DISCLAIMER: The characters aren't mine. I'm borrowing them from the esteemed Joss Whedon and J.K. Rawling.
SPOILERS/BACKGROUND: Everything from BtVS Season 1 to Season 6, AtS Seasons 1 to 3, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
SPECIAL THANKS TO …
Minerva McTabby, possible reincarnation of Niccolo Machiavelli and author of perhaps the best abandoned (or at least dormant) fic on ff.net, Two Worlds and in Between, for a truly gifted rendition of life within Slytherin House;
DragonKatGal, for her encouragement in getting me to post this, and for her warm ability to get readers in a deliciously good mood;
Lisette, for her cold ability to get readers in a deliciously bad mood. ;-)
PLOT SUMMARY: Instead of being sent to a coven in England after nearly destroying the world, Willow is sent to a certain school of witchcraft and wizardry. Her best friend comes along, both to keep her safe and to keep her company, while war brews on the horizons of the wizarding world. New friendships blossom, new enemies emerge, new adventures await. Wackiness ensues.
Reviews always welcome!
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THEY'RE COMING TO TAKE YOU AWAY
The sun was setting languidly over the Pacific, casting a warm, rosy glow over the little California coastal town of Sunnydale. The residents were going about their lives just as residents of any other community in America in the late Spring. Most of the residents were, anyway. Most of the residents had no idea how close the world had just come to ending.
On the second floor of a fairly normal-looking suburban home on Revello Drive, Willow Rosenberg was having difficulty sleeping. She was not among the most of the residents that had no idea how close the world had just come to ending. She new very well that she was the reason the world had just come very close to ending. It wasn't the kind of thing that most people slept well having it on one's conscience.
It had been about a week now, and she still felt like apologizing profusely whenever she saw any of her friends, even though they had told her to stop several days ago.
She woke up in a cold sweat from another nightmare, and reached for the blond girl that she had shared that bed with for almost a year. But Tara was not there. She would never be there again. Willow sniffed quietly into her pillow. For a brief time, at least, she had grown strong enough to burn the world to a cinder, but even that kind of power was still not enough to bring one innocent soul back from an undeserved fate. She woke up like this at least once a night, and she felt more and more guilty every night. If anything, she was the one who deserved to be dead, and Tara deserved to be alive. But such was the way of fate, never taking much heed to any notion of justice.
She turned her pillow over to expose a drier surface, and did her best to cry herself back to sleep again.
Voices drifted up to her from down below. Not really wanting to eavesdrop but unable to sleep and desperate for a distraction, Willow pulled herself to the side of her bed and slipped on her slippers. She cast a glance at the clock on the nightstand before she left the room; it was one in the morning.
She stopped when she got to the top of the landing and listened. There were at least three or four different voices coming from down below, and the only one she recognized was that of her longtime friend Rupert Giles, who had been staying on at the house ever since his surprising return from England. The others all had British accents, however, so her first guess was that other Watchers or Council members had come in after the recent events. She wasn't supposed to know, but Giles had been getting a lot of mail at the house, which meant that someone was not only corresponding with him, but knew that he was staying at the Summers'. She doubted anyone but the Council would know that.
"You've been receiving our letters, I take it?" one of the foreign voices said from below. He sounded very much like a Watcher, actually, seemingly confident that whatever he was saying was the most important thing happening in the world at the moment, even if it was just to say hello.
"Yes, Minister, of course. And I take you have been receiving my replies."
"We have, Rupert, but I'm sure that even in Sunnydale, you must be aware that … eh … circumstances have changed somewhat in the past year."
"I heard," Rupert admitted, with stereotypically ominous Watcher doom-and-gloom in his voice. "But the Ministry has always left Sunnydale alone. Headmaster Dippett used to call this the no-man's-land of our world. I would think that the recent events … Him being back and all … you'd have even less reason to come here."
"We've certainly been busy, of course, Rupert, no doubt about that, important work going on overseas, but with what's happened here in the past week, well, you understand that it's a bit much to just ignore."
"I do, but don't you think she'll be safer here? Vo … He's never come west of the Atlantic, as far as we know."
"True, but if we could feel her from all the way in London, then so could he. He'd never pass up an opportunity to bring someone like that to his side, no matter how far he had to go. Probably to other worlds."
"Willow is safe now. She isn't like that now."
Willow's eyes widened. She had thought they were talking about her, but it was always disconcerting to hear people talking about you when they didn't think you were listening. She wondered what else had been said about her before that she didn't know about.
The British voice that had been doing most of the talking seemed to bristle. "You can't be sure of that, Rupert. Your judgment has been good, but sometimes you can be a little shortsighted when people you care about have … flaws."
"You've been reading the Council's reports, I take it?" Giles said with an exasperated gesture.
"Of course. Quentin and I meet at least once a month."
Willow's ears had perked up, though. If there was a possibility these people might not have been reading the Council's reports, then they probably weren't actually the Council. But who else would be interested in talking to Giles about her?
"What's going on?" a soft voice whispered suddenly in Willow's ear, and she started. She turned and saw a familiar blond-haired face only inches from her nose.
"No clue," Willow whispered back. "I think I'm in trouble."
Buffy patted her friend's shoulder reassuringly.
They had missed a few sentences of conversation "… she'll be safer at Hogwarts. For everyone. If it weren't for Dumbledore, we'd be sending her to Azkaban."
"Cornelius," another voice, soft and gentle, but for some reason more compelling than the man who had been doing most of the talking, interrupted.
"I know, Albus, it's all right, you've made your case."
"Of course," the older voice answered smugly, "but I was actually going to point out that we aren't alone."
Figuring the game for her was up, Willow motioned Buffy to stay at the top of the stairs while she went down and showed herself. Buffy, of course, ignored her and came downstairs right alongside her friend.
There were four people in the living room. Giles was on the couch, seated next to an old man who seemed at once extremely venerable and undeniably comical, wearing a voluminous purple cloak and matching robes, and thick yellow galoshes, even though it was the middle of June in southern California. He didn't seem to be sweating, though, and indeed his eyes were sparkling and alert. It had been him who had alerted the others that they were being overheard. Across from him stood a short man in a very stuffy Watcher-like pose, who had to be the man who had done most of the talking. Next to the old and venerable man sat an even older man in a wheelchair, who seemed as alert and bright-eyed as the one sitting next to Giles, even if he didn't have the other's presence.
"Umm … hi," Willow began nervously.
"Hello," Buffy added a moment later. "And Giles, I'll never insult tweed on you again. I see now that it could have been worse."
"Good morning, Miss Summers," the old man on the couch answered her. The other three looked a little ruffled, but there was not a trace of irritation in either his tone or posture. Indeed, he looked amused. Willow liked him already. Even if he had come here to mete out punishment for her. She had had a feeling that something like this was coming for some time now.
"Morning? Funny ideas of morning you have. Do you know what time it is?"
"Just after nine in the morning in London," the old man answered. "We apologize for the earth being round and not all on California time. Oh yes, and thank you for not changing that over the last few weeks."
Willow cast her eyes down.
"Oh, leave her alone," Buffy came to her friend's defense, knowing that Willow had been having major self-esteem problems lately and wasn't likely to stick up for herself the way she needed to. She wasn't going to learn anything by being depressed forever.
"So … what's going to happen to me?"
"Rather direct. And rather morbid," the old man answered.
"Professor!" Giles complained.
"Well, as you probably know, if you've been listening for long, you can't stay here in Sunnydale any longer."
"Um, just who do you think you are?" Buffy asked.
"Oh, excuse me, I'm forgetting my manners. It could have something to do with the hour," Giles began, emphasizing the last point for the benefit of the others who had popped in at one in the morning.
"We've got a full day in the Ministry, Rupert, it couldn't be helped," the Watcher-like man said, in a tone that indicated that he didn't really care what Rupert thought of his manners.
"Of course," Giles continued. "But be that as it may, this is Cornelius Fudge, Minister of Magic of the United Kingdom. This is an old teacher of mine, Albus Dumbledore, now Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in England, and next to him, in the wheelchair, is an old friend of his that I'm only meeting for the first time tonight, the esteemed alchemist Nicholas Flamel."
"Minister of Magic?" Buffy asked.
"School of witchcraft?" Willow added.
"Perhaps I might … er … explain?" Dumbledore suggested.
"Be my guest," Fudge said curtly. "This was all your idea, after all. I just hope you know what you're doing."
"You should be thankful," Dumbledore warned, his voice still soft but his tone suddenly anything but comical, "that very few people know what I am doing."
"Of course." Willow noticed something pass between them there. She wasn't sure what the official standing was of a Minister versus a Headmaster, but it was clear that, unless they were both fantastic actors, that Dumbledore held the true power in the room.
Dumbledore nodded, taking the Minister's comments in stride, and turned to address Willow. Once he had her eyes, she found it completely impossible to look away. "Miss Rosenberg, I'm sure you well know that you did something rather foolish recently."
"I'm aware," Willow agreed faintly. She somehow had the feeling she would have agreed with him even had he said that she had walked on the moon recently.
"Well, when you drew that amount of power, you attracted a lot of attention. From a lot of people."
"Strange people," Buffy added.
Dumbledore shot her a reproving look, and, as final proof that Dumbledore had the most commanding presence in the room, Buffy actually stayed silent.
"Anyway, I can tell that you came here expecting to be punished. It was certainly discussed …" he shot Fudge a look, "… but Rupert here has been arguing quite strongly on your behalf. However, it is no longer safe for you here. There is a sorcerer … an extremely dark and extremely powerful sorcerer, named Volde …"
"Dumbledore!" Fudge protested weakly.
"Voldemort," Dumbledore and Flamel both finished pointedly. Dumbledore continued, "who has recently risen again, and our world is gearing up for a war unlike any the Muggle world—by which I mean the non-magic world—has ever seen. It is almost certain that he will be sending servants to come track you down, if he does not come himself."
"Someone who would want to turn me bad again," Willow surmised.
"Something like that," Fudge said in a voice that seemed to hint that he wasn't entirely sure that she would need to be 'turned again' at all.
"Care to say that in plainer English, English?" Buffy confronted the man.
Fudge's face contorted; he seemed to be trying to look like an angry and terrible sorcerer, though it was hard to tell if he was angry or constipated. "Let it be, please," Dumbledore continued. "Anyway, we've had a talk … several, actually … in the Ministry in the last week, and we've decided that there is only one way you can be safe."
There was a pause. "OK," Willow nudged him to continue.
Instead of speaking, Dumblestore stood and reached into his robes, and when he withdrew his hand, he was holding a small, thick letter sealed with an ornate wax seal bearing a decorative "H" on the flap. Willow opened it, and Buffy leaned over her shoulder to read.
Dear Miss Rosenberg,
You have been extended a special invitation to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, beginning this summer session. Students shall be required to report to the Chamber of Reception upon arrival, the dates for which you shall be duly advised. Enclosed you will find a list of all books and materials needed for the fall term. Please read over it carefully and be sure to have everything necessary by the start of term.
Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster
P.S. Two things make this invitation special. The first is that you will be assigned immediately into the Sixth Year. The second is that your acceptance is not optional.
"You're being sentenced to summer school? It could be worse," Buffy remarked flippantly.
"For me, anyway," Willow said, with a shy grin that barely reached the corners of her mouth.
"Now, then, serious question time," Buffy said, turning to Dumbledore. "Not that I don't believe you, but why is it that you believe she'll be safe at a school in England and not safe here with all her friends … and, if I can be so conceited, a Slayer?"
"Good job, Buffy!" Willow congratulated her.
"Thanks," Buffy answered smugly.
"No, I meant using the word 'conceited.' That's moving up."
"Hey, I'm looking out for you here!"
"No, it's OK …"
Before Willow could finish, Dumbledore was clearing his throat for attention. "Of course. Well, I must say that Hogwarts is no ordinary school … if I can be so conceited," he added, tossing Buffy's phrase back at her. "But having a friend and a Slayer nearby does indeed sound like a good idea. In fact, you've convinced me."
He took an identical envelope to the one he had given Willow out of his robe and handed it to Buffy.
"Hey! That wasn't part of the plan!" Fudge reacted.
"Of course not," Dumbledore said, with an absolutely delighted twinkle in his eye. "I believe I said she'd just convinced me." Flamel, who had been relatively quiet up until now, guffawed loudly, and Dumbledore gave him an exaggeratedly hurt look over his shoulder.
Buffy tore the letter open to see if it was in truth identical to the one that Willow had received. It was, with one exception; the line at the bottom about acceptance not being optional was missing from Buffy's.
"Great, so I have to go to summer school, too?"
"You don't have to, Buffy," Willow observed, reading Buffy's note.
"What do you mean? Of course I do. You go, I go, simple as that."
"Simplicity is good," Dumbledore affirmed nonchalantly.
"Giles, is this for real?" Buffy asked, turning to her Watcher.
Giles' eyes widened, as though there should never have been any doubt. Nevertheless, he was sputtering. "Hogwarts is the safest place in this world," he said slowly, but then he turned to Dumbledore. "Professor! You didn't tell me that …"
"Do you think it a bad idea?"
"Well, the Hellmouth has always had a Slayer guarding it."
"I have arranged for Faith to be released from prison. I believe she'll be more than capable of handling the hellmouth for some time, particularly as most demons in the area fled back to their home dimensions to avoid an apocalypse that never came."
"OK, now I think this is a bad idea," Giles said as soon as he heard Faith's name.
"Aha, so you were planning this the whole time!" Fudge cried.
Dumbledore rolled his eyes at the ceiling, and Flamel mouthed a silent word that Fudge couldn't see. Willow wasn't great at lipreading, but she would swear that it was 'idiot.'
Buffy let out an exasperated breath, and turned to her redheaded friend. "Will, this is your call, are you sure about this?"
Willow closed her eyes, thought about it for a brief moment, and nodded. Waking up in the same bed she had shared with Tara multiple times every night was not going to help her get over anything, and everywhere she walked in Sunnydale, she always felt that people were staring at her. Even if they had their backs to her. "I think I need to get away from here for a while, Buffy. Every night I wake up and see …" she trailed off.
Buffy paused, as though she were suddenly realizing what the last week had to have been like, even though she knew it had been hard on Willow. A moment later, she nodded as well. "All right, summer school, here we come," she sighed. "You owe me one."
Giles stood up, and gave them both an enormous hug. Then he turned to Dumbledore. "There is one last thing, sir. Well, two—first, thank you, for everything you've done for Willow at the Ministry. But, before you go through with this … aren't they a little old to be at Hogwarts?"
"My turn?" Flamel said from the corner.
"Indeed it is, Nicholas," Dumbledore answered, the twinkle back in his eye.
Flamel's wheelchair rolled out across the rug, around the back of the couch, and over to the two girls. Willow didn't think anything of that, until she realized that the wheelchair had no motor. She took another look at the ancient man sitting in it, who returned her look knowingly.
"Right," he said, in a voice that was both kind and gruff. "We're going to have to do something about those years."
"Years. Hogwarts students usually begin 'round age ten. Ye've been left alone 'cause of bein' on the Hellmouth and all. But even Sixth Years, which ye'll be joinin' … well, do the math."
"Sixteen," Willow confirmed.
"Good. 'Least one o' ye's can add."
"Ne'er mind. Anyways, the two of ye's are both twenty-one, durn near twenty-two. So that's a problem."
"And you can fix that?"
"'Course I can," Flamel answered with a satisfied grin, pulling two small vials from within his own robes. The vials each held a deep, translucent, violet liquid that sparkled as though brilliant violet stars had been suspended in the mixture.
"Drink up, ladies," he said as he handed the two girls the vials.
"Two vials? I knew it, you were planning this from the beginning!" Fudge interjected.
Flamel rolled his eyes at the ceiling and mouthed another word that Fudge couldn't see. This time, it was 'bloody ponce.'
Willow suddenly realized that Giles was looking at both of them intently. "Should we not be drinking this?" she asked hesitantly.
"Wha …? Oh, no, I think you should, it's just … Mr. Flamel, you wouldn't happen to have any more of those vials?"
Flamel and Dumbledore suddenly broke out laughing. Dumbledore was still grinning as he said, "I believe Ripper misses his younger self."
"You knew him as Ripper?" Buffy asked.
"Of course. I was one of his professors at Hogwarts. Our dear Mr. Giles is class of 1972, I believe … dear me, is that thirty years ago now?"
"Professor!" Giles was practically whining. Willow had never seen Giles whine. Well, that was not technically accurate, she had seen him whine many times, but never like that.
"Giles, you went to Hogwarts?"
Giles let out a long breath. "Class of '72, just like he said."
"Oh, good, I'd hate to think I was losing my memory. So it was actually thirty years ag …"
Willow looked at the potion in her hand, and noticed Buffy casting a similarly doubting look at hers. "Will we lose our memories?" Willow asked, without looking at the man in the wheelchair.
"'Course not!" Flamel sounded offended. "Ye think I'd 'a drunk it meself for six hundred years if I was gonna wake up wondering where I was every time?"
Buffy and Willow turned and goggled at the man in the wheelchair. Six hundred years?
"Our dear Mr. Flamel wears his years quite well, all things considered," Dumbledore noted.
"Wow," Willow gasped.
Flamel grinned at their expressions. "Nah, I worked all the kinks out a long time ago. Doesn't affect nothin' but your bodies. Minds, hearts, spirits, emotions, everything else is the same. Bottoms up, ladies," he said.
Willow and Buffy looked at each other again. Then Willow pulled the stopper out of the top of her vial. A moment later, Buffy did the same. "If anything bad comes of this …" Buffy whispered into her friend's eyes, but then changed what she had been going to say, seeing Willow flinch. She had forgotten how emotionally delicate Willow still was. "… I'll still be prettier than you."
Willow laughed, for the first time that Buffy had heard since that day on Kingman's Bluff. "Which will make it much easier for you to pick up sixteen-year-olds at wherever we're going."
Buffy wrinkled her nose. "And Willow wins again," she said raising her vial. Willow raised hers.
"To youth?" Willow offered.
"Hey, I'm not that old," Buffy answered as she raised the vial to her lips. They each swallowed their potions in one gulp.
Even if it did nothing, Willow would not have called the drink wasted. It was the most delicious drink she had ever tasted, and sent a tingle all the way from her toes to the roots of her hair. She tried to put her finger on the flavor but couldn't; there were hints of honey, apricot, and viognier, but something more than that as well that she doubted she would ever grasp. Looking at Buffy, however, there was little doubt as to the effects. A ripple of bluish-green energy surged across the other girl's skin for a few moments, and then the girl Willow was looking at suddenly looked identical to the one that had moved to Sunnydale during their sophomore year of high school. Her cheeks were softer and her eyes were younger and with fewer of the wrinkles that had developed over the past year since Willow had brought her back.
"Little computer-nerd Willow walks among the living again," Buffy said before Willow could say anything, returning her look.
On an instinct, Willow reached up and felt her hair. It was long and straight again, and with more brown in the red than she had been used to seeing for the last few years. "I'm going to have to get that trimmed before we leave," she mused.
"You should talk," Buffy said, obviously uncomfortable about something. "I forgot I was a cup size larger five years ago." She turned to look at the men in the room daring them to say anything. Giles looked mortified, which almost made her laugh; Fudge seemed rather uncomfortable, which Buffy found she didn't care much about. Even Dumbledore looked rather sheepish. Flamel was unfazed, however. Withdrawing a wand from where it had lain at his side, he pointed it straight at her chest and spoke clearly, "Aptaros." All of Buffy's clothes suddenly fit perfectly.
"Wow, nice trick," Buffy admitted. "Even if a little creepy."
Willow nodded, and took a deep breath. "Aptaros," she whispered under her breath, just to see what would happen. Her clothes adjusted as well. Flamel gave her an approving look, and Willow breathed a sigh of relief. She had half expected someone to either attempt to counter the spell, or yell at her for using magic at all. Giles had said something in the past few days about her learning to use it in moderation, however—she realized now that he was probably trying to prepare her for this, being sent away to a magic school—and it seemed as good a time as any to start.
Dumbledore smiled and got to his feet. "So that's settled then. Buffy and Willow will be going to Hogwarts. I'll see you in London." With that, the three strangely-clothed men in the room all vanished as though they had never been there.
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COMING SOON: Chapters 2 and 3, "Quality Quidditch Supplies." Things start to get a little interesting before Buffy and Willow even get to Hogwarts.
Willow cocked an eyebrow at Buffy. "Making friends already?"
"Trying, but we haven't even gotten to names yet," Buffy answered.
"Draco. Draco Malfoy."