The End of a Fraud
Frabjous DayBy AngelfirenzeDisclaimer: Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass
belongs to Lewis Carroll. The movie adaptation belongs to Tim Burton, et al. Joss and Mutant Enemy partake, as well, and Jim Benton and J.K. Rowling finish everything out.
Death Cab for Cutie. "You Can Play These Songs with Chords.". Elsinor, 1997. Nine Inch Nails. "The Line Begins to Blur.". Interscope Records, 2005.
The title of the chapter comes from Armor for Sleep. "What to Do When You Are Dead.". Equal Vision Records, 2005.Summary:
The cat actually snorted derisively, "Oh, they're all far too blind - others of our kind might say they don't look properly. Rather lazy, I think, but it's their way."Notes:
Well, obviously this won't be a oner. Eh, I tried. *shrugs* Also, Ar hyd y nos
is a lullaby that most of us might recognize from AtS, S3, as Holtz sang it several times. I decided to repurpose the original Welsh for my own intentions.Pairings, etc.:
Alice Kingsleigh/The Knave of Hearts; Xander Harris/Cordelia Chase; Harry Potter/Luna Lovegood; Buffy Summers/Angel; Willow Rosenberg/Daniel Osbourne; Ginevra Weasley/Draco Malfoy; Hermione Granger/?; Ronald Weasley/?;Timeline:
post-Alice in Wonderland (2010)
, post-Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
, chapter thirty-six; post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season three;Part I: The End of a Fraud...Tell me now, tell me this - a forest's son, a river's daughter...
Xander closed the hood of Uncle Rory's smoking car and sighed, rubbing his face and then the back of his neck with both hands. How the hell was he supposed to get out of this mess?
Frowning sharply, Xander reached up to block the sunlight from his eyes as he attempted to make out the landscape around him.
"Shit," he muttered to himself, brushing down the front of his new favorite shirt. It was just his luck that his previous favorite outfit had gotten destroyed during a stakeout with Buffy. Damned vampires. What she saw in Dead - Xander brightened, remembering again that Deadboy had broken up with Buffy and left the 'Dale with his tail between his legs. Bastard hadn't even said goodbye.
Suddenly much more cheerful, Xander grinned and looked around again, cheering aloud when he saw a diner off to the side away from the road. Looking both ways because he wasn't immortal like certain vampires who shouldn't be considered, let alone named, Xander dashed across the street and headed as fast as he could toward said diner, ducking inside it and hoping he had enough for a decent meal.
Hours later, Xander tried not to fume as yet another stack of dishes came his way and was stacked next to the already evilly high piles on the counter next to where his hands were already submerged in hot, soapy, greasy water.
Trying to concentrate on the fact that his stomach was full and they weren't beating the crap out of him after he tried a dine and dash, Xander continued to wash and wash, finding himself humming a song he must have heard as a child, but since he hated remembering anything about that time in his life, merely stuck to the song.
Humming, Xander sang the one part of the song he ever remembered even if he ended up repeating it several times. "...I arddangos gwir brydferthwch...Teulu'r nefoedd mewn tawelwch...Ar hyd y nos..."
He didn't remember what the words meant, but he always sang it when he was upset in any way, even if it was only in his head. He washed and remembered being on the Hellmouth and wondering what he'd done to get stuck with Tony Harris as a dad. He remembered singing the night he'd sent Angel to Hell and before that, the night Buffy died. Every Christmas out in the backyard...
Why these times were all occurring to him now, he didn't know - it felt almost as though he was living...backward in time, like Merlin or someone magical like that. But he wasn't magical. He was just plain Xander Harris, doughnut boy, demon magnet - Soldier/Hyena boy, depending on who you asked.
He wasn't magical at all.
"I daresay you're really very, very wrong," a voice said quite silkily and Xander jumped, spilling dishwater all over himself as he whirled around, trying not to shout as he saw for the first time a pair of eyes and a mouth floating in the middle of thin air.
Xander blinked. This was not Sunnydale and stuff didn't just happen like this everywhere - or was it just everywhere he went? What the hell?
"I said," the mouth full of razor-sharp fangs spoke again, this time the face of a cat forming around it before turning upside down and smiling ferally at him. "You're really very wrong, you know. You're quite remarkable, indeed, and certainly very magical. I should think you'd remember that."
Xander struggled for words as he stared at the form of a cat taking full shape in the middle of the diner kitchen and glanced around to see if anyone else could see what he did. Everyone else was moving swiftly around him, filling orders and completely ignoring the large cat practically glowing in the middle of the room they all were in!
The cat actually snorted derisively, "Oh, they're all far too blind - others of our kind might say they don't look properly. Rather lazy, I think, but it's their way."
Xander swallowed and took hold of one of the knives at the bottom of the water before turning around and gripping it as he finally just decided to face down the cat. "Are you some kind of demon looking to mount my head on a wall or something? Or maybe your master wants it?"
At this, the cat looked downright offended. "As if I'd do something like that to the son of a dear friend such as your mother. Even your father isn't the monster he once was."
Xander scowled, gripping the knife harder as a cynical laugh left him. "My parents are your friends? All the more reason to gut you to string a guitar or something."
The Cheshire Cat merely rolled his eyes, wondering how the son of Underland's Champion and the now-Silver Knight could have forgotten so much.
"You do realize that cattlegut isn't actually made from cats, as the real name implies - and as if you could hurt me with that pitiful thing. Your father never trained you in swordsmanship, nor did your mother. You left far too early for that."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Xander hissed, trying not to make it obvious that he was talking to an imaginary cat in the middle of a diner...wherever the hell he was. Then again, why did he assume it was imaginary? He was from Sunnydale, after all.
"Not those drunken mice of men you grew up among, certainly," the cat growled now, the fur along his back rising as his anger was made apparent. "I meant your real mother, your real father, of course! Alice Kingsssleigh and the Knave of Heartsss!"
These foreign names were instead said with a definite, pleased purr.
Xander blinked, unwittingly letting the knife clatter to the floor. "My real parents? No, my folks are Tony and Jessica Harris - uh, 'mice of men', like you said, but - "
The cat got a look on his face then that Xander could only interpret as some animalistic, feline form of 'bitch, please' and turned around on the spot before curling up once more. "You poor deluded child."
Xander struggled with the offense that began to fill him before ducking down to snatch up the wet knife. It took him a couple of tries, though, and he finally had to reveal the back of his neck to the cat in question before finally taking hold of the knife and stabbing at the cat with it, who merely lost form again except for his mouth and frowned, "I should hardly like to continue this conversation when you're threatening me - especially with such clumsiness, your father would never approve."
Suddenly, with a small pop, the mouth disappeared completely and Xander was left once more alone in the diner's kitchen, the floor around him and his clothes wet with dishwater and no more answers than he started with.
"Shit," he said again, turning to angrily resume his dreaded task at hand....I'll react when faces find you...With jealous fits that gag and bind you 'cause nothing hurts like nothing at all...When imagination takes full control...
Luna stared angrily at her father, trying to resist glancing at Harry who, nonetheless, gave her hand a squeeze. "You honestly thought selling all my mates to Snatchers would make me happy? Daddy, how could you do, think such a thing?"
"Luna, my love, I - "
"No, no, there's nothing that could make this better!" Luna burst out, tears she'd been desperately trying to hold back finally falling as she turned away from her father and stomped out of her only-remembered home and into the pasture beyond, finally pausing on the very large rock next to the pond to get her hurt and anger out and to try to think afterward.
She regretted leaving Harry behind after he'd done so much for her in the months following her imprisonment with Mr. Ollivander and the Battle of Hogwarts. She wished Hagrid were here to show her a creature she hadn't yet discovered on her own. It would do a great deal to distract and cheer her.
It was some time before Harry came back out, but when he did, his face looked just as grave and downtrodden as it had when he'd come back from speaking with Mrs. Weasley about his and Ginny's breaking up and his not intending to get back together with her.
Luna had held him then and rubbed his back until finally he'd cried, himself. She knew he hadn't cried in so very long - she could see it in every inch of him, burning him like a constant Stinging Hex wrapped around his soul. Even when Stubby Boardman had died Harry hadn't shed any tears. Luna didn't think that should have done at all.
Harry's arms wrapped around her and Luna sank backward into his chest as he wrapped his hands around her waist and gently lay his head atop hers and sniffled along with her.
"I told him if he wanted to make anything up to you, he'd wait for you to work it out with him instead of trying to force everything. Those Howlers he sent only made things worse, I told him. I said he'd be lucky if you so much as Fire-Called him and that I wasn't just saying that because I love you, but because he should have loved you enough to realize you cared enough about me, about all of us, never to want us anywhere near any Snatchers.
"I told him that even the Malfoys hadn't caved in to Voldemort's demands and that if Lucius and Draco Malfoy had more bravery than he did, then he was a sorry excuse for a man, indeed."
Luna gripped Harry's jacket and turned to bury herself in his side as he kissed the top of her head again. "You don't want to stay here."
"Anywhere but here," Luna whispered, her voice carrying in the night air around them.
"Well, then, how about going home?" a voice asked and Luna's eyes opened and she looked up at Harry to find him gaping at something and looked in that direction to find a Cheshire Cat's head floating before them both.
"What are you?" Harry asked, but Luna sat up straight, giving him a mild slap on the hand.
"That's a Cheshire Cat, Harry, obviously." Luna scolded lightly as she sat up to regard it properly. "This is...was my home. What do you mean?"
The Cheshire Cat merely rolled his eyes, "Yourself and your brother, both - thick as the insides of a log. Of course this isn't your home. Underland is your home. Alice and the Knave have been searching for you for ever so long. At least you're not threatening me with - "
The Cheshire Cat sighed heavily, as Harry had pulled out his wand and was now brandishing it steadily at him. "Oh, honestly, this is what I get for finding the children of the Champion and Silver Knight of Underland after myriads of time? It's lucky I love your family so much, girl, or I'd leave now."
Luna frowned thoughtfully, but Harry went to say something and she was forced to cover his mouth with her hand. "Harry, let me ask him something at the very least! You're always one to hex first, ask questions later!"
"Luna, it could be a Death Eater's trap!" Harry said urgently into her ear, but Luna shook her head 'no'.
"I don't think so. He mentioned specific names - or titles, rather, and a very specific place. Most trying to lead one astray speak in riddles and lies. For a Cheshire Cat, he's being remarkably straightforward."
The Cat grinned widely, pleased that at least one of them understood readily.
Luna regarded the Cat with a carefully blank face. "Do you know me?"
The Cheshire Cat blinked, "You are Luna Kingsleigh, Sharpener of Wit, Daughter of Champion Alice Kingsleigh and the Silver Knight, the Knave of Hearts. The White Knight is your brother, Xander Kingsleigh - though he remembers this sorry 'Harris' business and this world's Mouth of Hell as his home. He's just as wrong as you were, of course."
"Don't you mean 'Alexander'?" Harry asked, giving up and simply asking questions.
The Cheshire Cat rolled his eyes and shook his head, "If I meant 'Alexander' I would have said it. That name does not make him, so it was not his to bear. His name is Xander and while he has been corrupted by mice of men who he believes his kin, you - Luna - were at least able to discover a loving home - desperately, disastrously so, but loving nonetheless. However, as you know, your remaining foster has forfeited his claim to you by carefully betraying you and those you hold dear friends. He no longer has any right to call you his own. Let him try."
At these words, the Cheshire Cat grinned absolutely wickedly and Harry felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up and resisted the urge to shudder.
"You're here to take me home," Luna said, with surprising certainty, but the Cheshire Cat shook his head 'no'.
"Not yet, young kitten. Your foolish brother, with his nasty temperament and the poison that steadily leaks into his soul, tainting even his ability to illogic, has a streak of darkness that could spell doom for Underland just as the Wrong Queen did so long ago. He's already sent the future Champion Liam Angel Geraldo to a place of utter wretchedness and vile desperation out of selfishness that he mistook for heroism. You must help me help him be whole again."
"The mice of men broke him," Luna said decisively and Harry turned her gently around to whisper, "Luna, are you sure this isn't a trap, too? We're still rounding up the Death Eaters and - "
"And none of those bitter insects having the nerve calling themselves wizards could ever conjure something ever so much as resembling wondrous me," the Cheshire Cat interrupted, turning over in midair before flicking his tail in Luna's direction, causing her to giggle just a little.
"Not at all in awe of yourself, are you?" Harry muttered, suddenly reminded of Gilderoy Lockhart. "Give us proof you mean what you say. We'll go with you, then." Then Harry thought for a moment, "Liam Angel Geraldo? What?"
But then Luna turned and smacked his hand hard, causing Harry to flinch and start backward, staring at her first in fear and then in dismay and hurt. "Luna!"
"Proof?" Luna objected, ignoring Harry's second question and glancing backward to make sure the Cheshire Cat hadn't disappeared at such an offensive demand. "Harry, what have you seen in all your time in - this world, the one where Muggles can't come - that you would ask for proof from a Cheshire Cat now?"
Harry scowled, but conceded her point, begrudgingly. "If you think I'm so hostile, be glad Hermione's not here - she'd've hexed that cat back into the - what? Underland, already, and been done with it."
"Which is precisely why Hermione would never get there without the help of someone who can see properly," Luna explained in an apologetic tone, honestly sorry she'd hit Harry the way she had. She knew what his awful relatives were like, after all.
"Hermione can see the Leaky Cauldron just fine!" Harry objected, but Luna shook her head and gently took hold of his wrist.
"There's more to the universe than what we can see, Harry, you know that," Luna reminded him, her large eyes staring into his and Harry was reminded of Professor Trelawny and her rare, but entirely true, predictions of events shortly to come.
"Hermione's always had trouble with what wasn't in a book. It took an evil hag like Umbridge to make her realize that first of all. She can see the Thestrals now, and she couldn't before, remember? You and I have seen them much longer. She believes in those germs and bacteria you told me about, doesn't she? You said they can't be seen without help."
Harry frowned sadly as he recalled the reason Luna had been able to see the Thestrals since her very first night at Hogwarts. "What would your mum say right now, Luna?"
Luna frowned slightly, herself, "Well, I don't know, I don't remember her - apparently, my brother and I have been gone from Underland for quite a long time - decades, he says.
"But I think you mean my adoptive mother, so I'll say that she would tell me what she always told me: follow my heart even if the decision didn't always make sense to anyone but me -- or even especially me. She said my heart was most important.
"Right now, my heart says I want you to come with me and find my brother. We can be his family like I'm yours along with Neville, Hermione, Ginny, and Ron."
Harry fought the urge to smile at her abrupt prounouncement. He took a deep breath, "I suppose it's about time I followed someone - everyone's always following me. It'd be nice not to have to make all the decisions for once, or even take part in the heart of the planning. I'm guessing you and - the Cheshire Cat will be doing most of it."
Luna beamed and Harry found himself smiling back at her without quite knowing why. "So you'll come?"
"Of course I'll come, Luna, I told you already, I'm with you."
Luna bit her lip and pulled Harry into a hug before turning to find, gratefully, that the Cheshire Cat hadn't disappeared during their rather long ignorance of him. "My brother, is he older than me?"
The Cheshire Cat nodded, "Yes, slightly, though such things really don't matter." The cat stuck out his front legs, then. "Take hold and don't let go."
"Why do I get the feeling I'm about to get a hook behind my navel?" Harry asked dreadfully and the Cheshire Cat sighed again.
"You wizards - think without your minds for a while, won't you? See without your eyes."
"I thought I'd already agreed to do that," Harry muttered, but nonetheless followed Luna's fearless example and took hold of what he assumed was the Cheshire cat's left front paw.
Without so much as a sound, they all disappeared....As I lie here and stare...The fabric starts to tear...It's far beyond repair...And I don't really care...