Where You Have Been
Rating: Going to PG-13 (adult language, violence, etc)
Beta: The lovely Grace K.
Summary: It's been one year since the Watcher's Council took her life away. Now that she has the chance to go home, how far will she go to hold onto the one thing binding her to the world of magic - her brother? Continuation to Where Will You Go.
Grand Summary: It has been one year since Buffy found out that she was adopted and that her real family was in England. After discovering her brother, Harry Potter's, magical world, she found herself in a whole new life. But despite the fact she could finally have the "normal" life she's always wanted, danger always lurked… Buffy has now accepted the position of a vampire hunter under the Ministry of Magic. Harry's about to enter his seventh and final year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but things won't be easy. Voldemort has already taken his parents and now the Dark Wizard has marked his sister, as well. Yet he knows she'll never stop fighting for him and he will make the ultimate sacrifice to save the world – if he has to. The conclusion/continuation of 'Where Will You Go' returns for the dark world that lies ahead…
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns Harry Potter. Joss Whedon owns Buffy and Angel. So anything you recognize probably belongs to them.
Timeline: For those that have read 'Where Will You Go', you will know that Buffy left Sunnydale at the end of her senior year of high school after she quit the Council back in January, after the Council put her through her trials. This would make the year approximately 2000 now. Pretending Harry was actually born in 1983 (to make him seventeen now), the story picks up and continues in Harry's seventh and final year at Hogwarts.
- - - - -
- - - - -
The Atlantic Ocean sparkled like glass far below Flight 843 as it jetted across the sky between Iceland and London. Buffy sat curled in her window seat, staring at the vast spread of black far below, shining in the light from the full moon. It was past midnight, but she didn't care. She'd slept the entire flight from Los Angeles to Newark, only to spend their two hours in the other airport dragging Willow and Harry from one convenience store to the other.
After sufficiently stuffing her bag with enough snacks to make a room full of starving men happy, they boarded their plane at nine, preparing for the eight hour flight overseas, with a brief stopover in Iceland.
Willow was seated in the aisle seat, sound asleep, her headphones covering her ears. Harry was sitting in the seat in front of Buffy, his own eyes closed, sleeping gently.
Buffy couldn't wait to return back to England. She had so much to see and do, including all of the unpacking and the distribution of the gifts she'd purchased for her friends. Willow would be staying at their flat for the next two weeks until her apartment at Oxford opened up. Not to mention the fact that there were usually a lot of people loitering about. Percy was a frequent visitor, usually showing up around mealtimes. Harry was the house chef, since Buffy was quite inept at making even a sandwich without destroying their small kitchen. She was getting better though, basically because to get her out of the house, Harry had pushed her off to cooking school.
For five weeks he had been complaining about her lack of cooking skills. She had improved though, despite her reservations for being the only one in her class who didn't know what hummus was.
Turning from the tiny window, Buffy opened her carry-on and pulled out a magazine. Snapping on the overhead light, she made to read the latest issue of Vogue.
She was jostled awake several hours later by Willow. Blinking in the bright light now spilling through her window, Buffy yawned and stretched.
"Hey, Buffy, you're not in the mood for breakfast, are you?" Harry asked, turning around in his seat and grinning at his sister, who looked groggy and disheveled.
"Yeah," she muttered, running a hand through her wild hair before her face froze in horror. "Wil?"
She heard Willow laughing next to her and lifted the Vogue which had fallen to the floor and batted her best friend across the shoulder with it.
"What did you do?" Buffy moaned.
"She didn't do anything, sleepyhead," Harry teased as he reached across the back of his seat and helped smooth down her hair. "You really should consider getting it cut. It's going to be a major pain in the ass once you start your new job."
"You're a major pain in the ass right now," she tossed back, jerking away from him and reaching into her purse for her brush.
"Someone woke up on the wrong side of plane," Willow said in a sing-song voice as one of the flight attendants approached with her cart. "Now, will it be coffee, juice and bagel?"
"As long as it's not tea," Buffy said, making a face as Willow turned to give her own breakfast order out. Fifteen minutes later, once her bagel and banana had been sufficiently devoured, Buffy rose to go and clean up a bit in the bathroom. It seemed like a lot of the other international passengers had this idea, too, and stood in line almost ten minutes before she squeezed into the impossibly tiny space. After washing her face and brushing her teeth, she quickly brushed out her hair and put it up, thinking it was better to be safe than sorry.
She returned to her seat just as the pilot's voice came over the loudspeaker, saying that their flight was now approaching England and that they should prepare for arrival within the next fifteen minutes. Willow and Harry both rose to go to the head and returned without a hitch before the fasten-seatbelt-sign flashed on and they all began stowing their things. Tucking her Vogue inside her bag, Buffy leaned back in her seat, prepared to arrive back in the city she had come to consider her home.
It was nearly a half hour before the plane finally taxied onto the runway and slowly turned towards the gate. Buffy was nearly on the edge of her seat, cramped from sitting on stupid airplanes for the past eight hours, not to mention the five-and-a-half hour flight before that. She wasn't the only one; it appeared, since Willow was bouncing in her seat. Tugging on her long suede overcoat, Buffy waited, tapping her foot impatiently on the back of Harry's seat. She wanted out of the cramped quarters, since Slayers weren't meant to sit in closed quarters for half a day. Or more.
When at last the seatbelt sign had clicked off, there was a mad rush to the exit. Having spent the last flight to California jammed in a throng of excited passengers, she knew all too better the advantage of waiting. She held both Willow and Harry back as people rushed past, their luggage occasionally bumping into the other unsuspecting passengers. After five minutes, the crowd seemed to thin, and Buffy, Willow and Harry departed the plane.
They arrived in a zoo.
"It's chaos!" Willow cried happily, experiencing her third flight to England in a year.
"Or beyond," Harry grunted, dragging his bag through the doorway as the three of them paused for a moment, glancing at the structured chaos erupting around them. They fought through the swarms to get down to luggage collection, and it was then they heard a loud, "Buffy!" behind them.
Buffy turned around and let out a bellow that made Harry jump and nearly tackle Willow. Throwing her bags on the ground (which left Harry to handle them), she raced across the airport to hug the person who had called her name.
"Who's that?" Willow asked, following behind the feminine shrieks and the sound of wild laughter.
Harry's answer was muffled behind his own bag, Buffy's carry-on, and her purse which felt it had been stuffed full of boulders.
They found out the answer soon enough. Buffy was standing next to a taller, dark-haired girl with dark eyes. They were talking quickly and overrunning one another's sentences in their haste. Harry just rolled his eyes as Willow gently pulled Buffy's purse off the top of his pile.
"It's Emma, you know… you met her, right?"
"Oh!" Willow gasped. "Yeah, I remember her!"
"I can't believe you just spent the past two weeks in Greece—"
"—oh, I've heard such wonderful things about those sunrises in California!"
"… meeting all of those famous Witches and Wizards of the ancient realm!"
"Did you go to Los Angeles? Please tell me you went to—"
An older woman, bringing with her a suitcase on wheels, stopped before the two women and shook her head. "Honestly, Emma, could you let her have a moment to breathe?"
"Oh, sorry," Emma said, pulling back, blushing slightly. "Mom, you know Elizabeth Potter, don't you?"
"We have met," said the woman, who had shoulder-length curly black hair and the same dark brown eyes as her daughter. "Emmeline Vance of the Order, as I'm sure you know by now."
"Oh, of course," Buffy said, shaking the woman's hand. Seeing her brother and Willow standing in the background, she waved them forward. Willow looked thoroughly excited, but Harry was in a rather tetchy mood. "Emmeline, I'm sure you know my brother, Harry. And this is my friend from California, Willow Rosenberg. Wil, this is Emmeline Vance of the Order I told you about, and her daughter and one of my old roommates from Hogwarts, Emma Vance."
"Pleased to meet you," Willow said, waving at both women with a shy little smile. Harry greeted Emma with a smile and turned to Emmeline in surprise.
"I could have sworn you had been sent to Africa to recruit members of the Order," he said in a low voice so that he should not be overheard by the rest of the world passing them by.
Emmeline glanced up and met the quiet gaze of the elder Potter girl and returned her attention back to Harry. "We've been recalled from abroad," she said hastily, handing off the suitcase to her daughter. "Emma just spent the past two weeks in Greece working for the Order there."
"It was great seeing you again, Emma," Buffy said quickly before more awkward questions could be asked. "I'll see you in a few days?"
"You bet you will," Emma said, tugging on her mother's arm. "Come on, Mom. It's good seeing you again, Harry. You, too, Willow."
As the Vance women hurried away, Harry immediately turned to Buffy. She knew what was coming and attempted to hurry through the crowd back to retrieve their luggage. Once they had arrived at the location, she couldn't stop the flood of questions from her younger brother, who had an unquenchable curiosity that made him the perfect Gryffindor. He knew that she knew more than she was letting on, since she hadn't spoken since saying goodbye to Emma. And yet… he didn't know.
Once they had picked up their luggage, they were halfway to one of the exits when another voice, this time a male one, called out, "Buffy!"
She turned, and judging by the look on her face, it was someone she really wasn't expecting to see. Dropping her suitcase, she ran across the floor, her carry-on and purse digging painfully in her hip as she reached the person who had called and threw her arms around him.
Harry just snorted, rolled his eyes, and walked away while Willow watched the happy couple, her head tilted slightly. Pulling herself out of her reverie, she and Harry reached the doors and were soon called to by the happy couple, now trouping hand-in-hand across the floor.
"Look who I happened to pick up," Buffy said, smiling fondly up at Oliver, who beamed down at her before turning to greet both Harry and Willow.
It was another hour before they finally reached the flat. Willow took in the rather bleak neighborhood but didn't want to comment until she was inside the apartment. It turned out to be on the third floor and the elevator was something that had been invented in medieval times she decided. It was so rickety she supposed it would have been safer to fly an airplane to this room.
The apartment itself was somewhat of a surprise. From what she had been able to gather, Harry's parents had left him with quite a bit of money. Combined with the small fortune given to their first-born, it was obviously being spent on this flat. Their furniture was warm and modern, with three fireplaces, which were essential in communicating with the outside Wizarding world, or so Harry told her. There were large bay windows which overlooked a quaint little park across the street. The kitchen was small and almost all silver and black metal. There were two bedrooms on the single floor and two more up a small set of stairs leading into a loft. And after a quick tour of the flat, Willow realized she was going to enjoy living here.
The bookshelves in the living room were crammed full of books with titles like, "Security Issues for Wizards" and "101 Friendly Household Pests for Any Muggle". The tea set on the end table kept sprouting hot water and skating across the smooth surface. The television set appeared to be possessed, since it would either turn on at the strangest time or else a figure would walk across the screen while it was turned off and start shouting at whomever was within distance. Even odder still was the fact that five times a day things flew through the fireplace on the far wall, landing with a thud on the floor in front of the television. The plants in the room were also quite strange to Willow's eye, as they kept flowering and shedding their petals. The radio that always seemed to be on played strange music from the Wizarding Wireless Network. The rug on the floor kept changing colors. There were endless examples on why this flat wasn't any normal flat.
Willow finally closed herself up in the small bedroom underneath the loft. It was one of the two guest rooms and Willow was only too happy to claim it. Until the mirror started sniggering at her unkempt and scruffy appearance, asking her if she preferred to roll with hogs instead of living among the… living. The mirror was so bad at punning that Willow drew a cover over it as it snickered and called her some rather rude names.
Even as she showered in the miniscule bathroom she and Harry were unfortunate enough to share, she slept for awhile, only waking up when the sounds of explosions came from the living room. Rising and dressing, Willow walked into the room to find two identical redheads standing in front of a very stunned looking Buffy. One was apologizing profusely while cleaning up the bits of shattered coffee cup at her feet with their wand. The other was bestowing a bouquet of flowers that were singing some high-pitched, obnoxious tune, calling it a homecoming gift.
"Willow!" Buffy cried, finally glad to have something else to draw her attention to. "Get over here!"
Willow walked until she was standing next to Buffy, who immediately grabbed her arm and pulled her in front of her rather petite form. "You guys remember Willow, right?" she asked brightly.
"Oh, she's a bitty little redhead!" one of the twins in a striped shirt said, beaming enigmatically at her.
"She's cute for a redhead," the other said, grinning at her. "She could pass for one of us."
"She could pass for one of us," the first said, his eyes widening. "Is she Yankee?"
"Of course I'm a Yankee," Willow said, folding her arms. "And I'm pretty sure I'm not related to anyone on this side of the ocean. If I was, I'd have to go and drown myself in that fishtank called a bathtub in the other room!"
"We're not that bad," said the first twin, looking revolted.
"Yeah, we're not, are we Teeny Tiny?" the second asked, yelling in the direction of the Kitchen, where she was hastily preparing lunch.
"I heard that!" came her sing-song reply.
Lunch, as was usual with the Weasley twins, was chaotic and quite entertaining. When Fred, the one who had first spoken to her had snorted something from his nose, it actually grew legs and started tapdancing. Willow was so mortified that Harry actually stood up, walked to the other side of the table, and slapped the back of Fred's head with a disgusted glare. George completely topped it though when the glasses they were all drinking from developed fangs and tried to snap off the mouths that tried to drink from them.
Buffy was quite happy to see the twins again. Things hadn't really been strained between them, even when they'd seen her as a marked woman. They had taken it all with a swift bit of humor, especially during their Hogwarts visits. "Here comes the Queen of Voldemort!" the would say. Harry said they had treated him the same way when everyone thought he had been Salazar Slytherin's heir. Buffy was grateful they weren't too angry, although she could hardly see why.
However, the truth came to her that afternoon. Since the twins had come by to meet Buffy's newest roommate, she welcomed their company, even offering chips and dip, which had been the extent of their lunch. Oliver had departed as soon as Buffy had walked in the door for the Ministry, and Harry was eager to write to Ron and Hermione.
It was around mid-afternoon when Fred saw Buffy sitting on the outside veranda, on a chaise lounge with a bottle of beer resting on the table next to her, her issue of Vogue in her hands.
"I was hoping I could see you alone," he said in a low voice, taking the other lounge chair on the opposite end of the table.
"It's nice to see you too," she said with a sunny smile, which wavered the instant she saw the dark and very serious look in his eyes. She lowered her sunglasses and set her magazine aside. "You have a serious face, and I'm not liking it," she realized.
"I realize I do, for the first time ever," Fred replied as he stared out at the park before turning back to look at the woman he respected a hell of a lot more than he ever thought he'd respect anyone. "Buffy… we have to talk about what happened last year."
"Between us?" she asked lightly, not wanting to dwell on this subject, especially since George would make both of their lives truly miserable if he ever got wind of any of it. "Or—"
"Not… not that," Fred said quickly. "I meant about the night you went all…"
"The night I got the power," Buffy replied, her hand unconsciously reaching for the tiny pendant she always wore. "You know that it's not really a popular topic with me, right?"
"I get it," Fred said quickly, looking the other way. "I just… you know. You've told everyone and their mother about what happened, but considering that George and I were your first friends, besides our revolting brother," he added, making a grotesque face, "I would really have liked to hear it from you instead of the Quibbler."
Buffy felt a slight twinge of guilt as she looked at the park across the road. Finally, she sighed. "I… I know this is going to sound either silly or stupid, but I did it because you're the only two who have ever treated me normally. If you'd known the real me… I was worried I was going to lose all of that."
"What would make you think that?" Fred demanded, staring hard at her now. "You're the bloody third arm of our little operation, Potter."
"I think you know why," she admitted before turning to meet his gaze. "I watched how bad Percy had it because of his little… argument. I don't want to lose your family, Fred. They're pretty much the family I have over here, besides Harry, really."
Fred's face seemed to relax a bit as he turned back to stare at the sunlight. "I just wish you'd been honest."
"I haven't been honest with myself," Buffy retorted, folding her arms. "How could I be honest with you? I mean, look at what we've been through together…"
"I remember," he said, and as he turned away, he smiled. "I'm just worried that the next time you turn all dark-magic, you'll die and I won't…" He trailed off then. "Well, thanks for the little chat. It's probably going to end up being the one time you'll ever have a serious conversation with me."
"Anytime," Buffy murmured as Fred left her to her own disturbing thoughts.
Oliver returned shortly before nightfall that evening and found Buffy still out on the terrace, the same bottle in her hands as she stared at the lights from the cars below.
"You okay?" he asked, gently wrapping an arm over her shoulders.
"Five by five," she replied automatically.
"In other words, you're not," Oliver said, hugging her to him. "Do I have to guess what's on your mind or are you going to give me a little hint?"
"It's just been a weird kind of day," she admitted, turning to him. "Don't worry… I'll be back to normal Buffy sooner than you think." She feigned a bright smile. "See? Buffy's back."
Oliver wasn't fooled, not for a moment. He'd known her a year now, and that wasn't speaking of their mixed signals and their hormonal drives in the beginning. She was the closest thing he had ever known, and seeing her in some sort of inner turmoil was causing his own heart to throb rather painfully against his chest.
Harry managed to make them a small salad for dinner, but Buffy barely picked at it. Shortly before nine, the fireplace came to life again and Percy appeared. Willow fought back her own emotions when she saw the angst in the embrace Buffy and Percy shared. While it didn't have any of the romantic inclusion that the embrace with Oliver had, theirs held love, respect and a lot of powerful emotions. Percy glanced at her as she pulled back. "You okay?" he asked, echoing Oliver's words of just a few hours before.
"I'm… well, you know," she said vaguely, tilting her head outdoors. Percy followed her, closing the door behind him.
"I take it your homecoming hasn't been what you thought it'd be," he said under his voice as he joined her at the railing.
"Did you do it?" she asked quietly.
"I made the call right after you asked," Percy replied, running a hand through his red curls. "Don't worry. They'll be there in the morning, waiting for you. Is this what's bothering you?" he asked, as sudden realization hit him.
"Harry doesn't know," Buffy replied. "I don't want him to, not yet."
"He's going to figure it out, especially if he gets the Daily Prophet like so many in our world do," Percy pointed out.
"Will you be there?" she asked, turning back to face him.
"Do you want me to be?" he asked curiously. She nodded. "I guess I'll see you at ten, then."
"Sounds good to me," Buffy replied, as she saw Harry inside, Hedwig on his arm. "I really should tell him what happened… but… I don't know how he's going to take it."
"Just tell him," Percy replied. "It'll be over before you know it. I'll even distract the other girl."
"Willow, Perce. Her name is Willow," Buffy said, a smile playing around her lips. Willow was sitting in one of the very comfortable chairs by the crackling fire, poring over the many magical books she and Harry had managed to acquire for the flat. "Send him out?"
Percy grasped her hand before disappearing inside. She waited only a short minute before Harry appeared, Hedwig flying off into the night over their heads.
"Buffy? What's wrong? Percy said you wanted to talk to me," Harry said, his voice full of worry.
"Something happened Friday morning, Harry," Buffy said, her hands folding and unfolding as she thought of a way to tell her brother what she was about to tell him. "It's about Aunt Petunia and… our cousin."
"What?" Harry gasped, stunned. "Are they… are they all right?"
Buffy shook her head no. "Dudley's okay. He's spending some time in St. Mungo's, so he'll be okay. But Aunt Petunia…" Her voice trailed off as bitter tears came to her eyes. Harry reached out to grasp her hand as he saw the anguish across her face. "They tortured her, maimed her. They abused her… they cursed and hexed her. They did this all in front of Uncle Vernon after they finished hurting Dudley. They were able to break the charm on the house because you weren't there… they knew what they were doing… and they didn't stop. They hurt her… they pushed her…"
He saw that this was causing some trouble for her, especially since Petunia was the one relative she had alive she actually could tolerate aside from Harry.
"They incinerated her, Harry," she finally said, staring out into the darkness. "They razed the house to the ground. By the time the Aurors got there, Uncle Vernon was gone. What they did with him… I don't know. All I know is that Aunt Petunia was tortured before they finally killed her. And Dudley…" Her voice cracked finally under the strain of hiding this truth for the entire weekend. "Dudley was tortured to the point where they drove him to insanity. Our cousin's insane, just like he always thought we were…"
Harry could barely take any of this in. His relatives had been bastards, yes, especially since they had made his own life a living hell. But he was terrified. He had felt his scar burning so brightly as he slept, yet he'd been unable to wake up, as though he were being smothered…
"Buffy," he asked suddenly, "why did they get through? What made them get through the barrier?"
"Me," she said, her voice barely above a whisper. "Harry… my blood's been tainted because of this." She pressed her hand to the Dark Mark, still existing under the silky texture of her blouse. "They were able to just walk in and do whatever they liked because I have Potter blood, the blood that inadvertently passed over the protective barrier, allowing them to… to… I don't think anyone has a word for what they've done."
"How did you know?" Harry asked, his voice lost in the awe he felt at hearing what he'd just been told.
"I guess this Mark is both a blessing and a curse," she said bitterly. "I knew what they were doing because I could sense it… and now… we've just lost our last link to the Muggle world. Our Aunt is dead, our Uncle is God-knows-where and Dudley has just received a one-way ticket to insanity."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Harry asked, his shock giving way to anger. "I'm an adult, Buffy, I can take anything they can throw at me."
"I didn't tell you because I chose not to," Buffy replied, her voice hardening. "Don't you dare start blaming me for things I thought were responsible, especially since you've had enough weight on your shoulders ever since this blasted war began."
He watched as she passed behind him, retreating to the shadows under the eaves. "I'm not mad because of that… it's just that, you should have told me. I lived with them. I grew up with them. I had a right to know."
"It's only the beginning of what's to come," Buffy said, her voice echoing from the shadows. "I can feel this huge storm coming. More people are going to die. War is crazy and stupid and people die. I just don't want it to be you."
Harry quietly walked over and put his hand on her shoulder. "I won't get myself killed in some stupid play if that's what you're asking," he assured her.
She didn't look convinced. "Harry, if you're anything like the Dad according to Lupin and Sirius, we're in trouble."
"What's going on tomorrow?" Harry asked casually. "I know it had something to do with Emmeline Vance. She was in the Order, I met her last year."
"I told Percy to get the Order together," Buffy replied. "He's the one who has the link to Dumbledore again, so he made the call. Emmeline was over in Africa. Emma was in Greece. Every single member of the Order from all over the world are being gathered. I think it's because of these dreams Faith and I have been having that I finally realized something."
"What do you know?" he asked her, dread in his heart already.
"He's moving, Harry. He's planning the last offensive and if we don't act soon, no one is going to survive what's coming," Buffy replied, moving back into the light. Her eyes had a strange sparkle to them and she was frowning rather deeply. "He's coming for you, and there is nothing I can do to stop him. Because if he calls…" Her voice trailed off again.
"If he calls and you don't go to him, you're dead, aren't you?" he asked flatly.
She nodded. "I guess you see the reason why I'm leaving in a few weeks, huh?"
"I understand why," Harry admitted grudgingly. "It doesn't mean I'll accept it."
She walked over and hugged him then, rather tightly. "I love you, you big goof."
"I love you, too, you little brat," he said teasingly, tipping her chin.
Together, the Potter siblings went inside.
- - - - -
Buffy was the last person to go to bed, as was usual in her household. The satellite dish just held so many more options than going to bed at the ungodly hour of ten in the evening, which is when Oliver, by his set Quidditch standards and rules, turned in.
She slipped in under the covers next to him, careful not to disturb him. She was nearly there when his sleepy voice dryly commented, "Your feet are cold."
Smirking, she pressed them to his shins. "You gonna make them better?"
His hands reached out in the darkness and pulled her down to him. "I always make it better," he said, smiling sleepily.
She found that she couldn't quite disagree.
Morning came, and with it the usual tapping on the window. Buffy rose, wrapped herself in a robe, and made her way to the window where an owl was waiting patiently. After paying it, she walked back to the bed, opening the Daily Prophet. Oliver was still wrapped in the warm blankets and refused to move, while she sat on the bed next to him, crinkling the paper loudly and muttering to herself. It was their normal morning routine, and since both of their bad habits drove the other quite out of their mind, it was something that seriously needed to be worked on.
He broke first, and grumbling took the bathroom. She smiled cheekily, dumped the paper on the bed, and skipped downstairs to make coffee. Willow was already awake, curled on the sofa, reading yet another one of the books.
"Don't you ever get bored of those?" Buffy asked with a yawn as she plugged in her grinder and poured the beans on top.
"I don't see it happening any time soon," Willow replied back as she carefully marked her page and closed the book. "What's on tap today?"
Buffy smiled as she added the grounds to the filter and turned the machine on. "How would you like a first-hand account of London?"
"I'm assuming your presence isn't going to be had," Willow said, seeing the serious look on the Slayer's face.
"Harry will be going with you," Buffy replied, leaning against the counter and crossing her arms. "I have a meeting this morning and it really is one he's not ready for. I figure to have a mega-Wicca with him can only help him… if there's something bad that happens."
"I'll do my best, Buff, but it really isn't that much, compared to what you've learned and all," Willow replied, rising and walking to the island. Buffy had moved to the refrigerator and was pulling out a loaf of bread, jam and butter. Setting a toaster on the island, she plugged it in and pushed it to Willow, who started to make herself breakfast.
"Thanks, Wil," Buffy said, giving her a genuine smile. "I knew I could count on you."
Harry appeared ten minutes later with the smell of toast cooking. After handing him a mug of coffee, Buffy retreated upstairs just as Oliver stomped down, grumbling under his breath as he toweled off his hair. Harry hid a smirk behind his hand while Willow looked curiously at her best friend's boyfriend.
"It's their thing," Harry explained between mouthfuls of toast. "She makes him angry and he gets his cranky on, or so she calls it. He gets her back and she'll be all hostile. They always make up before the day is up. Honestly, I can't see these two living together."
"He doesn't live here?" Willow asked in surprise as she wrapped her hands around the warm mug.
"He's just staying here because his brother and sister are at home. That, and he never gets to see her anymore," Harry replied, taking another slice of bread and sticking it into the toaster. "So, what's going on today?"
"You're going to show me around London," Willow replied automatically.
"Oh, better known as Buffy's protection technique?" Harry asked lightly while Willow nodded miserably as she sipped at her coffee. "I should have known she wouldn't want me to go to the Order meeting today."
"The Order?" Willow asked curiously, wincing as Oliver walked into the Kitchen, poked his head inside the refrigerator, and returned a moment later with a bottle of orange juice. He certainly did look unpleasant, no matter how adorable he was. He poured himself a glass and, sipping it, retreated upstairs. A few moments later, they heard a loud shriek and the sound of muffled laughter from behind the closed door.
"See? I told you it always happens," Harry said, taking his toast and adding liberal amounts of butter and jam to it.
Willow returned to her room and dressed quickly. When she came out, Harry stared at her a moment before his jaw opened and he laughed. Willow knew she looked like a tourist, right down to the map and the digital camera she'd managed to get the past Christmas from her parents.
Buffy and Oliver emerged from her room a few minutes after, both of them dressed and arguing quite plainly about the difference between thread-count on sheets.
Harry snorted with impatience and checked his watch. "Let's go. It'll be noon before these two finally get anywhere."
"I heard that!" Buffy shouted after him. "Be careful, you two! I don't want to find my brother dead in some brothel when you get back!"
Willow just gave Buffy a quick wave before ducking out.
Oliver had taken Harry's old seat and was now making himself toast. "So, we finally have this place to ourselves."
"If you didn't have to leave for work, I'd have to do something about that," Buffy said, coming up behind him and taking her coffee. Their eyes met and she pulled back, clearing her throat slightly. "Have they made up their minds yet?" she asked.
He shrugged. "As soon as they do, one of the other unions pipes up. Honestly, they can't make up their minds about anything!" he said, looking frustrated as his toast popped up.
"That sounds like the Ministry," she said as she sipped at her coffee. "I do hope they eventually let you out, since you'll be out of here in a few weeks…" Her voice trailed off.
"Did you actually think we could live together?" Oliver asked her incredulously as she stared at him, her hazel eyes burning into his.
"It's not like it matters, anyway," Buffy replied, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "I'll be gone in a few weeks and you'll be off playing Quidditch for Scotland again. So, I figure, we play now and deal later."
"I like the way your mind works," he said, handing her a slice of toast before turning to eat the other.
"Nice distraction," she said, arching one eyebrow as she munched on her toast.
"Well, I had to do something. You're wearing your tense face. If I didn't know you any better, I'd say that you're worried about this meeting today."
"Worried is a bit of an understatement," Buffy said, draining her mug and setting it aside. "There's something big and bad coming and for once, this Slayer is out of this fight and into another."
"Why did you have to be the one to make the call?" Oliver asked as he finished his own breakfast and began to clean up the small Kitchen.
"I see things," Buffy replied uncomfortably, twisting in her spot. "Besides, I'm the one with the Mark and it's not like half of the Order trusts the only other person in the group who has the same Mark."
"You mean Snape?" Oliver asked curiously as he set the dishes in the sink. "I think I'd much rather have you calling the shots."
She moved forward to set her cup in the sink. As she pulled away, he took her by the shoulders. "Be careful, okay?" he asked, resting his forehead against hers. "I don't need you to be all stressed out, especially since Harry's been high-strung since you told him last night and your friend from California's here."
"I know," she said, relaxing against him. "I'll be careful. I promise."
"That's all I ask," he said, kissing the top of her head. "I should probably go."
"Me, too," she said, and they both walked out of the Kitchen and came to a stop in front of the fireplace. She took the pot of Floo powder and offered it to him first. He took some and, as he stepped into the fire, threw his handful down, saying "Ministry of Magic – London."
She took her own handful and spoke clearly, "Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place, London."
In a vast rush of green flames, Buffy once again found herself in her favored method of Wizarding travel – fire.
She appeared in the fireplace of Grimmauld Place. As she stood up, an arm caught hers and pulled her upwards. She found herself face-to-face with Harry's godfather and Faith's older brother, Sirius Black. "Hey," she said as he pulled her out of the way of the fireplace, which had sprung to life again.
The dining room was rather full despite the fact the meeting didn't start for another hour yet. Buffy soon greeted Lupin and Tonks and the newly arriving Vance women. The Weasleys soon descended from the rooms they'd spent the night in and Buffy found herself welcoming a warm reunion with the family she'd never had.
Molly was gracious as usual, hugging the Potter girl warmly. Arthur was next, firing off as many questions as he could during the two minutes they had to talk before the next group of people arrived. Buffy noticed that Charlie and Bill had come with them and found herself chatting with them before Sirius pulled her away.
"I heard you saw my sister," he said gruffly.
"That's right," Buffy replied quickly; she'd just spotted Percy leaving the Dining Room, looking mortified at the direction the conversation within was heading. "I said goodbye to her on Friday."
"We'll talk later," Sirius said, patting her arm as Percy walked breathlessly over to her and pulled her into a corner. Opening his cloak, he handed her a folder.
"It's all here," he said as she opened it, checking everything. He saw the relief pass across her face. "Is it good?"
"It works," she said, setting the folder aside as Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape all arrived. Dumbledore called the meeting to order in the drawing room upstairs and more than forty people found themselves settling in chairs and lining up around the walls. Buffy sat down between Percy and Emma on the couch and stared avidly at the man who, up until a month ago, she had called her Headmaster.
The first thing Dumbledore did was welcome the Witches and Wizards who had come in for the meeting from abroad. He also welcomed the three newest members of the Order, which included Buffy and Emma. And then he started talking.
"I have called you all here today to discuss the dire situation that has fallen upon us," Albus began, glancing at all of the worried, dire faces around him. "From a rather hard-core source, we have uncovered the latest of Voldemort's plans, one of which was carried out late last week: the death of one Miss Petunia Dursley. He was thus hoping that Harry Potter would still reside where his blood protection would be greatest. Not being there, there was no protection left and it left the house open to massacre.
"He has gathered many more followers this past summer from use of both the Imperious curse and many, many other methods. The attack on the Dursleys is just the beginning, I'm afraid."
He continued talking about the past few attacks on Muggles and the last attempt to make the Muggle world more painfully aware of the Wizarding world that co-existed with them.
Buffy was painfully aware that she had seen all of this coming. She listened intently as the discussion turned to tactics.
It was then she felt it, just under the surface. It was a prickling pain and her hand reached down to clutch her tattoo. Percy saw her movement and his eyes narrowed as his gaze turned immediately to Professor Snape, who had made no movement and gave no indication he felt anything. But Buffy had averted her eyes downward. There was definitely something wrong.
- - - - -
"Are you sure you don't mind this Harry?"
"What? Oh, no," Harry replied, glancing at the large carousel in front of them. "Although, isn't that more of a child's toy?"
"It's for any age," Willow replied, giving him a dry look as she pulled her daypack onto her back and quickly paid two carnival tickets for the ride.
They had just spent the past two hours browsing through the different markets. Willow seemed perfectly happy to torture Harry with the prospect of dragging him through as many stores as possibly without buying anything. She called it window shopping. He preferred to call it a waste of time.
At the end of one particular market, they had come upon a small charity carnival. Willow, deciding to pursue torturing Harry, had dragged him to it. After a half hour of throwing rings around water glasses and winning stuffed animals as large as him, they had finally come to the one event that seemed the most popular – an old-fashioned merry-go-round. Willow had immediately gone for the small pack of carnival tickets she had left. And Harry had been forced to lug around the rather large black-and-white dog she'd won in the ring-toss. It wasn't until she waved him through that he decided that he had get her back, torture her somehow. She was having way too much fun with this.
Harry set down the dumb stuffed dog and took one of the beautiful horses. As the music began and the carousel began to move, Harry saw Willow sitting on the horse in front of him, her red hair blowing in the wind. Faces were surrounding them, several with cameras as over-excited little children waved enthusiastically as they rode past their winded parents. He saw other little kids pointing and waving to their friends. He saw teenagers snickering as they saw someone they knew and didn't like riding. All too quickly it came to him a memory of a long time ago… how much Dudley had liked riding the carousel.
The world came back to him in a startling rush. The ride was winding down and the music was starting to wane. As the cage stopped, he got back to his feet and grabbed the stuffed animal, burying his face in its fur. Willow saw the look on his face and pulled him away. "Let's go."
Outside, he was better able to breathe. Willow gave him plenty of space, looking guilty for indulging her childhood want. Sighing, she hugged him for a long minute before pulling back. "You feeling better, Harry? Do you want some soda or water?"
"Maybe later," he said, realizing that his stomach was still in knots, no matter how hungry he was. "It's just that… my cousin used to love the carousel. He… did Buffy tell you what happened to him?"
"No, she didn't," Willow said, her face switching from kindly to concern. "What happened?"
It took Harry a very painful ten minutes to tell her. Willow looked mortified and passed a hand over her face. "I knew something was bothering her… I never dreamed it could have been this."
"The thing is, I felt it. My scar burns when Voldemort goes off on his little missions to hurt the people I… I didn't really care about the Dursleys, but they were my family. Until last year, they were my only family. Now they're gone and… Dudley's insane. He'll never be able to see the true light of day again and I… I…"
Willow leaned over and hugged him again, holding him to her. "It's all right, Harry."
"How can you say that?" he asked, angry tears slipping from his eyes. "How can you tell me everything's going to be all right? My Aunt is dead! My cousin is insane and my Uncle is missing! My sister just went off to some secret meeting…"
"It's not like I haven't lost people, too," Willow said, a bitterness in her voice. "I lost my childhood best friend a few years ago. He was turned into a vampire."
Harry looked up at her tragic face, his eyes uncomprehending. "What?"
"It was horrible," Willow replied, folding her trembling hands. "I watched my best friend turn into a demon and there was nothing I could do except that… Well, I don't know. War happens. People die. In many cases, when someone wants to kill you, they'll know where to hit you. This guy whose been after you, he knows how to hurt you. He took your Aunt and Uncle and he claimed your sister last winter."
"There's only so much someone can take before they reach their breaking point," Harry replied quietly. "Voldemort wants to break me? Let him try… I've been almost dead before. I can take it."
"Don't say that!" Willow gasped. "Never, ever believe death is what it is. He wants to break you, Harry. He wants you weak."
"He's only making me stronger," Harry said, the tears gone now. What remained was a grim determination. "He can take my friends, my family and my hope. But in the end, he'll only be facing me."
Willow didn't really know what to say. She just patted his back in a sort of comforting matter she used to recall she got from her parents, when they used to give a damn about her. Rising, she saw the food vendors in the distance.
"Let's get some lunch, okay?" she asked him quietly.
"All right," Harry replied, getting up and following Willow, leaving the stuffed dog behind.
A few moments later, Willow realized this and hurried to collect him before her prize fell into the arms of some sugar-stuffed little kid.
- - - - -
"That was highly informative," Emma commented as she and Buffy walked downstairs to the dining room three hours later,
"Oh, completely," Buffy said, pinching her nose to get rid of the headache underneath the surface. "I need some caffeine and I need it badly."
"Try this," Emma said, opening the pantry and pulling out two bottles. She twisted the cap from one and handed it to her friend, who took it gratefully. It was then her eyes spied a folder sitting on the edge of one of the counters. "What's that?"
"The coroner's report," Buffy replied, leaning over to retrieve it. "You know, the regular police coroner's report?"
"Why did you want that for?" Emma asked quietly.
"I have to know if my Aunt's death was considered anything other than natural," Buffy replied. "I know the Aurors have their own copy, but Percy was kind enough to get me this." She opened the folder and started scanning the contents intently.
"Oh, my…" Emma whispered, reading over Buffy's shoulder. "Those are… pretty detailed."
"Yeah, they are," Buffy said, finally coming to a spot where photographs had been added. The first one took her breath away. It was a picture of Dudley and the entire package attached to it were pictures showing the extent of his injuries. Pressing a hand to her twisted stomach, she came to the pictures of Petunia. And the pictures of the house were last.
"Those are horrible," Emma said, her dark eyes wide with shock. "Buffy, I…"
"It's okay," she said, closing the folder at last and setting it aside again. "When this meeting is over, I'm going to go to Privet Drive. I know Surrey is a ways away, so I'm hoping for some wacky travel voucher."
"Does… does Dumbledore know you have that information?" Emma asked tentatively.
"I'm not sure," Buffy said with a shrug. "The point is, this is what I do."
"Miss Potter, Miss Vance, how… nice to see you both."
Emma let out a tiny squeak. Even at seventeen, the presence of her former Potions teacher was still quite horrifying.
"I was wondering if I may speak to Miss Potter alone, Vance."
"Of course," Emma said, and all but dashed away. Buffy took her bottle and the folder and walked over to the table where Severus Snape was standing.
"What's up?" she asked him, dropping into one of the crooning chairs. Seeing the look on his face, she rolled her eyes. "Did you have something you wanted to talk about, or am I just supposed to guess the reason for the look-of-impending-doom on your face?"
"I know that you were in some considerable pain during these past few hours," he finally replied, staring hard at her. "I, too, felt this pain." His hand indicated his left-sleeve and Buffy's hand moved unconsciously to cover her own tattoo.
"I guess we all have a few scars to worry about," she mumbled as she drank her soda. "It doesn't really bother me anymore. Do you know how active this was last year?"
"This is only the beginning," Snape said in his ominous voice.
"You know what? That's bull," Buffy snapped, losing control of her patience completely. "This stupid war began when Voldemort started taking sides, right? My parents died in the war. This may be the second war, but it is far from the beginning. In fact, I think it's coming to an end."
"How would you know?" Severus asked, his calculating eyes never leaving her face.
"These attacks are becoming personal," Buffy replied. "I think Voldemort is trying to attack Harry to make him weak. He already got me. He just needed a little incentive for his Muggle relatives and he got that. Our only living relatives are either dead or driven to insanity, and I don't think that…" Her words trailed off and she stared hard at the folder before her. "I have to go to Surrey. Do you think I could use a Portkey?"
"I am certain it could be arranged," Severus replied. "About your reasoning, I know that it may seen that this war is almost over…"
"It has to be," Buffy said, standing up. "Harry's getting toward the end of his tether. If this war doesn't end soon, it'll break him. I'm not going to watch it happen. I'll die first." Turning, she collected her things and disappeared back upstairs.
- - - - -
Harry and Willow both collected their hot dogs and oversized lemonades and made their way back through the carnival.
"Thanks for lunch," Willow told him, smiling as she added vast amounts of condiments to the top of her foot-long treat.
"No problem," Harry replied as he jammed a straw in the top of his drink. "Should we find a place to eat this?"
"Sure," Willow replied, watching Harry eye the rather American foot-long warily. Her lips twitched as though she were holding in laughter as she led the way across the grounds.
They found a picnic table on the far end of the park and ate quietly. Harry really didn't want to think all of these dark thoughts that kept threatening to erupt. Willow didn't want to push him, although she was only beginning to get her tourist on.
She noticed that Harry suddenly reached up for his scar, his eyes widening. Willow could see her own mortified face reflected in the bright green gems. "What is it?" she asked.
"I… I don't know," Harry replied, pressing his hand to his scar. "I just feel…"
Her eyes lifted from his face and widened in horror. There were figures approaching… figures in long, black cloaks. "Would it have anything to do with the fact that there's a bunch of guys in long black cloaks after us?"
"You know, that may be it," Harry replied sarcastically, turning to look behind him. His face froze, a mask of horror. "Run."
Both Willow and Harry took off across the park and reached a fence. Harry cleanly scaled it and waited to help Willow over to the other side. When they turned to the street, they saw an entire semi-circle of black-cloaks waiting for them.
"What do we do?" Willow asked, whimpering.
"This way," Harry said, and they took off towards the right, running as fast as they could, their lunch and the stupid stuffed animal abandoned.
Figures were coming at them from all angles, and Harry saw the flash of a wand every few paces. Stopping abruptly, he took Willow's arm and pulled her into an alley.
"Keep running!" he said as he heard Willow's boots clicking on the pavement behind them. "Keep—"
His voice was cut off as a figure came from nowhere.
"Harry!" Willow screamed as Harry went flying into the brick wall. "No!"
Two figures came up from behind her and held onto her arms, dragging her backwards. She fought them off, finally winning over by elbowing one in the head and kicking the other one in the legs before throwing herself in front of Harry. "Get out of here!" she said angrily, holding out her arms to protect Harry as he struggled to his feet, looking dazed.
"Out of my way, you stupid mudblood," the man hissed.
"Malfoy," Harry muttered behind her.
"I'm no mudblood," Willow snapped, raising her hands, closing her eyes. She felt something pass from the ground beneath her feet to her fingertips. The power went outwards, knocking all three off of their feet. Turning, she helped Harry straighten up and both ran out of the alley and into the street.
"Okay, who are those guys?" she gasped.
"Death Eaters," Harry rasped. "They're the ones that want to… Willow, look out!"
He heard her scream as she was hexed across the cobblestone street. Harry turned, pulling out his own wand as Willow collapsed. "Stay away from her!" he shouted as twelve Death Eaters began to surround him.
"Take the Mudblood," came Lucius Malfoy's slippery tone. "We will make her an example of why our power wins over all…"
"You will not touch her," Harry snarled, lifting his wand to the two Death Eaters that had stepped forward.
"No," said a sharp female voice as a feminine hand whipped off her hood. "No, baby Potter. You can't touch this." There was a flash and a beautiful dagger was in her hand. "She is going to bleed and you are going to watch."
"Like hell I am," Willow said, throwing off the curse completely as she stood up, glaring at the woman standing before her. "I'm taking that."
Harry was pulled back forcefully, his wand falling and rolling away. He could only cry out as Bellatrix Lestrange and Willow fought. It was over rather quickly as Bellatrix was kicked down to the curb. Willow dodged her wild hex and turned, only to come face-to-face with her husband.
Harry didn't have time to react as the knife Willow now carried was turned against its wielder. He shouted, cried out as it sank into Willow's stomach. With a groan, she fell to her knees.
"Willow! No! Let… me… go!" Harry cried, struggling against the constraints holding him away from the best friend of his sister.
There was the sound of popping as Aurors suddenly appeared, but Harry could only watch as bright colors flashed before his eyes as he stumbled over to Willow, who was lying on her side, her hands cradling the dagger still digging into her abdomen. The cobblestone street was already stained with her blood.
"Harry… get out of here…" she whispered, her face turning grey as she looked at him. "Just… go…"
"I'm not leaving you," he said, reaching for the knife, but her bloody hand knocked his own away.
"Please… just go… you can't die… not now…"
"Willow, no," Harry said resolutely as he reached for her again. "I'm not leaving you," he repeated emphatically.
"It's… not worth… your life…"
Harry stood up and turned to go when a cold hand clasped his shoulder.
He turned about.
And his jaw dropped open.
- - - - -
Ends on a cliffhanger, I know. Next, reader's and reviewer's comments to be posted next chapter.