a disbelieving look. "He understands.""I know, but he's annoying," she told him."He's been neat to me so far." He gave her a friend's kiss on the lips. "Go kick some ass for me. Tell Ron to be careful as well.""Can do." She stood up and walked away, disappearing between one step and the next."That's neat, I'd like to know how to do that," Xander noted. A book landed beside him."So would I," Hagrid said, looking confused. "She's not supposed to be able to do that. No one should be able to do that. Have to talk to Dumbledore about that later when he comes down for tea."Xander noticed the book when it shifted and bumped his hand. "Oh, hey." He smiled and picked it up but it was taken from his hand. "I can't read that?""Not until you have some control," Hagrid told him, but he was smiling. "That's hard magic, most people can't do it." He walked away, going down to his house.Xander looked up at the stars again. "Let's hope that everything goes all right," he said, making a wish on the stars twinkling down at him. "Let the good guys win without too many casualties," he whispered. He decided this wasn't that comfortable so he stood up. "I should probably go back to bed. It's going to be a long night." He headed back to his bedroom, thinking about the upcoming fight. If he had some control, he could be beside Willow, backing her up. It wasn't right that they were split up. He saw movement down the hall, but he couldn't track it. He stared at the shadows but gave it up after a few minutes. It was probably a creature. He looked at his portrait. "Yarn." It opened, letting him inside. The room brightened and he smiled. "Hi, room." He stripped down to his boxers and climbed in, blinking up at the canopy above his head. There were stars up there. "That's a nice picture." He blinked a few times. "I think I should take off my boxers," he told himself. "I don't have any more in my bag." He slid out of them and tossed them toward the dresser. "I'll wash them tomorrow." He yawned and rolled onto his side. "Night, room. Thank you."He didn't get to see the house elf that appeared with a startled look. Apparently it hadn't planned on being there at that moment. It gathered up the clothes and hurried off, going to report the strangeness.*** Six Days Later, Post-Battle ***Xander looked around at the shop, frowning. He checked his list, but nothing was marked. He looked at the person helping him, but Willow was looking in the other direction and not helping him at all. She was checking out a pretty young witch out the window. He saw a small tag and got closer to read it, frowning when he saw the price. He picked up the container, but another hand grabbed it at the same time. He looked at the owner of the hand and smiled at his professor. "Can we share it?""If you want," Severus agreed. "I only need a bit. As do you.""This isn't what I need?""No it is," he said quietly, taking the list. "Let's see what you were sent to get." He frowned. "This is above the normal supplies."Xander shrugged. "It was handed to me." He glanced around but Willow had abandoned him. "She has the money, good thing."Snape chuckled and pulled his wand, pointing it at the door. He summoned Willow back, dragging her backwards through the door. "I believe you took something of his?" he suggested."Sorry," Willow said, handing over the wallet. "Don't spend it all in here. You've got books to buy." She looked at Snape. "Thank you for reminding me." He released her and she jogged off, going back to the witch she had been chatting up.Xander looked at the wallet, then at the door. "And she said I'm a hurricane," he quipped. He looked around, but Snape had left. "Well, gee, just leave me here clueless," he said, picking back up the list and the jar. He walked up to the salesgirl. "I'm lost and pathetic," he announced, holding out the list. "Help?"She patted him on the hand. "It happens to the best of us sometime," she assured him, leading him around to fill his list. She even checked him out. "Thank you for shopping with us. Do you know where you're headed next?""Um, Ollivanders?" he said uncertainly."It's the dusty shop halfway back on the other side," she said, handing back the list. "Are you done otherwise?""I hope so. Willow said I need books, but I'm not sure I want books.""Go for the books first," she told him. "Wands are about seven galleons on average." She saw the look at the bag. "Then go for your wand and books can wait," she assured him."Thank you." He gave her a hug and headed to get his wand.She looked at her coworker. "It's bad when they find them at this age, it's like they're retarded or something. I feel so sorry for them." Her coworker laughed.Xander walked into Ollivanders and looked around. "Hello?" An older man popped out between shelves. "Hi. The Headmaster said I'm to come to you and get fitted.""Indeed," he said, looking him over. "Where are you from?""Sunnydale.""Ah! You're with that Willow creature." Xander glared at him. "I'm sorry, but she is rather upsetting.""She's wonderful, she simply has some control issues," Xander told him. "Babbling is part of being us." He crossed his arms. "Maybe I shouldn't be here.""Since you are, we should acquiesce to Dumbledore's demands." He looked the boy over. "What do you do?""Carpentry." He looked at the tapemeasure coming toward him. "Is this going to hurt?""Not you," he assured him. He started the measuring and walked away. "What do you do otherwise?""Not much these days. I get hurt a lot," Xander offered, staring at the tape measure. "Does it do this to everyone?" he asked worriedly."Yes." He came out with two boxes. "Let's try these first." He handed over the first wand. "Willow with a dragon core."Xander waved it and it spit. "I don't think that's it.""No, probably not," Ollivander agreed dryly. He opened the other box. "This one is nearly what Willow has, only for a less powerful wizard. Maple with a mermaid core.""I remember them," Xander said as he took it. It caused the wall of boxes across from him to fly apart and spread itself all over the shop. "Sorry.""That's all right. It happens all the time." He went to pick up one off the floor. "Try this one." He handed it over. "Sugar Maple with a mermaid core."Xander tried it but it shot water. He handed it back. "I don't think that's it.""Do you like to swim?""I did a lot when I was younger. I haven't had time recently." He shrugged at the sigh. "Sorry. My life has been fighting and nothing else for a while. I forget about the fun stuff.""I see. Are you studious?" Xander shook his head. "Not at all?""Not at all," he said with a smile. "I'm not my buddy Willow.""Good." He walked into the back and came out with a small box. "Try this, Xander."Xander opened it and picked it up. "It's a baby wand.""It's not, it's perfectly normal sized," he said patiently."It doesn't even fit in my hand," he complained, waving it. The wands on the floor danced around. "See, said so," he said, handing it back."Each one gets us closer," Ollivander said, keeping his patience as he went to get another one. He came back with a normal sized box. "Try this one." He watched as nothing happened. "Try it again."Xander waved it harder and still nothing happened. "It feels like a brick in my hand." He handed it back. "Is there one?""I'm sure there is." He replaced the wand in its box and took it to the back, only to return with it again. "Try this one."Xander tried it and nothing happened. "Still feels like a brick." He smiled. "I'm slow, not dumb.""Fine. Then let me find a special one," he said, going back to fume among the rows of wands. He found one that he didn't like. "Ah." He brought it back. "Water dragon and yew.""Cool." He waved it and sparkles came from the end. "Is this one mine?""That one's yours," Ollivander agreed. "Eight galleons."Xander opened his wallet and poured out the money. "I'm a little short.""Let me call Dumbledore, see what he wants you to do," he said, going into the back room to rant and complain at the jovial headmaster. "He doesn't have enough.""I sent him out with more than enough," Dumbledore told him. "How short is he?""About ten knuts. That's the last of his money and he's only got one bag." The Headmaster sighed. "You let him out alone?""I sent Willow with him. I think I know where the other went." He smiled. "I'll be right there to make sure he does the other tasks and has money." His head disappeared.Ollivander stood up. "He let him out with someone who didn't know and doesn't respect our customs and expected him to make it through? During these times?" He started to feel sorry for the boy. No wonder he looked so lost. He went into the front and looked around at the cleaned up room. "Thank you.""I think it's only polite, since I made the mess," Xander said quietly. "Was I supposed to have more? The herb store was really expensive.""I understand. Dumbledore himself will be right here." He gave him a reassuring look. "How did you master the cleaning charm?""I was holding it and thought about the stuff being back in the right spot.""Oh." He smiled as the Headmaster walked in. "He cleaned up as well.""Excellent. A practical spell." He handed over some money. "Xander, have you only made that one stop?" Xander nodded. "How much was it?""Seven.""I see. Did you get a receipt?" Xander handed it over. "Ah, now I see why." He handed him a smaller bag. "For the books.""Do I have to get books?""Yes.""I can't use the library?""This is to start your own library. I've already given them your necessary list." He led the poor boy out of the shop, waving behind his back. "Thank you, Mr. Ollivander.""Thanks," Xander called back, waving. "He tried to give me the same one twice.""Yes, he's often frustrated when he guesses wrong," Dumbledore assured him, leading him into the bookstore. "I sent you a list for him?""We have it all ready," the salesman said happily. "Let me get it." He went into the back and came out with a small trunk."All that?" Xander asked."All those," Dumbledore agreed. "All refresher books so you can catch up to the basics faster.""Okay." Xander handed over the money."I'm afraid we underestimated the cost earlier," the salesman told him. "It's actually twenty galleons." Dumbledore raised a brow. "Four of them are new editions, Headmaster.""He could use the old ones.""We've recently sent them back," he said sadly. "If we had old copies, we'd give them to him."Xander sighed. "That's almost as bad as the herb shop restocking while we were in there.""We?" Dumbledore asked handing over some more money."I saw Professor Snape. He helped me find that jar of stuff. We were going to split it but he left before I could tell him he could have half of it.""I'm sure you'll see him later," Dumbledore assured him. He smiled and shrunk down the trunk. "Now, let's take all this back to the school with me," he said, taking the bags. "You go make your necessary calls. Go back through the Leaky Cauldron and there's a phone not a block away. When you're done, call out for Willow.""She's off talking to a pretty young witch," Xander told him as he started to walk. "Thank you for putting up with me today.""You're welcome," he said, smiling. It wasn't so bad. He looked at the salesman. "Sent them back today?""Yesterday," he said, looking away."I see." Dumbledore looked at him. "Next time, I'll send the list faster." He walked out, apparating back to the school.Xander found the entry back to the Leaky Cauldron and used his brand-new wand to open it, smiling at his success. He pocketed it and walked in, planning on going straight through. Unfortunately, the inn was a bit dim and he was still having problems seeing from his good eye in the dark. He ran into someone, knocking them down. "Oh, sorry," he said, trying to help the guy up, but his hand was brushed off."Look where you're going," a voice hissed."I would, but I'm having trouble seeing in the dark with only one eye," Xander said dryly. "It's not my fault this time." He brushed the man off, but was swatted at. "Fine, just trying to be nice, cranky." He felt something against his foot and picked it up. "Oh, sorry about your stick and all." He grinned his most irritating grin. He hated people who picked on others for things they couldn't help. It wasn't like he could see in the dark. "It's cute, so tiny." He handed it back. "Excuse me, I have to call someone about my town's destruction. I'm hoping they'll still pay me for everything I lost, even though I helped." He pushed past the cranky asshole, noticing the blond hair in the light. What an odd looking man, what little he saw of him. He stopped at the bartender. "Is there a cellphone tower near here or should I try for the payphone?""Try out in the street, we're shielded," Tom the bartender told him with a smile. "Do you know who you ran into?""Someone cranky who blamed me because someone burst my eye?" Xander suggested. "I hate bullies." He smiled. "Thank you." He walked out and pulled out his cellphone. "Good old Sprint," he said fondly. "I'm going to have a hellacious phone bill. Hopefully State Farm pays for everything." He dialed the operator. "Hi, I need to be connected with the main State Farm branch in the US please." He leaned against the side of the building while she searched. "Yeah, claims. Thank you." He waited while he was connected. "Hi, I'm a policy holder and I barely got out of my town last week alive. Yes, I do live in Sunnydale," he said happily. "Is this going to be a problem? No, I was brought over to stay with relatives. Because not a month before I lost an eye and they never got around to putting in a replacement and I'm still weak and on pain meds. My friends thought it'd be best." He listened. "Alexander Harris." He laughed. "Second one on the list? Really?" He laughed again. "Cool. You're covering everything, right? No, but you guys do my medical as well. Yeah, that's me." He waited while she pulled up his record. "Really? I'm still cool even though I'm in Great Britain?" He kicked the wall. "You guys are so cool. Not at the moment, I don't know theirs and I'm in the city. Can I have a direct number to call you?" He pulled a pen out and wrote it on his hand, including the case number. "Thank you so much. Yeah, by tonight." He hung up and went back inside, smiling at the bartender as he walked over. "Okay, technical question. When Dumbledore said yell for Willow, would I be interrupting anything?"The bartender laughed. "You probably would, depending on how long she took to do whatever she's doing upstairs. You can wait if you want.""I don't have any cash on me," Xander admitted. "I'm getting some soon, my insurance agent is the best ever, but not until I can figure out how to have it sent to me." He frowned. "Okay, better technical question. I saw the bank, I have a muggle account. Can they do something about that?""Probably not," a deep voice said from behind him. He smiled at the boy. "Hi, Charlie, Ron's brother.""Oh, hey, how is my buddy?" he said, shaking his hand. "I haven't seen Ron since he brought me home to meet your parents." Charlie's mouth opened. "He was assigned to watch over me.""Oh, you are him then," he said, looking happier. Apparently he had wondered if there wasn't a tiny secret Ron wasn't telling him. "Is that what happened?" he asked, nodding at the eyepatch."Yeah, but I just got good news. My insurance will still cover it if it gets replaced over here. Plus, they're decided that paying us for our policies is still a good thing. Now all I have to do is find a bank to see if my bank account is still around and get it transferred for a while, and find an address.""Well, banks are not hard to find. There's a nice one down the street. They might be able to help you with some of that." He looked over as someone bounced down the stairs. "Willow," he said, giving her a hug. "How are you?""Better now that I got one good kick in for his crack about me being emotional." She smiled at Xander. "Did you get anything?""Everything on the list, but it was more expensive than expected. The Headmaster had to come himself and help me." He grinned. "Did you do something to the insurance company?""No, Buffy said she did.""You talked to Buffy and didn't tell me?" He knew he was pouting from the scowl on her face. "How is she?""Doing okay. Which bank had your account?""California Savings and Loan.""Then it'll probably be easily transferred. How are you getting everything done?""I was going to ask about that tonight. I have the number written down," he said, showing her his hand."Tom, let him write it the normal way, the numbers are already blurring," Willow said pleasantly. A parchment scrap and quill were handed over and she watched as he copied it down. "What else did they say?""They said they'd still pay to replace my eye. All I have to do is find someone who'll bill them and they'll forward the records they got.""Good. Anything else?""I need an addy for them to send the check to.""I think we can arrange that," Willow said with a hand wave. "Anything else?""The Headmaster said you were supposed to get me back to the school.""Cool. I could use a break to chat and the like. Charlie, going home?""Yeah, I'll be there for a few days. Talk at'ch later?" She nodded and grabbed Xander, taking off with him. He pocketed the number and shook his head. "That woman is nuts.""Totally bonkers," Tom agreed with a smile. "Who's he?""That would have been Xander Harris, the one my brother was sent to watch. Something about him and the school getting on well." He shrugged at the choking noises from the corner. "Not a clue. I only heard that much. You'd have to ask Ron." He waved. "Speaking of, he was supposed to meet me here for lunch.""He owled, they're running the staff meeting long again. Said he'd be over as soon as he could humanly escape." He grinned. "Whatcha want, Charlie?""Got any subs?""Sure. Turkey's fresh.""Then go ahead and give me that with some fresh chips." He sat at the bar until he got his lunch, then went for a table in the corner until Ron ran in, late as usual.***Xander smiled as he walked into the school and the hall brightened for him. "Isn't this place great? A thousand years or more and it's still in perfect condition. You can even see some of the chip marks on the stairways where they carved the little figurines." He walked over to get another look. "Hey, they changed!" he said happily."They do that every now and then," Willow said patiently. "Xander, room?""Security section," he said, leading the way after giving it one last pat. He trailed his hand along every railing, and there seemed to be a lot more of them today for some reason. "Yarn," he told his kitten painting and it opened, showing his room. "Casa Xander," he said proudly."So I can tell." She looked at the nymphs. "Your idea?""It was already here.""Last time I saw it, it was down in the Slytherin common room." She shrugged and sat on his bed. "So, give, what did you get for a wand?""Water dragon and yew," he said proudly as he showed it off. "Pretty, huh?""Very, and unusual," Willow agreed, looking at it. She looked at him. "If you mess up too badly, they'll snap it on you, Xander.""But I'm trying to be good!" he said, flopping down onto the bed. "I did a spell earlier and cleaned up my mess at Ollivander's.""Good. I'm sure he appreciated it," she said dryly, handing the wand back. "Can I leave you here without you getting upset?"Someone knocked on the painting. "Come," Xander called. The painting opened. "Hi, Professor Dumbledore. She's worried that I'll mess up too much.""Every student makes mistakes sometimes," he said, handing over everything Xander had bought. "There we are. Is there anything else you needed?""I'll need to get a physical address so the insurance guys can send my check," Xander told him. "I'll need to find a doctor to put in the fake eye. I'll eventually need to find a bank and get my old account transferred over here so I have some money and an account set up for big things.""All that can be done in another trip, when you go to get clothes," he said with a smile. "Until then, would you like to start learning something?""Sure. Which class?""I was thinking Defense, since you're already strong in that area," he said, ignoring Willow's desperate headshake. "Shall we?""Okay." Xander gave Willow a hug. "I'll see you later.""Have fun, and don't trip," Willow called after him. She shook her head. "He won't take well to that or creatures," she told herself, looking back at the painting. "Is he better to you than the slimy kids?" The nymphs nodded, rubbing their nipples, which looked bruised. "Then I'll leave you with him." She teleported back to the Weasley's, leaning on Molly's shoulder. "They're trying to get Xander into Defense classes," she moaned."I'm sure he'll be good at it.""He'll run.""Then I'm sure the Headmaster will help him out a lot until he's more comfortable doing things our way, Willow. Why don't you sit down, dear?""Okay." She sat down. "I've got to figure out how to get our bank accounts transferred over. If my bank had another branch." She summoned her laptop from upstairs and plugged it into her cellphone, using the 800 number she had for her internet service. "Hopefully it'll go well. If not, I'm going to go outside and torture the garden gnomes."Molly laughed. "I'm sure they'll hide from you, Willow." She continued to cook, listening to the girl mutter. It must be hard starting over under such circumstances.***Xander looked at the little creature in the glass cage, then at the teacher. "Is it dangerous?""If it bites you, you might swell up a bit," the teacher offered. "Ready?" Xander shook his head. "Do you know a net spell?""I only started this stuff the other day," Xander pointed out miserably. "I don't like this idea.""I know. You'll do fine. It's much less threatening than a vampire.""Yeah, but they're easier to stake. I'm used to them. These little, fast things are creepy."The teacher smiled. "Just relax. The net spell is a simple point and aim, and say Impedimentia. Got it?""Impedimentia," Xander repeated. "What about that whole nasty depth perception thing?""Then you can try again. I'll keep it from attacking you." He opened the cage and let the fairy out, watching as it headed right for the new student. Xander aimed, but his shot was far to the left. "Duck," he said quickly. He looked over and Xander was already out the door, crouched down but running. He shook his head and captured the fairy himself. "It's safe, you can come back now." When the boy didn't come back, he looked out into the hall, finding him gone. "Xander?" No answer so he shook his head and went to tell the Headmaster. He heard giggles and stopped in at Transfiguration, smiling when Xander was making some fabric dance. "You're supposed to be catching fairies," he pointed out."But I'm good at this," Xander told him. "Watch." He pointed his wand at the fabric and it shifted colors, then became solid. "See? Not quite what I wanted, but I'm good at it.""I'm happy for you," Minerva said, smiling at the other teacher. "I'll help him in a few moments to catch the fairy."The Defense teacher nodded. "That would be fine, I'll be getting some water." He walked away, shaking his head. For someone who fought the dark, he ran very well.Xander trudged back into the Defense room about a half-hour later and found Snape waiting on him. "He gave up?" he asked hopefully."He said you ran from a fairy.""It's little, it's got teeth, and it was humming something about how it was going to eat me.""They all do that," Snape said patiently."Besides, I can't see it very well," he said, starting to sulk. "I can't catch it like this and if I can't catch it I can't fight it." He sat on a desk. "I'm thinking it's time for a new calling," he said quietly. He hated this feeling sorry for himself, but it wasn't like anyone had sat him down and helped him figure out how to compensate. He still hadn't figured out how to compensate for the normal walking things and kept bumping into corners. His old eye dominance problem was really bugging him and he didn't want to deal with it like this. This was like torture, probing the wound repeatedly."I can see how that would be helpful," Snape said with a faint sneer. "Perhaps annoyance to the Dark would be better? I saw your performance earlier. Tiny stick indeed."Xander grinned. "I really couldn't see him at first, and when I could, he was a bully. I hate bullies. It'd be different if I could help that sort of thing, but I can't. Hello, one eye and I don't see well in the dark anymore.""I understand. Calm down." He stood up. "By the way, thank you for removing that odoriferous man from my company. My afternoon was much more pleasant without him." He looked the boy over. "Wand out, let's try this again. I'll provide a slowing spell, let's see how you do with that.""I'll try, but if it bites me, I'm leaving.""Did it last time?""Within an inch of my nose.""Then we'll slow it down considerably. Do you know what you're doing?" Xander nodded so Snape released the fairy, slowing it down as promised. He watched as the boy's aim went wide each time. "You're pulling to the left.""Gee, what a shock," Xander said as he ducked. He swatted it, sending it into the wall. "Nasty little creature. Even worse than mosquitos. And they carry diseases."Snape checked the fairy, then looked at the boy. "Aim your wand like you did your hand.""My hand's wider.""Then concentrate and use a wider beam for the wand.""I'll try," Xander groaned, sitting on the table again. He watched as it was released, trying to shoot a wider beam. He barely hit the thing's foot, making it scream and hide. "Did I hurt it a lot?""No, not at all. It's a fussy creature who's been through this before. You hit it, that's the important thing." He patted his pocket and pulled out his pocket watch. "Would you like to try my area next?""Sure. It sounds like fun at least. Will I need anything that I bought? Oh, I got the jar in my stuff.""I'll get some of it later and repay the Headmaster," he said calmly. "I will not allow you to bounce around my classroom so calm yourself again." Xander took a deep breath and he led the way down to his section of the castle. "How did you do in Transfiguration?""I changed fabric into a more solid wall of it, color changed it too," Xander said proudly. Snape nodded. "I nearly got it to be stone.""Excellent work. Not many people get those lessons. It's as rare as excelling in my area." He opened the door and let the boy inside. "How badly do you measure?""I used to do okay," Xander told him. "I haven't had much chance to cook since I lost my eye. Will it make a difference?""Hopefully not. I use weights mostly.""Okay. I'm good with those. I had to weigh out burgers every day, on and off, for over six months.""Then you should do fine." He gathered the necessary ingredients for him to do something uncomplicated and harmless, putting them on the first desk. "I want you to measure out a quarter pound of each ingredient, then crush them." Xander nodded, looking at the scale. "I'll find you a weight set.""I'm used to a digital one, but I guess that's out of the question?""It wouldn't work in here.""Okay." Xander took the little gold weight and put it on one side, putting the first ingredient on the other until it looked like they balanced. "How's that?"Snape came over to check. "It's a bit too heavy. The arrow should meet the blue line." Xander nodded and took one off, but it was too light. "Too heavy is better in this case," he allowed. He watched as that was dumped into the pedestal and ground. "You can do that together.""They don't have to be done separately?""Not in this case.""Okay." Xander quickly weighed out the rest of the ingredients, crushing them together. This is where strong arms became helpful. "Now what?""Now, you put them into the paper envelope on the table and we'll start adding it to your drink at dinner. It's your pain killer." Xander beamed and carefully scooped out the mixture into the envelope. "You are to use a small pinch each meal for the next five days.""Thank you, Professor." He looked out of the corner of his eye, seeing the stunned look. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, you did something right," Snape assured him quietly. "Take that to your room and we'll go to dinner right now.""I won't need it?""There's some waiting on you, I made sure of it after your exciting day in town.""Thank you." Xander gave him an impromptu hug and went back to his room to clean up for the meal.%%%Xander chuckled. "That's when he realized he was in trouble," he told himself, glancing back at the bed. The bear had been moved aside so got to his feet and trudged over, climbing back under the covers. He was touched and held gently. Severus never squeezed him. He knew it hurt him.*** Four Weeks Later ***Xander looked at the Charms teacher. "I'm really good enough to move on?""You're really good enough. You've mastered the basic charms and jinxes, plus their counters. I'd say you were ready to leave my careful teaching and move back to Minerva and Severus' tender mercies." He handed Xander a letter with a smile. "A note about your proficiency scores. You've done very well, Xander.""Thank you," he said with a shy blush. Someone coughed behind him and he turned to look. "I'm okay to move on here," he said proudly, waving his letter.Severus came in and took it, nodding at the score. "Most satisfactory," he agreed, handing it back. "You'll have to hold onto that so you can file the score. Are you ready for my lesson now?""Sure. Can I put this in my room first?""Of course. Meet me down there, Xander.""Yes, sir." Xander walked out, heading for his room. He ran into Ron on the way, squealing as he hugged him tightly. "I passed Charms.""Good on you!" Ron said happily, hugging him back. "How well?" Xander handed over the letter. "That's wonderful! I didn't get that high a score." He clapped Xander on the back. "You're marvelous, mate. Mum sent me. Your check's arrived." He nodded at the teacher walking up behind Xander. "Can I steal him for a few hours? His insurance money just arrived.""If you must," Snape agreed. "Xander?""Can I come help again tonight?""If you wish. I'll be doing challenging things at least.""Cool. Let me put this up." Xander jogged down to his room and came back to join the others, breaking into their staring contest. "Guess what McGonagall taught me," he told Ron. "A visualization spell like you used to watch Buffy.""Even better," Ron agreed, taking his arm. "I'll have him back in a few hours. Home, bank, then maybe to get him some clothes." He smiled. "How is he doing, Professor Snape? Willow wanted to know.""He's abysmal in Defense, refuses to go to Care of Magical Creatures. Managed to perturb Sprout by over watering a whole tray of seedlings. He's excellent in Transfiguration, showing promise in Potions, and has just passed Charms.""Wow." Ron looked at Xander. "I'm impressed. How did you overwater a whole tray?" he asked as he led Xander away. "Thank you.""Later tonight, Mr. Harris," Snape called after him."I will." Xander looked at his friend. "I sneezed while I was watering and a lot more than I wanted flowed out. She's forgiven me, but I still do only marginally in there. But hey, I knew I wasn't meant to be a gardener."Ron laughed. "No, probably not. Not with those marks. Construction would take what you're good in though." He sent them through the floo in tandem, landing back at the house. "Mum, we're here," he called.Molly bustled out of the back yard, giving them both hugs. "Xander, you're looking well," she praised. "How are your studies going?""He just finished charms," Ron said proudly. "Snape gave him a compliment.""Well." She gave him an extra hug. "You're such a good boy." She led him into the dining room, where an envelope was waiting on him. "It came just a few hours ago. That Postal man was very nice, but a tad bit confused. He's never had to be here before." She watched as he opened it and his face fell. "Not as much as you expected?""I guess they paid off my car for me," he said, showing it to her. The next sheet had an accounting and he smiled. "Yeah, they paid off all those nasty remaining debts. This is what's left I guess." He looked at Ron. "You were promising me a trip to a bank?""The account Willow set up for you is just outside Diagon. We'll head there first, then you can get it changed over.""But won't I need it to get clothes?""Yeah, but you can wear what we do.""But I'll look silly.""Not necessarily," Molly assured him. "Ron, help him find some real clothes. Are you coming back for dinner?""Professor Snape has him in detention," Ron said glumly."Nah-uh, I'm helping him work on something as part of my training. He thinks I'm doing really well for a duffer." He stood up. "Is there a Walmart over here?""Nope, but there's cheap places all around," Ron assured him. "Come on, Xander, let's go." He watched as he picked up the envelope. "Records?""Checking." Xander pulled out another check, this time a personal one. "What's this? From the construction company? Oh, severance pay I bet," he sighed, tucking it into his pocket as well. He gave Molly another hug and a kiss, then followed Ron back to the fireplace. "Let's go." He let Ron take him through the floo again, this time landing at the Leaky. "Hi, Tom," he called, waving. "Hey, Ron, I need to stop in and see the doctor to get some test results as well. I was supposed to get them last week but I can't get a signal at the school.""Sure," Ron said happily. "What are they going to put in?""A fake eyeball. Nothing special. Some colored glass painted to look like my real one. They're worried because my bloodwork said I have an infection and they don't know where." He followed his buddy out of the tavern and onto the street. "Which way was it again?""Right." Ron led the way, letting Xander set the pace. "How are your studies really going?" he asked."Good enough. Everyone's been very understanding where I won't go near a creature of my own free will. Did you know flobberworms have teeth?" Ron shook his head. "Neither did I until one bit my finger." He showed off the small scar. "It hurt too. They look mushy, but that's all muscle." He pointed at the bank in front of them. "There?""There," Ron agreed, leading him inside. He watched as Xander added one check to the account and got the other cashed. "Ready?""Ready." Xander followed Ron out. "I need jeans and shirts mostly, and some underwear, these are getting kind of thin.""You're sure you won't go shopping where the rest of us do?""Willow looks good in robes, I'm going to look silly. I don't want people to laugh at me more.""Good point." Ron pointed to the left. "Back past the Leaky is a second hand shop. Want to try there first?""Yeah, that'd be nice," Xander agreed, following him back that way. He smiled at the bin of jeans, digging through to find good sets in his size. He came out of there with four new pairs of jeans and six shirts, plus a winter coat. Next, Ron drug him to a smaller, more exclusive shop that was having an underwear sale. They were shutting down and it was nearby as well. He shamelessly blew sixty pounds in there, then agreed to let Ron drag him down to the robe shop to at least look in there. He found something he liked, but it was way too expensive for his tastes. Ron pressed and nagged until he had spent the last of his spending money on the robe, then let him go back to the school. "Why do I let you talk me into these things?" he asked as they came out of the floo."Because you know I'm right. You've got to start dressing like us sometimes," Ron teased. "Otherwise people will think that you're a muggle still.""I am mostly," Xander admitted. "There's lots of things I do the normal way. I'm not like Willow.""Thankfully," Ron snorted. "She may be powerful, but she's scary. You're calmer, easier to get along with. I'll take you over Willow any day. Now let's go back to your room so you can change and I'll assure mum I made you buy a robe.""I still say it's too fancy," Xander reminded him. "Why do I need to wear dark blue? I could have worn black.""You'll look gothic in it," Ron told him. "Like Snape does.""Yeah, but he makes it work, I don't. I can't even wear a long jacket without looking dorky." Xander let them into his room and tossed the bags onto his bed. "I forgot socks," he groaned."Mum's giving you some for your birthday in a few weeks," Ron said with a grin."Okay, I can handle that." Xander went into the bathroom to change into his new clothes, coming out in a red outfit with the blue robe. "Okay?" he asked at the look."You look like a party favor. Wear something that compliments it, Xander.""I hate clothes," Xander said, tossing the robe onto the bed. "I suck at the whole dressing myself thing, I always have and I always will." Someone knocked. "Enter?" Snape walked in. "Can you please tell him I suck at clothes?""I haven't seen you in anything outside of that single outfit," Snape reminded him. "The Headmaster received a letter for you," he said, handing it over."Good or bad news?" Xander asked as he sat down. Ron made a noise so he let him have the robe to hang up for him. He opened it and hissed. "Well, that's certainly bad news." He showed it to Ron. "Willow's sick.""I just saw her," Ron said, reading it. He shook his head. "I'd better tell mum. We're officially watching out for her. I'm sure someone's told the rest of the family." He waved and jogged out, leaving them alone.Xander smiled at the older man. "Thank you.""You're welcome." He looked at the pile of clothes. "No socks?""I forgot," Xander admitted. "Hence my current rant about not being able to dress myself.""You did well enough with that shirt.""All Ron. I only found the right size and let him pick from what I pulled out." He got comfortable. "What are we working on tonight?" He groaned. "I forgot the stupid test results again." He banged a fist on his head. "I feel like I'm mentally incapable of doing anything today.""That would probably be from the fever," Snape told him, stepping closer. "Madam Pomfrey requested a copy of it for our records here. They were most kind, but she threw a fit when she saw them. How long have you been ill?""I'm not really ill. They don't know what's infected.""Then tonight you're going to be subjected to every test known to mediwitches until she finds it for you." He pulled the boy up. "Come along. Supper will be brought up for you." Xander followed him. "Why didn't you buy black? It goes with everything.""Ron made me buy the blue one, said I looked gothic in black." He shrugged. "He wouldn't let me buy a black shirt either. The only black things I was allowed to get were underwear." He smiled at the coughing noise. "Sorry. There was a sale and my size had that left.""Most people around here seem to wear white," Snape agreed, then he shook his head."I know, I drug you into my mental farts again, I'm sorry," Xander said, but he sounded happier. He walked into the infirmary. "No needles?" he begged as cutely as possible."That's barbaric, I wouldn't have to use any at all," the nurse assured him. "Hop up onto the table, Xander." He did so. "Let's start with taking the normal amount of blood and then we'll move on from there." She attached a small dot to his arm and a vial to that dot. It filled and she handed them off to Severus. "There you go, if you wouldn't mind?" she asked with a smile."Of course. I find it odd that we didn't notice.""It's probably in his head," she assured him. "Xander, please take off the eyepatch.""Only if you cover the windows and the mirror across from me.""I've seen worse," she assured him."Yeah, but I don't want to see it," he pointed out."Fine." She pulled the curtains and covered the mirror. "There, now off with it, and your shirt if you wouldn't mind." He took off his shirt first, putting it behind him on the bed, then his eyepatch, handing it to Snape since he was still standing there. She ran her wand across his face, frowning. "I think you've gotten some dead tissue that wasn't removed," she told him, stepping closer. He flinched and she tutted. "Would you like knocked out, Xander?""Yes, please. I hate this stuff.""That's fine, I'll knock you out now. Would you like Severus to stay?" He nodded, lips pressed tightly together. She cast the charm that knocked him out, watching as he fell backwards. "There we are," she said, sounding pleased with herself. "They'll have to do something about this before they put in the glass eye.""Is he not eligible for the type that Moody had?" Severus asked.She looked startled. "He might be. I'll have to make a call and check. Would his insurance pay us is the better question.""If we can provide them with forms they should," he said with a shrug. "I'll be right back." He stepped away and Xander flipped off the bed, crouching in a corner. "Bed," he ordered. Xander whimpered. "Now." When the boy didn't move, he put down the vials and put him back on the bed, but ended up trapped."He's insecure, Severus," she said gently. "Just for a few moments while I look at his eye." She leaned down, opening the lid, and hissed. "That is rather nasty." She looked at him. "I'm going to have to refer him to a specialist. There's no way I can clean that out here.""Was this lack of proper care?" he asked.She picked up a q-tip and swabbed the underside of his lid, coming out with something that looked like soot. "I'd say it hasn't been rinsed in a while." She frowned down at him. "Yes, we're going to have to refer him. Let me call the hospital and see if they've got someone who can work on him now and check on that insurance thing." She hurried off to use the floo in her office, leaving him trapped.Severus tapped his foot while he waited, being held in place was not usual for him. At least not without restraints and ill intent. When the Headmaster came in, he shook his head. "The boy's got gunk in there.""That's usually a bad thing if I remember all the trouble Moody went to. Is that a new outfit?""Weasley took him shopping since Xander got some of his insurance money today." He looked over as the nurse came out beaming. "Good news?""Excellent news. Not only is he eligible for an eye like Moody's, he's eligible for the newer model, which doesn't see behind him, but does help with measures and the like." Snape looked impressed. "They'll have to talk to his insurance people since it's not exactly a prototype, but close and they don't like experimental methods usually. They said they can put it in tonight if we'll send him over.""Excellent," Dumbledore said. "Do you need anything from me?""Not at the moment, Albus. I think he should be much happier tomorrow.""Will they teach him how to use it?" Snape asked. "One of his biggest complaints is that no one's helped him adjust to his new state.""They should have done some physical therapy before they left the hospital," she said warmly. Snape gave her a look. "Never mind, they probably got caught up in the battle or never told him." She bundled his chart together. "They're coming for him in a moment so you'll have to extricate yourself.""I noticed he seemed to like you.""He feels safe with him," Madam Pomfrey reported. "For some reason, he likes him and Minerva more than anyone.""It's his nature, he's more comfortable around those who have fought as hard as he has," Dumbledore told her."It's more like we explain things to him and don't treat him like he's deficient," Snape pointed out. "That and we tend to encourage the boy to go for what he's good at.""Good point." Dumbledore smiled at him. "I heard he was doing very well in your area. How are you going to deal with him once school's started?""I don't know," Snape admitted. "Make him my helper perhaps? Do his lessons long distance?""He's not qualified to move on yet," Dumbledore said as two men walked in. "You're here from the hospital?" They nodded and bundled up Xander, using a portkey to take him away. "Hopefully this will help him move faster and we'll be able to get him into the other lessons.""I should think he'd be able to test out of Defense," Madam Pomfrey told him."He doesn't like to hurt the creatures and his lack of depth perception is hindering him from the bigger things," Snape told her. "Magical Creatures is one where he won't even go.""He did warn us," Dumbledore said lightly. "Come along, we'll see him tomorrow."Snape took the blood down with him to search for a better antibiotic. What they had been giving him hadn't been working. It was an odd case.***Xander woke up and saw with slightly blurrier than normal sight. "What's going on?" he asked the person hovering over him."Good, you're awake," she said happily. "I'm Healer Kinders. You were sent in because your eye was replaced, after we cleaned out that nasty hole those Americans left." She helped Xander sit up. "How do you feel?""Better than the last time I was in the hospital," he admitted groggily. He touched his face, feeling the bandage. "I have a glass eye?"She laughed. "Well, something like that. We put in a *magic* one," she said delightedly. "In a few days we'll be taking off the bandages and then we'll see how bad it can be." She checked him over with her wand. "Perfectly normal," she told him.He stopped her from moving. "What's so magic about this one?"She pulled a chair over. "Your new eye will have a measurement feature that will allow you to gauge where your opponent is, or even a wall. It can't see behind you like the deluxe model, but it will act and seem like you have two eyes again. You should integrate well enough once we give you training.""I was supposed to get training?" he asked."No one gave you any physical therapy after you got injured?" He shook his head. "That's just criminal! Any healer, or even muggle doctor, should have known better than to let you out on your own like this! How did you drive and all that other stuff?""Very slowly," he told her. She giggled, snorting a bit. "How long was I out?""Just a few hours, Mr. Harris. You'll be up and about in no time and your friends can come visit you tomorrow. We've already had someone call to check on times so you rest and relax." She stood up. "Did you need anything?""No, for once I'm not thirsty after coming out of surgery.""I've heard that anesthesia can be rough on a system. You relax, our ways are much more gentle.""What about the insurance stuff?""We've already sent over forms and they decided that this way was cheaper so they're not fighting the special provisions we've laid out." She left him alone, going to check on the others. As she walked past a while later, she called out, "You rest, Xander.""Yes, ma'am," he called back, closing his good eye. "Wow." He touched the bandage again. "I'm going to be able to see." He got comfortable. "Not that it'll make much difference in my fighting ability. The old eye dominance thing might come back." He yawned. "I'll have to ask them about that when they do that therapy stuff. Hope I don't have to talk about my family." He slowly drifted off, thinking happy thoughts.###Xander woke up and found an unexpected visitor sitting beside him. "Professor McGonagall," he said, giving her a sleepy smile. "Is it morning?""Mid-morning," she agreed. She helped him sit up. "I'm the first of many people you'll be seeing today, but I have some rather bad news." Xander's happy expression fell. "Willow's a bit worse off than we thought. They're keeping her over there in Cleveland for a while longer. Ron's with her.""Okay. I can wait to show him." He touched the bandage but it wasn't there. "They took it off and put on a patch?""Yours. There's a bandage under it but you started to rub it in your sleep." She gave him her best motherly look. "We'll get you straightened out soon enough and then you can come back and finish up in my section.""Already?""Yes, you've done all the basic work." She smiled and handed over a book. "I took the liberty of checking something out for you. I think this will help you further your future working on places like the school."Xander looked at the book, Magical Carpentry For Advanced Students, and beamed. "I'm an advanced student?""I'd say so. You seem to get the basics fairly rapidly as long as you've run against them before." She kissed his cheek. "You rest and someone will be up again in a bit." She stood up. "They're saying you'll be home within a few days." He nodded. "Then you behave and no hitting on the pretty nurses."Xander shook his head. "I'm tired of women after my last one. Ron was right, she broke me." McGonagall laughed. "Ask me about her some time when I'm not in a happy mood and I'll tell you *all* about Anya and her amazing problems." He smiled, watching as she left. "That was very nice of her." He flipped open the book, smiling at the first section that told you how to become a carpenter for the Magical world.###Ron walked in and Xander grinned at him. "Not that great of news," he admitted as he sat down. "Willow's hurt worse than we thought.""What happened?" Xander carefully put his book aside and shifted so he was sitting up again. "Anything I can do to help?"Ron grinned. "Nah, small battle wound. Buffy needed help to close that hellmouth quickly and Willow got some drain off it. Knocked her for a loop, but only that. She'll be fine with some rest.""Oh, good," he said, smiling again. "I won't be upset if she doesn't come see me.""That's what she wanted you to know. She'll see you in a few days, when you get back.""They said I'm going to have someone actually teach me how to deal with this new eye thing, unlike last time," Xander said happily. "And look what McGonagall gave me," he said, pointing at the book."Great gift," he agreed, grinning again. "Have you seen out of it yet?""Nope, not yet. They said I'll have some measurements added to mine.""Wicked. The only one I've seen could see behind him.""That would be wonderful," Xander agreed. He held his forehead. "I'm going to slide back down, but you're staying.""Wouldn't dream of moving," Ron agreed, leaning closer.###Xander looked up as two monkey-looking men walked into his section of the ward. "More tests?" he asked. They were dressed like orderlies, it was a valid assumption. It stayed a valid assumption for him until he saw the wands appear. "Nurse!" he yelled, but he was quickly shut up and taken away. He found himself in a dark dungeon and sighed. "Why me?" he asked the goons as they strapped him to a wall. "I have to be lying down or my head starts to spin and then I'll puke on your boss," he tried."Shut up," a cold voice said. A blue light followed it, then laughter chased as the screaming started. "Much better."###The nurse rang her hands as the men looked down at her. "I don't know where he went," she said, nearly crying. "All I know is that I saw some orderlies and then he screamed for us." She hiccuped, evidence of her earlier tears. "He's such a nice boy, very polite and he tries so hard to make less work for us. The head nurse had to reprimand him for not allowing us to do our jobs because he was trying to save us from having to work so much." She looked at the men walking in. "Mr. Weasley, I'm sorry. I thought they were orderlies," she told Ron."I know, it's all right," he soothed. "Can you describe them?"She shrugged. "They were large, muscular. One had no hair. One had that fine brown hair that made him look like an overgrown infant. They were dressed as orderlies," she said miserably."It's enough," he assured her. "We think we know what's going on. You're going to go back to your patients after I find out what properties his eye has."She nodded and handed over the list she had made for Xander earlier. "He was supposed to start his therapy tomorrow so we had all the stuff in his chart." She looked at the Law Enforcement officers. "I would have questioned them but I didn't know.""It's often like that in kidnaping cases," Ron said calmly. "Go on and check on everyone else." She nodded and hurried away. He snatched the report from the officer's hands, reading it quickly. He looked at them. "I need you to do two things," he said, showing them his badge. "I need you to tell my father about this incident and I need you to tell Headmaster Dumbledore. Got it?" They nodded. "Good. Go now." They hurried off. Ron sighed and headed back to his office to wait. Someone wanted him. They had come for Willow while she was sick as well, but she had fought them off. Now the question became to tell her or not to tell her. "She'll freak," he decided. "Father will be watching her." He headed back through the floo, coming out in the Ministry's lobby. He hurried to his office, going to tell his boss. This was going to be messy.###Xander took a few deep breaths as the pain started to fade again. He wasn't sure how long he had been down here, but his skin was on fire and his body was still tingling as the pain faded. "That is so worse than the normal 'asleep' feelings I get," he told himself. He took another deep breath and let it out. "No more pain," he told his body. "You can ignore this. It's not worse than sleeping on that old couch in the basement." His body gave up and settled for feeling like it had been struck by lightening. He took another deep breath and focused on the room around him. A younger man was arguing in the shadows with the older one who had zapped him earlier."You idiot, they'll know it was you," the younger said scornfully. "You'll be arrested anyway.""You are expendable. I'd watch your mouth. Being an adult does not make you worthwhile to me. The Dark Lord wanted that *witch* and Weasley punished. He will get them both here."The younger voice snorted. "I'm sure, along with all of Weasley's friends, relatives, and coworkers." There was the sound of fabric moving. "I wouldn't. If you kill me, you'll have to have a new heir and I'd hate to see what this one turned out like," he said coldly. "That is, if you make it to the time it's born. Which I doubt. It's a wonder all of us haven't died because of you." The sound of footsteps walking away alerted Xander that his captor was now free to focus on him again.The man walked out of the shadows, showing the hair that Xander recognized from the tavern. "Gee, it's the guy with the tiny, itty, bitty wand," Xander said scornfully. "What now? You rape me? I'm stronger than you think," he scoffed. "You're not going to be able to break me and stronger people have failed to kill me." His bandage was ripped off and he winced as the tape pulled the little hairs on his face free. "Thank you, I was wondering what the world looked like with this eye." He glanced around. He could see a small measurement at the bottom right of his sight. There was a heat reading above it. He frowned. "Why do I have that?" he asked himself. "That's not necessary. I don't need heat readings. I'm not going to be defusing bombs or something.""You are an annoying creature, muggle," the blond man said with great distaste dripping from his voice. "You should be eliminated."Xander focused on him again. "What makes you think you can do what six Master vampires couldn't? Or for that matter, most of the minions of Hell? I'm not breaking for you or crying. Get over yourself, blondie. I know tougher women.""Crucio."Xander gritted his teeth as the pain started again, breathing through his nose as it grew with each second. He willed himself not to scream. He kept that for nearly ten minutes, then moaned, twisting in the chains. "Have....to....rem...ember...this...for...later," he gasped. "Good...for... minions." He stared at the man then headbutted him. "Bastard."The blond man raised his wand, casting it a second time, making Xander scream as the pain surged through him even worse."Can't you at least shut the door when you torture mudbloods?" the younger voice called. "I'm trying to have sex up here." The door slammed.Lucius Malfoy looked toward the stairs. "I'll have to remember that," he said snidely, then he smiled at his victim. "Anytime you want that to end, all you have to do is call out for your little *witch*."Xander shook his head. "No!" He struggled, but he was still in the waves of pain so the chains didn't do more than rattle.Lucius stepped back, cleaning his nails with a knife from his pocket. "I'm sure you'll change your mind eventually. You won't die until you do."Xander glared at him. "Or you do," he said in a clear spot. The pain attacked him again, making him howl, but he wasn't going to call out for her. He wouldn't put her or Ron in danger! Slayerettes didn't turn on each other that way.*** Two Days Later ***Ron looked at his father, who shook his head. "I'm starting to worry, dad.""Me too, son," he said, giving him a pat on the hand. "We'll be fine. He's got to be safe or we'd have found his body by now," he said quietly.Willow looked down the table. "Another attack?""Someone taken from the hospital," Ron told her. He looked at his father, who shook his head. "We have....""No, Ron, it's not important who at the moment.""It could be! You don't know what he's going through!""If I could have something of his, I could try to locate him," Willow offered. "I do have a locating spell.""It's not necessary, we're waiting on the kidnapers, Willow," Arthur said firmly. "You still need to rest.""Yeah, but it's not that hard to cast. All I need is a map and something.""I'm sure it will be solved soon enough," Molly assured her, looking at her husband. He shook his head and she pursed her lips. "More steak, dear?""No, thank you, Molly," Arthur said, smiling at her. "It will be fine. We'll find them.""I'd rather know now and be doing something," Ron said bitterly. "I hate this.""I know, son, but we'll get them."Ron looked at him. "And what about their *victim*, father?" he asked coldly. Bill dropped his fork. He looked at Willow. "They have Xander. They took him from the hospital two days ago."She frowned. "Why didn't you tell me!" she shouted. "I can find him, no matter what!" She stood up but Arthur froze her."Willow, they want you as well. We're trying to protect you," Arthur told her. "Calm yourself.""You don't know what they could be doing to him," Willow pointed out. "They could be torturing him or killing him. I don't desert my friends, Arthur, and I never will. If he needs me, I'm going to find him." She broke free of his hold. "Even if they've only got him chained up, he's only been out of surgery for a few weeks and they said he had an infection in the socket. He doesn't need to be chained up somewhere dank!" She went up to her room and came down with a small box. "Ron, help please." He nodded and hurried to help her. "I'm going to do a visualization spell and I know you know how. Take that side." He sat down and took her hands, looking down at the lock of hair. "Concentrate." He closed his eyes as she did and she searched for the magic bit in her that she had always connected with Xander. A small picture formed in her mind, but it wasn't clear.Ron squeezed her hands. "Look up," he said quietly. She opened her eyes. "Where is that?""I don't know, why is he hanging like that?" she muttered. She looked at him. "Can you expand on the room in general?" The picture pulled back but there was only shadows. "Fine, we'll do it my way," she said, touching the deep well within her. The picture flared to light. "Malfoy," she said, her voice dripping with ice. She looked over her shoulder. "Enough proof for you?" They dropped the spell and each other's hands. "Ron, can you be a sweetie and get me my dagger? I have a perfect place to put it," she said as she stood up. "Let me change." She hurried up to her room, the same as Ron did.He had her weapons safely under his bed. By the time he got downstairs in his official robe, his father was dressed as well. He handed her the dagger. "Let me call in. Get us some help. He'll need it." He went to the fireplace and called his boss at home. "We found him. Rosenberg saw it."His bosses' head floated in the fireplace. "Where?""Malfoy.""Wonderful," he said with a cold smile. "How many do you need?""He looked wiped. Get someone to sort Xander out and some backup. She and I are going in first.""That's fine. Don't take your father, he'll only nag at the bastard." The connection died and Ron smiled at everyone."Ready to go?" Willow nodded. "Can you teleport in?""I can always find Xander, he's my buddy," she told him, taking his hand to bring him with her. They landed on the doorstep, looking at the wooden portal. Behind them were some popping noises and two more aurors and a mediwitch walked up to them. "Time to play?""Go for it," Ron said, blowing the door in. They walked in, finding the younger Malfoy sitting reading on a couch. He grabbed him and forced his head back at a painful angle. "Where is he?" he sneered."He's father's pet, not mine," Draco sneered back. "Try the basement, that's where he keeps most of his toys." Ron shoved him, making him hit the floor. "You'll pay for that.""Not as much as you will if he's not in perfect condition," Ron told him, heading after Willow. The other aurors would make sure he got his. The door to the basement blew in with an impressive noise, much better than he had done with the front door. They walked down the stairs and found Lucius on the floor and Xander facing the wall now. "Xander?" Ron asked, stepping closer. He touched the man's arm, making him scream in what sounded like pain instead of terror. "Take his wand intact," he ordered coldly. "Medic?" She ran down and they got Xander onto the stretcher. Ron had to tamp down his temper at the moans and whimpers of pain the man was giving out. "Take him now," he ordered. He clapped the cuffs on Malfoy senior and walked him up the stairs. "Why isn't he in custody?""He didn't have anything to do with it," one of the aurors said bitterly. "We'll get him some other day, Ron. He'll mess up."Ron looked at Draco. "Yes, he will," he said with perfect certainty. "I'll be there waiting when he does." He followed the stretcher out, releasing his prisoner to his boss' hands. "I'm going to the hospital to guard Xander. Willow?""Left with him. I have Malfoy's wand."Ron stepped closer to Lucius. "Now that you have us, what are you going to do with us?" he sneered. "Cry?" He backed off. "Xander's under the Cruitus. He's still under it I should say." Lucius laughed. "If he's hurt, your whole family will pay, Malfoy, including your precious heir." He apparated to the hospital, joining Willow and his father. He glared at the older man, making him flinch. "If you had let me tell her yesterday, we might not be here," he reminded his father. "If he dies, I'm not forgiving you." He walked away, going to check with the nurse. "Has the curse been ended?"She smiled. "It has and the report was already sent to your office, Auror Weasley. Please sit down in the waiting area and we'll come for you.""Fat chance," he told her. Her face hardened. "Not only was I supposed to watch out for him, he's my best friend.""He was taken to surgery. His new eye was fused in his head," she told him. "It will be a few hours at the most. Go fume in there.""Fine. I want to know the second he's out.""Fine. I'll make a note that you're guarding him," she agreed, nodding. "Go rant in the waiting area please."He nodded, heading back there. As soon as he saw Willow, he pulled her closer. "He'll be fine. He's a strong man to have lived so long.""I know, but this waiting sucks. Now I know why he hates it," she said quietly. She looked at Arthur. "You should have told me." She let Ron go. "Where is he?""Surgery, they think his eye's gone bad now." She shuddered. "They'll fix it, Willow.""I want to be there at Malfoy's trial.""You and me both," he agreed, smiling at her. "Why don't you tell the Headmaster that we've got him so he can come wait with us?" She nodded and took off for the school. He looked at his waiting family."I thought it was for the best," Arthur told him. "I didn't mean for him to get hurt and if I had known who had him I would have gone myself, Ron. I like the boy, he's very strong.""He'd better stay that way," Ron told him, sitting on the other side of the room. His mother looked at him. "What would you do, mum?""I'd beat him about the head personally," she said with a faint smile. "Would you like my purse?""No, I'll take one of the twin's bats to him if Xander's hurt worse." He stared at the wall until a nurse walked in. "For us?""He's going to be fine," she told him. "The eye is permanently fused, but there doesn't appear to be anything outside the normal damage.""And the consequences?" Arthur asked.Ron looked at him. "Long term nerve damage, including dying or hyper-sensitivity. If he was under it for most of the two days, there's going to be problems with his mind as well, the scrambling of the neurons and the like. If he's been under a double dose, then there's the chance he'll end up like Neville's parents. They only went under for six hours or so." His father shuddered. Ron looked at the nurse. "Can you tell which way yet? I can't say he's a stranger to torture probably, but this has to be worse.""We did a general nerve conductivity test, and he failed it," she said sadly, giving him a small 'sorry' look. "It looks like he may have some paralysis.""Meaning he was under a double strength curse most of the two days," Ron finished. She nodded. "How soon before we know?""Maybe a week? I know we have his forms on record, but the call over to his agency said that they won't pay for hate crimes. Would you like to help us convince them? Our own billing people don't understand their insurance person at all. It's very confusing and I know your family deals with muggle ideas all the time."Ron shrugged. "Ask my mother, she's great with politicians and bureaucrats." Molly shook her head. "Please, mum, otherwise he'll have to pay for it."She stood up. "Fine, I'll help get around them. If not, Malfoy can be made to pay for all of it." Ron shrugged. "You don't want him to?""Oh, I want him to pay," Ron told her, his eyes narrowing again. "As a matter of fact, I'm thinking it's now a crusade to make it so." His mother kissed him on the cheek. "I'll be with him when you're done." She walked away with the nurse. Ron looked at his father. Then he shook his head and went to bug the reception nurse to see where he was going to be.###Xander woke up and the pain was still flowing over him. He moved and tried to rub the pain out, then realized he was free. He looked around, but he wasn't sure where he was and everything was blurry. He slid from the bed, clutching the frame as he hobbled forward."Xander," Ron called from the other side of the private room. He moved closer. "Xander?" Xander growled. "Shh, it's me, it's Ron, you're safe," he assured him, stepping closer, one hand out. "Come back to bed and I'll get you some pain medicine."Xander growled and pounced, knocking him to the floor. He pounded the head on the floor and got back up, hobbling to the door to peek out it. He saw robes and people, but his mind saw them all as enemies. He slid around, moving down the hall away from the people."Xander!" Dumbledore called. "Xander, calm down, you're free," he said quickly, hurrying toward him.Xander pressed himself against the wall and growled again. "Bad!" He batted at the hand. "Bad!""Back away from him!" Snape thundered, moving closer. "Back away and leave us." He waited until everyone had backed off and looked at Xander. "I know," he said quietly. "The pain is bad, it will recede." Xander glared at him, but didn't move. "I can help you," he said, shifting closer. "I have something to make it all better. We'll give it to you if you calm down.""Evil," Xander growled."I know, they were. They're gone." He stepped closer, hands in plain sight. "I want to help. If you let me, I will take that pain away." Xander whimpered and started to relax, but then someone down the hall on their other side moved and he shifted. That's when he was caught and held against the warm chest. "I have you, Xander. Listen to my voice. You know me. I'm safe for you to relax around." Xander clutched at the robe and nodded. "Calm down. We'll go back to the bed and I'll give you something for the pain." He walked the boy back into his room, looking down at the unconscious man. "I wish someone had done that in his fifth year," he said, then he smiled. "Nice job." Xander growled. "I know. Settle back into the bed." He tucked him in and walked to the door. "Pain medicine?" It was handed to him and he walked it back to the man. "It's safe," he promised, putting some of his fingertip and tasting it. "See?" He held it out and Xander snatched it, swallowing it. "Good boy. You rest, I'll be here." Xander shook his head. "The evil man was captured and everything will be fine." Xander was forced to relax by the medicine. It made him limp and smiling. Snape tucked him in and looked at the door. "You may enter." The healer came in with a nurse, taking Ron out of the room. "Was that pain medicine?""It was, with a touch of something to calm him down," the nurse told him. She checked him over and nodded. "I think it will be fine. His mind should come back soon.""As long as it does," Snape told her, glaring down at the diminutive woman. "Do we know why he went animal?""Prior possession," Willow said as she walked in. "Ron's fine. Knocked silly." She looked down at the man on the bed, then at Snape. "I have to watch the trial and testify. You're taking care of him." Snape opened his mouth and she raised a hand, thumping him against the ceiling. "I'm leaving my best friend since we were five in your hands. You will take care of him until he is better or until Ron and I are able to. If you argue, I'll compel you to do it anyway. Your choice."He nodded and was let down gently. "Do you want him to come back to the school?""I think it'd be best," she agreed. She looked at the nurse. "How long?""If he breaks this part, as soon as he's stable. If he doesn't break this animal behavior, he can't leave. He'll be too dangerous."Willow glared at her. "The man was possessed by a hyena! Of course he went animal. Be thankful *anyone* got through to him. Now, how long do I have to leave him in someone else's care?" she demanded at the top of her lungs.The healer looked at her. "Probably a few days if we can break this stage. If we can't, then he'll have to find a suitable situation where someone can take care of him all the time." She straightened up. "How do we break this?""I don't know, it's a crapshoot," Willow admitted. "We're not sure if anything remained. He always said that it was gone from him." She looked down at Xander. "Leave us alone for a few minutes. Let me see if I can break through to his human side." They left and she sat beside Xander, running a hand over his face. "Xan?" He blinked at her. "Xander?" He blinked again. "It's Willow. Will you come out and play with me?" she asked with a sad smile. His hand moved and she took it to squeeze. "If you're in there, you have to come to the fore again. Otherwise, they'll keep you in here forever." He slowly shook his head. "Can you speak?""Hate this," he slurred."Good boy." She kissed his cheek. "I'm going to leave you with Professor Snape." Xander whined. "I know, but I'm going to be busy putting the guy who did this to you in prison and see him dead. Can you wait that long?""Huuuugggg?""Sure." She gave him a gentle hug, but eased off it when he moaned. "I'm sorry." She settled him into the bed. "You behave for Severus. Treat him like you would me." Xander blinked again. "Good boy. You behave and I'll get you chocolate frogs." He smiled. "Good boy." She left, going out to talk to Snape. "He'll be fine. He's back in control again. The pain was what drove him off the edge." She moved him to a more private part of the hall. "You can't leave him alone. He'll have nightmares and won't admit it. He'll stop sleeping. He'll stop eating. He'll need to be held and he'll need to sleep. That's your job."Snape nodded. "I'll make arrangements." She smiled. "Anything else?""Yeah, try to keep him in bed. He hates to be in bed or sick." She waved. "Try to have fun, but I'm sure you'll be yelling soon." She left him there, going to help Ron with the reports.Snape walked to the healer. "She said he'll need pain medicine and possibly something to make him sleep. Tell me what I have to make. He'll feel more secure back at the school."The healer looked at him. "I can't release him until I'm sure he's human again.""Then go look at the boy. I'll take him tonight.""Do you understand about what he's going through?" the nurse asked.He looked down at her. "Intimately." She blanched. "I'm taking him as soon as possible. This environment will only bother him more."The healer looked at him. "Fine. If he's acting like a person instead of some beast." She walked into the room. "Mr. Harris?" Xander looked at her. "How are you?" Xander raised a single finger. "I see. Are you going to start growling again? I can't let you out while you're showing such odd behavior."Xander looked at her, then grabbed her. "I ache," he whispered. "There is fire shooting across my skin. My nerves feel like lightning. Either kill me or let me go to someone who can treat me." His fingers were removed from the healer's robes by Snape. He looked at him. " Home?""As soon as they're sure you're not a danger to anyone.""Pain.""I know," Snape said calmly. "I've been at that point myself." Xander smiled at him. "Relax for now and we'll go back to the school as soon as possible." Xander relaxed and they both looked at the healer. "Well?""Fine. Better you than me." She signed the chart and looked down at him. "What about the therapy for his eye?""I watched someone else go through it, I can help him utilize it," Snape offered. "What are the specifics of this one?" A booklet was handed over. "How is he to clean it?""He'll need to get some eye drops," she said thoughtfully, clutching the chart to her chest. "I don't know of anything in our program that would help him with that." Xander whispered something as his eyes drifted shut. "What was that?""He said visine. It's a muggle eye drop solution. I'll look it over for him. Anything else?""Not that I'm aware of. You can have him once he wakes up." He nodded so she left them alone.Xander opened his eyes halfway. "Home?""When you wake." Snape pulled a chair over and sat down.Xander looked at him. "You're nice to me?""I've been there before," he said calmly.Xander reached out and flopped his hand against the man's leg. "I'm sorry.""It wasn't your fault.""Still. This pain is bad."Snape nodded. "I know." He tucked the arm back in. "Go to sleep, Xander, before I have to get upset." The boy carefully rolled onto his side with a few moans and fell asleep curled up in a ball. He sat vigil, reading the booklet to see what he would need to train the boy in.*** Three Days Later ***Willow sneered at Draco as he walked his father out of the courtroom. "You may have paid your way free, but you will pay for hurting him," she hissed. She followed them outside, nodding at Ron as he joined them. "You're going to be the most sorry individual on the face of the earth by the time I'm done with you."Draco looked at her and casually pushed his father into the street, buffing his nails as a muggle vehicle's brakes screeched, but wasn't in time. "I can't have someone like that endangering my life. Has he paid enough?"Willow punched him in the nose, making him bend over and grab it. "No. Now I get to focus on you for not stopping him.""I didn't take him," he said, backing away from her. Ron hit him again. "Ow!" He backed further away."I'm going to make you suffer for eternity for hurting him that way," Ron told him. "Not only will you pay for all his care and make sure he's settled into *our* world, you'll make sure he'll be fine for as long as you live.""Why should I?"Ron punched him again."Fine!" Draco shouted, tears running down his face as the blood gushed out of his nose. "I'll make reparations! Just quit hitting me!""Fine, for now," Willow told him, staring him down. "If you *ever* harm another being again, I will be there," she said, walking up to him, staring into his cold eyes. "If you hurt a muggle, I will be there and give you twice what you give them," she said quietly. "If you hurt a half-breed witch or wizard, I will give you ten times the amount. If you hurt a Weasley, I'll ruin you in ways you can't even begin to understand, Draco Malfoy. If you *ever* hurt Xander, or anyone in my personal family, then you will live to regret it, but not for long. Unless I decide to have you turned or turn you into something horrible myself. Are. We. Clear?""Yes," he said, taking another step back. Fortunately, his father's accident had stopped traffic so he walked into the side of a car. "I won't hurt him and I'll make reparations."Ron nodded. "Good. Then leave, before I get you for homicide." Draco left as quickly as he could, still holding his nose. "I've got to report this," he told her. "Stay and be a spectator." He went back into the Ministry and made a report, letting the authorized people come to obliviate the muggles and gather up the body.*** Later That Night ***Willow tapped on Xander's room door, smiling when the portrait opened. She looked at the new sitting room and then at her friend's keeper. "The castle changed again?""When we walked in, the Headmaster asked what he still needed. If he needed the infirmary or not. I told him what you told me. When we came down here, we found a sitting room where his bedroom had been and a larger bed in what used to be my private quarters. Fortunately, the large bathroom stayed."She laughed. "What did he do to it?" The lights went out and she frowned. "Luminos." A ball of light floated off her hand. "Xander?" He grunted. "Xander! I'm back!" He threw something at her. "Hey, your aim's gotten better," she said proudly, walking over to hug him."Don't! He's still getting roving pains up and down his body." She looked at him. "It's a common side effect, the most common if you're under that curse for a long time." She gently touched his arm, making him look up at her. "Xander, that's Willow.""Red," Xander said, smiling at her. "Sleep?""If you want. Are you having nightmares?"Xander shook his head no, making room for her on the large bed.Snape nodded. "He is. He won't do anything about them. Won't talk or tell me about them." The lights came back on so he sat on the other side of the enormous bed. "I've started to stay in here with him but he's being stubborn."She looked down at him, brushing his hair of his face. "The bed's big enough for six people to sleep in and not cuddle, Xan. Let him nap with you. The castle took his bed.""Meanie," Xander told the wall behind him. The room stretched and an older four-poster bed appeared, draped in black silk. "Thank you. You're a good school." He reached back and stroked it with his fingertips. "You have magic like nothing on this earth and I appreciate you if no one else does. You blow me away." The room lightened a little more and the tub in the bathroom filled. "Cool, bath," he said, climbing out of the bed and heading that way, stripping off his clothes as he walked."He still loses focus sometimes," Snape said quietly. "He's getting better.""How long before he's normal?"Snape sat beside her. "The pain will never go away, Willow. His nerves will always arc and set themselves off at odd times. It can be compensated for," he said at the angry look. "The memory things will heal over the next few weeks. As he's forced to regain his normal routine, his mind will refirm and let him concentrate more often." Xander peeked out of the bathroom. "Are you having problems?""Hi, Willow.""Hi, Xander." She stood up and walked over, giving him a gentle hug. "How are you feeling?""I'm better now that the pain went away again. It's like my mind starts to go funny when the pain hits. I think it scrambled the old noggin some." He tapped his head with a finger, then winced. "My hard head is not liking this problem.""I'll have a look around for a healing spell," she promised. "You bathe and let me handle things. I'm working on getting the hospital bill paid and all that stuff. Would you still like to do carpentry? I found someone who knows a lot about it. He just retired.""I think I would. I want to build something like this school someday," he said, stroking the doorframe he was leaning on. "Don't you think it's wonderful?"She teared up. "Yeah, I do." She gave him a harder hug. "You behave for the professor and I'll be with Ron. We'll both be up this weekend. Got it?" He nodded. "Good. You go bathe." He disappeared into the bathroom and she looked at Snape. "Take care of him." She left, heading back to the Burrow. She ran into Molly's arms, crying. "He's like Dru," she whispered. "He's talking to the school and thinks it answers him.""It's all right, I'm sure he'll feel better soon," she soothed, maneuvering them so she was leaning against a counter. When Ron came in, he hugged her other side. "Xander was talking to the school.""He always does," Ron told them. He smiled at Willow's shock. "He's always talked to it. It's like they're great friends. Xander talks to his tub to thank it for the nice smelling bubbles that it runs for him. He thanks his room when the lights go up so he can see better. He thanks it when the clothes seem to magically appear because, for some reason, the elves pay a lot more attention to his room than to anywhere else in the school." He snorted. "Hell, even the stairs change for him! He's gone up to the Astronomy Tower before and the stairs changed to make his way easier for him, stranding everyone else. Including the Headmaster." Willow giggled, wiping off her face. "It likes him. Probably because he does talk to it. It's got to be lonely, being ignored for over a thousand years." He leaned against the counter beside his mother. "How was he otherwise?""He seems to get confused when the pains hit him," she told him, starting to frown. "The school decided to put him and Snape into the same room and take away one of their beds. Gave them a *huge* one, one that could fit your whole family at once, but still one bed. He said he's getting better and he should be much better in a few weeks.""He'd know," Ron told her. "He's been there a few times." She nodded, looking more determined. "Did you check with the hospital yet?"She smiled. "Why would I need to? Draco's nose won't quit seeping until he pays for the bill," she said with a naughty grin."Willow!" Molly said sharply. "That's not legal, young lady.""No, but it was fun," she retorted. Ron laughed. "I told Xander I knew someone who could tell him about the carpentry training he wants to take. He smiled and hugged me." She turned to lean against the counter as well, staring at the cupboard across from them. "Snape said the random pains were permanent.""He'd know," Ron repeated."Then I'll trust that. Can we do a healing spell?"Ron looked around his mother at her. "I didn't think that was your area.""It's not, but I know a few. Plus, I know a few demons who have healing properties if we can find their parts. Maybe I'll call Giles and ask him to find me something," she said thoughtfully, looking down at the phone attached to her belt. "Someone should answer his phone," she muttered as she grabbed it and walked outside for some privacy.Ron looked at his mother. "She's insane."Molly nodded. "You had much the same look when you found out how badly off he was." She pulled him closer for a hug. "Forgive your father, Ron, he didn't know.""He could have prevented that level of damage, mum, and we both know it.""She was weak, Ron, we're supposed to be protecting her."He pulled away. "And I'm supposed to be protecting Xander, mother. I can't do both so which is supposed to be more important to me?""Him," she said with a smile. "Your father admits he was wrong. Xander will forgive him.""When Xander does, I will," Ron said stubbornly. He checked his watch. "I'd best get back to the office. We're having *another* staff meeting. This new boss is more insane than Willow.""She wanted to know if she should try to apply for a job," Molly said casually.Ron snorted. "Maybe with Dad's office." His mother gave him a look. "I'll talk to my boss for her," he sighed. "But I'm going to guard Xander, not her. She's got all you and he's got no one." He left, going back to work.Molly sighed and turned back around to finish chopping cabbage.###Willow bounced down to Xander's room, tapping gently. The kitten waved a paw. "Is he in?" The kitten shook its head. "Is he in class?" The kitten nodded. "McGonagall?" The kitten shook its head. "Snape?" The kitten shook its head. "Then who?" The kitten pointed up the hall. "That's not helpful," she said dryly."I believe he's in Defense, seeing if his new eye makes a difference," Dumbledore told her as he walked down the hallway. "You look chipper today, Ms. Rosenberg.""I am. Giles forwarded me something that may help Xander a lot. Maybe even take care of some of the random pain surges. In the regular classroom?" He nodded. "Cool. I'll pop down there. Thank you for taking such good care of him." She jogged away."Hopefully this will help and not hinder his progress," Dumbledore told the kitten. It batted a paw at him so he scratched the surface over its stomach. "You take very good care of him, Piccadilly. I'm very happy with your work." The kitten yawned and played with the ball some more. He chuckled as he walked up the hall, going to check on Xander. Willow was in an enthusiastic phase and he didn't want her to hurt him.###Xander looked up as the door slammed open, shooting a freezing spell at the doorway automatically.The teacher laughed. "I'm sure she needed that break," he said cheerfully. "Unfreeze her please and turn your attention back to the notes." He watched as Xander unfroze her and then grinned. "Ms. Rosenberg, is there a good reason why you're barging in during his lessons?""Giles sent some Mohra blood, it's a restorative," she told him, but looked at Xander. "It heals.""All of it?"She grimaced. "Giles said no, but probably most of it. At the least it'll make the pain surges come in longer intervals.""What do I have to do? Drink, eat, bathe in it?""Just let me rub some on your skin," she told him, walking closer. She pulled out the little vial and poured the blood onto his arm, rubbing it in gently. "There, how's that feel?""The oncoming pain stopped," he admitted. He concentrated on his body. "I feel warm.""That's it working," she agreed, perching herself on a desk to watch over him. The door was filled with a familiar lurking presence. "Mohra blood.""Which is?""Blood from the Mohra demon. One of the most powerful healing agents in the world," she explained smugly."Which will do what?" Snape asked, crossing his arms."Which will at least take away the oncoming surge," Xander told him. He looked down at himself. "I can feel my feet and knees," he said happily. Snape nodded for him to go on. "I think I'm better.""I think you're better too and it'll continue to make you better throughout the night.""Another night in the infirmary?" he guessed."No, you can spend it in bed. Severus will have to watch for seizures, Giles said they're rare but they can happen. If so, you're to be bathed and treated." Both men nodded. "By the morning most of the surges should be taken away or you should only have low levels of pain when you get them. We couldn't predict absolutely."Xander pulled her in for a tight hug. "I love you, Willow. You're my bestest friend.""I only want to help," she reminded him, hugging him back. "How's the eye?""Better. It gives me measurements. I don't have to use a tape measure to cut stuff anymore," he said happily. "It's better than the original and I think I'd almost like to have two of these.""You can't," Snape told him. "Two will overload your brain." He moved closer. "Does he have to keep that on?" She nodded. "Then we'll cover it so it doesn't drip," he decided."Cool," Xander breathed. "Does that mean I get to resume my potions lessons?""If you wish," Snape said grudgingly. Willow looked at him, opening her mouth. "I didn't want him around flammable items until we were sure how his health was going.""I can understand that perfectly," she agreed. "He used to trip over his shoelaces. I'd want to make sure it didn't come to that too." She nudged Xander gently. "Ron wants to take you around to help him pick out new towels this weekend. You up for it?""Maybe," Xander agreed. "I'll have to see how I feel that day.""I'll tell him. You behave and no taunting Professor Snape."Xander gave her a clueless look. "Why would I?"She shook her head. He liked the fussy one, it was very clear to her. "It was a general warning, Xander. Sort of like 'look both ways before you cross a street'." She grinned at the defense teacher. "You can have him back now, my good deed for the week has been done." She winked and walked away, heading for the Burrow, her somewhat permanent home.Xander smiled at his favorite professor. "I think I'm going to be okay now.""I'm sure you will," Snape agreed. He pointed at the creature in the tank. "Have you dealt with that yet?""You know I don't like creatures," Xander pointed out, sitting back down to deal with his notes. "I'm not touching that thing. I'm sticking with the theoretical on this.""You'll have to deal with an actual creature some day," the defense teacher said tiredly.Xander looked up at him. "I did that for six years, wasn't that enough? By the way, vampires use fascination that is natural, not a spell. It's an ability their demon gives them." He went back to his notes.Snape looked at the defense teacher. "Perhaps you could give him an oral test.""That sounds dirty," Xander said, shivering.Snape looked down at him. "Only if you fail," he said with a smirk. "Then you'll have to deal with the creatures.""Can we stick to what I already know or do I have to know more stuff?"The Defense teacher sighed. "I think we can test you on what you already know. You have more specialists knowledge in demons than I do and nothing on the basics.""But I have a book and I can nearly promise I'm not getting near a creature again if I can help it.""Fine. That will leave you Herbology and Potions I believe?" Snape nodded. "How are you doing his lessons during the year?""He'll be my assistant for a while and take lessons with the fourth years," Dumbledore said as he walked past the doorway."My assistant," Snape corrected. The Headmaster walked back. "It does seem to suit him. Besides, he'll learn the basics easily.""Good point. Fine, your assistant then. Xander, you'll need to get uniforms.""Ron wants to take me out this weekend, I'll get some then if that's okay," he said with a hopeful look."That would be fine. I'll have a letter drawn up for you to tell the tailor what you need." The Headmaster walked away shaking his head. His life had been much easier before he had heard more than the name of Sunnydale. He saw Xander go running past, then flatted himself against the wall when the creatures that had been trapped in the defense class flew after him. "Oh, dear."###Ron walked up and hugged Xander hard. "How is it?""Better. I'm down to longer times and less-painful random surges. I haven't had one in two whole days," Xander said proudly. Ron grinned at him and Xander handed over the list. "The Headmaster said I wasn't going to be done for a long time and I need to look more like a student when classes officially start." He glanced at the students in the halls now. "Why are they all here?""Their class had a trip," Ron told him, leading him away. "Their parents let them come a month early so they could go stay at a muggle apartment complex and watch it being built." He grinned. "I bet they hated trim work as much as you did.""Probably," Xander agreed happily. "That and wallpapering.""Thankfully, I missed that stuff," Ron teased, nudging him. "Your bank first?""If possible. I need to get some clothes anyway. I seem to be missing a few outfits.""Then we'll take you clothes shopping and you can help me pick out new towels for my flat," Ron agreed, leading him back to London. They didn't get to see the castle darken. Or the Headmaster swear. The only place that had full light was the dungeon classroom for Potions and Snape found it all quite amusing from the laughter issuing forth.Ron watched as Xander took money out of his bank and asked for a balance. Then he laughed at the comical look on his face, taking a glance at the written down number. "Well, that's impressive.""Interest shouldn't have given me that much," he noted, looking around. "Who do I talk to about this?" One of the desks was pointed to and he walked over there, dragging Ron. "Hi, I seem to have too much money in my account?""If you'll give me your number, I'll check," she said perkily in a thicker Australian accent. He handed over the slip and sat down, watching as she typed. "Here we are. There was a deposit made for you by a Harris International," she said, looking at him. "That deposit was for sixty thousand dollars.""Wow. Who's that?" Xander asked.Ron coughed. "There were certain reparations made for that incident, Xan," Ron said quietly. "I think that may be it. Do you have who signed for it?""It was an electronic transfer but the bank is one we're not sure of. It's marked as being from an unknown source out of the Cayman Islands. Grin.... Gringotes?""Oh, I know who did that," Ron agreed, smiling at her. "Thank you." He tugged on Xander's arm. "Come on and I'll tell you." Xander followed him out, looking confused again. "See, Willow demanded that the son of the man who hurt you take some care with you," he said once they were alone in the crowd. "He was to take care of your bills at the hospital because of that. He was to make sure you could fit in among us, and he was to make sure you got a good job." Xander's frown increased. "Or else his nose would never quit bleeding after she punched him in it," he said proudly. "The blighter did what he was told.""But then how do I know that I'm doing stuff on my own merit?""Easily, you ask," Ron told him, clapping him on the back. "I doubt he'd have many contacts in construction." He shrugged. "I don't see him as the physical labor sort myself. More evil menace in the making.""So you're forcing him to gain more contacts in the evil and mafia-riddled world of construction?" Xander asked. Ron stopped cold and looked at him. "At least it is in the US. I'm sure that some of the guys over here are connected as well."Ron considered it, then shrugged. "Magical ones would be different," he decided. "Besides, what's he going to do? Take down the school?""Could he?" Xander asked.Ron shook his head. "He'd have to bully others into agreeing and the school is too important," he told him, making Xander walk with him again. He heard a small grunt. "We're almost at the Leaky, I'll buy us lunch," he said quietly. "Can you sit?""Probably. If not, I have medicine on me for it," Xander told him. "All I need is something to mask the taste.""That we can do," Ron agreed, pointing at the building. "In there." Xander nodded and focused on the pain while Ron led him. He heard the greeting noises and waved. "Tea?" he asked."Coming right up," Tom told him, hurrying to get him some. He came back with a steaming cup and watched as the man poured something from a vial into it. "Medicine?" he asked sympathetically. Xander nodded as he drank the bitter mix down in a few swallows. "You go have a sit down in the corner, Ron. Take him over there." He watched as Ron led the young man away, shaking his head. He knew who it must be, he had heard Ron speak of him before. Besides, he remembered he had broken Malfoy's wand, that had been a bit funny. Xander leaned against a wall and he kept an eye on them. Poor boy.Ron came up to order them some lunch. "He'll be fine. Random surge," Ron explained. "Can I have that sub you made me last time? With the tuna?""Sure thing, Ron. By the way, saw your brother Bill yesterday. Looked like he was passing through.""I'll call mum tonight," he told him with a smile. "I miss Bill." He glanced back at Xander. "He'll be fine.""I'm sure. Are they permanent?" Ron looked at him. "You know how the world enjoys a bit of gossip.""Yeah, but he hates to be talked about," Ron said with another grin. "You can tell how the school likes him. He talks to it and it does things like fill his bathtub for him.""Well now." Tom took the money from Ron's hand. "That's interesting. What's his area going to be?""He wants to do carpentry. Anyone around here a regular who does that?""Not that I remember," Tom said, glancing around the room. "That guy in white used to be a singer, lost it in the war when his voice broke. Oh, Hagrid's in the back.""Nah, I'll talk to him tonight when I bring Xander back," Ron told him. "If he comes out, send him our way." He took the food and walked away, taking it back to Xander to make sure he ate something. "Feeling better?""A little," Xander said tiredly. "At least I'm keeping my focus. The medicine Professor Snape makes is really good for that. He said he'd teach me this one." He picked at his sandwich. "Tunafish?""Tom makes it in a way that I like," Ron defended before taking a bite. Xander carefully nibbled on some of it and smiled. "See? We're wonderful about such things.""Cool." Xander's hand shook as he picked up half of the sandwich to eat, nibbling at first. As the tremors eased, he took larger bites, finishing off his lunch by the time Ron did. He looked over as a loud sound came from the back. "That sounded bad.""I'm guessing Hagrid either won or lost," Ron said, winking at his friend. "Tom said he was back there." Hagrid wobbled out, clearly drunk but happy and smiling. "Hey, Hagrid!" he called, waving."Hey, Ron." He walked over to them. He smiled at Xander. "You ever gonna come do my lessons?"Xander looked at him. "After the flobberworm bit me and the trouble I had on Wednesday?"Hagrid laughed. "I'm sure it'll be fine. I've got some nice specimens in if you wanted to come look. Not get close, but just a peek around.""I could do that," Xander agreed. "As long as you keep them away from me.""I will," Hagrid said, patting him on the head and making him moan. "Sorry. Had another?""Just now but the medicine is working," Xander said. He popped his neck. "Thank you, I've been needing to do that." He popped it in the other direction. "Wow, that feels much better." He looked at the big man. "You should be a chiropractor. You're really good at helping me pop things."Hagrid smiled. "I try." He looked at Ron. "What're you up to today?""Towels and some minor shopping for Xander," Ron told him. "You?""Oh, I just won a poker game or three," he said with a grin. "I'd best be heading back to the school. We've got a meeting this afternoon." He stood up. "Have a nice day and come out tonight, Xander. You can help me feed or watch me feed 'em." He left through the floo.Xander looked at Ron. "If I end up being bitten, you'll come visit me, right?""Of course," Ron agreed happily. "What happened Wednesday?""I tripped and knocked into one of the cages in defense, which set off all the other creatures, so they managed to escape and chased me around the school. I had to lock myself in McGonagall's closet to get away from them, and the beastie that did get in only wanted to cuddle. She said it liked chaotic things. I tried to tell her that I wasn't like that but she didn't seem to believe me."Ron gently stroked Xander's hand. "I'm sure it'll be fine. Hagrid's good with the animals."###Xander walked into the school and smiled as the way brightened. "Thank you. I can see better now but it's still nice." The school brightened as it followed him, each section getting brighter as he walked closer to it. He entered his room and sat down on the couch, looking around. "You're a very nice school. I don't know what I'm going to do when I have to move out. I'll miss you, and the giant tub," he admitted with a grin. The castle shook, making him hold on and lose that smile. "I didn't know we had earthquakes around here." He waited until the tremors were done then carefully stood up. "Whoa. At least a seven-point-three," he noted as he checked the room. Then he walked out to see if there was anything he could do to help. If anyone was trapped or the like. He had lived through some pretty impressive quakes in his day. He found the Headmaster in the front entry. "Is anyone trapped?"The Headmaster looked at him. "No. Nothing fell." He considered the young man. "Did you ...say anything to the castle before that happened?""I said I was going to miss it and then the earthquake hit," Xander admitted. "It had to be have been at least a seven-three. I'm surprised nothing fell. Not even a glass jar of something?""Not that has been reported to me." He smiled as the teachers joined them. "Did anyone have something broken?" They all shook their heads."Wow, that's a neat magic trick. I'll have to learn that one before I leave," Xander told them. An aftershock hit the castle, making him grab onto Snape since he was closest. "Where is the local fault? That was awfully fast."Snape looked at the Headmaster. "What are you thinking?" he asked over Xander's head. The Headmaster smiled at him. "Surely you can't think it's him.""Xander, would you please assure the castle that you're not leaving for at least six months?" Dumbledore asked pleasantly."I have six more months of stuff to do?" Xander asked."Quite possibly, especially if you wanted to use the library to research carpentry methods.""Cool. Then of course I won't be leaving for six more months." The entryway brightened again and he found everyone looking at him. "What?"McGonagall turned her formidable stare on her boss. "Really?" she asked. Dumbledore nodded. "Then I'll gladly help Xander work on his skills in that area." She swept off, going to make sure her room hadn't fallen in.Dumbledore looked at everyone. "It seems the castle likes Mr. Harris and wants him around for a bit longer." He had to dodge a falling piece of stone before it hit him on the head. "Fine, it happens to like him very much and wants to keep him around for a bit. Let's take that into account." He walked away, leaving them there.Snape made Xander let him go. "Come down to the dungeons, we'll work on your medicine.""Okay. I had to take the dose I brought with me."Snape looked over at him as they walked. "Did it work?""Incredibly. It only lasted for five minutes, then the pain dulled to a level that I could stand. Most of that five was getting me off the street and into the Leaky Cauldron so I could have some tea to drink it with.""Excellent. I'll keep that in mind." He let Xander proceed him into the dungeon and watched as the room brightened to normal. "Do you need the extra light to see?""Not with my new eye." The room darkened again. "Thank you, room. It was very kind of you to try and take care of me." He patted a desk. "You're a very good room and it always smells interesting in here." He sat down at his usual seat. "What are we making today?"Snape looked at him. "How long have you been talking to each room? I noticed it in our room but never outside."Xander shrugged. "I walked right up to it when I first got here and admired the craftsmanship. It's amazingly done. Did you know there are still carving marks on the main staircase's rails? Even after so many students, they still stand out."Snape nodded, that explained everything. "I didn't," he said casually. "Have you been talking to it all this time?" Xander nodded. "Do you not think that odd?""I think it's polite," Xander defended huffily. "It's a magical creature and the first one that didn't want to eat me. I'm sure it's sentient in some way." Little did he know that the extra bed in their room had just disappeared. "It's got to be lonely, with no one to talk to it. Chained inside a big fortress without any attention given to it."Snape groaned. "You've made the castle crush on you, boy."Xander glared at him. "Yay! It's a nice castle. If I were a castle, I'd want to be like it instead of Buckingham. All it has are queens and their things, this one has class and style."Snape kept his next groan inside himself. He didn't want to bother the boy, but what had he done?*** Late That Night ***"What are we going to do when he's ready to leave?" Madam Sprout asked worriedly. "It didn't affect the green houses, yet, but I'm sure something bad will happen out there as well.""We could make him stay, though we'll still have to make plans," Snape put in. Everyone looked at him. "Has no one thought what would happen when he died?""I think that's a bit extreme," McGonagall said stiffly."We're mortal, as is he," Dumbledore reminded her. "He'll have to die some day and Severus is right, the castle will probably react. Badly most likely.""Most likely it will fall around our ears," Severus corrected. "It seems to have a crush on him." The staff groaned. "He's been talking to it since he first got here.""It's always gloomy when he's not at dinner," Professor Vector admitted. "How do we fix this... crush?""We have two things we can do," Dumbledore said, thinking out loud. "We can either name him to a position to fix the blasted thing every time it acts up. Or we can make a serious break of it.""Or, if possible, we could find a new student to take his place," Snape put in. "A first year every seven years who is willing to talk to the building and admire it.""Give it loving touches," McGonagall noted, she had seen him do it more than once."Thank it when it's being thoughtful," the defense teacher added, having seen that as well."Or when it does things like anticipate his needs," Snape offered. Most of the teachers looked at him again. "It runs his baths for him. Adds a scent and all that.""I wondered why he smelled like you," Dumbledore said dryly, shaking his head at the glare. "I wasn't insinuating anything, Severus. You know me better than that.""The castle ran that for him the first time and he said he liked it. I believe it's decided that it likes us together. It took my bed again." Dumbledore laughed. "Laugh all you want, but one day he'll have to be on his own again. He won't need his hand held through the pains.""When that happens, I'm sure your rooms will come back," Dumbledore told him. "As long as Xander tells it that you're not needed." He saw the scowl start and looked at the younger man but Snape barely shook his head so he dropped it, for now. "Which option appeals to the rest of you?""If he's going to be doing carpentry, we might as well keep him," Vector said stiffly. "How does he feel about staying?""I don't think he's considered it," Snape told him. "He was happy to hear he had six more months earlier, he thought he was nearly done with the basics."McGonagall sipped at her water. "He's told me that he was never comfortable in his muggle school. That he did horribly and couldn't concentrate. That seems to have changed, but I'm not sure he'll be comfortable staying around all the eager, and not so eager, students.""If we keep him on, he'll have free access to the library," Dumbledore told her. "He'll be able to pick up what he wants to learn, which would relieve the pressure of learning." They nodded and he decided to lighten the mood. "Who knows, he might even agree willingly to finish his Defense training or actually take a Magical Creatures class.""They chased him earlier," Snape told him. "He ran in from helping Hagrid feed the creatures tonight and I had to bandage a few new bite marks, plus he literally ran through the door. I'm not sure what was after him, but he appeared scared of it.""Hagrid said he was missing a skewrt," Dumbledore said thoughtfully."They're nasty, but they're harmless," McGonagall pointed out.Snape looked at her. "Creatures hate him. They all try to eat him. A direct quote.""One I've heard," she admitted, "but still. That's just silly.""I had to bandage a flobberworm bite," Madam Pomfrey told her. "I didn't know they had teeth."McGonagall groaned and shook her head. "Then perhaps we should keep him out of that class permanently," she suggested. "I have a few other students who wanted to know about carpentry methods from their projects. Should I plan on a class?""Maybe for the seventh years," Dumbledore agreed. "That would help him, and it would be a great help to him and the other students.""He's already a carpenter," Snape pointed out. "He might have to find new ways to use the tools he brought with him.""I'm sure he can find some use for them," she told him primly. "Maybe a wall decoration?""Not while I'm living with him.""I'm sure you'll get used to the tools staring down at you," she said with a cold smile. "Just like the stones probably are."He glared at her. "Do stop the innuendos now. I see myself in the boy, nothing more.""We'll see," she said smartly, then stood up. "We're offering him the position?"Dumbledore nodded. "Hinging on his completion of his training." The other teachers nodded. "We'll see if it breaks in a few years. At the very least everything in the castle will start working again. All those stuck locks and the like." They chatted as they left. "Severus?" He stayed, waiting until everyone else had left. "If something should happen, try to let the boy down gently. His last girlfriend was very mean to him. Put a love spell with a devotion clause onto him." Snape shuddered. "She thought she needed it. She was correct from what Mr. Weasley reported hearing about her. So do be gentle with the boy." Snape nodded and left him alone with his thoughts. "If I talked to you, would you play with me as well?" he asked the empty room. The door slammed and the lights went off. "That's what I thought." He lit his wand so he could leave safely, then had to use it to unlock the door.*** Six Weeks Later ***Xander woke up and frowned, realizing he was doing something odd. He felt like he was sucking on something so he released it, backing off when he saw it was a pale neck. He slid out of the unusually small bed and headed for the bathroom to hide. Severus would kill him."Get back here," Severus called quietly. Xander peeked out at him. "Now." He patted the empty spot on the bed. "You woke me." Xander slid around the doorway but didn't move. "Bring him back," he ordered the room. The wall bulged, sending Xander stumbling toward the bed. "Thank you." He grabbed the boy and looked at him. "What was that?""I was sucking my thumb, I was four," he said quietly, looking down at his feet. "I'm sorry I attacked you. I'll, um, go sleep on the couch."Severus pulled him down and tipped the chin up. "Did you consider me comforting?" Xander shrugged, staring over his shoulder. "Focus on me, Xander, not the spot on the wall." Xander looked at him. "Did you find me comforting?""I always do," Xander said quietly. "I'm confused and I'm sorry I'm forcing you to deal with all this stuff. If you want, I'll ask the castle to give you your room back.""I don't think you're ready for that yet," he said quietly. He tapped the boy on the forehead. "I want you to tell me about these nightmares." Xander shook his head. "I can probably help you work through them, if you'd let me."Xander shifted away. "This one was pretty standard, though I changed into a four-year-old at the end. While Malfoy had me, he taunted me, saying all sorts of nasty crap.""Including that he was going to molest you," Snape said flatly. Xander looked up, surprised. "He's done it before. He was the hardest to spy on because I had to watch him do many repugnant things. Did he?" Xander shook his head quickly. "He just taunted?""In one of my more lucid moments, I taunted back," Xander admitted. "He flipped me toward the wall and made like he was going to, but he made a mistake," he said with a slight smile. "He forgot to freeze my head when he moved in to hiss in my ear.""That's why your friends found you facing the wall and him on the floor. Did he recurse you?""Once his sight cleared," Xander said, sounding a little proud. "I headbutted him." Snape laughed. "What?""That must have stung his pride. Such a simplistic muggle form of defense beating him." He touched the boy's bare shoulder. "It happened and you survived.""But nothing happened so why am I freaking out about it?""Maybe because some relatively close thoughts are happening and your mind is trying to defeat them?" Snape asked gently. Xander shook his head. "I've seen how you look at Mr. Weasley, Xander. Are you interested in him?""Only as a friend. Ron likes girls," Xander defended. He pouted. "Besides, we'd only ever talk wood and food. I don't get quidditch at all and he's frustrated at me because of it. I don't get soccer or lacrosse either so I don't know why he's upset. It's not like I get most British sports.""Yes, but he played," Snape said, earing a smile. "He always was a bit preoccupied with it." Xander nodded. "Is there someone else then? Someone who interests you but you're not sure of them?"Xander blushed. "I'm stopping this conversation before I get wigged any further," he announced, standing up. "I'm going to go bathe so you can get back to sleep." The tub didn't start running so he looked that way. "Not now?" he asked. The lights went out and he sighed. "Fine, I'll go back to bed." The bed's light lit, allowing him to move around enough to climb in. "Can you make the bed the original size so I quit molesting him?" he asked nicely. "I'm sure he doesn't want me sucking on his neck." The bed shifted, becoming smaller. "You cheeky thing!" he said in outrage. The room shivered and the bed became even smaller. "Okay, I get the point. You're forcing us together." The older man let him curl up against his side. "Better?" The bed's curtains closed around them. "Hey! I like light from the windows!" That side opened and he nodded. "Thank you, room. That was nice of you to show me what I want." He looked up. "I think it thinks we're suited.""I have no idea why," Snape said dryly. "You only come down to my classroom when you're bored. You snuggle against me each night. You suck my neck for comfort." He smiled. The bed shifted closer. "I think it wasn't your mind.""Maybe," Xander said glumly. "But you like girls. Right?""I've never had a preference. I prefer people who can keep up with me and who are interesting. Most people are scared though, so I tend to be pickier about my lovers.""Wow. I never thought about guys before Anya. Then she kinda turned me off women forever." He looked up at him. "You really think the castle wants us together?""It would appear so. Maybe it will give you some idea tomorrow. You sleep on it tonight." A book hit the bed between their legs, making him laugh. "Tomorrow. Give it to him then."Xander looked at the book, which was a blatant sex education and tips book, then up at the ceiling. "I already know this stuff, thank you though. My ex made sure I know about all this stuff when she tried to gross me out.""She did?"Xander looked at him. "She was a vengeance demon, she told me all sorts of stuff that was supposed to make me careful and scared of her," he admitted.Snape patted him on the back. "We should compare horrors some time. With what I've seen, I could probably equal her stories.""You saw people gutted and forced to eat their intestines?""Not exactly, though I have seen people gutted. Usually they died during it.""I guess it must have been the demon part keeping them alive," she said with a shrug. "She said she forced them to eat them.""That is disgusting," Snape agreed. "Did she ever impale anyone?""She claims she helped Vlad at one point in time. Up the butt." Snape shuddered. "Yeah, she was kinda gross.""I'm sure she did many sickening things," Snape soothed. "None to you?""No, she wasn't allowed to do anything to me when I left her at the altar since some demons interfered. I thought I was giving her a better life from what they showed me.""I'm sure she wasn't happy, but it was probably for the best. Is she the one who died?" Xander nodded, looking up at him again. "Then at least you gave her some happiness.""I tried, but she never really was satisfied with the mortal life she got stuck in. She latched onto money and sex as being the fundamental driving forces of life and whined constantly." He smiled sadly. "I'm not sure now how I used to put up with her, but I did for nearly two years.""Then you are a stronger man than I am. I would have hurt her."Xander chuckled. "The thought crossed my mind a few times," he agreed. "But I thought I loved her.""Emotions are often funny that way.""I know," he said, picking at the blanket. "I'm not sure I want more emotional stuff. Being four in my dream was nice because it was safe."Snape gave him another pat. "I do understand. I've kept myself from entanglements for so long because of what I used to do. Now I'm not sure I could be with someone full time again." Xander looked up at him. "Sleep, Xander, think on everything that the room has taught you." He shifted down, closing his eyes.Xander guessed he was allowed to cuddle so he stayed there, smooshed against his friend's side. It was nice here, very comforting and comfortable. He hadn't felt like this with the girls. Maybe he *was* missing something. He closed his eyes and feel back to sleep, without the nightmares.Snape laid there and thought about what he had learned. The boy certainly understood about the worst things in life. He would understand his past.###Minerva looked over as Professor Snape walked in, eyes going wide at the visible mark on his throat. Fortunately, it wasn't her who commented."Were you attacked?" Hagrid asked, looking worried. "If you'd tell me by what, I'd go look for it tonight.""I was not attacked," Snape told him. "It's a bruise." He sat down and pulled some food over to fill his plate.Minerva McGonagall cleared her throat. "I have something to cover that if you want to borrow it," she offered. He gave her a horrified look. "Not makeup," she assured him, starting to smile. "Simply a coverup.""I may take you up on that. I didn't have a higher collar this morning." He ate a bite of egg. "He had some nightmares.""Ah." She nodded. "I've seen the same on others. If I remember right, we had one student who used to do the same thing to his arm."Severus nodded. "I remember him." He ate some more. "He's sleeping in. The castle acted up last night." His plate disappeared. "I wasn't being critical," he said harshly. It reappeared and had an extra scone on it. "Thank you." He ate another bite. "There is another missing book from the library. It appeared on the bed."Hagrid looked down the table. "I took one from him on appararting. It landed beside his hand. How is Willow doing that?""She uses a different form of transport magic," Dumbledore told him. "I have no idea how to stop that from happening." He looked at him. "Please send the book back up.""I keep forgetting it," Hagrid admitted. "I'll bring it up today." He looked at the Professor. "How is he doing? He looked upset last night.""Last night he dealt with a few different things," Snape told him. "He'll be fine. He's very strong." He broke open a scone to butter it. "Did you know his ex, the one he lost, was a vengeance demon?""No, I hadn't," McGonagall told him. "I wonder if she's the one Willow mentioned when she was here.""Probably," Snape agreed. "Anya or something?"McGonagall nodded. "Yes, that was it," she said happily. "She lost her power source and became human, got stuck there and dated Xander for a few years, returned to the demonic state and lost it again. She's the one who died?" Snape nodded. "Hmm. Interesting. You'd think they'd have protected her as one of their own.""The members of Xander's party probably did," Dumbledore put in."I meant the demons," McGonagall corrected."I assume they decided she was human now and no longer their problem," Dumbledore told her. She smiled at him so he looked at Snape. "What is the boy's schedule like today? The train is about to leave the station.""I'm going to have him with me most of the day. We'll need to make him more medicine," Snape told him.Madam Sprout looked down at him. "I could use some help if he would come out.""I'll tell him. Weeding?" She nodded. "That's fine. I'll send him out this afternoon." She smiled. "He does need to finish his lessons.""He's nearly done. After that one incident, I figured he'd have a better grasp of pruning than planting. He does well enough in there." Snape looked interested. "I'm sure he'll gain at least a satisfactory rating from me. It's not like he'll need herbology with his plan for the future.""No, but growing the ingredients for his medicine might be easiest," Snape put in.She nodded. "I'll show him then today and have him learn how to take care of them then." He nodded once. "Thank you for the suggestion." She beamed. "He is such a nice young man. It's sad to see him be so alone.""He'll have someone some day," McGonagall said, looking at Snape. "I'm sure he'll find someone...suitable to his needs.""Indeed?" Dumbledore asked.Snape looked at him. "He's been thinking about such matters himself. He'll figure out what he wants." He stuffed his mouth before he could say anything else.Dumbledore looked at him. "Indeed?" he asked again, giving him a knowing look.Xander walked in and the discussion easily changed to one of the upcoming students. He grinned at everyone. "Hi. Anything left for me?" He sat down in his seat. "Where do I get to sit when the other students get here?""You'll be on my side of the high table," Snape told him. "We're telling them that you're my personal student.""Okay." He accepted the plates of food, digging in. "What am I doing today while we wait?""You'll start with me then go to the Greenhouses.""Yes, sir." Xander stuffed his mouth. "What are we doing?" he asked between bites."Slow down before you choke. You young men never enjoy anything," McGonagall chastised. Xander looked scared. "Eat slower, Xander. Enjoy the food, don't inhale it.""Then eating takes forever and there's things that have to be done," he told her. "I'll be late to my lessons.""I'm sure I can wait for you," Snape told him. "Enjoyment of life is critical to happiness." He ate a small bite himself. "Take as much time as you need this morning.""Okay." He ate a smaller bite. "Better?""Can you taste the food?" McGonagall asked. He nodded. "Then that's fine."He grinned. "I could taste it before. I'm used to wolfing down meal so I could get to meetings and the like." He ate another bite."Your life's not like that now," Snape reminded him."Good point." Xander ate a medium sized bite but chewed slowly. McGonagall nodded her approval so he did it again.###Xander walked into the greenhouse. "What can I do to help you today?" he asked with a chipper grin. "Weeding or pruning?""First we'll weed, then I'll be teaching you about the herbs that go into your medicine." He looked stunned. "It was Severus' idea that you should know how to take care of them, in case you wanted to grow your own.""That would be neat," he agreed. "No having to hunt and search for them. I haven't seen much that Giles used to carry in his shop." He walked closer to her. "It would save money if I could grow them, right?" She nodded. "Then I'm all for that," he said firmly. "I'll have to save a lot of money at first. At least until I start to save some money when I finally get a job."She looked at him. "You might talk to the Headmaster about that. He has a great many contacts." Didn't the boy know that he had a job waiting on him?Xander nodded. "I'll do that when I'm ready to find a job." He pointed at the little shoots. "Are they weeds or good plants?"She looked down, pointing at the grass-looking plants. "Those are the plants, the others are the weeds.""They have pretty flowers," he noted as he started to pull the thin stems and tiny purple flowers. "They'd make a pretty border in a garden."She looked at them. "Then dig them up and I'll let you help me plant them," she decided. "They would look pretty out by the rock garden."He grabbed a small trowel and carefully dug them out, putting them onto a tray. When he was done, they walked down to the lake and he dug out a small border around the rock garden, a quirk of the Headmaster's. It was a nice and quiet spot to sit and think. He had sat out here a number of times for that very reason. Today, though, was not his day. He only saw the shadow briefly as the giant sucker came down and grabbed him. "AAAAHHHHHH!" he screamed as he was lifted into the air and toward the lake. "Help!""Xander!" Madam Sprout yelled. "Hagrid! The squid is attacking him!" She watched as the squid dumped Xander into the lake, letting him go so it could chase him through the water. "Hagrid!"He came running. "Leave him be!" he shouted. Xander swam for the shore. "Squid! Leave him be!"Xander swam faster, making it to the bank. He trudged out of the water and looked back at the squid. "This is why I don't do creatures," he told the teachers. He looked down at himself. "I think I'm done for the day," he told her. She smiled and nodded. "Can I get the rest of those plants in a few days?""Of course, dear. You go dry off." She watched as he trudged up to the school. A long tentacle came out. "Hagrid!""Stop it or don't get fed tonight," he snapped.Xander looked up and dodged, running into the school. "I hate animals," he groused as he walked down the hallways. He saw Mrs. Norris, the caretaker's cat. "Yeah, yuck it up," he said at the smug look the cat had. "You can go out and play with the squid. I'll toss you in and see how much you like it." The cat strolled off, its tail high and flicking back and forth. "I *hate* animals." He stomped down to his room, running into Snape as he walked out. "I hate animals.""What happened to you?" he asked, following the younger man back into the room. He found a leaf in his hair and plucked it out to look at. "The lake?""The squid in the lake," Xander said bitterly. "It grabbed me and decided I was a toy." He tossed his shirt toward the basket. "I'm soaked.""Take a bath and we'll resume our lessons when you're ready.""Yes, sir." Xander walked into the bathroom, smiling at the warm water already run for him. A few bubbles floated out to greet him. "Thank you. You're so nice," he said as he stepped out of his pants and climbed in. "Oh, nicer than the lake. Besides there's no squid." He splashed some of the bubbles. "I'm going to enjoy you, like McGonagall said, and then I'm going to enjoy the dungeon." He winced as the pain in his feet started. "Shit!" He climbed out, running into his friend, who was holding a towel. "Medicine.""I'll get it." Snape left him there to get the medicine, coming back with it and a glass of juice. "Drink," he said as soon as the medicine was in it. Xander gulped it, shivering as it worked. "Is it working?" Xander shook his head. "Then I'll get you the stronger dose," he said, but the door was locked. "He needs his medicine," he said out loud. "If I don't get it, he'll suffer for hours." The door stayed stuck and he turned, finding Xander curled up in a chair. The younger man shook his head. "Fine. Ignio," he said, starting a fire. "Come closer." He brought the boy to the fire, sitting with him until he warmed. He slowly dried the younger man, helping him stay calm. This was the worst of the pain surges. He would be in pain for days, even though he had taken the medicine. It was like the nerves were actively trying to regrow themselves by setting themselves off. He had blank spots on his back. On the back of his arms. One on the left side of his neck. One on the inside of his right thigh. There was one that made up most of his left ankle. They were the only safe places to touch him. The only places that wouldn't make him scream in pain. He kept his attention on the boy's back and arms. "Is it bearable?" he asked."I hurt," Xander whispered. "A lot." He felt something but wasn't sure what. A sudden thought came to his pain-addled mind. "If masochists like pain, do they like pain like this?""No, they like pain in certain circumstances. Though I'm sure a few would like this at the right time with the amount of sensitivity you have at the moment." He glared at the door. "I would get you the medicine, but we're locked in.""It's all right, I can handle it." Xander breathed in through his nose. "I can do this. I'm going to whine at the school for not allowing me to have my medicine." A plop behind them heralded the medicine. "Thank you!" he called gratefully. He watched as the other man stood up. If he did the same, he'd be screaming in worse pain. Where his body was touching the floor was making him want to scream. He laughed bitterly. "Now would be a great time to be able to levitate. Just hang in the air.""I've been thinking on that. The muggles have gel mattresses which they use for burn cases. It holds no pressure against the skin." Xander looked interested. "Drink it straight." Xander gulped the nasty, antiseptic tasting drug and shuddered. "If you could get one of those, it might help you during these times." He sat down near him again. "Is it helping?""A little. My ass isn't screaming at me." He shifted slowly and carefully, hissing a little as new parts of his body met the floor. "Was it the water or the bath?""I think it may have been the shock of the bath after the lake, or possibly it has no trigger," Snape offered. "We'll need to let someone know you're like this and that we're trapped in here." The walls shivered but the door stayed closed. "I am supposed to appear later.""I'm sure it'll let you go soon," Xander said quietly. "Thank you.""You're more than welcome. This is not something you can help." He gently touched the man's upper arm. "Would you like something to put on?""No. I don't think I can stand cloth against me." He shuddered. "I don't think I'm moving from right here.""That's fine." Snape stood up. "I should try to tell someone." He walked over to the nymph portrait. "Would you tell the Headmaster what's happened and have him send some light food for the boy?" he asked. One of the nymphs laughed and disappeared, heading to visit one of the ones in the office. She came back and giggled, mouthing something. He nodded. "Thank you." He walked back to the fireplace, then decided to bring a few of the softest cushions they had over for the boy. "It won't help the skin sensitivity, but it may help the pressure," he offered. He helped Xander stand most of the way then tossed the cushions down so he could sit on them, helping him sit again. "How is that?""The velvet feels different than the stone. It's like lots of little fingers instead of one large hand." He smiled. "Thank you.""You're welcome. Continue to fight the pain, I'll be in the bedroom." Xander nodded, letting him leave. He found a particularly soft sponge and a basin, filling it with the water from the bathtub. He found a few more towels as well and brought them back to the fire."You're going to bathe me?" Xander asked with a faint smile."You still smell like the lake," the older man pointed out. "It might also ease some of the worst of the pains." He picked up the sponge and rang it out. That was when the door opened. "Finally." He started to move, but the floor hollowed under him, making him fall. "Fine, I won't go."The Headmaster walked in with a large tray. "How are you, Xander?""The pain's at that barely tolerable level. I can move, if I have to.""Then I won't make you come to the sorting tonight." He smiled and sat the tray near them. "Why are you wet?""That squid got me," he said bitterly. "I was planting the pretty weed flowers in a border around your rock garden.""Thank you. I'm sure they go together nicely." He looked at the Potion's Master. "Can you stand now?" Snape pointed at his ankle trapped by the stones. "I see. Then I'll leave you two alone for now. I'll send food down. Xander, you have to try and eat. I know it's not easy, but you have to try." Xander nodded. "Thank you. Severus, try to manage.""He'll need more medicine later.""I'll have it sent down if you can't make it out," he said with a smile and a wink. "Behave, the both of you. I'll expect you both to go to class tomorrow if possible." He did smile. "I'll make sure Slytherin is well-guarded tonight." He strolled out, leaving them locked in the room."I hate it when he's smug like that," Xander said in the silence. His companion laughed. He looked at him. "You don't?""No, I've often thought of strangling him with his beard when he's like this." He poured the boy some juice. "Drink. Let me get this lake water off you.""Thank you." Xander bent forward slightly, sipping at his juice. "Ow!" He stiffened up."Relax. It will only make it worse." Xander's back relaxed again but his fists were balled up on the cushion. "We'll do this later.""Thank you." He moved the tray. "Want some? I'm not really hungry.""I'll eat if you do." Xander frowned but ate a grape. He had to force himself to swallow, but he did get it down. He refused another one. "Not yet.""At least one an hour if you can," Snape ordered."Yes, sir.""After all I've seen you go through, you could call me by my name, boy."Xander glared at him. "As long as you call me boy, I'm going to call you sir.""Fine, Xander.""Thank you, Severus." He settled himself better. "Maybe an ice bath. I'd only hurt for a few minutes.""You'd also die of hypothermia before it worked.""If I could reduce the sensitivity, it'd make everything go back to normal.""Xander, I doubt this room would let us go, even if you were normal." The boy blushed. He snorted. "You and I both know what the castle wants of you.""Yeah, but you ....""Aren't as opposed to the idea as you think. I refuse to take advantage of the helpless.""Okay." Xander shifted a little, wincing."Stop that.""I'm numb but still in pain.""Then we'll let you lay down," Snape told him. He summoned more pillows and helped him settle himself. "There. How's that?""Better." Xander looked at the window. "Please close the curtains," he said quietly. The curtains closed. "Much better." He looked toward the bedroom as he heard shifting noises. "I think it's giving up," he said, pointing at the new doorway.Snape stood up and walked into the new/old room. It was his bed, but different now. The mattress was now a large cushion, soft and covered in a soft fabric. He smiled at the darkened room. "Xander." He walked back, helping him to his feet. "Come see." He walked the boy to the new room, settling him on the bed. "You stay there." Xander nodded, closing his eyes. "Try to sleep." He went back into the other room. "Does this mean I can have my other things?" he asked the sitting area. His bookcases and other decorations appeared, settling themselves among what Xander had brought in. He coughed and one last small bookcase appeared under the covered window. "Thank you." He walked over to grab the reference he had wanted. It had this problem in it and he wanted to refresh his memory. He knew there was something further he could do to relieve the pain. He found it and sat down, reading eagerly. It hurt to watch him go through it. The book from the other night appeared beside him. "I know, when he's ready." The book settled in his lap. "When he's ready," he said angrily. "He can't stand to eat, much less do anything like that." The book backed off and he continued to read. "There it is," he said, sitting up. He read the small potion and nodded. "I can make that." A cauldron clanged on the floor. "Thank you, but I'll need access to my lab, I have some of what is needed locked up." The door opened and he hurried out. He found his personal station already lit and the cauldron warming on the fire. "Good." He went to his cabinets and everything was waiting at the front of the shelves.%%%Xander smiled as the handwriting changed so it was both his and Severus', depending on the page. He was a good writer of what happened. Half of it had been about him. He even kept it in the narrative form. He smiled at his lover's sleeping form and turned to the next page. He remember that week very well.%%%Xander woke up and looked around. "Severus?" he called in the darkened room. His new eye let him see in the dark, but he didn't know what had happened. The last he knew he was locked in here. He forced himself to slide off the bed, shuffling toward the sitting area. The fire roared to life. "Not needed, thank you," he whispered. "Where is he?" He noticed the bookshelves and sighed. "Fine, I'll give in. Where is he?" The cauldron on the floor shifted. "Ah. More medicine?" The nymphs in the painting nodded. "Cool. I'm going to try and bathe. I feel sticky and nasty." He shuffled in there, finding lukewarm water drawn without any bubbles. He sat on the side of the tub and slowly put his feet in, hissing in pain. He forced himself into the water because it would help in the long run. "Maybe if I drown, this'll stop," he mused before dunking his head. By the time he came up, Snape was standing there. "How did you get there?""The castle decided you needed watched apparently," Snape said, handing over a beaker. "Try that. It should ease at least half the sensitivity." He watched as the boy quaffed it and then nodded. "I need to head back for a few more minutes. Will you be all right?""Sure. I was joking about drowning.""I see." Snape nodded. "I'd smack you about for that remark, but I know how bad it can be. Do not say that out loud, it upsets the building." Xander nodded. "I'll be right back, after I finish cleaning up." He tried to move, but found the door was missing. "The fire is still running.""Let him go," Xander pleaded. "He can come back." The door reappeared and Snape walked out, going to settle his house, his classroom, and everything else. By the time he came back, Xander was washing his hair. "Has it helped?""I can move without wincing. The water doesn't feel like cement.""That's a help." He pulled a chair in and watched the man. "Do you need help?""No, the sponge is doing okay," he said with a tight smile. "I don't want to make you get wet.""Do stop protesting. I've seen how you reacted to the castle's idea." The boy blushed bright red. "Do you want to contemplate it or not?""I don't know! I've never even thought about it before," Xander said with a bit of panic. "I've heard, I've been forced to watch and read by my ex, but I've never tried.""Then you may ask me questions." He stood up. "Are you sure you don't need help?" Xander nodded. "Then I'll expect you to come out soon and eat. A new tray has appeared." He swept out, going to sit and think."Sorry I'm such a twittering virgin," Xander called."If that's what you want to call it," Snape called back.Xander looked down at his wrinkled body. "Yeah, I think I do." He shifted, slowly getting out. He hissed as he stood up but forced himself to towel off. He noticed his robe laying on the bar near the door and grabbed it. "I can't have boxers?" he whispered. None appeared so he shrugged and shuffled into the bedroom. He tried to open his underwear drawer, but it was stuck closed so he gave up and tightened his robe around him, heading out to see what had been brought for dinner. "Soup?" he asked, peering at the tray."Broth," Snape corrected, looking over at him. "Wouldn't give you any clothes?""No. The drawers were stuck." Xander poured himself a mug of the light broth and brought it to the couch. "It finally gave you your stuff?""Yes, there was a reference that led to that second dosage. Try to drink all of it or you'll have to visit the infirmary tomorrow." Xander sipped the broth, swallowing heavily. "If you would like, you can sleep in that new room.""I might. It's very quiet but the bed is really soft." He drank more of the soup, it was easier now. 'This is good.""Then have the rest of it. I managed to get some food on my rounds." Xander stood up and waked over slowly. "You're moving better.""I'm feeling better," Xander admitted. "Did you put something in the soup?" He saw the nod. "Something I should be thankful for or just a home remedy?"Snape snorted, glaring at the boy. "I do not make home remedies. I added another dose of the desensitizing medicine to it.""Thank you." Xander poured the rest into his mug and came back. "I keep saying that. I think I owe you my sanity at this point."Snape looked at him. "Are you sure you are sane?"Xander grinned. "No. Not usually, but I'm enjoying my insanity." He sipped the soup. "What are we going to do about this thing that the castle wants?" He found himself kissed and stunned. He blinked a few times. "Wow. You do that really well.""I've had practice over the years," Snape said smugly, settling back into his reading. "Whenever you're ready.""It may take me a while," Xander said quietly."That's fine." Snape turned the page. "As I said, I'm here. Though if we're locked in here again in the morning, we might have to do something drastic."Xander laughed. "Fine, I'll go on my back so you can get to class." He finished his soup and put the mug down on a nearby table. "You take very good care of me."Snape looked up at him. "Someone needed to. You don't seem to want to do it yourself.""I try, but I'm not used to being totally on my own. I've always had someone else around. Willow, Buffy, someone there to be with me so I wasn't totally alone." He looked at the older man. "Now I'm kind of stranded here and I found you and you take their place and then some. It's like a whole party in you." That got a small chuckle. "You are. You talk to me, which is a nice change. You listen to me, which is an even bigger change and I'm seriously liking this being listened to thing. You ask my opinion, all I got asked before was 'does this make me look okay or fat'." Snape shuddered. Xander laughed. "Right before the last battle, we had sixteen girls in one house with me and one bathroom. Most of them teenagers.""Then you've truly lived through hell. I admire you for not jumping off somewhere high because of it.""There were days. Dawn, Buffy's little sister, was wonderful about keeping the girls away from me most of the time. She saved my sanity.""How old is she?""She's probably coming up on her fifteen. Maybe sixteen. Sixteen," he said firmly. Snape nodded. "Sometimes I forget. It's like I'm insulated here and there aren't world ending problems or other bad things."Someone knocked on the door."I knew it was too good to last," Xander said wryly. "Sort of like saying 'I wish' on the Hellmouth. Come?" The door opened and Ron walked in. "Hey, it let you in," he said happily."He makes you calm, of course it would." He stood up. "I'll read in the other room." He walked away.Ron opened his mouth and pointed. "The castle trapped us in here earlier when I had another massive pain surge," Xander told him. "Sit, talk, make me calm.""Why?" Ron asked, sitting close to him. "I bring bad news.""I figured as much. I was just thinking happy thoughts about Sunnydale." He grinned. "Buffy died?""No, injured. She's hiding Dawn. Willow went to get her and my mother's fairly upset. I can't have her at my place.""I'm not sure I can, but if I can I'll gladly take her in," Xander agreed. "How long?""They think a few weeks. The guy stalking her is human. Willow's on the verge of going and thumping him herself so it might only last for another day, we'll have to see.""Hey, a wonderful change," Xander said happily. "Your mother doesn't like Dawn?""She doesn't like surprises like that," Ron told him. "She'll calm down soon." He shifted closer. "You and him?"Xander shrugged. "I don't know," he admitted.Ron touched him on one of the dead spots, grinning. "If you do and manage to make him happy, then the whole of the wizarding world will thank you, Xander. He's known to be a bit of a crank.""He's a nice guy," Xander said.Ron snorted. "That tells me it's love." He stood up and looked toward the bedroom, projecting his voice. "You had better take care of him, Professor, or I'm going to show you all the evil little tricks I learned hunting those arseholes." He grinned at Xander. "I'm going to spring you this weekend so you can visit with Dawn. That okay?""I should be fine by then," Xander agreed happily, nearly wiggling in his seat. "Is she okay?""Yeah, just a stalker guy at her new school." He winked. "So of course, the twins came up and bugged her to no end.""Oh, can I finally meet them!""Sure," Ron agreed.Severus walked to the doorway. "Don't look so excited. They're royal pains in my ass.""You don't like jokes?" Xander asked, grinning at him."Not really, no.""Then you need to lighten up," Xander said firmly. "I love a *good* joke. One that I'm not the buttmonkey of." He stood up and then wobbled. "I'm okay," he said when Ron moved closer. "It'll be fine soon. The medicine is working." He carefully gave Ron a hug. "Three more days?""Three more days." Ron chuckled. "I should tell mum, make her give you the 'be careful' talk.""If she wants to," Xander agreed.Ron gave him another hug. "You're my brother, Xander. Relax. If they could accept the insanity that is Willow, they've accepted you." He pulled back. "Now you behave and make the cranky person happy so the rest of us fall at your feet and bow." Xander smiled. "You behave and I'll be back soon. Mum wanted you to know, not to make you take care of the girl. She's a bit of fun that's worth the hell of Willow." He winked. Then turned to the older man. "I meant it.""I'm sure you did," Snape agreed, leaning against the door frame. "Should I worry about cajoling the castle into making a spot for her?""She's not magical," Ron pointed."Um, she kind of is, but she's more made of it than anything," Xander told him."Is that why she's got that aura?" Xander nodded and Ron sighed. "Mum thought so. What is she?""A dimensional key brought to life for protection.""Well, that'll go over well.""It's safer if no one knows," Xander said seriously."Then I'll just tell mum." The door opened, admitting the Headmaster. "Sorry, sir, but I had to tell him. My mother ordered.""I understand. The young lady is more than allowed to come up for a weekend if necessary." He smiled at Xander. "I'm aware of what she is.""Goodie, who will attack her here?""Hopefully no one," Dumbledore told him, looking at Snape. "Can you think of anyone who has that grand of ideas?""Draco Malfoy," Snape said simply."He'd have the skill to manipulate her too," Ron said thoughtfully. "I'll keep her safe, Xander.""Good. Send her here if he comes near her. I'm going to keep her away from that shit if I have to kill him." Everyone looked at him. "I heard him complaining to his father about the noise I was making. Just complaining, not helping me make less noise or freeing me.""Of course. He's very much like his father, only smarter," Snape agreed. "Be careful of him, Mr. Weasley. If he thinks she'll benefit him, he'll try to obtain her.""Oh, I know," Ron said bitterly. "We'll be fine." He winked at Xander. "You behave." He shook the headmaster's hand and left the school."Willow's driving him nuts," Xander told the Headmaster."I'm not sure how Molly puts up with her," Dumbledore agreed. "She's a bit hyper for our tastes.""Then I'd hide when I get into hyper mode," Xander warned. "I'm worse.""I've noticed," Dumbledore assured him. "That's why you won't see much chocolate during this year." He smiled. "We'll help you with that." He looked at Snape. "Do you think you'll make it to class tomorrow?""If at all possible," Snape agreed. "Should I worry about this new trouble?""No," Xander said, shaking his head. "Dawn's cool. She helped save my sanity." He grinned. "What little is left.""I'd assume that Ms. Rosenberg managed to erode most of it," Snape told him. Xander giggled. "Was there anything else?""This new medicine is working?""In double doses. We'll wait to see how well it works in the morning. If necessary, I'll send him to the infirmary during classes so he can be watched over." Xander pouted. "Sit." Xander sat, still pouting. "Just for a day.""If I have to," Xander sighed. The older men both nodded. "Yes, sir." He looked down at his lap and closed the robe. "I want to take a bath.""You may try, the medicine may make it feel less painful," Snape said, getting out of his way. He waited until the young man was in there. "Was there anything else?"Dumbledore stepped closer. "Harm the boy and there is nothing that will keep Rosenberg from following through with her threats, the ones she made when you managed to snap her out of her grief," he said quietly. "There is no way I can protect you from her.""I don't fear her. I have no reason to.""Good." Dumbledore looked at the tray. "I'll send up more food." He left, closing the door behind him.The click of the lock was audible in the quiet room."We need a radio," Xander called. He howled, bringing his friend running. "Pain. Warm. Hot." He sank down into the water with more moans, ending as he sat and adjusted. "Ow.""Then why did you run it so hot?" Snape demanded."I didn't. Feel."Snape ran his hand in the water. "That's nearly ice cold.""I know. So why does it feel like I'm burning?""I don't know, probably a side effect of the sensitivity." He sat on the side of the tub, turning on a tap with the scent they both liked already mixed. "Try some of this. It may soothe your sense of smell." He added a little bit, making the younger man relax. "Breathe deeply and let the scent take it from your mind.""I thought aromatherapy was hooey.""Scent is the most effective memory aid. It is the key to many memories." He poured some of the water over the younger man's head. "Relax and let it soothe you. I'll be reading in the next room." Xander nodded, sinking further into the water. Snape stood up and went back to get ready for bed. He'd read in the bed so he could hear if there were any problems. "I care, and I will allow him close," he told himself. "It's safe and he suits me." He settled into his black silk pajamas and sat on top of the covers. The book that the castle kept pushing on them landed on the bed. "Fine, I'll read it," he decided. He could use a brushup on his skills.Xander lounged in the water, being soothed. He listened to the other man's monologue as he read, shivering at some of the things he was reading out loud. Some of those things sparked pictures in his mind. Some of them made him shake his head. Some of them made him whimper as the erection got painful. He didn't need to do this when he was in hyper-sensitive mode. It would be painful and he'd have to remember that. He looked down at his body. "Calm down. Not tonight, no matter how intrigued you might be."###Snape woke up and realized he was being sucked on again. That was odd since Xander had slept in the other room. It had been disconcerting not to be kicked in the middle of the night; he had gotten used to sleeping next to the young man. He used a finger to break the suction. The same spot, that bruise would never go away. He shifted, rolling onto his side. "Xander?" Xander hummed and shifted closer, moving to suck on the hollow of his throat, which was an uncomfortable thing to feel. He broke the suction again, letting the younger man take his finger instead. "One of these days I will figure out why you do that," he said quietly.Xander blinked as the words made it through to him; he spit out the finger so he could use his mouth. "I didn't go to sleep in here.""I know. You were sucking again." Xander blinked at him a few times. "Yes, you. What is it about that spot?"Xander looked at it and it popped into his mind. "That's where vampires bite," he blurted."So you want to eat me?" he asked dryly. The boy blushed. "Or do you want to be that sensual?" He traced the puffy lips. "How do you feel?""Mildly sensitive, but that doesn't hurt. It's nice.""Good." He kissed him. "How does that feel?"Xander blushed again. "Are you going to be late?" Snape looked at the clock then shook his head. "Then can you read some of those things you read last night and explain them to me? I don't think I have the right idea.""I'd imagine not considering where your education came from," Snape agreed. He picked up the book. "Anything in particular?""That touching thing.""Ah, the beginning." He brushed his finger across the damp lips again. "That is what it was talking about.""I meant the other touching.""I see." He opened the book, showing him the page. "That one?" Xander swallowed and nodded. "I hadn't been aware I was reading aloud.""You were," Xander said, still blushing. "It was kind of neat. You have a wonderful voice. It's calming but arousing at the same time. Smooth, like the best scotch. But there's that steel underneath that lets you know you'll have a hangover when you wake up.""Thank you." Snape looked down at the book. "Would you rather I read or showed you?""Can we do both?""If you'd like." He looked down at the page. "This section is about touching your partner. When and where to touch and how soft or gentle you should be." Xander nodded, shifting closer until he was resting against his shoulder. "You'd rather I read to you?""I'd like that for now, until I'm ready to try.""That's acceptable for the moment." He cleared his throat. "There is a point in each liaison where you must touch your lover. At that point, it is imperative that you consider what sort of touching you want to do. Soft or gentle? Hard, grabbing touches or the gentle dragging of fingertips across the tensed skin." A fingertip traced the mark on his throat. He coughed. "After you've decided what sort of encounter this will be, you should start with a simple kiss and one hand gently stroking. Unless this is the most violent of encounters, a gentle stroking would be the best place to start. Seeing how your lover reacts..." His breath caught when the fingertip was replace by lips and a tongue. "You're skipping ahead.""Sorry." Xander shifted, going to his knees. "I'm fascinated by that mark I made. I feel like it's right that it's there, but there's something wrong with it too.""It could be a claim marking," Severus said quietly. He touched it himself. "Willow did mention your possession.""She would," Xander snorted. "She attributes a lot to that." He looked in the dark eyes. "It's not true. I went primal because of the pain. Pain makes me crankier than you without a student to terrorize." That got a short laugh. "Have you decided who to terrorize this year?""Not yet. I'm waiting to see who causes the most disaster during their first class. It usually is a Gryffindor." As he was talking, the lips reattached themselves to his neck, sucking gently. "Switch lower. I get enough gaff from that one being visible." The sucking continued but a hand came up to fumble with the buttons covering his stomach. He unbuttoned his top for Xander, and the hand started to stroke his stomach. "If this is a claiming ritual, I'd prefer to know so I can participate.""Shh.""Fine." He laid there, letting his stomach be stroked and his throat be sucked on, until he felt the skin break. "Harris," he growled. Xander licked the wound, then sniffed his shoulder. "Are you sure you're not acting like an animal?""I never got to do this with the others," Xander whispered. "It's new and exciting. You smell different in different areas." He licked across a small pectoral rise, then headed lower, licking across the nipple. That earned a hiss. The hand that came up to hold him there was evaded as he moved down to the hard stomach, nosing and licking across the hard flesh. "This is exciting.""It is for me as well, but I'd like to do the same."Xander looked up at him. "Why? You've done this before.""Not in a while and each lover is different.""Really?"Severus nodded. "Everyone has different triggers and spots that arouse and annoy them. Haven't your women friends reacted differently?"Xander sat back and thought about it. "Faith was too fast for me to touch her. She climbed on top and rode me. Cordy was more groping and kissing, we never got that far. Anya was all about her pleasure and she let me come on occasion." He shrugged. "She was a lot like Faith."Severus groaned and pulled the boy back down. "Then I'll teach you myself. It may be the only thing saving me from having to tie you down and taking you." Xander's eyes widened. "Would you like that?" Xander shook his head slowly. "Are you sure?"Xander nodded. "I don't like being tied up. I know that very well. I don't want those nightmares."Snape pulled back. "Who tied you up wrongly?""Spike. Angelus. A few minions at one time." The older man looked at him in shock. "It's the Hellmouth, what did you expect?""You know Spike and Angelus?""Yeah. Ron met Spike too. He pretended to be him for a while so he could help with the last battle." He shrugged. "Angelus was a lot nicer when he had a soul and was dating Buffy, but he was always cryptic stalker guy.""I see." He traced over the red lips. "Did they hurt you?""Spike and I picked on each other, it was nice because he traded insults instead of insulting me.""Very well. I won't tie you up until you deserve it." He kissed him again. "May I explore now?"Xander flipped them over. "No." He went back to his sniffing and exploring, tasting and kissing here and there. He added another hickey under his new lover's right nipple, making him moan. When he came back to the waistband of the pajama bottoms for the third time, he decided he was ready. "Can I do something about these?" he asked."Take them off," Severus agreed, panting now. He lifted his hips and let them be pulled off.Xander looked at the hard cock. "It's not much different than mine." He started to carefully explore, being careful not to suck too hard or to nose too hard against something. His head was stopped when he licked the crown of the penis, making him look up. "Can't I sniff?""You're teasing," Severus warned. "I loathe teasing.""Okay." He shrugged and licked harder, trying what he had wondered about. The sucking thing wasn't that great, his teeth got in the way, but the licking seemed to be liked. When the first spurt came it caught him by surprise but he shrugged again and tasted that too. He wanted to know all about this man in front of him. He had said scent was the most important memory maker so he continued to sniff his lover's body, making him groan. "Are you in pain?""No, wanting you back here so I can reciprocate." He grabbed Xander by the arms and pulled him up. Xander winced. "I'm sorry.""It's okay, it wasn't that painful, not really," he said quickly. "I can deal with that amount of pain easily.""Your earlier life makes me wonder why you weren't taken from your family.""They tried but my mother quit drinking for a few weeks and they gave me back," Xander said honestly. His lover looked down at him in shock. "An over-stressed system and I wasn't that badly off. There were kids who were being beaten to death. My parents were decent compared to some so I was ignored." He shifted. "Can we talk about something happier before I get out of the mood?""Of course. We'll continue it later." Xander groaned so he decided to go back to the prior topic. He bent down and nipped at Xander's neck, making him groan, arch up, and tip his head back in the ultimate submissive gesture. He did it again and Xander went limp under him, relaxing totally in his presence for the first time. "Well," he said with a smile. "Do you like that?""Yes.""Good." He continued, nipping at random intervals. The one time he did it too hard, the boy threw him off as he bent over in pain. "I'm sorry, I forgot." He stroked the hard back. "I had forgotten that you have a very sensitive spot on your stomach where the curses hit you." Xander started to relax. "Would you like to end this?" The boy flopped onto his back and looked at him, shaking his head. He looked down the taut body, noticing the hardness. "Do you like the pain?""No.""Then why are you hard?""Because of the way you're looking at me and because you apologized," Xander said simply."If that wench were still alive, I'd kill her for you," he noted with some humor."I'd have to stop you," Xander pointed out. "I have to be thankful for her if for no other reason than she built up my stamina and my threshold for embarrassment.""How did she do that?""She told everyone about our sex lives at the top of her lungs almost every day.""Praise hopefully?""Not always," he admitted. "Can we go back to the fun things?""In a moment. What sort of stamina did she force you to attain?""She once put me in a cock ring and tried to make me beg for nine hours. I fell asleep on her and didn't have any pain when she woke me back up and took it off the next morning. Even before I came."Snape looked impressed. "Did you have some sort of malfunction back then? A dead nerve or two?""No, I was bored. She wasn't trying her hardest."Snape blinked a few times. He looked down at the lessening hardness and nipped him on the shoulder, watching as it reinflated when the young man moaned. "Let's see if I can break her training.""Why?" Xander asked breathlessly."Because what she did was ruin you for other lovers. I'd prefer you to be able to hold off for a bit but have to give in to it eventually, when it drove you wild.""Oh. I remember that." He grinned. "I'm for that, I enjoyed it back then.""Then we'll have to help you reach that state again. Doing otherwise will be horrible for the both of us." Xander nodded and spread himself out a bit more for him to explore on. "Thank you." He worked his way down the hard body, enjoying the moans. He was sure to be gentle this time, learning what had happened had changed his entire outlook on this young man. When he made it to the hard and weeping cock, he stopped to appreciate it. Circumcised, wider than average, about average in length. Two small wounds. He would ask about those *after* he was done. He took a long lick of it and Xander nearly came off the bed. "I see you do enjoy some things.""Yeah! Haven't had those in over a year," Xander panted. "More, please?""If you wish.""I never say that word," Xander said seriously."Then how about desire?" he asked with a smile."I like that word," Xander admitted, shifting his hips. "Please, Severus?""Of course." He took another lick and the cock firmed more in his hand. He could feel the pulse in the flesh. He could smell the odor that meant he was going to come. He wasn't ready for that yet though, so he moved back to explore further. "Did she ever touch you back here?""Anya was afraid of bunnies and bodily functions that didn't involve sex. She tried to get me to agree to an enema, but after the one I got in the hospital once I wasn't going there.""Excellent." He touched the outer ring, making him shiver. "Do you like?""When I'm in this state, I babble, I beg, I plead, and I'd agree to be killed during sex," Xander babbled. "I'll even beg cutely and give puppy eyes." A finger breaching him made him quit talking and whimper instead. "Thank you.""You're welcome." He searched and found the small prostate, smiling as he manipulated it."Sev!" Xander shouted, writhing under him. "Please? I wasn't mean!""You were, but I'll forgive you for now," he said, using his free hand to stroke the hard cock. Xander groaned and came, going limp. "There, that's better," he decided. He reached into his returned bedside table and found a small tube of gel that he used when he massaged out his own pain surges, pulling it out to use it. "Would you like more?""As long as I don't make you late, I'm for anything you want," Xander said honestly, with enough worship in his voice to make his lover feel like he was a God. He could see it in his face. "What did you want to do?""I wanted to take you and make you howl again," Severus said honestly."Okay. Will it hurt?""A bit, I'll do my best to make sure it's pleasurable." He added some slickness to his finger and started the stretching process. He glanced at the clock and mentally swore, he could miss breakfast. He shifted to his thumb, watching his lover for any signs of uncomfortable moments. His hyper-sensitivity could make this wonderful or horrible and they'd never do it again. He was careful to be extremely gentle. By the time he got up to a wide enough girth, it was the middle of breakfast and they'd have to make this a bit quicker than he wanted if he wanted to bathe as well, but that would probably be fine. Xander was vibrating under his hands and shouted in pleasure when he sunk in as slowly as he could. "You enjoy this?""More than I ever did taking someone," he admitted, shifting so he was more comfortable. "More, Severus.""That's all of me there is," he told him. "Relax, I'll make it much better." He started to stroke out, but the firm legs clamped around him. "I was coming back. Just like you used to do.""It's involuntary.""That's quite the compliment." He pushed back in and Xander yelled again, throwing his head back. "You are the most enthusiastic lover I've ever had, and quite possibly the loudest ever." Xander laughed at his compliment. "Let it out, I'm sure the castle has soundproofed the room." He felt the soundproofing spell take hold and pulled out, moving back in more firmly. Xander whimpered and shifted again. "Would you like something different?""I want to try it like I saw in the movies." He pulled off and flipped onto his stomach, putting a pillow under his hips. "Please?""You don't want to see me?""Later," Xander said with a bright smile. "Right now, I want more. I want to feel and experience and enjoy. Later I want to look and be mushy.""That's suitable to me," Severus agreed, thrusting back in as hard as he could. Xander yelled again, but it was still in pleasure. "Either go up on your hands or go totally onto your chest and spread your arms out," he instructed, hoping it was the later. The boy looked so good, so delicious, when he was in submissive poses. The boy did as he hoped and he sped up, going as hard and as fast as he could. The yelling continued and Xander started to work back against him, starting to whimper on the outstroke. It was slowly getting to be too much. There was something about a vocal lover that he had always enjoyed. He felt himself losing control and leaned over, licking up the sweat that was pooling around the young man's shoulder blades. The longish hair tickled his nose and he grabbed hold of it with one hand, making him groan. "Yell my name," he hissed."Severus," Xander whimpered."I said yell.""More, please!" he begged. He pushed back and got slammed into. "Thank you!" he screamed, panting. "Severus, please!"Severus let go of the hair and grabbed the hips hard enough to leave bruises, taking control of everything. The boy got off first, sending him crashing into orgasm and breathing spasms. He fell across the limp body, panting to regain his breath. "I've never been that enthusiastic before," he said gently, stroking over the shaking arms. "Are you all right?" Xander mumbled something and he laughed, shifting off his body. The boy tried to keep him by tensing up but he was too limp for it to work. "We can do so again later," he soothed, rubbing the shaking back. "Xander?""Present."He laughed. "That's good. I didn't want to think I had imagined you." Xander turned his head to look at him. "Wouldn't you like to get more comfortable?""You liked to cuddle?" he asked hopefully."I consider a natural end to the act of lovemaking." He nearly slapped himself."Yeah, me too," Xander said with the goofiest of grins. He moved the pillow and curled up around his lover's side. "We're late," he announced, looking at the clock."As soon as I can move, I'll get us into the shower and we'll head to class. We can probably find some food before long. You're helping me today.""Good." Xander yawned. "I think I need a nap.""If you do, you're going to be very late." Snape looked down and saw the closed eyes and the same goofy grin. "It's the first time in nearly fifteen years. He can run a studyhall." He heard a laugh and groaned. "Rosenberg," he said in disgust."Not the Willow," Xander murmured."Then who was it?""I don't know. Probably the painting." Xander rubbed his cheek against the warm side, then bit him. "Thank you.""You're welcome. As usual." He slid out of the bed, leaving him there. "Let me bathe and I'll let you have the water.""Okay." Xander curled up around the dirty pillow. "I'm napping."Severus shook his head as he walked away, heading to check the living room and then seeing no one took a shower. He came out and found Xander in the same position. "I think it cured him," he said, sounding amazed. "Xander?" Xander hummed. "You have to get up, you're late," he told him. The boy climbed out of the bed and stumbled into the bathroom, getting into the shower. "Wake up!" he called, louder."Am," Xander replied."Good." Snape got himself dressed, trying to cover up the lurid bite on his neck. "I look like I was mauled by a wildman," he told himself. He looked over as Xander came out of the bathroom, heading for the bed. "You have class, Mr. Harris.""Yes, Professor Snape," Xander said lightly, heading for the closet. He smiled at him. "Is that what you wanted?""At least until you finish your studies." He gave him one last kiss then left to go to his first class. It was nearly done but he could intimidate them. He found the Headmaster sitting behind his desk. "Sorry I'm late.""Did he thank you again?" Dumbledore asked, blatantly staring at his neck.Snape glared. "That is one phrase I will eliminate from his vocabulary. I don't want to hear it from you either.""Fine. Your class is reading the first chapter." He stood up, letting the man have his chair. "He has Minerva in two classes. See that he eats something, Professor Snape.""As I always do." He watched as the infuriating man walked out of his classroom. Then he looked at the class itself. One boy had his hand raised. Third years, what a chore. "Yes?" he said shortly."Sir, were you attacked by something?" he asked. "You look like you've just fought and you've got bruises.""I'm fine and no I wasn't attacked. Read." The boy bent his head down and went back to the book. He sat there and thought about what had happened. Yes, he was going to have to get the boy to quit thanking him. And to grow his hair. He didn't seem to mind when he grabbed it. He looked over as Xander walked in. "You have McGonagall in two classes.""Yes, sir." He sat down beside the desk. "Should I try to do something?""Not at the moment. I was about to send for food. What do you want to eat?""Something soft and sweet?" Xander asked hopefully."Your hyperactivity won't be my punishment so I'll allow it." He summoned Slytherin's house elf. "We'll require breakfast. He wanted pastries if there are any." The elf nodded and disappeared, coming back with a small tray. He nodded that it was acceptable and the thing left them alone. The bell rang. "Leave." The class hurried out. They had at least three minutes before they were interrupted. "Xander, I want to request something." Xander looked at him as he nibbled on a danish. "I want you to quit thanking me. It makes me feel odd, like I'm your Master and you're my submissive.""I can try," Xander agreed. "I'm not that submissive."Severus cheered internally. "I'm sure you'll find your dominant streak once you're more used to things." Xander nodded. "Would you consent to grow your hair?""I can do that too," Xander agreed. "How long?""Not too long, I don't think you'd look good with hair as long as the Headmaster's. Just to your shoulders maybe?""Okay." He snatched another danish and licked it. "It gets wavy.""Really?" Xander nodded, stopping when a student walked in. "Sit," Snape ordered. The student took a seat. "Where is everyone else?""Getting lost, sir.""Then they should be here soon.""There was some sort of ghost showing us the way but I got lost."Xander gave the guy a sympathetic look. "I've gotten lost as well, but I find the most interesting rooms when I do. I found one with a whole lot of jewelry in it last week.""Really?" Snape asked, looking at him. "Good jewelry or costume stuff?""Real from what I could tell." Xander looked out the door. "I think it might have been Peeves." He stood up and walked to the wall, touching it. "Would you mind making Peeves come here?" The castle didn't respond. "How about I get to tease the students?" The doorway across from them opened and the students walked through it. "Thank you, castle. You're so great. I really like your suggestions. You were right." The wall shivered and got warm. "Thank you," he whispered.One girl looked at him. "Are you nutters?"Xander looked at her, looking down at her. "No. The school is sentient and magic. If you had a clue about anything, you'd be making friends with it too." He glared at her and she shifted away. He cleared his throat as the talking started. "You will pay attention to Professor Snape, the same as you would the other teachers," he said coldly. "Professor Snape is one of the toughest teachers in here, but the most worthwhile to learn from outside of McGonagall. If you disrespect him, I'll have your rooms disappear." The first years hunkered down and glanced at him, but they were quiet. "Professor Snape, do you need more help?" he asked, smiling at him."No, that's quite enough. Come finish these eggs, but leave me the scones and some coffee.""Yes, sir." He hurried over to eat more. He was really hungry from earlier. He'd have to remember to start working out so he didn't gain weight - he wasn't giving up this new thing unless he was kicked out of their bed and not let back in. He'd have to share this with Ron!%%%Xander laughed at that observation. His lover had written a nasty comment after it. Little did he know that Ron knew most everything without having the particulars. Ron didn't like the particulars, him or Dawn. Not that he wanted the particulars of Dawn and Ron's life together, but they shared enough to make sure the other was happy. He glanced down again and saw the open eyes. "Hi.""What time is it?"Xander glanced at the clock. "A little after four." He leaned down for a kiss. "I was going to give the book to Ron for his birthday.""I'm sure he'll enjoy figuring out it wasn't his fault. He still glares at me.""You made his teen years a living hell, Severus. Of course he does. He's still scared of you." He stole another kiss. "I know you enjoy every minute of it too.""I do," Severus agreed, pulling Xander back down. "Are you in pain?""No, but I wouldn't mind taking the special cure anyway," he said with his most cheeky voice."You and your wanton nature," Severus teased, but his eyes were glinting in the near dark. "What would you like tonight?"Xander put the book down and slid against his lover's firm body. "I want it all and you know it. But I'll settle for having you make me pass out like you did on our tenth anniversary." He heard the contented noise. "I even left my hair down for you.""I noticed." He touched the loose hair. "Did you prepare yourself?""After I woke up and couldn't fall back to sleep." He licked his lover's nose, earning a swat on the rear. "I deserved that, but I want more and I'll have to take it if you won't give it to me." He positioned himself and slid down the hard cock, impaling himself. "I still liked that first position, but there are advantages to this one.""Yes, I get to watch you do all the work," Severus teased, playing with the ticklish sides. Xander wiggled and started to bounce on him. "You and your eternal energy.""I had a sweet tart while I was waiting for the enema water to warm.""A single piece or a roll?"Xander gave him a smirk. "Wouldn't you like to know?" He was pulled off and put onto his stomach, his lover taking him that way instead. "Oh, come on, I wanted to watch you this time.""I want to wear out that damnable energy reserve you have so we can both sleep before work tomorrow. You have to deal with the plumbing again."Xander laughed. "I'll tell it how big and how strong it is again. It'll dilate and everything will be fine. The castle likes to think of its pipes as its dicks." A hard thrust made him bite his tongue before he screamed. They couldn't wake up the neighbors. He had to keep repeating to himself. His hands searched under the pillows, coming up with his wand. "Silencio!" he called, pointing at the walls. There, now he could howl all he wanted. Or all his lover wanted. Severus spanked him, making him scream and thrash under him. The thrusting picked up and he started to fist his own cock but his hand was knocked away. "Please?""I like it when you beg," Severus told him, biting him on the shoulder. He pulled the younger man up, sitting him in his lap. "Now ride me, boy.""Yes, sir," he said, bouncing to his heart's content. Or at least until he came the first time. He slumped back against the hard chest. "More, please, sir?""You beg very prettily," Severus assured him. "I should be nice and give you much more." He thrust up and Xander groaned, spreading his hips to get him deeper. "But I should punish you for eating sweets as well. Whatever shall we do?""Gag and chains?" Xander suggested. "I liked it the last time.""I didn't. I enjoy hearing you scream." He thrust up again, slowly this time. Xander whimpered and whined in his throat. "Do you want to have more?" Xander nodded quickly. "Then quit making puppy noises at me." The whimpering stopped. "Thank you. I hate it when you do that.""Unless I'm so far gone that I can't scream and do it in your ear," Xander offered, sounding like he was begging. "Please, Sev? I'll do anything. You know that.""Yes, I do," he said with a delighted, yet evil sounding chuckle. "You are mine.""Yup, all yours," Xander agreed. "Your toy. Your slut on special occasions. Your lover the rest of the time. Please? Before I get too horny and ask the school to make one of those penis- looking growths again like it did last year?""If I find the castle trying to take what is mine, I will rip it down," Severus snarled. Though it had been amusing, the walls had grown a few penises when he had punished Xander by withholding sex. They were quite anatomically correct as well. Fortunately, he only found his lover *stroking* one, not mounted on one. He pushed the boy back down, starting to ride him again. "Arms out." Xander spread himself out, taking up their favorite submissive position. "Good boy.""Thank you, sir." That earned him another spank. "Sorry, Severus. You can take my chocolate frogs for two days.""Yes, I will, and the rest of your candy as well." He grabbed the bony hips and rode him as hard as he could, making Xander scream and thrash under him. He enjoyed the noise, it was still good to hear. He finally came after Xander did for the third time, showing he had the better self- control. When he allowed himself to relax, he found Xander asleep under him. Or unconscious. He checked to make sure he was breathing, then settled in beside him. Now he could go back to sleep. He pushed that blasted bear onto the floor and curled up against his lover's back. "Much better," he purred. Xander rubbed his rear against his stomach so he bit him on the neck. "Calm yourself. You can have more in the morning." Xander hummed and settled down to sleep.Severus smiled. His life was good.The End.