Timeline: So, I wrote this after OOtP for Harry Potter, but this fic takes place during his seventh year. The intervening history is explained. As for Buffy, this fic is set after The Wish in the 3rd season, but Faith is not a character.
Summary: Harry Potter has defeated Voldemort, but is now unhappy and adrift. As a desperate measure to try to force him back to life (so to speak), Albus Dumbledore sends him to Sunnydale, CA, the Boca del Inferno (Hellmouth), to help Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co. battle a menacing evil. Probably no Harry/anyone romance, just friendship. No slash.
Author Note: Please leave me a review and some constructive criticism (or just a review, if that's all you have time for!). I'll try to update regularly, but college is rather time-consuming, so I make no promises. I do firmly intend to finish this one, though. I apologize to all of you who've read my other fics that have been abandoned.
Disclaimer: What a surprise! I am neither Joss Whedon, nor J.K. Rowling. I am merely a fan of both, and own no rights to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter.
Chapter One-The State of Things
Albus Dumbledore, the aged Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, sat in his office pensively sucking on a lemon drop, gazing into the hypnotizing flames of his often-used fireplace as he absently stroked the brilliant plumage of his phoenix, Fawkes. His melancholy thoughts were focused, as they had often been for the past sixteen years, on young Harry Potter, a wizard more powerful even than he and a boy he loved like the son he never had.
In the year and a half or so since his godfather's tragic death at the Department of Mysteries, Harry had achieved a great many things. Copiously using a time turner in secret, he had trained himself long and hard with one ultimate goal in mind: to defeat Voldemort. He had picked up a great many forbidden or incredibly difficult skills, and his constant training had pushed him to magical majority at an unusually young age, revealing him to have a veritable well of power waiting to be used. Even Dumbledore himself had little knowledge of how much Harry knew and was capable of doing. The defense group that he had formed in his fifth year, the DA, had continued in his sixth and now also seventh years, and the skills of every member in nearly all uses of magic had increased astonishingly. Neville Longbottom had proven himself to be quite an adept wizard, when given a proper wand and sufficient confidence, much to his teachers' shock and Harry's quiet pride.
Nevertheless, despite his growth as both a wizard and leader, Harry had done his best to distance himself from his friends for fear that they would be injured. Of course, Ron and Hermione had had none of that, and had only clung to him tighter the more he tried to pull away.
Ron and Hermione. The thought of those two names always brought mixed feelings to the old wizard. Of course, he was saddened by their deaths. They had been two of the finest students he had ever had the pleasure of knowing. However, he also felt an irrational anger towards the two whose deaths had nearly destroyed the one who was so close to his heart. Harry had not yet begun to recover from their loss, and Dumbledore feared that he never would.
And, of course, at the end of last school year, Harry had done what he had always been destined to do: he had defeated Voldemort, alone, in the Forbidden Forest, surrounded by jeering Death Eaters, after participating in and almost single-handedly winning an enormous battle on the grounds of Hogwarts, in which two students and nearly two hundred adults on the side of light had been killed. After his final duel with Voldemort, Harry most assuredly would have died, had Severus Snape not rushed him back to Hogwarts for immediate medical attention, not ready for his worst enemy's son to die just as he was beginning to see what an amazing person he was. Several weeks later, Harry had been back on his feet, his step sure with the confidence of youth, but his eyes haunted by all that he had experienced.
It was a true mark of how loved Harry was by all who knew him that they were more concerned by his obvious depression than gleeful at the final destruction of the most dangerous dark wizard in centuries.
He had not even bothered to protest when he was sent back to the Dursleys over the summer, and it was only Ginny Weasley's concern over his lack of correspondence that had caused Dumbledore to visit Harry at his summer residence and to discover just how completely he had failed Harry. The boy-who-lived, the twice-savior of the wizarding world, had been abused by his muggle relatives, apparently for as long as he had lived with them. It was a wonder that he had ever trusted any adults at all. It was a wonder that he no longer seemed to blame Albus for any of the many tragedies which had befallen him.
Harry had been rushed back to Hogwarts and treated for his various wounds and malnourishment, and then had been allowed to stay at the school for the remainder of the summer holidays, spending most of his days studying in the library or flying, an activity which had never ceased to inspire some joy in the otherwise miserable young man. His behavior had continued similarly into the new school year; although he was now more famous than ever, Harry avoided crowds at all costs. He attended his classes consistently but never volunteered to answer questions or demonstrate. His teachers couldn't really complain, since he passed all of his exams perfectly, having long since learned all the NEWT material. He left the teaching of the DA mostly to the other students, although whenever anyone needed help, he was always there to gently guide them.
Harry seemed to take no pleasure in life, and Dumbledore feared greatly for him.
Suddenly, the fireplace blazed green, surprising Dumbledore from his stupor. His cerulean eyes widened only slightly in surprise, a sign that the Headmaster was truly shocked, since he normally seemed imperturbable, at the sight of Rupert Giles' head in his fireplace.
He knew Rupert from several encounters some time ago, in which he had been acting in his capacity in the Wizenmagot. Rupert had been up on the charges of having summoning a rather nasty demon, a very dangerous form of dark arts. Dumbledore, who firmly believed that everyone deserved a second chance, had voted in favor of Rupert, and had afterward helped him secure a sort of internship position in the Watcher's Council, whose job it was to oversee the Vampire Slayer. The last he had heardof Rupert, he had risen to the prestigious position as Watcher for the Slayer three years ago.
Dumbledore smiled slightly at his old friend. "Rupert! It is good to see you, dear boy," he effused.
Giles smiled slightly in return. "Hello, Albus," he replied. "It's been a long time."
"Indeed it has. Three years, I do believe. Oh, forgive me my manners! Would you like a lemon drop?" he proffered the tin which held his self-replenishing supply of candies.
"I think not, Albus," Giles said. "Thanks anyway."
Dumbledore frowned briefly, since he found that conversations in which his visitors refused his lemon drops were invariably more serious and worrisome than those in which the sweets were consumed.
"I presume this is not a social call?" Dumbledore asked, looking closely at the other man over his half-moon glasses.
"I'm afraid not," Giles sighed. "I need your help. You see..."
Dumbledore leaned forward slightly as Giles explained the situation, and, for the first time in a long time, the smallest of twinkles began to form in his eyes. "I think I have the perfect wizard for your problem," he said, stroking his long white beard as he cemented his plans in his mind. Yes, this could be the very thing to get Harry back into the world of the living.
Seventeen year old Harry Potter, Boy-Who-Lived, Defeater-of-You-Know-Who, Head Boy, and Order of Merlin, First Class, sat on top of the Astronomy Tower, his legs dangling fearlessly over the precipice. His faithful owl Hedwig rested on his shoulder, a comforting warmth in the cool Autumn breeze, and coiled tightly around his wrist was a brightly colored coral snake. His piercing emerald eyes stared vaguely out into the darkness of the night, seeming to focus on the dim outline of the Forbidden Forest, illuminated by starlight.
His senses, hyper-alert after all of his training, easily picked up the sound of someone approaching long before they actually arrived. He could tell by the sound of the footsteps and the swish of the robes that it was Snape intruding on his solitude, as always.
Usually, he respected the man for having had more than Gryffindor bravery for the past few decades, being a spy in Voldemort's ranks, a risk that even a foolhardy Gryffindor wouldn't take. Other times, like now, he hated the man for having saved his life.
"Potter," Snape spat his name with less vitriol than he had before Harry's sixth year. "Still believe yourself to be above the rules, do you? It's past curfew."
Harry smiled vaguely at this reminder of the encounters he had used to have with this man, in which he had always been filled with righteous anger at the man's baseless accusations and ruthless insults. Now, he felt little more than a disconnected sort of amusement.
"I'm Head Boy this year," he reminded the professor, unnecessarily. "I'm allowed out past curfew."
Snape sneered. "And what are you doing? I doubt you'll find any late-night rule breakers heading to the Forbidden Forest."
Harry closed his eyes briefly, as if in prayer. "No, I probably won't," he agreed quietly. It was true. After what had happened in the Forbidden Forest, even the most mischievous had given it the wide berth its name had always suggested. He sighed. "Was there something you wanted, Professor?"
In the past, Snape would have bristled at such an impertinent question. Now, though, it was his world-weary tone, not his words, which caught his attention and held his tongue.
"The Headmaster wishes to speak with you."
Harry inclined his head slightly to show that he had heard and understood the request, but stayed staring into the night for several more minutes before reluctantly standing. "Go on, Hedwig," he said to his friend, giving her a slight boost to help her fly off.
As he turned to walk away, Snape fell in beside him. Much as he often did, Snape found himself marveling at the predatory grace in Harry's stride. It gave him a sense of poise and authority, and Snape couldn't remember exactly when the previously unsure and shy boy had picked up the trick. They were silent for the duration of the short journey, except for a murmured "Sacrifice," from Snape to the stone gargoyles guarding the entranceway to Dumbledore's office.
Dumbledore's already-melancholy face seemed to fall into even greater sadness when he saw Harry, as it always did at the sight of his pale, gaunt face and the deep purple bruises under his eyes. He mustered a small welcoming smile and gestured for them to sit down.
"How are you, Harry?" he asked kindly.
Harry blinked. "I'm fine," he responded reflexively. Snape gave a sort of choked laugh.
"How are your classes going?"
"They're fine." Hmph.
"And the DA?"
"It's fine." Cough.
There was a pause.
"Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, what is it you want of me, Professor?" Harry asked, his brilliant green eyes intently probing Dumbledore's blue ones.
Dumbledore frowned. How best to explain to Harry what was to be done. "Well, Harry, I can't help but feel that Hogwarts has not been helping you to recover from everything that happened last year," he began carefully.
A muscle in Harry's jaw visibly clenched. "I'm fine," he insisted. Snape snorted.
"Professor Snape is correct, I'm sorry to say, Harry," Dumbledore gently argued. "It pains me to see you this unhappy, my dear boy."
Harry stared at him for a long moment in disbelief. Finally, he closed his eyes and tilted back his head. An animalistic choking noise escaped his throat, and it appeared for a moment that he was going to burst out laughing. He took several deep breaths, and when he opened his eyes again they were brimming with more emotions than Dumbledore had seen from them in a long time.
"What do you want from me?" Harry demanded. "I've done my duty, don't you see! I've fulfilled my purpose, I've killed Voldemort, I've been your weapon. I've given you everything that I had. Everything! I don't regret it, Professor. We all did what we had to do. I'm content enough. Don't you dare take that away from me with your false platitudes and your useless questions."
Dumbledore recoiled from Harry's tirade as if he had been struck. Was that truly what Harry thought? That he was only Dumbledore's tool, so easily discarded once he had been used?
"Harry," he said sadly, "you cannot truly believe that. There are so many people who care about you: just Harry, not the Boy-Who-Lived, or the Defeater-of-Voldemort, or whatever else the rest of the world is calling you."
Harry glared at him coldly. "All of the people who have loved me have died for me," he hissed. "There is no one left."
Here, Snape could no longer restrain himself. "You could not possibly be so blind!" he exclaimed. "Of course there are people who care about you, you foolish brat. What about the Weasleys, who practically adopted you? What about Longbottom and the rest of your blasted DA? What about Lupin? Your teachers? Do you think yourself so much above them that they are nothing next to your pigheaded greatness?"
"Severus..." Albus murmured reprovingly. It was, after all, his fault that Harry had such low self-esteem.
Nevertheless, Harry's reaction to the verbal assault was telling. He breathed deeply several times as if trying to restrain himself from some kind of outburst. Through gritted teeth, he repeated, "I ask again, what do you want from me? I think I'm entitled to a life of misery, if that's what I choose."
"Perhaps you do, at that," Dumbledore acknowledged sadly. He could deny Harry nothing. "However, I would like to see if we could give you another chance at a better life, if you are willing." Harry did not respond affirmatively or negatively, simply looked at him with the blank gaze to which he had become so accustomed, so he plowed on. "I have a friend who lives in California, the current Watcher of the Slayer Buffy Summers. They are currently experiencing some apocalyptic activity, and have requested that I send a wizard of above-average power to help them. I think that spending some time in a different environment might be good for you."
Harry stared at his Headmaster incredulously. "You want to send me to fight another war? Your good little soldier-puppet who marches to whatever tune you play? God!" He pressed both hands firmly on either side of his head, as if trying to force out his errant thoughts. "You have me so very well-trained. It must have been a carefully planned formula, to instill me with just the right amount of obedience, a large dose of need to do the right thing, and a fair helping of brainless bravery." He laughed mockingly. "Well-done, Professor," he said. "Truly, a bloody capital job. Of course I'll go. Wherever I'm needed, there I'll be, right? Boy-Who-Lived to the rescue and all that?"
"Harry," Dumbledore said, his voice pained, "I'm not trying to use you as a toy or puppet as you seem to think. I imagine an auror could handle this job just fine. I would, however, prefer that you go, since I hope this experience might be beneficial for you."
"Whatever," Harry said, clearly not believing a word he said. "I already said I'd go. When do I leave?"
"You'll leave tomorrow morning, at 10 o'clock. However, there is also the matter of a chaperone." Harry stared at him as if not believing what he was hearing. "Now, I know that you can take care of yourself, Harry, but school rules insist that an adult accompany you on any trips you take off Hogwarts grounds. I've chosen Professor Snape to be your guardian. I'm sure you'll get on smashingly."
Harry just looked at him for another long moment, while Snape looked surprised and a bit upset. Eventually, Harry nodded resignedly. "Fine," he said. "Are we apparating?"
Both the older wizards looked surprised by this question. "Apparating across an ocean, Potter?" Snape sneered. "Impossible!"
He blinked. "I've done it before."
The professors were speechless for a moment absorbing this information before Dumbledore decided to end the decidedly awkward silence. After all, it was hardly the most exceptional thing Harry had ever done. "Fawkes will transport you and Professor Snape. You should pack for an extended stay."
"Of course," Harry said coldly, rising to his feet. He gave them a perfunctory nod before spinning on his heels and leaving the office.
After he had left, Snape turned to face his employer, confusion evident on his face. "Why on earth are you sending me along as Potter's chaperone? No one would ever complain if you broke this school rule for him, and it's hardly as though I could protect him from anything. And what about my classes?"
Dumbledore raised an eyebrow. "Endorsing the breaking of a rule for a student, Severus? Tsk tsk," he said teasingly. Seeing the serious expression on his Potion Master's face, his brief moment of levity fled. "To answer the second question first, I will cover your classes for you while you're gone. You may have forgotten, but I was quite skilled at Potions, once." Snape snorted again at that understatement. After all, Dumbledore was well-known for having discovered the twelve uses for dragon's blood. "As to your role as a chaperone, I don't expect you to do much to protect him in a combat situation, Severus," he confessed. "We both know that Harry's proven himself time and again. I'm sending you along for one reason only."
"And what's that?"
Dumbledore sighed for what he was sure was the hundredth time that day, and looked away from his friend's obsidian gaze. "Bring him home, Severus," he confessed quietly. "For I fear that, if given the choice, Harry will decide to leave this place or this earth altogether."
Harry finished packing his trunk within minutes of having started. He looked at the faithful trunk which he had had ever since his first year at Hogwarts; in it were the few possessions which he had gathered over the years: his trusty Firebolt, no longer the fastest broom on the market, his album with photographs of his parents and Sirius, and his invisibility cloak. Around his neck he wore, as always, a beautiful gold locket, which when opened held a miniature picture of Ron on one side and Hermione on the other. They had worn similar lockets with pictures of him. Oh, how he missed them.
He placed the Sword of Gryffindor in its sheath across his back, then secured one of Slytherin's Daggers at his belt, putting the other in his shoe. His trusty wand-holster, impervious to most hexes and charms, was tightly attached to his right wrist. He knew that he gave off a rather martial appearance, but he had long since given up any care for propriety in exchange for practicality.
He hoisted the trunk easily, not bothering to use magic to make it lighter. He looked one last time around the large, nicely furnished Head Boy room he had been given, with its now-bare walls and a simple bed he had transfigured from an overly-luxurious one. This place had never been home for him.
He had given Hedwig two letters to deliver for him in his absence. One was a letter to Neville instructing him to take over the DA as its leader. The other was a letter to Ginny and by extension to the entire Weasley clan, once again blaming himself for the death of their youngest son and apologizing profusely while admitting that he could never be forgiven. No such letter had been sent to Hermione's family, since her only living relatives, her parents, had died only hours after she, tortured to death by Voldemort in a gruesome episode which Harry had been forced to watch in its entirety via his scar.
He shook his head forcefully in a fruitless attempt to rid his mind of these thoughts. Perhaps Dumbledore was right; perhaps leaving Hogwarts and going someplace different for a time would help him.
He took a detour on his way to the Headmaster's office, stopping at Professor McGonagall's office. He knocked politely and listened for her muffled greeting before entering.
"Mr. Potter," she said, sounding unsurprised.
"Good morning, Professor," he said. "I'm sure Professor Dumbledore has informed you that I'll be leaving on a trip of uncertain duration today. I was wondering how I should plan on keeping up with my studies while I'm gone."
McGonagall looked closely at him for a long moment, obviously taking in the sad sight of his bedraggled state. Although she had never been particularly close to Harry-she endeavored to keep a professional distance from all her students-she took her duties as Head of House very seriously. For that reason, she was incredibly proud of the young man in front of her for all that he had achieved. For that reason also, it had pained her to see how poorly Harry was coping with the aftermath of Voldemort's defeat. While she wasn't sure that she agreed with Albus that sending him to another country to fight vampires would help Harry, she knew that something had to be done, and she was willing to agree to drastic measures, if necessary.
"Tell me, Potter," she said, her strict features softened by the slightest of smiles, "Just how far along in the NEWT studies are you?"
He shrugged. "Fairly well along, I suppose," he answered noncommittally.
She pointed at her desk. "Could you conjure a desk like mine?" she asked. At his nod, she ordered, "Then do so."
He lifted his wand gracefully, and with a murmured incantation and a flick of his wrist, a second, identical desk appeared, complete with the documents which were strewn on the original and the topaz tabby figurine which she had picked up whilst traveling years ago.
She nodded thoughtfully, not appearing at all impressed by the extraordinary feat. "Now vanish it." He did so. "Mr. Potter, have you ever brewed the Wolfsbane Potion for Remus Lupin?"
He nodded warily. "Once, last year, when Professor Snape was in the Hospital Wing."
She picked up a crystal ball from one of her shelves, and held it out towards him. "Look into the crystal ball and tell me the future, Potter."
He took it from her, a perplexed expression on his face, and looked into the ball for only the briefest of moments before saying, "This is complete bollocks, Professor. Unless you want me to predict my death like I always do in Trelawney's class, I don't know what to say."
She smiled faintly. "While I would prefer that you use language suitable in a school, I agree completely. Well, Mr. Potter, I think that we both know that you could take your NEWTs right now and pass all of them with flying colors, save perhaps Divination." He inclined his head in silent agreement. "Well, then," she said briskly, "I hardly think we need to burden you with unnecessary work while you are gone. Just try to keep in practice, won't you, and we can cover anything you might have missed when you return."
"Thank you, Professor," he said. He turned to leave, and was almost out the door when he heard her voice calling his name. He turned back.
"Do try to have some fun," she told him. He looked at her for another long moment before he strode away, letting the door close behind him with a gentle click.
Harry and Snape arrived at the gargoyles at exactly the same moment, precisely on time. Harry noticed that Snape didn't appear to be carrying a trunk, and guessed that he must have shrunk it and put it in one of the pockets in his voluminous robes.
"Sacrifice," Harry whispered, his voice breaking on the word. They ascended the moving stairs to the office.
"Severus! Harry!" Dumbledore said jovially in greeting. "Just on time, as always, I see. Now, remember, Fawkes will take you where you need to go; you're looking for a Mr. Rupert Giles. I wish you luck, dear boys."
Fawkes flew over and landed on Harry's shoulder, sending a peaceful feeling of warmth throughout his body. He reached up to pet the lovely fire-bird once, and Fawkes trilled in response, a beautiful sound that he could never tire of hearing.
Then the two men, bird, and trunk disappeared in a flash of bright light. It was only after the light had completely dissipated that Dumbledore allowed his fake smile to fall from his face, the familiar look of sadness overcoming his aged features. "Come back to me soon, my son," he murmured, but there was no one to hear his words.
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