The Gift of Ancestors
Harry looked at her sharply, finally distracted from observing the scene by her tone as much as due to what she had said, “What’s my mum to you?”
Still disconcerted by what she had heard, Buffy dumbly repeated, “Mum?” before seeing the likeness between Harry and the girl yelling at his lookalike; two identical sets of eyes flashing with accusation, the ones hidden behind crooked glasses directed at her and the other towards... She turned around, following the girl’s line of sight to look again at the boy who, with the resemblance, could only be Harry’s father, James Potter.
Initially she hadn’t stopped to wonder what touching the basin had done, too intent on finding Harry and escaping before they could be caught. Now that she had made that connection, realised that this was a memory of long past events it all clicked into place; the boy they’d been attacking was Snape himself as a teenager. If this was his childhood, no wonder Snape hated Harry so much, the bitter man unable to resist belittling the boy with the face of his former tormentor.
Buffy wanted to deny what she had discovered, that the girl who would become Lily Potter was once an Evans, wanted to believe that anything else could be true. Because that would mean that this merciless boy who seemed to take such delight in hurting and humiliating Snape, this bully was her father as well as Harry’s. She assessed him with disgust, trying to see anything good in his actions, but there didn't seem to be any escaping it, she couldn’t wish away the knowledge of this cruel child. If this was her father, they had probably done her a favour giving her up.
Like a character in a play desperate to prove her point, Lily finished a final lengthy tirade with a glance towards Harry and Buffy, giving them both a clear view of her face, forcing Buffy to admit what it was about her that was so familiar. The line of her jaw, the shape of her mouth, when presented with a face that had so many similarities to her own she couldn’t deny her parentage.
After giving them that last look at the features echoed in her children, she stormed back towards the castle with James shouting her surname after her. His interest in Buffy forgotten, Harry didn’t seem able to take his eyes off the disappointed figure of his father who rallied his spirits by returning to a more enjoyable pastime, watching the boy’s actions with fascinated horror, but Buffy couldn’t help thinking about Lily’s face as she looked at them, filled with disappointment.
No, she had to remember; they were just observing this scene. Lily Evans hadn’t been looking at them but at… she span around to find another boy about the same age as the others reading a book under the tree. The image he was presenting of one too engrossed in words to notice his surroundings was ruined when Snape inadvertently let out a yelp as he was hoisted from the ground. The boy looked up for a second with a grimace before pointedly returning to his book, ignoring the other boy’s plight.
That face too sparked her memories, but before she could place him she felt a hand clamp down on her shoulder and remembered the reason she had come in the first place – Snape.
She looked up to see the Potions master’s angry face staring down at Harry, gripping his arm so tight that his knuckles turned a boney white. The sun’s warmth disappeared and Buffy felt strangely lightheaded, a similar feeling to the airiness that overcomes you before fainting but instead of falling she seemed to be flying, moving back away from the memory.
Snape released Buffy the moment they returned to his office, rounding on Harry and spitting his hatred in his face, “So... been enjoying yourself, Potter?”
Harry was shaken, not only by the grip the man had on him, but also by what he had just seen, unable to reconcile his father’s actions with what he had believed of him. “N-no” he replied, trying without success to escape Snape’s grip.
Buffy pulled lightly on the teacher's arm, trying to make him release Harry without it hurting the boy more, “Get off him”
“Amusing man, your father, wasn’t he?” Snape asked, seemingly unaware of Buffy’s presence, his full focus on Harry to the exclusion of anything else. Even the rattling of the jars around him was ignored as he addressed the boy.
“I… didn’t…” Harry stammered, still trying to get away from the irate man.
“About as amusing as you are now.” Buffy snapped a response, pulling the boy out of Snape’s grasp in the moments hesitation her comment caused, “If you hate him, what does that make you?”
“Me?” he asked, looming over the pair of students cowering against his office wall, baring his teeth in a bitter grin, “I am the sum of all the choices I have made, of everything I have experienced.”
Buffy wished she’d never spoken, the man’s anger had transferred to her for protecting Harry and confronting him.
“And you Summers, I don’t know what you thought you were doing in my office.”
She cringed back from the strength of his rage. Buffy backed up as far as she could away from the magic she could feel flowing angrily off him, only stopping when she felt the doorknob press into her back. She may have the strength to resist him physically, but repelling the raw power that crackled around him was another matter, it was already threatening to destroy his office, and there was no way to tell how he would respond to violence in this mood.
“You will not tell anyone what you saw.” It wasn’t a question but a statement, his flashing eyes giving them a warning of what would happen if they disobeyed him.
“No… No, of course I wo…”
Buffy and Harry stuttered. Neither of them wanted to talk about the boys that had treated Snape with such contempt, not to each other, and certainly not to anybody else.
“Get out, get out, I don’t want to see either of you in this office ever again”
Buffy wrenched open the door and sprinted along the corridor, hearing the sounds of broken glass as Snape’s anger finally overflowed. She only stopped when she heard the chatter of the students still lingering in the Great Hall after dinner, unwilling to face the crowd. Harry eventually caught up with her, huffing as he attempted to catch his breath.
“What was that?” Buffy wondered out loud and Harry replied without thinking
“A pensieve… you can put your memories into it…” He stopped, looking at Buffy and seeing something that pulled at his memories, something he had overlooked in the pensieve but was unable to pinpoint, “Who are you?”
“Buffy Summers. Slayer, Ravenclaw and member of Dumbledore’s Army… though not any more I guess… pleased to meet you.” She held out her hand for Harry to shake, but he wasn’t in the mood for her flippancy, allowing his anger at Snape’s treatment to be redirected onto her.
His intense gaze searched her face. He couldn’t ignore her actions in the memory, her sudden interest in his mother’s name. The way Buffy had fixated on Lily from that moment until she left, staring after her with a hunger he had mirrored. He tried to dismiss what he was seeing but he couldn’t, not here away from the bright sunlight that had highlighted the differences between them, making Buffy’s hair shine golden where his mother’s burned a deep red.
Not when confronted by the the likeness disguised by those differences.
It was there in the delicate cheekbones emerging from teenage cheeks, in her expressions. What she had said in the pensive kept on nagging at his thoughts, the fascination with which she had repeated his mother’s name. As his train of thought continued its inevitable journey, other pieces, fragments began to fall into place. He remembered the sensation of her power flowing through him as their fingers touched over his wand, their energy interacting with one another, so similar and yet...
Harry had felt the other power, the darkness within the magic and focussed on it, on what he had thought was a link to Voldemort, blamed the connection he felt to her on that. But he knew now what that power inside her was, knew about the slayer, leaving their magical link unaccounted for.
In a move that unconsciously mirrored Snape’s earlier actions towards him, Harry viciously grabbed her arm and repeated the question he had asked originally with a growl, “What does my mother mean to you?”
Barring the confrontation about Faith, Buffy had rarely seen anything but the side of Harry that he had shown during the DA sessions, light-hearted but strict – the perfect teacher as he wandered around in his element perfecting wand techniques and pronunciation of spells. He may never have worked to hide his suspicion of her, but it hadn’t impacted strongly on their interactions, merely ensuring they were as minimal as possible.
Now he had let his rage come forth, and for anyone but a slayer, it would have been terrifying. The air around him vibrated with magic, charged by his emotions. And that magic sang through her like it was her own.
She looked into his eyes, eyes just like the ones she had seen earlier staring out of a face that was so similar to hers, and couldn’t question their kinship.
Pulling away from his grip, Buffy moved to the opposite side of the corridor and leant back wearily against the wall, the question more than the violence taking the life and the fight out of her. Looking at Harry she saw that he didn’t really need her to tell him. He already knew what the name had meant to her and was gazing desperately back at her, begging her to… do what, she wasn’t sure even he knew. Wanting her to both confirm that she was his kin and deny that something so big could have happened without him knowing about it.
Buffy had no doubt that he already knew she was adopted. Hermione would have thoroughly investigated the rumours of her past after she was introduced into the DA, if not before. She carefully answered his silent plea, “Evans is the name I was given at birth, Anne Silvia Evans.”
Anger and longing flashed over his expressive face, until his features finally settled into a confused frown. “But... they wouldn’t...” Harry stumbled through a sentence, trying to reach a point where he believed what she implied, “You don’t know who your parents are?”
“Now I have a good idea.” Buffy commented, resigned to trusting in what she had seen.
“I can’t believe that no one told me, that Sir-” he trailed off his progressively more heated comment with a blush, realising that he was about to say more than he should. Harry stared at her for another long moment, unable to see any of his aunt in Buffy, no longer able to see anything but the resemblances to his mother. He didn’t know what else to think, but couldn’t quite accept it.
“Why would they have given you up?” He mused out loud, his enduring love and admiration for both his parents evident in his tone but starting to flounder by the time he finished. Harry still hadn’t processed what he had seen, to add this new knowledge to the picture of them he held in his mind. He was unable to do anything but believe that there would have to be a good reason for his parents to discard a child, couldn’t think anything less of someone Hagrid had admired, that Sirius and Lupin had been friends with.
He had a sister. That truth reflected so badly on the few people he loved, had learnt to trust that he couldn’t feel anything but hollow about the discovery, preventing him from fully trusting what he was being told, what he had seen. How could he be happy to find her when he was struggling to hold onto belief in those he cared for.
Buffy felt her own anger rise against everything that had happened that night. He may not have been well treated and loved, but it was impossible to know that you were abandoned without feeling some sting of rejection resound through everything you did. Hearing Harry’s love for them and knowing that, if what they both believed was true, the same people who had abandoned her had died protecting their other child hurt more than she cared to admit.
“My parents left me because they didn’t care enough to overcome whatever obstacles they thought were there… stopping them from keeping me. And after seeing the high school version of your father I’m not sure it’s a bad thing.”
The words came straight from the long repressed hatred Buffy felt towards her parents and were aimed to hurt the son they had kept, they had loved, but she hadn’t expected him to back away from her, from her words and what they meant with such a look of horror and revulsion on his face.
He hadn’t had time to think about the boy he’d seen in the pensive, his shock preventing him from reflecting on something that so viciously shook the foundations of his belief in his father. Those memories hit him with Buffy’s words, bringing to the forefront of his mind everything he’d witnessed his father doing. Now there seemed to be another fault to lay at not just his, but also his mother’s door – the abandonment of their other child. He lent weakly against the wall, unable to process how much this changed.
He had a sister.
Was anyone who he thought they were?
Harry sank to the floor as Buffy stepped back from him, running away so she didn’t have to face the boy who might be her brother.
~ ~ ~
Buffy was too angry to sleep, angry at the revelation that had been forced upon her, to have the question she’d carefully avoided asking so abruptly answered. It had been a long time since she had any desire to know who it was that had given her up, since she had tried to hunt them down. Then at least she had been prepared for the news, for the disappointment, for what she discovered to hurt, if not in the way it had ended up doing so.
Because despite everything it did hurt, and she couldn’t help feeling guilty for that. She shouldn’t care, she should have been able to replace the pain of being rejected with the love of the parents she’d gained, but it wasn’t that simple. The guilt she still harboured over her mother’s death resurfaced, enhanced by her inability to ignore the pain of another woman’s actions, by the impression she couldn’t shake that this was somehow betraying Joyce.
Anger because more than anything this hurt brought back the guilt. She shouldn’t care. She should be able to live by those words she’d spoken to Harry – just be glad of the parents that she’d gained, but it wasn’t that simple. Buffy would never ask for another Mother, she had gained so much from the one she had, but that didn’t stop her feeling hurt that another woman had looked at her as a baby, and given her away.
She was almost glad to feel the approach of Faith’s consciousness despite what horrors may lie there, of anything that might distract her from the discoveries that had been thrust upon her that evening.The first thing that hit her as she emerged from the trance that the knife put upon her was the smell, the metallic scent that the narrow room was doused in. Faith took a step forward, cringing at the sound caused by the tacky floor, her shoes sticking to it like in an irregularly cleaned bar, and took in her surroundings. The room was a mismatch of items, assorted tables and cabinets against the walls with every flat surface filled with miscellaneous wares. Through the piles of bric-a-brac in the long narrow room, she could see the glass panes of the shop lit by a nearby streetlight, highlighting the silhouettes of letters on the glass and casting a pool of light in the entranceway.
There she could make out shapes of items; a collection of candlesticks stood closely together giving the impression of endless arms, a beheaded mannequin was precariously placed on top of a bookshelf filled with stacks of teacups. But here, deep in the shop, the lack of light combined the shadows of antique toys into a terrifying creature, softening the edges of items so they were hard to discern, her eyes unable to focus correctly.
She took another wary step and something rolled under her foot, almost causing her to slip into whatever was coating the floor. Faith lent down to pick the thing up from the damp floor, feeling a slight spark as she touched it like a static shock. Just a stick, she thought, a stick covered in a thick, tacky liquid, covered in blood. Her eyes had cleared enough to let her see what was before her, in the far depths of the shop. She could see the bodies of the men she’d killed.
A flash of memory came to her as she looked at the body in front of her; the outstretched hand that had pointed a wand at her now severed from the body, the hand that had held the wand she now carried.
Faith dropped it back onto the ground, beginning to shake as she absorbed the sight before her.
She couldn’t remember anything beyond the pointed wand and a flash of light, but she didn’t need to have the memories to know what had happened, what she had done. Faith was too well trained in the arts of battle, able to read the scene like a book, to see how a blade had cleanly cut through one of her attacker’s wrists before being quickly followed by a slice to the neck. That another had approached from the stairwell and received her long knife through his heart courtesy of her precise aim.
Looking anywhere but the evidence of her actions, of her guilt, something in the display case beside the stairs caught her eye, sparked a desire that wasn’t hers. Before the power of the knife began its fight for control of her, Faith went to the body on the stairs and took the handle of the knife. She wanted that oblivion, to no longer be confronted with what her body had been forced to do.
Buffy rushed to the bathroom as soon as the vision past, unable to keep down her dinner with the evidence of what Faith was being used for. She tried to repress her horror at the scene, to focus on what they might learn from it.
The owners of the shop might have been wizards but it wasn’t an entirely wizarding shopping street, Buffy had spotted a Muggle department store through the shop window, it’s window display lit even at night. It hadn’t even been an exclusively wizarding shop. Most of the items had failed to give off the signature she recognised in enchanted items, although many of them did, including the polished silver mirror Faith had focused on. She spent a while trying to decipher the odd letters she had made out in the window, only to conclude that it had probably said ANTIQUES as opposed to the shops name.
There was nothing of note to rush to Dumbledore with… even had he still been residing in the school. She was left with only one person to help her in unraveling her visions, the man who had so summarily banished her from his presence earlier that evening. That, she decided, was what she should be concerned about; not wallowing over something so far in the past, but solving the problems that she faced now.
If only she didn’t have to get Snape's help to do that.
~ ~ ~
In another tower, another student lay awake, reflecting on what he had discovered in Snape’s office, the meaning behind it all.
I have a sister.
Harry couldn’t seem to escape that phrase, it danced round and round in his head and yet he still couldn’t make sense of it. That this was the first he had heard of her, that noone had bothered to share something so significant.
He stared at the photo of his parents wedding, seeing in the image of his mother the face currently hidden beneath Buffy’s youth, the face that had tried to stop his father… bile rose in his throat at the memory of a writhing boy choking up soap.
This wasn’t the father he had imagined, a slightly more reserved version of the Weasley twins, amusing the school with pranks that were rarely humiliating for anyone but the teachers and never truly vicious. The boy he’d seen wasn’t a trickster. James Potter was a bully, living up to every slight on his character that Snape had ever alluded to. Entertaining friends by harming another person was something Harry had only ever considered the Death Eaters doing not…I am the sum of everything I have experienced.
In doubting everything else, Harry couldn't help but doubt the anger that had risen at that sentence, that he had dared place any more blame on his father. How much had experiences like the one he’d seen moulded the man Snape became, created the Death Eater. No, that Harry couldn’t place at his father’s door, Snape had choices, he chose to join the group that tortured Muggles and Muggleborns just as James had chosen to…
He couldn’t understand his father’s actions in this, his choice, any more than he could work out how the girl who had intervened became Lily Potter, or how someone who so hated his father for harming another could give up her child. Had James forced her into it somehow, making her disown a baby that must have been born while they were at school, blackmailing her into becoming his wife.
He still wanted to say that none of it was true, that Sirius would have told him about something so enormous, but then he would remember the cruel boy who encouraged his father. Their faces swam in his mind, James and Sirius becoming Dudley and Piers, another pair of bullies he knew all too well, who also combined their strength to leave a single opponent struggling and helpless.
Harry fell into a fitful sleep, unable to reconcile anything he’d seen with the parents he had, only hours before, been so proud to resemble.
~ ~ ~
The next morning, Harry emerged bleary eyed but with a new resolve to focus what he had discovered and spent the next day hunting Buffy down, intent on discussing these new discoveries with her, something she had absolutely no interest in. She was forced to avoid communal areas, going to and from meals with friends to deter him from approaching and ducking through little known passageways to escape him.
Even that wasn’t enough; with his enchanted map to aid him, by the evening Harry managed to find her in an unused part of the dungeons, ending up chasing her through the corridors when Buffy refused to stop and talk.
Unable to keep up Harry paused and shouted after her, “They cared! They wanted you to come back!”
That forced her to a halt, she couldn’t run when she was back there. Trapped in that whirlwind of emotion that she had first felt when she discovered the truth behind her parentage.
When she had hoped to find someone who wanted exactly that.
It felt like there had never been a time when she hadn’t known that she was adopted, that it was love not blood that held her world, her family together. But then that little world began to fall apart; she was called and her father left. A long time had passed since Buffy believed any of the childish fantasies she’d once held about her blood relatives, but after dying, after losing so much, she had needed to know.
Who she was. Where she came from.
In that first summer spent in LA after the move to Sunnydale she spoke, first to her Father and then, after a frantic phone call, her Mom. They had always said they would support her in finding out if she wanted to know, and at 16 she was allowed to inquire only with their help. Despite understanding Buffy’s need to know where she came from, Joyce hadn’t been able to help but worry that she would be replaced. However unfounded these worries were, they came to nothing when the Summers discovered that the baby who had become theirs wasn’t put up for adoption, it was found. Left out in the cold by people too ashamed to admit they were discarding her.
Buffy heard Harry come up behind her, too lost in her thoughts to face him, to escape him, to evade the warmth of his hand about to touch her shoulder.
“Otherwise why would they have left you the birth certificate and the key?” He prompted soothingly.
Hardly able to register that he must have forced the story out of Neville, Buffy rounded on Harry, anger flashing in her eyes, “You don’t get it do you? I don’t want to know about them.” she forced him into a corner, hissing the words, “They abandoned me on the steps of an orphanage. Do you know how much I sometimes wish I didn’t have the birth certificate? If it hadn’t been there I could have convinced myself that I was the child of some drugged up runaway; just another kid deserted by its messed up mother. By someone hoping to give their daughter a better life than they could. But no, my parents took the trouble to come to a whole different country to abandon their child. I couldn't stop it going round and round my head – if they could get here…” despite her anger she couldn’t stop her words catching in her throat, betraying what she didn’t want to admit. That however little she wanted to, she did care.
“How come they couldn’t keep me?”
Harry moved forward, about to place a calming arm around her slight form, to try and ease her shaking from the sobs that were being held tightly restrained with some brotherly affection, let her know that it was okay to cry with him, but she pulled away. “If they’d wanted to … wanted it enough… I have no doubt my parents could’ve raised me.” She looked directly into Harry’s eyes, her anger shining through the tears that were still making tracks down her face.
“I know things about you too; I know you think you lost your chance at a loving family the night your parents died, but that’s where we’re different. I didn’t lose anything. My having no parents was what allowed me to find my Mom. My family. The only thing yours gave me was a name.”
She shouldn’t have done it, used the gossip about him that was whispered through the school like that. The rumours which were never told quite as eagerly as those of his exploits, sparked by offhand words and forgotten events, tales of just how the saviour of the wizarding world was treated by his Muggle guardians.
Buffy watched the impact of her words on the boy, the crumbling remains of the belief he’d had in his parents finally falling down. For a moment she began to reach for him, regretting the harsh words, the way she had dismissed his hopes that they could become more than friends, but she drew back.
Her calling had left her family broken and destroyed, she couldn't betray their memory by accepting another, couldn’t risk her heart. Couldn’t risk adding another to the list of those she cared for, those she failed to protect.