Wrapping Up Strings
Severus Snape entered the Sunnydale High School library for what he hoped was the last time. His entire body thrummed with the need to leave the Hellmouth as quickly as possible. Having been there close to an entire day this time, he could feel the power of the convergence and the circles of protection that surrounded it sapping away at his power. If anything, it felt like the opposite of being at Hogwarts, which usually tended to give a small boost to the teachers’ powers.
In a perfect world, Snape would have gone ahead to England and Willow would have said her goodbyes to everyone that day. However, in an effort to save time, Snape had opted to speak to the Slayer and her Watcher while the redhead herself was having a talk with her adoptive parents. In reality, he knew it was because of the crippling blow the Watcher had dealt her the night before, that the man in question didn’t believe that she could be a professor at a school such as Hogwarts, but he liked to believe that he wasn’t so soft-hearted as that.
The school itself was empty or else he might have denied the young Rosenberg girl her request. He loved teaching, there was no denying that, and loved being able to spot the bright spark among dozens of dullards. Hermione Granger, for instance, was particular brilliant and capable but was constantly being dragged down by Weasley’s incompetence and Potter’s dark destiny. However, he lived for the summer and for the solitude it promised.
Though, to be true, his summers had gotten less relaxing of late, what with the public return of Lord Voldemort.
Upon entering the library, he noted that the Watcher was present but his Slayer was not. Willow had told him that that might be the case. She did have a mother to return to and reassure, after all. Rupert Giles, as a Watcher to the Slayer, was aware of some of the intricacies of the wizarding community. The Watcher’s Council was among the few organizations that were aware of their existence, though both often refused to admit the other’s presence in the world.
“Mister Giles, I have returned per Miss Rosenberg’s request.”
For a moment, confusion flashed across the man’s face before revealing the determination underneath. “I still maintain that she should not be teaching classes at Hogwarts. She hasn’t even finished high school yet.”
Snape arched an eyebrow at the man’s easy reference of the school at which he taught. He must have some personal experience with people who had gone there. “First of all, you must be well aware that Muggle education has no bearing on the formal teaching of witchcraft and wizardry. Secondly, both the headmaster and myself know that she is anything but inexperienced.” His lips curved into a small sardonic smile. “The point is, even if Dumbledore hadn’t chosen her personally, she would still be attending Hogwarts. She would still be part of that world.”
“Have you gone barmy?” Giles asked, his tone and accent revealing that he once was a part of or was friends with the lower middle class of Great Britain. The accent, Severus realized after a moment, was inner-city London. “Of course, she wouldn’t have been. Her power is not nearly the level necessary to attract the attention of a magic school and even if it was, she would be going to an American school, not Hogwarts.”
“She has power,” Severus confirmed in a flat tone. “And quite a bit of it.”
“That—that can’t be true,” the Watcher maintained. “She has shown no aptitude for magic since I’ve met her. I advised against her attempting to re-ensoul Angelus. In fact, we have no way of knowing if she was actually successful.” Despite his words, Severus could see something in the other man’s eyes, something that said he somehow know that the opposite was true.
Shaking his head very slightly, both at the web of lies he would literally see that the Watcher had weaved around himself as protection and at his blind ignorance, Severus began to make the situation very clear. “As a Muggle, I can’t expect you to fully comprehend the effects of both the Hellmouth itself and the protective circles the American Aurors have cast around this town.”
“Aurors?” Giles echoed. Severus almost chuckled at the delight the Watcher’s confusion caused to thrum through him.
“Oh, you know a small something about Hogwarts, so you think you know everything about our world?” This time, Severus did allow himself to laugh, an action meant to deride and manipulate. “You know nothing of our world.”
However, it seemed that the raven-haired wizard had pushed the Watcher a touch too far. “How dare you make such an accusation? I am well-acquainted with ‘your world’,” he combated mockingly. “My cousins, once removed by blood, are part of a family of pureblood witches and wizards.”
“And who, pray tell, are they? If I may be so bold as to ask,” Severus added in his trademark flat tone of voice.
“The Gileses are related almost directly to the House of Black. I was only ever allowed to be in contact with Narcissa.”
For a moment, a small moment, Severus wondered what Giles meant by ‘allowed to be in contact’. It was quickly overshadowed by the implications. “Of course,” the Potions professor chuckled sardonically. “Of course, you would be related to the Blacks.”
Willow paced through her clean living room nervously. Compared to her bedroom, the rest of the house was inordinately clean and the redhead was somewhat anal retentive about keeping it that way. Her parents never said anything overt about expecting the house to be kept perfectly clean when they were gone, brief though the trips may be, but it made Willow feel like she was sitting in more than an empty house.
“Willow, dear, please sit down. You’re making me nervous,” Sheila said gently, her light brown eyes tracking her daughter’s movements easily.
The younger Rosenberg obliged her mother, quickly diverting her path to the nearest recliner. After another moment, Ira walked into the living room, a stainless steel tray in his hands. The tray itself held three glasses of brown liquid and large cubes of ice. Willow gathered that her father had settled on iced tea as the drink of choice. “Two sugars?” she asked him hopefully.
“Just one this time, sweetie,” he told her with an apologetic smile. “You’re wound up enough as it is.”
Nodding at his wisdom, Willow accepted her glass and took a large drink, easily ingesting close to a third of its contents. “Thanks.” After a moment, she licked her lips and tilted her head to the side. “Mint?” she asked, knowing that her father had a habit of adding certain flavors to various drinks, hoping to broaden their palette.
He nodded as he handed a glass to Sheila and took a seat next to his wife, setting the tray in the exact center of the low mahogany table directly in front of the sofa. “Now, Willow, whatever is the matter?”
Scrunching her eyes closed, she blurted it all out. At least, the parts both she and Professor Snape had decided it wouldn’t hurt to tell her adoptive parents. “I’ve been invited to teach at a British boarding school.” After a moment, she slowly opened one eye and then the other, pleased when her parents didn’t automatically say anything negative. After all, both Sheila and Ira knew how sensitive she could be.
They waited until both of her eyes were focused on them again before raising their respective questions. Ira’s question was the most obvious. “You haven’t finished high school yet. Wouldn’t that be a problem?”
Willow shook her head, having thought of the answer to this question in advance. While Severus knew quite a bit about normal non-magic (she refused to say Muggle) things, he was a bit of a loss when it came to education. “They told me that I could finish out my schooling there, if I wanted. Over time, of course. There’s some stuff where the American education system and the British education system don’t exactly mesh. They told me to think of it as a scholarship.”
Sheila’s question was a bit more shrewd, as a matter of course. “If it’s a British school, how do they even know about you?”
“Well, there was the one job offer already, remember?” She tried to give her parents a significant look, silently urging them to remember that one detail about her life.
Ira frowned slightly. “That was… what, six months ago? Right before the school shooting?” he asked for clarification.
Sheila nodded, the movement sage but characteristic of memory. “I believe it was… um, Gateway Industries?” She looked to her daughter for confirmation.Close enough,
Willow thought bemusedly. “Gallant Enterprises,” she corrected softly. “Apparently, when I rejected their offer, they kept monitoring me. Trying to find the right fit, I guess. They called me before the school did.”
Ira leaned forward, his eyes bright with interest. “And what did they tell you?”
Willow swallowed thickly but tried to do it in such a way that her parents, observant as they were, didn’t notice. The night before, she had drilled the details into her head, going over it repeatedly until she halfway started to believe it herself. “They know I have a talent for computers but had been confused when I didn’t accept the one thing that would give me the most room to grow in that aspect. But when Miss—Miss Calendar…” The young redhead trailed off, appalled at herself for getting choked up at the most important part. Sure, her grief for her favorite teacher was still a tangible thing but it was hindering her ability to lie to her parents adequately.
Sheila hummed a soft tone and walked over to Willow, reaching out with a hand to rub soothing circles on the girl’s back. “She died, didn’t she?”
Looking up, Willow could see a shrewd knowledge in her mother’s eyes. Even though she hadn’t told them what had happened to Jenny, more for lack of a way to explain it, she had still guessed the basic truth quickly. Nodding jerkily, she continued. “They, um, they decided that teaching was my passion and recommended me to a school in Britain.”
“Really?” Ira mused. “What school?”
“Hogwarts.” Willow winced slightly, hearing how odd the name sounded. “It’s a private school for the gifted.” Gifted, indeed.
“I assume you will be teaching computer science?” Sheila bestowed a rare and proud smile on Willow. “It is practically your field, after all.”
Willow let out a relieved sigh. “So, you’re not mad?”
“Mad?” Ira scoffed. “Whatever would make you think we would be mad?” Glancing briefly to Sheila, he grinned at his daughter. “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity. Odd, to be sure, but still a wonderful opportunity.”
The young redhead smiled, feeling a small warmth fill her chest at their easy acceptance. Having immersed herself into Buffy’s fight, she sometimes forgot how easy it could be just to talk to her parents. “There is one other thing.” This was something she had been holding back as ammunition to distract her parents from the job but now it was something she felt they should know. However, her jaw and throat then locked up, feeling that this bombshell would indeed change everything left in her life that was stable.
“What is it, sweetie?” Still standing above her, Sheila knelt down in front of her daughter. “You can tell us.”
“While you were gone this time, something else happened. My, um… well, my biological parents found me.”
Ira stood suddenly, his anxiety forcing his body into rigid lines. Willow cringed, hating herself for turning a good conversation suddenly uncomfortable. “What? That’s impossible.”
Willow looked to her mother’s face, which was distinctly stricken, and then closed her eyes. “I remember. I was left at the orphanage. No names, no birth certificate.”
“Then… then how…?” Sheila trailed off, uncertain of the question she wanted to ask. Willow felt something between sympathy and pity fill her throat at the older woman’s hesitation.
“Private investigator found me in the hospital. They’ve been looking for me for almost sixteen years.”
Tilting his head at the sudden conundrum, Ira settled himself back on the sofa. “How come so long?”
“They’ve been mostly looking around Britain.” Willow chuckled. “I’m apparently British… and have twin brothers.”
At that, a strangely happy grin broke out on Sheila’s face. “You have siblings?”
Willow nodded. “Seven of them, mostly brothers. I was thinking… well…” At that, Willow trailed off, not entirely sure what she was trying to say.
“You want to visit them, right?” Willow’s head jerked up at her mother’s question. “Get to know them over the summer?”
“Yeah, I guess I do,” Willow admitted softly.
Then they did it. Ira and Sheila shared that look that all married couples that have been together for a long time have. “Okay,” Ira answered.
“Okay?” Willow looked from Ira to Sheila and then back again. “Okay.” With that said, the redhead’s face broke into a grin.A/N: Well, this is the end of Not the Only Ginger. Not to fret, though, it is not the end of the whole story. I have two sequels in the works: a short summer fic called Summer Wizardry School where Willow is learning the craft from Snape and Xander is learning from Hermione; and a much longer fic called First Impressions following the Golden Trio's sixth year at Hogwarts.