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Harry Potter and the Renascent Seer

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Summary: When Cordelia Chase falls into a coma, it’s up to Xander Harris to do everything he can to save her. With the help of a few friends, he finds hope halfway across the world. Please read the warnings! Will include slash.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Cordelia-Centered(Past Donor)gleefulmusingsFR1515126,7812112936,33511 May 1010 Oct 10No

Prologue

Title: Harry Potter and the Renascent Seer
Author: xanzpet
Fandoms: Extreme AU for the following: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season Five; Angel the Series, Season Two; Harry Potter, Year Six.
Pairing(s): For BtVS/AtS: Xander/Anya, Tara/Willow, Buffy/Riley. For Harry Potter: Trio UST; Harry/Others (not all at once, though that would be fun). Other pairings are under wraps. Slash is up for grabs for anyone at any time.
Rating: FRT-15 overall, though some chapters will earn a higher rating.
Warning(s): Strong language, violence, character deaths; sexuality (including het, femmeslash, and m/m slash). Spoilers for all of BtVS and AtS, and for HP & OoTP; elements from HBP and DH may come into play, though it’s doubtful. Minor changes to canon for both fandoms will be evident. This story contains unabashed Cordelia worship. If you do not like Cordelia, or you do not like the thought of a magical!Cordelia, please do not read this.
Distribution: Please ask first. Please do not screencap this story, save it to hard drives, exchange with others, or translate into other languages without written consent.
Feedback: Con-crit is valued; flamed are displayed and mocked.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lyrics, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Snippets of dialogue may be incorporated from the original canonical episode(s) and belong to their respective authors/creators. The original characters and plot are the property of the author(s). The author(s) is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended, nor should any be inferred. No profit is being made.

Summary: When Cordelia Chase falls into a coma, it’s up to Xander Harris to do everything he can to save her. With the help of a few friends, he finds hope halfway across the world. At the same time, Harry Potter comes to the realization that if he is truly destined to fight Voldemort, he can no longer allow others to dictate the manner. As he begins cultivating new allies, his friendship with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger begins to fracture, but they determine to be with him every step of the way no matter the cost.


Illustration


* * * * *


Buffy the Vampire Slayer was lazing about the living room of the apartment of her Watcher, Rupert Giles, along with her best friends Willow Rosenberg and Xander Harris after a particularly long and, unfortunately, pointless patrol.

Where had the vampires been hiding? She thought it very rude of them not to make themselves easily available for her to dispatch. Also in attendance were her boyfriend, Riley Finn, and Tara Maclay, Willow’s lover. Xander’s girlfriend Anya was currently in Giles’s kitchen, rummaging through the refrigerator for something edible, loudly complaining that the selection was far too British and therefore entirely unsuitable.

Giles, who was referencing books in the corner into which he had made his library, remarked rather vociferously that perhaps Anya should part with some of her beloved money to stuff her face with whatever suited her fancy and thus silence her mouth.

Willow snickered at the Watcher’s jibe. Xander initially had as well, but glowered darkly at nothing in particular when his best friend’s giggle erupted into malicious laughter. Buffy caught his look and inwardly sighed. He had come to her last week and asked her kindly yet pointedly to lay off the constant teasing she and Willow regularly inflicted upon Anya. When she had tried to laugh it off, he had gone very quiet, noting that he had been more than accepting of Riley and Tara, and before asking why he wasn’t worthy of the same consideration.

Words of explanation had disappeared from her mouth before leaving her brain. She could tell that he was truly upset, and he had made an excellent point. She and Willow were often unmerciful and quite petty when it came to Anya, and there was no real justification other than that the newly mortal girl made an easy and convenient target. She felt the urge to snap that Xander had never been accepting of Angel, but that fire too was quenched, for she didn’t want the conversation to devolve to a point which would result in him angrily storming off and not speaking to her for a month. It had taken a lot for him to come to the dorm and ask this of her.

He never asked anything of her, really, which suggested to her that perhaps he had learned his lesson from his treatment of Angel, and was hoping that Buffy wouldn't use Anya to repay his former unkindness. He was constantly supportive of everything she did, save her former relationship with Angel, which Buffy understood far more than she would ever admit. Angel was, after all, a vampire. While Xander’s attitude about that still greatly annoyed her, she couldn’t offer a blanket denial that Angel wasn’t dangerous.

She was at once sharply reminded of the new distance which existed between she and Willow’s once impossibly close friendship with Xander. She had known things would change when she and the witch went off to college, but she hadn’t counted on just how much. Not having Xander constantly at her side was unnerving and disquieting. It had begun as a slight needling that something was absent, but lately it was a consuming ache which was, at times, stultifying.

Lately, she had even taken to turning around in the middle of class to make a snide comment about a professor, fully expecting him to be there and join in the snark. She missed his opinions and observations and even his crude jokes. She missed his attention and his devotion and his fiercely protective insistence that anything or anyone wanting an audience with her would have to go through him first.

All of that longing had developed into an omnipresent generalized state of wrongness which did not abate even when in his company, for now she had trouble trying to figure out how to act in response to the shift in dynamic.

“Willow, that’s enough,” she hissed.

The witch started and her laughter died. Was Buffy serious? It was, after all, Anya.

Buffy stared the girl down and Willow relented. The Slayer was surprised yet grateful for the nod of acknowledgment she received from Tara. Apparently Xander wasn’t the only one who was bothered by her and Willow’s treatment of Anya. Briefly, she wondered if Xander had discussed the matter with Tara who, admittedly, was much more sensitive than either she or Willow.

The blonde and Xander seemed to be closer lately, and Buffy was slightly jealous of that fact. Actually, she was very jealous. Buffy was also disappointed in her initial reaction that Willow was a lesbian and had chosen Tara over Oz. It was disappointing to realize she had that prejudice within her, and rather hypocritical considering how she had inflicted Angel upon all of her friends without giving their feelings or misgivings much consideration. After all, who was she to judge anyone’s lifestyle? And Tara? Tara was damned good people.

Riley gently squeezed her hand in support and Buffy was suddenly flushed with warmth. The soldier understood how difficult it could be to stand up to your friends where the person you had chosen to be with was concerned. It was a fine line, trying to ensure that your friends understood you weren’t necessarily placing them before your lover, but some things were not up for debate. Xander caught her eye and gave her his most blinding smile, and Buffy felt her heart lurch and tears wet her eyes. It took so little to make him happy. Why? She thought it best not to dwell on such things, and blinked back the sorrow.

Anya, however, emerged oblivious from the kitchen and began arguing good-naturedly with Giles. The Watcher tried to deflect her comments, but his every volley was matched and then surpassed by Anya’s clever tongue.

Buffy didn’t miss the sparkle in his eyes and hid her small smile. It was nice to see Giles opening up to the others. While still wary of Riley because of his distrust of the Initiative and Maggie Walsh, both of which had been proven worthy of that contempt, as well as because of his paternal feelings for Buffy, Giles still kept the peace. He was endlessly patient with and kind to Tara who, unfortunately, was still quite timid around anyone who wasn’t Willow or Xander. With Anya, however, he was free to cut loose and release his inner bitch.

Buffy was jolted by the shrill bark of the telephone.

Giles held up one finger to silence Anya, who pouted petulantly and began tapping her foot, obviously having many more barbs just waiting on the tip of her tongue.

“Rupert Giles.” The Watcher’s face had gone from open to guarded, and Buffy cocked her head quizzically. “Yes. May I ask as to what this is in reference?” Whatever the answer was seemed to annoy the man. “Very well. One moment.” He paused, and then thought better of it. “Please,” he added.

Buffy smirked. Manners were impossibly important to her Watcher.

“Xander, you have a call.”

The boy blinked. “Huh? Who’s calling for me? Everyone I know is here.”

Everyone save Giles laughed. Anya went back into the kitchen, while Buffy and Willow returned their attentions to their respective lovers. “I didn’t recognize the name, but it’s a hospital."

Xander blinked again, small creases lining his forehead, then rose from his position on the couch to walk over and accept the handset. “H-Hello?,” he cautiously asked. “Yes,” he said after a moment, frowning. He listened for a long time. “I see. Yeah, I understand. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” He ended the call, and the phone slipped from his hand, its loud clatter immediately drawing the notice of everyone in the room.

“Xander, what’s happening?,” the Watcher asked.

The boy’s mouth opened, then closed. It opened again, but before any sound escaped, he collapsed, and found himself sitting on the floor, staring dumbly at the wall in front of him, promptly deciding it needed a fresh coat of paint.

Buffy was the first to reach him, practically stomping on Willow in the process. She and Giles exchanged words. Xander knew they were speaking, but was suddenly unable to comprehend the English language. The next thing he knew, Buffy was sitting cross-legged in front of him.

“Xan?,” she asked gently, taking his hand. “Xander, what is it?”

He brought his head up and looked into her eyes, and Buffy almost flew back from the agony blazing in his gaze. Had he even heard her? Again, he opened his mouth, but couldn’t form words, nor could he stop his tears.

By now, everyone was anxiously watching him, waiting for an explanation to a question they weren’t sure they wanted answered, because Xander never cried, even when he really should have. Buffy gently began rubbing his hand between hers, and it was only then he realized he was freezing.

“Hospital,” he said, teeth chattering.

She nodded, silently urging him on.

He withdrew from the Slayer, and primly folded his hands in his lap as his tears seemed to freeze. He appeared to be considering his words carefully, as he now picked at his jeans, removing imaginary lint.

“Cordelia’s in a coma."

Buffy’s eyes widened before she slammed them shut, hoping that if she just kept them tightly pressed it might negate what he had just said. This just wasn’t happening, she decided.

Willow gasped sharply and covered her mouth with her hand, eyes filling. Tara looked at her lover questioningly before returning a glance to Xander and Buffy. Riley looked more confused than usual, especially given Xander’s reaction, as well as that of Willow and Buffy; he desperately wanted to ask as to who this Cordelia was, but didn’t want to interrupt. Giles sat woodenly, staring off into space, his eyes tired and lips pursed until they looked like old scar tissue slashing across the bottom of his face. Anya had dropped her plate and was staring stupidly at the mess spilling across the floor.

No one knew what to say, so they said nothing. They waited for Xander to continue speaking.

“I have to go to L.A. Cordy listed me as her next-of-kin. The hospital can’t authorize any treatment without my consent, and I have to be there in person to prove my identity and sign some papers.”

Buffy shuddered at his flat monotone.

“But what happened?,” Willow sharply demanded.

“It has to be the visions."

“Visions?,” Riley asked with hesitation.

“Cordelia is Angel’s Seer,” a distracted Buffy remarked, not noticing her lover’s eyes turn cold at the mention of the vampire.

“I should have done something,” Giles seethed. “I should have found a way to take them from her. Those visions simply were not meant for a mortal to bear.”

“Shut up,” Xander whispered.

The Watcher, however, continued unabated. “Blasted Wesley! That git should have been exploiting every detail at his disposal to fix this bloody mess! Doesn’t he understand the peril that young girl is in? This is atrocious!”

“Stop it!,” the boy screamed.

Buffy immediately backed up and Giles blinked; they knew that tone of voice. So did Willow, which was why she remained silent, watching Xander with wide eyes. Tara and Riley flinched before their gazes found each other; they had never seen Xander so angry, but apparently the others had.

“Cordelia would never give them up by choice,” Xander said more sedately. “There’s a price to pay for power, and she’s chosen to pay it, no matter what anyone, including Wesley and Angel, have to say. She saves lives, and she’s not about to let anyone make her choices for her. That’s not who she is.”

Giles conceded the point with a nod, his eyes shining at his memories of the tart-tongued beauty queen who had served as a walking reality check for the entire group for three years. Memories, however, did little to assuage his guilt.

“Did the hospital say anything else?,” asked a demure Anya.

Xander sighed, pressing two fingers to his weary eyes. “There are ‘intercranial anomalies’.” He paused, looking up at the ceiling, wishing it would just crash down on his head and end his suffering, before covering his mouth with a hand. “That means she might have brain damage,” he whispered through his fingers, his breath catching slightly.

Buffy released a strangled sob while silent tears streaked down Willow’s cheeks. The idea that Cordelia Chase, one of the smartest and most vicious minds either knew, might have some kind of impairment simply because she was saving lives was heartrending, an unwelcome reminder of their own fragile mortality. Giles held his silence but his mourning was apparent. Anya placed her hands on Xander’s shoulders and winced when his immediately grasped hers, hanging on as if she was a lifeline.

“I’m sorry,” Riley began, “but I don’t know who Cordelia is. And what’s a Seer?”

Before anyone else could pull their thoughts together to proffer an explanation, Anya beat them to the punch.

“Cordelia Chase was Xander’s girlfriend in high school. She fought with Buffy and the others for three years and, after graduation, moved to Los Angeles to become an actress. She met up with Angel and began the agency with another man; Doyle, I think his name was. He was a Seer, a representative of the Powers That Be. Basically, he received visions of people Angel was supposed to help. There was an apocalypse and Doyle died, but not before passing the visions on to Cordelia. Doyle was a half-demon, and while the visions hurt him, he could somewhat control the pain. As Giles said, visions of that power simply aren’t meant for a mortal.”

“That was...succinct,” Riley offered, for once grateful for Anya’s clipped brevity, “but how come I’ve never heard of her before? I mean, I know about Oz and A-Angel,” hissing the last name through gritted teeth, “but no one’s ever mentioned Cordelia.”

Tara shook her head warningly, but the gesture was missed by the soldier.

“That’s because Buffy and Willow hate her,” Anya chirped, “and they hate me because I remind them of her.”

“Oh,” Riley replied, nodding. He had a pretty good idea what that meant.

Indeed, Willow and Buffy flinched at the comparison. Was that true?, each wondered. Was their dislike for Anya partly carried over from their distaste for Cordelia? If that was the case, they were...quite pathetic, really. They noticed in particular Xander’s silence on the matter, which was when they recognized the veracity of Anya’s claim.

Tara and Riley eyed each other, both thinking that anyone whom Xander was dating would likely be met with hostility from his best friends. Buffy and Willow were ridiculously territorial when it came to Xander Harris; sometimes it almost seemed as if blazing orange cones were placed around the boy to warn off potential loiterers. Tara and Riley felt they somewhat understood where Anya was coming from, if not the degree. Both Willow and Buffy had subtly discouraged their lovers from forming attachments to Xander, for no other reason than that they simply didn’t want to share him. Luckily, he had taken it upon himself to establish relationships with them, and both were glad for his friendship, as he was the most grounded of the Scooby Gang.

“We don’t hate Cordelia!,” Buffy barked, before her tone lost its bluster. “We just...well, no, we didn’t like her. We just didn’t get along. But it’s not like we’d ever wish something like this on her! Besides, it wasn’t one-sided. She didn’t like us either.”

“You’re so obnoxious,” Willow tossed out to the ex-demon.

“Maybe,” Anya responded, “but I’m also honest. You don’t like anything which paints you as less than the martyr you so desperately want to be." She raised a brow. "Why are you so concerned with Cordelia’s health now? Have either one of you even spoken to her since she left? No, and Buffy was in L.A. last year." She put her hands on her hips. "The last time Cordelia was in the hospital, neither you nor Buffy could be bothered, or did you forget that pesky re-bar through her stomach?”

Riley and Buffy both blanched, for entirely different reasons.

Willow opened her mouth, but was cut off by Xander. “Tara, will you go with me, please?”

“Of course."

“What?,” Willow screeched.

“Xander, I think I should go with you,” Buffy countered.

He stood, waving off her helping hands. “Oh no. I’m going to have enough trouble with Angel as it is. I don’t you need there causing more.”

She flushed with embarrassment and anger. “That wouldn’t happen!”

He snorted. “Right, because ever since he helped Faith, you and Angel are the best of friends." He shook his head. "Look Buff, I appreciate the sentiment, I really do, but you and I both know that whenever you and Angel get together now, it’s only a matter of moments before you start fighting. I don’t have time for it, and I’m not about to allow it around Cordy.”

“You shouldn’t go alone,” she weakly pressed, knowing but not wanting to admit that his reasoning was more than justified.

“I’m not,” he stated, his frosty tone suggesting the subject was closed to debate. “Tara will be with me.”

“You need someone with power!"

Tara frowned.

“Hey!,” Willow screamed.

The Slayer winced. “No offense to Tara, but she’s not as powerful as Willow. I don’t want you going there and having to deal with them and not having the backup you need. Angel hates you, Xander, and Wesley was horribly jealous of you and Cordelia, even though you two were already broken-up.”

“Willow’s spells work, at best, half the time, or did you forget your engagement to Spike?” Xander volleyed, sneering.

Buffy shuddered. “Never bring that up to me again."

He smirked.

“Hey!,” Willow again bellowed, not sure which of her two best friends she was addressing. “I made cookies to apologize! Good cookies! From scratch and everything! We’re talking premium chocolate morsels here, people!”

“Xander...,” Buffy tried.

“No. No, Buff. I want to take Tara. I trust her completely, and I’ll need someone calm and rational and objective to help me through this, because I’m going to be a wreck and Angel’s going to try and undermine me every step of the way. And I think Tara has more power than anyone, including her, even knows."

He nodded to himself. "Besides, there’s no one else. Anya needs to stay here for work, and I can get off with no problem, since the crew’s in between projects right now. If you or Riley go, you’ll just end up fighting with Angel, and then he’ll resent my presence even more. If Giles goes, he’ll fight with Wesley. If Willow goes, well, that’s just not a good idea.”

Riley didn’t understand why that was and was about to ask, but was beaten to the punch when the Watcher cleared his throat.

“Who’s left, then?,” Xander posited, cutting Giles off at the pass. “The Fangless Wonder?”

Buffy couldn’t stop her sneer. The idea of Spike and Angel fighting it out in a hospital was amusing, but certainly not conducive to helping Cordy.

“Angel’s going to fight you on anything you try to do for Cordelia,” Giles said blandly, not wishing to incur the boy’s wrath and knowing that Xander was absolutely correct; after initial panic subsided, his plans were usually the most successful.

“He can try,” Xander shrugged. “I can’t really blame him. If it were Willow or Buff in place of Cordy and he tried to come in and take over, I’d be pissed, too. But I think he understands that he has no power in this situation, and he’d want Cordy to get the best care possible.”

“And Wesley?,” Willow asked.

“He’s a nonentity.”

“Xander!”

“Will, as far as I’m concerned, he completely missed the boat with Faith. She made her own choices, but he was a piss-poor Watcher and some of the blame for her actions resides with him, as well as with Giles for deferring to a moron. I know Cordy likes Wesley now, and that’s fine. Maybe he really has changed and isn’t the guy we used to know, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. He’s not going to be dictating anything to me.”

Giles flinched at Xander’s offhand rebuke; his guilt for his part in Faith’s later actions hung like a perpetual guillotine over his neck.

Willow nodded thoughtfully, though she scowled at the mention of Faith’s name. Buffy, too, silently agreed with his assessment, but was nowhere near ready even to begin to deal with her memories of the Faith and the path of savagery she cut across the Hellmouth. It was cold comfort that Faith now resided in a dank cell in Los Angeles.

“Okay,” she declared, nodding.

Xander stiffened. “I hope you don’t think I was asking your permission.”

Buffy started. Had she really sounded so autocratic? It wasn’t her intention. She knew she had a tendency to assume a general’s air when dealing with her friends, but she did recognize that this wasn’t about her; in fact, it had nothing at all to do with her. “I didn’t mean it that way,” she said quietly. “I’m just worried. About Cordy and about you.”

His eyes softened and she melted.

“I know,” he whispered. “This is just...well, it sucks, really." He bit his lip. "I guess I just assumed that whatever happened, Angel would take care of her, would somehow make everything all right." He frowned. "And when the hell did I start thinking that about him? Weird." He shook his head. "I’m blaming myself for not checking in on her. I’ve tried to leave her alone because I know she’s really never gotten over what happened between us, and I don’t want to hurt her any more.”

“You still love her,” Anya quietly said.

“In a way,” he admitted, unashamed and unapologetic. “She was my first love, and she’ll always have a place in my heart. I can’t just refuse to help her.”

“I know,” she murmured.

So did Buffy, and as much as she wanted to disabuse Xander of the notion of taking Tara and not her, she no longer had any fight left. She would and had done the same for Angel.

Xander cleared his throat. “Tara, why don’t you and Willow head back to the dorms, gather what you need, and I’ll pick you up, okay? I’d like to talk to Anya.”

The witch nodded. “No problem.”

“Xander...,” an annoyed Willow began.

“Just...not now, Will, okay?,” he responded. “I’ll call you when I get there. I really don’t have time to debate this.”

His tone was quiet but icy, and Willow knew that no matter what she said, he was not going to be swayed. She nodded, but her silence indicated she was unhappy with his declaration. Xander recognized this and his answering silence made clear that he frankly didn’t care. She was stunned but gathered up her purse. She locked eyes for a moment with Tara, but her lover’s gaze was steely and she knew she had no hope of persuading Tara not to go along with Xander’s proposal. Resigned, Willow kissed Xander, said her goodbyes, and left with Tara in tow.

Riley walked over to Xander and placed his hand on the younger boy’s arm. “Are you sure about this, Xan?,” he softly asked.

“Positive,” he replied with a nod, placing his hand over Riley’s, grateful for the older man’s concern and support. “Cordy needs me.”

Riley returned the nod, gave him a manly half-hug, and led a weakly protesting Buffy out of the apartment.

Xander turned to Giles, eyes wide. “I’m scared.”

The Watcher enveloped him in one of their rare embraces. “You can do this, Xander. You do what is best for Cordelia, and don’t worry about Angel or Wesley. Cordelia listed you for a reason, and it’s apparent that it is you she trusted to make these decisions in her stead. You know her better than anyone. That hasn’t changed merely because she moved and you’ve fallen out of touch. If you need anything, just call.”

The boy nodded and placed a gentle kiss on the man's cheek. “Thanks, Dad.”

Giles felt tears stinging his eyes, but refused to give in. “Go on, then. Go save our girl. That’s what you do, you know.”

Xander smiled sadly, took Anya’s hand, and the pair said their goodbyes to the Watcher.



* * * * *



He guided her to his truck and opened the passenger door. Once he was settled behind the wheel and had started the car, she took a long look at him. “Are you really okay?,” she whispered.

“No. I’m really not,” he answered, his voice thick.

She nodded, and they rode in silence to their apartment.



* * * * *



Anya was in the kitchen, making some sandwiches for Xander and Tara, while her boyfriend hurriedly packed a bag. They walked into the living room at the same time and he gratefully took the food .

“Are you okay with me going?,” he asked.

She nodded. “Of course. For once, I’m really not jealous, Xander. I liked Cordelia. She was nice to me, even when she had no reason to be, especially after that wish debacle," she grimaced. "If you and I ever broke up, I’d do what she did. I’d want you taking care of me, too." She nodded. "I’m not happy that you have to leave, and I’m more upset about Cordelia than I thought I would be, but I’m proud of you and I’m glad Tara will be with you.”

“I love you.” He couldn’t think of any pretty words, so he settled for the unvarnished truth and hoped she would understand all the sentiments behind it.

She smiled. “I know that. I love you, too.”

Finally, he broke down. “Oh, God, An. What if she dies? I don’t know how I’ll handle it. It was bad enough with Jesse. Then with Jenny and Kendra. Now, Joyce is sick and Cordy’s in a coma.” He shook his head, his voice dropping. “I don’t think I could take it if she dies.”

Anya decided to don her version of Willow’s Resolve Face. Xander was not to be coddled when he gave in to his moroseness; kicking his ass was the only way to go.

“Now you listen to me,” she barked. “Cordelia Chase is one of the strongest people I know. If anyone can get through this, it’s her. You know this. Still, I’m not going to lie to you. I was a demon for over a thousand years, Xander, and Cordelia is the first mortal I’ve ever known to be the Seer. Frankly, I’m surprised she’s managed this long. So, you go, you do everything you possibly can and, if the worst happens, you be there for her and you’ll know it wasn’t your fault.”

He laughed mirthlessly. “Easier said than done, but thank you. Thank you for being honest.”

“It’s what I do,” she chirped.

“Yeah, it is,” he agreed, placing a loving kiss on her lips. “Do me a favor?"

“Of course.”

“Can you check around, look through some books or ask some of your old contacts, and see if there’s anything that can be done? I don’t know if the visions can be taken from her, but she wouldn’t want them to be anyway. Even if they were, I doubt it would erase the damage already done. But could you see if there’s any way to make them easier to bear?”

He frowned, thinking. “In fact, any information you could find out would be helpful. Not a lot is known about this. How did Doyle give her the visions? Why her? What is it she sees? How does she experience them?” He paused for breath. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be dumping this on you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Please. By now I’m a research pro, and I work in a magic shop. I still have some friends in the demon community, so I promise I’ll find out everything I can.”

“Thank you,” he whispered.

“It’s nothing less than you would do for me,” she responded, knowing it was true.

“I’ll call you when I get there.”

“You’d better.”



* * * * *



After Xander left to pick up Tara, Anya sat on their couch, pondering his request. Surely there was some information out there; there had to be.

If only she knew someone who...

She started and sat straight up. Maybe this wouldn’t be as impossible as she thought.

She dashed over to the phone and quickly placed a call. As she waited for the connection to go through, she paced restlessly. This was going to be dangerous. She had avoided her old haunts and clients because there were any number of people who’d want to punish her for the wishes she had granted while still a demon. While she still couldn’t say she was thrilled to be mortal once more, she had adjusted and had made a good life for herself. She had a nice place to live, a decent job, and a man she loved who loved her in return, which was more than most people had. She wasn’t going to just throw all that away.

Still, Xander had asked for her help and he never asked for anything. He gave her love, attention, gifts, and the all-important orgasms. She couldn’t live with herself if Cordelia died and she hadn’t done everything she could to help. She couldn’t do that to Xander, to Cordelia, nor to her own conscience. Finally, the other party picked up.

“It’s about time! Don’t you know how to work a damned cell phone?!” She dismissed the litany of insults immediately spat forth. “Look, I need your help,” she stated. “Actually, Xander needs my help, and I can’t do it without yours. I’ll pick you up in fifteen.”

With that, she disconnected, grabbed her keys and purse, and stormed out.


* * * * *



Xander arrived at the dorms and was happy to see Tara waiting outside for him. He was a little worried, however, that she was standing all alone, at night, in an open area. He pulled up in front of Stevenson Hall, parked the car, and got out to open Tara’s door for her.

“Why are you out here alone?,” he demanded. “Hello? Hellmouth?”

She waved him off and released the wards she had set around her.

“Oh, yeah,” he nodded. “You’re a witch.”

She didn’t stop laughing at him until they were a good five miles out of town.


* * * * *


“Oi, bint!,” Spike bellowed as Anya threw open the door of his crypt. “What’s this about needing me to help the whelp? What in bloody hell makes you think I’d want to do something like that?”

She sneered. “What you want is of no concern to me. Here’s the deal: Cordelia’s in a coma and Xander’s listed as her emergency contact. He grabbed Tara and they took off for L.A. If you don’t want to help, fine, but if Cordelia dies, I’ll make damned sure that Xander, Buffy, Willow, Giles, Tara, Riley, Joyce, Dawn, and Angel all know that you could have helped her and didn’t. Somehow, I don’t think your chipped state is enough to convince them not to dust you.”

“No need to get threatening!,” the vampire barked. “Fine, I’ll help your sodding boyfriend, but if it works, you make sure to tell everyone of my part, yeah? That should keep me in blood and smokes for the foreseeable future,” he smirked.

“My hero,” she drawled.



* * * * *



“How’s Anya doing with all of this?,” Tara cautiously asked.

Xander shrugged. “Honestly? A lot better than I thought she would. She says she’s not jealous, and I believe her. People really underestimate her. I think they’ll learn the hard way what a mistake that can be.”

The witch nodded.

“I’m sorry I dragged you into this,” he whispered.

She waved her hand dismissively. “You didn’t drag me into anything. If I didn’t want to be here, I wouldn’t be. I may be shy, but I’m not the meek kitten Buffy and Giles are convinced I am." She paused. "I have to admit, I’m very curious about meeting these other people. I’ve heard about Angel, and a bit about Wesley.”

“And I’m sure you got an earful about Cordelia.”

She laughed. “Yeah, but don’t worry, I know to take Willow’s condemnations with a grain of salt.”

“Cordelia is a really good person,” he said through gritted teeth.

“She must be. She chose you, and you still love her.”

He smiled for the first time since that phone call.



* * * * *



“What the hell are we doing here?,” Spike demanded of Anya, as she guided her car into a space in front of Willy’s bar.

“The lowlife who owns this establishment has equipment which I require.”

He looked askance, first at Anya, then at the bar. “You can’t be serious.”

“Of course I am,” she snapped. “Why the hell else would I be here?”

“Well, what do you need me for?,” he barked.

“Protection,” she replied, rolling her eyes. “What else? You can’t harm humans, but now that I don’t have any powers, I need you to get me through the sea of demons inside. By all means, use violence if necessary. In fact, even if it’s not." She grimaced. "Unfortunately, neither of us get enough opportunities anymore.”

He nodded, temporarily placated as he realized that Anya was probably one of the only people who could understand his current limitations, until another thought occurred to him. “What about Willy? What’s his incentive for helping you? Gonna use the Slayer as leverage?”

“No, not unless I have no other choice. I don’t want her finding out about this and sticking her bent nose in my business, trying to take over everything. I guess I’ll just have to rely on threats and intimidation." She shrugged. "If it fails, feel free to destroy the place.”

His eyes burned amber with the thought of smashing furniture and faces. “What are we waiting for?”



* * * * *


“How much longer, do you think?"

Xander gave a mild shrug. “About another hour, I suppose. The real challenge will be finding the hospital. I’ve never really navigated downtown L.A.”

“I’ll just do a mystical MapQuest when we get there,” she grinned.

“In case I haven’t done so already, thank you for coming with me,” he smiled.

“I was happy to,” she replied, “although Willow wasn’t exactly thrilled with my decision.”

“I’m sure,” he said curtly.

“Will you tell me what happened between you, Willow, and Cordelia?,” she asked. “Willow refuses.”

He nodded and launched into the story.

By the time he was finished, Tara was almost sure Willow had used a spell against Xander and Cordelia when they were in high school. She’d wait until she could talk with Willow, of course, before saying anything. But if she was right, Willow had a lot to answer for, and she would make sure her lover did indeed answer, to both Xander and Cordelia.



* * * * *



“What do you have there?,” Riley asked.

Buffy smiled. “My high school yearbook.”

“Feeling like a trip down memory lane?"

She regarded him with wide eyes. “I don’t know what I’ll do if she dies.”

He frowned. “I thought you didn’t like Cordelia.”

“I don’t, or I didn’t, but I don’t want to see her dead. It will destroy Angel and Xander.”

He grimaced.

“God,” she sighed again, “could you just give me a break with the Angel-hatred for one night, please?”

“Sorry,” he mumbled, flushing.

“Thank you,” she said stiffly. “I know you don’t like him, Riley, and that’s fine; I don’t expect you to. But he and I went through a lot together, and I can’t just stop caring because you tell me I should, anymore than Xander can stop caring for Cordy. Angel is my friend, but that’s all he is, and I don’t want to think about what will happen to him if Cordelia doesn’t make it.”

“Are they close?"

She paused. “I think so, but not in any romantic way. I know they love each other, but it’s more in a best friend kind of way, like me and Xander.”

That drove it home for him. He knew that if what was happening to Cordelia had happened to Xander, Buffy would most likely go insane. He wondered if it was odd that he had almost no jealousy where Xander was concerned. She had often said she had never felt anything for Xander other than friendship, but Riley sometimes wondered if she protested too much, as if she was trying to convince herself.

While he understood that Buffy was ridiculously possessive of Xander, he also realized that it was Xander who would never cross the line which would take their relationship to the next level if the opportunity ever arose, partially out of respect for Riley and because of the boy’s obvious, though sometimes curious, adoration of Anya. Still, it was apparent that Xander had once carried a torch for the Slayer; even though it had since been extinguished, sometimes Riley discerned a connection between the two which was far stronger than the one Xander had with Willow. Now, he wondered how much Cordelia had to do with that.

He also suspected that behind Buffy’s description of Angel and the Seer’s relationship lied the simple truth that Cordelia most likely would never involve herself with a vampire, no matter her feelings. His respect for this unknown woman soared, and then, sparing a glance at Buffy, he felt shame.

“Are you worried about Xan?"

She nodded slowly. “They don’t mix well, Riley. Your encounter with Angel doesn’t even compare. Xander and Angel never use fists; they use words, and it’s scarier than any punch or kick. Every conceivable analogy of opposites you can think of apply to them.”

He briefly wondered if the adage of opposites attracting was relevant to that comparison, and then questioned why an affirmative answer would have bothered him.

“Whenever they’re together, they end up fighting. While it can be amusing to watch, it’s also painful."

“What do you mean painful?”

“You’ve seen when Xander goes off on me or Willow, right?”

He nodded. It wasn’t pretty. Xander held no punches.

“Well, ratchet it up by about a hundred, and that’s Xan and Angel; they’re combustible. They know just what to say to get under the other’s skin, and Xander is merciless. I’ve never seen Angel get upset the way he does around Xan. And even though Angel knows better than to hurt him physically, they’re pretty much the male version of me and Faith.”

Riley frowned at that unpleasant description. “What did they fight about?”

“Me.”

“I see.”

“Now it’s Cordy’s turn. And I think it’s going to be much, much worse.”



* * * * *



“There’s a space!,” Tara cried, pointing her finger.

“Thank God,” Xander muttered. “I know it’s L.A. and all, but this traffic is ridiculous!”

“It’s okay to be nervous,” she said softly, knowing his tension was not about parking.

He sighed. “For once, I don’t want to fight with him. This isn’t about him, or me, or our twisted...well, whatever the hell it is. But I know he doesn’t want me here, and he’s going to make it difficult.”

She snorted. “You just made your own point, Xan. It’s not about him, so why are you making it about him?”

“You’re right.”

“God, do you know how much time could be saved if you people would just accept that as a given?”

He smirked. “Too bad Cordy’s in a coma. She’d love you.”



* * * * *


As soon as the boy crossed the threshold, Angel smelled him and recoiled. It had been devastating to discover that Cordelia had chosen Xander over him, but, in a way, it made sense. That didn’t make it hurt any less, though. Angel had naively believed that, after over a year, her affection for the boy might have waned, especially since they had parted under less than amicable terms. He had thought his time with Cordelia had meant something to her.

No, that wasn’t fair.

He knew Cordelia loved him; however, like he and Buffy, Cordelia and Xander just somehow...fit. They could no more divorce their feelings entirely than he could unravel himself from Buffy. Distance didn’t matter; their bond had been formed early on, even if it was in throes of passionate enmity. Sometimes Angel forgot that Xander had literally grown up with Willow, and Cordelia had been with them for all of it. Perhaps not at their side, but in their vicinity. Sometimes it really was all about location.

He knew Xander had truly loved Cordelia, that he was one of the few who had. Buffy and Willow had thought the relationship was about hormones, and Giles had been relieved that Xander’s heart would no longer be stomped upon unmercifully by the Slayer. Angel suspected Oz had known the depth of Xander and Cordelia’s relationship, but the werewolf had never said anything. Of course, Oz had never said much at all. Sometimes, Angel really missed him.

Then he caught a scent which was similar to that of Willow, but knew that was patently ridiculous. Xander would no more bring Willow to Cordelia’s bedside than Angel would bring Darla to Buffy’s. Still, there was something familiar in the air.

Finally, he spied the boy, checking in at the reception desk and waiting for Cordelia’s physician to be paged. He noticed the young, shapely woman at his side, and discerned it was she from whom that trace of Willow emanated. Tara, he realized, recalling Cordelia’s ranting after a phone call to Sunnydale had revealed the latest romantic entanglements. She had been furious that Willow had broken up she and Xander, only to find love, in the end, with another woman. Tara Maclay, Willow’s lover and also a witch. And extremely powerful.

He could see that power rolling off of her in waves, but her timid posture and huge, limpid blue eyes indicated that she was either unconscious or in denial of that power. He supposed that was good; Willow was powerful, but tainted. The spell she had used to restore his soul had been dark. As it had been her first real foray into true magic, it had shadowed everything she had done since. He wondered if the others understood that, if Tara sensed that. Had Xander? Probably.

Angel took a long, appraising look at him, his first in two years. Physically, the boy had matured quite nicely, lumbering out of that graceless phase which had haunted his teenage years. His shoulders were broader, his muscles more defined. He had let his hair grow out a little, and the change was nice; it made his ears stick out less.

He was, shockingly, a man now. Xander moved with purpose, and there was a fluid, almost feline, liquidity to his gait. A confidence which, although faint, simply hadn’t been present before. He errantly wondered if it was due to being at Buffy’s side, or from the boy finally moving out from behind her shadow and into the foreground.

Suddenly, Xander turned his eyes upon him and Angel flinched, unsure as to why. The eyes were the same. Xander’s eyes had always been haunted, as if they were possessed by a knowledge of which their bearer fought to remain unaware. Briefly, the vampire wondered what new horrors Xander had witnessed. The events which unfolded on the Hellmouth always had seemed to take a much harder toll on the boy than his friends.

If honest with himself, Angel had always been uncomfortable in Xander’s presence. There were the spoken judgments, of course, but Xander also had a darker, quieter side to him. The young man often used babble to insulate himself, but his silences were deafening. All too often Angel had been left wondering what Xander had been really thinking in the key moments of the three years they had spent in each other’s company.

Xander was as much of an enigma as he ever was. He was...too much like Angel himself.

The boy continued to stare at him, and Angel couldn’t help but wonder what it was he saw. The connection was severed, however, when a team of doctors strolled up to Xander and began speaking in low tones, presumably about Cordelia’s condition.

Xander quickly paled and seemed to shrink inside himself as Angel watched him absorb the information. He figured that Xander hadn’t fully comprehended what the coma entailed, of the damage that had been done; or maybe he simply had received a confirmation of his worst fears. A touch on the shoulder from Tara seemed to steady him, and Xander began nodding and asking appropriate questions. It was surprising how someone so unassuming, someone so very not Willow or Buffy, could quell Xander’s anxiety.

Angel resented his presence; he couldn’t deny it. He didn’t think it right that after over a year of no communication with the Seer, Xander now held power over Cordelia’s life. However, there was another part of the vampire which recognized that Xander had the ability to make tough decisions, to see the bigger picture. And it was that part to which Angel now listened, because he knew Xander would do nothing to compromise Cordelia, and would stop at nothing to bring her back.

Gratitude was a new emotion for Angel to experience with regard to Xander. Perhaps it didn’t matter so much that it was Xander who would be making the decisions, as it was that Angel himself wouldn’t have to make them.



* * * * *



Anya stormed Willy’s bar, Spike swaggering in just behind her and aching for a spot of violence. As soon as the vampire entered, the atmosphere darkened, and several of the demon patrons sank deeper into the background. While Spike might have been a traitor by aligning himself, however unwillingly, with the Slayer, the fact remained that he was powerful and had no compunction about killing any demon who got in his way.

Anya was also recognized; by some, as the girlfriend of the Slayer’s pet male human, by others as Anyanka. Though once again mortal, she nevertheless had survived for over a millennium and had friends in places so high, their names were unspeakable. Her ruthlessness knew no bounds, whatever her physiology.

The two of them together was unsettling.

Spike, of course, had immediately captured the proprietor’s attention, and Willy anxiously began to polish his shot glasses, much as Rupert Giles polished his spectacles whenever he was overtaken by nerves. “Spike!,” he weakly smiled. “What can I get you?”

“Excuse me, barman,” Anya haughtily interrupted, “but I have a favor to request of you. The vampire is merely my protection. However, I have informed him that if you do not assist me, he may destroy your establishment and kill several of your...clients.”

Willy stared while Spike sneered. Anya was a dizzy chit, alright, but damned if she wasn’t forthright. He admired that. Saved a lot of time. And none of that inane chatter upon which the Scoobies insisted.

Handfuls of demons took the opportunity to escape the dive unscathed.

“Why should I do anything to help you?,” Willy asked, trying in vain to stoke his bravado.

She frowned and cocked her head quizzically. “You mean aside from the very real threat of me destroying your livelihood? Fine. You wish to barter. I can appreciate that." She nodded before narrowing her eyes. "If you do not assist me, I will ensure that the Slayer and her team step up patrols in this area, and I will further ask Angelus to return to Sunnydale and avenge me.”

Whatever customers had remained immediately fled.

“What do you want?,” Willy petulantly mumbled.

“I have use of your fireplace.”



* * * * *



“Did Xander really cheat on Cordelia with Willow?,” Riley asked his girlfriend.

Buffy nodded. “It was just a kiss, but there was a lot of history behind it. You know that Willow dated Oz before Tara, but she had been in love with Xander since they were five years old. If he ever recognized it, he chose to ignore it. But once he started dating Cordy and Willow started dating Oz, Xander and Willow kind of drifted apart. For years, they were all the other had." She bit her lip. "Well, there was another friend, Jesse, but he died.”

“How?”

Her eyes became haunted. “My first night in Sunnydale, Jesse was kidnapped by Darla, Angel’s sire. She turned him. He showed up at the Bronze the next night and attacked Cordelia, so Xander had to stake him.” Her voice broke

“Jesus,” he mumbled, running a hand through his hair. “Poor kid,” unsure as to whether he was referring to Xander or Jesse.

“It was pretty brutal,” she admitted. “Xander doesn’t speak of it; neither does Willow, not even to him. The three of them had grown up together and had been best friends since kindergarten. Jesse apparently always had a crush on Cordy, and once he was turned, he figured he’d finally gotten his chance. Cordy told me that Jesse also planned on turning Xander. Xander always played off that staking Jesse was an accident, but Cordelia knew. She told me that he had that look in his eyes. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that practically screams he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his girls.”

“But I thought Cordelia and Xander weren’t friends at first."

“They weren’t,” she curtly agreed, “but there was always this weird mutual admiration society they had with each other. When Xander gets...annoyed, his cleverness becomes wicked, and Cordelia was the only one, and I do mean the only one, who could match him. She’s absolutely vicious; Anya doesn’t even come close to her in that regard. Watching the two of them together was like watching The Taming of the Shrew, except you weren’t sure which of them was the Shrew. It was...an obscenely beautiful ballet. Cordelia and I were never friends, but I had, and still have, respect for her. She and Xander made a freaky kind of sense, it’s just that no one wanted to admit that at the time. Besides, you don’t have to be his friend to be one of Xander’s girls.”

Riley knew she was thinking of Faith and decided it was best to keep the conversation on track. “So what happened? With Willow and Xan, I mean?”

She sighed. “Once they started dating other people, I think that’s when Xander finally realized Willow was a girl and not just his friend. Spike had kidnapped them to force Willow into making him a love potion which would lure back Drusilla. He took Xander as insurance. He locked them in a factory and things...happened. Cordelia and Oz found them.”

“Ouch,” he winced. “So is that what Anya was talking about before? Something about a re-bar?”

She flinched. “Yeah. When she saw Willow kissing Xander, Cordelia stepped back and fell through some rotten flooring. She was impaled on a re-bar. She needed surgery, and after she got out of the hospital, she dumped Xander.” She paused. “I wasn’t a very good friend to him during that,” she confessed, “probably because I had unconsciously sided with Cordy. He needed me, and I was there for Willow, but not him. He’s never wavered, but I have. A lot.” She looked away.

“Which is why you didn’t fight as hard as I thought you would have to go with him.” At her nod, he again decided to shift focus. “Why did you say it that way? ‘Willow kissing Xander’?”

She looked at him, her eyes serious and searching. “This stays between you and me, right?”

“Of course.”

“I think she used magic on him.”



* * * * *



Giles restlessly began another search through every volume in his home, resigning himself to the fact that he would most likely have to go to the shop for a more thorough investigation.

He slugged down another shot of Scotch, mindlessly blessing the inventor of the liquor, and tried to think of anything but Cordelia. Anything but trying to consider what her death would mean to the others, especially Xander. Knowing, however, that parts of Willow and Buffy would die with the Seer, as well. Trying not to think about Angel’s pain; stubbornly refusing to feel sympathy for the creature who had murdered his lover, despite knowing the vampire would be destroyed were Cordelia to succumb. Knowing Wesley would join Angel in jumping into the abyss. Trying to avoid considering all of the innocent lives which would be lost were such actions to occur.

He leafed carelessly through the last text, knowing there wasn’t any new information, nothing he hadn’t already known, trying to suppress the flare of futility haunting his mind.

Nevertheless, he was determined to find a solution. He wasn’t burying another child.



* * * * *



Xander was led into Cordelia’s room, Tara’s hand at his elbow, positive that her touch was the only thing keeping him upright. In that moment, all he could think of was how glad he was he had asked her, knowing anyone else would have offered useless platitudes or too-late apologies for past actions. There was no history between Cordelia and Tara, and if Willow had offered any criticisms of the Seer, Xander trusted that Tara would reserve judgment for herself. Of course, Tara never judged anyone anyway; he loved her for that. He stood at the edge of Cordelia’s bed, looking down impassively at her prone form.

How could this be her?

Hauntingly beautiful, she was, yet obscenely ugly. It was wrong. It was wrong for her pallor to be so waxy. It was wrong not to see her toothpaste smile. It was wrong to see her looking so thin. It was wrong to see her unable to breathe her own.

Nothing should ever obstruct that mouth, especially not a ventilator.

Didn’t they understand? Didn’t they know who Cordelia Chase was? She should be sitting up in her bed in a silk robe and a small tiara barking commands and terrifying orderlies in all her Queen C glory. She should be on the phone yammering nonsense while restlessly flipping through the television channels. She should be filing her nails with the latest issue of Cosmo balanced in her lap.

She should be out saving the world like she had been doing for the past five years.

She shouldn’t just be lying there, waiting for someone to do something. Cordelia never waited for anyone.

She looked so tired.

He choked back the giggle threatening to erupt. Ridiculous that a girl asleep for the foreseeable future should look so exhausted, but she did. Shadows smudged underneath her eyes, brow furrowed, tucked tightly into her blanket. He wondered as to the things she had seen these past two years, how they haunted her. Even unconsciousness provided her no respite.

Her tan was fading. For some reason, that made him cry.



* * * * *



Tara watched Xander, unsure what to do.

So she did nothing. She just stood next to him but didn’t touch him, offering silent support, hoping it would be enough, yet knowing it never could be.



* * * * *



Angel watched Xander through the observation window.

If anyone had ever wondered if Cordelia Chase and Alexander Harris had truly loved each other, all they had to do was look at the silent tears slipping down the boy’s cheeks for their answer.



* * * * *



Willy showed Anya and Spike to the back room, pausing only momentarily to press a hidden panel on the wall, which automatically opened another door into a much smaller, much darker room.

Anya pressed the vampire inside and, struggling for a moment, found the corresponding button to shut the door behind them.

“What the bloody hell is this?,” he snapped. “You bring me here to stare at a sodding chimney? Who are you, then, ducks? Mary fucking Poppins?”

Anya ignored him, a task she was finding increasingly easy and quite satisfactory, and stalked over to the hearth. Her eyes settling on a small cauldron on the mantel, she grabbed a handful of what Spike thought was ash and threw it down onto the grate, mumbling something the vampire couldn’t quite make out, which was surprising, given his preternatural hearing.

A wall of green flame erupted, and Spike squawked in protest when Anya immediately bent and stuck her head into the fire.

“What the fuck?!,” he screamed.

Again, she ignored him.



* * * * *



Across the world, a woman of impeccable aristocratic bearing sat alone in her mansion, reading an ancient tome from her immense library. She looked up with indifference when her fireplace soared with light. Most likely yet another unwelcome message or foolish excuse. She was startled, however, when a very familiar yet almost forgotten face appeared.

“Hello, Narcissa,” Anya purred.
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