Rating: PG-13, adult concepts
Spoilers: S4 for the Buffyverse, OotP for the Potterverse
Disclaimer: If I owned them - well, actually, I *wouldn't* do this to them, as it's not very nice. But, as I don't own them, it's harmless amusement. Anyway, Potter belongs to JKR et al, Buffy belongs to Joss Wheden et al, don't sue, yadda yadda . .
Summary: "Look too long into the abyss, and the abyss starts to look back into you." Dark fic of a mild sort, featuring Ethan Rayne and a post-war Ginny. (And may I thank JKR for the timely announcement of Ginny's full name, which was perfect for this story). Ficathon fic for Jinni, who requested anything involving an infrequently-used character, such as Joyce, Amy, or Ethan. No pairing. I hope this is sufficiently unique. :)
The Mirror sat at the corner of Diagon Alley and another, narrower, unnamed thoroughfare that deserved the designation of "alley" far more than the obnoxiously bustling, wide, and cheery street to the building's other side. Ethan had wanted a real and genuine alley to at least one side of his shop, and given that alleyways were not considered prime real estate even in the Wizarding world, he'd had no trouble getting one at a very good price. He'd learned the stupidity of venturing into the open without a nearby bolthole, and he did not like to make the same mistake twice.
He told the fashionable ladies who frequented his shop that the scar that ran the length of his left cheek and nearly bisected his ear had been earned in the war with Grindlewald, and they simply ate it up with a spoon - it was what they expected of a charming old man such as himself. He was not old, of course, but he was charming - in perhaps a more literal sense than the ladies would have appreciated, had the noticed the subtle aura of magic about him. These were women of high society, however, and they were well versed in the art of convenient ignorance.
The scar was identifying, and he might have charmed that away along with the appearance of his youth, but the only creatures who could identify it were demons. The demon who had caused it was quite dead - and, truth be told, he rather liked his scar. He imagined it was rather like having a sign printed on the side of his face that said "bollocks to you!" in bold lettering, only no one else was quite clever enough to read it. It was his own little inside joke, between himself and his only living friend - his rather perverse pride. Bollocks to the Initiative, the United States Government, the Slayer, and most especially to one Rupert Giles, formerly known as Ripper, paragon of truth and virtue and light. Ethan Rayne had lived to see another day after all.
He had, in fact, lived to see a great many more days, to make his slow and invisible way back across the pond, and when he was convinced he had disappeared thoroughly enough, to resurface - and open a tasteful perfume shop on a quite reputable corner in sunlight, respectable Diagon Alley.
The easiest way to make one's self invisible was simply to show everyone what they expected to see; and the easiest means to chaos was simply to give everyone what they wanted. The spells on his perfumes, like the spells on the many mirrors that lined the walls of the shop, were very subtle. People do not, after all, want to know that they are being fooled. This is not, by any means, the same thing as to say that they do not want to *be* fooled - that, Ethan had learned quite young, most want very dearly. On slow days, sitting idle and passing the long slow hours watching the crowds outside shuffle by with mind-numbing predictability, Ethan wondered whether announcing the slightly devious nature of his wares would decrease his sales - or cause them to positively explode.
Of course, one did not sell perfumes with subtle spells of lust, or infatuation or awe, on the corner next to Florian Fortescue's ice cream parlor. High society ladies of the very purest of blood and noblest of lineage did not frequent shops which sold such things. And if, when they looked in the glass that was his shop's namesake, they saw something just a little different than they had in their bedrooms that morning, they credited it to the excellently charmed lighting, or perhaps the perfection of the glass, and they wondered if they ought to replace the mirrors they had at home. When asked where he'd purchased his, Ethan smiled benignly, and said it was his secret. They frequently giggled in response, before they left and joined the respectable pillars of the Wizard world who were their husbands - usually somewhere in the vicinity of the entrance to Knockturn Alley.
It was a good place for the subtle art of Chaos; Diagon Alley was very, very good at ignoring the obvious.
The obvious way in which the young girl's eyes were darting to every available surface as if seeking hidden traps marked her automatically as not belonging to the same set as Ethan's usual clientele. The loud, obvious jangling of the bell marked her graceless nervousness, something most of the ladies who entered The Mirror would have sooner died than shown. The flash of distinctive red hair that showed as she tossed back her hood, shaking off a bit of snow in a way that reminded Ethan of a disgruntled cat, nearly had him making a surreptitious dash for his bolt-hole alley.
But by then Ginevra Weasley, youngest child and only daughter of the current Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, had already spotted him. Her hand was tucked into her robe, clutching something, and from the angle of her wrist and the sharp poke of her knuckles against the material, he could gather that it was something thin, and standing upright in a pocket. It seemed likely - perhaps even obvious - that it was a wand.
She walked up to him just like that, clutching her wand, dripping on his expensive rug. She put him on edge, perhaps because she seemed to neither know nor care that a few flakes of snow had clung to the wisps of hair that surrounded her face, and were currently melting and running into thin red lines like gashes down her pale, freckled skin. Ginevra did not even look at his mirrors.
"Ethan Rayne?" she asked, and again, he nearly ran. Running, however, had proven a mistake in the past. So had underestimating bedraggled females.
"I beg your pardon?" he said instead, the very picture of bewildered good nature, and for a moment, she wavered. Ethan enjoyed a few blissful seconds in which he thought he just might pull this off. Then the vaguely childish, nervous expression seemed to melt and run down her face like the snow, starting with a hardening of still fearful eyes, ending with a firm set of chill purple lips. He had the inane thought that she was really quite beautiful - but then, he had always found terrifying things attractive.
"I can see through all of -" her hand - the left one, not the one clutching the wand - emerged from her robe and waved dismissively at half a decade of paranoia and subtle malevolence "-this. If you're not Ethan Rayne, I don't care. I'm not here with the Ministry."
"What do you want with Mr. Rayne?" asked Ethan, licking dry lips. With that bit of overplayed scorn, tempered by the wary unease not quite gone from the twitching corner of her right eye, she had moved from merely beautiful to goddess-like in his mind. She was dangerous - dangerous in her who her father was, dangerous in the way she clutched her wand, dangerous like a lit match dropped inches from a keg of gunpowder - and yet there was still something fragile about her. Ginevra was enrapturing, in precisely the way most familiar and tempting to Ethan - he thought she would shatter magnificently.
If she was not already shattered - he could think of no good or respectable reason for Arthur Weasley's daughter to be in his shop, in possession of his real name, disheveled hair dampened to the color of fresh blood.
"I'm not going to play at this," Ginevra answered him, harsh and a trifle desperate.
"Of course," Ethan responded, soothing. "But Mr. Rayne is a very busy man."
"You *are* Ethan Rayne," she insisted, but she wasn't quite absolutely certain, and it rang through in her voice.
"Mr. Rayne is a very busy man," he repeated. "He also likes his privacy." Ginevra was shaking her head harshly, sending tiny droplets of melted snow flying out to mar the perfect surface of his mirrors.
"I don't have time for this!" she blurted out. The hand clutching the wand whipped out of her robe, and Ethan had a hand up, ready to throw half a decade to the wind with the use of wandless magic if it would buy him the time to reach his alley - but she was not holding a wand. It was a parchment, rolled very, very tightly - and he thought he saw just the hint of a very unpleasant smirk on her face at his flinch.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he had begun to calculate, alongside the far more sensible plans for escape and survival, whether it would be at all possible to entice her upstairs.
"What is that?" he asked.
"Payment," Ginevra responded bluntly, and shoved it across a mirrored counter at him. "You can inspect it. If *Mr. Rayne* is interested, I need to know now."
"Today?" he asked as casually as possible, reaching for the scroll, fighting the urge to mince about it, perhaps tap it with a fingertip first. If he was going to lose a hand to this, then he would, and there was simply nothing for it.
"*Now*," she repeated, as he touched the scroll, and nothing untoward happened.
"*Right now* is very expensive," Ethan commented, unfurling the scroll. That didn't seem to phase her, which made him pay somewhat closer attention to its contents.
He very nearly dropped it.
He'd heard rumors, of course - he'd thought them exaggerated. This Voldemort fellow *was* recently defeated, in single combat no less, by a nineteen-year-old boy - which, to Ethan's mind, required a special sort of stupidity. One simply did not engage in single combat with heroic sorts, for the simple reason that they were heroic - it made them prone to all sorts of foolishness, not least of which being an utter disregard for their own lives. Potter - poor, dead, martyred Potter - was an entirely *different* sort of stupid, to be such a heroic sort in the first place.
And Ginevra Weasley either understood perfectly the expense involved in *right now*, and wanted something quite extravagant to boot, or was yet another variety of idiot - and the sort Ethan liked best, the sort who practically got down on their knees and begged him to rob them blind.
"How do I know this is genuine?" Ethan asked, trying to hide the excitement in his voice. If this were truly possible . . the ramifications were staggering, the possibilities simply too much to ponder.
"There is *no time* for this," Ginevra repeated, and the hard edge her voice had held was losing out to her obvious fear. Moreover, Ethan began to realize that she was not afraid of him, or of being seen in his shop or associated with questionable magics. Something else entirely had her positively terrified. In a different moment, a moment that had not contained a spell to make Janus Himself weep at its perfection, he might have relished gaining the upper hand. As it was, he was so enthralled by the parchment that he jumped ever so slightly when she slapped something else down on the counter.
This was a book, or rather, the remains of a book - there was a large and jagged hole in its center, and the front seemed to have been doused in some noxious fluid. It smelled vaguely of rot and ozone, and the aura of powerful magic lingered about it like the haze of perfume.
It would be a simple enough hoax, but he didn't think so - and hadn't the rumors, now he remembered, made some vague mention of this girl? Even the barest possibility that it was real was worth the risk of being cheated.
"Very well," he conceded with a nod, pulling the tattered corpse of the diary towards him with careful, reverent fingertips; she grimaced in distaste. "What exactly is it you wish to purchase, Miss Weasley, *right now*?"
"A distraction," she said with an audibly relieved sigh, and she reached a faintly trembling hand up to push the wet strands of her hair behind her ear.
"Who are we distracting?" he asked, resisting the urge to run his thumb over the text of the spell, to feel the texture of the ink - to revel in it. It might smudge.
"The Ministry of Magic," Ginevra Weasley said flatly, and Ethan blinked up at her.
"I beg your pardon?" he asked incredulously, and there was nothing of benign good will about it at all.
"I said, the Ministry of Magic," Ginevra repeated, agitated. "If you can't do it, give me my spell back, and my book -" she reached for them, and he clutched the parchment, checking himself only when he realized he was crinkling the edges. She let her hand drop to the counter; it was rather too close to the book for his comfort. He wanted both. He wanted them *badly*.
"You want me to distract the Ministry of Magic," he repeated, as if to clarify, buying himself the time to ponder whether he in fact *could* do it - and more importantly, whether she would be able to find him later if he simply agreed and ran. "The entire Ministry of Magic - right now?"
"Can you do it?" she pressed, her hand curling into a fist on the counter, leaving damp smears where her pale fingers had been.
"Tell me why," he stalled. It was tempting to at least try - simply for the challenge of it. That his days as vaguely respectable shopkeeper were over was a given.
"There isn't *time*!" she finished in near a shout, fist giving a convulsive jerk on the countertop that made the glass creak.
"There is all the time in the world, until I make up my mind," Ethan answered her, relishing her panic - no, there really wasn't time to get her upstairs, not if he planned to make good on his end of the bargain and not if he planned to evade her. A pity, that.
"I need to get someone out of there," she said, in halting tones, watching his face to see if that was enough. He quirked a brow at her, wondering just how much she'd tell him if she thought she had to. This was much, much more fun than he remembered - his society ladies were not nearly this much fun.
"A man," she continued, words coming in harsh syllables as if pulled unwilling from her throat. She glared at him, hating him, and he drank it in. "He's being held there, right now, today. They just arrested him today, and tomorrow he's to be transferred to Azkaban, because the War Crimes Tribunal decided that trials weren't necessary for acts committed in wartime, and they're saying he was Death Eater, and he never was, and - I don't want anyone hurt," she finished, seeming to swallow other words, pained pleas of her lover's innocence.
It surprised him, this sudden squeamishness - did she think his distraction would be harmless fun? That he might, perhaps, put on a carnival for the Ministry's amusement?
"That is a tall order, Miss Weasley," Ethan tilted his head to one side. "The entire Ministry distracted, and no one hurt?"
"Fine," she all but spat. "Nymphadora Tonks."
"Pardon?" Ethan repeated blankly. Who?
"I don't want Nymphadora Tonks hurt," Ginevra grated out. "She's some sort of - some quill-pushing something for the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and she used to be an Auror, and I'd prefer she weren't hurt."
"Your brothers?" Ethan asked, genuinely surprised by another's behavior for the first time he could remember in - well, ever, really. "Your father?" She said nothing. "I see," he concluded. "I believe a distraction could be arranged in - two hours time. Will that suffice?"
"One hour," she returned, and in her tone was the sort of terror that is as dangerous as heroism.
"Tell me his name," Ethan demanded, simply because he could.
"Draco Malfoy," Ginevra confessed, her eyes unwittingly telling him things that she had, perhaps, once confessed to the diary that was now in the process of leaving a permanent stain on the glass of his counter.
"One hour," said Ethan, and pocketed the spell that just might allow him to take over the world.