A/N: I've written four different versions of this chapter, and hated them all. I kind of want to move on, though, so I'm sticking with what I've got.

My most sincere thanks to everyone who has reviewed or recommended this story. They've kept me going over the many rewrites of this chapter!

Chapter 12 - Prices to Be Paid

~Fourteen years ago~

Draco studied the outstretched fingers on his right hand, and extending the pointer on his left as well. Beaming, he held up his hands toward his governess. "I'm this many today!" he crowed.

"Aye, that you are," Mrs. Morrissey agreed, scarcely looking up from her knitting. "Now be a good boy and sit still, would you please? Your father will be here shortly."

Young as he was, Draco failed to notice the slight tremor in her voice. He jumped to his feet and twirled excitedly. It was his birthday, and his daddy was taking him to be fitted for real, grown-up robes. Since most of his time was spent with his governess, seeing either of his parents was a rare treat.

Before Mrs. Morrissey could say a word of warning, Draco sat down and picked up one of his books. His father would enter to see Draco reading like the big boy he was, and he would maybe even smile at him.

As he opened the book, the heavy parchment cut deep into his finger, and Draco took a sharp, gasping breath as blood welled, spilling over his hand and onto the page. He wouldn't cry, he told himself, lips trembling, he wouldn't… but the sight of blood proved too much for him. "M-M-Mrs. Morrissey," he whimpered, leaving the book open on the floor and hurrying to her comforting presence. "Hurts!"

Mrs. Morrissey set aside her knitting and settled the boy on her lap. "Let's take a look," she murmured, carefully laying her wand beside the cut. Draco relaxed as the cut vanished and she cleaned off his finger with a word. "Thank you!" he whispered, giving the woman a one-armed hug. Because it was his birthday, just this once, she returned the embrace.

And rather than seeing his grown-up son reading on the floor, Lucius entered to find Draco curled up in the lap of the help. His lips twisted. "Is that how you greet your father?"

Draco's eyes widened, and he jumped to his feet. "Father!" he said, bowing slightly. He knew better than to try and hug the man, even in private. "Mrs. Morrissey was just healing me." Waving his finger at his father, Draco explained, "The book hurted me."

Lucius followed his son's gaze to the book open on the floor, and his eyes narrowed. "Is that your blood on the book?" he asked in a soft tone Draco had learned to fear. Unable to find his voice, Draco simply nodded, twisting his hands nervously.

Lucius bent and picked up the book, staring at the stain on the page. "Do you know what someone could do with this?" he asked. Moving in slow, stalking steps, he approached Draco. "He could make you bleed all over, hundreds of cuts all over your body. He could boil your blood until it burst through your skin. You could run for miles, and never escape his wrath." In a single, sharp motion, he drew his wand and vanished away the blood. "A son of mine should know to be more careful."

Draco could feel tears in the back of his throat, but he nodded obediently. "Yes, Father. I'll be more careful."

"See that you are. As a lesson, I think our outing will be postponed. Clearly, you are not nearly as mature as I thought you to be." Without waiting for any further response, Lucius swept from the room, and Draco fell to his knees, ignoring his governess' sound of dismay.

He learned many lessons that day, the danger of blood being only one of them. The lesson he remembered the most, though, was that his daddy never even hesitated before speaking of killing him, as if he found the idea no more bothersome than swatting a fly.


Blood curses were a nasty business.

What made a blood curse truly evil was that there was no defense against it. It was an attack from the inside out, a wizard's very being revolting against itself, and how could one defend against that?

They required blood, naturally, which was the reason they were relatively uncommon (well, that, and the fact that they were considered the darkest magic, damning the user in ways most wizards cared not to experience). If a wizard had the blood of their victim on hand, they usually had the victim as well, and had no need for the production a blood curse required.

The Malfoy grimoire, however, had blood curses of a different sort, the kind for punishing wayward children. The blood of the father called to the blood of the son, abusing a bond that could never be broken, should never be tarnished. Draco had never paid much attention to those spells, certain he was safe from them. A Malfoy father couldn't kill his only son; the family line had a spell to prevent this, to ensure its survival. And Draco had thought himself an only child right up until he wasn't, and these thoughts weren't helping at all.

His mind racing so quickly he felt dizzy, Draco watched as his father quickly, expertly assembled the needed potion, cutting deeply into his own wrist to set dark blood flowing into the cauldron. Scarcely needing to look at the grimoire, Lucius chanted in Latin. Draco caught the occasional word through the rushing in his ears—father, son, vengeance, Alexander Lavelle Harris.

While Lucius was distracted, Draco thought. He'd always wanted a big brother. He wondered, if they had grown up together, if Xander would have protected him, stood up for him, taught him how to fight. Would he have wanted to be like Xander, instead of his father? Would his life have been different, if there had been someone else who understood what it was to grow up under the thumb of Lucius Malfoy?

But none of these thoughts mattered. For all intents and purposes, Draco didn't have a big brother, and soon he wouldn't have one at all, not unless he could come up with something. And Draco wasn't Potter, had no gift for pulling miracles out of thin air, not even when someone depended on him.

The dull clank of the cauldron moving into the sink woke Draco from his reverie. He looked up to meet Lucius' triumphant smile. "It is done." Lucius tapped his wand against his wrist, healing the bloody gash, and fastidiously cleaned away the bloodstains. "A pity the boy could not be put to a better use," he said thoughtfully, "but there are prices to be paid." He smiled, and Draco felt a chill. "I do wish I could see it."

"Prices to be paid," Draco repeated, under his breath. An idea hovered on the edge of his consciousness, tantalizing yet just out of reach. "I'm going to go check on Gregory," he lied. He hesitated, weighed down by words he couldn't say, then left. The moment he was out of the room he started to run, not down to Goyle but out onto the grounds, away from this place for possibly the final time.

The idea was growing.


Once, Angelus had punched through a woman's chest and torn out the shreds of her beating heart. It had been an experiment, as he termed it, which mostly meant he was curious as to how she would die.

Messily, it turned out, but the one thing that Angel and Angelus both remembered was the look of dawning realization in her eyes. It was a slow horror as her mind struggled to comprehend what had happened, her body trying to cope with the enormity of what was missing.

It lasted mere seconds, of course, but he was reminded of that woman, and the horror he'd never truly understood until now, when Xander's convulsions stopped, his body gone achingly still, and the connection between wizard and vampire snapped like a dry rubber band. He'd started running the moment the convulsions began, but as the loss slammed into him, Angel stumbled, knees buckling. Only Faith's strong grip kept him from falling.

"What the fuck is wrong now?" she muttered to herself. Louder, she added, "Let me have Xander, you can follow us."

Her suggestion made sense, but there was no way in hell it was happening. "No!" he snapped automatically. With a growl, he regained his bearings and shook off her hand. Xander's heartbeat was all he could hear, all he could focus on. He would keep Xander safe. "Let's go." He took off; Faith, caught off guard, followed behind.

One of the doors fell off its hinges as he blasted into the hospital wing. Suddenly there were people everywhere, all trying to take Xander. Angel batted the hands away. "Angel. Angel!" Faith placed her hands on the sides of his head, and he had no choice but to look at her. "Angel, I get that you are freaking right now, but Xander needs help," she said, her words crisp and clear and still so hard to hear over the sound of Xander's faltering heart. "If you don't let the good witches help him, I'm going to take you down." She stared into his eyes. "Do you understand?"

The words "Xander" and "help" got results. Angel carefully, gently placed Xander on a bed and was promptly pushed out of the way by Madame Pomfrey and Padma. He staggered, and Faith steered him toward the bed next to Xander's. Rubbing at his chest absently, he watched as they worked. Faith reached out and caught his hand, pressing it against his sternum. "Pretty weird gesture for you to be making," she commented.

"It's… he's gone," Angel said softly. "I can't feel him." It wasn't until it stopped that Angel realized Xander had taken up residence under his skin, that their connection didn't end when Xander stopped touching him. He carried a spark of Xander just under his breastbone, and he never knew until it disappeared. It had been such a short time, and already he did not know how to live without it. "It hurts," he admitted, gasping the words.

Faith bit her lip. "But he's still alive," she said in a small voice. "Xander's still alive."

Before Angel could reply, Dawn, Harry, Hermione and Remus burst into the room, talking over each other in their worry. Remus easily floated Giles to a nearby bed, and Padma left Xander in Poppy's hands to care for the new patient. A moment later, Dumbledore slipped into the room, his sharp eyes taking in everything.

"Did Lucius do anything to Xander before you left?" Dumbledore asked, his voice easily cutting through the clamor.

Angel shook his head, and Harry jumped in. "He cast a spell to show Xander what he… what happened when Xander was attacked, and he Petrified me and Angel, but that was all he was able to do before Xander blasted him into a wall."

The words barely made sense to Angel, unable to ignore the gaping maw in his chest long enough to focus on the conversation. "I can't feel him," he repeated, looking desperately at Dumbledore. "Why can't I feel him?"

The old wizard's expression grew grim. "A moment, if you please," he said politely, before striding toward Xander's bed. He spoke quietly to Pomfrey, then began casting spells of his own.

Angel stared at Xander, ignoring everyone else, willing him to wake. Nearby, Buffy and Giles slept peacefully, and Angel found himself hating them for that.

Nearly everyone in the hospital wing jumped as the doors burst open once more and Draco came flying through. "It's a blood curse," he gasped, out of breath from his dash across the castle. He started toward Xander, only to find a hostile vampire in his way.

"Touch him and I'll break you in half," Angel snarled, his true face showing.

Draco took a deep breath and met the yellowed gaze head on. "I think I can help him."

Angel took a step closer, letting out a growl of frustration. "You know what I think? I think you stood there and did nothing while this happened."

"And now I'm going to fix it," Draco snapped. He glanced past Angel at Dumbledore. "I'm Lucius' heir. If I can make the magic accept me as the new head of the bloodline, I can reverse the spell."

Dumbledore narrowed his eyes at Draco and considered him in silence for a long moment. "Do you understand what you are suggesting? If you fail—"

"I won't," Draco said quickly.

"Your father will know the moment you try," Albus continued.

Avoiding those knowing blue eyes, Draco said lightly, "It's been a while since someone's tried to kill me. I wouldn't want to get out of practice."

"Wait a second," Dawn interjected. "Are we even sure this is a blood thingy?"

"I'm afraid so," Dumbledore replied. "That much I was able to ascertain before Mr. Malfoy's entrance."

"I don't get it," Faith said bluntly. "You're saying Papa Malfoy put a long-distance whammy on Xander? Can he do that to anyone?"

"It's 'cause they're related, right?" Dawn said, her mouth twisted unhappily. "It's always about the blood."

Draco gave her a quick, surprised look. "Yes, exactly." He drew his wand. "We can explain more later, there isn't much time." He threw up his hands when Angel moved to block him from Xander. "For Merlin's sake, do you want him to die?"

There was no time, Angel knew that better than anyone, but he couldn't just step aside. "That level of magic… it will kill you if you fail." It wasn't a question.

Draco cleared his throat. "Yes."

Somewhere in the background, Harry and Dawn started talking, but for this moment all that mattered was Angel and Draco. Angel glanced at Albus, who nodded encouragingly, and, using all the strength he had, stepped out of the way. He collapsed onto the nearby bed, head in his hands, and reached out to Xander with everything in him.


If this was heaven, Xander was feeling pretty ripped off.

Of course, if it wasn't… he supposed things could be a lot worse. He just couldn't quite imagine how.

Xander waved his hand in front of Faith's face. "Hello. Anybody there?" He moved closer to Dawn, reaching out a hand, and jumped when it slid right through her. "Okay, that's just creepy," he muttered. "Seriously, what is going on?

"Okay, think," he told himself. "You were at Malfoy's little love nest, and he made you mad, and..." He scratched his head. "Well, Angel was there." Angel!

His gaze shot to the vampire, sitting with his head in his hands. "Okay, touching Angel makes the scariness go away, and this is pretty freaksome, so…" With a hand that was trembling only slightly, he reached out and touched Angel's cheek.


Angel gasped, his head flying up. With everyone focused on Draco, no one noticed as he placed a hand on his own cheek.


Draco took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and began. "I call for judgment. I stand as Heir of the Malfoy line, firm against the deeds of my father."


Xander jumped as Angel reacted. "Okay, did not expect that." He watched as Angel lifted his hand. "I guess—"

When Angel covered Xander's hand with his own, Xander fell to his knees. "Oh," he managed to breath as Angel's mind opened to him. He could feel everything—Angel's desire to repent, his protectiveness toward his friends, even Angelus' bloodthirsty desires—and he accepted it all. Angel was a technophobe, an artist, a Champion, a killer. He couldn't sing and he was so out of touch with his feelings it was possible he wasn't aware he had any.

He was everything Xander needed.


Angel froze, closing his eyes. Xander was there, he was so close, yet so far away.

Even with all his worries, Angel could feel his demon settle in a way it hadn't in years, and he felt a peace spread through him, slow and sweet as honey. He found himself smiling, somehow sure things would be okay.


Picking up a transfigured knife, Draco neatly slit his wrist. "By my blood, I give my measure. Weigh my heart against that of my father, for he has erred and deserves not his title. I call for judgment! Fiat iustitia!"


Xander remained where he was, kneeling between Angel's legs, and traced Angel's features with his free hand. Somehow, he could not look away.


Angel was grateful he did not have to breathe, as he was afraid the slightest movement could end this moment of warmth and, yes, understanding, this essence of Xander he might never feel again.


With a sound like thunder, Draco's wound disappeared, leaving a thin, silvery scar that appeared years old. He let out a shaky breath. "Right then." A quick mutter in Latin removed the curse.


Suddenly finding himself in a hospital bed, Xander opened his eyes and met Angel's gaze. The connection between them snapped open, and both relaxed, exchanging almost shy smiles.

Xander quickly found himself overrun with friends and medical staff, but Angel hung back, thoughtfully rubbing his chest. They had time.