It was all that bushy-haired little know-it-all’s fault. She just had to be better than everyone else and it made him angry. If she had just left him alone then he wouldn’t be here right now. Now Harry was blaming him for her not knowing there was a troll in the castle and the boy-wonder was dragging him along to help find her. According to Harry they were just going to try and find Hermione to warn her. So, here they were running through the halls of Hogwarts, like they knew where to go.
Ron had thought that being friends with Harry Potter would be safe. He had killed a dark lord after all, so no one would try and mess with him. They could all just relax and enjoy life. Not to mention the fame and perks that being famous brought. But no! Harry Potter seemed to have a desperate need to help and save people. First Neville and now Hermione. The Boy-Who-Lived seemed to have had a death wish.
The two boys skidded to a halt when they heard a scream. They ran down the hall, to the nearest girl’s bathroom, where they could hear a commotion inside. Harry pushed the door open carefully to reveal the huge mountain troll looming over a cowering Hermione Granger. The smell was awful.
Ron decided this wasn’t the life for him. So he left without a backward glance. He took off back the way he had just come. If Harry wanted to be a hero, he could bloody well do it without his help. He was out of here.
"Ron, any…," Harry started as he turned to ask his friend for help only to see him sharply turn the corner at the end of the corridor. Harry wondered what had gotten into him. Wasn’t Gryffindor the house of the brave? The timid boy shoved in the back of his mind for another time and turned to look at the huge monster in the bathroom. He had to figure out how to help Hermione. He wasn’t sure what he could do, small kid that he was.
That, and the bloody thing was huge!
Still, Hermione was in trouble. The poor girl was cowering under what used to be the bathroom sinks with a giant monster out to kill her. Harry noticed that the girls’ loo looked at lot like the boys’, which gave him pause. His aunt always went on and on about the comforts of women’s bathrooms. She would gloat on and on about how they had couches, and chairs. He then shook his head a such fleeting thoughts and turned his attention to the girl inside.
He needed to do something. Maybe distract the beast. Gathering up his courage, Harry flung the door open and ran inside. He yelled as loud as he could to try and distract the troll, then somehow leapt onto the huge beast’s back and began pounding away. It didn’t hurt the troll at all, probably no more than an annoying mosquito, but at least now the club wasn’t aimed at his sorta friend.
The mountain troll paused and began spinning in circles, attempting to see what was tickling his back; whatever it was, was turning with it. The troll reached behind to try and grab the annoyance, but it was out of reach. Round and round the two went, with neither having any luck. Harry was hanging on for dear life. His legs flew through the air, while his arms were locked firmly around the troll’s neck. The smell was still awful. He didn’t think he’d be able to hold his dinner, especially since it was mostly sweets. And eww the dirt and slime on this being’s neck was horrible. He might have to take a shower for a week. His wand was stuck in the troll’s nose, but he wasn’t going to let go to try and get it. The fall might kill him.
Hermione saw her savior, the young Harry Potter, and it looked like he might be in trouble. It was quite foolish of her year mate to try and take on a fully-grown mountain troll. Still, he was doing it for her. So, she gathered her Gryffindor courage and started hurling nearby pieces of porcelain debris at the creature. "Leave him alone!!!" she screeched, throwing a piece of the privy at the troll’s head. She hit her target, making it turn its attention to her. She quickly grabbed more pieces and threw them at the beast’s face, hitting him in the eye. The troll roared at her, but that didn’t stop her from throwing more. She feared she might die, but she wasn’t going to let Harry get crushed.
Just when both kids thought all was lost and wondering where the staff was, there was a strange noise. A loud bang and a flash of bright lights came from the only stall still standing.
"What the heck?" a male American voice queried to itself from inside the cubicle. "There are no bathrooms in this cave, or any cave come to think of it. Willow, did you cast a spell? I know you like your luxury, but…" the voice called out as the door opened. "Aw, man. It had to be me, didn’t it?" A tall man with longish brown hair, a sturdy build, and one eye complained when he had taken in what was going on.
The three combatants looked at one another. The troll roared, Harry squeaked and fell off its back, and Hermione cried, “Help!” She grabbed Harry and the two went to the corner, hoping the man could take care of the troll.
The man waved his hand in front of his nose and said, "Dude, you reek," He then reached up and ripped the wand from the troll's nose, causing the troll, who was so destructive moments before, to whimper. The one-eyed man threw the stick away. Fortunately, towards the two kids.
Harry quickly picked it up and pointed it at the troll. He didn’t know what he could do, but if he could, he was going to help. Hermione drew her wand as well.
"Any chance you're gonna walk away peacefully?" the man asked, still wrinkling his nose at the odor.
The troll bellowed in anger at the newcomer.
"Yeah, I thought not," he said as he reached over his shoulder, making a sword appear from nowhere. The man sprang into motion as he shot between the beast's legs and sliced at the back of its knees, causing it to topple to ground, roaring with pain. Only its arms held it up, but the man sliced away at its elbows, causing the troll to fall to the floor. The man then placed the sword back over his shoulder and it vanished. He reached over his other shoulder to make an axe appear. With one single swoop, he chopped the defeated beast’s head off. The man placed his axe back over his shoulder, making it vanish just as several of the professors burst into the room. There was no pause as the man made two guns appear from his side, pointing them at the new intruders. He took a moment to wonder what the hell they were wearing.
"What on earth is going on?" Professor McGonagall demanded, taking in everything with a rapid glance. She sighed with relief at seeing her two lions unharmed but glared suspiciously at the unknown man in the room.
Confused, the outsider looked at the dead troll and the two scared kids and shrugged. "It looks like I am being a hero again. Stupid Scoobies,” he grumbled. “And the next person who pisses me off is going to get what he got," he said seriously as he kicked the dead troll.
"He saved us. We tried to fight off the troll, and then he came along and killed it. It was very brave of him," Hermione said as Harry nodded in agreement.
"We do not know who ‘he’ is, Miss Granger. We do not know if he is friend or foe. ‘He’ should not be here," Professor McGonagall said primly.
"Back at you, Lady,” the still unnamed man stated, not lowering his guns at all.
"I am Professor Dumbledore, the Headmaster of this school," the elderly man said placatingly. The man had, after all, just killed a mountain troll. "The lady you spoke to is my Deputy, Professor McGonagall. The other two men are Professors Snape and Quirrell."
"I'm Harry, and this is Hermione," Harry offered to their savior. It was only polite.
"This is a school?" the man asked dubiously as he looked around the demolished bathroom.
"One of the finest in the world," Professor McGonagall said proudly, which was rather ironic really after what had just happened.
"Okay, if this is the finest school in the world, then why are these two kids locked in a bathroom with that thing? You guys aren’t part of the Council, are you? That would not make me happier. We thought you were all dead," he stated, aiming at the oldest man. The last thing he needed was to run in to those guys. They thought most those control freaks were dead, but some could have survived the bombing. He had heard of a few zealots lurking about.
"Do not take that tone with me, young man. We were seeing to our duty and escorting the children to safety. Mr. Potter and Miss Granger left the group on their own. It is their foolishness that landed them in trouble," McGonagall declared angrily. While she was relieved to see them unharmed, she never did suffer fools, and only a fool would run around when there was a troll about.
"Since when is taking a leak foolish?" he asked derisively. Still not sure what the deal was.
"Mind your manners," the black clad greasy-haired man —Snape— snarled.
The man cocked one of his weapons, raised an eyebrow and asked, "Or what?"
"Or I will take away your muggle weapons, and throw you bodily from the castle," Snape growled, raising his wand in the man’s direction, only to jump when he hear a loud crack, and a slight wind whistle by his ear. Bits of plaster peppered his head, making everyone turn to see a hole in the wall behind the greasy-haired man.
"I’d like to see you try. I can put a hole in your head before you even move. Are you feeling lucky?" the man asked calmly, not once lowering his guns.
Harry dragged Hermione quickly to the corner. It should be safe there. Guns weren’t something you messed with.
"This seems to have gotten out of control. Perhaps, we can speak in my office, Mr.…?" Dumbledore stated leadingly. He didn’t know who this man was, but if he had such powerful weapons, maybe he could be useful.
"Xander. Just call me Xander," was the curt response.
"Mister Xander… I apologize for the misunderstanding. When we were informed that the children were missing, we endeavored to find them. As you can see, we arrived a tad too late. I am most happy that you came across them when you did,” the old man said, trying to reclaim the situation.
"Yeah, a tad. So, kids, what were you doing in here?” Xander asked, keeping his guns pointed at the slimy man, who was still glaring at him and pointing a stick at him. Xander had no clue why he was carrying a stick, but after his life on the Hellmouth, he wasn’t taking chances.
"Hermione didn’t know about the troll. She missed the feast, so me and Ron came to warn her," Harry said quickly. “I’m not sure what happened to Ron, though,” he added to explain why his friend wasn’t there.
"So… no kissy, kissy?" Xander asked with a smirk.
“Eww,” came the disgusted response from both the pre-teens.
“You were saying?” he asked the supposed teachers.
"Of course, they wouldn’t tell the truth. That boy was probably setting up a prank, just like his father,” the dark-dressed man said, turning his wand to Harry.
"I do believe that is quite enough, Severus," Dumbledore said quietly, causing Snape to drop his wand, but not his glare.
Harry frowned. He wasn't angry at the slur, not really; he just wanted to know what that meant. He wished someone would tell him about his parents other than, he looked like his dad with his mum’s eyes. He wanted to know what they were like. Simple things. When did they graduate? When did they get married? What did they do for a living? Did they have any friends? Where were those friends now? He just wanted to know.
“So, where are the rest of the kids? And who’s looking after them?” Xander asked, relaxing his arms and lowering his guns. Though he still keep his eyes on ‘Severus’. His creepo radar was blaring. And if there was one thing Xander trusted, it was his creepo radar.
“They are safe in their dorms,” McGonagall answered as if it were obvious.
“You guys didn’t go looking for the troll. You just moved kids around? And didn’t go after the bigger threat?” the one-eyed man asked in disbelief.
“We had to find it,” she said defensively. Not liking that he was accusing them of misconduct.
“Lady, how could you miss it? It stank and was extremely destructive. Or did you think this bathroom came like this naturally?” he argued, waving his arms at the destroyed room.
“It’s not easy to kill mountain t-t-t-trolls," the man in the turban stated fearfully.
"Well, given I did it in under ten seconds, I’d say it’s not that hard," he said kicking the corpse.
"Actually… less than five," Hermione corrected timidly. She didn’t want to go against the teachers, but this man just saved their lives. She wasn’t about to let them disparage him.
"See? Less than five seconds."
"Lies,” Severus snapped. “These children wouldn’t tell the truth if…”
"Severus," Dumbledore interrupted firmly as he realized his Potions Master was not going to be helpful at the moment. “I do believe the rest of the staff should know that the danger has passed. Perhaps you and Quirinus, can do this.”
"Headmaster, you can’t be serious. This man just-"
"Professors,” was all Dumbledore said, causing the two men to leave. Well, one stormed and the other slinked, never turning his back on the rest. “Now, tell Mr. Xander, however did you come to be in this school?” he asked, after a minute of silence.
"I walked into a cave," Xander said bluntly. "In Africa.”
"That is… most disturbing," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard with a frown. "A portal that leads from Africa to this room," he hummed in thought. It would have to be a new portal, since it had never happened in all his years here.
"I don’t think it was a permanent one. There were people ahead of me, and a few behind me, but I’m the only one here. I’m just fates, buttmonkey," the young man sighed, wondering everything seemed to happen to him.
"Still, best to be sure. Minerva, would you escort Mister Potter and Miss Granger to their dorms?" the Headmaster suggested to his deputy. He would go to his office, and then question this gentleman more thoroughly.
"Of course, Albus. Follow me, children," she ordered crisply and turned smartly out of the room.
Harry and Hermione reluctantly followed. They wanted to know more about the man who appeared out of nowhere and cut up a troll. They gave one last look and trailed after McGonagall.
"If you will follow me, I will seal this room and we can adjourn to my office to discuss this further," Albus offered, waving his hand to the doorway. Xander shrugged put his guns into his pocketspace. Dumbledore lifted an eyebrow but held off his questions for now. He turned and sealed the doorway. “This way,” he said as he turned right.
As they walked, Xander noted there was no indication that electricity was used in the stone castle. There were no lightbulbs, sockets, or wires of any kind. He had a sinking feeling that phones would not be available either. Heck, he wasn’t even sure he was in the right dimension. The portraits followed them as they moved along. And he was sure he saw a ghost or two. This was creepier than Sunnydale on a full moon.
Eventually, they arrived at a stone gargoyle that moved out of the way at Dumbledore's password. The old man showed him to his office and offered him a seat, which he took. The office was just as disturbing as the walk there, with the mumbling pictures, and the large fire-red bird. His hand kept itching to grab his axe and start chopping.
"Can you tell me what year it is?" he asked as politely as he could. Hopefully, it wasn’t as bad as he thought. There had been plaster in the bathroom, and the invention of that wasn’t that far in the past.
"October 31st, 1991,” the Headmaster informed him. He wondered why the young man needed to know that. Had the troll hit him on the head?
"Shit," Xander muttered, doing some minor calculations.
"You believe you have traversed time?" Albus postulated. Time travelers were rare, indeed. And for muggle to travel time was unheard of.
"Yeah, from the look of this joint I thought it was much further. I’ll just have to wait a little while to contact my friends," Xander sighed, a bit put out that he was alone. Too bad he was in the wrong country for the lotto numbers; he could make a killing.
"Actually, you're in the wrong reality," a familiar voice said as a slender woman with strawberry blonde hair appeared in the chair next to him. She gave him a bright smile and it was reassuring.
"Mrs. Summers?" Xander said in shock. He hadn’t seen her in years. Not since she died. He was completely shocked to see her now. He truly hoped she wasn’t going to haunt him.
Albus started slightly, but the strange red bird started chittering happily.
"Oh, I think after everything we’ve been through you can call me Joyce!" she stated, wagging her finger at him with a mock frown.
"Yes, ma'am," he said, grinning madly. “Anyway, I can get back?”
"No, I’m afraid I need you for this mission," she said, sitting back and adjusting her skirt as she crossed her legs. She hoped he wasn’t too disappointed, but she really needed him here for this. She cut a glare at the headmaster, which only Xander caught.
"And the mission I was on?" he asked warily. In his previous mission, he was baby slayer recruiting, and demon slaying. Who was going to take over for him? How long would it take until they knew he was gone? Well, he would miss his check-in call tomorrow, so it might not be too bad. But, Buffy and Willow would fret. Giles would clean his glasses, and Dawn would cry.
"Don’t worry, I let Giles know," she informed him, patting his leg at his loyalty. And hadn’t that taken a bit of magic? Not to mention the portal. It wasn’t as if she could pick up a phone and call. No, she had to make two portals, the first small, so only voices could get through. And then the second one that brought Xander here.
"You drafted me?" he asked in outrage.
"I am so sorry, honey, I know what you were doing was important. But Xander, I really need help and you are the only one I knew who could handle it," she said, pleadingly.
"Damn, don’t look at me like that. You remind me of your daughter," he whined, still somewhat annoyed at being manhandled across realities. But for Joyce, he’d do as she asked.
"Sorry, but could you see Buffy and Willow just letting you go?" she stated with understanding eyes. She loved her daughter, she really did, but the way she and Willow treated Xander was appalling sometimes.
"Point," he conceded. If they knew he was leaving, they’d never let him go. For some reason, even though he had been in Africa for years, they still felt he couldn’t take care of himself. Sometimes their smothering was overwhelming.
"Excuse me, I must ask, who are you and how did you come to be in my school?" Albus interrupted. This was not a good day, he was not used to being unaware of so many things happening.
"My name is Joyce Summers, my daughter was one of Xander’s best friends," she said fondly as she reached over and took Xander's hand.
"How does that pertain to you being in my office?” the old man asked with a great deal of frustration. Two unknowns wandering about his castles was enough to fluster him a bit.
"That’s because I am your office. You may call me, Lady Hogwarts," Joyce stated airily as if he should have already known that. Not that he could have. She hid very well from those she didn’t trust completely. And she didn’t trust Albus Dumbledore at all.
To say the Headmaster was gobsmacked was an understatement. He had heard rumors of this woman, but had put it off as just that, rumors. If she had been real, then why had she never come to him? Yet, here she was sitting in front of his desk, claiming to be Hogwarts.
"That sounds like something that crawled out of the Hellmouth. Hogwarts, really? Maybe it’s a description of something Buffy would cook," Xander said with a disgusted look.
“It is the name of this school," Albus said somewhat absently still going over the woman’s claims of being the embodiment of his school.
"That doesn’t make it sound any pleasanter,” Xander declared with a raised eyebrow. Turning to Joyce he asked. "So, what mission? Does it involve demons? Cause, I got to tell you, I’d rather Buffy were around if it does. She’s the leader of our little army."
"No, no demons. Unless you classify Harry Potter as a demon. He's just coming up the stairs." Joyce smiled fondly at the door.
A few seconds later, an irate Minerva McGonagall burst through the doors with Harry and Hermione behind her. She was just about to start ranting when she noticed the strange woman.
"Harry is my mission?" Xander asked with a sigh. He made the leap from teenage girls to preteen boys… at least he wouldn't have to worry about female problems this time.
"Yes,” she concurred. “He has had a hard life, and there’s a prophecy."
"Ms. Summers, I must ask that you stop right now. I do not know how you came to have such knowledge, but it should not be revealed at this time," Albus said sternly, quickly trying to figure out if he had a leak, and if so, how to prevent this woman from disrupting his carefully laid plans.
"Bite me, Dumbles," Joyce said with venom.
"Me-ow!" Xander declared with a grin.
"I could tell you some stories about this man’s hubris. He keeps things quite close to the vest. Harry deserves to know. His saving people instincts are just as bad as yours!" Joyce said angrily.
"I don’t want people to get hurt or die. Besides, they’re my friends!" Harry said defiantly. He wasn’t going to be told he was wrong for saving people, especially his friends.
"Harry, dear, I’m not saying it’s wrong. I’m just saying that I don’t like the way some people treat you. You remind me so much of Xander. He was always going off saving others with little thought to his own wellbeing or little reward," Joyce said, pulling the small boy into a hug.
Xander noticed Harry’s reaction. He stiffened up so much, the one-eyed man was afraid he might break.
Joyce looked over at Xander as if to say, ‘See what I mean’, knowing what the one-eyed-man had noticed. The motherly woman then released Harry as two more chairs materialized in the office and she led the two children to sit down.
McGonagall huffed and conjured her own chair next to Dumbledore’s. She had no idea what was going on, who this woman was, or how she got herded to this office. However, her feet were killing her, and she could find out just as well sitting down.
"Harry, Xander is here to protect and train you. The man who murdered your parent is still… well, not alive, but around. Xander is going to help you get to where you can protect yourself, and your friends," Joyce explained softly, hoping the boy didn’t feel crowded, or overwhelmed.
"Ms. Summers!" Albus bellowed, making everyone jerk in reaction. "I must insist you stop at once. I will make you do so if I must," he stated firmly, lifting his wand.
"You know what? I’m tired of you. I think it’s time you took a vacation. Perhaps you could use the time to reflect on how badly you screwed up, and how you might fix that in the future,” the embodiment of Hogwarts stated, waving her hand and making the old man disappear.
McGonagall was shocked, and very worried. She still didn’t know what was going on, and who this woman was. However, Albus seemed to be wary of her. “Excuse me, but just who are you people and what did you do the Headmaster?”
"Don't worry, Minerva. I just sent Albus outside the school gates," Joyce explained at the woman’s worried look. “He’ll be back, ruining people’s lives in no time.”
"That does not explain who you are.”
"For all intents and purposes, I’m Hogwarts."
Minerva looked to Xander hoping for an explanation… or even a pinch to wake her up from this surreal dream.
"Don’t look at me, I just got here." Xander shrugged as he looked expectantly at Joyce.
Joyce sighed. "When I was dying a funny little man named Whistler came to me and told me my time was up… there. He said the Powers That Be had use of me elsewhere. That I could help a magical community in a different dimension flourish. I came here a thousand years ago, and one thing led to another and now I am Hogwarts. I usually stay mostly asleep, like a light nap, but when war comes I awaken and help protect the castle. I think I’ve been completely awake five times over the millennium. Anyway, I woke up when that Voldemort man was causing havoc. I’ve been partially awake for fifty years now. Only interacting when I’m needed," she explained, hitting the highpoints.
She had actually played a part in a few wars before she went to sleep, centuries ago. By the time she woke this last time, Tom Riddle had been killing people. She had thought to tell McGonagall about him, but the woman had been too focused on Dumbledore’s vigilante group. She had left clues to who the man was, but they were all ignored. So, she waited. Now, that Harry was here, she could take steps to stop the upcoming war.
"So why am I here if you protect the castle?" Xander asked her.
"Part of my duty is to ensure the safety of my occupants. The last decade or so, I have tried to subtly communicate with Dumbledore, but he is too caught up in making Harry a martyr. If I had come out and said, ‘Hey, I’m the school, and you should listen to me,’ he would have dismissed me out of hand. Now his plans include Harry, and I won’t stand for it. Harry comes from a home that is far more abusive than even yours. It was what I learnt from Albus Dumbledore that made me ask for you. You see, Harry's parents died trying to protect him when he was a baby, ten years ago, today. The man who killed them used the same curse on Harry. It’s usually instantly fatal, but it backfired and destroyed his body leaving him as a wraith. Unfortunately, this made Harry part of a prophecy that says Harry has to vanquish this wizard," she explained, holding Harry loosely about the shoulders.
"I have to kill someone?" Harry asked in horror as Minerva and Hermione gasped.
"Not if I have anything say about it. Xander here breaks prophecies, which is why I brought him here," Joyce told the young boy, giving him a gently squeeze.
"It's getting late. Perhaps we could continue this tomorrow?" Minerva suggested as Hermione failed to stifle a yawn.
“That’s a good idea,” Joyce stated, seeing everyone trying to keep awake. “I’ll take them to where they are sleeping. You should go as well. We’ll talk about Albus tomorrow.”
“We’re not sleeping in our dorms?” a confused Hermione asked.
“No, but let’s talk about it when we get there,” Lady Hogwarts stated, shuffling everyone out the door.