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Shiver, Whisper, Cringe

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Summary: Gifts, especially those given by Magic itself, are never free and the price is one none of them ever asked to pay but they must. And that's all there is to it.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Buffy-Centered(Moderator)FaithUnbreakableFR15118,61438567,8975 Oct 075 Oct 07Yes
Disclaimer: Since no-one appreciated my little story last time, I'll just say it: I own neither Buffy nor Harry Potter and make no money of this. Thanks a lot. Buffy's song belongs to Guano Apes and is called Rain.

Beta: Anneliese, who suffered through being my sounding board, corrected the first part and generally did a wonderful job as always and Amusewithaview, who corrected the final draft and came up with the wicked cool title (and believe me, the old one sucked something horrible). Thanks to both of you, you rock really hard.

A/N: Oh, puh, where do I start. Firstly, this is where the idea for Trinity comes from, so parallels are a given. I am also well aware that 18.000 words for a one shot are a bit obscene. But the thing just got away from me.Secondly, I am well aware that this story is not going to appeal to everyone. It's too...eccentric for that. And don't expect too much coherency. But it's grown on me a lot over the year I spent writing it so please be gentle? Or at least constructive. Thanks.


This story has been podficced! Go check it out!



+

Shiver, Whisper, Cringe

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

It happens when she’s seven years old, almost eight. She’s standing in front of the bathroom mirror naked. Hands on her slim hips, she twists and turns and tries to figure out if she’s beautiful, if Ford will still love her ten years from now and if he’ll make her a baby then. She wants him to make her a baby because her Mommy has Dawn and she really likes to play with Dawn. When Buffy is grown up she wants to have a husband and a family and she wants to have a house with a white fence and a great garden where she can sit and watch her children play.

She pushes her blonde locks into her eyes, makes a face at her reflection and pecks the smooth surface of the mirror for good measure. She goes back to looking at her bum, when suddenly she sees a bleeding scrape on her left knee. There’s blood running down her shin and dripping on the floor, more blood than she’s ever seen before. It’s red and sticky and warm, like bath water, but infinitely more horrifying than that.

And then she blinks and the blood is gone without a trace, her knee whole once more, unblemished, unstained and the red smudges on the floor aren’t there anymore either. She shakes her head and goes back to inspecting her preadolescent body for any flaws because she is seven and has not yet reached the age where everything needs to be explained. A trick of light maybe, a hallucination, a smudge of lipstick on the mirror. What does it matter? She’s pretty and Ford will marry her. That’s all that matters.

A voice from beyond the door tears her out of her daydreams, calling, “Buffy honey, hurry up!”

Quickly she shimmies back into her cotton panties and pulls her yellow sundress over her head, wiping an absent hand over her knee, not really noticing that she does it at all. Her skin tingles a bit as she does.

“Coming, Mom!”

She throws open the door, grabs her cute pink backpack from the floor and skips down the stairs at breakneck speed, squealing in delight as her mother catches her when she jumps the last two steps.

+

Hours later she crosses a street in down town Los Angeles holding onto her mother’s firm hand so she doesn’t get lost in the throngs of people. Not that she thinks she’d really get lost, but she humors her mommy. The sun shines brightly, making her squint her eyes behind her sunglasses and then suddenly the shrill screeching of tires on asphalt rips the heavy summer air around her and she sees a bright flash of sunlight on glass out of the corner of her eye. Her mother jerks on her arm painfully, she screams, falls, tears run down her face, as her mother whips her into her arms and they’re both on the ground suddenly, rolling and everything hurts as a horrible sound reaches her ears and more people scream.

Then, suddenly, all sounds stop and everything falls very silent. They air feels heavier somehow, than it did a moment ago. She lost her backpack with Mr. Gordo in it.

Her mother refuses to let go of her for long moments and when she does, Buffy tries to stand up only for find her yellow sandals suddenly red, drenched in blood running freely from a nasty scrape on her left knee.

Her eyes grow wide as her mother presses a hand to her daughter’s knee, searching for some tissues in her purse with the other hand. Through a forest of adult legs Buffy’s eyes fall onto a man lying just a few feet away. He doesn’t breathe. He’s painted in red, like her knee and his eyes look at her with absolutely nothing in them.

“Death,” a little voice in her head Whispers.

She’s seven, almost eight, and her innocence is gone.

+

I’m alone
Can’t wait until I feel your rain
So unreal
Can’t find another place of your rain


+

A flash of green, a female scream that sounds so very familiar and yet so far away, always just out of reach. A stinging pain in the forehead and oblivion. A flying motorcycle and a big stag, a dog, a smiling black haired man, a rat, a flash of green light, the sound of shattering glass and again the voice, so familiar. It’s cut off by the sound of screeching tires and the wet slap of metal hitting flesh.

A tiny black haired boy wakes in the darkness of his cupboard and his eyes glow as green as the flashes in his dreams always do. He’s panting and sweating, his hair sticking to his forehead and ugly scar even more than usual. He squints into the darkness, unseeing after such bright sunlight. Into the silence of a sleeping house at midnight he Whispers a single word in the lilting tones of a three-year-old’s voice.

“Death.”

Beyond the door of his little cupboard all the plants in the house wither and die before morning while elsewhere a girl bleeds on a concrete sidewalk.

+

Halfway across the country a twenty month old girl with big blue eyes wakes between the forms of her peacefully sleeping parents with a scream and tears that threaten to drown the world. She screams and screams and screams like she’s dying and somewhere, someone is dead but her little mind is unable to grasp what tears her soul apart and puts it back together all wrong.

The water glass on the bedside table explodes in a shower of diamonds, followed shortly by the windows in the room and the antique vase on the mantle above the fireplace. Her mother picks the little screamer up, holding her close, stroking gently over the downy, blonde curls, murmuring, “Shhh, Luna, shhh, it’s alright. Mommy is here. Everything’s alright now.”

Luna doesn’t stop screaming until morning when the sun slowly climbs above the horizon and her little voice gives out.

+

At the age of fourteen, Buffy has it all figured out after years of watching and learning and Seeing things not meant for children’s eyes.

It’s Magic’s gift to her. A gift meant to prepare her for what’s to come - What’s to come - for her, for others, for the world. To prepare her for her worst nightmares to become reality and her own blood staining her hands. She remembers the day the man died and her knee bled and she never forgot the feel of blood running freely under her fingers. Never forgot the coppery scent and the sound of metal hitting flesh. It was a warning.

What’s to come.

Fate decided her path and Magic tries to help her out when no other power will. Magic loves her like she loves few beings on this earth. Magic came to her the day fate stepped into her life and ripped away her innocence. Sometimes, late at night, Magic whispers how sorry she is for making a little girl See all these horrors, but she must. She hurts and she cries inside children’s heads, but she must give them what they need to fight. No-one else will.

Yesterday in the supermarket a boy half her age threw a can of noodles at her, but she wasn’t there to be hit, sidestepping a move that was not yet made. The day before she gave the answer to a math question before the teacher asked it and two weeks before that she threw a tantrum in public, forcing her mother to leave the subway now. The train crashed less than ten minutes later.

Magic makes her See things and she always lives two minutes in the future, ahead of everyone else – apart from everyone else - and she Sees every horror Magic thinks she needs to See. Sometimes she can’t remember how life was before the spark at the back of her mind appeared and red became a color to fear. Sometimes she worries how much red will make the pictures stop.

Magic loves her, so much, so very much she can see it in every whisper, every motion of grass in the breeze. Magic is rewriting the rules for her. But Magic is also killing her, making her separate, different. It’s a drug she never asked to be addicted to, a lover that brings her down no matter how high she flies. For her own good. Without Magic, she would be dead.

Sometimes she wonders if she isn’t dead with Magic as well.

+

Right now she’s lying in her bed, blanket drawn up to her chin, eyes closed and her mind a million miles away. She’s floating in a breeze high above a girl with flowing blonde hair and tear filled blue eyes as big as mirrors. Eyes that look like all the horrors she sees, great, vast, pain-filled, beautiful. But this kind of beauty is different from all others. It lacks the hedonistic flawlessness that accompanies all things beautiful in her cruel world. This beauty, the beauty of these nine year old blue eyes filled with tears, is a selfless one. And behind them there is a sorrow as deep as Buffy can See. This little girl has felt too much already. No, not felt, Felt.

Another child that Magic loves. Another ruined childhood. Briefly, she considers screaming.

She’s floating above an open grave with a cheery white coffin at the bottom and a mount of dirt beside it. Her grandmother was buried in a coffin like this and she cried for days afterward because she could See the gentle woman stumbling in the shower, falling, drowning, stumbling, falling, drowning, stumbling, falling, drowning, again, again, again.

And then the girl closes her eyes for a second, swaying in the gentle summer breeze like a leaf and maybe, maybe she’ll take Buffy’s hand and they’ll fly away together, high above everything that can harm them. Maybe they’ll find a place where nothing hurts and nothing exists, a place where red has never been invented and death can’t touch them. Where life can’t touch them. Maybe, maybemaybemaybe. If wishes were horses then beggars would ride and no child’s eyes would ever see death and cruelty. But they do.

When her eyes open again they are looking straight at Buffy and the girl says in a soft voice, “They all feel so sad.”

The anguish in her voice is palpable and yet wrong. Not her own. Borrowed. She Feels, Buffy thinks, Feels it all but is empty inside on her own. The girl is a thief, half a being. She’s not really real.

Then, “Can you see her?”

Buffy nods and points at a spot behind the girl, her ghostly fingers reaching through the face of a crying man in his late twenties. The ghost of a woman lays a hand on her daughter’s slim shoulder and she smiles at Buffy. Her eyes are blue, too.

“Yes. I can see her.”

+

Sometimes the girls are startled out of whatever they are doing when a piping voice carries across the magic, Speaking of pain and loneliness. Buffy always comes then, picking Luna up on the way and they travel between strands and roads of Magic until they reach a tiny cupboard with a beaten boy. They hug him, their bodies passing through him, and they warm him with whatever they have to give and they always stay until he falls asleep before the wind comes and lifts them away, back into their bodies.

And every time Luna cries for him and Buffy hates for him while he sleeps and dreams of red and flashes of green.

+

I believe
I still believe in your warm rain
I’m alone
Can’t sleep until I feel your rain


+

On Sundays Luna always used to bake a cake with her mother. They got up early and made the cake, spilling flour all over the floor, while her father was still asleep. By the time he came stumbling into the kitchen, the whole house smelled of warm cake and he always volunteered for the clean up after stealing the biggest piece while it was still dripping molten chocolate.

Luna tries to do it on her own one Sunday morning, using a chair to reach all the high shelves, following the recipe perfectly and even spilling a bit of flour on the floor so it looks like they had another one of their famous fights, throwing baking materials at each other. It doesn’t work.

The flour falls to the floor in small piles, looking nothing like the swishes and arches they used to create while throwing it, shaking it out of hair and clothes, blowing it from flat palms. She can’t reach the cocoa and her father forgot to buy more sugar. He’s still sleeping, even now that it’s long past cake-stealing time and she doesn’t have the heart to wake him because she can Feel him cry every night, silencing charms or not. On Sundays Luna always used to bake a cake with her mother. But her mother is gone and Luna Feels that hole now, that wasn’t there before.

It’s in the way the kitchen doesn’t echo with footsteps, soft and firm. In the way there is no smell of chocolate cake wafting through the house. In the way her father used charms to hide the black circles under his eyes. In the way Luna sits in the kitchen feeling like the sky is falling and there’s no-one there to shelter her.

Buffy comes like a whisper through a half closed door, Harry trailing behind, looking unsure of himself. They float in through the window, sitting on thin air, watching Luna as she waits for the world to end. When it doesn’t Buffy slowly reaches out a hand and touches Luna’s hair, blonde and long like her own, but straighter. Her hand passes through, but that’s alright. Harry joins the game and kneels above the floor, attempting to blow the small piles of flour over and failing. He looks ridiculous.

Buffy starts singing softly about loneliness and rain, about children and faith. “What is the song called?” Luna asks, curiously because she is always curious and her mother always said that the ability to ask a question was the greatest gift anyone could be given.

The transparent girl looks a bit sheepish as she shrugs and says, “Just a song I like. I listen to it a lot.”

She sings gently as Luna works and Harry comes up with a way to substitute for the sugar and then, when the house smells of chocolate cake and memory, Luna’s father comes stumbling into the kitchen and stops short. He looks around him for a moment, as three children, two transparent one not, wait for him to act. He does by falling to his knees and pulling his daughter into a crushing embrace, finally letting the tears he tried to hide from her fall.

+

The first time Luna sets foot into Hogwarts she feels a low rumble beneath her feet and a wave of motherly love flows over her. She smiles at the ceiling and when everyone around her panics because of the Sorting. She looks away because she knows that no-one will wrestle trolls and she snorts softly because the twins are such a nuisance sometimes. Harry tells his friends a joke and she chuckles with them. The others look at her, their faces pinched because they don’t know. What’s to come.

Luna does and there is no use in fretting over things that were written in stone long before them. That’s what the other girl says, “You can’t change what you See”.

When she sits at Ravenclaw table she gazes around the hall for a long time until her eyes meet green ones and they both smile. She Feels him like she’s never Felt anyone before, warm and close and soft like feathers. Like the girl that sometimes sits on her bed when she comes home, asking for silly stories and easy laughter. And Luna always obliges because she Feels the girl’s insides, her pain and fear and she knows that the pretty hazel eyes are withering already. The girl knows, too. It’s why she asks for childhood games.

Harry Feels more real than the girl does, though. He Feels…closer, tougher, more. A real boy. She smiles.

She watches him whisper something under his breath and beneath her feet, the castle makes a sound like laughter and sunshine.

Luna never gets lost in Hogwarts, but sometimes she ends up in front of the Gryffindor common room instead of her own. She doesn’t mind though, because she knows that Harry sometimes has other things to do and can’t concentrate on where he leads her exactly.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+


Buffy is leading two lives and she hates it.

In the one life she is a shadow drifting above the world, up where the clouds are, gathering pain and hate all around the world and in the other she is a teenaged girl and hates Magic because it makes her special. She wants nothing more than to be normal and so she overcompensates, scoffs at all things not normal and breaks every rule she can. She ignores Magic as she weeps in the back of her mind because Magic doesn’t understand.

Buffy Sees what Magic shows her and she learns and knows.

Sometimes she looks into the mirror and sees herself flicker, like her knee did that very first time. She sees her eyes dull and turn glassy and she knows that she’ll never see forever.

She knows that she is living on borrowed time.

+

Harry is twelve when he wakes in the early hours of morning, drenched in sweat, flashes of blonde hair and red blood dancing behind his closed eyelids. Split lips and aching bones, weary and tired. Deep blue and purple bruises and the sharp sound of flesh on flesh, the red of blood spat on concrete ground. He wipes the tear from his eyes and Speaks, “Slayer.”

It’s the truest word he’s ever Spoken and he and Luna spend weeks crying for Buffy because they know she won’t cry for herself. She can’t because she’s as empty as Luna’s eyes and Harry’s heart. There’s a difference between Seeing and living something.

The blood is back in her life and the coppery smell will never go away now.

+

Merrick dies, then Ford and Jenny and Kendra and many, many others, nameless, faceless, but never forgotten. Never that. But it’s after Angelus that Luna stops talking and Harry lashes out at everyone around him with a tongue and wit sharper than anyone thought possible. He can be hard, too, he thinks and he’s tired of being the only one who flinches.

Flitwick finally drags the silent second year up to the headmaster and Luna now speaks when spoken to but her eyes are hollow. Buffy says that pain makes Luna’s eyes shine like blue gems and now they light the night.

Harry feels helpless as the fight slowly drains out of him after all, but he’s got his own troubles to solve and his own crisis to survive and so he Speaks words of encouragement to a girl he never met whenever he can and hopes with all his might that she’ll pull through. She has to. They all do. The alternative is not an option; that goes unspoken.

+

Sirius falls the same week Faith rises and Luna’s mother is five years dead. There’s grief and anger, flashes of violence and split lips, hatred and pity, love, despair and a desperate hole in all their chests that will never be filled. Sirius leaves them numb, Faith leaves them hot and Luna’s mother leaves them lonely. The combination is too much to take and Buffy dons her tightest leather pants and goes to vent her rage and frustration, her hate and blood-thirst, on the world, taking two teenagers along for the ride for one night. Fate took what innocence she could from them, but now they give up what was left voluntarily, only to make everything stop.

After that night they shut down, move on, paint on faces of happy people and clutch the Magic that was given to them close because there is nothing else.

Harry Speaks Magic, Buffy Sees things, Luna Feels it all and they are strong but too much is too much and they find themselves praying to gods that don’t exist because this has been going on for too long. They forgot where one ends and the other begins, but there are only so many tears a child can cry; only so many beatings a soul can take. Everyone has a breaking point, and they are way beyond it, have been for a long time. But the world doesn’t stop, time doesn’t slow down and the merciless pace that has been set for them doesn’t pause.

There’s still things to come.

+

It’s just before Christmas in Harry’s sixth year and they all lie sprawled in the room of Requirement. He is running his fingers through Luna’s hair, glad that he can finally be openly friends with her, sad that a third of what they truly are is still missing. But that’s alright.

He’s dying slower now and breathing comes easier again. The blue eyed waif in his lap has taken some of the weight onto her tiny shoulders and she always has a tendril of calm and happiness for them to ease them through their darkest hour. He’s dying slower now.

Hermione looks at him with her big, expressive and still so innocent eyes and says, “I’m so proud of you, Harry, of how you got over your crisis of faith and moved on after… after what happened last year.”

He knows that she loves him, that her own words hurt her too, but she doesn’t understand. Not yet and maybe not ever. He gently removes Luna’s head from his lap and climbs to his feet, feeling like he’s a hundred years old instead of sixteen. He leaves the room without a backward glance, ignoring the questions following him outside, like birds, flapping desperately to be heard.

Luna sits up when the door closes and looks at Hermione, patting the other girl’s hair patronizingly. She giggles and says, “Silly. Harry didn’t have a crisis of faith. He never had any faith to begin with.”

She follows him, but when the door closes this time the room is dead silent.

There’s nothing left to day.

+

How can I find
Love, faith and trust inside of your rain
So unreal


+

When Buffy falls into the Magic, stops breathing, visiting, living, floating into their dreams, being, Harry and Luna stop what they are doing for just a moment before going back to work. Magic won’t let her go. Death is only temporary. Relief won’t come and absolution won’t be given.

Luna sucks up all the hate and anger of the students around her and flings it in the face of Magic. She loves her children like a mother, fights for them with all her might, but as human as her actions seem to those who Know, she has no soul to understand the concept of letting go.

Better this way, she doesn’t grasp that; still Buffy hoped.

“Resurrection,” Harry Whispers. His hands shake as he cuts up the mandrake root. What’s to come.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

Joyce is kneeling in front of her only daughter a year later in a different world, trying desperately to find the words to keep her baby girl with her, in this world, while Buffy repeatedly slams her head into the wall, eyes glassy and mouth drawn in a grim line of pain and confusion. She woke only days ago and everything was fine, finefinefine for just a little while, normal again, and now her baby’s fading away again, fading back into her delusions and fantasies.

“You have a world of strength in your heart. You can do this, honey. Please. Fight it.”

And Buffy tries to fight, to move, to do anything but sit there, her head splitting and her eyes watering from pain, mental and physical, but she can’t. Magic loves her and Magic chokes her with that love. She should be dead by all rights and yet here she is and all she wants is some peace. Not this kind of peace, not the kind her mother offers, but it’s better than the one, two things she will never have. Better than nothing. It’s better than getting up every day, looking into the mirror and searching for black hair and blue eyes. It’s better than crying herself to sleep, clutching a pillow close, trying to imagine it’s a human body. Better than existing in three places at once, never whole, never complete, never sane and never alright. Better. It has to be.

Suddenly there is a flash of blinding white light behind Joyce, white like the dress Luna loves so much. White like freshly fallen snow, white like nothing she will ever touch. Pure.

The older woman turns, startles. Standing there, in the room her daughter spent the last six years in, catatonic, unmoving, barely breathing, are two children no, teenagers. They hold hands, looking like Hansel and Gretel from some horribly real fairy tale, wearing the same off-white cotton clothes that cover the painfully thin frame of her only daughter. They ignore her as they step around her and toward her girl, still curled up in the corner. The boy kneels down in front of her, smiling weakly and reaching out a hand toward her, like one would treat a wounded animal. Such care and tenderness. Such fear and reverence. Such love.

“Don’t touch her,” Joyce snaps, but while the strange girl glares at her, the boy doesn’t pay attention at all, pushing a few strands of washed-out blonde hair behind Buffy’s ear in a gesture that seems too familiar, too…. Joyce doesn’t have words for the three fey children in front of her, too small, too thin, too pale, not here nor there. Not real. They feel unreal. But when they touch, they make each other real and that’s not right. Joyce is the one who will make her daughter real again, with her love and faith and care. Not those children. Not those waifs with too much emptiness in their eyes. Not them.

Please God, don’t let them take her away. Please don’t.

“Hey,” the boy whispers, voice raspy and soothing, “We’ve come to take you home.”

“You’re not real,” Buffy answers in that tone of voice that is barely more than a breath of wind. She’s never looked as fragile as she does now. Never as unreal and transparent. Never.

“Your mom can see us.” Can she? Can she see children or ghosts? Real or not? Can she see them? She isn’t sure.

“I can’t go home.”

The girl joins the other two on the floor, pushing between their bodies and curling up in both their laps at once. For one surreal moment, Joyce thinks they look like a family of mother, father and daughter. Then the image passes and they only look young and worn. The girl smiles brightly.

“One day you’ll come home to us. You mustn’t forget that.” She kisses Buffy’s nose gently.

Buffy nods weakly, pauses, nods again before her eyes land on her mother and she takes a deep breath, “I love you, Mom.”

And Joyce knows, she knowsknowsknows, knows that this is it.

“Goodbye.”

There’s a moment of stillness and then Buffy’s eyes lose what little shine they had left.

The boy looks up at her and requests, “Tell our parents we love them, would you?”

He wraps his arms around the girls and by the time Hank comes in with the doctor, all three of them are long gone.

+

Can’t find another place of your rain

+

Harry crashes into the chair he fell asleep in with a metaphysical slap of mind meeting bone at the same moment Luna snaps awake in her bed half a castle away. Only a split second later the third shock to their system comes when Buffy slams into her body with every ounce of strength her slayer soul can muster and then everything comes to a jarring halt when the truth of their situation sinks in.

We’ve come to take you home.

And they have, but there is no home where they live, no warmth and no comfort. She can’t go home, she says and she’s right. She can’t. None of them can.

And so they are separate once more, living their lives, trying to hold onto a world that neither wants nor understands but needs them; needs them so very much. They cling to what is close, what is familiar, do what they have to do and go through the motions every second of every minute of every day.

They exist because Magic breathes life and power into them and refuses to let them go. Breathe and don’t look back, becomes a mantra.

One night Harry Speaks, “Suicide,” but nothing happens.

He didn’t expect it to.

But Neville’s potted plants on the windowsill all die and Luna scolds him the next day. Buffy snorts as she wipes blood not her own out of her face, grimacing as she tucks her stake back into the waistband of her jeans.

“Life goes on,” she tells him.

It always does. They have too much life, between the three of them. Much too much and the blood never comes off.

He didn’t expect it to.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

Three days after Sunnydale fell into a giant sinkhole and everything she once called her life disappeared with it, she comes. She comes with a bag slung over her shoulder, holding more weapons than clothes because that is who she is, what she’s like. She comes with a bruise colored face and favoring her left side. She comes feeling lighter than she has since she was five and her father lifted her up and swirled her around until she was laughing so hard she couldn’t breathe. She comes as a girl, not a weapon.

The bag and a smile are all she brings with her, but to those who know to look beneath the surface, the smile is cherished because it is real. The first real one in a long time, she thinks, and her lips curve a little further.

Hogwarts rumbles in warm welcome, singing with Magic and a mother’s misplaced love and Luna walks the hallways whistling a merry tune as Buffy becomes a member of the Order of the Phoenix, a slayer for the side of the light, a warrior for what is right.

They hear her name and put their trust and faith in her. Idiots, she thinks, but doesn’t complain. She’s almost home. But they don’t have to know that and if they want to believe she belongs to them now, then that’s alright. She can play the weapon if that is what it takes for her to be a girl. And a girl is who she longs to be. Simple, that is what she wants to see when she looks in a mirror, whole.

She found Hogwarts without a map or anyone to show her the way, found it like a blind man finds the warmth of a fire in the night. She followed that shining road in her mind, followed it across the globe and now she’s here.

“Happiness,” she whispers and even though she’s not Harry, she can almost feel the magic as it rolls off her tongue. It’s like a drug, making her light headed and giddy with joy. Fate has taught her that it won’t last, but her heart smiles serenely, saying, “Nothing ever lasts, does it?”

The second Dumbledore finishes her introduction she pecks Fawkes on his fiery head and skips out of the room, shedding years from her haunted eyes with every step. There are indignant yells, cries for respect and questions of her sanity behind her, but she ignores them all. She gave an oath not to betray them and she won’t because this is as close to home as she has ever been and she will not ruin it.

There’s a sparkle of childhood mischief in her eyes as she disappears around a corner and a spring in her step only two people have ever seen before.

It’s been six months since she got lost in her own mind and delusions and it’s time for Harry’s promise to come true.

+

She finds Luna about to be surrounded by a gaggle of seventh year Ravenclaws that think it is funny to pick on their housemates. The blue eyed girl is whistling, her gaze directed heavenward as if she’s waiting for something to fall down and hit her.

Buffy skids right through the other children, making two of them stumble, before she comes to a very sudden halt in front of Luna. Her braking lacks some of the innate grace she usually displays, instead being tainted by childish exuberance and joy like she hasn’t felt in a long time. She throws her arms around Luna to keep her balance, steadies herself, lets go and grab’s the other girl’s hand instead.

Slowly, Luna’s gaze leaves the ceiling, focusing on a spot just above Buffy’s right eyebrow and she says, “You’re late.”

Buffy chuckles, pulls on the hand she still holds captive and admonishes, “I know that. Come.”

There is a glint of mischief in Luna’s blue hazy stare as she nods and together the two blondes take off down the corridor, leaving a gaggle of Ravenclaws with a new riddle to solve.

+

I believe
I still believe in your warm rain


+

They would crash into Snape a scant minute later if it weren’t for the return of Buffy’s predatory side. In a move that should not be possible she jerks the younger girl to the left, uses one foot against the wall to avoid crashing and keeps going, never once slowing down. A second later the two take another turn and the staccato of their steps fades into the stone walls.

The professor stands, his robes swishing gently around him as the whirlwind is past, wondering what exactly they have allowed into the castle.

+

Harry is lying flat on his back in the Gryffindor common room, listening to Ron and Hermione squabble again, trying to stay still. It’s hard with the knot of anticipation curling in his stomach, growing tighter by the second, making him restless and hungry for….something. Around him everyone is oblivious, doing what they always do, living their lives as usual. Sometimes watching his friends scurry around like ants gives him a vague sense of nausea and so he concentrates on counting the cracks in the ceiling until –

The portrait swings to the side with enough force to knock over a Second Year about to leave for detention, evoking a muffled scream followed by Ron’s exclamation of, “Bloody hell!”

Before Hermione has time to admonish her boyfriend for his dirty mouth, two blonde whirlwinds land on top of Harry in a tangle of legs and arms, both giggling madly. Luna untangles herself with unusual efficiency and slips to the floor to lean against Harry’s knees as he sits up, the second bundle still in his lap and the ball of lead gone from his stomach. Buffy moves down the sofa until only her head remains on his thighs and she grins up at him toothily. She isn’t even out of breath and her eyes shine with joy at managing to keep her presence from him for so long. Hogwarts rumbles her agreement and then falls silent again with a gentle mental brush against her favorite children’s minds.

Automatically his left hand moves to start running through Buffy’s hair, wondering how long it will take for the rest of the common room’s occupants to get over their shock. Luna reaches up to grab Buffy’s hand, squeezing and giggling a bit and Hermione unfreezes long enough to ask Buffy, “Who are you?”

She blinks at her, stating blandly, “I’m Buffy,” before bursting into giggles again. It’s new, to see her like this. They haven’t been this free and happy since Buffy scraped her knee and a stranger died in front of her eyes. Sometimes Harry thinks they haven’t even been happy before that because that day was the first time they met and how could one be happy, missing two third of their soul?

Hermione glares. “That explains nothing,” she argues before turning to her friend, “Do you know her, Harry?”

He squints at the older face smiling up at him, shakes his head and answers truthfully, “We’ve never met.”

Buffy lays still for a few more seconds before she slaps away his hand and protests, “I’m bored.”

Luna nods her agreement, sending a wave of giddiness and impatience with it and Harry finds himself crumbling in the face of his girls’ discomfort.

“Where to then?” He asks.

Buffy bites her lip a moment. “Show me something!”

And just like that they take off, hands tightly linked together in chain of three children in adults’ bodies, adults in children’s bodies, breathing corpses and bundled life. They are out of sight before the portrait closes and the protests fade away. They run through tunnels and secrets, shadows and cobwebs, moving like water, riding Magic and memory like air and filling empty hallways with their laughter that, for the first time, is real. Genuine. Harry forgot how that feels and Luna has tears of joy drying on her cheeks.

They run and run and run feeding of slayer stamina and Magic’s gifts, running away from twenty years of pain and loneliness, running until Magic wraps around them like a living breathing being and they float, their laughter trailing behind them through the halls like a red ribbon.

+

They pass the Great Hall and Buffy falls in love with it, demanding to lie on the Hufflepuff table and stare at the imitation of a cloudless night high above their heads. They comply because fighting doesn’t even occur to them. Not now, not today. There are no lives threatened and no deaths to be avenged. Tonight, they catch up on almost two decades of missed childhood.

So they climb the Huff’nPuff table, tumbling over the hard wood in a tangled mess of limbs and hair and words and smiles and Magic, until they come to rest on a spot close to the head table, which Luna declares to be, “Quite comfortable and Nargle free.”

Nargles, she explains, are her newest obsession and they exist only inside her head, scaring off all those that don’t believe. Buffy looks thoughtful for a moment, before asking politely if Luna would possibly gift her with some Nargles. Luna refuses, whispering conspiratorially, “You’re the Nargles, stupid. You can’t have yourself.”

Harry meanwhile, tries to count the cracks in the ceiling through a realistic copy of the Milky Way, a soft smile on his face, even as the tip of his tongue shows between his lips in concentration. He loses count when Buffy rolls over him to lie on her back, asking, “Who made it?”

Now, Hermione would use the question to start a litany of facts and dates while Ronald would try to figure out what ‘it’ is and Ginny would probably play it off and ask for a heroic story instead. Harry just shrugs and admits, “I don’t know. But the one who did it took the secret how to with him to the grave. Dumbledore can’t do it.”

Luna giggles, slaps a hand over her mouth and sternly orders the Nargles to be quiet while Buffy pouts and demands sunshine, pretty please. There is a low hum beneath their chosen resting place suddenly and the table gives a little jolt as Hogwarts indulges her children with the patience of a mother and they watch as a breathtaking sunrise happens above their heads, shortly after midnight.

They watch spellbound for long moments until Buffy points and yells, “There.”

Once she’s found where the weaving begins she Sees it all, like a blanket of magic, different strands and colors, intertwined to create a sky in a place that defies nature. She bullies Harry into Speaking what words she needs to form magic and starts Weaving the very fabric the world is made of to suit her whims. Luna watches for a while, her eyes closed to natural sight until suddenly she reaches out with quick fingers and catches a strand of sparkling green that Buffy dropped. After that, the girls weave, one blindly, just Feeling and one Seeing and guiding while Harry creates what they demand of him, spewing Magic into the world like a fountain of words and whispers, phrases and songs.

He watches as two pairs of slender hands dance over Magic he Speaks but can neither See nor Feel and for the first time he realizes just how well they match each other. Magic didn’t give her gifts on whims, he thinks, but with foresight. She knows their Fates and she gave them what she deemed best. She didn’t make the situation better and sometimes he wonders, no, is sure that life would be easier without Magic. But then he never would have met the girls who lift him up and pull him down, cry his tears and see his scars. And that, he decides, would not have been a life worth living.

It takes hours of work and tries but in the end they have created their very own patch of sky, hovering just above their heads in imitation of a beautiful May afternoon and Buffy swears she can feel herself tan. It’s their sky, their work and in many ways that matter and some that don’t, Luna sees this as the beginning of building their own world even as she lies between the older two and breathes their happiness and contentment like air, lives on it, thrives on it. Their own world in a patch of sky above their heads.

Never mind that they’re already living in it and have for most of their lives.

+

So untrue
Help me find through your warm rain


+

“Harry?”

Dumbledore and half the Order of the Phoenix stand in the doorway of the Great Hall suddenly, unwelcome, staring at the two elusive students and new Order member with a cross between curiosity, anger and worry. Only the headmaster smiles as serenely as he always does as he announces with a twinkle and a tilt, “We have been searching for you.”

Buffy lifts her head off the table long enough to give the twinkling wizard a look that tells more than words and says, “Well, you’ve found him.”

It’s part of the girl she might have been, was, never will be again. Part of a creature with no serenity in her heart and no voices in her head, and that part uses words to cut, to make people look stupid and strip them down. And sometimes it’s the only defense that stands between the world and a being too gentle, too soft and magical for this world. It’s the only thing between them and the others. It makes her more of a riddle, more of an enigma. In Harry’s eyes it makes her more special and in Luna’s eyes a formation of fluffy clouds is reflected.

The old man chooses to ignore her, opting instead to ask, “Have you met Miss Summers before, Harry?”

Once more Harry looks down at the mob of blonde hair that somehow always seems to end up in his lap and repeats, “We’ve never met.”

At the back of the crowd the twins, barely more than red blurs, jump up and down, cheering, “Way to go, mate!”

The trio on the table smiles and Harry nods in recognition because the twins are a soul split in two pieces and Magic has brushed their mind and heart and soul, even if she didn’t see a need to gift them. She loves them like she loves the children of her power. They understand more than others do, know more. They see Buffy, Luna and Harry and they see that they belong together like they themselves do. Fred and George. Harry, Luna and Buffy. It’s one and the same and completely different.

Hermione is the first to notice the shimmering piece of sky above their heads and asks, “How did you do that?”

Her tone is that of an adult expecting children to confess their misdeeds and ask for forgiveness they are undeserving of. The three look at each other, shrug simultaneously and Buffy releases a single strand of purple, causing the whole web to unweave and their sky dissolves into mist and sparks within the blink of an eye.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Luna admonishes gently, her gaze drifting again already.

Hermione puts her hands on her hips and draws breath for a tirade because Luna’s excuse is ridiculous and she has a right to know, never mind that she knows nothing at all in the first place. Luna cuts her off with a giggle before donning a serious face, making her look very severe and young.

“Do you feel a tingle in your fingertips?”

Hermione, built of facts and numbers, dates and graphs, blinks and shakes her head, “Of course not, Luna, that’s silly.”

They roll to their feet, all three of them, moving toward the door, the Order, their worried friends and in passing Luna explains, “Then you can’t make your own sky.”

And once more the three of them take off at breakneck speed, hands linked, laughter trickling from their mouths and Snape yells, “Where do you think you’re going, Potter?”

Harry spins quickly as the girls pull him around a corner and has a split second to call back, “To Buffy’s room,” before he is dragged away.

Molly Weasley frowns, “We never even told the girl where her room is.”

+

They eat, sleep, talk, walk, fly, lie, drink, think and breathe as one. When Luna wakes up in the mornings, the others follow within minutes. When Harry gets hungry because he is a ‘growing boy’, Buffy eats enough to put Ronald to shame. And when Buffy feels the violence of what she is boiling to the surface, it’s usually Harry that gets into a brawl with Malfoy. They fall into a routine with the speed of sound and sometimes it’s as if they’ve never been anything else, have never known a day in their lives when there was only one, were only two instead of three.

“Magic number,” Harry Whispers one evening and Luna giggles.

Then Snape walks up to them, scowls at Harry, frowns at Luna and settles his acid gaze on Buffy, asking, “Why do you insist on spending time with school children?”

She puts down her bowl of ice-cream, ending her attempt to build a castle from the sopping mess and informs a cold man, “I am a child.”

The professor opens his mouth, about to snap an answer like acid and spittle, when more Slytherins pass their chosen spot, Ravenclaw table today. One of them - “Nott,” Harry whispers in her head and Luna snorts - stops, eyes his Head of House, decides to spit his venom and throws out, “So Potter, is this your new whore? “

He points at Buffy, who attempts to bite the offending appendage off for a moment before her face falls like a rock from the sky and her voice becomes empty rooms in palaces of ice and snow.

“Every soldier is a whore, Theodore.”

Nott gives her a strange look and a sneer, not knowing how to react before jogging to catch up with his friends. Snape stays, a monument of black and white in front of three children and he demands, “Are you a soldier?”

And Buffy sees a flash of green, a red head screeching, Angel falling, Potentials dying, A portal swirling, an Arch groaning, Faith falling, Kendra bleeding, marchmarchmarch, a blue eyed ghost, a scraped knee, grey eyes falling, so many scraped knees and Luna screws her eyes shut with all her might and Harry grabs the elbow of either girl and pulls them to their feet weakly.

He Whispers, “Yes.”

The word tastes like ashes in his mouth and Snape just stands there, allowing them to slip away like water.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

Snape is the only one who gets close to seeing who they are. He sees because he’s always watching them, eyes like a hawk. Harry says he’s trying to catch them at something forbidden because he is a man eaten by hate and petty fights. Luna says that to watch is his curse, making Buffy smile indulgently at her. So she shakes her head and explains in that way that only Luna has in the whole world. She bends close to Buffy and hisses in her ear, “He lived two lives, served two masters, knelt before two gods. There was so much life, so much energy and power and then it all ended and his punishment was to stay as he was. He is forever frozen by who he is, left with nothing but sneers and glares and aimless hate.”

After that Buffy always smiles at Snape when she catches him watching and she spends hours watching him watch them. Harry just rolls his eyes. But he can’t ignore the fact that Snape does see. And his glares go deep. He sees them laughing, dancing, mirthful, playful, silly, sees them act like children. But everyone sees that and everyone knows. What makes Snape dangerous is that he recognizes that the stress does not lie on children, but on like. They act like children, yet they are not. The potions master looks deeper and he sees what he saw when Nott called Buffy a whore.

He sees, above all, bitterness. Tastes it like blood on the wind, that bitterness of whores and soldiers, of jaded and jagged children who aren’t real. They never were real children. Or: Harry and Buffy never were children and Luna took them in herself, was tainted by their dirt and pain and fatalism. There are dark handprints on her soul and they wear green eyed fingerprints. It doesn’t matter though, stain is stain and some things never wash off completely.

The three of them are the children of war, Snape knows and he sees in the way they carry themselves, the diamond shards in their eyes and the iron in their backs that they will also be the end of war. He fears what that will entail.

All in all, Snape is the only one who gets close to seeing what they are.

+

I send out my wishes
You gave me promises


+

Luna lies in her bed, buried beneath mounds and mounds of covers because she is always cold these days, her face hidden in her hands and arms, closed to the world because she is powerless. All she does is feel. She hurts and weeps bitter tears because no-one knows, no-one can know. Not even Harry and Buffy.

They are useful. Buffy has her rage and death in her veins, yelling and punching, kicking and howling against whatever dares stand in her way. Buffy’s gift is death and she gives it to all who deserve. Buffy is strong. Her body is strong and able. She can protect. She can punish. She can end. And Harry is right beside her, magic and knowledge, words and whispers in his head. They fight. They create. Luna’s only gift is to hurt when others hurt. Fights incapacitate her and rage leaves her immobile, panting on the floor. They are useful.

She feels a gentle draft as the door opens, hears the creak of worn floorboards and looks up to see in the faint light of a half closed door, two figures. One wears only his boxers and by the looks of it the other stole his shirt from him. They pad barefoot toward the bed, crawl under the covers on either side of her and pull them snug around their lithe bodies. Harry wraps his arms around Luna’s waist and pulls her close enough to kiss her tears away while Buffy becomes a living vine, attaching herself to them, wrapping them up like she never wants to let go and maybe she won’t.

Luna can hope.

Moments later the three of them drift off to sleep, a bundle of limbs and beating hearts, of borrowed time and ugly scars because Harry and Buffy are long dead. They faced death and they lost, just ghosts now, and Luna lives in their hearts and souls and dies with them every single time.

Their dreams are soft and warm, gentle caresses and loving touches against her mind. Their dreams are happy. For her.

+

Harry is dueling Snape in the Room of Requirement under the watchful eyes of the headmaster, Buffy and Luna. Luna spanned a dome of protective light over the girls and uses her own wand to teach Buffy some spells. She can turn her hair green now and almost gets the feather to float as she watches Harry dive out of the corner of her eye. He comes to his feet and is thrown back by a yellow boil hex, crashing into the nearest wall, which bends and twists and spits him back into the middle of the room.

Again.

He climbs to his feet, ignores the sneer sent his way, the sharp barb, the vicious insult. Too tired to lose his temper, too sweaty, too exhausted. But Snape keeps going, like a rock downhill, a kite in a strong wind. He’s unstoppable and Harry falls.

Again.

He ducks and spins, trying to force a three word incantation into half a second as he avoids another volley of red streaks and lands on his face.

Again.

Another incantation, not fast enough, not clear enough, not quiet enough and his plans are thwarted.

Again.

With a cry of fury Harry sends his wand spinning toward the girls, where it bounces off their shield and stops. He runs his hands through his hair, like Buffy does when she’s angry and growls like Luna, “This isn’t working!”

Dumbledore smiles indulgently as he summons the wand and floats it home into its owner’s hands. Harry has to learn. This is war after all. Buffy burns her feather and gives back the wand. Luna dispels the ward.

“Again,” the aging hero orders from the sidelines and Buffy wonders how he got to be so old and stay so naïve. Wonders where he buys his monthly supply of innocence and joy and snorts at the thought. Drugged lemon drops, she decides as Harry’s wand is airborne once more, hitting the headmaster in the chest with a dull thud.

“No.”

Snape sneers and Luna contemplates idly if the man has any other facial expression. Buffy sighs and eyes her sideways for thinking weird thoughts. He bellows, “Give up, headmaster, he’s just too stupid too learn.”

Buffy sighs, tucks a loose strand of hair behind Luna’s ear and climbs to her feet with a weary sigh. Old, too old, so old that Dumbledore looks young and naïve next to her and he is. They’ll never know how he turned this old and remained so light. Maybe they don’t want to know.

“Maybe you’re just teaching the wrong things,” she suggests mildly as she picks up the abused wand and gives it back one last time. She waves the professors off with a flick o her wrist, dismissing them. Insects. It’s not them who have to kill. Then she crosses the room to stand thirty feet from Harry, her eyes fixed on his, green on green, a connection that Luna can feel deep in her bones. Fighter.

“Kill me,” one pair of green eyes orders with all the calm in the world. Hurt me, bleed me, make me break, is what echoes across her mind and she’s not sure if she doesn’t mean it. She’s tired of scraped knees. Luna turns away, starting to doodle with her wand on the floor.

“Are you sure?” Harry asks, but his voice tells that, yes, she is sure. Words mean so little nowadays. Meaning was never less clear. They are running out of sanity and purpose as time draws short. This isn’t war yet, but war is coming, sneaking up on them, bringing old aches and old pains. It’s hard to look down a straight road these days, and not see kinks and curves. So hard. Luna closes her eyes and pulls them together with effort as Buffy nods and smirks.

And then the fight is on. Harry’s wand is a blur as magic in all colors of the rainbow streak toward the momentary enemy. The words falling from his mouth are just that, words. No incantations, no things to cut and twist his tongue with. Words and power and stunned professors, speechless maybe, and Buffy spins, twists, jumps, somersaults, runs, ducks, bends at impossible angles. Not a single spell hits and the pace picks up. Faster and faster and Spike’s face flashes through Luna’s mind as the fight stops being a fight and becomes a dance of death and passion and life and bent roads.

She closes her eyes and lets adrenaline and exhilaration not her own, flood her system. Release. Such sweet release and soon they can all look straight again as doubt and fear and demons are burned away with every move, every twist, every flick of Harry’s wrist. Such a fine line that they walk and she can hear Buffy howl with joy in her head as the swirls of color start filling the room and Dumbledore’s beard suddenly starts moving on its own.

+

Magic crackles. It hisses and dances through the room, too much to simply dispel, not enough to do anything but stay and swirl and suddenly Buffy stops dancing and just stands in the middle of the room, her arms spread wide as magic catches between her fingertips. There’s blue and red near her head, yellow at her waist and purple at the tips of her fingers and they move as she moves, weave a pattern of color and light as her body orders.

Buffy laughs like a bell on a clear spring morning and Luna jumps, abandons her wand and runs to join the fun. She grabs a pink bit of magic and shapes a heart, before pushing it at Snape, giggling all the way. She makes more hearts and flower and blobs with funny faces, a rainbow and another one, a net of blue and green, a purple drizzle and she yells, “More!”

Harry obliges as Luna grabs Buffy’s hand, smashing purple and orange together, causing an explosion that blinds them for a moment before they giggle and start to spin. Their hands remain joined as they use their free hands to weave and create, starting a storm of magic and light in the middle of the room that soon spreads and grows, pulling more and more into its maelstrom until everything is moving, spinning.

The room is full of colors when Harry stops casting and sits down, a smile like pure joy and bliss on his face as he claps in time with the girl’s spins. The professors stare, not believing their eyes, watching in awe and fear and maybe a bit of worship, but Harry doesn’t see.

And so the girls spin and spin and spin and war is drawing closer and they are running out of time.

+

Why don’t you feel the same
I’m sad
I feel like a little child


+

The soft pitter patter of shoes on smooth rock breaks the silence first, followed by a sweet laugh and giggle. A black haired boy climbs through the mouth of the cave, turns, reaches out and pulls through a girl with red curls and a beautiful smile. Their clothes are patched up and worn but clean. The boy’s hair is cropped short, the girl’s just long enough to be tied back. There were lice last winter.

With movements made to impress teenaged girls, the boy pulls a candle stub out of his pocket, followed by a match box, half empty and squished. He lights the stub, places it carefully in a niche of rock and shadow and then takes care to wipe all leaves and twigs that litter the ground beneath their only source of light away. The girl watches him and sits when he offers her to. For a while they sit nervously next to each other, the ocean roaring outside, waves licking only a few feet below the mouth of the cave, but never reaching it.

The air is salty. The boy reaches out a careful hand, lays it on top of the girl’s. She doesn’t pull away after a few moments so he takes her hand and strokes it with the pad of his thumb, calloused and rough, trying to be gentle.

She smiles shyly at him and then he pulls her close and kisses her. He’s clumsy, young, in love. Adolescent limbs that won’t obey, young cheeks flushed with excitement and maybe a bit of shame and fingers, usually so skilled turn plump and heavy. A teenaged boy in love and the girl lets him. She allows his ministrations, for a while tries to take part in the entertainment, but stops when she notices that her participation isn’t really desired.

Finally, after a few minutes filled with panting and sea salt air, she pushes against his chest. He gathers her hands in his, keeps on kissing her. She tears her hands out of his grip and gathers all her strength, pushing hard enough to send him stumbling. He lands on his ass in the pile of leaves he made ten minutes ago. She’s stronger than him, not as thin, not as pale. She doesn’t live in dungeons and doesn’t have to hide half her life in a dark corner. Girl’s don’t get beaten half as much as boys. His eyes are wide, his chest heaves and he watches, helplessly, as the girl jumps to her feet, rights her clothes, smoothes her hair back.

She doesn’t look at him as she turns and attempts to climb through the cave mouth back into the open, where the rest of the children are playing. His voice, pained, small, alone, stops her.

“Why?”

She looks at him, unwilling, eyes half closed with the desire to look away, but she doesn’t.

“You’re a freak. Everyone thinks you’re a freak and in a few weeks you’ll go back to that school of yours and never come back after this year. You’re not worth getting ridiculed by everyone. Some groping in a dank cave is not worth being called a freak. I can’t walk away to some fancy school and people will point at me.”

Rejection and loneliness flood him like tidal waves as her voice like acid, drips onto the floor between them, ruining everything. He’s not worth it. He’s never worth anything. Not good enough. Not enough for his mother, his father, Slytherin, this girl. Never enough.

He crumbles, curls into himself here, on the hard and cold rock floor as the candle above him flickers. He’s never enough. Never, never, never.

And then something changes.

He feels it like a pinprick of light deep inside his chest and it spreads, it grows and envelops him like he always imagined a mother’s hug to feel like. He can feel it around him, taste it and knows that it’s Magic. Magic has come for him, finally, to take him away from all this pain. He’s enough for Magic. Magic is enough for him. He doesn’t need anything else and that’s where it all goes so horribly wrong.

The girl stops as she hears him rise behind her back, turns to look at him and he feels the hate rising like bile, filling his mouth, his nose, his senses until all he sees is this girl, another one who thinks he’s not good enough. But he is, oh he is and he’s got Magic to prove it.

He can feel her struggle, that power inside of him, that mother come to him after all his pains. She tries to show him things, tries to make him see things but he’s tired of seeing. Tired of watching, outside, alone, unwanted. He’s tired. Things will change now. Magic will make things change. It won’t change him. He’s waited for so many years and now it’s his turn. See how they like it. See how they like never being enough.

He takes a step toward the girl, who tries to evade him, stumbles backward, hits her head on hard rock and glances up at him with terror in her gaze. Magic rises in his chest like a roaring lion, but there is no power like hate, nothing as hard and unforgiving. Nothing that resembles steel and bricks so much. The girl bleeds and the boy pulls his wand, aims and there’s a flash of green, wide eyes, red eyes against a pale grey backdrop, so much red and then there’s silence. Magic settles inside of him, a numb cloud of regret.

Tom smirks down at the girl and notices a glittering bracelet on her left wrist. It’s cheap plastic, but a treasure among their kind. He takes it, stuffs it in his pants. He’ll be enough, oh he’ll be everything anyone could ever want from now on. He’s through.

His hand on the bracelet in his pocket he climbs out of the cave as the candle behind him flickers and dies. What’s left is a dead girl in a spot swept clean of leaves and twigs and the bitter taste of twisted Magic, of helpless fear. He’s through.

+

A blind girl wakes, her unseeing eyes fixed on sticky red hair, crying.

+

A brunette man sits up beside his wife, horror dancing in his chest, crying.

+

A petite woman snaps upright, drenched in sweat, crying.

+

A lavender eyed baby twists in its crib, crying.

+

An old woman stumbles and clutches her cane close, crying.

+

A boy clenches his eyes shut, a silent scream frozen in his throat, crying.

+

A mother drops the frying pan, holding her head, crying.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

Buffy wakes between Luna and Harry, her eyes hollow and her fists clenched. For the first time since she’s seven, she cries.

+

Order meetings are more a nuisance than anything else. Luna is not allowed to come and Dumbledore strictly refuses to make an exception for her just this once. So Harry sulks, arms crossed over his chest and snaps at everyone in the vicinity with the vindictive pettiness of a child. Across from him, at the lower end of the table, as far away from any decisions as possible, Buffy amuses herself by clacking tunes with her nails on the table. She smiles condescendingly like an indulgent parent at the so called adults around her as they squabble and fight amongst themselves like teenagers on a hormone high.

Occasionally she takes a bit out of Harry’s book and throws a cutting remark into the atmosphere, just to be ignored or glared at. It’s a circus, the Order is, a place for fools and clowns that fight about war strategy like it is tomorrow’s meal.

They are fighting about the training Moody wants to give Harry. ‘Real training’ he calls it and everyone, Weasleys before anyone else, keep telling him that it’s wrong to teach a child such things. Nobody asks the child what he thinks and for a moment their eyes meet across the table and Buffy stops tapping out her favorite song. She sighs in resignation and speaks up because no-one else will.

“So you expect him to stun and tickle Voldemort? And then? You lean back and wait for him to get back to his feet while you sleep in your bed of righteousness and moral high ground?” She snorts inelegantly and her voice drips venom like snakes, winding around every person in the room, whispering at the back of their minds. She’s their doubt and it’s time they listened because there are people dying while they squabble like children. She sleeps on a bed of bones every night and she’s tired of people looking down on her because she can kill with a song in her heart. A song and nothing else because at only twenty two she’s seen too much already. The chambers of her heart are empty, waiting to be filled, the sky above her is black and she won’t be a fireman when the flood rolls back. She knows that now. These people don’t. They walk and talk and shop and sneeze but their eyes see nothing. They see nothing.

The outrage comes as soon as she closes her mouth, hacking and slicing, yelling and biting through the room, tearing her apart where she sits. In the end she pulls a dagger out of nowhere and throws it, embedding it in the wall beside Snape’s head, up to the hilt. It reverberates with the force of her throw, quivering beside the potion master’s ear and everyone falls silent.

And she asks into the shock and the quiet, asks with a voice like snow in December and naked children in a winter’s night, “What do you do?”

Do you do anything at all is the part that goes unsaid but not unheard. Somehow, nobody quite meets her eyes.

+

Somebody left
There is no rain
Oh no, I’m waiting
How about your rain


+

They spend hours every day, walking empty hallways and long kept secrets, crawling through cobwebs and sneezing because the dust lies as thick as the memories do in some places and they feel like they can’t breathe anymore, like there is no clean air left in the world, nothing that’s not tainted by memory and remembrance in one way or another. They talk to paintings and dig through a millennium worth of junk and forgotten school work, books and essays and they go to bed exhausted, dirty and without success.

A bit more defeated every day.

+

Luna crashes into the silence of the Order meeting with a loud bang as the door hits the wall and the blonde opens her mouth, eyes wide with some unknown pleasure and uncovered secret. She is interrupted before she can draw breath to speak, by none other than Dumbledore who stands tall and demands, “How did you get in here?”

She blinks while Harry smothers a smile and Buffy unconcernedly walks around the table to retrieve her dagger. “First I dismantled the wards on the gargoyle, then I used the secret latch under the left wing to activate the stairs, then I transferred the wards on your door to the top button of my blouse, transfigured it into a dust mote and blew it down the stairs before using a simple spinning kick to break the mechanical lock on the door.”

She ignores the dumbfounded stares she gets because, in her opinion, these people deserve all the shocks they get for treating adults like children and letting children act like adults. Deserve them for calling Harry weak and Buffy silly. She turns to the others, brushing a bit of lint from her skirt and says, “I found it.”

Harry’s chair scrapes over the floor loudly as he jumps to his feet in time to avoid Buffy as she vaults over the table and then the three of them are out of the room, down the stairs and running through the corridors, Luna in the lead.

With exchanged glances and a few curses the Order follows their lead, running after the mad children. The only one who has a clue of what might be happening is Snape and he sends a prayer to gods he doesn’t believe in as he watches the three notchildrenatall tumble around a corner, laughing loudly. He’s the only one who can hear the sorrow and the bitter fear underneath the laughter, he thinks.

To the third floor they run, through the door leading to Fluffy’s old room and then down the trapdoor that was supposed to be sealed shut. They trample through the burnt remains of dead Devil’s Snare and turn to the left, duck through a low arch and stand in front of a secret door with no lock and no key.

+

“Did you know about the door, headmaster?” Someone whispers and Dumbledore shakes his head, no, he didn’t know.

Luna kneels before the door, sticking her fingers through the slit underneath, groping for something until suddenly, the door springs open with a crack. How she found the latch is anyone’ guess because no-one feels the slight rumble under their feet, none but the three children. And they hear the grief in it. They’ve found what they are looking for.

Inside the room is as small as the door indicates it to be. There are some old trunks, some memories and books and a table, wiped clean of all clutter. It’s thick with dust but there is a single item laid upon that table, like some pagan offering on an altar of a long forgotten deity. A single item, glittering in the dim light of the wands they lit.

“Oh shit,” Buffy whispers and stops dead in her tracks, staring at that item as if she could recognize more than a vague shape through the layer of dust and age.

Harry stops beside her, frowning, “So this is it?”

Luna nods as she wriggles her way under his arm. “Yep.”

“Yep,” Buffy echoes.

Harry points, “Are you going to take that?”

The girls shakes their heads and chorus clearly, “Nope.”

He glares at Buffy, “You’re supposed to be the tough one.”

She glares right back, “You’re supposed to be the hero.”

It’s Luna who moves, unwinding herself from her friend, taking a step forward to lift the item off the table only to have Harry grab her around the waist and jerk her back while Buffy snatches whatever it is they came for. She shudders as she touches it, feeling cold bile rise in her throat, feeling Magic stir in her gut, a eulogy for a dead girl and a boy who died with her.

She dangles it from one finger, careful to keep it away from everyone else and whispers, “This is it.”

The cheap plastic bracelet glitters dully as it gently swing on its perch, looking so innocent. Luna refuses to look at it and Harry has tears in his eyes. Buffy just stands there.

+

They do not dare touch it more than necessary but neither do they feel comfortable throwing a cleaning charm at it, so the bracelet lies on the middle of the coffee table in Buffy’s room, dust and dirt still clinging to it. They sit around it, their faces lit by nothing but the few candles around them and Luna shivers as the witching hour approaches because she can Feel, oh how she can Feel this little bit of cheap jewelry. It makes her want to kneel down and scream. Scream until her throat is raw and her eyes water, scream until everything stops and takes notice of her, of this tiny beaded bracelet that is so heavy with hate and anger, rage and death.

Yet they sit around it, staring, unable to look away, to turn their backs.

“Why do you think he left it?” She whispers.

Harry shrugs, “Maybe he intended to come back for it?”

And Buffy offers, “Maybe he didn’t understand.”

He leans back in his chair, eyes not for one moment leaving the table. “Why the bracelet?”

It’s Buffy’s turn to shrug as she reaches out a hand to touch the scar on his forehead, tracing it with gentle fingers. Then her hand drifts to Luna’s collarbone and the tiny scar resting there, nestled just beside the hollow of her throat. It’s from a piece of glass, shattered by the screams of a baby that Felt, fourteen years ago. She touches it briefly before tracing the scars on her left knee through her jeans without looking. She traces them as she stares through the wall at a dead man lying in a pool of his own blood and she can still taste the copper in the air.

Her hand falls away to be picked up by Harry and squeezed tightly. These are the scars that made them, their marks of Magic, the symbol for everything they have been given and everything that’s been lost. They all have them, every one of Magic’s children. Everyone except Tom. He has this glittery piece of cheap plastic taken off a dead girl, to mark him as a child of Magic. So wrong. So horribly wrong. Something went horribly wrong.

“Why is he different?” That’s the real question.

“You mean,” Luna elaborates, “Why don’t we hate like he did.”

“Why he went right where we went left?” Harry questions.

“Yes.”

Buffy frees her hand long enough to snatch Luna’s and pull the girl across both their laps. Then she pushes her hand back under Harry’s and says, “I think there was something wrong with him before.”

She points at the bracelet and her dream, a dream of a girl dying and a boy falling, dances before her mind’s eye. Beside her, Harry shifts and mumbles, “We grew up the same way, he and I.”

Buffy slaps him as Luna sits upright with a start. She grabs his face in her hands before he can rub his stinging cheek and she speaks more clearly than she ever has before. “You did not,” she orders, forcing him to look her in the eye. “You never were alone.” Her voice is sharp like Buffy’s knives and his magic words, sharp like glass and it cuts right down to the center of his doubts and fears. She trails off, voice getting softer and then she presses a kiss on his abused cheek.

He takes a moment to glare at Buffy while he massages the sting out of his face before accepting, “I wasn’t.”

Luna nods like she knew that all along and lays back down across their legs. Her eyes are on the ceiling. “He hated and he took Magic when it was offered and he took his hate and he flung both at the world. He forgot how to love long before Magic came to him.”

“So we take that bracelet,” Harry deducts, voice flat, “And we use it against him.”

“We use it against him,” Buffy confirms. They’ll use it against him as he used Magic against them, against the world, against innocent children. They feel guilt and they feel humiliation because he used to be like them and now he’s not. He used to be a lonely child, unloved and disillusioned. A child that no-one understood but now he’s a cold man and death follows where he leads. Tom is all wrong now.

Magic gifted him like it gifted them with what they need to kill him, to correct the mistake Magic made fifty years ago when she offered herself to a boy that had already forgotten what love was, to kill what Magic once created.

It’s wrong, so horribly, terribly wrong but they’ll do it because this is what they are programmed for.

They’ll do it because they are not Tom and they won’t give in to the bitterness.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

Hermione is a good watcher. She notices the things others don’t and draws conclusions that most people would not, explaining magic with logic, taking the spark out of people’s eyes. Her world is made up of angles and straight lines. It’s ordered. Except for one thing.

She finds Harry where she always finds him since Buffy came and Luna turned into a different person, in Buffy’s room. He opens the door and motions for her to come in like he lives here and maybe he does because he certainly doesn’t live where he used to anymore. Everything’s different and Harry is the one thing in Hermione’s life that makes no sense, that has no order and is not linear. Harry is everywhere and all over the place, he’s loud and skewed and bright and wrong. He blows through her life like a hurricane at least thrice a week and sometimes she dislikes herself just a bit for forgiving him every time he gives her that smile of his.

He waves her over to the couch, dropping into a comfortable chair next to where Luna is lying flat on her back on the floor, staring at the ceiling wide eyed. She reaches out and wraps one hand loosely around Harry’s ankle, not to hold him, Hermione decides, but to reassure herself that he is here and real and so is she. Luna flickers sometimes, like a hologram, like she’s not here at all. Buffy does too, but Hermione refuses to put any thought into this.

“Any success yet?” Harry asks Luna, ignoring his best friend like she’s thin air. Hermione doesn’t understand him anymore.

“I’m not quite sure. There’s too many squiggles in the sky to see clearly.”

“Maybe Buffy can help you See,” he suggests and there is something strange about the way he says ‘see’, like it’s special when it’s not. Hermione doesn’t understand her best friend anymore.

Buffy comes as if called, skipping out of the bathroom in skimpy underwear, toweling her hair and wondering, “Where did I put my green shirt?”

“Laundry,“ Harry and Luna chorus and Buffy sighs, grabbing an oversized shirt from the back of a chair, pulling it on. It belongs to Harry. Then she sits on the floor, leaning against his legs, eyes closed and wordlessly, he starts finger combing her hair with a patience and precision Hermione never knew he had. She watches the scene unfold for minutes and minutes, watches Harry being someone she has never seen. She attempts to speak a time or five but always stops herself and no-one asks her what she wants here.

So she gets up and walks to the door, tears in her eyes as she closes it quietly. Harry doesn’t look up.

+

I can't believe
I still believe in your rain


+

She is still crying hours later, wrapped around Ron, the one who stayed, the one that’s left for her to love and understand. The Common Room is empty, dead in the dead of the night like it’s supposed to be. Only Hermione doesn’t know how things are supposed to be anymore and so she lies on a sofa in front of the fireplace and cries for a dead friend who still breathes.

Buffy comes like she does everything else, silently and without explanation. The Head Girl is too tired to ask where she got the password, watching through tear swollen eyes as the older woman kneels down in front of her, placing a careful hand on the brunette girl’s cheek.

“Don’t be so sad,” she orders softly, looking up at Ron and back down at Hermione. “Life’s too short.”

A platitude. Empty words and hollow threats that they have heard so many times before. But Buffy gives them life, gives them truth like she knows. Hermione sniffles and tries to sound angry as she says, “You’re stealing him away from us!”

The blonde sits back on her haunches, like a girl in a playground, a child but not. All wrong and she sounds like she’s scolding a naughty doll. “You know that’s not true.”

Ron places a heavy hand on Hermione’s shoulder and snaps, “He’s bloody well pushing us away like we don’t matter at all.”

“Silly children,” she laughs, getting to her feet and walking to the fireplace where she jumps and twists and somehow lands sitting on the mantle, legs dangling over the roaring fire, unafraid. “I had a stuffed pig once.”

Hermione sits up, blows her nose and waits.

“His name was Mr. Gordo. My Dad gave him to me when I was two, after I fell of the swing. He said that Mr. Gordo would protect me when he couldn’t and from that day on, Mr. Gordo went everywhere I went. He was even allowed to bathe with me whenever I could sneak him past Mom.”

“Why are you telling us about some bloody pig?” Ron doesn’t understand.

“Shush you. Mr. Gordo went with me on every adventure I had until I was seven. One day I went shopping with Mom and we were just crossing the street when a drunk driver came shooting around the corner. Mom managed to drag me out of the way but a man got hit by the car. He died in front of my eyes and I was scared, so very scared of the world. It seemed much bigger and more dangerous suddenly and I was afraid. I knew I couldn’t stay in my room forever but there was one thing I could do. I could protect Mr. Gordo. He got roughed up that day, dirty and bloody. Mom washed him and when I got him back, I placed him on my pillow and after that day, I never took him with me again. I kept him safe from the bad things happening in the world because I loved him more than anything else in the world.”

She closes her eyes, a sad smile on her lips, “And it made going out there easier, knowing that he was waiting for me when I got home.”

There is a long silence before Hermione asks, with a hint of a laugh to her voice, “Are you comparing us to a stuffed pig?”

The blonde shakes her head, giving the two on the sofa a stern look. “Of course not, silly. I was just telling you a story.”

She drops off the mantle, landing on her feet and is already halfway out the door when Ron calls after her, “Hey! Thank you.”

“Stay safe,” she orders without stopping as the portrait swings open.

“For Harry,” comes as a whisper on the wind and Hermione takes Ron’s hand, squeezing it tightly.

+

“Do we really have to do this,” Buffy asks, nose scrunched up and fist curled into a tight white mass of emotion she doesn’t understand but Luna does and she smoothes a hand over the other girl’s brow.

“Yes.” Harry Speaks, making truth with his words and words with his truth. Buffy glares at him but relaxes her hands and lays them on top of the sheets, giving Luna a weak smile.

“I don’t want to.” Luna just snuggles deeper into her side as Harry throws an arm around both their waists.

“I know,” he says and he does. They really have to do this but that doesn’t make the bile taste any less bitter.

+

Things move fast suddenly, like an avalanche or maybe a flood, rushing towards them with unstoppable force, threatening to bury them alive but it won’t. The force is Magic and she drives them all, pushes her pieces together and while Tom doesn’t know, Buffy, Harry and Luna do and even though they curl into each other and cry late at night, they let themselves be moved like chess pieces. They know there’s no way out whether they fight or nor so they give in and Buffy demands to be the white queen, causing Luna to chase her around the castle with her wand, yelling threats. Luna wants to be the queen.

The Order just looks on with worried eyes and weary hearts, scared to let Harry fight when he spends his time with those two insane girls, playing hide and seek while war rages outside. They are scared that he can’t save them and he wants to yell, “Finally, finally you see!”

He doesn’t though because he knows what’s to come and he’ll make this right even if no-one has ever made things right for him. But bitterness tastes like ashes and so he helps Luna chase Buffy and refuses to think at all.

+

Like in heaven
I can't wait until I feel your rain


+

It’s almost spring when Buffy wakes in the middle of the night, wrapping her arms around her knees, eyes closed, humming a song about loneliness and rain, about children and faith.

“What’s to come,” she whispers as she lets Luna hug her, flood her with warmth that isn’t real.

Her eyes fix on Harry and he finishes for her, Saying, “It’s here.”

+

A murmur goes through the Great Hall as the three enter for breakfast, joining the children they act like but aren’t and for once Snape is not the only one who sees something wrong with them. They eat quickly, methodically and once they are done, Harry rises, two blonde shadows in tow and meanders up to the High Table. Behind him, all conversation dies.

He stops in front of the headmaster, not as a child, not as a student but, Snape thinks, as something else entirely, looking him in the eye. “He’s coming as we speak.”

Dumbledore’s face turns grim as he decides, “Then we have to prepare.”

Buffy snorts and Luna giggles, waving her wand at the ceiling, tracing clouds. Harry nods, giving permission the old wizard didn’t know he needed but does and Says, “Tom belongs to us.”

A nod of agreement. Yes. This is how it has to be. Buffy pulls Luna’s wand arm down and they both stop smiling. “Be careful, my boy.”

Harry smiles and shakes his head, face serene. He Whispers, “You never taught me how.”

And he hasn’t. Life is not a lesson one soldier has ever taught another and Snape turns his gaze to the ground with nothing left to say. He’s seen what lies beneath these soldiers’ skin. Dumbledore lowers his snow white head and he weeps because he knows now, knows what’s to come. He’s powerless and for the first time, he tastes some of the bitterness that comes with certainty, the same bitterness that Harry eats, breathes and drinks everyday and it humbles him.

+

So where's your life
Who's living the rest of your life


+

The wards go off in a shrill orchestra of sound and fear, screeching through every nook and cranny of the castle and the evacuation into the dungeons looks like an exploding ant hill from where Harry stands with Luna and Buffy at the head of the stairs in the Entrance Hall.

Ron and Hermione suddenly break from the crowd, running up the stairs and jumping into his arms, riding all five of them to the ground. Hermione cries.

”Will you let us fight?” Ron asks. But his eyes rest on Buffy and he knows the answer before Harry shakes his head.

“But you’ll come find us when it’s over? When you’ve won?” Hermione is supposed to be the rational one but her head is buried in Harry’s shoulder and she never sees the looks exchanged between three children, soldiers, whores. So Harry lies to her and rubs her back, eyes closed, inhaling the scent of a childhood he never had before disentangling himself from them and standing slowly. There will be no after.

+

I can't, I can't,
I can't live this life,
I can't live this life
I can't see in your eyes


+

Fifteen teachers, twenty Order members, one girl who Sees, one boy who Speaks, one girl who Feels. On the other side, fifty Death Eaters and a boy who never learned love, clutching power close like a blanket on a cold night, filling the world with green hate. A boy who could have been one of them but isn’t because he’s wrong, was wrong, always has been maybe and Magic was too blinded by his grief to see. Tom has no scar to mark him, only inflicting them on others.

He tries taunting Harry, tries making Dumbledore rush into battle, threatens, coaxes, promises and lies, lies so sweetly it makes Luna’s insides churn like curdled milk because it’s all wrong. Bill and Charlie want to react, Snape’s wand glows, Remus growls and Tonks is bouncing on her heels, eager, so eager to avenge her outcast mother.

Harry just stands there, a small hand in each of his, waiting, breathing, Whispering, “Come.”

It’s Bella, beautiful ugly Bellatrix Lestrange who thinks the command is meant for her and her fellow Eaters of Death and decay when it’s not, her who throws the first curse, narrowly missing Buffy who bends backwards like a dancer. After that’s it’s a free for all slaughter that has Luna whimpering and Harry running, dodging, spinning while a grim expression settles over Buffy’s features. Known song, this is a known song, ingrained in her bones, written on her skin, tattooed on her soul, so old, so familiar.

She draws her swords, feeling the weight of them in her hands, their leather-bound grips scraping against callused skin. Around her, the world settles, falls into place and focus and she breathes for a moment. Wet grass and soil, fear and sweat, the coppery flavour of the first blood spilled. She breathes and Luna stops whimpering, Harry stops floundering. And the fight starts.

Harry moves on his feet like he does in the air, grace and speed, throwing cutters and stunners, bone breakers and throat crushers. Luna floats through the battle like a cloud, transfiguring heads into mushrooms and wand arms into carnivorous plants with a giggle and a spin while Buffy slices and dices, cutting holes and graving paths and neither of them makes prisoners, watches the enemy fall. Even Luna knows no mercy. She feels pain and death, release and endings and she allows them to flow through her and back into the world, taking no part in them, making hearts around her heavy.

She has no need for emotions. She has certainty.

+

Can't change it,
No more tries


+

Remus crumbles and Snape stumbles. Arthur falls and Molly rages over his prone body for long minutes before she too, succumbs to the inevitability of green light and sinks to the ground. More orphans. More pain. Harry shakes his head in denial, anger, moves faster. Professor Vector doesn’t make it back to the castle doors. Snape comes back up, wand in hand but shaking. It’s Buffy’s sword that takes a curse meant for him, her that spin and takes another head.

Snape catches her eye and gives a nod of thanks, taking down a black figure sneaking up on her. Solider to soldier. Then Buffy is gone back into the fray, passing Luna as she kneels next to a bleeding Lupin, taking his hand in hers. She sucks the pain, the fear, the sadness out of him, takes away all emotion except the relief and flings them in the face of Rudolphus Lestrange, making him stumble long enough to turn his nose and mouth into vines that claw at his face and eyes. He fires a screaming curse that goes wild, hitting his wife in the knee, shattering it.

Lucius Malfoy has Tonks by her throat, wand aimed at her heart when Harry tackles him from behind, sending them into the dirt in a tangle of limbs. He rolls to his feet, firing a bone breaking hex at the Death Eater, eyes looking around wildly. It’s time. Has been time since Tom showed up but he was scared. They all were.

No more stalling. No more excuses. Buffy finishes Malfoy off with a precise slice, coming up next to him. She lost one sword on the way, making up for it with a dagger, both dripping blood and life. It’s time. Luna comes in from his other side, sweat beading on her forehead, wave upon wave of despair and rage pouring off her skin.

She smiles at Harry, grimy and dirty, reaches behind him to pull Buffy’s dagger from her hand and squeeze her red fingers. Buffy squeezes back, snapping off a sloppy salute with her other hand and Harry rolls his eyes. It’s time and they all know it.

“Stop,” Harry Says.

+

Magic obeys, stops halfway from killing, hanging suspended in the air as wands drop and confusion overtakes the fighters. Magic stops and so do they because they are Magic and Harry Spoke. Buffy drops her sword next to the dagger and twirls a finger in the air. No more playing. No more spells and wand waving, three syllable incantations. Her finger moves and after the second twirl the spell closest to her starts moving with it and another and another until Magic blurs around them in a veil of light and violence.

She takes a step forward and the wall grows thicker and thicker as colours mix and Luna pushes Feeling into it, giving it strength as it encases an arena of dirt and death and light and Magic, locking in four children that were touched by Magic. Three of them were faithful but one strayed and now it’s time to pay up. Tom lifts his wand, flings an incantation and hate at the wall of Magic and Feeling but nothing happens so he yells for green and aims at Harry but nothing happens.

He roars, “I’ll kill you, Potter. You and your whores! I’ll kill you.”

Buffy keeps walking until she stands at Tom’s left shoulder and Luna takes the other direction, picking Tom’s right as her place. Harry just shakes is head and Repeats, “Come.”

The finger stops moving, emotion stops flowing and Magic spinning, becoming first solid and then transparent. Inside the ring, four people watch the last Death Eaters succumb to the Light, watch an army of students flooding the field of battle, searching for family and loved ones and hated ones or just standing there, staring at the shimmering clear wall locking mortal enemies together. Dumbledore stands, held up by his sheep and next to him, Hermione cries again into Ron’s shoulder.

There was a time, Harry thinks, when she was rational and logical and never cried but he suspects that he broke something inside of her and he’s sorry. He’ll make it right.

+

Behind black sunglasses in the night tears well up in milky eyes. Carefully she places her stick and purse on the ground next to her. She won’t need them now. Fumbling around for a moment she finds the warm and soft form of her cat and strokes it for just a moment, just the way it likes to be stroked. It purrs loudly as its owner fades from view.

+

He looks around the small apartment, looks for something left to do. There’s nothing there. The windows are closed, the stove is turned off. He hugged his wife goodbye this morning after making love to her for hours, looking deep into her eyes. A prickle goes through the scar on his back and he closes his eyes briefly. It’s time. He stands with one last look at the empty sheet of paper on the kitchen table. There’s no sense in writing that letter. It’s time. He follows the call.

+

She’s lying in the dark, curled into herself, breathing deeply as she works up the courage to let go from everything she’s ever known, one hand pressed over the fading scar in her stomach. The price is too high. It’s too high. But she knew what was going to happen as she drove her car into a tree and begged for a second chance. So she’ll be brave, she’ll be brave and do this. Eyes screwed shut, she holds very still as the feeling of soft cotton around her fades away.

+

It doesn’t understand what it’s doing, not really, but it Knows what’s to come and so it clutches its favorite teddy bear close and follow the soft voice that sounds a bit like Daddy, leaving behind an empty crib and a sobbing mother.

“It’ll be alright,” it wants to say but it has no words yet.

+

It’s alright, she thinks as she pulls the white dress over her head and lies down on top of the covers. She knew this would come. Her affairs are in order. She pulls the last pin out of her steel grey hair and flicks it away. She chuckles. Such silly behavior at her age, it’s undignified. And yet she can’t help feeling like a girl of twenty again as Magic lifts her away.

+

“I love you, Dad,” he whispers, pressing a small kiss to his sleeping father’s forehead. Then he grabs the remote and switches off the TV, leaving the room silent. He walks towards the door without a backward glance, opening it and stepping through with one mighty step. His feet never touch the hallway.

+

“So this is it,” she wonders out loud.

He nods, pulling her closer. “This is it.”

He presses a chaste kiss to her lips and the next time she blinks, the park around them is gone.

+

She kissed her girls goodbye. She tucked them in. She checked on them. She brought Mary a glass of water. She had a good cry. She cleaned the kitchen. She spent half an hour in front of the mirror, tracing the white scar hidden by long hair. She got ten extra years. She got two wonderful girls. It’s time now.

+

Albus watches them appear one by one, shadowy figures, like ghost but not, some looking happy others with grief written across their faces. A little girl of maybe ten is first, then a man on a crutch, a blind woman, a teenaged boy, a baby, suspended in midair, a transparent teddy bear clutched in its tiny hands. But not a single one of those strange and beautiful creatures of mist and light makes a sound. They are silent like the dead as they fill the circle between Buffy, Harry and Luna, surround Tom with big eyes and wordless vigil.

A middle aged woman lifts a misty hand to wave at Buffy who smiles back briefly. The circle is closed and still more of these not-ghosts materialize, forming a second circle and another one until they reach the wall of Magic marking the perimeter of the arena. They float next to each other, inside each other, above each other. But they do not pass Harry and the girls, do not enter the zone of flat and dead land where Tom stands and watches.

Even from where he stands, Albus can see in Tom’s eyes that he understands at least some of what is going on inside this prison Buffy and Luna created. And he’s scared.

+

Luna tips her head back, her hair flowing in the breeze, tickling the apparitions behind and around her, causing a little boy to giggle. She smiles. Everyone’s here. Magic has collected all her children on Harry’s orders, has brought them all together in this place, here now and through all ages, yesterday and tomorrow, every second of every moment in time. Every creature Magic has ever loved is here, in this place, inside this circle, making Magic sing like a proud mother. It doesn’t understand that Harry has not Called them all for a family gathering but an execution. Doesn’t know that he will turn Magic against itself.

+

Harry looks around and feels a shudder run down his spine. There are more than he thought. Many more. Doesn’t matter now. A plan is a plan, Buffy always says. He looks at her, giving her one last bright smile. She grins back, a flicker of a little girl inside of her. Luna smiles at him too, like the cake baking sweetheart she used to be and then he drops his wand, heedless of where it falls and digs deep into his pocket, pulling out a cheap plastic bracelet with death and hate clinging to every bead.

+

Leave everyone with a smile

+

Buffy feels the cool firmness of astral bodies all around her, feels them pressing against her skin and mind and years of split lips and broken bones, of dark cupboards and fading photographs fade in a rush of other minds, other stories, other tragedies. There are so many she thinks and brushes a strand of hair out of her face. It’s time.

+

Three children skipping down the street, laughing, holding hands. They sing nursery rhymes and the two girls twirl until their skirts fly up and the boy claps his little hands in time with their steps.

Suddenly they stop dead in their tracks, falling silent like birds before a storm and the boy asks -
.

+

“Are you ready?”

Buffy shakes her head, unsure suddenly and Luna mouths, “No.”

Not yet. Not ever. Not for this. A plan is a plan but this is so much more and they were never taught this.

Harry just stands there for a beat. Then he asks, “Are you ready?”

And Buffy’s vision comes true as Luna nods.

“Yes.”

+

Tom’s fear is overcome by anger and he screeches, “What are you doing, Potter?”

“We’re making it right,” Harry Whispers, but his voice carries through the silent army of ghost spectators like a ripple. Drawing back one arm, the other held out straight in front of him, he throws the bracelet.

Tom catches it.

+

And you're sad,
You feel like a little child


+

He catches the bracelet, catches his past and his future, staring at it in horror as Harry Speaks, “Take it back.”

The air inside the ring ripples. Tom is frozen in horror as the smell of sea salt and blood invades his nostrils. He shakes his head as a single tear slips down his cheek. “No,” he whispers but it’s too late. Fifty years too late.

“Take it back,” Harry repeats.

+

Outside the ring, the air pulses and the earth buckles. Hermione drops to her knees.

+

“Take it back,” Luna echoes.

+

Behind them, Hogwarts groans like a dying Titan.

+

“Take it back,” Buffy says.

+

Tonks stumbles, clawing at her throat.

+

“Take it back,” the little girl picks up the chant.

+

All noise ceases. Birds fall silent. Inside the ring, Magic is dancing again, swirling like mad, picking up speed with every second.

+

“Take it back,” another ghost breaks the silence.

+

The magical storm grows and grows and grows. Albus can’t keep himself up anymore.

+

“Take it back.” And another.

+

The world holds its breath.

+

“Take it back.”

+

The storm explodes outwards, shattering the transparent walls, tearing into rocks and trees and ghosts and people, ripping the world to shred.

+

“Take it back,” Harry screams, his voice echoed by Buffy and Luna. “Take it back!”

+

Somebody left,
There is no rain


+

“Take it back!”

+

Magic obeys.

+

I send out my wishes

+

Buffy isn’t really watching her step, engrossed in the tourist guide, planning what she’ll do with her three family free hours, all alone in London. So it’s really no wonder that she runs into the other girl, sending them both to the ground in a tangle of limbs and bags as her book goes flying.

Hastily she apologizes as she scrambles to help pick up the contents of a dropped bag. A third pair of hands joins them in their work. She grabs a notebook that has ‘Luna' written on it in fancy script and she suppresses a snort at the name. She picks herself up, holding the book out to this Luna who accepts a pack of gum and a pencil from the third pair of hands, a black haired boy. Then she takes the note book and smiles shyly, blue eyes big and uncertain, half covered by long blonde hair. The black haired boy gives her a half grin as well, green eyes sparkling with mischief and a stab of déjà vu so sharp it hurts shoots through Buffy as she sees them standing next to each other.

But then it passes and she hears the boy say, “You girls should be more careful where you walk.”

Luna blushes and Buffy waves him off, telling the other girl, “I’m so sorry I ran into you. I wasn’t paying attention at all, I was so busy doing the tourist thing.”

Luna shakes her head, offering, “N-nei-neither was I. So-sorry.”

“Harry,” a female voice suddenly calls, “We’ll be late.”

He shrugs apologetically, rolling his eyes. “Coming, Mom!” And then he’s gone.

“M-my parents are waiting, too,” Luna says as she pushes past Buffy and starts down the sidewalk, softly humming a song about loneliness and rain, about children and faith. She looks back over her shoulder but the other girl is already gone. Then she stops for a second, wondering where she heard the melody before but she can’t remember. Strange. It’s a beautiful song and it makes her heart ache.

No matter. She’ll be late for dinner if she doesn’t hurry.

+

Somebody left,
There is no rain.


+

Fin

+

The End

You have reached the end of "Shiver, Whisper, Cringe". This story is complete.

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