Disclaimer: I own nothing. All of it belongs to Rowling and Whedon and company. I make no money from these stories, I just have fun. Chapter re-uploaded after Beta-ing by Anisgenes.
Buffy sat quietly in the corner of the train reading over her notes, although her mind was still on the summer. Somewhere along the way, she and the trio had become just that. Her and them, not a unit but two separate parts. During the last year, they had bonded, become four, but over the summer that bond had dissipated almost entirely. It wasn't abrupt either, and she wasn't completely sure that the others really saw it all.
Last year, they had become close, she spent all her time with them, and although the degree of separation was still there it have not been overwhelming. She was different; separated by experience and the mental ages, and she was still new but despite this, the four of them had become close.
Over the summer, the separation had compounded, until she rarely spent any time with them, often not even showing up for meals. However, since it hadn't happened over night and she never said anything, they'd barely noticed any change.
The change had started at the beginning of the break. The Weasley’s weren't as accepting as she had thought they would be. They didn't like her, and she had let her shields down enough that that hurt. Although the fact that she was Harry's sister was a point in her favor, the fact that she was dating Draco was two points from it. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley weren't openly mean or rude, but were colder than necessary. The other siblings were more upfront about their thoughts, mentioning that they thought less of her, that she probably was stupidly putting Harry in danger. They were rude, and cold.
She soon began avoiding their presence.
She stopped going to meals, not all at once, and always giving an excuse, but she stopped going. The week before they left for the Hogwarts Express she only twice in the presence of Weasleys.
The other thing that had changed was that when the trio went to play Quidditch with the others, or sat and talked in the kitchen, she would stay in and read. They stopped asking her to join in and eventually they spent very little time together. This was more or less okay with her, because Ron and Hermione were especially swayed by the Weasleys views. They often made snide comments or outright statements, when they weren't simply avoiding the subject
Because of her nightmares, she couldn’t stayed with Ginny and Hermione, and since the house was so small, she had camped outside, enhancing the sensation of segregation. The only good side of that was that they couldn't hear the worsening of her nightmares.
Usually, since she had left her the Deatheater’s care, the daylight joys or distractions would help sooth the pain of her memories, leaving her nightmares with less of an effect. Unfortunately her summer days had been joyless, most of her time spent solitary and reading, skipping her meals and losing sleep. Even during the moments she wasn't alone, she was still alone, and this saddened her.
The intensity of her nightmares was now at an all time high.
There was another reason her summer had been so torturous. Beyond the mockery, judgment and breaking of bonds with those she loved, there were no letters from Draco. Her first thought was that he didn’t want to write. The more she thought though, the more she realized it was likely not that he wouldn’t, but that he couldn’t. That would mean that his father knew.
And his summer was probably worse that hers.
Buffy pulled her mind back to the present as the door of the compartment slid open, revealing Draco. Ron and Hermione scowled. While Harry didn't look happy, he wasn't about to verbally begrudge the Slytherin's presence as it was welcomed by Buffy.
"What are you doing here?" Ron said angrily, even though it was obvious.
Draco ignored him, his emotionless face not registering the insult. Buffy worried at his lack of expression, and what could have been its cause. He walked into the compartment, ignoring the others and headed over to face Buffy. He stood looking at her.
She noticed a slight softening in his eyes. It was the only clue that he was glad to see her.
"Hey," Ron said, ignorantly indignant. "You don't belong here."
Draco's eyes showed slight anger but he didn't respond to the taunt. Buffy however, after a summer of quietly taking them attacking a person she cared for, could stay silent no longer. Without breaking eye contact she answered, her voice coated in ice, "You right," she said, "he doesn't."
Buffy saw hurt and confusion flair up in Draco's grey eyes, and his facial mask break a little. Buffy kept her eyes on him, bent at the knee and picked up her bag, then tucked her open book under her arm. She watched, almost smiling for the first time in three months, as he brightened in understanding. Still holding her gaze he reached out and grabbed her bag, looping his free arm through hers, and leading her to the door.
Ron stared in surprise. "You're leaving with him?" he asked incredulously, "You'd rather be with Malfoy then your friends?"
Buffy turned, halting her progress to meet his accusing eyes with her own furious gaze. "We haven't been friends in a long time." She said, her voice free of all inflection but scorn. "The only reason I tolerated your presence was Harry's safety. Well, we're at Hogwarts now so he's safe. Now I'm free to spend time in the company of those who haven't made it their personal mission to belittle me."
She looked away, towards the door and together she and Draco swept from the compartment before the others could respond. They walked into the hall of the train, away from the compartment and then paused, simply standing in silence.
"Hey." Buffy said softly, suddenly not meeting his eyes.
"Hey." He mimicked, "Thanks for the defense in there."
Buffy looked up, eyes blazing, surprising him, "I spent the entire summer saying nothing so as to not make things worse but that was long overdue."
"I take it they don't approve." Draco summarized.
Buffy nodded, "And by you lack of letters, I take it that your father was notified."
Draco's eyes darkened slightly, in anger and pain at the mention of his father. Buffy moved forward and wrapped her arms around him to comfort him.
"I'm sorry." She whispered.
He said nothing and held on, accepting her sympathy, and knowing that in someway she understood. When they pulled apart, he asked her the question that he needed to know, his reason for surviving, "Did you miss me?" he asked.
She smiled at him, at his obvious vulnerability, "I think every second is a bit of an understatement."
He smiled. Although his happiness at the statement tampered by the situation. "I know the feeling." He said, earning himself a smile.
They stood there in silence, both thinking about the hardships tomorrow would bring and the pain yesterday had caused. The fact that they stood in the hall, having nowhere to go, nowhere to be accepted, was not lost on them but they were happiest where the other was anyway.
They turned, almost in unison, at the sound of hurried footsteps approaching, and when Harry's face rounded the corner, they both tensed.
He stopped, not missing their tense body language, but not leaving, needing to say his piece.
"Buffy," He started, "I don't like this." He said, his meaning obvious, but continued, "But it's something that you want, and I won't begrudge it to you."
They looked at him in surprise so he elaborated. "I don't like him," He stated, looking at Draco, "and I probably never will. I don't want to be his friend or get to know him, but I don't want to lose you because I can't adjust to the fact that you do."
Buffy looked at her brother, softening at the pleading and worry in his green eyes at the thought of losing his only family.
"Thanks Har," she said softly, "That means more than you know."
Harry smiled back, relieved, but frowned again as it suddenly hit him that she hadn't called him that in months. His mind flew back over the last month, trying to pull out the change, only noticing brief worrying things before he was interrupted by their arrival at Hogwarts.
Buffy took her suitcase from Draco, and the three of them, the two enemies and the girl they both loved, headed toward the castle.
They walked to the castle, the two boys ignoring her pausing to whisper at the boat’s bow, and made their way to the great hall. Draco spilt off with one last look at Buffy, heading to his table, as Buffy and Harry traveled to their table. Harry headed towards Hermione and Ron, who were glaring suspiciously at Buffy, before he noticed that Buffy had spilt off.
"It's fine." Buffy reassured, seeing his look, "I'll see you later." With that, she turned to the table, sitting on the far side of Neville.
Harry made his way to his place, looking up at the head table to wave at Hagrid and noticed the angry frown on Dumbledore's face.
"What do you think Dumbledore's upset about?" Harry asked his friends, sliding into the single place they saved.
"Maybe he's upset about Buffy." Ron said snidely.
Hermione shot him a slight look but turned to look at Harry, "Harry, I'm worried, what if he convinced her to betray you or something. It could be really bad."
"Buffy's choices in that regard aren't our business," Harry said angrily, noticing for the first time how criticizing of Buffy his friends were recently.
Dumbledore called for silence before Ron could reply, but Harry saw his friend’s angry and affronted look.
After the meal Harry walked from the hall with Ron and Hermione, looking around but not seeing his sister, but just outside the door they were accosted by Dumbledore.
"Why don't you come up to my office?" Dumbledore said coolly, which Harry found surprising and disarming. Dumbledore had never been anything but warm and protective of him. He saw his friends exchange looks before scurrying after the headmaster.
They walked briskly to the office, not speaking and not catching the password before hurrying up the stairs. Dumbledore walked around and sat down at his desk, and regarded them coldly.
They sat still. All felt rather nervous at his odd mood.
"What happened this summer?" Dumbledore asked, and although it wasn't indicated in his cool tone Harry could tell he was very angry.
"What do you mean sir?" Harry asked, honestly not understanding.
"You sister." Dumbledore said. His words were crisp and simple. "Would you care to tell me why, when she left my care last year she was mostly happy, heading off with friends and when she returns she is alone and more depressed than I have seen her since she was rescued?"
"It's Malfoy, sir." Ron was quick to blame, "he's…"
Dumbledore raised a hand, his eyes growing even more furious. "I am well aware of her relationship with Mr. Malfoy, and I also know that she had no contact with him at all during the summer, therefore he could not be the cause, whereas she spent the entire summer in your company."
Hermione spoke up at this, "You knew about her and Malfoy and you didn't do anything?"
"So that's it." Dumbledore said, sitting back, his fury cooling with understanding, but it was clear they still weren't in his good graces. "You are no longer friendly with her because of the other friends she chooses. I have to say I am disappointed in you all."
The a-fore mentioned three sat in stunned silence at his comment, not used to being out of his favor.
"What happened this summer, more specifically?" Dumbledore asked.
"Nothing sir," Harry said, although he was starting to think back to the summer and wondering about the truth in his comment.
Dumbledore's eyes flared up again, "So she slept well, spent her time chatting happily with you all, ate a lot?"
Harry's brow furrowed at this, "Actually…" he said, finally seeing, "She stopped spending time with us, skipping meals, and I don't know how she slept" he looked up and explained, "She slept outside, because her nightmares would have gone through the house."
Dumbledore peered at them, "You didn't notice did you?" he asked, "Until now you didn't even notice that she had stopped spending all her time with you, becoming a solitary creature again."
"No sir," Harry replied, too shamed to be apologetic.
"What did you do? What did you say?" Dumbledore asked, not accusing but curious.
Even Ron was too shamed and surprised at his own blindness to take offence.
Harry figured it out, which he doubted he would have if not for her comments on the train, "Malfoy sir." He said, and then hurried to explain, "We all spent the whole summer, us and the Weasley’s, telling her about Malfoy, and the wrongness of her being with him."
Hermione sat up, "We didn't just insult him, and we all know how it kills her to hear anything bad about those she cares about, but we belittled her." Hermione said, using Buffy's own words, "the whole summer… and… and she wanted them… us to like her, because those who are important to Harry, their opinions count with her… Merlin we're stupid." She burst out, sitting back into the chair.
"Buffy is the most strong willed person I have ever met." Dumbledore said softly, looking at them, sad with disapproval. "But she put aside everything she ever knew to give you a chance, letting down her protective walls, and you hurt her. I told you, at the beginning of last year, to be careful, and yet you hurt her. Enough to send her back years, to the way she was when she was found."
Ron looked up sharply at that, horrified that he was being compared to the torture of Death eaters, but saying nothing, falling back into reflection under Dumbledore's gaze.
"I am not sure who I am more disappointed with," Dumbledore continued pensively, "Arthur and Molly for not telling me, and not treating a child in pain like they deserve as well as being childish in their prejudice, or you three, the people who took her as friends for turning your backs on her."
"She didn't say anything," Ron said weakly.
"Of course not." Dumbledore said, "She wouldn't want to make you feel bad or uncomfortable, she simply took the hurt you offered, and internalized it silently, putting up with it so that her brother could be happy."
"Did it ever occur to the three of you that if she can get over her problem with Deatheaters to see something in Mr. Malfoy that no one else has bothered to, that you too could put aside old grudges, at least for her sake, and realize that he is not all that you believe him to be?" Dumbledore stood, walking over to hold open the door; "You might consider this if she is willing to ever truly trust you after your betrayal. I don't believe, that in her position I would." With that last word, he turned and went into an adjoining room, leaving them clearly dismissed.
The trio walked silently down the halls, lost in morose, self-deprecating thoughts.
The three headed to their beds, but Harry found himself unable to sleep and headed off to see if his sister was still awake. He walked silently to her room, giving the password and when he stepped inside the door, he was shocked.
She had cast a silencing spell on the edges of the room and when he stepped in, he was assaulted with sound.
She was screaming, pure, wordless and violent. It was loud, jagged, and clawed at the edges of his soul, bringing tears to his eyes.
He fearfully raised his eyes to the bed, and was startled at the sight.
He was used to seeing her either impassive or smiling, and couldn't actually remember seeing her any other way.
Nevertheless, there she was, her face scrunched with pain, almost ugly yet spellbinding. Her head twitched, the blankets fell to the ground as her back arched away from the bed.
It drove home all the things he refused to see over the summer. Her pajamas were pushed up, legs bony and pale, stomach clearly showing the lines of her ribs.
Even as horrible as this all was, the thing that shocked him the most was the blood. Her arms and stomach had raw marks, some more healed and some fresh, like she had torn at her own skin; desperate claw marks. He wondered how the things in her head could be such that this didn't wake her.
He ran to her side, shaking her arm trying to wake her.
Her eyes snapped open immediately and her face flew back to its regular state.
His found it worrying that not only could she do that, but that the extent of her nightmares didn't seem to startle her.
Buffy stood, smoothing out her pyjamas, "Is everything okay?" she asked, giving him a brief once over.
"That's kind of what I'm wondering." Harry replied, looking at the red seeping through the cream of her top.
She offered him a comforting smile, "Nightmares, like I said, don't worry, Slayer healing and all, it'll be fine by morning. What is it that all that you wanted?"
Harry stared, startled at her 'good' mood and normalcy. It hit him; she didn't trust him and was trying to protect him.
It was an odd combination.
"Oh," he said, still thrown, "I just couldn't sleep and realized that we haven't chatted in awhile, and I knew you were often up late."
"Right" Buffy said, something indefinable flickering behind her eyes, "But it's really late, and I'm kinda tired, so I'll talk to you tomorrow, K?" she said, the whole time manoeuvring him over to the door. She didn't wait for a response as she gently shoved him out and shut the door.
He tried the handle, needing to speak to her but found it locked.
Turning away more tired than he had come, he wondered if they could ever fix the damage they had unknowingly caused.