The more things change
The first thing that registered in Xander’s mind as it clawed it’s way out of oblivion was the cool stone surface that he was lying on. In Xander’s experience, a cold stone bed meant one of two things; he was either in the cave and a female demon was about to spawn with him, or he was on a dark alter about to be sacrificed.
Taking care to keep his breathing even as he finished waking up, Xander activated the x-ray option on his new eye to take in his surroundings. He almost let out a sigh of relief when he saw that he was tied to a stone alter surrounded by a dozen Death Eaters. It was just a bunch of jerks trying to end the world, he could deal with this.
Suddenly, Xander heard a moan come from the mop of red hair that he had spotted when he had been checking out the opposition. Of course, because this wasn’t Cousin Itt, this mop of red hair was attached to a one legged Englishman.
“Malfoy, you bastard!” screamed Ron as soon as he spotted Xander’s cousin.
Okay, so he also happened to be a reasonably upset one legged Englishman.
“Now, what would your fiancé say if she heard you talking like that?” asked Draco. “Where is the Mudblood anyway? We’ve looked everywhere for her, but it looks like she may have finally wised up and left you.”
“I think she’s in England, her mom’s been sick lately,” said Xander, as he opened up his eye. “So what’s going on Draco?”
“Nothing much, I’m just planning to sacrifice you and Ron over here in a dark ritual that will open a portal to Hell, and let us retrieve the soul of the Dark Lord. You don’t have a problem with that do you?”
“Well, I would have preferred to be tied together with a half naked girl instead of a guy,” said Xander as his natural eye looked at Ron, even as his magical eye was spinning in his head, taking in every detail it could. “Other than that I have no problem, after all you’re my cousin and I trust you.”
“What did I tell you, completely oblivious,” said Draco with his trademark smirk in place.
“What about me Professor, do you trust me as well?” asked the apparent leader of the group of Death Eaters.
“You, I’m going to torture and possibly kill, and then I’m going to have a long talk with Giles about operational security,” said Xander in a voice that made liquid nitrogen seem like a hot summer’s day.
John A. Pseudonym laughed at that, his voice holding a cruel note that had been completely masked until now. “I can see you haven’t completely lost that spark I saw down in Africa, good. It’s just a shame that you didn’t pick up any intelligence and cleanse your aura of the energies you accumulated during your time over the Hellmouth, but then I believe a lack of intelligence was what allowed us to convince you to come and not any of your companions.”
“You’re going to die, you know that right?” asked Xander.
“Yes, but not today,” said Pseudonym, as he pulled out a wicked looking knife and cut a quick, but deep, gash across Ron’s chest. He was far less merciful with Xander though, carving an intricate pattern into his flesh, and at places even the bone was marked. The knife was obviously enchanted to not let him die from any wounds it inflicted, because Xander was sure that he felt it cutting across some very vital organs.
Ron amused himself by shouting obscenities at Draco, even as Xander tried not to scream in pain. The wounds had healed quickly, but blood still flowed from the scarred skin, and for some reason that hurt even more than when the cuts had been inflicted.
Xander lost all sense of time as he lay there, bleeding from magical wounds, blood flowing from sealed flesh. His entire life was defined by two things, not giving his tormentor any satisfaction, and using his magical eye to find a glimmer of hope.
Finally after what felt like several eternities Xander found what he was looking for. Releasing his bottom lip from between his teeth the former carpenter allowed himself a rabid grin before he shouted, “Rule Two!”
Before anyone had the chance to question this bizarre statement three bolts of red energy shot through the air. The first hit Pseudonym in the back of the head, while the other two hit the ropes that bound Ron and Xander.
For a moment confusion and shock washed through the collected Death Eaters. Few could understand why Draco Malfoy would attack their leader seconds away from the rituals completion.
Now given half a second more the assembled dark wizards would have gotten over their shock and used their combined powers to reduce the traitor into something less than a smear on the ground. It was very fortunate then that the half dozen teenage girls hiding in the surrounding vegetation were trained to never give their enemy that half second.
Now under normal circumstances half dozen newly called Slayers with the element of surprise would be a fair match against a dozen fully trained dark wizards that had escaped the reach of the law through either cunning or power. However, when you added the short blond that wielded a red scythe that easily cut through every defensive spell the wizards could cast and the red haired witch that casually flung more magic that many magic users could dream of, it would be clear to a blind man that the scales were heavily tipped in favor of the attacking force, just the way Xander liked it.
The second they had been freed neither Xander or Ron had wasted any time in getting off of the alter. They were both still bleeding, but now they didn’t have to worry about said blood powering a spell.
Neither warrior wasted much time in joining the fight either. Xander was used to using his fists more than his magic so he took down the Death Eater closest to him with a solid right hook, Ron on the other hand had a more interesting approach.
Removing his prosthetic leg the red haired man used it to deliver a devastating blow to the head of a Death Eater that was stupid enough to dismiss the wandless magician as a threat. Ron may not be the wizard that Harry Potter is, but the one legged man had walked beside his friend for seven years, including the final battle. With only his wooden leg as a weapon the young fighter did the only thing he could do, he continually hit the fallen Death Eater in the skull until he heard the crunch of breaking bone.
This brutal act of violence didn’t go unnoticed though. As Ron looked up the world seemed to slow down the second he caught sight of the Death Eater that had a wand pointed at him, the killing curse on the dark wizard’s lips.
Ron knew with perfect clarity that this was the moment he was going to die. There was no Harry or Hermione to save him this time, and he had no wand to save himself with.
The moment that Ron resigned himself to his fate a burst of emerald energy shot through the air, and impacted the Death Eater squarely on the chest.
“Do try not to die Weasley, it’s in bad taste when people are trying to rescue you,” said Draco a smirk firmly in place.
“You’re the one that kidnapped me!” growled Ron, his face reddening.
“A minor detail, live in the moment,” said Ron’s childhood adversary. “A good example of doing so would be to take the wand from either of these two dead wizards, and fight back before you die.”
Quietly cursing himself for not thinking of it sooner Ron quickly grabbed the wand from the Death Eater who was now sporting a caved in skull and looked for another target. Said target would preferably be a blond haired git if he tried a triple cross, but Ron would settle for any dark wizard of opportunity.
The final count was three dead Death Eaters to one critically injured Slayer. Not the worst operation that had been pulled off in the history of the world, but Xander was still wishing that they had done better.
“She going to be okay?” asked Xander as he watched Willow tend to the wounded Slayer.
“Probably,” said the witch as the red started to bleed back into her previously white hair. “Slayer healing will take care of a lot, but she may still have a limp.”
“I hope not, she has a lot of potential,” said Buffy as she joined the duo.
“Hey look at us, together again over a potential mouth of hell. If Giles was here it would be just like high school all over again. Well minus all the awkward puberty stuff, that I for one am very happy about being over,” said Xander.
“Trust me, my joy exceeds yours,” said an older man as he walked out of the shadows, with a single Slayer acting as his bodyguard.
“Giles, got to say this is making with the surprise. You decided to leave merry old England just to visit me?”
“Well that and to ensure that we could collapse the portal Pseudonym had managed to form one,” said the leader of Slayers and Watchers alike.
“He makes three you know,” said Xander in a far less joy filled voice.
“I know. If it makes any difference to you I believe that the red haired fellow killed the witch that vouched for Pseudonym.”
“It does make a difference, but we still need to have a talk,” said Xander. “First though I want to have a talk with John boy, make sure he’s ready when the cops come.”
“I’ll set the privacy spell to full power, just make sure none of the newbie’s see, Kisha still has nightmares,” said Willow in a resigned tone. Xander never had taken betrayal very well, a trait that was only enhanced during his time in Africa.
As Xander stalked off the other three members were joined by the blond wizard who had secretly been in contact with the group for the past six months.
“My mother got that look on her face a few times, the smart plan was always to run until she got it out of her system,” said Draco as he observed his cousin’s departure.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” said Buffy as she pinched the bridge of her nose, a move that amused Giles to no end. “He was supposed to be able to relax, that’s why everyone else turned down the job when Pseudonym asked. A year, maybe two, without having to worry about the world ending, but not being out of the loop shouldn’t be too much to ask.”
“I think it did help, to some extent at least,” replied Draco. “I don’t know what he was like before, but he never laughed when he first got me. Oh sure, he’d force a smile and make a noise that sounded like laughter to make other people more comfortable, but I think it was just to make others happy, not because he really felt like doing it.”
“And now?” asked Giles.
“It doesn’t happen too often, but it happens. Some times he’d come home and tell a story about how one of his students messed up the assignment in a humorous way, and you could tell that he wasn’t faking.”
The conversation was cut short by the sound of three wizards apparateing. Turning around the group spotted Professor Raven, and two others, one was a hard faced man, while the other couldn’t be a year out of school.
“Hold it right there, you are all under arrest!” shouted the young man as he pulled out his wand the second he saw the dead bodies.
Noticing a distinct lack of similar reactions in the other two, Giles turned to them and said, “Would either of you care to tell this young man exactly why that won’t be happening?”
“They’re Council Chuck,” growled the more experienced man. “They have immunity with just about every wizarding government in existence.”
“Quite right,” said Giles. “And before any of you get the idea of trying to arrest Mr. Malfoy for this, allow me to point out that he was instrumental in ferreting out these Death Eaters. For the last six months he’s been helping the Council acquire artifacts that have helped save the world twice over. When we found out that the Death Eaters thought that he was simply buying the artifacts for personal gain we decided to plan a sting operation, the results you see before you.”
“Why weren’t we informed about this sting?” asked the older man.
“The simple answer is that you didn’t need to know. As you have stated the Council are given immunity by magical governments so that we can prevent the world from ending without arguing over pointless details,” said Giles as he held up a hand to forestall and argument. “The more complicated answer is that any Death Eater that hasn’t been caught yet is either very cunning or very connected. To be blunt we didn’t know exactly who it would be safe to inform.”
The older man didn’t look happy about that, but couldn’t refute the logic. “So where’s the leader?”
“At the moment he’s being educated on the finer points of trust. By now he should be very willing to answer any questions you may have for him.”
The two active cops indicated that they did indeed have some questions, and went in the direction Willow indicated they should go, the same direction Xander had gone a few minutes before. One minute and thirty seconds later Chuck came running back and started to puke his guts out.
“He’s using Grath demon torture techniques isn’t he?” asked Raven as she stared at the heaving young man.
“I’d say that it’s a safe bet considering the mood he was in,” said Buffy.
“Kinda glad I stayed here then,” said Raven as she turned her gaze towards the group of legendary people. “So are you going to stick around and see the school?”
“You bet,” said Willow in an excited voice. “This was the last apocalypse this year, and Xander has been bugging us to come up for months. He wouldn’t say much about the school, something about it being a surprise, but he did mention talking paintings.”
“So he hasn’t told you anything?” asked Raven, as a smile broke out on her tanned face.
“Nope, and now I’m beginning to think that may have been a bad thing,” said Buffy, as she saw the face of the other woman.
“It’s not bad, it’s just a surprise,” said Xander, as he rejoined the group.
“Hey, you finished already?” asked Willow.
“Yeah, the second the cop came in, Pseudonym started to tell everything he knew. I’m not into the torture as much as Anya was, so I decided to stop and let the law handle it.”
He didn’t know it, but his childhood friends let out a collective sigh at that statement. One year ago, Xander wouldn’t have stopped, no matter who was there. If someone or something endangered those close to him, he was known to torture the poor creature for days to work off his frustrations. The fact that this was no longer the case indicated that Xander may indeed be walking back from the dark path he had been on before.
Two weeks later a very happy Xander Harris was collecting the gold from the other members of the betting pool. Ron and Hermione had decided to move the wedding date up to the first day of summer vacation in light of recent events, making Xander a rich man.
This wasn’t the story of the day though, and surprisingly neither was the happy couple that had just become man and wife. No, the story today was the conversation between a wizard with extremely blond hair; and his nemesis, another wizard that had a lightning scar that started from his forehead and went down his face.
“What do you want Malfoy,” growled the one and only Harry Potter. He knew he should be with his friends, be happy that they could be happy, but all he could think about was how the last woman he had loved was lying in a coma.
“To give you this,” said Draco as he held up a vial containing some kind of red liquid. “From what I’ve been able to learn, I think my father used an old family curse. Part of the cure is blood given by the head of house Malfoy, and with my father gone guess who has that title now?”
“You’re saying that this will cure Ginny?” asked Harry in disbelief.
“It’s the key to waking her up yes,” said Draco as he gave Harry the vial of blood. “You still need to make a potion, just make sure you have someone decent brew it.”
“Why?” asked Harry. The single word could have referred to any number things in the shared past of the two men, but somehow Draco knew exactly what the emerald eyed man was talking about.
“If there is one thing I share with my cousin’s father it’s that I despise being in anyone’s debt. As much as I hate to admit it, I owed both you and Granger for getting me out of prison. I repaid my debt to Granger by saving her red haired love there, and decided to do the same for you.”
Harry simply nodded; the explanation was in character for his old school rival. Besides if Malfoy was lying there would be no place where the formally dark wizard could hide.
“Now that that’s taken care of I think I’ll leave with the hopes of never seeing you again. Though I somehow doubt that will happen considering my new job,” said Draco as he started to walk off.
“Just what job would that be?”
“I’m going to work for the Council,” replied Draco. “There are places that the Malfoy name can get them that they can’t get on their own yet, and in exchange they’ve arranged for me to be able to use my wand again.”
“Sounds like the most stupid move in history to me.”
“Well then it’s a good thing that it doesn’t matter what you think, only what my cousin and his friends think,” said Draco with a smirk.
“I’ll be watching you Malfoy.”
“Really,” said Draco, his smirk deepening. “Tell me have you always been attracted to men, or did making out with a blood traitor turn you around?”
Harry saw red at the comment, and instantly knew that no matter how much the other man had claimed to change he was the same old Malfoy.
“Careful Potter, you wouldn’t want to ruin your good guy reputation by attacking an unarmed member of the Watchers Council in such a public place,” said Draco as he saw Harry’s hand reaching for his wand.
“Leave. Now,” said Harry through clenched teeth.
“Like I said, my pleasure,” said Draco, as he once again started to make his way down the path. His cousin may be content to be a teacher for a few more years, but he had other plans. It was now his job to make sure that people respected and feared the Malfoy name, and one of the best ways to do so would be to join a group of people that were already respected and feared.
Oh things would still be different now, there was no avoiding that. The people who used to respect the Malfoy name would have to be taught to fear it, and like wise those who feared the name would have to come to respect it. With the activation of all the potential slayers in the world there was no doubt that the side of good was winning, and if there was one thing every Malfoy was taught from the day they were born it was to always be on the winning side.
With those thoughts in mind Draco Malfoy rejoined his cousin, ready to embrace a new life for himself and a new life for any family he may one day have. The path would be difficult, but he was sure he would be able to make it. After all he was a Malfoy.