Remus Lupin and Severus Snape sat across the desk from Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Albus looked weary and slightly angry, judging by what the younger men could see. Both wondered why they'd been called there.
“Severus, Remus. I've received a letter today that bears both good and bad news. It seems that a young Wicca witch has done something that is very, very ill advised,” Albus began, then decided that letting them read the missive themselves would be the best way to get through things. So he handed the letter to Remus, who wouldn't be bothered by Severus reading over his shoulder, and settled back to wait.
Remus took the paper – Muggle lined, he noticed – and tilted it so his ex-schoolmate could also read.
Dear Headmaster Dumbledore,
I am writing to inform you of something both very good and very bad. It seems that, while I was in England this past summer, the news of my slayer's death got around the demon community. Sunnydale appeared to become overrun with demons of all sort. So now you have the background information, let me tell what's occurred.
It appears that Buffy's friends couldn't face the Hellmouth without her. It was too much for them to handle, and so Willow – the Earth Witch I've mentioned before – decided to take rather drastic measures. As Buffy died a mystical death falling through a portal intended for a Hell dimension, Willow and three others chose to call upon Osiris to bring her back to life here. Buffy returned to us in October and has not yet readjusted to living among her friends again. We believe that her time in Hell was such that she can't bear to even think of it, much less speak about it to us.
Now I have a favor to ask of you. I would like it if Buffy could come to visit her friends there. It is my belief that she can begin to heal if she were around friends that were unconnected to her duties as Slayer. The Hellmouth has been quiet enough since word of her resurrection has spread, so she won't be missed for a few days, or even a week or two. Please send me a reply as soon as possible so I may get her ready to leave here.
Remus looked stunned as he stared at the paper which would be shaking had Severus not steadied it when the werewolf's hand began to tremble. Severus himself looked furious.
“What did that girl think she was playing at?” he hissed. “That kind of magic is of the darkest sort!”
Remus' eyes flickered amber and honey gold as he finally looked up, the wolf angry and the man aghast. “You have replied, right Albus?” he asked, though it was more of a statement than anything. Of course Buffy would come visit!
“Of course, dear boy! I've sent her a portkey that will deposit her outside of Hogsmeade at ten o'clock Saturday morning.” Albus looked far too smug, in Remus' opinion, but he was glad to be able to see to his friend.
“Headmaster, is that wise?” Severus asked, an upraised hand forestalling whatever comment Remus was about to make. “That is a Hogsmeade day, after all, and it may be too much for her.”
“Whether it was wise to have her arrive during a Hogsmeade weekend, the portkey has been sent and cannot be changed.”
“Very well, Headmaster. If that is all?”
Buffy looked at the items laid out on her bed. Giles and this Bubbledoor person both said it would be cooler where she was going than she was used to in Southern California. The first thing was a newspaper. It was just the front page and the picture on it was moving – which would have wigged her majorly if she'd cared all that much – but the oddest thing about it was that that bit of newspaper was going to transport her across her country, across an ocean, then drop her who knows where in some other country. And it would be nearly instantaneous.
The other thing was kind of nice but kind of lame, too. Doubleoar sent her a robe - like they wear in the magical world - so she'd blend in. It would be good for her not to stick out in an all magical village, after all. At least, that's what was in the note he sent with it. It was a nice dark green color and she briefly wondered who picked it out. Severus and Remus both had told her that this Atlas guy couldn't coordinate two of the same socks even if you put signs on each one, so she felt justified in her musing. Then she shrugged the thought from her mind and pulled it on.
She had just under ten minutes, after all, and she needed to make sure all of her things were together and that she was touching them and the paper. She was rather glad that she had to leave when she did, truthfully. Six in the morning was not a time her friends liked to greet, considering any slaying had ended mere hours before. And she might have told them seven, instead. Either way, she'd be gone before they came a-lookin'. And then she felt as if something was hooking her through her bellybutton and suddenly she wasn't at home.
The next moment she was barely keeping her balance, slayer grace be damned. She was on the outskirts of what was, indeed, a bustling little village. This head guy certainly knew where to set a girl down without attracting attention. She looked around some more, moving to lean against a tree to the side of the dirt path. Remus should have been there waiting for her, but she figured she'd give him a few more minutes yet.
When ten minutes had passed her by, she finally huffed a small breath and pushed off the tree. Dull green eyes looked around once more before she followed the path into the village. Somebody there might be able to tell her how to get hold of Remus or Severus, after all. She shivered in the colder air; it most definitely was colder here than back in Sunnyhell. She rubbed her arms briskly as she moved into the village square, looking around for a likely place to ask about her friends. She needn't have bothered.
“Buffy?” came a voice she had only heard on that one day but was imprinted in her mind. What could she say? It was damned sexy to listen to. She turned and gave her friend a wan smile.
“What are you doing here?” he asked. At her raised eyebrow, he shook his head once, sharply. “I knew you were coming, but wasn't the wolf supposed to meet you?”
“Oh. Yeah. He wasn't there,” was the slightly deadened reply. The dark wizard looked her over carefully, not at all liking what he saw. Dull, nearly empty eyes, dark circles highlighting the missing spark; thinner than she was half a year or so before; uncaring of the world around her, though he knew she had weapons in her bag. He idly wondered if it was charmed to carry her things in it by Dumbledore or if it was one of her own. If so, she didn't pack much for her visit.
“Lupin was away on a mission, but I know the headmaster expected him back yesterday, this morning at the latest.”
“Oh.” She rubbed her arms again, otherwise showing no indication that the weather bothered her at all. Most of the students were wearing cloaks, Severus saw, as was he. It was unseasonably cold today, after all. He came to a decision.
“Follow me.” He turned and led her to Gladrags Wizard Wear, where he found her a warm cloak in black with green lining and silver buttons. He cataloged his surroundings absently as he swirled it around her shoulders, checking the fit against her diminutive height. One thing he didn't see, however, was the Golden Trio standing outside the window he and Buffy were conveniently in front of, nor did he see their unattractive gaping.
As they stepped out of the shop, he discretely placed one hand on the small of her back, guiding her towards their next destination. She whispered a thank you to him, and he nodded back, steering her into the Three Broomsticks and setting her a table in the car corner. He ordered her a butterbeer, telling Rosmerta to serve her lunch and to put it all on a tab that he would cover after his rounds. The shocked woman stared at the small blonde, then the tall wizard, then the small blonde again and nodded, leaving with a dumbfounded look on her face. Severus leaned close to her to speak so softly that he knew only she would be able to hear him.
“Meet me around the back in two hours, alright?” he asked, making sure she checked her watch and actually registered the time and when she would need to meet him before striding from the pub in a swirl of billowing black. He snarled at Potter as he passed, his sidekicks trailing behind him.
Madam Rosmerta smiled at Harry, Ron and Hermione as they took a table close to the strange woman that snarky man brought in. But he was gone, and she was all alone there, looking rather lost and Rosmerta just knew a friendly ear would be the perfect thing!
“Hello, miss! Professor Snape asked me to bring this over for you,” she began as she set a plate down in front of the girl. “He's never brought anyone here before, I don't think. So what's your name?” But the blonde didn't reply, still blankly staring at a bit of the table that wasn't obscured by the plate. As the silence grew awkward for Rosmerta, she huffed and turned away, taking the much more pleasant task of getting the Gryffindor Trio's order taken.
“Wow! She's really rather rude, don't you think?” Hermione asked, glancing at the blonde girl that Snape took shopping. “She didn't even bother to answer at all!”
“I dunno, Mione. She looks kinda sad,” Harry said, also looking to the girl. Before he could continue his thought, though, Ron snorted.
“I'd be sad, too, if Snape was taking me around places!”
“Ron!” Hermione scolded, but it was a half-hearted attempt. She didn't care for the professor, after all. Not even with the respect she felt was due his position. The conversation turned to speculation on who the girl was (no idea), to the Cannon's chances of winning the season (none), and around to the twins' joke shop (fun). In that manner, two hours passed where the girl barely touched the drink, took two bites of the food, and eventually stood to leave without looking around her at all. Uninterested in the world, Harry thought. Like she no longer belonged. They followed her out and through the alley to behind the pub, starting as they saw Snape there waiting for her. He merely glared at them, placed his hand against her back again, and led her towards the school, all with nothing more than a muttered “Come,” from the man.
As they reached the gates to the school grounds, Snape paused and pulled her hood up over her head then continued on. They were met in the Entrance Hall by Remus Lupin, who looked to be coming to find them.
“Buffy! I'm terribly sorry! My, err, task ran a bit longer than expected. I had planned to be there,” he said as he fell in to step on her other side. He knew better than to expect Severus to stop while he gave the girl the hug he thought she sorely needed.
“No big, Remus. Severus was there and he took care of me,” she said softly, her dead tone causing the two men to exchange worried looks over her head. They were rarely in agreement, so this was possibly worse than they'd thought.
None of them spoke again until they were on the seventh floor and safely ensconced in the Room of Requirement. Severus would have preferred his quarters, but he refused to let the wolf or the brat in them, so he compromised.
“How are you, Buffy?” Remus asked once everyone was settled down.
“I'm fi-... I don't know. I hurt.”
“What hurts?” Severus queried.
“Everything,” she whispered brokenly. Finally, she had someone she could share her deepest secret with. “It's too much. Too loud, too bright. Hurts.”
Severus stared at her with dawning horror, comprehension sinking in even as Remus struggled to understand. Strong arms wrapped around her, pulling her back against a body that smelled of herbs and smoke and spice.
“Buffy, are you... were you... that is to say, where were you?”
Green eyes looked up, dry but oh-so-empty. “Heaven.”
“Sweet Merlin's tits!” Remus exclaimed as Severus closed his eyes tightly. “They pulled you out of heaven? Didn't they-”
“You don't need to lecture on it, Remus,” Buffy said quietly. He froze, thinking he'd offended her, but, “Giles found out she resurrected me and called her a 'rank, arrogant amateur'. It was beautiful.”
After that, Buffy talked. Finally. She told them how at peace she'd been, and how now she could barely stand to get out of bed every day and everyone kept wanting her to be happy about being back, and how they were so gung-ho on bringing her back to life but never once even thought to dig up her coffin first, so she had to dig her own way out; much like the creatures she hunted. They were suitably horrified, and Severus offered her some vials of Dreamless Sleep, cautioning her on its use as Remus left to get Harry and bring him to meet his sister. She said she wanted to meet him then, no matter her state, because she couldn't let him know she was alive and have something happen again without getting to know him as much as possible. It wasn't fair to him.
The dark haired boy that was watching her at the pub followed Remus into the room. Of course she would have the Nosy Parker for a brother. Dawn, apparently, wasn't enough. And oh. She'd have to tell them about that mess, too.
Harry followed Remus into the Room of Requirement in a very puzzled state of mind. That changed when he saw Snape with his arms around that blonde girl, holding her tightly to him. Dull green eyes looked up at him before he could say anything, though, and he cocked his head, for once patient enough to let someone else speak.
“Hello, Harry. I'm Buffy.”