Advanced Learning Problems.
Xander looked up as his classroom door was knocked on. "Enter!" He went back to looking at the lists of sixth years who had signed up to talk to him. They had to decide how to narrow down their focuses next year, what classes to take to push them toward their intended careers. He had a few that were going to be in a special class in the Defense Against the Dark Arts program, and some that were going to be spending more time with Giles. And then there were the ones that he was going to encourage to pick other specialities because they weren't really suited to fighting the dark side. They had enough information if they needed it, but weren't going to be doing it as a career. He looked over as the door opened. "Hey, Ron. Come sit." He moved his feet off the chair. "Figured out anything yet?"
Ron shrugged. "Not really. Hermione suggested that I take the special research class that Professor Giles is giving." He glanced around. "What about your seventh years?"
"Well, we're doing a battle class. Physical fighting and dueling will be covered." Xander smiled at him. "Interested?"
Ron smiled slightly. "Is that a subtle way of suggesting that I take it?"
"Um, yeah," Xander told him. He leaned closer. "I know it's not going to be your life, but it's something that you're good at. And let's face it, you're already a target because you're best friends with Harry." He sat back. "Actually, I had Professor Lupin hold a few seats back for you three because I expected you to be in there," he admitted.
Ron grinned. "Sure. Beats potions any day." He stood up. "What did you guys do when it was time to figure this stuff out?"
"My high school had guidance counselors that tried to get you into different things and we had a career fair." Ron looked clueless. "A bunch of companies come in and put up booths so you can get information on what they do. You can interview right then and everything."
"Oh. That's cool." He grinned. "So, yours, research, and what?"
Xander shrugged. "What do you like to do? Besides fly?" he added with a grin.
"I don't know." Ron sat down again. "I want to do *something* but I refuse to work for the Ministry. I'd rather eat slugs again." Xander nodded. "I like what Charlie and Bill do, but I don't think it's me. Their stories put me to sleep."
Xander leaned closer. "The reason for the research class was so you could do some in-depth research about an area that you like, something that will make you happy enough to do it for a long time. Use it to look up various careers." He sat back. "How about a broom-maker?"
"That would be wicked," Ron breathed. "Building and testing would be absolutely wicked." He gave his teacher a brilliant smile. "Think I could?"
"I think you could probably do it really well, all you have to do is find out about it. Make that your first paper in research, or over the summer write them a letter and ask them. Most companies will respond to those."
"Cool." He hopped up. "Thanks, Xander. I'll sign up for the battle class." He closed the door.
Xander smiled. "One down." He went back to making notations on his list of students, who he wanted and who he wanted to pass over to Giles, and who he wanted to go away.
Harry Potter walked into Xander's classroom, stopping when he saw the other teachers sitting in there. "Am I interrupting?"
"Nope." Xander pointed at the chair. "We were just talking about you. Tara found something interesting."
Tara looked at Harry. "Did you know that the national Quidditch team holds a camp twice a year? One's this summer." She handed over the forms she had been handed by someone watching the last game.
Willow grinned. "We know you'd like nothing better than to spend your whole life on a broom, so we thought you might like to take advantage of this camp and see if they'll give you your odds of playing for a pro team."
Harry looked shocked. "You think I can really go?"
"I think they're probably expecting you to go," Xander told him. "Teams do this sort of stuff so they can recruit or pass aside people that they want without spending a lot of time away from the team."
"It's also a nicer way of sending some less qualified players away without hurting their feelings because they realize that they can't keep up with the team," Tara pointed out.
"Look at this as a way of finding out if you're good enough to play for them," Xander advised. "Tell them that you want an honest opinion of your skills and if you're capable of playing on that level. I bet the coaches would welcome a straight-forward kid instead of one who's got dreams of the World Cup and being the MVP."
Harry smiled and tucked the papers carefully into his bag. "Thanks, guys, that was great of you." He stood up. "Am I supposed to take the battle class?" Everyone nodded. "Because you think I'm going to need it?" Everyone nodded again. "All right. I'll sign up for that." He left them alone.
Xander looked over at his friends. "That went well," he said, then he chuckled. "Think he'll make it?"
"Maybe. He plays well from what the guy watching in the stands said," Tara told him. The scout had watched Harry very closely at his last game, then had handed her the camp forms before leaving.
Lupin leaned into the classroom. "Xander, did you tell Harry and Ron that they had to take the class?"
"No, I suggested strongly."
"We're going to be full with a few more students."
Xander frowned. "I thought we agreed to add three chairs for them."
"We did, but Giles has sent sixteen kids through today. I'm going to have to start weeding soon."
Xander sighed. "Then we'll interview each one as to why," he suggested. "If we have to, we can add another section or something." He shrugged. "Teaching twenty-six is no different than thirteen."
Lupin smiled. "If you say so. Have you worked out the curriculum?" Xander nodded. "Even better. Dumbledore was looking for it."
"I put it on his desk yesterday," Willow told him. "Along with Giles' advanced class stuff and the one for the research class."
Lupin beamed. "Thank you, dear." He left them alone.
Willow looked down at Xander; she was sitting on one of the desks. "You're sure that's such a good idea?"
"With the bad guys at the door? Yup, very sure." He stood up. "I've only got two more kids and I don't think they're coming to me."
"Hermione went to Giles," Tara offered.
"Hey, then I'm really almost done. I've got a Malfoy to talk to next." He grimaced. "Wish me in one piece and all that good stuff." He gathered his things and walked out, heading to the Great Hall, which was where most of the Slytherins were gathered. Professor Snape had them in there to discuss what was going to happen next year and allow teachers unfettered access to them. He smiled at Snape as he walked in, nodding at the table. He got a nod in return. There were other teachers talking to students up and down the table so he probably wasn't the only one who didn't get them in the office. "Malfoy," he said as he sat across from him, shocking the students around them. "What? It's not like he came to me, Giles, Tara, or Willow, so I came to him." He smiled. "Go away." They shifted farther away. "You got put on my sign-up sheet," he said quietly. The boy had been readmitted last month without any official notice given to the teachers, he just seemed to show up one day. When everyone asked Dumbledore, he said he had his reasons and that they were important. So the boy had come back, but he had been a little bit different, a little more introspective, even a little nicer - though his mouth still got him in trouble. Being on probation until he graduated had apparently done something to ease the fighting between him and Harry's group, but not much.
Malfoy grimaced. "I don't know why I did that."
"Hey, that's cool. I had to check." He frowned at a student coming to sit next to them, making her sit farther down the table. "Did you need to talk?" He turned back to look at the boy.
Malfoy was almost sneering, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "My father would kill me if he found out that I was taking your classes and was doing well in them."
"Point," Xander agreed, "but there's always something to learn, whichever side you're on." He stood up. "I'm gonna head out to fly. If you wanted to talk about the battles class, I'd be willing to tell you about it."
"Are you really teaching dueling?" a girl nearby asked. It was the one who worked well with Ron, Melissa.
Xander looked down at her and nodded. "Yup, sure am. Along with the more physical aspects of fighting. It's another multiple-teacher class. You'll get me, Lupin, Black, and Giles. Also, if you're not sure what you want to do when you graduate, Professor Giles is running a research class. No limit on the subject, but about two long papers a term. I'm recommending that to anyone who isn't quite sure of what they want to do."
She nodded. "Thank you, Professor. I'll think about that. My mother wants me to follow her, but it would probably be an easy class."
Xander smiled. "With Professor Giles grading the papers? You'll actually have to do the research, but it's self-paced so you can do it on a weekend if you know what you're doing." He looked down at Malfoy. "I would recommend you for the battle class, no matter which side you end up on. You're a decent fighter, and we all accept the fact that there's going to be at least one person in there who'll the others will be fighting against."
"So I'm your token bad boy?" he smirked.
Xander grinned. "No, that's me. You get to be the junior one." He waved at Snape and walked out. Black grabbed him and pulled him into an empty classroom. "What?"
"You talked Malfoy into taking it?"
Xander frowned. "The kid's got talent, and he's got skill, but I don't think he's got the stomach to do what everyone says his daddy does," he explained quietly. He stepped closer. "He's a prick, but I feel something in him. He might not become what his daddy wants."
"No, he might want to stay out of it," Malfoy said from the doorway. He closed the door. "I heard." He looked at Black. "He's right. My father's stories sicken me. I don't think I could ever *kill* anyone. Harm them," he said with a small smirk, "but never torture physically."
Black stared down at the kid. "Your father will have you killed if you don't join him."
Xander laid a hand on Black's arm. "There's always a cost to any decision. Figuring out whether or not you're willing to pay it is the biggest part of the process." Black looked at him. "There's been plenty of times I regretted my decision to help Buffy, but I couldn't back out. The price for that has been kinda high, but I figured I was willing to pay it to feel safer." He looked at Malfoy. "You've got to decide which turn your path is heading down. Are you going to be your father's clone or are you going to be something else?"
"It's that simple?"
Black nodded. "For now. There're harder ones later on." He smiled grimly. "You could even decide that you like He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named's ideas, but aren't willing to participate. That'll make you a target, but not as big of one as it would if you became an Auror."
"It's up to you to decide where you draw the line of pain," Xander told him. "That'll decide your career options." He looked at Black. "Why don't you guys do a career fair thingy?"
"It's a muggle thing for seniors in high school. Businesses come in and talk to the students about what they do. They recruit and hire for after school, and get prospects if they need college graduates."
"Oh." Black shuddered. "That would not only be noisy, but chaotic. It would probably drive Dumbledore down into the dungeons to hide with Snape."
Malfoy smiled. "It's a good idea, especially for those who don't have a clue."
"Or a destiny," Xander agreed with a smile. "So, can we count you in? Without the smart-asses you usually bring with you?"
"You mean me and just me?" Both teachers nodded. "We'll see." Someone knocked on the door. "What?" he called imperiously.
"Quidditch practice," one of the beaters for the Slytherin team said as he poked his head in. He saw the two teachers and swallowed. "Is he in trouble?"
Black shook his head. "No, just talking to him about a class we'll be holding together."
"Warning him that if he took it, then he'd be taking it alone," Xander finished. "No followers, no kiss-asses, nothing like that."
The other boy choked. "Um, okay." He looked at Malfoy. "You coming?"
"In a moment." The door closed. He looked at the teachers. "You didn't say anything. Why?"
Xander chuckled. "Because I remember being your age and how important my rep was to everyone else." He patted the boy on the arm. "Decide by tomorrow. There're very few seats left." He and Black left him alone.
Malfoy scowled. He didn't like what they had said, but it was something to think about. He went to owl his father then headed for his last practice of the year. One more year of this and he would be free. His own man. Which was a slightly depressing, yet exhilarating thought.
Draco got back an answer the next morning.
//I received your message last night, and while it shocked me terribly, I do believe that it is a *useful* class to take if you so wish. I will not disagree with you on it, but I will be watching your behavior.//
A simple message for a complex decision. He looked up at the head table, frowning when he saw Professor Harris was missing. Not that he didn't occasionally miss breakfast, but Dumbledore was missing too. He stood up and walked up to where Professor Lupin was sitting. "Professor, is there still room open in your advanced class?" he asked quietly.
Lupin, who had been filled in last night by Black, nodded as he put down his fork. "There're two seats open for Slytherins. We figured you and that one who Ron works with would both be taking it." McGonagall looked at him in shock. "You're welcome to take it if you want."
Malfoy decided quickly and nodded. "Yes, please add my name. I know that Melissa would appreciate hearing that you wanted her, she's presently in a snit trying to decide." He looked at the empty chairs. "Was there a problem with the chicks?"
Lupin smiled. "No, the Headmaster thought he saw a crack this morning so he and Professor Harris are looking them over with Hagrid. We may have chicks by the end of the day." He picked back up his fork. "Was there anything else?"
Malfoy shook his head and walked back to his seat, settling back down to eat breakfast. One of the girls down a few seats stared at him. "What?" he snapped.
"You went and talked to *him*?"
Malfoy smiled coldly at her. "Yes, I did. I decided to take Professor Harris up on his challenge to do well in his advanced class." A few of the other Slytherins looked at him in shock. "It's a perfectly decent class. Learning how to duel better would only be to my advantage." He picked up his juice glass and took a sip. "Was there anything else?"
The girl swallowed. "Without your *friends*?"
Malfoy nodded. "That was the condition they set on it. There are only so many seats in the class for Slytherins so we have to individually prove ourselves. My father was not unpleased that I'm taking it." She went back to her breakfast.
Xander strode in, smiling around at everybody. "We have a chick!" he announced. The students all broke out in cheers. "Now we only have nine more to go!" That got a few laughs.
"What is it?" Willow called above the din.
"Boy, we think." He hopped up onto the stage to sit in his usual spot. "He's kinda slimy right now. Fawkes kicked me out."
"She just wanted her daddy," she soothed, patting his arm. "Any more cracks?"
"The books said it could take a few days for them all to hatch," Tara offered. Willow nodded in agreement.
Professor Snape walked up to them and took his seat. "What was it?" he asked as he picked some food out for himself.
"We think it's a boy. Nine more to go," Xander sighed. Snape looked at him. "It's kinda frustrating. I wanna know now."
Snape nodded. "Patience is something that someone your age has yet to acquire usually." He stared down Xander, making sure he knew it wasn't a taunt. He didn't want pranked again. The color changing candy hadn't been the worst, but he was still hearing about it in the halls. Xander grinned at him, showing that he wasn't pissed. "Is Dumbledore sitting up there with them?"
"And Hagrid. He's got this neat warming pad thing going on so Murphy can help take care of it too. Fawkes won't let him near the nest, but she'll let him take care of the new baby."
Snape barely smiled. "Fascinating." He took a bite of toast, looking down at his table. The students had all shifted away from Draco and were talking to each other, a very un-Slytherin thing to be doing - gossiping. "What happened?"
Lupin leaned closer. "Malfoy is taking the advanced class from us," he said quietly.
Snape nodded. "Most wise of him. It can only be a help to him." He looked at Xander. "Your doing?" Xander nodded. "I hadn't thought he did it on his own."
"He signed up to talk to me," Xander told him. Snape stared at him. "That's why I showed up. He didn't come to me."
Snape sighed. "Very well. Has he talked to his father?"
"He was clutching a letter when he asked permission to take it," Lupin told him. "I'm assuming his father knows."
"Good. That should cut down on some headaches." Snape nodded at the boy, who came over slowly. "Is this your wish?" he asked him.
Draco nodded. "Yes, sir. It can only help me."
Snape nodded. "Then I'll have your schedule done within an hour of leaving here. Come get it then." He finished his toast, clearly dismissing the student. Malfoy gathered his things and left the hall.
McGonagall looked over at them. "How many of yours are going to late registers, Professor Snape? We may need to make allowances if there's too many. Most of the advanced classes are nearly full."
He shook his head. "I gave my students a deadline of this afternoon. They should all manage it on time." He looked down at the Gryffindor table. "Yours?"
She smiled. "Only one or two I think. Though a few said that they needed to talk to you still." He nodded. "Later then?"
"I'll head down to my classroom after this." He looked over to where Xander was staring at them. "What?" he asked calmly.
"Just wondering what it would be like to actually take classes from you," he quipped, starting his breakfast.
"Difficult," Snape told him. "Very difficult and demanding. I am an exacting teacher."
"Cool. Thought so. You seem to have this whole 'dom' thing going." McGonagall snorted into her juice. "Sorry," he offered with a grin. "Oh, I gotta find a new broom so I'm leaving for a few hours this afternoon to go to the twins. My list is finished."
"Good," McGonagall told him, giving him a smile. "Say hello to the twins for me. I'm sure you'll have fun."
"Yup. Um, when do we get paid?"
She laughed. "It's upstairs in Dumbledore's safe. You only had to ask for it."
He shrugged. "I thought we got paid at the end of the year. Besides, I didn't really need it." He looked at Willow. "I shouldn't need anything from the reward money either."
She smiled. "Good. 'Cause it's going into the bank the next time we're near London."
Tara nodded. "We need to keep some of it for the summer."
He pouted at them. "But I'm traveling this summer. Dumbledore and those Ministry guys told me where some gryphons were so I'm going to go visit." Tara squealed and gave him a hug. "Thanks."
Willow smacked him on the arm. "Fine, leave us alone with Giles all summer."
"Hey, you could go back to Sunnydale," he reminded her. "Go check on the Hellmouth, go stake a vamp. Go shopping with Buffy if she goes back like she planned to." She giggled. "I'll catch up with you a week before school starts?"
"Deal," Willow said firmly. "We'll meet at the twins' store." She nodded at Tara, who nodded back.
Xander ate quickly, noticing that McGonagall was almost done. He followed her out of the Great Hall. "Can I get you to get me my paycheck?"
She patted him on the shoulder. "Only the Headmaster can do that. I'm sure he'll know that you need it." She headed for her classroom. "Go see if another has hatched yet."
He hurried up to the room where the phoenixes were staying, tapping gently on the door. "Is it safe?" he asked as he opened it. Fawkes shrieked at him so he quickly backed out again.
Dumbledore came out a minute later. "Sorry about that, she seems to be a bit peckish." His eyes twinkled. "I'll give you your pay later. I'll leave it on your bed?"
Xander nodded. "That's cool. I'm going to go broom shopping with George and Fred."
Dumbledore smiled at his obvious enthusiasm. "Remember to get something for long journeys. It's a few hours back to Stonehenge." He looked at the door. "We have a second crack, but no emergence yet."
Xander shrugged. "It'll happen when it does, as Professor Snape reminded me this morning."
Dumbledore laughed. "Indeed, it will. Did Harry sign up for your class?"
"And Ron and Hermione too. And Draco Malfoy."
"Hmm." Dumbledore smiled. "Good luck with the broom shopping. Will you be back tonight?" Xander nodded. "Then I look forward to seeing it." He headed back in, making sure that his phoenix didn't see Xander. She was really upset with him for whatever reason.
Xander headed down to his room, grabbing his cloak, then went down to work in his classroom on the final exams. A written one of all things.
Giles stopped Willow from leaving for her classroom, pulling her into a little nook in the hall behind the dias. "Willow, that's his reward money," he said quietly. She opened her mouth. "They gave it to him because it was his plan that captured that Pettigrew fellow. I ordered him to share it with you, not for you to keep it from him."
"But...but we helped," she protested.
"Yes, you did," he agreed with a smile, "and about a tenth of that was your reward for doing the truth spell, but it is *his* money, Willow, and you can't keep it from him." He patted her on the shoulder and walked away.
She pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. It wasn't fair, she had done just as much work, if not more, than Xander did during the battle. She shook herself and went back into the Great Hall, it was easier than wandering through the back hallways to get to her classroom. She decided not to tell Tara, it wasn't *that* important. Xander apparently didn't know and he hadn't complained about her keeping track of it yet. Yes, she would continue to keep track of it, she was better with money than Xander was. He wouldn't need it anyway, not with his summer plans.
Xander happily bounced into Quality Quidditch Supplies, following George to the racks. Both twins were in a very serious mood today, brooms were not to be joked about according to Fred. "Are these really expensive?" he asked quietly when he didn't see a price tag anywhere.
George looked at him. "All brooms are expensive, but necessary." He pointed at the one at eye level. "That's the basic model, good for daily traffic."
A female cleared their voice from behind them. "Getting him his first one?"
Xander grinned at her. "My second. My mentor crashed my first." He leaned closer to George. "He's making sure I'm getting something practical."
"Do you play Quidditch?" she asked, looking him over. "You have the body for it. Maybe a chaser?"
George shook his head, hopefully where Xander couldn't see it. "No, he doesn't."
"But I could learn," Xander put in. George groaned so he looked at him. "You don't think I could play?"
"No, I think you could, but I think it'd be wise to wait more than a year and a half after learning how to fly. You don't fly that often right now, Xander." Xander pouted at him. "Besides, you're kind of reckless," he said quietly. "You'd probably hit the dirt a few times, and as much as I enjoyed our talks in the infirmary after Christmas, I'd like not to do it again anytime soon."
Xander beamed at him. "Okay. But you'll have to teach me sometime."
"That's fine. Fred can do it," George told him.
Fred walked in and frowned at them. "I can do what?"
"Teach me how to play," Xander told him with a grin.
Fred gave him an appraising look. "If we could keep you focused on the game and not rolling around, you probably could play well enough." He pointed at the broom in the window. "When did that one come out?"
"Last week," she said happily. "A great broom, but not very fast. Good for family travel."
"I'm going to be traveling this summer and I'm a light user," Xander told her.
She pointed at the broom George had pointed out. "That's probably your best bet then." She measured him visually again. "But you're a bit big for that model." She frowned.
"Do you have any of the model two years ago?" George suggested. "They were sturdy enough for someone his size."
She shrugged. "I don't know. Let's go look." She led them to a small, dark corner. Tucked away was a rack of brooms and a tangle of them stuffed in a box. "These are all our used ones. I don't know exactly what's in there. The manager handles all that stuff."
Xander got down to look in the box first. He had a feeling. He went through some pretty scarce and bent brooms before finding one tucked back against the wall. No, that wasn't it. He handed it off to Fred, who was looking above him. He found the one he had been looking for, but it looked a little worse for the wear. He pulled it out and showed it off. "How about this one?"
George held it up to look at in better light, frowning when he saw how the tail stuck out. He looked at the brand-name, Nimbus, and his eyes widened. "Whoever did this should be shot," he said, passing it to Fred. He then took the broom Fred had been holding and looked it over, then tossed it back. "Not even suitable for flying anymore."
Fred looked at the broom, then shrugged and handed it back to Xander. "Try it?" he suggested.
The saleswoman nodded. "We have a special area in the back. Right this way." She took the broom to look at. "A Nimbus, in there?"
"A recent Nimbus in there," George corrected. "In really bad shape." He watched as Xander climbed onto it, frowning when it wouldn't start. "What's wrong?"
"It feels wrong," Xander told him. He climbed off and looked it over, then pulled something off the handle, handing it to the saleswoman. "Splinters," he explained, then tried it again. The broom went up and hovered, but it wouldn't go very far off the ground.
"That's partially this room," she said quickly. "Usually you can go about a foot higher."
Xander started to ease it down and the broom did something funny. As soon as he tilted it down, it moved up. He frowned and tried again, but he went higher. He tried to turn left and it went right. "Wow, it's a wonky one," he said happily.
"Xander, land," George called. He walked over and looked at the broom. "I think it's been enchanted."
"But I like it," Xander told him. "It fits my personality," he explained when everyone looked at him strangely.
"It does," Fred agreed with a smile. "But it's still dangerous."
Xander's smile turned a little naughty. "Only if you don't know that it does that."
George laughed. "Very true." He handed it back to the saleswoman. "Any idea if the spell can be taken off?"
She examined it carefully in the bright light, then shrugged. "I don't know. I can't even tell that there's a spell on it." She handed it back. "I'll give it to you at half the sticker price because of the defect."
Xander looked at the small sticker, going a little pale. "Brooms are *really* expensive," he complained.
George snickered but patted him on the back. "We can go look at the others if you like."
"But this one drew me to it," he complained.
Fred took the broom and looked it over. He took care of both their brooms when there was something seriously wrong with them. "The spell's not a spell. Someone did the original wrong." He looked at the sticker. "That's still outrageous for a used and wonky broom," he told the saleswoman. He looked at Xander. "You can get one a single generation used for that price."
Xander looked at George, who sighed and handed him the broom. "At least look for something more useable," he suggested, leading Xander back to the used section. They met another man there, but he was searching through the upper shelves.
The saleswoman smiled at them all. "The higher you go, the more pricey they are." Xander looked at her. "What?"
"Then the new ones must cost more than a house," he told her. She shrugged.
"It's all right," George said quietly. "Let's look." He pulled out a few more of the used brooms to look at, showing them to Xander. Finally, he found one that he liked. He handed it over with a smile. "The generation before Harry's," he told him. "A Firebolt."
Xander took it back to the room and got onto it, but it shuddered fiercely as it started to rise. "Um, I think not," he said as he landed. The broom spat. "How rude!"
George snickered and Fred turned so he couldn't be seen laughing. The saleswoman gave him a smile. "Well, you wanted used."
Xander handed that one back and went out to look for himself. He found one on the uppermost shelf and pulled it down, nearly braining Fred with the one next to it. He looked that one over, then gave it to the twins. They examined it in fine detail, then smiled and nodded in unison. He went back and tried it, not only getting up but getting up fast. He zoomed around the room for a few minutes, then landed, smiling at them. "I like this one."
"So, which one will it be?"
Xander climbed off and looked at the sticker. And winced. It was almost as much as his whole paycheck for the year. He looked at her and she shook her head. "You're sure you can't come down any?"
"You'd have to talk to the manager and he's out today."
The other man looked at the sticker on his and winced. "These are rather high."
She looked at his, having stickered it this morning. "That's not right." She took it into the back room and came out with the correct sticker. "Someone switched them." She took Xander's broom and went back to look at that sticker, coming back shaking her head. "That one's the right price, I'm sorry."
"How much?" George asked, nearly afraid to from the expression on Xander's face.
"One seventy," Xander told him.
"Ridiculous," Fred snorted. "For that?" He looked at her. She shrugged. "Where is the manager?"
"Somewhere else," she told him. "I don't keep track of him when he's not here."
"Is there anyway to call and check on the price?" George asked. "I didn't spend that much on my new broom."
She looked at him. "Where did you buy it?"
She smiled. "Really? That's good to hear." She looked at Xander. "I really can't mark it down any, sir."
"Professor," Xander corrected. She stared at him. "I teach at Hogwarts." She continued to stare at him.
"He does," Fred said tiredly. "Paranormal classifications."
"And the fighting class next year," Xander told him. George looked at him. "With the others," he sighed. "Not alone."
"Thank you," George said, looking up slightly. He couldn't see Xander teaching twenty kids how to fight without ending up getting hurt again. He was tired of Xander being hurt. He was much less fun when he was sore.
Xander snorted. "I'm a good teacher. I even helped that one Slytherin kid pass when he got desperate because his father was going to kill him. Possibly literally."
The saleswoman laughed. "What house were you sorted into?"
He shook his head. "I wasn't. Didn't go there myself." He looked her over. "You didn't notice the accent saying I was American?"
She rolled her eyes. "I was trying to ignore it." She pointed at the broom. "Please hurry up with your decision. We close in an hour." She walked back out into the main store.
"Guys?" Xander asked.
Fred shook his head. "You can find one at a better price."
George smiled. "You could even borrow Fred's if you're careful." Fred glared at him. "No?"
"No. If you want, he can borrow yours."
George frowned at him. "Xander's very careful."
"I saw him playing with Murphy last week," Fred told him. "He nearly scraped the ground twice." George winced. "That's not counting the time he nearly crashed into a pitch or the one where he lost control."
"I didn't lose control," Xander argued. "Murphy was starting to fly off so I did something to get his attention. Fawkes thought it was wonderful."
George shook his head. "He can't find another one before he leaves," he reminded his brother. "There's only three days left." He looked at Xander. "Why did you wait this long?"
"Because I thought we got paid at the end of the year."
"Willow," Xander said simply, that explained it all. Both twins nodded, then shook their heads. "How much was the wonky one again?"
"No, Xander," George told him. "I won't allow you to buy a damaged broom. No matter how fun it seems to you." He frowned at his friend. Xander sighed and nodded, slumping a little. So he walked over and hugged him, enjoying not getting pushed away. "We can't fix that spell, it has to be done at the company, and they're not nice about it usually."
"This sucks," Xander told them.
"Well, the sign did say 'under new management'," Fred reminded them. "Get it, your trip shouldn't cost that much."
George leaned over to whisper in his brother's ear. "That only leaves him ten galleons for the entire summer."
Fred shrugged. "It can't be helped." He looked at the dejected Xander. "We'll talk to Willow if you want," he offered. "Make her see reason."
Xander shook his head. "No, it won't help any." He walked out and put the broom on the counter. "Fine, I'll take it, but I want to protest this price," he said grimly. He paid her most of his yearly salary and took the broom outside. He looked down at the sticker, then glared back at her. She came running out, followed by George. "It changed," he told her, pointing at the sticker.
She shrugged. "I don't know why."
Fred glared at her, matched by George. "You fiddled with it," he accused. She backed away from them.
"Our father works in the Ministry," George told her. "He will be investigating."
"Here now, what's going on?" a deep voice said from behind them. He smiled at Xander, noticing his robes. "Professor?" he asked. Xander nodded. "Of what, sir?"
"Paranormal classifications and fighting," Xander told him. "Are you something like a cop?" The man nodded so he showed him the sticker on his broom. "That changed from one seventy as soon as I stepped outside."
The man took the broom back inside then stepped outside again. "You're right, it did." He glared at the saleswoman. "I'd fix it," he told her. "He's gryphon-born." He handed the broom back with a smile. "Please don't hurt her. The new owner of the place probably did it. I'm sure they'll be out of business soon enough." He clapped Xander on the back. "You know, son, if I had any way of proving what you did to the joke shop at Hogsmeade, you'd be in trouble right now."
"I didn't do anything," Xander told him with his best innocent look. "Why would I need to do something to the other joke shop?" The cop gave a pointed look at the twins and Xander shrugged. "It's not my fault if something of theirs started to bother them," he explained. "I didn't have anything to do with that."
"And I suppose you don't know anything about the supposed haunting either?" the cop asked amiably. Xander shook his head. "Hmm. Just watch yourself. Or you'll be in very deep trouble, Professor." He tipped his hat to the twins. "My boy loved what you did to that chocolate frog to make him turn green. Cheered all day about being green actually." He walked on as soon as the saleswoman came back out with part of Xander's money.
"Here," she said coldly. "Take it and go."
Xander look at her, then took his money. "I didn't say a thing," he told her calmly. "And I wasn't going to do more than report it. I can make plenty of people miserable just by making sure the law is upheld." He walked away, heading for the opening to the alley.
"Freak!" she yelled after him. Xander flipped her off.
George and Fred hurried to catch up to him, stopping him. "Why did the ministry official say that?" Fred asked.
Xander shrugged. "I don't know. I didn't have a thing to do with that haunting." George punched him on the arm. "Not a clue, guys. He was probably trying to warn her about trouble if she screwed me." He sighed. "It's happened a few times. Ignore it, I am." He put his broom over his shoulder. "Want to go back or did you guys need something?"
"Actually, I needed a book," Fred told him. "Wait here." He jogged back to Flourish and Blotts, going to get the book he had on order.
Xander leaned against the wall, looking at one of his best friends. "It doesn't make a difference, right?"
George punched him on the arm again. "We've known almost as long as you have and it hasn't yet. She's just a bigot, the same as every other one who doesn't like someone because of their heritage." He leaned a little against Xander's side. "Want to go for a fly when you get back?" he asked quietly. "Just a casual fly around?"
"Sure," Xander said, starting to look happier. He noticed someone coming toward them and nudged George. "Stand up," he whispered. The other man stood up and looked around, glaring at the man staring at them. "What?" Xander asked. "You try buying a broom from the crooked shop. I'm tired." The man hurried on.
Fred came back carrying a small wrapped parcel and watched the people stare at his brother and friend. It was time to go. Now he understood why some wizards and witches preferred not to come here unless it was necessary. Diagon used to be such a free place, but maybe it was because they had been children back then. He took Xander's other side, and his broom, and walked them to the public floo fireplaces. Back to the shop they went, which was being manned by Ginny for some reason. "Why are you here?" Fred asked when he got out.
"Mom said so," she said, pointing upstairs. "She's making your beds for you." She smiled at Xander and his new broom. "Is that it?"
Xander let her see it. "It is. Still really expensive." He was still frowning when Mrs. Weasley walked down the stairs. "Hi, mom," he said, waving, leaning against the counter.
She walked over and gave him a hug. "What happened?" she asked.
"Broom shopping and the new owners in Diagon are thieves," George told her. "Wanted a hundred-seventy galleons for that."
Mrs. Weasley took the broom to look over. She didn't know much about them, but she had learned some in the Quidditch-crazy household. "It looks fine."
"It's three years old, mum," Fred told her. She hissed.
George frowned even more. "Then we got outside and the sticker changed to a hundred."
"That's ridiculous," Ginny complained. "A broom that old can't be worth more than sixty."
"That's about what we expected to pay too," Fred told her, ruffling her hair. "When did you cut the mop?"
"Padma helped me. It's almost like Professor Maclay's," she said happily. "Do you think it's cute?" She fluffed it back out.
George tipped his head to the left and Fred to the right, then they shook their head. "Too short," they said together.
"You're nearly bald," George added.
"How do you expect to get a boyfriend that we can bug the crap out of with hair that short?" Fred told her.
Xander chuckled. "I think it's very cute. But you'd look better if the ends curled a little bit." He smiled at his friends. "Short hair is in according to the fashion magazines. Even the one Willow had for witches said so."
"What were you doing reading fashion magazines?" Ginny asked him, looking stunned. He was that cool?
He noogied her. "I was looking for a present for Willow's birthday. It had all the ads she had 'ooh'ed over for the last few weeks."
"What did you get her?"
"Nothing yet," Xander told her. He looked at Mrs. Weasley. "Can I borrow her when I have to buy it?"
"Of course," she said tolerantly. No one would be hurting her daughter with him around. She smiled at him. "Did you hear? They suspect you did something in retaliation for the horrible things that happened to the boys."
"Mum, he denied it when one of the Ministry officials asked him," George told her. "He especially denied the haunting."
Mr. Weasley walked down the stairs. "That's good to know," he said with fond affection. "I'd hate to have to turn him in." He patted Xander on the back. "Subtly, my boy, subtly," he told him quietly. He walked over to his wife and kissed her on the cheek. "When are you leaving, Xander?"
"Three days," Ginny told him. "The same day we travel back."
George laughed. "Tired of school already?"
She looked at him and nodded. "Yup, it's summer, time to play." Both twins cracked up at that pronouncement.
Xander leaned on the counter and enjoyed the light-hearted banter.
Xander flew up to the inn marked on his map and landed behind it, he had noticed a few cars in the front. He walked in and smiled at the woman standing behind the small desk. "How much for a week?" he asked.
She frowned at him, and his broom. "Are you here to bother those grumpy critters?" she asked in a Southern American accent.
He chuckled. "Grumpy critters? I've never heard them called that before. That's cute." He put his knapsack on the desk. "I guess I am. I was told I could come up here and bother them until they made me go away."
She snorted. "Three galleon, five sickles a week," she told him.
He counted out two week's worth, noticing how little was left after he had bought food for the trip. But he handed it over. "Just two until I can owl home."
She nodded and signed him in, letting him sign the register. She frowned at the name, then at him. "Weren't you the one in the Daily Prophet? Said you wrecked that one store?"
Xander shrugged. "I don't read it. I know I'm *accused* of something, but I didn't do anything. Do you have a copy of the paper with that article?" She nodded and handed it over, letting him read it. "Huh. Gonna have to straighten that out."
"You should write them," she suggested, handing him a key. "Upstairs. All the way on this end. Looks out on the ruins." She smiled at him. "I'll bring up dinner later."
"Is it extra?" She nodded. "Then don't worry about it, I brought food." He took his broom and his bag up to his room, settling in to think. Someone had accused him of destroying the twins' store? How stupid were they. He unpacked as much as he dared and walked back down to use the owls he had seen off to the side. Hopefully the girls weren't gone yet. He missed Murphy, but he was stuck helping with the chicks. Fawkes wouldn't let him out of her sight until they could fly. While he was down there, he decided to send a note to the twins, seeing if he had actually done something to the store. He hadn't thought he had, but....
Xander walked up to the portal and smiled at the kid standing there. He couldn't be sure if the kid was a guardian or a tourist. "Hey," he said, being nice.
"Dude, you are so far from home," the kid said.
Xander frowned. "I didn't know there were Valley surfers in England."
The kid laughed. "We didn't think you'd want to hear more British," he told him, changing to a more local accent. He looked Xander over, obviously staring at his stomach and nether regions. Then back at his face. "Just because you're born part of us doesn't mean you get an audience."
Xander smiled. "No, but I can prove I'm good enough to." He took out his wand and charmed the kid, making his illusion drop for a few minutes. The Minister that had given him the map had left instructions to do this if he ran into a guardian. It would prove what he was and how strong he was.
"Yeah, okay, that was nice," the kid said, looking around. "But kinda risky."
Xander frowned at him. "I got told that the portal covered everything," he argued.
"Oh, let him through already," a cranky voice said from inside the portal. The portal was between the columns of a pair of uprights but you couldn't see anything other than the landscape. Suddenly it changed, showing him a dark cave. "Get in here, boy."
Xander stepped in and felt his wand be removed. "Hey, that's mine," he told him.
"We're just looking." The gryphon that had taken it, which was nearly behind him on his left, passed it off to the next one, who was in front of Xander. "Phoenix, very nice."
"My own phoenix," Xander told him, trying to stay calm. The book had underestimated these guy's height by quite a lot. The one in front of him looked to be nearly ten feet tall. Then he felt the tingle of magic go across him. "Don't," he warned. The gryphons all laughed, all three of them. "Hey, I didn't come here to be messed with, just to learn something." He crossed his arms. "I didn't come to interrupt your cozy lifestyle, or even to inconvenience you, but I'd like to know what I'm supposed to do about this horrible urge to get back at the people who said I destroyed my best friends' joke shop."
The gryphons leaned close to each other and Xander's wand was handed back to him. "Leave," the one in front of him said.
Xander shrugged. "Okay, your loss." He turned, but the portal was closed. He turned to look at them again. "Wanna fix that?"
"Why don't you?" the third gryphon, this one a female, suggested snidely.
"Gee, how about because I've known about this magic shit for just about a year and a half and I'm not that great at it yet?" he replied in the same tone of voice. He didn't know why, but they were pissing him off. He could feel the energy building inside him, just aching to get out and cause trouble for them. "All I know is that I came to Hogwarts, found out what I was, and then things started to happen when I didn't want them to." He threw up his hands in frustration. "I don't know what to do with this and I have not a *clue* how I supposedly destroyed their store." He tried to keep it in, he really did, but the energy started to leak out around him, changing things. First, it was a few feathers. Then the ceiling turned fushia. The gryphons looked at him, wondering what else was going to happen. It was a deep pond. The wall behind him seemed to melt, but the portal still didn't open. Xander fell to his knees, trying to control the explosion he could feel coming, but there wasn't any use. It came out as a very bright light and suddenly the gryphons were squawking in disbelief. Their coats had changed some hideous colors. Xander panted and looked up at them, and then it happened. He laughed. He found himself outside, staring at the little kid, his wand lying beside him on the dirt. "Sorry," he told it. "I couldn't control it. I told you I needed help."
The boy grimaced. "Come back tomorrow and we'll talk with you then, once you're reasonable."
Xander shrugged. "I'm always this way. That's why I'm up here." He stood up and grabbed his wand, tucking it away before walking off. The inn had a good shower and he felt nasty right then. There was a note waiting for him, telling him that everything was fine at the shop and it was just a misunderstanding. He smiled as he stripped off and went to bathe. That was good to know.
George looked around the mess they had yet to get to. "It was a magical frustration bomb, correct?" he asked his father, who had realized what was going on. He had tried to calm Xander down, but he was still so uncontrolled.
"Yes, son, that's exactly what this was." He swept some broken glass toward the large pile near the trashcan. "I'm sure he'll be more controlled when he comes back. That's why we sent him up there." He gave him a reassuring smile. Frankly, Xander scared him sometimes. There was a reason why the gryphon-born were feared, it's because they did this sort of thing when they weren't trained. That's why so many of them never made it past the age of five. "He'll be fine."
Fred walked down the stairs, the bandage on his face puffy over the stitches he had needed. "I want to know how the Daily Prophet found out," he said grimly.
Ron walked in with a few boxes, putting them on a clean chair. About the only thing that escaped the magical bombing. "Your next shipments are here," he said happily. He looked around at the mess. "Much nicer."
George picked up a piece of wood and tossed it at his younger brother. "Did you tell anyone?" Ron shook his head. "Then who did?"
"Fudge," their father said quietly. All three boys glared at him. "I saw him in town the night before. He's always been against Xander teaching," he reminded them. Minister Fudge had tried to get Xander thrown out of Hogwarts on more than one occasion, but everyone had kept it very quiet. They weren't sure how strong Xander was, and if the store was any indication it might have killed him without Xander being anywhere near him. His wife had told George already, and sworn him to secrecy, because she worried about the relationship he was in. It took a lot to calm her down, most notably it was the knowledge that Xander would never knowingly harm someone he considered family, so they were all safe. Or at least they would be once that boy learned some control. He briefly wondered how the Hellmouth had changed Xander's powers and if that was why he was so strong, but it wasn't something he liked to dwell on. He had spent a week examining the Hellmouth after everyone had left, making sure it was closed and the like. He never wanted to touch something that evil again. If it had warped Xander he would try and help the boy, even though he didn't want him anywhere near his home. He looked at George, who had turned and punched a wall. "He'll get his," he reminded them.
Fred snorted. "Yeah, we'll just tell Xander."
"No!" Arthur Weasley said quickly. "No, you mustn't. Think about what that will do to the boy."
Fred looked at his father, then grimaced. "You're scared of him," he accused. "Xander's very nice and not at all like this usually."
"Yeah, this was frustration at the idiots who took over the Quidditch shop," Ron added. "He'd never hurt us." He looked at his brother George. "If you like him, then I'm all for it. He's a great teacher. Suggested I think about working for a broom-maker."
George smiled. "That would be wicked cool," he agreed. "You're good enough to test and you know what a real player needs."
Fred clapped him on the back, putting a time delayed exploding dot on his back. "We've got Nimbus' address in the back somewhere if you wanted it," he offered. "They wrote us about doing a retirement party for them next month." He looked around and then at his partner. "Are we up for it?"
"I already said yes," George said with a shrug. "We'll just have to make a lot of party favors over the next few days." He grabbed his broom, the sweeping one, and started on the floor again. "Maybe a carpet," he suggested, tired of this cleaning.
Fred looked down. "I like the wood." He noticed all the scratches, then nodded. "Carpet's great until we can afford to refinish it."
Ron grinned at them. "I can help if you want."
"Ron, you're coming home for part of the summer," his father told him.
Ron snorted. "No, I'm not. They said I could come help them this summer, get a feel for working and the like." He crossed arms and glared at his father. "I'm not going to get into trouble. Even Harry's coming here after camp."
"He got in?" Fred asked excitedly. Ron nodded, smiling again. "Wonderful."
"It is," Arthur reminded them. "They only take ten players a camp. There's three seekers this time from what I heard." He finished moving his pile. "Boys, I *like* Xander, but I do admit to being a bit uneasy around him," he admitted, not looking directly at them. "I'd like him a lot more if he had more control. Your mother nearly fainted when the explosion went off." He looked at his sons. "I'm all for whatever you're building with him, but I do wish you would wait until he was more controlled and even-tempered."
"He's not dangerous, father," George said firmly. He tossed aside his broom and headed for the workroom, which hadn't been touched at all. He laughed suddenly. "It wasn't what we thought," he called. Fred carefully walked that way, stopping when he saw the piles of things neatly stacked on the table. "He's a closet neat-freak," he said happily.
His father smiled. At least it hadn't destroyed everything. Now if only he could do something about the Daily Prophet before Xander did something to them. Or Minister Fudge before he got hurt.
Ron's shirt exploded, making everyone laugh, and the mood in the damaged shop eased back into one of fun and merriment.
Xander looked up as an owl joined him up in the forest, holding out a hand for the letter it carried. Inside there were a few coins and a long, stern letter from Willow about learning to live inside a budget. He grimaced, but he'd write her some other day. He let the owl go, after paying it with the knut he was carrying around in case it showed up, and went back to the inn to pay for another two weeks. It was all she had sent him.
Draco Malfoy looked across the dining room table at his father. His father was studying him intensely. "Did I do something wrong?" he asked, looking down at the piece of roll he was buttering.
"No, just thinking about your future, boy." He looked over his son again, seeming to be calm. "Are you excited about this class?"
"Learning how to duel in a fight will probably help me greatly," Draco reminded him. "Professor Harris is going to make sure that the class is as realistic as he can make it, he's like that." He put the roll into his mouth before he could say anything else. He respected Harris. The man had lived through some incredible things and stayed sane. He might not like the man much, his temperament was a bit loud, but he did respect the man. It was odd, he respected him, but he didn't fear him, not really. That was something he wasn't used to. Most of the people he respected he also feared, people like his father.
His mother glanced at him. "I hope that he's being careful with you students. I hear he's extreme in his methods. Almost hurt some people last year from what we heard."
Draco shook his head. "No, he threatened to because some of the students were right gits, but he didn't harm any of us. Made a few people piss themselves."
"Draco," his father said warningly.
"Sorry, but the practical exercises were very strenuous and taxing. A few of the Ravenclaws passed out, as did one of the Slytherin females. Professor Harris likes to keep everything very real and he proved to us that it's not a pleasant job fighting certain creatures." He picked up his fork and stabbed a piece of steak. "Between the four professors in his track, and the other two in the normal Defense classes, we're not being babied or coddled." He stuffed his mouth again.
His father nodded, but continued to watch him. Draco would have to prove himself soon, and he wasn't sure his son wouldn't be leaving the family the hard way. Draco seemed...softer somehow.
It was his last day there and Xander was feeling kind of upset. He didn't want to leave, he knew he had a lot more to learn from these magnificent, if grouchy, beasts. He was carrying his pack and his broom, but set them aside as soon as he stepped through the portal.
"What's that?" the female asked him, pointing a wing at the bag. "Leaving?"
"I can't afford to stay," he said with a shrug. "My salary only went so far and my broom was so expensive that it upset me."
The gryphons glared at him. "Why didn't you tell us that?"
Xander glared back. "Because I was taught not to inconvenience anyone whom I'm visiting," he retorted. "I wasn't about to come in here the first day and beg for shelter and food." He calmed himself down, like they had shown him. "So I've got to go today."
"You're staying," the gryphon on the left told him, sounding very firm. "We have the space," he said before Xander could open his mouth.
"Besides," the female put in, "we could use the company and you could use the intense training." She leaned down and sniffed at him. "That smells bad," she told him.
"I ran into a stink bug outside," he explained. "It hit me and exploded in grossness." He wiped at his shirt again. "I'll wash it tonight."
She snorted. "You'll wash it now, young man. Don't make me spank you." One of his eyebrows raised.
"Oh, for heaven's sake, don't you know how to do that either?" the gryphon in the middle asked in frustration when the boy looked clueless.
"Um, no. As proven, I can open locks, do illusions, and get really upset, but no one's taught me anything else."
"Then we will rectify that," the gryphon on the left said sternly. "Though I agree, take off that shirt. We're not afraid of bare chests around here until you learn how to clean things." The portal snapped shut, snapping a twig off the end of Xander's broom. "We'll teach you how to fix that also," he said with as much of a smirk as a beak would allow him.
Harry bounded into the joke shop, looking around at the new paint. "Did someone do it again?" he asked loudly, sounding pissed.
George looked over at him, putting down his book. Damn Xander for hooking him on this Tolkien muggle. "How did camp go?"
Harry smiled. "I got told I need some intense training, but that I'm very good." He walked over and hopped up onto a counter, which George shoved him off of. He was pointed at another one, one that wasn't glass. So he hopped up there instead. "They had us doing a 'catch the snitch in this amount of time' exercise to see if we could work under pressure. I officially got five out of six, but I caught it the sixth time as time was called. The coach was really very nice, he even told my Uncle Vernon that I had quite a lot of potential if I could do some intense training." George raised an eyebrow. "Remus *suggested* that the polite thing would be to tell them that I was in London for a spell and invite them to lunch or something. The git took the polite notice that I was in town and showed up to bother me. Said all sorts of nasty things to coach, which made him compliment me even more." He smiled as Fred walked out of the back. "I might have a spot next year," he said happily. "I'll have to go through camp again, but they said I'm looking very good."
"Congratulations," Fred told him. "Don't touch me, I'm covered in spider floss." George looked at him. "Those canisters explode too easily."
"Then I'll adjust the pressure," George agreed. He gave Fred a look and glanced at Harry, but Fred shook his head. "I'll go do that then. You go clean up."
"C'mon," Fred told him. "Ron's upstairs working on the homework he forgot about until last night." He led the way up, kicking on his brother's door. "Harry's here," he yelled as he headed for the bathroom.
Ron opened the door and pulled Harry inside, telling him everything. They would have to help Professor Harris if he needed it. No matter what his father had said.
Xander walked onto the main street of Hogsmeade and smiled at the hominess the place exuded. It was good to be home and out of that cave. He waved at Ginny when he saw her, smiling when she waved back and started for him. In front of him, a door opened and two familiar people walked out onto the street from the robe shop.
"Dear Heavens, they let them walk around unattended," the elder Malfoy said snidely, just loud enough to be heard. He caught sight of the Weasley women and gasped like he was shocked. "You know, they make spells to clear up such horrible problems on a face," he said. "Maybe an invisibility spell would be enough. Really, to allow such things out in public."
"Malfoy," he said, stopping to look at the younger one. "Did you get the owl with your summer instructions?" he asked, ignoring the father. It would only be painful for the other man if he didn't and he had promised the gryphons he would try and control his temper. Losing it within minutes would not look good.
"Why would you be sending him an owl?" the older one asked coldly.
"Because he's teaching my fighting class, father," Draco reminded quietly. He looked at Xander and nodded. "I did. I can make the lifting requirements easily and I've already got the clothes you suggested."
"Well, I suppose that makes *sense*, him teaching a fighting class," the elder said. "*His* kind are violent."
Xander smiled. "Good." He looked at the father and his smile fell away. "Did you want to say something to me about what a distant relative did?" he asked coldly.
"Xander, please," Mrs. Weasley told him, trying to get him to calm down. He was going to destroy the town over that vicious man. Maybe it would destroy Malfoy too, but it wasn't worth it.
Malfoy senior laughed. "Boy, I'm stronger than you. You should never pick on someone stronger than you."
Xander snickered. "Are you really? And you can brace yourself against different forms of magic too, I bet." He pulled his wand quickly, so quickly that the elder Malfoy didn't get his out at all. He pointed it at the hooked nose and said four simple words. "Verbeeld hom, dink, leef (In Afrikaans: Imagine, Think, Be (alive)). Then he cackled and grabbed Ginny to swing around. He grinned at Mrs. Weasley. "I have control now," he told her smugly. "They were really great." He held up a bracelet, which made her smile. "They even gave me this, to drain some of it."
Malfoy senior sneered at him. "You didn't do anything with those strange words, boy."
"You wait, we'll see," Xander said smugly. He picked up his two bags and let Ginny get his broom. "Malfoy Junior, class the first day, come prepared to sweat." He nodded at them and left, going to the shop.
"Xander, really," Mrs. Weasley hissed. "You can't do such things."
He leaned closer to her. "Relax. What I did was...." He whispered it in her ear, making her cackle. "And yeah, this drains the extra energy." They walked into the shop and he stopped to frown. Then he walked into the back and slammed the lab door. "So, I *didn't* break anything?" he asked sweetly.
George shrugged. "We didn't want you to worry." Xander opened his mouth so he took the direct approach and pulled him closer, shutting him up the old-fashioned way.
"I'm jealous," Fred noted dryly, continuing to tinker with a small thing in his hand. "Are you fixed?" Xander held out his bracelet, but was unable to break the kiss. Fred touched it, then nodded. "It's a drain."
George pulled back, panting hard. "Really?"
Xander frowned at him and nodded. "Really. It's to siphon off the extra energy. They said the Hellmouth warped my energy somehow sideways and it made me want to get even with people. Even more so than normal." He smirked. "I just ran into the Malfoys." He looked at Fred, then at George. "You know, I heard some very interesting things, including something about a certain pompous asshole wanting to see me burned at the stake."
Fred nodded. "Yup. Fudge is an asshole." He looked at his brother. "Did you hear anything about a burning stake?"
George nodded. "In one version of the rant, yeah." He looked up at Xander. "Don't worry about it, Dumbledore sicced Murphy on him. Oh, the chicks are fine." He smiled. "Aren't you going to protest?"
"Yup, but I can do that in private." He shrugged and nodded at the door. "Ginny and your mom are here."
"Cool." The twins put down their new toys and went out to talk with their mother and sister.
Xander looked at Ginny and smiled. "I promise, if I'm still here when you're a seventh year, I'm going to get you into the advanced class, just so you can beat up George." She giggled.
"Xander," Mrs. Weasley said, but she was smiling too. "Boys, did you hear? He found a lot of control this summer."
"And a siphon," Xander told her. He looked out the window at the Malfoys, one of which was staring at the nose of the other. He burst out laughing, making everyone else look at them too.
George leaned closer to his sister. "What did he do?" His mother whispered it in his ear, making him fall to the ground laughing, rolling around and clutching his sides.
"Oh, tell," Fred complained. Xander leaned over and told him. Fred soon joined his brother.
"Hermione?" Xander yelled. "I brought you books to help me learn!" Footsteps came running from above them and soon she was down there, staring oddly at the twins. "The second bag," he told her with a grin. "I've got all year to learn them all. You get to help," he said proudly.
She laughed and tugged on the bags, finding the one with books easily. She saw a unraveled piece of yarn in the other and opened it, glaring at him. "You broke the sweater?"
"No, the person trying to kill Fredericka tore the sweater. I tried to fix it," he said, looking at Mrs. Weasley, giving her his version of Murphy's starving and kicked kitten look. She patted him on the arm. "I'll fix it once I find the spell. It's in the burgundy leather book somewhere."
She smiled at him. "It's not important. As long as you're all right." She watched in confusion as he pulled off his shirt and turned around, and what she saw made her gasp. "Xander, that's a horrible scar! It must have been deep!"
He looked back at her. "It was much worse last week," he told her. "It's healed now. But that's why the sweater got a little shredded. We were flying and they jumped us." He smiled as Mr. Weasley walked in, showing him the scar too. "Not nice people," he explained. "I really didn't like the whole waking up in the hay cart and them telling me 'Dumbledore had told them to tie me up' thing, but they're regretting it. Did you know that the Ministry had a Dangerous Magical Creatures unit that sticks up for guys like me?"
Mr. Weasley gave the boy a hug, after he noticed the bracelet. "Does it have a charm?"
Xander nodded as he put back on his shirt. "It can only be taken off by someone who doesn't know what it does." He fingered the loose weave of red stones and silver. "It drains some of the more dangerous impulses that I get. Apparently the Hellmouth turned my usual tendencies sideways and I get mean." He smiled. "So, were you the one who slapped Fudge? Cause I wanna hug the man who did."
Arthur blushed. "Yes, I did. He had no right to say such things about you."
Xander leaned closer. "Let him. He'll get his," he said quietly. "Fredericka was not pleased. She's planning a little...visit of her own to the Ministry next week sometime. Just to tour and stuff. She's their ambassador after all." He looked down at the twins. "By the way, the broom sucks. It shed a third of the twigs on the ride back."
Fred nodded. "That's a hazard of a used broom." He stood up, helping his brother off the floor too. "Dad, did you see the elder Malfoy?" He nodded, starting to frown. "What was on his nose?"
"Just a bump." His wife snorted. "Xander," he sighed. "You really can't piss him off."
"Holy Merlin, there's a spell in here to halve things." Hermione looked up. "Like to take an apple and make it two without disturbing the elemental structure." She looked at Xander. "Do you think I could study them too?"
Xander walked over and took the book, closing it. "I was told I was allowed to have only people that I trusted absolutely help me learn those spells, Hermione. They can't get out into the regular wizardly population. The last time one did, it was used to close the portal to the gryphon colony, which almost killed them all." She nodded, biting her lip. "If you can promise that they're not getting away from you, without you *dying* to try and save them, then you can learn them for your own use."
She smiled and nodded. "I'll consider that tonight. Are the books charmed to erase my memory?" He nodded, grinning at her. "And they'll come get me if I let one slip?"
"No, they're going to make me come get you if you let one slip," he told her. She frowned, nearly pouting. "That was the deal for me continuing to learn gryphon magic." He looked out the window as the younger Malfoy ran past. "Gee, wonder what happened to him," he mused. He noticed the young man laughing hysterically against a pretty blonde woman. "Is that his mom?"
Hermione looked out then nodded. "Narcissa Malfoy." She looked up at him. "Is there anything really useful in there?"
"Gryphons were nothing if not creative, mischievous, and practical. There's a spell in here to build a house." She snickered. "There's also a spell in there to decreate something. It has seven pages of warnings in front of it, and a possible backlash that could very well destroy the building you're standing in." She nodded, looking rapt. "The only way I'm letting you anywhere near that spell is if Voldemort himself is standing on the doorstep of Hogwarts and we're all going to die." She nodded, smiling at him.
Malfoy junior walked into the store and slammed the door, then burst out laughing again. "Penis," he gasped.
Everyone laughed with him, some of them rolling on the floor again.
Ron came down the stairs and saw the people laughing, then looked at Xander. "Yours?" he asked smugly.
"My original spell. This is the fallout from the hilarity. It'll take at least another hour to finish growing."
"He put a small version of whatever Draco's father was thinking on his nose," Ginny gasped. "Penis."
"Ginny!" her father shouted. He looked at Xander, then started laughing . "A large one?"
Malfoy held his fingers about three inches apart. "And growing." He caught his breath and turned to look at Xander. "My mother would like to talk to you," he said formally, still smiling.
"As soon as you have control of yourself," he agreed. The kid was seventeen after all, things like a penis on the nose were supposed to make him break down, even if he was who he was. He followed his student out onto the street and to his mother, who was not looking pleased. But maybe that was her usual look. "I'm sorry if it bothers you," he told her. "But it will go away just as soon as he apologizes to Ginny Weasley for the mean comments he said about her."
She glared up at him. "I don't think it's any of your business, boy."
Xander leaned down. "That's Professor Harris, Mrs. Malfoy, and it is my business. The Weasleys are my adopted family and I'd hate to see anything happen to them." He stood back up and looked at the son. "Tell him I said an honest apology or it could become permanent. It's written into the spell." He smiled and walked away whistling. Just before he could step in the door, he was accosted by his bird. "Murphy?" he asked happily, cuddling his bird close. "How are you, big guy? And the chicks?" Murphy trilled up at him, singing happily. "Yes, we'll go up there very soon and see them." He walked into the store, smiling at Professor Dumbledore. "It'll take an *honest* apology to fix it," he told him, nearly smirking. "No one calls anyone as pretty as Ginny ugly and gets away with it."
Dumbledore laughed. "Good job, my boy." He scratched Murphy's head. "He's missed you terribly this summer. I'm glad to see you back." He picked up the wrist with the bracelet and looked it over. "The usual charm?"
"Yes, and I'd appreciate it not going around the school," Xander said seriously. Dumbledore looked at him, turning serious. "What if something happens? My skills still aren't understood by most wizards and they can't guard against what they don't understand."
Dumbledore nodded. "I can see the sense. I'll keep some people out of the loop in that case." He smiled at him. "I can't let you run loose though, Xander. You know that." He looked out the window as Narcissa and Draco walked past. "Especially not after that show."
"He said I should use an invisibility spell to cover my hideousness," Ginny said indignantly. "I am not hideous."
"No, you're not," her father agreed. "But you can't act against the Malfoys or they'll come after you," he said reasonably.
Xander cleared his throat and checked the door. "There might be a problem with that scenario."
Dumbledore nodded. "Draco's not as bloodthirsty as his father, Arthur. He won't last as a death eater and he knows it." He looked at Xander. "Coupled with this humiliation, we might not hear from Lucius all year." He clapped his hands. "Are you coming up tonight?"
Xander nodded. "Yup. Gotta see the chicks." Murphy warbled. "See?"
Dumbledore smiled. "Of course. Fawkes has quite calmed down recently. She didn't even snarl at a picture of you yesterday." He tipped his hat. "Boys, about that request, please make it fun." He smiled and left them alone.
"Xander," Arthur said.
"Mr. Weasley, trust me here. They won't be coming after Ginny. Or the boys. Or even you two. 'Cause if they do, Malfoy senior knows that I'm going to retaliate. I doubt he wants bitten on the ass twice."
"Language," Mrs. Weasley said primly.
He smiled. "I'm an adult, I can swear," he assured her. "Besides, it's an americanism." He winked at George. "Want to fly me up to the school so I can yell at you in private?"
George grinned and went to grab his broom. "Be back in a few," he called as he followed Xander out the door. Murphy went up into the sky and Xander put on his bags. "You really minded?"
Xander looked at him. "George, I'm not sure I'm ready for anything like that," he told him, wincing when he saw the hurt look. "Hey, I had girlfriends up until I got here," he reminded him lightly. "Now everything's different. No more normal guy, no more women, a big huge song bird who likes to chew on my hair." Murphy squawked at him. "Yeah, you, hair eater. I caught you last time." Murphy flew off singing. "So yeah, this is really odd." He touched his friend on the hand as they took off. "But I kinda like odd, I'm just not used to it."
George shrugged. "Fine. I'll be more subtle in the future."
"Well, not going for my fillings would be nice," Xander said with a naughty grin. "But a kiss now and then to get me used to them wouldn't be so bad." George smiled at him. "And I could probably still use a hug every now and then because Willow's not giving me them anymore." He shrugged off the unhappy thought. George floated closer and gave him a hug. "Thanks," he told him, then he moved away because they were heading for a tree. "Gotta watch that stuff, this broom steers like a tank." He swooped down onto the quidditch field. "So, when are you two gonna teach me this?"
"Next summer," George told him with a smile. "When you have time to learn." He followed Xander to the door of the school and they both landed. "You're sure?"
"Yup, Fredericka yelled at me for two weeks about you," Xander admitted with a grin. "She told me that the only thing that I really needed was a good mate and children, but that could come separately." He smiled at the shocked look. "They're real blunt. They invited you up by the way."
"Really?" Professor Snape said as he opened the door. "I take it your trip went well?"
"Yup." Xander leaned closer to George and kissed him gently. "I like this sorta stuff," he said against his lips. "Slow, even, gentle. It makes up for the bad women who wanted it fast and hard." He climbed off his broom and smiled. "Two days?"
"Sure," George said, slightly stunned. He flew off, thinking about what he had learned. He and Professor Rosenberg were going to have a discussion first and then he was going to be doing some research through Hermione. He landed in front of the shop and saw Willow coming down the street. "You missed him," he called, then he grabbed her and took off again to go have a private conversation, something he couldn't do around his family.
Tara walked into the joke shop and smiled. "George is acting strange," she told them with a happy look. "He just kidnaped Willow."
Fred snorted. "Probably wanted to talk to her about Xander." He waved her in. "Come in, see the new stuff." She took his arm and toured the new contents. She liked jokes, just not enough to be mean with them.
Arthur looked at Molly, who swatted his arm. "Behave. He's a good boy," she told him. "He could have been eaten but he did it for George." She walked over to talk to Hermione and Ron, who were looking at a potion's book that had been on the counter. "What's that?" she asked.
"Mine, mum," Fred called before anyone could get into trouble. The potions in the book were a bit...extreme and he doubted she would appreciate his younger siblings reading it.
Xander tapped on the potion's classroom door. "Snape?" he called. The other teacher walked out of the back room. "Got something to talk to you about." He closed the door and locked it then headed back into the office with the two books he held. He sat down on the motioned-to chair, giving the older man a tight smile. "You know what gryphon magic consists of, right?"
Severus Snape sat down in his usual chair. "Mostly chaos energy harnessed to your wills."
Xander sighed in relief. "Cool." He held out the books. "These are my potions books." The other man looked shocked but took them to look over the outsides. "I'm allowed to show them to only a few people, and only those who can swear on their *lives* that none of the spells will make it into the mainstream." Snape looked at him. "Seriously, they've been used against us before; we're kinda not immune to the affects of our own magic." Snape nodded for him to go on. "If you can *promise* me that they're not going to get out of your hands, and that no one will see them ever, even after you die, then I'm allowed to let you look at them." He looked down at his hands. "And I'd kinda like you to look at the healing potions anyway, because I'm nothing if not damagable." He looked back up.
Snape cleared his throat and put the books on his desk. "It's strange that you would come to me with this."
Xander grinned. "Actually, it makes a lot of sense. Dumbledore trusts you implicitly. Madam Pomfrey has you mix all the potions that she has stored. Besides, I know that you know the dangers of heavy magic getting into the mainstream. If you think about it, you know better than anybody how to protect some of these books."
Snape smiled slightly. "And the curse on the books?"
"To erase your memory if you don't copy whatever spell down if you're not one of us. But by copying it down, you have to swear that you'll destroy it and all your memories of it before it can be taken from you." He sighed. "Or else I've been told I have to kill you if it gets out."
Snape leaned back, looking calm, but feeling a little uncomfortable. Yes, he knew the danger of such 'heavy' magic getting out, just thinking about what Voldemort would do if he got hold of any of it made his sick. "Just the healing potions?"
Xander grimaced. "Fredericka said that there's some really useful potions in there, but it can't get out into the general public. So, unless you can find a way to hide it and all, or can get around that problem, then probably yeah."
Snape nodded. "I'll accept that challenge." He pointed at the boy's bracelet. "I know what that is."
"Crap. Dumbledore said you were going to be one of the ones he didn't tell." Xander fiddled with the slim silver band. Snape had raised an eyebrow so he elaborated. "It can only be taken off by someone who doesn't know what it is."
"Ah." Snape patted the books. "I will lock them away for you. Are you going to attempt to learn from them?"
Xander shook his head quickly. "Potions? Maybe, but I suck at measuring anything." He stood up. "You should see me trying to cook. I know I probably should, but I've got some bigger priorities first while we're both still here." He grinned. "As long as they're safe. Hermione is the only other person who has access to them, but I was going to tell Ron about one of them." Snape nodded. "Thanks, man. And please, healing potion, just in case? Oh," he snapped his fingers. "Fredericka said that all potions, unless otherwise noted, were made for full gryphon strength, or first generation halflings." Snape looked thoughtful. "So you might want to consider that if you work with anything." He checked his watch. "Dinner. Coming?"
"In a few moments. As soon as I lock these safely away." He watched as the dynamic and energetic young professor jogged from his office and classroom. How did that boy have so much energy? He had never been that energetic. He stood up, carefully flipping open the first very old book to scan the table of contents. There was a whole section on healing potions. Good. It would give him something to do this first term while he terrorized his students. He locked the books in a drawer only he had the password to. They should be safe enough in there. He checked his robes, then went to dinner. A most interesting project the young boy had given him, truly interesting.
George gathered up everything he needed, putting it all into his old school bag. "I'm going for a fly," he called.
Ron stuck his head out of the back room. "For how long? Mum and Dad are going to take us to Diagon in a while."
George shrugged, but he was smiling. "Xander and I are going for a causal fly. Let Fred watch the shop."
"I'm going with them," Fred called. "We still need those spell components."
"George, language!" his mother yelled from upstairs. There was no way she could have heard him. Must have been parental telepathy.
"I'll try to be back," George promised. "If not, put up the out to lunch sign." He grabbed his broom and headed outside, taking off for the school.
Molly Weasley walked down the stairs, smiling at her youngest son. "Xander?"
Ron nodded. "Xander promised they could go for a short fly today."
"That's nice," she said with a smile. "Your father used to do the same thing with me during the spring at school. We had some wonderful picnics after classes." She hugged her daughter as she walked down the stairs. "Are you ready?"
"Yup, two more years and I'm free," Ginny said happily.
Ron snorted. "Just wait. Next year, the only thing on your mind will be 'what am I going to do now'." He grimaced. "Still no letter from Nimbus?"
"Not as of this morning," his mother assured him. "Your father checked quite thoroughly." They had apparated home last night to spend some time alone. She smiled. "Everyone got their lists?"
"Yeah," Ron said, waving his. "Where would I get things to sweat in?"
"What?" Fred asked, coming out from the back room. He looked at the list. "Sweat pants?"
"Or other suitable clothes to do physical exercise in," Ron read. "Mum?"
She shrugged. "We'll ask at the robe shop. I hear you're having a ball this year." She pulled a container of floo out of her purse.
"Mum, we've got plenty," Fred told her, pointing at the Egyptian pot hanging next to the fireplace. Their brother Bill had sent it as a 'store warming' present. So far, it had only cracked once in all the destruction.
She tucked her supply of floo powder away again and smiled at him. "All right, let's go, children." They all grabbed some powder and started leaving.
After they were gone, Harry snuck downstairs and turned the sign back over. He had supposedly went back to Sirius last night, but Sirius had a horrible cold and had suggested that he stay here for a bit longer. Ron had been happy to share with him for another night. He'd go to Diagon later that day, after everyone got back.
George landed in front of the school, surprised when he didn't see Xander waiting on him. He opened the front door and strode in, looking up at all the paintings lining the walls. He had never really stopped to look at them before.
"Sorry," Xander called as he jogged down the stairs. He had his broom over his shoulder. "I was trying to glue a few twigs back in.
George took the broom to look at, grimacing when he saw the little creature in there. "That's why," he snorted, pulling out the imp after a struggle. "Got a jar?"
Xander looked at the empty fingers. "Why?" George nodded at it. "But there's nothing there."
Minerva McGonagall walked down the stairs with a mason jar. "Gryphons can't see imps," she told them. She put the nasty little bugger into the jar and sealed it tight. "I thought I had seen the nasty little creature earlier. I'll see that Professor Lupin receives this."
George smiled. "Or unicorns," he added. He looked at Xander, who looked confused. "It's a protection for both species. Unicorns and gryphons had a long war way back when and so they did a mutual spell so they can't see each other."
"Unfortunately, the imp community heard about it and did their own spell, which only works on gryphons," McGonagall said, smiling at her student. "I wouldn't have thought that you listened in Care of Magical Creatures at all."
George shrugged. "I did some research." He tugged on Xander's jacket. "C'mon. Let's go for our casual fly." He grabbed his bag and headed for the door.
Xander waved, following him. "Does that mean that I can replace the twigs that have fallen out?"
"Maybe," George told him. "You'd have to ask Fred that question. He does the major repairs on ours. I do all the polishing and small care problems." He walked outside and smiled at Hagrid when he saw him walking, waving at him. "Nice man."
"Yup, he likes me a lot." Xander mounted his broom. "Where are we going?"
"I thought farther up the rail line. There's a few muggle settlements but we can avoid them easily." He watched as Xander took off. That broom was nasty. He hoped he was never reduced to something that bad. He took off and followed him up into the air. "So, tell. How was your trip?"
Xander smiled at him. "I got to fly almost every day." He turned away from the school. "That way?"
"Sure." They flew slowly, just enjoying being up in the air and being together. "Only flying?"
"I got to learn how to chase the really fast guys." Xander shifted, coming a little closer. "They said you had to teach me Quidditch so we could go play with them. Reynaldo loves the game." He grinned. "There was some not so fun stuff, like some of the lessons. I suck majorly at making anything potiony because my measurements are always off. The cleaning spells were handy though." He drifted a little way away again. "After I got kicked out of the inn, I spent the rest of the summer in their cave."
"You got kicked out of the inn?"
"Yup, salary didn't stretch far enough," Xander admitted with a grimace. "I went to say goodbye and they demanded that I stay with them for more training. It was kinda fun, but I don't think I could live in a cave full time."
"How many were there?"
"Three adults that I worked with, but there were more hidden in the colony that I didn't go near. They were all really big guys." Xander grimaced. "That book lied. No one said that adult gryphons were ten feet tall. And fast!" He shivered, having hit a cold patch in the air. "It was mostly okay."
"How did you get the scar?"
Xander looked at him. "You don't want to know." George gave him a look so he caved in with a sigh. "Some villagers or something came after Fredericka while we were flying one day. I helped her beat them back, but one of them cut me with something and I was knocked out. When I woke up, I was in the back of a hay cart going somewhere." He shrugged lightly. "The guy driving told me that Dumbledore had sent him to protect me, and that the reason I was bound was because I was thrashing while I had been out." He shifted a little farther away again. "Anyway, I worked on getting free as we went, and lo-and-behold we ended up in the middle of a field with a bonfire." He shuddered. "I got free as they were carrying me and got a few of them. Before anything else happened, Reynaldo appeared and kicked their asses. He took me back to the cave to tend my back, but it took a while. Whatever the asshole cut me with had some sort of mild poison on it. So I spent about a week with a horrible pain in my back and a headache." He looked over, noticing the furious look. "Hey, I'm okay," he said, floating closer again. "They didn't get me and the Ministry guys that came to get them were really neat. They cursed them up and down with words I don't even know." He smiled. "I'm okay, really. You saw the scar."
"Yes, I did, and I don't want to think about how you got it now that I know."
Xander gave him a patient look. "You demanded."
"Point," George conceded. He let it go, for now. His father was going to be getting an owl later. He was sure that wasn't all there was to the story. He reached over and took Xander's hand. "Anything interesting happen beside that? Something funny?"
Xander grinned at him. "I found out that I have to do a little bit of mischief every day or it starts to build up and not even the siphon will take care of it. I get all cranky and get headaches or an upset stomach. I found out that gryphons used to build stuff, pretty little boxes and stuff like that. Oh, and I found out that I attract the strange and wacky because of my nature. I really am a demon magnet it seems."
George smiled. He remembered their week on the hellmouth and the vampires continually cruising by the apartment building's door very vividly. "Can you mask it?"
"Yup. Got that lesson down very well. I, um, kinda drew every vampire and plant demon within sixty miles to Stonehenge." He looked embarrassed. "They looked at me like I was some kind of oddity. So I got that lesson very quickly."
George snickered. "Well of course you're odd, you're American." He flew off.
"Hey!" Xander said, going after him. He saw his friend land in a field so followed him down. "Problems with the broom?"
"Lunch." He unpacked his bag, showing off the goodies he had brought. Xander continued to stare at him. "You don't like?" he asked hesitantly.
Xander sat down next to him. "So this was one big seduction attempt?"
George nudged. "No, this is a picnic. Though I'm not beyond some seduction. If you want it that is." He smiled. "Eat?"
"Sure, I can do that," Xander assured him, picking up a piece of meat. "Did your mom cook?"
George shook his head. "I got Ginny to do it. She's decent enough. It's not poisonous."
Xander took a bite and hummed in appreciation. This was really good. George started to eat too. "Tell me what it's like growing up in a normal household," he suggested between bites.
George looked at him. "You consider my family normal?"
Xander nodded. "Much more so than mine."
George shifted a little closer, telling him everything about having family.
Fredericka, the oldest female gryphon in England and the ambassador for their community, landed in the courtyard of the Ministry of Magic. She looked around at the humans who came running, leaning down to get into one's face. "We will be talking," she told Minister Fudge. She smiled at the person she was there to see. "We will talk first though," she told the witch in charge of magical creatures and strange magic. She wrapped a wing around the two people, giving them a gryphon-smile. "Yes, we will be talking."
The witch smiled up at her. "We heard about Professor Harris. How is he?"
"He's better. Still deficient in many areas, but we sent teaching manuals with him. We knew that someone at the wonderful Hogwarts would help him finish his studies." Fredericka looked at Fudge again. "You, on the other hand, have just pissed off every single type of magical creature. Word has spread about that *incident* this summer and none of the other communities are pleased."
Fudge paled and swallowed. "I didn't instigate it."
The witch looked at him. "No, you just told them where they were and how to get them."
"Silence," Fudge demanded. "You do not question me."
"Oh, plenty of witches and wizards are questioning you," she told him. She scratched the separation of animal parts on Fredericka's neck. "I would like to hear more about his training. It sounds useful." She walked the gryphon into her building. It was built to hold special creatures like the gryphons.
Minister Fudge scrambled back into his office and shut the door. He sent an inter-office owl to Arthur Weasley and to his son Percy. They would stand up for him or find themselves staying in their present positions. The one from Percy came back with a polite reply about arranging a special dinner in honor of the ambassador and how Percy would handle most of the details personally, missing the point entirely - probably on purpose. The one from the elder Weasley came back with what sounded like a quietly worded scold for pissing the ambassador off, and that he looked forward to talking to her about Xander. Fudge sent more owls out to his supporters, but most of them weren't going to take on a gryphon for him, especially not when this was about a gryphon-born muggle.
Downstairs, Percy walked over to his father's office. "Apparently I'm arranging a dinner for the ambassador. Do you have the book on gryphon protocol, father?" Arthur handed it over with a smile. "Thank you." He glanced at it. "I take it that George is serious about Xander?" Arthur nodded. "Then I'll have to avail myself of some research. I don't want to mess up."
"Xander's not like that," Arthur assured him. "He's said that he considers us his family."
Percy snorted. "That won't keep him from pranking me like the twins do, father. It's almost inevitable." He walked back to his office, mentally arranging the people to call and in what order to call them in order to put the dinner together.
Xander walked into the castle, frowning when he saw Mr. Weasley standing there scowling at him. "What? We had lunch," he said quickly. "I didn't do anything wrong today. Got the headache to prove it."
Mr. Weasley pulled him aside. "Xander, there were a few things that weren't covered and it's been brought to my attention." He pulled his wand behind the boy's back. "The first being that any uncontrolled moments you have can override the siphon you're wearing. That means no lust or other strong emotions." He swished the wand in the air. "It could be quite disastrous for those around you if you were to become uncontrolled." Xander looked up and him and nodded. "That's why I have to do this. I'm sorry." He said something and pointed his wand at Xander's chest.
Xander woke up staring at the ceiling of the main hall, Madam Pomfrey looking down at him. "How did I get down here?"
"Someone hexed you," she told him, helping him stand up. "How do you feel?"
Xander smiled at her. "Like I'm going to go have a talk with Arthur." He looked around. "No one else knows?" She shook her head. "How long was I out?"
"Just a few moments. He flooed home. We passed each other in the staff room."
"Good." Xander strolled out to the herbology greenhouses, smiling at Professor Sprout. "Got something thorny, but pretty?" he asked. "Maybe something very unusual?"
She giggled. "For George?" All the teachers thought they were so cute together.
"No, for his father." He smiled sweetly. "I think it's time I announced my intentions."
She giggled as she went over to where the flowers were, picking him a small handful of thorny, viney purple flowers. "How's that?"
He looked them over. "What are they for?" He looked up. "I'm not depriving you of anything, right?"
She shook her head. "No, those are for headaches but we have plenty of it."
"Perfect," he purred, going to go see his future father-in-law. He had used the floo network before so he was confident as he went to the Burrow. "Oh, daddy," he called. Arthur looked up in shock so Xander gave him the flowers. "Memory charms don't work on us, dad. And yeah, I know about the whole lust thing, but I decided to take it slow with George because I'm very unfamiliar with everything and so it doesn't remind me of being attacked by psycho women." He sat down next to him, putting an arm around his shoulder, staring at the fire in front of them. "I promise I won't hurt George. Or anyone else in the family or anyone that the family considers family." He looked at the older man, who was nearly in tears. "I know you're trying to protect them, but it won't happen. I don't hurt those I'm with. What I am won't change that. It made me revengeful, but nothing else." He let him go and stood up. "With that said, I expect to see you soon 'cause George makes me happier than even flying." He turned and pulled the extra floo powder out of his pocket, tossing it into the fire. Just before he stepped in. "I'm not telling George," he told him, then he went back to school.
Standing in the teacher's lounge, Dumbledore smiled at him. "Good trip?" he asked.
Xander shrugged. "Necessary one." He brushed himself off. "You knew?"
Dumbledore nodded. "And I know why as well. It's a parent's natural reaction."
"Which is why I'm not holding it against him or telling anyone. I expect you to not tell either. It would kill George to know his father was doing this sorta stuff." He frowned, looking around the empty room. "I'm all set for the year. Giles and I worked out the problems that we had last year, so everything's ready."
"Good," Dumbledore said happily. "It's good to see everything in working order." He clapped the young man on the back. "You've far exceeded my expectations, Xander. Not only are you fairly decent at getting yourself out of trouble, but you're a very good teacher. Much more interesting than some of us were." He pointed outside. "Why don't you go curse a tree or something? Get rid of that headache."
Xander nodded. "I probably should, but I'm too tired. I'll do it tonight after supper. Maybe make some fireworks or something." He smiled. "Thanks for helping me out this summer."
"My boy, I didn't send them," Dumbledore told him, looking like he was telling the truth. He walked away. "I'll have someone knock on your door for dinner, Xander. Try and cure the headache before the students get here in a week."
Xander frowned. "Then who sent the Ministry up?" He shrugged it off and walked up to his room. He really wanted a nap. His head was killing him. He wondered what had ultimately appeared on Malfoy's nose; the spell usually took two hours to finish growing. He'd have to ask his son when he got in. He curled up next to Murphy, using him as a comfort snuggle.
Murphy cooed at him. He had missed his daddy. Next time he would have to go with him. His daddy always got into such trouble when he was alone. One of the phoenixes up there had told him what had went on and if he ever saw those humans they would not be happy to meet him!
Xander twitched his robes as he walked into the main hall for the first day feast. He stopped in front of Malfoy and smiled at him. "What did it turn out to be?"
"A foot," he said with a faint smile. "About six inches long, toes pointed toward him. The toes wiggle and everything. The penis-looking thing was actually the ankle."
Xander grinned. "Cool. Your first class is Wednesday and you'll have something waiting on you tonight. Use it to bring down your gear." He continued to walk, stopping to talk to a few of his other students in the advanced battling class. He walked up onto the dias, sitting down in his seat with a nod for his fellow teachers.
"Xander, why did you need more money?" Willow asked him. She hadn't seen him since he had come back. She and Tara had been closeted with Giles about what spells they were teaching this year. They hadn't had as much overlap as Xander and Giles did, but it was good to get it all settled.
"Because everything I needed to get, including the broom, left me with enough money for two weeks at the inn," he told her. "That's what I wrote you."
"Yeah, I got that, but your broom shouldn't have been that much."
"The new owners at Quality Quidditch jacked prices," he said with a little shrug. "No big. I'm broke but it's okay again." He looked at her. "I did try and live within the budget."
Tara patted his hand, reaching behind Willow to do it. "It's okay. The Daily Prophet said they just changed owners again. Maybe it'll be fixed." She smiled at him. "Are you okay? I heard you got cut really bad."
"It itches and I'm still kinda queasy from the poison on it, but I'm fine." Snape looked over at him from the other end of the table. "I got given the antidote," he told him. "Don't worry."
"I'll be checking on that later." He stood up and walked over to them. "I've begun that project you challenged me to. It shouldn't be too long before we have something workable."
Xander smiled up at him. "Thanks, man. That's really nice of you."
Snape snorted. "I'm doing it to further my skills and my art, not because I'm nice, Harris." He pointed at him. "Did they say what it was?"
Xander nodded. "Not that I remember the name, but they said they owled Madam Pomfrey so she'd have it on record. They gave me the antidote once they figured out that the whatever was poisoned."
"Yes, but if you're still queasy after a month, then they obviously didn't make it correctly. It was probably a dunderhead I had a few years back." He went back to his seat. "I'll check on that for you later."
Xander shrugged. "Okay. Thanks." He looked at his best friends and shrugged again. "He's being nice."
"He's engaged with the new project," Giles said as he sat down. "Were you going to show them to me also?"
Xander looked at him. "Depends. Are you willing to give up your life it they get out?"
Giles chuckled. "I see. They put a restriction on it." He patted Xander on the shoulder. "I understand. If you need any help, feel free to come to me. I happen to know something about chaos magic after all."
Dubmbledore walked up to the table. "Yes, I've heard of your past," he said with a smile. "I'm sure Professor Harris is good enough to finish his education and not let those spells out." He took his seat. "I'm also sure that he'll come to us if he needs help. It's the way he is." He smiled at Xander. "Correct?"
"Absolutely," Xander agreed. He looked at Giles. "Really would hate to have to kill you," he told him.
Giles patted him again. "I understand, I wouldn't want you to have to harm me either." He smiled. "Have you worn it out for the day?"
"I'm okay. Just a little itching to get out. I'll go play a trick on something later. Maybe go prank Peeves, he seems to like it."
"You have to wear it out?" Tara asked, looking interested. She leaned past Willow. "How often?"
"Daily. I have to do something mischievous; not necessarily bad, but funny. As long as I use some of the energy every day it doesn't build up and there won't be any more frustration bombs." He looked over as Ron and Harry walked in, followed by Hermione and Ginny. He waved at them and got happy smiles in return. Ron's father hadn't done anything to them after all. Good.
Professor Dumbldore stood up. "Before the first years come in, I have something I'd like to announce." The hall got quiet. "There will be *two* balls this year," he told them, and the hall erupted in discussion. "There will be a Yule ball, but a ball just after the end of school also appeared on the calendar. It will take place two days after final exams, and a few days before you leave." Some students cheered. "The Yule ball will be open to only those third year and above, so please do not ask anyone from the first year class to attend as they're usually uncomfortable when they're brought. The other one will be open to all students. Formal robes are necessary so you might want to include that in your first owls to your parents." He sat back down.
"It appeared?" Snape asked.
Dumbledore nodded. "Indeed. I was examining the calendar earlier this summer. The words appeared, just wrote themselves."
Xander noticed everyone was looking at him. "Wasn't me, guys, this happened before I got back."
Dumbledore nodded. "It did indeed," he agreed. "Professor Harris' innate gifts had nothing to do with this occurrence. Though he still has to attend. It will be mandatory for all instructors to attend this time."
"Eww," Xander told him. "I hated school dances."
Willow punched him on the thigh, she was sitting next to him and none of the students could see her do it. "Now you'll get to be one of the grumpy chaperones who'll break the snogging up."
Xander sighed. "If I have to. Can you pay me right before Christmas so I can go get a formal robe?"
Dumbledore smiled and nodded. "Of course. Will you be getting your broom fixed at the same time?"
Xander shrugged. "It depends on how much they want to do it. It cost me a hundred to buy." A few of the teachers hissed. "Yeah, so fixing it is probably going to be pretty nasty too. It all depends on my finances at the time. How much were the fancy robes?"
"About the same as the normal ones you wear," Madam Hooch told him as she shifted in her seat. "I can look at your broom for you if you want."
"Sure. The little imp that was in my twiggy end loosened a bunch of them so I'm about a third short right now." He saw the wince. "It still flies."
"But probably not correctly."
Xander grinned. "I nearly got the one that went opposite of commands, but George refused to let me buy it." The flying teacher chuckled, shaking her head.
Everyone got quiet as Professor McGonagall walked in with the first years, just a few this year. Not even thirty. A very small class.
Xander looked at his advanced class, counting heads. "Ron?" he called. Ron came out of the office area of the training room. "Thanks." He stood in front of the group. "Okay, let's get down to it." He smiled at them. "This is a training class, it is a physical class. Please, if you can't handle it, tell us and we'll work on getting you somewhere more appropriate." He looked around but no one said anything. "Now that that's out of the way, there's a few other things you need to know. Since this is a physical class, you're going to be changing clothes for it." A few mouths opened. "Hence the curtains and screens behind me." He pointed at each one. "Girls on my left, boys on my right. Pull the curtain around so there won't be any problems." He smiled. "I should also tell you that both the curtains and the screens have been spelled to prevent members of the opposite sex into that area." A few of the kids snickered. He shrugged. "Willow did the spell, get her for it." He started to pace. "In this class, you will do some physical training, mostly with Giles and myself. You will also learn how to handle a realistic duel." He saw a mouth open and shook his head. "Not those nice things where you bow and announce yourself, the real ones. Ones where your target is moving, running, and/or trying to get away from you. Since you can't really use many spells in here without harming everyone, we've had some fake wands made up. You'll leave your wands in your lockers and pick up a fake one every class period." Melissa, the Slytherin that worked with Ron and protested quite often about her placement, raised her hand. "Yup?"
"Sir, will we always have to change?"
He shook his head. "Nope, but you guys have got to realize you wear muggle clothes under your robes. I want you able to do the activities without something binding or hindering you, then once you have that down we'll do them with the robes on. Those days, you don't have to change but you're going to be sweating a lot in here. We'll also figure out a way to do a 'whatever clothes are at hand' lesson so you learn how to fight in whatever you're wearing." She nodded. "Any other questions so far?"
Malfoy raised a hand. "Professor Harris, I wasn't sure what constituted clothing for physical activities."
"That's why you were supposed to bring them today, so I can check them out with you." He smiled. "I realized that you particularly might have trouble telling what is and isn't workout clothes, what with never seeing muggle fashions before. For those of you who have clothes you're sure you can workout in, that's great. Those of you who aren't sure, check with me once I'm done with this and we'll talk." Malfoy nodded.
Ron raised his hand. "Sir, you did mean those really loose clothes, right?"
Xander grinned. "Hey, if you want baggy clothes, that's all you. Oh, and the uber-tight spandex look? Wear a shirt over it, ladies. We don't want a distraction lesson yet. That comes later." They tittered. "You think I'm kidding?" He raised an eyebrow. "The American army teaches its best fighters to fight naked. I'm not going to do that to you because I don't want to hear about it from your parents, but I will be teaching you how to fight even when you're distracted." That got a few nods. "What else was there?" he asked himself, looking at the other teachers, who had told him to do this part. "Guys?"
"Condition," Giles told him.
"Oh, yeah." Xander grinned at them again. "Unfortunately, because of what I am, I have to play some sort of prank, or something like it, every day to wear out some of my energy. That may mean that you guys are going to get hit more often than the third years, who cry if you prank them." That got a light laugh. "So I'm sorry in advance if you get embarrassed or teased because of it."
"Sir, is the class shortened because of the changing requirements? Is that why this is a double-length class?" the second of three girls in the class asked.
Xander nodded. "You'll have ten minutes to get here and get changed. I'll give you twenty at the end of class in case you guys figure out how to take a shower without flooding the rest of us or so you can run upstairs and catch a real shower before dinner." That got some laughter. "Seriously, guys, I expect you to sweat and I expect us to sweat right along with you. You're going to smell, that's why we put this right before dinner." He stepped away from them. "Each one of you pick a locker and put your name on it. You'll get a lock which only you and the teachers will have the combination for. Since I sent you all bags to put the clothes in, I also expect them to be *washed* every little once in a while."
"Eww, as you usually say," Malfoy muttered.
"Have one of us tell you about muggle gym class," Xander said with a smirk. "People have left their gym clothes all year long and never washed them. If I can smell you, you're getting wet." Everyone burst out laughing. "Okay, I think that does it. Go ahead and pick a locker, change clothes, and grab a fake wand. Oh, hold it. There will be no picking on other students in here." He looked at Ron, who looked away, then at Draco, who also looked away. "If I find you picking on another student, I now have spells that will embarrass you for months on end and *I'll* enjoy it. Now you can go." He walked over to the teachers, watching as the curtains were pulled around the locker areas on either side of the doorway, blocking out any peeking. Malfoy and a couple of other kids walked over with their clothes, which Xander examined. He only had to make two corrections, a pair of pants that Malfoy had brought and the sports bras as tops Melissa had brought. "Hermione," he called. She stuck her head out of the curtained off area. "Get with Melissa about shirts to workout in tonight so her mom can get her some." The student nodded and pulled her head back, making sure the curtain was closed. Xander looked back at the office area. "Why couldn't we have used that area?"
"Much more work to separate out sides," Giles told him.
"Plus, we'd have to have a monitor," Lupin added. He nodded at where Ron and Harry had already emerged. "What's first?"
"Physical fitness tests," Giles said firmly.
"Like the presidential ones we used to have to go through in school?" Xander asked.
Giles smiled and nodded. "Very similar. I might skip the rope climbing and the situps, but basically the same principle." He walked over to the boys who were already done changing. "Let's drag out mats, gentlemen. We'll be needing them today." They helped him drag over a few of the mats Giles had gotten for the class; no one was sure how the equipment got here, but he had gotten them some great stuff. Maybe it was Watcher surplus. "Five minutes," Giles yelled. More students trickled out of the changing areas. "The last one of you please make sure the curtains are closed." The last straggler jogged out and sat on the mats like everyone else. "Today, we're going to test your physical capabilities. I'm going to measure how many of each exercise you can do in a matter of time. We'll use this to judge what sort of stamina building activities we'll be engaging in." Everyone nodded. "Good, break off into pairs with the person on your left." He smiled when he saw Ron move so he was next to someone other than Draco. "That's fine. One of you get down into a pushup position. Xander, please come demonstrate."
Xander walked over and got down, showing them how to do a pushup. "Girls can do an alternate one," and he did the girl's pushup. "Either one for the girls."
Ron looked wary. "Can the guys do those instead?"
Xander smiled and shook his head. "Not a chance, Ron. You're a man now, do it the manly way." He stood up. "Ready?" One of each pair assumed the position. "The one not doing it counts. Silently," he added as an afterthought.
"Begin," Giles said, clicking his stopwatch.
Ron walked out of the battle class rubbing his neck. "That was hard," he complained to Hermione.
She nodded. "Definitely, but it's important. Can you imagine getting into a fight and having to run for more than a few feet while casting?" He shuddered. "Well, that's what we're here for." She smiled when she saw Draco groaning and leaning against a cool wall. "A hot bath cures that," she called back. He glared at her. "Just being helpful." She helped Ron up to their dorm, smiling at him. "Hot bath," she suggested. "Or a hot shower. It'll take those aches right out. My father said so and he used to jog and workout all the time." She disappeared into the girls' quarters.
Ron went up to his bed and flopped down, falling asleep almost instantly.
Neville snuck into the room a few minutes later, smiling at Ron as he covered him up. "Glad I'm not in there," he said with a smile. He grabbed the book he had come in here for and turned to leave, running into Harry. "Ron's asleep."
"I'm for the showers," Harry told him. He headed that way, knowing he would feel better once he was clean. Professor Harris hadn't been joking when he said they were going to sweat.
Over in the Slytherin boys' quarters, Draco learned the easy way that Hermione had been right. "Oh," he groaned as he stood under the hard spray. "Yes."
One of the other boys looked in on him. "You all right in there?"
Draco looked back at him. "Professor Giles tried to kill us making us do exercises like muggles." The other kid snorted. "I ache."
"We've got some rub in the Quidditch kit, if you want," he offered. Draco nodded and went back to enjoying the heat on his tired muscles. If this class was going to be like this the whole year, he might end up dropping it in favor of Herbology. At least there he wouldn't feel like he had been beaten. He felt someone come up behind him and stiffened, but small, soft hands worked something into his back. "Thank you," he told whomever it was. He didn't care, it felt too good to care. "I'm never doing another pushup again."
The girl laughed. "You could always drop it."
Draco nodded. "I know." He let her continue with what she had been doing. It was all good to him. No one would care that she was in there, or what she was doing. For that matter, he didn't care as long as he felt better afterward.
Xander looked out at his class, his head throbbing. Giles had suggested that he go and try and burn some energy, but this wasn't one of those headaches. This was a nice, normal, muggle headache from hell. Hangovers be damned, these were worse. He leaned against the wall, watching the kids learn how to duel in a real-life situation. Lupin and Black were being very realistic when they described having to get other wizards in a battle. It was good for the kids, they had all agreed on this approach. Next, the kids would be using their actual wands to fire lights at moving targets. He just hoped he could be sitting somewhere away from the target. He slid down the wall, holding his head. The class across the hall had just burst out into applause. Great.
"Xander," Giles said quietly, touching him on the top of the head.
"Sorry." He squatted down, looking at the boy. "Are you sure this isn't a power headache?" Xander glared at him, his eyes bloodshot, but moist. "Maybe you should go to the infirmary then and get a cure."
"I'm fine," Xander hissed as he stood up. "It's just a headache."
"Go take something for it," Lupin yelled from across the room. "You'll feel better."
Xander shuddered at the noise and headed out into the hall. They were right next to the dungeons so the hallway was cooler than the classroom. He leaned his head against the wall and closed his eyes. This was helping, some stupid potion wouldn't.
Someone cleared their throat. "Professor, are you all right?" the female student, who sounded like a third year in his classifications class, asked. He shook his head. "Head hurting, sir?" He nodded. "Why don't you go take something for it?"
"Because it doesn't work. The air is helping, don't worry about it. Go to class," he told her, not opening his eyes. He was left alone for almost half-an-hour before anyone else decided to talk to him. "What?" he asked when whomever had stopped in front of him didn't say anything. "I'm not asleep."
"No, you're in pain," Snape told him.
Xander opened his eyes. "Headaches happen." He looked at the vial being put into his hand. "W'as this?"
"One of the potions from the book, half-strength. It should cure it better than the one in the infirmary." He went back to work. The gossip from his classroom had been quite interesting, unlike most third years' conversations.
Xander held the potion up to look at it, then shrugged and uncorked it. He swallowed it as quickly as he could. "Eww, needs flavoring," he called after Snape, getting a cruel laugh. Hey, it was working! He started to feel pretty good actually. Then he yawned as he walked back into the classroom. He put the vial aside and sat on the piled mats, and soon was taking a nap.
The three teachers looked at him, then each other. "Volunteers to get Professor Harris upstairs?" Giles asked. Ron raised his hand. "He's asleep."
"Then two of us should do it," Ron replied, nudging Harry. Harry winced; he was so sore, but he went over to help. It was the least he could do, plus he'd get out of this torture. Between them, they picked up the professor and carried him up to the infirmary with many grunts and stops for breathing. Ron smiled at Madam Pomfrey as she walked out to see who was coming in. "He took something for his headache," he told her, swinging the professor up onto the nearest bed. "And he needs to lose some weight."
Harry snickered. "He's just big boned."
Ron snorted. "Bet me. He's heavy!" He smiled at the nurse. "We're going to go back to class." She nodded, letting them leave while she settled Xander more comfortably in the bed.
"What did they do to you this time?" she said with a frown. She smelled his breath. "That was a headache cure?" She decided to talk to Professor Snape, he would probably know what it was by smell. By the time he got up there, Xander was snoring and occasionally lifting a hand to bat something in his sleep. He looked like a puppy having dreams about chasing something.
Professor Snape looked down at the boy on the bed. "I made it half-strength," he told the nurse. She scowled at him. "It's from one of his gryphon books."
"Oh." She smiled. "Is there anything in there to help cure rashes?" Snape frowned and shook his head. "Pity, because you're starting to get one." She touched the side of his neck. "Oh, dear, chickenpox."
He sighed. "I'll go make the potion myself," he told her. "Tell me when he wakes up so I can judge the strength for future potions." He left her alone, going to make a large batch of potion for itching and pustules. He hated muggle diseases, this one more than most. He remembered McGonagall getting it a few years back. She had nearly torn up her arms because of it. Well, he would not scratch and he would be smart enough to take the potion right away. He consciously removed the hand scratching his neck. He would not scratch.
Xander woke up with a yawn, and looked around. He saw the white and frowned. "How long was I out?" he called.
"Two days," Giles told him, looking up from his reports. "Had us a bit worried, but now that we know to make the gryphon potions less than quarter strength it should be fine." He stood up. "Are you ready for class?"
"Can I get a shower and a clothing change first?" he asked. "And maybe some coffee and a pastry?"
Giles laughed. "Of course. I'll teach your classifications class next period. Come down once you're awake." He got up. "I've got the preliminary reports from the advanced class. Quite a range of skills." He left the report on the foot of the bed before leaving the infirmary.
Xander blinked at the reports. "I think I need glasses," he sighed, putting his head back down. One of his arms went over his eyes.
"I can recommend a very nice optician," Madam Pomfrey told him as she walked over to him. "Now up you get. Go shower and whatnot."
He forced himself to stand up and head back to his room. He didn't see Murphy so apparently his bird was sucking up attention with the chicks again. At least someone had taken care of him. He headed directly for the shower. He really needed one; he smelled.
Dumbledore looked up as his door was tapped on, admitting the new student. He smiled as he stood up to shake her hand. "Melody, how good to see you again," he said pleasantly. She took the seat across from him. "I've received your records from Beaubaxtons. Let's test you to see where you get to go."
She smiled. "Thanks," she said in a soft Brooklyn, New York accent tainted with a hint of French accenting. "I didn't think this place was this big from what the other girls said."
He laughed. "Yes, they seemed a bit shocked themselves when they were here a few years back." He nodded at her wand. "Are you ready?" She nodded. "Good. Change that chair you're sitting on into an animal."
She stood up and faced it, considering the chair. She knew what type of animal she transfigured it into was as much of a test as her ability to do it was. She had been a year ahead in transfigurations at her last school so she had to make it look good. She decided on a baby elephant since that would change form, color, size, and texture, and waved her wand.
Dumbledore walked into the Great Hall with the new student, causing some of them to stand up and look at her. "Yes, we have a transfer from Beaubaxtons," he said pleasantly, standing in front of the instructor's table. "This is Melody. Her mother is British and just transferred back from France. Her father is an American and she spent most of her life with him since her mother traveled, in case you wondered about the accent." He smiled at Xander. "I'm sure you will both get along very well in your demonic activity class."
Melody looked at the teacher and her heart stopped for a second. He was gorgeous. His body was like heaven to her. It was calling out to her. The hand on her shoulder kept her from going to him, but she would get the chance later. She was in his classifications class. She smiled at him and licked her lips. He shook his head and took a sip of something pale blue. "What's his name?" she asked the man holding her still.
"That's Professor Harris." He leaned closer to her. "Yes, he is like you, but he's very muchly taken, my dear. Do be careful." He smiled at the Gryffindor table. "The sorting hat put her into your house, please make her feel welcome." He pushed her gently toward the table and Harry. He knew he could trust that trio to keep her from harassing Xander too badly.
Melody took a seat near them, smiling at the students around her. "This is wicked cool," she told them, examining the plates. "The girls never said anything about this stuff."
Harry blinked a few times. Her accent was different from any of the Americans he had ever heard speak and was rather difficult to understand if you didn't listen closely. "Where in America are you from?" he asked her.
"New York City." She smiled at the redheaded girl who sat next to the other redhead. "Related?"
Ron nodded. "This is my sister, Ginny, and I'm Ron. That's Harry and Hermione." He pointed at them. Someone from across the room whistled, making him turn to look at the couple kissing at the Hufflepuff table. "That's just sick. We're trying to eat here!" he yelled at them. "Go find a closet!"
Melody laughed. "Oh, honey, that's nothin' compared ta what I saw in my dorm." Hermione and Ginny looked at her in shock. "None'a you do that here?" Both women shook their heads. "Damn, I guess France is more liberal." She shrugged. "Usually there's at least one couple in every dorm section experimentin' with whatever's at hand. It's the being put together all the time thing from what they said. Wicked experimentation."
Hermione cleared her throat. "We're not exactly like that here," she explained carefully. "Here, our houses are like our families. It'd be like doing that with your brothers or sisters."
Melody shrugged. "That's cool. Got any clue where I could pick up a good spot of trouble or two?" She grinned. "Or three maybe, I'm not picky about my trouble." Harry coughed.
"Don't worry, trouble seems to come here," Ginny told her. "We draw it."
Ron snorted. "George said it's Xander's fault." A few of the students around them laughed. "So, what's your area?" Ron asked her.
"Transfigurations. I'm a year ahead and going strong. Yours?"
"Apparently it's my advanced dark arts classes," he said easily. "Professor Giles actually gave me a compliment this week."
Hermione smiled at him. "I heard. It was very nice work, Ron." She dished up some of the potatoes that appeared in front of her and passed them on. "So, Melody, what year are you?"
Ron looked at Hermione. "Why did you turn down being Prefect and Head Girl?" he asked her. "I've been wondering that for over a year now and keep forgetting to ask."
She smiled and looked down at her plate. "Because I wanted to concentrate on my schoolwork instead of monitoring others' behavior. It's easier this way, and I can take more challenging classes." She glanced at Harry. "Besides, with some of our activities, it would be rather difficult to be the Head Girl or a Prefect."
Harry patted her on the back. "Don't worry, we know you're the one they asked first." He looked at Ron, who shrugged and grabbed the meat platter. "Did you need help with your dueling?" he asked her.
Hermione smiled at him. "I could use some help. I was dreadfully slow last class." She took the meat from Ron. "Thank you." She handed it off to Melody. "Eat up. There's plenty here."
"You guys learn how to duel?" she asked, taking some of the meat for herself.
"It's part of the advanced dark arts class," Ron told her. "That and learning how to fight physically. We've even got to start jogging." He shuddered. "I would almost rather kiss Fang." Harry and Hermione laughed. "Who runs for fun?"
"It's not supposed to be fun, it's exercise," Harry told him. "Muggles do it sometimes."
Hermione nodded. "My father used to jog until his knee gave out on him."
"Wow, you guys are really into the whole fighting thing, huh?" Melody said, dishing herself up some peas, but no one else around her took any. "My gain," she said as she grabbed some more.
"Professor Giles is very strict about our conditioning," Ron told her, starting to eat. "He all but ordered us to lay off the sweets."
"Students," Dumbledore said, standing up. "A quick announcement. Professor McGonagall has reminded me that this is the first Hogsmeade weekend. Please make sure she has your permission forms." He sat down again.
Ron smiled. "Wicked, we can go see the joke shop. George swore that he laid down the carpet correctly."
"This time?" Ginny asked with a bright grin. "Do you think Xander would teach me how to punch someone?"
"Who's been bothering you?" Ron asked hotly. "Tell me who it is and they're toast."
She patted him on the hand. "Just in case, big brother." She smiled at a boy farther down the table. "Just in case." Ron wrapped an arm around her neck and noogied her. "Hey! Watch the hair!" She pulled away from him, slapping at him. "Meanie! I was going to ask someone to the ball."
"It's not for months, Ginny," Harry reminded her.
"Yay, that means I don't have to worry about it. Or make someone's mistakes," she said, smirking at Ron.
"Good point," Hermione agreed. "I would have appreciated it." Harry and Ron both looked embarrassed. "Not again," she sighed. "I thought we got this settled."
"I think I'm asking Melissa," Ron told her. She scowled at him. "What? She laughs at my jokes. You don't."
She kicked him under the table. "Fine, ask a Slytherin to the dance. See if I care."
Harry grabbed her before she could get up and flounce off. "Would you go with me then?" he asked her, giving her a cute, yet helpless smile. "I'm fairly lost in social settings, but we could have fun."
She sighed. "Fine, I'll go with you," she told him, glaring at Ron, who quickly looked away. "You really like her?"
"She's nice," Ron defended. "Not great like you, or anything close to being a friend, but she's nice. And she did laugh at my joke in research." She slumped a little. "Sorry, Hermione, but I didn't think you'd want to go with me."
She shook her head. "Guys, I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but I'm a girl too, not just a friend." She grabbed some bread and made a sandwich of her meal, heading up to her room to sulk.
Ginny clapped. "Way to go." Ron glared at her. "What? She's right, you see her as a friend, not as a girl. You didn't even notice when she trimmed her hair." She pulled a plate of sweet potatoes over and dug into them. "Maybe you should actually take a good look at her the next time you're together wearing skimpy clothes."
"Ginny," Ron groaned. "She wears the same sort of thing I do."
"Which are surprisingly comfortable," Harry put in, desperate to change the topic.
Ginny nodded. "I noticed. Mom sent one of your shirts to me by accident, Harry." She smiled at him. "It makes an excellent sleep shirt. Just yell if you ever want it back."
Ron laughed. "Had a few shirts disappear that way. Never have gotten my Cannons jumper back."
She smirked at him. "It's right beside his," she told him. "Comfy, stretched out, and well-worn. If you did the laundry, you could steal big shirts too."
Harry smiled. "She's got you there, Ron."
"But I only want *my* clothes," he said in frustration. "That was my favorite shirt."
"And now it's mine," Ginny told him, still smirking. "That's the whole point of hand-me-downs." She looked at Melody. "Are you an only child?"
She nodded, but was smiling. "Practically. My next youngest is nine years younger."
"Bet that's wonderful," Ron said, shooting his sister a glare. "I'm surrounded by them."
Melody laughed. "Some days it's nice, some day's it's really annoying because I'm supposed to act my age, but also able to play with him. Which can suck because he's one of those argumentative ones." She dug into her veggies. "What about you, Harry?"
"Um, no, I live with my Godfather. No close relatives." And he enjoyed every minute of living with the now cleared Sirius. It was so much better than the Dursleys.
She looked at him, then reached over to lift up his bangs. "Huh. Cool. Just don't let him come near me or I'll kick his ass." She shrugged and went back to eating.
"You can't take on *him*," Ron hissed. "He's powerful."
She smiled at him. "No one in this school can guard against some of my magic." She looked up at Xander, who was staring at her, and grinned at him, licking her lips.
Ron caught on. "You're like him?" She nodded, looking smug. "That's wicked."
Ginny suddenly burst out laughing. "Their magic getting together to cause trouble," she explained when they looked at her.
Ron snickered. "True. I can just see Xander's wacky magic joining with yours to make some people's life hell."
"Ron!" Ginny scolded. "Don't swear. You're setting a bad influence for me and I'll never get a date to either dance."
He patted her on the head. "Don't worry, no one wants to take you anyway. You're short and your hair's messy." She shrieked and hit him again, making him laugh. "You hit like a girl."
"I *am* a girl," she told him, gathering up her things and leaving them alone. "I'm telling Bill."
Ron waved at her. "Go ahead, tell him I said hi," he called after her.
Harry shook his head. "Don't pick on her. She's your only sister."
"Yup, sisters can make life a living hell," Melody told him with an innocent smile. "Gotta side with the shrimp on that."
Harry gave Xander a look. Melody was insane. Ron's future was looking rather grim if he continued to play with Melody. Hopefully he would be able to keep her calmed down so she didn't get him too.
Xander shrugged back.
"Wonderful," Harry muttered.
Xander looked across his classification's class the next morning, frowning when he saw the new girl sitting in the front row. "Melody, please go sit in the back, beside Ron. This seat's taken." She pouted but went back there. "Um, Ron, hate to bring this up, but didn't you already pass this class?" he asked as he wrote the outline on the board.
"You told us we could come sit in on your class whenever we needed to get away," he said with a grin. "You're presently stopping a beating."
Xander smiled. "Okay. We'll talk after class." He heard the bell and counted heads, frowning. "Where're the Hufflepuffs?" he asked.
"They had Sprout before this," a Gryffindor male told him, preening when Xander smiled at him.
This third year class was very needy for praise and attention; he only taught from third years on and they always seemed to need the attention. Being thirteen and fourteen sucked, but they were old enough to learn some of the more *different* things in the world. Teaching first years last year had gotten him many owls of protest from parents who wanted their children to remain innocent for a bit longer. "If they're not here soon, I'll go look for them while you guys take notes." He finished his outline and turned back around. "So, where's Kyle, Magdalin, and Merry?" Everyone pointed at the hall. He walked over and peeked out, blushing as soon as he caught them. He wasn't ready to handle this! Older kids maybe, but not this. "Tara?" he yelled. She stuck her head out of their classroom down the hall and he nodded at the threesome. "I think they need to talk to you about hallway behavior." He pulled back in and shut the door. A few of the students giggled. "It's okay, whatever's okay with them, just not in the hallway." He crossed his arms, checking his watch. "I'm going to go look for the missing students. You guys copy down the outline and be quiet." He walked out, running into the lecture on tact and finding a dark corner, giving Tara a funny look for what she was saying.
"It's better than the middle of the hallway," she told him.
"Then have them sit with someone and discuss this," Xander suggested. "They're thirteen." He jogged out to the front door, looking outside. He saw a few students trudging his way, and one of them was even his. "Guys, problems?" he asked, getting out of their way. They were covered in mud.
"Professor Harris? Can we please skip your class to go take a shower?" his student asked. "We're filthy. That guy who keeps bragging about how he hunts with his father over-watered the garden."
Xander looked them over. "Where's the rest of your class?"
"Pulling weeds," the lone male in the group said with a grimace.
Xander waved a hand. "Go take a quick shower and show up to your classes. I'm going to go check on everyone else." He turned, missing the panicked look.
"They're coming," his student told him quickly. "It'll be a few minutes, but they're coming."
Xander looked at her, and shook his head. "Nice try." He grabbed the back of the kids' robes and marched them to the transfiguration classroom. He stuck his head in. "Professor, a word please?" he asked politely. He handed over *all* unruly student not in Slytherin to McGonagall. She handed them to the head of their houses on occasion, but she had told him to hand them over to her first since she was the Deputy Headmaster.
She walked out and closed the door once she saw the condition of the students. "What happened now? You're a mess."
Xander nodded. "And they just tried to tell me that Professor Sprout not only kept them over, but asked to take some time to go take a shower." McGonagall nodded, looking like she expected that. "And then I saw the panicked look in her eyes." He patted the top of his Hufflepuff student's head. "She looked like she was lying. I'm still missing all the Hufflepuffs as far as I know."
"Go check on Professor Sprout, most of them should have been out there." She frowned at the students. "We will be talking tonight. Go shower." She smiled at Xander. "You did correctly. Check on your class first." She patted him on the arm and went back to her fifth years.
Xander jogged back down to his classroom, peeking inside. "I'm going outside to look for everybody. Ron, teach this section." Ron looked stunned. "You had it two years ago and got it down brilliantly, go for it." He turned and walked away, confident that Ron would at least try to give it to them. Maybe Ron would surprise him and actually get it all covered. He walked out the main door and stopped, walking back through it when he felt the force-fieldy thing wash over him. "Huh, not a great. Very odd. I'll tell someone later." He jogged over to the greenhouses, slowing when he saw the students gathered around a teacher, who was hanging upside down. "All right!" he yelled as he walked closer. His hand found his wand in his pocket and started to pull it. "Put her down, line up, and we're going inside!" A wand was pointed at him but he was faster. "Expelliarmus!" he shouted, taking their wands from them. "Freeze!" The whole class froze in place. "March!" The students marched toward the school. "Professor Sprout?" he asked, noticing that she was hanging by a rope around her feet. "I don't have a knife, are you going to be okay for a few more?"
She squeaked, her face was flushed. "Not much longer please. That one child snared me."
He grinned. "I'm going to get Hagrid, he's outside too, I saw his class on the way over." She nodded and he ran for Hagrid's class. "Hagrid!" he yelled. The professor and gameskeeper turned to look at him, frowning. "Someone set a snare and caught Sprout. She's presently hanging upside down outside of greenhouse three."
He nodded. "I'll go cut 'er down. Her students?"
"Are on a forced march up to the main hall. Oh, and there's something funny going on with the door. See if you feel it too." He ran that way, sure that most of the students would be inside by now. He found Professor Snape trying to stop them. "Freeze!" he yelled as he pointed his wand at them. He counted. "We're missing three or four."
"They're headed back this way," Snape said, glaring at him. "The Imperious curse is not to be used on students!"
"The method you used to get them here."
Xander shook his head. "Not even. This is one of the things I learned. It leaves their minds free, but their bodies moving. It's not a bad thing." Snape was still frowning. "Then I'll let Dumbledore yell at me," Xander told him. Snape nodded, looking sinister. "Hey, all good. They had Professor Sprout hanging by her ankles from a tree."
"Oh, dear," Dumbledore said as he walked into the main hall with the missing students. "Xander, for future reference, the freeze and march commands are to be used sparingly, but I do understand this time. Did you cut her down?"
"I told Hagrid, I didn't have a knife on me." He waved a wand, muttering the unfreeze command. The students all started to talk at once. "Shut up or I'm doing it again," he said coldly. They all shut up and looked at their feet. "Thank you." He looked at Dumbledore and Snape. "I'm going to go let Ron collapse. Did you need me?" Both teachers shook their heads. "Have fun then, McGonagall sent a few of them up to take a shower, they were really muddy." He stepped up to Dumbledore and whispered in his ear. "I let Tara handle it, I'm not up to that."
Dumbledore laughed. "I'll sent a notice around about the official policy," he assured the boy. He smiled at his back, then looked at the students. "It could have been much worse," he reminded them. He watched as Hagrid carried in Professor Sprout, walking past them. "Is she all right?"
"A bit dizzy," Hagrid told him. "What's on the door?"
"Door?" Snape walked out, and couldn't get back in. He pulled his wand and cursed, making the door part of the doorway explode, but the field didn't come down. So he tried another one, getting dust, and admittance. "That should take care of it." He pulled his students out of the group and stared them down. "We will have a discussion after the Headmaster gets done with you." He turned and went back to his class.
Dumbledore shook his head. "That was not very wise," he told the students. "Go to the Great Hall and we'll discuss this matter." He followed them, wondering how Xander had frozen them all at once. He wouldn't mind learning that spell. If he remembered right, Ms. Granger had used it so it probably wasn't a restricted spell. He sighed when he thought about how many owls he was going to be sending out in the next few hours. He needed a quill that would take dictation.
Xander walked into his class and found Ron stuttering out the major class of demon. "Relax," he told him, giving him a smile. "Sounded great, Ron. Go sit." The boy scrambled back to his seat with a sigh of relief.
A student raised her hand. "Where are the others, sir?" she asked.
Xander frowned. "They're having a talk with the Headmaster. I'm sure they'll be back by next class, which reminds me - you have a test next week." He gave them a reassuring smile. "So, plane-bound demons of the underground classes."
Xander grabbed Ron from dinner that night and led him down to his office, not saying anything, just keeping an arm around his shoulders. Once he was inside and the door was shut, he walked the boy into the office. "Ron, I've got something serious to talk to you about." The boy nodded, looking almost upset. "Not bad serious, but still serious." He picked up a book, one that had a lot of practical joke spells, but also had a lot of practical and creating spells. "This is a diary. It's part of the textbooks that I got this summer." Ron nodded, starting to look happier, and sat down. "It's got some spells that I think you could use, and some that I think you'd probably take a lot of joy out of being able to use." Ron smiled. "The only way I can give it to you though, is if I can get an oath that you're going to keep it safe. *No* one can read it except you. Not Harry, not Hermione, not anyone." Ron looked eager. Xander glanced at the diary, then at the boy again. "If this gets out, I'm going to have to kill you, and I'm being totally serious here. Got it?"
Ron stood up. "I understand. I asked Hermione about the books she had from you and she told me the same thing. She told me how the spells had been used to hurt a lot of your kind, and real gryphons, so I really do understand." He took the book from his favorite teacher. "How do I lock it?"
Xander pulled out his wand, then ran it from front cover to back cover as if the tip of his wand were tracing an imaginary clasp, doing it three times. "That binds it." He put his wand in the center and said "Tranque Senha Murphy (In Portugese: Lock, Pasword)." He smiled as a gold lock appeared on the book. "That's the lock, the last word is your password. To unlock it, you put the point of your wand on the lock and resay the password. You have to do both of them every time you open it. And please don't pick a word that you use every day, like Quidditch." He unlocked the book.
Ron redid the binding, then said "Tranque Senha Venus!" Xander gave him a funny look. "I like the myth. I'm seventeen, my mind goes there."
Xander chuckled. "I know. I'm not seventeen and my mind goes there." He grinned. "Just keep it safe and keep it to yourself. And please, none of them in class."
Ron laughed. "Sure. I can't show Hermione?" Xander shook his head. "Okay. That all?"
"Well, there is one thing." Xander sat on the edge of his desk. "We're going to be dueling again next week and I'm putting you with Malfoy." He raised a hand when Ron opened his mouth. "I know you hate him, and that's not why I'm doing this. You and he are the two fastest draws in the class. Not even Harry beats you guys." Ron grinned again, pleased by the compliment. "I know that you might be facing off some day, and this isn't about that ether. I just think that you two are going to be the best at this and I'm separating groups out by the best. So you, Harry, Malfoy, Hermione, and Karyn will all be in one group. Melissa and Philip will be switching back and forth, and everyone else will be in the other. Do you have any objections before I make it permanent?"
"Will we be expected to help the others?" Xander nodded. "That's wicked. I'm good enough to help others!" he said proudly, clutching the book to his chest.
"Yup, you are. You're good enough to tutor. Please leave Draco alone though. Okay? He's having a tough time wrapping his mind around the whole point of 'not totally a bad guy and not really a good guy' in this class." Ron sighed. "Sorry, but that's the requirement. I'm not asking that you be friends, but just leave him alone and quit picking on him. I've already had a discussion with him about it and he's agreed to leave you alone too."
Ron nodded. "All right," he sighed. "I'll leave 'im alone."
"Thank you." Xander stood up and gave him a hug. "Would you like it if I sent an owl to your parents telling them how good you are doing? I'm going to see who wants me to send one next month."
"Please. Mum was really worried about me taking this class."
"Cool. I'll do that later." He led the boy out of the room and locked it. "Go put that away and be happy." He watched as Ron jogged off. He walked up the owlry to send a message, running into the chicks and the parent phoenixes up there. "Hey, guys," he said happily. Fawkes squawked at him and flew down to sit on his shoulder. "Are you guys enjoying the night air?" Murphy trilled. "Cool. I'm going to send a message to George's parents." Murphy straightened up and looked interested. "You wanna go?" His bird flew down and landed on his head. "Okay. Let me write it out and you can go." He scratched Fawkes on the chest and she flew away, chattering to her chicks while he wrote out the message for the Weasleys. He attached it to Murphy's leg. "Okay, take this to George's parents. Not George, his parents." Murphy nipped him and flew out the window. Xander looked up to see twenty-two glittering eyes staring at him. "If you want, I'll fly with you tomorrow afternoon," he offered. "Or you could come down and fly around the school."
Fawkes led the way out of the room, her chicks following behind her, one lagging a little behind. That one ended up on Xander's head, mimicking his father's favorite position. He was too tired to make it back to the nest.
Xander met McGonagall and Snape in the hallway, obviously heading up to their rooms. "The chicks are ready to roam," he announced. Fawkes came flying back, scolding her son. "He got tired," he told her. "I didn't mind." The chick took off, flying beside his mother, who had slowed down to encourage him.
"I'm sure we'll be seeing them chasing the mice around the school," McGonagall said happily. "How are your classes?"
"The beginning classes are doing the usual, the test next class will show how bad some of them are." Snape snorted. "The advanced class is going very well. I just sent a note to Ron's mother about how well he was doing. He's the second fastest in the class right now, he and Draco bounce back and forth for that honor." Snape nearly smiled at that. "I was thinking about sending home progress announcements next month to their parents."
Snape shook his head. "Mr. Malfoy only wants contacted if his son is doing poorly."
Xander shrugged. "Okay. I needed to know that. I was going to take a poll of who wanted their parents to know." He leaned against the wall. "Giles and Black are handling people to come in and talk to the kids. I know we're getting an auror in after Christmas. Right now, Giles is trying to get the kids to agree to jogging."
Snape shuddered. "That's a horrible thing to do to them."
"But useful," Xander reminded him. "Some of these kids are going to end up in battles within the next few years. I'd rather that they were in shape than out of shape."
Snape sneered. "Hopefully, they'll be able to handle it. I'm sure Mr. Malfoy will *enjoy* his runs around the grounds. Good evening, professors." He walked away, leaving them there.
McGonagall smiled at Xander. "I'm sure you'll hear a great many complaints, but don't let it stop you. I've been in fights before where I was worn out from standing there." She chuckled. "I'm sure it will be quite entertaining for many people, watching them run around and sweat."
Xander winked at her. "And next year's class will know all about it," he said as he walked away, heading to his room. Her laughter followed him up to his room, as did one of the chicks. He opened the door and turned to close it and found a little hovering gold body. "Oh, hey," he said, putting out a hand so it could land. "What are you doing away from the nest." He sat down on his bed, the door still open, so he could pet the little darling. They weren't sure what sex this one was, but he thought she was a girl, a very darling little girl. He cooed at her, making her sing happily.
"Xander," Giles said as he stepped out of his room. "What is that noise?"
"One of the chicks followed me up." He nodded down at her. "She's so precious."
Giles came in and looked down at her, smiling. "My, aren't you tiny," he said, reaching down to scratch the top of her head with a finger. "Are you named yet?"
"We're doing that soon," Xander told him. He looked over at the door as Fawkes flew in. "She followed me up here." He put her on the bed so her parent could check her over. "She was very good, got some lovies." Fawkes cooed at him, then nudged the daughter, flying out after her to make sure she got back to the nest.
Giles laughed. "They're going to liven up the classes, I have no doubt of that." He smiled at Xander and left him alone.
Xander closed his door and sat down to work on his spells. He had just gotten to a fascinating group of illusion spells that he wanted to try out.