Welcome to Yet Another Hellmouth
It took a while, but Harry managed to drag all of his things out of the house and out to Willow’s car, which was really a black van with no windows except in the front, and those were dark. It was enough to make him a bit suspicious.
“Wondering about the creepy van that you’re about to get into with a stranger?” the strange woman asked lightly.
Harry couldn’t help but chuckle. “Uh, yeah. No offense, but-“
“No, I totally get it. Let’s just say that our group doesn’t like red tape and bureaucratic BS. We see something nasty, we take care of it quick, and we try not to be noticed. We’re like the MI6 of the world we live in.”
“Does that make you Agent 007, then?”
Willow laughed at that. “Oh, no. No no no. Believe it or not, I’m actually one of the support crew. Our group used to be a lot smaller, only a handful of us, until just before Sunnydale collapsed. After that, we got a bit bigger and more organized,” she said as she helped him get his stuff into the back of the van. “Ugh, I wish Buffy were here. Your stuff is heavy!”
Harry didn’t know who or what ‘Buffy’ was, but it sounded like a gigantic wrestler of some sort. Seemed like the sort of person who would go up against demons without magic. “I suppose it is. Can Hedwig fly alongside us?”
“Hedwig? Oh! Your owl, right! No, she should stay in the van with us. Keep her up front with you, Harry.”Well, that’s disappointing.
“Um, is there a reason why-“
“Yes, there is. But first, can I meet her? I’ve never met a wizarding owl before. I’ve heard they’re really amazing!”
Harry smiled fondly. “Yeah, she is.” He held up her cage. “Hedwig, meet Willow. Willow, this is Hedwig.”
Willow smiled as she held out a finger in between the bars of the cage. “Hey, girl. Don’t worry, I don’t bite. It’s good to meet you.”
Hedwig regarded Willow for a moment before giving a dignified sort of hoot and pecking her finger gently with her beak.
“I think she likes you,” Harry said.
“Well, that’s good. I’d hate to get off to a bad start.” She closed the back of the trunk. “All right, then. You two, into the passenger seat. I’ll drive.”
Puzzled, Harry got into the van and closed the door. “Just so we’re clear,” he asked, “we’re driving to the United States.”
“Kinda-sorta. Just wait.”
They drove downtown rather silently and uneventfully and pulled into an underground car park. The trip took about twenty minutes.
“Is this it?” Harry asked.
“Not yet,” Willow said. “I need you to be silent for just a bit, Harry. I gotta focus, okay?”
Harry nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
She smiled back. “Thanks.” Willow closed her eyes and steadied her breathing. If Harry didn’t know any better, he might have thought she was entering a trance of some kind. But then she began to chant.
“God of travels, merciful Hermes,
Guide us through most treacherous boundaries,
Deliver us from this island shore,
Shield us from the ocean’s roar,
Take us within this metal shell,
Take us to the Mouth of Hell.”
Harry didn’t even have time to process Willow’s words before he had to throw up his hands to shield his eyes from a flash of light that suddenly appeared out of all the windows of the van. Hedwig started to make a fuss in her cage, but the light subsided as quickly as it had come.
“And, here we are,” Willow announced proudly.
Removing his hands from his face, Harry looked around to find himself in an entirely different car park, one filled with similar black vans and a bunch of expensive-looking equipment adorning the walls.
“Where are we? Doesn’t look too much like the mouth of Hell.”
“Oh, there’s more than one. We were based in Cleveland, but for some reason the power of that Hellmouth waned while this one waxed. We’re in Washington DC now, which is here,” Willow said. “Now, then, let’s get you upstairs, and we’ll move your stuff up a bit later, okay?”
Harry was out of his element, so he figured it would be best to follow Willow’s advice. “Uh, yeah. Sure.”
“All righty, then. Just so you know, we tend not to use much magic around here unless it’s really necessary. I get that you all tend to use magic for pretty much everything, which is honestly kind of creepy, but since you grew up all non-magical and such, I don’t think you’ll have too hard a time,” the redhead said cheerfully as she pushed a button to call a lift.
While they waited, Harry pondered her words. “What did you mean by that?”
“Huh? Mean by what?”
“That using magic for everything was creepy. I mean, that’s how our world works.”
Willow sighed dramatically. Was this a sore issue with her? “You use your wand for pretty much all your magic, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Well, what happens if it gets taken away or broken and you can’t afford a new one? What do you do then?”
Harry just blinked. It was amazing, when he thought about it, that Ron had gotten through their second year when his wand had broken. That probably had to do with Dumbledore cancelling all of their exams, most likely. “Well, I would just live a Muggle life, or do something in the Wizarding world that didn’t need a wand. But for purebloods who don’t know how to live like Muggles, I guess they’d be totally lost.” Memories of Molly Weasley doing everything at once in the kitchen with magic came to mind, and he doubted she’d be able to manage all of that without magic.
Willow nodded. “And that’s not even taking into account the psychological factor. You grow used to something powerful like magic, it starts to affect you in ways you don’t realize until it’s too late.”
The lift arrived, and Harry and Willow got in. Willow pressed a button labeled G. “You see, Harry,” she said as the lift began to move, “magic is power. They say that power corrupts, and they’re not wrong. You can use power for good ends, sure, but when you grow dependent on that power, it eats at you. You lose your perspective, and before you know it, you forget what it’s like to live in a world where that power doesn’t exist.”
Harry was shocked by her description of magic. “You make it sound like a drug,” he said not entirely politely.
“Drugs have their uses, but all things in moderation, right? Our bodies are the product of thousands of years of evolution. We are the way we are because this is the form nature gave us with the best chance of survival. It’s the same with electricity for us. We lose it, and a lot of our stuff stops functioning. We
stop functioning. Could your aunt and uncle and cousin live in a world without electricity? And could you live in a world without magic?”
Harry had to concede her point there. He reflected on Arthur Weasley’s fascination with Muggles, obtaining all of their advances without magic, and it suddenly occurred to him why Mr. Weasley was so impressed. Magic made everything easy, but for wizards, easy was normal. To put a wizard into a world where the easy that was normal didn’t exist, everything must seem like a stroke of genius design and hard work. It really is, I guess. Nobody questions how anything works, so long as it works.
“I have two friends who are inventors,” he told Willow. “They use magic, but they experiment. They try, fail, and start over. They get into the way things work, and they’re geniuses. They joke around a lot, and they use their smarts for pranks, mostly, but they invent
things! I guess I never realized how cool that was until now.”
Willow beamed. “I know, right? I always envied great inventors and engineers. I can take advantage of tools that other people make, but to make things that everyone can and will use, that’s just – wow!”
The lift chimed, and the doors opened. Harry stepped out into what was not an office building, as he had assumed, but looked more like the sitting room of a large, if rather Spartan, mansion. There were a few people gathered there already, and they appeared to be expecting him. There were two women about Willow’s age, another younger woman who might still be a teenager, a well-muscled young man sporting an eye-patch, and a middle-aged man with spectacles who had an air of dignity about him.
“Everyone, this is Harry Potter,” Willow announced. “Harry, this is everyone.”
“Thanks for the help,” Harry said with a smile. At least Willow had a sense of humor he could get behind.
“Oh, come on, Willow!” the youngest girl said. “This is not
everyone! This is just us. And besides, even if it is just us, it isn’t everyone without Spike.”
“Shut up, Dawn,” a short blonde woman said petulantly. “So, you’re Harry, eh? Nice to meet ya! I’m Buffy, and this little loudmouth here is my sister, Dawn.”That’s Buffy?!
Harry had been expecting a very large man, not a petite young woman. Still, it wasn’t as if Wizards had what he would call normal names, either. “Uh, good to meet you, too.”
“Still a bit in shock?” the man with the eye-patch asked kindly.
“A bit, yeah. I just got taken away from my abusive aunt and uncle, but I’m not staying with people I know this time. So, give me a bit, okay?”
“Whoa, hold the phone!” the older brunette woman said. Now that Harry looked, she seemed to be dressed for maximum sex appeal, and Harry’s adolescent male hormones took notice. “You went face to face with an abusive aunt and uncle, Red? Shit! What did you do to them?”
“Faith!” Willow cried out indignantly. “I am past that, okay? Yes, I got a bit mad, but nobody got hurt. No hurting of any kind. Not while I was there. Scaring of the mean people, yes. But no hurting. Besides, they can tell if you use magic over there, and I didn’t want the wizard police snooping in.”
“Wait a minute,” Harry said. “The law only applies to underage wizards, and I think you’re older than seventeen.”
“I’m afraid that wouldn’t have mattered, Harry,” the older man said, and Harry was surprised to hear a British accent. “Your Ministry detects magic, but not necessarily who uses it. They would have known that magic was used at your residence, and given you are the only wizard who lives there, they would have assumed it was you.”
Harry grimaced. “Just like Dobby,” he muttered. That still rankled him, that they had censured him over that.
“Not sure what a Dobby is,” the one-eyed man said, “but it sounds like a story to me. I’m Xander by the way, and your countryman over there is Rupert Giles, but everyone just calls him Giles. Or Ripper, on a bad day.”
“Xander, please,” Giles said, removing his spectacles and rubbing them with his shirt. “So, Harry, this is the core of our group, though we’re a much larger organization. We have only limited knowledge of your world. Just enough to get a basic understanding of certain issues, and to understand that a very evil dark wizard has emerged intent on killing all non-magical humans, and that a corrupt and stupid government is denying that there is any trouble at all to pretend that everything is happy and normal.”
“Like I said earlier, Harry,” Willow said, “I picked up on Voldemort’s ritual, which involved some nasty blood magic. That kind of stuff is bad news, even when used with good intentions. And I don’t know how or why, but I was getting all sorts of nasty blood magic vibes from your aunt and uncle’s house, especially under the stairs.”
Harry was puzzled by the last. “I don’t know about that. I mean, yeah, Voldemort used my blood to revive himself along with his dad’s bone and his servant’s hand. But I can’t remember anything like that being used anywhere near Privet Drive.”
Dawn shuddered. “Flesh, blood, and bone. I’ve read about that, and that’s nasty stuff. Whoever this Moldy guy is, he’s bad news. Like Big Bad bad news.”
“So, what’s the big problem?” Buffy asked. “If he’s really murdered all these people in the past, and he’s going to again, then we just find him and kill him. Even if he is human, that sounds kinda soulless to me. Which of those two is going to be harder, Harry? The finding or the killing?”
“Uh, you want my advice?”
“Well, yeah!” the woman called Faith said. “You’re the guy’s number one enemy, and you know the turf better than we do. Be kinda stupid to turn down help from the best source, wouldn’t it?”
Harry smiled. “If only we had people as smart as you running our country,” he said sadly.
“Aw, that’s sweet, kid. Flattery can get you places, you know,” she said with a teasing wink.
“Faith! Down!” Buffy said loudly. “No corrupting of the impressionable young male wizard, okay? So, Harry. How do we find Moldy, and how do we kill him?”
Harry shook himself clear of the haze created by Faith’s sex appeal. “Well, he’s very good at hiding. No one’s been able to track him down for decades. And as for killing him, people say it can’t be done. Do you know why he’s so hell bent on killing me? Well, wrong question. I don’t even know that one. But do you know why he used my blood instead of anyone else’s for that ritual?”
“I do believe we have some idea, Harry,” Giles said, “but perhaps it would be best if you were to tell us your version of the story. It would probably be more accurate than anything we think we know.”
Harry liked these people. They knew the right questions to ask, and they weren’t treating him like a child. “Well, he was killing anyone who stood up to him, and my parents did that. He killed my dad, then my mum, and then he tried to kill me. But it didn’t work, and his curse rebounded on him. It should have killed him, but he just became spectral for the next thirteen years. ‘Less than the meanest ghost,’ he said he was.”
“Whoa!” Xander’s exclamation was a fairly accurate summation, in Harry’s opinion. “So, why didn’t the evil mojo work on you?”
Harry didn’t want to talk about this, but he supposed he had to. “Well, my mum died protecting me. Pleading with Voldemort to spare me. But even though he killed her, her sacrifice gave me a sort of protection. I don’t really understand it, save that it was really strong. Voldemort said it was ancient magic.” Harry remembered something else. “He said he’d forgotten it, or that he should have remembered it. Something about that spell was something he didn’t anticipate!”
“And therein lies a potential weakness!” Willow exclaimed happily. “You’re a sharp one, Harry. You’ll go far. So, your mom died to protect you, imbued you with her own essence as protection, and then… Oh.”
Buffy sat up straight. “'Oh?' I don’t like that kind of ‘oh,’ Will. What’s going on? Make with the ‘splaining, please?”
“Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Harry’s mom gave her life to protect him. That’s power of the most awesome kind there is, and not at all of the dark and evil. But someone took it an extra step and tainted it. They took Harry to his Aunt and Uncle, who I think are related to his mom. A blood bond would be a shield of some sort, but it would be very vague and unpredictable, with a lot of potential to backfire and cause all sorts of nastiness. Harry, how did you come to live with those stupid people?”
Harry groaned and put his hand to his head. “Dumbledore. At least, I think it was him.”
Giles cleared his throat. “Dumbledore is the headmaster of your school, Harry, am I right? And he’s a powerful wizard who even Voldemort feared?”
“Yeah, that’s right. He’s like a chess grand master, and I guess I’m one of his pieces. In our first year, he brought a powerful artifact into the school that he knew Voldemort was after, and while it was never direct, I think he sort of wanted my friends and me to go in and face all the traps and take on Voldemort.”
“What?!” Buffy exclaimed. “How old were you? Were you even ten?”
“Eleven, actually, but all the same, I had barely any training, and our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher taught us nothing, not to mention he was hiding Voldemort under his turban.”
“And how did Professor Bumblebee not notice this, exactly?” Dawn asked.
“I don’t know,” Harry said honestly. “Second year wasn’t much better. Students were being attacked by an unseen force. Dumbledore knew what was going on, but he didn’t know how. There was no investigation that I could tell, and he never told us what was attacking the students. I ended up having to face the basilisk alone.”
“Dear Lord!” Giles said, starting to his feet. “You took on a basilisk, a full grown one, and lived to tell the tale?”
Harry felt a bit embarrassed now. “Yeah, I guess I did. It sounds a lot cooler when you say it like that than it really was. It was really a lot of running and madness.”
Buffy laughed. “We totally get running and madness, Harry. And you started all of this at a younger age than we did. I don’t envy you at all.”
Something about the way Buffy spoke told Harry that she did know exactly what he was going through. “Third year wasn’t much better. There was a deranged criminal on the loose, or so we thought, and we thought he was after me. They set guards around the school to protect the students, since he was guilty of murdering thirteen people at once.”
“Makes sense, I guess,” Faith said quietly. “Where’d they get the guards from?”
Harry shuddered. “Azkaban. And the guards were evil. I almost lost my soul to them.” At the puzzled looks, he added, “Dementors.”
“Whoa! Hold on there, Harry!” Willow said. “I’ve read about Dementors, and they are like seriously evil. Like as evil as evil gets.” She turned to the others. “They make you relive your worst nightmares and they suck out your soul if they can. It’s how they feed. But I don’t get why there are any. Everything I read said that they were extinct centuries ago.”
Harry snorted. “Well, some obviously survived, and now they work for the Ministry, guarding the prison, Azkaban. Voldemort seems to think they’ll join him, and I don’t doubt it. And they’re in charge of guarding all of his followers that were rounded up after the first war.”
A collection of yelling and howling erupted after this statement. Everyone seemed outraged, and Harry was glad to see that not everyone was as stupid as the Ministry seemed to be.
“Enough!” Giles cried at last, and everyone fell silent. “It seems we have our work cut out for us. More stories can wait. Let’s get you settled in, Harry, and you can start to get adjusted to the time difference. It’s rather early in the morning here. I’m going to go through the surviving Council archives and see if there’s any record of interaction between them and the Ministry. There’s enough overlap to make such a thing likely.
“I’ll help,” Willow said immediately.
“No, Willow,” Giles said gently, “I can do this on my own. You are our most skilled witch, and we need you to familiarize yourself with the workings of this other world. Talk to your uncle and introduce him to Harry. From what you’ve told me, they should get along nicely.”
Willow nodded. “All right. I’ll call him in a few hours. Don’t wanna wake him up. He gets grouchy early in the AM. Buffy, Faith, can you head down and pick up Harry’s stuff? I’d do it, but it’s like super heavy.”
“Is this all we are to you, Willow?” Buffy pouted. “After all we’ve been through, are we really just pack mules to you?”
“No, not just any pack mules. You’re super special friend-shaped pack mules who I care for very much!” the witch said brightly.
“Ain’t no big, Red,” Faith said. “Come on, B. May as well work the muscles to start the day, right?”
“Sure thing, Faith. Dawn, you help Giles. Xander, help Willow get Harry settled in?”
“On it, Buffster.”
Harry watched as everyone went about their tasks and chatted so fondly. “You’re family, aren’t you? More than blood, I mean?” he asked Willow.
“Yeah, that we are. Oh! You want to send some letters to your friends and your godfather? Let them know you’re okay?”
“Oh! Right! I’ll get on that right now,” Harry said. “Just as soon as I get some parchment and ink out of my case.”
“Hey, Harry,” Xander said, “No offense intended towards the noble deeds of parchment, but would paper and pen be okay? We also have a printer and a computer, if you wish to avail yourself of the simple things we native-folk have to offer.”
Harry laughed out loud at that. “Thanks, but parchment is more sturdy, to be honest. There’s a reason we use it.”
“Well,” Willow said, “now that we’ve got that straightened out, let’s find you a room.”
Arabella Doreen Figg was quite nervous. She was on Harry Duty, watching the house as the strange woman got herself invited in, only to emerge with Harry and take off in a shady-looking vehicle. She had followed the van downtown, and into the car park, but when she’d finally gotten out of her car and found the right glasses, the van was gone. Harry
was gone! She had to get an owl to Dumbledore straight away. Who knew the trouble young Harry was in?
Wow! Less than 24 hours into this story, and nine reviews already! Thank you all so much! You guys and girls are awesome! I saw one concern pop up a few times, regarding the paperwork and legal custody of Harry being taken away and such. I totally get where you're coming from, believe me, and I just want to reassure you all that this is not
an oversight on my part. Willow and the Council simply don't care to deal with legal niceties when they'd be more of a burden than an aid. Not to mention the whole drawing of attention, etc. But please, if you see something in the future that doesn't make sense, don't hesitate to point it out. I am an imperfect author, and am bound to make mistakes. And again, thank you so much for the feedback.
With that said, here's the next chapter. Thanks again to Sherza for beta-reading. Reviews are always appreciated, and they help make the story better. It's always good to know what the people like and don't like. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this second chapter!