Harry finished explaining everything to the gang around 11 in the morning. By this time, they’d all been up all night fighting demons that kept healing and the singing monster so they were all exhausted. Once Harry finished his explanation it was agreed that everyone would go to either work or class or wherever they had to go and then spend the early afternoon sleeping and avoiding anything supernatural.
Of the entire group Harry was the only one that wasn’t dead on his feet, he was used to staying up all night and his mind was going insane with everything he had to think about. Harry waved goodbye to Buffy and Dawn (who seemed to be trying to convince Buffy that school would be boring today anyway and she’d probably sleep through anything they learned anyway so she might as well stay home) and set off towards the motel. He picked the long way through the small town, hoping to give himself time to think about the growing list of things he continually pushed to the back of his mind.
The list of things that had to do with the wizarding world he couldn’t really deal with right now. How Voldemort had gotten his hands on Harry’s essence, the teaching job, McGonagall’s continued insistence that he needed to be taught and coddled, and the other Horcruxes. There was nothing he could do about any of those things right now, especially not here. Harry knew enough about the Hellmouth to know that if he tried to track more Horcruxes from here he wouldn’t get accurate readings. The magic around the Hellmouth, while not as thick as it was around Hogwarts, was practically designed to screw things up. So, for now at least, he had to leave those thoughts behind.
So, of the things he could think about first and most worrying was the plan he and Buffy had come up with last night to deal with the threat of the three geeks. The plan was not something Harry would have normally gone with, there were way too many variables and he did not like variables. They made him nervous. Harry peered inwards, searching for Warren’s location, sighing in relief when he realized that the kid was still in Sunnydale, fuming about Buffy. Hopefully, he’d hit the next point in his plan quickly. Harry paused in his walk for a moment, concentrating fully on the link, trying to force himself down it enough to see Warren’s thoughts. He ignored the drops of sweat that slid down his forehead with the effort of it. Finally he was in deep enough that he could feel the majority of Warren’s thoughts. Damm, none of them were what they needed for the next step of the plan. Harry expertly seeded a thought of his own in, laying it quietly among the others so that it would seem to Warren like he’d been thinking about it this whole time. Then, he pulled one of Warren’s other thoughts behind it, carefully knitting them to each other so that they would come to the forefront of Warren’s weak mind together. Once he was finished Harry pulled out of there carefully, whipping at his brow and breathing hard through the little dots that danced in front of his vision. He was really in no shape to use that much magic.
Harry watched one of his hands shake with removed interest for a moment before reaching down to grab another bottle of pepper-up. Lucky he was so good at making it now, he practically lived off the stuff right now. The shaking stopped after a moment and Harry sighed, slipping the empty vile into one of his pockets where it settled against thirty others. He’d have to clean out that pocket soon; he was always forgetting to do that. Harry wiped the sweat from his brow as he continued walking, organizing his scattered thoughts once again.
The only other problem he could really think of was Willow. She was getting worrisome in her insistence that she could control magic, when every sign pointed clearly to the fact that she could not. Harry wondered if the witch had ever had a spell turn out the way she had intended. He sincerely doubted it. Of course, there wasn’t really anything he could do about that right now, or ever really. It wasn’t his place. Still, he should probably mention it to Buffy and try to actually talk to Willow about it, if she was interested. For whatever reason the witch didn’t seem to like him much. He was probably infringing on her position in the life of the Slayer. Magic was probably her thing and he was a big threat to that. Especially since he and Buffy seemed to be getting along so well. Harry made a mental note to talk to Buffy about that sometime soon.
Which only left him with his biggest problem. Angel. After Harry had left LA he’d had a lot of time to think. And he eventually admitted that he might have felt some kind of affection for Angel. He’d certainly fallen into bed with him fast enough. Harry couldn’t stop a small smile as he thought about that. That had been a particularly happy time for him. Once of his only happy times in this last year. Harry shook his head violently, shaking off the thoughts as his body started to react to the memories. Now was probably not the best time to think about that. Anyway, yes, Harry had felt certain affection for Angel but he certainly hadn’t loved
him. That was ridiculous. Insane. Completely improbable. After all, Harry had made a vow at the beginning of the year, right after Sirius. He wouldn’t love anyone else. And, if he did, he’d leave them alone. For their own safety. Which seemed self sacrificing and noble but, really, was incredibly selfish. He simply couldn’t face losing anyone else he loved.
That was yet another reason why taking this job at Hogwarts had been a stupid idea. He’d left to protect these people, and himself, as well as to train for the incoming fight. Going back wasn’t his brightest idea. But he’d been entranced by the idea of teaching his friends that he hadn’t given it enough thought. Or, really, any thought at all. And now he was stuck.
Harry rolled his eyes at his internal monologue. Even in his own thoughts he was trying to avoid Angel. It was getting pathetic. Harry turned the corner into the motel’s parking lot, fishing the key out of his pocket as he went. A few steps away from the door he froze. There was a shape standing in the shadows by his door. A shape he recognized. Angel.
Well, looked like it was going to be hard to avoid him now.
After Harry left Buffy grudgingly allowed Dawn to skip school on the promise that she’d make up all that work immediately. Now was not the best time for Child Services to come knocking. In fact, Buffy’d be perfectly happy if they never came knocking. That was a headache she really didn’t need. Of course, they’d send a notice weeks ago that they were going to stop by. Buffy flinched as she remembered that, she should really start preparing everyone for that visit. Buffy waved after Willow and Tara as they made their way up to bed. They both looked exhausted. Buffy yawned herself as she made her way into the kitchen, she had to clean up before she went to sleep, plus, she was still riding the high of the day and didn’t really feel like abandoning herself to her nightmares just yet. When she walked into the kitchen she was surprised to find Spike staring at a dishrag as it finished drying a plate. The plate hovered for a moment, as though trying to decide what to do next, then floated over to the correct cupboard and clinked gently down on top of the rest. The cupboard closed gently and the dishrag fell to the counter, limp and lifeless.
“Harry certainly makes sure you don’t forget him.” Buffy observed, smiling. Spike jumped slightly, not having heard her come in, too involved in watching the kitchen clean itself.
“I thought it was Willow.”
Buffy laughed, “Nah, if it was Willow all the dishes would have turned evil and tried to take over the world.”
Spike grinned in agreement, finally turning to look at her. There was a beat of awkwardness as they both tried to think of something to say, the kiss hanging between them like a giant awkward balloon. Spike finally broke the silence, gesturing over his shoulder to the door, “Uh, I was going to go, but, you know, I didn’t want to burst into flame.”
Buffy nodded, “I was just going to clean up. Now I guess I don’t have to.”
Awkward again, Buffy wondered how to offer Spike the cot in basement without it turning into a come-on. “Uh, there’s always that cot in the basement, if you’re tired. And, you know, you don’t want to chance bursting into flame on the way home.”
Spike nodded, “Thanks Slayer.” Silence, and Buffy wondered if it was ever not going to be awkward between them, “I’ll just go down there then.”
Buffy nodded, “Goodnight Spike.”
He smiled softly, “Good morning Slayer.”
Harry had to stop for a moment after seeing Angel and prepare himself for this meeting. There will be no way to put off this conversation any longer now, Angel’d been put off for long enough and vampires can get cranky.
So he’s heard.
After what feels like an eon of getting himself ready for this confrontation Harry walked up to where Angel was standing in the shadows, “I was wondering where you went.”
There’s a light in Angel’s eyes and it takes a moment for Harry to identify it without the help of being able to see his aura. He’s actually nervous, “I was wondering how long you were going to stand in the sun before coming over here.”
“You surprised me.”
Silence for a few moments and Harry can’t keep looking at Angel. And that’s the problem.
He remembers what those lips taste like, what it feels like when Angel loses control and shoves him easily against any hard surface available, the taste of his skin, Harry shivered and forced himself to look away. He pressed his back against the wall of the motel building, forced himself to look at the cars in the parking lot, though he was still painfully aware of the way Angel was still staring at him, “You left.” Angel finally says, breaking the silence, “I thought – I thought Voldemort might have finally gotten you.”
Harry didn’t move, didn’t really know what to do with the information that Angel had known who he really was all that time, he settled on sighing, “Sorry. I left a note.” Harry winced a bit at the childish protest in that last part but he can’t take it back now.
Angel snorted, “Yeah. You did.” Silence again for a moment, “You understand why a note wasn’t good enough right?”
Harry’s temper flared, quick and hot, “I’m not a child
Angel’s temper flared to match, “Now hang on a moment, I’m not the people you’re mad at. And I think we can agree that I’ve never treated you anything
like a child and accusing me of it is just . . .” Angel trailed off, searching for a word and Harry sighed, anger leaving faster then it came.
“I know,” Another, heavier sigh, “I’m sorry.”
“You should be.”
It was a while before Angel said something else, “Why’d you leave?”
The ‘me’ is silent and understood, Harry just shook his head, knowing he can’t use the real reason, “It was just time, I’d already stayed there for longer then I wanted to.”
“Longer then you wanted to? I’m sorry, were we keeping you from something more important?” Angel asked, his tone like ice.
“That’s not what I meant!” Harry protested. Then took a breath to calm himself, “I meant that I’d gone to LA with a plan to just stay a few weeks and I ended up staying for more than a month.”
“You could have stayed longer.”
“No. I couldn’t.”
“Lots of reasons.”
“Why does it matter?”
“I guess it doesn’t.” Angel said, “If you think it doesn’t.”
Harry banged his head against the wall behind him, groaned, “That’s not what I meant, and you know it.”
Quick as lightning Angel reached out and grabbed Harry’s wrist, “Why won’t you look at me?”
Harry resisted the urge to shudder at the cool grip and finally turned to face him, admitting softly, “Because when I look at you I only think about the reasons I stayed as long as I did and not all the good reasons that I left.” Angel searched his eyes for a moment and Harry was suddenly intensely aware of how close they were and what it would feel like to lean forward those extra inches and kiss him. His heart picked up pace and his breath started to come faster and that’s just enough. With a deft twist of his wrist he broke Angel’s hold and made for the door of his room, “I’ve got to go now.” He muttered.
“No you can’t. Not yet. I want to understand this.” Angel said.
Harry laughed, hollowly, “Yeah, you and me both.” But he stopped trying to run, leaning back against the wall again. “What do you want me to say? I left because there was word of a Voldemort camp in Russia. I left because the camp that I’d heard about in LA was obviously
not real and there was no real reason to stay there anymore. I left for a lot of reasons Angel.”
“Yeah, but all the things you just mentioned were true before that night you left. And had been, for a while. What happened that night that made you think you had to leave right then, couldn’t even say good bye?”
Harry was at a loss, everything stripped away except the truth, “I don’t want to tell you.”
“Tough.” Angel snapped.
Harry laughed, surprised by the phrase and the way he said it, “Fine. But promise me we won’t talk about it anymore.”
“If it’s what I think it is I won’t want to.”
That intrigued Harry and he glanced at Angel’s inscrutable face for a moment, “What do you think it is?” Emotions flew across Angel’s face and Harry had to take a breath, “You think there was someone else.” Harry laughed and shook his head, “There was never anyone else Angel.”
There was no reaction to that except a flinch of relief that might have just been Harry’s imagination, “Then why
Harry breathed out slowly before beginning his story, “That night, after we finished intimidating the demon, we got back to the hotel and I flew out the window. I . . . I went to Lorne’s. I don’t know why, maybe there’s a certain . . . something about the fact that I can see everyone’s else’s aura but never my own and I wanted to understand. Or something, I don’t know.” Harry shook his head and changed the subject, “You know who I am now, so you know the stories. But, what the stories never talk about are the things that I’ve lost. The things that I’ve given up or had stolen from me to get here, to get this good. You see, I’ve only loved a handful of people in my life and the great majority of them are dead. I don’t know what the stories say about how I grew up but my Aunt and Uncle were horrible people and I never loved them. And I never will. That’s just how we are. So, until I was 11 the only people I’d ever loved, my parents, were dead. They were my only family. Then I met Sirius, and I poured almost everything I had into that relationship, I was just so happy to have a father figure. And then he died and it was my fault. Strange as it sounds that was one of the reasons I left, I figured if I wasn’t there my friends would be safe. Now Dumbledore’s dead, and I can’t help thinking that if I was there. If I’d been able to do something . . . Of course, we’ll never know will we? What it would have been like if I had stayed another year. Anyway, I went to see Lorne and he told me . . .” Harry trailed off and couldn’t finish the sentence.
“He told you you love me.”