Chapter 17: The Accused
Buffy sighed as she woke and shifted her body slightly, stretching out her back where an odd ache had settled in. Although strangely she couldn't recall how it had come about.
With her mind still half asleep, half of it hazy and confused, she refused to open her eyes and let her body wake up properly. She'd actually slept well for a change and she didn't want it to end.
Faintly she could hear an odd noise around her, like a constant thumping sound that reminded her way too much of a heartbeat. At that thought the fog in her mind began to clear, and she realised with a start that the pillow her head was rested on was slowly moving up and down... almost as if it were breathing. And then the entire bed shifted under her, and Buffy's eyes snapped open.
She turned so quickly that her momentum almost rolled her off the couch, but luckily for her she wasn't alone. Sirius grabbed her before she could slip off the edge and she was right back where she had started, leaning, no more like lying, on top of him, using his chest as her pillow.
He laughed and she felt it rumble through him, since her head was still rested on him. “Did you sleep okay? You seemed pretty comfortable.”
There was a teasing note to his voice and Buffy rolled her eyes, “Hm, you do make a good pillow... Did you sleep okay?”
He smiled then, “Well the couch is hardly comfy but there were other factors that made up for it.”
She smiled as she attempted to sit up, but he grabbed her and pulled her back down to rest on him. She wasn't about to argue with that so she happily snuggled back into his arms and laid still and content.
And even though she knew that everything had gone wrong and the world was falling apart outside, right there in that moment everything was perfect. And she knew she deserved at least that one moment of peace, the rest of the world would just have to wait.
Sirius had begun to play with her hair, running his fingers through her blonde locks when they heard the door open and Buffy's eyes snapped open once again. A part of her demanded that she instantly get up and hide from prying eyes, but another, more calmed and peaceful part of her just didn't care who saw them together.
Dawn and Willow had entered the room and were both smiling down at the couple. “Ah, sleeping beauty has finally woken up.”
Buffy grumbled at that, wishing that she had a real pillow or cushion that she could throw at her sister's head.
Willow nodded, “Yeah it's about time. Everyone's been waiting.”
“Huh?” She sat up at that, swinging her legs down over the side of the couch where she could stretch them out. Sirius copied her movements and Buffy couldn't help but feel a little guilty for falling asleep on him. He'd probably been awake for a long while, just waiting for her to get off.
Willow's voice drew her attention back to the red-head. “The Order. They all turned up first thing this morning to figure out everything that had happened. Obviously they need you to fill in some blanks for them but we told them to let you sleep, you looked like you needed it.”
“Plus you two looked cute being all cuddly together. Too bad I don't have a camera, that picture would have gone straight on facebook...” Dawn said with a way too innocent smile.
“Gee, thanks.” Buffy muttered, ignoring Sirius' confused face and Dawn's knowing grin.
They stayed in silence for a moment until Willow shrugged, “The Order... They're kinda wanting to know stuff as soon as possible, Buff.”
She nodded back with a small sigh, not really looking forward to having everyone drilling her for answers. It was bad enough thinking about everything that had happened, let alone talk about it.
Sirius placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed slightly, “You think you're up to talking about it?”
She didn't want to, but they all deserved to know exactly what had happened. She nodded back, “I guess, but I'd like to get changed and freshen up first.”
“Sure, they've waited this long, a few more minutes wont make much difference.” Willow told her with a smile.
“Yeah, just try and get there before they actually start attacking each other.” Dawn added.
Buffy smiled back at the pair of them, grateful to have them both in her life once again. She stood and made her way out of the room, knowing that Sirius was following after her, no doubt wanting to get changed himself.
“I'm sorry I fell asleep on you and made you sleep on the couch all night.” She blurted out suddenly as they walked up the stairs together.
He chuckled softly, grabbing her hand to make her stop and turn towards him. With her standing one step higher than him she was just about eye level with him when he leaned in and kissed her.
When he pulled back he grinned, “You know, we fell asleep on the floor first and I was too tired to even attempt carrying you upstairs, so couch it was. And besides, I didn't mind. Not like I get to sleep next to a gorgeous girl all that often.”
She laughed, ducking her head slightly from the compliment. “Oh, flattery will get you everywhere...”
“Hm, really? I'll have to keep that in mind.”
She nodded as she turned and began climbing the stairs again, well aware of his gaze following her.
She kept walking until she reached her bedroom, and only when she was inside and alone did she let her grin break out onto her face. She knew it was wrong of her to feel so happy after everything that had happened, but she couldn't help it. Being around Sirius made her feel giddy, made everything better.
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Buffy made her way back out and down the stairs. From the bottom she could already hear the arguments that were going on in the kitchen, occasionally hearing her own name mentioned as well as that of Harry, Dumbledore and even Bellatrix.
When she entered, the room went silent and everyone stopped to look at her. Some of them looked annoyed but the majority of them were staring at her in concern. She let her gaze sweep the room and take in the many faces, and also to note the ones that were missing.
They'd lost three members during the fight, four if they included Severus who, as she had suspected, was nowhere to be found. Molly was absent from the room having gone back to the Burrow with the students, all except Dawn, who had refused to leave her family, and Harry who apparently had refused to come out of his room all morning.
There was an empty chair at the end of the table, in between Dawn and Sirius and Buffy eagerly went to it. As soon as she was seated Dawn grabbed her hand from under the table and squeezed it, giving her silent support.
“Great, it's about time you got here.” Moody grumbled as he paced up and down the room. She supposed that with Dumbedore gone, he was now in charge of the Order. He was probably the most qualified of them all anyway. “We've already gone over our own accounts of the battle yesterday, but none of us were there in the astronomy tower. None of us saw what happened up there and we need you to-”
“No, you're wrong. I was there.” Came a new but familiar voice, and everyone spun to the door where a dishevelled Harry stood. He looked tired, but what worried them all the most was the blank, almost accusing stare that he levelled at Buffy.
“I saw it all. I watched as the death eaters cornered Dumbledore, and then you, you came in and I just knew that you would stop them, you'd make everything better.” He said, his eyes boring into Buffy as he spoke.
She knew exactly where this was going, so she shook her head and tried to explain, “Harry, you-”
“No, I don't want to hear your excuses, they all deserve to know the truth.” He yelled out, his gaze darkening.
“Know what, Harry?” Moody asked impatiently.
Harry practically snarled out his words, pointing at Buffy. “You didn't stop them. You just stood there and watched while they killed him! You didn't even look sorry about it! I couldn't understand why until Bellatrix said it, you're not one of us anymore. You're one of them, you're a traitor and you betrayed us all!”
Buffy couldn't do anything but stare back at him, worry and guilt playing on her features as everyone turned back to stare at her, awaiting some kind of reaction. Most of them knew she was a spy for them, that she was risking her life daily to help them get information. They didn't know about Severus though, and more importantly they didn't know that Dumbledore had ordered the pair of them to let him die...
“How can you say that?” Dawn asked as she narrowed her eyes at the younger boy. She didn't understand what he was talking about but she didn't, not for one second, suspect her sister of turning against them. And Harry was being completely out of order for saying it.
From Buffy's other side Sirius let out a sigh, “Harry, you're not thinking straight. Your grief has clouded your-”
“No, you can't tell me I'm wrong because I know what I saw!” Harry yelled back, looking from one order member to the next and taking in their almost knowing looks.
“This wasn't Buffy's fault, Harry.” Remus said then, which earned him a glare back too.
“Yeah, Buffy done everything she could to keep us all safe.” Willow added, watching as Tonks nodded in agreement.
“How are you still defending her when I've just told you all that she's a death eater! She probably even has the dark mark!” Harry growled.
Buffy had had enough by that point. She was thankful to all her friends for standing up for her, of course they all knew the truth, most of it anyway, but she'd had enough of letting other people fight for her.
She stood from her seat, letting the chair slide backwards as she glared at Harry. She couldn't really blame him for accusing her of betraying them, if she'd been in his position she might have even come to the same conclusion, but it still hurt to know that he thought she was capable of turning against him after everything they had been through. After all the times she had protected him, stood up for him, helped him through hard times...
“All right, Harry, you want to know the truth so I'll tell you.” She heard Tonks and Willow take in deep breaths in anticipation, while Dawn was only staring up at her in interest, as if she was about to learn some big secret.
“You wanna know why I didn't stop it? Why I stood with the death eaters? Well I done all that to save your sorry ass, to save all of us from getting tangled in Voldemorts plans. So don't you dare come in here and accuse me of betraying my own family and friends, the people I love and care the most about, without even knowing the full truth of anything you saw!” She was outright yelling at him now, and she knew she was letting her anger get the better of her but she couldn't help it.
Harry was staring at her with wide eyes, and he looked a little guilty, but she could tell he still wasn't totally convinced.
Buffy took a deep breath and folded her arms around herself. “I'm working undercover within the death eaters, getting as much information from them as I can. My only way to try and stop them from causing too much damage was to go along with them.”
“But you didn't try to stop them...” Harry said quietly, his expression having fallen into a saddened look. “You just stood there while they argued about it, and then he
“He? Who is he?” Moody asked, trying his best to keep up with the conversation.
Buffy groaned, hoping that Harry wouldn't say anything but deep down she knew that he would. He'd never liked Severus much, in fact none of them had, it'd be all too easy for them to turn on him.
“Snape. He killed Dumbledore.”
Moody looked to Buffy for confirmation and she sighed, there was no point in trying to avoid the subject now. “It's true. Voldemort had planned for Draco Malfoy to kill Dumbledore, but when the time came Draco couldn't do it. I thought Bellatrix was going to hurt him so I rushed to drag him out of the way, and Bellatrix saw that as an opportunity to prove that I wasn't really a death eater. She told me that if I was really evil, that I should be the one to kill Dumbledore...”
Half the people at the table took a deep breath, but it was Harry who answered.
“But you were just pretending so you wouldn't have done it, and Snape stepped in before you had a chance to do anything. I remember that part, I didn't hear it all, but I saw it happen.”
Buffy nodded, and finally, having told her part of the story, she slumped back into her seat.
“Severus, huh? Guess I shoulda seen it coming.” Moody muttered to himself as he began to pace again.
“Why was he ever a part of the Order? He was obviously spying on us the same way Buffy has been with them.” Tonks said with an agitated sigh before she turned back to Buffy. “Did you know about him? Did you ever see him with the death eaters?”
She stopped herself from answering straight away, whatever she said she would have to lie. She couldn't tell them the truth, not without putting Severus in more danger. Oh how she hated being undercover right now.
Unable to say much of anything in fear that she would look guilty, she simply shook her head and turned her gaze back downwards, away from all their eyes.
“Dumbledore always trusted him, and we always trusted Dumbledore.” Remus said with a sigh.
Bill nodded, “We shouldn't have. We should have gone with our instincts. I've always hated that man and now look what he's done.”
Buffy let her gaze stay on the wooden table in front of her, trying her best not to listen to every new comment that was made about her friend, the man who, as far as she was concerned, had saved her from becoming a murderer. He was so much more than the people around her thought, and the sad thing was that they might never change their minds, not now.
As they argued about it around her Buffy's head sunk lower and lower, she was trying so hard not to blurt it all out, to make them feel sorry for ever saying such horrible things about someone who was risking their life for them all.
She was so focused that the slight touch on her hand made her jump, and she looked up at Sirius who was holding her hand tightly, squeezing in a silent question.Are you okay?
She squeezed back, and it suddenly dawned on her that of all the people in that room, Sirius had probably hated Severus the most. And yet, he hadn't said a single bad thing about him, not even muttered in agreement to the rest of the comments.
She looked up at him in surprise, and he smiled at her. It was a sad smile, but it was there none the less, and she knew exactly what he meant by it even if he hadn't said a single word. Sorry, I know he was your friend. None of this is your fault, don't beat yourself up over it. You tried your best to stop it.
Buffy nodded back to him, trying her best to smile and finally she lifted her head to face the rest of the Order. Their arguing had to stop.
“Look, we can spend all day arguing over who was to blame and how we should have seen all of this coming, but it won't help us at all. Whether we like it or not, Dumbledore is gone and we have to deal with everything that's in front of us. And besides, there's still one question that I'd like to get an answer to.”
Moody nodded, seemingly impressed by her outburst since she had effectively quietened the others. “Yeah? And what's that?”
She turned to Harry then. “Why were you even at the school? You were supposed to be here all night.”
He didn't look at all guilty when he shrugged. “I was supposed to, yeah. But then you all went off to fight and us lot knew we had to help. We weren’t about to let you all run off without us, so we followed you all to Hogwarts.”
“That was very dangerous, Harry. You had no idea what you were walking into.” Remus said, looking disappointed.
“I know. But we wanted to help, we wanted to be a part of it. When we got to the school we ran into the death eaters, and well the rest happened so fast I hardly remember much of it. Just that I found Dumbledore in the tower and he told me to hide when Bellatrix, Snape and Draco came in. I don't think any of them knew I was there.”
Buffy nodded, “We'd better hope they didn't. And speaking of that, Harry you need to start up your occlumency lessons again. Dawn, you too.”
Dawn looked eager, even if she didn't know what occlumency was whereas Harry only groaned. “I tried it before, Buffy. It didn't work out well.”
“You have no choice now, I'll teach you myself if I have to. You both know too much and it's not that I don't trust you to keep my secrets, but with Voldemort sneaking around, I won't take any chances. You two are the easiest to get to because of your bond with Voldemort, and Dawn being new to magic and all.”
Moody nodded, “Very well. Now, with all that out of the way. We need to figure out what we're doing next.”
It was a couple of days later that Buffy was first contacted by Voldemort. The searing pain that ran through her stomach was the first sign, and then as she had lifted her shirt and watched in a mirror, she saw that the dark mark tattooed on her skin was slowly moving.
He was calling for her presence.
She slipped her shirt back into place and made sure she was all covered before she walked from her bedroom and downstairs to the living room. Dawn and Harry were playing wizard chess, acting like normal (if magical) kids instead of a pair fated to fight against evil creatures and wizards. It was nice to see them acting like teenagers rather than adults for a change.
Remus and Tonks were sprawled out on the couch together, Tonks with a book in her hands, her head resting on Remus' shoulder. Sirius sat in the armchair besides the couch, and Willow sat off to one side on the floor, watching the muggle television that they had brought in especially for her and Dawn.
Apparently an old Dracula movie was playing, and Willow was talking Remus and Sirius through it, pointing out the differences between the movie and real life and of course, raving about their own meeting with the famed Dracula.
For a moment Buffy stilled as she watched the group, unable to stop the smile that came to her as she watched them together. It such a nice, normal scene that she had walked into and yet, it was a complete contrast to their usual rushed and manic time together.
Sirius noticed her presence first and smiled up at her, “Hey. Are you joining us? This... Box thingy is just getting interesting.”
Buffy laughed as she crossed over to his chair leaning over the back so that she could put her arms around his neck. “I'd love to, it sounds great, really...”
“But I've gotta go. I just got... A call.” She said with a telling sigh, unhappy that she had to walk out on them all during a moment of peace.
He looked up at her in concern, “All right, but be careful.”
Buffy nodded, giving him a quick upside down kiss before she pulled back, giving Dawn and Harry her best glare when they started making 'eww' noises together.
She left the house, and apparated straight to Malfoy Manor, only to find it relatively empty. Draco was the first familiar face she spotted so she rushed over to his side.
She hadn't seen him since the night of the battle, and she hoped that he hadn't gotten into any trouble after all.
“Draco, hey. How are you getting on?”
He shrugged, “Well, I'm still alive and Voldemort didn't seem that worried about me failing him, I'm starting to think he knew I would never go through with it.”
“He's not spoken to you since?” She asked, a little concerned that Draco would get dragged into yet more tasks.
“No, he's been spending more time at Hogwarts lately. I guess now that Snape is in charge of the place he has a free pass or something. Can't say I have a problem with that though, if it means I don't have to be in his way all the time.”
Buffy nodded, “All right, well try and keep out of trouble, yeah?”
He nodded and Buffy quickly used the floo network to get to Hogwarts, figuring that that's where she would find Voldemort.
As soon as she arrived she noted the changes in the school. Before it had been bright and charming, with many colours and beautiful sights. Now the halls seemed suffocatingly small, cramped even, and the windows were slightly tinted, letting in less natural sunlight.
Her boots echoed around the quiet school as she walked towards the great hall. It was still during the winter holidays so there were no students around, even the ones who had been staying had been moved away for the duration of the change over.
The ceiling of the great hall reflected a dark night's sky, with stars flashing in the distance. The atmosphere in the room was dark and dull, all black and white and grey. There was no colour, no happiness, nothing but bleak surroundings. It was almost as if the school itself had changed to reflect the new owners.
“Ah, Buffy. I'm glad that you could make it.” Came a hissing voice that she instantly recognised to be Voldemort. He glided towards her, placing an arm around her shoulders and leading her further into the room where a few other, cloaked figures stood.
“I presume that you managed to fool the Order about your involvement in the attack here?” Voldemort asked, and for a second she felt his influence, his power wash over her mind.
She quickly blocked it out, having had so much practice lately that it was as easy as swatting a fly out of her way. “Yes, of course, My Lord. They did not see me during the fight itself and they believe my absence was due to illness.” She lied, not able to think of any other excuse.
He nodded back, apparently happy with her words. “As you can see, I have some guests today.” He said gesturing up to the other people in the room, all of whom had their backs to her.
“You already know Severus and Barty of course.” And just as he said it she caught a glimpse of the new headmaster, looking back at her with an unsettled look on his face.
She was led up to face the last two men, one of whom she recognised but couldn't place. She'd definitely seen his face before somewhere... Maybe in the Daily Prophet...
The dark haired man smiled at her, holding out his hand in greeting and Buffy politely took it as she studied his appearance.
Besides her, Voldemort flashed her a smile as he gestured towards the man. “Buffy, I'd like for you to meet the new Minister of Magic, Pius Thicknesse...”