"So, is it crazy?" asked Buffy.
"Well, crazy is such a strong word," replied Willow.
"Let's not rule it out, though," Giles said, chewing on the ends of his glasses.
"You don't think it can be done?" asked Faith.
"I didn't say that. I might - but not yet."
"I personally don't think it's impossible to come up with a crazier plan," Cordelia chimed in.
"We attack the Mayor with humus," said Oz, garnering everyone's confused attention.
"I stand corrected."
"Just trying to keep things in perspective."
"Thank you," Cordelia sarcastically replied. "My point, however, is crazy or not, it's pretty much the only plan. Besides, it's Buffy and Faith's, and they're slay gals, you know, Little Miss Likes-to-fight. So. . ."
"I think there was a 'yea' vote buried in there somewhere," Xander interrupted.
"Well, we're going to need every single one of you on board," Buffy said. "Especially you, Xander. You're sort of the key figure here."
"Key? Me?" he asked, surprised. "Okay, pride, humility, and here is the mind-numbing fear. What do I have to do?"
"You remember any of that military stuff from when you became soldier guy?" Faith asked him.
"Uh, rocket launcher?" he asked Buffy.
"Rocket launcher not going to get it done. It took a volcano to kill one of these things last time," said Buffy.
Their plan, though crazy as it was, could work; however, there seemed to be one important factor they seemed to have overlooked.
"Um, all of this is rather depends on you being able to control the Mayor," Giles pointed out.
Buffy glanced at Faith, who had lowered her eyes at the sore subject.
"Faith told me we should play on his human weakness," Buffy said, empathy in her tone.
"His weakness," Giles said, and Faith shrugged in what could be interpreted as a yes. "Which is. . .?"
They weren't alone. Angel could sense it. He moved forward in the shadows of the sunlit library. His shoulders tensing, his eyes narrowed as he stared at the library doors, and his actions didn't go unnoticed.
"Angel?" Buffy asked.
"Someone's here," he said cryptically.
Buffy and Faith focused their hearing, and soon they were able to pick up on sounds in the hallway. They looked at each other and rose from their seats, weapons in hand, and they faced the library entrance. Everyone else picked up whatever weapon they could find, not wanting another run-in with the Mayor like last time, and waited.
"There is an eight hour time difference."
"What are all these little metal doors all over the place?"
"What are they supposed to be?"
"They're called lockers. It's where students keep the books they don't need between classes."
The voices were louder, clear enough for all mortal hearing, and Buffy smiled when she recognized them.
"Fancy Muggles, they won't even carry their own books around."
The doors swung open and in flooded a rather large group of people.
"Here you are," said a tall red-headed teenage boy to Buffy. "Do you know how long it took us to pop over here?"
"That's five seconds of our very precious time you know," said the boy's twin.
"What are you guys doing here?" Buffy asked, not that she wasn't glad to see them, but it wasn't exactly the best time for a Sunnydale visit.
"You didn't think we'd let you have all the fun did you?" said a girl with red hair.
The Scoobies lowered their weapons at the friendly vibes the group was giving off, especially when seeing Buffy's mom with them, and they were 99.9% sure (can never be too cautious in good old Sunnydale) that the new group was Buffy's extended Wizarding familia she had so raved about.
"Hey, Wills," Faith whispered to Willow, as she looked at the abundant amount of red heads. "Lose a family?"
Willow rolled her eyes, but it was very curious to see so many redheads in one place at one time.
"They wanted to help," said Sirius to Buffy, his voice taking a lowered, more private tone. "And after an hour of arguing. . ."
"You told them?" she asked, not happy.
"Did you really think we wouldn't notice you missing?" Ginny asked.
"You helped save us. Now, we're here to help you," said Harry.
It was sweet, but they couldn't have expected her to just let them jump in half-blind.
"Guys, this is really great of you, but. . .what we're dealing with here is some heavy danger."
"And the Department of Mysteries wasn't dangerous?"
"Different type of danger. Like, completely different."
"We can face anything," said George.
"After all, we're wizards," Fred said cheekily.
Why couldn't Buffy have found herself some ditzy, uncaring friends? Life would be easier so much easier if she hung out with people who didn't care if she died.
"Buffy," Giles said, and by his look, Buffy knew her manners hadn't been up to par. She had been so wrapped up with her surprise visitors that she had forgotten there were other people in the room.
"Oh, right, introductions would be useful here." Only problem was that there a lot of introductions to be made. "Um. . .uh. . ." She stared back and forth between the two groups trying to decide where to start. "Okay, new arrivals first, I guess?" And as she called out there names, they each gave a small little wave or a nod. "For those who might not remember, this is my mom, Joyce. And this is Sirius, and Remus, Tonks, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Fred, George, Neville, Luna, Ginny, Hermione, Ron, and Harry." Okay, one down. Buffy turned to the other side and was glad that the list was shorter. "This is Giles, uh, Rupert Giles, and this is Xander, Oz, Willow, Faith, Cordelia, and Angel." And that group also did their little waves or nods at the roll call. "Wizards meet supernatural. Supernatural meet wizards."
Buffy's worlds were meshing. It was definitely cause for nerves. And apparent loss of speech as a long stretch of awkward silence seemed to have taken over.
"So, what are they doing here?" Cordelia bluntly asked in her very Queen C tone, making everyone uncomfortable.
"You'll have to excuse Cordelia, she's. . .we'll were still trying to figure out what she is exactly," Xander said, hoping joking would help to diffuse the situation.
"At least we don't have to figure you out, Xander. We all know how much of a loser you are."
Xander laughed uncomfortably. "Not everyone has to be saved from the Mayor, right? Right?"
Yay, more awkwardness. Time for the adults to step in before the children got out of hand.
"Well, to answer the lovely young lady's question, we're here to offer our assistance with your current predicament," Sirius said.
"That would be most helpful, thank you," Giles said, knowing how having wizards on their side, especially with Buffy and Faith's plan, would be of great help.
"Wait," Buffy said annoyed at the fact that everyone was just jumping on board with disregard to the amount of danger that was involved. "Everyone just. . .there's a lot of risk involved here. More than what I let you know before I left."
"We're used to risk," said Harry.
"And we're helping, no matter what it is," Neville said firmly.
They were used to risk, Buffy knew that, but this was a majorly different risk. It wasn't Philosopher's Stones and Department of Mysteries, it was saving the world, and that was a level that they were unfamiliar with. It wasn't that they didn't have the abilities, it was the overwhelming them that she had an issue with, the risks that they didn't know they faced, like the very real chance that they could actually die, for one thing.
"We could use their help, Buffy," Giles said, noting her uneasiness.
"They do have the fire power," said Faith.
Buffy turned to Willow and Xander. They knew the game, understood the peril involved, and they knew why she was fencing on the subject, but that didn't mean they agreed with her.
"We were newbies to this Hellmouth thing once ourselves, remember?" said Willow.
"Yea, and look how great we turned out," Xander added. "I'm even key guy on this one."
They did turn out great. They were amazing and brave and deserved way more than being stuck inside the library discussing saving a town that had tried to kill them so many times. They were proof to never underestimate anyone, no matter who they were or what they had done, because people can always surprise you. They were the reason Buffy put her faith in people.
And so with resigning sigh, Buffy crossed her arms over her chest and gave into peer-pressure.
"The Sunnydale seniors are graduating this afternoon, and in the middle of it the town's mayor will be ascending to full demon, and he will destroy this town, killing everyone in it unless we stop him," Buffy explained, her slayer mode switching into place.
Giles felt a swell of pride and nostalgia at seeing her command a room again. It was something he had missed.
"He is invincible until the time comes. However, once he has Ascended, he can be killed," he tacked on.
A hand shot in air and the Scoobies looked at the hand as if had grown extra fingers. Who raised their hand in this library?
"Yes, Miss. . .?" Giles asked, slightly taken aback.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Do you know what sort of demon the Mayor will be Ascending to?"
"Unfortunately, no. We've been unable to pinpoint the exact species."
"Then how will we know how to stop him?"
It was amusing to watch new people react to Hermione. Harry and Ron even shared a smirk at the strange looks their hosts were giving her. After all, when it came to obtaining or providing knowledge, Hermione wasn't known to be shy.
"We've gotten information from a. . .reliable source," said Giles, giving a brief glance to Faith. "We were actually working out the details right before you came in. From what we've gathered, it seems that the remains of the demon he may be turning into had been found in a now dormant volcano, and we assume that is the amount of firepower it will take to stop him."
"A volcano?" asked Ron, and Giles nodded. "I've never been in this town before, but I'm sure you don't have those just lying around."
"No, but we got the next best thing," Faith replied with a smile that had Ron's cheeks color.
Buffy wasn't kidding when she said there was some heavy danger in play, and Sirius was starting to think life behind the Veil wouldn't have been so bad.
"Demons, volcanoes and destroying of towns," Sirius said quietly to Buffy. "Kinda makes you wish you had stayed dead, doesn't it?"
Buffy only rolled her eyes, but she wasn't the only one heard what supposed to be a private conversation.
"Stayed dead?" asked Angel. His tone and expression heavy with concern.
The room went quiet, and Buffy had a very 'uh-oh' feeling.
"Dead?" asked Giles, looking at Buffy with bewilderment. "Good lord. You died?"
Buffy was caught in the headlights. She looked between the very surprised Scoobies and the very shocked Wizards and was hoping the earth would just swallow her up right then and now.
"Hey! Books. With words," she said, pointing to the books on the library's table. "Books-with-words-that-talk-about-evil-mayors-who-wanna-become-large-scary-snake-demons-that-plan-to-kill-people-and-take-over-the-entire-world-can-I-talk-to-you-lot-over-here-for-a-second-thanks," she said in one breath, pushing her mother, Remus, Sirius, and Giles, the information people, into Giles's office, closed the door behind them and on a very stunned group of people. "I died?"
"So it would seem," Giles replied.
"You mean you didn't know? You didn't tell her?" asked Sirius.
"You didn't either," Remus countered.
"Tell me what?" Buffy demanded.
It wasn't an easy thing to think about, your daughter dying, especially for the second time, which means it also wasn't an easy thing to try and explain.
"Well, when you went after Sirius. . .what happened was. . .you kind of. . ." Joyce staggered out.
"It's called the Veil of Death for a reason," Sirius said bluntly.
"The Veil of Death?" Giles asked, astonished at the strange turn of events. "You went through the Veil of Death?"
"Just for a minute. To bring him back," she said petulantly, nodding over to Sirius. "But what does that have to. . ." The equation added up and Buffy's eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. "You mean I died?"
"Didn't we already say that?" said Sirius.
"But. . .but. . ."
Died. She died. She was non-existent, unearth bound and no one told her until now?
As usual, when Buffy came across things she didn't understand, she looked to Giles, and even if he was in the midst of his own confusion, he tried to find answers as best he could.
"From my understanding, the Veil of Death is a threshold, a-a doorway if you will. It's a connection to the afterlife. . .for one to pass through it essentially means. . .dying."
"But I'm here. See. All alive and everything," she said, moving her hands emphatically to prove her point.
"Yes, Buffy, I can see that," he said, and leaned back on his desk. "Why don't you explain to me what happened."
And Buffy told him the whole twisted ordeal that resulted in her apparent dying. When she finished, Giles was in full watcher mode. He was chewing on the ends of his glasses again and was lost in his own little world.
"What is it, Giles? You have something face."
"Hm? Oh, yes," he said, snapping back to focus, placing the glasses back on his face. It was a conundrum he never thought come he'd come across. He may know of the Wizarding World and their bylaws, but he was in no means an expert. "According to my research, once you passed the Veil, that should've been it. Rope or not. By all intents and purposes, you shouldn't have been able to return."
"At all?" asked Buffy.
"Not from what I know."
"Then how did we?" asked Sirius.
"I-I'm not sure. It could be a number of things. Buffy being a slayer or the fact that she may have already died once may have given her some leeway. . .I wouldn't be sure of the mechanics of it," he explained. He knew they were straws but they were the only things that made some sense, and it was all he could give at the moment. "I'll look into it and let you know what I find."
Good old Giles, always there with his books that would have to wait until after their world-ending battle.
"Wait, if I died does that mean another slayer was called?" Buffy asked curiously.
Giles had thought about it, but if Buffy's death happened a week ago, he was positive the Council would've told him a new slayer had been activated by now, and they hadn't.
"I don't believe so. After your run in with the Master, and after Kendra's death, I believe the line now runs through Faith," he said, and looked over to the dark haired slayer.
"Oh, that's. . .well, there you go," Buffy said, not sure how she should feel about that.
"It doesn't mean you've been replaced, Buffy," said Giles, noting her displeasure.
"I know, but. . .it's the whole 'when one slayer dies the next one's called' thing. Kinda got used to that. I'm no longer the one, and I just. . ."
"Only child syndrome," said Joyce, and everyone seemed have understood Buffy's attitude by that statement alone, although Buffy's glare would disagree.
"Fine, whatever. Doesn't matter anyway, got a whole town to save and all that. And it has nothing to do because I'm an only child," she said, and opened the door, turning her back on some very amused adults.
"So how many times have you died exactly?" Ginny asked the minute Buffy reappeared from the office.
"What? Today?" she joked, but they were most definitely not amused, however, there wasn't time for this, not now. "Look, it's really not that big of a thing, and right now we've got other fish to fry, so let's leave Mother Goose for another day, okay?"
She was right. They would drop it for now, but that didn't mean they wouldn't start pestering her once this whole mess was over with.
As Buffy walked to the center of the room, she met Faith's eyes. A silent message passed, and the dark haired slayer joined her. Backs straight and stances firm, the slayers addressed their army, gearing them up for what was ahead.
"So, we all know what we're facing. The Mayor's got his plan, we got ours, and this is how it's going down," said Buffy, and gave Faith the lead.
"Some time during the graduation, Mayor Wilkins will ascend to demonhood. Since we don't know what kind of demon he'll be, we have to be prepared for anything. He'll kill anyone in his way. We can assume he's not going into this fight alone and he'll have his own people fighting for him."
"Vampires?" asked Hermione.
"Army of them," Faith replied.
"But it'll still be daylight out," said Willow.
"May be not," Giles said and picked up a book he had been reading that pertained to ascensions. "Darkness will follow and day becomes night. . ."
"An eclipse?" Buffy asked.
"Standard procedure for ascension."
"That puts me back into the game," said Angel, stepping forward.
"Yea, it does. You and Xander are going to have to work together now. Can you guys handle that?" Buffy asked.
"But I'm still key-guy, right?" Xander asked.
"Then Angel, in his non key-guy capacity, can work with me."
"What fun," Angel said sarcastically.
"Hey! Key-guy is still talking. . ."
"Oh, that's good! Start bickering. That's going to look great for us. You guys are like little old ladies!"
The plans were underway. Everyone had their chores and they only had so much time to pull it together.
Schematics for the school were tacked to a board near Giles's office. Buffy, Faith, Xander, and Angel stood before them, studying the area's pros and cons.
"They'll be coming through the sewers," said Angel.
"Makes sense, what with the lack of daylight down there," Buffy replied.
"Think your sweatshop will make enough to go around?" asked Faith, turning to the library table where Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna, Ron and Harry were whittling some stakes.
"They better if they wanna keep everyone alive," she said and went to check on their progress.
When she passed by the stairway, where Sirius and her mother were packing away some items, Sirius stopped her.
"Are you going to tell them that they're able to use magic here?" he asked, nodding over to the huddle at the library table.
Buffy couldn't help but smile as she looked at the group struggle with their knives and pieces of wood. Some were even starting to sweat.
"They wanted to help, so they're helping," she said.
Sirius smiled. She could be a mean one when she wanted to be.
"How's it going?" Buffy asked the laborers, picking up a newly carved stake.
"I think I have about fifty splinters," said Ron.
"And the blisters to match," said Harry.
"How many more of these do we have to make?" asked Neville.
"I'll let you know," Buffy said smiling and he slumped deeper into his chair.
"By the way, I almost forgot to tell you," said Ginny, slicing off a good hunk of wood. "I like your trousers."
Everyone around the table looked at Buffy, or more specifically at Buffy's leather clad legs and Ron and Harry shifted a little in their seats.
"It's slayer standard," said Faith, who had come over for. . .well, just for the hell of it.
When the group was told that there were two slayers instead of the usual one, due to Buffy's short-lived yet undetailed demise, they took it in stride; Hermione, of course, had her questions, but that was Hermione. The wizards were still in the process of discovering the nuts and bolts of slayerhood, so everything was new information, which meant no matter how unusual that information was, who were they to overly question it?
"Leather's sturdier to fight in when you need to slay some serious demon," Buffy explained.
"Not to mention nice to look at," mumbled Ron under his breath.
"Thanks, Red," Faith told him with a wink and red was what he became.
Ginny placed down her knife and table leg to give her hands some rest and looked over to where Angel still stood by school's floor plans.
"So, that's Angel? As in ex-Angel?" she asked Buffy, and Buffy nodded a bit uncomfortably not liking where this might be headed. "Why would you ever break up with him?"
The girls, all the girls, took a second to admire Buffy's ex. All broad-shouldered, dark-haired, perfect build of him.
Neville, Harry and Ron pouted at the girls' dreamy admiration, sharpening the end of their stakes with a little more force. What was so great about Angel? He was just. . .just a guy! They were guys. They were even guys who were doing hard labour. And what kind of name was Angel anyway?
"B, does sure know how to pick 'em, doesn't she? Dead or undead," said Faith, having wondered time and again about Buffy's sanity of letting someone like Angel go.
"I'm sorry, but what does that mean exactly?" asked Hermione.
Taking in the girls' confusion and Buffy's panic-stricken look, Faith came to a conclusion.
"You didn't tell 'em, did you?"
"Faith," Buffy said in warning.
"They need to know who's on their team, B." Bullshit. And Faith's evil little grin was full of it, too. "Angel's a vampire."
Time seemed to have stopped. They waited for the punch-line. There was a punch-line, wasn't there?
Buffy avoided them, but the girls kept staring at her. It was uncomfortable and. . .what? Did they expect her to show bite marks or something?
"You dated a vampire?" Ginny exclaimed.
"You what?" the boys shouted.
"Shhh!" Buffy said.
Buffy looked over at Angel, they all did, but he kept on staring at the floor plans, but Buffy knew better. He heard it all, and Buffy reached a whole new level of embarrassment. Buffy didn't want or need her personal life out there for it to be gawked at or judged, especially if it was twined with Angel's privacy. She glared at Faith and her sister-slayer was looking at her nails as if nothing had happened, as if she had done nothing wrong. She was unbelievable.
"We, uh, we need more," Buffy said avoiding anyone's gaze. She dropped the stake she had been holding and walked away. She didn't have time to deal with high school drama right now.
"Maybe we should've been a little more discreet," said Hermione.
"Maybe we shouldn't have said anything, period," Ginny said, hacking away at her table leg again.
"Deep wounds are the hardest to heal, no matter how much time has passed," Luna said, calmly sharpening the end of what used to be the leg of a chair.
Faith sighed; maybe she should've kept her big fat mouth shut. She knew Buffy didn't want her to say anything and yet there she went and put B's public life on P.A. Nice one, F.
Buffy walked over to Willow and Oz, who were working on the library's circulation desk, due the lack of large space and looking through a myriad of books.
"So, how are we coming on volcano detail?" she asked.
"I think we can work it out," said Oz.
"Fun with chemistry," Willow cheerfully added.
"Xander said he should be able to get the materials," said Buffy, peeking at Angel out of the corner of her eyes.
"Who's going to stoke it up?" asked Oz.
Buffy turned to Giles, who had come up beside them. "You feel up to it?"
He took off his glasses. "Ah, I suppose it should be I. It's strangely fitting in a grotesque fashion."
"Okay," she said with a nod and looked at Oz and Willow. "Time to start reaching out, guys. Giles, weapons, weapons, weapons."
He gave a nod, and then they watched as Faith breezed by them towards the exit.
"Faith, where are you going?" Giles asked
"There's something I need to get," she said without turning around. "Be back in a few."
And then she was gone.
"Some space will be good," said Willow, not commenting on the fiasco that occurred minutes ago.
Buffy smiled briefly at Willow. Yeah, some space should be good. There were too many Slayer-mones running around the place.
"I'll need some help," said Giles.
"Sure. Remus! Tonks!" Buffy called out and the pair appeared from the behind the bookstalls. "Giles could use a hand, would you guys mind?"
"Not at all," said Remus, and Giles led them to the many hidden weapons scattered around the library.
"Xander!" Buffy called out.
Xander walked out from Giles's office and stood with the original Scoobies.
"What up, Buff?"
"You guys need to start reaching out to the student body. Get to 'em fast. We'll need to start handing out the goodies soon."
Xander, Oz and Willow left to spread the joy of war to the rest of Sunnydale High, and Buffy was left to deal with the odds and ends.
They had never seen her like this. Not even in the Department of Mysteries. She gave orders and took charge as easily as breathing. Even Mr. Giles followed lead. Was this how her life was before she returned to Hogwarts? How many battles had she fought before? How many times did she have to put her own feelings, her own safety aside to do what was necessary? For those who had never seen her like this, it was an extraordinary thing to watch, and a brand new level respect was held for Buffy.
"Not all men are alike."
"Take us for example."
"We look the same."
"May even sound the same."
"But I'm much better than Fred."
Buffy could hear the pickup lines even before she saw them. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea leaving them, Fred and George, alone with Cordelia.
"I've always been curious about twins," Cordelia's saucy voice asked.
Or maybe Buffy should've kept Cordelia away from them.
"How's it going?" Buffy asked, and Fred and George dropped the books in their hands as if they had just been caught doing something naughty.
Cordelia rolled her eyes. What was it with boys and Buffy? Not only Sunnydale, but England, too? What did she do? Put them under some kind of spell or something? She probably did, the little witch.
"It's going great."
"We were just helping Cordelia here."
"Pack all these books away."
"Such a beautiful woman shouldn't do all this work by herself."
"She's too delicate for that."
Buffy rolled her eyes, and she was tempted to do it again as Cordelia arched her eyebrow in victory.
"Just don't take too long, okay? Giles would kill us if we left even the scent of books behind," she said and walked back from once she came.
Cordelia turned to the Twins and smiled her million dollar smile. Maybe there was hope for them yet.
"Buffy, we're running out of material," Ginny said the moment she saw her.
Buffy walked over to the table and saw lots stakes, but not enough. Not enough for all the people at today's ceremony to pack heat. She walked over to the cage where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were packing up and took one of the extra chairs moving to where there was enough space and, with one swoop against the floor, broke the chair into kindling. She picked them up, put them on the desk and broke apart some of the bigger pieces.
"Let me know if you need more," she said and turned to leave.
"Buffy," Ginny called out to her, but Buffy already knew what she was going to say.
"We're cool, no worries," she said, and smiled reassuringly.
"Cool," said Ginny with a smile of her very own.
"Buffy," Mrs. Weasley called out. Never an ending to a fore-battle day. "We seemed to be running out of room, is there somewhere we should be placing these?"
Mrs. Weasley was nearly surrounded by boxes holding Giles's ever important junk or as he put it, priceless artifacts.
"We should be probably start stacking them up Giles's flat. Mom!" Buffy called out, and her mother made her way over. She was the only other person who knew where Giles lived and could Apparate without suspicion. "Could you please Apparate them to Giles's so they'll know where to pop in and out of?"
"Yes. Of course."
Joyce took a hold of Mrs. Weasley who took a hold of Mr. Weasley and in the next second they were gone.
"Aw man, did I miss magic?" Xander asked, entering the library, barely catching a glimpse of Mrs. Summers before she disappeared.
"Sorry, Xan, should've been quicker. On the bright side you'll be seeing plenty of magic tonight."
"Why, Buff, I never thought you'd offer," he said, placing an arm around her shoulders.
"You couldn't handle my magic if you tried," she said.
"Give me a try and I'll let you know," he said, and she gently elbowed him in the stomach.
"How'd it go?" she asked, and his groan said it all. "That bad, huh?"
"You try talking to Harmony and see how you come out."
"I think I'd rather face the Mayor."
"In that case, Buff. It's your lucky day!"
They day wore on a little longer and bit by bit, the library was getting lighter. The room was nearly empty, save for the cadre of weapons, boxes and the people who were heading it all.
Oz and Willow were out passing out the flammable goodies and instructions on where to place the ingredients for the bonfire to end all bonfires. Xander was going over his final battle plans with Sirius and the Twins, who had always known about strategy and were putting it to constructive use this time. Neville, Ron and Harry were helping Mr. Weasley take boxes to Giles's apartment. Ginny and Cordelia were still packing up. Mrs. Summers, Mrs. Weasley, Luna and Hermione were going over spells that would be the most efficient and easily learned for the battle, and Faith had finally shown up after getting whatever it was that needed to be gotten.
"Did you get what you needed?" Buffy asked.
"Yeah, I did," Faith asked, not commenting on the large knife that she held in her hand.
"Okay," she said with a nod, and let the tension remain for now. "Xander wants to run some things by you. Everyone knows where they'll be when it happens. He'll want your opinion on it and where you think you'd have the most advantage."
Faith only nodded and went to the designated War Room/Corner to be filled in what she had missed.
In times of war, prepare for strain because it will happen. As long as they made it out alive, strain could be her new nickname for all Buffy cared. Walking past Xander and the others, Buffy went into Giles's office and looked at the weapons sitting on his desk.
"It's not enough," Angel said, placing a battle ax next to a mace.
"Giles took Remus and Tonks to bring back some more," she said.
"How are you holding up?"
"Just really want this day to be over with."
"I know the feeling."
He picked up a blade that had been sitting on the desk chair, and as his eyes lowered. he noticed something shiny on Buffy's right hand. Without realizing it, he gently grabbed a hold of it and brought it closer to his face. Buffy's eyes widened when she realized she had left the Claddagh ring on and, most importantly, that the heart was facing in.
With another pop, the moving men were back again. How much junk did this library have? Without a word, they all went to the nearest box they could find, and as Harry bent down to pick one up, he caught sight of Angel and Buffy in Mr. Giles's room and they were holding hands. His throat tightened and something hot ran down his back.
Realizing Mr. Weasley had been calling him, he quickly turned away and faced him.
"Yes, sorry," he said, and picked up the box. The last thing he saw was Buffy and Angel looking at their clasped hands before he disappeared from the room again.
Buffy knew she should pull her hand away, really she did, but having Angel so close, making her feel so calm pushed all that should away.
"Last night, I was. . .I-I was looking at it and. . ."
They shouldn't be doing this. They were supposed to be a touch-free zone, Angel knew that, and that's why he had to force himself to let go. He admitted to himself that he was glad Buffy was disappointed by his actions, but then he chastised himself for being so greedy. He knew it was hard for her knowing they could never be together, just like it was hard for him, but they could at least allow themselves the memories and that's why he still carried his Claddagh ring in his pocket every day.
"So, um, okay. More weapons on the way and then we'll be good," she said, and turned to leave.
"Buffy," he said and she paused, waiting for some heart-wrenching explanation about why they still shouldn't be together. "Your friends, your family. . .they're really good people. I'm glad to know you have them in your life. Having known them will make me worry less when you're not around."
Heart-warming, not heart-wrenching and, if possible, he was making her fall just a little bit more.
"Thanks,"she said turning to him.
He smiled and nodded and went back to the weapons at hand, but he wasn't done talking just yet.
"Especially Sirius. I think it was a good decision to go after him, I see how much he means to you."
"You seem to be the only who. . .wait, how did you. . .?" He was ignoring her on purpose, and Buffy knew exactly how he knew. "You heard me telling Giles about Veil-gate," she said, amused more than anything.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to pry. But supernatural hearing. . .I am a vampire after all," he said, a teasing smile on his lips and Buffy couldn't help a small laugh.
Everything was cleaned of books and things. All weapons had arrived. Everyone was present and accounted for, well except for Willow and Oz, where were they?
"All this work shot my nails to hell," Cordelia complained, studying her cuticles by the window with the most natural light like the princess she was. "If we don't die today, someone's going to pay for my mistreatment."
"That tone sound familiar to you, George?" said Fred, from the other side of the room.
"Very familiar, but I can't quite place my finger on it."
They looked pointedly to their left where Buffy stood with the most condescending smiles on their lips.
"Shut up," she snapped and walked away. She was never that bad. Was she?
Students had streamed in out of the library. Tucking weapons into their pockets, underneath their graduation gowns, in their bags, anywhere they could hide them.
"Thanks," Cordelia said, taking the stake and crossbow from a pink faced Neville, completely unaware or uncaring of his reaction to her.
"Y-y-you're w-welcome," he said nervously, and quickly walked away.
Soon every last piece of weaponry was called for and the non-muggle people were wondering how the hell they were supposed to defend themselves with not even a stake in sight.
"What about us?" asked Harry.
"Don't we get weapons?" asked Ron.
"You have weapons," Buffy replied, taking out her wand and spinning in it in the palm her hand to make her point.
"But we're underage. We're not allowed to use magic outside of school," said Hermione.
"You can in Sunnydale. Heavy mystical energy provides great coverage."
They froze. Sorry, what?
"You mean we've been able to use magic this whole time and you made us do everything by hand?" Ron asked, irritated, and he wasn't the only one.
"You wanted to help," she said flippantly, and stepped away from them toward Remus and Mr. Weasley.
"They might just let you die today, you do realize that," said Remus, looking at all the bitter faces.
"I think it's good that they did a bit work," said Mr. Weasley. "Helps build up the muscles."
"See, he gets me," Buffy said.
"Well, let's get them out of here before they get you dead," Remus said.
Buffy ignored all the bitter faces that passed by her on their way to out, but whatever, they could kill her after they made it out of this alive.
"That was a good one," Fred told her, giving her a small slap on the back as he passed, and George winked right before he slipped through the library doors. See, they got her, too.
"See you out there," Xander told her, the next to leave, taking Cordelia with him.
Angel glanced over at Faith who was pacing by the table, tapping the end of her knife against her palm.
"I got it," Buffy told him.
"Stay safe," he said, and then he was gone.
"Ready to say goodbye?" Buffy asked Giles, who was hanging on to the last bits of library air.
"Yes, yes, I think I am," he told her, and looked at her, nostalgia glittering in his eyes. "I'm really glad you came. Despite the circumstances."
"Be here in a snap anytime, cause you know, I can do that," she said.
Giles smiled. Of course she could, and he was glad for that.
Buffy watched as he walked over to Faith. Her arms had crossed over her chest, in complete defensive mode, but Buffy could see that whatever Giles said got to her and she was a whole lot calmer after Giles left to take his position.
"Ready to party?" Faith asked, as she breezed by her.
"Faith," Buffy said, not moving from her spot.
It was Faith. Faith was Mayor Wilkins' weakness. The Scoobies had come up with a brilliant, if flawed plan, that Faith would play double spy. She pretended to cross over to the dark side after that Deputy Mayor incident, and the Mayor fell for it and took her in. She did his bidding (to an extent that never crossed the murder line), she gained his trust, and she relayed everything she knew back to the home team. But what nobody expected was how close they would become. The paternal instinct kicked in and Mayor Wilkins began to think of Faith as a daughter, and her craving for a father figure began to take shape in Wilkins. He showered her with gifts, including that wicked knife she was currently holding, and affection, and it killed her when she realized she had to let him go before it got too deep and she wouldn't be able to do her job. She had dropped the hammer the day before yesterday, she waited until the last minute, and she nearly escaped with her life. But she healed fast, at least physically, emotionally. . .well, today would hopefully take care of that and Faith hoped she would never have to go through that again.
"I'm good, B. I made my choice," she said, not facing her. "I know what I have to do, and I'm jumping on it full force."
Faith didn't need flowery words of encouragement. Buffy realized she needed to close herself off for what she was about to do and the least she could do was respect it.
"Good," Buffy said.
Faith's shoulders relaxed and she turned her head round, a rare genuine smile on her face.
"See you after the parade."
The quad was filled with people: graduates, parents, family members, undergrads and wizards, most of them waiting nervously for what was to come.
"Congratulations to the class of 1999. You all proved more or less adequate. This is a time of celebration, so: sit still and be quiet," said Principal Snyder.
"Friendly little thing, isn't he?" said George.
"Maybe we'll get lucky and he'll get eaten," Xander joked, earning a reproachful eye from Buffy.
Oz and Willow sneaked into the visitor's section just as Snyder finished his heart-warming speech and took seats next to Buffy and the others.
"Am I late? Did we fight?" she asked, and one look at Willow's dishevelled appearance and Buffy knew exactly where she and Oz had been, and who was she to pass judgment on Willow's stolen piece of happiness before a war?
The Mayor stepped up to the podium with a smile and cue cards in hand. Buffy and Faith glanced at each other knowing the time was closer.
"Well. What a day this is! Special day. Today is our centennial, the one hundred anniversary of the founding of Sunnydale, and I know what that means to all you kids, not a darn thing. Because today something much more important happens: today you all graduate from high school. Today all the pain, all the work, all the excitement is finally over. And what's a hundred years of history compared to that? You know what, kids…?"
"Oh my god," Buffy grimaced. "He's going to do the entire speech."
"Man, just ascend already," said Willow.
". . .for all of you it may be that there is a place in Sunnydale's history, whether you like it or not. It's been a long road getting here. For you. . .for Sunnydale. There has been achievement, joy, good times. . .and there has been grief. There's been loss." He paused as he spotted Faith in the crowd, and she met him eye for eye. There was no turning back now. "Some people who should be here today. . .aren't. But we are. Journey's end. And what is a journey? Is it just. . .distance traveled? Time spent? No. It's what happens on the way, it the things that happen to you. At the end of the journey you're not the same. Today is about change. Graduation doesn't just mean your circumstances change, it means you do. You ascend. . .to a higher level. Nothing will ever be the same. Nothing."
A shadow had fallen upon the grounds, and everyone looked up to see that the sun had been completely blocked out.
Even as he tried to proceed with his speech, the Mayor began to flinch in pain. He screamed and grabbed the podium as he felt the change.
"It has begun. My destiny," he said smiling. "It's a little sooner then I expected; I had this whole section on civic pride. . .But I guess we'll just skip to the big finish!"
The masses watched horrified as the Mayor started to stretch and grow. His suit split around him and slowly he transformed into a big snake-like demon with clawed mandibles surrounding its mouth. It kept growing, stretching higher as many abandoned their seats while graduates, some students and certain visitors stayed in place staring up at the Mayor, who had stretched up above the roof of the school.
"NOW!" Faith yelled.
Graduates took off their gowns and the Scoobies removed their jackets, revealing crosses, axes, and other assorted weaponry, and the wizards brought out the strongest weapons in their arsenal, their wands.
"Flame units!" Buffy ordered. Several students pointed their flame throwers at the Mayor, and the most experienced wizards pointed their wands, and together they shot out flames that caused the Mayor to scream and writhe in pain.
Buffy nodded over to Xander for his cue.
"First wave!" he said, a group of students loaded their cross bows and set their target. "Fire!"
The Mayor screamed again at the onslaught of arrows that pierced his skin. He lunged down and started to snack on the students that were seated in the first row. Everyone grimaced at the sight and some of the students started running away.
"This. . .this is simply unacceptable!" Principal Snyder shouted, trying to gain futile control.
Oz turned to the directions where some of the students had fled. He saw them run down the stairs and right into a group of waiting vampires who had not given them one ounce of mercy and killed them before they even had a chance.
"Xander?" he said.
Xander turned and set his sights toward the new target.
"Arm bow men!"
Oz and some of the students picked up long bows and arrows. Harry, Neville and the rest aimed their wands and remembered the spell they just learned. The vampires slowly moved up the steps as the kids lit their arrows on fire and took aim.
A mass of fiery arrows and small balls of fire hit their targets and the vampires turned into piles of dust.
Xander turned back at the students in front of the Mayor and watched as Jonathan soared through the air and landed on top of other students knocking them down.
"Fall back!" Buffy told those around her.
At the sight of even more fire pointed in their direction, the vampires turned to leave but they soon found themselves confronted by another group of fighters led by Angel and these fighters weren't about to pull any punches. They stormed in and hit and staked any soulless demon in their path.
The sky was alight with fire and screams. The sound of fighting filled the grounds of a David and Goliath war.
"This is not orderly. This is not discipline!" Snyder shouted, and looked up to the Mayor. "You're on my campus, buddy! And when I say I want quiet, I want. . ."
They watched in horror as the Mayor lowered his head and swallowed Snyder whole. Buffy looked to Xander and when he turned to her she could see the shocked look on his face. Yeah, no more jokes about people being eaten, no sir.
"Fall back! Get back!" Faith shouted to those around her, and turned to Buffy. "Go!"
Buffy hesitated, but this one was Faith's and Buffy knew she had to hand over the reins.
"Good luck," she said and left.
"Xander, take 'em down," Faith ordered.
"Everyone! Hand to hand!" he shouted, taking out a stake from his pocket. "Everyone! Let's go! Move! Move!"
With a punch, Angel sent a vampire flying, and letting the demon out to play, he took care of two more. His group was driving the vampires back up the steps, and foolishly the vampires thought that meant better killing ground.
"Get the kids!" one of them yelled.
The other vampires turned to follow his lead and were surprised to find themselves confronted with a mass of angry people armed to the T that were running down the steps.
"Alright, kiddies time to play!" shouted Fred, excited to finally get dirty and ran off to the fight.
"Fred!" Mrs. Weasley shouted, but it was too late, Fred was lost in the crowd. "George, go help him!" she ordered, and he went off. "Ginny! Ginny! Stay close to me and dad!"
Ginny did as she was told, but that didn't mean she wasn't going kick some serious demon arse because of it. She shot a spell at the nearest bloodsucker, and when she saw Cordelia stake one, Ginny couldn't wait to do the same.
Xander kept a military eye on the chaos around him even as he struggled with his own vampire attack.
"Right flank close in! Close!" Exasperated, he pushed the vampire away. "Jason! Paul! You guys are right flank!"
Harry spotted a vampire biting the neck of some blonde girl and when he saw it drop her, he knew it was too late, but that didn't mean he couldn't stop it from hurting someone else and he shot out arrows from his wand towards the vampire's direction until it turned to dust.
"This is madness!" shouted Ron, tossing off spells.
"I didn't-!" Hermione began, shooting blue light from her wand toward a vampire. "I didn't think it would be this chaotic!"
A vampire came rushing at Hermione, and Harry lunged on instinct. He'd never gotten into a real fight before, especially not with a vampire with super strength. Harry was holding his own, but the vampire was quicker and just as it was about to knock Harry to the ground, Buffy had come out of nowhere and blindsided the vampire with a hit to its temple. It was intense watching her fight. The kicks, the punches, the fluid motions. Buffy and the vampire brawled until Buffy got the upper hand and then held the vampire's hands behind its back. She needed them to get their hands dirty. To show them that you can't always fight from a distance.
"Stake him!" she shouted.
Harry shoved his wand into the vampire's heart without a second thought, and two seconds after he pulled it out, the vampire exploded into dust.
"One gone," said Buffy, dusting off her hands, "and a lot more to go."
Another vampire had appeared beside Ron and from the adrenaline rush of having so much anarchy around him, he moved back at the kick headed for his head, Ron threw a punch that mimicked Buffy's, he quickly came back from the fist that had hit his stomach, kicked the vampire in the shin, but then the vampire got really aggressive and Buffy knew she had to step in. She threw a right cross then hit the vampire with a left and just as it lost its balance Buffy plunged her wand into the vampire's heart turning to dust.
And then Buffy turned to Ron with a raised eyebrow, impressed at his raw fighting skill.
"That was. . .really good. He was a fledgling, but still. . ."
"That was. . .wicked," he said with an excited grin. "Alright, let's kill some more of the bloody things."
Looks like someone definitely had his battle-training wheels taken off and he wasn't the only one.
Fred and George were having one heck of a good time. They punched and kicked and staked things, loving every bit of it. Neville and Luna had joined them and though it had been frightening and overwhelming at first, adrenaline had kicked in and the foursome made one formidable team.
"Longbottom!" called George, and Neville blasted away the vampire he was dealing with and turned to where George was currently dealing with two particularly nasty vampires of his own.
Neville made to move when a vampire had suddenly come up behind him and placed an around his neck, choking him. Neville grabbed at the arm and tried to get it to release him, but it was too strong and he fought desperately to breathe, and just as he was beginning to see stars, the arm disappeared and Neville leaned forward, coughing and gasping for air.
"Neville, are you alright?" Mrs. Summers asked, placing a hand on his back.
He nodded, and quickly remembered about George.
"George, he. . .he had two. . .against. . ."
"He got help," she said, and Neville glanced over to see that Angel was currently dispatching one of George's attackers.
It had been while since Sirius had been in a good brawl and it definitely pumped up the blood in his system.
"Just like old times, eh?" said Sirius, drop kicking a vamp.
"When was this ever old times?" Remus replied, avoiding a punch to the head.
"Why can't you just play along?"
"Sorry if I seem a little preoccupied with not dying!"
Remus sensed a vampire behind him, and he heard it run at full speed, and just as it was getting closer, Remus whipped around and hit him square in the chest that sent him flying overhead.
"That's better," Sirius grinned, and Remus smiled, it was good to let the wolf come out, but only when involved in demon wars of course.
They dropped like bowling pins. Buffy tossed that vampire into the nearest cluster of vamps that she could find and knocked them down. She moved forward and took advantage of their disorientation. It was a free for all and Oz, Willow and Tonks grabbed and disposed of whatever vampires they could get.
"Hey!" Faith shouted, grabbing the Mayor's attention. "Remember this?" She defiantly held up the knife he had given her. "I was thinking of trashing it along with all that other junk you gave me." She sneered as she looked at it. "It looks like the kinda cheap crap you find at yard sales." Faith scoffed and looked back to him with a challenging expression. "Maybe I could sell it for scrap metal. What do you think, Dick?"
The Mayor gnashed his teeth and growled. He swooped down, but Faith was quicker. She shot towards the school. She burst through the doors and wove through the halls as the Mayor barreled through anything in his way after her. Faith kept her speed all the way to the library and as she vaulted over the library's banister, she looked back at the Mayor who had stopped inside the room and looked at all the stacked barrels of fuel and large sacks that were spread out.
"Well, gosh," he said, in his guttural voice.
Faith jumped out the window and crouched next to Giles and with a firm hand he pushed down the plunger.
A fire cloud erupted from atop of the school, rumbling the ground. Everyone stopped their fighting, surprised by the explosion, of its sounds and sights. Some shielded their eyes from the brightness and some couldn't tear their eyes away. There were shared smiles of relief and there was a deep sense of accomplishment. It was an amazing sight to behold; it was the fiery end to a rather tumultuous beginning and everyone watched as Sunnydale High burned.
It was over. Whatever vampires had been left ran off. The Mayor was fried to a crisp. Some lives had been lost, and some people had been left a little damaged, but it was over.
"Two out of three. That's gotta be some sort of record," said Xander.
"Some people sew. Some people fish. I help burn down schools," Buffy said with a smile.
They passed police cars, ambulances and fire trucks that were tending to the wounded and trying their hardest to find some sort plausible explanation for what happened. Currently, they were leaning heavily toward faulty gas lines and gangs on PCP.
"We got off pretty cheap. . .considering," he said.
"Seems like we did," she replied looking over to her slightly injured wizarding clan.
"They're real champs for their first time out."
"Yeah," she said, looking at them proudly.
Xander smiled at her admiration. Even after all the ups and downs, deceits and heartbreak, Buffy never lost her faith in people. It's always nice to see that sometimes that faith wasn't for naught. He patted her shoulder and then he went off to where the rest of the Scoobies stood, lightly grazed in injuries.
"Are you all right?" asked Giles coming up next to her.
"I should imagine so. It's been quite a long day."
"I haven't processed everything yet. My brain isn't really functioning on the higher levels. It's pretty much: fire bad; tree pretty."
"Understandable. Well, when it's working again, congratulate it on a good campaign. You and Faith did very well."
Buffy nodded. "Thank you. I will."
Giles took a deep breath and looked around.
"There is a certain dramatic irony that's attached to all this. A Synchronicity that borders on. . .on predestination, one might say."
Buffy stared at him. "Fire bad; tree pretty."
"Yes, s. . .sorry." He looked over her shoulder for a moment and then smiled down at her. "I'm going to see how your friends are doing."
Curious, Buffy watched him walk off, and then she felt it. The Angel tingle. She turned around and found herself face to face with the source of that tingle.
"Hey," she greeted first.
"Glad to see you made it out in one piece."
"Same here, although it seems that you're a little worse for wear," he said, gently touching the already closed gash on her forehead.
"We can't all be in mint condition, now can we?"
Harry tried to ignore it, but he couldn't help looking at the pair of them. Standing so close. Looking so comfortable. His hand on her forehead. For two people who were no longer in a relationship, they sure seemed to be rather intimate.
"If I had known this is what would've happened, I would've never let Ginny or any of you come," Mrs. Weasley said to all the teenagers, her arm wrapped tightly around her daughter.
"I think they all did splendidly," said Mr. Weasley, and at his wife's glare, he knew it was best to leave it that.
"They did do splendidly. I must say they did extraordinarily well," Giles said. "All of you did. I want to thank you for your assistance. It was of great help."
"No need. In a strange and bizarre way, it was rather exhilarating," said Sirius.
"Yes, fighting to death does bring that out, doesn't it?"
Buffy and Angel spoke for a little longer, and Harry kept a fleeting eye on them from the last longing look they shared as they separated up to when she came over to stand with them.
Knowing Buffy wanted some time alone before they left, Gilles made his excuses and walked off to get some very well deserved rest.
"So, enjoy your crash course in war?" she asked.
"It was definitely an experience," said Ginny tiredly.
"Got one good thing out of it," said Fred.
"Oh, yeah, what's that?" asked Buffy.
He wrapped an arm around her and stared at the ruins that used to be Sunnydale High.
"Thanks to you, we got to blow up a bloody school!"
"Fred," Mrs. Weasley admonished, but it didn't extinguish the enjoyment that Fred or any of the others felt at the fact they helped blow up a bloody school.
"After how much I slept already, I didn't think I'd be this exhausted," said Neville, and the others readily agreed.
"Kicking some major demon butt can do that to you," Buffy said.
"I'm ready to curl myself into a ball right here and call it a night," said Tonks.
"Hear, hear," Ron lazily agreed.
"There isn't a reason to stay any longer is there? There's not much we can do now," Hermione said, glancing at the multitude of people being taken care of by paramedics.
"Everything does seem to be taken care of. We've all said our goodbyes, I think it'll be alright if we left," said Remus, and those who sat on the ground gathered themselves up.
"Ready to go?" Ginny asked Buffy, making sure she had said goodbye to her friends before they left.
Buffy looked to her mother and the rest of the adults, and they suspiciously looked away which meant they didn't tell them. Sure, they spill the beans on Sunnydale's near-apocalypse but keep mum on the way less serious subjects.
"Actually I'm not going back," she said. "I've decided to stay."
"Stay?" asked Harry.
"Yeah, I guess I missed Sunnydale a little more than I thought. I talked it over with my mom and she thinks it's a good idea."
"So, you're not coming back?" asked Neville, and she shook her head.
Buffy was staying, but everything was going great. Fences were mended. She had a place that would be left empty if she stayed. Why didn't. . .why would she want to stay?
"But what about Hogwarts?" asked Ginny. "What about us? You know, your friends?"
Buffy realized they had misconstrued her words, hence their not so happy expressions, maybe she should've worded things a little better.
"I'm only staying for the summer – not from now on," she clarified, and they paused as it sank in and then slumped in relief.
"Could've said that in the first place," Ginny said, and Buffy shrugged.
"Will your mum be staying as well?" asked Luna, looking from mother to daughter.
"She'll be staying later, for now it'll just be me," she replied. "I'm gonna bunk it at Willow's, but you guys can come and visit anytime. Given parental permission, of course."
The thought of visiting Sunnydale for non-world-ending purposes sounded appealing, especially with the fact that underage wizards could use magic without being detected.
"I always thought our lives lacked a good amount of California sun," said Fred.
"Can we come and visit again soon?" Ginny asked her parents.
"We'll talk about it when we get home," said Mrs. Weasley.
It wasn't a yes, but it wasn't exactly a no either, so hope was good.
"We should get going," said Remus. "If I know Mad-Eye, he's still waiting at Headquarters to see if we made it back alive."
"You don't think he'll be angry, do you?" asked Hermione.
"Why? Because we didn't wait for him and instructed a house-elf to tell him that we've gone over to Sunnydale because we wanted to help stop a battle that would destroy the town and have taken Harry with us, our only hope in stopping Voldemort and there was a good chance that none of us would make out alive? Nah, I don't think so," said Sirius to the amusement and annoyance of his party.
"Sarcasm is just a way of life for you, isn't it?" Buffy said.
"It's my whole belief system."
Buffy jokingly gave him the stink eye, and he pulled her into a hug.
"Stay safe, Goldilocks."
"Always do, Snuggles."
They smiled as they pulled apart, and her mother moved right in.
"Call me at least once every other day to let me know you're okay."
"Mom, you don't have a phone."
"I'll install one."
Joyce gave her daughter one last squeeze and stepped aside to give Remus his turn.
There was some more huggage for those who were comfortable with it and some smiles and goodbyes for those who weren't.
"Be careful and don't do anything stupid," said Buffy.
"Says the girl who's staying on the Hellmouth," Ginny said.
"You know what I mean."
"We'll make a deal. You stay safe. We'll stay safe," Neville said.
Buffy gave a nod. "Scout's honor."
"I rather like this place," said Luna gazing around her. "There's so much untapped mystery."
"That's better left unstirred," Buffy said in warning tone, knowing how sticking your hand in a label-less jar can get you stung. "I'll see you guys in a few months or days depending on whether you'll be able to visit or not," she said as she hugged each one of them.
"Buffy, seriously, please be careful," Ginny said, worry heavy in her eyes.
"Always am," she replied assuredly.
The three turned back with farewells smiles on their faces and Buffy turned to the last goodbye.
"You know, all of today should prove something to you," she said to Harry. "When your world's in danger you'll do anything to defend it even when you don't think you stand a chance, even if you're not the one predestined to save it."
The students today knew they were facing the impossible - normal human beings against vampires and a demon - but they fought with every ounce of conviction they held; even if it meant sacrificing their own lives for the greater good. It was determination Harry had never seen, it still left his mind reeling, but there was a very big difference between what happened today and what Buffy was trying to tell him.
"But I'm the only one who can stop him," he said referring to Voldemort and the prophecy.
"But he won't be working alone. He'll have his people," she said and looked over to the small group of fighters ready to go home, and Harry followed her gaze. "And you have yours. People are a lot stronger than you think, Harry. You won't be able to handle everything on your own; you'll need to trust them."
When you've spent over half your life having no one to look after you except yourself, it's not easy to ask for help, and when you found something that is yours, something that's full of love and happiness, when you've deprived of it for so long, your natural instinct is to protect it as much as you can. Harry knew what Buffy was trying to get him to understand, but he had to admit he didn't really agree with it just yet.
He faced her again, and saying goodbye or have a nice summer seemed oddly redundant, so instead he settled on what he wanted to say the most.
"Don't forget to write."
"Me? Never," she said with a smile that he returned.
Harry joined the rest of the leaving party and Buffy stood there as they all smiled and waved before they disappeared in a pop. It left her feeling strangely lonely. When she had returned to Hogwarts, no one would've cared if she jumped off the Astronomy Tower, and today she had people who risked their lives to fight for something that was important to her. There was so much, so many people against her when she first arrived, it wasn't an easy road to overcome, but it was worth it and she had gained more than she had ever imagined. Buffy couldn't help but laugh a little as she thought about it all, what a twisted year this had been and one of the longest in her life. God only knew how next year was going to be.
"Well, that's the most fun you can have without having any fun," said Cordelia.
"How about the part where we kicked some demon ass? I didn't hate that," Willow said smiling as Oz stroked her hair from behind.
"Hear, hear!" said Xander from his spot on the ground.
Buffy heard them as she went over join the other half of her family circle that was mingling at the broken stone benches by the front of the school. She stopped just next to Faith and noticed the brunette's brooding expression.
"How you feeling? Five by five?"
She shrugged. "Two by four."
They both smiled slightly and left it at that.
"Everyone all gone?" asked Willow and Buffy nodded.
"Gotta tell ya, meeting your wizarding folk throws a whole wrench in my whole stuffy British impression of all things Englandish," said Xander.
"They're good people," Buffy said, knowing Xander's comment was meant as a compliment.
"I liked them," said Oz.
"Are they going to visit over the summer?" Willow asked.
"Hopefully." Buffy looked around, and seeing all the damage, there was one question that came to mind. "So what's gonna happen now? Do you think they'll transfer you guys to different schools or something?"
Oz looked over to where some school officials were still talking to the police. "Word on the street is that we may be set up in trailers."
"Great, we're going to be left like a bunch of homeless people," Cordelia grumbled.
Hardly, but it wasn't exactly the best of situations. The Scoobies still had one more year of high school to go and since they had turned that high school into bits, it left them transients of a higher learning building. Not the best way to spend what was supposed to be the greatest year of your high school life, but that's what you get when you blow up your own school.
"Well, I think we've done pretty much all we can here. You guys wanna take off?" Buffy asked.
"I'm for it," said Cordelia.
"I could definitely use some sleep, yo," Faith said, stretching her arms above her head.
"Tell me about it. If someone could just wake me when it's September, that'd be great," said Buffy.
They picked themselves up and walked off; leaving the cleanup to Sunnydale's finest.
"Gotta tell you, B, saving the world. . .not as kick back as you made it sound."
"You're still a newbie. Wait until you die your first time. It's all cake after that."
"I hope this blaze of glory sends a message to all the hell-raisers out there."
"No kidding. Why do demons even come here anymore? I mean, don't they know. . ."
Notes: Above all..THANK YOU! For the fact that you kept reading, for all the reviews, for putting up with my lengthy story telling, and for enjoying the story. We've reached the promiseland people! Seriously, it was like freakin' marathon :)
An extra pinch of thanks for all my fanart artists and their brilliant creativity.
Extra dose of thanks to Andrea for starting the Beta train and many, many thanks to Annie for taking it those many extra miles :)
And as my thank you to everyone please enjoy my UnExpected (FanFic) video on YouTube