Thanks to CharmedChick for making it as palatable as possible.
Buffy was long and thin and cool. A gray bit of flesh sliding through the ground. Above her was soil, rich and dark and full of air pockets. Below her was deeper earth, cold and dense. The soil was scattered with ash, and bits of rock and wood that was harder to burrow through, and less useful.
At the surface, the sky was always gray, the air chill for all the days she could recall, and apart from her the area was empty, desolate. She was the keeper. The watcher. Deep in the memories that she’d been born with, was a man who visited before the sum years of her life, and had left something, something precious and gold, in the ground. She avoided the spot where it was buried.
It was beautiful, but deadly. And she did not care terribly for beauty, as she had no eyes with which to see.
As she moved through the ground, she knew it was important.
She sat up in bed, gasping as she adjusted again to having lungs, to the dry air around her, and her hand ran along her skin to wipe away dirt that wasn’t there. She swung her legs to the side of the bed, and stood, noticing how the grayness had settled back into the room through the window. Although it’d felt like minutes, she realized she must have been asleep for hours.
She grabbed her cloak from her chair, and headed out through the common room, pausing at the portrait and turning around, heading to the boys dormitory and knocking until Neville appeared.
“Is Harry there? I need to talk to him.”
“Oh. Okay, just…”
“Thanks. And hi. Sorry.”
He smiled. “S’okay.” And ducked back into the room, and half a minute later, Harry was at the door.
“I had a dream.” She started without preamble.
He opened his mouth to speak but she held up her hand. “I’m fairly certain it’s about the location of the Horcrux. And I might know where, but I can’t describe it. So I’m going to go see if Moody will be willing to go with me.”
She shook her hand when it looked like he was about to speak again. “I’m going. And you can’t come with me. I just thought, after everything, that I should tell you.”
“Oh. Okay. Just… be careful. And if Moody says no… come back, before you do anything else.”
She smiled. “Thanks.”
He nodded, but his brows were furrowed. “I’m trying to be understanding here… but next time I go with you.”
“Agreed. This time-“
“Be back soon.”
“And not dead.” He added, and then headed back towards his room.
She caught a glimpse of silver eyes just inside the room before the door shut fully.
And then she was nearly running, trying not to waste any more of the day, heading out of the Gryffindor tower, towards the empty room in the far side of the third floor where Moody had made his office. By the time she was past where any student would have reason to be, she was running, until she reached his door and paused to knock.
“In.” He ordered gruffly, and she obeyed. He was bent over a desk, studying a long list of scrawled words, interspersed with map images. He didn’t bother to look up, although she let her steps sound on the floor.
“It’s just Moody, lass, I’ve said that before,” He growled, and finally glanced up, glaring, and for a split second his two eyes were focused in alignment before the magical orb skittered away.
“I think I know where one of the Horcruxes is.” She said bluntly, and he sat back.
“Do you now?”
“I… I didn’t see a signpost, I was there. In my dream. I’d know it if I was there again.”
“I’m fairly certain Dumbledore didn’t leave me in charge of student safety so I could take them out to look for the Dark Lord’s strongholds.
“It’s abandoned. And to be perfectly honest, if you refuse to take me, either you lock me in the basement, or I go by myself.”
He raised his brows, but the expression lost the brunt of its disapproval with the slight quirk of his thin lips.
“Even if I were to take you, how would you find it, if you could only recognize it once you were there?”
“I just could. And I have an idea where to start.”
“Where’s that then?”
He studied her for a moment, and she watched him decide to take her, and held back her smile. “How’d you come to that name?”
“I’ve been silent for awhile. No one was talking to me,” She knew he’d know. “So I listened.”
Again she noticed a glint of approval before it disappeared, and he stood, settling his weight between his legs, and tucked a few items into his clock before swirling it around his shoulders.
“Right then.” And with that he started shambling towards the door, his half quickstep, “You got everything you need?”
She hated to admit it, but she’d run from bed, to Harry, and from Harry to Moody, and she wasn’t prepared, although she knew the Auror expected her to be.
So she didn’t admit that. “I’ll meet you by the far edge of the lake in five minutes.”
And she headed back to her room, selecting a few things on instinct and hiding them under her cloak, and then racing across the grass to meet him, with half a minute to spare, and they left the grounds, for the second time that weekend, although this time they did it without sanction, without anyone else knowing.
Moody coaxed the boats into taking them to the other side of the lake with a quickly muttered spell. On the other side of the lake, they didn’t pause to watch the dark carriage disappear over the water, back into the mists, but instead started walking. They walked briskly, despite his hobble, and silently, and covered a lot of ground fairly quickly, but by the time they started to see the town, the moon was just beginning to grace the horizon.
As the town came in sight, Buffy started to realize that she had no idea where to go from there, and her step slowed.
Moody jerked his head north, and didn’t pause. “We go this way.”
She caught up, glad that between the two of them they had half a plan. Eventually they neared a small slum, on the outskirts of the little town, where all the dwellings featured sloped ceilings, dark windows and damp roofs, and then arrived at an area that used to be housing, where no one even tried to tame the weeds and wild growth anymore. Then flat scrub and brush turned into spare trees, and in the middle of those was a wooden door, rotted half through.
Breathing deeply, Buffy recognized the scent of the earth, the feel of the wind, and the dangerous tingle that ran along her spine, seeming to both dare her to step closer and warn her to start running.
“The Gaunt Shack.” Moody announced.
“This is it. From my dream. What we’re looking for is underneath it, buried in the ground.”
Moody reached out, leaning heavily on his walking stick, free fingers grasping at nothing as his magic eye spun. “It’s enchanted.”
“Makes sense.” She shut her eyes, and dropped back into herself, the process much smoother after even her limited practice. Since she was guessing the enchantments had been placed there by Voldemort, who had more power than anyone who wasn’t Dumbledore, chances were wand magic wasn’t going to cut it. And brute force wasn’t looking like the best option either. She might however, stand a chance sliding in using wandless magic, which behaved differently than anything Voldemort would have expected.
She began to see the guards appear in her minds eye. It would have been simple enough for someone of Dumbledore’s power to break, which seemed rather short sighted on Voldemort's part, but she wouldn’t have the power to put behind a spell to shatter it.
Instead, she began unweaving what she saw as a glowing grid of green bars in her mind. Slowly she peeled enough back, that she could force her power inside like a hook, and concentrating, she pulled, feeling fragments of magic shatter across her skin. One hand curled needlessly around her stomach, the other covering her eyes, and when she relaxed she found Moody looking at her as if trying to puzzle her out.
He looked at the shack again, and she saw full-blown surprise take over. “It is.” He agreed, and pointed his wand at the door, and with a short blast of magic, it flew inward off its hinges, and Moody walked in.
She paused for a moment, and then followed, slightly winded.
Inside it was dark for a split second, and Moody’s second spell kicked in, casting a dim glow through the empty room. A hole in the roof would have let more light in had the moon been higher, but the spell was enough to see that although it had once been a fairly fine house, it’d sat in squalor for many years.
It smelt like death gone musty, and in the corners were rat droppings, and a slight movement under the garbage piled there indicated that at least some of the rats were still in residence.
“Lovely little place.” She murmured, and walked to the center of the room, realizing he was watching her, waiting for what she would do. It was her turn to have the answers. Again she closed her eyes, but this time spread out her senses, which eased the immediate protest of her body at the idea of tapping her inner magic again, and she used the slayer to find the darkness, to root it out among what seemed dark but was neutral: wood, stone, dust.
She knelt in the center of the room, and then punched down, ignoring the slight pain as a few slivers sliced into her skin, and opening her eyes to look into the vault that had opened up below her. It was small, barely a two-foot hole cubed, and she reached in, pulling up a small black wrapped bundle, and laying it carefully on the floor.
She idly wiped some of the blood that had risen to her skin off on her pant leg, and began to unwind the cloth.
“Take care,” Moody warned, but didn’t elaborate, and so she slowed her motions. Finally a glint peeked through the wrapping, and when the last bit fell away, a gold box was revealed. It was small, two inches long, an inch wide and only an inch and a half deep, but the entire thing was covered with elaborate etchings; a seemingly random pattern that occasionally featured serpents.
She carefully lifted the lid up and drew her hand away.
Inside was a small ring, pretty, but no more spectacular than any other. It was delicately shaped gold, with a deep black stone nestled in the center. As she stared at the stone, she felt her hand move of its own volition, and settled back on her heels, shaking her head.
“It’s strong.” She looked up. “I vote we destroy it.”
“Its not that easy. That’s dark magic. There isn’t much that will destroy it.”
“But there is something?”
“Dumbledore is of the opinion that that sword of your brother’s will be able to destroy the horcrux.”
She reached under her cloak, and pulled out her sword, swinging it casually from her wrist. “Would this do?”
He looked at it in surprise, and shook his head, “No. Although that’s a pretty piece. Dumbledore’s theory is that the blood of the basilisk is what will allow Harry’s sword to destroy dark objects.”
“There’s a lot of blood on this blade.”
He shook his head again. “No. We can’t chance this. The original Gryffindor blade is our best chance.”
“So do we hide this again? Put it back?”
“No. If there’s a sensor on this house, and Voldemort knows we’ve found it, it would be gone before we returned, and forever from our reach. We can’t chance it.”
“Do I wait here while you get Harry?”
“No. I’ve already overstepped Dumbledore’s orders, I’m not leaving you here for an ambush.”
“That leaves… taking it back to the castle. How is that a good idea?”
“To bring something clearly evil, that belongs to Voldemort, to the castle full of students? What if it gives him some sort of foothold?”
“Paranoia is a healthy thing, but in this case, we have to risk it. Destroying this ring will help end him, and the only way to do that is to take it to the sword.”
She snapped the lid shut, and scooped the bundle up, standing, and tucking her sword away again. “I don’t like this.”
“Welcome to the front lines.” He said grimly, heading towards the cottage door, “-where all the choices are made.”
The moon was on its way back down, and the sky was just starting to flush when they reached the other side of the lake, again on Hogwarts ground. They were nearly jogging as they traveled up the grass slope that led to the castle, the gold box neatly tucked away in its wrapping, carefully pinned under Buffy’s arm. She had been thinking for the last hour about what Hermione had said about needing to make sure her body got enough rest, and how this was in complete violation of that, and was pushing guilt away a little less successfully with every step.
Finally they reached the castle, but Moody stopped her at the doors, holding out his hand, leaving heavily on his cane. “Pass that to me now lass.”
Instinctively she pulled it closer, and his gaze narrowed, and she felt guilty enough that she extended the box out, despite the urge to disregard how much she trusted Moody, and not let it out of her sight until it was destroyed.
“That’s not to be taken up to the dorms. Run along and get your brother’s blade, and meet me in the potions lab.”
She nodded, and as tired as she was, started to jog towards the common room, hoping to avoid meeting any teachers, as it might be difficult to explain why she was hurrying around by herself at that time of the morning.
When she reached the bottom of the stairwell up to the dorms, she encountered the same problem she had before, and yet always seemed to forget about in her haste; she couldn’t enter the boys rooms.
And at five in the morning, it might be rude to wake them all up to drag him out of bed. She waited for a moment, to see if she’d get lucky and someone would wander out, but nothing happened. She tried to think of something that would help, some spell she had seen to call someone from distance, and came up with nothing. Sighing, she knelt down and pulled the pocketknife from her pocket she’d taken with her for the this purpose, although she’d expected to use it in Little Hangleton.
The lock opened with little problem, and she tucked the blade away, pausing for a moment to think fondly of Giles, before pulling out her wand to cast a general silencing spell on the alarm that would sound before stepping through.
When nothing seemed to happen, she found the correct stairs and entered the sixth years dorm, and checked for her brother’s bed, slightly hampered by the drawn and locked curtains. Eventually she caught on to his heart pattern, and poked through the fabric.
“Wha- Who. Wha-“
“Relax.” She whispered. “And grab your sword.”
“Two things that don’t really go together.” He muttered sleepily. “Buffy?”
“Alright then.” He pulled the curtain aside, and looked up in concern. “What’s –“
“Where’s your sword?”
“I don’t exactly sleep with it under my pillow.” He stared for a moment. “You do don’t you? I swear, of all the siblings I got the only one who could be weirder than the Weasley twins.”
“They sleep with explosive materials under their pillow. Trust me, I’m normal by comparison.”
He looked at her sharply, suddenly awake. “Do you know that for a fact?”
“Get up.” She said shortly, “And grab your sword. Quietly.” She added when she saw he was going to speak, and turned, storming out to wait by the door to the boy’s dormitory back in the common room. He came down a few minutes later, still in his long pyjamas, his sword hanging awkwardly at his side, and his cloak over his arm.
Normally she would have corrected his grip, but given the hour didn’t bother, and just nodded her head towards the door, letting him precede her from the Gryffindor tower.
They traveled the halls unhindered again, and she took the lead despite the instinct to keep him in her sights, as he had no idea where to go and she didn’t want to waste time with directions. Although it wasn’t far, she was tired from the lack of sleep and the surplus of walking, and was relived when they reached the classroom and entered.
Moody eyed Harry in surprise as he stepped in behind Buffy, sword held loosely and improperly, in his hand. “I didn’t expect you to bring the whole boy.”
“You expected her just to bring my legs?” Harry asked.
“We just needed the sword.”
Harry’s eyes lit with understanding, and when he turned them to Buffy she could see the faint gleam of gratitude within, and inclined her head slightly in response. “I figured you wouldn’t want to be left out of this one.”
“You were right.” He straightened his shoulders, and then paused. “What is ‘this one’ exactly?”
Moody pushed the flap of fabric off the box, and casually flicked the lid open, his hand shaking as he pulled it away. Harry stepped closer.
“What is that?” He asked, voice thin with wonder.
“A horcrux.” Buffy answered flatly, and Harry stopped abruptly in his tracks.
“A rather charming one too.” Moody clarified.
“So… what do we do.”
Moody looked down to the sword. “We destroy it.”
Harry held up the blade in surprise. “Why this? I mean, why did you bring it all the way back so I could do it? It’s not a Gryffindor thing obviously, Buffy has her own sword. Is it tied to me in someway, like I’m-“
“No.” Moody cut him off. “The fact that it was basted in basilisk blood makes your sword one of the few weapons capable of destroying little bits of dark soul.”
“His soul?” Harry stepped back.
“But-“ He stopped himself, and looked down.
“This is war, boy. And your sister was right. This is something you need to do. The sooner, the better as far as I can guess. Nothing of the Dark Lord's ought to stay within the castle walls for too long, lest it seep out and touch the-“
“Okay.” Harry gripped the sword tightly. Had he been fighting, any half knowledgeable opponent could have broken his wrists with a solid blade, and while it wasn’t the time for a lesson in swordsmanship, Buffy reminded herself to teach him at another date.
Harry walked forward, steeling himself and lifted Gordric’s shimmering blade, and swung it down as it were a crude hammer, missing the ring entirely, knocking the box over and slicing into Snape’s desk.
“Let me… try again.” He said feebly, but neither of them were laughing at the attempt. When he swung the second time his aim was true. The blade bounced off the stone, and by the shock on his face, reverberated a fair bit of force up into Harry’s arm, but the stone was cracked, dislodged from its setting. It briefly glinted red, before a fine mist rose from the crevice, and lifted all the fine hairs along their arms away from their skin before it disappeared, with the silent lingering echo of a scream resting in the air for a moment longer.
Harry was pale.
“A little piece of Voldemort. Gone.” Moody mused, and Buffy realized that was the first time she’d heard the auror ever use his name, and it occurred to her that he thought he was witnessing the tide begin to turn. Buffy wasn’t sure it would be so simple, but had to admit it this was a good blow, one that belonged to her brother by rights, even if he was shaky about fulfilling it.
“The first good strike.” She voiced aloud, looking down at the ring.
Moody hastily drew the cloth back over the object and its gilded, though somehow duller, box. “I’ll do the rest. You best be getting back before the other students start to rise. It was good thing you did today Harry.”
Harry was silent as he trudged back towards the door.
“It was a good thing you did too, Lass.”
Buffy looked at her brothers back, his slumped shoulders and slow steps, and knew in her mind it was, although her heart wondered, and then made to follow him back to the tower.
“And next time, Buffy.” Moody added as she was leaving, “Try to find a way to get your brother, without sending the castle screaming.”
“Just because you silence the alarm in the tower, doesn’t mean that the acting headmaster, that is McGonagall and myself at the moment, didn’t get an alarm.”
She flushed, at missing something so obvious, and nodded before ducking back into the hall and following her brother back to the dorms to grab an hour of sleep before classes started.
Love it or hate it, please review.
*bites nails anxiously*