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Learning to Deceive

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Summary: The Order of the Phoenix wants allies. The Council wants answers. The Ministry wants them both to stop rocking the boat. So what does Willow want? Mostly to make it through all of this alive. WR/SS

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Willow-Centered > Pairing: Severus SnapeWeyrWolfenFR1820101,86385339103,32915 Feb 0827 Apr 12No

Chapter One

A/N – This is my first foray into crossovers and the Harry Potter universe. Feedback in all of its forms would be lovely. I need to thank my beta, Athenewolfe, for knocking the rough edges off of this story. This fic is a response to the Fang Fetish Awards, Round 8 crossover challenge (http://www.athenewolfe.com/fangfetish).

Clearly, this is not a work of original fiction. I don’t own the universes, I don’t get paid for this, etc., etc. Translation – please no lawsuits.


“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” – Sir Walter Scott


“This should be bothering me,” Buffy said bemusedly. “I should be bothered. I should be faking a Giles accent and saying something like, ‘Oh bother,’ while I hunt down a sales clerk for some hair dye.” The subject of her attention, a newly discovered silver hair, nearly indistinguishable amongst the gold, was being inspected under high wattage in front of the slayer’s vanity. “But look, I’m bother-free. Weird.”

“Betcha there’s a box of Clairol out there with your name on it anyway,” Willow said teasingly from her perch on the corner of Buffy’s bed. She was balancing a thick file folder on her knee and listening to Buffy’s rather interesting take on the effects of aging.

“True, but that’s not what I’m talking about,” the slayer said, bending closer to the mirror. “I mean, my first gray hair. That should get some kind of response, shouldn’t it? Crying? Purchasing fast cars and wearing age inappropriate clothes?”

Willow grinned impishly. “My first ones sure did, but they were white, and you know, all of them all at once…”

“So not funny,” Buffy said, but her own crooked smile took the sting away from her words.

Willow thought about Buffy’s dilemma at lacking a dilemma. For someone who spent as much time on her hair as the senior slayer of the New Council, the redhead would have predicted some kind of major meltdown at this age benchmark, but Buffy always had been full of surprises. Of course, the truth was they were all getting older, if not actually, you know, old, and not to sound morbid, but…

“I think it’s because I didn’t really expect to get to see one,” Buffy said, as if reading Willow’s silent line of reasoning.

Willow’s own hair, which had become more of a color-coded barometer of her magical intentions, had in no way prepared her for this particular conversation. “Uh… huzzah for grey hairs?” The statement, meant to be supportive, came out as a sickly question instead. This whole conversation was against the unofficial Scooby rules. You didn’t date someone without at least a species check, you didn’t call Giles G-man to his face or ask him about Olivia, you didn’t stare too closely at Xander’s glass eye, and you absolutely did not talk about slayers’ shelf lives. Willow was on the edges of her social map, somewhere between ‘dangerous shoals’ and ‘here be monsters.’

Buffy looked at the witch over her shoulder, odd little smile tugging at the corners of her lips. “So, ready to play grown-up?” Willow asked desperately, picking up the folder in her lap and shaking the mass of papers by way of a distraction. The myriad color coded sticky tabs rustled loudly against one another.

She had come to Buffy’s room in order to do their usual pre-conference cramming session. Meaning, of course, that Willow read through reams of her research on whichever coven, cult, or committee they were supposed to be meeting while Buffy rendered her hard work into clever sound bites while still managing to retain enough to make them both powerful assets to Giles in his various duties as head of the New Council. The two of them found themselves fighting more demons across a negotiation table instead of in the field lately. One of the many changes their lives had taken of late.

“Fire away, Wills,” Buffy said, turning back to the mirror and her brand new grey hair.

“Right,” Willow said, flipping open the dangerously overstuffed manila folder. “So, there’s lots of kinds of magic in the world, right? Well back a few, okay more than a few, but anyway, a bunch of centuries ago, a big chunk of the magic using world, the ones who primarily use focuses like wands and staves and stuff, all very phallic if you ask me, well they kind of banded together and sort of… I guess the best way to put it is that they stepped away from the world.”

Buffy was twisting the single grey hair around and around one of her index fingers, but there was a slight furrow between her brows that close association and long experience told Willow meant that the slayer was listening to her every word.

Willow took a deep breath, really getting into the swing of the topic. “Witches like me try to stay in balance with the natural world, and it’s a lot easier for us to just keep our heads down when the angry villagers come with torches and stuff, but wand magic is flashier, so lying low isn’t really an option for them. So they set up their own communities, right under the noses of the rest of the world. They got really good at hiding themselves, often in plain sight, under layers and layers of wards and concealment spells. They’re also super-strict about using magic in front of non-magicky types, and they’re so serious about their secrecy that they even mind-wipe people who accidentally see things.”

That stirred up enough bad memories to make Willow trail away for a moment before Buffy’s voice dragged her back into the conversation. “They sound charming,” the slayer said dryly. She had finally dropped the single silver strand and was brushing out the rest of her still-blond hair.

“Yeah,” Willow responded vaguely before shaking herself and dragging her mind back to the topic at hand. “The other magic users and groups like the Council didn’t agree. I wouldn’t call it a war, but afterwards there were treaties and geases and stuff, and now everybody pretty much tries to pretend that everybody else doesn’t exist. So uh… like I said, the wand users have this whole society, governments, schools, you name it, carefully warded and hidden from the rest of the world. They use magic for everything, and I do mean everything. They sometimes find new adepts in non-magical families, but most of them have only ever known their own little world. Most of them have never seen a movie, or driven a car, or I don’t know, licked a stamp.”

The hair brushing had stopped and Buffy was looking at her with a mixture of disbelief and amusement.

“I know, weird huh?” Willow responded to her friend’s unspoken comments. “I mean, they’re not bad people, mostly, but they are so isolationist that they make Imperial Japan look like the county fair. They’ve even got a name for the rest of us…” she trailed off again when she noticed that Buffy’s expression had changed from stark disbelief to a blank stare.

Willow mentally backtracked and then hit the source of the problem. Right, bad example. She caught her lower lip between her teeth before coming up with some common ground. “They like public exposure about as much as the Initiative did, and their general opinion of the rest of us tends to fall somewhere between ‘interesting-oafs’ and ‘radioactive-pond-scum.’”

“Oh,” Buffy said vaguely. The hair brushing started up again.

“Which brings us to the reason for our meeting today. Some people from the ‘pond scum’ camp have been killing ones from the ‘oafs’ camp and more than a few innocent, non-magical bystanders for fun.” Willow pulled out a bunch of newspaper clippings and stretched forward to slide them onto one of the few empty surfaces of the slayer’s cluttered vanity.

Down went the hairbrush and up came the stack of articles. Some of the pictures were pretty gruesome, and Buffy’s furrowed brow was rapidly evolving into an angry scowl. Even before her injury, she hadn’t been on regular slaying rotation for a few years now, but even so, Buffy always seemed to feel personally responsible when bad things happened to good people, no matter how far outside of her control the situation was. But a bum leg was a bum leg, and for the foreseeable future, Buffy was firmly off the front line. “So we’re only hearing about this now why?” she asked, voice taking on the harder edge that the younger slayers jokingly referred to as her ‘general voice.’

“It looks like the Sunnydale Effect was out in full force. A bunch of their higher ups didn’t want to admit that anything was going on, even to themselves. I guess they thought if they kept covering stuff up and pretending that everything was alright, that it would just go away.” Buffy’s already dark expression started to take on even more dangerous overtones. Willow winced a little before continuing, agreeing with the slayer in principle, but still hoping to avoid a major explosion before the negotiations had even started. “But of course it didn’t, and things have been getting worse. They have treaties with the Council about stuff like this, even though it’s all been kind of ceremonial in the past. Giles is pretty incensed about them not passing along the fact that there’s a group of powerful, genocidal wizards rampaging across England.”

Buffy heaved herself to her feet, and Willow wordlessly handed over the bulky knee brace that had been sharing time with her on the slayer’s bed. The damage to her knee would have permanently crippled a regular human, but Buffy pretty much defined the term resilient. The Council’s doctors were confident that in spite of the lingering effects of the X’orcan’s toxic bite, she would regain full mobility eventually. At least she was out of the wheelchair. A partially mobile Buffy was significantly happier than a chair-bound one. They’d even thrown a party in celebration of her return to bipedality, much to the dismay of some of the older watchers.

After arranging the contraption over her black slacks, bolting down the straps and making sure the metal supports wouldn’t rub her leg raw, Buffy rose unsteadily and turned around, her arms raised in mock-display. “Other than the Franken-leg, how do I look?” she asked.

“Like you’re going to eat these guys alive, and not in the happy, porny way either,” Willow said, impish humor back in her green eyes.

“Ugh, after Gideon, I think I’m going off boys completely,” Buffy said overdramatically, limping towards the door. The break up had been weeks ago, and the slayer’s idea in the first place, but Willow wasn’t about to point that out. The fact that Gideon was a watcher in training, and therefore constantly at hand to pop up at inopportune times with his new girlfriend, was making an already bad situation about a hundred times worse. Nope, Willow wasn’t touching this conversation with a ten foot long pole.

They stepped into the hallway, and made for the elevators. There was something to be said for living where you worked, and Giles had made sure that the floor plans for the new Council building included spacious apartments for all of them.

“So, the Reader’s Digest version?” she asked as Willow fell in step with her stilted gait.

She thought for a second before responding. “They wear weird clothes. They don’t know who Georgio Armani or Geraldo Rivera are, and if they call you a Muggle, just smile and nod. They don’t mean anything by it.”

~*~*~*~

Willow knew that she should be paying more attention. Giles was slowly fading from flushed to blotchy, and if his face got any more rigid, it was going to petrify. That usually meant that thing were about to go from obsessive glasses polishing to epic verbal explosion in four point five seconds. Nevertheless, Willow was only half listening to the proceedings.

She couldn’t help it. The woman across from her was wearing a pointed hat. For the Goddess’s sake, a pointed hat! Not to mention the delicately carved cameo clasped at her throat that, unless Willow was truly losing her mind, had blinked a few moments ago.

Never mind that it turned out that their guests had revealed that they weren’t actually representing their government, which apparently had all kinds of fun implications not only for the situation, but also for Giles’ blood pressure. Never mind that the guy with the funky bionic eyepiece and the peg leg was getting twitchy with his wand whenever the security camera in the corner panned his way. Never mind that most of the discussion had thus far revolved around someone named “You Know Who,” which sounded about as second grade as it got. Unless of course ‘You Know Who’ was actually his name, which honestly wouldn’t have surprised Willow at that point.

No, Willow was entranced by a blinking portrait etched out in pinkish shell and a black, pointed hat.

A none-too-gentle elbow to the ribs dragged her back into the present with a jerk. She looked over at Buffy, who was now scooting a notepad towards her with said elbow. Willow snuck a peek at the paper out of the corner of her eye.

In loopy script, underlined three times were the words, “Are these guys serious?!?!”

Uncomfortably aware that Buffy’s attempt at discretion had drawn more than a few eyes, which disconcertingly seemed to include the portrait on the witch’s cameo, Willow dropped a hand as casually as possible over the slayer’s words. When she brought her hand up to prop up her chin a moment later, the ink had bled into new letters.

“As a heart attack.”

This was an old game. It was a good way to pass notes in a room that tended to house both the magically inclined and the incredibly stuffy. As long as their composure held, it would simply look like Buffy was taking notes on whatever was being said. However, hiding her emotions had never been one of the slayer’s strong points. She snorted inelegantly when she read the comment, drawing even more looks. A winning, wry smile diffused the situation and soon enough, the thin, balding man with red hair and a kind of worn looking robe who had been talking launched back into something about a kid with a scar and something that sounded like a livestock disease or some funky spell component. No, wait, it was a place, not a skin condition. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Weird.

Buffy scrawled under Willow’s comment just as soon as it looked like she could get away with it. “You mean like the one Giles is going to have any second now?”

Willow couldn’t help it. The tension in the room was too oppressive, there was a freaking piece of jewelry glaring at her, and she always had an unfortunate urge to giggle in the worst possible moments. She managed to strangle the sound into a cough which was then drowned with a glass of water, an apologetic expression on her face the whole time.

The ensorcelled ink swirled again once Willow got a hold of herself. “Yeah, someone’s going to have to stage an intervention before he pops a few blood vessels in his eye.”

“Yes, well,” a new voice cut through the roundabout lesson on wizarding recent events. “From the expressions on some of our hosts’ faces, I believe that now might be a good time to entertain questions.”

Willow looked up from the notepad and found herself gazing straight into the speaker’s glittering eyes. He was old, with a long silver beard and a kindly face. He looked like someone’s really eccentric grandfather, dressed in blue and purple robes that shimmered oddly under the conference room’s fluorescent lights, but there was something else there. Willow could feel the power churning behind those bright, seemingly cheerful eyes. If it wasn’t crazy, she thought that his words had been in response to her note, but no… they’d started doing the ink trick in order to avoid problems with potentially telepathic guests. It would take someone with incredible power, not to mention finesse, to sneak past her magical protections without her even realizing it.

The red haired man who had been speaking - Willow had been too entranced by the winking cameo to catch his name - peered around the room through his glasses until his eyes fell on Giles’ livid features. “Oh!” he said abruptly, plopping back down in his seat. “I just thought…” he started, but trailed off under the Council head’s cold glare.

For a prolonged moment, you could have heard a pin drop, but Giles’ voice soon cut through the silence like a knife. “Let me see if I have the facts straight. One of your number has gone rogue, some time ago it would seem. Even though his actions included numerous murders of magically… ah… uninvolved people, and in direct breach of the Treaty of Carthage I might add, your Ministry has not seen fit to inform the Watcher’s Council, either fourteen years ago during his first uprising or in response to more recent events.” Giles only spoke in that smooth tone of voice when he was building up to a really impressive explosion. “How am I doing thus far?”

“Actually, there are multiple, ah… rogues, following ‘You-Know-Who,” said the woman with the blinking cameo. Her voice was calm and collected, but she avoided making eye contact with the angry watcher by resettling her green shawl across her shoulders. “They call themselves Death Eaters.”

“Death Eaters,” Giles repeated blandly. Willow winced; this was going to be bad. “Lovely. And furthermore, you are not in fact representatives from your Ministry of Magic. You are all members of this ‘Order of the Phoenix’ which is trying to fight a war against these dark wizards while those who should be handling the situation are only too happy to stick their heads firmly in the sand. Other than giving me the beginnings of what I am sure will be a memorable headache and a rather strong desire to mount your Minister’s head on a pike outside of this building, what precisely do you want from we mere ‘Muggles’ here at the Council of Watchers?”

Willow watched the reactions of the witches and wizards around the table. Most of them either looked indignant or embarrassed, except for the old man, who seemed wholly unperturbed, and eye-guy in the corner, who was still glaring with an alarming scowl on his scarred, craggy face at the whirring security camera.

“Well, Mr. Dumbledore?” Giles said again, tone skirting the timbre that told Willow that he was letting more than a little of his old self out to play.

The old man’s eyes faded into seriousness. “These are desperate times, Mr. Giles, and while we in the wizarding world have not always seen eye to eye with your organization, your ongoing fight against the dark powers has never gone unnoticed or unnoted,” Dumbledore’s voice was still quiet, but it seemed to command attention. “There are those among us who see this new war coming and are willing to fight, but we are few, especially without the support of our Ministry. We will need powerful allies, ones who have fought in these types of battles before,” his eyes grazed Buffy, “Who have experiences and powers that we do not.” And now he was definitely looking at Willow.

Or maybe through her.

The intensity of his gaze made her skin crawl, even as she instinctively battened down her mental defenses even more. Kindly Dumbledore might appear, but that didn’t mean she wanted her soul exposed before those alarmingly knowing eyes.

He just smiled at her sadly. “We simply cannot let Voldemort go unchecked.” There was some uncomfortable muttering at the use of that name, even a small gasp from the woman whose broach now seemed wide eyed and shocked as well.

So that’s ‘You Know Who’s’ real name, Willow mused. Sounds like one of Andrew’s role playing characters.

Dumbledore continued, unperturbed by the reactions of those around him. “I don’t expect centuries of bad blood to simply be washed away in the blink of an eye, but I had hoped that we could set our differences aside in the face of a common foe. Afterwards, who is not to say that some kind of accord cannot be reached?”

Giles looked pole axed. They probably all did. From her research Willow had expected many things, but not an open and ready offering of the olive branch. She felt something like she had last year when her mother had appeared on her doorstep for Hanukkah with presents in hand. The situation hadn’t been wholly unwelcome, but years of estrangement had made it so unexpected as to make for some impressive levels of awkwardness.

Drawing himself together firmly, Giles leaned forward, hands face down on the papers spread in front of him. “It has always been the prime directive of the Council to fight the forces of evil on all possible fronts, but I do have questions that need to be addressed before any promise of aid can be made. First, are we talking about an alliance between equals?” he stressed the last word.

“Yes,” Dumbledore agreed mildly.

“I will require full access to your information and assets. I will not send any of my people into a fight blind,” he said, edge coming back into his voice as if he was expecting at least hedging, if not a flat refusal.

“That is a sentiment that I can certainly respect,” came the easy response. “How would you feel about an exchange, Mr. Giles? Some members of the Order could stay with you, some of your people could come with us. No restrictions. A free exchange of ideas and information. Would that meet your requirements?”

Willow glanced down the length of the conference table. The watcher on Giles’ right side, William Rothchild, was nearly salivating at the idea. She couldn’t blame him. Full access to what amounted to an entirely unexplored magical world? She was surprised that she wasn’t having to wipe drool off of her own chin at the prospect.

In comparison, there were some worried faces lining the opposing side of the table, with the notable exception of the red haired man with the glasses, who seemed to be even more excited about the prospect than Rothchild. Giles turned from the watchers nodding in assent on his left and looked her way. She gave him the barest nod. Buffy did too.

There had been a thread of desperation running through all of their guests during the entire meeting. Willow had made sure to keep an ‘ear’ open to look for any signs of deceit, but even under normal circumstances she could usually sense other people’s emotions through the magic that connected her, however loosely, to every other living thing on the planet. It had been one of the side effects of her training in Devon and her subsequent leaps in magical ability. Now, seeing the reactions of the watchers delegation, she could sense something new: hope.

Giles leaned back in his chair and folded his hands in front of him, a sure sign that he was more than seriously contemplating the offer. “I will hold you personally responsible for the safety of my people.”

Dumbledore nodded, as if he had been expecting that statement. “There may well be casualties, Mr. Giles, but they will have as much protection as any of us here. I can promise that. I also expect that you will extend the same courtesy to our people?”

Giles simply nodded, index finger tapping out a slow rhythm on the hardwood of the table. “And how should we conceal this operation from your superiors?”

Dumbledore’s eyes were twinkling again. “Why, in the open of course. Did I not mention that Mrs. Vance has some very high ranking connections within the Ministry?” he gestured towards cameo-lady, who simply pursed her lips in a prim smile. “Between citing the Treaty of Carthage, which you have already mentioned, and various other laws that Mrs. Vance has managed to collect, I imagine that you will be able to draft a suitably disconcerting letter to Cornelius Fudge. I dare say that if you include at least a few insulting comments about myself, I believe that your terminology would be something along the lines of ‘disturbing the peace,’ why, he may very well welcome your people with open arms.”

~*~*~*~

“Willow, I need a word with you,” Giles’ quiet voice drew the witch’s attention away from the redheaded man who seemed to be inspecting the plug on the coffee pot with something resembling glee. Since they were already in a corner, she simply waved a hand, palm facing the rest of the room, and briefly savored the flow of magic in her veins as the barrier leapt into existence.

When the spell was completed, the din in the room faded into silence. “What’s up, Giles?” she asked over the brim of her cup of herbal tea.

The watcher looked back at the now quiet room filled with watchers and wizards, mingling over drinks in the way of such meetings. Buffy was speaking animatedly with two men, one tall and crisply dressed, with a smile that shone all the brighter against his dark skin, and the other sad-eyed and shabbily dressed with sandy brown hair. From her hand gestures, she was probably reenacting some battle or another. “What do you think of them?” Giles finally asked, sipping from the steaming cup of black tea in his own hands.

“I don’t think they’re lying. This Voldemort person has seriously put a scare into these people, and from what little I was able to scrounge on the situation, I don’t really blame them,” she replied thoughtfully.

Giles simply nodded. “I agree, which is not to say that I fully trust them either. That is why I am about to ask you to join the team of watchers who will be working with them.”

Willow almost choked on her tea in surprise. Giles produced a handkerchief from his coat pocket and offered it to her with a kindly smile. Once she had herself back under control and reasonably presentable, she handed the piece of fabric back to him and managed to find her voice again. “Why me?” she squeaked.

“A variety of reasons, my dear, not the least of which is the fact that you are by far the most powerful witch we have, not to mention one of the smartest.” Willow’s eyes dropped in embarrassed pride, but she couldn’t help but nod. It was the simple truth. “Shall I continue? I trust you; many of my most experienced watchers are still carrying political baggage from before our not entirely popular program of reforms. You have more field experience than most of them, and you have at least minor experience with the position that will be your cover during the entire affair.”

“And what’s that,” Willow asked, flattered and insanely curious.

“Teaching,” he replied with the slightest of smiles.

She blinked.

When it became obvious that she had quite possibly lost her ability to speak, Giles continued wryly. “Their leader, this Dumbledore, is a headmaster at one of their wizarding schools. Since I expect he will be in the middle of any major developments, I need someone placed with him who will be able to hold their own in the event of any magical incidents. If you agree, you would be entering the school under the cleverly accurate guise of a spy for the Council.”

“That’s kinda… Machiavellian,” Willow finally said, mind skimming through all of the implications of this development.

“Isn’t it?” Giles mused. “Dumbledore’s idea. The man is… formidable.”

They both stood in silence, Willow lost in thought and Giles waiting patiently for her answer. The red haired man was now showing the coffee pot to Dumbledore and gesturing wildly with the cord.

It was all too much. Teaching. Teaching in a wizarding school. Teaching in a wizarding school during a magical war. Too too much, so she stuck with her instincts.

“So what am I going to teach?” she asked at length, sticking to the least intimidating of her current predicaments.

Giles smiled down at her. “Should I take that as a yes?” he asked mildly.

“Yeah,” she said with a long, apprehensive breath.

“Willow?” Giles waited until she looked away from the surreal scene of mingling people and looked straight at him. “I… thank you.”

There was so much that might have been said there. She just smiled, trying to comfort them both. “No problem. Wanna go talk to my new boss?”

Giles nodded, worried eyes telling her what he couldn’t seem to find words to express. The Scoobies had thrown themselves against hellmouths, hellgoddesses, hell, just about everything, but this was big. Maybe too big, and this time, she was probably going to be the one spear heading the attack, not Buffy. It was scary, but scary was what she had specialized in ever since a blond slayer had traipsed into her sophomore year of high school and turned her entire world upside down.

She dropped the barrier and the clamor of the room came rushing back, making them both wince. Almost immediately, Dumbledore was looking their way. He politely excused himself from the man with the plug fascination and walked their way.

“Miss Rosenberg, have you agreed to join us?” he asked politely, animated eyes solemn once again.

“I... yes, and not to sound obsessive, but what am I going to be teaching? Because you know, I guess this means I’m going to have to start thinking about lesson plans and how not to traumatize impressionable minds and… stuff,” Willow clamped her mouth shut, uncomfortably aware that she was starting to babble. She grimaced into her tea, wishing that the goddess had given her something resembling tact and eloquence to go along with her magical abilities.

Thankfully, Dumbledore just smiled kindly at her. “All of our usual positions are already filled, but I believe that we might be able to squeeze something into the schedule at the last minute. Especially if you co-taught with one of our own teachers. Yes, I think that might be for the best,” he mused out loud. “Now my dear, I was thinking about something to the effect of ‘Applied Defense Against the Dark Arts.’ Considering your current profession, I thought it fitting. What are your thoughts?”

Willow blinked and had blurted out, “Applied?” before she could stop herself.

“I have reason to believe that our normal Defense Against the Dark Arts course will be of a more theoretical nature than I usually like.” There was no mistaking the dangerous flash of ire behind the wizard’s eyes, rapidly hidden under another smile though it was.

Too many questions.

“I think that sounds doable,” she said with a nervous smile of her own. She’d have time to find the answers to those questions, and probably a boatload more that she’d hadn’t ever even thought to ask, during this assignment.

“Excellent! Now if you will excuse me, I believe I should be on my way. I’ll leave the final arrangements in the hands of the very capable Mrs. Vance, but right now, I believe I have a faculty member to make very happy,” and then, to Willow’s discomfiture, Dumbledore winked solemnly at her, “Or to irritate immensely. It’s sometimes very difficult to predict with him.”

Well, that’s not very comforting.

With a polite nod and another smile, he returned to the group of people milling around the drink table. He shared few words with the sad-eyed man and the older guy, who in lieu of a real name, Willow decided to officially deem ‘Eye Guy,’ before exiting the room in the company of a young watcher named Eric, who would presumably escort him to whatever these people used for transportation.

“I should really go speak to our guests,” Giles said in a long suffering voice. That was what had really taken the most getting used to once the New Council had been rebuilt, the politics. With a nod of his own and a long sigh, Giles strode forward into the fray.

And so Willow was left with her rapidly cooling tea and so many things to think about that she didn’t know where to start. It was all too unreal. For someone who prided herself on her quick thinking and ability to deal with whatever slimy, scaled, or satanic curveball the world threw her way, the situation wasn’t very pleasant. In fact, it kind of felt like the walls of the board room were starting to close in around her.

Just when it looked like she may very well start to hyperventilate, someone behind her cleared his throat. Willow spun around with a squeak to find the balding, bespectacled man cradling the coffeepot in his arms.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he shifted the urn of coffee into one hand and extended the other. Willow took it without thinking, and found herself the victim of a rather vigorous handshake. “My name is Arthur Weasley, and I was wondering if I could trouble you with a couple of questions.”

He was so open and earnest looking that Willow found herself rapidly relaxing. “Sure,” she said, wondering what kind of question he could possibly want to ask her, unless he already knew about her new ‘job.’

“Well, you see, I collect plugs,” he said matter-of-factly.

“Plugs,” she repeated stupidly. She was starting to get that strange feeling of unreality again.

He beamed. “Yes, but you see, your device here,” he hefted the coffeepot, “Has a most unusual design and there was some kind of extra plug attached to it.” The coffeepot made its way onto the table, and Mr. Weasley pulled a plug adapter out of a pocket in his voluminous robes. “And I was wondering what the significance of it might be.”

Willow balked.

This has to be some kind of joke.

But it wasn’t. Mr. Weasley just kept looking at her with a hopeful, almost childlike curiosity. She had been expecting these wizards to be somewhat out of touch with the rest of the world, but this was bordering on the ridiculous.

Okay, well you’re apparently going to be a teacher soon, Rosenberg. So? Teach!

“Well Mr. Weasley-” she started.

“Oh, please call me Arthur,” he interrupted, grinning in anticipation.

I can do this.

“Well Arthur, we have different kinds of plugs in America, and we bought that coffeepot back in Cleveland for late night research parties,” she explained. “When we moved to London, we brought it with us, for, uh, sentimental reasons I guess.” She thought the explanation sounded silly, but it was their coffeepot and it had seen them through many a late night on their second hellmouth.

Fortunately, Arthur seemed to think that becoming attached to a household appliance was the most normal thing in the world, so Willow managed to continue without much of an embarrassed pause.

“But the plug didn’t fit over here, so we bought an adapter,” she pointed at the blocky device in his hands. “Which is basically a little electronic device with an American style socket on one side,” she pointed again, “And a British style plug on the other,” and again. “So you plug the coffeepot into the adaptor-“

“And the adaptor into the wall,” Arthur breathed. “How very clever!”

His exuberance was infectious and Willow found herself grinning back.

“I..” he started hesitantly.

Willow smiled encouragingly.

“I don’t suppose you know how airplanes fly, do you?” The question sounded like a prayer.

Willow couldn’t help it, she laughed. It felt good. This felt good.

I CAN do this.

“Actually I do, but this is going to take a little longer to explain. Have you ever heard of Bernoulli’s Principle?”
Next Chapter
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