Confronting the Family
A/N: Some of this may seem a little out of character, maybe especially Snape. However, I will stand by this. I hope everyone likes! Read and review.
Fred would not say that either he or his twin were gullible. That’s why he wasn’t fooled by Willow and Xander’s escape to the “bathroom”. Nearly twenty minutes passed before he looked up at the family clock, noticing that Willow’s name had shifted. The shock of it caused him to stand suddenly.
Willow’s name was not longer pointing at “Home” but “Traveling”.
Even as he debated in his head how best to follow her, even as he realized he hadn’t the slightest inkling of an idea where she’d gone or how she’d gotten there, the arrow with her name and picture moved efficiently back to “Home”. Frowning to himself, he moved away from the table instead of sitting back down.
George gave him a questioning look but Fred knew him well enough to see the worry behind the expression. Fred gave him a reassuring grin and turned to his mother. “Boy, Willow and Xander have been gone a while. I’ll go check on them, shall I?” Without waiting for an answer, he darted out of the kitchen into the family room, his eyes automatically searching out the bathroom hidden in the pantry.
He was so focused on the bathroom that he almost missed Willow and Xander walking down the stairs, Percy in tow.
He was ready to open his mouth, snarky vitriol in place, when he remembered very clearly Willow’s angry sidelong glance what had to have been some sixteen hours earlier and Xander’s assurance that she ‘hated bullies’. Never thought of myself as a bully,
Fred thought suddenly to himself, but maybe Percy did.
So, instead he called out. “Georgie, got a minute?”
As if she had some kind of internal radar, even though he knew his voice had attracted her attention, Willow’s green eyes focused instantly on his person. “Fred, I found Percy.” Though the watchfulness in her eyes told another story, her voice sounded distinctly... nervous.
“I see that,” he answered diplomatically. Then it struck him that she’d called him by his name. “Hey, how’d you know it was me?”
She arched an eyebrow. “Process of elimination,” she murmured. Fred rolled his eyes at himself – of course, he’d called for George. Her eyes were shuttered, showing no emotion, when she said, “Percy has something he wants to say to everyone.”
“Don’t think that’ll be a problem,” Xander remarked idly, his eyes widened at a sight just behind Fred.
Curious as to what the brunette boy – wizard,
he reminded himself idly – was goggling at, Fred twisted his upper body to look behind him. All of the occupants of the kitchen table had flooded into the family room, his twin at the forefront of the group. All he could think was that he should have known. Ron’s stupidity aside, all of the Weasleys had become somewhat protective of Willow and had probably been fretting internally at her prolonged absence from dinner.
Their reactions to Percy were remarkable as well, most of them quite negative. Bill and Charlie’s reactions seemed somewhat… neutral, arched eyebrows and bemused expressions the only sign of the difference. The rest of them ranged from merely confused to furious – Ginny was angry, her face twisted into a scowl; George’s face echoed his own confusion; Ron’s skin was purple with silent fury; his mother was caught somewhere between sad relief and clear disapproval; and the patriarch himself… well, his father’s face was very still, controlled to the point that Fred knew his anger was boiling under the surface.
And then, the room exploded into sound. So many of them were talking – screeching, really – that he couldn’t identify many of the voices, turning to see his sister’s reaction instead.
“What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing here?”
“You abandoned us, you know, for your career
. That’s as bad as joining You-Know-Who.”
“Why even bother to show your face?”
“We don’t want you here.”
Each remark, stinging and harsh, caused Percy to straighten and stiffen, his face frozen in a sour expression and his spine unyielding. Fred remembered that look, even though he hadn’t seen it in ages. It was the same expression that floated over his face every time they played a prank on him or made fun of his… accomplishments. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he remembered with scary clarity the crux of the argument Percy had had with their father, how the Minister had to be using Percy to hire him so young.
Percy, whose career endgame was to be Minister of Magic himself, who must have been ecstatic to be hired by Minister Fudge.
“Oh, boy,” Xander murmured, his young face stricken with apprehension.
Willow was very angry, Fred saw that now. In the past day, despite the sharp looks that soon passed into good-natured laughter, he hadn’t realized that she could be angry. She was just so nice and sweet that that sort of emotion seemed beyond her. But he could see it now and he wondered how bad it would be that her own best friend looked like he wanted to flee from the entire situation.
“Shut up,” she said in a low voice, rage seeming to strip the sweetness from her tone. “And sit down,” she added after a tense moment.
“Who are you to—” Ron started before George boxed him over the ear, dragging the younger boy by said appendage to the nearby sofa.
Ron,” the other twin hissed.
“Willow, dear,” Molly started, “you don’t even know what happened.”
“Yes, I do,” the redhead near the stairs stressed.
“Sure,” Ginny groused, her happy mood soured by Percy’s appearance. “From his side.”
“No, not from his side, from ours,” Fred corrected. “We told her when she asked before lunch.”
“Is this what I’m supposed to expect?” Willow ranted. “If I come back to this family, am I supposed to toe some invisible line? If I happen to be maybe wrong about something, are you going to disown
me? If so, I’d rather stay in Sunnydale with the vampires and the demons and—and Xander’s dad!”
The boy in question hissed sharply, some angry and shamed emotion in his voice that Fred couldn’t clearly identify. “Wills…”
“What?” she asked sharply. “It’s true.” Her face softened slightly. “Even if he hates you, he has never – never
– thrown you out willy-nilly.”
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “You make a good point.”
“Willow,” Arthur snapped sharply, sounding distinctly unlike himself. “You have no idea what the Minister has been like. Had I not told Percy what I did, he might have given things away, things best left secret.”
“He didn’t,” Percy corrected his father softly. “He never asked or gleaned or badgered. He often remarked that he wished the whole Harry Potter mess would go away but I never told him anything and he never asked.”
“What are you talking about?” Arthur asked. “Of course he did. You must not have noticed.”
Percy snorted, which was a strange sound coming from his expression of frozen superiority that was so familiar. Now that he was seeing it from his sister’s perspective, Fred could see that it was a defense mechanism, meant to be a comfort when his older brother felt affronted. “Fudge is about as subtle as a sledgehammer and you know that. I was a prefect and Head Boy, Father. Please do not insult my intelligence. I am not nearly as naïve as you’d like to think.”
Pressing her lips firmly together, Willow glared at her biological family. “I was afraid of this. Despite what you might think, you’re not always right.”
“If I wasn’t right, why didn’t you ever come home?” Arthur demanded, a self-satisfied expression across his face.
Percy took a deep breath but then exhaled abruptly. “I don’t think it much matters.” Fred watched in interest as Willow nudged him gently in the side with her elbow. “I don’t think they’ll believe me,” he murmured softly.
Willow sighed. “If he stayed away, he couldn’t give them good information, could he?” She closed her eyes briefly and then looked up at Percy. “I want to go home.”
“I—I don’t…” He trailed off, looking slightly unequipped to deal with Willow’s request.
“I saw a map on your back wall. I’ll show you.”
Percy took one last look at his family and his jaw clenched painfully. “I missed you, you know.” With that, they disappeared, having Apparated to Percy’s Ministry office in London.
Fred had never been in a fight, not a really serious physical fight, but he felt like he’d been hit in the gut by a Bludger going at full speed. At the same time, it was like something precious had been torn away from him. However, he was at a loss as to how to fix this problem.
She was so mad.
Severus Snape had lied to the young Rosenberg girl. Well, yes, the best location spells and potions took a week or more to prepare or brew but he was the Potions Master. He had dozens upon dozens of potions in his possession, stored safely in his personal suite in a smaller storeroom than the one that Harry Potter seemed to like to break into.
A sour expression passed across his face, pinching his lips into a thin line. Sometimes he wished that boy was as clueless and accident-prone as Longbottom, giving him more excuses to chastise him. He really needed to be taught that the world wasn’t going to be taken with him forever.
“Do you have the necessary ingredients?”
Slightly increased tension in his shoulders was the only sign Severus showed of the fact that he had nearly jumped out of his skin. In the twenty years that he had worked with the man, he still wasn’t quite sure how Dumbledore managed to sneak up on people so easily or know exactly what they were doing. Sometimes he wondered if he had some wizard equivalent of security cameras around the castle.
“I don’t have an item of the Slayer nor do I know what she looks like, if I am to find her. It is a conundrum,” the Potions professor admitted.
“Well, it is that,” the Headmaster conceded. He reached deep into his fantastical robes and pulled out a small square of something slightly shiny. “As I mentioned before, I have some friends within the Council of Watchers – Quentin Travers, horrid man but tolerable. He gave me this when I told him we were aware of the… predicament at the Hellmouth.”
Severus reached out to take the square from him, recognizing what it was instantly. “A Muggle photograph. This is the Slayer?” He snorted softly. “She’s very blond. I suppose a name like Buffy does fit her.”
“I am sure you have something in your extensive stores to substitute a personal item. Blood, perhaps?” As if he had said all he needed to say, Dumbledore turned around and exited the way he came, his bright robes swishing with the movement.
Severus very nearly smacked himself on the forehead. Of course! He had a vial of Slayer’s blood in the larger storeroom, hidden at the very top and the very back with a mass of other ingredients that were both rare and dark. (Some of these ingredients were actually forbidden to gather.) Many of those items he had gathered over twenty years ago in the brief few years between his initiation as a Death Eater and his grief-stricken shift to the other side. The Dark Lord had killed a Slayer for him merely because of the mention of the power found in the Slayer’s blood.
Of the ten vials he had collected then, only four remained. He often used it to increase the power of certain potions that wouldn’t be diluted or destroyed with the use of such an ingredient. This would be the first time he would use it to locate the Slayer herself. Using a dropper he had brought with him from his rooms, he added exactly two drops of Slayer’s blood to the dark brown location potion before again stoppering the vial of blood. With a heavy sigh, he drank the entire potion, bracing himself for the possible effects.
The blood was approximately twenty years old and Slayers had notoriously short lives. However, he was using a relatively strong locator potion, one that would take him to the location of the target by seeing through their eyes. This potion was meant to find people that could hide well, those that didn’t want to be found. But with the journey the blood had to make to the current active Slayer, he imagine he might have to witness several deaths.
Fifteen Slayers. Fifteen deaths between the one Voldemort murdered and the current one. There were vampires, that was a recurring theme, but there were also demons that he had never seen before in his life. It was when he got to the current Slayer that things got a little confusing.
His view kept switching back and forth between two different locations. The first was a diner, somewhat rundown but bright with the light of the afternoon sun. Through the windows and glass door, he could see the cityscape, the unforgiving walls and angles of a business district. The second location was a lot murkier; it was dark and leafy. It took him a moment to recognize the landscape of a southern American swamp.
Swamp or diner?
Frowning down at his person, he stripped off the robe, knowing the wizard robes didn’t go over too well in Muggle society. Still, with the dark pants and button-down shirt, he still seemed a little formal for a city diner. It would have to do.
Concentrating on the incomplete information given him by the Slayer’s eyes and hoping to God that it wouldn’t cause splinching, he Apparated to just outside the diner. Releasing the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, the professor looked up at the large letters that adorned the awning of the diner. “Helen’s Kitchen?” he murmured to himself. “That’s suitably… generic.”
With a long-suffering sigh, he pushed open the door and took a look around. It was the picture of an American diner, scattered booths and tables with an open kitchen in the back. He glanced at the hostess’s podium, barely refraining from sneering at the sign there. “Please wait to be seated.”
“Just the one?”
Focusing on the voice, Severus found that it was the Slayer, she of the blond tresses and insipid name. He nodded silently at her question, befuddled at having encountered her already. What luck,
he thought idly. He was well aware that most of the factors that needed luck had been erased with his use of the potion but he hadn’t expected to see her so soon.
Buffy smiled at him, even though the expression seemed to be lacking. She carried around sorrow with her like a cloak, tainting her bright personality and making her congeniality seem horribly fake. Her clothes and hair were limp, giving him the idea that she hadn’t been taking very good care of herself. He remembered that feeling – he had been hard-pressed to care for himself the first months after Lily’s death.
“The black ensemble, not of the good in a California summer.” She held out her hand, gesturing to the booth vaguely. “Other than that, beyond snazzy. What can I get you?”
Severus arched an eyebrow at his surroundings. “I don’t suppose you serve tea?” he asked, trying to level best to keep the normal levels of agitation out of his tone.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re British!”
The side of his lips quirked upward. “That I am.”
“And—and you want really British, the Queen’s England-like tea?”
“If you have it.”
Buffy’s free hand fluttered and she grinned brightly. Even though she grimaced a second later as if she wasn’t allowed to be so happy, Severus got a glimpse of the person, of the reason why Willow was somewhat dedicated to her. “Well, sorta. See, Frank has this love affair with English breakfast tea. He does the pinky finger thing and everything. I’ll bring some. On the house.”
The raven-haired professor straightened slightly. “Why? You don’t know me.”
She laughed softly. “No, I don’t. But—but you remind me of a friend back home. More of a father figure, really. I miss him.” She passed a hand over her blond hair nervously. “But you don’t want to hear about that. I’ll be back.” With that, she turned and walked away, her stride confident despite her current nervousness. She was most definitely the Slayer.
He watched her walk away, his eyes shuttered slightly as he thought about the predicament. Buffy was obviously hurting, staying away in an effort to punish herself. He understood the attempt well; every time he looked at Harry Potter and was painfully reminded of James, the boy who had tormented him throughout his youth, he told himself that it was his penance for allowing Lily to die.
He would stay here for a little while, even if to allow his presence to comfort the girl. It was obviously Rupert Giles, her Watcher, that he reminded her of. After that, he had a redhead to see. The sooner the Slayer was back on her Hellmouth, the sooner Willow could get to the training she would need in order to teach.