Freedom At Last
A/N: Disclaimer's in the first chapter. This marks the end of Council and Ministry. I am aware that some things still aren't fully dealt with, but this particular fic bunny has died. I may someday continue in this 'verse, but don't count on it.
December 8, Watcher HQ
Potter Manor had proved to be in surprisingly good repair. The Potter elves had died shortly after James and Lily, but, evidently some elves had taken it upon themselves to keep the mansion in as good repair as they could while also taking care of their duties to their own families. The result was that Dobby hadn't had to do much to make the place ready to be lived in full time.
Two days after Dobby had reported on the condition of Potter Manor, Sirius finally stumbled across something in his ancestors' diaries. It hadn't quite been what he'd been looking for, but it had given him a thread to follow. That was more than he'd had up to that point. Yesterday, he had finally hit pay dirt. He'd immediately contacted Xander, who had arranged for a meeting today with the Scoobies. Sirius, Remus, and Harry had all been invited to attend. So had Snape, Flitwick, Moody, Daphne, Octavius, and Draco.
Harry did a triple-take when he spotted Draco at the big table in the meeting room that had been commandeered for today's meeting.
"Malfoy? What on earth are you doing here?" Harry asked. To his credit, he sounded merely curious, rather than angry or suspicious.
Draco eyed Harry for a long moment before he answered. "I have discovered that Muggles ... aren't all that bad." He finally said. "Merlin knows there's more opportunity for me here than in the magical world."
Harry thought about that for a minute before realizing that Draco was in nearly as bad a place as Harry was, as far as the magical world was concerned. After all, his father and his grandfather had been die-hard Voldemort supporters. No one in the magical world was going to trust that Draco was anything but evil.
"Point." Harry admitted aloud. He left Draco alone after that. He still didn't like the blonde ferret, but the New Watcher's Council was big enough for the both of them. They didn't have to deal with each other if they didn't want to.
"So, Mr. Black, what did you find?" Giles asked, bringing the meeting to order, more or less.
"I ran across a mention in one of my ancestors' journals a bit over a week ago." Sirius said, putting several parchment scrolls he'd been carrying on the table. "Where it said something to the effect of 'those Watcher bastards', only in period-appropriate terminology." He snorted. "It was the first mention of anything related to demons I'd seen, and that it mentioned your predecessors' group specifically caught my eye. So I scanned through earlier entries by that particular ancestor, which led me to a much earlier one. That's when I found these." He patted the scrolls gently.
"Basically, what it boils down to, is that evidently - back when the Slayers were made - there were Magicals that strenuously objected to the idea. They didn't approve of essentially enslaving some poor kid." Sirius said. "This faction did what they could to help stem the tide of demon incursions, up to and including creating all-new spells designed specifically to deal with demons."
Giles blinked at Sirius in surprise. "Well, that certainly answers for why your world is still partially aware of the demon world." He said.
"It gets more interesting than that." Sirius said. "See, it wasn't just the one faction. There was another faction that agreed with the creation of the Slayer wholeheartedly, and thereafter declared dealing with demons 'Slayer business'. They didn't approve of the families that were joining in on the fight, and started legislating to try to prevent it."
"I bet that ended well." Buffy said.
Sirius laughed. "You'd be right. That's why there are certain pockets of the UK, and I imagine elsewhere, that demons know to avoid. The magical government could stop people from demon hunting in public, but what the pureblood families did on their own lands, under a heck of a lot of wards that generally prevented anyone from knowing what they were up to, the government couldn't stop." He sighed. "Unfortunately, eventually some idiot decided that using demon-killer spells on humans was a good idea."
"And thus, the so-called Dark Arts were born." Severus said. "And over time all this was forgotten, which explains why no one knew anything about all this. I imagine Minister Bones will find laws pertaining to this in the coming weeks and months."
"She probably will." Sirius agreed. "Anyway, it turns out that all the so-called Dark Families, and more than one of the Neutral Families have some link to the folks that disagreed with the creation of the Slayer and continued demon-hunting privately."
"This is going to stir a few things up." Harry said, sounding amused. "The Light families are *not* going to like the insinuation that they were originally 'bad guys'."
That got some sort of amused reaction from everyone at the table.
"The Dark families are going to be rather confused." Sirius said. "After who knows how long of this blood superiority thing, finding out this is where they got their starts ... " He shrugged. "But maybe we can get them back on the straight and narrow with this."
"We'd certainly welcome anyone wanting to 'get back to their roots' as it were." Giles agreed. "We can use all the help we can get."
"And then some." Buffy agreed. "Even with all the Slayers now, we're still swamped, and can't get to every trouble spot before things go critical. We have to prioritize the world-endy stuff over everything else. But if we could stop the idiots before they get to the world-endy stage, life would be a lot easier and simpler."
"No shit." Xander said with feeling. "It would mean less mad scrambling, for one. And anything that results in fewer almost-apocalypses gets my vote."
There was heartfelt agreement from the Scoobies for that sentiment.
December 10, Hogwarts
Minerva had known that Fawkes would be leaving any day now. She had, the evening before, very carefully transferred Fawkes' ashes to a small leather bag tied with a string that he could bite through. Fawkes had watched her every move warily, only relaxing when she'd left the tied bag in the ash-pan under his roost.
She had arrived early in the morning, as had become her usual. There was so much to sort out and organize as they restructured Hogwarts' curriculum, hiring practices, and pretty much everything else they could get their hands on. She had just started on the day's paperwork when Fawkes, who had been sleeping when she arrived, woke.
Today was the day. Oh, he could have gone anytime in the last week, Fawkes knew. He'd been more or less back up to full strength a week ago. But he had remained for a short time longer, both to ensure he was truly back to full strength and because he hadn't known what to do about his ashes.
Then, the woman had solved that problem for him; putting every scrap of his ashes into a pouch he could easily carry and tear open whenever he found someplace he wanted to settle. He was going to make very, very sure that wherever he settled was as far away from humans as he could possibly get. But he was going to leave one last gift before he left.
He snagged the leather bag in his talons and then spread his wings wide, filling the office with a vibrant, triumphant song. The woman's head came up when he started to move and she smiled at his song.
"Good luck, Fawkes." She said.
Fawkes, still singing in triumph, flashed out of Hogwarts.
Minerva had heard Fawkes sing in the past, of course. But it had never, ever been anything like this. This was joy and triumph on a level that made her heart twinge at the same time it made her want to laugh and dance a jig.
Once he was gone, she headed for the floo and contacted Amelia.
"Well, that's a mercy." Amelia told her when Minerva had filled her in. "I don't know what we'd've done if he'd been damaged by that man's actions. I'll contact the Watcher crew, so they can bring Dumbledore in." She sighed. "Personally, I'm going to be glad to kick that old goat through the Veil ... the damage he's done!"
"I know what you mean, Amelia. But we'll get it fixed." Minerva said. "And then he'll be nothing but a footnote."
Amelia barked a laugh. "I like that notion. Yes, let the old goat be forgotten. It's a fitting final punishment for a man who wanted to be the center of attention."
December 10, Watcher HQ
Sirius, Remus, and Harry had spent the last weekend at Watcher HQ, talking over what Sirius had found, and how to reveal that information to the wizarding world. They were at it yet again this morning, in one of the meeting rooms, talking to Xander, Spike, Giles and Buffy. Everyone in the room jumped about a foot when Fawkes flashed in, singing triumphantly and indulging in rather dizzying acrobatics overhead.
They were all grinning, laughing, and in most cases clapping when Fawkes finally landed briefly on the table, near Harry. He turned his head and started preening himself, only to come away with one long, perfect tail feather. He laid it on the table and nudged it towards Harry, then took off again, singing once more before he flashed out again.
Harry had to shake himself after Fawkes left before he managed to regain his wits. He took comfort in the fact that everyone else in the room seemed to be as affected by Fawkes' song. Once he'd cleared his head, he picked up the feather and carefully stroked it before looking around, somewhat at a loss as to what to do with it to keep it safe.
"Hang on a sec, Harry." Xander said after a few long moments. He left the room, then came back with a slim wood case that was normally used to hold a dagger during transport. "This'll work until you can pack it somewhere safe at your place."
"Thanks, Xander." Harry said, gratefully accepting the box and setting the feather inside. The depression where the dagger went was just long enough to accommodate the feather.
"Well, I guess that means we're going to be getting a call from either Minerva or Amelia shortly." Sirius said. "They're going to want Dumbledore, now that Fawkes is definitely free and clear."
"I had best go warn Willow." Giles said. "It will take us some time to get to where we incarcerated him, get him out, and get him to the Ministry. Especially if we want to do it without garnering a great deal of attention."
"Yeah, the less of an audience there is for this, the better." Remus agreed.
They did indeed get a call from Amelia Ten minutes later and arrangements were made to bring Dumbledore to the Ministry that evening, after the bulk of the employees had gone home for the day.
December 10, Dumbledore's cottage and Ministry
Just after dusk, a small group arrived at Dumbledore's little cabin in the middle of nowhere. It consisted of Willow, Xander, Amelia and Minerva. While he'd been given the option, Harry had decided to not attend Dumbledore's execution. Remus and Sirius, on the other hand, were already at the Ministry, awaiting the group's arrival just outside the entrance to the Department of Mysteries.
They walked in, and Willow immediately wrapped Dumbledore in a person-sized anti-escape bubble.
"Ah." Dumbledore said. "So you have come to eliminate your only hope ... "
"I *will* have Willow silence you, Dumbledore." Xander snapped. "We are very, very done with your bullshit. You fucked up and you got caught. Now it's time to take your punishment. The question is: are you going to go out a sniveling coward, or with some shred of dignity?"
That succeeded in shutting Dumbledore up, at least for the moment. They left the cottage and Willow cancelled the anti-escape bubble that surrounded it before they all teleported to the Ministry, appearing about ten feet away from Remus and Sirius.
Dumbledore glanced around with a clear air of expecting more people. Xander chuckled darkly. "Just us, Dumbles. No throngs of people to gawk, or for you to try to soliloquize to. Fifteen minutes from now, you're just going to be a footnote in history, yet another wizard with delusions of grandeur that failed spectacularly in his goals."
The last of the fire seemed to go out of Dumbledore at that, not that any of them were actually going to believe it. Amelia led them through the Department to the room with the Veil. Willow immediately established a second anti-escape bubble, this one engulfing the entire dais where the Veil stood. Dumbledore, inside his man-sized bubble, was a foot or two away from the Veil proper, far enough in that his bubble didn't touch the larger one. As Willow had noted not so long ago, that would have created problems. That done, Willow cancelled the smaller bubble.
"Albus Percival Wolfric Brian Dumbledore, you have found guilty of most heinous crimes and sentenced to death by the Wizengamot." Amelia intoned, then, in a less official tone. "You have the choice of walking under your own power, or being forced through." Normally it was 'walk, or be thrown', but in this case, with the anti-escape bubble, literal throwing would be unnecessary.
For a long moment, Dumbledore looked like he was going to make them force him, but he finally turned and walked through the Veil under his own power. A full minute later, Willow cancelled the anti-escape bubble, and everyone walked out.
With the architect of the latest near-disaster disposed of, it was time to get on with the business of living.