Chapter 13: Storytime
On the first floor above the ground level of The Burrow, at the end of a rather narrow hall was a single chair that seemed to serve little purpose and was most likely a spare from the downstairs dining room. Xander, having not been told exactly where he was supposed to be and wanting to avoid the inevitable bickering between the downstairs parties, decided that the chair was a perfect place to wait for the coming "meeting" over dinner.
Realizing he hadn't slept the previous night after a long day at work, he leaned back on the spindly legs and relaxed his head against the wallpapering behind him. He released a sigh at the peace the small spot afforded him. And was quickly dumped to the floor.
Xander scrambled to his feet, staring at the chair, which was hovering several inches above the ground.
"Holy Willow-fied, Batman!"
After a split second pause, the chair flew down the hall, making a sharp turn down the staircase.
Xander scratched his eye patch. "I am so not going to get used to that," he muttered before sitting back down on the floor.
The door at the far end of the hall opened and Harry and Ron stepped out, quietly talking to one another in hushed whispers. They seemed obvious to the man watching them and quickly followed the chair down the stairs. The pair wasn't followed by the two other red heads walking behind them. The twins expertly turned before they hit the stair case and approached Xander.
"You know, we do have chairs," one of the boys noted.
"They're good for sitting on," the other added.
"Yeah, but you know chairs," Xander mused, "totally unreliable. According to the one that was here three seconds ago." He stared up at them, his good eye squinted, and pointed at the boy to the right. "You're George."
The young man blinked. "Fred," he corrected.
"I'm George," the other insisted.
"No, you're not," Xander said. "You're Fred." He pulled a red Chinese marker out of his top pocket. "I marked George while we were downstairs."
The boys raised a brow, glancing down at George's sleeve where a waxy check mark was blended into the cloth.
Fred nodded. "Touché."
Xander stared past the boys' legs, seeing Hermione step out into the hall and quickly disappear up the stairs. He had no time to question the move, however, because the twins suddenly folded their lengthy legs, sitting down on the floor and staring expectantly at Xander.
"Can I help you?" Xander approached.
"We're waiting for you to prove your trustworthiness," Fred casually answered.
"After all," George noted, "you'll be staying in our house for the evening."
"On the same floor as our sister, no less."
Xander looked from one boy to the other. "You're kidding, right?"
"We, kid? Never," Fred insisted. He cleared his throat. "The test is simple. You must allow us to listen in on a secret conversation between your colleagues downstairs."
"If," George took up, "their conversation does not prove traitorous, then we will allow you to stay."
Fred looked very serious. "If, however, they're planning evil deeds behind our backs, then we'll use you as a hostage when we force your colleagues out of our home."
"You're wanting to listen to Buffy and Giles' fight?" Xander answered, slowly. "I'm fairly sure you'll be able to hear them from downstairs."
Fred looked offended. "Where's the fun in that?"
Xander's eye widened when George pulled out of his pants pocket what appeared to be a detached ear attached to a string. "What the hell is that?"
The wizard shook his head to one side, motioning Xander to move. The man slid down, noticing for the first time that the wall behind him had a rectangular cover over a small area. The boys pulled it free, revealing a vent.
"So, basically, that little speech on treachery was your way of getting me to move out of your way?" Xander asked.
Fred and George looked at one another. "Basically," they answered.
"Want to listen in?" Fred asked.
Xander smirked. "I've got nothing better to do."
"Are you going to spill on your own or do I have to tip you over?"
Giles smiled at the comment, but the grin was bitter. He wasn't particularly in the mood to share this story, but he gathered that he'd never really be in the mood for it. After all, he'd seen disappointment on her face before, when he'd done things that were less than admirable. Or told her of his past with Ethan.
Her hand touched his arm, drawing his attention. Buffy's eyes were still bright, but not quite so furious. In fact, it looked if there was a glimmer of fear where her previous anger had been.
"It can't be that bad," she said.
Her voice shook, ever so slightly, and in that moment she wasn't the leader of the slayers, she was the girl he'd come to love like a daughter. She would forgive him, she always did, unlike Molly.
"No," he assured her. "I suppose it could have been much worse, if I had not been found in time."
"By people like Professor Dumbledore," he said. "And like Molly. . . Mrs. Weasley."
His eye caught an old trunk, no doubt filled with outgrown school clothes, against the wall, and he took a seat on one side, expecting Buffy to remain standing. Instead, she sat down beside him, not bothering to look him in the face as he spoke.
She took a breath. "Ok, more please."
"I haven't lied to you, Buffy, not when it's come to my past. But I did omit certain details. And before you ask again, no I did not go to a school for wizards, at least not as a student. Do you remember what I told you about the different kinds of magic?"
"Wand wavy and non-wand wavy," she quickly answered. "So, you're not hiding a really skinny stake anywhere?"
"Contrary to popular belief, no." He smirked, "And my mathematical skills are quite satisfactory as well. My dealings with actual magic didn't truly begin until I was in college. During my Ripper days. I'd been exposed to magic as a child, in very small ways, due to my father's work with the Council, but I had never practiced until then. As you know, my family legacy is the Watcher line, and you've probably also guessed that the Council was privy to a great deal of information. When I was a child, my father took me to meet a small number of wand waving wizards, particularly a family who had was petitioning for help from the Council in a fight against a man calling himself Voldemort. The family was the Prewetts, Molly Weasley was, then, their young daughter."
"You were childhood friends?" Buffy asked, suddenly sitting up straighter.
It occurred to Giles that he'd never told her any stories from his childhood, and he'd assumed she wouldn't have found them interesting. Apparently, he was wrong.
"We didn't see each other often, but she wrote me. Molly was a few years older than me, and, because of my ties to the Council, she able to talk very freely with me about her school of magic. It was fascinating, really." Giles smiled fondly. "We, over time, grew somewhat closer to one another. I thought it might develop, but then I got into a fight with my father. I didn't want to be a Watcher, and he told me that if I didn't follow his commands, then I had no business speaking to a witch."
"So, you broke up with her?" Buffy asked, a brow raised. She turned to face him. "Why didn't you just lie to your father?"
Rupert cleaned his glasses with the cloth in his pocket, the heavy frown on his face making him look older. "Yes, that would have been the intelligent approach."
"That's why she was giving you the stink eye?" Buffy smiled knowingly. "I was sort of listening to your fight over my fight. It was very straining on my ears, but I managed," she admitted, abashed.
"I should have assumed as much." He shook his head. "But the answer is no. That's not entirely the reason. After I cut ties with her family, I went on with my life. Eventually I ended up at Oxford and with the wrong crowd."
"Ethan Rayne," the slayer supplied.
"He was one of them. But the choice to participate was my own, Buffy." Giles paused, listening to noises from the scullery's other wall. Molly was shouting for one of her sons. Rupert shook his head and went back to his tale. "There's a very good reason that the wizarding society prefers wands over old magics, Buffy. The older magical forms, as Wiccans like Willow use, like I used in my youth, often require sacrifice of some sort. There's a certain equilibrium that must be met."
Buffy was nodding. "Yeah, I've sorta figured that out," she said, her voice soft.
"The sacrifice is where the power comes in. While I was off dabbling in Oxford, Lord Voldemort was rising, slowly gaining followers. He became interested in what was termed "muggle magic". He sent a few of his followers out to find practicing warlocks in the muggle world. By some misfortune, the stumbled upon my little group of deviants." Giles took a breath, leaning back against the wall. "His Death Eaters were manipulative. They didn't come with violence but deceit, promising us new highs, power. Ethan and I were taken to meet their lord."
Giles came to a stop, his eyes dark, clouded. Buffy reached out, clasping on to his hand. "What happened?" she asked.
Rupert's voice was quieter. "We did what he asked, showed him what he wanted to know." He swallowed. "We didn't know what he was, how evil he truly was, until he showed us how he planned to use old magic. He killed, he tortured those who denied him, and we were too afraid to try to run. Thankfully, there was a raid on one of his meeting places. Voldemort, himself, was not there, but several Death Eaters were escorting Ethan and myself. An auror, a wizarding police officer of sorts, was killed, as was a wizard who had stopped to join the fight. His name was Fabian Prewett. He was Molly's brother, though I didn't know it at the time. Ethan and I were left behind by the Death Eaters and captured by the aurors. We were taken to Azkaban for interrogation."
"A wizarding prison," Giles explained, "a wretched place."
Buffy's eyes widened. "You were in prison?"
Rupert raised a brow. "That's the part of the story that surprises you?"
She laughed, somewhat astonished. "Wow. Just wow. But that still doesn't explain how you met Bumblebee and his gang of do-gooders."
"I'm getting there," Giles assured. "The Ministry didn't imprison us for long. They called for our arresting aurors to oblivate us--erase our memories of the experience--and release us back into the muggle world. They did just that to Ethan, but a man named Albus Dumbledore came to me before they could take my memories and asked me if I would like to see more of the world he was fighting to protect. He said that, if I decided afterwards to join the Council, that the Ministry would not be able to lawfully take my memories. He showed me Hogwarts. I met extraordinary individuals in that time, but I didn't get to see Molly again. She, however, had heard of my involvements with Voldemort, of my part in her brother's death."
"Suddenly getting the stink eye," Buffy muttered, her eyes downcast.
Giles went on. "Dumbledore taught me much of what I know about magic and what it was to fight for a safer world." Rupert turned to Buffy. "I owe the man something, Buffy. I would never have been a Watcher if it hadn't been for him. Never would have met you. It was only after he spoke to me that I decided to go back to the Council."
A thud from above drew him from his thoughts. He peered up with a look of confusion on his face. Buffy followed his gaze.
She blinked away her shock. "Is that an ear?"