The lounge was quiet, a gentle murmur of conversation and the bright clink of crystal and china were low background to the subdued elegance of the room. The only sop to the season was the tastefully decorated pine in one corner, lit by fairy lights. Draco sipped his martini and reflected that for cocktails alone he was glad he changed sides in the war. Muggles won hands down in the mixed drinks competition.
The maître d'hôtel appeared at the doorway, leading another man to a table by the wall. The other man caught and held Draco’s gaze. Draco felt his breath quicken. Tall, broad-shouldered, narrow in the waist and hips, deeply tanned and dark haired, the man was mouth-watering. He was dressed a little too casually for Dunstan’s but not in the least self-conscious about it. A black eye patch just added to the aura of adventure about the man.
A shorter, older man rose from the table and held out his hand. “Xander! You’re looking very well.”
A bright, sunny smile, shockingly white against the tanned skin dug a hole under Draco. So very, very pretty.
‘Xander’ shook the man’s hand. “Giles! Lookin’ good. How’s things here?”
American then, while ‘Giles’ was well-schooled English.
“No apocalypse this week. Have you seen the girls yet?”
“Are they in town? Last I heard Buffy was seeing Europe with, to quote, ‘That jerk’.”
“Ah, that would be Dawn? Yes, I suppose after everything, she deserved to let go a little, but fortunately she’s come back to her senses.”
“Huh. Will’s not in Devon?”
“No, actually everyone is here. Even Spike.”
“Did you ever find out how he isn’t...?”
“We suspect the lawyers, frankly, but none of us is sure. He has not been forthcoming about any of it.”
“Well, I guess I’ll be along tomorrow. Will I be going back to Africa?”
Africa caused the tan then. Draco wondered if his skin would taste hot.
“No, I’d like you to stay about a bit. There are some things with which I want to get you involved.”
That enchanting smile again. “You do realize I’ll have pneumonia by the end of the week? I’m not used to living in a refrigerator.”
Giles chuckled, “You’ll adapt. Dawn says they’re taking you shopping tomorrow—you can buy warmer clothes.”
“You know I’m only going as a bag carrier?”
Giles continued to smile as though Xander were the most amusing person he’d met in years. “You’ll oblige me by getting fitted for a suit as well. Playtime’s over, son.”
Xander grimaced, “Suits. You’re making this really attractive.”
A waiter appeared with a bottle of wine and two glasses. The business of pouring and tasting and approving went on, and then Giles toasted Xander. “You’ve been missed, dear boy.”
They chatted awhile about mutual acquaintances, and when the wine was finished, Giles checked his watch. “I have a teleconference with Hong Kong in half-an-hour, so I’ll leave you to have supper. Try the salmon. I’ll see you in the morning. You’ll move into headquarter until we can find you a decent flat, agreed?”
“Yeah though I’m fine in the transient quarters. Salmon’s good huh?”
“Always.” Giles stood and the waiter appeared. “He’ll have the salmon and anything he’d like with it, and another bottle of wine. I suppose you’ll want something chocolate for afters?” Giles quirked an eyebrow at the instantaneous smile.
“Absolutely.” Xander stood up too.
“I rather thought so.” The two men shook hands and Giles left. Xander sat down and finalized his meal with the waiter.
As soon as the waiter left, Draco was up and moving. “May I join you?” He asked when he reached the table.
A startled dark eye met Draco’s and Xander seemed momentarily at a loss. Then his full mouth quirked in a smile and he waved at the other chair. “Sure.”
“Draco Malfoy, how’d’y’do?”
The smile twitched out a little farther and Draco’s proffered hand was enveloped by a much larger one and shaken firmly. “Alexander Harris. Nice to meet you.”
“I confess I was listening. You’re recently from Africa? What part?”
“All over. I work for an aid agency. Sort of an advance scout. How about you?”
“I’m a chemist.”
Draco smiled. “Very. When it isn’t a powder or viscous enough to hold up a spoon.”
“Not that I’d know anything about chemistry,” grinned Xander. “I heard that asked at a party once and then learned all I needed to know about spectroscopy of biomolecules.”
Draco smiled back. “You’ve just arrived then?”
“Sir,” the waiter was at Draco’s elbow. “Would you care to order, Mr. Malfoy?”
Draco raised an eyebrow at Harris who waved expansively. “Thank you,” Draco nodded at him, “I shall have what Mr. Harris is having, and another bottle of wine.”
“Call me Xander—Mr. Harris was my father.”
It became a long, leisurely meal and Draco felt that pit under him widen. Xander told a good story and brought Africa alive in his tales. Draco noticed that Xander himself never appeared in the anecdotes unless it was as a clown. Xander spoke movingly of the poverty, the tough, haunted children, but he also described the natural wonders, the local small industries, and the real friendliness of a people who had no reason to be.
“But I’ve been boring you too long now. What about you?” Xander topped up Draco’s wineglass.
“Compared to all that? Do you need a cure for insomnia? I’m just a consultant. I do jobs for various government and educational facilities. I like the work because I can pick and choose what jobs I accept.”
“What do you like to do when you aren’t working?”
Draco talked music, the other reason he was glad for the outcome of the war. Wizardry just didn’t have the breadth and depth of music that muggles did.
“We could... that is, there’s a concert tomorrow night. Bartok. It promises to be very good.”
“That depends on my work and how long the debrief takes. And you’ll have to tell me what to listen for—I’m not well versed in music.”
Draco pulled out a card case and took out a pale cream coloured rectangle. He pushed the card across the table. “We’d meet at seven, if you can come. Call me before six and let me know, agreed?”
Xander tucked the card away. “Agreed.”
“We are getting pointed non-looks. Would you like to do something else? There’s a club down the way.”
Much later—just before three—they ended up at Draco’s city home; the awareness of each other humming between them.
Xander followed Draco through the door and looked around. “So, work is either really profitable or you only do it for fun, huh?”
Draco led him into a library. “Fun. And to keep from getting bored. And to be useful, frankly. I fairly recently discovered how good it feels to be useful.”
“Year, I hear that.” Xander looked around, satisfying his curiosity. Draco walked to his side and offered a crystal glass of deep amber liquid.
“Yes, cheers then.” They sipped the whisky their eyes locked. Then Xander took both glasses, set them on an occasional table, and stepped lose to Draco.
“Last chance,” he murmured as he slid his hands into Draco’s hair.
“My last chance came and went when you allowed me to sit at your table,“ Draco said. Then Xander kissed him, flickering over his lips with a wet, agile tongue, asking admittance which Draco gladly gave him.
Okay, another thing muggles did really well.
Draco lost himself in Xander’s kiss, his hands climbing up the hard muscled chest to lock behind Xander’s neck. “Yeah,” Xander said huskily when they stopped to breathe. “Yeah. That’s nice.”
“Come upstairs,” Draco invited.
“In a minute,“ Xander replied and kissed him again, strong arms enveloping him, holding him against Xander’s much larger, very hard body.
“Oh,” Draco said when they parted again. “Much more of that and I won’t make the stairs at all.”
“Okay, short break.” Xander grinned and stepped slightly away. “I want to see what kind of sybaritic splendor constitutes a Malfoy bedroom.”
“You’ll be disappointed, I think.” Draco led the way. “I prefer comfort over gilded cherubs any day.”
“Good,” sighed Xander happily as they started up the stairs. “Three years on army cots and comfort sounds sybaritic.”
A pop and a rustle brought Xander awake. More rustle and he sat up and blinked at the small, gray, big eared, rag covered… oh yeah.
It froze under his gaze.
“Please sir…” it whispered.
“What in…” Draco sat up and went still. The gray … person promptly smacked itself in the head. “So sorry Mr. Draco, sir. Dinky is punishing hisself.”
“And the reason you defied explicit orders would be?”
“Is Harry Potter, sir. In the fireplace, sir. And Dinky is pressing your clothes, sir. And his head, sir.”
“Oh. Tell… tell Potter I’ll call him back. Don’t punish yourself any more. Go.”
“Sir! Dinky thanks you, sir!”
Draco looked down at his hands. “Erm… well… I…”
“House elves. I remember Wills telling me about them,” Xander said, unruffled.
Draco probably gave himself whiplash. “What?”
Xander grinned and lay back on the bed, tucking his hands under his head. “So a wizard, right? Chemistry probably means potions?”
Stunned, Draco gaped at him. “Well, yes, but…”
“My charitable organization? Watchers Council.”
“Oh,” Draco relaxed. “Well then.”
“And a heads up,” Xander said, his smile suddenly dangerous. “I’m charmed against magic. No oblivion spells if you don’t mind.”
Draco smiled back a little bitterly. “Thanks for the warning. You do know someone will be along, though, to fix this? You’re not to know.”
The dark eye widened. “They spy on you that closely? Jeez.”
“Well, me in particular, yes. I, er, actually turned against my family in, ah, our recent troubles and the side I joined doesn’t actually trust me.”
Xander’s smile dimmed a bit. “I can understand what happened. There’re a couple of people I know that’s happened to.”
“Well then, I suppose we’d best get up—Potter isn’t the most patient wizard in the world.”
Xander’s arm snaked out and pulled Draco over on top of him. “Up or up? I know what I’d prefer and anyone who calls this early can just deal.”
They were in a sweaty, tangled pile when an outraged voice at the door caught their attention. “Bloody cheek, I say! Malfoy, I’ll have you in front of the Wizzengott—just as soon as I clean up this mess.”
Xander covered Draco more securely and kissed him hard. Magic rippled over them, and then Xander broke the kiss with a laugh. “Good thing he waited until we were done—I’d’ve been pissed otherwise.”
Draco blinked up at him and then looked around Xander’s shoulder. “Oh dear, Manworthy. What did you do?” Xander rolled off Draco and sat up. “Charmed like I said.” He got up and grabbed the dazed man’s arm. “Time to go, Manworthy. Go on home now.”
“Yes. Home.” Manworthy headed out.
“Great heavens! I don’t suppose you’d care to share that charm?” Draco asked, sliding out of bed.
“Well, no. Y’know how it is.” Xander stretched and Draco paused to admire.
“Well, yes I do. But naturally…”
“You had to ask. Yeah. I really need a shower—sticky and crusty here. Not socially acceptable.”
Draco laughed and waved at a door. “Through there. The fixtures are mundane. I’ll organize breakfast.”
They were just finishing a full English fry-up when the fireplace in the breakfast room flared to life and a man fell out of it.
“Malfoy, I needed… Oh.”
“Yes, oh, Potter.” Draco picked up the silver coffeepot. “It’s hot, would you like some?”
“People just come and go as they like, don’t they?” Xander asked, ignoring the dark-haired, bespectacled man.
“The problem,” Draco said, “is if I closed the floo, idiots like Manworthy would haul me off on suspicion of something nefarious. After doing their damnedest to destroy the place.”
“Hmm,” Xander eyed Potter who was staring at him. “Friend?”
“Hardly. Potter are you going to stand there gaping or are you going to sit down and tell me what the problem is?”
“That’s a muggle. You sleep with muggles?” Potter sounded dumbfounded, to put it kindly.
“I sleep with extraordinarily handsome men, you twat. Sit.”
Xander grinned. “Thanks, that was nice.”
“Well, the art of the truly cultured is delivering an insult with a compliment. That wasn’t one of my better efforts. More? Anything?” Draco smiled at Xander who grinned back.
“Sadly I have to visit my girls, which involves shipping and bag carrying and tedious stuff like that. You still on for tonight?”
“Now that depends on the prat here as well as your work. Call me tonight and we’ll firm up plans.”
“’kay. I’ll get dressed and get moving.”
Xander finished his coffee, stood and came around the small table. He tilted Draco’s chin up and kissed him. “Later.” He looked at Potter and held out a hand. “Alexander Harris. How do you do?”
Potter nodded and shook his hand. “Harry Potter.” Xander nodded, back smiled once more at Draco and left.
“What happened to Manworthy? The aurors will be here soon.” Potter sat down and helped himself to a scone.
“Well, they can check my wand—I didn’t do anything. Xander has a charm that repels magic. Manworthy’s spell bounced back and hit him.” Draco sipped his coffee. “And before anyone accuses me of spilling the beans on wizardry to a muggle, he’s part of the Watchers Council.”
Potter went still. “What did you tell him?”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “Harder. Deeper. Faster. If you must know.”
Potter didn’t blush anymore. “Draco…”
“Nothing. I told him I was a contract chemist. He leaped to potions and that was the extent of it. We were busy.”
“Did he tell you anything about the Council?”
“No. He talked about Africa. He built houses for poor people.”
Potter considered that. “I see. And you’re going to see him again?”
“If I possibly can, yes.”
“You’ll keep your ears open. Maybe ask some questions and…”
“I am not a spy. Not for you or for anyone else. I’m done with that as I made very clear to the Ministry. If you lot push me you’ll be the one explaining to Snape why he has to come out of retirement. I will not talk about wizardry with Xander but that is all you get from me.
Potter’s mouth was tight. “I see. All right, but I have to report this conversation.”
“Oh as if it isn’t being recorded through the floo. Really Potter, you can’t truly think I’m that stupid?”
“You’re the one fucking the muggle,” Potter snapped crudely. “Apparate!” And he was gone.
“Ah Xander, that looks very nice,” Giles nodded at the group coming down the hall. “Can you all take Xander’s purchases to his room? I need to speak with him.”
Xander hugged Willow, Dawn and Buffy before slipping past Giles into the library. He was wearing dark slack, black shoes, a cream colored shirt and a rich gray pullover. Quite different from the khaki clad adventurer of the night before.
“Please sit down.” Giles waved at a deep, comfortable armchair. “I received a rather disturbing message from the Ministry of Magic. You’ll remember your briefing about them?”
Xander smiled wryly, “Already? Draco was right, they do spy on him.”
Giles blinked. “Then you are seeing…”
“Draco Malfoy, black sheep of his family and contract potions maker.”
“I’m, ah, startled.”
“About the guy thing? Yeah, well I was too the first time. Now it’s whoever. Whomever?”
Giles waved grammar aside. “Did he talk about the Ministry?”
“Nope. And I didn’t talk about the Council.”
Standing, Giles wandered over to the drinks cart. “Scotch?”
“The Ministry doesn’t like the idea of magic that isn’t under their control. When they realized the coven in Devon did real magic, they actually had the audacity to try to take them into custody for unauthorized use. Willow, Dawn and I discovered that only the English government signed the treaty that controls relations between magical and non-magical and we are an international organization. Willow put it to them rather forcefully that their inability to see past English ethnocentrism made them ignore the proliferation of non-English governments and she wasn’t their kind of witch and she didn’t do their kind of magic. That was seconded quickly and decisively by the Devon coven.” Giles took a sip of scotch. “They have since begun to try more diplomatic means—though the demonic world we work with isn’t fond of the term ‘magical creatures’ and the regulations the Ministry would like to impose on them. Spike has asked for a protection spell specifically against the Ministry’s form of magic. Willow is working on that.”
“The briefing didn’t go into the politics,” Xander said.
“No. We all actually try to stay out of each other’s way. However, your liaison has raised certain issues.”
“We talking about Draco, my charm, or both?”
Giles smiled and a bit of Ripper could be seen. “Oh both, of course. But they’re especially concerned about the charm, if their careful questions were any indication.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Do we know the cancelling magic? Do we know if the effects are permanent? That sort of thing. Not quite demanding the charm, but terrified of the implications.”
“Tell them it’s their own magic, so whatever they would normally do should fix it.”
“I’m inclined not to. Let them figure it out. Tell me about your charm.”
“It was a gift from an old woman in Somaliland. I did her a favor and she gave it to me in return. Not for payment—appreciation. That’s important.”
“Yes. Magic often works that way, though most people don’t realize it. So you have no idea how it works or what went into it?”
“My blood, but otherwise, no.”
“Ah. So it is tied to you specifically?”
“All magic? Say. For instance, the four—in –one spell? Would that still work?”
“No. I’m done with magic, Giles. I’ve made sure of it.” Xander grinned. “Works against possession too.”
“Well then, are you planning on seeing this Mr. Malfoy again?
“Yup. In fact I’m going to listen to some music with him tonight.”
“You’ll keep your eyes open? The Ministry implied something nefarious about him.”
“Yeah, he told me and so did some other people. Sounds like it was family difficulties—his family was on the wrong side of whatever trouble they recently had and even though he changed sides, they’re pretty tied up in the blood calls to blood baloney. He didn’t do anything bad to me, anyway.”
“Have a care, then. I’d like to see you at eight tomorrow. I want to discuss your new duties.”
Spike was extraordinarily irritated. Here was the whelp looking absolutely yummy and before Spike had even had time to process it, he was dating an upper-crust prat—a male upper-crust prat.
Spike had been in the transient halls, taking a shortcut to the library when he’d seen Xander come in looking like Harrison Ford right out of the desert. Andrew was with him and Spike ducked back—he was not going to risk another hug. Never saw such a git for hugging. Andrew was talking a mile a minute and Xander looked tired.
“Thanks Andrew. Listen,” Xander smiled and it looked like it took some work. “I gotta get showered if I’m going to meet Giles on time.” Andrew nodded and threw his arms around Xander one last time before letting him go and trotting off. And Xander looked after him, his face sagging in a kind of wistful pain.
The boy let himself into the flat and the door shut.
The next time Spike saw him, he’d been shopping with the girls and if he’d looked yummy as a Jones clone, he looked even better in nice clothes. All grown up and tasty with it. Xander had lost every ounce of puppy fat and was lean and hard muscled. Giles intercepted him and sent the ladies off with their bags. No one had seen Spike lurking in the shadows. When the hall was clear, he walked over and leaned against the wall next to Giles’ office door where he could hear everything said inside.
What he heard had him standing up in shock and outrage. His nummy was dating a wand waver? Already? What was the matter with him? Had he no sense of decorum? And who was this Draco Malfoy?
Spike headed to the library for some personal research.
“Well, we seem to have caused a stir,” Xander aid and sipped his wine.
“Your side too?” Draco grimaced. “The aurors interrogated me for two bloody hours.”
“I’m sorry,” Xander replied. “I wouldn’t want to cause you trouble.”
“I wouldn’t want to make things difficult for you either. Were they awful about it?”
“No, of course not. It’s not… they’re family. They take what I tell them and when I say stop, they usually do. These aurors are like cops?”
“Police. Law enforcement.”
“Oh well yes, then, that’s exactly what they are. They couldn’t actually force me to take veritaserum—a potion that makes you tell the truth—but they were itching to do it.”
“The truth huh? Wills has a spell that does that. And those of us who avoid magic can be threatened with Sodium Pentothal or a lie detector.”
“Why avoid magic? I mean obviously you aren’t a wizard, but if you have a witch friend—of whom I’ve heard rumours mind—why not let them take care of things for you?”
The bell chimed the end of intermission and they put down their glasses. “Oh,” Xander smiled, “magic and me are unmixy. Bad things happen. I’ve opted out.”
Harry Potter was cold and damp and his nose was running. He wished Draco and the muggle would get a move on and come out of the concert hall. Why they couldn’t have been with the first wave of leavers he didn’t know. Probably staying for a few drinks. Potter ruminated glumly that he’d like a few drinks at this point.
Draco was such an idiot. Did he think sleeping with that damned smart mouthed muggle would get the Ministry off him? Why in the world would Malfoy be looking in that direction anyway—there were other unlikely but not unreasonable opportunities closer to home. They at least had school and the war and stuff to talk about—what could he be discussing with that much animation with the muggle anyway? There they were, coming out all happy and smiling and…
His wand was whipped out of his hand and he spun to stare at the man behind him. “I wouldn’t,” the man said. “He’s best buds with the Red Witch and the Slayer. You turn him into a frog and there won’t be enough of you to tempt a field mouse.”
“Mice don’t eat meat.” Which was a stupid thing to say and how did he move so fast?
“Don’t you believe it, mate, bloody horrors will eat anything.”
“Give me back my…er…”
“Wand? I don’t think so. I don’t need to be magicked either. Now what’s your interest in Harris?” The man, pale in the moonlight with silvery hair the colour of Draco’s shining like a beacon, waved the wand which did not, to Harry’s disgust, blow up and fry him.
“I’m not. Interested in him. Malfoy is up to something and it’s my job to find out what.”
Dark brows arched over eyes that glinted a strange gold. “Really. Well then, maybe you and I could strike a deal.”
“I seriously doubt it.” Harry watched for an opening. He was really quite good at hand to hand, if he got the element of surprise.
The man’s face suddenly morphed and Harry was horrified to find himself in conversation with a vampire. “I think you should think about it. You want the blond, I want the boy. We split them up and we’re all happy.”
“What? No!” Harry swallowed nervously.
“No you don’t want the blond? Don’t be ridiculous, it’s all over your face.”
“Is. I’ll let you think about it, but don’t take too long. I’m not a patient vamp at all.” The vampire threw the wand up into the air and Harry’s eyes followed it down until he caught it. The vampire was gone.
Now Harry had a real dilemma. The vampire was after the muggle. He should tell someone—the poor sod was going to be dinner. And with Draco there, maybe his---Malfoy would get hurt too. That would be unacceptable. Even if Malfoy is an unsufferable git, he didn’t deserve to be vampire food. And if anything were to happen to Malfoy, then Snape really would be brought out of retirement and that wouldn’t make anyone happy.
A lightbulb lit up. He’d tell Malfoy an edited version of his meeting with the vampire and Malfoy would warn the muggle—then if anything happened to the muggle, well it was fate. Harry would be around to protect Malfoy anyway. He could accidently fry the vampire after he’d snacked on the muggle and take out two birds with one wand, so to speak.
Harry slumped. No he wouldn’t. But, maybe it could still work for him. He’d take out the vampire first and then at least both men would owe him. He’d like having Malfoy owe him and it might be good for the Ministry for him to have helped one of the Council’s operatives. He’d better go home and get himself some pepperup potion, it was going to be a busy week or so.
“So you fly around on brooms trying to get a ball through a hoop and in the meantime two of you are chasing a tiny little gold ball around and you can win either by points with the bigger ball or by catching the little one?”
Draco looked at his lover with some exasperation. “It’s more complicated and exciting than you make it sound.”
Xander grinned at him. “You’re probably right but I do like to get you going.”
“Fiend.” Draco said comfortably. “Are you getting along with your new job?”
Shrugging, Xander replied, “Okay, I guess. I’ve been having to be diplomatic and that rubs the wrong way, and there’s a butt-load of paper which I think Giles was storing up for me to do for him. I kind of want to go back to Africa if this is what waits for me.”
“But I’d miss you.” Suddenly serious Draco stopped. “I would you know. I’ve not had very many friends. Minions yes, friends no.”
“Minions?” Xander laughed. Then he sobered and nodded. “It’s good to have friends. Is Potter one of your minions, or a friend?”
“Potter? What’s he got to do with anything?” Draco shook his head. “Neither one. We’ve been enemies since school. Never had a good word to say to each other.”
“Oh, okay. My mistake.” Xander had his own opinion on that. The easy insults between Draco and Potter over the breakfast table when they’d all first met struck him as more friendly than frenemy. And there was the fact that Potter had been spying on them. Xander was pretty sure it wasn’t by Ministry direction. Tsk. Romeo and Juliet by way of Laurel and Hardy.
And what was Spike up to? The vampire had been cordial and polite—not an insult or put down to be had. And he’d been lurking too and Xander was pretty sure it wasn’t on orders from anyone at the Council. The girls had liked Draco the one time they’d all met, Giles hadn’t shown a flicker of Ripper, Andrew vomited all he knew about the Ministry, and Spike… Spike had been cool. Hmmm.
An invisibility cloak, well that would be handy if he was still evil. Spike sniffed the air and triangulated on the wizard’s scent. He wasn’t worried about being seen—Potter was undoubtedly staring at the Whelp and the Menace further up the street. Spike watched from his alley corner a moment, then, when he judged Potter would be moving to catch up with his prey he jumped and pulled the cloak off the wizard.
“What?” Potter spun but Spike pulled the wand out of his hand. Yes, Spike thought, this one was a real prat. That so-called dark lord couldn’t have been much by way of evil to be defeated by this idjit.
“Will you stop that!” spat the wizard. “What do you want?”
“Did you think about what I said?” Spike twirled the wand.
Potter crossed his arms in irritation. “Not as far as ‘oh he’s a vampire, yes I’m going to trust him’. I’m not stupid.”
“Could’ve fooled me, mate. Now listen up. You’re gonna get noticed stalking those two, and you are not in position to do anything about it if you get caught. What you need to do is get in good with the watchers and our witches so that when you do get caught, there’s a reason for you being around.”
“I won’t get caught.” Potter’s chin came up. “And your people are off limits to ours anyway. The Ministry is going to take a dim view of Draco’s new affair.”
Spike grinned nastily. “Like they don’t know. I’m telling you, you’re being set up by your mates, or he is. That bunch of wankers you report to—they’ve got spies everywhere and you know it. So bloody use it. Tell them it’s an opportunity to find out more about the Council. Tell them you’d make a great intercessory to further the Ministry’s knowledge of our magic users and as a bonus you’d find out what that one is up to. And you’d find out what Harris’s secret is. You’d all like that, I reckon.”
“And what do you get out of it?”
“Harris.” Spike wanted a cigarette but he still had his hands full of Prat’s crap. “I can’t make my move if he’s running around with blondy there, and Harris is mine. Sire gave ‘em to me, he did.”
Potter looked repulsed. “You want a renfield? or to turn him? I won’t let you...”
“Like you could stop me if I wanted to do it. Neither one you great berk! I want him! He’s all sun and chocolate, that boy. Takes pain like a rock—still carrying it. I want to ease that. Give him something good to think about besides death and destruction. He’s had too much of that and those around him keep piling it on. I could help him.” Spike held up the wand like a finger when Potter looked to say something, “Don’t start. I’m on the side of the white hats—I’m not killing anybody unless they’re demons or they’re about to hurt my people.”
“Huh.” Potter considered him. “Are you willing to take a truth serum?”
“To tell you what then?” Spike didn’t like magic, never had, but if he was going to have an ally in this one, he’d be around it more often than not.
“If you are telling the truth about being on the side of light.”
“If I have the word of The Boy Who Lived that that is all you ask me.”
“Done,” Potter said crisply. “Meet me here tomorrow night, same time. Now give me my wand and cloak back.”
“In a sec, mate. Before you head off let me tell you something. Your blond is hardened in war, so is my boy. They may look oblivious but they’re not. Add to that, Harris was possessed by a hyena spirit, I’m told, and he has an enhanced sense of smell. Now I knew you were under that cloak by the scent—make sure if you’re sneaking up on him you stay downwind. And stay out of arm’s reach—he’s a bloody dirty fighter and outweighs you. Here you go.” Spike tossed the wand up and the cloak out over Potter’s head, then headed vampire fast into the night—no point baiting the wizard by sticking around.
“Giles informed me I’m going to Paris next week, want to go?” Xander opened the restaurant door to the cold night air. A carol floated through the air and lights decorated the street. People were scurrying around doing the last minute stuff before the holiday was on them. Draco went by him.
“That could be nice. I haven’t been in awhile. It would be good to get out of London before the New Year rioting.”
“Riots? What riots?” They strolled down the street, deftly avoiding shoppers.
“Oh, I believe some people call them street parties.” Draco gave a delicate shudder. “Drunks and people high on excitement wandering all over. Fights later.”
“Sounds lovely,” Xander said grimly. “I’ve never liked the holidays.”
“Why?” Draco looked at him. “I thought America was all about the season?”
Xander shrugged. “Casa Harris doubled as a bar this time of year and the fights got personal. It’s enough to give the girls presents and let it go.”
“It was never all that fun at the manor either. We were too busy impressing the dark lord.”
“No offence but he sounds like he was a piece of work.”
“Oh, he was.” Draco said solemnly. “Fortunately for all of us Potter was quicker on the draw.”
Xander blinked. “You mean it came down to High Noon? And it would have been slavery for all of us?”
“Yes. Undoubtedly. Or worse.”
“Wow. We had something nasty like that—well several things really but the First Evil was really only defeated by Spike blowing himself up. Sank Sunnydale and good riddance to it.”
“Blew himself… wait, how…?”
“Who knows. We suspect lawyers. But he did a fine thing in the process. And he’s on our side now, not like his stupid sire who’d kill us all trying to get redeemed.”
“Hmmm. Now that is odd.” Draco pondered it a moment. “So why do you think he’s following us about?”
“Why is Potter?”
Draco grinned up at Xander. “I suspect he’s looking for something to arrest me with but watching them skulk about in the cold has been fun.”
They turned and mounted the stairs to Draco’s house. Draco opened the door and stopped. The lightness between them suddenly vanished. They were assaulted by crashing and the sound of glass shattering.
“The fuck?” Xander shouldered by Draco ready for anything.
“My kind of trouble, I think.” Draco said icily.
“Draco Malfoy you are under arrest!” Manworthy stepped into the entrance hall. He saw Xander and sneered. “Your whore can leave; we only have business with you.”
Xander sneered back. “You’re just afraid to try anything.”
“Xander, leave it.” Draco’s chin was up but he sounded weary. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Placing his hand on Draco’s shoulder, Xander said, “Sure?”
“Yes. I’m sorry. Not the way I would have preferred to end our evening.” Draco’s gray eyes met Xander’s gaze. “Tomorrow.”
“All right. Tomorrow.” Xander turned on his heel and stalked down the stairs. The door shut behind him.
Harry was waiting for the vampire who was late. He was cold and grumpy and angry—if it hadn’t been for his meeting with the undead, he’d’ve been following Harris and Draco. And now the git was late.
Rough hands grabbed his jacket and Harry was slammed against a wall before he’d even registered someone was near. He blinked up into Xander’s furious face and demanded, “What the hell?”
“Where would they take him?” Xander demanded back. “Where would your fascist thugs take Draco?”
“What?” Harry stood up straight. “What happened?”
“Oh like you don’t know. Where is he?”
“I don’t know and I won’t until you tell me what’s happened.”
“That self-righteous pin-head took Draco. They trashed his house and when I went back everyone was gone.”
Harry felt the blood drain from his face. Manworthy was the only self-righteous pin-head from his world that Xander would know. He whipped out his wand only to have it pulled from his grip. “I wish you lot would stop that!” He snarled.
“You aren’t going anywhere until to tell me where to find him.”
“I’m going after him. If he’s where I think he is, you couldn’t get in.”
“Then I’m coming with you.”
Xander’s face was implacable.
“Your charm won’t let you,” Harry replied.
Xander pulled a beaded leather cord out of his shirt and shoved it in his pocket. “It will now.”
Fine then. He could distract the aurors. “Give me my wand and hold onto my arm. Let go as soon as we arrive—we won’t have long to surprise them and I’ll need a clear shot.”
They apparated and Xander let go as soon as there was floor beneath his feet. Harry looked around the empty chamber. “Not this one. Let’s go.” Xander clamped onto his arm and they tried plan B. No go there either. Plan C and success. They were in the dungeons under the Ministry and Manworthy was cackling as he aimed his wand at a screaming, writhing Draco. Another wizard was egging him on.
“Again, sir! We’ll get those names, never fear.”
“Stupify!” Harry shouted and Manworthy dropped like a rock. “Enchantrum finitium.” Draco was still on the floor, unconscious.
“Motherfucker,” Xander growled and the retort of his fist breaking and dislocating the minion’s jaw echoed through the chamber.
It was suddenly quiet. Xander looked around. “Where are we?” He moved toward Draco.
“Under the Ministry.”
“Can I assume,” Xander checked Draco’s pulse, “this wasn’t an authorized torture session.”
“Yes.” Harry grit his teeth at the care Xander showed lifting Draco into his arms. “We’ll take him to St. Mungo’s…”
“No. We’ll take him to Watcher HQ where he’ll be safe and our healers can help him. I don’t trust your world not to kill him.”
Point. Harry nodded, turned around once and put his hand on Xander’s arm. He ignored the quizzical look. “Apparate.”
They were in the foyer of headquarters. Andrew was squawking something and Xander snapped, “Have Hilary come to my quarters. And Giles. Have Susan reinforce the wards. Now!”
Xander carried Draco to the elevator with Harry trailing behind. They got off on Xander’s floor only to come face to face with Spike. One dark eyebrow rose. “Well then, damsel in distress?” His eyes flickered over Draco, Harry and then met Xander’s gaze. “Need anything?”
“Open my door, Spike. Keys are in my left front pocket.”
“Right.” Without so much as a cursory grope Spike had the keys out and led the way into Xander’s apartment.
Xander moved through the living room to his bedroom where he carefully laid Draco on the bed. He brushed the blond hair off the pale forehead. “Hilary should be here soon if Andy got his head out of his butt.
“He did,” Hilary, a healing witch, came in, her bag swinging down to rest beside the bed. “What happened?”
“Cruciatus curse,” Harry said. “He’ll feel sore, bruised all over when he wakes up. It, ah, stimulates the nerve endings beyond endurance. Too much and a person could go mad with pain.”
“Lovely.” Hilary pulled out a stoppered vial of clear liquid. “Xander, tip his head up and hold open his mouth, I need to get this down him.”
“Muggle medicines can do more harm than good,” protested Harry.
“It’s willow bark. Are you telling me you wizards can’t take natural remedies?”
“Oh. No. That’s alright then.” Harry shrank at her look.
“Thank you,” she said with awful politeness.
Briskly they got the bulk of the fluid down Draco’s throat, though a bit at the end sent him coughing. Blearily, Draco looked up into Hilary’s face. His mouth formed a question and she put her finger on his lips. “Quiet now. Try to sleep, that will be the best thing. Try to ignore me.”
She gently ran her hands over Draco’s body, checking joints especially. Other than the occasional catch of breath, Draco lay quietly.
Giles came in with Spike. “Ah, well things are in an uproar, which should not surprise you. The Ministry is accusing us of assault on one or two of their police, kidnapping their national hero, and helping a felon to escape.” Giles blinked at Harry. “Oh, hello. You must be the national hero they are talking about. I’m Rupert Giles.”
Harry nodded. “Harry Potter. That’s just a bit of nonsense they trot out to make things sound important. I’d best go straighten it out. You’ll…”
“He’ll be safe here,” Xander snapped.
“Right then, can someone walk me out?” Harry asked, hanging on to his temper with an iron will.
Spike nodded, “I’ll get him to the lobby.” He walked out ahead of Harry. “Well points to you.” Spike said as they waited by the elevator.
“Hardly,” Harry snapped. “Harris came to the rescue, I was just transportation. And where the hell have you been?”
“Got caught up. ‘t’sn’t as if you had a cell to call. Anyway, you went with Harris to the rescue, he’ll know you helped.”
“Oh that would be because I’m so morally fucking upright. It was an illegal arrest and unsanctioned questioning. Of course I would stop it.”
Spike looked at him and smirked. “And you’re not bitter a bit are you? Are they going to go with that or just hush it up?’
“I carry a magicked camera. I took pictures of the whole rescue except for Harris punching Smithers. I was too busy documenting Draco was wandless and Manworthy was using an unforgivable on him. I’ll send duplicates to Gringotts for safety and promise that if they don’t leave Draco alone I’ll go to the papers. The rags are on an anti-government kick aright now and they’ll love this. ‘Are Aurors Out of Control?’” Harry moved his hand out like a banner. “’Are You Safe in Your Homes?’”
They exited into the lobby. “You seem to know the press pretty well,” Spike commented.
“Been dealing with that lot since I was 11. You learn how to play them. I’ll talk with you later, Spike. See if you can’t get them to let me in when I come back.”
“You couldn’t have just let Mr. Potter take care of it?” Giles eyed Xander.
“No. I don’t trust any of them. Potter wanted to take him to St. Mungo’s, for God’s sake—what kind of a name is that?—where I bet he’d never get out.”
“St. Mungo’s is a wizarding hospital. But I see your point. It doesn’t change the fact that you hit that man.”
“Jerk was egging pin-head on. And he had a weapon.”
“Uh huh. In his hand, itching to use it. Oh,” Xander reached in his pocket and pulled out his charm, quickly slipping it back around his neck. “I forgot.”
Giles blinked at him. “You went after those prats without your protection?”
“Yeah, otherwise I couldn’t go with Potter. Good thing I was mad, that apparate stuff made me nauseous.”
Hilary came out. “He’s sleeping. Call me when he wakes up and I’ll get him some tea. Mr. Giles,” Her eyes flashed. “Put a stop to that torture if you don’t mind.” She walked out, stiff-backed, her hand white knuckled on her bag handle.
“Oh yes, I’m going to put a stop to something they aren’t supposed to be doing anyway.” Giles sat in the armchair. “That curse is what they call an unforgivable—completely illegal even for law enforcement.”
“You know all about it then?” Xander sat too. “I sort of thought the Council didn’t have anything more than superficial diplomacy going on with them.”
“It pays to know about the opposition—though I don’t know nearly as much as I’d like. The wizards have kept separate since the 17th century.”
“Huh. That explains the middle-ages technology. Why bother advancing when you have magic?”
“Technically the 17th century wasn’t the middle ages, but your point is sound. I wonder if Mr. Malfoy could be persuaded to discuss the wizarding world with me?”
Xander considered that. “Only if he’s going to abandon them. So far he’s been willing to put up with the harassment.”
Giles nodded. “Yes, exile would be difficult, especially for someone from the privileged classes. I suspect he’d be deprived of his wealth as well. Hmmm.” Giles tapped a forefinger against his mouth.
“The G-man is thinking,” Xander grinned. “That bodes well for us—if not for anyone else.”
“You do sometimes make me sound quite fierce,” Giles protested mildly.
“Uh huh. Fair warning to the world. I’ve met Ripper.”
Giles smirked at him and rose. “Keep me informed. I suppose we should let Mr. Potter back in when he returns?”
“Yes. What Draco sees in that idiot, I don’t know, but I guess it’s his choice.”
Giles paused. “Xander, are you playing a deep game?”
Xander sat back and relaxed. “Nope. Just enjoying myself until people get their heads out of their butts.”
“And when they do, how will that affect you?”
“I’ll still be friends with Draco, even if it isn’t friends with benefits. Not heartbroken if that’s what you mean.”
“Good. I’ll speak with you later then. In the meantime, while Mr. Malfoy rests, I believe you have an assessment due?”
Xander saluted but didn’t get up. “Nose to the grindstone boy, that’s me.”
Giles nodded and left.
Draco blinked and Xander picked up a glass of water. “Thirsty?” He waved it and a curly, blue, plastic straw.
Eyeing the straw, Draco nodded cautiously.
Xander put the straw into the glass and guided the end into Draco’s mouth. “Suck, I know you can.”
Draco coughed on a laugh and then groaned. Obediently he drew on the straw, swallowed and drank some more.
“’s good,” he whispered. “I hurt.”
“Yeah. Potter said you would. He’s off ‘fixing things’.”
Draco raised an eyebrow. “He helped rescue me.”
“Yeah, ‘course I tagged along, and I made him bring you here, but it didn’t take any persuading to get him to help.”
“How did Manworthy take your rescue?”
“He was out for the count. Potter shouted ‘stupid’ or something like that when we got there and he dropped like a rock. His dickwad minion went down too, but I did that.”
“Stupify, not stupid.”
“If it quacks like a duck…”
Draco laughed again a little easier. “I don’t hurt nearly as bad as I ought.”
“That would be Hilary, our healer. Here’s some more stuff for you to take.” Xander picked up another smaller glass, swirled it to mix the contents, and plopped in the straw. “Drink this down.”
Draco drank and grimaced. “Willow bark.”
“Yeah, nasty. Normally we take that as pills and call it aspirin, but she didn’t think modern pharmaceuticals would be good for you.”
“Probably not. A potion would have had willow bark in it anyway. Thank you.”
“More water?” Draco shook his head no and Xander put the glasses on the nightstand. He leaned forward and brushed the hair off Draco’s forehead. “You can’t go on like this,” he said softly.
Draco’s eyes shut. “I must. I won’t let them destroy me and I won’t run away.”
Sighing Xander sat up. “Yeah, I thought you’d say that. So seeing if I could arrange asylum with us isn’t an option.”
The gray eyes popped open and regarded him with amazement. “You would do that?”
“I would see if I could get the movers and shakers to do it. I personally don’t have that kind of power, but I’m close to the ones who do.”
“Heavens,” Draco smiled. “But no. I won’t be dependent on you either—however much I care for you.”
“Draco,” Xander hesitated, then plunged on. “I have the wrong color eye, don’t I?”
Draco’s face because wary. “Don’t bring up impossibilities. And your eye is exactly right for you.”
“He went after you the moment I told him you’d been taken.”
“He as a finely honed sense of honour; I’d have to grant him that. Manworthy’s illicit behaviour would cast an aspersion on the aurors in general if it got out no matter how many people would secretly cheer him on.”
“He didn’t have to drop everything and run. He could’ve taken his time, he couldn’ve run us all around before we found you. He could’ve flat out refused take me and then say it took a lot of time to find you.”
With a wry smile, Draco said, “I see how it is. You’re tired of me and you want to fob me off on someone else.”
“Draco,” Xander signed, “that’s just silly. I want you happy. I want you to have what you want. You’re a really good, really close friend and I want my friends content. I have no intention of giving up my friendship with you, but as a lover you’re wishing I was someone else.”
“What about you?” Draco asked seriously. “Don’t you deserve what you want? I’d love you to be happy too.”
“You have a better chance.”
“Oh yes? We can’t go two minutes without insulting each other. We were on opposite sides of a war—by perception if not completely. We have hated each other from the first second we met and completed in everything.”
“Sounds like me and Cordy,” Xander smiled in reminiscence. “My first girlfriend. We fought like dogs even when we were groping in closets.”
“Girlfriend?” Draco blinked. “Girls too? You never told me.”
“Never limit your options,” grinned Xander. The smile died. “Both my loves are dead. I don’t talk about them much.”
“Because of what you do?”
“Yes. They fought too. They just weren’t as lucky as I’ve been. But back to the point—some people would call your relationship a courting ritual. You can’t deny there is a lot of passion there.”
Draco reached over and smacked his arm, wincing as he did so. “Hate, Xander, there is a vast divide between that and love.”
“In my experience, not so much.” Xander smiled again. “Nothing is impossible, buddy. Hell, we even brought people back from the dead—not that I’d recommend that. A little love/hate relationship is a mere ripple. But anyway it’s up to you.”
“Yes,” Draco looked glum. “Joy.” He perked up. “Back from the dead?”
“Not good magic and it’s not an edifying story except for the moral which is don’t.” Xander patted Draco’s hand. “You want anything else?”
“No, I think I could sleep some more.” Draco smiled at Xander.
‘kay I’ll be back later.”
Xander got up and went out of the room. Potter and Spike were in the living room talking softly. “He’s going back to sleep.” Xander said briskly.
“Not just yet,” Potter replied equally curt. He started to move past Xander who caught his arm. Potter snapped, “What I have to say to him won’t take long and it is not your business.” He shrugged loose and headed toward the bedroom. Xander made a move to follow but Spike stopped him.
“Now pet,” Spike purred. “Let’s you and I talk too, shall we?”
“About what?” Xander sighed with exasperation.
“Love being so close to hate, for one.” Spike said. He grabbed Xander’s face and pulled him into a kiss.
It had been a long time since Xander’s brain had completely locked up. But, at that moment, all he could mentally articulate was, “The fuck?”
But Spike’s lips were firm and gentle on his; a long wet tongue pushed into his mouth and began exploring. Preternaturally strong hands shifted to pull him against Spike’s hard body with its harder erection pushing at his jeans. Xander heard something like a cross between a yelp and a whine and Spike groaned.
Their lips came apart and Xander gasped and stared into Spike’s eyes, his own eye wide.
“See, been wanting that—and more—forever, pet.” Spike settled his grip. “Made me want to shred the little dragon.”
“Confused.” Xander said. “Last I heard you hated me. And, in fact I am pretty sure there hasn’t been anytime lately where I’ve even seen you much.”
“I’ve been following you about. I know you’ve seen me. You’ve looked for me. Could see you looked for me. And anyway you hated me back but, like you said, not such a big difference.”
“The two of you were listening!”
“Nah, he’s too noble for that. I listened and repeated the conversation. He’s happy about it. Look, I’m making a leap here, think you could catch me?”
Xander frowned at Spike. “You’re serious? Really? Cause y’know if you’re not I have friends.”
Xander suddenly grinned. “Oh well then.” He grabbed Spike and returned the kiss soundly.
If Draco hadn’t been in Xander’s bed, things would have definitely advanced to an x rating. Then Draco said sharply, “Harry!” and Spike and Xander broke apart to find the wizard advancing on them. Draco came to the bedroom door and supported himself on the frame. “Harry, you Neanderthal, stop!”
Potter ignored him and came up to Xander. “Just letting you know,” he said, “you touch him again I will shrivel your balls and feed them to a hamster.”
“Uh huh,” Xander smiled and closely resembled a shark. “And just so you know, you hurt him I will beat you into a fine red paste, mix you with water and paint my room with you.”
“As long as we’re clear,” Harry nodded.
“Are you done pissing on each other?” Draco snapped.
“Seems more like they were pissing on you mate,” Spike laughed.
“I wouldn’t have been so crude as to point that out. Do I need to threaten you with Xander?”
“Nah, he knows what I’m like when I have someone. He has no cause to worry.” Spike pulled Xander close.
“Lovely. I’m going back to bed.” Harry was at Draco’s side in a flash, helping him back to the bed.
A knock at the door and Draco said, “Ah bugger. Help me to the couch Harry.”
Xander opened the door and let Giles in. “Ah good, everyone’s here.” Giles raised an eyebrow at Spike’s arm around Xander and Harry’s arms around Draco. “I’m going to need a scorecard,” he muttered. “Well, why don’t we all sit. I have a proposal.”
When they’d all settled, he smiled. “Well, Xander’s little amulet has set off a long round of negotiations with the wizard government. Not that they’ll be getting the details but still… Anyway, we’ve all decided we should have representatives on each side. They have asked for Xander. I propose our side asks for Mr. Malfoy. The obvious benefits are that hurting Mr. Malfoy in any way would be a cause of grave offence to the Watcher’s Council. Obviously we wouldn’t be doing any hurting to offend them and causing trouble for Xander would also be cause for offense—in fact a full diplomatic incident complete with angry red witches. The fact that you all seem to have resettled is all the better—Spike can be the Council’s representative for demonkind. And you, Mr. Potter…”
“Oh Draco’s personal bodyguard, of course. If you’ll request it. After all,” Potter grinned fiercely, “I’m so noble and all, I’m sure to keep Draco on the straight and narrow.”
Draco let loose a long, delighted laugh. “And everyone knows you hate me. How wonderfully Slytherin!”
“Then you all agree?”
“They’ll kick,” Draco said seriously.
“They may well do so, it won’t make any difference. They’re rather afraid of us. It all depends on you four.”
“Yes.” Draco said, his gray eyes gleaming. Potter nodded. “I agree.”
Spike grinned. “Rest of demonkind won’t be happy—that’ll require a little dancin’ on your part Watcher—but I’m fine with the title.”
Xander frowned, thinking, then his face cleared. “Yeah, I’m good. Wills sent me an email—she’s come up with a tat that will work like my necklace so if the wizards swipe it I’ll still be protected.”
“Oh,” Draco’s eyes widened, “body art?”
Potter clipped him across the back of the head, gently but firmly. Spike glared.
“Draco, don’t cause trouble for the hell of it, okay? I’ll get enough of that with Spike.” Xander looked at his vampire. “Can you get tats?”
“Yeah, the Ponce has an angel on his back.”
Xander winced, “Need to bleach my brain. TMI Spike.”
“I didn’t say it was on his bum or nothing.” Spike protested.
“Any personal information on him is too much.”
“Children, if we are all agreed, I’ll go make the arrangements. Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy, doubtless you’ll want your own quarters here. I’ll have Andrew arrange it.” Giles stood up looking pleased.
“Thanks Ripper.” Xander said.
Giles smiled back at him, You’re very welcome, son.”
“This is brilliant!” Spike rubbed his hands together. “We’ve got a poker game.”
“No kittens,” Xander said hastily.
“Course not, pet. Now if you two don’t mind, I have a meeting with the nummy in my quarters.” Spike towed Xander off the couch and toward the door.
“Hey, rude much?” Xander protested.
“Nah. The blond is wilting and Mr. Upright needs to comfort him.” Spike nodded at Draco and Potter. “We’ll be back in a couple of hours.”
“Bye,” Xander waved before being pulled out the door.
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