Fog and House Elves
Giles looked down on the gravestone.
She Saved the World.
It was two weeks since the fight with Glory. He could still hear the sickening sound of his Slayer’s body falling to the ground. Death was her gift. Indeed. He was still having trouble accepting the fact. Every day since the funeral he had wandered into the graveyard, seeking answers to questions he did not have fully formed in his head. He felt lost.
Although he had been reinstated as a watcher with full benefits, he could not bring himself to go back to the fold. Although he had not gone native, as his fellow watchers assumed, he was indelibly changed by his time in Sunnydale. He knew they would not continue to pay his salary if his Slayer was dead-If Buffy was dead-and he decided to stay.
He suddenly felt the weight of everyone he had lost. Buffy, Joyce, Jenny…Ginny. He loved them all, but for her own person. Buffy was the daughter he never had. Joyce varied between a sisterly relationship to a-what was it Faith would say? Ah yes, a “friends with benefits” relationship. Jenny was…special. Although the circumstances created a schism between them, she was so fresh and vibrant that he longed for her in a way he had not longed for anyone in a long time. And Ginny. Damn he had been a fool. Married at 18, her at 17. Even if she had lived he doubted it would have lasted. Looking back on it now, he knew it to be a foolish mistake of youth. They barely knew each other.
Hermione’s visit from earlier in the year had prompted ideas and memories he had repressed for a long time. But ultimately, those memories of his childhood were those that prompted him to become a Watcher. The Council was just another group sending children to fight wars. Giles had done his best to change that, to make it better. He had failed. Three Slayers he had failed. First Kendra, killed by Drusilla. She knew nothing of the outside world, a perfect little puppet for the council. Then Faith, going down that dark path. And now Buffy. He should have known about Ben. He should have recognized the spell. He should have done what needed to be done much earlier. Damn him for a fool.
It was getting late and the sun was sinking in the sky. He had no desire for a moonlight stroll this evening. He turned around to walk away and noticed Willow and Xander waiting for him just outside the cemetery gates.
“Willow, Xander,” he greeted them without much enthusiasm. “What can I do for you?”
“You’ve been coming out here every day since the funeral,” Willow said with some worry in her voice. “We need you with us.” Giles just gave her a grim, sad look.
“Unfortunately that might not be possible in the near future,” he said depressed. At their confused looks he explained. “I have been recalled to England.”
“Giles! What are you talking about? We need you,” Xander said, not joking. “Right now it’s like you’re the only think keeping us together.”
“I do not mean to suggest that I will not be returning, heavens no,” the Watcher said simply. “More, that I shall have to return after I have concluded my affairs in England. I have my green card, so it will be no problem.”
“Bu-but!” Giles smiled and rested a calming hand on the redhead’s shoulder.
“Willow, you are strong, I believe in you, both of you,” Giles said. “Anya will ensure my financial success, but you will keep everything together. You always have.”
“What’s your business in England? Does it have to do with Harry Potter?” Xander asked, his hand feeling the letter from Lilly resting in his pocket. The girl had sent it to him by owl mail (it was much better on postage, he assumed) and asked him to give it to Giles after the troubles were over.
“I never explained what that was all about, did I?” he mused. “Suffice to say, I was born Harry Potter, raised in a horrible house by my aunt and uncle and then went to a specialty school for magic users. It was a pomp and circumstance secret society who focused on blood ancestry instead of natural ability. The place was horrible. After some events I left, never to return.”
“Are you sure about that last part?” Xander asked, sharing a glance with Willow. She was the only other who knew about the letter now that Buffy was dead. He pulled it out and handed it to the watcher.
“One of those Wizards sent this for you,” Willow said. “It came by a fluffy white owl. You should read it.”
Giles was tempted to bin it and move on, but he chose to open it instead. The three of them started walking back to the Summers house where Anya, Dawn and Tara were waiting. He had expected it to be from Hermione, or Neville at the least. But the hand writing was not something he recognized.
Dear Rupert Giles AKA Harry Potter,
I don’t really know why I’m writing this. I was going to come in person, but I couldn’t raise the courage. Pretty sad for a Gryffindor, isn’t it? I wanted to talk when we met, but the situation was not what we had intended.
Although that charge is real, we never intended to actually arrest you, but it was the only way we could get permission into certain departments to find you. Malfoy is a stupid git. He never figured it out and we claimed we didn’t find you.
Okay, I should really get to the point. I’m almost as nervous writing this as I would be telling this in person. When we met I was angry, really angry because you weren’t the person everyone used to talk about. Xander explained things to me and told me to come back in a few weeks. Well, a few weeks passed and I didn’t go back. I decided to write to you.
My name is Lilly Potter and you are my father and Ginny was my mother. I was named after my grandmothers. The curse didn’t kill me, we don’t know why. Maybe it was because of you. We don’t know. Hermione raised me like her own even after she and Uncle Ron broke up. I heard stories about you ever since I was little: the Boy-Who-Lived and the Man-Who-Ran. The latter is what the papers called you when they found out I was alive.
You are a legend, you know. People keep having Potter sightings. Most people claim you’re dead, but others keep seeing you in Paris or Tokyo or some even claimed you were teaching quiddich with Viktor Krum. You are like our-what do you call him-Elvers? Elvis? Ellwood? Hermione told me about him, I don’t really know who he was. But people claimed to see him after he was dead.
So I am your daughter. I guess that is what I was really trying to write. I should have binned this and started anew.
= = = = = = = = = = = =
Giles finished reading the letter and started from the top again. He continued until he realized they were at the house and the sun was about to go down. He glanced at Willow and Xander who were waiting in the doorway.
“I have a daughter,” he said with confusion mixed with resurfaced pain and anger for the dead and for himself.
Three days later.
“Giles! I don’t want you to go!” Little Dawn had wrapped her arms around his waist and seemed to have temporarily gained some of her sister’s strength. It was time for Giles’ plane to leave and most of the people had already boarded. Dawn was not ready to loose another parent figure so soon.
“Dawn, I do not truly have a choice,” the Watcher said sadly. “I expect to return soon. Willow and Tara will look after you.” After a short while, the youngest Summers let go and let him embrace the others. “Willow, do look after things while I am gone.”
“No problem, I’m going to get the Buffy-Bot going again so we can make things better,” Willow said. Tara, sensing the unease her lover refused to share, grabbed the redhead’s hand and sent her feelings through.
“Tara, keep Willow grounded,” Giles said. Tara was made of stronger stuff than she knew and could be the anchor for the group. She was still mentally recovering from Glory’s attack. “Xander, please stay out of trouble and try not to be kidnapped.”
“No promises,” Xander said with a grin.
“Anya, please keep the store running,” Giles said with a strained smile. “And please do not overcharge too much.”
“I’ll charge what people will buy,” Anya said. “Which means I’m doubling prices.”
“I thought you would say that,” the older man muttered under his breath. Speaking in a more normal tone he continued. “I must be off. I shall write. You can expect me back in two weeks.”
Bidding his farewells, he passed his ticket to the attendant and boarded the plane.
The plane ride was dreadfully dull save for the rather large man who drank cheap gin until it ran out his pores.
England was, well, England. It was a wet spring that year and the ubiquitous London fog had rolled in thick as sheep’s wool. At least it was not poisonous this time. Used to it as most long time residents were, Giles trudged along the streets when necessary and using the Underground when he could. Absently he glanced at the tourists that always seemed to congregate around certain locals. It occurred to him that in all the years he lived in England he had never seen the Queen, never been to most of the tourist sites and in fact had spent quite some time instinctively avoiding them. He wondered if that was part of his peculiar upbringing or just something locals were wont to do. Pushing the thought away he made his way through the streets to the corner building which housed the Watcher’s Council. It was an old building by Californian standards, but rather new by Londoners. The building was a reproduction on the outside of the previous building, but inside was something completely new, rebuilt after the original had been destroyed in the Blitz.
The man who had once been Harry Potter looked up at the building. Here he had spent years of his life working towards becoming Buffy’s Watcher. There had been breaks when he worked for the British Museum and on investigations of books and such, but this was a place of importance. His time here had transformed him in so many ways. He remembered climbing the ladder of internal politics, working with the conservatives and the reform factions. He had heard of the Council years before, when he was recovering with the Coven. The Legend of the Slayer, a girl destined to die horribly. He had been so determined to change things, to make them better. And for a while he had. Now, it was clear he had failed. Taking a deep breath, he strode into the building, pulling up all of his Gryffindor courage to propel him forward.
“Hello, I am Rupert Giles,” he said to the security guard at the front. The head of the desk was a pretty, young watcher in her late twenties or early thirties. He didn’t know her name.
“Ah, yes, Mr. Giles,” the woman said. She glanced at her note pad and glanced back up. “Mr. Travers would like to see you now, do you know where his office is?”
Giles said that he did and started climbing the stairs. Quentin Travers, the head of the Watcher’s Council had a large corner office that overlooked the streets of London on the top floor. It was larger than the conference room and, as rumor had it, had once been part of the library. He knocked on the door quietly once and heard the man call him in.
“Mr. Giles, do sit down,” the pompous bureaucrat said, motioning to a leather seat in front of his mahogany desk. The entire room looked like an auxiliary to the British Museum with antiques and artifacts from all over the world. Absently, Giles wondered how much of the Council’s funds paid for them and how many were funded by Travers’ own salary. He suspected it was weighted heavily in the former. The man poured two glasses of Scotch from a bottle that probably cost more than Giles’ monthly salary. “Are you settled in?”
“No, I arrived this morning. I haven’t had time,” Giles said honestly.
“Then you should do so,” Travers said simply. He set the tumbler of scotch in front of the Watcher. “We are reassigning you.”
This caught Giles off guard. He fully expected to be debriefed and then sacked. In fact, he almost preferred it. “For how long? I own a business in Sunnydale that cannot be-“
“Then you should sell it,” Travers said, taking a long sip of the scotch. It was more of a chug, really; Giles knew the drink deserved better. “You are being assigned to the Prime Minister’s staff.”
Giles almost spit out the scotch in surprise. Carefully, he set the tumbler down on the desk. “Downing Street? Whatever for?”
“The previous advisor has…retired. After being in America so long I felt it was the best choice, get you back in to the British way again,” Travers said, turning his leather chair to look out the window over the city. “You start in one month. Do you have a flat?”
“No, but I shall find something,” Giles said. He was torn. Half of him wanted to fly back immediately and damn the consequences, but the other half of him knew this could be his chance to change things, make permanent changes so children no longer have to fight wars.
He had a month.
Flats were much more expensive in London than he remembered.
After two weeks of living out of a hotel, Giles finally let his curiosity get the best of him. Standing in front of him, still the same as it had always been, was the Black ancestral residence. He was really not sure why he was there. He owned it, or rather, Harry Potter owned it and so it was rightfully his. It wasn’t the house that Ginny died in, that was on the other side of London, but this house prompted other bad memories.
Brushing away the mental image of Sirius falling through the mirror, he stepped up to the door. He nodded to the woman in robes who looked at him from her front lawn. This was still a wizarding world neighborhood. He doubted there were any normal humans who lived in the area. He refused to call them muggles. He grasped the handle and the door opened at his touch.
The entryway was sparklingly clean. Not a spot of dust. All the paintings were on the walls and his old boots lined up at the entry. And then it happened. All the paintings woke up. The cacophony was deafening as it always was.
“Master has returned?” He glanced down to see the House Elf waiting expectantly. Kreature must have been nearly insane with loneliness. Twelve years alone and then a flury of activity, then decades of solitude and he came back.
“Yes, Kreature, I have returned,” Giles said, setting his bag down in the entryway.
“Kreature will take Master’s things and pack them,” the house elf said, touching the bags and vanishing from sight. He seemed…stable. A sane Kreature? A moderately polite Kreature? It was difficult to imagine. He glanced at the yelling paintings.
“Oh, good god, do be quiet,” he snarled at the paintings. Sirius’ mother ignored him, so he simply picked up her painting and turned it around.
“Hallo, Harry,” Sirius’ painting said. “It’s been a long time.”
“Yes, it has,” Giles said. “But I go by Rupert Giles now. Please spread the word that I would prefer not to be called Harry Potter any more. It saves trouble of telling everyone individually. But it is good to see you, even if it isn’t really you.” Sirius’ image grinned.
“But I’m as close as you’re going to get,” the image said with that same glint his godfather always used to have. “So, tell me what has happened.”
Giles wrote constantly to Sunnydale and the responses were quick. No one was happy he was leaving the Hellmouth for an extended period of time. He still owned the flat and he still had partial ownership of the Magic Box, so he would go back as much as possible. He had even rented the flat to Xander and Anya for a rate much below the normal price. There was a promise that he would always have a bed when he went back, but he suspected he would end up living in the Summers residence where Willow and Tara now lived to take care of Dawn.
He had a difficult time convincing Kreature not to lay out robes. He wore a suit and tie when he traveled to Council Headquarters and did not need to be known as a man who wore dresses. That was more likely to get him sacked than anything else. Kreature was an excellent cook and sometimes over eager to help. Some of his actions almost resembled Dobby. It was quite strange.
He had been writing up a report about the events that lead to the deaths of Buffy and Glory when the doorbell rang. Straightening his glasses, he walked up to the door and noticed several wizarding types standing on his step. Opening the door slightly he raised an eyebrow at the arrivals. Lead among them was the woman who spotted him on the first day. “Yes, what can I do for you?”
The woman, quite full of herself, simply strode into the entry, pushing him aside. “Where is the master of the house?”
“Madame? I did not give you entry into my home, please explain yourselves and leave,” Giles said pleasantly. He had no desire to bicker with his neighbors.
“No one has come or gone from this house in years an you just walk right in, Squatter,” the woman said.
“Sally, let’s just stupefy the muggle and get on with it,” said a man, pushing his way inside. “We’ll just leave him for the aurorers to obliviate.”
“This is my home and if you do not leave, I shall be quite upset,” Giles said, amazed at the rudeness of his neighbors. Some things never changed: the wizarding world was still just as prejudiced as always. When they didn’t move, but actually went for their wands, Giles sighed. “Kreature, would you-“
Inwardly, Giles cursed his situation as he found himself unable to move. One thing that had always annoyed him was the fact that the wizards didn’t even use real Latin, just made up words that sounded Latin.
“Kreature here Master. Master!” the house elf looked up at the invaders with rage. “STUPID! Invaders!”
As the creature screamed, the paintings awoke, screaming with all the furor they could manage. One of the defenses the Black ancestral home could boast about was Sirius’ great aunt’s especially high pitched voice. On a high note, it could shatter glass and a portrait didn’t need air to breath. So she kept screaming, and screaming and screaming, keeping that same unwavering note. The spectacles on invader number one exploded, blinding her. The second, a middle aged man who seemed to be using hearing enhancing spells suddenly began bleeding from the ears. The third was not that affected by the portrait’s scream, but was felled by Kreature wielding an overly large kitchen hammer. It was obviously some kind of meat tenderizer with nasty looking spikes on one side and a flat on the other.
Buffy would have loved it. What did happen to that troll hammer anyway? The thought would have made him grin if he wasn’t paralyzed. But then he remembered the other events and the pain came back. And his ears were hurting almost as bad as his emotional pain. Bloody Hell.
Kreature took the people somewhere, Giles was not quite sure, and then simply touched Giles on the nose, allowing the Watcher to move again. “Thank you Kreature. You did well.”
“Kreature only protect house,” the creature said with a bizarre shrug. “It how Kreature roll.”
Pulling himself to his feet, Giles glanced around. “Where did you put them?”
The three offenders awoke in Egypt, stuffed in a dragon bait cage without their wands.
“Kreature, I would like tea this after noon,” Giles said. The house elf bowed and scampered away, only to return with a steaming pot of Scottish Breakfast, even if it was nearly one o’clock. “And now all I need is some way to contact Lilly.” Kreature ran off once more and returned with an owl before promptly vanishing again. Giles was tempted to ask for a new car, but decided not to tempt fate.
“You must be Rupert Giles.” The Prime Minister shook the Watcher’s hand heartily.
“And I hope you are John Blair, because if you aren’t I have come to the wrong house,” Giles replied with a smile.
“You have a sense of humor, good,” Prime Minister John Blair chuckled a little. “Your predecessor was a man of poor humor, bad taste and arrogance. I do hope our relationship will be better.”
“I expect so,” Giles said, sitting down across from the desk. “And I must tell you, I have some obligations in America that I cannot afford to skip out on and I may be away on that business.”
“Well, there is no need for you to hang around me all the time like your predecessor,” John Blair said with a huff, suggesting there was some significant history, “just don’t show up every time something goes wrong.”
“I shall endeavor not to,” the Watcher said simply. “Shall we get down to business?”
“I hope so, and I have a few questions your predecessor could never answer,” the PM agreed.
“I am sure we can find suitable answers,” Giles said, settling into his new job.
“How long did you live in America,” Blair asked.
“Five, almost six, years. Nearly the best and worst years of my life,” the Watcher replied honestly. “Let me tell you about a girl called Buffy…”
Spring turned into summer, Summer burned along as it usually did and then autumn was about to arrive. As he did every night, Rupert Giles returned to his office in the bowels of the Council Headquarters late, having discussed the current situation of Slayers and demonic activity around the globe. Giles was forced to sort through countless stacks of papers and missives sent from Watchers all over the world to make a weekly summary to the Prime Minister who would then relay the information to the Queen. It was instantly apparent that Giles was much more forthcoming than his predecessor and the Prime Minister seemed to genuinely enjoy his company. It made up for the constant drudgery of a glorified secretary at the Council.
Travers seemed a little too…friendly. It was strange. The vain man was giving Giles expensive objects and handing out information easily. Something was wrong, very wrong.