Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

House of Black

BY: DragonKatGal
RATING: Pg-13
SETTINGS: Post Becoming II. (Buffy 17)
Post Prisoner of Azkaban. (Harry nearly 14)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.  Whedon and Rowling rock my world.
NOTE: Buffy killed Angel, got kicked out of the house, got expelled, but she didn’t leave town.  Staying with Willow.
PAIRING: Back on January 17th, I was tremendously excited that no one else had ever done this pairing.  *sighs* Sam-453, you beat me to it, and admirably at that.  Buffy/George Weasley.
SUMMARY: After Sirius escapes Azkaban, he goes to Dumbledore for help in locating his wife and daughter.  To his surprise, they’re living on a hellmouth and his daughter is the Slayer.
SECOND NOTE: I’m going to assume that you’re all read the Fourth Book and will therefore be leaving out details from this story.  Therefore, if it’s not mentioned, it still happens, but if it is mentioned and changed, then obviously it’ll happen differently.  Example: Skipping details about how Harry gets to the Burrow.  Everything at the Dursley’s happens, but I don’t explain it.  K?  It’d take too damn long, and you’d be bored out of your minds.  If it’s tremendously important to the plot line I’ll mention it, but not in detail.  You’ll see what I mean hopefully. 

Chapter 1 - Asking

SETTINGS: Post Becoming II. (Buffy 17)

Post Prisoner of Azkaban. (Harry nearly 14)

DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Whedon and Rowling rock my world.

NOTE: Buffy killed Angel, got kicked out of the house, got expelled, but she didn’t leave town. Staying with Willow.

PAIRING: Back on January 17th, I was tremendously excited that no one else had ever done this pairing. *sighs* Sam-453, you beat me to it, and admirably at that. Buffy/George Weasley.

SUMMARY: After Sirius escapes Azkaban, he goes to Dumbledore for help in locating his wife and daughter. To his surprise, they’re living on a hellmouth and his daughter is the Slayer.

SECOND NOTE: I’m going to assume that you’re all read the Fourth Book and will therefore be leaving out details from this story. Therefore, if it’s not mentioned, it still happens, but if it is mentioned and changed, then obviously it’ll happen differently. Example: Skipping details about how Harry gets to the Burrow. Everything at the Dursley’s happens, but I don’t explain it. K? It’d take too damn long, and you’d be bored out of your minds. If it’s tremendously important to the plot line I’ll mention it, but not in detail. You’ll see what I mean hopefully.

This fic should (theoretically) end up at twenty-six chapters long to give you an idea of how long this is gonna take to post.

ONWARDS:

CHAPTER ONE: ASKING

Over the last few months, Sirius Black had mastered the art of entering Hogwarts unseen. He knew the castle like the back of his hand and sticking to the shadows was as easy as levitating a feather. What wasn’t easy for Sirius, and never had been, was admitting to needing help.

Ever since his thirteenth birthday, he’d considered himself an independent sort of person, and now at the age of thirty-seven, he definitely hated admitting to his weaknesses. The problem was, he did need help.

He quietly padded towards the large statue of a phoenix with its wings outstretched. Stepping back, he transformed from his animagus form of a large black dog, back into his normal appearance. He listened carefully, making sure there was no noises coming from the hallways. When he was convinced there was no one else nearby, he looked up at the phoenix and hoped that the Headmaster hadn’t changed his oddity of having his passwords be names of sweets.

“Chocolate frogs. Lemon drops. Cockroach cluster. Jelly Beans.”

The phoenix suddenly began turning clockwise, a large stone staircase spiralling upwards. Sirius stepped onto one of the steps and allowed the staircase to take him up to the office that belonged to Albus Dumbledore.

He listened at the door, but was grateful to hear nothing but the sound of Fawkes the Phoenix in song. Sirius knocked quietly and entered.

He was a little nervous about entering Dumbledore’s office. The only times he’d never been in there had always when he and his friends had been in trouble, and Sirius couldn’t help but feel as though he was back at school about to face the thought of a detention with one of the Professors. Plus, there was also the fact that Sirius wasn’t entirely sure of what Dumbledore knew about what had truly happened the night that Lily and James Potter had died.

Dumbledore looked up and Sirius was amused by the fact that Dumbledore didn’t even seem to be all that surprised by his sudden appearance within the school.

“I’ve been wondering when you would drop by,” Dumbledore said. “I’ve been expecting you.”

“So, you believe that I’m innocent then?” Sirius asked, breathing out a sigh of relief.

“I had suspected as much for years,” Dumbledore replied. “It is unfortunate that Peter Pettigrew managed to escape however. His confession would have guaranteed your innocence.”

Sirius nodded, understanding the truth to Dumbledore’s statement.

“But you are not here to talk to me about Peter, are you?” Dumbledore asked.

Sirius shook his head. “No.”

Dumbledore nodded and shifted forward in his chair.

“Do you know where they are?” Sirius asked.

The Headmaster nodded, but Sirius knew that he was missing something. The elderly wizard was wearing far too serious an expression to be someone with good news. The thought of bad news made Sirius’ heart sink.

“And?”

Dumbledore sighed, wishing he had better news for one of his old favourite students.

“Your wife was devastated by your betrayal,” Dumbledore began. “Unfortunately, she wouldn’t even consider the fact that you were innocent. When the reports came through about you being the one to betray the Potter’s…well, it was just the icing on the cake.”

Tears pricked at Sirius’ eyes. It had only been in the last few months that the memory of his wife and his daughter had even come back to him properly. While he’d been imprisoned in Azkaban, all the happy thoughts he’d ever had about his family had been sucked out of him, leaving him with nothing. And to hear that his wife believed that he was guilty was devastating.

“So…what happened?” Sirius asked quietly.

“The Ministry officially annulled your marriage. She fled from England and…moved to a muggle area in America. I’m sorry Sirius, but I have to tell you that she remarried,” Dumbledore explained gently.

Sirius felt as though he was going to be sick.

“And Eliza?” Sirius whispered.

“She was raised muggle,” Dumbledore replied.

“Muggle? She’s a pureblood witch! You can’t just raise a witch to be a muggle!” Sirius yelled, jumping to his feet and beginning to pace the room. “Unless…she’s not a squib. She was showing talent when she was two years old. My daughter was no squib.”

“No, not a squib. And no doubt she would be very talented if she was taught to use a wand,” Dumbledore replied. “Unfortunately, your ex-wife decided that she wanted nothing to do with magic or any of our community. All of the letters that were sent to her were returned un-opened. All of Eliza’s Hogwarts letters were sent back to the school. Her name is still on the Hogwarts list however.”

“So that’s why Harry was living with the Dursley’s then,” Sirius said. “Because she wouldn’t take him in?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Unfortuantely it was I who decided that Harry should stay with Petunia. Joyce wanted to take young Harry with her, but…I suspected that she would never return to England. She took Eliza and fled without another word to anyone. She was devastated when her brother died. And even though she is his aunt as well as his godmother, she refused to take responsibility for him.”

Sirius couldn’t believe what he was hearing. The woman that Dumbledore was describing didn’t sound at all like the girl-woman that he’d fallen in love with. Where was the kind and vivacious woman who had never let anyone or anything get her down. He remembered her smile and the mischievous look in her blue eyes. But the woman that Dumbledore was describing sounded cold-hearted and not at all like the woman he remembered.

“Does Eliza even know about me?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Your wife remarried and modified your daughter’s memory so that she wouldn’t remember you at all. She married a muggle man. She took his name and gave Eliza his surname. And the most unusual nickname as well.”

“Nickname?” Sirius asked.

“Yes. Buffy. Buffy Summers.”

Sirius raised an eyebrow. It was definitely one of the more unusual names he’d ever heard. What still bothered him though, was the fact that his wife had gone and remarried another man. A muggle at that.

Dumbledore opened up the drawer to his desk and pulled out a manilla folder. He slid the folder across to Sirius who took it curiously. His hands immediately started shaking as soon as he opened the cardboard folder. He swallowed hard as he looked at the picture in front of him. In the photo there was a girl of seventeen with shoulder-length blonde hair and hazel green eyes grinning at a redheaded girl beside her. They were laughing in the picture and Sirius felt his heart begin to burst with joy at the sight of his daughter.

“She’s beautiful,” Sirius whispered. “She’d be seventeen now. Nearly a woman.”

He flicked through the pile of photographs, some of them dating back several years. He came to one with his daughter hugging a man with light brown hair and a kind smile. He knew automatically that this was the man Buffy believed to be her true father.

“And…and this Summers bloke? Is he…is he treating my daughter decently?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore winced slightly and Sirius began panicking. The thought of his daughter been hurt by someone didn’t sit well with him, and it was all he could do to stay in Dumbledore’s office and not race off to America to search for his beloved little girl.

“He and Joyce were recently…well, divorced I believe is the muggle term,” Dumbledore explained. “They’re no longer married, and until recently, Buffy…or Eliza, was living with her mother.”

Sirius nodded, taking in the newest information. He suddenly froze, something about Dumbledore’s wording putting him slightly on his guard.

“Until recently?” Sirius repeated.

After Harry, Ron and Hermione had explained about Sirius’ innocence in regards to the murder of Lily and James Potter, Dumbledore had done as much research as he could to find out about what had happened to Sirius’ wife and child. What he’d found about them had been…extraordinary to say the least. While it was clear that Joyce had wanted nothing to do with the magical or supernatural world, Eliza –Buffy, he corrected himself- seemed to be unable to avoid it.

“They had a…slight altercation, and…your daughter was firmly told to, and I quote ‘not even think about coming back’. To the best of my knowledge, she’s currently staying with a friend of hers, Willow Rosenburg,” Dumbledore explained.

“You’re certain that you’re talking about Joyce?” Sirius asked incredulously. “Joyce Potter-Black? You’re certain that this is the same person?”

“I wish I had better news for you Sirius,” Dumbledore said sadly.

Sirius sighed and shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t believe that the Joyce he had known would ever ask their daughter to leave.

“What was the argument about?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore’s forehead crinkled into a wince once more. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ask me that,” Dumbledore admitted. “Sirius…you’re daughter is a Vampire Slayer. She managed to keep it a secret from Joyce for nearly two and a half years, but…Joyce discovered the truth, and…let’s just say that your daughter definitely inherited her sense of honour from you. She chose to save the world rather than stay in her mother’s good graces.”

Sirius was once again completely stunned. “A Slayer?” Sirius whispered.

He knew what Slayers were. He’d never met one before, though he’d often thought that the legend surrounding the Slayer was absolutely fascinating. Now that he’d been told that his daughter was a Slayer, it suddenly seemed less fascinating and far more frightening. They lived hard and died young, and that was not something that Sirius Black wanted for his daughter.

“I’m sorry Sirius,” Dumbledore said gently. “You came to me for help and I’ve given you nothing but bad news.”

Sirius shook his head, knowing that Dumbledore had done his best. The Headmaster hadn’t needed to have even tried to keep an eye out for Sirius’ wayward family, but to know that he had was heartening for the newly ‘freed’ man.

“You said they were in America? Where?”

“California. In Sunnydale.” Dumbledore paused for a moment, not wanting to deliver any more bad news to the already distraught Hogwarts Alumni. “Atop a hellmouth.”

Sirius’ jaw dropped.

Chapter 2 - Borrowing

Harry awoke with a start, his hand reaching blindly for his glasses on the bedside table, fumbling to get them to sit on his nose properly. His other hand simultaneously reached for the wand that he kept beneath his pillow. He couldn’t recall what had awoken him, but he knew that he slept fairly deeply, mainly to block out the noise of his cousin Dudley Dursley snoring in the next room.

Harry flicked on the lamp on the bedside and looked around the room. Everything was in perfect order. He jumped, startled, when he heard a soft tapping at his window.

For a moment, he couldn’t tell who was at his window. They looked familiar, but Harry’s mind was a complete blank. And then it hit him.

His eyes widened as he recognised the face behind the pane of glass. He jumped to his feet and opened the window, helping his godfather to clamber through the opening. Sirius looked different from Harry’s memory of him. When they had said goodbye, Sirius’ face had been gaunt and sunken, surrounded by a quantity of long, black, matted hair – but the hair was short and clean now, Sirius’ face fuller, and he looked younger, much more like the photograph Harry had of him, which had been taken at the Potter’s wedding.

“What are you doing here?” Harry whispered, fearful of waking any of the Dursley’s.

“I have a favour to ask,” Sirius whispered back, equally aware of the trouble he could be in if the Dursley’s found him in Harry’s room. No doubt, they would call the muggle police, who were also on the lookout for him, and then the Ministry of Magic would then be notified.

“Anything,” Harry replied. It was strange, his loyalty to the man he barely knew, but he was desperate for any sort of link to his family. Sirius Black was his godfather and he’d been James’ best friend before James had died, so Harry felt incredibly attached to the man he’d met only weeks ago.

“Do you think you could spare your invisibility cloak for a few weeks?” Sirius asked.

Harry nodded immediately, moving to his trunk to get the requested item. He had never had use of t he cloak at Privet Drive, so he didn’t mind giving the item up for a few weeks. Especially if it would help Sirius. He didn’t know why he hadn’t thought of it earlier, and offered it to him to keep Sirius away from the prying eyes of the Ministry.

“Is this so you won’t be found by the Ministry?” Harry asked, digging through his trunk.

“I’m not hiding from the Ministry, no,” Sirius replied. He grinned suddenly and Harry was shocked by the sudden transformation that Sirius’ face had taken. He looked ten years younger and there was a spark in his eyes that Harry had never seen before.

Sirius reached into his newly purchased robes (ordered by owl mail under a fake name, but through his own vault) and pulled out the photograph of his laughing daughter. He handed it to Harry as the Boy-Who-Lived gave up his father’s cloak, and looked at the photograph in confusion.

“Who are they?”

“The blonde girl…her name is Eliza Black,” Sirius said proudly.

It took a moment for Harry to catch on. His jaw dropped and he looked completely astonished.

“I never knew you had a daughter!” Harry exclaimed. He suddenly realised he had made too much noise and clamped a hand over his mouth. For several moments there was silence in the room, and when they were sure that Harry hadn’t awoken any of his relatives, they continued to talk, whispering softly.

“She’s more than just my daughter,” Sirius said. “She’s your cousin.”

“What?!” Harry yelped quietly. “Mum had another sister? I could have been living with them instead of the Dursley’s?”

Sirius chuckled slightly. He’d known that Harry’s reaction would be something like that, and every time he saw Harry, he recognised more and more of James and Lily in the young man.

“She wasn’t Lily’s sister,” Sirius replied. “She was James’. His twin to be exact.”

“Are you serious?” Harry asked.

Sirius resisted the urge to crack a joke. He’d done it often at school, but could contain himself now that he was an adult.

“Where is she? What’s she like? You married dad’s sister? Doesn’t that make you my uncle or something?” Harry questioned quickly.

“She’s in California, she uh…well, she used to be the loveliest woman I’d ever met, yes I married your father’s sister, and I am technically your uncle by marriage,” Sirius answered.

“Wait…used to be?” Harry repeated sadly. “What happened?”

“I betrayed her brother,” Sirius said sadly. “Or she still thinks I did. Never even gave me the benefit of the doubt. She just took Eliza with her to America and got re-married. To a muggle! Not that I have anything against muggles, but…my daughter doesn’t even know about magic! It’s…it’s not right.”

“So what are you going to do now?” Harry asked curiously.

He was intrigued by what Sirius had just told him. He’d never even considered asking about the remaining family left on his father’s side. No one had ever told him about his father having a sister, and he’d assumed that his dad was an only child. It was strange to think that not only did he have a sister, but a twin sister at that. And that Sirius Black had married her.

“I’m going to find my daughter,” Sirius replied simply. “I’m going to ask her to come back to England with me.”

Harry’s eyes scrunched up in confusion. It was all Sirius could do to not laugh. That was definitely a trait from the Potter side. Joyce and James had both done the same facial expression whenever they were confused, and to see it on Harry made Sirius grin.

“Why would you come back here?” Harry asked. It wasn’t that he didn’t want his godfather around, but the man was a wanted criminal. “Don’t get me wrong, I want you here, but…you have a chance to start over in a country where no one knows you. You could stay in America with her and never have to worry about being caught by the Ministry ever again.”

Sirius had to admit that he had been tempted by the idea. The problem was, Voldemort was still a threat even though he wasn’t actually returned. But he knew that things were stirring amongst the Death-Eaters, and that things would begin to get ugly and soon. He couldn’t just leave the wizarding world to fend for itself. It went against his very nature. He wanted –needed- to be there for the fight. He may have failed James and Lily, but he would be damned if he left Harry to fight for himself.

“It is tempting,” Sirius admitted. “But I’m not about to leave my godson to fend for himself when the war begins.”

Harry grinned and hugged his godfather fiercely. He’d never really had a father-figure before, and so far Sirius was doing a terrific job of it.

Harry pulled back, a little embarrassed by his sudden display of affection. Sirius didn’t seem to mind it though, and Harry was grateful for that.

“You’ll let me know how it goes though, won’t you?” Harry asked.

Sirius nodded. “You’ll be the first one I tell,” he promised.

Harry grinned and felt incredibly light-hearted for the moment. He’d been craving contact from any of his friends, but having Sirius there was just as good. Now he’d discovered part of his lost family, and he would hopefully have the opportunity to meet another link to his parents.

“Good luck,” Harry said.

Sirius grinned and winked at his godson. He quickly donned the invisibility cloak and disapparated away from Privet Drive.

Chapter 3 - Crying

Willow Rosenburg, amateur Wiccan, watched with tears in her eyes as her best friend lay curled in a ball, sleeping restlessly. Her best friend, Buffy Summers, had come to her a week ago, bruised and sobbing and Willow’s heart had broken for the girl. It had taken nearly two hours for Buffy to get out the entire story about what had happened with Angelus and Acathla, as well as the saga of her mother finding out about the Slayer, her expulsion and then having to kill Angel rather than the evil Angelus.

Willow had done the only thing any best friend could do. She’d opened up her arms and hugged Buffy as tightly as possible and given her a place to stay for as long as she needed it.

Willow had then gone to Giles for help on what to do for her best friend, and the Watcher had tried to speak to Joyce Summers, but Joyce was adamant that what she said still stood. Buffy couldn’t even think about returning home just yet, but Giles had seen fear in Joyce’s eyes when he’d explained more about the Slaying. The Watcher understood then why it was that Joyce wouldn’t let her daughter return. It had nothing to do with not loving the girl, it was that Joyce Summers was scared of what her daughter could do, and the fact that she could die on any given day.

And so it was that Willow continued to watch her best friend try to sleep. But the nightmares continued to plague the Slayer, and the voice of her lover crying out her name in confusion and betrayal broke her heart even further. And there was nothing anyone could do for her.

She had been close to leaving Sunnydale, but she knew that if she left them to fend for themselves she’d be sentencing them to death. And that was not something that she would be able to live with.

The seventeen-year-old Slayer awoke with a start, crying out for her beloved “Angel!”

Willow was at her side in seconds, holding her in a tight hug. Buffy swallowed hard as the memories hit her of what she’d been forced to do. She buried her face in Willow’s shoulder and clung on tightly. Willow rocked them and Buffy just let herself be held until her heartbeat had calmed down and she could once again breath properly.

“You okay?” Willow whispered in the darkness.

Buffy smiled at her friend’s concern, thankful that the redhead hadn’t abandoned her after the previous week’s events.

“I will be,” Buffy replied honestly. She knew it would take time, but she also knew that Angel wouldn’t have wanted her to let her entire world collapse because of him. It was so tempting to let the darkness claim her. To go out on patrol one night with no weapons and let a vampire’s kiss be the last thing she remembered. But that wouldn’t be honouring her love’s memory, and that would be the final betrayal.

In her head she knew that she’d had to kill Angel. There’s been no other way to close the gateway that would suck the world into hell. In her head she knew it was better to sacrifice one person that she loved than to damn the entire world, including Angel. It had been the right thing to do, and she logically knew that. But her heart still wept bitterly at the loss, and her breath would still get caught in her chest, a sick feeling in her stomach as she remembered her Angel reaching out to her in his last moments.

Willow knew that neither of them would be able to sleep again for the night so she bounced a little to wake herself up.

“You wanna go visit Xander today?” Willow asked. “I don’t think he and Cordelia had any plans. We could go to the beach maybe.”

Buffy nodded, knowing that the contact with her friends would be good for her. “Yeah, that’d be good. You should call Oz, see if he wants to come too.”

Willow grinned at the thought of her musician boyfriend turned werewolf. Just the thought of him never failed to get a smile on her face.

The two girls lay back down on their beds, or in Buffy’s case, the mattress on the floor beside Willow’s bed, and chatted quietly until they drifted back to sleep, Buffy thankful for the normalcy that Willow offered her. It wasn’t that Willow acted as though nothing had happened, but she wasn’t walking on eggshells not to mention it. And talking about the better memories with Angel had helped Buffy tremendously to remember her gentle lover rather than have the memories of a taunting Angelus stuck in her mind.

And so it was that the previous week had passed, with Willow and her other friends helping her to heal over the loss of Angel. They were a comforting balm to her soul and she was grateful for them. But she missed her mom, and if she was honest, she missed having her dad around as well. But her mother wouldn’t allow her home, and she didn’t know where her father was anymore. And while Giles was a great substitute father, part of her ached to be back with her family.

There was something about being near a family member that made her heart hum in happiness. She didn’t know what it was exactly, but it was part of the same senses that allowed her to tell when there where vampires close by. Ever since she’d been Called, she’d been able to tell where her mother was close by, and she’d felt comforted by it.

The strange thing was, when she’d visited her father the summer before, she’d never once felt that same vibe. She’d assumed it was because he wasn’t on the hellmouth, but when he’d visited her one weekend, she hadn’t been able to feel it then either. It was strange and disappointing, and she wondered what it meant, but she’d never been able to ask her mother about it. And now, she definitely couldn’t ask her about it.

As she began drifting back to sleep, all she could hope was that she would be let back into her house soon, and that the bond she’d always felt with what remained of her family would be reformed.

Chapter 4 - Discovering

Five friends ran across the sand of the beach, laughing and kicking a football around, the girls teamed against the boys as they attempted to play a somewhat even game. Xander was frantically trying to catch up to Buffy, but, even with Buffy going a lot slower than she could have, Xander had no chance.

Buffy slammed the ball to the ground between the two sticks acting as the goalposts and Willow and Cordelia cheered.

“Touchdown!” Willow yelled triumphantly.

Xander leant his hands on his knees, doubled over and panting for breath.

“No fair! You guys cheated!” he complained.

Cordelia moved towards him and grabbed hold of his arm, forcing him to stand up straight. The two shared a kiss, leaving Xander even more breathless than before.

“You still complaining?” Cordelia asked.

“Complaining?” Xander repeated. “About what?”

Cordelia smirked at her two teammates who grinned triumphantly.

From atop a hill near where Cordelia’s car was parked, a large shaggy black dog watched contently. His gaze was fixed on the blonde girl as she laughed and teased her friends.

When the game was finally over nearly half an hour later, the group made their way back to their beach towels, flopping down in the sand and lazily watching as the sun began to set.

Willow cuddled close to Oz while Cordelia did the same to Xander. Buffy tried desperately not to let the thought of Angel get her down, and just let the contentment of being able to have fun with her friends seep through her. She lay down on her towel and looked up at the clouds that had streaks of red from the sunset shining through them.

The dog that had acted as their watcher ran down the hill and towards the group. Willow tensed slightly as she noticed its presence and Cordelia wasn’t much better. It was larger than an average dog, nearly the size of a small bear. Buffy hadn’t noticed it quite yet, but could feel a familiar sensation tingling at the back of her spine.

She sat up, worried that either vampires or her mother were about to intrude on their perfect day. She nearly laughed at the category her mother had recently been placed into, but shook it off.

She followed Willow’s gaze and started slightly as she saw the black dog slowly coming towards the. It was creeping slowly, but not moving at all like a predator. Its head was slightly low, though its eyes were on the group. It didn’t have its teeth bared, and there was no warning growl escaping its lips.

“Uh, I don’t think I want a dog that size coming anywhere near us,” Xander said nervously.

“I don’t think it wants to hurt us,” Oz replied. As a werewolf, he was somewhat skilled at reading the movements of animals, and there was nothing in the dog that looked as though it was about to pounce.

“I don’t really want to find out,” Cordelia said.

But the dog advanced, its movements slow and careful. When it reached the edge of the towel it sat quietly and laid its head at Buffy’s feet, looking up at her.

The Slayer hesitantly reached her hand over to touch the dog’s head, despite a warning from Xander. The dog raised its head to meet Buffy’s hand and leaned into her touch. Buffy brought her other hand forward, and the dog licked her palm, making Buffy giggle slightly.

The others looked at the Slayer in shock. They hadn’t heard her giggle like that since before Buffy’s seventeenth birthday when Angel had gone bad.

“I think it likes you Buff,” Oz commented.

Buffy smiled slightly and continued to pat the large black dog’s head. She couldn’t explain it, but it was incredibly soothing. She wondered if it was because animals were supposed to be therapeutic, but she knew that she was breathing easier and all thoughts of vampires or her mother, or school, or Angel were gone from her mind.

Oz was the next to reach across and touch the large dog, shifting Willow slightly so that he could reach the dog’s fur more easily.

“He’s pretty friendly,” the werewolf commented.

Xander, not wanting to be shown up by the only other male in the group reached forward and began petting the dog as well.

The dog seemed to tolerate the others touching him, but it continued to look at Buffy. The Slayer suddenly noticed something odd about the dog in front of her. From the corner of the dogs hazel eyes, two tears were leaving a trail through the black fur.

“He’s crying,” Buffy whispered.

Willow looked closer and saw that the Slayer was right. The dog was crying!

“Maybe he’s lost,” Willow suggested. “He doesn’t have a collar though.”

“Maybe he’s a stray,” Cordelia said. She wrinkled her nose slightly at the thought. “Just think of all the germs.”

“He probably needs a home,” Buffy said quietly.

Willow looked at her friend closely and noticed that for the first time in the last week, the haunted look in Buffy’s eyes had dimmed considerably. She’d heard about the healing power of animals, and she couldn’t help but wonder if the day out with her friends as well as the sudden visit from the friendly stray had put something of the spark back into Buffy’s eyes.

“I always wanted a dog,” Willow said.

Buffy looked up at her best friend, and noticed the redhead’s grin. Her own smile matched Willow’s, and Buffy knew that when she’d chosen to speak to the redhead on her first day of school, she’d made the right decision.

“He’s not coming in the car!’ Cordelia cried. “He wouldn’t fit!”

Buffy laughed slightly, knowing that the room issue wasn’t Cordelia’s only problem. “That’s okay Cor. Me and Blackie here can walk back. I need to do a quick patrol anyway.”

“Blackie?” Oz repeated.

Buffy just shrugged. “Not original, I’ll grant you, but…I thought it suited.”

The animagus that was Sirius Black just grinned at the name. Yes, Blackie did suit, and rather well at that. Sirius couldn’t help the grin that came to his canine features. Not only was he being taken home with his daughter, but he was being taken on patrol as well. He’d be able to see his daughter in action and hopefully see how good a fighter she was. And if need be, he’d be able to protect her from anything that tried to hurt her.

He supposed he wouldn’t be needing his godson’s invisibility cloak after all.

Chapter 5 - Eating

Blackie barked out a warning, and Buffy turned quickly, her stake at the ready, thrusting it easily into the last vampire's heart, its body turning to ashes.  Buffy sighed with relief, thankful that she'd managed to get through the fight.  She and her new pet had been ambushed by a group of eight vampires, and Buffy had fought to keep them all from attacking at once.  Blackie had helpfully bitten several of the vampires, keeping them out of the fight until Buffy could get around to killing them.

Buffy grinned as she tucked her stake back in her jeans and knelt down to be eye to eye to the dog.  She rubbed its ears and gave the dog a quick hug of thanks.  "I think you're a Slayer's dog, huh Blackie?" Buffy asked in the voice that most people seemed to use when speaking to animals and children. 

Blackie barked once and happily followed the Slayer out of the cemetery.   They stopped outside Buffy's usual café of choice for a post-slaying snack, Buffy feeding the dog fries and bits of her burger as she sat on a dog bench with Blackie resting at her feet.

The dog ate as though it hadn't eaten in weeks, and Buffy was afraid that that may have actually been the case.  When she'd finished eating, she made her way towards the grocery store, Blackie walking faithfully at her side.  Even without a lead, the dog wouldn't wander too far away from her, and had been perfectly behaved, even around other dogs and their owners.  The other dogs had barked frantically at Blackie, but the large black dog had merely lifted its head and kept walking.

When they reached the store, Buffy worried about leaving the dog alone and not tied to anything.  She knelt down again and patted its head fondly.  "You're not gonna run off are ya?" she asked.

 Buffy could have sworn that the dog actually shook its head in comprehension.  She laughed slightly and straightened, turning to go into the store.  She stopped immediately though when she nearly ran into a very familiar face.

"Mom," Buffy whispered.

But Joyce Summers wasn't looking at her daughter.  She was seemingly transfixed by the large black dog following Buffy.

"Whose dog is that?" Joyce asked.

Buffy sighed in disgust.  "You haven't spoken to me in a week, and that's the first question you ask?" Buffy said, shaking her head in disappointment.

She began walking around her mother, but Joyce grabbed hold of her wrist.  Buffy could have easily shaken the woman off, but even in her hurt and anger, Buffy didn't want to cause her mom any harm.

"Buffy, please, answer me.  Whose dog is that?" Joyce asked again.

Buffy sighed.  "It's mine," she replied.  "He came up to us on the beach today.  He's been following me ever since.  Will said we could keep him at her place."

Joyce approached the dog, but Blackie growled in warning.  Buffy shifted worriedly.  So far the dog hadn't attacked anyone but vampires, and considering she could still feel the heat of her mother's hand that had touched her wrist, she was certain that her mother hadn't been turned. 

"Uh, you may not wanna get that close to him," Buffy warned.  "He's been pretty friendly to me, but.I don't know how tame he is."

Joyce crouched in front of the dog, trying to see its eyes better.  She gasped slightly in shock as soon as she got a proper look and stood up, taking several steps backwards.

"Sirius," Joyce whispered.

"What's serious?" Buffy asked.

Joyce turned to face her daughter, feeling the mixed emotions that she felt whenever he looked at the young woman that Buffy had become.  There was the familiar feeling of worry and love, but closer to the surface lately had been anger and betrayal.  The thought that Buffy had been lying to her for the last two or so years didn't sit too well with her, especially after the trouble that Joyce had gone to, to keep Buffy away from anything to do with magic.

"You can't keep that dog," Joyce said.

Buffy glared at her mom and shook her head.   "You can't tell me what I can and can't do anymore," Buffy replied.  "You don't want me in your house, and that's okay, y'know.  I know that I hurt you by lying, and I can't change that.  But you can't have it both ways.  You can't try and boss me around anymore."

"I'm not trying to.Buffy, there are things that you don't know.  Things that you wouldn't understand," Joyce said. 

Buffy rolled her eyes.  "I'm not a complete moron mom.  I know there's more to you not letting me back in the house than the whole lying issue.  I get that you can't handle the whole vampire/demon/werewolf/magic thing."

Joyce winced at the word magic.  It was something she'd been hoping to forget for years, but had never been able to.  It seemed that no matter how far she tried to run from her past, it would always catch up to her.

"Buffy, that dog is dangerous," Joyce tried again.  "You can't just let it into Willow's house."

Buffy rolled her eyes and walked into the store.  Joyce looked back at the dog who growled once more at her. 

"Stay away from her, Sirius Black," Joyce said softly.  "Or I'll kill you myself."

Joyce turned quickly and followed her daughter into the grocery store, locating her quickly near the frozen meats. 

"Buffy.will you just listen to me for a few minutes?" Joyce asked.

Buffy looked at her mother, torn between talking to her and walking away. 

"About what?" Buffy asked.

"Just.will you come back to the house with me?"

"Are you letting me back in?" Buffy asked.

Joyce hesitated and Buffy immediately had her answer.  She swallowed down the hurt that she felt and glared at her mother.

"If you're not letting me back in, then what do you want from me?  I've tried giving you time to deal with this, but you're making it really difficult," Buffy said.

"Buffy, there are things here that you don't know about. Things that.that need to be explained.  Things about.about your father," Joyce admitted.

"What's dad got to do with anything?" Buffy asked. 

"Just.just come back to the house and we can talk about this," Joyce pleaded.

Buffy sighed, knowing that she wouldn't win the argument.  She picked out a container of frozen chicken from the fridge and began walking towards the front registers, Joyce following after her.

"Fine," Buffy said, capitulating.  "I'll come back with you."

Buffy placed the food on the counter and reached into her pocket for her ever-present credit card.  She handed it to the cashier who looked at her and shook his head.

"You don't seriously expect me to charge you missie, do ya?" the man said.

Buffy laughed a little.  "You're going to have to start charging me sooner or later Mr Ferguson," she said.

"Not on your life, little angel," Mr Ferguson replied, winking at the girl.  "If I've told you once, I've told you a dozen times.I ain't gonna charge the lassie who saved my little girl, now am I?"

He bagged the food and handed it to her, Buffy leaning across the counter and kissing the man's cheek.  "You're a sweetheart," she commented.

The elderly man blushed and waved her off.  "Away with ya lassie," he said kindly.  "And stay outta trouble!"

"Me?  Trouble?" she joked.

Mr Ferguson laughed, and Buffy walked out of the store, her confused mother in tow.

"You know that man?" Joyce asked.

Buffy shrugged.  "You'd be surprised how many people I know," the Slayer replied.

She knelt down in front of the dog and patted its head.  "Hope you like chicken Blackie," Buffy said, running her fingers through the dog's thick fur.

Joyce paled.  "Blackie?"

Buffy just shrugged.  "It seemed kinda obvious."

Joyce cleared her throat uncomfortably.  "You're not bringing that dog back with you."

Buffy shrugged.  "Then I'm not coming back, simple as that.  You wanna talk, then Blackie and I are a package deal."

Joyce sighed and the trio began walking back towards Revello Drive.

Chapter 6 - Fighting

Buffy hesitated at the front door.  She hadn’t been back in the house since the morning she’d killed Angel.  And even then she’d only been in there for about ten minutes, grabbing what little she needed, including clothes, weapons and her stuffed pig Mr Gordo, before climbing back out the window.  She breathed in deeply and stepped across the threshold, the dog following closely at her heels. 

Joyce led them into the living room and Buffy sat down awkwardly.  Blackie came to sit directly in front of her, as though guarding the Slayer from whatever might have tried to attack or upset her.

Joyce gave the dog an angry look, but walked towards the locked cabinet.  Buffy had never looked in there, or really had the desire to, but now that her mom was looking through it, she couldn’t help but be curious.

Joyce pulled out a large box and placed it on the coffee table.  She cut the tape and opened the lid and began pulling out the first few items.  At the top was a black piece of material with a red and gold emblem embroidered into it.  Joyce placed it beside the box and continued to pull things out.  Books and loose pieces of old parchment, a feather and a pot of ink followed.  When Joyce had reached the bottom, she pulled out a large leather bound book with one word embossed in gold running down the spine.

‘Black’

“Buffy…before I met your father…well…I was married once before,” Joyce said quietly.

Whatever Buffy had been expecting, it hadn’t been that.  “What?”

“I married him when I was eighteen,” Joyce continued.  “We…separated when I was twenty-three.”

Buffy froze suddenly.  She knew her mother was only thirty-seven and that Joyce had had her at the young age of twenty.  But if Joyce had been married to another man when she’d been twenty that meant that Hank Summers wasn’t her father.

“Dad…he’s not…” Buffy trailed off.

Joyce sighed.  “No.  I wish he was,” Joyce said.

Blackie suddenly growled softly and Buffy absently petted the dog’s head, calming him.  Joyce stared at the dog, glaring at it, angry that her daughter didn’t seem to instinctively know that only badness could ever come from it.

“Who is he?” Buffy asked.

Joyce sighed.  There was only one way to explain who Sirius Black was.  And that was to admit to the truth about herself.  To who she had been before her husband’s betrayal.  To admit that she was no ordinary person.

“I grew up in England, just outside of London,” Joyce said.  “When I was eleven, I began at a boarding school called Hogwarts.  And that’s where I met your father.  We were in the same year and he was best friends with…with my brother.”

Buffy’s brow furrowed.  “Your brother?  You never told me you have a brother,” Buffy cried. 

Joyce’s eyes watered at the thought of her beloved brother James.  She hadn’t thought f him in so long, and hadn’t spoken of him in even longer.

“His name was James.  We…we were twins.  We did everything together and then…when we got into Hogwarts, we found new friends.  My best friend was Lily and his best friend was…” Joyce trailed off and looked to the dog.  Buffy completely missed the significance of the glance and kept her gaze on her mother, completely intrigued by the tale being woven.  “Anyway, Lily and James fell in love and I…”

“Fell in love with James’ best friend,” Buffy completed.

Joyce nodded.  “When we were sixteen there were problems at home for James’ best friend, and our parents took him in to live with us.  He and I got closer, and…we married at eighteen.  You were born two years later, and then…James and Lily had their son four years after that.  And a year later, they were killed.  Because he’d betrayed them.”

Buffy felt sick to the stomach.  “My father?  He betrayed his best friend?  Your brother?” Buffy asked quietly.

Joyce wiped away a fallen tear and nodded sadly.  “After that, he was sent to prison.  I was granted an annulment, and came to America.  I met Hank, and we were married when you were five and a half.”

“Five and a half?  Then how come I don’t remember it?  I should remember him if I was that old!” Buffy said.

Joyce hung her head and reached into the box again.  Her fingers touched on the cold wooden stick that felt so familiar to her fingertips.  She pulled it from the box and placed it gingerly on the table in front of her.

“The reason I reacted so badly to you being the Slayer wasn’t just because you’d lied to me.  It was because I’ve tried for thirteen years to keep you away from all that.  To keep you away from the supernatural,” Joyce admitted.

“But why?  What’s so wrong about it?” Buffy asked.

“Because I grew up to it,” Joyce explained.  “I grew up as a witch in a wizarding family within a completely magical community.  My husband and my brother were wizards, my best friend was a witch.  And when he defected and chose to betray us, I wanted nothing more to do with that world.”

Buffy was completely silent.  Her mother, a witch?  It seemed impossible. 

And yet, at least part of what Joyce was saying was ringing true.  The more the woman spoke of her past, the more her American accent seemed to drop.  She was begining to sound British, and Buffy wondered how it was that she’d been able to train herself to sound American for so long.

“After we left England, you kept asking me where your father was.  I never had the heart to tell you the truth, so…I modified your memory,” Joyce explained quietly, shamed that she was having to admit to this after so many years.  She had never wanted for Buffy to know the truth, but now that her ex-husband seemed to be back in the picture and trying to cause trouble, she had no other choice.  “After I met Hank, we married and I took his surname and gave it to you as well as giving you a new first name.”

“And what was I supposed to be called?” Buffy asked.

“Eliza Anne Black,” Joyce replied.  “Eliza after my mother Elizabeth, and Anne after my best friend, Lily Anne Evans.”

Buffy snorted slightly, a grin tugging at her lips.  “So what possessed you to pick Buffy then?”

Joyce laughed slightly, thankful for the break in tension. 

They quickly sobered and Buffy looked at her mother thoughtfully. 

“Why now?” Buffy asked.  “Why pick now to tell me all this?”

Joyce stared at the dog.   “Because of him.”

Again, this was the last thing that Buffy had expected her mother to say.  But Joyce reached for her wand again and pointed it at the dog. 

“Show yourself,” Joyce said.

Buffy looked between her mother and the stray dog that sat at her feet.  Just as she was about to ask her mother about her mental health, the dog suddenly twitched.  It was like watching a speeded-up film of a growing tree.  A head was shooting upwards, limbs were sprouting; next moment, a man was crouching where Blackie had been. 

The Slayer stared in shock and jumped to her feet.  The man in front of her had short and spiky black hair and was wearing what looked like a tattered black ankle length robe.  He had hazel green eyes that looked exactly like her own, and a look of desperation on his face as he stared at her, silently begging her for something.  But what he was asking for, Buffy didn’t know.

“Holy shit,” Buffy whispered eventually.

Both Joyce and Sirius scowled at the girl.  “Language,” they chastised simultaneously in exactly the same tone of voice.  They then turned to glare at each other and Buffy couldn’t help the small laugh that erupted from her mouth.

“You guys are definitely parents,” Buffy whispered.

“Eliza,” Sirius whispered.

Joyce stepped forward and pulled Buffy to stand behind her.  “Don’t talk to her,” she said harshly.  “I never wanted her to know about you, but…you had to come back and start causing trouble, didn’t you?”

“Joyce, I swear to you, I didn’t come to cause trouble,” Sirius said seriously.  “I…I came to see you.  Both of you.”

“You killed my brother Sirius.  I’d hoped never to see you again,” Joyce said.

“You don’t know what happened that day,” Sirius said.  “I never betrayed them, I promise you.”

“You were their secret keeper,” Joyce said.

“We switched.  Pettigrew and I switched at the last second.  We thought for sure that Voldemort would come after me instead of him.  But Peter ran straight to him.  He was the double-crosser.”

“There were fifty witnesses who say that you killed Peter and thirteen muggles,” Joyce said, though her voice was wavering.  Buffy was looking between them as they spoke, as though watching a tennis match.  “All they found of poor Peter was his finger.”

Sirius pushed his hands into his robe pockets and Joyce shifted uneasily, raising her wand to aim it at him again.  Sirius met her eyes and slowed his movements down.  He drew out a crumbled piece of newspaper and cautiously stepped towards Joyce, holding the paper out to her.  Joyce snatched it from him, wondering what was so important about it.

She glanced at the article, but found nothing of importance.  It was just about a family winning a trip to Egypt, and nothing all that important.

“And?” Joyce asked.

Sirius sighed.  “The picture Joi, look at the picture.”

Joyce had to fight to keep her heart in her chest.  It had been years since anyone had called her Joi, and the softly spoken name coming from someone she had once loved dearly was messing with her emotions.  She did as he’d asked and looked carefully at the picture.  Her eyes suddenly widened. 

“Wormtail,” she breathed.

Sirius nodded.  “He never died.  He was the one to kill the group of muggles.  He blasted off one of his fingers, transfigured into his animagus form and ran off into the sewers, leaving me to take the blame.”

Joyce felt her knees give way, and Buffy barely caught her before she hit the ground.  With Sirius’ help, they moved her to the couch, and Joyce was trying to control her breathing.

“You never betrayed James,” Joyce whispered.

Sirius knelt in front of her, holding onto one of her hands.  He shook his head, tears in his eyes.  “Never,” Sirius said vehemently.  “I would rather have died than betray him and Lily.”

Tears were streaming freely down Joyce’s cheeks, and the hatred she’d felt for the man in front of her slowly melted away.  Sirius wiped at the tears on Joyce’s cheeks with his thumbs, their foreheads touching.  Buffy watched, hopeful for something she didn’t quite understand, but knowing this was one love story that had a real chance of being happily ever after.  She could see the love that Sirius held for Joyce, and she could see how hurt Joyce had been by the thought that Sirius had turned evil.  And that was something that Buffy could definitely sympathise with.

She could understood the sudden feeling of joy of getting back a loved one after they’d gone to the darker places of the soul.  She could only hope that her mother had a happier ending than she and Angel had got.

Suddenly, Joyce flung her arms around Sirius neck and hugged him fiercely. 

“I love you,” she whispered, her voice clogged with emotion as she clung to him.  “I tried not to, but I never stopped.  God, I never stopped!”

Sirius kissed Joyce’s shoulder before drawing back slightly and pressing their lips together for a proper kiss.  Buffy grinned and wiped at the tears on her own cheeks, thankful that she’d seen the reunion between her mother and her real father.  It was a beautiful sight, and one that Buffy was glad to have in her memory.

Long moments later, Joyce and Sirius pulled back from each other, and Joyce grabbed hold of Buffy’s hand, tugging her down into the group hug.  He kissed the top of his daughter’s blonde head and breathed in the scent of vanilla and strawberries, committing it to memory.  Sirius closed his eyes and felt as though his heart was about to burst with the happiness he felt at finally being reunited with his family.

Chapter 7 - Greeting

When the trio finally stepped back, they all needed the use of tissues and handkerchiefs, wiping their eyes dry and sharing grins.  Joyce took hold of her daughter’s hand and pulled her in for a one-armed hug.

“So…this is your dad.  Only…really this time,” Joyce said.

Buffy smiled and grinned at Sirius who grinned back at her.  Sirius had a look of complete contentment on his face and Joyce felt her heart melt all over again at the sight of him.  He’d always been handsome, and even twelve years in Azkaban hadn’t taken that away from him.

“It’s so good to see you both again,” Sirius said.  “I never thought I’d get the chance.”

They sat down on the couch, Joyce sitting between Sirius and Buffy, each of them holding one of Joyce’s hands, and their own fingers grazing slightly. 

Buffy could feel the familiar tingling at the back of her neck, and for the first time, she felt complete in her family life.  She could feel the absolute adoration between Joyce and Sirius, and she wondered how she could ever have thought that Joyce and Hank truly loved each other.  They’d never been close, and Buffy could see why her mom had never allowed herself to love so completely ever again.

“How did you get out of Azkaban?  Did the Ministry find Peter?” Joyce asked.


Sirius’ eyes darkened considerably and he shook his head.  “I escaped,” he admitted.

Joyce gasped and she looked at her (ex) husband in shock.  “How?  It’s impossible to escape from there.”

Sirius shook his head.  “The Dementors take your happy memories from you, but…the memory that it wasn’t me that killed my best friends wasn’t a happy one.  It was just a memory, a fact that I could focus on.  And then when I saw this picture of Peter…well, I found a new focus.  And, when I was in animagus form, the Dementors weren’t anywhere near as effective.”

Buffy raised her hand slightly.  “Three questions: one, what’s Azkaban?  Two, what’s a Dementor, and three, what’s an animagus?”

“Azkaban is the wizarding prison.  A Dementor is the guard at the prison.  They’re a type of dark creature that feeds of people’s happiest memories.  If you’re in there for long enough, you’ll eventually forget who you are, why you’re there.  You’re just stuck with all of your unhappiest memories and no reason to survive.”

Buffy shuddered at the thought of them.  She had enough unhappy memories as it was without taking away all the happiest ones.  –Close your eyes-

“And an animagus,” Sirius continued, snapping Buffy away from her morbid thoughts, “is someone who can magically transfigure themselves into a type of animal.”

“Like that whole dog thing,” Buffy said.

Sirius nodded.  “Back in school, my friends called me Padfoot.”

“Cute,” Buffy commented.

Sirius smirked and looked back at his (ex) wife. 

“The boy in the picture is best friends with Harry,” Sirius commented. 

Joyce’s eyes lit up at the name.  “Oh god, Harry.  How is he?  Dumbledore said he wanted him to go to Lily’s side of the family?” Joyce had always felt somewhat guilty about not taking Harry with her when they’d fled England.  Dumbledore however had told them that she couldn’t.

“He’s living with the Dursley’s,” Sirius said, spitting out the name with disgust.  “Lily’s sister and her husband have been raising him.  And I use that term loosely.  They’re absolutely horrid.  The worst kind of muggles.”

“You guys are gonna hafta buy me a wizards dictionary or something, cos you’re just confusing me here,” Buffy complained.  “What’s a muggle?”

“A non-magical person,” Joyce explained.  “How I was trying to raise you.”

Buffy laughed a little.  “Fat lot of good it did,” she commented wryly.  “I guess I was meant to always be a little supernatural.”

Sirius nodded and stared at his petite daughter.  She’d inherited the slighter stature from Joyce’s side of the family for sure.  Most of the Potter’s had been slightly smaller than average.  Sirius had noticed that Harry was ever so slightly shorter than his friend Hermione.

“I can’t believe you’re the Slayer,” Sirius commented.  “When Dumbledore told me…I was blown away.  A Slayer…and on the hellmouth!”

Joyce looked at her daughter sharply.  “Hellmouth?”

Buffy winced and Sirius smiled apologetically.

“It’s a supernatural con-“

“Convergence of mystical energy,” Joyce finished for her.  “I know what they are, I just…I never realised we were on one.  Perhaps that’s why I felt drawn here.  Even when I was trying to get away from it all, I still ended up in the thick of it.”

Sirius hesitated for a moment before summoning his courage.  He hadn’t really considered what his plans would be after reuniting with his daughter, but now that he was back with his wife as well, it was an added bonus. The problem now was that he was needed in England.

“Joi…how would you feel about coming back to it?” Sirius asked cautiously.  “Being back in the wizarding world?  I have a feeling that they’re going to need all the help they can get soon.  Voldemort’s gaining power, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s completely restored in the next few years.  Dumbledore’s going to need help destroying him completely, and I believe that we can help.”

Joyce looked completely shocked by the request.  Buffy stared at her mother, trying to read the expressions on her face. The initial reaction had been one of curiousity, and then of worry.  When Joyce turned to look at her daughter, Buffy knew that the decision would rest with her.

The Slayer quickly thought over what her options would really be.  She didn’t want to hold her parents back.  She may not have understood anything about what Sirius had just said about Voldemort, but it sounded as though it was dire.  Not to mention the fact that she’d been expelled from Sunnydale High, and no doubt, Principal Snyder would never let her return.

But then there was the Slaying.  Granted, things had slowly been slowing down lately, after Angelus’ defeat, and Spike and Drusilla fleeing town.  But if she left Sunnydale, it would be completely unguarded except for the Scoobies. 

And then she remembered.  She was no longer the only Chosen One.  There would be another.  With Kendra’s death, another would be Called, and it would be possible for the new Slayer to look after the hellmouth.  As long as she could talk the Council in allowing her to relocate to England, which she didn’t think they would mind seeing as the Council was based in England, she knew her answer.

“Buffy?” Joyce asked.

The Slayer breathed in deeply and grinned at her parents.  “When do we leave?”

Sirius and Joyce grinned at each other and kissed once more.  After several seconds, Buffy couldn’t help but laugh at the sight of her parents happiness.  She coughed exaggeratedly and watched in amusement as they broke apart.

“One question…who or what is Voldemort?”

Chapter 8 - Helping

It took nearly two hours for the entire story of Voldemort’s uprise and consequent downfall to be explained. Buffy sat, completely enwrapped in the story that was being told.  She couldn’t help but cry for her murdered aunt and uncle even though she’d never met either of them.  The emotion that Sirius and Joyce were putting into the story made Buffy absolutely shocked and horrified by what had been done to those who weren’t considered to be purebloods.  When she heard about her poor younger cousin Harry, she couldn’t help but want to give him all the help she could. 

Sirius and Joyce made the decision to leave within the next five days, leaving Buffy enough time to sort out things with her friends and get Giles to contact the Council.  Buffy’s next problem was trying to explain to her closest friends and her Watcher where she was going and why she was going to leave.

“Wait…you’re mom’s actually a witch?” Xander continued to ask.

Buffy rolled her eyes.  “Yes.  And so am I.  Or I will be as soon as I’m actually taught to do magic.”

“And your dad is actually this wizard who was framed for murdering your mom’s twin brother?” Willow asked.

Buffy nodded.  “Yup.  Dad’s best friend married mom’s best friend, so they were all really close.  Then all this crap with evil wizard dude happened and it kinda split them all up.  Uncle James and Aunt Lily were killed, and dad got framed for murdering a whole stack of other people.”

“But…England?” Willow whimpered.  “That’s so far away.”

Buffy sighed and nodded.  “I know,” she whispered sadly.  “But…I know that mom really wants to go with Sirius…dad.  And…I wanna go with them.”

Willow nodded, completely understanding.  She couldn’t blame her best friend for wanting to leave with her family.  Especially after the trauma that had split the family up in the first place.

“You’ll keep in touch right?” Willow asked.

Buffy grinned, thankful that at least Willow understood that she was torn between leaving and staying.

“Every chance I get,” Buffy promised.

Buffy looked at her other friends.  Oz as always had a neutral expression on his face, but Willow, who knew him best, could tell that he wasn’t happy about the Slayer’s departure, but would ultimately support her.  Cordelia was trying to not look affected by it, but they all knew that the formerly snobbish girl would miss Buffy just as much as the rest of them.

The Slayer’s gaze landed on Xander, her other best friend next to Willow.  Xander sighed sadly, not happy about losing one of the best people he’d ever known.

“D’ya need help packing?” he asked.

Buffy grinned and hugged Xander fiercely, thankful for his silent approval.  Willow joined the two of them, and the three original Scoobies hugged tightly as Oz and Cordelia watched with small smiles at the obvious bond between the three of them.

Giles had been slightly harder to tell.  Buffy knew that Giles had given up a considerable amount to come to Sunnydale to be her Watcher, and it felt as though she was forcing him to make another life-altering decision.

“England you say?” Giles asked.

Buffy nodded.  “Mom and uh…Sirius, they’re leaving in four days.  And…I want to go with them.  And I’m kind of hoping that you could convince the Council to get the new Slayer to come here and take over on the hellmouth.”

Giles wasn’t quite sure what to say to his Slayer.  After he’d found out about Buffy’s real father, he’d known immediately that Buffy would wish to stay with her reunited family. 

“And I’m hoping that you’ll…that you would maybe…come with me,” Buffy said hesitantly. 

Giles looked up, completely shocked by the request.  Buffy was looking at him with a shy and hopeful expression on her face.  Giles suddenly smiled, and chuckled softly, feeling relieved, even though he hadn’t even been aware of the tension that had been in his body. 

“I suppose it’d be difficult to be a Watcher without a Slayer,” Giles said softly.

On impulse, Buffy flung her arms around her Watcher’s waist, hugging him tightly.  Giles was startled for a moment before he returned the hug with far less force, but the same amount of affection.

“We leave in three days.”

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

Four days later, and Buffy and her mother and Giles were packed and ready to go.  Buffy had been ‘helped’ by the Scoobies, who had mostly hindered rather than been of any real use, but Buffy hadn’t been complaining.  They’d been spending as much time together as possible, as well as getting to know Sirius.  Their questions about the magic world had been almost endless, and Willow especially had a particular thirst for knowledge in the magic department.

But, the days passed, and Sirius was itching to get back to England.

He’d received an owl from Dumbledore, telling him that his old family house had been charmed by the Headmaster himself with incredibly powerful magic.  It had been made invisible to the naked eye, and only anyone who knew for a fact that a Slayer, not just Buffy, but a Slayer lived there in residence, then it couldn’t be found.

Sirius couldn’t have been more thrilled.  Hopefully that would mean that no one would ever work out where he was staying if they never figured out the connection between he and Buffy.  And while it saddened him to know that she wouldn’t have his surname because he was still a wanted criminal, he knew that his daughter was slowly beginning to accept him.  She had yet to be able to call him ‘dad’ comfortably, but Sirius was willing to wait.

Joyce had dug up Sirius’s and her old wedding rings.  Sirius’s had been sent to her after he’d been sent to Azkaban Prison and Joyce had never had the heart to destroy it.  She’d hidden it away with her own and never taken them out again.  Now, both Sirius and Joyce were wearing their wedding bands, and had agreed to make it official when Sirius’s name had been officially cleared by the Ministry of Magic. 

Now that the four days had passed, Buffy, Joyce, Sirius and Giles were standing in the Summers living room, their belongings surrounding them as their friends looked on, torn between sadness and curiousity.

Buffy met her friend’s eyes and gave them one final smile.

“Ready?” Sirius asked.

Buffy breathed in deeply and nodded, looking towards her father.  She shouldered her duffle bag, grabbed her suitcase and left one hand free.  Joyce did the same, as did Sirius.  The animagus reached into his pocket and removed a handkerchief wrapped ring with the inscription ‘Black’ inside it.  He held the handkerchief in his flat palm.

“On the count of three,” Sirius instructed. 

Buffy Joyce and Giles nodded, and Sirius counted to three.  Within an instant the three Black’s and the Watcher disappeared from the Summers living room, leaving their friends and the Summers’ name behind them.

Chapter 9 - Interesting

Sirius looked around the familiar old house.  It was as dark as he remembered it, and as unwelcoming as well.  He hadn’t seen it since he’d left at sixteen.  He felt horribly uncomfortable there, until Joyce took hold of his hand and squeezed it gently.

“It’ll take some work, but…we’ll fix this place,” Joyce assured him.  “We’ll make it ours.”

Sirius smiled, liking the way Joyce had described it.  Theirs.  It sounded appealing.

They explored the dilapidated house, all of them jumping in front when a portrait of Sirius’ mother suddenly began yelling at them loudly.  “Filth!  Scum!  By-products of dirt and vileness!  How dare you befoul the house of my fathers-”

Sirius turned to look up at the portrait that was the exact likeness of his dead mother.  He couldn’t even bring himself to feel sorry for the fact that she’d died.

“Shut up, you horrible hag, shut UP!” he roared.

Sirius grabbed hold of the frame of the portrait and tugged with all of his strength.  It didn’t budge.  He pulled out his wand and aimed it at the portrait.  “Diffindo!”  Nothing happened.  “Reducto!” Again nothing.  “Evanesca!

Buffy stepped forward and got a good grip on the frame.

“It’s no use,” Sirius said sadly.  “It’s obviously charmed.”

Buffy wanted to try anyway.  She reached deep within herself and shifted into Slayer mode, calling on every ounce of strength within her soul.  She felt something familiar rise within her soul, and Sirius noticed Buffy’s eyes flash with pure steel and determination.  He took a step back, slightly startled by the change.  He’d seen her in battle the week before, but he’d never seen that look in her eyes before.

With a massive tug, Buffy ripped the portrait from the wall and cracked it in half, shredding the canvas.  Sirius looked at his daughter, his eyebrows raised, completely impressed.  Buffy grinned and the steel was gone from her eyes, replaced by a rather impish look that had been passed through the Potter line.

“Well…rather embarrassing to be shown up by a girl,” Sirius commented.  “But, because you’re my daughter, I’ll just stick to being impressed.”

Buffy grinned and Joyce just laughed.  Giles chuckled proudly and shook his head in amusement.

“So come on…let’s see what this place has to offer.”

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

Sirius had kept his word to Harry, and had written a letter to his godson, telling him about the good news concerning his daughter and his wife.  He’d barely contained the excitement he felt when writing the letter and sending it off by owl.  He was awaiting a reply, and knew that he would get one within a few days with any luck.

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

Two days into their stay at the Black Manor, Buffy approached her mother, slightly nervous about what she was about to request.  She knew that she had no real reason to be nervous, but she still wasn’t sure where she stood with her mother.  Only three days earlier, she hadn’t been allowed back in the house, and even though they seemed to be getting along quite well, there was still a tentativeness between them that was upsetting.

Joyce noticed her daughter standing shyly at the door, and her eyebrows furrowed.  In the last three years, Joyce had only ever seen that look on Buffy’s face three times.  First when Buffy had been asking questions about the divorce between Joyce and Hank.  Second when she’d been trying to apologise and explain about her reasons for burning down the gymnasium at Hemery High.  And third when Buffy had accidentally ‘killed’ Ted, the psychotic robot that Joyce had dated.

“Buffy, what’s wrong?” Joyce asked.

Buffy approached slowly and took a seat on her mother’s bed, thankful that Sirius was downstairs in the kitchen with Giles, comparing Defence techniques for different dark creatures.

“Mom…” Buffy trailed off.  She didn’t know how to approach the topic.  She finally sighed and decided to just jump in headfirst.  “I want my memories back.”

“Your memories?” Joyce asked.

“Of Sirius…dad.  From when I was younger,” Buffy explained.

Joyce looked slightly shocked.  She’d almost completely forgotten about that.  She smiled and reached out to touch a strand of her daughter’s hair, smoothing it behind Buffy’s ear.  Joyce nodded and stood up, moving to her dresser.  She reached for her wand and quickly remembered the appropriate spell for a modified memory. 

“Ready?” Joyce asked.  Buffy nodded and Joyce aimed her wand at her daughter who breathed in deeply and   “Cognisantia.”

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

Five days later, the house was looking somewhat presentable.  Sirius had dismissed the creepy house-elf Kreacher, but the aged elf had not wanted to leave the house.  It had died of a heart attack when Sirius had presented it an old t-shirt.  Sirius hadn’t been all that saddened by it, but had buried it in the yard, away from the house. 

Everything that Sirius didn’t want had been burnt in the fireplace, and everything else had been tided.  A large amount of cleaning had been done, and with magic from Joyce and Sirius, with Buffy watching curiously, they had managed to clean the master bedroom and Sirius’ old room for Buffy. 

Giles had found a large area that would be good for a new training room.  He’d spent most of his time trying to clean the room as well as find new equipment for his Slayer. 

The kitchen had been fairly easy and the bathrooms had taken a little longer.  It had, strangely enough, been a fun experience for them though.  They’d bonded over it, starting water fights in the kitchen and the bathroom, and having paint wars in Buffy’s bedroom.  The effect of the paint war however, had created a funky looking splashed effect on the roof of the bedroom.  Buffy had left it there as an artistic sort of effect.

The living room had been next, and when they’d managed to get rid of the doxies that had lived in the curtains, the four of them had collapsed onto the newly clean couch, Buffy’s head in Joyce’s lap, and her feet on Sirius’ knees.  Giles sat in a nearby chair, reading through one of the books from Sirius’ copious library.

Buffy sighed, knowing that there was something they hadn’t discussed.

“We’re gonna hafta find a school that’ll take me in,” Buffy groaned.  “And knowing my luck, no one’s gonna wanna accept a juvenile delinquent whose been kicked out of two schools.”

Joyce and Sirius shared a grin, which Buffy didn’t miss. 

“What?” she asked.  “What are you smiling about?”

“There is a school that will take you honey,” Joyce said.  “A very good school in fact.”

“Yeah?  Where?”

“Hogwarts,” Sirius replied proudly.  “Dumbledore said that if you came back with me here, he’d let you into Hogwarts.”

“Your old school?” Buffy asked, sitting up slightly with interest.  “What, and learn magic?”

Sirius nodded.  “You were always meant to have gone there,” he explained.

Joyce looked slightly guilty, but pushed past it.  They’d forgiven each other for the multitudes of mistakes they’d made and had begun to move on.

“But…what do I know about magic?” Buffy asked.

“Nothing,” Sirius replied.  “Which is exactly why you should go there.  You’re a pureblooded witch Eli…Buffy.” Sirius still had problems with calling his daughter by the strange nickname that Joyce had thought up for the girl.  “A Black and a Potter, you’ll be talented, no doubt.”

Buffy looked sceptical, but the idea was definitely intriguing.  It sounded interesting, that was for sure.

“And this Bumblebee guy doesn’t mind that I’ve set fire to one school and been expelled from another?” Buffy asked.

Sirius chuckled.  “Dumbledore, and no he doesn’t mind.  He knows that you are a Slayer.”

“Wow.  Cool.  Yeah, count me in.  I’d love to,” Buffy said.

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

Harry’s reply to Sirius’ letter came the next day.  Sirius read through it, Harry mostly sharing in Sirius’ excitement, and begging his godfather/uncle about when he could meet his newly found cousin.  But there was something that caught Sirius’ attention.

          A weird thing happened this morning though.  My scar hurt again.  Last time that happened was at Hogwarts.  But I don’t reckon he can be anywhere near me now, can he?  Do you know if curse scars sometimes hurt years afterwards?

Sirius frowned and Buffy sat down beside him.  “What’s wrong?”

“A letter from Harry.  His scar woke him up the other night.”

“His scar?  The one Voldemort gave him?” Buffy asked.

Sirius nodded.  “That’s not a good thing.  As far as I’m aware, his scar shouldn’t hurt him unless Voldemort’s close by, or thinking about doing him harm.”

Buffy shuddered at the thought.  She wondered what it was about her family that made people want to attack them.

“Which do you think it is?” Buffy asked worriedly.

“The second,” Sirius replied.  “Though I’d prefer if it was just because of a random twinge.”

“Poor kid,” Buffy commented.  “Doesn’t he ever catch a break?”

Sirius smiled at his daughter’s soft-heart before turning back to the letter.  The ps at the end made him chuckled. 

          If you want to contact me, I’ll be at my friend Ron Weasley’s for the rest of the summer.  His dad’s got us tickets for the Quidditch World Cup!  I asked Mr Weasley, and she said it’d be okay if Eliza and Aunt Joyce wanted to visit for a day or two.  I wish you could come as well, but the only Weasley who knows the truth is Ron. 

Sirius could almost see the excited grin on the boy’s face.  Yes, Harry was definitely James’s son.  They both had an affinity for Quidditch, and the same talent for it as well.

“How would you feel about meeting Harry?” Sirius asked.

Buffy’s face lit up.  She definitely wanted to meet her younger cousin.  He sounded like an interesting sort of person, and she knew that they already had a lot in common. 

“I’d love to.”

Chapter 10 - Joking

Buffy had thought that travelling by portkey had been uncomfortable, but as she shot out of a fireplace, feet first after voluntarily stepping into green flames, she knew that portkey was far less creepy.  She stood and dusted herself off, looking around the cluttered room.  She moved away from the fireplace just as her mother came rushing out as well.  Buffy helped her mom to her feet and continued her study of the room.

Sirius and Giles wee staying at the Black Manor, no doubt swapping embarrassing stories from Buffy’s early childhood, and from Buffy’s teenage years.

There were nine chairs at the far end of the room, surrounding a long wooden table.  In the sink, dishes were washing themselves and on one of the chairs, a hat was being knitted with floating needles.

“Nifty,” Buffy whispered.

“Is that visitors I hear,” a gentle voice said, making the group turn around to see who had spoken.  It was a rather plump lady with red hair and a kind face.  She suddenly smiled in recognition and moved towards Joyce, the two women hugging tightly.

“As I live and breath, it’s Joyce Potter,” Molly Weasley said in wonder.  “We wondered where you’d run off to.”

Joyce laughed slightly and gave a sheepish shrug.  “It’s wonderful to see you again Molly.”

Molly’s attention was caught by the blonde girl behind Joyce and she looked even more startled.  “Is this…little Eliza?”

Buffy grimaced at the word little, but allowed herself to be pulled into a hug by the woman.

“It’s just Buffy now,” the Slayer said. 

“Oh my dear, I haven’t seen you since you were four years old,” Molly commented.  “Oh, Harry will be so excited to meet you both!  He just got here today.”

“Where is he?” Buffy asked, nervous about meeting her cousin for the first time.

Molly nodded and pointed up the stairs.  There was a sudden bang from one of the upstairs rooms.  Joyce and Molly both jumped, but Buffy didn’t even flinch. 

“That’d be the twins,” Molly said despairingly.  “Don’t know what they’ve been up to all summer, making bangs and noises at strange hours of the day.  Always blowing things up.  Anyways, Harry will be upstairs in my son Ron’s room on the third landing.  You should go and surprise him dear.”

Buffy grinned and nodded.  She looked to her mom for permission, and Joyce nodded.  The Slayer quickly went up the stairs, taking them three at a time.  She made it to the second landing, but bumped into two people coming out of a room.  They stared at each other momentarily, the twins in complete shock.

“Hullo,” one of them finally greeted.

“Who are you?” the other asked.

“Buffy Summers,” she replied.  “I’m guessing you’d be the twins your mom was talking about.”

The two identical boys grinned and nodded.  “I’m Fred, the smart one,” one of them announced, sticking his hand out.

“I’m George, the cute one,” the other said, shaking Buffy’s hand.

Buffy laughed and knew instantly that these two would be an absolute riot to be around.

“Entirely chuffed to make your acquaintance,” Fred said.

“Not often you get Americans wandering through the Burrow,” George added.

Buffy looked at them curiously.  “The Burrow?” she repeated.

“This house,” they replied simultaneously.  “That’s it’s name,” Fred continued.

“A house with a name…well, when in Rome,” Buffy mused.

“Rome?” George repeated.  He looked to Fred in mock-confusion.  “Aren’t we in England anymore?”

“England?  I thought we just agreed we were in America,” Fred replied.

“Oh right.  Which state?”

“Hungary?”

“Starved,” George replied.

Buffy laughed, and the twins grinned at her. 

“So, seriously….and not to sound rude or anything, but…what are you doing here?” Fred asked.

“Visiting family,” Buffy replied enigmatically.

George reached forward and touched Buffy’s blonde hair, stepping forward to have a closer look. 

“Nope, it’s definitely blonde.  I’ve never heard of a blonde Weasley before,” George said.

“Your dad’s not an accountant is he?” Fred asked suspiciously, remembering their one cousin that no one ever spoke of.

Buffy giggled, remembering that Hank Summers was an accountant.  But he wasn’t her father.  She shook her head.  “He’s a wizard all right.”

“So, you’re not a Weasley, you can’t be a Granger if your dad’s a wizard…so that just leaves…” Fred trailed off. 

“You can’t be a Potter!” George exclaimed, catching on where his twin had left off.

“Sure I can,” Buffy replied.  “James Potter was my uncle.”

Fred and George stopped to look more closely at her.  They both suddenly moved into the exact same position, their fingers touching their chins in a thoughtful pose. 

“Hmmm…same nose as Harry,” Fred mused. 

“Must be a Potter family trait,” George continued.  “Different eyes though.”

“Similar height,” Fred added. 

“You won’t mind if we start calling you Tiny, will you?” George asked.

Buffy glared at him, but couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled over.  The twins grinned at each other again.

“C’mon,” George said.  “We’ll take you up to Ron’s room.  That’s probably where they’ll all be.”

Buffy followed them up another flight of stairs and they stopped on the third landing.  George dug into his pocket and dug out a sweet wrapped in plastic.  He handed it to Buffy.

“Here.  Kind of a welcome to the Weasley household,” he said.

Buffy looked between the twins, but they were obviously skilled in their poker faces, neither of them giving anything away. 

“No offence or anything, but I was taught not to take candy from strangers,” Buffy said.

“Think of it as a Roman custom,” Fred pushed. 

“Weren’t we in Hungary?” George asked.

“No, you Turkey,” Fred replied.

“I thought we were having chicken for dinner.”

“George, we can’t eat our guest for dinner, now matter how big of a chicken she is,” Fred said.

Buffy wasn’t one to back down from a dare, and being called chicken was the last straw.  She unwrapped the sweet and popped it in her mouth, both the twins watching closely.  They stood in silence for several seconds, the twins obviously expecting something to happen, but nothing did.  Fred turned to look at his twin.

“Are you sure you gave her the right one?” Fred asked.

George nodded and dug into his pocket for an identical sweet.  He handed it to Fred who unwrapped it and popped it in his own mouth.  The Weasley twins had no problems testing their own products, knowing that they couldn’t fool unsuspecting victims for all of them.

Buffy jumped slightly as Fred suddenly turned into a giant canary.  It took her a moment to connect the dots, and then she began laughing hysterically, fanning her reddening face with her hand.  George watched her, a grin on his face, transfixed by the giggling Buffy.

It took a minute for Fred’s feathers to moult and he reappeared looking entirely normal.

“Oh god that was classic,” Buffy still, still giggling.  “Where did you get those?”

“We made them,” Fred and George said proudly.  “Weasley’s Wizards Wheezes.”

“What I don’t get,” George said, “is why they didn’t affect you.”

Buffy shrugged, but somehow knew the answer was partially because she was a Slayer, and partially because she’d wished for nothing to happen.  Sirius had explained about how untrained witches and wizards often did magic just be wanting something desperately enough.  She somehow knew that if she had wanted the sweets to affect her, they would have.  But she hadn’t trusted the twins enough.  She knew though, just from that one practical joke, that the twins were trustworthy, but mischievous.  They would do nothing to harm others, they just liked to entertain other and themselves as well.

“Must have been a dud,” Buffy replied.

The twins shrugged, knowing that they’d often made some sweets that had been duds, and it was entirely possible. 

“So are you ready?” George asked, gesturing towards the closed door. 

Buffy shook off her laughter and breathed in deeply.  “As I’ll ever be.”

George nodded and opened the door to his younger brother’s room.  George and Fred went in first, and Buffy went in last, slightly hidden by the larger boys bodies.

“Don’t you knock?” came an irritated voice.

“We would have Ronniekins,” George began.

“But Harry has a visitor,” Fred finished.

Harry stood with interest and the twins parted.  Buffy stepped forward, smiling in a slightly nervous way.  Harry grinned widely and flung himself towards Buffy, hugging her tightly.  Buffy hugged him back and felt the tingling at the back of her neck that told her without a doubt that Harry was family.  Ron and Hermione looked on in shock and amusement.

Harry pulled back, slightly embarrassed that he’d just flung himself at a virtual stranger.

“You’re Eliza,” he said.

Buffy nodded.  “More or less,” Buffy replied.

The twins looked at her curiously.  “You said your name was Buffy,” Fred accused.

“It’s a nickname,” Buffy replied.

Harry was just grinning in disbelief.  “I can’t believe you’re here.  Siri…uhhh…I just didn’t think you’d come.”

“And miss out on meeting my little cousin?” Buffy asked, noticing Harry’s sudden non-mention of her father’s name.  She knew that none of the other Weasley’s besides Ron knew about Sirius’ innocence.  “Not a chance.”

“When did you get here?” Harry asked.

“Just now.  Fred and George have been uh…introducing themselves,” Buffy said.

Ron groaned and glared at his two brothers.  “You didn’t give her any sweets did you?” he asked.

The twins glanced at Buffy with incredibly innocent looks on their faces.  “Of course we didn’t!” they replied, sounding affronted.  

“Never accept anything from those two,” Harry warned.

Buffy grinned at the twins and winked at them.  “I kinda got that memo already.  I’m still not sure where the giant canary came from though.”

“Wasn’t it a Turkey?” Fred asked.

“You can’t still be Hungary,” George replied quickly.

Buffy was amazed by how quickly the twins played off each other.  They were lightening quick and never failed to dead-pan their jokes.  She wondered whether her mother had been as close to her twin brother as these two seemed to be to each other. She could understand why her mom would have been so devastated to think that her husband had betrayed James just from watching Fred and George interact.  She’d never had any real contact with a set of twins before, but it was definitely an experience to remember.

“What are you two talking about?” Hermione asked.

The twins just shrugged.  “The importance of naming houses,” George replied.

Everyone except Buffy and Fred looked at him in confusion.  Harry saw his cousin laughing and shook his head in wonder.

“You already understand the twins,” Harry commented.  “I can tell you’re going to be a little bit scary.”

“Just wait until you meet Lee,” Fred commented.  “It only gets worse.”

George suddenly felt his good cheer leave.  He knew that Buffy was American, but apart from that, he knew nothing else. Except for the fact that he was rapidly beginning to like her.

“Will you be going to Hogwarts?” he asked.

Buffy nodded.  “Yeah.  Sixth Year or something,” she replied.  “Kind of annoying, seeing as I’d only have one year to go until Graduation back home, but…eh.  The price of being expelled I suppose.”

All at once, Fred, George, Harry, Ron and Hermione exclaimed the same question.  “You were expelled?”  Each of them had put a different emphasis in different places within the sentence, though Fred and George sounded the same, and Harry and Ron had been fairly similar. 

“What for?” Harry asked curiously.

Buffy shrugged.  “Oh, nothing much.  Burnt down the gym, that sort of thing,” she said casually.  “Oh, and I was a ‘trouble maker’ at the next school as well, so…”

Fred and George were practically salivating at the thought of blowing up buildings.  They doubted they would be able to explode any of Hogwarts though. 

“Two schools?” Harry asked, laughing.  “You’d better keep away from Snape then.  If he finds out you’re half Potter, he’ll be trying to make it three schools.  He hated my dad.”

“Well, for that alone he deserves to be tormented,” Buffy dead-panned.  She turned to look at George.  “Any chance of getting him to eat one of those Canary Candies?”

“Canary Creams,” George corrected her.  “And I doubt Snape would ever accept anything off us.”

“Believe me, we’ve tried,” Fred said.

Harry was already liking his cousin.  He could tell that the twins were equally fascinated by her as well, and Harry could definitely see parts of Sirius in the girl.  From what he’d heard about Sirius when he’d been back at school, he’d been a joker and a trouble-maker, but very bright as well.  And from what he could tell about Eliza…or Buffy, whatever it was, she was definitely some of those things. 

For the rest of the afternoon, the six of them sat around in Ron’s room, laughing, talking, joking and getting to know each other, daring each other to try the Weasley’s Wizard’s Wheezes, and then cracking up in hysterics whenever they worked. Buffy tested her theory and learned that she had been right about the force of willpower.  She’d willed herself to want to be affected, and then willed herself to not be affected, and both times it had worked (or not worked as the case had been).  The twins wondered how Buffy had managed to get two duds, and George had noticed the enigmatic smile on her face.  He hadn’t asked though, but he made a note to himself to get around to it at a later stage.

Chapter 11 - Kissing

The Weasley’s, plus Hermione, Harry, Buffy and Joyce sat down at the suddenly extended dinner table, eating and drinking, joking with each other and studiously ignoring everything that Percy was saying.  In the middle of the table, Mrs Weasley was arguing with Bill about his earring, which seemed to be a recent acquisition.

“…with a horrible great fang on it, really Bill, what do they think at the bank?”

“Mum, no one at the bank gives a damn how I dress as long as I bring home plenty of treasure,” said Bill patiently.

“And your hair’s getting silly, dear,” Said Mrs Weasley, fingering her wand lovingly.  “I wish you’d let me give it a trim…don’t you agree Joyce?”

Joyce just laughed and shook her head.  “I’m not even going to try and get in the middle of that one,” Joyce replied.

Buffy shrugged.  “I kinda like it,” she admitted.  “Not many guys can pull off long hair, but…it really works.”

Bill grinned and winked at Buffy who smiled back.  George scowled and ran a hand through his own short hair, wondering what he’d look like with his red locks a little longer. 

There was suddenly a quiet pop as a slightly tubby man with balding hair suddenly appeared in the kitchen.  All eight Weasley’s greeted him simultaneously, Harry and Hermione joining in.  Arthur Weasley’s eyes lit up as he took in the almost-forgotten face seated beside his wife.

“Joyce Potter,” Arthur said as Joyce stood to hug the man in greeting.  “It’s been nearly fifteen years.  Oh, and young Eliza as well.  When Harry told me he wanted his aunt and his cousin to visit, I thought he was taking the mickey, but…here you stand.”

“It’s great to see you again Arthur,” Joyce replied, smiling widely.  “It’s been far too long.”

Arthur took a seat, squeezing in beside Percy and Bill. 

“Did you get them?” Ron asked excitedly.

Arthur nodded and quickly produced an envelope full of tickets of the Quidditch World Cup Match.  Bill quickly took them, looking at them closely.  He flicked through them, glad to see that all the seats were together.  And then he noticed something very odd. 

“Uh, dad…if mum’s not coming, why’d you get eleven tickets?” Bill asked.

Arthur’s brow furrowed in confusion.  “I didn’t.  There should only be ten.” He took them off his son and quickly counted them.  “Well, I’ll be…eleven.  Molly dear, are you sure you don’t want to come?”

Molly shook her head.  “It’s all a bit violent for me really.  Never been a fan of Quidditch,” she said.

Arthur turned to look at Joyce.  “What about you Joycie?” Arthur asked. 

Joyce shook her head as well.  She wasn’t sure why, but she couldn’t stand the thought of watching a Quidditch Game.  She’d never been to one where her brother wasn’t either playing or watching.  It would feel wrong, and she just couldn’t bring herself to do it.

“Eliza?” Arthur asked.

Buffy sighed and knew she’d need to get used to people calling her two different names.  Although as names went, Eliza wasn’t exactly terrible to get used to.

“Yeah sure,” Buffy replied.  George bit into his bread to hide his wide grin.  “Just one question though…what’s Quidditch?”

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

Buffy sat with George on her left and Harry on her right, completely enraptured by what was happening on front of her.  When everyone had explained what Quidditch was the night before, she’d never imagine it to be anything like what was happening before her eyes.  The players were flying at breakneck speed, fifty feet about the ground, throwing around a red ball as two other black balls tried to knock them off their brooms.

Buffy had never been a very big fan of sports, regardless of the fact that she’d been a cheerleader, but watching Quidditch was pumping her adrenaline as much as any patrol had ever done.  The atmosphere was phenomenal.  Mr Weasley had somehow procured top box seats, and Harry and his friends were attempting to ignore a flaxen-haired boy named Draco Malfoy and his parents. 

But apart from sharing the box with the snobbish trio and a strange looking house-elf (that thankfully hadn’t been as creepy as the now-deceased Kreacher) who was afraid of heights, the day had been spectacular. 

Fred and George had bet their entire savings, Buffy pitching in ten galleons from her own pocket to make the total bet forty-seven galleons, fifteen sickles and three knuts.  They’d bet that Ireland would win, but the Viktor Krum the Bulgarian Seeker would catch the snitch.  They’d agreed to split the money three-ways if they’d won.

And so far, it looked as though the twins guess would be right.  There was a sudden deafening groan from the entire crowd; Krum’s nose looked broken from a fast-paced bludger to the face.  Buffy winced in sympathy.  She’d had more than her fair share of broken bones over the years and knew that it had to be painful.

Harry and Ron were yelling for a time out, but the Irish Seeker suddenly shot his broom into a dive and Krum immediately followed.  The entire crowd got to their feet, leaning over the seats in front of them, clambering for a better look.  People were holding their breath as the two Seekers plummeted towards the ground.

“They’re going to crash!” Hermione shrieked.

“They’re not!” roared Ron.

“Lynch is!” yelled Harry.

Lynch hit the ground with a tremendous thud.  Charlie was yelling questioningly about the snitch and then the magically magnified voice of Ludo Bagman boomed through the stadium

“Ireland win!” shouted Bagman.  “Krum gets the snitch, but Ireland win!  Good lord, I don’t think any of us were expecting that!”

George and Fred were grinning madly, George throwing his arms around Buffy and jumping up and down excitedly.  Fred grabbed hold of them both and joined in the fun, no one thinking they were nuts, because many others in the stadium seemed to be jumping up and down as well.

The two Quidditch teams did laps of honour around the stadium, and the Irish team were presented with the World Cup.  The roars of the crowd were deafening for both the winning team, and the Bulgarian Seeker.  When the two teams retreated back into their change rooms, Bagman, who had been seated in the Top Box with the Weasley’s and co. unmagnified his voice and looked to George and Fred who had their hands out, ready to be paid for winning the bet they’d placed with Bagman.

“I owe you…how much?”

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

When they reached the tents where they were staying for the evening, none of them were even remotely tired, and Mr Weasley agreed to allow them to stay up for a final cup of hot coca.  They sat around the tent, arguing agreeably over the match, Harry and Ron often jumping to their feet and actively presenting a move they’d been impressed by.  It was only when Ginny fell asleep in the middle of the table and spilled hot coca all over the tent that Mr Weasley announced that they all needed to be in bed. 

Hermione, Ginny and Buffy went into the next tent, quickly changing into their pyjamas.  Buffy was just glad that the blankets were warm, seeing as she hadn’t realised that British Summers were still fairly cool, compared to the Californian Summer she’d just come from.  All she was in where a pair of short shorts and a singlet top that left a good inch of her stomach showing.

The Weasley boys and Harry clambered into their bunks attempting to sleep.  Nearly everyone had dozed off when suddenly the raucous yelling took a different turn.  It was no longer the yells of jubilation, they began to turn into cries of fear. 

The Weasley’s and co. were suddenly out of bed and out of their tents, and they could see people running away into the woods, fleeing something that was moving across the field towards them.  Loud jeering and drunken yells were drifting towards them, then came a burst of strong green light, which illuminated the scene. 

There was a group of wizards, all dressed in black robes with white masks marching below three people who were suspended in mid-air.  On the ground, tents were being blasted out of their path and burned as the group continued to laugh and cause havoc.

“That’s sick,” Ron muttered. 

Bill, Charlie and Percy emerged from the boys tent, fully dressed, their wands out.

“We’re going to help the Ministry,” Mr Weasley shouted over all the noise,  “You lot – get into the woods and stick together.  I’ll come fetch you when we’ve sorted this out!”

Fred grabbed Ginny’s hand as George grabbed Buffy’s hand, the twins leading the group towards the cover of the woods.  In the confusion of the green light suddenly going out, the group became separated, splitting into three.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were together, Fred and Ginny managed to stay with each other, and George and Buffy gripped each others hands tightly. 

Buffy wasn’t used to hiding amongst the trees while all the action was happening outside, but she knew that this wasn’t something she had the knowledge to deal with.  Everything inside of her was screaming to go and help the poor people who the black wizards were tormenting, but she didn’t know enough (or any) magic to help them.

George pulled them to a stop, the two of them hiding behind a tree, Buffy pressing her back against it as George stayed protectively in front of her, standing incredibly close to each other.

“Alright there?” George whispered.

Buffy nodded and swallowed hard, the adrenaline still running.  She was shivering slightly from the cold, having not grabbed a jacket when they’d been pulled out of bed earlier.  George seemed to notice the slight shaking of Buffy’s bare shoulders, and, after taking a moment to stare at the girl he had a crush on, he shrugged out of his Hogwarts cloak and placed it around Buffy’s shoulders, running his hands up and down Buffy’s arms to keep her warm.

“Thanks,” she whispered softly.

George just nodded and fought to keep his heartbeat at a regular pace.  Of course, after the run through the woods, and the fact that he was standing incredibly close to Buffy, it was making it slightly difficult.

The two of them fell silent, listening to each others breathing as they tried to gauge how far away the riot was.

George looked at Buffy, about to tell her that he thought that it would be safe to try and find the others, but he stopped suddenly, completely transfixed by the girl in front of him.  He swallowed hard and lifted his shaking hand to touch Buffy’s blonde hair for the second time in two days. 

He hesitated for a moment before slowly bringing his lips closer to hers, applying the gentlest pressure as their lips met in a soft kiss.  He drew back, looking into Buffy’s eyes seeking for her approval to repeat his actions, and something in them, a deep pained look made him stop.

“Should I not have…”

“It’s not that,” Buffy whispered.  “I like you.  Definite like, George…but…I – I can’t do this just yet.”

George nodded sadly.  “There’s someone else,” he guessed.

“Yeah,” Buffy replied sadly.  “Or…there was.  It’s just…he…things were complicated between he and I, and…we…it ended badly.  I’m not ready to…”

George nodded and pressed a gentle finger to Buffy’s lips, silencing her.  He already knew the rest.  “I get it,” he whispered.  “I can wait.”

Buffy nodded and rested her head against his shoulders, tears welling in her eyes.  George hugged her tightly unable to believe that someone he’d met only the day before could make him feel so much.

“Friends?” he whispered.

Buffy nodded and pulled her head away from his shoulder and gently kissed his cheek.  “That’d be really nice.”

George nodded, thankful for that small comfort.  He took hold of her hand, and they began walking carefully through the woods, back towards their tents.  George suddenly stopped.

“There is one thing you should probably know,” he said seriously.

“What?” Buffy asked worriedly.

“I’m Fred, not George,” he dead-panned.

Buffy’s jaw dropped, and she was about to begin sputtering out an excuse when George’s lips twitched into a grin.  Buffy glared at him and hit his stomach forcefully.

“That was not nice,” she said in mock-anger.

“Oh come on…we’re friends,” he reminded her.  “That’s what friends do…we tease each other.”

In the darkness, Buffy grinned, thankful that things seemed to be looking up for her year at Hogwarts, and that she hadn’t completely ruined things with a really great potential boyfriend just because she wasn’t quite ready to move on just yet. 

Beside the Slayer, George sighed, wishing that things had gone how he’d hoped they would, but he was just grateful that he hadn’t been completely rejected by her.  And perhaps in time, his girl would be ready to begin something with him. And until then, they would remain friends.

Chapter 12 - Learning

Buffy and Joyce spent another day after the Quidditch match at the Burrow with the Weasley’s until they decided they should spend what time they had left back with Sirius in Grimmauld Place.  Term would start in two days, and Buffy still needed to get all of her school things from Diagon Alley. 

“We’ll see you at the Station then,” George said, trying to sound as casual as possible.

Buffy nodded and hugged him hard before letting go and hugging Fred as well. 

“It’s definitely been an adventure,” she commented.

The twins grinned and Buffy threw her handful of powder into the fireplace and disappeared quickly.

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

Sirius had listened to his daughter’s excited stories about the Quidditch match, laughing with her and hanging onto every word she was telling him.  He was worried about the attack that had happened afterwards, and hoped that the Ministry would look into it fully.  He worried that the Ministry would be too easily corrupted by old money such as the Malfoy’s. 

He explained to Buffy about the way Hogwarts worked, especially the way that students were placed into different houses.  He explained about the Slytherins being the type to easily be corrupted by the pursuit of power, and how the Death-Eaters had predominately come out of the House with the sign of the serpent.  Sirius explained how any news about the Death-Eaters that came from the Slytherins could probably be trusted, though it needed to be taken with a grain of salt.  They enjoyed boasting about their actions, and would hyperbolise the truth of the events.  Buffy promised to relay any information she could discover if she happened to find anything out.

“What about my training?” Buffy asked curiously, looking at her Watcher.

Giles reached into his jacket pocket and removed a piece of folded up parchment, handing it to his Slayer.  Buffy took the proffered item and unfolded it, reading over the contents of the letter written with beautiful emerald green calligraphy.

“You’re going to be the assistant librarian?” Buffy asked with a grin.

Giles nodded, thankful that he’d been offered the position.  He’d been worried that he wouldn’t be able to be close to his Slayer for the year, but Albus Dumbledore had given him the perfect excuse to go to Hogwarts. 

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

The day before Buffy was due to catch the Hogwarts Express, Joyce took Buffy and Giles into Diagon Alley, the three of them accompanied by a large black dog on a lead.  Sirius had protested about the lead, but it had made sense for such a large dog to be leashed, rather than able to walk around freely.  It looked less suspicious.

And so, as Buffy and Giles stepped out of the back door of the Leaky Cauldron, and her mother withdrew her wand and tapped a certain brick three times, Buffy got her first glimpse of Diagon Alley.

“Wow,” Buffy whispered, incredibly impressed. 

They made their way down the street, stopping in all of the appropriate stores to get the items on the list that Buffy had been sent while she’d been away at the Weasley’s.  She purchased her books (Giles had opted to stay in Flourish and Blotts while the Black women continued their shopping), and her other supplies, such as ink and quills, parchment and a cauldron (“you realise how cliché this is right?” Buffy commented), and then the group headed into Madam Malkin’s.

After a quick measurement, Madam Malkin found the right size uniform for Buffy, who had wrinkled her nose, but not complained about it.  She was fitted for her school cloak, and half an hour later, they walked out of the store with several parcels in their arms.

Their last stop was at Ollivander’s.  Sirius opted to stay outside in the fresh air, knowing that inside was slightly musty.  Buffy stepped in, slightly nervous about getting her hands on a wand.  The only ‘magic’ she’d really done was willing herself to not be affected by the Weasley’s sweets.  Apart from that, she’d never even thought about doing magic before.

 

“Ahhh…young Eliza Black,” a quiet and creepy voice said as a short man emerged from the shadows.  “Yes, I wondered if we’d ever see you return to the magical community.”

Buffy swallowed hard, wondering how this man had known exactly who she was.  It was more than a little creepy.

Mr Ollivander wandered over to the shelves and began running his fingers across them, waiting for a wand to jump out at him.  He pulled out a box and handed the wand to Buffy who took it nervously.

“Twelve inches, with a core of dragon heartstring set in mahogany,” Ollivander said.  “Your father had something quite similar.  Now, give it a wave.”

Buffy nodded and cautiously waved the wand, but nothing happened.  Ollivander snatched it from her hand, shoving another wand at her. 

“Maple and phoenix feather.  Seven inches.  Quite whippy.  Try-”

She tried, but it was quickly snatched away from her, another replacing it just as quickly.

“Ebony and unicorn hair…eight and half inches.”

Again the wand was taken from her, and Ollivander continued to hand wands to the girl, trying to see which would choose her.

“Hmmm…tricky, tricky.  Of course, I had this problem with your cousin too, I recall,” Ollivander mused.  “Ended up with a wand that brothered an enemy.  Any enemies, my dear?”

Almost as though by magic, a single word slipped unbidden from Buffy’s lips.  “Angelus,” she whispered.

Ollivander stepped back, his eyes widening in shock.  He suddenly nodded and stepped onto a short ladder and pulled out another wand, handing it to her.  Red and gold sparks flew from the end of it, and Buffy felt as though the wand was simply an extension of herself.  Something that she was meant to have had for a long time.

“Made from the wood of the First Slayer’s favourite stake, and the blood of the vampire named Aurelius.  The two most powerful beings that ever opposed each other.  The blood remained forever on the wood of the stake that killed him, and it was passed through the generations until one of the Slayers was born into a wizarding family.  The Slayer made it into a wand, and a most powerful one at that,” Ollivander explained.  “I should have realised that you are the Slayer.”

Buffy just shrugged.  “I try not to advertise it,” she said.

Ollivander nodded.  “Of course, of course.  I shan’t say a word,” he assured her.  “Good luck at Hogwarts Miss Black.”

Buffy walked out of the store, tucking her wand into the back pocket of her jeans. 

“He’s as strange as I remembered him to be,” Joyce commented.

Buffy glared at her mother.  “A little warning might have been nice.”

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

The night before the she had to leave, Buffy sat in the living room with Joyce and Sirius, the three of them sharing stories about all kinds of different things.  Buffy had felt far more comfortable with Sirius after she’d had her memories from her early childhood restored, she actually felt connected to the man she had learned to call dad.

Sirius spoke about his days as part of the Marauders, and the antics he and his three friends had got up to.  Joyce spoke a little about her brother, and about her best friend, but found that she couldn’t talk about them for too long.

And Buffy spoke about some of the happenings of her Slaying life.  She told her parents about he loyalty of the Scoobies and about some of the less dangerous situations she’d been in.  Sirius and Joyce sat on the edge of their seats, listening to the detailed story that their daughter was giving them about vampires and demons, and one of her friends discovering he was a werewolf.  Joyce listened, shocked at some of the things she’d heard about.  She couldn’t believe that for two and a bit years, Buffy had been able to keep her life as a Slayer a secret from her. 

Or, more correctly, what Joyce couldn’t believe is that she’d never noticed.

//How many times have you washed blood out of my clothing and you still haven’t figured it out?!//

Her daughter had been right.  She’d been blind to the truth because she hadn’t wanted to see it.  She rationalised the blood away, and told herself that it was just stains from a sauce of some kind.  She explained her daughters multitude of shopping expenditures as just her teenage daughter trying to keep up with the fashions.  And now she was shamed to realise just how obvious Buffy’s double life truly was.  And she’d ignored it because she’d wanted her daughter to live a life away from magic.

The grandfather clock in the living room struck twelve and Buffy stood to her feet, knowing that she needed to sleep before the long train journey.  Sirius stopped her and dug something out of his pocket.  He took hold of Buffy’s hand and flattened the palm, dropping the item into her outstretched hand and closing her fingers around what he’d given her.

“What’s this?” Buffy asked, looking at the small silver ring on a silver chain.

“It’s a portkey,” Sirius replied.  “Only a Black can use it.  And since Dumbledore’s letting you attend school, but drop back in on weekends, we figured that it’d be easier.  I know you’re not a fan of Flooing, and, frankly it’d be too difficult to get Dumbledore to set up a secure line between Hogwarts and here.  So, Joyce and I made you this ring.  Whenever you put it on, you’ll portkey straight into your room.”

Buffy grinned and hugged her parents tightly.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

She undid the chain and clasped it around her neck, the cool metal of the ring resting against her skin. 

“Oh, and if you wanna bring someone around…your Watcher, your cousin, or…well, just anyone,” Joyce said with a sly smile that told Buffy that Joyce hadn’t missed the connection between Buffy and George Weasley, “then all they’d have to be doing is touching you.”

“And they’d better be careful of where they’re touching you,” Sirius growled.  “I’ll not have some boy groping at my daughter.”

Buffy just smirked and walked out of the room shaking her head.  Joyce hugged her (ex) husband tightly and stood on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear.

“You’re a little late for the sex-talk Sirius.”

Chapter 13 - Meeting

Buffy and Giles met up with the Weasley’s, Harry and Hermione at the platform, (nine-and-three-quarters, Buffy’s mind was still reeling, Giles was desperate to research how it worked,) and after Bill and Charlie being horribly annoying by dropping not-so-subtle hints about something at Hogwarts being about to change, the group got on the train.  They split into two compartments, Hermione, Harry, Ron and Ginny heading towards one compartment, while the twins, Buffy and Giles went to another, and were quickly joined by Lee Jordan, who made a show of bowing low over Buffy’s hand and kissing the back of it.  He didn’t miss the fact that it had annoyed George greatly, and he stored it away in his memory for later abuse.

The train trip took a little over six hours, and during the course of it, Buffy had been introduced to nearly every single Sixth-Year Gryffindor.  She wasn’t surprised by how popular Fred and George seemed to be, and had tried to memorise as many of the names as she could. 

Everyone was gossiping about the possible changes to Hogwarts, most of the students speculating that Snape had hopefully been fired, or the possibility of having a vampire as a Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.  Buffy had always started laughing whenever that possibility had been mentioned.

“D’ya think we’ll find someone to replace Wood?” Fred asked as they chomped their way through the shared goodies they’d purchased off the cart.

“Who’s Wood?” Buffy asked.

“Oliver,” Fred and George replied simultaneously.

“Gryffindor Quidditch captain,” Fred explained.

“Batty as a peanut,” George explained.

“Nutty as a bat,” Fred added.

“Sixteen sickles short of a galleon,” Lee piped in.

“But a top bloke,” the trio finally said in unison.

Buffy grinned, thoroughly amused by the three Gryffindor boys. 

“Cracking Keeper,” Fred said.  “He graduated last year.  Burst into tears when we won the Quidditch House Cup.”

George shook his head in sadness.  “It just hurts to see a grown man cry.”

Nearly half an hour from Hogwarts, Harry, Ron and Hermione came to visit the twins, Lee and Buffy, all of them dressed n their Hogwarts uniforms.  Hermione noticed the lack of school robes on the twins, Lee and Buffy and admonished them for it.  The four of them sighed and knew Hermione wouldn’t drop the matter until they were in their uniforms.  Harry, Ron and Hermione waited outside to give the others a bit of room to change.

Outside the train, thunder clapped and lightening flashed across the sky as the rain began pouring down heavily.

Fred, Lee and George had agreed to keep their backs turned while they all changed, though George was sneaking peaks in the reflection of the window at Buffy, trying not to be too obvious about it.  When they’d finished changing, Buffy grinned at him and George felt the tips of his ears go red.  He smiled back and Harry, Ron and Hermione re-entered the compartment.

“What house do you think you’ll be in?” Ron asked Buffy.

The Slayer shrugged slightly.  “Not sure.  As long as it’s not Slytherin, I don’t really care.  I wouldn’t mind being in Gryffindor though.”

“Best house there is,” George affirmed.

They chatted and laughed until they reached the Hogsmeade Station, all of them getting off the train, leaving their trunks behind to be brought up later on.  The group inched their way along the platform with the rest of the crowd.  One of Harry’s friends, Neville Longbottom joined them, and was quickly introduced to Buffy by George.

Before Harry forgot, he tugged at Buffy’s sleeve and whispered a question to her.  “What last name will you be using?”

“Summers,” she replied sadly.  Part of her wanted to use Black, but with Sirius still being a wanted fugitive, it would make things difficult.  “And the only people who know we’re cousins are the Weasley’s and Hermione.”

Harry nodded, sad that he wouldn’t be able to publicly acknowledge the fact that he had more family than everyone originally thought.  But, he loved his godfather/uncle, and there was no way he would begrudge the need for Sirius to stay in hiding.

Students began piling into the hundred or so carriages that were waiting to take them up to the school.  As they got closer, Buffy’s eyes widened in shock as she saw the creatures that were to pull the carriages.  They weren’t horses, though they did have the same vague shape of them.  They were completely fleshless, their black coats clinging to their skeletons, of which every bone was visible.  Their heads were dragonish, and their pupil-less eyes white and staring.  Wings sprouted from each side – vast leathery wings that looked as though they belonged to giant bats.  Giles stopped short and stared at the creatures as well.

“Good lord,” Giles whispered softly.

“What the hell are they?” Buffy asked quietly.

George looked at them in concern.  “What?  The carriages you mean?”

Buffy shook her head.  “The things pulling them,” she replied.

George looked towards the closest carriage, but as it had always been, the carriages were horseless.  “There’s nothing there.”

Neville Longbottom sidled up to her.  “Not everyone can see them,” he whispered shyly. 

“See what?” Fred asked loudly.

Neville went bright red as the group all looked at him questioningly.

“Th-thestrals,” Neville stuttered.

George, Fred, Lee, Ron and Hermione all gasped.  Buffy and Giles looked just as bewildered as Harry, and their looks of confusion were almost identical.

“What are they?  Why can’t I see them?” Harry asked.

“The only people who can see Thestrals are people who have seen death,” Hermione explained quietly.

Everyone’s attention suddenly flicked to Neville, then to Buffy and Giles, back to Neville, then back to Buffy and Giles.  The three of them squirmed with the attention and Buffy was feeling highly uncomfortable.  People who have seen death, Buffy mused, what about people who have delivered death?

The group was suddenly covered by an awkward silence.  They were all wanting to know who Buffy, Giles and Neville had seen die, but no one was quite brave enough to ask.  They didn’t even notice that they were standing in the pouring rain, becoming more and more soaked.

They were suddenly jostled by nearby students, and the eight of them split into two groups and clambered into the carriages.  There was silence in both carriages as they all considered what they’d just been told. 

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

Inside the Great Hall, which Buffy was incredibly impressed by, it was considerably drier, but definitely loud as students yelled out greetings to each other and clambered to get into their seats.  Giles was seated beside Madam Pince, the two of them speaking excitedly about books and ancient languages, both of them engrossed in the conversation.

The students and teachers had been dried off magically by one of the Professors, and were just waiting for the Sorting Ceremony to begin.  Buffy was sitting between George and Harry again, not entirely certain about where she was meant to be.  It was cleared up for her a moment later when Professor McGonagall came and introduced herself to Buffy and took her to wait with the First Years so that Buffy could be sorted into a House.

She waited nervously, bouncing up and down on the spot, listening to the excited gossip of a bunch of eleven-year-olds.  They were let into the Great Hall, and Buffy looked quickly to the Gryffindor Table, Harry, Hermione, Ron, Lee, Neville and the Weasley twins giving her encouraging grins. 

Professor McGonagall placed a three-legged stool in the centre of the raised dais, and on top of the stool, she placed a battered looking hat.  The hall fell silent and the Hat began to sing.

Buffy listened in shock, grinning widely.  She hadn’t been expecting anything like that, and she just listened to the Hat explain about the different houses, and what qualities each house seemed to value. 

“Now slip me snug above your ears,

I’ve never yet been wrong,

I’ll have a look inside your mind

And tell you where you belong!”

The Hall rang with applause, and then the Sorting began.  One by one, the First Years were called up, and the Hat was placed on their heads.  The Hat would then call out the name of one of the Houses, and the student would go and join that house. 

When McGonagall went passed the B section of the alphabet, Buffy breathed a sigh of relief, worried that Professor Dumbledore hadn’t known that she wouldn’t be using her father’s surname until it’d been cleared.

When McGonagall hit the P’s however, Buffy was shocked to hear her name called out.  “Potter-Summers, Eliza.” It took her a moment to work out that was her, but she approached the stool and sat down.  The entire Hall had gone silent at the first half of her last names, and were watching intently.

The Hat was placed on her head and Buffy forced herself to relax, using the meditation techniques that Giles and Merrick had taught to her over the course of her training as a Slayer.

“Another Black eh,” a small voice whispered in her ear.  “Plenty of courage…a Slayer to boot…not had one of those in a long while.  There’s talent, courage, loyalty.  Now, where to put you?”

“Gryffindor,” she muttered under her breath.

“Hmmm, you’d do so well in Slytherin though.  The last Slayer was in Slytherin.”

“Not Slytherin,” she insisted.

“If you’re sure,” it whispered.  “Better be – GRYFFINDOR!”

Buffy sighed in relief and grinned as she saw that the twins, plus Harry, Hermione, Ron, Lee and Neville were all on their feet, giving her a standing ovation.  She quickly took the hat off her head and walked towards them, taking her seat between George and Harry once more.

“Knew you could do it cuz,” Harry muttered.

Buffy grinned and laughed slightly when George winked at her.  The Sorting finished and the tables were suddenly magically filled with food.  No one wasted any time in digging in, talking around mouthfuls of food and exchanging stories about their summer vacations.  Most of the talk was about the World Cup Match, and discussing whom their newest Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor would be, seeing as there was a vacancy at the table.  When Hermione discovered from Nearly-Headless Nick that the food at Hogwarts had been prepared by house-elves, she refused to eat another bite. 

She was still appalled with the way house-elves were treated.  Ever since she’d seen Barty Crouch dismiss Winky his house-elf, she’d been researching the treatment of the house-elves.  To find out that Hogwarts had over one hundred of them was something of a shock, and Hermione was too disgusted to allow herself to eat and take part in the abuse of the elves. 

Dumbledore began his speech, making a note about the Forbidden Forest, and about a few newly added items that had been banned. 

“Reckon any of our stuff will ever be on that list?” Fred whispered to his twin.

George just smirked.  “We can hope.”

“It is also my painful duty to inform you that the inter-house Quidditch Cup will not take place this year,” Dumbledore announced.

“What?!”  Harry wasn’t the only one to yelp out the astonished question.  Fred and George were gaping like fish, and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team were silently mouthing their outrage.

“I have great pleasure in announcing that this year at Hogwarts -”

He was interrupted by a deafening rumble of thunder, and the doors to the Great Hall banged open.  A man stood in the doorway, leaning upon a staff, shrouded in a black travelling cloak.  Every head in the Great Hall swivelled towards the stranger, suddenly brightly illuminated by a fork of lightening that flashed across the ceiling.

“Now that’s an entrance,” Buffy muttered, George and Fred nodding their agreement.

“May I introduce our new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Moody,” Dumbledore said brightly.  He cleared his throat a moment later and continued with his speech.  “As I was saying, we are to have the honour of hosting a very exciting event over the coming months, an event which has not been held for over a century.  It is my very great pleasure to inform you that the Triwizard Tournament will be taking place at Hogwarts this year.”

“You’re JOKING!” Fred yelled loudly.

The tension that had filled the Hall ever since Moody’s arrival suddenly broke.  Nearly everyone laughed, and Dumbledore chuckled appreciatively.

“I am not joking, Mr Weasley, though now you mention it, I did hear an excellent one over the summer about a troll, a hag and a leprechaun who all go into a bar-”

Professor McGonagall cleared her throat loudly and Dumbledore got back on track.  Buffy leaned across to whisper in her cousin’s ear.

“Is this guy for real?” she muttered.

Harry grinned and laughed.  “He’s nuts.  He’s a genius though!”

Buffy just shrugged and continued listening to Dumbledore explain about what the Triwizard Tournament was.  Fred, George and Lee were all on the edge of their seats, hanging on his every word, speculatively whispering about entering the Tournament.  When the prize money of a thousand galleons was announced, everyone seemed to be talking at once. 

Dumbledore held up a hand, and the Hall quietened down again.  Buffy was incredibly impressed by the control that Dumbledore had over the students.  Principal Snyder had never had that kind of respect, and Buffy could tell that nearly the entire student body respected and liked the Headmaster of Hogwarts School.

“Eager though I know all of you will be to bring the Triwizard Cup to Hogwarts, the Heads of the participating schools, along with the Ministry of Magic, have agreed to impose an age restriction on contenders this year.  Only students who are of age – that is to say, seventeen years or older – will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration.” Nearly half the Hall was vocally expressing their outrage at this.  It eliminated First through Fifth Years, and half of the Sixth Years as well. 

Dumbledore continued over the noise of the students.  “I therefore beg you not to waste your time submitting yourself if you are under seventeen.”  After this, most people drowned out the rest of his speech.  When Dumbledore dismissed them, announcing it was bedtime, the Hall became once more filled with noise as conversations burst out and chairs scraped across the floor.

“They can’t do that!” George said angrily.  “We’re seventeen in April, why can’t we have a shot?”

“They’re not stopping me from entering,” Fred said stubbornly, scowling back at the Professors table.

They continued out of the Hall and up the large marble staircase in the Entrance Hall, still talking about ways to enter the competition.  Fred was suggesting an Aging Potion, and the others were still throwing around ideas of what to do with the prize money.

“Miss Potter-Summers,” a voice said softly.  The group stopped and turned to face Professor McGonagall who had Angelina Johnson in tow.

“It’s just Summers,” Buffy said, slightly self-conscious, which was unusual for her. 

McGonagall nodded and stopped in front of the group.

“Congratulations on your place within Gryffindor,” McGonagall said.  “Your parents were both Gryffindors.  Joyce was a lovely girl.”

Buffy bit her tongue, wanting to defend her father, but that would let the Professor know that she had seen him, when he was meant to be a wanted fugitive.

“Thanks,” Buffy murmured.

“This is Angelina Johnson,” McGonagall said, gesturing towards the Gryffindor Chaser beside her.  “You’ll be staying in the dormitories with the other Sixth-Year girls, and Angelina has volunteered to show you around.  I look forward to seeing you in class.”

Without another word, and without waiting for a reply, McGonagall turned and left.  Angelina stepped forward, grinning at her fellow Gryffindors.

“No need for introductions then,” Angelina said brightly.  “Good…I’m not fond of that awkward stilled getting-to-know-you period.”

Buffy grinned, already liking the girl.  She held her hand out and Angelina shook it.  “Buffy Summers,” she introduced herself.

“Angelina Johnson, but I think McGonagall might have mentioned that one,” Angelina said.  “So…tell me something…what on earth possessed you to hang out with this lot?”

For a moment, Buffy was convinced that Angelina was being serious.  She was transported back to her Hemery days when her friends had merely been followers, rather than the real deal.  A moment later, Angelina was being swept up into a hug by Fred Weasley, who loudly and dramatically pressed a smacking kiss to Angelina’s cheek.  The girl blushed bright red, and the group continued up the stairs.

Chapter 14 - Nothing

Buffy was introduced to two other Sixth Year Gryffindors, Alicia Spinnet and Katie Bell.  Buffy found out that Angelina, Alicia and Katie were all on the Gryffindor team as Chasers, and as such, the room was covered in brooms, servicing kits, Quidditch books and parts of the Quidditch uniform.  All three of them were tremendously upset that the House Cup had been cancelled, but Katie and Angelina, who were both seventeen, were seriously considering entering the Tournament.

“How old are you Buffy?” Alicia asked curiously.

“Seventeen,” she replied.

Angelina and Katie both pounced on her.  She’d been fairly quiet when the other two had been talking about putting their names forward.

“Are you going to enter?” Angelina asked.

Buffy just shrugged.  Dumbledore had made good points about why the younger students shouldn’t apply for the Tournament.  They wouldn’t have learned enough, and seeing as Buffy had barely mastered a basic levitation charm, she doubted that she could enter the competition and actually hope to contend.

“I doubt it,” she replied.  “That whole, risk of death thing kinda makes me wanna turn it down.”

“No way!  You look like the kind of girl who’d never turn away from danger,” Katie commented.

Buffy’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion.   “How can you tell that?”

Katie shrugged.  “It’s just…you have this look in your eyes.  Like nothing could scare you away.”  At Buffy’s raised eyebrows, Katie just shrugged modestly.  “I can read people.”

Buffy was seriously impressed that Katie could tell that just from looking at her.  And, yes, in some things Buffy was fearless.  But it seemed somewhat stupid and pointless to actually put her name forward in a Tournament that could get her killed because she didn’t know enough magic.

“Alright, so maybe that’s not my real excuse,” Buffy admitted.

“Then why?” Alicia asked.

Buffy sighed.  “Because I don’t know any magic.”

The three girls gaped at her in shock.  “What?!” they gasped in unison.  “Why not?!”

“I was brought up muggle,” she replied.  “I didn’t even know about this wizard stuff until about two weeks ago.”

Angelina, Katie and Alicia all exchanged a glance, grinning at one another and then turning to look at their newest friend.  Buffy suddenly found her earlier thoughts about being fearless completely untrue.  The looks in their eyes were scaring her.

“What?” she asked suspiciously.

“You don’t know magic,” Angelina stated.  “We’re going to teach you.”

“Uh, isn’t that what the Professors are for?” Buffy asked.

The three girls just laughed.  “Oh, they’ll teach you things alright.  But…we’re going to teach you the things you’ll really need to know.”

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

By two in the morning, Buffy had mastered the art of performing glamour spells and the very helpful spells that would nix the need to actually put in the effort to get changed.  Katie, Alicia and Angelina had taught her spells to get her hair into different styles, spells to help cover zits (the girls were jealous that Buffy didn’t have any), and spells that would instantly manicure or pedicure depending on where you aimed your wand.

Sometime around midnight, they’d lost their focus, and the magic lesson had turned into a female bonding session.  They laughed and joked about the boys they had crushes on (Angelina on Fred, Buffy on George, Alicia on Lee and Katie on a Sixth-Year Hufflepuff by the name of Cedric Diggory). 

When they drifted off to sleep, they’d all moved their pillows and blankets, and conjured up smaller mattresses, the girls sleeping in the middle of the room closer to the fireplace, gossiping until they slowly dropped off to sleep, one-by-one.  Buffy’s last thought as she drifted off into unconsciousness was that things looked to be turning out alright at Hogwarts after all.

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

The girls, tired though they were, donned their uniforms and stumbled down to the Great Hall for breakfast.  The toast, bacon, eggs and coffee seemed to waken them a little, and when the Sixth Year boys came into the Great Hall and took their seats, rubbing at their bleary eyes, the girls all grinned at each other and giggled, remembering the gossip session from the night before.

“What did you four get up to last night?” Fred asked.

The girls just grinned at each other.  “Nothing,” they replied in completely innocent voices.

George, Fred and Lee all looked at each other horrified.

“They’ve been gossiping,” Fred said in horror.

“They’re giggling,” Lee pointed out.

“They’ll start pointing at us and laughing at our manliness,” George continued. 

The three boys stood up simultaneously, but each of them had their wrists grabbed, and were pulled back into their seats.

“Calm paranoid boy,” Buffy said to George.  “Nothing bad was said.”

George raised a curious eyebrow and tilted his head to the side.  “But things were said?” he asked, oddly pleased by the thought. 

Buffy blushed slightly and floundered for something to say.  She was saved from answering by Ron, Hermione and Harry plonking themselves down on her other side, Harry stealing a piece of toast from her plate.

“Hey!” she cried.  “Get your own!”

“Oh come on, I’ve never been able to get away with annoying my cousin before,” Harry said.  “You wouldn’t want me to miss out on an important part of a family bonding event, would you?”

Buffy glared at him, but rolled her eyes in defeat.  “I blame this on the Weasley’s,” the Slayer announced. 

“Us?” George asked in an innocent tone that fooled no one.  “How could he have got something so wretched like stealing from us?  We’re the perfect family-”

“Of trouble-makers,” Fred finished for him.

Harry began filling his own plate, piling it up with toast and bacon and eggs.  He began eating, but was constantly having to stop his fork midway to the plate as Buffy began picking at his food.  He tolerated it until she stole his last piece of bacon.

“Would you get your own?” he asked impatiently.

Buffy grinned and the Weasley twins cackled with laughter.

“It’s an important family bonding experience Harry,” Buffy replied seriously.

Harry threw down his fork in mock-anger.  “Fine, you win.  I won’t steal your food again, okay?”

Buffy nicked another quarter piece of toast and popped it into her mouth.  “Okay.”

From somewhere deep within the castle, a bell rang, the sound of it echoing through the entire school, the students all groaning and standing up from their breakfast.

“What’ve you got first?” Ron asked the twins.

“DADA,” George replied.  “With Moody.  You?”

“Herbology,” Ron replied.  “Then Care of Magical Creatures with the Slytherins.”

“The Professors make you take care of the Slytherins?” Buffy asked.

The twins grinned at each other, grateful that their newest friend seemed to be quick with the wit as well.

“They have to be taken care of,” Fred said.

“They’ll die without the proper tender, loving, care from the Gryffindors,” George continued.  “Without us kicking them-”

“And spitting on them-”

“Hexing them-”

“Cursing them to the fiery pits of hell-”

“They’d be lost,” the twins finished together.

The group laughed at the twins antics, Ron and Harry especially, who the Slytherin ‘Prince’ seemed to enjoy tormenting. 

“They can’t all be that bad, can they?” Buffy asked.

George’s eyes darkened.  “You’d be surprised,” he replied.  “Never met a single one of them who was actually half-way decent.”

“Malfoy especially,” Ron complained. 

“Malfoy?  That was the blonde kid up in the top-box with us at Quidditch right?” Buffy asked.  “The one who looked like he’d been playing with a box of peroxide and accidentally spilt it over his head.”

Hermione and Harry snickered, the Weasley’s and Lee not really getting it.

“His father’s a Death-Eater,” Harry whispered.  “Most of the Slytherins parents are.  They think that being anything less than pureblood is a disgrace to the wizarding world.”

Buffy noticed Draco Malfoy walk past them, glaring at the entire group with nothing but disdain on his face.

“So, how many house points would I lose if I flushed Malfoy’s head down a toilet?” Buffy dead-panned.

Hermione looked torn between amusement and outrage, but the others all just laughed in appreciation at the mental picture that Buffy’s suggestion conjured. 

“I think you’d be forgiven for it,” Ron said through his laughter.

Harry checked his watch, and grabbed Ron and Hermione, heading towards the Greenhouses for Herbology.  Fred, Lee, Angelina, Alicia, Katie, George and Buffy all headed up the stairs towards the DADA classroom, taking their seats, Lee and Fred sitting next to each other and Buffy sitting with George.

Moody came clunking down the hallway, closing the door with a bang before instructing them to put their books away. 

 

“Straight into it.  Curses.  A wizard who’s about to put an illegal curse on you isn’t going to tell you what he’s about to do.  He’s not going to do it nice and polite to your face.  You need to be prepared.  You need to be alert and watchful,” Moody said.

Buffy straightened slightly in her seat.  The Professor actually sounded as though he knew what he was talking about.  He sounded like someone who knew what the real world was like.  And if he sounded slightly paranoid to the others, then they had never had to face what went bump in the night.

The three illegal curses were then explained, mostly by the students, the Imperius Curse, the Cruciatus Curse and the Killing Curse.  Moody demonstrated it on a spider, and Buffy couldn’t help but wince in sympathy as Moody tortured and killed it.  What sickened Buffy even more was that this had happened to people.  Complete control over their mind, torture worse than knives and chainsaws, and an instant death from a flash of green light.  That was how Voldemort had killed people.  And it was sickening.

“CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” Moody roared, making the entire class jump.

Someone in the back giggled slightly and Moody turned his magical eye to look at them in contempt.  “Think it’s funny do you?”

It was a Slytherin girl with an unpleasant face and an upturned nose.  Half of the class swivelled around to look at her.

“Well, it’s not as though we’re about to get attacked here are we?” the girl asked, turning a bright shade of red at all the attention, her voice a little shaky.  “It’s Hogwarts.  We’re safe.”

Buffy snorted slightly.  That was her first thoughts about Sunnydale as well.  How could a place with such an innocent name be so filled by demons.

Moody heard Buffy’s snort of disbelief and turned his attention to her.

“Got something to say Potter?” Moody asked.

“It’s Summers, or Potter-Summers if you really wanna keep the Potter in there,” Buffy replied.

Moody looked slightly impressed that Buffy had neither gone red with the attention, nor backed down.  She’d even corrected him, something that he suspected wouldn’t happen very often.

“Summers then,” he complied.  “You don’t think Hogwarts is safe?”

“No one’s safe.  Not here, not ever,” Buffy replied.

Again, Moody looked impressed. 

“Why do you think that?” he asked.

Buffy laughed again and shook her head.

“What’s funny?” he growled.

“Nothing sir, it’s just…I was always taught that it’s never ‘what do you think’.  It’s always ‘what do you know’.  Cos you gotta know.  You can’t think too much.  Reacting is better,” she explained.

“Why’s that?” Moody asked, incredibly intrigued.

“It could mean the difference between staying alive and that other thing,” Buffy replied.  “If you don’t, if you make just one mistake…”  She trailed off and the class was silent, hanging on her words.

George was looking at her in shock, wondering where Buffy’s explanation had come from.  He knew that there was more to Buffy than she was letting on, but he couldn’t for the life of him figure out what it was.  She’d been able to see the Thestrals which could only be seen by people who’d seen death, and she’d spoken knowledgeably about being in a battle.  He was definitely intrigued by it all, and he knew that the mystery surrounding her was only making him that much more interested in her past.

Katie Bell was looking proud of her previous nights insight to Buffy, and knew that she’d been right about the blonde girl.  There was something hidden inside Buffy, some strength that was subtly obvious.

“Miss Summers is onto something here class,” Moody said.  “You can’t just learn this stuff by rote.  You need to know it.  You need to prepare yourself against it.  You need arming.  But most of all, you need to practise constant, never-ending vigilance.”

They spent the rest of the class taking down notes on the Unforgivable Curses, even Fred and George were oddly silent for once during a lesson, completely captivated by what they were being taught.  As the bell ended, everyone packed their belongings away and moved towards the door.

“Summers, I want to see you in my office after dinner,” Moody said before Buffy could leave.

Buffy winced and nodded, hoping that she hadn’t just got herself into a boat-load of trouble.

George and Fred flanked her as they walked down the hallway towards lunch.

“In trouble already,” Fred said approvingly.  “I think you’ll fit in just fine.”

“She’s not in trouble you git,” Katie defended her new friend.  “I think Professor Moody was impressed.”

“Hmmm, just what I wanted.  I swear, if that guy had a parrot on his shoulder he’d be a shoe-in for Captain Hook,” Buffy murmured.

“Who’s that?” George asked curiously.

Buffy rolled her eyes, wondering if any of her jokes would ever be appreciated around the witches and wizards of Hogwarts. 

“Muggle thing,” she replied.

They reached the Great Hall and sat down with Harry and Ron, saying goodbye to a departing Hermione.

“Moody!”  Fred said as he took his seat.  “How cool is he?”

“Beyond cool,” George replied.

“Supercool,” Lee added.  “We had him just now.”

“What was it like?” Harry asked eagerly.

“Never had a lesson like it,” Fred said.  “Summers here managed to either get herself into a heap of trouble, or she impressed the pants off of him.”

Buffy, Angelina, Alicia and Katie all wrinkled their noses at the phrasing Fred had used.

“I hope not,” Buffy said in disgust.  “I think I want his pants to stay where they are, thanks all the same.”

“Why are you in trouble?” Ron asked.

Buffy went to explain in very simple terms but Fred jumped in first.

“First off, she corrects him about her last name,” he began.

“Summers, not Potter,” Lee mimicked, his voice slightly high-pitched.  He was hit in the arm by Buffy for it, and he tried to rub the sore spot as inconspicuously as possible.

“Then, she goes and tells him that you can’t just think stuff, you gotta know stuff,” George continued.

“It was very impressive,” Alicia commented.

“He asked her to see him in his office after dinner,” Fred finished.

Harry and Ron looked incredibly impressed.  Buffy just shrugged modestly, but inwardly worried that she’d drawn a little too much attention to herself.  If she wasn’t careful, it would be Sunnydale all over again, and people would find out about her status as the Slayer if she wasn’t too careful.

“Eh.  It was nothing.”

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

The rest of the day passed without incident for Buffy, she mostly took notes and watched as the others tried more complicated spells.  She was writing as much as she could, and the Professors had been helpful, giving her books to learn from, to help her learn the most common things that she would need to know.  Every teacher she’d had so far had been extremely helpful to her.  She was just dreading the day she met Snape.  She’d heard horror stories about the man from the twins and Harry, and she wasn’t looking forward to having him tell her that she was a failure.  She’d gladly left Principal Snyder behind, she didn’t need some malicious Professor taking over.

After dinner, Buffy made her way to Professor Moody’s office, knocking on the door and awaiting an answer.

“Door’s open,” shouted a gruff voice.

Buffy nodded in approval at the vague invitation indoors.  It was how she had started answering her door after she’d been Called as the Slayer.  It was vague enough to not sound rude, and not enough for a vampire to be allowed in. 

She entered and instinctively looked around the room, taking in everything the room had to offer.  Moody watched her for a moment before gesturing towards a chair and asking her to sit down.  She sat and watched Moody move to seat himself behind his desk.

“It takes a lot to impress me lassie,” Moody stated calmly.  “But you managed to do that today.  Twice in fact.”

Buffy just shrugged.  “Just a habit I guess.  Y’know, six impossible things before breakfast, that sort of thing.”

“Professor Dumbledore tells me you grew up muggle,” he continued.

Buffy nodded.  “Yeah.  The most complicated spell I’ve ever done was to get my hair as straight as it is.”

Moody’s magical eye flicked to Buffy’s hair before returning to gaze into the Slayer’s eyes.

“Then you’re probably a fair way behind the others then,” he commented.  “Take a long while to catch up.”

“Yeah, it kinda sucks.  I’ve never really been good at the whole learning thing either, that was more Will’s department,” Buffy rambled.

“D’you need a tutor?” he asked.

Buffy looked at him, completely shocked by the offer.  The most the other Professors had offered her had been previous years books and complicated looking diagrams to show wand movements.

“This is a one time offer only,” he warned.  “You say no, I won’t offer again.”

“Then I’ll say yes,” she replied.  “Definitely yes.  You sound like you know what you’re on about, and…I could probably use the help.”

“Alright then,” he said.  “My office, eight thirty until ten every evening.  Don’t be late.”

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

Buffy had asked one of the portraits for directions to Dumbledore’s office and she’d managed to find it with relative ease.  The problem now was that she didn’t know his password.  She sighed, knowing she’d be better off asking one of the twins and coming back another day.  She turned, but stopped as she heard the statue of the phoenix begin to twist, creating a spiral staircase.  Buffy stepped towards it, about to walk up, but she saw Professor Dumbledore walking down the steps. 

“Miss Summers,” Dumbledore greeted her.  “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”

Buffy shook his hand politely.  “Good to meet you too,” she replied. 

“Now, tell me, what can I do for you?” he asked.

“Professor, I know you said that the Forest was Forbidden, and…well, I can’t help but wonder…why?” she asked.

Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled and Buffy grinned at the mischievous look in them.

“I should have known that you would wish to explore them,” the Headmaster said brightly.  “And, knowing that you are the Slayer, I will not try and stop you from entering the Forest if you wish.  I do however request that you do your research before you enter the Forest.  There are all manners of creature that reside within, and not all of them are in need of Slaying.”

Buffy nodded, grinning widely at the thought of being allowed to patrol the Forest.  As a Slayer, she was built for the night-time and she’d worried that she’d have been forced to remain inactive while she was at Hogwarts.  When Dumbledore had announced that the Forbidden Forest was still forbidden, Buffy had been curious as to why.

“What’s it there?” she asked curiously.

“I believe you’ll be able to find that out if you borrow Hogwarts: A History.  If, that is, you can pry a copy away from Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said teasingly.

Buffy grinned.  She’d heard Hermione reference the Hogwarts: A History book at least once already. 

“Thanks,” she said gratefully. 

“I do however request that you don’t take any of the others students into the Forest with you,” Dumbledore said seriously. 

“I won’t,” she replied.  “You have my word.”

Dumbledore nodded in satisfaction.  “Good.  Now, I suggest you adjourn to bed.  It’s late.”

Chapter 15 - Objecting

Over the next seven and a half weeks, school continued as normal, the twins getting into an enormous amount of trouble from the Professors, and never learning their lesson. 

The twins had let Buffy in on their outrage towards Ludo Bagman, the Minister of Games and Sports who had cheated them out of about three hundred galleons.  When the twins and Buffy had won the bet they’d placed at the Quidditch World Cup, Bagman had paid in leprechaun gold which had disappeared after about three hours, which meant the Weasley’s had not only not been paid, but they’d lost their original thirty-seven galleons, plus the ten of Buffy’s that she’d put in.

The trio began writing letters to Bagman, carefully wording them so that they wouldn’t be accused of trying to blackmail the Minister or anything like that.  Buffy wasn’t too concerned about the money, it had come from her dad, who she knew was actually incredibly rich.  Sirius was the heir to most of the Black fortune, and he was incredibly lax with money.  Buffy hadn’t been too worried about it either, seeing as she didn’t really understand the conversion rate, or how much ten Galleons actually was.

But to Fred and George, thirty-seven galleons had been two years worth of savings.  They were outraged and desperate to get their money back from the cheating bastard who’d robbed them of it. 

Giles had been helped by Dumbledore to set up a training area for Buffy in a classroom that hadn’t been used in years for one reason or another.  The Watcher was practically in heaven with the collection of books in the Hogwarts library.  He’d previously thought that the Council’s library had been the most extensive in the world, but he’d been proven wrong.  Plus, he had a whole new subject to study.  The Wizarding community was a new and interesting topic for Giles, and he was revelling in learning as much as he could.

Buffy had gone home nearly every week, usually taking Harry with her so that it was easier for the black-haired Boy-Who-Lived to stay in touch with his godfather/uncle and his aunt.  Harry couldn’t have been happier, especially when Sirius had presented him with his own portkey ring like the one that Buffy had.  He’d never felt at home with the Dursley’s, but even having spent only six evenings with the Black’s, he felt more at home than he ever had before.

He’d discussed his aching scar with Sirius, who was concerned about it and told Harry to stay alert.  Harry had thought it was a bit like talking to Professor Moody.

During the trips back home for Buffy, her parents would teach her spells, Sirius teaching her several that would never be taught in school, some of them even Fred and George hadn’t learnt, and they were the Kings of pranks.

Joyce taught Buffy how to cover up her magical signature, a trick that would be especially useful if there were other wizards in the area who could sense the magic emanating from Grimmauld Place.  People would be suspicious if they could feel magic, but not see its effects. 

Moody’s tutoring sessions with Buffy had been going well, and the Professor had taught her all manners of Dark Arts defences.  She’d learned to block spells and disarm her opponent, learnt to freeze and immobilise and stun other people.  It wasn’t altogether surprising that Buffy was a natural at Defence Against the Dark Arts, seeing as she was a Slayer with a natural affinity to equip herself with the skills she needed to stay alive.

Potions was where Buffy was having troubles, but she was adept at ignoring a hovering Snape.  She was used to distractions when she was trying to concentrate, patrolling with chatting Scoobies had taught her all about focus.  It was the actual application of ingredients that usually messed her around.  If she was asked to follow a list of ingredients, she was fine.  It was when Snape demanded answers about different ingredients for different Potions that Buffy found herself floundering.  But she was applying herself harder than she’d ever done at Sunnydale High, a fact that she was incredibly proud of.

Buffy’s explorations of the Forest had always been fruitful.  Giles had accompanied her on patrols at first until Buffy had a firmer grasp on everything within the Forest.  Along with the darker creatures of the Forest, she’d discovered a whole world of useful creatures that resided in there as well.  Centaurs and unicorns being her favourite creatures within the Forest.  She’d run into a giant spider that had attacked her, and when she’d battled it, she’d stopped short of a killing blow when she’d seen the spider bring it’s legs up to defend itself.  “Never attack me again,” she warned it.  The spider had nodded and scurried away into a massive cave. 

After a bit of research on Giles’ part, and casually mentioning giant spiders, she’d discovered from Harry that the cave was actually filled with Acromantulas, and that the spider she’d battled had been about a quarter of the size of Aragog, the largest creature that Hagrid had brought to Hogwarts when he was a young boy.  Since then, whenever the spiders had crossed paths, they’d bowed respectfully to her and continued walking.

Moody had been impressed by Buffy’s quick learning during his tutoring sessions, and had thought up harder spells for her to try.  It took nearly two weeks for Buffy to be able to conjure a fully corporeal Patronus that took the shape of a large black dog.  Moody hadn’t commented on the shape of it, though he had looked a little surprised by it.

The day before Halloween, Moody had rescheduled the session, as the students from Durmstrang and Beaubaxtons would be arriving that evening as the Triwizard Tournament grew closer.

Ten minutes before the session drew to a close for dinner, Moody sat down and gestured for Buffy to sit as ell.

“I think you should enter,” he said without explanation of what he meant.  Of course, as the Tournament had grown closer, anyone could talk about it without having to properly explain.  Most people would understand what you were speaking about.

“Me?  Enter the Tournament?  Are you kidding?” she asked.

Moody shook his head.  “I’ve never seen anyone take to the Dark Arts like you before.  Your cousin’s the same way.  Probably a Potter family trait,” Moody said.  “I think you’d have a good chance of being chosen.”

Buffy refrained from rolling her eyes at the somewhat hated word.  She’d heard it for the last two years and had disliked it intensely ever since.

“I still don’t know enough about magic,” she replied.

“You follow your instincts,” he said.  “You’ve beaten me in a dozen duels, and not because I was holding back.  You’ve got the smarts lassie.  And I think you’d have a good shot of winning this thing.”

Buffy mulled over his words.  When she’d first heard about the Tournament, he’d known that she wouldn’t have a chance in actually being able to compete.  But Moody was right.  Over the last seven weeks, she’d been learning all sorts of useful things from Moody’s tutelage.  She was of age, and she was a Slayer.  She suddenly grinned and Moody clapped a hand onto her shoulder.

“Good luck.”

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

Buffy entered the library, waving at Madam Pince, who told her where she could find Giles.  She found him in the Restricted Section, browsing through a volume on demons and their different skills.  She coughed softly so as not to startle the man.  He turned and closed the book replacing it on the shelf.  He frowned slightly and looked at his watch.

“Aren’t you meant to be welcoming Durmstrang and Beaubaxtons right now?” he asked.

Buffy laughed softly.  “I just wanted to run an idea by you first.”

Giles nodded and waited for her to continue.  “I want to enter the Tournament.”

Giles raised his eyebrows.  He couldn’t deny that he hadn’t been expecting this. 

“I was hoping you could give me your honest opinion,” Buffy continued.  “I mean…Professor Moody says I should go for it, but…you know me better than anyone, so…”

Giles was incredibly flattered by the comment and took a moment to seriously consider what Buffy was asking his opinion of.

“Honestly?  Truthfully, you could probably use a little more magical knowledge,” Giles said.  Buffy’s face fell slightly, and Giles quickly continued.  “But...I think that if you applied yourself to the Tournament…you would have a shot of winning.”

Buffy grinned and squeezed her Watcher’s arm before darting out of the library and down to the Entrance Hall.

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

The entire student body and all of the staff were standing outside the Hogwarts Castle waiting for the students and Professors from Durmstrang and Beaubaxtons to arrive.  People were fidgeting, checking their watches and looking around, trying to speculate on how they would arrive and when.

“Aha,” Dumbledore said loudly above the noise of the other students.  “Unless I am very much mistaken, the delegation from Beauxbatons approaches!”

Something large was hurtling across the deep blue sky towards the castle, growing larger all the time.  As it continued to approach and the lights from the Hogwarts castle illuminated the large object, they saw it was a gigantic, powder-blue, horse-drawn carriage, pulled through the air by a dozen winged horses the size of elephants.

The students began drawing backwards as the carriage landed with a loud thud.

“Well, those horses have been eating their spinach,” Buffy whispered softly.

Harry snickered but kept his eyes on the carriage as the door was opened and one of the largest women that anyone had ever seen stepped out, dressed in black satin with opals gleaming at her throat.

Dumbledore started to clap, the students following his lead.

“My dear Madame Maxime,” Dumbledore said as the large woman approached, holding out her hand to him.  Dumbledore barely had to bend to kiss it.  “Welcome to Hogwarts.”

The students of Beaubaxtons filed out of the carriage, some of them shivering in the cooling night air, their clothes hardly suitable for the night air.  Dumbledore continued to speak with Madame Maxime, the Hogwarts and Beaubaxton students staring at each other, sizing each other up.

“The lake!” Lee suddenly yelled, pointing down to it.  “Look at the lake.”

Massive bubbles were forming on the surface of the water, waves washing over the muddy banks, and then, out of the very middle of the lake, a whirlpool appeared, as if a giant plug had just been pulled out of the lake’s floor.  A long black pole began to rise slowly out of the whirlpool.

“It’s a mast!” Harry observed.

A massive ship slowly emerged, and an anchor was dropped, people disembarking and heading towards where all the students stood in wait.

“And you thought Moody made good entrances,” George murmured in Buffy’s ear.

Buffy grinned and watched the greeting between Professor Dumbledore and Professor Karkaroff. 

“Viktor come along, into the warmth…you don’t mind do you Dumbledore?  Viktor has a slight head cold.”

Ron suddenly gasped in shock as he stood on tiptoes for a better look.

“It’s Krum!

Fred and George exchanged a look then turned to their younger brother.

“The Quidditch Player?” they demanded.

“Who else?” Ron replied, not even looking back to reply, his eyes never leaving Krum’s face.  Lee pushed forward, jumping up to try and catch a glimpse of the back of Krum’s head.

Fred and George again glanced at each other and grinned in excitement.  “Wicked.”

Chapter 16 - Praying

The Hall was silent as Dumbledore began explaining to the students from all three school about the Triwizard Tournament. The feast had ended, and to Ron’s great disappointment Krum and the rest of the students from Durmstrang had been seated at the Slytherin table.

“There will be three tasks, spaced throughout the school year, and they will test the champions in many different ways … their magical prowess – their daring – their powers of deduction – and, of course, their ability to cope with danger.”

The Hall was filled with silence so absolute that nobody seemed to be breathing.

“The Champions will be chosen by an impartial selector…the Goblet of Fire.”

Dumbledore reached into a casket that was in front of him and pulled out a wooden hewn cup with dancing blue-white flames on it.

“Anybody wishing to submit themselves as champion must write their name and school clearly upon a slip of parchment and drop it into the Goblet. Aspiring champions have twenty-four hours in which to put their names forward. Tomorrow night the Goblet will return the names of the three it has judged most worthy to represent their schools. The Goblet will be placed in the Entrance Hall tonight, where it will be freely accessible to all those wishing to compete.”

Fred, George and Lee grinned at each other and Buffy shook her head, wondering how three daredevils such as the twins and Lee had managed to stay alive for so long.

“To ensure that no underage student yields to compete, I will be drawing an Age Line around the Goblet of Fire once it has been placed in the Entrance Hall. Nobody under the age of seventeen will be able to cross the line. This Tournament is not to be entered into lightly. Once a champion has been selected by the Goblet of Fire, he or she is obliged to see the Tournament through to the end. It is a binding magical contract. Please be very sure, therefore, before you drop your name into the Goblet. Now I think it is time for bed. Goodnight to you all.”

“An Age Line?” Fred said indignantly. “It should be fooled by an Ageing Potion, shouldn’t it?”

“But I don’t think anyone under seventeen will stand a chance,” Hermione said. “We just haven’t learnt enough.”

“Speak for yourself,” George said shortly.

They then split up, Fred, George and Lee hurrying up to the Gryffindor Tower, dragging Buffy up with them. They entered the Sixth-Year boys dormitories and George began digging under his bed, pulling out two boxes, one box full of different potions and the other filed with miscellaneous items such as fireworks and sweets and jokes bought from Zonko’s in Hogsmeade or Japes in Diagon Alley. Buffy looked at the boxes wide-eyed.

“What are they all?” she asked curiously.

George grinned up at her proudly. “Fred and I made half of them,” he explained, gesturing to the first box. “There should be an Aging Potion in here somewhere. And the antidote in case it goes wrong.”

Buffy’s eyes widened at the thought of it how much could go wrong with the potion they were about to try. She suddenly had the most bizarre mental picture of Fred and George with walking sticks and grey hair.

“The other box is just random jokes, fireworks and sweets that we’ve been modifying,” Fred finished for his twin.

“Aha!” George finally cried, holding up a small bottle.

Fred dug into his trunk and pulled out four small cups. “One for each of us,” he explained.

“Oh no,” Buffy replied. “I’m not drinking that.”

“It’s perfectly safe,” George assured her.

She just shook her head. Neither George nor Fred were ones to try and pressure people into doing something, so they left it as it was. Fred took out a small bottle of water and poured it into the cups before George added two drops of the Potion to the water.

Buffy just watched in interest as all three of them held their cups up, clinked them together and downed the potion in one gulp. George wiped his mouth and cleaned the cup with a simple -“Scourgify!” – charm.

Buffy shook her head. “I can’t believe you just did that.”

“We’ve taken it before,” Fred said. “It didn’t kill us.”

“Should we put our names in now?” Lee asked.

“Not til morning I reckon,” George replied.

Fred nodded his agreement and all of the bottles and cups were replaced from where they’d come from. For the rest of the evening, the three boys sat around, making plans for the prize money and speculating about the three tasks that would need to be completed. Buffy just listened, adding comments every now and then.

She was sifting through George’s second box, looking at some of the items the twins had accumulated over the years. The amount of fireworks the boys owned was incredible, and looking at some of the illustrations on them, it was easy to tell what shapes the fireworks would take when lit. Some were shaped as hearts, others as different constellations, others would come out as different animals, dogs, ducks and dragons, cats, rats and bats.

Not one of the boys even bothered to ask whether she would enter, or to even question her age. Buffy grinned, wanting her entry into the Tournament to take them all by surprise.

When Buffy left the boys room, she snuck down to the Entrance Hall and noticed that it was completely deserted. She pulled out a slip of parchment with her name and school written on it, folded it in half and placed it into the Goblet. She silently prayed that she would get a chance to prove her worth with magic. She wanted to show that it wasn’t just the Slaying that she was good at. She also prayed that neither of her parents would kill her if they found out.

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

Morning came and most of the students, after eating breakfast, began camping out in groups in the Entrance Hall, eagerly watching to see who would put their names into the Goblet. Buffy was suddenly very grateful that she’d done it with no one around.

Buffy sat with Harry, Ron and Hermione, waiting for the twins and Lee to come and put their names forward.

“We did it,” Fred whispered excitedly to Ron.

“Did what?” the younger boy asked.

“Took the Aging Potion, dungbrains,” Fred replied.

“A few drops each,” George said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “We only need to be a few months older.”

“We’re going to split the thousand galleons between the three of us if one of us wins,” Lee said.

“I’m not sure this is going to work,” Hermione warned. “I’m sure Dumbledore will have thought of this.”

Fred, George and Lee ignored her.

“Ready?” Fred asked, quivering with excitement. “C’mon then, I’ll go first.”

Harry, Ron, Hermione and Buffy all watched as Fred pulled out a slip of parchment and walked up to the edge of the line, and stood there, rocking on his toes. Then, with the eyes of every person in the Entrance Hall upon him, he took a great breath and stepped over the line.

For a split second they all thought it had worked. George certainly thought so, for he let out a yell of triumph and leapt over after Fred – but next moment, there was a loud sizzling sound, and both twins were hurled out of the golden circle as though they had been thrown by an invisible shot-putter. They landed painfully, ten feet away on the cold stone floor, and to add insult to injury, there was a loud popping noise, and both of them sprouted identical, long white beards.

The Entrance Hall rang with laughed. Ever Fred and George joined in, once they had got to their feet and taken a good look at each others beards.

“I did warn you,” said a deep amused voice, and everyone turned to look at Professor Dumbledore coming out of the Great Hall.

Fred and George set off for the hospital wing, Buffy and Lee following after them, Lee howling with laughter and Buffy unable to contain her fits of giggles whenever she looked at George.

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

Several hours later, the Great Hall was filled with students, a lot of the entrants sitting on their hands to keep themselves from fidgeting. Angelina Johnson was looking more and more nervous with each passing second, and Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff was bright red from all the attention he was receiving from his housemates.

The Goblet of Fire was now standing in front of Dumbledore’s empty chair at the teacher’s table. Fred and George – clean-shaven again – seemed to have taken their disappointment fairly well and were looking around the room at all of the nervous faces.

The feast seemed to take forever, mostly because everyone was so anxious to find out who had been chosen as the champions. Angelina barely ate a single bite of food, and Buffy was finding it hard to eat anything either. She looked up at the Professor’s table, and her eyes found Giles’. He nodded at her encouragingly and she found herself calming slightly. When Dumbledore had finally finished, and the plates had been magically cleared away, the Headmaster of Hogwarts got to his feet and the Hall was filled with a tense silence.

“Well, the Goblet is almost ready to make its decision,” Dumbledore announced. “I estimate that it requires one more minute. Now, when the champions’ names are called, I would ask them to please come up to the top of the Hall, walk along the staff table and go through into the next chamber where they will be receiving their first instructions.”

Dumbledore took out his wand and gave a great sweeping wave with it; at once all the candles except those inside the carved Halloween pumpkins went out, plunging them all into a state of semi-darkness. The Goblet of Fire now shone more brightly than anything in the whole Hall, the sparkling bright bluey-whiteness of the flames almost painful on the eyes. Everyone watched.

“Any second,” Lee Jordan whispered.

The flames inside the Goblet turned suddenly red again. Sparks began to fly from it. A tongue of flame shot into the air and a charred piece of parchment fluttered out of it.

Dumbledore caught the piece of parchment and held it in the light so he could read it properly.

“The champion for Durmstrang will be Viktor Krum,” Dumbledore read in a strong, clear voice.

“No surprises there!” Ron yelled as a storm of applause swept into the Hall.

Viktor stood and walked towards the Professors table, turning right and heading into the next chamber.

Several seconds later, the Goblet turned red again and spat out another piece of parchment. “The champion for Beaubaxtons is Fleur Delacour!”

Fleur followed Viktor’s footsteps. Two of the unchosen Beaubaxtons students had burst into tears, their heads on their arms.

The Hall fell silent when Fleur had closed the door behind her. The air was stiff with silence and Buffy was wringing her hands nervously. George noticed and looked at her in shock.

“Oh my gosh,” he whispered softly.

Buffy grinned nervously and George reached over to squeeze her hands in support.

The Goblet turned red once more, sparks showered out of it, the tongue of flame shot high into the air, and Dumbledore pulled the third piece of parchment from it.

Buffy breathed in deeply.

“The Hogwarts champion…is Eliza (Buffy) Potter-Summers!”

The entire Gryffindor table jumped to their feet, the yelling, clapping and cheering suddenly deafening. George pulled Buffy into a bone-crushing hug, Fred joining it from the other side. Harry looked at his cousin accusingly.

“You didn’t say!” he yelled above the din.

She just shrugged and grinned happily. The cheering continued as she walked towards the Professors table, Professor Moody clapping heartily, outdone only by a beaming Giles whose hands were red and sore when the applause died down. He winked at her with his good eye and Buffy went into the next chamber.

Back in the Great Hall, the cheering died down, and the Goblet of Fire came back to life. A fourth piece of parchment was spat out and Dumbledore stared at it in shock. He cleared his throat and read out –

“Harry Potter!”

Chapter 17 - Quitting

The three champions sat around a fireplace, Viktor Krum reminding Buffy of a brooding Angel as the tall Quidditch Player stared into the flames. Fleur Delacours suddenly tossed her silver hair over her shoulder and looked towards the opening door.

“What is it?” the girl whom Ron was convinced was a Veela asked. “Do zey want us back in ze Hall?”

Buffy turned, shocked to see her cousin standing in the doorway, looking pale, his hands shaking. Buffy walked over to him and pulled him into the room, sitting him down in a chair beside the fireplace.

“What happened?” she whispered.

Harry swallowed hard. “My name just got spat out of the Goblet,” Harry explained succinctly.

Buffy’s eyes widened. Her first thought was to ask Harry if he’d put his name in, but…thinking of everything she knew of Harry, she knew that he hadn’t. It wasn’t like him to try and bend the rules to get what he wanted. He wasn’t stupid enough to try enter the Tournament when he was underage.

Ludo Bagman came bounding into the room.

“Extraordinary! Absolutely extraordinary! Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce – incredible though it may seem – the fourth Triwizard champion.”

Fleur Delacour thought it to be a joke, Viktor Krum had stayed silent, but his eyebrows had scrunched together, and Buffy was worried would this would mean for her younger cousin. He looked absolutely terrified.

The door opened again and a large group of people came in; Professor Dumbledore, Mr Crouch, Professors Karkaroff, McGonagall, a scowling Snape, and Madame Maxime.

The Professors discussed Harry’s fate while Harry just watched in silent disbelief. Buffy stood behind him, her hand on his shoulder in silent support. Harry was grateful for the gesture and felt himself relax somewhat at her comforting presence.

Dumbledore soon turned his attention away from the arguing Heads of the other schools and looked towards Harry.

“Did you put your name into the Goblet of Fire, Harry?” the Headmaster asked.

“No,” he replied.

“Did you ask an older student to put it into the Goblet of Fire for you?” Dumbledore questioned.

“No,” Harry replied vehemently.

“Ah, but of course ‘e is lying!” Madame Maxime cried.

“My cousin is not a liar!” Buffy yelled, straightening to her full height, the very air around her becoming slightly charged with magic as she shifted into Slayer mode, ready to do some serious danger to anyone who badmouthed her cousin.

“That will do, Miss Summers,” Dumbledore said gently, very aware of the havoc the girl could wreak if she chose to.

Professor Karkaroff threw a slight temper tantrum, demanding that the Goblet be reset and all of the names resubmitted so that the two other schools could have two champions. Unfortunately for him, hit didn’t work that way.

Karkaroff was completely unhappy with the situation. “I have half a mind to leave now!”

“Empty threat Karkaroff. You can’t leave your champion now. He’s got to compete. They’ve all got to compete. Binding magical contract, like Dumbledore said. Convenient, eh?” Moody said as he limped into the chamber. “Someone put Potter’s name into the Goblet knowing he’d have to compete if it came out. Maybe someone’s hoping Potter is going to die for it.”

Silence reigned in the chamber, and Buffy’s grip on Harry’s shoulder was almost painful, but the boy said nothing.

The Professors argued for a few more moments until Dumbledore calmly asked the other Heads of Schools to offer a solution. No one spoke. Madame Maxime glared, Karkaroff looked livid and Snape was still scowling, not that that was anything new.

Barty Crouch stepped forward into the firelight. Both Buffy and Harry noticed how ill the man was looking. The cousins exchanged a glance and shrugged, neither of them brave enough to say anything to the Minister about it.

“Now, the first task is designed to test your daring, so we are not going to be telling you what it is. Courage in the face of the unknown is an important quality in a wizard…very important. The first task will take place on November the twenty-fourth, in front of the other students and the panel of judges. The champions are not permitted to ask for or accept help of any kind from their teachers to complete the tasks in the Tournament. The champions will face the first challenge armed only with their wands. They will receive information about the second task when the first is over. Owing to the demanding and time-consuming nature of the Tournament, the champions will be exempted from end-of-year tests.”

“Sweet,” Buffy whispered, unable to refrain. Dumbledore smiled a little, and Harry half-grinned.

Karkaroff left Krum out, Maxime led Fleur out, and Dumbledore turned to the two Hogwarts students.

“Harry, Buffy, I suggest you both go up to bed. I am sure the Gryffindors are waiting to celebrate with you, and it would be a shame to deprive them of this excellent excuse to make a great deal of noise.”

Harry glanced at Buffy who nodded, and they headed out together. When the door to the chamber had closed behind them, Buffy turned to her younger cousin as they continued to walk towards the Gryffindor Common Room.

“You okay?” she asked.

Harry swallowed hard and shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m still trying to convince myself that this is some kind of dream, and I’m going to wake up at any second.”

“This is really serious stuff Harry,” Buffy said. “There’s no way you can quit even if you wanted to. And not to be all alarmist or anything, but…Moody may have been right.”

Harry sighed. “I know,” he replied. He laughed a little, a bitter laugh that made Buffy frown slightly. “All day yesterday, we were joking about entering the Tournament, and now…here I am, the youngest champion in the Tournament, and now that I think about it, I don’t really want to be in it.”

“And it’s a binding contract,” Buffy said.

“Whoever put my name in must really have it in for me though,” Harry said.

“Voldemort?” Buffy asked. “Or one of his Death-Eater people?”

Harry nodded, mulling over the possibilities in his mind. It had to have been someone within the Hogwarts grounds, and unfortunately, there were fifty new possibilities, and someone from Durmstrang was looking like the likeliest explanation. Except that Karkaroff had been seriously angry.

“I don’t know who would have done it,” he admitted. “And I can’t quit, so…I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.”

As they reached the portrait of the Fat Lady, Buffy stopped Harry from entering, placing her hands on his shoulders and forcing him to look at her.

“Your friends will be behind you, every step of the way. You aren’t alone. You’ve got friends, and you’ve got family,” she reminded him. “We’ll get you through this.”

Harry breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a lot calmer than he had been a moment ago. He smiled genuinely at her and gave her a quick hug.

“Thanks,” he said.

She grinned at him. “We’ll just chalk this whole Tournament thing up to another family bonding experience. Now…behind this portrait is a room full of people who are going to want to yell and scream their congratulations. You ready?”

Harry grinned and nodded, thankful that his cousin was at his side. He didn’t even want to consider what he’d have done without her.

“Balderdash,” he said grinning towards the portrait of the Fat Lady. The portrait swung open on its hinges and the amount of noise inside the Common Room was deafening.

Both Harry and Buffy were tugged inside, all of the Gryffindors screaming, applauding and whistling.

“You should’ve told us you’d entered!” bellowed Fred at both of them.

Angelina swept Buffy into a hug. “If it couldn’t be me, at least it’s still a Gryffindor!”

When Angelina pulled back, Buffy felt a pair of arms slip around her waist from behind.

“Naughty Summers,” George whispered, his mouth close enough to her ears that she could feel his breath tickling her neck. She shivered slightly and leant back against him. “You should have told us you were entering.”

“I didn’t wanna make a fool of myself if I didn’t get chosen,” she replied. “Plus I wanted to surprise you.”

“You succeeded,” he replied. Buffy was tugged out of George’s embrace by a grinning Lee Jordan who had unearthed two Gryffindor flags and had draped them across Harry’s shoulders, and was trying to do the same to Buffy.

Buffy could see Harry trying to deny that he’d put his name into the Goblet, but it was useless. No one wanted to know that he hadn’t. They were too busy celebrating the double win for Gryffindor.

For nearly an hour and a half, the celebrations continued on strongly. The noise didn’t seem to abate, and nearly every single Gryffindor student, from the First Years to the Seventh Years had come up to the two Hogwarts champions, shaken their hands or hugged them. Buffy had never been so overwhelmed in her life, and Harry wasn’t faring much better.

Eventually, the crowd began to disperse and the champions were allowed to leave for their dorms. Buffy went up the stairs, Angelina, Alicia and Katie walking up behind her, the four of them still grinning widely. As they changed for bed and got under the covers, they were still grinning widely.

Inside the Fourth-Years boys dorms though, things weren’t going so well for Harry. Ron had just closed the curtains around his four poster bed, leaving Harry staring at the at the dark red curtains that hid one of the few people that he’d been sure would believe that he hadn’t put his name forward. He sighed and got ready for bed, knowing that the next few weeks leading up to the twenty-fourth of November would be the longest of his life.

Chapter 18 - Reacting

The next evening, everyone was still talking about the two Hogwarts champions and following them both around the hallways. All of the Slytherins had been contemptuous towards Harry, openly showing their support to Buffy regardless of the fact that none of them actually knew her or even liked her.

Ron was refusing to talk to Harry, and Hermione had explained that the redhead was jealous that Harry always got the attention. Harry was flabbergasted by that explanation, and angry that Ron couldn’t see that Harry didn’t want to be special, and that he hadn’t wanted to be in the Tournament.

Hermione had suggested that Harry visit Sirius and get his input into the whole affair. Harry had told Buffy, and the two of them agreed to visit Sirius and Joyce after dinner.

Harry had survived the day at classes, trying to studiously ignore the students asking him how he’d got past the Age Line, and the Slytherins accusing him of taking away the attention from the ‘true’ champion. Harry ignored it, but was still incredibly hurt that Ron wasn’t talking to him.

It wasn’t as though he wasn’t used to people whispering and gossiping about him, he’d put up with it for the last few years, but now it seemed to be even worse. When he sat down beside Buffy at dinner, he noticed that she was looking frazzled as well.

“Have they been following you all day as well?” he asked.

Buffy nodded. “Yup. How bout you?”

“Ron’s ignoring me,” he replied, casting a dark look down the table to where Ron sat with Sean and Seamus. “He reckons I put my own name in the Goblet.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. Fourteen-year-old boys could be so stupid.

“You maybe wanna skip dinner?” Buffy asked. “Just go home for a bit?”

Harry liked the sound of that. Not just getting away from the other students, but going to somewhere he considered ‘home’.

“Let’s go.”

They stood up and walked out of the Great Hall, studiously ignoring the stares, pointing and whispers that followed them. When they reached the Entrance Hall, they reached up to touch the rings that hung on silver chains around their necks.

“Ready?” Harry asked.

Buffy nodded, and they simultaneously slid their rings onto their fingers and portkeyed away from Hogwarts. Buffy ended up in the middle of her room, and Harry in his. He grinned as he looked around at the decorations that Sirius and Joyce had put up for him. It was in the Gryffindor colours, and there were posters of various Quidditch teams. It was a massive room, almost four times as big as his room back at the Dursley’s, and it was all his, thanks to Sirius and Joyce.

They left their rooms, met in the hallway and descended the stairs together. They were met by a very worried Joyce and a sombre looking Sirius. They were sitting on the couch, reading a copy of the Daily Prophet. Buffy and Harry exchanged a worried glance.

“Would you two care to explain anything?” Joyce asked.

Buffy winced. She recognised that tone of voice. She’d heard it so many times over the years and she knew that they were in trouble.

Before either of them could form a reply, Joyce continued her in her anger.

“I can’t believe you would both be so reckless as this!” she yelled. “Entering a Tournament like this…people have died! You don’t need to be putting yourself in more danger than you’re already in. Honestly, I’d have thought you would know better.”

“Look, if you’re gonna get angry, then get angry at me, not at Harry,” Buffy said, her voice rising with her anger. “He didn’t put his name in that Goblet.”

Joyce suddenly froze and Sirius stood up.

“What?” Sirius asked.

“I didn’t put my name in,” Harry said. “Someone else did.”

Sirius’ eyes darkened with worry. “This isn’t good,” he commented.

Harry shook his head, completely agreeing.

Joyce looked to her daughter, raising her eyebrows expectantly.

“And you? Did you enter?” Joyce demanded.

Buffy nodded, not backing down. There was nothing that her parents could do to make her pull out of the Tournament, and she was fairly confident of getting through the Tournament. She didn’t know if she could win, but she would give it her all. Plus, she wouldn’t have to do her exams, and that was always a good thing.

“Why?” Joyce yelled. “Why would you? Buffy, are you insane? You get in enough trouble as it is without volunteering to put yourself in that kind of danger.”

“Mom, Dumbledore wouldn’t let us compete if he didn’t think it was safe,” Buffy explained patiently.

Sirius nodded his agreement. “She’s got a good point.”

Joyce sighed. She didn’t like the idea of her daughter or her nephew competing in a Tournament that had a death toll.

“I just don’t like to think of you in any more danger than necessary,” Joyce explained.

Buffy smiled and stepped forward to give her mother a hug. “I’ll be fine,” she promised. “Slayer’s honour.”

“Slayer?” Harry repeated curiously.

Buffy’s eyes widened. She’d completely forgotten Harry’s presence as well as his ignorance in regards to her being the Chosen One.

Sirius just laughed and shook his head. “You may want to take your foot out of your mouth soon Buffy,” he teased her.

Buffy rolled her eyes and took a seat on the couch.

“Wait…Slayer?” Harry said again. “As in a Vampire Slayer? The Chosen One? The one girl in all the world to hunt the vampires and fight the forces of darkness?”

“Yeah,” Buffy replied. “How’d you know about Slayers?”

“Professor Lupin taught us about them last year,” he replied.

Sirius barked out a laugh. “Moony was always interested in Slayers. Always wanted to meet one. And now his goddaughter is one.”

“Lupin’s Buffy’s godfather?” Harry asked curiously.

Sirius nodded. “I couldn’t choose between James and Remus, so…I just chose both of them.”

Harry laughed. It sounded like something Sirius would do.

“The Slayer’s godfather, a werewolf,” Buffy mused. “Strange combination, but…I think we’re all used to strange things happening to this family.”

Harry looked to his cousin and a lot of the strength he had always seen in her suddenly made a lot more sense. He’d read some of the stories about the Slayers and the types of lives they led and the skills they needed. More than that, he realised that he wasn’t the only one who’d had a destiny forced on them. It was comforting to think that he wasn’t the only one who’d been thrust into a life that wasn’t really wanted.

“We’re definitely a strange combination,” Harry commented.

Buffy just shrugged. “What family isn’t?” she asked.

Harry grinned, loving the word and the feeling of finally being part of a family that he could call his.

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

Things for Harry didn’t get much better, though he was glad of the support from Buffy and Hermione. Ron still wasn’t talking to him, and Harry had turned down Buffy’s offer of speaking to the young redhead man. Harry didn’t want Ron to talk to him until Ron had figured things out for himself.

The Gryffindors were still incredibly proud of their two champions, but the other three houses hadn’t been so impressed by it. The Slytherins were still being cruel, or crueller than usual. Some of the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws seemed to be uncommonly angry with him, and Harry carefully hung around the Gryffindors who supported him.

Draco Malfoy had produced badges that read:

Support Eliza Summers

The REAL Hogwarts Champion.

Whenever the badges were pressed, another message would flash on them. POTTER STINKS!

It wasn’t original, but it was enough to make Harry angry. The subsequent duel in the corridor had turned out horribly. Harry’s spell had hit Draco’s, and the two spells had shot off to the sides, hitting Hermione and Goyle. Hermione’s teeth had grown considerably, and she’d needed to get them shrunken by Madam Pomfrey. Goyle had broken out in boils, but Harry hadn’t been too concerned.

Harry finally got a (half) break when he was pulled out of Potions just as Snape was threatening to use a poison on them and get them to make an antidote for it. His luck didn’t last that long when he found out that the champions were getting their photographs taken and their wands weighed.

He entered a small classroom and took a seat beside Buffy who grinned and winked at him.

“What’s with the photos?” he whispered to her.

“For the Daily Prophet I think,” she replied, her voice equally as soft. She pointed to a witch in deep magenta robes. “I think she’s some sort of reporter. I’m getting kinda weird vibes off her though.”

“Evil?” Harry asked.

“I wouldn’t go that far. I’d just watch out for her though,” Buffy warned.

Ludo Bagman jumped to his feet and clapped his hands together, getting everyone’s attention. “Now, the Wand Weighing Ceremony. The rest of the judges will be here in a moment. We have to check that your wands are fully functional, no problems, you know, as they’re your mot important tools in the tasks ahead. The expert’s upstairs now with Dumbledore,” Bagman explained. “Then there’s going to be a little photo shoot. This is Rita Skeeter, she’s doing a small piece on the Tournament for the Daily Prophet…”

“Maybe not that small, Ludo,” Rita Skeeter said, her eyes on Harry.

Harry shivered slightly and glanced to Buffy. “Told you,” the Slayer whispered.

“I wonder if I could have a little word with Harry before we start?” Skeeter said to Bagman, but still gazing fixedly at Harry. “The youngest champion, you know…to add a bit of colour?”

“Certainly!” cried Bagman. “That is – if Harry has no objections?”

“Er-”

“Lovely,” Rita Skeeter said. She grabbed hold of Harry’s arm with a surprisingly firm grip. Buffy’s hand shot out and grabbed Skeeter’s wrist, her grip even stronger. Skeeter winced and instantly let go of Harry’s arm.

“Maybe later,” Skeeter demurred.

Buffy glared at her, and Skeeter ran off. Harry shot a grateful look at Buffy who just nodded. They took seats staring at a velvet-covered table, where four of the five judges were now sitting – Professor Karkaroff, Madame Maxime, Mr Crouch and Ludo Bagman. Skeeter settled herself in a corner, parchment across her knee, sucking on the end of her acid-green quill.

Dumbledore introduced them to Mr Ollivander, the man from Ollivanders: Makers of Fine Wands in Diagon Alley.

Fleur’s wand was the first to be tested, Viktor’s next. Mr Ollivander then asked for Buffy’s wand, which she handed to him, hoping he wouldn’t mention what it was made of as he’d done for Fleur’s and Viktor’s wands.

“Ahh, yes, I remember this one,” Ollivander said. “Unusual combination. Powerful though. Only been in use for eight weeks.”

“Eight weeks?” Bagman squeaked in disbelief. “What happened to your previous wand?”

Buffy shrugged. “Never had one.”

Rita’s quill was scribbling frantically, and Buffy was glaring in her direction, annoyed that she couldn’t go and thump the journalist and end her out of the room.

“Miss Summers was raised muggle, Mr Bagman,” Dumbledore explained.

Bagman nodded and rubbed his chin speculatively.

Ollivander handed Buffy’s wand back after conjuring a set of old-fashioned balancing scales. Ollivander then looked to Harry who handed over his wand. Eventually he made a fountain of wine spurt from the tip and handed Harry’s wand back. Harry sighed with relief at Ollivander not announcing the curiosities of Harry’s wand being the brother-wand to Voldemort’s own wand.

Before they could escape to dinner, Skeeter announced that she wanted photographs with the champions and the judges.

The photographer seemed keen to have Fleur and Buffy in the front of the photo, but Skeeter kept pulling Harry into the foreground. Krum slunk towards the back, half-hidden by the rest of the group.

After the group photos, Skeeter insisted on getting individual shots of the champions. Harry reluctantly sat for his photo, and then quickly escaped to the Great Hall for dinner.

“God that Mosquito woman was annoying,” Buffy commented.

Harry laughed at the name. “That would be Rita Skeeter,” he grinned.

Buffy just shrugged. “Still. She was bugging me.”

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

When the owls delivered the mail the next day, nearly every person had read the article in the Daily Prophet about the champions of Hogwarts. Harry was incredibly grateful that he’d been saved from doing an interview. He scanned the article, his eyes bugging out as he saw one particular paragraph.

It seems that Harry has at last found love at Hogwarts. His close friend Colin Creevey, says that Harry is rarely seen out of the company of one Hermione Granger, a stunningly pretty Muggle-born girl who, like Harry, is one of the top students in the school.

Hermione had advised Harry to ignore it as she was doing, most of the Slytherin girls giggling about Hermione’s description in the article.

The article had continued further, talking about how he and Buffy were cousins, and that they seemed to have an incredibly tight bond. Skeeter had speculated that they had bonded over the deaths of their relatives. Harry was just grateful that Skeeter hadn’t done all of her research and had no idea that Sirius Black was Buffy’s father. If that got out in the Daily Prophet, all hell would have broken loose.

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

The days until the twenty-fourth, the day of the first task, seemed to slip away quickly. Buffy spent most of her evenings with Professor Moody. She’d been annoyed that they wouldn’t be allowed to continue with tutoring because it might be seen as Moody ‘helping’ her with the Tournament. Moody had explained the loophole that she’d asked for help before the Tournament had ever begun. And so, Buffy continued to gain knowledge of the Dark Arts.

She continued patrolling the Forest, and had finally given up on trying to interpret anything the Centaurs told her. They were polite enough to her, but preferred to speak in riddles, and she’d never been good at cryptic messages. Giles tried to interpret their messages, but usually the centaurs messages weren’t really all that helpful to the Slayer or her Watcher.

On the Friday night and the evening before the first Hogsmeade visit, Buffy was out in the Forest, her senses tingling more than ever. There was something in the Forest making a lot of noise, and it had been scaring away any potential baddies that she could have killed. Like any good Slayer, she had stealthily crept towards the commotion to have a better look.

There was a loud group of male voices, and Buffy thought for a moment that it might be a group of Death-Eaters come to attack Hogwarts. Buffy felt her heartbeat increase, and she continued forward. She flattened herself against a tree and peeked around the corner. She swallowed hard and nearly forgot to keep breathing.

Dragons.

She’d never thought that dragons had actually existed, and now she was seeing four of them, surrounded by thirty or so men. She swallowed hard and knew that this was part of the first task.

She ducked behind the tree as two men carrying a big blanket with huge granite-grey eggs, placing them beside one of the dragons.

Buffy suddenly spotted Charlie Weasley and felt immensely safer. These weren’t Death-Eaters. They were dragon experts. Buffy watched as Charlie walked towards a smaller box and retrieve four smaller, but still fairly large, golden eggs. He picked one up, testing its weight.

Another of the men sauntered up to Charlie and took hold of one of the other eggs.

“Should be exciting, d’ya reckon?” the man asked.

Charlie Weasley grinned. “Definitely. Makes me wish I’d been a couple of years younger,” he replied.

“D’ya think any of the champs will have a hope of getting past these buggers?” the man asked, pointing at the sleeping dragons.

Charlie shrugged. “Should do. Bit worried about the girls, they might not be too impressed at the thought of battling dragons. But all they have to do is get the golden egg.”

“Are you gonna tell Hagrid about this lot?” the man asked. “I remember he had a dragon of his own a few years back.”

Charlie chuckled a little. “I’ll be telling him. I don’t think he’d be too impressed if I didn’t.”

Buffy had heard enough. She quietly slunk back into the thick of the Forest, trying to get her heart to beat at a normal pace. Dragons. Why dragons? She raced back up to the castle, not wanting to spend another moment in the Forest.

She raced up the stairs, not stopping for anyone or anything until she reached the library. She slowed to a walk, knowing Madam Pince wouldn’t be thrilled with her racing through the library. She found the section on dangerous magical creatures and looked up the section on dragons, wanting to learn as much about them as she possibly could. She only had until Tuesday evening to completely perfect whatever she was going to do.

She stayed cloistered in the library for nearly two hours before returning to the Common Room. Giles had wanted to know why she was researching dragons, but she’d shrugged him off, telling him it was just something she was fascinated by. Giles was still technically a Professor of Hogwarts, and she didn’t want to tell him that she had inside information about the Triwizard Tournament. She would wait until they were alone, with no one around to eavesdrop on their conversation before informing him that she was at an advantage.

Inside the Common Room, Fred and George were seated in a corner, writing more letters to Bagman. The man had been avoiding them, and was refusing to even give them back the original bet they’d placed.

“Where have you been?” George asked as she sat down with them.

“Library,” she replied.

Fred shifted over to make room for her and accidentally knocked over an inkpot that thankfully still had its lid on. It rolled away slightly. Fred groaned and reached for his wand.

“Accio inkpot!” The pot lifted from the ground and flew into his hand.

“You’re so lazy,” Buffy commented.

“And darn proud of it,” Fred replied easily.

“Handy spell though,” George commented. “Mum always uses it so she doesn’t have to put her hands in our pockets. Ever since she found those live mice in Fred’s pockets that one time.”

Buffy laughed loudly. She could picture Molly Weasley squeaking in fright at the mice.

“It’s annoying,” Fred complained. “No matter where we hide stuff, even if we’re bloody sitting on things, if she summons them, they’ll go to her.”

And it was with that one simple conversation with Fred and George that Buffy had figured out the most brilliant plan to complete the first task. Grinning widely, she moved to kneel and leant over, kissing Fred’s cheek and then George’s before standing up.

“You guys are brilliant!” she exclaimed.

Without another word she raced up the stairs to flip through the copious amounts of books that she’d been leant by various teachers. She found the incantation for Summoning charms and stayed up well into the night practising.

Chapter 19 - Simplifying

The next morning, Buffy grabbed hold of Harry before he could leave the Great Hall after breakfast to go to Hogsmeade.

“We gotta talk,” she whispered.

Harry looked vaguely worried, but let himself be dragged into a quiet corner.

“What?” he whispered.

“Dragons,” she replied. “That’s the first task.”

Harry’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”

“Deadly,” she replied. “I saw them last night. In the Forest.”

“Shit,” he whispered softly.

“Charlie Weasley was there. He was talking to this guy, and he said that all the champions have to do is get past the dragon and get hold of the golden egg. It looks like it’ll be with other real dragons eggs,” she explained.

Harry nodded, feeling slightly numb. He hadn’t known what to expect for the first task, but it looked as though Crouch’s description of it being a test of daring was pretty accurate. His one and only experience with a dragon had been a baby Norbert when Hagrid had been hiding a dragon in his cabin in Harry’s First Year.

Harry breathed in deeply and shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t think of anything else except the absolute terror that filled him at the thought of a group of dragons.

George and Fred suddenly came out of the Great Hall and grabbed hold of Buffy’s arm, wanting to take her into Hogsmeade for her first experience of the small wizarding village. Harry ran a hand through his perpetually messy black hair and began walking up the stairs. He was stopped when someone with cold hands grabbed him by the wrist.

“A moment Potter?” Professor Moody asked.

Harry nodded, and followed Moody up the stairs and into Moody’s office. Harry sat down, looking curiously around the room, waiting for Moody to say something.

“So…any ideas on how to get past your dragon?”

Harry’s eyes widened. “How…”

“I have good hearing laddie.”

Harry was looking panicked and Moody shook his head. “Don’t worry boy. Cheating’s always been a part of the Triwizard Tournament.”

“I didn’t cheat!” he replied defensively.

“Now, I suppose you didn’t really. Though, I wonder if Summers woulda shared that information with you if you weren’t her cousin,” Moody mused. “I reckon she woulda.”

Harry nodded his agreement. His cousin did seem to be the type to share whatever information she had, no matter the fact that it would put her at a disadvantage to others.

“Now…I want to give you a good bit of general advice. Play to your strengths.”

“I haven’t got any,” Harry complained.

“Excuse me. You’ve got strengths if I say you’ve got them. Think now. What’re you best at?”

“Quidditch,” Harry replied miserably. “But I’m not allowed my broom. I’ve only got my wand.”

Moody rolled his good eye, an action that looked incredibly strange when his magical glass eye was still fixed in place, looking at Harry.

“My second piece of general advice is to use a nice, simple spell to get what you need.”

Harry thought about Moody’s words before shooting out of his seat. “Hermione,” he whispered, remembering the way that she’d perfected her use of Summoning Spells in Charms the other day. He raced out of the office, Moody grinning in amusement as the Boy-Who-Lived left the office.

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

The weekend before the task, Buffy was again sitting in the Sixth-Year boys dorms. Lee and Katie were on Lee’s bed, Angelina and Fred on Fred’s, Buffy and George on George’s bed and Alicia looking curiously around the boys room, absently tidying as she went.

“What d’ya reckon the task will be?” Lee asked curiously.

Buffy shrugged, not wanting the others to know that she’d technically cheated by knowing the task ahead of time. She also didn’t want to explain how she’d seen the dragons that were hiding in the Forest.

“Not sure. Maybe we’ll have to duel one of the judges or something.”

“Are you nervous?” Alicia asked.

“Yeah, a little,” Buffy replied honestly. “But, nothing too bad can happen.”

Katie grinned, halfway through her perusal of George’s messy desk. “What happened to ‘no one’s safe, not here, not ever’?” she asked.

Buffy rolled her eyes. She’d never lived that spiel down. “Dumbledore’s not about to let anything horrible happen.”

“That’s true,” Angelina agreed. “Reckon Harry’ll be alright?”

“Hermione’s been helping him learn spells and stuff,” Buffy replied, thankful that Harry had such a loyal friend even when Ron had decided that Harry had ‘betrayed him’. “He should be fine.”

Katie suddenly tripped over a box that was partly protruding from under George’s bed, spilling half of the contents. Buffy rolled off and began helping Katie pack everything back inside.

She picked up one of the items that had fallen from the box and suddenly felt incredibly inspired.

“George?”

George looked across and grinned, noticing Buffy’s impish expression. It was a favourite of George’s, and even though he didn’t know what it meant at that moment, he knew that Buffy was up to something.

Buffy held something up in her hand for George to see. “Would you mind if I stole this?” she asked.

George grinned and nodded. “Yeah, it’s yours,” he replied generously. “What’re you going to do with it?”

Buffy just grinned and put it into the pocket of her robes.

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

By Tuesday, Harry had seen the dragons for himself, having met Hagrid in the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade on Sunday. Hagrid had taken him to see the dragons, Harry in his invisibility cloak, and Hagrid taking Madame Maxime along with him on his version of a romantic date.

Now that he’d seen the dragons for himself, he wasn’t any calmer. Hermione was spending every free moment with Harry, taking him through the steps of Summoning Charms so that Harry would be able to summon his Firebolt from his room on the day of the first task.

Even when Harry was fairly confident that his plan would work, he was still nervous. Tuesday seemed to fly by, and before Harry knew it, he was sitting at the Gryffindor table between Buffy and Hermione, picking at his food. Buffy didn’t seem to be able to eat anything either, and even the twins were strangely silent.

“You okay?” Buffy whispered.

Harry nodded bravely. “Hermione’s been really helpful,” he replied.

Hermione smiled modestly, and before another word could be said, Professor McGonagall was coming up behind them.

“Summers, Potter, the champions have to come down into the grounds now…you have to get ready for your first task.”

They stood up, and glanced back at their friends momentarily. Hermione nodded encouragingly and George stood to give Buffy a quick hug. “You’ll do fine.”

Buffy nodded, hoping that George was right. She quickly patted the pocket of her robes, checking to make sure everything was still in her pockets.

“Knock ‘em dead Buff,” Fred grinned.

Buffy and Harry walked out of the Hall, most of the students turning to watch as they left. They followed McGonagall who was looking incredibly anxious.

“Now, don’t panic,” McGonagall said quietly. “Just keep a cool head. We’ve got wizards on hand to control the situation if it gets out of hand. The main thing is to do your best, and nobody will think the worse of you. Are you both alright?”

“Could be worse,” Buffy replied.

“I’m fine,” Harry replied, though he didn’t sound it at all.

They were ushered into a large tent where Fleur Delacour and Viktor Krum were already, Krum looking Broody as ever, and Fleur was looking far less composed than she usually was. Buffy took a seat beside Fleur, and Harry sat beside her.

“Well, now that we’re all here – time to fill you in!” Bagman said brightly. “When the audience has all assembled, I’m going to be offering each of you his bag,” he said, holding up a small sack of purple silk, “from which you will each select a different model of the thing you are about to face! There are different – er - varieties, you see. And I have to tell you something else too…ah, yes…your task is to collect the golden egg!”

Outside the tent, hundreds of people could be heard walking past, all talking noisily. Several minutes later Bagman approached, holding out the purple sack.

“Ladies first,” he said, placing the bag between Buffy and Fleur.

The two girls looked at each other for possibly the firs time since the Beaubaxton students had come to Hogwarts. Buffy offered the girl a grin.

“You first,” Buffy said.

Fleur nodded. “Merci,” Fleur replied, placing her hand in and selecting a perfect model of a dragon – a Welsh Green. It had the number ‘two’ around its neck.

Buffy pulled out the number ‘four’, the Hungarian Horntail. Harry swallowed nervously, remembering that Charlie Weasley had said that it would be the worst one to be up against. He reminded himself to warn her before she went out.

Krum chose next, number ‘one’, the Swedish Short-Snout. Harry was left with number ‘three’ a scarlet Chinese Fireball.

“You have each pulled out the dragon you will face, and the numbers refer to the order which you are going to take on the dragons, do you see? Now, I’m going to have to leave you in a moment, because I’m commentating. Mr Krum, you’re first, just go out into the enclosure when you hear a whistle, all right? Now…Harry…could I have a quick word? Outside?”

Harry was pulled out of his daze and got up to follow Bagman. The Minister of Games and Sports questioned Harry about his plan and offered him help, but Harry turned him down. He couldn’t quite believe that one of the judges was trying to get him to accept help when it was plainly against the rules. Then again, Harry wasn’t supposed to have got help from Hermione either, but that wasn’t quite so serious.

Harry walked back into the tent and sat down beside Buffy again. A whistle blew and Krum straightened out his shoulders and walked out of the tent. The crowd began roaring and the other three champions could only wait in tense silence.

The listened to the crowds reactions, wishing they could see what was going on. The gasps, cheers, moans and groans weren’t all that comforting, and both Hogwarts champions were getting more and more nervous.

“Nervous?” Buffy asked.

“Not at all,” Harry replied, grinning.

The tense moment was broken and they both simultaneously took in big gulps of air.

“Reckon we’ll make it through this alive?” Harry asked.

“I think Dumbledore’d be kinda annoyed if any of us died,” Buffy replied.

Harry grinned at the casual flippancy Buffy had used. He felt slightly better about it, remembering that McGonagall had said that people were on hand in case anything went wrong.

“Be careful of the tail,” Harry whispered softly, making sure Fleur couldn’t hear his warning.

Buffy nodded and looked at the tiny model of the dragon, studying it carefully. She’d seen this type of dragon in her reading, and she remembered that its tail was incredibly dangerous. Then again, with any luck, she wouldn’t have to get all that close to it.

After about fifteen minutes, they heard the deafening roar that could only mean one thing. Krum had got past his dragon, and seized the golden egg.

“One down, three to go!” Bagman shouted, his voice magically amplified. “Miss Delacour if you please.”

Fleur was trembling from head to foot. She looked as though she was about to have a nervous breakdown and she looked close to tears. She stood, and Buffy stood as well. The Slayer grabbed hold of Fleur’s shoulders.

“Don’t just think you can,” Buffy whispered. “Know you can.”

Fleur met Buffy’s eyes and after a tense moment of silence, she nodded and stepped back. The shaking had nearly gone and she stepped out of the tent.

“Think she’s nervous?” Buffy asked.

Harry grinned and nodded. “What gave it away?”

“She’s not the only one. I think I’m gonna wet myself in a minute.”

Harry was laughing hysterically, more from the absolute nervousness he felt than anything. He was glad that his mind wasn’t on the dragon he was about to face.

They sat, listening once more to the crowds reactions and Bagman’s commentating. Ten minutes later, there was another roar and then a quieter period. The whistle was blown and Harry stood.

“For Hogwarts,” Buffy said quietly.

Harry nodded and took a deep breath. “For Hogwarts,” he agreed.

“And here comes our youngest champion, Harry Potter!” Bgaman yelled.

The crowd went wild and Harry walked into the enclosure. Harry tried to get himself to calm down, and keep his grip on his wand, his palms sweaty and incredibly hot. He stared at the Chinese Fireball dragon in front of him, praying desperately that the spells he’d been learning for the last few days would fail him now. He held his wand high into the air and yelled as loudly as he could above the roar of the crowd. “Accio Firebolt!”

It took nearly forty seconds to come to him, and they were possibly the longest forty seconds of Harry’s life. But then, when he heard his beloved broom speeding towards him, he felt considerably better. The first half of his plan had worked, and now all that he needed to do was get the egg.

He mounted the broom quickly and took off into the air. The crowd was going nuts, Bagman yelling something, but Harry was deaf to all of it. As he left the ground, he realised something else…he’d left behind his fear. He was back in the air where he belonged, and this was simply another Quidditch game.

He began flying in circles around the massive dragon, gaining its attention, the Chinese Fireball standing and momentarily leaving her eggs, which was exactly what Harry wanted it to do. He dived towards the ground, but the dragon let out a burst of flame. He ducked but felt his robes singe slightly. He was just thankful that they hadn’t caught on fire.

The dragon ducked its head quickly to try and swallow Harry, but the Gryffindor Seeker was faster, ducking left just as its jaws came down to bite it. Harry went back up higher, to get the dragon’s snout back in the air. When the dragon had complied with Harry’s plan, he dived again, drop-bombing straight at the pile of eggs. He could tell that the dragon above him was reacting a little too slow to Harry’s movements, and Harry grabbed at the golden egg and pulled his broom upwards again. He soared above the stands and his hearing returned, the crowd below him screaming and cheering.

“Our youngest champion is the quickest to get the egg so far!” Bagman yelled. “Well, this is going to shorten the odds on Potter!”

Inside the tent, Buffy was bouncing on her feet slightly. She could feel the adrenaline rushing through her, and she’d unconsciously shifted into Slayer mode. Her breathing was steady and her heartbeat completely normal, but she could feel her strength nearing the surface, ready to burst out at any second.

She gripped her wand tightly in her hand and waited for the whistle that would signal her. She closed her eyes, slipping into a light meditation to calm her nerves, and when the whistle blew, her eyes opened, and she calmly walked into the enclosure. All of Hogwarts were cheering loudly and she looked up into the stands, trying to find any of her friends, but the stands were filled with a see of faces. She gave up and refocussed her attention on the Hungarian Horntail in front of her.

She reached into her robes and knelt on the ground, planting something into the grass. She removed a silver cigarette lighter that she’d transfigured from a knife she’d ‘borrowed’ from the Great Hall and lit the fuse, stepping back ten paces.

The crowd leaned forward, watching in confusion.

There was suddenly a loud bang as the firework she’d lit flew into the air. Smoke started billowing, shaping itself like a mountain and began to glow at the summit. The crowd watched it, completely fascinated by this unexpected turn. It spouted gold and scarlet flames, and out flew a red-golden dragon – nearly life size. Fire came from its jaws, and it roared, flying over the crowd, who all ducked in shock.

The Horntail lifted itself up to meet the newest dragon, leaving its eggs unprotected. Buffy grinned and pointed her wand at the pile of eggs.

“Accio golden egg!” she yelled.

The golden egg flew away from the pile and into Buffy’s waiting hands.

The dragon made of fireworks suddenly erupted with a deafening explosion and the Hungarian Horntail sank back down to the ground. There was silence in the stadium until all of Hogwarts began cheering and stamping their feet.

“Look at that!” Bagman yelled over the din of the crowd. “The fastest champion to get to the egg, completely unharmed, and using a rather ingenious method I might add, is Eliza Potter-Summers, better known as Buffy Summers!”

Professor McGonagall and Professor Moody raced towards her as the dragon experts were putting the Hungarian Horntail under a Sleeping Charm.

“Excellent work Miss Summers,” McGonagall said, her face stretched into a smile.

Moody looked incredibly pleased as well. “What did I tell you, Summers?” he gloated.

Buffy grinned at her favourite Professor. “I never did listen to authority figures before.”

She was ushered into another tent where Madam Pomfrey was tending to the other three champions. Harry was insisting that he was fine, and Madam Pomfrey was trying to get him to eat several pieces of chocolate.

“I don’t think I’ll be getting you that dragon for Christmas after all, Harry,” Buffy said sadly.

Harry just laughed and grinned widely, thankful that the task was over. Ron was at his side, and had been ever since Harry had finished getting past his dragon. The two boys had made up, which had sent Hermione into tears.

Buffy was suddenly swept into a tight hug by George Weasley, followed by Fred, Angelina, Alicia, Katie and Lee.

“So, that’s what you wanted that firework for,” George said.

Buffy just shrugged innocently. “Knew it’d come in use someday.”

“You’re crazier than I thought Buffy,” Katie commented, though it sounded more like a compliment than an insult.

George pulled her to the edge of the tent. “C’mon, they’re going to announce your scores.”

At the other end of the enclosure, the five judges were seated in raised seats draped in gold.

“It’s marks out of ten from each one,” Fred explained.

The others grouped beside her, all of them feeling as nervous as the anxious Slayer.

Madame Maxime raised her wand in the air. What looked like a long, silver ribbon shot out of it, and it twisted itself into a large number nine. Mr Crouch was next, giving her nine as well.

“This is good!” Angelina yelled above the cheering from the stadium.

Dumbledore too put up nine, Bagman put up eight, and Karkaroff put up five.

“Bastard!” Lee yelled.

“He gave Harry and Fleur really lousy marks too,” George assured her.

“You and Harry are tied for first!” Angelina yelled.

“No, she and Harry and Krum and tied for first,” Katie corrected her.

Charlie Weasley approached, quickly congratulating Buffy for her approach for getting the egg. He then told her she needed to go back into the tent so Bagman could explain some more things to the champions. Her friends offered to wait, and Buffy walked quickly back towards the tent.

“Well done, all of you!” Bagman said brightly. “Now, just a quick few words. You’re got a nice long break in before the second task, which will take place at half past nine on the morning of February the Twenty-Fourth…but we’re giving you something to think about in the meantime. If you look down at those golden eggs you’re all holding, you will see that they open. You need to solve the clue inside the egg – because it will tell you what the second task is, and enable you to prepare for it. All clear? Sure? Well, off you go then!”

They all left eagerly, Harry joined by Ron and Hermione, and Buffy joining up with the other Sixth Year Gryffindors. As they headed back up to the Gryffindor Tower, they compared each of the champions, and how they’d got past the dragons. The rest of the evening was spent partying in the Gryffindor Tower, completely ignoring the fact that they would need to be up for lessons the next morning.

Fred managed to con Neville into eating of the Weasley’s Wizard’s Wheezes Canary Creams, which caused raucous laughter as soon as Neville had turned into a large canary. Hermione had managed to get the directions to the kitchens out of Fred, who worried that Hermione would upset the house-elves and that the small creatures wouldn’t ever give them food again.

As the evening drew to a close and the crowd dispersed, it was two very exhausted champions that drifted easily off to sleep in the Gryffindor dormitories.

Chapter 20 - Talking

As Christmas approached, the students calmed down after the first task. The first week after the task, Buffy and Harry had been fending off people trying to talk to them, or Colin with his camera, or even worse, Rita Skeeter trying to get interviews.

Two weeks before Christmas, it was announced that the Yule Ball would be being held on Christmas Day. The champions and their partners would officially open the dance, a thought that completely horrified Harry. Firstly, he didn’t dance, and secondly, he didn’t have a partner.

To his complete surprise, he had girls approaching him to ask him if he would go with them. He’d turned them all down, but had been so shocked by it all. With a week left, he was quickly running out of options.

He tried not to worry about it as he sat by the fire in eh Gryffindor Tower, reading through his copy of Flying with the Cannons that Hermione had bought him for his birthday one year.

Ron was building a castle of cards out of his Exploding Snap deck, while Hermione was revising for the test that Snape had cruelly set for them for the last day of term.

Fred, George and Buffy approached them just as Ron’s castle of cards exploded in his face, singeing his eyebrows.

“Nice look Ron,” Fred commented.

“Ron, can we borrow Pigwidgeon?” George asked.

“No, he’s off delivering a letter,” Ron replied. “Why?”

“Because George wants to invite him to the ball,” Fred replied sarcastically.

“Because we want to send a letter, you stupid great prat,” George replied.

“Who d’you three keeping writing to?” Ron asked curiously.

“Nose out Ron, or I’ll burn that for you too,” Fred replied. “So…you lot got dates for the ball yet?”

Harry groaned, not wanting to think about it.

“We’ll take that as a no,” Buffy commented, seeing Harry’s distress.

“Nope. Neither of us do.”

“You’d better hurry up mate, or all of the good ones will be gone,” Fred warned.

“Who’re you going with then?” Ron asked.

“Angelina,” Fred replied instantly.

Buffy looked at her friend questioningly. “I didn’t think you’d asked her yet,” she commented.

“Good point,” Fred replied. He turned his head and called across the Common Room. “Oi! Angelina!”

Angelina, who’d been chatting with Alicia and Katie looked over at him curiously.

“What?” she called back.

“Want to come to the ball with me?”

Angelina gave Fred an appraising sort of look. “All right then,” she replied, before turning back to Alicia and Katie, carrying on their conversation, with a wide grin on her face.

“There you go,” Fred said to Harry and Ron. “Piece of cake.”

Buffy rolled her eyes and poked Fred’s ribs. He squirmed and slapped her hands away.

“That was the most unromantic thing I’ve ever seen,” Buffy commented.

Fred just shrugged.

“What about you George?” Ron asked curiously.

George put his arm around Buffy’s shoulder and pulled her closer. “I bribed her into it,” he teased.

Ron smirked. “You’d have to.”

George looked completely offended, but finally conceded defeat.

“I’m considering it payment for the firework she stole,” he explained.

“What?! You gave that to me!” Buffy cried in outrage.

George shrugged. “Technicalities mean nothing to me.”

Ron leaned across to Harry, who was watching George mess around with Buffy.

“You reckon there’s something going on between those two?” Ron whispered.

Harry nodded, slightly shocked. He’d known that Buffy was good friends with both twins, but he hadn’t seen the sparks between Buffy and George before. It was strange that he hadn’t seen it, because now that he’d noticed, he couldn’t seem to not notice it.

“That’s uh…disgustingly cute actually,” Harry commented.

Ron wrinkled his nose. “What does she see in him?”

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

By the end of the week, Ron and Harry had partners, twin girls, Parvati and Padma Patil. The two boys were trying desperately to find out who Hermione was going with. She’d been completely secretive about it, especially when Ron had just assumed that she would be going with him as she ‘obviously’ wouldn’t have a partner. Neville and Ginny were going together as well.

Christmas morning came, along with the usual noise that followed it. The group met down in the Common Room, exchanging gifts and laughing over what everyone had been given.

The twins were sporting their usual hand-made jumpers from their mother, Ron wearing his, and Harry’s had a picture of a dragon on it. Mrs Weasley had even made one for Buffy, something that George had grinned at.

Buffy’s gift to Harry was a stuffed dragon, which she had managed to find in Hogsmeade after the first task. Harry had laughed and jokingly named it Puff the Magic Dragon. Only Buffy and Hermione had appreciated the name.

Harry had given his cousin an anklet with the initials EAB on it. She’d put it around her ankle immediately and vowed never to take it off.

Fred and George had handed out boxes of sweets that were a mixture of normal chocolates and lollies from Honeydukes. Approximately every fourth sweet however had been modified somehow, and it was with great caution that anyone actually ate anything that the Weasley twins had given them.

George had pulled Buffy asked and handed her a small ring box.

“I was browsing around Hogsmeade, and…I saw this,” he explained before Buffy opened the box. “It’s…it symbolises friendship.”

Buffy smiled at the gesture and lifted the lid on the box. Her breath caught in her throat and her hands trembled. The box fell from her hands and the claddagh ring hit the floor. The entire Common Room went silent, watching as George squatted down and picked up the fallen ring. He stood and went to touch her arm, but she stepped back.

“I…I’m sorry….I-I – I can’t do this.”

All of Gryffindor watched as the usually calm and collected girl, the champion of the Triwizard Tournament, lifted a trembling hand, wiped an errant tear from her eyes and fled the Common Room, racing out into the hallways and down several flights of stairs.
Fred looked to his twin, completely mystified by what had gone wrong. He’d been certain that there was something between Buffy and George, and to see his twin brother standing in the middle of the silent Common Room, looking in the direction that Buffy had fled, a sad expression on his face, Fred felt his heart break. No matter what everyone else thought, Fred hated to see people hurt, and it was obvious that George and Buffy were both hurting.

Fred stood up, unconsciously touching Angelina’s shoulder as he approached George.

“Go after her,” he advised.

George nodded mutely and raced after Buffy, the Common Room staying silent for a long moment before everyone tactfully changed topics.

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

George found Buffy down by the lake, her arms folded against her chest, a look of sorrow etched on her face. George stood beside her and placed a gentle hand at her back.

“Are you okay?” he whispered.

Buffy shook her head before turning to face him. George frowned as he saw the tears streaking down Buffy’s face. He removed a relatively clean handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the salty tracks off her cheeks.

“Do you want to sit down?” he asked.

Buffy nodded and they gracelessly sunk to the ground, sitting on George’s Gryffindor cloak so that the snow wouldn’t freeze them. George cautiously held out the ring between them, and Buffy took hold of the small silver item, sighing at the memories that it brought back.

“It’s not the first time you’ve been given one of these, is it?” George asked.

She shook her head again. “Nope.”

“Who was he? Is he the someone you mentioned that night in the woods?”

“His name was Angel,” Buffy whispered. She hadn’t spoken about Angel to anyone except Willow and Giles, and trying to explain it now to someone that she was on the verge of something with was incredibly difficult.

“Was?” George asked.

Buffy nodded. “He died. About two weeks before I met you.”

George winced, suddenly understanding why Buffy had been so reluctant to start anything with him. Buffy suddenly pushed the ring back into George’s hand, and he closed his fingers around it to hide it from Buffy’s sight.

“What happened to him?” George asked.

Buffy let out a snort of mirthless laughter. “I killed him,” she replied.

George took in an involuntary breath of air.

“There’s an explanation behind that isn’t there?”

She had no choice but to tell him the truth. All of it. She wanted things between them to be cleared up completely. She didn’t want Angel hanging over their heads anymore, and she didn’t want her secret of being the Slayer between them either. And then there was the truth about her parentage, and Sirius, and why she was still using the name Summers.

“There’s some stuff that you have to understand about me before I explain about him,” Buffy said.

“I’m listening,” he offered.

She breathed in deeply and fiddled with the anklet that Harry had given to her earlier.

“Have you ever wondered why I was raised muggle?” Buffy asked.

George nodded. He had been curious about that, but he’d known better than to pry into it. He knew that the Potter’s were a curious family. The last name was known by everyone.

“My mom believed that my dad betrayed her and her brother,” Buffy explained. “She was heartbroken, so…she left England and headed to America. She didn’t want me to know about magic or anything even remotely supernatural, but…fate it seems, has a funny sense of humour.”

George’s eyebrows quirked slightly in confusion. Buffy paused momentarily, swatting away a large beetle that was walking in front of them. It landed a foot away and slowly crawled back towards them.

“When I was fifteen, I met a man who told me that I’d been Called as a Slayer,” she explained. “Giles is my Watcher. That’s why he’s at Hogwarts…so he can keep training me. That’s why I know him so well…why I spend so much time in the library.”

George’s eyes were wide. They’d been taught about Slayers in their third year, and he’d never forgotten the lessons about vampires and demons and Slayers. It was one of the very few subjects that had ever interested him outside of causing havoc.

“Mom never knew until she saw me kill a vamp right in front of her. We had a massive fight, and after that…well, then I met my dad for the first time. I had no clue that he was a wizard or that I was a witch or that my cousin was fricken famous.”

George chuckled slightly and reached across to squeeze Buffy’s hand. She smiled gratefully at the contact, thankful that he hadn’t turned away. Yet.

“You see, my dad…he was meant to be in prison. But he escaped, and the guy who framed him got away.”

“Escaped…wait…you don’t mean-”

“Sirius Black,” Buffy said. “My name is Eliza Anne Black. My mother is Joyce Potter-Black. And my step-father was Hank Summers. An accountant, strangely enough.”

George grinned slightly at the random comment, before remembering one of his and Fred’s initial questions to her regarding her father.

“Sirius is innocent though,” Buffy continued. “He never betrayed James and Lily…he never killed that group of people. Peter Pettigrew did.”

Strangely, George believed every word that Buffy had said. He knew the story about Sirius Black’s escape from Azkaban, and hearing from Buffy’s lips that Sirius was innocent was enough for George to believe it.

“Okay…so, you’re a Slayer, your dad’s Sirius Black, and you dated a guy named Angel,” George prompted.

“Angel…he’s…he’s kind of a long story,” Buffy hedged.

George shrugged. “We’ve got at least half an hour before my stomach starts eating itself.”

Buffy grinned and looked up at the clear blue sky.

“His name was Angel and…he was a vampire. He’d been cursed with his soul about a hundred years ago, forced to carry the guilt of a hundred and fifty years of destruction,” Buffy explained. “We met and I fell for him.”

“And then what happened?”

“We…he and I made love and…his curse had a loophole in it. The gypsies didn’t want Angel to ever be happy, except they kinda forgot to inform him of that part. If he ever had a true moment of happiness, his soul would be gone, and he’d just become the vicious soulless killer he’d been before.”

“And you being the Slayer…you had to kill him,” George said.

“Yup. Fun huh?”

George shifted closer to Buffy and pulled her into a hug, neither of them saying a word as the sun shone down on them.

Long moments passed in silence, only the sound of their hearts beating and the gentleness of their breaths could be heard. Buffy slowly took hold of George’s hand and opened his fingers up so that his palm was lying flat, the ring glinting in the sunlight.

“I don’t know if I’m ready to wear another ring like this,” she confessed, picking the ring up out of his palm. She gently turned the ring so that the heart was facing in towards George. She slipped it onto his pinkie finger, the only finger it would fit on.

“They say you should only wear it with the heart facing in if you belong to somebody,” he whispered.

Buffy smiled and kissed his cheek. “I know.”

George smiled and nodded, helping her to stand. He picked up his cloak, shook of the snow and flicked the large beetle that Buffy had been harassing earlier off his cloak. He engulfed Buffy in a warm hug, the two of them standing there for several minutes before finally separating and heading back to the castle.

Buffy felt considerably lighter now that she’d told George about her father, about being the Slayer, and about Angel as well. She was grateful that she could trust George to keep what she’d just told him in confidence (with the exception of Fred of course), and that while she’d now divulged her biggest secrets, at least none of the other students knew.

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

After the feast and an impromptu snowball fight out on the grounds between the Weasley’s, Harry, Buffy, Angelina, Alicia, Katie and Lee, the girls ran off for their dorms, needing as much time as possible to get ready for the Yule Ball. Ron was still annoyed that Hermione was being so secretive about her partner, while he was also worried about his dress robes being incredibly dated.

Katie was fairly quiet for the night, upset that Cedric Diggory, the boy she had a massive crush on was going with Cho Chang, who strangely enough, Harry had a crush on. The Weasley twins were, as always, rambunctiously loud throughout the entire evening. For the opening dance for the champions and their partners, George had grabbed a long-stemmed rose off one of the tables, torn the thorns off and placed it in his mouth, tangoing wildly across the floor with a laughing Buffy.

The Slayer was further convinced that the twins had absolutely no shame about anything as they danced up a storm, Fred tap-dancing circles around Angelina.

After the opening dance for Harry, he’d sat himself firmly at his table and silently declared he would never dance in public again. His partner was fuming, and eventually she and her twin sister, who’d been partnered by Ron, who was glaring daggers at Viktor Krum, who had asked Hermione to the Ball, had wandered off to chat with some of the boys from Durmstrang.

For an entire evening, Buffy found herself laughing hysterically at the twins antics, and at the way George could make her laugh even after what had happened earlier in the afternoon, and the deed conversation they’d had. The laughter was one of the very reasons that she was in the process of completely falling for George Weasley. And part of her couldn’t have cared less. She was laughing, and she was happy, something that had been very rare in Sunnydale, and she wasn’t about to play the martyr and give up on what happiness she had found in life.

For that one evening, life couldn’t have been better.

Chapter 21 - Unveiling

Boxing Day started as a lazy day spent in the Common Room. Buffy noticed that things between Ron and Hermione were unusually tense, and when she questioned Harry about it, he explained the argument that the two had had in the Common Room the evening before about Ron thinking of Hermione as a second choice. Buffy had smirked and shook her head laughing. It was Xander and Cordelia all over again. She couldn’t wait to see whether it would be Ron or Hermione who cracked first.

For a week, the Common Room was filled with students frantically trying to do the massive amount of homework that the teachers had assigned over the Christmas break. Harry was beginning to worry more and more about the egg and the indecipherable noise that it made whenever it was opened. Buffy had been faring no better, and they’d promised to tell the other if either of them figured out how on earth to decipher the clue hidden within.

The first day of term started, but not in any way that any of them had expected. Fred, George, Lee, Buffy, Angelina, Alicia and Katie all walked into the Great Hall for breakfast and the room went deadly silent. The group exchanged a glance before deciding to trudge down to their seats. Buffy sat down beside Neville Longbottom, who shifted slightly away from her. Buffy frowned, but said nothing, knowing the boy was incredibly nervous, especially around girls.

“This is strange,” Angelina whispered.

“Even for Hogwarts,” Lee quipped.

The group nodded its agreement. George leaned across Buffy to snatch Neville’s copy of the Daily Prophet. Neville went to protest, but it died down quickly. The redhead flipped to the second page and his heart practically stopped.

He put the paper on the table, and Fred leaned across to read it better.

“‘Dumbledore’s Dangerous Decisions’,” Fred recited. “‘Albus Dumbledore…’ blah, blah, blah…‘hired Alastor ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody…’ blah, blah, blah… ‘looks kindly when set beside the part-human Dumbledore employs to teach Care of Magical Creatures’. …blah, blah, blah… ‘unearthed evidence that Hagrid is not, in fact, even pure human’…blah, blah, blah… ‘mother is giantess Fridwulfa’.”

“I’m still not understanding the silence,” Lee commented.

George’s heart dropped when he saw where Fred had stopped reading.

“‘Dumbledore is also making dangerous decisions with the enrolment of students. It has been discovered that Hogwarts Triwizard Champion Eliza ‘Buffy’ Potter-Summers, is in actual fact, Eliza Anne Black, the only child of Joyce Potter-Black and Sirius Black, notorious criminal and escaped convict’.”

Buffy closed her eyes and felt as though she was about to throw up everything in her stomach. George reached across and grabbed hold of Buffy’s hand, squeezing it firmly in silent support.

“‘Not only is ‘Buffy’ the daughter of Sirius Black, but it has also been revealed that she is the Vampire Slayer, the one girl in all the world, Chosen to hunt the vampires. As if that wasn’t enough, only six months ago, Miss Black was in a romantic relationship with one of the most vicious vampires in History, Angelus the Scourge of Europe’.”

The Sixth Year Gryffindors fell silent, each of them reeling with the information they’d just been bombarded with.

“Anyone else feel like skipping DADA and having a late breakfast up in our room?” Fred suggested.

As one, the entire group stood, collected a few plates of food and walked out of the Great Hall. Buffy refused to let herself break down in front of the other students. She held her head high as she walked out of the Hall, and as soon as the door closed behind her she looked to George.

“How the hell did they find that out?” she asked quietly.

“I swear to you, I didn’t tell anyone except Fred,” George said.

Fred stepped forward, his hand over his heart. “I promise you that I never said anything to anyone about what George told me.”

Buffy nodded. It was rare that the twins were ever serious about anything, but she could see the truth in their eyes. They hadn’t divulged anything to anyone. They wouldn’t have. Which meant that whoever had written the article had found out from somewhere else.

Buffy took the article out of George’s hand and skimmed through it. The reporter was Rita Skeeter, which didn’t surprise Buffy at all. What she did have to wonder was how on earth the woman had found out any of the information that she had told George. She hadn’t sensed anyone around the lake, and unless Skeeter could actually disguise herself as the giant squid that lived in the lake, there was no way that the woman could have been there.

They got to the Common Room, all of them silent. They were met with Harry, Ron and Hermione, all of them looking worried and upset as well. Without a word between them, the ten of them walked up the stairs and into the boys dormitories.

“You read the article?” Buffy asked.

Harry, Ron and Hermione all nodded.

“I was hoping that she’d never find out about Sirius,” Harry admitted. “I knew everyone in school’d react like this.”

“No offence, but can you blame them?” Alicia asked quietly, eyeing her small blonde friend. “Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban…he killed-”

“He never killed anyone,” Buffy said. Her voice wasn’t angry or loud. It was just a quiet statement of the facts.

“But…what about that wizard he killed? Peter something-or-other,” Katie questioned.

“He faked it,” Ron said bitterly. “Chopped off his own finger and disappeared before anyone could realise what had happened. He’s an animagus.”

Fred and George looked at their younger brother suspiciously. “How d’you know that?” they asked in unison.

Ron grimaced and said one word. “Scabbers.”

The twins’ jaws dropped in shock. They knew that there was something wrong with the rat that Percy had had throughout his years at Hogwarts. Ron had been given it as a hand-me-down.

“So…Pettigrew was really the one to betray the Potters?” Angelina asked. Everyone in the wizarding world had grown up hearing the story of Voldemort’s defeat. Everyone knew everything about the Potters and how’d they been betrayed by one of their best friends.

Harry scowled and nodded. “He was the spy working for Voldemort.” He ignored the way nearly everyone shuddered at the use of the name.

“But, if your dad’s innocent Buffy, why are the Ministry still looking for him?” Lee asked.

“Cos there’s no proof that Pettigrew’s still alive,” Harry answered. “He got away, and Fudge didn’t believe that we’d seen him.”

Fred, Angelina, Lee, Katie and Alicia all felt slightly better knowing that Buffy’s father wasn’t some psychopathic murder. But there were still two other things about their friend that Buffy had never told them.

“What about what Skeeter said about Angelus?” Hermione asked.

“It’s half true,” Buffy replied.

“Half?” Angelina asked.

“He had a soul,” George explained. Buffy smiled at him gratefully, not certain that she could have explained everything about Angel to them without breaking down. “Stuff happened, he lost his soul, end of story.”

“And the thing about you being the Slayer?” Ron asked curiously. “That’s not really true is it?”

“No, it’s true,” Buffy replied. “It’ll be three years in May.”

“Wow,” Ron gasped in awe. He wasn’t the only one.

Angelina and Alicia were looking at their friend with new eyes. Katie looked slightly smug. She’d always known that Buffy was different from the beginning, but that the differences weren’t a bad thing.

“You two don’t seem to be all that shocked about this,” Angelina commented, glancing at Fred and George.

“We found out last week,” George admitted.

“We were the only ones who knew,” Fred commented.

“I knew about the Slayer thing,” Harry said. “And about Sirius of course.”

Ron and Hermione looked at him, offended he hadn’t told them. He just shrugged. It hadn’t been his secret to tell, just like knowing that Neville’s parents had been tortured to insanity by the Cruciatus Curse wasn’t his to tell.

“Any other deep dark secrets we should know about?” Lee asked, half joking.

Buffy pretended to think about it. “Oh…well, yeah, there is one more thing,” she said. She paused dramatically before continuing. “Snape and I are having an affair.”

There was silence for all of four and a half seconds before the entire group cracked up in hysterics.

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

Term began once more, and the days seemed to drag even more slowly than usual for the Slayer. People were pointing and whispering behind her back even more often, but unlike when they’d been doing it because of her status as Hogwarts champion she knew that the whispering going on around her was far more nefarious. She hated every second of it and was grateful whenever it was time to go back to the Gryffindor Tower. She could at least count on her true friends to be completely supportive of her.

On Tuesday though, she awoke with the worst feeling in her gut. She couldn’t remember what she’d dreamt about, but she had a terrible feeling that the dream had meant more than just a random nightmare. She just wished that she could remember it.

By the time the day had finished, she’d thought that it was nothing, but she should have known better than to let herself relax completely. As she walked down the stairs towards the Great Hall for dinner, surrounded by the other Sixth-Years she heard her name called out from below.

“Hey Giles, Professor McGonagall,” she greeted, trying to stay calm. “What’s up?”

“Professor Dumbledore needs to speak to you,” McGonagall replied.

Buffy regarded the Professor curiously, trying to read the woman’s eyes. What she read there was not making her comfortable at all. She looked to her Watcher, and he looked unusually upset. Whatever this was about, it wasn’t good news.

“Now?”

McGonagall nodded. Buffy glanced back at her friends, George in particular. None of them looked too happy about the summoning either, but there was nothing that could be done about it. Buffy followed McGonagall and Giles up the stairs and towards Dumbledore’s office. They ascended the spiral staircase and entered the office.

Buffy’s eyes went wide in shock.

“Mom!” she cried. “What are you doing here?”

The two women exchanged a hug before Joyce pulled back. Buffy could see tears in her mother’s eyes and immediately her heart dropped.

“Where’s dad?”

Joyce sighed. “He was taken back to Azkaban,” Joyce replied softly.

“When? Why? How’d they find him?” Buffy asked, tears welling in her eyes.

“After that article that that horrible Skeeter woman wrote…they found out,” Joyce explained.

Buffy closed her eyes and tried to stay calm. She felt completely sickened to know that her father was back in prison. She’d heard about the Dementors and what effects they could have on people. She didn’t know if her dad would be strong enough to stand a second go in Azkaban prison.

“This is all my fault,” Buffy whispered.

Joyce grabbed hold of Buffy’s chin and forced her to look up.

“This is not your fault. It’s that horrible reporter who’s at fault,” Joyce said vehemently.

“I’ve banned her from returning to Hogwarts,” Dumbledore informed them.

“I don’t even know how she found out about it all,” Buffy said. “The only person I told was George, and he and Fred swore that they didn’t tell anyone else.”

“The Ministry doubled the guards on Sirius’s cell,” Dumbledore interrupted quietly. “He’s been put in solitary confinement in a cell with solid wars instead of bars.”

“And it’s nearly impossible to escape, right?” Buffy asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “There is nothing that would allow Sirius to escape.”

Buffy sat down, her legs trembling and threatening to collapse. She put her head in her hands, trying to calm her thoughts so that she’d be able to think properly. A mouse scurried out from beneath Dumbledore’s desk, and Buffy’s eyes widened.

“There’s no way he can escape,” Buffy whispered. “But there is another way to get him out.”

“The Ministry believes him to be guilty of murdering fourteen people, and being an accessory to James and Lily’s deaths,” Giles reminded his Slayer.

“I don’t care what the Ministry believes,” Buffy replied, her eyes flashing with determination and anger. “He never killed anyone. And I’m going to prove it.”

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

The wizarding world was abuzz with the news that Sirius Black had been captured. The students at Hogwarts, minus most of the Gryffindors, were still on their guards around Buffy, but she had learnt to ignore the whisperings around her a long time ago. People had been gossiping about her behind her back since her days at Hemery, and Hogwarts was no different.

Buffy and Harry were still trying to work out the riddle behind the golden egg, and neither of them had figured out how to get it to stop screeching. And when Harry was approached by Ludo Bagman in the Three Broomsticks on the Sunday while he was in Hogsmeade, he was tempted to let Bagman just give him a hint. But Bagman was a judge, and it would have been completely against the rules. And while Harry may have technically been cheating by allowing Hermione to help him, her drew the line at asking a judge to bend the rules.

Bagman had left however when the twins and Buffy had sat themselves down and offered to by him a drink. The Minister of Games and Sports had fled as fast as humanly possible.

The trio joined Harry, Ron and Hermione for Butterbeers and sat around the table discussing the last few weeks events. Hagrid had tried to put in his resignation from position as Professor, but Dumbledore had refused to let him. Buffy had been sure that Professor Moody would have wanted to stop tutoring her, but he’d explained to her that it didn’t matter to him who her father was.

Ron suddenly stared pointedly at the door. “Uh oh.”

Rita Skeeter had just entered. Fred and George had to be lightening fast to grab hold of Buffy’s arms to stop her from jumping up and racing across to Skeeter to strangle her to death. Buffy settled for glaring at the woman.

Skeeter spotted Harry and darted towards him. “Harry! How lovely! Why don’t you come and join-?”

“I wouldn’t come near you with a ten foot broomstick,” Harry replied furiously. The others at the table smirked behind their hands, snickering softly. “What did you do that to Buffy and Hagrid for, eh?”

“Our readers have the right to know the truth, Harry.”

“Truth?” Buffy replied furiously. “You completely skewed the stories to make us sound liked we’d kill everyone at the drop of a hat!”

Skeeter turned to look at the Slayer who had a death-glare fixed on the reporter.

“Well, you are dangerous aren’t you?” Skeeter asked mildly.

“Do you want me to be?” Buffy asked brightly.

Skeeter glared at the Slayer in disgust.

“Hmmm…I can see the headlines: ‘Slayer threatens mild-mannered-reporter’.”

Buffy grimaced. “Clark Kent you’re not. How can you live with yourself? You’ll do anything for a story won’t you?”

“I report the facts,” Skeeter replied dangerously.

Buffy stood up and stepped towards the woman, and smiled inwardly when she saw that Skeeter took a step back.

“Well, Mosquito, report anymore ‘facts’ about me, or any of my family ever again, and I’ll make sure that you can’t ever write anything again. Don’t mess with me,” Buffy warned.

“Is that a threat?” Skeeter asked. Buffy could tell that the woman was nervous as anything, but trying to keep her cool in front of the people in the Three Broomsticks who were watching the confrontation.

“No,” Buffy replied mildly before taking her seat in between the twins once more. “Just a fact.”

Rita Skeeter huffed with annoyance, though Harry could have sworn it was a sigh of relief that Buffy had backed off, and stomped away from the table.

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

Ten Gryffindors sat beside the lake, a massive blanket beneath them, a spread of food in front of them as they ate their lunch in the warm sunshine. The group had taken to eating lunch outdoors to reduce the amount of gossip they had to hear from the other students.

Harry and Buffy both had their eggs in the middle of the blanket, staring at them, almost in hope that they would suddenly be inspired by how to work the egg.

Lee grabbed hold of Buffy’s and tossed it across the blanket to Ron who fumbled it slightly before throwing it to George. Buffy put her hand out expectantly, but George grinned wickedly and tossed it to Harry, who tossed it to Angelina, who then threw it to Hermione. Unfortunately, Hermione was distracted by the book in front of her, and missed catching the egg. It flew behind her and with a loud plop, dropped into the lake.

The group looked at each other sheepishly. Buffy turned to glare at Lee.

“This is your fault you realise,” she said angrily.

“Uh…sorry,” he offered.

Buffy rolled her eyes and stood up, walking to the edge of the lake. The edge where she was had a slight drop instead of the gentle incline of sandy banks. She could tell that it was deep, but she could see the golden egg glittering at the bottom at least twelve feet down.

She pulled out her wand and aimed it down into the water. “Accio golden egg!”

The egg shot up slightly, but got caught in a tangle of weeds and remained at the bottom. Buffy sighed and put her wand back in her cloak.

“So…who’s going to volunteer to get it?” she asked, turning to look back at the group.

Everyone started looking everywhere except Buffy. The Slayer rolled her eyes and shrugged out of her cloak, kicking off her shoes and socks, leaving her in her skirt, blouse and sweater.

“You can’t!” Harry yelled. “The water will be freezing.”

Buffy considered that option. She pulled her jumper off as well and the group looked at her with wide-eyed confusion.

“Are you nuts?” Lee asked.

Buffy just shrugged. “Is anyone else gonna go in and get it?”

The group fell silent again.

“Okay then. So…who knows a drying spell?” Buffy asked.

Hermione, Angelina and Katie all raised their hands. Buffy felt slightly relieved for that.

“Well, get ready to use one,” she said.

She took a deep breath and dived into the lake. The group all rushed to get to their feet, racing to the edge of the water to see Buffy hit the water and swim downwards to grab hold of the egg.

For a terrifying moment, the group thought that something had gone wrong. They could see her beneath the water, but she wasn’t coming back up even though the egg was in her hand. Just as George was shrugging out of his cloak, Buffy shot up out of the water and gasped for air, a grin on her face.

“Merlin Buff, you almost gave us a heart attack!” Lee yelled angrily.

Buffy just grinned and held up the egg in triumph. “I think I figured the egg out!”

“What?!” the all yelled in unison.

Buffy tossed the egg up to the group and Harry caught it expertly. Buffy climbed up the short rock cliff face and George helped her over the edge. He tried his hardest not to notice the way Buffy’s white blouse had gone see-through. Lee had no qualms about openly ogling her. Hermione quickly cast a drying spell on Buffy and her clothes, much to Lee (and George’s) disappointment. Buffy rubbed her hands up and down her arms and pulled her jumper and cloak back on, drier but still chilled.

She took the egg back from Harry. “You have to listen to it underwater,” she explained.

Harry looked absolutely horrified. “I’m not going in there!” he cried.

Buffy laughed. “It’s called a bath you moron,” she teased.

“Oh,” Harry said softly. He coughed uncomfortably and nodded. “Alright then. I’ll do that.”

Chapter 22 - Vexing

Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

And while you’re searching, ponder this

We’ve taken what you’ll sorely miss,

An hour long you’ll have to look,

And to recover what we took,

But past an hour – the prospect’s bleak,

Too late, it’s gone, it won’t come back.

Buffy hated riddles. They were too much like vague prophecies and she didn’t much like those either. She lay on her stomach in the middle of her bed looking at the poetic riddle for the fourth time in the last ten minutes.

She’d worked out the first part of the riddle. Whoever couldn’t sing ‘above the ground’ was in water. And from Buffy’s extensive research into the creatures that lived within Hogwarts, Buffy had found out that there were merpeople in the lake. They were the only creatures in the lake that could have voices.

What worried Buffy though was the second part. ‘Taken what you’ll sorely miss.’ That could mean absolutely anything really. She could miss anything from a pair of shoes to her favourite weapon, to her photo albums of the Scoobies, to her friends at Hogwarts. And she knew she wouldn’t know what it was that they would take until she had to actually find it.

And then there was the next problem. She had an hour to search for what had been taken. An hour…underwater. She knew that she could stay under water without having to resurface for about three minutes. So what on earth could she possibly do to get to the bottom of the lake and take the time to search for whatever it was that was going to be taken.

Harry was having the same problems, and they had agreed to research for as many ideas that they could think of. So far, neither of them had come up with anything of interest. Harry had thought about trying to Summon scuba gear, but knew that it would be hopeless to even try.

“Of course the ideal solution would be for you to transfigure yourself into a submarine or something,” Hermione said. “If only we’d done human Transfiguration already! But I don’t think we start that until sixth year and it can go badly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing…”

Harry wouldn’t be able to perform the spell, but he wasn’t a Sixth Year. He’d told Hermione’s suggestion to Buffy who had been intrigued by it. She went through the notes she’d taken throughout the semester and saw that Hermione was right. They had studied human transformation. But what caught Buffy’s attention even more was the section on cross-species switching spells.

Flicking through the textbooks, Buffy grinned and raced with the book in her hand towards Professor McGonagall’s office. She knocked and entered when bidden to do so.

“Hey Professor,” Buffy greeted.

“Summers,” McGonagall replied. “What brings you here on a Sunday?”

“I was hoping you could give me a little help with something that we were covering earlier in the term,” Buffy replied. She took a seat on the other side of McGonagall’s desk as the Professor looked at her curiously.

“I’m not supposed to give help with your tasks,” McGonagall reminded her.

“Tasks, schmasks,” Buffy replied flippantly. “I’m not asking for help on that. Professor, I was raised muggle. I’m really behind in some of the spells that I’m meant to know by now.”

McGonagall caught on quickly and gave a short laugh. “Yes, I suppose I could give you a hand catching up. What can I do for you?”

Buffy grinned and placed the book on McGonagall’s desk. The Professor’s eyebrows raised, an impressed look on her face.

“Summers, you realise that cross-species switching is incredibly dangerous,” McGonagall warned.

“Which is why I was hoping that I’d have a Professor helping me to learn,” she replied.

McGonagall hesitated a moment before nodding. She wanted Hogwarts to win as much as every other Professor, and it wasn’t technically cheating. They had covered the cross-species switching spells, but never had the students tried it on themselves.

“What exactly are you hoping to be able to transform yourself into?” McGonagall asked.

“Let’s just say…if you can’t beat them, join them,” Buffy replied cryptically.

McGonagall regarded her curiously before she caught on. The Professor laughed genuinely and shook her head in disbelief. “You are definitely a mystery Miss Summers.”

“Black,” Buffy replied. “Everyone knows, I don’t see why I can’t use it.”

McGonagall nodded. “Of course. Well…you’ve only got two weeks to learn, I suppose we should get cracking.”

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

Between her tutoring sessions with Professor Moody, and extra Transfigurations with Professor McGonagall, and helping Harry research for another solution to breathing under water, Buffy had very little time for anything else. She could see why the champions didn’t have to do their exams, and she was definitely grateful for it.

By the night before the second task, Harry still hadn’t found anything useful. Hermione, Ron and Buffy were all seated around a library table helping him research. Giles was loitering behind a desk, desperately wanting to point them in the right direction, but his own research had come up with nothing as well. Plus, it would have been against the rules, though he wasn’t really all that concerned with that small fact.

“Oh, this is useless,” Hermione complained, slamming shut her copy of Weird Wizarding Dilemmas. “Who on earth wants to make their nose hair grow in ringlets?”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Fred Weasley’s voice said from behind them. “Be a talking point, wouldn’t it?”

“What’re you two doing here?” Ron asked.

“Looking for you,” George replied. “McGonagall wants Hermione, Ron and me in her office.”

“Why?” Hermione and Buffy asked together. Hermione was worried that she’d done something wrong. She didn’t feel too secure if she was being lumped in with Ron and George Weasley for something.

“Dunno,” Fred replied. It was odd that George was being summoned when he wasn’t. It hadn’t ever happened before. They’d only ever been in trouble together. “She looked a bit…grim though.”

Fred, George, Hermione and Ron left the library, leaving Buffy and Harry to their research. Harry looked incredibly uneasy now that the group had been cut in half.

“Hey, don’t stress,” Buffy said. “Chances are we’ll find a solution just in time.”

Harry nodded, but didn’t feel incredibly calm. He knew that Buffy had a plan, though she’d refused to divulge to anyone what it was. Not even George or Fred knew what she had planned, and Harry was looking forward to seeing what his cousin had come up with.

By eight o’clock, all of the library lamps had been extinguished, and Buffy and Harry were escorted out of the library by an apologetic Giles and a tired Madam Pince. They were carrying as many books as they could, and they’d spread out across the floor of the Gryffindor Common Room.

“Do you have any other books in your room that might help?” Buffy asked.

Harry sighed tiredly and shrugged. “Probably not. Dean and Seamus aren’t really book-worm types. Neville…well…y’know.”

“Mind if I rampage your room?” she asked.

“Feel free,” Harry replied, too tired to argue.

Buffy stood and stretched tiredly. She didn’t know how Hermione spent so much time in the library voluntarily. Buffy wandered up to the Fourth-Year boys dorms and knocked. She entered, grateful that none of the boys were back from dinner just yet. She wrinkled her nose at the mess, and wandered slowly around the room.

The boys had all of their books for the year on bookshelves, and there was very little variety in what was on their desks. Buffy sighed ready to give up, when something on Neville’s desk caught her attention, mainly because of the word ‘water’. She figured it was worth a shot and picked up Neville’s copy of Magical Mediterranean Water-Plants and Their Properties.

She wandered back down to the Common Room and held up the book. Harry looked confused but shrugged, figuring that at this point in time, he was willing to give it a shot. He took the book from her and flicked through it tiredly. Buffy picked up another of the books that Harry had lugged up the stairs, and read through it.

An hour later, the Common Room had filled and emptied again. Harry had old Neville about the book he’d borrowed, and Neville had just nodded and continued up the stairs.

An hour after that, Harry threw the book down in defeat. “Nothing,” he moaned.

Buffy picked it up despite Harry’s complaint. She was bored of the other books, and needed a change of pace. Harry rested his head on his forearms and closed his sore eyes.

“I am so screwed,” Harry moaned.

“No, you’re not,” Buffy replied, not taking her eyes from the book.

“Yes I am.”

“Don’t be so dramatic. Just…keep reading alright? You won’t find the answer by studying the back of your eye-lids.”

Harry rolled his eyes but picked up another book that he was sure he’d already read through.

An hour later, Harry was beginning to nod off. He was startled out of his sleep by Buffy suddenly jumping out of her chair. “What?” he asked tiredly.

Buffy grinned at him and handed him the open book. Harry took it and read through the page she was showing him. A grin slowly lifted on his face.

“Brilliant,” he whispered. His life was beginning to look up. And then his heart sank. “How are we gonna get it?”

“You’re too young to frown like that,” Buffy admonished. “C’mon Harry, this isn’t too big a problem. What teacher is gonna be likely to have gillyweed?”

Harry sighed. “Snape,” he said sadly.

Buffy rolled her eyes and grabbed hold of her cousin’s arm, hauling him to his feet. “Who else?” she asked.

Harry shook his head, too tired to think logically. “I dunno.”

“Sprout,” Buffy replied calmly, as though it was the world’s most obvious answer. “The Herbology teacher.”

Harry’s grin suddenly came back.

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

Buffy walked silently down the corridor, Harry walking behind her hidden by his invisibility cloak. The younger Gryffindor hadn’t wanted to be left out of the adventure, but he knew that if he were caught out of bed at eleven-thirty at night, he would have had to do a month of detentions, knowing his luck.

Harry sucked in his breath as Argus Filch, the Caretaker of Hogwarts suddenly rounded the corner. Buffy remained completely calm and nodded to him politely as he passed. Filch ignored her, but said nothing about her late hours. Now that Buffy’s identity as the Slayer had been revealed to the entire wizarding world, Buffy patrolling at night had become common knowledge to all of the Professors and the majority of the students at the school.

They made their way out to the greenhouses, listening carefully for ay sign of Professors or students. They heard nothing and snuck towards Greenhouse Four. Buffy knelt at the door, bending one of her bobby pins and getting ready to jimmy the lock as she’d been taught to do by Giles. He’d thought it a handy skill to pass down to her, and Buffy had to admit that it was a good skill to have.

They suddenly heard a soft whistling heading towards them, and Buffy jumped away from the door and moved to lean across the brick ledge that looked out over the grounds, trying to appear as casual as possible.

“Miss Summers,” Professor Sprout’s voice said in surprise. “I’d have thought you’d be in bed by now…what with tomorrow being the second task and all.”

“Professor…I have a favour to ask,” Buffy said.

Professor Sprout looked intrigued.

“Well, actually, we have a favour to ask,” Buffy said, pulling off Harry’s invisibility cloak.

Professor Sprout’s eyebrows seemed to rise up beneath her hat in shock.

“Harry you shouldn’t be out so late at night,” Sprout admonished.

“We know,” Harry replied. “It’s just…I’ve been researching all night trying to work out how I’m going to do this task tomorrow, and…well, I finally found the answer, and…I need your help.”

“You know I’m not permitted to offer the champions any help with the tasks,” Sprout replied.

“It’s not really help that he’s after,” Buffy said quickly.

“Right,” Harry said, catching on quickly. “I did the research, and found out what I needed to know, and…besides Professor Snape, you are the only other person who would have what I need.”

“Which is what?” Sprout asked.

“Gillyweed,” Harry replied. “To help me breath underwater.”

Professor Sprout finally smiled. She nodded and unlocked Greenhouse Four, gesturing them inside.

“I was wondering if you would discover the properties of that plant,” Sprout said, walking towards the back of the greenhouse. There was a large tank of water with all manner of plants growing inside. “I’d hoped you would.”

“I found it in Neville’s book,” Harry said. Buffy winked at him and Harry hid his grin. He couldn’t say that it was Buffy who had found the plant that would help him.

Professor Sprout rolled up her sleeves and put her hands into the water before pulling out a clump of what looked like slimy, greyish green rat-tails. Harry looked at it in dismay as Professor Sprout handed it to him.

“I have to eat that?” Harry asked in dismay. The book hadn’t had a picture, and he was suddenly reconsidering the entire plan.

Buffy was holding her hand over her mouth, but several soft snickers escaped. Harry glared at her in anger.

“Just before you go into the water,” Sprout replied. “If you take it before hand…well, you’ll start flapping around like a fish out of water.”

Harry didn’t look at all thrilled with her description.

“And it’ll last the full hour right?” he asked.

Sprout nodded. She took out a small plastic container and scooped some of the water from the tank into it. She held it out to Harry who placed the gillyweed inside it.

“Make sure it stays wet, otherwise it’ll be useless to you come morning.”

Harry nodded and kept a tight grip on the container.

“Thanks Professor. You’re a lifesaver.”

“Good luck tomorrow…both of you.”

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

The two Hogwarts champions woke up bright and early. Or, more correctly, Buffy had walked into Harry’s bedroom an hour before the task and ripped off Harry’s sheets, startling the sleeping boy out of his slumber. Which was a good thing seeing as Harry probably would have slept through the entire second task if Buffy hadn’t have woken him up.

They went down to breakfast, eating in nervous silence. Hermione and Ron were missing, which was making Harry even more worried. The twins were oddly absent as well, and Buffy wished that she could speak with George before the task started.

Giles approached the two teenagers, his eyes soft and sympathetic. “Did you discover anything useful?” the Watched asked, annoyed that he hadn’t been able to find anything to help Harry.

Harry nodded tiredly, but gave a genuine smile. “Like Buffy said, we found something in the knick of time.”

As with the first task, Professor McGonagall approached them and told them that they were to go and meet down at the lake. The rest of the students slowly ambled down to the lake to watch the second task. Fred stood on the shoreline looking oddly worried. Next to him stood Colin Creevey with his perpetually present camera.

Buffy approached Fred and he tried to grin, but failed miserable.

“Hey Fred,” she greeted.

“Morning,” he replied.

“You okay?” she asked.

He shrugged. “Right as rain…whatever that means.”

Buffy grinned slightly. “Where’s George?”

“He’ll be here,” he replied. “Promise. He wouldn’t miss this for the world.”

“Good,” Buffy replied, feeling slightly better by the reassurance. “I’d miss him if he wasn’t here.”

Fred just nodded, and before Buffy could say anything more, she was pulled away by Ludo Bagman and pushed into a position slightly down from Fleur Delacour. On her other side, Harry was pushed into place. The cousins exchanged a grin and Harry felt for the gillyweed in his pocket, thankful that he wasn’t about to make an idiot of himself in front of the entire school. And he was still curious about what Buffy was going to do.

“Well, all our champions are read for the second task, which will start on my whistle. They have precisely an hour to get back what was taken from them. On the count of three then. One…two…three!”

The whistle echoed shrilly in the cold, still air; the stands erupted with cheers and applause.

Buffy toed off her shoes and socks, Harry doing the same. But Buffy didn’t stop there. She removed her cloak and her white t-shirt as well as her long slacks, leaving her clad in only a bikini.

The entire male half of the school erupted into whistles and catcalls. Harry looked across, wondering what the commotion was about. When he saw his cousin, he merely rolled his eyes as he tried to chew on the gillyweed that felt as though he was chewing rubber.

To Harry’s complete astonishment, Buffy began walking towards the lake in nothing but a bikini and a smile. He was starting to worry about her, and he waded out towards her, about to call out.

To Harry’s utter astonishment, a ripple went through the water, but it appeared that nothing had happened to Buffy who was still half out of the water.

And then Buffy duck-dived, a magnificent jade-blue-green tail swishing out of the water and hitting the surface as she dived down into the depths of the lake.

Harry grinned, remembering Hermione’s idea that Buffy had been incredibly interested in several weeks before. He hadn’t thought anything more about it, but obviously Buffy had been keeping secrets from him.

Before he could think too much more about his cousin’s deviousness, he suddenly felt as though an invisible pillow had been clapped over his mouth and nose. He tried to draw breath, but it made his head spin. His lungs were empty and he suddenly felt a piercing pain ion either side of his neck.

He clapped his hands to his throat, and felt two large slits just below his ears, flapping in the cold air. He had gills. Without pausing to think, he did the only thing that made sense – he flung himself forwards into the water.

In the depths of the water, dark shadows moved through the lake. Mostly, they were just logs or clumps of seaweed, but the occasional Grindylow would appear and try and stop the four champions from finding what they sought.

Buffy was having the time of her life, swimming faster than she’d ever swum before. She’d never been so deep in her life, and she didn’t have the annoying problem of her ears popping at the depth. The cross-species switch that Professor McGonagall had helped her perfect had been a complete success, though she knew that it would be. She’d managed to perform it successfully the week before, though she’d only tried it in the bathtubs.

Her tail swished behind her, and water rushed in front of her, her vision as clear as crystal. A hauntingly beautiful song came through the water, and Buffy followed it, hoping that it wasn’t some sort of trap or red herring.

She suddenly felt a tingle at the back of her neck and knew that Harry was close by. She stopped and looked through the clear water and saw Harry talking to…was that a ghost? Buffy just shook her head. You met some of the oddest people at Hogwarts.

Harry caught up to her, and tried to say something. It came out as nothing more than bubbles.

“Hey Harry,” she replied.

Harry’s brow furrowed in confusion. He could hear and understand Buffy perfectly. Then he remembered the song from the egg.

Come seek us where our voices sound,

We cannot sing above the ground,

Buffy had completely transfigured herself into a mermaid. “Come on!” Buffy yelled, and they began swimming over vast expanses of black mud which swirled murkily as they disturbed the water, Harry with his newly webbed feet, and Buffy with her new tail.

When they heard the sounds of the merpople singing the song that had emerged from the egg, they sped up and saw a large rock emerge from the muddy water. There were paintings of merpeople carrying spears and chasing what looked like the giant squid.

They exchanged a worried glance and continued on until they came across a cluster of crude stone dwellings with faces in the dark windows. As the merpeople came out of the dwellings, the two Hogwarts champions had a better look at them, their skin a greyish colour, and their eyes yellow. They leered at the two champions as they swam past, pointing at Harry’s feet and Buffy’s tail, whispering behind theirs hands.

They swam around a corner and stopped short at the sight in front of them. A whole crowd of merpeople were floating In front of the houses that lined what looked like a mer-version of a village square. A choir of mermaids were singing in the middle, calling the champions towards them, and behind them rose a crude sort of statue, a gigantic merperson hewn from a boulder. Four people were bound tightly to the tail of the statue.

Ron was tied between Hermione and George Weasley. There was also a girl who looked no older than eight, whose clouds of silver hair made Harry and Buffy feel sure that she was Fleur Delacour’s sister.

Buffy took a long hard look at the four people tied to the statue. She glanced towards Harry.

“What we’ll sorely miss, huh?” she asked.

Harry nodded and they swam towards the hostages, almost expecting the merpeople to charge towards them with their spears, but they did nothing.

The ropes of weed tying the hostages to the statue were thick, slimy and very strong. Buffy could have kicked herself. She usually never travelled anywhere without a weapon, but then again, where would she have put one in the bikini she’d worn?

She looked around for anything sharp, her eyes lighting on a spear that one of the mermen held.

She swam towards him, keeping her eyes locked on his. Giles had always taught her that her opponents would give everything away by the eyes.

“Can I borrow your spear?” she asked.

“We do not help,” the merman replied in a harsh, croaky voice.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “I don’t want your help, I want your spear,” she replied.

“What will you give me for it?” he asked.

“What do you want?” she shot back.

The merman stopped to consider it for a moment. He looked at her speculatively and Buffy fought the urge to shudder. The merman in front of her was at least seven feet tall with a long-green beard and a choker of shark-fangs.

“A kiss,” came the reply.

Buffy hesitated for a moment before looking back up to the statue where the four hostages were tied. Her gaze stayed on George’s still form for a moment longer before she turned back to the merman.

“Alright,” she conceded, floating forward slightly. She brushed her lips against his and pulled back, but the merman laughed harshly. He grabbed hold of Buffy’s waist, and pulled her forward, crushing them together. For nearly ten seconds, the merman kissed her, and when Buffy could finally pull away, she looked completely shocked. Harry was staring at them, wide-eyed and completely bewildered.

With a toothy grin, the merman handed over his spear and Buffy took it without another word, swimming back to Harry and the hostages.

“Next time, you can ask to borrow things,” Buffy muttered to her cousin.

Harry laughed, but it came out as a garbled set of bubbles.

With the sharp tip of the spear, Buffy cut through the ropes that were tying George, Ron, Hermione and the younger girl to the statue. She looked between Ron and Hermione and then back at her cousin.

“Which one are you meant to be rescuing?” she asked, confused.

Harry shrugged. They were his two best friends. Buffy looked around, trying to see where Viktor and Fleur where, but there was no sign of them anywhere.

“Should we maybe…” Buffy trailed off.

Harry nodded and grabbed hold of Hermione and Ron while Buffy grabbed George and the younger girl.

At once, several pairs of strong grey hands seized them. Half-a-dozen mermen were pulling each of them away from Hermione and Fleur’s younger sister.

“You take your own hostage,” the merman who had kissed Buffy said. “Leave the others.”

“No way!” Harry replied furiously, again with only bubbles escaping.

“Your task is to retrieve your own friend.”

“She is our friend!” Buffy replied angrily. “We’re not about to let them die!”

Before they could argue the point any further, the merpeople started screeching with excitement. Harry and Buffy turned and saw something monstrous cutting through the water towards them: a human body in swimming trunks with the head of a shark. It was Viktor Krum. He appeared to have Transfigured himself – but badly. He was a man from the waist down, but a shark from the waist up. He had no arms to speak of, only legs.

Buffy couldn’t help but smirk with pride. She’d managed to do a very tricky spell when she’d only been learning magic for six months now, and Krum had done very poorly. The shark-man swam straight to Hermione and started biting around her, trying to figure out how to get a grip on her.

Buffy was just thankful that she’d cut Hermione’s ropes before hand. Krum could have done some serious damage with his teeth. He finally nudged her over his shoulder so that Hermione’s arm was caught on his fin, and began swimming upwards without a backwards glance.

They hesitated a few more moments, looking out for Fleur, but she didn’t seem to be approaching at all.

“Come on…we’ll take her up with us,” Buffy finally said.

Harry nodded and grabbed hold of Ron with one hand and Fleur’s younger sister with the other. Buffy tossed George over her shoulder and grabbed Fleur’s sisters other hand.

The merpeople stepped forward threateningly once more. With her new tail-fin, she kicked up the spear she’d dropped earlier and grabbed hold of it, aiming it threateningly at the group who tried to stop them. They back off immediately and when Buffy and Harry had cleared the merpeoples village, she dropped the spear back down to the bottom.

They swam quickly towards the surface, though Harry was suddenly finding himself struggling to keep up. He completely let go of Fleur’s sister and let Buffy swim ahead of him. The Slayer wouldn’t have any of that though.

“Grab hold of my waist!” she yelled as Harry began slowly sinking as his webbed feet suddenly began transforming back to normal.

Harry didn’t hesitated and he grabbed hold of Buffy, letting her take the five of them to the surface. Now that Harry could breath again, he shuffled Ron’s weight around and helped Buffy drag the young Delacour girl up onto the banks, and then lay Ron and George out beside her.

Almost in unison, Ron and George suddenly spat out a mouthful of water, Fleur’s young sister doing the same. Their eyes opened and they looked around in confusion.

George sat up slowly and looked to Buffy who was still half in the water, her tail shimmering in the sunlight.

“You truly are one of a kind Buffy Black,” he said laughing.

Buffy grinned and pulled on George’s hand, making him overbalance and fall into the shallow water. He laughed and hugged Buffy around the waist, lifting her slightly out of the water.

“I’m the thing you would miss most?” he asked softly.

Buffy grinned sheepishly and nodded. She tried to speak, but apparently her cross-species switch had worked far better than she’d thought. She really couldn’t speak above the water. It was odd, and for a moment, Buffy felt very much like Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

George grinned widely and knew that if he didn’t act on the impulse that he had, he would lose his courage far too quickly.

“I’m gonna kiss you now,” he whispered. Buffy went to protest and George laid a single finger across her lips to stop her from trying to speak. “Something like this can’t happen without me kissing you, so…I’m going to kiss you in about ten seconds. And if you don’t want me to…well, if you don’t want me to, then you’re just going to have to stop me.”

Buffy felt herself completely melt. Standing in the sunlight, with George’s arms wrapped around her waist, she knew that she didn’t want to stop him. George swallowed nervously and lowered his head forward. “Ten.”

He slowly pressed his lips to hers, their kiss sweet and almost chaste, like the first kiss they’d shared in the woods at the Quidditch Cup Match. The kiss after that built with intensity, and the entire student body of Hogwarts whooped and cheered, whistled and catcalled as the Gryffindor couple refused to acknowledge their presence.

They pulled apart breathless and wanting more.

“As much as I like mermaid-Buffy,” George began. “I think I’d much prefer the version with legs.”

Buffy grinned and de-transfigured herself. George’s mouth hung open as he took in the sight of his hopefully-girlfriend in only her bikini. He shrugged out of his Gryffindor robe as the cheering got all the more louder once more.

“You can’t go round dressed like that!” he cried, draping the cloak around her to shield her from prying eyes. “Not in front of everyone else.”

“So just in front of you then?” she teased.

“Bloody right, just in front of me,” he replied. He then stopped and considered his words, blushing deeply.

They were pulled out of the water by a fussing Madam Pomfrey, but neither Buffy nor George let go of the others hands. Pomfrey sighed with annoyance, and just worked around the grinning couple.

Chapter 23 - Willing

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached our decision. Merchieftaness Murcus has told us exactly what happened in the bottom of the lake, and we have therefore decided to award marks out of fifty for each of the champions as follows.”

The crowd was on the edge of their seats and the champions were fidgeting nervously. Fleur had been devastated and completely hysterical at the thought that her sister Gabrielle would be forever lost to the lake of Hogwarts because of her being attacked by the Grindylows. She’d kissed Ron and Harry’s cheeks and hugged Buffy tightly, sobbing her thanks and then clutching at Gabrielle with a tight grip.

“Miss Fleur Delacour, though she demonstrated excellent use of the Bubble-Head charm, was attached by Grindylows as she approached her goal, and failed to retrieve her hostage. We award her twenty-five points.”

“I deserved zero,” Fleur said throatily.

“At least you tried,” Buffy replied. “You’d only have failed if you didn’t even attempt to go down there.”

Fleur shrugged and still looked miserable.

“Mr Viktor Krum used an incomplete form of Transfiguration, which was nevertheless effective, and was the first to return with his hostage. Murcus did however explain that it was not through his own initiative that he freed his hostage. We award him forty-four points.”

There was applause from the crowd.

“Mr Harry Potter used Gillyweed to great effect. Miss Eliza or Buffy Black or Potter or Summers or Potter-Summers - ” the crowd roared in laughter and Buffy grinned sheepishly. George just kissed Buffy’s cheek, making her go even redder. “- used a completely successful form of Transfiguration with tremendous success. Harry and Buffy returned at the same time, both of them well outside the hour of time. However, the Mer-chieftaness informs me that the delay in their returns was due to their determination to return all the hostages to safety, not merely their own.”

The crowd laughed again.

“How were we supposed to know that that stupid riddle wasn’t meant to be taken literally?” Buffy complained.

Harry nodded his agreement while Ron and Hermione just looked at them, half-exasperated, half-commiserating.

“Most of the judges-” Bagman paused to give a filthy look to Professor Karkaroff, “feel that this shows moral fibre and merits full marks. However Mr Potter receives forty-four points and Miss Potter-Summers-Black receives forty-five points.”

The cousins grinned at each other and exchanged a quick high-five. Harry was still tied with Viktor, but Buffy was ahead of both of them by one point.

“How come you got more?” Harry mock-complained.

“Cos you didn’t have to kiss a merman,” Buffy shot back.

George’s jaw dropped in shock. “What? Which one? I’ll bloody kick his arse!”

Buffy thought it would be safer not to actually answer, and instead turned her attention back to Bagman.

“The third and final task will take place at dusk on the twenty-fourth of June. “The champions will be notified of what is coming, precisely one month beforehand. Thank you all for your support of the champions.”

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

The week after the task proved to be an interesting one for the group of Gryffindors. Rita Skeeter published a new article about Harry’s heartbreak over two-timing Hermione, and how the girl had been invited by Krum to visit him over the summer. Buffy, Harry, Ron and Hermione discovered that Minister Barty Crouch’s son Barty Crouch Jr had been convicted as a Death-Eater and sent to Azkaban, where he had later died, and that Crouch Snr had been the one to convict Sirius without a trial.

The Fourth-Year trio plus Buffy, George and Fred had gone to visit the Black household, not only to get away from the gossip mills of Hogwarts, but to visit Joyce, who Buffy knew was aching from Sirius’ arrest.

Joyce had explained all about Sirius’ trial, even though she hadn’t personally attended. Sirius had filled her in on all of it over the weeks that he and Joyce had been living at Grimmauld Place.

Back at school, Hermione suddenly started getting howlers hate mail and anonymous letters filtered through the halls of Hogwarts with random owls. After the poor girl had been sprayed by undiluted Buboter pus, which had an acidic effect, Hermione had stopped opening the letters and had taken to burning them.

Harry had then overhead Professor Snape speaking with Professor Karkaroff about something being ‘stronger’ and then showing Snape the crook of his elbow of his left arm. Harry hadn’t understood it, but he knew that there was something going on that probably shouldn’t have been.

The week after that, Hermione was still receiving Howlers and insulting letters.

“It’ll die down though,” Harry assured her. “If we just ignore it.”

“I want to know how she’s been listening in to private conversations if she’s supposed to be banned from the grounds!” Hermione said angrily.

“I wondered that as well,” Buffy commented. “When she wrote that stuff about me being a Slayer and about my dad. If you work it out, will you let me know? I’d love to get Mosquito’s ass fired for it. If it wasn’t for her bloody article, my dad wouldn’t be in prison.”

Fred and George snickered and Buffy glared at them. “What?” she asked.

“Bloody nothing,” Fred replied innocently.

“Not a bloody thing,” George agreed.

Buffy rolled her eyes, and hit George’s forearm. He whimpered in pain until Buffy gave in and rubbed the spot for him. He stole a kiss, and everyone just smiled indulgently. Hermione sighed, still annoyed at the whole Rita Skeeter issue.

“Maybe she had you bugged,” Harry suggested.

Ron looked completely confused. “What? You mean she put fleas on her or something?”

Buffy snickered while Harry tried to explain the concept of recording equipment and hidden microphones.

“They wouldn’t work in Hogwarts anyway,” Buffy commented. “Any muggle sort of electricity or anything like that. It sucks, but…eh. The price you pay for using magic.”

Hermione turned to look at Buffy in shock. “I was just about to explain that. Did you read it in Hogwarts: A History?”

Buffy shrugged and shook her head. The only thing in that book that she’d read had been about the magical creatures that lived on the grounds.

“Nah, I tried using my disc-man. It didn’t work.”

Hermione sighed in disappointment before racing to the library to try and figure out how on earth Rita Skeeter could have found out what she’d discovered if she hadn’t been there. It was definitely a puzzle, and Hermione was going to figure it out.

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

The weeks seemed to fly by, and thankfully for the group, it stayed fairly quiet. The letters from anonymous people who were outraged by Hermione’s lack of concern for Harry’s well-being died down as they had all predicted, but Hermione’s pursuit to find out how Rita Skeeter had been getting her information had not.

On April first, the twins birthday, the loudest, most raucous birthday party was held in the Common Room. Not only were the twins excitable about it being their seventeenth birthdays, they were ecstatic about it being April-Fools-Day, a rather appropriate day for the mischievous Weasley twins to be born.

Water-bombs, trick fireworks, fake-wands, hexed sweets, and fake coins were littering not just the Gryffindor Tower, but most of the school as well. Anyone who by chance hadn’t known about the Weasley twins birthdays had found out sooner rather than later.

Buffy had wandered through all of Hogsmeade looking for the perfect gift for both boys, but she’d found it incredibly hard. What did you buy two jokesters who knew every trick in the book? The answer had come to her fairly quickly and she’d dug out the key to her the family value. Her mother had made her promise to be ‘good’, and she had – relatively-. It wasn’t her fault that she still wasn’t entirely certain how much a galleon was when compared to the American currency she was used to.

She’d managed to get Harry and Ron to distract the twins and keep them in Honeydukes, the sweets store, while she purchased two beautiful cloaks that she knew the twins would love. She still needed something ‘extra’ for George though.

They’d been dating for nearly six weeks, and Buffy had loved every second of it. Instead of the tears and worry she’d always had with Angel, there was laughter and freedom. Instead of Angel’s brooding silence, there was George’s tendency to talk whenever the feeling struck him, which seemed to be a lot. Instead of the intense angst of being with Angel, there was the carefree happiness that came from being with George.

Buffy knew without a doubt that she had loved, and still did love Angel. But being with George lifted her heart and her spirits and gave her the taste of normalcy that she’d craved since being Called. It wasn’t that George didn’t respect the Slayer portion of her; it was just that he appreciated every part of her equally. He understood that she was the Protector, not the protected, as the second task had firmly shown. And Buffy was rapidly falling in love with the loving, caring and silly man that was George Weasley.

She’d ended up finding a perfect gift for him, and she’d had to pay a little extra to get it personalised. After dinner, the Gryffindor Tower was still incredibly loud. The twins finally sat still for more than three seconds, and were forced into chairs and given their gifts from their group.

Harry and Hermione had pooled together to but the twins a model Quidditch pitch, complete with tiny Quaffles, Bludgers and Snitches. Lee, Katie, Angelina and Alicia had bought the twins the newest joke kit from Zonko’s that the twins hadn’t been able to buy yet. Buffy then stepped forward and handed the twins the separate gifts.

They ripped open the paper and looked at the cloaks she’d given them. They were slightly confused by the serious nature of the gift. Harry, Ron and Hermione all looked at the cloaks in shock, recognising it all too well.

“Try them on,” Buffy urged.

The twins shrugged and complied, pulling the cloaks around their shoulders and then ‘looking’ at each other in shock. She’d bought them both invisibility cloaks. Buffy was suddenly wrapped in two sets of invisible arms and lifted off the ground. She laughed loudly and the Gryffindors cheered as Buffy was swung around in a circle by an invisible George Weasley.

The twins pulled the cloaks off, both of them grinning widely.

Ron recognised the grin instantly and groaned.

“Buffy, do you realise what you’ve just done?” he complained. “They get into enough mischief as it is!”

“What, and you don’t?” Buffy shot back.

Ron paused before shrugging. “Touché.”

“These are awesome Buff,” Fred said enthusiastically.

“Thank you,” George whispered, kissing his girlfriend softly.

“Only the best for my favourite non-cousin type guys,” she replied.

For the rest of the evening as the party continued on, the twins would disappear beneath their cloaks and sneak up on people, scaring them out of their wits. They enjoyed messing around with flying food and being able to set off fireworks at random without anyone expecting the noise.

“Mrs Weasley might just kill you for buying them those,” Hermione commented, half-smiling at the twins antics.

Buffy just shrugged. “S’okay. She’ll adjust quickly. Or, y’know, confiscate the cloaks, whichever comes first.”

Hermione laughed and the first of the Gryffindors began ascending the stairs to go to bed. The majority of students followed quickly, the excitement of the day having worn them out. Eventually, it was only ten Gryffindors that remained in the Common Room.

“Have you found anything else about Mosquito yet?” Buffy asked Hermione as the group sat lounging around on the couches nibbling at what remained of the food that Fred and George had pilfered from the kitchens.

Hermione sighed and shook her head. “Nothing,” she admitted.

“Damn that sucks. That woman just bugs me,” Buffy commented.

“What about you Buffy?” Ron asked. “Any idea how to prove your dad’s not guilty.”

“Besides time travel, no,” Buffy replied. “The only way to prove it would be to get Pettigrew to own up to it, but I seriously doubt that that’s gonna happen. And no doubt he’s still working for Voldemort – guys, it’s just a name! – so if I actually got lucky and found him, I’d probably be biting off more than I could chew.”

“But you’re a Slayer!” Lee cried. “You could take him.”

Buffy laughed slightly. She was glad that her friends were confident about her skills, but she knew that she would never last in a fight with Voldemort. She didn’t know enough offensive magic, only the defensive techniques that Moody had been teaching her.

“I think I’ll leave that up to people who know a little more magic than I do,” Buffy replied.

“You’re learning quickly though,” Hermione commented. “More quickly than most people would if they only started at your age.”

Buffy just shrugged, not crazy about the idea of taking on Voldemort, even if he was still technically bodiless. She wondered if it would ever come down to that, and part of her wanted to never lay eyes on the disembodied wizard.

“Well with any luck he’ll never actually come back,” Buffy said.

“That’d be nice,” Harry commented. For some reason nearly every year since he’d come to Hogwarts someone had been trying to help Voldemort come back to power. He couldn’t help but wish that everyone would wise up to the fact that Voldemort’s return would be a bad thing, and that they would stop trying. It was wishful thinking, but Harry couldn’t help but hope.

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

An hour later, the group finally decided to head up to bed. They walked up the stairs and said goodnight on the landing that separated the girls and boys dorms. Buffy grabbed hold of George before he could go up with Fred, Lee, Ron and Harry. The rest of the group grinned a little at the cuteness of the couple, but said nothing.

“I have something else for you,” Buffy finally said when she could no longer hear the footsteps of the others.

“What? But…the invisibility cloak was more than enough,” he protested. “I know how expensive they are. Fred and I have been eyeing them off for years.”

“Well, it’s not big,” she admitted. She reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a leather cord with ten evenly spaced alternating red and gold oval beads on it, five of each colour. She handed it to him and George grinned.

“Gryffindor colours,” he commented. He held it up to inspect it closer and then he saw it. On the red beads there were five different names engraved: George, Fred, Lee, Ron, Harry. On the gold beads were the names: Buffy, Angelina, Alicia, Hermione and Katie.

“It symbolises friendship,” she said softly, echoing the words that George had said to her when he’d tried to give her the claddagh ring for Christmas.

“And everyone who’s a couple, or should be are placed next to each other,” George noticed. “You and me, Fred and Angelina, Lee and Alicia, Ron and Hermione…and…well, Harry might be a bit young for Katie.”

“What, you don’t think guys should date older women?” Buffy asked laughing.

“Not that much older,” he replied. “She’s a good year older than him.”

“Uh, George, I’m about fifteen months older than you,” Buffy pointed out.

“What? You are not!” he cried.

Buffy laughed softly and nodded. “I turned eighteen in January,” she confessed.

“You never told any of us,” he accused.

“I didn’t want anyone making a big deal,” she replied. “Me and birthdays are unmixy things.”

George pouted annoyed that he hadn’t known, or even asked when Buffy’s birthday was. He took hold of Buffy’s hand and slipped the leather-corded bracelet onto her small wrist.

“This is yours,” Buffy protested.

George held up his pinkie finger, the claddagh ring still on it, heart facing inwards. “Just like this is yours. It’s only fair,” he replied.

Buffy rolled her eyes but held her wrist still to allow George to adjust the size of the band.

“Happy birthday,” George whispered, kissing his girlfriend softly.

Buffy smiled into the kiss. “Happy birthday,” she replied.

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

Again, the weeks seemed to fly by for the two Hogwarts champions. Before either of them knew it was upon them, they were being summoned by Professor McGonagall one month before the third task so that they could receive instructions on what it was they would be doing.

Harry and Buffy walked down to the Quidditch stadium and through a gap in the stands to step onto the pitch. Harry’s jaw dropped in disbelief.

“What’ve they done to it?” he cried in horror.

The Quidditch Pitch was no longer smooth and flat. It looked as though somebody had been building long-low walls all over it, twisting and criss-crossing in every direction.

“They’re hedges!” Harry said, bending over to examine the closest one.

“Hello there!” Called a cheery voice. Ludo Bagman was standing in the middle of the pitch with Krum and Fleur. Harry and Buffy made their way towards them, climbing over the hedges. Fleur beamed at both Buffy and Harry as they approached.

“What d’you think?” Bagman asked. “Growing nicely, aren’t they? Give them a month or two and Hargid’ll have them twenty foot high. Don’t worry, you’ll have your Quidditch Pitch back to normal once the task is over! Now, I imagine you can guess what we’re making here.”

No one spoke for a moment.

“Maze,” Krum grunted.

“Exactly right. A maze. The third task’s really very straightforward. The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the very centre of the maze. The first champion to touch it will receive full marks.”

“We seemply ‘ave to get through the maze?” Fleur asked.

“There will be obstacle,” Bagman explained. “Hagrid is providing a number of creatures…then there will be spells that have to be broken...that sort of thing, you know. Now, the champions who are leading on points will get a head start into the maze. Miss uhhh…”

“Black,” Buffy replied with a grin.

“Miss Black, you’ll be heading in first, followed by Mr Potter, then Mr Krum, and finally Miss Delacour. But you’ll all be in with a fighting chance, depending on how well you get past the obstacles. Should be fun, eh?”

Harry was silently worrying about what types of creatures Hagrid would provide for the obstacles. Buffy didn’t mind the creatures that much. She’d met most of the creatures that lived in the Forest, so she wasn’t too worried about that. But this would require a lot of magic, and all she was really good at was Defence Against the Dark Arts.

“Well, if you haven’t got any questions, we’ll go back up to the castle, shall we, it’s a bit chilly.”

“Actually, I do have a question,” Buffy said.

Bagman nodded, and the others shifted, eager to get back inside to the warmth of the castle.

“Are there any rules about how we navigate through the maze?” Buffy asked.

“Well, as long as you go through the maze on foot, there are no restrictions,” Bagman said.

“Cool,” Buffy said, and the group began walking up towards the castle. Bagman hovered close to Harry and Buffy, and Harry wondered whether the judge was going to try and offer him more help for the final task.

Harry still couldn’t help but wonder why the judge was so eager to help him out. From what he knew of Ludo Bagman, he wasn’t usually a generous person unless there was something to be gained by it.

Krum sidled up to Harry just as they stepped over the last hedge before they got out of the stadium, and tapped him on the shoulder. “Could I haff a vord?”

Harry looked surprised but shrugged. He didn’t see why not. “Yeah all right,” he replied.

“Vill you valk vith me?”

Harry had to admit to being curious. “Okay,” he replied.

Bagman looked slightly perturbed, and Buffy actually agreed with the man. “I’ll wait for you, Harry, shall I?” the judge asked.

“No, it’s okay Mr Bagman,” Harry replied suppressing a smile. “I’m sure between my cousin and I, we can find the castle.”

Buffy smirked and Bagman looked a little relieved that Harry wouldn’t be left on his own with Krum.

“I vas hoping to speak vith you in private,” Krum said, glancing at Buffy.

“Hey, don’t mind me,” Buffy replied. “I won’t even listen.”

Krum looked disappointed that he wouldn’t get the privacy he wanted, but he admitted defeat. Buffy stood looking back at the maze, tracing the different paths with her eyes, storing them in her memory. Not for the first time, Buffy thanked the Higher Powers that Slayers had an excellent sense of direction.

“I vant to know,” Krum began, glowering and pulling himself up to his full height, “vot is between you and Hermy-own-ninny?”

“Nothing,” Harry replied. “We’re just friends. She’s not my girlfriend, and she never has been. It’s just that Skeeter woman making things up.”

“Hermy-own-ninny talks about you very often,” Krum said suspiciously.

“Yeah, because we’re friends,” Harry stressed.

“You haff never…you haff not…”

“No,” Harry said firmly.

Krum looked slightly happier. “Very vell. Thank you.”

Harry nodded and watched as Krum wandered off in the direction of the Durmstrang ship. Buffy moved to stand beside her cousin, smirking slightly.

“That was weird,” Harry commented.

“Proof that even famous people can be insecure about stuff,” Buffy commented.

Harry nodded. He knew that all too well.

“Do you want to go visit Hagrid?” Harry asked. “With any luck he might accidentally tell us what creatures he’ll be putting in the maze.”

Buffy laughed and nodded, the two of them heading towards the tree line of the Forest to follow it towards Hagrid’s cabin.

Just as they were close to the Beaubaxtons carriage where the students were from that school were staying, there was a rustling in the Forest. Buffy’s hand strayed to the back of her jeans and she pulled out a stake, keeping her eyes sharp as she surveyed the darkness. She pulled Harry to stand behind her, but he refused to stay there, stepping up to stand beside her, his wand pointing towards the Forest.

There was silence, and the next moment, a man had staggered out from behind a tall oak. For a moment, neither Harry nor Buffy recognised the man. Then they realised…it was Mr Crouch.

He looked as though he had been travelling for days. The knees of his robes were ripped and bloody, his face scratched, he was unshaven and grey with exhaustion. His neat hair and moustache were both in need of a wash and trim. He seemed to be talking to someone that couldn’t be seen, gesturing wildly as he muttered beneath his breath.

Buffy and Harry exchanged a glance before walking cautiously towards Mr Crouch.

The official from the Ministry of Magic didn’t seem to notice either of them, and continued his conversation with a nearby tree. “…and when you’ve done that, Weatherby, send an owl to Dumbledore…do that Weatherby will you? Will you? Will…” He trailed off and mouthed soundless, before staggering sideways and falling to his knees.

Buffy and Harry raced to either side of him, helping him to his feet.

“Mr Crouch, are you alright?” Harry asked. Mr Crouch made no response and Harry looked to his cousin, wide-eyed and panicked. “We should go and get someone.”

“We can’t leave him out here like this,” Buffy replied.

“Dumbledore!” Crouch suddenly gasped. He reached out and grabbed a handful of Harry’s robes. “I need…see…Dumbledore. I’ve done…stupid…thing.”

Buffy grabbed hold of Crouch and pulled one of his arms around her shoulder, hefting most of his weight so she could support him

“Harry, get his other side,” Buffy instructed.

Harry did as he was told, and they began walking Crouch up to the castle, Crouch still muttering beneath his breath.

“Must warn…must tell…see Dumbledore…my fault…must warn…Bertha…dead…all my fault…my son…my fault…tell Dumbledore…Harry Potter…the Dark Lord…stronger…Harry Potter.”

“I’m not liking the sound of this,” Buffy commented quietly.

Harry silently agreed and they continued the slow trek up to the castle.

“It’ll be faster if one of us runs and brings him down here,” Harry suggested.

“Not a chance,” Buffy replied. “If he’s in this shape, it’s gotta be for a reason. I don’t wanna take any chances. When we get him closer to the castle maybe…”

Harry nodded and they continued up the lawn, Crouch’s weight making the going incredibly slow. When they reached the area that was lit, rather than being on the dark path down to the Quidditch Pitch, Harry took off running towards Dumbledore’s office, leaving Buffy trudging even ore slowly towards the castle.

Unfortunately Harry was met by a malicious Snape who refused to believe anything he said, and was only hindering him. Luckily Dumbledore came to the rescue fairly soon after Snape had distracted Harry from his quest.

“Is there a problem?” Dumbledore asked.

“Professor!” Harry yelled in relief. “Mr Crouch is here – down on the path coming towards the castle. He wants to speak to you!”

Harry expected Dumbledore to ask questions, but, to his relief, Dumbledore did nothing of the sort.

“Lead the way,” the Headmaster said. Harry began leading, Dumbledore following swiftly behind him as the descended the marble stairs.

“What did Mr Crouch say Harry?”

“Said he wanted to warn you…said he’s done something terrible…he mentioned his son…and Bertha Jorkins…and Voldemort…something about Voldemort getting stronger.”

“Indeed,” Dumbledore said, quickening their pace. He pushed open the doors leading outside and Harry froze on the spot. His eyes went wide and his breath caught in his throat.

“No!” he yelled, shoving past Dumbledore and jumping down the five steps that were between him and his fallen cousin. Harry dropped to his knees beside Buffy, Dumbledore following close behind. “Merlin no…Buffy, please…”

He rolled his cousin over onto her back, taking in her pale face. His one comfort was that Buffy’s fingers were twitching. Dumbledore noticed too, and his eyes darkened considerably. He pulled out his wand and aimed it at the Slayer.

Eneverate.”

Buffy moaned softly and opened her eyes. She groaned in pain and slowly sat up. Her eyes began darting around.

“Crouch? Where is he?” she asked frantically.

“Calm Miss Black,” Dumbledore said softly. “Do you remember what happened?”

Buffy thought for a moment. “Someone hit me with the Cruciatus,” she murmured softly. Harry paled considerably, remembering the way that Professor Moody had tortured the spiders using the Cruciatus Curse. It had been horrifying. “Crouch must have got a dose of it too…we fell. I saw someone…I couldn’t see properly though. He killed Crouch…right in front of me. He kept the Cruciatus on me the whole time.”

Buffy’s eyes watered, both with the remembered pain, and the trauma of watching someone die in front of her and not being able to do anything about it.

“Which direction did he go?” Dumbledore asked. “Did you see?”

“I’m sorry,” Buffy whispered, closing her eyes in shame. “I…it hurt so much. Couldn’t think…closed my eyes to try and stop it.”

Harry hugged Buffy tightly and fought off the urge to throw up the contents of his stomach. If only Snape hadn’t help him up in the corridor, they would have been there in time. His cousin wouldn’t have been tortured. “It wasn’t your fault Buffy,” Harry murmured softly in her ear.

There was suddenly a telltale sound of Professor Moody approaching, a soft footstep followed by a wooden clunk on the floor. Giles was following after him at a rapid pace. Moody limped down the stairs and stood in front of Buffy. He pulled out a bar of chocolate and handed it to her.

“You’ll feel better after you get some of that into you,” he explained.

Buffy nodded absently and ripped open the packaging, taking a small bite. Giles dropped to his knees beside his Slayer, visually checking her over for any injuries that might have happened. He could tell by the dazed look in her eyes that she was having problems remaining conscious, and that she was battling a migraine.

“Snape said something about Crouch,” Moody said, explaining his presence among them.

“I don’t know where Barty Crouch’s body is, but it is essential that we find whoever killed him,” Dumbledore said.

“I’m onto it,” Moody growled, pulling out his wand and limping off towards the Forest.

“Can you walk Miss Black?” Dumbledore asked.

Giles helped pull Buffy to her feet and while she was a little shaky, she seemed to be healing quickly. “I’ll be fine,” she replied.

“Good. Rupert, Harry, if you could take Buffy to the hospital wing and have Madam Pomfrey examine her.”

“Hey, woah,” Buffy suddenly cried. “Hospital wing? That’s a bit overboard.”

Dumbledore looked at her in shock. “You were attacked by a very powerful curse Miss Black.”

“It probably won’t be the last time either,” she replied. “I don’t need to go to a hospital.”

“Buffy,” Giles implored softly.

Buffy turned to look at her Watcher, her eyes tear-filled and pained. She looked at him pleadingly. “Giles, please…I hate hospitals, you know I won’t get any sleep.”

Dumbledore saw Giles nod slightly and knew that if anyone could tell what Buffy would need to recover, it would be Giles. “Alright,” Dumbledore acquiesced. “You should get back up to the Gryffindor Tower though. Get a good nights rest.”

They nodded and made their way slowly up the seven flights of stairs, Buffy suddenly wishing that she’d been in a House that was closer to the Entrance Hall.

Chapter 24 - eXCITING

Despite both Moody and Professor Dumbledore searching the Forest, they found no sign of whoever had killed Barty Crouch Snr. Buffy was incredibly annoyed at herself for letting someone die when he’d so obviously needed help. When the others had found out about what had happened, they’d all assured her that there was nothing she could have done to stop what had happened, but Buffy still hated that she’d had to watch the man die and had been able to do nothing to stop it.

To stop herself from dwelling on the topic, she’d thrown herself into learning more magic for the third task. Moody was continuing to tutor her in Defence, and Buffy had learned some interesting tricks off the twins.

Harry was busy practising with Hermione and Ron, the redhead suggesting that they use Mr Filch’s cat to practise Stunning Spells on instead of using Ron as a human guinea pig. When the bell rang, Hermione headed off towards Arithmancy, while Ron and Harry headed up to Divinations.

It was hot in the Divinations Tower, Trelawney had lit the ever-present fire, and when the lights were flicked out, Harry had a hard time keeping his eyes open. A gentle humming of an insect came from behind a curtain as he drifted off to sleep.

He was riding on the back of an eagle owl, soaring through the clear blue sky towards an old house on a hillside. They flew through an open window and into the hallways to a room at the very end.

He was suddenly standing watching as the owl fluttered across the room to a chair with its back to him. There were two dark shapes on the floor next to the chair. One was a huge snake, the other was a short, balding man with watery eyes and a pointed nose.

“You are in luck Wormtail,” said a cold, high-pitches voice from the depths of the chair in which the owl had landed. “You are very fortunate indeed. Your blunder had no ruined everything. He is dead.”

“My Lord” the man gasped, “My Lord I am so pleased…and so sorry.”

“Now Wormtail…perhaps one more little reminder why I will not tolerate another blunder from you.”

“My Lord…no…I beg you.”

The tip of a wand emerged form the depths of the chair. It was pointing at Wormtail. “Crucio!

Wormtail screamed as though every nerve in his body was on fire, the screaming filled Harry’s ears as the scar on his forehead seared with pain; he was yelling too…Voldemort could hear him, would know he was there.

“Harry! Harry!”

Harry opened his eyes. He was lying on the floor of Professor Trelawney’s room with his hands over his face. His scar was burning so badly that his eyes were watering. The whole class was standing around him and Ron was kneeling next to him, looking horrified.

“You all right?” he asked.

Trelawney was convinced Harry had had a premonition, but Harry had no desire to share it with someone he considered a phoney, plus the rest of his class. He lied about it being a simple headache and begged off to the infirmary. His path changed and he headed towards Dumbledore’s office, randomly trying to names of sweets until he discovered the right password and the statue began circling to form the spiral staircase.

He went up the stairs and put his hand on the brass door-knocker, but something sopped him. He could hear voices inside.

“What do you thinks happened to Barty Crouch, Minister?” Professor Moody’s growling voice asked.

“I see two possibilities Alastor,” Fudge replied. “Either Crouch finally cracked – more than likely given his personal history – lost his mind and gone wandering off somewhere-”

I saw him die!” came his cousin’s angry voice. “Don’t you get that?”

“Must have been imaging things,” Fudge muttered.

“You think I imagined him being hit by that stupid Killing Curse? You think I imagined a bright green light? That I imagined watching him fall to the ground? Or maybe you think I imagined being hit by the Cruciatus?”

“Calm down, Summers,” Moody said softly. “We should wrap this discussion up.”

“Yes, yes, let’s go down into the grounds shall we?” Fudge asked impatiently.

“No, it’s not that,” Moody replied. “Potter wants a word with you Dumbledore, he’s just outside the door.”

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

After an exchange of pleasantries, Harry was left to wait in Dumbledore’s office with an incredibly tired looking Buffy who was sitting with her legs curled beneath her in a large chair.

“Hey Harry,” she greeted softly.

Harry took the seat beside her. “You okay?”

“Peachy,” she replied. “What brings you up here?”

“I uh…had a vision,” he replied.

That news woke Buffy up considerably. She straightened and looked at Harry in worry.

“A vision? When…how?” she asked.

“Just now up in Divinations. I kinda fell asleep,” he admitted sheepishly.

Buffy grinned slightly and shook her head.

“Classy.”

Harry just shrugged. “You mind if we wait til Dumbledore gets back?” he asked.

Buffy nodded, too tired to argue. She hadn’t slept properly since she’d seen Crouch die in front of her eyes. She could still see the green light flash in front of her whenever she closed her eyes for more than a few seconds. She could still feel the sharp jabs of pain of the Cruciatus Curse. But what she still couldn’t see was the full face of the man who’d attacked her and killed Crouch.

Harry saw that his cousin wasn’t particularly in the mood for a chat. He stood and wandered about the room, quickly petting Fawkes and then gazing at Godric Gryffindor’s sword that he had pulled from the Sorting Hat two years before, down in the Chamber of Secrets.

Something silvery made the blade of the sword glimmer and Harry turned to discover what the source of light was. He saw a silver-white light shining brightly from within a black cabinet behind him, the door hadn’t been closed properly. Harry hesitated a moment, glancing back at his cousin who seemed to have fallen asleep in her chair, before walking towards the cabinet and pulling the door completely open. A shallow stone basin lat there, odd carvings around the edge. The silvery light was coming from the basin’s contents, which were like nothing Harry had ever seen before. He could not tell whether the substance was liquid or gas. It was moving ceaselessly and looked like light made liquid or clouds made solid, Harry couldn’t decide.

He wanted to touch it, but he knew better than that. He pulled his wand out and poked at the surface of the light, bending closer until his head was in the cabinet and the silvery substance had become transparent. He suddenly found himself sitting in an enormous room right beside Professor Dumbledore, but the Headmaster didn’t even notice him even though Harry called out the Headmaster’s name.

The door to the room suddenly flung open and two Dementors came in, flanking one man. The man was placed into a chair with manacles on the armrests, and Harry recognised the man as Professor Karkaroff. He was looking absolutely terrified, and when questioned, he eagerly shot out the names of his fellow Death-Eaters to a much younger Crouch. Harry watched with interest as every one of the names was shot back at Karkaroff, the man becoming even more panicked. What Harry hadn’t expected though, was to hear Severus Snape’s name among the listed. Professor Dumbledore stood and defended Snape, but Harry was completely shocked. Snape had been a Death-Eater. But he’d returned to Dumbledore’s side and become a spy to gather information for the Ministry.

The scene suddenly changed, and instead of Karkaroff on the stand, it was Ludo Bagman who sat in the chair, but he was not strapped in. He was accused of passing information, but the jury found him innocent, mainly because of his fame on the Quidditch Field.

It changed again, and there were four people in four chairs, but the one Harry noticed the most was the petrified boy in his late teens. It was Barty Crouch’s son, Barty Crouch Jnr, who was found guilty of being a Death-Eater, and had been sentenced to imprisonment in Azkaban. Harry was shocked that Crouch had been able to do that to his own son without a second thought.

And suddenly, there were two Albus Dumbledore’s next to Harry. The one to his left put his hand beneath Harry’s elbow and the dungeons that Harry had been in dissolved.

“Professor,” Harry gasped. “I know I shouldn’t’ve, I didn’t mean…the cabinet door was sort of open and-”

Dumbledore reassured him and Harry calmed himself down. Dumbledore explained that the shallow stone bowl was a Pensieve and it was used to store thoughts and memories inside of it.

Harry felt calmer now that he knew he wasn’t in trouble for anything. He cast another glance at his cousin who was still sleeping. He looked at her worriedly and Dumbledore followed Harry’s gaze.

“She hasn’t been sleeping,” the Headmaster explained softly. “I slipped a very mild sleeping potion into a drink I gave her. It will only last for an hour, but it will be an hour more than she has had over the last few days.”

“Will she be okay?” Harry asked worriedly.

Dumbledore sighed tiredly and nodded. “She should be fine. Your cousin is undoubtedly strong. She will recover from this, I’m sure of it. It is not easy to witness a death and feel so helpless. She feels tremendously guilty for what happened to Mr Crouch.”

“I didn’t know that,” Harry whispered. He’d known that Buffy was upset about it all, but he hadn’t realised how hard she’d taken it all. Looking at his small cousin now made him realise just how blind he’d been. There were rings beneath her eyes and she looked as though she’d lost weight that she couldn’t afford to lose.

“She is a master at hiding pain,” Dumbledore said quietly. “Now…what was it that you wished to speak to me about?”

“Well…I had a dream. A dream about Lord Voldemort. He was torturing Wormtail…he got a letter from an owl. He said something like Wormtail’s blunder had been repaired. He said someone was dead. Then he did the Cruciatus curse on Wormtail – and my scar hurt. It woke me up, it hurt so badly.”

Dumbledore made a few non-committal noises and wandered back to the Penseive, removing another thought from his temple and adding it to the bowl.

Dumbledore explained his theory regarding Harry’s connection to Voldemort via the scar, as well as the connection between Bertha Jorkin’s disappearance, Crouch’s death and the death of a muggle, Frank Bryce in the town where Voldemort’s father Tom Riddle senior had grown up.

The Headmaster could say nothing concrete on the matter, something that annoyed both Dumbledore and Harry. But Harry was certain that the dream he’d had during Divinations had actually happened.

Buffy suddenly woke with a start, her eyes darting around the room. When she saw herself in Dumbledore’s office, she calmed down immediately.

“Miss Black awakens,” Dumbledore said softly.

“Sorry,” Buffy said sheepishly. “Must have dozed off.”

“No harm at all,” Dumbledore replied. The Headmaster winked at Harry who couldn’t help but grin, thankful for a lighter moment after so many heavy ones.

“I had the weirdest dream though…I was flying on the back of his massive owl, and suddenly I was in a room with a snake and this short guy that looked like a rat.”

Harry and Dumbledore both looked at Buffy with interest, and Harry listened as his cousin told him about the dream she’d had. It was exactly the same, detail for detail, and it confirmed Harry’s suspicions. That had been no ordinary dream.

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

Buffy sat in the stands of the Quidditch Pitch, staring quietly at the hedges that seemed to be growing more than half a foot with each passing day. She’d discovered that the abandoned Quidditch Pitch was the perfect place to sit if she wanted privacy and a quiet place to just sit and think. With each passing day, she’d been sleeping a little bit better, though she suspected that Professor Dumbledore had something to do with that. She was grateful though.

Her patrols had slowed down considerably, the Forest seemed to have become a lot quieter of late. She wondered if that was because the dark creatures had all discovered that there was a Slayer hunting there and they’d all fled, or if it was because she’d killed so many of them that they’d all been killed.

She sighed softly and tapped her pen against her journal. It was something that Merrick and Giles had encouraged her to keep, a diary of her thoughts, whether it was about Slaying, or her dreams, or about the random things that had happened during the day. It was surprisingly therapeutic, and very helpful to her for remembering her dreams.

“You are in luck Wormtail,” said a cold, high-pitched voice from the depths of the chair in which the owl had landed. “You are very fortunate indeed. Your blunder has not ruined everything. He is dead.”

Wormtail. Peter Pettigrew. The man who had betrayed James and Lily Potter and who had left Sirius to take the blame for all of it. He was in the service of the Dark Lord. What Buffy couldn’t work out was what the blunder was that Pettigrew had made. She could only guess that the ‘he’ in question was Mr Crouch.

Buffy sighed and tried to swallow the guilt that came with the memory of his death. She’d been unable to stop it, she knew that much, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

“I thought I’d find you up here,” a soft voice said, startling her out of her memories.

Buffy turned and smiled softly as the Headmaster took a seat beside her. She couldn’t imagine Principal Snyder ever seeking out a student in pain so that he could talk to them. That was one of the many reasons that she enjoyed Hogwarts so much more than she’d ever enjoyed Sunnydale High.

“Hey Professor,” she greeted him.

“Wool-gathering?” he asked.

Buffy laughed a little. “I’ve never understood what that really meant, but…yeah, I think so.”

“Dwelling on Barty Crouch’s death is not going to bring him back,” Dumbledore said gently.

Buffy sighed and nodded. “I know. I just…I felt completely helpless. And I couldn’t do anything cos of that damn Cruciatus Curse. I was just…completely gone. I mean, I’m the Slayer, I should’ve…I should’ve done something. All that I could think of was how much it hurt.”

“Yes, that does seem to be the general thought about the Cruciatus Curse. It was why it was created. A beastly curse to cast on someone. If it’s used on someone long enough, it will send them insane,” Dumbledore explained.

“Who the hell was stupid enough to make a curse like that?” Buffy wondered.

“Very powerful, very dark wizards who enjoyed other people’s pain,” Dumbledore replied.

“It was around before Voldemort though, wasn’t it?”

Dumbledore nodded. “Long before.”

“You’d think that there’d be a way to stop it from hurting,” Buffy mused. “A counter-curse, something…anything. Protection spells can only work so much against them, according to Professor Moody. Shouldn’t someone have come up with a quick cure-all by now? I thought that’s what us magic types were experts at, y’know. Quick fixes.”

Dumbledore just nodded sombrely, his blue eyes thoughtful and strangely serious. “I suppose if there were a quick fix, as you call it, the curse wouldn’t be quite so heinous in the first place. And it is not a spell to be taken lightly…or one that can be used without consequences. And if someone can produce a solution to it, they will become both revered and hated. Perhaps that is why there has never been a cure.”

Chapter 25 - Yelling

(JKR’s description of the maze are just weird, so I’m not following the directions she gave. Tried to draw the damn thing, but it was just weird…)

Life continued at Hogwarts, as was inevitable. Hermione and Ron were helping Harry out with all kinds of curses, and Buffy was still learning Defence from Moody. Mr Fudge still didn’t seem to believe that Crouch had truly been killed and that Buffy had just been hallucinating. Buffy had thought that it was only Sunnydale residents who were so good at denial, but it seemed that even in the wizarding world, people could turn a blind eye to what was directly in front of them. It was incredibly annoying.

On the morning of the third task, June twenty-fourth, the Gryffindor table was incredibly rowdy. The twins were setting off fireworks and trying to keep Buffy laughing so that her mind was not on what would happen that night.

Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting a little further down the table, and when Hermione’s subscription of the Daily Prophet was delivered, she nearly spat out a mouthful of juice after reading the headline.

Harry Potter ‘Disturbed and Dangerous’

The article went on to explain Harry’s scar and the fact that he could speak Parseltongue. Just for the fun of it, the article then went on to explain the familial link between he and Buffy and again spoke of Buffy’s status as Slayer, Sirius Black’s daughter, and how she was the former lover of Angelus ‘Scourge of Europe’.

Harry quickly concealed it from Buffy, knowing that she would not appreciate Skeeter writing another article about them.

“How did she know your scar hurt in Divinations?” Ron asked. “There’s no way she was there, there’s no way she could’ve hear-”

“The window was open,” Harry replied. “I opened it to breath.”

“You were on the top of the North Tower,” Hermione argued. “Your voice couldn’t have carried all the way down to the grounds.”

“Well, you’re the one who’s supposed to be researching magical methods of bugging,” Harry said. “You tell me how she did it!”

“I’ve been trying, but I…but…”

An odd, dreamy expression suddenly came over Hemione’s face. She suddenly raised a hand and ran her fingers through her hair.

“Are you alright?” Ron asked, frowning at her.

“Yes,” Hermione replied breathlessly. She ran her fingers through her hair again, and then held her hand up to her mouth as the trio had seen Draco Malfoy doing only the other day outside on the grounds. Harry and Ron stared at each other.

“I’ve had an idea,” Hermione announced. “I think I know…because no one would be able to see…even Moody…and she’d have been able to get onto the window ledge…but she’s not allowed…she’s definitely not allowed…I think we’ve got her! Just give me two seconds in the library, just to make sure!”

She stood and dashed out of the Great Hall. Ron called after her, but the girl paid him no attention.

Professor McGonagall approached the Gryffindor table and explained to Harry and Buffy that they were to meet in the chamber of the Hall after breakfast as their families had been invited to watch the final task.

“She doesn’t expect the Dursley’s to turn up, does she?” Harry asked blankly.

“Dunno,” Ron replied. He bid Harry goodbye and raced off to history of Magic for the exam. Buffy caught up with Harry, a grin on her face.

She saw Harry’s perturbed look and slung her arm around his shoulder.

“What’s got you so upset?”

“Professor McGonagall…Dursley’s…”

Buffy snorted with laughter. “C’mon Harry, you don’t think they’d honestly turn up, do you?” Buffy asked. “My mom’ll hafta make do for both of us.”

Harry suddenly grinned. He’d almost forgotten. Aunt Joyce. It was a shame that Sirius wouldn’t have been able to make it. Harry was still upset that Sirius had been put back in Azkaban, and he was hoping desperately that they would be able to do something about getting him out of there.

Buffy and Harry entered the chamber and saw Viktor Krum with his parents over in a corner, conversing with his parents in rapid Bulgarian. On the other side of the room, Fleur was jabbering away in French to her mother while Fleur’s younger sister Gabrielle was holding her mother’s hand. The younger girl beamed and waved enthusiastically at both Harry and Buffy who waved back.

Buffy then spotted her mother speaking with Giles, and the two Black women hugged tightly. Joyce then pulled Harry into a hug and Harry sighed happily. He was suddenly pulled out of Joyce’s embrace and pulled into a hug by Mrs Weasley.

Harry grinned as he saw Bill over Mrs Weasley’s shoulder, the older Weasley boy standing by the fireplace. With him stood a redheaded girl that looked slightly like an older version of Ginny, and next to her was a tall brown-haired boy with a lopsided grin.

“Holy crap!” Buffy suddenly yelled.

Harry stepped back from Mrs Weasley and watched as Buffy raced towards the redheaded girl and the brown haired boy, hugging both of them enthusiastically as the two teens hugged Buffy back with equal enthusiasm.

“What are you guys doing here?” Buffy asked.

Willow Rosenburg shrugged sheepishly. “When your mom came back to Sunnydale and invited us to come and watch you do this Tournament thingy…well, we couldn’t resist,” Willow explained.

“Yeah Buff, we didn’t wanna miss this for the world,” Xander added. “’Sides, your mom said that some Professor dude had invited your family…how could we not have come?”

Harry coughed unsubtly and stepped closer to the group. Buffy grinned and pulled him forward.

“Guys, this is my cousin Harry. Harry these are my best friends, Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris.”

Harry shook hands with Willow and Xander as Bill merged into the group, introducing himself.

“Hello all,” he said brightly. “I’m Bill. I’ll probably be Buffy’s brother-in-law in about a year or so.”

Buffy went bright red and her jaw dropped in shock. She hit Bill across the arm, and he winced in pain and rubbed at it, trying to get the blood flowing again.

“You’re dating someone?” Xander asked curiously.

Buffy nodded. “Yup. His name’s George. He’s a worse trouble-maker than you are Xan.”

Xander looked horrified. “There are better trouble-makers than me?” he asked.

The group laughed, thankful for the small break in ice. They chatted easily with each other, Joyce and Mrs Weasley wandering over and sharing reminiscent stories about their old Hogwarts days. Buffy heard more about her mom and Sirius’ escapades, and they listened as Molly told them about the early days of her romance with her husband back at Hogwarts.

“Wanna go for a walk?” Buffy asked the group.

Molly and Joyce decided to stay in doors and catch up with some of the Professors who weren’t teaching classes at that moment. Buffy and Harry led the group around the Hogwarts grounds. They went back up to the castle for lunch, sitting with Ron, George, Fred and the other Sixth Year Gryffindors. Joyce and Molly joined them at the Gryffindor Table.

“Mum, Bill!” Ron exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”

“Come to watch Harry and Buffy in the last task!” Mrs Weasley replied.

Xander gave the brotherly warning to George about not hurting Buffy or else he would do some serious bone breaking to the redheaded boy. George had looked sufficiently threatened and he’d nodded in understanding before promising not to ever hurt his girlfriend.

Willow had noticed the claddagh ring that George had been sporting, but hadn’t mentioned it.

Hermione came up to them halfway through lunch, and Harry remembered the girls brainwave from that morning. He wondered if she’d worked out how Skeeter had been listening to all of their most important and private conversations. “Are you going to tell us-?”

Hermione looked sharply at Harry, nodding at Mrs Weasley. Harry stopped halfway through his question.

“Hello Hermione,” Mrs Weasley greeted, a little more stiffly than usual.

“Hello,” Hermione replied, her smile dropping slightly as she saw Mrs Weasley’s unusually cold expression.

Harry immediately caught on to the undertones of what was happening.

“Mrs Weasley, you didn’t believe that rubbish that Rita Skeeter wrote did you? Because Hermione’s not my girlfriend,” Harry said.

“Oh! No…of course I didn’t.”

But Mrs Weasley became considerably warmer to Hermione after that.

Willow and Xander kept everyone on the edges of their seats by telling stories about their adventures in Sunnydale. They explained about the new Slayer, Faith who seemed to thrive on the slaying and how Faith’s Watcher Wesley Wyndham-Pryce was barely able to keep her in line.

Xander and Willow listened, completely captivated by the stories of the first and seconds tasks. Xander’s jaw was open in shock as he heard about the dragons and merpeople and about the creatures of the Forbidden Forest.

Time passed quickly and after several courses of dinner, Dumbledore stood and silence descended upon the Hall.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in five minutes time, I will be asking you to make your way down to the Quidditch Pitch for the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament,” Dumbledore said. “Will the champions please follow Mr Bagman down to the stadium now.”

“I think that’d be us,” Buffy whispered to Harry.

Harry grinned and they stood, the Gryffindors all along the table applauding them loudly. They headed off out of the Great Hall with Fleur and Krum, walking down to the stadium. Harry grinned as he listened to his cousin muttering spells beneath her breath, as though making sure she knew the pronunciation of what to say if she needed it.

They walked onto the Quidditch pitch, which was completely unrecognisable. A twenty-foot-high hedge ran all the way around the edge of it. There was a gap right in front of them; the entrance to the vast maze.

Five minutes later, the stands had begun to fill; the air was full of excited voices and the rumbling of feet as the hundreds of students filed into their seats. The sky was a deep, clear blue now, and the first stars were starting to appear. Hagrid, Professor Moody, Professor McGonagall and Professor Flitwick came walking into the stadium and approached Bagman and the champions. They were wearing large, red, luminous stars on their hats, all except Hagrid, who had his on the back of his coat.

“We are going to be patrolling the outside of the maze,” Professor McGonagall explained. “If you get into difficulties, and wish to be rescued, send red sparks into the air and one of us will come and get you, do you understand?”

The champions all nodded.

“Not the most confidence inspiring speech was it?” Buffy muttered.

Harry smirked, and the four teachers all walked around the edge of the maze to station themselves around the maze.

Bagman pointed his wand to his throat and magically magnified his voice.

“Ladies and gentlemen, the third and final task of the Triwizard Tournament is about to begin! Let me remind you how the points currently stand! In first place is Eliza Black, better known as Buffy. In second place, just one point behind, is Harry Potter. In third place is Viktor Krum, and in fourth place is Fleur Delacour.”

There was applause from the stands. Harry suddenly waved at the Weasley’s who were sitting with Joyce and Hermione. They all waved back beaming. Buffy grinned as she saw her friends and family up in the stands.

“On my whistle Miss Black!” Bagman suddenly said.

Buffy quickly grabbed Harry and pulled him into a hug. She slipped something to him and whispered a single word. “Pocket.”

She pulled back and Bagman’s whistle blew. She entered the maze, her wand out and a stake at her back, resting between her jeans and the skin of her back, the feel of the wood a comfort to the Slayer. In her back pocket was a small pocketknife that Sirius had given to her as part of her birthday present.

She entered the maze and took the first felt, confidently walking along the darkened path. The sounds of the crowd had been completely silenced, and all that could be heard was the still night air rustling the leaves of the hedges. She’d become used to walking in dark areas with no sources of light over the years, and she was having no problems with the maze as she continued going straight for about fifty yards. She took the second right hand turn, listening carefully for anything that might have tried to approach.

Two minutes after she’d been let into the maze, the Bagman’s whistle blew and Buffy knew that Harry had entered the maze.

The Boy-Who-Lived wandered into the dark hedges, jumping slightly as the sound suddenly cut off completely. It felt as though he was being thrust back under water, the difference was so startling. He pulled his wand out and light the end of it. “Lumos!

He reached his hand into his pocket and pulled out whatever Buffy had given to him. He unfolded it and read it in the light of his wand. He laughed slightly and shook his head, wondering where his cousin had managed to find the map she’d given him. It was a full map of the maze, drawn with a pen on lined paper, and it occurred to Harry that it was Buffy who had drawn it. It wasn’t magical in the slightest, merely a drawing that Buffy had done of the maze.

There was two different sets of dotted lines in different colour highlighters. At the bottom of the page was an index, telling him that he was the blue colour while Buffy was the bright neon pink colour. He turned left and took the first right, careful to continue listening for any of the obstacles that the Professors had placed into the maze.

He turned left and another right, followed by another right before he found anything that had been placed into the maze. Bagman’s whistle had sounded twice more already, and all of the champions were in the maze.

Harry’s insides went cold, but he knew what to do. He concentrated on celebrating with his friends after getting gout of the maze and shouted “Expecto Patronum!

A silver stag erupted from the end of Harry’s wand and galloped towards the Dementor, which fell back and tripped over the hem of its robes…Harry had never seen a Dementor stumble. “Hang on!” he cried. “You’re a boggart! Riddukulus!

Buffy kept her ears peeled for anything that may have been approaching. All she’d come across so far were Hagrid’s Blast-Ended-Skrewts, and she’d managed to flip past it to stop herself from getting singed by its blasting ends. She stunned the creature after putting some distance between herself and it.

A scream sounded in the air, and Buffy knew that it had come from Fleur. The Slayer part of her wanted to race towards where it had come from and help her, but she knew that she would never be able to find her in the maze. She also knew that there were teachers who were there to help students who needed it. Sighing, she continued on the path that she’d spent hours memorising just from sitting up in the stands of the Quidditch Pitch.

Harry too had heard the scream, and he could tell that it had come from Fleur, not from Buffy. She sounded close, but he was hesitating near some golden coloured mist. He took a deep breath and ran through the enchanted mist. The world turned upside down. Harry was hanging from the ground with his hair on end, his glasses dangling off his nose, threatening to fall into the bottomless sky. He clutched them to the end of his nose and hung there, terrified. He closed his eyes, trying to think clearly, pulling his right foot away from the grassy roof, but when his eyes opened, the world had righted itself. He ran out of the mist and stared back at it incredulously.

He looked back down at the map Buffy had given him, thankful that he’d managed to stay on it. Every turn he’d come to had been on the map, and he’d taken the highlighted path for him. He made a mental note to burn the piece of paper before the task ended. He didn’t want to be accused of cheating, or letting another student help him.

Buffy turned left and continued walking straight, ignoring the different paths that shot out to her left and right, waiting for the correct turn to take. Something suddenly stepped out of one of the dead end tunnels and stopped in the path in front of her. For a moment, she couldn’t see who or what it was, but as she got closer, she saw it was Viktor Krum, his wand raised.

“Hey Viktor,” she greeted cheerily.

Krum said nothing in reply, and Buffy began feeling uneasy about the look on his face. He looked pale, and his eyes were a strange combination of cold and incredibly blank.

“Uh…you trying to pick a path or something?” she asked.

Crucio!” his voice yelled strongly.

Buffy dropped to her knees, crying out in pain. Her fist clenched and she forced her mind to clear completely, putting herself into a light trance that allowed her to completely ignore the pain shooting threw her body. She gripped her own wand, her knuckles white from the painful effort. “Finite!

The pain ended, and Krum suddenly stepped back in horror.

“I…I’m so sor-”

Stupefy!” Buffy yelled, not even wanting to listen to Krum’s excuses.

Krum fell to the ground, completely stunned. Buffy reached into the pocket of her jeans and pulled out a wrapped sweet that would boost her sugar up and hopefully reduce the pain of the curse that had crippled her. She didn’t even want to imagine how painful that spell would be to anyone who wasn’t a Slayer. She sent up a burst of red sparks over Krum’s limp body, wanting the Professors to take him out of the game so he couldn’t hurt anyone else. She would have bet money that Fleur’s scream had been because of Krum.

Nearby, Harry had stopped in front of an extraordinary creature that he’d only ever seen pictures of. It had the body of an overlarge lion, but its head however was that of a woman. Harry held his wand uncertainly.

“You are very near your goal,” the sphinx said. “The quickest way is past me.”

“So…so will you move, please?” he asked.

“No,” the sphinx said, pacing to and fro to stop Harry from getting past her. “Not unless you answer my riddle. Answer on your first guess – I let you pass. Answer wrongly – I attack. Remain silent – I will let you walk away from me unscathed.”

“Okay…can I hear the riddle?” he asked. At least if he didn’t know the answer, he could walk away. There was another route he could take that was drawn on Buffy’s map, but it detoured far further than he wanted to go. And the Cup was very close.

“First think of the person who lives in disguise

Who deals in secrets and tells naught but lies,

Next, tell me what’s always the last thing to men,

The middle of middle and the end of end.

And finally give me the sounds often heard

During the search for a hard-to-find word.

Now string them together, and answer me this,

Which creature would you be unwilling to kiss?”

Harry gaped at her.

Buffy stood completely still, her wand in one hand, her stake in the other, both of them having only just been used. She was breathing hard, and trying to get herself to calm down, but it was nearly impossible.

Like Harry, she’d come across a boggart, but when a vampiric Harry had stepped out of the shadows and moved towards her, she’d frozen in absolute horror.

“God no…”

Harry laughed harshly. “He has no place here Buff,” he replied mockingly. “C’mon cuz…don’t you wanna play?”

He lunged towards her, and Buffy, acting on pure instinct had thrown him over her shoulder. He’d landed hard and struggled to catch his breath, and Buffy had caught on quickly. Firstly, vampires didn’t need to breath. Secondly, she’d seen Harry only half an hour before, and he’d been absolutely fine. The vampire Harry in front of her wasn’t her cousin. The vampire had rushed her, and she’d thrust her stake into the vampire’s heart. The boggart had transformed into Sirius’ face, vampiric ridges and all. She’d realised exactly what the creature truly was, pointed her wand and dispelled the boggart completely.

But that didn’t stop the shaking. She pulled out her own copy of the map, her mind too frazzled to remember the paths that she’d memorised earlier. She traced her footsteps on the map and worked out that she was still on course. She turned right and found Harry about to turn left. He grinned at her until he saw her shaking.

“All right there?” he asked.

Buffy just nodded and placed her stake at the back of her jeans. “You?” she asked.

“Yeah. Going orright. Have you seen Krum or Fleur?”

Buffy’s eyes darkened. “Yeah, I saw Viktor. Bastard used the Cruciatus on me. I stunned him…sent up red sparks. He’s out of the game.”

Harry’s eyes were wide. “Krum? Using an Unforgivable?”

Buffy nodded. “I think that’s what happened to Fleur. I’m not one hundred percent sure though.”

Harry nodded. “So…” he pointed to his left and Buffy’s right. “Together then?”

Buffy nodded and they walked down the path, lit only by Harry’s wand light.

Buffy felt her senses prickle with something familiar, and it wasn’t just because Harry was nearby. She froze, but Harry didn’t notice.

Harry was suddenly lifted into the air. Panicking he kicked out, and whatever it was that had lifted him, dropped him. He expected to land heavily, but his fall was cushioned by Buffy, who barely managed to stay on her feet as he was thrown towards her.

The massive spider lifted one of its pincers to stab at its attacker with, but before it could connect with anything, Buffy’s hands wrapped around its leg, stopping the downward thrust. Blood dripped from her hands as the sharp edges of its leg cut through her skin, Harry looking on in shock.

“What did I tell you about hurting students?” Buffy asked in a low and dangerous voice that Harry had never heard before.

The massive spider actually whimpered much to Harry’s shock and scuttled backwards. It bowed low and backed away into a darkened passage.

“That was just…wow,” Harry whispered.

Buffy shrugged and looked at her bleeding hands and ripped off part of the material of her shirt and used it to wrap her palms, Harry helping her to tighten them and keep them on.

They stood and took a right and a quick left, and there it was, shimmering in all of its golden glory: the Cup.

The cousins stared at each other.

“Count of three?” Harry asked.

Buffy grinned and they stood on either side of the Cup.

“One…two…three!”

They both grabbed hold of the Cup and instantly felt a tug behind their navels. Their feet left the ground, and they couldn’t let go of the Cup. It was pulling them onwards, in a howl of wind and swirling colour. Their feet suddenly touched the ground, and they lurched slightly, but managed to stay standing.

“Get your wand out,” Buffy whispered, holding onto her own wand as well as her stake as she looked around the darkened cemetery that they had landed in.

It reminded her strongly of Sunnydale, but she could tell that they weren’t in Sunnydale. She didn’t know where they were, but it was definitely creepy.

Harry pulled out his wand and they crept forward, listening carefully for any sign of life. Buffy suddenly ducked behind a headstone and pulled Harry down to crouch beside her. They watched as someone carrying a large bundle of something walked towards a marble headstone only six feet away from them.

Without warning, Harry’s scar suddenly exploded with pain, it was agony such as he’d never felt before.

Buffy grabbed hold of Harry’s hand and squeezed it, the pain elsewhere helping him to focus. She began whispering soft words to him to give him something else to think about, and to Harry’s surprise, redirecting his attentions to something else lessened the pain to a manageable level. “Ron, Hermione…Quidditch…chocolate frogs…Sirius…Padfoot, Moony, Prongs…”

Harry blinked his eyes to clear them and smiled thankfully at his cousin.

“Thanks,” he whispered.

“Here to help,” she replied. “Wanna live.”

Harry suddenly gasped as he noticed the man six feet away from them had a finger missing.

“Wormtail,” he whispered.

Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “Pettigrew,” she spat out bitterly. She went to stand, but Harry grabbed hold of her wrist.

“Are you crazy?” he whispered harshly.

Our guests have arrived,” a cold voice suddenly whispered.

Both Harry and Buffy froze. They recognised that voice. They’d heard it in their shared dream, and it sent chills running up and down their spines.

Buffy suddenly stood and aimed her wand at Pettigrew, shouting “Stupefy!”

She wasn’t quite fast enough though, as Pettigrew was prepared for the spell. “Protego!

Protego!” Buffy yelled quickly as the spell suddenly bounced back towards she and Harry. She redirected the spell towards a nearby headstone, and it cracked the stone slightly.

Stupefy!” Pettigrew yelled, aiming at Harry. The fourth-year Gryffindor had never learnt the protection charm, and the spell hit him at full force, sending him flying backwards, falling to the ground, barely an inch away from having hit his head on one of the headstones.

Enervate!” Buffy quickly yelled, re-aiming at Harry. But Pettigrew had already shouted a Stunning Spell at the Slayer while her back was turned. Harry stood shakily, and cried out in protest as his cousin fell to the ground.

Expelliarmus!” Pettigrew yelled. Harry’s wand flew from his hands and into Pettigrew’s.

Pettigrew stepped forward and grabbed hold of Harry’s robes, pulling him towards the grave that he’d been near earlier. Harry was thrown to the ground and Pettigrew conjured ropes that bound Harry from neck to feet, tying him to the headstone that read Tom Riddle.

Pettigrew, with shaking hands, gagged Harry and checked the strength of the knots. Harry struggled against his bonds and could only watch helplessly as Pettigrew dragged Buffy to an adjacent headstone and tied her to it with conjured ropes, taking her wand from her as well. He bound her hands behind her back to make it harder for her to escape. He knew that she was the Slayer, but even Slayers would have trouble getting out of magical ropes. He walked away quickly, leaving Harry and Buffy in the eerie silence of the graveyard. Near Harry’s feet was the bundle of clothes that Pettigrew had been carrying earlier. They twitched slightly and Harry felt his scar begin to sear in pain.

Pettigrew returned, pulling a massive stone cauldron closer to where Harry was bound as a large snake slithered close by in the grass.

“Buffy,” Harry whispered fearfully.

His cousin moved slightly, and then Harry noticed that the bundle of clothes was stirring more persistently. He stared at it in fear, wondering what Pettigrew had planned and what he and Buffy had to do with any of it.

Buffy stirred and struggled against her bonds momentarily. She forced herself to calm down and to think logically. Struggling would only make the bonds tighter, and they were only made of rope, which would be far easier to escape from than metal chains. Buffy stretched her bound hands downwards, wiggling one of her hands into her back pocket, struggling to remove the pocket knife that Sirius had given to her. She grinned with relief when it came out of her pocket. She fumbled with it momentarily, and flicked the blade open, carefully cutting into the ropes and freeing her hands.

A crackling flame suddenly lit beneath the cauldron that Pettigrew was working with. The large snake slithered away into the darkness. The liquid in the cauldron seemed to heat very fast. The surface began not only to bubble, but also to send out fiery sparks, as though it was on fire. Steam was thickening, blurring the outline of Pettigrew. The movements beneath the cloak became more agitated, and Buffy and Harry heard the cold voice once more.

Hurry!”

“It is ready Master,” Pettigrew said.

Buffy stood and stayed low as she raced towards Harry.

The girl!

Pettigrew yelled out in frustration. “Crucio!

Harry cried out as Buffy fell to her knees, her eyes watering as pain rippled through her entire body, burning her from the insides. As she’d done earlier, she controlled her breathing, controlled her thoughts, controlled absolutely everything that she could and managed to concentrate on anything other than the pain. But she didn’t have her wand. She couldn’t stop the spell, except to get to Pettigrew and snap his wand.

She struggled to stand, her knees shaking, her entire body trembling. Harry watched in awe and shock as Buffy stood and half crawled towards the cauldron.

Pettigrew saw her coming though and delivered a stunning kick to her face, Buffy falling to the ground, the Cruciatus still rippling through her. Pettigrew grabbed hold of Buffy’s arm, pulling her towards the cauldron. He kicked her again and Buffy cried out in pain, still trembling from the Cruciatus.

Pettigrew kept one eye on Buffy as he removed the cloak from the creature inside it. It was the shape of a crouched human child, except that Harry had never seen anything less like a child. It was hairless and scaly, looking a dark raw reddish black. Pettigrew lifted it and placed it into the cauldron.

Harry was silently praying for the thing to drown when Pettigrew lifted his wand into the air and closed his eyes. Buffy felt the Cruciatus lift from her, but her body continued to twitch and she struggled to catch her breath.

Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son!” Pettigrew said, his voice shaking.

The surface of the grave at Harry’s feet cracked. A fine trickle of dust rose into the air at Pettigrew’s command, and fell softly into the cauldron. The diamond surface if the water broke and hissed, sending sparks in all directions and turning a vivid poisonous-looking blue.

Pettigrew was almost whimpering now as he lifted a dagger into the air above his outstretched arm.

Flesh - of the servant – w-willingly given – you will – revive – your master.”

Harry closed his eyes tightly to avoid having to watch Pettgrew cut his own hand off, but his ears were still able to ear the man screaming in agony. Buffy struggled to get her arms to support her weight, knowing that she could probably catch the pained Pettigrew off guard.

The man walked towards Harry, gasping and moaning. He bent down with the silver dagger in his hands and went to cut into the crook of Harry’s arm.

Buffy grabbed Pettigrew’s bloodied stump and squeezed with every ounce of strength that she had left. Pettigrew screamed in agony, and without thought, he swung at her with his good arm. He caught her off guard, and she was thrown to the side, clipping the side of her head against a stone grave.

Harry was trembling in fear, struggling wildly.

B-blood of the enemy…forcibly taken…you will…resurrect you foe.”

Harry felt the blade cut into his arm, and Pettigrew fumbled in his cloak for a glass vial. Pettigrew let the vial fill half way and then moved across to Buffy’s still form. He removed the makeshift bandage from Buffy’s hand and re-opened the nearly healed wound, dripping Buffy’s blood into the vial.

“Traitor,” Buffy whispered.

Pettigrew froze for an instant, his eyes going wide.

“You’re a despicable coward,” she continued, her voice soft and breaking, everything in her body aching with a pain that went through every muscle. “You think you’ll be rewarded for all this, but you won’t be.”

“I will be,” he replied adamantly.

“You think he won’t turn on your the second he’s back?” Buffy asked. “You think you’ll suddenly be his right-hand man? Newsflash Peter, you won’t get anything from him. He didn’t hesitate to use the Cruciatus on you before…why would it change now?”

Pettigrew was hesitating, and Buffy could see the indecision in his eyes. She tried to swallow her anger at him, tried to forget that it was Pettigrew’s fault that her father was in prison, and that her aunt and uncle had been killed because he had betrayed them. If she could get through to him, Voldemort wouldn’t be restored, and there would be a chance of completely killing the wizard whose very name struck fear into people’s hearts.

“You can stop it all,” Buffy whispered. “You could be free of all of it. You’d be able to finally stop hiding and start living. You’d never have to put up with him cursing you when you only tried to help him. You could be your own master. You’d never have to hear the name Voldemort again.”

Harry held his breath as Pettigrew paused in deep thought. For one beautiful moment, he thought that the man had actually taken Buffy’s words to heart. He thought that Pettigrew was going to drop the vial to the ground and let it shatter. But he thought wrong. Pettigrew stood and kicked Buffy’s ribs viciously. “Nobody says his name!” He poured the vial of blood into the cauldron.

For several long moments, nothing happened. And then suddenly, the sparks emanating from the cauldron were extinguished. A surge of white steam billowed thickly from the cauldron, obliterating everything in front of Harry so that he couldn’t see Pettigrew or Buffy or anything but vapour hanging in the air.

Buffy coughed softly, trying to breath. She could tell that one of Pettigrew’s kicks had broken one of her ribs, and from the way she was struggling to breath, she could bet that it had punctured one of her lungs.

She struggled to crawl towards Harry, the pocketknife still in her hand as she slowly made her way towards a fearful Harry, who was watching the mist. Suddenly, the dark outline of a man, tall and skeletally thin rose from the cauldron.

“Robe me,” said the high, cold voice from behind the steam. Pettigrew, sobbing and clutching at his mutilated arm, scrambled to pick up the black robe from the ground.

The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry and Buffy who had collapsed in pain just by Harry’s feet. She was trying to cut through the ropes that bound Harry’s feet.

Harry stared up into the face that had haunted his nightmares for three years. Whiter than skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes, and a nose that was as flat as a snake’s, with slits for nostrils. Lord Voldemort had risen again.

Chapter 26 - Zenith

Voldemort looked away from Harry, beginning an examination of the body he’d just been given. Harry was silently urging Buffy to hurry, but with her injured and shaking hands, she was having problems getting the knife to hold steady. The ropes around Harry’s ankles were at least three ropes thick, and the Slayer was having trouble.

Voldemort looked to a trembling Pettigrew.

“Hold out your arm,” Voldemort said lazily.

Pettigrew extended the bleeding stump but Voldemort laughed a high, cold, mirthless laugh. “The other arm Wormtail.”

“Master, please…please.”

Voldemort bent down and pulled out Pettigrew’s left arm; he forced the sleeve of Pettigrew’s robes up past his elbow, and examined the mark upon the skin. A vivid red tattoo – a skull with a snake protruding from its mouth – the same image that had appeared in the sky at the Quidditch World Cup, the Dark Mark.

“It is back,” Voldemort said softly. “They will all have noticed it…and now, we shall see…now we shall know…”

He pressed his long, white forefinger to the brand on Pettigrew’s arm. The scar on Harry’s forehead seared with a sharp pain again, and Pettigrew let out a fresh howl. Voldemort removed his finger from Pettigrew’s Mark, and Harry saw that it had turned jet black.

A look of cruel satisfaction of his face, Voldemort straightened up, threw back his head and stared around at the dark graveyard.

“How many will be brave enough to return when they feel it?” he whispered, his flaming red eyes fixed upon the stars. “And how many will be foolish enough to stay away?”

He began to pace up and down, and his eyes lit upon Buffy as she continued to struggle with Harry’s ropes. Voldemort bent down and grabbed hold of Buffy’s wrists, and the Slayer cried out in pain as he dug his long fingernails into her skin.

“Ahhh, Slayer. It is admirable that you try so hard,” he whispered. He grabbed Buffy by her hair and pulled her so that she had no choice but to rest her weight on her knees. He took hold of the hand that Buffy had her knife in and squeezed viciously until she heard bones snap. She held back a scream, but whimpers of pain still escaped, and several of the welling tears finally leaked out of the corners of her eyes. Voldemort grabbed hold of the knife, easily taking it from her broken hand.

He grabbed hold of her arm, forcing her sleeve up to the elbow. Harry struggled violently to get out of the ropes, wanting to save his cousin, who was fighting to stay conscious. Voldemort pressed the tip of the blade into the crook of Buffy’s elbow.

“You’ve lost,” he whispered softly. “Don’t you realise this yet? And yet you still try. It is a beautiful quality, and rare in one so young as you. Yes, there is no doubt who you are…who your parents are…Potter and Black. Never did two families give me so much trouble as those two. And now I get to kill the progeny of both lines…Two of the strongest blood-lines, and now that blood flows through my veins…the blood of the boy who destroyed me, and the blood of a Slayer…”

He pressed the blade into Buffy’s skin, pushing deeply into her flesh. He made two deep cuts, forming the shape of a ‘V’. The wizard dropped the knife to the ground, and reached out to touch the blood that leaked from the cuts. He coated his fingers with it and brought it up to his mouth, licking it from his fingers.

Voldemort bent his head down and inhaled the wound, touching his mouth to the crook of Buffy’s elbow. She struggled, but Voldemort lapped at the blood that seeped out until the flow of blood eventually stopped.

He pulled away from her elbow and placed his mouth close to Buffy’s ear, his lips touching the outer shell, making her shiver in disgust at the close proximity that she’d been forced to share with a man she hated more than the Master, more than Angelus, and more than Snyder.

“I can taste your fear, your anger, your failure…nothing could have made me as strong as I am now.”

You’re the one that sets me free…if you hadn’t come, I couldn’t go…think about that. It was like being back in the Master’s cavern so many years ago. It had been her blood that had released the Master, and now it was the same with Voldemort. Except it wasn’t only her blood that flowed through the evil Wizard. It was her cousin’s as well.

Buffy pulled back and spat in Voldemort’s face. The newly revived Dark Lord threw her to the ground and quickly stood so that one of his heavy feet was crushing Buffy’s ribs beneath the weight of his leg. She struggled to breath, trying desperately not to pass out from the pain in her body.

“My true family returns,” Voldemort whispered as the air suddenly became filled with sounds of swishing cloaks. Between graves, behind the yew tree, in every shadowy space, wizards were Apparating. All of them were hooded and masked. And one by one, they moved forwards…slowly, cautiously, as though they could hardly believe their eyes. Voldemort stood there in silence and waited for them. Then one of the Death Eaters fell to his knees, crawled towards Voldemort, and kissed the hem of his black robes.

“Master…master…” he murmured.

The Death Eaters behind him did the same thing; each of them approaching Voldemort on his knees, ignoring the fact that Voldemort was standing with most of his weight on a struggling Slayer.

The Death Eaters then backed away and formed a silent circle, which enclosed Harry, Voldemort, Buffy and the sobbing and whimpering Wormatil.

“Welcome Death Eaters,” Voldemort said quietly. “Thirteen years…thirteen years since we last met. Yet you answer my call as though it was yesterday. We are still united under the Dark Mark then. Or are we?”

Voldemort moved and began pacing around the circle, much to Buffy’s joy. She struggled to roll over, pushing her weight onto her arms instead of on her ribs. She coughed up blood and vomited on the grass in front of her. She could feel several pairs of eyes on her as she slowly made her way back towards where Harry was still bound. She collapsed at his side, rolling onto her side and closing her eyes tiredly, hating that she was so close to Harry, but unable to do anything to help him due to her injuries and her exhausted mind. Harry frantically whispered his cousins name, terrified that he was going to have to watch her die.

“I smell guilt,” Voldemort said. “There is a stench of guilt upon the air…Perhaps they now pay allegiance to another…perhaps that champions of commoners, of Mudbloods and Muggles, Albus Dumbledore?”

One of the men suddenly flung himself forwards, breaking the circle. Trembling from head to toe, he collapsed at Voldemort’s feet. “Master!” he shrieked. “Master, forgive me, forgive us all!”

Voldemort laughed and raised his wand. “Crucio!

Voldemort turned to address the still whimpering Pettigrew.

“You returned to me, not out of loyalty, but out of fear of your old friends. You deserve this pain Wormtail. You know that don’t you?”

“Yes master,” Pettigrew moaned. “Please, master, please…”

“Yet you helped me return to my body,” Voldemort continued coolly. “Worthless and traitorous as you are, you helped me…and Lord Voldemort rewards his helpers.”

Voldemort raised his wand again and whirled it through the air. A streak of what looked like molten silver hung shining in the wand’s wake. It writhed and then formed itself into a gleaming replica of a human hand, bright in the moonlight, which soared downwards and fixed itself upon Pettigrew’s bleeding wrist. Pettigrew’s sobbing sopped abruptly. His breathing harsh ad ragged, he raised his head and stared in disbelief at the silver hand, now attached seamlessly to his arm, as though he were wearing a dazzling glove. He flexed the shining fingers, then, trembling, picked up a small twig on the ground, and crushed it into powder.

“May your loyalty never waver again Wormtail,” Voldemort said.

“No my Lord…never, my Lord.”

Voldemort walked around the circle, addressing most of the members, speaking and listening to excuses and moving along the circle. It took nearly twenty minutes for Voldemort to go through the entire circle. Harry switched between watching Voldemort and checking on his cousin who was lying in absolute stillness on the grass, her eyes closed, her breathing shallow.

“There is one who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already re-entered my service. He is at Hogwarts,” Voldemort said, “that faithful servant, and it was through his efforts that our young friends arrived tonight…”

Harry gasped and looked once more at his cousin, but Buffy remained motionless on the ground beside him. He tried to move his legs to nudge her, but he froze when Voldemort suddenly turned to look at him.

“Buffy, get up!” Harry whispered frantically.

The Slayer stirred and tried to push herself onto her hands and knees as Voldemort approached, his gait slow and predatory.

“Yes…Harry Potter has kindly joined us for my rebirthing party. One might go so far as to call him my guest of honour. His friend, lying so pathetically on the ground is his cousin, and just so happens to be…” Voldemort stopped and chuckled. The Dark Lord grabbed hold of the scruff of Buffy’s neck and lifted her, before slamming her head into a nearby gravestone. Buffy’s body finally gave into the blissfulness of unconsciousness, despite the Slayer’s desire to get out of the cemetery alive. “…the ‘greatest’ Slayer in centuries.”

The other Death-Eaters laughed slightly as well as they took in the unmoving form of Buffy as she lay beside Harry.

Voldemort then explained to the Death Eaters how it was that he’d been restored. He explained about the previous attempts, and how he’d been foiled by Harry because of his mothers sacrifice for him. Voldemort explained about how he’d managed to find out all the information he’d needed to know about the Tournament that would take place at Hogwarts, and how he’d been able to place someone directly under Dumbledore’s nose.

“…use my Death Eater to ensure that the boy and his cousin won the Tournament – that they touched the Triwizard Cup, not only first, but together as my servant knew they would. The Cup would be a Portkey to bring them here, beyond the reach of Dumbledore’s help and protection, and into my waiting arms. And here is he…the boy you all believed had been my downfall…”

Voldemort moved slowly forward and turned to face Harry. He raised his wand. “Crucio!”

It was beyond pain…and then it was gone. He was hanging limply in the ropes binding him to the headstone of Voldemort’s father, looking up at those bright red eyes through a kind of mist. The night was ringing wit h the sound of the Death Eater’s laughter.

“Harry Potter escaped by a lucky chance. And I am now going to prove my power by killing him, here and now, in front of you all, where there is no Dumbledore to help him, and no mother to die for him. I will give him his chance. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger. Just a little longer Nagini,” he whispered, and the snake slithered away through the grass to where the Death Eaters stood watching. “Now untie him Wormtail, and give him back his wand. Malfoy, Nott…move the girl out of the circle. Wormtail, stand guard of the ‘Slayer’ when you are done.”

The Death Eaters quickly complied with his orders and Pettigrew lingered by Buffy, making sure that if the girl awoke from unconsciousness, that she wouldn’t try and jump into the circle.

Harry was untied and his wand was back in his hand. He considered running for it, but the circle of Death Eaters closed in around him. He squinted in the darkness, looking for his cousin, and saw her lying still with Pettigrew standing beside her, his wand pointed at her.

“We bow to each other Harry Potter,” Voldemort said, bending a little, but keeping his snake-like face upturned to Harry. “Come, the niceties must be observed…Dumbledore would like you to show manners…bow to death Harry.”

The Death Eaters were laughing again and Harry was not going to bow. He suddenly felt something like a massive hand bending his spine forward so that he was forced to bow to Voldemort.

“And now you face me, like a man…straight backed and proud, the way your father died…and now – we duel.”

Voldemort raised his wand again and before Harry could do anything to defend himself, the Cruciatus Curse had hit him again. He was screaming in pain, and then it stopped abruptly. He rolled over and scrambled to his feet, shaking unaccountably.

“You don’t want me to do that again, do you?”

Harry didn’t answer, and Voldemort cast the Imperius, trying to make Harry answer, but he resisted as he’d done in Professor Moody’s class so long ago.

“Answer me!” Voldemort yelled.

Harry resisted, pushing back the voice in his mind forcefully. “I WON’T!”

“You won’t? You won’t say ‘no’? Harry obedience is a virtue I need to teach you before you die…perhaps another little dose of pain?”

Voldemort raised his wand, but this time Harry was ready, with the reflexes born of his Quidditch training, he flung himself sideways onto the ground, rolling behind the marble headstone.

Voldemort approached, and Harry gathering up all of his strength, all of his courage, and everything else within him. He didn’t want to die, and he didn’t want to leave Buffy to deal with the Death Eaters. Just as Voldemort was about to reach him, he jumped to his feet and shouted “Expelliarmus!” at the same time that Voldemort yelled “Avada Kedavra!

A jet of green light issued from Voldemort’s wand just as the jet of red light blasted from Harry’s – they met in mid air – and suddenly Harry’s wand was vibrating as though an electric charge was surging through it. His hand had seized up around it he couldn’t have released it if he’d wanted to – and a narrow beam of light was now connecting the two wands, neither red nor green, but bright deep gold. Harry, following the beam with an astonished gaze, saw that Voldemort’s long white fingers, too, were gripping a wand that was shaking and vibrating.

And then Harry felt his feet lift from the ground. He and Voldemort were both being raised into the air, their wands still connected by that thread of shimmering golden light. They were gliding away from the tombstone of Voldemort’s father, and then came to rest on a patch of ground that was clear and free of graves. The Death Eaters were shouting, asking Voldemort for instructions, they were closing in, re-forming the circle, and then the golden thread connecting Harry’s wand to Voldemort’s suddenly produced a thousand more offshoots, criss-crossing all around them until they were enclosed within a golden dome-shaped web, a cage of light. Beyond the dome the Death-Eaters circled like vultures, their cries strangely muffled now…

“Do nothing!” Voldemort shrieked to the Death Eaters, and Harry saw his red eyes wide with astonishment at what was happening.

And then Harry heard something that lifted his spirits. It was a phoenix song, that came through the webbed cage, the tendrils of golden thread vibrating with the sounds of t, but Fawkes was no where to be seen. The sound of the song made Harry’s heart lift with joy.

Don’t break the connection. A voice whispered inside his mind, but Harry had already known that.

Outside the dome, Buffy stirred, the song of the phoenix penetrating her weary and abused mind. Her eyes remained closed and she focussed on the beauty of the song sounding in the air, breathing life back into her body. She slipped into a meditative state and tried to focus her energy on healing her shattered self.

It was a battle of wills as large beads of light suddenly began travelling across the thread that still connected Harry’s wand to Voldemort’s. The closer the bead came to Harry’s wand, the more his hand shook, and the more his wand vibrated, and by his very force of willpower, he pushed the bead back towards Voldemort, who looked almost fearful.

Harry concentrated as hard as he ever had on that bead of light, forcing it back towards Voldemort, not sure what he was doing, but knowing he had to do it. The bead trembled a moment and then…it connected with Voldemort’s wand.

At once, Voldemort’s wand began emitting echoing screams of pain…then – Voldemort’s red eyes widened with shock. A dense, smoky had flew out of the tip of it and vanished…the ghost of the hand he had made for Pettigrew. More shouts of pain, and then something much larger began to blossom from Voldemort’s wand tip, a great greyish something that looked as though it was made of the solidest densest smoke…it was a head…now a chest and arms…the torso of an elderly man that Harry had once seen in a dream.

“He was a real wizard then?” the man said, his eyes on Voldemort. “You fight him boy…”

Another head emerged…Bertha Jorkins surveyed the battle before her with wide eyes. “Don’t let go!”

She and the shadow of the old man began pacing around the inner walls of the golden wed. Another head emerged from the tip of Voldemort’s wand, and Harry knew when he saw it who it would be…he knew, as though he had expected it from the moment the body of the old man had emerged.

The smoky shadow of a young woman with long hair fell to the ground as Bertha had done, straightened up and looked at him…and Harry, his arms shaking madly now, looked back at the ghostly face of his mother.

“Your father’s coming…it will be alright…hold on…”

And he came, tall and untidy-haired like Harry, the smoke shadowy form of James Potter. He walked close to Harry, looking down at him, and he spoke in the same distant echoing voice as the others, but quietly so that Voldemort could not hear.

“When the connection is broken, we will linger for only moments…but we will give you time…you must Portkey out of here…do you understand Harry?”

“How?” Harry whispered.

“The ring,” his father replied.

Harry’s other hand flew to the silver chain around his neck.

“What about Buffy?”

“She’ll follow after you,” James replied. “She’ll know…be ready…do it now!”

“NOW!” Harry yelled. He didn’t think he could have held on for another moment longer. He pulled his wand upwards, with an almighty wrench, and the golden thread broke, the cage of light vanished, the phoenix song died – but the shadowing figures closed in on Voldemort, shielding Harry from his gaze.

Harry quickly shoved he ring onto his finger, praying that none of the Death Eaters would get to him before he could. He barely had a chance to blink before he was no longer in the graveyard.

As soon as the golden light had disappeared, Buffy had broken out of her meditation, jumped to her feet and smashed her unbroken fist into Pettigrew’s face, knocking him off his feet. She quickly rummaged through his cloak, stealing back her wand plus his. She stunned him, grabbed hold of Pettigrew’s silver wrist and slipped her own ring onto one of her broken fingers, both Pettigrew and Buffy disappearing from the graveyard.

Harry was waiting for Buffy in her room, and the two of them pulled their rings off, the rings automatically setting themselves for a return trip to Hogwarts. Sirius had taught Buffy how to set the rings to a particular location within Hogwarts before he’d been carted back to Azkaban, and Buffy was grateful for it. She didn’t particularly feel like dragging Pettigrew all the way to the Quidditch Pitch, where no doubt, everyone would still be.

She reset her own ring and Harry’s to take them to the Quidditch Pitch, but making sure that they wouldn’t be placed in the centre. She had absolutely no desire to be in the middle of a maze ever again.

Harry’s eyebrows furrowed as he saw Pettigrew’s stunned form beside her.

“Why’d you bring him?” Harry asked.

“Proof,” Buffy replied simply, her voice hoarse, and her breathing still ragged. She was holding onto her broken ribs with her spare hand, and clutching tightly at the Pettigrew’s silver hand with the other.

Harry’s eyes lit with understanding. They quickly put their rings back on and found themselves nearly deafened by the noise of the Quidditch Pitch.

People were suddenly rushing towards them, Professor Dumbledore, Giles and Professor Moody arriving there first.

As Harry’s eye lit on Dumbledore, everything that had just happened in the graveyard came rushing back.

“He’s back,” Harry whispered as Dumbledore grabbed hold of his arm. “Voldemort’s back!”

“What’s going on? What’s happened?” The face of Cornelius Fudge appeared over Harry, white and appalled.

Buffy’s knees trembled, and she’d have fallen if Giles hadn’t caught her and lowered her gently to the ground. “You’re bleeding,” he observed.

“Just…give us…a sec,” she wheezed.

“Dumbledore,” Moody said, his voice soft.

Professor Dumbledore turned away from Harry and gave his attention to Buffy. He noticed the blood stains on her hands, on her temple and the way she clutched her ribs. It was then that he noticed the pale balding man beside her.

“Pettigrew,” Dumbledore whispered.

Fudge turned to look at the man with the silver hand as well, his eyes widening. “Good lord,” Fudge said. “He…he’s not dead.”

Buffy looked up at the pain, smiling, despite her pain. “Told you…told you my father was innocent.”

Fudge was completely shocked by the turn of events.

Moody suddenly moved away from Buffy, towards Harry who was trembling terribly. “It’s all right son,” Moody whispered to Harry, his hands on the boys shoulder. “I’ve got you…come on…hospital wing.”

“Should stay…Dumbledore…” Harry replied.

“You need to lie down…come on now…”

Harry was half-dragged, half-pulled away, his eyes on his cousin as Dumbledore tended to her. People gathered around the fallen champion as Harry was dragged up towards the castle, all of them distracted by the injured Slayer as she lay on the ground, coughing up blood once more. Giles was rubbing soothing circles on her back, holding her hair away from her face, and feeling completely and utterly useless.

“Harry,” Buffy whispered.

Dumbledore looked over his shoulder, expecting to see the boy still behind him. His eyes narrowed and he surveyed the crowd around him, trying to see who was missing.

Buffy began coughing even more violently, struggling to take proper breaths.

“We have to take her to the hospital wing Dumbledore,” Fudge said. “And Pettigrew needs to be taken into custody.”

Dumbledore nodded and conjured up a stretcher for Buffy. Eight Gryffindors and two worried ex-Gryffindors, a Watcher, a Wiccan and a muggle, gathered around Buffy, all of them voicing their concerns for the injured girl and questioning Harry’s whereabouts. Professor Snape, Professor McGonagall and Madame Pomfrey joined the group quickly.

“All will be explained,” was all that Dumbledore could say as they hurried up to the castle.

When they reached the second floor where Dumbledore’s office was located, the Headmaster would allow only Buffy, Joyce, Giles, Madame Pomfrey and Cornelius Fudge to continue on. The rest were turned away, and told to return to their Common Room. With many protests, they did as they were told, all of them with masks of worry on their face.

Dumbledore didn’t join them up in the office, instead telling them to stay up there while he searched for Harry. “I believe you have some papers to send to Azkaban, Cornelius.”

The headmaster turned to Madame Pomfrey, looking at her imploringly. “I trust you to do all that you can for Miss Black,” Dumbledore said softly. “Use whatever potions you need from my cabinet.”

Pomfrey nodded and moved up the spiral staircase, following Joyce, Fudge and Giles, who had scooped Buffy into his arms and taken her up the stairs, rather than trying to manoeuvre the stretched around the curves of the staircase.

The Headmaster, the Potions teacher and the Transfigurations Professor quickly moved down the corridors.

“Where are we going Albus?” McGonagall questioned.

“To the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom,” Dumbledore replied grimly. “I believe we have a traitor in our midst.”

“Moody?” Snape asked incredulously. “He’s an Auror…and while he may be paranoid, he was one of the best…how is that even possible?”

“We’ll soon find out,” Dumbledore replied.

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

“Karkaroff’s gone?” Harry asked incredulously. “But then – he didn’t put my name in the Cup?”

“No,” Moody replied. “No, he didn’t. It was I who did that.”

Harry heard but didn’t believe. “No, you didn’t. You didn’t do that…you can’t have done…”

“I assure you I did,” Moody said, his magical eye swinging around, fixed upon the door, and Harry knew he was making sure there was no one outside it. At the same time, Moody drew out his wand and pointed it at Harry. “He forgave them, then? The Death Eaters who went free? The ones who escaped Azkaban?”

“What?” Harry asked. He was looking at the wand in Moody’s hand, very certain that this was all just some sick joke.

“Tell me he told the Death Eaters that I, I alone remained faithful…prepared to risk everything to deliver to him the one thing he wanted above all….you.”

“You didn’t…it – it can’t be you.”

“Who put your name in the Goblet of Fire under the name of a different school? I did. Who frightened off every person I thought might try to hurt you or prevent you winning the tournament? I did. Who nudged Hagrid into showing you the dragons, even though your cousin had already so kindly informed you about them? I did. Who helped you see the only way you could beat the dragon? I did.”

Moody’s magical eye had now left the door. It was fixed upon Harry.

“It hasn’t been easy, Harry, guiding you through these tasks without arousing suspicion. I have had to use every ounce of cunning I possess so that my hand would not be detectable in your success. I volunteered to help Buffy with Defence to gain her trust, as I knew that you would trust your cousin’s judgement. Later when I discovered she was the Slayer, I already had her trust, and I was grateful for that, as she would be more suspicious that the average person,” Moody continued. “Later, I was almost sure that you would fail the second task, but you managed to discover the secret to the egg…and then you found the book I’d planted in your room. The book I gave the Longbottom boy, don’t you remember?”

“You had an easier time in that maze that you should have. I was patrolling around the edges, making sure you and your cousin would reach the Cup at the same time. I knew that the two of you would share in the victory. I’d known that since the first task when she told you about the dragons…she loves you, that girl does, and it’s one of her biggest weaknesses. She helped you at every turn of the way, just as I knew she would…so instead of helping you, I helped her so that she would pass on my knowledge.”

Harry had turned pale at the thought of how Buffy had been so easily manipulated by Moody. He’d seemed so trust-worthy, so completely genuine. He’d seemed like a nice person who wanted to make sure that Harry didn’t die, but now Harry could see why he’d tried to keep Harry alive. So that Voldemort could have used Harry during the ritual.

“The Dark Lord didn’t manage to kill you Potter, and he so wanted to,” Moody whispered. “Imagine how he will reward me, when he finds out I have done it for him – the thing he needed above all to regenerate – and then I killed you for him. I will be honoured above all other Death Eaters. I will be his dearest, his closest supporter…closer than a son…”

Moody’s normal eye was bulging, the magical eye fixed upon Harry. The door was barred, and Harry knew he would never reach his own wand in tome.

“You’re mad,” Harry whispered.

“Mad, am I?” Moody asked, his voice rising uncontrollably. “We’ll see! We’ll see who’s mad, now that the Dark Lord has returned, with me at his side. He’s back, Harry Potter, you did not conquer him – and now – I conquer you!”

Moody raised his wand, he opened his mouth. Harry plunged his own hand into his robes –

Stupefy!” There was a blinding flash of red light, and with a great splintering and crashing, the door to Moody’s office was blasted apart.

Moody was thrown backwards into the office floor. Harry spun to look at the three Professors that had just blasted open the door, and it was in that moment that Harry realised why Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort had ever feared. The look upon Dumbledore’s face was more terrible that Harry could ever have imagined.

McGonagall wanted to have Harry taken up to he hospital wing, to get him looked at, but Dumbledore was insistent that he remain.

“Moody,” Harry whispered. “How can it have been Moody?”

“This is not Alastor Moody,” Dumbledore replied quietly. “You have never known Alastor Moody. The real Moody would not have removed you from my sight after what happened tonight. The moment he took you, I knew…and I followed.”

Dumbledore bent down over Moody’s limp form and put a hand inside his robes, pulling out Moody’s hip-flask and a set of keys on a ring. He then turned to McGonagall and Snape.

“Severus, please fetch me the strongest Truth Potion you possess. Minerva, go down to the kitchens and bring up the house-elf called Winky.”

If either Snape or McGonagall found those instructions strange, they didn’t comment, and they hid their confusion well. They left immediately and Dumbledore walked over to Moody’s trunk with seven locks and began opening the different layers within the trunk. When he’d reached the seventh layer, they were looking down into some kind of pit, an underground room, and lying on the floor some ten feet below was the real Mad-Eye Moody.

Dumbledore climbed into the trunk and bent over the sleeping Moody.

“Stunned – controlled by the Imperius Curse – very weak,” Dumbledore said. “Of course, they would have needed to keep him alive. Harry, thrown down the impostor’s cloak. Alastor is freezing. Madam Pomfrey will need to see him, but he seems to be in no immediate danger.”

Harry did as told, and Dumbledore explained about how the impostor had been drinking Polyjuice Potion from the hipflask, and how ingenious it was, seeing as Moody never did drink anything except from a hip-flask. They waited and watched as the man who had masqueraded as Moody for the last few months suddenly began changing right in front of them.

Snape, McGonagall and the house-elf Winky suddenly entered.

“Barty Crouch!” Snape suddenly cried.

Winky let out a distressed shriek and raced towards Barty Crouch Jnr. “Master Barty, Master Barty, what is you doing here?” She turned to looked at Dumbledore. “You is killed him! You is killed him! You is killed master’s son!”

“He is simply Stunned Winky,” Dumbledore explained. “Step aside, please. Severus, you have the Potion?”

Dumbledore revived the Stunned man and Barty Crouch sat up, the Potion going down his throat easily. Dumbledore began what would be a forty minute interrogation of the man, getting him to explain absolutely everything that had happened over the last few years since his imprisonment within Azkaban.

Crouch explained about how he’d escaped, and how his mother had been put in prison in his place, and died soon after. He explained about his father Barty Crouch Snr, and the Imperius Curse and an Invisibility Cloak. He explained that Bertha Jorkins had discovered the truth of him, and how Crouch Snr had modified her memory. He explained how he’d been allowed to go to the Quidditch World Cup and how he’d been able to fight the Imperiius. That it was he who had stolen Harry’s wand and set off the Dark Mark at the Match. He explained about Voldemort torturing the information out of Bertha Jorkins and coming to find Crouch Jnr, and how Crouch had then managed to get Moody, and switch places with him so that Minerva, would have a faithful servant at Hogwarts.

He explained that Pettigrew had been placed in charge of ensuring that Crouch Snr didn’t escape, and how he’d bungled that task completely. He explained about his he’d killed Crouch Snr in front of Buffy, but that she hadn’t recognised him. He explained about transfiguring his fathers body into a bone and burying it in the Forest.

“And tonight?” Dumbledore asked.

“I offered to carry the Triwizard Cup into the maze before dinner,” whispered Barty Crouch. “Turned it into a Portkey. My master’s plan worked. He is returned to power and I will be honoured by him beyond the dreams of wizards.”

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

Dumbledore took Harry up to his office while Professors Snape and McGonagall stood watch over Barty Crouch. When Harry entered the office, he felt his heart lift completely. He ran to his godfather and hugged him with all of his might.

“How?” Harry whispered.

Sirius smiled and hugged his godson tightly. “Innocent after being proven not-guilty,” Sirius replied with a smile. “Pettigrew being alive proves that I wasn’t at fault.”

Harry turned quickly, his eyes searching for his cousin. She was curled up on one of Dumbledore’s large chairs, her eyes closed, but not sleeping, with Joyce sitting beside her, stroking her hair. Just behind them, Giles was pacing worriedly, still feeling as useless as he’d felt down on the Quidditch Pitch. Madame Pomfrey had patched up his Slayer up as well as she could, but there was still so much internal damage that would need to be fixed, and soon.

“Is she alright?” Harry asked worriedly. He’d seen her hit by the Cruciatus at least twice, and he knew that she’d been hit at least once more that he knew of. He’d seen the beating she’d taken at Pettigrew’s and Voldemort’s hands, and it had made him ill to have to watch her be tortured so thoroughly.

“She’s tired,” Sirius replied. “About two minutes after she’d seen I was alright, she just collapsed.”

“We were able to begin to heal the cuts and bruises, but I fear that she is no where near out of danger,” Pomfrey explained. “It was a good thing that you sent us to your office Headmaster…many of the potions that we needed wouldn’t have been down in the hospital wing.”

Dumbledore nodded knowingly. Most of the patients treated in the hospital wing were never that seriously hurt, but he’d known that the young Slayer needed more help than the infirmary would have been able to give.

Joyce suddenly jumped to her feet as her daughter suddenly went completely still.

“She stropped breathing,” she exclaimed.

Sirius grabbed his daughter off the chair and laid her out on the floor, frantically trying to remember how to resuscitate someone who wasn’t breathing. Madame Pomfrey and Giles hovered worriedly, Pomfrey frantically going through her memory banks for any sort of spell or potion that would help the injured student.

Dumbledore quickly went to the golden pedestal where Fawkes sat.

“Will you do a favour for a friend?” Dumbledore asked the bird.

Fawkes gave a gentle trill and flew across to the girl. Teardrops leaked from its eyes onto the places where Buffy was injured. Her face, her hands, her ribs, her legs, the vicious cut at the crook of her right elbow. The wounds closed and Buffy jerked suddenly. The wounds closed, leaving absolutely no scars…except for one at her elbow.

She scrambled to turn onto her side, struggling to her hands and knees and vomiting up the last of the blood that had gathered in her lungs.

Sirius dropped to his knees beside his daughter and held her hair, gently rubbing circles on her back, whispering soothingly in her ear. Buffy clung to him shakily and buried her face in his chest.

“Are you alright?” Sirius asked.

“Dad,” she whimpered softly. “You’re back.”

Sirius closed his eyes and dropped a kiss on the top of his daughter’s hair, holding her tightly and rocking them lightly.

“You’re okay,” he whispered. “You’re safe now, I’m here.”

Joyce dropped to her knees, embracing her daughter and her husband tightly, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Harry watched, torn between jealousy, and happiness at the scene before him. His heart lifted when Buffy pulled slightly away and reached her hand out to him. Harry dropped to the ground beside them and was pulled into the hug, Buffy whispered apologies to him, telling him how sorry she was for failing him.

“Not your fault,” he whispered back, just thankful that he was alive and back with his family where he belonged.

Dumbledore watched the reunion with tired eyes, thankful that Harry finally had a family he could turn to. He’d seen the affection between Buffy and Harry grow over the terms, and he’d been grateful for it. The cousins were more alike than they knew, and it was comforting that they were drawing their strength from each other.

Giles smiled softly, thankful that his Slayer was among family. While he may have been jealous of Sirius taking over the father-figure role, he knew that there wasn’t a better man that could have stepped into the role that Hank Summers had never been able to fill. And Giles knew that Sirius Black loved Buffy with everything inside of him, and Giles couldn’t have asked for more than that. His Slayer was definitely unconventional, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Dumbledore reluctantly parted them, and the Black and Potter family sat in four chairs across the room, Fudge lingering behind, listening as Dumbledore recounted everything that Barty Crouch Jnr had told them over the last forty minutes.

Fawkes settled himself on Harry’s lap, leaking tears on the wounds that Harry had received, the cut to his arm, and the bruises and scratches he’d received over the course of the evening.

Dumbledore then asked Harry to explain his own version of the events, and the words spilled from his lips, explaining about the ritual, and about how Buffy had tried to save him, but had been hit by the Cruciatus.

“He said my blood would make him stronger than if he’d used anyone else’s. He used my blood and Buffy’s. Something about the Potter blood, and Buffy being a Slayer,” Harry explained. “He said the protection my – my mother left in me – he’d have it too. And he was right – he could touch me without hurting himself.”

“Very well,” Dumbledore said, looking as old and weary as anyone in that room had ever seen him looking. “Voldemort has overcome that particular barrier. Harry, continue please.”

He explained about Voldemort’s return, and the duel, and the golden beam of light connecting his wand to He explained about Voldemort’s return, and the duels. His throat cut out when he thought about the old man, and Bertha Jorkins, his mother…his father.

“The wands connected?” Sirius asked. “Why?”

“Priori Incantatem,” Dumbledore murmured.

“The reverse spell effect?” Sirius asked sharply.

“Exactly,” Dumbledore replied. “Harry’s wand and He explained about Voldemort’s return, and the duel’s wand shar cores. Each of them contains a feather from the tail of the same phoenis. This phoenix, in fact.”

“My wand’s feather comes from Fawkes?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” Dumbledore replied. “Mr Ollivander wrote to tell me you had bought the second wand the moment you left his shop four years ago.”

“So what happens when a wand meets its brother?” Sirius asked.

“They will not work properly against each other,” Dumbledore explained. “If, however, the owners of the wands force the wands to do battle…a very rare effect will take place. One of the wands will force the other to regurgitate spells it has performed – in reverse. The most recent first…and then those which preceded it.”

“Which means…that some form of your parents must have reappeared,” Dumbledore mused.

“James and Lily?” Sirius asked. Joyce too sat up with complete interest. “They came back to life?”

“No spell can reawaken the dead,” Dumbledore replied heavily. “All that would have happened is a kind of reverse echo. A shadow of the living people would have emerged from the wad…am I correct?”

“They spoke to me,” Harry said, shaking again.

“I will say it again…you have shown bravery beyond anything I could have expected of you tonight. You have shown bravery equal to those who died fighting He explained about Voldemort’s return, and the duel at the height of his powers. You have shouldered a grown wizard’s burden and found yourself equal to it – and you have now given us all that we have a right to expect. You will come with me to the hospital wing. I do not want you returning to the dormitory tonight. A Sleeping Potion and some peace,” Dumbledore said. “Buffy, Sirius, Joyce? You will be wanting to remain with him.”

All three Black’s nodded, and immediately went down one flight to the Infirmary. Giles followed, more concerned about his Slayer, though he was worried about Harry as well.

They were greeted by the Weasley family. George broke away from the group and raced at Buffy, enfolding her in a hug and kissing her, not even paying any attention to the bemused looking group around them. Harry grinned, thankful for anything that could make him smile.

Dumbledore cleared his throat and the two Gryffindor teens broke apart.

“I’m sorry to break up the reunion,” Dumbledore said, his eyes regaining part of their old mischievous glint as he looked at the pair, “but Harry and Buffy both need rest, and plenty of it. I do not want you questioning either f them until they are ready to answer, and certainly not this evening.

The Weasley’s were ushered out, George and Buffy sharing one last kiss before he was escorted from the room. Sirius and Joyce sat down in two comfortable chairs between two beds, Harry and Buffy lying down on either bed, and swallowing the Sleeping Potion that Dumbledore gave to them, immediately feeling the effects and drifting off to sleep.

Sirius sighed tiredly and looked up at Dumbledore.

“Voldemort’s really back,” he said softly.

Dumbledore nodded. “It is as I feared,” the Headmaster replied. “Though I am thankful that we were fore-warned. Voldemort did not want us knowing he was restored until we discovered that Harry was dead.”

Sirius shivered at the thought and glanced at the sleeping teen.

“Do you think Fudge will actually admit to it?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore paused. He wasn’t sure that Fudge had been convinced. He knew that living in denial was an easier choice than having to live with the consequences of a breakout of war.

“We can only hope that he had listened to everything that was said tonight,” Dumbledore replied. “And if he refuses to act, then we shall have to work around the Ministry.”

“He can’t deny what happened tonight,” Joyce said. “He saw what happened to Buffy and Harry.”

“Only time will tell.”

Epilogue

As much as Fudge hated to admit that Lord Voldemort had returned, he had absolutely no choice but to believe the incredible tale that Buffy and Harry had woven that evening. He’s seen Peter Pettigrew, and Pettigrew’s new hand, as well as Moody and Barty Crouch Jnr. He’d seen the bone that had been dug up near Hagrid’s hut that Barty Crouch Jnr had transfigured his dead father’s body into. Fudge wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and pretend that Harry Potter was a liar and an attention seeker, but he knew without a doubt that the tale they’d told was the truth.

The Dementors were removed from guarding Azkaban. In their place were highly trained Aurors, and sturdier walls for the cells. The giants had hands of friendship extended to them by the Ministry, and were allowed to return to the Wizarding World. Most of them chose to stay well outside it however, but had placed their allegiance with the Ministry and Dumbledore.

The Wizarding Community was in an absolute uproar when they learned that Voldemort had returned, but it was better than people knew and believed the truth sooner rather than later. The Ministry was attempting to recreate bridges with potentially harmful enemies. Dangerous creatures such as werewolves were allowed back within the community after swearing an oath to never ally themselves with Voldemort.

The students of Hogwarts were absolutely petrified of the turn of events. They couldn’t believe that Voldemort had returned. They’d grown up hearing the stories of him, but had thought that he was just a memory, perhaps even a story told by parents to keep them in line. But the truth was a cold and bitter fact to face. And they would have to face it eventually.

Two days after the third task, Buffy and Harry were itching to get away from the hospital wing. And while the attention from all of their friends had been appreciated, they just wanted to get out of bed and go back to their normal activities. After Fawkes had healed them, they hadn’t even needed to be in the hospital, but Madam Pomfrey had insisted. They were finally let out with Dumbledore’s permission, and they’d never been happier.

A month later, term was winding down, and exams were over. Harry and Buffy had kicked back in the Common Room when all the other had gone to exams, gloating about the fact that they hadn’t had to do them. The others may have been fooled by the smiles that the cousins gave the outside world, but within themselves, they knew that they would have traded their exam-free time for a Voldemort-free time.

“It doesn’t seem real, does it?” Buffy asked suddenly, one quiet afternoon when the others were locked in classrooms, slaving over their final exams.

“That Voldemort’s back?” Harry asked. He shook his head. “Not really. I mean…it’s been a month, and…I just wonder why he hasn’t…tried anything.”

Buffy nodded. The anticipation was a definite killer. “We’ll just have to be ready for him when he does,” she said.

Harry nodded and hoped that when the day came, he would be able to stand up, his back straight, his head held high, and face Voldemort as his father once had. He wouldn’t be alone though. He had his friends, and he had his family. And he would not go gently into the night.

“Yes. We will.”

END

Wow…that was churned out in exactly twenty-two days. Final word count comes in at about 68,000 words, just under 190 pages and twenty seven chapters.

I had originally planned to continue this in a sequel, but I’ve found myself horribly unmotivated, and have very few plot lines, so…unless I get some brilliant ideas soon, I won’t be writing a sequel. sighs

Thanks heaps to everyone who has read, reviewed, emailed and supported me throughout this fic being written, you guys are seriously awesome.

DKG

Back