AN: This chapter takes inspiration from the first Buffy episode of the second season. It should be clear what’s going on even if you haven’t seen that, though. Also, this chapter is mostly about Buffy.
Disclaimer: Small portions of dialogue and many situations from the original B:tVS television show are included in the fic from here on in. No claims of ownership, etc.oOoOoOoOo
The Nemesis of Rationality
The ride from Los Angeles to Sunnydale took forever, in Buffy’s estimation. She’d spent the last week of break back at her father’s house and it had felt kind of weird. It’d only been a month and a half, but living with Harry had gotten to be… comfortable. It was a challenge at times, since both of them had character flaws, but it was still sort of nice.
She’d stared out the window, watching the scenery pass and thinking about those days, locked up away from the world and learning to deal with the fallout of devouring the Slayer essence. Of the long list actions she’d performed that later could be referred to as “it seemed like a good idea at the time”, this one was near the top of the list.
Right now, however, she had nothing to do except lean her head back and try to figure out what she was going to do back in Sunnydale. For the first time in a couple of years, she had options.
The option she most wanted to pursue, but the one she knew she wouldn’t, would be talking her mom into moving back to LA so she could go back to Hemery. She wasn’t the Slayer anymore. She’d died for the gig and made a rather problematic snack of the thing that made her the Slayer, so that job was dealt with.
Only, it wasn’t. There were still vampires, there was still a Hellmouth. Her not being the Slayer didn’t change either of those things. Even if the summer had been quiet, that didn’t mean that some Big Bad wasn’t going to come waltzing into town tomorrow with the mystical equivalent of a crowbar and start eyeing the great big thing which should never be pried open. That was ‘End of the World’ type stuff and now there wasn’t a never-ending line of Slayers to deal with it.
Plus, she didn’t want to ask her mom to move again so soon. The divorce had been hard on her, especially with all of Buffy’s legal troubles at the time. Only by submitting to a psyche evaluation and a two month stint in a mental hospital had she avoided juvie for the gym thing. It had been rough.
Still, that didn’t mean she wanted her mother getting eaten by something, so she planned to have a word with her about Sunnydale’s nightlife soon.
All of that led her to taking stock of exactly what she was. With her magic back, she was a very strong but poorly trained witch. When she’d attended school for it, she’d been rather more interested in cosmetic and fashion charms than anything useful. While she fully intended to take advantage of the stain removing charms she knew, she didn’t think there was going to be a whole lot of help there for dealing with bad guys. Harry had already started teaching her the basics. He’d promised to come over on the weekends and tutor her (Sunnydale was two hours by car, but only about an hour on a fast broom), so that might improve, but it would be slow.
Then, of course, she had this raw, primal force inside her that was the result of merged with the Slayer. It was like a caged beast, waiting inside for a chance to spring out and kill something. The sheer strength of those primal urges scared her. It had gotten out of her control several times, and if it hadn’t been for Harry, she didn’t want to think about what would have happened.
Despite the danger, it was a potent weapon against the forces of darkness, and she would have to rely on if she was going to continue fighting evil.oOoOoOoOo
Harry sighed as he watched Buffy walk into her father’s house for the first time in months. He had it bad for the girl, but he was also slightly relieved to have some of his space back. Being trapped in the apartment with her for over a month had been… a challenge. Still, he wouldn’t trade it for all of the world.
He arrived back at his apartment and quickly straightened the place up with a few spells. He paid a few bills and packed a bag. He’d told Buffy he wouldn’t be around for the rest of the summer, as he had some business to take care of. She’d seemed disappointed but accepted that she’d see him in Sunnydale the weekend after her classes started.
Packed, he called a cab and took it to the airport where he was soon bound, via a circuitous route, for England. There was business he’d left unaddressed for far too long. oOoOoOoOo
“So, what about you?” Xander asked, still brushing vampire dust off his clothing. “How was your summer? Did you slay anything?”
Buffy got a far-away look on her face and gave him a half smile. “Nah, not so much with the slaying. I hung out with some old friends, did some shopping. You know, boring stuff.”
“I doubt it was more boring than the Yawnfest we had here. Even the undead were completely absent, which was not a bad thing at all. There was one point where watching paint dry seemed like a viable activity,” Xander noted sardonically.
“I like how the color slowly changes,” Willow chimed in with a cheesy grin.
“Sounds like a riot,” Buffy noted in a deadpan voice. “So no vamps over the summer?”
“Nah, that was the first one we’ve seen since you killed the Master.”
“That’s good, then.” Though her answer was neutral, Buffy’s mind was gliding across the events of the previous spring and her near-death.
“Yeah, we buried him right after you left. There were robes and chanting. Oh, and holy water. You should have come,” Willow babbled.
“Sounds like the social event of the season,” Buffy noted, the mental image of her friends performing some sort of burial ritual causing her to grin. They really weren’t the type for that kind of thing.
Xander and Willow both relaxed a little as Buffy seemed to be more at ease about the whole Master thing than they’d hoped. “Oh, yeah, hooded cultist is so in this year,” Xander noted, grinning.oOoOoOoOo
Harry hadn’t had good tea in ages. The Americans just didn’t have the taste for the stuff, and most of what you could get for home brewing wasn’t as fresh as it should have been. He hadn’t had really good tea since he’d left England a lifetime before.
That was one thing he mused about as he gently swirled an ornate silver spoon in his cup and listened to his companion relate the events of the last year.
On his way to England, he’d made a dozen stops in half as many days. Some of them were for the purpose of misdirection, but some achieved other goals. He’d only just arrived in England and had two days before he would have to depart to make his first weekend rendezvous with Buffy.
He smiled softly at the stately older woman, his Voldemort memories slowly playing through his mind as he took in the disappointing but unsurprising news. He’d been all but canonized in his absence, and Fudge had quickly spun a revisionist version of events that had Harry and the Minister working together to draw out the Dark Lord.
Of course, Harry knew the way the world worked as well as Tom had. If he showed up at the Ministry, he was as likely to “disappear” as he was to receive the Order of Merlin, First Class, that he’d been awarded in his absence.
The tea, for all of the flavor it had contained a moment before, lots its taste.
“How about you, Cissy. How are you faring with Lucius in Azkaban?” Harry asked, again raking his eyes over the gorgeous woman.
“Well enough, milord,” she demurred and bit her lip lightly. “I’ve been lonely, though. It’s just been Draco and I for the longest time.”
Harry knew what she meant. Lucius hasn’t been much company to her for much longer than the time he’d been in jail. She shifted closer to him at the small table they shared and Harry realized that she was coming on to him. The part of him that was all teenage hormones liked the idea. The part of him that didn’t fancy his superhuman girlfriend finding out about a tryst didn’t.
Harry shifted uncomfortably, putting a little space between them. He tried to think of a topic to change to when he was saved from the decision by the tromping of boots on the floor outside the dining room.
“Mother, I don’t think this broom-Potter!” the voice of none of none other than Draco Malfoy declared, finishing in a screech. There was a clatter as he dropped the broom he had been carrying and fumbled for his wand.
Relieved, amused, and annoyed, Harry made a beckoning gesture with his fingers and the other boy’s wand shot from his robes to Harry’s waiting hand. “Ah, Draco. I had been meaning to speak with you. Won’t you join your mother and I for some tea?” His voice was pleasant as he said it and his smile almost hid the malicious pleasure he was taking in having the upper hand over one of his tormentors.
Draco sputtered incoherently for a moment before his mother shut him up with a simple, “Yes, Drakey, come join us. We were just talking about the current state of things.” His jaw snapped shut and he moved stiffly, almost mechanically, to sit beside his mother, across from Harry.
“Draco, how are you? I hear that you’re starting your seventh year. You must be excited,” Harry began, letting his Voldemort memories fill in some of the social gaps he would otherwise have had. Tom had been a charming bastard once upon a time. “And you’ve assumed the role of the head of the Black family. That’s an old and powerful name.”
Harry leaned closer his smile growing more predatory as he did so, and a soft red glow begin slowly seeping into his eyes from the corners. “You haven’t been doing anything to dishonor the family Black, have you, Draco?”oOoOoOoOo
“Did she manage to stay out of trouble in LA?” Joyce asked as she watched Hank move the last of Buffy’s many bags into the house.
“She didn’t burn anything down, I don’t think. I really didn’t see much of her, though. She was always hanging out with that Granger kid.” Hank dropped the last suitcase on the bed and unzipped it revealing many shoes.
“Granger?” Joyce asked, the surprise clear in her voice. “I thought they had a falling out after… you know.”
Hank shrugged. “They sure seemed to be friends the last couple of months. She was over there more than she was with me, I think.”
There was silence for a while as more bags were unpacked. Finally, Joyce spoke again. “It’s good, I guess. That she’s finally coming to terms with… what happened.”
“Yeah,” Hank noted and said little more. The stress of dealing with Buffy’s legal troubles hadn’t been what caused their divorce, but it had been the final wedge that caused their other problems to boil over. “You don’t think she’s dabbling in that stuff again, do you?”
“She can’t,” Joyce said, rather stiffly. Buffy being a witch had been something of a contention between them for years. Joyce had been supportive, but Hank had thought it rather silly. Seeing the things Buffy could actually do with magic (mainly hair styling and other frivolous charms) hadn’t helped that much. “We saw a number of experts and they said that she was incapable of it.”
There was a grunt and then Hank froze. The last suitcase he had opened held something they’d thought never to see again. “I thought she buried this.”
“She did. I was there and I helped her with it.” Joyce reached forward hesitantly, as though the somewhat battered cherrywood box tucked under the clothing in front of her would bite her. “I think I need to talk to her.”
“Yeah.” Hank left it at that, content as always to let his wife do the parenting.oOoOoOoOo
With a gasp, Buffy sat up in bed, her heart racing. The dream stuck with her the way that only a vision could. Xander, Willow, and Giles had turned against her in the dream, but she her rudimentary knowledge of Occlumency told her that it was a dream that had been forced upon her by an outside source.
She rested on the bed for a while, getting her breathing under control as she ran though a number of centering and calming exercises. She’d seen her friends and gotten home just before curfew. Her mother looked like she wanted to talk about something, but hadn’t said much before Buffy had gone on up to bed.
Wide awake after the dream, Buffy got up and rummaged through some of her half-unpacked suitcases. It didn’t take long to find the item she was looking for, and she turned on her lamp as she settled the box on the top of her dresser. The box, once a highly polished cherry, now looked like it had been badly abused. It had, after all, been buried for a year and a half.
Almost reverently, she opened the clasp and looked at the contents. The majority of the space inside was taken up with a large dagger, twelve inches from end to end. About a third of the length was an ornate hilt, clad in a rich wood. Buffy’s hand brushed against the hilt of the dagger and a tingle went through her fingers as she felt the presence of the magical core concealed there.
Unicorn hair, she mentally reminded herself as she took the focus tool in hand and held it to her chest like a long lost friend. It was, in a very real way. After she’d lost her magic, she and her mother had buried it in the back yard in a kind of ceremony they made up as they went along. It was a funeral, of sorts, and it was supposed to help Buffy cope.
It hadn’t helped much, but not having the blade around as a constant reminder of her loss was not a bad thing.
Also in the case were a dozen small rectangles. She withdrew one and tapped it with her anthame only to have it rapidly expand to a full sized tome. She settled down on her bed again, slowly reading through the heavy book and idly tracing patterns in the air with her anthame as she copied the motions.
Harry had assigned her reading, and she was easily losing herself within its pages when there was a sharp tap.
The book dropped from her hand, but the dagger didn’t, as she sprang to her feet. The tap came again and she realized that someone was at her window. She immediately turned off the light and crept closer to open the curtains.
“Can I come in?” asked Angel, the vampire that had halfway helped her the year before.
“What do you need?” she asked, pointedly avoiding the question. Already, she could feel the raw bestial essence of the Slayer rising up in the presence of one of the undead.
“I just wanted to warn you about something.”
“You can do that from out there. I don’t want to be rude, but if my mom caught you in here, she’d… well, there’d be explaining and probably grounding.” Buffy covered for her decision. It wasn’t that Angel hadn’t done right by her so far, but she didn’t trust him. That raw, primal part of her regarded his kind as prey and no number of good deeds would convince it otherwise.
“Alright. The Anointed One is gathering up the Master’s old minions. I don’t know what they’ve got going on, but it looks like it might be big.”
“That’s all you’ve got? Thanks, I guess, but I’m not too worried about the tiniest terror.”
“Don’t underestimate him. Just because he wears a child’s face doesn’t mean he’s not dangerous. The Master’s minions trust him.” It was clear from the look on his face that this wasn’t how he’d meant for the meeting to go.
“I’m not. I’ll deal with them when I find them or they make a move.”
Angel nodded and with one last wistful look into the room, vanished into the darkness below.oOoOoOoOo
The grin on Harry’s face couldn’t have been removed with a blasting hex as he walked down Diagon Alley in a hooded cloak. It was early enough that, while many shops were open, the crowds were still thin. He only had two stops left on his grand tour of the world and he was going with the more enjoyable one first.
The shop he stopped in front of was very unique and perfectly in character for the pair he was about to visit. He peered at the items in the display window before going inside and browsing some more. The hooded cloak might have intimidated the sales lady, but the redhead that showed up a few minutes after the rather humorous door chime wasn’t.
Harry had just gravitated to the items under the sign proclaiming “Personal Defense” and was browsing the items there when he felt a presence near hi.
“Finding everything alright today, sir? Anything I can help you with?” the twin asked, clearly put off by Harry’s apparel.
“These shield cloaks. How effective are they?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“They’ll stop minor jinxes and hexes dead in their tracks, and they’re not bad against physical stuff, either. If someone banishes something at you, it’ll slow it down a little, so you might get out of the way. Stronger stuff gets dissipated a good bit, depending on how strong it was. Are you in the market for some? The Ministry was considering purchasing some for their Aurors, but then the budget got cut again and… well. I can make you a deal.”
On a whim, Harry nodded. “Yes, yes. I could use some of these things. Is there somewhere more… private that we could discuss this?”
Now, the twin, whichever one it was, was getting really nervous. The thought of a sale walking away was enough to keep him from outright refusing, though. “Yeah, let me just get my brother and we can go in the back and discuss it, I guess.”
From the disappearance of the redhead, Harry assumed that there would be some sort of ambush ready if he tried something and smiled. The two that were always getting the best of people were falling for his little act, hook line and sinker.
A few minutes later, Harry was escorted into a back room. He turned to watch the twins, standing nervously between him and the door back into the shop.
“Ah, the Weasley twins,” Harry said. “I have heard so very much about you. But I must say, your hospitality is lacking.” He took the moment to throw the hood back, revealing his head. “It’s like you don’t even recognize me.”
“Bloody” “Hell!” the two exclaimed in tandem.oOoOoOoOo
Buffy knew her mom had something she wanted to talk about ever since she’d first seen her at breakfast. They had some idle chatter over the meal and as they started toward school. It wasn’t until they were out of sight of the house that it started.
“So, I hear that you didn’t spend much time at your father’s place over the summer,” Joyce said, almost casually.
Buffy froze and mentally reviewed everything her father could know. In a near panic, she laughed nervously. “Oh, I was in and out a bit. You know, places to go, people to see.”
“He said you were with that Granger girl most of the time.”
“Oh, yeah. Her,” Buffy covered lamely. “Yeah, we spent a lot of time hanging out.”
“Are you sure that it’s alright? I mean, after the way she acted when… you know.”
“What? Oh, that… well, that was mostly me, mom. I was the one that kind of cut her off. I was… upset. We’re good now, though.”
“That’s something else, honey.” The school was mercifully coming into sight by that point. “I saw Annie’s box in your things. Are you sure that it’s okay for you to be… I mean, are you alright with it?”
“It’s fine, mom. Really. I’m…” she tried to find a believable lie, but she was quite tired of lying. “Actually, something did happen over the summer. I have my magic back.”
Joyce very nearly hit a parked car. “What? How?”
“It’s complicated. Hermione has a friend that’s really good with stuff like that. He’s like the world’s top expert in the field. He helped me out and now… it’s back.”
The car came to a sudden stop, and her mother had tears in her eyes as she forcibly embraced her. “Oh, that’s wonderful.”
“Yeah, it’s pretty great,” she managed, starting to get choked up with the emotion she was feeling.oOoOoOoOo
The reunion with the Weasley twins had been pleasant. He’d purchased a great number of items from them, and left them with an address where mail could be sent to him by Muggle means and said they could share it with whomever they wished. He was very clear that only completely non-magical correspondence should be sent to the adderss, as anything else would get destroyed by charms he had in place.
That done, there was only one stop left on his journey.
“Let us cut to the chase, friend goblin,” Harry growled after a few minutes of the usual condescension from the creature. “We both want something today. I wish to close out my accounts and take the bulk in muggle currency at a fair rate of exchange. You want to finish the day with your entrails still firmly inside your body. Let’s see if we can’t both get what we want.”