There were people talking inside when they eventually returned to the library. “...Spies?” someone was saying.
“They’re rather young for it,” pointed out a voice Harry recognized as Rupert the librarian’s.
“Plus,” added a girl, “did you see her hair? God, I would totally kill myself before going out in public like that.”
“Channeling Cordelia are we?” asked a boy in tones of wry amusement.
Harry grabbed his friends by their elbows and dragged them out of earshot down the corridor. “Now what?” he hissed.
“Well,” offered Hermione after a bit of worried lip chewing, “we could just wait some more until they leave...”
“Who knows when that will be?!” exclaimed Ron setting off a mini round of half-hearted bickering about the most sensible course of action.
“We’ll just go in,” interrupted Harry. They both gaped at him for a moment, their faces stamped with near identical looks of horror. “No, really, this is a good plan,” Harry attempted to assure them. “Rupert at least knows what’s in his library so he probably wont be too surprised when we ask him for a spell book, and we can always just obliviate them when we leave.” With that Harry strode purposefully towards the library door as his friends scrambled to keep up.
The scene inside looked much as it had this morning except for the subtraction of the brown haired girl and the addition of a half-empty box of pizza. “Well, well,” said the blonde looking smug, “speak of the devil.”
The meaning of what she had said took a moment to reach Harry’s brain. “You think we’re spies?” His voice broke on the word.
Ron however, jumped strait to the important bit. “What’s wrong with Hermione’s hair?” he demanded. “She has great hair!” Hermione suddenly found the floor intensely interesting. The two girls exchanged looks while the boy unsuccessfully attempted to turn his bark of laughter into a cough. Rupert just sighed and began to clean his glasses.
“Not to get off topic,” Harry shot Ron a quick glare, “but we’re not spies. We actually just need your help. We’re looking for this book you see. It’s rather important.”
Suddenly they were all business, sitting straighter in their chairs and looking strangely focused. “So, how important are we talking?” asked the boy. “Getting an A on that paper or say...saving the world?”
“That last bit actually,” clarified Ron. None of their hosts looked the least bit surprised.
“Ah,” said Rupert removing his glasses and posing with them thoughtfully. “I assume you need a book of spells or perhaps prophecy.”
“We are looking for a spell book,” admitted Hermione, “but not for the content so much as that, well, this particular one is a Horcrux.”
The natives stared blankly. “I’m not familiar with-“ began the librarian.
“Oh, oh!” exclaimed the redhead as she bounced in her chair and frantically fluttered her hands. “I know this. I read this. It’s a piece of a soul right?” At Harry’s silent and wary nod she continued on in a frighteningly cheerful display of Hermione-esk knowledge. “It’s so cool! You split your soul and bind it to something so you can live forever. Of course, you have to kill someone to do it which less cool ‘cause, you know, killing bad.”
“How did you-“ asked Rupert sounding as shocked as Harry felt.
“Oh, I came across it while we were trying to figure out who would want the Master’s bones,” she explained with a wave of her hand. The librarian looked mollified, but Harry still felt a little unsure about any girl who could babble excitedly about achieving immortality though murder. Her friends were congratulating her on her on being knowledge girl and Hermione looked rather put out at the possibility of being upstaged as the reigning queen of obscure information.
“Right then,” said Rupert bracingly, “what’s the tittle?”
“We don’t actually know.” Hermione sounded embarrassed to be missing such a vital clue. “We know it’s a spell book that once belonged to a woman by the name of Rowena Ravenclaw, but she’s not the author, and that its somewhere in this library.”
“Sounds needle in a hay stack-y,” said the blonde girl rising from her chair. “Good thing I promised Angel we’d patrol together.”
“Oh, right,” groused the boy, “Abandon us to go fight legions of the undead.”
“Yes, well,” Rupert began to take charge. “Do be careful Buffy and come back afterwards.” She nodded and strode out. “In the meantime, Willow, you and Xander see if you can find that book on Horcruxes while you three,” he turned to the Hogwarts trio and Hermione helpfully provided their names. “Yes, you three come with me and we’ll look through the spell books.”
“Maybe,” suggested Willow tentatively, “maybe we should call Ms. Calender. I mean, it’s magic so we might need some magic.”
Rupert agreed, but marched off into the stacks looking unaccountably flustered.
They’d been looking for roughly an hour and a half when Buffy joined them looking somewhat mussed. “How was patrol? Any luck?” asked Rupert.
She shrugged. “Better luck than you’re having,” she answered, pulling a random book from the shelf and beginning to flip through its pages. “Why are you guys looking for this hero-croaks thingy anyway?”
“Horcrux,” Harry corrected her. “It was made by this really Dark wizard and destroying it is the only way to stop him.”
That brought her head out of the book and stilled her hand through its pages as she gave him a good looking over. “No offense,” she began, “but you don’t exactly seem the thwarting evil type.”
Harry felt himself flush at her casual dismissal. “There’s this prophecy see,” Ron tried to explain on his behalf.
“Ah. Prophecy.” She sighed and turned to return the book to its shelf. “There is always a prophecy,” she continued sounding thoughtful and more than a little sad. Her hand stroked up and down the book’s spine and Harry wished he could see her face. “Always a Chosen One...or three.” She spun abruptly. “See guys, the funny thing about prophecy is –”
“Hey,” interrupted Xander, “I think we may have found something.”
Willow and Ms. Calender, Ms. Jenny Calender as it turned out, were seated at the table with a fat ancient book spread open between them when Harry emerged from the stacks. “Here it is Giles,” greeted Willow, “we weren’t certain about some of the words...”
The librarian came over them and slid the book towards himself. Harry watched his eyes as they flickered down the page. “Think it will work?” queried Xander.
“Oh yes,” Rupert nodded, “it’s all rather simple really.”
“Then not to ask stupid questions,” began Ron, “but what is it?”
“It’s so cool!” exclaimed Willow, clearly interrupting Rupert’s pre-speech pause. “The Horcrux has a piece of a soul right? Well this spell will help us make a sort of soul detector.” She wrapped up looking inordinately pleased with herself while the librarian looked slightly miffed.
“Aw, I think poor Giles wanted to explain,” said Buffy in tones of mock sympathy.
“Yeah Will, shame on you,” added Xander with a reproving shake of his finger, “stealing Giles’ thunder. Who’s library is this anyway?”
“Yes, well, what do you think?” Rupert said turning to his girlfriend.
Jenny slid the book closer and ran her finger down the page. “Shouldn’t be too hard to cast. We have all these ingredients right here in the science labs except for this crystal and some virgins’ saliva.”
“Hmm,” the man leaned over her as he too studied the ingredients list. “I have a crystal that size in my office, and I’m sure the children would be happy to oblige us with that last bit.”
“Needs two to cast the spell,” she purred, leaning into him. “Ready to make some magic?”
Harry stood in the center of the room and watched as a bunch of truly loony muggle strangers bustled about gathering supplies to help save his world. He felt oddly as though his destiny was being hijacked and was totally unable to decide if he should be upset or just sit back and let someone else do the work for a change.
Hermione, however, had a rather definite opinion of the subject. “We should help them,” she whispered with all the compressed force of a boiling tea kettle. “We have magic after all, and this is not the sort of thing to leave to amateurs.”
“I don’t know if you noticed Hermione, but that book wasn’t in English,” retorted Ron with an exasperated eye roll. “And I’m pretty sure the labels on those bottles aren’t in English either. What the hell is ZnO2 anyway?”
If the names on the labels were any indication, the bottles being gathered up by their hosts seemed to contain nothing so much as random strings of letters and numbers. The flaming contraption that Jenny was setting up seemed far more complicated than a simple magical flame and Harry felt out of his depth just watching. He was almost relieved when Rupert came round with his mostly filled flask of virgins’ spit. Not only was it something he could handle; as potion ingredients went, it was refreshingly normal. Willow, Buffy and Xander had apparently already contributed generously, but when it came for their turn, Ron and Hermione both declined, turning various shades of red. Harry goggled open mouthed at them for several long moments before topping off the flask.
There was a long, awkward silence before Ron broke it in a rush of words. “I’m awfully glad you spat mate. I’d hate to have to beat you up for stealing my sister’s virtue.”
“What? Like you took Hermione’s?” Harry retorted. He knew that it wasn’t quite the same, but the idea of his two best friends having sex was infinitely more disturbing than even watching old people kiss.
Ron was still sputtering and turning funny colors when Hermione, her face still pink with residual embarrassment, told them to be quiet so she could learn the spell. So the three of them stood together in silence and watched as Rupert and Jenny poured their mystery chemicals, chanted in incomprehensible Latin and filled the room with an eldritch light. It was strange and beautiful and like no magic Harry had ever seen
Less than twenty minutes later found Harry with the soul detector in one hand and the Horcrux in the other. Compared to the hell he had gone through to get the locket it had been appallingly simple. Everyone seemed to be looking at him to see what came next and Harry felt obliged to make some sort of speech.
“I really appreciate all the help,” he began, more than a little awkwardly. “This wasn’t your burden, your destiny, but you took the time and....er...thanks.”
“Hey, no problem,” said Buffy with a careless wave of her hand. “Besides, saving the world, kind of in my job description.”
“Yeah,” added Xander, “plus it’s not like we had anything better to do.”
“What about homework?” demanded Hermione and Willow in identically aggrieved tones to which Ron, Xander and Buffy all responded with a loud “phff” and synchronized eye roll.
“Look kid,” said Jenny in a more serious tone, “not to sound like an inspirational slogan, but saving the world isn’t just about you. It’s something we all have a stake in. I mean,” she added reaching out to run her hand down Rupert’s arm, “I know I have some things I wouldn’t mind saving.”
Harry gazed solemnly into her dark eyes for a long minute before grinning. “I know what you mean,” he said before turning to his friends. “Come on Ron! Let’s go home so I can kiss your sister.”