The Guardian of Life and Light.
Voldemort's best planners stared at the pictures that someone had taken when the strangers had been brought into their world, frowning at them. "Who are they!" Voldemort demanded.
Draco stepped up to the group and cleared his throat. "If we're talking about a certain blonde Slayer, her wannabe witch, and them, they're Guardians of Light from the Hellmouth. They got called into the battle by a prophecy and Dumbledore sent for them." He sneered at most of the older group, including his father. Then he put down a picture he had another student steal for him. "They're also not complete." He looked at their Lord and Master, bowing slightly. "I had another student search their bags while they were gone. This picture was the only thing that didn't show the members of the group. There's a parental figure. There's an unidentified male. I'm supposing at least one of them is a Watcher and the other is either dead or somewhere. Possibly guarding their Hellmouth."
"What do you know, boy?" Lucius demanded, pulling his wand.
"More than you, obviously," he snorted, staring at their Lord. "It's said that the boy is a normal. They were worried about how he'd handle the Hellmouth all by himself. They said he seems to attract trouble and that is a very...dangerous place."
Voldemort looked at the picture, then at the boy. "I recognize one of them. The older male was at the school a few years back for some cross-training. He is a Watcher," he admitted. He handed it back. "You wish to do what with this knowledge, Malfoy?"
"I wish to find the boy. If he's still alive, he's a source of information on their weaknesses. Even if he's loyal he'll let things slip. Plus, he can be a diversion to draw their attention at a critical moment. Surely they'd never let their friends die a horrible death since they're *good* guys." He smirked at him, as cocky as ever. "Plus, there's no telling what can be found over there. Artifacts of power, other witches and wizards of that sort who could be turned, the more common demons who may be more than willing to fight on our side now since she's joined the other side."
"Even I don't like going to the Hellmouth," Voldemort noted dryly. "It is very chaotic and full of things best left alone."
"Including the one person who could tell us the Slayer's weaknesses and the witch's?"
"Very well. You may go. You have a month to bring him to our side. Since he's a muggle, it shouldn't be too much of a problem," Voldemort sneered.
"I doubt it would be if they were willing to risk his life like that," Draco agreed. "I'll leave first thing in the morning, that will get me there about dark." His Lord nodded so he bowed and left, going to pack a small bag of necessities.
Voldemort looked at Lucius. "He is ambitious," he noted. "A very good heir, Lucius. Make sure he lives and does so properly." His minion bowed and he walked off to consider this new information. A Slayer in a wizard's war? Why would she dirty her hands with them?
Draco landed in the only clear spot he could sense, looking around the small park. It was on the outskirts of the village, he could see lights in the distance. He could also hear something running his way. He drew his wand and shot at the furry creature that was aiming itself for him, killing it efficiently. "Werewolves," he said in disgust. "Wonderful." He looked over at the human jogging out of the woods, raising an eyebrow. "Well, that was easy," he snorted to himself, walking over there. "Hello. I'm Malfoy, Draco Malfoy."
Xander Harris, remaining Scoobie and temporary male slayer, gave him a long look before shaking his hand. "Xander. Why are you here and how did you knock Veruca out?"
"Actually, I killed her by severing her head," he said dryly. "I don't allow myself to get attacked by things like them." He flicked a hand back at the werewolf. Then he gave the boy a confident smirk. "I was sent to watch over you, Xander."
"Wonderful. And a Gilesy person too," he said bitterly. "I'm fine. I don't need a Watcher of my own."
"Well obviously you do since you're working with a crossbow and you're having to chase things all over the town." He paused when he heard more footsteps running their way. "Helpers?" he asked.
"No. I'm alone out here." He pulled up his crossbow as the first vampire ran out of the woods, shooting it quickly then reloading.
"Dear Merlin," Draco complained, shooting hexes to bind the bodies at them. He could kill them at his leisure later.
"You're not a Watcher, are you?" Xander asked patiently.
"No, I'm a wizard like those that your friends have went to help."
"England." He looked the boy over. "What did they tell you?"
"That there was a prophetic battle that they had to fight. That I couldn't come since I had to work every day, and to stay here and try to keep the hellmouth closed and the town unvamped." He glared at the vampires, then walked over to stake most of them, spitting on a few of them. "I hate you," he told the last one he staked. Then he stomped off. "You can have the rest if you want," he offered. "It's not safe out here. I'll bring you back to the house."
Draco picked up his bag and followed him, making a mental plan on how to get the boy to talk to him. He was full of rage at his friends. This may be easier than he had thought. The walk was a long one and they came out near a construction site. He slowed down to look at it, grimacing. "It's leaking!" he called, pointing at the dark power he could feel.
Xander looked back at him and shrugged. "It's a hellmouth, Draco. It does that. We close it when it gets too obnoxious."
"Why not seal it?" he asked, heading that way. They had covered how to seal portals and things in Advanced Defense. He had looked over his notes before coming over so he could fight this thing if it got out of hand. He walked through the site, heading down to the basement level, looking over the dirt floor. He used his wand to etch a pentagram on the floor, then started the incantation the teacher had taught them, adding a secondary locking spell afterward. He was tired by the time he was done but it was much nicer. The stink of dark magic was easing already. He looked behind him, finding his new helper standing there staring at him in awe. "It's an advanced lessons but easy enough," he noted calmly.
"We could only find ones to close it."
"That's what you get when you work with the wannabes and pretend wizards," he snarked, sneering at him. "No matter how powerful, they don't have access to the education or the information we do, nor the power in most cases."
"Hey, we closed it a few times now," Xander defended.
"Yay! It was barely closed! It was leaking, Alexander!"
Xander took a step back and reached for his crossbow. "How did you know?"
"It's a common shortening of the name," Draco said, flicking his hand again. "Now, let's get out of here. I could use a shower and some water or pumpkin juice."
"You guys juice pumpkins instead of turning them into pies?" Xander asked, looking confused. "Giles doesn't do that."
"He's not one of us either," Draco said firmly. "He's another pretending to have power over the elements and his own destiny. You've got a lot to learn if you're going to join our world, Alexander."
"Don't call me that," he snapped. "I hate that name."
"Fine, Xander then," Draco agreed calmly.
"Who said I wanted to join your world?"
"It'd be much easier. You could have anything you wanted."
"I'm not one of you, or one of them," he said bitterly. "That's the other reason they left me here." He turned and stomped off. He didn't care if the new guy looked so shocked he was going to pass out. He didn't want to dwell on that right then.
"Wait, they left a pure muggle here?" Draco muttered, shaking his head. "Why? He couldn't possibly handle this without dying!" He jogged to catch up to the odd man, stopping him by freezing him. As soon as he got closer to him, he unfroze him. "You're a true muggle? Not one of those pretenders?"
"Mind speaking regular english?" he sneered.
"Fine. You're perfectly normal? No magic whatsoever?" Xander shrugged but eventually shook his head. "They left you here to die? They're your friends!"
"I've held the Hellmouth before when everyone went on summer vacation. It's during that same time and it's usually pretty calm. I had it in hand."
"I'm sure," Draco agreed, "but that wasn't very thoughtful of them. Did it not occur to them that you're not a Slayer? That you can die from this?"
"I knew that when I started patrolling back when I was sixteen, Malfoy," Xander told him coolly. "This is nothing new."
Draco suddenly had an idea and he shook his head. "No longer then. I will help you until I'm called back. What they did is wrong. I know some fairly mercenary people but even they wouldn't do something like this to me. Let me get my things and we'll head in for the night. Tomorrow we can deal with teaching me the town so I can help. That is if you want," he said at the harsh look.
"I don't need it."
"You do. You're tired. I can freeze whole nests while you slay them. It will save you a lot of work and exhaustion."
Draco stepped closer, getting into his face. "Xander, I'm offering. You may turn me down but I'll do it behind your back if I must. You're obviously about to drop. You mentioned having to work and I'm assuming that you've got to go in tomorrow morning with how tired you look. Let me help."
"The only ones who want to help are demonic or evil," he said bitterly.
"Well, I can't claim to be the *nicest* of people and I may be on the other side of your supposed friends in this battle, but I'm fighting for my way of life, Xander. I am not demonic however." He gave him another confident smirk. "How about it?"
"Fine. Whatever. We had a vampire helping us at one time, I suppose we can have you." He stomped off, turning when he heard Draco summon his bag. "How did you do that!"
"Easy, I used my wand," he said, holding it up. "Summoning charms are covered in our third year, when we're thirteen, Xander. This isn't something spectacular like closing the Hellmouth was."
"It'll open again," he retorted.
"I doubt it, I locked it shut." Xander dropped his crossbow. "As I said, I sealed it shut. It should not open again, ever. If it does, then someone much more powerful than I am is doing so and I'm fairly powerful. Only my Lord and Master and two of his top Lieutenants are more powerful than I am. And my father is not one of them." He floated the crossbow up with a quiet 'Wingardum Leviosa' and let it hover in front of him. "There, you'll want this back." Xander took it and nodded, turning and walking off. "Is it much farther? I would have unshrunk my broom if I knew it was this much of a hike," he said as he followed him.
"About five more blocks," Xander told him, scanning around them for more vampires. There seemed to be a lot of parties since Buffy and Willow had left. He got them onto the front porch of Buffy's house, where he was staying for a bit. "Why are you here?" he asked quietly.
"Because I don't want to be there?" Xander gave him a hard stare. "Fine, I came over to learn about your friends from you. It's what any smart warrior would do when faced with an unknown opponent and given the chance to do so."
"Point. Are you going to try to kill me or Buffy's mom?"
"No. It's clear it wouldn't affect them much since they left you here to die."
"They thought I could handle it. I have in the past."
"Which is wonderful. Were you holding down a job then?" Xander shook his head, sighing in frustration, it had sounded like he was frustrated and angry again. "Then it wouldn't affect them to harm you. They know you work. They know you have other claims on your time, that you didn't have the magic to keep something from happening, and that if something truly horrible was about to happen that you'd be dead. I heard them saying that they were worried about it. The blonde said that you'd probably be inside most of the time and only go out to deal with fledges until it go too dangerous. The redhead was frowning at her but she decided that she was right. You're obviously more than they think. That makes you more than they deserve. Therefore you are safe from me, but I will still try to pump you for information on them."
Xander nodded. "Fine." He opened the door and nodded him inside, watching as the pale man walked inside. "Well, you're not undead, that's a good start," he decided. "Pick a couch. I'll set you up in my place tonight."
"That's fine, Xander. Thank you. Is there a bathroom?"
"Yeah, but you might wake up Joyce, Buffy's mom. If you can wait, she'll be gone shortly after I will and I'll drop you at my place on my way to work."
"That's fine," Draco agreed, sitting down in a comfortable chair. "Go ahead and rest. It's still early where I come from."
"Thanks, Draco." He laid down, a stake under his pillow, right next to his hand. He closed his eyes and drifted off quickly.
Joyce came down the stairs. "My daughter is where?"
"Fighting against my people," he told her. "She's fighting on the supposed good guys' side against my Lord and Master." He knew that lying to her would get him hurt, she had that look about her. Besides, his own mother was the only person he feared, so it transferred in his mind. "I'm not going to harm you, ma'am."
"Thank you, young man. Your name?"
"Huh. Buffy was saying something about someone in your family."
"Probably my father. He openly supports our Lord and Master. I fight to protect my way of life. He fights because he likes to torture others."
"Then why are you here?"
"It's a fact finding mission." He stood up, facing her. "Your daughter is now my enemy. As any good warrior would, I'm here to find out about her and her weaknesses. Since I've realized that she left Xander here to die, he's only listed as a source of information and I doubt she has strong enough feelings for anything to affect her. Besides," he said with a catty smirk, "my mother is scary, therefore they all are."
"Keep that thought, Draco Malfoy. Are you staying here now that you know?"
"I sealed the Hellmouth closed earlier, it obviously needed those who aren't pretenders to the claim of power. I can find many reasons to stay."
She stared into his eyes. "If you try for Xander, I will kill you," she assured him. "I did learn quite a lot in the peace riots we had, and from watching my daughter slay things. If I can't, I'm sure there's two vampires who can and will for her."
"Fine," he agreed. "I'm not here for you or to harm him. It wouldn't yield the desired result." She nodded at that wisdom. "Did you need help around here?"
"No, that's fine. Go shower, you're sweaty." He nodded, taking his bag up the stairs with him. She tucked a sheet around Xander and went to make some coffee while she thought. She hadn't realized that things were that bad and that Xander was in that sort of danger. Maybe she should call Angel and tell him? No, he's got his own problems from what Buffy had told her. LA was probably just as bad as here. She sat down with her coffee to watch the sun rise. She needed to do this more often. She had been taking it for granted that the sun would continue to rise. She looked over as Xander stumbled in. "Can't you take the day off, Xander? You can nap upstairs."
"No, that's okay," he mumbled, pouring some coffee. "I don't have any sick days left. Not after I had to reset my shoulder the other day." He added sugar and sat down, staring outside. "It's pretty."
"It is. I've been taking for granted that it'll continue."
He touched the back of her hand. "As long as I live, it will continue," he said quietly, sounding perfectly serious.
"Xander, you're a normal guy, you can't last against them forever, not when girls like Buffy die after a few years. You've already outlived a bunch of slayers." She looked at him, seeing the exhaustion. "I'm calling you off."
"If you do, I'll be fired."
Draco walked in, his hair refixed and his clothes perfect again. "I believe I can help with that," he offered. Xander shook his head. "I can. I can make him forget that you've ever missed."
"That would be unethical."
"And?" Draco demanded. "It would keep you employed and give you enough time to heal and rest. She has a point, Xander. You can't keep going. If your job involves doing more than filling out forms, you're going to get hurt."
"No, he works construction," Joyce told him. "Complete with tools that run on their own."
Draco looked horrified. "How have you survived!"
"I'm fine," he said coolly. "I don't need a Watcher."
"No, you need someone to help you," Joyce said gently, stroking his back. "You're exhausted, Xander. You haven't gotten any sleep in a few days. You have to sleep or you'll start to hallucinate or die from it. Trust me, I've seen people who have hallucinated from lack of sleep before and crashed their cars into trees."
"I'm not that bad yet and I've hallucinated before," he promised her, giving her a look. "I'm fine, Joyce. It's Thursday, I can rest Saturday."
"It's not that hard of a spell," Draco promised. "It takes nearly no time."
"That's not fair to the other guys, Draco. They need me there or I wouldn't have a job." He got up and stomped off, going out to his car. He had to change before work. He'd worn the same clothes now for two days and the guys were already giving him funny looks. He made it to the site in time to clock in, taking his assignment sheet for the day from his boss's hand. "Morning," he said as cheerfully as he could manage.
The boss pulled him into his trailer. "I don't know who she is, Xander, but it's got to stop. You've got to sleep sometime."
"It's not a girl, boss. I wish it were, but it's not. I promise it's not," he said at the stare into his eyes. "I just can't sleep."
"Is that because you're running all over town with a crossbow?" he asked quietly, sitting on the edge of his desk. Xander slumped and sat down, looking up at him. "I saw you the night before last. What time did you get in?"
"About an hour ago," he said honestly. "It's not foolish either, it's important."
"Kid, I'm not one of those who ignores things. Where's the Slayer?" Xander opened his mouth. "I knew who she was when you let her work those few days and she picked up that beam, Xander. It was fairly obvious and I had some reading done when I first got here. There's a great need here for construction workers."
"England apparently," he said bitterly. He ran a hand through his damp hair. "I'm sorry I'm so tired, boss. I'll sleep a lot this weekend. There's been a guy who showed up last night to help, even though he's a bad guy."
"He's pumping you for information?"
"Honestly, he even admitted it already," Xander told him, looking up at him again. He leaned back in the chair. "They left about a week ago."
"I noticed you've looked like hell for the last week," he agreed. "Go home."
"I can't. I don't have any more days."
"You do if I say you do. You're too tired not to hurt yourself or someone else. Go home. Now. Come back Monday. I'm suspending you until you've slept at least twelve hours straight." He stood up and took the sheet back. "Go rest, kid. You look like hell warmed up." Xander nodded and trudged out, getting into his car to go back home. He looked at his foreman. "I suspended him to get some sleep."
"No, nightmares," he said quietly. "He hasn't slept in a week. He'll be back Monday."
"Fine, I'll schedule him for then," the foreman noted, taking the assignment sheet back and making notes on his forms.
Willow looked up at the stars as Buffy joined her. "Something just happened at home. I can't feel the Hellmouth anymore." Buffy sighed and leaned on the parapet so she could stare down at the lake. "I'm serious," she said quietly.
"I figured you were but we can't do anything about that right now," Buffy pointed out, sounding tired. "We've got to be here until after that battle. If we leave it could happen and lose them the war against the bad guys." She looked at Willow. "Maybe something just logged into it?"
Willow shook her head, turning to look at her. "Not in the least. It's like it's gone." Buffy shivered, wrapping her arms around her chest. "Yeah, and only Xander's there."
"We can sneak away tomorrow during the day to call Angel," she offered.
Willow nodded. "That might be for the best. At the ver least he may be able to save Xander. It's got to be powerful if it cut the warnings I put on the thing. It had been starting to leak and open again." Buffy shuddered. "Xander could be dead."
"He's not. He's a strong guy and he's done it before. He wouldn't die from something like this. He's probably asleep right now. He wouldn't go out and patrol on his own. He knows he can't fight that well. If it was anything really dangerous he'd have already called Angel and bugged him to come fix it for him."
"Buffy, we didn't even tell him which country we were heading to."
"If we had, he would have shown up and gotten in the way, Willow. You know he can't do magic stuff. He's a normal guy and there's no place in this war for normal guys. We're doing it to protect him. He'd be miserable here anyway and he'd lose his job."
"It won't matter if he's dead," Willow pointed out bitterly. "It was wrong to leave without giving him any warning."
"We mailed the letter from the airport, he would have gotten it that night," she defended. She heard the door open behind them and turned to look at Giles. "Tell her Xander will be fine until we can get back!" she demanded.
"Giles, someone just closed the hellmouth," Willow told him. "Xander didn't even know where we went. The letter never said where we went and he doesn't know Angel's number."
"He's in the phone book," Buffy defended.
"We'll call Angel tomorrow," Giles said, breaking up the argument. "How do you know it was closed?"
"I had a small warning put on it the last time we closed it, it's fed off the power," she explained, giving him a small shrug. "That way we could tell when it was starting to open again. It had been leaking but a few hours ago it was like it snapped and the warning's completely dead. So I'm hoping someone closed it. Either that or it opened fully and the warning was burned out. It feels like it's gone though."
"We'll call Angel later," Giles promised them. "I'll head back to my house to do that." The girls nodded, smiling at him. "I'm sure Xander is fine, Willow. He knows better than to take on something that could deal with the Hellmouth. He knows he doesn't have the skills to do that. He is realistic about what he can do. I'm sure he's been taking it easy and only going to the Bronze or something." The boy wouldn't possibly be patrolling, not with his lack of skills. Would he? "I'll leave right after breakfast. Do you need anything when I go?"
"I need tampons," Buffy told him.
"Fine," he agreed easily, opening the door so they could go back inside. He looked up at the stars, noticing how pretty and clear they looked here. It was a beautiful place and one he didn't want to see destroyed.
Xander walked into his apartment and flopped down onto his couch, face down, and decided to mentally rant but he was too tired. He was asleep within minutes. That's why he didn't see Draco come out of the bedroom or feel himself be moved in there.
Draco came out after tucking the man into bed, going to call his Lord and Master. His father's face popped up. "Get me Snape or our Lord," he ordered coldly. "There's a hitch in the plans."
"Have you failed?" he asked with a sneer.
"No, they left him here to die. He's more than able to cooperate. I sealed the Hellmouth last night because it was leaking. Now, get me Snape or our Lord." Lucius backed off when someone grabbed him and moved him. Snape's face took his father's place. "They left the boy here to die. He's fully normal. No magic at all." Snape's face hardened. "He was doing all their jobs. I sealed the Hellmouth last night and locked it down. Thank the Defense teacher if he's still alive. It came in very handy." Snape nodded once. "Also, he's so tired he was about to die from it. Last night I appeared and a werewolf tried to attack me, then a legion of vampires. I took care of them before sealing the hellmouth. Her mother is a practical woman. She told me she'd kill me if I hurt Xander."
"Then he knows why you're there?"
"He knows I'm fighting for my way of life," he agreed with a small smirk of his own. "He's full of rage. He about threw a fit when I told him what had been overheard from his friends' mouths. He's been doing it all by himself since they left, and they didn't tell him where they were going."
Snape growled. "Then they deserve to die."
"As far as I'm concerned, yes. Tonight I'm going to clean out more of the beasts. They're mostly minor vampires, mostly mindless attackers. No challenge." Snape nodded. "If I find anything higher I'll approach it on our Lord's behalf. He has literally been going on a single hour's sleep each night. I didn't even have to talk to his boss, he suspended him to sleep. He works construction."
"Interesting. He's a muggle?"
"He's so muggle that Granger's family would call him one," he snorted dryly. "He said he's been doing this since he was sixteen, he *volunteered*." Snape shuddered. "Exactly. He's not what I expected, but he's also not what we absolutely need. There may be things we can still learn so I'll stay to find allies if that's fine."
"Fine. I'll tell our Master. Be safe, Draco. Remember your protections." His head disappeared.
Draco got up and went to check on the boy, he wasn't snoring but he was still asleep. He was mewling in his sleep but it would be fine he supposed. He went to sit on the couch, then got up to examine some of the strange artifacts around the small flat.
When Xander woke up, it was dark outside and he could smell real food. He sniffed on his way to the bathroom, then came out to take the plate Draco held out. "Thanks. How did you get in?"
"Lock spells are a first year lesson," he noted, pushing the boy toward the couch. "Go eat. I've already done a turn locally and there's nothing out tonight." Xander gave him a long look, his fork halfway into his mouth. "Eat," he snapped. Xander ate that bite. "Thank you. Don't waste my meager efforts in cooking." He walked out, bringing one of those cans of stuff with the bubbles. There wasn't much else in the house to drink and the water had tasted wrong. "Eat, Xander," he said patiently. "We can talk once you're done."
"There weren't any vampires?"
"Not that I saw. I didn't go digging into the sewer system or anything but there weren't any outside in the open. Maybe they're tired and taking the night off as well."
"I doubt it," Xander said but he did continue to eat. He was starving and he couldn't remember the last time he'd had more than coffee. "This is good, thanks."
"You're welcome. You're incredibly easy to please." Draco got comfortable. "Drink as well if you can stand that fizzy stuff."
"Soda's good for me," Xander assured him as he popped open the can and gulped half of it. "Thank you, Draco."
"Not an issue, Xander. After you're done, you can go back to sleep." The other boy stared at him. "You need it and it's nearly midnight. I can do another stroll about outside. Maybe I'll find something fun to do."
"Only if you go over to the Bronze. It's a club," he offered. "It'll be closing in about two hours."
"That's fine, I'll go that way. Thank you. Now finish up and go back to sleep. You can show me the worst spots tomorrow."
"One of those would be the Bronze," Xander told him.
"Even better. I've never watched Muggles at play." Xander finished his dinner and gulped the rest of his soda, so Draco swished his wand behind the younger man's back, making him fall asleep again. "There, neatly done. You rest and I'll be back later. This Bronze place sounds like a place where I might find a higher demon." He straightened himself out and decided to go without his robe, heading out into the night. He saw a pair of girls walking up the street toward him and paused to talk to them. "Where might I find the Bronze?" he asked.
"Ooh, a foreign boy," one of the girls cooed. He shrugged. "It's back that way about four more blocks. It's in the alley," she offered.
The other vamped out. "Not that you'll make it."
"When did you start doing that" her friend demanded.
Draco pulled a stake and hit her, then dusted himself off. "Four blocks you said?" he asked calmly. The woman started to cry so he wandered that way, figuring he could find someone else with better directions the closer he got. He finally found the entrance and walked inside. There was no guard on the door, he was being eaten apparently. He paused to look at the chaos inside. There were people playing games on a table with a stick. There was a great number of them doing something indecent on the floor to the loud music. There was a bar but he doubted he'd be served since he didn't have any local identification. He headed that way anyway. It was always easier to find information at the bar. What he found was a cool woman who drug him onto the floor before he could protest. "You're obviously undead," he said over the throbbing music. She pouted at him. "I'm looking for the town's master or leader so we can talk about an alignment between you lot and Voldemort." The last syllable had come as the music had stopped but he quickly lowered his voice. "Can you lead me to them."
"There's no leader in town," she told him, tipping her head to look at him. "Who're you?"
"Never heard of you." She smirked at him. "I can make you want to be bitten."
"I doubt it. My father and his friends torture people for fun." She pouted again so he shrugged. "My kind are rather like that at times." He led her under the stairs, which was as private as he was getting inside the club and he didn't trust her to not call on her friends outside. He cast the Imperious on her, making her shudder but be under his control. "Where are the town's leaders?"
"The slayer's gone, we're partying hard until she comes back."
"The demonic leaders?"
"There's not one. Not since Angelus went good again and Spike left with Dru. There aren't many higher demons either, they left today and last night."
"Because the power dried up." He groaned. "Are you the wizard they were complaining about?" He glared at her. "Sorry, Master. Can I bite you now?"
"No," he said bitterly, freeing her and staking her. He went back to his watching, hoping for a better target. He was drug back into the middle of the bodies doing ...whatever to the music.
"Relax," a voice yelled behind him. "It's like sex only you're upright and clothed."
He pulled her around to face her. "I'm only on top," he said with a smirk, getting to like this one. She was rather open and he could have some fun with her.
"Hey, putz, hands off my girl!" a guy yelled, pushing him.
Draco gave him a cold look. "You dare touch me?" The big man cracked his knuckles and Draco sneered. "I don't fight like a commoner, if you want her that much, take her. She came onto me." The man took a swing and Draco grabbed him by the throat, staring into his eyes. The man whimpered, but he didn't struggle. "I don't brawl like some common creature," he repeated calmly, noticing the music had cut out. "Leave." He let him go and the man hurried out, his girlfriend following after him at a dead run. He looked at the people staring at him. "I don't take well to intimidation," he noted. The music restarted and he went to the bar, where a pretty young woman bought him a beer. It was nothing like what he was used to but it was tasty enough he supposed. Even if it did fizz.
The next night, Xander took Draco out on a proper patrol, showing him all the cemeteries. "What did you do on your night alone?" he asked finally, not liking the silence.
"I went to question someone about the higher powers locally. She claimed there wasn't one so I staked her and nearly got hit by a neanderthal. Fortunately for him I have a few people like him in my employ so he was easily cowed before I had to hurt him." Xander stopped to stare at him. "What? I have two guards who are nearly as bad as he was. I kept them in line, I can easily beat someone like him without my wand." He glared at the creature stomping their way, pulling his wand. "What are you?" he asked in disgust. "You smell like a bathroom after a bean dinner."
"Then he's probably a nightmare," Xander said, pulling up his crossbow. "You wanted what?"
The demon fell to its knees in front of Draco and garbled something, which made Draco frown and cast a small spell to translate it for him. It repeated it then bowed and got up, wandering off.
"He just swore loyalty to you why?" Xander asked dryly, staring at this person. Draco shrugged. "Okay then. We'll keep going. Maybe someone will have the answers for that."
"Hopefully. It was rather smelly and I hope it didn't cling to my robes." He sniffed his shirt, but it smelled normal to him so maybe his evening hadn't been ruined by the stench. A few vampires later one of them bowed to him too and then ran off before Xander could try to stake it. "All right, I want an explanation now," he yelled after him.
A female appeared and walked toward him. "Draco Malfoy. Why are you over here?"
"To fix some things." He looked over the demon, knowing what she was. "I have no use for your sort. I get enough of that without someone feeding off me."
"Huh?" Xander asked.
"She's a succubus."
"Oh. And you're not here to try for me?" he asked in awe. "Thank you!" He hugged her and went to be happy a bit away so he could hear but not interrupt.
"Who is he?" she asked.
"That's Xander Harris."
"Oh." She frowned at him. "You're not fun anymore. Too many of us have tried for you. So we're giving you a chance to recover." She looked at Draco again, moving closer to teasingly drag her lips across his. "If you wanted the town it could be yours, Draco Malfoy, but it would come at a price. Namely all that was yours will be gone."
He snorted. "If I did that, I could have them gather other things for me and become even more powerful. Even among my kind."
"True," she agreed, smiling sweetly at him. "I can start that for you for a price."
"Why would I need you?" he asked smoothly. "I can get any fledge to report that for me." He kissed her for real, making her moan. Then he stepped back and did the capturing spell. He ran his hand through his hair and looked her over. "Why would I need you?"
"Because I can get the information to all of them without dying."
Draco sneered. "Sure you can. If you could, you'd have already done it and come to me for favor instead of asking first. That means you're scared of what I can do. Which is always wise," he agreed coolly. He looked at Xander. "Want this one?"
"No, I don't like demons and sex. It was bad enough I was dating Anya but she left with Buffy and Willow." He stood up, dusting off his pants. "Whatever you want to do to her go ahead. I don't want to listen to torture though so I'm going to walk on."
"That's fine, I won't torture her." Draco looked her over. "The only way to gain release is to bring who I am to the others and tell them that I'm here to take over. Up to you of course." She nodded quickly. "Then see if any higher ones are in town and ask them for my Lord if they want to join forces."
"Fine," she agreed. "Please let me go before I die." He canceled the spell and she bowed to him before rushing off. Maybe he'd remember her fondly after all.
Draco caught up with Xander and smirked at him. "Do you often get invitations like that?"
"No, usually if a demon wants me they want to kill me."
"Pity. I broke myself with one last year. She was quite good at what she did and she found it most difficult to feed off me. All that hard work for nothing," he said smugly. Xander gave him a stunned look. "Yes, me," he said smugly. "Now, what next?"
"More vampires, just like every other night," he said dryly. "You're taking over?"
"I'd be decent about it but maybe. It would get me power out the bum and make me powerful enough to warrant my Lord looking at me in a new light. Of course, I like you so you can serve me as a general guardian," he offered with a smirk for him. "I need a good person locally to look things over for me and this way there'd be less unannounced demon attacks."
"And you'd do what?"
"Play to my heart's content," he said happily.
"What about Buffy and Willow?"
"It'd probably be better for them if they stayed over there," he noted dryly. "That way I wouldn't have to deal with such nastiness as slayers and pretend witches."
"You know, Willow is pretty powerful."
He snorted. "In her own mind perhaps but not in truth. I can do more spells in a row than she can and she's fairly pitiful against most of our first years."
"They could be fitting her for a wand and things."
"I doubt it. There's not much crossover." He smoothed his hair back again.
"There you go again. You play with your hair like a girl," Xander teased to break the tension in himself.
Draco pinched him. "I do not! Looking perfect is important to my image."
"Are you sure you're not a politician?"
"Shut it, you. Do not insult me that way again."
Xander smirked at him. "You act like one."
"I do not!"
"You do so!"
Draco glared at him. "I can hurt you instead of protect you."
"Sorry, just joking," Xander assured him with a grin.
"You had better be," he said firmly, following him down the path. "This looks well maintained."
"It's one of the car paths. There's so many funerals that it won't ever overgrow unless the entire town dies."
"Hopefully that'll slow down as well now that the blasted sucking hole of power is shut for good," Draco said kindly. He looked ahead of them and noticed that there was another cemetery up there. "How many of these are there?"
"Seven full ones, three new ones, one just getting ready to open," Xander reported. "It's the most profitable business around here. The coffin company is doing great business. I've got...family that works there."
Draco let that last part of the statement go past him. He didn't want to dig into Xander's past at the moment. "What happens if the demon activity slows down?"
"I'm guessing some people would be laid off after a few months of business slowing down and the local money base would slowly slump unless we could entice other companies to come in. Why?"
"Because with less power at hand, less powerful demons will be coming in," Draco said patiently. Which means that less people will be dying, which will cut business for the cemeteries and that coffin company." He considered it. "Most likely a few of them will leave, which will create new openings and things, which would even out the local economy somehow." He noticed Xander staring at him. "You have to think about such things when you make major changes in the world. The same as I thought last night that another one may be forced open since the power has to go somewhere. It's a risk you've got to take. I'm sure that your slayer will be going there if one does. Would you want to leave?"
"I like my job," Xander told him quietly. "You don't think they'd want me to go?" Draco stared at him. "Yeah, I guess not. Not with the way they left me this time. Did I tell you that they mailed me a letter from the airport?" Draco shook his head so Xander moved closer. "That's how I found out they were gone, that letter. It didn't say where they were going."
Draco gave him a gentle nudge. "If it matters, you're better off without them. You've got the chance for a real life. You could even find a good bird to date." Xander shuddered and shook his head. "You're gay?" he asked patiently.
"No, only evil women like me," he said bitterly. "Only demons and things who want to kill me."
"I know a few women who wouldn't mind you," he admitted. "If I could capture a few on the other side of the battle I might do that for you," he offered with a small smirk for him. "They're nice women but they shouldn't be opposing us. One of them's even a pure blood."
Xander shrugged. "Lineage isn't important to me, Draco. My parents aren't that special."
"How do you feel about smart girls? There's one on the other side who's a thorn in the side and it would demoralize Potter if she disappeared." Xander gave him an odd look. "They're most of the women I have access to. Most of the rest are on my side and pure bloods. They'd never consider you more than a future torture victim." He clapped him on the back. "But if I can, I'll gladly kidnap one of the other side and give her to you. They'd be fighters too," he pointed out. "It'd also be one less that'd have to be killed or turned."
"I'll consider it if you end up taking over the town," Xander said dryly, giving him a light nudge. "You're odd, Malfoy."
"Well, not really. I'm perfectly normal for what I am. Then again, if I did take over, I could invite a few select wizards over here to live. There's still plenty of power here that's not from that den of evil I closed last night." He noticed a vampire stomping toward them and pulled his wand, freezing him. Xander squeaked. "Know him, pet?"
"That's Angel," Xander said in awe, staring at him. "You froze Angel. He's a Warrior for the Powers That Be."
Draco shrugged. "What do I care? He's a bloody annoying poof in my book. Look at those clothes!" he said in disgust. "How very gay!" He walked closer, unfreezing him but putting on a full body bind. "Good evening," he said with a smirk. "Did you have some need to be here?"
"Who are you?" Angel demanded.
"Hi, Angel," Xander said. Angel glared at him. "Hmm. You're not happy. You haven't lost your soul again, right?" Angel glared harder. "Fine. This is Draco Malfoy. He sealed the Hellmouth last night. He's here to work out some frustration and see if there's anything he can use against Buffy in the war. He's fighting for his way of life against them but he's promised to leave Joyce alone." He grinned at Draco, then back at Angel. "He sealed it shut, even put a padlock spell thingy on it."
Angel looked at the wizard, then snorted. "I doubt it."
"Do you feel it?" Draco asked calmly. Angel paused then slowly shook his head. "Then why don't you believe him? From what I've learned, you fought beside him in the past."
"Why are you helping him, Harris?"
"Gee, because he stopped all the problems, saved my life last night, and he's making it easier on me to patrol?" he guessed. "Buffy, Willow, Anya, and Giles left over a week ago, Angel. Until he showed up I was doing it on my own." Angel snorted. "Don't believe me?" He took off his shirt to show the bruises. "Still think so?" Angel looked shocked. "He not only killed a rouge werewolf that I was hunting, he killed a great many vampires, then he closed the hellmouth. I consider that good enough to help. After all, we let you help, Deadboy." He stomped off, putting back on his shirt.
Draco looked at the vampire, then snorted dryly. "I don't consider you a threat but you did just upset the poor boy horribly and he's been so very tired. He hadn't slept in a week when I got here. How could I not make this place safer for myself?" He looked over as the succubus reappeared and knelt at his side. "Yes?" he demanded.
"There is a meeting tonight, Lord Draco," she said quietly. "They wish you to attend so they may talk to you and try to kill you."
"When and where?"
"The warehouses by the docks, Lord." She looked up at Angel and sneered. "That is Angelus, Lord, should I torment him for you?"
"No, he's not worthy of my attention and he insulted Harris more," Draco decided, leaving him there. "If he makes it to cover before dawn, that's his opportunity to live." He followed Xander's trail, finding him beating up on a newly risen vampire. He paused to watch, noticing that the boy wasn't the best, but he was tearing him into chunks in his anger. When the vampire was finally staked he clapped. "I left him tied up," he said at the panting long stare he received. "Are you calmer now?"
"No." Xander stood up, still holding his side. "I'm a bit sore, want to finish this later? I could use a break and some tylenol or something."
Draco pulled him closer as soon as he stepped close enough, using his wand to perform a checking spell, grimacing at him. "How long have you had a broken rib?"
"A few weeks," he admitted. "It's fine."
"It's not fine, Xander. I've got a meeting later. Let me get you back to the apartment or to Joyce's." They walked past the frozen vampire, sneering at him. "Aren't you enjoying this?" He looked up as two vampires rushed them, getting pounced onto his back and losing his wand for a moment. Fortunately he did know how to fight some.
Xander, however, was already tired. He struggled with him, but did get a stake into the right place after a few minutes and managed to stake him before falling to his knees gripping his ribs. He threw the stake at Draco's vampire, hitting it in the right spot to dust it too. "Okay, now I really want a pain killer. Help me back to the apartment and I'll walk you to your meeting later."
"No, I'll escort you home and let you rest," Draco ordered as he got up, finding his wand easily. He helped Xander up and walked him off, taking him home. He got Xander embedded on the couch with pain killers and another soda, then left. He passed by where Angel was struggling to get free, sneering at him. "Still think he's a worthless fighter?" Angel tried to sneer back but Draco left him there to die if he couldn't figure out how to get free or escape to some shadow by sunrise. He hated people like that vampire was. He pulled his wand as he walked into the warehouse, waving his wand casually. "Luminos." The vampires screamed as they burned in the fake sunlight. He looked at the other demons, sneering at them. "I come at the behest of Lord Voldemort, looking for those demons who are worthy enough to ally themselves with him since the Slayer has joined our war. Do you know anyone who might want to talk about that?"
"You don't want to take over the town?" one of them ground out.
"I'm considering it," he admitted. "I can see the profitability in it. If you have information that could influence my decision, I would like to hear it." He summoned over a chair and sat down to face them. "Please, sit," he ordered calmly. "Let us discuss these points."
They pulled over their chairs to talk to the young wizard. He wasn't challenging them yet but it was coming, they knew it was coming and they needed to learn more about their enemy first.
Draco looked at the head in the fireplace, smirking at it. "Severus, good morning," he said, waving his cup of tea. "Come over, there's been some interesting developments."
Severus Snape looked at the young man. "What's happened?"
"I've been offered the town," he said with a smirk. "Don't worry about us being overheard, Harris is asleep. He had to take some extra pain medicine for his ribs. He's been fighting with some minor breaks in them." He took another sip. "I met with the major demons in town last night. They're mostly lower level demons but they're not thrilled with the current status of the town. With the hellmouth sealed, it doesn't give them enough power to be as scary." He smirked at him. "So my first instinct was quite correct. They have passed back news to a few of the higher demons to show up over there for an alliance but they said those would have to find our Lord and Master worthy of their demonic powers." Snape nodded slowly. Then his head turned and he said something in a light hiss. He turned back again and Draco smirked at him. "Did my father just try to poke you with his wand again?" he asked fondly. "You really could come up. If I do take up their charming offer, I was going to set up an enclave of a few of us around here. The muggles aren't the sort to serve willingly but there's enough here who'll do menial labor and the like. There's also a harbor and some wonderful lands around here. A great set of woods and a college. Harris would be my choice for muggle guardian. He's always lived here and knows how much you can push the barrier."
Snape looked at the boy. "Those are ambitious plans."
"They are," Draco agreed smugly. "But it's not that hard. It was offered to me and the town already has most of the structures in place. It was built by someone who was trying to make a demon enclave. Plus, LA is only three hours away and other major cities are a few hours more." He finished off his tea and put the cup aside. "It's really most cheery and nice here. Oh, you might tell the Slayer that her former boyfriend may be dead. That depends on him breaking my body binding or moving out of the clear area I bound him in."
"Why?" Snape asked calmly.
"Because he came up and sneered at me, Severus. He was most insulting to myself and to Xander. Said he didn't know what he was doing," he said with a snort. "I have the feeling that everyone underestimates that boy quite a lot. There's a good streak of darkness in him at times."
"If you say so." He looked behind him again. "I'll be back in an hour, once I've given your report for you. Be more appropriate in your appearance the next time in case our Lord wants to talk to you personally." Draco nodded. He hung up and went to his Lord's study, bowing before him. "Draco Malfoy has just reported in, Lord Voldemort."
"What now?" he said dryly.
"He's been offered the town of Sunnydale."
"What!" He stood up and hauled Severus up to face him. "Explain that, Severus."
"The boy sealed the Hellmouth his first night, Lord, I reported that to you from his first report. Well it seems that the demons consider him more scary. Though he did say a few were headed this way to see if you were worthy to form an alliance with them." Voldemort let him go so he relaxed slightly. "He has also reported that he may have killed the slayer's former boyfriend, who was a vampire. He is unsure whether or not said vampire got free of his body binding or made it to shelter before daybreak. Apparently the vampire sneered at him and the boy he went there to search out. He stated that the boy has a dark streak from the anger in him. He reports that the boy would make a very good guardian and if he does take over the town he would name him such. He also stated that the town was built by someone who wanted to form an demon enclave so many things would already be set up and Draco had plans to use them if he accepted the demons' gracious offer." He straightened back up when his Lord started to pace. "I said I'd return to talk to him again in an hour and advised him to be more presentable in case you wished to speak with him in person this time."
"No, you go over there in person and make sure his reports were correct," he ordered finally, stopping to stare at him. "I do not trust this boy. That muggle could have turned him against us."
"Yes, Lord. I will make my preparations when you release me."
"Good, Severus," he hissed, stepping closer. "If the boy takes up this...offer, we will see how loyal he is."
"He said he was going to offer me a place in his enclave, Lord. That the muggle would be a guardian because he understood the locals and how much they could be pushed and how quickly to do so in a quiet manner. He also mentioned a few notable cities close by so this would make a very good staging area."
"Indeed? What is close by?"
"By my research, LA was a few hours away, he said three. Santa Barbara is about the same. San Francisco was about five or six hours by broom. He also stated that Sunnydale had a small harbor so they're used to shipping concerns. He mentioned a muggle college nearby as well as a great deal of woods and arable lands."
"That sounds idyllic," Voldemort sneered. "Does the boy think he could hide over there?"
"I think the power has gone to his mind, Lord, and he hasn't thought about that. Though, he could be hoping to have a section to run of his own. He made points that made the town sound like a good starting point for our battles over there. We've all known that the boy was brighter than Lucius and that he could and would take over some of the higher duties if asked and allowed. He may think that this gives him that permission in a new arena."
"Very well. Go to where he is. Look this area over. I will alert the sentries to send any demons to me personally to talk to them. They will do well to distract the Slayer and her cohorts, those pretenders to power." He waved a hand. "Dismissed, Severus. Bring me back a report in person in three days."
"Yes, Lord." He bowed and backed out, then went to pack and send off an owl to the school to warn them that he'd be late coming in for the term. When the appointed time happened, he created a portkey and sent himself off.
Draco looked over as Snape appeared behind him, waving a hand. "Welcome to Sunnydale, Severus. Xander, put on some water," he ordered. "I'll make tea in a moment." Xander nodded from the kitchen, he was making his own breakfast. "Are you hungry?"
"No." He looked at the muggle and froze him. "What are you playing at, boy?"
"Unfreeze him, Severus. I need more tea. He's not quite gotten that part down yet but he's immune to most compulsions. I find asking him makes more sense because he'll out- stubborn my mother at times." He gave him a bland look. "Now, Severus." The Potions master sneered but released the boy, who went about drawing water for tea and putting it on the stove. "Xander, come tell Severus about last night."
"Who is this guy?" Xander asked, staring him down. "He looks like a vampire."
"He's my former Potion's teacher, one of my favorite professors. He may also be able to tell you something about what your friends are doing."
Severus sneered at the boy. "They're your *friends*?"
"Willow and I have been friends since we were young children. But no, I call one of them my soon-to-be-former girlfriend," he said dryly, sneering back. "Why? Have they already messed up?"
"No, they're safely in the school," Severus told him. He froze the boy again, watching as he shook himself out of it a few minutes later. "How did you do that!"
"Easy, demons love me," he said dryly. "It's been done before. Draco, I don't remember, what do I do after the water boils? Besides throwing it on him?"
"I'll come do that, Xander. Go write her a Dear John letter or whatever and we'll find a way to deliver it to her." He nodded and stomped off, so he smirked at Severus again. "You were saying?"
"He acts like most young men who have been in war zones most of their lives," he admitted. "He is also very bitter."
"Up until this he thought they were his friends, Severus. Of course he's a tad bit bitter. They took off without telling him beforehand and mailed a letter saying that they were gone and not where they were going." Severus grunted in displeasure. "So, no, I'd expect bitterness. What do you think about capturing Weasel or Granger for him?" The older wizard gave him an odd look. "It would get them out of the fight, it would get him suitably settled with someone who would tie him to this town and to me, and they would probably help him after they saw what was going on around here."
"It would get them out of the fight but I doubt Granger would allow herself to be given that way. Nor would Miss Weasley."
"Who said they'd have a choice?" Draco snorted. "I'd keep their wands until the wedding and then they couldn't leave." He flicked his wand at the screaming pot in the kitchen, taking it off the stove and turning off the stove, then dumping some tea leaves into it by weight. "There, let it steep," he ordered, getting comfortable. "So, how long do you have on this vacation?"
"Three days. Our Master wanted to make sure that you didn't have a thought of abandoning him to this location."
"No, but it is an interesting spot," he admitted dryly. "I'll show you around later. You can even wear your robe, no one around here notices anything odd about them. Xander, are you summoning a demon?" he called, feeling the magic starting around them.
"Yeah, she's still got some demonic friends so I yelled for her, hoping to get one of them." He opened the door, looking at the demon who appeared behind Snape. "You're one of her friends, right? Hallie?" She nodded, crossing her arms. "Good, can you tell your buddy that we're through since she decided to leave for a foreign country and not tell me?" Her mouth opened. "She took off and didn't tell me where. If she actually liked me, she wouldn't have done it. I don't want a girlfriend who does things like that. You can tell her I said she's probably not getting her powers back either. I'm not cheating on her and she never leaves her lovers enough energy to go after someone else. Maybe she should try to be a succubus."
Halifreck blinked a few times. "Okay," she agreed. "I'll put in that suggestion. Where is she?"
"Getting in the middle of our war," Snape told her bitterly. "She was what, boy?"
"I have a name and I only answer to it," Xander snapped back. He looked at the demon. "Want the letter version too? I'm sure she'll throw a royal fit over it."
"Sure, if you want. It's the least I can do. She left without telling you?" Xander nodded, grabbing the letter and handing it over. "Why?"
"Prophecy. They mailed a letter from the airport and didn't even mention which country they had went to. Until Draco showed up, I didn't have any clue they were in Britain."
She looked at the blond. "You're Malfoy?" He nodded, giving her a smug look. "Hmm. I think you'd do in the job. I'll tell her, Xander. Are you looking for someone new?"
"Not right now," he said bitterly. "And Draco, I'd only want someone who'd want me. No magicing someone or forcing someone. That'd be like I've already had. It'd be nice to have someone who just wanted me as a human being for a change." He slammed the bedroom door again. "Your tea's going to get cold," he called before climbing back into his bed.
The demon nodded. "I'm going to enjoy rubbing this in Anya's face. She knew that if she was going to come back she'd have to get him to break up with her for something like cheating on her. Oh, boy did she screw up," she said with a touch of glee. "But I'll pass on that she should be a succubus. We're running out of those again." She grinned at Snape. "My boss wanted to talk to yours. Where might he be?"
"Britain," Draco said firmly. "If he's powerful enough to align himself with us, he should be powerful enough to find him."
"Good point," she agreed happily, going to deliver the missive of doom to both parties, starting with Anya. She wouldn't be killed for that one. "Oh, sweetie," she sighed with totally fake sympathy as she appeared in the castle. "You messed up." She held out the letter. "He said that a real girlfriend wouldn't have taken off without giving him some advance warning and at least telling him where she was going, but he did suggest you for a succuba position," she said with a smirk for her. "Sorry, he didn't dump you for the right reasons, love." She wiggled her fingers and left before the former demon could get her for it.
Anya let out a shriek of rage and threw the letter, then a pillow, then a vase across the room. By then Buffy and Willow had come in. "Xander dumped me for us not telling him what was going on!" she shouted at them. "I can't go back to my job because of you!" She slapped them both and stomped off to be pissed in private.
Buffy looked at Willow. "At least we know he's living," she offered.
Willow sniffled. "He's not happy, Buffy. We were wrong." She stomped off too, shutting and locking Buffy out of their room.
"It's not my fault, I didn't have the prophecy!" she called, going to try to get into their room to soothe her friend. "Willow, let me in!"
Severus appeared three days later and looked around. There was no one at the meeting area, and he couldn't feel anybody either. He wandered around to see if someone had left him a clue but nothing had been left. The house they had commandeered was perfectly clean. He had seen a house elf cleaning it but it looked like it was under some sort of compulsion so he didn't try to stop it to see if it knew where everyone had went. He decided to go back to the school to report to his other master, it would at least interest him in some way. He headed for the school, coming out of the floo in the Headmaster's office. "I'm back," he announced calmly, staring at the blonde woman in the chair, who was pouting and eating ice cream. "I've just seen your *friend*. He is not happy with you, nor is Draco because you left him there with a broken rib and a full time job before he was going around doing your job. Then again, Mr. Malfoy managed to save your career by closing that hellmouth for good." Buffy let out a sob and rushed out of the room. "Good," he sneered.
Dumbledore gave him a chiding look. "Was that really necessary, Severus?"
"They didn't tell the boy where they were going, they simply mailed a letter from the airport saying that they were leaving. The boy got it two days after they had left and this was after he had already worn himself out fighting." Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. "For being a muggle, and a pure muggle at that, the boy is to be admired. He took on the job without question because he believed it was his duty now that they were gone, while trying to hold down a physically demanding job all day long. Even Mr. Malfoy has managed to find a single muggle to admire for his strength. The fact that he had been dating that demonic bimbo Anyanka makes him even more impressive if what he was babbling while he was drunk was anything to go by."
"Oh, it was," Giles said as he walked in. "The boy's fine?"
"As the boy pointed out, he has a name," he sneered. "He does deserve that much respect. Even from you lot."
"Severus, calm down," Dumbledore said gently. "What happened?"
"The boy nearly killed himself filling in for these selfish so-called saviors of our war, Albus. He did it without knowing if they were alive or not, he did it while injured, and he did it at risk to not only his own life but his livelihood. He was nearly fired for being too tired according to Mr. Malfoy. Apparently he had been sleeping a mere hour a night after patrolling and then going to work, then coming home to do it all over again. Even that selfish little girl's mother cared more for that boy than those twits did." He glared at Giles again. "For your information, Mr. Harris is now fine. I've fixed his damaged ribs. I fixed the head injury he received last night as well. He's in much better shape and his boss *graciously* allowed him to come back on Tuesday instead after having to be saved from those things that used to roam about your town." He pulled something out of his sleeve and handed it to his boss. "This is from Mr. Malfoy, Headmaster. He regrets to inform you that he won't be back for his final year. He was named the town's guardian and caretaker with that boy. I've been invited over to set up a residence of my own and I plan on doing so if I survive the war."
"The demons took out Voldemort and most of his followers yesterday," Dumbledore said tiredly, looking up at him. "They decided he wasn't worthy to work beside so they tried to make him a minion. There was a battle. They won." Snape nodded, looking a bit smug. "You knew?"
"I suspected. They are demonic after all. I doubt they would have let Voldemort control them." He smirked at him. "In that case, I may be heading back sooner than I thought. Did Mr. Malfoy's parents survive?"
"His mother. The demons liked her so she's over the Death Eaters who were turned. They apparently thought it fitting."
"I'll tell Mr. Malfoy that and have him call Gringottt's then," Snape decided. "Is there anything else I have to do before I pack?"
"I can't convince you to stay for this remaining year?" he pleaded.
"No, Albus. I wish to leave in peace where no one sneers at me for what I did for you and your side and where I don't have to fear the remaining people from the other side." He glanced at Giles, then back at his former boss. "Should I give someone a message about when to expect these ones?"
"We're being sent to the new one that just opened," Giles told him. "You can tell Xander he's more than welcome to join us. If I haven't heard from him in a few weeks, I'll write him personally. Tell him Buffy has her cellphone on her."
"I shall. I'm off to pack. Have fun finding my replacement." He walked off, heading down to his rooms to pack his meager possessions. Two trunks later and he was done. He floated them up to the front entry, leaving them there while he went to say the few goodbyes he actually wanted to say. McGonagall, Flitwick, and Pomfrey all got visits from him, and they said they'd write him soon enough. He even may have managed to talk Poppy into coming over to join Draco's new town. A good mediwitch was hard to find, especially one that understood and had seen all his body had been put through. He found a young woman against his trunks and stared her down. "What do *you* want, Miss Weasley, and why are you already in attendance?"
"Because I got a letter that said I was to come meet you, sir," she said, handing it over. "It said you'd send me back in about a week but that I was needed to look over something. I have no idea what is going on and neither do my parents. I was hoping you did."
He looked at the note, then at the girl. "Mr. Malfoy was offered control of the old California Hellmouth. He's matchmaking you with the muggle guardian," he said, handing it back. "You'll probably want to stay here."
"Is he nice?"
He looked stunned, then nodded. "I suppose you could say that. He's been messed about with by the women in his life. The three who came here were his two best friends and his former girlfriend." She blushed. "Heard about that?"
"Yes. I had the wonderful honor of putting her to bed after she got plastered on butterbeers and firewhiskey. May I tag along, sir? There is that week before school starts and it does sound interesting, even if Mr. Malfoy would have to be around." He considered it then nodded. "Thank you, sir. I've already packed if you're ready to go."
"You're efficient today," he sneered.
"Why waste a chance to see other places and learn about things that aren't here?" she asked lightly. "He certainly can't be worse than Ron, who's pouting about how the war ended, or Harry, who's hiding at our house right now. Or even the twins, who're doing so well that they've offered me the chance to become a shop girl for them. That's not exactly a bright future." She took one of his trunks for him and followed him down to the barrier, watching as he made the portkey. "Thank you, sir."
"You do know that I've quit?"
"Yes, sir. I expected as much since you're packed for a very long trip." She smirked up at him. "Is it warm there? I only brought summer weight clothes."
"It is," he admitted, setting the portkey off before she could ask another question. They landed and a very blonde woman walked over with a smile to meet them. "Draco sent you?"
"Yes, he did. Poor thing had to go stop some demons praying to the Hellmouth," she said, rolling her eyes. "He's being very careful that nothing and no one will ever open it again. Which we all love. I'm Joyce Summers." Snape raised an eyebrow. "I am Buffy's mother but she's like her father," she promised lightly. "Where is she heading?"
"Cleveland," Ginny told her, smiling up at her. She seemed very nice. "I'm Ginny Weasley. I was invited along by Mr. Malfoy?"
"Oh, yes, he told me about you. He said that you and Xander would be very good together if you could learn to get along with him. He's at the site right now though so it'll have to wait for a few more hours. Then there's patrol tonight at the Bronze. There's a few upstart vampires still. Severus, there's an empty house that he said was yours on the edge of town, nearer to the college. If you want, I'll drive you over there and Ginny can stay with me tonight."
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble," she said with an impish grin. "I like you a lot more than I did your daughter, ma'am. You're much more fun and life-like. Your daughter pouted the whole time over there."
"It was her own doing," Draco said as he joined them. "Severus." He shook his hand. "Who survived?"
"Your mother is keeping the turned ones in line," he said dryly. "You're to call the bank to note your existence."
"That's fine. Weasel, he'll be off work soon. They're working on the new high school. I'll take him, Joyce. Thank you for meeting them for me." He patted her on the arm and walked his mentor away. "She's frightfully nice, yet every bit as scary as my own mother," he shared as they walked away. "Kept that slayer of hers in line and in school. Didn't bat an eye at all the late nights and injuries once she knew. Even let her daughter blow up the school for her graduation." Snape gave him an odd look. "She's a wonderful woman. She's also got power floating around her from somewhere. She said that Watcher git tried for her hand once or twice too. She's one of the top muggles in town so I thought you'd like to meet her."
"That wasn't your idea of matchmaking?"
"No," Draco snorted. "I can't see you happily married with a pack of children, Severus. You'd Crucio them for their noise." He pointed to their right. "That's the local herbalist. The grocery store's a block behind her and about three stores this way. There's a bigger one closer to where you live but they're a bit overwhelming when you're used to small grocers and outdoor markets. There are still those who think they have power in town. A coven of wiccans moved in last night actually. Apparently they're attending the university. It's about a mile past your house if you wanted to explore up there. Xander showed it to me and they do have a very nice library, including an arcane library and a small magic program if you wanted to talk to them about teaching. Or at least about substituting or tutoring if you get bored. There's some of ours and some of their kind there though, fair warning." He stopped in front of a house, opening the front door. "Here you go. I've sent over a house elf to clean but it may still need spell cleaned. It housed a former vampire and her minions. She most graciously gave it up for you and moved out to LA. Unfortunately we've found out that the slayer's former vampire lover is still living and working there to balance out the evil in the world," he said dryly. "In you go. It's fairly decent sized," he said as he led the way inside. "I had darker curtains brought in so you wouldn't have to put up with all the sun if you didn't want to. It's always sunny here it seems." He showed him around the modest four bedroom house with finished attic and basement. He handed him a cellphone. "If you need me, push the number 2 until it dials itself," he ordered. "That goes directly to my phone." He patted his pocket. "Xander thought it up so I could help you get settled in. Is there anything you need for right now? I put some minor groceries in here already, including some milk and fruits. Did you know that oranges are cheap here?"
"No, I hadn't," he admitted. "It makes sense, they grow them over here."
"They actually grow them a few miles away," Draco told him. "We're not that far from the main agricultural center of the state. Well, if you need me call me. I'll be with Xander tonight, introducing him and Weasley to each other. He needs someone with her nature and fire, and we need more witches around here to stop some mild remaining stupidity." He waved and walked off, leaving him there.
Snape looked around slowly. It was a very big house, far different from his former quarters at the school. It already had bookcases and furniture for the most part, and it was spotless. He opened up the back curtains, showing him the backyard. Not a great expanse but more than enough for him and it had a deck so he could sit outside at night and enjoy the stars. He went to unpack his clothes first since there were less of them. Then his potion supplies went into the empty bedroom. He'd have to call Gringotts to have some of his funds transferred over so he could shop for supplies. His books were quickly put up and he decided to look at this herbalist in town. That way he'd know if he had to go farther afield or even order his supplies from Diagon and Knocturn. He checked the clock on the wall, it was mid-morning so he didn't have to worry about creatures at the moment. He walked out, taking the keys that had been on the counter, and headed for the herbalist Draco had pointed out to him. He found it after a bit of searching. It was run by one of those pseudo-witches but she was pleasant and knowledgeable enough, plus she could order things for him and had quite a catalog of hidden stores. He had her hold things back for him, including a few cauldrons and a work table, then went home to set up his floo connection and call the bank. He ran into Weasley out wandering around on the way. "Advise Mr. Malfoy to set up a Gringott's locally," he ordered quietly.
"Of course, Professor. Um, sorry, sir. Would you care for Mr. Snape or just Snape now?"
"Simply Snape would be fine," he assured her. "I have went to the herbalist if you need it."
"No, thank you, sir. I'm actually out for some ice cream and to look at the bookstore. Draco said that they're together and that Xander has inherited the magic store since the Watcher was running it. The Watcher called and told him so since he refused to move."
"Fine. Thank you." He went back to his house and settled onto the couch with a sigh of relief. He'd have to make himself some sunscreen and invest in some lighter clothes. This place was definitely not Scotland.
Draco got done with his negotiations with the goblins, letting them set up something in an old set of unused tunnels that led back to the main branch. They had even brought in some beasts to guard it for themselves. He called Severus first to let him know he could now get a goblin to access his money for him and then went to tell Xander that another step had been completed. He was fussing in the store and doing an inventory. Draco was still wary about some of the things in there but people seemed to really like it. They did good business. He found an older man in there demanding to know where Giles was. "He's in Cleveland, on the new Hellmouth," he said dryly, making the man jump and face him. "Draco Malfoy. You are?" he asked, holding out a hand.
"Ethan Rayne," he said, shaking it. "Chaos sorcerer."
"Ah. Xander mentioned you. Where might he be?"
"He closed himself in the office."
"That's fine. Giles and his girls were moved to Cleveland when I closed this hellmouth. You can probably find him there."
Xander came out of the office. "I called him, Ethan, he's still at home and he said to kick you in the ass." He smirked at him. "Anything else needed?"
"No. Thank you, Mr. Harris. Are you running this place?" Xander nodded. "Very well then. I placed an order via the phone two weeks ago?"
"It was shipped out last night to the address you gave us," Xander told him. "Thank you for the prompt payment as well."
"You're welcome." He looked at Draco again. "You run this town?" He nodded, looking quite smug about that. "Then watch out for that one, chaos loves him." He turned and left, not slamming the door or anything.
"Interesting acquaintances you have, Xander."
"He's Giles' former lover," Xander said with a shrug and a grin. "How old is Ginny?"
"She'll be a sixth year this year so seventeen? Maybe late sixteen?" he said, shrugging. "I don't like her enough to note her birthday. Why? I can get her to stay. There is a good program around here, or at least good enough for anything she'd want to do."
"You might suggest it to her. She got one of those screaming envelopes from her mother this morning and she was not sounding happy."
"It's probably not the first," he agreed dryly. "So, how're things?"
"Fine. I finally breached the demonic trunk. It's got a body in there. I called your buddy to come look at the things in there in case anything was *too* bad or nasty. He took two of them and three books in payment."
"That's one thing Severus likes, is books," Draco agreed with a smirk. "Are you enjoying doing this?"
"I liked working construction but I can see how this is good money and all that. I just need to study more to make sure of what I'm selling. I don't want to sell something that'll be harmful." He gave him a cute look. "Can you help me with the inventory? Ginny said she'd help but she didn't want to deal with any of the nasty stuff since evil tried to possess her once. We kinda bonded over that stuff," he admitted with a shy grin. "I like her, Draco. Thank you."
"You're welcome, Xander." He looked over at the 'pop' noise that went off beside him. "Professor McGonagall, what are you doing here? Ah, mediwitch Pomfrey as well. Have you come to live? I can find you a darling place within moments if you have."
"Yes, actually I have. I've taken a year's leave from the school to make sure I like it here," she admitted. She smiled at Draco. "Are you sure there's not going to be a problem?"
"Not in the least," he promised. "You're going to have a very diverse practice. Let me find out what the good professor wants and I'll see which apartments are open. Professor?"
"Severus invited me out," she admitted. "Can you call him?"
"Of course," Draco agreed smoothly, taking out his phone and dialing Severus'. "Severus, why didn't you tell me you had invited McGonagall out?" He smiled. "Fine. No, she's at the shop. Fine, I'll leave her here with Xander and Miss Weasley. Thank you." He hung up. "He said let him put on a robe and he'd be right up, and you could have one of his spare rooms for a bit."
"That's fine," she assured him with a smile. "Come get me later for dinner, Poppy. We'll go exploring. I'm sure it's safe by now."
"Mostly," Xander admitted. "There's still a few vampires but mostly it's harmless demons at the moment. A lot of plant demons too. Plus a lot of wiccans are going to the college right now." He grinned at her. "There's a couch over by the books if you want to wait there. Severus know where they are, he raided them earlier." She smiled and nodded, taking her carpet bag that way. He smiled at the nurse. "Hi. I'm Xander. If you have any problems and can't find blondie there, you can almost always find me here. If not, I have a sign that has my phone number on the door." She smiled and nodded, letting Draco lead her off. "Wow. Another professional type person. We need more of those."
McGonagall chuckled. "She's a very good nurse," she agreed. "Doesn't bat an eye at the strangest things." She smiled as Severus walked in, getting up to greet him with a short hug. "Thank you for inviting me out, Severus. Shall we so the nice young man can get back to work?"
"It's only an inventory," he offered with a grin. "Oh, Severus, the wolfsbane you ordered came in after you left. That's who you passed by on the way out. It's in the office when you need it." He nodded and left with the other teacher. "Wow. Draco is seriously giving the town a new group," he said in admiration. He grinned as Ginny came in. "Ready to get back to work?"
"Sure," she agreed happily. "I sent a letter back to mum through your floo, that way it'll get there faster and the owl doesn't have to fly all the way back."
"That's fine. That's the fire thingy, right?" She giggled and nodded, grinning at him. "Cool. Can you do the books?" She nodded and took the pad of paper to go write down the titles and authors for him, while he went to deal with the candles and things. Fortunately most of them were marked as to what scent they were, he considered most of them stinky. Maybe Draco could import a candle guy next.