Out of the Pan
The Great Hall over breakfast was a strange mirror to the one the day before; Harry now pointedly ignoring any eye contact and Snape staring fixedly at her, albeit with more malevolence than Harry had previously displayed and none of the confusion. Something had changed, and while Buffy could understand how their confrontation the evening before had left Harry avoiding her, she couldn't think what could have happened to alter Snape's attitude.
It had seemed, that Snape planned to react to their seeing his most secret memories by ignoring them both, but that attitude had evidently not prevailed. Overnight he had gone from avoiding her eyes to glaring directly into them, his own flashing in anger, in accusation. Unlike Harry there was no escaping once he decided to confront her, not with Buffy timetabled to spend hours in his company.
He stalked about the dungeon classroom like a trapped animal, barely managing to make snide comments at the rest of the class, his attention dangerously focussed elsewhere. Snape passed by her table as Buffy was adding some carefully shredded nightshade petals to her potion and she thought she saw a flash of movement near her pot. For a moment nothing happened, the mixture in her cauldron beginning to approach the correct shade of yellow as she stirred clockwise twice, anti-clockwise once. Then when he had reached the other side of the room, far enough away to have no accountability, that Buffy was beginning to think she had imagined it, her potion started to froth.
The liquid, which was meant to be thickening, rapidly filled with air and expanded, bubbling over the sides of the cauldron, overflowing onto the desk where it continued to fizz. The now vibrant purple bubbles quickly dug through the wooden surface until they was dripping onto the flagstone floor through holes burnt in the desk, landing next to a pair of polished leather shoes which could only belong to one man. Buffy looked up to find Snape glaring at her, unable to make out any satisfaction behind his displeasure despite knowing it must be there.
"Do you plan your damage in advance, or is it just a case of seizing any opportunity?" He spat at her with anger flashing in his eyes, the reaction disproportionate to the destruction, but then that was expected from him.
"I'm sorry." Buffy managed to bite out, unable to hide her resentment of the sabotage.
"I'm sorry, sir." he corrected with a sneer.
"Detention. Tomorrow. I expect you to arrive directly after breakfast," He snapped, "and you'll spend the rest of the lesson cleaning up the mess you've made."
Buffy's anger, if possible, rose as she understood what this was in aid of - he wanted to talk to her about whatever had him so annoyed and this was his method of contriving a meeting. She scowled and turned to get cleaning materials from the back of the room, refusing to acknowledge what he was doing, that it was necessary.
~ ~ ~
"Are you okay Harry?" Ginny asked, sitting down beside him.
"I'm fine." Harry said, looking up from the blank piece of parchment on which he had been attempting to compose a Transfiguration essay, unable to think of anything other than the things he had seen in Snape's memory, what Buffy had said.
"It's not your fault you know."
"What?" Harry asked, unsure how she knew...
"That Dumbledore's gone..." She smiled reassuringly, "At least the twins aren't letting her win."
He almost cracked a smile, "I've noticed. I think their last prank stank up an entire east wing of the castle. It's not that though..." Of course, Ginny couldn't really know.
"Yeah, they just can't stand not having anything to do..." She paused, unsure if she should push, "What is it then?"
"I..." Harry paused, not knowing how to explain away what was troubling him before realising what he needed; an explanation that was impossible to obtain, "I just... I just wish I could speak to Sirius."
She looked at him closely, sensing his desperation, "Okay."
"Yeah, I expect we can figure out a way if you really want to."
Harry let out a burst of disbelieving laughter, "How? She wouldn't let mail through - we didn't even get papers today, and she's policing the fires."
Ginny grinned, "That's the thing about growing up with Fred and George, anything becomes possible. Speaking of... Fred!" She yelled across the common room, beckoning her brothers over, "Now we can make a plan."
"So you want to talk to Sirius?" George clarified following Ginny’s explanation.
"Yeah..." Harry confirmed, beginning to warm up to the idea of doing something, anything rather than sitting mulling over what he had learnt.
"There's not a muggle phone in Grimmauld Place... are the fires connected?" Fred asked.
"Yes, but the only one here that’s not monitored is in Umbridge's office."
The twins exchanged a glance and grinned at one another, "That's easy then, all we need is a distraction," Fred began, "So you can get into her office." George continued.
"We have something already planned..." They concluded together with broad smiles.
"Of course." Ginny interrupted with a laugh.
"What?" Harry asked.
Ginny looked at him incredulously, "You mean you haven't seen any of their birthday pranks?"
"We have always tried to live up to expectations..."
"... Can't have the April Fools left without a joke."
"We wouldn't want that." Harry agreed with a grin, vaguely remembering tricks the previous years on April 1st which never quite lead back to the twins. He had usually been too busy with Voldemort or one of his followers to do more than laugh alongside everyone else.
“So this year we thought we’d do something special just for Umbridge."
"Be ready at 5 o'clock on Thursday."
“Don’t you want to do it before lunch?” Harry asked.
Fred smiled and shook his head, “We’re Fools by birthright, not by when we prank…”
“…the timing just makes it less expected.”
“Everyone expects something before noon, you let them think they’re safe and then…”
“Bam!” George hit the table with his open palm, making Harry and Ginny jump.
~ ~ ~
Buffy shouldn’t have been shocked to be confronted with images of the men whose corpses she’d seen, that Faith had killed. She had known that they were wizards so it wasn’t strange that their deaths would be reported in the wizarding paper, even if it was only happening three days after the event. She looked away, not wanting to know more about the deed Buffy couldn't help but feel she should have prevented, saved the men from dying, saved Faith from being forced to kill.
Staring fixedly at her breakfast to avoid sight of the papers littered about the hall, Buffy found she had lost her appetite, unable to finish the meal with the memory of their deaths fresh in her mind. She couldn't eat but didn't want to go, not when leaving the breakfast table meant starting her detention with Snape. A detention, she realised as Anthony grumbled about reading day old news, that in all likelihood was about these deaths. That would account for Snape's sudden change in mood.
"Poor Harry." She heard Padma whisper as her friend read through the article and looked up at the comment, confused by how he of all people might have been connected to what had happened.
"Wha..." Buffy began to ask but trailed off, not sure she wanted to know.
"They just don't seem able to report on anything without taking a shot at him. All that stuff with Dumbledore made Harry out to be as bad as him and now..." She shook her head, "The mother of one of them, she's quoted saying 'There is enough evil in the world without people like Harry Potter lying about You-Know-Who to scare everyone.'"
Buffy couldn't shake the knowledge that the evils this grieving mother was referring to had been committed, however unwillingly by Faith, by the hand of a slayer. When her housemates began to discuss the details of the attack Buffy made up her mind, Snape's anger would be preferable to the fascination of her friends, displaying an all too childlike interest in the gory details of a theft and murder. The crime almost reassuring in it’s lack of any mystery, of any hint at a connection to You-Know-Who. She all but ran from the hall, marching down to the dungeons and up to his office, determined to get it over with.
There was no answer when she knocked on his door, Buffy paused, unsure how to proceed. She shouldn’t enter again without permission, not when faced with a door which had been slammed behind her days earlier, but did not want to raise his ire by not arriving on time.
"Miss Summers." She started and turned to find just the man she had been contemplating. He was fully dressed, complete with a heavy cloak over his normal robes which was marked with dust and slightly damp from the morning rain. "You do have a habit of invading my office at inopportune times."
"You demanded my presence, sir
." Buffy reminded him, her resentment at his method of doing so returning in response to his tone.
"Yes, I suppose that I did." He agreed, moving wearily into the office and sitting behind his desk. He paused for a moment to gather himself, to erase the traces left by the place he had been, what he witnessed. "Please take a seat."
Buffy recognised the look in his eyes which he was too exhausted to hide, it was something she had seen in the mirror so many times early in the morning after torturous dreams; the empty, glazed stare of someone recovering from magically induced pain. That look, with no intention for it to do so, made her anger drain away.
“Does anyone know?” the words were out of her mouth before she could hold them back, without her having a chance to consider the ramifications of addressing this man in such a manner.
He looked up sharply, not having anticipated this, not expecting understanding when he had been forced to approach this girl, told to beg for her trust, for her forgiveness.
That look of shock gave her all the encouragement she needed to delve further, to ask about a life lived in the shadows, something she understood too well, “Does anyone know what it is you do for them? Does Dumbledore even understand?”
“He knows enough.” He replied shortly, closing off against any further questions.
And she understood then that between these two men who hatched the plans to save the wizarding world one thing was never discussed, as she had never really spoken to Giles about the pain caused by her own protection of the world. How can you tell a man who demands you fulfill it the true cost of your duty?
She stared at him for a long moment then shut the door and sat before him, "You wanted to talk about them?" Buffy finally asked, nodding at the paper on his desk.
"It was her then." He stated, the anger from the previous day returning but restrained, "why didn't you tell us?"
"What good would it have done?"
"We might have saved them." He growled.
Buffy shook her head, "They were already dead." She reached for the paper, skimming the article as an excuse to avoid his accusing eyes.
After a long moment he spoke again, his anger replaced with a patronising drawl, “I thought you wanted to find her.”
She met his taunting eyes over the paper, “I do!”
“And how do you expect us to achieve that goal if you refuse to keep us informed?”
Buffy felt her cheeks flush, well aware that she had been putting off this meeting. Perhaps she couldn’t have come that night, not with the halls patrolled and his banishment, but there might have been opportunities since to speak to him alone had she wanted, even with his avoidance. She hadn’t wanted to talk about it, to remember the horror of being the person who had committed those crimes, Faith’s growing despair.
She had made excuses, that she couldn’t raise any questions of behaviour with Dumbledore gone. That it would be best to wait the week until their next remedial potions lesson, until she had resolved some of the hundred and one issues bombarding her after that night.
Avoiding looking at the man she stared blindly at the paper before her, barely seeing the words, not wanting to. Still unable to read the account of what she had witnessed. Words jumped out at her against her wishes ‘death
’. Buffy paused, something about that didn’t seem right, her brain taking in more information than she acknowledged as it skimmed over the text. She went back to the line that had jarred.
‘The tragic death of two Aurors who responded to a tip that the shop was a target...
They were Aurors.
The men who died had been wizarding police. What reason could they have had to be in an antiques shop? Unless...
“You knew!” This time it was Buffy’s eyes which blazed in anger, her energy that seeped out into the room, unsettling the restored order of Professor Snape’s office. “You sent them there to die.” She growled, staring down the man so many of his contemporaries feared. Unable to believe his hypocrisy for accusing her of withholding information.
“They were sent there to stop the theft.” He argued, his ire rising in response.
“That worked well.” she laughed bitterly, “Do you want to know the good it did? You put Faith in a position where she had to defend herself while under his control, where she had to kill. You made her want to be controlled by the knife. To be unaware of what she was doing, what she had done. She kept fighting, believing, through weeks of torture but now... she’s letting herself go.”
He flinched at her words, “I am aware that we underestimated...”
“Underestimated? If you knew where she was going to be why didn’t you tell me?” At some point she had stood up, begun shouting her words into his face.
“We didn’t think that she would be there.”
That made Buffy pause, “What?”
“Dumbledore uncovered references to a ritual requiring the... items you have witnessed Faith recovering." He paused, regaining his composure, "One thing he needed, a silver mirror imbued with a certain rare enchantment, was uncovered in an antiques shop. It was decided that purchasing it would only raise the Dark Lords suspicions so instead-"
"You left it there and he sent Faith to collect it." Buffy interrupted, her limited patience with his explanations waning, "I still don’t understand why you didn't send me to capture her."
"It's location was warded, that area of the shop should have been accessible only to wizards."
"Faith got in." She drawled sarcastically.
“We couldn’t risk them finding out about you Buffy.” Snape shot back with a sneer, “They have one Slayer, how could we give them the opportunity to gain another?”
“Matthew agreed to this...” Buffy realised, her thoughts turning bitter towards the watcher who would abandon Faith’s needs in order to protect her, “He wouldn’t let you...”
He shook his head sharply, not allowing her to direct her ire to someone else, “None of us wanted to risk it. Not with all the evidence pointing at it being a target easier for wizards to access. Where her skills would be unnecessary. It wasn’t worth letting them see you.”
“Then why did he send her?”
He stared at her in silence for a long moment, as if he wouldn’t deign to answer her, but finally gave in to whatever was preventing him from following his natural impulse with a scowl, “Because he’s keeping what he’s doing a secret from his followers.”
“But if you knew that then-” Buffy began to ask.
“I found out,” he glanced at the clock on the wall with a grimace, “two hours ago.”
Had that been the cause of his torture, his master demanding a reason for the presence of Aurors at the shop? How, Buffy wondered, had she so quickly forgotten what she’d seen earlier. But then, he wanted her to, played the part of the evil teacher in the way that she had often played up being a teen delinquent. Simultaneously encouraging others to distance themselves and explaining away what you did, keeping everyone away from you. Keeping them safe. Letting them wrongly interpret your efforts while you work in secret to protect them, because to admit what was true was impossible.
“But you know what he’s doing?”
Buffy waited, but he refused to elaborate, “Well?” she asked with only slight exasperation. Her anger had been spent without restraint over the last few days, leaving so little left behind to hold onto. What remnants there had been were gone, with only emotional exhaustion remaining in it’s wake.
“The items could be used to permanently alter a person’s appearance.”
“So he wants to stop looking like a man-snake?” Buffy mused, “And he doesn’t want you all to know because magic loses it’s mystique if you understand how it’s done.” A big reveal is far more impressive than slowly watching a minion accrue items for a ritual.
“Are there any other things he needs that...”
“No, anything else required for the ritual is ridiculously commonplace.” He saw her skepticism and laughed bitterly, “You think we would hide that from you after this?”
Buffy realised to her surprise that no, she didn’t think they would conceal information from her again, they had been given a vicious demonstration of just what they were dealing with. Dumbledore and Snape were not the kind of men to ignore such a lesson.
“Who were they?” She asked quietly, unable to continue her avoidance of knowing what had happened.
“They were both newly graduated Aurors with the unfortunate distinction of being alumni of Griffindor.” He began with a deprecating drawl, “The intention was for them to call for back up at the first sign of trouble but...”
“They saw one girl and decided to play at being heroes.” Buffy finished for him with a sigh, if only they had understood what being a hero really meant perhaps they would have followed their orders. Perhaps Faith would now be safely captured. She wished for a world where their resolve would have resulted in triumph, unfortunately reality wasn’t usually fair.
Buffy had wanted so much to blame someone for what had happened, but instead all she felt was grief. She grieved for the youths whose bravery was only rewarded with death. For Faith whose guilt over actions she hadn’t committed was causing her to embrace the oblivion of possession.
~ ~ ~
April Fools day had been celebrated in style, Harry reflected. The twins must have sold out of every prank they had manufactured and the Headmistress had spent more of her morning giving out detentions or nullifying spells than teaching. As the twins had predicted, everything had calmed considerably by the end of the last class, with Umbridge actually able to attend a greater part of her lessons in the evening.
Just as the school was breathing a sigh of relief at another year of mayhem gone, the twins struck and Harry, hiding behind a corner where he could observe Umbridge’s office, took his chance. He waited only long enough to see its occupant rush after a student, who in gasped sentences while rushing managed to get out the words trapped, swamp and Weasley, before rushing over to the door where he put Sirius’ present to good use disabling her locks.
It was only a matter of time before he was in and searching for the Floo Powder.
~ ~ ~
If the shock of Harry’s face appearing in the fire wasn’t enough, then what he was telling them left Remus and Sirius flabbergasted.
“I just wanted to talk about my parents.” Harry had said, but this was far more. He unfolded his tale of Snape’s memory, of what he had seen his father do. Then as the two men were desperately attempting to digest his words, each haunted in their own way by the memories of their actions, the boy leapt into another story. The tale of a girl who shared his mother’s face and name.
They glanced at one another, each pained by the memory of this time long past, this version of themselves they had attempted to forget.
“Harry-” Sirius began before stopping, unsure how to continue, what to say. He looked to the person he trusted to know what was right for guidance.
“I wouldn’t like you to judge your father on what you saw there, Harry. He was only fifteen...” Lupin began, addressing the easier issue before they approached the other.
“I’m fifteen.” Harry responded, dismissing his words and Sirius’ attempted explanation that followed.
“What about Buffy... is she...” he shook his head, still unable to understand how it could be true, how they could know this without telling him. “She can’t be theirs...” Harry tried to reassure himself, “My mum hated him! Showing off with a Snitch and messing up his hair...”
“He was doing that?” asked Sirius, smiling slightly at the memories Harry’s comments had provoked, the grin widening when Harry confirmed with a nod.
“Yeah... he was being a bit of an idiot.”
“Of course he was a bit idiotic, we all were!” said Sirius, “Well, Moony wasn’t... “ he smiled at the man beside him who shook his head dismissively, “but James was especially good at making a fool of himself around Lily, always showing off. She didn’t really hate him for it...”
“She started going out with him in seventh year,” Lupin commented, his face and voice tight with repressed emotion, with the guilt of actions - or lack thereof - long past, “once he stopped hexing people just for the fun of it.”
“So Buffy’s...” Harry began, only to be stopped by his former professor holding up a hand for silence.
“Harry, I’m not sure it’s right to discuss that now.”
“This isn’t only about you Harry, don’t you think she deserves to know who she is first?” Lupin asked kindly but firmly, reminding both man and boy why he had been such a success as a teacher.
“She doesn’t care.” Harry retorted bitterly.
“What do you mean?”
“Buffy said she had a loving family.” Harry couldn't hide his jealousy, “She said that she was glad she’d been abandoned if that was her father. If he could do those things...” He grimaced, his pained features betraying a reluctant agreement with her estimation of the boy.
Remus smiled sadly at what he hadn’t said, choosing to address the only part of Harry’s comments he felt comfortable talking about, “You have to understand Harry, Snape never missed a chance to curse James so...”
“So he returned the favour.”
“Look” Sirius interjected, “your father was the best friend I ever had, and he was a good person. A lot of people are idiots at the age of fifteen. He grew out of it.”
“Yeah, ok,” Harry said with a weary sigh, “I just never thought I’d feel sorry for Snape.”
“Now that you mention it," Lupin asked with a slight frown, "how did Snape react when he found you’d seen all this?”
“Don’t change the subject! Can’t you just tell me if...”
“Harry,” said Sirius, in the barely contained calm that any mention of the Potions professor brought on, “what did he do?”