*~* Antici *~*
Anya looked up when Cordelia and Oz entered the room Dumbledore had set aside for their little spell. He'd tried to talk her into something else... until Anya had shown him what the ragged little group had come up with before sleep had stolen them. The headmaster had been so impressed, he'd sent some people to Diagon Alley to gather supplies. He was confident in their research.
"We were there when she did it before." Cordelia said quietly. "We're gonna be here for it now."
She nodded. Remus and Sirius came in then. Well, she knew it was Sirius for who else would be with Remus at a time like this one. The man had on his 'Moody' suit though. Anya had to wonder how the real Moody felt about missing all the action because Sirius need to borrow his look. Remus moved up behind her, so only she could hear him.
"You don't have to do this."
"Yes I do."
She spun around and glared at him, but he noticed how shaky she was. There were also very dark circles under her eyes.
"I do not like losing people. I do not like the thought of them in pain... or not being able to do the things most of us take for granted. Little things like eating eggs or drinking juice or kissing the person we care for above all others or simply being able to give life, to hold something that was inside you and say 'Hello spawn of my loins. I am your mother.'."
"Merlin help the man who you fall in love with."
"I've had two of those. It doesn't stick. They can never quite love me back as much."
"Then they're fools."
Anya smiled at him.
"How big of a circle to you want these bones cast in?" Cordelia asked.
"You're really staying."
Oz held up some sage. "Do I start with this now? Is there a chant?"
Anya's smile got wider.
Ginny was in a sitting room with her parents... and all her brothers. Well, all save Charlie and Bill. And Ron. Ron was still with the others. Their little group of mixed muggles, Gryffindors, and Slytherins. Bill and Charlie had been grabbed by Dumbledore to accompany Draco's cousin Tonks to Diagon Alley for supplies. Ginny knew these supplies were for the spell for Tara.... and she also knew Draco planned on being there for the spell... which meant Ginny herself would be there. Her parents weren't going to like that... even more so than they appeared not to be liking the thought of her and Draco.
Bill and Charlie had grinned a lot when Dumbledore had told them who they'd be walking off the ground to apparate with. Ginny was guessing they knew Tonks from school or something. Charlie called her Nymphie. He received a very Narcissa-like glare for that one. Ginny had never noticed that icy look Draco could get in his eyes was wholly his mother's.
Fred and George looked most irritated... in an amused sort of way. Percy was looking like he'd eaten a whole lemon. Ginny was amused by the thought that he and Snape could trade notes on sour expressions. Well, Snape could when Professor Rosenberg wasn't about... which wasn't often anymore.
"So..." Molly began. "Draco Malfoy's our boyfriend. We can't even see fit to owl our mother about the fact that we have a boyfriend much less the fact that the boyfriend is from a family that your father and I do not approve of."
Ginny stiffened. "Draco is not his father."
"It's true, mum." Fred said. "Malfoy's not half bad."
"Agreed. The twin and I have seen him in action." George added.
Ginny looked at them gratefully. Molly was glaring at them for daring not to agree with her. Fred and George had never hidden the fact that they didn't like the Malfoys, but Ginny liked to think they liked her more than they disliked that family and recognized that she liked Draco.
"Malfoy's not so bad since Spike's been around."
"A vampire." Molly said, her voice rising.
"You don't even know him." Ginny pleaded. "Spike's not so bad. He's funny, and he cares about Draco a lot."
"Ginny dear, this is Draco Malfoy. Do you not remember what his father did to you?"
"As if I could forget." Ginny straightened. "Again... Draco is not his father. He's not Lucius Malfoy. He's better. Way better. I know how you all feel about them, but Draco's changed."
"Ginny..." Molly began.
"Look." Ginny dug in her robes. "Look!" She thrust a folded bit of parchment at her mother. It was worn. As if it had been touched and read many a time. "Read it."
Molly cleared her throat and read aloud. "When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon myself and curse my fate, Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, Featured like him, like him with friends possessed, Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, With what I most enjoy contented least, Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, Haply I think on thee, and then my state, Like to the lark at break of day arising, From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate; For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings, that then I scorn to change my state with kings."
She looked at Ginny oddly.
"The first time I ever heard that it was his voice purring it to me in front of everyone in the great hall. It's Shakespeare. He reads Shakespeare. I made him write it down for me, so I could carry it always. Do you honestly think anyone who was like Lucius Malfoy to the core could ever think to recite Shakespeare to me and have it end in a spray of flower petals?"
"Malfoy wrote you a love note?" George asked.
Fred grinned. "And had it delivered before the whole school?"
"Yes. He was kissed quite soundly for being romantic."
"Ginny..." Arthur began.
"Do you honestly like him?"
"More than anything. He's not like he was. Just talk to him. He's different."
"You'd agree to that? My talking to him?"
"Sure. You'll see. Well, he's not perfect or anything, but he's almost a decent human being now."
"Almost?" Fred asked.
"Well... he is still Draco."
Lily was pacing. Her Xander was lounged out on a chair watching her with hooded eyes. Connor was watching him with a look that would have turned him to vapor... provided looks could do such a thing.
"So..." The vampire chuckled. "She decided to soul you and keep you like a pet?"
"Xander, I'm happy here. It's good like this. If I were there, I'd be dust."
"So the other witchy you says."
"It's true. And besides, I wouldn't trade it. It's hard some days, but I'm learning new things. Willow takes care of me. Snape's harsh, but I can see him moving into a fatherly role one day. Can you imagine? Me... with real parent types."
Xander snorted. "I can't believe this. You, a childe of the master, so content to be all sweetness again."
"Who said I was sweet?"
"Fine. Lily, how can you not be? I remember what you were like as a human."
"That was before I was a vampire. Think I've forgotten any of it? It haunts me!"
"Well, if you'd let me turn you again-"
Connor stood abruptly. "You ARE NOT touching her!"
Lily held up a hand. "Connor."
"I won't allow it."
Lily raised an eyebrow. "You... won't... allow...."
"He has not been here. He is a creature without a soul. He can not know what you are like alive here."
Lily blinked rapidly. The vampire Xander watched them. There was enough heat passing between those two that they didn't really need the fire in the fireplace. Xander smirked. He did like the way this guy protected his Willow, er, Lily.
"If you turn her... if you actually manage it while I'm not watching, and I will be watching, I will end you."
Xander smiled at him. "So, Lils... since I can't call ya Wills... so, um Lils, if there's another you here, I suppose there's another me."
"Y-yes." Lily was still baffled by Connor's words. He acted almost like he... really liked her. That wasn't possible, was it?
"What's he like?"
"Not sure. He doesn't live around here. He stays with the slayer."
Xander made a face. "The slayer? What freaky-assed universe have I been vamp-napped into?"
"Do you want to meet him, Xander?"
"Yeah, but I think I need another name... like you. Can't have two Xanders running around."
"There have been before from what I understand."
He looked at her.
"It's a long story. Involving a magic stick or something that splits people into two halves of the same whole dividing up their qualities."
"So... what do we call you?"
"I've always been partial to the name James T. Kirk."
"I am NOT calling you Captain Kirk."
"Zeus is good."
"How about Alex?"
"Don't you have ANY imagination, Will- Lily?"
"It IS your name. Alex from Alexander just like Xander was."
"It's so boring."
"How's about I call you Shithead... after Steve Martin's dog in the movie 'The Jerk'?" She snapped.
"Alex is good. I like Alex." He looked at Connor, who was still posturing and glaring. "What about you, destroy-o? Alex sound all right to you?"
Xander, er, Alex grinned. This Connor guy so needed to loosen up, but he supposed if he had the mad hard-on for Lily this guy did, he'd be a bit tense as well. Alex wondered if he should tell him that she liked to be tied up.
"If this is some kind of trick, I'll kill you before Angel has a chance."
Lilah looked over her shoulder at Lindsey. She was in her room unpacking her things for her little stay here. The room was nice. Even if it was connected to a sitting area that she was having to share with five other women. One of those women being Kate Lockley.
Lilah smiled at him nastily. "Oh ho. Big words from the reformed. You have a mission now too, sweetheart?"
"As a matter of fact..."
"Oh that's right. You're helping the slayer."
"She's not the only slayer. Not the only one here either."
"Faith's here? This is where they hid her?"
"From what I've heard Wesley brought her here."
Lilah stood straight. "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce is here?"
"Yeah. What's with you? He torture you as well?"
"Justine... she lives with us too. She's all hell-bent on giving Wesley a little payback-"
"She better not lay a finger on him!"
"Whoa. What was that?"
Lilah turned back to her unpacking. "Nothing."
"Don't tell me you actually care about something other than yourself."
Lilah snorted, but in a classy way. "Please."
"You like him. What? He do the rough sex thing you seem to like so much?"
Lilah spun about and glared. "Get out."
Lindsey chuckled. "Does he even know?"
He walked out passing Justine in he sitting room. The redheaded woman was sitting by the fire with Kate Lockley. Across the room the Anne and that Gwen girl were sitting and looking bored.
"Hey, Anne, if you and lightening rod want to get out of here, there's plenty of things to look at in this school."
"Go somewhere? With you?" Anne scoffed.
"I think you know why not, Lindsey."
Justine perked up. "You sleep with her?"
"No!" Lindsey and Anne snapped at the same time.
"What's the deal then?"
Anne stiffened when all eyes turned to her. Even Lilah stuck her head out of her door to hear this. "He was false with me. He pretended to help, but-"
"Yeah, I was gonna help your little shelter get more money than it ever could in a year. Two years. Oh Lord smite me down for being kind."
"It was not kindness that motivated you."
"Well, no, it wasn't."
"Just go. I can't believe Buffy lets you live with her."
"People change." Justine said quietly.
Lindsey sighed. "I'm going to find the B."
"Ask her when we're going home." Justine snapped.
Lindsey looked at her. He wondered if she realized that she had just called Sunnydale home for the first time. Well, in his presence anyhow, but Buffy had commented once that Justine never said where home was. She was also fairly tightlipped about what had gone down in LA when she'd been there. No one knew any more than Justine felt they needed to about her. Lindsey knew there was more. Like himself, she had done things she was not proud of.
But Buffy said they all did things they weren't proud of from time to time. And to think, he'd gone to Sunnydale to kill her. As if. She'd rescued him from a gang of vampires, and his plans of killing had gone downhill from there. Lindsey actually liked her. Not in a sex way. He felt only brotherly affection for her. Like Oz or Graham or Xander did. They four of them had often tried to find her a boyfriend... with ill effects. They just wanted her happy.
It was Justine who'd finally suggested that maybe she was happy with the way things had turned out for now, and to leave her be. When she was ready to find some significant other-y male, she would... and all by herself in all likeliness.
Lindsey did a mock bow at Justine. "Will do, Justy."
She scowled at him. Justine always scowled. Maybe he and the guys should have been looking for Justine a man instead. Lindsey grinned. There was time for that. Also, there were many seemingly unattached wizards and other things running around this place. He needed to find Oz. Oz was always up for a little matchmaking.
Well, not actually, but he always tagged along to make sure Lindsey didn't get out of control. Funny that, when Oz was the one who turned into a werewolf if the circumstances were just right.
Giles was walking out of his office after Minerva had informed him of what Willow and the others were planning for Tara. He had to talk them out of it. It was too dangerous. They were about to be messing with forces that should not be messed with. Yes, Willow was powerful. Yes, she had done this sort of thing before. But not on this level.
He had barely graced the hall when a hand was planted in the center of his chest, and he was backed into the classroom he'd just come out of.
Giles kept his features schooled, but he was surprised. And Narcissa Malfoy looked angry. She kept backing him until he was once again in his office. She threw up her wand a muttered something that sent the door slamming so hard the clap of it made his ears ring.
"What have you done to him?"
"My son! What have you done? He mentioned you teaching him something. Have you brainwashed him?"
Giles blinked. "I have not done anything to Draco. He makes up his own mind. If you are curious about his actions, I suggest you ask him."
"He won't talk to me."
"And this surprises you? Madam, you DID try to murder him."
"I didn't... he's... my husband just..."
"Draco's not supposed to turn out like this! Lucius is talking of killing him. Seriously. Before it was just a threat. I can't let him do that. I can't."
"He won't get the chance."
"You don't know Lucius."
"And you don't know the people protecting your son these days. You have no idea about us, what we can be like if we feel one of our own is being threatened. Now, if you've QUITE finished...."
He tried to walk past her, but Narcissa grabbed him and spun him about. Giles was a little shocked. For a woman of her build, she certainly had a mighty grip.
"I want to know what you talk to him about."
"He talks to Spike or Dawn more than he does to me."
"A mudblood and a vampire?"
"Madam, if you wish to get into your son's good graces, I suggest you learn the proper names for the people he cares for and use them. Calling Dawn a mudblood in his presence would quite incur his wrath as it is incurring mine just now."
She looked confused.
"I quite think of Dawn and her sister as my own daughters. How would you like it if I called Draco a pompous little shit?"
She moved to slap him. Giles batted her hand away harshly. Narcissa rubbed her wrist where he'd knocked it. Giles took her stunned inattention to him as an opportunity to grab her by the arm and drag her from his office and briskly through his classroom. He shoved her out of the door and then started stalking down the hallway... away from this woman who angered him.
Giles knew what Draco's childhood had been like. He didn't trust himself not to assault the woman in some way for her part in it, and if he ever got within striking distance of Lucius Malfoy.... God help the man.
"Wait! How DARE you manhandle me!"
She was chasing after him. Giles hurried his pace. She actually scrambled after him. Giles was amused by the fact that the woman had likely never hurried a day in her little evil princess's life. She finally managed to get ahead of him and plant herself before him in an effort to get him to stop. Giles just stepped around her and kept going.
Narcissa growled. The woman actually growled. Giles ground his teeth not to grin. From what Draco had told him of his mother, this was a first. Narcissa never got flustered. She never got anything. Giles would have to remember to tell the boy that his mother did, in fact, have emotions.
She was before him again, shoving her hands against his chest. "You WILL stop and answer my questions."
Giles raised both his eyebrows. "Oh will I?"
"No one ignores me."
Giles attempted to step around her. She grabbed his arm and tried to spin him around to face her again, but Giles turned the tables on her. Narcissa winced when his hand closed around her throat as Draco's had earlier. She flinched when she was banged against the wall. Narcissa wondered if Draco had picked up that move from this man.
"Madam, I do not have the patience for your highhanded-ness today. Stay the bloody hell away from me, or I shall be forced to harm you."
"Now, Ripper, is that any way to treat a lady?"
Giles rolled his eyes. Ethan. Perfect.
"I see no lady here, Ethan."
"Ouch. My dear Narcissa, what have you done to irritate Ripper?"
"I don't have time for this." Giles hissed.
He released Narcissa's throat and stalked off before either herself or Ethan could think to follow or comment.
Narcissa was staring after him and rubbing her throat. "Interesting man."
"Don't even consider it, Cissa."
"I see that look in your eye. Just put whatever it is away. Ripper's not someone that someone like yourself should even consider."
"You didn't have to."
"He's not like you or I. He actually likes this do-gooder business. He's actually quite noble these days, not in the good fight for selfish reasons. He actually does this world-saving business because it's 'the right thing to do', not because he wants to save his own hide and everyone else wins by default."
"So you're saying the man has a dark side, and he cares more for others than he does for himself?"
"Annoying, isn't it?"
"More like fascinating."
Willow stretched a bit as her eyes opened. Severus was standing next to their bed getting dressed.
"What are you doing?"
"Putting on clothing." He said with an expression that told her what he was doing should be more than obvious.
"You were naked?"
"I was wearing pants."
"What do you mean why?"
She rubbed her eyes. "How did I get in here? The spell... where's everybody?"
"We all needed rest. You actually managed to fall asleep standing up. I forbid you to allow yourself to become so tired again."
"You... forbid..." She cut herself off with a snort. "You are not the boss of me."
"You push yourself too hard!" He shouted.
Willow could not miss the worry that flickered for a second on his face.
"Hey." She slid out of the bed and wrapped her arms around his middle. "I'm pretty tough. Don't worry about me."
"How can I not? You're reckless at times. You have no sense of self when it comes to fighting evil. I know this is going to sound selfish, and I do not give a damn, but do you even consider what would become of me if I were to lose you?"
"I'd go mad if you were taken from me now."
She hugged him tighter. "Nobody's taking me anywhere."
"So you say."
"Come on." She grabbed her shirt and robe. "I've got a spell to do."
"WE'VE got a spell to do." He corrected.
She reached out and grabbed his hand. He gave her fingers an affectionate squeeze. It made her belly all fluttery that he was worried about losing her.
Fluttery in a good way.
Willow knew he cared about her, he'd told her he loved her, but was it really moving to that point beyond what everyday people have? Was it becoming that all-consuming type love?
The two of them walked hand in hand towards Severus's lab.
They were intercepted by Wesley.
"I was just coming to fetch the both of you. We're this way." He started down a a hallway away from Severus's lab.
"Dumbledore secured us an empty classroom. Anya and a few others have been readying the room. I must warn you, Buffy and Angel are dead set against our doing this."
"Buffy and Angel are just going to have to get the hell over it. We're helping Tara."
"It IS dangerous, Willow."
"Are you backing out?"
"Good. Are you scared?"
"Good. Me too." Willow turned then and vomited.
Wesley and Severus stared in horror. She turned back to them, wiping her mouth with the sleeve of her robe.
"Willow..." Severus started as he put an arm around her.
"I'm fine. Really. Nerves. I feel much better now."
"Are you-" Wesley started.
"We shouldn't do this if you are not well." Severus whispered and tried to steer her back to their rooms.
"No. I'm fine now. Just a little nervous. I'm over it... but do either of you have a breath mint?"