It took a couple more weeks, but news of a Hogsmeade weekend finally made it around the school. As soon as the notices went up, Buffy grabbed a piece of parchment and a pen and got to writing.
I was going to start this with something like 'how are you', but that seemed dumb even in my head. So much has gone on in the time between when I left and when I came back that I doubt you'd be prepared to answer that question in a letter.
Things at Hogwarts are going pretty smoothly. Well, as smoothly as they can with a toad-like hag breathing down our necks. She's been given the power to evaluate all of us now and send reports back to the Ministry. She hasn't gotten to me yet – I'm not sure how she's going to get around the whole patient confidentiality thing and she doesn't look like the kind to work after hours, so maybe I'll be off the hook. Fingers crossed, anyway.
There's a Hogsmeade weekend coming up, two weeks from today. I'm supposed to head down to the village and help do the chaperone thing. If you're not busy, maybe we could meet up for a pint of butterbeer or something? We never did get to catch up over the summer.
I'll be at the Three Broomsticks on the day if you want to join me. Hope to see you there.
She read the letter over once more to make sure there was no incriminating information besides the fact that she was a twenty-two year old writing in a friendly manner to someone who, according to the wizarding world, was a little left of sane and more than a little paranoid. Satisfied that there was no mention of the Order, Slayer business or the fact that they went to school together, Buffy sealed up the letter and prepared to bring it up to the Owlry. She knew there was someone waiting for her as soon as she walked out, although it wasn't until she heard the throat clearing that she knew exactly who it was.
Buffy mentally counted to ten before she turned, pasting a bright smile on her face. Even thought it was seven o'clock on a Saturday morning, Dolores Umbridge was fully dressed in her pink teaching attire, her hair perfectly coiffed, a sharp contrast from Buffy's jeans, Sunnydale High School sweat shirt and messy bun. She would change later for her late morning class, but for now this was fine for her to go up to the Owlry and head back down to her office.
"What can I do for you today, Professor?" Buffy asked, making no effort to keep the bite out of her voice.
"You're a very difficult woman to track down, Miss Summers," Umbridge said. "One would think that a guidance counselor would keep regular hours to be more accessible to her charges."
"Well, I've been here," Buffy replied. While it was true that she did take walks around the castle to familiarize herself with the school again, it was always during classes and she always left a note saying where she was and when she would be back. If she had many charges coming to her on a regular basis things would be different, but as of right now she only saw one or two students per day, if that.
"I was hoping you and I could have a little chat," Umbridge said. "Do you have time now?"
"This wasn't something you could have asked me about during school time?" Buffy asked.
"Well, of course it was, but as you know, I teach during class time," Umbridge replied, her voice slowing down a little. "As such, while you are available to speak during school time, I am not. You are also unavailable during the evenings because of the little club you have that Dumbledore lets you put on."
"If this is about my curriculum, I don't think that's any of your business," Buffy replied. "My little club, as you put it, is just that. A club. Students are allowed to come and go as they please and attend as many or as few as the classes as they like."
"And what do you do during these sessions?" Umbridge asked.
"What do you think I do?" Buffy asked. "It's information sharing. Just like the teachers do, only on a more informal basis."
"And what kind of information do you share?" Umbridge asked.
"My unique perspective and life experiences," Buffy replied. "I had a rather interesting last couple of years and Dumbledore thought it would be interesting if I did a little sharing."
"And what, exactly, happened to you in the last couple of years that is so fascinating?" Umbridge asked.
"I lived on a Hellmouth for seven years," Buffy replied. "I've seen some interesting things, things that these kids hopefully will never have to see, but would be interested in learning about at least."
"Ah, yes, I recall your sister mentioning something about living on a Hellmouth," Umbridge said. "I ask, though, is teaching young children about a Hellmouth really the most intelligent thing to do?"
"Well, if that's your logic, Defence Against the Dark Arts is pointless," Buffy replied. "I mean, you're telling these kids that there is nothing out there that is going to hurt them, so what's the point in teaching them how to defend themselves?"
"I am teaching them these things because they are a part of the Ministry-approved curriculum set forth by education experts at the Ministry." Umbridge cocked her head to the side curiously. "You know, I never caught what year you graduated from Hogwarts. You weren't in the records of recently graduated students."
"That's because I didn't." Umbridge arched an eyebrow at Buffy and she hurriedly explained, cursing the fact that she and Dumbledore still hadn't hashed out details about this. "I mean, I didn't graduate from Hogwarts. Kind of hard, you know, because I'm an American and it's really difficult for an American witch to get into Hogwarts under special circumstances, not even getting into the whole, 'I'm American and I want to go to Hogwarts' kind of thing."
"You seem rather close with some of the staff members," Umbridge commented. "One would wonder why that is, considering this must be your first foray into the British wizarding world."
"Professor Dumbledore put me into contact with some of the staff members before I got into the country," Buffy replied. "He thought it would be an easier transition if I was able to ask some of the people I would be working with some questions about the school and what to expect about the students."
"I see," Umbridge replied. A smile crossed her face, not quite reaching her eyes. "Thank you for speaking with me this morning, Miss Summers. It was quite... illuminating."
Umbridge turned on her heel and trotted off, the heels of her shoes clicking against the stones. Buffy shook her head, trying to shake the feeling of uneasiness she had.
She had a letter to send.
It was a bit of a shock to Buffy when she entered her dungeon classroom-slash-training area to find Umbridge settled into a plush velvet chair, obviously conjured, with her clipboard in hand. She had heard the other professors speaking about this with various levels of complaint so she knew, sort of, what to expect, but it was a little disconcerting for her. She had been under the impression that she wasn't going to be reviewed at all. She hadn't received notice of this – everyone else had received a letter telling them of their evaluation.
The students seemed to share her shock – as they entered, they started whispering amongst each other. Buffy knew that the general thread of the conversation was "What is she doing here?" – supernatural hearing was a blessing, sometimes. Like now. However, the last thing she needed was more chaos than normal and made a concerted effort to quiet everyone down quickly.
"Okay everyone, settle down!"
Saturday morning club meetings were the hardest for Buffy to calm down, even when she didn't have uninvited and unwanted guests. It was the weekend, meaning that everyone was far more relaxed. No one wore their uniforms, opting for more comfortable clothes, and Saturdays were the days Buffy usually reserved for the more physical aspects of the club, like the duelling or the physical self-defence. Buffy would be damned if she changed her plans for anyone or anything.
Even if that anyone or anything happened to be Dolores Umbridge.
"I said quiet!"
The whispering ceased and the students faced forward. Some wore shock on their faces – Buffy rarely rose her voice, and even though she was so short compared to some of the other students, an angry or annoyed Buffy was actually a scary sight to behold.
"So, I see you've all noticed our guest sitting in the corner," Buffy said. She waved jauntily at Umbridge, who just scribbled something down on her clipboard. Buffy smirked a little before she continued. "Anyway, I'd ask her to participate but I don't think she'd be able to handle it. I'd also be a little worried about her safety if I pitted her against any of the students."
A wave of laughter rolled through the room and Umbridge's head shot up in interest. She regarded Buffy for a few long moments before she went back to furiously scribbling on her clipboard.
"I'm going to break you off into groups and then show you what we're going to be doing," Buffy continued before she began moving through the students, breaking them off into pairs. The pairs she put them in seemed to be unfair, one larger person, usually male, paired with a smaller person, usually female. There were a few female-female pairs (like Dawn and Luna) and a few male-male pairs (like Colin Creevey and Fred Weasley), and by the time Buffy was finished, she was getting some odd looks from the students.
"So, I know normally I pair you up with people about the same size as you, but today we're doing something a little different," Buffy continued once everyone was paired off. "In the real world, you're almost never going to get attacked by someone the same size or smaller than you. Normally, it's a bigger guy, coming up from behind. I'm going to show you some simple moves I've picked up that will help you bring down an opponent so that you have time to get the hell away."
Buffy tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes and was mostly unsuccessful when Umbridge interrupted her. She crossed her arms and arched an eyebrow at the professor, tapping her foot expectantly. "Something you wanted to say, Professor Umbridge?"
"I fail to see how physical defense has anything to do with learning about demons and vampires," Umbridge replied.
"Well, my club is an all-encompassing one," Buffy replied. "I teach how to identify demons and vampires and what can be done to defend themselves from them. Some of these methods will also help while out in the Muggle world. After all, if you're in the middle of getting mugged, it's not exactly a bright idea to whip out your wand and start blasting spells this way and that and risk breaking the statute of wizarding secrecy, now is it?"
"I suppose so," Umbridge said, before she sat back and scribbled something on her clipboard. Buffy waited for few moments, watching Umbridge for any sign that she was going to say anything else. Umbridge looked at Buffy from over her clipboard. "Oh, don't let me prevent you from teaching your little class."
"Now that you're all in pairs, let me show you some of the stuff we're going to be doing today," Buffy continued, trying not to grit her teeth. She gestured to Dawn, standing around the middle of the room with Luna. "Dawn, Luna, could you come up here for a demonstration?"
Dawn and the little blonde Ravenclaw in question came up to the front mat. Buffy put them into position, all the while explaining the movements of the technique. Once she gave the okay to execute the move, Luna flipped Dawn over in a near-perfect Judo throw.
"Well, it looks like I'm not going to have to show you two anything else," Buffy said with a grin at her sister before she started moving her way through the rest of the pairs, setting them up for their throws.
Dawn lay down on the mat for a few moments, feeling winded. She had been kind of used to tiny blonde women throwing her around a little, but most of them had superhuman strength. Luna, as far as she knew, was normal in the strength department.
"You've done this before, haven't you?" Dawn asked.
"My father thought that a girl should be able to defend herself if the need arose," Luna replied simply as she held out a hand to help Dawn to her feet. "If you like, you could flip me a few times to make yourself feel better."
Dawn blinked at the strange girl who had said she glowed green upon their first meeting. Ever since that day, Dawn had not spoken to Luna and avoided the Ravenclaw as much as possible. It really wasn't that difficult, considering Luna was a year below her and in an entirely different house.
"I'm making you uncomfortable again, aren't I?" Luna asked. "I do that from time to time. I don't mean to, but when you don't conform to society's norms, people aren't sure how to react to you. Father always said that my brain works on a different wavelength than everyone else's, which is why I can see what I saw when I met you."
"It wasn't that you could see it," Dawn said. She looked around and, determining that no one was paying attention to them, continued. "Well, it kind of was. We had some issues about my whole green-ness a couple of years ago and it just puts me on edge when someone brings it up."
"You know you glow green?" Luna asked. "Most people don't know what colour they glow."
"Well, let's just say I'm special in that respect," Dawn replied dryly. "Come on, let's get back to work otherwise Buffy's going to start yelling at us or something."
"The offer still stands," Luna said as they got into position. "If you think I'm throwing you around too much, we can trade places and you can do the throwing."
"I'll think about it."
The class had gone well – the first one without any injuries – and Buffy was making sure that everyone was on the way out when Umbridge approached her.
"Well, that was an illuminating lesson," she said. "I notice you have no Slytherins in your class. Is that by design?"
"No," Buffy replied with a frown. "This club is open for all students in all years. I just didn't have any Slytherins sign up."
"I see," Umbridge said with a nod, making one last note on her clipboard. "You will get your evaluation in five to ten days."
Umbridge turned to leave. Buffy's mind was reeling. This had been an evaluation? What the hell? The other teachers had ample notice. Buffy had checked her mailbox in the staffroom every single day and on none of those days did an envelope from Umbridge turn up.
"I'm sorry, what?" Buffy asked.
"Oh, I'm sorry," Umbridge said, turning around. "Perhaps I didn't explain this to you properly. I was here to evaluate your technique as a teacher. As a part of this evaluation there is a written report. I shall be giving you a copy of this report in five to ten days, to coincide when I send it to the Ministry."
"I get that part," Buffy said. "I'm just wondering where the hell my notice was about this evaluation. Everyone else got at least a day's notice before their evaluation. I have been checking my mailbox for a note from you for the past two weeks and have seen nothing. For someone who's all about the rules and regulations, you're doing a crappy job about following them yourself."
"I put your notification in your mailbox after I met with you this morning," Umbridge replied with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "You really ought to check it every day, like you say you do. You will get your evaluation in five to ten days' time."
This time, when Umbridge turned to leave, Buffy did nothing to stop her. Instead, she waited until Umbridge should have been far ahead of her before she set out on her own.
Up the stairs she went, hoping that the person she was tracking down was in her quarters and not out and about, Buffy made her way up to the seventh floor until reached the Transfiguration professor's office. As soon as she arrived, she pounded on the door.
"What's all this racket?" Minerva asked as she pulled open the door, expression somewhat annoyed until she saw who it was. "Oh, it's you. And you look vexed. Come in."
"She's evil. I swear, she's evil," Buffy said as she entered and flopped down on one of the chairs in front of the fire.
"Dare I ask?" Minerva asked as she made her way to the tea service and sandwiches she had on a side table. "Tea? Or perhaps something a little stronger?"
"It's –" Buffy checked the clock on the mantle, "- twelve-thirty in the afternoon. A little early to drink, don't you think?"
"It's five o'clock somewhere," Minerva said as she poured herself and Buffy a cup of tea. "Do you still take yours the same?"
"Two lumps, with cream," Buffy confirmed.
"So why is Dolores evil this time?" Minerva asked.
"How much notice did you get when she came to your class for your evaluation?" Buffy asked.
"Two, three days. Why?" Minerva asked, handing Buffy her tea.
"She apparently sent a note to my mailbox earlier this morning telling me that she was going to be evaluating my class," Buffy replied. "I didn't get it, of course, because she'd probably put it there while I was up in the Owlry before I had to teach. Sure, the whole being watched thing was a tip-off, but I was under the impression that someone who was such a stickler for rules went and broke them."
"Well, when one makes the rules, one can change them to suit their purposes," Minerva said. "What did you cover in class today, anyway?"
"Judo throws," Buffy replied. Minerva arched an eyebrow at her. "Magic isn't the only way someone can defend themselves. When deprived of their wands, witches and wizards are pretty much sitting ducks. Also, lots of vampires and demons are more close-quarters combat and most are resistant to magic. I thought it would be a good idea for the kids to have a little something in their arsenal. I mean, I'm not expecting them to use it and I hope they don't have to, but it helps to be like the boy scouts."
"The boy scouts?" Minerva asked.
"Always be prepared," Buffy replied.
"Well, that may be true, but the fact of the matter is the wizarding world is very set in its ways," Minerva said. "Most of them still believe that their wand is the only defence they need against anyone or anything and what you're teaching is a totally radical concept. I'm not sure how the Ministry is going to react to learning of our new club."
"Well, here's hoping there's someone on the board of directors who's a little more progressive than most," Buffy said before she took a sip of her tea. "So, how was your week?"
Buffy was seated at a table by herself at the Three Broomsticks, surrounded on all sides by students from third year and above. It was five after three in the afternoon and Buffy had been spending the last fifteen minutes craning her neck, trying to get a view of the door. However, it looked like Alastor wasn't going to make it.
"Got stood up, huh?" Dawn asked as she came over.
"To be fair, I only extended the invitation. He never said yes," Buffy replied with a sigh. She'd had a bad week already – Umbridge's report had come to her the day before and it was full of things she didn't like. There wasn't much she could do about it until the Ministry made a decision on the report, but by what was written there, it looked like Buffy wasn't going to have her club, as it was now, for very much longer. All she wanted to do was have a drink (mostly non-alcoholic) with an old friend and catch up.
Maybe she should have sent an owl to Augusta instead.
"Well, I'm going to go and hang out with Luna," Dawn said, gesturing to the blonde girl several seats away. Buffy craned her neck to make sure that it was the Luna Dawn was talking about before she turned her attention back to her sister.
"Huh. When did that happen?" she asked.
"After you paired us up," Dawn replied with a shrug. "When she's not creeping me out, she's actually really interesting to talk to."
"Well, be careful," Buffy said. "She might be in the know about the supernatural and stuff, but that doesn't mean she's safe."
"Relax, Buffy," Dawn said with a roll of her eyes. "I think I've become a good judge of character by now."
"Need I remind you about that time you made out with a vampire?" Buffy asked.
"I said now," Dawn said with a sigh. "As in, the mistakes in my past made me a better judge of character."
"Fine, fine," Buffy replied, waving Dawn off. "Go on, don't want to keep Luna waiting."
Dawn grinned before she waved good-bye and trotted over to where Luna was sitting... alone. Buffy was a little curious about what was going on between her sister and the blonde Ravenclaw, but didn't have much of a chance to dwell on it because a gravelly voice sounded from her right.
"Is this seat taken?"
Buffy looked up, a bright smile crossing her face when she saw Alastor Moody standing next to her, looking rather uncomfortable as he gripped the back of the chair to her right. He looked so different from the boy she had known and wondered what he would have become if she hadn't been sent away. So many people had changed since that day. Obviously, Quentin and Tom had changed the most. Would they have been different if she'd been able to stay?
"No, please, sit down," Buffy replied, gesturing to the chair. She watched as Alastor sat down, struggling a little with his wooden leg. Buffy made a move to help, but a glare from him stopped her in her tracks.
"Don't you dare, Buffy," he said, his voice growly. "I might be old, but I'm not an invalid yet."
"I never said you were," Buffy replied. "Can I get you something?"
"I'll flag down Madam Rosmerta myself," Alastor replied, before he promptly turned and waved down the attractive middle-aged woman making her way between the tables. She approached the table with a bright smile, only faltering a little in surprise when she saw who was sitting with Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody.
"What can I get you?" she asked.
"Firewhiskey for me, and another butterbeer for the lady," Alastor replied. Rosmerta made a note on her pad before she turned and headed back to the bar.
Buffy and Alastor stared at each other for a few moments as Rosmerta walked away. She searched for something to say as Alastor scrutinized her with his good eye, the fake one moving independently, even rolling back into his head.
"Could you stop that?" Buffy asked, gesturing to the moving eye.
"If I don't keep it moving I'll be able to see through your shirt," Alastor replied gruffly.
"That thing has x-ray vision?" Buffy asked. Alastor nodded. "Weird."
"Well, when you gets bits and pieces blown off, the Ministry does a damn fine job making sure you get new and improved ones," Alastor replied as Rosmerta came back with their drinks. He took a swig of firewhiskey, grimacing a little before he thumped his wooden leg on the floor. "Well, except for this one. Still have problems getting around."
"It looks like you've had an interesting life," Buffy said, taking a sip of her drink.
"That I have," Alastor said. "You would have seen it for yourself if you'd stayed."
"You think I wanted to leave?" Buffy asked.
"At the time? No," Alastor replied. "But after I found out about the portal? You're damn right I did. I searched for you. For years. Everyone else gave up on you, but I didn't. Good to know it was all for nothing."
"I was told, numerous times, but Dumbledore and Dippet that there was no way in hell I'd be able to go back to my own time," Buffy hissed, glancing around to make sure that no one was eavesdropping. So far, everyone was engrossed in their own conversations and weren't paying attention to the eighty-year-old and the twenty-one-year-old. "By the time Malfoy sent me back, I was resigned to being stuck in the 1940's. I was actually looking forward to graduating from Hogwarts and building a career somewhere. No idea who would have taken me, transfer student with no history and crappy grades, but I was prepared to work for it. And then Malfoy went and screwed it up. So don't you dare imply that I wanted to go home. Hogwarts was my home."
"So you never, ever wanted to go back?" Alastor asked. "As soon as you came to Hogwarts, that was it? You were happy?"
"God no," Buffy replied with a shake of her head. "I felt lost, alone. You remember how I was. Homesick like crazy. I had to watch what I said and what I did to make sure I didn't make anyone more suspicious than they already were."
"How did Malfoy find out, then?" Alastor asked.
"I don't know," Buffy replied. "He was a Slytherin. They're sneaky. He probably listened at the door when I was talking to Dumbledore and Dippett."
"Did Riddle know?" Alastor asked.
"No," Buffy replied. "I was keeping that secret from both of you."
"So what, you were going to happily keep the secret that you were from the future and go off and marry that snake and have little snakey children?" Alastor asked.
"Alastor, please calm down," Buffy said with a tired sigh. "If we're going to fight, I don't want to do it here."
"Fine," Alastor replied, downing the rest of his whiskey in one go. "Are you finished?"
"What?" Buffy asked. "Why?"
"You don't want to have this discussion here," Alastor replied. "So finish your drink and let's go."
Buffy huffed a little in frustration, grabbed her butterbeer and took a large gulp before she started rooting around in her purse for a few Galleons. Alastor thrust his hand in his pocket and dropped enough coins onto the table to cover his firewhiskey, the butterbeer he'd ordered for her and the one she'd been nursing before he'd gotten there. He looked at her expectantly before he turned and started limping out of the pub at a rather fast clip. Buffy waited a moment before she scrambled to catch up, reaching him as he opened the door.
Alastor limped for quite a ways, and Buffy practically chasing after him was enough to garner a few strange glances from passerby. Neither of them paid any attention to them as they strode to some place with a little more privacy. They finally found it – just outside the Shrieking Shack.
"Huh, this wasn't here when we were students, was it?" Buffy asked, looking up at the dilapidated shack.
"Aye, it wasn't," Alastor agreed. "It was put up as a place for Remus Lupin to transform during the full moon."
"Dumbledore's doing, I'm guessing?" Buffy asked. "I mean, Dippet really didn't seem like the type to let a werewolf in."
"Aye, it was," Alastor said with a nod. "Dumbledore's a good man."
"Amen to that," Buffy said with a nod. She sighed, staring at the Shack rather than Alastor. "So, did you really think I wanted to leave?"
"Like I said, I thought you'd disappeared," Alastor replied. "Then here you come, dropped back into our lives, mostly unchanged, and we learn that you're from the future. Throws everything out of whack. Changes everything I'd thought for the last sixty years."
"Mostly unchanged?" Buffy asked. "That eye of yours obviously only sees through physical things."
"What do you mean?" Alastor asked.
"If you think I'm exactly the same as I was when I left, you're wrong," Buffy said with a snort.
"Oh yeah?" Alastor asked. "What's happened to you?"
"Let's see... I had to blow up my high school, nearly killed a rogue slayer, had a little sister materialize and dropped into my life, died for said sister, was resurrected, had an affair with a vampire, housed all of the surviving potential slayers, died again in the battle with the First and survived the fall of the Sunnydale Hellmouth," Buffy replied in one big long breath. "I mean, there are other things that happened, like Willow going dark and nearly ending the world and Spike saving it, but that's the gist of it. Now, if you want to keep saying I haven't changed at all, go right ahead."
"I see it now," Alastor said. "In the eyes. Your eyes have seen a lot."
"They have," Buffy replied. She sighed. "I never wanted to leave."
"You were going to marry that snake," Alastor growled.
"I didn't say that," Buffy replied, rolling her eyes. "I don't know what would have happened. Tom and I were so different that it probably wouldn't have worked out."
"Are you going to track him down?" Alastor asked.
"Not without my Scythe and a hell of a lot of backup," Buffy retorted with a snort. "When we meet, he's going down."
"No chance of redeeming himself?" Alastor asked.
"If there were any trace of Tom in him, it might be possible," Buffy replied. "But I don't think there is. Any last shreds of Tom probably died when he was resurrected."
"Aye," Alastor said with a nod.
"So anyway, enough about me. What about you?" Buffy asked. "Details. Now."
"Demanding little thing, aren't you?" Alastor asked with the first smile she'd seen out of him since that summer. "You got all afternoon?"
"I have nowhere to be."
So, here we go. Another chapter. Huzzah! Live has been hectic, to say the least and it doesn't look like it's going to calm down anytime soon. I try to work on these fics when I can between other things (work, friends, other projects [planning a MG fantasy series about dragons right now], wedding plans). I have NOT abandoned this and don't appreciate it when people bring that up – I'm just taking a little longer to update because life is getting in the way.
Feedback is appreciated. Whining/comments about my irregular updating schedule will be ignored. Flames will be used to toast marshmallows.