Wesley had not had occasion to spend much time at the Ministry of Magic during his seven years at Hogwarts, and that had not changed upon his re-entry to the Wizarding world. There had been the necessary paperwork requirements of resuming his magical identity after so long away; and of course a visit or two on DMLE business related to the events in Los Angeles and his part in them. But he had never spared very much attention for the interior décor.
Perhaps if he had, he would have been slightly more prepared for the vision that greeted him when he stepped out of the Floo. Illyria was indeed waiting for him-- posed atop the great fountain that served as the focal point of the Ministry atrium, her armour clad feet balanced precariously on the upturned face of a gilded wizard's statue. A jet of water issued from the end of the statue's upraised wand, trickling down to wet Illyria's shielded toes on its way to the pool below; several other sculptures of sentient beings ranged about the scene, all facing in the same direction, limbs frozen in an attitude of forward motion. Illyria would have seemed almost part of the set, but for her position above them and her blue-tinted colouring.
The ceiling loomed high overhead, the gothic atmosphere and sheer size of the space recalling nothing so much as the glimpse Wesley had once witnessed of her private pocket dimension of Vahla ha'nesh. A quaver of dark, nerve-jangling emotion shot through him at the resemblance, as though a dementor had unexpectedly wandered by. But in place of the massed, ashy ranks of her long decayed soldiery, a small crowd of Aurors and drably robed Unspeakables surrounded her, watching the former godking with wands lowered at their sides. A slight, chilly smirk turned up the corners of her lips; she was not even pretending to be human, and seemed quite amused at the wary, insolent attitudes of those around her.
He took a sharp breath, then shook his head as the distinct sound of Harry Floo'ing in behind him prompted him to step aside. "Best we retrieve her and leave as soon as possible; otherwise, she might begin to develop ideas."
"What sort of ideas?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows at him.
Wesley snorted. "The sort that result in violent regime changes and vast, inhuman armies," he murmured, as he walked slowly toward the fountain. "She rather defines superiority complex; and I think magical Britain has seen enough of those in the last century."
"I'll say," Harry shot him a sharp look. "I thought you said she wasn't dangerous to us?"
Wesley caught the qualification in that statement, and gave him a wry smile. "If she's come looking for me, that's probably not her intention," he replied, "but it's always better to avoid temptation."
His former charge finally caught sight of him then-- or, more likely, realised that the latest insect to approach her was, in fact, her former guide. She leapt to the floor and stalked in his direction with abrupt, decisive motions, trailing the crowd of Ministry workers behind her like an irregularly darting school of fish, and came to a halt precisely an arm's length in front of him.
"Wesley," she addressed him, her tone half relief, half accusation.
"Illryia," he replied, still caught between pleasure and dismay himself. Distance-- and months spent amongst an unexpectedly caring, supportive family-- had allowed him to more thoroughly separate Winifred Burkle and Illyria in his mind, but he still had a hard time looking at her without remembering the most turbulent moments of the life he'd left behind. She reminded him of all the worst parts of his years in America-- and all the best parts as well, in one tiny, complex, powerful package.
He might have known it would not be so simple to start over. But perhaps-- that could be a good thing, as well.
"I looked for you," she continued without preamble. "I killed all mine, and I was...."
Wesley smiled faintly as she tilted her head, birdlike, to the side. She truly didn't understand; but she had, in her way, made progress. "Concerned...?" he suggested.
"I think so," she replied, without embarrassment or irony. "But you were not to be found."
"I looked for you and the others as well," he admitted, filtering his explanation for their audience. "But I was detained. The method I chose to remove the warlock from play is illegal, in this world." He gestured vaguely toward the far reaches of the atrium.
Her lips thinned. "Do these worms imprison you, then, as they sought to do with me?"
The crowd behind her milled at the harsh edge that had crept into her voice; Wesley absently noted Robards among them, murmuring caution to his minions as he eyed Harry standing off to the side in a relaxed posture, and felt the corners of his mouth curl up. "You need not worry; we came to an agreement. I work as a tutor, now. A teacher of children."
"But you are my guide," she replied, blinking at him in what was very nearly a pout.
"Yes, and previously I was Director of Research at a very large supernatural law firm," he replied gently, reminding her that she had never been his only responsibility. She had perhaps been better preparation for wrangling Teddy Lupin than he had previously realised; there was more than a bit of the child testing and exploring its environment in her petulant, egocentric attitude. "What of the others, Illyria? Were there any other survivors?"
She looked away. The audience rustled once again at the movement; they kept glancing between the two of them, Wesley and Illyria, as though utterly confused by her cooperation and his casual manner. He'd have to ask Harry later just how badly she had behaved upon her arrival, and offer restitution if she had damaged anything irreparably; but that was the least of his concerns at the moment.
"When I could not find you, I sought them out," she said. "We slaughtered many of the Archduke's legions that night. But every soldier we destroyed was replaced by ten more. Angel fell slaying a dragon. I did not see the others die; but they did not walk away from the battlefield alive."
Wesley swallowed. It was what he had expected; but it was still difficult to hear. "How did you survive, then?"
Her chin lifted defiantly. "Angel's mate arrived, with her army of living half-breeds. She was displeased at my news, and wished to do more violence. We made trophies of the enemy commanders' spines."
Living half-breeds? The buried Watcher in Wesley came to attention at that description of Slayers; he would have to ask her more questions about that reference, later. The majority of his conscious mind, however, was stalling on the mental image of Illyria and Buffy fighting side by side.
A thousand more questions flew through his mind; he wanted to ask if she had met Faith, if Giles had apologised for his rejection when they'd asked for help in saving Fred, if the Slayer who had temporarily cost Spike his hands had been rehabilitated, and any number of other concerns. But there would be time to air those later, as well. The important thing at the moment was: "Then you were in good hands."
She bared her teeth in mock offense. "I suffered no mortal to touch me. But their company... sufficed. I remained with them until word reached us of a witch asking questions in your name." Then she glanced over her shoulder toward Robards-- who had managed to dismiss most of the other assorted onlookers. "This one insisted I set my mark to his scratchings before you could be summoned."
And that would be the paperwork Harry had mentioned. Wesley raised his eyebrows at his green-eyed cousin, who shrugged.
"Goblins aren't the only magical beings who have trouble with the idea of applying a binding mark to something as impermanent as ink and parchment. Or with giving out their true Names at all. I rather thought it would be simpler all round if I just fetched you."
Robards cleared his throat. "Perhaps you could return tomorrow to deal with the paperwork, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce? ...Alone?"
Wesley nodded to him-- he really was going to have to ask Harry what she'd done-- and then gestured to the nearest hearth. "Then back to the Burrow it is; my cousins will be quite pleased to meet you, Illyria."
She blinked, then crouched to inspect the empty fireplace. "Is there a portal concealed in the brickwork?"
Wesley blinked at her in surprise, then smiled, reaching for a pinch of Floo powder and a bare bones explanation of wizarding travel.
It felt like taking up a sword again after recovering from an injury; or like Andromeda's brusque welcome when he'd arrived on her doorstep.
Yes. His new life had lacked only this to make it truly complete.