"You been holding out on us, X?" Faith smirked as she turned towards clearly the gob smacked former demon hunter, who was staring with open-mouthed astonishment at the group of teens and, more specifically, the golden-haired moppet who'd just called him 'Daddy.'
Before anyone could say anything more or react with other than surprise, the dark-haired youth holding the little girl shook his head as he said, "No, Joyce, that isn't Dad. He's just some man that looks like him. Dad's at home with Mom, and we're gonna be going there in a little while, okay?"
"Okay," the little one nodded agreeably as she yawned and closed her eyes as she put her head back down on the kid's shoulder, where she'd had it when the group had arrived.
"All right, then," Xander announced as he focused his gaze even more intently at the teens who were now all quite openly staring at him with expressions ranging from puzzlement to curiosity to suspicion, "why don’t you kids grab a table or two off to the side, there, while I grab some refreshments for everyone, and we can all try and get some sort of rational explanation for why that little cherub there thinks I'm her dad."
It was also clear that, though Xander had phrased his words in the form of a suggestion, he fully expected the teens to do exactly as he'd just directed.
It was a matter of just a few minutes for Xander and Faith to grab several pitchers of various sodas and fruit juices, as well as a dozen glasses and take them over to the tables the kids had settled at, and then pull a couple of seats over for themselves.
The two youngest children were both still slumbering peacefully on the shoulders of the dark-haired wizard and the blonde witch who'd been holding them when they arrived, and the other six students had managed to arrange themselves so that that group was against the wall and furthest away from any potential contact with the rest of the room.
"So, since the little one there thought for a moment that I was her dad, it's obvious that you people know someone who looks an awful lot like me," Xander said as he took a seat facing the kid who was clearly the leader of the group and the witch who holding the still-sleeping little boy who looked to be the same age as the little girl who'd gone back to sleep on her older brother's shoulder.
"And judging by the various looks I've been getting, I'm also guessing that the guy you know doesn't wear an eyepatch, either," he continued. "Right?"
"Uh, yes, sir," the dark-haired kid answered with a nervous nod of his head. "Dad hasn't worn an eyepatch since before the twins were born," he said, nodding towards the two much younger, peacefully sleeping children.
"Why don’t you guys tell us who you all are," Faith broke in with her suggestion, '''cause it'll make things a lot easier to talk, if we’re not saying, 'Hey, you!' al the time."
"Uh, okay," the same kid nodded.
"My name's Harry Harris, and the twins here are my sister, Joyce, and my brother, Jesse," he began, pointing to the two youngest members of their group, "and these guys are all our friends.
"These gorgeous ladies are Hermione Granger, Susan Bones, Luna Lovegood and Mandy Brocklehurst," he said with a wide smile as he pointed in turn to a brunette with a mane of thick, full hair which had been twisted into a french braid, a full-bodied redhead, an ethereal-looking blonde and a second, more petite brunette, "and these are my best mates, Ron Weasely, Draco Malfoy and Neville Longbottom," he indicated the tall, somewhat gangly redhead, the shorter, leaner blond and the solid-looking brunet wizards who clearly formed the outer line of protection for the group.
"Let me guess, you three are all X's kids in whichever world you guys come from, right?" Faith asked with a wide grin as she indicated Harry and the twins.
"Yeah," Harry nodded, as he looked over at Xander with a somewhat uncertain grin. "Dad and Mom adopted me after my birth parents were killed by a psycho wizard when I was a baby, and then the twins were born five years ago.
"They were kind of a surprise to everybody, especially our parents, since Mom thought she couldn't have kids, but it was a really nice surprise," he said as he grinned affectionately at the slumbering children.
"So, what were you guys doing that you weren't supposed to, that had you end up here?" Xander then asked, a wide smile emerging at the surprised – and guilty – expressions that appeared on all of the kids' faces at his question.
"Nothing," was the reaction that immediately flew from Harry's lips, and Faith's answering laughter made the youth's face instantly blush as he turned to look at her.
"C'mon, kid," the brunette Slayer gave him a friendly smile as she began correcting him, "if you're gonna try and bullshit us, at least try to come up with something halfway believable, okay?
"You and your friends here suddenly pop up in the middle of the bar here, all of you looking like you've been scuffling with someone, and all of you with your wands out and ready to use," she grinned at the silently watching group, "and then you try to tell us you guys weren't doing anything you're not supposed to be doing?
"I'd believe Perot could get elected President sooner than that line you gave us," she said, shaking her head as though in disappointment at the lack of imagination displayed.
"She's exactly like your Aunt F, Harry," the blonde witch Harry had introduced as Luna Lovegood spoke up from her position next to him, her voice soft and reassuring. "As is this dimension's version of your father.
"I don't think they'll believe anything you might want to tell them, other than the truth," she noted.
Sighing tiredly, Harry looked around at the rest of his group, obviously seeking agreement with the blonde's suggestion.
Hermione nodded immediately when he looked over at her, and smiled as she said, "Luna's correct, Harry.
"You've never been able to successfully lie to your parents for very long," she reminded him, her smile shifting to a somewhat devilish grin as she spoke. "Remember that incident in third year? Anyway, since these people are clearly dimensional analogues of some of your relatives, I rather doubt you'll be able to get away with any prevarications with them, either."
"Thanks for the reminder; I'm still trying to forget that particular snafu, Little Red," Harry gave her a semi-scowl, using what was clearly an affectionate nickname as the other members of their group all grinned and Hermione blushed a bit. "But you're right."
Hearing the others all mutter their own concurrence, Harry turned back to the two patiently waiting adults and began his explanation.
"Mom and Dad and the other adult Scoobies were all going to a Ministry dinner, and Mom specifically told me I had to supervise the twins while they were gone – because of something I did last week," he added parenthetically and enigmatically, "so I invited the guys to come over and hang out.
"And Ron had brought the new catalogue for Quality Quidditch Supplies with him, and we noticed that they said that they had just gotten the new Firebolt Three broom in stock, so we decided to go down and check it out," he went on, patently ignoring the eye rolls the girls were all making at the boys' enthusiasm about the new broom, "and Mom didn't say we had to stay at the house, so we just bundled the twins up and then we all flooed down to Diagon Alley."
As he recounted the next part of his narrative, Harry spoke a bit faster as he described the girls' decision to head down to Madame Malkin's robe shop while the male contingent evaluated the new broom's handling characteristics, and their subsequent agreement to meet up at Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor for a snack – an apparent concession/bribe to the twins to behave during their excursion.
"Anyway, while we were at Fortescue's, the twins somehow managed to wander off, and when we noticed, we went off looking for them," Harry continued, guiltily looking away from both Xander and Faith as he did so, "and we found them just as a hag and a couple of her minions saw them and tried to kidnap them.
"Anyway, we grabbed the twins before she could get close to them, and then the hag and her Red Caps attacked us, and we were fighting them off while Hermione and Mandy were making us a portkey back to the house," Harry elaborated, "but just as we used it, the hag cast a spell at us, and there was a flash of light and the next thing we knew, we ended up here."
"Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't want to admit that you screwed up and almost got your little brother and sister kidnapped and eaten, Harry," Xander said, making all of the teens winch uncomfortably with discomfort as the truth of his words pounded home the significance of their carelessness.
"But you did realize how badly you all screwed up, and you did find them and they didn't really get hurt, so everything seemed to have balanced out," he went on, "so I don't see any real point in dwelling on what might have happened."
"So, are you guys sure you can get back home safely, or do you think you might need some help?" Faith asked, as she looked over the temporarily stranded travelers.
"We can call our local version of the Wicked Wicca of the West to help out, if ya want," she suggested.
Politely shrugging off the Slayer's offer, at least for the moment, the teens all huddled together, filling numerous sheets of paper with abstruse calculations as they discussed the most likely parameters of what had occurred during their confrontation with the hag that had led to their being transported to the bar, while Xander and Faith returned to their normal duties.
Finally, after over an hour's worth of discussions, they had all finally come to an apparent agreement and the teens rose from the table and approached Xander and Faith.
"We're pretty sure we know what happened, and why we ended up here," Harry as spokesman informed their inadvertent hosts, "and we believe we know what to do to get back home, so we're gonna leave now.
Several variations of "Thanks for your hospitality" were offered by the teens, as was the traditional "Feel free to stop in, any time," by Xander, and then, after a few carefully pronounced words and extremely precisely choreographed wand movements by Hermione, Luna and Draco, there was another muted flash of light and the group disappeared – presumably, back to their home.
And, of course, as both Xander and Faith could have predicted had they given the matter any thought, less than thirty minutes after the teens had departed, there was yet another flash of light signifying the arrival of more visitors.
Xander glanced up from his paperwork at the bar to see a group of doppelgangers of himself, Buffy, Faith, Willow, Oz and Dawn, along with a taller, dark-haired guy who practically radiated a military air, standing in the center of the main room, all of them holding a variety of weapons at the ready and game faces on as they quickly and professionally inspected their environment.
"Hi there," he announced, immediately focusing the group's attention on himself.
"I'm guessing you're here looking for a group of teenagers…"