Xander blinked. And then blinked again.
A group of about ten children, clustered around him, blinked back.
“Huh,” he grunted before he closed his eyes for five full seconds before opening them.
The children were still staring at him.
After a long moment, Xander started laughing.
“That bloody bastard!” he muttered. “I *knew* he should have been in Slytherin!”
“Language, Mr. Harry!” a little girl dressed in a Glenda the Good Witch’s outfit chided from the front of the group as she shook her finger at him. “I’m gonna tell my Mom you were cursing.”
Xander grinned at her as he pulled his wand from the inside pocket of his robe. It looked just like his except that it was much newer than it should be and it was completely unused. He swished it in a downward arc and golden sparks flew in every direction. Murmurs of awe rose around him and he glanced up, realizing the children were still standing there, blinking at him with wide eyes.
"Wow, Mr. Harry," the little girl dressed as Glenda said as she stepped closer, her eyes glued to the wand in his hand. "Is that a real wand?"
"It certainly is, poppet," he answered as he looked over his group. "Is everyone still with us?" he asked. "Did anyone run off?"
The group of children glanced around at each other before they looked up and shook their heads. "No, Mr. Harry, everyone is still here," a little boy dressed as superman answered.
"Huh," Xander thoughtfully tapped his wand on his thigh as glanced over the gathered children and then looked around to see if there was anything odd going on around them. "Did anyone here get their costume at Ethan’s?" he asked curiously.
"Ewww, no!" a tiny Disney Princess Jasmine answered from the middle of the group. "My Mommy heard his costume had leeces!"
"It's lice!" one of the boys corrected primly from beside her. "And my Mom said his stuff smelled funny too!"
Xander just stared at the little group before he started chuckling, mentally sending congratulations to Harry for minimizing the fall-out of Ethan's spell.
"Well, I'm glad to hear that none of your smart Mommies bought anything from that store," he stated, "But I think it's time to head back to the school."
The children all groaned and moaned but Xander firmly began herding them down the sidewalk, keeping his eyes open for anything Sunnydalish.
"But we still have another house on this street!" one of the boys whined. Xander just kept them moving back towards the high school. His Sunnydale Halloween had happened practically a lifetime ago but he still remembered the feeling of chaos and the fearful, determined thoughts of the soldier that had taken over during that time. Even now, he felt the remnants of that soldier possession stirring with the waves of chaos that were rolling across Sunnydale.
"You all have plenty of candy," he replied as he continued glancing around. Another group of kids was also heading up the street on the other side of the road and Xander felt his heart rise in his throat as he spotted a bright head of red hair.
"Willow!" he called out before he could stop himself and the girl smiled and waved. She glanced both ways before she started herding her group of children across the street to join him. He noticed the group was twice the size of his.
“Harry!” Willow called out with a relieved smile. "Are you okay? Did you feel it? That wave of power?"
"Yes, I felt it," he replied as he watched the group of children with her flow together with his to make a mini-mob of poppets. "We didn't lose any kids though."
Willow looked startled and then worried. "What exactly did it do?" she asked. "Jesse asked me to takes his kids back to the school as a couple of children in his group ran off and he wanted to go find them."
Xander glanced up at her and then looked away, keeping his eyes on the kids in his group. His Jesse had been lost long ago but he'd forgotten that here, he'd still be alive.
"It was a wave of chaos energy," he explained as he stepped closer to his old friend and lowered his voice. "If someone purchased their costume at Ethan’s, that wave of energy would turn them into whatever they dressed as."
Willow gave him a sharp glance, her eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
“That’s why you said not to buy our costumes there?” she stated and he nodded. She looked at him a long moment before she suddenly turned away and called out for the children to move farther from the road on to stay on the sidewalk. A few kids nodded at her but the majority continued comparing their candy haul and their costumes.
Xander chuckled as he tried to keep an eye of the children as well as stay aware of his dangerous surroundings. When he turned to check, Willow, however, he found her gaze glued to him, her expression calculating.
“Jesse mentioned that while you had warned us that we shouldn’t get our costumes at Ethan’s for Hellmouthy reasons, you had gone there to purchase your outfit.”
Her eyes roamed over the professional quality red Auror robes that he now wore compared to the outfit he’d had on when he’d shown up at Mrs. Summer’s house earlier in the evening.
“That’s not the outfit your mother made for you, is it?”
Xander gave her a rather strained smile. “It is and it isn’t,” he replied with a sigh. “I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Xander Harris.”
Willow stopped walking, her eyes wide as she stood in the middle of the sidewalk. “Oh my goodness!”
Xander just smiled at her before he put his arm around her shoulders and moved her forward. He didn’t want their mini-mob of kiddies to get too far ahead of them. Willow just stared at him with wide eyes.
“You’re...you’re really Xander Harris?” she stammered out. He nodded. “As in the Boy-Who-Lived?” Xander grimaced at that but nodded again. “Oh my goodness! You’re Xander Harris!”
Xander laughed at her words even as he continued to scan their surroundings.
“You said that.”
“Yes, but...Harry said that he used to be...I mean he said that before he came here...You used to be...I mean....”
“I know what you mean, Willow,” Xander said, his eyes tender as he looked at her. “I know you don’t remember but I used to be here in the same place as Harry. I remember growing up with you and Jesse and I remember what happened on this Halloween.” He grinned at her wickedly. “Was it Harry’s idea to spread the word that Ethan’s costumes had lice?”
Willow beamed up at him. “Oh Yes! He started spreading that rumor a couple of weeks before Halloween, before Ethan had even opened his shop. Hardly anyone went inside and those that did said they were washing anything they bought there several times before they would even try it on.”
“Brilliant!” Xander stated as they approached the high school. “That would explain why there isn’t more craziness happening.” Even as he spoke, a flash of brown fur racing towards the large group of kids he and Willow were shepherding caught his eyes. He cursed under his breath as he saw two werewolves running towards what they must think was a walking buffet.
“Willow, keep the kids together!” he snapped out as he moved to the front of the group. “Kids, stay with Willow!” he shouted, shading his voice with a mild command spell that he hoped would keep the kids from bolting in all directions when they realized there were two furry monsters heading for them.
Then his wand was out and he shouted out a strong stunning spell which would knock out a human for a day but would only affect a werewolf for a few hours. Hopefully, it would be enough time to get the kids away and for the chaos spell to be broken. These couldn’t possibly be true werewolves as there wasn’t a full moon in sight.
The powerful dark blue spell flared as it smacked into the first werewolf, sending it rolling forwards and into its hunting companion. The animals yelped even as Xander slashed out another stunning spell at the second wolf, taking it down as well.
Xander’s wand flicked through the air, stunning them a second time before he banished the pair of spell-changed werewolves to the cage that he remembered was set up in the high school library. As an afterthought, he sent a powerful locking spell after them to make sure the cage was locked up tight for the next few hours in case the pair of wolves regained consciousness before the spell ended.
Once the pair of monsters was gone, Xander glared around at their surroundings, hoping there was nothing that was attracted by the skirmish. When he turned back to the group he was protecting, he found it had increased in size and Buffy was standing beside Willow, both girls staring at him with wide eyes.
“Wow,” Buffy said.
“Yeah,” Willow replied.
Then there was silence as the group of kids that Buffy was escorting looked at the man who’d just gotten rid of two werewolves without breaking a sweat. They clustered behind the petite blond even as the group of children he and Willow had been watching started cheering.
“That was awesome!” one of the boys shouted.
“How did you do that?” another boy asked.
“It really is a magic wand!” little Glenda said, her eyes adoring as she looked up at Xander.
“It is and let’s just say I’ve had a bit of training and leave it at that, eh?” Xander stated as he tried to get the kids moving again towards the school. “We need to get you all back to the high school where your parents will hopefully be waiting.” He looked with a pleading gaze at Willow and Buffy before he pointedly glanced at the kids.
The sooner he could get them back, the sooner he could send Giles to kick Ethan’s arse.
Buffy and Willow shared a glance and then started guiding the children towards the school. With a relieved sigh, Xander started doing the same.
“Don’t think this gets you out of an explanation, mister,” Buffy stated with a ‘gentle’ punch to his arm which had Xander rubbing the soon-to-be-bruised area.
“Of course, Miss Buffy,” he replied and the girl looked at him strangely before she looked at Willow with a question in her eyes.
“What’s with the accent?” she asked.
“That’s not Harry,” Willow replied as she guided another child out of the road and back onto the sidewalk. “That’s Xander Harris.”
“Really?” one of the children she had just guided onto the sidewalk asked as he looked up at Xander. “Like the Boy-Who-Lived?”
Xander sighed again but nodded. “You might say I’m the grown up Boy-Who-Lived.”
“Wow!” One voice became several as the children – who all turned out to be fans of the most recent Xander Harris novel, “The Chamber of Secrets” - started asking about Hogwarts and the big snake and Gryffindor and Slytherin and shouted more questions that Willow and Buffy quickly lost track of.
Xander, however, patiently answered each question as long as the children kept moving towards the school. They were on the steps leading to the doorway when the kids asked to see another spell. Really, more like begged and pleaded.
Xander “The Pushover” Harris couldn’t deny the wide-eyed little buggers but stated he’d do one last spell as long as the children immediately afterwards would go inside to the gym.
“This is a spell you won’t see in the books for a while,” he said as the children watched him closely. “It’s called a Patronus Messenger Spell and I’m going to send it after one of Willow and Buffy’s friends so he’ll know to meet us in the library.”
Xander flicked his wand and whispered words under his breath and suddenly there was a large white glowing stag standing on the school steps. It glanced around before leaning down so Xander could speak into its ear. Then it nodded and contracted into a small globe of light before it zipped off, oddly enough, into the school.
“Huh. Jesse must already be back,” he said to Willow even as the kids around him cheer and oooed and awwwed over the spell. “Okay, poppets, that’s the show. Now is anyone missing? No? Great! Forward, into the gym!”
“What’s a poppet?” one of the kids asked as Xander moved them towards the doors.
“That’s what I would like to know,” Willow added.
“It weird hearing him use Giles-speak,” Buffy said as she followed, making sure none of the kids slipped away before they got them to the gym. “I mean I know his parents are English but he’s never spoken like that.”
“Really,” the redhead agreed even as their friend-turned-book-character herded the last of the kids into the gym where several parents had already arrived to collect their children.
“Now," Xander said as he turned back to the pair. "Let’s tell Giles what’s going on so he can go kick Ethan’s arse.”
“You know what’s happening?” Buffy asked. “What that weird feeling was and why some of the people on the street suddenly went bananas?”
“Yes and we need to inform Giles so that he can take care of it,” Xander replied as he led the two girls down the hall towards the library.
“But, shouldn’t I go take care of it?” Buffy asked as she trotted to keep up with Xander’s brisk steps. “I’m the slayer.”
“But Giles will really enjoy this and as it’s a human who’s the cause, I don’t think you need to get involved other than making sure Giles gets to the guy’s shop.”
“A human caused this?” Willow asked. “That Ethan guy?”
“Yes, he’s a chaos wizard and the sooner his spell is broken, the sooner things will get back to normal.”
The trio walked into the library before Willow could ask anything else. Xander came to an abrupt halt, however, as he saw the teenager standing near Giles’ office, speaking to the librarian, who looked a bit out of sorts. Jesse glanced up and grinned at the new arrivals.
“Harry! How did you send that totally cool stag with a message?” he asked as the two walked towards them.
“Er...” Xander replied as Buffy and Willow pushed past him.
“That’s not Harry,” Buffy said as she settled into a nearby chair. “That’s Xander Harris.”
Giles and Jesse blinked for a moment.
“Really?” Jesse asked, the expression on his face thoughtful.
“Er...” Xander glanced from Jesse and then back to Willow and Buffy.
“He’s a wizard. From those Xander Harris book, you know?” Willow added with a perky grin.
“A wizard?” Giles confirmed with a look at the young man he knew as Harry Potter. The teenager gave a hesitant nod. “Ah, then perhaps Mr. Harris can explain the appearance of two unconscious werewolves in the book cage?”
“Um, yes, I could,” he finally said. “But I don’t really have time to explain as you need to go take care of your friend.”
Giles just looked at him oddly. “My friend?”
“Ethan Rayne opened a costume shop and anyone who purchased a costume from there turned into their costume when Ethan activated a chaos spell earlier this evening.”
“That’s why you said not to buy a costume from there?” Buffy demanded as she crossed her arms. “Really? There was no lice?”
Xander blinked at her and then remembered the dress she had wanted to badly from that store. Buffy must have ventured into the store despite Harry’s warning.
“I don’t know about the lice but Harry probably tried to keep as many people from buying their costumes there as possible.”
“But why didn’t he just stop the guy from activating the spell in the first place?” Willow asked thoughtfully. “I mean if he knew what was going to happen....” Her voice trailed off as she looked at Xander. “He knew what would happen and here you are.”
“Look, I don’t know why Harry decided to allow the spell to proceed,” Xander said with a shrug of his shoulders, “but at this point, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that the spell is stopped, sooner rather than later.”
“What, exactly, did Ethan do?” Giles inquired.
“It was a chaos spell, a rather large and powerful one.” Xander looked at the older man curiously. Giles looked completely gobsmacked. “Didn’t you feel the wave of magic about an hour ago?”
“I...er...felt something but I didn’t...that is to say, I had no idea....” The man stammered to a stop as he pulled his glasses off his face and produced a handkerchief to clean then.
Xander just studied him for a moment. He couldn’t believe Giles hadn’t practically been kicked off his feet by the wave, as sensitive as Ripper was known to be to chaos magic. But then he was sitting on top of the Hellmouth. Perhaps it had muted the wave in the school.
“It doesn’t matter. You just need to go over to Ethan’s shop – Buffy can show you where it is - and break the bust of Janus that is empowering the spell. Preferably, over Ethan’s head but that is entirely up to you.”
Giles shoved his glasses back onto his face and pocketed the handkerchief. “How, exactly, do you know this? Especially, if you are a product of this spell?”
Xander sighed. “I don’t have time to explain,” he stated as he tried to get Giles moving towards the doorway. “The spell needs to be ended as quickly as possible and Harry can tell you afterwards. Please, take Buffy and go take care of this. Ethan is just trying to get your attention anyway. Maybe if you discourage this kind of behavior now, he won’t come back and bother you later.”
“What?” Giles demanded in an outraged tone even as Xander pushed him out the library door.
“Buffy, would you please make sure he gets to Ethan’s shop?”
Buffy stood beside him, her hands on her hips. “Why can’t you?” she demanded. “You’re Wizard guy and can do magic. You should come too.”
Xander rubbed his forehead as he felt a headache coming on. “I need to speak with Jesse and Willow and I want to make sure all the kids are safely picked up from the gym.” Buffy looked stubborn and Giles looked rather put out. “*Please*. This is important. The longer the spell goes on, the more people who might be hurt.”
“Very well,” Giles finally capitulated. “But don’t think this is over. I will be speaking with Mr. Potter when I return.”
Xander just nodded agreeably glad he wasn’t going to be the one who had to explain all this. Heh. That would teach Harry to yank him into this world on Halloween.
The pair disappeared down the hall and Xander turned back to face his two oldest friends. They both looked at him with curiosity and some calculation.
“So you’re Xander Harris,” Jesse said as Xander moved back into the library. The Auror looked at the teenager with a wistful gaze. “From Xander Harris and the Chamber of Secrets.”
“Yes and No,” he replied as he walked back into the library. "I am actually an older Xander Harris than the Xander from that book.”
“How much older?” Willow asked, curiously.
Xander just smiled at her. “I’ve been out of school for a while.”
“But from what Harry told us, you’re not just Xander Harris,” Jesse stated as he leaned against the closest library table. “He said you’d switched places with him before.”
“Harry told you about that?” Xander asked as he moved to stand by the pair.
“Of course,” Willow replied. “He couldn’t hide his knowledge of what would be happening and we – me and Jesse – confronted him last Summer after the school year was over. He told us about his wish and ending up here when he was thirteen.”
“He did?” Xander was honestly surprised, even though he’d been warned this could happen.
“Yeah,” Jesse said with a chuckle. “He seemed to know everything that was going to happen. We thought maybe he was a Seer.”
“Heaven Forbid,” Xander muttered, thoughts of Trelawney dancing in his head.”
“He will be back, won’t he?” Willow asked, her voice turning concerned. “As neat as it is to meet you, Harry will be back, right?”
Xander just looked at the little red-head, his heart aching for a long-ago Willow and Jesse before he nodded. “As soon as Mr. Giles breaks the statue of Janus that Rayne used as his focus, the spell will be broken and Harry will return.”
He sighed and looked around the library, remembering his own times here long ago. Then he remembered words of advice he’d gotten not so long ago. He looked over Willow and Jesse who were watching him as well. With little fanfare, he brought up his wand, flicked, twisted and pointed at Willow.
“Oblivate Veres,” Xander intoned as he flicked his wand towards Willow. The girl looked surprised and moved backwards a few steps looking confused before a furious Jesse stepped between them.
“What did you do?” he hissed. Xander just held up his hand.
“Easy, Jesse,” he said, “It was necessary. It won’t hurt her other than a bit of confusion for the next day or so but she can’t know about me until a certain time.”
Now Jesse looked confused. “What? Why?”
“Because she didn’t know about this when I made the original wish so she can’t know now.”
“What?” The other boy looked even more confused. “Wait, *you* made a wish too?”
Xander gave his old friend a rather sheepish look. “I’m guessing this wish was so powerful because I made a wish the same time Harry did and *poof* we’re switched. I don’t know what Harry wished though.”
Jesse just looked at him for a long moment, eyes suspicious. “Are you going to make me forget too?”
Xander just shook his head sadly. “You weren’t alive when I made the wish, Jesse. You weren’t a factor in the original wish.”
“But why couldn’t Willow know?” Jesse finally asked as he glanced behind him. Willow had moved towards the books and was moving absently along the nearest shelves, glancing over the titles. She seemed lost in her own little world. “Why would it matter?”
Xander just shrugged. “I don’t know but Harry told me to do it.”
“What?” Jesse yelped. “*Harry* told you to mess with our best friend’s memories?” the other boy demanded.
“Not *your* Harry, really,” Xander noted quickly, holding up his hands in a “whoa” motion. “Well maybe he’s your Harry but not your *now* Harry. It was your future Harry and my past Harry who told me.” Xander looked thoughtful. “Or will tell me? Frankly this is confusing.”
“You’re not kidding.” Jesse snorted and threw up his hands. He glanced at Willow again. “Are you *sure* it won’t hurt her?”
“Completely,” Xander assured him. “She’ll even eventually remember everything when a certain event happens.” Jesse gave him a questioning look. “You’ll know when it happens but it won’t be for years yet.”
The teenager didn’t look pleased with that but Xander just flicked his wand again. Jesse jumped back but all that happened was that a large, white envelope appeared. Xander plucked it out of the air and held it out to Jesse. “In any case, please give this to Harry when he returns and tell him he’s a Slytherin no matter the Lion skin he wears.”
Jesse hesitantly accepted the folded piece of paper. It was a large, thick envelope with Harry Potter’s name on the front in elegant green script. There was a large seal on the back that Jesse didn’t recognize.
After a moment of looking over the envelope, he glanced at his best friend who was currently inhabited by a fictional wizard. The familiar green eyes looked back at him with a wistful, longing expression that Jesse rarely saw in that gaze. Then Harry's face gave him an unfamiliar smile.
"It really was good to see you again, Jesse," Xander Harris said in a rough tone as he gripped Jesse's shoulder. "Take care of yourself and Willow."
Before Jesse could respond, however, there was a wave of...something which washed across the room and a loud thump as Willow shouted and dropped the rather large book she was browsing.
When Jesse turned back to his friend, Harry Potter was looking out of his own green eyes again. He grinned.
“Did you meet him?” Harry asked in his Southern California accent and Jesse felt himself relax before he returned his best friend’s smile.
“Yes,” he replied, holding out the letter that Xander Harris has left with him. “And he left you a note.”
Harry accepted the letter thoughtfully. “Was anyone hurt?”
“You might be if you don’t come up with a good explanation for Giles about how you knew about Ethan Rayne’s spell by the time he gets back.
The shorter teen jerked his eyes up to meet his friend’s. “What?”
Jesse just smirked at him.