This story is in no way associated with, or makes any claim to, Harry Potter, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or any other fandom/celebrity/anything else you may recognize. It all belongs to their respective owners. No money is being made from this story which is purely written for entertainment.
Buffy sat on a bed inside Hyperion hotel in Los Angeles, a content smile on her face as she carefully stroked the cheek of the tiny bundle she held in her arms, wrapped tightly into a pink blanket. By her bedside sat Faith, a thoughtful expression on her face as she looked down at the infant.
Buffy's smile widened as the newborn twitched a little in her sleep. So much had happened since she got sent back to her old world. It hadn't been an awful experience – if it weren't for the threat of the First and his Bringers, and the fact that Remus was not with her, one could almost call it pleasant. Like with her first return to Sunnydale, things had been awkward between her and her friends, but as weeks passed, that tension had slowly disappeared.
Some days, Buffy had almost been able to fool herself into thinking it was just like old times... But then, her growing belly would remind her that it wasn't, not at all. She shouldn't be here, even though Buffy had to admit she hadn't been completely useless, despite her pregnancy.
Soon after her arrival, Buffy had come up with a plan that had given Faith her confidence back: a Gladiator-like showdown had been arranged between Faith and the Turok-Han that had injured her, Faith taking him down with a piece of wire around its neck, proving once and for all that their enemy was not unbeatable and that Faith was THE Slayer. Soon afterwards, Buffy had joined Faith in a rescue of Spike (and weren't those words Buffy never thought would escape her lips?) from the First's clutches.
After that, however, things had begun to go downhill again. Buffy got to learn that in the year that had passed since her last visit, Willow had gone all darkside when Tara had been killed, had murdered Tara's killer in cold blood and nearly ended the world. If not for Xander's intervention, she would have succeeded.
This incident had come back to bite Willow in the ass when a hex, cast by Amy Madison, whom Buffy still remembered as a shy and kind blonde who wouldn't harm a fly, literally turned her into Warren, even Willow's personality slowly becoming affected. It was only thanks to Kennedy that Willow had snapped out of the spell, which was also the only reason that Buffy could stand her.
Other crazy things had also gone down, including a shocking betrayal by Giles in a set-up to kill Spike. Spike had, after Faith and Buffy rescued him, surprisingly turned into somewhat of a confidant. Faith and Spike were even closer, having bonded over cigarettes, booze and violence. Because of this, both Slayers had been very upset with Giles - they needed all the muscle they could get against the First, especially as Buffy entered her final stretch of pregnancy, making it harder for her to even move around.
Things had only gotten worse when the First brought in another player in his arsenal – an insane priest called Caleb with incredible strength. Two Potentials had been killed and Xander had lost an eye in the well-intended, but ultimately fool-hardy and badly executed, plan to take Caleb out. For a long time after that, the Potentials had doubted Faith's ability to lead, since she had been the one to bring them to him, even though Buffy had helped her come up with the plan. She felt she was just as much to blame and resolutely rebuffed the attempts of a mutiny meant to evict Faith from her rightful spot as Head Slayer.
Displeased by this, Kennedy had later sneaked out with a group of Potentials to attack the First's armoury, planning to come back victorious and thereby prove she was better fit to lead, even though she wasn't a full Slayer. Needless to say, it had been a trap – a bomb had taken them by surprise, and only Faith's timely intervention had saved them from the approaching Turok-Hans. This immediately regained the Potentials' trust and Kennedy's reluctant appreciation, while Buffy put her healing skills to use on the Potentials who had been injured by the explosion.
Armed with a Scythe, a powerful weapon that they later learned had been forged centuries ago by a female order called the Guardians, Faith finally put an end to Caleb's existence. And then the First's plans had finally come to an end when everyone, besides Buffy, who'd been waiting outside Sunnydale High in a school bus, entered the Hellmouth itself to defeat its army of Turok-Han. The Scythe had been used to channel the Slayer power and give it to all the Potentials, and Spike had worn an amulet from Angel that had given them the second edge they needed to win the battle: the First's army had been defeated, literally buried beneath the town as it collapsed due to the power of the amulet, leaving only a giant crater in its wake, taking Spike with it.
"You do realise you still haven't named her, right?" Faith pointed out and Buffy's head jerked up, having forgotten her presence while lost in her thoughts. "It's been three days – don't you think it's time to give her a name, before she gets stuck with being called baby for all eternity - this isn't Dirty Dancing, you know."
Buffy expelled a deep, thoughtful breath. "I know."
"So?" Faith asked out loud, when several more seconds went by without Buffy saying anything else. "What are you going to name her, B?"
Buffy pursed her lips, looking down at her daughter, hoping a name would come to her just by looking at that sweet face. She hadn't thought much of names – she had hoped she would have been back in the wizarding world before the baby was born, where she could decide names together with Remus. That had not happened, but Buffy was no longer depressed over that fact since she now knew she would get to go back eventually.
Buffy had always hoped that was the case: ever since she had been forcibly sent back to Sunnydale, she had had several repeats of the prophetic dreams she had had in the wizarding world. And with every repeat, Buffy had begun to realise that her part there could not be over. After all, the powers would hardly bother to send her recurring dreams about a future that definitely took place in the wizarding world if there was nothing she could do to stop or change them, which she definitely couldn't as long as she was stuck in Sunnydale. Her hopes had been given foundation, when, the night after the battle in Sunnydale, Buffy had gotten a visit from the Fates in a dream.
Immediately, Buffy had chewed out the Fates for giving her no warning before sending her back to Sunnydale, for forcing her apart from Remus, her soulmate, even after they had promised that the wizarding world was meant to be her permanent home. To their credit, the Fates had looked contrite, but had told her it had been necessary. Buffy had immediately pointed out that she felt that she hadn't been able to contribute much in Sunnydale due to her pregnancy, and that she was sure Faith would have managed just fine without her. The Fates had then showed her a vision of what could have happened if she hadn't arrived:
The Gladiator-style throw-down between Faith and the Turok-Han that had injured her would still have occurred, but, because Faith still doubted herself, she would be unable to defeat it, and instead, Willow was forced to intervene to save her life. The trust the Potentials – and the other Scoobies – had in Faith would have almost completely disappeared, and one of the Potentials eventually committed suicide. Faith would still have managed to rescue Spike from the First, but Giles would have later succeeded in his plan to kill him. And when the mutiny came following the failed attack on Caleb, Faith would have been thrown out, Kennedy taking over as leader.
Faith would still have gone back to Caleb's stronghold, but instead of succeeding in getting the Scythe, she would have been killed by Caleb. With no Faith available to intervene against the attacking Turok-Han following the explosion in the First's stronghold, almost all the Potentials accompanying Kennedy would have been killed, including Kennedy herself. Only a Potential named Vi would have survived, called as the new Slayer and imbued with the Slayer's powers during the ambush, which occurred at the same time as Faith's death.
Without the Scythe, everyone would have been sitting ducks when Caleb attacked Revello Drive, and only Angel's surprise visit gave them the upper hand and made it possible to take him down. Putting their heads together and counting on the amulet to save them, the Scoobies still came up with the plan to go into the Hellmouth. But with Spike dust, Angel had to wear the amulet, and since they still had no Scythe and didn't even know of its existence, Willow could not use it to trigger all the Potential's Slayers.
Besides Vi, and Willow, who was still scared of her own power due to her previous bout with evil, only Angel was the only one with any strength worth of note. But one newly called, inexperienced Slayer, one encumbered and grieving witch and one vampire, ensouled or not, can't do much against an army. Angel was dusted before the amulet could activate and after that, the Scoobies' defeat took no time at all. No one got out of the Hellmouth alive.
The final parts of the vision showed Buffy the new Slayer being called, a girl called Dana, breaking out of an asylum for the insane in Los Angeles where she had been locked up, standing alone against a growing army of thousands of Turok-Han. Then, the vision had finally ended, leaving Buffy in tears.
The Fates had only told her the rest – that one by one, Slayer after Slayer would fall, until there were no more potentials and Slayers stopped being called. Slowly, the Turok-Han would take over the Earth, with the First as its ruler. When the human government finally decided to intervene with atomic bombs, it would be too late.
The bombs would leave devastation in its wake and kill as many humans as Turok-Hans, and it still wouldn't be enough. The Turok-Han were already everywhere, and where they weren't, the land was dead because of the bombs and unfit for habitation. The human race became extinct, and with no one to feed on, slowly, the vampires and Turok-Hans too died from infighting. The Earth became as it once was, before man's arrival – overrun by demons and darkness.
"One person can make a difference," they had told her. "It may not seem like it, but every action, no matter how small, can have a reaction."
"The Butterfly effect," Buffy had muttered.
"Indeed," the Fates had said. "Knowing what you know now, would you still rather we had let you stay in the wizarding world?"
Now aware of the likely devastation that would have occurred, the death of all her friends, of humanity itself, on this dimensional plane, Buffy could do little else but admit that, no, she wouldn't have. To know that she, by her mere absence, could have unwittingly caused the destruction of a whole world, was staggering, and it humbled her. It also put the prophetic dreams into new perspective: this was proof that she could change things – was meant to change things. But to be able to do so, she had to be sent back.
As though they read her mind, the Fates then told her that her stay in her home world had always been meant to be temporary. They had every intention of sending her back, but because her pregnancy was so far along now, they could not send her immediately without risking the life of the baby. They had assured her that she would be sent back after her child was born and old and strong enough to survive the trip. However, they had not said when that would be.
Looking down at her daughter once again, Buffy smiled. For once, she would be patient. Or try to, at least.
"I don't know, auntie F," Buffy said teasingly, causing Faith to wrinkle her nose, though she couldn't quite hide her pleased expression at being called 'auntie' and Buffy's smile widened. She and Faith really had truly become sisters of sorts, not only in arms. "What do you think?"
"How should I know? It's not my kid."
Buffy glanced down at her daughter, and suddenly, it struck her. She remembered a conversation, years ago, when she and Remus had been trying to help Dana and Jonathan Lupin come up with a name for his then unborn sibling... Remus had mentioned he liked the name Sarah. Buffy smiled. Her husband might not be able to be here, but by naming their daughter Sarah, she could still feel as though he was a part of this moment. "Sarah," she said out loud. "Sarah Joan Summers."
Faith stared. "You are seriously not naming your kid Joan?"
"What's wrong with Joan?" Buffy protested. "It's a perfectly nice name! I like it."
Faith snorted. "Whatever. It's so...blah."
Buffy gave her a glare. "It's a perfectly nice name," she repeated. "And respectable! Just think of Joan of Arc!"
"A saint from France who got burned alive," Faith said dryly. "Yeah, this bodes well for the kid's future."
"She was also a warrior!" Buffy protested. "And I'm kind of surprised you know about her," she then admitted sheepishly.
"I may not have finished High School but I'm not a total peasant," Faith snorted.
Suddenly, a rather agitated looking Angel appeared in the doorway, throwing both Slayers a thoroughly harried look, though he made sure to take the time to scrunch up his face into a funny grimace in Sarah's direction, looking put out when he got no reaction: not so surprising, perhaps, since the infant's eyes were closed. Faith and Buffy exchanged looks, and then quickly looked away, their shoulders trembling from repressed laughter.
"Sorry to interrupt," Angel said, giving up on his attempts to get the baby's attention, "but I was just wondering how long this invasion of my hotel will continue. Having dozens and dozens of Slayers gathered in the lobby and my offices makes it difficult to do any sort of business. And it makes me uncomfortable. The majority are looking at me funny, like they want to stake me."
"They probably do," Buffy said with a laugh. She was extremely glad she had managed to talk Angel out of the foolhardy idea to accept the offered position of CEO Wolfram & Hart, after he'd come to discuss it during his final visit to Sunnydale when he left her the amulet, before the town turned into a sinkhole. Angel had said he'd hoped to bring it down from the inside. Buffy had only stared at him for a second, before giving him a much needed wake-up call in the form of a single short sentence: "You're insane."
While Buffy didn't doubt Angel would manage to do some good, and maybe even bring it down eventually, she also knew that the cost of it would be high – higher than what Angel could afford. It was frankly, a ridiculous and thoughtless idea – to believe that the evil law firm he had been fighting against for the past five years didn't have any ulterior motives in their 'selfless' offer. Buffy had no doubt that if Angel, and the rest of his crew, had accepted, they slowly would have self-destructed.
Angel had then, in an uncharacteristic show of weakness, had a complete breakdown, a tale so horrible falling from his lips that it nearly broke Buffy's heart to hear it. Angel's pain and desperation was unmistakable, and, Buffy could see after hearing what had happened to Cordelia and his son, Connor (and hadn't that particular revelation of existence been a shock?), why Angel felt taking Wolfram & Hart's offer was the best thing to do.
Buffy had still managed to talk him out of it, asking him to wait and see – perhaps the relationship between him and Connor could still be repaired – and Angel had reluctantly agreed to give it one more try. As for Cordelia, could Angel really say he trusted Wolfram & Hart with her care, especially as, Buffy had pointed out, Cordelia would have been the last person in the world to trust them? All in all, Buffy had said, Wolfram & Hart's 'kind' offer could only be called emotional blackmail, using the people Angel loved against him to make him accept.
In the end, only Charles Gunn, one of Angel's crew, had agreed to sell himself to the devil, but when it became apparent that he was the only one, the offer had immediately been retracted, proving, once and for all, that Wolfram & Hart had only been after Angel and definitely up to no good.
Things between Angel and his son were still tense, and Buffy's first impression of Connor was that he was an even more intense brooder than his father (and a bit more dramatic – surely the fault of Darla's genes), but the sudden large influx of Slayers following the battle of Sunnydale and the activation of all Potentials had managed to thoroughly distract him from his depression. Angel had admitted to Buffy that she had been right and that he felt Connor would be okay – he just needed some time. And overly stimulated hormones certainly seemed to help.
Angel grimaced. "Great."
"Don't worry," Faith said. "We'll be out of your hair soon enough. I talked to Giles and Wesley, and they said they've almost got the new Headquarters ready. It's a castle - in Scotland. We're thinking of naming it Hogwarts." Her eyes twinkled as she looked at Buffy, who rolled her eyes. "Oh, come on, B, it fits!" Faith laughed.
"I suppose," Buffy sighed, while inwardly wondering if the castle Giles had found was indeed this world's equivalent to the magic school, building wise. It would be extremely ironic if that was the case, and, like Faith said, strangely fitting.
"Will you go with us, or will you stay here?" Faith wondered, suddenly serious. "I know you're just biding your time until you're sent back, but we could use you." In the doorway, Angel noticeably flinched, clearly not at all looking forward to that day, no matter how much it meant to Buffy. Buffy inwardly sighed. In the months since she returned, Angel had been around a lot – once he'd learnt she was back, he had immediately driven down from LA, though he had not been able to stay permanently – for one, he'd been dealing with his own trouble in LA at the time, and everyone had feared the influence the First may have on him.
Despite the danger, Angel had still visited as often as he could, keeping a respectful distance, not initiating any intimate advances towards Buffy. But Buffy still knew what he wanted – how could she not? It was in every look he sent her. She knew Angel was still in love with her. Buffy also knew she had been slightly unfair to the vampire during these past few months, often taking advantage of that fact by using his shoulder to cry on and talking to him about her fears and the agony she felt from missing Remus so much. She knew it must pain Angel, to have to listen to her speak of someone else with such love, but he never protested Buffy's treatment of him.
"I could use you," Faith continued, breaking Buffy out of her thoughts. "I thought training Potentials was rough – training a Slayer army is going to be Hell."
Buffy grinned. "I don't envy you. I think I'll come with you, to check the place out and help everyone get settled and get the New Council off the ground. With hundreds of Slayers out there, a lot of reorganisation and thinking out of the box will be required. But after that, I think I'll head back here. Raising a child in the middle of the chaos that Slayer central is certainly going to be doesn't sound like something I want. And even if LA's nightlife can be dangerous, I'm sure it will still be calmer. At least I can count Angel's crew on one hand. Well, almost. That is if Angel let's me stay." She glanced at her former boyfriend, who nodded.
"No problem. It's always nice to have you around and we could use a Slayer around here. One who doesn't give me the evil eye and twirls a stake threateningly whenever she sees me."
Faith snorted. "You've got issues."
"I'm not the one with issues!" Angel protested. "The Baby Slayers are. Why can't they take a hint and realise I'm not going to lose my soul and attack them?"
"They do realise that Angel," Buffy chuckled. "Don't you get that they're just messing with you? You jump whenever one of them comes a little too close – they find it hilarious. I've heard them admit it."
Angel's left eye twitched in annoyance. "Young people these days," he muttered angrily. "No respect for their elders, I tell you. None!"
Faith and Buffy looked at each other and then burst out laughing. In her arms, little Sarah let out a sleepy yawn, and her nose, its shape slightly reminiscent of Buffy's own, scrunched up before relaxing.
In an office high up on the seventh floor in a castle located in Scotland, two men were having a meeting. The older man had a long beard and half-moon spectacles, while the younger was pacing irately back and forth across the floor.
"...None of us can understand it!" the younger man exclaimed. "It's been nearly a year and yet no new Slayer has been called! We have checked all our Potentials, and none of them show any signs of being the next Slayer! Our mystics are...well, mystified, and the spells cast by the coven of witches the Council regularly employs have also failed in finding any traces of a new Slayer!" He spun around. "Is it because of Miss Summers? Is this dimensions Slayer 'quota' somehow filled already with her presence here? Or is there something you're not telling me, Dumbledore?"
The older man, Dumbledore, sighed. "Sit down, Phillip," he said, for once not offering his visitor a lemon drop, like he usually would. He had a feeling the Watcher would not appreciate it. "Buffy's presence is not at fault. And even if it had been, it still should not have affected a new Slayer being called, seeing as she has gone back to her original universe."
Phillip spluttered. "What? When? And did you not think the Council should have been informed of this? She might not be our Slayer or in any way under our jurisdiction, but we should still have been notified! Will she come back?"
"Forgive me, but I honestly forgot to let you know," Dumbledore said regretfully. "It happened in late December, and I had a lot of things on my mind around that time. As to whether or not she will come back, I certainly hope so, but I do not know. As to why a new Slayer has not been called..." He sighed. "I have my suspicions - I have had them for awhile now, but as I hoped I was wrong, I wanted to wait before I told you..."
Phillip's eyes narrowed. "I do not appreciate subterfuge, Dumbledore, nor does the rest of the Council. If you know the reason the Slayer essence is still floating around the ether somehow, rather than settling into a new Chosen One - "
" - Voldemort is not dead."
Phillip gawked at him, and then, his face whitened. "What?" he hissed. "You told your Order - you told me that he was!"
"Correction, I said that he, for all intents and purposes, was dead."
"Then, please, enlighten me. What did you mean by that?"
Dumbledore sighed again. "Somehow, his spirit lingers. He has somehow managed to anchor himself to life, enough of him so that he was not killed on Halloween - just temporarily vanquished."
"Does that mean he will be back?"
"It does, yes."
"And," Phillip swallowed, "I assume the reason a new Slayer has not yet been called is because the Slayer essence is still somehow trapped inside whatever's left of that monster? That Joshua's legacy can still not be passed on to someone worthy?"
"I fear it is so, yes," Dumbledore said gravely. "I don't believe a new Slayer can be called until Voldemort meets his final demise, when nothing of his presence can hang on to the earthly plane. And that will not happen for years." Phillip clenched and unclenched his fists. "The Council's support when Voldemort does rise again will be most appreciated - "
Phillip looked up. "The Council's support?" he repeated, his voice trembling, either with suppressed tears or rage, or maybe even both. "There will be no support coming from the Council, Dumbledore."
Dumbledore frowned. "But surely you must want Voldemort gone as much as we do - "
"Of course we do!" Phillip hissed. "I will cheer when Voldemort," he spat out the name, "is finally - and permanently - dead. But in case you've forgotten, it is because of you our Slayer was dragged into your conflict with that bastard in the first place! I was willing to let it go the first time around - the Council was willing to support you the first time around - but to hear you've deliberately withheld this information for nearly an entire year even though you knew he was not gone while my people ran around in circles looking for a reason a new Slayer was nowhere to be found is unforgivable. Fuck you," he added, venom in his voice, "fuck your Order and fuck your society. From now on, the Council and the wizarding world will have nothing to do with each other - as it should have been from the start. If only we'd been clever enough to see it, maybe Joshua would still be alive and even if he hadn't been, this world would at least still have a rightful Slayer in his place." And with that, the Watcher swept out of the office.
In a New York apartment, a dark haired woman sat in front of a vanity table, staring at her face reflected into the mirror, a turquoise necklace around her neck. With long, even strokes, she slowly brushed her hair, her movements automatic, her eyes staring straight ahead.
"Mandy!" A woman's voice could be hard calling from outside the room. "Are you ready soon? We have to go or we'll be late for the movie! You're the one who insisted on seeing it, though for the life of me, I can't understand why a movie about people in space swinging laser swords about appeal to you."
Not answering, the woman – Mandy – put down her brush but made no attempt to stand up. Instead, she reached up and clutched the necklace in her fist. Her life was filled with confusion and pretence as she tried to keep up a facade that she was happy and missing nothing, despite the gaps in her memory. But the necklace was something that always made her feel better. The turquoise stone pendant exuded warmth and whenever she wore it, the world seemed less scary and she felt...loved. She even slept with it – the one time she hadn't, she'd woken up screaming from a dark nightmare filled with red eyes and a high, cackling laugh... "Didn't you hear me?" Mandy quickly let her hand drop and she forced up a smile on her face as her sister entered the room, a frown on her face.
"Of course I don't want to miss the movie, Kelly," she said, standing. "And I'm sorry for not answering: I was just lost in thought." What she wasn't telling her sister was that the reason she wanted to see the film was because she had woken up this morning with memories of seeing the first part of the film trilogy. It had made her feel loved and warm inside, just like the pendant did, even if she couldn't recall the faces or the names of the people who were watching it with her...
Kelly chuckled. "That's my sister," she said wrapping an arm around Mandy's shoulder. "The thinker."
Mandy smiled weakly, shaking her head to rid her mind of the image of a talking hat on top of the head of a much younger her, as it yelled out "RAVENCLAW!" for a huge room filled with students to hear... "It's lightsabers, by the way," she said out loud.
Kelly blinked in confusion. "What?"
"The laser swords in the movie – they're lightsabers."
"Is there a difference?" Kelly sounded genuinely bewildered.
Mandy sighed. "I suppose it doesn't matter..." But it did, at least to her. He would have known the difference, she thought. If only she knew who he was... An image of fathomless grey eyes materialised in her mind for a second, disappearing even quicker. Unconsciously, her hand rose to her pendant again, grasping it even tighter, the comforting warmth creating a strange flutter in her belly, bringing with it the impression of a bark-like laugh...
'Who are you?'
In a room at St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries, a four-year-old boy and his much older grandmother visited a couple that lay on their beds in the ward for permanent spell damage. Both of them had thinning faces and a scatter of white hair, even though both of them only seemed to be in their late twenties.
They were almost completely unaware of all that was going on around them and unable to communicate. They didn't know they had been like this for three years, or that the grandmother and her grandson came without fail every Christmas – time had no meaning for them. They were unaware of the Christmas decorations in every room of the hospital. They didn't know that the old woman was the mother of one of them, or that the boy was their son.
But when the two visitors turned to leave, the woman gave the boy an empty Drooble's Best Blowing Gum wrapper, and though the grandmother sighed, the boy forced up a smile. "Thanks, Mum."
The woman offered him an empty smile in return, humming slightly on an unidentifiable tune, and the boy turned away, tears in his eyes, as he clutched the wrapper tightly in his hand.
In a large manor on Jersey Island, a man lay still as death in his bed. Two Healers stood over him, frowning, as they checked the man's vitals with a spell cast by one of the Healers. In the doorway, two house-elves hovered anxiously.
"Do you think he will ever wake up?" One of the Healers wondered out loud.
Her partner sighed. "Well...it has been four years with no change, so no, it isn't very likely. It was always a long shot."
"It's such a shame..." She glanced at the man in his bed, adjusting the covers slightly. "Perhaps it would have been better if he really had died that Halloween..."
"Don't you go saying something like that!" One of the house-elves exclaimed angrily, walking forwards. "Master James will wake up! Toby is sure of it!"
The other house-elf nodded empathically. "Saffy agrees with Toby!" She said firmly and climbed up on James' bed, glancing tenderly at his unmoving shape. "Master James will get well again!"
The first Healer sighed. "I want to believe you, I do. But my experience tells me – "
" – Master James is good at beating the odds," Toby said, tugging at his ears, his small build practically trembling. "And Potters are resilient. Everyone says so."
The Healers sighed. "I sincerely hope you're right."
In a wizarding prison located on a tiny, Unplottable island somewhere in the North Sea, a man lay shivering in his cell, trying to escape the bad memories brought up to the surface by the presence of the dementors. He had long since given up hope that he would ever get a trial. But the thought of revenge still kept him from giving up, and the knowledge that he was innocent, and that he was an animagus, made it possible for him to hang on to his sanity. Being a dog made the presence of the foul creatures easier to bear, and if he had a choice, he would have preferred to remain a dog all the time. But while the dementors were blind, the human guards were not, which made that solution impossible, and as they were currently on their rounds, he couldn't risk transforming at the moment.
"How're you doing in there, Black?" A guard that passed by asked with a slight smirk. "Having a happy birthday?"
The man – Black – stared at him blankly. "It's my birthday?" He asked, and the guard's smirk faltered, not having expected a response. "How old does that make me now? Never mind – I suppose it doesn't matter anymore."
A few cells down, his cousin – Death Eater Bellatrix Lestrange – let out a mad cackle, and the guard jumped. It was Black's turn to smirk. "New on the job, are you?"
"Y-yes," the guard stammered, all his cockiness gone. "H-how did you know?"
"Didn't recognise you," Black said. "And I haven't seen the last guard in awhile - no one ever lasts long here. The guards can't stand the dementors' presence any better than the prisoners, see."
"And yet you seem remarkably sane," the guard spoke. "Why is that? What's your secret?"
Black tapped his temple. "It's all up here. Will power."
"Well, I suppose we'll see which one of us lasts longer," the guard said, some of his confidence returning, intrigued about Black, despite himself.
"That's an easy bet," Black said, stretching out his legs. "I've got nothing to lose. You, on the other hand, I bet has a girl at home. Maybe a loving mother. You'll want to keep those memories. The longer you're here, you'll begin to doubt your ability to do so. You'll ask for a transfer, because your little lady-love doesn't like your nightmares, and your mother doesn't like the look on your face when you get home from a shift. So you see, I'll win, because all I have is my sanity, but no one who cares if I lose it."
The guard frowned. "Well, let's say the bet is already won by you then. What do you want?" Black looked surprised. "Since it's your birthday, I'm feeling generous."
"A blanket would be nice. And a newspaper and pen – I like doing the crossword," Black said after some thought, a memory of a girl with brown eyes and a bright smile who liked puzzles – crosswords included - flashing past his mind's eye – quickly stolen by the effect from the dementors.
"I'll see what I can do," the guard asked after a slight pause. A request for a blanket, he'd expected – but the newspaper was a surprise. The guard had thought a pillow or better food would have been Black's second request, in an effort to get somewhat more comfortable. Black was an enigma, all around, and the guard thought he might just last longer here than Black expected he would – at least long enough to figure out the mystery about him. "By the way, the Goblins from Gringotts sent a letter," he said uncomfortably.
When he first came by, he had looked forward to breaking bad news to the man, but now it felt slightly shameful, after seeing the remarkably sane mood Black was in. "I am afraid it held some...eh...bad news. Your mother has passed, and her will...well, it was very outdated. She apparently left half of her fortune to your brother, with the other half split between you and your father. As you are the only beneficiary still alive, all the fortune has passed down to you. Your cousin, Narcissa Malfoy, née Black, tried to dispute the will, wanting at least the shares of your brother and father split evenly among other surviving blood-relatives, but custom is apparently very clear - " The guard stopped talking as he realised Black had begun to laugh.
The laugh had begun as a small chuckle, which was why the guard hadn't immediately noticed, but now it had grown into loud snorts. It then turned into a booming laugh, and the guard began to wonder if perhaps Black was insane after all. "Oh, I don't care about the gold," Black chortled when he saw the guard's look. "Not like I've got any use for it, where I am. And I'm not exactly happy my dear mother kicked the bucket, but I can honestly say I'm not going to mourn her either."
"Then why are you laughing?" The guard asked cautiously. He noticed Bellatrix, on the other hand, had stopped.
"I just find it ironic," Black sniggered. "She disowned me, you see, but I suppose she never really went and got it made official. Or bothered to write me out of her will." He began to laugh loudly again, just as Bellatrix got restarted, this time screaming obscenities at Black, her loud shrieks of anger echoing down the corridor. It seemed she had been listening, and wasn't at all happy about what she'd heard.
The guard shook his head in bewilderment as Black began to mock Bellatrix from his cell, causing the woman to get angrier and angrier and shake the bars. The guard walked away to continue his rounds, Black's laugher and Bellatrix' furious screams still ringing in his ears. 'Yes,' he thought to himself, utterly bemused. 'Absolutely bonkers, those Blacks...'
In a misty landscape in a place that transcended explanation, somewhere beyond human reach, seven ethereal beings stood in a circle around an eighth, smaller being, its wispy, glowing form trembling in anticipation.
"It is finally time, then?" the being asked, for once not intimidated by the presence of its much older and wiser superiors – the seven ancients, though they also had other names on the human realm: the one used most often was Fate, Destiny, or other variations thereof. Together, they made up a large part of The Powers That Be. The Powers were the keepers of the universe and upholders of balance, and consisted of other groups such as such as Guardians, Gatekeepers, Spiritual guides, Time, Life and Death and various conduits on the many Earths and habitual worlds that existed in the multi-verse.
As once, the seven ancients lowered their heads in a nod. "Yes. The Slayer has been informed. You know what to do," one of them said, the voice barely more than what the human ear would call a whisper. To the other Fates, however, it was loud and clear. "For once, you have our permission." The Fate sounded amused as the first being's form flickering with embarrassment at the teasing reminder of a particular blunder which had changed the destiny of the woman they were currently focused on.
The small Fate, its form still flickering, walked over to a large stone well that seemed to shimmer with power. The water inside was smooth, the surface completely blank. Waiting until the view was focused on a particular Slayer and her child, the young Fate then dipped a misty finger into the well, disturbing the surface and opening a portal between two particular dimensions.
It was finally time for Buffy Summers to return to her rightful place...to be reunited with her soulmate...and for a father to meet his daughter.
In a cottage that was beginning to look rather shabby, with peeling paint and windows with rusting hinges, a man with dark reddish blonde hair that was beginning to turn grey in places, sat in the kitchen, a cup of rapidly cooling tea in his hand. No one looking at him would ever believe he carried any sort of dark secret, but the fact of that matter was that he did: he was a werewolf.
This was not exactly something to be proud of, and then man had never been able to see his lycanthropy as anything other than a curse, just as the majority of the wizarding world was unable to see that werewolves were also human, and not simply dangerous, mindless beasts. This prejudice had only been enforced by the most recent war, during which some feral werewolves had fought on the side of the Dark Lord. Because of this, stricter laws on those afflicted with the condition had been passed in the years since, as a 'preventative measure to future wars.'
The man – named Remus Lupin – sighed, as he glanced at the notice he had gotten from the Ministry, which concerned the most recent addendum to the British Statute of Secrecy: magical creatures were no longer allowed to work in the muggle world. The explanation following the addendum said it was to limit the amount of exposure, but Remus knew it was really to make things harder for 'dark creatures' like him. While the law specifically said 'magical creatures,' he knew it was likely only werewolves who would be affected.
This was only one of many notices he had gotten since the war ended, and Remus wondered what the next one would say. Already, he was no longer allowed to own any property within highly populated villages, whether that be wizarding or muggle. Luckily, the Lupin cottage was fairly secluded, so that particular law did not affect him much. The one that forced werewolves under a set maximum wage did, though. It had been humiliating to have to tell his boss he was being given too high a salary, and could they please pay him less?
But Remus knew he was lucky he had the work at the library, though he wondered how long it would last. His werewolf status was on the Ministry registry and he knew Lena Page, his boss, had come under fire from Ministry personnel for hiring him lately, even though it wasn't illegal. He wondered how far the debt she felt she owed him for saving her life would stretch, before self-preservation kicked in.
Remus highly doubted Lena would let herself get fired, or demoted, for his sake. And if she did, well, Remus didn't think he was worth it: the end result – him losing his job – would be the same, and he'd rather not see Lena be dragged down with him. All in all, Remus was considering resigning, just to spare them both the trouble and humiliation. The only question was where he would get a job afterwards.
It wasn't that he was in great need of money – as he was married to Buffy, he had his own Gringotts key with access to her vault which still held the majority of the reward given to her for slaying the Basilisk at Hogwarts. But he did not want to touch that without her here: it was her money and he felt uncomfortable to use it without her, even though he knew Buffy would not mind.
Buffy... Remus sighed. He missed his wife terribly, even more since the connection between his griffin and her wolf figurine had finally snapped about a year ago, giving him no clue to her feelings. He wondered about their child – whether it was a boy or girl, and how she or he was doing. Had Buffy told their child about him? Were they happy and safe?
He still didn't know where the portal had led to – the likeliest option was Sunnydale, of course, but he couldn't be sure. If so, had Buffy gone back to Angel? He wouldn't blame her if she had – four years were a long time, and if she didn't get any sort of guarantee she could come back... He clenched his fists, glancing down at his wedding band. She would come back, Remus told himself. And he would be here waiting when she did. He would wait forever, if he had to.
Forever had never seemed like such a long time... For the first few months after Buffy had been forcible dragged away from him with that portal, all the improvement he had made with his transformations had stopped, the wolf just as enraged as him and for a long while, Remus thought the balance he'd fought so hard far was gone forever. But then, it was as if something had clicked within him, and with the wolf: the anguish they both felt over Buffy's - and their child's, their cub's - disappearance was something they agreed on...and it was finally that which made it possible for him to finally connect with his inner wolf, and it with him. At last, they understood one another.
Finally, Remus had the balance he had strived so hard for, but without Buffy, the transformations, though he no longer fought them, were still mostly painful. And while he and the wolf were one, under the light of the full moon, their mind was full of apathy: they'd lost their playfulness years ago. After all, there was no one to play with...
Suddenly, the cottage began to tremble and Remus jumped to his feet, his eyes wide as he ran into the living room. His heart was beating hard as he watched, for the fifth time in his life, a portal being formed in front of his very eyes. Inwardly, he prayed that the miracle he'd been hoping for was finally here, that this wasn't yet another cruel joke by the Fates - it wasn't.
The portal let out a flash, and then, with a blast of air, a woman stepped out. A smaller girl with light brown hair who looked to be around three-and-half-years old,held on to her hand tightly. Behind them, the portal vanished into nothingness, leaving a demolished living room in its wake.
Remus didn't care. He only had eyes for the blonde standing before him, a wide smile on her face. Remus drank Buffy in like a starving man, even as he felt their bond snap back into place in the back of his mind. He nearly sank to his knees from the overwhelming set of emotion that came with it.
Slowly, Remus stretched out a trembling hand until his fingers reached her chin. With tears in her eyes, Buffy grabbed it like a lifeline, pressing it against her cheek. She looked slightly older, more mature, perhaps, but every bit as beautiful as when he had last seen her, if not more so.
"Hi," Remus said hoarsely, and immediately wanted to curse himself. For over four years, he had been without her, dimensions keeping them apart, and all he could manage was an insipid 'hi?'
But Buffy only laughed, the sound working as a healing balm on Remus' soul – only Buffy had ever managed to make him feel so complete.
"Hi," she said back, nearly hiccupping with joy.
Remus then glanced towards her companion, who, at his look, took a shy step back. "Hi to you too," he said, slowly kneeling down, as Buffy did the same. Inside him, Moony was howling with elation at the realisation that his pack – his family – was complete at last. There was only one person this could be.
"Remus," she said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder and pushing her forward a bit, "this is Sarah. Your daughter. Sarah - say hi to your dad."
Sarah said nothing, and only looked at Remus' right hand as he held it out. Then, she finally spoke, taking the hand and shaking it almost solemnly. "Hi."
To Remus, it was the sweetest sound in the world.
In a beautiful mansion in Marseille, a nine year old girl sat pouting in her room, while looking at a family photo, with herself in the middle and her parents on either side. Outside the room, her governess knocked carefully on her door.
"Fleur, ma petite, won't you let me in?"
There was a short pause. "Are you going to be angry at me for throwing a tantrum like maman?" The girl then asked.
"No, sweetheart, not at all."
"Then fine," Fleur sighed theatrically, and put the photo aside, before she threw herself backwards onto her bed theatrically.
The dark-haired governess opened the door and stepped inside, sitting down next to Fleur, waiting patiently for her to speak what was on her mind, while dragging her fingers through her silvery-blonde tresses.
"They'll forget me," the girl finally whispered. "When the new baby comes."
"Of course they won't forget you," her governess comforted. "And having a sister can be wonderful."
But Fleur only shook her head. "They'll love her more than me." Her pink lips trembled. "Or they won't love me at all anymore! Oh, Eliza, what shall I do?"
Eliza couldn't quite stop her lips from twitching. Fleur could be so over-dramatic sometimes, but that was half her charm. "Your parents will never stop loving you, Fleur," she said. "It may seem like it, at first," she then admitted, "for babies take up a lot of time. They're loud and smelly and very needy." She tickled Fleur's stomach, making the French girl giggle. "But once your new sister gets older, that will change, and you will have someone to play with – someone who can keep up with you. Goodness knows that's not me anymore," she added to herself under her breath. Fleur could be very demanding when she put her mind to it, not to mention stubborn.
Fleur notably lit up. "Oh, I did not think of that!"
"And you get to teach her everything you know." Eliza added, poking Fleur's nose, determined to get her see all the positive things about having a sibling. "You will be her heroine, someone she can look up to."
Fleur's eyes glinted and it was clear the nine-year-old quite liked this idea. "I will be the best sister ever!" she said out loud, sitting back up. "Do you have a sister, Eliza?"
"No, I'm an only child. I do wish I had one, though. I was quite lonely growing up."
Fleur nodded knowingly. "I was lonely too, before you came. My parents have so little time for me." She pouted a bit. "Maybe they will have more time when the baby comes. Are you close to your parents?"
Eliza cocked her head, wondering how to answer that question. It had taken years, but she and her dad were finally on good terms again. Not great, and things would always be awkward, but at least they could spend time together: they even tried to have dinner at least once a week. "My mother is dead, I'm afraid. And things haven't always been easy between my father and I, but yes, I suppose we are fairly close."
"Good," Fleur said firmly. "Because being alone isn't fun. When I grow up, I want a family who always has time for me. I want a husband who is at home a lot." Eliza smiled at Fleur's serious expression. The girl was only nine but she knew what she wanted and was a lot more mature than many of her peers – most girls at her age were still in the 'boys have cooties' phase. Perhaps the difference came from being half Veela, or perhaps it simply came from the simple fear of loneliness. Fleur spoke frankly about her parents' lack of time for her, but Eliza knew it hurt her when they put business before her. "Do you want a family, Eliza?"
Eliza froze, her smile slipping of her face. Once, she had entertained the notion that maybe she and Caradoc could have had something. But their friendship had never gotten the time it needed to evolve into something else, and they had never discussed it. And now, he was gone, and so was the possibility of a future with him. She forced up a smile. "Why would I? I've got you, don't I?"
Fleur beamed at her.
In the living room of a small, modest country house, a tall, long-haired man let a heavy box drop to the floor with a sigh. "That was the last of it, Belinda. Finally."
Belinda looked up from the box of books she was unpacking and gave her husband a smile. "Good. What's in those?"
"Uhh..." The man quickly checked the writing on the side of the box. "Fragile stuff," he read out loud.
"How eloquently put," Belinda said dryly, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "You couldn't have been a little more specific when you marked the boxes? Is Tracey outside?"
"Yup." He opened the box to check the contents. "She's exploring the garden, but I'm sure she'll be in soon – it's just grass and bushes and trees – not very exciting. It's porcelain in this one."
"Put it in the kitchen, then."
"Can't it wait?" Her husband said, walking over and embracing his wife from behind. "Can't we just...celebrate..." he paused to put a soft kiss against the side of her throat, "that we're back in Britain?"
Belinda let out a groan in protest that sounded weak even to her own ears. "Lucan..."
Just then, there was a tug on the back of Lucan's jacket and he turned, coming face to face with his daughter, her hands on her hips and her face scrunched up in a disgruntled expression. "You and mum are being yucky again," she declared.
Lucan laughed. "So we are!" He exclaimed, grabbing her by the waist and tickling her.
The seven-year-old screeched with laughter. "Daddy!"
"You've got twigs in your hair, Tracey," Belinda said, carefully plucking them out once. "What have you been up to?"
"Oh, there's a great tree for climbing!" Tracey said excitedly. "I can't wait to show it to Daphne! When is she coming over? I've never had a cousin before and I really want to meet her! Is it true she has a little sister? I want a sister too – "
"Hold your horses, little lady," Lucan laughed. "You get into plenty of trouble without a sister to add to it," he said. "I already dread to think of the trouble you'll get up to once you drag your cousins into your little adventures."
"You can't be too forward with them, Tracey," Belinda said with a slight frown. "My brother is...well, he's nothing like your dad, and his wife is very...proper," she finally said, in lack of a better description to use on his brother and her wife. Both of them were so...pureblood. If there was one thing about their move back to Britain she was not looking forward to, it was the pureblood politics and intrigue that came with it. Perhaps all the years she'd been married to a muggleborn and living abroad had softened her.
Tracey frowned. "So?"
"So Daphne and Astoria may not be as...playful as you are," Belinda finished gently. "Try to get to know them a bit first before you overwhelm them with games." Before Tracey could answer, there was suddenly a knock on the door and Belinda's eyes widened.
"I'll get it!" Tracey shouted and before Lucan or Belinda could stop her, she'd run towards the hall.
"They can't be here already!" Belinda fretted as she listened to her daughter's exuberant greeting. "I thought I would have a few more hours to clean up."
"Don't worry about it," Lucan said. "They know we just got back. And if the mess bothers them, they can get their pureblood hands dirty and help us unpack."
Belinda threw him a dirty look. "Be nice, Lucan. I don't need to hear any of your thinly-veiled insults – my brother always sees right through them and he already dislikes you."
Lucan held is hands up in surrender. "I'll be a perfect gentleman."
Just then, Tracey returned to the room, followed by a blonde girl in the same age and a shorter, younger girl with hair in the same shade, both of them immaculately dressed in fine wizarding robes with the Greengrass crest. In stark contrast, Tracey's own clothes - muggle jeans and a t-shirt - were dirtied down with grass and mud from running and climbing, and a couple of twigs and leaves still visible in her dark hair. Behind the girls followed Belinda's brother and his wife, both of them looking bemused and slightly annoyed. "...It's a great tree for climbing," Tracey gushed, clearly having been talking since the moment she opened the door. "I think it's perfect for a tree-house too... Have you ever built a tree-house...?" And on she went.
"Belinda," her brother said, kissing her hand in greeting, and then nodded at Lucan. "Lucan."
Lucan nodded back. "Stephan. And Lydia, lovely as ever."
Lydia Greengrass sniffed, not returning the greeting. "Nice house, Belinda," she said in a sugar-sweet voice as she looked around. "It's very...quaint."
"Well, we can't all live in mansions," Belinda said, just as sweetly. "This is perfect for us."
Suddenly, Tracey was there, tugging at her skirt. "Mum!" She sounded horrified. "Daphne and Astoria says they've never been tree-climbing before! Frankly, I am astonished at this blatant lack of sense! I know their parents are old, but that only makes it worse – they've had plenty of time to learn how to teach a child to climb trees!"
Lucan coughed to hide his laughter while Tracey continued on: "Daphne says they usually play house. Play house! With dolls and tea-parties!" Tracey sounded genuinely aghast. "Clearly, I have my work cut out for me."
Belinda threw her brother – he and Lydia both looked like they'd swallowed a lemon - a weak smile. "Excuse my daughter, please. Tracey, darling, I don't think Daphne or Astoria are dressed for tree-climbing today. Perhaps you could play something inside."
Tracey frowned. "Weeeell," she began slowly, "I suppose we should start with something calmer than tree-climbing." She suddenly lit up and turned to her father. "Can me and Daphne and Astoria build houses of the boxes, daddy?" Tracey asked, peering up at her father with a pout. "Pleeeease!"
Stephan and Lydia both looked like they were going to protest, but before they could, and before Belinda could suggest something else, Lucan clutched his chest theatrically.
"Oh, not the pout!" He exclaimed. "You know I can't say no to that!"
Tracey giggled. "Is that a yes?"
"It's a yes. Now, shoo."
Tracey beamed, quickly grabbing two of the large empty boxes on the living room floor, and gesturing for a bewildered but excited Daphne and a slightly more hesitant Astoria, to follow her. "Let's go! Daddy said yes and what daddy says goes!"
"You've raised a hellion, sister," Stephan said, unimpressed.
Belinda threw him a challenging look. "And I'm proud of it," she deadpanned as shrieks of laughter – from three children, not just one – reached their ears from Tracey's room.
In an apartment in Charter Towers, Queensland, Australia, a twenty-year-old man with curly dark hair threw a bucket of cold water over the head of his roommate and adoptive brother as he lay sleeping, waking him up.
His brother sat up with an angry screech: "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU, JASPER!"
"You don't want to be late for work, do you?" Jasper said mockingly. "Your boss already dislikes you, Will."
Will, dripping with water, glared at him. "I set my alarm-clock." A second later, it began to ring, and Will turned it off with a flick of his wand.
A sheepish expression appeared on Jasper's face. "Oh. Sorry. But I still think my way to wake you up was a lot funnier."
"For you," Will grumbled, drying himself with another flick of his wand. "What are you going to do while I'm at work?"
"I don't know," Jasper shrugged. "Look through the muggle ads for a job, I guess."
"I still can't believe you managed to get yourself fired from the one wizarding job that would take you," Will mumbled. "Do you have any idea how long it took dad to convince the guy to give you a chance?"
Jasper rolled his eyes. "Yes, because neither you nor dad ever seize to remind me. But it's not like standing around in a stupid shrimp-costume, shouting out for everyone to hear about the wonders of 'Mason's Magical Sea-food! (It Moves!)' is my idea of a dream-job! And besides, I get enough of being an animal one day out of every month – I really don't need to pretend I am one every other day as well. Especially not a crustacean - I don't even like crustaceans."
Will threw him a sympathetic look. "I know being a werewolf is hard on you, Jas. But from the letters you get from Remus, it's apparent it's even worse in places like Britain."
Jasper sighed. "I know."
Suddenly, Will snorted and Jasper threw him a glare. "I'm sorry," Will gasped. "But I just remembered the look on your face when that one kid pulled at your tail-flippers!"
"They're called uropods," Jasper said through gritted teeth, and Will laughed even harder.
"Your consequent temper-tantrum about what that kid did might have lost you the job, but at the time, it was hilarious!"
"For you," Jasper said icily.
In a large castle, somewhere in Scotland, a red-haired girl nervously watched as a woman called professor McGonagall stepped forward with a long scroll of parchment, holding the names of the students that were about to be sorted.
Her heart thumping wildly, the girl wondered when it would be her turn: her last name began with a 'B' – what if there was no one with a last name on 'A'? That would make her first in line... "Baddock, Elizabeth," a woman named professor McGonagall read out, and the girl – Elizabeth - gasped as her fear of being first was realised, and on trembling legs she made her way to the hat.
Her parents wanted her to be in Slytherin, of course, but Elizabeth inwardly knew that house was completely wrong for her – but she was scared to end up anywhere else. She didn't even want to think about her parents' and younger brother's reaction if she became a Hufflepuff, or worse, Gryffindor. Because of this, Elizabeth silently prayed the hat would sort her into Ravenclaw – while it wasn't Slytherin, it was at least an acceptable alternative in her family's eyes. The hat fell over her head, and Elizabeth closed her eyes.
'You wish for Ravenclaw?' The hat chuckled in her ear. 'Well, let's see what we find hidden in your mind first... Hmm... Well, Slytherin is certainly not the house for you. You've been at the end of far too many lies and half-truths already: Slytherin would only create more obstacles. Gryffindor is not the right place for you either – you have a little too much self-preservation for it to be a perfect fit, not to mention a bit too much fear of others opinions, particularly the opinions of those you call parents...' Not sure if she should be offended or relieved by the hat's statement, Elizabeth patiently sat waiting as the hat continued to whisper in her ear: 'Both Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw would lead you down a path to the truth you have been withheld from all your life, and you would do well in either house...But taking your wish into account, I think it better be RAVENCLAW.'
The name of her new house was shouted out by the hat for all to hear, and relieved, Elizabeth went over to the table whose students were cheering. The second student to be sorted also ended up a Ravenclaw and she smiled widely at Elizabeth as she sat down. "Emily Bennett," she introduced herself, holding out a hand. "I'm really excited to be here. What about you?"
"Well, I'm Elizabeth Baddock, and I'm excited too," Elizabeth said, shyly. "But I'm also really nervous." In the background, someone called Chloe Crane was sorted into Slytherin.
Emily nodded in agreement. "Yes! Me too. Let's make a pact to stick together, okay? Not just because we're first years in the same house, but also because we share the same initials, and general awesomeness."
Elizabeth laughed, feeling her nervousness disappear, just as a Cedric Diggory, whom she had said hi to once or twice during various Ministry events they were both forced to attend with their respective parents, was sorted into Hufflepuff.
On top of a hill, in a strange looking cylindrical black house shaped like a giant chess rook, a blonde woman stood bent over a bubbling cauldron inside her workshop. Beside her stood her eight – almost nine - year-old daughter on her tiptoes, her protuberant eyes peeking up curiously over the top of the workbench.
"What is that going to be, mum?"
"Hopefully, it's the beginning of a potential cure to the effects of the Cruciatus curse, darling," the blonde woman said, stroking the top of her daughter's head absently, while adding a small amount of cut ginger roots to the cauldron. The liquid began to fizzle and turned an angry orange.
"I don't know what the Cussiatus curse do," Luna pouted.
"And be glad you don't," the woman said, smiling at her daughter's mispronunciation and playfully tugging at a strand of her dirty-blonde hair. "Now, the next step is to add a spell to the potion, which means things might get a unstable in here, Luna darling, so you should head off and play with your dad."
"Is it your own spell?" Luna asked excitedly. "The one you finished last week?"
Luna's mother laughed. "Yes, it is."
"Oh, please, let me stay and watch! Please!" Luna begged.
Her mother sighed. "This is an experiment darling, and sometimes, they go wrong. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you. I've been working on this for a very long time, and if I've done all the equations correctly, it should be safe, but I'd rather not risk it."
"Well, can't I stand in the doorway?" Luna suggested.
"Luna, it's really not going to be exciting at all," her mother said. "If I'm right, the potion will turn a milky white and then settle – there will be no exciting fireworks of any kind."
"I promise I'll be really quiet," Luna said, pretending to zip her lips shut.
Her mother laughed. "Alright. I can see there's no convincing you otherwise – you're too curious for your own good."
"I get that from you," Luna said, happily skipping over to the doorway.
"I want you outside the room," her mother told her, and, grumbling slightly, Luna backed out of the room until the stood exactly one half-inch beyond the threshold.
"Alright, I'm ready!"
Chuckling at her daughter's cheeky antics, the blonde woman grabbed her wand from behind her ear where she'd put it for safekeeping, and aimed it at the bubbling cauldron. Muttering the spell and inwardly praying it would work – that her deductions were correct – she watched anxiously as a white beam of light entered the cauldron.
For a second, nothing would happen. And then, the orange fizzling liquid slowly began to calm, the colour slowly draining out of the potion until it turned white.
In the doorway, Luna's eyes were wide, her mouth shaped into a small 'oh. 'Despite her mother's instructions, she reentered the room in the hopes of a closer look.
"It worked!" Her mother beamed, turning her back on the cauldron, giving her daughter an exasperated glance when she saw she was no longer outside the workshop. Behind her, the potion was beginning to emit angry sparks and bubbles, and the bottom of the golden cauldron began to glow a fierce, angry red. "Luna, I told you to stay outside," she admonished. "No matter now, I suppose. Now, I must floo St. Mungo's immediately – "
The cauldron suddenly exploded and angry black smoke filled the entire room.
"Aurora! Luna!" The sound of running footsteps reached Luna's ears and the small girl coughed heavily, slowly sitting up from where she'd fallen.
"Mum?" She croaked out, her silvery eyes tearing up from the smoke. "Where are you?"
"Lu..." A soft voice said and Luna jumped as she felt a trembling hand on top of her skirt-clad leg.
The smoke began to clear and Luna let out a whimpering cry as she took in the sight of her mother: her clothes and most of her luminous blonde hair had been burned away from her back and head, her entire body was covered in angry, blistering burns. Dry, cracked lips tried to smile. "Everything's going to be alright," her mother said with a wheezing voice, and she squeezed Luna's leg in what she hoped was a comforting motion. "Everything's going to be al..." she choked and a rattling sound escaped her mouth, and then, she fell back, and was silent.
Xenophilius Lovegood's eyes widened in shock and horror as he finally reached the workroom and took in the sight of the destruction, his daughter kneeling on the floor beside the too still body of her mother and his beloved wife. "Aurora!" His body trembling, he sank down on his knees and frantically began to check for a pulse, finding none. "Aurora!"
Luna let out a weak sob, staring down at her mother's hand, still lying on top of her soot-covered leg, immobile and cooling, never to move again.
In a dreary, rundown industrial city in Northern England on a street called Spinner's End, a crook-nosed Potions Master named Severus Snape rested in an old armchair in the tiny sitting room of his house. The room's walls were lined up with bookcases and the only light came from a candle-filled lamp that hung from the ceiling.
Severus sat in deep thought, staring at nothing as he slowly sipped on a glass of firewhiskey, the alcohol burning in his throat. Unfortunately, the numbness he had been hoping for did not set in, and the memories he had been hoping to suppress instead only got clearer.
As usual, they centred on one thing; Lily Evans. Even now, almost a decade after her death, she was still on his mind, his dreams haunted by her smile and her laughter. But even in his dreams, she was out of his reach, her lustrous red hair flying behind her as she ran ahead – away from him, and towards a shadowy figure that could only have one name: James Potter.
Lily was the only one who had ever made him feel something – the only one who had believed in him. Severus supposed Dorcas had, as well, in a way, but never to the same extent – and she had never trusted him completely. Like Lily, she, too, haunted his dreams, though he did not know why – unlike with Lily, he carried no guilt for her death, despite his presence at her execution, and even though they had been lovers, even confidants, for a time.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," Severus said, without moving an inch, knowing there was only one person likely to visit him. A second later, he heard the door open and footsteps approach, until a tall, old man, surprisingly spry for his age, stepped inside the room.
"Hello Severus," the man said jovially, his blue eyes twinkling. "I simply wanted to check in to see how you were doing."
"Just fine, thank you, Dumbledore." Severus said in an overly-polite tone of voice.
"Excellent, excellent." Several seconds passed by in silence, Dumbledore simply standing there. After awhile, he began to hum slightly to himself, loud enough to be distracting.
Severus let out a frustrated noise. "Was there something else other than unnecessary concern that brought you here, Headmaster?"
"Oh, I was just wondering if you'd given any special thought to this September." Dumbledore asked innocently. "I'm sure you know the significance as well as I."
Severus' eye twitched. "Of course I do," he said gruffly. "The great Boy-Who-Lived will finally be at Hogwarts. While I'm sure that makes you happy, I, on the other hand, can only take comfort in the fact that it is still over two months away."
"I can hardly believe it's been nearly ten years already. Tempus fugit, as they say," the Headmaster said, ignoring Severus' lack of enthusiasm. He beamed happily. "It shall be interesting to see how the boy has turned out."
Severus scoffed. "He will be just like his father, of course. A little James Potter carbon-copy, down to the very last detail." His voice was bitter.
"Don't jump to conclusions, Severus," the Headmaster scolded. "He is Lily's son too. Do try to keep an open mind, Severus. You know how important he is. Voldemort is not gone and as such, it is almost certain that our future rests on Harry's shoulders."
"I know," Severus said, his jaw clenching.
"And I am certain I don't have to remind you of your role?"
Severus gave him a bored look. "Of course not. You already know I will protect him with my life." He turned his head away.
"And it gives you much credit," Dumbledore said. "I will see you in a couple of months, then," he added, before he silently apparated away, leaving Severus sitting alone.
The Potions Master and then raised his glass, swallowing the last of its contents in a single gulp, the wished for numbness finally settling in.
In a cupboard under the stairs, in perfectly normal house on Privet Drive, Surrey, a small boy with green eyes, messy black hair and a strange scar on his forehead, lay on his bed, looking up at the underside of the staircase and watching the spider spinning a web there. The boy was completely unaware of the strange – and magical – turn his life was about to take. And it would all start with a letter...
It's been nearly ten years, and Lily's death doesn't hurt any less. Her green eyes are still a constant presence in my dreams and in my nightmares. Soon, I will see those eyes again, but on his face. Potter's. It's all his fault. His pride and his foolish belief in such a thing as loyalty amongst friends. Idiot. He didn't deserve her. And it was all a waste. Lily's death...meaningless. The Dark Lord is still out there, waiting... He will be back. It was all for nothing. I know that Dumbledore thinks differently: that as long as the boy lives, there is hope. What is hope but a waste of emotion? Without her, there is nothing to hope for. It will all end in blood anyway. Blood and tears (did she cry, when she died?) And yet... she's there, in memory, keeping me from... I don't even know what from. But I will do it. Hope. Even protect her son, even if it's his son too. For her, anything.
- Severus Snape
To Be Continued
Road of Loyalty
Published: 23/12 -12
A Note From the Author
And that's it. The first war is over - with the next story in the series, we are moving into the second and also into the timeline of Harry Potter that we know the best. As I'm sure you've been able to figure out, this 'epilogue' chapter have given you a glimpse into the lives of the characters who will play a main/fairly large/important part in the second war, all of which should be more or less familiar to you by now! All of them won't not necessarily show up in the very next story, but in at least one of the four that is left. Something to look forward to! Road of Sacrifice has been my favourite story in the series to write so far and I hope that has shown - thank you all for following me through this.
The reason there is no trivia yet is because there is a lot of it for this chapter, and I wanted to get this out before the end of 2012 - the trivia will be added later. Happy New Year, and don't forget to follow me or ask for an e-mail or somehow keep an eye on when part 4 comes out: as of now, I don't know the exact date, but I think it might be in the beginning of February, but we'll see - be patient, and I'll see you in 2013!