Chapter 10: And now for something...
Chapter 10: And now for something completely different+++
Buffy awoke to the feeling of the early morning sun shining gently on her face as she lay bundled under the cozy weight of what felt like a dozen soft blankets. All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to wake up.
Of course, she could have been lying on the ground, exposed to the elements in nothing but her socks and she would have been fine with it. Her mom was going to be okay; that was the only thing that really mattered. The sun and the blankets were just icing on the cake. Or they were, anyway, until she remembered.
She had fallen asleep in a chair sitting next to her mother.
Buffy’s eyes flew open as she bolted upright, all traces of sleep vanishing in an instant. To her immense relief, she saw that she was still in the same blindingly pink room. More importantly, her mom was there, too. Heck, even the poster was in its spot, the woman in it still
glaring at her hostilely. Only her chair was missing -- though the comfy chaise lounge sofa she found herself lying on bore a suspicious resemblance to it, right down to the soft but worn patterned upholstery.
It wasn’t hard for her to put two and two together, and it equalled a boatload of magic.
Buffy frowned. As much as she -- or more specifically, her back and neck -- appreciated the gesture, it was a little unsettling that it had happened without her ever waking up. Still, she quickly let it go. She knew when to pick her battles, and this wasn’t one of them.
She needed to focus on the real priority.
Buffy swung her legs over the side of the sofa and scooted down until she was sitting right next to her mom. She watched her sleep for a few minutes, feeling incredibly torn. Though her mother looked peaceful lying there with fresh orange goop on her arm, all Buffy wanted to do was wake her up, to make sure she really was okay.
In the end, her head won out over her heart. Rest was the best thing for her mom, and Buffy knew it, so she pushed herself off the sofa and crept out of the room as quietly as she could -- though not before making a face at the poster as she passed by.
As soon as she stepped outside the bedroom, she found herself in a small hallway. There, she could either go up the stairs or into the kitchen.
It was a no brainer. It was pretty safe to assume that the only thing upstairs was bedrooms, and, considering the late night everyone had had, even safer to assume that everyone was still asleep in the beds. Since Buffy’s idea of early morning hijinks really didn’t include busting in and waking them up again
, she immediately headed for the kitchen.
It wasn’t until she reached the doorway that she realized how wrong she had been. The place was jumping.
Giles and Arthur were sitting at the table presumably talking to each other, though their backs were to her, and Molly… well, Molly was a force unto herself.
She was zipping around the kitchen, moving from sink to stove to oven like a woman possessed. Instead of actually touching anything, however, she simply waved her wand, directing the spoons and pots and pans to do what she wanted.
It looked straight out of some Disney movie. Buffy fully expected a broomstick to push by her at any moment. The only thing missing was the sound -- and she wasn’t referring to the Mickey-led orchestra, either.
Buffy couldn’t hear a single thing in the kitchen. It was like someone had pressed the mute button.
Having already freaked out unnecessarily, first from the poster and then by the bed, Buffy forced herself not to overreact again. It helped that she could hear the sound of her breathing, the sound of floor creaking as she took a cautious step toward everyone.
It also helped that it only lasted a second or two; as soon as her foot crossed over the threshold from the hallway into the kitchen, she was practically hit with a wall of sound. Suddenly, she could hear Giles and Arthur’s very strange, very enthusiastic conversation about the Dewey Decimal system. She could hear Molly muttering to herself as she worked. She could hear the clink of the spoons and spatulas as they did their thing.
Leaning against the doorframe, Buffy closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. They used magic so casually here, and apparently for everything
. It would definitely take some getting used to.
“On my! My Silencing Charm must not be what it used to be. I hope we didn’t wake you, dear!”
Buffy looked up to see a very concerned Molly making a beeline for her. She straightened up and shook her head.
“Nope. I was the one to wake you, actually. I’m sorry about that.”
“Oh, pish! We were glad to help. Any friend of Dumbledore’s is a friend of ours. Now come, sit down and I’ll fix you a plate for breakfast.”
Something about the way she phrased the part about Dumbledore got Buffy’s attention. Before she could put her finger on it, though, Molly was ushering her toward the table. Next thing she knew, she was sitting next to Giles with a plate full of food in front of her.
“Now eat up. You’ve been through quite an ordeal and need to keep up your strength,” Molly ordered sternly, as she looked Buffy over with a critical eye. “Though I imagine it will take quite a few good meals before we manage to put any meat on those bones.”
Then she turned back to the stove, apparently confident that her orders would be followed.
Buffy just stared. While it was true she hadn’t been eating that well lately -- hearing about her prophesized death and then actually dying had that effect -- she was surprised by Molly’s bluntness.
Maybe sensing this, Arthur leaned toward her in a conspiratorial manner.
“Better do what she says,” he whispered. “Or at least, pretend
to do what she says.”
“What was that?” Molly asked sharply, her hands on her hips as she whipped around to face them.
Arthur gave her a guileless look. “Nothing, sweetheart. Just telling Buffy here that the muffins are especially delicious.”
To add believability to his case, Buffy picked up a muffin from a basket on the table and took a bite.
Though Molly looked suspicious, this seemed to pacify her enough. She turned back to the task at hand without another word. For all his calm collectedness a moment earlier, Arthur looked visibly relieved.
Buffy smothered her laugh. They were adorable. And the muffins were
delicious. She happily took another bite.
“How are you doing this morning?”
Her laughter fading a little, Buffy swallowed the bit of muffin in her mouth and turned toward Giles. It wasn’t his fault, but his quiet concern was like a splash of cold water to the face, dashing this illusion of normalcy, reminding her of all her troubles.
“Okay. Better than I was anyway,” she replied honestly. “How about you?”
“Just fine,” he reassured her, reaching out to give her hand a quick squeeze. “Arthur here has some… fascinating theories about non-magical inventions.”
Buffy smiled at Arthur, though this time it felt a little stiff. “So I heard. By the way, I know it’s a little late for intros, but I’m Buffy Summers.”
“Arthur Weasley,” he said as he held out his hand. “And this is Molly, my wife. Welcome to our home.”
As Buffy shook his hand, she kept her smile plastered to her face. Inside, however, she was frowning.
Just like Molly’s comment about Dumbledore, Arthur’s introduction stuck out to her, but she couldn’t figure out why.
As soon as the handshake was over, she quickly dug into her plate and began to eat, not because she was really that hungry, or because she was afraid of Molly’s wrath, but because she wanted some time to think it all over.
It wasn’t until she was almost through all her eggs that it hit her.
She had no idea why Dumbledore had brought them here. It definitely wasn’t because there was a medical person in-house. Arthur had had to get Madam Pomfrey. And yet she highly doubted Dumbledore picked a name out of a hat. There had to be a reason.
But what was it?
One possibility -- the one that made the most sense -- was that Molly and Arthur were the relatives Dumbledore had been hinting at. Clearly there were some issues with that theory, though. It was why Arthur and Molly’s comments didn’t sit quite right with her. Though they were really nice, they weren’t acting like she was a long lost relative.
So who were they? And why their house?
Buffy frowned. She had had enough of unanswered life-altering questions lately. She wanted answers, and there was only one way she was going to get them.
“Are you the relatives Professor Dumbledore was talking about?”
Molly and Arthur exchanged confused looks at her question.
“Relatives?” Molly repeated. “I’m certain we’re related to Albus in some way, all wizarding families are, but I would hardly call us relatives.”
“Perhaps most trusted and highly esteemed friends is more accurate?” a voice said from a doorway on the opposite side of the kitchen.
“Albus! Back so soon from the States, are you?” Molly greeted. “Well, have a seat, and I’ll get a plate for you.”
Probably used to this kind of mothering from her, Dumbledore didn’t argue. He just walked into the kitchen and headed straight for the table.
“Yes, affairs there concluded much more rapidly than I had expected, thanks to a very helpful woman named Jenny,” he said. As he took a seat across from Buffy, he looked around the table. “Good morning to you all.”
Buffy murmured a hello, but her mind whirling with the new information she had received. Molly and Arthur were definitely not related. Or if they were, they didn’t know the truth yet, because they clearly had no idea what she was talking about, having completely misunderstood her question.
Noticing her reticence, and knowing why since he had obviously heard her question, Dumbledore gave her a small smile.
“To answer your question, Ms. Summers, Molly and Arthur are not the family I mentioned. I daresay there are no familial relations at the table here at all.”
It did not escape Buffy’s notice that although he answered her question, he did it in a way so no one else knew what he was really saying. From what little she knew about him, it seemed like he did that a lot.
Unfortunately for him, she had no use for the cryptic. Or for being shut down without any real answers.
“Why did you bring us here?” she demanded. At everyone’s startled looks, she winced, realizing how it sounded. “That so did not come out the way I thought. I’m grateful for all everyone’s done. Really I am. I just don’t understand why we came here and not my lost long relative’s. Or -- and I can’t believe I of all people am saying this -- why not an actual hospital? You have those, right?”
Buffy could’ve sworn she saw something flash across Dumbledore’s face, a troubled look in his eye, before it disappeared.
“You have an aversion to hospitals?”
Not really wanting to get into her fear of all places antiseptic smelling, she shrugged. “Who doesn’t? And you still haven’t answered my question.”
She was vaguely aware that Molly and Arthur were staring at her. Dumbledore didn’t seem bothered, though, or surprised.
“Your uncle -- and your father -- come from an old Wizarding family, one of the oldest in fact,” he replied. “These families are not often tolerant of non-magical humans. I was afraid there might be certain… artifacts that could cause harm to those who either do not possess any magical ability or are unaccustomed to recognizing certain signs.”
If Molly and Arthur had been gaping at Buffy before, their jaws were practically on the ground now. She heard Molly murmur, “Albus, do you mean to say” before he continued speaking.
“As for the hospital, well, they would ask too many questions. They tend to take Muggle-related injuries quite seriously, you see. They would also wonder why a person of your age was still having bouts of accidental magic, leading to questions you might not want to answer just yet,” he said. He paused for a moment before adding, “They would also be required to report my presence to the Ministry, who are not overly fond of me at the moment.”
“Why not?” Buffy asked, feeling uneasy all of sudden.
“Because I am speaking truths they’d rather not hear,” Dumbledore calmly replied. “Many years ago, there was a certain dark Wizard who thought to rid the world of Muggles, believing them inferior to Wizards. He formed a group of followers, Death Eaters, and together they began a campaign of fear and murder--”
“You’re talking about Voldemort?” Giles gasped, which made the Weasleys flinch.
Dumbledore nodded. “Though I knew him when he was simply Tom. Fortunately, another group of Wizards, of which your uncle and the Weasleys were part, stood up to him. Though the cost was grave, Tom was finally defeated. He could not be destroyed, however, and recently he has managed to regain his strength to continue his mission of domination over the Wizarding world and then the world as a whole. Now--”
Buffy cut him off with a laugh, one that verged on hysterical. The cold, brittle feeling, the one she had felt after Master had died, suddenly returned, lodging itself firmly in her chest.
“And now I’m here, a Slayer without a cause. How perfect,” she said bitterly.
Molly and Arthur gasped at her little revelation, their gazes going back and forth between her and Giles, but she didn’t care. She was never really good with the whole secret identity thing anyway, and she was too furious with herself to even try.
How could she not be? She saved her mother from vampires only to bring her to a war.
Dumbledore shook his head. “My intention was to give you the opportunity to meet your family and to learn how to control your magic. The timing is… unfortunate.”
“Or perfect, depending on who you are,” she retorted.
By the sympathetic look on his face, Dumbledore seemed to know that her anger wasn’t directed at him exactly but at fate in general.
“You may leave whenever you wish,” he began.
“How about now?” she muttered, knowing full well that wasn’t possible, something that everyone else in the room knew as well.
“--I only ask that you meet your uncle before you go.”
Buffy frowned. It was a reasonable enough request, but she didn’t like having something as big as this forced on her. On the other hand it was a way to put Dumbledore to the test and see if he was bluffing. And it was a way to get it over and done with once and for all.
It was also a way to escape all the sympathetic looks she was receiving.
Making her mind up then and there, she jumped to her feet, practically knocking her chair over in the process.
“Then let’s go right now.”
To her surprise, Dumbledore nodded. “As you wish.”+++
Buffy stared up at the brick building, wishing she hadn’t been so impulsive back in the Burrow. There was no turning back now, though, so she took a deep breath and looked at Dumbledore.
“Ready when you are.”
He smiled back encouragingly and opened the door. As Buffy stepped inside, she was struck by how old the place looked. The front hallway was dark and dingy, with wallpaper peeling from the walls, and the chandeliers, though impressive, looked like they hadn’t been dusted in years. The only thing that looked halfway decent was some thick, red curtains that hung on the wall just inside the front doorway.
She heard Dumbledore walk in behind her.
“Your uncle Sirius will--”
“Sirius?” Buffy interrupted. At Dumbledore’s nod, she snorted. “And I thought I had it bad. At least I don’t sound like I’m Snow White’s missing dwarf.”
Dumbledore raised his eyebrow in amusement but made no comment. “As I was saying,” he said, or whispered actually, which was strange. “Your Uncle Sirius will be so pleased to see you. I should warn you, however, that--”
He trailed off as some thing
came shuffling into the hallway.
Buffy flinched, but to her credit, did nothing else, despite the fact that her instincts were telling her to pummel the extremely pale, extremely large-nosed Gremlin in front of her into next Tuesday.
Clearly there was one heck of learning curve with magic, but she was finally starting to catch on.
“Kreacher,” Dumbledore said in polite greeting.
Kreacher just ignored him. His eyes were on Buffy, staring at her with strangest expression on his face -- though in his defense, his entire face was strange to her.
“It is you,” it croaked at her in this deep, warbly voice.
“Um, yeah, it is me,” she said slowly. Then, recognizing her own rudeness, she held out her hand in an effort to salvage the situation. “I’m Buffy, Buffy Summers.”
It was the wrong thing to do. Kreacher recoiled from her hand as if it were diseased.
“Filthy half-blood does not touch Kreacher!” he hissed.
As soon the words were out, he froze, a look of horror on his face as his eyes began to bulge. Buffy almost thought he was choking. Before she could think about how to apply the Heimlich to something that clearly didn’t appreciate her touch, he let out the loudest, most mournful sound.
“Master Regulus, please forgive Kreacher for treating your own so rudely!” he wailed. “Kreacher did not mean to treat the Miss so. Half-blood though she is, she is yours, and Kreacher is honored to serve her.”
Then he began to bash his head against the wall.
“Kreacher, stop it,” Dumbledore ordered in the sternest voice Buffy had ever heard him use.
His next words were drowned out, however, when the red curtains flew open.
“HOW DARE YOU SULLY MY DARLING REGULUS’ NAME WITH THESE LIES! GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, YOU ILL BEGOT OF A WHORE! GET OUT!”
Buffy narrowed her eyes at the woman screaming at her from a portrait frame. Just as she was wondering if a nice hole in the canvas would improve the shrew’s attitude, she felt Dumbledore tap her on the shoulder. Reluctantly, she turned her attention away from the picture.
“Buffy, up the stairs,” Dumbledore mouthed, pointing to the staircase at the right.
With one last warning glance at the portrait, she did as she was told. As she climbed the stairs, she noticed for the first time that Kreacher wasn’t the only gremlin in the house. There were others, or least, there were the heads
of others, literally, all of which were mounted on the wall over the staircase. Thankfully, they did not
talk to her. Still, Buffy was beginning to think this was a very bad idea.
As soon as she reached the landing, she turned around to tell Dumbledore just that. Before she could say a single word, however, a dark-haired man came barreling around the corner, his face a storm of anger as he made a beeline for the stairs.
It quickly changed to a look of surprise when he spotted Buffy and Dumbledore standing there. He only just managed to skid to a stop before he sent them all flying down the staircase.
He was tall with long, dark hair. He was also much younger than she had expected, though it was hard to tell since he also looked like he had been to Hell and back and hadn’t quite lived to tell to the tale.
Like Kreacher, he only had eyes for Buffy.
“What-- Is this--” he gasped.
Dumbledore nodded. “Sirius, may I present to you your niece, Buffy Summers. Buffy, this is your uncle, Sirius Black.”
A giant grin split Sirius’ face. It quickly faded, though, as the racket below them reached unholy proportions. After glancing down at the screaming portrait and the masochistic gremlin, he looking up at Buffy again with a somewhat wry, somewhat pained smile.
“Welcome to the family.”+++
A/N: There it is, they finally met! Maybe there's hope for Buffy getting a wand before this fic is over with, after all. :)