While you live, tell truth, and shame the devil.
—William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1
Two pregnancy tests confirmed what Buffy already knew to be true. She was going to be a mother all over again. The only reason that they were even able to confirm it so quickly was that, according to Giles, in her natural state, the Slayer’s hormones were very regular. A pregnancy, therefore, was detectable easily. The double lines on the tests had shown through almost instantly, and it had been a beaming Slayer who walked out of the bathroom holding them up proudly.
Buffy couldn’t stop smiling. With Harry on her hip, she was grinning as she listened to Willow talk about making a bigger nursery for both Harry and Dawn to sleep in when the baby was born in nine months. The witch was gesticulating wildly as she discussed baby CDs and child rearing theories, and Xander was jumping in, volunteering to knock down walls if Buffy wanted and baby-sit. Even Giles seemed happy about everything; though, predictably, his reaction was subdued.
Because the spell of memories had been broken, there was no lingering regret on Buffy’s part about the girl she had known as her sister. Instead, there was the girl she had loved and been willing to die for that she had known for three years, who would now get the life she had wanted. Buffy would have a daughter to love and cherish, and raise from infancy.
And Harry would get a sister.
Buffy had to admit, it was one of the reasons she was so happy. Thea’s prediction was coming true. When the seer had spoken of Harry’s little sister, Buffy had been skeptical, mostly because there was no man on the horizon. She had seen that as possible proof that Harry wouldn’t get to stay with her, but now she knew that fear to be groundless. Harry would be raised by her, and Dawn would get her chance for the childhood she wanted.
In her mind’s eye, she could practically see the two of them together. Thea said they would be close, and friends. Buffy loved that idea, because it meant that Harry wouldn’t have issues with being adopted, while Dawn was not. And he would be adopted. Buffy would give the police and their associates time to look for any family that Harry had, but the moment it returned no answers and Harry was declared a ward of the Crown, Buffy was going to adopt him. He would be her son in all the ways that mattered, and he would have a loving sister too.
Everything was coming together. *~*
Before the gates of Hogwarts, Remus Lupin popped out of thin air. The tired looking man stared up at the castle before him, noting that it seemed exactly the same as it had when he was a student there. The battlements and turrets had not changed, and the large keep sat on the hill, king of all it surveyed. So much had happened to Remus since he had left school, but, in true fashion, he was now drawn back there once more.
Remus had spent the course of the morning in James’s hospital room. He and Alice had arranged it the previous day so they would never leave the eldest Potter alone. Remus was to take the mornings and Alice the afternoons. The werewolf had spent that morning speaking quietly to James, and eventually reading some of the editorials in the Daily Prophet aloud to him. They were all very supportive of his family, and one even called Lily a hero as well, which Remus knew his friend would appreciate.
When his time was up though, Remus knew he had to take care of the business that he had been putting off. It was necessary that he speak to Dumbledore as soon as possible, regarding Peter and Harry. As to the former, he was concerned about what he had found the previous evening, but it was possible that the Headmaster knew something he did not. As to the latter, Lupin would not be content until he saw Harry with his own eyes.
After being escorted by Hagrid through the gates, winged boars glaring at him from both sides, Remus made his way up the path. When he reached the castle steps, he climbed them with alacrity, passing through the front doors to the large entrance hall. He didn’t even bother to look for a teacher, he knew his way to Dumbledore’s office well enough, and climbed up the grand staircase to the second floor. After explaining to the gargoyle at the base of the tower that he was there to see the headmaster, the stone jumped aside and he took the staircase up to the top. Upon arrival, Remus knocked on the door.
“Enter,” Dumbledore’s voice called from inside the office. Once the younger man had stepped inside, the Headmaster looked up from his perch behind the large desk and gave a paternal smile. “Remus, welcome.”
“Professor,” Remus nodded.
“Please, you know I am no longer your Headmaster; how many times do I have to ask you to call me Albus?”
The werewolf smiled, settling into the chair that Dumbledore had indicated across his desk. “At least once more, sir, as always.” He shifted in his chair. “It’s quiet here.”
“Yes, the children are due in tomorrow evening,” the Headmaster said. “We will be having a belated Halloween feast tomorrow night. Thankfully we should be able to get back to the business of learning the day after.”
The older man chuckled. “I must admit I was surprised to hear you were at the gates. What can I do for you?”
Remus sighed. “There are several problems that have sprung up in the last few days, and I was hoping you might be able to answer some of my questions.”
“It sounds serious,” Albus said. “I’ll do what I can.”
“Thank you, sir. To begin with, have you sent Peter Pettigrew somewhere, or did he inform you as to his destination before leaving on a trip?”
“Peter?” the professor asked thoughtfully. “Why, no. Not as such. Why, is he missing?”
“He hasn’t been seen, as far as I can tell, since before Voldemort fell,” Remus answered. “His flat has been emptied of valuables, and covered in a layer of dust.”
“I am sorry to hear that,” Dumbledore said, looking pensive. “I will inform Barty Crouch and have him send an Auror to investigate.”
“Thank you, sir,” Remus said, feeling unaccountably nervous. “I also wanted to speak to you about Lily’s funeral. The undertaker at Godric’s Hollow came to St. Mungo’s this morning, and it seems that no one has begun thinking of a service. Though it pains me to say it, we do not know when James will wake, though I know that he will, and as much as I would wish to wait for him, it might be prudent to go ahead. From what I have read in the papers, it seems as though there is a large desire for a public funeral for Lily Potter.”
“I have left such decisions in the hands of Lily’s sister,” Dumbledore said. “As she is Lily’s closest kin, it is her choice as to what arrangements she wishes to make.”
Lupin felt momentarily stumped, but then said, “Yes, but she is not making them. The undertaker said that he hadn’t been in contact with anyone from either family, though that’s hardly surprising in James’s case, as all that is left are those mad cousins of his. In addition, many Wizards and Witches had been requesting permission to view the body. The undertaker has had Lily placed in one of the viewing rooms, and there have been a steady stream of people in to see her. He said that he is filling a guest book a day.”
“We should not deny Petunia the right to organize her own sister’s funeral. I am sure that she is merely overwhelmed at the moment with the addition to her household, and will be in contact with the undertaker soon.”
“The addition to her...” Remus trailed off, his mouth falling open. “You can’t mean Harry is with her.”
Dumbledore gave a small nod.
“You sent him there?” the werewolf asked, flabbergasted. “Petunia didn’t even come to her own sister’s wedding. They weren’t close, by any means.”
“Yes, well, family has a way of coming together when tragedy strikes. I am sure that it will be an acceptable household for Harry to grow up in.”
The former Gryffindor shook his head, getting to his feet. Remus had to leave, had to get out of there. If he stayed, he was going to do something he might regret. “Where does Lily’s sister live?”
“I’m afraid I cannot tell you that,” Dumbledore said. “I said in the letter to Petunia that we, the Wizarding community that is, would collectively step back and allow her to raise Harry without any outside interference.”
“Raise him?” Remus snarled, surprising himself. “James is going to raise him, not some Muggle woman Lily didn’t get on with.”
“James is going to die, Remus. This is a reality you must accept,” Dumbledore said, his voice thick with sorrow.
Remus Lupin felt as though the world was falling out from under him. All his life, he had trusted the Headmaster of Hogwarts, and thought his decisions were fair. But now, to know that Albus Dumbledore had made a decision of this caliber without even consulting the Healers at Mungo’s...it galled.
Walking over to the fireplace, the younger man gathered a pinch of floo powder between his fingers and then turned back to Dumbledore. “You really shouldn’t believe everything you read in the Prophet, you know,” Remus said. “As of this morning, the healers are quite confident that James will wake and make a full recovery.”
The last thing Remus saw as he spun away was the look of shock that came over the Headmaster’s face. *~*
Señora Cruz was frowning.
When she had gone away for the weekend to visit her daughter, she had informed her tenant that he would have to pick up his own mail and the papers, but now she came back to discover a newspaper laying innocently on the front walk. Had it been any other newspaper, she wouldn’t have minded, but as it was, it was the monthly one her lodger sent away for and she could barely keep the look of distaste from her face. With a heavy sigh, the diminutive woman leaned over and picked up the offending periodical from the pavement, grumbling all the while about unreliable owls. A flicker of anger surged in her momentarily, but it was gone again quickly. It would do no good to get angry at her tenant, and she was a woman who firmly believed in not feeding emotions that did no good.
When the man had shown up in Sevilla, she had wanted to turn him away. La Señora was done with his kind, and desired nothing more to do with them. It had been so long since she had seen one of them, but she could still remember sitting on her father’s knee as he made colored bubbles float across the kitchen. And then came the war, and the camps, and in the after, la Señora had broken her wand into two pieces and tried to never think about magic again.
She married a Muggle man, and savored the peace of their life together. Fräulein Schmid died, and Señora Cruz lived. It was peaceful, and wonderful, and free. So when her daughter’s letter came from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic, she felt no regret in ripping it to pieces and sending back a firm refusal, never breathing a word of it to her daughter or husband. And when her Francesca had her accident, and la Señora had known that no babies would ever be born of her daughter’s body, the old woman had been thankful and relieved. It was over, and she didn’t have to think about it anymore.
And then he
She had known his face immediately, though she had not seen him since he was a child. Looking at him had caused it all to come rushing back; growing up in the town of Füssen in the foothills of the Bayerische Alpen, the trips she used to make out to Schloss Schwanstein where her mother had been Head Housekeeper, and the little boy who had been born on the eve of Grindelwald’s rise to power. Füssen had mostly missed the Muggle war, except for the Dachau camp, but they had been fully subjected to Grindelwald’s reign of terror. So much had been lost, including all the noble family of Schloss Schwanstein. La Señora had heard a rumor that the little boy had survived, but she hadn’t believed it until she saw him.
He was the spitting image of his father, Herr Heinrich.
What could she do but take him in?
He had been frightened, scared, speaking of wizards in black cloaks who were coming for him. Señora Cruz had wanted to slam the door in his face, to reject the idea that her family still owed service to his, but she could not deny what his father did. When she had still been fifteen-year-old Liesel Shcmid, Herr Heinrich had stepped in front of a Killing Curse meant for her.
She owed his son, the next Herr Heinrich, weregeld.
And so he had stayed.
She gave him the guest house, and there he had quietly lived for the past three and a half years. Very rarely Herr Heinrich would leave the villa, and when he did it was always to make a phone call to America. He had a daughter there, he said. A squib, he confessed, but so beautiful with a loving heart. He had to keep her safe, he vowed. They wouldn’t find her, he swore.
La Señora had been curious about the black cloaked men, but all he would tell by way of an explanation was that they wanted an heirloom of his family.
This made no sense to her. Why would wizards hunt him down for a mere heirloom? His family had an ancient line magical descent, true, but they had never been rumored to possess an item of power. What they had been known for was their fortune and their home, and the occasional child with a talent for wandless magic. But they had lived quietly in Bayern—all of their kind had. Once the family of Schloss Schwanstein had put an end to the witch hunts by declaring a safe haven in southern Bayern, magic had flourished there until Grindelwald came to purify the magical race.
Pulling herself back to the present, and after sorting the mail and the newspapers which Herr Heinrich had thoughtfully left in her front hall, la Señora padded down the back stairs of the villa, and followed the path through the underbrush to the guesthouse. As she curved around the house, the double doors of the little house came into view, and they were flung wide. Her heels clicked against the patio as she moved forward, sounding repetitive to her ears.
?” she called, stepping inside. “Yo tengo su periódico
The man came out of the kitchen and crossed to her side. “Ah, hello Liesel. How is your daughter?”
The old woman huffed, handing him the paper and then nodding. “She is fine. Thinking of adopting a baby.”
Herr Heinrich smiled at her. “I am sure she will make a wonderful mother.”
“I don’t know why you insist on speaking in English,” Liesel Cruz said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. It had only recently begun to grey, and she had been hard pressed to constantly lie to all her friends about why she was vain enough to dye her hair at the age of seventy-three. She couldn’t very well tell people the truth, after all.
Herr Heinrich gave her a faintly amused look, as if he could read her thoughts, and said, “I speak English for the same reason you speak Spanish. The thought of speaking our mother-tongue makes me sad.”
Cruz gave a jerking nod, and turned to go, but she was immediately stopped by the soft swear that came from her companion. Looking back, she watched as his face paled and his eyes voraciously read through the paper.
“What is it?” she asked, her heart pounding an automatic tattoo. Fear of all things magical came so easily to her now, and when Herr Heinrich had told her there was another magical war raging, she hadn’t even been surprised.
“It’s over,” he said softly.
“It’s over,” he repeated. Herr Heinrich looked up at her then, his hazel eyes shinning. “The war has been won. They’re rounding up the last of the Death Eaters as we speak.”
Her face softened then. “You can go home.”
“Yes,” he said, and then more forcefully, “Yes. I will go home, to my daughter, to my life in America.”
“Not to Füssen?”
“No,” he shook his head. “It’s not fair to my daughter to live that life. I told my wife after we married, you know. She looked at me as if I was insane, and started talking about me going to a sanitarium to get some ‘rest’. Even after I showed her magic she wouldn’t believe any of it. I had to wipe her memory of the whole conversation.” Herr Heinrich sighed, and ran a hand through his reddish brown hair. “I thought when our daughter got her letter to the Salem School of Sorcery it would come up again, but she didn’t get a letter and never had any accidental magic as a child. After a while, it was just easier to pretend I was nothing but a Muggle.”
La Señora nodded. She certainly knew about that. “You shall see your wife and daughter again now.”
“No,” he said. “Just my daughter. My wife died.”
He looked so haunted in that moment, it was all that Liesel could do to catch her breath. Herr Heinrich had never mentioned a wife, just a daughter, but she had automatically assumed a woman waited for him as well. He was barely over sixty, and quite in his prime for a wizard. No Muggle would think him a day over forty-five.
“I used a compulsion charm on her,” Herr Heinrich confessed. “The Death Eaters were making noise, and when my cousin sent word that they were scouring Europe for me—hoping I would provide them the way to break the wards at Schloss Schwanstein—I thought it was easier to send her and my daughter away. I made my wife think I was unfaithful to her, and forced her to divorce me.” He laughed bitterly. “Of course, she had no idea that there was no such thing as divorce to a wizard, and that I would be married to her until the day I died. I never could have imagined that she would die from natural causes, still believing the lies I fed her. She thought I was living it up in L.A. for years, not knowing that I was constantly on the run, creating a false trail for the Death Eaters to follow. And my daughter...I deliberately sabotaged our relationship to keep her safe. I doubt she even cares that she has a father anymore. ”
“Then you must make her care again,” Senora Cruz said firmly. “I never took you for a coward, Herr Heinrich. What were the words your father always said? Quod incepimus conficiemus
“What we have begun we shall finish
,” he recited the family motto quietly, and then nodded, as if to himself. “You’re right,” he told her. “I have to make my daughter forgive me. I will even tell her about magic if I have to. I’ll leave for California tonight.” Herr Heinrich turned then and looked at Liesel, his feelings of gratitude etched on his face. “Thank you for everything. You saved my life.”
She gave a firm nod. “Then my debt is repaid.”
“In full,” he agreed. “Goodbye, Liesel.”
“Goodbye, Herr Heinrich.”
He laughed. “Surely we are past such formalities? Call me Hank.”
She gave a relieved smile and nodded. "Goodbye, Hank."
Two hours later, Hank Summers left the small Spanish villa for the last time.
And once he was gone, Liesel Cruz firmly resolved never to think about magic again. It was her fervent hope that no Summers would ever again come knocking on her door.*~*
Four days later, Miriam Strout smiled as she moved James Potter’s status from critical to stable. The Man Who Lived had been a guest of theirs for nearly two weeks now, but it looked as though he might not be one for much longer. His charts and vitals were improving so much, that it was possible he could wake at any time.
“Come on now, Mr. Potter,” she murmured. “Tear yourself away from your dreams and rejoin us.” “Oh, this book is total shite!” Lily screamed, launching the text book against the far wall.
“All right there, Evans?” James asked, amusement filling his voice as he took in the irate Sixth Year Prefect. He had just walked into the Common Room, his broom under his arm as he was returning from Quidditch practice. “Did you maim the nasty book?”
Lily shot him a glare, and ran her fingers through her red hair, disturbing the style. James watched her with some admiration—carefully hidden, of course—loving the way her hair seemed to slip through her fingers like Acromantula silk. To distract himself from his preoccupation, the Quidditch Captain leaned over and picked the book up off the floor.
“Medieval Magical History,” he read aloud. James held up the book. “What’s this for?”
“We have to write an essay for History of Magic on the pros and cons of the introduction of the Statute of Secrecy, and each point needs to have sources, and I am trying to find some collaboration on the Statute ending the witch huntings, even though they were ultimately unsuccessful in the first place.”
“You’re joking, right?” James asked her flabbergasted.
“No, we really do have to write an essay, if you’d stayed in History of Magic—”
James waved a hand. “I didn’t mean about that, I am talking about the witch burnings not being successful. You’re just taking the mickey, right?”
“No, what do you mean? We learned that in History of Magic, remember?” She looked up at him, her green eyes confused. “The textbook talks all about how no actual witches or wizards were burned because they were able to use flame-freezing charms.”
The pure-blood sat down in shock, looking at Lily with utter surprise on his face. “That’s just Ministry propaganda, Evans,” he said. “Plenty of wizards and witches have died at the hands of Muggles over the years. It’s pretty much an accepted truth of our world; we just don’t talk about it much.”
Lily looked shaken. “No, you’re wrong. Bathilda Bagshot wrote that.”
James snorted. “Yeah, welcome to censorship at its finest. In order for the book to be used as a textbook, she had to heavily revise A History of Magic. She’s still bitter about it. I’ve known her since I was a child, and just get her talking about censorship, I swear. You should check out some of her other books sometime. They all are completely historically accurate.” He sighed. “Muggles have hunted us for years, and many times they have been successful, especially with children.”
“That...that sounds like a Death Eater tenet,” she said, her voice wavering.
“No, a Death Eater saying would be that Muggles have hunted us for years, so we should hunt them in return,” James replied. “Telling the truth isn’t a bad thing; honestly, I thought you knew already. Didn’t Mary Macdonald talk to you about any of this or,” he suddenly looked as though he had swallowed something foul, “Snape?”
“No,” Lily said softly.
“Really, for those who kept their wands, like Wendelin the Weird, it was okay, but for people like Nearly Headless Nick, they ended up dying.” James shrugged. “There are plenty of examples of our kind being harmed by Muggles over the years, just look at Dumbledore’s sister.”
“What?” Lily asked, her brow furrowing.
James suddenly looked uneasy. “I shouldn’t have said that; forget it.”
“No, what were you talking about? What about Dumbledore’s sister?”
The wizard looked around, and then cast a quick “Muffliato!” and then leaned in close. “Right, so what I am about to tell you can go no further. Some of it is public knowledge, some of it isn’t. When Dumbledore was a kid, he had a sister. She was attacked by some Muggle boys when they saw her performing accidental magic. Percival Dumbledore, the Headmaster’s father, went to Azkaban for going after them. Ariana's—that was the sister—magic was ruined for the rest of her life because of it.” James yanked a hand through his hair, messing it up even further, but it was a thoughtless gesture, rather than the arrogant one he used to make. “You can’t tell anyone I told you this. I shouldn’t have forgotten myself.”
Lily nodded and agreed. Then, looking at James with an indecipherable expression, she asked quietly, “Potter, how do you know all this, if it isn’t common knowledge?”
“My dad went to school with Kendra Dumbledore,” James said. “When they had to flee Mould-on-the-Wold, he offered the family one of the crofters’ cottages that belonged to my family’s estate in the neighboring village.”
“That was kind of him,” she commented.
“Nah, it wasn’t,” James shrugged. “That’s just the Potter way. We honor and defend those who can’t defend themselves. Kendra needed help, so we gave it.” He shot her an apologetic smile. “These incidents though, they are not ever really surprising when we hear about them. It’s just a part of Wizarding life that is ingrained in us, and it comes out as Muggle-born prejudice. The Death Eaters, they are capitalizing on that prejudice, but there is no true way for our society to be completely apart from Muggles. I mean, if Muggle-borns didn’t come to Hogwarts, magic would be revealed.”
“They’re should be some way to change it,” Lily said. “Some way to build a better society where Wizarding-kind doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. Where we can tell the truth about our history, and not hide it from our children.”
James smiled. “It sounds like a dream, Evans, but I’ll tell you what; I wish we did live in that world.”
“So do I,” Lily replied. “Maybe one day, when I’m Minister for Magic—”
“—I’ll make it a reality,” Lily said. “People with magical diseases or afflictions won’t be discriminated against, books will tell the truth, and Muggle-borns will be welcome.”
“Just let me know when I’ll need to vote ‘yea’ to confirm you,” James grinned. They shared a moment of amicable silence, and then he said, “So anyway, look up the other Bagshot books. They tell the true story about the witch hunts.”
As James picked up his broom and walked away, he could have sworn he felt her eyes on his back, but when he turned around, Lily was looking down at her books.*~*
“Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere...” Buffy’s voice trailed off, and she looked down to see Harry fast asleep on her chest, his thumb stuck firmly between his lips though he had stopped sucking on it. A smile crossed her face as she slowly rose from the rocking chair, lifting Harry with her as she went. She placed the book on the small bookcase, and then carried her little one over to his crib on the other side of the room. Buffy kissed him on the forehead, right over his fading pink scar. Then, with gentle hands, she eased her precious burden down, lowering him into his bed and lifting the blanket up to cover him. She then raised the safety rail on the crib, and tiptoed quietly from the room. Harry’s little mobile nightlight spun silently, casting shadowed shapes on the walls.
As she walked to bed, Buffy passed by Dawn’s old room, and shook her head. One of the aspects of breaking the memory spell was that everything belonging to Dawn had disappeared. Buffy had come home with Harry to find Dawn’s room empty. There was no hint that she had been there at all, but Buffy knew she would be back with them soon. Amazingly, Buffy was getting morning sickness already, but it didn’t bother the blonde. Sure, it was inconvenient when it struck in the mornings when she was trying to feed Harry, but it just made her pregnancy seem more real.
She had decided to hold off for now in decorating the empty room. Buffy hadn’t decided if she wanted her children to share a nursery, like Willow suggested, or if she was going to keep Dawn with her until she was sleeping through the night. The Slayer was also thinking about maybe about moving somewhere else all together. It had come into her mind several times that she would like for Harry and Dawn to have a big yard to play in, and that it would be wonderful if they could have a dog or something similar. Giles kept horses at his home in Westbury, and maybe ponies would be nice to have for the kids as they grew. When she’d mentioned the thought to her Watcher, he had spoken to her in low tones about his home in Wiltshire, and how he loved it there, and that she would like it too. He didn’t live there all the time anymore, of course, but he went out there on the weekends when he could. Buffy was seriously considering going out there one weekend with Harry, and maybe checking around at nearby homes. It would be a good place for him and Dawn to grow up.
After changing into her pajamas, Buffy crawled into bed and settled under the comforter. Her eyes slid closed, and she slowly succumbed to sleep’s call. She was standing in the middle of a stone circle wearing a red flowered sundress. The countryside she was in was nowhere she had ever seen before, and as Buffy spun around slowly, she saw wide green fields in the distance that stretched for miles, kissing the horizon. There was no feeling of cold or hunger, but she did feel a warm breeze dance across her skin. She had no idea where she was, but she felt safe.
“Boy, are you a hard person to get here.”
Buffy spun around to see a woman standing before her in a long white dress that reminded her of something worn during the Victorian era. The stranger had a pretty face, and glorious red hair, the color of wine—a rich burgundy that shimmered in the sunshine. But what caught the Slayer’s attention were the bright green, almond shaped eyes the woman had. They were very familiar to Buffy.
They were Harry’s eyes.*~*
Alice Longbottom yawned, trying desperately to keep her eyes open. She was exhausted. The stress of trying to balance her family, her marriage, and her visits to James were finally getting to her. She didn’t know why—and certainly no one would have blamed her if she had turned full responsibility of James over to Remus Lupin—she felt as though she needed to be at the hospital for James. Though Frank hadn’t understood the reason behind her visiting St. Mungo’s so often, it had gone almost without remark. Alice was certain he was still reeling from their last fight that he didn’t want to start another one if it could be avoided.
Though, Alice was certain he had come close to breaking his word when she had cancelled their plans to meet for supper that night. Frank had been planning on taking her to La Petite Sorcière, but she had begged off and asked him to push the plans off until next week. From what her mother told her, James was going to wake soon, and Alice wanted him to see a friendly face when he did. It was going to be hard enough on the man when he heard that his beloved wife was dead.
Another yawn overtook Alice, and she was just allowing her eyes to flutter closed when the door to the hospital room banged open. The former Auror sat upright, looking in shock at her mother who was hovering in the doorway. Hermia’s face was drawn, and she looked as though she might cry at any moment.
“Alice,” she managed to get out, her voice cracking.
“What?” Alice asked. “Is everything all right?”
Her mother shook her head. “Sweetling, it’s Frank.”*~*The Slayer knew her first feeling ought to have been panic, but she felt safe. There was nothing but kindness in the stranger’s face, and she was watching Buffy with a soft expression. She felt no sense of urgency, only curiosity.
“Who are you?” Buffy asked. “Where are we?”
“I think you already know who I am, and as to where we are...a place of great magic.” The redhead crossed over to one of the large stones, levitating up and sitting atop it. She smiled at Buffy. “Also, we’re in your dream so the magical rules of the real world don’t apply. Wicked, isn’t it?”
Buffy laughed, hopping up on one of the stones herself, causing her red dress to swish. “So, you’re Harry’s mom, huh?”
“Yes,” the other woman agreed.
“Do you mind me calling him Harry?” Buffy asked, uncertain on the proper protocol for talking to a dead person.
The woman snickered. “I think that was always meant to be his name. So, no, I don’t mind you calling him that.”
“So, um, you’re dead,” Buffy commented. “Is it as nice as I remember?”
She laughed. “Nicer, if you can believe it.”
“Are you here to tell me to give back Harry?” Buffy asked quietly, her voice cracking slightly. It would kill her, but the Slayer knew she could do it if she had too.
“No, no,” the redhead answered, waving her hands and alleviating Buffy’s fears. “As much as I might wish that things were different, the truth of the matter is that Harry will be safest with you. Unfortunately, there are still people who want him dead and would hurt him if he were with his birth family. Keeping him safe is the most important thing. When the time is right, everything will come together as it should, but now is not that time.”
“Is there anything you can tell me?” Buffy asked.
“Not much,” the other woman admitted. “It’s still rather surprising to me that it all turned out as it did. When my son was targeted by a mad man, I searched everywhere for a way to prevent it. It seemed hopeless, and then I stumbled on a book that spoke of a type of magic I had never heard of before.”
“The protection spell,” Buffy said, following her train of thought.
“Yes, it was a Wiccan ritual, and it was truly only desperation that made me try it.” She then smiled triumphantly. “But it worked. It worked, and my son is safe. I worried as I watched him dumped in that alley by those who should have protected him, but it was as if things had already been decided. There are no coincidences in magic, I think. Harry needed you, and so there you were.”
“I’m glad I was,” Buffy said softly.
“As am I. I mainly came here to thank you for saving my son. And to give you my blessing. I know that you are still afraid that Harry is going to be taken from you, or that I wouldn’t approve, but neither of those things is true. My son, our son, is lucky to have you.”
“I love him,” Buffy confessed, her eyes filling with tears.
The other woman’s eyes filled as well. “Thank you.” She then hopped off the stone, landing gracefully on the ground. “I wish I could stay for longer, but I’m only allowed out of the beyond to speak to you this once, and to wake a certain prince with a kiss. Oh, and by the way, congratulations on your daughter. You should be prepared. Harry’s dad was a bit of a troublemaker. It might be genetic, and I have no doubt that Dawn will be roped in as well.”
Buffy laughed. “I’ll keep it in mind.” A thought then occurred to her. “What's your name?” Buffy asked.
“Lily,” the witch said. “My name is Lily.”
“All right,” Buffy nodded. “I’ll make sure Harry knows.”
Lily smiled. “Goodbye, Buffy Summers, and thank you.”*~*
On the other side of London in an empty hospital room, with the feeling of a kiss lingering on his lips, James Potter awoke with a gasp.