Chapter 16: Rituals, Guilt, and A Visitor
Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
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Chapter 16: Rituals, Guilt, and A Visitor
Buffy stared at Angel as he poured over the books with Willow, Giles, and Tara. She hadn't seen him since she was dragged out of heaven, three years ago. She knew she looked older, but happier than she had been the last time he had seen her. But he was the same, except his eyes were older and full of more pain, just as Buffy knew her own were.
"So what's the plan?" she asked.
Angel turned to look at her. "Tara's going to perform the ritual," he said in a voice which meant no arguing. Buffy could see Willow looking anxiously at her, as if waiting for her approval.
"Of course," Buffy said, quietly. "Tara was the only one the Ethros targeted who wasn't affected by it."
Tara looked at Buffy and there was a kinship in her eyes. Buffy cared about Tara a lot, especially since Tara had been the only one who Buffy could talk to after she was resurrected.
"Tara," came a hollow voice from the doorway. "Can you save him?" Sirius was leaning against the doorway, barely able to stand, but there was a fervor in his eyes.
Buffy watched as Tara turned to look at him. "Yes I can," she said.
"Thank you," Sirius muttered and he shuffled over to collapse on a chair in the kitchen.
"I managed to find an Ethros box," Angel said, in an attempt to diffuse the tension that has suddenly entered the room, pulling out a big wooden box from the huge suitcase he had bought with him.
"A what?" Buffy asked.
"It will contain the demon once we exorcise it," Angel explained.
"Oh," Buffy exclaimed. But isn't the demon in Harry called an Ethnic?"
"No, Buffy," Giles sighed. "An Ethros."
"Giles, why do Big Bads never have fear inspiring names? They either have something stupid like the Master or the Three or something really hard to remember like Glorificus or Kakistos."
"I honestly have no idea, but maybe next time we encounter one which isn't possessing a young boy we can give them an interview," Giles said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "But can we please get back to the problem at hand?"
Buffy huffed, even though she knew he was right. Turning back to Tara, Buffy asked, "Do you need anything?"
"Angel brought the book and the cross, so I have everything I need, but thank you," she said and Buffy nodded. She then walked outside, barely controlling herself. Then she sat down on the porch and cried.
Behind her, she felt someone come up and put there arm around her. It was Angel.
"You okay?" he asked.
She gave a shaky, little laugh. "I thought that my mother's death had stopped affecting me as badly. But all it took was one little comment from that demon, and I became a mess. I couldn't be strong and I couldn't even protect Harry. I'm supposed to be a champion, Angel. But how am I supposed to do that when it's so easy for me to fall apart?"
"You don't always have to look after everyone, Buffy," he told her softly. She turned to look at him.
"Last time, I tried to ignore who I was and what I had to do, my friends were almost killed by crazy resurrecting vampires. The weight of the world is always on my shoulders. I've known that since I was fifteen."
"Yeah," he said, although she could see it pained him to admit it.
"Sometimes I still wish I was a normal girl. I know it's not possible, but even after all these years, I can't help but wonder what if would have been like."
"But then you wouldn't be the amazing woman you are today," he said. She raised her eyes, bright with tears, to him.
"You think I'm amazing?" she whispered so softly, she worried he didn't hear her. Instead he ran his finger down her cheek.
"I've always though you're amazing," he said and Buffy leaned towards him, waiting for their lips to touch. But then a loud noise sounded and they jumped apart. She knew that someone was coming, and she had to ignore that moment of weakness. That moment when she had revealed her blind spots and her dreams and the things that will never ever come true.
They walked back inside and they ignored everyone's curious glances. Thankfully, Tara announced that she was going to start performing the ritual. Willow kissed her girlfriend for luck and everyone gathered in the living room, as Tara armed with a cross prepared herself. She started chanting in Latin and then pressed the cross to Harry's head. The demon awakened with a hiss and it started screaming. Buffy could feel her heart breaking since the noises sounded so much by the boy they all loved, but Tara's voice continued to rise. The demon was scrabbling and clawing and yowling and Tara was commanding power and a strength that you wouldn't think she had by looking at her. The chanting words suddenly stopped and Tara screamed "Get the fuck out of him!". There a was horrible screeching noise that could split eardrums and something was ripped out of Harry.
It vanished into the box Cordelia was holding and she slammed it shut. They all waited with baited breath for Harry's eyes to open. Finally the boy's eyes fluttered and they were not a horrific yellow, but a beautiful soul filled green. Buffy heard body rattling sobs coming from Sirius and all she could do was smile.
Cold. So cold. It was all he could remember, since he broke Sirius's nose and ran away. Until the blindfold was pulled off and he saw Tara standing off him, a look of bitterness and hate on her usually sweet face. But then she swooped down on him and hugged him tight. She was pulled off by Hermione who looked like a mess with bloodshot eyes and messy hair, and Ron who's face was sheet white. They hugged him until couldn't breath. And then's he's passed through everyone, all asking him how he feels and threatening to squeeze the life out of him. Harry let them, mostly because it feels nice, but also since he was pining for answers. Finally, the only person who hadn't touched him is Sirius and the new guy, who Harry gathered from Spike's description is Angel. And of course Faith, but Harry guessed she knew what he thought when he looked at her: Murderer.
"Harry, I'm so sorry," Sirius gasped. Harry didn't know what to do anymore. He wanted to fall into Sirius's arms, but at the same time, he was still angry about Sirius's betrayal. So he just nodded.
"So you must be Harry?" Angel said.
"Yeah, that's me. Do you want to explain what the bloody hell is going on?" he asked. So Harry was sat down with hot tea and biscuits and they explained everything. Hermione and Ron sat on either side of him, as if to protect him, but he knew they were trying to calm him so he wouldn't have an explosive reaction. In fact, Harry was as far away from an explosive reaction as you could get. Instead, he felt horribly, horribly guilty over the pain he had caused. None of them would tell him what the demon had said or done, but he knew it must have been bad, because of the haunting he saw in his friend's eyes.
"I can't believe I hurt you so badly," he said to all of them and watched in surprise as they all rolled their eyes and sighed.
"Honestly, you stupid boy. Heroes always feel guilty, even when it's not their fault. Idiots," Anya told him.
Harry opened his mouth to speak, but another unknown voice started speaking first. "She's got a point," it said in an Irish brogue. "Angel didn't stop feeling like a giant blooming bag of guilt for a long time after my death. Ain't that right, Princess?"
Harry turned around to see a slight, brunette man dressed in clothes that resembled Xander's. He had a joking twinkle in his eye. Harry heard Cordelia's intake of breath and glanced at her. Her face was white and for the first time, she seemed to have lost her boldness.
"Doyle?" she whispered.
"Hello, Princess. How have you been?" he said, smiling and Harry watched as Cordelia launched herself into his arms.
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