Author: Maven Alysse
Title: Ten For A Bird That's Best To Miss
Genre: Crossover - Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Harry Potter / The Crow
Warning: Character Deaths (um... hello ... crossover with 'The Crow' – of course there's going to be character death. And violence. Don't forget the violence.)
Time line: For BtVS: after Glory (A/N: it becomes an AU because: after "Tabula Rosa" Xander got a charm that protected against memory spells and alterations. Thus, he knew about Dawn and Glory's host, Ben. Xander killed Ben - thus, Buffy didn't sacrifice herself, thus no resurrection, thus no First Evil foot hold. The scenario of Darth-Willow does occur. After Tara's death, Anya left town, unwilling to deal anymore with the craziness that is Sunnydale.) For Harry Potter: After Goblet of Fire – but The Half-Blood Prince didn't happen (I haven't read it and it's not important to this story.)
A/N: First prediction I made up (like it?) and the second is a children's rhyme I found in a book of superstitions involving black birds, crows, or ravens – I thought it suitable.
And Ten For A Bird That's Best To Miss
She went ridged, her eyes turning milky white, and her voice changed from a mature woman's to the sing-song of a young child. Her 'escort' leaned forward eagerly. The seer's predictions were sporadic, yet frequent. As she'd never been wrong, Voldemort had someone with her at all times, ready to write down her every utterance. The swinging body of the last scribe to have missed a prediction a constant reminder of their fates should they fail their Lord.
Beware the mouth of hell. Beware the dale of the sun.
For your defeat comes through the heart of the chosen one.
The crying tree would stop thee, as would morning's light;
Though it is the defender of man that is the one to fight.
Slitted eyes narrowed further as the self-proclaimed Dark Lord read the prediction once more. It was the first line that would allow him to decipher the rest. Without a point of reference, it was all just so much babble. Scroll clutched in his hand, he retreated to his library. Somewhere within the tomes he would find the answers he sought.
Eight hellmouths existed on earth: one each in China, Russia, South America, and Canada; two in Africa and two in the United States. Pouring over the maps, Voldemort chuckled evilly, head cocked in amusement. "Dale of the Sun, indeed." He sent a call for his Death Eaters to gather.
"What does anyone know of a place called Sunnydale, California?"
A brief silence, than one of his followers stepped forward, a confident smirk upon his lips. "There's an active hellmouth there, my Lord. And the current Slayer guards the town to keep it from opening."
"What is a Slayer?"
"A girl – one chosen every generation and imbued with the supernatural abilities of strength, speed, and varying degrees of sensitivity to magic in order to destroy the forces of darkness," the man, hardly out of his teens, spoke matter-of-factly.
"What is your name, and how do you come by your information?"
"Travers, my Lord. Marcus Travers. My father is Quentin Travers, current Head of the Watcher's Council. They are in charge of overseeing the Slayers and dealing with supernatural hot-spots throughout the world."
Voldemort sighed in irritation with himself. He hadn't thought the Watcher's Council to be worth his time, other than to destroy it as a Muggle-loving society. Obviously he was mistaken. They had knowledge and with knowledge came power. "Walk with me, Travers."
As the two left the throne room, eyes glittered maliciously at the supposed favoritism now shown upon Travers.
"A prediction has come to my notice and I've only just been able to puzzle out the meaning of the first line. You've given me a clue to the second. I believe you can help me with the rest, as well. How familiar are you with your father's doings?"
"Before joining you, my Lord, I was training to become a Watcher, myself. Father has not completely given up on me, so I still have access to the records and archives. It would be but a few weeks to 'regain' my father's favor and find any information you seek."
"Excellent. Excellent. You shall receive a copy of the prediction. Memorize it. I expect frequent updates."
"Yes, my Lord." Marcus bowed and left Voldemort's presence.
Nearly two months passed before Marcus located the information he sought. Ironically, his own father set him on the right path. The man had made a sharp comment about how the Slayer was entirely too unconventional – that it was a Slayer's sacred duty to fight the darkness alone. A background check discovered that for several years now, Buffy Summers – the current Slayer – had been assisted by several individuals. An evil grin crossed his lips as he glanced down the list of names.
A black owl glided to Voldemort's chair, perching on the arm rest. The Dark Wizard removed the parchment and smiled in satisfaction. At last. He summoned a dozen of his most loyal Death Eaters, handing over the parchment. "These four people are a threat to my plans. Find and dispose of them. As they have no connection to the Wizarding World, feel free to be creative. Let the Muggles afright at their deaths.
Evil grins were exchanged, "As your Lord commands, so shall it be."
Six months. Six long, empty, meaningless months had passed since his Slayer and her friends – his children – had been murdered. Ex-Watcher Rupert Giles sat in his study, staring blankly at the half-filled bottle of scotch in front of him. Despite all the difficulties he'd had with the man, Quentin Travers had been genuinely sincere when expressing his condolences, had payed for the quadruple funeral out of the Council coffers, and had given Giles the option of becoming a researcher at Watcher headquarters. When the offer was rejected, Travers had arranged for the grieving man to have retirement pay – even though, technically, he hadn't worked for the Council in nearly four years. Giles was too shattered to look a gift horse in the mouth. He'd remained in Sunnydale, unable to leave his family, though he had not gone on any patrols since their deaths.
The ringing phone dragged him from his dark thoughts.
"Giles? It's Cordelia." The young girl, woman now, had been a god-send for the Watcher. When she'd heard the news, she'd traveled to Sunnydale to help him with the funeral arrangements, and continued to keep in touch. She was determined not to allow depression take the rest of her family.
A small smile graced his features. "Hello, Cordelia. To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"I had a vision and it directly concerns you." After the funerals, she had shared her new status as a Seer for the Powers That Be. Giles had even helped interpret some of her visions when the others at Angel Investigations were unable. Neither could understand why the Powers had not given her a clue as to what had occurred six months ago – anything that could have helped prevent the others' deaths.
"What was it of?" Giles pulled a notebook and pen closer. Her visions were generally chaotic and full of hidden symbolism. Writing them down helped wade through the confusion.
Oddly, this one was fairly straightforward. "There was a large black bird sitting on a tombstone and knocking on it. The ground shifted and someone crawled out – only, it wasn't a vampire. The bird cawed encouragement and led the figure out of the cemetery. It was 'Restful Hill Cemetery' and I got the distinct impression that you had to be told."
Giles felt his blood run cold. Restful Hills was where Buffy and the others had been buried. "Was there anything else, Cordelia? Anything you saw that could pinpoint whose grave it was?"
"Nooo, I don't think so. Though I got a rush of emotions from the figure before the vision ended: overwhelming waves of sadness, hatred, and determination. Someone's out for vengeance, Giles, and I don't think they'll stop until they get it. I'm on the road already, I should be there in an hour and a half."
She hung up and Giles studied the notes he'd written, eyes drawn to 'large black bird', 'sadness', and 'vengeance'. An idea niggled at the back of his mind and he rose to check his books. By the time Cordelia had arrived, Giles had found his answer.
"Whoever it was, I – I believe they have returned as a Crow."
"Well, i-it's believed that when a person dies, a crow leads the soul to the Land of the Dead. B-but sometimes, something so horrible happens that a great sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. According to the text, in some cases, the crow can lead that soul back to the Land of the Living to make the wrong things right."
"Who do you think came back? And why did it take so long?" No one had been buried in 'Restful Hill' in months.
"Usually, the soul returns a year after their death, but there has been documentation on some that rose years after, and one who returned after only a month. There's – there's no rhyme or reason as to time, just that the one that returns is the embodiment of the spirit of vengeance. Very little ever got in their way." He picked up a flashlight, cross and stake. "As for who? We won't know till we check."
Restful Hills Cemetery was quiet, the only movement were of the living as Giles and Cordelia headed over to the section where their family lay. Buffy and Dawn had been buried on either side of their mother and despite her parent's objections, Willow had been buried next to Tara beneath a large oak tree. Giles had arranged for Xander to be buried next to Willow since his parents wouldn't acknowledge they even had a son, let alone shell out money to bury him. Giles had let his displeasure be known and the two surviving Harris' had left town shortly after the funeral.
"Xander," Cordelia breathed as she stared at the mound of dirt that had been displaced from the young man's grave. "Where would he go?"
Giles face was grim as he looked at the grave of the man he would have been honored to call 'son'. "I have an idea. Stay close, there's no telling how he'll react to seeing us." 'Or us to seeing him,' he added silently.
"Dawn had been taken from school and we'd traced her here." Alexander crouched in the center of the warehouse, awash in vivid memories of the horrific day when his whole world came crashing down. His crow, Memory, kept vigil from the cross-beams. "They were human, so they didn't ping Buffy's Slay-dar. She barged right in, knocking one half-way across the warehouse before they could blink. Willow zapped another, but we were quickly overwhelmed when a few put the whammy on us," he stated flatly, one hand tracing where each girl had fallen, not raising his head in acknowledgment of his friends' approach. Hands clenched into tight fists. "They laughed." Drops of blood fell to the floor as nails bit into flesh. "Each of us were being held down by two of the robed bastards, and as the last two tore out Buffy's heart and Willow's tongue – they laughed." He inhaled sharply. "I went berserk. Killed the two on me and another two before one snapped Dawn's neck and the rest swarmed me." He fell silent. They had stopped laughing then – and his body shuddered under the memory of being tortured and taunted over his helplessness for nearly three hours before one of the murders got over-enthusiastic and his knife slipped. He rose fluidly to his feet, glancing up at the spot where the men had rammed pieces of rebar into his shoulders and hands, pinning him to the wall, knife wound in his side, in a mockery of the crucifixion. Nerves tingled in remembered sympathy. "They said now there was no one to get in their way." He ignored their shocked gasps as a black and white painted mask appeared upon his face. "They're dead wrong."
The bird harshly cawed it's agreement, landing on his shoulder.
Giles sighed heavily, having allowed himself only one shot of scotch once they'd returned to his place. Cordelia and Alexander had grinned darkly, but had joined him. "Did they say who they were, what they planned to do? The Hellmouth has been ... quiet since your deaths."
"No. Just that their Lord would be pleased and no one would stop them." He paused, thinking. It had all been so frantic and pain-filled, but he forced himself to review his memories. "They wore black robes with hoods and white masks over their faces. They sounded British, though one was probably a Scot based on his accent." He was quiet a bit longer. "During, I saw a tattoo, or mark of some sort on the forearm of at least three of them. It was a weird design, too."
"Can you sketch it? There may be reference to it in one of my books." Giles handed him paper and pen and Alexander drew it perfectly from memory. A large skull with a snake coming out of it's mouth Giles paled. "The Dark Mark."
"You know what that is?"
Giles nodded jerkily, "It's the mark of a very powerful Wizard by the name of Voldemort. I had believed he had been destroyed nearly fifteen years ago. But if people are sporting the Mark and committing atrocities in his name, he must still be around. And gained quite a following if they're willing to come to a hellmouth."
"How do you know all of this?" Cordelia asked, setting down her glass.
"Couple of the blokes Ethan and I used to run with about twenty-five years ago were Wizards." Ripper was making an appearance as the knowledge sank in that revenge against his children's murderers was a distinct possibility now that Xander was here. "Both feared their parents were going to hand them over to Voldemort and so they hid in Muggle London for a while."
"Anyway we can get current information on ol' Moldy-butt?" Alexander was perched on the kitchen breakfast bar, head cocked to one side in a very bird-like manner.
Giles thought a moment, then nodded slowly. "They spoke quite highly of an Albus Dumbledore. He's a Light Wizard that was head of the resistance at the time. If he's still alive, he'd be a good starting point."
To say he was surprised to receive a letter from a Muggle who was not a parent was an understatement.
I write to you in the hopes that the passage of twenty-five years has not dimmed your once feverent desire to see the wrongs done by Voldemort righted. In the past, I had heard such glowing reports and honors, and I pray those were not embellishments created by ready-to-please youths.
Six months ago, there was a Death Eater attack upon those I hold dear, in our hometown of Sunnydale, California in the United States. They came with the specific and express purpose of snuffing out the lives of these four young people based on a prediction one of his seers had given, and they left after accomplishing this goal.
It has only been recently that I discovered the truth behind their deaths, and I beg your assistance in allowing us – those who loved those killed – a way to make the wrong things right.
Feeling every one of his hundred and fifty-two years, Dumbledore read the missive once more, mind whirling furiously. Why would the Dark Lord send men all the way to California to kill four Muggles? His musing were cut short by the entrance of his Potions Master. "Ah, Severus. Please be seated." He glanced unhappily at the letter once before clasping his hands together and focusing on the younger man. "How may I be of assistance?"
"You might want to keep a closer eye on any student who has demonstrated any precognitive or divination abilities."
"What has happened?"
"The Dark Lord's pet Seer broke, it seems. Since earlier this morning, she's done nothing but babble one set of phrases over and over again."
"Which phrases, Severus?"
The younger man sat a moment, organizing his thoughts, then recited: "One for sorrow. Two for joy. Three for a girl. Four for a boy. Five for silver. Six for gold. Seven for a secret never to be told. Eight for a wish. Nine for a kiss. And ten for a bird that it's best to miss."
A chill ran down the older Wizard's spine and the letter beneath his fingers briefly warmed. "I'll let the staff know. Thank you, Severus."
Snape nodded once, rose to take his leave, and paused. "Is there something troubling you, Headmaster?"
"I received an ominous letter today from a Rupert Giles."
Snape blinked in surprise. "Giles?"
"Do you know him?" A small ray of hope shone forth.
"It's been ... nearly twenty-five years. He was part of a group I took shelter with before father ..." he trailed off, one hand unconsciously moving to cover his forearm. "He and most in his group weren't Wizards, but Practitioners. They managed to hide a few of us from any scrying." He shook himself from his revere. "What does he have to say?"
"The Dark Lord sent Death Eaters to the town in which he is now living and killed four youngsters under his charge. He is understandably upset and wishes our help."
"Livid, you mean. Ripper wasn't much for patience and Merlin help any who harmed those he cared about. I can't see that changing much over the years. When did this occur?"
"Six months ago. He only recently discovered the reason and direction behind the attack. Do you recall what was going on at the time?"
Gaze inward, Snape searched through his memories. "His Seer had given a prediction, a warning about a group that could defeat him. I wasn't involved for some reason and was unable to garner any other information."
"As classes were well underway, it would have been difficult for you to get away. The attack occurred in the United States, California to be precise." He handed the letter over for Severus to read. "Now the question is, how much help should we give? It sounds as if he and his are looking for retribution and although any help is greatly appreciative, I am loathe to send non-Wizards into the fray, as it were. What are your thoughts on the matter, Severus?"
He was quite for a long moment, re-reading the letter. "His type of magic is different enough it just might give him an edge. Besides, I'd hate to see what he'd do if forced to move against Voldemort on his own. He wouldn't care about the forces of Light if they got in his way – not in a vendetta. Contact him as soon as possible, but keep it under wraps. The last thing we need is to make Ripper a target."
"Agreed. Thank you, Severus."
Preparations were made. Since Wizards couldn't apperate near a Hellmouth, the three drove outside it's immediate influence to meet them. Giles paced, nerves taut. Cordelia leaned against the car's rear bumper and tried to look calm and collected, but the nervous fidgeting of her hair betrayed her. Alexander perched on the trunk, silent and motionless. That alone bumped the tension up a few notches – it was unnatural. His head cocked and turned at Memory's soft caw, just moments before two men appeared several yards away.
One was a few years younger than Giles, long greasy black hair framed a sallow complected face, sneer affixed. The other was much older, long white hair and a beard that nearly reached his waist. He, however, had merrily twinkling eyes behind half-moon glasses and a look of genuine concern and sympathy on his face.
Before anyone had a chance to move, Alexander fluidly rose and jumped from the vehicle, landing in front of the younger man. He grabbed the man's left arm and exposed the Dark Mark to the others. "Explain or die."
Snape tried to pull his arm back from this young impertinent boy, but found he couldn't. The sheer fury and hatred that darkened the young man's eyes frightened him more than Voldemort ever had, and he knew he was a hair's breadth away from death.
Dumbledore wasn't stupid and somehow knew any prevocation on his part would mean both of their deaths. "Severus Snape plays a dangerous game, my young friend. An unwilling follower due to choices made for him by his father, Severus now spies for the side of Light by providing us with information to help stop or limit the damage Voldemort does."
Eyes so dark they were nearly black stared searchingly into their own, reading their very souls. A long moment passed, then the one who would one day have been called 'The One Who Sees' returned to his perch on the car, one hand resting reassuringly on the young woman's shoulder.
"Caught you, did he?" Giles stepped forward, a rueful look upon his face.
"Less than a month ofter leaving your group. One of my housemates ratted me out." Snape shrugged, "If I had known, I would have renounced the Wizarding world and stayed with you lot."
"Ah, but Severus, without your assistance, Voldemort would be much more powerful than he is."
The young woman cleared her throat with a pointed look at Giles. The ex-Watcher nodded, "Yes, well, perhaps introductions are in order. This is Severus Snape, I met him years ago during my rebellious streak – helped him and a few others play keep away with Voldemort. This is Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. The young lady is Cordelia Chase and the young man is Xander Harris." He glanced up at the setting sun and ushered everyone to the car. "Let's move this to a more secure location, shall we?"
Though curious, impatient, and on Snape's part, uneasy, the two Wizards silently agreed to wait until back at Giles' apartment before asking any pressing questions.
"So, you are Muggles?" Dumbledore, who sat in the back between the two children, asked to break the silence.
"What's a Muggle?" Cordelia asked, turning an interested gaze upon the old man.
"One who has no magic."
The two young ones exchanged smirking glances around him, "No, we're not Muggles.
"But you are not Wizards, either, are you?"
The girl shook her head, dark hair brushing her shoulders, "No, haven't seen anyone like you guys before."
The boy turned away with a scowl, directing his attention out the window.
As they approached, both wizards could feel the weight of the Hellmouth lay upon them like a rain-soaked blanket, uncomfortable and distracting but manageable after a while of adjustment. Entering town, Alexander spoke up, his voice matter-of-fact, "I think we should give them a quick tour and an introduction before we begin, Giles."
"Are you sure that's quite necessary?" Giles met Alexander's gaze in the rear-view mirror.
"Save a lot of trouble in the long run," came the quiet reply.
The man nodded and headed toward one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. They exited the car, both Wizards were surprised that all three now carried pieces of wood that were clearly too thick to be wands. "What are those?"
"The Hellmouth is home to many types of dark and demonic creatures," Giles stated, all three Sunnydalers on the alert. "Most notably vampires." They were reassured when neither Wizard scoffed and instead readied their wands, their postures more alert.
They were approached by four vampires already in game face looking for their first meal of the night. "Hey man, what's with the dresses?"
Giles stepped forward toward the one on the right, who was too busy laughing to notice that the prey wasn't acting like prey, and stabbed the vamp in the heart with his stake, dusting him.
The next dusted so quickly, the ash didn't have a chance to settle before Alexander had pivoted to dust the third, as well.
Cordelia shouted, "One's getting away." The fourth vampire, shocked at the speed his brethren had been taken out, had turned tail and fled as if the Slayer was on his heels.
"Ignius!" Snape flicked his wand and a small fireball engulfed the vampire.
The two teens shared impressed looks. "Handy, that."
Cordelia nodded agreement, "So, can, like, anyone use those or what?"
"As far as I know, only Wizards and Witches are able to use these wands. And each wand is specific to each Wizard," Dumbledore explained.
"Giles?" Alexander motioned back to the car.
"Oh, yes. Come along. We have much to discuss and I'd rather not speak of it out in the open."
Alexander sent a mental request and Memory remained outside – if the Wizards guessed, fine. If not, then one more thing to surprise Voldemort with.
Within moments they were all situated around Giles' living room, beverage of choice in hand.
Dumbledore began, "I must say I am impressed with your skill at dispatching those vampires earlier. It's apparent that you've had quite a bit of practice. I do have one question though, I was under the impression that the current Slayer is posted here. Why are you completing her task?"
"She is one of the reasons I contacted you, Headmaster. She, and several of her companions were the ones specifically targeted by the Death Eaters."
"All based on what their stupid Seer said. No offense, Cor."
"None taken, doofus."
Dumbledore blinked in shock. "Do you know what the prediction stated?"
The boy, Alexander, responded in a monotone, "Beware the Mouth of Hell. Beware the Dale of the Sun. For your defeat comes through the Heart of the Chosen One. The Crying Tree would stop thee, as would Morning's Light; Though it is the Defender of Man that is the one to fight."
Giles bowed his head as grief once again overtook him. Cordelia was pale; dark eyes wide in shared pain. She patted his shoulder, awkwardly offering a tissue. The two Wizards were silent, the pain and suffering in the room were nearly palatable.
Composing himself, Giles wiped his eyes and addressed the two men, though he shot concerned glances over at the boy who had stilled in his seat. "The prediction gave a specific place - the Hellmouth in Sunnydale – and named four that Voldemort felt would be able to defeat him. The rest of the prediction was a literal translation of names: 'The Chosen One' was our Slayer, Buffy Summers. 'Morning Light' referred to her sister, Dawn. 'The Crying Tree' was Willow Rosenburg, a self-taught witch who used wandless magic..." he trailed off.
"And 'The Defender of Man'?" Dumbledore asked quietly.
"'Xander', Alexander, Harris," Cordelia offered.
"I thought you said in your letter that the Death Eaters were completely successful?" Snape inquired.
"They were," Alexander replied, slowly turning his head to meet Snape's gaze, who shuddered at the mere glimpse of the hell that shone from those dark orbs.
"How is it that you are once again among the living?" the older Wizard asked, curious and concerned. Ghosts were one thing, but Alexander was no ghost.
The young man cocked his head to one side, birdlike, gauging the two Wizards for a long moment before grinning ferally. "The Big Bad screwed up. He should have left us alone."
"How do you mean?"
"We're not connected to the Wizarding World. We had no reason to go putting our noses in what's going on in England when there's a very real threat right in front of us. By killing us, he drew our attention. 'Your defeat comes through the Heart of the Chosen One.'" He turned to Giles. "Remember the Unity spell?"
"Dear Lord," Giles began to furiously polish his glasses. "You were the Heart."
"Still am. Voldemort killed my family. I plan to make him pay."
As the five made plans for travel back to Hogwarts, Giles pulled the young man aside. "Xander. I've been thinking about the rest of the prediction: the Crying Tree would fight thee, as would Morning's Light. A-are..." he paused, regaining composure. "How is that connected?"
"Buffy couldn't come back. Something to do with the Slayer Spirit. Being plain vanilla human – and a whole hell of a lot more angry than both Willow and Dawn put together, made me a likelier candidate. Crows don't normally visit this dimension, but they offered me this chance if Dawn opened the way and Willow donated some mojo. They agreed, so here I am.
"Until I am summoned, I have no idea where Voldemort may be hiding," Severus explained as they walked some of the less-known passages from a side entrance of Hogwarts, to the Headmasters office, as the grounds of Hogwarts was a non-apperation zone. "And the Apperation point is always guarded just in case one of Voldemort's followers is captured and coerced into bringing along an Auror."
"What is the world coming to? An intelligent Big Bad," Alexander tisked.
"I'll bet his fashion sense is atrocious, though," Cordelia predicted. "Seems the more evil they are, the worse they dress."
"Oh, I don't know. Glory was pretty evil, and she dressed to kill."
"Puh-leeze. That Prada knockoff? Even Harmony had better taste," the former Queen C sniped.
"Ouch," Alexander grinned.
Giles smiled softly at the by-play. Gods how he had missed his children.
"Okay," the young man focused again on Snape. "so he's got his home turf covered on unexpected human visitors. How about animals?"
"How do you mean?"
"How difficult would it be to smuggle in, say, a bird the next time you go?"
Severus thought a moment. "Not too difficult. There are enough potions that require freshly plucked quill feather for application to warrant having a bird or two on the premises. What do you have in mind?"
"A scouting party," was the enigmatic reply.
Alexander could tell that Memory approved of his plan. Severus would bring the crow into the hidden stronghold and Memory would let him know what Voldemort was up to. Memory had a few hidden tricks being undetectable to the Wizards' spells by virtue of Being, as well as the Blessings and Protections of a Wicca.
Voldemort was intelligent and paranoid, so his precautions and defenses were top-notch – against Wizards. But his arrogance and disdain for Muggles meant there were weaknesses that Xander planned to exploit to their fullest.
He had Giles contact Riley Finn. The demon hunter, though not told of Xander's return, gleefully supplied the ex-Watcher with whatever he needed. "Sam's the love of my life, but Buffy always had part of my heart. I hope you get them good, Giles. As Xander always said, 'Nobody messes with the Scoobies and gets away with it.' Let me know if there's anything else I can do."
Three months passed and Memory was quite pleased with her human's efforts thus far. Alexander had managed to contain and harness his need for vengeance. Instead of rushing in and slaughtering any who stood in his way, as many Crows were prone to do – Alexander used the resources available to accurately pinpoint the precise members who had survived after murdering his loved ones, as well as make sufficient headway into breeching the Dark Lord's sanctuary and setting up Riley's gifts that would eventually pull the whole thing down around their ears.
The crow perched in the rafters, preening a wing as she watched the group below in the main chamber.
"I have been patient. Three months you've had to recover from your repetitive prediction. Our healers say you're in perfect health and yet nothing." The Wizard leaned forward, an unpleasant look in his eye. "Three days, my dear. If I do not have a prediction within three days, I'll have your head." He flicked his hand, a shooing motion, and the Seer was escorted away by her bodyguards.
"We're on in three days, instead of a week as planned." The five adults sat in the common room that connected the three Scooby's rooms.
"What brings the change?" Albus frowned.
"The Seer has a deadline and she's either tapped out or being blocked. From what Severus stated, the Seer is there involuntarily. If possible, I'd like to ensure she isn't killed once her deadline is up."
The followers had been summoned. Once gathered, the Seer was brought forward. "Your time is up. Your predictions once served me well. No longer. Your usefulness is over with." Voldemort raised his wand, smiling softly at the despair in the woman's face. "Ava..."
A voice echoed through the room, interrupting him in mid-spell. "Want to hear a prediction? I've got one for you."
Wizards and Witches searched the room with wild eyes, while Voldemort's red eyes narrowed in rage. "Tommy, Tommy, what a dummy. How will your future go? With nightmare dreams and midnight screams. Oh, how the blood will flow." The phrases rang stridently throughout the room.
A figure up in the rafters moved, garnering the Dark Lord's attention; a white and black painted face gazed coldly down upon them all, a large black bird perched on it's shoulder. "For someone who demands predictions, you don't pay enough attention to them." The man paced along the length of the ceiling, his steps not making a sound. "What's the point of having a reliable Seer if you misinterpret what she says? Oh, well. Your blunder is your downfall and I'm going to enjoy taking you out."
Voldemort struck the interloper with the Killing Curse. A smile crossed his features as the green light connected and the body fell from the rafters. The expression froze in surprise and dread as the body twisted in midair, landing solidly on its feet. The bird, a crow, drifted down to reclaim its perch. Every person in the room drew back in shock when the man waved his finger at them and tisked softly.
"Now that wasn't very nice. You're not a very hospitable host, are you?" He strode through the throng, shrugging off a few more curses as he drew nearer, ignoring the Death Eaters who now stood in a loose half-circle behind him.
"Who are you?" The Dark Lord outwardly remained calm, but inwardly seethed in both fury and fear.
The man stood before him, one hand to his heart in mock theatrics. "You don't know me? I'm crushed. Considering your Seer's prediction is the only reason I'm here." With a nod of his head, the crow flew at the seer. A flash of light flooded the room, blinding. When his eyesight cleared, Voldemort found his Seer and the bird had vanished.
"Who are you!" he fairly shrieked in his rage.
"Alexander Harris. But you can call me 'the Defender of Man'." The man's frighteningly painted face grinned ferally.
Marcus Travers stepped forward, pompous and arrogant, no trace of his earlier terror. "Impossible. I know from first hand experience. Harris was an inconsequential Muggle who died alongside those three Sunnydale tarts. There's no way... urk!"
Travers' body fell to the floor, a pool of blood rapidly forming beneath him. Alexander Harris stood calmly, eyes filled with an unholy rage, and tossed the heart he'd torn out in Voldemort's direction. "Now your heartlessness in death reflects your heartlessness in life." Eyes black as pitch locked on to the so-called Dark Lord. "Retribution and vengeance, Tom. Time to pay the piper."
As if in slow motion, the gathered Wizards and Witches turned on their heels in a panic – magic obviously useless, and more physical means of attack forgotten – and raced for the chamber's exit. As the door was yanked open an explosion rocked the mansion. The rigged claymores Alexander had set earlier ripped into those closest. That explosion triggered several others along the mansion. The Crow had been quite busy the past few months. The attic splintered into kindling and the basement imploded upon itself, the first floor rushing to occupy the space. Cries of pain and fear; prayers for help and forgiveness; pleas of safety and promises of riches peppered the air. All were ignored as Alexander smoothly traversed the ruined room to where Voldemort lay up against the far wall. Memory rejoined him and he spared a small smile.
He knelt down beside the Wizard, gazing into hate-filled red-slitted eyes. "Buffy, Willow, and Dawn send their regards." He placed his palm against Voldemort's forehead. All the fear, pain, despair, helplessness, hopelessness, and rage felt from not only his three girls, but everyone the dark Wizard had killed in his thirst for power, flooded Voldemort's system in one cataclysmic rush.
This wasn't the usual way Crows worked, but the justice behind it was something they appreciated. Willow had spent the time convincing those killed to pass on their pain, and Dawn had opened the pathway for that pain to flow. Alexander gathered all that wrongness, and with great glee, gifted Voldemort.
The agony and horror voiced through his screams had any survivors startled into silence. Alexander left the Wizard writhing in agony against the wall. Froth covered chin and cheeks as his heels beat a frantic tattoo against the stone floor. Perhaps the shock would be enough to kill him – he hoped not. The Crow pulled a 9mm from his waistband and with a cold visage, one by one located seven particular Death Eaters and put them out of his misery. 'Done and done. And to think, they believe they were oh, so superior to Muggles,' and a dark grin shone. He surveyed the rest of the room, the only sounds were the various fires rampaging throughout the mansion, the groan and crash of falling timber, and the pained whimpering of the so-called Dark Lord.
Strolling back over to the huddled form, Alexander replaced his pistol, and crouched beside Voldemort, watching the Wizard writhe for some time before nodding at Memory's cry. "You're right. Time to end this."
Smoothly rising to his full height, he pulled a short sword from beneath his coat, and without further ado, decapitated the Dark Lord, irrevocably ending his reign of terror for good. With a sigh, Alexander placed the head in a bag brought just for that purpose, proof that Voldemort was really dead. And there would be no worries about the Wizard's spirit somehow surviving like it did so many years ago, Memory saw to that.
"Okay, Memory. Let's go." A flash of light, and the room was empty as the mansion finished collapsing.
Rupert Giles and Cordelia Chase found their friend at the top of the Astronomy Tower. The sky was clear and hundreds of stars shone down brightly.
"Xander? We missed you at the victory feast. Is everything okay?"
The Crow sat perched along the wall, gazing outward, Memory on his shoulder. He tossed a sardonic grin over his shoulder at them. "They're ecstatic the threat is gone. But they really don't want a reminder of how it was done." He shrugged, "Let them have their illusions." He twisted about on his precarious perch to face them both, face solemn, though the Crow persona was not present. "I'm just about done, now. I have one last thing to do, then all that's left is to say goodbye."
"What do you have to do?"
"This." Xander pulled Cordelia into his arms and gently kissed her forehead. A warm feeling rushed through her and her mind cleared of all pain. Wide eyed, she stared at him. "Those visions were killing you, Cor. So, no more headaches. No more pain. Just the gift as it was supposed to be."
Cordelia teared up, embracing the young man whom she had finally forgiven. "I'm gonna miss you so much. Do you have to go?"
Xander's arms tightened about her. "Yeah. I did what I came back to do. My time's over." Memory clacked her beak in agreement.
She stepped back with a sniffle, dabbing at her eyes with the cuff of her sleeve. "Take care, doofus."
He nodded, smiling, then shifted his gaze to Giles. "G-man."
The ex-Watcher gave a watery smile at the nickname finally making itself known. He pulled the younger man into a fierce embrace. "My boy, it has been an honor and pleasure to have known and worked with you. I've always been so proud of your courage. Never doubt that."
Xander nodded, tightening the hug for a moment. "That means a lot to me, G-man. Thanks." Giles stepped back.
The air on either side of the young man began to give off a soft pale blue glow. Both Giles and Cordelia felt their breath catch in their throats as Dawn and Willow appeared, their hands resting lightly upon Xander's shoulders.
"It's time to go home, Xander," Dawn bounced lightly on her toes, face bright with excitement.
"Everyone's waiting. Ready, Xander?" Willow grinned up at her life-long friend.
"Ready," a broad grin spread, banishing the somber look that had been present since his return.
The three waved at the two mortals and disappeared in a flash of light – only a black feather remained to show they'd ever existed.
Cordelia reverently retrieved the feather, smiling as Giles wrapped an arm around her shoulders in comfort. Her eyes glowed a moment as a vision hit her. "They're going to be okay," she affirmed. "We all are."
Jennifer Ruth / Maven Alysse