Content Harry Potter / Buffy Crossover
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Author Notes:

Well, my first post on fanficauthors. I guess I should put a little forward here to explain this one, especially for those who haven't been following it as I write on my own site. This is the story I swore I'd never write, I mean Harry Potter? Really? Please. Sadly, there are too damned many great fanfics out there (most of them right here on ffauthors) to ignore the genre, and sooner or later it was bound to bite me I guess. Still, for those looking for lots of Harry centered action... look elsewhere, at least for now.

While Harry is due to be an important character in this story, one of the pivotal character of the series, well we already know his story. I'm not changing Canon a lot until Goblet of Fire and later, so Harry is just Harry. Xander, the protagonist here, is new to the Wizarding World however and so it's his story we'll be following at first. And, since Xander isn't Harry, well a lot of wierd stuff just DOESN'T happen to him. This is more a story about a kid trying to find his way in a world he isn't familiar with, a kid who isn't under the kind of pressure Harry deals with, and who doesn't have the same crippling factors as Harry. Of course, he's not nearly as powerful and while he takes to practical work quite well, let's be honest he's not as smart as Harry.

In effect, we're going to be following an exceptional but otherwise normal young man as he grows up in a world that doesn't revolve around him. Xander in this story is more akin to James Potter than Harry, he has time to dream about fanciful things because his life isn't so screwed up that 'normal' looks absolutely wonderful to him. He falls in love with magic in the way that only someone non magically raised can, as Narcissa describes it later he is 'in lust' with magic, and that leads him to do things that most wouldn't consider. Luckily for his life expectancy, Xander hangs around with the likes of Willow Rosenberg, Wednesday Addams, and Hermione Granger... Girls smart enough to know when he's doing something idiotic and strong enough to call him an idiot to his face while slapping sense back into him.

For the next three years of this story, that's what we'll follow here. In year four, well, things start to change and Harry's life begins to veer from Canon. When that happens, the available screentime gets split a lot more evenly.

Now, in another dramatic shift from the norm, this is BETA Edited. Most of my work, as my many MANY detractors will gleefully point out, is riddled with various grammar and spelling errors because I post Raw text normally. Literally from my mind to my keyboard to you. I've toyed with the idea of writing in realtime for people obsessive enough to want to read literally word for word as I write it, but haven't gone that far yet. If I ever do, well, what you'd get then would be the same as what I normally post. Pure, Raw, and unrefined.

This first year of Shadow Council, however, has been beta read by Mercer to whom I owe a great deal of thanks and all posts here will be similarly polished. That also means that you have to wait for stuff here that shows up much earlier at my own site, but for those who shudder at the site of grammar and spelling errors, well here's to you.

Without further speechifyin, I do hope you enjoy the story.

Salem Massachusetts

  The Explosion that rocked the small estate outside Salem would likely have gone entirely unnoticed had it been even slightly smaller. The fact that it threw debris up into the air almost three thousand feet, however, and rained it down on the town of Salem put an end to any hope the Governing Board had of keeping it quiet from the locals.

  Luckily, they were tolerant of such things in Salem, having learned a long time ago that it was best to ignore the unusual as much as possible. The last time they’d really paid attention to the small estate had been in Sixteen Ninety Three, and they’d paid a price for trying to draw the Institute into their petty games of morality, religion, and politics.

  Even so, the damage control was difficult, as the local media started looking for the cause of the explosion and source of the raining debris, locals began expounding on old legends and things best left quiet, and the Institute found itself rather tightly pressed and actually unable to put their normal level of enthusiasm into repairs and such.

  Additionally, the explosion was proving... difficult to... well, stop.

****

  “Good Lord, Arthur, what were they mixing in there?” Stephen Smythe muttered, eyeing the gout of flame that was still coming from the Alchemical Laboratories.

  “I have my doubts we’ll ever entirely know, Stephen,” Arthur Fitzpatrick sighed, rubbing his long beard as he subtly shook his head. “I suppose we should move on to new business, however.”

  Stephen rolled his eyes.

  Only Arthur could speak casually of new business while a third of the institute’s grounds was covering in what basically amounted to lava, and choking black smoke continued to pour into the sky. He supposed that being a hundred and twenty years old had a generally calming effect on the man.

  “Very well,” He sighed, “I suppose that the most pressing is new students. The explosion has destroyed much of our freshman facilities, including the Dorms.”

  “Yes, I know, Stephen.” Arthur sighed, “I believe I have a solution, however.”

  “Oh?” Stephen asked, idly, his mind trying to identify where they would build new facilities.

  “Until we get this under control, rebuilding is... of course... out of the question,” Arthur said thoughtfully, “And I’m reliably informed that it will be at least six months before we can shut down the eruptions.”

  Stephen groaned.

  “Six months? Sir, that’s intolerable.”

  “I quite agree, however reality often is.” Arthur said in kind. “What I have proposed, and the Board has accepted, is that we offer new students placement overseas for the next year.”

  “Oh, Sir, you know that’s not going to go over well with the parents. Too many of their families left Europe specifically to keep their children from growing up with that bunch of lunatics.”

  Arthur glared at him crossly, but Stephen merely stared back unapologetically until the old man sighed.

  “Yes, well, be that as it may I think we can convince them. It is only for a year, after all, and it’s good for a child to be exposed to other cultures.”

  “Bog Rot.” Stephen opined.

  “Your opinion is, of course, noted. However, the proposal has been voted on and passed.” Arthur told him, “We’ll divide up the new names and make the presentations to the parents. If they refuse, well there is the option of home schooling.”

  “Five gets you ten that’s what most do.”

  “Do I look like easy money, Stephen?”

****

  Stephen Smythe sighed as he looked over the lists, casually dividing up the names and trying to determine who would go where, at least in theory. In practice it was futile, but there would be some who would accept.

  He eyed the lists carefully, noting which families could afford proper home schooling, and shifted those names lower on the list. The offer would still be made, of course, but they were far less likely to accept. He bit his lower lip when one of those names crossed his attention, however, and hesitated.

  This family could certainly afford home schooling, and in fact he was surprised they had submitted their daughter to the lists to begin with. That said, getting one of THEM out of the country... there were some people who’d worship him for that alone, and the family as a whole tended to be very close... who knew? They might all leave for a while.

  He moved that name far up on the list.

  It was wishful thinking, he supposed, but he needed what bright spots he could find.

  He chuckled softly to himself then looked over the rest of the names. No standouts that he could see, not after THEM... but two names did catch his eye. Not because of the names, but rather the location.

 ‘Oh Lord, we have two possible students growing up in Sunnydale??’ He stared, “Good God.”

  He reached for the intercom, “Sam, could you come in here please?”

  A moment later Samantha Hennessy strode into the room, her tailored suit formed impeccably to her body, and she nodded, “Yes Sir?”

  “I need you to get a recruiter out to Sunnydale immediately.”

  “Sunnydale??” Her eyes bugged.

  “Yes, I’m afraid we just picked up a couple names there,” He sighed, “Just showed up on the roles recently, I assume, or we’d have sent someone out there long ago.”

  “Uh... Yes Sir. Their names?”

  “Alexander Harris and Willow Rosenberg.”

****

Westfield New Jersey

0001 Cemetery Lane

  The recruiter winced as he looked at the house, shivering at even the *thought* of going inside the grounds. Everyone in the Community new full well to steer clear of the Addams’, it was an unwritten rule so widely known that it had actually been written down. He steeled himself and pushed open the gate, steadily making his way up the lane to the house.

  Once there he mentally reviewed the thirty eight poisonous or otherwise deadly species of fauna and flora living in their front yard and made a silent note to have the rest of the area combed by members of The Force who specialized in mystical cleanup. He didn’t expect that they’d find anything, the Addams were many things but clumsy was not one of them, but it wouldn’t do for many of the examples he’d spotted in the fifteen foot walk to make their way into normal New Jersey.

  He stopped at the door and sighed, again steeling himself, then pressed the bell.

  A scream greeted his efforts and he grimaced.

  Footsteps were heard a moment later, and the door swung slowly open.

  “Youuuuuuuu Rannnnnnnng?” A seven foot tall monstrosity demanded in a long drawn out groan, looking down at him with a calmly detached appearance.

  The recruiter forced himself not to run.

 ‘It’s not a Golem, it’s not a Golem, it’s not a Golem’ He told himself, hoping it was true. Again he had to remind himself that the Addams’ weren’t actually evil. Far from it.  In truth they were, in fact, one of the most well known mainstays against Evil in the new World. The problem was that only someone who access to their full files, and a Bureau Seer, would ever believe it.

  “Yes, Recruiter Henri to see Mr. and Mrs. Addams.”

  The Golem... ‘Not a golem. NOT a golem...’ just stepped back and turned away, apparently expecting to be followed. Simon Henri took a deep breath and did as he was bid.

****

Sunnydale, California

  Elizabeth Berkley shuddered. She truly hated being the Junior Recruiter assigned to Los Angeles. Whenever there was some little bit of nastiness that involved one of the Institutes students SHE had to be the one sent to handle it. The entire damned state was a loony bin, in her opinion, what with the demons and Hellmouth burning so brightly.

  It probably had to do with the geological activity of the area, or so most people believed. Geomancy was an ancient practice, almost entirely lost today, but the power in many of those old monoliths was proof enough in its potency. Much of the state was a power sink of one type or another, such that even the normal types were affected.

  One didn’t have to look much further than Hollywood or San Francisco for that.

  She sighed and determined to get on with it, however, and came to her first stop.

  The residence of one Alexander Harris.

  She looked up at the number by the door, confirming it, and knocked.

  After a long wait the door opened and she found herself looking down at a young boy of ten years.

 “Yes?” He asked.

  “Are your parents home, Alexander?”

  The boy stared at her for a long time and then nodded. “Mom’s here.”

  “May I speak to her?”

  “I guess.”

  The boy backed into the house, shrugged, and left the door open. “She’s in the kitchen.”

  Elizabeth sighed and stepped over the threshold, noting the total absence of any protective wards or even the most basic level of protections that even normal households enjoyed.

 ‘Perhaps they just moved in’ She thought, then instantly recognized that wasn’t the case as the place looked far too... well, ‘lived in’ was being charitable. She shook her head, put the thoughts out of her mind, and made her way into the kitchen.

  “Mom! There’s a lady here to see you!”

  Elizabeth’s expression soured involuntarily as she noted the open bottle on the table and the smell of liquor floating up from the woman inside. ‘Oh lord, I hate these calls’

  “Who’re you?” The woman asked, with just a barely detectable slur.

  “I’m Elizabeth Berkley, with the Salem Institute...”

  That threw a shot of steel into the woman’s spine almost instantly as she froze in place and the room became very quiet.

  “Mom? What’s wrong?” The boy asked.

  “Quiet for a moment, Alexander,” Jessica Lavelle said softly as she focused on the woman in her kitchen. “What are you doing here?”

  “Alexander’s name has come up on our roles and...”

  “He’s... He’s one?”

  “A Wizard? Yes, of course.” Elizabeth said, sounding confused.

  “I didn’t think... I’m not, you see... My family didn’t take it well...”

  “Ah.” Elizabeth sighed, beginning to get the picture. Some of the older families were still mired in the Old World, unfortunately, “I suppose they called you a Squib among other names?”

  Jessica sighed, but nodded as she looked at her bottle.

  The Recruiter shook her head and examined her notebook, “Yes, unfortunately that doesn’t surprise me. Your husband, he’s the same?”

  “Yes.”

  “The Harris family and the Lavelle’s, unsurprising I suppose.” Elizabeth sighed yet again. “Both originate from Ireland, your lines are not the oldest in America of course, but they are still as close to aristocrats as we tend to get. A lot of familiar inertia gets built up there, I’m afraid.”

  “But... Alexander is?”

  “On our lists, yes.” Elizabeth smiled slightly, getting a better feel for the situation. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely unsalvageable after all. “He would have been enrolled in the Institute for next year, however...”

  “Would have?” Jessica paled, “Why? What’s wrong with him?”

  “Absolutely nothing, I’m sure. No, the problem is a slight accident in the Alchemical Laboratories has left the Institute unable to handle a Freshman year in the next session,” Elizabeth sighed, “For that reason we’re offering support with home schooling...”

  “But we can’t teach him... we... we just can’t...”

  “Yes, we’re aware, the other option is overseas schooling,” Elizabeth suggested. “We’ve contacted several respected institutions, including your families’ traditional alma mater in Scotland; if you wish we can arrange a one year scholarship there while we work out other options closer to home.”

  “Scholarship? We can’t afford much...” Jessica said, “Our families...”

  “In this case I believe that we can arrange tuition and transport. That covers room and board, though Alexander will require any of his own spending money.”

  “I... I can convince Tony of that...” Jessica said with a stray gleam of hope in her eyes.

  “Excellent. I’ll leave you to it, then, please... contact us as soon as you make your decision,” Elizabeth paused, “Uh, you DO know how to contact us, don’t you?”

  “Yes, yes of course.”

  “Excellent,” She said again. “Well I have another stop to make, and then I can get clear of this town.”

  The Recruiter made her exit quickly, not noting the confusion on Jessica’s face as she spoke her parting words. Confusion quickly passed though as she turned to Alexander, who was looking at her with curiosity burning in his eyes.

  “What was that about, mom?”

  “That...” Jessica swallowed, trying to moisten her mouth, “That was someone who wants to offer you a place in a special school.”

  “What kind?”

  “Remember the stories I told you about magic?”

  “The bedtime stories?” Alexander grinned, “Course!”

  “That kind of school.”

  “C’mon mom,” The boy laughed, “Those were made up!”

  Jessica shook her head. “No, they were real.”

  Alexander frowned, “But... they can’t be real. They’re about magic!”

  “I swear to you, I didn’t make them up.”

  Alexander thought about it for a long moment, and then brightened suddenly. “Cool! Wait till I tell Willow and Jessie!”

  Jessica smiled, “I think you might have a hard time convincing them until you get your wand and learn some spells, and you won’t be allowed to do magic outside of school for a few years anyway.”

  “Aw... that sucks.” The boy pouted, then frowned, “Wait... if I go to this school...”

  His face scrunched up as he thought it through, then suddenly dropped as it clicked. “What about Jessie and Willow!?”

  “Alex... they can’t go...”

  “Then I don’t wanna go either!”

  “Alex...”

  “No! I wanna stay with Jessie and Willow...”

  “Alexander Lavelle Harris!” Jessica snapped, quieting him, “This is a very big deal, and it’s important for you. Jessie and Willow will be here in the summers, but this chance won’t come around again. You ARE going to go.”

  “I don’t wanna!” Alexander yelled back, “I don’t wanna and you can’t make me!”

  “Alex...!” Jessica said, reaching out as Xander broke free and ran out the back door.

  She sighed, shaking her head. Nothing was ever easy, it seemed.

****

New Jersey

  “Ah! Lurch, dear boy, who was it at the door?”

  “Guest.” The huge man groaned out as Simon came up behind him. “Recruiter...”

  “Oh? For what?” The man in the purple suit asked with a grin as he pulled the cigar from his mouth, “Have the Dodgers come to their senses and realized what they missed out on in Fester?”

  Simon paused, then shook his head, “Uh no... I’m here about... umm... Wednesday?”

  “I didn’t know she played baseball?” The man frowned, confused.

  “I don’t think he’s with the Dodgers, dear.” a woman in a form fitting black dress glided to the man’s side. “Why don’t we let the man speak, shall we cheri?”

  “Tish! That’s French!”

  Simon just stared as the man grabbed the woman’s arm and began kissing it obsessively.

  “Later, dear Gomez...”

  “Huh? Oh, right!” Gomez Addams said, eyes snapping to Simon again, “Now, what was this about?”

  “I’m with the Salem Institute,” Simon began, “Your daughter’s name turned up on our roles recently and...”

  “But of course she did,” Mortisha said simply, “We submitted her name years ago.”

  “Uh... yes, well you see there’s a problem.”

  “Problem? With Wednesday?” Gomez frowned, “Don’t be absurd.”

  “No, with the Institute, actually. You see there was an explosion and...”

  “Say no more, how much to you need!?” Gomez asked, producing a checkbook from thin air. “Five million?”

  “Uh...”

  “Ten!”

  “No, you see...”

  “You drive a hard bargain, Sir... Twenty it is!” Gomez said, scrawling out numbers on the check.

  “Sir, no, that’s not the issue...!”

  “Then what is it? Speak up, man!” Gomez said, exasperated.

  “The repairs will take time, money isn’t an issue however, we don’t have room to accommodate a freshman class this year.” Simon sighed, “We’ve discussed options with the board, and are willing to help with home schooling...”

  “We can manage, I’m sure,” Mortisha said, frowning, “But poor Wednesday was so looking forward to meeting other children.”

  “Well, there is another possibility,” Simon said tentatively. “The Institute has contacted several schools overseas and is prepared to offer placement with them, for the first year at least. Possibly more.”

  “Send our little girl overseas!? Nonsense, we wouldn’t think of it!” Gomez countered.

  “Dear, she did so want to play with other children.”

  Gomez frowned, “Well yes, I know, but...”

  “It’s not the hardship you might think, Mr. Addams,” Simon offered, “She would return each holiday, and all summer of course... Even at the Institute most children don’t come home more than that.”

  “He’s right, dear.”

  Gomez frowned thoughtfully, “Well we’ll talk to Wednesday about it and let you know.”

  “That would be perfect, Sir.”

****

Sunnydale

  Alexander ‘Xander’ Harris bolted from his home and ran through the backyards and driveways to the one place he knew someone would listen to him. He didn’t want to live his friends, couldn’t his mother get that? What was so special about some dumb magic school anyway? It was probably all some stupid joke, people always played stupid jokes on him and his friends.

  They didn’t do it twice, but there was always some new moron who thought they were soft and weak and unable to look out for themselves. Xander had learned the hard way how to deal with Bullies, at least the way that worked for him. He wasn’t big enough to fight them, so he took the beatings when he had to, but he didn’t forget.

  Don’t get mad, his dad had told him once while he was sober. Get even.

  Still, this didn’t sound like a joke. His mom sounded serious.

  Xander ran up to the Rosenberg house a minute later, frowning as he heard yelling from inside.

 ‘No one yells at Willow...’

  He approached cautiously, the yelling getting louder and louder, then suddenly the door flew open and he was surprised to see the lady from earlier get pushed out hard by Mr. Rosenberg.

  “And stay out of my home you... you... charlatan! I won’t have your apostasy in my home! Come here to corrupt my daughter! Get out! Get out of here I say!”

  The woman huffed, gathering herself up, and turned on her heel. Xander watched as she strode away, blinking in surprise. Mr. Rosenberg never got that angry at anyone.

  He was almost afraid to approach so he watched from the corner of the house as the woman looked around briefly, then drew out a stick and muttered something before vanishing in a crack that sounded like a gunshot from the movies. Xander’s eyes widened in shock as he took it in.

 ‘Magic IS real!!’

  He swallowed, sneaking around back, and climbed the tree to Willow’s room. Her dad was really angry, so he knew she’d be up there. He tapped on the window and she opened it almost instantly.

  “Hey.” She said, subdued.

  “Hey. You ok?”

  “Yeah,” She said, “Dad’s really mad.”

  “Yeah, I saw him toss the magic lady out.” Xander said, shrugging. “I guess you’re not going to that school, huh?”

  Willow’s eyes widened, “How did you know about that?”

  “She came to my place first,” Xander said glumly, “Mom is excited, she says I have to go.”

  “What? You can’t! Magic doesn’t exist!”

  “I just watched that lady vanish right off the street, Wills... and my Mom says it does.” Xander told her.

  “That’s impossible,” Willow told him with supreme confidence.

  Xander just shrugged, “Between reality and my own eyes, I’m gonna go with my eyes, Wills.”

  “But... but... you can’t believe in magic!” Willow blurted, “It’s... it’s... stupid!”

  “Hey,” Xander forced a grin, “This is me we’re talking about.”

****

New Jersey

  “Scotland?” The young witch asked laconically. “I’m to go to Scotland?”

  “Only if you really want to,” Gomez said hurriedly, assuring her. “You’re an Addams, we can arrange a tutor and...”

  “Scotland will do. It’s a good school, correct?” Wednesday asked, one eyebrow rising as she looked at her mother.

  “One of the best,” Mortisha said after some thought, “Though it IS in Europe, and they have... different ways than here in America.”

  “Oh?”

  “More steeped in the old traditions, less willing to see that not everything different is bad.” The woman sighed. “I’m afraid that they would look very crossly on Lurch and Thing there.”

  To someone who didn’t know her, Wednesday’s expression didn’t change, but her family noted the frown the instant it crossed her face and even the normally ebullient Gomez sighed and settled deeper into his chair.

  “The Old World Addams’ don’t involve themselves much with the Wizards and their type,” Gomez said tiredly. “We’re not welcome with them, and to be honest we’re fine with that.”

  “I see.”

  “You don’t have to go, dear,” Mortisha said, “this decision is entirely yours.”

  “I want to go.” the young girl said calmly. “It feels... right.”

  The two elder Addams’ exchanged concerned looks, but there was nothing left to say after that. Their daughter had made up her mind and that... well, was that.

****

Sunnydale

2 Weeks to end of Summer Vacation

  Xander shifted nervously, eyeing the man who’d been sent to pick him up with some trepidation.

  “No need to be worried, Alex,” His mother smiled at him. “You’ll do fine.”

  “He’d better.” Tony grumbled, thinking about the couple thousand dollars he’d put up for spending money for the boy.

  “Now dear, don’t be like that.” Jessica said mildly, but shooting her husband an arched glare.

  Tony sighed, his head nodded, and he turned to his Son. “Now listen to me, boy. I know a few things about what I’m going to tell you here.”

  Xander nodded eyes wide as his father leaned over.

  “Lots of kids in that school are probably gonna give you crap about being...” Tony frowned, looking over at the school representative from Salem. “What do they call it over there?”

  “I believe you’re looking for the term ‘Muggleborn’,” The man said smoothly.

  “Yeah, right. That.” Tony turned back to his son, “I know you’ve been reading those books we got you from Salem, right?”

  Xander nodded, “Yes sir.”

  Tony half smirked, shaking his head at the comment as he leaned in to whisper, “And less I miss my guess you got your redheaded friend to help you learn em, right?”

  Xander nodded again.

  “Ok, now listen close boy.” Tony said sternly, “You don’t start no trouble with anyone, but don’t you roll over for any of em either. You remember what I told you about bullies, right?”

  Xander nodded, “I remember.”

  “You’re no fighter, boy, but you don’t need to be to take on a Bully. So you remember what I said and you’ll do fine.” Tony said gruffly. “Long as you don’t act stupid in class and get kicked out.”

  “Tony!”

  “What??”

  Jessica shook her head, shoving her husband out of the way, “You’ll be fine, Alex. Now listen you Mr. Graden, try not to get in any trouble, and do your best. Ok?”

  “Ok mom.” Xander said sighing as he thought about the goodbyes he’d already exchanged with his best friends. Things were moving so fast, and he felt pretty lost.

  “Ok, now go along.”

  The representative of the Salem Institute smiled at him as Xander nodded and turned in his direction.

  “Come along, Alexander. Next stop, Salem.”

****

New Jersey

  “Ready to go, dear?”

  “Yes Mother.”

  “Fabulous,” Gomez said, clapping his hands. “We’ll run you up there ourselves. It’s been ages since we’ve seen Salem.”

  “Hmmm... The witch burning museum was quite amusing,” Mortisha conceded, “But I was terribly disappointed with all the false advertising.”

  “Yes well, it’s not easy to get ghosts to haunt restaurants, I suppose,” Gomez shrugged.

  “Perhaps, but you’d think that the Hotel would know better.”

  “Come now, darling, forgive and forget... we’ll try another place this time, alright?”

  “Yes, of course, dear... Merci.”

  “Tish! That’s French!”

****

Salem

  The tugging sensation in his gut let go and Xander stumbled, almost falling before Graden caught him, and he blinked to find himself somewhere other than his home.

  “Whoa.”

  “Careful there,” Thomas Graden said with a calm smile. “Port keys can take some getting used to. You alright?”

  Xander nodded, swallowing as he looked at what appeared to be a thirty foot tall volcano in the middle of school grounds. “Uh....”

  “Oh, that.” Grading sighed, “Yes, well, suffice to say that freshmen should always be monitored while playing in the alchemical labs.”

  “Students did THAT??” Xander stared, wide eyed, between the volcano and the man.

  “Yes, unfortunately.”

  “Wow. I’ve never done anything THAT destructive before.”

  “I should hope not,” Grading chuckled, “Very few students get a chance to blow up their school.”

  “A fonder dream I have never had.” Xander replied with a grin.

  Tom laughed, “Maybe its better we’re shipping you out to Hogwarts.”

“What kind of name is that anyway?” Xander asked, humor still lacing his voice.

  “Oh, I think you’ll find that the Old World wizards are full of strange names and terms.” Graden said, sighing now. “They’re really quite backward, at least by our standards of culture. Don’t underestimate them for it, however, their magical science is just as advanced as anything we’ve developed, and they’re even more comfortable with it.”

  “Oh yeah?”

  “Yes... this way please,” Graden said, guiding Xander away from the volcano, “They isolate themselves from the normal world, what they call ‘muggles’, and are entirely immersed in magic. We tend to mix a great deal more here, and generally have far fewer laws on the subject... well, far fewer laws in general really...”

  “Why’s that?”

  “Well, American witches and wizards mostly came over here to get away from the Old World way of doing things... and not very many came over, really, all things considered...” Tom said, steering his charge to the dormitories. “There was so much room here that a few hundred Wizarding families could really spread out and only interact when they chose to. We didn’t really HAVE a government until almost the Second World War, and only created what we have now in self defense.”

  “Huh?”

  “Let’s just say that the war was a little more complicated than you probably learned and leave it at that,” Tom sighed, “The European theatre was a terrible mess, entire Wizarding communities were caught in the crossfire... and to make matters worse, the whole Grindlewald affair actually set off a fair portion of the war...”

  “The uh... what?”

  “Oh dear,” Tom sighed, “You have a great deal to learn about the history of the magical world, but I’m afraid we don’t have much time for it now. I’ll make certain you get some reference books on it.”

  “Okay.” Xander said, unenthused by the prospect.

  It wasn’t that he didn’t want to know, but reading was a pain. Still, the magic books were sometimes kinda cool, with moving pictures and the like. He brightened up, there might be moving pictures of the war, and he’d always been interested in World War Two. If there was other stuff going on he’d never heard about, well he wanted to know about it.

  “Here we are,” Tom said, “You’ll be staying here until we gather the other students, then we’ll send you all on together.”

  Xander looked at the dormitory and his eyes widened. From the outside it had looked fairly common, but inside it was huge and filled with posters and bookshelves and all kinds of things.

  “Feel free to peruse the books; you can pick any of the rooms as you’re the first here. Just drop your things off and the room will automatically recognize it as yours.” Tom told him, “I’ll have a history of Hogwarts sent to you... please, look it over... you don’t want to be completely unprepared... particularly concerning their House System.”

  “Huh?”

  “Hogwarts divides its students up into groups according to their... defining motivations,” Tom said, considering his words. “Courage, Loyalty, Intelligence, and... well, Ruthlessness I suppose.”

  Xander recognized the word quickly enough and frowned, “Funny thing to have kids try to be.”

  “Yes well, the Old World is set in its ways, and Hogwarts has been around for a long time. It’s very much the magical world’s version of Oxford, complete with some rather odd traditions, but a very high standard of academic excellence.” Tom replied. “We don’t use the house system here, of course.”

  Xander nodded, thinking about it. Where would he wind up, he wondered? He liked to think he was brave, and he was pretty sure he was loyal... ok, he probably wasn’t going to win any points for brains. Ruthless, well... he had to be honest; he could be that if he had to be. Didn’t like it though, so he didn’t know what the school would make of that.

  “I’ll leave you be then,” Tom told him, heading out.

  Xander nodded, said bye and then went to find a room.

****

  Ok, the books WERE really cool, Xander had to admit.

  The ‘A History of Hogwarts’ was huge, and filled with some of the dullest stuff he’d ever imagined, but at the same time it had pages and pages of all kinds of cool stuff. Wizards sure were funny looking in Europe, Xander decided after only a few chapters.

  And what was with the names?

  Man, if he’d been named like any of those guys he’d have spent his entire scholastic life with his head in a toilette. When he thought of how easy it was to give someone a stupid nickname in Sunnydale, then looked at names like ‘Dumbledore’ and Slytherin... well, he was just real glad he was named Alexander. Xander wasn’t so bad as far as nicknames went.

 ‘Probably shouldn’t mention that though,’ He thought, ‘they might not know how stupid their names are.’

 The house system was kinda cool, once he went through it. Gryffindor got the brave kids, Hufflepuff got the loyal ones, Ravenclaw got all the nerds, and Slytherin... well, there he wasn’t sure. There was something wrong about the stuff printed about Slytherin, something that didn’t read exactly true.

  Xander wasn’t a big reader, but he could read between the lines pretty easy. Lots of people didn’t like Slytherin’s that was for sure. Still, from what he could tell there was nothing wrong with them on paper. The key traits weren’t ruthlessness, as Tom had said, but the willingness to see a goal through to the end, even if you had to get a little dirty to do it.

  Ok, maybe that was ruthless, but there was nothing wrong it that in Xander’s opinion. Just kinda dangerous, since it didn’t leave any guidelines for what your goal were supposed to be. Lots of room for pricks to make everyone look bad there.

  He put it aside, having found out what he wanted to know, and sighed as he settled into his temporary room.

  He was long way from home, he realized, and it felt pretty scary.

  Maybe if he didn’t like it, he could go back to Sunnydale... and Willow and Jessie.

  He kinda wished Willow’s dad had let her come, but then Jessie would be alone and that would suck too. He took a breath, forcing himself not to feel too bad.

  Better he feel bad than Jessie or Willow, Xander was used to it. He could take it. As long as he knew his friends had each other, he could keep on moving forward.

****

  It was two days later, and Xander was getting bored with reading about magic and not being able to try anything. Honestly, his interest had waned by the first night, but he’d kept reading cause he knew Willow would probably kill to be in his position.

  The sound of a car outside attracted his attention, however, and he eagerly headed to the door to see who it was. The car was a classic, no doubt. Xander knew a bit about cars from his Uncle Rory, though Rory preferred slightly newer vehicles. This one was a thirties Rolls Royce, Xander thought, maybe even older, and probably was worth more than just about... well, anything he could think of.

  It came to a stop and Xander gulped as the driver got out, towering over the vehicle as he stared, looking for all the world like Frankenstein’s Monster.

  “Whoa.” He muttered.

  The large guy walked around, opening the door for those in back, and one by one they climbed out. The woman was pretty, he figured, dressed in something that Xander just knew his mom would find outrageous, and looked like a vampire or something out of the story books. Xander thought about the fact that vampires were real and did a quickly glance upward.

 Ok, sun really IS shining... probably not a vampire’ Xander thought, frowning slightly. ‘Too bad.’

  A man in a suit was next, practically bouncing on his feet as he looked around and took a deep breath.

  “Tish! Smell that!”

  “Yes dear,” The vampire lady smiled, “Sulfur and brimstone. The students here do good work.”

 ‘Ok, they’re a little weird.’ Xander thought, listening to the conversation as the final occupant exited the vehicle.

  This one was a girl about his age or so, dressed similarly to her mother, and looking distinctly unimpressed with... well anything.

  “So this is Salem,” She said quietly, making Xander strain to hear her. “It looks... nice

  The man sighed, “Yes indeed, it’s sad how far things have fallen. Why I remember grand papa’s stories about running around town, making random accusations of witchcraft, just for fun.”

  “Do you suppose I could find someone to burn at the stake?” the girl asked.

  Xander paled slightly. ‘She’s kidding right?

  “Now dear, they’re still a little touchy about that here,” The woman said calmly. “Best you wait until you’ve got a few years in before you try anything as advanced as a stake burning anyway.”

  The girl almost seemed to pout, “But we did it last year at home.”

  “Yes, smashing time that.” The man grinned, and then frowned, “Too bad she got away.”

  “Yes, some people are rather more wiry than you expect, aren’t they?” The woman said fatalistically.

 They’re completely nuts.’ Xander thought, stunned as the group walked towards him. ‘They have to be, right?

  “Look, Wednesday Darling, a playmate for you!” The woman said, drawing the girl’s attention to Xander.

  “He looks... bright.” The girl said flatly.

  Xander frowned, looking down at the Hawaiian shirt he wore, “I like bright colors, ok?”

  “Excellent, my boy,” The man grinned, “Nothing wrong with a good splash of color now and then, makes your enemies blink before you slide the knife in.”

  “Darling, manners.” The woman said chidingly.

  “Oh right, what WAS I thinking of,” The man shook his head, promptly offering his hand to Xander. “Gomez Addams at your service. This vision of beauty next to me is my wife Mortisha...”

  “Cada-mia...” The woman smiled.

  “Tish... that sounded like French!” Gomez blurted before snapping his hand away from Xander, who was reaching to accept the shake, and grabbing his wife’s arm and kissing it enthusiastically.

  Xander’s mouth gaped open as he tried to determine if he was being set up for a joke or something, but the woman just sighed with a smile and pushed her husband away.

  “Later darling.”

  “Oh. Right, yes of course,” Gomes straightened himself out and looked back to Xander, grabbing his still outstretched hand, and pumping it almost violently. “This is our daughter Wednesday, and our butler Lurch.”

  The big Frankenstein guy moaned, sending a shiver down Xander’s back.

  “Uh... Xander.” He said, staring up at the big guy.

  “What?” Gomez blinked, looking between Xander and Mortisha, “Was that his name, or is he speaking some other language?”

  Xander shook his head, “Xander Harris, that’s my name. Sorry.”

  “Fantastic!” Gomez cried out, “Good to know, old chum! It gets confusing when people don’t know each other’s names or languages.”

  “Uh... yeah.”

  “Are you here for school?” Wednesday asked suddenly, peering at him intently.

  “Uh... yeah. I guess. I mean, they’re not taking students here they tell me, but I’m being sent over to Hogwarts or something like that.”

  “Oh good show! So is little Wednesday here,” Gomez grinned, “I’m sure you’ll get along fabulously.”

  “Uh...”

  “Tell me,” Wednesday looked at him, “Do you know how to play ritual sacrifice?”

  Xander swallowed, “Do you know how creeped out you’re making me?”

  “I say, man, there’s no need to be rude.” Gomez frowned.

  “Rude? She’s talking about ritual sacrifice!” Xander blurted, “I’m no expert, but most of the books I’ve read say that’s a bad thing.”

  “They what!?” Gomez growled, “What kind of school IS this place? Why I have a mind to...”

  “Dear...” Mortisha laid a calming hand on his shoulder, “be calm. You know that many people can’t wrap their minds around how we Addams’ are.”

  “That’s no excuse!”

  While Gomez raged, apparently just as passionate in anger as he was in greeting, and Mortisha worked to calm him, Wednesday moved closer to Xander.

  “Do I really creep you out?”

  Xander looked at her and just nodded.

  She tilted her head slightly to one side, “Is that really a bad thing?”

  “I’ll let you know when I figure out if you’re going to try and cut my heart out with a dagger.” Xander grinned in response.

  She sniffed, “Certainly not. I’m saving that for my wedding night.”

  Xander stared, his ten year old mind trying to wrap itself around that... and failing miserably. Finally he just shook his head and lifted his hand to chest level.

  “Just so you know,” He said, “Creep factor just went from here...”

  He moved his hand up over his head, “To here.”

  The girl looked at him oddly, but didn’t have time to reply before Xander shoved his hands in his pocket and went on.

  “But I’ll be damned if I can decide if it’s cause of the dagger and heart thing, or the wedding night thing.”

*****

  Orientation week, as the instructors liked to call it, came and went quickly. There had been around thirty or so American, Canadian, and some Mexican students who’d shown up, each being briefed on the schools they were being sent to.

 From what Xander could figure, they’d gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that each student went to a school where they at least spoke the same language. Which was good, in his opinion, to say the least. Some of the Canadians were sent to Beauxbatons in France, and a random handful from the group spoke German well enough to attend Durmstrang. The Spanish speaking were being sent to the Order of the Sun in South America.

  A few others were being shipped to smaller schools, and then those like Xander himself were being sent to Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

  Hogwarts, name notwithstanding, apparently had a fair reputation in the community from what Xander could tell. He wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that, cause him and school? Well, not a great mix in the past, and he saw no reason why that would change here. Still, it was all very exciting, and he found himself getting more and more eager to see the place in person.

  Wednesday Addams, on the other hand, seemed terminally bored. Which didn’t surprise Xander as much as it should have since she’d literally scared off every other student who showed up, and a couple of the teachers.

  He’d tried to make her laugh with his patented Willow Perk-Uppers, which went down like a lead balloon. He hadn’t fallen on his face that hard since he tried being friendly with Cordelia in kindergarten, yet there was still something about the girl that kept him trying.

 ‘I’m just a glutton for punishment I guess’ He thought glumly.

  Today was the big day, though. They were going to port key across the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain, and spend some time in a place called Diagon Alley before catching a train to Hogwarts. It was kinda scary, really, and Xander found himself chewing nervously on his lip.

  “It’ll be fine.”

  He looked to one side, the monotone voice almost but not quite startling him.

  “Huh?”

  Wednesday Addams looked at him for a moment, “You don’t have to be scared. I’ve read all about port keys, they’re perfectly safe.”

  “Actually I was thinking about being in Britain,” Xander admitted, “never thought of anything going wrong with the port key... until now, thanks so very much.”

  He smirked at her, waggling his eyebrows.

  Another pratfall.

  He sighed slightly as her expression remained entirely unamused, the dark look she shot him probably intended to inflict bodily harm. “Sheesh, Wednesday, you need to rent a sense of humor.”

  “So do you.”

  Xander sighed again, then stopped and did a double take, glaring at her suspiciously. “Was that a joke??”

  She gave him an even look, then turned away.

  “It was! Short, dark, and scary made a joke!” Xander grinned, “I’m gonna get you giggling yet, girl!”

  “I doubt it.”

  “Children! Gather round your designated areas!”

  Xander filed the odd gleam in Wednesday’s eyes as a potential chink in her demeanor, and vowed to make a project of exploiting and expanding that look. The two of them made their way over to the Hogwarts group and the professor who had been assigned to them.

  “Alright everyone,” He said, checking the old wind up timepiece on his wrist, “forty seconds, children. Everyone touch the key.”

  Xander looked at the beach ball everyone was grasping at and raised his eyebrow slightly, but did as he was told. The countdown started from ten, and everyone was touching it well before the key activated, and Xander again felt the tug in his guts as the world went lopsided on him.

  As the world came back the children went down in a heap as one tripped and fell into another, toppling the group like dominos until only Wednesday and the Professor were left standing. The dark girl looked down at them, one eyebrow raised as Xander looked up at her.

  “Is it comfortable down there?” She asked dryly.

  Xander shook his head and extended his hand, “Cut out the sarcasm and help me up would ya, man I’m dizzy.”

  She sighed and took his head, bracing herself to help him up, but Xander just grinned and suddenly put his full weight into pulling her forward and off her feet. She toppled to the ground in a heap beside him, and looked over as he climbed to his feet and brushed himself off.

  “Comfy huh?” He asked, smirking at her.

  Wednesday Addams stared evenly up at the boy who’d suckered her, then calmly extended her own hand. He smirked, but perhaps surprisingly took it and lifted her to her feet.

  “Of course you realize,” She said, standing even with him, “This means war.”

  Xander felt a shiver run down his spine, but kept the grin on his face. “Whatever you say, Daffy.”

  Wednesday took a deep breath, her nostrils flaring slightly as she let it out through her nose, then she turned her back on Xander and rejoined the group who were now staring at the two of them with an odd mixture of fear, awe, and childish skittishness. Given that the same mix was present on the Professors face, Wednesday felt that about the only person in the entire group worth knowing was at her back.

  The professor shook himself, and nodded down the street. “Alright, wands first, then familiars and school books.”

****

  Ollivander’s Fine Wands was, well Xander had to say it... to himself at least, was a hole in the wall shop. It looked like an old second hand bookstore he had been dragged to by Willow back in Sunnydale, and smelled surprisingly the same.

  The old man, Ollivander, Xander presumed, was waiting for them when they came in the door and nodded to the professor.

  “The little ones from America,” He said more than asked. “Well, well... let’s get on with it then.”

  He singled out the closest kid, a boy named Thomas Hardy, and within mere moments Xander found himself ducking for cover as sparks, flames, and what looked like lightning was erupting through the shop and blowing out shelves all over the place.

  “Holy!” He muttered, hiding behind a corner.

  Only the Professor and Wednesday Addams had remained unmoved as the experimentation went on, and for a while Xander stared at them in shock, but it slowly came to him that it wasn’t as dangerous as he’d thought and he crept out to join them.

  Ollivander quickly located the wand for Thomas, and moved on to another, plucking a girl named Joy from where she was hiding behind his counter. Her trials in finding a wand took a little longer, but were thankfully less spectacular. One by one the children found their wands, then Ollivander turned to Xander and frowned.

  “Hmmm...” He said, checking a list. “Harris you say?”

  “Uh... I didn’t actually, but yeah.” Xander muttered.

  The old man ignored him, “try this. Holly, twelve inches, dragon heartstring core.”

  Xander took the wand, eyeing it for a moment, then flicked it.

  He jumped as a force blew out the shelves for three rows, sending hundreds of wands flying down the aisles.

  “Sorry!” he yelped.

  “No matter, no matter. Here, Thirteen Inches, Vine Wood, with a Unicorn Hair core.” Ollivander said absently, handing another to Xander.

  Xander accepted it, swallowed, and then flicked it as he’d been told. This time there was a fizzle and pretty much nothing came out.

  “Hmmm... not quite. Very well, try this...”

  Xander accepted the stick from the man and flicked it, sending a shower of sparks across the room that threatened to light the place on fire. Ollivander extinguished the flames with a casual flick of his own wand and frowned deeply.

  “Most troublesome.”

  “Uh... I can probably get by and,” Xander started.

  “Nonsense. No one has ever left my shop without a wand properly suited to them,” Ollivander said sternly, handing him another one.

  Several more times Xander practically destroyed the shop, until he was becoming as jaded about it as Ollivander seemed to be. Finally the shopkeeper pulled out a wand that had been polished to a deep reddish tint and handed it to him.

  “Willow, fourteen inches, dragon heart string core.” He said calmly.

  Xander flicked the wand and was surprised to see a shimmering of lights come out that seemed to match what the other successful matches had been. He smiled, turning to Ollivander, but was surprised when the shopkeeper frowned.

  “Not quite right.” Ollivander said, looking perplexed.

  “It feels good to me.”

  “No, there’s something wrong.”

  “Uh... ok.”

  So they went through it again, and again, until everyone was quite tired of the whole thing, and still they found nothing. Ollivander sighed, shaking his head as he looked through the stores that were scattered all over the place. He finally went back to the Willow wand and drew it back out again.

  “A second time,” He said, handing it to Xander.

  Xander frowned, but nodded and flicked the wand to the same results as before.

  Ollivander looked downright put out by the results, but finally nodded, “That is the best match of any wand I have in the shop.”

  “We’ll take it,” The Professor said tiredly. “Wednesday, your turn.”

  “Very Well.”

  “Wednesday... Addams?” Ollivander looked up, his eyes widening as he visibly swallowed.

  “That’s correct.”

  For a moment Xander actually thought the old man was going to bolt or try to refuse service to the girl, but he finally shook himself loose of the effect her name had and nodded.

  One wand after another left the disaster area that had been a reasonably neat shop in no less of a mess as it would have been impossible to make things worse after Xander’s excursion through the wands, yet none of the sticks seemed to do well for the Addams scion.

  Finally Ollivander frowned deeply and took a deep breath, drawing out a wand from the bottom tier under his counter. He handed it to Wednesday, it’s black surface reflecting very little light as she accepted it.

  “Ebony, eleven inches, Dragon heartstring core.” Ollivander said with trepidation. “Very rare, not many wands use ebony...”

  “I’ll take it.”

  “I believe you should try it at least once, young lady,” He said sternly.

  “I don’t need to.” She told him, looking up at him. “This is my wand.”

****

  Xander had spent a great deal of his school life practicing the fine art of driving teachers to distraction, and knew the look intimately. Their chaperon of the moment had that look, in spades. He hustled them out of Ollivander’s, and across to the pet shop as fast as he could, clearly trying not to look at Wednesday as the girl caressed the smooth surface of her wand with an intent look on her face.

  Ollivander had the look of man due a major heart attack at any time as well, but Xander just chalked it up to a successful morning so far and eyed the pet shop with some anticipation.

  He’d never been allowed a pet, though he’d always wanted one, and now he was not only getting one but he was going to be permitted to take it to CLASS with him. Magic school really had some perks.

  Inside they found the place filled with animals of all types, and a few Xander had only imagined previously.

  “Please, children. Owls, cats, or rats are preferred.”

  The children made their way through the shop, picking out the animals of their choice, but Xander found himself gravitating toward another section where a young pup was looking up at him as if expecting him to say something.

  “Please Miss Addams, Owls, cats, or rats.” The professor said in the background.

  “I think not.” Wednesday said tonelessly as she went to the counter with a raven on her shoulder. “I’ll take him, please.”

  “Such a polite young lady,” The woman behind the counter smiled, ringing it up. “And who might you be?”

  “Wednesday Addams.”

  The woman went pale, hand shaking as she took the coins offered, and watched the young girl leave. Xander turned his attention back to the pup that was jumping up at him from inside the caged box.

  He made a decision in a snap, and scooped the pup up. If Wednesday could get away with a raven, he was going to get a dog.

  “Mr. Harris!”

  “He’s the one I want.” Xander said, not giving the teacher a chance to continue. He presented himself at the counter, noticing the woman was still staring after Wednesday. “Ma’am? Ma’am, I’d like this one please.”

  “Huh? Oh yes, certainly.” She said, numbly taking the money from him.

  Xander went immediately outside to wait the rest while the frazzled professor tried to keep the rest in line. He found Wednesday waiting patiently by the curb, the large raven cawing softly on her shoulder.

  “Nice.” He said, nodding to the bird, “You know, everyone seems to know you.”

  “They know the Addams’.” Wednesday corrected.

  “Famous family?”

  She almost seemed to smile for a moment, then shook her head slightly, “Infamous.”

  Xander frowned, thinking hard. “Isn’t that the same thing?”

  “Not exactly.”

  “Oh. Ok.” Xander shrugged, holding up the puppy he’d gotten. “I gotta name him, what do you think?”

  Wednesday looked over at the puppy and raised an eyebrow. “Fenrir.”

  “Huh?”

  “Fenrir.” She said with an odd twinkle. “He should get along well with Odin.”

  “Who’s Odin?”

  “This,” Wednesday said, gesturing to the raven, “Is Odin.”

  “Ah.” Xander nodded, frowning, “You’re naming your bird after the Norse God?”

  “You know mythology?”

  “I know comic books.” Xander grinned.

  Wednesday sighed, rolled her eyes, and then settled in silently to wait. Xander shrugged, knowing that he’d scored another hit even if she wouldn’t admit it, and settled in beside her as he held up the pup. “Fenrir, huh? That’s cool. You like?”

  The pup yipped once and licked his nose.

*****

  The American hoodlums had been cleared out of her shop finally, leaving the shopkeeper to sit in semi-stunned silence as her assistant came back in.

  “Gee Corsa, you don’t look so good.”

  “There’s an Addams attending Hogwarts,” She said as the young man went about cleaning the place up.

  “A who?”

  “Never mind,” She sighed, “You wouldn’t understand anyway. Kids these days.”

  “Hey! Who bought the Dire Wolf cub?”

  “What?” The shopkeeper frowned, looking over.

  “The dire wolf cub, he’s gone, who bought him?”

  A look of horror slowly passed over the shopkeeper’s face as she thought desperately back. “Oh my, I don’t know.”

*****

  Books were next, but there were no explosions, extreme confusion, or name dropping there so things went by fairly quickly as they were all outfitted properly for school, and then were quickly shooed along by the professor escorting them.

  School robes were the last stop for the day, and they each got two, though Xander scowled through the fitting constantly, hating the idea of wearing a dress to school. Only the assurance that everyone wore them made him give in finally, though he was still pretty unhappy about it.

  When they were done there they were herded back to their rooms to get everything in order for the next day when they would catch the train to Hogwarts to officially begin their scholastic experience.

*****

  Platform 9 and 3/4s. Xander shook his head at the silliness of it, though he had to admit that the hidden entrance was cool. Still, anyone who reads comic books like he did could figure out that it’s just downright stupid to have something supposedly ‘secret’ this much out in the open. He watched as two people walked through the illusion, vanishing from sight, and let his eyes rove around.

 ’Yeah. Thought so.’ He watched as two people, non magical types he presumed, stared in shock, then quickly moved away. There was no way to hide something that blatant in a place this wide open, Xander would be surprised if it hadn’t been reported to the press so many times by now that they were getting bored of it all.

  Oh, sure, they’d never believe it, but still... why take stupid chances any...

  Xander’s eyes narrowed as he watched a man step up to the two witnesses and wave a wand at them. ‘Did he just...?’

  “Children... get ready now.”

  Xander shook his head, focusing back on the group then.

  “Wait for people to look at the incoming train, then run through,” The Salem Professor said, nodding to the wall.

  Xander took a breath, then frowned as he saw a young boy wander right between them and the wall.

  “Hold... wait for him to move on.”

  The boy wasn’t moving though, he was looking around in confusion at the signs and finally he approached a uniformed guard. Xander sidled closer, trying to listen in.

  “Pardon me, Sir, but can you direct me to platform 9 and three quarters?”

  The guard looked at the boy like he was nuts, and Xander groaned. He glanced to one side, then the other, and was surprised to find Wednesday right there.

  “We should prevent him from attracting any more attention,” The dark girl said tonelessly, “Otherwise the guard will be obliviated, and there’s no reason for it.”

  “Right.” Xander said, moving forward as he put on a cheery smile. “Hey bro, what are you doing? Making a pest of yourself?”

  The boy looked confused, but the guard just shook his head, “Here now, push off, the two of you.”

  “I... but...”

  “Come on, bro, back to the group.” Xander said, pulling the other boy along.

  “Shut up.” Wednesday hissed as they came along side, “The guard has no idea what you’re talking about.”

  The boy looked almost pathetically happy to have been found by someone who did. “You... uh... are?”

  “A group going to platform 9 and three quarters.” Wednesday replied tonelessly.

  “Good work you two,” The Salem Professor smiled, “Sorry son, didn’t know you were going to Hogwarts.”

  “That’s alright Sir.”

  Xander found that their little group had grown by almost a full factor of two, with the addition of two red headed adults, four boys, and one girl.

  “These are the Weasley’s,” The Professor said, “Now, shall we move through before our little group crowds out the station.”

  “Yes Sir.”

  “Alexander, Wednesday, why don’t you go first with young...?”

  “Harry Sir.” The boy answered. “Harry Potter.”

  “B... b.... bloody hell.”

  Everyone turned to look at the youngest of the red headed boys, and Xander blinked to realize that they were all staring in shock. He looked over at the other boy, but didn’t see anything physical that might have triggered the response. Well, not other than a scar on his forehead, so he assumed it was the name.

  “Gee, I seem to be surrounded by celebrities lately,” He quipped dryly, earning him an intense stare from Wednesday. Of course, since everything she did was intense, he wasn’t worried about it.

  “Continue it on the other side, go on! Now, no one’s looking.”

  “You too Ron, go ahead and show them the way.” The older woman said.

  The youngest boy nodded and pushed a cart on ahead, heading right for the wall with Harry jogging after him. Xander matched his pace to Wednesday, who was walking with a dignified stride that nevertheless covered the ground almost as fast. The two ahead of them vanished into the stone wall, and they followed. Xander flinched hard just before walking into it, but quickly opened his eyes as bright light erupted around him and he found himself on a crowded platform with all sorts of weirdness rushing around.

  “Clear the way!”

  The call came from behind, causing both he and Wednesday to split smoothly as the two middle redheads came roaring through, riding their carts like race cars. Behind them the rest of the group streamed after. Xander and Wednesday waited beside Harry and Ron as the others assembled.

  “Are you really... Harry Potter?” Ron asked, his tone filled with awe.

  “Uh, yeah I guess so.” Harry seemed slightly perturbed by question.

  “Brilliant!” Ron enthused, “That’s fantastic! And you’re going to Hogwarts, first year right?”

  Harry nodded.

  “Absolutely brilliant.” The redhead grinned widely.

  “Nice to meet you, Harry.” Xander said, nodding. “I’m Xander, this is Wednesday.”

  “Hi,” Harry said, nodding to each.

  The Addams scion merely inclined her head in return.

  “Those are funny names,” Ron blinked.

  Xander and Wednesday looked at each other, then at him, and actually spoke as one.

  “Says who?”

  They looked at each other sharply again, then back to Ron and Harry who were staring at them.

  “Cor, do you two do that a lot? Fred and George do it all the time, but they’re twins.”

  “Don’t know, we just met.” Xander grinned, looking at Harry, “So, you’re famous I take it.”

  “Yeah, it seems so.” Harry said, rubbing the back of his head self consciously.

  “Of course he is! He’s Harry Pot-!” Ron blurted, only to be cut off when Harry slapped a hand over his mouth.

  “Not so loud, please!” Potter begged, “I don’t want to be stared at.”

  Ron’s eyes bulged, but he nodded in agreement.

  “Well, someone’s learned quick how to quiet my Ron down,” The older woman, presumably Ron’s mother, said as she approached.

  “Sorry, ma’am, but I...”

  “Please, think nothing of it.” The woman said with a smile, “We all want to do that to Ron from time to time. I’m Molly Weasely.”

  “Oi!” Ron growled, trying to summon what dignity he could.

  “Pleased to meet you ma’am.” Harry said.

  Molly turned to look at Wednesday and Xander, “Such quick thinking children, helping Harry out like that. And you are?”

  “Xander Harris, Ma’am.”

 “Wednesday Addams.”

  Molly was nodding politely to Xander when Wednesday introduced herself, then paused, almost choking as she stared. “A... Addams you say?”

  Wednesday raised a single eyebrow, but didn’t repeat herself.

  “Oh my. Oh my.” Molly stammered, pulling back.

  “Are you ok, mum?” Ron frowned.

  “I... Uh, yes I’m fine. Well, have a good year Ron. Harry, it was a pleasure to meet you.” Molly said, eyes never leaving Wednesday as she retreated to where he Husband was talking animatedly with the American Wizard. The children watched as she hissed something to him, his eyes bugged out, and he stared over at them. They hissed back and forth, then spoke softly to the Salem Professor, then stared some more.

  “Blimey. Mum never reacted like that, even to Harry here.” Ron blurted, staring at Wednesday. “Who are you?”

  “I believe I already said.” Wednesday said tonelessly, idly rubbing her Raven’s beak as he cawed softly.

  “Yeah, but I mean, I don’t get it?”

  “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me,” The dark young girl said before walking back to the American group.

  Xander glanced her way, then to where Harry and Ron were standing, and made a quick decision. “I’ll see you guys around school, maybe on the train.”

  Then he followed after her.

  “Weird.” Ron said, shaking his head.

  Harry raised an eyebrow, looking around the platform at the various oddities he could see, then looked back at Ron.

  “What?”

  Harry just chuckled.

****

  On the train the group filled up two compartments under the supervision of their Professor, who then nodded to them.

  “I’ll be taking my leave now. Behave yourselves.”

  “You’re leaving us alone?”

  “All children go to Hogwarts from this point on their own,” He smiled. “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. Just listen to the Prefects and Professors, study hard, and behave yourselves.”

  They nodded and watched as he left. Xander glanced over at Wednesday, who was seated by the window with the raven on her shoulder. He followed her eyes to where their professor stepped off the train and then with a jerking motion, they were moving.

  “I guess it’s really happening,” he said, feeling a little nervous.

  Wednesday just looked at him like he had said the stupidest thing imaginable, shook her head, and looked back out the window. Xander chuckled softly, “Man, it’s like dealing with the Anti-Willow.”

  That comment earned him another sharp look, though with a hint of curiosity rather than exasperation this time. It did not, however, earn him any words. Xander took the hint and joined in a conversation going on next to him between a girl from Colorado and a boy from Texas.

  Some time into the trip the door slid open to reveal a young girl with curly hair.

  “Hullo,” She said, looking around, “Has anyone here seen a frog?”

  The kids looked at each other, then back at her and shook their heads.

  “Oh drat.” She muttered, “Neville lost his somewhere and can’t remember where.”

  “Well I suppose if he could remember where it wouldn’t be lost,” Wednesday offered dryly.

  Xander snickered, quickly looking away.

  The girl looked narrowly at them both, but apparently didn’t feel like responding. “Well if you do find it, could let us know? It’s important, really.”

  “I could ask Odin to look,” Wednesday offered with a gleam in her eyes, “I suspect that he’s feeling a little... famished at the moment.”

  “Odin? Who’s...?” The girl trailed off, staring at the raven, and paled as she backpedaled, realizing what the ‘famished’ comment meant. “Err, no that’s quite alright. We’ll find him our way, thank you!”

  As the girl retreated, Xander sighed and turned to Wednesday, “That was mean, you know that right?”

  Wednesday merely shrugged.

  Xander shook his head, “I’m going to go see if I can help, I’ll let her know you were joking.”

  “Was I?”

  “That’s what I’m going to tell her anyway.”

  “Ah,” Wednesday said, tilting her head to one side as Xander left. She looked at the raven, “Odin, please, find the frog.”

  The bird cawed once, cocking its own head.

  “No, don’t eat him. Yet anyway.”

  The bird cawed again and fluttered off, out into the halls as Wednesday crossed her legs and produced a large leather bound book from her luggage. Everyone in the compartment stared at her until she looked up, matching their gaze. After that, they others quickly found other things to occupy their time.

  In the narrow corridors of the train Xander quickly caught up with the curly haired girl, “Hey, sorry about that. Wednesday has a strange sense of humor.”

  “I can tell.”

  “She seems alright though,” Xander grinned, offering his hand. “Xander Harris.”

  “Hermione Granger.” The girl returned, shaking his hand.

  “Cool. Good to meet you, you need a hand finding that frog?”

  “Thanks that would be very nice.”

  They moved together through the train, poking around where a frog might hide and asking if anyone had seen it with little luck. After a bit they made their way into a nearly empty compartment.

  “Excuse me, but have you two seen a frog by any chance?” Hermione asked.

  “Hey!” Xander grinned, “Ron, Harry. How’s the trip so far?”

  “We’re goof...” Ron said through mouthfuls of food.

  “Snacks? How come I didn’t see any snacks!?” Xander instantly complained.

  “Were you blind? We past the cart three times.”

  “Well you had me sticking my head in any corner a frog might hide, how was I supposed to see it?”

  “You can have some if you like,” Harry offered, smiling.

  “You sure?”

  “Of course.”

 “Thanks... what are these anyway?” Xander asked, looking over the pile, hoping for something he recognized.

  “Oh hey, are you doing magic?” Hermione focused on Ron, who had his wand out. “May I join you?”

  Xander looked over from where he had half a chocolate frog in his mouth, “I tough yuf anted oo ind the rog?”

  She didn’t even bother looking at him, focusing instead on where Ron was tapping his pet rat with his wand and telling it something about the color yellow. “Well, that’s not much of a spell, is it?”

  “I’d like to see you do better!” Ron instantly challenged her.

“Well, I’ve only tried some small spells, but they’ve all worked perfectly for me,” She replied, glancing over at Harry’s glasses. “Like this... Ocullar Reparo!”

  There was a small flash and Harry’s jury rigged repairs vanished from his glasses, instantly repairing the scratched lenses and cracked frame.

  All three boys stared, impressed.

  “That was brilliant!”

  “Thank you...”

  “Oh, I’m Hermione.” She said, glaring at Xander, “Since someone forgot to introduce me.”

  “Sowwy.” Xander shrugged, trying a jelly bean looking thing, then instantly gagging.

  “What? What’s wrong?”

  “Who in the name of all that’s holy would make a crazy glue flavored jelly bean!?”

  “Those are Berty Bott’s every flavored beans,” Ron said, “when they say ‘every’...”

 “They mean every,” Xander said, trying to spit the taste out of his mouth. “Gah!”

  “I have a better question,” Hermione said from where she sat, “How do you know what crazy glue tastes like? I mean, I’ve heard of eating glue but isn’t that a little... strange?”

  “What’s crazy glue?” Ron asked, confused.

  “Don’t ask.” Xander shook his head, “Let’s just say it was a stupid dare, and I regretted it very, very, quickly. I had a piece of popsicle stick stuck to my tooth for three days.”

  Hermione smothered a laugh as Harry chuckled, but Ron just looked confused.

  “What’s a popsicle stick?”

  Before Xander would answer the door to the compartment slid open again, this time to admit a slim blond boy and two boys that Xander instantly pegged as ‘goons’.

  “So,” The blond announced loudly, “I hear that Harry Potter is on this train, is that true? Are you him?”

  Xander glanced toward Harry, who just nodded.

  “Well,” The blond smiled arms wide in greeting. “I thought I’d offer to help you out, show you how to avoid making the wrong sort of friends...”

  The flick of his eyes to include the rest of the compartment left them with a good idea of who he considered the wrong sort.

  “Sod off, Malfoy!” Ron growled.

  “Red hair, hand me down robes... must be a Weasely.” Malfoy sneered. “Really, I’m surprised any of your lot can even afford to go to Hogwarts.”

  Ron surged up, but Harry was already between him and Malfoy.

  “I think I can tell who the wrong type of friend is on my own, Malfoy.” Harry said in a low, serious tone.

  The two groups glared at each other for a moment, only to be suddenly interrupted by a loud cawing sound as a black blur flew in and landed on Malfoy’s head.

  “What is it!? Get it off! Get it off!” The blond screamed, shocked.

  Odin, easily riding out the bucking of the boy, tossed his head in the air and catapulted a frog across the room to where it landed in Xander’s surprised hands. It cawed again, then cocked its head to one side and looked down at the blond head below, pecking at Malfoy three times before retreating to the frame above the door just before one of the goons pounded the slim boy over the head with a bag full of books.

  Xander winced as Malfoy went down in a heap, “That had to hurt.”

  “Oi!” Ron roared, “Bloody brilliant! Whose bird is that?”

  Xander shook his head, not answering as he looked up at the bird with a smirk on his face. “Wednesday, you ol softy.”

  He turned to Hermione, handing her the frog. “This belongs to your friend, I think?”

  “Huh? Right...” She said, accepting it, but her focus was on Harry. “Are you really Harry Potter?”

  He sighed, but nodded and pushed his hair back, showing the scar on his forehead.

  “Amazing.” She whispered, then smiled brilliantly, “I’m so very pleased to meet you.”

  “Likewise.” Harry smiled.

  Meanwhile, Draco Malfoy was being helped to his feet, wavering unsteadily as he glared up at the raven above him.

  “Vile creature! I’ll show you...” He muttered, drawing his wand.

  “Don’t.”

  The quiet voice startled them all as Draco froze, finding a wand at his throat, attached as it was to a hand and arm that had somehow snaked between his two goons. They parted instantly to reveal a small girl with a blank expression on her face as she looked at him with intense eyes.

  “Who are you?”

  She didn’t answer, merely extended her other arm for the Raven to land on, then backed out of the compartment. Once she was clear she just turned her back on him and walked away.

  “Hey! You can’t just ignore me!” Draco started to charge out after her, wand in hand.

  Xander cut him off, tripping him out into the hallway, leaving him sprawled up against the far wall in a heap. Then Xander stepped on the blond boy as he followed Wednesday, only glancing back to wave goodbye to the others.

  “See you in school, guys.”

  Ron just grinned, his face threatening to split as Draco sputtered and struggled with his two friends as they ‘helped’ him to his feet.

  “Bloody brilliant.” The redhead simply said, his voice filled with awe.

****

  “You didn’t have to do that.”

  Xander glanced to one side, noting that Wednesday wasn’t actually looking at him as she spoke, but figured it was directed his way anyway. “Do what?”

  “Trip him. I could have handled it.”

  “I’m sure you could,” Xander grinned.

  “Then why help me?”

  Xander shrugged, “Oddly enough, I find I kinda like you.”

  The dark girl looked over at Xander, eyes intensely searching his face for a moment, then she looked away and that was the end of the conversation. Xander waited for some response for a little while, then gave up on it. ‘Definitely the Anti-Willow.’

  He tried not to let it bother him, since he didn’t really care whether she was grateful or thanked him, or even was mad at him for what he’d done. He’d heard all the responses since meeting Willow in kindergarten, from hug to slap. Being ignored was a new one, he had to admit, but what the hell, she’d had her Raven find the frog and it hadn’t even eaten the little critter. Given it a heart attack, sure, but not eaten.

  Similarly she’d stepped in to help Harry when he was lost, not to mention the security guy who was probably closer to some kind of magical brainwashing that Xander really wanted to think about. ‘That’s wrong isn’t it? I mean, they just mess with people’s heads? That IS wrong... I think?’

  He was getting a headache thinking about that, actually. He wasn’t used to great moral questions and honestly didn’t know the answer. All the comic books he read said that messing with people’s heads was really bad stuff though, and he didn’t think Professor X would condone it just cause someone saw something he probably didn’t even believe.

  At just barely eleven years of age, though, Xander already knew that the world was more complicated than that. He knew that drinking was bad, but his parents did it... a lot. In fact, he’d seen adults do a lot of stuff that was supposed to be pretty bad, enough that Xander wasn’t really sure that his comics had been telling him the truth all along.

  He sighed slightly, but said nothing else as he absently played with Fenrir while the Hogwarts Express rolled on.

****

  The end of their journey was in the shadow of an imposing castle that brought Xander up short the second he saw it, and he wasn’t the only one. Several students caused minor accidents as they stared in shock, nearly getting run over in the process. It was like something out of a fantasy movie, the good kind not the historical crap, with all the trimmings.

  He was shocked out of his stupor by a rumbling voice echoing past him, “Firs’ Years this way!”

  He looked up, eyes widening, then looked up even further as a huge man came stomping in his direction, and Xander started looking around for escape paths just in case.

  “Hagrid!”

  The familiar voice of Harry Potter and the obviously eager tone calmed Xander down some, as he recognized that the other boy was certainly not afraid of the imposing figure.

  “‘Ello Arry,” Hagrid beamed, and right then Xander forgot his fear. This wasn’t a man who was going to hurt kids, that was pretty obvious.

  Xander moved forward, nodding to Harry, “Hey dude, who’s your friend?”

  “Dude?” Ron blinked, looking around, “Who’s dude?”

  Hermione sighed, rolling her eyes, but Harry just grinned, “Xander, this is Hagrid. Hagrid, these are my friends, Xander, Hermione, and Ron.”

  “Ello everyone, are you ready to go to Hogwarts then?” Hagrid beamed.

  They all nodded as the first years slowly gathered around, and were shown to a series of boats that would apparently be taking them across the lake to the castle. With the usual amount of trouble that came with guiding children, Hagrid got his charges where he needed them to go and within just a few minutes was hustling them into the school.

  They were standing there, waiting for this ‘sorting’ ceremony everyone kept talking about, and generally getting impatient, antsy, and nervous in the process when someone screamed, several other’s gasped, and Xander turned to find his eyes widening at the sight of several ghosts floating through the far wall, apparently discussing giving someone, or something, a second chance.

  The ghosts seemed to notice that they were being watched and paused in front of the assembled students.

  “Ah, first years I suppose?”

  “Yes Sir.”

  Everyone, Xander included, turned and gaped at how calmly Wednesday was as the ghosts looked at her.

  “About to be sorted?”

  “I believe so.”

  “Good, good,” The ghost, who looked like a friar nodded, “Hope to see you in Hufflepuff, young lady. That was my old house you know.”

  Wednesday didn’t change her expression as she gazed up at him, “That’s unlikely, Sir.”

  “Oh?” The Ghost grinned widely, “And why do you say that?”

  “I’ve read the requirements; I don’t believe I will be placed there.”

  “And where you do you expect to be placed?”

  The girl shrugged very slightly, “Not Gryffindor either, I expect. So Ravenclaw or Slytherin is my best guess.”

  The ghosts looked at each other, exchanging more in the glances than anyone could see, then the friar turned back. “I expect we’ll find out how right you are shortly, young lady.”

  The Friar looked back to the others and nodded, “We’ll be seeing you around.”

  As the ghosts floated off Xander noticed everyone shifting away from Wednesday and made a point to move a little closer. “You sure know how to get some extra elbow room.”

  “I was feeling a little crowded,” She deadpanned in response.

  “This way children, form a line,” A Professor introduced as McGonagall said sternly, appearing practically from nowhere, hustling them into the Great Hall.

 As everyone was ooh-ing and aww-ing at the fantastic night sky above them, Xander heard Hermione speak up.

  “It’s not real, you know.”

  “Huh?” Harry blinked, looking at her.

  “It’s enchanted to look like the sky,” She proclaimed, obviously eager to doll out the tidbit of knowledge. Xander almost chuckled at the satisfied look, bordering on true smugness, which crossed her face.

  “How do you know that?” Ron practically demanded his voice just short of an actual challenge.

  “I read all about it in Hogwarts, A History.”

  “Ah,” Xander sighed happily, “There’s my fix of Willowy goodness. Been missing that.”

  Harry, Ron, and Hermione looked over at him, obviously confused.

  “Never mind,” Xander said, just smiling easily.

  “Right.” Ron shook his head.

  The redhead was about to say something else, but was interrupted when the Professor brought out an old hat and set it on a chair. They looked on in confusion, and almost everyone jumped as the hat began to SING.

Oh, you may not think I'm pretty,

But don't judge on what you see,

I'll eat myself if you can find

A smarter hat than me.

You can keep your bowlers black,

Your top hats sleek and tall,

For I'm the Hogwarts Sorting Hat

And I can top them all.

There's nothing hidden in your head

The Sorting Hat can't see,

So try me on and I will tell you

Where you ought to be.

You might belong in Gryffindor,

Where dwell the brave at heart,

Their daring, nerve and chivalry

Set Gryffindors apart;

You might belong in Hufflepuff,

Where they are just and loyal,

Those patient Hufflepuffs are true

And unafraid of toil;

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

If you've a steady mind,

Where those of wit and learning,

Will always find their kind;

Or perhaps in Slytherin

You'll make your real friends,

Those cunning folk use any means

To achieve their ends.

So put me on! Don't be afraid!

And don't get in a flap!

You're in safe hands though I have none

For I'm a Thinking Cap!

  Some of the kids hesitantly applauded when it finished, then the professor began calling out names, starting with.

  “Addams, Wednesday!”

  Xander watched as the dark girl stepped calmly forward and had the hat placed in her head. He seemed to consider for a long time, then finally let out a call.

  “Ravenclaw!

  Wednesday set the hat aside and glanced down at the table of her house, then back at Xander for a moment. Finally she nodded to him and walked calmly to the applauding students. Xander clapped too, but he was more interested in the look on the Professor’s face as she watched Wednesday nervously the whole time.

  One kid after another was called up, then dispatched quickly to one house or another, then after some time it the call was...

  “Harris, Alexander!”

  Xander swallowed and walked up to the seat, knowing by this point that he just had to put the hat on, so he did. As soon as it was down over his head it began to mumble.

  “Hmm... interesting. Very interesting, boy. You’re one of the tougher ones to place, I’d say. You’ve got heart, loyal to a fault. The Hufflepuffs would gladly have you, no question. There’s courage here too, though your chivalry is a little rusty...” The hat chuckled at its own joke, just confusing Xander, “Your courage isn’t blind, but it’s more than enough to stand up to the requirements of a Gryffindor. The best I can say for your mind is that you might survive in Ravenclaw, though I expect you’d wish you hadn’t. Still... The only answer I can see is...”

  “Slytherin!” The hat yelled out after its long deliberation, and Xander rose up.

  He looked around then found the table with green colors and made his way over to it. Some of the table applauded, some were more stoic. Xander suddenly had a bad feeling in his gut as he looked at the adult standing behind the table, glaring at him as he approached.

 ‘Oh man. This is gonna SUCK.’  He suddenly realized, having an urge to then turn and rush back, demanding another try with the hat.

  Instead he just sat down and tried to make himself invisible as the sorting continued. His sinking feeling continued when the Blond kid he’d tripped on the train was sent instantly over to the Slytherin table, along with his two goons. School was looking to be about as good as it ever did he realized with a sigh, only half paying attention to the sorting until Harry was at the chair with the hat on his head.

  There was another long pause as the hat considered, apparently having the same problems with Harry as he had with Xander. Finally, though, the hat let out a roar of “Gryffindor!

  The Red and Gold table erupted then, with kids cheering and yelling ‘We got Potter! We Got Potter!’ Xander winced, and could hear the grumbling around his table. Harry’s got some fans at least.

  Ron and Hermione were also in Gryffindor Xander noted when it was all done, and he found himself sitting across the room from pretty much everyone he personally knew, and beside at least one person he’d found reason to dislike. ‘Oh joyous day.

  When the sorting was done the oldest man Xander had ever seen just clapped his hands and suddenly the tables were covered in foods of types Xander had only imagined, and he actually stared for several long moments as everyone else tucked in and began to eat.

  He shook it off quickly, grabbing some food of his own, and was well into his meal when a ghostly figure floated into view, apparently sizing up the Slytherin first years. Everyone shied away from him, but Xander had seen Wednesday speak to them earlier and just nodded to the rather gory spectacle as it passed by.

  “Hey man, how’s it going?”

  The ghost paused to look at him closely, leaning in as the two students on either side of Xander shifted away in a hurry. Xander leaned back, frowning, “Uh. No offense, but I’m eating here dude, and the Baron Harkonnen look is kinda freak worthy.”

  The growl the ghost let out sent a shiver down his back, but Xander stubbornly refused to back down and finally the ghost moved on.

  “Don’t talks much, does he?”

  “That was the Bloody Baron!” A student next to him hissed, “No one talks back to the Baron, he’s just here to look intimidating.”

  Xander glanced around and noticed that the other tables all had ghosts floating around them and they seemed to be involved in conversation. He filed the information away and just shrugged, “If he doesn’t want me to talk to him, he can tell me himself.”

  The boy looked at him like he was nuts, but Xander had long since determined that he was in a completely different world and the worst thing he could do right now is look like a pushover. He glanced longingly over at the Ravenclaw table, only to find Wednesday looking back at him, her own position just as isolated as his was. At the Gryffindor table, things were different. Harry and Ron were talking and laughing, and the group was generally enjoying themselves as everyone wrapped up their meal.

  As the dishes vanished to wherever they were sent, and Xander made a silent plea to whatever Gods were watching that he wouldn’t have to wash the damn things, the oldest guy on the planet stood up and cleared his throat.

  Xander listened half heartedly as he went on with the standard sounding rules that he’d expect, stay out of the forest, and behave, yadda yadda yadda. When the mention of ‘painful death’ came up Xander stiffened to attention, focusing on the old man. ‘What was that? Third floor?’

  While he was still trying to figure it out, however, the Headmaster had moved on.

  “And now, before we go to bed, let’s all sing the school song!”

  Xander frowned, watching as the Headmaster tapped his wand and shot out a ribbon that formed into words.

  “Everyone pick your favorite tune!”

  Xander found himself compelled to sing along as the whole school roared, the words spilling from him on automatic as his eyes flicked about. Everyone was singing, and not one was using the same tune as far as he could tell. The result was a deafening roar that slowly began to peter out as the faster tunes finished.

  Finally it was just two Gryffindor twins, Xander recognized as Ron’s brothers, singing in a slow funeral march tune. When they finished people applauded, the Headmaster loudest of all.

  “Ah music,” Dumbledore said, wiping his eyes. “Truly, a magic beyond what we do here.”

  Xander was ignoring him mostly, eyes on the twins as a smiled played around his lips. Those two were gonna be fun, he was willing to bet.

  “Alright, off to bed with you.”

****

  He was led to the Slytherin rooms by the Prefects, two tall seventh year students who looked rather dark and dreary in his opinion. They stopped at a painting of a pinch faced woman in English riding gear, staring haughtily out at them as she demanded, “Password?”

  “Draconic Fury.”

  The portrait swing open and Xander and the others got their first view of the Slytherin Common room. It was large, with two fireplaces providing head. Green tapestries covered the walls, and Xander had to admit that the place looked pretty comfortable. Despite the heat from the fireplaces, though, it felt cold as he moved through it. There was just something, cool about the room. Not cool in the good way either, but Xander couldn’t decide if it was in a bad way so he let it go.

  “Well well,” A sneering voice surprised him, making his turn around to see the boy he’d tripped standing behind him. “Look what we have here.”

  Xander’s heart slammed in his chest, and his stomach tied up in knots. He knew that there was no way he could take the three of them, and those two goons seemed glued to blondie’s sides. He sighed, “Draco, right? We have a problem, I suppose?”

  “That’s Draco Malfoy to you,” The boy sneered, “And I don’t have any problems, but you do. You helped that Gryffindor scum earlier.”

  “No, I kept you from going after Wednesday Addams, who is in Ravenclaw.” Xander corrected, trying not to let his voice pitch upwards from fear. “She is a friend, and I don’t know you.”

  “You should have stayed out of it!” Malfoy snapped, stepping closer.

  “You should keep your temper under control,” Xander countered, “From what I read; jumping into fights without looking is a Gryffindor trait, isn’t it?”

  Malfoy jerked back like he’d been slapped, frowning as he eyed Xander coldly for a moment. Finally he shrugged, “Fine. I’ll give you another chance.”

  Xander just barely kept from rolling his eyes at the snotty generosity he was being offered. Out loud he just nodded, “Thank you, I’ll give you one too.”

  Then he turned and walked away from the boy, who was tilting between turning purple and blue, apparently too incensed to respond. That was fine with Xander and he joined the group that was being shown to their rooms.

  The rooms were in a sub-floor below the common room, no windows, but well appointed enough to be comfortable just the same. Green seemed to be the color of the day, with white and silver as the preferred accents. Xander tested his bed and found it was more than he was used to, and he had a little hope that maybe... just maybe it wasn’t going to suck as much as he thought it was.

  He lay down, honestly dog tired, and closed his eyes. In short order he found himself fighting desperately to ward off the wave of homesickness that washed over him as he thought of Willow and Jesse, back home in Sunnydale.

****

  Classes started off quickly the next morning, with some seriously interesting subjects from Xander’s point of view. Charms, Transfigurations, it was all high grade superhero stuff in his mind and for once he was actually cracking the books.

  A lot of the novelty wore off pretty quick once he realized that the stuff they were teaching amounted to little more than children’s games, and could be done by most stage magicians. Of course stage magicians did it by sleight of hand and trickery, Xander supposed, at least that’s what they said.

  It did make him wonder.

  Charms class was pretty interesting, even if the guy who taught it put him in mind of a teacher he’d once had called Snyder. Ok, Flitwick was nicer and probably a lot better looking, but still the resemblance was there. Still, the Prof aside, charms was cool because it basically let someone put all kinds of spells on normal objects, letting them do some cool things. Xander could already see some interesting possibilities there, but he was going to need to get a hold of his comic collection in order to review and consider them.

  The problem was, however, that it was damned HARD to make them stupid things work.

  Swish and flick. Right. Xander was only eleven years old, but he could make SO many off color jokes about swish and flick that he was really happy no one back home could see him trying to do simple charms right now. The ability to completely change anything to do with the object would NOT make up for the humiliation he’d get from Larry, or the sneers from Cordy.

  Still, if he could pull it off, well... It had possibilities to be sure.

  Transfiguration was something else that was kinda cool, though it interested him slightly less. Changing one thing into another was good in a pinch, but honestly if he wanted a flower he could go pick one, he didn’t have to turn a piece of paper into it. Certainly he couldn’t think of any good reason to turn a match into a needle, not that he was ABLE to turn a match into a needle, but the point was still there.

  The week progressed much like that, and Xander was pretty relieved to find that no one seemed to have a huge lead on him or anyone else. Hermione was, pretty clearly, a Willow-smart witch, and she was going to build a lead on him to be sure, but for the moment just about everyone was within sight of his own starting position.

  Many of his classes were conducted with Gryffindor, interestingly enough, since most of Slytherin seemed to despise the ‘kitty cats’, and it was pretty clear that the cats didn’t much care for the snakes. That made those classes the next thing to unbearable if one was stupid enough to be caught between the active combatants in the two sided turf war.

  Xander made it a point not to sit anywhere near Draco and his Cronies, or the ‘Potter Crew’.

  After classes, though, was when things got pretty bad. Slytherin was a house divided, and Xander wondered if it was the same in the others. To the outside, Slytherin stood fairly tightly united it was true, but Xander thought that was because most of the school seemed to hate them and that made them tighten ranks.

  From the inside, though, it was clear that there were schisms so deep someone could fall into them and be lost forever.

  Xander nearly did just that on his second day.

*****

  “Mudblood scum...”

  Xander didn’t know what the first word meant, but the second word and tone filled it in nicely as he stepped up into the Slytherin common room and found himself once again staring at Draco and his goon squad, this time bullying a Slytherin boy.

  “I don’t know HOW you could possibly have been sorted into this house,” Draco sneered as the boy crawled back, bleeding from his nose as the Draco and the two larger boys loomed over him.

  “Probably because the hat put him here,” Xander said sarcastically from where he was leaning on a door frame.

  Draco spun on him, eyes widening “Stay out of this!”

  “You’ve had your fun, leave him alone.” Xander said, again fighting the urge to shake as he always did when dealing with kids who could beat him to a pulp. “What’d he do anyway?”

  “He was in my way,” Draco smirked.

  “Next time you’ll probably have less trouble if you ask him to move,” Xander noted, surprised by his own calm.

  Draco and the other two turned on him, leaving the other boy alone. “I see you didn’t take my advice to heart. Standing up for this sort of scum is a sure way to take his place.”

  “Yeah well, I’ve done that before,” Xander muttered under his breath.

  Of course, he didn’t even know the other kid, and that was a bit unusual. Normally he wouldn’t put himself in this position for just anyone. Getting the crap beat out of him for a stranger was gonna suck.

  There was no changing Draco’s focus now, though, and Xander tensed as the two monoliths moved to flank him.

  “Alright! That’s enough!” The four of them jumped as the Slytherin Prefect moved in, breaking up the conflict with a glare in Xander’s direction. “We don’t fight each other.”

  “Tell that to Draco and his goon squad,” Xander retorted.

  “You don’t know how things work here, so I’m going to let that go,” The older boy growled, “But we are Slytherin, no one else gives a damn about us, so we sure as hell don’t fight each other.”

  Xander glanced pointedly over at the boy Draco had been bullying, who was getting to his feet and wiping his nose clean.

  “If he wants to survive here, he’ll toughen up fast.”

  That was the only answer he got out it.

****

  As rough as it was for him, Xander didn’t see where it was much better for Wednesday. He didn’t have many classes with the Ravenclaw’s, so he didn’t have a clue how she was doing there, but whenever he saw her around she seemed as alone as he was.

  He made a point of checking up with her every day, at least once or twice, but didn’t really get much information from her when he did. Still, she didn’t ignore him entirely as she did pretty much everyone other than professors, and they soon were to be found sitting near one another when they had time. By the third day, ironically Wednesday, Xander was talking to her about his experiences in class and out.

  On Thursday, she finally said something back.

  He was talking about the fractions he’d seen in his own house, and the level of crap Draco and a few others put out when she looked over at him and simply said, “Why don’t you put a stop to it?”

  Xander looked at her sharply, “Have you seen the two gargoyles he has with him? Even if Draco was the kinda guy who could take a hint, he won’t with those two bookends. I’m starting to think I should have stayed home. School wasn’t always easy there, but at least I didn’t have to worry about being killed in my sleep.”

  Wednesday shrugged, “It seems to me that he’s not being very Slytherin.”

  “Yeah, you get that too?” Xander frowned, thinking to what he’d read, “There’s not very many that are, you know. Is it the same in your house?”

  “No. Everyone is very interested in learning,” She said in response, “At least...”

  “What?”

  “They’re close minded,” Wednesday said, almost sighing. “They want to learn from books and teachers, but they don’t want to know about anything that doesn’t fit into their nice little box shaped world.”

  Xander found himself staring, impressed that she could string that many words together in one go. He considered her words, though, thinking about it, “I wonder about the other houses.”

  “Why?”

  “Just curious mostly. You say that your house has some really intelligent stupid people; I know that my house seems to be heavy on the ruthless ambition, really light on the cunning. Wonder what the other two are like?”

  Wednesday shrugged, “Probably the same, in different ways.”

  Xander chuckled, nodding. “Yeah.”

  He sighed, shaking his head. “Alright. Fine. I’m Slytherin, whatever the hell that means. I guess I better learn to act like it.”

  Wednesday looked over at him, raising a single elegant eyebrow, “Oh?”

  “Don’t worry,” Xander smirked, “I’m not going to go overboard on the ruthless ambition, but a little cunning seems to be in order.”

  “Indeed.” Wednesday said softly.

  “And from the sounds of it, you may need to start teaching the Ravenclaw’s a few lessons too,” He suggested.

  Wednesday considered that. Honestly she didn’t care what they thought, or didn’t think, about her. She was here for her own advancement, not theirs. Still, she was growing bored with their attitudes, and the lessons were mindlessly simple enough to leave her with too much free time, so... perhaps a few games were in order.

  “Perhaps you are right,” She said.

  Xander smirked, “I know I am. Now, let me know if you need any help.”

  She nodded to him, “And you do the same.”

****

 Friday brought Double Potions with Gryffindor House, which really didn’t seem to be a good thing from what Xander could tell. Half the other kids around him wanted to strangle the Gryffs, and the other half seemed to be afraid of them to one degree or another. Malfoy was leading the first group, of course, and he seemed particularly eager to get to class.

  Xander figured out why pretty quickly when the Professor turned out to be the head of Slytherin House, the sallow faced man who’d watched the sorting ritual with an impassive glare the day before. He opened his lecture with a long spiel on bottling fame and putting a stopper in death, most of which flew right over Xander’s head, then turned almost immediately on Harry with a sneer that only seemed to get worse as the seconds ticked by.

  The Slytherin’s who’d surrounded Malfoy seemed amused by it, snickering softly as Potter was put on the spot, and Xander was pretty happy with his position suddenly. He didn’t think he’d stand a chance in hell of passing this course if he had to deal with that level of contempt.

  He was watching Draco, though, and mentally making notes.

  From what he could tell Harry was a pretty famous guy, and that was both good and bad. It had taken him only a little time to get the story from someone. Having his parents killed off had to suck, no doubt. Xander’s mom and dad were pains sometimes, but living without them? Xander couldn’t imagine it. They were his mom and dad.

  It was also pretty obvious that Harry was above average in classes, though for the moment that didn’t mean much of anything. As far as Xander could tell, though, the other boy had done nothing to earn the intense level of dislike from Draco.

  Or Snape, for that matter, Xander noted as Snape continued to rip into Harry with question after question that he knew that HE couldn’t answer. That went on until another Gryff, Xander thought was Neville, suddenly started breaking out in the worst acne Xander had seen since Jessie’s older brother turned fifteen. His attention diverted Snape tore into Neville for a bit until finally settling down to teach the class.

  Lots of stuff just didn’t add up, and Xander would be damned if he could figure it out. He’d run it by Wednesday later, for now he had to figure out how he was supposed to brew this gunk without winding up looking like Neville.

****

  Information gathering was slow, Xander found out over the week. There were so many things under the surface that he didn’t know about. Wednesday had come through, telling him quietly that Draco’s old man had been some kind of cultist back in the day, and the dimwit who got himself killed by a kid was the top dog of the group.

  This explained some things a bit, anyway. Harry supposedly offs the head dork, so all the lesser twits are left out to dry. Probably a lot of grudges there, even if it was pretty stupid to blame a kid for something like that. Xander wondered for a bit how Wednesday had found out, but decided he probably didn’t want to know.

  What he didn’t know wouldn’t get him expelled. He hoped.

  Flight lessons were up next, and Xander had to admit... flying? Now that was major league cool.

  They’d all turned out on the grounds, with brooms of all things being passed out, and the professor looking very sternly at each of them.

  “Alright, put your hand over your brooms and say ‘up!’”

  Xander frowned, doing as he was told. The broom shivered a bit, but that was it. It wasn’t the worst result in the class, not by a long shot, but Draco and Harry got theirs into their hands on the first try. Xander scowled at the broom, “UP!”

  The broom broke loose of the ground, missing his outstretched hand, and smacked him right in the face. Xander flopped back, hitting the ground with an expellation of air, and stared up as the broom floated above him for a few seconds, then dropped back onto his face for a second shot at him.

  Both houses were laughing to varying degrees as the professor rushed over.

  “Are you alright?”

  Xander didn’t answer as he glared at his broom, “Of course, you realize, this means war.”

  “Are you alright?”

  “I’m fine, Ma’am,” Xander sighed, getting to his feet. “Just caught me by surprise that’s all...”

  A scream startled Xander and the professor, and they both turned to see Neville rocket into the air like he was heading for orbit, his broom wildly yanking him along for the ride of his life. Hopefully not the LAST ride of his life. The professor, Madam Hooch went running after him, screaming at him to calm down until his ride ended with a crashing thud into the ground.

  Xander winced when they were told he’d broken his wrist, and were ordered to stay on the ground or be expelled.

  No problem. He glared at his broom, entirely unwilling to give the damned thing another chance to off him.

  “Give it back, Malfoy!”

  Xander turned to see Malfoy playing keep away with something golden and frowned. ‘God, does this guy have to cause trouble at every opportunity??

  He moved closer, unsure what to do, only to have the point rendered moot when Malfoy grabbed his broom and flashed into the air, challenging Harry to chase him. The look on his face when Potter did just that was amusing, but now Xander found himself looking around to see if the professor was anywhere in sight, and wondering how in the hell he could keep them from getting expelled if she came back early.

  Again, however, he didn’t have time to do anything as the duo took their dogfight on the road, so to speak, and dueled through the air over the school in what had to be one of the coolest games of tag Xander’d ever seen.

  It ended when Malfoy tossed the object away, Harry dove after it, caught it after a death defying brush with the ground, and was caught by his own head of house.

 ’Yeah. I see why he was sent to the Gryffs.’ Xander thought, shaking his head. ‘Being gutsy is one thing, but I don’t care what the hell Malfoy stole, it wasn’t worth getting killed OR expelled over. That was just reckless, not brave.

****

  Of course being reckless sometimes paid off as Xander found out a couple days later. Malfoy was fuming so hard Xander half expected him to spontaneously combust, and Harry was the reason why. Not only had he somehow survived Malfoy’s various schemes, but he was apparently now playing in the school teams for some kind of sport Xander had never heard of.

  It was amusing and all, but honestly Xander didn’t have time to pay any attention to it.

  Classes were getting harder, and the life in the Slytherin dorms was getting tenser.

  There were two distinct factions, Xander had learned, mostly being defined by the second years and older. The pure bloods, as they called themselves, were the first and strongest. They were probably about three quarters of the house, and basically lorded it over everyone else. Malfoy, though a first year, was solidly in their camp and even fairly high up in the actual ranks as far as Xander could tell.

  His family name had some serious clout; otherwise the various humiliations he’d already endured would have done some more damage to his influence.

  The other group was, well, everyone else.

  ‘Muggleborn’, ‘Half Bloods’, and a couple ‘Pure Bloods’ who’d made a stand. There were also several students of varying years that were pretty clearly neutral. They were all pure bloods as far as Xander could tell, the only classification that could be neutral. Xander himself was a bit of an odd duck, he found.

  He didn’t talk about his family, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to start now, so no one was sure where he belonged. His being a ‘Colonial’ both reduced and protected his status. On the one hand, he was a barbarian from the states, but on the other they had no way to check on his parentage or bloodlines. It gave him a certain degree of latitude that many others weren’t afforded, but it was pretty clear that he wasn’t going to be joining the pure blood group anytime in the near future.

  All things considered, Xander figured his best bet was keep his head down, don’t cause waves, and hopefully go to Salem Academy in the next year.

****

 They finally got a chance at some cool stuff in Charms class, when Professor Flitwick told them that they were ready to start making things fly. Of course, start was the key word. Xander found himself muttering the Wingardium Leviosa spell over and over again, to varying results. The only one of which that resembled ‘flight’ was when his feather exploded in a fiery rain of death and destruction that sent a plume of smoke three feet into the air over his head.

  Actually, it was pretty cool for all that.

  Xander was quickly distracted, like most of the rest of the class, by the Gryffindor side of the table where Ron Weasely was complaining about the impossibility of the task. Hermione almost instantly jumped on his case, her tone making Xander smile subconsciously as he clearly heard her correcting the red head.

  “You’re saying it wrong,” She told him, her voice travelling clearly across the entire room. “It’s Wing Gar Dium Levio Sa.”

  Xander only winced slightly as he saw Ron redden, instantly recognizing that the boy had a fair bit too much pride for his own good. Jessie did the same thing when Willow first tried correcting him, and it had taken a lot of work to keep the two from killing each other at first.

  “If you’re so good, you do it then!” Ron challenged her.

  Xander shook his head, now wincing for real as he actually smiled.

  “What are you smirking at, Harris?”

  Xander looked over at Malfoy and then nodded to the Gryffs, “Ronny boy over there just walked right into a wall. Watch.”

  Malfoy looked over as Hermione did a perfect swish and flick, clearly incanting the charm, and rose her feather with near perfect control.

  “Five bucks says Ronny turns red enough to hide in front of one of Gryffindor’s tapestries.” Xander said, chuckling.

  Malfoy found himself snickering slightly at the other boy’s obvious discomfort, then spoke up loud enough for the class to hear, “Good lord, Weasely, can’t you even get a simple charm right?”

  Xander grimaced, knowing damn well that Malfoy hadn’t done one yet himself, and yanked the blond back into his seat as Ron and Harry glared over at him.

  “Take your hands off me you... you... American.” Draco hissed.

  “Don’t be an idiot. What are you going to do if Ron challenges you to do better? Do you think you can cast better than her?” Xander hissed right back, “Cause I’ve known a girl just like that, and I’ll bet anything you like that she can out cast you on anything in the books.”

  Draco stiffened, “That little mudblood? I’m far more powerful...”

  “Maybe, but my money says she’s smarter. That’s not an insult, by the way,” Xander said, sitting back and trying to look normal. “She’s way smarter than me, and I know it. From what she said on the train she’s not from a magical family, so you probably know more stuff... but what she’s got in her books? Trust me, don’t challenge her on it. That’s her own territory.”

  Draco glared at him, but by then the class had settled down and moved on. Xander honestly didn’t know how the hell half the people in his House had gotten there. They were obviously NOT the cunning type and, the more he watched them, the more it was clear they weren’t even the ambitious or even ruthless types either. Oh, there was no doubt that most of them could be as brutal as all get out, but there was a certain level of... finesse assumed when you talked about being ‘ruthless’, and finesse was NOT the forte of any of the students he’d met so far.

  Malfoy was obviously one of the top dogs, even though he was a ‘firstie’ like Xander. His family name had some power, and he obviously swung a lot of clout around with his dad’s money bags. The two knuckle draggers that followed him around were proof of that. Pansy Parkinson had ambition, the way she tried sucking up to Draco made that clear, but the girl scored zero points of finesse and that was being polite.

  It was a lot like watching Cordelia and her sheep squad back home, really. Draco was the closest Xander could identify to an actual Slytherin by the qualities he’d read, but he was obviously either too stupid or too ignorant of how the world worked to make use of his advantages. Even at eleven years old Xander knew that there was simply no reason to court as much disfavor as Draco did, no matter how much money you had. It was like the boy was actively TRYING to get three quarters of the school angry with him.

  Most of the rest were worse than that, and that was being polite about things. There were a few, of course, that Xander couldn’t really put a read on. Daphne Greengrass, for one. She was pretty standoffish so far, and didn’t go out of her way to attract any attention. The quiet ones were the ones to worry about, Xander decided. At least in the long term, Draco was likely to be a short term pain in the ass.

  Charms class broke up, interrupting Xander’s thoughts, and leaving with another exploded feather and a couple disgruntled housemates shooting glares in his direction. He sighed and shrugged it off, stopping short though when they stepped out of the class room.

  “It’s no wonder no one can stand her,” Ron was saying, grumbling as he spoke, his words easily audible to everyone in the hall. “She’s a nightmare, really.”

  Hermione Granger stifled a sob and pushed quickly past them, bolting down the hall. Xander shook his head and walked up behind the duo as Harry looked over at Ron.

  “I think she heard you.”

  “No duh.” Xander said clearly, slapping Ron in the back of the head.

  “Oi!” The Gryffindor yelped, twisting around as he held his head.

  “If you’re going to be a sneak and talk behind someone’s back,” Xander said sarcastically,

“Try and have the cunning to make sure they’re not standing behind YOUR back at the time.”

  The Slytherin’s behind Xander laughed openly as Xander paused and looked at Harry.

“Well?”

  “Well what? I didn’t say anything!” Harry said defensively.

  Xander rolled his eyes, “Fine. I’ll do it.”

  Before either Harry or the rapidly reddening Ron Weasely could say anything else Xander had pushed through and headed after Hermione.

  The two looked at each other, “What was that about?”

  “He’s totally barmy.” Ron shrugged, “Total nutter.”

  “You two are useless tools,” Daphne Greengrass said, rolling her eyes as she walked past.

  “Hey!” Ron objected loudly.

  “What did I do!?” Harry asked his tone plaintive.

  The blond shook her head and walked regally past, “If you can’t figure it out, I’m certainly not going to tell you.”

  “Nutters.” Ron said, shaking his head, “They’re all nutters.”

  Draco chuckled nastily as he walked past, “My My Potter, you’re certainly scoring all kinds of points today aren’t you?”

 Harry and Ron glared at Draco as he walked past, and they both heard him as he chuckled and went on.

  “Maybe Harris isn’t such a waste; he seems to know how to put Weasely in his place at least.”

  Ron started to turn an alarming puce color, causing Harry to grab his arm, “Come on, it’s time for lunch.”

  “Right, mate. Lunch.”

*****

  Xander sighed; frustrated by the castle he was wandering through. He was missing a class, trying to find a crying girl he barely knew, and the damn place kept changing shape. He was about to give up when a ghost floated past.

  “Hey! Spooky!”

  The shimmering figure paused, looking back at him, then back down the hall.

  “Pardon?” The floating figure asked quizzically. “Are you speaking to me?”

  “Yeah, have you seen a crying girl come through here?”

  The figure didn’t answer him for a moment, looking Xander over. “You’re Slytherin.”

  “Duh.” Xander muttered, “Look, pal, I’m trying to find a girl who ran through here some time ago.”

  “But you’re a Slytherin.”

  Xander frowned, “What’s that got to do with anything?”

  “Slytherin’s don’t talk to me, I’m the Gryffindor Ghost.”

  “What? What kind of stupid rule is that?”

  The ghost looked taken aback for a moment, then blinked, “Well I suppose it’s not a rule per say, but it’s just not done.”

  Xander sighed, “Look, did you see her or not?”

  “Well, yes, actually.” The ghost said, “But she’s Gryffindor too.”

  “So? She’s crying dude!”

  The Ghost looked truly perplexed, head cocked to look at Xander closely. “Are you SURE you’re Slytherin?”

  Xander growled and stomped forward, actually passing right through the ghost and continuing down the hall. “Stupid effin ghosts... Dumbass Gryffindor ghosts... stupid house bullsh-“

  The Ghost known as Nearly Headless Nick watched the young Slytherin stomp off and bemusedly shook his head, causing it to wobble slightly. “Well he certainly has the Slytherin grumpiness down...”

  Nick turned after a moment and followed, curious and slightly concerned as well, but remained far enough back to be out of sight.

*****

  The first clue Xander really got to Hermione’s location was a small gaggle of girls walking through the hall ahead of him, whispering loudly and gasping.

  “Hey!”

  The girls, who were wearing Hufflepuff colors, shrieked in surprise as he approached, then got a hold of themselves and eyed him warily.

  “What?”

  “Did you see Hermione come through here?”

  The girls looked at each other, then back at him, “Why would you want to know where a Gryffindor is?”

  Xander rolled his eyes, “I just do, ok?”

  They eyed him darkly, “Well we never saw her.”

  The three stuck their noses up and walk passed him, leaving Xander completely confused as to what just happened. He shook head, and thought about it. The last time he’d had to go looking for Willow after Cordelia had ripped into her he’d gotten the same reaction from another group of girls who’d blamed him for making Willow cry.

  Since he was a Slytherin ‘asshole’, that was probably the case here too. Xander sighed, shaking his head.

 ‘Ok... Hermione is like a Willow clone, right? Where would Will go?’ Xander pondered, frowning.

  Well, the library came to mind, but actually that wasn’t likely. Willow loved the library, but she never went there when she was sad. Ok, what else? Xander grimaced; remembering that he’d had to pull Willow out of the girls’ bathroom the last time, and had caught a lot of heat for it.

  He sighed, steeling himself, and started looking for the closest girl’s washrooms.

****

  Nick watched idly as the young Slytherin found the lavatory the girl was hiding in and pounded on the door, calling out as soft as he could while still hoping to be heard on the other side. Oddly enough the boy seemed to actually be trying to comfort the Gryffindor girl. It was rather perplexing, actually. Nick tried to think of the last time a Slytherin had acted quite like this, and had to think back more than a few years. Before Grindlewald, actually.

  Of course, back then, Slytherin’s didn’t have quite as bad a reputation as they had garnered lately. Oh, they weren’t universally loved, to be sure, but they were respected at least as much as feared. It was really quite interesting, the old Gryffindor spirit mused.

  He really would have to speak with the Baron about it.

*****

  “Hermione?” Xander hissed, far louder than he wanted as he pounded on the door. “Are you in there?”

  With no answer forthcoming, he steeled himself and pounded again. “Is anyone there? I’m coming in!”

  “Go away!”

  Xander sighed, relaxing slightly as he recognized the voice as belonging to the genius of Gryffindor House. “Come on, Hermione. The carrot top didn’t mean what he was spouting; he was just trying to save face.”

  “I said go away!”

  “Damn it.” Xander groaned, “I hate this part.”

  He was about to open the door when a lumbering sound caught his attention and he half turned to look down the hall. His eyes grew wide as he watched the HUGE figure moving in his direction and he yelped, throwing the door open quickly and then slamming it behind him as he braced his back against the door.

  “You can’t come in here!” Hermione shrieked, “This is the GIRL’S Lavatory!!”

  “I really hope that HE knows that!” Xander snapped back.

  “He?” The girl frowned, confused. “He who?”

  Before Xander could answer the door shook behind him, throwing him clear across the room into a skid that finished him with lying at the floor by Hermione’s feet, one hand scrambling to draw his wand as the other pointed. “He Him Who Him Him!”

  Hermione’s stared down at Xander, face confused, but then she looked up as the door shuddered again and cracked opened, revealing a huge troll as it bent over and entered the room. Hermione did what almost any child her age would do in that situation.

  She screamed.

  Xander winced, scrambling to his feet as he pushed her behind him. “What IS that thing?”

  Faced with a question, Hermione reacted according to her nature and answered, sounding remarkably calm for someone who had just let out a blood curdling shriek of terror.

  “It looks like a Mountain troll. Th... There aren’t many of them in this area, and none are su-supposed to be able to get past Hogwarts w-wards.”

  “Great. We had to get the genius troll.” Xander muttered, waving his wand threateningly, hoping that the thing had some fear of them as many animals had fear of guns. If it didn’t, well Xander didn’t actually know any spells that he could use here so...

  “A little help here!?” He muttered, still pushing Hermione behind him as he backed away from the thing, waving his wand futilely as the troll clearly indicated no fear of either him or his stick.

  “How!?” Hermione blurted in his ear, “It’s a Mountain troll!”

  “You’re the book genius, right!?” Xander growled, flinching back as the Troll swung its club past them hard enough for the air to blast them in the face.

  “It’s a TROLL!” Hermione screamed at him, “Sure I know how to cast a stunner, but I’m not remotely strong enough to...”

  “I don’t CARE! It’s not like we have a lot of other options!!”

  “Fine!” She huffed, all signs of fear gone from her face and voice as she snapped at Xander, “You move your wand like this and say STUPIFY!!”

  A faded red glow burst from her wand, splattering against the troll’s face and caused it to snap back for a second, shaking like it had just been slapped. Then it growled at them and hefted its club for a heavy swing, roaring its anger.

  “Are you happy now!?” Hermione screamed, “We made it MAD!”

  “Oh yes, because it was trying to take SUCH good care of us before!” Xander snarled, twisting as he did, then grabbing her and spinning around. He used the force of his spin to throw her clear as he was tossed back in the other direction, just missing the splintering crash of the Troll’s hammer as it crushed the stonework of the bathroom.

  Hermione was sprawled in the corner as the Troll turned on her, and Xander shook himself as he got to his hands and knees and thrust out his wand.

  “STUPIFY!!”

  The blast was much brighter as the discharge slammed into the Troll, but the effect was largely the same. It did, however, momentarily confuse the troll into trying to decide between two targets. As it stared dumbly at them for a moment the door behind it burst open to reveal Ron and Harry, who froze for a moment themselves when presented with the Troll in real life.

  Then Hermione screamed again and everyone unfroze.

  The Troll turned at her, hefting its club again, and the two boys burst into action. They charged in, trying to tackle it from behind, only to be thrown clear. Ron hit the ground sliding, then slammed into the far wall with brutal force, leaving Harry hanging on for dear life as the Troll tried to knock him clear.

  Harry beat at the Troll’s head as best he could, his fists bruising but too little other effect, then reached around to pummel its face. The Troll grunted, more in frustration than any degree of pain, until Harry somehow managed to drive his wand up the Troll’s nose.

  THAT apparently either hurt or really embarrassed the big guy, Xander noted as it howled and started striking at its back with renewed vigor. Xander was about ready to try the stunner again when Ron Weasely let out a yell.

  “Wingardium LEVIOSA!!”

  Xander blinked, confused. ‘What the hell is he trying to levitate!?’

  The answer came when the troll’s own club rose up then slammed back down on its head, dropping troll and Harry to the floor.

  A deep silence fell over the washroom, panting breaths of the four students the only thing breaking it for a long moment, then a screech from outside startled them all into turning with wands at the ready.

  “What is HAPPENING here!?” Professor McGonagall snapped, striding in with Professor Snape and Headmaster Dumbledore on her heels. The three found themselves looking down the wands of four first years, which were in various states of distress but looked like they were uninjured.

  “Uh...” Harry said, looking around. “We uh...”

  “It’s my fault, professor...” Hermione began, only to be cut off.

  “No, it’s ours. Right, Harry?” Ron cut in.

  Harry blinked, then nodded, “Yeah. We heard about the troll and...”

  Ron looked around furiously, “And we thought we could handle him, right?”

  Xander shook his head as the Head of Gryffindor House grew redder and redder. “Bullshit.”

  Everyone stopped and stared at him in shock.

  “Mr. HARRIS!” McGonagall snapped, “Five points from Slytherin for your language!”

  “Explain yourself, Harris.” Snape hissed.

  Xander pointed at Ron, “He said something stupid, Hermione was hurt by it, she came here to compose herself. I followed, we never heard about the troll. I’m guessing those two did...”

  The two Gryffindor’s nodded miserably.

  Xander shrugged, then went on, “And decided to save their friend. Why they’re making up some dumbass story, I don’t know, cause it’s not like anyone did anything wrong in the first place...”

  He paused, then shrugged, “Except Weasely, who should learn to keep his mouth shut if he doesn’t have anything nice to say.”

  Ron turned bright beat red as Xander shrugged past them, then paused by the teachers and looked up at his head of house. “Just in case, Sir... How does one stop a Mountain Troll??

That stunner really didn’t work.”

  Snape stared, one eyebrow rising, “You successfully cast a Stunner?”

  Xander nodded, “Hermione too. Didn’t work on that thing.”

  “Excellent spell work,” Snape replied, “Five points to Slytherin. We’ll speak later.”

  “And five to Gryffindor as well,” McGonagall said, nodding to Hermione, before she turned on Ron and Harry. “However five points from each of your for not following instructions to return to your dorm rooms. Now come along, we’ll get you checked out.”

  Through it all the Headmaster remained silent; eyes twinkling as he carefully set the scene in his mind to reexamine later.

****

  “Poppy says that they’re all fine,” Dumbledore said with a sigh as he took a seat and faced the professors sitting in his office.

  “Well thank goodness,” Minerva said, shaking just slightly. The thought of how close those students had come to serious injury or worse shook even her Gryffindor courage, more than any attack on her own person ever had. “What were those boys thinking!?”

  “That they were idiotic Gryffindors,” Snape replied, snorting.

  Minerva shot him a scowl, but it was weakened by the fact that the headmaster seemed to find the comment amusing, and even Fillius was chuckling softly. “All very well for you to laugh, if they had been hurt however...”

  Dumbledore held up his hand as the laughter stopped, “We know, Minerva, and the only reason we can laugh is that it’s over and they’re fine. Still, Severus does have a point... Ronald and Harry were acting as one might expect for Gryffindor students who thought a friend might be in danger.”

  “True.” She sighed, then frowned slightly. “What about Mr. Harris? He had no reason to be there.”

  “True as well,” Severus replied with a matching scowl. “By all accounts he went looking for Miss Granger when Weasely shot his mouth off after charms class.”

  Fillius nodded, “I heard the altercation... to be honest, at the time I thought that Mr. Harris was merely taking advantage of an opportunity to score points off a Gryff.”

  “That doesn’t seem to be the case,” Albus Dumbledore said slowly, “The impression I received was quite different. Do Mr. Harris and Miss Granger know one another?”

  “Not to my knowledge,” Snape shrugged as the others agreed.

  Minerva couldn’t help but twit her colleague slightly, smirking as she spoke, “I suppose he was just being particularly courageous then... like Gryffindor, one might say.”

  “And one might NOT.” Snape snapped, eyes glinting.

  Dumbledore looked on in amusement as the two sniped back and forth for a few moments, then interjected, “Now now, quiet the two of you. Merely because one is a Slytherin hardly eliminates courage from the assets one might wield. You of all people know this, Severus.”

  Snape scowled, but didn’t respond.

  Pomona Sprout, head of Hufflepuff house, took that moment to toss a little more fat on the fire as the case may be. “Personally, I appreciated the Hufflepuff loyalty they showed one another.”

  Albus fiercely locked down on open laughter as both Severus and Minerva turned on the head of Hufflepuff house, their ire dripping from them as they defended the ‘honor’ of their houses. He shouldn’t find it so amusing, he supposed, but Severus and Minerva were so rarely on the same side of an argument... let alone so enthusiastic about it, that he couldn’t help but find it comical.

  “That’s enough,” He broke in gently, eyes dancing as he again calmed them down, then glanced at the one head of house that hadn’t put in his own two sickles worth, “Unless you have something to add, Fillius?”

  The short head of Ravenclaw merely smirked and shook his head, “No, I don’t believe any of them acted intelligent enough to be admired by a Ravenclaw, though Ronald’s creative use of a levitation spell warrants a mention I suppose.”

  Dumbledore did chuckle that time, nodding, “Quite so. Is there anything else?”

  “Yes, actually,” Fillius broke in, “It’s unrelated, however...”

  “Please, Fillius, what is on your mind?”

  “I’d like to ask the Hat about one of my students,” Fillius said softly.

  The other heads of house turned to look at him, curious. Most years no one felt any need to inquire after the Hogwarts sorting hat about its choices, however it did come up on occasion.

  “Indeed? Who, Fillius?”

  “Miss Addams.” Fillius admitted, shivering slightly. “The girl had literally terrified every girl in her year and most of the boys as well.”

  Dumbledore sat back, “In what way?”

  Fillius shook his head, “Honestly, I’m not sure. She’s not done anything I can find... Personally I think it’s just her very attitude, combined with the way she speaks. She’s quite intimidating.”

  Snape snorted, shaking his head. “Really, Fillius, intimidated by a first year.”

  “Have you paid any attention to her in class??” Fillius challenged.

  “Not that I recall,” Snap shrugged, then frowned. “Now that I think of it, she does seem to sit alone mostly. Quiet, studious... typical Ravenclaw.”

  Fillius quivered in place, obviously holding back some explosive retort. “Typical Ravenclaw students don’t calmly speak of chaining their fellows up in the dungeon and playing with Filch’s artifacts.”

  Snape raised a single eyebrow, “Indeed. Well now, that IS interesting. Albus?”

  The teachers looked to the headmaster, who sighed. “The Addamses are a very old family with... well known proclivities.”

  Minerva snorted, “They’re a bloody menace, you mean.”

  “No, I do not Minerva,” Dumbledore said sternly, “And I will thank you not to put words in my mouth.”

  The Gryffindor head flushed, but nodded.

  “No Addams has ever gone... precisely... Dark, as we mean the term,” Albus sighed. “That is to say, none have ever attempted to force their beliefs on anyone else. By any definition, they are a very dark family, but they strongly believe that people must make their own decisions. No Addams would have ever joined with Voldemort, I can assure you Fillius.”

  After shuddering slightly at the mention of You-Know-Who’s name, Flitwick nodded, “Still I would like to hear from the sorting hat, if you don’t mind.”

  Albus nodded and rose, turning to retrieve the hat from its place on his shelves. “You have been listening?”

  “Of course.” The Hat replied.

  “Have you anything to add?” Albus asked softly.

  The hat was silent for a moment, then began, “In Ravenclaw or Slytherin, that girl would go. Either house would be proud to claim her, I promise you both. The Raven’s mind will trump the snake’s cunning, though, and her future is a great one.”

  Albus frowned, then nodded, “Well there you have it, Fillius.”

  The head of Ravenclaw didn’t look happy, but he nodded.

  “Pardon,” Snape leaned forward, “What of Mr. Harris, Hat? He’s been caught in several fights within Slytherin House already, and tonight’s excursion with the kittens of Gryffindor have me curious.”

  Minerva stiffened, glaring at Snape, but before anyone could say anything the hat spoke up.

  “Ah, Alexander. The Heart of any Gryffindor, the Soul of any Hufflepuff.” The hat replied coolly.

  That sufficiently redirected the ire of Minerva McGonagall from Snape. “What!? You put one of my Gryffs in Slytherin!?”

  Sprout’s reaction was remarkably similar.

  “A Hufflepuff in Slytherin!? Are you insane!?”

  “Minerva, Pomona, please.” Albus sighed, calming them, then he looked at the hat, “Please, explain yourself.”

  The hat took a moment, then began to speak again.

  “At Gryffindor’s side, this one would stand tall, In Hufflepuff’s embrace he would only survive... Molded by Slytherin’s fist, however, this boy will thrive.”

  The professor’s looked at one another, more than slightly shocked.

  “What does that mean?” Sprout demanded, “Only survive? You said he had a Hufflepuff’s soul!”

  The Hat, however, had said what it intended and would speak no more.

  Albus frowned, sitting back as the professors argued, primarily Sprout and McGonagall he noted. Severus was glaring at the hat, his own thoughts occluded behind the Slytherin’s impressive shields. After a few more moments of argument, he leaned forward.

  “Well, I think that explains things.” Albus said calmly.

  “What!?” The two turned on him.

  He smiled at them both, “I too have observed young Alexander, and I believe I agree with the Hat. He is most certainly brave, and would do acceptably in Gryffindor. He does seem to lack certain Slytherin traits that I found perplexing until just now... however, with the hat’s comments concerning Hufflepuff, I believe I understand.”

  “Well explain it to me!” Sprout huffed.

  “The sorting hat’s job isn’t to place people in houses that fit their personality, contrary to popular opinion,” Albus said, surprising them into silence.

  “It’s... not?” Minerva asked hesitantly. “But, Albus...”

  The headmaster smiled, waving a hand, “Oh that is how it generally works out, Minerva... in fact, that is how the hat will make its choice, barring any other information. In this case, I feel that Alexander is jarringly lacking in the ambition that Salazar held in high regard. That lack, in Hufflepuff, would lead him to fall into mediocrity... As we’ve seen tonight, I do not believe that he is fated for that. Slytherin will challenge him, force him to grow. It should be a fascinating process to observe.”  Minerva huffed, “If he needs challenge, I have no doubt my Gryffs could provide it.”

  “Perhaps. Perhaps not.” Albus shrugged, “In either case, the point is moot. Alexander shows no interest in challenging his placement, and I don’t see Severus gnashing his teeth at the situation.”

  The two women looked at Snape, who merely shrugged. “The boy is no worse, nor any better, than most of my students. I see no reason to cause a scandal over some insignificant child.”

  Minerva began to stiffen, words of censure coming to her lips, but Albus smoothly cut her off.

  “Indeed, well then, any other business?”

****

  Severus Snape paused at the face of the blank wall that led to the Slytherin Common Room, considering what he had learned so far. Potter was, as expected, a foolish Gryffindor with delusions of adequacy. His fame and, as much as Snape hated to admit it, the charm he’d inherited from his father, had already led him to gather together his own circle of delinquents.

  Granger and Weasely certainly seemed to fill the role of Lupin and Black, and Potter was quite obviously his father’s son.

  For the moment, however, there was his own little delinquent to manage. Severus glared at the wall and it slid open without him saying a word, leading the professor to smirk in satisfaction as he stepped inside.

  Harris was sitting by the fire, and Severus took a few seconds to observe the boy.

  As expected, he was alone. He hadn’t slid into any of the known cliques within Slytherin, and as far as Snape could ascertain, his own semi-close friend was Fillius’ stray raven, the Addams scion. The boy was petting a puppy of all things, which Snape found utterly disgusting until he realized that it must be the boy’s familiar.

  Odd that, the school notes clearly suggested cats, rats, or toads. Severus scowled as he approached, “Harris.”

  “Sir?” Xander Harris said, head turning calmly to look at him.

  Snape snorted, realizing that the boy had been waiting to be approached. “Who taught you to cast a stunner?”

  “Hermione, Sir.”

  “Granger? I wasn’t aware that you two knew each other.” Snape frowned.

  “We don’t, Sir. She showed me while the Troll was attacking us.”

  Snape stared at the boy, schooling his face to an inscrutable glare. Try as he might he couldn’t even fabricate any evidence of falsehood in the boy’s expression, and that was mind boggling. First that Granger knew how to cast a Stunner, though he supposed that he shouldn’t be so surprised that the little know it all had read that far ahead. However the fact that she was able to teach it in the midst of a life or death situation and that this boy had been able to LEARN it.

  “Show me.” Snape growled.

  “Sir?”

  “Is there something wrong with your ears,” Snape gestured, “Cast at the wall.”

  “Yes Sir.” Harris said, swallowing as he drew his wand.

  Snape watched impassively as the boy mumbled to himself, obviously trying to psyche himself up for the task. Finally he slashed his wand, with the distinctive twist of a Stupify and snapped out the incantation. Snape merely raised an eyebrow as his wand glowed for a moment, spat a few sparkles then fizzled out.

  “That was hardly a stunner, boy.”

  Harris flushed, but nodded and tried again, to much the same effect.

  Snape was almost ready to tell the boy off for wasting his time when Draco Malfoy called out from across the room.

  “Having a little problem, Harris!? I hear that happens to a lot of you barbarians from America!”

  Snape shot a glare over his shoulder, annoyed at Malfoy for interrupting his time, and didn’t notice Harris’ face screw up in a flash of anger.

  “Stupify!!”

  Snape snapped around in time to see a bright stunner bolt flash across the room and slam into one of the Slytherin drapes and burst the tapestry into flames. He watched it for a moment, then stepped forward with his own wand raised.

  “Aquamenti!” Snape called, hosing the fire down.

  Silence reigned as he walked over to the wall and idly ran his finger along the scorched surface of the stone wall.

  “Impressive power for a first year, Mr. Harris,” Snape said calmly, turning back to the boy. He sheathed his wand and withdrew a book from his robes, handing it to Xander. “This is a reference of mystical beasts, their uses and weaknesses, and common spells used to contain, or combat them. The section on Mountain Trolls begins on page eighty two.”

  “Thank you, Sir.”

  “One last thing,” Snape said formulating a question he’d wanted to ask all night.

  “Sir?”

  “Why did you stop those twits from lying to cover for each other?” Snape asked, curious,

“Whatever they said didn’t include you.”

  Xander looked at him, then shrugged, “Always tell the truth, Sir. Lying is wrong.”

  Snape heard a snicker from behind him, and tilted his head slightly. “Is that so?”

  “Yes Sir.”

  Severus had the distinct impression that the boy was serious, but there was something else there too. Snape frowned, leaning in and speaking quietly. “I don’t mind telling you, that’s an odd statement from a Slytherin, assuming you mean it...”

  Xander just smiled slightly. “Lying is stupid, sir, unless you have a damned good reason. We didn’t, so I wouldn’t.”

  “And if you have a good reason?” Snape asked seriously.

  “Well then, Sir, I suppose having a reputation for being honest would help me out then, wouldn’t it?”

  Snape snorted, “It would indeed. Good Night, Mr. Harris. Try not to get involved in anymore Gryffindor foolishness, it’s beneath a Slytherin.”

  Snape’s robes billowed out as he turned and strode from the room.

 ‘Courage and Loyalty be damned, the boy may be lacking ambition, but he knows the meaning of the word cunning if nothing else.’

****

  The next day Wednesday Addams found Xander sitting alone, looking out over the lake. She quietly sat down beside him and they both stared for a while before either spoke.

  “You know about Mountain trolls?” Xander asked finally.

  She nodded, “We don’t have many in America, but there are three who are Addamses.”

  That brought him up short, and he turned to stare at her, “Really?”

  “Oh yes. Lurg is a great uncle; I think... maybe three times removed?” She shrugged, “He’s very nice.”

  “The one yesterday wasn’t too nice.”

  “Trolls are easy to anger, and don’t usually like humans.” Wednesday said calmly, “I imagine that he was very put out to find himself in a human castle.”

  Xander blinked, “I thought he broke in?”

  “Oh no,” She shook her head; “Trolls don’t like human buildings. They like their mountainsides, with natural magic’s reverberating around them.”

  Xander frowned, “That’s not in the book...”

  “Which book?” She asked, glancing over. When she saw it she grimaced, one of the few genuine emotions Xander had ever seen her make, “Oh. THAT book.”

  “You know it?”

  She nodded, “it’s a hunter’s book, Alexander. It details how to kill and capture mystical people.”

  Xander shook his head, “people? There’s no people in here... just a lot of weird animals.”

  She rolled her eyes, “really. Didn’t I tell you about Uncle Lurg? You want to tell him that he’s an animal to his face?”

  It was Xander’s turn to grimace, “Pass.”

  “I thought you might.” Wednesday said with a hint of satisfaction. “The book is accurate, as far as the facts go, just try not to listen to the opinions.”

  Xander nodded, “I’ll try.”

  “Good. Now, are you alright?”

  “Yeah. It was scary as hell, but we survived.”

  The Addams scion nodded, “Good. Now then... I need your help.”

  “Oh? With what?”

  “I want to know who forced that poor troll into the castle.”

****

  After Halloween the school quickly returned to what passed for normal in an ancient haunted castle entirely populated by pubescent witches and wizards, ghosts and, as near as Xander could tell, totally insane adult witches and wizards.

  Of course he was basing that conclusion on the Headmaster, the Defense teacher, and his own head of house.

  Of the three, Snape appeared to be the least nutty, but Xander suspected that was only because he was younger than Dumbledore and more disciplined than Quirrel. He obviously had a hate on for Harry, though it was only marginally worse than he appeared to hold for anyone dressed in Gryff colors, and there was no way that was healthy.

  No, given a few more years Xander was pretty sure Snape would be at least as insane as the Headmaster seemed to be... if not quite as senile.

  The big Gryffindor/Slytherin Quidditch match came and went, with the Gryffs taking the game when Harry damn near swallowed the ‘snitch’. His housemates were in an uproar, so Xander was frankly glad that he and Wednesday were working on the Troll Project.

  Those studies brought him into the library more often than he’d like, but there seemed to be little he could do about that.

 ‘Honestly, who wants to hang around a dusty old library??’ Xander thought not for the first time as he made his way in and nodded politely to Madam Pince.

  The Librarian nodded back and Xander found his regular table, cram session already in progress.

  “Honestly,” Hermione sighed in what was now a familiar sound. “I’m telling you there’s no such thing, I’ve read the reference material front to back. Trolls simply can’t interbreed with most magical species.”

  Wednesday merely raised a single eyebrow, eyeing the bushy haired Gryff with what was... for her... a tolerant look. “Really?”

  Xander snorted, shaking his head.

  This sort of thing had become quite normal in his life, and for the life of him he couldn’t decide if it felt like good old Sunnydale, or a nightmare version of his home town. Sure back home Willow would be constantly correcting everything people said, but here there was someone constantly standing ready to not only contradict her, but willing and quite able to prove her wrong.

  Sometimes it was funny; most times it drove Xander back to the Slytherin bunks where he could relax by listening to Draco whine about Harry.

  “Yes Really, it says so right in The Great Book of Magical Beasts.”

  “Beasts?”

  Hoo Boy. Xander grimaced, knowing that wasn’t going to go over well.

  “So you always trust the word of a bigoted fool who doesn’t bother to research his data over the word of someone with firsthand knowledge?”

  The words were delivered calmly, of course, Wednesday wasn’t the type to yell after all, but there was no mistaking the cool steel in her tone. Not if you knew her, as both Xander and Hermione did by now.

  The Gryff hesitated, stuttering slightly as she tried to parse her arguments.

  “W... well, I... I mean, it’s in the book and...”

  “Hey, Herms,” Xander started, smirking uncaringly under the glare the girl gave him for the nickname, “You do know that not all books tell the truth, right?”

  “B... but it’s a TEXT BOOK!” She protested.

  Xander paused, then shrugged and looked at Wednesday, “Well she has a point there. You’d think someone would have checked to make sure they’re teaching the truth.”

  “You would, wouldn’t you?” Wednesday replied dryly.

  “Hey, I’m not saying you’re wrong, I’m just saying that Herms has good cause to believe her source. It’s not like its some random book pulled out of a store. It’s in the library at our school as a reference material.”

  Wednesday seemed to consider that for a moment, then inclined her head just slightly. “I concede that her ignorance is not wholly her fault.”

  Oi. Xander grimaced rubbing his forehead as Hermione huffed up and started ranting about calling people that most insulting of words, ignorant. Playing peacemaker was such a pain sometimes.

****

  “Hey! Harris!”

  Xander paused, glancing back as Draco sauntered in his direction, the two ape like bookends following along behind him.

 ’This I do not need.’

  Aloud, however, Xander merely nodded. “Hey, Malfoy. What’s up?”

  The blond boy frowned, then looked up as if he actually expected to find something above him, causing Xander to suppress the urge to either roll his eyes or tweak the other boy’s nose while it was stuck in the air.

  “What on Earth are you talking about, Harris? There’s nothing up there.”

  Xander shook his head. “What do you want, Draco?”

  “I understand you’re hanging around with that mudblood of Potter’s, what game are you playing, Harris?”

  “Gee, why would I hang around in the library with a Ravenclaw and a Gryffindor who between them probably account for more brainpower than the rest of our year combined?”

  The sarcasm was apparently lost on the blond.

  “That’s what I’m asking you, Harris. What’s your game?”

  “We’re studying, Malfoy.” Xander said slowly and clearly, in a tone that would get the crap kicked out of him in Sunnydale. “You know, with books and stuff?”

  Apparently the Wizarding world, while it may have discovered sarcasm in the last couple years, had missed out entirely on condescension in the form of speaking as if to a four year old.

  “Why would you do that??” Draco blinked.

  Xander had just about had enough of things by this point. Not merely Draco, but the entirely school as a whole. The whole place stank of a mental ward, and he was finally starting to believe that it wasn’t some big joke aimed at the ‘muggle born and raised’.

  He reached forward and rapped the back of two knuckles on Draco’s forehead, clucking his tongue in time to the knocks to make a hollow sound echo through the old stone hallway.

  “It’s a school, Draco. They’re the two smartest people I know, around here anyway,” Xander shrugged slightly, unwilling to nudge Willow from the top slot out of loyalty as much as anything else. “You know, top marks and stuff? Is any of this ringing any bells?”

  “Stop that! How DARE you touch me!” Draco jerked back, slapping Xander’s hand and grabbing for his wand. “I should hex you right here!”

  “Go ahead.”

  “W... what?”

  “I said go ahead,” Xander replied.

  Draco hesitated, looking around as he sensed a trap. “What are you playing at?”

  “I’m not playing at anything. You think I’ve never taken a beating before?” Xander asked fists clenched to keep his hands from shaking. He could feel his heart pounding, like it always did when he found himself face to face with a bully.

  He couldn’t win this, not as a fight, and he knew it. But there were two things that tended to set a Bully back on his heels. First, having their target reverse the tables. That usually worked best, but Xander knew he couldn’t take the two blockheads, even if he could out hex Draco, which was frankly unlikely. The Second option was a target that simply didn’t bother fighting back.

  That one always messed with them.

  Oh, it wasn’t enough to just submit to a beating. That was what they thrived on. No, you had to take the beating and act that it was hardly worth your time. That was something Xander had learned to do a long time ago, take the pain and make it look like he was bored to tears rather than crying in agony.

  That sort of indifference always freaked everyone out.

  Draco, however, wasn’t having any of it just then. He was falling back from Xander, eyes casting about as his voice rose slightly.

  “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Harris. We’re just going back to the dormitories, stop trying to pick fights.”

  With that the blond and his bookends turned and hurried off, leaving Xander to ponder the rather odd outcome of the confrontation.

*****

  Christmas was looming quickly, and the Great Hall had been decorated accordingly in a fashion that put anything Xander had ever seen to shame. The floating decorations changed the normally cold feeling of the old castle to something far more festive, and it showed on the entire student body.

  Well, mostly.

  Some were so stuck in their ways that nothing seemed to impact on them, for good or ill. Xander ducked Malfoy and his goons for that reason, not wanting to put up with the downer they’d bring to the generally cheery mood. Wednesday and Hermione were, for the most part unchanged. Hermione because she rarely seemed to notice that the decorations were there, her nose being perpetually stuck in a book despite the efforts of Harry and Ronald Weasely to shake her out of herself imposed comas.

  That relationship had Xander shaking his head, but he supposed that you couldn’t hold saying something stupid against someone. Lord knew, he’d said some bad ones in his time and, if he were being honest with himself, would likely do so again. Still, Ron had been more than a little hurtful on Halloween, and it had been malicious, though probably only through his own stupidity rather than through actual intentions.

  Outside of Classes, which were going ok as far as he could tell, Xander tended to hang out mostly with Wednesday and Hermione or the other Americans attending. Either or, that is, since neither group could stand the other. Wednesday scared the rest of the American kids; her name alone seemed to spook them more than when someone said ‘Voldemort’ to one of the Brits. He had to ask her what she’d done to them sometime, but honestly Xander didn’t think he wanted to know.

  Hermione, well she had a reputation of a know it all, and few of the American kids wanted anything to do with someone who was constantly correcting everything they said. Actually, few of the British kids wanted anything to do with someone like that either come to think of it. Xander sighed, it had taken him years to gently persuade Willow that he didn’t need to be corrected for every little thing he said wrong, just the important stuff. The definition of ‘important’ was something he and Wills were still debating, but that was another story.

  Herms, however, had a lot more confidence in herself than Wills ever did, and as such didn’t mind correcting the entire school if she thought they had it coming.

  Xander was musing about that when a shout startled him as he walked toward the Great Hall for lunch.

  “Wait! Hang on, stop!”

  He twisted, but continued moving in the direction he had been and was blown across the hall when a light flashed in his face and something slapped across his body like the hand of God. He connected with the wall on the far side and saw stars before the world began to dim.

  In the distance he could see two figures run up.

  “Oh dear, Brother of mine, I believe,” One began speaking.

  “That we have most certainly made an error,” The other continued.

  “In judgment.” The first finished, then frowned, “Not our first, I must admit.”

  “Certainly not,” The other said cheerily, before looking down at Xander. “Is the ickle firstie alright?”

  Xander groaned, and rolled off the floor to his hands and knees before starting the long climb back to his feet. “What hit me?”

  The duo that Xander now recognized as the infamous bane of Slytherin’s everywhere, the Weasely Twins, glanced at each other then down at Xander and winced.

  “Ah, well you see,” The first began.

  “We were setting up a little harmless prank...”

  “Harmless!” Xander snapped, then winced and held his head. “Oh man, what a bump. What did I do to deserve your attentions anyway?”

  “Actually, we were laying in wait for Flint.” The first admitted.

  The second nodded, “Marcus has some payback coming for the actions of his team in the last Slytherin/Gryffindor match.”

  Xander closed his eyes, still holding his head. “And throwing him across the hallway is your idea of payback?”

  “Umm... well, not exactly.”

  “That is to say, not entirely.”

  Xander looked at them, and the both seemed to blush, which caused him to pale. “What did you do!?”

  “HARRIS!”

  The Weasley Twins bolted at the sound of Snape’s voice, leaving Xander standing there in confusion as his head of house stormed up.

  “Explain yourself, Boy.”

  “Excuse me?”

  “Your robes!”

  Xander looked down and winced, this time not because of his head but because of his clothing. Instead of the Green and Silver of Slytherin, he found himself wearing Red and Gold with the words ‘Slytherin Cheaters Never Prosper’ animatedly running around them. He gritted his teeth and just thanked God that he hadn’t continued into the Great Hall like this.

  “Sorry Sir, I seem to have run into some trouble.”

  “That much is obvious,” Snape said, moving to block Xander from the hall as he drew his wand. “Who did this? I thought I saw the Weasely twins, it was them, correct?”

  Now, to Xander’s mind, telling the truth here wasn’t even remotely an option.

  “Sorry, Sir, I don’t know.” he lied through his teeth.

  Snape eyed him closely, then snorted, “Just tell me, and I’ll handle it.”

  “Can’t tell you what I don’t know, Sir.” Xander replied stoically. “I have no idea who did this.”

  He could tell that Snape didn’t believe him, but didn’t care. This wasn’t a matter for the adults in his opinion. You didn’t go running to adults for every little problem, it just wasn’t done. The only question was how to handle the twins.

  Xander was pondering that while Professor Snape tried ending the charms on his robes, only to find that they had been trapped with various trigger spells that resulted in more and more rude insults appearing as fast as the Professor could eliminate them.

  Finally he exploded, “Fine! Back to the dorms and change then, and five points from Slytherin for being out of your house colors!”

  Xander nodded and retreated, deciding not to push the man any further as he seemed to be spectacularly frustrated both by the prank itself, his inability to disenchant it, and the fact that Xander refused to name the twin Gryffs.

  Down the hall, Xander turned to head down to the dungeons, ignoring the snickering from those who were watching him walk by. Twin hisses caused him to pause just out of site of those students who had been witness to his humiliation and glance to one side to see the twins hiding in an alcove and staring at him.

  “What do you twits want?” He snarled, seriously unhappy with the situation.

  “Oi! Listen to the ickle firstie,” the first smirked.

  “They grow up so fast,” the second sniffed.

  “Or they think they do, at any rate.”

  “True, oh brother of mine, true.”

  Xander sighed, “What do you want?”

  The twins looked at each other, then back at him.

  “We want to know,” The first said.

  “Why you didn’t tell Snape it was us?” the second finished.

  Xander rolled his eyes, “What do I look like?”

  “Well right now, you look rather like a suicidal Gryffindor...”

  “About to go into Slytherin territory in robes even we wouldn’t risk.”

  Xander scowled at the duo, and they held up their hands as they smirked.

  “But normally you look like an ickle firstie snake,”

  “True, brother of mine,” The second frowned, “but a snake would have gleefully let Snape string us up by our entrails.”

  “Excellent point, dear brother, so what have we here?”

  Xander smirked back at them, “Sorry, you got me mixed up with Draco. That’s not a Slytherin trait, that’s a spoiled rich kid trait.”

  “Is that so?” Twin One asked.

  “And what, pray tell,” Twin Two began.

  “Are Slytherin traits in your opinion?”

  Xander grinned openly at the duo, making them drop their own smirks and hesitate slightly.

  “Payback.” he said, then simply turned and walked away.

  Fred Weasely watched him go, then turned to his brother George, “Hmmm brother of mine, it would seem that the snakes have themselves an interesting new member.”

  “Oh I must agree, brother dearest.” George nodded in agreement. “What do you think?”

  “The same thing you do.”

  “Then it’s agreed, we watch this one.”

****

  Xander threw the charmed robes into a pile in the corner of his room, annoyed at the twins, though not so much as he supposed he might be. They hadn’t been aiming at him, afterall, and Flint was a prick.

  Still, he couldn’t just let that go without an answer. Oh no.

  Xander smiled slowly, no ignoring Bullies was one thing. Being the butt of jokes, however, was something else. The only problem was that he didn’t have a CLUE how to pull off anything like the twins had just done to him.

  But then hey, what good was it to hang out with geniuses if you couldn’t pick their brains a little?

  “I bet Wednesday will have some really... interesting thoughts.” He grinned to himself as he pulled out another set of robes. His stomach growled, and he hurriedly threw them on and bolted back for the Great Hall.

****

  Wednesday Addams looked up when her, well she supposed ‘friend’ was the best way to describe him, walked into the library. She hadn’t seen him at lunch, but had certainly heard the snickering from other students. He didn’t look terribly happy as he walked in, which she recognized as being out of character for the young man she’d grown to know.

  Apparently Hermione had noticed it as well as the verbose girl immediately spoke when she saw him approach. “Xander? Are you ok?”

  He curled up his lips, “Yeah, just dandy. I’ve got most of my House ready to strangle me.”

  Hermione blinked, “What ever for?”

  “I lost points.”

  “How many?” Hermione frowned, “I heard it was only five.”

  “Yeah, but Professor Snape took them. That basically is the same thing as being called a traitor.” Xander scowled, slumping into the chair.

  “What? But that’s insane!”

  “No, it’s the way Slytherin works,” Wednesday corrected mildly.

  Hermione growled, “That makes me so mad! That’s not how it’s supposed to work!”

  “Imagine that.” Xander muttered, looking around, “Hey Herms?”

  “How many times must I tell you not to call me that!?”

  “Uh... at least another time, I guess.” Xander shrugged, “Look, you don’t have any real strong attachment to the twins or anything do you?”

  Hermione glanced at him askance, “Why are you asking?”

  “I should think that is obvious,” Wednesday answered for him, “Revenge.”

  “Bingo.”

  “Alexander Harris! You could get into trouble, and if you wanted revenge why not just tell Professor Snape?”

  “This isn’t a matter for the teachers,” Xander shrugged, “It’s between me and them. It’s not like they tried to murder me.”

  “I hardly see what that has to do with anything,” She huffed.

  “Hey, I stand on my own, Herms.” Xander replied. “Some things you just don’t do, and run to the teachers with every little problem is one of them.”

  “I agree.” Wednesday said calmly. “What are you thinking?”

  Xander shrugged and frowned, “I don’t know yet. I’ve pulled a few practicals in my life, but nothing on the scale these two manage. They’ve got years of spell experience on me, and it’s pretty obvious that they’re no slouches in the imagination department. I don’t want to use the old cliché stuff, even if I could figure out a way to pull it off, it’s just not that impressive compared to some of the magic stuff they pull.”

  “True.” Wednesday acceded. “They transfigured your robes, I assume?”

  Xander nodded, “And charmed them, using some kind of trip wire trigger I think.”

  “Really? That’s advanced runic magic,” Hermione broke in, “I don’t think they’ve learned anything like that in class yet.”

  “So they’re working ahead of the grade too, huh?” Xander slumped a little. “Great.”

  He glanced behind him at the books, “Hey, I wonder if there’s anything in here on practical jokes?”

  “Honestly, Xander, of course there isn’t. This is a school library,” Hermione said as Xander got up and made his way to the shelves. “I told you, there’s nothing there.”

  “I’m just checking, Herms.” Xander replied, wandering the bookshelves as the bushy haired girl got up to follow him. “Not even in the P section?”

  “Oh honestly, this library is sectioned by category, not alphabetically.” Hermione rolled her eyes, “It’s a magical version of the Dewey Decimal System.”

  Xander blinked, then shook his head as he checked the titles and sighed, “So I’m guessing there’s no practical jokes section then, huh?”

  “No their is most certainly is NOT.”

  He nodded, “Figures.”

  Xander made his way back toward Hermione, only to freeze as one of the books literally jumped out and hit him on the head. “OW!”

  “Xander! Are you ok?” Hermione rushed forward, wincing as Madame Pince made herself known behind them with a harsh ‘shhh’.

  “I’m fine. I just got attacked by a book,” Xander scowled at the blank tome that had clobbered him. “Weird. There’s no title.”

  “No title?” Hermione took it from him, “Let me see.”

  “Hey!”

  She ignored him, frowning as she flipped it open, “it’s empty.”

  Xander took it back, glaring at her, “Empty.”

  “Yes, empty, Mr. Grabby.” She scowled at him.

  “Look who’s talking.” Xander shook his head, then he frowned, “What are you talking about, it’s not empty.”

  He had opened it to the inside cover page and was quickly enthralled to see elegant text appearing in cursive script.

  The Scholastic Grimoire of...

  Xander blinked when an animated image of a big black dog ran out into the page and started barking at the words, scattering the letters across the page, then chased them away.

  “Xander, what?”

  “Shhh...” Xander said absently, not looking up as he walked back to the table he shared with Hermione and Wednesday.

  The dog had finished chasing the words away, then paused and seemed to grin at Xander before jumping up and grabbing something out of the page with teeth and pulling down. Like a shade being drawn a new title page appeared before Xander’s eyes.

  The Maleficeum Maraudette.

  Xander blinked.

  The words ‘Sirius Black!!!!’ appeared in big black block letters, an image of a witch running out onto the page with wand drawn, casting hexes at the dog as she ran him off, a text bubble appearing above her as she seemed to scream at the dog, ‘Stay out of our journal you mangy mutt!’.

  “This is like watching a bug’s bunny cartoon,” Xander grinned.

  Hermione, who was now looking over his shoulder, frowned, “I’ve heard that name somewhere before.”

  Xander didn’t respond as the witch turned to him and sighed, shaking her head before turning to wave her wand around. The dog induced title caught fire and burned away, to be replaced by the original title, this time in its compete form.

  The Scholastic Grimoire of Evans, Prewitt, and Black.

  Then, below that, in smaller letters new words appeared and caused Xander to catch his breath.

  A guide to the Art of defensive pranking, or Marauding the Marauders.

  “Who do you suppose they are?” Hermione asked from beside him.

  “I don’t know,” Xander admitted, “I’m pretty curious about why the book attacked me, though.”

  Wednesday looked up, head tilted as she seemed to pay attention to them again. “You were attacked by a book?”

  “Look!” Hermione hissed, pointing to the book.  The page had turned on its own, and Xander began to read as words appeared.

  If you have found this book, then you are in need of its contents. Within you will find all our class notes from first year to NEWTS...

  Xander winced as Hermione gasped in his ear.

  However, having found and being able to read this book, it is likely the pages on defensive pranking that are of most value to you. Having attended school for seven years with those most annoying of pranksters, the Marauders, and with full knowledge that they have left many of their own artifacts behind as they too finished their Hogwarts education, we of The Coven have decided to seed this book for those who may yet suffer under the tyranny of a Marauder’s Rule.

  Xander blinked, looking at Hermione and then over at Wednesday. “I’m just going to go on record now as saying that, while cool, Magic is pretty creepy sometimes.”

  Wednesday just shrugged, but Hermione nodded.

  “May I?” Hermione asked this time, so Xander nodded and handed the book to her.

  She accepted it, and began to pour over it, only to gasp a second later.

  “What?”

  “It’s blank!”

  Xander paled, he needed that book, and quickly took it back. He frowned, noting the writing reappearing before his eyes.

  For security purposes this book may only be read when being held by the person whose need activated the charms. Be warned; use the knowledge within with great care. Any violation of the tenants of The Coven will result in the rescinding of your right to use this tome and its immediate return to its hiding place in the library.

  “Fascinating.” Wednesday said, for the first time taking an active interest in the happenings.

  “That’s not right.” Hermione huffed, crossing her arms as she slumped in the chair. “Books are for everyone.”

  “Not this one, apparently.” Xander said, flipping the pages.

  “Indeed. The charms work is extremely advanced,” Wednesday added, “In fact, I believe that some of them are approaching Master’s level.”

  Hermione reluctantly nodded in agreement, “She’s right. Whoever these people are, they’re really good at spells.”

  “Cool.” Xander breathed, then grinned, “So... anyone up for a round of torture the twins?”

  “I’m in.” Wednesday responded instantly, much to Hermione’s horror.

  Said horror only grew more pronounced as the dark child went on with a gleeful gleam in her eyes, “In fact, I have an idea for you already.”

  “Oh yeah?” Xander leaned forward, grinning wide.

  His grin dropped a few moments later, and his expression slowly morphed to match Hermione’s as Wednesday laid out her idea. He and Hermione looked at each other, naked fear warring with awe as they both shuddered.

  “Ah... maybe later,” Xander said after a long moment, “I don’t think they deserve that just yet.”

  “Pity.” Wednesday said with a shrug, then turned back to her book.

*****

  The book made for pretty cool reading, in Xander’s opinion. The three Witches who wrote it had apparently been scarily smart, but they each had their own personality that the passages they wrote were simply steeped in.

  Evans, who seemed to be the ringleader of the Coven, was a ‘Muggleborn’ witch whose skill in charms and potions was obvious even to Xander’s limited experience. Of course it helped that he was only permitted to read the sections she had revised specifically for first year students. She had been the one to enspell the Grimoire, though apparently this Sirius fellow had somehow managed to sneak in some handy work of his own during the process as every now and then a big black dog would show up and trash one of the lesson plans, apparently just for the hell of it.

  Prewitt, the second member of the Coven, was a mixed blood student apparently, or at least that’s what Xander through from the reading. She seemed to come from a pure blood family, but often commented on how she didn’t feel fully a part of the large extended family the bloodline included. Her lesson plans and notes focused more on transfiguration and what she called pre-arithmancy, which Xander was relieved to note was simple arithmetic with a primer on mystical number theory.

  Black, now there was a lady who had issues in Xander’s opinion. He could only assume that she was related to this Sirius fellow somehow, but she seemed to hold an aloof disdain for the man whenever his influence made itself known. Her specialties were Curses, Hexes, and Jinxes, along with an enormous section on Pure Blood traditions and culture, written with an aim toward educating the ‘unfortunate and ignorant victims of muggle society’. Xander thought she was mostly joking when she wrote stuff like that, since her two friends were obviously not part of the traditions she was espousing, but it was hard to tell because Black had the most reserved sense of humor of the three.

  What Xander found really interesting, however, was the houses each belonged to.

  That was right. Houses.

  Evans was a Gryff, Prewitt a Puff, and Black was Slytherin.

  Now these three made sense.

*****

  The Christmas break was rapidly approaching, and Xander would be relieved as hell when it finally arrived. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it, of course, but he just wanted some time away from his own House.

  He was, pretty much, officially persona non grata with the Snakes and had been since his encounter with the twins and his subsequent refusal to give them up to Snape. So far as he knew he was the ONLY Slytherin to have lost points from their Head of house, and as far as the rest were concerned that meant he had committed that most heinous of crimes... disloyalty to the house.

  Since the rest of the school had no interest in getting to know a snake, that left Xander with almost all his free time in the company of Wednesday or Hermione, or of course the few other American students who held very little stock in the house systems.

  Still, that meant that the only fun Xander seemed to have was in the library, studying.

  It was enough to make him cry.

****

  “What are you two doing for the holidays?”

  Xander frowned at the question, not knowing the answer really. “I don’t know. I guess I might go home, but Cali is a long way off.”

  “By port key it’s only a few seconds,” Hermione informed him, her tone taking on that superior sound it unfortunately tended to.

  “Yeah,” Xander allowed, “But international port keys are pretty expensive, and I don’t know if my parents can afford it.”

  “Salem Academy is covering those.” Wednesday entered the conversation, her eyes piercing into Xander as she looked up from her book.

  Xander grimaced, looking down as he pretended to read from the Grimoire he had taken to carrying around with him. “Yeah... well.”

  “Tell us.”

  The order in Wednesday’s voice wasn’t something Xander would ever have missed, even though this girl’s version of Willow’s ‘Resolve Face’ had little difference from her ‘normal face’. He sighed, “I don’t much like the holidays with my folks.”

  The two just stared at him and Xander sighed again.

  “Look, I love my mom and dad, ok, but they aren’t the best company around the holidays. They tend to... fight. A lot.” He told them, surprised by his own calm tone and candor. “I try not to be around them much then.”

  Hermione looked horrified, but Wednesday merely nodded in acceptance of the facts.

  “That’s horrible!”

  “Herms, it’s ok,” Xander told her with a smile, “I’ll be fine.”

  “Of course you will be,” Wednesday said, “You’ll be coming home with me for the holidays.”

  “What!?”

  “What??”

  Wednesday wasn’t one to repeat herself, however, and she merely returned to her reading as Xander and Hermione exchanged confused glances. Xander shook his head, deciding that they’d talk about it later and moved to change the subject.

  “So, what are you working on, Herms?”

  Hermione stared at him for a moment then looked over at the dark Ravenclaw, then back at Xander. Finally she shook herself and glanced down at her own stack of books.

  “Some personal research,” She admitted. “I’m trying to find some information on Nicholas Flamel.”

  “Oh? Who’s he?” Xander asked, glancing over.

  “I’m not certain, that’s part of the problem.” Hermione admitted.

  “He’s an Alchemist.” Wednesday said, not looking up. “A Master Alchemist, to be specific.”

  They both glanced over at her, Hermione’s jaw dropping open. “How’d you know that?”

  “I’ve read some of his published works,” Wednesday shrugged, looking up again.

  “I haven’t found anything in any of the lists!” Hermione blurted then flinched as she looked around for Madame Pince.

  Wednesday gazed at her evenly, “I’m not surprised. They prune those lists after a century and a half. Flamel’s work was all published over two hundred years ago.”

  Hermione looked disappointed, which piqued Xander’s curiosity. “Oh, I didn’t know he was dead.”

  “He’s not.”

  Now Xander shifted his attention completely over to Wednesday, as did Hermione.

  “What? But he must be, to have published master’s work over two hundred years ago...” She trailed off, obviously at sea.

  “Flamel is the creator of the Philosophers Stone,” Wednesday replied calmly, though Xander noticed a faint look of distaste appear on her face.

  That seemed to click something in Hermione, however, as her eyes lit right up.

  “Of course! That explains everything!” She said, as if it really did, “Wednesday, I could kiss you!”

  The dark child merely looked at her evenly, “You will not.”

  Hermione apparently didn’t notice, however, as she threw all her books into her bag and then grabbed Wednesday up in a tight hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

  Then she grabbed her bag and bolted from the library.

  “Well...” Xander grinned, highly amused.

  “If you value your life and sanity, you will NOT repeat any of that to another soul.” Wednesday informed him in a chilly tone.

  Xander threw up his hands, “What? Me?”

  She glared at him for a moment and then turned back to her books.

  He chuckled, while going back to reading his own.

*****

  The last couple weeks to Christmas passed quickly, and Xander found himself feeling a little off as everyone prepared to make the most of their holidays. He’d forgotten about Wednesday’s declaration, right up until the day the students were leaving for their vacations and the Addamses appeared in the Great Hall during lunch.

  “Wednesday, love, how have you been?” Mortisha asked, sweeping across the floor in her graceful, almost motionless step.

 “I’ve been fine, mother.”

  “And have you made many friends?”

  Xander shot a glare at the Ravenclaw table as several snorted derisively. He made careful note who, for future reference.

  As he was finishing that, he was surprised to be greeted by Mr. Addams.

  “Ah, Alexander old bean, how are things?”

  “They’re fine, Sir.”

  “Tsk, none of that call me Gomez.” Gomez grinned, “I understand you’re coming with us for the holidays?”

  Xander blinked, “I am?”

  “Excellent! We’ve procured a fabulous home on the Continent just for the occasion,” Gomez said enthusiastically, ignoring or missing the question in Xander’s voice.

  “Uh...”

  “You’ll love it, I’m sure. It’s a wonderfully gloomy old castle in the Romanian hills,” Gomez went on, “fantastic history there, I tell you. Bloodletting rituals, sacrificial ceremonies, massacre... all the holiday festivities.”

  Xander just stared for a moment as several of the Slytherin’s around him paled or simply looked confused. “Uh, Sir?”

  “Now now, Alexander, what did I tell you?”

  “Uh... Gomez?”

  “Excellent, now what is it?”

  “I’m going to spend the holidays with you?” Xander asked, uncertainly.

  “Certainly, Wednesday told us all about it. We’ve arranged everything, contacted your parents and all that,” Gomez waved his hand airily.

  “Indeed they have.”

  Xander turned to see Headmaster Dumbledore approach, smiling serenely. “Really sir?”

  The old man nodded, “Everything has been signed off on, I thought you knew?”

  “Uh... I guess I did, but I didn’t think she was serious.” Xander admitted.

  “Ah,” Dumbledore smiled a bit more, eyes dancing merrily. “Apparently she was indeed. Why don’t you go get your things so you don’t hold up the Addamses.”

  Xander nodded, then ran off, not noticing the paleness of the professors seated at the head table, or the look of real fear in the eyes of one Severus Snape.

****

 The port key to Romania left Xander in the dirt once again, dizzy as hell and trying to figure out why he couldn’t keep his balance through a simple transport.

  “Good lord, lad, what are you doing on the ground?” Gomez asked, leaning over slightly.

  “He likes it down there.” Wednesday said blankly before stepping over Xander to look at the castle.

  “Really? How peculiar.” Gomez shrugged, writing it off as a rather strange eccentricity, and moving on.

  Xander sighed, closing his eyes and counting to three quickly before climbing to his feet.

  He rose up, looking around, and swallowed hard as he turned rather pale. He supposed that he shouldn’t be surprised, given what he knew of Wednesday’s proclivities, but the castle was... well, creepy was simple the only way to say it. It rose up from bare stone, so black it seemed made of obsidian, and the spires were actually covered in dark clouds.

  It simply had to be haunted, though that wasn’t much of a deterrence any more now that he thought of it.

  “Gomez! About time you got here!”

  “Fester, dear boy, how is the place?”

  “Fantastic!” The bald man said, grinning wide enough to split his face. “Gram-mama already setup the kitchen and is brewing the stew now.”

  “Ah, most excellent. Oh, I am forgetting my manners,” Gomez clapped Fester on the back and turned around, “This strapping young lad is Alexander Harris, a school chum of Wednesday’s.”

  Xander froze as the bald man grinned at him, the smile seriously freaky, and then walked over.

  “Any friend of Wednesday’s is a friend of mine, Alexander,” The man said, clapping an arm around Xander’s shoulders as he turned back to the castle. “Come on, come on, we have things to do, a holiday to plan. Say, do you like explosives?”

****

  Narcissa Malfoy frowned slightly as she glanced at her bookshelf.

 ’Odd. That looks like...’ She trailed off, reaching for the slightly glowing book and drawing it out.

  Her copy of the old school Grimoire had been activated. The Malfoy matriarch raised an eyebrow and flipped it open, scowling as the little fight between the title page and Sirius’ additions played out. Honestly, Sirius had been such a child.

  She settled down in the chair of her study and flipped the book open to the most recently accessed pages, smiling slightly as she noted the first year spells that had been displayed. ’Someone’s looking for a little pranking payback. Against who, I wonder?’

  She glanced over the notes and lessons carefully, noting that some of them were obsolete, and noted in the newer techniques. A sad feeling came over her as she did so, knowing that she was the only person currently alive who would, or could, do what she was doing. Poor Lily and Alice...

  She forced away the raw feeling in her gut, knowing that it would be detrimental to her lifestyle, and perhaps life, to let it continue. That said, she found herself smiling again as she reviewed the notes and lesson answers the current owner of the school’s copy of the Grimoire had filled in.

 ’Not bad, whoever you are’ She thought, correcting the answers and making suggestions.

  She didn’t know who held the book, but they had a decent mind for a first year. Not brilliant, but imaginative and creative both, which would serve them well. It was beyond hope that it had been Draco who had inherited the book; unfortunately, as she knew that her son for all his talents was neither imaginative nor creative. He was a pale copy of his father, a fact that Narcissa hated but could see no way around.

‘Hmmm... Draco will be home soon, I wonder how his school year has gone?’ She thought to herself, closing the book but leaving it on her desk.

  It was nice to have a connection to her old life again, even if it was a tenuous link to the past through an unknown member of the present.

****

  The first meal of the holidays could have gone better.

  He could have been able to eat it, for one thing.

  Xander had sat down at the table as the stew was served, the eerie steam flowing from the bowls like some dry ice concoction on a bad TV series. He swallowed as a bowl was set in front of him, and dipped a spoon in, then nearly jumped out of his skin as something grabbed the spoon and yanked it out of his hand.

  “Whoa!”

  “Down! Down!” The old woman snarled, whipping a knife out of nowhere and stabbing it into his bowl. After a moment she stopped, sniffed the air lightly, and nodded. “Perfect.”

  “Indeed it is, Gram-mama!” Gomez grinned, smacking his lips. “You’ve outdone yourself again!”

  Xander stared at his bowl with wide eyes,

  He didn’t say anything aloud, though, knowing from his time at Willow’s that the guest should always be polite, and vice versa. That said he didn’t see any way out of a little rudeness here. There was no WAY he was eating something that had to be fought with while at the dinner table.

  Unfortunately it didn’t take long for someone to notice his lack of enthusiasm for the meal.

  “Something wrong, Xander?’ Fester asked, having taken a bit of a shine to the quiet young man who, like almost all young men, loved anything that went boom.

  “Uh...” Xander trailed off, finding himself in a serious jam.

  Should he keep quiet and look for something else to eat later? He wasn’t sure how far they were from town, but if the castle was rented out to Wizarding folk he might be able to find a floo link, and hopefully work out how to use it. Buy that would really suck for the entire holidays, to say the least, since he had a sinking feeling that this was normal food for Wednesday’s family.

  A strange thought popped into his head then, and he looked over at Wednesday with wide eyes.

  “How do you eat at school?”

  Xander’s eyes widened even more as everyone turned to look at him, and he wished he had his mouth stapled shut.

  “Uh, I mean, if this is the kind of food you’re used to then school food must be kinda weird, right?” Xander found himself babbling, “Cause I find this weird, I mean I don’t eat food that fights back and if you do than the school feasts have to be strange because they’re all normal food...”

  Xander paled, “I mean normal for us, not that this isn’t normal... I... that is, ok I’m shutting up now.”

  Morticia and Gomez glanced at each other blankly then Eudora Addams pouted.

  “You don’t like my cooking? But you haven’t tried it.”

  “I... I...” Xander swallowed, then went for broke with the truth. “I don’t think I can.”

  “Why ever not?” Gomez blurted, shocked.

  Morticia sighed, “Gomez, love, its poor conditioning.”

  “What? Absurd, who would condition a young lad to not eat good food!?”

  Morticia smiled, caressing her husband’s cheek. “Oh, mon coer, you are so naive, but I love you for it.”

  “Tish! That’s French!”

  “Later, darling.” Mortisha calmly dodged his attentions, then turned back to Xander. “We will see what we can do about meals, Alexander. I understand that something completely new is not easy to adjust to.”

  “Uh, thank you Ma’am.”

  She smiled briefly at him, then made a point of returning to her meal. Slowly the rest of the family followed suit.

  Pugsley Addams shoveled food in for a few moments then nudged his sister. “Your friend is weird.”

  She shot him a dark glance, but the one he received from his mother was far darker, and the chubby young boy paled and quickly ducked his head again as he began to eat furiously to hide from his mother’s glare.

  The uncomfortable silence stretched on for a few minutes, then finally Fester broke it, “So Gomez, did you get your trains set up?”

*****

  Narcissa watched as her son stepped off the train, feeling an odd combination of pride, chagrin, and shame. It was one she was familiar with, unfortunately.

  Her son was in many ways the perfect epitome of a pureblood scion.

  Unfortunately, he was also most of the things she had despised in her youth. Arrogant without cause, which was her and Lucius’ fault, she knew. He knew what he had to know to navigate the treachery of high society, but his father’s money and power had gone to the boy’s head. He should know to be cautious, but the protection his family name gave him had given Draco some of the very worst attributes of a pureblooded Gryffindor.

  She sighed and smiled wanly as he approached; strutting toward her with confidence she knew he had yet to earn the rights to.

  “How was school, Draco?” She asked as she guided him away, eyes sweeping the platform for anything of interest, or any threats of note as he spoke.

  There was precious little of interest, but Narcissa spotted three of Lucius’ political rivals following them both with their eyes. She surreptitiously laid a hand on her wand and quickly guided Draco clear of the platform. Once they reached the apparition point she tightened her grip on him and with a crack they were gone.

  The two appeared at Malfoy Manor instants later, and Draco immediately broke clear of his mother’s grip.

  “Is father home?”

  “I believe he is in his study.”

  “Thank you, mother.” Draco said before running off in that direction.

  She sighed as he left, and once more thought about the book on the desk in her own study.

  How very far she had come from the young woman who had a part in writing that little piece of magical history. So very far, and yet she felt as if she hadn’t taken a single step forward.

  Life enjoyed its cruel jokes almost as much as the Marauders enjoyed theirs it seemed.

  Life, however, didn’t seem interested in making up for its cruelty. That was something even the Marauders had strove to do, in the end.

****

  Xander sighed, fairly contended with his meal. They’d had to floo in for takeout, but at least the food was cooked and didn’t give off noxious vapors. He made his way through the old castle, more than a little disturbed by it but also incredibly interested. This was the second castle he’d ever seen, and was as unlike Hogwarts as Hogwarts was unlike his school back home.

  The Addams, true to expectations, seemed to like things gloomy and more than a little on the spooky side. Not really Xander’s taste, but he’d learned enough to be pretty sure that he was safe here, and so was doing his best not to let it get to him. Morticia and Gomez had made it clear that he had full run of the castle with none of the restrictions he’d come to expect, and that was more than a little liberating, almost a heady feel really.

  He had moved from one of the wide halls to a new room when a swishing sound through the air caused him to half turn just in time to see a knife thunk solidly into the door he had just opened.

  “Drat!” Fester yelled, “no fair, he opened the door!”

  Xander crossed his eyes, looking at the knife, then slowly looked back to where Fester, Pugsley, and Wednesday were standing, more knives in hand.

  “Uh...” He trailed off, really having nothing to say beyond that.

  “Do close the door, Xander,” Wednesday suggested, “We’re playing a game.”

  Xander nodded slowly, and let the door close, only to jump again when he spotted a person trussed up against the wall behind the door, with blades jammed into the wall all around him. The man had wide eyes as he moaned against a gag that had been stuffed into his mouth.

  “Move aside, Xander,” Pugsley called, “it’s my turn.”

  “Uh...” Xander blinked, looking at the guy who was shaking and screaming and obviously trying to get loose. “Who’s the target?”

  “Salesman.” Wednesday said blandly.

  “Oh,” Xander said, stepping out of the way.

  Another knife swished through the air, thunking into the wall between the guys’ legs. Xander shuddered, but didn’t say anything else as he moved up beside the trio as Wednesday lined up for her shot.

  “You’re not actually going to hit him, are you?” Xander only half asked.

  Truthfully, he already had a feel for Wednesday, and was pretty sure that she wouldn’t be part of actually killing the poor bastard. Scaring him to death, followed by resuscitation, that was possible. After he asked, she merely leveled a look at him that Xander interpreted as her ‘of course not, you moron’ look.

  Xander just nodded, stepping away from her as she drew back and let fly. The blade spun through the air and thunked into the wall only a hairs’ breadth from the salesman’s head, actually slicing several strands of the man’s hair from his skull and letting them float to the ground.

  His eyes rolled up into his head, and he slumped in his bonds.

  “Oh POO! He fainted. You win again, Wednesday.” Fester pouted, tossing his remaining knives aside.

  “Nuts.” Pugsley grumbled, “I was sure the groin shot would do it.”

  “You guys do this often?”

  “Only with salesmen and Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Fester said cheerfully. “They’re the only two groups stupid enough not to take the hint.”

  “Indeed.” Wednesday said in her bland tone, “We use less trying methods for other groups; otherwise we’d never have any visitors... or victims.”

  Xander walked over, eyeing the knives and their proximity to the body. “You ever miss?”

  Fester bridled at the questions, “What? You take us for amateurs!?”

  “Wednesday and I have been throwing knives since we were four,” Pugsley said proudly, grinning wide. “We hardly ever miss... anymore.”

  Xander shuddered, but nodded. “What do you do with them now?”

  Fester shrugged, “cut him down and leave him in Gomez’ study. He’ll wake up with a cigar in one hand, bourbon in the other, and a sales contract for everything he’s selling.”

  Xander broke down laughing.

*****

  The Christmas vacation went along in a surprisingly normal manner after that, at least relative to Xander’s recent experiences. It was surprising how much he found he could take in stride without totally freaking out now that he’d actually lived in a haunted castle for a few months. Honestly, he found that the Addamses weren’t much weirder than, say, Headmaster Dumbledore or any of the other adults he’d recently dealt with.

  They had strange ideas, true, but Xander quickly found that the key was to not panic. Just take it in stride, because they seemed genuinely friendly and while they enjoyed things most would consider creepy at a minimum, or downright lethal, they never actually endangered themselves or anyone else.

  It took him getting blown up by Fester to figure that one out, mind you.

*****

  Narcissa Malfoy frowned; genuinely puzzled as she read the notes in the Grimoire. The unknown student had taken it with him on vacation, and there was a rather bizarre change in his responses to the basic quizzes she had setup with Lily for Charms and Defence.

  For some reason they had suddenly centered on some particularly violent scenarios, including being caught in the premature detonation of something called... dynamite.

  The Lady Malfoy found herself furthering her own education as she researched just what this Dynamite was, and what it’s effects were. The answer, to her chagrin, was located in A Wizard’s Guide to Muggles.

  Dynamite (Noun) - A Muggle contraption used in the place of Reductor Charms, primarily for construction or demolition purposes. Please note, while it may appear to be a slightly over thick wand it is NOT advised to attempt to use it as such. Magical conductance is minimal; however some magic’s have been known to prematurely detonate a wand of dynamite. Place appropriate shield charms on yourself and any nearby persons before playing with this muggle device. (See Appendix D, Safety Charms for Handling Explosives and Appendix X, Accidental Deaths due to misuse of Muggle Artifacts)

 ’Dear lord. What on Earth is a first year doing playing with muggle reductor equivalents?’ Narcissa shook her head, wondering if she was dealing with a Muggleborn, or perhaps a half blood? She shrugged it off and decided that it didn’t matter. She, Lily, and Alice had their disagreements on the importance of blood, but they had all sworn to treat those who asked for aid from the Coven equally.

  She drew out her master copy again and noted the shield charms from the book, copying them down into the answers and suggestions sections. Hopefully the child would at least get the idea that playing with such toys was dangerous until one could cast the appropriate charms.

****

  “Are your family all wizards?” Xander asked, looking up from his book to where Wednesday was studying some of her own.

  Wednesday looked up at him slowly, eyes coolly appraising him in that way she commonly did. “Why do you ask?”

  “Well, I don’t see any wands, but I’m pretty sure that Fester used a basic concussion shield charm on us yesterday right before the dynamite blew up in our faces.” Xander replied, twisting his book around to show her the section.

  The dark girl leaned forward and examined the section carefully.

  “Interesting.” She said after a moment, “To answer your question, no. I’m the first Witch, by the definition of Wizarding culture, in several generations. Addamses have a great deal of latent magical energy, however.”

  “I believe that.” Xander replied dryly.

  She cast him a cool glance, but didn’t respond to the comment as she went on, “Addams Matriarchs have long been guiding the family bloodline, and the results are wide ranging. Some wandless magic has become quite common, mostly centering around defensive casting.”

  “Cool.” Xander said, nodding.

  “I believe Uncle Fester learned that charm from Great Aunt Milsol,” Wednesday went on, “Who was a Witch. She married into the family in 1877 to Great Uncle Quirke. She was something more of a Potions Mistress, though. Gram-mama apprenticed under Milsol, actually.”

  “Your Gram-mama knows potions?” Xander looked up, interested.

  Wednesday nodded, “Of course. Eudora Addams is one of the foremost Mistresses in the field, though she writes most of her articles under her maiden name.”

  “Oh? Why?” Xander asked, though he figured it out a moment later when he thought about how everyone seemed to react badly to the Addams name.

  “Most of the Journals that deal in Potions theory only want to deal in...” The girl shuddered, “light potions. Gram-mama insists on protecting the Addams name from such perversions.”

  Xander was learning that he really shouldn’t take anything on first impressions when it came to Wednesday or her family.

****

  Christmas came quickly, and despite the increasingly gruesome atmosphere, Xander found himself enjoying himself. It was pretty strange to be seeing what he would consider Halloween being mixed with Christmas, but the more he was around the family the more he saw it as just who they were.

  It was kind of fun too, he quickly found, in a novel way.

  They never yelled, at least not in anger, and that alone made it one of the better holidays Xander had enjoyed. He and Fenrir found themselves thoroughly enjoying the castle, and the large grounds outside, often spending their days running with Wednesday and Pugsley, exploring the hills and the castle alike, and more often than not finding things that sent chills down Xander’s spine.

  It was only the total positive glee the other two took in locating dangerous snakes and spiders that kept Xander from bolting for his life half the time. It quickly became a point of pride that he could stand anywhere NEAR those two when their eyes shone with that unholy light that told him they’d located something really disturbing.

  Christmas day came quickly and Xander found a pile of gifts under the tree with his name on them. Some gaily wrapped much to the Addams clear disgust, and some more fitting with the local decor. Xander didn’t have to guess which ones were from which parts of his life.

  Wednesday got a whole slew of potions ingredients, including a few that Xander was pretty sure were so rare as to be nearly impossible to find. He was surprised when she, Pugsley, and himself all received brooms, American model Stratus Comfort Brooms.

  “Wow...” Xander said his quiet awe drowned out by Pugsley’s yelp of glee. He looked up at the two Addams’ whose names had been on the package. “I don’t know, I mean... this is too much.”

  “Nonsense.” Gomez said airily, waving his cigar around. “Top quality brooms are important in the magical culture. These are good training models, we’ll get you all racing brooms next year if you learn to handle these well.”

  “We will, we promise!” Pugsley yelled, still grinning.

  Xander smiled, “I... Well, I’m going to learn, for sure. I don’t think we’re allowed brooms at school this year, though.”

  “Bah, what are rules for if not to be broken,” Gomez grinned, “The answer to that problem is simple, right Wednesday?”

  The dark girl merely smiled slightly.

  “Of course, Father.” She said, running her hand over the dark wood of the broom, one finger lightly tracing the chrome plate on the forward edge, “Don’t get caught.”

  “Precisely!”

  Xander grinned, as weird as the Addamses were, they were fun to be around once you started to get used to their unique views of life.

*****

  The rest of the holidays passed quickly, and as with every holiday Xander could remember, ended abruptly with him heading back to school. It wasn’t so bad this time, though, cause he had to admit his classes were hilarious, if not outright fun, and the subject matter was almost universally of interest to him.

  The port key brought them back to Hogsmeade a couple days before classes were to start, and Mr. Addams escorted them through the wards to the main gate.

  “Distasteful things.” He said, glaring up as they approached the castle.

  “What’s that, Sir?”

  “The wards. They’re clearly racist.”

  Xander frowned, “I thought they only kept out dark creatures?”

  “Precisely!” Gomez fumed, “What if some poor werewolf or vampire wanted to attend classes? It’s discriminating, I tell you.”

  Xander frowned, but nodded dutifully, more because he knew that would satisfy Gomez rather than in agreement. The Addamses had certainly given him a lot to think about, but he just didn’t know enough to say anything.

  At the gates they were met by Argus Filch, who was as always grumbling about being at the beck and call of the brats who plagued the castle.

  “Back in my day they let us string up the little runts who caused trouble,” He muttered darkly, quiet enough to expect to go unheard, but that’s not how it went.

  “Capital idea, old man!” Gomez clapped Argus Filch on the back, shocking the sour faced old man into silence. “Nothing like some decent recreation to break up the scholastic doldrums!”

  “They don’t let us play with the torture equipment here,” Wednesday sighed.

  “What!? Why ever not??” Gomez blurted, honestly shocked.

  “It’s not considered wholesome.”

  Gomez stopped in mid-step, looking at his daughter with horror in his eyes. “What? Nonsense!! What could be more wholesome than children playing!?”

  By this point even Argus was staring at Gomez like he was some kind of strange creature from another world. Wednesday just sighed, “It’s alright, Father.”

  “By George it is NOT!” Gomez raised his voice, attracting attention from down the hall. “I won’t have it! Children should be children, and what’s more childish than a spot of torture now and then?”

  A soft chuckle announced the arrival of another person, and they all looked over to see the white haired Headmaster approach.

  “A quite fantastic way of putting things, Mr. Addams.” Dumbledore said his tone warm and amused.

  “It is!?” Filch blurted, his tone horrified, though whether it was by Addams’ statement or the idea of children playing with his collection of torture implements, no one could tell.

  “Indeed. However, I’m afraid that the board of governors would look askance on our permitting the children to inflict harm on one another.” Dumbledore said.

  “It’s an outrage, Sir.” Gomez grumbled, “How are they supposed to learn?”

  That gave Dumbledore pause, and he blinked as he looked at the Addams Patriarch. “Learn? Learn what pray tell?”

  “Why, the fundamentals of course! How to ride that exquisite line of pain in order to keep your victim alive and focused without blurring the experience!? How to properly maintain your tools... Rusty manacles are asking for all sorts of problems in the dungeon... and what about...”

  “Father,” Wednesday cut in, drawing the attention of all the adults, as well as Xander. “That’s what home study is for.”

  That took the wind out of Gomez’ sails, but actually caused Dumbledore to blanche slightly at the little girl who had so calmly made such a statement.

  Gomez, however, just sighed. “Of course, you’re right, Wednesday darling. I just hate to see children so disadvantaged.”

  Having spent the holidays with the family, Xander had become desensitized to the often bizarre trains of thought they all seemed to follow, the others in the area didn’t however, and the pale faces and shocked looks almost had him laughing out loud at the entire group.

  “Uh, yes well, we must all endure.” Dumbledore managed to get out in a strangled voice.

  “Too true.” Gomez nodded sadly, putting and arm across the old wizards shoulders as he patted the Headmaster’s back in commiseration. “It seems our lot in life to see inequity ravage our world’s children.”

  As everyone stared Gomez just shrugged and turned back to Wednesday, “Are you certain you’ll be alright here?” Wednesday merely nodded, “Of course, Father.”

  Gomez nodded and sighed, “very well. I’ll be off then, owl me if you need anything.”

  “I will, Father.”

  Gomez turned to Xander then, “And the same to you, young man. It was a pleasure to have you with us for the holidays.”

  Xander, now used to the family’s sense of formality smiled slightly and half bowed. “It was my pleasure, Sir. Thank you for having me.”

  “Anytime.”

  With that, Gomez Addams turned and strode out of the school, leaving gaping figures in his wake.

  Xander exchanged a glance with Wednesday, noting the hidden smile in her eyes, and wondered just how oblivious to other people’s morals she and her family really were.

****

  Slytherin house was pretty quiet when Xander made his way in, most of the house still at home for the holidays as far as he knew. That left Xander with the time to carefully stash his new broom under his bed, carefully sandwiched between some random stuff that should hold no interest to any snoopers. It wasn’t the best security, but it would do.

  For the moment his concern was actually the twins, and how to appropriately return the experience they had favored him with. It was going to take some heavy duty planning, and a lot of study. Now, normally that would have been enough to send him packing, but this was one time that study was actually fun.

  Xander really didn’t understand how anyone could NOT love most of the assignments they were given. Making things fly? Changing some things shape? Every class was an experience in comic book goodness brought to life. Oh, it wasn’t always easy, for sure but he was willing to endure in exchange for the ability to shift his shape, turn invisible, and fly around at better than a hundred miles an hour on a fricken broomstick.

  Nailing the twins, however, was going to take some tricks well beyond his year and skill.

  Xander sighed, opening up the Grimoire and moved on to the next step in transfiguration techniques.

*****

  Narcissa Malfoy frowned softly as she read over the notes made in the Grimoire. The person on the other end of the book was focusing heavily on transfiguration so far, and she wondered if it was because this was his or her passion, or if they had a plan.

  “Draco, honey,” She glanced over to where her son was playing a game of wizard chess against the magical board. “Tell me about Hogwarts today.”

  “Hmm?” Draco glanced up as one of his knights eviscerated the opposing Bishop. “What do you want to know?”

  “When I was there we had to deal with a group calling themselves the Marauders,” Narcissa said pensively, “They styled themselves as pranksters supreme, is there anyone like that?”

  Draco snorted, “The Weasely Twins. They’re always causing trouble, usually picking on Slytherin’s.”

  “Oh?”

  “Yeah.” Draco said, distracted by his game. “They got one of ours just a little while before the holidays, though I think it was by accident.”

  “Why do you think that?”

  “I think they were aiming for the Slytherin Quidditch players,” Draco said, “but they got a first year instead. He refused to give them up to Snape, though. The professor was furious.”

  “Ah.”

  Narcissa expected that was an understatement, knowing her son’s godfather’s proclivities. How Dumbledore had managed to get him installed as a Potions professor still utterly boggled her mind, even with Lucius pulling strings on the board.

  Draco didn’t look up from the board as he continued, “Harris stuck to his wand though, and wouldn’t give them up for some reason.”

  Narcissa straightened slightly, looking at her son sharply. “Did you say ‘Harris’?”

  “Yeah, Alexander something Harris. He goes by the ludicrous nickname ‘Xander’.”

  “Is he of the Harris line?” Narcissa asked bluntly.

  Draco frowned, “What Harris line?”

  “The Harris Family is a very old pure blood line, Draco. I had thought they had died out ages ago.”  Draco shrugged, “I don’t know. I can’t imagine him being of any important bloodline, mother, he’s a colonial.”

  “The Americas or Australia?” Narcissa asked sharply.

  “Uh, America. Why?”

  “Many of the Australian families are descended from families that sent their black sheep members away as punishment. Most of those were stricken from the family line before being packed away on the ships.” Narcissa explained, “The Americas were populated primarily by those who chose to leave, some were stricken from the lists anyway, but many were not.”

  “So Harris might be a family Heir?” Draco blinked.

  “It’s possible. I’m sure Gringotts still maintains the vaults for the old families.”

  “Why would they do that?”

  “Family lines go dormant quite often, particularly in the Wizarding world, Draco.” She told him, “Squib descendants can’t claim a vault, but if they have magical children then those may come forward. Additionally many of the old families, most in fact, are patriarchal. It can take several generations before a magical male heir comes forward by times.”

 Draco snorted, “So Harris might be rich?”

  Narcissa shook her head, “Unlikely. Most of the old vaults would have been stripped by their last heirs, or their inheritors. The vaults themselves, however, are contracted to the family line.”

  “An empty vault? What good is that?” Draco rolled his eyes.

  Narcissa permitted herself an expression that bordered on both a smile and a frown. “Draco, please, put some thought into it.”

  Draco blinked, looking taken aback, then frowned. “Only an heir can claim a vault... would there be other things in the vault?”

  Narcissa smiled very slightly, “Precisely. There may well be, though it’s hard to say. Of course, unless he is quite wealthy, an heir could well bankrupt himself trying to claim it.”

  “Why?”

  “Goblins, Draco, don’t stop charging Vault fees simply because a vault is empty you know.” Narcissa shrugged, “On a particularly old vault one might find the fees associated with claiming it to be... quite significant.”

  Draco blinked, then shuddered. “Filthy sub creatures. They should have been wiped out ages ago.”

  Narcissa sighed, but said nothing further on the matter. Lucius had infected her son with his attitude and, worse, neither showed the slightest aptitude of being able to HIDE their internal prejudices. It would get her son in trouble some day, but she couldn’t seem to impress on him the importance of diplomacy.

  It was terribly frustrating.

****

  He almost had it.

  What he had, he wasn’t sure yet, but Xander was certain that he almost had it.

  The plan to get back at the twins was still percolating, but slowly it had begun to firm up into something he could really begin to work on. The first step had been the concept, which had been easy. The twins themselves gave him the biggest part of that, Xander was an eye for an eye kind of person. The next step was the hardest, the prep work, but he had an idea for that.

  Delivery and Execution, it turned out, would be almost as easy as concept.

  The Grimoire was the key to it all, Xander found, when he read one of the sections describing how the Marauders got away with many of their pranks. A couple days after arriving back to school, Xander made his first appearance in the Hogwarts kitchens.

****

  “Yes, young Sir, cans we be helping you?”

  Xander shifted nervously, looking around, “Uh... yeah, I was wondering if I could get a snack?”

  The funny looking little fellow practically shuddered in glee, nodding instantly. “Certainly, young master, what would you likes?”

  “Uh... a sandwich?” Xander blinked; surprised that it was that easy, despite what the Grimoire had to say on the matter.

  The elf quickly belted out a long selection list, and Xander asked for roast beef, then it was off like a flash as the little fellow built a sandwich, literally, on the fly. When it came back, large plate of food and a large mug of pumpkin juice in hand, Xander could see how incredibly happy the little fellow was to be of help.

  “Um,” Xander took a bite, then smiled, “Great food, thanks.”  The little elf twitched again, sighing in pleasure, then bounced up and down. “Mikey is pleased to help, anytime, young master.”

  “Uh, how come you guys don’t show yourselves anyway?” Xander asked, leaning against the wall as he ate.

  “Oh, school elves is not allowed to show themselves to students, Sir.”

  Xander blinked, “But what about... now?”

  “Mikey did not show himself to young master, young master showed himself to Mikey.” The Elf explained patiently.

  Xander nodded, he’d guessed that it was something like that from the description in the book. The rules were there, and were ironclad, but the iron seemed to have rusted through in more than a few spots. “Say, uh, Mikey, could you help me out? I was wondering where they did the laundry.”

  “Oh, Laundry elves handle that, Sir. Mikey show you.”

  And the elf proceeded to do just that, leading Xander through the back rooms and passageways of Hogwarts as he made mental notes and tried not to get lost all the while listening the elf babble on in it’s odd way of speaking.

  The Grimoire was right; he found quickly, the elves were the key to Hogwarts.

  They ran everything, from what Xander could tell, controlled everything from behind the scenes. Food, laundry, most cleaning, hell Xander was honestly trying to figure out what Filch did other than catch students who were out of bounds. Of course, it was possible that was his entire job.

  When the tour was finished, and Xander had stopped asking questions, he thanked the elves profusely and made his way back to the Slytherin common room.

  One obstacle down, one more to go.

*****

  The student’s arrival back at Hogwarts was a big deal, with food and a lot of merry chatter filling the great hall as people shared stories of their holidays. Xander considered doing just that, but somehow playing torture with Wednesday seemed creepy even to him now that he wasn’t surrounded by the Addamses twenty four hours a day.

  They had a cool yet creepy effect on people, Xander decided.

  He smiled to Hermione as she walked past the table, heading for the Gryffindor seating, earning himself a smile in return. Draco Malfoy, on his right, however sneered at her and then glared over at Xander.

  “Why are you smiling at the mudblood, Harris??”

  Xander glanced over at the blond boy, “Why not?”

  Draco paused, seeming to look for a response, “Because she’s a mudblood!”

  “Which means what?” Xander asked, shrugging.

  “She’s not a pureblood, you idiot.”

  “I’m still trying to see why that matters.”

  Draco was slowly turning a rather disturbing shade of pink at Xander’s continued oblivious stance. He could handle someone attacking him back, but how was he supposed to handle someone who didn’t even acknowledge that his point of view had any validity?

  “She’s beneath us!” Draco blurted, not noticing that he had unconsciously referred to Xander as a pureblood, one of his own in effect.

  “So... you’re argument is based on the assumption that we’re better than she is?” Xander replied.

  “Of course.”

  “Ok. Prove it.”

  Draco blinked again. “What?”

  “Prove it. What makes you better?”

  “I’m a pureblood!”

  “Uh... ok, what makes a pureblood better?”

  “Uh...” Draco stammered, thinking furiously. He couldn’t actually think of any examples, but that was just the fact that he was being put on the spot, of course. His father had talked about how inferior mudbloods were all his life, so there had to be some examples in there.

  “She’s one of the smartest students in the school,” Xander said calmly, “Ok... she’s a bit of a know it all, really, but that’s cause she’s nervous a lot. I’ve got a friend back home who’s the same way. Magically, she seems to be at least equal to the average, I mean she’s not the strongest but she’s not the weakest either. Right?”

  Draco found himself nodding, almost against his will. It was true enough, he supposed.

  “So why is she beneath us?” Xander asked, unknowingly cementing the opinions of everyone around him that he must be a pureblood from the colonies.

  “I’m a Malfoy.” Draco ground out.

 Xander frowned, wondering what that had to do with it, but remembered some of his classes so far. “Ah. Nobility, right?”

  Daphne Greengrass snickered.

  Draco just turned redder, fuming.

  “What?” Xander looked confused.

  “The Malfoy’s aren’t nobility. They’re a merchant family.” Daphne said after a moment’s indecision.

  “Ah, well Hermione’s family are dentists. That’s a type of healer,” Xander said, “in Muggle terms they’re very respected and very well paid... well, ok, not so much on the respected. No one likes dentists,” he finished with a grin.

  Some of the table looked curious, but it was Daphne who asked. “Why?”

  “They do specialized healing of the teeth, it can hurt and it really sucks to have anyone poking around in your mouth for a couple hours.” Xander replied, grinning.

  “Barbarians.” Malfoy said with a sneer.

  Xander shrugged, having had this conversation with Hermione some time ago. “They don’t have potions and charms, so they do things their own way. It works, though not as good as the right healing charm. The point is, they are rather well respected despite my earlier joke, and are pretty comfortable when it comes to money.”

  “But they’re not magical.” Draco said, trumping the conversation.

  “No, but Hermione is.” Xander returned. “So what makes her worse than you?”

  Draco redoubled his glare, but honestly Xander didn’t give a damn. He’d been glared at by kids and adults his entire life, usually for doing just what he was doing here and now. At least so far it was just talking, though Xander supposed that had as much to do with it being in the middle of the Great Hall during meal time.

  “Tell you what, take your time, come up with a reason or two, and we’ll do this again.” Xander said after a moment, smirking perhaps a little too childishly for his own good. “In the meantime, let’s eat.”

  Draco glared at him for several minutes, then spent the rest of the meal shooting death glares alternatively at Xander and Hermione. Xander just tried to ignore him; at least the boy wasn’t insulting his friends for now.

  He didn’t notice Daphne Greengrass eying him with a curious air during the rest of the meal.

****

  That night Xander moved into the next step in his plan, code named ‘Operation: Twin Humiliation’.

  This time it involved making his way to the Slytherin common room and finding someone specific. He lucked out, noticing that she was alone and reading in a corner, and quickly made his way over to her.

  “Hey.”

  The seventh year lowered her book, her garishly pink hair practically qualifying as a stunner spell.

  “Wotcher.”

  “I need help.” Xander said, taking a breath.

  She snorted, “Do your own homework, midget.”

  “Not that kind of help.” Xander forced a smile. “I’ve got a plan to take the twins down a peg. You’re the best in your year in transfiguration, right?”

  Her hair cycled colors for a moment, then she smirked, “Comes naturally, you might say. You think a midget like you can take on the twins?”

  “Hear me out, then decide. Deal?” Xander said, extending his hand.

  She laughed, and took his hand. “Deal. Call me Tonks, midget.”

  “The name is Xander, Tonks.” Xander grinned, “Here’s the plan...”

*****

  With things set up, Xander just had to decide on timing.  That, however, was proving trickier than expected to decide on. The twins, like the rest of the Gryff Quidditch team, were barely around for classes as the team Captain poured on the practice sessions like some kind of insane monkey. Xander considered springing it on them during those couple of weeks, but frankly he felt sorry for the poor buggers and let it go for a while.

  In the meantime school went on as usual, which was both for the good and bad.

  Xander had earned a cold shoulder from Malfoy with his challenges, but little else, while the rest of the house had apparently shifted him from ‘unknown’ status toward the neutral camp. That caused a few to open up a bit, but in Slytherin house there weren’t too many warm buddies of any type so nothing much changed.

  Draco remained a prick to the rest of the school, bullying and taunting wherever he could get away with it, and a few places he couldn’t. Xander watched him and his two goons’ corner one of the Gryffs who’d been caught out alone, hitting him with various jinxes before taunting him and leaving him with a leg locker in place.

  After they’d gone, Xander stepped out of the corner he’d leaned in and drew his wand.

  “You too? Go ahead,” The Gryff muttered, shaking his head, “Why not?”

  Xander didn’t say anything as he cast the counter to the jinx and pocketed his wand again. “Longbottom, right?”

  “Yeah... What do you want from me?”

  “Nothing.” Xander shrugged, “Just don’t much like bullies.”

  Longbottom snorted, “I thought you were a Slytherin.”

  “I’m me.” Xander told him, “My house has nothing to do with who I am.”

  “Right. Well, thanks.”

  “No problem. You want some advice?” Xander replied as the boy walked past him.

  “Sure, why not?”

  “Hit them back.”

  “Huh?”

  “Hit them back. They’ll leave you alone.”

  “Sure. Just hit them back and they’ll run off, I bet.”

  “No, they’ll beat the crap out of you. But if you hurt them too, next time they’ll look for someone easier.” Xander replied honestly. “Bullies don’t like getting hurt.”

  “Makes two of us.”

  “Look, Neville, right?”

  Neville nodded.

  “No one likes getting hurt,” Xander replied, then frowned, “Well, no one I know except the Addams family... but they’re pretty twisted.”

  Neville blinked, confused.

  “Never mind, my point is, if you’ve got the guts to take the pain, you can prevent more of it in the future,” Xander told him. “That’s how it works with Bullies. You fight back, yeah you’ll take a beating, but if you take it with style and send them whining to their momma they won’t come back the next time.”

  Neville stared at him for a moment then nodded curtly before walking off. Xander watched him go, then shook his head and wondered why he bothered really.

  “You’re wasting your time.”

  Xander twisted to see Daphne Greengrass approach from around the same corner he’d been concealed at. “It’s my time.”

  The brunette nodded, acknowledging the point. “I guess. He’s not worth it though. Longbottom’s practically a squib, there’s no value there.”

  Xander looked confused, “Excuse me?”

  She didn’t seem to notice, “Of course his family is old money, with a seat on the Wizamgamot. I suppose that in the long term if may pay off.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  She looked at him evenly, “You mean you’re not trying to earn favors?”

  Xander just looked confused.

  “Why’d you help him then?”

  “He needed help, and I don’t like bullies.” Xander told her, “I have a couple good friends who were bullied a lot when I was a younger.”  Daphne just laughed, shaking her head, “Are you sure you’re not supposed to be in Gryffindor?”

  Xander shrugged, “The hat seemed to consider it a tossup between Gryff, the Puffs, and the Snakes. I didn’t much care which.”

  “Loyal, brave, and... well, must be cunning, cause you’re obviously not ambitious.” She concluded, “Interesting. I was offered Ravenclaw, myself.”

  “Why’d you turn it down?” Xander asked, somewhat curious.

  “I wanted to make family connections, and Slytherin is the best place to do that if I want to hook up with as many real power families as possible.” She told him casually. “You’re not like most of the kids we get here, not the purebloods anyway. You act more like a muggle born.”

  Xander shrugged, not planning on admitting to being muggle born or whatever it was that he was. Frankly he wasn’t sure on that, and trying to figure it out kind of gave him a headache. “So?”

  “Nothing,” She said in reply, “Just commenting. Most of the purebloods who come here are trained from the time they can talk to move through the shadows of power, you just act different.”

  “I’m an American.” Xander said, having found that to be a good answer to anything weird.

  She nodded, “Yes. I’d heard that they had a far different system than we have here. How does it work, anyway?”

  Xander shrugged, “Never really my thing.”

  Daphne just nodded.

  “I don’t get this pureblood thing myself,” Xander shrugged, “but there’s a lot I don’t get, so that’s no surprise.”

  “Purebloods are really just another term for old families,” Daphne said after a moment, “those who have power and don’t want to lose it. Malfoy could have claimed nobility, you know if he’d been able to think through the rage you put him in. The Malfoy’s are merchants, but his mother is a Black. They’re full on nobility; I think that the head of house is a Duke or Baron, though it’s pretty pointless now.”

  “How come?” Xander asked, the name ‘Black’ pricking up his ears.

  “The family is dead.” She shrugged, “The only living members have been cast out, I think, and Malfoy will inherit the title and estate when he turns seventeen. Since he’s a Malfoy, the family title will be transferred over to him and the Black family will die out officially. Then he’ll be able to answer yes if you ask him if he’s nobility.”

  Xander shook his head, “Sounds complicated.”

  “It’s the way things are.”

  “Why are you telling me this?” Xander eyed her closely.

  She smiled, “I see there’s some Slytherin paranoia in you after all. I’m telling you this because I’m thinking maybe you’re going to have some influence. Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, I don’t risk much by telling you some stuff everyone already knows, but you will owe me a small favor. Maybe later, you will be able to tell me something I should know. That’s how things work here.”

  Xander stared at her evenly for a moment then frowned slowly. “How many people in Slytherin are thinking like this?”

  “Most of us, of course.” Daphne shrugged then waved her hand, “Oh Malfoy and his two dimwits aren’t. Draco is too arrogant to think about what other people might be willing to do for him; he only sees what he can make them do. Crabbe and Goyle are bookends, too dumb to tie their shoelaces let alone think for themselves. But they’re not really what make up Slytherin house.”

  “And the rest of the school?”

  “Most of the purebloods think the same or pretty close.” She frowned, considering, “I suspect that Longbottom is probably the furthest from that, even though his family is minor nobility. From what my mother told me, they didn’t expect him to come to Hogwarts, so his family didn’t train him to take over. They’re probably scrambling to do that now. The Weasley’s know the game, I expect, what with the mother being a Prewitt and their dad being in the Ministry, but they don’t have the cash to play the game so they mostly ignore it.”

  That was the second name he recognized, and now Xander was actually getting interested. “Prewitt? Important family?”

  “They were,” Daphne nodded, “but they took a lot of deaths in the last war. Now they’re mostly dead too. I think there’s a direct line heir, but he’s some old man who doesn’t get involved in politics.”

  “How do you know all this?” Xander asked, actually pretty impressed.

  “I told you, most of the purebloods know it by our age. Its how you figure out who not to annoy, and who to help in exchange for favors.” She told him, “its important business, life and death for a family. Especially now.”

  “Why now?”

  Daphne had known that he was clueless, but it hadn’t really penetrated just how little he really knew. She was getting the picture now, and berated herself for starting the conversation. Still, he was gaining some credibility in the house among both the pure bloods and the neutrals, and several of the mixed blood and muggle born outcasts in their year looked to him for protection, though it was clear he didn’t know it.

  For the moment he was nothing, but that could change, and her mother had always told her to watch for the future power, not merely the present. In Slytherin house the present power was Draco Malfoy, Marcus Flint, and a small scattering of others across the years. The future power, though, was obscured as was usual for the house.

  In Gryffindor it was blatantly obvious. Potter was going to be a force to deal with, assuming he survived all the enemies he had, with him Weasley was likely to rise into some power, and the muggle born Granger would also share in Potter’s influence.

  The Puffs were hard to tell, though Diggory was clearly on the rise there.

  Among the Ravenclaw’s things were a little clearer, since Cho Chang was carving out a place for herself beyond her year, guided by Marietta Edgecombe, who had strong pure blood ties. The dark horse there, literally it seemed, was the Addams girl. She held no sway, but neither was there anyone in the entire school basically who wanted to go against her. That in itself was power, and could change into influence later on.

  Daphne licked her lips unconsciously, considering that Harris had by luck or genius foresight placed himself in a position to influence two potentially interesting individuals in other houses. Yes, he was worth spending some time on.

  Speaking of which, she found him staring at her, and shook her head clear of her straying thoughts and focused on his question.

  “Why now? Because of the war,” She answered, “A lot of prominent families were basically destroyed, like the Blacks and the Prewitt’s. Wizards live long lives, which can put a crimp in inheritance laws, but basically over the next few years a lot of houses are going to change as their heirs come of age to claim the head of family title. Longbottom, Malfoy, and Potter are just the most visible.”

  “Harry too?” Xander mused.

  “Oh yes, The Potter’s are an old family, something of a mixed blood line but they’re considered pure blood by most.” She said, “Not quite nobility, but they have their own crest and coat of arms, the Potter’s have traditionally been Knights and, more recently, Aurors. I understand that Harry’s relatively wealthy, though no one is really sure of how much because the Goblins don’t let even the ministry mess around with family vaults and finances.”

  “Sounds like a complicated mess.”

  “It is.” Daphne admitted with a shrug. “But it’s our complicated mess, we know our way around.”

  They may, Xander noted, but she’d admitted that Neville probably didn’t know as much as he should, and Xander would bet Harry didn’t know anything from what little he’d heard from the boy and Hermione.

  “So Malfoy acts like a dick cause he’s going to inherit a title?”

  Daphne laughed, “No, Draco just is a dick as you put it. The title makes him worse; don’t be surprised if he works it into the conversation at meals as soon as it occurs to him.”

  Xander nodded, unsurprised. He wondered just how much education actually went on outside of Hogwarts suddenly, and whether it really mattered to him. He didn’t have to walk through the minefield, after all.

  “Thanks,” He said after a moment, “I’ll think about what you’ve said. You mind if I ask you some questions later, maybe?”

  “Just not in front of Draco,” She told him, unwilling to be seen to be taking sides.

  “Deal. Thanks again.”

  Daphne just nodded and left him there, leaving Xander to think about it for a moment before heading for the library. He needed to think, and the talk to Hermione or Wednesday, and just maybe look some stuff up.

*****

  Hermione wasn’t there, but Wednesday was, and Xander dropped into the seat across from her with a cheery grin. “Hey there.”

  She looked up at him evenly, “Hello.”

  “You know anything about all the family stuff everyone seems to care so much about here?” He asked, leaning in to check what she was reading.

  A History of Witch burnings. Lovely.

  “Some.” She told him. “Why?”

  “Dunno, just got a crash course on it from a housemate,” Xander shrugged, “Seems like Malfoy is set to inherit a noble title, and he’s not the only one. Guess that war everyone whispers about really messed them up around here.”

  The Addams Scion raised an eyebrow, “Really? Wars are so interesting. The death, carnage, mayhem. It makes for fascinating reading.”

  “You read about it then?”

  She nodded, “Yes. However the books are probably wrong.”

  “Oh? How come?”

  “They’re mostly written by people who weren’t involved, often based on reports by people who heard about the events from someone else. That does not make for a good history book.”

  Xander had to agree with that point. “Well I guess there were a lot of families basically destroyed, and a lot of the next people in line to take over those families are just starting to come of age now.”

  “That would explain some of the things I’ve seen,” Wednesday mused, “Family survival is nothing to be played around with. People have committed genocide over less.”

  “Yeah...” Xander said slowly, “Sure.”

  “I suppose the question becomes... what do we do about it?”

  “Do?”

  She shrugged, “You must have a reason for bringing it up.”

  Xander frowned, “I... guess I didn’t think that far ahead.”

  Wednesday rolled her eyes, “Boys.”

****

  “My my, who have you been talking with?”

  Narcissa Malfoy was surprised to see the shift in direction the young man had taken, moving away from practical spells into pureblood politics of all things. This was one of her areas of expertise, of her family only Andromeda had surpassed her in this field, and Andy had long since retired from this field to live with her muggle born lover.

  In her mind she refused to consider the man as Andy’s husband, he simple wasn’t worthy of her sister, even if Andy had been stricken from the family lineage.

  She noted some interesting observations in the notes, and was surprised that the boy seemed to grasp some of the less obvious effects the war had had on house lines. Given his relative ignorance of such things up to this point, it seemed obvious that he had acquired another tutor.

  Narcissa made some notes in return, pointing out a few of the things she had determined over the intervening years, and corrected a few of his false assumptions. She hesitated when she noticed his notations on the Black family as it pertained to one Draco Malfoy in particular. He was under the impression that the Black family was, for all intents and purposes, dead.

  Now that thought rankled, even if it was her son who was poised to take over the family in a few years. It especially rankled because it was true. Narcissa was a proud Black, and it maddened her to know how badly her family had fared in the war.

  Oh, it was certainly no worse than many others, she could admit, but they were Blacks by God, they were better than that. Many of the Blacks had sided with the Dark Lord; many others had chosen the ministry. Sirius had stepped into line with Dumbledore, alone among his family.

  The results for the male heirs of the family were uniformly consistent. They all died, no matter what side they chose. All save for Sirius, of course, who had turned out to be a traitor.

  Narcissa hadn’t believed it when she heard it, actually. It seemed impossible; Sirius was devoted to James Potter. If the Potter’s had been a Noble Family, Narcissa had little doubt that Sirius would have sworn allegiance to them.

  For him to betray them, well it was inconceivable.

  However, after long weeks and months with no public trial, no scandal, no sound out of him whatsoever... well, even she had her doubts. If he had pulled off such a spectacular infiltration of the so called ‘light’, well she rather suspected that his mother would have been proud. For all the good it would have done the old bat, her sons both dead on the altar of that maniac’s agenda.

  Narcissa sighed and closed the book, not in the mood to make the usual corrective notes any longer. She remembered the days following the Dark Lord’s defeat quite well. It had been a panicked time in Malfoy Manor, with Lucius constantly hosting meetings with the surviving Death Eaters and Ministry officials.

  A huge chunk of the Malfoy fortune had vanished in those few weeks, but they came through it intact and still strong enough to rebuild, which was better than most. She had gained a respect for her husband then, recognizing that he was capable of great things when pushed. His adulation of the Dark Lord aside, Lucius Malfoy was an impressive individual.

  Over the years, through, he had grown more and more bitter over the loss of destiny as he saw it. Muggleborn were becoming more common, as squib births also rose among pureblood families. Narcissa closed her eyes, thinking of her second son and only daughter, two children who had mysteriously vanished when the standard magical tests revealed them to be squib born.

  After the birth, and disappearance, of Morgana Malfoy, her third child, Lucius stopped coming to her bedchambers entirely. Their love life had never been what Lilly would have referred to as ‘hot and heavy’, but it ended then, with the second squib birth. She had never been able to get Lucius to tell her what happened to either of them, whether he’d sent them away or...

  Narcissa closed her eyes and cried silently, as she learned to do a long time earlier.

****

  The second term seemed to rush along, Xander felt, weeks passing in a blur as he attended classes and found himself actually trying to learn as much as he could for the first time in his life. Part of it was the fact that the classes were simply damned cool, in his opinion, but part of it was self defense as well.

  He wasn’t really safe even in his own bed, he learned after some petty retribution from Malfoy left him in the infirmary for a few hours after a hex on his bedclothes left him with a bad rash. So advanced reading in defense put him around fifth in the class, behind Harry, Hermione, Wednesday, and Draco himself unfortunately enough.

  Charms were cool, and he did pretty well there, second in his house year, but only eighth overall. His marks in transfiguration and potions were roughly in the same category, which meant that while he wasn’t up for any honor awards, his scores were respectable.

  Willow would be so proud.

  That said, he filed Malfoy away as a minor pest, and returned his focus to the twins.

  The Gryffindor/Hufflepuff Quidditch match was nearly on them by that point, and Xander decided that the time was set to spring his little trap. After a hurried conference with Tonks, who had held up her end of the bargain, Xander planted the goods in the Gryffindor laundry while the Elves were away, and ducked out to await the fireworks.

****

  They hit the morning of the match, much to Xander’s delight. He hadn’t been able to exactly ensure the timing, so he’d hedged his bets a little with some extra work, and it seemed to pay off.

  Breakfast was in full swing; the whole school turned out as they were eager to see the match play out and wanted a good jump on the day. At the Gryff table the twins were making their usual spectacle when one of the pranks went off on Neville, leaving the boy sprouting feathers and attracting the attentions of the entire hall on their table as the Gryffs began to laugh.

  It was the perfect cue for Xander and he drew his wand under the table then carefully nodded to Tonks. She nodded back and they both cast the spell she had tutored him in until he had it perfect. It was really just a slightly more advanced version of the first year Finite spell, designed to cancel simple and unprotected charms and jinxes. This one was selective as well, letting them target a specific spell, as long as they knew it was there.

  Which, of course, they did.

  Half the Gryff table suddenly yelped as the other half were just as suddenly dressed in Slytherin Green. Ronald Weasley had somehow found himself wearing a large green foam finger with the #1 written on it in silver, and he wasn’t the only one. As most of them stared at it, and the other similar touches in dumbfounded shock, it slowly penetrated into their heads and the roar of outrage began.

  A roar that ended just as quickly when they realized that not everyone affected had been hit the same way.

  Xander had considered leaving it at that, for about a second. Then he decided that merely returning the favor wasn’t remotely enough. So he made special arrangements for two of the Gryffs.

  The Twins were staring at each other in a strange mix of shock and delight, which Xander found kinda disturbing actually. The rest of the school, however, was just staring in delight as the laughter swelled.

  Their robes had been replaced by green and silver, true enough, but the ultra short miniskirts they now had on showed off two pairs of truly horrifying legs, and the stuffed shirts gave the twins more prominent chests than any girl in the entire school.

  They, in unison, came to a conclusion and instantly drew their wands and pointed it at each other just as Xander had dearly hoped they would.

  “Finite Incantatem!” They yelled together.

  The school gasped in total shock as their spells worked flawlessly, removing the spells on the Cheerleader outfits instantly. Unfortunately, since both outfits had been conjured by Tonks and not made from real materials, the Twins found themselves standing in front of the entire school in their underwear.

  One had red shorts with blue polka dots, while the other apparently preferred blue shorts with red dots. Xander, very briefly, wondered which was which but really didn’t care. He just smiled smugly and sat back as everyone else laughed their asses off.

  Justice served.

****

  “Merlin, Xander that was perfect!” Tonks laughed, tears rolling down her cheeks as she leaned against the stone wall. “Forgive me for doubting you!”

  “You’re forgiven, but please not so loud!” Xander hissed, checking around the common room to see if anyone was near.

  Tonks nodded, catching her breath, “Sorry. Though anyone here who hears you will likely give you a medal!”

  “Maybe, but I’d rather the twins didn’t get any idea who set them up, if you don’t mind.” Xander smirked.

  “Yeah, that would be bad,” She agreed. “Whatever gave you the idea of using cheerleader outfits anyway?”

  Xander shrugged, “I’ve never liked cheerleaders.”

  Tonks raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment, “Well midget, if you need any more help, I’m you’re metamorph.”

  “I’ll keep that in mind,” Xander grinned, “But all things considered I’m hoping to stay under the radar for a bit.”

  She laughed and nodded, heading for the seventh year girls dorms as Xander made ready to do some work while the rest of the school obsessed over Quidditch.

****

  The Gryffs won their match despite the flaming red faces and general humiliation they went through over the next couple days. Their point lead in the race for the house cup was secured by the win then lost the same night when Harry, Hermione, and Ronald were caught out after dark, which lead the Xander being on the receiving end of a long and bitter pity party when he met Hermione in the library with Wednesday.

  He would have let it go, knowing that his friend did have some cause to wail, but he wasn’t an Addams.

  “Shut up.”

  Hermione snapped back like she’d been slapped, staring in shock at the other girl. “What?”

  “I said, shut up.” Wednesday told her. “You took the risks of breaking the rules, and now you suffer the consequences of getting caught. Have the strength of your convictions and accept the responsibility for it. Next time either do not break the rules, or do not get caught.”

  Hermione quailed under the flat glare sent her way, but shuddered at the very idea of a next time. “Next time? There won’t BE a next time! I’m never breaking the rules again!”

  Wednesday raised an eyebrow, “And you’re sure you are a Gryffindor?”

  “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “There are times when you do what is right, not what is expected or required. That is having courage of your convictions,” Wednesday told her, “tell me, was it worth it?”

  “What? Was what worth it?”

  “You were out after curfew for a reason. Was it a foolish reason, or did you have a worthy cause?”

  Hermione hesitated then chewed on her lower lip. “We had a cause.”

  “Was it worth a hundred and fifty points?” Wednesday asked, not caring what the cause itself was.

  Hermione hesitated again, and then nodded.

  “Then congratulations, most would have lost those points for something stupid. So shut up and let’s study.” The dark girl said calmly, returning to her books.

  That ended the whining for the evening in a single swoop, and Xander was glad of it because he had been feeling a little guilty about having made his friends day a little harder with his counter-prank.

*****

  The end of term was upon them quickly after that, with days rushing by until the exams were looming in the near future, and Xander found himself worrying about his brown haired friend.

  Put frankly, Hermione was acting pretty weird.

  Even Wednesday had remarked on it in her normal laconic way.

  Of course it might have been the stress of exams, since Hermione was one seriously scary person under stress, but somehow Xander didn’t think that was it. He found himself watching her intently, and realized shortly that it wasn’t just her, but also Harry and Ronald as well.

  He hoped they weren’t up to more of whatever it was that got them in trouble before, cause he figured that there was only so much even the lax Dumbledore would accept before kicking someone out of school, but was actually kind of relieved that it wasn’t just his friend. She’d have someone to cover her back, at least, and would hopefully know to ask for help if she needed it.  Besides, he was having more twin problems himself.

****

  “We know...”

  “It was you.”

  The two red heads had cornered him after dinner some time after the great green Slytherin cheer event and confronted him with that.

  “What was me?” Xander asked, faking a bewildered look.

  They leveled steady gazes on him.

  “That little prank.”

  “Me!? How could I pull that off!?” Xander went into his prepared act, “I’m only a firstie, remember? Those spells were way beyond me!”

  The twins sighed in unison.

  “That bothered us too,”

  “Until we decided that you simply recruited help.”

  The two glared at him then, “You hang out with Hermione, did you put her up to helping you?”

  Ouch. Xander almost winced at that, then returned the glare.

  “Leave her out of this, if you go after my friends I’ll make that prank look like a tack on your chair!”

  The two looked confused.

  “What’s a tack?”

  “And why would it be on our chair?”

  Xander groaned, shaking his head, “Never mind. I didn’t recruit Hermione in any pranks, I wouldn’t do that to her.”

  “You’re a snake.”

  “Of course you would.”  Xander growled, glaring up at the duo, “I’m warning you...”

  The twins smirked, “ooh, the ickle firstie is warning us.”

  “So scary.”

  “We’re just telling you we know.”

  “So watch your back, ickle Alex.”

  “We’re Weasley’s. We don’t get even...”

  “We get ahead.”

****

  After that conversation, Xander had spent the following days dodging minor pranks and jokes from the twin’s bag of surprises. Luckily in this matter he HAD recruited Hermione, and she fed him inside information on what they were cooking up. Or, at least, what they had cooked up.

  The twins were, as he found out in short order, pretty impressive at potions and charms. He learned quickly to be careful what he ate, as the twins were good at packing tricks into food, and had some way of getting it on the tables even in the Great Hall.

  That really only meant one thing, of course.

  They had an in with the Elves.

  Luckily they tended to test their concoctions on their fellow Gryffs, which usually let Hermione warn him about what may be coming down the pipeline. After the first bout of transfiguration at the table, Xander had quickly gone to the elves and asked them to remain neutral, but had been informed that they never took sides.

  Of course, as Xander had already proven, they could be duped.

  That resulted in a sudden interest in learning detection spells, after which Xander and the twins found themselves at a stalemate once more. Of course, no one else had any idea that there was any sort of feud ongoing, as Xander wasn’t admitting to anything, and the twins sure as hell weren’t going to tell anyone that they had been pranked by a firstie.

*****

  “How long do you intend to let them get away with this?”  Xander looked up as Tonks sat by him in the corner of the common room where he was studying for the exams that were beginning the next day. “Get away with what?”

  She glared at him, “All the charmed food and stuff they’ve been sneaking onto the table.”

  Xander shrugged, “its minor stuff, Tonks. If I shoot back it’ll just confirm that I was behind the stunt they’re really mad about. Then we’ll have a real war on our hands.”

  “Scared of them then?” Tonks smirked.

  “Honestly? Yes.” Xander grinned back. “I’m not in their league, and next year you’ll be gone. So let them have their fun. They’ll soon get tired of it and start to think that they have the wrong guy, and that’s when they better start looking over their shoulders.”

  Tonks smirked, “Damn. You are a snake.”

  “No, I’m Xander.” Xander replied, extending a hand, “nice to meet you.”

  She snorted, “Almost makes me wish I wasn’t graduating, should be interesting next year.”

  “If I come back.” Xander shrugged.

  “You’re not coming back?”

  “Don’t know. This place isn’t as bad as I thought at first, but it’s kinda treacherous,” Xander admitted, “I don’t like having to check my bed for Malfoy’s tricks, my food for the twin’s pranks, and my back for whoever else I may have annoyed.”

  Tonks nodded, “Yeah, I get that. Still, be a shame to lose you, midget. You’ve got potential.”

  “Thanks, Tonks.”

*****

  Exams ended with Slytherin in the lead for the House cup, and the common room was pretty happy about it though Xander didn’t really see the point. The cheating for points had reached a level so blatant that he was surprised it hadn’t been curtailed by the professors. It was one thing to bend the rules a little, or even tread right over them, if you got away with it unnoticed but the sheer staggering arrogance of cheating had been stunning, even to an eleven year old.

  House points were forgotten for a brief moment, though, when rumors began to burn wildly through the entire school about Harry Potter and hi two friends. When the first of them reached Xander’s ears he bolted for the hospital wing.

  Madam Pomfrey had it barred off, but he was relieved to find his friend well and waiting.

  “What happened?”

  Hermione looked over at him, her expression a little tired and perhaps even desperate. She hugged at him and he hugged her back.

  “Oh Xander! Harry and Ron are hurt, we had to beat all these traps to find the philosopher’s stone and then it turns out that Professor Quirrel was really Volde... Voldemort... or something...”

  Xander let her go, pushing her back so he could see her as he frowned questioningly “That Dork lord dude? I thought he was dead?”

  She shook her head, “Just his body.”

  “That usually means dead, Hermione.”

  “We’re magical, Xander, remember? He must have done some ritual to stay alive.”

  “Lovely. Bad guys who won’t stay dead, I knew this place felt like a comic book.” Xander drawled, rolling his eyes. “Are Harry and the Twit ok?”

  She slapped his arm lightly, “Don’t call Ron that! He’s not that bad, he beat McGonagall’s giant chess set by sacrificing himself to get us through.”

  Xander raised an eyebrow, “Giant chess set? Wizard Chess?”

  She nodded.

  He was impressed despite himself, “Alright that earns him his name back. Are they going to be ok?”

  She nodded hesitantly, “I think so. Ron was just a little battered, but Harry was pretty bad.”

  “He took on a professor turned evil overlord, that’s to be expected. They have Quirrel chained up somewhere?”

  “No, he died.”

  “He killed an evil overlord, even better,” Xander cracked a grin, “Bonafide superhero stuff.”

  Hermione rolled her eyes, but didn’t correct him.

  They waited together until Madam Pomfrey came out and shooed them off, telling them that Harry would be fine. Relieved they both left, however reluctantly Hermione was, passing the headmaster on their way out. When he was out of earshot, Xander shook his head and leaned in to Hermione.

“What the heck is a Philosopher’s stone anyway??”

  “Honestly, Xander, weren’t you listening to Wednesday when she told us about Nicholas Flamel!?”

  Xander frowned, “um... no?”

  She growled at him and proceeded to lecture him, in detail, on the stone and its history.

  To Xander it felt a lot like home.

*****

  The morning after Xander was seated with the rest of the Slytherin’s when Harry and the others showed up to breakfast and he breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t know Harry much, and while Ron had earned his name back Xander still didn’t care much about him, but they were both friends of Hermione so that made them important to him too.

  The hall was draped in Slytherin green, and Xander could feel the smugness around him as he turned his focus on the meal once again. As he’d felt earlier there was no glory in winning something when everyone KNEW you’d cheated to get it, so he just let it be.

  Then the Headmaster began his speech, and over the process of less than two minutes, destroyed the Slytherin’s winning streak with the dispensing of a hundred and sixty points to Gryffindor. Around him the Slytherin’s began crying out in outrage, but were drowned out by the cheers from the other three quarters of the school. Xander just rolled his eyes and went on eating.

  “What’s wrong with you!?” Draco shoved him, “They just stole the cup from us!”

  Xander looked up at the blond and shook his head, “So?”

  “So? It’s the CUP, it’s OURS.”

  “Draco, if everyone knows the game is rigged, the prize ain’t worth squat.” Xander replied, having seen enough of rigged games in Sunnydale. The teachers there always favored the rich kids, and that was just the way things were.

  “What are you talking about!?” Draco was turning red as he ranted.

  “Draco, how many points did you get unfairly from Professor Snape? How many did he steal from the other houses?” Xander shrugged, “The points are a joke, and most of the other kids know it. In the library they were joking about the ‘snakes’ winning again, cause they know it’s meaningless.”

  “What!? But...”

  “Look around, the Claws and the Puffs aren’t happy for the Gryffs, you know. They’re just glad WE lost.” Xander shrugged.

  “But... that old muggle loving fool cheated, he gave them points for...”

  “Saving an artifact from the Dork Lord Mold-in-his-Shorts.” Xander finished, “Or something like that. Yeah, probably not a school thing, but still pretty impressive. Still, yeah, he cheated. No one cares except you and the Gryffs. The Puffs and the Claws didn’t expect to win it anyway, the older students told all their first years that Slytherin cheats to win and the professors don’t care. If the teachers don’t care, why should they? The cup is worthless, Draco.”

  Draco slumped back, pouting, but fell silent so Xander returned to his meal in peace.

  Until Daphne leaned over, her face barely composed, “Mold in his Shorts?”

  Xander shrugged, “I can’t remember his real name.”

****

  School let out and the children found their way to the train, breaking off into the small groups of friends that had formed over the school year. Xander found himself sharing a berth with Wednesday, Hermione, Harry, and Ron as they headed back toward Platform Nine and three Quarters. Ron pointedly ignored the ‘snake’ in the room, while Hermione split her time between her two groups of friends. Wednesday in return ignored Ron as insignificant, save to ask him if he knew how to play ‘is there a god?’ That question sent him as far from her as possible, and gave Xander a comfort zone as he talked and joked with Hermione and Harry.

School was out, and despite his initial concerns, Xander had to admit he rather enjoyed the year overall. He wasn’t certain what was going to happen for the next year, but it had been cool and he’d learned a lot of neat stuff. In London they disembarked, and milled around until finding their families and minders.

  Xander watched as Hermione was met by a pair of nice looking adults and he smiled when introduced, nodding to each. The Weasley family was impossible to miss, unless someone had set fire to the crowd, and Xander snickered as Ron was nearly smothered by his mother. Harry, though, walked off to a fat, red faced man, who looked like he wanted to explode just standing there.

  Xander had seen that look before, and felt a cold chill as he watched Harry walk toward it. He was no real friend of Potter’s, not really, but they weren’t enemies either. He grimaced, “hey Harry!”

  Harry paused, turning around, “Yeah?”

  “You going to be ok?”  Harry hesitated, but nodded. “Sure.”

  Xander didn’t know what else to say, and could only watch as Harry left with the fat man. He was pulled along into the American group a moment later when the professor from the Salem Institute caught up with him.

  “Come along, port key to Salem in three minutes.”

****

 Back in the states they were given one more class for the year, a short briefing on their rights as Magical Citizens of the Northern Americas.

  Xander was somewhat surprised to find that the borders of the magical communities weren’t the same as the borders of the Nationalities. In fact, the US, Mexico, and Canada were part of the same Magical ‘Government’, such as it was. It was really more of a group of departments within the federal governments of each nation, who all more or less agreed to follow the same set of magical rules.

  It all sounded horribly complicated, so Xander just focused on what he was allowed to do, which had been broken down into much simpler terms.

  He was permitted to use magic at home, but violations of the Magical Secrets Act of 1803 were punished severely, beginning with stiff fines and moving up to forcible relocation to an all magical community until he’d served his sentence. Extreme breaches were punishable under criminal law, which seemed worse.

  As a newly active ‘Wizarding Home’, his parents could apply to be hooked up to the national floo network, and have wards erected as they chose. His teacher had slipped him a pamphlet on Gringotts USA Warding services, telling him to give it to his parents. Xander just nodded and pocketed the pamphlet, uncertain on whether they could afford anything like that.

  Still he was pretty glad to be home and, as far as he could tell, so was Wednesday who was almost hopping with excitement. Well, for her at least.

****

  “Hey, looking forward to the summer?” Xander asked, smiling.

  “Yes.” She replied, her tone flat as she looked over at him. “We haven’t played wake the dead in a long time.”

  “Yeah.” Xander didn’t really need any more information on that than what he already had. “Well, I’ve got permission from the teachers to go shopping before they send me home, the local magic district in Sunnydale is supposed to be kinda dangerous.”

  “Really?” Wednesday asked, sounding interested. “The Hellmouth sounds very... interesting.”

  Xander shrugged, “boring to grow up in, but I guess there are things I never saw.”

  “Indeed.”

  “Anyway, I want to buy some potions stuff,” Xander said.

  “Why?”

  “I’ve got some of the twins gag stuff here,” Xander grinned, “I want to try and figure out how they made them.”

  “Ah,” Wednesday almost smiled. “Enjoy. Would you, perhaps like to visit?”

  “Sure, that’d be cool. Are you guys hooking up to the Floo?”

  She nodded, “You?”

  “I hope so. We have a fireplace, but I don’t think it’s ever been used.” Xander admitted, then looked a little glum. “I hope we can afford it.”

  Wednesday didn’t say anything, merely rubbed the beak of her familiar, “I’ll send Odin with our floo address when it’s ready.”

  “Cool. Thanks.” Xander grinned, hefting Fenrir up so the pup could bark at Wednesday and Odin. Oddly the pup had barely grown in the nearly ten months since Xander had picked him up, but Xander wasn’t complaining. Fenrir was fun to hold and play with as is. “We’ll be seeing each other then, right?”

  “Of course.”

****

  The two friends split ways shortly after that, Wednesday being picked up by the family butler. Lurch, not being much of a conversationalist had merely groaned at Xander when he greeted the big guy, then groaned again when Xander and Wednesday exchanged awkward goodbyes.

  After that he’d gone out to shop in the Salem District, picking up a small cauldron and a book on identifying magical spells cooked into potions and foodstuffs. The twins had come up with some really cool stuff, and he was really hoping to give them a surprise or two on the off chance they met again.

  Salem was apparently ready to accept students again, however, so Xander wasn’t counting on seeing the two red heads soon, but he’d see to it that their work lived on in America.  After he was done with shopping, Xander was led to the port key terminal and sent off in a whirling cyclone for Sunnydale.

  Home sweet home.

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Author Notes:

As always, I lay no claims to any of the material within. Addams Family, Harry Potter, BTVS, and any other property belong to their respective owners. I don't make money off this, it's just for fun.

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