Author: The Amazon Ziti ( queenziti at gmail dot com )
Title: One Whole Star, 1/?
Rating: PG-13 or K+
Summary: When Harry is six, the Dursleys die in an unforeseen car accident and Harry gets shipped off to the closest family willing to take him - the Rosenbergs in Sunnydale, CA. An HP/BtVS X-Over.
Expect: that it takes a village to raise a child.
Warnings: Inexplicit child abuse. Man I hate the Dursleys! Possibly some slash later though again, nothing explicit. The usual amount of Scooby Gang-type teenage sexuality.
Pairings: None for quite a while. Harry's only almost-seven, people.
Disclaimer: None of the characters, places, plots or anything else from the Harry Potter books or from Buffy the Vampire Slayer belong to lil' ol' me. The book Half a Moon and One Whole Star belongs to Crescent DragonWagon. I own only my words, my insanity, and my computer.
Spoilers: Eventually, BtVS spoilers through Season 4. No Harry Potter spoilers worth your while until Harry gets his Hogwarts letter. I wouldn't worry if I were you.
Author's Notes: This story starts in the summer of 1996 - i.e., the summer before Buffy and Giles arrive in Sunnydale. Harry's about to turn seven; Willow, Xander and Jesse are fifteen and have just finished ninth grade. (God, they're young! I never really thought about it, but Buffy started Slaying when she was fourteen! Whoo.) The BtVS timeline is correct, but the HP timeline warranted tweaking - Harry will begin Hogwarts in September of 2000. Good? Good.
Feedback: is a naughty naughty stimulant. And frighteningly addictive. However, scientific studies have proven it has no significant negative long-term effect, so send it on in, baby!
Harry decided he hated airplanes.
He hated the dull, heavy noise the lock on the inside of the door made when they closed it; he hated the warning at the beginning of the flight, during which they talked about the possibility of the plane crashing, and oxygen masks, and where the exits were; he hated the freezing, recycled air; he hated the seatbelt that the stewardess had pulled too tight; and he hated being able to see through the floor.
Having chanced a few looks around himself, Harry was fairly sure that the other people on the plane couldn't see through the floor like he could, or else they'd be panicking, like he almost was. He'd gotten colder, even though he was wearing one of Dudley's old sweaters and the stewardess had fetched him an extra blanket. Harry had pulled his feet up onto the seat, but underneath Dudley's old backpack, underneath the worn brown carpeting, Harry could see people's suitcases. Far to the front of the plane were cages with dogs too big to ride with their owners. And beneath the luggage and the pets was open sky, and beneath the sky was the sea, and Harry had to remind himself to be thankful that he could only see so far.
The stewardess who was taking care of him, Ashlee, stopped by his seat. "Poor love," she said. "You look a fright."
Harry bit his lip. "I don't like being up so high," he confessed.
"Best stop looking to the windows, then, hadn't you?" said Ashlee good-naturedly. She ruffled his hair. Harry concentrated on not moving: he didn't like it when people touched him, but grown-ups always looked at him funny when he tried to get away. "Here," Ashlee added, "I'll get you some juice. What kind of juice would you like?"
At home, Harry wasn't allowed to have juice. Dudley could have juice, or chocolate milk, or soda, but Harry could only have water.
But Harry didn't have home any longer. He shrugged, grateful to find one thing to like about airplanes. "Apple juice, please," he said.
Harry wasn't able to do anything the whole flight except stare straight ahead, drink juice, and try not to look at the water far, far below. He was afraid to sleep - if the sea came rushing up to meet him, he wanted to know about it - and the magazines in the seat-pocket were for grown-ups, big and boring and full of words he didn't know yet. He'd asked Ashlee for a book, and when she asked him what book, he'd said The Very Hungry Caterpillar, because even though it was a little-kid book, it was one of his favorites. Ashlee asked the other stewardesses, but she was only able to bring a thick grown-up book with a picture of a fainting lady on the cover.
"Thank you," Harry said, "but I think this book is a little too grown-up for me."
Ashlee beamed and ruffled his hair again. "Aren't you just the cutest little thing!"
Harry sat still and let Ashlee take the book back, tuck the blanket up under his chin, and promise to come check on him in a little bit.
More people had touched, and talked to, and fussed over Harry in the past three weeks than in all the rest of Harry's six-and-a-half years put together. At home, Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon didn't want to touch him, because he was a dirty waste of space and a nasty, ungrateful little brat. They didn't want to talk to him because he had a smart mouth and freakish ideas. And they didn't fuss over him because he was an unwanted ugly orphan whom they loathed.
Harry knew that Aunt Petunia would hate all this fuss. She'd shove Harry behind her and push Dudley forward so everybody could see what a beautiful clever baby boy she had. But then, Aunt Petunia wasn't around anymore. Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon were dead. Harry kept forgetting and thinking of home, but home was gone. Harry had seen it: all the furniture sold, all the pictures and vases and little sculptures of milkmaids packed away, all of Dudley's bright shiny toys in boxes to go to Aunt Marge's. And Harry's things. Dudley's old clothes, Harry's toothbrush and comb, his tattered books from the library's giveaway box: these were all packed in a worn gym bag, left over from the time Aunt Petunia had tried to take Dudley to baby yoga. In Dudley's old backpack Harry had a book of crossword puzzles, useless because Dudley had scribbled on and torn most of the pages, and a bottle of water for the plane ride.
They were sending Harry to America.
He had no family in England. Aunt Marge was Dudley's godmother, but she had refused point-blank to take Harry as well, and Social Services hadn't been able to change her mind. The closest relative Social Services had been able to find was Petunia's aunt's daughter, Sheila, who lived in California.
Harry had stayed in an orphanage for a couple of weeks while Sheila and Social Services negotiated. Really the orphanage hadn't been nearly as bad as the ones Uncle Vernon had liked to threaten Harry with. He'd gotten a bed of his own, and meals three times a day, and fewer chores than at home.
Considering how long it had taken for Social Services to get Sheila to take Harry, Harry felt that he could safely assume that she wanted him about as much as Aunt Petunia had. Would American cupboards be any different than English ones?
If only they'd just let him stay at the orphanage.
When the plane landed a thousand years later, Harry had to wait until everybody else disembarked before Ashlee took him anywhere. Finally, though, Ashlee came to Harry's seat, unbuckled him, got his duffle bag down from the overhead bin, and announced them ready to go.
"Do you want to hold my hand, love?" she asked. "It's okay to be a little scared."
Harry had only held Aunt Petunia's hand when they were crossing the street and other mothers were watching. She'd hold his fingers painfully tight and let go of him as quickly as she could. Usually she'd wipe her hand on her skirt after.
"No, I'm all right," Harry said, and picked up his backpack.
Ashlee led him down the aisle of the empty plane and to the door, where there was a stairway to the tarmac. The pilots and the other stewardesses all wished him good luck. Harry figured he'd probably need it.
"Watch your step, now," Ashlee said as they walked down the stairs. In England it had been cool and wet. Here it was blazingly hot. Harry squinted in the sunlight.
Ashlee held out her hand again at the bottom of the stairs, and this time Harry took it. Her hand was soft. "Here, are you nervous?" Ashlee asked.
"A little," Harry allowed.
Ashlee seemed to expect more than this, but Harry couldn't imagine what that could be. At home, Uncle Vernon told Harry not to talk so much, because nobody cared what he thought. "I'm sure your cousin will just love you," said Ashlee encouragingly, holding the door to the gate open. Harry shrugged.
The waiting area by the gate was nearly empty, but as soon as Harry and Ashlee neared the desk, a young woman came toward them. "Hi," she said. Her smile was gentle. "You must be Harry." Harry nodded. "I'm Willow, your cousin Sheila's daughter. One of her business meetings had a last-minute change of schedule, so it's just me here to pick you up."
"I'm going to need to see some I.D.," Ashlee said sternly.
Harry sat nearby with his gym bag under his arm while Willow produced her state I.D. and her passport, while Ashlee fussed over a sheaf of paperwork, while Willow signed her name in a dozen places. The airport was just as cold as the plane had been, but when Harry looked down past his feet, all he saw was grubby carpet. What a relief to be out of the air! No sky and sea beneath his seat, just the ground.
Harry's gym bag was soft, and the seat was more than big enough for an undersized six-and-three-quarters year old to curl up in. Tucking his feet up like he'd done on the plane, Harry shuffled around until he could pillow his head on his bag. The grown-ups were taking a long time, and hopefully Willow wouldn't mind much if Harry took a nap when she didn't need him for anything. Harry yawned widely, the sleepless flight catching up to him all at once. Just a short nap, really.
Harry woke up slowly. He was lying on something soft and he had room to stretch his arms and legs when he yawned. The pillow beneath his head was a real one, not his gym bag, and there was a blanket tucked up under his chin to keep him warm. Harry hadn't slept somewhere this nice since the time he'd gotten sick at school and had taken a nap in the nurse's office.
There was a rustling nearby, and someone sighed. Harry opened his eyes.
He was in an unfamiliar sitting room. It was nicer than at home: there weren't any doilies or little china shepherdesses, and the furniture wasn't pastel (Aunt Petunia had rather favored pastel colors), and the light coming from the laps was soft rather than too bright. The rustling came again, and Harry looked up. The pretty woman from the airport, Willow, was sitting in an armchair across the room. She had a blanket spread across her legs, and she was reading a book - a novel, the kind Harry couldn't read yet. Every once in a while she pushed her glasses up her nose.
Harry coughed a little and Willow turned his way. She smiled at him, the same gentle smile she'd given him at the airport. "It's about time, sleepyhead," she said, but she didn't sound impatient. "How are you feeling?" She marked her place in her book, put her glasses on the coffee table, and came over to kneel by Harry.
Harry wasn't entirely sure he understood the inquiry about his health, but he wasn't going to ask; Uncle Vernon always told him to stop asking stupid questions. "I'm fine," he said, which was true.
"I'm glad," Willow said. "Your stewardess said you didn't sleep on the plane at all. You must have been exhausted." She cocked her head at him, examining his face with big bright eyes. "Are you hungry? It's about dinnertime." Harry nodded at the same time his stomach gurgled. He winced with embarrassment, but Willow just laughed and said, "I agree completely. Come keep me company while I make dinner?"
Willow led Harry into the kitchen, which was bigger and newer than the kitchen at home. There was a round table in the middle, with four chairs; Willow ushered him onto the one with a booster seat. At home, Dudley had had a booster seat. He was too big for it, though: his fat sagged off either side. Harry hadn't had a booster seat, but then, Harry hadn't been allowed to eat at the table.
"What do you like?" Willow asked, peering into the refrigerator. "If we're lucky, I'll have it. We'll go to the supermarket tomorrow and you can pick some things out yourself."
"I like spaghetti," Harry said hesitantly. Aunt Petunia usually made too much of it - enough that she wasn't stingy with the leftovers.
"Hm," Willow said. "No plain pasta in the house right at the moment, but I do have some ravioli. How's that sound?" Harry didn't know what ravioli was, but he nodded mutely.
After tying her long auburn hair back, Willow puttered around the kitchen, setting a pot of water on the stove and philosophizing aloud on the merits of different kinds of marinara sauce. (Harry didn't know what marinara was, either.) The cry of "Oh, I forgot! Vegetables!" was followed by the unearthing of a head of broccoli from the crisper.
Harry wasn't used to being in a kitchen and being idle at the same time. At home, Aunt Petunia made him help with the cooking. Dudley liked to try to push Harry over while he was at the stove. When it worked, and Harry burned himself, Aunt Petunia would scold him for being clumsy.
But... Harry wasn't at home, and there wasn't a Dudley here to try to knock his feet out from under him. "Willow?" Those bright eyes, focused, on Harry again made him nervous. "Can I help?"
"Aren't you a sweetheart!" Willow said, laughing. "No, it's all right, you've had a long day. Maybe some other night I'll ask you to help me with the dishes, though." That was fine. Harry was good at dishes. "Are you thirsty? I should have asked earlier. I'm just going to have water, but I've got milk and juice and seltzer if you'd like some."
Harry had had so much juice on the plane that he worried he was using up his juice quota for the whole year in a single day. But milk... Aunt Petunia had mixed chocolate syrup in with the milk for Dudley, but slapped Harry's hand away if he tried to have any himself. "Milk, please," Harry said, feeling daring.
"Good, good," said Willow, with approval. "Milk is good for your bones. Calcium."
The milk was presented in a red plastic child's cup, the kind Aunt Petunia bought for Dudley. Harry took a sip. Oh, it was good! Deliciously cold, and thicker and sweeter than water. Absolutely unable to put his cup down, Harry took gulp after gulp, hardly pausing for breath until the milk was half-gone. Inhaling deeply, Harry looked up - directly into Willow's amused eyes. "Careful," Willow said. She sounded... different. Something in her tone had changed. "You don't want to make yourself sick."
Harry was good at listening to the way people spoke and knowing when to duck or dodge or just plain scamper. But Willow wasn't getting angry, or even impatient. It was something else. It reminded Harry, a little, of Aunt Petunia when she spoke to Dudley.
Something in Harry's chest felt tight. "Um," he said, averting his eyes, "may I use the toilet?"
"Out of the kitchen that-a-way," Willow told him, "and down the hall past the stairs. Can't miss it."
Harry found the bathroom without mishap, relieved himself, and washed his hands, standing on tiptoe to reach the sink. When he was done he peered into the mirror.
He was small and ugly and stupid. Uncle Vernon had told him often enough. The bones in his wrists and elbows were knobbly, and his hair was a filthy mess, and his scar - a souvenir of his good-for-nothing parents' drunk driving - drew attention and disfigured his face.
He was certainly nothing special.
So why did Willow speak to him as if he were?
When Harry got back to the kitchen the pot of water had started boiling and Willow was adding the ravioli. Ravioli didn't look particularly appetizing, but Harry knew perfectly well he didn't have a right to be picky.
"Hey kiddo," Willow said, putting the broccoli on to steam. "Just a second." She turned down the heat under the ravioli, checked the time, and came to sit across from Harry at the table. "Find everything okay?"
Mostly. "Yes, thank you." Harry paused. "Willow?"
The ceiling, thought Harry, but instead he said, "Where am I going to sleep?"
There wasn't a cupboard under the stairs; Harry had checked on his way back from the bathroom. There had been a linen closet in the bathroom, but it looked very small, maybe too small to just sit in. Harry wondered if there was a coat closet somewhere by the front door, and worried that he'd have to squeeze in on top of umbrellas and boots.
"You're all set upstairs," Willow said. "I'll take you on the grand tour once we're done with dinner. I'm sorry we didn't do that first, but you seemed hungry."
Harry marveled that Willow was apologizing to him. Uncomfortably, he said, "It's okay. ...I don't mind."
Willow quirked that smile and leveled that sweet, searching gaze at Harry again. Then, "Whoops! Dinner's ready. Would you mind setting the table, love? We just need forks and napkins."
Love. Numbly, Harry did as Willow asked, fetching forks from a drawer and napkins from the counter. Willow put the food out - large, shallow bowls with the ravioli drenched in a thick red sauce and small deeper bowls with broccoli in them. "Would you like some more milk?"
Harry blinked - he'd had a whole cup, and he was allowed to have more? Aunt Petunia had always been stingy with the water she let Harry drink, even though it was only from the tap. "Yes, please."
Willow brought the milk carton out of the refrigerator, filled both their glasses, and sat down across from Harry with a sigh. "All right! Go ahead, love, dig in."
Doubtfully, Harry picked up his fork and poked at the ravioli. The sauce was thick and smelled delicious - like tomatoes and basil, and some other herbs whose names Harry couldn't remember. Harry shrugged, speared a sauce-covered ravioli with his fork, blew on it a little to cool it, and took a cautious bite.
Oh! Oh, God, it was good. Harry couldn't help the groan of appreciation that escaped his throat. And this whole plate was for him! It boggled the mind. Chewing thoughtfully, Harry decided that ravioli was just cheese wrapped in pasta. How could something so simple be so delicious?
"I take it you like?" Willow said, raising an eyebrow and spearing a ravioli of her own.
"Ifth gut," Harry said before he blushed and remembered to swallow. "I mean, it's good. I've never had ravioli before." Aunt Petunia would probably have frowned at the very idea of food this messy.
Something flickered across Willow's gentle features - surprise? But it was gone, and she shrugged. "Well, I guess that means we'll just have to have this again sometime, won't we?"
Harry smiled and took another bite.
After dinner, Willow showed Harry around the house: on either side of the front hall, the kitchen and the sitting room; two slightly dusty studies and a "family room" (which was just like the sitting room, except with more bookshelves and a television) at the back; the laundry room hidden behind the door to the basement. After this, Willow seemed to perk up. "Follow me, milord," she said in an atrocious English accent, and swept up the stairs. Harry giggled and followed her, trying not to stare at how nice everything was. The floors were polished honey-colored wood, the carpets plush and vibrantly colored. At home Aunt Petunia had always told Harry how good he had it, but it hadn't been as good as this.
"That's my parents' room," Willow said, gesturing to a closed door at the end of the hall. "It's kinda off-limits. Here's your bathroom-" Harry could only stare. "-and here's my room-" A white room, with a white bed with white sheets and blankets, and white bookshelves and a white desk. Willow sighed. "My mother decorated it. Let's not look too long. This is the guestroom, and this-"
The thick, soft carpet was dark blue. The walls were white, except for a wall-paper border of different kinds of fish above the trim. Beneath the wide, blue-curtained window on the far wall was a twin bed, made up with a zebra-striped blanket and red sheets, and matching pillows. There was a large closet, empty except for clothes-hangers, and next to it a stout wooden dresser with five drawers. There were bookshelves full of books and toys, and a basket of stuffed animals, and a desk with crayons and markers and pencils and paper. And best of all, there was an easel, Harry-sized, next to the desk, with a little stool and a bucket full of brushes and paints.
Hesitantly, Harry took a step into the room. It was the best bedroom he'd ever seen, though to be honest he hadn't seen many. It wasn't too big or too small, just cozy. Harry swallowed. "Wh-whose bedroom is this?"
Willow knelt down next to him, tossing her red hair over her shoulder. "This is your room, Harry." She bit her lip, looking oddly nervous; Harry couldn't imagine why. "Um, I didn't have that much time to get it ready," she said. "I just finished it a couple of days ago. ...Do you like it?"
Did he like it? "It's perfect," Harry said, awed. "This is for me?"
"Even the easel?"
"The easel and everything."
"Even the books?"
"Especially the books!"
"But-" Harry turned to stare at Willow, distressed. "There are so many of them!"
"Well," Willow said, "they're not all new. I, um, kept all of my favorite books from when I was your age, so a lot of these used to be mine. We can read them together, if you like."
Harry had never in his life been so happy to get hand-me-downs. "Nobody's ever read to me before," he said, walking over to peer up at the bookshelves. "There are so many."
"Nobody's ever read to you before?" Willow repeated. Harry shook his head.
"I mean, we read in school. But I never had books of my own like this either."
Willow made a funny little choking noise. "Well, now you do. And I'll read to you all the time, if you want me to."
"Thank you, Willow!" And before Harry could lose his nerve, he darted back to Willow, still hovering in the doorway, and hugged her fiercely. She'd stood up again, so all he could really do was wrap his arms around her hips and press his face to her soft stomach, but it felt nice all the same. If hugging was like this all the time, he got why people did it so often. At home, though, Aunt Petunia would squeeze Dudley tight until he squirmed to get away, so Harry had never really minded that he didn't get hugged.
Willow's hands settled on his back and on the top of his head. She ruffled his hair softly, not like she wanted to cut it all off at all. "You're very welcome, Harry." She moved her hands to Harry's arms and he started, realizing he needed to let go. People didn't like to touch him, after all. "Hey now!" Willow said, and knelt again, pulling Harry back to her. "Where are you off to? I just want to get my hug properly."
Hesitant, Harry looked into Willow's bright eyes and put his arms around her neck. Willow wrapped hers around his waist and pulled him close. This hug was even better than the first one. Willow was warm and soft everywhere, and her big hands held him like she didn't want to push him away, and her long silky red hair smelt like flowers. "I like your hair," Harry said into her shoulder, and Willow laughed. The vibrations echoed through Harry's chest.
"Thanks, love," Willow said. "I like your hair, too."
FIN CHAPTER ONE
Posted September 27, 2005
Coming soon in Chapter Two:
Harry learns what night-lights are for; Harry and Willow go on their first outings together.
Update drafts will be posted first to my LiveJournal at www.livejournal.com/users/amazonziti .
So... What are you thinking right now? The review button's just down and to your left. Much obliged. :)