"She's going to need it!" Angel remarked, winking at the redhead as he reminded, "She is going to have Spike with her, after all. I'd say she's going to need all luck she can get."
"You know that you're gonna miss me, Peaches," Spike smirked as he moved towards the group, having checked their luggage, his blue eyes looking at his grandsire, having to admit that he was almost going to miss the brooding wanker. It had been over a year since he'd died saving the world, a little less since he'd been brought back and, over that time, he and Angel had fought and argued and become friends. He glanced at the redhead witch that was the reason he was leaving LA, planning to go off to some wizard school to assist her in her new position, and smiled softly.
Willow had arrived in LA about eight months before, bored and looking for something to do. She'd spent months helping get the new Council set up, finding potential slayers, helping get everyone settled, and she'd finally had time to realize that she wasn't really happy. She was a powerful witch, rumored to be one of the strongest the world had ever seen, and she was wasting her skills by roaming around after the slayers. They were not interested in magic, there was nothing she could teach them, so she'd come to LA looking for something to cause her to stop feeling so restless. She'd started helping around the office, performing spells when needed, helping with research, helping fight. She'd seemed pretty happy once she got settled in, enjoying the variety that working at Wolfram and Hart offered.
And, during her many months in LA, she'd ended up becoming his best friend. Strange, he knew. He'd honestly never given the redhead much thought other than her being Buffy's best friend and a witch, maybe the random awareness that she was shaggable, more so once she tapped into her true power, but, by that time, his life was too complicated for anything other than the occasional lusty feeling. They'd talked occasionally, but had never become close. That had changed when she'd come to LA, though. They'd spent hours talking, hanging out, and becoming friends. She was pretty much the most important person in his life, his favorite. When she'd received that letter a week ago, via an owl of all things, he'd listened as she told them about her offer to become a professor at some magic school, teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts, a position perfect for her.
She'd tasted the darkness, herself, had spent years battling evil and had channeled all things good in the final battle against the First. He was thrilled at the happiness this offer seemed to bring her, knowing that she might have finally found something that made her feel content and like she was making a difference again. When he'd heard that the position was at a school in England, his happiness for her had been replaced by a variety of emotions. She was going to leave him, forget about him; he'd go back to having no one. He'd tried to smile for her, but it hadn't really worked out.
She'd known, though. His Red, she was a smart one, maybe too smart. She'd come to him that night and surprised the Hell out of him by asking if he wanted to come with her. He'd been stunned, to say the least, but hopeful, thinking how fun it would be to just go off with his best friend and start over somewhere, not have Peaches constantly reminding him about his past and not have to constantly battle whatever demons stupidly thought they could defeat Angel and company. She'd smiled at him, a sweet smile that was reserved just for him, and she'd explained that she loved the idea but was scared that she wouldn't know what to do. After all, she'd only just learned about the existence of this entire world of magic and wizards and things that he didn't quite understand. She didn't want to go alone, wanted to have her best friend with her, thought it would be good for both of them to go and just help a bunch of kids learn about things that go bump in the night. She'd seen his answer in his eyes, going immediately to send a reply back to the Headmaster who made the offer, stipulating that she'd accept the offer on the condition that her best friend could come with her. It had been a day later that the reply came, offering *him* the chance to be her assistant, and agreeing with her conditions. From then on, it had been madness.
They'd had to pack and she'd had to fly to Cleveland to visit her friends one last time before going, learning a lot about this new world she'd just learned about from Giles. Seemed the head of the new watcher's council was fully aware of this Hogwarts place as well as the Headmaster. Willow had come back from Cleveland, even more excited about everything that awaited them. He wasn't really into the magic stuff, himself, but he kind of liked the idea of teaching. Call it a throwback to his human self, whatever, he was thrilled to be going with her. Of course, his very big crush on the redhead wasn't the reason why he was glad that she was taking him with her. Nope, not at all.
He'd dealt with the crush months ago, knowing that she seemed to have no idea how he felt and didn't appear to return his feelings at all. He could handle loving her as long as he was her best friend, knowing that she did care about him and hoping that one day she might be able to love him the way he was starting to love her. For now, it was just a crush that he had control over, though Peaches had noticed and never missed the chance to tease him about it. He ignored the elder vampire's teasing, not all ashamed of what he felt for Willow. He shook his head, knowing now was not the time to get caught up in thought. They had a flight to catch soon and this was the last time he'd be seeing the ragtag group that had become his friends over the last year.
"I'm going to miss you guys," Willow smiled at her new friends, finding it hard to believe that a week ago she'd been bored and wondering if Wesley needed any help in Research and now she was getting ready to teach at a real school of magic. She'd been flabbergasted when she'd received the letter from a Headmaster Dumbledore, thinking it was some kind of joke. When she'd asked Wesley about it, though, he'd been shocked, telling her what a fantastic offer it was and how lucky she was that such a respected and renowned institute wanted her to teach. He'd then followed it up by complimenting her on her power and skills, saying that Hogwarts would be the lucky one if she agreed to accept the offer. She'd been excited, calling Giles and hearing from him about this entire community where magic was just normal and accepted.
She'd found it hard to believe, wondering why she'd never heard of it before. Needless to say, she was very enthusiastic about the position, having loved her teaching assignment at Sunnydale High and thinking how wonderful it would be to use her knowledge to help all the students learn to defend themselves against the dark arts, though a part of her was still a bit unsure if she could handle the responsibility. This was a world that she knew nothing about, hearing from Giles that they used wands and were formal and had all these spells and curses and hexes that she didn't know at all. She wanted to do it, though, loving the challenge and thinking that it was exactly what she needed to get some sort of purpose back in her life.
When she'd told the others, Angel had seemed disappointed that she was leaving, but he'd smiled and congratulated her and told her she had to visit often. Gunn and Fred and Lorne had followed his lead, smiling and hugging her and telling her how wonderful she'd be in such a job. Spike had smiled, but the smile hadn't reached his eyes. She knew her best friend rather well, still finding it a bit hard to believe that Spike was her best friend, but knowing it was true. He knew her in a way that no one else, and vice versa. They spent a majority of their day together, constantly hanging out and talking and just enjoying life a little bit more. She hadn't even realized that going would mean leaving him. She knew that it was stupid to even contemplate turning this opportunity down because of a friend, but she didn't want to lose Spike. She'd gone to him that night, asking him to go with her.
The look in his eyes had made her smile, made her realize that their friendship meant the world to him, too. It had also opened her eyes to some undeniable truths. The idea of being away from Spike, of not seeing him every day, of not having him in her life, it wasn't a pleasant idea at all. In fact, it had been downright frightening. Standing in his room, watching him, talking with him, she'd realized that things had changed between them somewhere. They were still best friends, but it was something even more than that that existed between them now. She'd realized that night, just a week ago, that she was falling in love with the blond vampire. She'd also realized that her feelings appeared to be shared by him, that Spike seemed to possibly be in love with her, too.
She couldn't really describe the emotions she'd felt at that knowledge. It had been as if she could suddenly see everything clearly, as if the world finally made sense. When he'd smiled at her, that shy smile that had made the hopeful look in his eyes even more tender, she'd not been able to ignore it any longer. She loved Spike. Instead of scaring her or shocking her, she felt strangely satisfied, content with this newest twist in her life. She had not yet told him how she felt, wanting more time to confirm that her emotions were real and true and not caused by her sudden decision to move halfway across the world. Spike had been hurt enough by love in the past and she had no intention of causing him any heartache. He appeared to have feelings for her, feelings that she'd never noticed until her eyes were finally open and everything was clear, and she didn't want to risk his heart by giving him false hope because she was emotional at the idea of leaving her life and starting over. Honestly, she had had a week to explore her new awareness, a week to realize that her feelings ran pretty deep, a week to acknowledge that this was not some passing lust or misplaced affection, but she had not yet told him the truth. She'd been so busy getting things ready to go, deciding to wait to talk to him about this until they arrived at Hogwarts, hoping that she was right and that he did return her feelings, hoping that he'd be interested in dating her, possibly having a relationship with her once they were settled in at the school.
Needless to say, she'd been thrilled when he'd accepted her offer. Going to England and accepting her new teaching post sounded so much more enjoyable when she'd have Spike by her side. She'd had some doubts that the Headmaster would accept her new conditions, not sure if they would want a vampire at a school for witches and wizards, unsure if it would be a problem , willing to risk losing this opportunity if it meant choosing between it and Spike. She'd sent a note to the school, explaining to Mr. Dumbledore that she'd like her best friend to accompany her to the school, being as specific as possible about his background without getting into details of her sudden feelings for him, and she'd been thrilled when she'd received a response informing her that Spike was more than welcome to join her and that he could also assist her in her class. From then on, the days passed quickly. She'd gone to Cleveland and visited Xander and Buffy and Dawn and Giles and Faith, telling them about her new job and hearing even more about this wizard world, still finding it all unbelievable.
She'd promised to write and call and keep in touch even when she was some "fancy smart Professor" type, as Xander had said with a proud smile. When she'd returned to LA, she'd had to pack and get things ready for their flight to London, via New York, and she'd found a packet waiting for her from the school. It contained a book concerning the History of Hogwarts as well as information regarding their train departure from London to Hogwarts and other various information to help her get acclimated. She was going to read the History on the plane, relieved to see that there had been arrangements made for a Professor to meet her upon arrival and give her some basic training so that she could adjust to the school and community. Tonight was the night they left, and Angel and her other friends had brought them to the airport. Spike was trying to pretend that he wasn't going to miss anyone, even though he'd become pretty good friends with Wesley and Gunn as well as Angel, though he'd deny that even if tortured.
"I'll have to come visit you, Cupcake," Lorne promised as he gave her a big hug, careful not to knock his hat off that was concealing his complexion and horns from everyone at the airport.
"Oh, that would be great," Willow smiled, having really hit it off with Lorne. He was probably her favorite person in LA besides Spike and Angel. She liked them all, but Lorne always made her laugh. He was also the only person with whom she'd confided her feelings about Spike, just smiling as if he'd always known, telling her he saw good things for them.
"You have fun over there," Lorne smiled as he leaned over to whisper in her ear, "you're going to be fantastic, Professor!"
"I hope so," she smiled back, knowing that she was going to miss him a lot.
"You know you're gonna kick some wizard ass," Gunn smiled as he pulled the redhead against him for a brief hug, "they won't know what hit 'em, Red."
"Thanks," Willow laughed as she waved a finger at him and playfully warned, "And you better be good!"
"Who? Me?" he said with an innocent smile, though his eyes were amused.
"His partner in crime is going with you," Fred reminded with a giggle, "The bad boys are gonna be split up, thank God! No more pranks or fights for no reason except the fun of kicking ass."
"Man, that's gonna suck," Gunn said as he gave Spike a disgusted look before smiling, "Gonna miss ya, Blondie."
"Yeah, whatever," Spike rolled his eyes but hit Gunn's fist and gave the black man a very, very brief hug, smiling as he instructed, "Keep fighting, Charlie."
"You too," Gunn smirked, thinking how odd it was that he had not only become friends with Spike but that he was going to miss the sarcastic blond vampire.
"Male bonding," Wesley rolled his eyes, giving Willow another hug, "as everyone has been saying, you are going to blow them away with you talent, beauty, and intelligence. If you need anything at all, I'm only a phone call away."
"Thank you, Wesley," Willow said before moving to give Angel a hug. "Take care of them, Angel."
"You take care of my boy," Angel whispered in her ear, wondering if she had any idea just how much Spike cared for her, knowing that she probably didn't, which made him feel a bit sorry for the blond vampire. Though, the last week, he'd seen a different expression in her eyes when she'd look at Spike. A loving expression that seemed to indicate that she not only was aware of Spike's feelings, but that she might return them herself. For their sake, he hoped it was true. He'd have never imagined Willow and Spike being so perfect together, but he couldn't deny how *right* a relationship between then was. Maybe this new job and getting away from reminders of the past would give them a chance to be happy. He tightened his hold on Willow, realizing that this was going to be the last time he saw the redhead that had become such a good friend for an unspecified amount of time. "I'm gonna miss ya, Red."
"They're calling our flight," Spike said, glaring at Angel for how long he'd been hugging Willow. It was bad enough listening to Wesley, whose admiration for the redhead witch was borderline crush as far as Spike could see, but seeing Peaches whisper in her ear like that was just annoying.
"Bye Fred," Willow gave the brunette a quick hug, "keep an eye on our boys and make sure they don't get into too much trouble."
"I will," Fred smiled, "I'll keep you in the loop so you can yell at them if they don't listen to me. You're the one they're all scared of that can keep them in line, and you're running off and leaving me in charge. I'm not good at being in charge!"
"Yes, you are," Willow laughed, "Boys, be good for Fred or else!"
"Yes, Willow," several voices called out before laughing.
"Bye guys," Willow waved as she finally allowed Spike to pull her towards their departure gate, taking his hand and smiling as they entered the plane and took their seats. She made herself comfortable and then opened the copy of the book Hogwarts: A History that Headmaster Dumbledore had sent to her upon her acceptance of the position, settling back to start reading during the flight to New York. Finally giving up that idea when Spike began to fiddle with everything, already bored and impatient for the flight to end and they hadn't even left LAX yet. Since her best friend was possibly the only vampire with ADHD, she decided it was her duty to entertain him during their flight, since she was the one responsible for him having to be on the plane in the first place. She got him to tell her about his last night out drinking with Gunn and the demons they'd found in the alley trying to kill some girl and the way they'd kicked some ass even though they'd been a bit drunk. She rolled her eyes when he declared himself the perpetual bad boy, an arrogant smirk on his face as he continued telling about how great he and Gunn had been. She smiled as she realized that they'd be in England in like twelve hours and should arrive at Hogwarts by this time the following evening. She was going to be a Professor at a school for wizards and witches, she was going to learn all about an entire magic performing community she'd never even heard about, and she couldn't wait to get started!
Draco Malfoy was annoyed.
Actually, the handsome blond wasn't sure if annoyed was an adequate description for his current mental state. Perhaps irritated, upset, perturbed, he was certain he could come up with half a dozen other adjectives if given half a chance. If given time, he'd owl Hermoine and have a list numbering in the hundreds within an hour, most likely. That would require too much effort, though, so he was content to dwell on annoyance and irritation. His feelings were obvious to anyone who happened to look at him and see the scowl on his full lips or the flash of anger in his gray eyes. As it happened, he was alone so the only witnesses to his extreme displeasure were the portraits, and they tended to find it amusing when Draco Malfoy behaved like an immature brat.
He sighed loudly, running a hand through the almost white hair that fell past his ears, closing his eyes as he thought over everything that had happened recently. He should have been home, enjoying the remainder of his summer before he began his new position as Potions Professor. He had intended to spend the vacation preparing lessons and reading, enjoying the peace and quiet of his empty home. His mother was away on her honeymoon with Snape, a grimace crossing the handsome wizard's face as he shuddered at the knowledge that Snape was now his stepfather, but the action had provided him with his new position at Hogwarts so he assumed he couldn't be overly upset. It wasn't that he didn't like Snape, he actually respected the man far more than he let on, it was just, what was the right word, ah, yes, disturbing to imagine his mother on her honeymoon, doing things he didn't even want to think about with Snape. He'd had nearly six weeks of vacation left before he was expected to report to the school, having made plans to visit some friends and make any last minute preparations needed before he became the best Potions Professor that Hogwarts had ever had.
He'd been reading when he received the owl from Dumbledore. He had been informed that his presence was required at Hogwarts immediately to begin training of some sort for the approaching school term. There had been no request, no words of please, no apology for cutting his vacation short, just a summons to report to Dumbledore. Draco had read the letter and then tossed it on his dresser, going back to his book. He waited three days before packing his belongings. He gave no thoughts to urgency, knowing that he was fully trained for his new position, plus he had issues with authority. Being summoned like that grated on his nerves. He was a Malfoy. Malfoys were not summoned, they were requested. Besides that, he was a bloody hero, having joined the fight of Good during the final battles, saving Potter himself! He deserved some consideration for his efforts, and being summoned was not a very nice way to repay him for going against his father and turning his back on everything he had ever known. True, he had made the decision because he hated his father and had no interest at all in following in his footsteps. Draco was no fool, he knew the difference between right and wrong, and chose the correct path when it was time.
Surprised old Potter something fierce, he had to smile slightly when remembering his former enemy's reaction to him joining the silly little group of do-gooders. Maybe that was another reason he'd chosen the path that he had, wanting to surprise everyone that thought they knew him so well. Bunch of idiots had no idea who he was, content to never look past the image of Slytherin Prince that he had perfected early on. Of course, the main reason for his choice was because he did not like being told what to do. Obeying that bastard Voldemort like some mindless slave was not a future that had him smiling. Instead, he had helped fight The Battle that had destroyed the Death Eaters along with their pathetic Master, saving Potter in the process and earning himself a position in a small group of loyal and devoted friends. He had changed over the years, in some ways, though he was still a sarcastic prat according to Weasley. You didn't have to specify which Weasley, they all thought he was a sarcastic bastard, which he took as a compliment. He might have fought on the side of Good, but Draco Malfoy was still every bit a bad boy.
He had arrived at Hogwarts that morning, four days after he had received his summons. Dumbledore had merely smiled at him when he'd entered his office, muttering something about having expected him to wait at least one more day before arriving. That had been the start of the annoyance. As if he were predictable enough for the old buzzard to know he'd deliberately ignore the immediate part of his orders. Well, Draco was many things, attractive, intelligent, wealthy, a powerful pureblood wizard, but he was not predictable. Predictable indicated routine, routine indicated boring, boring indicated common and ordinary. Draco was not boring nor was he ordinary. He resented the implication that he was, his scowl having grown even more pronounced at the concern that Dumbledore believed him to be a boring, predictable, ordinary wizard. Glaring at the dotty old man that had was probably older than dirt, he had sat down and listened as the Headmaster explained why he was at school a month earlier than anyone else, listening with growing horror as he heard about the new DADA professor that would be arriving soon and the realization that he was supposed to help get her settled and trained. He had protested instantly, declaring that a tenured professor would be a far more suitable choice for orientation and training. After all, he'd spent the last year as an assistant to Snape and was only just now going to have his own class.
The Headmaster had merely smiled, again, pointing out that he was a Malfoy and surely capable of orientating a new Professor, using Draco's favorite quote against him with such ease that it took the handsome twenty-three year wizard a moment to even realize he'd been dissed, using one of Ron's favorite terms of late. It got worse after that. The new DADA professor was some silly witch that knew nothing about their community, raised by muggles, unaware until only recently that schools such as Hogwarts even existed, a wandless witch from America! She was bloody American and he was supposed to play the part of mentor until school began! He'd remained silent during the remainder of his meeting with Dumbledore, wondering if the old man had finally gone dotty. He had moved past a majority of his prejudices, having no great dislike of mudbloods or muggles in years, since he'd realized that his father was a fucked up tosser that didn't know a damn thing, his friendship with Hermoine also doing wonders in practically erasing the term mudblood from his vocabulary, but American! And wandless! It was horrible. It was going to be torture, pure and simple, and the Headmaster just smiled, oblivious to Draco's personal version of Hell, his eyes twinkling in that annoying way as he finally wandered off, mumbling something about pineapples and bunnies. Definitely senile, Draco thought crossly.
The Slytherin finally left the Headmaster's office, walking straight to his room. The school was practically empty, everyone else enjoying the last of their vacations while he was stuck playing mentor to some American witch. It wasn't fair, damn it, he thought as he entered his room. He paced around a bit, cursing Dumbledore and everyone else he could think of, wondering why he was being treated so awfully, deciding it was a personal vendetta against him because he was a Malfoy and a bit of a prat. Oh, Potter was going to love this, probably laugh his bony little arse off his chair when he heard that Draco was being forced to play nice with a wandless American witch. Draco cringed as he imagined the others' response, knowing that Hermoine would babble about it being an opportunity for him to get over the remaining prejudices that he held, while Ron would just think it was the most hysterical thing he'd ever heard. Draco had planned to meet them all for dinner in a few weeks, before the term started and he got busy with classes, but now he was thinking that he might just cancel the whole thing, not wanting to be the cause of such amusement.
The blond wizard stopped pacing as a curious expression entered his gray eyes. He moved to the bathroom that he would share with the new DADA professor, wondering if her room had been prepared. He opened the door, his eyes narrowing as he saw that her room was larger than his. It wasn't fair! It was a rather nice room, he grudgingly admitted, the colors all dark and rich, burgundy, navy, forest green, and black. Lots of heavy wood, a variety of types, much like his own room. It was then he noticed the two beds. Two beds? The curiosity deepened as he wondered why there would be two beds in the room. If she were married, there would only be one bed. If she had a lover, again, one bed. He tried to concentrate on his annoyance with the entire situation even as he became intrigued by the entire thing. A position had been offered to this witch, an untrained, wandless American, which led him to believe she must very qualified for Hogwarts to overlook her lack of background and pureblood status. Now he found her room richly decorated, larger than his, and it had two beds. He closed the door between the rooms and wandered back into his own.
Who was this American witch and why had she been offered the position of DADA Professor? He wished now that he hadn't been quite so caught up in annoyance and anger and, instead, asked some questions. Not that the dotty old wizard would have answered him, but maybe he'd have been given some idea who he was going to be mentoring and sharing a bathroom with. He sat on his bed and opened his book, his eyes curious and thoughtful. Maybe he'd be polite tomorrow and see if he could get any answers from the Headmaster, wondering if he'd be successful sneaking into the office and searching for the file himself, deciding finally that such a venture might be rather enjoyable and remind him of his time as a student here, but that it would also be rather foolish to risk his new position. Of course, he was a bad boy, as his friends constantly teased, so such an action surely would not be all that surprising, possibly even expected. He decided that he might take the risk if this new witch did not arrive the next day, a smirk crossing his lips as he decided his plan of action to satisfy his curiosity. Content, he opened the book and began reading, determination in his eyes. He was going to be the best Potions Professor this school had ever seen, and, unfortunately, that meant studying and preparing. He wanted to show them all that he deserved the position, that he was qualified, that he was skilled and talented and strong. He'd do it, too, confidence also being one of his more dominant traits. After all, he was a Malfoy.
Draco Malfoy was bored.
He'd been at the train station for nearly an hour, having already exhausted the enjoyment of watching the ridiculous muggles wander around the station. Admittedly, watching muggles was usually a bit of fun, Draco finding their habits amusing and having a creative talent for making up stories about them. It could usually entertain him for hours, but these were not usual circumstances. He had been to the station by Dumbledore, his newest task of being mentor to the American witch beginning that evening. You see, he was waiting for the arrival of the new DADA professor and her companion. Companion. He had never realized what a horribly annoying word that was. It gave him no explanation to sate his natural curiosity. It did not specify lover or husband or friend or even nurse, for all he knew. It would be just like the crazy old bat to hire some ancient American witch that required a caregiver or nurse.
He had no idea who he was waiting for, not even receiving a name from the dotty old Headmaster. He'd tried being charming that morning, using the smile that always caused Potter to roll his eyes because it usually worked at getting him out of trouble easily or at obtaining whatever information it was he wished to know. On Dumbledore, it had no affect. If anything, it had caused the old man's eyes to twinkle just a bit more when it was evident that Draco was curious about the new professor. The blond wizard had not learned anything at all! He'd left breakfast, going to his rooms to study and think, deciding that he'd just break into Dumbledore's office and find the file and answer his own questions. He'd rather gotten into the planning, always loving a fun bit of adventure, especially when it meant breaking some rules and being a bit bad, figuring out the exact way he'd get into that office. He'd not been given a chance to try out his plan, though, because he'd found out at lunch that the new professor was arriving that evening and that it was his responsibility to collect her and her companion at the train station and bring them to Hogwarts.
He was a tad disappointed that there would be no breaking and entering in his future, though he did jot down his ideas for use at a future date, confident that there would be a time that he'd wish to break into Dumbledore's office for something. He was also a bit relieved that he was not having to visit the muggle airport, the one experienced he'd had there nearly scarring him for life. There had been so many muggles and it had been loud and unpleasant and he had no desire to repeat that adventure any time soon. He might no longer have a disgust or hatred for muggles, finding them amusing in their way, but it did not, by any means, mean that he wished to be surrounded by them. The train station in the evening would not be nearly as crowded, fairly easy to navigate, and amusing in a way to pass the time he had to wait. He was growing more curious about this new professor as time passed, having heard just enough to intrigue him, always liking a bit of a mystery. He was glad that she would be arriving so his curiosity could be sated and he get back to working on his lessons.
Granger would be ever so proud of him for being so studious, he thought with a slight smirk, deciding he'd make sure to let her know next time they met. He rather enjoyed having Hermione proud of him, feeling as if he were justifying her choice to befriend him. He knew what a difficult choice that had been, had felt a bit guilty at the trouble it had earned her from her friends, though guilt did not last long. He was a bit of a selfish man, after all, and had not really cared about her problems so long as they did not prevent her from being his friends. It had happened near the end of their sixth year, after they had been paired up for a potion's project. Away from everyone else, without the need to act the part of the Slytherin prince, he'd let his guard down, allowed her to see him as no one else did. She had deemed him worthy of being her friend, something that still shocked him to this day if he were honest, and she'd become just that. His first true friend. He had secretly kept in touch during his summer at home, that being the summer he'd been forced to make many decisions that had life changing consequences. When he'd returned to school, he'd made his choices, standing beside Potter and Granger and Weasley, against his father and Voldemort. Other Slytherins had followed his example, the thirst for power and control not as overwhelming as their instinct for survival and their knowledge that Voldemort would be eventually be defeated.
The houses had become united, led by him and Potter, supported by hundreds of students. He'd risked a lot, making his choice, but he had no regrets. They had fought The Final Battle near the end of seventh year, defeating Voldemort and the Death Eaters. His father had died, and Draco had only felt the slightest twinge of loss for the man that had never thought him good enough. During the battle, he'd saved Potter, cementing his, a grimace crossed the blond's face as he even thought the word, friendship with The Boy Who Lived. Some had fallen during their fight, but a surprising amount had survived. Finally, it was all over. There had been parties and celebrations and then life had calmed down. It was odd living a normal life, finishing school and making plans for a future that had always seemed so far away and perhaps not existent, depending on the results of their battle.
After school had ended, Potter and Granger had joined the Ministry, working at various things they were not allowed to discuss, while Weasley had begun to travel in a position that he, too, was not allowed to discuss. It was rather infuriating that his friends had these secret jobs, working for the Ministry and such, while he was teaching. True, he had had his own offers from the Ministry, being a very powerful wizard as well as being The One Who Had Saved The Boy Who Had Lived, the nicknames given to them all causing Draco to roll his eyes and wonder if it would not be much simpler to just use their given names. He had turned down the offers, though, surprising many people. He had realized, though, that he enjoyed teaching. He'd been in charge of getting their comrades up to par in potions and other skills of which he was an expert, their training falling to him and Granger during seventh year after sides were chosen. When he'd been offered an opportunity to remain at Hogwarts, to become Snape's assistant, he'd jumped at the chance. Those that really knew him, the very few people he allowed to know him, were not very surprised.
He had been at Hogwarts since, having to sit by and watch his mother begin her affair with Snape, still shuddering over the memory of catching them snogging in the Potions class after hours. He had been glad to see his mother happy, knowing that her years with Lucius had not been a cause for smiles, not minding that the cause of her new happiness was Snape. True, he wanted to surpass Snape as the best Potions professor in Hogwarts history, but that was not personal. He wanted to prove that he deserved the position, that he was skilled, that he was more than just the Malfoy name. And, if he were completely honest, he wanted to justify Snape's belief in him during the years, to prove that he was worthy of such confidence. He also wanted to make a difference, as corny as that sounded, wanted the students to learn and enjoy acquiring knowledge, to be the favorite professor, the class they all were eager to attend. He would delight in bragging to Potter that he was a favorite, that his students loved him and listened to him, that he was succeeding in his chosen field. His friends could have their mysterious work with the Ministry. He was content to hold the minds of the youth of the wizarding world in his hands.
Draco glanced outside, wondering how long it would be before this witch showed up. Dumbledore had simply said that she'd arrive after dusk, smirking a little as he'd said it, and that Draco would be able to recognize her. How, the blond had no idea. Somehow, he did not believe that she would prancing around muggle London with a large sign indicating that she was a wandless witch from America, though that idea did cause a slight twisting of the handsome Slytherin's lips. He wondered again what she was like, hoping that she was not ancient and boring. The idea of spending the next five weeks mentoring some dotty old bat was a bit horrifying. With a loud sigh, he went back to observing muggles as he waited for the American witch and her companion.
Draco had been at the station for over an hour, deciding finally that the plane must have arrived late. He scowled as he shifted in the uncomfortable seat, his pale eyes looking over the people that were at the station at what was becoming a rather late hour. He'd missed dinner, wishing now he'd thought to have the house elves prepare him a sandwich or something to take with him to the station. In all honesty, he'd been a bit curious about the American witch and hadn't even thought about the time of day or the idea that he might miss dinner. He'd contemplated getting something at the station, but he had no muggle money on him and somehow did not believe that food prepared at a train station would be good enough for him to eat, no matter how hungry he was becoming.
It was in the midst of his thoughts about food that he noticed the slender redhead walking around the platform and looking around curiously. He saw only her back at the moment, waves of red hair falling down her back, nearly reaching the curves of a rather lovely arse encased in tight denim. She stretched, pulling the denim tighter, causing him to change his mind about his earlier thought. It was possibly one of the best arses he'd seen in a long time. She wasn't overly tall, he estimated that the top of her head would reach his nose, but she had long legs that he could not fully enjoy because of the jeans she was wearing. She moved her hands under her hair, lifting it and rubbing her neck as she continued to look around. She turned then, Draco's gray eyes moving over her graceful neck past full lips that were being gnawed on by pretty white teeth, moving to see her eyes.
He sucked in his breath when he saw her eyes. His reaction was a bit startling. He always prided himself on being in control and keeping his emotions in check. It was not just that she was attractive. He had seen more beautiful women, bedded a few in the past, but they had paled in comparison to this creature. The power rolled off her in waves, subtle but strong, more intense than he'd felt in another wizard or witch, and that included Dumbledore and Potter and any other he'd met during his life. With sudden recognition, the handsome blond realized that this was the new DADA professor. He now understood why she had been offered the position despite her lack of formal training. She probably had more power in her little finger than most of the wizards possessed in their entire bodies. There was an aura around her, pure and light, but there was a shadow around the edges. She had tasted darkness, he suddenly knew, having been told his aura was similar.
He cursed softly, having not expected this at all. Not only was she strong and powerful, but she was attractive and intelligence seemed to burn in her green eyes. He watched as she smiled, a full smile that made her green eyes light up with love and amusement, causing him to again taken a much needed extra breath. If he'd thought her pretty before, well, now she was absolutely stunning. He saw a man walk towards her, carrying a few bags. His eyes noted the bleached blond hair, the slender build that was perhaps an inch taller than his own, the look of affection in her eyes as she smiled at this man. This was the companion, obviously. A lover, perhaps. No, not yet, judging by the way they were acting. Soon to be a lover, no doubt, if the look in her eyes was anything to go by. A part of him declared that he was attracted to her, her beauty and her power, that he wanted her underneath him writhing with passion and begging for his touch. He had the urge to challenge this man that made her smile so sweetly, to start a game to win the redhead's affection, even though he had not even spoken to her or learned her name.
But, he resisted that voice. He did not have time for such games and liked to believe himself to be beyond such immature playing of emotions. He had no desire for a relationship, having never committed to anyone for longer than a night, and the last of those nights being so far back he could barely remember the details. Since his decision to become a professor, he had made his choice between having love and his professional responsibility. He wanted to focus on his job, on becoming the best in his position, and love, well, he'd never had a lot of experience with that emotion so it had not been a difficult choice to make. He knew what love was, in theory. He saw it whenever he was around Hermione and Potter, those two so sickeningly romantic and sweet that he always felt the urge to vomit when around them for lengthy periods of time. He even saw love when he looked at his mother and Snape, again with the disturbing images he did not want in his mind. He had never felt love, was not even sure he would ever feel such an emotion, and did not believe that the redhead he was now ogling would ever settle for less.
So, he made the mature choice once again in his life. He would acknowledge that he was attracted to this American beauty, but it would end there. He did not have time for such trifles as romance and affection at the moment, much preferring concentrating on his profession. Besides, they were going to be working together. Sexual adventures did not make for a good working relationship, or so he had heard. Perhaps they could become friends, being a similar age if his assumptions were accurate. That was all that they would be, though, no matter how strong and beautiful she was. Yes, it was the right decision, Draco thought as he smiled. He would remain aloof and not allow her to witness the reaction that she had unknowingly caused. He would mentor her and train her and leave her to whatever relationship she had with the man with his hair almost the same shade as his own. Though, he had to smile smugly, his had not come from a bottle. With his decision made, Draco made his way to the smiling redhead who was completely unaware of his debate on whether or not he was going to attempt to seduce her.
"How are we supposed to know this bloke?" Spike asked Willow as the redhead looked around the platform. He smiled slightly as he asked, "Is he gonna be wearing some pointy hat and wearing a robe? Or perhaps he'll have a sign?"
"Actually, my robe tends to draw attention in the muggle world. As for hats, I abhor the silly things. They always muss my hair," an amused voice said from behind Spike.
Willow looked past Spike, her eyes widening slightly as she saw the man standing behind Spike. Whoa, he was gorgeous. She had not expected that at all. For some reason, she'd gotten an image of an old man, rather like Gandalf in those movies Dawn loved, maybe with a cane. Never had she imagined the wizard sent to greet her being close to her age, having blond hair that was nearly the same shade as Spike's only appearing to be completely natural, and eyes that were a pale grayish blue. Nor had she expected such lovely full lips on the handsome face. Lips that were twisted into a smug smile as he looked at them, giving her the impression that he was not there by choice but rather the chore of dealing with the new professor had been delegated to him. He wasn't overly rude, but he had a bit of a pompous aura around him and the way he had said muggle was downright snotty. She wondered what a muggle was, wishing now she'd read the book instead of spending the entire length of both flights talking to Spike and trying to flirt subtly.
"As for the sign idea, it has merits if I had been aware of whom exactly I was waiting for," Draco continued smoothly, noticing grudgingly that the man was quite handsome and that she was even more beautiful up close where he could see her eyes even more clearly.
"You're the wizard?" Spike said suspiciously, not at all pleased by look of awareness that had flashed in Willow's eyes when she'd seen the obnoxious prat with the pretty boy looks and snarky disposition. Under normal circumstances, Spike might have appreciated the sarcasm, always admiring wit and arrogance. As it was, he was openly glaring by the time he saw the wizard glance at Willow, spotting the flash of attraction before it was carefully concealed.
"Spike, don't be rude," Willow admonished softly, not sure why Spike was already glaring, taking his hand and smiling at him before looking at the wizard that was watching them. She gave the other blond man a shy smile and introduced herself, "I'm Willow Rosenberg, the new professor, as you seem to have guessed. This is my best friend, Spike. Forgive any surliness on his part, please. He's been cooped up on a plane for hours and hours and hates being confined like that. Not to mention he hasn't fed since we left Los Angeles yesterday."
"No need to apologize, Miss. Rosenberg. Muggle flight is, I'm sure, a dreadful experience for all who must partake of it," Draco said smoothly, rather proud that he had not snorted out loud when hearing the bleached blond was called Spike. The comment about feeding did not escape his notice and he found himself wondering why the pale blond had not eaten on the plane. Instead of asking his question, he merely smirked and decided to try to find out later.
"Well, aren't you just a conceited little prat," Spike muttered crossly, moving behind Willow, his arm settling around his waist as he rested his chin on her shoulder, letting the pretty boy know that she was off limits and already taken. He felt himself relax a little when the blond arched a brow and nodded once, so quickly he'd almost not seen it, acknowledging his claim and seemingly not going to act on the attraction that Spike had seen in his pale eyes.
"So my friends often tell me," Draco replied to Spike's comment, earning him a look of approval from startling blue eyes that were no longer regarding him quite as suspiciously now that he had silently let it be known that he was making no moves on the oblivious redhead beauty between them. He had never thought of red hair as being particularly attractive, the Weasleys all possessing hair of that color and being some of the plainest people he'd ever met, but Willow, such a lovely name he had to admit, she carried it off in a way that made it absolutely breathtaking. He gave her a smile, the sort of smile that he used for his fellow teachers, professional and polite and somewhat friendly, and said, "If you'll both follow me we can catch the train that will take us nearer to Hogwarts. It has been waiting for us."
"Our plane was late," Willow explained, "I'm sorry if you had to wait for long."
"It was not a problem, Professor Rosenberg" Draco said as he lead them to the Hogwarts platform. "I find muggles amusing and the opportunity to observe them was relaxing."
Again with the muggles, Willow glanced at Spike to see if he recognized the term. She received a shrug and a confused look from him, smiling slightly as she realized he was still holding her hand. She looked back to see them approaching a brick pillar, headed right towards it, "Please call me Willow. And, um, why are we walking towards that brick wall?"
"To reach the train, of course," Draco said with an amused smile, having forgotten that Dumbledore had mentioned repeatedly that the American, Willow, was not familiar with any of their rules or culture, that being his main responsibility in training before school started. He took her hand and walked through the wall, hearing her startled gasp and Spike's muttered curse as they found themselves on the appropriate platform. Giving them both an amused smile, he said, "Welcome to our world, Willow and Spike. I was very rude before, and I do apologize. I forgot to introduce myself. I am rather unaccustomed of having to do so anymore, so please forgive me. I am Draco Malfoy, Potions Professor at Hogwarts. You may call me Draco, of course. Now, follow me. Spike, take care of the bags while we get settled. Then, Willow, perhaps you may ask some of those questions that are burning in those pretty green eyes of yours."
"Take care of the bags?" Spike repeated with a low growl, wondering just who this pretty boy wizard thought he was talking to. Giving him orders and then flirting with Willow. As if he was there merely to obey and carry out demands like some kind of servant. Pompous little shit, Spike glared at the back of the young man, about to come up with a good comeback when he felt Willow squeeze his hand.
"I'll help you with the bags," Willow volunteered, knowing Spike well enough to know that he was pretty pissed off at the moment. He hated being told what to do, even under dire, the earth might end kind of circumstances, and Draco had barked out orders without even accompanying them with a please or turning them into a request. She confided in Spike, "I don't think he realized just how rude that is."
"He's an arrogant brat," Spike muttered, recognizing all the signs of wealth and aristocracy that the young man displayed. "Some spoiled little rich boy, used to telling people what to do, expecting them to obey him without protest. Nose so high in the air you could see his brains, if he had any."
Willow tried to stop the giggle, but couldn't, having a similar opinion to Spike's. Draco Malfoy was a rich snot, albeit a very attractive one. He hadn't said or done anything intentionally rude, and would probably be apologetic if he realized just how demanding he'd come off, but she could tell that he was used to having people do whatever he said, when he said it. Normally she found such behavior disgusting, having flashes of Cordelia and her snotty attitude and holier than thou behavior during school, but Draco wore snotty rich boy very well. It wasn't anything obvious, just a sense of power and control and, she struggled to think of the right words and came up blank. Whatever, it was rather attractive and reminded her of Spike's attitude, though she wouldn't dare compare the two at the moment, since Spike was glaring daggers into Draco's back. Somehow she didn't think that the man she loved would be happy to be told that he, too, had a tendency to be demanding and powerful himself. She gave him a smile as they started to follow the blond wizard who had suddenly realized they weren't behind him and said, "He's not that bad. Definitely not what I expected, but he seems friendly enough. He said he was a potions professor. I wonder what that is. Can you imagine a school where all the classes are about magic? It's just fantastic!"
"The bags aren't heavy, luv, it's just the idea that he thinks he can tell me what to do," Spike said as he listened to her enthusiasm about this Hogwarts school. He gave her a smile, deciding that he'd forget Draco for the moment and concentrate on how beautiful Willow looked. Much more enjoyable focus for his attention. He smiled at her, "As for your question, no, I never gave it much thought, but the idea of a school for witches is something new. And I've been around over a century so they definitely must be good at that secretive thing."
"I know why you're upset. You're the Big Bad and don't take orders from snotty wizards," Willow smiled as she took his arm, watching him smile smugly over her reference to him as being the big bad and Draco as a snotty wizard.
"Exactly," Spike agreed, giving the wizard in question a glare once they reached the platform where he was waiting.
Draco watched them walking together, studying them as they came towards him. He was again struck by their beauty. He frowned as he realized that he'd just referred to Spike as beautiful, finding that the term did oddly suit the bleached blond muggle. And Willow was one of the most beautiful creatures he'd ever seen. He couldn't even explain what it was about her that was so attractive, only knowing that he had barely been able to keep his eyes off her since they'd met. He was suffering from hunger, he decided. When they got to the school, he'd have the house elves prepare him something to eat. Then, once he was full, his attraction to the redhead witch would surely fade away. When they reached him, he gave them his friendly but professional smile and said, "We can board here. Spike, just bring the bags into the compartment with us. The trip isn't very long so there isn't really much purpose in going through the trouble of checking them."
"So this train will take us to Hogwarts?" Willow asked as she followed Draco onto the train, listening to Spike mutter about where the wizard could stick his orders, speaking quickly so that the professor didn't hear. She didn't want to insult the first wizard that they met, even if he was a bit of a snob.
"No, it will take us to Hogsmeade," Draco corrected with a small smile as he opened the door to their compartment. He allowed Willow to walk inside before he followed her, unknowingly cutting Spike off before the blond could enter. He sat down opposite Willow, glancing at the door as Spike came inside and put the bags down, not at all phased by the glare the muggle sent his way. He might be a reasonably good guy now, but he was a Malfoy and Malfoys did not hold doors open for anyone, except beautiful redheaded witches with green eyes that could practically see your soul. "There we will catch a coach to the school."
"What's with all the hogs?" Spike asked as he sat next to Willow, his lips twisting into a smirk, "On account of you wizards being rude pigs or something?"
"I am unaware of the origins of the name, but I personally assume it was a tribute to your muggle ancestors," Draco said smoothly, his eyes flashing with amusement as he saw Spike's surprise at his retort. The other man smiled slightly before glaring again.
"And here I thought it was just an affectionate tribute to you," Spike responded, arching a brow as he waited.
"I fear that such a tribute would not be given to my family, despite my efforts over the past few years, so I assume it really must be in remembrance of your past relations," Draco replied, the amusement fading slightly as he recalled the effect that his father's actions had had on the Malfoy name before he pushed the past back where it belonged and smirked at the assistant DADA professor.
"Boys, enough," Willow interrupted before Spike could continue their silly debate.
"Sorry, luv," Spike said, smiling at the redhead and giving her every indication that his words were completely false. Draco did not apologize, merely smiled an amused smile as he looked at Willow.
"No, you're not," Willow rolled her eyes, laughing softly as she smiled at Draco, "What's a muggle? You've mentioned it several times and always with that condescending tone in your voice so I know it must not be something good."
"You do not even know what a muggle is?" Draco stared at the redhead with honest surprise.
"Um, that would be a negative," Willow said, wondering again why she didn't read the book on the plane.
"Dumbledore told me that you were unfamiliar with our world, but I had no idea that you lacked even the most basic knowledge," Draco said, speaking quickly for fear of offending the pretty redhead, "I do not mean to be insulting, Willow."
"No insult taken," Willow smiled, "I don't know anything about this wizard world and I'll be the first to acknowledge that. I want to learn, though, so I hope you don't mind a lot of silly questions until I can understand."
"It's my fault," Spike remarked, "she was gonna read that book on the plane but she spent the trip entertaining me instead."
"Book?" Draco asked, trying to figure out where to begin now that he knew Willow didn't know anything about his world. He was now glad they had six weeks until the term started, understanding why Dumbledore had brought him in to mentor, knowing that they would require a majority of that time for Willow to learn everything she needed to know about their community.
"Hogwarts: A History," Willow pulled it out of her bag.
"That's an interesting read and will familiarize you with the history of the school, but it does not offer much in practical knowledge," Draco informed the redhead, "I do recommend reading it because it has information concerning the school, the houses, as well as some of the important people in our history. As for the rest, I assure you that I will teach you everything need to know."
"Good," Willow smiled, "I can't wait to learn everything."
"How long is it to this Hogs place?" Spike asked the blond wizard. He was hungry, but would prefer not having to eat on the train. He'd last eaten in LA, unable to get to his luggage in New York and not having time once they'd arrived late in London. He'd had to smuggle a few bags of blood onto the plane, not wanting to explain why he had pig's blood in his suitcase.
"A few hours," Draco responded a curious expression in his eyes.
"Are you hungry?" Willow asked, knowing immediately why Spike was asking, having forgotten he hadn't eaten once she'd met Draco and become interested in learning about Hogwarts and everything else. She felt guilty, knowing that Spike hadn't eaten since they'd left LA, nearly a day before.
"I can wait," Spike smiled at her, wondering what kind of blood he'd be getting at this school. The headmaster had assured Willow that arrangements would be made, and Spike was a little curious what he'd be drinking daily. He saw her look of protest and said, "Luv, it's too messy to feed on the train. I can wait until we reach the school. I'm fine. Trust me."
"When we reach the school, I can have the house elves prepare us some dinner," Draco offered, "I had planned to have them fix me something since I missed dinner this evening."
"That sounds nice," Willow smiled, suddenly wondering if the headmaster had told Draco about Spike being a vampire. It was obvious that Draco hadn't been told very much about her, not even knowing her name when he'd been sent to pick them up, and the redhead had a feeling that Spike being a vampire would have rated even lower than their names. She almost told him then, before deciding to wait until after he'd finally explained a little about the wizard community to her. She knew that Headmaster Dumbledore had no problems with Spike being a vampire, having remarked in his letter that it would be truly inspirational to have a creature of the night assisting in the Defense Against the Dark Arts class, so she didn't think there should be any issues. She just didn't want to risk having to make some long explanation when she was dying to learn more about Hogwarts and wizards. She leaned against Spike and urged, "So, Draco, you were going to tell us about muggles."
"There's just so much to take in," Willow muttered after listening to Draco for almost an hour. She now knew that muggles were normal people, without any kind of magical abilities. She knew that Draco was a pureblood, both his parents being purebloods and so on. She assumed that was reason for his arrogance regarding those of dissimilar background. She had realized early on in his explanation that she was a muggle born witch, neither of her parents coming from any type of magical background. This meant that she was rated lower in the social status than purebloods, which rather annoyed her if she were honest. She knew she had natural ability, had been told by Giles himself that she possessed more magical talents than any he had seen, especially to be so young. Yet, in this wizard world she had just learned about, she ranked lower in status because neither of her parents were magically inclined. It didn't matter that she could probably out magic any of the pompous purebloods. A ghost of a smile crossed her face as she realized that out magic was definitely not a term in the dictionary, rather liking her new word.
"I suppose there is, considering your lack of knowledge," Draco remarked, his gray eyes watching her face carefully. She was angry about something, he realized, her cheeks slightly flushed and her green eyes flashing with annoyance. He thought back over what they had discussed, seeing no reason for her to be upset. Their discussion had been enjoyable, him answering the many questions she had and the occasional question from Spike, explaining the difference between purebloods, such as he, and muggle borns, such as herself. He had also explained that the differences were not as important in their current community as they had one been, not even six years before. Since The War, which he had not mentioned yet, there was acceptance and unity amongst all of the wizards and witches, regardless of their birth. The War had shown that they must work together to achieve any resemblance of peace and happiness. Besides, Hermione had been one of the heroes, her muggle born status reaffirming that it was the gift and not the lineage that mattered.
Willow snorted, not at all offended by Draco's words. She had realized during their brief time together that he didn't intentionally mean to be insulting, his sarcasm and rudeness just part of who he was. If he intended to be cutting and impolite, she had a feeling that she'd definitely realize the difference. He had proven to have a dry wit and snarky sarcasm much like Spike's, which she was very accustomed to, so she did not find his remarks insolent or disrespectful. But she did find his lack of tact rather amusing, admiring his bluntness and honesty. She saw the curiosity in his eyes, again struck by their color, and smiled, "Being a muggle born witch or wizard is no longer a bad thing, then?"
"It was never a bad thing, per see," Draco said slowly, wondering how he was going to explain without making himself appear to be an elitist snob. He finally smiled ruefully, "there were certain families of purebloods that did not have a kind view on muggle born witches, calling them mudbloods. These families believed themselves to be superior because of their blood lines, and they taught their children to hate those that were not in the same class. During my childhood, before I went to Hogwarts, I was taught that muggles and their kind were beneath me, worthless waste of magic, and any number of other phrases my Father deemed appropriate. I continued to have that belief for much of my youth. As I grew older, and started thinking for myself, I realized that my Father was wrong. I had seen wizards and witches at Hogwarts that were purebloods that had no amount of talent or bravery or skill, while I'd watched muggle borns display more courage and ability than I've ever witnessed before. I realized that lineage meant nothing, it was ability and talent that mattered. I befriended a muggle born, realized that they were no different than myself in most ways, and I acknowledged that the views of my Father and his associates were askew."
"Somehow I doubt he liked that," Willow said softly, seeing the cool mask slip as Draco became passionate about the topic. If she'd found him attractive before, with his cool aloofness and polite smile, she found him breathtaking now. She glanced at Spike, giving him a smile as she reminded herself that she loved the vampire and that she wanted a relationship with him, and that Draco might be very attractive, she wanted Spike.
"Father was a bastard," Draco muttered, frowning as his mind drifted to the past, "he was not at all pleased with my views. He had hoped that I would grow up to be just like him, a puppet for his Master to control, never thinking for myself, never questioning what I was told, never having my own point of view. When he realized that I had grown up without sharing his beliefs, he was not at all pleased. I do apologize. I had no intention of drudging up my past. I try to leave it where it belongs, in the past. Where were we?"
"What's mudblood mean?" Spike asked with curiosity in his blue eyes. He hated to admit it, but he was pretty fascinated by all this. A world of wizards and magic that he'd never heard about in his century plus roaming the world. He was interested in what had happened between the blond wizard and his father that had caused the flash of pain in the gray eyes and the smile of sadness that had briefly crossed the kid's face, but he could recognize that the wizard didn't want to talk about it so he changed the subject.
"Honestly, I don't quite know where it originated from. I assume it was started as a reference to the offspring of a muggle and a pureblood, that child's blood being muddied by the muggle ancestry thus making them a mudblood, that sort of thing. I imagine that it became an accepted insult for any wizard of muggle descent. I grew up hearing it and never had cause to question its origins. I just know that it is an extremely derogatory term for muggle born or muggle raised wizards, and is quite offensive," Draco replied softly, admitting, "It used to be a favorite word in my vocabulary, but I've tried my best to erase it over the years. It does occasionally surface, but I have not used it in reference to a specific person in a while."
"That's good," Willow smiled, seeing the proud smirk on the handsome face in front of her as he informed them he hadn't called anyone a mudblood in some time. "Tell me about Hogwarts. What's the school like? How long have you been teaching? You mentioned that you attended it as a student? What's it like coming back now as a teacher?"
"One at a time, Willow," Draco laughed softly, having never met anyone as inquisitive as the pretty redhead, her curiosity even surpassing Hermione, whom he thought was the most inquiring mind that he'd met. He shuddered at the idea of the two of them together, knowing neither woman would stop questioning and talking until every answer to ever question was given. Of course, if he got them together and then left Potter to deal with them, that might be amusing. A subtle bit of payback for Harry being such a pain in the arse during most of his youth. Draco rather liked this new idea, smiling a true smile at Willow as he leaned back and answered one of her many questions, "I attended Hogwarts from first year through seventh, and remained at the school as an assistant to the Potions Professor following the end of my terms as a student. This will be my first term as a Professor, though Snape allowed me some run of the class last year."
"Snape is the old Potions Professor then?" Willow asked, wanting to know more about Draco. No, about the school and her new community, she corrected mentally. Draco was just an added bonus, she decided, hoping that they could become friends.
"He's also my Stepfather," Draco said, "He married Mum a few months ago and retired to spend time traveling and doing things I'd rather not be aware of. When he retired, the position was offered to me, as was expected. There are few classes taught with an assistant, and my placement as such was for the purpose of taking over when Snape finally retired."
"Spike is going to be my assistant. Is that unusual?" Willow asked, wondering if he'd only been offered the position because she'd asked.
"In regards to DADA, not at all," Draco smoothly said, "For the last few years, there has often been a Professor and assistant for that class. My mother was in the position for the last three years, and it was only vacated because of her marriage to Snape, who acted as her assistant. Dumbledore would not have offered you the position of assistant if he did not feel you were qualified and would make a beneficial contribution to Hogwarts, Spike. It was not given based solely on your relationship with Willow, as you appear to suspect. Dumbledore considers Hogwarts his family and would never jeopardize the school for any reason."
"Course I'm qualified," Spike said with a smirk, though his blue eyes flashed with relief that he'd not been handed the position just because of Willow, rather liking the idea being a teacher and helping the students learn what they needed.
"So, Draco, tell me about your time at Hogwarts as a student," Willow asked eagerly, able to imagine him as a boy, probably still possessing that smirk and sarcastic wit. She leaned her head against Spike's arm, feeling his fingers playing with her hair as she made herself comfortable for the remainder of their journey.
Draco entertained Willow and Spike with stories of his youth at Hogwarts during the majority of the trip to Hogsmeade. He made them laugh as he described his numerous mischievous exploits, from torturing Potter to playing pranks on his own Slytherin house. He had successfully managed to avoid mention of The War, not wanting to bring up such serious topics when they had only just arrived, wanting to concentrate on happier topics for the moment. He enjoyed making Willow laugh, he realized as his gray eyes moved over her pretty face. She had such a pleasant laugh, the sound as lovely as any music he had ever heard, her eyes shining with happiness and making her even more attractive. He had even told of the very few times in which his pranks had backfired, not caring if he appeared a bit of a fool, loving the sound of her laughter.
Willow was aware that Draco was leaving something out of his stories. She was not quite sure what, but she would see a flash of pain or sadness in his eyes occasionally as he finished up a story and thought of another to tell. It was a similar look to the flash of memories that would show in her own eyes when she thought about various things in her past, Buffy dying, Tara dying, facing The First. She was curious what would cause the handsome and confident wizard to feel such sadness, but she did not dare ask for fear of upsetting Draco. He was relaxing as the train continued its journey, the smile crossing his face become real and not aloof, a gleam of amusement and nostalgia in his eyes as he spoke of his times as a student at Hogwarts. Asking him about what had happened during those years to cause him such pain would only cause him to close himself off and become sullen, she feared. So, she remained silent on her curious thoughts, knowing that eventually he might trust them enough to be completely honest with them. Besides, it wasn't as if they, too, didn't have their own heartbreaking and hurtful past that they had not shared.
Spike hated to admit it, but he kind of liked this wizard. True, he was getting annoyed at the smiles the blond was giving *his* Red, but he could overlook the obvious flirting because Willow wasn't responding at all. Silly girl probably didn't even realize that the blond wizard was staring at her as if she was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen, which she probably was. His Red was special. Not only beautiful, but sexy and smart and powerful and she always looked adorable when she was babbling and she always looked delicious when she was passionate about something. Yeah, he could understand this Draco kid being appreciative of his girl. His views of the wizard would have been radically different if Willow had been responsive to the flirting, if she'd flashed the pretty boy snob a shy smile or a lusty gaze, but she hadn't. Instead, she'd snuggled against his side and held his hand and shared smiles with him.
He didn't quite know what had happened in that mind of hers, but he knew something had. She was looking at him with awareness in her eyes that hadn't been there two weeks ago. It wasn't just a sexual thing, the attraction between them having always been present in that undeniable sparks kind of way. It was the way her smiles were meant for him, the way her eyes would light up whenever they were together, the way she looked at him as if she loved him. He'd spent a majority of the flight from LA concentrating on this new development in their relationship, wondering if it could possibly mean that she loved him the way he loved her. He didn't dare hope, not wanting the disappointment should he realize she was just being his best friend and didn't mean anything by the loving looks or tender smiles or affectionate touches.
He turned his attention back to the wizard, listening to yet another story of trouble that the blond had managed to get himself into during his school terms, managing again to escape without being caught. Spike had to admire a bloke that liked to cause a little trouble, especially one that had a rather cunning mind and an ability to escape without being caught. His friendship with Gunn had stemmed from a mutual enjoyment of making mischief, alcohol, billiards, and causing havoc on those around them for fun. They'd never done anything serious, neither one wanting to cause harm, but they'd often been called troublemakers by their friends for their silly pranks and rebellious antics. Spike could recognize a bit of a kindred spirit in the blond sitting across from him, deciding that it might not be too difficult becoming friends with at least one of the wizards. After Draco finished his latest story, Spike decided to broach the topic that hadn't been discussed yet. He leaned back and asked, "So, Malfoy, what are your thoughts about vampires?"
"Vampires?" Draco looked at the blond and arched a brow, wondering where that question came from.
"You have heard of them in your magical little wizarding world, haven't you?" Spike mocked, his lips twisted into an amused smile.
"Yes, I've heard of vampires," Draco replied, "We studied them in DADA, actually. Many believe them to be mythical, but we were told that they do actually exist. I've honestly never given them much thought. Why do you ask?"
"What would you do if ya met one?" Spike asked with a curious gleam in his blue eyes.
"I suppose that it would depend on the circumstances," Draco finally replied, looking at Willow and seeing the smile on her face, not receiving any indication from her concerning the motivation behind Spike's question. He sighed, "If I were being attacked, I would kill it. If it was attacking another, I'd kill it. If it was leaving me alone and going about its business, I'd pay it no attention. There, does that answer your question?"
"What if you were sharing a compartment on the train with one?" Spike asked with smug smile, watching the wizard narrow his eyes as he began to understand what Spike meant.
"Spike, quit teasing Draco," Willow scolded playfully before she looked at Draco, seeing the confusion and disbelief in his pretty gray eyes. She smiled softly, "I suspected that Dumbledore did not tell you about Spike since you didn't even know our names so I decided to wait to mention anything until it happened to come up."
"He's," Draco looked at the redhead for confirmation, trying his best to appear nonchalant at the realization, "he's a vampire?"
"Yes, he is," Willow nodded, "has quite a reputation, which I'm sure he'll delight in sharing if you ask, or even if you don't ask! He used to be one bad ass vampire, but he's mellowed in his old age. Got himself a soul and decided that being a good guy wasn't so bad."
"Old age?" Spike gave the redhead a glare, "I am not that old. And please do not call me a good guy! You know how I hate that."
"Sorry," Willow giggled and the pout that crossed Spike's lips. She turned to Draco and said, "He's the Big Bad, feared throughout the world by vampires and demons, a bad boy through and through even with the soul. Is that better, Spike?"
"Much," Spike smirked at his smiling redhead.
"I've never met a vampire before," Draco said smoothly, having had a moment during their teasing each other to collect his surprise and acknowledge that Spike seemed no different than anyone else. He had never imagined meeting one of the creatures discussed in DADA, finding himself intrigued with the attractive blond that was no longer just a muggle. He tried to appear blasa33;, as if he often found himself confronted with vampires, not wanting Spike to find him amusing with his reaction. A curious gleam entered his gray eyes as he realized how fascinating it was to now know a real vampire, finding Spike nothing at all like the creatures that had been described in his DADA class. Leaning forward slightly, he asked, "What's it like? And Willow mentioned a soul. That's not common, is it? What is this reputation you have? Were you really evil? How did you get a soul?"
The remainder of the trip to Hogsmeade was spent in conversation regarding Spike's vampire status, Draco asking many questions, and Willow asking more questions about the wizarding community. When the train arrived at its destination, they were met by a carriage that was being pulled by large, demon-like creatures that looked a little scary. Willow had sat beside Draco during the trip to Hogwarts, across from Spike. She was glad to see that the blond vampire was befriending the blond wizard. She liked Draco, thought he seemed like a nice guy, and was hoping that he'd become a good friend in their new life at Hogwarts. She knew that Spike would have a much easier time settling in if he had someone to replace Gunn as a friend in which he could hang out and play pool and other guy stuff like that, though hopefully without the same habit of getting into trouble.
Willow had been astonished at her first sight of Hogwarts. It was a real castle, like something out of a movie, and it was beautiful at night with the windows lit up against the dark sky. Spike had been impressed, though he'd done his best to conceal his reaction. He'd followed her inside, where they'd been met by Albus Dumbledore. He had been the stereotypical version of what came to mind when you thought of a wizard, long white hair and a beard and a twinkle in his eyes. He'd had blood waiting for Spike, something which earned him the vampire's respect immediately. She and Draco had spoken to him about their journey while Spike had fed, the hour now quite late and the hours of travel finally catching up with her. She wanted to talk some more, but she was pretty tired and really wanted nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep for a couple of days.
Draco had noticed her cover a yawn and had suggested that they retire for the evening, earning him a grateful smile from Willow. Dumbledore had mentioned them continuing their conversation in the morning and left them with a welcome and wish for pleasant dreams. The redhead witch and the blond vampire followed the blond wizard up several flights of stairs until they reached their floor. They'd then followed him down a hall, by this time Willow finding herself a bit lost, and finally they'd stopped by a painting of a large man who was smiling at them. She'd been a bit astonished when the man spoke, introducing himself as Thomas Miller, a wizard of yore, and then asked for a password. It would appear that Hogwarts did not have normal doors for their rooms, but, instead, portraits that could speak and required passwords for admittance to the rooms. Their password was Slytherin Rules, which made no sense to her but seemed to cause Draco to smirk so she assumed it must be a private joke of some sort.
When they'd entered their rooms, she hadn't been able to conceal her gasp of surprise. The sitting area was fantastic. There was a large fireplace and a sofa and chairs and a desk and it looked so warm and inviting that she wanted nothing more than to curl up in a chair with a good book and sit in front of the fire. She had heard Spike's amused chuckle at her behavior, turning to see the gorgeous blond men watching her and smiling. At that moment, Willow had found herself having a vision that had gone beyond naughty involving her and the two handsome men, causing her to blush and look away from them before they could see her blatant desire. She loved Spike, honestly believed that her feelings for him had been there all along, growing as they became friends and she learned more about him. She thought that they might actually be able to have a relationship together, especially now that they were here, away from the past, able to sort of start from scratch. They were already best friends and she knew that he cared about her, perhaps even loved her, and she intended to let him know her feelings for him when she felt brave enough.
Her feelings for Spike did not cause her to become suddenly blind, though. Draco Malfoy was gorgeous, intelligent, powerful, not to mention his lovely lips and that great voice. In a word, Draco Malfoy was nummy. When you put him next to Spike, like they were now, well, how was she supposed to not find herself fantasizing all sorts of naughty things? Heck, to be honest, she'd had similar thoughts whenever Angel and Spike were arguing, knowing about their shared past many, many years ago and having to admit that the idea of joining them had never been exactly distasteful. That's what fantasies were for, after all, to act out scenarios that were not likely to happen in reality. If she wanted to have a vision of Draco removing his clothes and kneeling in front of her as Spike kissed her, well, it was her prerogative!
Willow shook her head, trying to push those vivid thoughts from her head as she face the boys again. She smiled, asking, "Which room is ours?"
"The one on the left," Draco replied, his gray eyes studying the redhead. He was a bit curious as to what had caused her cheeks to turn such a delightful shade of pink, not to mention the gleam he had seen in her eyes only moments ago, knowing that it was desire and assuming it was for Spike, who was standing next to him. He moved to the door and opened it, showing the redhead, "It's a big room, set up for two people."
"This is great," Spike remarked as he entered the room, letting the luggage fall as he moved to one of the beds and sat down. "I'll take this one, pet. I know you like sleeping closest to the window."
"The bathroom is through there," Draco pointed to the door, unaware that relief had flashed in his eyes when he saw that Spike and Willow did not share a bed. He wasn't at all interested in becoming involved with anyone at this point in his life, but he had to admit that Willow was just about perfect, having been attracted to the redhead from the first moment he'd seen her, the attraction turning into a bit of a crush during the hours on the train. He wasn't a stupid man, knowing that the American witch seemed to have feelings for Spike, and vice versa, but he could not prevent himself from being pleased that their relationship was obviously not yet physical. He had enjoyed speaking with them both, finding his companions intelligent and witty and fascinating. He relished the opportunity to get to know them better, before their relationship became romantic and he found himself alone. He smiled at Willow and said, "If you need anything, I'm next door. Sweet dreams, Willow. Good-night, Spike."
"Night, wizard," Spike called out, his blue eyes watching carefully as Willow gave the surprised Draco a hug, smiling her sweet smile and thanking him for his assistance. His eyes followed the wizard out of the room, not missing the flash of lust in those pale gray eyes that had accompanied touching his Red. He actually didn't feel jealous, he realized with surprise, seeming to know that Draco wasn't a threat to his relationship with Willow. And relationship was definitely the right word. Something had changed, though he wasn't exactly sure what. Willow was looking at him with an awareness now that hadn't been there before, seeming to enjoy touching him as often as possible and those beautiful green eyes looking at him with love and desire and any number of emotions that he'd dreamed of seeing. He didn't know what was happening, not sure if he could mention anything about it in case he was just imagining things, but wanting to know if there was a chance, if she might feel the same way.
"I like him," Willow told Spike after she shut door behind Draco. She smiled at the vampire, "He's a bit arrogant, true, but it rather suits him. I'm glad he's going to be showing us the ropes around here."
"He's all right," Spike drawled lazily, "what do you think of this place, Red?"
"It's like something out of a book," she confessed as she moved to lay beside Spike, making herself comfortable. "I can't believe the paintings speak and the stairs were moving and Dumbledore seems very sweet. I think I'm going to like it here. What do you think?"
"As long as you're with me, I'm good," he admitted softly, watching her smile tenderly, wanting to confess how much he loved her and how affected he was by her laying against him and how he wanted nothing more than to shag her senseless in his new bed. Instead, he brushed his lips against her forehead, not wanting to upset her by telling her things she might not be ready to hear, "You should try to get some sleep, Red. Been a busy day."
"I'm really happy that you came with me, Spike," Willow whispered, wondering why he couldn't see the love she knew had to be in her eyes every time she looked at him, wishing she was brave enough to just kiss him and show him how she felt, since she wasn't brave enough to tell him the words.
"Me too, Red," he smiled as he moved his fingers along her cheek, his blue eyes moving to look at her lips before looking into her eyes. "Couldn't imagine not having you in my life."
"I'll never leave you, Spike," Willow said softly before she looked away, having almost told him how she felt, still not sure if it was the right time or if he even felt the same way. She sat up, moving from his bed and walking to her own. She didn't even bother changing, just taking off her shoes, the hours of traveling exhausting her as she crawled beneath the covers and whispered, "I love you, Spike."
"Love you too, Red," Spike replied, moving to blow out the candles before stripping off his shirt and boots, leaving his jeans on as he laid on his bed and thought about Willow until he drifted to sleep.
End of Part 9