Feedback: Please be gentle.
Distribution: Gimme credit and a link.
Rating: Harsh language, violence, and possibly gratuitous explosions.
Spoilers: Up to Chosen and... well, that would be telling.
Disclaimer: The characters depicted herein belong to other folks. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
Summary: Xander Harris's past comes back to haunt him.
Author's Note: Annoying bunnies.
Willow sat in her plane seat and glanced at Xander curiously. He looked deep in thought. Actually, he looked like he was brooding, but he would be the first to deny that, vehemently at that. Xander had had another chat with Riley, and then the two of them had split off from the rest of the Sunnydale survivors, stopping only to tell Giles and Kennedy that they had some urgent business in England, and had booked two tickets for the earliest available flight to Heathrow. Not once had Xander objected to her coming, but neither had he really invited her, so she remained uneasy with the whole trip. Still, there was something bothering her, and now was as good a time as any to ask.
"Why are we flying to England?" she asked, her voice low. "Why didn't you use the portkey?" He stared at her, and after a moment, she blushed self-consciously and asked, "What? Do I have something on my face?"
He started and shook his head, "No, no. It's just... how do you know about portkeys?"
Willow opened her mouth... then closed it and frowned. "I... don't know," she finally said.
"Looks like you got more from the Enjoining Spell than just my magic, after all," he said.
"I did?" she blinked, then frowned. "Did you know?"
"Had a hunch," he shrugged. "After all, how would you even know about owl post if you hadn't?"
Willow slumped back, "I hadn't thought of that."
"Wow," he said with a smirk. "Something Willow didn't think of. Will wonders never cease?"
"Ow, okay," he held up his hands. "I surrender."
"Hmph!" she sniffed. "And you still haven't answered the question, mister. Why not use the portkey?"
All playfulness left his face, and he said, "Because that portkey goes straight to Hogwarts, and I have other things to do before I'm ready to face that old goat."
Willow winced, "Like?" She was almost afraid of what his answer might be.
Xander grinned in return but said nothing as he dropped back into his not-brooding look of contemplation.
Willow felt a little spooked. They had checked into a modest hotel, and Xander had disappeared for a few hours, saying he had a few private things to do before they set out again. Now, the pair was walking down Diagon Alley -- reconnaissance, Xander called it; Willow felt "bear-baiting" would have been more accurate -- and it was nearly dusk.
It was strangely empty. Not eerily so; there were quite a few people around, but the tightly-packed hustle and bustle she had expected -- that, she suspected, Xander remembered -- was absent, as were the cheerful greetings. The clumps of people parted before the two of them like the Red Sea before Moses, watching fearfully, and Willow wondered whether it was her power or Xander's expression that they feared.
She felt her spine tingle, and resisting the urge to turn around, she leaned over, "We're being followed."
"I know," he replied. "Can you cast a silencing charm?"
She blinked at the non sequitur, then nodded as the memory of the charm surfaced. "Yeah, why?"
"Count to ten and do it," he said, fiddling with something under his jacket. "Make sure you cover a good thirty foot radius. And duck."
"Right," she replied. After a ten-count, she spun and threw herself away from Xander, holding up a hand, "SILENCIO!"
Two white-masked, cloaked figures drew wands, and each pointed at one of them... but nothing happened. Unable to incant the words, the two were similarly unable to cast whatever curse they were attempting. Willow chanced a look at Xander, and her eyes went wide when she saw him on one knee, aiming an automatic pistol. Despite the lack of sound, she still flinched when the gun bucked once... twice in his hands.
The two Death Eaters collapsed, each of their masks sporting an extra hole, their hoods each now containing a fairly squishy mess.
Willow looked around fearfully as the people vanished. She picked herself and walked over to Xander, "What's going on? Where are the Aurors?"
"It's worse than I thought," he said, more to himself than to her. "Death Eaters out in broad daylight in Diagon Alley. C'mon, Will."
He turned and walked off. Willow followed a couple of steps behind, "Xander. Do you... do you have to use... one of those?"
"It's all I've got, Will," he said quietly, "and I can't let you risk throwing curses around."
He turned and pulled her into a hug. "Shh," he murmured in her ear. "It's just another weapon, Will. It's no more evil than a crossbow or an axe or a stake. You know it wasn't the gun that killed her; it was Warren."
Willow shuddered and allowed herself to melt into his arms, "I know. It's just... I... I keep seeing..."
"Shh," he repeated. "It'll be all right, Will."
Intellectually, Willow knew he was right, but intellect and emotion have never been fond friends. Still, after a long moment, she pulled herself together and pulled out of the hug. "Let's get going," she said, marching past him down Diagon Alley. She paused three steps away and looked over her shoulder at him, "Where are we going, anyway?"
The leader of the Order of the Phoenix greeted his old friend, "Alastor, how are you? I have some good news."
"No time for niceties," Moody said snappishly. "Two people just killed a pair of Death Eaters in Diagon Alley."
Dumbledore blinked, "Who?"
"Didn't recognize 'em," Moody said. "A young man with dark hair and a red-haired witch about the same age."
"Harry," Dumbledore smiled. "That was my good news, Alastor. We've finally been able to contact Harry. He's alive, and I suspect that young man you saw was probably him."
"I doubt it," Moody shook his head. "That young man's either a squib or a muggleborn. The witch cast a silencing charm -- a pretty powerful one too -- and the man killed them with a muggle weapon, a... 'firearm,' I think the word is."
"That..." Dumbledore sighed, "...is troubling news indeed, then."
"It gets better," Moody added. "The witch cast that silencing charm wandlessly."
Gringotts was not how Xander remembered it. The wizarding bank had always been well-fortified, but that term was no longer adequate to describe the defenses in place now. Flanking the massive metal doors were a pair of imposing golems, each resembling a black-armored knight.
"'None shall pass,'" Xander muttered with a smirk. The sharp elbow that Willow delivered into his ribs interrupted his thoughts, "Ow, hey!"
"State your name and business," a voice boomed from the right-hand golem.
Xander cleared his throat nervously, "I am Harry Potter, and I am here to check the status of my accounts."
Willow wasn't sure, but she got the impression that the golem was doing the equivalent of blinking in surprise. There was a commotion within the bank, and suddenly, the doors swung open.
"Welcome to Gringotts, Mister Potter," the goblin said, waving them in. As the doors slammed closed behind them, he led them to a desk and said, "I am Snagtooth, and I will be conducting your business today. Just one little formality." He waved to an odd contraption.
Xander blinked at it, "Huh?"
"Identification, Mister Potter," Snagtooth said. "You've changed much since you were last here, you turned in your key, and there's a small matter of possible other inheritances since you have now achieved your majority."
Xander blinked again, "Oh."
"Just place your finger in the hole, please," Snagtooth indicated a small hole on the device. Xander shrugged and did so.
Willow watched, wondering -- and slightly worried -- if the fact that she now had his magic might affect the procedure.
You know what I really miss in the later seasons of Buffy? Xander and Willow's friendship. Aside from Kingman's Bluff , the hammer analogy talk, and that touching hospital scene after Caleb plucked his eye out, it seems to have virtually evaporated.