Authors Note: I want to wish everyone on TTH a happy Christmas and an even better New Year, I also want to thank, on mine and Hawklan’s behalf, everyone who has read and reviewed our work. We hope to be back next year to continue our stories, and I hope you will be back to continue to read and review as always. Take care and have a great holiday.
Harry looked behind him as there was a flash of light and he smiled as he noted Xander, Prue, Tara and Alucard had returned and they all seemed to be okay. Janna and Lilith quickly jumped up and ran over to greet them. Both of them were kissing Alexander for a few seconds before they all walked back over to the group who were still listening to Dumbledore get berated by Lilly and James.
"Good to see you back," Sir Integra said with a slight nod of her head. "I take it your mission was a success?" she inquired.
"It was master," Alucard confirmed while nodding his head. "The city is safe and will be for a very long time," he added. "We also met two species of aliens one who is an ally and one should we encounter again will be an enemy as they seem to be an enemy of all people," he explained.
"Cool," Harry said when the Nosferatu mentioned meeting actual aliens. "I can barely believe all of this is real, but considering what's happened in my life so far I find almost anything is believable," he added with a smile which was shared by some of the others.
"Anything is possible Harry," Lily said gently to her son. "The world is more amazing than most people know and if you have an open mind you will find you can see things others don't," she continued.
"Mrs. Potter, it is a pleasure to meet you," Tara said as she saw the connection between the red haired woman and Harry as well as the fact the man next to her looked like an older Harry. "Mr. Potter you too," she added.
"Just call us James and Lily," James said with a smile as he stood and walked over to them and began to shake their hands joined a second later by Lilly.
"Not to sound paranoid, but are we sure they are who they say they are?" Xander inquired. "No offense," he said looking at the two who just smiled and nodded in understanding of why he was asking.
"They are who they appear to be Alexander," Tara said with a smile. "It would appear the powers wanted to give something back to Harry for all he has had to endure," she explained.
"Then it's a very great pleasure to meet you both, you should be very proud of your son," Xander said.
"We are. We've watched him since we died hoping he would survive, hoping something would come along and aid him," Lily said. "And then you and Lilith arrived and even though you didn’t know him very well you decided to help him, you began to train him and encourage him before you were forced to leave," she continued with a smile. "Then when you learnt of his imprisonment you immediately came to help and get him out. You pushed him to become the leader he needed to be and helped him put his past as well as his anger behind him,” she added. “You and your allies played a large part in keeping our world safe and it will not be forgotten I assure you," she finished and Harry nodded in agreement with his mother’s words.
"Harry's a good person and a good friend, any other choice didn't enter my head," Xander replied. "The mistakes that were made at the end of the First war will not be made again. Harry and his friends can find the peace they fought so hard for," he added.
"You know better than that Alexander that there will always be another darkness. And Harry and his allies are now known to the First and the Source as allies of you so they will be targets in the future," James reminded him with a small frown.
"But they will never fight alone, if they need us all he has to do is call," Xander promised to which the others all agreed. "Once the alliance is up and running hopefully we can minimize the damage they can do as well stem the flow of casualties they can cause," he stated.
"We can but hope," Lily said.
From there they began to talk about both the past and the future. Harry had listened to what his mother had said and he knew she was not kidding. There would be other dark lords down the line as well as demons sent by the First or the Source, so they would have to be ready and he was determined to help his friends as they had helped them.
Cassandra watched Alexander and his friends talk throughout the day knowing that soon they would begin their last leg of their quest and the one on which all her hopes rested. She also knew that soon the biggest truth she had held back from not only Alexander, but from her husband Vlad and her son Adrian would have to be told.
She worried how the news would be received, especially by Vlad and Adrian, Lilith she doubted would react much at all as they had never met and it had no real bearing on her or her relationship with Alexander as she had no blood ties to him. But Adrian did, he and Alexander were distant cousins and because Alexander was her descendant he had a small link to Vlad as well. Telling this truth scared her as it had when she had discovered she was pregnant before her marriage to Vlad after been taken forcibly by one of her husband's rivals. She had kept this secret since then, always afraid of what Vlad may do in his anger and now there was no other choice but to tell him the painful truth.
She closed her eyes and prayed things would turn out better than she had always feared they would. Alexander, she knew, would be shocked to learn of his connection to her even as he would learn why she had taken such an interest in him and worried for his safety since his journey had started. Once that secret was out Alexander would know everything there was to know about this life and what direction to take it in once Radrik was dead, if he succeeded in killing him.
"Are you okay Cassandra?" her lord's voice broke through her troubled thoughts and brought her back to the present.
"Yes my lord, I was just thinking about what is about to happen and how to tell them the truth of Alexander's ancestry," she answered, meeting the eyes of her lord and noting the concerned look in them
"You are still worried about Vlad's reaction to the truth? That you were taken without your consent by his greatest rival of the time and that you gave birth to a son from it?" her lord inquired with a calming smile.
"Yes my lord, my husband has come a long way in controlling his temper, but this is something that could send him back to the madness of his past," Cassandra admitted.
"True, but somehow I doubt it," her lord responded as he placed a calming hand on her shoulder. "You are forgetting he has come to care for Alexander as well as the fact Alexander will be Lilith's husband in the future," he added, his smile widening. "Then there is the fact that Sir Integra will not allow him to loose himself in his anger as well as the fact this was not your fault, you were forced into an act you did not want as an act of revenge against Vlad and out of it came the salvation of the Romany tribes," he reminded her.
"I know my lord and I have never regretted my decision to have the child or to place him in a foster family, they have all been honorable and lived well," Cassandra said with a smile of her own. "But still I wonder what would have happened had I told Vlad the truth," she could not help but add.
"It does no good to think such things Cassandra as you know there is a dimension where that very thing came to be and that is how things should be, keep your mind on the here and now," her lord advised.
"You are right my lord and I should have more faith in my husband to control himself," she said as she waved her hand over the viewing pool to show Vlad as he listened to the discussion between Alexander, Harry and the others.
"Yes you should," her lord said removing his hand, glad to see his words seemed to have helped calm her fears as Tanith and Jonas returned and joined them at the viewing pool.
The First entered the Source's domain to find the First talking to one of the newly arrived fallen powers, both he and the Source had laughed long and hard when nearly half the powers that were banished to hell for trying to kill the boy and his friends and at least it brought their numbers up slightly after the deaths of Shacks and the demons they had loaned to Voldemort for his war.
Thanks to Malek the former leader of the powers and his followers they now knew where the boy and his group were headed and what their mission was. So they had started to make plans to ambush the boy when he arrived in the Romany tribes. Even now twenty of the remaining assassins were been arrayed to attack as soon as they arrived in the Romany lands, most likely close to the Kalderash tribe which they knew again thanks to Malek, his lover was a member of.
He was surprised to hear Malek ask to be a member of the attack force, but then considering what he blamed the boy and his ancestor for it was no surprise that he wanted to kill the boy and devastate Cassandra, one of his former lord's advisors. Malek soon nodded as the last of their plans were put down and he left to oversee the coming attack.
"Do you think they will be able to succeed?" he asked while turning to the Source.
"Perhaps," the Source replied. "The boy and his group have become powerful and skilled and I sense should they survive they will change the way this war is fought," he added darkly. "They must be killed," he snarled.
"You realize that allowing Malek to attack the boy will bring his former lord or one of the others powers into the fight?" the First pointed out.
"Then I will deal with them, this war is changing and we must change with it," the Source shot back.
The First turned and left, not convinced that the Source was actually thinking things through and allowing his anger to get the better of him. A direct confrontation between them and the powers had not happened for a hundred years and the last time they had fought he had been banished from the earthly realm and the Source's old host had been killed.
It had been a very hard fight but they had failed to kill any of their enemy and only wounded three of the powers in return. The Source had obviously forgotten this and was beginning to allow his arrogance to get the better of him. He would watch and see how this development went because he doubted it would go as the Source believed.
Harry tried not to cry as he hugged his parents for the last time. Their time with him was up and he held onto his mother as hard as he could, wishing they could stay but knowing they couldn't. But he knew they would always be watching over him and he would see them again when it was his time to die, but he had no plans to do that for a very long time. He had a lot to live for now and he was determined to make it a very long fulfilled life.
"We are so very proud of you Harry, remember that," Lily said with a smile as she kissed him on the forehead as she released the hug.
"I will mom," Harry replied with a smile as Fleur and Susan quickly pulled him into them as they watched the others say goodbye.
"It was very nice meeting you Lily and James Potter and don't worry, we'll always be here should Harry need us," Xander told them with a smile.
"Thank you Alexander that makes us feel a whole lot better," James responded. "It was great seeing you all but sadly it's time," he added as he and his wife began to fade.
The others watched as the Potter's finally vanished from the room, leaving the others to wonder where they had gone exactly. What was the afterlife like? They asked themselves before shaking their heads knowing it was pointless to think about such things.
"That was amazing," Hermione said with a wide smile. "How do you feel Harry?" she asked, turning to face the boy who she thought of as her brother.
"Free Hermione, I feel free," Harry admitted with a smile of his own as he truly did feel free for the first time in his life. Free of the burdens he had carried all his life. "A whole new chapter of my life is about to start and I can't wait," he added, kissing both Fleur and Susan before moving over to Hermione and hug the girl who he had adopted as his sister.
Xander smiled at this and was very pleased to see that the earlier anger and frustration had truly lifted from his friend. He turned and looked out of the nearby window where he could see the sun start to set and he wondered yet again how this would end.
They all split up and began to head to their own places. Xander himself headed straight for his room followed by Tara and Janna who quickly joined him in the enlarged bed. Lilith had decided to talk with her father and brother about what would happen when they traveled to the tribes and declined to join them for now.
Prue grabbed her sisters and led them into another of the classrooms so they could talk in private and quickly began to tell them about what had happened during their mission to save Atlantis, especially what Tara had told her about what she had seen in the future and her own feelings for Alexander.
"So what are you going to do Prue?" Piper asked her elder sister with a raised eyebrow, unsure how to help her make her choice or if she could should help at all. Maybe this was best left up to Prue to decide on her own. She could tell by the look on Phoebe’s face she was having the same problem, this was outside of any of their experiences.
"I still don't know, but a big part of me wants to let go and give it a try. If Tara is right Alexander and me are meant to be," Prue responded as she leaned back in her chair. "I really do like him and I can tell he likes me, especially from what Tara said," she continued.
"I say you go for it," Phoebe told her sister with a smile having finally made up her mind as to what to say. She was pleased her sister had finally found someone she might be able to have a future with. "Tara's farsight is even more accurate than my visions, from what she told me when we discussed our abilities during the war with Voldemort," she informed them. "And according to her so far she has never seen something which has not come to be," she continued.
“To be honest I think Phoebe is right. All your life Prue you’ve tried to be the responsible sister and someone we could look up to,” Piper said with a smile. “But it has always come at the expense of your happiness. When Andy was killed I thought you would never find that kind of love again, but I can see I was wrong and if you do love Alexander then I think for once you should take a chance and just go for it,” she advised.
Prue took that all in and nodded her head as it at least sounded like Tara was sure she could indeed join Alexander and have a very happy relationship with him, even despite the fact he loved three other women. She decided for once to take a gamble. If Tara was correct everything she wanted in a relationship was close at hand if she chose to be with Alexander.
"Thanks for the advice," she said with a smile before getting up and leaving the room for her own promising herself to talk with Alexander tomorrow.
"This should be interesting," Piper said before heading to join her husband in their own room. “But I think it is just what Prue needs,” she added before she left through the door.
"I think so as well," Phoebe said with a wide smile, hoping things would work out for Prue and Alexander before going to find Cole.
Xander sat against the tree with Tara curled into his arms as he watched Cassandra walk up and join them with a small smile on her face, yet he could see she was worried about something.
"Hello Alexander, Tara," she said as she sat down in front of them.
"What's wrong Cassandra?" he asked, noting the worried look in her eyes. Something Tara also picked up.
"We are picking up readings that indicate you will be attacked when you journey to the tribes," Cassandra informed them. "We can't get very much, but we suspect it will be a large attack with some very powerful demons," she added with a sigh.
"Damn," Xander said in reply as he had hoped they could get to the tribes and deal with Radrik as quickly as possible without any more interference, but as usually nothing was going to plan. "Is there anything else?" he asked.
"There has been a tremor in the warning and I suspect that means the appearance of a fallen," Cassandra responded and this time both could hear the worry in her tone as she spoke, as well as the way she said the word fallen. "The last time one of them came to the earth plane there was the same tremor and our only warning," she explained to them
"What is a fallen, Cassandra?" Tara inquired.
"A fallen is what we call one of the higher powers who have been cast down," Cassandra answered. "If one of them is a part of the attack force none of you will be able to kill it," she warned them.
"Then what are we supposed to do?" Xander asked not liking this one bit.
"I do not think you truly understand what exactly this means Alexander, the last time a fallen came to the earth plane was during the last battle between the higher and lower powers themselves," Cassandra shot back, her worry was spiking for an instant before she regained control of herself. "Which means there is a very good chance either the Source or the First might show up to finish you themselves," she continued with a very worried look now.
"Then we're dead, only Alucard would be able to face the Source and live," Tara said in a horrified voice.
"No, Cole could do it as well if he allowed his demon side to come out fully," Cassandra assured them. "And my lord is already preparing our own forces to intervene should the fallen appear. This fight I believe will determine how this war changes," she informed them. "I want you to warn the others to be on their highest alert," she told them. "There is one other thing Alexander when you reach the Kalderash tribe I will need to talk to you, Vlad, Adrian and Lilith about a very important matter, my time of hiding is almost up," she said before standing and walking way.
"This changes things," Tara said looking up at Xander who was contemplating what Cassandra had to say which involved not just him, but Vlad and his family. "We're going to need help to survive this," she added, but her voice quickly brought his mind back to the problem at hand.
"I know which is why I’m going to ask Prue and the gang to join us in this," Xander replied with a sigh. "But I don’t believe we will need Buffy, Crow or the others if what Cassandra said is true and her lord is planning a counter attack," he said with a small encouraging smile. "We just have to stay alive until they arrive," he said, very worried how this would turn out and praying they would all live through it.
"I have warned them my lord," Cassandra said as she reappeared next to her lord. "I can’t believe a fallen would be sent, considering what happened last time," she added with a shake of her head.
"Either the Source or the First is getting desperate to remove Alexander and his friends from the fight, or they have become so enraged by their failures to kill them so far that they are willing to risk a fight with us," her lord responded with a frown. "I believe it is the Source, as the First is much smarter than to believe it can win such a fight considering the last time we fought we stripped his corporeal form from him," he continued as his frown deepened. "It will be very dangerous and we will have to act quickly to ensure none of Alexander's team is killed," he went on.
"My lord, it is possible, considering recent events, that we know the fallen that will attack," Tanith spoke up.
"Explain Tanith," their lord commanded as he turned to look at him.
"My lord, me and Jonas are both in agreement that Malek may be the fallen who will attack, considering his feelings towards Cassandra and Alexander it makes sense for it to be him,” Tanith explained. “He will also want his revenge on all those he blames for his downfall," Tanith responded. "Also as he is new in hell the Source and the First will consider him expendable in the greater scheme of things," he added.
"You make valid points," their lord said with a tight voice, his anger at Malek’s betrayal coming back. "Malek would indeed wish revenge on Alexander and if he managed to kill him he would get revenge on Cassandra as well," he added as Cassandra nodded in agreement, her eyes cold at the thought. "I will lead the counter attack, no arguments," he declared shocking the others. "If Malek wants another fight I will give him one and finish him once and for all," he growled before going to assemble his force.
The others looked between themselves, still shocked to hear their lord would lead the counter attack, considering the fact he had not set foot on the Earth plane for a hundred years. It would seem things truly were changing in this war and none of them could see where it was heading.
As soon as breakfast was over Xander quickly led his group to an empty classroom including the sisters, Leo and Cole. Everyone noted the serious looks on his and Tara's face and they all wondered what had happened.
Once everyone had sat down Sir Integra inquired what was wrong.
"We had a vision last night and believe me it was not a good one," Xander replied in a tight voice. "Our trip to the tribes is not going to go easily," he stated.
"What do you mean Alex?" Janna asked, beginning to feel worried by the look in her lover's eyes.
"As soon as we arrive we will be attacked by a large force of demons, but that isn’t all. A fallen is going to strike as well and should that come to be and the higher powers respond to it, the Source may show up as well," Xander informed them, shocking everyone bar Alucard who had long suspected the Source would attempt a hit itself on Alexander in time.
"This is not good at all," Leo said running an agitated hand through his hair. "The last time a fallen came to Earth was a hundred years ago and led to a full engagement between the lower powers and the higher powers," he explained at the looks from Piper and the others. "The Source's host was killed and the First was stripped of his corporal form and was banished, but some of the higher powers were wounded as well," he added in as serious a tone as he could to make them understand the danger of the situation they now faced.
"How are we supposed to survive this?" Jessica inquired, not liking this at all and very worried for her son and the others.
"All we have to do is survive long enough for the higher powers to respond should the fallen appear, as that will be the greatest threat," Tara responded as confidently as she could.
"What of the Source?" Amy asked trying to keep her own fear at bay.
"Only Alucard and Cole can survive against it," Xander answered glancing at both. "And Cole would have to allow Balthazar to come out fully to do it," he added, causing Phoebe to frown while Cole himself just nodded in understanding.
"I think we could come up with a power of three spell to banish it Alexander," Prue spoke up, wanting to be a part of this and now willing to allow them to face such danger without her and her sisters. "We'll check the Book of Shadows," she added.
"Thanks Prue, I was going to ask you and the others to accompany us on our last leg of the journey anyway once I knew what we faced," Xander responded with a relieved smile that she had offered that. "Something tells me it's important you are there," he continued.
"You can count on us," Prue said without hesitation, not willing to allow Alexander to face this attack without her at his side. "We may just be able to deal a huge blow if we can vanquish the Source or just kill its host for a time," she said, noting the worried but determined look on her sisters faces. "And if we can do that, then that will give us a lot of time to train Paige," she explained her reasoning.
"You got a point Prue. Leo can you get us the book please?" Piper said while turning to her husband, who nodded and quickly orbed out returning a few moments later with the book.
"The elders have advised you to be very careful on how you do this Prue," Leo said as he handed the book to her. "The entire upper levels are on high alert and most are worried how this will turn out, but they support your call to aide Alexander and the others," he added.
"We'll do the best we can Leo, but we have a job to do and if we can get it done we'll be able to train Paige and begin forming our alliance by the time the lower powers are able to regroup," Prue responded to which most of the others nodded in agreement.
"All I’m saying Prue, is this time you have to be at the top of your game and do not hold back," Leo advised seriously. "That goes for everyone," he added looking around the room.
"We still have the armor we used for the war with Voldemort so we'll all suit up before we stop of at Atlantis to plan how we do this before we go to the tribes," Xander told them. "Alucard you'll have your sword so you can utilize its full potential, we keep an eye on each other and stay together," he added.
The others all nodded before they began to discuss how to repel this attack and stay alive until the higher powers arrived to help them.
When noon came they took a break and headed for the dining room, bar Prue who asked if she could talk to Xander on his own to which he nodded and sat back down.
"What's up Prue?" he inquired.
"I've been thinking quite a lot about my future since we met and once I began to realize I had begun to fall for you, at first I was a little put off as you were in a relationship with Tara, Janna and then Lilith as well, but I've come to realize none of them are bothered by the fact you love other women and your relationship with them all works," Prue began as calmly as she could. "I have very strong feelings for you Alex and I want to see if we can make a relationship work between us as well if you feel the same way?" she added with a small hopeful smile.
Xander was a little surprised at first, but quickly pushed it aside as he listened to Prue talk, he knew Tara had said something to Prue although she wouldn’t say what, but it had obviously made Prue come to a decision.
"I have strong feelings for you as well Prue and I would be very happy to see if we could make a relationship work between us," he finally spoke up, noting how Prue's smile widened as he replied before she stood up and pulled him to his feet, kissing him as hard as she could. “Then let us get everyone together and say our goodbyes to Harry and the gang and then we leave for Atlantis,” she added.
Cassandra smiled and shook her head as Alexander and Prue came together as Tara had foreseen. She knew that while right now they were basking in their new relationship they would not allow it to distract them from the very dangerous fight they would be engaged in the next day. She looked at Tanith and Jonas and noted they were smiling, but they were obviously nervous about what was coming and she could not help but to feel the same.
The Source smiled as he watched his assault force begin to assemble and he could hardly wait for the next day to come. He knew once Malek showed up the higher powers would counter by sending their own forces and then he would strike and kill whoever it was they sent, not caring about the outcome of the last fight he had with the higher powers.