Trains, Mice & Hats
Disclaimer: BTVS owned by Joss Whedon, et. al.; HP by J.K. Rowling. This work is for fun, not profit. I own none of the characters. Any failure on the humor front is, of course, mine.
A/N: Maybe 5 years post-Chose for BTVS. Ignores Season 8-9 comics. Starts with HP Book 1 and is mostly AU, non-canon after that. All significant action takes place in the Potterverse.
Getting onto Platform 9 3/4 the next day was a bit of a nightmare. Willow shrank their school trunks down to manageable backpack size prior to coming to King's Cross, but for some reason, most of the Hogwarts-bound kids had not taken the same precaution. With hundreds of school-age wizards trying to push their way through the invisible barrier onto the platform, a huge pile-up of carts, kids, parents, and assorted hangers-on was building up on the concourse between platforms 9 and 10.
Frustrated, Buffy finally said, "Wills, there's got to be another way to get on that platform. We can't miss the train. We'll never figure out where Hogwarts is. And, even if we do, we'll be in huge trouble without any explanation of how 3 underage wizards -- without parents -- 'just showed up' at the front gates or whatever."
"I agree, Buff, but the barrier is really well-warded," said Willow. "I can't sense the shape or precise location of the platform, so teleporting us in there is risky. We might end up inside the steam engine!"
"How about you, Xander?" asked Buffy. "Got any fresh ideas?"
"Actually, I do, Buff," replied a grinning Xander. "This platform has to be real, right? With real train tracks? And it's just concealed by magic?"
Willow nodded, "Yep. Wouldn't make sense otherwise. Why go to all this trouble in a public place like King's Cross if they could just magic up the Polar Express to collect everybody at their doorsteps?"
"Okay," said Xander. "Train platforms usually have a maintenance tunnel underneath so that workers can access the wheel-level of the engine and cars without jumping on and off the platform. Let's see if we can find that."
Five minutes later -- with Buffy only having to kick down one locked door -- they were in the maintenance tunnel between platforms 9 and 10. Willow reached out with her senses, looking for a barrier similar to one on the topside. She found it on a blank-looking stretch of the tunnel wall. They hustled through the barrier, thankful that it seemed to recognize them as magical. They exited at track level next to a huge, old-style team engine with "Hogwarts Express" inscribed upon it.
"Great job, Xander! A little old-fashioned B and E, a little mojo, and Ta-Da," said a smirking Buffy. "Just one minor problem now."
"Yes," said Xander, smiling in satisfaction. "What would that be?"
"How do we got off the tracks and onto the platform, seeing how we're all too short to even reach the edge?" laughed Buffy.
"Ah, Wills? Little help here?" asked Xander.
"Um, couldn't we just walk along the tracks to the passenger cars? Then climb the ladder into the train without going on the platform?" speculated Willow.
"That wouldn't look suspicious now, would it?" Buffy groaned, rolling her eyes. "3 wizardy kids just out for a walk along the tracks?"
"Or I COULD teleport us into one of the cars, now that I can see them, I guess. But if someone's in there, we're busted," huffed Willow.
"Go for it, Willow," said Xander. "Just aim for a compartment that seems empty. We can play it off in front of a few people, but not the whole platform."
"Right, do it Wills," commanded Buffy. "Just have your wands ready."
"Buffy! You guys haven't practiced with those wands yet!" yelped Willow.
"Too late now, just make it happen Willow!" ordered Xander.
Willow sighed, shaking her head, "Ok." She linked her arms with theirs and started concentrating, feeling through to her power, the connection to the earth somewhat muffled through the platform's magic. "I hope this doesn't shut the wards down around the platform," she said aloud. Then she blinked twice and they were gone.
An hour or so later, they had settled into the journey. The compartment was warm and large enough for the three of them to stretch out a bit. They had kept others from entering by the simple expedient of having Buffy give a Slayer glare to anyone who knocked on or tried to open the door. The compartment was nearer the front of the train, so the food cart had delivered mucho-chocolatey goodness early on. Having got their nosh on, the mini-Scoobs were relaxed and content for the moment. Willow had sealed the door with a locking spell after the food cart left, further ensuring they were not disturbed.
Buffy stretched, the Slayer within sated for the time being. "See Wills, that wasn't so bad! Hardly anyone noticed that teleport at all!"
"Tell it to mini-Spike," Willow retorted. "I still can't believe you hit him with that transmogrification spell first time out of the box."
"It's a Slayer thing, ya know. Instinctive use of all weapons, etc., etc." said Buffy.
"Plus you have a feeling for the whole rodent transformation, after Amy turned you into a rat," smirked Willow.
"Well, I caught him before he ran away," bragged Xander. "I guess my construction background plays into the spells I do! First try for me and I conjure up a glass habitrail for a mouse."
"He looks happy in there," mused Buffy. "He really likes the little wheel. And he keeps running the maze looking for the cheese."
"Which you keep stealing, Buffster!" laughed Xander. "Taunting the platinum blonde mouse is just plain mean."
"But it's good cheese," moaned Buffy. "Willow has been conjuring some serious treats for that mouse. Plus he's tiny and even though I'm mini-Buffy now, I'm still like 100 times his size."
"Fraid to say it, but you're always mini-Buffy," grinned Willow.
"Ouch. M-e-o-w. Mini-Spike would be in trouble if I transmogrified you, Wills! You feline, you!" pouted Buffy.
They were interrupted by a repeated thumping on the compartment door. There were several teenagers in robes outside the door, gesturing violently. Willow's locking charm had included silencing the compartment as well. The older teenagers had given up beating on the door and were now hurling spells at it, none of which seemed to be doing anything other than bouncing off.
"Uh, Wills, whaddya think these guys want?" asked Buffy. "They're getting pretty worked up out there."
"I dunno. What's 'P' mean? They all have a 'P' on those robes, don't they?" replied Willow.
"I'm going for 'Pinhead,'" snarked Xander. "They don't seem to get that they aren't going to crack Willow's charms with that cruddy wand-work."
"Well, I'm not letting them in," cried Willow. "They look violent and disturbed. Maybe 'P' means they're in some kind of crazed power-club and they're trying to bully us."
At that, Buffy jumped up and went over to the glass door. Putting on her best Slayer glare, she aimed it at the lead guy until he started backing away from the door. 'Go. A. Way.' She mouthed through the glass, pointing up the compartment corridor. She stuck her tongue out for the proper emphasis.
This didn't satisfy the lead teenager outside the compartment. He conjured up a piece of chalk and a slate, writing up a quick message on it.
'We are looking for Draco Malfoy,' the message on the slate said. 'He is missing. We Prefects are looking for him.'
'So?' Buffy mouthed through the glass.
'His trunk is in your storage rack. We have searched the other compartments. Is he in there?' wrote the teenager.
'Wait 1,' mouthed Buffy, holding up one finger. She pulled down the blind on the compartment door, much to the renewed anger of the teen outside.
"Ok, guys. What the heck is a Prefect?" asked Buffy. "And it looks like we may have to turn mousey-Spike back into mini-Spike. Someone reported him missing."
"A Prefect is kinda like a trusty in a prison, I think," said Xander. "It's a student that does the teacher's dirty work. Keeping the younger kids in line, ratting them out on discipline. That kind of thing."
"EWWWWW. So not of the good." said Buffy and Willow together
"Who would take that job on?" added Willow. "Goddess, I thought football players and cheerleaders were bad enough!"
There was a renewed banging on the door. Peeking through the blinds, Buffy saw an older dark-haired man, presumably a teacher, trying various spells on the door. They saw her peeking and started gesticulating angrily again. She let the blinds fall back.
"Ok, guys, let him out of the maze," ordered Buffy. Xander opened the maze and dumped the mouse onto the seat by Willow, who promptly vanished the maze.
Then a quick, "Finite rodentia," from Buffy and mini-Spike was sitting in the train seat, his mouth stuffed with cheese and a confused look in his eyes.
Buffy went back to the door and raised the blinds to the top. Then she mouthed, 'That's him, right?' through the glass.
The slate reappeared, the teacher writing this time. 'Yes. Open this door. I am Professor Snape, Head of Slytherin. Let us in! Now!'
'Ok, just a second,' Buffy mouthed. 'But we're all good here.' Aside to Willow, she said, "Wait 10 seconds, then take down the lock and think up an excuse. I'll deal with the mouse king there so he won't go off topic."
Willow started counting off on her fingers as the crew outside the door continued waving and making faces at the Scoobies.
Buffy turned to the white-haired mini-Spike, She focused her predator glare on him and spoke, mind-to-mind. 'Mouse-servant. Heed my call!'
The former mouse turned even whiter before replying mentally as well, 'Yes, mistress. Whatever you want mistress.'
'Support our story. Forget your time as a mouse until I call you again for service,' thought Buffy.
'Yes, mistress, I will obey, mistress,' replied Draco.
"Unlock it Wills," said Buffy out loud.
Willow gave a wave of her hand and a mumbled incantation, pretending to move her wand as she did so. The door opened so quickly that the 3 Prefects and Professor Snape, who had all been trying to force the door again, fell in a pile between the seats. The Professor came out a little squashed as the mini-Scoobies started snickering. Draco continued munching on his cheese with a blank look in his eyes.
"Get off me you dundering oafs," thundered Snape.
"Yes, sir!" chorused the Prefects, moving back into the corridor and trying to get out of the direct path of any hexes the Professor might feel warranted.
"Now," snarled Snape, with a Principal Snyder glint in his eyes. "What precisely has been going on in here? Malfoy has not been seen since the beginning of this journey. How is he sitting here now, plain as day?"
"Disillusionment charms, Professor," chirped Willow. "We've been practicing!"
"First years practicing disillusionment charms? Ridiculous!" sneered the angry Professor.
Willow was highly offended. She lifted her wand and tapped an unsuspecting Xander on his head, silently performing the incantation. Xander disappeared slowly, from top to bottom, as the chameleon-like charm spread across his body.
"Totally cool, Wills!" said inviso-Xander. "As many times as we've done that in the last hour, it's still totally cool!"
Snape was taken aback. He removed the charm from Xander, confirming that it was a standard disillusionment spell. He whirled on Malfoy.
"Draco, have they been practicing this spell on you for the last hour?" asked Snape.
"Sir, I believe so. I came into this compartment by myself. Must've fallen asleep, as I don't remember them coming in. But they disillusioned me several times after I woke up, I know that," replied Draco.
Buffy sighed in relief. She wasn't sure whether the Slayer thrall would really take on a former mouse. She was keeping her fingers crossed on that one.
"Come along then, Draco," said Snape. "Your REAL friends have been looking for you instead of using you as a practice dummy. As for you three, I have questions for you that you had better be able to answer later on."
As Snape turned away, Buffy whipped out her wand and cast a silent forgetfulness spell at him, causing his stride to break just for a second, before he shook his head and carried on.
They waited until Snape was well clear. Then all three mini-Scoobs burst out laughing.
"Well," summed up Buffy, "we're in trouble but I gotta say that was worth it. I am afraid with that forget-me-now spell, Greasy Snape-man didn't know what hit him."
"Buffy, shame!" said Willow. "We've got to get along with the staff here, including ol' dark and cranky there. I can't believe you of all people would try and modify someone's memory."
"Didn't modify it," cried Buffy. "Just encouraged him to de-prioritize it for a few weeks. He'll call us in sooner or later for an explanation, unless he gets too busy of course."
"And you plan to keep him busy, don't you?" asked Wills. "That is not how you wow a teacher, Buffy!"
"Wills, you ALWAYS wow the teachers," said Xander, "Buffy and I are more the types just to exist beautifully, if you know what I mean."
"Or violently," said Buffy, who was carefully shaping her nails with a large, silver-laced dagger.
"Sure," agreed Xander, "let's never forget mortal peril and extreme violence as an entree to the better types in the supernatural world."
The sorting was proceeding apace. As Buffy stood waiting for her turn, she reflected on the rest of the train ride. After the Snape-venture, it had all been pretty boring. When the call to put on their robes came, Buffy and Willow had kicked Xander out into the corridor. They had taken the school robes and modified them as much as possible according to the Student Handbook specifications, using their wands.
Buffy had shortened hers to mid-thigh length, shaping the unflattering material until it fit almost like a skintight cocktail dress. She had also scooped out the neck to show the silk blouse underneath with an loosely-knotted school tie flopping coyly around her deeply unbuttoned cleavage.
Unfortunately, thought Buffy, at age 11, her cleavage was pretty much wishful thinking. She had used her wand to enhance her bra just enough to give some shape under the blouse and some pizazz to the presentation, but it was a gesture more of hope than of conviction. Sighing, she tried to remember at what age she'd really turned into a girl back in LA. At least Willow wasn't any better off, she thought snarkily. And her 3-inch pumps WERE making her a lot taller than Willow's flats.
She daydreamed idly about certain outfits she planned to wear once she got her body back, until Xander's turn to be sorted finally came. The creepy hat thing quickly put him into Hufflepuff, 'where dwell the loyal,' and he went off to that table with a grin. Willow turned ahead of her in the line and winked. They would stick together and, if that hat had any funny ideas, it was going to get a piece of their minds.
Then it was Willow's turn. The hat sat on her head for the longest time. Buffy knew Willow must be persuading the hat to keep her and Xander together. But what was the problem? People were beginning to look strangely at the red head. Not of the good.
'Wills,' Buffy thought to her, 'get on with it.'
The hat answered, "And who might you be, entering Miss Rosenberg's mind like this?"
'She's my best friend, Buffy Summers,' Willow communicated, 'she wants us all in Hufflepuff with Xander."
'Ladies, ladies, I do the sorting! Not you! You can ask but you won't always receive.' thought the hat at both of them.
'Well, what's taking so long then?' asked Buffy mentally.
'Miss Rosenberg's power would be wildly misplaced in Hufflepuff,' replied the hat, 'but she will not let me say Slytherin. Every time I try to she simply clamps down and I cannot speak. On the other hand, she can't make me say Hufflepuff. Deadlock, I believe.'
'Deadlock, my sweet California bippy!' replied Buffy. 'Listen, hat, I can feel you. Whatever else you are, you are at least part-demon. Let me show you what I do to demons that annoy me.' Buffy projected the outcome of her last encounter with an M'Fashnik demon at the hat, then she waited a beat. "Now say Hufflepuff!" she demanded.
"Hufflepuff," shouted the hat wildly. Willow smiled shyly and walked over to sit by Xander who was cheering with the others.
Professor McGonagall was quite confused when Buffy's turn came and the famous Sorting Hat screamed Hufflepuff before she'd gotten within 3 yards of it. Later on during the feast, she tried on the hat herself to ask what that was about. The hat said nothing more than it would be a risk to split up such three close friends, leaving McGonagall to wonder exactly what that risk might be, not to mention to whom it applied.
When she asked Buffy about it afterwards, Buffy merely smiled and said, "I don't look good in hats, Professor. And that one, in particular, s-o-o-o not my style!"
The trio walked in a line behind their new first year compatriots. The Hufflepuff prefects led them to their common room in the basement, showing them how to tap out a complicated pattern on a barrel near the kitchens to open up a passageway into the Hufflepuff domain. The three stood at the back of the queue, talking softly in an almost sub-vocal way.
"This better not be a dungeon," grumbled Xander, "I'm not into the whole vampire lair motif."
"Don't worry, Xan," said Willow, "We can dress up the rooms with charms if need be. No need to hide the mojo here!"
Buffy was preoccupied, going over the names of her new classmates.
"Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, Justin Finch-Fletchley, Zacharias Smith, Megan Jones, Ernie Macmillan," mumbled Buffy. "With us, that makes only 9 Hufflepuff 1st years. Does that seem right to you?"
"Well, Buffy, if there's about 10 in each class per house, that would be 70 in the House, and about 300 in the whole school," said Xander.
"There were WAY more than 300 students out there, Xander," argued Buffy.
Willow considered it. Those 4 long tables had at least 75 chairs a side. That would make 150 in each House, as they were rather full. And it could well be a hundred a side. S-o-o-o, how would that work? She thought about alternate dimensions, pocket TARDIS devices, inverse reality charms, etc. Maybe Buffy had something there. The staff did not seem big enough either, not for 300 students; certainly not for twice that many or more.
"You know," she said, "I think Buffy is onto something. There had to be way more than 300 students on the train, and I don't think everyone arrives by train every year. Wouldn't make sense if you didn't need to be in London for any reason."
"So, what's the what, Wills? Are they working some weird dual-reality mojo thingy on us?" asked Buffy.
"It's a theory, anyway. Maybe we can ask Professor Sprout," said Wills.
"No, better not," replied Xander. "Our brief is with the timeline merger, not solving magical puzzles. Keep our heads down and work on the primary missions."
"Primary mission A: ready this magical community for the merger," said Buffy. "Primary mission B: support this world's Champion in defeating Voldemort (whoever that is)."
"Simple missions, I think. Rock the world, beat a big bad. Minor problems," laughed Xander.
Buffy gave him with a stricken look. "Those are easy enough, yeah. But I may have to add, Primary mission C: avert a fashion apocalypse! I am going insane looking at these people! Can we move that one up to top priority?"
"Let it lie, Buffy," said Willow. "Fashion crimes may not be victimless, but they aren't usually fatal."
"But the only ones with any sense of style were those nasty Slytherins," she whined. "And I could totally sense evil all over those boys. I cannot handle evil chalky smoochies for the next 7 years!"
"Evil has to dress cool just to pass in polite society," added Xander wisely. "Thus the wicked all-black ensembles and the leathers. Remember Vamp Willow?"
"Skank-ho is not fashion, Xander!" yelled Buffy, crawling a little behind the others. "I'm loving the black, always, but there are other colors to add to the palette."
She said this just as she reached the end of the passage into the common room. As the Prefects were about to speak, the room had gotten quiet. Everyone heard the last rather loud comment and turned towards her grinning as she emerged from the tunnel and looked around her.
"But not yellow, for God's sake. I s-o-o do not look good as a bumblebee!" she cried.
The common room burst into laughter at her; even the portraits were chuckling. Only 7 more years of this, thought Buffy as she blushed deeply. 7. More. Years.
Interlude 2: Gregorovitch
Master Gregorovitch was disturbed when his idiot human apprentice burst suddenly and noisily into the wand-making area of the wand shop.
"Master," shouted the apprentice. "We've received an owl from Ollivander's!"
Gregorovitch blanched and let out a surprisingly high-pitched "Eeep." Owling between the various wand-makers had been declared strictly 'for emergency use only' by their Elder Quorum. The agreed plan dictated that they treat each other as unfriendly competitors, each with his own territory which was rigidly defended. Owls were easily intercepted and thus prohibited. So Ollivander's message him could not be good news.
He rallied, steadying and deepening his voice to its usual growl, "What does it say, apprentice?" He crossed his fingers out of sight below his worktable
"It says 'They're gone.' That's all, Master, just 'They're gone," he said, with a bewildered look at Gregorovitch.
The ancient wand-maker sat down at his work table heavily. This was a disaster of epic proportions. He had to be talking about the Wands of Sineya. He would not use an owl for anything less. Even the Wand of Destiny -- which he'd possessed until Grindelwald stole it from him -- was of less potential danger than the three wands meant for the heirs of the Slayer.
They'd never been able to duplicate the effects, or dampen them in any way like the normal, underpowered wands they had long fobbed off on the unsuspecting wizards of this dimension. The Sineya Wands were incredibly powerful, enabling their users to cast virtually any spell and even guiding them as to which ones to select. The magical core reputedly consisted of some essence of the original slayer, known as Sineya. Their provenance was unknown, lost in pre-history. All that was certain was that anyone who proved worthy enough to bond with any of the wands instantly became a world-class witch. No wizard had ever proven worthy.
Furthermore, the last witch to use one of the wands had died some 2000 years ago, around the same time the last-known Slayer had disappeared from this world. Whether the witch and the Slayer were the same person was unknowable. But a legend had sprung up around the wands, saying that when the next Slayer came to claim the wands, the countdown to the end of days would begin.
Gregorovitch shuddered. He hated apocalypses. He'd been involved in the machinations around them in several other worlds. No profit in them, was his way of thinking. No profit at all. He himself was committed to the Grathnar's long-term plan for seizing power over the magical incompetents of this one, then leeching off them forever. But if the legends were true, their plan -- as close to fruition as it was -- was effectively over. If a Slayer turned active in this timeline, the end of days for Grathnars was certain, no matter what happened to the rest of the world.
Why did the Elders let that idiot Ollivander get his hands on them in the first place? Voldemort had offered a million galleons from them less than 15 years ago; surely others would have paid more. Better in the hands of a private collector than that of a Slayer. He sighed. Water under the bridge. 'Slayers!' Gregorovitch thought mordantly. 'Ollivander is lucky to be alive to send the message. And the idiot OWLS me!' He'd faked his own death before; he called his idiot apprentice over. He'd do nicely -- with a little special work of course -- for the body with Gregorovitch's face on it that would be found in the burning shop. Now, did he remember that Dark Mark Spell? Morsmordre? Or Morsmordere? No problem. He'd get it right by the time the shop was really burning, he was certain. He gestured the fool over. Now, where to hit him first? Hmmm...