A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter.
October 15, Council HQ
Draco, though he would never in a million years admit it, was more than a little nervous as he arrived at the main doors into Hogwarts early on Sunday morning.
He'd been told all his life that Muggles were, essentially, ignorant, vicious savages with nothing to recommend them. He'd never met a Muggle before Harris had arrived at Hogwarts ... the closest he'd gotten was seeing the parents of Muggleborns at a distance in Diagon Alley. He'd never even been in the Leaky Cauldron, since you had to have a wand to get in and out of the arch the Leaky guarded, and his parents had never gone in there anytime they'd had him with them. He'd found out what a helicopter was by eavesdropping on a Muggleborn student explaining what the 'flying things' that most wizardborn had seen going past in the sky were.
He was more than slightly tempted to back out of this. Only his pride prevented him from bolting, because he refused to look weak in front of anyone, nevermind people he considered to be ... well ... lesser beings.
Harris was, of course, waiting for him, with the Willow woman at his side.
"Hello Draco. Couple of things to go over before we leave. Rule one: No fighting anyone outside of supervised training, which I doubt we'll actually do today, but you never know. Rule two: If you don't know what it is, don't touch it without supervision. There are things in the Muggle world that will hurt you if you don't know how to handle them properly. And rule three: the Council HQ is surrounded by a big wall. Do not go beyond it without an escort. For one, you'll be in the unknown without help, and for two, you won't be able to get back on the grounds easily, due to our security measures." Harris told him.
That all seemed fair enough, especially the second rule. It was certainly true of the wizarding world, so it stood to reason it would be true of the muggle world as well. Draco nodded. "Understood." He said.
"Right then. The general plan for today is to get you to HQ, show you around and let you meet some of your potential co-workers, as well as learning about muggle things, and showing you some of what we do, aside from the obvious 'kicking bad-guy ass' part." Harris told him. "So we better get a move on. C'mon over here, and stand on the other side of Willow. We're going to ... well, you guys call it apparating, but we call it teleporting. Anyway, we're going to teleport there."
Draco's eyebrows headed for his hairline even as he moved to where he was asked to. "She can get through Hogwarts' wards?" He asked, having not seen that phenomenon in action yet.
"Yep." Harris said, sounding (justifiably, Draco reluctantly admitted) smug.
As soon as Draco was in place, Willow muttered something, there was a flash of bright light and when Draco's vision cleared ... they were not in Hogwarts any more. He did a double take. There had been no sensation of movement at all, much less the ... unpleasant ... sensations Draco had become inured to that were a part of being side-along apparated.
They had appeared about ten feet away from a tall wrought-iron gate not too different from the one that guarded the entrance to Hogwarts' grounds, bracketed by a brick wall that reached well over Draco's head that extended as far as he could see to the left and right. Through the gate, he could see a paved surface, smoother than the cobblestone of Diagon Alley. Racing back and forth across that smooth expanse were ... odd things on wheels, that made a good deal of noise. Draco wrinkled his nose and turned away from that view, much preferring the view of the Headquarters' grounds.
The New Council's Headquarters was a good-sized chunk of land. There was a section of smooth paving in front of him, and to the left and right. The sections to left and right had the wheeled things scattered here and there, only these were still. At the far end of the right-hand section, he recognized something that looked like a less-tall Knight Bus, which he'd never actually seen in person, but had seen pictures of. This one, at least, wasn't painted eye-searing purple, being black and yellow instead.
Straight ahead, there was a familiar cobblestone path, that led to a large circular courtyard. There was a fountain in the middle, and a number of benches around it. Surrounding the courtyard on three sides were five buildings, the building directly across from the entrance to the grounds being the largest, roughly twice the size of the other four. The rest of the grounds was covered in grass, big, old trees, flowers and bushes. Not to mention people.
Actually, correction. Girls. Lots and lots of girls. Most of the ones Draco could immediately see looked younger than he was. Some of them by quite a bit. There were several that he was fairly sure weren't even old enough to have gone to Hogwarts, if they'd been witches. They were running around in the courtyard, chasing and kicking a ball in some sort of game.
Draco gave his head a shake and then pointed to one of the wheeled things. "What are those?" He wanted to know.
"Those." Harris said. "Are automobiles. The different sizes go by different names. Hey Willow, where's yours at? We can show him the various bits."
Willow pointed to the right-hand paved area. "Down that way, about the middle of the lot."
Harris nodded. "Cool." He motioned Draco to follow him. "Ok, these small ones are called cars. They can carry anywhere from one to five people at a time, and/or a fair amount of stuff. This one is a lorry." He pointed to one with an odd flat section that was open to the air. "It can carry one to three people, and this flat section is used to carry large and/or heavy items that won't fit in a car. That big one down there is a bus, and it can carry up to about eighty people relatively comfortably."
They got to Willow's car at that point, and she took over briefly. "Automobiles can only function when you use the correct key." She told him, holding up the one that went to her 'car'. She then put the key in the side of the vehicle, and grabbed the handle, opening a smallish door. "Come on and take a look."
Draco did so, and peered inside, frowning at the various bits and bobs. Willow walked around to the other side and opened the other door, sliding into the seat there, behind some of what Draco presumed were controls.
"This." She said, patting the round thing immediately in front of her. "Is called the steering wheel. It does what the name implies ... steers. Turn it left, the car goes left. Turn it right, the car goes right." She pointed to some things on the floor. "These down here control how fast or slow you go. One speeds you up, the other slows you down and stops you."
Draco nodded. So far, it seemed fairly straight forward, though he had no idea how the thing worked if it didn't use magic. "What about all of these?" He motioned to the myriad of buttons to the left of the driver.
"Those serve a bunch of different functions. Some of them control the climate in the car, making it warm if it's cold outside, and cool if it's warm." Willow said. "Others control the radio. I know you guys have that too. Muggles have figured out ways to allow you to listen to radio stations just about anywhere you happen to be."
Draco nodded. "And how, exactly, does all this happen, if not by magic?"
Willow frowned for a moment, clearly trying to figure out how to explain it.
"I better handle this one, Willow." Xander said. "Pop the hood."
She nodded and manipulated something, causing the front of the vehicle to move a bit. Draco climbed out of the 'car' to see what was what.
"The simplest explanation, which is about all you'll understand without some serious learning time, is that there is a complex system of gears, powered by a burning fuel." Xander said.
Draco peered into a confusing mass of metal. "In there?"
Xander nodded. "Like I said, you wouldn't understand most of it right now, but the fuel is stored in a different part of the vehicle. When you push the 'go' control on the floor that Willow showed you, some of the fuel is pulled through a small hose into here, where it's lit on fire. Very small fires." Xander held his finger and thumb a tiny distance apart. "Those fires power the gears, which move the wheels."
It seemed a long, involved, complicated work-around to travel without magic. "And how fast can they go?" Draco wanted to know, remembering the automobiles zipping along on the other side of the gate.
"Up to about a hundred and sixty kilometers an hour or so." Xander said. "There are some that can go a good bit faster than that, but they're very specialized ... sort of the Firebolts of the automobile world."
Draco nodded. The Firebolt had mostly been built for speed and maneuverability ... it stood to reason the muggles had an equivalent to that in these automobiles.
About then, however, they got interrupted, as the horde of girls who'd been playing in the courtyard spotted them and came on the run. Quite a few of them surrounded Xander, bouncing and babbling at such speed that Draco couldn't make heads or tails of what they were saying.
It took Xander a few minutes to calm the girls down, and even then, there were two or three that had glued themselves to his sides. "Girls, this is Draco. He's from Hogwarts, and might be joining us. He's wizard born, though, so go easy on him. He's still learning about the muggle world."
"Can we take him shopping to get clothes?" One of the older-looking girls asked.
Xander laughed. "Maybe another time. He's got to decide if he wants to work here first." He pointed out. "Now g'wan. I've got a tour to give."
The girls reluctantly headed off, though the ones that had been clinging to Xander took their own sweet time, and one of them, who looked to be all of about eight years old to Draco's eyes, Xander ended up having to crouch down and talk to her for a few moments in a language Draco didn't understand before she finally headed back towards the game that had resumed.
"They seem to like you a lot." Draco commented.
Xander snorted. "I spent three years in Africa, finding Slayers and bringing them in. About half those girls are from Africa. Most of the rest are from Asia, and glomp Robin Woods, who is the one that's looking for Slayers in Asia, every bit as hard as the ones from Africa glomp me. The girls that come here to live ... don't have family, for one reason or another, and see Robin and I as surrogate dads."
There was something in Xander's expression that told Draco some of the girls didn't have families for very ... bad reasons, and that Xander returned their affection in full measure. Having seen what the man was willing to do to keep Potter, whom he'd known for so short a time, safe, Draco truly pitied anyone or anything stupid enough to attack, or worse, kill any of the African girls. It would not end well at all.
"Right, tour. C'mon." Xander led the way to the first building on the right hand side. "This is the living quarters for watchers, witches, teachers and other staff members." He said. "You'd be living here, if you came to work for us. C'mon in and we can show you Willow's apartment."
"Not yours?" Draco asked.
Xander laughed. "Mine's basically empty. Remember, I've been in Africa for years. I have an apartment here, but it's basically a bed to crash on during my brief stays here, and not much else. My stuff's in storage until I actually stay here for more than three days twice a year."
Willow led the way to her apartment. It was fairly small, with a sitting area, a bedroom, a bathroom, and an area whose function eluded Draco at first.
"What's this area for?" He asked.
"Ahh, that's the kitchen." Xander told him. He walked in and tapped a tall, white cabinet with two doors. "This is called a refrigerator. It keeps food cold, so it doesn't spoil." Xander tapped something else. "This is the stove, which we use to cook food on. We don't have house-elves, so we do our own food preparation. Don't worry, if you decide to stay, we'll teach you how to cook, and until you can manage it on your own, you can eat in one of the places here where food is cooked for those who can't cook for themselves, or don't have the time."
Draco nodded, relieved. So far, this was ... nowhere near as frightening as he'd thought it would be. Of course, this was just one small area, he knew, but still ... better than he'd expected.
They walked out into the sitting area, and Xander pointed at a black thing up against a wall. "That is a television. It's a form of entertainment." Seeing Draco's confused look, Xander grinned. "It's not turned on at the moment. Anyway ... how to explain ... " Xander thought for a moment. "You know how portraits in the wizarding world move and talk? Well, this is sort of like that, except it won't interact with you directly ... and it's like having all the portraits in Hogwarts in one frame." He picked up a slim black thing. "This controls it. Turns it on, and allows you to switch from 'portrait' to 'portrait' until you find something you'd like to watch."
Xander pressed on the control, and the television came to life. The sudden sound and movement made Draco jump, because it was both like, and totally unlike a portrait. There was movement and talking, yes, but in portraits, the movement was solely the people. The background and surroundings never changed. With the television, it did, making him stare in confusion.
"How ... ?" He asked.
There was a long moment of quiet, probably due to Xander and Willow trying to figure out how to explain, then Xander said. "You know how with the wizarding wireless, something is recorded and then broadcast? This is the same basic thing. Special cameras record what's said and done, and can be moved around to catch a specific angle. Once it's all recorded, it's broadcast to televisions for people to watch." Then Xander snorted. "Again, it's a bit more complicated than that, but if you stick around, we'll be able to explain it more fully."
Shortly after that, Xander led the way back out, and the tour continued. And once the tour was done, Draco's day really began. With Xander at his side, both to explain things and help him deal with muggle things when necessary, Draco got to experience a 'normal day' at Headquarters.
It started with breakfast, which they ate at a 'cafeteria' in the building that housed Slayers under the age of sixteen. The cafeteria was, basically, the muggle version of the Great Hall, where food was prepared, delivered, and eaten en masse. Their table was crowded with Xander's girls, all of them chatting merrily, vying for Xander's attention with good-natured railery.
After breakfast was a period of exercise. Draco objected at first.
"Draco, trust me, this isn't optional. Yes, you have magic to defend yourself with, but some demons are either immune or resistant to magic ... not to mention the fact that you might get your wand broken, or get it knocked out of your hand. Being able to run like hell and defend yourself in a way that doesn't require magic will save your life repeatedly. Guaranteed." Xander told him.
Draco still grumbled, but admitted that Xander had a valid point. Fortunately, he wasn't expected to perform at the level the Slayers, even the youngest ones, managed. Which brought up a question. "Why are the Slayers divided by age?" He asked.
"The under-sixteen crowd isn't allowed to go out and Slay." Xander said. "It didn't use to be that way, back when there was only ever one Slayer at a time, but now there's so many, we can afford to let the youngest ones grow up before they have to get bloody. Since most of them are from third world countries or simply don't speak English when they arrive here, all Slayers, regardless of age, are taught to read, write, and do basic arithmetic ... in English, along with basic survival stuff, like how to cook and navigate in a city. We can't really force the older ones to learn more than that, but the younger ones don't get as much of a choice in the matter." Xander grinned. "They get a full education, as well as learning various martial arts and demon species. The older ones are more than welcome to join the classes, and a lot of them do, but we don't force the issue with them."
"Once they reach sixteen, they start learning how to fight the various sorts of dangerous demons. From time to time, the older slayers will beat up but not kill demons, and bring them in for the younger slayers to get a look at when they're not in a life-or-death scenario ... and to allow the girls a chance to practice the various 'killing moves' on something that's worn out and busted up and therefore somewhat less dangerous than an uninjured one would be. That takes a year or two, and then once they're done, they go out in small groups with an experienced Slayer and Watcher team until they prove they can handle combat in the real world." Xander said.
"The Watchers go through a similar process, just somewhat less intense because we happen to not have a Slayer's enhancements, and the newly-graduated Watchers go out with the small groups of newly-graduates Slayers. It's proven the be the best way to pair them up for future patrolling ... there's nothing quite like combat to prove who is compatible with who."
After the morning exercise was the classes. Draco sat in on the ones for Watchers, since it was unknown if he could learn Earth Magic, a question he decided to figure out the answer to, if at all possible. The sheer number of demon species was mind-boggling. And that wasn't even all that a Watcher had to learn. They had to learn latin ... which, Draco was fine there, as he'd started learning it at age eight, since latin was the base for many spells, as well as 'first aid', which, aside from the obvious things like 'stop the bleeding and keep them breathing and their heart beating' involved how to remove various demonic bodily fluids from open wounds, and which ones required immediate, serious medical attention. They were also expected to learn to at least read the most common demonic language, and to recognize, if not to read or speak, the others. Not to mention they were expected to be able to defend themselves and back up the Slayers they'd be working with.
That evening, after dark, Draco was brought on a patrol, though he stayed well back, guarded by Xander, so that he could, again, see what would be expected of him. This was, by far, the most harrowing part of the day, and not just because of the certainty of a vampire or three, as well as some other sort of demon, popping up needing to be killed. It was because this was his first foray into the wider Muggle world, in all its bewildering variety.
But despite that, by the time Xander brought Draco back to Hogwarts in the early hours of the morning, Draco's mind was made up. He would be joining the New Watcher's Council. It was a challenge unlike anything he'd ever seen, which would take all his magical prowess, and every scrap of his cunning and guile to prosper and thrive. He could carve a niche for himself there, be his own self, free of his family's shadow ... either side of his family. It would not be easy ... but then, nothing truly worth having ever was.