Heart of Darkness
Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta’s on this Cordyfan and Letomo. 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.# I seem to have been remiss in thanking people for their recommendations, so many thanks to: Amie (who I think I forgot earlier) banditdoz, Greywizard, Jezzibel, lunalurker, Misty, OtteryLexa, Somebunny, Sunhawk, tealruby and Wolfkin. I still do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter Chapter 13 Heart of Darkness
Hannah was sitting on a heavy, darkly upholstered chair and looking at her seemingly indefatigable girlfriend who was standing in the middle of a ritual circle. She was drawing another one, with chalk and what looked like powdered silver.
“I thought she was going to help bring down those shields?” a rather stuffy voice whined. “Far too flighty. Why, if she'd have had proper training, she would be far more responsible.”
Hannah looked around, irritated on behalf of Willow. There was a man there, dressed in immaculate and very expensive looking robes, not a strand of his hair out of place and wearing several gem-studded rings. His wand was held nonchalantly in his hand and he looked clean, cool and had clearly not lifted a finger during the battle so far, nor was he helping now.
“Would you prefer if she left that hanging around unguarded?” she gestured at the still growing orb of darkness and evil that hovered about five feet off the floor.
The man sniffed. “Any competent wizard ought to be able to handle that.”
His tone of voice implied that he thought Willow incompetent.
Willow's face was screwed up in concentration and all her attention was focused on the deep black globe that hung in the air, only slightly increasing in size but darkening ever more.
“Hmph. Utter incompetence. Everybody knows you never take your eyes of what you're doing,” the man sniffed.
Willow opened her eyes. “Who might you be sir?”
“Giles Armand DuPlessis, Vice Prime Minister of Magic of the Magical Kingdom of Canada. I am the man in charge of this operation,” he gave her a withering look. “And you?”
Willow looked around. People were studiously avoiding looking at them. “Oh, nobody important. Just an amateur, really.”
Then she stepped away. “Okay. Go right ahead.”
The man gave her a frosty look. “What do you mean?”
“You can deal with it. You obviously think you'd be better at it than I am. So, go right ahead. I don't mind bowing to greater knowledge and experience,” she sent a look at the Thestries and smiled. “And I'm sure that your subordinates will be very impressed by seeing how you handle this.”
“Quite,” he sniffed and stepped forward, gesturing with his wand. “Evanesco!”
A ripple ran over the surface of the globe and then with incredible speed a tentacle of darkness lashed out and struck DuPlessis. He screamed. His face started to sag like warm black wax and his eyes melted and ran down his face. His joints started to pop as heavy bone extrusions grew out of them.
There was utter silence in the hall. Willow looked at the two completely clean guards that had accompanied the man. “Oh dear. Seems that he wasn't as competent as he thought he was.”
Then she turned back to the orb. It had been growing but started to shrink again as soon as Willow concentrated.
“How dare you!” shrill voice called out. “You evil black thing! Who are you? I'll have you arrested! You killed Minister DuPlessis!”
Willow didn't look around. “I'm called the White Witch of the West. I’ve done things your puny little mind couldn't ever comprehend. For instance, your precious boss isn't dead. Though he may need a long time to recover. But I'm sure it will be a valuable learning experience from which he will emerge a lot more thoughtful, cautious and hopefully polite. And if you try and arrest me...”
She gestured. The orb pulsed. The voice screamed and there was the sound of running footsteps. “Someone deal with him before he completely melts. And don't disturb me again. This isn't as easy as I make it look,” Willow said coldly to the gaping wizards.
Two healers hurried over to the unfortunate man, pouring a painkilling potion down his throat before levitating him to the triage area to stabilize him.
Hannah swallowed, her eyes very wide as they rested on Willow.
Willow took a deep breath and started chanting in a language Hannah didn’t know.
Hannah watched and listened as her lover’s voice rose steadily from a deep low rumble to her normal timbre. Then she made a hooking gesture with her hands. Suddenly unearthly screams rang throughout the castle.
Harry swore when the shield surrounding the Dementors faded and the whole lot of them surged towards him. He fired off his Patronus, but the grey-black monstrosities seemed more worried about other things than Prongs.
Buffy ducked as the Dementors flew over her head, clawing at the air, struggling against the force that was pulling at them. She smiled and ignored them as she headed into the dungeons.
She smiled even more broadly when she saw Harry stun three surprised Death Eaters in quick succession and then she started to run towards the sound of the fighting.
Giles was dressed in the remnants of his blood-soaked tweed suit and was busily head-butting a whimpering Death eater. He was holding a sword in one hand and a captured wand in the other, with three more thrust in various pockets.
Four Death Eaters lay groaning at his feet, most of them with terribly mangled hands. Behind Giles a shaggy bearded man held a wand and sniped at the remaining opposition. Buffy coming from behind quickly removed the final threat.
Buffy looked at her old Watcher through narrowed eyes. Giles looked at her from a face battered and worn and with an expression that was an odd mix of total freedom and exultant happiness and horror and remorse.
“Buffy,” he whispered. “I’m so glad to see you again.”
Buffy nodded tensely. “Yeah. Sure. No offence, but I think we’ll have Willow check you for spells before we believe a word you say.”
Then she hauled back and slugged him on the chin, knocking him out. The man who’d been behind Giles glared at her.
“Who’re you?” he rasped in a voice that was strained with disuse.
“Mr. Tonks?” Harry said in an incredulous voice, before Buffy could answer.
Willow smiled as the Dementors started flowing into the room as if floating on rapid rivers, thrust together and bumping into each other and hissing and clawing at the air and the stones futilely.
The Magical cops dove out off their way and Hannah ducked down, her wand out, ready to come to Willow’s assistance.
Willow took a deep breath and spread her arms, then started to bring them together, chanting in a low, burring voice that sent shivers down the spines of all those who heard it. The Dementors screamed as one by one they were drawn into the ball. The ball rippled and surged as the grim creatures tried to escape, but Willow’s voice rose implacably and once the last of them had been drawn in, she brought her hands further together and concentrated.
She gritted her teeth and sent a bolt of white fire with a wave of her hand into the dark, gloomy windows over the door, shattering the spell-reinforced burned glass that showed the superiority of the European wizards over their American Muggle Slaves. She waved her hand again and the other windows broke and Sunlight flooded into the room.
Ignoring the surprised and frightened wizards who were looking at her in utter shock, Willow started chanting again.
Hannah was looking at her girlfriend fearfully. This was not the girl she fell in love with. The utter callousness she’d shown towards Duplessis was frightening and worrying.
The unholy words that she was uttering weren’t much of an assurance either.
Willow paused in her chant and looked at Hannah. %I'll need your help soon, love. Don't worry. I haven't gone dark.%
The courtyard was being used for triage, processing prisoners and temporarily storing the bodies of the dead. Even with magic, it was back-breaking, stomach churning work.
Ron wiped his forehead with his hand and looked around. “Where's Faith?” he asked. “I haven't seen her since the last wards came down.”
“She headed upstairs almost as soon as the castle was reported clear of Dead Beatles,” Xander answered as he took a picture of a werewolf that had changed back into human form after being decapitated by Kennedy.
They were going to try and identify as many of them as possible. Some peace of mind might be given to their relatives, and maybe some of their victims.
“Oh. ” Ron asked. He looked around. “Errr… I think we're about done with sweeping up the remnants. Think I could head up and see if she's all right?”
Xander looked around as well. Triage was almost done and the wizards and witches were Apparating wounded and prisoners and death eaters to hospitals, prisons and prison hospitals. Luna was helping with the healing, having had plenty of practice during the War. He smiled at her, she smiled back, blood and soot and dust on her face.
“Yeah, looks like we got things well in hand.”
Ron nodded and headed up. Xander grinned, which drew the attention of Bill who had been helping with the dead werewolves and had been scanning the castle for curses as well. “Something funny?”
“Just wondering about something Faith once said,” Xander smiled. “Nothing that would harm him. He looks like a strong, healthy lad and she won't do him any permanent damage. I think.”
Bill gave him a suspicious look. “What's she going to do to him?”
Xander smirked. “Maybe, one day, he'll tell you.”
Ron walked confidently into the great hall, mounted the staircase with barely a glance at the people who were looking at Willow with fear and distrust, and then down the hallway, noting that the very stones seemed brighter, with tiny sparkles, like mica, in the granite and the mortar. As a matter of fact the whole castle felt lighter since Willow had taken over and cleansed the wards. He saw Kennedy standing in front of a large ornate door as if she was guarding it, though her face was tired and her stance weary.
“Faith in there?” he asked.
Kennedy nodded, pursed her lips, then stepped aside. “Yeah. Better go in too.”
Ron gave her a look, then did as she suggested and entered.
The room beyond was extravagantly and sumptuously decorated, with lots of snakes in the furnishings. Even the cords on the heavy brocade curtains bore golden snakeheads.
Ron grimaced and strode towards one of the doors that stood open. He could hear Buffy talking beyond it, and monosyllables from Faith. The room beyond was a bedroom, equally sumptuously furnished.
There was a man lying on the bed, dressed in jeans and a sweater. A pair of ankle high boots stood at the foot of the bed. Faith was holding his hand. There were the marks of tears on her face, but she wasn't crying anymore.
Buffy was looking from the man to the girl with interest as well as compassion.
Ron cleared his throat. “They're apparating people to the hospital.”
“I know. It wouldn't be any use for him,” Faith said in a small voice. “Snape told me that there's no cure for the Dementor's Kiss.”
Ron winced. “Ah. No. There isn't,” he stepped closer and put a hand on her shoulder. “Who is he?”
Faith swallowed. “The true heir of Slytherin.”
Ron's mouth fell open and he took a wary step back. “Wha? That’s Voldemort?”
Faith shook her head. “Ethan Rayne. Descended in the male line directly from ol' Sal himself. Of course it was through Corvus Gaunt's Squib grandson and all his Squibby little descendants...”
“But he wasn't a Squib?” Ron looked at the comatose figure appraisingly, as colour returned to his cheeks.
Buffy snorted. “Nope. A pain in the ass, but not a Squib.”
Ron gave her a pained look at the way she spoke about someone who was obviously close to Faith.
Faith grinned slightly. “He would have been grateful for the compliment.”
“So what, this was his castle?” Ron gestured.
“No. They wanted him to breed a new body for Lord Voldemort. He wasn't in favour of that. And he certainly didn’t believe in Pureblood ideology. So he fought them, Slytheryn fashion.” Faith stood and looked Ron in the eye. “He’s also my dad.”
Ron went pale again and fell into a chair by the bed.
Faith stood very straight. “Thought you might react that way.”
“They wanted your father to have a child with you?” Ron asked aghast.
“The more Slytherin the better. Of course I don't think any of them considered the genetics of the thing,” Faith gave him a look. “I thought you'd be freakin'.”
“I am freaking!” Ron growled. “I want to use a time turner and go back and show those bastards some really inventive spellwork!”
Faith cleared her throat “You're not upset about the Slytherin thing? Snape said you hated him for being the Head of Slytherin and hated them on principle.”
Ron smiled. “I've grown up a bit since then. And Mum made me look into the family tree. Turns out about half the Purebloods in Britain are descended from at least two of the Founders, usually more.”
Faith smiled sadly. “You're descended from Slytherin too, aren't you?”
Ron nodded. “Through the Blacks, one of them married a Gaunt when they were still rich enough to merit the attention.”
“So that won't be a problem,” Buffy put a hand on her friend's shoulder. “If you'll excuse me, I'll go and see if there's anything I need to be doing. Do you mind if I take the Scythe?”
Faith grimaced. “Couldn't lift it if I wanted to. I'm beat.”
Buffy nodded soberly. “It will take at least a day before your strength returns fully. Take it easy until then, okay?”
Faith nodded. “Sure. And Buffy?”
Buffy looked back over her shoulder at the rare use of her full name.
“Thanks for helping. And being there. And coming for me,” the brunette told her in a serious voice.
Buffy smiled. “Any time.”
Ron moved over to stand by the bed with Faith and put an arm around her shoulders.
“So what do you want to do?” he asked.
“I don't know. I was in a coma for eight months. But this is different. There's nothing left. No brain, no soul, nothing,” Faith stroked the pallid hand and shivered. “Death would have been far kinder.”
Ron nodded. “Which is why Dementors were used. And why we banned them.”
Hannah shivered at the cold expression in Willow's eyes as she studied the dark, oily orb. The red headed witch walked over to the satchel that sat next to the gleaming white altar and rummaged around in it, taking out five slightly greenish glass or crystal orbs and some downy feathers and several bags that Hannah knew contained spices and herbs that she used in rituals quite often.
Her face turned towards the stairs. Buffy was coming down them, Sword of Gryffindor and the Slayer Scythe in hand. “Hey, Will. You bellowed?”
Willow snorted. “I did not bellow. I asked you perfectly politely in your mind to come to that great hall and bring the Scythe.”
“Very loudly. I think your words were: 'Stop cuddling with your boyfriend and get down here, Summers! And bring the Scythe!'” Buffy pouted. “And Neville wasn't even there.”
Willow's ears pinked. “Sorry. That thing is getting on my nerves and in my mind,” she waved a hand at the globe of blackness.
Buffy eyed it detachedly. “It feels horrifying. So. What are we gonna do with it?”
Willow smirked. “What we do every time.”
“Try and take over the world?” Buffy smirked back.
“Yes, Pinky, very good,” Willow smiled. “Oh, and defeat evil. So we're gonna kill it as best we can.”
Buffy nodded. “Okay. How?”
Willow beckoned Hannah over, then Harry, Snape, Minerva, the Weasleys and Neville, all of whom eyed her with some trepidation “I'm gonna soften it up. When I give the signal, you hit it with the Scythe. The wizards will cast their Patronuses into the blob. Then I send in all the power I can muster. Hopefully that will do it.”
“And then?” Snape asked.
“Things will happen. I'd like some people to cast Patronuses around us to keep them under control. I'll deal with them later.”
“What about what you did to DuPlessis?” Ginny asked. “He may be an arsehole, but what you did was-”
“I let him do what he wanted. I can't help it if he's moron. I do not have time, nor do I intend to take time during a crisis to cater to bureaucrats who've got no idea what they're talking about or doing,” Willow told her sharply. “I've seen that kill far too many good people.”
“Some government flunky interfered?” Buffy scowled. “Dammit, seems they do that in whatever world we move in. Idiots seem to cluster in governments.”
“Yeah. He cast a vanishing charm at it,” Willow shrugged.
Buffy looked at the pulsing concentration of evil. “Yup, definitely an elected official.”
Dawn coughed. Buffy gave her an annoyed look. Dawn rolled her eyes sideways at the older, rather amused looking man who stood next to Percy.
Buffs face became slightly pink. 'Err... Didn't see you there, assistant Minister Weasley.”
Arthur grinned a little. “Don't worry. I am an elected official and quite often have my doubts about governments and what they do. And as for Duplessis, I might not quite have done what you did, but my Canadian counterpart can be exceptionally vexing.”
Willow sighed. “I'll see what I can do for him after all this is over. If I've got any energy left.”
Minerva mustered the strength of the various members of the group. “Does the number of people casting Patronuses matter, Miss Rosenberg?”
Willow shook her head. “No. The more the better, I'd say.”
Minerva smiled. So did Snape. “Isn't it useful then that being able to cast that spell has become compulsory for all Aurors since the war?”
Ginny grinned. “All the Thestries can cast it too.”
Willow nodded. “Then get whoever isn't busy in here. The sooner we do this, the better,” she sighed. “Better go and contain the blob. Don't want it to get bigger and harder to deal with.”
Hannah put a hand on her shoulder. “Yeah. But we'll talk later.”
Willow nodded, though she didn't look guilty. “The last time a government interfered in what we were dealing with, several hundred people died, Hannah. So don't think I'll feel too bad about someone who ought to have known better.”
Hannah swallowed and stepped back. Buffy wandered away a bit while Willow concentrated on the blob. Harry sent off a Patronolegio and so did Ginny. Then they settled in to wait. Most of them sat down, though Buffy started to wander about the hall, studying tapestries and artworks cursorily. After a five minutes or so Buffy ended up by Hannah.
“Don't believe a word she's saying. Once she gets off the magic, she'll need you to deal with it,” she whispered as she ostentatiously studied the battle-worn blonde's appearance.
Hannah blinked. “What?”
“Willow. Do you really think that the girl who feels bad about killing aphids liked doing that? It was necessary to establish who we are and what we do. And she can't admit to weakness in front of all these people. But she'll need a shoulder to cry on for a good few days,”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “You do realise you've got Fyarl snot in your hair as well?” she said in a far louder tone of voice.
Hannah nodded, realising the private conversation was over. “Yes. It seems to be setting, too. Do you have anything to counter that?”
Buffy grinned and drew the Sword of Gryffindor.
Hannah stepped back. “That let's me keep my head and my hair!”
Buffy pouted. “But I wanted to see if I could give you a shave and a haircut. Two Knuts?”
Hannah shook her head and crossed her arms. “No.”
Buffy pouted at Neville. “You'll let me shave your head with my pretty Scythe, won't you, Nev?”
Neville gave her a wan smile. “Maybe after I've seen you practice on Harry. I think you'd need a supernatural weapon to get that haystack under control.”
Harry glared at him. Ginny laughed.
They waited for ten minutes until about two dozen more wizards and witches had gathered. The last to arrive was Luna, hand in hand with a weary looking Xander, followed by Ron, who looked tired and depressed.
Buffy went to meet them, hugging all three. She whispered in Ron's ear. “Faith?”
Ron smiled, a little and whispered back. “Asleep. Mourning. Wondering what to do about her father.”
Buffy nodded in understanding, then stepped away to rejoin Willow near the globe.
Willow looked around. “Everybody know what they gotta do?”
There were general nods and murmurs and frightened looks at the red headed witch. She took out her herbs and sprinkled them around the globe, then put the feathers in a goblet and added some myrrh. She put the crystal she'd gotten from her bag on a small stool. She pricked her finger and added three drops to the owl feathers, and a touch of brandy. Then she lit the contents of the goblet on fire.
Willow took a deep breath. Then she resumed her chant. This time it was harsh, angular, fierce and punishing. The orb surged and spun. Huge bulges appeared as if parts of it were trying to escape. The smoke from the goblet rose and circled the mass of heaving, pulsing darkness.
Willow kept her chant up, though her voice grew hoarse at the unforgiving cadences of the language. She brought her hands together, then clasped them, hard. She released them. The smoke, now pure white, slammed into the orb and tore into it. Buffy leapt, the Scythe and the Sword of Gryffindor swinging through the air, both impacting the oily skin of the globe.
Weakened by the smoke it ripped open. A chorus of Expecto Patronum sent forth three dozen silvery shapes that galloped, slithered, flew, jumped and ran into the rift.
An unearthly, unholy scream reverberated through the Great Hall, Willow's hair and eyes had gone white as soon as Buffy attacked. Now she was pouring a huge beam of white light into the darkness, supporting the Patronuses. Minerva had gone pale and Snape was supporting her, snarling with effort, but both still had their wands extended to kept their magic flowing into their Patronuses.
Several younger and less powerful wizards were on their knees. The Weasleys were wavering, and Dawn was supporting them as well as she could. Neville stood like a rock, power flowing off him and into the great silver lion. Luna was leaning into Xander, but her face was determined and her silvery hare shone as brightly as any.
After about a minute the blackness of the globe became less, after another minute it started going grey, then slowly, seemingly taking hours but in reality less than five minutes, the grey turned to white in places. The screams lessened in volume, if not in soul-screeching nature.
Willow reached out and Buffy stepped up to her. The witch grabbed both the weapons that the Slayer carried and suddenly the power that had been flowing from her increased. With a final, hopeless wail the globe of darkness shattered into an uncountable number of splinters and the splinters were chased by Patronuses and beams of light from Willow's hands, until the last one faded into nothingness. Some of the splinters flowed into the glass orbs.
Willow released the Scythe and the Sword and sagged slightly.
Bill’s scars were bleeding and the raggedly healed wound where George’s ear had been was streaming with blood. A viscous stream of dark red welled from Harry’s forehead as he vomited violently on the floor, thick black bile dripping from his mouth. He collapsed as he lost control over his legs and barely managed to move his head so he wouldn't suffocate. Ginny was much the same, vomiting as she trembled violently, as if she had no control over any of her muscles.
Ron was almost as bad, though he didn't tremble as much.
Dawn had gone very pale and Percy immediately helped her to sit on a nearby chair, and then hurried back to help his father, who was vomiting what looked like very dark blood as blood welled through his clothes.
Percy and Charlie helped the other Weasleys to sit too. Harry sat down and Ginny sat beside him. Snape was supporting McGonagall, though he actually looked a lot worse than her, his skin was if possible even more pale than usual, with thin streaky lines crisscrossing his face and hands, all welling tiny drops of dark red. He trembled violently but seemed to keep himself under iron control.
Together they staggered to a nearby table and fell into the chairs. With a slight smile Minerva reached out and squeezed Snape's hand. He almost smiled back.
Xander lifted Luna bodily and carried the slight witch to the same table Snape and Minerva were using, putting her in a chair gently.
The Aurors and Thestries mostly collapsed entirely where they stood, though more from exhaustion than for any other reason.
Neville stood blinking, then very slowly started to fall. Buffy dropped sword and scythe and ran, catching him just before his head hit the ground.
Willow walked tall and proud towards the altar, placed her hands upon it and very slowly let the white run from her hands and eyes. The altar glowed, then started to fade as the magic spread down and out. Glittering specks of white spread through the grey granite of the castle, chasing away the last holds of darkness.
A party of Aurors who were subduing a pack of ghouls saw their opponents scream and burst into flames. A squad of Slayers facing off against three Death Eaters commanding a half battalion of black and battered animated armour suddenly faced three Death Eaters who were being beaten up by half a battalion of gleaming steel knights.
A few pockets of vampires, hiding in hopes of slipping out later, screamed, burned and fell into ash. From dozens of boxes and cabinets, cupboards and crevices, Boggarts erupted before they screamed and snapped up into small balls and died. Doxies fell from unused curtains, stunned.
In the attics and great cellars of the ancient keep, house elves lifted their bent heads and felt the passing of their ownership from one master to another.
In the dark, sad woods a patrol of Slayers suddenly felt the shadow lift. Sunlight, young and innocent, filtered through the dark green needles of spruce and evergreen, through the bare branches of the ancient oaks. Light had come once more to Chateau Pur Sang.
While all this was going on, Healers rushed into the Hall, carrying potions and hastening to the aid of those who had fallen. Buffy looked up from Neville's body, her hands red and slick with blood.
Her eyes were wide and her voice cracked with desperation as she called out. “Please! Somebody help!”
Buffy sighed tiredly as she sat in a huge carved chair at the head of the main table in the great hall. None of the other seats had wanted to pull out for her. Willow had smirked at that, before she realised that only the one right next to Buffy would draw out for her. Hannah had called out for food and a group of eager, if ragged house elves had shown up and distributed food to all and sundry, aided with caring for the wounded, and had promised eternal and loyal fealty to the Great Lady Slayer and her Mightiness the White Witch, despite all that the young women tried to do to prevent it.
That had made Xander laugh hysterically, despite his worry for Luna. Right until one of the House elves had declared she would serve him exclusively.
The elves and the wizards together were hard at work. The castle was being cleansed and searched from top to bottom and scoured clean of the Death Eaters and their allies. Even if the Elves assured them that the evil was all gone, Buffy wanted to be sure.
She hadn’t sensed any Slayers incarcerated here, thankfully. The villains had been too frightened to bring them, since these wards had not been made by Willow and she might decide to investigate one day. And from what Willow told her, Runs-with probably wouldn’t have approved and might have acted up.
Buffy played idly with her sword and hummed discordantly under her breath, her gaze landing on a young looking Death Eater who was kneeling with his hands behind his head. The boy promptly fainted.
She’d been forbidden by the healers to be in the same room as Neville while he was being treated. Harry, Ron, Arthur, Bill, George, Luna and Snape had all been taken to triage as well. An elderly woman brought over from England by McGonagall and some Canadian healers were working on the wounded.
Buffy was worried and tired and she was frightened that the one guy who seemed to be perfect for her and wanted to marry her might be dying. So scaring the prisoners was all she could do while waiting to hear news about his recovery.
Willow reached out and took her hand. “He’ll be fine, Buffy. I’m sure of it,” the redhead smiled.
Buffy bit her lip. “I hope so, Will. I don’t think I could bear…”
Willow leaned in a bit and hugged Buffy. “I know. I understand. But it will be fine. Everything will turn out for the best.”
Buffy gave her friend a look. “How about you, Will? I know you were riding high on the magic, but that Duplessis guy? I know why you did it, and I understand, and I agree that it was probably the best thing to do to keep worse from happening. But I doubt that makes you feel any better.”
Willow winced. “I feel awful. I just hope Hannah can forgive me.”
Buffy smiled. “I think she will. Look.”
Hannah came back into the hall, looking tired but determined and approached the table, then smiled at Willow, if rather hesitantly. “Willow? A asked a couple of house elves to get a room ready for us. You look like you could use the rest.”
Willow nodded and rose stiffly. “Yeah. I could. So do you,” she smiled at the blonde.
Hannah smiled back. “I did say a room for us.”
Willow put an arm around Hannah’s waist. “I heard. Thank you.”
There was far more to those last two words than just gratitude for a place to sleep and rest.
Buffy almost groaned when two men walked into the great hall. She was still waiting for news about Neville and really wasn’t in the mood for more governmental interference. She returned to teaching the youngest of the Slayers involved in the attack weapons maintenance while the others, who weren’t searching the castle, were watching and trying not to look as if they were doing so. She observed the men through her eyelashes.
Buffy didn’t look up. The younger Slayers did, with varying grades of disdain and anger.
“Now Ellen, you have to use plenty of elbow grease on this. Fyarl slime sets very hard and if you don’t get it off ASAP, it also eats into the metal and make it brittle. Oddly enough if you mix a little olive oil with vampire dust and rub it in, that will counteract it.”
Ellen frowned. “I never heard that.”
Buffy snorted. “You wouldn’t. That was actually something my mom came up with after talking with Willow about the acidity or base-inity of vampire dust. That was after the dissolving of a wire clothes hamper after I dropped a Fyarl encrusted shirt in it.”
Ellen giggled nervously. “Your mom sounds awesome! D-do we get to meet her?”
There were some gasps and intakes of breath from the. But Buffy looked at the girl. Ellen was fifteen, just. If it hadn’t been for the massive emergency, she wouldn’t have been anywhere near a battle for several years yet.
“No. Mom died a couple of years ago. But yeah, she was fairly awesome.”
Ellen swallowed. She reached out and hugged Buffy. “I’m sorry.”
Buffy smiled a little as she hugged the girl back. “So am I. Still doesn’t mean you don’t have to get this sword clean. Go gather some vamp dust and then ask one of the House Elves-”
There was a pop. “Great Lady Slayer called?” the little House Elf almost quivered with the need to serve.
Buffy sighed. “Not really… Hully. But now you’re here, can you get some olive oil for Ellen? Nothing too expensive or pure, it’s for cleaning.”
Hully nodded eagerly. “Hully gets olive oil for Little Miss Slayer Ellen!” and popped out.
Ellen sighed. “That is just sooo cool.”
The two men had been studying the wreckage of the gate from within, had stopped at the altar, looked at the corpses and the dust and the ruin of the place in general and they made their way towards the High Table, trying to avoid as much blood and intestine as they could.
One of the men was Kingsley Shacklebolt. The other was a man she didn’t know, though she could guess from his bearing and company who he must be.
He was the first to speak though. “Where is this so-called Slayer?”
Tess, another younger Slayer, who had received a cutting curse to the shoulder and had been ordered out off the sweep of the castle.
“I’m a Slayer. Name’s Tess. And who’re you?”
The man gave her a look as if she was mud, or even something less pleasant, beneath his boots. “I am Minister Weymartin of the Canadian Ministry of Magic. I’m here to take control of this castle in the name of the Canadian Ministry.”
Tess looked at Buffy. “Should I beat him up, Ma’am?”
Ellen was already taking a step forward to immediately be able to do just that as soon as Buffy gave the word.
Buffy sighed. “Ellen? Vampire dust to be gathered. And Tess, no.”
Kingsley looked at the group of injured young women and then at Buffy. “They’re all Slayers?” he asked in a strangled voice.
“I thought you’d have figured that out by now,” Buffy told him airily. “And by the way, this would be one of those secrets that Neville thought would be wise to keep from you.”
The Canadian Minister looked slightly unnerved at the fact that there was more than one Slayer. Buffy doubted that he hadn’t been told, but he probably was one of those men who believed very firmly in what they knew to be true and ignored everything else.
“We shall also want to arrest the woman responsible for injuring the Vice Minister,” Weymartin continued.
“Of course,” Buffy told him in an even tone.
Tess swung towards her, eyes blazing. Buffy merely lifted an eyebrow at her and pointed at a chair. Tess sat down looking rebellious.
Buffy smiled sweetly at Weymartin. “So. Who would this woman be?”
Weyarmtin sputtered. “The Rosenberg female! The so-called White Witch!”
Buffy nodded in her best Cali ditz fashion as if things had just become as clear as mud to her. “Oh, I wasn’t aware she was responsible. I thought he took it upon himself to try and remove one of the greatest concentrations of dark curses and evil on the planet without study through the use of a simple cleaning spell?”
Weymartin looked fit to burst. “She goaded him into it!”
“All she did was step aside,” Buffy steepled her fingers in front of her mouth. “But even if she would be held responsible for this, which I doubt would happen before an honest court of law. How exactly were you planning to arrest her? She’s not going to cooperate you know. And she’s rather more powerful than quite a few of your Thestries together. And from what Neville told me, that’s Lord Longbottom to you by the way, she wouldn’t actually be under Ministry jurisdiction anyway. None of us are.”
Weymartin spluttered. “What?”
Kingsley looked interested. “I find myself interested in that as well, Miss Summers.”
Buffy shrugged. “I don’t know the whole of it, but Neville told me that there’s a treaty. At first between the individual magical governments and the Council, later between the Council and the International Confederation of Wizards. He told me that most people seem to have forgotten about it. He only knows about it because a friend of his asked about it and if it might retroactively affect a creature. His Gran told him it wouldn’t. But Willow is a full member of the Council’s Operating Directorship. That puts her on a footing at least with a Minister. And you know, it may even mean that Mr. Duplessis was actually breaking the treaty when he interrupted her in doing her duty. Hmmm…”
Buffy tapped her chin thoughtfully. “I think the agreed fine for a transgression like that is ten percent of the Magical Nation’s annual tax income.”
The blonde Slayer gave the Canadian a calculating look. “So, when do we go before the ICW and ask for an adjudication? I want to look my best for that and all this destroying strongholds of evil wizards, hordes of vampires, werewolves and giants really gets a girl’s wardrobe down, you know! And I really need to wash my hair to get rid of the Fyarl snot. Oh, and we should figure out how many clauses of the Treaty were broken when you didn’t inform us of the spread of Voldemort into the ‘non-magical’ world.”
Buffy made air quotes. “‘Cause, you know, things would have been a lot better the last few years if we’d known that. And possibly a lot of bad stuff might not have happened to me and my friends. But we’ll know all that once we’ve done a little investigating.”
Shacklebolt looked pained at that, whether from realising that there might be a lot of people dead because of the lack, or due to the fact that the British Ministry might have to pay a fine because of it.
Weymartin glared at Buffy. “I say you’re lying. I’ve never heard of such a Treaty. It doesn’t exist. I hereby declare this building property of the Canadian Ministry of Magic and you and your… cohorts to be held prisoner while we determine your fate.”
Shacklebolt had taken a step away from his colleague when the man started speaking and was now at least five paces distant and affecting a rather desperate ‘I’m not with Stupid’ kind of face.
Weymartin seemed to be oblivious to this; the looks sent his way by the younger Slayers, and the law enforcement personnel edging towards the wall. He merely continued his tirade.
“The contents of the castle and attending properties are all the property of the Ministry as well. The people apprehended here who are supposedly Death Eaters are to be detained at the Ministry’s pleasure. All magical items and artefacts on the premises are immediately confiscated and to be handed over-”
“No,” The Slayer’s eyes narrowed. “You are very annoying. And offensive. Slayers bled and died here today. And none of you bigoted morons ever found a way to deal with this place, so I’m going with a big fat no on the you being owners of it. And unless you really want to get into trouble, you will leave now, until we meet again at the meeting of the ICW.”
Weymartin’s wand was in his hand and aimed and then there was a slight clicking noise as the top end of the wand fell on the floor and the Scythe was touching the man’s nose. Only Buffy’s consummate skill kept it from drawing blood as it indented the skin.
“This weapon was meant for Slayers,” she told him softly. “Slayers and Potentials died for it. And finally, after thousands of years, we are free. And no little pencil pushing wimp like you is gonna take our freedom away from us.”
She turned on her heel and put a hand on the table, lofting herself back into the seat she’d abandoned when she jumped over the table to disarm the Minister.
Weymartin’s face was red with anger and he pointed his chopped wand at Buffy and shouted. “Auratufors!”
Buffy flattened herself mid-air, but instead of hitting her, the spell backfired and struck the caster.
Weymartin was surrounded by a greenish glow and then fell to his knees, dropping his wand. Two of the younger Slayers had seized his arms in seconds and three more, injuries notwithstanding, were already moving to subdue any police wizard who might consider firing off a spell. Another had a sword half an inch away from Shacklebolt’s neck. The tall black wizard swallowed.
“Slayer Summers? I realize that was a very bad reintroduction to Wizarding Government. But I would like to assure you that Minister Weymartin spoke solely for himself.”
Buffy eyed him. “Nevertheless we shall keep him here as a suspect in an assault case or worse. At least until an official apology is received from the Canadian magical government.”
Shacklebolt cleared his throat. “He may require medical attention.”
Buffy gave him a very cold smile. “Was that a suggestion?” she flicked the Scythe. “We really don’t have much reason to trust any government. Now I suggest you leave before Georgette decides she wants to get a closer look at your Adam’s apple.”
Shacklebolt eyed the young Slayer whose sword wasn’t wavering, despite the cut over her eye and the bandaged wound on her thigh that had bled straight through the gauze.
“I shall go and talk to the errr… Remnants of the Canadian government, shall I?”
“Yes, please do that,” Buffy nodded pleasantly. “And please tell them that not a single magical item or artefact that was not brought in by the occupying force will be allowed outside before Willow has had a chance to look at it.”
Shacklebolt gave her a look. “And how do you intend to enforce that, Slayer Summers?”
Buffy gave him a pitying look. “Simple, Minister Shacklebolt. Willow and I control the wards. You’re all here on sufferance. I’m sure your Aurors will have found out that if they try to leave with something, it doesn’t work.”
Shacklebolt opened his mouth to retort, then shook his head, thinking better of it. “As long as we can get the wands. We’ll need them for the trials.”
“If any remain unsnapped. And I should tell you that the Council will take a very active interest in the prosecution of those involved in the attacks upon it or its members. If any rumour of irregularities comes to our attention, we shall also take a most active interest in making sure such never happen again,” Buffy leaned back in her chair.
Shacklebolt looked ready to protest when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “I’d leave if I were you. She looks about ready to start splitting people like hogs,” a tall, powerfully built man with an eye patch and an axe on his back smiled at him pleasantly, while gently swinging a huge, rune covered machete in one hand. A group of Slayers were leading some more Death Eaters into the Hall behind him.
Shacklebolt met the cold, hard eye with his own and realised that his hand would be lopped off before he could go for his wand and that his Auror guard was no match for the Slayers who had taken up deceptively casual positions near them.
He nodded. “I shall endeavour to make our next meeting less hostile, Slayer Summers.”
Buffy inclined her head. “Thank you Minister. That would be most appreciated.”
Shacklebolt took a step back and was about to turn when he felt a nuzzling at his ankles. Weymartin was on his hands and knees and snuffling his shoes.
“Oh,” a slight smile came to his lips. “I should have realised.”
“Realised what?” Xander asked.
“He was going to change Slayer Summers into a hamster. When the spell backfired…”
“He thinks he’s a hamster but he doesn’t look like one?” Xander grinned. “That is even less useful than being possessed by a primal Hyena.”
Buffy sniggered and reached for a corn cob that sat on the table, part of the meal laid on by the elves and threw it at the Canadian Minister. Weymartin immediately grabbed it and stuffed it into his cheeks.
“I think I prefer him this way,” she noted. Her eyes rose to meet Shacklebolt’s.
The Minister shivered and hastily left.
“Is there really a Treaty like that?” Xander asked as she watched the Canadian Minister of Magic try and stuff a pound of carrots in his cheeks.
Buffy shrugged. “Yeah. Don't know the specifics, but Neville looked up everything he could about the legal position of Slayers after we met. This was rather a big part of it. It probably means all the Wizarding laws about Slayers being Creatures to be killed on sight are invalid. But they still have to admit it.”
Xander pursed his lips. “Okay... Why did he do that? I know you were friends...” he started to snigger. “Or was it after you 'met'.”
His air quotes and happy grin were interrupted by a small finger poking in his diaphragm.
He whoofed as the air left his body and glared at Buffy, who blew on her finger as if to clear the smoke from an old fashioned gun.
“We were friends first, Xander. Even if it didn't take us very long to get to more than friends. He was worried about me among all the bigots and xenophobes and morons. So he looked up what I might expect,” Buffy explained.
“And it had nothing at all to do with his own position? Getting tarred with the same brush?” Xander sat down, automatically reaching for something to throw Minister Hamster who was browsing the floor.
Buffy shook her head. “I don't think Neville cares about anything like that.”
Xander reached out and patted his hand. “He'll be fine, Buffy. These Wizard types are tough. They heal much quicker than normal people and can take way more damage too.”
Buffy let out a breath. “But not so much after already being magically drained. Nev was already tired when he helped bring down the Globe. And that took a lot of his magic.”
Xander nodded. “Yeah. But he's got something major to come back to, doesn't he?”
Buffy bit her lip. “I just want him to come back to me,” she shook her head, trying to dislodge her depressing thoughts. “And how's Luna?”
“They took her away,” Xander’s face fell, the mask of goofiness he’d tried to don to help Buffy falling away in his worry for his girlfriend. “She… I don’t know, she was shaking and screaming and…”
Buffy reached out and clasped his arm. “She’ll be alright, Xander. I know she will.”
Xander gave her a weary look. “We know nothing, Buff. I-I… I don’t think I could stand losing her. Not after everything. I don’t know what I’d tell Joyce.”
Buffy’s grip tightened ever so slightly. “I know. I feel the same. But we’ve gotta try, Xander. We gotta keep going.”
Xander gave her a weak grin. “Yeah. I know. Doesn't make it easier does it? But she can be so stubborn! She just had time to send a message off to Mrs Weasley and Joyce before they took her to the hospital.”
He wiped his face with his hands. “I could do with some sleep myself. But stuff to do and miles to go before I sleep.”
“And we've got to think about what we want to do with the prisoners,” Buffy tapped the table with her fingers. “The Council ones anyway. I don't know if we want to do anything with the others, unless the Wanders have a sudden desire to be extra lenient to those with money and or friends in the right places.”
Xander snorted. “Works for me.”
Buffy sighed as Minister Hamster nudged her boot. “We ought to build him a wheel. Could you build him a wheel?“
“Do you really want to keep him like this? Or maybe change him into a hamster for real?” Xander asked amused.
“Hamster for real. Can you imagine cleaning out his cage?” Buffy wrinkled her nose.
Xander paled. “Ugh, you made me go there. Bad Buffy! Bad!”
Buffy smirked. “Very. Go to bed, Xander. I've got it under control. And when they come knocking again tomorrow, we need some people on the top of their game. I won't be unless I get two hours of sleep at the very least.”
Xander rose. “Okay. Try and get some sleep too, okay, Buffy?”
Buffy nodded. “Sure will try. Can't guarantee I'll succeed.”
“There us no try-” Xander ducked as a piece of bread flew at his head. “Only do!” he ran.
Minerva McGonagall came into the Hall two hours after Xander had left, some hours after noon, to see the Lady Slayer reading, composed and apparently bathed. Thick books and sheaves of parchments and what looked like a number of piles of Muggle paper surrounded her. Three younger Slayers stood watch, all eying the Headmistress with suspicion. *Well, they did try to arrest the woman. And they’re supposed to be untameable wizard killers that every wizard may hunt and kill at will,*
Minerva admitted. *Plenty of reason for mistrust.*
She cleared her throat, though she doubted that the Slayer needed to be warned of her presence. No doubt the formidable young woman had noticed her the second she stepped into the Hall.
“Miss Summers? I've got news.”
Suddenly the image of impregnable and untouchable chatelaine fell away and she was seeing a young woman, desperately worried for her beloved. A young woman who'd lost far too much already.
“Neville's fine, Miss Summers. He'll make a full recovery,” she said quickly. “All of those affected will.”
Minerva put her hand on one of the chairs next to the blonde. “May I sit?” she asked.
Buffy blinked and nodded. “Sure. Go ahead.”
Minerva felt the chair, which had been immobile before, move under her hand. She wondered who this one was meant for and sat. “I was asked to come and talk to you and explain. The Healers are still rather busy. And I think Poppy was about ready to gut me if I hovered any more,” she smiled slightly.
Buffy tapped a few of the papers together and put them on a stack. “She's the grey-haired nurse, right? The one Neville prefers?”
Minerva snorted. “If Poppy ever retired, she could start a medical practice with hundreds of former Hogwarts pupils who were indoctrinated with a need to go running to her. Yes. Well, explanations.”
She sighed. “I don't know how she did it, but somehow your friend, Miss Rosenberg, used all the energy that was released, all that pure, white magic, to affect the curse scars of those present.”
“Affect? How?” Buffy asked anxiously.
“Curse scars cannot be healed perfectly. They will always remain. Unpleasantly tight, sometimes painful. Whatever she did, Miss Rosenberg succeeded in changing the curse scars into normal wounds. Cleansing the curses, but reopening the wounds. The problem is she did it with all of them at the same time,” Minerva explained.
“Oh...” Buffy's eyes widened. “Nev has a lot of scars,” then she flushed slightly, her ears pinking.
Minerva chuckled. “I know about the pleasures of the flesh, Miss Summers. I used to be married.”
Buffy nodded. “Divorce?”
Minerva shook her head. “He died. I miss him every day. But the point is that all those cursed wounds started bleeding again. On everybody who was in the castle or the grounds. In some cases there were a lot of curses, more even than Neville has.”
Buffy nodded thoughtfully. “Hmmm. I’ll need to talk to Willow about this.”
Kennedy, Chao Ahn and Caridad were the seniors of the Junior Slayers present. And all three were worried.
Finally it was Kennedy who approached Buffy. “You’re not doing any good here. Go to bed,” she told the Senior Slayer.
Buffy looked up from her reading, eyes bloodshot. “I can’t-”
“Sure you can,” Caridad interrupted. “We had some sleep and a lot less combat and a lot less stress. Please go to bed, Buffy. We’ll call you if there’s any news.”
Buffy sighed and sat back. “This is nothing. And I couldn’t sleep anyway. You three make sure that the injured girls get some sleep. Then two of you go sleep, one stays awake to help me.”
The three exchanged glances, then sighed and left, muttering about stubbornness and Slayers.
Buffy leaned back in her chair and looked at the track of the sun in the sky. It was getting near sunset and she’d been awake for well over a day, almost two and had a lot of exercise. Even a Slayer needed to rest. But she knew she couldn’t sleep. Not until she knew that Neville was alright.
Willow blinked awake noting that the sun was setting. The bed was soft. She felt very dirty. And Hannah was cuddled into her.
They hadn't been able to talk yesterday, both of them had been too tired, but Willow knew they'd have to address the problem today. Even if they couldn't agree, she'd have to try and explain to Hannah why she'd done what she had.
There was a rustle of bed linen and a slim, pale hand reached out and dragged her down. “Hmmmm,” Hannah sighed contentedly as she burrowed into Willow.
Willow smiled. *If she's willing to do this, maybe today won't go as bad as I thought.*
She curled around Hannah and decided to get some more sleep. There would still be a Canada in the morning.
It was early the next morning, the long Canadian winter nights Xander wandered into the great hall, a machete dangling from his fingers. The Hall was empty, the floor swept clean of the debris of the battle. There was still no glass in the windows and the doors were still broken.
Xander looked around anxiously. “Buffy?” he called out in a half whisper.
There was a very soft pop and a House Elf appeared. “Miss Buffy is being sleeping in small room,” she pointed at a smaller door set beside the huge fireplace. “It is being urgent?”
Xander shook his head, relieved. “I didn’t think she’d sleep.”
“Been asleep for hours
. Hully gave her warm pumpkin juice with touch of Firewhisky,” Hully said archly. “Always works.”
There was a slight noise and Xander jumped.
Dawn smiled at him, her hand loosely on Percy's arm. “Certainly does for me. Thank you, Hully, that’s a relief. Would it be possible to have some food?”
“Hully will be serving breakfast,” Hully replied primly and slightly accusatory as if merely asking for something so obvious was an insult.
Dawn nodded. “Of course, thanks Hully. And all the other elves as well.”
Hully nodded and popped away.
Xander sat down at the table. “Okay, those elves are gonna take some getting used to. But they seem pretty awesome. How do you know how to talk to them?”
“Being polite is hardly 'knowing how to talk to them,' Xander. But for your information, I asked Percy about them.”
Xander smirked. “Ah, of course. For all your cauldron bottom information, and whatever else you need to know, ask P. Weasley.”
“I hear that Ron and George have been talking to you,” Percy said in a prim voice.
“A bit.” Xander admitted. “They also told me you're awesome at Transfiguration and that George is really grateful for that piece of cauldron bottom regulation, since he still has all his hair which they told him at St Mungo's after his last lab explosion wouldn’t have been the case had his cauldron bottom been any thinner. You're also the one who insisted that every Auror ought to know the Patronus spell.”
Xander grinned at Dawn who smiled at her boyfriend. Percy had gone rather red. “Oh.”
Dawn leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Told you they were proud of you.”
Percy smiled rather hesitantly at Xander and then pulled out a chair for Dawn.
“Think we should wake Buffy?” Dawn smiled and took a seat and was rather surprised that the blank coat of arms on the chair's back suddenly displayed rising sun with extending rays.
Xander shook his head. “I think we should wait for her to wake up. Whatever she did when she was out and later with the Scythe and that Sword you all got so excited about wore her out. Not to mention Neville.”
Dawn looked like she wanted to protest, but Percy nodded in understanding. “I'm sure that she'll wake up soon anyway. Elven cooking tends to draw the hungry.”
Xander smirked. If it’s half as good as your mother’s, I'm sure it does.”
Dawn frowned at him. “You look pretty tired yourself.”
Xander shrugged. “Luna,” was all he said.
“She will be fine,” Percy assured him. “It may take some to recover. But the last few weeks have been pretty good. More fugitive Death Eaters have been caught in days than in the previous years. I know that Luna has been worried about that, if not as badly as Neville.”
Xander smirked. “Hey, once we do get going, we go pretty well.”
Dishes of breakfast food started appearing on the table, eggs, fried and scrambled, bacon, bread, toast, ham, kippers, sausages and hash browns, enough to feed an army of Slayers.
A few minutes later the small door by the fireplace opened and Buffy came out, still looking tired but less deathly so than the night before. Her hair was drawn back into a messy ponytail and there were still dark bags under her eyes, but she sat down easily in the huge chair.
“Hmm, food,” she started heaping her plate.
Dawn shrugged and gave Percy a 'Okay-you-win' kind of smile and started to fill her own plate.
Percy smiled and pointed at the staircase. Faith was being led down by Willow and Hannah and they were talking as they came down, followed by a passel of Slayers. “Told you.”
Xander didn't reply. His mouth was full. But Dawn rolled her eyes. “They're Slayers. They would come down for Buffy's cooking.”
The RCTMP was in charge of the arrests, since the castle was on Canadian soil. Buffy and Willow, however, had put their feet down: any magical artefacts discovered in the castle and the grounds would be studied by the Council and then an inventory made and a list of those destroyed, confiscated and otherwise be provided to the Ministries. If they had let the castle stand without even attempting to cleanse it or to force the family that had inherited it to do so, they were obviously unfit to even try it now.
Since they had very firm control of the wards and the senior Canadian Minister of Magic was currently running in a very large wheel thinking he was a hamster, people had very quickly agreed with her.
That still left the matter of what to do with the prisoners who'd originally been members of the Council.
After Giles had been knocked unconscious by Buffy, he'd been taken away and cuffed and his ankles chained. He'd come to about half an hour later and his slight concussion had been treated in the triage centre set up by the RCTMP. And then he sat very quietly with his head in his hands, until what Willow had started to call the Heart of Darkness had been destroyed. Then he'd started to scream, bleed from the eyes, nose, mouth and ears and finally collapsed. He was still unconscious in St. Basil's in Montreal.
Robin had been knocked out too, but when he woke he fought like a maniac against his bonds, screaming about unfit bitches. He too had been taken to St. Basil's with undetermined neurological damage after bleeding from nostrils, eyes mouth and ears as well.
Andrew hadn't put up much of a fight, but gibbered, pled and begged and watched everything with cold calculating eyes whenever he thought they weren’t watching.
He'd not been taken to St. Basil's. He was in a maximum security penitentiary in Montreal, locked behind three sets of warded doors and chained to the floor, blindfolded and gagged, with a permanent Slayer guard as well as a Thestrie.
About an hour and a half after the battle, Alyssa had started changing. Apparently she'd been under the effects of polyjuice, and it was wearing off.
The narrow shoulders of her suit jacket had started to rip and her slim, tall body had shrunk and widened until she had changed into a toad-like woman. The Thestrie on duty had immediately called for Minerva McGonagall.
And she had indeed, and gleefully, identified the woman as the fugitive Dolores Umbridge.
Which was the reason that she was knocking on the still broken gates of Pur Sang quite early in the morning.
“Excuse me?” she called out.
Percy Weasley appeared in the doorway of the great hall and walked over, striding confidently over and around fallen debris. “Headmistress, good morning.”
“Good morning, Mr Weasley. The Wards let me through but I thought it was polite to ask for entry.”
Percy smiled. “I'm sure they're very grateful. I will, however, not invite you in.”
Minerva frowned until she realised what he meant and she took a step over the threshold, following her former pupil across the battered courtyard. *He's actually making jokes and smiling. That girl is very good for him.*
They arrived at the door and Minerva was treated to the sight of what was in all probability the most powerful witch in the world, standing in the deep shadow of the Great Hall's doorway, passionately kissing one of her former pupils.
“Do tell, Miss Rosenberg, does Miss Abbott still have her tonsils?” she asked dryly.
Willow languorously disengaged from Hannah, seemingly not at all put out and grinned at Minerva like the Cheshire cat who's just plundered the dairy and had fled only to land in the middle of a salmon run.
Hannah wasn't nearly so composed and blushed furiously. “Pr-professor! Oh! W-we weren't expecting you! Come in! The House Elves have gotten a breakfast ready that would do Hogwarts proud!”
Minerva suppressed a grin and entered the Hall. The table was quite full of Slayers but, besides Percy and Hannah, there were no wizards. There were no Aurors or Thestries or Shrivers.
Minerva smiled at Buffy rather awkwardly. A young, sultry brunette, who Minerva recognized as Snape's protégée, Faith sat next to her, and both the senior slayers looked tired and worn, with a deep underlying sadness. She inclined her head. “Lady Slayers.”
Buffy snorted as Faith made a startled move. “Better get used to getting called that, Faith. These people seem to love a lord.”
“Don't wanna be a lady,” Faith growled and glared at Minerva. “I already have to teach the House Elves not to call me that. You don't wanna know what I'll do if I have to get you to stop as well.”
Minerva inclined her head slightly. “So noted... Lady Slayer.”
Faith sighed as the others laughed.
Minerva smiled at the young woman. “Well, at any rate, I bear good news. All the wounded are recovering well. St. Basil's is quite ready to receive visitors after breakfast. No doubt Ronald Weasley will be annoyed to have missed this meal.”
There was a chuckle from Faith. “Yeah, the boy can eat.”
Minerva smiled, taking in the relief on the young people's faces. Then she sobered again. “This is going sound awkward, but I've been asked to come here by the Minister. You see, there's one of the Council prisoners we really want to try according to our laws first.”
“And who might that be?” Buffy leaned forward, all happiness gone.
“Well you would know her as Alyssa Gainor. We know her as Dolores Umbridge-”
“The Umbitch? Alyssa?” Faith snorted. “And Woods slept with her. Can I see his face when he finds out?”
“You know her?” Minerva asked sharply.
Faith's face fell slightly. “Me an' Ron've been bonding over war stories. And you really do not want to hear what Snape thinks of her. I thought I had a colourful vocabulary.”
Minerva coughed. “I can imagine. I have known him since he was eleven after all. I'm here as an official Ministry representative to request that we get to try her first.”
Buffy frowned. “We might just roll all the trials into one. Add a jury or judge of Council members. No need to have two trials. As long as we can levy our punishment if need be.”
Minerva smiled. “Minister Shacklebolt wrote a short memo with a proposal. I'll leave that here to consider. And now that is out of the way, is there anyone here who’d like to go to St. Basil’s? I haven't been yet, but I'm willing to take whoever wants to go.”
Buffy almost shot out of her seat and was dragging Harry towards the border of the wards before he had time to finish his sentence.
Willow smiled hesitantly at Hannah. “Wanna go, Hon?”
Hannah nodded. “Yes, I think I'd like to see how everybody is doing.”
Willow rose. “Come on then. Faith? Wanna go see Ron and Snape?”
Faith looked uncertainly up the stairs. Buffy leaned over and put an arm around her fellow Slayer’s shoulders. “He won’t know you’re not there. Ron will love seeing you. And Snape will probably appreciate if you do show up. Even if he’ll be grouchy, nasty and sarcastic about it.”
Faith nodded. “Yeah. You’re right,” she looked at Minerva. “You can do the Apparating thing with me?”
Minerva smiled. “Gladly.”