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

Seduction By Darkness

BY: DragonKatGal
RATING: Pg-13
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Rowling and Whedon rock!
SUMMARY: BTVS/HP crossover (kinda getting a pattern here)
PAIRING: All will be revealed later on.
NOTES: I’ve only ever seen this pairing once before, but I wanted to see if I could write one myself and make it believable. Let me know how I do, kay?
SETTINGS: This is set in a completely Alternate Universe. Just read it, you’ll find out. No yelling for continuity stuff…there’s a reason that I’m making the deaths of James a Lily a teeny bit later in life.
SECOND SUMMARY: One was raised by muggles, the other raised by Death-Eaters, but both were the children of Lily and James Potter.
SECOND NOTE: So, hey, I can’t be bothered re-writing the books, so I’ll be jumping around a fair whack. I’ll try and give you some notice for when we change books, but as a general rule, it’s not going to be linear. If it happens in the books, it happens in here, I just won’t mention it.
ONWARDS:

CHAPTER ONE: THE BEGINNING

“It’s quiet tonight,” James whispered, pressing a soft kiss to the top of his wife’s head, smiling as he inhaled the scent of strawberries and cream.

“Which just shows which of us spent the last hour trying to get Harry and Ellie to actually sleep,” Lily replied, teasing her husband in good humour.

James just chuckled softly and pulled Lily into a tighter embrace.  Lily sighed happily, completely content within the arms of her husband, and the knowledge that her two children were asleep in the next room.

“Who was fussing?” James asked.

“Harry,” Lily replied.  “He wanted to stay in Ellie’s bed tonight.”

James eyebrows furrowed.  “He always hated sharing with Ellie,” he commented.

“It was strange,” Lily agreed.  “The last time that happened was when Ellie got that really bad cold.”

“And Ellie hates the Healers for some reason,” James said, a smile that only a parent can smile on his face as he thought about his fussy daughter who screamed whenever she was taken to see a Healer.

“She hates the Healers because they couldn’t help your mum,” Lily said softly.

James nodded sadly, both at the real reason of his daughter’s fear of Healers, and at the reminder of his now dead mother.  She’d been sick and the Healers hadn’t been able to do anything for her.  Ellie had been in with her when her grandmother had died.

“Let’s just hope she isn’t sick then,” James said.

Lily nodded and snuggled closer to her husband, loving how safe she felt whenever she was in his arms.  When it was just them and their two children it felt as though nothing in the world could go wrong.  It was possible to forget about the war that was going on throughout the wizarding world.  It was possible to forget that they were actively fighting against the evilest wizard to ever walk the earth.  It was possible to forget that they’d already faced Voldemort and walked away.  It was twice that they’d managed to foil the Dark Lord’s plans to kill them.

“Maybe they’re just going through the Terrible Two’s,” Lily said.

James groaned.  “Merlin I hope not.  One of them going through it would be bad enough, but two of them?”

“It’s your fault that we had twins!” Lily teased.

“I happen to remember you being a very, very willing participant in that,” James said moving his hands from his wife’s waist and up to softly caress her breasts.

Lily moaned softly and shifted her position so that James could manoeuvre himself to lie on top of her, their lips meeting softly. 

“Still complaining?” James asked, sucking softly at the pulse point on Lily’s neck.

“Just one,” Lily replied.

“Oh?”

“Too many clothes,” she whispered.

James grinned and moved to rectify the problem.

A loud and piercing cry came from the next room, and all thoughts of passion were immediately dampened.  They both jumped off the bed, grabbed their wands and raced to the next room, James not even hesitating when he saw three robed figures in his children’s room.

Stupefy!

Protego!

The bright red jet of light came racing back at James and Lily, and they both quickly moved out of the way, as Lily shot another spell at the intruders that they knew to be Death-Eaters.

Impedimenta!

Expelliarmus!” James yelled.

One wand came flying to James’ hand, leaving only two Death-Eaters with wands.

“Get the child!” a silky voice commanded the other two.

James recognised the voice, and he stepped forward, not even bothering to hesitate.  No one was going to get a hold of either of his children, not while he was alive.

He grabbed hold of one of the Death-Eaters while Lily was frantically casting spells at the other two who were trying to pull one of the children out of the small child-sized bed.

“Mamma!” Ellie yelled frantically, struggling wildly in the Death-Eaters arms.  Her bright green eyes were wide with terror, begging her mother to help her.

“Ellie!” both Lily and Harry yelled.  Harry shot out of his bed as fast as his tiny two-year-old body could carry him. 

Lily was grabbed by one of the Death-Eaters, and a quick punch to her sternum had her on her knees, gasping for breath and yelling for James.

James punched the Death-Eater he had grabbed earlier, the man he knew to be Lucius Malfoy.  That meant that the two Death-Eaters at his sides were most likely Crabbe and Goyle, or possibly Nott and Parkinson.

Malfoy staggered, but remained upright.  The Death-Eater who had grabbed Ellie noticed the small two-year-old who was hovering around knee height.  He kicked the boy aside, sending him towards his mother.  Lily grabbed hold of her son, trying to get to her feet.

“Ree!” Ellie cried, calling out to her whimpering brother.  She’d always had problems pronouncing Harry’s name, and had shortened it to just Ree so that she could say it properly.

“Go, you morons!” Malfoy yelled.

The Death-Eater holding Ellie yelped as the child bit him, and he just held her tighter.  She struggled even more, and the Death-Eater grabbed a tight hold of the back of her neck, the delicate chain of her necklace snapping and falling to the floor.

“Mamma!” Ellie yelled, her voice high in pitch, the terror obvious.

Lily was on her feet and racing towards her daughter, but before she could reach the struggling girl, the Death-Eater disapparated.

“NO!” Lily yelled, rushing at the other Death-Eater, who disapparated as well before Lily could get to him. 

“Where did you take her?!” James yelled frantically, holding onto Malfoy’s robes as he beat the man, holding back nothing.

“To a new home,” Malfoy replied sadistically.  He pushed James away with all the strength he had left, and before James could get a better grip on the Death-Eater, Malfoy had followed suit and disapparated back to his Lord and Master, leaving James, Lily and Harry Potter alone in the room that the Potters had painted yellow.

James noticed the silver chain lying broken on the floor, and he bent down to pick up the chain that his daughter refused to take off, even for bath-times.  The clasp had broken on the chain, but the pendant was still in perfect condition.  He closed his fist around the silver jewellery before taking the few steps needed so that he could pull his wife and his son into a tight embrace.

Harry was squirming in his mother’s arms, his bright green ears filling with tears as James and Lily hugged each other desperately.  For three and a half seconds, James had no clue what to do.  And then it hit him.

“We have to get to Dumbledore.”

CHAPTER TWO: THE ORDER

Albus Dumbledore was not someone who was easily shocked, but when James, Lily and young Harry Potter all suddenly appeared in the dead of the night looking absolutely devastated and angry beyond belief, he was –to say the least – a little surprised.

“James, Lily…what brings you here?” the Headmaster-turned-head of the Order of the Phoenix asked.

And then something else hit the Headmaster. Something was missing. More importantly someone was missing.

“Where’s Elizabeth?” he asked.

“Death-Eaters,” James managed to get out, his voice so low and filled with anger that it would have scared Dumbledore is he hadn’t been feeling the same towards the Death-Eaters.

“They took her,” Lily finished.

Dumbledore paled, and his eyes hardened to a terrifying shade of dark blue. He’d never looked more terrifying.

“Take Harry and wait downstairs. I’ll summon the others.”

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

Harry squirmed as he rested in his godfather’s lap. He was watching his father pace and his mother try to hold back tears. He looked at his godfather with large green tear-filled eyes, the sadness in his eyes breaking Sirius Black’s heart.

“Where’s Ellie?” Harry asked.

Lily covered her mouth to stifle a sob and Molly Weasley stepped forward to hug the younger woman. Lily practically flung herself at Molly, taking comfort in the other woman’s embrace.

“We’ll get her back Harry,” Sirius replied, ruffling Harry’s permanently messy hair.

Harry nodded trustingly and tried to settle down. He couldn’t though. He missed his sister, and he wanted her back.

“Severus, do you have any idea where Voldemort would have taken her?” James asked.

Severus Snape was not someone that James Potter liked. James Potter was not someone that Severus Snape liked either, but for the moment, neither of them remembered that fact. Snape was not the cold-hearted bastard that he purported himself to be. He did have a soft side, and he didn’t want anything to happen to the tiny Potter girl. No one, especially a child of that age, deserved to be taken by Death-Eaters.

“It really depends what he would want her for,” Snape admitted.

Lily whimpered and Molly tightened her grip on the devastated woman. Not even Snape was unaffected by the obvious grief that the Potter’s were feeling.

“Is there any chance you could find out why he wanted Ellie?” James asked.

“I can try,” Snape replied.

James nodded, and Snape returned the gesture, their childhood feud put on hold while James’ youngest child was being held captive by the Death-Eaters.

“In the meantime, we’ve sent out a contingent of Aurors,” Alastor Moody said gruffly. “Snape’s information has helped us, but we don’t have a clue why Voldemort would even want your little lass.”

“We’ll do everything we can to get her back James,” Dumbledore said. “I promise you.”

“And we’ll be there for you,” Remus Lupin assured his best friend.

“Right at your side,” Sirius Black agreed.

“Every step of the way,” Peter Pettigrew added.

James nodded and walked over to his wife, pulling her gently away from Molly and into his own embrace. The two Potters clung to each other tightly, each of them praying to whatever Higher Powers there were that their little girl wouldn’t be harmed by the Death-Eaters.

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

“Why do you really think Voldemort took her?” James asked.

Albus Dumbledore sighed. He should have known that the young ex-Gryffindor Quidditch Caption would eventually ask that question. And now that Lily was sleeping thanks to a Sleeping Potion prepared by Severus, Dumbledore knew that James would want brutally honest answers.

“I honestly don’t know,” Dumbledore replied. “Though any possible scenario I can conjure does not end well.”

James nodded and swallowed hard, trying to prepare himself for the worst.

“She’s only two years old,” James whispered. “She and Harry just had their birthdays two months ago. Lily had this strange idea to get the twins something from each other…their neck-chains. Ellie’s is a gryphon…Harry’s is a lion…for Gryffindor, you know. Because that’s what House they’ll be in when they go to Hogwarts. Harry’s going to be a Quidditch Player, and little Ellie…she…she…Merlin, my beautiful little girl. She’s…she’s so perfect. Blonde like Lily’s mum…she’s got this tiny little birthmark on her left shoulder…Harry’s got one on his right. Why her? Why my little Ellie?”

James couldn’t hold the tears in any longer. They’d been threatening to fall since his little girl had been taken, but he’d held them in, but that was no longer the case. He fell to his knees and sobbed, whispering one word that meant a third of his entire world –Ellie-. In his hand, he clutched a silver chain with a pendant of a Gryphon on it, a reminder that he had failed his beautiful daughter, and that for all of his bravery and courage, he hadn’t been able to protect her.

------------------------
Death Eaters Attack Again

In the early hours of September 29th, Death-Eaters attacked the home belonging to Lily and James Potter. The Death-Eaters entered their home at approximately midnight and attacked the Potter’s sleeping children, Harry James and Elizabeth Anne Potter. Elizabeth ‘Ellie’ Potter was captured by the Death-Eaters, and is still missing.

If anyone has any information, please contact the Ministry of Magic…

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

“It’s been four weeks!” Sirius yelled angrily.

“I’ve searched everywhere for her!” Snape replied, his voice just as angry as Sirius’. “Don’t you dare accuse me of not trying!”

Lily held Harry tightly on her lap, his tiny face buried at the crook of her neck. One of his small hands was tightly holding the chain around his neck, the chain that Ellie had ‘given’ him for his birthday. The only thing he really had left of his younger-by-twelve-hours sister.

“What have you found out?” Lily asked softly.

Snape felt his anger disappear. He’d always had a soft spot for Lily Evans-Potter, even though she had the terrible taste of marrying James ‘that stupid prat’ Potter.

“The Dark Lord is going to try attacking you and Potter again,” he replied. “I’m fairly certain he knows where you’ve been hiding.”

“They can’t stay there if Lord…I mean You-Know-Who knows where they are,” Peter said.

James and Lily exchanged worried glances.

“There is a place,” Dumbledore said quietly. “It’s hidden…and empty. Voldemort would never think to look for you there.”

“Where?” Peter asked.

“It doesn’t matter where,” Remus replied. “As long as James, Lily and Harry will be safe.”

“Wouldn’t that be…running away?” James asked, not wanting to be thought a coward. He was a Gryffindor for Merlin’s sake, he couldn’t just run in the face of danger.

Sirius clapped his hand on James’ shoulder. “Prongs mate, you’ve got a family to think of. You have to protect them first.”

James sighed, hating that his best friend was right. But Sirius did have a point. He’d already lost his daughter, he didn’t want to lose Lily and Harry, especially not when there was still a good chance that his daughter was still alive. He had a feeling that if Voldemort had killed Ellie, the Dark Lord would have taunted them with the knowledge of her death, or worse, sent her tiny dead body in some sinister manner to gloat about his power over those who opposed him.

“We’ll go,” he agreed.

“James, a word, if you will?” Dumbledore asked.

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

“It’s perfect!” Sirius exclaimed. “No one would suspect him!”

“Padfoot, he’s…Wormtail’s a great friend, but…if Voldemort got his hands on him…he’d torture it out of him in minutes,” James replied.

“But he’s not going to go after Wormtail,” Sirius replied. “If you were Voldemort, and you were trying to kill…well, you I suppose, who would you think was your secret keeper?”

James thought about it for a moment. “You or Dumbledore,” he conceded.

“Wormtail’s the perfect choice…Voldemort’d never expect him!”

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

“Not Harry! Not Harry! Please, not Harry!”

“Stand aside, silly girl…stand aside now…”

“Not Harry, please no. Take me, kill me instead! You’ve…you’ve already taken my daughter!”

The woman was screaming, holding a young child in her arms, the boy barely two-years-old.

“And she is such a delightful child,” came the cold harsh-voice that sent shivers up and down Lily’s spine. “So beautiful…her screams are like music, and her blood tastes equisite. And now the boy shall die.”

“Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy….”

There was more laughter followed by a bright green light. After an ear-splitting scream, there was only silence.

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

“Lily and James…I can’t believe it…I didn’t want to believe it…oh Albus…”

Dumbledore reached out and patter Minerva McGonagall on the shoulder. “I know…I know…” he said heavily.

“That’s not all. They’re saying he tried to kill Harry. But he couldn’t. He couldn’t kill that little boy. No one knows why, or how, but they’re saying that when he couldn’t kill Harry Potter, Voldemort’s power somehow broke – and that’s why he’s gone.”

Dumbledore nodded glumly.

“It’s – it’s true?” faltered Professor McGonagall. “After all he’s done…all the people he’s killed…he couldn’t kill a little boy? It’s just astounding…of all the things to stop him…but how in the name of heaven did Harry survive?”

“We can only guess,” said Dumbledore. “We may never know.”

“Is there any word on Elizabeth?” McGonagall asked.

The Potter’s story was well known to all, and the disappearance of their youngest child was a famous story throughout the wizarding world.

Dumbledore sighed and shook his head. “Severus was unable to discover anything, and nor was our other spy,” Dumbledore admitted. “We have no choice but to believe that she is dead.”

McGonagall gasped, her hand covering her mouth, tears welling in her eyes.

“That poor girl…what they must have put her through…”

Dumbledore silently agreed, and unconsciously reached within a pocket of his robes, his fingers brushing the small silver pendant of a Gryphon on a delicate silver chain. He had no hopes of ever returning it to its owner, but the Headmaster of Hogwarts just couldn’t bring himself to discard the treasured item.

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

A day later, Harry Potter was ensconced within the house of Petunia and Vernon Dursley, and their young son Dudley.

Back in London, Sirius Black had been arrested and thrown into Azkaban Prison for treachery, and the murder of Peter Pettigrew.

And in the bottom of a dank and filthy sewer, a rat with a missing toe ran slowly through the pipes, trying to outrun the feeling of guilt and betrayal that sank through his stomach.

And in a house where chaos reigned, Elizabeth Potter sobbed quietly in the corner of a dark room, one tiny hand pressed tightly against a bleeding wound on her lower right arm. Her clothes were splattered with her own blood, and all Ellie could remember about the man who had cut her was the darkness in his unforgiving eyes, and the mocking laughter that had come when her blood had touched his lips for the first time. She sat in her corner, terrified while her entire future was being decided by men and women who’d been corrupted by power and violence.

CHAPTER THREE: THE DEATHEATERS

There was panic within the massive property that Voldemort had been using as his headquarters. Since the fall of Voldemort, people had been naming names, giving evidence against each other and betraying the oaths they’d taken when they’d been marked as servants of the Dark Lord.

Of the three hundred and fifty-two strong group of Death-Eaters, only five of them remained un-named. One hundred and ninety-three of them had already been caught and put in Azkaban, some with trial, and some without. Forty-nine were dead and buried.

Thirty-six of them had fled the country, which left only seventy-four of the Death-Eaters. Severus Snape was amongst them, watching the chaos, trying to discover whatever else he could find out about the disbanding group.

Lucius Malfoy, one of the highest-ranking Death-Eaters was panicking, though his calm outward appearance showed nothing of the sort. None of the Death-Eaters had been expecting Voldemort’s reign to end so abruptly and without warning.

“What do we do now?” one of the panicked voices in the throng of people asked.

“We need to flee before the Ministry discovers us!” another voice answered.

“Coward!” others yelled in response.

“QUIET!” Lucius yelled loudly, getting the attention of the remaining Death-Eaters. “No one is fleeing. Not a single one of you. Our Lord left us no instructions of what should happen if the worst was to happen. We need to decide on a new leader.”

“We need to try and restore our Lord!” one of the voices yelled.

There was a murmur after that suggestion, and Lucius bristled, though he dared not say anything against the suggestion.

“It’s only a matter of time before the Ministry finds us,” another said. “We must be prepared.”

“Those who aren’t named should collaborate!” one of the un-named suggested. “We can freely search for ways to restore the Dark Lord.”

Lucius again looked uncomfortable. He knew he was among the list of named Death-Eaters, and he wasn’t looking forward to the trial. His bank account would take a substantial hit to buy his way out, but it would be possible. The Ministry of Magic was almost as corrupt as the Death-Eaters themselves were.

“Yes!” another of the un-named said. “We can continue with the plans our Lord wanted carried out.”

“Such as?” Lucius asked silkily.

Four of the five un-named Death-Eaters were grouped in a cluster. They were desperately frightened that the others would betray them at the trials, and they would have done anything to stop that from happening.

“The girl!” one of them cried out. “Our Lord wanted her to be brought up in the ways of the Death-Eaters.”

Severus perked up at the mention of the girl. And while it may have been too late to return her to her parents, it meant that there was a chance to get the child back. All he had to find out was where the child was being kept.

Before anything more could be said, all hell broke loose as dozens of Ministry Aurors burst into the room. In the confusion of the battle, two of the un-named Death-Eaters made a break for it.

Evan Rosier and Benjamin Zabini made a run for it, dodging curses and keeping their faces hidden as they raced through the halls of the manor, a single Auror on their tail.

A sudden and sharp shriek came from one of the rooms off the corridor, and Ben knew exactly what it was. He raced to the door that held the young Elizabeth Potter and unlocked it with a quick spell. Rosier looked at him incredulously.

“You’re taking her?” Rosier asked.

“I can’t leave her here!” Ben argued, though he didn’t know why. He justified himself by saying that if it was his own two-year-old daughter he would have wanted her looked after as well.

Rosier just shook his head and continued racing down the corridor. Ben closed the door and listened as the Auror followed Rosier to the end of the corridor. He heard a duel happening, and saw a flash of bright green light flicker under the door. One of them had died, and by the sounds of the footsteps running back to the main room, he would bet that it was Rosier who had lost the battle.

There was a soft tug at the sleeve of his robes and Ben looked down to see a beautiful child with blonde hair and bright green eyes staring up at him. He felt something tug on his heartstrings and he crouched down so that he was eye-level with her.

“Are you from da Min’sty?” she asked, her voice soft, innocent and terrified.

Ben picked up the small girl and nodded. “I’m going to take you somewhere safe.”

“Back to mamma and da?” she asked.

Even though Ben was a father to a little girl who was Elizabeth’s age, he had very little experience in handling children. Especially a child that he was about to blatantly lie to.

“Your mamma and da asked me to look after you,” he said softly. “Now, I need you to be extra quiet. There’re a lot of bad men out there who want to hurt you.”

“You mean Voltywart?”

Ben almost chuckled at the mispronunciation of the name, before remembering that he had been one of Voldemort’s followers. He was not someone who betrayed his Lord. He had the mark at the crook of his elbow to prove it. Just because he didn’t want to be amongst those that were named didn’t mean he wasn’t loyal to the Dark Lord.

“No…”

And it was in that split second that Ben knew exactly how he was going to gain the absolute trust of this girl. He knew exactly how he was going to teach this girl to hate muggles and mudbloods, and to grow in the way of the Death-Eaters.

“Voldemort took you away from your mamma to protect you,” he explained. “A very bad man named Albus wanted you dead. Do you know what death is?”

“When people go t’live with the angels?” Ellie asked quietly.

Ben nodded. “Your mamma and da have gone to live with the angels Elizabeth. Albus killed them, and he wants to kill you. So I need you to be really, really quiet so I can get you out of here, okay?”

“’tay,” she whispered, pantomiming zipping her mouth closed.

Ben almost smiled, but refrained. Ellie buried her head in the man’s shoulder as he opened the door and quickly checked for Aurors. When he realised that no one was coming after him, he fled the premises and disapparated quickly, the small girl in his arms.

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

“Oh, Ben, thank Merlin, you’re back,” Ben’s wife gushed. She stopped suddenly when she saw the small girl in her husband’s arms. “Who is that?”

“Ellie,” the small girl replied before Ben could say anything. “My mamma and da live with the angels.”

“She’s the Potter girl, Bel,” Ben explained.

Belinda Zabini frowned. While she may not have had the mark of the Death Eater burned onto her skin, she supported her husband in everything. She was a pureblood witch, and a Slytherin at heart. The only reason she’d never joined the Death-Eaters was because she had her daughter to look after. She believed in what Lord Voldemort believed in. She believed that purebloods should reign.

“What exactly were you planning to do with her?” Belinda asked.

Ben shrugged and put the girl on the ground. She immediately toddled over to Bel and looked up at her, her eyes wide and frightened. Belinda bent down and picked the small girl up.

“Does your mamma live with da angels too?” Ellie asked.

Belinda nodded. “She does.”

“Oh…will you…will you be my new mamma?”

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

Two-year-old Blaise Zabini couldn’t sleep. Something had woken her up, but she didn’t know what. With great caution she clambered out of her bed, regardless of the child-safety guarantee that had come with the cot. She was a Zabini after all, not some block-headed muggle child without a bit of common sense.

She began the short trek to her parents room. It was one door down, but something caught her attention. The door to the spare room was cracked open, and the light on the bedside table was on. There was a small lump in the bed, and Blaise was a naturally curious child, going through the rebelliousness that came with being two-years-old. She crept inside and hoisted herself onto a chair before clambering onto the bed.

The sudden jostling of the bed awoke the small figure beneath the covers, who was all but lost in the massive bed that was meant for someone at least six times her size.

She opened her eyes and saw a pair of brown eyes staring back at her. The brown eyes belonged to a pretty girl with dark brown hair that sat dead straight, a part in the middle of her hair.

“Hi,” she said cheerfully. She loved meeting people, and even though the last month had been full of new people who were incredibly mean to her, she just knew that someone her own age couldn’t possibly be mean.

“Lo,” Blaise replied, staring at the other girl. “Who’re you?”

“Ellie. Who’re you?” she echoed.

“Blaise.”

“Blaise…s’pretty. I like it.”

“Ellie’s a pretty name too…scept…”

“Scept?” Ellie prompted.

“Doesn’t start with t’right letter.”

Ellie looked confused. “Letter? S’at?”

“Mum’s name and dad’s name and my name…they all start wit’ ‘b’. D’ya have any b’s in your name?”

“B? Uh…name’s Elizabeth. No b’s,” she said sadly.

“Silly!” Blaise said laughing. “Bef starts with ‘b’.” Blaise was endlessly fascinated by the letter B. Her parents had often explained that all their names started with the same letter.

“Beth,” Ellie corrected her, stressing the ‘th’.

Blaise unfortunately was still getting used to pronouncing words properly. “S’what I said. Bef. Beffy.”

“Beffy?”

“Beffy, Biffy, Buffy…haha, Buffy! S’what I can call you!”

Ellie grinned, enjoying the enthusiasm from the other girl. She was starved for company, and even if the girl had just given her a strange new name, she wasn’t about to complain. She missed her brother, and she desperately needed a friend.

“Wanna be friends?” Ellie asked.

“Nope,” Blaise replied.

Ellie’s smile fell, and Blaise was quick to rush to explain.

CHAPTER 4: THE MUGGLE

“Wait, wait, you want us to go where?” Buffy yelled angrily.

Ben Zabini ran his hands through his hair, feeling completely frustrated. His ‘daughter’ was more stubborn than he was, which was saying something.

“To Hogwarts,” Ben replied slowly, for the third time in two minutes.

“Where Albus Dumbledore teaches?” Buffy asked.

“Yes,” Ben replied.

“The man who started the war? The one who destroyed absolutely everything that you worked for?” Buffy asked.

“You do have to admit that it seems a little strange,” Blaise commented.

One of the wonderful things about wizarding children not going to school until they were eleven meant that their parents could raise them in whatever way those chose to. Which also meant that any Death-Eater who was a parent had raised their children to believe that they, as purebloods, were superior to anyone who was mudblood, muggle, or a blood-traitor.

Benjamin and Belinda Zabini had raised Blaise and ‘Buffy’ to believe the very same thing. The girls believed that Dumbledore had started the war, that he’d been in the wrong, that he’d been trying to eliminate the Death-Eaters who were just trying to create a Utopia where witches and wizards could have their own world that muggles would never have to know about.

Benjamin Zabini had manoeuvred himself into a Ministry job, and had managed to falsify the records of his family. He’d managed to magically make the wizarding world believe that he had two daughters, even though they looked nothing alike. He’d managed to create records about Beth ‘Buffy’ Zabini, who was the younger of the two girls. Anyone who took too much notice would realise that Buffy was only five months younger than Blaise.

The beautiful thing about children is that if you tell them something often enough for a long enough period of time, they’ll begin to believe it. Buffy had been two-years-old when she’d been taken from her real parents, and by the time Ben had found her, she’d been desperate for any sort of love. She’d latched onto Ben and Belinda as parents, and Blaise as her sister. Her memories of her real family had completely faded over time, and she truly believed herself to be part of the Zabini family. She may not have looked like her mother, or her father, or even her sister, but she definitely had the attitude of a Zabini.

“You need to learn magic,” Ben explained.

“Why can’t you teach us?” Blaise asked.

“You need to learn it properly. You’ll never get a job in the wizarding world without a proper education.”

“What, they’re aren’t any other magical schools?” Buffy asked.

“Nowhere nearby,” Ben admitted.

Buffy rolled her eyes and looked to her sister.

“Reckon we’ll last seven years with a maniac for a Headmaster?” Buffy asked.

“It’s a bit of a stretch,” Blaise replied.

“Could be fun,” Buffy added.

“Lots of students to torture.”

“Could be good for our social lives.”

“Plus there’ll be boys,” Blaise said.

Buffy scoffed and rolled her eyes. “Who needs boys?”

Ben Zabini sighed thankfully. He’d moulded the two girls into the perfect Death-Eater’s daughters. He’d taught them the importance of secrecy when it came to Voldemort. He’d taught them to never discuss who their parents were.

He’d explained everything about Hogwarts. He explained how Slytherin was the house that they would be suited to. How it was the house that both he and Belinda had been in, and that they’d be well looked after in that house, both because of their last name, and because Slytherins looked out for each other. It was the house to be in if they wanted to get by.

“We’ll get to go shopping though,” Buffy said.

“Ooo, new clothes,” Blaise grinned.

Ben rolled his eyes. “Your mum can take you into Diagon Alley tomorrow.”

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

Belinda Zabini took her two daughters into Madam Malkin’s Robes For All Occasions and let the girls run wild. There was no point in trying to get them to curtail their enthusiasm. She wasn’t sure where their love of shopping had come from, but Belinda was fairly certain that it had originated with Buffy. Blaise had just followed suit.

Belinda had to admit that she was nervous about sending the girls to Hogwarts. She knew what Hogwarts taught their students, and she could only hope that they’d be placed within Slytherin. The other Houses tended to teach a freer way of thinking in regards to muggles and halfbloods. It wasn’t something that she wanted anyone to teach her daughters. They were a pureblood family, and that was something to be proud of.

It took almost an hour to get both girls fitted for their uniforms, as well as some casual clothes for everyday wear. They left their parcels with Belinda before racing into the bookstore, leaving their mother behind, laughing slightly at their playful mood. Neither of the girls cared what they shopped for, as long as they got to spend money.

As they entered Flourish and Blotts and split up, their letters in their hands. They had a system worked out. They split up the list of books in half, and grabbed two copies of each before swapping so that they had a full set each.

Buffy turned a corner quickly, and accidentally bumped into a taller girl who fell to the floor, dropping her books.

“Merlin, I’m so sorry,” Buffy said quickly, dropping to her knees and helping the girl pick up her books.

“It’s alright,” the girl replied softly. “Are you a First-Year as well?”

Buffy nodded.

“Aren’t you just completely excited to be going to Hogwarts?” the bushy haired brunette girl asked. “I’ve read absolutely everything I could get my hands on about the school, and it sounds so fascinating don’t you think? The Professors are all meant to be some of the most talented witches and wizards in all of England.”

Buffy grinned, finding the girls run-on sentences to be completely adorable. She had an innocence about her that Buffy had never seen before. Though she’d never seen that innocence because of who she’d grown up with. Even at the tender age of eleven, Buffy and her older sister Blaise had a somewhat cynical world-view already. But the babbling girl hadn’t been touched by that same bitterness that the Zabini girls had grown up with. The small blonde girl couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.

She stuck her hand out for the bushy-haired girl to shake. “Buffy Zabini,” she introduced herself.

“Hermione Granger.”

“Granger…I’ve never heard that name before. Who’re your parents?” Buffy asked curiously.

“Oh, they’re dentists,” Hermione replied. “Nobody in my family’s magic at all, it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter, but I was ever so pleased, of course, I mean, it’s the very best school of witchcraft there is, I’ve heard.”

Buffy stared at the girl, not sure which worried her more. The fact that she’d managed to say the entire sentence in one breath, or that she was muggleborn. It was…disappointing for some reason.

“You’re muggle,” Buffy said.

Hermione nodded and Buffy frowned. The brunette girl with bushy hair and slightly large front teeth noticed the frown and felt her natural curiousity peak.

“Is that…is that a bad thing?” Hermione asked apprehensively.

Buffy couldn’t help but feel guilty for putting the look of sadness on the other girl. She couldn’t explain it, but she didn’t want to see the girl frowning.

“No,” Buffy lied. “But uh…I should go. My sister, y’know. She’ll be worried if I’m gone too long.”

Hermione nodded, feeling a little easier, not recognising the lie for what it was. She’d been taught to believe the best about everyone, and she couldn’t believe that the small blonde girl could be anything but nice.

“It was nice to meet you,” Hermione said sincerely.

“You too,” Buffy replied, hating that she honestly had enjoyed meeting the girl.

“See you at Hogwarts then.”

CHAPTER 5: THE TRAIN

Ben, Belinda, Blaise and Buffy stood on Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters, Blaise and Buffy’s trunks already in the luggage compartment. The girls were hugging their parents tightly while Ben and Belinda gave them last minute advice on what to expect and telling them to behave.

Buffy stepped away from her father and glanced around the train station. She spotted Hermione’s bushy head of hair and wanted nothing less than for Hermione to wander over and say hello while she was with her parents. She knew how her family would react, so, she did the only thing she could. She launched herself at her father once more, burying her face in his stomach until she was sure that Hermione had passed by without seeing her.

“We should get on the train or we won’t find a seat,” Blaise said impatiently.

Buffy pulled away from her father and followed her sister onto the train. Blaise had been right about not finding a seat. Most of the compartments were full, but they finally managed to find an empty one. They sat beside each other, Blaise at the window seat and Buffy closest to the door.

“Do you think there’ll be a lot of other DE kids?” Buffy asked.

Blaise shrugged slightly. “I suppose so. Dad said there were about three-hundred and fifty DE’s.”

Buffy nodded and looked out the door’s window, watching as people walked past. The door opened and three boys poked their heads in.

“Who’re you lot then?” he asked, not even bothering with the niceties.

Buffy jumped to her feet, already disliking the pale boy with platinum blonde hair and silver eyes. Blaise followed suit, and stood beside her sister.

“Zabini,” Blaise replied. “Blaise and Buffy.”

The blonde boy nodded approvingly. “We can sit in here then,” he said.

Buffy scoffed and put a hand on the boy’s chest to stop him from entering their compartment.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “See, Blaise and I really don’t like rude people and well…”

“You’re a rude person,” Blaise finished.

“I mean you could have at least introduced yourself,” Buffy said.

“And your two little friends,” Blaise added.

The two ‘little’ friends bristled at being called little. They were each a head taller than the pale blonde boy, and nearly two heads taller than Buffy. Blaise was half a head taller than her sister and had never really stopped to wonder why.

“Malfoy,” the blonde boy said. “Draco Malfoy.”

Blaise’s eyes lit up. “Malfoy,” she said. She recognised the name. “Make yourselves at home.”

“Who’re your minions?” Buffy asked.

“Oh, this is Crabbe and Goyle,” Draco replied carelessly. He was busy sizing up the two Zabini girls. “You’re both First Years?”

Buffy and Blaise nodded. “You?” Blaise asked.

Draco nodded. “So the two of you are twins then?” he surmised. “You look nothing alike.”

That was true. Buffy had honey-blonde hair that had a natural wave to it, while Blaise’s hair was straight as a wand and the colour of dark chocolate. Buffy had bright emerald-green eyes, while Blaise’s were a deep brown that matched her hair. Blaise was half a head taller than Buffy and had a heavier build. That wasn’t to say that Blaise was overweight, just that Buffy was incredibly petite.

They both just shrugged nonchalantly. They didn’t care what they looked like, they were sisters and that was that.

“Just sisters,” Blaise explained.

“Not twins,” Buffy finished.

“So, what house do you think you’ll be in?” Draco asked.

“Slytherin of course,” the two girls replied simultaneously.

“You?” Blaise asked.

“I know I’ll be in Slytherin. All my family have been – imagine being in Hufflepuff, I think I’d leave, wouldn’t you?” Draco asked. “Although, it’d be better than Gryffindor I suppose.”

“You never even get a little tired of hearing yourself speak, do you?” Buffy asked.

Draco bristled and his cheeks tinged a slight pinkish colour. Blaise hid her grin behind her hand, and the two boys on either side of Draco clenched their fists and cracked their knuckles threateningly.

“Look, they’re like trained gorillas,” Blaise said, looking between Crabbe and Goyle. “That’s so cute.”

Buffy was trying to stem off a giggling fit and Malfoy was trying not to let a smile crack his cool exterior. His lips curved upwards as he realised that, yes Crabbe and Goyle did look like trained gorillas, and that Blaise was really quite cute when she was giggling.

Draco Malfoy’s first year at Hogwarts was starting to look up after all.

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

Several compartments down, a black-haired boy with bright green eyes, glasses and a famous lightening-shaped scar chatted easily with a gangly redheaded boy, eating sweets and swapping the cards from their Chocolate Frogs.

A bushy-haired girl with slightly large front teeth entered the compartment, helping a short and stocky boy look for a toad.

“I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”

“Ron Weasley,” the redhead muttered.

“Harry Potter,” the black haired boy replied.

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

“Am I?” Harry asked, feeling dazed.

Everything had happened so quickly for Harry Potter. Only two months ago he’d been a perfectly normal ten-year-old. Or, he thought he’d been normal. He’d been living with his aunt and uncle and his cousin. Although the term ‘living with’ probably wasn’t really the correct term. His ‘bedroom’ was a cupboard under the stairs, and he was constantly ignored when he wasn’t being pushed to do practically all the chores around the Dursley household.

Only two months ago, he’d had no clue that his parents had died in a fight against a dark wizard. He’d thought that they’d been killed in a car accident, and that’s where his lightening-bolt shaped scar had come from. Now he knew better though. It was strange to think that nearly every person in the wizarding world knew his name, when he knew nothing about the world in which his parents had grown up within.

The only thing he even had left of his parents was a silver chain with a pendant of a lion on it. He’d asked his aunt and uncle about it, but as with everything relating to his parents, they’d never answered him or dodged the question. He’d never discovered the significance of the pendant, nor why he had it in the first place. He’d never taken it off though, and he had no plans to ever remove it. He wondered if it was some sort of magical talisman or something, but immediately dismissed the idea.

Two months ago, he’d never even have thought of anything like that. It was frightening and exciting all at the same time, and Harry couldn’t help but think that this was all some sort of fantastic dream that he was going to wake up from at any moment.

Thankfully, he was still dreaming it, if it was in fact a dream. He hoped that he never awoke if that was the case.

CHAPTER 6: THE SORTING

The First Year students were led through the Great Hall in between two of the House Tables. Buffy and Blaise stood close to each other, Draco, Crabbe and Goyle behind them. Buffy noticed Hermione Granger several people in front of her, and Buffy used her short stature to her advantage, ducking behind a taller student when Hermione turned to glance at her fellow First Years.

They gathered at the front of a long table that stretched across the width of the Hall, while four other tables ran down the length of it. Students were seated along the four tables, while the top table was filled with Professor.

Most of the First Years were staring up at the ceiling. Buffy heard Hermione whisper to anyone willing to listen: "It's bewitched to look like the sky outside, I read about it in Hogwarts: A History."

Buffy grinned. She had to admit that the girl had an unwavering enthusiasm about everything. And she didn't seem so bad for a muggle. She had a cute tendency to ramble on about anything and everything when given half a chance.

Professor McGonagall placed a stool in front of the gathered group of First-Years. She then placed a tattered hat on the seat of the chair. The entire Hall went silent, and the First Years watched in amazement as the Hat suddenly burst into song.

Buffy stared at it, her eyebrows raised in amusement. She grinned at her sister who grinned back. They'd seen magic before, but this was definitely something different. When the Hat had finished its song, the entire Hall burst into applause.

"When I call your name, you will sep forward, put on the hat and sit on the stool to be sorted," McGonagall explained. "Abbott, Hannah!"

Buffy and Blaise sighed, and then grinned at each other. There was always a downfall to having a last name beginning with 'Z'. It was going to be a long wait.

"Bones, Susan." "Boot Terry." "Brocklehurst, Mandy." "Brown Lavender." "Bulstrode, Millicent." "SLYTHERIN!"

"Makes you almost wish we weren't going to be in Slytherin," Buffy whispered to Blaise, pointing to the pug-faced girl who trotted happily towards the Slytherin table. Blaise snorted with laughter and tried to inconspicuously turn it into a coughing fit.

Buffy grinned when she saw the normally unflappable girl turn a bright shade of red when she realised that most of the students were now looking at her. She glared at Buffy who just winked at her.

"Finch-Fletchley, Justin." "Finnigan, Seamus." "Granger Hermione."

Buffy perked up at the name. She knew that the girl wouldn't be –couldn't be- sorted into Slytherin. Only purebloods were placed in that house, and Hermione was definitely muggle-born. But if she was in Ravenclaw, then Buffy wouldn't be too worried about speaking to her. That's how the Slytherins worked. Slytherin, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff then Gryffindor.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

Buffy cursed softly, but Blaise didn't hear it.

"Longbottom, Neville." "MacDougal, Morag." "Malfoy, Draco." "SLYTHERIN!"

"Nope, I still want to be in Slytherin," Blaise whispered.

"Blaise!" Buffy whispered back. "You're eleven for Merlin's sake."

"So?" Blaise countered.

Buffy had no argument for that, so she shrugged and went back to watching the Sorting.

"Potter, Harry."

The entire Hall suddenly went silent at the familiar name. Everyone watched the black-haired boy self-consciously walk up to the stool. Buffy looked at him, wondering why he looked so familiar. She shrugged it off easily. She'd grown up hearing the name Harry Potter even though she'd never seen a picture of what he looked like. It wasn't a name that was well-liked in her family, and Buffy knew that Harry Potter was the reason the Dark Lord had fallen.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

"Turpin, Lisa." "Weasley, Ronald." "GRYFFINDOR!"

"Zabini, Blaise."

Buffy squeezed her sister's hand as Blaise walked up to the stool. She placed the hat on her head and sat down.

"SLYTHERIN!"

Buffy grinned at her sister who began walking slowly to the Slytherin table, wanting to wait for Buffy to be sorted into Slytherin before sitting down.

"Zabini, Beth."

Buffy breathed in deeply, placed the hat on her head and sat on the stool.

"Elizabeth, eh? Hmmm…a lot like your sibling really. Courage, bravery, talent and plenty of it. A nice thirst to prove yourself…Ohhh…a spark of darkness as well," the Hat whispered, tickling the hairs on her neck. "But where to put you my dear…"

"In my family's house," Buffy thought quickly.

"You're certain?"

"Yes!"

"Alright then…GRYFFINDOR!"

Buffy jumped off the chair and looked at the Hat incredulously. Her gaze then immediately found Blaise's, and her sister was looking as shocked as she felt. Buffy felt someone place a hand on her shoulder, and she turned to see Professor McGonagall steering her towards the Gryffindor table. Still in shock, she took her seat beside Hermione Granger, not even registering the sound of Hermione's voice as the muggle-born witch congratulated her on being placed in Gryffindor.

Blaise was still staring at her sister in shock. The Hat had to have been wrong.

Buffy's hands were shaking. In fact, her entire body was shaking. Why hadn't she been placed in Slytherin? That's where she'd asked to go. With the rest of her family. The Hat had agreed. Why would it have placed her in Gryffindor? And why had it called her Elizabeth, when her name was just Beth? It didn't make any sense. She couldn't believe that she'd been separated from her sister.

As far as Buffy knew, she and her sister hadn't been apart since they were born. They did everything together, and to suddenly be ripped apart was a terrible blow.

Food suddenly appeared in front of them, and Buffy was pulled out of her shock. She met her sister's eyes and shrugged at the silent question that was written in the brown depths. Blaise was suddenly pulled into a conversation by Draco, and Buffy forced herself to look away.

"Are you alright?" Hermione asked softly, trying not to bring attention to the shaking girl who looked very pale.

Buffy just nodded and tried to smile, though it was weak. Hermione caught on quickly, realising what Buffy's problem was.

"You weren't expecting to be in Gryffindor were you?" she asked.

Buffy shook her head. "My dad's going to throttle me," she said. "He and mum were in Slytherin, and…Blaise is in there. I don't get it."

"Well…the Sorting Hat places you where you truly belong," Hermione said, her voice soft, slow and tactful.

Buffy's eyes flashed with anger. "Are you saying I don't belong with my family?" she asked in a harsh whisper.

Hermione's eyes widened with fear. She'd never seen someone her own age look so angry in her entire life. Buffy sighed as she saw and felt the other girls fear. She rolled her eyes and forced herself to let her anger go. She'd had that problem over the years. Her temper sometimes got the better of her, and she lost a lot of her control. It was something that her father hoped she would be able to work on at Hogwarts.

"Sorry," Buffy said quickly. "I'm just…it's a little…it's just not what I expected that's all."

"That's okay," Hermione replied, feeling her heart settle down.

Buffy listened half-heartedly to the conversations going on around her. Most of the boys were discussing their families and their lineage. Buffy tried not to let her nose wrinkle when she realised how many of them were half-bloods and muggle-borns. Hermione and Percy were discussing lesson plans, and Buffy suddenly found herself with the worst migraine she'd ever had in her life.

She placed her elbows on the table and started massaging her temples, making small circles on either side of her forehead.

On the other side of Hermione, Harry had asked Percy who certain teachers were, and Buffy felt her migraine leave as quickly as it had arrived. It had been a sharp stabbing pain in her mind, and then nothing at all. It was possibly the strangest thing she'd ever experienced.

CHAPTER 7: THE MEETING

Two weeks into his First Year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter actually awoke early for once. It was strange to consider that he was a naturally late sleeper when he'd always been up at the crack of dawn to do the Dursley's bidding. Now he could actually sleep in until at least eight thirty. Any later than that and he was late for class. It was a luxury he'd never had before.

But, for the first time since arriving, he was once again up with the sun. He considered just laying there for the next two hours, but when he heard a particularly loud snore coming from Ron, he quickly and quietly dressed and went down to the Common Room.

He was surprised to see someone sitting in his favourite comfortable chair by the fireplace. Harry knew her by sight and by name, but he'd never actually spoken to the girl. Buffy Zabini. He wasn't sure what it was about her, but he'd always felt uneasy in her presence. Almost as though there was something about the girl that he should know about. But he couldn't for the life of him figure out what.

"Morning," he greeted softly.

Buffy looked up, surprised by the intrusion. She hadn't heard anyone enter, and she usually prided herself on being aware of her surroundings.

"Hey," she replied shortly.

Harry was immediately put on his guard. It wasn't the friendliest greeting he'd ever received, but it wasn't as bad as the tone that Professor Snape had used on him either.

"We've never really officially met," Harry said, taking the seat beside her.

"With good reason," Buffy replied, standing up.

Harry's eyebrows furrowed in confusion, and he too stood.

"I'm sorry?"

"You should be," she shot back.

"I'm very confused," Harry admitted.

"That's not my problem," Buffy replied.

"Uh…Buffy, I really don't know what's going on here," Harry said. He didn't know why, but he didn't want this girl angry with him.

Buffy rolled her eyes and shook her head. "No…you don't."

"You don't like me, do you?" Harry asked.

"Give the boy a sickle, he got it in one," Buffy said snarkily.

"What did I ever do to you?" he asked defensively.

Buffy just glared at him, gathered her books and fled the Common Room. Harry was left standing in her wake, trying to work out just where he'd gone wrong. He was used to that sort of attitude from any of the Slytherin students, but every one of the Gryffindors had always been nice to him. Civil at the very least. But Buffy Zabini was a mystery, and Harry wanted to solve it.

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

Buffy's reason for waking up earlier than the rest of her House was fairly simple. Breakfast at Hogwarts was served from six-thirty onwards, and barely anyone usually wandered down before about seven thirty. Which meant that she had an entire hour to sit and chat with her sister at the Slytherin table before anyone else came to bother them.

"How goes life with the Gryffs?" Blaise asked taking a seat beside her sister.

"I finally met Potter," Buffy replied.

Blaise's nose wrinkled. "I bet that was thrilling."

"I've never seen anyone look that confused. It was kind of funny," Buffy said.

Blaise grinned. "Well, you need all the laughs you can get I suppose. Did mum send you a letter?"

Buffy shook her head. "Nothing yet. You?"

Blaise hesitated. She couldn't lie to Buffy even if it was to save her life. She nodded and Buffy's face fell.

"From dad too?" Buffy asked.

Blaise sighed and looked at her sister apologetically. "I'm sorry Buffy."

Buffy blinked back tears. It was hard enough being separated from her sister within the school, but not hearing anything from her parents just hurt.

"Did they say anything about me?" Buffy asked, trying not to sound pathetic.

Blaise shook her head and grabbed hold of her sister's hand.

"Maybe they're just…"

"Don't make excuses for them Blaise," Buffy whispered tearfully. "Just don't…I couldn't take it."

"I'm really sorry," Blaise said.

Buffy stood up, angrily brushing at her tearful green-eyes, storming out of the Great Hall. Blaise just sighed and closed her eyes, wishing, not for the first time, that Buffy had been sorted into Slytherin. It would have made life so much easier for them all.

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

Buffy ran out of the Entrance Hall, pushing open the massive double doors that guarded the entrance to Hogwarts. She felt the cool fresh air hit her face and she struggled to catch her breath as her anger and sadness hit her all at once.

A bushy-haired First Year Gryffindor girl saw the dramatic exit and raced down the rest of the marble stairs and outside, racing to catch up with someone she wanted to consider a friend.

Hermione sped after Buffy, struggling to keep up with the girl. Hermione could see Buffy stumbling every few steps, but even though she was practically sobbing, Buffy was still faster than Hermione could ever hope to be.

Buffy finally made it to the lake and fell to her knees at the edge of the water. She rested her weight on her hands, dry-heaving and trying to retch up whatever was in her stomach. She felt ill and generally dirty. It wasn't a feeling she was used to, and it was definitely one she hated.

She didn't notice someone kneel beside her, but she did notice that someone had swept her hair away from her face, and was rubbing soothing circles on her back. Buffy could feel herself calming down beneath the gentle touch, and her sobs died down until it was just tears streaming down her cheeks. Her stomach still felt queasy, but she swallowed down the nauseous feeling and closed her eyes, letting the early morning sun caress her face.

"What happened?" Hermione asked softly.

Buffy didn't have the strength to think up a good lie. "My parents hate me," she whispered miserably.

"What? No, Buffy, they don't hate you…why would you think that?" Hermione asked.

"Cos they've been writing to Blaise, but not to me," Buffy replied softly. "They won't speak to me cos I'm not in Slytherin."

Hermione knew her history of Hogwarts back to front. She knew about the feud between the houses. Before the war with Voldemort, the rivalry had never been all that pronounced, but after the uprise of the Death-Eaters, it had been the Slytherins who had joined, and the Slytherin students nowadays usually had parents who were Death-Eaters.

Being placed into Slytherin was a must for the children of the followers of the Dark Lord, but Hermione had never even considered what would happen if for some reason a child was placed in another house. Especially in Gryffindor.

"I wrote so many letters to them," Buffy continued, Hermione straining to hear what she was saying, she was speaking so softly. "Everyday, I wrote a letter…and I didn't even get one back…I don't understand Hermione, I don't…what did I do?"

Not for all the books in the world could Hermione answer the sobbing girls question. All she could do was continue to hold the small blonde girl and rock her quietly until she'd finally calmed herself down.

CHAPTER 8: THE TROLL

Six weeks later, Halloween was upon them. The students were gorging themselves at the Feast celebrating the occasion. All except for one student that was only missed by one other person.

Buffy sat at the Gryffindor table, picking at her food, looking around, waiting for Hermione to enter late. The other two Gryffindor girls weren’t much good for company, mainly preferring to sit and giggle with each other about who knew what. Neither Buffy nor Hermione were terribly close to them. The two Gryffindor girls were outcasts somewhat, and had latched onto each other ever since Hermione had followed Buffy out to the lake and held her while she cried.

It was that sort of thing that brought girls together, and Buffy had quickly got over her prejudice against half-bloods. Just because Hermione’s parents hadn’t been a witch and a wizard didn’t make Hermione any less than she was. In fact, Hermione was a smarter witch than the entire grade combined, and had no problems with helping Buffy with learning magic.

“Where’s Hermione?” Harry suddenly asked Ron.

The redhead shrugged, but Buffy listened carefully to Neville’s response.

“Parvati and Lavender said that last they saw her she was in the girls bathroom…crying.”

Buffy stood quickly. Hermione had been brilliant to her when she’d been upset, the least she could do now was find her friend and return the favour. She raced out of the Great Hall and towards the bathroom on the ground floor.

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

“Troll – in the dungeons – thought you ought to know!” Professor Quirrell’s voice rang out loud and clear in the Great Hall. He managed to make it to the end of his proclamation before passing out.

Nearly every student screamed in a panic until Dumbledore yelled for silence and then gave clear and concise orders. When they reached the doors to the Entrance Hall, Harry quickly remembered something. He grabbed hold of Ron.

“I’ve just thought – Hermione.”

“What about her?” Ron asked.

“She doesn’t know about the troll.”

Ron bit his lip, but followed Harry down the corridor towards the bathrooms. They heard heavy footsteps in front of them and then, even worse, they saw the massive troll dragging its feet. It was easily twelve feet tall, its skin a dull granite grey. It had short les thick as tree trunks with flat, horny feet. The smell coming from it was incredible, and it was holding a huge wooden club, which dragged along the floor because its arms were so long.

“It’s heading into the girls bathroom!” Harry whispered frantically.

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

Buffy stood in front of Hermione who was now perched on one of the sinks, wiping at her eyes.

“You must think I’m so stupid,” Hermione whispered.

“No,” Buffy said forcefully. “Not at all. ‘Mione, you did the same for me, I want to help you. We’re friends, aren’t we?”

Hermione nodded and ducked her head. She hadn’t had many friends at the public muggle school she’d attended, and she had to admit that having a friend was a wonderful thing.

“Yes,” Hermione admitted.

“So…if you can’t cry in front of your friends, who can you cry in front of?” Buffy asked.

Hermione smiled and gave a wet giggle, making Buffy grin. Buffy wiped Hermione’s face with a handkerchief, her hand lingering slightly on the girls cheek.

Hermione tried to duck her head, but Buffy wouldn’t let her.

“I look like a wet rat,” Hermione pouted.

“No,” Buffy replied, her voice soft and serious, her eyes softer than they’d ever been. “You look beautiful.”

Hermione looked up and saw the sincerity in her friend’s eyes. She blushed slightly and bit her lip to keep herself from grinning ear-to-ear.

A sudden and loud crash startled the girls, ruining their moment. Buffy grabbed Hermione around the waist and pulled her off the sink, backing them up, keeping Hermione behind her. Both girls pulled out their wands, though neither had any clue about what kind of spell could incapacitate a troll.

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

Harry and Ron raced into the girls bathroom, surprised to see both Hermione Granger and Buffy Zabini backed into the far corner of the bathroom. What surprised Harry even more than seeing the two girls together was the fact that Buffy was standing protectively in front of Hermione, keeping herself between the troll and the other Gryffindor girl.

The troll brought its club down on one of the sinks, porcelain flying everywhere. One of the pipes split, spraying water everywhere, and sending half a metal pipe towards the girls. It landed at Buffy’s feet, and without even thinking, she hooked her foot beneath it and kicked it up to her hands.

“Confuse it!” Harry yelled to Ron.

The redhead grabbed a tap and threw it as hard as he could at the troll’s shoulder, yelling out an insult at it. The troll turned its attention to the boys, and without really thinking things through too carefully, Buffy took a running jump and clambered up on top of the trolls back, clinging to its neck.

The troll, completely confused as to how the small human had managed to climb onto him, tried to reach around to throw her off. Buffy’s grip was firm, but she managed to lose her wand. She gripped the lead pipe even harder, not wanting to lose the only weapon she had left.

Ron and Harry were still throwing things at the troll, trying to get its attention away from the (crazy) girl on the creatures back. It seemed to work as the troll soon forgot about Buffy, and concentrated on swinging its club at Harry and Ron.

Buffy managed to get into a better position, grabbing hold of one of the trolls ears, hoisting herself up to a standing position on the troll’s shoulder and thrusting the pipe downwards with all of her strength, surprising herself when it lodged in the troll’s brain.

The troll faltered before completely collapsing, Buffy tumbling off and landing heavily in front of Harry and Ron, groaning in pain as she felt something sharp pierce into the flesh of her stomach.

Hermione was shocked out of her terror and raced forward to her fallen friend. She dropped to her knees, mindful of the debris from the broken taps.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt? What were you thinking? You could have been killed!” Hermione said, shooting off each sentence at a rapid rate.

Harry and Ron were also on their knees, both of them in awe of what had just happened.

“Ow,” Buffy whispered softly, laughing a little as she gripped Hermione and pushed herself off her stomach and toppled backwards onto her backside.

Harry was the first to notice the blood seeping through the front of her ripped robes.

“You’re hurt!” he cried, trying to gently pull the material away from the cut. He winced as he saw a jagged piece of metal lodged in her skin, blood coming out of the wound.

“Merlin, Zabini, what were you thinking?” Ron whispered.

“Didn’t want it to hurt ‘Mione,” Buffy replied softly.

Before her sentence could sink in, a group of Professors suddenly raced into the bathroom. They took one look at the group of First Years who were huddled on the floor, and then turned their gaze to the troll that lay behind them. Professor Snape rushed past them to look at the troll, Harry keeping a close eye on his reaction to seeing the creature dead.

Professor McGonagall looked at the group, and they winced, knowing that they’d never seen her this angry. Professor Quirrell was close behind them, looking incredibly anxious.

“What on earth is going on in here?” McGonagall demanded.

“It’s my fault Professor,” Buffy said softly, struggling to stand. Hermione quickly helped her friend to her feet, careful not to jostle the bleeding wound on her stomach.

Harry and Ron gaped at the small blonde girl. Ron had heard about the one-sided fight that Buffy had had with Harry, and he’d assumed that the girl hated the lot of them.

“Explain yourself,” McGonagall said.

“I was just coming to the bathroom…I didn’t know about the troll. Hermione was already in here as well, and…Harry and Ron just came looking for us,” Buffy explained.

“And the troll?” Snape growled, looking at the lead pipe that lay embedded in its skull. “Which of you managed to magic the pipe so far in that it can’t be pulled out?”

Harry, Ron and Hermione all looked to Buffy who turned to look at the troll. There was barely an inch left of the pole sticking out the top of it’s head. The pole had been nearly a foot and a half long, and there was no way to get a good enough grip to get the pole out.

“That may have been my fault too, Professor,” Buffy replied sheepishly.

“With magic?” McGonagall asked.

“Not exactly,” Buffy said.

“Well, it’s well and truly dead,” Snape said, staring at the Gryffindor girl.

Buffy was uncomfortable with the Potions Masters gaze, but refused to step back. She’d just taken on a twelve-foot troll for Merlin’s sake, she wasn’t about to be intimidated by a greasy haired Professor who didn’t understand the concept of shampoo.

“How?” McGonagall asked.

Buffy paused and Ron could no longer keep his mouth closed.

“She climbed up on its back and rammed the pipe into its head…it was wicked!” Ron gushed.

Buffy winced, hating how bluntly Ron had managed to explain everything. Hermione saw her wince and thought it to be because of the injury to her stomach. Buffy’s fingers skimmed it, making her yelp in renewed pain, and McGonagall snapped out of interrogation mode, and quickly became a little too motherly.

“Beth, you’re hurt,” McGonagall said.

“S’okay,” Buffy replied, the reminder of the pain in her back catching up with her. It was strange…a moment ago she felt as though she could have taken on another troll or two, but now…her body was aching, there was a migraine making itself known again, and the world was going fuzzy.

Harry managed to catch her before she hit the ground again, and to everyone’s surprise, Snape quickly took the small girl into his own arms and hurried down the corridor towards the infirmary, two Professors and three Gryffindors following frantically after him.

From that moment on, Hermione Granger, Buffy Zabini, Ron Weasley and Harry Potter became best of friends. There were some things that you couldn’t share without ending up liking each other, and killing a twelve-foot mountain troll was one of them.

CHAPTER 9: THE TRUCE

Two days after Halloween, and Buffy was ready to climb up the walls. Madam Pomfrey, the nurse/healer had forbidden her to leave the infirmary and Buffy was getting antsy. She’d had plenty of visitors, most of the Gryffindors, which had cheered her greatly. She didn’t think that she was very well liked within her house, but apparently saving the school from unspeakable demons meant instant popularity, which was kind of nice.

The only Slytherins to visit had been Blaise and Draco, who were rarely seen without the other. They were a package deal, like Blaise and Buffy used to be, but Buffy wouldn’t begrudge her sister’s happiness. Besides, she had her own friends as well, and she knew that while Blaise may not have liked some of them because of their lineage, Blaise just wanted Buffy to be happy, and the Buffy wanted the same for Blaise.

Harry once again managed to wake up early, and, again because of Ron’s snoring, he dressed and crept out of the dormitory. He went down to the Common Room, but the moment he sat in his favourite comfortable chair, he was instantly reminded of Buffy. He shot out of the Common Room quickly and raced towards the infirmary.

Buffy was awake and looked ready to make a break for it. Harry grinned when he saw the frustrated look on her face.

“Are you going somewhere?” he asked cheekily.

“Apparently not,” she replied. “Pomfrey decided to put full restrictions on me even though I’m fine.”

Harry chuckled and took a seat at the side of Buffy’s bed. The blonde girl sighed dramatically and flopped back on her pillows. Her stomach had healed well, but Madam Pomfrey was convinced that Buffy was traumatised by the experience and wouldn’t let her leave just yet.

“Buffy? Are…are we okay?” he asked.

Buffy sighed. They’d been at Hogwarts for two months, and her entire world had been flipped off-kilter. Her family –excluding Blaise- had all but abandoned her, and she’d discovered that muggle-borns and half-bloods were just as nice –mostly nicer- than the purebloods were. Everything she’d been taught to believe had been thrown off balance, and it confused her greatly.

“I owe you an apology,” Buffy said softly.

Harry stared at her, stunned. He’d never had anyone –ever- apologise to him for anything.

“What I said to you that morning…I was wrong. About a lot of things really, and…the only way I can justify why I said those things is because of how I was raised,” Buffy said softly. She hated apologising. It wasn’t something that she was good at, and it wasn’t something that was encouraged within the Zabini household, unless it was a family member that had been hurt.

“Everything’s…well, changed since I came to Hogwarts,” Buffy said. “It’s like my whole world’s been flipped upside down, and I’m just trying to grab hold of anything familiar so I don’t fall into some massive black hole.”

“I think I can understand that,” Harry said softly. “The Hogwarts being a life-changing experience, I mean. Except for me, the only black hole that ever comes up now is when I think of having to go back to the my aunt’s house for the summer.”

“You were raised muggle, weren’t you?” Buffy asked, her voice curious, not malicious.

Harry nodded. “By my aunt and uncle. I have a cousin too…Dudley. He does a wonderful impression of a humpback whale…he has the blubber for it too.”

Buffy grinned and giggled slightly and Harry knew that he wanted to make it happen again. He wasn’t sure why. He’d heard about love and romance and the like, but this was nothing like that at all. He wasn’t the slightest bit attracted to Buffy –even though he was only eleven, and that sort of thing wasn’t really important. The bond he felt for her was more…he couldn’t understand it. He’d never had a family, and yet something about the way he wanted to protect this girl made it feel like a familial link.

“So…a truce then?” Buffy asked.

Harry shook his head.

“I was hoping…friends maybe?” he asked.

Buffy grinned. “Friends. Sounds good.”

They shook on it, and talked until Madam Pomfrey threw Harry out for disturbing her patient.

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

Christmas slowly rolled around, and Harry, Ron and Hermione all noticed the same thing. Buffy had suddenly become quiet. Before the troll incident, it hadn’t been such an abnormal thing, but whenever she was around her friends, she always laughed and joked with them about anything and everything. She’d been helping them research Nicholas Flamel and the Philosopher’s Stone, and she’d always helped keep everyone’s spirits high. But ever since the second week of December, she’d lost her spirit. She was quiet, and refused to say why.

A week before Christmas Break was due to start, Harry managed to wake up earlier than Buffy had, and made it down to breakfast before she got there.

Buffy walked into the Great Hall, tired and unfocussed. She didn’t noticed Harry sitting by himself at the Gryffindor Table, so she walked over to where Blaise and Draco sat, plopping down opposite her sister.

“Merlin Buff, you look terrible,” Draco said.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “Thanks ever so,” Buffy replied.

“Sorry,” Draco said, having the decency to look sheepish.

“You’re not sleeping are you?” Blaise asked.

Buffy shook her head. She’d never been able to lie to Blaise, plus, Draco, though completely tactless, hadn’t been wrong. She did look terrible.

“Mum and dad still haven’t written to you have they?” Blaise asked, realising where the problem had stemmed from.

Buffy sighed and shook her head, refusing to look up. Draco stayed silent, knowing that taunting the blonde girl would only cause problems in his friendship with Blaise, which was the best thing about his First Year at Hogwarts. Blaise and Buffy were a package deal, and if Buffy hadn’t been so miserable about the subject, he could have got away with teasing her. But not while she was struggling to keep her tears at bay.

“Christmas break is in a week,” Buffy said, her voice small and barely audible. If there had been any other students in the Hall, her voice would have been drowned out completely.

“I’m not going to go home,” Blaise assured her. “Not without you.”

“They expect you to,” Buffy replied.

“Not without you they can’t,” Blaise replied. “Who cares what house you’re in?”

“They do.” She was miserable and the only cure would be some sort of sign from her parents. “They still haven’t said anything in their letters?”

Blaise shook her head sadly. She’d questioned her parents in every single letter, begging them to write to Buffy, but never once had their parents even given Blaise any indication of why they didn’t write to Buffy.

“Then will you do me a favour?” Buffy asked.

“Anything,” Blaise replied without hesitating.

“I want you to go home for Christmas,” Buffy said.

“What?”

“I want you to go home and find out what is going on, cos…cos-”

“Cos your eleven-years-old and you want your parents,” Draco finished softly.

Buffy looked up at him, expecting to see the usual sneer on his face, but there wasn’t even a trace of sarcasm anywhere.

She nodded and stood up, not wanting to break down in front of Draco Malfoy and the other Slytherins who were entering the Hall. She made her way over to the Gryffindor table and took a seat beside Harry.

“Alright there?” he asked.

“Could be worse,” she replied, trying to shake off her depression.

“Optimism…I like it,” Harry quipped.

Buffy grinned and picked at the plate full of food in front of her. Students began trickling into the Great Hall, and Hermione took her seat beside Buffy, and Ron sat on the other side of Harry.

“Morning,” Hermione greeted cheerfully.

“That’s not natural for this hour of the morning,” Buffy complained.

Hermione just shrugged and handed Buffy a piece of plain white paper.

“What’s this?”

“Just read it,” Hermione replied.

Buffy shrugged and looked down at the letter that was addressed to Hermione.

Dear Hermione,

Of course it will be all right for your friend Buffy to stay with us over Christmas. We look forward to meeting her,

Love Mum and Dad.

Buffy grinned and threw her arms around Hermione, hugging the girl tightly. Harry and Ron shook their heads in amusement, but were thankful to see a smile on Buffy’s face for the first time in weeks.

“You’re a great friend, you know that?” Buffy asked softly.

Hermione just smiled and blushed slightly. “I know you’re upset about not being able to go home, but…well, I thought that maybe spending the holidays with my family and I would…”

“Hermione, I get it,” Buffy assured her. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

CHAPTER 10: THE HOLIDAYS

Buffy couldn’t help but be excited about the upcoming holidays. She and Hermione would be leaving early the next morning to visit the Granger’s house for the next week, leaving Harry and Ron at Hogwarts with strictly instructions to look in the Restricted Section of the library for information on Nicholas Flamel.

And while Buffy may still have been upset with her family, the thought of spending two weeks with her best friend was enough to quell the anger and hurt she felt whenever she thought about her parents.

“I still don’t think it’s fair that we have to research while the two of you are on a holiday,” Ron complained.

“Life’s not fair Ron,” Hermione replied casually. “Besides, just think of it as a learning experience.”

Ron rolled his eyes and grabbed another bread roll off the table in front of him. No matter how bad a mood he was in, the Hogwarts dinners could always cheer him up.

“Don’t forget to do that essay for Professor Snape,” Hermione advised.

Harry and Ron groaned, and Harry was about to say something, but was cut off by the sudden and insistent shriek of a single owl flying into the Great Hall. All eyes looked up, curious as to why the owl would be delivering post during dinner when mail was usually delivered at lunchtime.

To Buffy’s shock, the owl dropped the letter in front of her, and her heart caught in her throat as she recognised the handwriting on the envelope.

“Buffy?” Hermione asked softly.

“It’s from my dad,” she replied.

Buffy reached out, her hands trembling. She looked up and caught her sister’s gaze, which was focussed solely on Buffy, a concerned and confused look on her face.

Buffy slit the envelope open and pulled out the letter.

Beth,

You are to join us for the holidays. Blaise has the details.

Benjamin and Belinda.

She swallowed hard. The only time her parents ever called her Beth was when she was in trouble. Not to mention the fact that her parents had used their full first names to sign off. And the letter held absolutely no sign of emotion whatsoever.

All of Buffy’s happiness and excitement about the coming holidays was discarded quickly. She wouldn’t be spending the holidays with Hermione after all. She would be going home.

This was exactly what she’d wanted, but not how she’d wanted it.

She passed the short note to Hermione who frowned, disappointed that her best friend wouldn’t be able to spend the holidays after all. She’d been hoping to introduce Buffy to the muggle world, but now she’d have to change all of her plans.

“This is good, right?” Hermione asked. “I mean, they want you to go home for Christmas.”

Buffy nodded, but she still wasn’t sure. All she could do was wait and find out what exactly fate had in store for her this time.

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

The train ride back to King’s Cross Station was completely silent in the Zabini compartment. Buffy was fiddling and unable to sit still, and Blaise just kept watch of her sister, completely unsure about what would happen.

Buffy breathed in deeply when the train came to a halt at the station. Blaise squeezed Buffy’s hand supportively, and flashed the blonde girl a quick grin.

“It’ll be okay Buffy,” Blaise assured her.

Buffy just nodded, too nervous to say anything. She was fighting back a panic attack, and was trying desperately not to follow her urge to stay on the train and just go back to Hogwarts.

She followed Blaise off the train and quickly located their parents, whose expressions revealed nothing to the Gryffindor girl. Blaise and Buffy approached cautiously, and still their parents showed no emotion. They exchanged polite hello’s, before Ben explained that they would be apparating back home, Belinda with Blaise and Ben with Buffy.

Belinda took Blaise’s hand, and the two of them vanished from the station. Buffy forced herself to meet her father’s eyes and knew without a doubt that this was going to be a holiday to remember. Just one that she probably wouldn’t want to remember.

Ben grabbed hold of Buffy’s wrist and the Station completely disappeared.

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

Buffy stumbled a little and looked around the unfamiliar room. It was cold and dark, and Buffy knew that her father hadn’t taken her back to the Zabini Manor.

“Where are we?” Buffy asked softly.

“You do not ask questions,” Ben hissed softly. His grip tightened on her wrist and she winced in pain. “It is bad enough that you were placed within Gryffindor, but I will not have you defy me further.”

Buffy barely managed to hold her tongue, desperate to point out that it wasn’t as though she hadn’t wanted to be in Slytherin. The Sorting Hat had just placed her in Gryffindor.

Ben led her through a series of corridors, his grip still firm on her wrist as he took the many twists and turns, his stride confident. He knew where he was going. They stopped suddenly and Buffy noticed two black-robed men with white masks hiding their faces.

She went to step back, but Ben held her firmly in place.

“This is the girl?” one of them asked.

“Yes, I see the resemblance,” the other said, stepping closer to Buffy and running a hand through Buffy’s hair and forcing her to tilt her head upwards.

“You will make a wonderful Death-Eater, my dear girl,” the man in front of her said softly, his hand still on Buffy’s cheek. “You just need the proper…discipline.”

Ben let go of Buffy’s wrist, and the blonde girl cradled it against her chest protectively, rubbing her arm to try and get her circulation flowing again.

“I’ll leave her in your capable hands then,” Ben said.

Buffy couldn’t help but react o that.

“What?! No! Dad!”

Ben suddenly grabbed her by her shoulders, shaking her roughly.

“Do you realise what a disgrace you are to my family?” he asked, his voice soft, harsh and terrifying. “Not once has there been someone in Gryffindor, until you. Not once have I had to bear the shame that comes with knowing my child failed me.”

“I…I – I’m sorry dad,” she whispered, tears in her eyes. “I didn’t want to be in Gryffindor…I asked the hat to put me with my family, I swear I did!”

Ben paused at that, but his grip on Buffy didn’t waver.

“You are to do as Lucius and Dominique tell you. You are to learn your place within my family,” Ben instructed. “You are to learn proper respect for your elders, and learn the old-ways. You have gone against my teachings while you were at Hogwarts, but I won’t allow that anymore. I have been too lenient with you, my girl, and that will no longer be the case.”

“Dad-”

“You will address me as ‘sir’ or ‘father’,” Ben continued. “You will learn to be worthy of being a Death-Eater’s child. And you will never defy me again.”

“But-”

“Is that understood Beth?” Ben asked.

Buffy felt her father’s fingers dig even further into her arms, and she struggled to hold her tears at bay. Her father never called her Beth. She’d been about seven years old before she worked out that Buffy wasn’t actually her real first name. Hearing her full name said in anger cut her to her very soul. It was a name that had been given to her out of affection, and hearing it said in anger just hurt.

“Answer me!”

“Yes!” she cried, more to stop her father from hurting her further, than to actually answer his question.

“Yes what?”

“Yes father, I understand,” she replied.

Ben let go of her shoulders and took a step back, satisfied with her answer. He looked to the two masked Death-Eaters who were staring at the young Gryffindor girl, making her incredibly uneasy.

“You have your work cut out for you gentlemen.” With that, he disapparated, leaving Buffy in the hands of two unknown Death-Eaters, with no chance of escape, and no way to contact any of her friends.

She swallowed in fear and pressed up against the wall, her green eyes wide with terror as Lucius stepped forward.

“We’ll show you to your room.”

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

That first night she cried herself to sleep. After she’d been shown her room, Lucius and Dominique had locked her in the small space with no windows and hadn’t returned. All she had to keep her company was the thoughts flying around in her mind, and the terrifying reality that her father had left her with two Death-Eaters and nothing more.

She paced the length of the room –cell, she corrected herself- trying to work off her nervous energy. It wasn’t working. She froze when she heard footsteps in the corridor, and even though everything inside of her was telling her to run, there was nowhere for her to go.

She heard the lock click open, and the door swung outwards, revealing the still masked men.

“You will follow us Beth,” instructed one of the men.

She wanted to hesitate, but the bruises and stiffness in her arms from the shaking she’d received from her father the day before told her to pick her battles. She was trapped, hungry and desperate to know what was going on. She had no choice but to follow.

Lucius grabbed hold of Buffy’s wrist and dragged her down the corridor, pulling her roughly into a dark room that immediately lit up with candles as soon as the door closed and locked itself behind them. The walls were lined with books that looked sinister. Buffy wasn’t even sure how a book could look sinister, but the ones lining the walls definitely did. She held in a shudder and was forced to sit in an uncomfortable wooden chair in the centre of the room.

The two Death-Eaters stood over her, their superior height meant to intimidate her. And it was working.

“Your father is very disappointed with you, do you realise that?” Lucius asked.

Buffy didn’t say anything, but nodded slowly.

“Your family has been shamed by you because of your actions at Hogwarts,” Dominique added. “Someone has been watching you, and you have betrayed your upbringing.”

His voice sounded familiar, though Buffy couldn’t pick where she’d heard it before. She had met some of her father’s friends often enough, but there was something different about this man. This was a voice that she had heard recently. But where?

“Tell us something Beth, do you wish to go back to Hogwarts?” Lucius asked.

Buffy felt her throat constrict. It was an implied threat if ever she’d heard one, and the thought of not being able to go back to school terrified her.

“Yes,” she whispered.

“Then you will behave for us, won’t you dear girl?” Dominique asked. “You will listen carefully and do as you are instructed. And if we are impressed by your behaviour, you may be able to spend a little time with your family for the holidays before you return to Hogwarts.”

Buffy was having trouble processing everything that was being said. She wanted to go back to Hogwarts, there was no other option there, but things had changed so much in the last four months. Her entire way of thinking had begun to dissolve, and she was no longer so certain about what her family believed.

“You’ll behave for us, won’t you Beth?” Lucius asked.

Buffy nodded meekly, trying to keep her tears at bay.

“Excellent,” Dominique said with mock cheerfulness. “Let’s get started then. First things first, as they say. Muggles. And why wizards are superior to them.”

CHAPTER 11: THE RETURN

It was amazing what two weeks with two Death-Eaters could do to an eleven-year-old child. Threats, blackmail and emotional torture and short doses of pain were incredibly effective when all a child really wanted was to be accepted and loved by their family.

So making Beth Anne Zabini completely and utterly pliable was not exactly an arduous task. She’d been raised as the daughter of a Death-Eater, and had only been exposed to muggles and half-bloods for four months. And while she valued the friendships she’d made, she valued her family more.

Her father had managed to extract a solemn blood oath from the girl about whom she would and wouldn’t socialise with at school. She was forbidden from speaking with any muggle-born student unless it was a direct order from a teacher and was for educational purposes. She was forbidden from befriending half-bloods, and blood-traitors, and could only freely speak with students who were pureblood and were either loyal to Voldemort, or weren’t loyal to Dumbledore.

There was nothing she could do about being placed into Slytherin, so she would just need to grin and bear it within Gryffindor, and try and ‘get by’ as well as she could.

She visited with her family for one day before going back to Hogwarts, and it wasn’t the joyous reunion that she’d had planned. The only person to welcome her back had been Blaise, who had hugged her enthusiastically, and given her a belated Christmas gift. Ben and Belinda had merely greeted her formally and sat down to a silent dinner.

Walking into the Gryffindor Common Room, Buffy had silently thanked whatever Higher Powers there were that Hermione, Harry and Ron weren’t in there, and that, on arriving in her room, Hermione wasn’t there either. She changed into her pyjamas and crawled into bed, keeping her breathing steady and faking sleep when she heard the others arrive back from dinner.

She wanted one more night where her best friend wouldn’t hate her. The coming morning was going to be painful enough, she didn’t want to have to deal with the fallout that would happen when she severed her ties with the muggle-born girl.

For the fifteenth time in fifteen days, Buffy cried herself to sleep.

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

She avoided them at breakfast, getting up early, eating quickly and then going for a run around the grounds. She avoided them in Potions, sitting with her sister. She avoided them in DADA, again sitting with Blaise. She avoided them at lunch, making up a bizarre question for Professor Quirrell that took nearly forty minutes for him to stutter through his answer.

She avoided them in Herbology by ‘accidentally’ cutting her hand within the first five minutes of the lesson and being sent to the Infirmary. She hated Healers, but she was willing to sit still and have Madam Pomfrey heal her rather than be in class. She completely skipped dinner and sat down by the lake, staring at the stars and trying not to cry.

Her friends were not stupid however, and they noticed that something was wrong.

“Is it just me, or is Buffy avoiding us?” Harry asked, frowning.

“It’s not just you,” Hermione replied, her expression mirroring Harry’s.

“Did you hear from her over the holidays?” Ron asked.

Hermione shook her head. “Not a word. I wrote nearly every day, but…nothing.”

“Do you get the feeling that she’s not telling us something?” Harry asked.

“I know she was worried about going home for the holidays,” Hermione replied. “Maybe something happened.”

Harry, who was the only one out of them who knew what it was like to have a horrible home-life, conjured up all sorts of images in his mind about what could have gone wrong over the holidays. But, from what he knew of Buffy’s family it made very little sense. She’d been raised in a fairly loving home, and until she’d come to Hogwarts, everything had been fine.

“I’m going to ask her,” Hermione said resolutely.

Harry and Ron could only stare in shock as Hermione stood up from the dinner table and stalked out of the Great Hall, going in search of the missing Gryffindor, who had failed to even show up for dinner at all.

Hermione didn’t know how she knew, but her instincts told her that her friend would be down at the lake. She made her way slowly down the hill, spotting Buffy sitting with her knees curled up to her chest, staring at the evening sky.

Hermione approached slowly, coughing softly to announce her presence. Buffy had known she’d been coming since she’d stepped out of the Entrance Hall, though she didn’t know how she’d known that.

“Buffy?”

“Hello Hermione,” Buffy replied softly.

That was Hermione’s first indication that something was wrong. Or, not really the first seeing as she hadn’t been able to get a single word in edgewise to her best friend all day, but it was the first words that Buffy had spoken to her, and Buffy speaking her full name sent shivers down her spine. Buffy didn’t use Hermione’s full first name. It was always ‘Mione’, even when Buffy had been moody.

Hermione took a chance and sat down beside Buffy.

“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Hermione asked.

She could see a single tear slipping down Buffy’s cheek, the crystal droplet reflecting the stars above and shining on Buffy’s skin that had gone pale with the cold.

“No,” Buffy replied softly. “I’m going to tell you to stay away from me.”

Hermione felt as though she’d been punched. Her chest ached, and she could feel tears in her eyes.

“What? Why?”

Buffy took in a shuddering breath and stood up, Hermione doing the same, not wanting to be at a disadvantage of not being at eye-level to her best friend.

“We’re not friends Hermione,” Buffy said softly. “We can never be friends. You can tell the same thing to Harry and Ron too.”

She turned her back on the girl and began walking back up to the castle, trying to keep her tears at bay. It hurt more than she’d expected it to. A week ago it had seemed like an easy enough task… ‘cut off all contact with your mudblood and muggle-loving friends’. The reality of it hurt so badly that Buffy had to remind herself to breathe.

Hermione raced after her and grabbed Buffy’s wrist, stopping the blonde girl in her tracks.

“Why?” Hermione demanded angrily, tears falling freely.

“A Zabini must never associate with those who are inferior to them,” Buffy replied. It was a line that had been drilled into her head for the last eleven years. It had been repeated to her again and again over the previous two weeks.

“You don’t mean that,” Hermione accused.

Buffy finally met Hermione’s eyes, blank emerald green meeting fiery brown in a battle of wills.

“Yes. I do.”

Hermione dropped her friend’s wrist and watched Buffy walk back up to the castle. She collapsed to the ground in tears, sobbing for the loss of her first true friend.

Buffy wiped the tears from her eyes and walked up the seven flights of stairs to the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry and Ron were waiting inside for her, but she only looked at them emotionlessly and walked past them, despite their questions about what was wrong and where she had been. They tried to follow her into the corridor towards the girls rooms, but they were thrown back by an invisible barrier. Boys weren’t allowed into the girls rooms apparently.

They could only wonder what had happened to the girl to make her so withdrawn. But not even in their wildest imaginings could they have imagined that Buffy had been blackmailed into promising her fealty to serving a wizard who was defeated ten years before, whose cruelty couldn’t even be imagined by anyone who hadn’t personally experienced it. Their best friend had practically sold her soul to the devil, all in the name of being accepted and loved by her family.

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

Hermione had passed on the message to Harry and Ron, who, when they tried confronting Buffy about it, had firmly told them that she had meant what she said. They weren’t her friends, and they never would be.

Every day they continued to pester her, but to no avail. Buffy remained firm in what she said, though she continued to cry herself to sleep at night, lonelier than she’d even been during her two week ‘holiday’ with Lucius and Dominique.

She kept herself busy with schoolwork, and whenever that couldn’t keep her occupied, she contented herself with rearranging her collection of cards from the Chocolate Frog packets. It was a week after the Christmas break that she found the very thing that she and her friends had been looking for. Nicholas Flamel.

For one beautiful moment, Buffy completely forgot her breakaway from the group. She had grinned and almost yelled for joy until she remembered the reality of the situation. She wouldn’t –couldn’t- associate with her friends. Not if she wanted to be a ‘true Zabini’.

She pocketed the Collector’s Card –Dumbledore-, and walked into the Common Room. Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting around the fireplace, talking quietly. They went silent as they saw her approach.

Buffy wordlessly took out the card, handed it to Hermione and walked out of the Common Room. Hermione stared after her in complete confusion, and eventually looked down at the item, trying to work out why Buffy had given it to her.

“What is it?” Ron asked.

“Collector’s Card,” Hermione replied. “From the Chocolate Frogs.”

“Maybe it’s a message,” Harry said.

Hermione flipped the card over and scanned through the blurb on the back, a grin suddenly coming to her face.

“What?” Harry and Ron asked, seeing Hermione’s first genuine smile since the fallout with Buffy.

“‘Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of Grindewald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood and his work on alchemy with Nicholas Flamel’!” Hermione recited excitedly. “She found him!”

Harry and Ron grinned with excitement. Hermione suddenly shot out of her chair, yelling for the boys to stay there while she raced back up to her room. The boys grinned at each other and Harry picked up the card reading it over.

“I knew I’d read the name somewhere before. I read it on the train coming here,” Harry said.

“I can’t believe Buffy found him,” Ron said. “Why would…I don’t understand why she’d give us this if she doesn’t want to be friends?”

“Girls are impossible to understand my friend,” Harry replied. “Best to just wait it out and hope that they don’t bite your head off.”

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

The ancient study of alchemy is concerned with making the Philosopher’s Stone, a legendary substance with astonishing powers. The stone will transform any metal into pure gold. It also produces the Elixar of Life, which will make the drinker immortal. There have been many reports of the Philosopher’s Stone over the centuries, but the only Stone currently in existence belongs to Mr Nicholas Flamel, the noted alchemist and opera-lover, Mr Flamel, who celebrated his six-hundred and sixty-fifth birthday last year, enjoys a quiet life in Devon with his wife, Perenielle (six hundred and fifty-eight).

“See? The dog must be guarding Flamel’s Philosopher’s Stone! I bet he asked Dumbledore to keep it safe for him, because they’re friends and he knew someone was after it, that’s why he wanted the Stone moved out of Gringotts,” Hermione explained, rambling through the revelation all in one breath.

“A stone that makes gold and stops you ever dying!” Harry exclaimed. “No wonder Snape’s after it. Anyone would want it.”

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

Hermione managed to corner Buffy in their dorm room as soon as Lavender and Parvati had left, leaving the two girls alone. Buffy tried to walk out of the room, but Hermione stood in front of the door, her arms folded across her chest, a glare on her face.

“Why won’t you talk to us?” Hermione asked angrily. “You gave us that card, you…you told us about Flamel…you can’t hate us!”

“I never said I hated you Hermione,” Buffy replied, her voice soft and sad.

“What then?”

Buffy just shook her head and moved around Hermione, leaving the brunette girl to wonder just what had happened to make her best friend so reticent. It hurt to see Buffy like that, and it hurt even more that Buffy wouldn’t confide in her. They’d seen each other at their worst, and Hermione couldn’t imagine what could have made Buffy’s behaviour change so radically over the two weeks of the holidays. Something had happened, and whatever it was, it had changed her best friend into a complete and utter stranger.

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

HG, HP & RW,

Burn this when you have read it. I understand that you are upset by BZ breaking away from the three of you. Just know that the only thing she wants more than your friendship is her family. And for them (us) she will do anything. If you truly care for her, please stop trying to push the issue. Never think that she doesn’t care for you. Despite everything that we were ever taught, she cares for the three of you. If you care, don’t push, and let her stop crying herself to sleep.

The other BZ.

“The other BZ?” Ron asked.

“Blaise,” Hermione replied softly.

“She must really love her family,” Harry said softly. He’d never experienced that kind of feeling of devotion towards his family, except whenever he thought about his deceased parents. But he couldn’t imagine giving up his friends to please anyone. It seemed unthinkable.

Ron looked slightly ill however.

“Ron?” Hermione asked, noticing her friend’s pale colour.

Ron took a deep breath, trying to find the right words. “Blaise is in Slytherin…”

“Yes?”

“And Buffy thought she’d be in Slytherin, right?” he continued.

“And?”

“And…well, most of the Slytherin parents are Death-Eaters,” he finished softly.

Hermione frowned. She knew that Ron had a massive chip on his shoulder when it came to the Slytherins, but she had to admit that some of the puzzle pieces were falling into place.

“Her parents stopped writing to her when she was sorted into Gryffindor,” Hermione said softly. “They kept writing to Blaise though.”

“And seeing as this all started after she visited her family for Christmas…” Harry trailed off, a sick feeling rising in his stomach.

“The Zabini’s were never accused of being followers of You-Know-Who though,” Ron said.

“No…never accused,” Hermione said softly. “But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t follow him.”

“So, her parents are Death-Eaters,” Ron said.

“And she was sorted into Gryffindor,” Harry said. He could remember the hat telling him that he would have ‘done well’ in Slytherin. The very thought of it had made his skin crawl, but it had eventually put him into Gryffindor. He couldn’t help but wonder what sort of a conversation the hat had had with Buffy during the sorting to make the blonde girl a Gryffindor rather than a Slytherin.

“We have to help her,” Hermione said softly.

Harry looked over the letter again, concentrating on the last few sentences. He shook his head sadly.

“I don’t think we can help her Hermione,” Harry replied. “By the sounds of things, we’re hurting her even more by not letting her go.”

Hermione swallowed back bitter tears of hurt and anger and closed her eyes tiredly. She hated that Harry was right. All she could do was let her friend go free and hope that everything worked out for the best.

CHAPTER 12: THE STONE

“What was that thing you saved me from, anyway?”

“Harry Potter, do you know what unicorn blood is used for? It is a monstrous thing to slay a unicorn. Only one who has nothing to lose and everything to gain would commit such a crime. The blood of a unicorn will keep you alive, even if you are an inch from death, but at a terrible price. You have slain something pure and defenceless to save yourself and you will have a half life, a cursed life, from the moment the blood touches your lips.”

“But who’d be that desperate?”

“Mr Potter, do you know what is hidden in the school at this very moment?”

“The Philosopher’s Stone! Of course – the Elixar of Life! But I don’t understand who-”

“Can you thin of nobody who has waited many years to return to power, who has clung to life, awaiting their chance?”

“Do you mean, that was Voldemort?”

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

“Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that what Hagrid wants more than anything else is a dragon, and a stranger turns up who just happens to have an egg in his pocket? How many people wander around with dragon eggs f it’s against wizard law? Lucky they found Hagrid, don’t you think? Why didn’t I see it before?”

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

“I’m going out of here tonight and I’m going to try and get the Stone first.”

“You’re mad!”

“You can’t! After what McGonagall and Snape have said? You’ll be expelled!”

“SO WHAT? Don’t you understand? If Snape gets hold of the Stone, Voldemort’s coming back! Haven’t you heard what it was like when he was trying to take over? There won’t be any Hogwarts to get expelled from! He’ll flatten it or turn it into a school for the Dark Arts! Losing points doesn’t matter anymore, can’t you see? I’m going through the trapdoor tonight and nothing you two say is going to stop me! Voldemort killed my parents, remember?”

“You’re right Harry.”

“I’ll use the invisibility cloak.”

“But will it cover all three of us?”

“All – all three of us?”

“Oh come off it, you don’t think we’d let you go alone?”

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

“Lucky this plant thing’s here really.”

“They’re not birds! They’re keys! Winged keys – look carefully. We’ve got to catch the key to get to the door.”

“This isn’t a graveyard…it’s a chessboard. We’ve got to play our way across the room.”

“Got it! The smallest bottle will get us through the black fire – towards the Stone.”

“You!”

“Me,” Quirrell said calmly. “I wondered whether I’d be meeting you here Potter.”

“But I thought – Snape-”

“Severus? Yes, Severus does seem the type doesn’t he? So useful to have him swooping around like an overgrown bat. Next to him, who would suspect p-p-poor st-stuttering P-Professor Quirrell?”

“But Snape tried to kill me!”

“No, no, no. I tried to kill you.”

“You let the troll in?”

“Certainly. I have a special gift with trolls. Unfortunately while everyone else was running around looking for it, Snape, who already suspected me, went straight to the third floor to head me off – and not only did my troll fail to beat you to death, thanks to Miss Zabini, that three-headed dog didn’t even manage to bite Snape’s leg off properly.”

“The mirror is the key to finding the Stone. Trust Dumbledore to come up with something like this…but he’s in London…I’ll be far away by the time he gets back…I see the Stone…I’m presenting it to my master…but where is it?”

“Sometimes I find it hard to follow my master’s instructions. He is a great wizard and I am weak.”

“You mean, he was there in the classroom with you?”

“He is with me wherever I go.”

“Use the boy…Use the boy…”

“Look into the mirror and tell me what you see.”

Harry saw his reflection, pale and scared-looking at first. But a moment later, the reflection smiled at him. It put its hand into its pocket and pulled out a blood-red stone. It winked and put the Stone back in its pocket – and as it did so, Harry felt something heavy drop into his real pocket. Somehow –incredibly- he’d got the Stone.

“Now…why don’t you give me that Stone in your pocket? Don’t be a fool! Better save your own life and join me…or you’ll meet the same end as your parents…They died begging me for mercy…the girls cries were delicious…so much potential. You could have them back…just say you’ll join me, and you could have your family back.”

“LIAR!”

“Seize him!”

“Master I cannot hold him – my hands – my hands!”

Harry reached up and grabbed Quirrell’s face causing the Professor to scream in agony. Quirrell tried to throw Harry off, the pain in Harry’s head was building – he couldn’t see – he could only hear Quirrell’s terrible shrieks and Voldemort’s yells of “Kill him! Kill him!” and other voices, maybe in Harry’s own head, crying “Ree! Harry!”

He felt Quirrell’s arm wrenched from his grasp, knew all was lost, and fell into blackness…

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

Upstairs in the Gryffindor Tower, Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil were awoken by a loud, high-pitched scream coming from their quietest roommate. Both girls quickly threw the bedcovers off and raced to the screaming girls side, trying to get her to awaken from whatever nightmare it was that was making her scream louder than they’d ever heard anyone else screaming.

“Get Professor McGonagall,” Lavender said frantically.

Parvati nodded and shot out the door as quickly as she could, racing towards the staff quarters.

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

Harry slowly drifted to consciousness, aware of two things. One was the endings of a headache, and the other was two soft voices speaking quietly.

“You’re missing class you know,” Dumbledore reprimanded someone gently.

For a moment, Harry panicked. Dumbledore didn’t know about the Stone. Then again, if the Stone had been taken, Dumbledore would have known about it, and seeing as he sounded calm, Harry wasn’t really all that worried.

“Madam Pomfrey won’t let me leave,” the other voice replied. Harry recognised the voice as belonging to Buffy, though he couldn’t work out why she would be in the hospital wing. “I don’t see why not, I’m completely fine. Not even a little headache anymore.”

“You have them often?” Dumbledore asked.

“They’ve only just started this year,” Buffy replied. “Sometimes they don’t last too long. Y’know, jut a real sudden stab of pain in my forehead. It’s a little weird. The other night was…it’s never been that bad before.”

“You gave Miss Brown and Miss Patil quite a fright, going into a seizure like that,” Dumbledore said. “Perhaps you should have your father take you to a Healer when you go home for the holidays.”

Harry could almost hear Buffy tense at the mention of her father.

“Perhaps,” Buffy said after a long silent pause.

Harry blinked his eyes open slowly and reached for his glasses, both Dumbledore and Buffy switching their focus to Harry as he awoke.

“Good afternoon Harry,” Dumbledore said.

“Sir,” Harry replied. He flashed a smile at Buffy, but she looked away and Harry forced himself not to frown. He focussed on Dumbledore, wanting answers.

“Professor…Quirrell, he – he was after the Stone.”

“He was…I never expected it of young Dominique,” Dumbledore said.

Buffy breathed in sharply. “Dominique?” she repeated, unaware that she’d even spoken until both Harry and Dumbledore were staring at her.

“You know the name?” Dumbledore asked suspiciously.

Buffy couldn’t help but run over the two weeks that she’d been trying to forget. But she’d never been able to forget them. She could still remember the multitudes of spells that had been used to get her to remain compliant. She’d recognised the voice of Dominique from somewhere, but she’d never been able to tell from where.

Dominique had been Professor Quirrell…he’d just never stuttered. He’d been completely confident, cold and cruel, and that had made all the difference. And now that she could place a face to a name, she could hear the similarities in the voices.

“Just a coincidence,” Buffy whispered softly. She knew it wasn’t a coincidence. It was one of the two things she had never believed in coincidence and leprechauns.

Dumbledore didn’t look convinced, but he let it drop as Harry launched into a quick-fire series of questions about the Stone, Ron, Hermione, Nicholas Flamel, and how he’d managed to get the Stone out of the mirror.

Some of Harry’s questions went unanswered, and he was upset about that, but there was no use arguing with Professor Dumbledore. He was eventually allowed out of the Infirmary, and the end of term drew closer.

Exam results were given out, and the end of year feast heralded another years end.

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

Hagrid passed a handsome, leather-covered book to Harry who took it with some confusion. Harry opened it curiously and felt his mouth go dry. It was full of wizard photographs. Smiling and waving at him from every page were his mother and father.

“Sent owls off ter all yer parents’ old school friends, askin’ fer photos of yer family…knew yeh didn’t have any…D’yeh like it?”

Harry couldn’t speak, but Hagrid understood. The boy silently vowed to look through it properly when he was alone so he would be able to shed the tears he knew were welling in his eyes. He couldn’t wait for the holidays.

“And if yer need answers…’bout anythin’, yer know who ter owl ‘bout it.”

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

The Gryffindor Trio sat in their train compartment, chatting with excitement about what had happened. Gryffindor had won the House Cup due to last minute changes in the point score due to Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville, and Slytherin were bitterly disappointed that they had had their victory pulled out from beneath their feet.

Two carriages down, Buffy sat silently, staring out the window as the scenery raced by, Blaise and Draco chatting quietly, trying not to disturb the miserable blonde girl.

Blaise had tried to get details out of her sister about what had happened over the Christmas holidays, but Buffy had refused to speak about any of it. And Blaise couldn’t help but be worried that the same fate would befall her sister again over the summer break, and Blaise would be helpless to do anything about it.

They had grown apart over their First Year at Hogwarts, but that did nothing for their loyalty to one another. Blaise knew that the reason Buffy wanted to be accepted by the family so badly was, in part, because of Blaise herself. They were as close as sisters could be, and Blaise had always been grateful for the company.

Blaise could only fervently hope that nothing terrible would happen to her younger sister, and she made a silent and solemn vow to try and protect the girl from any harm.

And in Buffy’s own thoughts, she was wondering much the same thing, and making the same vow in regards to Blaise’s safety. She didn’t think her parents would harm their Slytherin daughter, but Buffy knew that Blaise was also fiercely loyal to her. She sighed, and ignored the looks from Draco and Blaise, hoping that she survived the next six weeks, wishing that they would speed by so she could be safely ensconced back within the walls of Hogwarts.

CHAPTER 13: THE SUMMER

Two days into her stay at ‘home’, Buffy could feel that something was about to change within the house. She didn’t know what it was, but she knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t something good. She wasn’t wrong. The doorbell sounded loudly throughout the house after lunch, and Buffy felt her heart clench in fear.

Ben glanced quickly at Buffy before walking to the front door to let the visitor in. The door swung open, and Buffy forced herself to stay at the table, sitting nervously, her palms beginning to sweat. Her fingers itched to grab for the wand hidden within her robes, and she listened to the low murmur of voices, her father’s and another man’s. She could tell that it wasn’t Lucius, and she was grateful for that.

She swallowed nervously as her father and their visitor re-entered the room. Buffy glanced at the visitor, a tall brown haired man with green eyes speckled with hazel. They looked emotionless in a way that scared her tremendously.

“Beth…a word in private, if you please?” Ben asked, heading towards the door on the other side of the living room that lead to her father’s study.

She took a deep breath and stood, trying to hide her trembling and followed her father into his study, the man with the green eyes following behind her and closing the door.

“As I’m sure you are aware, your training in the old-ways was never truly finished,” Ben began, taking a seat behind his large wooden desk. Buffy remained standing while the visitor stayed near the door, ensuring that Buffy couldn’t flee.

“I’ve found someone who will be able to continue teaching you in the ways of the true wizards,” Ben explained.

“With Dominique gone, you needed someone to explain everything to you,” the visitor added, his voice soft and lilted with a very refined upper class British accent. “Any questions?”

“Will I be staying here?” Buffy asked nervously.

“No Beth, you won’t,” Ben replied. “I won’t have time to help you with your training, and I have business to attend to here. Blaise will be spending several weeks with Pansy Parkinson, and your mother has more important concerns.”

Buffy flinched involuntarily at the cutting comment.

“You’ll be spending the summer at my estate,” the visitor explained. “My niece will be visiting in a week or so as well, so you won’t lack for company.”

“I’ll be getting weekly updates about your behaviour Beth, so I expect the very best from you, do you understand?”

“Yes father,” Buffy replied softly.

Ben stood up, and walked towards the door, shaking hands with the visitor.

“Lucius and Dominique didn’t hesitate to…help her along…with some use of magics,” Ben said quietly to the visitor. “Feel free to use whatever methods you wish to ensure she is kept properly in line.”

The visitor nodded and Ben opened the door, ready to leave the study.

“Oh, and Ripper? Thank you.”

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

As holidays went, this one was shaping up to be incredibly bad for the eleven-year-old blonde Gryffindor. She had been tempted to mispronounce the name of the estate she was meant to be going to and just run for her life from wherever she came out of, but she’d heard the horror stories of mis-speaking when using the Floo Network. It never ended well.

So, she had ended up in the estate of a man who called himself ‘Ripper’ which inspired absolutely no feelings of safety whatsoever in Buffy at all.

Her room was a modest size, but it had a large window overlooking a massive garden, and it was equipped with a comfortable window seat as well, which she knew she would use whenever she was given the chance.

She’d been told to explore the grounds for the day, and that they’d get into the lessons portion of the holidays in he morning. Ripper had a letter to write.

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

Dear Albus,

I write to you from the Manor I wished never to return to, but I was asked for a favour. My loyalty lies completely with the Order, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to discover just what BZ is up to. He has asked me to tutor his youngest daughter in the ‘old-ways’ and I have accepted.

His daughter is one of your students, surprisingly a Gryffindor. I have the distinct feeling that she does not wish to be taught the old-ways, but does so only to please her family, and for fear that she will be hurt by her father.

I write to you to ask for help. She is young and impressionable, and terribly miserable. She will do anything for her family however. Any advice you can give is always appreciated.

RG.

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

Rupert,

I admit that very few things surprise me anymore, but your letter succeeded in doing so. The only suggestion that I have for you is to teach her the history of the old-ways. Give her the facts, and not the opinions that are associated with them. I know for a fact that this student was challenged by her housemates to begin to think for herself in regards to what her true status is within the wizarding world. I do not believe that she believes purebloods to be superior any longer.

I would also suggest introducing her to your young protégé. I understand that she is to become a Watcher like yourself, and I believe that our young Gryffindor will need the company. Perhaps she will even need some time in a muggle community…away from London if you understand my meaning.

Take care, and be gentle with her. There is something peculiar about that girl, though I am still in the dark about what it is about this girl that unsettles me so.

Albus PWBD

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

Rupert Giles paced the length of his study, re-reading the letter he’d received from Albus. He understood what Dumbledore had been hinting at, and he had to admit that it was a good idea. He didn’t know how to teach the girl without giving away exactly who he was.

To the Death-Eaters, he was simply one of the three remaining un-named Death-Eater. After Voldemort’s fall, there had been five of them; Benjamin Zabini, Evan Rosier, Ethan Rayne, Henry Franks and himself.

Rosier and Franks were dead, and had been discovered as Death-Eaters during the final raids. Rayne had escaped to who-knew-where and Rupert hadn’t heard from him in years.

And then there was Rupert. He had infiltrated the Death-Eaters, but had been working for the Ministry of Magic and the Order of the Phoenix the entire time he’d been in ‘service’ to the Dark Lord. Unlike Severus Snape who had been a Death-Eater first and then turned spy, Rupert had always been loyal to the Ministry.

He’d feigned discontent with the Ministry and had been taken into the Death-Eaters. He’d never been one of the higher-up Death-Eaters in Voldemort’s inner-circle, but he’d been able to find out a lot about the Death-Eater’s operations.

After Voldemort’s downfall, he’d been welcomed back into the Ministry and then transferred to one of their affiliates, the Council of Watchers. He’d received the training needed, and had learnt about the lore concerning the very person that Watcher’s watched. The Slayer. He was fairly certain he’d never be given a Slayer to watch over, but he had proven himself to be talented at the research end of the job.

His job now was to search for potentials. Not potential Slayers, but potential Watchers. The family lines of Watchers had been thinning, so to speak, and Rupert had been sent to find young people who showed potential for being Watchers. He was sent to primary schools to find child-geniuses, and he’d discovered dozens of them.

His latest find lived in America, and had adamantly refused to go to England, even though she wanted to become a Watcher. The girl was young, only twelve-years-old, though she was an absolute genius. She was teaching herself to hack into computer systems, mainly because her parents paid little attention to anything she did. Rupert had spoken with his advisers, and they’d agreed to let the girl remain in the States, but that Rupert would need to travel back and forth to ensure that she was learning everything she needed to be learning.

Rupert’s protégé was a young girl by the name Willow Rosenberg, a redheaded girl with an elfin-like face and innocent green eyes. She craved approval from authority figures, and was in desperate need of good friends. As far as Rupert knew, the girl only had one true friend, an Alexander Harris, though the two of them couldn’t have been more opposite if they’d tried. Where Willow was shy and quiet, Xander was loud and rambunctious. Where Willow was a genius, Xander struggled to pass the fifth grade.

Rupert knew that Dumbledore was right. A trip to the State, to a purely muggle area would be what Buffy Zabini needed. Sunnydale California, here they come.

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

“You want us to go to America?” Buffy asked in confusion.

“Yes.”

“To a muggle community?”

“Yes.”

Buffy stared at the man in confusion. She couldn’t figure him out. Ripper, as she still knew him as, was completely inscrutable. She hadn’t been able to work out anything about him, and it was annoying her greatly. She’d seen the Dark mark at the crook of his elbow, so she knew that he definitely was a Death-Eater.

“But…why?” she asked.

Rupert didn’t know how to answer that question at all. He didn’t want to give himself away too early. He still needed to gauge the girls reaction to the old-ways. If he thought that she would be easily convinced how wrong Voldemort had been, then he would reveal the truth of himself very quickly.

“It is not yours to question why,” he said softly.

Buffy breathed in sharply, remembering how Lucius and Dominique had kept her in line over the Christmas break. It hadn’t been fun, and she had no desire to upset a man with the name of ‘Ripper’.

“Sorry sir,” she said quietly.
Rupert immediately felt guilty for using intimidation as a technique to get her to stop asking question. Unfortunately there was no way to take it back now.

Buffy was trying to hide the fact that she was shaking. A Death-Eater going to a muggle community in the States. It had the potential to be incredibly dangerous, and she didn’t want to have to watch or be forced into any sort of acts of violence. A year ago, this wouldn’t have bothered her so badly, but…she knew better now. She knew that muggles and half-bloods weren’t inferior, as she’d been taught to believe. Her best friends had been a muggle-born, a half-blood and a ‘blood-traitor’.

“We’d best be off,” Rupert said softly, noticing the way Buffy had tensed up at his harsh voice from earlier.

Buffy just nodded and obediently followed Rupert to the fireplace and grabbed a handful of Floo Powder.

CHAPTER 14: THE PHOTOS

Three days into the summer holidays, and Harry Potter was already bored. The Dursley’s had looked up all of his school things, except Harry had managed to hide several of his books and things around his room so that his aunt and uncle and cousin would never find them. He was desperate for something to do, but there wasn’t a lot of options.

Not for the first time in his life, he wished for a real family. A family that actually loved him, not just ones that tolerated his presence within a house.

His eyes lit up and he quickly dived towards the loose floorboard where he had hidden a lot of his schoolbooks, but hadn’t been that bored to resort to reading just yet.

Underneath two of the heavier books was the leather-bound book that Hagrid had given to him just before the end of term. He settled himself on his bed and opened the book to the first page, smiling happily as he saw the photos within the book.

He had to admit that he loved the way wizarding photos seemed to come alive. It was always fascinating to watch the way people moved within the pictures.

The first few pages seemed to be of a younger James and Lily. They were in their Hogwarts uniforms, the Gryffindor crests shown proudly. Surrounding them was a group consisting of three other boys and two other girls. They were all smiling widely, their arms around each other, and Harry knew that they had been great friends. He smiled wistfully, missing his own friends.

He hadn’t had any letters from them yet, though it was early days yet.

He flipped the page and saw photos of his parents wedding. He felt tears prick his eyes as he saw his mother’s beaming smile, and his father’s happy grin. He barely even noticed the people surrounding them, more concerned with the happiness of his parents that was shown in the photo.

He turned the page again and saw a picture of his mother during her pregnancy. She was resting her head on James’ shoulder, and James’ hand was resting on the swell of Lily’s stomach, their smiles showing complete contentment.

He flipped the page again, and then he felt his heart almost stop completely.

James and Lily in a hospital, James holding a tiny boy-child with a mop of unruly black hair. That wasn’t what surprised Harry though. It was his mother, lying on the bed, holding a tiny girl-child with white-blonde hair.

Without thought, he quickly flicked through the rest of the photos, his heart in his throat as he saw page after page of photos of his parents holding him and the blonde girl, their smiles always indulgent, and the two children always within close proximity to each other.

He reached a photo of just the girl by herself, a serious expression on her face, her tongue slightly poking out between her lips, her green eyes sparkling and her head cocked to the side. Her hair was short and blonde, and all she wore in the photo was a diaper. On her left shoulder was a small birthmark.

Harry pulled the collar of his own shirt down to see an identical mark on his right shoulder, in the exact spot that was shown in the photo, just on the opposite shoulder.

This wasn’t making any sense to Harry at all. Everything he’d ever believed had been thrown up into the air the day he’d met Hagrid the year before. He’d discovered the truth about his parents deaths, and about who he truly was, and what he truly was. But no one had ever mentioned a sister with the same green eyes that he had.

He flicked through the pages, desperate to work out what had happened to this girl. Photo after photo showed the two of them growing up, hardly any photos of them without the other. He could see his own happy grin reflected by the tiny girl in the photos.

He came to a picture of a birthday party, the two of them seated behind a massive birthday cake. Harry squinted for a closer look when he saw identical neck-chains being placed on them by their parents. He touched his own chain with the silver lion pendant and realised that the chain around his neck was the very one that was being placed on him by his father in the photo.

The one being placed around the girl had a pendant of a gryphon on it, and he felt his heart constrict though he didn’t quite understand why. A lion and a gryphon. They had been meant for Gryffindor House, but…what had happened to his sister? Had Voldemort killed her, or had she just died at a young age?

He flicked through the pages again until finally the photos only showed himself with his parents. The sparkle had dimmed in his parents eyes, and in his own as well. He looked sadly at his beautiful snowy owl, Hedwig, wishing fervently that his uncle hadn’t thought to lock the owl’s cage to stop Harry from sending messages to his friends.

He had no way to write to Dumbledore or Hagrid to ask for explanations.

He wondered if Hermione knew anything about the subject. His best friend seemed to know far more about him than Harry knew about his own history. It was unsettling at times, but it would have come in handy.

His eyes lit up slightly. He raced back to his hiding spot and retrieved one of the books, Modern Magical History. Hermione had mentioned that he was in that book, so he quickly scanned the index, found the appropriate pages and read hungrily for any information about the mystery child in the photos. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He sighed in frustration and slammed the history book closed. He wouldn’t be able to find out anything until one of his friends wrote to him and the owl remained behind so he could reply.

He just knew that this was going to be a long summer.

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

They emerged in a small flat, shooting out of the fireplace. Buffy stood up and brushed herself off, looking around the room with interest. She’d never seen a muggle living area before and it was slightly fascinating. Was this how Hermione lived, she wondered. She shook the thought away and looked to Rupert for instructions.

Rupert checked his watch and nodded to himself. He walked to the front door and unlocked it.

“Tell me Miss Zabini, what is your favourite colour?” Rupert asked.

Buffy looked at him in confusion. She couldn’t help but wonder if this was a trick question. “Uh…blue,” she replied.

He nodded and took out his wand, aiming it in her direction. She tensed up and forced herself to remember to breathe.

“Accouture,” he said.

Buffy felt the air shift around her, and when she looked down at herself, she was no longer in her robes, but dressed in muggle clothing. She didn’t recognise what they were properly called, but she was in dark denim jeans and a light blue spaghetti-strapped top. Her shoes had become white joggers and a lightweight darker blue jacket completed the ensemble.

Rupert nodded his approval just as there was a quiet knock on his front door, which swung open before Rupert even answered.

Buffy looked on in interest as a girl of her own age with red hair walked inside.

“Afternoon Giles…I’m not early am I?” she asked.

“Right on time as always Willow,” Rupert replied. “Come in, please. I want you to meet a new student of mine. Willow, this is Buffy Zabini. Buffy, meet Willow Rosenberg.”

Buffy flashed the girl a small half-hearted smile and Willow enthusiastically came towards her.

“Nice to meet you Buffy. It’s so neat to meet someone else that Giles is teaching. I mean, he wanted to take me over to England to teach me all this stuff, but…mom wouldn’t let me go, y’know. Jut because England’s so far away and all that. She had a slight case of the wiggins,” Willow rambled.

Buffy had two immediate thoughts about this new girl. First, she was slightly frightened that anyone could be so bubbly while talking about becoming a Death-Eater. And second, that this girl could babble as well as Hermione could.

Buffy mentally hit herself again. She had to stop thinking about Hermione Granger, no matter how much she missed the other girls friendship.

“Uh…what exactly is a ‘wiggins’?” Buffy asked.

Willow’s eyes widened. “Oh…you’re British. I hope I didn’t offend you with the whole ‘not-wanting-to-go-to-England’ thing, cos it’s not that I don’t want to go to England, it’s just that my mom would have something against it. Not that she’s racist or anything…just that it’s…well…far away.”

Buffy couldn’t help but smile. Rupert made a sudden movement and the smile evaporated completely. Willow noticed the sudden change in the girls mood and forced herself to remain quiet.

Due to Buffy’s nervousness, she felt herself beginning to get a little too hot. She quickly took off her jacket, and self-consciously arranged the straps of the singlet top. She wasn’t used to baring this much flesh, but it was too hot in the room.

Willow’s eyes widened.

“Oh wow!” she exclaimed. “You’re a potential!”

Rupert spun quickly and looked to Buffy who noticed Rupert’s sharp focus on her. She paled slightly wondering what Willow had been talking about and whether or not it was a good or bad thing.

Rupert stalked towards her and touched her shoulder, skimming his finger across the birthmark on her left shoulder. Willow hadn’t been wrong. She had the mark of a Potential Slayer. He stepped back quickly as soon as he realised that Buffy was trembling in fear.

“Potential?” Buffy asked, unable to keep her question to herself.

“Yeah, a Potential Slayer. Wow…I thought you were just gonna be a Watcher like I am, but…wow this is so exciting. I’ve never met a Potential before. What’s it like?” Willow asked.

“What’s a Slayer?” Buffy asked.

Willow’s eyes widened in panic and she saw Rupert shake his head in amusement.

“You didn’t know,” Willow rambled. She looked to Giles and met his gaze. “I didn’t know that she didn’t know, I swear. You know that if I’d known she didn’t know, I wouldn’t have said anything, but I didn’t know…y’know?”

Giles chuckled at the convoluted sentence and Buffy’s eyes widened at the sound. He didn’t sound evil or malicious. He sounded amused. And that was not something she’d ever heard from the few Death-Eaters that she’d ever met.

“Willow, calm down, it’s alright,” Giles assured the panicking girl. “I had no idea that Buffy was a Potential until you saw the mark.”

“Mark?” Buffy asked.

“The mark of the Slayer,” Giles explained, pointing to the birthmark on her shoulder.

“And again…Slayer?” Buffy asked.

“Terribly sorry. I keep forgetting you’re only First Year. You don’t learn about Slayers until Third Year…” Rupert trailed off, trying to think of the easiest way to explain to a twelve-year-old potential Slayer who was meant to be a future Death-Eater about who she truly was going to be.

“This world is older than you know,” Rupert began. “Contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons demons walked the Earth. They made it their home…their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality. The way was made for mortal animals, for, for man. All that remains of the old ones are vestiges, certain magicks, certain creatures…”

“You mean like the Dark Lord?” Buffy asked.

Rupert paused and nodded. “In a way, yes. He was corrupted by the Darker Magicks that were left behind. He was corrupted by greed and power, though as far as we are aware, he isn’t necessarily a demon. Now…Willow, if you could explain about Slayers…”

Willow brightened and took a deep breath.

“Into each generation a Slayer is born, one girl in all the world, a Chosen One. She alone will have the strength and skill to hunt the vampires the demons and the forces of darkness,” Willow recited happily. “She is the Slayer.”

“Demons?”

“Like vampires, zombies, werewolves, incubi, succubi, everything you've ever dreaded was under your bed, but told yourself couldn't be by the light of day. They're all real!” Willow explained.

“Yes, I understand that they’re real, but…me? A Slayer? Doesn’t that…doesn’t that completely contradict why my father sent me to stay with you?” Buffy asked Rupert.

Rupert sighed and nodded, removing his glasses and cleaning the lenses with his handkerchief.

“Quite. What you have to understand, Buffy, is…I am not a Death-Eater,” Rupert explained.

Willow and Buffy had identical looks of confusion, but for different reasons. Willow had no clue what a Death-Eater was, and Buffy was trying to work out why her father thought that Rupert was one.

“What? How is that…what’s going on?” Buffy stuttered.

“I had hoped to ease you into this, but…with this new discovery of you being a Potential, it has changed things quite a bit. I was never a Death-Eater, even though I bear the mark,” Rupert explained, rolling up his sleeve to display the Dark Mark at the crook of his left elbow. “I worked for Dumbledore as a spy, gathering information about Voldemort and his whereabouts. None of the Death-Eaters ever discovered the truth, and it was decided that they would never find out.”

“Then…why did you agree to take me in over the summer?” Buffy asked.

“At first I was curious. Why would a Death-Eater’s daughter need instructing in the old-ways if she’d grown up to it? Your father told me you were placed within Gryffindor, and I had hopes that you could be swayed to join the fight against the Death-Eaters,” Rupert said. “Your father mentioned that you’d befriended a muggle-born witch.”

Buffy nodded, her heart aching as she thought of the friends that she’d made the year before. She’d only really had two months of real friendship with the group, and three months with Hermione, but she missed them terribly.

“You want nothing to do with the old-ways do you?” Rupert asked gently.

Buffy felt tears prick her eyes. For eleven years, she hadn’t known any better than to believe what her father said to be the truth. She’d been taught that muggles were beneath her, but she’d never truly understood what a muggle was. She’d gone along with what her father had said, purely because she wanted him to accept her.

“The only reason you even tolerate being taught the old-ways is so your family will accept you, isn’t it?” Rupert continued, his voice soft and gentle.

Buffy nodded and felt a tear slide down her cheek. Willow had no clue what was being said, but she understood one thing about the outcome of the conversation. Buffy was upset, and Willow hated it when people were upset. She stepped towards the shorter blonde girl and pulled her into a hug, Buffy clinging to her tightly and letting the tears flow freely.

Rupert nodded his approval to Willow who just gently stroked the girls hair and waited for Buffy to calm down. Nearly five minutes later, Buffy pulled away with a sheepish grin, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. Rupert clapped his hands together to gain their attention.

“Miss Zabini…I have a proposition for you.”

CHAPTER 15: THE TRUTH

“So, Dumbledore didn’t start the war?”

“Correct.”

“And Dumbledore wasn’t trying to stop the purebloods from being the ruling race, he was trying to stop them from killing off everyone else?”

“Yes.”

“So…Voldemort really is evil?”

“Yes.”

“And the whole Death-Eater thing isn’t something that anyone would want to be unless they’re evil or insane?”

“Essentially.”

“So, basically my entire family is evil?”

“Uh…yes.”

“And you want me to not go back to Hogwarts for the next three years?”

“Yes.”

“And Dumbledore’s okay with me not attending for three years, and then I can just go back?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ll teach me magic.”

“Precisely.”

“And be my Watcher?”

“Yes.”

“And you’ll buy me that new Nimbus Two Thousand and One?”

“Ye – what?!”

Buffy grinned and shook her head. “I was starting to wonder whether you were really listening or not.”

Rupert shook his head, slightly amused. It had taken nearly five hours to get the real truth of the story of Voldemort and the Death-Eaters through to Buffy. She’d been shocked by the amount of things her father had twisted whenever he told her the tale of the war and the aftermath.

His smile quickly left his face and he looked at Buffy with serious eyes.

“You realise you’d essentially be lying to your family for the next few years?” he asked.

Buffy sobered and sighed softly. She nodded and fiddled with her wand before meeting Rupert’s eyes.

“I hate it but…what you’ve just told me about Voldemort and the Death-Eaters…it all makes more sense now. I mean, before I went to Hogwarts, I had no clue what a muggle or a half-blood really was. But…I’ve met them, become friends with them. And…I can’t think of anything worse than them dying, so…so I know that my family isn’t right about this,” Buffy said sadly.

“And you’re prepared to remain here for the next three years to prepare for this? I know it must seem like an awfully long time, but it is imperative that you are taught how to defend yourself against magical and physical attacks. If you’re to work as a spy for Dumbledore, you’ll need to be able to protect yourself against everything,” Giles explained.

Buffy nodded. She may not have liked having to be away from Hogwarts for three years, but she knew that her father would go to any length to see that she was properly trained as a Death-Eater. At least if she was in America with Giles, her father would believe she was being trained to his liking, rather than being trained to fight against him and the Death-Eaters.

“You’ll have to be prepared to convince your family that you believe that they are right,” Rupert explained. “Will you be able to do that?”

“I’ll have to, won’t I?”

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

Ben Z,

Your daughter’s studies are progressing quite well. She seems to be open to learning the old-ways, and seems to be learning the ruthlessness that comes with it. I believe that the only reason she strayed from your teachings was due to that infernal school and its headmaster. I know you are a busy man, and would have no time to home tutor your daughter. Thus, I would like to volunteer my services as a mentor for the girl until she is firmly indoctrinated in the ways of old. I believe that without the influence of her schoolmates, she could become an extremely useful ally. I await your reply.

Rip G.

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

Ripper,

Your suggestion certainly has merit, and if you feel that my daughter truly has what it takes to become a useful ally, then, by all means, you should continue your tutelage. I agree that her problems began after she was enrolled in that school, so your suggestion of not sending her back until she is truly one of us is definitely ideal. Please keep me updated of her progress and her behaviour. She may remain in your custody for however long it takes.

Ben Z.

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

“You’re really staying in Sunnydale?” Willow asked.

Buffy nodded as the two of them walked down Main Street in the early afternoon. The first time that Buffy had gone with Willow on a stroll around the small town, she’d been completely shocked and fascinated by absolutely everything.

Growing up in a wizarding community had left Buffy incredibly sheltered, especially in all things muggle. And Buffy couldn’t help but wonder whether the life that Willow was introducing her to was the sort of life that Hermione Granger led.

“Giles said that there are only a few places in the world where my magic won’t be detected by the Ministry or by…y’know, any of the Death-Eaters,” Buffy explained. “Something about this place being on a hellmouth. So, even if my father decided to actually care about me, he wouldn’t be able to track me down through my magic.”

“That’s really smart,” Willow commented. She was somewhat in awe of Rupert Giles and had made him a personal hero of hers. And, now that she could actually watch a Watcher training a Potential, everything that she’d been learning over the past few months was beginning to make a lot more sense. “But…aren’t you gonna…y’know, miss your friends and stuff?”

Part of the reason that Willow hadn’t wanted to go to England to train to be a Watcher was due to the fact that she didn’t want to leave her best friend. She couldn’t imagine voluntarily leaving her family and friends for three years to live in a foreign country and in a completely different sort of world.

“Truth? The three friends I did make at Hogwarts…I had to stay away from them because of my family,” Buffy explained. “And, when I do go back, I’m still going to have to stay away from them, because as far as my father’s going to be concerned, I’m going to be the ‘proper Death-Eater’s daughter’.”

“But you’ll still miss them?”

Buffy nodded. “Well, of course I’ll miss them. But…no matter what I choose, I’d never be able to be friends with them. If I suddenly went insane and decided I wanted to be a Death-Eater, then I wouldn’t want to be friends with them, and if I go back pretending I really do believe the whole ‘purebloods are superior’ rift, then I still won’t be able to be friends with them. And at least this way, I’m actually helping in the war against Voldemort, and I’m still accepted by my family. Even if I am lying to them. It just seems to be a no-win situation all round.”

Willow nodded sympathetically, though she would never be able to understand exactly what her new friend was going through. It seemed somewhat surreal to the redheaded potential Watcher. She’d only just discovered the world of vampires and demons, and suddenly an entirely new world of witches and wizards had been opened up to her. And Buffy was a part of both worlds, even if she hadn’t been aware of it.

“Three years is a long time though,” Willow said.

Buffy nodded. She’d be fifteen by the time she went back to Hogwarts, and it seemed like an age away.

“At least I’ll have you and Xander to hang with. Though I’m starting to sound like the two of you…it’s giving me the wiggins,” Buffy said, grinning cheekily.

Willow just laughed and the two girls turned into the street Xander lived in, wanting to catch up with the brunette boy who hid his insecurities behind his humour. Willow was slightly surprised, but Buffy and Xander had hit it off famously, and ever since they’d met, the trio had spent every free moment together basking in the freedom of summer. When September hit though, Willow and Xander would be back in school, and Buffy would be getting instructed in the ways of magic by Giles. He’d be helping her keep up with the curriculum set out by Hogwarts, as well as training her as a Slayer, and giving her more practical knowledge in Defence Against the Dark Arts.

Three years…she just hoped that her friends at Hogwarts wouldn’t completely forget her.

CHAPTER 16: THE CHAMBER

(Chamber of Secrets…in a nutshell.)

“Who are you?”

“Dobby sir. Just Dobby. Dobby, the house-elf…”

“Harry Potter must not go back to Hogwarts.”

“Your sons flew that car to Harry’s house and back last night!” shouted Mrs Weasley. “What have you got to say about that eh?”

“Did you really?” said Mr Weasley eagerly. “Did it go alright? I – I mean,” he faltered as sparks flew from Mrs Weasley’s eyes, “that – that was very wrong, boys – very wrong indeed…”

“Well, well, well – Arthur Weasley.”

“Lucius,” replied Mr Weasley, nodding coldly.

“Busy time at the Ministry I hear,” said Mr Malfoy. “All those raids…I hope they’re paying you overtime?”

He reached into Ginny’s cauldron and extracted, from amidst the glossy Lockhart books, a very old, very battered copy of A Beginner’s Guide to Transfiguration.

“Obviously not,” Lucius said. “Dear me, what’s the use of being a disgrace to the name of wizard if they don’t even pay you well for it?”

“We’re going to miss the train,” Ron whispered. “I don’t understand why the gateway’s sealed itself…”

“I think we’d better go and wait by the car,” said Harry. “We’re attracting too much atten-”

“Harry!” said Ron, his eyes gleaming. “The car!”

Hermione sat by herself on the train, wondering where Harry and Ron were. Plus, she was worried about Buffy. She’d seen Blaise and her parents on the platform, but the tiny blonde Gryffindor girl was nowhere to be seen, and Hermione had enough sense not to go up and ask Mr and Mrs Zabini.

She wasn’t all that worried about Harry and Ron. No doubt they’d run into some mischief, as Harry was wont to do. He always seemed to get out of it though, she Hermione wasn’t concerned about the two of them getting expelled for doing something foolish.

An hour before the train was due to arrive at Hogwarts, Hermione was pulled out of her distracted mood by a soft coughing coming from the person standing in the doorway. Blaise Zabini stood before her, looking incredibly uncomfortable.

“Blaise,” Hermione greeted the girl. “Where’s Buffy?”

“She’s not coming back,” Blaise replied softly.

Hermione paled, not liking the idea of never seeing her friend again. “What?”

“Our father sent her to stay with…an associate for the summer. She’s…she’s staying for a while longer,” Blaise explained vaguely.

“How much longer?”

“However long it takes,” Blaise replied.

“To do what?” Hermione asked angrily.

Blaise couldn’t meet Hermione’s eyes. Instead, she turned and walked back to her own compartment, desperately missing her sister. While they’d been separated by the house system the year before, they’d still seen each other every day. Not having Buffy around for the summer had been hard, and even harder would be the next few months or even years without the cheerful blonde girl by her side.

Hermione felt sick at the thought of what Buffy had been doing over the summer break. She, Harry and Ron suspected that Buffy’s parents were Death-Eaters and that Buffy was being taught to become one as well, and the thought that Buffy was being kept away from Hogwarts to continue that training was sickening to Hermione. And yet there was nothing that she could possibly do about it. It hurt, and all she could do was pray to whatever Higher Powers existed that her friend would not be corrupted by the powerful lure of power of and greed.

“At least no one on the Gryffindor team had to buy their way in,” Hermione said pointedly as she looked at the Slytherin team, her eyes meeting Draco’s smug glance as he proudly held the new racing brooms that his father had bought for the entire team. “They got in on pure talent.”

The smug look on Draco’s face flickered a little.

“No one asked for your opinion, you filthy little mudblood!”

“Hermione…you know everything there is to know about what happened with me and Voldemort when I was little, don’t you?” Harry asked.

Hermione looked up, slightly startled. Harry’s past wasn’t something that they generally spoke about.

“Yes…why?”

Harry put his leather-bound photo album down in front of his best friend, open to the page of the photo of the small blonde baby-girl with startlingly green eyes and a birthmark on her left shoulder.

“Then, do you have any clue who this is?” he asked.

Hermione’s eyes widened.

“You didn’t know about her?” Hermione asked. “Oh gosh, Harry…I always thought you knew, but just…well, didn’t want to talk about it.”

“About what?” he asked.

“Your sister…your twin. She was…she was taken by Death-Eaters about a month before You-Know-Who…killed your parents,” Hermione said gently. “She was never found. Everyone assumed that she was killed.”

Harry felt tears prick his eyes. Even though he’d assumed that she’d died, hearing that she’d been killed by Death-Eaters made it somehow worse. He’d heard about the cruelty used by the followers of the Dark Lord, and he didn’t want to imagine what sort of torture his sister had gone through.

“Do you…do you know what her name was?”

“Elizabeth Anne Potter. Your parents used to call her Ellie though.”

Harry breathed in deeply and gently touched one finger to the smiling face of the baby girl in the photo. “Ellie,” he whispered, his voice soft and reverent.

Hermione forced herself not to cry upon hearing the devastated tone of Harry’s voice. She’d honestly never considered asking Harry about his dead sister, thinking it wasn’t a topic to bring up in polite conversation. It would have been too painful, and she was definitely thankful that she’d never brought it up the year before. He hadn’t known, and was only just now discovering that another member of his family had been lost because of Voldemort.

“Come…come to me…let me rip you…let me tear you…let me kill you…”

THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED,

ENEMIES OF THE HEIR BEWARE.

“It’s written in blood,” Hermione observed.

“What’s that thing – hanging underneath?” Ron asked.

“It’s Mrs Norris…it’s Filch’s cat.”

“She’s not dead, Argus. She has been Petrified. But how I cannot say.”

“Your Bludger?” Harry said, his voice rising in anger. “What d’you mean your Bludger? You made that Bludger try and kill me?”

“Not kill you sir, never kill you!” said Dobby, shocked. “Dobby wants to save Harry Potter’s life! Better sent home, grievously injured, than remain here sir! Dobby only wanted Harry Potter hurt enough to be sent home!”

“What does this mean Albus?”

“It means that the Chamber of Secrets is indeed open again.”

“Scared Potter?”

“You wish.”

“Serpensortia!”

The end of his wand exploded. Harry watched, aghast, as a long black snake shot out of it, fell heavily onto the floor between them and raised itself, ready to strike. There were screams as the crowd backed swiftly away, clearing the floor.

“Don’t move Potter,” Snape said lazily, clearly enjoying the sight of Harry standing motionless, eye-to-eye with the angry snake. “I’ll get rid of it.”

“Allow me!” shouted Lockhart. He brandished his wand at the snake and there was a loud bang; the snake, instead of vanishing, flew ten feet into the air and fell back to the floor with a loud smack. Enraged, hissing furiously, it slithered straight towards Justin Finch-Fletchley and raised itself, fangs exposed, poised to strike.

Gharry wasn’t sure what made him do it. He wasn’t even aware of deciding to do it. All he knew was that his legs were carrying him forward as though he was on castors and that he had shouted stupidly at the snake “Leave him!” And miraculously, inexplicably, the snake slumped to the floor, docile as a thick black garden hose, its eyes now on Harry. Harry felt the fear drain out of him. He knew the snake wouldn’t attack anyone now, though how he knew it, he couldn’t have explained.

“But I do know one thing. The last time the Chamber of Secrets was open a mudblood died,” Draco said with great relish. “So I bet it’s a matter of time before one of them’s killed this time. As for me…I hope it’s Granger.”

“It was Hagrid, Ron. Hagrid opened the Chamber of Secrets fifty years ago.”

“There has been another attack. A double attack.”

“Hermione!”

McGonagall held up a small mirror that had been discovered near where Hermione had been found Petrified with a Ravenclaw prefect, Penelope Clearwater.

“I don’t suppose either of you can explain this?”

Both Harry and Ron shook their heads helplessly, staring at the frozen girl lying on the hospital wing bed.

“Dreadful thing, Dumbledore,” said Mr Malfoy lazily, “but the governors feel it’s time for you to step aside. This is an Order of Suspension – you’ll find all twelve signatures on it. I’m afraid we feel you’re losing your touch. How many attacks have there been now? Two more this afternoon, wasn’t it? At this rate, there’ll be no Muggle-borns left at Hogwarts, and we all know what an awful loss that would be to this school.”

“You will find that I will only truly have left this school when none here are loyal to me. You will also find that help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

“Admirable sentiments,” Malfoy said, bowing.

“If anyone wanted ter find out some stuff, all they’d have ter do would be ter follow the spiders. That’d lead ‘em right! That’s all I’m sayin’.”

“Ron – that girl who died. Aragog said she was found in a bathroom. What if she never left the bathroom? What if she’s still there?”

“You don’t think – not Moaning Myrtle?”

“Ron, this is it! This is the answer. The monster in the Chamber is a Basilisk – a giant serpent! That’s why I’ve been hearing that voice all over the place, and nobody else has heard it. It’s because I understand Parseltongue…The Basilisk kills people by looking at them. But no one’s died…because no one looked it in the eye. Colin saw it through his camera. Justin must’ve seen it through Nearly Headless Nick…and Hermione and that Ravenclaw prefect were found with a mirror nest to them. Hermione had just realised the monster was a Basilisk. Pipes…Ron it’s been using the plumbing. I’ve been hearing that voice inside the walls.”

“The entrance to the Chamber of Secrets! What if it’s in a bathroom? What if it’s in-”

“Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom!”

HER SKELETON WILL LIE IN THE CHAMBER FOREVER.

“Who is it? Which student is it?”

“Ginny Weasley.”

Ron gasped and whispered his younger sister’s name, filled with a dread that he’d never felt before in his entire life.

“Ginny! Please don’t be dead. Please wake up.”

“She won’t wake.”

“Tom – Tom Riddle?”

“Haven’t you guessed Harry? Ginny Weasley opened the Chamber of Secrets. She strangled the school roosters and daubed threatening messages on the walls. She set the Serpent of Slytherin on four Mudbloods, and the Squib’s cat.”

“No.”

“How is it that a baby with no extraordinary magical talent managed to defeat the greatest wizard of all time? How did you escape with nothing but a scar, while Lord Voldemort’s powers were destroyed?”

“Why do you care how I escaped? Voldemort was after your time.”

“Voldemort is my past, present and future Harry Potter.”

TOM MARVOLO RIDDLE

I AM LORD VOLDEMORT

“This is what Dumbledore sends his defender? A songbird and an old hat! Do you feel brave Harry Potter? Do you feel safe now?”

The Basilisk lunged again, and this time its aim was true. Harry threw his whole weight behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent’s mouth.

But as the warm blood drenched Harry’s arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as the Basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching to the floor.

Harry slid down the wall. He dripped the fang that was spreading the poison through his body and wrenched it out of his arm. But he knew it was too late. White-hot pain was spreading slowly and steadily from the wound. Even as he dropped the fang and watched his own blood soaking his robes, his vision went foggy. The chamber was dissolving in a whirl of dull colour.

“Phoenix tears…of course…healing powers…I forgot.”

Fawkes soared overhead and something fell into Harry’s lap – the diary.

For a split second, both Harry and Riddle, wand still raised, stared at it. Then, without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along, Harry seized the Basilisk fang on the floor next to him and plunged it straight into the heart of the book.

There was long, dreadful, piercing scream. Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry’s hands, flooding the floors. Riddle was writhing and twisting, screaming and flailing and then…

He had gone.

“You can speak Parseltongue Harry because Lord Voldemort – who is the last remaining descendent of Salazar Slytherin – can speak Parseltongue,” Dumbledore explained calmly. “Unless I’m much mistaken, he transferred some of his own powers to you the night he gave you that scar. Not something he intended to you, I’m sure.”

“Voldemort put a bit of himself in me?”

“It certainly seems so.”

“Your Aunt and Uncle will be proud though won’t they?” said Hermione as they got off the train and joined the crowd thronging towards the enchanted barrier. “When they hear what you did this year?”

“Proud?” said Harry. “Are you mad? All those times I could’ve died and I didn’t manage? They’ll be furious…”

CHAPTER 17: THE TRAINING

“You’re dropping your left shoulder!”

THWACK

“Better…”

CRACK

“Again!”

THUD

“Good…again!”

THUMP

“You’re telegraphing your punches. Again!”

SMACK

“Oof!”

“Oh crap, I am sooo sorry!”

Giles chuckled slightly and lifted himself off the ground with Buffy’s assistance.

“You’ve certainly improved since the last time we sparred.”

“After a month, I’d kind of hope so,” the thirteen-year-old replied.

“Yes, well, considering the Council has no knowledge of the fact that I’m staying here to train a Potential Slayer as well as a future Watcher, it’s difficult for me to remain in Sunnydale full time,” Giles explained.

“And, like I’ve said before, it’s all good Giles,” Buffy replied.

Giles rolled his eyes at the expression. In the year that Buffy had been staying in Sunnydale, she’d picked up the oddest phrases from Willow and Xander. Her accent had become more American than British as well, something that amused Giles to no end.

“Besides, it’s not like Willow doesn’t enjoy the company. Her parents are never home anyway, so…we get along just fine on our own,” Buffy replied.

Giles nodded, still not understanding how the Rosenberg’s could be so inattentive to their child who had the IQ of a genius. It made very little sense, but at least Willow’s parents didn’t question where the blonde British girl had come from, or why Willow seemed to arrive at home four hours after school had finished for the day.

“So, when do you think I’ll be able to go on patrol?” Buffy asked, excitement tinging her voice.

Giles’ eyes widened. “Not anytime soon, I can assure you.”

“What? Come on, I’ve been training for a year!” Buffy replied. “Besides, I’ve staked a vamp before.”

“It fell on your stake!” he reminded her.

“I planned for that to happen!” Buffy argued back.

Giles rolled his eyes, knowing full well that the dusting had been completely accidental.

“Buffy, you’re barely thirteen-years-old. You’re not a Slayer.”

“But I have the Potential,” she replied. “You’re the one who keeps saying that.”

“And I’d like for you to continue to have Potential, so you won’t be going out on patrol anytime soon,” Giles said vehemently.

“I killed a mountain troll when I was eleven for Merlin’s sake,” Buffy continued her argument.

“Adrenaline and a streak of over-protectiveness is not enough to qualify you to patrol nightly,” Giles replied. “And while that was a great feat indeed, I also believe that it was partially a fluke.”

Buffy rolled her eyes, but knew that she wouldn’t win the argument.

“Well, can we at least move on to crossbows or something, cos this whole fighting with staffs thing is getting kind of tired,” Buffy said. “I mean, it’s not like I’m going to be fighting Friar Tuck.”

“You’ve read Robin Hood?” Giles asked, with interest.

Buffy’s nose wrinkled. “No!” she replied indignantly, as though reading was something to be shamed by. “Will rented the movie for us.”

“I should have known.”

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

“Look, I know how a Death-Eater acts, alright?” Buffy said angrily. “I’ve got ages before I have to go back to Hogwarts and pretend to be on the pureblood parade, so why won’t you just let me enjoy being in Sunnydale, and enjoy being relatively normal for the next two years?”

“Buffy, I know that you’re frustrated by this entire situation, believe me, I’ve been there myself,” Giles said gently. “But, you must be prepared to look and act like a future Death-Eater should.”

“Which is what I was doing after Christmas last year,” she reminded him. “I’ve got the whole ‘evil-bitch-monster-of-death’ thing down pretty well Giles, I swear.”

“Except for the fact that you’re going to have to speak ill of muggles and half-bloods, and I don’t think you’re prepared for that,” Giles said.

Buffy paused. That was the truth. She didn’t know if she could speak badly about people she liked. Especially if she had to do it to their faces.

“You managed,” Buffy said softly.

“I was a great deal older than you are, and most of the people that I ridiculed knew that I wasn’t truly a Death-Eater,” Giles explained. “And, no, you can’t tell Hermione and the others that you are truly on their side.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. She’d heard that too many times over the last year. She didn’t understand it, but she supposed that it did actually make sense. She hated it, but she was willing to help in whatever way she could.

She truly respected Giles, and she had to admit that he would have made a terrific father. She’d never noticed it, but her own father was severely lacking in compassion or love of any sort, but until now, she’d never realised it. She’d latched onto Giles and thought of him as a sort of father figure, and she knew that she would do almost anything to make him proud of her.

He wanted her to help Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix, which Giles had explained slightly to her. She wanted to go back to Hogwarts and, in all honesty, the thought of playing spy did seem rather exciting.

She knew that she would be pitting herself against her family, but after spending a year with Giles, Willow and Xander, she knew the true meaning of the word family. And while she hated the thought of lying to Blaise, she couldn’t let her mother or father get away with plotting against the non-magical communities of the world. With any luck, Buffy would be able to convince Blaise to reject the old-ways, and join in against the Death-Eaters.

“I know I can’t tell them Giles,” she replied, whining slightly. “And I won’t. I just…I want to see them all again, but as soon as I do see them, I have to be a complete bitch to them to make them believe that I really believe in the old-ways.”

“Not to mention you’ll have to stop using all that infernal American slang you’ve become so fond of,” Giles teased.

Buffy groaned and rolled her eyes, thankful though that the mood had been lightened. He definitely knew when to take a step back and not let the darkness get too heavy.

CHAPTER 18: THE PRISONER

(Prisoner of Azkaban in one easy chapter…)

“Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board and we can take you anywhere you want to go.”

“The say Sirius Black’s mad, and maybe he is, but he was clever enough to escape from Azkaban, and that’s supposed to be impossible. It’s been three weeks, and no one’s seen hide nor hair of him, and I don’t care what Fudge keeps telling the Daily Prophet, we’re no nearer catching Black then inventing self-spelling wands. The only thing we know for sure is what Black’s after. Black is deranged, and he wants Harry dead.”

“Who d’you reckon he is?” Ron hissed, as they sat down and slid the door shut taking seats furthest away from the window.

“Professor R.J. Lupin,” whispered Hermione.

“How’d you know that?”

“It’s on his case.”

An intense cold swept over them all. Harry felt his own breath catch in his chest. The cold went deeper than his skin. It was inside his chest, it was inside his very heart.

Harry’s eyes rolled up in his head. He couldn’t see. He was drowning in cold. There was a rushing in his ears as though of water. He was being dragged downwards, the roaring growing louder.

And then, from far away, he heard screaming, terrible, terrifying pleading screams. He wants to help whoever it wad, he tried to move his arms, but he couldn’t. A thick white fog was swirling around him, inside him.

“What was that thing?” Harry asked Lupin.

“A Dementor. One of the Dementors of Azkaban.”

“This is very easy,” Malfoy drawled, loud enough for Harry to hear him. “I knew it must have been, if Potter could do it…I bet you’re not dangerous at all, are you?” he said to the Hippogriff. “Are you, you ugly great brute?”

It happened in a flash of steely talons; Malfoy let out a high-pitched scream and the next moment, Hagrid was wrestling Buckbeak back into his collar as he strained to get Malfoy, who lay curled in the grass, blood blossoming over his robes.

“You know that day we fought the Boggart? Why didn’t you let me fight it?” Harry asked.

“I would have thought that was obvious Harry,” Lupin replied, sounding surprised.

“Why?”

“Well, I assumed that if the Boggart faced you, it would assume the shape of Lord Voldemort.”

“I did think of Voldemort first,” Harry said honestly. “But then, I remembered those Dementors.”

Before he had time to think, Harry had taken his eyes off the Snitch and looked down.

At least a hundred Dementors, their hidden aces pointing up at him, were standing below. It was as though freezing water was rising in his chest, cutting at his insides. And then he heard it again…someone was screaming, screaming inside his head. No…two someone’s. A woman…and a tiny little blonde haired girl.

“Mamma!”

“Ellie!”

“Ree!”

“NO!”

And then it changed to just one person screaming.

“Not Harry! Not Harry! Please, not Harry!”

“Stand aside, silly girl…stand aside now…”

“Not Harry, please no. Take me, kill me instead! You’ve…you’ve already taken my daughter!”

“And she is such a delightful child. So beautiful…her screams are like music. And now the boy shall die.”

“Not Harry! Please…have mercy…have mercy….”

Numbing, swirling white mist was filling Harry’s brain…what was he doing? Why was he flying? He needed to help her…she was going to die…she was going to be murdered.

He was falling, falling through the icy mist. A shrill voice was laughing, the woman was screaming, and Harry knew no more.

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”
Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs

Purveyors of Aids to Magical Mischief-Makers

Are proud to present

THE MARAUDER’S MAP.

“Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life,” Remus Lupin explained. “And the worst that has happened to you Harry, is enough to make anyone fall off their broom. You have nothing to feel ashamed of.”

“When they get near me…I can hear Voldemort murdering my mum. I…I can hear my – my sister screaming for me. She sounds so frightened, and I can’t do anything to help her.”

Remus made a sudden motion with his arm, as though he had made to grip Harry’s shoulder, but thought better of it. There was a moment’s silence.

“Part of me wants to hear it,” Harry confessed. “I mean I know nothing about my family, so…it’s just hard, you know.”

“They loved you Harry,” Remus assured him. “I’ve never seen more devoted parents.”

“Everyone tells me that I’m a lot like my dad…that I have mum’s eyes…but no one will tell me about my sister.”

Remus nodded slowly and gestured for Harry to take a seat. “What do you want to know?”

“Anything,” Harry replied. “Everything.”

Remus paused, remembering all the times he’d spent at the Potter house, watching in rapt fascination as the twins had learned to walk and talk. He wished he could remember every single event of their lives, but the years had faded his memories.

“She was…beautiful. She had Lily’s mum’s blonde hair. She was such a little thing, with your mum’s eyes. Your eyes,” Remus said. “Her first word was your name, but she couldn’t pronounce it properly. She never did learn how. She called you-”

“Ree,” Harry finished, his voice barely more than a whisper.

“You remember her?” Remus asked.

“Whenever the Dementors get too close, I hear her cry out ‘Ree’…cry out for mum,” Harry replied. “She sounds so frightened.”

Remus nodded, feeling a knot welling in his chest as he clamped down the urge to cry for the beautiful two-year-old girl who had been taken from her bed so many years ago.

“You were always so close. When she was taken, you were devastated,” Remus said. “Everyday you’d ask ‘where’s Ellie, where’s Ellie?’. She was…she was special.”

Harry fought back the urge to cry. Instead, he reached his hand up to tangle his fingers in the chain with the lion pendant. Remus’ eyes lit up and he smiled, reaching forward to touch his fingers to the pendant.

“You still have this,” Remus said, somewhat surprised.

Harry nodded. “It’s all I really have of my parents.”

Remus laughed softly, remembering the day that Harry had received the pendant. “It was a gift from Ellie actually,” Remus replied. “Your mum and dad wanted you two to give each other gifts. You gave her a pendant with-”

“A gryphon,” Harry said with a grin.

Remus pulled his collar away slightly and retrieved a silver chain with a gryphon pendant on it. He unclasped the necklace and handed it to Harry.

“After your parents…well, after you were sent to the Dursley’s, this necklace was discovered in what was left of the house,” Remus admitted. “James kept it after Ellie was taken. It had been broken in the attack on your house the night your sister was kidnapped.”

Harry stared at it reverently. This necklace had belonged to his sister. It was something that his sister had worn with love and affection, and he fought back tears at the thought of it being ripped from her neck on the night of her kidnapping. He handed the necklace back, not wanting to part with it, but knowing that it unfortunately wasn’t his to keep.

“I saw photos of that birthday, when we got the necklaces,” Harry recalled. “I didn’t realise that was you in the background. Come to think of it, you’re in a lot of the photos.”

“We were best friends, your dad and I,” Remus explained. “Ellie was my god-daughter.”

“And me?” Harry asked curiously.

Remus shook his head. “That went to another friend of your dad’s.”

Realising that he wasn’t going to get any more information from Remus on the subject of a potential godfather, or godmother, he quickly turned the conversation back to his sister.

“Did they ever discover why Voldemort took her?” Harry asked.

Remus shook his head sadly. “Never. Our spies were never able to find any information about her either, no matter how hard they tried. After Voldemort and the Death-Eaters were defeated, and we never found her, it was assumed that she was killed.”

Harry nodded, his eyes closed in a silent prayer for his lost sister. It hurt to hear about her, but his heart ached to know more about his family. It didn’t seem fair that so many people had been hurt by Voldemort, purely because he hated muggle-borns.

“You’d have thought Black and Potter were brothers! Inseparable.”

“Black betrayed them?”

“He did indeed. It was never proven, but most everyone believes that it was Sirius who was one of the Death-Eaters who took young Elizabeth Potter straight from her bed that night. But Black was tired of the double-agent role, he was ready to declare his support openly for You-Know-Who, and he seems to have planned this for the moment of the Potters’ death. But, as we all know, You-Know-Who met his downfall in little Harry Potter. Powers gone, horribly weakened, he fled. And this left Black in a very nasty position indeed. His Master had fallen at the very moment when he, Black, had shown his true colours as a traitor. He had no choice but to run for it.”

“But he didn’t manage to disappear did he? The Ministry of Magic caught up with him the next day!”

“Alas, if only we had. It was not we who found him. It was little Peter Pettigrew – another of the Potters’ friends. Maddened by grief, no doubt, and knowing that Black had been the Potters’ Secret-Keeper, he went after Black himself.”

“Pettigrew died a hero’s death. Eye-witnesses – Muggles, of course, we wiped their memories later – told us how Pettigrew cornered Black. They say he was sobbing ‘Lily and James, Sirius! How could you!’ and then he went for his wand. Well, of course, Black was quicker. Blew Pettigrew to smithereens.”

“What did you go running to McGonagall for?”

“Because I thought – and Professor McGonagall agrees with me – that that broom was probably sent to Harry by Sirius Black!”

“It wasn’t a nightmare!” Ron yelled. “Professor, I woke up and Sirius Black was standing over me, holding a knife!”

“Hagrid lost his case. Buckbeak is going to be executed.”

“It will happen tonight. The dark Lord lies alone and friendless, abandoned by his followed. His servant has been chained these twelve years. Tonight, before midnight, the servant will break free and set out to rejoin his master. The Dark Lord will rise again with his servant’s aid, greater and more terrible than ever before. Tonight…before midnight…the servant…will set out…to rejoin…his master…”

Professor Trelawney’s head fell forwards onto her chest. She made a grunting sort of noise. Then, quite suddenly, her head snapped up again.

“I’m so sorry, dear boy,” she said dreamily. “The heat of the day you know…I drifted off for a moment.”

“Ron, are you okay?”

“Where’s the dog?”

“Not a dog,” Ron moaned. His teeth were gritted with pain. “Harry it’s a trap.”

“What-”

“He’s the dog…he’s an animagus.”

Ron was staring over Harry’s shoulder. Harry wheeled around. With a snap, the man in the shadows closed the door behind them. It was Sirius Black.

“Where is he Sirius?” Lupin asked in a voice that shook with some suppressed emotion.

Black very slowly raised his empty hand and pointed straight at Ron. Mystified, Harry glanced around at Ron, who looked utterly bewildered.

“But then…why hasn’t he shown himself before now? Unless…unless he was the one…unless you switched…without telling me?”

Black nodded and Lupin lowered his wand, walked over to Black and embraced him like a brother.

“I don’t believe it!” Hermione yelled angrily. “I trusted you and all the time you’ve been his friend. Harry, don’t trust him, he’s been helping Black get into the castle, he wants you dead too – he’s a werewolf!”

There was a ringing silence. Everyone’s eyes were now on Lupin who looked remarkably calm, though rather pale.

“Not at all up to your usual standard Hermione,” Lupin said. “Only one out of three I’m afraid. I have not been helping Sirius get into the castle, and I certainly don’t want Harry dead. But I don’t deny that I’m a werewolf.”

“What’s my rat got to do with anything?” Ron asked, holding Scabbers close to him, looking scared.

“That’s not a rat,” croaked Sirius Black suddenly.

“What d’you mean – of course he’s a rat.”

“No he’s not,” Lupin said quietly. “He’s a wizard.”

“An Animagus,” said Black. “By the name Peter Pettigrew.”

“Believe me,” croaked Black, “I never betrayed James and Lily. I would have died before I betrayed them.”

And at long last, Harry believed him. Throat too tight to speak, he nodded.

“No!” Pettigrew had fallen to his knees as though Harry’s nod had been his own death sentence.

CHAPTER 19: THE GOBLET

(Just for experimentations sake…this is the year of the Tournament, but I’m not about to re-write everything that happens at Hogwarts. This year is gonna be set in Sunnydale, but you’ll be kept up-to-date through letters and conversations. Basically cos I re-wrote GoF for House of Black, and I can’t be bothered summarising it like I did with CoS and PoA.)

Albus,

The progress of my latest project is phenomenal to say the least. Her grasp of DADA is excellent, and she has been able to learn the finer points of physical defence as well. We have been concentrating on her behaviour to convince others that she truly believes the old-ways.

I sent her to a muggle acting class, and found that drama lessons greatly helped her with playing the part. It is truly fascinating to watch her switch between her real self, and her persona as a child of a follower. I worry though that when it comes to truly acting the part, her heart will get in the way. For the child of a follower, she is unusually tender-hearted. Especially for a Potential.

For her sake though, I hope that she can put aside her feelings and consider the bigger picture. For a fourteen-year-old, she is surprisingly mature. Let us hope that her training will be of use when she returns to school in a years time.

Faithfully,

RG.

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

Buffy sat on Giles’ sofa, looking over the Daily Prophet article in shock. A Death-Eater attack at the World Cup Quidditch Game. She knew for certain that her family would have been there, and she couldn’t help but wonder whether or not her father had participated in the tormenting of the muggles that the Prophet wrote about. It was disgusting to think of anyone being involved in the events, but she knew that her father had been one of them.

“Who do you think sent up the Dark Mark?” Buffy asked quietly.

Giles shook his head. “I’m not certain. I can tell you that none of them had expected it though. They scattered as soon as they saw it,” Giles replied.

“Something’s coming Giles,” Buffy said. “Something bad.”

“We don’t know that for certain.”

“No…but I can feel it. That Tournament is a bad idea. Especially having Durmstrang there,” Buffy said. “You said it yourself, Karkaroff is a Death-Eater.”

“Karkaroff wouldn’t want Voldemort to return though,” Giles said. “Everyone sees him as a traitor, no matter what he’s now trying to get away with teaching within the school.”

Buffy just shook her head. There was nothing that they could do to cancel the Tri-Wizard Tournament. It had been set up by the Ministry to promote friendship between the three different schools participating. Except, that friendship would be shoved aside as soon as the Tournament truly started and the different schools barracked for their own representatives within the tournament.

“At least they’ll have two months before the other schools get to Hogwarts,” Giles said.

Buffy nodded, conceding the point.

“And I suppose Dumbledore didn’t get to be where he is without having some idea of what’s going on around him,” Buffy admitted.

Giles chuckled slightly at the admission.

“Besides which, Karkaroff is really a bit of a coward,” Giles said. “He tried ratting out several Death-Eaters, but he gave names of people who’d already been caught. Tried to convince the Ministry that he hadn’t been all that terrible really. But, of course, now the Death-Eaters don’t hold him in particularly high regard either. They hate traitors, and Karkaroff certainly was one of those.”

“Then why is he teaching at a school that’s rumoured to actually teach the Dark Arts?” Buffy asked curiously.

“To try and appease the people that he tried to betray. I suppose he was actually somewhat lucky that the people he named had already been caught. If he’d been able to give names of people who had yet to be captured, he would have ended up dead or worse at the hands of Voldemort’s followers,” Giles said.

“Professor Snape will be keeping an eye on him right?” Buffy asked, still worried. “I mean, hardly anyone knows that Snape was really a spy, so…Karkaroff would still think that Snape is on Voldemort’s side.”

Giles nodded. “Yes, Severus will be keeping an eye on him. Just as I expect, he has been doing for the last few years with all of the Slytherin students.”

“That’s what I don’t get about him. I mean, if he’s not a Death-Eater anymore, why is he showing favourtism to the Slytherin students?” Buffy asked.

“To keep up appearances I suppose,” Giles replied thoughtfully. “And I suppose that if any of the students report Snape’s behaviour back to their parents, no one could find fault with him and discover the truth behind Severus’s duplicity.”

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

“Giles?”

“Hmmm?”

“Quick question: hypothetically, if Voldemort did manage to return, and I can actually pull off the whole dutiful-Death-Eater-daughter thing, won’t he be able to tell that I’m lying?” Buffy asked.

Giles nodded. “Yes.”

Buffy just stared at him incredulously. That was his answer? Yes?

Giles laughed slightly at Buffy’s reaction and patted her shoulder absently.

“Next week we’ll begin your training in Occlumency,” he explained. “It enables a witch or wizard to protect their minds from intrusion. It’s something that both Severus and I used so that Voldemort could never read our true thoughts.”

“Oh.” That did explain things, she supposed. She shrugged and went back to her book on the Rise and Fall of the Dark Arts.

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

Giles snorted in disbelief, rolling his eyes and throwing down the latest issue of the Daily Prophet. Buffy reached for it curiously, wondering what had caused such a reaction in the usually unflappable Watcher.

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.

Buffy frowned. She knew that anything Rita Skeeter wrote had to be taken with not just a grain of salt, but with a whole sackful. But, she knew that a lot would have happened in the last two or so years. And Harry and Hermione had been good friends when they were all eleven. Why wouldn’t they start dating?

What Buffy couldn’t work out was why she was so…upset by it all. She swallowed hard, wondering whether or not Hermione even remembered her at all.

Buffy herself thought of Hermione almost daily. In her room, beneath her bed, she had a shoebox full of unsent letters, all to the bushy-haired Gryffindor girl that had been Buffy’s best friend. But that still didn’t explain why she felt…almost betrayed really.

She sighed and pushed the article back towards Giles.

“That Rita Skeeter woman would report anything to get her name in the paper,” Buffy commented.

“And now that Harry is the fourth Tri-Wizard Champion, she seems to be trying to get as much publicity as humanly possible,” Giles added.

“How did Harry get into the Tournament?” Buffy asked curiously.

Giles shook his head. “I doubt even Dumbledore or Harry know the answer to that question. He’s too young to be competing, plus there was already a Hogwarts Champion.”

“I told you something bad was coming,” Buffy said, feeling the familiar feeling of uneasiness rising in her chest. “I don’t believe in coincidences Giles, you know that. Harry was entered into that Tournament by someone…a Death-Eater. I’d bet my right arm on it.”

“I have no doubt that you are correct,” Giles replied. “But Albus is keeping a close eye on the boy. And Alastor Moody won’t let any harm come to Harry while he’s at Hogwarts.”

Buffy nodded, sighing at the helplessness she felt. Ever since learning of the destiny that she would one day step into as a Slayer, she’d been more and more eager to help people. It was the reason she wanted to go on patrol, the reason she wanted to be back at Hogwarts, trying to protect the students from the inevitable attack of the Death-Eaters.

Voldemort was going to return, she could feel it, and she wanted to be there when he was finally defeated once and for all.

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

“So, what are we doing again?” Buffy asked curiously as she sat opposite her Watcher.

“Occlumency,” Giles replied patiently. “It’s the magical defence of the mind against external penetration. It’s an obscure branch of magic, but a highly useful one.”

“So…it stops people from being able to read your mind?” Buffy asked.

“Something like that. Now…Voldemort is a powerful Leglimens,” Giles continued. “Leglimency is the ability to extract feelings and memories from another person’s mind. However, the human mind is a complex and many-layered thing. Those who have mastered Leglimency are able, under certain circumstances, to delve into the minds of their victims and to interpret their findings correctly. Voldemort for example almost always knows when somebody is lying to him. Only those skilled at Occlumency are able to shut down those feelings and memories that contradict the lie, and so can utter falsehoods in his presence without detection.”

“So, that’s how you and Professor Snape managed to get away with spying without being caught,” Buffy deduced.

Giles nodded, thankful that his pupil seemed to have grasped what he’d been trying to explain.

“Your father also has some skill with Leglimency, though nowhere near the talent that Voldemort had with it,” Giles explained.

“So…what you’re basically saying is that Occlumency is a way to…well, compartmentalise your thoughts. So, whoever’s trying to read you can still enter your mind, they just won’t see the truth behind everything in front of it?” Buffy asked.

Giles paused thoughtfully for a moment before finally nodding his agreement. “Indeed. I’d like to begin by seeing how well you resist. I-if I may?”

Buffy nodded and prepared herself, though she wasn’t entirely certain what to expect.

“Leglimens!” Giles swam in front of her eyes, and then vanished; image after image was racing through her mind like a flickering film so vivid it blinded her to her surroundings.

She was eleven again, sitting in a darkened room, lit only by a single candle. Tears were streaming down her face as she shivered from the cold. The door opened and a black-robed figure stepped in and grabbed her by the wrist … she was down by the lake at Hogwarts, on her knees, dry-heaving, and Hermione was rubbing her back soothingly as she sobbed out her anger and betrayal at her parents … she was standing in the girls bathroom, one hand stretched slightly out to keep Hermione behind her as they stared up at a twelve-foot-tall mountain troll … she was sitting by the lake, staring at the stars as Hermione approached.

Buffy didn’t want to see that memory played out again, and she gave a sharp mental shove at the intrusion within her mind. The images had suddenly stopped and she looked up at Giles.

“Did you see everything I saw?” Buffy asked.

“Flashes of it,” Giles replied. “I’m not certain where the troll entered into things.”

Buffy chuckled slightly, grinning at the memory. That was the event that had sealed her friendship with Ron and Harry and had strengthened her friendship with Hermione.

“Halloween of first year,” Buffy explained. “Quirrell let a troll into the school. I uh…well, I killed it.”

Giles looked at her, his eyes wide with shock. “Good lord.”

“Must have been my Potential Slayer side kicking in early,” Buffy mused. “How’d I do with the Occlu-thingie anyway?”

Giles rolled his eyes. He knew that Buffy knew perfectly well what the proper name was. It was a strange habit that she had picked up from Xander, massacring the names of people and items just to get a reaction from people.

“For a first attempt you did rather well. The trick of it is to clear your mind, let go of all emotion,” Giles explained. “Some people are able to delve into your mind without a spell, and without your knowledge, so it is best for you to remain calm at all times. You need to be able to control your emotions, especially anger, fear and hatred, which I assure you, will be at the foreground when you are dealing with Death-Eaters.”

Buffy nodded, taking in his words. She took a deep breath to focus her thoughts and nodded at Giles, who raised his wand at her once more. “Leglimens!”

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

Deprived of love since the tragic demise of his parents and his twin sister, fourteen-year-old Harry Potter thought he had found solace in his steady girlfriend at Hogwarts, Muggle-born Hermione Granger. Little did he know that he would shortly be suffering yet another emotional blow in a life already littered with personal loss.

Miss Granger, a plain but ambitious girl, seems to have a taste for famous wizards that Harry alone cannot satisfy. Since the arrival at Hogwarts of Viktor Krum, Bulgaria Seeker and hero of the last World Quidditch Cup, Miss Granger has been toying with both boys’ affections. Krum, who is openly smitten with the devious Miss Grander has alre4ady invited her to visit him in Bulgaria over the summer holidays, and insists that he has ‘never felt this way about any other girl.’

However, it might not be Miss Granger’s doubtful natural charms which have captured these unfortunate boys’ interests.

‘She’s really ugly’, says Pansy Parkinson, a pretty and vivacious fourth-year student, ‘but she’d be well up to making a Love Potion, she’s quite brainy. I think that’s how she’s doing it.’

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

“I don’t suppose we can get Rita Skeeter fired anytime soon can we?” Buffy asked plaintively. “She’s so full of sh-”

“Buffy!”

“What?! She is!” Buffy insisted. “’Mione would never use a Love Potion on anyone. Besides…she and Harry are just friends.”

Giles narrowed his eyes at his Potential Slayer. “And how would you know that?”

“Because…I just do,” Buffy insisted. “She’s not like that.”

Giles knew for a fact that the young girl would never jeopardise the last two and a half years of work to write to her friend at Hogwarts, so he knew that Buffy hadn’t been owling the girl.

He rolled his eyes and let it drop.

“Has Dumbledore found any leads on who he thinks might have put Harry’s name in for the Tournament?” Buffy asked, trying to find a new topic, while hiding the rising blushing in her cheeks.

Giles shook his head sadly. “Nothing as yet. Karkaroff put up too much of a fuss for it to have been him. And unless it was one of the older Slytherin students, which Dumbledore very much doubts, we still have no leads.”

“At least he’s made it through the tasks so far,” Buffy commented. “And there’s another three months before the Final Task.” She paused for a moment before lowering her voice and continuing, “and only five months until I go back home.”

“Actually…there’s only two and a half months left before you go back,” Giles replied quietly.

Buffy’s head jerked upwards and she stared at him incredulously.

“Pardon?”

“Your father wrote to me last night to request that I bring you back to the estate on June twentieth,” Giles explained. “I was going to tell you tonight.”

“That’s four day before the final task. Something’s going to happen that night,” Buffy said quietly. “I can feel it.”

Giles nodded his agreement. “Dumbledore has arranged for Professors to be patrolling around the edges of the maze for the final task. He’ll be in control of the task the entire time.”

Buffy nodded, still feeling a little wary, but knowing that she could do nothing about whatever was going to happen.

“Two and a half months,” Buffy mused quietly. “I suppose that means I have to get rid of this American accent before I go back.”

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

She was riding on the back of an eagle owl, soaring through the clear sky towards an old, ivy-covered house set high on a hillside. Lower and lower they flew until they reached a dark and broken window in the upper storey of the house, and entered. Now they were flying along a gloomy passageway, to a room at the very end…through the door they went, into a dark room whose windows were boarded up…

Buffy had left the owl’s back…she was watching as it fluttered across the room, into a chair with its back to her…there were two dark shapes on the floor beside the chair, both of them stirring.

One was a huge snake…the other was a man…a short, balding man, a man with watery eyes and a pointed nose…he was wheezing and sobbing on the heart rug.

‘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.’

‘My Lord!’ gasped the man on the floor. ‘My Lord, I am…I am so pleased…and so sorry…’

‘Now, Wormtail,’ said the cold voice, ‘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 from the depths of the chair. It was pointing at Wormtail. ‘Crucio,’ said the cold voice.

Wormtail screamed, screamed as though every nerve in his body was on fire, the screaming filled Buffy’s ears as a sharp and sudden pain seared inside her mind.

Giles was awoken by the high-pitched screaming of his young charge. He raced up to her room and flung open the door, half-expecting to see some sort of demon trying to kill his Potential Slayer. What he saw instead was Buffy, twisting and turning within the quilts of her bed, sweat drenching her body, her face screwed up in pain, the heel of her palm pressing into her forehead, as though she was trying to use the self-inflicted pain to keep her grounded.

Giles grabbed the quilt covers off the bed and threw them to the floor, grabbing hold of the girl and pulling her into a tight embrace, the sudden movement waking her from the dream.

She struggled for several moments, blinded by panic, before she recognised her surroundings. She buried her face in Giles’ shoulder and allowed him to rock her gently back and forth as she tried to get her breathing under control.

She shivered with the cold, her body cooling down now that she was no longer sweating in fear. Giles reached for the comforter and pulled it up around her, rubbing her arms through the quilt.

“Are you alright?” Giles whispered softly.

“Nightmare. Headache,” she replied, summing up the two main problems.

“Again?”

Buffy nodded, scrunching her eyes closed, trying to forget the blinding pain that had erupted so quickly inside her head.

“Do you think it’s prophetic?” Buffy whispered. “You said Slayers sometimes had dreams of the future.”

“Perhaps,” Giles replied softly.

“It felt real…he used the Cruciatus Curse…”

“You’ve experienced the Cruciatus before, haven’t you?” Giles asked.

Buffy just nodded, not wanting to think about the three times she’d been subjected to the Cruciatus Curse. It had been beyond pain, and it had made her extremely willing to comply with any and all demands made by Lucius and Dominique.

Giles scowled and tightened his grip on the young girl that he’d come to regard as a daughter.

“It felt so real,” she whispered. “But…whoever it was that it hit…they were…evil. His name was Wormtail.”

Giles’ scowl deepened.

“Peter Pettigrew,” Giles said coldly.

Buffy pulled back slightly, the iciness in Giles’ voice startling her slightly.

“The one who betrayed the Potters?” Buffy asked.

Giles nodded. “He was the one who betrayed them…it was confirmed that he’s still alive. And I would wager that he is in Voldemort’s employ once more.”

“It’s coming soon Giles…I know it.”

“And we’ll be ready for it.”

“And if we aren’t?” Buffy asked quietly.

Giles hesitated, but looked away, unable to meet Buffy’s gaze in the darkness. If they weren’t ready…it would be the end of the world.

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

“I can’t believe that you’re leaving tomorrow,” Willow said sadly. “I mean, I knew you were only going to be here for three years, but…it just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long.”

Buffy nodded her agreement. She was torn between wanting to stay in Sunnydale with Willow and Xander, and wanting to go back to Hogwarts. While she desperately wanted to see Hermione again (and Blaise of course…seeing Harry, Ron and Draco wouldn’t hurt either) she didn’t want to really go back and not be able to tell the others the truth about herself.

She would step into the role she’d perfected over the last few years as the perfect daughter of a loyal Death-Eater. She was confident that she could pull it off. The muggle drama lessons that Giles had encouraged her to take had helped her to distance herself from what she would be doing and saying and what she truly thought. It would be easier to remain true to her training as a Slayer and as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix. Her role as a Death-Eaters daughter was nothing more than an act. A character piece. The femme fatale as the muggle drama teacher always called it.

Apparently, no one under the age of eighteen was allowed to join the Order, so she was incredibly privileged to even be in on the secret that it was still in operation, even though the Death-Eaters technically were no longer a threat, according to the Ministry of Magic.

“It went quickly,” Buffy agreed, no longer allowing the American accent that had tinged her voice show through. She’d trained herself back to her proper British accent over the last few months, knowing that her father had no clue where she was actually being taught the ‘old-ways’.

“You won’t forget us will you?” Xander asked sadly.

Buffy shook her head, smiling a little. “How could I? You two have been my cornerstone here, and I won’t ever forget what you did for me. Both of you.”

Willow launched herself at the Potential Slayer, hugging her tightly. Xander stepped forward and engulfed the two girls within his arms, the trio holding onto each other and trying to contain their tears.

“You’ll keep in touch won’t you?” Willow asked.

Buffy nodded and gently wiped the tear that was trailing down Willow’s cheek away, swiping at it with her thumb. “I’ll write to you whenever I can, I swear it.”

“Stay safe Buff,” Xander said. He may not have been entirely in the loop about the wizarding world, or about Slayers and Watchers, but he knew that what Willow and Buffy were learning about was incredibly serious and very dangerous. And while it irked him that neither girl had informed him of what they were truly up to, he knew that asking questions only put the girls in danger of some sort, and he would rather die than ever put his best friends in danger.

Buffy gave them a final shaky smile, before turning and walking away from them, praying to whatever Higher Power existed that she would see them again one day. She didn’t let her hopes rise too high though.

CHAPTER 20: THE CEREMONY

Buffy stood quietly taking in the sights of her childhood bedroom. Everything within it felt foreign, as though it belonged to a stranger. In some ways, it did. While the belongings may have been hers, she had changed so much since she’d last been within her old bedroom.

There was a soft knocking at her bedroom door, and she breathed in deeply, trying to focus her thoughts and her emotions as Giles had taught her to, through Occlumency, and through meditation techniques. “Yes?”

The door opened, and Buffy’s heart caught in her throat. She fought to bite back a smile as she saw her mother enter the room, looking as beautiful as Buffy remembered her to be.

Belinda stepped forward, looking her daughter up and down, trying to take in all the changes that her youngest girl had gone through. She had grown and matured since Belinda had last seen her, and even though Belinda knew that Buffy wasn’t actually hers, she had raised the girl for ten years. Even though Ben may not have wanted her to care for Buffy, she had come to do so anyway.

“Oh, my sweet Buffy,” Belinda whispered, pulling Buffy into a hug.

Buffy felt tears prick at her eyes, and she returned the hug gently. “It’s just Beth now, mother,” Buffy said softly.

Belinda was surprised by the formal way her daughter spoke. Her accent was refined, her manner of speaking was slow and deliberate. Her daughter sounded eerily like Ben, and that was considerably disturbing. “Beth,” Belinda repeated, remembering a time when the young girl in front of her had proudly stated that her name was Ellie. How different would this child’s life have been had Ben not found her during the last of the raids on the headquarters of the Death-Eaters so many years ago. How different would Buffy have been if she’d stayed as Ellie and grown up with her true parents.

“Have you missed me mother?” Buffy asked, knowing she shouldn’t have asked, but unable to help herself. She had always loved her family, and even though she had spent the last three years learning how to manipulate them, she still wanted to know that she had been missed.

Belinda smiled softly and nodded, touching Buffy’s cheek with motherly affection. “More than you can imagine.”

In the doorway, Ben Zabini cleared his throat, and Buffy stepped away from Belinda, straightening her posture and raising her eyes to meet her fathers.

“I’d like a word with you Beth, if you don’t mind,” Ben stated, though it was clearly not a request.

Buffy nodded. “As you wish father.”

-

Below the calm exterior, Buffy was a bundle of nervousness. She was panicking, wondering if she could pull this whole thing off. She’d been preparing for this day for three years, and somehow, the day had come far too soon. She took deep and even breaths and forced herself to remain calm and focused, remembering her Occlumency lessons, knowing that if she made it through this first meeting with her father, things would only get better from there.

“How have you been?” Ben asked, though by his tone of voice, Buffy knew it was a question of formality rather than one of actual interest.

“Very well, thank you. Mr Giles sends his regards,” Buffy replied steadily.

“And how is Mr Giles?” Ben asked, getting straight to the point of the conversation.

“In excellent health, I believe,” Buffy replied.

“And you found his tutelage helpful?”

It was at that moment that Buffy just knew her father had begun to gently probe the surface of her mind. With practiced ease, she directed her father to the thoughts she could allow him to see, and clamped down on the feelings of anger, hatred, and slight guilt for lying to the man who had raised her.

“Certainly father,” Buffy replied. “He’s a wonderful teacher.”

That was the other trick of the trade that Giles had taught her. Answer the question with the fewest amount of words. The less you lie, the less likely you are to be caught out.

“Mr Giles said that there was nothing more that he could teach you about the true wizarding world,” Ben said. “What I wish to know is how loyal you truly are. Barely four months at Hogwarts, and you’d betrayed your heritage. I would hate for that to happen again.”

“I’d like to apologise for my behaviour. I was young, foolish. I am sorry for shaming you, father,” Buffy replied. “I assure you sir, it won’t happen again.”

Ben nodded and stepped towards his daughter, placing a hand on her shoulder and smiling in a way that sent chills down her spine.

“I’m glad to hear that. Of course, you’ll understand that you won’t be returning to Hogwarts until the new school year begins.”

Buffy nodded, having expected as much.

“These next few days will be…life-changing, I’m certain,” Ben said cryptically. “We have to be prepared for anything.”

“Then the rumours are true?” Buffy asked, being certain not to show emotion with the question. “Mr Giles mentioned that things were looking up for the true followers.”

Ben regarded his daughter carefully, searching her face and the top layers of her mind for a hint of anything to make her show her true colours. He could find nothing and he smiled inwardly. His lord would be pleased with him. He’d fashioned the perfect Death-Eater out of the daughter of James and Lily Potter. It was the very thing that Lord Voldemort had wanted, and he would be honoured above all others. Sending her away to be trained with no outside influences had been one of his better choices. His daughter had lost her softness, and her love of muggles and half-bloods.

“Oh yes Beth…things are definitely looking up.”

-

She knew something was coming, though she didn’t know what. She’d tried sending an owl to Giles, but she’d been interrupted by her father while she was writing it, and she’d had to magically erase everything she’d written. She hadn’t had another chance to contact her mentor about her suspicions either.

She wasn’t even sure what was about to happen, but her stomach was twisted into knots of nervousness. On the day of the final task, she heard her father speaking in muted tones with someone in his office.

“Tonight?” her father asked quietly. “Everything is set?”

“We just need the final ingredients,” the voice replied, sounding quiet and very nervous.

“And our friend within Hogwarts has everything in place?” Ben asked.

“He sent an owl confirming it just now,” the voice replied.

“Excellent,” her father said slowly, his voice cold and calculating.

“And your…uh –daughter?” the voice enquired. “She is ready to take her place?”

Ben chuckled softly. “Trust me old friend, she has been well taught. Our lord will be extremely pleased with us.”

The door opened, and Buffy quickly ducked down the hallway to ensure her father and his quest didn’t see her. She peeked around the corner just in time to see the visitor step out of her father’s office. He was a short man, balding with a rather pinched face. He resembled a rat of some kind, and Buffy could barely contain her gasp of shock. She’d seen him before. In her dream, not three months ago. She’d dreamt of him being tortured by the Cruciatus Curse. Wormtail, he’d been called. The man named Peter Pettigrew, the one who had betrayed the Potter family.

She quickly raced back to her room, whistling for her owl to come to the window, as she scribbled a quick note to Giles and one to Dumbledore as well. She waited several minutes, with no sign of Samson, the owl. She called again, but nothing happened.

“Oh, Beth, if you’re trying to send your sister a note, I’ve already sent Samson on an errand,” came the casual voice of her father from the doorway. Buffy forced herself to remain calm, and quietly charmed both notes to look like a long letter to her sister.

“Oh,” Buffy replied calmly as she turned to face her father. “I was wondering where he’d got to. It’s been a while since I’ve written to Blaise, I just wanted to send her a quick note.”

“You’ll just have to wait until tomorrow I suppose,” Ben said.

Buffy nodded and put the parchment back on the desk.

“Oh, by the way, we’ll be going out tonight. You may want to dress warmly,” Ben cautioned.

Buffy didn’t even have time to question where they were going before Ben had already turned and walked away. Buffy cursed beneath her breath, wondering how on earth she was meant to warn her Watcher and the Headmaster of Hogwarts if she didn’t have an owl.

The only other method of communication was through the floo network, and there would be no way that she’d be able to talk to anyone through that with her father within the house. She sighed, close to tears.

From what she’d heard of the conversation between her father and Wormtail, the Dark Lord was going to rise again. And there wasn’t anything she could do about it.

-

Buffy was desperately wishing she knew how to apparate, or how to create a portkey. Seeing as she didn’t know how to do either, she was stuck in a dark graveyard that was giving her the creeps. She’d been in graveyards before in Sunnydale, but never before had she felt such a feeling of foreboding.

She was watching as Wormtail handled a piece of cloth that looked as though he was cradling a baby. But there was no way that the dark piece of material wasn’t holding something completely evil.

“What’s happening?” Buffy asked quietly.

Ben shook his head, his eyes shining with glee. “Just watch Beth.”

There was suddenly a loud thud, and everything seemed to stop for a moment. Buffy’s eyes widened and she stared in shock at the boy who she hadn’t seen since the end of her First Year at Hogwarts. His gaze however, was stuck on Wormtail who was holding the cloth in his arms. Next to Harry was a tall blonde haired boy who was looking terrified.

Harry suddenly fell to his knees, his scar exploding with pain, and Buffy felt a piercing migraine going through her mind, the likes she’d never felt before. She managed to remain standing, trying to make sure her father’s attention remained on Pettigrew and whatever was happening in front of them. The pain, however, was worse than any of the other times she’d felt these mind-numbing, skull-crushing blindingly painful headaches.

There was suddenly a cold high-pitched voice in the air. “Kill the spare.”

It happened so suddenly, that neither Harry nor Buffy had a chance to react. A green light shot out from Peter Pettigrew’s wand, aimed at the tall blonde boy. Within half a second, the boy had been thrown back several feet, and lay spread-eagled, his face gone pale, and his eyes open, looking shocked.

Buffy swallowed hard, and forced herself to remain calm. She hadn’t spent three years in America learning how to play a part, just to throw it all away at her first true test. There was nothing she could do for the blonde boy at all. He was dead, and nothing was going to bring him back.

Pettigrew approached Harry as ropes appeared out of nowhere, tying the black-haired boy to a gravestone that read TOM RIDDLE. “You!” Harry accused.

Pettigrew said nothing, and Buffy felt a sudden pressure on her wrist. She looked up at her father, clearing her mind completely of her disgust, her fear, her absolute horror of what was happening.

“Stay here,” Ben said sharply.

“Yes father,” Buffy replied softly.

Ben nodded, happy with her compliance. He stalked towards Pettigrew, and joined him near a cauldron that was bubbling.

Buffy couldn’t help but stare at Harry, who was struggling with the ropes that were keeping him attached to the headstone. Buffy inched her way closer to him, keeping one eye on her father and Pettigrew. She couldn’t afford to give herself away, and yet she couldn’t just stand by and watch as her father and Peter Pettigrew murdered Harry in front of her. He’d been a true friend to her in those first months at Hogwarts, and she couldn’t forget it.

“We’re ready,” Buffy heard her father whisper.

Pettigrew nodded, and then the cold high-pitched voice spoke again, sending shovers down Buffy’s spine. “Hurry.”

Pettigrew removed the small scaly creature from the cloth that he’d been holding earlier and placed it carefully into the cauldron. Harry was silently praying for it to drown, and Buffy knew that whatever was about to happen was definitely not a good thing. She slowly reached into her robes and took out her wand, aiming it at Harry.

“Ademptio,” she muttered softly.

The ropes that were binding Harry loosened, and the Boy-Who-Lived looked around, completely startled. Buffy tucked her wand up her sleeve and continued looking at her father, completely calmly, not allowing Harry to see who it was that had freed him from his bonds.

Harry reached up and ripped out the material that had been roughly shoved into his mouth to keep him quiet. He shakily got to his legs, pulling out his wand.

“Bone of the father, unknowingly given, you will renew your son.”

The surface of the grave at Harry’s feet cracked, and Harry jumped back, startled, not sure what was happening. A fine trickle of dust rose into the air and settled in the cauldron.

Unfortunately for Harry, the movement alerted the two Death-Eaters of his sudden state of freedom. Ben lunged towards Harry, grabbing the boy and holding his arms in a tight arm-lock. Ben grabbed Harry’s wand and threw it to the ground, just out of Harry’s leg reach.

“Thought you could fool us, did you boy?” Ben whispered softly in Harry’s ear.

Buffy swallowed hard, terrified that her father would kill Harry. But, whatever was happening, there must have been a reason that Harry had been brought here. They wouldn’t kill him just yet, she was certain of it. But she just didn’t know how to ensure that Harry would get out of there alive.

Ben brought his own wand up to Harry’s chin, and Harry instinctively tried to pull his head away. He knew how dangerous it was to have a wand pointed at him, and he knew that there was probably no way he was going to get out of this alive. But there was no way that he was going to go down without a fight.

By the cauldron, Pettigrew whimpered pathetically, hesitating over the next portion of the spell. Ben scoffed in disgust.

“Get on with it Pettigrew,” Ben scolded.

Pettigrew whimpered again, but breathed in deeply to try and calm himself. He pulled a long, thin shining silver dagger from inside his robes.

“Flesh - of the servant - w-willing given - you will – revive - your master,” Pettigrew managed to sob out.

With that, Pettigrew stretched out his right hand over the cauldron. He gripped the dagger very tightly in his left hand and then swung it upwards.

Both Harry and Buffy realised what Wormtail was about to do a second before it happened. They both closed their eyes as tightly as possible and looked to the left, trying to block out the image forming in the darkness of their minds of what Pettigrew had just done. And while they may not have seen it, the high-pitched screaming affirmed what Pettigrew had just done. There was a sickening splash, and the potion turned a burning red.

“B-blood of the enemy…forcibly taken…you will…resurrect your foe.”

Pettigrew stumbled towards Harry, who struggled once more against Ben’s tight grasp. Pettigrew used the silver dagger to cut into the crook of Harry’s right arm. Pettigrew fumbled in his pocket for a glass phial, and held it at Harry’s cut, so that a dribble of blood fell into it. Pettigrew didn’t go straight to the cauldron though. He walked towards Buffy, who looked at him, and then towards her father, completely confused.

“Hold out your arm Beth,” Ben instructed.

Buffy couldn’t afford to hesitate, even through her horror. She held out her left hand, and Pettigrew cut a line diagonally across her palm. Reflexively, Buffy’s hand shot out to hit her tormentor, and she made a grab for the phial, trying to dislodge it from Pettigrew’s grip.

“Beth!” Ben yelled.

“Sorry father,” Buffy replied softly. “Just a reflex.”

“Well, learn to curb them,” Ben said, his voice soft and threatening.

Pettigrew had only split a miniscule amount of the blood from the phial, and he made his way back to the cauldron. Buffy warred with herself, trying to work out just what to do. She was torn between stopping Pettigrew and giving herself away. She knew what needed to be done though.

“Incendio,” she whispered, keeping her wand hidden beneath her sleeve, but cautiously aiming it at Pettigrew’s robes.

A small flame suddenly appeared, and Pettigrew jumped away from the cauldron, believing the flames to have come from the fire burning beneath the boiling pot. He stamped them out quickly, and Buffy frowned.

“Nusquam esse,” she whispered, and the flames beneath the cauldron flickered out, the liquid in the cauldron ceasing to bubble, as it was supposed to do.

“The fire,” Ben yelled angrily. “Pettigrew, stoke the fire.”

Pettigrew whimpered, but moved forward to relight the flames.

“Hesito,” Buffy whispered, aiming at Pettigrew.

The rat-like man hesitated, his wand drawn, but unsure of what he had been about to do. The liquid gurgled dangerously. It wasn’t supposed to be making that sound, both Death-Eaters knew that much.

“Pettigrew!” Ben yelled. “The fire!”

Buffy had only one other spell that she could think of. It would be dangerous to try, especially seeing as she knew that her father would be immediately suspicious. Schooling her features into an unreadable mask, she aimed her wand at the cauldron, and breathed in deeply.

“Cado,” she whispered.

The cauldron immediately toppled over, the liquid spilling over the ground. Pettigrew jumped back from the boiling liquid tat the same moment that Harry was thrown to the ground by Ben, who rushed forward to see what had gone wrong.

Buffy remained where she was, looking on with a worried expression, as though she genuinely was upset by the fact that the ritual had failed.

Ben glanced up at his daughter, but was reassured by the worried look on her face. It wasn’t a look of guilt; it was a look of genuine concern that the ritual had failed.

Harry got to his feet, standing shakily, casting a wary glance at the contents of the spilled cauldron. He wanted nothing more than to run, but he knew he needed to know if the ritual had failed. He wasn’t entirely sure what exactly the ritual meant, but he had a hunch about what it was for. They were trying to bring Lord Voldemort back, and he needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt whether or not it had failed.

Which led the other question. How exactly had the cauldron suddenly tipped over? Pettigrew and Ben seemed to be confused by the sudden change, so it obviously wasn’t meant to have happened. He glanced towards Buffy and tried to catch her eyes.

What Harry couldn’t work out was who the girl actually was. She seemed somewhat familiar, but with everything going on, his mind couldn’t quite process where he’d seen her before. He had a feeling that she’d been the one to free him from the ropes, and he’d bet a galleon that she’d been the one to tip the cauldron over. He couldn’t prove it though, and her bright green eyes gave nothing away.

His attention was suddenly caught by a small movement coming from the scaly creature that Pettigrew had placed in the cauldron earlier. It twitched, and he backed up, accidentally stepping on his wand. He could have hit himself for not picking it up earlier. He bent down and felt comforted by the familiar piece of wood in his hand.

The creature continued to twitch, and all Harry and Buffy could do was stare at it in shock. It was almost a grotesque mocking of a budding flower growing to full bloom, and both teenagers were horrified as the scaly creature slowly formed into a tall, skeletally thin man, rising to stand majestically in the shadows.

Pettigrew scrambled forward, and retrieved the black cloth that he had been carrying the creature in earlier, and draped it over the skeletal figure. The thin man stepped out of the shadows, staring at Harry, and Harry stared back at the face that had haunted his dreams for the last three years. Whiter than a 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 21: THE DISCOVERY

Harry took a step back but froze at a soft hissing sound that came from behind him. He chanced a look and saw a large twelve-foot long snake circling him dangerously, its tongue flickering as it hissed menacingly. He froze, and looked back at Voldemort, knowing that his chances of escape were limited.

Voldemort took a moment to take stock of his new body, staring in wonder at his long spider-like fingers. He turned to look at the two Death-Eaters, his bright red eyes boring into those of his followers.

“Wormtail…Zabini…I would never have imagined you two to be the ones to restore me,” Voldemort said, his voice cold and chilling.

“I have fulfilled your bidding my lord,” Ben replied softly, bowing submissively. “I have ever been your servant, completing your noble work.”

Voldemort looked at him with vague interest, and Ben straightened. He looked towards Buffy who stared back calmly, keeping her horror, disgust and anger deeply buried. Ben motioned for her to come closer, and she managed to take her place at his side.

Voldemort looked her over impassively, not certain what Ben had meant. His eyes suddenly widened, and his bony hands reached out to stroke Buffy’s cheeks. He jerked her chin upwards, looking her in the eyes.

“Yes,” he drawled out slowly. “Yes, I see. This is most pleasing Zabini. You will be rewarded for this, I assure you.”

Ben bowed once more to hide the smile on his face. “Thank you for honouring me, my lord,” he said quietly.

Buffy remained calm, keeping her eyes downcast, knowing that if she looked at the newly risen Dark Lord, she wouldn’t be able to keep the hate away. She could feel him gently probing her mind, and she concentrated on the memories of the lessons that had been given to her by Lucius Malfoy and Dominique Quirrell.

Seemingly satisfied, Voldemort dropped his hand and looked towards Pettigrew. “Hold out your arm,” he ordered.

“Oh master, thank you,” Pettigrew whimpered, extending the bleeding stump, but Voldemort just laughed. “The other arm Wormtail.”

Voldemort bent down and pulled out Pettigrew’s left arm; he forced the sleeve of Pettigrew’s robes up past his elbow to reveal the vivid red tattoo on his arm. Voldemort examined it carefully, ignoring Pettigrew’s uncontrollable weeping.

“It is back, 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.

Harry’s forehead exploded in pain once more, and Buffy felt a piercing migraine pass through her brain. She flinched, but remained standing, unlike Harry who fell to his knees once more.

Moments later, over a dozen Death-Eaters began apparating into the area, looking at Lord Voldemort in shocked disbelief. Several of them fell to their knees in front of the skeletal man, and then began forming a circle around where Harry was struggling to get to his feet, the twelve foot long snake still circling him, keeping him in place.

Buffy stood completely still, taking in the scene before her. She managed to hold back a gasp as she recognised Giles among the gathered group. Even with his cloak and white mask, she still recognised him by the ring on his pinkie finger. He looked directly at her, and nodded almost imperceptibly. She returned the gesture, and listened as Voldemort began explaining exactly what had happened, and how he had been restored by his faithful servants, and how another of his followers had been at Hogwarts manipulating things to ensure that Harry was the first to get the Triwizard Tournament Cup and be portkeyed to the cemetery.

It took nearly twenty minutes for the Dark Lord to explain everything that had happened since he’d been defeated by the two-year-old Harry, and the Death-Eaters listened in rapt attention, as Harry stood in the centre, the snake continuing to circle him, occasionally snapping towards his heels to keep Harry aware of the snake’s presence. Harry was trying to work out an escape route.

Unfortunately for the Boy-Who-Lived, there didn’t seem to be any chance to escape. He was surrounded on all sides, with no opportunity to get past the snake, Nagini.

Voldemort stepped forward into the circle, and Harry took a step back, almost forgetting about the large snake circling him. Voldemort instructed the snake to retreat, causing Nagini to hiss unhappily, but comply with Voldemort’s instructions.

“You have been taught how to duel, Harry Potter?” Voldemort asked.

Buffy was shocked back to attention. She’d only been half listening, but she couldn’t believe what was about to happen. She was beginning to panic, though she wasn’t really all that certain as to why. She knew that she didn’t want her old friend hurt of course, but there was something more to it than that. The thought of Harry being hurt caused her stomach to clench in fear, and her throat to close up in a complete panic. Voldemort hurting Harry was not something she wanted to happen at all.

It wouldn’t be a fair fight at all either. Giles had taught her that Death-Eaters had no honour whatsoever. They would attack in the dead of the night when people were unprepared to defend themselves, so she shouldn’t have been so surprised that Voldemort would duel with Harry to the death when Harry was only fourteen-years-old.

“And now you face me like a man, straight-backed and proud, the way your father died,” Voldemort taunted.

Harry glared at the man who had killed his family. He could feel his hatred welling within him. The man in front of him had taken his entire family away from him, and Harry knew that there was very little he could do to get his revenge.

“And now, we duel!”

Before Harry could even think of a spell to fire, he was hit with the Cruciatus Curse. Buffy struggled to stay in her position away from the circle, wanting nothing more than to run to her old friend and fall to her knees beside him and break the spell. Harry was screaming loudly and the Death-Eaters just watched either impassively, or with maniacal grins of satisfaction on their faces.

Voldemort released the spell and stepped towards Harry, grabbing the boy by his cloaks and hauling him into a standing position. Thin bony fingers gripped Harry’s hand, directing his wand away from Voldemort, and Harry felt a cold shiver of fear run down his spine.

“I once offered you your parents back, do you remember?” Voldemort whispered, for Harry’s ears alone.

Harry said nothing, but he could remember it as though it had happened only the day before instead of three years ago.

“I’ll make you another offer boy,” Voldemort continued. “Join me. Join me, and you and your sister will be reunited.”

That did get Harry’s complete attention. His eyes swung up to look directly into the scarlet eyes of Voldemort. The Dark Lord gave a low and soft chuckle, and the sarcastic sneer that graced Voldemort’s lips was more terrifying than anything that Harry had ever seen before in his life.

Voldemort grabbed Harry’s chin and forced him to look in Buffy’s direction. Buffy caught his eyes, and Harry saw the flash of curiousity in them before they hardened into the unreadable green depths they’d been before.

“She is beautiful, is she not, Potter?” Voldemort whispered. “And she is mine to command. Raised to be loyal to me. If you’ll join me, you could finally have part of your family back.”

“You’re a liar,” Harry said through clenched teeth, though he couldn’t take his eyes from Buffy after what Voldemort had just told him.

“You don’t believe me?” Voldemort asked. “Just look at her eyes, boy. Your mother’s eyes. Your eyes. I remember how beautiful her screams sounded when she was younger, the taste of her blood, the sounds of her wimpering. And now, she’s become the perfect Death-Eater. Wouldn’t your parents be proud?”

Harry pulled back and spat in Voldemort’s face, catching the Dark-Lord off guard, and managing to struggle out of Voldemort’s bony clutches.

“Ellie!” Harry yelled, racing towards his sister, desperate to reach her.

He was cut off by the Death-Eaters, and thrown to the ground at Voldemort’s feet. The Death-Eaters closed ranks around him, and he could no longer see his sister. He struggled to his feet, his wand aimed at Voldemort.

“You won’t join me then?” Voldemort asked mockingly.

Harry gripped his wand tightly, wanting desperately to make another break for his sister, but with the Death-Eaters surrounding him, there was nothing he could do. He couldn’t properly comprehend what he’d just been told. His sister was still alive. She’d been raised by Death-Eaters. She was loyal to Voldemort. It seemed like the best of dreams, but a nightmare at the same time.

Harry tightened his grip on his wand, his eyes hard. As Harry shouted “Expelliarmus!”, Voldemort cried “Avada Kedavra!”

A jet of green light issued from Voldemort’s wand just as a jet of red light blasted from Harry’s. The lights met in mid-air and suddenly Harry felt his wand vibrating as though an electric charge was surging through it. A narrow beam of light, a bright deep gold connected the two wands.

Chaos ensued as both Harry and Voldemort were picked up from the ground and deposited several feet away, outside the circle, a golden cage of bright light creating a dome around them, and then to Harry’s complete and utter shock, Voldemort’s wand began to emit echoing screams of pain, followed by a dense, smoky hand, more shouts, and then something much larger. The ghostly figure of Cedric Diggory. More screams came, and then another body. And old man, followed by Bertha Jorkins.

Harry breathed in deeply as he saw the next shadowed figure, a young woman with long hair emerged and looked at Harry.

“Your father’s coming,” Lily said, her voice taking on an ethereal, distant, and echoing sound. “It will be alright, hold on.”

Harry only had to wait a few more moments until he saw his father emerge from Voldemort’s wand and move closer towards Harry.

“When the connection is broken, we will longer for only moments, but we will give you time. You must get to the Portkey, it will return you to Hogwarts. Do you understand, Harry?” James asked, his voice also distant and echoing.

“What about Ellie?” Harry asked, desperately wanting to look over his shoulder to see where his sister was. He knew he had to keep the connection between the wands though.

Both his parents gave small smiles. “It isn’t her time yet,” Lily replied softly. “There are certain things that each of you must do first.”

“All is not as it seems,” James added. “You must do this Harry. Be ready to run…do it now.”

“NOW!” Harry yelled; he didn’t think he could have held the connection for another moment anyway. He pulled his wand upwards with an almighty wench, and the golden thread broke. The shadowy figures of Voldemort’s victims did not disappear – they were closing in upon Voldemort, shielding Harry from his gaze.

Harry ran as he had never run in his life, knocking two stunned Death-Eaters aside as he passed; ducking and dodging curses, pelting towards Cedric’s body. He jumped over the cup and dived as he heard more wand blasts behind him; stretching out his hand to grab Cedric’s arm. Harry’s hand closed on Cedric’s wrist; one tombstone stood between him and Voldemort, but Cedric was too heavy to carry and the Cup was out of reach,

Harry saw Voldemort’s lips curl into a smile, the Dark Lord’s wand raised.

“Accio!” Harry yelled, pointing his wand at the Triwizard Cup. It flew into the air, and soared towards him. Harry caught the handle, and he heard Voldemort’s screams of fury at the same moment as he felt the jerk behind his navel that meant the Portkey had worked.

Chapter 22: THE DECEPTION

Harry couldn’t help himself. He was pacing around the nearly empty common room, muttering to himself. Ron and Hermione watched him, exchanging worried glances every few moments. They’d never seen their friend so worked up before, and seeing as how their best friend had lived through three attacks from Voldemort, that was saying a lot.

“Harry, are you ever going to tell us?” Hermione asked gently. It had been two days since the third TriWizard Tournament task, and Harry still had yet to tell them what was bothering him.

Harry paused momentarily before continuing to pace. “Voldemort,” he replied succinctly.

Ron shuddered and went to protest at the use of the Dark Lord’s name, but Hermione hit him to keep him quiet.

“He kidnapped my sister,” Harry murmured softly, barely loud enough for his two friends to hear him.

Hermione felt a pang of hurt rush through her in sympathy for Harry. It always hurt to hear Harry talk about his family.

“He wanted to raise her as a Death-Eater,” Harry finished, finally stopping his incessant pacing and coming to a standstill in front of Hermione.

“How do you know that?” Ron asked curiously.

“Because I saw her,” Harry replied.

Ron and Hermione’s jaws both dropped in twin looks of shock.

“You mean…she’s still alive?” Hermione asked quietly.

Harry nodded and began pacing again. “I saw her. She just…she just stood there while Voldemort and I were duelling. She had no clue who I was,” Harry said miserably, his voice cracking slightly.

“Did you tell Professor Dumbledore?” Hermione asked, as always, the voice of reason.

Harry nodded and flopped down into a seat opposite Ron and Hermione.

“He said he’d look into it,” Harry replied. “But…there was something else. When…when my wand connected with Voldemort’s, and it did the uh”-

“Priori Incantatum,” Hermione supplied.

Harry gave her a quick grin and nodded his thanks. “Yeah, that. You know how I saw, uh…echoes of Voldemort’s past spells. Well, they spoke to me. Dad told me to use the Cup as a Portkey. I asked about Ellie, and…my parents told me that it wasn’t her time yet, and that not everything was as it seemed.”

Both Ron and Hermione were silent, contemplating what had their friend so upset. Neither of them could blame Harry for being so perturbed by the new information he had. His sister was alive, but she was working for the other side. That had to be painful to deal with, and confusing because they both knew how desperately Harry wanted his family.

“Do you know what he meant?” Ron asked curiously.

“Not a clue,” Harry replied succinctly.

Silence reigned once more as the trio considered what had just been said. Hermione glanced up at Harry, her eyebrows furrowed in an expression of concentration that her two best friends had seen so often.

“Hang on,” Hermione began slowly, “if she’s been raised in a family of Death-Eaters, then…who raised her? Where has she been for the last twelve years? Harry, did you recognise her at all?”

Harry shook his head sadly. “Not a bit. I didn’t get a very good look at her though. She’s…we have the same eyes. My mother’s eyes.”

Harry stood up once more and resumed pacing the length of the rug in front of the fireplace. He ran his hands through his unkempt hair and sighed in frustration.

“How could this have happened? Surely someone in the Ministry should have worked out where my sister was,” Harry said angrily.

“Unless whoever took her worked for the Ministry,” Ron commented casually.

Hermione and Harry turned to their redheaded best friend, equally bewildered looks on their faces. They turned to each other and grinned, shaking their heads in disbelief at their friend.

“Ron, you’re a genius.”

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

Harry, Ron and Hermione raced towards the Headmaster’s office, the three of them running wildly through the hallways, praying that no Professors emerged from classrooms or offices to reprimand them for breaking school rules. Thankfully, most everyone was making the most of the warm weather outdoors and soaking up the afternoon sun.

The came to a halt outside the statue in front of Dumbledore’s office.

“Uh…lemon drops,” Harry tried. “Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans. Blood Suckers. Uh…cockroach cluster.”

The statue began moving, a set of stairs spiralling upwards to take the trio to the Headmaster’s inner sanctum. They stepped onto the staircase, and shifted their weight to balance themselves on the moving staircase.

“I don’t think we’ll ever understand Professor Dumbledore,” Ron commented as they waited for the stairs to stop moving.

“I don’t think anyone will ever understand him,” Hermione replied.

“Ah, but the allure of a good mystery is never a bad thing Miss Granger,” Dumbledore’s soft and lyrical voice greeted them as the staircase stopped. “In fact, I believe that is what has brought the three of you to my office.”

Harry, Ron and Hermione stepped off the staircase and into the office. Harry stopped dead in his tracks as he spotted a familiar face. Before he could even register his surprise, Dumbledore stepped forward.

“Mr Potter, Miss Granger, Mr Weasley – I presume you three remember Miss Zabini,” Dumbledore said softly. “She’ll be returning to Hogwarts at the beginning of next term. We’re just having a meeting to arrange her classes and ensure that she is up to date in her studies.”

Buffy stood and faced the trio, maintaining her cool and calm exterior. She couldn’t believe how much her friends had changed. Harry and Ron were both taller, and Hermione had lost the chubbiness from her face. She nodded her greeting to the three of them, wondering why they’d come racing into the Headmaster’s office.

“Buffy,” Hermione whispered softly.

“Beth, if you please,” Buffy replied, her voice polite and her demeanour aloof.

Hermione looked taken aback by the tone in Buffy’s voice, but the blonde girl managed to remain calm and remember everything that she’d been training for. She hadn’t taken several years of drama classes for nothing. This was a role that she had perfected, and she wouldn’t reveal herself as a double agent so early in the game.

The only reason she was at Hogwarts was because Dumbledore had arranged with her father for a private meeting so that Buffy could be tested to ensure that she was up to date in her studies. That was the excuse Ben Zabini had been given, and he had no reason to doubt it. In actual fact, Dumbledore wanted Buffy’s account of the night of Voldemort’s rebirth, and any other information that Buffy could provide.

“Beth,” Hermione capitulated. “What happened to you? Where have you been the last three years?”

“My father thought it best if I were home-tutored,” Buffy replied. “Unfortunately, due to the demands of his schedule, he could no longer give me the lessons I required, and he felt it would be better that I return to Hogwarts to continue my studies.”

Harry’s jaw was still hanging in shock. He hadn’t been able to get a good enough look at the girl from the graveyard, but looking at her now, he wondered why he hadn’t recognised her as his old friend. She hadn’t changed all that much in the last three years, except that she was slightly taller, considerably thinner, and she’d lost the softness she’d once had. She had an athlete’s physique, one similar to that of a Quidditch Player.

Looking at her now, he couldn’t understand how he’d never connected in his mind that he and Buffy were related. They had the same eyes and the same nose. Buffy’s features were more of her mothers than her fathers, but the similarities were there. He could have hit himself for being so blind. Hermione looked across at Harry and saw his completely shocked expression. It took her less than a second to connect the dots and realise that Buffy Zabini was in fact Elizabeth Potter.

Hermione had once noticed how similar Buffy’s eyes were to Harry’s, but she’d never drawn the conclusion that they could be related. Most everyone believed that Elizabeth Potter had been killed by the Death-Eaters. No one had ever considered the fact that she was still alive, but trained as a Death-Eater a thought.

“You’re…you’re coming back to Hogwarts?” Harry stuttered out.

Buffy turned her attention to Harry and nodded. She couldn’t help but notice how pale the boy was. Obviously he’d had a better look at her in the graveyard than she’d believed. He recognised her from the other evening, and that was all, or so she believed.

Ron was completely oblivious however.

“Now, Miss Zabini, I believe that will be all for today,” Dumbledore said, turning to look at Buffy.

“Of course sir, thank you for meeting with me,” Buffy replied. She turned to Harry, Ron and Hermione and nodded. “It was good to see you all again. I’m looking forward to next term.”

She was out the door before Harry could protest her leaving. Harry whirled around to look at Dumbledore in shock.

“Do you know who that is?” Harry asked incredulously.

Dumbledore nodded and took a seat behind his desk. “Your sister, yes I know. I only made the connection when you informed me that she’d been present at the revivification ceremony. I’d never thought to connect Beth Zabini to your twin sister, Harry.”

“What?” Ron yelped. “Thatwas your sister?”

Hermione rolled her eyes. “Oh, honestly Ron.”

Harry ignored the two, as was usual and kept his gaze planted firmly on Dumbledore. “You know who she is, and you just let her walk out of here?”

“Miss Zabini has absolutely no idea of who she truly is,” Dumbledore explained. “If we were to just announce this to her now with no proof whatsoever, except for your word on something that Voldemort had told you, she would laugh in your face and walk out.”

“She’s my sister, sir,” Harry reiterated.

Dumbledore put a placating hand in the air, trying to get Harry to remain calm. “I am aware of that Harry, I promise you. But she is in a dangerous enough position as it is.”

“Dangerous?” Hermione asked, picking up on the odd phrasing.

Dumbledore fixed his gaze on Hermione, who stared back at him, managing not to fidget nervously.

“Voldemort obviously wanted something from her. What that is, we’ve never found out. If Voldemort was aware that Miss Zabini knew that she wasn’t actually a Zabini, there is no telling what he would do,” Dumbledore explained. “As it is, Voldemort is known to have a very short fuse, and that is why it is a dangerous position. He may be fascinated with the idea of having a Potter loyal to him, but there is no telling how long that fascination will last. My guess is that he will remain fascinated for as long as she remains loyal.”

“You’re telling me there’s nothing we can do?” Harry asked.

“I’m sorry Harry, I truly am,” Dumbledore replied sadly. “We just have to trust that she will be safe for now.”

Harry was not happy about that suggestion, but he had nothing better to offer. He sighed in frustration and looked to his two friends. The mystery of who his sister had grown up with had been solved, there was no other reason to remain in Dumbledore’s office.

Hermione, however, had more questions in mind.

“Sir…where has she been for the last three years?” Hermione asked.

“Being privately tutored,” Dumbledore replied. “That was true. She is quite talented actually.”

“Tutored by a Death-Eater?” Hermione pressed.

Dumbledore nodded. “Yes.”

“And you don’t see this as a problem?”

“At this moment Miss Granger, there is nothing that we could do to safely bring Miss Zabini on to our side. When the right opportunity presents itself, we will do everything in our power to do so,” Dumbledore assured them.

Hermione sighed and turned to leave, Ron beginning to follow. It was Harry who interrupted them.

“Who exactly do you mean when you say ‘we’?”

Dumbledore paused and rested his chin on his hands, his elbows resting on the desk in front of him. “The Order of the Phoenix.”

Chapter 23: THE ORDER II

Sirius Black and Remus Lupin sat with twin looks of bewilderment on their faces.

“You found her?” Remus asked softly.

Dumbledore nodded, and watched the reactions of Harry and Buffy’s godparents. He’d known that they would be shocked, but he was somewhat surprised by this almost silent reaction.

“Where was she? Why is it only now that we’ve managed to find her?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore sighed softly and stroked his beard, wondering how to best answer the question.

“She was raised in a family of Death-Eaters. With the war against Voldemort, I’m afraid the ministry records of births were somewhat lax during that period. Records were falsified to make it appear that Mrs Belinda Zabini, wife of Benjamin Zabini had had another child, born prematurely. No one even considered contesting it,” Dumbledore explained. “Ben Zabini works within the ministry, and he was able to create records for another daughter, Beth, born on July 31st. And, seeing as how students aren’t accepted to Hogwarts until they are eleven years of age, and seeing as how the Zabini’s are intensely private people, no one ever realised that Beth was not theirs. And as they were never tied to Voldemort, no one would ever have thought that Beth was truly Elizabeth. It is impossible, however, for her to truly belong to the Zabini’s, as if she truly were, she’d have been born five months prematurely”

Remus pushed his chair away from the table and stood up, moving to stare out the nearby window, gazing up at the half-moon, half wishing that it was a full-moon so that he could transform into wolf-form and take out his rage in a far more vocal way.

“And you never made the connection that Beth was actually Elizabeth when she was at Hogwarts?” Remus asked, keeping his back to the Headmaster.

“In all honesty, I’m surprised that Zabini would have allowed Elizabeth to enter Hogwarts at all,” Dumbledore replied. “It was both risky and brilliant. Putting her in plain sight for all to see was a good move. I’d have been more suspicious of hearing of another child who was not attending Hogwarts, than of one of the students. And unfortunate though it is, most people are either unaware of the existence of Elizabeth Potter, or have merely forgotten that she disappeared.”

“And I suppose she was placed into Slytherin,” Sirius spat out bitterly.

Dumbledore chuckled slightly and shook his head. “No. She is a Potter through and through. She was placed into Gryffindor,” he replied.

Both Sirius and Remus paused at that. Remus smiled fondly as he recalled his rambunctious goddaughter. James and Lily had been convinced that the twins would be placed in Gryffindor, and they’d bought the two necklaces, one with a lion, and the other with a gryphon, to symbolise that connection to their heritage.

Remus pulled his collar aside and reverently touched the phoenix pendant that had once belonged to his small goddaughter. He’d only ever taken it off for three reasons. To bathe, on the nights surrounding the full moon, and when he’d shown the pendant to Harry the year before.

“We have to get her away from Zabini,” Sirius declared, standing up, his posture straight, and face set with a determination that hadn’t been there since after Peter Pettigrew had managed to escape that night in the Shrieking Shack. “It may not be too late to reverse everything that she’s been taught.”

Dumbledore hesitated. He’d not told Harry and his Gryffindor cohorts for a reason, but he knew that Sirius and Remus, once they put their minds to something, would go to the ends of the earth to achieve it.

“It isn’t,” Dumbledore said quietly.

Sirius hadn’t been expecting that. He’d been expecting to be told that he needed to stay put, but Dumbledore’s quiet sentence confused him greatly.

“What do you mean Albus?” Remus asked calmly.

“It isn’t too late to reverse what she’s been taught. In fact, it’s already been done,” Dumbledore admitted.

“I’m confused,” Sirius stated succinctly.

Dumbledore sighed, not wanting to reveal how oblivious he’d been to the young Gryffindor student who had been exiled from Hogwarts for three years at his own suggestion.

“After Elizabeth was sorted into Gryffindor, she had problems at home. I haven’t been able to discover exactly what happened, but it is my belief that she spent two weeks in the company of Lucius Malfoy and Dominique Quirrell, being…taught…how to be a proper Death-Eater,” Dumbeldore explained.

Sirius and Remus exchanged a worried glance.

“Why don’t I like the sound of that?” Remus asked.

“Because you are probably correct in thinking that their methods of tutelage are far stricter than any methods used at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore replied. “She returned to us, quiet and sullen, refusing to speak to her friends. Strangely enough, before all of this happened, she’d befriended Harry, even though she’d been told her entire life that Harry was the reason that so many people’s lives had been ruined. She went against everything that she’d been taught purely because she finally met the people that her parents had been slandering. Muggle-borns and half-bloods were nothing like the preconceived notions that the Zabini’s had instilled in her since her disappearance, and she was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, two weeks with Malfoy and Quirrell was enough to scare her into behaving as she’d been taught to. She cut off all ties with her friends, and became something of a recluse.”

“What happened after that?” Remus prompted.

“At the end of the school year, I received a letter from an old acquaintance. Rupert Giles.”

“He was one of our spies, wasn’t he?” Sirius asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “The Death-Eaters had never discovered Rupert’s true loyalties. Zabini had requested that Rupert take over the tutelage of his youngest daughter, and Rupert was intrigued enough to agree. He thought to take her for three months, but he soon discovered that she needed very little persuasion to disbelieve everything her father had ever said. He then discovered…something else.”

Neither Sirius nor Remus particularly liked the pause in Dumbledore’s speech. They knew that nothing good could come of a pause after the Headmaster’s last sentence.

“What did he discover?” Sirius asked, not certain he wanted to know.

Dumbledore cleared his throat slightly, trying to find the right way to explain everything.

“Do you recall the birthmarks on Elizabeth and Harry’s shoulders?” Dumbledore asked.

The two remaining Marauder’s looked at the elderly wizard in complete confusion.

“Harry’s was on his right shoulder,” Sirius replied.

“Ellie’s was on her left,” Remus added.

“A birthmark on her left shoulder. It’s a significant mark; one that we never thought meant anything noteworthy. But a birthmark on the left shoulder of a girl means something extraordinary,” Dumbledore hedged.

Remus’ jaw suddenly dropped. He hadn’t been the Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor for a year for nothing. He’d been qualified to teach in that position.

“The Mark of a Slayer,” Remus whispered.

Sirius went pale. “Ellie’s a Slayer?”

“A Potential Slayer, yes,” Dumbledore replied. “She may never be Called. However, seeing as how her brother seems to play an important role in the wizarding world, I would not be surprised if the fates saw to it that she will become a Slayer eventually.”

“So…Ellie knows she is a Potential Slayer?” Remus asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “She is aware of the possibility of her being Called. It was this discovery that influenced Rupert into believing that she could be persuaded to rebel against her father and the Death-Eaters. After extensive conversations, Rupert had explained the truth about the Death-Eaters, and about the war that was fought. She was…shocked, to say the least, but Rupert managed to get her to agree to a three year training programme. It is considerably shorter than most Potential Slayers would receive, but I had had a feeling that we would only have three years to prepare. It seems I was correct.”

“So, Rupert trained Ellie to be ready to become a Slayer?” Sirius asked.

“Not just a Slayer. Elizabeth was trained as a Slayer, and also trained in the rules and etiquette of the Death-Eaters. Rupert sent her to muggle acting lessons so that she could learn to disassociate herself and her role as a Death-Eater,” Dumbledore explained. “Watching her perform for Harry and his friends, was…intriguing to say the least. Had I not known that she was truly on our side, I’d have been convinced that she was a Death-Eater.”

Sirius and Remus were completely stunned by this new revelation. They’d believed that after hearing that Ellie was still alive, they couldn’t have been more shocked if they’d tried, but obviously they’d been wrong.

“So…Ellie’s a spy for the Order?” Remus asked.

Dumbledore nodded. “Effectively.”

“I’m surprised Ellie agreed to that,” Sirius commented softly. “I couldn’t imagine staying with a family that had purposely manipulated me to believe that I was to become a Death-Eater. I know I couldn’t do it.”

Remus saw the look of guilt flash through Dumbledore’s eyes, and the remaining piece of the puzzle clicked into place in Remus’ mind.

“She has no idea that she isn’t truly Beth Zabini, does she?” Remus asked angrily.

“No,” Dumbledore replied.

Sirius’ eyes flashed with anger. “Are you serious? She doesn’t know that she’s Ellie Potter?”

Dumbledore shook his head. “It would be too dangerous for her to find out now. She has a very tender heart, and discovering this now would only put her in more danger. She is in a precarious position as it is, and she cannot discover the truth yet. If Voldemort were to find out that Elizabeth knew the truth of her parentage, and that she was double-crossing him, he wouldn’t hesitate to have her killed. Or worse.”

“So, just to recap,” Remus began slowly, “Harry knows that Beth is Ellie, but Ellie has no idea that she is related to Harry. Ellie is aware of being a Potential Slayer, and that she is working for the Order, but Harry has no idea that she isn’t truly loyal to Voldemort.”

Dumbledore nodded. “It seems that they each have part of the puzzle, but not all of it. It will only be a matter of team before they piece everything together. Harry has only to slip up once and reveal that they are siblings. And Elizabeth has only to reveal that she is not loyal to Voldemort, and they will eventually work everything out.”

“Why didn’t you tell Harry about Ellie being a spy?” Sirius asked angrily.

“Because he would want to reveal the truth about their connection, and that is something that Ellie cannot know until Voldemort is permanently destroyed,” Remus answered, cutting off Dumbledore’s answer, which had been the same as Remus’.

Sirius fell silent, and tried to think about everything they’d just been told, attempting to look at all the information in a more rational light. It wasn’t working properly. All he wanted was for his godson to be happy, and for that to happen, his family would have to be reunited.

“Is there anyway we can meet her?” Remus asked.

Dumbledore hesitated. “If you did meet her, you wouldn’t be able to reveal to her anything about who she is, or who you are to her.”

Both men hesitated. They couldn’t help but wonder what their reactions to meeting the girl again would be. Remus had been especially devastated by her disappearance. He’d been completely enamoured with the little girl who was his goddaughter. However, the thought of seeing her again, no matter what the circumstances was too good a chance to pass up. The two remaining loyal Marauder’s exchanged a glance.

“Agreed.”

“Then I’ll arrange a meeting the week before the beginning of the new school term. I’ve requested for her to begin a week earlier to catch up on her schoolwork. In truth, she’ll be meeting with Professor Snape and McGonagall.”

“Snape?” Sirius repeated incredulously. “Why would he need to be involved?”

“Because I believe that Zabini will ask Severus to give him updates on his daughter’s behaviour,” Dumbledore replied patiently, wishing that the men would just forgive and forget their school-days behaviour. The grudge was getting old, and quite frankly, very annoying. “I also believe that young Elizabeth will need an ally, and Severus could prove to be quite good for her. By all accounts, she’s as feisty as Lily ever was, if not more, with James’ stubbornness to boot. Plus, Zabini will accept Severus as a good ally for his ‘daughter’.”

Remus and Sirius had almost identical looks of absolute disgust on their faces. They couldn’t believe that the only daughter of James Potter was going to become an ally of Severus Snape’s. It seemed far too surreal for the two men who had once terrorised the Slytherin that Snape had been in his youth. Fate, it seemed, had a funny sense of irony.

Chapter 24: THE SERVANT

Her stomach was churning, but she sat with her back straight and her hands clasped firmly together. She sat between her father and Lucius Malfoy towards the head of the table. The politics of the Death-Eaters demanded that those in high standing of the Dark Lord were seated closest to him. And while Buffy didn’t understand just what it was about her that had Voldemort so fascinated, she was two seats away from the man who’s very name was enough to make people tremble in fear.

She’d also learnt that Voldemort loved the sound of his own voice. He would quite happily talk about his past conquests for hours on end before getting to the point, and those that fidgeted during his speeches found themselves on the end of the Cruciatus Curse. All in all, it was a very good method of getting someone to listen in silence.

The plans at the moment were mostly about their future allies, and the most obvious ways to stay out of plain sight. As far as the Ministry of Magic was concerned, Harry Potter was a liar who had hallucinated the return of the Dark Lord. It worked in Voldemort’s favour, and allowed the Death Eaters to move freely in the outside world, passing information and recruiting old and new members and allies.

Now all they needed to do was discover a way to break the loyal members locked up in Azkaban out so that Voldemort would have more followers. Breaching the walls of Azkaban, however, was proving to be a little harder than they’d originally thought.

As for Buffy, she sat in silence, soaking up the information and memorising every piece she could so that she could relay it all to Dumbledore when she saw him next. There were some things that she was privileged to hear that Snape and Giles weren’t. Voldemort’s inner-circle of his most trusted members consisted of only five people. Malfoy, Zabini, Buffy, Nott and Parkinson. They were the people who heard the most intricate of his plans, and he trusted them implicitly.

Unfortunately for Voldemort, he was so enamoured with the idea of a loyal Potter in his inner-circle, that he never questioned the intelligence of allowing a fifteen year old to sit in on the most private of meetings. The cursory checks he did of his followers minds never showed more than the surface of their thoughts, and a trained leglimens could keep their most private thoughts to themselves.

Now all Buffy had to do was make it through another three weeks before the new term started, and she was back at Hogwarts, and wouldn’t have to sit in on these meetings as often. She was no more than a glorified trophy for Voldemort, but the position was one of power, and she had every intention to use any advantage she could get.

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

In a small room on the second floor of the Dursley household, Harry Potter lay on his stomach, a photo album open in front of him, tears glittering in his eyes as he stared at a baby-photo of his twin sister smiling impishly at the camera. The very thought of Ellie being a servant of Voldemort was enough to make him sick to his stomach, and he had spent more than a few sleepless nights wondering how on earth this could have happened, and how he hadn’t realised that he and Buffy were related.

Things were starting to fall into place though. He’d often wondered about Buffy’s upbringing, especially after they became friends, and even more when she came home after the Christmas in First Year, proclaiming that they could never be friends again. He’d known that her family had some sort of hold over her, but he’d never known how dangerous it was. No wonder her father had been so harsh on her for befriending him. Ben Zabini wouldn’t want his youngest daughter realising the truth about where she really came from.

Harry sighed and flipped the album closed, pushing to his feet and making his way downstairs and outside. He’d found a position beneath the windowsill that let him listen to the evening news so that his aunt and uncle wouldn’t question why he was suddenly so interested in what was going on in the world. Surely if Voldemort attacked a muggle city, it would be on the news, even if it was just described in muggle terms.

For half an hour he sat in the sweltering heat, listening the to news through the open window, breathing a sigh of relief when nothing out of the ordinary was reported. Where the water-skiing canary came into things, he wasn’t certain, but he knew that if Voldemort had been terrorising the muggle community, it would have played a large part in the news.

Life would go on for another day, and Little Whingeing was quiet as ever. For now at least.

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

“Why won’t you talk to me!” Blaise demanded, angrily running after her sister as Buffy made a hasty retreat down the stairs.

Buffy could only ignore her, not wanting to repeat the same fight she and Blaise had been having all summer. This was not the homecoming she’d been expecting. She hadn’t expected Blaise to be asking quite so many questions. Then again, she should have known better. A Zabini never took anything at face value.

Blaise grabbed hold of her younger sister’s arm, stopping Buffy’s exit, and the petite blonde spun around to glare at her sister, trying to yank her arm out of Blaise’s grip. Anger flashed in their eyes, their expressions eerily similar, regardless of the fact that they weren’t truly related.

“Buffy, you can’t just ignore me for the entire summer,” Blaise argued.

“I’ve told you not to call me that,” Buffy said quietly, ice in her voice even as she tried desperately not to give into temptation and take her sister into her confidence.

Blaise stared at the blonde girl, trying desperately to recognise the girl she’d grown up with. She didn’t understand what had happened to the younger girl, and she had a fair idea of where her father kept dragging Buffy to each night, even if the public generally refused to accept that Voldemort was back.

What had Blaise confused though, was why her father was so keen on Buffy becoming a Death-Eater, when he was almost completely over-looking Blaise. For one thing, Blaise was the elder of the two of them, and Ben Zabini had never expected her to choose the life of a Death-Eater until she was of age. Why he expected it of Buffy was a mystery that Blaise had yet to solve.

“I have every right to hate you, you know that,” Blaise said, her voice quiet and full of anger. She leaned in closer, knowing that the household servants where everywhere and reported to her father of every conversation that the two girls had had over the summer. “I’m not giving up on you yet Buffy, I promise you. Father may believe your act, but I know you better than he ever will. You hate him, and everything he stands for.”

Buffy held her breath, waiting for the other show to drop. If Blaise had her worked out, there was no telling what would happen.

“Swear to me that you’ll tell me one day,” Blaise continued. “I don’t give a shit what father thinks. I just want my sister back.”

The two girls stared at each other a moment longer, emerald green staring into chocolate brown as they stood at a stand-off, neither giving an inch.

“Swear to me,” Blaise repeated softly.

It was the barest of nods that communicated a wealth of words. The anger fell from Blaise’s eyes and she turned, walking away and leaving Buffy to stand in the middle of an empty corridor, wondering how it was that her sister could still read her so well.

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

In a dark and filthy house, a meeting was called to order, and the members leant forward in their seats, eager for the information that had come to them through a complex channel of messengers. Only three select members of the Order of the Phoenix knew the name of their spy, and Dumbledore, Remus and Sirius would take that name to their graves.

So while Voldemort plotted to take Azkaban, and create allies throughout the wizarding world, Dumbledore and the Order planned to circumvent those events, extending hands of friendships where they could, and forming an alliance with creatures once deemed dark.

It was a slow process that had a forty percent success rate, but the word was slowly getting out that Voldemort was back, and when they destroyed him next, it would be for good this time.

And when information that Harry Potter was going to be attacked by a Dementor in his own street came to the Order, it was quickly decided that it was no longer safe for the Boy-Who-Lived to remain with the Dursley’s any longer. The Honour Guard was sent to stop it from occurring, knowing full well that with the way things stood in the Ministry of Magic, the slightest misuse of Harry’s abilities would see him thrown out of school, and out of the wizarding world for good.

When Harry and his cousin found themselves cornered by a dementor, Harry’s wand was out, and he was more than ready to protect them from the icy feeling of despair coming over them. But before Harry could yell the words to drive the Dementor away, a large silver mist shot over the area, and the Dementor tucked tail and ran. Harry was left standing in front of his cousin, his wand aimed, his jaw hanging, and Remus Lupin, Alastor Moody, and several others standing at the mouth of the alley.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: THE FEAST

Staring around the filled Great Hall, Buffy took in the sights and sounds of Hogwarts, unable to believe that she was finally back in the castle after so many years away. It seemed that nothing had changed, though she knew that wasn’t entirely true. A lot of things had changed, and more changes would be coming sooner rather than later.

She knew that the Ministry was refusing to acknowledge the truth about Voldemort’s return. They’d painted Harry Potter and Albus Dumbledore as attention seekers who wished to rile up the general population.

The students in Slytherin knew better. It was kept quiet, but the general buzz of anticipation and arrogance surrounding the silver and green clad students was hard to miss.

Buffy just took in her surroundings in silent contentment. It didn’t matter that the three friends she’d made in First Year were seated several places down, talking quietly among themselves, sending glances towards her every few moments. She could imagine what they were saying about her though, especially if Harry knew that she’d been at Voldemort’s revivification ceremony.

And while she didn’t want Harry, Hermione and Ron to hate her for being a Death-Eater, it also worked to her advantage. Now that Voldemort was back, a lot of the Slytherin students were reporting back to their parents about odd behaviour. Many of them knew that Buffy was favoured by the Dark-Lord, and so her behaviour would be scrutinised even more. She’d have to be careful and play the role she’d so carefully constructed over the last three years.

The only thing she had yet to find out would be whether or not she would be able to cope with the consequences of her actions. Giles had always emphasised that this wasn’t an easy role to play. It was painful to hurt those that you loved. But the mission was what mattered.

She had a mission to fulfil, and she planned to do it to the best of her abilities.

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

“I can’t believe she can just sit there,” Ron whispered emphatically.

“What else do you expect her to do, exactly?” Hermione asked.

Ron shrugged, glancing down at the girl he now knew to be Harry’s twin sister. He didn’t know what he expected exactly, but knowing that she was a servant of the Dark Lord made him expect something more than what was happening. Which, of course, was nothing.

“I don’t know. She should be glaring at us or something,” Ron replied.

Harry flinched a little, but mostly ignored what Ron was saying. Harry knew that his best friend meant no harm in the matter, but it was a painful topic for Harry to think about. Buffy should have been sitting with them, smiling and laughing and joking about the latest crazes in Quidditch, not sitting several seats down, silently eating her dinner.

“It’s almost as though she’s trying to not look at us,” Hermione observed.

Harry glanced down the table and noticed that Hermione was right. It did look as though Buffy was trying her hardest to not look in their direction. His eyes narrowed, wondering if she’d been ordered by Voldemort to spy on him and his friends.

Harry could understand why Voldemort would want to control the youngest Potter child like that. Having the girl completely under his control would be something that he could feel proud about, even if Buffy had no idea that she was a Potter.

But what had Harry especially thoughtful was the fact that his sister had been placed into Gryffindor. He could remember his own experience with the sorting hat. It had told him that he’d have done well in Slytherin. So, if Harry, who had no upbringing with the Death Eaters, would have done well in Slytherin, why wouldn’t Buffy have been placed into the infamous house? Had she asked to not be placed in Slytehrin like he had.

Except, now that he thought about it, she’d been devastated the night she’d been sorted. She’d looked completely shocked. She’d wanted to be in Slytherin. So, why hadn’t the hat placed her there?

He thought back to every conversation he’d ever had in regards to the Sorting Hat. It read your deepest thoughts, it could see the best and worst parts of your heart. It saw everything, whether you wanted to acknowledge what it saw, or not.

The Hat must have seen something in his sister, something inherently good. The Hat would never have placed her into Gryffindor if it hadn’t had a reason to.

Courage, bravery, strength of heart. Those were the characteristics that Godric Gryffindor had admired above all others.

Then again, that had been four years ago. He’d seen the changes in her after she’d returned from the Christmas holidays in first year. She’d been different. People changed. Perhaps the goodness the Hat had once seen no longer existed.

“What do you think Harry?” Ron’s voice asked, interrupting his thoughts.

“Hmm? What, sorry, I missed that.”

“What do you think Professor Dumbledore will do to keep her from reporting to You-Know-Who about, well…you?” Ron asked.

“I don’t know,” Harry replied honestly. “It wouldn’t be that hard for her to send a message. It’s not as though Professor Dumbledore can start reading through people’s mail just to make sure no one’s sending post to Voldemort.”

Ron winced, and Harry ignored it. He had bigger problems to worry about other than people’s irrational fear of a name.

How on earth was the Boy-Who-Lived meant to deny the only true familial link he’d ever had? How could he deny the sister he’d thought of since he’d first discovered her existence three years ago? How was he meant to ignore the fact that his twin sister was sitting three seats down, eating dinner as though she had no worries in the world?

However he was meant to do it, Harry knew that it was going to be a very long year.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: THE MESSAGE

The one good thing about being a fifteen-year-old in the service of the Dark Lord was the fact that he didn’t really expect all that much from a teenager. Buffy wasn’t old enough to be privy to information about Voldemort’s rivals, the Order of the Phoenix. She wasn’t trained in the arts of tactics, or any type of nefarious plotting. She was a teenager, whose only really advantage for Voldemort was the fact that she was in Gryffindor.

None of Voldemort’s other spies, or Death-Eater’s children were in Gryffindor, and couldn’t get the information that Buffy could. Except, there really wasn’t much information to get.

Harry Potter was a fifteen-year-old wizard with his mind firmly entrenched in Quidditch, classes, and on the rare occasion, girls. Which was something of a relief for Buffy really.

Her assignment had been simple. To report back to Voldemort on any suspicious activity of Harry Potter’s.

‘My Lord,

As instructed, my eyes have watched keenly for any signs of danger to your dignified lordship. As yet, the thorn in your side has not acted in a manner that could be considered even mildly threatening.’

From what Buffy had seen, Harry wanted nothing to do with the war against Voldemort. All Harry wanted to do was make it through his classes without someone trying to kill him. Harry had no plans to go after Voldemort, nor did he seem interested in even making plans.

To Harry, such a blatant offensive strike was inconceivable. Harry would defend himself against attacks, but planning some sort of frontal assault was so far beyond Harry’s imagination, that Buffy knew the letters she would be sending fortnightly would be incredibly boring.

‘Word is spreading through the castle about the wonderful news of your revival. You are gaining supporters through the younger ranks of witches and wizards, many of whom are eager to support your rise to victory.’

And wasn’t that just the depressing part? The Slytherins were quietly making their way through the other houses, whispering words into the ears of those who sought to gain power, or those who were weak-minded, and wanting to be part of something, no matter what it was.

Buffy could see the seductiveness of it all. Voldemort was powerful; there was no denying that. The problem was that the Dark Lord did not share that power. He never would.

Voldemort gathered lackeys, minions, servants. He did not seek out friends. At best, there were those he considered allies. But they were not equals. They never would be. There was no one above the Dark Lord, and that was the way Voldemort liked it.

Those that could challenge his power would be eradicated quickly, under the cover of darkness.

The Death-Eaters had no honour, and therefore had little compunction when they were ordered to attack in the dead of night, and kill people in their sleep. The easier the kill, the better. Voldemort did not like challengers.

‘Unfortunately, the house of Godric Gryffindor has been wary of those who would seek to bring further glory to your lordship. They foolishly believe that they will be saved by their code of honour, and the false courage and bravery that infernal hat believes the members of Gryffindor posses.’

While the Slytherins would never approach a Gryffindor, those from Hufflepuff who had been swayed were not so prejudiced that they would not talk-up the great news of darkness that they had learned.

It was disturbing and a little frightening that so many members of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff had been taken in by the cunning and manipulative Slytherins.

Put power was seductive, and corrupting. One small taste, and it became addictive. She could understand why it was happening to people around the school.

That wasn’t to say that a majority of students were swayed by the Slytherins. In fact it was barely five percent of the students, not counting Slytherin of course. But still, five percent of nearly a thousand students was still a depressing amount of people.

‘As ever, I will continue to listen for news of a rebellion.

Your humble servant,

Beth Zabini.’

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

Buffy sat on the roof of Hogwarts’ tallest tower, watching the Slytherin versus Ravenclaw Quidditch match several hundred yards away. The sun was heating her shoulders, making her warm and lethargic.

This whole double-agent deal was a lot harder than she’d been prepared for. She’d intellectually known that it would be difficult to look at her friends, to look at Hermione, and have to remain cool and distant. She’d known that it would be hard, and painful, and everyday. Thirty-eight days back at Hogwarts already.

But the heartache that came with it was unbearable. She wanted someone to unload on, someone she could confide in. She wanted to write to Willow or to Giles and just vent her problems, but she knew that it would be risky. If her cover was blown, things would get much worse.

What she needed was someone within Hogwarts who knew what she was going through. Someone who understood. Someone like…

“What precisely do you think you’re doing up here?” the crisp words could have only come from one person.

Someone like Professor Severus Snape.

“Moping,” Buffy replied.

Severus Snape stared down at the Fifth Year student, watching her silently. He’d watched her, knowing how difficult it could be to play the double agent. Then again, he hadn’t had close friends that he’d had to ‘betray’ in order to play the part. The sneering, evil, traitorous role had been one he’d had for years, cultivated by years of abuse, bullying, and depression.

He could vaguely remember Buffy Zabini from her first year, before Lucious Malfoy and Dominic Quirrell had got their hands on the girl. She’d been vivacious, rambunctious, and friendly. To see her so quiet and alone was just wrong somehow.

Snape slowly lowered himself to sit beside the young girl. Neither said a word as they watched the faraway game of Quidditch, the muffled sounds of cheering providing a nice barrier to keep the silence from being awkward.

“I can’t say I truly understand,” Severus murmured quietly. “Though I do know what it is like to bow before a man that I despise.”

“It makes me sick,” Buffy agreed. “And ignoring my friends…my heart hurts, y’know?”

“A heavy price. Especially for one so young,” Snape said. “You are performing admirably.”

It was high praise coming from the Potions Master, veiled though his words had to be.

“Was it hard for you?” the words came from Buffy’s lips before she had fully processed just who it was she was talking to. “I – I’m sorry, I had no right to ask.”

“It was…difficult,” Snape replied, ignoring the girls back-peddling. “Though admittedly there were none I would call friend that I insulted for being loyal to Dumbledore. The most difficult trial was toadying to wizards I had no respect for. Hiding my thoughts, and burying emotions. I was twenty-six when I turned spy for Dumbledore. I cannot imagine having the strength to act as such at fifteen.”

As a general rule, Severus had no respect for any of the teenagers residing in Hogwarts. They were mostly spoiled, arrogant, and horribly self-involved. But this girl was risking her life, her soul, for something she believed in. She was betraying the family who had raised her, and trying to do real good, despite the fact that she could have turned her back, and gone down the easy route. Following Voldemort was easy. It required little thought, and no morals. Betraying the Dark Lord, especially from within the inner-most circle was no easy feat, and Severus Snape couldn’t help but respect the girl for that.

Regardless of the fact that she was James Potter’s daughter. Regardless of the fact that she was a Gryffindor.

Her heart was in the right place, and she was honestly trying to help bring down the Dark Lord.

Severus Snape had done very little ‘good’ in his life. Turning spy for Dumbledore had been the right thing to do, but he still hadn’t believed he’d been redeemed for the hideous acts he’d committed during his stint as a Death-Eater. And if helping this young girl on her path would earn him a few karmic points to balance out the horror of his earlier years, then he would help her.

The fact that it would annoy Sirius Black to no end was just a bonus.

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: THE CONFRONTATION

It was difficult avoiding someone that lived in the same room. It was even more difficult when the person you were avoiding happened to be Hermione Granger. The girl was inquisitive, headstrong and determined to discover just what had happened to her best friend over the last few years.

She couldn’t wrap her mind around the fact that the cold-hearted girl that bunked one bed over was the same girl who’d wiped tears from Hermione’s cheeks in first year and told her that she was beautiful. It hurt her heart to see Buffy being so distant, so mysterious.

However, all things considered, Hermione was a brilliant girl. She was good at understanding how things worked, including the baffling minds of the girls who lived with her. So, when she’d casually mentioned to Fred Weasley that Lavender had a crush on Lee Jordon, and would probably kill to see the dread-locked boy shirtless, Fred had whispered a plan into George’s ear to set their friend up with the pretty Fifth Year girl.

It helped that Lavender really did find the boy attractive, though why that was, Hermione couldn’t understand. In any case, when Lavender had overheard Fred and George discussing the fact that the Seventh Years boys would be going for a run early the next morning, Lavender had automatically wanted to go and watch the show. Pavarti was dragged along for the ride, leaving Hermione alone with Buffy.

And if Hermione hadn’t known better, she’d have sworn that her old friend was nervous by the prospect of being cornered. In fact, Buffy had started gathering her uniform, intent on going to have a quick shower when Hermione knew for a fact that Buffy preferred showering in the evenings.

“What are you running from Buffy?” Hermione challenged.

Buffy turned to face the other girl, her eyes stony, her lips set in a grim line.

“I’m not running.”

“It sure looks that way. But if you’re afraid, then…”

Yes, Hermione knew how people worked. It had been years since she’d really known Buffy, but there were still a few things that remained the same. The old Buffy would never back down from a challenge. This newer, harder girl wouldn’t either.

“I’m afraid of nothing,” Buffy replied, turning to face the other girl.

Hermione shrugged, feigning nonchalance.

“Then talk to me. Tell me the truth. Tell me why you shut yourself off from me…from us,” Hermione said.

Buffy’s eyes flickered in pain for a fraction of a second at the painful reminder of their past and future. She was doing this for Hermione, and Harry, and even for Ron. She was doing this so that Voldemort could be brought down for good. She was pretending to betray her first best friend so that one day, they could live in a free world.

“I didn’t shut myself off,” Buffy replied evenly. She’d been prepared for this. She’d written a script that she’d memorised so that she wouldn’t falter through this explanation. She’d practiced it at the muggle drama lessons she’d been to in order to perfect her role. “I needed to set myself up for the future. I needed to look out for myself, and remember my family roots.”

“What roots? So what if your parents are Death-Eaters,” Hermione said. “That doesn’t mean you have to be. You-Know-Who is nothing but a power-hungry wizard who knows more dark spells than is good for him.”

“The Dark Lord is the way of the future, Granger. My future. And if you cannot accept that, then it is not my problem,” Buffy said.

“You…you truly believe that?” Hermione asked, flabbergasted. “You-Know-Who is not some…some figure-head to be idolised. He’s evil, Buffy-”

“Beth,” Buffy stressed.

“You will always be Buffy to me,” Hermione said. “And I don’t believe that the girl I knew could truly believe that. Your family did something to you…your tutor brainwashed you.”

“My tutor set me free,” Buffy replied honestly. “He is a good man with the right sort of ideals. He knows the truth about the Dark Lord’s intentions, and he passed those same beliefs onto me. And I am honoured to carry on the work that my tutor believes in so strongly.”

Hermione fell silent; unable to comprehend the blind loyalty she was seeing. Her heart hurt for her friend.

This was the girl who’d killed a mountain troll so that Hermione wouldn’t be hurt. This was the girl who’d wept in her arms when her parents had ignored her for so long. The girl who’d become the most important person to her.

But that girl was long gone. Three and a half years ago her friend had been turned against her, and Hermione knew that she would never see her friend again. Just the blinded shell that looked so much like her.

“If that’s how you truly feel, then…then I suppose that there’s nothing I can say to change your mind,” Hermione said sadly.

“I know what I believe in,” Buffy said. “And nothing will make me change my stance. Or my loyalties.”

Hermione blinked back tears, and nodded. She could only watch as Buffy walked out of their room, and wonder just what it was that had changed the sweetest person she’d ever known into the hard-hearted girl she’d just confronted.

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

Classes continued as per usual. Assignments were assigned, homework was completed, papers were graded, and students procrastinated. Quidditch was played. Potions were brewed. Curses were cast. Autumn gave way to winter, and Christmas came and went. Buffy remained at Hogwarts for the week-long vacation, claiming that she wanted to keep an eye on her assignment, in case anything happened when the majority of students were away.

Ben Zabini had praised her foresight. Buffy just hadn’t wanted to go home and lie to her family.

It was ironic, the potential Slayer turned double-agent, thought. She’d wanted nothing more than to be accepted by her family four years ago. And now that she would be accepted without question, she wanted nothing to do with her father. She couldn’t stand the thought of him serving Voldemort. She hated the evil wizard, and the thought that her father would abuse her, verbally and physically, just to gain favour with the Dark Lord was sickening.

Which always led to her questioning just what it was about her that made the Dark Lord so interested. She knew that asking anyone about it would be fruitless. No one would answer that particular question of hers, no matter how sneaky she was in trying to catch them off guard by it. They refused to tell her the real reason, and eventually she stopped trying.

Instead, she watched as students happily returned home for the holidays, and others stayed in the castle, some moping, others fairly happy at having Hogwarts so empty.

And Harry was happy as a clam, staying at Hogwarts and celebrating the holidays with Ron and Hermione. The other two had stayed out of loyalty to Harry, not wanting their best friend alone for the holidays. They knew how uncomfortable Harry was being invited to spend Christmas with their families, and so, they stayed at Hogwarts for a private celebration.

Buffy watched them enviously, remembering the way they’d been a foursome so long ago. They’d watched out for each other, supported each other, and she missed it so desperately.

In the privacy of her own room, she wrote them all Christmas cards, expressing the depth of her affection for the trio, wondering whether she’d ever be able to reveal herself to them.

This was a deep-cover mission, she’d been told. It could last for years. Voldemort may not be defeated anytime in the near future.

That was the most frightening thought. That ten years down the track, she would still be bowing before the Dark Lord, doing who knew what for him, to ensure her position as a spy within his ranks. She sincerely hoped that something would tip the scales before then.

She added the Christmas cards the to cardboard box of letters that she’d written the trio over the years. Most were to Hermione, her first and truest friend, besides Blaise. There were others to Ron, things that Xander had said or done that she thought the lanky redhead would appreciate. And there were others to Harry, deep and serious, telling him that she would do anything she could to keep Voldemort away from him. That her loyalty remained with the Boy-Who-Lived, and with the Order of the Phoenix. That she could never betray their friendship like he thought she had.

There were other letters, more recent ones addressed to Willow, Xander and Giles. But the majority of the box was filled with three years worth of missives that she hoped to one-day deliver, in hopes of explaining her actions.

And until then, she would hoard the Christmas cards and letters in the box beneath her bed, a distraction charm placed around them, so that anyone who touched the box besides herself would become discombobulated, and remember something important that they had to do, rather than open the box.

And so, Christmas came and went, and Buffy played her part. It was easier to stay away from people, to block them out. She hated confrontations, and she would try to avoid them.

Luckily, a well placed sneer or smirk was enough to keep the other Gryffindors away from her. Rumours flew around the castle about her, where she’d been and why she was back. But all in all, Buffy Zabini ignored it all, and reminded herself that this was for her friends. She would not fail them.

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

Three weeks into the beginning of the new term, a letter came for her.

‘It is time. Your master is honouring you with the mark of loyalty. In one week, you will show your fealty, and proclaim your allegiance. Be ready.’

The Dark Mark.

This would be the true test. This would be the deciding factor. Giles had assured her as much as he could that Voldemort would not make her take the mark until her seventeenth birthday, and hopefully by then, the whole ordeal would have been over.

But it came a year and a half early.

One week.

Be ready.

Buffy swallowed, glancing across the table at Hermione, Harry and Ron.

She would not fail them.

Even if it killed her.

TBC

Back