Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley appeared in what appeared to be an empty car park. Harry stumbled slightly as his feet it the ground. Ron merely grinned at him as he caught his arm.
"Any idea where we are?" Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. "Sunnydale." He looked around them checking for any witnesses, pulled out his wand and placed it on his outstretched palm. "Point me to Hermione Granger." The wand spun and pointed off to the right.
The two wizards wordlessly began to walk in that direction.
It had been three years since either of them had seen Hermione and Harry was nervous about how she would react to seeing them again. To be honest he didn't even know what had happened to estrange them beyond her insistence that they have a normal life while she continued to do her duty here at the mouth of Hell.
The year after Voldemort had been killed had been quiet for them. Harry and Ron had been in their seventh and final year at Hogwarts and couldn't have been more bored. Meanwhile Hermione had been attending high school here with Willow and Xander and visiting with them one weekend a month. It hadn't been enough for any of them, but they bore it with the air of people making the most out of a bad situation. Hermione had grown increasingly troubled throughout the year although she always refused to tell them why. Harry smiled as he remembered her excitement at getting into several colleges. It seemed that with Kendra making vast improvements it would be possible for her to leave. She intended to learn how to make a portkey in case they needed her, but otherwise she was free to be like all the other kids her age. She was even contemplating going to Oxford or Cambridge so she would be able to see 'her boys' regularly.
That dream had died very suddenly the night Kendra was killed. Harry had never gotten the full story, but it seemed something had happened at the school and the Scoobies were forced to blow it up at their graduation ceremony. When Hermione had come to take the NEWTs – British schools breaking up far later than American ones – she had told them that her sister Slayer had been eaten by a giant snake and that was it. She had been very subdued even as she'd smiled about the fact that she had 'survived Sunnydale High.'
She'd attended Sunnydale University with Willow the following year while Ginny completed her last year of Hogwarts and Harry and Ron attended Auror school. They'd both decided that they wanted to learn as much as possible so that they could move to Sunnydale and help. No matter what Hermione said it was their decision and this was what they wanted to do. They hadn't seen much of Hermione at all that year and it wasn't until Willow added a note to one of her letters that they knew why. It seemed Angel had left her at the end of the year before so she could have a normal relationship and she had fallen for some guy named Riley Finn. Her lack of visits were due to her spending every waking moment with him. They had, of course, immediately booked time off to go and see this new guy and judge for themselves if he was good enough for her. That was the last time they'd seen her.
"Do you think she'll be happy to see us?" Ron asked slightly fearfully.
It was a question Harry had asked himself many times. Would she be glad they'd come or would she slam the door in their faces?
"Yeah," he said with a confidence he did not feel. "I'm sure she will."
That next year Hermione had barely even written to them. It was understandable though as her mother was very ill with a tumour on her brain. Once they heard they'd offered all sorts of magical help and were even prepared to ask Snape for any potions that might work when she had written back and told them that it was an affliction wizards did not get so had no cure for. Joyce's life was in the hands of the muggle doctors.
It turned out that wasn't enough. Even though they'd removed the tumour Joyce still died. Unfortunately a storm over the Atlantic meant that the owl that delivered their letter was delayed and they missed the funeral by over a week. They sent their apologies back and made plans to visit over the summer, when they sent a letter to tell Hermione they'd received no reply until a week before they were due to leave. The letter was from Willow telling them that Hermione was not herself and that they shouldn't come. She had promised to get Hermione to contact them but the message was clear, stay away.
They'd unhappily abided by those wishes and awaited another owl to tell them their friend was herself again - whatever that meant. It hadn't come.
That had been almost three years ago. Only four weeks ago Ron and Lavender had been married. Ron had invited Hermione. She hadn't shown up. She hadn't even sent an apology or an excuse. That had been the last straw for both of them, but Ron most of all. They'd decided that no matter what they would see the girl who was once their best friend and they wouldn't leave until they had some answers.
"Where is everyone?" Harry wondered aloud as they approached the house. It was the middle of a typical Californian day but there wasn't a single person to be seen. In fact Harry hadn't seen anyone since the portkey had dropped them off. No kids playing, or joggers, or people walking dogs, nothing. The houses had an eerie quality to them as though they were all abandoned. Except the one they were heading towards. The windows were boarded up and it looked like something fairly eventful had happened here recently. Through the boards Harry could hear voices.
"Dunno." Ron raised a hand and knocked on the door.
The voices hushed instantly and a moment later eyes could be seen peeking through a gap in the boards. Many footsteps approached and a huddle of people could be seen through the small windows either side of the door. They waited impatiently.
Harry discretely cast a spell they'd learnt in Auror training to listen to what was going on inside and saw Ron do the same.
"What if they're Bringers?" It was a young girl who spoke.
"No, I looked," another girl replied. "They have eyes and they look human."
"They could be the First," another girl pointed out.
"Not if they knocked."
"So are we gonna answer it or not?" the first girl asked.
"It's your house."
"They can't be here for anything good."
"We're the only humans in town. They have to be working for the First." Harry and Ron exchanged a startled glance at this.
"Maybe we should get my sister."
"They're still having their inner circle meeting. We shouldn't bother them." Harry noted that not all the girls had American accents. There was at least one British girl here.
"Surely she'd want to be bothered for something like this." That was definitely an Australian speaker.
"Get back." Whoever it was had clearly come to a decision. "I'll open the door. If they do anything weird scream for Buffy."
Despite his curiosity at the situation Harry was relieved to hear the name Buffy. It meant they'd found Hermione.
The door opened slowly and a dark haired girl looked out. She was around sixteen and there was something very familiar about her Harry couldn't place. Behind her were an assortment of girls all below the age of twenty of varying heights and colouration. They all looked extremely nervous.
Harry gave them his most winning smile. "Hi. Is Her-Buffy here?"
"Her-Buffy?" the dark haired girl asked. "Nope."
"I meant Buffy. Is she home?"
The girls all looked at each other as though unsure what they should say. "Why don't you wait here," the dark haired girl said at last. "I'll see if she's free." She closed the door.
The spell continued to work as they waited.
"I think they're evil."
"I thought they were cute."
"They didn't look evil."
"Two strangers come here looking for Buffy when the whole town is deserted? They have to be evil."
"We are living on the Hellmouth."
Harry felt his muscles tense. That was a voice he knew very well even after all this time.
The door opened once more and Harry stared right into the face of Hermione Granger. She was older and there was a lifetime of pain in her eyes that hadn't been there the last time they'd met, but there was no mistaking her.
She blinked at the sight of them. "Oh my God."
"Are they evil?" A girl with long dark and slightly curly hair asked belligerently. "I think we can take them."
Hermione seemed to shake herself as if remembering their audience. "No they're not evil." She stepped aside and gestured for them to enter.
As they stepped over the threshold Harry saw the dark haired girl they'd first spoken to standing at Hermione's side. "Who are they?"
Hermione frowned. "You don't remember them?"
"No. Should I?"
Hermione didn't answer, instead looked between them and the young girl in confusion. Suddenly she seemed to realise something. She laughed a very forced laugh. "Oh, Dawnie, I can't believe you forgot Harry and Ron. They only used to be my best friends in the world before we moved here." She turned to the two young men. "I know it's been a while since we all saw each other, but I'm sure you recognise my sister Dawn." Her eyes seemed to be pleading with them to play along.
Only his Auror training kept the bewildered expression from his face and he was sure Ron wasn't doing much better. "Yeah," he said slowly. "Wow, Dawn, you sure have grown."
"Oh, now I remember you guys. It sure has been a long time, huh?" Whoever she may be Dawn was a far better actor than he was, he had to give her that much.
"Let's continue this upstairs," Hermione waved off all the other girls and started heading up the stairs. "Dawn, why don't you come with, so we can all catch up together?"
Hermione led the three of them to a bedroom and walked in. Several people were seated on the bed and a few stood around it. Harry immediately recognised Willow and Giles. Neither had changed that much unless you counted the extra grey hairs on Giles' head. He did a double take when he spotted Xander, wearing an eye patch over his left eye. There were another two girls sitting on the bed: one with long blond hair and a slight pout and a brunette, wearing very tight leather trousers and a sultry expression.
No one hurried forward to greet them, instead they just stared at the new arrivals in surprise.
From downstairs Harry could still hear the girls talking thanks to his spell.
"Who do you think they are?"
"Buffy knew them, so they must be alright."
"Please," a third voice scoffed. Before Harry cancelled the spell he heard her add, "I'd be more surprised if she had a friend that wasn't evil at some point."
It seemed he'd stopped the spell just in time for the blond girl chose that moment to speak. "Hi, I'm Anya. I don't know you."
"I'm Harry, this is Ron," Harry said quickly. He vaguely remembered Hermione mentioning a girl named Anya who was seeing Xander. She'd been described as a sweet girl, but very odd.
"Faith," the other unknown girl said with a nod. That was a name he recognised instantly. She'd been Called as the Slayer after Kendra had died. Apparently she and Hermione had a very rocky relationship resulting in Faith taking off for a while saying she wanted to see the world. It seemed she was back.
"We can talk freely here," Hermione told them. "I trust everyone in this room."
Harry nodded. Before he could say anything Ron blurted out, "you don't have a sister."
Dawn stepped behind Hermione and ducked her head. "You're not gonna tell them are you?"
"It's either tell these two the truth and trust them to keep it a secret and play along or tell all those girls downstairs why my two really old friends don't remember me having a little sister."
"Oh," Dawn said.
Giles stepped forward to shake hands with them both. "I apologise for the cool reception. You took us by surprise."
Willow and Xander joined him in greeting their old friends.
Faith stood up. "You know, I'm not really into the touchy feely stuff so I'm gonna head down and keep an eye on the girls. Make sure they don't disturb you all."
"Thanks, Faith," Hermione sighed and dropped into her vacated spot.
Faith paused before exiting. "For what it's worth, I think it's a great plan and I'm in all the way."
Hermione smiled warmly. "That means a lot."
"We're missing a lot here, aren't we?" Harry asked intuitively as Faith left the room.
"Most likely," Anya said brightly. "But then so am I. Xander tell me who they are."
Xander shrugged apologetically and pulled her off to one side for a quiet conversation.
"I believe I'll go and help Faith," Giles said. "Buffy, please call me if you need anything."
Hermione nodded and watched him close the door behind him.
"I guess I should start from just after we last saw each other," she said, pulling Dawn down next to her. "Have either of you ever heard of the key?"
Harry shook his head as he pulled out his wand and conjured a chair. He was surprised to see Dawn's eyes bug out of her head, though she kept her mouth shut.
"It's this mystical energy that controls the barriers between dimensions," Hermione explained. "It was protected by monks until this Hell goddess tried to take it for herself to get back to her own dimension."
"What's so bad about that?" Ron wondered.
"Once the barriers were down they would have stayed down until all the energy was gone," Dawn said in a quiet voice. "So much would have been destroyed. Possibly everything."
Harry nodded thoughtfully. "Right. I get it, but what has this got to do with you having a sister?"
"The monks knew they couldn't keep the key from Glory so they sent it to me," Hermione said. She was running a gentle hand through Dawn's hair. "They wanted to make sure I'd do anything to keep it safe so they put it into a person then changed all our memories to make us think she'd been there all along."
Harry's mouth dropped open.
"She may not have been born in the conventional sense, but she is my sister," Hermione continued.
"Like Kendra," Ron said knowingly.
"Pretty much, although Kendra was born in the conventional sense and her being my sister had more to do with a sense of shared responsibility and having no one else in the world that really understood what we were."
"I don't get it," Willow said suddenly, making Harry jump. He'd forgotten she was there. "If the monks changed all our memories why didn't they change Harry and Ron's too? Dawn was with us in Hogsmeade, I remember."
"Hogsmeade?" Dawn said, pulling a face.
"Dawn doesn't remember them either," Hermione said.
"What does that mean?" Willow asked.
"I'm willing to bet it means the monks didn't know about the magical world," Hermione said slowly. "They must have just added her into our lives without checking our background. When we moved here from England we covered our tracks pretty well, if they only knew what the paperwork said that could explain why Dawn doesn't know them."
"And maybe they were protected because they're wizards," Willow mused. "No, that can't be it, or you wouldn't have been affected either."
"Maybe we were just too far away," Harry guessed.
"Ok, I've been quiet for a really long time," Dawn cut in, "but now I gotta ask. Magical world? Wizards? Buffy's a wizard? Why am I just hearing about this now?"
"It's very simple," Anya said brightly from across the room. "There's a magical world that exists independently of this one, full of wizards and witches that can do magic with pointy wands." She turned to Xander. "You could have saved yourself a lot of time if you'd just told me that to start with." To Dawn she said, "Buffy's a witch, not a wizard."
"Wait, you knew about this? How? We never said anything," Willow said suspiciously.
Anya rolled her eyes. "I spent a thousand years as a vengeance demon granting the wishes of scorned women. You don't think some of those women were witches?"
"Witches can grant their own wishes," Willow pointed out.
"Yes, but there's a difference between what they can do and what they will do," Anya said condescendingly. "I had no such problems."
"Who else knows about this?" Dawn asked from between clenched teeth.
Hermione winced. "Spike knows, too. And Giles. But that's it, I swear." She thought about it for a second. "Unless one of the potentials is from a magical family."
"And no one though to tell me?" Dawn asked angrily.
"I guess we all assumed you knew," Willow reassured her. "As far as our memories are concerned you were right there with us."
"Where?" Dawn demanded in exasperation.
Hermione laid a gentle hand on her arm. "Dawnie, I know this is a lot to take in, but I need to talk to Harry and Ron for a bit."
"Fine. I'll get Spike to explain it to me," Dawn huffed.
Harry stopped her before she could leave. "For what it's worth, we won't tell anyone."
For just a second Harry thought he saw a grateful smile on her lips, then it was gone and she flounced from the room.
"Don't you ever use magic?" Ron asked Hermione.
She furrowed her brow in thought. "Not really. It's not much use on patrol as it doesn't work on vamps and I try not to use it too much here where anyone can walk in on me. I guess she's just never seen me use it."
"When did it happen?" Harry asked, thinking back to the last time they'd seen the Scoobies. Dawn hadn't been around three years ago.
"About a month after your last visit, or that's our closest guess," Xander told them.
"You never even mentioned her in your letters" Ron said accusingly.
"Why should I?" Hermione shrugged. "At first she was just my annoying little sister. When we found out what she was I didn't want to tell you in case someone from the magical world intercepted the letter. The last thing we needed was someone else to protect her from."
"Why did you stop writing?" Ron said suddenly.
Hermione hung her head miserably. "At first things with Glory and Dawn were happening so fast I just didn't have time. Then I was, you know, and when I got back I didn't know what to say. I had no idea how to tell you… The longer I left it the harder it was. Eventually I figured it was probably for the best if you just went on thinking I was dead. How'd you know I was back anyway?"
Harry's jaw dropped. Beside him Ron was doing an admirable impression of a goldfish.
"Umm," Willow looked between them nervously. "Buffy, remember I told you that I wrote them while you were dead? I kinda didn't tell them that part."
Hermione's eyes widened and she looked at the two men in horror.
"See, I found their letter about their visit a week or so before you came back. By then we were already planning on resurrecting you and I didn't want to upset them, unnecessarily. I figured if it didn't work we could tell them then. I just wanted them to not come, so I told them you weren't yourself, which is kind of true 'cos the Buffy Bot was pretending to be you and I knew they wouldn't be fooled by the Bot, 'cos they know you so well."
Harry drew in a deep breath. "You were dead?"
Hermione nodded sadly.
"Again?" Ron said.
Hermione looked at him for a long moment before snorting. "As fun as this has been, guys, you really shouldn't be here."
"There's no way we're leaving now," Ron said vehemently. "Without us you'll probably just get yourself killed again. Besides you still haven't told me why you didn't come to my wedding."
"You're married!" Hermione exclaimed. She glanced at Harry for confirmation and grinned when he nodded. "Congratulations."
"You didn't get my owl?"
Hermione, Willow and Xander exchanged a long look. "There's an evil presence in Sunnydale, that goes by the name of the First Evil," Anya said. "It wants to kill us all."
"Hermione nodded in agreement. "It drove all the people, all the demons and pretty much all the wildlife from the area. I doubt an owl would come anywhere near here."
"That's what we're fighting?" Harry asked apprehensively.
Hermione frowned, but Willow spoke up before she could say anything. "We could use their help, Buffy."
The frown stayed in place, but eventually Hermione nodded. She stood and walked to the window. Beside her, in a chair, was a red axe-like weapon. She picked it up and held it reverently.
"The First Evil isn't just it's name, it's what it is. The source of all evil and it's trying to destroy the Slayer line and then the world. That's what all those girls are doing downstairs. Each one of them is a potential Slayer, awaiting their chance to be Called, sent here by what remains of the Watcher's Council for protection.
"The First has an army of super strong prehistoric vampires waiting beneath the Hellmouth, ready to come and devour the world. Tomorrow, we're going to stop them.
"This is a weapon I took from one of the First's minions. We're calling it the scythe. It's a weapon intended to be wielded by the Slayer and it contains the essence of what makes a Slayer. Willow is going to use it to change the world for the better. After tomorrow Faith and I won't be the only Slayers any more. There will be hundreds, maybe thousands all over the world and there will be thirty trained ones right here who have been sitting in this house for months waiting to die and all of whom are ready to fight. Tomorrow, we're breaking all the rules."
Harry and Ron mulled it over for a moment. "How can we help?" Ron asked at last.
Hermione smiled. "I'm sure we can find something for you to do."
They stood there, the survivors of Sunnydale and stared into the crater that had once been a bustling town.
Buffy Summers, the girl who was once Hermione Granger and perhaps in some ways still was, could only smile. On her right was Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, both bloody and tired, but wearing confident grins as they looked upon the carnage they had helped wreak. To her left was Willow Rosenberg, one incredibly powerful Wicca, her face shone with contentment as she was finally freed of her fears of losing control to the magic around her and Xander, battle hardened yet loveable Xander, whose face was saddened with grief for those they lost, yet hopeful of a less painful future.
Buffy didn't know where she would go from here. Maybe she could go back to simpler days where everything could be solved with the wave of a wand, or maybe it was too late for that. Part of her would always be the Slayer and these new girls would need guidance from someone with her experience. Whatever happened she knew she would have her friends standing at her side. All of them.
Ron summed it all up. "Now that was the Final Battle."
"Ron, this time, you might actually be right."
A/N: OMG! I finished it! Only a week after my last post, too. I feel very proud of myself right now, I'm practically jumping up and down. It only took me about ten months to get to this point, but here it is. The final chapter of 'New Life, Meet Old Life.' For those that were wondering there will be no sequel as I don't think there's really anywhere else to go with this story. That doesn't mean I won't be writing anymore though, I still have 'On the Run' to finish and after that who knows?
Obviously I decided to go with Faith in the end. I'm sorry to those who wanted Kendra to live, but I felt Faith worked better even though it was a very small part. I know some of you will be disappointed that so much happened between chapter 29 and the epilogue, but take comfort in the fact tat there is a happy ending and they all got back together in the end.
Please review and let me know what you think. You can also visit my Yahoo! Group by clicking the link in my profile and ask me anything you want there.
Thanks to everyone who has reviewed and all those that stuck with me from the beginning.