Harry was miserable. Totally, utterly, completely miserable. Nothing new, mind you, but still distinctly not un-miserable. Watching the man who killed one’s parents come back from not-quite death and then try to kill you tended to have a negative impact on a person. Particularly when someone ended up dead because of it.
Thoughts of Cedric immediately made Harry feel incredibly guilty. His mother had given her life to protect him, and that was a sacrifice that he could understand. But Cedric was just there
. He was guilty of nothing more than being a good sport and insisting that Harry take what, in his eyes, was rightfully his.
Really, Harry thought, Cedric had been an ideal Hufflepuff. He worked hard, he played fair, and he respected people for who they were. And to think, I once dreaded being sorted into Hufflepuff. Thought they were too soft.
But really, Hufflepuff house got too little credit, it seemed. No wonder they’d been miffed when Harry’s name had come out of that cup.
Speaking of cups, Harry realized that his aunt and uncle were due to rise soon, so it would be best to get started on breakfast and some morning tea. Dudley had been finding coffee to be an interesting experience, and to Harry’s misfortune, it made him more energetic for a certain time. Hopefully he would start to drink too much and crash later in the day. At least, that’s what he thought happened to people who drank too much of the stuff. One could only hope.
By ten o’clock, Dudley was too busy watching the television to notice Harry, Uncle Vernon was grumbling about incompetency in the government, and Aunt Petunia was trying to get a word in edgewise about how Mrs. Next-Door was using the garden hose too much, given the limit on hosepipes due to the summer heat. Never mind that the Dursleys were the worst offenders of breaking the ban.
Harry, on the other hand, between making sure his ‘family’ was well-fed and ignoring him, couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Voldemort had returned, which was sort of a big deal. Why wasn’t it all over the Daily Prophet? And why were there no random killings of Muggles?
A knock came from the front door.
“Bloody hell,” Vernon cursed. “Who comes calling at this hour on a Sunday?” he groused as he reluctantly got to his feet to answer the door. “You expecting company, Dudders?”
“I told you, not until later, and I’m going out
to tea with Piers,” Dudley whined.
Petunia preened. “My little Duddykins is becoming such the young gentleman.”
Harry had to resist snorting into his water – tea couldn’t be wasted on him – at the notion of Dudley doing anything other than smoking drugs and beating up kids with his little gang.
Uncle Vernon returned shortly with a young woman in tow, the sight of which made Harry’s breath catch in his throat. Her red hair and vivid green eyes and kind face put Harry in mind of old pictures of his mom. Aunt Petunia didn’t look like she’d ever seen the woman before, though, so she probably wasn’t a relative. Maybe a Weasley? Could be with the hair.
“Everyone,” Uncle Vernon announced with a strange glee that made Harry despair, “this is Miss Rosenberg from Child Welfare. Apparently, she’s wants to talk to us about some complaints about you, boy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Dursley, for inviting me in. I’ll take things from here,” the woman said. Strange, she sounds American,
Harry thought. Stranger things have happened, though. Much stranger.
“Please, have a seat,” Vernon said, pulling out a chair for her.
“Thank you. I hope this won’t take long,” she said coolly. Harry definitely did not like the way this was heading. Dudley’s gang had put fear of Harry into the hearts of children around the town, and his Aunt and Uncle weren’t exactly known for telling the truth.
“Please sit down, Harry,” she said. “Unless you want to stand, that is. Whatever makes you more comfortable. No reason to talk with you being all uncomfortable-like and such.”
Harry blinked for a moment at the woman’s strange choice of words, but he hesitantly pulled up a chair. The table usually wasn’t for him, but he doubted that Uncle Vernon would deny a government worker. “Thanks,” he said.
The redhead smiled curiously. “For what?”
“Uh, inviting me to sit down, I guess?” he said a bit stupidly.
“You don’t typically take meals with your family, then?” she asked pointedly.
“Uh, no. I tend to do the cooking, mostly,” he said, telling the truth as best he could without earning a beating from Uncle Vernon later.
“So, you do the cooking, but not much eating. I can’t help but notice you’re looking a bit thin. You getting enough to eat, Harry?”
“He gets plenty,” Aunt Petunia said in a simpering voice. “Far more than he deserves, really, what with his… his issues.”
“Which is apparently far less than your son deserves. That is you, right?” the well-dressed woman asked Dudley.
Harry had to hide a chuckle as Dudley found himself caught in the gaze of a woman who, Harry realized, his cousin had been staring at. Dudley just nodded once.
“Right. So, your son gets very well fed. He looks like he’s got a fair amount of fat and muscle on him. A healthy amount, I mean. I’m just not sure I see how Harry here can be so threatening if he’s kept starving,” Miss Rosenberg said coldly, her gaze shifting from Uncle Vernon to Aunt Petunia and back again.
Harry couldn’t help but smile as his aunt and uncle squirmed. So the ‘complaints’ about him had been about his welfare, not about him being the menace the Dursleys would have the neighbors all believe he was.
“You don’t understand,” Petunia said with a bit of panic. “It’s for his own good.”
“Really? Harry, please come with me.”
“Uh, yes ma’am,” he said politely, rising to follow her.
The redhead moved around the house, through the living room, stopping to peruse the photos on the mantle, none of which featured Harry at all. He followed her into the hallway, where she was about to head up the stairs, but she stopped at the foot of the staircase.
She walked very slowly through the hall, back towards the kitchen, and then she stopped. Her hand reached out towards the handle, and she opened the cupboard under the stairs and looked inside where all of his school supplies were now kept.
The woman seemed to be transfixed with the cupboard, and Harry wondered if maybe she wasn’t a witch. But did the American Ministry have jurisdiction here? Or was she working with his own Ministry? If she was, then Harry was even less sure of how to treat her. Fudge had been rather vehement about denying Voldemort’s return last year as he lay in the hospital wing. Was this Rosenberg woman one of his cronies?
The look of sympathy on her face said the exact opposite. “What happened here, Harry?” she asked sadly, her voice almost cracking.
Harry sighed. His aunt and uncle would kill him, but maybe this was for the best. “I used to live down here, in that cupboard. And you’re right, I don’t get fed enough. I do the chores, I keep out of sight. I’m supposed to be a non-entity. I go to boarding school, but my aunt and uncle say I go to a place for dangerous criminal youths. And Dudley is… Well, we used to play a lot, if you can call it that. He would try to hit me, I would run, and he would chase me,” he said quietly, trying to keep his voice down so that his only family didn’t hear.
Casting his eyes downward, Harry knew he would be in for it now. Child Services might get back to him eventually, but by then he’d be knocked senseless.
“Fools. The idiots should be protecting you, nurturing you, and you get this?” she snarled.
Harry looked up, surprised by the cold fury of her words. But he almost fell back when he saw that her eyes had turned completely black.
She turned now and strode into the kitchen with a purpose that she had been lacking earlier. “I get it now. I totally do. You people don’t like magic much, do you? I suppose you think it’s a mercy that you didn’t burn him at a stake. Been there, done that, didn’t like it much. I know a thing or two about crappy guardians, and I can tell that you’re not fit to care for someone as special as Harry.”
Was it just his eyes, or was Rosenberg’s hair darkening as well? He couldn’t hear or see the Dursleys, but he could just imagine their terror. It made him smile.
“You no longer have any custody over Harry Potter. He’s being remanded into the care of people who will care for him and prepare him. He may not have told you yet, but do you remember how your sister died, Petunia Evans-Dursley? Do you remember who killed her? Well, he’s back, and he’s gunning for Harry. And since I don’t see anyone here giving a damn about him, I guess I’ll have to do.”
She turned around to look at Harry, and her eyes were green once again. “That is, if you want to, Harry? Do you want to stay here, with your aunt and uncle and cousin, or do you want to come with me and learn how to defend yourself from all the nasty things out there that go bump in the night?”Hm, how do I choose? Do I stay here, where I know nothing and can do nothing? Or do I leave with a stranger who claims to want to train me to defend myself? Good question, actually.
“Who are you?” he asked aloud.
She smiled a bit strangely. “Sorry. I guess I was too busy convincing that bunch over there to believe me that I neglected the introductions a bit. I’m Willow Rosenberg, and as you might have guessed, I’m a witch. You might also have guessed that I’m American. You would guess correctly. I haven’t had any dealings with any Ministry of any sort, and I am almost completely self-taught. I work alongside others, mostly non-magical people, who are aligned against the dark forces that tend to lurk just out of sight until that moment where they sneak up behind you and you’re gone. We have a few witches with us, and a warlock or two.
“As for why I’m here, I picked up on some serious bad mojo happening on this side of the Atlantic last June. I did some digging, and I found out about you and Voldemort. Doesn’t take a genius to see that your people are doing a shit job of handing the situation, but we’ve gone up against worse before.”
Harry wasn’t sure he believed her. “Worse than Voldemort, really? I’m sorry, but if you don’t work with wizards much, then how do you…”
“You ever hear of Sunnydale, Harry?”
The name was familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. It had been in the news a few years ago, back when he didn’t quite follow the papers, but he’d heard some of the older students talking about it. “Heard the name, don’t know much about it. Something collapsed, I think?”
“That would be Sunnydale. The entire town devoured. It’s just a massive, town-sized crater now. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life since I was, well, since I was your age fighting vampires and other assorted demons, averting apocalypses, that sort of thing. I also know how powerful dark magic is, and how tempting it can be. More importantly, I know how to resist that temptation now.
“And,” she said softly, pausing as her face took on a sad look, “I know what it’s like to lose the person you love more than anyone else in the world.”
Harry didn’t have any veritaserum on him, but he didn’t think anyone could fake this kind of thing. And her arms were bare, and she had no mark on either of them.
Uncle Vernon broke the silence. “So, let me get this straight. “You want to take the boy away from here? Forever?”
Willow didn’t turn to face him, but she did sigh. “That about sums it up, yeah.”
“Well, go on then! Both of you, get out of my house and don’t come back!”
The redhead looked once more at Harry. “So, what do you say? You’ve been fighting skirmishes against dark forces for four years. We’ve been waging war for about ten years. Wanna come and see?” she said with a knowing smile.
Harry knew what his answer would be, except for one thing. “I have friends, and a godfather, and they-“
“-will be more than welcome to join us, should they so desire. And yes, you’ll go back to Hogwarts once the term starts. Assuming you want to, that is. So, you game, Harry?”
“Hell yes!” he shouted eagerly. “Er, sorry about that. Didn’t mean to swear.”
Willow laughed a musical sound. “Oh, you’re in for a shock if you think that’s
crude. Now get your stuff, and we’ll get you to Slayer Central.”
Welcome to my humble little story! I own nothing at all from these two wonderful worlds. I'm just playing in the sandbox that Joss Whedon and JKR have provided.
This story draws inspiration from Sherza's 'White Knights and Dark Lords' series, which I highly recommend. So, thank you, Sherza, for being the muse that started what I hope will turn out to be an awesome story in its own right. Also, thank you for beta-reading. You're awesome.
I don't own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter. Those works belong to Joss Whedon and JK Rowling, respectively.
Studies indicate that leaving reviews for works of fanfiction leads to a reduced risk of heart attack and overall contentment with one's life. Just saying.
Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy what's to come. ^_^