"Put your hand above the broom like so." Willow watched with a feeling of disbelief as Professor McGonagall's hand shot out above her broom. She didn't know how she was expected to take this seriously. Afraid she'd burst into a fit of giggles, Willow bit the tip of her tongue as she listened intently.
"Then you tell your broom, UP!" If Willow hadn't been biting her tongue she would've swallowed it. Right before her eyes the broom flew up into the Professor's hand. "Now let's see if you have the Potter magic in you."
"My broom is going to listen to me?" Looking down nervously at the object lying on the grass at her feet, Willow had a horrible feeling that this was some huge joke. One she was the butt of.
"Have faith." McGonagall encouraged.
Looking down then back up again, Willow shrugged her shoulders slightly. Why not? It wasn't like she had anything to lose. Sucking in a deep breath she felt to her toes, Willow stuck her hand out. "Up."
Nothing. Yup, she thought, she was a big fat loser.
"It's alright. You can't expect to succeed on your first attempt." A glimmer of disappointment flashed across the older woman's face. But she quickly recovered. "With authority now." Folding her hands nearly in front of her, McGonagall gave a curt nod.
Feeling rather stupid, Willow looked down and repressed the urge to roll her eyes. "Up."
Perhaps there was some huge mistake. Willow thought dismally as she stared down at the broom lying in the grass. Maybe she wasn't meant to be a witch.
"Miss Potter you need to concentrate. Picture the broom leaving the ground." Her tone still patient, Professor McGonagall mouth twisted into what Willow could only presume to be a smile.
Concentrate. She needed to concentrate. That shouldn't prove to be terribly hard. Just clear her mind and tell the broom on the ground to come to her hand. Of course. It all made sense to her now. Riight.
Professor Mcgonagall gave a short sigh before slowly lowering her broom to the ground. "I know this seems hard to take on blind faith, having grown up with Muggles for the last fifteen years. But with your experiences, I'm sure riding a broom will prove to be nothing."
Letting out a long breath, Willow imagined all her insecurities leaving her body with that one breath of air. "UP!"
Before she knew it, she could feel the smooth wood of the handle in her palm. Staring down with unblinking eyes, Willow could feel a huge grin spread across her face. "I did it!"
"Yes." The older woman nodded in amusement. "But you still need to climb on and fly."
Not feeling deflated, Willow grinned down one last time at her broom before turning her attention back to the teacher. "What next?"
"Now throw your right leg over." Demonstrating as she went, Willow imitated her actions. She could feel the broom give a slight shudder until she found a comfortable position. "It may feel a little. . . odd at first."
"I used to do this as a child." Willow said. "Well not flying. It was more like trotting around my backyard cackling."
"Cackling?" Professor McGonagall's brow's drew together in confusion. "Why ever would you cackle?"
"I was pretending to be a witch. . ." Suddenly feeling foolish, Willow could feel the top of her ears burn in embarrassment. "Not that you cackle. I mean. Witch's in all the books and movies always cackled. So as a kid I always. . ."
"Ah, yes." McGonagall grimaced. "Muggle beliefs. Witch's with green faces and disgusting worts. Stirring their cauldrons on the full moon. Black Cats at their feet."
"I - I didn't mean to insult you. It's just . . . well." Looking down, Willow had a sudden desire for the ground beneath her to open up and swallow her whole. When would she ever learn to just keep her mouth shut?
"It's understandable. I also admit there's a few of us who are responsible for these beliefs. Playing jokes and pranks on the unknowing. It's rather tasteless." McGonagall sniffed.
"You mean witch's and wizards play tricks on the humans?" Not sure she liked the sound of this, Willow began to wonder what her parents had recruited her into.
"Not all of us dear." Reading Willow's mind, McGonagall looked over at her with compassion. "There are a select few though, who look down on Muggles. Believing because they can't cast magic they are beneath them."
"That's discrimination." Outraged, Willow eyes flashed. "It's not their fault."
"I didn't say they were right. Sadly, it's a fact of life. But this isn't the time or place for this kind of discussion. Right now we have to get you up and flying." The older woman's tone clearly stated the topic was closed for discussion. Ordering her broom up, the teachers icy demure clearly stated the conversation was closed for now.
Obediently, Willow turned her attention to the rest of the lesson. Trying to ignore the questions buzzing inside her head.
"Professor Donnelly?" Pushing the heavy chamber door, Dobby peeked his head into the dim room. His pointed ears twitched, as they strained to hear movement from within the room. "P-Professor D-D-Donnelly?" Narrowing his eyes, he spotted a form sitting on the floor in the corner. "I have lunch for you sir."
Holding a golden goblet in his shaking hands, Dobby trotted into the room a few steps. "Professor Dumbledore said you needed this for your strength."
"Go away." A raspy voice full of self loathing came from the shadows.
"Master Dumbledore asked me to give you this sir. You need to eat." Taking another tentative step closer, Dobby squinted his eyes to get a better look at the man who was trying to unsuccessfully disappear into the shadows. "The students need you sir. Such evil has been reborn."
"I can't help anybody." This time the voice was a little stronger. A little more angry. "I'm dangerous, I only end up hurting the people who care about me."
"That is not true sir!" Dobby cried out. "Professor Dumbledore, says you are a great man. That you are going to be able to help the students. They need you to teach them Muggle self-defense. Where else are we going to find a Defense against the Dark Arts teacher?"
"I. . . I can't." Angel covered his face with both his hands. He wished the little creature cowering in the room would just go away. Dumbledore should've just left him in the hell dimension. It was where he belonged. "I did horrible things."
Looking around, making sure there weren't any prying eyes, Dobby took another step and lowered his voice just above a whisper. "Master Dumbledore says a war is coming. One much larger than before. This war is will be fought by the children this time. Dobby is worried about Harry and his friends. They need all the assistance we can give them. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is not going to be easy to defeat. And poor Miss Potter. She's so behind. At least the others have faced danger before."
"I don't know anyone with the last name of Potter." Becoming frustrated that his peace and quiet was being disrupted, Angel dropped his hands to his side.
"Well. . . Dobby thought Professor Donnelly was friends with Willow. You don't want anything bad to happen to her, do you?"
Willow. This caught Angel's attention. "Willow Rosenberg?" Hadn't Dumbledore said something about Willow on his early visit? Racking his soggy brain, Angel, for the first time since his return, wanted to remember. Since the painful moment he'd been pulled through the portal, a sensation equal to being showed through a strainer, he'd been struggling to stay on the verge of sanity. But it was easier to ignore the pain inflicted on him when he refused to connect with what was going on around him.
And there had been so many visitors. Coming and going night and day. In and out of the dark room. Speaking in hushed, calm whispers. Their words were a swirl of gibberish, but as soon as they made their exit, he'd fight to go back to that place inside him so he could forget. Now, because of one name, ignorance was no longer an option. Not when the person in question had almost given her life to save his soul. Willow deserved more than his selfish unwillingness to join with reality again.
His tone dead cold, Angel shifted further into the shadows. "Willow has faced danger before. She doesn't need me reminding her of all the horrible things I did. I thought her last name was Rosenberg." Angel's curt words came from the gray shadows.
"No sir, she's a Potter, just like Harry. Her family went into hiding fifteen years ago. But they are back, just like so many of the others."
Trying to make sense of what was being said, Angel hung his head and tried to make all the words fit until they started to seep in. "Did." Squeezing his eyes shut to fight against the last of the bleakness inside his mind, Angel pinched the bridge of his nose. "Did you just say she was going to fight someone?"
Dobby's large eyes grew wide as he gulped. "Y-Yes sir. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named."
A chill went up Angel's spine as more of the little creature's words started to bring back a few forgotten memories. "Voldtermort."
"Shhh!" Nearly dropping the goblet in his hands, Dobby's pointy ears lowered. Lower lip trembling, Dobby looked truly frightened. "Please sir, do not say his name out loud."
Frowning, Angel dirty face looked menacing. His nostrils flared as he remained silent. Years ago, he knew of the horror Voldtermort was inflicting upon humans and half breeds of his own race. The pure bloods weren't even safe, not if they opposed what Voldtermort and his followers were favoring. "Willow isn't strong enough to face something that evil."
"She restored your soul sir." Dobby defended the young woman he'd met that morning. "And she'd a Potter."
"I know what she did for me. It's not something I'm likely to forget. . . ever." Angel snapped. "It almost got her killed. She was foolish. Had she been using her brain instead of that damn soft heart of hers, she would've let Buffy take Angelus out."
"Well, if you don't mind me saying so, Dobby thinks you owe this to Miss Potter."
Angel looked ready to snap, his deep growls and dark words bounced off the walls. But after a long silence, he instead lowered his head. "Fine."
"Oh sir! This makes Dobby so happy." Hopping up and down Dobby forgot about the liquid in the goblet, which sloshed over the side. "Oh! So sorry sir! Here's your lunch."
Taking the offered cup, Angel looked down at Dobby. "Does she know I'm here?"
"Miss Potter sir?" Dobby asked. "Oh no sir. Not yet. But she'll be so happy sir. I think she really needs a friend."
"I don't want her to know I'm here yet."
"But why sir? Dobby thought you and Miss Potter were friends."
"We are. . . we were. Willow doesn't need another friend. She needs a teacher. I'm not great with friendships. But I can train her." Starting to move about his small chamber, Angel felt his unused muscles protest. The first thing he needed to do, was get back into shape.
"But sir -."
"It has to be this way Dobby. It's the only way I can do this." Turning his back on the House-Elf, Angel lost himself in everything that needed to be done.
Slipping out of the room, a look of defeat on his face, Dobby trotted to the end of the corridor, where Professor Dumbledore was waiting. "So has our dead friend decided to join the living again?"
"Yes, Master Dumbledore." Dobby nodded sadly.
"What bother's you Dobby?" Folding his hands in his long robe, Professor Dumbledore looked intently at the loyal House-Elf.
"He will help teach the students sir." Dobby's long ears bent in the middle as he heaved a long sigh.
"Well that's wonderful news." Delighted, Dumbledore led them slowly to the dungeon steps.
"I suppose so sir." Trotting up the steps, Dobby still looked troubled.
"Tell me what's bothering you friend."
Dobby paused on the steps. "Professor Donnelly makes it sound like he no longer wishes to be friends with Miss Potter. He doesn't seem to think she needs his friendship."
"I was afraid this would happen." Dumbledore nodded sadly. "Angel has been through a lot, has many issues to get over. Perhaps right now it is for the best he concentrates on teaching. Soon he will realize friendship is also a very important part of living."
"You think so sir?" Doubtful, Dobby gazed up at his Master.
"I have a good feeling everything will work out as it should be."