The Family you Choose
A/N: So... yeah. This is pretty much it. There'll be an epilogue (or possibly two, depending on how long it ends up being and how obsessive compulsive I feel at the time. Not sure I can end at 39 chapters instead of 40! We'll see), but this is basically the end. It's been a long, occasionally bumpy road, but I'd like to thank each and every reader that's stuck with it! You guys rock :D
. . .
The Summers’ house was full to bursting for the second time that day, but the mood was far more lighthearted. An air of giddy relief permeated the house. Buffy watched the hustle and bustle in the kitchen with delight. Most of the action centered on Molly Weasley and her wand; Buffy and Mrs. Granger had offered to help out, but Molly seemed offended at the very suggestion that she might require assistance. Apparently, she considered cooking for ten day in and day out to be more than adequate practice for putting together a casual feast. She did allow her own children to do some of the prep work and table setting, but the bulk of the cooking was being accomplished at an astonishing rate by the matriarch of the Weasley clan.
Molly shooed Buffy out of the kitchen after the third time she nearly got between a flying dish and its destination. Accepting her banishment with amusement, Buffy found Dawn at the fringes of the crowd spilling out of the living room. Dawn watched with a wistful expression as Xander regaled wizards and Sunnydalians alike with the tale of the last few days. Spike jumped in every now and then to disagree or take offense- no, William
, Buffy mentally chastised herself. Now that she was full-sized and her true memories were closer to the surface, it was more difficult to think of William in terms of the person he was now rather than the vampire he once was.
“Hey, you,” Buffy said, pulling her sister into a one-armed hug. “You ok?”
“I guess,” Dawn answered with a shrug. “Kind of weirded out, but mostly ok.”
“I think everyone’s a little weirded out,” she agreed, wrinkling her nose.
“I’m glad you’re all big again. Well, normal sized, anyway,” she added with a smirk. “Maybe not so much with the big.”
“Watch it,” Buffy said warningly.
Dawn’s grin faded as she looked back to the crowd in the living room. “It reminds me of Thanksgiving,” she admitted softly.
Buffy nodded, blinking back tears. Thanksgiving had been the last time the house had felt so full of life. It hurt to see so much joy in the house without Joyce there to share it. “Mom would have loved this. She would have been a little freaked out, but she’d have loved it anyway.”
“It’s good, though, right?” Dawn said. “All these people here, celebrating. It’s what she would have wanted. I don’t think she’d want us to be sad forever.”
“I know she wouldn’t,” Buffy said, smiling.
They watched a while longer as Xander continued his story, eagerly embellishing his descriptions of Hogwarts for the Sunnydale crew. Nearly everyone was taken in by his enthusiasm; Snape seemed to be the one sour note in the room. Snape seemed determined to bring down the collective good mood by the power of his facial expression alone, but his glare and the grim set of his mouth were no match for the post-apocalyptic joy that had settled over the house.
“So…” Dawn said, her gaze falling on the dour Potions professor. “That guy, huh?”
Buffy had to laugh at the bewildered expression on her sister’s face. “Yeah, that guy. I know he looks like Skeevy McEvilpants, but he’s not so bad once you get to know him.”
“If you say so,” Dawn said dubiously.
“I do,” Buffy countered firmly. “I may have only met the guy, like, yesterday, but I remember him making me feel safe and loved. He might not be the nicest guy on the planet, but I knew with every fiber of my being that he’d die before he let anything hurt me. I think… I think he’s a lot like Spike, you know? He’s the reluctant good guy. I doubt he’d ever do the right thing just because it’s the right thing to do, but he’ll do pretty much anything for someone he loves.”
“Like how Spike let Glory torture him for you,” Dawn said, understanding.
“For both of us,” Buffy corrected. “And yeah, he’s done some pretty heroic things in the name of love. Dad would never admit it, but I’m pretty sure he has, too.”
“Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to start calling him that, too,” Buffy said, grinning at the expression on Dawn’s face. “Are you ok with this, though? Moving to England and everything?”
“I guess,” she said with a half-hearted shrug. “I mean, it’s not like I have anything to stay here for. And I want to be close to Spike and Xander and everyone. It’s just…”
“Awfully sudden?” Buffy offered. “I get that. Part of me feels like this is all happening way too fast, and the other part feels like I’ve already lived there for years.”
“Is it weird that I’m jealous?” Dawn asked, looking at her feet. “Not of the whole getting kidnapped by an evil wizard or whatever, but you and him have all this family stuff, and I’m still just me.”
“Nah, it’s not weird. You two will have family stuff, too, though. Just give it a little time. Once you get past the severe hygiene deficits, I’m pretty sure you two are going to get along so well it’s scary. He’s a Potions Master, you know.”
“Like, magic potions?” Dawn asked, her eyes lighting up.
“Yup. He’s one of the best in England. He’s got a potions lab at his house and everything.”
Dawn bit back and excited squeal. “Will he teach me? You have to make him teach me!”
Buffy laughed again, this time loud enough to attract the attention of the man in question. He frowned, clearly unnerved by the excitement in Dawn’s eyes, which only made Buffy laugh harder.
There would always be a hole in their lives where their mother had been, but for the first time since her death, Buffy felt like she was part of a family again. It would take time, but she knew Dawn would eventually feel that way, too.
. . .
“You must be Harry,” a soft voice said from behind him.
While everyone else had gathered with their families and reveled in the Vampire Wizard’s defeat, Harry had snuck out to the back porch. There hadn’t really been a place for him in all that mirth, and while he was happy for everyone else and their new found family members, he couldn’t quite bring himself to join the celebration. He thought his exit had gone completely unnoticed, but it looked like he’d been wrong.
“That’s me,” he said with a sigh.
“I’m Tara,” she introduced herself as she took a seat next to him on the steps.
“Willow’s friend,” he recalled.
She blushed. “Sort of. We’re, um, we’re a little more than f-friends,” she admitted shyly.
He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “More than… oh!” he realized suddenly, his eyes going wide as he blushed almost as deeply as she had. “Right, then. Um, nice to meet you, Tara.”
“You’re Ron and Hermione’s friend, right?” she asked.
He nodded, surprised that she’d managed to remember everyone’s names. “Yeah, we’re best mates. We’re in the same house and year at Hogwarts.”
“But not Draco?” she asked perceptively.
He scowled before he could stop himself. “Not hardly.”
“Come on, he can’t be that bad,” she prodded.
Harry snorted derisively. “You’re right; he’s worse.”
“Willow doesn’t think so,” Tara said softly.
“Well, then, Willow’s in for a big surprise. Draco’s going to tell his father what happened, and then…” he shuddered. “Let’s just say it’s a good thing Lucius is thousands of miles away.”
“Harry…” Tara said hesitantly, putting a hand on Harry’s arm. “Draco’s not g-going home. He’s going to live with Willow and I.”
He stared at her, unsure he’s heard correctly. “Draco’s moving to America to live with Muggles?”
“No, no! Willow and I are moving to England. We’ll find an apartment while Draco’s at school, and he’ll live with us over the holidays. Harry,” she said, hesitating, “he doesn’t want to go back to his parents.”
“But he…” Harry shook his head violently. “Draco hates Muggles! More than that, he’s bloody proud
of being a Malfoy!”
“Maybe he’s just afraid to be anything else,” she said quietly.
“Afraid?” he repeated, confused.
She bit her lip in frustration as she tried to think of a way to explain. “W-when I was a little girl, I thought I loved my father very much. He protected us, and he never hesitated to tell us about all the things he was supposedly protecting us from. I was terrified of him and the things he did to my- to my m-mother, but I was even more frightened of what would happen if he were gone. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to understand what a father was supposed
to be. I-it wasn’t until last year that I finally realized that he’d never been protecting me at all.”
Harry shook his head again, though uncertainty was starting to creep in. “That’s no excuse. Malfoy’s a bully. He’s well on his way to becoming a Death Eater-“
Tara shushed him with a gentle touch to his shoulder. “Bullying is a learned behavior. He’s seen how his father treats people he sees as weak; Draco’s only defense is not to be seen as one of those people. I’m not saying you should give Draco a pass on his behavior, but I think maybe he’s not all that different from you.”
Harry shrugged her hand off his shoulder and muttered darkly under his breath.
“I said it’s not bloody fair!” he said louder. “Draco bleeding Malfoy
gets rescued and I get to go back to the Dursleys again. What’s that slimy git ever done to deserve it?”
“The Dursleys?” Tara asked.
“My parents died when I was a baby,” he explained. “I live with my mom’s sister and her family. It’s just… with everyone getting new families, why not me? Don’t I deserve it at least as much as Malfoy? The Dursleys hate me, they’d be bloody thrilled to be rid of me. And I’m stuck with them while Malfoy gets to live with some American that he only knows because this stupid spell picked him and his family. It’s not fair,” he repeated weakly.
“I know what you mean,” she said sympathetically. “I would have given a-anything for a new family when I was growing up. And you’re right, it’s not fair that the spell didn’t pick us. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. We don’t need some stupid spell. We can pick ourselves.”
She grinned bashfully. “I mean, you can be my n-new brother. I pick you, and I don’t need some silly spell to do it.”
Harry was surprised to find himself blinking back tears. “That’s…but we can’t.”
“I’ve never h-had a little brother before. So what do you say?” she appealed. “Everyone else got a new family. Why shouldn’t we?”
“We can’t just say we’re family, that’s not how it works,” Harry protested.
He couldn’t think of a reason. A smile slowly crept across his face. “Alright. You’re on.”