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Pale Serpents

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Pale Serpents
by Lucinda


Willow had gone to England with Giles, the idea being that time away from the Hellmouth and under the supervision and instruction of older, wiser, more experienced witches would help her to come back to her normal self, the Willow that she'd been before. Or at least go back to being someone who didn't skin her enemies alive.

She'd been getting better, and her skin returned to a normal, if slightly pale complexion. Her eyes were green again, but they weren't the light green of spring leaves anymore, now they were the deep green of serpentine. Her hair wasn't black now, but it was a darker red than it had been before, more like blood than autumn leaves. But the biggest change in Willow wasn't so easy to identify. She felt older, and her actions no longer had the care free joy that had once been so much a part of Willow's life.

Giles had brought her into London with him, figuring that she could spend the day exploring while he argued with idiots on the Watcher's Council. She'd readily agreed, not wanting to spend the day bored in the pleasant little cottage.

She had been meandering around aimlessly, and she'd finally gotten quite thirsty. She'd looked around, spotting a small, somewhat run down looking pub, the sign some sort of faded pot, or maybe a cauldron. With a small smile, she'd gone inside, hoping for something cool to drink.

It was like another world inside. People wore long gowns and robes, tall pointed hats and long scarves. There were people in corners puffing on pipes, blowing incredibly detailed shapes that moved from the multi colored smoke. Others had wands and spoke about charms and hexes to keep out garden pests.

Willow tried not to gape, feeling rather out of place. She felt quite glad that she'd worn one of the longish dark skirts, and a soft blue peasant blouse, they almost passed for normal clothing in here, looking just a little off as opposed to the way her jeans would have clashed. She settled at an empty chair in the corner, watching everyone and listening, feeling amazed. Here was an entire society apart from the normal world, a society where people used magic for everything. She'd never known about such a place, such an idea. The Wizarding World.

"Are you looking for supplies? You look, if you'll pardon me for mentioning, as if you aren't from around here." Someone spoke to Willow, a woman with a low voice that didn't carry, and the sort of accent that reminded her of watching the Parliamental debates on the news network. Her accent didn't just say British, it carried the weight of generations of prestige and wealth.

Willow looked at the person, a slender, elegant woman in a long gown of some shimmery fabric in pale green. Elsewhere, she would have assumed silk, but in this place? Willow wouldn't assume anything about this woman was entirely mundane. "I could use a few things. My supplies... there was a problem, and I need to replace them."

The obviously wealthy woman nodded, her eyes smoky pools half concealed by her eyelids, appearing somewhat bored by the whole world. "I thought you might be looking for something. I can help you find what you need. Come with me, I'll help you find everything."

Willow followed her behind the pub, where the woman stopped in front of a brick wall, producing a slender wand about the length of her forearm made of a pale wood, and tapping on some of the bricks. Her motions were careful, as if she were afraid that she would scuff the wand, and Willow could feel the magic in the wall. The bricks began to move, reshaping themselves into an arch, opening to a street filled with shops advertising brooms and robes and a bookstore and an 'Owl Post' and all sorts of delightful looking stores, quite clearly directed towards this 'Wizarding World' that Willow hadn't dreamed existed.

The woman began leading her through an extensive list of stores, purchasing an almost appalling amount of things for Willow, the most frequent direction being "Put it on the Family account."

From the scurrying shopkeepers, Willow learned that her unexpected guide was a woman named Narcissa Malfoy, and that she was married to a powerful wizard, and quite definitely wealthy. She also didn't seem particularly known for acts of random kindness, which made Willow wonder why she was being so helpful. Especially since the woman had known exactly where to find Dracorin powder and ground Hellhound teeth. That had been this dark little shop in some place called Knock Turn alley, located through a narrow, shadowed passage between a pair of stores along the main road, Diagon Alley.

Finally, they made their way to a somewhat neglected looking building that proclaimed 'Olivanders: makers of fine wands since 237 AD'. That proved to be a small, dark room filled with narrow boxes.

"We simply must purchase a wand for you, dear Willow." Narcissa was practically purring. It was an odd look for her, especially since she reminded Willow more of a snake than a cat.

She had to ask. "Narcissa? Not that I'm complaining, but... Why are you being so nice? Spending all this money, and showing me around like this..."

Narcissa chuckled, a noise that somehow reminded Willow of shards of glass falling. "When my husband annoys me, I spend his money. The timing happened to favor you. Besides, Willow, I can feel your power. You will make a name for yourself here, even as I'm sure you must have in America, and it's always a benefit to have the people with power thinking well of me."

Willow nodded, the explanation making sense to her. Except for the part about shopping being fun, although shopping here was much more fun than hitting the mall with Buffy. "What if my name remains in obscurity?"

"Then I've still spent some of Lucius' money, and I haven't been bored today." Narcissa's words carried a hint of manipulation, as if to suggest without using the words that if Willow remained in obscurity, wouldn't she then think well of Narcissa for her generosity? "I don't think you will. Now, to find you a wand."

She nearly destroyed a good portion of Mr. Olivander's store, even singing his eyebrows before they finally found the wand for her. It was fifteen inches long, made from Willow wood, with the core made from dragon heartstrings. Narcissa had watched the various failures with interest, and had merely murmured, 'You see, with this much power, there is no chance for you to remain unknown to the Wizarding World."

Willow had the feeling that Narcissa was right. But she'd never enjoyed a long day of shopping quite so much in her life.


end Pale Serpents: Narcissa