Never Give In
Title: Never Give In
Summary: HP/BTVS X-over. A tragic accident sends Harry, Ron, and Hermione, now grown up and five years graduated, back to Hogwarts, where they meet a powerful witch on leave from her new post at the Watcher's Council.
Spoilers: HP - It's a future fic, so I might use stuff from OotP once it's out; definitely through GF. BTVS - Through the end.
Rating: PG-13. Bad language and violence. No graphic sex ['cuz I don't like to write it]. If you watch BTVS, you're okay.
Distribution: Sure. Email me and I'll send whatever format you want.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, and no copyright infringement is intended.
"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."
Sir Winston Churchill, at Harrow, 29 October, 1941
Chudley Greens, home of the Chudley Cannons
For one heartbreaking second, Hermione thought he would do it one last time.
Even before Harry sent Voldemort tumbling back into the darkness, he had always told them he was no hero. Afterwards, he had only grown more adamant. He believed it, too, which always amazed the people battling by his side more than the actual fact. They weren't fooled. Each one of them had proven nearly his equal in courage, power, determination, and skill over the years. His timing, though ... she knew that would always set Harry apart. No one could match his ability to do the right thing at the right time. Voldemort had learned it, but far too late to save his life.
Hermione already knew it, and it brought the briefest flash of hope forward in her mind as she saw Ron tumbling down.
The bludger had come from the far side, smashed at him by Jacobs in a desperate attempt to jar Ron out of position and salvage the match for Wimbourne. He had never seen it; the ripping of muscle and cracking of bone came as a total shock. With a scream he lost his seat and careened towards their home pitch in a jumble of orange robes.
When the bludger hit Ron, Harry took off like the cannonball on his robe. His Firebolt, aging as it was, still had unmatched speed; he knew he was the only one who might catch Ron before he hit the turf. As it always had, the broom responded to the call at the speed of thought. Air whistled in his ears as he tore through the sky, a bolt of orange against the light blue English afternoon.
He reached Ron fifty feet above the ground, where the youngest male Weasley crashed into him like a bag of wet sand. The surprising force knocked Harry off the Firebolt, and seconds later, the ground rushed up and met them both.
Frozen in shock, Hermione watched as the medical staff rushed out to care for her two best friends. Her breath came in short heaving gasps as the urge to cry burned behind her eyes. She hung on the precipice for two full seconds before it all overwhelmed her and she too crumpled to the floor.
The Watcher's Council Building
Two pale hands reached out and shoved open the windows behind Giles' head. The cool morning breeze rushed in to greet them.
"Oh, thank you, Willow," he said over his shoulder.
Behind him, she smiled. "I don't know how you can work in here while it's all stuffy, Giles. I mean, your shirts, yeah, stuffed is good, but not your office."
Her smile turned into laughter as he spun and offered his uniquely Giles glare.
"Yes, well, I'm glad you approve of my attire, at least." She came around the desk and sat down, folding her hands in her lap to look attentive. "Now can we get to business? Have you heard from Xander?"
"Uh huh. They got 'em."
His eyes widened. "Surely not all of them?"
"Down to the last scrap of dusty undead flesh."
"That's fantastic. I assume he and Buffy were pleased?"
"He was back with the pirate noises, and I heard her laughing in the background, so I'm gonna go with yes."
"Dear lord, this is more than we could have hoped. I thought they might stymie some of the organizing, but if they took out the whole gang, why, the implications are staggering."
"Uh huh. Vamp mafia, definitely a minus the good citizens of New York won't have to worry about."
"That's wonderful. I'll have to call her myself. What about Faith and Robin? Any word from them?"
"No, not since last week. Robin said they'd be in deep for a while, though, so I'm not panicking."
"I've been over the other deployments, too. Washington, New Orleans, Paris, and Moscow all seem fine. So does Tokyo, if the translation spell hasn't gone all wonky again."
Giles carefully met her eyes. "What about Memphis?" Willow looked quickly away, her eyes filled with pain. Kennedy was in Memphis. "Did you..."
"She talked to Dawn. All quiet on the Elvis front."
"Willow, I'm sorry, I know it's hard for you. Maybe we should have Dawn deal with her permanently?"
"No, Giles. I knew what being number two in the new Council meant when it happened, and I didn't quit. I also wasn't avoiding the subject, so don't even go there. I just ... missed the call."
"Did you? Not that I think Dawn incapable of liaising with Kennedy. Far from it." Willow flinched at the use of her former lover's name. "I just think, as I have told you before, that you need a change, Willow. You've not taken the time to assimilate this properly, and I worry for you. I worry for your work here at the Council, and I worry for you personally."
"Well, I'm sorry if I'm not all instant get-bettery girl!" Her voice rang out violently in the stone room, and the head of the newly reconstituted Watcher's Council fought down a cheer. Fiery outbursts from Willow were few and far between these days. "And and and I'm sorry if you think I'm doing a crappy job, which I'm not by the way, but I'm not gonna just bail on this when my personal life isn't all hunky dory for awhile."
"Please, settle down," he made a calming motion with his hands, and she realized she had jumped half out of her chair. She sat back down and smoothed her dark red skirt over her thighs. "Your work is excellent, Willow. As always, I might add. Without you, we would have fallen into disaster long ago. What I am saying, though, is that perhaps now that things are more settled and we have additional staff, it might be a good time for you to put yourself back together personally."
As luck would have it, at that moment a small clacking at the window frame interrupted them.
They looked up to see a massive brown owl perched on the windowsill, its beak poised to tap on the frame if necessary. Tied to its leg were a newspaper and two beige envelopes.
"I wondered when the Daily Prophet might arrive," Giles said. "It's a bit late today."
He reached into a drawer and pulled out a few coins; Willow picked a bit of cookie out of the tin on Giles' desk and held it out. The bird took one small flap and glided onto the desk, gently nipping Willow's hand as it took the cookie. Giles dropped the coins in its pouch and took the mail. The owl hooted its thanks and returned to the window, obviously awaiting their response letters.
"That is so cool, but I don't think I'll ever get used to it."
"I have to admit, I never would have guessed that Quentin would have used such a service, It is quite fascinating." The renewal card had come two months after the building had finished; on a whim, Giles had filled it out and received a long distance crash course in wizard life. He was anxious to meet a true wizard, but couldn't think of how to contrive such a meeting.
He scanned the front of the envelopes and handed the top one to Willow. Both were addressed in green calligraphy:
Miss Willow Rosenberg
The Watcher's Council
Mr. Rupert Giles
On behalf of Dawn Summers
The Watcher's Council
Willow raised her eyebrows. Giles shrugged and handed her his letter opener, a plain silver dagger Buffy had bought him the previous Christmas. He kept it in plain view on his desk, a reminder to his many visitors that politics had not made him the head of the Council.
She slit the envelope, impressed by the ornate wax seal, and scanned the contents.
Dear Miss Rosenberg,
It is my great pleasure to invite you to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. As you probably do not know, we have a number of vacancies on the faculty for the upcoming school year. I would like very much to meet with you and discuss the possibility of you joining us as a professor.
I understand that you are quite busy with your duties to the Watcher's Council. If you are able, however, I would like to bring you to our school on August 1 for a tour of the grounds and a more in-depth discussion of this job offer.
Please respond by return owl as soon as possible. I hope that you will at least consider this offer, as I think your presence could be a valuable addition to our community.
She looked up; Giles had as much bewilderment on his face as she imagined she had on hers.
"Giles? Who's Albus Dumbledore?"
Above the letter, she saw his eyes shift onto her. He looked bewildered.
"He is, arguably, the most powerful wizard in the world. As to further details, I believe you, Dawn, and I will find out on August 1."
St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries
Blunt Trauma Ward
"... Came as soon as I heard, of course."
Harry's head felt extraordinarily thick. He had been knocked out enough to know not to open his eyes yet, but the voice sounded vaguely familiar.
"I'm so glad that you're here, Professor." He knew Hermione's voice anywhere. "It's been terrible."
"I must say, my dear, you look more than a little tired."
"An understatement, I'm sure. I have no doubt I look affright, and I believe the nursing staff thinks me some sort of demon."
Harry wanted to laugh. He could tell she didn't give a rat's arse what they thought of her.
"Uhhhh..." he moaned, daring to crack his eyes the smallest bit. Even in the dim room, the light assaulted him and he slammed them shut.
"Harry? Harry, can you hear me?"
"Yeah, Hermione," he said in a surprisingly clear voice. He opened his eyes again, and this time was able to keep them open.
She looked as if she had been up all night, which he assumed she had. Professor Dumbledore stood next to her, motionless, with a grim smile plastered on his face.
"How do you feel, young man?"
Harry did a quick inventory. Every part of his body felt like the skin had been rubbed vigorously with sandpaper, but nothing seemed to be broken. He shook out his left arm, his right arm, and his left leg with no trouble.
When he moved his right leg, his mind moved. The leg barely twitched.
"Oh god. Oh god no," he whispered, trying desperately to move the leg. When it wouldn't, he gave Hermione a pleading look. "Hermione, call the nurse! Call the doctor! Call..."
She put a hand lightly on his chest. "Shhh, Harry. Shhh. They already know."
"B-b-but what ... why ... how?"
"There was extensive nerve damage," she said, her tired voice nearly cracking. "They ... they ..." A lone tear dribbled down her cheek, foreshadowing the flood to come. "Oh, Harry, they can't do anything for you. Human nerve tissue can't be regrown."
His green eyes expanded in horror. "You mean?"
"You'll never have full use of your leg again."
"There's some magic ... between that and therapy, they think you'll someday walk with a cane, but ... not for a long while. Years. Harry, I'm so sorry."
The words smashed into his chest with all the power of an enormous hammer. Memories flashed through his mind. Long days running from Dudley. Malfoy chucking that damn Remembrall. Winning the Quidditch Cup. Chasing down Voldemort. Standing with Ron on Draft Day, amazed that the Cannons had traded up to take them both in the first round. Tapping Ron's fist before their first match. Ron.
Harry's head whipped around, scanning the room as fast as he could. The three of them were alone. "Hermione! Ron! Where's Ron? Is he alright?"
Her hand moved from his chest to his shoulder.
"He's ... you saved his life, Harry. From that height he would've died for sure." Her weeping continued unabated.
Harry's terror receded a bit. If Ron had died... "He would have?"
"Reckon I would've, yeah," said another voice. The words came in an empty monotone. From the hallway, a nurse helped Ron into the room and then onto the bed next to Harry's. His right arm and shoulder were heavily bandaged, and he sounded dead tired. "Had to take a walk, clear my head a little." He met his best friend's gaze. "Harry ... thanks."
Harry nodded, the reality of what had happened sinking in. "Sort of ironic, you know?"
"How d'you figure?" Ron sounded as if he had already died.
"We spend all our school years and a couple more fighting evil, take down the most powerful dark wizard in a century without a scratch, and it's a rogue bludger that nearly does us in." He smiled, the gesture small and bitter.
Ron thought about it for a second before the irony punctured his self-pity. He mimicked Harry's smile.
"Guess it coulda gone worse, yeah?"
"Hell, I'd trade my leg for your life any day." Harry meant the line to be light, but it came out full of emotion and pain. Hermione lifted her hand to her mouth and stifled a gasp.
"S'a good thing, too," Ron said. He held his hand out. The boys had tears in their eyes. Harry reached out and gripped it. "Thanks."
Beneath his beard, Dumbledore grinned. Both of them had tough days ahead, but he had seen what he needed to. They would weather the storm as they had every other life had thrown in their path: together.
"I am glad to see you gentlemen in such strong spirit," the old headmaster said. An idea suddenly struck him. He very much wished he hadn't already been grinning, so that he could start now.
"Thanks for comin', Professor," Ron replied.
"How could I not, Mister Weasley? What are friends for, after all, if not to help each other and provide help in a time of crisis?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. After thirteen years, he knew that tone of voice. "Professor?"
"I believe it's clear that you two are finished for the season. Is that correct?"
Ron nodded for them both. He had spoken to the doctors at St. Mungo's about it already. "I think it's safe to say neither of us'll be playing for a long time, Professor."
"You too?" Harry asked.
Ron pointed to his cast. "My shoulder an' back are pretty much bollocksed permanently. I landed on 'em, an' the bludger had already messed 'em something fierce. There's a chance I'll be able to play next year, but not likely. My arm's useless for six months as it is."
His friend grimaced. "At least we can rehab together, eh?"
"Yes, well, I think it is safe to assume you'll need a place to do so. Might I suggest your old stomping grounds?"
Both younger men raised their eyebrows, but it was Hermione who spoke. "Hogwarts?"
"I presumed you would like to be with them if you could, Hermione. Was that not correct?"
Ron looked at her questioningly.
"Professor Flitwick will be retiring next year," she informed him. "Professor Dumbledore offered to let me apprentice with him this year and take over Charms next year. I was going to tell you after the match."
"D'you want to?" He asked, knowing the answer. Hermione badly wanted to teach anywhere, let alone at Hogwarts. She nodded vigorously. "If it's what you want, than of course. Dunno what I'll do there as a gimp, but it doesn't much matter, does it," he added dejectedly.
"Same here," Harry agreed. "We couldn't have only one of us at Hogwarts, could we? The world would be totally out of balance.
"Oh, I think we'll find quite a bit for the both of you to do. We have yet another new Dark Arts professor this year, and if my first choice for the post accepts, she'll need a large dollop of assistance."
His blue eyes twinkled over half-moon lenses.
"Yes, quite a bit indeed."