(a/n: beginning of season three (as in…like…episode two!). Before Homecoming! Oz and Willow are just beginning to get serious-ish. I am neither Joss [my personal god] nor J.K. Rowling. You figure it out. Yes: say it with me….AU means alternate universe! fan fiction means I get to play with the meaningless lives that are not really mine to control.) () (ß totally Kirby!)
Prologue of Unexpected Losses
Willow sat on the floor, by Xander's bed. Buffy was laying on a pile of pillows, curled around a huge bowl of popcorn, chewing on the Styrofoam-quality, fake-butter saturated, salty goodness. Four open bottles of pop were beside her on Xander's bedside stand. Oz was sitting next to Willow, their fingers entwined. Xander sat behind Willow, playing inattentively with the long red strands of her hair, twisting them around his fingers and braiding them. All four were staring at one of the most crucial devices in their lives with utmost attentiveness.
"Commercial break?!" Willow mock yelled, unable to stop the smile that threatened the corner of her lips. "How dare you!" Buffy threw a handful of popcorn at Willow, and the redhead pouted, knowing that it would be stuck in her hair and she'd have to wash it to repair the oily damage. "Ha! Foolish mortal! You forget, I have my own personal slaves to clean my hair…until Cordelia actually has a day off cheerleading practice."
The rest of the room couldn't help laughing in response. Willow hadn't been in such a good mood since she'd gotten out of her wheelchair. She was finally recuperating. She was finally happy, despite the fact that she was dealing with her life. Buffy was dealing with killing her lover, after he'd regained his soul. Oz was dealing with being a werewolf, and Xander was dealing with the guilt he felt for lying to Buffy and Willow. And he was dealing with Cordy. It was a room of coping teenagers.
Willow had been unable to keep the feeling of magic flowing through her out of her mind. She wanted to do it again. She'd had her nose buried in hundreds of book about the craft since she'd been able to get her hands on them. Giles was carefully monitoring her progress, and he was disbelieving and extremely proud of her abilities. She was advancing more quickly than she'd hoped. Levitation was a thing of the past. She especially loved working with charms and potions. There was something about the precision and detail that made the work seem like an art.
She hadn't let go of her school-life either. Already at the top of her class, she was full of academic energy that the Scoobies either despised or desired. She was already tutoring Xander in his Algebra II class, and he was beginning to understand the math. He was still quite adamant about his rejection of letters in mathematics that he's gladly share with anyone who's listen. Cordelia was usually the one stuck in that position, being the girlfriend.
The doorbell rang.
"Ooh! Maybe Cordy!" Xander grinned, rolling over, and nearly on top of a protesting Buffy. "Hmm…I'm not entirely sure if I'm not too comfortable to move, now." He declared, finding himself lying on Buffy's legs. He laughed as she squirmed to free herself. She gave him a threatening glare, and he picked himself up, and stood. "No fair that she can totally kick my--"
"ALEXANDER HARRIS!" Came a sharp shout from downstairs. Xander's mother.
"Not Cordy." Xander muttered to himself, and jumped up, heading downstairs. Willow kissed Oz's cheek and disentangled herself from him. She was used to dealing with Xander's parents when they were in a bad mood. She didn't want him to go alone, so followed him. When they reached the living room, Mrs. Harris yelled out again.
"ALEXANDER! FRONT DOOR! NOW!" Xander picked up his pace to a jog and headed to the front door, Willow on his heels. Xander's mother stood in front of the open door, her arms crossed, glaring at her son as he entered the room. "What've you done?"
"Huh?" Came the innocent response, and he looked outside the door only to see a police officer standing there, bored in all outward aspects, fiddling with a notepad that he held, his eyes rolled skyward.
"Alexander Harris?" He questioned, after noticing that he was there. "I was told that there may be a Willow Rosenburg at this residence…"
"I'm Willow." The redhead interjected, peering out the door from behind Xander. "Is something wrong?" She moved to stand in front of Xander, but he stepped up as well, so they were standing side-by-side.
"I'm officer Johnson. I'm afraid I have some bad news. Today, a flight from New York to Los Angelos crashed. There were no survivors. Both Ira and Sheila Rosenburg were on the flight--"
"What?" Willow spoke faintly, backing up a step. Xander wrapped an arm around her shoulder, not only to let her know that he was there, but also to keep her from falling. "My mom and dad--"
"I'm sorry, but yes, both of your parents passed away. Um…do you know your parents' lawyer?" Johnson asked, uncomfortable. He hadn't expected Willow to be as old as she was. He was expecting to deal with a child, someone incapable of the pain he saw shining in the redhead's eyes. She nodded dumbly, backing up another step. "They, of course, are in possession of your parents' will. They will have everything you need to know. Can you contact them or would your prefer if one of us did?"
"I-I can do it…thank you." She closed the door on the Officer, who seemed both put-out and relieved at the new lack of contact between them. Willow backed up another step, and into Xander, who had moved while she spoke to Johnson, having expected her next move. A slight sob escaped her, and she turned into Xander's chest, unable to stop her tears.
Without even a moment's thought, he picked her up, and carried her upstairs. Buffy and Oz both jerked up at the sight of their crying best friend. Xander didn't speak, but placed her on the bed where he'd been lying before. He tried to pull away from her, to try to make her more comfortable, but she wouldn't let go of his sweater. Sharing a worried look with Buffy, he wrapped his arms around her and tried soothing her, rubbing her back.
"What's happened?" Buffy asked in a small voice. Xander shook his head silently, not wanting to upset Willow further. Willow nodded into his chest, telling him to tell them, but still she sobbed.
"Her parents were in a plane accident. Neither one made it." He still held onto Willow in support, trying to calm her down a little more. Buffy held on to the two of them, forming a group hug. Oz felt slightly out of place, but at a nod from both Buffy and Xander, he joined in, and kissed her temple.
"Wills, I'm so sorry."
The redhead pulled away from Xander. "What am I gonna do now? What if I'm sent away? What if I have to move and I'll never see you guys again?! What if they didn't leave me anything! What if I can stay but can't afford to stay? What if they shove me in an orphanage? What if--" Oz abruptly shut her up with a chaste kiss.
"Don't worry about it, Willow. We'll burn that bridge when we come to it." He answered, and kissed her brow. "I hate to, but I've got to go, sweetie. Call me before you go to the lawyer's okay. I'll come if you want." He cupped her cheek with his hand, and paused a moment before he turned and left. The others, of course, understood why he left. It always took him almost the entire day to prepare for the coming full moon. He was on his way to the library, of course, to make sure that everything was set for him. Giles was there to help him.
"Willow, panicking isn't going to help anything. Bright and early tomorrow we'll go get everything straightened out, okay? We won't let you go anywhere, we need our Willow." Buffy put in. "Even if I have to be a little," she paused to crack all of her knuckles with her other fist, "threatening."
"Of course, Wills, I love you. Don't want you anywhere but here."
Xander and Willow headed towards "Jenkins and Smith", her parents' lawyer's business office. Buffy and Oz had both volunteered to accompany them, but Willow refused both of them at the last minute. She felt more comfortable with just Xander, even though Buffy's "threatening" may have come in handy. She knew that, in truth, there was nothing that Buffy could do to influence these lawyers. Not much, anyway.
She hadn't set up an appointment, but neither did officer Johnson say that she needed one. As she walked into the nearly too-clean office a secretary glared up at her. She had the phone pressed to her ear with a well-manicured hand. She seemed to be trying to smooth some ruffled feathers. It did not seem to be working. As soon as she hung up the phone it rang again.
Sighing resignedly, she picked it up again, "Jenkins and Smith, how may I help you?"
Willow nervously approached the front desk. The secretary frowned up at her, and motioned for her to pick up a prepared clipboard that lay on the counter. Willow frowned and did so. She headed back to take a seat in the half-full waiting room. She took a pencil from the mini-backpack that she kept on her person. Xander took his accustomed seat next to her and looked over her shoulder at the paper. He couldn't help but blanch at the sheer number of blank lines that he was sure that Willow would have to fill in.
Most of them didn't seem to apply to her in any case, but both of them had a vague feeling that the secretary wouldn't appreciate being handing a half-blank paper. She seemed to be rightfully stressed, already answering the third phone call she'd received since they walked into the office. Xander took the clipboard from Willow, and headed up to the woman, much to both of their protests.
"Can I help you, sir?" She questioned irritably, holding a hand over the receiver of the phone, looking at them over a fashionable pair of glasses.
"Please, Miss. You see, my bestest friend, Willow Rosenburg here, needs to see Mr. Jenkins. He's her parent's attorney." Xander answered, ignoring the woman's glare at the word "bestest".
"Where, sir," She asked in a terribly mocking tone, "are your bestest friend's parents themselves." She didn't seem to notice Willow's composure crumple at those harsh words. Xander did, though, and wrapped an arm around his long-time best friend.
"That's why we're here. They've passed on, and we need to see Mr. Jenkins about a will. That wasn't an option on your fancy clipboard." Xander was angry at the woman. She obviously didn't need to be in such a stressful position. She didn't have the people skills for it. But the sharpness in her eyes did soften at his words.
"Of course, sweetie." She spoke, carefully avoiding looking or speaking to Xander. "Come with me, dear." When she headed off to be followed by both kids, she narrowed her eyes at the boy. "I don't recall inviting you, sir."
"He has to come!" Willow answered, a touch panicky thinking that she would have to face the lawyer on her own. Xander had become a security blanket in this. Again, the secretary seemed to soften. Willow didn't seem to notice the death grip in which she held Xander's hand. They were led to another office. The woman knocked on the door softly, and opened it just enough to stick her head in. A few seconds later, she opened the door fully, and waved the pair in.
With knots in her stomach, Willow took the seat the pinstriped man motioned to. Xander again sat next to her, still holding her hand in her apparent fear. "Miss Rosenburg, I am very sorry about your loss. I also commend you for being able to come in as abruptly as you have. I'm sure that you wish for us to be about this business as quickly as possible. Luckily for us, your parents were very direct with their instructions. As constantly as they traveled, they were aware that something like this was always a possibility.
"There is only one problem right now. That's your friend. It's against policy to have a non-family member in the office when divulging any personal information about any of our clients." He motioned vaguely in Xander's direction.
"He can't leave! Please, just let him stay. This is Alexander Harris, sir, he's my best friend. I-I need him here for this…" Willow began, obviously starting her way into a babble-fest. Jenkins seemed to recognize the beginning of a rant for what it was, and he finally nodded after staring at the pair for some time, not hearing anything that Willow was saying.
"Very well Miss Rosenburg. At any time, if you feel that any information here become too personal, you may ask me to stop. We will see Mr. Harris out and continue." Jenkins rubbed the top of his balding head almost nervously. Xander was left to wonder what it was about him exactly that seemed to make every adult in the known universe distrust him. First the secretary, and now the lawyer-guy was treating him like he had a gun to Willow's head and was forcing her to take him along with her.
"Alright, then." Jenkins took a seat on the other side of the desk. He was sitting slightly in-between the pair (obviously opposite them). He opened a drawer and withdrew a file. Meeting eyes once more with Willow, he opened it, and shuffled through the papers until he was more than halfway through the stack of legalities. "The last Will and Testament of Ira and Sheila Rosenburg. Last updated on July 19th of 2001." The date was only a pair of months before.
"Ms. Rosenburg, would you simply prefer to read the document, or would you like to me to translate into layman's terms for you?" Jenkins finally asked, kindly, seeing how she almost burst into tears at the mention of her parents. She nodded, but to which Jenkins had no idea. Xander held up two fingers indicating the second option, and the older man nodded in return. "Very well. To have it simply put, Sheila had a very specific destination for you. She wishes you to be moved in with your godmother, one Mrs. Petunia Dursley. She is a native of England. She lives in a town called Surrey."
Willow looked blandly back at him. She didn't even know that she had a godmother. She'd be moved into land of the Giles, as she knew at some point Xander would note. "Mr. Jenkins…I'm almost eighteen. Would it be possible for me to continue living here until I'm a legal adult?" She knew the hope was faint, but because her parents were gone so often, it was still a hope. She knew better than to cling to it as if there was no other, but she couldn't control her mind.
"I'm very sorry, Ms. Rosenburg, but your mother was very firm in your relocation. She insisted that were you still in any type of school, you should be moved to Surry with this Mrs. Dursley. Of course, if you were eighteen we could do nothing but firmly suggest. It would be your choice then. But I'm afraid that seeing you are not a legal adult, there is no other choice for you until that time."
"How long?" She demanded then, bitterly, surprising even Xander with her abrupt change of mood. "How long 'til I'm shipped out?"
"You have, um, three days, Ms. Rosenburg."