Chapter 24


AN: A next short bit, thank you again for the review, I apologize for not replying instantly. I feel really, really bad because I have been promising some "hot" stuff since ages, but I didn't think at first it would take me so long to reach the point in the story where I wanted to do that. But finally, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and now for real, real in the next chapter (25) your agony of waiting shall find its end :D

In this one however I tried to outline my OC a bit more, to make the character more conceivable, well, you shall be the judges as to how that worked

Giles slowly approached her side of the bed with mixed feelings, glad, happy even, but also nervous.

She smiled at him again, then her look slid over the bed, her expression slightly desperate. "This is-eh… so embarrassing," she said and laughed.

He came to sit on the edge of his bed. "Why would you say that?"

"Well, beside the fact that you had to witness me in the most unfavourable moments during the past days," she began, then looked around herself again, saying in a disappointed voice, "this certainly isn't how I imagined being the first time in your bedroom." O-oo, she immediately turned pink and threw him a horrified glance, fearing that she might have said too much.

Giles raised his brows, but after the initial second of bewilderment he looked rather amused. "Well, nor did I," he responded calmly, smiling. "But-uh… it doesn't matter now. What's important is that you're alright after all that… It was-uh…," he paused searching for the right words to express his previous worries, "we-uh… we were very worried, you looked… quite-uh… bad."

"Hm, I don't remember much, it's perhaps better. I'm sorry you're having so much trouble with me… How are you doing?" She looked at him seriously, scanning his appearance for any remainders of Rodolphus' attack. "I am so sorry that I couldn't stop him before he hit you with that spell…"

"Given what he had done to you I-uh… don't think it would be appropriate for me to complain," he dropped his look to the covers, where her legs would be, then he remembered: "Oh, Miss Granger asked me to take care of your injuries," he got up again and went over to the bedside table, where Hermione had left a set of potions, powders and some balsam. He took the first phial, trying to remember what it was for.

"That's the right one," Helen said encouragingly and Giles nodded, then pierced at her.

"Is it alright for you when I take care of that?" He asked.

"I would have no one else doing it," she replied and stretched out her right arm towards him, where a few cuts were still visible.

After he was done, he decided to let her sleep and save the talks for tomorrow, she was still very tired and indeed woke up only in the evening for a short while to request something to drink.

Hermione called and he told her that everything seemed to be fine, then wished her good luck for her exams and made his bed on the sofa once again.

On the next morning Giles came up to repeat the whole procedure of tending to the wounds. All in all they seemed to be healing very fast, even the deep, nasty looking one on her left thigh. When he finished and laid the last phial with some odd magical powder in it aside, he pulled the blanket back over Helen, letting his right hand rest on where her knee would be, which caused her heart jump in a pleasant excitement, then he threw a stealthy glance at her.

"What is it?" She asked.

"I-uh… don't know how to begin, so I just-uh… and please don't disappear again…," he began and she was looking at him entirely unaware of what was coming. "She- Miss Granger had told us – on her own, we weren't-uh… asking… exactly."

"Told you what?"

He looked her in the eyes, wanting to see and also fearing a little what her reaction would be. "About your-uh… condition – with the wand-twins, and about professor Snape…" Her eyes were widened, but he couldn't tell anything from their look at first. "… and about the-uh… ritual you did to-uh… put your magic away."

For a very short moment Helen felt as if someone had outpoured a pot of icy water on her, she dropped her look from his face to stare at his hand resting on the blanket, yet almost immediately she felt something else, more like a relief, a sort of liberation. "Oh," she said. Then she raised her head again, wondering. "H-how much… um… what-eh… did she tell you, I mean… about…" She stuttered.

Giles took a deep breath and then began to re-phrase the story that they had heard from Hermione, Ron and George on the Saturday afternoon. He however kept to himself the part where George had indicated that she might have embraced the risk of dying within the ritual – that she might have very well been aware of it, if not even welcomed it. He didn't want to overwhelm her too much. He decided to take it step by step, and to try and finally make her to talk about things on her own. When he finished, Helen was silent, but was looking him in the eyes.

"You never said you had a destiny too," he spoke, trying to sound light and calm, casual even.

To his surprise she laughed shortly.


She shook her head, still smiling, but the look in her eyes became sad. "I-eh… I just remembered something… it was a coin… a silver sickle-coin, I still have it somewhere."

"Sorry?" He asked as he couldn't follow her.

After a short pause, as if she had been hesitating one more time, she spoke at last: "When I was ten and the time had come for me to buy a wand, my father wanted to take me to Mr. Gregorovitch, he was a very accomplished, renowned wandmaker and my father held him in very high esteem. Philip, the younger of my two older brothers, had bought his wand there five years before that… But I wanted to go to London," she spoke, her eyes sparkling a little and the half-whisper of her voice was trying to revive the excitement she had felt as a little girl, "I wanted to have a wand from Olivander's, where David – the older brother, whom I adored when I was little – got his and kept showing me all sorts of nice tricks with it every time he was at home, every evening conjuring up something new and waving with this fascinating piece of wood and teasing me… and I just wanted to have exactly a wand like that… It didn't help to explain to me that it was impossible to get the very same one, I wanted to go to Olivander's, I wanted to have everything David had got, I was sulking, until… my father finally gave in and said let the sickle decide."

Giles raised his brows.

"It's a coin, from wizarding currency… my father, always when he was sort of desperate or couldn't persuade me to do something, would let us toss a coin, and that had become the only way I would except the decision…" She smiled again at her memories, "I found out only later, that most of the times when the outcome was in his favour – when more serious decisions were at stake – that he had been actually cheating, using magic… but I was too small then, I didn't know… but for some reason he didn't cheat on that one. We tossed, heads or tails. Heads would have meant Gregorovitch, tails led to Olivander's… And I won. In a children's game I "won" myself my destiny. See how seemingly little insignificant moments engrave one's life?" She said, a faint trace of bitterness in her smile.

"But-… I thought the wand was waiting for you anyway, you were destined for the one-"

"Yes, that is true, but if I had gone to Gregorovitch, I would have found some wand that would do just fine, that would fit well, it wouldn't of course be any match to what I can do with mine now – I mean what I could do before…, but… you see I might never have known that I could do better with another wand, or that there was another one."

"And when did you find out that-uh… you have a… that it's one out of a couple? Did this Olivander then tell you?"

"No, I learned about that only later, when I came to Hogwarts, which was… eight years later. My father had not been ready to give in to sending me to Hogwarts when I'd received my letter of invitation. I was eleven, the Death Eaters were already very strong, it was… two years before Voldemort was defeated as he tried to kill Harry. My father refused to put me into Hogwarts, it wasn't very safe back then, so he took Philip, who was about to enter the sixth year then, off Hogwarts and sent us both to the school in Black Forrest. But Olivander had known of course, he had informed Dumbledore immediately after I had purchased the wand at his store… Then when I came to Hogwarts after my graduation to learn one more year there, he told us." She went silent, memories, nice but painful, came popping into her mind, memories she didn't want to think about, she wanted to leave behind because they weren't doing her any good now.

"I-uh… must say I felt a little…" Intimidated was the word he had on his tongue, but he swallowed it as Helen gave him a curious look. "… estranged… by this… Severus Snape."

Helen frowned, wondering what he could possibly be meaning, when he continued: "He was your destiny, and then I-uh… it made me feel out of place slightly," he said shrugging, and laughed tensely, attempting to make it sound lightly, witty perhaps, trying to conceal how much the thought was actually occupying and unsettling him.

It took her a few seconds before she understood, she looked at him bewildered, then said: "Rupert, don't even try to compare yourself with Severus," Outch, she saw him looking at her, shocked and just a little – hurt, offended. "That's not how it was supposed to sound…" She closed her eyes, wishing she could take those words back.

"Look, with Severus it was… it was complicated… to say the least. We didn't have an ideal relationship – if such a thing is possible, or desirable for that matter… We ended up together because of the destiny, because some higher power forced us to, pulled us together… we sort of had no choice, it was decided hundreds of years ago, by powerful magic. We were very fond of each other, loved each other, surely, very much in a very own way, very… deeply even and… in an-eh… in an unconditional way, and it was nice… in the start… We were soul-mates, not because we were alike, no, we actually didn't have much in common, though a few things yes, it was more the way that we knew each other perfectly well, we knew like everything about the other, more or less, we knew each other's thoughts and pains, opinions, feelings – in every situation… it was a… a heavy share too, it was very different than with Claudius." From the look in Giles' eyes she realized that he didn't know about him either, so she shortly said, indicating with a headshake that it wasn't important: "My first husband. Him I didn't know, didn't care, I wanted to leave Hogwarts, I was nineteen, wanted to live, and he happened to be there at the right time. Severus I knew… entirely, completely, about from the first moment we met, as he knew myself. But you see, our relationship, it was always sort of heavy, a constant burden above us, a feeling of some invisible pressure… A-and I wondered sometimes, and I even asked him once what he thought, whether he thought we would be likely to end up together if there wasn't the wandlore tying us up. Just like me he wasn't sure, he didn't know. Or he didn't say because he didn't want to hurt me... And there was Lily Evans."

Giles was listening and it occurred to him suddenly that she probably in the last half an hour had said more to him about herself than she had done during the past fifteen months he has known her.

"Lily Evans?" He asked, hoping he wouldn't stop the flow of the sudden outburst.

"She wasn't there from the beginning. During the first year I didn't know much about her, only that there she had been once, a friend, a girl he had been very fond of. Only later, when we met again, after Claudius' death and my auror's apprenticeship, only then I noticed she had become the shadow above us… A ghost from his past – which was hardly her fault, I know, yet… I was… I wanted to hate her, but how can you hate someone you don't even know? And there was Harry, who might truly, without me exaggerating, be one of the kindest, bravest, most decent persons I've ever met, and he's her son, and I kept hearing everybody around me saying that he's just like his mother, so kind-hearted, so good, just like Lily," she spoke slightly bitterly now, "I knew she must have been… great… and I was jealous. And I understood Severus at the same time, she was his… ideal, this thing he never had, he never was with her like that, you know? She never was his. Their relationship, I mean their friendship ended through his failure before it could have become anything more…. That's one of the reasons she was always there later, she was his… muse, or I don't know how to call it, the unreachable idol, he never had her – and I don't mean it just in the manly, "conquesting" way – so he could imagine how it could have been if things had turned out differently, he could idolize her, their fictional relationship, he could keep dreaming of it still, can you understand?" She looked up to see Giles nodding. "It had the sex appeal of the unfulfilled dream… I could never compete with that… It haunted him because he'd never know, he wondered if it would have been better with Lily, if he would have loved her more, or in another way than… And then the weight of the remorse of what he had done… You see though I'm sure he loved me in his way,… I wasn't the love of his life." She said matter-of-factly. "I was his destiny. And he was mine. We never, at no point, were really happy, I used to wonder whether – had the world we had been living in been different, no dark times around us, would we too then have had a better lot? I don't know, I doubt it. There was always the feeling that we were together for some higher purpose, we sensed that there was this heavy burden on our shoulders – the magic, the "contract", the wandlore – it's always been floating above our heads like some kind of a-a… watcher… sorry, bad choice of words," she laughed.

"He died in the battle," Giles said, it wasn't really a question, for Hermione had told him about it. He watched Helen's face turn earnest, stern even, as she dropped her look again.

"Yes," she replied shortly.

"I'm sorry."

"Hm, well, it turned out it was all part of this great plan," she spoke cynically, her voice icy, "he never stood much of a chance I'm afraid, playing for both sides the way he was – it was a wonder he made it that far."

Her tone was disturbing, pointy and cold, Giles sensed some unsolved, undealt grievances behind the matter and he chose not to dig in that topic any further. Instead he decided to poke into the last, most delicate theme.

"There's-uh… one more thing, two actually," he said and from the nervous, almost panicky look in her wide-opened eyes he could tell that she had an uneasy sense of what he was going to ask. So for a moment he considered to question her about the book first instead and put the other thing aside, but then he thought it would only prolong her agony and that it might be the best if he'd make her to get it out now. He spoke in a soft, calm voice, trying to sound encouraging, but not inquisitive, not pestering: "Miss Granger said that they had-uh… saved you before you-… before the ritual was completed. And that it might have cost you your life hadn't they been there in time."

She was silent and Giles could almost hear her heartbeat getting faster, he felt her stiffen underneath the blanket.

"Mr. Weasley said that that might have been what you wanted," he said, then after a while he added in a less serious tone: "He seemed to be very worried afterwards that you might-uh… kill him because of it."

She smiled. The last remark seemed to have relieved her of the tension and the angst. So George knew all the time then, he truly knows me too well sometimes, she thought. She sighed, her fingers were playing nervously with the edge of her blanket.

She spoke after a long while, during which she was gathering the courage, trying to stay calm while talking about it as she hasn't done with anyone before.

"He-eh… is not wrong," she said and threw a fearing look at Giles, but he didn't seem appalled or shocked by this. For some reason she recalled that intense dream she had had about a year ago, where they had made love on the cuddly carpet in the apartment in Vienna and for a brief moment she felt again the familiar, even intimate closeness to him, and suddenly by the look at him sitting at her bed she felt that she finally wanted to spit it all out, to get it out, rest-less, keeping no pieces, no parts of it to herself, to get rid of it at last, and that this was the person, whom she would want to tell after all. Not because it was such a charming and lovely story, but because she thought that he would listen and – if not understand – so at least he would not scorn her for it.

"He's not wrong," she repeated more firmly now. "I-eh… I wanted to-eh… lay the magic down and then… leave – without it… What they wouldn't understand was… it wasn't a-a sudden impulse, it didn't emerge from a-a moment of weakness, nor was it a rush, lightly made step… it's an attitude. An every-day option… They, Hermione, Ron, even George had no idea, what it was like, how it feels, thinking every day, asking yourself every day, if only for a moment, but for a moment on every single day – that you would like to… leave. What would it be like? Would it really be so awful – to just... go? To leave this meaningless, this pointless existence and give this futile life up? For good?" She didn't dare to look at him, as she continued slowly, weighting every word.

"And for many years by that time, every day I had been thinking about it. At first it was frightening, the suggestion abysmal and shocking, the image so scary... But with the time passing it became – an option, a possibility, an alternative. An everyday-thought. When thinking of the future, when planning tomorrow, what is to be done next, this and that, it would always slip into my mind – like I could go shopping, or I could also die. I could go to see a film, or to a concert or clean the apartment, or I could kill myself. It was always there. I have been living with it every day. Not really knowing how firm or how thin the line would be between the thought and the act itself when it'd come to it... Sometimes I think it would be so easy and quick to just – jump off, to swallow, to pull the trigger, to cut, to push the chair away... and imagine the calmness afterwards. Sometimes I was so afraid of the pain... And yet sometimes I wonder how severe it would actually be, what is a pain of that kind like? And sometimes I prayed that I'd never gather the courage to really find out..."

Giles listened, a little alarmed at the confusing tenses she was talking in, not quite sure what was in the past and what of it was still occupying her.

"A-and I decided to leave England, to come here to keep myself busy… every day was the same, I was waking up every morning with the simple plead to God please, get me through this day somehow, keep my mind away from that thought that I don't actually want to be here…" She was staring at something invisible in front of her.

Giles waited a moment and when she didn't say anything anymore, he asked: "And now? Has it changed?"

Slowly she raised her head and the blank, almost dreamy gaze in her eyes disappeared and instead she was looking at him in what seemed to be surprise, astonishment, then said amazed: "I haven't spoken of this… to anyone… ever."

Giles could somehow easily believe that. "And does it feel better now? Having it got out?"

"I guess," she said, wondering herself. "Yes… But you said there was something else you wanted to talk about?"

"Hm? Oh, yes," he had forgotten all about the book in the meantime, it seemed strangely trivial now. "It's about the-uh… the book, which you had used for that-uh… that ritual back then."

She frowned. "Yes? What about it?"

"Do you still have it?"

She thought for a moment. "Yes, I think I do, it's probably-" She blushed a little now, remembering something, and cleared her throat nervously. "It should be in my old apartment in London. Why do you ask?"

"Do you remember the title? And where you got it from?"

She gave him an odd look. How could he know, she thought, he's probably just curious. I should have handed the damn book to the ministry anyway, I forgot all about it afterwards…

"It was very old, written by hand actually, 14th century I guess, with rich illuminations, wait…," she was tipping her fingers upon her lips trying to recall the exact title, "something about-eh… dark powers long extinguished… De potestatibus infernis… yes, yes – De potestatibus infernis diu-"

"-diu exstinctis habitis?" He finished, his expression hardened, his apprehension confirmed.

She looked at him entirely perplexed. Does he know everything? She thought, a little amused even. "Wow, you're good," she said, half-joking, but then noticed his glum face. "What's the matter? How did you know?"

"Can you remember how you got the book?"

Now she looked guiltily at the blanket again. "I found it during our aurors' search of the Death Eaters' households, I should have it delivered to the Ministry…" She turned even more red now. "But as I was browsing it and then I saw that ritual and-eh… well, I-uh… found it useful back then," she said with a touch of self-mockery in her voice, "so I kept it."

Giles nodded slowly. "Were there… did you see any stamps inside?"

"No, I don't remember… You're mysterious, Rupert, what are all these questions?" She asked curiously.

"I know that book, very well, too well, it's a Latin translation by a monk named Innocentius, the-uh… Greek original's been lost… anyway, I'm quite certain that the book you used belongs to the Council's library."

She stared at him, not sure what he was suggesting there.

"I had a call from Robson a few days ago," he began to explain and told her everything that his friend had reported him, leaving nothing out.

He saw from the expression over her face that it was all just as new and disturbing to her as it had been to him.

"I've tried to call James this morning to ask, whether he had spoken with my father yet, but-uh… he's been out." He added after he had finished the story.

Helen was looking at him, though absentmindedly, there was so much new information in what he had told her and she wasn't sure upon which to set her focus first.

"Do you know this Edgar Thornton?" He asked.

"Hm? Edgar Thornton? Yes, well, no, not really, we've never met, he's-eh… my-eh… uncle I believe is the term," she said raising her brows, wondering.

"Your uncle?" Giles looked surprised.

"My mother's older brother."

"And you don't know him?"

"No. My mother didn't maintain any contact with her family, that's another story, not important right now… But what do you make out of it all?" She asked, meaning the whole affair with the lost books.

"Well, it seems quite clear. Those books were sold."

"Sold?" Her face showed a trace of disbelief.

"Exchanged perhaps would be a better term. I think, Quentin might have offered them to the Death Eaters in exchange for something else."

"But how can you be sure they weren't just stolen?"

"Well-uh… I can't… exactly," Giles admitted unwillingly.

"And here's another thought," she interrupted him. "Those books, you said most of them dealt with summoning demons or opening hell dimensions and releasing hell creatures, but…," she shook her head, "nothing like that happened in the Battle or before. There were no demons."

"So the Death Eaters didn't use them. Why not?"

"Maybe they couldn't use them… Don't you have to have the-eh… the other kind of magic… what would you call it – the earth magic – to summon them? I doubt any of them were disposing of it."

He shot her a meaningful look, then said shortly: "Ethan Rayne."

"I see," she spoke quietly and understood. And after all Ethan might not have been the only muggle friend of the Death Eaters.

"So what went wrong then? Why didn't they use it?" Giles asked, more rhetorically.

Suddenly Helen had an idea. "Maybe nothing went wrong. Maybe they didn't use it – just yet. Maybe they planned to-," she paused and gulped, the idea was crazy, abhorrent, yet it would fit, she thought. "Maybe they would have needed the demons later, when they won the battle, to-eh… purge the earth… from muggles."

Giles' eyes widened. "But-eh… surely that would be too dangerous for themselves as well, I mean, demons aren't exactly obedient, they don't-uh… know loyalty, they don't serve the one who summoned them, it would surely be too risky to do it in such a large extent," he objected.

"Yeah, you're probably right, it sounds rather loopy. You should keep in touch with your friend and-eh… we should consider going to Kingsley, our Minister, with it. Perhaps he can order to question some of the Death Eaters, they could know what was in the bargain for the council – if it indeed was a part of some trade, though… they might not be very willing to talk."

Giles nodded. "Yes," he said shortly, when the phone rang.

It was Willow, announcing that they have now planned Buffy's surprise party for the coming Saturday. He promised to be there, then hung up.

"Would you like something to eat?" He asked Helen when he came up again.

"Yes, actually," she blushed, "I-eh… I'd really like to take a bath first, I must stink like hell."

"Of course." He helped her get up, descend the stairs and walk to the bathroom and when she assured him that she could do the rest by herself, he left her and went to prepare some lunch.

After a nice and hot bath and a proper meal Helen felt much better, the colour returned into her cheeks, only her legs weren't still working up to their full strength. They spent the rest of the day talking. Giles referred to her about Hermione's and George's "tests" and that they would like to talk to Angel later, who seemed to be the only person knowing anything about the odd nature of the wand-magic in Sunnydale.

On the next morning, Giles once more tended to the few cuts and wounds Helen still had, and was amazed to see how fast the others had healed and almost disappeared. Eventually he went to work, not wanting to exhaust his luck with Snyder and left Helen alone as she seemed to be well enough.

In the library he found the huge mountains of returned books and sighed. He had been hoping that maybe Willow and Xander had taken care of it yesterday, but then he remembered they probably had their hands full with planning the party for Buffy.

However when the latter came to the library later, she didn't seem to be in a very joyful, as Xander put it "pre-birthday spanking" mood, something was apparently bothering her and when Giles asked her about it, she told him about a peculiar dream she had had, where Drusilla was still alive and killed Angel.

"You fear it was more of a-a portent?" He asked her, sensing that the dream must have been worrying her more than she would show.

"See, I don't know. I don't wanna start a big freakout over nothing." She said unhappily.

"Still, best-uh… to be on the alert, just in case. If Drusilla is alive, it could be a fairly… cataclysmic state of affairs." He said in a cheerless voice.

"Again, so many words, couldn't you just say 'we'd be in trouble'?" Xander said and almost satisfied he received the expected familiar almost obligatory glare from the watcher, that Giles had been reserving for him only.

"Xander, go to class." He said, sounding unimpressed.

He then said Buffy not to worry too much, but to keep her eyes and ears open during her next patrols.

He felt himself uneasy about it, but there was nothing he could do, nothing what he could research, it was just a feeling that maybe there was something more behind the dream.

He returned home in the late afternoon and found Helen sitting on his sofa, reading a book.

"Hello," he said while hanging his coat on the hanger next to the door.

She got up and greeted him cheerfully. "Oh, hello, you're back!"

"Dear lord, what happened?" He spotted a new bloody wound on her forehead above the left eye.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I fell asleep on your sofa and-eh," she turned pink, "I fell as I woke up and then I hit my head on the corner of your coffee table…"

"When?" He threw his bag on the floor.

"Oh, couple of hours ago."

Giles raised his brows, a question in his eyes.

"Oh, there might be a little stain," she said in a small voice, "…on your carpet, but-eh… I can clean that."

Giles' brows went even higher and she looked at him confused. "And what about the nasty scratch?" He walked over to her.

"Oh… Is it nasty?"

"Yes, why didn't you take care of it?" He asked and raised his hand to brush softly with his fingers over the dried blood in the small wound and to place a loosen hair string behind her ear.

"I couldn't find my wand," she tried to defend herself.

Giles glared at her in disbelief. "Your… wand?" He asked, unsure of whether to be angry or to just shake his head. "What about some water, a disinfectant and a tape? They're all in my bathroom," he said, giving her a stern look, but the twitching corners of his mouth were betraying him.

"What are those?"

"Sit," he said in a strict tone, pointing at the sofa, then disappeared in the bathroom. She obeyed and sat down. Soon Giles returned with a small bowl of water, a small bottle and a package of tapes. He put them on the coffee table, then knelt down in front of her to have a closer look. She squirmed a little.

"Hm," he wondered, observing the small cut, "it looks like a lightning bolt."

She looked at him horrified. "What? !"

"Yes, it's funny, it looks like a small lightning."

"Please be kidding!"

He looked at her confused, then said again strictly: "Now hold still. You don't want to have a scar there, do you?"

"No, no, definitely not. Not a lightning bolt anyway," she replied annoyed.

"It doesn't look too bad," he said while carefully cleaning the cut, which previously appeared to be worse merely because of the smeared blood around it.

"Good, just please, please, make sure there won't be any scar… maybe there's still some of the powder Hermione left behind…"

"No, thank you, I think once in a while we can do it the muggle-way," he said bemused, swabbing on the cut, then when it was clean enough he took a piece of tape and put it carefully upon it.

His face was only inches from hers, the right hand kept touching the tape, while he laid his left hand upon her knee and she immediately felt the goose-bumps running up her whole body, while staring into his eyes.

"How-uh… is your leg by the way?" He asked, almost whispering, his heartbeat too got a little faster, he seemed to realize only now how close they were.

"Hm? My leg…," she spoke, his fingers were stroking over her cheek tenderly and it made her close her eyes for a moment and gulp. "…it's-eh… fine," she whispered, her voice a little shaky from the emerging excitement.

"Good," he exhaled quietly, leaning even closer over her face. And then he kissed her, placing his hands on her hips and she felt her stomach doing the amazing somersault again as his lips touched hers, only briefly at first, like a gentle greeting, and then again, but without parting this time. He was kissing her with the utmost pleasure, he wanted to pamper her lips but she soon opened her mouth impatiently to let him in at last… It was better than any dream. He was holding her firmly, his tongue was gently playing with hers and she didn't quite know what to do with her hands, she was fumbling for his shirt, caressing over his chest, automatically searching for the buttons beneath his tie. Then his hands began to move too, sliding downwards, across her thighs…

"Oh," she winced a little at a pain from the last remaining wound on her left thigh, and Giles heard her quiet moan and stopped abruptly.

"What is it?" He asked anxiously.

"Nothing," she shook her head, trying to put on a casual face, he glared at her and wanted to say something, but she was faster: "Tomorrow!" She exclaimed, then blushed immediately, her mouth had once again been faster than her brains.

He looked at her a bit confused.

"Tomorrow… I-eh… I'll cook you dinner," she hurried to say. Giles raised his brows, wondering what brought the odd suggestion. "Eh-… except that-eh… I can't cook," she said, looking rather desperate.

He smiled, then looked at his watch and got up. "I must go now, I promised Willow and Xander to come along and have a look at a few locations for Saturday. They're planning Buffy's surprise party."

"Oh," she said, a little taken aback and disappointed that he was leaving again, then got up herself.

"You know what?" He spoke, stroking her cheek again. "I-uh… I'll make dinner tomorrow, I-uh… fancy myself as rather good when it comes to cooking…"

"So I've tasted," she said, a smile returned upon her lips.

"… and then we'll have a nice, quiet…," he cleared his throat, the words or maybe not so quiet were on his tongue, "uh-evening, have a-uh… toast-uh… t-to your recovery," he stammered.

"Sounds like a-eh… good plan," she answered, nodding nervously, feeling like a schoolgirl arranging a first date.

"Right then," he slowly moved towards the door. "I'll be off then, don't wait up, I might return late, I asked Buffy to come to the library after her tonight's patrol, something might – or might not – be going on."

"Alright, take care then, and be careful," she said. He looked at her once more before he left, regretting he had to go.

Though it was very early when Helen woke up on the next morning, Giles was already about to leave for work.

"Good morning," she greeted him descending the stairs.

"Good morning," he replied, putting on his tweed jacket in quite a hurry.

"And? Did you find a suitable birthday-party-place yesterday?"

"Yes, yes, we did, an old production hall in the eastern part of town, they're going to prepare everything tomorrow morning." He collected some of his books into his bag. He looked at his watch and cursed: "Bloody… I have to go now, Snyder wants to see me before the first period," he murmured and gave Helen a miserable look. "I wonder what about, but-uh… I think it's safe to guess that it won't be about anything-uh… pleasant." He suddenly straightened up, a terrified expression appeared on his face. "Dear lord, I hope he doesn't want me to take over the talent show this year again!"

Helen watched him amused as he was talking and rumbling in his bookshelves at the same time, until he finally gave up whatever he had been looking for.

"Well, we survived it last year, so we would do again," she said lightly.

"If you say so," he said drearily, apparently the scary scenario of being in charge of the next school talent event entirely took hold of him. "Oh, damn that book, I have to run now." He turned around, grabbed his bag and was about to leave, but turned around once more in the doorway to look at her. "Tonight, dinner, as I promised," he said in a more cheerful voice, as he was already looking forwards to it, the thought of the evening would hopefully get him even through the dreadful appointment with Snyder.

"I'll be here," she replied beaming at him.

After a short moment he nodded nervously, as if he had just realized what the evening was promising and the familiar heat of anticipation hit him anew.

AN: Next chapter – really – more than kisses . However I am off for ten days now, and afterwards for three months, going to do some – unfortunately not fan-fiction-related research, and am not sure if I can keep up with the posting as it's been till now, but I'll try. Possibly I'll have to change the rating, I'm not sure, I haven't dealt yet properly with the rating system, but maybe it will have to be M-rated then, so – just that you know in case you are following the story, you might have to check the M-rated stories later to find this one.