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Forbidden Past

BY: DragonKatGal
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Whedon and Rowling rock my world.
SUMMARY: Hemery high wasn’t the first school that Buffy Summers was expelled from.
NOTES: Just go with it. It all kind of makes sense if you don’t think about it too hard.
PAIRING: None decided yet.
SETTINGS: BTVS2/HP5. Post ‘What’s My Line’ and ‘Ted’. Just to remind you, WML is the episode that Kendra the Vampire Slayer is introduced. Also, just pretend that we’ve never seen Hank Summers in the episode ‘Nightmares’. He has conveniently been deleted from that episode. I’ll explain later.
ANOTHER NOTE: Angel? Who’s Angel again? I don’t recall Buffy being in love with Angel? (Heh, neither does Joss Whedon it seems. This is long before Innocence, and any romance between Buffy and Angel has been conveniently ignored.) Oh…also...Grawp? Who’s that again? Oh, yeah, the convenient excuse for the Centaurs to leave Umbridge alone? Yes, I do vaguely recall. Heh…must have slipped my mind. Yeah, Grawp’s not anywhere in this fic at all. As for Angel, he’s mentioned, but it is later explained why Buffy will never ever be dating him.
RATING: R for violence and dark themes later on. I’ll put warning on dark chapters.

Prologue

As evenings went, it had been fairly ordinary for the three students and one librarian who were seated around a large wooden table in the middle of Sunnydale High Library. Buffy Summers was curled up in her favourite chair, a book in her lap, though she wouldn’t have been able to even tell you the topic of the book, let alone what the page she had been staring at was supposed to be about. The Vampire Slayer was completely unable to concentrate that evening, which was why her Watcher, Rupert Giles, had suggested that she take the evening off. Although, Giles’ idea of an evening off had meant that Buffy was now cloistered in the library, researching some random demon that was supposed to be rising in the next few years. If she even lived that long.

It was Christmas next week. It would be her birthday in a month. Seventeen. It was a special age to turn, but she wouldn’t be able to truly savour it. Other kids her age would be learning how to – She stopped that line of thought immediately. Moping would do no good to her. She couldn’t go back. She sighed despondently, causing her best friend, Willow Rosenberg, to look up at her in concern.

Willow had noticed a marked difference in the Slayer’s behaviour, and she was becoming more and more worried by the blonde girl’s sullen behaviour. Whenever she asked Buffy about it, the Slayer always changed the topic, bringing up something that would make Willow completely forget that she had been questioning the Slayer on her problems.

Beside Willow, Xander Harris looked up, also slightly worried about the Slayer. He knew that there was something she hadn’t told them, but he couldn’t work out what it was.

“You okay Buffy?” Xander asked.

The Slayer’s head snapped to attention, Buffy shaking her head as though coming out of a fog.

“Huh?”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’ then,” Xander replied, trying to make light of the situation. “What’s the up, Buff? You’ve been kinda out of it lately.”

“I’m fine,” she replied. “Just tired. Plus Snyder’s been giving me death stares since the whole Ted thing. I think he was upset that I wasn’t arrested or something. He’s been looking for an excuse to kick me outta here.”

“At least you’d be consistent,” Willow offered. “First Hemery, then Sunnydale.”

“Of course, the only other school nearby is that scary Catholic one. I can just imagine you in those little grey pleated skirts, and those nifty little ties,” Xander teased, giving her a mock-leer.

Willow reached across and lightly whacked Xander across the back of his head. He gave her a scandalised look, and then silently pleaded for forgiveness with puppy-dog eyes. Willow just shook her head and rolled her eyes before turning back to a smirking Buffy, who seemed somewhat amused by Xander’s comment for a reason known only to the Slayer.

“Don’t worry too much Buffy,” Willow consoled the Slayer. “Snyder can’t kick you out without reason, and you’ve been on your best behaviour lately.”

“I suppose.”

“So, what have you got planned for Christmas, Buffy?” Xander asked, quickly changing the topic, seeing how worried Buffy really was about the thought of being expelled.

“The holidays,” Willow corrected her best friend, scowling at him for being so inconsiderate as well as politically incorrect. “Not everybody worships Santa!”

“Nothing really,” Buffy replied, with a slight grin at Willow’s outburst. “Family stuff mostly.”

That wasn’t a lie. But unfortunately, she wouldn’t be doing the family things that she really wanted to be doing. She was desperately missing her family lately, although her ‘mom’ had been doing a wonderful job of distracting her from being too depressed over what had happened in the past. The problem was, she would have given just about anything to visit her –

“Buff!” Xander yelled for the third time.

Buffy looked up. “What?”

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Willow asked worriedly. “You’ve kinda been spacing out.”

“I’m fine,” Buffy replied, feeling slightly guilty for not telling her best friends the truth about herself, but knowing that it was for the best. “Just a little busy up top.”

“That’s a first,” Xander ribbed, earning him another smack across the back of the head.

Buffy managed to conjure up a small smile, but it fell completely flat.

“Y’know, I’m really not doing much good here,” Buffy said, standing up and picking up her backpack. “I’m just gonna head home, maybe do a quick patrol along the way.”

“Are you certain that’s a good idea?” Giles asked as he exited his office for the first time in the last half hour. “You’ve been distracted lately, and I seriously doubt that you should be patrolling with your mind elsewhere.”

“I’ll be fine,” Buffy replied, though she was grateful for her Watcher’s concern. It was nice to know that Giles was genuinely concerned for her wellbeing, and not just because she was the Slayer. “I’ll be focussed. I promise.”

She walked out of the library, leaving her two best friends and her Watcher mystified, and more than a little bit worried about her behaviour. There was a mystery there that only Buffy could solve for them but the Slayer was shut up tighter than a clam. All they could do was wait for her to open up to them, and go from there.

------------------------

Buffy managed to duck into a roll rather than falling flat on her face. She jumped to her feet with her old gymnastics skills and managed to knock the vampire to his back with a well-placed roundhouse kick. The vampire regained its footing and lunged at the Slayer, but Buffy successfully side-stepped, and punched the vampire swiftly. She saw her opening, and quickly plunged the stake into the vampire’s chest, humming in satisfaction as the vampire turned to dust. The night air was still and silent, but she could feel something in the air. Something powerful. Something evil.

“Very impressive hunt,” a soft voice said, as someone in a long black cloak stepped out of the shadows.

Buffy tensed ready for a fight. Her senses were going haywire with the amount of power emanating from the figure in front of her. Whoever, or whatever this was, they were strong. They held an old and powerful magic that felt…darker than anything she’d ever sensed before. He was stronger than she was, though she would never want to admit to that.

“Such power,” the man continued.

“That was no hunt,” Buffy replied, relying on her tried-and-true quips and witticisms to try and keep calm and collected. “That was just a day on the job. Care to step up for some overtime?”

“We are not going to fight,” the figure replied. Buffy could hear the smirk in his voice, and as the figure stepped forward into the light coming from the streetlamps, she swallowed nervously and forced herself not to step back in fear.

Whatever this creature was, it looked almost snake like. Its eyes were scarlet red, and its nose was merely a slit. Its skin was pale and alabaster, and the cloaks hood covered the creature’s hair, if it actually had any.

“Do you know what a Slayer is?” Buffy asked, wondering why the creature had yet to attack her.

“Do you?” the creature challenged.

Buffy couldn’t help but pause as the question was turned around on her. She’d been intrigued by her own powers many times, and had, once-upon-a-time, been curious enough to research where the power had come from. She’d found very little in the way of answers, and had eventually given up.

“Who are you?” Buffy asked, more than a little intrigued.

“I apologise, I assumed you knew. I am Lord Voldemort.”

Chapter 1 - Family Reunion

It was with great effort that Buffy dragged herself through the corridors of Sunnydale High School. She knew without a doubt that if any stray cleaner, or, Merlin-forbid, Principal Snyder happened to walk past, she’d no doubt be expelled or suspended for something or other. All she could think of was getting to her Watcher, and praying like crazy that he wouldn’t ask too many questions.

She cried out in pain as her knees gave way in the corridors, and she fell to the ground with a thump. She lay there, breathing hard, her body trembling violently with pain and another, darker indefinable something that Buffy had never wanted to experience. She tried to summon up the strength to get herself to move forward, even if she had to crawl on hands and knees to get to the relative safety of the library. She wasn’t even all that sure on how she’d managed to get from the cemetery to the school, but she’d made it there, inch by agonizing inch.

“Buffy!”

She felt the familiar and comforting hands of her Watcher gently touching her, trying to work out where she was hurt. Thankful that she had been found, she allowed herself to succumb to the blissfulness of unconsciousness.

Giles looked down at his wounded Slayer, his heart racing frantically as he tried to imagine what it was that had brought his Slayer to her knees. She didn’t seem to be too badly hurt except for the rather noticeable red handprints around her neck, and the cut on her head that had thankfully stopped gushing blood. Even as she was unconscious, she was shivering, though it wasn’t because of being cold. Regardless of the fact that it was supposedly winter, the nights hadn’t been all that cool in Sunnydale.

Carefully he scooped her into his arms and carried her into the library. Willow and Xander leapt to their feet upon seeing their best friend lying in the Watcher’s arms, completely unconscious.

Giles laid her out on the table, removing his jacket to act as a makeshift pillow for the injured girl.

Willow quickly ran to Giles’ office to grab the first-aid kit that was always kept on hand, and fully stocked for any and all emergencies.

“What did this?” Xander asked, his voice shaky with nervousness.

Giles just shook his head silently. He had no clue, and Buffy was still trembling.

Willow laid the first-aid kit out on the table, helping Giles to clean the gash on Buffy’s forehead. Willow winced as she saw the angry looking wound that was sure to leave a scar and a nasty bruise for the next few days. They were all just thankful for Buffy’s enhanced healing abilities. Without them, they’d have had a lot of questions to answer that not even science could explain.

“Why is she shaking?” Willow asked softly.

“I wish I knew,” Giles replied, mentally going through every single symptom of demon infection that he could think of, trying to come up with an answer and a solution. “Xander, would you look in the Black Chronicles. Chapter nine deals with the various poisons given off by certain demons, and there may be a clue as to what did this.”

Xander nodded, happy to have been given something useful to do. He wasn’t helpful when it came to trying to patch up Buffy’s injuries, and he hated the helplessness that he felt whenever the Slayer was injured.

“I believe I have an idea of what happened,” a soft voice interjected.

The group came to a complete standstill, turning to look at the stranger who stood in the centre of the library. None of them had hard the man come in, and nobody had even the vaguest idea of whom he was.

“And who exactly are you?” Giles asked, allowing a little bit of Ripper to come to the forefront.

The stranger wore a pair of half-moon glasses, his nose long and crooked, and his hair was flowing silver, his beard and moustache the same colour. He looked harmless enough, but on the hellmouth, one couldn’t be too careful. Xander was busy taking in the sight of the stranger’s wardrobe. The stranger was in flowing blue robes decorated with silver stars. His cloak was a darker blue, with beautiful embroidery on the sleeves, collar and split in the middle. It was possibly the strangest and most elaborate piece of clothing that any of them had ever seen.

“A friend,” the stranger replied.

He approached the table, reaching into his robes for a small glass vial. Giles stood protectively in front of his stranger, pulling himself up to his full height and staring the stranger directly in the eye.

Willow and Xander watched on apprehensively.

“Trust me Mr Giles, I will not hurt her,” the man said.

Giles was put off guard by the sudden use of his name, and the stranger pushed the Watcher out of the way. He gently cradled Buffy’s head and uncorked the glass vial. With great care and delicacy, he poured the contents of the vial into Buffy’s mouth, massaging her throat softly to get her to swallow.

Several moments later, Buffy suddenly coughed and came to, sitting up on the table and looking around.

When her eyes met the strangers, a grin broke out on her face, and she practically jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly.

Giles, Willow and Xander watched with interest, curiousity and confusion, trying to work out just how the Slayer knew the strange man who had seemingly revived the Slayer.

Buffy pulled back, her grin suddenly dimming.

“Wait…what are you doing here?” she asked.

“You know why I’m here, Phoenix,” he replied softly.

Buffy nodded and rubbed at her still raw throat. The stranger smiled softly and removed something else from his pocket. He unscrewed the lid and squeezed out a thin line of cream, gently tilting Buffy’s head back and rubbing it into her throat. Buffy sighed with relief and was able to breath properly once more.

“Anywhere else?” he asked gently.

Buffy nodded and pivoted on the table, showing her back to the man. She lifted her shirt, and her friends winced at the ugly looking bruise that marred her otherwise perfectly tanned back.

The man gently rubbed some of the cream onto the wound, making Buffy grimace with pain, and at the cold sensation of the cream. She pushed her shirt back down and turned to look up at the stranger.

“Is mom alright?” she asked.

The man nodded, gently tucking a strand of Buffy’s blonde hair behind her ear. “She’s fine. You know I would never let anything happen to her.”

Buffy nodded and then seemed to realise that they were not alone. She was getting confused and curious looks from her two best friends and her Watcher as well. She sighed softly and looked to the man with the silvery beard.

“I think it’s time you told your friends the truth, dear girl,” he encouraged her softly.

“I don’t know where to start,” Buffy admitted.

“Perhaps with an introduction,” he prompted her.

Buffy laughed slightly, loving the simplicity of the idea. “Meet my two best friends, Willow Rosenberg, and Xander Harris. And Rupert Giles. My Watcher.”

Giles’ eyes widened as he heard his official title. He couldn’t work out who the stranger was that would even know what a Watcher was. Which then meant that the stranger knew that Buffy was the Slayer.

“Guys, meet my grandfather. Albus Dumbledore.”

Chapter 2 - Explanation

“Your grandfather?” Giles repeated. “According to the Council, your grandparents are dead.”

Buffy shook her head sadly. “And according to the Council, my father is still alive,” she added. “The Council believes what Papa D wants them to believe. It would be hard for them to locate someone they believe to be dead. If they’d gone looking for my family, they’d have been…well, it probably wouldn’t have been pretty.”

Willow reached out her hand to gently squeeze Buffy’s in comfort. The Slayer smiled softly at her best friend, thankful that she was finally able to tell them the biggest secret that she’d ever kept from them. They knew possibly everything else about her except for the truth in regards to her heritage.

Giles was looking more and more perplexed, and Buffy decided to take pity on him and continue explaining.

“My dad died when I was six-months-old,” Buffy explained. “I don’t know anything about him at all, except what my grandfather tells me.”

“But…you told us that your mom and dad were divorced,” Willow said, confused, and feeling a little betrayed that her best friend had been keeping secrets from her.

“My adoptive parents are divorced,” Buffy replied. “It’s…it’s kind of complicated.”

“Wait, you’re adopted?” Xander asked.

“Mom…Joyce, she’s my aunt. Dad’s older sister,” Buffy explained.

“So…Hank is Joyce’s brother. Not her husband as the Council believes,” Giles clarified.

Buffy nodded.

“Mom…Aunt Joyce was married to Jim Vincent. They divorced just before we moved to Sunnydale, and Aunt Joyce went back to her maiden name.”

“So…where’s your real mom?” Willow asked curiously.

Buffy felt tears well in her eyes, and her grandfather put a gentle hand on her shoulder for support and comfort.

“In a hospital. The long-term residents’ ward,” Buffy replied softly.

Silence fell as Buffy tried to compose herself. Her two friends gave her a moment to herself, realising how painful it must have been to think of her mother in a hospital.

“How long as she been in hospital?” Giles asked gently.

“Fourteen years,” Dumbledore answered for his granddaughter.

“And Buffy’s mother…she would be your daughter then?” Giles asked Dumbledore.

“Yes. Alice. A very talented…girl. Her second husband is also in the same condition,” Dumbledore explained.

“Is that why you live with your aunt?” Willow asked curiously.

“Uh…not quite,” Buffy replied. “I uh…just…alright, I’m seriously not allowed to be telling you any of this, so that’s why I’ve never mentioned it before. I’m a witch.”

Her two best friends and her Watcher were all struck dumb at her revelation. Whatever they’d been expecting, that hadn’t been it. A witch? Buffy?

“Like Miss Calendar?” Willow asked.

“No, no. Miss Calendar’s a technopagan. She practises Wiccan magic. Earth magic. With the right amount of focus and faith, just about anyone can perform Wiccan magic. Mine is…well, it comes from inside me. And uh…it gets channelled through uh…” Buffy couldn’t bring herself to say it. It sounded too weird, even for her friends who had grown up on the hellmouth.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he produced something else from within his robes. He handed Buffy a sleek, smoothly carved black-wooded wand. Buffy took it from him gingerly and breathed in deeply as she felt the familiar rush of power flow through her veins.

“I thought they made you snap it,” Buffy whispered.

Giles stepped forward to study the item that had just been handed to his Slayer. He’d never seen anything like it before, though he knew with perfect clarity what she was holding.

“Holy moses,” Xander said softly. “Is that what I think it is?”

“A wand,” Buffy replied, still looking down at it. “Willow wood, 11 inches, supple, with a single hair from Merlin’s beard at the core.”

“I’m surprised you remembered all that,” Dumbledore teased gently.

“I’m not about to forget having part of Merlin’s beard in my wand,” Buffy replied. “And then when I met Willow and heard her name…I knew it was fate.”

“Alright, so you’re a witch, with a wand, and your mother is in a hospital. Does any of that relate to what happened to you earlier tonight?” Giles asked,

“In a way. The reason my mom is in hospital is because she was tortured for information. A very powerful, very dark wizard, Lord Voldemort was the reason why my mom and Frank were tortured,” Buffy explained, trying to keep her voice calm as she spoke about what had happened.

“Frank would be your mother’s second husband, then, yes?” Giles asked.

“Yeah. Frank Longbottom. He and mom had a son. Neville. He’d be…Merlin, he’d be fifteen now,” Buffy commented. “Half way through Fifth Year.”

“Voldemort was…well, not quite defeated, but he was banished fourteen years ago,” Dumbledore explained.

“And now he’s back,” Buffy whispered softly, touching her now completely healed throat. She could still feel the icy cold grip of Voldemort’s hands on her neck. It had frightened her badly, and she was still somewhat shaken from the encounter.

“And now he’s back,” Dumbledore concurred. “Six months ago he returned to power. He is currently gathering allies, and he believed that Buffy would be interested in forming an alliance.”

“Why in heck would she want to do that?” Willow asked, somewhat furiously. “I mean, the guy tortured her parents, he’s…he’s evil, and scary and he hurt Buffy. There’s no way that Buffy would join him.”

“There’s still more to the story,” Buffy commented.

The two Sunnydale natives and Giles looked at her curiously, wondering what more there could be to the story. They could only hope that it wasn’t nearly so painful as the last parts had been.

“I didn’t grow up in America,” Buffy admitted. “I grew up in Northern England, in Yorkshire. For nearly five years I went to a boarding school in Scotland. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Papa D is the Headmaster there.”

“And I can assure you that I didn’t allow my little Phoenix to call me that during school hours,” Dumbledore interjected.

The Scoobies chuckled slightly and Buffy blushed a little.

“I started at Hogwarts when I was ten and a half, and…well, everything was pretty normal for the next few years. Then, in Fifth Year…I…well, I was Called. I had no idea what had happened, or why I was suddenly stronger, faster and more skilled than anyone else in my year. I went to Papa D, and…he realised that I was the Slayer.”

“Which is why the Council never discovered you until after you were Called,” Giles said, with a slight amount of excitement. “You remained at the school.”

Buffy nodded. She’d worked that out upon arriving in America as well. The Council had almost immediately forced their way into her life, and announced her Calling as though it had only just happened that week.

“It was kept a secret. Only Papa D and two other Professors knew about it. Professor McGonagall was the Head of my House, so she needed to know where I was whenever I went patrolling, and Severus Snape, the Potions Master,” Buffy explained.

“So…why aren’t you still at this, uh…Warthog school?” Xander asked.

Dumbledore chuckled slightly at the mishmash of the name. “Hogwarts, dear boy,” he corrected mildly.

“And, I’m getting to that Xand,” Buffy added. “Like I said, I was Called halfway through my Fifth Year, just after my fifteenth birthday. None of my friends knew about it, and then…well, the guy I was dating at the time found out. Sebastian Fudge.”

Xander snorted into his hand, but quietened down at the glare he received from Buffy, Dumbledore, Giles and Willow.

“He was a Seventh Year, seventeen years old. One of the Ravenclaw Prefects. At first, he’d been trying to help me study for History of Magic, but then…well, we both liked each other, so he asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him. After that, we were pretty much inseparable,” Buffy explained.

Willow could tell where this was going. The only direction that this was leading was a place of pain and hurt, and she could feel her heart breaking for her best friend.

“What happened?”

“He followed me into the Forbidden Forest one night, maybe two months after I began patrolling,” Buffy continued. “Papa D had given me permission to patrol after curfew on Fridays and Saturdays, and Seb was doing hallway patrol, looking for students who were out of bed after hours. I could usually get past the prefects without too much trouble, but instead of reprimanding me…he followed me.”

“And he was injured?” Giles ascertained.

“Worse,” Buffy replied. “I had no idea that he’d followed me until the next day. He didn’t show up for breakfast, which…pretty big cause for alarm. No one misses Hogwarts breakfasts. None of his housemates had seen him, and he missed the Quidditch Game. Later that night, I found him.”

“Dead,” Willow whispered.

Buffy shook her head, swallowing hard. “Worse. He was a vampire.”

Chapter 3 - Sebastian

Hogwarts: Forbidden Forest
Saturday 11:43pm
March 23rd 1996

Buffy Summers was not a worrier by nature. Most everything that came along she was able to take in her stride. She’d learned from an early age that life sometimes dealt you a bad hand, and you just had to roll with the punches. Lately though, she’d had more than her fair share of punches to deal with.

Discovering you were the Slayer was something that she’d had to adjust to fairly quickly. Her grandfather, and the Headmaster of her school, Albus Dumbledore, had been quick to discover why she’d been feeling out of sorts, and why she’d begun having nightmares so vivid that she had trouble differentiating them from reality.

She was the Slayer. An unfound Potential that the Council had missed, probably because of the wards on her house in Yorkshire, and the protection surrounding Hogwarts as well. Dumbledore had stepped in and had begun training her in the art of Slaying vampires, taking Professors McGonagall and Snape into their confidence as well.

None of her friends knew about what she did. They just believed that she was having problems sleeping. Her room-mates, Angelina, Katie and Alicia were all convinced that she was just sneaking out of the Gryffindor Tower to meet her boyfriend Sebastian Fudge, the grandson of the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge. Sebastian, or Seb as he was known to mostly everyone, was a Seventh Year Ravenclaw Prefect who played Chaser for the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team. He was well liked, and incredibly intelligent, as most Ravenclaws were wont to be.

It was no secret that Seb and Buffy were completely smitten with each other, despite the two years difference in their ages.

The Fifth Year Gryffindor, despite the ups and downs of her insane life, was not a worrier. She had her moments of panic; usually before the exams and whenever Seb took risky dives during Quidditch, but other than that, she was the student that was always in control of whatever situation she was in.

Except, suddenly she wasn’t in control. Seb hadn’t shown up for the entire day, and Buffy had the uncomfortable suspicion that when he did show up next, it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

She breathed in deeply and entered the dark forest, her eyes adjusting to the barely there light, her ears pricked, listening for the slightest sound.

The Forest wasn’t a place that she’d been eager to go into before being Called as the Slayer, but ever since she’d discovered her true Calling, she’d been drawn to the darkness of it, revelling in the humming sensation of being surrounded by so many mythical and magical creatures. She’d had to do a full month of reading up on the creatures within the Forest before Dumbledore would let her enter so that she knew exactly what was a danger to her and the school, and what was helping the Forest to remain a place of growth.

She gripped her stake more tightly, heading towards a section of the Forest that held a cave where evil creatures tended to surround. She had made plans to destroy the cave entirely until she discovered that some of the creatures that were neither evil nor good resided in there as well. Which mean that she’d had to take each creature as they came to her, rather than just flushing out the entire area.

She approached the cave cautiously and heard the snapping of a branch behind her. She whipped around quickly, stake raised, poised and ready to attack whatever came at her. The air was completely still and silent, not even the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze.

Another twig snapped, and again she turned, trying to work out where the noise was coming from. Again, a noise behind her sounded, and she turned, only to bump into the chest of a very familiar person.

“Seb,” she breathed. Her instinctive reaction was to drop her stake and hug her boyfriend as tightly as she could. Unfortunately, her Slayer instincts were telling her to plunge her stake into his chest before he had the chance to attack.

“Buffy,” he whispered softly, saying her name as he’d always said it, his soft British accent passing easily from his lips.

She looked up at him with wide eyes, feeling something unfamiliar stirring in the pit of her gut. Guilt, pain, agony, despair. She swallowed with difficulty and blinked back her tears.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered softly, unable to believe what had happened to innocent boy who should have had the rest of his life ahead of him.

“For what?” Came the cheerful response from the usually serious boy. She’d heard him at his happiest, after Ravenclaw had beaten Slytherin at a Quidditch match, but what she’d just heard from him was far more joyful. It had a sinister sound to it that made Buffy’s blood run cold. “I’m not.”

“How…”

“How’d it happen?” Seb finished her question. He put one hand under his chin, striking a thoughtful pose. “Hmmm…let’s think about this shall we? What possible reason would I have had to make me come into the Forest last night?”

And the guilt began seeping into Buffy’s mind. She’d been in the Forest last night. She thought she’d heard something, and she’d gone to investigate, but there hadn’t been anything there. There’d been signs of a struggle, but the tracks had disappeared, and she’d been unable to follow. Seb had followed her into the Forest, and he’d been drained, turned, and was now a vampire.

“I followed you of course,” he replied. “Love-sick pup that I was, I thought maybe you had another bloke on the side. After all, you and Lee seemed to be real chummy lately. I was about to call out to you when I got grabbed from behind.”

“Merlin, Seb…”

He smiled down at her, a smile that used to comfort her so easily. He put a hand to her cheek and gently traced the curve of her face. She flinched away from his cool touch, trying to get her hand to come up and shove the stake into his heart. She couldn’t move. She was completely frozen in place. Seb, her Seb, was a vampire.

“Do you have any idea how in love with you poor little Seb was,” the vampire taunted. “And, I don’t mean just smitten, or puppy-love, or crushes or any of that. Seb was head-over-heels, down-on-one-knee in love with you. He was making plans for these summer holidays, hoping that your Gran would let you stay at his place for a few weeks.”

Seb took a step closer to her, and Buffy found herself stepping backwards until she was pressed up against a tree trunk. Seb pressed himself into her body, a position they were both used to, and Buffy was having trouble remembering that this wasn’t her Seb. This was a vampire that she was going to have to kill.

“I had such big plans for you, my love,” Seb whispered, his cold breath tickling Buffy’s ear. He leant forward and suckled at her earlobe, sending shivers down her spine. She brought her hands up to push him away, but she lacked the strength and the willpower to do so. Her hands remained on his chest, his muscles tightening under her touch. “I was going to decorate my room with candles and seduce you so tenderly. I couldn’t wait to slide under the sheets with you and make love to you until neither of us could walk. I wanted to worship your body for hours, kiss every inch of your skin and watch your face when I made you come for me.”

His soft words in her ear were making her mind retreat into a dark corner. All she could hear, see, smell and feel was Seb, his body pressed to hers as he whispered his desires into her ear. Seb had often whispered things to her when they’d been in that position, but never anything so delectably tantalising before.

He pressed a soft kiss to her neck, his human teeth scraping over her jugular.

“But seeing as those plans were ruined, I had to make new plans,” he whispered. “Can you just imagine, a day old fledgling being the one to sire a Slayer?” he asked. “We’ll rule the world together, be more feared than Voldemort himself. We’ll be mates…eternal lovers. I’ll be able to show you the world…starting tonight.”

Without giving Buffy even a chance to reply or react, he kissed her fiercely, pressing her further into the tree as he leant his weight against her. For endless moments, Buffy allowed herself the luxury of pretending, of allowing herself to completely forget who she was and whom she was with. Tears pricked at her eyes, and the kiss continued until Buffy pulled back, breathless and panting. Her arms snaked around Seb’s waist, her stake hanging limply in her right hand, completely forgotten.

It was Seb’s lack of breath that sharply reminded Buffy of what had happened. She couldn’t allow herself to become lost in the fantasy. And no matter how cruel reality was, she couldn’t allow herself to forget what Seb now was.

With a shaking left hand, she touched Seb’s face, committing every detail to memory. She leant up on her tiptoes to brush a soft kiss on his cold lips, gracing him with a gentle smile.

“I’ll never forget you…I swear it.”

Seb’s eyes went wide, betrayal and accusation filling the deep cerulean blue depths as the stake entered his heart through his back, and Sebastian Cornelius Fudge disintegrated into dust. She heard her name come out, a strangled whisper that died on the lips of ashes, and the Forest was silent once more.

She slid down the tree trunk and sat with her knees curled to her chest, staring blankly at the dust at her feet, tears falling until she broke down into a sobbing heap.

Chapter 4 - Revelation

“You loved him,” Willow whispered softly.

Buffy nodded, wiping an errant tear from her eyes.

It was good to finally tell her two best friends and her Watcher the truth about an extremely painful part of her life, and she was glad that they now knew why she’d been so reluctant to begin dating anyone, especially Angel, the vampire with a soul. She didn’t think she could bear having to watch another loved one crumble into dust, with her name the last thing that they ever said.

“I did,” Buffy said softly, her heart aching as she thought of her lost boyfriend.

Logically she knew that things might not have worked out between them, though everything had been beautiful for them, anything could have happened. They’d never had the chance to find out though, and that was what had hurt the most.

“I found her the next morning,” Dumbledore said, picking up the explanation of exactly what had happened. “She was still seated beneath the tree, just staring at Sebastian’s ashes. She was no longer crying, and she didn’t even hear my approach. She spent the next week in the hospital wing, refusing to speak to anyone until Sebastian’s mother came to visit her.”

“She told me that I was dishonouring his memory by just sitting there crying for him,” Buffy said quietly. “Papa D told her how Seb’d come to be in the Forest in the first place, and…instead of blaming me like she should have, she just hugged me and told me that it wasn’t my fault. I’d been doing my part to try and keep the school safe.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Phoenix,” Dumbledore said gently, touching his granddaughter’s chin and forcing her to look up at him. “We’ve been over this many times before. I understand the guilt you feel, but it was not your fault that Sebastian followed you that night. It’s terrible and tragic, and there is no shame in mourning your lost friend, but your guilt is misplaced.”

“Fudge didn’t think so,” Buffy replied darkly, wiping away her tears, annoyed at herself for showing her weakness so clearly.

“Fudge?” Xander repeated, remembering that it had been Seb’s last name. The name he had scoffed at earlier.

“The Minister of Magic,” Dumbledore explained. “Sebastian’s grandfather. Sebastian’s father had died three years beforehand, so Sebastian was the last remaining Fudge male to carry on the name.”

Xander desperately wanted to make a joke, but he restrained himself, knowing that it would be completely inappropriate, and a very sore subject for the Slayer. He slumped in his seat, but straightened when he saw the thankful and slightly proud look shot in his direction by Giles.

“Cornelius Fudge discovered how Sebastian had died, and he believed that it was Buffy’s fault. He…humiliated her in front of a tribunal of witches and wizards, declared her to be a dangerous magical creature and had her banished from the wizarding world. Fudge forced her to sign a contract that stated she was not to return to the wizarding world under any circumstance or for any reason,” Dumbledore explained. “They ever so subtly made threats against Alice, Frank and Neville, and my little Phoenix was helpless to defend herself. They blackmailed Buffy into signing the contract, and made veiled threats about what would happen to her mother and step-family if she were to break her oath.”

The group were silent at that, mulling over everything they’d been told. Willow suddenly gasped and looked horrified at the thought that had just occurred to her.

“But…that means you aren’t even allowed to see your mom,” Willow said.

Buffy nodded and wiped another set of tears from her eyes. “When I heard that I was being exiled, I begged the Wizengamot for one last visit with my mother. They let me have ten minutes with her. I haven’t seen her since.”

Giles felt his heart go out to the young Slayer, unable to truly understand exactly what the girl had gone through. He thought it’d been tough on her to be expelled from Hemery High in LA, but it was nowhere near as painful as being exiled from everything you ever knew.

“Papa D managed to find Aunt Joyce and he convinced her to adopt me and let me live with she and Jim in LA. She doesn’t know about Hogwarts or me being a witch or any of that. The Council managed to find me because I wasn’t protected by the wards of Hogwarts or the house in Yorkshire anymore, and I was sent a Watcher. I played dumb and told him that I had no idea what a Slayer was. If I’d known, he would’ve asked where I got my information from, and seeing as it’s strictly forbidden to divulge any information about the wizarding world to anyone, I wasn’t keen to just tell Merrick my life story,” Buffy explained.

“Which explains how you ended up in LA, and we know what brought you to Sunnydale…what you still haven’t answered is what exactly happened to you tonight,” Giles pointed out.

Buffy sighed and rubbed her eyes tiredly before breathing in deeply and beginning another tale.

Chapter 5 - Proposition

Sunnydale California
Wednesday 11:58pm
18th December 1998

“Forgive me, I assumed you knew. I am Lord Voldemort.”

Buffy could have sworn that her heart stopped beating. Surely the creature in front of her was just trying to frighten the bejesus out of her. Her throat tightened in fear, and her body tensed in its fighting position, her hands raised in defence.

“You’re lying.”

“Why would I bother to do something as mundane as lying, Miss Summers?” Voldemort questioned.

Buffy could feel herself begin to panic. He knew her name. She was alone, in a graveyard, in the middle of Sunnydale with only a stake to protect herself against the legendary Lord Voldemort. This did not look good for the Slayer.

Buffy stood tense as Voldemort stepped towards her, and began walking in a circle around her, sizing her up, and making her more nervous than she had ever been. Even the Master had never inspired this much fear before.

“You are magnificent,” he complimented her.

“I bet you say that before you curse all the girls,” Buffy replied bitingly, though she still couldn’t pluck up the courage to attack him.

“No, you are different,” he replied softly, his voice somewhat lilting and seductive. “Kindred.”

“Kindred? Hardly, I-”

“You are a creature of darkness,” Voldemort interrupted her protest. “Just like myself. You have power, child, and you use it for a fruitless cause.”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed. She knew what he was doing, though she couldn’t work out why. What she couldn’t understand was why she hadn’t known that Voldemort was suddenly very much alive. Even his name was enough to make people cower in fear, and here he was in front of her, circling her like a predator, and trying to confuse her with his words.

“You try and work to save a world that won’t acknowledge you,” he continued. “You were banished from the world you were reared in, a world that now despises you. A world that punishes the powerful and makes pathetic attempts of empowering the weak.”

“Is there gonna be an intermission anytime soon here?” Buffy asked flippantly, annoyed that he was hitting so closely to home in what he was saying.

Buffy could have sworn that Voldemort growled as he stepped forward and grabbed her by the shoulders, pinning her arms to her side, leaving her completely unable to move.

“Insolent child!” he yelled angrily. “I am offering you a partnership, and you spit in my face.”

“Not yet I haven’t,” Buffy muttered.

He shook her fiercely, and Buffy had to close her eyes to try and regain her equilibrium.

“Join me, Miss Summers. Return to the world you were supposed to rule, and stand at my side. Together we would be invincible. I can give you power you’ve never dreamed of.”

“Not interested,” she replied.

She was thrown roughly to the ground, her head hitting the corner of a stone cross, an arm of it breaking under the force of her weight. She felt blood beginning to drip from the cut to her forehead, and she could feel bile rising in the back of her throat as she fought to contain her nausea. She struggled to her hands and knees and dry-heaved, coughing until her stomach managed to settle itself down.

She felt a gentle hand touch the centre of her back, and she shuddered at the feeling of darkness surrounding her.

“I do not wish for us to be enemies, Miss Summers,” Voldemort said softly, his breath tickling her ear, making her shiver in fear and disgust. “I wish for us to be allies. We are both powerful in our own right. You can imagine what we could do together, can you not? You would be a most powerful weapon.”

“Not gonna happen Tom,” she replied, spitting out the name, perversely enjoying the direct hit to Voldemort’s pride.

Her enjoyment was short lived as she felt herself being lifted by the collar of her shirt. She was once more tossed across the cemetery, landing on her back, wincing in pain as she landed on a rock with incredibly sharp edges. She could feel the beginnings of a bruise already, and she didn’t look forward to trying to sleep on her back later in the night.

“Would you just listen to me, Summers,” Voldemort hissed, grabbing Buffy by the neck, picking her up and shoving her against a tree trunk. Her feet dangled in the air, and she struggled to breath. “We have a common enemy that I know you would enjoy seeing being brought to the ground.”

“Never,” she rasped out, as lack of oxygen became a rather serious issue. She grabbed at his hands, trying to get him to drop her. She did the only thing she could think of and dug her nails into his wrist, causing him to drop her to the ground. She rubbed at her red throat and coughed as her lungs began to breathe in the air once more.

“Pity,” Voldemort commented. “I’ll return in a week to see if you have reconsidered. Oh…and if you value your mother’s life…you may want to re-evaluate your priorities.”

He stepped backwards to prepare to apparate. As a final parting shot before he left, he pointed his wand at her and whispered one more sentence.

“Oh, and one more thing…just as something to remember your mother by…Crucio!”

He disapparated in complete silence as Buffy’s entire world exploded with paid.

Chapter 6 - Provocation

“Which means that Voldemort knows how and why I was banished. He knows that I hate Minister Fudge, and he knows that I want to go back,” Buffy finished.

“What he doesn’t realise is that you are one of the most morally incorruptible people on this earth,” Giles interjected.

Buffy gave a wan smile at her Watcher, thankful that he had faith in her loyalty to the side of light. And while part of her would have loved to see Fudge booted from his seat of power, she wanted him to lose it fairly to a better Minister who didn’t have the emotional connection when it came to the conditions of the contract she’d signed.

“Which means that mom’s in trouble,” Buffy added. “And seeing as I’m not allowed anywhere near St Mungo’s, there’s no way that I can possibly protect her.”

“She is well protected Phoenix, I promise you that,” Dumbledore assured her. “I wouldn’t allow any harm to come to your mother, or to Frank either.”

Buffy nodded, logically knowing that Dumbledore could do a far better job of protecting her biological mother than she could ever do, but the irrational side of her hated being stuck in Sunnydale while a war was being waged.

“If this Voltron guy’s been brought back or whatever, maybe this Minister Fudge guy will let you go back,” Xander suggested. “I mean, who wouldn’t want a Slayer on their side?”

“You raise a good point Mr Harris,” Dumbledore replied, making Xander puff up with some pride. “Unfortunately Minister Fudge is refusing to acknowledge Lord Voldemort’s return.”

“What!” Buffy exclaimed loudly. “Are you serious? Fudge is denying he’s back? Is he insane?”

“Not insane,” Dumbledore replied quietly. “Just in denial, and rather fearful that his position as Minister will be stripped if he acknowledges the truth. Most everyone will be somewhat panicked by the return of the Dark Lord, and will want a Minister with power.”

“Meaning you,” Buffy said, reading the subtext.

Dumbledore sighed softly and looked at his granddaughter with sad and serious eyes.

“You know that I will never take the mantle of Minister of Magic,” he replied.

“Hogwarts would fall without you,” Buffy replied.

“You exaggerate slightly, little one,” Dumbledore said softly.

Buffy rolled her eyes at the name, but said nothing. Her grandfather was possibly the only person who could get away with calling her that without being seriously injured for it.

“However, I do fear that Hogwarts will fall without you there, dear girl,” Dumbledore said, looking seriously at his granddaughter.

Buffy just looked back at him incomprehensively.

“What? You know I can’t go back,” Buffy replied softly.

“I would not ask this of you if the situation wasn’t serious. But I do recall you being the first to put yourself between Harry Potter and anyone who wished to cause him harm,” Dumbledore explained. “Surely you recall the incident with the troll, and then following him through the trapdoor to stop Lord Voldemort from retrieving the Stone. You were one of the few who remained truly supportive of Harry when the rest of Hogwarts was convinced he was the Heir of Slytherin.”

“But I’m not allowed back there,” Buffy reminded him. “That contract I signed was pretty damned specific. There aren’t any loopholes in wizarding contracts Papa, you know that.”

Dumbledore was silent, and Buffy looked at him, trying to work out what her grandfather was thinking. She didn’t particularly like where her musings were taking her.

“You want me to go back without Ministry permission,” Buffy deduced.

“No, no, that would be far too dangerous. You remember Dolores Umbridge, of course?”

Buffy groaned and rolled her eyes. Seeing the confused looks of the Scoobies and her Watcher, Buffy quickly elaborated.

“Umbridge was possibly the worst of the panel of witches and wizards at my trial. She’s pretty tight with Fudge, and she was bringing up any and every misdemeanour from my first few years at Hogwarts. She hates any and all magical creatures, even Slayers. She prefers people to be one hundred percent human and wizard all in one. A real stickler for purebloods,” Buffy explained. Buffy then turned to her grandfather curiously. “What does that toad have to do with anything?”

“She’s the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor.”

“What!” Buffy cried in disgust. “Her? Why would you hire her?”

“Because no one else wanted the position of DADA Professor,” Dumbledore explained. “The Minister decided that he should be able to appoint anyone to an unfulfilled position if I was unable to locate an appropriate professor.”

“Which means that if I even went back to Hogwarts, Umbridge would notify the Ministry within minutes of spotting me,” Buffy mused.

The group fell silent, trying to truly understand what Dumbledore was suggesting. And while Buffy’s two best friends may not have properly understood everything that they had just learned, they certainly had a lot to think about.

“I don’t suppose we could see the contract that you were coerced into signing?” Giles asked.

“The only copy I have is still in a box somewhere,” Buffy admitted.

Dumbledore again reached into his robes and pulled out a rolled up piece of parchment held together by a green ribbon.

“Conveniently enough, I did bring a copy along,” the elderly wizard said, handing the parchment to Giles.

Xander looked at Dumbledore agog, wondering just how many hiding places the wizard had within his robes. It seemed to have a dozen hidden compartments, each of them housing so many different things.

Giles undid the scroll and laid it out on the table. Willow leant forward to look at what had been written, her eyes scanning the page and recognising Buffy’s signature, regardless of the fact that it had been nearly two years since she’d signed it.

“It seems fairly solid,” Giles commented.

“It’s a Wizarding Contract. They don’t have loopholes,” Buffy replied.

“What does it say?” Xander asked curiously, though not curious enough to bump Willow out of her seat so he could see what was on the parchment.

“I, Buffy Anne Summers, the Vampire Slayer and the Chosen One, do solemnly swear that from this day forth, I shall never venture into the wizarding world again. Not for any reason shall I step foot into a store, area, school, hospital or sporting field, under pain of death,” Giles recited, pausing with pain in his voice as he reached the section regarding death. “I agree that I have willingly signed this document, and will make no move to contest the conditions placed upon me for as long as I remain the Chosen One, as defined by Section 7c of the International Being Division for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. The breaching of this agreement will result in execution. Signed Buffy Anne Summers.”

“Harsh,” Xander whispered, though for all his flippancy, he was stunned that the Ministry of Magic had forced a fifteen year old to sign a contract like that.

“But…you can’t legally be held accountable if you signed that while you were underage,” Willow said, having some knowledge of the law. “You were only fifteen.”

“Papa D was one of my signatories. If I break contract, it’d be blamed on him as well,” Buffy explained.

“It does seem to be ironclad,” Giles said, removing his glasses to polish the lenses, a sign that he was becoming stressed by the situation. “It goes so far as to define exactly what the Chosen One is. According to Section 7c, a Vampire Slayer is the one girl in all the world chosen to hunt the vampires. The Chosen One. She is the Slayer.”

“And there’s no way for you to stop being the Slayer,” Xander added, looking more serious than he ever had.

“I suppose if you really wanted a Slayer at Hogwarts, we could get in contact with Kendra,” Buffy suggested.

Dumbledore looked at his granddaughter in complete confusion.

“Kendra?” he repeated questioningly.

“The other Slayer,” Buffy explained. “You do remember me telling you about that whole me dying thing, right?”

Dumbledore nodded and stroked his beard thoughtfully. It was a move he often made whenever he was thinking things through, the constant motion of his fingers coming through his facial hair was soothing, and allowed him to remain calm. The Headmaster of Hogwarts didn’t like thinking of the incident that Buffy was speaking of, especially seeing as he’d been unable to give aid to his troubled young granddaughter when she’d so desperately needed it.

“Kendra!” Willow suddenly yelled.

Buffy, Xander, Giles and Dumbledore all turned to the redhead, who blushed under their scrutinising gaze.

“Well, it’s just…Kendra’s a Slayer,” Willow stammered out.

“Uh, yeah, we just kinda established that Will,” Xander pointed out.

“Noooo, Kendra’s a Slayer. A Chosen One. Meaning that the definition given by the International Division of whatever isn’t applicable anymore. There is no Chosen One anymore. There’s two of you,” Willow rambled out with excitement. “I mean, you could technically claim that you’re not even the Slayer anymore seeing as you’ve…y’know, passed the torch or whatever.”

Buffy’s jaw dropped and she grabbed the contract from across the table, spinning it around to carefully read over the description given by the International Department of Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. The wording of the definition, and in the contract had given her a loophole, something almost unheard of within the wizarding world. The contract was only valid while there was only one Chosen One.

“Will, I could kiss you!” Buffy exclaimed with excitement.

Willow blushed and smiled proudly. Xander gave his redheaded best friend a one-armed hug, his own grin brimming with pride at her quick thinking.

“Miss Rosenberg, I think you’d have made a fine Ravenclaw,” Dumbledore complimented her. “They’re said to be the most brilliant witches and wizards to ever go through Hogwarts.”

Willow went even redder at the compliment and ducked her head shyly.

“Fudge won’t buy this,” Buffy suddenly said, her grin fading. “They’d just change their definition of what a Slayer is.”

“Ah yes, but as Miss Rosenberg just said, you are no longer the Slayer. The line no longer passes through you, and you, therefore, are technically no longer a Slayer,” Dumbledore reminded her. “Trust me, Phoenix, when I’m through with the Wizengamot, they’ll have no choice but to allow you to return home.”

Chapter 7: RELAXATION

Buffy could barely keep herself still as she took in the very familiar room that was her grandfather’s office. Even from her first visit to the office, she’d always been extremely fascinated by everything that the room held. It was almost like a treasure trove, though some of the items inside, she would never understand why her grandfather needed, or wanted, such odd items. She held back a grin when her eyes lit upon a muggle baseball cap, sporting a Red Sox design. She stood and walked to the other side of the room, towards the gold pedestal where Fawkes the Phoenix usually stood, saddened that the bright red and gold bird wasn’t in his usual spot.

She kept moving until she was up closer to some of the paintings of the old Headmasters. When she’d first moved to LA to live with her aunt, she’d been fascinated by the fact that the portraits hadn’t moved, though now she knew that everything about the world she was in now would be considered odd by her two best friends. Her Watcher, on the other hand, would have been walking around the office in complete fascination.

The door opened, and Buffy spun, her eyes widening and a grin coming to her face. She ran towards the newcomer and practically jumped into his arms, hugging him tightly.

“I missed you,” she whispered into his dark robes.

Her grandfather watched the display with amused eyes, chuckling as he watched the most sullen of the Hogwarts teachers return the hug. While Severus Snape didn’t return the embrace so forcefully as it had been given, that didn’t mean that the affection wasn’t there. Dumbledore quietly turned and slipped out the door, giving them time to have a private reunion. He knew that very few people would ever understand Severus Snape, or even attempt to try to understand him. His granddaughter was one of the few, and he was always glad to see the two of them interact with each other. Buffy always seemed to be able to pull Severus out of his shell, and Severus seemed to ground Buffy in reality a little more.

Buffy pulled apart and looked up at her ‘Uncle’. She’d always found him to be completely fascinating, and she’d latched on to him at the tender age of six. She’d only seen him a handful of times between their first meeting, and when she was accepted to Hogwarts, mainly because it would have alerted people to the truth about Severus Snape. He was no Death-Eater, and his loyalty lay with Dumbledore. If any of Voldemort’s followers had discovered that elusive fact, Snape would have been a dead man.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” she commented, taking in the black robes, the untidy hair and the general doom-and-gloom look to him. Perhaps that was why she’d been so drawn to Angel. The brooding vampire had reminded her of her surrogate uncle, and she’d found him easy to talk to.

“You however, certainly have,” Severus replied. “What happened to your accent?”

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Let’s just say that the girls at my old school were crueller than you on your worst day. It was either change to be accepted, or stay as I was and be a complete loner.”

“So, you changed to follow the crowd?” Severus asked disapprovingly. “I thought I’d taught you better than that, my dear girl.”

“Oh please Uncle Sev, the brooding look doesn’t suit me at all,” she teased. “Believe me, I tried.”

“You look better than the last time I saw you,” Severus said quietly.

Buffy sighed, wishing that the light-hearted mood hadn’t disappeared so quickly. She knew that her uncle couldn’t keep it up for too long though.

“Seeing as the last time you saw me was when I was being humiliated by the Wizengamot, I’d kinda hope I look better,” Buffy replied, her tone light, though Severus could see that her eyes shone with a hint of anger.

“You’re alright though, aren’t you?” the Potions Professor questioned. “I honestly can’t imagine you trying to adapt to the muggle world. You were always very much a true witch.”

“It was hard,” Buffy answered honestly. “Really, really, really, really hard. Really.”

“Really?” Severus jibed.

Buffy’s lips quirked into a grin, and Severus responded with a smile so fleeting that only the well-trained eye could catch it.

“It got better though. As soon as I managed to imitate a Californian accent well enough, I was pretty much accepted. Plus with the whole Slayer thing, I wasn’t a bad gymnast. I was on the cheer-leading squad for a while,” Buffy said, grinning at the memory of her first experience in a muggle school.

“You, a cheerleader?” Severus asked with a smirk.

“What about you? How’ve you been?” Buffy asked,

Severus’ smile vanished instantaneously, and the light in his eyes vanished. Buffy reached across and took hold of one of his hands, squeezing it gently.

“I know that Voldemort’s back,” she whispered softly. “Which means that Papa D probably wants you to play secret agent man again.”

Severus nodded, looking down, completely ashamed of the fact that his actions at a younger age had basically ruined his entire life. He’d been lucky to renounce the way of the Death-Eaters before Voldemort’s ‘defeat’, as it had meant he hadn’t been locked in Azkaban for the rest of his miserable life.

“Isn’t there any way that you can just not go back?” Buffy asked.

“If there is, I haven’t thought of it,” Severus admitted. “At the moment, I suppose I just have to play humble servant. Dumbledore’s been giving me false information to feed to the Dark Lord, so that if he probes my mind, he will see Dumbledore giving me the information that I am then passing on to him.”

Buffy nodded and tugged her uncle into another hug, gentler than the first, and trying to convey comfort. When they finally pulled apart, Severus placed a gentle kiss on his niece’s forehead.

“You’re wise beyond your years, Phoenix,” Severus said with the barest of smiles.

“I had good role models,” she replied pointedly, enjoying the slight pink tinge that came to her uncle’s cheeks. She stood on her tiptoes to brush a kiss to his red cheek before moving to take a seat, hearing footsteps coming towards the room. Before Severus could ask her why’s she’d sat herself down, the door opened, Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall entering the room.

McGonagall gasped in shock, a smile coming to her face. “Miss Summers. We thought never to see you here again.”

“Good to see you again, Professor,” Buffy replied with a slight grin.

“Perhaps we should all sit,” Dumbledore suggested.

They quickly sat and waited for an explanation from the Headmaster as to why they were here.

“Buffy has been reinstated, both back into the wizarding world, and into Hogwarts as well,” Dumbledore began. “One of Buffy’s friends, a Miss Rosenberg, discovered a loophole in the contract and conditions of Buffy’s exile. When we presented these new developments to the Wizengamot they had no choice but to…grudgingly…allow Buffy to return.”

“A loophole?” Severus repeated. “There aren’t loopholes in wizarding contracts Professor.”

“Surely you remember that your surrogate niece always did have a penchant for breaking the rules,” Professor McGonagall reminded him.

“And darn proud of it,” Buffy added with a grin.

Dumbledore chuckled slightly before trying to steer the conversation towards more serious matters.

“Buffy and I were talking earlier, and she’s agreed to join the Order of the Phoenix,” Dumbledore continued.

Severus turned sharp eyes towards the Headmaster. “She isn’t of age!” he cried, fiercely protective of the young girl who possibly the only child he’d ever been able to stand being near for more than an hour or so.

“I turn seventeen next month Uncle Sev,” Buffy reminded him. “Plus I’m the Slayer. Not to blow my own horn, but I kinda think I’ll make a pretty good member.”

“Won’t You-Know-Who be suspicious to see Miss Summers back in the wizarding world after being exiled?” McGonagall asked. “Surely he’d come after her, even if it was just to spite us.”

“He’s already come after me,” Buffy replied. “Back in Sunnydale. He asked me to join him. He said I had a week to think about it. And he threatened mom and Frank.”

“And I assure you that they are well protected,” Dumbledore reminded her gently.

Buffy nodded, sighing in frustration.

“I’ve organised a meeting of the Order of the Phoenix to be held this weekend,” Dumbledore continued. “If you are able to reorganise any plans you’ve already made, I’d be most appreciative.”

“Of course Headmaster,” McGonagall murmured.

“Barring being summoned by the Dark Lord, my weekend seems to be free,” Severus replied, resigned to the idea of Buffy being part of the Order that had proved to be so dangerous for so many members, including Buffy’s mother and stepfather.

“Then any remaining questions can be covered then,” Dumbledore said. “Minerva, if you could escort Buffy up to the Gryffindor Tower. And if you could perhaps be somewhat lenient in their curfew this evening, as I believe there will be some very pleased students.”

McGonagall tsked slightly at the thought of allowing rule breaking to occur, but she nodded her head and stood, waiting patiently for Buffy to follow her.

The Slayer stood and walked behind Severus’s chair, ruffling his hair as she would a small child. The other two Professors bit back laughter at the scowl on the Potions Master’s face as he smoothed down his hair.

“Buffy, if you would kindly refrain from doing that again, I’d be most appreciative,” Snape said, the low tone he used with most of his students coming to the fore.

Buffy just turned to look at him with the pout she’d perfected at the age of six, her lower lip trembling, and her hazel green eyes wide and screaming ‘pity-me’.

“Don’t be mad Uncle Sev,” Buffy said softly.

Severus scowled and rolled his eyes.

“That is bloody unfair,” he replied, knowing that the girl was playing him like a finely tuned instrument. She flashed a smile in his direction and very nearly skipped to the door.

“I wonder when she’ll ever grow up,” Severus commented softly as the door closed behind Buffy and McGonagall.

“I’m afraid she already has Severus,” Dumbledore replied softly. “She’ll act as though she hasn’t, trying to retain a modicum of her childhood, but…I’m afraid the moment she discovered Sebastian Fudge’s death, and subsequent vampirism, she was no longer a child.”

“Strange that I’d almost forgotten about that entirely,” Severus said, a contemplative look on his face.

“Something that I’m afraid my granddaughter is unable to do,” Dumbledore replied. “No, she is no child anymore. And as much as it pains me to see her in so dangerous a life, she is powerful in her own right. A strong ally to have in times such as these.”

“You brought her back here to protect Potter, didn’t you?” Severus asked, scowling at the thought of his least favourite student, though Neville Longbottom came in a close second. He didn’t understand how Buffy and Neville could be so different, seeing as they had the same mother.

“She was one of his staunchest allies when all the fuss about the Heir of Slytherin came up,” Dumbledore explained. “She would no doubt go to the ends of the earth and back again to protect him.”

“But to risk her life to protect his,” Severus said, feeling uncomfortable at the thought of what he was about to ask. “Are you willing to risk that?”

“No,” Dumbledore replied honestly. “Buffy, however, is. I truly hope it does not come to that however. But she will protect him, I can assure you of that. And I am afraid that young Mr Potter no longer places his trust in me. And his trust in his friends is waning. I have a feeling that Buffy may be able to help him far more than the entire Order combined would ever be able to.”

Chapter 8: CELEBRATION

On the walk up seven flights of stairs, Buffy was slightly surprised that she and Professor McGonagall were able to keep up a conversation. She’d never been particularly close with any other Professors, except for her grandfather and Professor Snape of course, so actually being able to discuss anything with a Professor seemed somewhat strange to the Slayer. Perhaps it was because she was so used to talking about everything with Giles.

“The House Cup’s still in your office I hope,” Buffy commented as they reached the sixth floor flight of stairs.

“Thankfully yes,” McGonagall replied. “Professor Snape’s been horrified by it all, I can assure you of that.”

Buffy grinned and chuckled slightly. “Only because we’ve got a decent Seeker on the team,” Buffy replied. “I swear, I don’t know what Williamson was thinking letting me be a Seeker for a year.”

“He believed that someone of your stature would be an asset. Plus, you do have to admit that you’re a reasonable flier,” McGonagall said, coming about as close to giving a compliment as she ever did.

“Yeah, except I haven’t flown since Flint knocked me off my broom in the Quidditch Final in Second Year,” Buffy replied. “I’m still terrified of heights. I swear, if you hadn’t discovered Harry’s talents for Quidditch, Wood was gonna rope me back into being Seeker again.”

“Well, it seemed to turn out for the best,” McGonagall replied. “Gryffindor has not lost the House Cup since young Mr Potter’s induction into the Quidditch Team.”

“True. Even with Uncle Sev trying to take off as many house points as he can get away with,” Buffy added with a grin. “I don’t see why he even bothers, he knows Papa D’s just gonna give them back.”

“Yes, but that wouldn’t be so much fun would it?” McGonagall asked with a small smile.

“I had no idea that you Professors were so…evil,” Buffy commented.

“Well, we must find pleasure everywhere we can,” McGonagall replied. “Even if it is in tormenting the students.”

“Has Uncle Sev managed to scare Neville out of his shell yet?” Buffy asked curiously.

“Not a chance. If anything, I believe your poor brother’s even more terrified of Severus than ever before,” McGonagall replied. “Young Neville’s boggart actually turns into Professor Snape, I’m afraid.”

Buffy couldn’t contain the burst of laughter. “Are you serious?” Buffy managed to gasp. “Nev’s that afraid of Uncle Sev?”

McGonagall tried to keep the smile off her face, but was somewhat unsuccessful. “I believe that your ‘uncle’ seems to take pride in scaring the poor boy.”

“I’ll have to try and fix that. Uncle Sev’s a complete kitten underneath it all,” Buffy said.

“I wouldn’t use that phrasing to his face, however,” McGonagall suggested.

Buffy grinned and they stopped at the portrait of the Fat Lady. Buffy took a deep breath, looking up at the familiar portrait.

“It’s good to be home,” Buffy whispered softly.

McGonagall patted Buffy’s arm softly. “You’ll be fine, I assure you,” the Professor said encouragingly. “The password is mimbulus mimbletonia. And I believe the house-elves have placed all your belongings in your room with the other Seventh Years.”

McGonagall reached into her robes and pulled out a piece of parchment. Buffy took it gingerly and glanced over her class schedule.

“I suppose I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Buffy murmured as Professor McGonagall turned and walked down several flights of stairs to her own living quarters.

Buffy looked up at the Fat Lady and grinned, remembering how often she’d raced up the stairs, and yelled the password halfway to the portrait so she could get inside more quickly.

“Welcome back Miss Summers,” the Fat Lady said with a small smile.

“Thanks,” she replied with a grin.

“Password?”

“Mimbulus mimbletonia.”

The portrait door swung open, and with a feeling of finally being back where she belonged, she stepped through the door and just stood in the entrance to the common room, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a room she hadn’t seen in nearly two years.

There were so many familiar faces, and so many newer ones as well. Half of the students were already in their pyjamas, some still in their uniforms, and others in regular clothing. Shouts and cheers came from all over the room, games of Exploding Snap and Wizards Chess taking place at various tables, while others were sitting doing homework, trying not to let the loudness bother them.

She spotted her old group of friends, and with another deep breath, she silently walked towards them, being as unobtrusive as possible. She looked around for her half-brother, but was unfortunately unable to spot him among the crowd. No one paid her any attention, and even when she took a seat next to Lee Jordan, who was leaning across, reading off Fred and George Weasley’s piece of parchment, they still paid her no mind.

“If I were you, I’d try setting off everlasting fireworks in the corridor,” Buffy suggested, trying her hardest to regain her British accent, rather than the American one she’d worked so hard to achieve. “Can’t you just imagine the Professors trying to get rid of them, only to accidentally create more?”

“That’s brilliant!” Lee cried, looking over their initial ideas.

“Fantastic,” George agreed.

“Inspired, really,” Fred added.

Buffy grinned, waiting for the trio to catch on. Lee was the first to realise that it hadn’t been Angelina, Alicia or Katie to give them the suggestion. Lee looked up and across to see a smirking Buffy beside him.

“What? How…when? Oh, bugger it all!” he yelled, lunging towards her and hugging her tightly.

Buffy laughed and returned the hug. Fred and George had looked up at Lee’s exclamation, and then turned to each other grinning. They both stood and raced around the table, converging on the blonde Gryffindor girl in a tight group hug.

“Not even we went so far as to get expelled!” Fred yelled, as they pulled away.

The sudden burst of loud noise had grabbed the attention of most of the students, and anyone in third year and above all grinned in recognition. Angelina, Katie and Alicia, their fellow Seventh Years raced towards her, grabbing her in a tight hug.

They were all babbling at full speed, shooting off questions at a high speed and a higher pitch than should have been legal. The hugs continued, and the questions kept flowing, regardless of the fact that Buffy hadn’t answered a single one of them.

It seemed as though anyone who’d been around Hogwarts when Buffy had left wanted to come and greet the girl, and only when everyone had received their hug did the room quieten down.

“Where’s Neville?” Buffy asked, looking at her Seventh Year friends.

“In his room probably,” Lee replied.

“We can go grab him,” George offered.

Buffy nodded absently as most of the room began dispersing, seeing as no answers were forthcoming from the blonde girl. Or at least, no questions would be answered until Neville was there with them, and they hoped that the twins would return quickly from their mission.

Several moments later, Fred and George returned, dragging a confused looking Neville down the stairs, followed by Harry, Ron and Hermione, who had been drawn to Fred and George’s hyperactivity over who knew what. As a prefect, Hermione had felt the need to make sure nothing nefarious was happening, and Ron had been dragged along for the ride. Harry, not wanting to be left alone in the dormitory, had followed behind them.

“What’s going on?” a rumpled looking pyjama-clad Neville asked, looking completely confused. He suddenly came to a halt in the centre of the Common Room. His eyes widened, and his mouth gaped open in shock. Buffy bit her lower lip before grinning at her younger brother. Neville managed to overcome his shock and raced towards her, picking her up slightly and twirling her in a hug.

He set her down, grinning with more enthusiasm than anyone had ever seen in him before.

“Merlin, I can’t believe you’re here,” he said quietly.

Buffy grinned and placed a hand on his cheek, unable to believe that the young man in front of her was her brother. “You’re so tall,” she said, blinking back tears, hating that she’d missed so much of her brother’s life. It hadn’t even been a full two years, but it felt like a lifetime since she’d seen her younger brother.

“And you’re so little,” he replied with a grin, straightening to his full height, which was nearly four inches taller than his older sister. “You look…amazing.”

“I’ll second that,” Lee commented from the sidelines, reminding the siblings of everyone else’s presence in the room.

“Third,” Fred added.

“Fourth,” George continued.

“How are you even here?” Neville asked. “Gran said you were never coming back.”

“Let’s just say I had a redefining moment, and leave it at that,” Buffy replied with a secretive grin.

Seeing that the siblings reunion was over, Harry, Ron and Hermione stepped forward. Hermione gave the older girl a tight hug.

“Hey ‘Mione,” Buffy greeted her young friend. “No trouble with trolls recently I hope.”

“Except for Umbridge, no,” Hermione replied with a smile.

Buffy’s jaw dropped at the slight against a teacher. She was shocked that Hermione had it in her to be so callous towards an authority figure, but seeing as Buffy had met Dolores Umbridge years ago, she wasn’t inclined to have any sympathy for the toad-like woman.

“We’ll have to chat later,” Buffy said. “I want all the goss.”

Hermione nodded, casting a slight glance at Ron, then towards Harry before looking at Buffy. The Slayer had seen the glance and couldn’t wait to hear what had developed between the famous Gryffindor trio.

Ron’s ears tinged red when Buffy stepped forward and kissed his cheek, earning two loud wolf-whistles from George and Fred.

“Oooo…shiny,” Buffy commented, gently touching Ron’s Prefect badge. “I’m surprised Gred and Forge haven’t disowned you for this.”

“Oh, we nearly did,” George assured her.

“But ickle Ronniekins strayed from the path we tried to show him,” Fred added dramatically, a hand to his forehead.

“So shameful,” George finished.

Buffy grinned at their antics, suddenly remembering why she’d always got such a kick out of Xander. And while her Sunnydale friend hadn’t had the twins penchant for mischievous pranks, he still reminded her of the Gryffindor Seventh Year boys.

“Congrats Ronniekins,” Buffy said with a grin.

“I’m never going to convince you to stop calling me that, am I?” he asked with a groan.

“Not a chance,” she replied easily.

Harry stepped forward, and Buffy very nearly didn’t recognise him. Oh, he still looked exactly the same. Dark black hair, glasses and stunning emerald eyes, but the way he carried himself was strikingly familiar. He had the look that she’d often seem in the mirror. It was the look of pain and guilt and the weight of the world resting on your shoulders.

Buffy hugged him tightly, hoping against hope that she would be able to help him in some way. It was one of the reasons her grandfather had brought her back here, and she hoped she would be able to perform that job to the best of her abilities.

“We’ll talk later, okay?” she whispered for his ears only. “Tomorrow before breakfast.”

Harry looked confused, but the tone in her voice left no room for arguments. Baffled, he nodded his head and looked slightly downwards at her.

“Where?”

“Name a place,” Buffy replied.

“Quidditch Pitch,” Harry replied easily.

Buffy groaned and rolled her eyes. “Should have known. I’ll meet you there at six.”

Harry nodded and they pulled away from the hug.

The rest of the night was spent with the other Seventh Years, plus Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville filling Buffy in on what she’d missed of the last year and a half. She’d had suspicions about Remus Lupin being a werewolf, but she’d never confronted the DADA Professor, or asked her grandfather about it, so it didn’t come as a surprise.

The entire explanation of the Tri-Wizard Tournament was insane, and there was something that everyone had left out towards the end of the explanation, casting sympathetic looks towards Harry, who had closed up tightly on the un-named subject. Buffy made a mental note to ask Harry about it the next morning.

She then heard about the return of Voldemort, again with missing details, and the subsequent slandering of Harry through the Daily Prophet. She’d known that Dumbledore had been expelled from the Wizengamot, but she was shocked to finally discover why. She’d also known that most of the wizarding world seemed to have come down with the Sunnydale Syndrome of denial, but she was surprised to hear that so many of their peers considered Harry to be a liar.

She then heard all the complaints about Umbridge, and the sudden introduction of a High Inquisitor for Hogwarts and the subsequent inspections of the other classes. She also heard about the ‘evil Quill of death’ that etched words deep into the skin whenever you wrote with it. Lee had complained long and loud about the use of it, and several others had absently rubbed their hands in remembrance. The twins and Harry had moaned about their life-long ban from Quidditch, that had Buffy completely baffled by the complete harshness of the punishment.

As a clock struck midnight somewhere deep with the towers of the castle, the students disbanded and blearily made their way to their bedrooms. Neville gave his half-sister a tight hug, and Lee pressed a quick kiss to Buffy’s cheek, surprising her slightly. It wasn’t a gesture she would have expected from the dread-locked boy.

“Six o’clock,” she whispered to remind Harry, who nodded his agreement before moving up the stairs towards his dorms.

“I’m really glad you’re back,” Hermione said with a grin. “My idiot friends actually seem to listen to what you say.”

Buffy smirked slightly. “That’s cos Ronniekins knows I can kick his ass any day of the week.”

Hermione chuckled as they headed up the stairs, Angelina, Alicia and Katie following behind. The girls said a quick goodnight to Hermione before continuing down to the Seventh Year dorms.

Buffy opened the door and grinned at the familiar round room, the beds evenly spaced. All of her belongings were placed carefully around the desk, her uniform on a chair, and her new textbooks piled at the foot of her bed. Her trunk, containing both clothing and weapons was next to the books, and Buffy couldn’t help but feel as though she’d never truly left Hogwarts at all.

The other girls saw the look on Buffy’s face and all grinned at each other. It hadn’t been the same since Buffy had left, and they were all sorely disappointed that she hadn’t remained on the Quidditch Team, seeing as all of them were Chasers for Gryffindor. But, there were just thankful she was back with them.

Across in the boys’ dormitories, one Fifth Year student couldn’t keep the grin off his face. Ron nudged Harry and pointed at Neville, the usually quiet boy’s good mood rubbing off on the others.

“What’s with the grin then, Neville?” Seamus asked curiously, having missed the commotion in the Common Room in favour of finishing his Potions essay that wasn’t actually due for a few more days, but he and Dean had wanted it out of the way.

“Buffy’s back,” Neville replied happily.

“Your sister?” Seamus asked.

Neville nodded, still grinning happily as he folded back the covers to his bed. He shut the curtains and quickly got changed behind them before opening them again. “She’s here to stay. Well, until she graduates, I suppose.”

“That’s brilliant Neville,” Dean commented. “She doesn’t seem too bad for an older sister.”

“She’s great,” Neville replied.

“To you maybe,” Ron replied. “Fred and George had her calling me Ickle Ronniekins from the first day she met me!”

Harry grinned suddenly, laughing at the memory. “I’d forgotten about that.”

“Lucky you!” Ron replied, grinning. He had to admit, the twins’ friends were good fun, even if they did tease him. Plus, Buffy had always done so in a manner that showed she held him in a warm regard.

The others quickly changed for bed and slid beneath the covers, talking quietly until one-by-one, they all succumbed to the seduction of darkness.

CHAPTER NINE: IMAGINATION

Somewhere in Northern Scotland

Sunday 2:50pm
1st September 1994

(BTW, this is a flashback, in case any of you get confused.)

There was a knock on the door of their compartment and the round-faced boy that Harry had passed on platform nine and three quarters came in. He looked tearful.

“Sorry,” he said, “but have you seen a toad?”

When Harry and Ron shook their heads, he wailed, “I’ve lost him! He keeps getting away from me!”

“He’ll turn up,” said Harry.

“Yes,” said the boy miserably. “Well, if you see him…”

He left.

Harry and Ron turned back to their conversation. Ron was fascinated by Harry, the Boy-Who-Lived, but Harry was equally fascinated with Ron’s lack of knowledge of all things muggle.

Another knock disrupted them, only this time, it was a blonde girl of about thirteen poking her head around the doorway. She was wearing jeans and a light blue jumper, her hair pulled up into a complicated looking bun, with…her wand!…the only thing holding it up.

“You guys haven’t seen a toad around here have you?” she asked with an easy grin.

“Sorry,” Harry replied.

“Not unless you count chocolate frogs,” Ron replied, munching on the last of the frogs.

The blonde girl nodded and was about to leave when a thought suddenly struck her.

“Wait…you’re Ron, aren’t you?” Buffy asked the chewing boy.

Ron swallowed nervously, wondering how she knew him. He nodded, still looking worried.

“Awww, you’re so cute,” she teased him. “Ickle Ronniekins.”

Ron flushed a bright red, and looked at the blonde girl in absolute horror. How had she known that humiliating nickname?

“Sorry, couldn’t resist,” she apologised. “Name’s Buffy Summers. Your brothers and I are friends.”

“Gryffindor then?” Ron asked.

“Yup,” Buffy replied proudly. “Third year. So…who’s your friend?”

“Oh, uh…Harry,” the black-haired boy introduced himself. “Harry Potter.”

“Nice to meet you Harry,” Buffy replied, holding out her hand for him to shake.

Ron looked somewhat shocked that Buffy hadn’t reacted as he and his brothers had upon hearing the famous name. He supposed that she might have just had more tact than his brothers had.

“Um…Buffy, can you maybe explain something for us?” Ron asked timidly.

“Possibly,” she replied as she took a seat opposite them.

“How…how do the students get sorted?” Ron asked.

Buffy suddenly went deadly serious for a moment, her quietness making the two boys nervous.

“Well…no, I…I’m sorry boys, I wouldn’t want to frighten you,” she said sombrely.

The two boys paled in fear and glanced at each other.

“Is it...Fred mentioned wrestling a troll,” Ron whispered.

“He told you?” Buffy asked, completely horrified. “You’re not meant to know that beforehand. Maybe…maybe I should let the Headmaster know that you know. He might think of something else for you to go up against. A werewolf maybe.”

Ron let out a small whimper, and Buffy couldn’t hold the straight face any longer. She began giggling, much to Harry and Ron’s shock. They suddenly realised that they’d been played, and their faces showed their indignation at having such a stunt pulled.

“That was terrible,” Ron complained. He thought about it for a moment before suddenly grinning. “I don’t suppose you could teach me how to pull something like that without giving it away?”

Buffy just smirked and shook her head. “A magician never reveals her secrets,” she quipped.

Harry perked up at the mention of magic.

“Could you maybe…I dunno, show us something?” Harry asked curiously. “I’ve never really seen much magic.”

Buffy shrugged and pulled her wand out of her hair, the blonde locks falling around her shoulders now that her wand was no longer holding her hair in place. She pointed her wand at Ron’s rat Scabbers that was lying asleep in his lap.

“Wingardium Leviosa!”

The rat suddenly squeaked as it floated upwards, controlled by Buffy’s wand. The two boys grinned as the rat began to do an impressive tap-dancing routine in the air.

The door suddenly opened again, and Buffy’s concentration was shattered. The rat began to fall, and Buffy barely managed to catch it before it dropped to the ground.

“Good reflexes,” the newcomer commented.

Buffy shrugged modestly. “I was a Seeker for a year, they had to be. Any luck with finding Trevor?”

“No,” the bushy-haired girl replied. “Neville’s almost beside himself.”

“Trevor?” Ron repeated in confusion. “Neville?”

“Oh, Neville, my brother, he’s lost his toad, Trevor,” Buffy explained. “Have you guys met each other?”

The three first years all shook their heads, the two boys staring at Hermione in confusion.

“Hermione Granger, meet Ron Weasley and Harry Potter,” Buffy said.

“Harry Potter?” Hermione repeated. “I know all about you, of course – I got a few extra books for background reading, and you’re in Modern Magical History and The Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts and Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century.”

“Am I?” Harry asked, feeling dazed.

Buffy bit back a grin at the girls’ enthusiasm. It was endearing in a strange way, and she knew that the first year girl was somewhat nervous…terrified really, of being at Hogwarts.

“Do either of you know what house you’ll be in? I’ve been asking around and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best. I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad…Anyway, we’d better go and look for Neville’s toad. You’d better change, you know, I expect we’ll be there soon.”

With that, she left, leaving two stunned first year boys and a bemused third year girl staring after her.

“Well…that was definitely an experience,” Buffy said, slightly dizzy from the quick way Hermione had of speaking. “Listen, if you stumble across a toad, do you think you could come and find me? I’m sitting in with your brothers, Ron.”

Ron and Harry both nodded and Buffy stood up. She opened the door, but before leaving, she couldn’t resist one parting shot.

“It was great meeting you guys. Bye Harry…Ronniekins.”

Before Ron could even retort, the door had closed, leaving the two first years completely baffled by the two girls that had entered and exited their compartment so quickly. Ron sighed, realising he still didn’t know how the students were sorted.

CHAPTER TEN: DISCUSSION

When Harry arrived at the Quidditch pitch at five past six, he stopped to regard the silent girl who sat in the very centre of the Quidditch Pitch, looking out towards the horizon as the sun continued to rise. She was sitting there with a serene smile on her face, and Harry wished he could remember the last time he’d smiled like that. He hadn’t been able to smile properly since the night of the Final Task of the Triwizard Tournament when Cedric Diggory had been killed in front of him.

Without turning, Buffy bade Harry good morning, and the Fifth Year Gryffindor Seeker took a seat beside the Slayer, and followed her line of sight to look out at the rising sun. They sat in silence, and Harry felt himself slowly surrender to the calm quietness that surrounded the two of them. He hadn’t done anything as simple as watching a sunrise in a long time. He’d forgotten how beautiful such a simple thing could be.

It was good to be back on the Quidditch Pitch as well, even if it wasn’t playing a game. He hadn’t been back here since Professor Umbridge had given he and the Weasley twins the life-long ban for fighting with Malfoy after the platinum haired Slytherin boy had provoked them.

“I miss Quidditch,” Harry commented, his voice barely a whisper, not wanting to disturb the tranquillity of the early morning silence.

“Have you flown since the ban?” Buffy asked curiously.

“Nope. Umbridge confiscated my broom.”

“So, borrow a school broom. Just fly around for a few hours,” she suggested.

Harry looked intrigued by the notion, but shook his head. “It wouldn’t be the same after flying on a Firebolt.” At Buffy’s confused look, he hurried to elaborate. “Think Nimbus 2001, but better, faster and prettier.”

“Angelina’s all kinds of worried about who she’s going to get to replace you,” Buffy commented.

“Why’d you never play Quidditch?” Harry asked curiously.

“I did,” she replied, smirking slightly. “Who’d you think the Seeker before you was?”

“You? Seeker?” Harry asked. “Actually, I could see that. Wood always said that smaller Seekers were always better. So…why’d you stop playing?”

“I got knocked off my broom from about…oh, about two hundred feet in the air. I’ve never got on another broom since then,” she explained.

“I’ve been knocked off my broom loads of times,” Harry replied. “I can’t imagine not getting back on. Were you any good?”

“Not as good as you, but yeah, I held my own,” she replied. “We won a lot of games, but we lost the Finals. Flint knocked me off my broom, and their Seeker caught the snitch.”

“So, why not try out for my old spot?” Harry asked. “It’s been, what, five years since you’ve flown. Surely that’s enough time to get over your fear of flying.”

“Oh no,” Buffy replied emphatically. “Angelina’s trying to convince me, but…me and heights are unmixy things.”

Harry grinned slightly at Buffy’s odd choice of words. He’d always found the older Gryffindor girl fascinating, in a completely non-sexual way. She was fun like the twins, and was one of the most loyal people he’d ever met.

“So, how’s it feel to be back at Hogwarts?” Harry asked softly,

Buffy smiled widely and nodded. “Like I’m home again,” she replied. “Like I can finally breathe properly. Like the walls aren’t trying to close in on me anymore.”

“Good then?” Harry asked.

“The very best,” she replied contently. She turned to him, her smile fading, a serious look taking over. “You know why I asked you to meet me today, don’t you?”

Harry sighed and nodded.

“What have you heard?” he asked.

“Nothing,” she replied. “I wanted to hear it from you.”

“What do you want to hear?” he asked tiredly, wondering if Buffy too would be as sceptical as the rest of the school seemed to be about the truth to his tale. “That I was forced to watch as Voldemort came back.”

“You can start there if you want. I’ve missed two years so I kinda feel like I’ve missed half the movie,” she said.

Harry looked across at her curiously. “I thought you weren’t a muggle,” he commented, trying to stall for time.

“Half, technically, though I grew up in a pureblood family. I’ve been living with my muggle aunt for the last two years though,” Buffy explained. “And I’m not letting you change the subject so easily.”

Harry gave a slight grin, half-hearted though it was.

“What happened to you Harry?” Buffy asked softly. “The last time I saw you, you were…well, happier than you are now.”

Harry looked away, tears in his eyes, remembering the event that had plagued his dreams for so many months now. The day that had changed his life so drastically. -Kill the spare-

“Cedric,” Harry whispered. “Cedric happened.”

“Cedric Diggory?” Buffy asked, knowing of only one Cedric in the school. She vaguely remembered the Hufflepuff boy that had been in the same year as she’d been in. “What about him?”

“You really don’t know, do you?” Harry asked rhetorically. “He died. Because of me. Because I was too stubborn, and I wasn’t fast enough. I could have stopped it.”

And all of a sudden, Buffy understood with perfect clarity exactly why her grandfather had wanted her to talk to Harry. They shared the same guilt over someone else’s life, and that was something that could only be understood by someone who had gone through the same experience.

“How did he die?” Buffy asked softly.

“Voldemort,” Harry replied, blinking back the burning sting of tears from his eyes. “Voldemort told Peter Pettigrew to kill him. The Triwizard Cup in the maze was a portkey, and Cedric and I took it at the same time. We ended up in some cemetery, who knows where exactly. And Pettigrew killed him.”

“That doesn’t make it your fault,” Buffy said quietly, wanting to reach across and put her hand on the younger boys shoulder, but knowing her gesture would be rebuffed angrily.

“Yes it does!” Harry yelled, jumping to his feet and beginning to pace. Buffy stood as well, watching him warily. She knew what could happen to an angry witch or wizard and she wanted to be on her guard. “I had the chance to kill Pettigrew! He’s the one who betrayed my parents, and if I hadn’t been so damn noble, I would have let Sirius kill the bastard!”

“You think that letting someone live is a bad thing?” Buffy asked, trying to keep her voice calm. “Harry, regardless of what someone else has done to us, or to whoever, that doesn’t ever give us the right to play judge, jury and executioner. If we did that, we’d be no better than Voldemort.”

“Cedric died because he followed me!”

“Cedric died because Voldemort wanted him killed. I didn’t know Cedric that well, but I did know him. A Hufflepuff who played by the rules. He was fair and compassionate, and he was someone who put others first,” Buffy said. “If you guys took the Cup at the same time, all that means is that you wanted to share the victory. And there is nothing to be ashamed of in that.”

“You don’t understand! He died because of me!” Harry yelled, turning the brunt of his anger on the girl. He stepped closer to her, trying to intimidate her with his superior height and the force of his anger.

Buffy just pushed him backwards slightly, making sure to curb her strength so she wouldn’t accidentally kill him.

“You think I wouldn’t understand?” Buffy asked angrily. “That I wouldn’t know what it’s like to get people killed? I was expelled for that exact reason Harry. You don’t have the monopoly on guilt.”

Harry’s eyes lit with remembrance, and he looked as though he was about to apologise. But Buffy beat him to the punch.

“Bad things happen, Harry. Mostly to good people who don’t deserve it. Cedric didn’t deserve to die, but he did. Seb shouldn’t have been in the Forest that night, but he was. And they both died,” Buffy said, her voice softer and calmer than it had been before. “We can’t change what happened Harry. Wishing doesn’t change anything, and thinking about the what if’s will drive you crazy.”

Harry wiped tears from his eyes and looked out into the distance, closing his eyes tiredly.

“So what do I do then?” he asked, sounding completely defeated.

Harry felt a soft hand on his shoulder, and he opened his eyes to look down at the Slayer, who looked at him with understanding rather than the pity he so hated.

“You live Harry,” she replied. “My grandfather taught me that. Seb’s mom told me that too. If we just waste our lives blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong, we’ll never live.”

Harry sighed softly and closed his eyes again, bowing his head. He let himself be tugged forward into a gentle hug, thankful that someone who actually knew parts of what he was going through had taken the time to get him to talk.

“Now, I kinda get the impression that there’s a whole lot of other issues you’ve got going for ya,” Buffy said.

“Well, if that’s not an understatement, I don’t know what is,” Harry replied.

“And there’s the sense of humour back,” Buffy teased, pulling back from him. “I was wondering if you’d lost it. I was starting to think that you were going to compete in the brooding awards against Professor Snape.”

“What! I am nothing like Snape!” Harry yelled.

“I dunno…black hair, dark cloak,” Buffy said, looking him up and down. “Moody, depressed…and if you don’t wash your hair in the next few days, I may just have to kill you.”

Harry shuddered at the thought of being anything like Snape. After a moment of thinking about it, he realised she had a point. He had been moody and depressed and prone to snapping at his friends, but he had good reason, didn’t he?

“Seriously Harry…what’s up?” she asked softly. “Besides everything with Cedric and Voldemort?”

Harry considered her thoughtfully, tilting his head to the side. He knew she was trustworthy, and he knew that she was Dumbledore’s granddaughter, but he didn’t know how much she actually knew about the events of the last two years. She’d proven to be the best of the best when it came to acting clueless.

“You know about…the Order?” he asked.

Buffy nodded. “They’re partly why I came back,” she answered honestly.

Harry’s eyes flashed with anger. “Why are they letting you join and not me?”

“Harry! I’m two years older than you are, and a Slayer! And I’m guessing the reason they won’t let you join is because you’re fifteen,” she reminded him.

Harry scowled and rolled his eyes. “I just want to help,” he complained.

“And you can,” she replied. “Just because you’re not in the Order, doesn’t mean you can’t help them. And they may not let you sit in on the meetings, but trust me, you probably don’t want to. I’m not really looking forward to it at all cos it’ll be a bunch of oldies sitting there talking about who knows what. Besides, if they found out anything you needed to know, they would tell you.”

“Would they?” Harry muttered. “They seem to prefer not telling me anything. Dumbledore especially.”

“They’re trying to protect you,” she explained. “And I know you don’t want to be protected, but…sometimes it’s hard for adults to see that we know more than they think we do. They don’t want us to grow up.”

“Even my godfather, Sirius, doesn’t want me to really get involved. And he was a worse troublemaker than I am!” Harry said angrily. “I have to grow up sooner or later.”

“And they’d prefer for it to be later. They care about you Harry, that’s all it is. And…I get that you’re angry with them, but you really need to keep your cool. Magic and anger is a bad combination,” she said. “You end up losing your cool and…y’know, blowing up your aunt or something.”

Harry laughed slightly at he memory, though he remembered how petrified he’d been after that incident. It had been the first time he’d really managed to harm someone with his abilities, and it had frightened him badly, not just because he faced expulsion.

“How do you control it?” he asked curiously.

“Practice,” she replied. “Learning to roll with the punches. Emotions aren’t a bad thing Harry, ever. They give you fire and passion, and you can use that to your advantage. But storing up anger will do bad things to you. Even if you just take twenty minutes out of your day to do what we did this morning. Watch the sunrise, or sunset, or just star gaze.”

“I can’t remember being as calm as I was earlier,” he admitted softly. “It felt good.”

She hugged him again, and Harry was grateful that she hadn’t just dismissed his complaints as so many others had done. Instead of reprimanding him for his anger and resentment, she’d given his ways to deal with it.

They remained hugging in the middle of the Quidditch Pitch, letting the sun shine over them, each of them taking comfort from the other. Harry’s stomach suddenly growled loudly, causing both of the Gryffindors to laugh and step away from each other.

“Breakfast?” Buffy asked.

Harry grinned and arm-in-arm, they began walking back up to the castle, feeling considerably lighter than he’d felt in along time. He’d needed to hear that Cedric’s death hadn’t been his fault, only now, he actually began to believe it.

“Say Buffy, do you have plans for tonight?” Harry asked curiously as they wandered back towards the school.

“Harry, you’re too young for me to date,” she said seriously.

Harry had to stop short and looked at her in absolute horror. When she began grinning, he couldn’t help but start laughing, the kind of laughter that makes you double over and clutch your chest as you gasp for air. When he’d finally stopped, he shook his head in amusement.

“You never change,” he commented. “Seriously though, did you have plans?”

“Nope. Why?”

“Well…I don’t know if the girls told you any of this last night, but…well, I uh…I sort of…well, Hermione suggested it really, so it wasn’t my idea, but I was wondering…”

“The DA meeting, right?” Buffy asked, managing to work out what Harry was trying to stutter out.

Harry flushed bright red, still embarrassed that he was teaching people Defence Against the Dark Arts behind the Professor’s backs.

“I’ll be there,” she assured him. “I’ve heard that you’re brilliant, by the way.”

“Not really. I mean, Hermione, she’s the one who’s been doing a lot of the research and all that,” Harry said modestly.

Buffy rolled her eyes and clapped a hand to Harry’s shoulder.

“You’re good Harry, accept it. Besides, I want to see this Patronus of yours,” she commented as they walked up the stairs and opened the door to the Entrance Hall.

“Can you conjure a Patronus?” he asked curiously.

“I started learning before I left, but…I never got more than a silvery wisp,” she replied.

They made their way across the foyer to the Great Hall and towards the Gryffindor Table.

“Buffy…thanks,” Harry said softly before they split up to sit with their friends. “For this morning. You’re a good friend.”

“You’re not so bad yourself Harrykins,” she replied with a grin. “And you’re still too young for me.”

“That’s alright, you’re way too old for me anyway,” he teased right back, prepared for her comment.

Shocked as she was, she managed to volley back a parting shot before she sat. “I heard you liked that in a girl.”

Harry cursed softly, wondering if he’d ever manage to get one up on the girl. Of course, she’d spent five years in the company of the twins and Lee Jordan, he’d need more practice. Of course, there was still something he could do to get her back. He grinned wickedly and stood behind the Slayer, a hand on her shoulder.

“Oi, Angelina! Guess who’s agreed to try out for Seeker!” he called out.

The Gryffindors went deadly quiet and all eyes turned to look at where Harry was standing. Buffy’s jaw dropped and she spun around to look at Harry in complete horror.

“Harry!”

“Summers! Decided to rejoin the Quidditch world, alright!” Fred yelled.

“I remember you were a brilliant Seeker!” George replied.

“Til that bastard Flint knocked you off!” Lee scowled.

“No way…I’m not…I can’t!” Buffy protested, but her protests were drowned out by the cheering from those that remembered Buffy playing Quidditch for the Gryffindors for a year.

“Team, we’ll hold an extra tryout this afternoon for Summers,” Angelina yelled, grabbing the attention of Alicia, Katie and Ron. They still needed to fill in the positions of Beaters, as well, but the tryouts had already been held.

“Harry, you are so dead,” Buffy practically growled as Harry just grinned completely unrepentant.

Hermione and Ron exchanged a grin, happy to see their friend acting somewhat like his old self.

CHAPTER ELEVEN: DEGRADATION

The day had started off well enough, except for Harry’s sudden announcement, but Buffy knew that it would go downhill the second she stepped into the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. She’d had an otherwise all right morning session, greeting old friends and year-mates, and having a Potions lesson, where thankfully she wasn’t picked on for being a Gryffindor. Professor Snape refused to favour her on the grounds of her House, but he couldn’t bring himself to take off points, even if her potion was slightly off.

Of course, now that she had a DADA lesson with Umbridge, she definitely wasn’t looking forward to it. She took a seat beside Lee Jordan, who had begun automatically rubbing his hand, a scowl on his face as he recalled his detention with Umbridge.

“Hem hem.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and watched with disgust as Umbridge walked into the classroom as though she owned the castle. She took a seat and looked out at the class, her eyes coming to settle on Buffy. This could only end badly, and Buffy was trying to remember the advice she’d given Harry earlier. Keep your cool, and don’t lose control.

“Miss Summers,” Umbridge greeted coolly. “Welcome back.”

Buffy flashed the woman a polite smile. She silently tried to work out whether or not Umbridge was worse than Snyder, and then realised that they’d probably be perfect for each other in a gross and creepy sort of way. She shuddered even thinking about it.

“I trust we won’t have any problems behaving, will we?” Umbridge asked, her high-pitched voice sickly sweet.

“No, we won’t,” Buffy replied. Beneath her breath, and only for Lee’s hearing she muttered ‘you might, I won’t.’

Lee coughed into his hand, trying not to laugh, and Buffy managed to keep a straight and completely innocent face. She’d learnt from the best about lying to get out of trouble. The twins were phenomenal storytellers, and they’d taught her everything she’d needed to know. Plus, she’d managed to keep her aunt in the dark about her Slaying the entire time she’d stayed with her.

“Good to know,” Umbridge said. “I’m sure with the proper instruction, you’ll be rehabilitated in no time.”

Her friends all straightened in their seats, bristling at the insult towards their newly returned friend.

“I’m sure Professor McGonagall will provide adequate rehabilitation for me. She was always very keen to provide guidance,” Buffy replied, barely blinking as she kept a straight face.

Umbridge seemed to have no come back for that, and instead turned to look at the rest of the class.

“Alright, wands away, and quills out.”

Buffy looked to Lee, slightly perplexed. She was used to a very hands-on approach to DADA. They’d never been told to put their wands away for a lesson. Lee rolled his eyes and nodded, pulling out some parchment. Buffy sighed and followed suit, though after having lived in the muggle world for so long, she couldn’t give up the convenience of a pen, rather than the quill.

“Hem hem. Miss Summers, what do you call that?” Umbridge asked.

“A pen Professor,” Buffy replied absently as she straightened the pieces of parchment and opened her book to the page indicated on the board.

“And why are you not using a quill like all the other students?”

“I can use a pen if I choose to,” Buffy replied calmly. “I knows the Hogwarts rules back to front. ‘If students desire to use muggle implements to aid in their schooling, they are welcome to’. Rule four hundred and seventy three.”

The room looked at Buffy in awe, wondering if she was going to get away with that. Umbridge’s eyes narrowed, and she walked to her desk, opening up a rather thin book. “Rule four hundred and seventy three,” Umbridge stated.

The other Seventh Years looked at Buffy panicked, wondering whether she had been bluffing or not. The Slayer winked at them and sat in her chair with a look of calm on her face, her pen tapping against the desk, just to prove a point while being horribly annoying.

Umbridge’s eyes bugged slightly as she read the rule that had appeared in front of her. She looked up at Buffy, shocked that the Slayer had been correct about what rule it was, and the exact wording of it as well.

“Very well then,” Umbridge replied grudgingly.

Buffy held back a smirk, but the twins were grinning in absolute glee. They’d known that having their old friend back would be entertaining.

“Chapter fifteen today then,” Umbridge instructed them. “And I will have complete silence.”

The students rolled their eyes, but knew better than to argue. A lot of the students were sporting sore hands, and had quickly learnt that it was no worth the hassle of arguing with the nazi-like woman.

Buffy skimmed over the page, wondering why they even bothered showing up to DADA if all they were learning was things they had covered back in First Year. She wasn’t about to rock the boat though, and read the chapter in silence. Glancing around the room discreetly, she noticed the bored and angry looks of her fellow classmates. The twins winked at her when she caught their gaze. She rolled her eyes before looking back down at the book.

If this was what the rest of their Seventh Year was going to be like, they were going to be in a lot of trouble, come exam time. She knew that she wouldn’t be taking the exams, her grandfather had told her that she would need to catch up on the work she’d missed before taking the NEWTs, but she was worried about the rest of the class.

It was a long two hours later that they were released from the torture chamber, and they eagerly raced out of the classroom.

“That can’t seriously be what the rest of the year’s been like, can it?” Buffy asked incredulously as they made their way down to the Great Hall for lunch.

“It is,” Angelina replied, rolling her eyes. “She’s a nightmare.”

“She’s worse than a nightmare,” Alicia commented. “I think I’d prefer to have a nightmare over her.”

“Good point,” Angelina agreed. “Plus all these stupid Educational Decrees that the Ministry have made up. Honestly…High Inquisitor of Hogwarts.”

“She’ll be aiming for Dumbledore’s job next,” Lee said darkly.

“I’m out of here if that ever happens,” Fred commented.

“Same,” George agreed. “I swear, if she wasn’t so quick to give detentions, I’d be tempted to give her a nose-bleeding nougat.”

The others grinned at the mental image that George’s suggestion conjured. They entered the noisy Great Hall and quickly found seats at the Gryffindor Table. Buffy took a seat between Angelina and Lee, with Katie, Alicia and the twins on the opposite side of the table.

“So…who’s got plans for the holidays?” Buffy asked curiously.

“Home,” the twins replied in unison.

“I’m stuck here for the holidays,” Alicia said sadly.

“So’m I,” Katie said.

“Back home for me,” Angelina said.

“Undecided,” Lee replied.

“Undecided?” the twins asked.

“I’m just not sure yet,” Lee said with a shrug.

Katie, Alicia and Angelina exchanged grins, knowing just why Lee wasn’t entirely certain of where he would be for the holidays. They thought it was tremendously cute.

“What about you Buffy?” Angelina asked. “Are you staying around Hogwarts with your granddad or what?”

“Visiting family actually,” Buffy replied honestly.

She’d never had the courage to tell her friends exactly where her parents were. She knew that Neville was in the same boat and hadn’t told his friends that his parents had been in St Mungo’s for the last fourteen years. It hurt to talk about them, and seeing them was bittersweet.

There was a slight lull in conversation as their lunch appeared in front of them, and they begin digging in to the veritable feast before them.

“So, we’re still on for this afternoon right?” Angelina asked Buffy. “Or are you going to chicken out?”

Buffy scowled at her friend. Angelina definitely knew how to play Buffy like a finely tuned instrument. Buffy could never turn down a challenge, and by phrasing it as a dare, Buffy had no choice but to prove Angelina wrong.

“Yeah, we’re still on,” Buffy replied. “Except I don’t have a broom.”

“I’d lend you mine, but Umbridge confiscated it,” Fred said miserably.

“You could try talking her into giving our brooms back to us,” George said with a grin. “You were pretty brilliant this afternoon.”

“How did you know what number that rule was?” Katie asked curiously.

Buffy just grinned and shrugged. “Whenever I came and visited my granddad when I was little, I always thought the rule book was fascinating. You couldn’t see the rules unless you told it the numbers, so I’d play around with it. I had half of them memorised before I even started First Year.”

“Any rules to stop Umbridge confiscating our brooms?” Fred asked hopefully.

Buffy bit into her sandwich and chewed it thoughtfully, going over the hundreds of rules that she’d had memorised by the time she was eleven.

“Two hundred and sixteen. ‘Confiscated goods are to be returned to their owners unless the item is dangerous, harmful or otherwise unsafe to either the owner, or to other students. Students may request the return of confiscated items after thirty days.’ How long has it been since you played Slytherin?” Buffy asked.

“Six weeks,” the twins replied in unison, torn between being miserable, and being overjoyed at the thought of having their brooms back.

“Tell you what, if you can convince Umbridge to give us our brooms back, we’ll convince Harry to let you borrow his Firebolt,” Fred said, grinning and rubbing his hands together.

“Shouldn’t Harry have a say in this?” asked a new voice to the conversation.

The twins turned to look over their shoulder.

“Harry!” “Mate!” “Friend!” “Compadre!”

The others snickered at the twins over-compensatory behaviour.

“Look, if Buffy can convince Umbridge to give us our brooms back, you’d let her borrow your Firebolt, right?” Fred asked.

Harry grinned easily and nodded. “Of course. I’d pay good money to see Buffy talk Umbridge into giving them back.”

“No guarantees,” Buffy replied.

“I’ve seen you talk your way out of cauldron scrubbing with Snape, Buffy,” Lee said in awe. “No one manages to get out of that.”

“Yeah, but Professor Snape actually likes me,” Buffy reminded him. “You know, I’ve got that surrogate niece thing happening for me. Umbitch…oh, sorry, Umbridge hates me.”

The others snickered at the ‘slip’ of tongue.

“Accurate description,” George complimented her.

“But you’ll try won’t you?” Fred asked.

“Have I ever backed down from a challenge before?” Buffy asked with a gleam in her eyes.

Those that saw the gleam knew that it meant trouble. And the Gryffindors couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen with Buffy in one corner and Umbridge in the other. It would be the tournament of the century, and none of them wanted to miss it.

----------------------

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Hermione asked worriedly.

“It’ll be fine,” Buffy assured the girl. “As long as everyone keeps their tempers.”

Harry ducked his head under Buffy’s pointed stare, his cheeks burning slightly.

“I’ll behave,” he assured her.

“Good. Because Umbridge does not want you at this school anymore than she wants me here, so we’re both on our very bestest behaviour,” she reminded him.

“That’s not a word,” Hermione reprimanded her.

“Not the point ‘Mione,” Buffy replied absently. “Now…Harry, you’re with me, Hermione you’re the calming influence for me and Harrykins here.”

Hermione nodded and Harry took a deep breath. He had never come to Umbridge’s office voluntarily before, and it felt strange to be standing there now. He just had to remember to keep his cool. Harry nodded at Buffy who knocked at the door.

They waited several moments before the door swung open, and Umbridge looked out at them expectantly.

“Can I help you?” she asked, her high voice grating on all of their nerves.

“I’ve come to ask for my broomstick back,” Harry replied.

“And you needed an entourage for that?” Umbridge asked, an eyebrow raised.

Hermione pressed her hand to Harry’s back, reminding him to remain calm. Harry breathed deeply and forced himself to remain on topic rather than fly off the rails.

“We’re about to head outside together, so we volunteered to tag along with Harry,” Buffy replied in explanation.

“Interesting,” Umbridge replied, though she sounded anything but interested. “Now, Mr Potter, as to the request of your broomstick back, I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

“Why’s that Professor?” Harry asked.

“You were issued a life-long ban on Quidditch Mr Potter,” Umbridge reminded him, a kindly smile on her face that made Harry want to clench his hand into a fist and punch her with all of his strength.

“But that doesn’t mean he’s been banned from flying, Professor,” Buffy pointed out calmly.

“No, it doesn’t, but I am still entitled to confiscate whatever items I wish to confiscate,” Umbridge said. “Mr Potter broke the rules, and he must be taught a lesson.”

“We’re not arguing that Professor,” Buffy said, seeing Harry about to jump in to argue. “All Harry wants is his broom back. He’s not asking for his position on the Quidditch Team to be returned. His broom has nothing to do with the Quidditch ban.”

“I’m afraid I’m still unconvinced,” Umbridge said. “I am entitled to confiscate property from students.”

“And according to the Hogwarts school rules, Harry is entitled to have his confiscated items returned to him after thirty days unless that object is unsafe or harmful to other students. And seeing as it’s a broomstick that has been approved by the Ministry for students and International Quidditch Players to use, you can hardly classify it as being dangerous,” Buffy said.

Umbridge looked at the girl in silence. Buffy was careful to school her features into an unreadable mask. Fred and George had been the first to teach her to remain calm in all situations, but Merrick and Giles had been masters at it, and she’d perfected her skills at manipulation and subterfuge under their tutelage.

“Unless of course you wanted to confiscate all the brooms from everyone in the school,” she added as a final nail in the coffin.

Umbridge looked less than impressed, and Harry was struggling to keep from laughing. It was only Hermione’s sharp pinch to the arm that kept him from beginning to snicker. The DADA Professor looked less than impressed as she pivoted on one foot and walked into her office towards where three broomsticks were chained to the wall. She took out a key and unlocked the padlock, grudgingly handing over Harry’s Firebolt.

“You realise that the ban on you, Mr Potter, is also inclusive of any and all practices,” Umbridge said, wanting to remain on top of the argument, even though it was clear that she’d lost. “If I discover you participating in any Quidditch practices, your broom will be confiscated once more.”

“And if Harry were to train the new Gryffindor Seeker, outside of Quidditch Practice?” Buffy asked. “It technically has nothing to do with Quidditch itself, and will have no bearing on the training sessions with the team.”

“You are pushing the boundaries Miss Summers,” Umbridge warned.

“It’s a valid question Professor,” Buffy argued. “If you happened to see Harry helping the new Gryffindor Seeker, and giving them pointers, it’s not technically playing Quidditch.”

“Desist, Miss Summers,” Umbridge said angrily. “Mr Potter, you may not train with any Quidditch Team. Giving pointers to the new Seeker is, as Miss Summers so kindly pointed out, not considered to be training, so yes, not doubt you will be giving aid to the new Seeker, but if I see you personally catch the Golden Snitch, your broom will be making its way back between the Weasley twins.”

“Actually, Professor, I’m also here on behalf of the twins,” Buffy said. “They’re requested, in writing, that they wish for the return of their brooms in accordance with rule number two hundred and sixteen.”

Umbridge nearly growled, and all but threw the twins’ brooms into the hands of Buffy and Hermione. Without another word, the trio walked out of the office, waiting until they heard the angry slamming of the door behind them before they burst into peals of laughter.

TBC

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