Into the Blue
Book 1: Way of the Warriors
Chapter 27 – Early morning, late night.
DISCLAIMER: Buffy the Vampire Slayer belongs to Joss Whedon, and Harry Potter to J.K. Rowling. I don't own anything…
TIMELINE: AU. The fifth and final instalment of the OOTB-series. Takes place during the Order of the Phoenix and begins where Come What May (part 4) left off. Includes spoilers for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.
SUMMARY: BTVS/HP crossover. With Voldemort's return, and the Ministry's refusal to see it, things are more caotic than usual. Not even Hogwarts is safe anymore, something Harry and the rest of the trio, along with Sarah, who is to start her first year, is about to experience first hand. Remus and Buffy face problems of their own, at the same time as they must try and save Sirius…from himself. United they'll stand, divided they'll fall – but as the Wizarding World descend into darkness, will the light side conquer or crumble?
Buffy woke up with a jerk in darkness, hearing sounds coming from downstairs. Checking the time, she saw it was in the early morning hours: no one should be up and about at this time. She had barely stood up and grabbed her wand from the table when the door to the bedroom flew open and Phoebe entered at running speed, jumping into the bed and slipping in beneath the covers at the place Buffy had just left, trembling. Beside her, Remus let out a groan as he too began to wake up, his eyes opening blearily.
"Phoebe, what's wrong?" Buffy asked with a hushed voice.
"There's someone downstairs," Phoebe answered quietly, burying her face into Remus' chest as her father sat up and gave her a comforting hug. "I was just going to the bathroom…"
"We'll take care of it, don't worry," Remus soothed her, grabbing his own wand and joining Buffy. Carefully, he and Buffy made their way downstairs and into the kitchen, freezing at the sight that met them in the doorway.
Fred and George Weasley, both looking extremely windswept, were standing there, attempting to create something that was supposed to resemble a meal. Their two broomsticks had been discarded to lean against the kitchen table as the twins went about their business, making a lot of noise as pots and pans clanged against everything it came into contact with.
Buffy lowered her wand, feeling extremely disgruntled at the reason for her awakening. And they had also scared Phoebe.
"Aren't you supposed to be at school?" Remus asked, crossing his arms and sounding less than impressed.
The twins jumped. "Professors Lupin! Hi! We were just – "
" – making some breakfast. Do you – "
" – want some?"
"Not right now." Remus sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You know what? I don't even want to know why you're not at Hogwarts where you're supposed to be," he said with a meaningful look at Fred and George, who only gave him impish grins in return, "but since you're here making both breakfast and a racket, I assume it's nothing that can't wait a few more hours. At which point your mother can come and deal with you."
The twins noticeably paled.
Remus and Buffy threw them amused looks. "Try to keep the noise down, will you?" Buffy asked. "And don't blow the kitchen up."
"Yes, I've had one experience too many when it comes to kitchen disasters – I don't need to deal with another," Remus quipped, winking at the twins as Buffy threw her husband a dirty look. So she was sometimes a disaster in the kitchen – at least she had gotten somewhat better with age!
"Swamps," Remus echoed in disbelief.
"And fireworks," George quipped with a nod.
"Lots of them," Fred added with a smirk.
Sirius, Buffy, Remus and Alyssa stared, though Sirius' lips were already twitching, and Phoebe had started to giggle during the twins' tale of escape from Hogwarts on their broomsticks.
It took two more seconds, and then, all four adults too broke down into laughter.
"Brilliant!" Sirius got out between his snorts. "Absolutely brilliant!"
"What, may I ask, is so brilliant?" An icy voice came from behind them and the twins froze as they caught sight of an irate-looking Molly Weasley.
"Mum!" Fred gasped.
"Hi!" George squeaked.
"Don't you 'hi' me, George!"
"I'm Fred!" George said.
"I'm George," Fred added.
Molly's eyes narrowed. "I don't care who's who," she hissed. "Would you like to explain to me why I got a letter from Dolores Umbridge, explaining your departure following what must be the most immature antics I've ever heard of?"
"Eh…well, you see it's like this – " Fred began and George continued:
" – The toad isn't teaching us anything, and – "
" – We don't really need school for what we have planned – "
" – We're opening a joke-shop, see, and – "
"I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ANOTHER WORD OF THIS!" Molly thundered and Buffy flinched. Giving Remus, Sirius and Alyssa meaningful looks, she slowly and quietly got up and left the room, the others quickly following her, Mrs. Weasley's voice ringing behind them. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SO-CALLED INVENTIONS AND GRAND PLANS! YOU CAN'T LIVE ON PRANKS AND SILLY IDEAS - NOTHING WILL EVER COME OF IT! WHAT ABOUT YOUR N.E.W.T.s? WHAT ABOUT A RESPECTABLE CAREER? WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO STOP JOKING ABOUT AND GROW UP?"
"I am so glad I'm not in Fred and George's shoes," Alyssa whispered.
"Well, it could be worse," Sirius said in an attempt to lighten the mood. "At least my mother is quiet."
Just as he finished saying that, Mrs. Black's portrait began to screech, having been disturbed by Molly's yelling: "FILTHY BLOOD-TRAITORS! SCUM OF THE EARTH! DEFILING MY HOME!" And on it went. Sirius hung his head as his friends shot him dirty looks for apparently jinxing them. "I guess I spoke too soon."
Buffy and Alyssa cautiously entered the kitchen once the shouting had died down and they both, along with Sirius and Remus, had spotted the twins leaving and heading towards their guestrooms on the upper-floor. They both figured Molly could use someone sensible to talk to – Sirius didn't fit that explanations, and since one of the last things Molly had screamed at Fred and George was that the marauders were a bad influence, they both figured that Remus may not be all that welcome either. As such, they had banned both of them temporarily from the kitchen until the two got the 'lay of the land' so to speak.
Buffy tentatively sat down beside Molly who looked exhausted. Without saying a word, Alyssa prepared her a cup of tea. Once it was finished, she quietly slid it over to Molly who finally looked up with bleary eyes, before she sat down opposite her.
"Oh, thank you, dear." She let out a deep sigh. "I don't know what to do about those two," the Weasley matriarch admitted once she had taken a small sip of the tea. "Perhaps I overreacted but I worry. They keep going on about these grand plans and I suppose, since they told me they've already brought an empty building in Diagon Alley, they are serious about opening a joke-shop, but I just don't know. It seems so…nonsensical." She sighed again. "Where did they even get the money from?" Molly asked out loud, clearly not expecting an answer.
"I know you may not like to hear this, Molly," Alyssa spoke gently, "but your sons are adults. You must allow them to make their own decisions – and their own mistakes. If their joke-shop fails, it fails, but at least then they've tried. They have clearly planned this for a long time and they obviously want this."
"Of course they want this!" Molly exclaimed, exasperated. "It's all they ever wanted. I know my sons and I know practical jokes are their whole life. But what happens if this doesn't pan out? It would break their hearts if this joke-shop failed. And what will become of their future then?" She took another sip of her tea. "I wouldn't have been so against this if they had at least graduated with their N.E.W.T.s completed – at least then they would have some sort of insurance for the future just in case - but oh, no – they just had to exit Hogwarts in a blaze of irrational glory in the middle of the school year!"
"So dropping out of school may not have been the smartest move," Buffy said with a shrug, "but from what I understand, they left before they got expelled. They can go back – they would be older than their peers, true, but the point is, if their joke-shop turns out to be a mistake, there is nothing that says they can't go back to get their N.E.W.T.s at a later date, once Umbridge is out of the picture – which will happen eventually, believe me. But I have a strong feeling that Fred and George actually know what they're doing."
Alyssa nodded. "It's not impossible to make a career of pranks – the muggle world has several companies dedicated to practical jokes. And just look at Zonko's, or Gambol and Japes. They're very profitable and what they sell is really popular."
"And from what I know and have experienced of Fred and George's prank-products and ideas, is that they're at least just as funny, if not even funnier, than whatever those two companies are selling," Buffy said. Hell, some of it could be dead useful."
"A respectable job doesn't necessarily involve the Ministry, especially not in the state it is in right now," Alyssa pointed out. "I don't mean to be rude, but look at what's happening to Percy." Molly flinched. "Just working at the Ministry has turned his head upside down, twisted his priorities and near brainwashed him. And Arthur – how long has it been since he last got a promotion, or even a raise?"
"You're right," Molly admitted, her shoulders slumping. "Of course you're right. I know the Ministry isn't everything it could be. Neither Charlie nor Bill works there and they're doing brilliantly."
"And you can't tell me you were ecstatic about their career paths either," Buffy pointed out. "Considering it took them out of the country and can even be called dangerous."
"Hah!" Molly snorted. "No, I was far from delighted. In fact, I was damn near furious with Charlie – dragons, really! And Bill…" she sighed. "He was the first one to leave the nest, but he'd always lived a bit on the wild side, Head Boy or not, so when he announced his intentions to become a Curse-breaker, I was far from surprised. But I was not happy about it, let me tell you, especially once I learned he was moving to Egypt. Merlin knows what sorts of dangers he's come across in those pyramids and tombs."
"So I suppose you could say Fred and George have chosen a rather tame occupation, all things considered," Alyssa said reasonably. "Perhaps it's not one that will change the world in any significant way, perhaps it is something a lot of people would consider silly, but it's not silly to them. It's something that will make them happy. And isn't that the most important thing?"
"And since we are currently in a war, a little more laughter won't exactly hurt," Buffy finished.
Molly sighed wistfully. "I can't even remember the last time I laughed…"
"For me and Alyssa, it was today – and it was all thanks to your sons' tale of escape from Hogwarts," Buffy said. "And isn't that telling enough?"
Molly's own lips twitched. "It was a rather funny tale, wasn't it? Swamps…who would have thought?"
"Fred and George did, obviously. They have vision, Molly," Alyssa said. "I think it's meant to be used. It would be a shame if all those ideas went to waste inside their minds when it could brighten so many people's day."
"You're right," Molly finally admitted. "It would be a waste." She began to chuckle. "I would have liked to see Umbridge's face when those fireworks went off."
"You and me both," Buffy said, her own lips twitching.
"A word, Severus?" Remus said as the Order started filing out of the room after the first real meeting with him as the leader. While nervous to begin with, Remus felt that he'd done a fairly good job - no one had refused to listen to him, at least, and that had to be considered a success. The only one who had been mulish had been Snape who hadn't said a word the entire meeting, and to be honest, Remus hadn't expected anything else.
"I heard you've decided to stop giving Harry Occlumency lessons," Remus said.
Snape let an eyebrow rise. "So the little brat told you, hmm? I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he went crying to you and the mutt. "
Remus' eyes narrowed at the insult. "You know very well Harry needs those lessons."
"Not my problem," Snape said airily. "Was there anything else?"
Remus smiled pleasantly. "Start up the lessons again, Severus. That's not a request."
Snape let out a snort. "I don't have to listen to you, Lupin. You might be the 'leader' of the Order now, but if you think you can order me around, you've got another thing coming. Besides, Potter's only got himself to blame. It's not my fault he can't keep his nose out of others' business."
"Isn't it, even when you're the one who dangled temptation in front of him?" Remus asked.
"I have no idea what you mean," Snape said, his eyes glittering with malice.
"Don't you?" Remus asked. "Let's be honest, here, Severus. I don't think you're even the slightest bit upset that Harry took a peek into your memories. In fact, I am one hundred percent certain that you wanted him to. Isn't it curious, that you're in the middle of depositing your memories into a pensieve right when Harry enters and sees it? Especially as Harry was late to the lesson." Snape remained silent. "That seems more than a little strange for a man so concerned about his privacy as you are, Severus." Remus' eyes were narrowed in anger. "And isn't it just convenient, how you just happened to be called away, leaving the pensieve in plain sight and Harry alone? And isn't it strange how those particular memories in the pensieve were ones featuring James at his worst while you're portrayed as the innocent victim? No, you planted those memories on purpose, in a petty attempt to disillusion Harry about his dad."
Snape had a small smile playing around his lips. "Believe what you want," he finally said, and left, a firm smirk planted on his face.
Remus glared in anger after him. He wasn't a particularly vindictive person, but right now, he wanted nothing more than curse the Potions Master in the back. And he hadn't even been able to convince the man to restart the lessons.
It was the last weekend of May, the morning of the Quidditch final, between Gryffindor and Ravenclaw. Sarah, who had taken it upon herself to be Ron's personal cheerleader, despite his abysmal goal-keeping record in all his matches so far, gave him a wide grin as she joined him, Harry and Hermione from breakfast.
"Good morning! Ready to kick some Ravenclaw butt?" she asked.
Ron just grunted in reply.
"Oh, cheer up Ron!" Sarah said. "You'll do fine."
"Yeah, maybe," Ron said. "I mean, I can't get any worse, can I?" Ron asked grimly, turning to Ron and Hermione. Sarah winced, hoping the red-head had not just jinxed himself. "Nothing to lose now, is there?"
"That's the spirit!" Sarah exclaimed with another wide smile. "Do, or not. There is no try," she said sagely. Hermione snorted.
Ron was pale as he stood up to join the rest of the Quidditch team when they left the Great Hall to head to the locker rooms to change: most of them looked rather grim in fact. Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper where hanging their heads in defeat, while the three Chasers had their lips pinched tightly shut and shoulders squared. The three girls looked as though they were headed towards a battleground against insurmountable odds, but determined not to go out with a fight. Only Ginny seemed relaxed, a calm expression on her freckled face.
"You know," Hermione said as she, Harry and Sarah headed out to the pitch a little while later, "I think Ron might do better without Fred and George around. They never exactly gave him a lot of confidence."
"True," Sarah said, just as Luna walked past them with what appeared to be a live eagle perched on top of her head. "But at the same time, Jack and Andrew are not anywhere near the beaters the twins are, and while I hate to admit it, in its current state, our team needs all the advantage it can get."
"Cho will be playing, won't she?" Hermione asked. Harry merely grunted in reply.
"Do you think Ginny can beat her?" Sarah asked.
"Maybe," Harry shrugged. They found seats in the topmost row of the stands among the cheering crowd, as far away from Umbridge and her Inquisitorial Squad as possible.
The teams zoomed out on the pitch to Lee Jordan's usual commentating, though, unlike previous matches, he sounded rather lackluster as he called out the names of the players.
"… Bradley… Davies… Chang..." Sarah leaned forward on the edge of her seat, her eyes following Ron as he took to the air with the rest of the Quidditch players. Her stomach dropped when she realised his broom wobbled slightly as he took his position in front of the golden hoops: his hands were shaking. She slapped her forhead.
"Pull yourself together, Ron," she muttered, her eyes narrowed in concentration as the whistle blew and the game began.
"And theyʹre off!" Le said. "And Davies takes the Quaffle immediately, Ravenclaw Captain Davies with the Quaffle, he dodges Johnson, he dodges Bell, he dodges Spinnet as well… heʹs going straight for goal! Heʹs going to shoot ‐ and ‐ and ‐" Lee swore very loudly, in synch with Sarah as the Quaffle flew through the goal furthest to the right, Ron not anywhere close to catching it. "And heʹs scored."
Harry and Hermione groaned with the rest of the Gryffindors. Predictably, horribly, the Slytherins on the other side of the stands began to sing: "Weasley cannot save a thing, He cannot block a single ring…"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on!" She shouted at them, but they just sand louder.
"Harry, Hermione." Sarah, Harry and Hermione turned around, surprised to see Hagrid there.
"Listen," he whispered, "can yeh come with me? Now? While evʹryoneʹs watchinʹ the match?"
"Er… canʹt it wait, Hagrid?" Harry asked. "Till the match is over?"
"No," said Hagrid. "No, Harry, itʹs gotta be now… while evʹryoneʹs lookinʹ the other way… please?"
Sarah's eyes widened as she realised Hagrid's nose was bleeding, and his eyes were both blackened. Even so, she couldn't believe it when Harry agreed.
"But you can't!" She exclaimed, grabbing Harry's robe as he and Hermione stood. "What about Ron?"
Harry looked regretful as he glanced towards the pitch where a bludger had just nearly knocked the red-head off his broom. "He won't even notice we're gone," he said.
"We'll be back before the match is over," Hermione interjected.
"But - " Sarah protested, but Harry and Hermione had already edged away with Hagrid, the students who had to stand up for them grumbling. She sighed as she looked towards the goalposts where Ron was looking rather dazed from the near miss of the bludger. "Wait," she told the students before they could sit down, and quickly followed Harry, Hagrid and Hermione down the stairs. But when she got to the bottom, instead of following them across the lawn towards Hagrid's hut, she stopped and waved her arms to get the Gryffindor's attention. After awhile, Angelina, having just scored a much needed goal into the Slytherin hoops, spotted her, and, after a brief pause for thought, she held her hands up in the sign for time-out. Hooch's whistle blew and the teams landed.
"What is it?" Angelina asked, looking rather annoyed. "This better be good, Lupin - our only chance to win this game is if Ginny catches the snitch before Slytherin scores too much for it to matter."
" - Let me talk to Ron," Sarah said. "You just said it himself - you need him to start saving some goals. He needs a confidence boost. Or this game will end like all the others."
Angelina sighed as she glanced over her shoulder at Ron, who, having been at the other end of the pitch, was only now reaching the rest of the team. "To be honest, I sincerely doubt anything you can say will be enough, but fine."
When Ron reached them, looking rather confused, his shoulders already slumped: it seemed despite his somewhat 'optimistic' words at breakfast, Ron seemed to be under the impresiosn that there could be no other end to this game except a loss. "Hey, Ron," Sarah said. "What's the last thing that goes through a fly's mind when it hits the windshield of the Knight Bus?"
Ron blinked. "Uh...what?"
"Its ass!" Sarah said with a slight smirk.
Ron gawked. And then burst out laughing. The rest of the Gryffindor turned to stare at them in confusion. "And speaking of asses, Ron, don't let the Slytherin's get to you. Easier said than done, I get that, but you're giving up before the game's even started - don't deny it!" Sarah quickly added when she saw Ron open his mouth to protest. "You are giving up."
Ron shrugged, not meeting her eyes.
"Remember what I said at breakfast?"
Ron frowned. "There is no try?"
"Exactly. Forget that I ever said that. Not trying at all is even worse. You didn't even attempt to catch that goal," Sarah scowled. Encouragement didn't seem to work on Ron, so she supposed she just had to try some good old-fashioned anger. "So what if Ravenclaw wins - are you really going to give the Slytherins the satisfaction of letting them see you not only lose, but to get reamed into total, utter humiliation? If you're going to lose, at least lose with some dignity, Ron! You're a Gryffindor, and what's more, you're a Weasley, so where is your pride?"
Ron stared at her for a moment, and then, he squared his shoulders and took a deep breath.
"That's more like it," Sarah said, pleased. "Forget the crowd, forget the Slytherin's stupid song - just focus on the Quaffle. Try to catch it. Do not just give up: that's not the Gryffindor way, it's not the Lupin way, the Granger way, the Potter way, and it's not the Weasley way. When the going gets tough, the tough get going."
Angelina approached. "Madame Hooch wants to restart the game." She gave Ron a long look. Thankfully, she did not ask if he was okay, or if he could handle it - Sarah was pretty sure that would have ruined the small amount of confidence she'd just give him. Instead, she said: "Ready to chase some ravens back to their nest?"
And to Sarah's relief, Ron grinned. A small one, but a grin nonetheless. "Let's kick some bird-butt," he said, and if the sentence came out rather shaky, no one commented on it.
The teams remounted and Sarah hurried back to her spot.
"Ravenclaw in possession, Rogers has the Quaffle," Lee commented, "passes to Bradley, Spinnet intercepts... Pass to Bell... Pass back to Spinnet, to Johnson, to Be - Ah, Bludger interference makes her drop the ball... Chambers has it, passes Bradley...he's headed towards goal. He sc - " A choked noise left his mouth. For two seconds, there was only silence as disbelief fell over the stands. Sarah jumped up on down on the spot, beaming. For a completely stupefied Ron had caught the Quaffle and was now staring at the red ball in shock. "A SAVE! I can hardly believe it - WEASLEY MAKES A SPECTACULAR ONE-HANDED SAVE!" Lee shouted, sounding energetic again, and the stands burst out into cheers and loud applause.
Sarah wolf-whistled, grinning as Ron, still looking rather dazed, past the Quaffle to Angelina. It was like the single save had completely transformed Ron. Five minutes later, it happened again: this time, it was Chambers who made the attempt to score, and Ron, once again, made another save. The stands burst out into new cheers. The Slytherin's had notably stopped singing. Sarah got an impish idea, and she quickly leaned down to whisper in the nearest Gryffindor's ear, Lavender Brown, whose eyes widened and then she grinned, nodding. Turning to Parvati, she whispered something in her ear. Parvati burst into giggles, but she too, nodded, and passed Lavender's message on, until every single Gryffindor in the stands closest to Sarah had gotten the message. They all stood up, and started stomping their feet and clapping, and then, just as Ron made another save, they began to sing: "Weasley is our King,
Weasley is our King, He didnʹt let the Quaffle in, Weasley is our King…ʺ
It took a moment for the words to register for the Slytherins, but when it did, they all reddened. Laughing, the Gryffindors only sang louder, and it didn't take long for the rest of the Gryffindors in the stand to join in once they heard what they were singing: "Weasley can save anything, He never leaves a single ring, Thatʹs why Gryffindors all sing: Weasley is our King!"
"I can't believe Harry and Hermione are missing this," Sarah muttered to herself, her smile wide as the song echoed over the stands and the pitch as it increased in volume. On his broomstick, Ron paused in his sudden vigilant guard of the hoops as the song reached his ears, and he cocked his head to listen.
His eyes widened as he realised what the Slytherin's song had turned into a victory tune instead, and he threw the stands a big thumbs up - right before he spun around on his broom to catch the Quaffle Rogers had been throwing towards the goalposts, thinking his attention had been temporarily diverted. The stands burst into renewed cheer and applause, which only got louder as two blurs of red and blue respectively suddenly streaked towards the ground, a small winged golden ball - the Snitch - ahead of them only by a couple of feet...
Sarah clenched her fists, on the edge of her seat... A hand snatch out to grab the snitch... And Sarah threw her hands up in victory at the same time as Ginny Weasley did, proudly showing the watching crowd the golden ball she held in her fist.
"WEASLEY HAS THE SNITCH!" Lee exclaimed loudly. "GINNY WEASLEY HAS THE SNITCH! GRYFFINDOR WINS! WE WIN THE CUP! WE'VE WON THE CUP!"
The stands erupted in renewed cheers as everyone dressed up in red and gold hurried out of their seats, eager to be the first ones down on the pitch to give their congratulations. As she ran down the stairs, Sarah saw Cho Chang chuck her broom away in frustration as she landed, throwing Ginny a deathly glare even as tears of anger streamed down her face as she watched the younger red-head dismount and run to join her team.
The improved song began to echo anew as the Gryffindors marched down to the pitch, where an overjoyed Angelina Johnson accepted the silver Quidditch Cup from Madame Hooch and held it up in the air for a long moment, before she handed it over to a rather dazed-looking Ron, who was then hoisted up into the air alongside the cup as the mass of singing Gryffindors reached them and lifted him, before they began to trek towards the castle to the rythm of the, Sarah had to admit, rather catchy melody of Weasley is our King. "Weasley is our King, Weasley is our King, He didnʹt let the Quaffle in, Weasley is our King…ʺ
As they approached the castle, Sarah saw Harry and Hermione come running. "HARRY! HERMIONE!" yelled Ron over the loud sound of the singing lions, and waved the the silver Quidditch cup in the air. "WE DID IT! WE WON!"
Harry and Hermione beamed.
Ron's euphoria from helping the Gryffindors win the Quidditch Cup lasted the entire next day, and all he wanted to do was talk over the match. It was only Harry and Hermione finally admitted they hadn't actually been there to see any of his saves, or the way Ginny had caught the snitch - that they'd been absent for most of the game, in fact, that his mood dropped a few notches. However, his incredulity of Hagrid hiding a giant, even if that giant was his half-brother, was in fact much larger than his indignation, something Sarah found completely understandable. She liked Hagrid, she did, but sometimes, she wondered if he'd been dropped on the head one time too many as a not-so-small child.
Ron gave a nervous laugh. "And Hagrid wants us to...?"
"Teach him English, yeah," Harry said tiredly.
"Heʹs lost his mind," Ron said, sounding rather awed. Sarah couldn't help but silently agree.
"Yes," Hermione said irritably as she turned a page of Intermediate Transfiguration. "Yes, Iʹm starting to think he has. But, unfortunately, he made Harry and me promise."
"Well, did you pinky-swear?" Sarah wondered with a smirk. "Because if you didn't, you really don't have to go through with it."
"Yeah," Ron said, nodding furiously. "I mean, come on… weʹve got exams and weʹre about that far - " he held up his hand to show thumb and forefinger almost touching "‐ from being chucked out as it is. And anyway… remember Norbert? Remember Aragog? Have we ever come off better for mixing with any of Hagridʹs monster mates?"
"I know, itʹs just that ‐ we promised," said Hermione in a small voice.
"Not a pinky-promise," Sarah sing-songed. "But I have to admit, to meet an actual giant would be rather...interesting."
Harry snorted. "Interesting isn't what I would call it. Heart-stopping, maybe."
"Well," Ron sighed. "Hagrid hasnʹt been sacked yet, has he? Heʹs hung on this long, maybe heʹll hang on till the end of term and we wonʹt have to go near Grawp at all."
"You keep on thinking that, Ron," Sarah said, patting his back. "It must be nice, to live in your world."
Ron's shoulder's dropped.
Little did any of them know that the giant problem was about to be the least of their troubles.
Sounds coming from downstairs woke Buffy up again, and she sat up in annoyance. Seeing Remus was already awake, presumably woken by the same sounds, Buffy swung her legs out of bed. "What is it with people and waking us up far too early in the morning?" she grumbled, glancing at her bedside watch, seeing it was just past one o'clock. She'd been asleep for less than two hours. "Or too late in the night. This might be the Order's headquarters, but it's not a hotel with service twenty-four-seven."
"I'll deal with whatever it is," Remus said. "You go back to bed."
"No use," Buffy sighed as she grabbed her wand. "I'm awake now, aren't I?"
Just then, there was a large bark coming from downstairs. Remus and Buffy exchanged alarmed looks.
"That was not Sirius," Remus said with wide eyes. "That was - "
" - Fang," Buffy finished, and as one, they practically ran out the room, nearly colliding with Sirius who was coming out of his own room, wand in hand.
"Dad?" Phoebe asked, rubbing her eyes sleepily as she stepped out of her own room.
"Go back to bed, Phoebe, everything's fine," Remus assured as the three adults hurried down the stairs.
"Then why are you running?" Phoebe asked, but nonetheless headed back inside her room before Remus could answer.
In the Entrance Hall, they found Hagrid who was trying to silence his large boarhound, Fang, without success. Sirius rolled his eyes heavenwards, counting. One...two...three... And, as if on cue, the curtains covering his mother's portrait flew open and she began to scream.
"THIEVES! THIEVES IN THE NIGHT LOOKING TO SULLY THE ANCIENT AND NOBLE HOUSE OF BLACK!" She caught sight of Hagrid and gasped. "DANGEROUS HALF-BREEDS AND STUPID MUTTS!"
"Oh, put a sock in it," Sirius muttered. His mother only screamed louder, but at least the shock of her voice had silenced Fang, who had put his paws above his head and was now whimpering.
"Let's go into the kitchen," Remus said. "You look like you could use a cup of tea, Hagrid."
"I wouldn't say no teh somethin' stronger," Hagrid said and then lifted Fang into his arms. "Buffy, yeh, think yeh can check Fang over for me?"
"Well, at least we know nothing's wrong with his lungs," Sirius muttered at the same time as Buffy said:
"Of course, Hagrid, but you do know I'm not a veterinarian. What's happened to him?"
"Stunnin' spell," Hagrid grunted as he sat down in a kitchen chair, which creaked ominously. "He only woke up a'while ago, awfully frightened."
"Stunning spells?" Remus asked with a frown. "Who stunned him?"
"An Auror," Hagrid grunted. "It's that woman, Umbridge." The normally jovial half-giant sounded bitter. "She showed up, with five Aurors 'round midnight. Was lookin' to sack me, I reckon. 'Course, they didn't exactly ask nicely. She insulted me, and insulted Dumbledore..." As one, Remus, Buffy and Sirius winced. Knowing of Hagrid's loyalty to the man, that wouldn't have gone over well. "It got me mad," Hagrid said, taking a sip of the tea Remus had prepared, the cup looking tiny in his large hand. "I told 'em to get out of my house, and then Umbridge told them to arrest me. They started flinging stunning spells 'round."
Remus raised an eyebrow. Knowing Hagrid was half-giant, that wouldn't have worked. "Well, I didn't want to go down without a fight, an' when Fang tried to defend me, they stunned him. Then McGonagall showed up." Hagrid looked up, looking extremely sad. "She tried to stop 'em. Got four stunning spells in the chest for 'er trouble."
Buffy, Remus and Sirius drew in sharp breaths. "Four stunning spells?" Buffy whispered, horrified, from where she was checking over Fang. Sirius sank down heavily into a chair.
"By Merlin...at her age." Remus was pale. "I can't...for all we know, they might have killed her. Hagrid, do you know - "
Hagrid shook his head. "Didn't get a chance to check," he said, sniffling slightly. "Had to run."
"I have to contact Dumbledore and I'm calling an emergency meeting for the Order," Remus said after a few seconds of heavy silence. "Buffy?"
"Yes?" Buffy met Remus eyes.
"I think we all need something stronger than tea," Remus said humourlessly, before he left to use the floo.
A/N: Hi to all my readers - if I still have any - I wouldn't blame anyone except myself if I didn't considering the time it's been since my last update. I did not realise it has been almost a year (again...?) since my last update of this story. And I who was determined to have finished the entire thing by now! So much for planning... The truth is, I've had half this chapter finished since I posted chapter 26, so I really did not expect this to get so long to get out. But the last half of the chapter just did not want to get out - writer's block? - until today. Hopefully, it won't be another year between the chapters again, or we will all be old and grey by the time this ends!
Thank you for your patience!