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It had been two weeks since graduation. Two weeks since the students of Sunnydale High had joined together to fight Richard Wilkins' ascension. He had been destroyed along with the high school. There had been casualties, but not nearly as many as there could have been. Willow Rosenberg was one of the survivors. Thankfully, so were her friends. Others had not been so lucky. She could easily remember finding Larry's body, Harmony, the guy in her chemistry class that always sat behind her and tried to play with her hair, so many others. They had defeated the Mayor, saved the world, and she knew that there had to be sacrifices in such a fight, but it didn't prevent her from remembering the dead and feeling guilty. Guilty for surviving, for being one of the people that had figured out the plan, for being partially responsible for the deaths of her fellow students. She hadn't killed them, but she had suggested involving them. True, if they hadn't, more would have died, Wilkins' ascension would have probably been successful, and the world would be slowly taken over by evil, but those logical arguments did little to assuage her guilt on this quiet summer evening.

The battle had been fierce and over far more quickly than she'd imagined. They'd all worked together, put aside past differences, became one unit fighting against evil. It had been remarkable and made her proud to be part of it. Buffy and Faith had lured Wilkins into the trap, it had been set, and boom. No more Wilkins, no more Sunnydale High. Happy Graduation day. In the two weeks since the electrical problem that destroyed the school, the official excuse in the newspapers, and the attack of the PCP gang, the other official excuse to explain a death toll that ran into the double digits, everyone had dealt with the experience and begun to move on from the tragedy. She had faced enough bad guys in the three years that she'd known Buffy to realize that things could have been much worse, but she also knew that survivor's guilt was to be expected. She was moving on, knew that the sacrifices of her classmates made them heroes, and life, no matter how clichéd, did go on.

Things were changing. She wasn't in high school anymore. She'd be starting college in a few months, becoming an adult. Angel was gone, leaving after Graduation. Buffy was dealing, not very well but the slayer knew in her heart that things could never have worked out for her and the souled vampire. Cordelia had left two days ago, planning to go take Hollywood by storm. Personally, Willow expected her to become a pretty good waitress before realizing that the actress thing wasn't really very practical. She might be surprised, of course, Cordelia having a habit of lucking into things, and Willow did hope things worked out for the cheerleader that had eventually become her friend.

Faith was hanging around, flirting up a storm with Wesley who wasn't that bad once he got the stick out of his, well, once he lightened up a bit. In fact, during the numerous overnight planning sessions for the graduation festivities, he'd forgot to shave and looked pretty yummy with stubble and disheveled hair. Faith had set her sights on him, informing Willow and Buffy that she intended to convince the watcher that he belonged with her before the end of the summer. Willow wished her luck, thinking that they did strangely enough make a good couple. Xander seemed okay with Cordelia leaving, their relationship drifting into friendship following the mess that had been her stolen smoochies with her best friend. And Willow, well, she was dealing with two of her friends leaving town and life after high school.

The redhead looked up, smiling when she saw Xander approaching her. It was his birthday today, and they were planning on ordering pizza and watching some old movies from their childhood. It was how they had spent each of their birthdays since they were six, a dozen years ago. After Jesse had died, they had continued the tradition with just the two of them. They'd usually meet Buffy and Giles for a meal the day following their birthday, but the actual day they spent together. Her best friend was wearing an old pair of jeans and the same shirt he wore yesterday. She wondered what it was about boys that made them want to wear their clothes until they were falling apart or so in need of washing that it was a bit gross. She noticed that Xander had something in his hand, narrowing her eyes as he neared her, thinking that it looked like a letter of some sort. Her smile faded when he looked up at her, his eyes glassy from unshed tears. She stood up, moving towards the stairs, concern in her green eyes as she asked, "Xander, honey, what's wrong?"

"Willow," Xander moved into her arms, hugging her tightly as he finally let the tears fall. "Oh God, Wills. I can't believe it. I just can't believe it."

"Shh, Xan. It's okay. Whatever it is, it will be okay," Willow said, hugging him back as he cried on her shoulder. She couldn't remember ever seeing Xander like this before, scared as to what had happened to cause such a reaction in her best friend. She'd seen him cry before, too much when they were children. He'd run away from his house on the nights his Father was drinking, sneaking into her house and curling up beside her as he cried, his body bruised and hurt. Since he had had his growth spurt when they were thirteen and he'd grown taller than his Dad, the bastard had stopped hitting him, using words instead of fists. Even at the worst, the time when he was ten and his Dad broke his arm, he hadn't reacted like this. He was sobbing, holding her so tight she could barely breathe, and she had no idea what to do to make it better because she didn't know what had happened.

"I love you, Wills," Xander mumbled against her hair, feeling better now that he was with his best friend. He had known that everything would be okay once he was with Willow. Everything was always better whenever she was with him. He loved her so much, the redhead being the only person that really cared about him. He loved Buffy and the others, of course, but his friendship with them was nothing compared to the history that he shared with Willow. She knew him, understood him, loved him. She was the only person in this miserable world that loved him. At times, he wished their love was something more than it was, thinking how wonderful life would be if they were in love, having entertained that feeling a few times during the last couple of years, but it just wasn't meant to be. She was his best friend, his life, and that was all it would ever be. He could handle that, knowing that he could survive anything with his best friend at his side. Even this latest confusing development in the fucked up life of Xander Harris.

"I love you, too, Xan," Willow whispered, pulling back and looking at him, noticing that he seemed to have quit crying. She gave him a gentle smile as she asked, "What happened? What's wrong?"

"Everything's wrong," Xander muttered as he looked into her green eyes, "except you, except us. Best friends forever, no matter what."

"Forever and ever eternity," Willow nodded, "Tell me what's wrong, Xander. You're scaring me."

"God, Willow, I don't even know where to start," he admitted as he ran a hand through his dark hair, smiling sheepishly as he looked at her shoulder, "I got your shirt wet."

"It will dry," Willow told him, "do you want to sit down and tell me what's happening?"

"Can we go inside?" Xander asked, following her into her house. "Parents still gone?"

Willow snorted, "You have to ask? They haven't been home since Mom tried to burn me at the stake for being a witch. I guess they finally decided Sunnydale was just too weird for them and that I was such a disappointment as a daughter that they didn't need to come back. I got a phone call from Daddy's assistant last month and was told that they are doing a lecture series in Philadelphia through the summer. I'm sure they'll have somewhere else to be following that."

"You aren't a disappointment," Xander said sharply, "You're the best person that I know in this fucked up world! I don't want to hear you ever doubt how special you are."

"Sorry," Willow said softly, a small smile on her face as Xander smiled at her.

"Good. Can't have my best friend doubting how wonderful she is, can I? They're the disappointment," he decided, "terrible parents. Why do people have children when they don't want them?"

"I don't know," Willow shrugged, knowing that he was also speaking about his own parents with that question. She sat on the sofa, patting the cushion beside her, "Sit down, Xan, and tell me what's wrong."

Xander sat beside her, his hands holding the letter he'd been given only a few hours before. He sighed before looking at Willow, "I got this from my Mom. She gave it to me earlier, told me it was meant to be opened on my 18th birthday."

"What is it?" Willow asked curiously, her eyes not leaving Xander's.

"It's a letter, written when I was born. It was written for me by my Mom. My real Mom," Xander shook his head slightly before looking into Willow's green eyes and whispering, "Willow, I was adopted."


"Adopted?" Willow repeated dumbly, honestly having not expected those words.

Xander nodded, "Yeah, I'm not a Harris. Mom told me that I was adopted when I was a baby, only a month old or so. She'd wanted to have a baby for years, thought it might help her marriage, decided to adopt when she found out she couldn't have kids."

"Oh God," Willow said softly, holding his hand and squeezing it as he told her about his talk with the woman he'd always thought was his mother.

"It wasn't legal," Xander said softly, "Dad didn't want a kid, so she had to go through other channels. I don't know how, but she came in contact with someone that had a baby, me, who couldn't keep it. Arrangements were made and she became my Mom. Dad was pissed, but there wasn't much he could do except drink and bitch about it. When I was three, we moved to Sunnydale from Boston. And, well, you know the rest."

"The letter, it's from your birth mother?" Willow asked softly.

"Yep," Xander nodded, "Mom kept it safe for me, said the guy that gave me to her insisted I read it when I turned eighteen. It's kind of sad, reading it. She didn't sign her name, I don't even know where she was from. Mom said the guy she dealt with was from England. Do you suppose I was born there, too? I just can't believe this. All these years, no wonder he hates me. He never wanted me! And Mom went to all that trouble for a kid but she spends all her time at work and traveling, leaving me alone with that bastard. I hate him, Willow, always have and now I can hate him without feeling guilty because he's not my Dad. I don't know what to do. I'm confused and I feel like this is just a dream and I'm going to wake up and everything will be back to normal. Do you want to read the letter?"

Willow had moved her head to rest on his shoulder as he spoke, hugging him as best she could, listening to him as he let it all out. She didn't want to read the letter, honestly, feeling that it was something private for Xander from the woman that had given birth to him. But she could hear the need in his voice, knowing that he wanted her to read it and try to give him answers, the redhead having no idea what to say. She took the letter from him, opening it carefully and reading. The handwriting was very pretty, she noticed, though the ink looked a bit strange. The paper was odd, too. It looked old, not like normal paper at all. Of course, eighteen years was a long time so she guessed it had just aged. She read the letter, addressed to 'My Beautiful Boy', feeling tears in her eyes as she read the words from the woman that had been forced to give up her child. It seemed that Xander was the result of a brief union between the woman and a man that she admired and cared for, though no details were given as to what had brought them together. His Mother was engaged to another man and was unable to keep her baby, though she said in the letter that the decision to give him up was killing her inside. The letter went on to explain that she had arranged for him to be adopted by someone that could care for him and love him, giving him the life she was unable to provide. She'd signed off 'Love, Your Mum'.

"Well?" Xander asked quietly, wondering what his best friend thought of the letter.

"I think she must be English," Willow said softly, "some of the words she uses, phrases, they don't sound American. It sounds like she did really love you but the circumstances prevented her from keeping you."

"Yeah, that's what I thought, but I didn't know if it was just wishful thinking, hoping that I hadn't been a mistake, that I had been wanted by someone," Xander sighed, making a face as he leaned his head back against the sofa. "I wasn't planned. Maybe I was a mistake. I wasn't supposed to be born. She was engaged, Wills! Yet she still slept with the guy that must be my Dad."

"It sounds like she cared about him, Xan. Maybe they got carried away and things happened that shouldn't have, but you are not a mistake!" Willow said forcefully, glaring at him, "You're not a mistake, Xander. I don't want to hear you say that ever again!"

"Sorry," Xander said softly, smiling slightly as he realized that she was now the one scolding him for having doubts when just a few minutes earlier he'd been scolding her. He looked at the letter and asked quietly, "Do you think, I mean, is there any way that we could find her? Damn, I don't know. Should I try? I want to find her, Wills. I want to know who my real parents are. I know that's stupid, but I can't stop thinking about the fact that I don't have any idea who I really am now. I want her to tell me that I wasn't a mistake, that she did love me but had to give me up."

"I don't know how we could find her," Willow said thoughtfully, wanting to help Xander no matter what his decision, "she didn't sign the letter and the adoption wasn't legal. There'd be no record of it at all. If she is, in fact, English, well, I wouldn't even know where to start."

"Maybe it's better to just forget about it," Xander said, "Can I stay here with you, Wills? My Dad kicked me out of the house. Said I was old enough to be on my own and that he no longer had to support a kid he'd never wanted. Mom is leaving him, divorcing him. I guess she was waiting until I was eighteen, I dunno."

"You can live with me, Xander," Willow hugged him tightly, hating that her best friend had had to deal with so much all at once. He hugged her back, the redhead silently crying for the ordeal he was experiencing. She pulled back and gave him the best smile she could, promising, "Xander, I'm going to try to find your Mom. No promises, but maybe I can find something."

"Wills, I don't want you working on something that is hopeless," Xander told her softly, "I love you, but you don't have to do this for me."

"I know I don't have to. I want to," Willow smiled at him as she looked at the letter carefully, her green eyes gleaming with determination, the resolve look crossing her face as she studied every inch of the paper. After a few minutes, she asked, "Xander, do you see this? Am I imagining it or is there really something there?"

"It looks like something was smudged," Xander said slowly, "I didn't notice it before."

"You can only see it at this angle," Willow smiled as she moved the letter under the light from the lamp, angling it again, "Yes, there's definitely something here. It looks kind of like white-out, but not. Can I, I don't want to damage the letter, Xander, but can I scrape this away?"

"Go ahead," Xander nodded as he moved forward to watch her, nervous as to what the substance might be concealing. Today had been a hell of a day, terrible in a lot of ways, but, in others, it was almost a relief to find out he wasn't really that bastard's son. He watched Willow gently scrape the very faint substance, hoping she'd find something useful. He hadn't been lying to his best friend. He did want to find his mother, to learn why she'd given him up, to find out about his real dad.

"There's something here. It looks like an imprint on the paper that she was covering up," Willow said as she scraped away the dry substance. "I can see something! It's part of a name. Oh, Xan, it's part of her name!"

"What's it say?" he asked eagerly, wanting to hear the name of his mother.

"I can't see it all, just a second," Willow scraped more, "I'm seeing what looks like Hogwarts School of, but the rest of that is too faded to read at all."

"A boarding school maybe?" he asked curiously, "What about her name? What's my Mom's name?"

"I'm trying to get to that, Xander!" Willow laughed softly, giving him a loving smile before continuing her careful scraping. "I think this word underneath Hogwarts could be Scotland. It's Scot and then there is a bit of a fade and it ends in d."

"Scotland? I might be Scottish?" he repeated slowly, shaking his head, "God, I can't believe this. Do you see anything else? Can you see her name?"

"I've almost got it," Willow said, her eyes excited as she managed to read the letters, "there isn't a last name, it is way too faded to read, but I think I've got her first name." She looked up at Xander, catching his eyes as she softly told him, "Xan, your Mom's first name is Narcissa."


Xander placed the Twinkies on the tray he was preparing, frowning as he looked at the variety of sugary junk food. He moved the chocolate chip cookies beside the brownies, the Twinkies going beside the caramel popcorn. That was better, he decided with a brief smile. He opened the refrigerator, removing two sodas and an apple, placing the apple in the middle of the tray and the two sodas on either side. He grabbed a couple of napkins and the snack was complete. He lifted the tray and walked into the living room, putting the tray of goodies on the table before he sat down on the sofa beside Willow. He smiled at his best friend, pointing at the tray, "I made you a snack, Wills. Lots of sugary goodness."

"Ah, you brought me an apple," Willow beamed at her friend as she grabbed the apple and took a bite, "Thanks, Xan. I needed to take a little break."

"I know, hence the tray of snacks," Xander smirked at her as he grabbed a Twinkie and leaned back against the sofa, "so, are you finding anything?"

"Not a darn thing!" Willow groaned as she got a chocolate chip cookie to eat along with her apple. Not the healthiest meal, true, but she appreciated Xander going to the trouble of preparing a tray of much needed sugar to help get her through the next few hours of staring at the computer. She sighed, "I can't find any references to a Hogwarts School anywhere on the 'net. It's like it has never even existed. I don't understand it at all. I've been able to find pages with references to Rytoip demons, but nothing about the school in Scotland that your biological mother attended. It's getting a bit frustrating. I've been searching for three days and haven't made any progress at all."

"Maybe we should just give up," Xander said quietly, recognizing her resolve face and speaking before she could, "Willow, it might be hopeless. I mean, that was at least eighteen years ago that she went to that school. It might not even be open anymore. I dunno. I just hate the idea of you spending your summer wasting time on this."

"Xander, it's not a waste of time," Willow said softly, smiling at her best friend, "You're right that the school might not exist any longer, but there should be a record of it somewhere in cyberspace. Not finding any mentions of it is a bit strange and I can't help thinking that there must be a reason. You know, like when I was searching for information on the Council and the slayer. There wasn't any mention of them at all anywhere, but we know they exist. Heck, the slayers were just here a couple of hours ago, so we know they are real."

"Yeah, but that's the slayer and the council!" Xander reminded, "They have to be all secretive and stuff. This is just some old school. I can't see why it wouldn't be listed somewhere. I mean, Wills, seriously, you've been working on that research for days and I'm beginning to think that maybe I should just forget about trying to find my real mother."

"If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you want me to give up the search, I'll do it," Willow told him, "but I think we should give it another day. There are still some places I haven't looked, I'm sure, and there has to be some mention of it somewhere. I don't want you giving up because I can't find anything! I promised I'd help you find her. Besides, it's not like I have anything better to do this summer. I'm not a big beach person and I can't stand swimming. I love a challenge, and research, so I'm like in geek heaven here!"

"You're not a geek," Xander smiled, "and don't think I don't see what you're doing. I may not be as smart as you, but I've known you long enough to see when you're being all sneaky like with the logic."

"Sneaky? Me?" Willow smiled innocently, hoping he agreed to give her at least another day to research. She hated to admit defeat when researching, and wasn't about to give up the search for Xander's birth mother unless she knew that he was sincerely not wanting the search to continue. As it was, she didn't believe that at all. It had been three days since his birthday, three days since he'd left his home and moved in with her. During that time, she'd done search after search on her laptop, surprised when she hadn't found any mention of the school at all. Through it all, Xander had been by her side, preparing her tray after tray of sugar filled snacks for energy and entertaining her as she tried to think of new areas to search. He had told the others about being adopted the previous day during their meeting at Giles' apartment, their new headquarters since the school library had been toasted. He hadn't mentioned anything about the letter from his birth mother or the search that Willow was doing to try to locate Narcissa from Hogwarts, still convinced that the search was pointless even as he hoped he was wrong. He was her best friend, her only real family for most of her life, and she would do whatever it took to help him find his birth mother if that was what he wanted.

"Okay, I give up," Xander laughed, "defeated when the redhead plays innocent to conceal her true cunning nature and sneaky like thinking!"

"Be nice, Xander," Willow smirked as she grabbed the last Twinkie before he could, smiling as he pouted, his dark eyes amused.

"I was being nice! You know I admire that sly wit and intelligent thinking of yours, Wills," Xander pouted, "I was giving you a compliment and you take the last Twinkie!"

"I'll half it with you since you said I was intelligent," Willow smiled as she broke the Twinkie in half and handed him the larger portion. She ate her Twinkie as she thought about the sites that she had searched and trying to think of any that she might have missed, honestly not sure where else to look. She leaned her head against his arm as she asked seriously, "Xander, do you want to find your birth mother?"

"Yeah, I do," he admitted quietly, his arm going around her shoulder as he gave her a hug, "and I want to find my birth father and find out what happened. I mean, I know from her letter why she couldn't keep me, and I can understand that, in a way, but I want to know if I was a mistake or if it was tough for her to give me up. I want to know if my Dad ever knew about me and maybe try to find him, if we can. It's like, damn it, I can't explain it really. I want to find out, even if the answers aren't what I want to hear, ya know? I can handle being told that I was unplanned, that I was a mistake, because I've spent my life hearing that from my father and my mother was never around that much to make me feel wanted. You're my only real family, Wills, and, as long as I've got you, I can handle whatever it is we find out about my birth parents."

"I love you, Xander," Willow said softly, giving him a hug. "You know that you're not only my best friend but the brother I never had."

"Love you, too, Wills," he smiled crookedly, "Man, listen to me. I'm all in touch with my emotions and sound like I know what I'm talking about, don't I?"

"You're crazy," Willow laughed as she moved back to her laptop, "eat the last cookie because I don't need anymore sweets. I'm going to try to find some kind of database of private and public schools in Scotland. There has to be something like that somewhere. Why don't you turn on the television while I finish up this search before we have some dinner?"

"Sure," Xander grabbed the remote with one hand as he picked up the cookie with the other. He sat back, turning on the television and flipping through the stations until he found an old movie playing. He smiled as he leaned back and began to watch the silly comedy, trying not to listen to the sound of Willow's typing on her laptop and the frustrated groans the redhead made when her searches came up empty.


"I've got doughnuts!" Buffy called out as she entered the apartment, smiling as she placed the large box on the table. She slapped Xander's hand away as she opened the box, removing a jelly for herself and a glazed cinnamon twist for Willow. She moved back and smiled at Xander, "Save a jelly for Giles. You know how cranky he gets when he doesn't get a jelly."

"Hey, if he's not here to snag one, no promises," Xander smiled as he grabbed two jellies and moved to sit down, picking up the book he was reading and trying not to get jelly on the pages.

"So, what are we researching this beautiful summer morning when we could be laying at the beach working on our tans?" Buffy asked as she took a seat beside Willow, handing the redhead a doughnut before taking a bite of her own.

"I prefer looking through books to increasing my chances of getting skin cancer any day," the pale redhead smirked at the slayer, "but, honestly, you can go swimming if you want. This isn't slayer research business."

"Darn it, Wills. That just isn't fair," Buffy whined, her hazel eyes amused as she said, "teasing me like that! Telling me I can go to the beach but following it up with an intriguing mention of non-slayery research."

"She's all sneaky and cunning, isn't she?" Xander asked as he chewed on his jelly doughnut, sending Willow a smug smile, "see? I'm not the only one that sees it!"

"It's just part of being intelligent," Willow sighed dramatically, though her lips were curved into a smile, "I'm forever cursed with the ability to actually think, gasp, and plan, gasp, and be all stealth like with my logic."

"Gasp," Buffy giggled as she interrupted the redhead, "Okay, spill it, oh wise one. What's being researched, at Giles' apartment, that is not slayer involving?"

"We're trying to find my birth mother," Xander said softly.

"At Giles' apartment?" Buffy looked at Xander with surprise. She'd been shocked when she'd found he'd been adopted, but relieved in away because it meant that his father wasn't really his Dad. She didn't know a lot about Xander's life at home, but she could guess from some things that had been mentioned about the time before she arrived in Sunnydale, plus she knew that his dad drank a lot and liked to yell, having witnessed the yelling herself when she'd gone with Willow to pick up their friend for patrols. Xander had never told her details, their friendship really strong but not anything like what he shared with Willow and she assumed had shared with Jesse before the boy's death a few years ago. Willow and Xander were more than friends, and not in a lovey dovey way despite Willow's crush on her best friend that had faded as she had gotten older. They were soulmates, in a platonic kinda way, and had a relationship that was closer than most families. Buffy envied their friendship but she also considered herself extremely lucky that they included her in their small group of friends. Willow was her best friend and Xander was a great friend, the slayer caring a great deal about both of them. Xander had saved her life, after all, and Willow had saved Angel's soul as well as both of them helping save the world a few times. She was fortunate to have friends like them.

"I've spent the last couple of days searching the Internet, and I couldn't find anything," Willow confessed, still a bit annoyed that the information she was seeking had not been discovered. She shrugged, "I got the idea this morning to search through some of Giles' non-demony books about England and Scotland to see if any of them reference what we're looking for."

"Confused!" Buffy waved her hand and smiled sheepishly, "What is it you're looking for? And why are you looking at England and Scotland? I must have missed something."

"There was a letter from my birth mother," Xander told Buffy, "she didn't sign her name, but Willow was able to find some information that appeared to have been covered up. It had the name of a school, Hogwarts School of something we couldn't read because the ink was too faded, and it said this school was in Scotland. My brilliant best friend was also able to find out my mom's first name, Narcissa."

"Pretty name," Buffy smiled softly, "so she went to school in Scotland at this Hogwarts place? And you couldn't find anything about it on the Internet?"

"Shhh. Willow is still a bit annoyed at the computer for the lack of information it provided," Xander whispered loudly, laughing as Willow glared at him.

"Stupid machine," Willow grumbled as she glared at Xander, her green eyes flashing with humor as she said, "and I remember you being the one that threatened to hit it late last night when my searches were coming up empty."

"Xander, really, threatening to hit a poor, defenseless computer," Buffy shook her head sadly, "that's just wrong! Unless it freezes up in the middle of a term paper or it constantly disconnects when you're trying to send an important email or it downloads so slowly that you have time to read War and Peace before it finishes."

"Wow, Buffy, you've actually heard of War and Peace?" Willow said in amusement, laughing as the blonde slayer nodded proudly, "Five points to the slayer for being aware of literature that does not include drawings!"

"Cute, Will," Buffy rolled her eyes before smiling at her friends, "Guys, did you ask Giles if he's heard of this place? I mean, he's pretty old and lived in England before he moved here to become my watcher. Besides, he knows everything!"

"Um, well, no," Willow muttered, a frown crossing her face, "Geesh! Why the heck are we looking through all these books when we should have just asked Giles?"

"And they say you're the smart one," Buffy smiled smugly, "ten points to the slayer for thinking of the obvious while the sneaky redhead witch loses five for spending too many hours reading boring old books."

"I would have eventually thought of asking him," Willow grumbled, "it was the effect of the hours spent on the computer. They affected my brain and messed up my common sense."

"Sure, Wills, it's okay, we won't tell anyone that you had a less than brainy moment," Xander smiled at his best friend.

"My work here is done," Buffy declared loftily as she stood up, smiling at Willow as she added, "I'm going to run home to change into my swimsuit and then I'm going to get Faith's lazy butt out of bed and head to the beach to work on that skin cancer thing. You wanna join us?"

"You make it sound so appealing," Willow said, rolling her eyes as she decided that she wouldn't dwell on the fact that she had gone to Giles and immediately started searching books instead of thinking about simply asking him if he was familiar with the school. If he wasn't, she wasn't sure what to do next. She'd been looking through his few non-demon texts on Scotland and England, though there weren't very many, and hadn't found anything at all. She didn't want to give up, but was lost as to the next course of action. Maybe Giles would be familiar with Hogwarts, and could at least give them an idea where to start looking for information on Narcissa.

"I try," Buffy laughed, "quit glaring at me! Let me enjoy my one moment of being smart in comparison to your daily intelligent moments. Maybe we can grab some lunch this afternoon and do some swimming. If you've been spending that much time on the computer, you need a break. Xan, you willing?"

"Slayers in bikinis and lunch? You have to ask?" he smiled before turning to Willow and giving her his best puppy dog eyes, his lower lip protruding into a pout, "Pweese, Willow, can we go to the beach with our friends?"

"Fine, but I'm not swimming!" Willow laughed, telling Buffy, "I don't know when we'll show up because it will depend on if Giles knows anything or not, but I won't do any more research until after I have a fun day at the beach with my friends."

"Willow, honey, when you say fun you're supposed to smile not cringe," Buffy laughed, "I'll see you guys at the usual spot, by the rocks, when you get there. Bye."

"I hate the beach," Willow muttered as she shut the book she'd been searching through and put it back on the bookcase.

"But you love hanging out with your friends," Xander reminded, "even if said activity is at the beach. Do you think Giles might know something about Hogwarts?"

"I don't know," Willow shrugged, adding mentally that she really hoped so, as she moved to the door to look out back, where Giles was sitting under a tree and reading a book, "I'll ask him to come back in for a few minutes so we can find out."


"What did you wish to ask me?" Rupert Giles asked as he entered his apartment. He had been rather surprised when Xander and Willow had shown up that morning, asking if they could look through his library, but he had not asked questions when he had given them permission to search. Instead, he had taken a new demon text he had recently purchased and gone to sit outside and enjoy the early morning air. When Willow had come outside, he'd known that they were now prepared to discuss their search with him.

"It's about my mother, my birth mother," Xander said, explaining, "you see, she wrote me a letter when I was born. It was part of the stuff that Mom got when I was adopted. I wasn't supposed to get the letter until my eighteenth birthday, which is when I found out I was adopted."

"You received a letter from your birth mother," Giles nodded, following the conversation so far, though he was beginning to think that Xander had somehow caught Willow's habit of rambling.

"And she said a lot of private things, explained why she had to give me up and all that stuff," Xander continued, "and she didn't sign her name or anything like that. Just said your Mum."

"Mum? She used that exact phrase?" Giles asked, his eyes moving to look at the books in which Willow and Xander had been researching that morning. Thankfully, they were not demon texts, but instead a guide to Scotland and a book on the hidden treasures of Great Britain. More curious than before, the former watcher turned his attention back to the two children that he, in many ways, considered his own.

"Yep," Xander nodded, "so, anyway, I asked Willow to read the letter and she noticed this smudgy looking stuff on the top corner. It was kind of like white out but it was a bit dirty looking, like the paper."

"The paper she used was odd, Giles," Willow spoke up, adding her own observations, "and the ink was strange, too. It was kind of faint and blotty in places."

"Blotty?" Giles repeated slowly, not quite sure he understood but urging Xander to continue.

"Willow scraped away the gross stuff and was able to read a few of the words, but the ink was pretty faded and some had been taken away completely," Xander sighed. He then smiled as he said, "She saw my Mom's first name and the name of this school and we were pretty much able to figure out that the location of the school was Scotland."

"I've spent the last few days trying to find it on the internet with no luck whatsoever," Willow frowned, "and I thought we might check some of the books in your library. But Buffy suggested we just ask you because you know everything."

"What exactly are you looking for?" Giles asked, noticing with a slight smile that Willow didn't seem at all happy that Buffy thought of asking him while she'd been researching through books.

"I'm trying to find my birth mother," Xander said, having thought they'd already told Giles that but realizing that they hadn't. He smiled sheepishly, "Sorry, thought we said that."

"Xander, are you certain that this is what you wish to do?" Giles had to ask, not liking the idea of the boy being hurt whether it be by a birth mother who did not wish to have contact with him or by not being able to find said birth mother at all.

"I need to find her, Giles," Xander said simply, "I may not like what she has to say or I may not even be able to find her, but I've got to try."

"I understand," Giles nodded, "what is it you wish to ask of me?"

"Well, we don't have a last name for his Mom but we know where she went to school since it was on her stationary. We thought you might have heard of the school, maybe could tell us where it is so we can start from there," Willow said, "if we can locate the darn place, we might be able to do some searches through their attendance lists for the year Xander was born."

"I'm afraid that I do not know every school in the whole of Scotland," Giles said softly, "but I suppose I can make some calls to some old friends if the name is not familiar to me. What is the name of the school?"

"It said Hogwarts School of, but the rest was too faded to read," Willow said, surprised when Giles' eyes widened and he appeared to be rather shocked. She asked excitedly, "You've heard of it?"

"You said Hogwarts?" Giles repeated, shaking his head slightly. That was not at all what he had expected, his eyes moving to look at Xander with surprise, wondering if it was really possible that Xander was the son of an attendee of Hogwarts.

"Yeah, that's what the paper said," Xander nodded, "Do you know it?"

"I'm afraid that I can not answer that question," Giles said quietly, his eyes moving to catch Willow's. "I am sorry."

"Wait, you knew the name. Why can't you tell us?" Willow asked, frustrated enough to scream.

Giles grew thoughtful, trying to figure out the best way to explain things, his eyes noticing the silent computer that was now a fixture in his home. He slowly smiled, having an idea. He looked back at Willow, "I am no longer with the council, Willow, but I am still under the vow of silence regarding certain information that I learned while there. These confidential and secret files are areas that are not open to public discussion. I do apologize," his eyes deliberately looked at the computer then back at her, noticing that she seemed to understand by the smile that was crossing her face, "these *restricted access* items are guarded closely. You do understand, don't you?"

"I understand, Giles. It's okay," Willow smiled at him, winking as she let him know that she had gotten his hints even as she was dying to find out why this Hogwarts place was considered confidential and secret for the Council. The Watcher's Council had restricted files on the school where Xander's mother attended classes and that just didn't make a lot of sense.

"Well, I don't understand," Xander spoke up, annoyed that Giles seemed to know about this school but was talking about the Council instead of telling them where to look to try find his birth mother.

"I will go back outside to read my book," Giles said before he took the last jelly doughnut, confident that Willow knew exactly what he had not been allowed to say.

"Damn it!" Xander groaned, turning to look at Willow as she moved to the computer and turned it on, "what are you doing?"

"Didn't you hear Giles?" Willow asked with a large smile, practically bouncing with enthusiasm, "He said that we could find out about Hogwarts in the restricted access section of the Councils' website. Thank God I hacked into their system last year. I already know all the necessary passwords to that section so I've just got to get into it and find what information they've got regarding Hogwarts. I wonder why the Council has a file on them and why it would be such a secret and confidential file and maybe that's why I couldn't find anything on the net and what do you suppose Hogwarts is?"

"I so need to take lessons in Giles-speak," Xander decided as he slowly smiled, having missed everything that Willow seemed to have understood. Thank God she was so observant and smart, he thought with a proud smile at his best friend as he moved a chair beside her, eager to see if Giles was right about the council having information about Hogwarts. Maybe they'd finally find something helpful in their search for Narcissa.


"Okay, I'm into the restricted access section," Willow remarked as she drew her bottom lip into her mouth and concentrated. "Can't believe the stupid poopheads changed the password. They're lucky that it didn't take me too long to figure out the new one or else I'd have been mad."

"Poopheads?" Xander repeated with a laugh, "Wills, you're great."

"Of course I am," Willow smirked at him before moving into the files. "Let's see what the Council can tell us about this Hogwarts School."

"Did you find something?" Xander leaned forward eagerly. It had taken Willow nearly an hour to find the new password into the appropriate section, according to her that was pretty fast. He was glad his best friend was so smart and good at this hacking thing because he couldn't wait to find out some useful information in his search for his mother.

"I just got into the files!" Willow laughed at his impatience. She began the search, pleased when she had results. "I've got something!"

"What's it say?" Xander asked, reading over her shoulder as she opened the file.

"That's weird. It's a very small file. Means there isn't a lot of information in it," Willow explained as she clicked on the file. When it opened, she read, "Hogwarts School of, oh my God!"

"Does that say Witchcraft and Wizardry?" Xander asked slowly, believing he must had misread something.

"That's what it says," Willow confirmed. "I didn't know they had schools for magic. Oh, wow, that is just really neat! I wish I'd known because I would have loved a chance to take a class or two to learn more. Listen, it says that Hogwarts is located on the outskirts of the wizarding community Hogsmeade. A wizarding community! What the heck?"

"I don't understand," Xander frowned, "What's a wizarding community?"

"I would guess that it was a community of wizards, silly," Willow smiled, before she grew thoughtful, "but that's strange because I've never come across mention of such a thing during our research. After I became interested in magic, I read nearly every book I could find and did searches on the net and never once saw anything about wizarding communities or schools for magic. All I found was references to Wicca or dark magic on the net, and then the stuff in Giles' books. That was mostly spells and history. Why wouldn't I have heard about this?"

"Because the wizarding community is very private," Giles spoke up as he entered the room. He shrugged, "The information in that file is about the extent that anyone knows about them. I have a couple of friends in England that are wizards, so I know a bit more than the Council, but they are a very secretive community. They are rather like the Council, in that respect. I am sure that more information could be discovered, but there was a mutual agreement between the Watchers' Council and the Ministry of Magic centuries ago to, quite bluntly, stay out of each others' business. Hogwarts is a very well known school for wizards and witches. If your mother attended that school, as you suspect, she was most definitely a witch."

"My mother was a witch?" Xander repeated with a stunned look on his face. He shook his head, "That's just, damn, I don't know what to think about that."

"It's okay, Xan," Willow squeezed his hand. "Your best friend is a witch, after all. Your other friend is a slayer, and you live on a Hellmouth. I'd say that the news that your Mom might be a witch isn't that big a deal."

"It's just a bit shocking," Xander admitted, smiling sheepishly, "I mean, I didn't really know what we'd find out about her, but I never imagined that she might be a witch or anything related to supernatural activity. I guess the Hellmouth isn't the only place in the world where weird things happen."

"Actually, the wizarding world is international, though the strongest concentration is in Great Britain and Ireland. There are far more wizards in such a small area of land than one would ever realize," Giles remarked with a slight smile. "There are schools of magic throughout the world, though, and many communities in a variety of places. It is rather remarkable, really, that they have managed to keep themselves hidden from non-magic people so well for so long."

"Well, we now know where the school is," Willow said thoughtfully, "I somehow doubt they'd just answer a letter from us requesting information on one of their former students if they are that private. Maybe we should talk to your Mom, your other Mom, and see if she remembers anything about the man that arranged the adoption. If she has a name or an address or even a description, we might be able to use that information with what we've already got to try to find your birth mother."

"Willow is correct in assuming that Hogwarts would not reply to a written letter of inquiring," Giles agreed with the redhead, "I believe her suggestion is a good one. Perhaps your Mother has an address or a name. That would be a great assistance in narrowing your search."

"I doubt she kept anything except the letter," Xander sighed, running a hand over his face. Just when they had a break through, finding the school that Narcissa attended, they find out they hit a dead end and couldn't use any of the information they already knew. Damn it, he was beginning to think this hopeless. Well, at least he knew that his mom was a witch. That was rather interesting and pretty neat. He shrugged, "We can ask her, but I doubt she remembers anything. Maybe she at least knows a name or something that might be useful."

"Can you call her and see if she can talk to us today?" Willow asked, her mind thinking through everything they had discovered in the last half-hour. She needed to think of a plan, finding herself rather at a loss on what to do next. She'd found the location of Hogwarts, but any letters they sent wouldn't be answered at all. Suddenly, she straightened up, a smile crossing her face, "I've got it!"

"What do you got?" Xander asked as he quit dialing to look at Willow. She was smiling that smile that indicated that she had a plan, her green eyes shining with determination and resolve.

"Well, we know that they would ignore a letter asking about your Mom, but they couldn't very well ignore us if we were there at the school, could they?" Willow asked excitedly, looking at Giles, "I mean, I know they're all secret like and protective of their privacy, which makes a lot of sense, but if Xander and I went to this Hogsmeade place and found the school, well, surely they'd talk to us, wouldn't they?"

"I honestly don't know," Giles said, "it's an interesting idea, but I can't guarantee that you could even find Hogsmeade, much less Hogwarts. I, myself, have never been to a true wizarding city. It is possible, I guess, but not very practical. If it were that easy to locate the wizards, they would not have managed to keep their existence secret for so long, don't you think?"

"But there is a chance that we would get lucky," Willow argued, deciding that any chance was better than no chance. She didn't think Mrs. Harris would be able to give them anything useful, the woman not being the most observant person in the world. Besides, if the wizards were that secretive, there is little chance she would have been given any information that could have been useful even if she did remember it. Willow did not want to disappoint Xander. She'd made a promise and fully intended to do whatever it took to keep that promise. If their search did end without results, well, at least she would know she had tried everything to try to find his birth mother. She looked at Xander and smiled, asking, "What do you think, Xander?"

"I think it's worth a shot," he smiled, "and, hey, we've always talked about going to England so here's our chance. Even if we don't find my Mom, we can have a hell of a vacation, right?"

"Right," Willow nodded, "we've already got passports so I'll look for flight information while you call your Mom."

"Children, do you really think it is wise to fly across the world when there is only a slight chance of success?" Giles asked quietly, knowing their answer but feeling that it was his responsibility as the adult in their lives to make the effort to remind them that their quest could very well fail.

Xander and Willow looked at each and smiled before looking at Giles and saying, "Yes!"

"Right, then," Giles smiled slightly, "I trust that you will call me daily and take care of yourselves while you are gone."

"Of course," Willow promised before she turned back to her computer to start searching for flights. She frowned, "Should we fly into London or Edinburgh? Hogsmeade is listed as being in Scotland but I'm assuming it isn't on a map at all so I don't know which city to fly into."

"I would suggest London," Giles decided, "I will make a few calls to my old friends and do my best to find out an exact location, though I can not promise that I will be successful. As I've mentioned, they are tightlipped about things relating to the wizarding world."

"Thanks for even trying," Xander said with a smile as he waited for his Mom to pick up the phone in the hotel room she was staying in. When she did, he asked if he and Willow could meet her for lunch or dinner, telling her honestly that he wanted to talk to her about the adoption and stuff. She agreed, making plans to meet them at the local diner at one. He hung up, telling Willow, "It's all set, Wills. She'll meet us for lunch at one."

"I'll schedule us a flight for tomorrow," Willow said, not able to conceal the excitement in her voice. She'd always wanted to go to England for vacation, had even contemplated attending college over there before deciding that she might be better off just staying in Sunnydale, not really wanting to leave Xander all alone. She searched for the cheapest airfare, thankful that she had an empty credit card from her parents. She had enough money in the bank to cover day-to-day expenses with no problem, but the plane tickets were going to be expensive since it was a last minute trip and she was more than happy to let her parents for those. Hell, they could consider it a graduation gift, if they were even aware that she had graduated.

"God, I can't believe we're really going to do this," Xander smiled as he sat back down, his expression dazed but happy, "Willow, we're going to England! Man, even if we don't find my birth Mom, we're going to have the greatest time ever."


Willow followed Xander into the diner, spotting Karen Harris immediately. The woman that she had known as Xander's mother for the twelve years they had been friends had been watching for them, waving and smiling as they entered the diner. The redhead slid into the booth beside Xander, greeting his adopted mom with a smile, "Hello, Mrs. Harris. How are you?"

"I'm fine, Willow. And, again, please call me Karen. You are looking very beautiful, my dear," Karen smiled pleasantly at her son's best friend, noticing the blush that crossed the girl's cheeks at the compliment.

"Thanks," Willow muttered, knowing that the woman was just being friendly. Her lips curved into a smile as she nudged Xander, who looked extremely nervous and freaked out, saying, "Did ya hear that? She thinks I'm buuuutiful."

"Yeah, well, I've heard people's eyesight starts to go when they reach a certain age. Hey! That hurt," Xander rubbed his arm where Willow hit him and his leg where his Mom kicked him. With a dramatic sigh, he asked, "Am I gonna spend this lunch being abused by my bestest friend in the entire universe and my Mom?"

"Knowing your lack of thinking before you speak, I'd say yes," Willow laughed, happy to see that Xander looked a little less tense.

"Thanks for meeting us, Mom," Xander said, "I know it was short notice and all."

"I may not have given birth to you, Xander, but I raised you and care a lot about you," Karen said quietly, needing him to know that she loved him even if she hadn't been there often during his childhood. She smiled softly, "Why don't we order and then you can tell me what you want to talk about?"

"Food sounds great," Xander smiled as he waved the waitress over. After placing their orders, he leaned back and tried to think of what to ask. Finally, he just said, "Mom, can you tell me everything you remember about my adoption?"

"Xander, honey, that was a long time ago," Karen sighed, "I honestly don't recall very much."

"Well, what do you remember?" Xander asked, hoping she might give them some information to narrow their search.

"I told you most of it already," Karen said, "I wanted a child but was unable to go through the normal channels because of your father. My only option was to place an advertisement in the paper, which I did. Luckily, the first week after placing the ad I received a phone call that sounded promising. I met with a gentleman, answered some questions, and a week later you were my son."

"It was a man that contacted you?" Willow asked as she took mental notes, "Xander mentioned that you said he was from England?"

"Willow, it was so long ago," Karen grew thoughtful, "but, yes, he did have an English accent. I assumed he had moved to America from overseas, though, honestly, I never asked. He was very polite and seemed to care a great deal about the baby's future home."

"What did he look like? Did you get his name? Did he mention my birth mother? Was he my father?" Xander asked eagerly, curiosity in his brown eyes.

"Xander, really, I don't know!" Karen said, "That was eighteen years ago! I'm lucky to remember clients that I met last month!"

"Can you please try, Karen?" Willow asked softly, hoping that maybe something Xander's mother said would aid them in the search for his birth parents.

"I only met him twice," Karen remembered, "the first time was for tea, and the second was when he handed over Xander. I don't think he was your father, but he did seem to care about you. Perhaps a relative of some sort or a family friend. He never mentioned your mother except to say that she was unable to keep her child, no specific reason was discussed. I did get his name, but honestly don't remember it now. As for what he looked like, I believe that he was older than I was and he had black hair. No, wait, it might have been blond or was it gray? Damn it, I can't remember."

"So it was some English man that might have been older than you but maybe not and he had blond hair or perhaps black?" Xander grimaced, almost wishing they hadn't bothered to have this lunch meeting because he'd only ended up feeling more hopeless about the entire thing.

"Black," Karen recalled.

"His hair was black?" Willow asked, wondering how many thousands of men in England had black hair and were older than Karen Harris.

"No, I mean, it might have been, but his name. I believe his name was Black," Karen said with a nod, "yes, yes, that does sound right because I thought of that silly board game where everyone is named after a color and you have to find out who killed the man and where and I remember thinking that Mr. Black sounded like a character from that game."

"Clue," Willow said, naming the board game Karen was recalling, "so his name was Black? Okay, that might be helpful."

"And you said you think he was older than you?" Xander asked, "How old were you then?"

"Twenty-four," Karen said slowly, her eyes moving back and forth between her son and Willow, suddenly understanding, "you're going to try to find your birth parents, aren't you?"

"Yeah," Xander nodded, "you don't mind, do you? I thought I told you when I called you."

"I don't mind," Karen said, "I'm afraid that I did not give you the childhood that you deserved, Xander. I had no idea Jack would refuse to accept you after I brought you home. I named you after him and tried to get him to care for you, but nothing worked."

"It's okay, Mom. Heck, I didn't turn out that bad," Xander smiled crookedly, "Besides, if you hadn't adopted me, I'd have never moved to Sunnydale and met Wills and my other friends and, well, that was worth putting up with that bastard for the last eighteen years."

"Did Xander have a name when you adopted him?" Willow asked curiously.

"It was Alexander, but I changed his middle name to Lavelle after his father," Karen said, "there may have been a middle name, John perhaps or maybe Charles, but I wanted something to help bring him into the family so I changed it."

"I am so glad I didn't inherit that bad memory," Xander whispered to Willow, making a face for her eyes only that caused the redhead to bite her lip to stop from giggling.

"Oh, look, food," Willow smiled brightly, glaring at Xander even as she tried not to laugh. They changed the topic from Xander's adoption to Karen's latest business dealings. By the time Willow finished her cheeseburger, she was ready to face the possibility of skin cancer if it meant getting away from the boring talk about medical supplies.

"Well, Mom," Xander interrupted smoothly, having seen the glazed over green eyes of his best friend and having a good feeling that his must look worse since he didn't understand a single word his Mom had said, her voice sounding rather like the adults in Charlie Brown that just constantly went mwer mwer mwer mwer mwer and made no sense. He smiled, "Thanks for talking to me and for lunch, but Wills and I are meeting some friends at the beach. In fact, we're late and they're probably sending out the search party right now."

"Oh God, knowing Buffy, you're probably right!" Willow said, "I left her a message on her cell phone but she might not have taken it to the beach."

"You kids have fun," Karen smiled, "and good luck with your search, Xander. If I happen to remember anything else, I'll call you."

"Thanks," Xander leaned over and gave her a brief hug, "Take care of yourself, Mom. Willow and I are heading to England tomorrow so look for a postcard!"

"Bye Karen," Willow waved as she and Xander left the diner, the redhead sighing when they started walking towards Xander's car, "So, we can narrow our search to an English guy that was at least twenty-four about eighteen years ago and called himself Mr. Black, which so sounds like an alias! Oh, and he either had black hair, blond hair, or gray hair."

"Should be easy, huh?" Xander laughed as he started the car, "Man, that was so pointless. I mean, it was nice seeing Mom and letting her know I was cool with everything, but talk about early memory loss! I never really realized how scatterbrained she was."

"Maybe she'll remember something else now that she's thinking about it," Willow said hopefully, "and, if not, well, at least we have the name Black to add to our list of possible connections to your birth parents."

"Ever the optimist, Willow," Xander smiled, "let's go have some fun in the sun while we can since we're headed to England tomorrow!"


"And you promise to call me every day?" Buffy said for the tenth time in the last five minutes.

"Yes, Buffy, we'll call every day," Willow laughed, moving to hug the blonde slayer tightly.

"Well, if we think about it, cause, you know, we might be out having so much fun we forget all about you," Xander teased, earning him a hit from the slayer that caused him to cringe, "Ow! Damn it, Buff, that hurt!"

"See what you get for teasing a slayer?" Buffy smirked before giving him a big hug, "Teasing me when I'm stuck staying in Sunnydale for the entire summer watching Faith flirt with Wesley."

"Hey, I am not flirting with that stuck-up prick," Faith defended before smiling sheepishly when three sets of eyes looked at her, "okay, maybe there is a little flirting, but, c'mon guys, he's just sexy when he doesn't shave! I can just imagine that stubble brushing against my bare skin as I show him my moves."

"No more!" Buffy said as she put her hands over her ears, "Scary visual place! Willow! You can't leave me here all alone. Take me with you!"

"I would if I could, Buffy, but you've got slayery things to do here," Willow laughed, "Besides, Faith is going to promise to keep the disturbing visual images to a minimum, aren't you, Faith?"

"The things I do for you, Red," Faith grumbled as she looked at the redhead that had become such a good friend since she'd arrived in Sunnydale. She and Buffy got along well enough now, but it had been Willow that had offered friendship from the first and Faith hadn't forgotten that. Her lips curled into a smile as she said, "Okay, Red, I'll make you a deal. I won't tell B all my fantasies about that hunky watcher of mine if you promise to do a little flirting with some English hottie."

"I don't flirt, Faith," Willow reminded, "you remember the time you tried to make me, don't you? I turned bright red and nearly passed out from hyperventilating and embarrassment? I can ogle some hottie for you, but flirtage isn't my thing."

"Guess B will have to hear every detail of every fantasy I've had about Wes, then," Faith smirked, counting as she waited for the inevitable.

"Willow, tell her you'll flirt!" Buffy whined, "You know how depraved Faith is! She'll tell me all sorts of horrid things and I won't be able to see Wesley without thinking about him all naked and that's just gross!"

"Buffy, you're whining," Xander pointed out with an amused smile.

"Fine, I promise to attempt to flirt with some hottie, is that good?" Willow finally relented, deciding that it wasn't like Faith would know that she hadn't actually followed through with her promise.

"Promise me, Red, as in really gonna do it and not just say you're gonna do it and then lie to me later," Faith said, watching as Willow looked away, laughing as she said, "I knew you were lying! C'mon, Red, you've got to enjoy the local scenery and make with the flirting with at least one guy. I'm not telling you to run off and shag someone, though do feel free to do so if he's really cute and has a good bod, just remember that I so want details later!"

"Faith, you're deliberately trying to make me blush!" Willow glared at her friend, seeing the smirk on the brunette slayer's face and rolling her eyes, "Fine, I really promise to try to flirt with someone just so you'll leave me alone!"

"Good," Faith smiled as she gave the redhead a hug pulling back and nodding at Xander, "Xan, good luck with the whole search for the parental units."

"And make sure you two are careful and call me every day," Buffy reminded with a smile.

"Damn, B, you're worse than a parent! They're going to England for a vacation and parent search. The last thing they wanna have to do is call and talk to you every day!" Faith said with a smile at the blonde slayer.

"Fine, call me every other day then," Buffy muttered before smiling, "I love you guys."

"Love you, too, Buffy," Willow gave the slayer another hug, joined by Xander.

"I love you, Buff," Xander said as his arms went around his two best friends.

"Damn, this is sickening," Faith remarked before she looked around to make sure no one was watching and then moved to hug her three friends, "If you tell anyone that I participated in a group bonding hug fest, I'm so denying it."

"It's a good thing that I have a camera then," a voice spoke from behind them before a flash caught their hug on film. Wesley smiled as he put the camera in his pocket, arching a brow as Faith glared at him. Part 9

"That so wasn't fair!" Faith argued, her eyes moving over him before she smiled, "But, damn, you look cute today so I'm gonna forgive you. Blue is so your color, Watcher-man." "Yes, well, um," Wesley cursed himself for again allowing her blatant flirting to catch him by surprise. He had first suspected that her behavior was merely a way of annoying him, having little belief that a girl as attractive as Faith would ever seriously look at him such a manner. After six weeks, he was beginning to suspect that her attempts to lure him into a relationship of some sort were sincere, which scared him far more than facing the Mayor at graduation. She was too young, too attractive, too confident, too everything. Besides, she was his slayer.

His conviction wavered, however, every time she looked at him as if he were naked and meant entirely for her pleasure. Looking away from her, he smiled at Willow, handing over the information he had obtained for her upon hearing of their quest from Rupert, "This is the name of a friend of mine from college, Willow. He will meet you at this address in two days and show you how to get to Hogsmeade. He is a wizard and only knows that you have important business in Hogsmeade. He is willing to help because I may have allowed him to believe that it was council business, but I would recommend not mentioning Hogwarts or the circumstances that bring you there."

"Thank you, Wesley," Willow said sincerely as she took the paper he had handed her and put it safely in her pocket. "I was disappointed when Giles called last night and told us he'd not found anyone to help. I'm glad you knew someone. And I appreciate the little white lie since that's gonna get us to Hogsmeade. From there, well, the rest will have to be up to us."

"I am quite confident in your abilities, Willow," Wesley smiled, "If anyone can locate Alexander's birth parents, I believe you can."

"Ahem," Faith cleared her throat before moving closer to Willow and nudging her friend, "When I told you to flirt with an English hottie, I meant get your own, not steal mine."

"Faith!" Willow gaped at the brunette slayer, rolling her eyes when Faith winked at her, "I'm so gonna smack you one of these days!"

"Oooh, kinky. I like that, Red," Faith snickered as she was again rewarded with Willow's cheeks turning the prettiest shade of pink, "Man, this is just too easy!"

"Bet you've heard that one before," Buffy snorted, earning her a glare from Faith and a grateful smile from Willow.

"Children, please," Giles said as he joined the group. He wasn't sure what he had missed, but Willow was blushing and Faith was glaring and Buffy looked smug so he knew he needed to interfere.

"Geesh, Giles, you had to interrupt before we could see Slayer Smackdown," Xander groaned, "is our flight boarding?"

"They haven't announced it yet, but they are starting to line up," Giles nodded, "Do you have your tickets and passports? And the emergency numbers that I have given you should you run into any trouble?"

"Yes," Willow nodded as she gave the watcher a hug, "we've got everything. Take care of Buffy and Faith for us, okay?"

"I will do my best," Giles assured her, smiling as he said, "and you take care of yourself and Xander."

"Always," Willow smiled before giving everyone another hug, the reality of the situation finally hitting her. They were about to board a plane to fly halfway around the world to search for Xander's mom and dad who had put him up for adoption nearly two decades ago and all they knew was that his mother's name was Narcissa and that she had attended Hogwarts and that someone named Mr. Black had given Xander to Karen. She shook her head and said, "Bye, guys. Have a great summer!"

"We'll see you guys when we get back. And, if you're all lucky, we might even bring you nifty souvenirs," Xander told his friends before taking Willow's arm and heading towards the boarding gate, "You okay, Wills?"

"I'm fine," Willow smiled, "just can't believe that this is really happening. I mean, just a couple of days ago we were expecting to have a lazy summer in Sunnydale, maybe kill some vamps and lay around at the beach. Now, we're about to board a plane and fly to England to solve the mystery of your parentage. It's just really kinda cool."

"Ah, you love mysteries," Xander smiled as he hugged her from behind, "we're so going to have the best time. I'm glad you're going with me, Willow. That way, if the plane happens to crash, you're coming with me!"

"Don't even say that!" Willow laughed, "That was just bad! Now I'm all worried because I've never flown before and every single noise is going to make me think of that Twilight Zone episode where the guy sees the thing on the wing of the plane and damn it, Xander! I'm going to kill you!"

"Sure you are," Xander laughed, "man, that was a cool episode of the Zone, wasn't it?"

"It would be if we weren't preparing to board a plane," Willow snickered.

"So, you think there's any way in Hell that we're going to find Narcissa or this Hogwarts place?" Xander asked seriously.

Willow looked up at him, giving him a determined smile, "No promises, but I have to believe that there's a chance, no matter how slight."

"Yeah," Xander agreed, smiling at her, "I think we can do it. I think we can find Narcissa. So, what's favorite episode of the Zone? Still that one with the old man who breaks his glasses? Geesh, you only like that one because of all the books!"


"That so wasn't fair!" Faith argued, her eyes moving over him before she smiled, "But, damn, you look cute today so I'm gonna forgive you. Blue is so your color, Watcher-man."

"Yes, well, um," Wesley cursed himself for again allowing her blatant flirting to catch him by surprise. He had first suspected that her behavior was merely a way of annoying him, having little belief that a girl as attractive as Faith would ever seriously look at him such a manner. After six weeks, he was beginning to suspect that her attempts to lure him into a relationship of some sort were sincere, which scared him far more than facing the Mayor at graduation. She was too young, too attractive, too confident, too everything. Besides, she was his slayer.

His conviction wavered, however, every time she looked at him as if he were naked and meant entirely for her pleasure. Looking away from her, he smiled at Willow, handing over the information he had obtained for her upon hearing of their quest from Rupert, "This is the name of a friend of mine from college, Willow. He will meet you at this address in two days and show you how to get to Hogsmeade. He is a wizard and only knows that you have important business in Hogsmeade. He is willing to help because I may have allowed him to believe that it was council business, but I would recommend not mentioning Hogwarts or the circumstances that bring you there."

"Thank you, Wesley," Willow said sincerely as she took the paper he had handed her and put it safely in her pocket. "I was disappointed when Giles called last night and told us he'd not found anyone to help. I'm glad you knew someone. And I appreciate the little white lie since that's gonna get us to Hogsmeade. From there, well, the rest will have to be up to us."

"I am quite confident in your abilities, Willow," Wesley smiled, "If anyone can locate Alexander's birth parents, I believe you can."

"Ahem," Faith cleared her throat before moving closer to Willow and nudging her friend, "When I told you to flirt with an English hottie, I meant get your own, not steal mine."

"Faith!" Willow gaped at the brunette slayer, rolling her eyes when Faith winked at her, "I'm so gonna smack you one of these days!"

"Oooh, kinky. I like that, Red," Faith snickered as she was again rewarded with Willow's cheeks turning the prettiest shade of pink, "Man, this is just too easy!"

"Bet you've heard that one before," Buffy snorted, earning her a glare from Faith and a grateful smile from Willow.

"Children, please," Giles said as he joined the group. He wasn't sure what he had missed, but Willow was blushing and Faith was glaring and Buffy looked smug so he knew he needed to interfere.

"Geesh, Giles, you had to interrupt before we could see Slayer Smackdown," Xander groaned, "is our flight boarding?"

"They haven't announced it yet, but they are starting to line up," Giles nodded, "Do you have your tickets and passports? And the emergency numbers that I have given you should you run into any trouble?"

"Yes," Willow nodded as she gave the watcher a hug, "we've got everything. Take care of Buffy and Faith for us, okay?"

"I will do my best," Giles assured her, smiling as he said, "and you take care of yourself and Xander."

"Always," Willow smiled before giving everyone another hug, the reality of the situation finally hitting her. They were about to board a plane to fly halfway around the world to search for Xander's mom and dad who had put him up for adoption nearly two decades ago and all they knew was that his mother's name was Narcissa and that she had attended Hogwarts and that someone named Mr. Black had given Xander to Karen. She shook her head and said, "Bye, guys. Have a great summer!"

"We'll see you guys when we get back. And, if you're all lucky, we might even bring you nifty souvenirs," Xander told his friends before taking Willow's arm and heading towards the boarding gate, "You okay, Wills?"

"I'm fine," Willow smiled, "just can't believe that this is really happening. I mean, just a couple of days ago we were expecting to have a lazy summer in Sunnydale, maybe kill some vamps and lay around at the beach. Now, we're about to board a plane and fly to England to solve the mystery of your parentage. It's just really kinda cool."

"Ah, you love mysteries," Xander smiled as he hugged her from behind, "we're so going to have the best time. I'm glad you're going with me, Willow. That way, if the plane happens to crash, you're coming with me!"

"Don't even say that!" Willow laughed, "That was just bad! Now I'm all worried because I've never flown before and every single noise is going to make me think of that Twilight Zone episode where the guy sees the thing on the wing of the plane and damn it, Xander! I'm going to kill you!"

"Sure you are," Xander laughed, "man, that was a cool episode of the Zone, wasn't it?"

"It would be if we weren't preparing to board a plane," Willow snickered.

"So, you think there's any way in Hell that we're going to find Narcissa or this Hogwarts place?" Xander asked seriously.

Willow looked up at him, giving him a determined smile, "No promises, but I have to believe that there's a chance, no matter how slight."

"Yeah," Xander agreed, smiling at her, "I think we can do it. I think we can find Narcissa. So, what's favorite episode of the Zone? Still that one with the old man who breaks his glasses? Geesh, you only like that one because of all the books!"


"What should we do tonight?"

Willow looked at Xander and smiled, "I have no idea! What do you want to do?"

Xander grinned, "Well, I'm thinking we should get some dinner. I haven't thought much beyond food."

"Xander, we just ate lunch," Willow laughed, her green eyes looking at the scenery that was passing them by. They had arrived in London the previous day. The flight was smooth and it had been pretty early when they'd touched down at Heathrow. After getting a cab at the airport, they'd decided to go to the hotel even though it was too early to check in. Luckily, Giles had considered the time difference and arranged to have a room waiting for them. They'd taken their bags to the room and then gone out to explore London. Willow loved the history of the town and Xander loved the variety of foods and they both loved all the people watching. They'd finally returned to their hotel and gotten some sleep. Today was their final day of exploring. Tomorrow, they were meeting Wesley's friend in the hotel restaurant and, hopefully, getting enough information to begin the search for Narcissa.

"What can I say? I'm a growing boy," Xander smirked at his best friend. He patted his flat stomach and said, "Besides, you're making me work off all the calories with your million mile walk through the city."

"It's not a million miles," Willow defended smugly, her green eyes shining with amusement as she said, "more like half a million."

"Hey, I'm not complaining, Wills. You know I'm all for walking around and looking at really old buildings and really old stuff," Xander slung his arm around her shoulder, "cause you love history and that means I appreciate it. Okay, tolerate it, but still, it's cool hanging out with my best buddy in a foreign city and looking at smelly old buildings."

"They aren't smelly old," Willow started, slapping his shoulder when she saw amusement in his brown eyes, "Xander!"

"Gotcha," he smiled smugly, rubbing his shoulder as he pouted, "you've been hanging out with slayers too long, Willow. That actually hurt!"

"Ah, poor baby. Should we stop at a hospital to have it looked at?" Willow snickered.

"Smart ass," Xander smiled affectionately at the redhead.

"Thank you!" Willow smiled back, "Okay, we'll have dinner. Then what?"

"How about a club?" Xander suggested after a few minutes of somewhat serious thought. He smiled, "Can you imagine how different a club here must be from the Bronze? Listen to some music, do some dancing, brag to the friends back home that we danced the night away in a London club."

"A club?" Willow made a face, finally agreeing, "Okay, I guess I owe you since I've been dragging you to museums and smelly old buildings since yesterday."

"It will be fun," Xander promised, "if only because you can laugh at how bad a dancer I am."

"You're silly," Willow smiled, "let's head back to the hotel so we can change. Oh, and we need to call Buffy and Giles. After that, we'll get some dinner. Maybe someone at the hotel can direct us to a club close by."

"Good idea," Xander nodded, "what time do we meet Wes' friend tomorrow?"

"He's supposed to be at the hotel at nine according to Wesley's note," Willow recalled, "I hope he can give us some useful information."

"Nope, none of that!" Xander shook his finger at her, "We promised to enjoy our two days of real vacation without thinking about the search for my mom and dad. Tomorrow, you can plan and think as much as you want. But, today, we're tourists having fun."

"I can think and have fun at the same time, you know?" Willow smiled.

"No thinking today," Xander told her, rolling his eyes when she laughed, "you know what I mean!"

"I know what you mean," Willow nodded, telling him, "our hotel is the next stop. What sounds good for dinner?"

"I don't care," Xander shrugged, moving to stand when the bus stopped at the corner near their hotel. He and Willow left the bus and started to walk down the block towards the place they were staying.

"How about Italian? I noticed a nice looking place a couple of blocks over when we were out yesterday and it smelled great," Willow suggested.

"I could eat a pizza," Xander smiled as they entered the hotel lobby, "I'll check with the desk guy and see if he knows a decent club around here."

"I'll wait for you by the elevators," Willow said as she walked towards the back of the lobby. It wasn't long before Xander returned, the redhead asking, "Did he know somewhere?"

"Yeah, he said there was a cool place a few blocks away. He said it was pretty popular with people our age and pretty eclectic, whatever that means," Xander said as they entered the elevator.

"It means a variety of people go to it," Willow told him, "which sounds perfect. We'll have some Italian food and then go listen to some music and people watch. No thinking involved."

"That's what I like to hear," Xander grinned as they reached their floor and headed to their room. He fell back on his bed as Willow sat on her bed and proceeded to call home to check in with their friends. After their calls were finished and both the slayer and the watcher were content that they were having a great time, Willow went to take a shower and he decided to take a short nap before dinner.


"It's too early to be awake," Xander declared as he sat at the table. He looked at his best friend, seeing the smile on her pretty face and the alert gleam in her green eyes and groaned, "I hate you."

"I'm not the one that told you to stay out until dawn," Willow reminded sweetly.

"No, but you were with me! So it's just not fair that I feel like I've barely slept and you're sitting there all smiling and awake," Xander muttered crossly, his lips curving into a slight smile as she laughed at him.

"You know that I rarely sleep more than a couple hours a night," Willow laughed, "and you know how cranky and rude you are when you don't sleep at least six hours. Besides, you'll be fine once you have some coffee. We've slept far less since meeting Buffy, after all. Last night was fun so I think it was definitely worth a little cranky Xander this morning."

"It was great, wasn't it?" Xander smiled sleepily. They'd had a great dinner at the small Italian restaurant and then gone to find the club. It had definitely been different from the Bronze. Great music, lots of people, and Xander hadn't been the worst dancer. They'd met a group of college students that were attending summer classes and had hung out with them for the rest of the night. They were a great bunch of people and email addresses had been exchanged after they'd had breakfast at a twenty-four hour café following the closing of the club.

"It was fantastic," Willow grinned, "I'm glad you suggested it. We not only got to listen to some great music, but we met some very nice people and had a really good breakfast."

"Coffee good," Xander mumbled as he drank an entire cup, finally starting to feel like he was waking up.

"Excuse me, are you Willow Rosenberg and Alexander Harris?" a voice spoke from Willow's right.

Willow turned and smiled, "Kevin Chamberson?"

"You must be Willow," Kevin smiled at the pretty redhead. He had been rather curious since he'd received the call from his old chum Wesley. He had agreed to meet Wesley's friends and assist them with information about Hogsmeade because he trusted the watcher completely. He'd not expected them to be quite so young, he had to admit, the curiosity rising again in the wizard as he took a seat opposite the sleepy looking boy. He nodded as he said, "And you must be Alexander."

"Xander," he said with a slight smile before he covered a yawn. He took a healthy drink from his refilled coffee cup, feeling himself starting to wake up.

"Wesley tells me that you need to visit Hogsmeade to pick up something," Kevin spoke to Willow, knowing from his phone conversation with Wes that the redhead was a witch.

"Right," Willow nodded, "he said you might be able to help us find the city, since it's a wizarding community and not located on any maps and such."

"I can give you the information you seek because you are a witch," Kevin told her, "but I must warn you to be careful. It saddens me to admit that there is a danger to all muggles and muggle-born witches at the moment. I am not in a position to tell you more, but I would recommend that you make your visit to Hogsmeade, collect what you need, and leave as quickly as possible."

"Wesley didn't say anything about danger," Xander sat back in the chair, relieved that he was now awake enough to realize that this Kevin guy was scared of something.

"He would not be aware of the threat," Kevin said simply, "I do not wish to scare you children, so please forgive me. I could not send you to Hogsmeade without a warning, but I honestly do not think you will run into any problems."

"We'll be careful," Willow said slowly, not telling him that it takes a lot to scare them. He had no idea that they were best friends with a slayer, had grown up on the Hellmouth, and had spent the last three years fighting evil daily. She wanted to know more, but she could see that he would not offer any specifics. She was thankful for the warning, now knowing that they needed to be alert and cautious, which they usually were after befriending Buffy, even if they didn't know exactly why.

"Good," Kevin smiled, "now, I shall tell you how to reach Hogsmeade."


"We have to walk through a brick wall," Xander said for the fifth time since Kevin had left as he entered the room and sat on his bed.

"Isn't that neat?" Willow asked as she got her bag and began to pack. They had spent an hour talking to Kevin Chamberson, learning the things they would need to be aware of when traveling to a real Wizarding Community. The redhead smiled excitedly, not believing that they really had wands and wore robes and it really was just like something out of a book. She couldn't wait to see it all, knowing that the primary reason for their trip was to help Xander find out about his real parents but thinking that seeing this entire new world was definitely very cool. She hadn't asked specific questions because she hadn't wanted Kevin to get suspicious and question their association with the Council, which she knew was Wesley's vague reasoning behind their journey to Hogsmeade. Luckily, Kevin had not minded sharing a few details that she assumed were public knowledge to anyone that was aware of the wizarding group. He had not mentioned another word about a possible threat, which was a bit annoying to the curious redhead, but she guessed that was a good thing because she'd much rather get the information they need and possibly find Xander's mom or dad or both without running into any trouble.

"Neat? What if it doesn't work? What if we find the wrong brick wall?" Xander asked, falling back on the bed as he sighed sadly, "I can just imagine explaining to Buffy and Giles that we ended up in the hospital because we walked straight into a wall and broke our noses or got concussions from falling backwards or ended up in the psych ward because they think we're crazy for walking into walls."

"It will work," Willow smiled, her green eyes flashing with amusement at Xander's antics, her eyes twinkling with mischief as she added, "but you get to try it first!"

"Thanks!" Xander laughed as he threw a pillow at the smirking redhead.

"Oh, someone wants to play!" Willow concentrated for a moment, moving her eyes slightly and sending the three pillows from her bed into the air, hitting Xander with them.

"So not fair," Xander whined, a proud smile on his face as he told his best friend, "You're getting really good at all this witchy stuff, Wills. I remember the days when you couldn't float a pencil and now you're attacking me with pillows."

"I've got a long way to go, but Wesley and Giles seem to think I've got a natural gift," Willow smiled, admitting, "I really love it, Xan. I'd have never imagined myself as a witch. Of course, I never thought vampires were real or that demons existed, either. It's hard to believe that four years ago we were just typical high school kids with normal problems."

"Now our normal problems happen to be fighting vampires and stopping ascensions and kicking demon ass. Okay, providing moral support, doughnuts, and funny quips while the slayers kick demon ass, but we're still important in the demon ass kicking thing," Xander smiled. He caught her eyes as he said, "You know, Wills, when we get home, maybe you can teach me some of that magic stuff? I could help you with spells or something. Hey, I can be ingredients guy, ya know?"

"I'd really like that, Xan," Willow smiled at her best friend, "who knows, maybe you'll be a natural since your Mom is a witch and all. Goodness, that almost sounds insulting, doesn't it?"

"Wills, you're great," Xander laughed, relieved that she seemed happy about sharing her newfound love of magic with him. He had to admit that he'd been a jealous over the last few years, since they'd met Buffy. He and Willow were best friends, but their group had grown to include the slayer and the watcher and Cordelia and Oz for a brief time before the werewolf went off to college when it was obvious that Willow had decided that he was just going to be a friend and then Faith and Wesley. He was a bit worried that they'd drift apart when she went to college, because he honestly didn't think more school was in his future. This trip was renewing the bonds of their friendship, which had never broken but had weakened a bit when he'd started dating Cordelia and Willow had been helping Buffy and practicing magic. During the last year, their friendship was back to its past glory and growing stronger every day. She'd been there for him when he'd needed her most, after finding out about his adoption, and he now knew that he would never lose her, no matter if she went to college and he didn't.

"So are you," Willow laughed, before she grew serious, "Xander, what do you think Kevin meant about it being dangerous? I got the impression that something big was happening, kinda like the Mayor ascension big, and he wasn't able to tell us anything because we're not part of their snotty private community."

"I don't know," Xander admitted, "but I got the same feeling that you did. Maybe they've got a big bad or a big wanna be bad. We should be careful, just in case."

"And I definitely don't think we should tell Giles or Buffy that the wizard guy gave us a warning and we went ahead and went to Hogsmeade anyway," Willow smiled slightly, "I'm not thinking that they'd be too happy about that."

"Oh so right, my lovely redheaded friend," Xander agreed, "facing a pissed off Giles and Buffy is a hell of a lot scarier than a big bad any day!"

"I'm so telling Buffy that you're more scared of her than the evil guys. She'll love it!"

"Wills, maybe we should just blow it off," Xander said softly, "I mean, we don't have any idea what's going on and that Kevin guy was a little scared and I don't really like thinking about what big bad might scare a wizard, ya know?"

"I think we should be keep our eyes open and be cautious, just in case, but I believe that we should go," Willow decided. "We're so close to finding Hogwarts and maybe finding out about your Mother. I don't want to give up."

"You're right," Xander smiled, "we should go and see if we can find out anything. Besides, worrying about a threat from a big bad is just like being at home. Makes me all nostalgic for the Hellmouth."

"You're nuts," Willow laughed before she said, "c'mon, get your stuff together. We can check out and head to the station. We should be in Hogsmeade in a couple of hours. Once we get there, it should be easy enough to find Hogwarts and maybe get some information about Narcissa!"

"You know, it's kind of scary how excited you get at the idea of research," Xander smiled as he finished packing, "I hope they have somewhere good to eat in this Hogsmeade place. It will be lunch time when we arrive!"


Willow decided that it would be best to check out of their hotel before making the trip to Scotland. Contrary to Xander's belief that they would arrive before lunchtime, the redhead figured it would take several hours to make the trip north, putting their arrival in Hogsmeade in the late afternoon. She didn't know if they'd manage to find someone to talk to them today or not once they found Hogwarts, having forgotten to consider that it was summer and that the school might be closed since she wasn't sure if boarding schools offered summer classes or not. She hadn't mentioned this realization to Xander, not wanting to give him anything else to worry about. She had hopes that the Headmaster was in residence year round and he or she was the person they needed to speak to.

Since it would probably be near dark by the time they arrived in Hogsmeade, she thought it was better to just take their stuff with them since they had no idea how long it was going to take them in Scotland. If the Headmaster was helpful, they might have to search through records or files to locate any student with the name Narcissa from the late 1970s into 1980, the year Xander was born. If the Headmaster was not helpful, they would have to figure out a new plan of action, something she wasn't going to bother thinking unless she had to.

Willow was signing the forms for their check out when Xander nudged her. She turned, a surprised smile crossing her face when she saw Kevin Chamberson enter the lobby. She finished the paperwork and put the copy of the credit card slip in her bag before taking Xander's arm and moving to meet Kevin. She smiled, "Hello, Kevin. What brings you back here?"

"Would you allow me to escort you both to the King's Cross?" Kevin asked, lowering his voice as he explained, "I thought of a few things after I left that might prove useful for your trip to Hogsmeade and decided that I could give you the information at the same time I took you to the Express. I am thankful that I caught you before you left."

"That sounds great," Xander grinned, confiding in the older man, "I was a bit worried about walking into the wrong brick column."

"I will gladly show you to the appropriate platform," Kevin smiled at the young American. He glanced at his watch, "We have enough time to make to the station, but the regular express runs promptly at noon so we had better go now."

"We're ready," Willow said before she moved to follow him outside. He had a taxi waiting, the driver assisting them with their bags before Kevin took the front seat, leaving the back for her and Xander. They passed the journey to the station making general conversation about London and their sightseeing adventures, knowing not to mention a word about magic or wizards around the driver. When they arrived at the station, she and Xander got their baggage from the trunk of the car and followed Kevin into the building. She noticed that he was carrying a couple of bags, smiling as she realized that he must have gone shopping following their breakfast meeting and had obviously thought of a few things to tell them before their trip, having gone directly to their hotel to catch them before they left.

"The platform is this way," Kevin said, reminding them, "take a look around and make sure no one is paying you any attention before walking through the barrier. If a muggle happens to see you, most will believe their eyes are playing tricks, but it is always better to have a general look around before entering."

"Got it," Xander nodded as he followed Wesley's friend. He watched with amazement as the man stopped, took a look around, and then walked directly into a brick column. He looked at Willow, "Did you see that?"

"That is just neat," Willow decided, grinning at him as she said, "c'mon. Let's go walk through brick!"

"We are so telling Buffy about this," Xander declared with a smile as he looked around and then walked directly into the brick wall. He found himself on a platform, much like the one they'd just been on, only this one wasn't as crowded. He saw a few people boarding a bright red train, noticing that most of them were wearing long robes of some kind and a few had point hats.

"Before you board the train, I have a few things for you," Kevin said with a smile as he motioned them to the side. He opened the bag and brought out two simple robes. One was dark blue, the other green. He handed the blue one to Xander and the green one to Willow. "After I left your hotel this morning, I went to Diagon Alley and purchased you these robes. They will draw far less attention than wandering around in muggle clothing."

"Thank you," Willow smiled as she took the green robe. She confessed, "I wondered if we were going to look pretty silly wearing normal clothes after you mentioned that robes were common, but I wasn't sure if it would really matter. I definitely feel much better going to town wearing the robe."

"It fits," Xander declared after he pulled the blue robe on over his clothes. It was a bit big, but it wasn't uncomfortable or anything. Okay, he looked like he was wearing a dress. This was one detail that he was so not telling Faith and Buffy, he decided, easily imagining the slayers laughing and teasing him for wearing something closely resembling a dress.

"I am glad that you like them," Kevin smiled pleasantly before he handed over a small bag, "I exchanged some muggle money for you while I was in Diagon Alley. There is enough here for a few meals as well as lodging for the evening, should the need arise."

"How much do we owe you?" Willow asked as she took the small bag, looking inside to see various coins that she did not recognize.

"My treat," Kevin smiled at the pretty redhead, "I thought these things would assist you in your task and it was my pleasure to be able to assist you."

"Kevin, you have to let us pay you back," Willow protested.

"Wesley is a good friend of mine, Willow. He has done many things for me in the past, and I owe him," Kevin said, "I am now in a position to help his friends and repay some of his kindness. Please allow me to make the gesture."

"Sure, who are we to stand in the way of gesture making?" Xander spoke up, "So, Kev, how long is this train trip? I'm getting kind of hungry and Wills think it will be late afternoon we get there."

"It is several hours," Kevin confirmed, "but they have a treat cart on the train, if you get hungry. You should have no problem obtaining a meal once you arrive in Hogsmeade."

"Treat cart? I'm already loving this train trip thing," Xander smiled at Willow.

"I hope the treats aren't all sugar based," Willow told Kevin with a smile, "Xander without sugar is hyper enough!"

"Hey, I resemble that remark!" Xander said, "Here, give me that stuff to hold so you can put your robe on. I know you're dying to see if you look as good as I do wearing it."

"So modest," Willow giggled as she rolled her eyes, sliding the robe on over her clothes and fastening it. She took her stuff back and smiled, "I love the color, Kevin. Green is my favorite and blue is Xander's."

"How fortunate," Kevin smiled, "I honestly just grabbed two that looked to be the appropriate size, but I am relieved that you both find them acceptable. Oh, before I forget, here is the name and address for a guesthouse located in Hogsmeade, just in case your business requires you to remain in town for the evening."

"This is great," Willow took the card he offered, "and again I'm thanking you."

"And again, it is my pleasure," Kevin smiled, "I must be off now. Do have a safe trip. It was a joy meeting you both. Give Wesley my best and do not hesitate to give me a ring if you need anything upon your return to London."

"Thanks, Kev," Xander shook the wizard's hand.

"We really appreciate your assistance," Willow holds him as she shook his hand. "Have a great day."

"You too," Kevin waved before walking back through the barrier into muggle London.

"When we get home, we need to remember to thank Wesley for introducing us to Kevin," Willow told Xander as she moved towards the train.

"Definitely," Xander agreed, "he helped us a lot."

"Let's just sit here," Willow said as they found an empty compartment. She took seat opposite her best friend and smiled, "Next stop, Hogsmeade and maybe some answers about your parents."


"These are just really gross," Xander declared as he tossed another handful of jellybeans into his mouth.

"Yet you're still eating them," Willow rolled her eyes.

"Of course," Xander smiled crookedly, "they're kind of neat, even if they are disgusting. You want one? I can try to find you one of the safe flavors, like cherry or something. Though, I must admit, the ear wax was surprisingly tasty."

"Xander! Eeew," Willow laughed, "so your favorite candy out of the dozen you bought is the nasty tasting jelly beans?"

"Kinda of liked the chocolate frog until it started jumping around," Xander's eyes got big as he whispered, "There's just something freaky about your food hopping around, especially when it's made of chocolate. I fear I may be scarred for life, unable to think about chocolate without imagining the poor stuff coming to life."

"Poor baby," Willow snickered, removing a Snickers from her bag and teasing, "Guess I'll just have to eat this all by myself."

"Gimme," Xander snatched the candy bar and broke it in half, giving Willow the larger half because he knew the redhead hadn't spent a majority of the train ride snacking on various types of wizarding candy. Overall, he was pretty impressed with their candy, finding it somewhat disgusting but also tasty. Nothing beat a good old Snickers, though.

"Guess you weren't too traumatized," Willow said dryly, her green eyes flashing with amusement. "The chocolate industry will be pleased. Without your contribution to their sales, they would have lost a lot of money."

"Ha ha," Xander snorted, wraggling his finger as he said, "I'm afraid that I am going to have to limit your visitations with Faith. She delights in your sarcastic teasing and encourages it, which means Buffy and I suffer from your stinging wit."

"I'm gonna tell her that you said she was a bad influence," Willow smiled, "she'll be very pleased."

"Hey, I just used several large words in one sentence and I don't even get points?" Xander pouted, "I even used the whole image thing of the stinging wit. Cause, really, the idea of you stinging Buffy with your wit or possibly tongue is..."

"Xander!" Willow leaned over and slapped his leg, "Get the mind out of the gutter, boy. There will be no me stinging Buffy with anything so just stop the drooling before you ruin your nice robe."

"I so need some male friends that would envy the fact that I have three gorgeous women as my best friends," Xander muttered, his brown eyes flashing with humor, "and could appreciate the tantalizing word images I create."

"You're such a perv," Willow shook her head, "just remember that Buffy bruised your arm last time you mentioned her mud wrestling Faith while wearing a bikini. That's all I'm gonna say."

"You really know how to ruin the mood, Wills," Xander laughed, moving to sit beside her and slinging his arm around her shoulders. "You know you're like my sister. I was just teasing you. I don't have those kind of thoughts about you. Well, not too often, cause, sister or not, you're pretty damn hot, especially when you're all magicky and powerful. And, really, slayers! How can any normal guy hang out with them and not have a stray thought once in a while? My images just confirm that I'm a typical teenager with lots of raging hormones."

"Twenty points, cause you called me hot and actually thought up a reasonably good defense for being a lecherous perv," Willow laughed as she leaned her head against his shoulder. She watched the passing scenery and said, "I think we're starting to slow down. Do you think we're nearly there?"

"I hope so," Xander said as he took a bite of his Snickers, "I'm nervous but I'd like to get this over with. Ya know?"

"Yes, I know," Willow smiled as she took a bite of her candy bar. She confessed, "I definitely think I'm ready to eat a very late lunch, or would it be early dinner?"

"Late lunch," Xander decided, "if we call it early dinner, we don't get to eat again. And five points to you for bringing up food before me! I'm so proud!"

"The train is stopping," Willow said excitedly as she sat up, "we're there. We're finally in Hogsmeade. Are you ready for this, Xan?"

Xander smiled as he nodded, "Yeah, I think I am. Let's get some food and then go try to find that school."


After leaving the train, Xander and Willow entered the village of Hogsmeade. Xander had been unable to keep his mouth from hanging open in surprised awe as he saw his first wizarding town. Willow was a bit more discreet about her amazement, her green eyes shining with delight as she saw people flying around on broomsticks and walking around in robes and hats, carrying wands. It was just fantastic, even better than the few people she'd seen on the train.

"I feel like we've somehow stumbled into a book or something," Xander whispered to his best friend, his dark eyes shining with enthusiasm as he looked around.

"It's unbelievable," Willow agreed, "Buffy isn't going to believe this when we tell her about it."

"I can't believe we're really here, looking for my parents, in a wizarding town, wearing a dress and walking around with people on broomsticks!" Xander laughed, "It's unreal."

"They're robes, not dresses," Willow laughed at his obvious excitement. She took his arm and said, "Let's find somewhere to get some food and then we can try to find Hogwarts."

"Great idea," Xander beamed at his best friend as he took her suitcase from her, scolding, "I told you I planned to carry that, young lady. You have to let me play the strong masculine guy cause I'm wearing a dress!"

"Robe," Willow giggled, allowing him to take her bag. "Look, there's a place that looks like a cafe or bar. The Three Broomsticks. Sounds interesting."

"Let's try it," Xander decided as he walked towards the building she'd indicated. He opened the door and let her walk in first. Once he was inside, he took a look around. It looked like any other restaurant with a bar, he decided, following Willow towards a booth in the back. He put the suitcases in first and then sat down opposite the redhead. His eyes caught hers as he whispered, "Someone is staring at us."

"You feel it, too?" Willow smiled pleasantly, though her green eyes were subtly looking around the half empty restaurant, trying to pinpoint who was staring at them. She'd felt eyes on them when they'd entered, having thought it was just the normal look people give to you as you enter a place. She did the same thing if she was close to a door, glancing up just to see who it was before returning back to your company or meal. This, though, wasn't just a glance. It might very well have started as such, because she had noticed a few people look at them before going back to their activities, but it was now a full on stare. Chalk it up to living on a Hellmouth, but she had an uncanny awareness regarding her surroundings. When people you'd known your entire life could be turned into a vampire or eaten by demons, it was safer to always be alert and slightly suspicious.

"Yep," Xander nodded as he casually took a look around the room. He smiled at Willow as he said, "I think it's someone in the corner, near the front. I can't tell from this angle, but it feels like it's coming from over there."

"Okay, let me see," Willow smiled back, green eyes scouting the area he mentioned. She leaned forward, "There's a table over there with four stools. Three are empty but it does look like someone is in the fourth. A bit difficult to see, it's pretty dark."

"Do you think he has something to do with what Kevin warned us about?" Xander asked worriedly.

"Well, there's a chance, but it's not like we're wearing big signs that say muggles so I don't think that's the reason he's rudely staring," Willow shrugged, "I don't know. Maybe we're just having a paranoid too long living on the Hellmouth kind of moment?"

"What can I get you kids?" a friendly voice spoke before Xander could reply. They looked up and saw a smiling woman about Giles' age ready to take their order.

"Um, well, what do you have?" Willow asked.

"American," the woman nodded, "I knew you weren't from around here. I'll just get you some good food and a butterbeer. How's that?"

"Sorry, we're not old enough for beer," Xander spoke up, smiling crookedly as she looked at him, "maybe a soda?"

"Oh," she looked at Xander for a moment before shaking her head, "sorry about that. You just, well, for a moment there you looked like someone I once knew. Your smile, it's really nice. Getting too old, I guess. How about a couple of cherry sodas? If you kids need anything, I'm Rosemerta, just give me a holler."

"Okay, that was strange," Xander smiled, "She liked my smile."

"Do you think she might have known your father?" Willow asked softly, her green eyes speculative, "Maybe he was from around here, or went to Hogwarts along with your mother. Xander, we might actually get some answers!"


"I've been so busy thinking about trying to find my mother since we know her first name and all, I haven't even really given much thought to my father," Xander admitted, "I hope we can find out about both of them."

"Oh, corner staring person has moved," Willow whispered, " and it's a he. Kind of scruffy, brown hair that's going gray which is kind of weird because his face doesn't look that old, he has kind eyes. There's something about him, though. He's giving off a vibe, and he's coming over here."

"What should we do?" Xander asked hurriedly, trusting Willow to come up with a plan.

"I think we should let him tell us why he's been staring since we came in here," Willow decided, looking up as the guy reached their table. She gave him a polite smile, though her eyes were cautious as she said, "Hello."

The guy looked confused, surprised, and curious as he looked at Xander. He turned his head when he heard Willow's question, their eyes meeting as he replied softly, "Hello."

"Did you need something?" Xander asked suspiciously, agreeing with Willow that this guy gave off a weird vibe.

"I was curious," the guy said quietly, pale eyes looking at Xander again.

"I'm Willow and this is Xander," Willow spoke up, wondering what the guy was curious about. She didn't tell him to go away because he was looking at Xander as if he knew him, sort of like that Rosemerta lady but more so.

"American," the guy nodded slowly, as if he were trying to put pieces of a puzzle together. He gave Willow a shy smile as he said, "My name is Lupin. Remus Lupin."

"Nice to meet ya, Remus," Xander said, not sure why Willow was being nice to the scruffy staring guy but following her lead.

"Lupin," Remus told the boy as he tried not to stare. He had been having a butterbeer in the corner when the door had opened. He'd seen a pretty redhead enter, followed by the boy that looked so familiar. He knew that he had been staring, which was very impolite, but he hadn't been able to look away. He'd finally left his table to go to them, thinking that he's stop the fanciful notions when he got close enough to see the boy's face. Instead, he had been shocked to find even more similarity.

"Would you like to sit down?" Willow asked as she moved over in the booth.

"You wouldn't mind?" Remus asked, taking the seat beside the redhead after she smiled and said they didn't mind.

"So," Xander said slowly, giving Willow a look that told her that he had no idea what to talk about now that they had company.

"Would you like another butterbeer, Professor?" Rosemerta asked as she brought the two Americans' their food and noticed Lupin sitting with them.

"Thanks," he smiled before looking at the table, his eyes thoughtful as he tried to figure out what was going on.

"Professor? You're a teacher?" Willow asked as she took a drink of her cherry soda, smiling at Xander as she said, "This is really good."

"Food is great," Xander grinned as he went back to eating, dark eyes keeping an eye on the scruffy guy just in case he tried something.

"I teach at Hogwarts," Remus replied to Willow's question, not missing the look the two shared at his response.

"Hogwarts?" Xander repeated, "The school?"

"Yes," Remus nodded slowly, eyes narrowing as he asked, "Were you two planning a visit there?"

"Actually, we planned to try to find it when we were finished eating," Willow admitted. She didn't know this man very well, but something about him told her to trust him. She said, "It's the reason we're in Hogsmeade. We need to talk to the Headmaster, but we don't really have an appointment or anything."

"I think he was expecting you," Remus muttered. He should have known. For the last week, Albus had suggested that he go for a butterbeer in the afternoon. When he had protested, the headmaster had insisted, though the older wizard had refused to tell him why it was so important that he be at the Three Broomsticks every afternoon. Remus had obeyed, welcoming the chance to get away from the school for a few hours, even if he was puzzled as to the reason. Looking at the boy across the table from him, he found himself with even more questions. His suspicions could not possibly be correct, he decided. There had to be some explanation for the thoughts in his head. He needed to talk to Albus, the sooner the better.

"What?" Xander asked curiously. "How could he have been expecting us? We only decided to come a few days ago."

"I couldn't begin to explain how he knows what he knows," Remus said softly. He sniffed the air, thinking that he might be able to smell the boy's scent and place it, but it wasn't working. He growled softly, not realizing that Willow was close enough to hear him. With a frown, he said, "I will take you to him when you are finished with your meal."

"That's great. Thank you, Lupin," Willow smiled before she nudged her friend's leg under the table, her eyes meeting his as she said, "Xan, do you remember Oz?"

"Wills, what kind of silly question is that?" Xander asked as he rolled his eyes. He watched her eyes glance at Lupin before looking back at him. He didn't get it. What did Oz have to do with Lupin? He shrugged, "Yeah, I remember Oz."

She was going to kill him, Willow decided. He could be so smart about some things and completely oblivious about others. She had finally figured out why she was getting a strange vibe from Lupin, recognizing it as a similar feeling she got when she was around Oz. The wizard beside her was a werewolf. She didn't care at all that he was a werewolf, having casually dated Oz a couple of times before they'd decided they worked much better as friends. But she wanted to let Xander know why they'd gotten a bit of a weird vibe from the Professor, to let him know it wasn't anything dangerous. She nodded, "I couldn't remember if I told you that I got a letter from him before graduation. He's doing well, has a new girlfriend and a new band. He wanted to come see us graduate but it was the wrong time of the month."

"You didn't tell me, but that's cool. He was a nice guy," Xander said as he continued to eat. His dark eyes widened suddenly as he looked at Lupin and then back at Willow. He suddenly understood, asking, "Is the new band called The Vibe like the last one or something different?"

"Yeah, the Vibe," Willow smiled, proud of Xander for finally figuring it out.

"That's kind of cool," Xander said, having no real worries about werewolves except for during the full moon. Then, he much preferred them caged and unable to have him for dinner. He knew that there was supernatural stuff all over the world and that Sunnydale was only special because it was one of the worst Hellmouths, but he'd honestly never considered that the wizarding world had things like werewolves.

"I thought you might find it interesting," she smiled before going back to eating her lunch. She was pretty hungry and the food was good, so the table grew silent as they both ate.

"I think I'm going to gain a hundred pounds before this vacation is finished," Xander grinned as he took another bite of his lunch. "This is really good."

"I'll still love you, Chubs," Willow giggled, laughing as he pouted at her.

"You were supposed to say that I will never lose my boyish figure," Xander said loftily, pouting at her as he whined, "You think I'm fat."

"You're not fat so quit whining," Willow scolded playfully, "do you want my other sausage? I'm stuffed."

"Sure," Xander took the sausage and placed it on his plate, "I'm glad that you're finally eating properly, Wills. Instead of being too thin, you're slender but curvy in the right places."

"How could I not eat properly when my three best friends love food?" Willow laughed as she pushed her plate away and took a sip of the cherry soda. She glanced at Lupin, who had been quiet since informing them that he'd take them to Hogwarts when they were finished with their meal. She noticed that he was frowning slightly at the table, a pensive expression on his face as he was lost in thought. Up close, she realized that he was pretty cute for an older guy. He wasn't very sharing, though she guessed that wasn't too surprising since they were strangers and he may have issues with the whole being a werewolf and a wizard thing, but he seemed nice and she got the feeling that he could be trusted. He was going to take them to the Headmaster, which saved them from having to search for the school and meant they didn't have to worry about not having a chance to meet with someone that might help them. She really hoped this headmaster guy knew something about Xander's parents. She was also very curious what Lupin had meant about them being expected. She hoped Xander finished his lunch soon. She wanted to go to Hogwarts and meet the Headmaster. She hoped he could give the information they needed.


"Hogwarts is on the other side of the lake," Remus told Willow and Xander when they left the Three Broomsticks. He motioned in the general direction, "It is a short walk to the school."

"It got dark rather fast, huh?" Xander noted as he looked around. When they had arrived in Hogsmeade, it was late afternoon but the sun had still been out. It seemed that they had taken longer to eat than he'd realized since the sun was now set and the sky was dark.

"Look at the stars, Xan," Willow smiled, "there are so many out tonight."

"If you two would please follow me," Remus suggested patiently, concealing his eagerness to get to Hogwarts to question Dumbledore. His lips curved into a slight smile as he watched the two Americans react to the sights of the town, though both were doing their best to present the impression that they were familiar with such visuals. He had not paid much attention to their chattering as they had eaten, too preoccupied with his thoughts and suspicions to give them much notice. Now, he found himself wishing he had listened more intently, actually interested in who they were and what had brought them to Scotland and Hogwarts. True, he had formed various theories to answer that question during his musings, but he would like to know if any of his assumptions were accurate.

When he had listened in on their conversation, he had been rather lost in understanding what they were talking about. They spoke differently than the other children he knew. He was unclear if all Americans spoke in such a way, using slang and giving unusual meanings to common words, or if it was just these two that spoke that way. The redhead, Willow, seemed highly intelligent. Her green eyes had customarily been sparking with humor, intelligence, and wit when he had looked into them. The boy, Xander, was able to carry on conversations with her but gave the impression that his talents lay in areas other than studious areas. There was strength and loyalty in his eyes that mixed with the amusement Remus had seen in their depths. The two bickered and teased but cared for each other greatly, the bond between them obvious to anyone observing them.

"Sure thing, Lupin," Xander nodded, flashing a quick smile as he moved to follow the professor. He looked at Willow, whispering, "Did you see the guy riding the broomstick? How cool was that?"

"I know," Willow whispered back as they continued to follow Lupin towards Hogwarts. She smiled, "I mean, Kevin mentioned people riding brooms, but I never imagined they actually did."

"Do you think this Lupin guy was right about us being expected?" Xander asked, choosing his words carefully since he now knew the guy was a werewolf and that meant super duper hearing according to Oz.

"I don't know," Willow shrugged, her green eyes moving to look over the light haired figure leading them to Hogwarts. She noticed him move his head slightly when they lowered their voices, a smirk crossing her face as she realized he was trying to eavesdrop. She winked at Xander as she said, "He's pretty cute, isn't he? Gorgeous eyes and that voice is dreamy. I can't imagine having a professor that looked that hot. I bet he's got a pretty good body hidden underneath that baggy old robe. And the gray in his hair gives him a distinguished look. He looks tired, though. There's a weight on his shoulders and he doesn't seem to know how to relax. I wonder when the last time is he laughed."

Remus could feel his cheeks flushing after he overheard her comments. She thought he was cute? While Hermione had insisted that many a student had had a crush on him during his year of teaching DADA, he had not believed the girl. A slight smile crossed his lips as he decided that it was rather enjoyable to have a beautiful young girl think he was attractive, especially one as intelligent and perceptive as Willow. Content that they were not discussing anything that would answer the numerous questions in his mind, he moved ahead of them.

"Wills, c'mon, that's just disturbing," Xander grimaced, "dreamy? Yuck! He's like old enough to be your Dad. While I understand the girly need to ogle any half-decent guy, I don't want to hear about it. And what's with you girls and accents?"

"Xander, he was listening to us," Willow rolled her eyes, laughing at his reaction to her analysis of Professor Lupin, "I thought he might give us some privacy if he thought we were just talking about how cute he is."

"You, not we!" Xander quickly interrupted, "You were talking, I was merely trying not to gag."

"Hey, he *is* a cutie," Willow smirked, "but, seriously, I don't know what to think about the belief that the Headmaster was expecting us. How would he know we were coming here? And, if he did know, I wonder if that means he knows who your parents are or can give us some answers to help with the search."

"It doesn't really make a lot of sense," Xander agreed, "but I sort of hope he did know because that might mean he knew about me. I keep thinking this search is just hopeless but a part of me really hopes I can find my Mom and, holy shit! That's a castle!"

"Wow," Willow whispered as her green eyes widened. It was a huge castle, bright against the dark night sky. "How beautiful."

"That must be Hogwarts," Xander said excitedly, a grin crossing his face as he grabbed her arm, "Let's hurry and catch up with the wolfy wizard. I can't believe we're going to be visiting a real castle."

"Welcome to Hogwarts," Remus said with a soft smile as he opened the gates and allowed the two Americans to walk past him. After following them, he securely fastened the gates and joined them.

"I can't believe the school is in a castle," Willow remarked as Lupin walked with them towards the front of the castle. She asked, "Is it very old?"

"The school has been here for over a century," Remus replied. He explained a little about the history of the school as they walked from the gates to the front door. As they neared the entrance, he said, "School is not in session presently, but there are a small amount of students that remained for the summer. I believe it would be best if we go directly to the Headmaster's office and avoid running into any of the summer occupants."

"Okay," Willow said slowly, wondering why students had stayed if they weren't taking classes, noticing the hesitation in his voice as he explained about the residents and the flash of concern that had entered his eyes. She was reminded of Kevin's warning and his sadness about some threat to the wizarding world, curious if that had anything to do with some of the students remaining after school was over. When she spoke to Giles again, she decided she might ask if he had any idea if there was some big bad in this part of the world. Since they were already there, he couldn't forbid them to make the journey in case it was dangerous so it didn't hurt to see if he or Wesley might know what was going on. She wanted to find Xander's parents, certainly, but she now also had to admit that she wanted to understand what was happening in this new world she had discovered. She knew they wouldn't be here very long, but she hated having unanswered questions.

"We'll follow you, Lupin," Xander said with a smile, deciding he'd be rather glad to put their suitcases down for a little while. Neither had packed a lot of stuff, but they had bought souvenirs for the friends back home and that had added a bit of weight to their luggage.

"This way, children," Remus said as they entered the foray of Hogwarts. He quietly led them through the hall and up a flight of stairs, aware of their wide-eyed amazement at what they were seeing. He heard them whispering about the portraits, glancing at them and having to smile as he caught them waving at one of the friendly maidens who was looking at them curiously. He cleared his throat to gain their attention, "Ahem."

"Sorry," two innocent voices whispered back, though their eyes were amused as they hurried up the stairs to catch up to him.

Remus rolled his eyes at their response, thinking they sounded a bit like Harry, Ron, and Hermione when those three were caught making mischief. Soon, they reached Dumbledore's office. He said the password, "Cherry drops," and watched as the door opened and the stairs began to rise. He looked at Willow and Xander and motioned them to follow him.

"This is so freaking cool," Xander whispered as he grinned at Willow before following after Lupin.

"Albus?" Remus called out the headmaster's name as he entered the office. He saw the elderly wizard sitting at his desk, blue eyes twinkling as their eyes met.

"Yes, Remus?" Albus Dumbledore studied the young wizard, arching a brow as he waited to hear what had brought the boy to his office.

"You have visitors," Remus said as he moved to the side, "May I introduce Willow and Xander."

"Oh my," Albus said softly as he stood, his eyes moving over the pair that had joined Lupin. He glanced at the girl, nodding at her briefly as their eyes met. She had nice eyes, caring and intelligent. She was a pretty little thing, hair a Weasley red and pale skin, slender and several inches shorter than the boy beside her. She was a witch, he realized, though there was something different about her. He could almost feel her power, which was unusual, her magic seemingly surrounding her in a soft embrace. Interesting and something he would like to explore at a later time. His attention turned from her to the boy beside her. He studied the boy, whispering, "Alexander."

"Xander," Xander said, eyes curious as he looked at a man that could very well have come out of a book on wizards. This guy looked like a wizard, like the image that came to mind when the word was mentioned. Long white hair and a beard, and he gave off a magicky vibe like Wills did when she was performing a spell or charm. He also said the name Alexander like he knew who he was. This was great. They might actually have found someone that could give them some answers, he realized as a grin crossed his face.

"You resemble your father in many ways, child," Albus said softly, "you have his smile."

"You know who his father is?" Willow asked excitedly, squeezing Xander's hand as she smiled at her best friend. She wanted to cry when she saw the happy look on his face, instead giving him a sideways hug. She couldn't believe they had done it. They had traveled half-way across the world, managed to find a world that kept itself pretty hidden, and had found someone that seemed to be able to help them answer some questions.

"Yes, my dear, I do," Albus nodded, his eyes flashing with sadness before he said quietly, "but answers must wait for another day. It is rather late and you are tired. I had hoped you would come, though I honestly did not expect you to arrive so soon. Your birthday was just last week, after all, so I confess that I underestimated your resourcefulness and am not yet prepared for this meeting."

"It was Wills," Xander said, "she's stubborn as heck and wouldn't stop looking until she found this place. She knew how much it meant to me to find out about my past and, well, blame her for us getting here too soon. Do you really know about my parents? Are you going to tell me about them?"

"I am not stubborn," Willow grumbled, though her eyes were thoughtful as she looked at the elderly wizard that seemed to have expected them yet was also apparently surprised that they were there.

"I will have a room prepared for the two of you," Albus said quickly, knowing that they obviously had many question and fully aware that he was not in a position to answer them at this time. He had known the boy would receive the letter on his eighteenth birthday, if the muggle woman had actually kept it over the years. Luckily, it appeared she had since Alexander was now standing in his office, wanting answers and looking more like his father than expected. His facial features were a blending from both parents, the lips and nose from his mother and the smile and hair from his father. He shook his head, knowing now was not the time to study the boy, instead saying, "I will have someone show you to the room. I have much to do before we speak again."

"Wait, you will tell me about them, right?" Xander asked worriedly, "I understand my being here is a shock and I don't mind waiting until tomorrow, but I want to know what you know."

"You will, child," Albus nodded, "in due time, you will have your questions answered. Remus, please call a house elf and ask them to prepare a room for our guests."

"Two beds," Willow spoke up softly, "if it's not a problem?"

"I shall take care of it," Remus said as called for a house elf, his mind reeling from his observations of Albus and the boy. His call was answered quickly and he soon turned to Albus and nodded, "The room will be ready shortly."

"Good," Albus nodded, "please have Smookie escort our guests to the room. Children, we shall talk again soon."

"Sure," Xander sighed, taking Willow's hand as he followed her into the hall.

Willow hugged him, "You okay?"

Xander nodded, smiling slowly, "Yeah. He knows who they are, Wills. He's going to be able to tell me who my parents are. I love you, Willow. If it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't be here now. I never honestly thought we'd find any answers. Now, I know that I look kind of like my dad and I have his smile. That means so much."

"I love you, too, Xander," Willow smiled, "and maybe tomorrow he'll feel like talking to us and answering some questions. C'mon, let's go see our room. Can you believe this place? They actually have elves. True, that elf is looking at us kind of weird and doesn't seem very friendly but how neat is all this?"

"Very neat, Wills," Xander laughed as he and the redhead followed the elf to their room.

Remus shut the door after they left, immediately turning to face Albus. Before he could open his mouth to ask any questions, the older wizard held up a hand to stop him. He watched as Albus sighed and moved to sit down, catching his eyes as he instructed, "Remus, please bring Narcissa Malfoy and Severus Snape to me. They are with the children in the Great Hall, I believe. I will explain everything when you return with Severus and Narcissa."


"Albus, what's wrong?" Severus Snape as he entered the office of the Headmaster. He was followed closely by Narcissa Malfoy with Remus Lupin bringing up the rear of the group. He had been somewhat surprised when Lupin had told him that Dumbledore wished to see him and Narcissa, the surprise turning to concern when Lupin refused to answer any of his questions regarding the impromptu meeting. Narcissa was not a member of the Order, though she had sought protection following Lucius' death and was becoming a trusted member of the resistance, so Severus knew the meeting had nothing to do with Order business. That left him to assume that the matter concerned Narcissa, his friend and the woman he had loved for over two decades, and that knowledge increased his worry with every step he took to Dumbledore's office.

"Good evening, Albus," Narcissa said politely as she smiled at the elderly wizard who had opened his school to her following her husband's death. She had nowhere to go after Voldemort had discovered that Lucius was a traitor and killed him. With his unexpected death, she had feared for her and Draco's lives, having little doubt that Voldemort would insist on their allegiance or kill them if they refused. Since there was not a chance in Hell that she would willingly support Voldemort, having never been a believer in the Dark Lord, she had found herself at a loss of how to protect herself and Draco. She had turned to Severus, the wizard that had been her friend since they were students at Hogwarts, trusting that he would know what she should do. He had spoken to Albus and secured her a position as his assistant, giving her and Draco protection and allowing her an opportunity to prove that she was on their side. She had moved to Hogwarts only a few months before, but she was adjusting to her new life. It was very different, of course, but she was enjoying herself in a way that she had not expected. Draco, on the other hand, was not overly pleased with finding himself on the same side as Potter, but he seemed to be adjusting slowly to the changes in their lives since Lucius' death.

"Please, sit down," Albus said, not at all sure how to proceed. There had been a small part of him that believed Alexander would come to Hogwarts seeking answers, enough so that he had insisted Remus go to town for a drink every night since the boy's eighteenth birthday. He had decided to give it two weeks, knowing that it was a short amount of time considering the odds of Alexander ever discovering a way to actually attempt contact. He had not foreseen the boy's arrival, though he wished he had. It would have been much better to have prepared for this event with prior knowledge instead of finding himself in this current situation. He had believed Alexander's arrival was possible, but he had not taken any steps to make necessary arrangements because it did not seem probable. Considering the circumstances and the lives involved, there was no delicate way to approach this unexpected turn of events. Secrets that had been long buried for nearly two decades would be told, lives forever altered in ways that he could not predict, but a part of him could not help feeling that all would be well in the end. He sat back in his chair, his eyes moving over Severus and Narcissa as he said, "I've had a visitor."

"A visitor? How does this concern us?" Severus asked with an arched brow. Albus seemed concerned but he did not detect a sense of fear or danger so he found himself relaxing slightly.

"Actually, it was visitors," Albus corrected, remembering the pretty redhead that had been accompanying Alexander. He glanced at Remus, who was sitting beside the desk, before looking back at the two people seated in front of him, "Remus ran into them in town. I confess that their appearance has come as a bit of a shock, though I had always hoped that he would come here."

"Who were they, Albus?" Narcissa asked curiously, not at all sure why she and Severus were being told about the visitors. She would understand Severus being alerted to the visitors, but she had not yet earned her place among that circle of followers.

"It was Alexander," Albus said softly, watching Severus frown as he tried to place the name. Narcissa simply smiled, her eyes displaying no recognition. He sighed softly, knowing that the poor girl was going to have a rough evening. It was time for her to remember.

"Alexander who?" Severus asked, a frown crossing his lips at the familiar name. He studied Albus, the frown fading as his dark eyes widened as he watched the wizard look at Narcissa with a sad expression in the usually twinkling eyes. A long buried memory suddenly entered his mind, a baby smiling and cooing as Severus took him awkwardly into his arms. He shook his head, his voice a near whisper as he said, "No, it can't be."

"He has come for answers, Severus," Albus said simply.

"Bloody hell," Severus cursed quietly, running a hand through his hair as he stood and began to pace. It all came back to him, slowly at first and then in a rush of memories. For eighteen years, he had kept the secret, he had not told another soul what had transpired during those months of his seventh year, he had kept his promise to never utter a word of what happened to keep Narcissa and the baby she had protected from any possible threat. He turned and looked at Albus, asking softly, "How did you?"

"There is very little that happens in this school that I am not aware of, my boy," Albus said gently.

"You knew? All along, you knew?" Severus shook his head, "Why did you say nothing?"

"It was not my place, Severus," Albus said, "I knew that there was no other alternative. Trust me, I did try to think of some other way to handle the situation. It was only after that I understood the extent you both went to keep the secret safe, and it was too late to interfere at that point. I did what I could and have kept my silence during the years, just as you have. Now, though, the boy is here wanting answers and it is time to tell the truth."

"Severus, what is wrong?" Narcissa asked softly, watching her best friend as he looked at her, surprised at the expression in his eyes. Fear and regret and resignation, emotions she was not accustomed to seeing from Severus. She was completely lost in the discussion that was taking place between Albus and Severus, but she could tell that Severus was upset and she wanted him to know that she was there for him, regardless of what was happening.

"I'm sorry, Narci," Severus muttered as he moved closer to his best friend. He raised his hand to brush along her cheek, dropping it before he touched her. He sighed, "It was your idea and I agreed because you were my best friend and I wanted to help you. For nearly twenty years, I've kept your secret from everyone, including you. Albus is right, though. It's time for you to remember the truth."

"I don't understand," Narcissa frowned, "what truth? What was my idea? Severus, this is all very confusing and I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I assume you have an anti-potion prepared?" Albus asked Severus, receiving a nod in response. He said, "I believe it is time to give her the potion."

"I'll go fetch it," Severus decided as he moved to the door of the office. Without haste, he made his way to the dungeons. He entered his room, going to the area where he kept his private supply of potions. He found the small box he needed, his thumb brushing over the name that he had etched on top of the box. Amesissa. Opening the box, he removed the bottle that held the pale purple potion that he needed. Tucking it into the pocket of his robe, he quickly made his way back to Albus' office. He was relieved that he had been thorough in his potions even when he had been seventeen. Upon making the potion that Narcissa had requested, a very involved and complicated potion that had taken him nearly two months to successfully create, he had made the counter potion in case she changed her mind or something happened where he would need it. He had kept it properly stored ever since, honestly having forgotten about it over the years. He had buried those memories deep and had not thought about what had happened in fifteen years, at least. When he returned to Albus' office, he found the three of them sitting in a somewhat tense silence. He had forgotten that Lupin was even there, his lips curling into a slight snarl as he realized that the man he no longer considered an enemy but by no means considered a friend had witnessed his rare show of emotion.

"Severus, good, you're back," Albus greeted the younger wizard, watching as he removed a small bottle from his pocket, "and I see you have the potion."

"What potion? Severus, really, I am most displeased at being kept in the dark," Narcissa spoke up, her voice annoyed and slight frown on her pretty face.

"I call it Amesissa," Severus said softly, his eyes catching hers, "please drink this and you will understand everything."

"I trust you, Severus," Narcissa said quietly as she took the bottle from him, "that is the only reason I will drink this potion. And once I have, I would like some answers." Narcissa opened the bottle and drank. Once the bottle was empty, she handed it back to Severus. She frowned, "Should I feel something? Perhaps it did not work? What was it supposed to...oh God!"

Remus watched silently as Narcissa Black Malfoy clutched her head and whimpered, tears beginning to fall down her face as she closed her eyes and began to shake. He had little doubt that she had been given a cure for a memory potion. Such potions were rarely used and very strong, most people content with using a basic charm to remove memories of a certain event. He had not had many of his questions answered with the cryptic conversation that had taken place between Snape and Albus, but he knew that his suspicions were most likely accurate. He still found it hard to believe that Snape, the snarly old bastard, had looked so upset and lost upon hearing the American boy's name. He didn't know quite how Snape fit into everything, but, seeing as potions were involved and that the dark-haired wizard had been Narcissa's best friend during their time at Hogwarts, he could assume that she had turned to her best friend for help.

"Narcissa, are you okay?" Albus asked gently, watching the blonde witch raise her head, teary eyes meeting his as she shook her head.

"I remember," Narcissa whispered, her voice forlorn, "the memories, they won't stop. Oh God, what did I do? What have I done?"

"It's okay, Narci," Severus said softly, his heart aching for the pain she was experiencing, guilt in his eyes as he looked away from her. It was his fault, for keeping her secret and helping her keep it from everyone and giving her the potion to make her forget.

"No, it isn't," Narcissa sighed, "I remember it all, Severus. Poor James, he never knew that it wasn't just a dream. I couldn't face him or Lily afterwards, knowing what I had done. I lost two of the only people I considered friends because I was a horrible person. I remember the look of hurt in Lily's eyes when I refused to talk to her and the confusion in James' eyes when I ignored them. Oh God, I can't, the memories won't stop. Why? Why was I so horrid and devious? Poor James. He never knew about our night together, never knew about the baby."

"Dear God," Remus whispered, his suspicions confirmed by Narcissa's words. He stood and muttered, "I need some air," before leaving the room, his eyes flashing with anguish and confusion as he dealt with what he had just heard regarding Narcissa and James and the boy that was obviously their son.

Severus watched Lupin leave, wondering if he should go after the werewolf and try to explain. He knew that he didn't owe the wizard any explanations, that what happened had nothing to do with Lupin anymore than it really had to do with him, but he also knew that Lupin had been one of Potter's best friends and deserved to know the truth. Besides, he wouldn't mind a bit of air himself. He stood and caught Albus' eyes, "I'll talk to him. Take care of her until I get back."

"Of course," Albus nodded, his eyes looking back at Narcissa, who was trying her best to deal with the memories of a past she had forgotten. He did not know what happened between her and James, had never known, but he would assume based on her comments that it had only happened once and that James never knew about it. He also knew that Narcissa had made the best decision that she could considering the circumstances and felt for the blonde witch that was now suffering from the realization of what she had done when she was young.

Narcissa looked at Albus, blue eyes full of guilt and sadness as she asked softly, "Where is he? Where is Alexander? I want to see him. I need to talk to him, to explain what happened. He'll hate me, but I need him to understand why I did it. Please take me to him. Take me to my darling boy."


End of Part 16