Life in Sunnyhell.
By Niamh O'Leary and Rose Williams.
Disclaimers, etc, see part one.
Authors' Notes: At last, the final part!
Diagon Alley was packed, even more so than usual for a fine summer's day. Flourish and Blotts' was packed for the launch and signing of Back to the Living, the third "semi-autobiographical" novel from Buffy Summers. There were giant photos of Buffy either side of the doors into the bookshop. Harry hadn't seen her in several months, because Buffy had been in America visiting Dawn, who was about to start post-grad studies at Harvard.
Plus Harry hadn't been to Diagon Alley in a while. Even more than three years after defeating Voldemort, it took a visit from such a high profile celebrity to ensure people didn't notice him in the crowd; approach to get an autograph, memento, sperm sample.
Harry bypassed the queue for the signing and made his way through the shelves to near the signing table. Buffy was there, chatting with the crowd and evading press questions as she signed books. Giles was standing at her shoulder, perhaps on guard, probably fantasising about which books were needed for the Watchers' Library. Harry had spent a lot time in the Library, as he was studying at the Watchers' Institute, and even he thought that it needed more books on Wizarding magic.
His studies were interesting. He envied Dawn how sure she was about what she was studying, but the Watchers' Institute also trained all the European slayers, which made for pleasant company. Hermione also turned purple anytime he was able to correct her on various bits of history or arcane knowledge. It was nice to be on the other end of the information flow. Hedwig was also enjoying the attentive care of the student body.
Buffy noticed Harry standing the lee of the bookshelves and nodded a greeting. Harry smiled back. Valeria followed Buffy's look and broke away from behind her mother's chair to launch herself at Harry. She was wearing a set of pink and purple robes that billowed as she ran. Harry was impressed that she didn't trip over the hem.
"Hello, Valeria," Harry said, keeping one eye on the crowd while he bent to pick her up.
"Valeria Asphodel," she insisted.
"I know that. I'm sorry. How are you, Valeria Asphodel? And who gave you this pretty dress?"
Valeria looked down at her clothes, and traced the pattern with one finger while she thought about it. "Melissa. But I don't like pink," she said, kicking him in the shin for emphasis.
The pink interlocking flowers on her skirt suddenly turned blue. Harry grinned. The press noticed as well. The light of the flash bulbs suddenly focussed on Harry and Valeria.
Harry adjusted his grip on Valeria so he could shield her from the photographers as he turned to face them. Buffy stood quickly, ready to get into any fight that might break out. Harry had to remind himself that he couldn't just attack people who annoyed him. Not even reporters.
"Harry, Harry!" the crowd shouted. "Is this your daughter, Harry?"
Harry boggled. They thought that? But the questions continued. "Is this her first use of magic?" "Will you be sending her to Hogwarts?" "Valeria, Valeria, how did you feel when you used magic?" "Why didn't you like you robes?" "Why don't you spend more time with her father?"
"Hey!" Buffy shouted. "I've never answered any questions about her parentage, and I'd thank you stop speculating and get your cameras out of my daughter's face."
Buffy was trapped on the other side of the crowd from Harry and Valeria. She wasn't about to turn slayer on them, something Harry was disappointed about. It also meant Harry was left holding Valeria as she began to cry.
Rita Skeeter stepped out of the pack, which cleared a space for her, no one wanted to end up on the end of her acid green pen. She was cooing at Valeria.
"Come on, honey, you can tell us, about your relationship with Harry Potter. We're all friends here."
Her voice sounded ridiculous: saccharine and ingratiating. "You can tell Aunty Rita anything, can't you, sweetie?"
Valeria stopped sniffling. Harry checked that she was okay to find her sneering at Rita. It was…really quite disconcerting. Harry resisted the urge to chuckle at the look on Rita's face.
Harry could see Buffy weighing the decision of whether to leap over the reporters or leave Harry to handle things. Harry was impressed that she had lasted this long without knocking someone out. There was still no escaping the pack that had them pinned against the shelves, until Harry felt a presence beside him and looked up to see Snape.
"Potter," Snape said, in that way that still made Harry reach for his wand and a plausible explanation.
"You are having some trouble here, it seems."
Rita was waiting with bated breath for how this meeting would fall out. Harry's confrontations with Professor Snape were something of a legend. Although Rita had made a lot of it up out of second hand accounts, Harry and Snape's relationship was still somewhat volatile, to put it mildly. Harry was looking forward to what Snape would do with Rita. He was right: revenge was sweet.
Snape turned his attention to Valeria. "Does this… woman vex you, Valeria Asphodel?"
Valeria understood that tone of voice from Snape, because she nodded. She made Harry let her down, then imperiously straightened her skirts. She pointed at Rita. "I don't like her," she said.
Snape refocussed his attention on Rita, who took a quick step backwards.
"I had thought the press would have more important stories to pursue than harassing a three year old child. I understand that Ms Summers has made clear her wishes regarding her daughter's engagement in the press, and her feelings regarding undue distress to the child."
Rita drew herself together. "That Muggle?" she said derisively.
Snape went dangerously still. The crowd pulled back out of the line of fire, and Buffy pushed her way through them.
"And what led you to think," Snape continued, "that Ms Summers was both incapable of enforcing this matter herself, and incapable of having others enforce it on her behalf.
"Now, my human to toad transfiguration is as good as ever, although not really a patch on my brewing of untraceable poisons. You might be interested to know that I have developed two more since perfecting the brewing of Dearborn's thirty seven. I am writing an article for Potions Today."
"Are you really threatening me?"
"Of course not," Buffy said brightly, from Rita's shoulder. "Just thought you might interested to know that with everything we've seen and done and killed, well, squashing bugs just isn't really a problem for any of us."
"Severus," Rita began. She was trying to sound sweet again, but it was coming out more desperate. "I cannot a believe that a man of your reputation would allow anyone to speak for him, much less the mother of a half-breed child."
Harry actually drew his wand on Rita, not sure whether he needed a shielding charm for himself, or to stop Snape committing murder in front of several hundred witnesses. At the very least he would have to clear the bookstore before Snape got started, if only to reduce the collateral damages. Snape was glaring furiously at Rita, who was holding her ground. Buffy was poised to throw a punch.
Valeria, well below everyone's line of sight, marched over to Rita and kicked her in the shin with her little buttoned boots. Rita hissed in pain.
"You malicious, execrable little—" she bit off whatever curse she was going to let out. Even Rita could stop herself swearing at children in public.
"Don't talk about my mummy and papa like that!"
Harry could see the wheels turning in Rita's head, and in the heads of many of the reporters behind her. But no one said anything. Slowly, Rita took a step backwards, and then another, until she was part of the crowd again, and then the crowd began to disperse. The audience at the signing were whispering amongst themselves as they waited for Buffy to return to the table.
"The public are restless," Snape told her.
Buffy waved his concerns away and rest her hand on his arm. The other reached out to draw Valeria back to her side.
"Thank you, Harry," she said.
"You're welcome," Harry managed, as he slipped his wand back up his sleeve.
"We should stop meeting in fights."
"We're going back to the signing now, Valeria," Buffy said, adding, "Asphodel," when Valeria glowered at her. "Or would you like papa to take you home?"
Valeria screwed her face up in concentrated. "Papa," she decided. "Bye-bye, mummy, bye-bye, Harry."
"Goodbye, Valeria Asphodel," Harry said solemnly.
Buffy bent to kiss her daughter on the cheek, then rose on tip toes to quickly peck Snape on the lips. Harry closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, Snape was already leading Valeria out of the shop. Buffy was smirking at him. Behind her several of the reporters, who had no doubt had Snape as a potions master, looked stunned and slightly nauseous.
Buffy turned to Harry with a smile. "She's really something isn't she."
Harry chuckled in amusement. "Yes she is, she'll be terrifying once she perfects her sneer, no one will ever be safe again."