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Harry Potter and the Mouth of Hell

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Summary: The Ministry has fallen, and Harry and his friends are on the run. In a desperate attempt to stop Voldemort and find the remaining Horcruxes, the bedeviled trio is led to track down the help of the Slayer

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > General > ActionDavidBMorrisFR1320112,33179834,7627 Apr 1120 Sep 12Yes

Chapter 13

Considering that he'd already seen her in a vision, Harry didn't think that it was possible for the appearance of Drusilla in the flesh to inspire terror in him. But just as when he'd seen Angel for the first time, he was more than a little unnerved to be staring at a vampire as dangerous as her - she made Bellatrix appear positively sane by comparison.

"So you're the little boy who's brought so much fear into the world," Drusilla was moving forward, but she wasn't looking at him. "Why is the Dark one afraid of such a little lost lamb?"

"You're one to talk," Ron countered. "Considering all the bloodshed you caused on your last trip here, I'm surprised you have the nerve."

"This town is full of screams," Drusilla wasn't acknowledging Ron either. "How could the Dark One resist this chaos?"

"He has other things that need to be done," The expression on Bellatrix's face was one that Harry couldn't identify. For some reason, that bothered him more than the fact that Drusilla was here at all.

"He'd do well to avoid this place," Drusilla replied. "Daddy tried to run it, but it ended up running him."

Ron clearly was unsettled, but realized he'd probably never get as clear a shot at her as this. "Incendio!"

"Aguamenti." The flames from Ron's wand were dowsed before they were anywhere near her.

Now Harry had a legitimate reason to be scared. He wasn't sure which unnerved him more: that one of the deadliest vampires in the world apparently was a witch, or that she'd managed to counter Ron's spell without any wand. She hadn't even looked at him before casting her spell

"Little boys shouldn't play with matches," Drusilla didn't seem to even acknowledge what she had done. "Houses burn down. Ladybugs go without beds."

At that moment Faith, who had shown admirable restraint in finishing off the vampires who were causing such a mess to begin with, came running over to join Harry and Ron. "You know, I don't think, we've ever been formally introduced," she said slowly. "I'm Faith. You slit the throat of the gal who came before me."

"You got the keys of the kingdom because of me," Drusilla seemed only slightly more interested in Faith than she did of Ron. "Perhaps we should have tea and cakes together."

"Well, put it that way, and I suppose I owe you one," Faith assumed a fighting stance. "So I'm going to give you one chance. Walk away from this and never come within spitting distance of Sunnydale---"


Faith doubled over so quickly it might have been amusing under other circumstances. Harry and Ron were way past considering anything Bellatrix did as funny.

"So that's what a Slayer looks like," Bellatrix seemed even more detached from what she had done than Drusilla was. "They bleed just like everybody else."

"Would you like to have a taste?"

A horrible idea had just dawned on Harry. It was both completely impossible and the only thing that made sense right now. "How are you and this vampire bitch related?" he demanded, barely able to restrain the disgust.

"We thought that this branch of the family had been wiped out," Bellatrix replied calmly. "Imagine how overjoyed I was to find that this part of it is still out there."

"Really?" Harry had to hand it to Faith; the spell which would have knocked a lesser person out cold in agony seemed to be wearing off quickly. "Considering how fast you were willing to ice your last distant cousin, I'd think that you'd want to avoid these kind of reunions."

That seemed to register in a way the last remark hadn't. "Insolent little Muggles should watch what they say," Bellatrix said in a much colder tone.

"You wanna dance baby?" I'm ready." Faith looked unsteady on her feet for the first time since Harry had seen her.

Bellatrix's next reaction was to utter another Crucio. This time, though, she aimed it at Ron. He wasn't as disciplined as Faith, and howled in pain. "I find that sometimes it goes better if you let them watch."

"Cute," All of the fun had gone out of Faith's voice for the first time. "I've lost count of the number of deadly creatures whose asses I've kicked tonight. I don't have any problem adding you two to the list."

Harry knew that baiting Bellatrix Lestrange was like dancing in front of a cobra. And he wasn't sure that he was ready to play games with one of the deadliest vampires in history who also seemed to be one of the most powerful witches into the bargain. What did have him concerned was the fact that Bellatrix had had the advantage, and hadn't yet cast the killing curse. There was some part of this they weren't seeing.

All of this passed through his mind in a second. But some part of him wanted this----- the part that wouldn't let him forget what had happened in the Department of Mysteries---- and was running on automatic. Because somehow his wand was in his hand.

"Little boy wants to play games with the grownups," It was eerie how much Drusilla's voice was like Bellatrix's. "Not ready for the game though."

"We will finish this, Harry," Bellatrix didn't even seem concerned. "But not tonight. I've got far more important things to attend to."

Faith tried to leap at the witch, but she Apparated seconds before the Slayer’s foot touched Bellatrix's head. He heard no corresponding pop for Drusilla, but he was not particularly surprised to look in her direction, and find her departed as mysteriously as she had arrived.

"FUCK!" Faith yelled before she hit the ground. She smashed her hand into a brick wall hard enough to leave a gaping hole in it. Even knowing who she was, Harry couldn't help feeling sorry.... for the wall.

Buffy finally ran over. "What the hell kept you?" Faith spat out. "Did you not see what we were dealing with?"

"You left me to take on three vampires. Even for me, that's a big haul," Buffy replied.

"When did Drusilla become a witch?" Ron demanded.

"What the what?!" Buffy asked. "How the hell did she even get here in the first place? According to Harry's vision, they were still in South America."

"Well, I'm guessing that Voldemort found some way to appeal to her," Harry told her. "Three guesses as to what that was."

"Drusilla's related to Bellatrix," Ron couldn't seem get past this. "I didn't think that her family tree could get any more twisted."

Harry was inclined to be insulted by this, but he knew how ashamed Sirius had been of his lineage. No wonder so many people had been willing to accept the worst of the Black heir after Voldemort had murdered the Potters.

"Are you sure that this isn't some kind of twisted insanity on both their parts?" Buffy asked. "Neither of those two seemed exactly stable."

"Bellatrix is insane, but she's far from an idiot," Harry replied. "She wouldn't make a mistake like that. Why are you so sure she's lying?"

"I know that all of Drusilla's family was wiped out before she was..." Buffy trailed off.

"Oh, that's right," Ron replied sourly. "What, you think we forgot our homework assignment? That's another one you can lay at the foot of your boyfriend." He looked around. "Which gives us another reason to talk to him. Where'd he go?"

Harry looked at Buffy. "Please tell me you have a place in mind for a rendezvous," he demanded.

He knew well enough that Buffy didn't like being ordered around, but apparently she was sensitive enough about this matter that she didn't argue. "Just outside the harbor a little before midnight," she told him. "He's never been much for celebrating."

Harry looked at his watch, and was astonished to find that it was only a little after nine. So much had happened to him in the last few hours that he thought that it was much later. "First things first,"

He turned back to Trick, who Ron had had the good sense to Stupefy before Bellatrix had walked on stage. "Faith tells me that this vampire will have answers," he said flatly. "How good are you at getting information from the undead?"

Buffy looked at Trick. "Somehow I think breaking this guy's thumbs won't get us what we need." She looked at Harry. "What's that potion you use to get the truth out of fellow wizards?"

"Veritaserum," Ron spoke up. "I imagine Hermione could whip up a batch. She was always better at Potions than either of us."

"That doesn't seem like nearly as much fun," Faith whispered. "Since him and me, we got a score to settle."

"You'll get a chance at him," Harry said, even though he thought that leaving the two of them in the same room was a huge mistake. "But we've got much bigger fish to fry. We've got to figure out how to destroy those Horcruxes tonight, if not faster."

"Willow thinks that she may have found a way destroy the locket if we can get it open," Ron turned to Buffy and Faith. "Which we've been avoiding ever since we got here."

"Hey, I remember what happened the last time," Buffy told them. "You really want to risk us doing our best Linda Blair impersonation again?"

"You see another way around it?"

Buffy and Faith hesitated a long time before both of them shook their heads. "We'll get it done, but not unless it's as safe as we can make it."

Harry thought there was something downright hypocritical about Buffy being willing to risk death by vampire, demon and every other creature that went bump in the night, yet blanching at the idea of being exposed to black magic. Then again, considering how difficult it had been to destroy the first two Horcruxes, she might have a point. Faith and Ron clearly saw this too from their expressions but both let it go.

"I'm betting that's not going to work on the Heffalump cup," Buffy continued.

"Hufflepuff," Harry said automatically "Honestly, I'm not sure that Angel will be in the greatest mood after whatever other spells Voldemort used on it." He hesitated. "Guess I'll find out when I see him."

For the first time Buffy looked a little out of sorts. "Who said you were invited?"

"I'm not the vampire here," Harry countered. "And not to change the subject, but this is yet another in a long line of things he's omitted to tell us. "

"He told us that Drusilla had precognitive abilities," Buffy responded. The tension in the air was growing. "For all we know, that's the only magic that she had."

"He knew her for over a hundred and fifty years; you honestly trying to tell me that the possibility that she was a witch just slipped his mind?!"

"I didn't think it would be possible for you two to get stuck in a measuring contest," Faith finally interrupted, clearly enjoying what she was seeing "And while I am curious to see how big Buffy's is, I'd remind you that the fucking cops could come back at any moment, and they already don't have a high opinion of Slayers."

Buffy was clearly not willing to give an inch, but she also agreed with Faith. "Fine, but you're carrying the vampire."

"Talk about dead weight," Faith riposted, as she heaved Trick back on her back. "Would you two do the honors?"

There had to have been a good reason why they hadn't just Apparated here in the first place, but for the life of him, Harry couldn't figure out what it was. Getting caught by whatever people ran the American equivalent of the Ministry was at the bottom of the list of the things that concerned him.

Harry's last thought before they all exited the alley was that this had been one of the longest days of his life, and it wasn't even close to being over yet.

If anything, Hermione was less happy than Ron to learn that Bellatrix had finally entered, stage right, and it had a lot less to do with whom she was related to.

"If Voldemort's sending one of his most trusted followers to a Hellmouth, he has to know that we know about the Horcruxes," she told them. "That's probably why he brought Drusilla and Spike here in the first place. He wants to make sure that Buffy and Faith are kept in check."

"He don't know us very well, do he?" Xander replied in a babyish voice. "Thinking that's going to be enough to keep one Slayer, let alone two out of the picture."

"It's how he seems to think," Harry replied. "But he wouldn't be expending all this energy if he didn't have something more sinister cooked up."

"Taking over the world's just a day job for this guy?" Buffy asked with what appeared to be genuine curiosity.

"Well, like it or not, we have more important things to focus on," Giles replied, looking at the unconscious heap that was Trick. "If you really believe that this vampire knows more about this greater evil, then it is in our interest to, um, question him."

Faith looked at Trick, then at Giles. "How long until you meet with Angel?" she asked Buffy. "Less than three hours?"

"About that, why?"

"Save your Veritaserum, " Faith had a grin on her face that Harry was beginning to find more and more becoming each time he saw it. "What I hear, once or twice, B's had to make vamps talk who weren't that cooperative. " She turned to Buffy. "Now, I don't know about you, but I can't think of a more productive way to kill a couple of hours."

Buffy's face was a study. She paused a long time before she looked at Faith. "You're really holding a grudge, aren't you?" she said slowly.

"He laid a major whupping on you, you telling me you don't?" Faith countered. "How long would it take to whip up that potion?" she asked Hermione.

"An hour, maybe a little longer," Hermione told them.

"Give us thirty minutes and one of those crucifixes, and we'll see if we can, um, loosen his tongue."

Looks of disapproval were crossing Hermione’s and Willow's face. Giles said nothing, but began to fidget with his glasses. Ron and Xander didn't seem to have a problem with it. Harry, for his part, wasn't going to say a single word in favor of the vampire who had tried to kill him

Hermione must have noticed that the mood was decidedly hostile., as she didn't advocate for the rights of the poor little vampire. "We need to destroy the locket," she said slowly. "To do that, we're going to need one of you to help. Can we agree to save the pokers and tongs until after we've gotten that much done?"

"Have you or Willow figured out how to do it without us getting infected?" Buffy asked.

"We're pretty sure, but there aren't many guarantees with magic," Willow told them.

"I think we've been messing around with this thing long enough," Ron replied. "I'd at least like this year to end with us getting rid of this blasted thing."

Buffy looked at Faith. "You want try pulling it apart this time or shall I?" she asked.

Faith shrugged. "I don't have a problem putting my ass on the line. But fair is fair. I think you deserve to take a whack at it."

To her credit, Buffy without hesitating walked over to Hermione, who produced the locket. "I have to warn you, even if I do this spell perfectly, it's probably going to hurt a little," she told her.

"Slayers heal quick," Buffy countered.

"I meant in Slayer terms," Hermione replied. "For a Muggle or even some powerful wizards, it would probably be enough to kill them. We'll do it as fast as we can and with as many charms as possible, but there is a risk."

"Are you certain this will work?" Xander asked. "'Cause if this gets out of hand...."

"It'll work," Hermione said firmly. Harry could tell she wasn't as certain as she was putting forth, though. "But I think it might be best if we do this in another room." She looked Buffy right in the eye. "Willow, I'll need you to help with the spell. Everybody else needs to get out of here."

"You aren't defusing a damn nuclear bomb," Xander told them.

"No, but the same principle applies," Hermione told them. "There's going to be a lot of dark magical energy in here. Even with the strongest kind of shielding spells, there's no telling what kind of poison this thing could give off. It probably would be best if as few people as possible were exposed."

Ron looked at his best friend as if she had told them she couldn't crib off his homework "You honestly think that after all the trouble we went through getting this damn thing, I'm just going to sit in the next room and listen as you get infected with some kind of hideous magic?" He walked right over to Hermione. "I know you don't like swearing, but as Faith would put it, 'fuck that.'"

If Harry had ever had any doubt that Ron was in love with Hermione, and that the feeling was mutual, this exchange, coupled with her effort to keep a stoic facade and failing, sealed the deal. He didn't want to break up the mood, but he realized better him than any of the others.

"I think we better stop with the theatrics and get on with it," he told them. "Time is not on our side."

Hermione was suddenly all business again. Very quickly she looked at her other best friend. "Are you going to make the same argument?" she demanded of Harry.

"No," Harry replied. "Someone has to stay outside and be ready to pull the three of you back if something goes---"

He was stopped when Buffy covered his mouth with her hand so quickly, she could have knocked his glasses to pieces. "Have you learned nothing about how life on a Hellmouth is?" she whispered.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Fine," he finally said. "But I want to be damn sure this thing is destroyed. You mind if I bear witness to that?"

Hermione looked at him. "I'd figured as much." She made a motion to the adjoining hall. "Wait over there. Everyone else who doesn't have either magical powers or super strength, get out of here now, please?"

Xander and Giles couldn't get out of the room fast enough. Faith looked at Harry, then Buffy. "I suppose you want to keep me in reserve in case Buffy's spontaneously combusts?" she finally asked Hermione.

"If something happens to Buffy, we're finding another way," Hermione replied. "Enough blood has been shed getting a hold of this locket already."

"Not exactly filling me with confidence, " Buffy countered.

Harry considered this for a moment. He wasn't wild about his friends putting their lives on the line for something that he put the most effort into getting, but he also knew better than to push Hermione, who had a variation of what he was now calling her 'resolve face'. Reluctantly, he walked to the hallway, but like Faith, stopped short of going any further.

"Just so we're clear," Hermione told Buffy. "I can cast shielding spells, but they're only going to protect us. Willow and I can't simultaneously protect ourselves without the magic hitting you. "

"So what exactly does protect me?" Buffy asked Willow, who'd been quiet this whole time.

"Basically?" Willow replied. "The three of us getting this done as quickly as possible."

Buffy looked like she'd expected as much. "The two of you ready?" was all she asked, before she finally picked up the locket.

"On the count of three, start pulling," Hermione told her.

"One." Long hesitation on Hermione's part.

"Two." Willow seemed to do the same.

The tension must have gotten to Buffy because she started pulling before Willow could get 'three' out.

Buffy was by far the more experienced Slayer., but Harry was beginning to wonder if that counted for anything, because it seemed to be taking longer for her to start seeing any kind of results. It seemed to take more than a minute before the locket began to open; another one before the small green glow appeared that Harry remembered seeing when Faith had done the same a few days earlier.

The instant that it was open Hermione and Willow began to chant --- new territory; almost every spell they'd learned at Hogwarts could be administered with a few words. Harry, whose knowledge of Ancient Languages began and ended with Latin, could not identify more than the odd word here and there. But one word was uttered every few seconds: Corrodo.

By now, Buffy had the locket almost completely open. The green flicker that had been present when Faith had tried it was turning a spectrum of colors--- orange, red, blue, silver. However, Harry could also see that Buffy was perspiring: far more than she had been when she had been whaling on the vampires earlier.

Then, after more than a minute of this, smoke began to come from inside the locket. Before anybody could do more than acknowledge this, they could see that Buffy's hands were begin to redden.

"Guys?" Now the Slayer's voice was begin to quiver. "How much longer do I have to hold this?"

Willow and Hermione never stopped chanting. Ron, who was trying to maintain a stoic facade, was starting to look nervous, because now the Horcrux was beginning to start smoking.

"HP, please tell me that you've seen spells do shit like this," Faith was whispering, but she was beginning to sound concerned as well.

"It took a lot of energy just for Dumbledore to find the fake one," Harry whispered back. "This could be even more trouble than your friends signed up for."

"Boy, you suck at sweet talk,." Faith added, "I hope like hell this is normal."

By now, the entire locket was ablaze, and the heat finally became too much for Buffy to bear. Two things happened simultaneously;: she let go of the Horcrux, and it started to levitate under it's own power.

For an instant, Harry wondered if this was going to be their punishment for trying to handle so much dark magic. Then the Horcrux rose higher, smoke seeming to come from within and without the locket at once, until finally, a huge bang split the air.

Three things happened simultaneously,: Willow and Hermione collapsed, Buffy fell backwards, and the curtains caught fire.

"Aguamenti! Aguamenti!" Ron and Harry both cast spells simultaneously, before they both started running towards Hermione and Willow.

"Um, little help!" Harry looked at Buffy in horror: her arms seemed to have suffered severe burns.

"Handle this," Faith demanded, as she ran into the room. Harry found himself hesitating. "I'll help your girl; you help ours. Got it?!"

By now, the noise had attracted Xander and Giles, who, if they were amazed to see what the living room had degenerated into, were only baffled for a few seconds. Giles ran to Buffy; Xander ran to Willow, who like Hermione seemed to be coming out of her unconsciousness.

"What the hell happened?" Xander demanded, as he began to rouse Willow.

"Good news, the Horcrux was destroyed," Harry was surprised that even though this had happened, it didn't change his mood that much. "But it was a lot messier than we thought it would be."

By now, Willow was more or less conscious. Ron was far more concerned about Hermione, who looked a lot paler than she had been when this whole thing had started and was still not answering their calls.

"Would someone get the license of that... jewelry?" Buffy sounded a little disoriented herself. This worried Harry, as it was the first time since their initial meeting that she seemed anything less than in complete control of herself.

Hoping that the healing spells he'd learned didn't have any adverse effects on Slayers, he uttered a few. He was not immediately relieved though. The worst of the redness and scars faded, but the burns were still evident.

"I'm guessing.., that isn't supposed... to happen," Buffy sounded only slightly more coherent.

"This kind of dark magic can do bad things," Harry replied. "When Dumbledore destroyed one of the Horcruxes, he severely damaged his left hand. I don't think he ever fully recovered."

"Your bedside manner... sucks,." By now, however, the Slayer had regained her feet.

"I figured you'd be more interested in the truth," Harry replied, walking her over to one of her chairs. She didn't put up any resistance, which also worried him.

"I'm also worried about my friends. Is Will okay?"

Willow didn't look much better than Buffy, and she didn't have a slayer's constitution to rely on. "Just don't ask me to boogie down," she replied wearily.

Buffy then tried and failed to stand. "Did you get a dose of whatever's in me?" she asked Willow

"Those reflection spells should have protected us,' the red-headed witch told her. "Of course, I didn't exactly think that locket would, well, implode."

By now, Hermione had finally regained her sea legs as well, and was making her way over to them, much to Ron's objections. "There wasn't going to be any neat way to destroy that thing," she told them. "And right now, I think we have to agree to stop worrying about it."

"I know how stupid this sounds, but are you tripping?" Faith demanded. "You did see the same thing I did."

"For all we know, that Horcrux has been spewing its poison onto Harry, Ron and me just by having it in our possession," Hermione reminded them. "I worry about consequences more than anybody in Hogwarts, but the fact is, there wasn't anything we could do about it then, and there isn't now. In case you haven't noticed, we've got a lot more than that to worry about."

No one was foolish enough to contradict that. "You sure we shouldn't take Buffy to hospital?" Ron asked. "I'm not exactly wild about her trying to fight the powers of darkness with those battle scars…"

This time, Buffy shook her head. "In case you hadn't noticed, I heal quick. Besides, I can't stand the smell of the place. However," she told them, "I'm pretty sure I shouldn't be doing any heavy lifting while I'm on the mend, which pretty much rules out my meeting with Angel in a couple of hours."

Considering how adamant she had been about carrying forward with this little more than an hour ago, Buffy must have felt a lot weaker than she was letting on. "That mean you're going to actually tell me where it's taking place?" Harry asked.

"You promise he's going to come back in one piece?" she countered.

"He put himself at risk when he took the Horcrux," Harry reminded her. "That earns him some trust in my mind." He stopped short of saying it hadn't bought him that much, but he didn't want to have another row.

"Before we decide about dealing with our local vamp, how about we decide how to deal with the one we've got on ice?" Faith reminded them. "I'm guessing that B ain't up to going six rounds with Trick."

"Considering all the headaches we've gone through tonight, maybe trying the softer approach might be the easier way to go," Ron replied. "I say we cast an Imperius spell, make him spill his guts, and then dispose of him."

Again Harry expected Hermione to object. Again she didn't bother. Then something hit all of them at once, but she voiced it. "If you all came in here after the spell went strange...?"

She didn't have to finish the sentence before they all came running into the room where they had dumped the stupefied Trick.

Faith had trussed up the vampire good and proper, and they had only been out of the room for less than five minutes, but it had been long enough. The ropes stood empty, and the suited vampire was gone. About the only thing that had worked in their favor was that he hadn't been stupid enough to try and slaughter them.

"How much of our conversation do you think he heard?" Harry demanded.

"We have to assume he heard all of it," Giles replied. "Vampires have excellent hearing. Blasted thing was probably playing possum with us, and we bloody let him into our lair!"

Harry looked at Faith. "Is there any chance that this bastard was working for Voldemort?" he demanded.

"Fuck if I know," Faith seemed at a loss as well. "But if he knew who you were and what you were here for, don't you think the Riddler would be here by now?"

Harry was inclined to agree with her. Trick had looked him dead in the eye with not even the slightest hint of recognition. For that matter, if he had been with the Dark Lord, he would have come with Death Eaters, not the police and snipers. Still..."This place isn't safe anymore," he told them. "We've got to find a new hideout before he comes back."

"And how exactly is he going to do that?" Buffy reminded him. "None of us invited him in, never mind any reinforcements that he might have."

"Last I checked, Sunnydale had a lot of lesser demons that could just as easily kick the door in," Hermione reminded them. "And you're not exactly in condition to get into a fistfight."

Buffy didn't argue the point. Then a truly frightening idea hit her. "Spike," she whispered. "Sonofabitch can just stroll in the front door."

"You invited him into your house?!" Giles seemed more appalled at this then Buffy was.

"Just before the shit with Acathla hit the fan." Buffy replied. "I didn't have much of a choice as to who to rely on after the cops came calling."

That shut everybody else up --- this was still a sore point for most of them. "How long would it take you to work up a spell to un-invite him?" she asked Willow.

"Less than half an hour," Willow told him. "But wouldn't it be simpler just to stake him?"

"Oh, I'm going to," Buffy replied. "Soon as I can do more than walk in a straight line, I'm going to kick his ass into next week, but right now we've got a lot more to worry about."

Again nobody argued the point. "Um, are we still just going to sit around, and wait for the monsters to come here?" Xander asked.

Harry looked at Buffy. "Is there any other place than we can use as some kind of sanctuary?"

The answer came from an unlikely source. "Amy," Willow replied. "She and a couple of other practices witches have started a Wicca group. "

"You really think it's safe involving her?" Hermione asked.

"If Voldemort really has recruited Drusilla and Spike, he knows of all our old stomping grounds," Willow replied. "I don't think Spike even knew who Amy was. At the very least, it'll buy us enough time for us to build some kind of safehouse. That okay, Buffy?"

"All right, but for now, I'm staying here," Buffy held up her hand. "My mom's out with some friends for New Year's, and right now, I have no way to reach her. I'm not letting leaving her to walk in the front door, and become... some vampire's idea of a really bad joke."

Harry knew better than to argue this. If the circumstances had been reversed, he wasn't sure that he'd have been able to be that clear-headed. He turned to his friends. "One of you has to stay here, in case she needs time to regain her full strength."

"I'll do it," Ron replied. Before Hermione could protest, "You don't exactly look like you're up to casting a Patronus spell right about now," he told her bluntly. "You need to recover as much as Buffy does."

Hermione decided not to argue the point, which illustrated how much the last spell had taken out of her.

"I'm staying, too," Xander replied. "This might be one of those occasions when being a soldier might come in useful."

"All right then," Buffy wasn't arguing either. "Willow, get in touch with Amy, then you, Hermione, and Giles get over there ASAP. Ron will work on our unvitation to Spike; Xander, find a way to make sure this place is secure." She looked at Faith. "I'm guessing you and Harry are going to pick up the Horcrux."

"At this point, it might be safer for us to find a place to hide it," Harry told them. "At least until we can figure out how the hell to destroy it. Where were you going to rendezvous?"

"Pier 12. It's where ships leaving for international waters set out." Buffy actually looked a little wistful in mentioning this, but Harry wasn't about to ask why. "I realize you've got a lot of questions to ask him, but right now, we need all the friends we can get."

Harry didn't want to think about why they had to have the sire of two of the vampires who were going to be doing their damnedest to kill him ranked as an ally. But now was not a time to be getting into a fight about deals with the devil.

Especially when he was going to be dealing with that particular devil soon.

It might--- or again, it might not---- have relieved the residents of Revello Drive to know that Trick hadn't heard much of what had been said. They wouldn't have been comforted to know that he knew enough already to do some serious damage.

As soon as he was a safe distance from the Summers home, he took out a cell that neither of the Slayers had thought to deprive him of. He had been reluctant to make this particular call, but right now avoiding upsetting his boss was greater priority.

"Well, you're right, this is a matter of concern," the Mayor was telling him. "Frankly, I'd always felt a little worried about accepting this particular contribution. But those English, they always sound so polite about dark rituals."

"You want me to run down Angel?" Trick asked.

"I have a feeling that our new guests will provide him with sufficient entertainment. After all, one can't usher in the New Year without some fireworks." Trick could almost see the Mayor smiling at this. "No, it's Tom we're going to have worry about."

"Has he arrived yet?"

"No, right now he's probably too focused on Miss Summers’ other house guest to be a concern to us," The Mayor shook his head. "He always got distracted easily. It is of the utmost importance that we keep him distracted until after midnight."

"You found a way to handle it." Trick was concerned.

"Wasn't easy. When you've set a deadline for a hundred years, the lower downs don't like it if you reschedule at the last minute. But Tom is not unlike our new guest William. Bit hot-headed when he doesn't get his way, and he might try to act on that," the Mayor replied. "And I'd rather face him on a level playing field than risk ruining my schedule."

"Fair enough. What do you want to do about our friends with the magic wands?"

"I love this town. Have I mentioned that recently? Not just the good elements, but even its more, well let's call them, undesirables. I think it’s the good and bad that give any town its character." Trick knew better than to interrupt his boss when he got like his. "Now Tom, he's a powerful man, but he lacks the depth of vision necessary to truly appreciate that. I think when he makes his presence known --- as he will --- that he’ll get a full picture of what makes Sunnydale what it is."

"Which character did you have in mind?" Trick asked.

"That contributor I mentioned before? Mine wasn't the only project that he invested in. For that matter, London wasn't his only base of operations." The Mayor paused. "I think that it's time I made contact with his other major supporter. People who have a greater problem with black magic than I do."
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