Before we start, I thought I'd help everyone get their bearings timeline-wise. On the Teen Titans side, this is post–season five, but we're pretending that the last episode with maybe-Terra never happened. For the Harry Potter crew, this starts just a couple of weeks after book five ends.
Disclaimer: Was Harry left completely alone after both Cedric's and Sirius's deaths? If so, I own neither the Harry Potter nor the Teen Titans franchise; they belong to J.K. Rowling and DC Entertainment, respectively, as well as Warner Bros.
The summer air around Privet Drive was scorching hot, much as it had been the previous year, and all of the residents of this plain, normal neighborhood were therefore sitting around in their air conditioning and huddling around their television sets. No one, not even the nosiest of inhabitants, was peering outside her curtained windows to search for juicy gossip, for who would be around for her to spy upon on a day like today?
This, Nymphadora Tonks decided as she approached her target, worked out quite well for her plan.
"Hey, Dung, where are you?" she called softly at the hedges near Number 4. After a moment there was a rustle, and the thief's head appeared out from under the invisibility cloak he had borrowed. "Some stuff came up at work, and I won't be able to make tomorrow's shift. Want to switch with me? I have the day off."
Mundungus Fletcher hesitated a moment before nodding. "Sure, I got nothing else to do tomorrow. You're gonna want the cloak, yeah?"
"No, no, I'm fine. Brought my own," the metamorphmagus lied, her hair shifting from its previous deep indigo to a more cheerful yellow. 'Bright colors make people think you're trustworthy and honest,' Mad-Eye had told her more than once when she was still a cadet. 'So long as you also do that when you are telling the truth, they'll think it's one of your tells.' Lowering her voice to a whisper, she asked, "How's she doing in there?"
"Don't really know; she never comes out, does she? S'right boring watching nothing going on."
"Don't I know it. I bring a book to read during my shift to keep from getting too bored." She patted the pocket of her Muggle trousers, but while it held a number of items, a book was not one of them. "If You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters haven't attacked this place by now, they probably won't ever."
The man's seemingly floating head nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, that's what I keep trying to tell 'em. Waste of time, if you ask me."
She mentally sneered. It's a good thing we don't ask you then, isn't it? "Agree with you one-hundred percent, Dung. Go on and head out. I've got this."
The thief disappeared with a loud crack, though the sound was muffled by the privacy charm she had cast on the area before approaching him. Waving away the smell of burning socks Mundungus's cheap tobacco left everywhere, she could not help the crafty smile that appeared on her face. He clearly would not be paying any attention the next day, and Remus was scheduled for that night's guard duty.
That meant at least thirty-six hours before anyone realized there was something wrong.
Should I feel bad for leaving the Muggles without any protection?, she wondered to herself. After a moment, the memory of the Order's confrontation with Vernon Dursley flashed in her mind, and she shook her head. No, I really shouldn't. Anyone who needs to be threatened to make sure he takes care of his own family deserves whatever he gets.
Walking quietly thanks to the silencing charm on her boots, she carefully opened the front door and snuck inside. Everything would be much easier if she did not have to deal with the Dursleys. In and out with nobody the wiser was her goal.
Once up the stairs – and thankful that no one had paid any attention to the three squeaky ones – she had to withhold the tirade that wanted to escape as she again saw the multiple locks on the door. That any child would be treated like this, the 'Chosen One' or not, was utterly despicable. "Alohomora," she whispered, causing the deadbolts to turn and the door to creak open.
What met her truly was a pitiful sight. Willow Potter, the Girl-Who-Lived and a distant cousin on her mother's side, lay curled up in a little ball on the too-short bed, her belongings scattered about the room in a way that spoke of not having enough energy to care rather than being naturally messy. The girl's snow-white owl, Hedwig, sat on a perch on the bedside table; the bird turned its great amber eyes on her, almost as if it could peer straight through her, before it looked back at its witch and chuffed softly.
"Hedwig, shush," Willow murmured, her words just barely stirring the black locks covering her face. Tonks could not tell if the girl was almost asleep – considering it was already after one in the afternoon, she doubted that, even if her target was a teenager – or wallowing in the depths of depression. "You know the window's open if you want to fly."
A bittersweet smile appeared on the metamorph's lips. "Clearly you need to invest in a better alarm."
"Huh?" The younger witch lifted her head and brushed her hair out of her vision. "Tonks? What are you doing here?"
"Better question, how do you know I'm really me?" she returned. She might not be as paranoid as her old mentor, but she did agree with him that basic security was a necessity. And for someone who had been targeted by You-Know-Who – twice, in fact – good security habits needed to become ingrained.
It took Willow a moment to realize what she meant, then the girl's green eyes narrowed before flicking to the wand by the owl's perch and back. A heartbeat after that, she ordered, "Show me what you looked like at dinner at Headquarters the first night I was there."
Very clever. That's even better than asking for info no one else would know. No one but another metamorphmagus could pass for me. "Ooh, that's a hard one." Willow tensed, her hand twitching as if she were preparing to snag her wand. "I mean, there was the pig's snout, and the duck's bill, and the little button nose…"
At each item of her list, she shifted her nose to match, and her cousin soon relaxed as she proved that she really was who she said she was. When Tonks finally returned to her regular appearance, she asked, "So, do I pass your test?"
"Sure," Willow said with a tentative smile. She was only able to take a couple of steps before the younger witch suddenly twitched and said, "Hey, aren't you supposed to check, too? Make sure someone didn't come in and replace me?"
"I should, but I don't have to. One, if you got captured, I don't think You-Know-Who would keep it a secret for very long." Willow grimaced at that reminder. "Two, no Death Eater would ever make that offer. And three, if you were really a Death Eater in disguise, you'd have your wand in your hand and hidden so I wouldn't see that it was aimed at me," she said with a pointed look at the girl's two empty hands.
Tonks snorted indelicately at that and sat on the edge of the bed. "So how you doing, kiddo?"
"Fine," she answered quietly. The metamorph doubted that, and apparently it showed on her face because the girl quickly looked down at her lap. "Really, Tonks, I'm fine."
"Oh, don't worry. I'm sure you are. Do you what one of my instructors once told me 'fine' meant?" Willow shook her head at the apparent non sequitur. "He said it's short for 'freaking out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional'. So yeah, you're fine, all right."
The girl's eyes shot up at that, but before she could deny the accusation, Tonks raised a hand and covered Willow's mouth with the tips of her fingers. Giving the girl a weak, watery smile, she confided, "I know. I miss him, too."
As if that were the long-awaited signal for the floodgates to open, Willow broke down, and she pulled the younger witch to her. "Shh, shh. It hurts now, and it'll never go all the way away, but I promise, things will get better."
After several minutes, the girl who was bearing far too much weight on her thin shoulders finally pulled away. "It's all my fault," she whispered. "If I hadn't thought the vision was real, Sirius… he'd…"
"It's not all your fault, Willow. You didn't hold a wand to his head and force him to go to the Ministry, and you didn't shove him into the Veil of Death. You can't blame yourself for that."
"But he only went because of what I did! He'd still be alive if I hadn't gone to London."
"Now there, yes, you did screw up." Willow jerked her head up to look her at her in shock at the blunt statement. "There was no reason for you to leave the castle at all. If You-Know-Who really had Sirius, he would have had to find Headquarters, break through the Fidelius, and fight off everyone else who was there, which would mean he was far above your ability to take on. Even if you thought Sirius had snuck out, you should have called us since we were already in the city and had people who were actually trained to deal with dark wizards. And under no circumstances should you have ever brought a bunch of kids who've never been in a real fight before to a battle against Death Eaters."
The girl simply stared at her silently, her mouth hanging open. Clearly no one had ever talked to her about the possible consequences of her leaping head-first into fights between grown wizards. Of course, if the rumors Tonks had heard about Willow's early years at Hogwarts were true, she would not be surprised to find out that no one had ever really paid attention to her actions before beyond giving her a offhand 'good job' and a pat on the head before sending her on her way.
Battling a centuries-old basilisk and a swarm of Dementors? Someone had to teach the girl how to use her head in a fight, or she'd be dead before she could graduate!
"That said, I understand why you felt like you had to do what you did," she admitted, causing Willow's face to twitch yet again at her constantly shifting attitude. "If I had been in your shoes at your age, I don't think I'd have been collected enough to do anything more than run around in a panic. So on that side of it, you weren't too shabby. Just don't do it again."
"Y-Yeah. I won't." Willow frowned. "But I did talk to someone in the Order first. I told… Snape… Oh, no."
She told Snape? He didn't mention anything about that conversation to us. That conniving, duplicitous, self-centered… Curtailing her vicious thoughts before they risked becoming even more vicious actions, she ground out, "Well, I'll have to have a little chat with him on that subject when we get back, then."
"Get back? Where are you going? Wait, we?"
"Yep. I'm kidnapping you." Before Willow could do more than splutter, Tonks stood and began summoning the girl's clothes out of the trunk at the foot of the bed, only to discard the various articles one by one. "Too old. Too bland. Too gross. Too big." She stopped and peered at the shirt again; two or maybe even three Willows could have fit inside it. "Way too big. Don't you have anything that fits?"
"Not really? I mean, there's my school stuff, but the Dursleys always said I had to make due with Dudley's old things."
"Of course they did," she muttered. Her estimation of Willow's 'family' just kept going down by the minute. "We'll just have to get you some new things when we get there, then. Can't have you walking around town in this, but we don't have time for a shopping trip before we leave."
"Wait, wait, wait. Back up. What are we doing?" the girl demanded.
Tonks turned around and gave the younger witch a grin. "You need to understand that this wasn't originally my plan. You see, Sirius thought that after the Ministry and the Daily Prophet ganging up on you this past year, you'd need a bit of a break, so he arranged to take you on vacation. I suggested you two head off to the beach for a week, but he was adamant that that wasn't fun enough. He said he was going to take you out of the country, give you a fake passport, and make sure you drank and partied and stuffed years of teenage rebellion and stupidity into one wild weekend. My words, not his. With him… gone," she finally forced out, "it's obvious that you need something to keep yourself distracted even more than before. It seems only fitting that we do what he wanted to do, so here we are."
"That's something Sirius would have wanted to do," Willow agreed with a weak smile. "So where are we going?"
Good mood restored, she pulled a postcard out of her pocket and flashed the glossy photo at her cousin. "We're headed to Vegas!"
"Here we are, guys," Cyborg said as looked out the canopy of the T-Jet at the glittering cityscape below. "Sin City."
"Oh, this will be the most glorious vacation ever!"
"You're not gettin' any arguments from me on that one, Star," he told the Tamaranean, half his attention on the directions to the runway that had just been cleared for them at McCarren International Airport. Grinning a bit, he joked, "Okay, everyone make sure your seatbelts are buckled and your tray tables are in the upright positions. We're comin' in for a landin'."
Some of the maintenance technicians gave the plane odd glances as he guided the machine to a hover and lowered her to the tarmac, to which he could only shake his head. The men outside acted as if they had never seen a hypersonic jet with spacefaring capabilities before! He flicked a switch to open the separate canopies and began undoing the numerous clips of his seat's harness. It was an annoyance, but he would much rather be irritated at the beginning and ending of any trip than bounce around his cockpit when they got in a dogfight.
"I'm loving this vacation already!" Beast Boy exclaimed once they were all standing on the ground. "A city full of clubs and hot girls? Don't wait up for me at night, guys; I'll be back in the morning."
Rolling his organic eye at the polymorph's attempt at a suave voice, the mechanical hero leaned closer to Robin and muttered just loud enough for their green friend to hear, "Twenty bucks says he has to turn into a dog and 'clean' himself if he wants some action this week."
"We may be in Vegas, but don't think that means I'm going to take you up on a sucker bet," the former Boy Wonder retorted with a grin.
Beast Boy whirled around unhappily at their barb. "Just you watch! I'm sure there's someone in this town that appreciates real animal magnetism. Besides, who can resist the puppy dog eyes?" With a familiar shlurp, there was a small, green Scottish Terrier sitting at their feet.
"Yes, I can already tell that this week is going to be great." Cyborg turned to glance at Raven, a frown firmly plastered on her face. "How did you talk me into going along with this, again?"
Starfire flew over to wrap her arms around the half-demon in a hug strong enough to break a normal man's ribs. "But Friend Raven, just imagine! All of your TV shows portray this city to be the best location to find entertainment of all kinds! I just know that even you will find an exciting way to pass our time here!"
"Because watching these three get drunk and act like giant idiots is something I've always wanted to do," the cloak-clad sorceress shot back in a monotone.
"Don't worry about that, Raven," Robin replied in a comforting tone. "None of us are old enough to drink; Beast Boy only turned eighteen last month, after all, and even Cyborg has another year to go."
One eye twitching behind his mask, the leader of the team turned to Cyborg. "Why do I get the feeling that I'm not going to like whatever it is you're about to say?"
"While we are underage, that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun while we're here." The robotic man whipped five driver's licenses from behind his back and showed them to the rest of the gang. "There's this woman at the DMV named Sheila, and once I told her about how we were goin' on vacation after, you know, savin' the world and all, she was more than happy to print out some IDs with mistakes on them."
"Dude, awesome!" Beast Boy exclaimed, returning to human form and snatching the cards from his hand. "I'll say it again. Best. Weekend. Ever!"
"Cyborg, we're heroes, remember? That means we're supposed to uphold all the laws, not ignore the ones we don't like," Robin muttered from behind the hand covering his face.
"Hey, I don't know what you're gettin' on my case for. It must have been some weird computer glitch that added three years to all our ages," he answered with a grin as he reclaimed the licenses from the shapeshifter and passed them out to their respective owners. "Besides, she said she'd catch the 'error' in a week, so they'll only be good while we're here."
"Look, Rob, we just spent a whole year bringin' down the Brotherhood of Evil. I think we deserve just a little bit of a break, don't you?"
With a reluctant sigh, the Boy Wonder finally reached out to accept his own fake identification. "And I thought the worst part of this plan was leaving Jump City in Kid Flash and Jinx's hands."
"Have no fear, Friend Robin." Starfire zipped over to grab her semiofficial boyfriend's hand and started physically dragging him towards the waiting terminal. "We will make sure you join us in the relaxing, too. We can look for a mall of shopping, and see the shows of magic and illusions, and go to an amusing park, and oh! The blue paint musicians are here! We can…"
Beast Boy snorted as the pair finally got far enough away that they could no longer be clearly heard. "Of all the things that make me almost glad I'm still single, that would have to be in the top ten."
"Yep, and I've got another. You remember what Vegas is most famous for, right?" The two young men eyed each other and screamed in unison, "Strip clubs!" Laughing, they headed out, calling out, "Hey, guys! Wait up!"
Alone at the plane, Raven sighed as she looked between her departing friends and the luggage all four of them had completely forgotten about. Coating the suitcases in darkness and pulling her hood over her head, she hissed, "This week is going to suck."
Willow grumbled as Professor Lupin pulled her back up to her feet. Why could she never land properly after using a portkey?
"And here I thought I was clumsy," Tonks commented with a snicker.
"At least I don't constantly trip over umbrella stands," she retorted, though she was sure that the other two could tell she was not actually angry. Today had been the first time she had ever been to a wizarding travel agency, and she was understandably distracted by all the things going on around her.
For instance, the agencies themselves were nothing like she had first imagined, though she supposed she should have expected that; few things in the magical world were. Rather than just be offices where one could schedule portkeys to other countries – or for local trips, which she had been surprised to note were no less expensive than going halfway around the globe – they also served as the actual departure and arrival points. Troops of families and friends, maybe a hundred or hundred-fifty in all in this particular building, kept popping into and out of existence as they traveled the world. Much like her first trip to Diagon Alley, she wished she had many more eyes so she could take in all the extraordinary things happening around her.
"Willow." She returned her gaze to Tonks, who now looked much more serious than she had ever seen the metamorph. The elder witch whispered, "From now until we get back to Britain, you and I are Purebloods, understood? Don't tell anyone otherwise."
She blinked rapidly in shock and confusion. "…All right? Why?"
"Because in the American Confederation of Magical States, only Purebloods are permitted to carry wands. They bend that law with foreigners since so much of their tourism comes from Europe, and the International Confederation of Wizards grants Muggleborn and half-bloods more rights, but we're going to have enough attention on us already. Let's not attract any more, 'kay?"
She nodded, still not fully understanding what was going on, and Tonks flipped her currently ink-black hair, the same color as Willow's own, out of her face and stalked to a customs desk. Flashing a bright purple passport, she announced in a haughty tone, "Natalia Crowne, traveling with my sister."
Willow spared a quick glance at Lupin. Why had Tonks not mentioned him?
"Very well," the attendant replied, flipping the passport open and carelessly stamping it. "I take it the other one is your manservant? His status?"
The wizard's head shot back in surprise. "I… see." It was clear he didn't. "You do have him collared, yes?"
This time it was Tonks who displayed her surprise, but the emotion flickered across her face much faster, and Willow was unsure that the attendant had noticed it. "Of course I do. You think I would let a werewolf run around without some means of controlling him?"
"One never knows with people unfamiliar to our laws," the man answered with a negligent shrug. "Just know that if he gets loose, you will be held responsible for the damages and weregild, and should you be unable to pay, he will be put down."
"I am fully aware of that." Willow had to suppress a shudder at the other witch's cold tone. It was far too close to what she had heard from various Slytherins over the years, which she supposed was where Tonks had learned it from.
"Very good. Miss?" She noticed the attendant was looking at her expectantly, and she hurried over and gave her passport to him. Glancing through it, he nodded and stamped it. "Welcome to the American Confederation of Magical States, Miss Crowne. Enjoy the rest of your birthday in our fine country."
Birthday? "Thank you." He handed the passport back to her, then shot Lupin a disgusted glance before waving him through, not even taking the time to check the wizard's identification. She moved over to a nearby wall where she would be out of the way of foot traffic, Tonks and Lupin following her, and opened her passport to the front page. "Crowne, Willow L. Date of birth: 5 July, 1975. I'm supposed to be twenty-one?"
"Well, of course. How else are you going to binge on all the alcohol you want if you aren't old enough to drink in this country?" Tonks asked with a faux-innocent expression. "Don't worry, it's perfectly legal. Well, kind of." She groaned at that particular qualification. "A girl in Records owes me a couple of favors, and she was more than happy to repay one by providing a new ID. It's charmed to look like a nonmagical passport to any Muggles, too, so use it to your heart's content."
Willow's glare said everything she thought needed to be said. Somehow, she did not think walking around a foreign country with a fake passport was a good idea, even if it was provided by the Ministry. Her displease made clear, she asked, "What did that guy mean, about the weregild and stuff?"
"It ties in to what I was saying about telling everyone we're Purebloods. Over here, unless you're Pureblood, you don't have a whole lot of rights. So if something happens to you, and provided you can't trace you lineage back a dozen generations, all someone has to do to recompense you – or, if you were killed, your family – is pay weregild, which is just a fine, and everything's hunky-dory."
"And the 'collar'?" Lupin asked with a frown.
"No idea. That's something we'll have to look into if we get the chance."
"This is so messed up," Willow muttered. "How do you know so much about this place, anyway?"
"I had a case while I was working with Mad-Eye where the suspect fled here, and the Enforcer – what the ACMS calls their Aurors – who was assigned as our liaison told me a bit about the history while we were on a stakeout. After nineteen hours of watching the front of a Chinese restaurant, it was either talk or go insane. Anyway, from what he told me, there was a civil war in the mid-nineteenth century between the northern and southern states. The North wanted a unified government, and the South wanted each state to be more or less autonomous. Because the Southern states had so many non-humans or partial humans that they could conscript into their army, they came out as the victors, but unfortunately they were blood purists of the highest order, so their bigotry became codified into law, at least in those states. All the various states eventually gathered together into six super-states, and sadly enough, the one we're in right now is far from the worst."
"What did you say about wands? Non-Purebloods can't use them?"
The metamorph shook her head. "No, they can't, but the things they've come up with to get around that restriction are pretty impressive. They mostly use potions and secondary foci, like enchanted rings and things, to accomplish specific tasks, and supposedly rituals are still allowed for the really powerful stuff. It isn't as convenient as using a wand, but after seeing some of those tools in action, I can definitely say that they're nothing to turn your nose up at. Still, I'd rather the government here not find out that we're two halfies walking around with wands, just for convenience's sake, especially since we have a 'half-breed' hanging around, too," she added with a glance at Lupin.
"So we have to act like we're Malfoy and his ilk?" she clarified with a grimace. Why were they spending a weekend in this place again?
"To an extent, yes, but it won't be that bad." Tonks shot her a comforting smile. "Our hotel is on Nightshade Row, which is part of the magical district, but we'll be spending most of our time on the Muggle side. Just make sure you don't use magic in public, and I promise, you'll have the best time of your life."
Unfortunately, Britain is not the most bigoted magical government out there; the ACMS is much worse. Rather than the ICW being a magical UN, for some reason my headcanon was always that it worked more like the European Union.
The "FINE" acronym I got from the movie The Italian Job. Great flick, everyone should watch it.
Oh, one last thing. For those of you who've read my Misunderstandings duology, take heart: I'm not going to make Robin or Starfire nearly as much of stupid assholes here as I did in those stories. Jury's still out on Beast Boy.
Silently Watches out.