Disclaimer: Despite hating his fame even before he became the Man-Who-Won, did Harry move out of Britain to make a home for himself where people wouldn't stop and stare at him? If not, I own neither the Harry Potter nor Teen Titans franchises; they belong to J.K. Rowling and DC Entertainment, respectively, as well as Warner Bros.
The dull roar that made up the background noise of the wizarding travel agency filled Willow's ears, and she sighed as she glanced again at the British flag hanging limply from Tonks's hand.
It was strange, this reluctance she felt for their trip back home. With the Brigands defeated and their Fidelity Bonds stable, she knew there was no reason for Tonks and Lupin and her to stay in Jump City any longer. What was more, back home there was a war actively going on. She had told Dumbledore that she had no interest in defeating Voldemort for the common wizard's sake, and her resolve had not weakened in the slightest, but her decision did not change the fact that her friends and their families were in danger, too. If the Death Eaters decided to attack the Burrow, the Rook, or Hermione's or Neville's house, she wanted to be able to step in and protect them. She was strong, she had been tempered by the fights against various villains in her month here in the States, and…
She looked at her right hand, recalling the feeling of the power that rushed through it when she hit Mercy with a wandless Stunning Charm a couple of days earlier, and the tiny smile that came had a bit of an edge to it. She now had a skill that no one would expect and that the Ministry could not detect.
"Just a couple of minutes," Tonks said, glancing at the flag as well. She turned to give their escorts a weak smile. "I guess this is goodbye, then."
Starfire sniffed for an instant and burst into tears, leaping over the intervening distance to wrap her arms around the metamorph's torso. "Oh Friend Tonks, I will miss you so much! There is so much we did not manage to do: spend an afternoon in the mall of shopping, eat ourselves sick at the parlor of the iced cream, do the binging of your planet's comedic romances! Dear friend, you must promise to come back so we can enjoy these things together!"
"Star… Can't… breathe…"
Laughing faintly, Cyborg clapped his hand on top of the Tamaranean's shoulder and separated her from the currently blue-faced witch; most humans only turned slightly blue, but apparently metamorphs in the same situation could change so they looked like their heads had been replaced by blueberries. "Before you go," he added, taking a trio of familiar yellow communicators from Robin, "we wanted you to have these. Keep 'em with you, just in case."
"Somehow, I doubt it's that simple," Lupin said, though he reached over and accepted his communicator.
"You're right, but it's nothing bad," explained Robin. "The five of us talked about it last night, and we decided that after everything you've done to help us while you were here, you deserved to join the ranks of Honorary Titans around the globe. If you ever need help, just give us a call. We'll be there as soon as possible."
Beast Boy snickered and elbowed Cyborg. "And someone would react a little faster than the rest of us if a certain one of them called, dontcha think?" The green teen had only a second to laugh before a hand composed of shadow formed above his head and slammed down hard.
"Thanks. This means a lot to us," Tonks said as she turned her own communicator over in her hands for a moment before tucking it into her pocket. Holding her arms out to Cyborg, she commanded, "C'mere, you big dummy."
The dark-skinned hero laughed and pulled her into a friendly hug – one that Starfire frowned and sighed at, Willow noted – and seeing the pair's warm embrace, Lupin and Beast Boy eyed each other. There was no gentleness in their eyes as there had been in Tonks and Cyborg's, but there was at least a little camaraderie that had not been there when they all first met. Finally, Beast Boy cut through the awkwardness, and sticking his hand out, he said in the most atrocious attempt at a British accent Willow had ever heard, "Well, take care of yourself, old chap."
That startled a laugh out of the werewolf, and with a smile on his face he clasped hands with Beast Boy and shook. "You, too, dude."
The black-haired witch snorted at the 'manly' goodbye and turned her head to look questioningly at Raven. With a sigh, the half-demon opened her arms, and Willow stepped in to wrap her arms around the other girl's waist and rest her chin on her shoulder. Raven's arms came around to encircle her own shoulders. "I'm going to miss you," she whispered sadly.
Raven nodded, the motion rubbing her cheek against Willow's hair. "And I'm going to miss you, as well, but we both know this is for the best. You still have to finish your education, and if you want to get away from fighting, Jump City is not the place for you to be."
"But what if I want to stay here?"
Blinking, she thought about the strange question that had left her mouth unbidden, and to her surprise she realized that it actually was a fair point. She had definitely enjoyed her time in Jump, even with the drama and danger she had faced, and horrible as it sounded, her summer here had put her in a better place mentally than all her years in magical Britain. Returning in the future on a more permanent basis was certainly an idea to keep in mind.
"That is your decision," Raven allowed, "and should you decide when you're through with school that you want to come back, I promise there will be a space on the team open and waiting for you. But that is a decision for later, not now."
Willow nodded and pulled back, just enough to be able to run her eyes over Raven's face for one last time. Leaving with nothing more than a simple goodbye did not sit well with her, not after all the ways Raven had helped her. It was only thanks to the older teen that she had been able to throw off the shackles of expectation others had chained her with, that she could look at what she wanted to do with her life despite what anyone else said about it. Raven had done so much, and yet she could think of no way to repay her. And now Raven was looking at her with a strange expression, somehow both expectant and questioning, as if—
Tonks sighed loudly and annoyingly. "Dear Merlin, will you two just kiss and get it over with already?"
Both girls blushed at that, but a quick glance in each other's eyes showed that neither really minded the suggestion. Willow leaned in and pressed her lips softly against Raven's, trying her best to pour all her gratitude and admiration into the gentle gesture. Raven's own kiss was just as meaningful, and she felt herself melting into those grey arms, the protectiveness and possessiveness and just a touch of quiet need enough to make her heart pitter-patter in her chest.
"Oh, good grief."
"You don't have any room to complain, Tonks. You're the reason they're doin' it in the first place."
The two teens finally stepped away from each other, faces flushed at Cyborg's comment but neither truly embarrassed of what they had shared. The clock on a nearby wall began ringing, the first of the chimes alerting them that it was noon. Willow and Lupin stepped closer to Tonks and grabbed the offered corners of the flag. "Take care of yourselves," she told the Titans.
"That should be our line to you, Willow. Tonks, Remus, you guys too," Robin said with a small wave of his hand. That prompted the rest of the heroes to do the same, Starfire floating up to wave exuberantly while Raven made a single, almost half-hearted gesture. "Good luck, and be safe."
The final chime sounded, and then they disappeared.
Hermione slowly nudged the door to Fred and George's old bedroom open and peered inside, and what she saw made her sigh sadly. Moving the door enough for her to slip inside, she said in a quiet tone, "It's been two weeks, Willow. You know you need to move on."
The black-haired girl nodded distractedly but gave no other sign that she had heard. Spread out in front of her were the various essays they all were required to complete before Hogwarts resumed in a mere nine days, but aside from a few sloppily scrawled lines, the rolls of parchment were blank. The reference books Hermione had all but forced upon her friend were unopened and looked as if they had not been touched at all. Perhaps they hadn't.
Ever since coming back home and moving her belongings into the Burrow, Willow had been… not depressed, per se, not like she had admitted to feeling at the start of the summer following Sirius's passing, but definitely melancholic. She was also greatly changed from the last time any of them had seen her: now when left alone, her eyes would turn unerringly to the west, and it had only taken a couple of instances of her leaving the dinner table with the line 'I'm sorry, but bigotry makes me lose my appetite' for Mrs. Weasley to learn not to voice her concerns about Willow's stay in the States around the younger witch. Before this summer, Willow never would have talked back like that to the redheaded matriarch, especially not with such disinterested sarcasm, and it had left Mrs. Weasley unsure of how to reconnect with the girl she had all but adopted over the years.
If Hermione were to be honest with herself, she would admit that she was not entirely comfortable with the person Willow had begun to grow into, either.
Creeping closer, she stepped over one of the many bowls of pale green fire circling Willow's workspace on the floor and seated herself next to her friend. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"I don't know that I can," Willow whispered, fingers playing fitfully with something that hung from a chain around her neck. "Not and make any sense. I only knew her for a month, so why does it hurt so much to be away from her now?"
The brunette wearily closed her eyes. Of all the topics related to Willow's stay overseas, it was Raven that was loaded with the most metaphorical land mines. She and the Weasleys were in no danger of setting Willow off in a rage unless they insulted the grey-skinned woman – Ginny, in an ill-fated attempt at a joke, had been the one unfortunate enough to stumble onto that little fact – but even mentioning her would cause Willow to sink further into her doldrums. Seeking desperately for a change in the conversation, she prodded, "How was your conversation with Luna yesterday? I know she was really impatient to talk to you while you were gone."
"It was fine. Got some things hashed out." Willow shrugged one shoulder, the sad frown on her face unchanged. "We decided that, after everything that's happened, getting back together just wasn't in the cards."
"Oh, Willow." She wrapped her arm around the smaller girl and pulled her closer. "I'm so sorry. You were… different when you were around her."
"I wasn't sitting in the dark brooding, you mean," Willow said in a knowing tone, though it lacked the bite of accusation, another difference from her attitude the previous year. The hand near her neck finally stopped its fiddling, allowing Hermione to see what it was that had her so preoccupied: not a pendant as she first thought, but instead an unadorned silver ring, its size perfect to slip onto one of Willow's slim fingers. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and distant, her mind thousands of miles away. "It's funny, but we never did get around to filing for our annulment. At first it was because stuff kept popping up and getting in the way, then we were so busy dealing with the Brigands that we just didn't think about it."
"I don't know how to help you," Hermione finally admitted. It was tearing her apart to see her best friend of five years in such distress and not know how to make things better, but it was time to accept defeat. Time had not helped, trying to drag Willow into the activities she normally enjoyed had not helped, cajoling the girl into flying on her Firebolt had only caused her to shut herself up in this room for two days. Even looking through her clothes seemed to set her off, as demonstrated by the fact that she was currently wearing a pair of denim shorts and a skimpy tank top that were totally inappropriate for the crisp air of an English summer but looked perfect for a stroll on a warm, sunny beach. "Please, Willow, tell me what's wrong. What can I do to fix things?"
"I don't know, Hermione. The heart doesn't care about logic or facts. And it doesn't help that every time I think that maybe things will get better, something else comes along to remind me what I hate about this place." One bare foot stretched forth to nudge the copy of the Daily Prophet open on the floor. Hermione huffed and averted her eyes. The news that Voldemort had been captured, tried, and executed had rocked the Wizarding World the day before Willow came back, and the ongoing trials of the most high-ranking Death Eaters kept the situation on everybody's minds. The apparent ease with which the greatest Dark Lord in recent memory had been defeated had caused a number of questions to be asked: who was responsible for finding and arresting him? Why had his trial been in a closed session of the Wizengamot without the public and reporters present? If it was so easy to do this, why had the previous war lasted eleven ugly years?
Most confusing and disturbing of all, however, had been the demands to know where Willow had been throughout this newest upheaval. The rumor that she was some kind of 'Chosen One' had been quick to circulate following their fight in the Ministry, and her absence and even more so her late return had not gone unnoticed. Several reporters and opinion piece writers had lambasted her for, in the words of one particularly aggressive individual, 'gallivanting around on foreign shores without a care in the world while the rest of Britain huddled in their houses in fear of a monstrous mass murderer'. People had accused her of shaming the courage of her parents, and a few had recalled Skeeter's headline about her sexual orientation and clamored that it was just another sign that there was something deeply wrong with their precious Girl-Who-Lived and that someone, anyone, needed to find a way to 'fix' her.
What was there really to say to that? If Willow truly was growing to hate magical Britain, it was not without good reason. "Were things different in the States?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"Yeah." Willow pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. "If we were out as heroes, I wore a disguise with a hood and Raven had on her own costume, but yes, everyone knew who we are and why we were there. I was able to help people, and unlike here, they appreciated it. It wasn't something expected of me, but something that I did that deserved recognition. And there, what I was praised for was stuff I did, not something my mum did for me that let me survive.
"If we wanted to go out and not be bothered, though, it was easy. I took off my costume, Raven used a glamour on herself, and suddenly we were just a couple of regular girls walking around, two more faces in a sea of hundreds of thousands. No one paid any attention to us. Here, everyone knows me and everyone wants a piece of me. But just the pieces they have a use for; never all of me. No one cares what I want from my life." Willow turned teary eyes to her. "I told Dumbledore that they could save themselves, that I wouldn't do it, but now that they have, a part of me wishes that they had failed just so they'd all shut up and leave me alone. Does that make me a bad person, Hermione?"
"I… I don't know."
"I don't know, either." The witch swung her green eyes back to the newspaper. "At least Dumbledore's death means he doesn't have to deal with this. I envy him that much, even if he got everything that was coming to him for what he did to me and everyone else."
A soft knock on the door dragged the girls' attention away from themselves, and Tonks slipped in, a wan smile on her own face. "Don't let anyone else hear that. There are still a bunch of people who would treat that the same as blaspheming Merlin."
Finally, a decent segue from this depressing conversation! "Hey, Tonks. How are you? We haven't seen you much around here since you got back."
"Been busy at the Ministry," the metamorph explained, pulling off her leather jacket and tossing it onto the bed. "When a third of the Wizengamot is implicated in some way with You-Know-Who, it makes bringing them in and holding them for their trials a serious pain." She snorted disparagingly. "And Molly keeps trying to get me to lure Bill back from France. Even if he weren't engaged, that wouldn't work. I'm not interested in him."
"Oh? That sounds like you are interested in someone else, though," she prompted.
"Someone else. Yeah, that's one way to describe it," the woman said, pink spikes lengthening and turning a mousy brown even as she looked at Willow.
"Cyborg got to you in the end, huh?"
"Yeah, he did."
"Merlin," Hermione muttered in frustration. She had hoped Tonks would get Willow out of her mood, not drag her further into it!
An inspired twinkle suddenly appeared in Tonks's eye, and she asked, "Hey, Hermione? Can you give us a bit of space for a second? I just had an idea I want to run by Willow."
"Man, Raven, you need to get out and do something. You're even gloomier than normal."
Said half-demon turned her head very slightly, just enough to pin Beast Boy with a glare. Her expression was dull, however, lacking even the normal spark of indignation she felt when he mocked her. She just felt… listless. A part of her knew that he had a point, that sitting on the couch staring into space did her little to no good.
The rest of her mind was busy pummeling the pink-cloaked Happy into submission for daring to interrupt her wallowing.
As for the reason behind her sour mood? It had been nearly a month since Willow, Tonks, and Remus had left, and she still had not gotten used to their absence, particularly Willow's. Her anxiety and melancholy had increased yet again a couple of days earlier on September first. At this point in time, Willow would be back at her school in Scotland, and more importantly within the grasp of the same foul old man who had kidnapped her a month previously. For the past forty-eight hours she had kept a close eye on her communicator, worried that she would receive a cry for help at any minute.
Before she could say anything to Beast Boy in response to his attempt to prod her into motion, the living room console sounded off an alert. She jumped up in shock, then forced herself to settle back down on the couch. This was not the klaxon that warned them of intruders reaching the island or a crime taking place in the city, but instead a persistent beeping that echoed through the room. An Honorary Titan had apparently decided to visit.
Starfire was the closest to the computer, and what she saw when she glanced at the screen made her gasp and bounce up and down in the air. "Friend Robin, Friend Robin! You must come here quickly!"
The team leader frowned at her demand and jogged up to look for himself. He blinked in disbelief, and then a wide smile that tasted of chocolate took over his face. "Well, well, well. Now this is a surprise." Rather than throw the video feed onto the main screen, he looked up and let his eyes rove over the room for a moment. "Cyborg, Raven, could you two head down to the door? I'd like someone there to greet our guests."
"I really don't think this is a good time for me to interact with anyone," she said with a shake of her head. "Maybe Starfire? She certainly seems eager enough."
"No, I think it's better you go. They'll want to see you," Robin replied with a smug grin. "Look, it won't take but a couple of minutes. Surely nothing bad can happen in that little bit of time, right?"
She wanted to argue with him, but from the set of his shoulders and the minty confidence radiating off of him, she knew that was a lost cause. Huffing in displeasure, she gave him a baleful eye and spun on her heel to follow Cyborg.
"He's up to something," the metallic hero said once the door had slid closed. "He didn't just pick us to go down at random."
"It is probably the identity of these mystery guests," Raven guessed, watching the numbers on the screen tick lower and lower. "I can't think of any Honorary Titans he would want the two of us specifically to see, however."
"Guess we'll find out soon enough."
The elevator reached the ground floor of the Tower, and they stepped out and walked toward the front door. It was only a minute later that the door rose to reveal their visitors, and then Raven's mouth fell open.
Tonks gave them a small wave, and beside her, a white owl perched on her shoulder, stood Willow. They each had a couple of boxes in their arms, and when they noticed the Titans' staring, the dark-haired girl gave them a shy smile. "Hey."
"Hey," Raven heard herself saying back in a uncomprehending voice. She shook her head to force her brain to reengage. "What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be back at school by now."
"Technically, she doesn't have to go to Hogwarts anymore," Tonks explained. "The OWL exams are mandatory, but she took those in June. The NEWTs, on the other hand, are entirely optional, and even though they're required for certain jobs in the magical world, she can go back and take them whenever she wants."
"As for why we're here, er… We heard that you recently had a couple of spots open up on your roster." Willow shrugged, her smile growing wider and more honest, and Raven returned the expression with interest. "Any chance they're still available?"
Well, guys, that's a wrap! I do not have any plans for a sequel, but like all my completed stories, if you have ideas of your own that would build off of this, go ahead and put them out. The Harry Potter–Teen Titans crossover section needs more love, people!
And for everyone who's interested, I'll publish the first chapter of Deal with a Devil in two weeks. As has become my habit, I will tack on a temporary note to the end of this story when it's up.
Silently Watches out.