A/N: Just to clarify. There are many ways in which to take a concept like this. Let me tell you where I won’t be going. This won’t be a bashing fic. Dumbledore did a horrible thing, yes, but I won’t be writing him as an evil man. He did what he thought was for the greater good, however cruel and wrong we know it to be. There will be retaliation, yes, but that won’t involve the Watchers Council blowing up Hogwarts or Willow flaying anyone. As Dumbledore once said, there are many worse things in this world than death.
There aren’t two dual spirits or personalities in Willow and Xander. It isn’t Willow and Xander and Lily and James sharing the same bodies. Willow and Xander are Lily and James. I think in many ways this works. They share many personality traits in canon. Willow and Lily in particular strike me as similar. The traits they don’t share can be explained as nurture related instead of nature, such as James being arrogant and confident. Xander, for example, can be arrogant in certain situations, but confidence…nuh uh. James was brought up by (presumably) loving, wealthy Pureblood (not weighing in on the blood-status thing with this comment, just saying the Potters were most likely well-established and well-respected in the wizard in world) parents. Xander was brought up by anything but. This does not mean that the two differing Xander and James personalities will be conflicting, really. James just now has insecurities that he didn’t have before. And Xander has shown that he can grow and be confident (a la the yellow crayon).
It will take many chapters for the truth to come out. When it does, there will be more chapters of emotional upheaval before action is taken.
And to Zafaran, who asked me if Xander and Willow are physically sick because they might be aging back to where they should be as James and Lily Potter, the answer is no. The physical sickness is related to what is happening, but it is more a physical manifestation of the psychological. Lots of it has to do with stress. The spell isn’t broken, it can’t be broken technically like a memory charm. It’s different.
Also, I’m kinda surprised that there haven’t been any flames regarding canon issues with the Potters being dead. Like Harry’s protection or the Priori Incantatum “ghosts” from GoF. Well, now that I’ve mentioned them, let me just say that, yes, they still existed in HP universe. There are explanations.
Xander Harris sat behind the front desk of the Hyperion Hotel contemplating the architectural blueprints laid out in front of him. It was still fairly early, just after five, and most of the hotel was still silent as it slept. The only exception to that being the group of Slayers who had been assigned the dreaded last Patrol of the night had just gotten back and were currently making some disgruntled noises as they started the breakfast routines.
He sighed as he found that, once again, the hotel’s strange architecture was going to either limit what he wanted to do or make the project cost more than he had hoped it would. Giles was starting to get impatient with him, wanting him to finish up the dorm-like rooms they had planned as faze one in the construction of the Slayer Academy. But certain situations had caused delays. Situations involving him and Willow and their missing time and weird dreams. Which he refused to think about since that seemed to bring more dreams.
Xander looked up to find Angel leaning on the doorframe, mug of what Xander presumed to be blood in his hands, looking a bit worse for wear. Xander glanced at the clock, noting that it was barely twelve minutes before the 5:44 sunrise. “Hey. You’re cutting it close.”
Angel gave a small nod and stepped into the office, his entire being exuding exhaustion. “Long night.”
Xander raised his eyebrows as the light finally revealed the vampire‘s heavily blood-stained clothing. “I’ll bet. Why are you here instead of at your new spiffy apartment?”
Angel narrowed his eyes as he growled, “Spike.”
Xander had never liked Angel and he absolutely hated Spike. Maybe that was why he enjoyed the fights their mutual hatred of each other brought. “He can follow you here.”
“Here he’s more likely to run into Buffy,” Angel reminded him as he leaned against the wall and took a sip from his mug.
Xander smiled slightly. It certainly was interesting to watch the fireworks that was Buffy, Spike, and Angel in one room. It usually ended with Spike disappearing in that ghosty way of his, Angel stalking out of the room with his coat billowing, and Buffy demanding that one of the new Slayers spar with her. Whoever was stupid enough to get roped into that usually came out barely alive.
“Ah, well, good night,” Xander said to the vampire as he turned his attention back to the blueprints before him. “Or good morning. Whatever.”
Xander had never actually been able to hear Angel come and go if the vampire hadn’t wanted him to, but he knew when he was being watched…well, okay, he knew when he was being watched about sixty percent of the time. And he knew that Angel’s eyes were trying to bore a whole right through him.
Xander gave a long-suffering sigh and slowly raised his gaze back up to the vampire. Just as he had known, Angel‘s eyes were locked onto him with an intensity that, quite frankly, made Xander a little uncomfortable. “What do you want?”
Angel pushed away from the wall and slid into the seat in front of the desk facing Xander. “I can’t just want to have a chat with an old friend?”
Xander didn’t reply, but raised his eyebrows.
Angel gave a small shrug. “Okay, yeah, well, Buffy’s worried.”
Xander snorted. “And when Buffy’s worried, everyone had better be.”
“I guess…I’m a little concerned too,” Angel admitted, his tone grave.
Xander sighed. If Angel was actually worried about Xander then everyone else must have been pretty spooked. Not that Xander himself wasn‘t spooked either. Generally, it was a bad thing when he saw a dead person besides Buffy. Though getting his eye healed made up for a hell of a lot of the spookiness. “I’m fine, Angel. It was a…confusing day yesterday, but I’m okay now.”
“No more lost time?” Angel asked, putting a lot of weight behind the question.
Xander shivered as he thought of his talk yesterday with Willow. He hadn’t necessarily lost time or seen things that weren’t there. But there had definitely been an incident. “Not today,” he whispered, reasoning that it was half-true at least. “Not yet.”
Angel watched him for a few moments, eyes probing a little too deep for Xander‘s comfort. “What do you see?” the vampire asked gently. “When you faze out?”
Xander blinked. He had, of course, been drilled on what had happened the day before over and over again, but the other times, the moments when he just sat and stared at something…no one had asked pointblank about them. He didn‘t know why. Perhaps it was the same reason he didn‘t think about them. Maybe they were all scared of what they might mean too.
“I…” he started, but then found that he really didn’t know how to put it into words. He didn’t really know what he saw. None of it made sense. Not a bit of it. But as much as it frightened him, as much as he knew how great the implications were, deep down he wanted those glimpses. He loved them. He loved the world they showed him. For he knew in his heart that that world was right and the world he lived in was somehow incomplete.
The tears came unbidden to his eyes as he felt the feelings of emptiness and deep longing fill him. He had always loved his life, loved his friends, loved the mission they were on. And part of the sorrow he felt was that he knew they suddenly weren’t enough, weren’t right. He wanted them to be right, loved them all so deeply that it hut to think them flawed. But he knew that so many things were missing, so many things were broken and could not be mended.
“It’s okay,” Angel said as he stood and stepped closer. “I understand.”
Xander nodded and pushed the feelings away. It wouldn‘t do to have one of his episodes in front of Angel, the vampire he hated with a passion. As he calmed himself down, he finally noticed that Angel was holding something out to him. Xander took it, frowning at what appeared to be a book bound in soft leather. It felt like something out of the Middle Ages in his hands. He flipped it open and found that instead of paper, the pages were unlined and made from what looked like parchment. “What’s this?”
“If you can’t talk, maybe writing about it will help,” Angel told him with a straight face. “You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just keep it on you, write in it after you faze out. Soon as you make sense of what’s happening, sooner we all can help you.”
Xander looked at the vampire for a moment, then nodded. “Thanks, Deadboy.”
Angel‘s face immediately darkened. “Don’t call me that.”
Xander stood and stretched, quirking an eyebrow as he smirked at Angel. “Where’s the fun in that?”
Angel‘s frown deepened. “I can make your life just as aggravating as you make mine.”
Xander raised both eyebrows higher and shot the vampire a knowing look before heading towards the coffee machine. “Is that a threat?”
“Why do you suddenly smell like arousal whenever Willow comes into a room?”
Xander froze right where he was. Very slowly he turned to look at the vampire behind him.
Angel just gave him that annoying brooding look he always seemed to have. “She’s a part of it, isn’t she?”
“Of course she’s a part of it,” he replied a bit testily. He didn’t have time for stupid questions, not from stupid vampires.
Angel didn‘t even blink at the venom in Xander‘s tone. “But?”
Xander once again couldn’t find words. He knew what Angel wanted him to admit, but what did he expect when Xander was trying to deny it himself. It was nothing, just like the fluke back in senior year. Even if it felt so much more real than the fluke…
They both turned in surprise to see a wide awake Dawn brightly smiling at them from the door. Xander could tell, though, that her chipper attitude was forced, as if she were trying to hide something.
“Hey, Dawn,” Xander greeted cautiously. “You’re up early.”
Dawn‘s smile faded and she seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if she didn‘t want to answer Xander‘s implied question. Then she sighed in resignation. “Kennedy and Willow are fighting. Kinda woke me up.”
Xander did a double take. Even Angel blinked in surprise before repeating, “Fighting?”
Dawn gave a small nod before giving Xander a meaningful glance. “I think Kennedy is kinda scared.”
Well, of course she was scared. She had a right to be, Xander both knew and supported that. Hell, he was scared. But that didn’t give anyone the right to… “And she’s yelling at Willow to what?” he asked Dawn as a sudden surge of anger rush through him. “Feel better about herself?”
Whatever Dawn‘s reply was going to be was cut off by the arrival of the bickering and very unhappy looking Chosen Two. Dawn hurried over to them, a small look of relief in her eye. “Good morning.”
“Says who?” Faith grumbled as she scowled at the room.
Dawn turned from Faith to the equally disgruntled looking Buffy. “Kennedy and Willow?”
Xander sighed in frustration as he handed Buffy the mug of coffee he had just poured for himself before turning to get one for Faith. “What are they even fighting about?”
Faith accepted the coffee with a grateful half-smile. “What I heard had a lot to do with you. Something about the two of you being alone upstairs last night holding hands.”
“And hugging,” Buffy said.
“And touching,” Dawn added softly.
Xander scowled at the three girls giving him those damned female knowing looks. “We’re friends. Of course we hug and touch. Innocent, friendly touch. Not groping touch.”
“Sure, Xand,” Faith said as stretched. “Kennedy’s upset about innocent friendly touches.”
“Why did they get up at five in the morning to fight?” Buffy grumbled as she scratched her head.
“We shoulda just told them to shut up,” Faith said before taking a sip of her coffee. “I’ve had too little sleep for the day I have planned.”
Buffy nodded, then shot Xander a concerned look. “Did you get enough sleep?”
Xander hesitated. He was sleeping enough. Actually, he was sleeping a little too much. But he knew why Buffy was wondering. He had lost quite a bit of weight over the past few weeks. And he knew that he looked pretty haggard. He didn’t know what the problem was. He had even seen a doctor that gave him a clean bill of health. He knew it had something to do with what was going on, but there wasn’t any physical cause.
“Ten hours,” he replied gently.
Dawn rolled her eyes and gave a small pout. “No fair.”
“Are you feeling okay?” Buffy persisted, ignoring her sister.
He nodded. “Sure.”
“Cause, you know, you look like shit,” Faith said outright, though her concern was just as evident as Buffy’s
Xander rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Faith.”
“Well, as long as we‘re up and Andrew’s, well, not,” Buffy began slowly,” why don’t we all go for McDonald’s breakfast.”
Dawn brightened at that. “Hotcakes!”
“There’s a McDonald’s just down the street,” Angel suggested from the corner he had silently retreated to.
“I know it,” Faith said as she sat her coffee mug down on the desk and turned. “Let‘s go, then.”
“Xander?” Dawn asked hopefully.
Xander smiled at the girl and threw an arm around her shoulders as they followed Buffy and Faith into lobby and towards the front doors. “Hey, when have I turned down food?”
“Where are you guys going?”
They all turned to see Kennedy and Willow coming down the stairs towards them. Both were smiling forcibly.
“Hey,” Xander greeted the redhead as he stepped close to her. “Everything okay?”
Willow gave him a small nod though she kept her distance. “Yeah,” she said before turning to the girls. “You’re all up early.”
Buffy, Faith, and Dawn exchanged q few quick glances before looking up at the two other girls. “Couldn’t sleep,” Buffy said in a cheery tone. “Wanna go to McDonald’s with us?”
“Yeah, sure,” Willow replied very quickly, then hesitated and glanced at her girlfriend. “If Kennedy wants to.”
Kennedy glanced at Xander, then at the group and nodded. “I could do with a McBreakfast.”
There was a tense moment of silence. Then Xander smiled. “Bet I can beat my record.”
Kennedy shot him a confused look. “Record at what?”
“How many Egg McMuffin’s he can scarf down in five minutes,” Faith said with a roll of her eyes.
Willow nodded. “Without the ick factor the Gatorade incident brought on.”
“Welcome to McDonald‘s! May I take your order?”
Willow glared at the entirely to peppy from her spot several places back in the line.
She was not in the mood. She had been awoken rather rudely by Kennedy several hours earlier than she had originally intended to wake. Once she had understood why Kennedy was practically raving at her, she knew why. She had been having a dream. A very nice dream. A slightly naughty dream. Starring Xander. And apparently she had been vocal in the real life about it.
Willow didn’t actually remember much of the dream, which suggested to Willow that it had been less about her subconscious and more about her and Xander’s “episodes”. Well, that and the fact that what she remembered featured him wearing glasses, though little else, and had been set in a place Willow had never seen before. But she hadn’t even been able to get that argument through to Kennedy. So Willow had pretty much let her lover have her jealous rant. At least until she had actually directly insulted Xander. Then it got ugly.
Words were exchanged. Not so nice words. By the time Kennedy was done, not only had Xander and Willow’s names been dragged through the mud, but Buffy’s, Angel’s, Fred’s, Lorne’s, and Dawn’s. Willow still wasn’t sure why Kennedy had started in on them, but she had the sneaking suspicion that it was just because they had been the most supportive during their recent confusing times. Well, and Fred had been the one to find Xander the day before at Wolfram and Hart’s.
Willow had been pretty nasty right back to Kennedy. She had even cursed at her. In the end, they had both apologized to one another, but Willow wasn’t sure it would be enough. Even though they had said what they said in the heat of anger, some ugly truths had been exposed.
But now there they stood, in what seemed to be a never-ending line, right behind a good percentage of the people they had been arguing about. Xander looked pretty excited to be out and about, almost as if he were trying too hard to be normal. Dawn seemed happy that he was acting normal, no matter how fake. Buffy and Faith were too busy arguing over something to notice. And Kennedy was doing a good imitation of Xander’s fake happy vibe.
Willow sighed. She just wanted to be in bed. Or at least alone for five minutes. She turned and smiled at Kennedy and motioned towards the rear of the restaurant. “I’m gonna go wash my hands.”
Kennedy gave a non-committal nod. “Okay.”
Xander must have heard Willow, for he turned and gave her a dazzling too=-happy smile. “Hey, Willow, what do you want?”
“Oh, um, get me a Happy Meal,” she told him, trying very hard to not notice the scowl Kennedy shot him. “And a bottle of water.”
His smile softened and became more real for a moment. “You want the girl toy or the boy toy?”
She shot him her own smile, the first smile of the day that she hadn‘t forced. “What do you think?”
He winked at her. “Both it is.”
“I’ll save you a seat,” Kennedy told her, then hesitated. After a moment of nervous contemplation, she added, “I love you.”
She looked into Kennedy’s hopeful eyes, knowing what the girl wanted from her. But for some reason, she just couldn’t say it at the moment. She was just so tired…
She gave the hand in hers a warm squeeze as she returned Kennedy’s smile. Then she turned and headed away from the group. She turned the corner, looking towards the rear of the building for the bathroom she knew had to be there. She spotted the small alcove that housed the two swinging doors with the ugly blue stick-people on them almost immediately. She sighed, hoping that the smell wouldn’t be as bad as it had been the last time she had dared to use a public restroom.
A quick flash of light caught her eye. It was strange and unsettling for two reasons. First, the flash came from outside the restaurant. Second, the light was a striking shade of green. A shade that made Willow almost instantly sick.
She slowed at the door of the restroom. It would have been simple, to just go in and wash her hands and then go and watch Xander try and beat his record. But there was something so familiar about that light. Something that stirred in her a fear that she had seldom known.
She looked back towards the windows that showed a glimpse of the outside world. And she was not surprised to see that green flash again. She could not see what it was. The flashes were coming from deep within the alley beside the restaurant.
She knew she should let it be. She could feel her mind start to sink into the whirlpool of emotion and confusion that plagued her. But her fear of what could come, what might have happened if she ignored this was too much. It outweighed her hate of the black whirlpool. For she knew that where that light flashed, someone she loved was in need.
There was a side door just a few feet away. It would take her outside, close to the alley. None of her friends had to know, none of them would follow. They would be safe and she could help those who needed her.
The decision practically made itself.
It was the middle of June in Los Angeles, California. Even though it was early morning, typically the heat of the day was starting to rise. But for some reason, it was cold. No, not just cold. Freezing. It shouldn’t have been that cold. Even though Southern California had its share of unpredictable weather, she knew that it was way too cold for normal.
She shivered as she walked through the cold dawn, slowly following the green flashes down the alley. The alley was mainly deserted, even of the rats that should have been at the restaurant’s dumpster. She stopped a few feet inside the alley, her nerve slowly fading away. But something held her there, something she couldn’t quite place. The sound of hustle and bustle of the city was slowly fading.
A new gust of icy wind broke Willow from her daze. It tore through every layer of clothing she had on, chilling her to the bone. Instinctively she turned her back to the wind, teeth chattering. That’s when she heard it. It was ever so faint. Stiller than the calm rustle of tree leaves. Softer than the gentle music of the wind chimes. A whisper of a whisper.
She whirled back around and found that she was no longer in an alley, but what appeared to be a sprawling dungeon. It was just as dark and dank and cold as the alley had been. The corner was still there. And the flashing. It was still mostly green. But there were other colors now, too. Like red. And silver. And yellow. Even blue.
Her breath hitched as three figures slowly made their way around the corner. Three very familiar figures…
The tallest of the group raised his hand and pointed what appeared to be a long stick at something she couldn’t see.
The smallest of the three, a woman by what Willow could see, knocked the tall one away as she raised her own stick.
Then the three were running. Straight for her. But, for some reason, she was not afraid. She was relieved.
As they got closer, she saw why. The tall man and the short woman, they were unknown to her. But the man that followed…
“Xander?” she whispered as she looked up at the boy she had known almost her entire life. He looked different though. Strange. His hair was a little longer and a lot messier, like it was before he applied his super-strong hold gel. He was wearing glasses, too, something Willow hadn’t seen him do in a very long time, not since his parents had finally realized contacts would be cheaper than replacing the glasses he seemed to somehow break every other week. He was also wearing the strangest clothes she had ever seen him in, and that was saying something. They seemed to be black slacks and a white poet-style shirt underneath a large billowing black robe.
The woman suddenly grabbed Willow’s arm and gave her a sharp tug. Willow turned to her, noting that she was wearing clothes that seemed to be in the same sort of style that Xander’s were in.
“What are you doing?” the woman asked as her large frightened-eyes locked with Willow’s. “Come on!”
She only watched as the woman and the tall man hurried past. Xander came up to her and stopped, looking at her expectantly. She was so confused, she wanted to ask her old friend a thousand questions. Where were they? What was going on? Who were those people? What was he wearing? What was with the sticks?
But she never got to ask the questions. A booming sound from just around the corner made them seem very trivial.
She turned, wide-eyed at the sound, but was only greeted with the site of a flickering light reflecting from further down one of the side tunnels of the dungeon, suggesting strongly that something was burning not far off.
Willow was even more confused as she turned back to look at the frantic looking woman who was staring after her and Xander a few feet away with an expression of pure terror. For this time when she faced her, Willow knew her name. “Alice…”
“What are you doing, sweetheart?” Xander asked her, his heavily accented tone laced with urgency.
Willow looked down as she realized for the first time that her wand was in her hands. The thick chill that had just moments before been tearing through her flimsy blouse was now gone, pushed away by the thick robes and cloak draped around her shoulders. She blinked as her grip on her wand tightened, then looked up at her friend. “Xander…I…”
She was once again cut off as she suddenly felt a surge of dark energy tear through her veins. She turned frightened eyes to Xander. “No…Merlin, no…do you feel that?”
He nodded as a hand came up to grasp her elbow tightly and turned them so they were facing the couple that had been assigned with them. “It’s him.”
“He knows we’re here,” Frank murmured as he stepped closer to Alice.
Xander shook his head again. “That’s it then.”
Frank nodded his agreement. “We have to get out of here.”
Willow felt a bolt of stubbornness zip its way over her frazzled nerves. “We still have a job to do.”
Xander‘s gaze snapped to her, eyes fiery with protectiveness. “To hell with the job!”
“No!” Willow argued, knowing she had to win this argument or damage would be done to more than her marriage. “The Order trusts us to get this done.”
“She’s right,” Alice said as she place a supportive hand on Willow’s shoulder.
Xander looked torn for a moment, then gave a stiff nod. “All right, then.”
Then they were running.
“How long will it take you?” Frank asked her over his shoulder.
“It’s should be fairly simple enough,” Willow replied as they hurried along the maze of tunnels. “I worry more about the Portkey not being there.”
“I know Sirius, he and Edgar will have that Portkey there,” Xander reassured her in a thick tone.
They turned the corner and came out of the tunnel into a larger corridor. The biggest difference between it and the one they had previously been in was that at the end of the corridor was a flight of stairs. Stairs that, if their intelligence was correct, led to a door.
“Dumbledore had best be able to get something useful from this,“ Alice muttered, clutching to her chest the large bottle of Penseive memories they had just managed to take from You-Know-Who’s own personal Penseive.
The four of them sprinted down the hall and practically fell up the stairs in a matter of seconds. The doors to the outside world were there. But they were heavily warded.
Willow closed her eyes as she traced her wand slightly against the wards. She sighed as she studied the different charms more carefully. This was not going to be easy.
“How long?” Xander whispered in her ear.
“I need at least five minutes,” she replied over her shoulder as she opened her eyes. “Maybe ten.”
“You have three,” Xander said with a small smile, though Willow could tell he was nothing but serious. “Alice, cover her. Frank and I will stall as long as we can.”
“Hurry,” Frank said in an even tone, before he and Xander hurried back down the stairs and out of sight.
Willow didn’t take the time to worry. She couldn’t. They didn’t have it. Instead she focused all her attention on the wards in front of her.
Beside her, Alice did what she could, following Willow’s movements carefully. “Oh, Merlin save us.”
“Hey, Alice, we’re gonna be great,” Willow reassured her friend as she twirled her wand in a complex series of motions, casting down another Dark ward. “This time next week, you and Frank will be married and far away from here.”
“I am looking forward to it,” Alice replied, her tone light even as she broke one of the simpler charms on the doors. “Do you really think we’ll enjoy this place, this…Disney?”
Willow couldn‘t help but smile a bit. “You’ll fit right in, Alice.”
“You should just tell Dumbledore and Mad-Eye to sod off and come with us,” Alice told her matter-of-factly.
Willow sighed as she broke through another charm. She would have loved nothing more than to go with Alice to Disney World. It would be a nice break from war, destruction, and death. And she knew Xander would love it. Plus, watching Alice, one her best friends, and Frank play in Disney…
“We’re not coming with you on your honeymoon,” Willow said firmly as she brought her wand down sharply, bringing down a ward along with it.
“Oh, go on,” Alice said with a small giggle. “Call it a vacation. Never know when the next opportunity for the four of us to get away together might be. I doubt it will be soon, not with these two on the way.”
Willow smiled softly and took a moment to pause in her work. She placed a hand on her still flat stomach and looked down at Alice‘s, imagining the miracles happening within. Then she turned back to her work, silently cursing the few moments that had been wasted. “Did you tell Augusta yet?”
“We’re going to wait a month,” Alice replied in a tone that told Willow exactly what she thought of her future mother-in-law. “At least then she can pretend her perfect son didn’t bang up his girlfriend a month before the wedding.”
“Maybe after they’re born, we’ll all go together,” Willow said softly, imagining the delight it would be to take her child with her to ‘the most magical place in earth’. She giggled.
Alice laughed along with her. “Naturally.”
Willow couldn‘t keep the smile off her face as her thoughts turned happier even as she broke through yet another charm made solely from the Dark Arts. “Imagine, Alice, if it’s a boy and a girl…”
Alice snorted. “I doubt anything would come of it, not with the way they’ll be raised.”
“I want a big family,” Willow said dreamily. “With lots of squirts. Four more at least.”
Alice suddenly gasped the gasp of remembered gossip. “You know I heard from Fabian and Gideon that their sister is up the duff again!”
Willow’s mouth dropped open as she swirled her wand through the air once more. “How many is that?”
“Six, I think,” Alice said with a laugh. “She must be doing something right, we should probably owl her for tips.”
“Are you two quite finished?”
The boy’s were now standing behind the two giggling women, both looking the worse for wear. And they were in no way amused.
“Hi,” Willow said as she turned back to the doors and cast down the last ward that stood between them and safety. “And yes.”
Frank gave the pair of girls a withering look. “While you two have been giggling, we’ve been battling Death Eaters.”
“Now, now, boys,” Alice reassured them in that knowing tone of hers. “Don’t be so testy.”
“You should know better than to doubt my hand at charms,” Willow told him as she shoved the doors open.
Xander stepped up out into the night, then turned to offer her his hand. She took it and he pulled her up and into his arms, holding her close as he smiled brightly. “I never will again.”
“Do you always place such faith in filth?”
They didn‘t even take the time to release the hold they had on one another, but instantly raised their wands.
The shield cast simultaneously by the four of them saved them from the weakly cast torture curse. It bounced off harmlessly.
Xander released Willow and took a protective stance in front of her. He raised his eyebrows as he faced You-Know-Who defiantly. “Not up to your usual standards, old boy.”
The Dark wizard curled his lip as he brought his wand to bear on them. “The four of you have thwarted me one time too many. Time to die.”
“Not tonight!” Frank shouted as Alice threw up another shield.
Xander grabbed Willow and dove for the cover of the woods as Frank and Alice ran the opposite direction. There was a noise, then they were gone, disappeared into thin air.
“Xander!” she screamed as she clutched at him.
“Apparate!” he whispered in her ear. “Quick!”
“I can’t,” she nearly sobbed. Where was the Portkey? Had You-Know-Who gotten rid of it?
“With me, then,” Xander whispered as he held her close.
The green light flashed once more and she closed her eyes, willing Xander to hurry, to make it.
“No!” Willow screamed as she tightened her grip on Xander.
But he wasn’t there. He disappeared like mist in her arms.
Then a hand clapped down on her shoulder. “Willow?”
She whirled around, raising her wand up at her attacker. “Expelliarmus!”
But her wand wasn‘t there. With nothing to focus the magic she had called up, the energy shot out of her hand erratically, not disarming her attacker but instead sending her sailing back into the wall of one of the buildings lining the alley.
“Willow!” someone shouted at her from far away, but she didn’t care. She had to protect him, she would do anything to protect him, and if she couldn’t use magic she would use the means she had learned from Sirius back in Fifth Year.
“No!” she screamed as she pounced on the person who had turned her life into a nightmare. “You will not touch him!”
She didn‘t know exactly what she was doing. She was just so blinded by the wrongness of it all, of everything being gone, of all that she had had turning to ash…“You can’t! You hear me! You can’t! I will never let you! He‘s mine!”
Then there were arms and she was being hauled away. But what calmed her was that the aura belonging to the arms was a familiar one. “Willow!”
Willow pushed against the arms, trying desperately to protect him. “No, she can’t have you!”
He quickly spun her around so that she was facing him and looked deep into her eyes. “Willow. Willow?”
Willow looked back up at Xander. Xander Harris. Her best friend. He was looking at her, eyes filled with panicked sort of concern. And she was…totally confused. “Xander?”
His breath was hard and ragged as he looked down at her. “Will…”
“Oh, god,” she murmured as she flung herself in his arms. She held him tightly as tears filled her eyes and the panic slowly faded, replaced by fear. “Oh. You…he…he tried to kill you.”
“I’m right here, Willow,” he whispered as he held her, hands running over her as he tried to comfort her.
“Please, don’t leave me,” she begged as she clutched him fiercely. “Don’t leave me again.”
He gently pushed her back so he could look down at her. It was then she realized that they were in the alley. They were in Los Angeles and it was a hot, muggy morning.
“Willow, what is going on?” Xander asked her softly as he cupped her cheek with his hand.
She didn’t answer him, but stared over his shoulder. On down the alley, a garbage truck was making its way down the row of dumpsters, green warning light flashing as it moved in reverse. But even closer were Dawn, Faith, and Buffy. They were almost frozen in place, staring at Willow in a mixture fear, shock, and confusion. And being helped by the three girls was Kennedy. Also staring at Willow. Face red, lip split, and nose bloody from where Willow had hit her repeatedly.
“Kennedy,” Willow started as the horrible realization of what she had just done forced its way into her mind. She pulled away from Xander and moved around him, tentatively stepping towards her lover. “Oh, Kennedy, I’m so--”
Kennedy’s face hardened and she sharply waved her hand out in front of her. “Don’t.”
Willow stopped moving towards her, but continued to shake her head. “I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know it was you.”
Kennedy looked at her in disbelief. “But you could tell it was Xander.”
“It’s just…it’s different,” Willow tried to explain though she had no clue what had happened. “I thought you were…I can feel Xander differently. I’ve known him longer.”
Kennedy stared at her for a few moments before her hard mask faded away, revealing an emotionally drained young girl. “I can’t do this anymore, Willow…”
“W-what?” Willow mumbled in shock, heart nearly breaking as Kennedy’s strength melted away into sorrow. “No. I-I’m sorry. Really sorry. It was an accident.”
“An accident?” Kennedy repeated as tears started to fall from her blinking eyes. “Who were you protecting from me, Willow?”
Willow knew the answer, it was clear. But with Kennedy‘s insecurities over Xander, the answer would be the fatal blow to her and Kennedy’s struggling relationship. “I…I…”
“I’m sorry, Willow, but I just can’t live like this,” Kennedy told her. Strength seemed to return to the young Slayer as she resolved herself to what was happening. “We’ve been over since Sunnydale, maybe even before. I know it. Everyone else knows it. I can’t live wondering when you’re gonna finally know it too.”
Willow‘s head was spinning. “Kennedy? This is too fast. I…I don‘t understand.”
Kennedy suddenly closed the distance between them and took Willow‘s hand tenderly in hers. “Do you even want to be with me?”
Willow stared into those large brown eyes, but couldn‘t say anything. For they were the wrong shade of brown…
“I…” she tried, though it came out as some sort of desperate squeak.
Kennedy shook her head as she brought her hands up to cup Willow‘s face. “Shh. It’s okay. You don’t have to lie. It’s okay. I loved you. Still do. But I don’t want you to feel like you need to be with me just because. I don’t want you with me if you can’t love me like I love you.”
“Kennedy, I…I…I do!” Willow tried desperately, still unable to say the words themself. “I really do! Just…I need to work this out, but I know! I know I can, I--”
But Kennedy released Willow and took a step back from her. “Maybe you could if circumstances were different. Maybe. And I know you do love me…in a way. But you’re not in love with me. And I won’t stand in the way of the love you do have.”
Willow blinked as she was confused even more by Kennedy‘s words. “I--”
“It was great, Willow,” Kennedy said, this time in a tone that left no room for any arguments. “But it’s time we move on to better things, not stay in something that isn’t meant to be. I’m still your friend, Willow. But I can’t give you what you need.”
And with that, Kennedy turned and walked away.
After a few moments of silence, Buffy appeared at Willow’s side and Faith took off after Kennedy. Buffy put a hand on her arm and gave it a supportive squeeze. “I’m sorry, Willow.”
Willow barely heard the Slayer and most certainly did not reply. She could only watch as Kennedy walked out of her life. A life that she knew in her heart was somehow flawed.
A/N: Wow. That was extremely hard to write, mainly because I don’t like Kennedy. Hope it’s not too noticeable.
As far as the flashback goes, to spell it out for the people that didn’t get it, Frank and Alice were the Longbottoms. I know, just because both couples defied Voldemort three times apiece didn’t mean they defied him at the same times. But, hey, odds are they defied him together at least once. Maybe. And just so I explain this now, Willow and Xander won’t refer to themselves as James and Lily, not in any of their flashbacks, even if other people do. For them to acknowledge that would have consequences.
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