Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.K. Rowling.
Author's Warning: major AU.
They were at the top of a tower.
The chamber was large and circular, with sweeping walls of stone. A wooden floor matched a low, wooden ceiling, and closed and shuttered windows lined the wall.
At the center stood a table, bordered by ten high-backed chairs. On the table were a circle of long, wax candles, held upright by silver candlesticks,
The door that Professor Mickey, Remus, and Buffy came through was one of two. The other was on the opposite side of the table, edged by soft, yellow light.
"Sit, Miss Summers," said Professor Mickey, and walked toward the other door.
Remus glanced at her. "Do you—"
Buffy didn't look at him. Instead, she went to one of the chairs, the one nearest the door they'd entered the chamber by, pulled it out, and took it. The chill of the table and the chair pressed against her skin through the robe.
Remus hesitated. She could hear him turn his head, to her, toward the door, and then, with something like a withheld sigh, follow the professor.
She heard the door close behind them, the murmur of voices in the next room.
Buffy closed her eyes.
"—was a shock," someone was saying. Mad-Eye. "How she reacted, when that banshee came through the window. Took the three of us by surprise and the Muggle was the first one to recognize the threat, to take steps. Stabbed its eye out with her boot. I've seen veteran Hit Wizards move slower."
"She is carrying a wand?" another voice said. The black-haired man from the hall, from the infirmary.
"Big knife," grumbled Mad-Eye.
"Cut its hand clear off," put in another, younger, female voice. Tonks.
"Has she spoken to you?" asked—the Headmaster. "Has she told you anything?"
"Nothing," complained Tonks. "Didn't say two words the whole way here—except when she told off Mad-Eye to put his eye back in his head."
A disgusted harrumph. "Spotted me through the Cloak like I wasn't even wearing it."
A woman's voice, then, older, maybe middle-aged. "That poor girl. After all that—"
"Do not underestimate her," warned another voice, one that Buffy couldn't place for a moment before she remembered—the black man from the meeting, the one who'd come with— "Whatever she looks like, we know she is not helpless. She has seen through most of the concealments she's come into the vicinity of, fought off Death Eaters, and survived the bite of a giant cobra. She is nothing ordinary."
"Of course she isn't," said the woman's voice, cutting off an older male's Now, dear. "That girl has been running for her life for a week now. If she's a bit...jumpy, well, it's absolutely—"
"Miss Summers defeated two Death Eaters by herself," said the black man. "That we have been able to confirm. The count could be higher if what she said about the three other attacks is substantiated."
They were quiet, then, and Buffy seemed to see in her mind a group of people looking at each other, the tension in their faces.
"I think," said the Headmaster, then, his tone calm and almost easy, "that we have neglected Miss Summers for too long."
The door opened.
Buffy heard it when Professor Mickey hesitated on the threshold. She heard it when each person coming in after the professor seemed to pause, to hesitate, and then continue in. She heard the exceptions—the regular, unfaltering thumps of Mad-Eye's metal leg, a confident, unfamiliar stride that was accompanied by an astringent sort of smell, and the whisper of the folds of a robe as the Headmaster strode in, closing the door again behind him.
Buffy opened her eyes.
They were all looking at her.
"Miss Summers," said the Headmaster. He wore dark, blue robes, and his long white hair and beard were almost glinting in the candlelight. "I believe now would be the time for introductions."
They each stood by a chair, the people she had heard talking, and the Headmaster introduced them one by one. "Professor McGonagall, you have already met. Here is Professor Snape, who identified the giant cobra that did you so much harm."
The black-haired, black-eyed man, who only took his seat, looking at her without expression.
"Professor Moody, you know—" Mad-Eye sat beside Snape, and they exchanged menacing glares. "And Tonks, the third person who went to meet you."
"Just Tonks," said Tonks, still smiling. "Please."
"I believe Remus needs no introduction," continued the Headmaster, and Remus shifted in the seat he'd taken beside Buffy. "Kingsley Shacklebolt beside him is an Auror at the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and an invaluable help to us. You may trust him absolutely."
Buffy saw how they looked at each other, how Shacklebolt glanced at the Headmaster, his eyebrow raised.
"Finally," said the Headmaster, as if he hadn't noticed anything, "these two people here are Arthur and Molly Weasley."
Arthur Weasley was tall and lanky, with red hair that was beginning to thin and recede. Molly was shorter and plumper, her red hair pulled back from her face except for the few tendrils that had escaped. They both wore long, green robes that were comfortably tatty-looking, and were smiling in a nervous, kindly way.
"Ladies and gentlemen," said the Headmaster, "this is Buffy Anne Summers."
Buffy lowered her eyes to the table. A quiet "Hello, Buffy," from Arthur Weasley and a "Hello, dear," from Molly Weasley was all that broke the stillness.
"We," said the Headmaster, more quietly now, "are the people who will help you adjust to your life as a witch."
She—couldn't help herself.
"I'm not," she began, but the rest of what she wanted to say she managed to bite down on, to stop before it could be said. Buffy looked down again, at the table, and knew her face had paled from how cold it felt.
There was a brief, awkward quiet.
"Now that the Ministry knows of your existence and your arrival at Hogwarts," said the Headmaster, as if nothing had happened, "it will shortly be impossible to keep your identity concealed. With your permission, I would like to make everyone here aware of it. Kingsley, of course, already knows, but I believe everyone else here would appreciate some clarity."
The Weasleys were looking perplexed, glancing at her out of the corners of their eyes. The professors eyed her, Mad-Eye and Tonks were quiet, and Remus—
Buffy said nothing.
"Very well." The Headmaster looked around at them. "I tell you this in complete confidence, and with the utmost faith in your discretion."
They were all so quiet. Buffy clenched her hands into fists beneath the table, not looking at anyone.
"Miss Summers's name," said the Headmaster, "is not the one she was given at her birth. She was born Elizabeth, the daughter of Percival and Lucretia Errol."
He said it calmly, casually. Without emphasis. And those names meant nothing to Buffy, the names he had given her the first time they'd met—
Mrs. Weasley gasped, her hands covering her face. Mr. Weasley's mouth hung open. Professor Mickey was looking back and forth between Buffy and the Headmaster, eyes wide, Professor Snape was staring at Buffy. Tonks and Mad-Eye had turned, she gaping and he staring.
From beside her, Buffy could hear the erratic beat of Remus's heart.
"I believe everyone now understands," said the Headmaster, "why it was of such importance that Miss Summers be brought to Hogwarts immediately."
"But they died," said Mrs. Weasley shakily. "The Ministry announced—I mean, the newspapers, they all said...Percival and Elizabeth, they—"
"Percival did not die at Narrow House," said the Headmaster. "He was severely wounded, almost to the point of death, but he managed to live long enough to escape the assault of Narrow House and take his infant daughter to safety."
"But Lucretia," objected Professor Mickey, "Lucretia would have—"
"Lucretia was unaware that her daughter had survived the attack," said the Headmaster, putting one hand on the table, "and, in any case, did not want to be told otherwise. Remember, Minerva, that the only reason she was not targeted was that she so promptly cut ties with the Errol line. She married Ignatus not a year after Percival was killed, and did not speak of her first marriage again before her death."
"Wait, wait," cried Tonks. "What are you saying, Headmaster? That—that Elizabeth didn't die with Percival, that—that Buffy is Elizabeth, so then...then..."
Buffy kept her eyes on the table.
"Yes," said the Headmaster. "Buffy is Elizabeth Errol, the only living descendant of Honorius Errol, the heir of Narrow House and the last of her line."
The silence that came over them was immediate and complete, almost breathless. Buffy could feel them looking at her, could feel Tonks's wide-eyed look and Mrs. Weasley's gasping, Professor Mickey's disbelief and Professor Snape's scrutiny.
Could feel Remus looking at anything but her.
"Wait," said Tonks again. She looked confused. "She was—if she wasn't dead, she was, what, in America? What was she doing there? I mean, how—"
The Headmaster—did nothing. He did not move, he did not look at her. His expression didn't change and he said nothing. But Tonks still abruptly stopped talking, still glanced around at Mad-Eye and Shack, who did not look at her.
Tonks sat back in her chair as if nothing had happened and she hadn't said anything at all.
For a few, tense moments, no one moved or spoke.
"Then, the Ministry," said Professor Mickey at length, in all but a whisper. "Why they were so insistent..."
"Yes," said Shack. "The Ministry has been attempting to reopen Narrow House for years, since the Yeomen closed the doors to all those not of Errol blood. I believe Minster Fudge is pushing to have wardship of Elizabeth Errol granted to his assistant, Senior Undersecretary Delores Umbridge."
"That woman!" cried Mr. Weasley, but then caught himself, looking embarrassed. "I mean, er..." Then his expression changed again. "Albus, we cannot let that happen."
"I wouldn't give wardship of a hag to that hag," added Tonks, and didn't look at all repentant at the reproachful glance Professor Mickey gave her.
"But Elizabeth Errol herself," said Mad-Eye. He was still watching Buffy, his Eye fixed on her. "The Ministry won't stop at much to get at her."
"Precisely," said the Headmaster. "That is why we must act immediately and petition the Wizengamot to grant custody to someone who would have Miss Summers's well-being foremost in mind." He turned to Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. "Molly—"
"Of course we'll do it," interrupted Mrs. Weasley. "Won't we, Arthur?"
"We'd have to insist," said Mr. Weasley, the smile in his voice.
"I had hoped you would," said the Headmaster, and turned back to the table. "Miss Summers, these are my suggestions to you. First, that you petition the Wizengamot for your wardship to be granted to Arthur and Molly Weasley, until you should come of age at seventeen. Second, that you attend Hogwarts during the school year, with a tutor to help you catch up to your fellow fourth years, while you wait for the legal proceedings over your inheritance to be concluded. Third—"
Buffy lifted her head, and looked straight at the Headmaster.
She heard the others when they gasped, or inhaled, or exhaled, sat back in their chair, widened their eyes. She heard them, but she didn't care, because she was looking at the Headmaster, was meeting his eyes, his blue, blue eyes.
"You said you would tell me," she said.
Everyone was very still. Remus's hand moved, slightly, as if he would have reached out to touch her.
"Miss Summers," said the Headmaster.
"You said," interrupted Buffy, and the anger was cold and sharp and consuming. "You said you would tell me who killed them."
She'd waited and waited, taking everything at his word. Now she wasn't going to wait any more.
Anger and anger and anger, all she could feel, the only thing in her heart. Buffy wanted—needed—it, needed the anger, because without it she was nothing, she was numb and lifeless and a corpse that didn't know it was dead. The anger had kept her going, had kept her breathing, had kept her from just lying down and giving up, and now she let it fill her eyes, her face, a blade clearing the sheathe and shining brightly where once there had only been a girl who was nothing but a meaningless body, a blade made of despair and loss and depthless, devouring rage.
"Tell me," she said, and her voice was her voice, young and girlish and powerful. "Tell me who killed my family."
She was standing, her hands at her sides, and her hair was loose about her shoulders and face.
The Headmaster's eyeglasses gleamed in the light of candles as looked at her.
"The people who killed your friends," he said, and, though his voice was barely above a whisper, it was the loudest thing in the world in that cold, still tower, "are a group of wizards and witches who call themselves Death Eaters."
Death Eaters. The skulls on their arms.
"Their leader," said the Headmaster, "is a man who calls himself Voldemort."
People were flinching, shivering, looking away. But Buffy couldn't bring herself to notice more than that.
"Voldemort," she repeated, whispering.
They were all looking at her, Mrs. Weasley's eyes wide and even somewhat frightened, but Buffy didn't care.
The anger pulled at her, pulled her back from the edge of madness. It coiled tightly around her heart, a snake of anguish and hatred that finally, after all those weeks of futile near-insanity, had a name.
The Slayer looked out from her eyes.
"Voldemort," whispered Buffy, and her eyes, for the first time that any of them had seen, were alive.