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Once Upon A Time

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Summary: A teenage girl is given an impossible destiny. She’s taken away from everything she knows and everyone thinks she’s dead. Eight years later, she’s back, and in for one hell of a fight.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Buffy-Centered
Harry Potter > Dawn-Centered
rcaquaFR1529,4052174,72028 Dec 064 Jan 07No

2. The Different Faces of Maturity

Notes: Thank you to everyone who reviewed! Shout-outs will be in my lj (see link in my profile). Hope you enjoy the story!

Please Review!




Things do not change; we change.
- Henry David Thoreau



Chapter Two

The Different Faces of Maturity

The house was just the right size – not too large, but not small, either. Cozy, that was the word Mum had used to describe it. A few of the windows had been opened in the hopes that a breeze might pass by, letting thick bands of yellow light shine out into the night. Altogether, the house looked exactly as it should. It looked like a home.

For Dawn, it was painfully easy to pretend she still lived there. She could still remember it clearly, even though she never mentioned it to Buffy. She remembered her sister sitting up in her room for the few short days or weeks that she was home, scribbling wildly on bits of parchment. Sometimes Mum would convince her to watch Dawn, and they would play games together.

Best of all, late at night, she would crawl into Buffy’s bed and her sister would tell stories. Stories about giants and unicorns, monsters that were half-horse and half-eagle, people who could turn into animals, magic spells, flying carriages, and a school where you could learn magic. Looking back on it, Dawn knew that the stories couldn’t have been true – the “magic spells” were really nothing more than a jumble of made-up words and a strange bastardization of Latin. But back then, the stories had seemed incredibly real, and some small part of her still believed in them, although she didn’t know why.

Of course, even then, she would lose her sister to someone else. Now it was demons and vampires, the Council and the Scoobies, who claimed Buffy’s attention. Back then, it had been those strangely dressed people. Mr. Moody and Mr. Moony, she thought their names were. And sometimes, the redheads would come along to pick her up, too. There had been quite a few of them, she was sure. A set of grinning twins; a tall, freckled boy; an extremely good-looking man with long hair and a fang earring; and their father, with hair as red as any of them, even if he was balding.

Dawn let out a bitter laugh at those memories. It seemed that the monks had screwed up, after all. They should have given her to Faith, the Slayer no one wanted. It seemed like she would never get a chance to spend time with her sister. There was always something more important.

Face hard, she got back in the car and drove off before one of the neighbors could come out and ask her what she was doing there.



Buffy had been in England for less then an hour, and already she wanted to leave. She hated the whole country, now. It was a place that held too much of her history, and no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t quite forget about…things.

The whole country made her sick with fear, now. Merely setting foot on British soil had been enough to set it off. What if someone she knew recognized her? She knew it was unlikely, but what if? What if she accidentally wandered into Wizarding London? It could happen; she was more familiar with Diagon Alley and its environs then she was with the whole rest of the city, for all that she had a flat in the heart of Chelsea.

And then there were darker worries. What about Voldemort? Was he still active? Did he still attack Mug- the rest of the world? Would he know if she was back in England? Would he care?

She couldn’t stop thinking of Him. Deep down, she just knew something bad was going to happen because she was here. She didn’t care if it sounded stupid or superstitious. She had a feeling.

And one thing Buffy had quickly learned was, when the Slayer has a feeling about something, people listen.

That was what she was hoping for, anyway, when she burst through the doors of the Watcher’s Council Headquarters. However, her impressive entrance was hampered by the fact that she had no idea where Giles’s office was. The last time she’d been in the building, they’d had barely twenty Watchers and two secretaries; half the building had been unused. Now, there were people everywhere – coming, going, and some choosing to just stop and stare at her.

How rude, she thought, channeling her inner Stephanie Tanner.

Where to go?

Just as she was wondering if she ask one of the suit-clad Watchers where Giles’s office was, she spotted the sign by the front desk. Trying to look as if she knew exactly what she was doing, (she was their boss, after all), she sidled up oh-so-carefully to the large signpost.

DIRECTOR’S OFFICE….TOP FLOOR , she read. Well, that cleared things up. Now, where were the elevators?

After twenty minutes, and two “I am not the new secretary”s, Buffy arrived on Giles’s floor.

There was a pretty young woman with sandy blonde hair sitting at the desk in front of his office door, and Buffy assumed that she must be the devious assistant Giles had been complaining to her about.

“Hi, Emily,” she said, stepping out of the elevator. “Can you tell Giles…uh, Mr. Giles, that I’d like to speak with him?”

“Miss Summers?” Emily confirmed.

“Uh huh. Oh, and tell him it’s important,” she added.

“I’ve been told that everything you say is important,” Emily smiled, pressing the button on the phone that called Giles’s office.

Buffy smiled, but made no response as Emily had just started talking.

“Mr. Giles, Miss Summers would like to speak with you. She says it’s urgent.”

Buffy frowned. It wasn’t precisely what she’d said, but close enough. And knowing Giles, little slip-ups like that probably had him in conniptions. What was she thinking? There was no “probably” about it. She’d been forced to listen to his rants first hand.

“You may enter,” Emily, herself, said.

Buffy broke away from her thoughts with a blush.

“Thanks,” she murmured, walking into Giles’s office.

The moment she saw the look on his face, Buffy knew that she was right; something had gone wrong. His glasses had that too-shiny glare coming off them that meant he’d just cleaned them, and there was that something in his expression that immediately recalled the night he’d let Wood attack Spike. He was worried, and trying his best to hide it.

“What happened?” she asked at once.

He didn’t question how she knew that something bad had happened. He merely sighed and gestured to her to sit down.

“Dawn is missing,” he began.

“When did you last see her?” was the first thing out of the Slayer’s mouth.

His eyebrows went up at that. He’d expected her to start screaming, or at least swear a bit (he really wished Spike hadn’t taught her so many colorful words). However, she was calm. It was almost as if she’d expected something like this to happen. He shook off the idea, though; even Buffy had some limitations on what she could do, no matter how strong she’d become.

“Earlier this morning. No one thought anything of her being gone until she wouldn’t answer her phone.”

“Do you have any idea what happened to her?”

“None whatsoever, although one of the Council’s cars is missing.”

Buffy nodded to herself and looked away, seeming lost in thought.

“She might just be on a ride somewhere,” he felt it necessary to add. “She has been feeling rather restless lately.”

“We don’t know that,” she said sharply. “Anything could have happened to her. You know how dangerous the people looking for the Key are. And even if they didn’t know she was the Key, someone could be looking for a way to distract me from whatever this mysterious meeting is going to be about.”

He nodded gravely. There really was no arguing with that, although he was surprised at her reaction. Buffy had always been protective of her sister, but as Dawn had grown older, she’d relaxed quite a bit. There was something nagging him about the whole situation, though. Buffy was almost prepared for some catastrophe to occur.

“Giles, snap out of it,” Buffy said, recalling him from his thoughts. “We have to find Dawn.”

“Of course,” he said, getting back to business. “We already have people looking, of course, and we’ve alerted both the Coven in Devon and the Covens in County Clare and Fife.”

“That’s good,” she said. “What can I do?”

Giles hesitated. He couldn’t think of any way she could help. She hadn’t yet arrived when Dawn left, and she hated to research or investigate anything. Until they’d found where Dawn was, there really was…

“That’s a big fat nothing, isn’t it?” she asked.

“Well, it’s just that…” he trailed off.

“You’ve got everything covered?” she finished. “That’s great. Really.”

“Buffy, are you alright?” he began.

“No,” she snapped. “My sister is missing and I can’t do anything to find her. Would you be alright?”

“I know this isn’t helping, but we do have everything under control,” he tried to soothe her. “I’m sure she will turn up in no time.”

Buffy didn’t look convinced. If anything, she looked even more worried.

“Go home,” he urged her. “Get some rest. We’ll all be busy enough tomorrow.”

She nodded absently, and both of them stood up. Just as she turned to leave, she turned around and hugged him.

“It’s good to see you,” she murmured, before exiting the office.

Just as the door swung shut, Giles couldn’t help but think that it was good to have her back. Life just wasn’t the same without Buffy around, being…well, being Buffy. Then he wondered what Quentin Travers would have to say in response to that thought.

Outside the office, Emily heard her employer suddenly break into a fit of laughter like no other she’d heard from him. Shaking her head, she went back to printing out his appointments for the next two weeks and stuffed them in her purse, before leaving for lunch.



Worrying about Dawn exhausted Buffy faster then any other activity. Unfortunately, it was also the only thing she could do at the moment. She had been pacing around the flat for over two hours, occasionally throwing things when she felt particularly frustrated. So far she’d managed to break a clock, the coffee table, a chair, a few picture frames, and the television, with the end result being that the room looked like a hurricane had just hit. The neighbors would probably complain, she reflected, but she had once saved the building’s owner from a vampire, so she doubted they’d be evicted…assuming there was still a “they” to speak of, and Dawn hadn’t been kidnapped by Death Eaters.

She let out a little scream of rage and kicked the couch. Too preoccupied to control her strength, she stopped pacing long enough to watch it rise a few feet in the air and fly backwards, before landing on top of an end table with a deafening crash.

Oops.

She focused her hearing for a moment, and distinctly heard the sound of buttons being pressed in the flat across the hall.

“I’d like to report a disturbance,” the high, breathy voice of Angela Simkiss, a snooty Sloane with a penchant for nosiness, whispered into the phone.

“I’ve been hearing some funny noises in the flat across the hall. There’s all sorts of banging and screaming going on.” A pause, then – “No, I am sure no one is “having a kinky shag.” Really, sir, how revolting.” Another pause. “The address is Number 8, 1408 Havington Way. The flat is on the top floor. I think you should have one of those SWAT team thingamees, too. I’m quite sure something extraordinary vio-.”

There was a faint click. The dispatcher had hung up.

Buffy smirked, but it faded immediately as she realized what her meddlesome neighbor had done. Stupid cow.

Shaking her head in disgust, she reached for the phone and prayed that Angela had phoned in more then her share of phony complaints.

“Hello, you have reached the Metropolitan Police Force,” the pre-recorded voice of a woman said.

A list of numbers to dial and their various functions followed. When the woman said, “Please press 3 to speak with a dispatcher,” Buffy obligingly dialed, and within seconds, she found herself speaking with someone.

They’re better then the Sunnydale Department, she thought.

“Hi,” she said, “Um, my name is Buffy Summers, and well…” Here, she affected a slightly embarrassed laugh. “My neighbor – her name’s Angela Simkiss – she, well…she’s a little nosy sometimes, and me and my boyfriend were - ” Cue another giggle. “Um, engaging in some extra-curricular activities, and we might have been a little noisy, and - ”

The dispatcher cut her off.

“Miss Simkiss called our station asking for an entire squad of bobbies?” he finished.

“Yeah,” Buffy said, making sure she sounded appropriately embarrassed.

“Don’t worry, Miss Summers,” he said. “I’ll tell the bobbies to hold off. Lord knows we have enough “complaints”’ from that woman.”

“Thank you so much,” she said.

Although the dispatcher couldn’t see it, she frowned. Had that been too over the top?

He seemed to buy it though, because he said, “It’s nothing. Really, we’re quite used to her antics. She’s a bit of a joke around here, you know. Although, this is all off the record, of course,” he added hastily.

“Of course,” Buffy echoed.

The dispatcher prattled on a bit more. She mostly tuned him out, walking over to the front door. She opened it and slammed it shut quickly.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. “My boyfriend’s just come back. It was nice talking with you.”

She hung up quickly.

Making a mental note to talk to the landlord about Angela, she walked over to the displaced couch and collapsed on it, exhausted. Now that little problem was dealt with, she was right back to worrying about Dawn.

Come on, guys, she thought desperately. You owe me. I’ve saved the world – a lot. It was on my tombstone and everything. Can you just do me this one teeny little favor and make sure Dawn gets home alright?

She didn’t know if anyone had heard her, but after her little prayer, she was too tired to care. With one last silent plea for help, Buffy collapsed on the couch, fast asleep.

She didn’t wake up for several hours, and when she did, she was not happy.

Wobbling slightly, with her hair mussed and her shirt on backwards, Dawn Summers finally made her appearance in the flat.

Now fully awake, Buffy sat up and watched as her sister attempted to quietly close the door behind her. Unfortunately for her, she failed, and fell into it instead.

“Whoops,” Dawn giggled.

Buffy’s eyes narrowed. Her nostrils flared, and she could smell the alcohol Dawn’s breath had let into the air. Still, she stayed silent, and let Dawn navigate the darkened room on her own, smirking maliciously as the teen gained several bumps and bruises from the scattered furniture.

She would not yell. Dawn was a grown woman now, as she kept reminding her sister. And if she wanted to be immature enough to have half the Council and every Wiccan in the British Isles out searching for her while she went and got herself sloshed, so be it. But her sister had better not expect any sympathy in the morning.



“Uhhh,” Dawn groaned, rolling over to keep the sunlight out of her face. She was in pain. Lots and lots of pain. It felt like someone had set an army of very tiny people to work hammering at her skull. She had the worst leg cramp, too.

Cracking one eye open slowly, she saw the reason for that.

She was sleeping on the floor, one leg curled close to her body, the other sticking out at an unnatural angle. Luckily, there was a knocked over chair not too far from her that would keep the sun from getting in her eyes.

Letting another groan escape her lips, she crawled towards it. She was too tired to do much more then get her head beneath it, but that was enough. Closing her eyes again, she prepared for sleep to overtake her once more.

That was not to be, however.

“What are you doing?” Dawn mumbled.

It was rather obvious what Buffy was doing, though. There was no mistaking the chair she carried under one arm like a strangely shaped purse.

Buffy didn’t answer, and Dawn dismissed the act as yet another or her sister’s quirks before crawling over to the nearest piece of furniture – a coffee table in this case. Well, most of a coffee table, anyway, since it seemed that a few of the legs were missing. Was that one of them sticking out of the wall? Too tired to try and figure out how it had gotten there, Dawn closed her eyes again.

And, once again, Buffy calmly walked up and plucked the table off the ground, setting it next to the end table, which she’d lined up against one of the living room walls in some sort of broken furniture line-up.

What was going on?

She was awake, now, and she didn’t much like that fact. Sitting up groggily, she rubbed her eyes and said,

“Did you get possessed again?”

Her sister didn’t answer. She just went back to the kitchen and grabbed her cereal bowl. Moving back to the couch – had that moved? – the Slayer tucked her feet up under her and grabbed her laptop.

“Buffy?” Dawn called. Why wasn’t she answering?

Her concern beginning to override the hangover, Dawn stood up. Alright, she wobbled a bit, but at least she wasn’t lying on the floor anymore.

“Buffy?” she repeated. “What’s wrong?”

Teetering slightly, and trying to ignore the roaring headache she had, she made her way over to the couch and more or less fell on top of her sister.

Buffy shoved her to the side and picked her computer back up. Maybe it was the laptop then? Dawn vaguely remembered hearing something about a demon hiding in the internet.

“Buffy? Buffy, is there a demon in the computer?”

There was still no reply. Dawn could have smacked herself. Of course Buffy wouldn’t tell her if there was an internet demon controlling her. Duh.

But what should she do? She had no idea where the phone was, and if she left her sister alone long enough to find it, there was no telling what could happen. Granted, she hadn’t done much more then sit around and steal shady furniture, but anything could happen. Her best bet would be removing the computer, then. Maybe the demon needed contact to possess people?

She tried grabbing the computer from her sister, but the Slayer wasn’t letting go.

“Dawn,” Buffy said, her voice dangerously calm, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Dawn faltered. She didn’t sound possessed…But this could all be a ploy of the demon’s…

“I’m saving you from yourself,” she said firmly.

Buffy made a strange sound, somewhere between a snort and a sigh.

“I’m not possessed.”

“Then why are you acting like this?” Dawn challenged. Show the demon who’s boss, she reminded herself. That’s what Willow had told her, anyway.

Buffy looked angry, but not before her sister had a chance to see something else flickering across her face, something uglier. Disappointment?

“Did you ever think that I could be pissed off that you’re acting like this?” she snapped.

Dawn was confused. “Acting like what?”

Uh oh. That had definitely been the wrong thing to say.

“‘Acting like what?’” Buffy repeated. “Seriously? You go and make with the Paris Hilton-ing, get the entire freaking Council worried about you, not to mention me, the big sister who you promised you’d “act like a mature, responsible adult kind of thing”, and then you – you…” she sputtered for a moment, clearly lost for words.

So that’s what this was about. Suddenly, Dawn was feeling pretty angry herself.

“Like you haven’t ever come home late? Or gotten drunk? Or made any other bad decisions?” she said.

“That was different.”

“How?”

“Because I, at least, took responsibility for it. You decide to take off without warning anyone, and have everyone half-dead with worry,” Buffy said acidly.

Ouch. She’d forgotten that tone. It had been awhile.

“So I can’t go for a drive on my own now?” she shouted. “What, is little Dawnie just too young to drive now? Was the government wrong? Should they move the age limit up?”

“Shut up, Dawn.”

“No! I can say what I want, when I want to. I’m an adult now, just in case you forgot. Remember – it happened that day you ditched my party to go save the Coven from a pack of Hellhounds.”

“What, partying is more important then people dying? Yeah, Dawn, you’re acting really mature.”

“Maybe it is,” Dawn said wildly, knowing it wasn’t true. “There are loads of other Slayers, you didn’t have to go.”

“Most of them were on assignment,” Buffy said, grabbing her computer. “I was the only one left who had any experience in the field. But you already knew that, Dawn.”

Shaking her head, Buffy left, leaving her sister behind in the ruined room.

Buffy had no idea what she was going to do for the rest of the day.

Sure, she had some reports from the Slayers in Italy to look over, and a whole list of things she wanted to break, but other then that she had absolutely nothing to do until the mysterious meeting later that day.

Unfortunately, she finished reviewing the reports by 10, even after rereading them twice, which left her with five hours until the meeting. She knew she should go back to the flat and talk to Dawn, or at least call her, but she didn’t want to.

Dawn’s an adult now, she reminded herself. And she’s got to start owning up for her own mistakes.

By noon, she had coerced an intern into giving her a tour of the building, accidentally broken a copy machine, and walked in on two people having sex in an office. (Watchers could be so repressed sometimes, but when they got going…she was going to have nightmares for at least a week.) In other words, she needed to go somewhere.

She suddenly felt the irresistible urge to borrow a leaf from Dawn’s book and get drunk, just to see what people would do. But she, too, was an adult, one with an important meeting in a few hours, and she couldn’t afford to miss it. So, regrettably, that plan was shelved until another time. Eventually, she decided to explore the city for a bit. She should probably learn more about the place she would almost certainly be living in for an extended period of time, and it wouldn’t do for her to be almost totally clueless about it.

Her first order of business was finding a map. Thankfully, her secretary – why and how she had one, she did not know, but strongly suspected Giles had had something to do with it – had one in her desk, and had been more then happy to hand it over. She’d even pointed out places the Slayer might want to see, and some warnings on which neighborhoods to avoid.

Nice girl, Buffy thought a few minutes later as she left the Council building. What was her name again?

She used the Great Name Search, as she’d privately dubbed it, to occupy herself during the short walk to the Tube station, and the even shorter ride that followed. She got off at Whitechapel. She took a good look around as she got outside. This had been one of the neighborhoods her secretary had warned her about, and she could see why.

Buffy had seen plenty of bad neighborhoods in her life, and she couldn’t say that Whitechapel was the worst – not by a long shot. Images sprang to mind of adrenaline-ridden trips to Watts from her Hemery days. Whitechapel was still pretty bad, though, especially when compared to the wealthy, refined areas of the city that she had come to associate with London.

That’s what you get for spending all your time with Watchers, she mentally reminded herself.

Shaking her head, she decided it would be a good idea to pull her coat on. Dressed for the weather as she was, in a skimpy top more suitable for beaches in Italy then a blue collar neighborhood in England, might gain her more attention then she would like. To be sure, it was attention she was looking for, just not of the mangy old man or sexual predator persuasion. She had something a little more supernatural in mind.

She slipped her sunglasses on with her free hand and set off down the street.

Here, evil creature. Here, little evil creature. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

After about half an hour of searching with no luck, Buffy was more then a little put out. Of course, she knew that it was unlikely she’d find a creature of the night out lurking in the middle of a very public neighborhood when it, well, wasn’t night, but she’d still hoped.

Then it hit her.

Of course. Why hadn’t she thought of it earlier? If the creatures of the night couldn’t be out during the day… creaturing, then they would have to be somewhere else. Somewhere indoors, and large, too. A place where no one would ask any questions.

Warehouses.

Hadn’t Spike once told her that he’d kidnapped and tortured Angel in one to get the Gem of Amara? (She hadn’t spoken to him for a week after he admitted that.) Hadn’t she and Willow once laughed after Cordelia had complained to her best friend on the phone for an hour about how much she hated warehouses (and all the demons that were to be found in them) because Slaying in them always left her with “the nastiest things” all over her clothes?

She couldn’t believe it had taken her so long to figure it out. She was supposed to be the brightest witch of her age.

Had any of the passers-by on the busy street stopped to take a good look at the pretty blonde walking back to the Tube station, they would have seen a strangely pained look float across her face.

She wasn’t a witch. She had to remember that. More then anything else, she must remember that she was not a witch. She was a Slayer. The Slayer, if you wanted to take Giles’s view of it, which was probably, by default, the Council’s official position as well. But she was not a witch, and she certainly wasn’t a witch who’d been told that she was “the brightest of her age”.

Buffy was an adult, now, and had been for quite some time. She had a job, and responsibilities, and all sorts of other grown-uppish things. Now, more then ever, she could not afford to falter in her lie. The Old Council may be gone, but there were other, far more sinister things that could befall her family now. Distance was her only security, both mental and physical.

Slayers will stick together, she thought suddenly. But The Slayer always walks alone.

With this grim thought in mind, she squared her shoulders and boarded the train for Wapping.

The ride was fairly quick, with Wapping being so close to Whitechapel. It probably wouldn’t have taken her long to walk there, but even she wasn’t willing to tempt Fate in such a dodgy neighborhood.

When she emerged from the station a few minutes later, she made a beeline for the abandoned wharves near the river. After a bit of searching, she found a cluster of run-down warehouses that seemed perfect for hiding someone.

Something, she mentally corrected herself. They are demons.

However, as she drew nearer to the warehouses, she discovered that her first statement had been right. Or, rather, both statements were right.

Her Slayer senses made it possible to hear the voices inside, and many of them were unmistakably human. They could have been vampires, she reasoned, but she would sense a vampire, especially a group as large as this one seemed to be.

She could smell them, too. There was that underlying scent that every human had; it varied from person to person, and could be appealing or revolting, but it was there, and impossible to get rid of.

People it is, then.

She crept inside, making sure she didn’t even breathe loudly. For all of Giles’s jokes that she had the stealth of a wounded hippo, Buffy really was quite good at sneaking around. Leftovers from another life, she supposed.

It came in handy now, as she moved to hide behind a dusty collection of crates. For once, she was glad she was so small, or they would never have covered her.

She crouched low to the ground, coiled to spring should she be discovered. She was in a perfect position to overhear the people, now, and what she heard had her trying to melt into the boxes.

“The Dark Lord will be most displeased, Nott, when I have to inform him that your little blunder cost us his most prized possession,” a silky voice, as familiar as it was feared, whispered.

“You have my humblest apologies, Lucius,” Nott said.

By peeping around the edge of the crates, she could just make out Nott’s form, bowed ridiculously low to the ground as he groveled at Lucius’s feet. Buffy’s nose wrinkled in distaste. The action turned out to be a bad idea as doing so caused her to breathe in quite a bit of dust.

Oh no.

Buffy bit down hard on one hand and covered her nose with each other, successfully stopping a very loud sneeze from escaping.

Whew, that was close.

“Very well, then,” Lucius said, and Buffy realized that she had just missed something. “I will not punish you.”

That was odd. Wasn’t Nott supposed to have lost one of Voldemort’s most precious things? She couldn’t imagine an infraction like that going unpunished among the Death Eaters.

Sure enough, she could see a pleased smile snaking its way across Malfoy’s face. She didn’t think it could even be called a smile; it was more of a grimace, really. And whatever the idea that had sparked that grimace was, she was sure it could not be of the good.

“I will let our youngest friend do it for me,” he said.

He raised one pale hand and beckoned to a small, reedy looking boy – for he seemed to be more boy then man, for all that he had to be at least as old as she was – and gestured for him to come forward.

“Tell me, Theodore, with who does your loyalty lie?” Lucius asked, his eyes glittering with malice.

Theodore…she’d known this boy once. He’d probably been a Slytherin, so that narrowed things down a bit. There was something familiar about him, too, although she couldn’t quite place it.

“With the Dark Lord, as always,” the boy – Theodore – recited dutifully.

The voice did it. She’d heard that whiny, nasal voice a thousand times before, in lessons with the Slytherins. Occasionally, she’d even heard it poking fun at her. Theodore was Theodore Nott, one of the numerous Slytherins she remembered tagging along with Malfoy, doing anything for a scrap of his attention.

Nott, she thought, as she realized what Malfoy was planning. That would make him –

“Your own son,” Malfoy crowed, “Punishing Father for his mistakes. You would do it, wouldn’t you? You would protect the Dark Lord from incompetent fools.”

Theodore nodded mechanically, although she could detect something savage in his eyes, and a look of badly suppressed glee.

He wants this. Oh, God…

“My son,” the older Nott moaned. “Surely you wouldn’t…”

A twisted grimace appeared on Theodore’s face, an exact replica of the one on Malfoy’s.

“I told you I would,” he said, wand out. “Remember?” His voice fell to a whisper, one that had even Buffy’s enhanced senses straining to understand. “The night that you took the lock off my door so you could come “visit”, I told you I’d murder you.”

His father had turned stark white, paler even then Lucius, although his complexion was naturally darker.

“My boy,” he whispered. “I lo-”

The word was cut off by a blow to the face.

“You dare,” Theodore said wonderingly. “You dare attempt such a thing? As if it would make me reconsider?”

Behind him, Lucius looked on with something akin to affection; it was an almost fatherly pride in his eyes, if he were capable of feeling such things.

Theodore turned to face him, then. He met Malfoy’s grey eyes with his own, holding his gaze as he said, “My loyalty is to the Dark Lord alone. I have no care for any other.”

And then, as she hid in silence, Buffy watched as he pointed his wand at his father and let out a wordless spell. A jet of green light erupted from the wand, and before she could do much more then process what it was, Theodore’s father was dead.

Malfoy looked slightly surprised at what Theodore had done, but then his grimace grew even wider. The other Death Eaters, who had been milling about the far end of the warehouse, had all turned to look when the Killing Curse had illuminated the darkened room. Now, they drew closer to the twisted pair, and took a good look at the body of their former comrade with expressions varying from shock (present mostly on the younger ones, some of whom she was sure she recognized) to apathy (this was strongest on the face of a woman with long dark hair and a distinct air of cruelty about her.

It was she who snapped at one of the younger ones to destroy the body, along with the rest of them.

“Rest of them” did not sound like a good thing. Had they murdered others before she arrived?

Buffy’s questions were answered when the young Death Eater grumbled, too low for the woman to hear, but perfectly clear to her own ears, about the futility of cleaning up dead demons. “Muggles never notice a thing, anyway,” he finished. “Especially not here. Even they won’t go near this filth.”

It took all of her control to keep her from attacking them all. She could feel the impulse rising in her; envision all the possible scenarios…She was the Slayer, and she had come to Slay.

No humans, though.

It was hard. Her instincts were screaming at her to make her move. She had the advantage; they had no idea she was here, and even if they did, they would never know what she was – not until it was too late. She could happily murder them all without any of them ever knowing what had happened to them. She highly doubted if the people in Hell would be so kind as to tell them that, either.

You are The Slayer. You have no part in this, she told herself.

So she stayed hidden until they left. This was not her place.

When the Death Eaters had all Disapparated, it was past 2:45, and Buffy realized she had less then fifteen minutes to be back at the Council.

She ran to the Tube station, only to be informed that the Underground was out of commission until further notice – something about a terrorist threat.

She swore, long and loud, using words that would have made Faith proud. And when she remembered that she’d left her phone in her office, she swore even louder. She was on the street again, and facing the prospect of having to run all the way to the Council without anyone seeing her and marveling at her supernatural speed, when someone honked at her.

“Sod off,” she snapped, reverting to terms the person would understand. Thank god for Spike.

“Get in,” the driver yelled out the window.

Normally, Buffy would have had some very interesting things to say – and do – to the person making that offer, but she recognized that voice. In fact, she knew it very well.

Dawn?” she exclaimed, sliding into the passenger seat.

“I wanted to talk to you,” her sister said, staring intently at the road. “But you didn’t have your phone, and Lisa told me you’d been planning to look around the city.”

“So you drove around some of the city’s crappiest neighborhoods looking for me?” Buffy said. She didn’t know if she should be angry or touched.

“No,” Dawn said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “I scried for you.”

“Oh.” Let’s go with touched, then…

“We should talk,” her sister said.

“Uh huh,” Buffy agreed, noncommittally. Dawn’s a big girl, now, she can apologize on her own.

And maybe I should throw in a little, itty bitty one of my own. I was kinda harsh on her.

“Kinda very,” Willow would have said, if she were there. And could read my thoughts, which, you know, is always a possibility with her.

Dawn still wasn’t looking at her, which meant she was either very focused on driving, or very focused on…not looking at her.

Buffy knew which little bubble she’d fill in.

When they came to a stop sign and Dawn still had her eyes glued to the pavement, Buffy knew she was right.

Choice B, it is.

“Are you having a staring contest with the road, or did it just do something to piss you off?” she asked, keeping her voice light.

“I went there,” Dawn said abruptly.

“Where?” Buffy asked, nonplussed. “Anywhere could be “there”. Are you talking about a bar? Because I already know about that. And, by the way, some guy named Kev from Hanger’s On, whatever the hell that is, called for you this morning.”

“Home.”

“Wow, that really clears things up. You went home. I kinda already knew that, too.”

Buffy sometimes got sarcastic when she was nervous. It was starting to show through now, but Dawn was choosing not to comment like she usually did.

“No, Buffy, I went home last night. I went to see it.” Dawn finally looked at her sister.

There was something different about the way she said it, some little emphasis that was familiar to her. She couldn’t have. One look at Dawn’s face was enough to convince her. She did.

Buffy paled. “Pull over,” she said.

“We’re going to miss the meeting.”

Pull over.

Dawn complied, pulling into an empty parking lot outside a bank. She was still talking, too.

“It’s nice. It looks cozy, just like Mum always said it did. I’d started to forget, you know.” They were back to not looking at each other, but this time, Buffy was as much for it as Dawn was. “There’s another family living there. They just moved in – there’s two kids, a little younger then me. It’s their home, now, I guess. They like it, anyway.”

Her voice broke, and she trailed off.

After that, no one spoke. They sat there for a few moments, avoiding each other’s gazes, then –

Buffy put her arms around her sister and held her as they both started to cry.



Notes: Tell me what you thought. Got to say, I love all of you who reviewed! x. Rachel.

The End?

You have reached the end of "Once Upon A Time" – so far. This story is incomplete and the last chapter was posted on 4 Jan 07.

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