Hole in the wall
Author’s Note: UnBeta’ed, so all mistakes are my fault. The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.# Hole in the Wall
The pharmacy called Abbott’s Old Pharmacy really didn’t draw many customers, in the location where it was, with the old, rundown inventory and bad lighting. And the empty burned out store next door an eyesore that drove away customers. Old man Abbott had never cared, as his store filled up with more and more dated and useless merchandise and fewer and fewer customers.
And then he died, and left his shop to his niece. Or maybe grand niece, no one was exactly sure. People expected the shop to be closed and put up for sale. But it hadn’t been.
Builders had come in, to fix up the place, modernize it. A good part of the interior was kept and restored, creating a Pharmacy that harkened back to an earlier, gentler age. The Soda Fountain was even fixed and opened again, the bar polished and the old stools refinished. It drew a stream of nostalgic elders looking for confirmation of old memories, and even curious teens out on dates.
And the new owner was a kind, gentle woman with a warm smile, willing to listen to the anxious questions of worried young mothers and soothe the worries with advice as often as medication.
“It will be fine,” she’d say. “Just put a bowl of boiling water with some chamomile by her bed and she’ll breathe more easily.”
And that brought people back. The thought that she cared more about her customers than she did about her pocketbook.
It also helped the woman had two lovely, polite daughters. Sometimes they helped in though only at the till. There was no father, but that was hardly unusual in this day and age. She didn't talk about him, but it was clear that the husband was divorced, not deceased or merely departed on some job.
The general opinion in Sunnydale was that Joyce Summers and her family were a great addition to the community.
It had been noted by some that Principal Flutie had cast the occasional worried glance at his newest pupil, but after a visit from her mother, he'd relaxed. A troubled young girl, upset about her parents’ failing marriage, with an active imagination who didn't want to implicate her less than splendid friends when some illicit smoking had been going on. A reasonable explanation for what had happened, and one that put his heart at ease. Except to feel sorry for poor young Buffy.
The bell rang. The other bell. Joyce checked to see if there was anyone in the Muggle store and then stepped through the door into the private section of her store. The short corridor held two more doors, one to the pharmacy proper, the other to the small kitchen and cafeteria where she ate with her shop and pharmacy assistants. There was a washroom there too, and the door to the stairs that led up to the two floor above, where she lived with her daughters.
“Micky! I'm stepping out for a bit! Take the shop!” She called out.
There was a muffled reply and then Micky, one of the pharmacist trainees, slouched through the corridor, passed Joyce with nary a glance and took up station behind the counter.
Joyce sighed. *Unless that boy really improves he very quickly never gonna be a Pharmacist. And he’s gonna be out of a job too.*
Double checking that no one was looking, she took out her wand and tapped the wall opposite the Pharmacy door.
It seemed to fold open, revealing another, old fashioned looking door, made of panelled wood, stained dark, very much out of place in the recently renovated Pharmacy.
The door opened into the supposedly empty shop next door. The visible building was two stories high and quite deep. From the outside the shop windows were boarded up, as were those of the upper floor. From the inside it was different. The windows on the upper story spanned the whole width of the building, as those on the lower story did, but not in great panes, instead small latticed windows made up the whole.
The ceiling had been removed and instead there were a vast number of cubby-holes, each with their own, flask, stoppered vial, jar, vat or container. A cast-iron walkway was built along all four sides, supported by slightly arched and fluted metal posts, each carved and moulded into a different fantastic shape.
Long, wheeled wooden ladders could be moved along rails at the top and in grooves at the bottom, allowing for fairly easy access even to the highest shelves. The middle of the store held a vast cupboard, up to the high ceiling, equipped with its own ladders. It was a space filled with scents and smells, fresh and old, pure and decayed, deep, spicy and hearty.
A large, varnished oaken counter, glowing yellow in the afternoon light stood in front of the wall opposite the door, barring access to some of the most expensive or volatile ingredients. Two doors opened beyond it. One led to the hallway in the Pharmacy, the other, covered in shelves, into the large laboratory at the back of the store.
There was a tall man waiting in front of the outer door that only those with innate magic could see. Sighing Joyce gestured with her wand and the door opened, allowing the man entry.
He strode inside as if he owned the place. Dressed in pearlescent grey robes he looked down at her with an air of haughty disapproval. “Took you long enough,” he growled.
Joyce raised an eyebrow. “The arrangement is that people call before they visit. You should feel lucky I didn't leave you waiting outside to be eaten by vampires or demons later tonight.”
The man spluttered. “What?”
“I make high quality potions and sell rare ingredients. I offer Owl-order deliveries. I do not sell pepper up potions to sniffling clerks or Hangover cures to drunken idiots who bumble inside.”
The man opened his mouth to protest. Joyce quelled him with a glare.
“I do not know who you are, since you did not contact me ahead of time. You could have drawn a great deal of unwanted attention to this location, something I really want to avoid. So like I said, you're lucky I even allowed you inside. Now, did you want to order something, or buy something or did you just come here to gawk?”
The man blinked. “Errr.... I need a Magical Stability potion,” he whispered. “I heard tell you sold it.”
Joyce nodded. “I do. Might I ask why you need it?”
The man sighed. “My son. He's two. He threw a tantrum and the magic destroyed half a wall. The wall can be repaired, but what if there is someone in the way next time?”
Joyce nodded. “I will need to see him. And you'll also need to see a specialist.”
“A Healer? They say they can do nothing,” the man snorted.
Joyce smiled. “No, I meant someone who can help you deal with the tantrums. The potion is dangerous. He should take it only for a short period of time or it might damage his magical core. That’s also why I need to examine him fairly closely. There is no such thing as a typical stability potion each one is slightly different from all others.”
The man nodded. “I understand. Errr... do you know someone?”
“Madam Edgeley in Characteristic Alley should be able to help you, she's very good at dealing with magical tantrums,” Joyce told him ruefully. “Oh, and if she says she can deal with it without a potion, do so. It’s far better not to take medication if it isn't needed.”
The man nodded. “Thank you. If it turns out he doesn't need it, I shall pay you the cost of a potion.”
“There's no need for that,” Joyce objected.
“Good advice is worth its weight in gold,” he countered, smiling. “And if this Madam Edgeley can help with his tantrums, my wife would double the Frigates.”
Joyce smiled. “Tell her that there’s nothing wrong with seeking advice. I took my youngest to see her as well.”
The man nodded thankfully. “Thank you. That will make her feel better.”
“If Madam Edgeley tells you he needs both, bring him over as quick as you can. That sort of outbursts at such a young age isn’t healthy either,” Joyce explained.
“Thank you again,” then man bowed his head gratefully. “You really should open a store in LA.”
“I had one. Summer’s Balm. But I want my children to know both worlds. And well, I inherited this,” she gestured around her. “Here, I don’t have to pay rent.”
The man smiled. “Well, no matter what I’ll certainly recommend you. Thank you, Mrs Abbott.”
“You’re welcome, Mr?” Joyce asked.
“Meadowes. Bernard Meadowes,” the man smiled, nodded again and left.
Joyce sighed and sealed the door shut again behind him. The number of really good potion’s masters and mistresses in the Americas could be counted on the fingers of both hands. And she had a reputation for brewing some rare and difficult to get potions. So she shouldn’t be surprised that people still came to visit her shop, even unannounced. Even on the Hellmouth, dangerous though it was.
But they had
to move. She couldn’t risk the Congress finding out about Buffy. She was not giving up her daughter to a bunch of hidebound old morons who saw her as a weapon to be used. No matter what stupid treaties existed. The Hellmouth would keep the Censors from realising what was going on.
She would keep her daughter as safe as she could. She had lost one daughter already. She wasn’t going to lose another. Not if she could help it. She couldn’t bear any more loss. She stepped back into the Muggle world, and her other life.
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It had been their otherness that had finally made Hank leave, had made him seek comfort in the arms of another woman.
Oh, he had always had wandering eyes, but they wandered right back, too. He'd been up front about it. Before he'd laid a finger on Gail, he'd told Joyce he wanted a divorce. That he was dating Gail two days later was annoying, but hardly something that Joyce could be truly angry about. It had been difficult, being married to a man who had no magic.
Hank was frightened, of her, his wife, of Buffy and Dawn, his daughters. His remaining daughters. And he had never forgiven her for what had happened to Astrid.
Then again, neither had Joyce. Even thought it wasn't her fault. Her great crime had been to marry a man who couldn’t do magic. And to travel to Britain to visit her family. Buffy had been six, the Twins newly born. They had been visiting her Great-Aunt Sophia Abbott (Née Pulsifer) and then the attack had come, shattering the old house’s wards.
When it was over, Aunt Sophia was dead, Hank dreadfully wounded, Buffy’s magic had been burned out in an effort to protect her sisters, Dawn was covered in blood and Astrid… Astrid was gone.
Death Eaters had taken her, or killed her. No one had been able to find her. And the British Ministry’s ineffectualness had been clear. It had taken a child to kill Voldemort. But it hadn’t been Astrid. For her, it was too late.
But Joyce was not losing another daughter. And she was not going to meekly knuckle under and listen to some silly Muggle Watcher.
Buffy had never gone to magical school. The Healers had said her attempts to protect her sisters when she was a child herself had destroyed her magical core.
Buffy had been terribly jealous when Dawn had showed signs of having magic. It had taken Joyce a long time to make her accept that she, Joyce, didn’t love Buffy any less than Dawn. That she was wonderful. And that she had loved her sisters enough, and been brave enough, to protect them, even until her magic failed forever.
Her sisters had been a bit snobby about letting Buffy play with their children, what with her ‘Being a Squib and all, Joyce Darling’.
At least until Buffy identified, and described, the demon Der Kindestod in sufficient detail so that it could be slain before it killed Buffy’s cousin Celia. That showed them just what a Squib could do. Buffy and Celia were still close.
And Buffy had always liked being a hero, so it played right into Joyce’s attempt to make her feel better about her lack of magic. Joyce just wished she could have chosen to be one, rather than it Choosing her.
Buffy’s not being magical did mean she missed certain things. Like what the Slayer was. So when she found out, she’d jumped into it, with both feet, as she was wont to do.
Joyce hadn’t found out until Buffy the Gym burned down. And then had a few choice words with her daughter. Hero complex or no, teenager or no, she really should share little secrets like that with her mother.
Joyce was just very, very glad that Merrick was dead. He had been getting a little too close to finding out Buffy’s real background.
Buffy’s being chosen had been the final straw for Hank. Buffy had been the ‘normal girl’, the daughter he could take ice skating, who liked make up and television. To find out she too, was magical was the last drop.
All in all that meant that here they were. Her great uncle Meretricious’ Abbott’s inheritance couldn’t have come at a better time. The old man had been an indifferent brewer at best, but he’d bough land cheaply and sold it well. He also had a soft spot for the only one of his relatives who actually visited, with her children even. And she was an Apothecary and a Pharmacist, just like he’d been, before Muggle medicine got so darned complicated.
Joyce really could have settled down on the money he’d left her, but she needed to do something, talk to people, to inspire her. It also allowed for a better cover. She could have lived on the money in LA. But a rent-free shop? That she could explain moving for, as well as the many rare potions ingredients that kept wandering around. Vampire dust was very versatile.
She smiled as the bell over the door rang and Buffy came in, looking a bit unsure of herself. Her eldest daughter gave her a look that told her quite clearly she needed to talk right now and then headed into the back of the shop. Joyce could hear her footsteps thunder up the staircase from her position behind the dispensing counter. With a sigh she called out for Micky again and headed upstairs.
Buffy was sitting at the kitchen, looking at the glass of soda she’d poured herself.
“Ummm? Mom? R-remember how you told me to be careful about the whole secret identity thing?”
Joyce sighed. It sounded as if it was going to be a long, long night. End note: I own neither Harry Potter (vaguely mentioned) nor Buffy the Vampire Slayer