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Harry Potter and the Gaining of Faith

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Faith leaned against the wall of the small, cramped quarters she'd been given aboard the massive container ship and thought. Everyone was against her. Given what she'd just put everyone through, she couldn't blame them. She had no idea where in the hell the ship was going when she boarded it in Sunnydale Harbor those months ago.

The boat had made several stops around the continental US, but she stayed on. She wanted away from everything and everyone that knew anything about her. She wanted to disappear.

The captain of the ship understood where she was coming from and actually did quite a bit to help her. She took another drag off of her cigarette and looked at the fake ID he'd given her. It was a pretty damn good fake. As was the passport he'd offered.

Of course, it wasn't for nothing. Over the course of the trip, she'd spent many a night warming his bed. To be honest, he wasn't terrible. She'd slept with worse. He had rhythm, didn't smell like a dead billy goat and gave a damn about her getting hers. He was better than nothing. And if a new life cost her a few nights of ho-hum sex, she could live with that.

She also had her fair share of problems from the rest of the boys on the crew. After the first week on the ship, a few of them decided that she needed to put out, whether she wanted to or not. Of the seven of them, six wound up in the infirmary. One of them was somewhere off the coast of the Baja Peninsula with his head on backwards. She'd given them all fair warning. The captain was pissed, but not at her. He was mad at his crew.

Word had gotten out what she did. Now everyone gave her a wide berth. Not wanting to cause any more trouble – for herself or them – she stayed in her cabin and only went to the mess hall to get her food and bring it back to her bunk.

But doing so left her alone a lot. It gave her time to think. It gave her time to mull everything over. Her thoughts always led back to Sunnydale. To her. Tothem. She screwed up. After weeks of feeling angry, bitter and sore about what went down, she finally began seeing things as they were. She began seeing the truth.

Everyone failed. Not just her, not just them. Everyone. Buffy was insanely protective and guarded. Another slayer in town took her uniqueness, herresponsibility. And the blonde slayer couldn't stand that. She wanted to be the chosen one. Not a part of the chosen two. But she was. There was nothing she could do about it and it rankled.

Willow was jealous. In her own way, deep down, she was worse than Cordelia when it came to her selfishness. She couldn't stand the idea of Buffy having a female friend that wasn't her. The snide looks, the backhanded comments, coming right out and saying that Faith had friends like Buffy, not friends like us hurt. That one word hurt Faith more than Willow could have imagined. Because of that, Faith really didn't like the redhead. Like her or not, however, Faith could respect her. Everything she was to Buffy, everything Faith knew deep down she could never be, Faith felt a pang of envy.

But worst of all was what she did to Xander. She hurt him so much worse than she did anyone else. The body swap with Buffy, in Faith's estimation wasn't even close to what she'd done to Xander. It was made all the worse because Faith felt something for him. She knew him to be a truly good person. He was the kind of man you married. The kind of man you started a life with. And she nearly choked him to death.

She reached up and wiped the tears from her eyes. “I can't ever go back.” She said, sadly. “Way too late to make up for it.”

Not for the first time, she pulled the folding knife from her pocket, flipped it open and stared at the razor sharp blade. It would be so easy. She thought to herself. She contemplated just dragging the knife up her wrist and ending it. She never knew why she didn't. It wasn't that she was afraid of dying. She'd been ready to do that for quite some time. When she found out she was a slayer, she knew that a gruesome, painful screaming death was inevitable. It was the way things were for girls like her. The histories have never mentioned any slayers dying of old age. She knew she'd eventually meet something bigger, meaner and stronger than her. Hell, she already had. It was either luck, skill or divine intervention that kept her from death.

Now, she sat, yet again staring at the knife blade. And, like every time before, she sighed and flipped it closed, stuffing it back into her pocket.

A sharp rap on the metal door caught her attention. “Yeah.” She said, taking another drag off of her smoke.

The captain of the ship pushed the door open. As she had every time before, she looked him up and down. He wasn't exactly the catch of the century, but his jeans and navy blue sleeveless shirt hugged the rather fit body underneath. He was easily pushing his mid fifties, but you wouldn't know it to look at him. She knew from experience he had rough hands. The hands of a working man. His hair, going gray with age, was pulled back into a tight ponytail and was thinning a bit on top. His mustache and goatee were always neatly trimmed. She didn't care much for men with facial hair, but she had to admit, he wore it well. “Captain.” She said, nodding. “What's up?”

“Didn't see you at dinner. Wanted to make sure you was doin' alright.” He gave her a look approaching concern. “Looks like you been cryin'.” He stepped in and closed the door. “Anything you wanna talk about?”

She scooted over on her bed, inviting him to sit down. “Thinkin' about past bullshit.” She said. She pulled out the pack of Camels and offered him one.

He took it and nodded, taking the lighter she offered. “Lotta demons running through your past, I'm bettin'.” He gave her the lighter back and took a long drag. “Anything particular got you twisted up, or just general history?”

Faith actually liked the man. He was genuine. He didn't press, he didn't badger. He offered an ear if she needed it and left her the fuck alone when she wanted. She sighed, considering what to tell him. “Made some mistakes back in Cali.” She said, simply. “Ain't proud of it. Hurt a lot of people. People that…that I think were trying in their own way to get through to me.”

He gave her a nod. “Been there myself.” He looked at her. “That who you're runnin' from?”

She nodded in turn. “Mostly.”

“Nothin' you can do to change it?” He asked her. “Make it right?”

“Not now. I fucked up way too bad for that.” She said to him. “Been thinking of just ending it. Taking myself out.”

He didn't say anything for a long time. “Nah.” He offered, finally. “You got too much guts for that.”

“I've come close.” She said in argument.

“And close is the closest you'll ever come.” He looked down at her. “This might not mean anything and it's just one old man's opinion, but…” He shook his head. “I don't see you as the kind of girl that solves a temporary problem with a permanent solution. You're a tough girl. You been through some shit.” He turned more toward her. “But this is the truth, Faith and there ain't no gettin' around this. No matter how bad shit gets, no matter how hard you think you've had it, there's always someone that's been through worse. And those people are out there, right now living their lives. Not being afraid of 'em. Yeah, some of 'em probably have swallowed a gun or put a blade to their wrists. But there's no call feeling sorry for those folks. They couldn't handle it.” He shook his head again. “I don't see you fancying being called a pussy in the afterlife. It ain't in you.”

“You sure about that?”

“I've got six boys walking with limps and I'm short altogether a deckhand because you decided to fight back instead of lay down and take it.” He smiled. “Yeah, I'm damn sure about that.”

She stared at him a moment and smiled back. “You're a good guy, captain.”

“Don't let it get around. These jokers know I was soft on you, they'd mutiny.” He said to her. He rose to his feet. “I also wanted to let you know that we're getting into London in a few hours.”

Faith swallowed and looked at him with fear in her eyes. “London?”

He nodded. “Yeah. We're there to offload and then we're taking a deck full of cars back to the states. But London is a damn big city, girl. You want a place to disappear, I can't think of anyplace better. At least you'll be able to speak the language. And with that freakish upper body strength of yours, you'll have a job in no time. And that package I gave you will hold up. I made sure of that.”

She stood and ran a finger down his chest. “You've been good to me, Cap.”

“Vick.” He said, smiling. “Name's Vick.”

She pulled him down and pecked him on the lips. “Nice to meet you Vick.” She said before dropping to her knees.

It was just after midnight and Faith found herself walking the streets of London. She made damn sure she showed how much she appreciated what Vick did for her. He'd made sure that she wasn't left high and dry. She had a little over fifteen hundred pounds in her wallet. It had taken almost an hour for her to get from the Port to the heart of the city.

She meandered this way and that until she ended up at the London Waterloo train station. Given that she had a super secret organization looking for her, she boarded the first train she saw. Much like the ship, she didn't give one damn where it was going. “Surrey.” She said to herself. “Whatever. Isn't London.” She said putting the cash she needed into the machine and grabbing her ticket. She trotted to make it and flopped down onto the seat.

She watched the sun come up as the train rattled along the tracks. She sighed heavily and leaned her head back, trying to relax.

Faith spent the better part of the day in the small town of Surrey getting the lay of the land. It was quintessentially British, but she did manage to accomplish quite a bit. She was a fully licensed driver, thanks to the Mayor making certain that she attained it while she worked for him. She managed to get a job working as a driver – slash – delivery girl for a rather prominent furniture company. She also had her own flat. She was rather shocked when she learned that for seven hundred British pounds per month – roughly one thousand forty US dollars – she was only able to get a small studio.

But, given that she'd been living out of motel rooms smaller than what she had was enough to make her grateful. It was small, but it was hers. On top of that it came furnished. The furnishings were all brand new and pretty nice, to be honest. She opened her wallet and saw that she still had about five hundred pounds. She nodded and left the apartment to find a place to eat.

It was just starting to darken when she hit the streets. She moved off, not really sure where she was heading. “Seems to be a pattern.” Faith said to herself as she walked.

She passed a park that had seen it's better days and shook her head. It reminded her of the parks in Boston when she was a little girl. Broken swingsets, dilapidated big toys and a host of splintered and fragmented picnic tables. “Some things never change.” She said, shaking her head. She stuffed her hands into her pockets and continued walking.

She caught sight of a group a boys moving away from the park laughing and carrying on. “Oh, look. Accidents waiting and looking for a place to happen.” She said, chuckling. They paid her no mind as they went.

She walked on finding a narrow alley to her right. Two boys, one large and fairly meaty, the other skinny and looking a bit on the scruffy side walked along in front of her. She could hear their conversation, but paid it no attention as she moved along quietly behind them.

Suddenly, the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. The world around her seemed to grow darker. The boys shouted something, but she was looking around, desperate to find the reason for her slayer senses going into overdrive.

“C-cut it out! Stop doing it! I'll h-hit you, I swear I will!” Faith heard the larger of the two boys snap.

“Dudley, shut —” The smaller boy began. He didn't finish the statement before the one he called Dudley laid him out. Faith had to give the big guy credit. He had one hell of a swing. She could already tell that he'd had some training in fisticuffs.

Even though the slighter boy was leveled, he was quick to recover. “You moron, Dudley!” He shouted. He immediately began scrabbling around on the ground for something he must have dropped.

Faith decided that she'd been a spectator long enough. She ran forward, the slayer in her taking over and causing her to need to save the pair of, what she believed were innocent young boys.

“Dudley, come back! You're running right at it!” The boy on the ground shouted.

Faith was nearly to them when a horrible squealing yell sounded out in the night. She'd never heard anything like it and it chilled her to the bone. She could barely see in the blackness. But she did make out a shape in the shadows, coming closer.

“Dudley, keep your mouth shut!” The boy screamed. “Whatever you do, keep your mouth shut! Wand!” He was franticly searching for something.

Faith looked around on the ground and slid to a stop when she saw the long narrow stick a few inches from the boy's hand. “Here.” She said, lifting it and pressing it into his fist. “You got your stick, now come on.” She looked back at the figure. “We gotta get outta here.”

The boy shot to his feet. “Lumos!” He shouted. The end of his stick lit up brightly.

Faith had to turn away from the sudden brightness. “Fuck!” She said, stumbling away and rubbing her eyes. “Warn a chick next time.”

He whirled, ignoring her and shoved his wand forward. “Expecto Patronum!” He shouted intently. He was moving away from the wraith now, trying to put distance between them. What looked like a silver fog shot from the tip of the wand. The ghostly figure slowed, but continued on.

Faith wasn't sure what was supposed to happen, but it didn't look like it was going well. She snarled and rushed the figure as the boy staggered back.

“No!” The boy cried out, but it was too late. The slayer was already in motion.

For the first time in his life, he saw something he'd never seen before…or something he never thought was even possible. The girl lunged at the Dementor, and tackled it's filmy body to the ground. The creature let out a horrendous shriek as the pair went down.

“Just fuckin' die!” Faith screamed, slamming her fist down into the hooded face. She wasn't sure what lay beneath the black flowing cloak and at the moment, she really didn't give a damn. The body beneath her felt soft, almost as if it wasn't real. But she knew that whatever the thing was, it was feeling the world of pain she was putting it through.

“Harry? What's going on?” Dudley asked from his place across the alley. He still had his eyes closed and was gripping the fence like a lifeline.

The second Dementor heard the boy and raced toward him. Harry, heartened by the girl's aid, stepped forward. “Expecto Patronum!” His voice carried a fair bit more confidence. The girl had shown him that the Dementors weren't as terrifying as he had initially thought. A gossamer white stag sprang from his wand. The Dementor was upon Dudley when the enormous stag ran it down, it's tremendous antlers gouging the creature through the chest. The great animal flung the limp form of the Dementor into the air. The wraith immediately flew away to seek refuge in the dark of night.

With the same suddenness that borne it, the stag drifted away in the light. Harry turned to see the girl rising to her feet, looking off into the darkness. “Yeah, you better run, motherfucker.” She dusted her knees off and turned to look at the boy. “Um…” She said, moving toward him. “Harry, right?” She asked him.

“That's right.” He said, nodding. “I'm Harry Potter. This is my cousin, Dudley.” He turned to the boy. “You can open your eyes now, Dudley. They're gone.”

Dudley lay curled up on the ground, whimpering and shaking. Faith growled and reached down, lifting him as if he weighed nothing. “We ain't got time for this. We gotta get out of here. There's someone coming.” She threw him over her shoulder. “Move.”

Harry furrowed his brow. “I don't hear anything.”

She pushed him toward the end of the alley. “I said move!” She snapped. Harry didn't need any further prompting. They raced out of the alley toward the Dursley's home. Harry was a rather gifted runner. He'd been doing it his whole life. He was surprised to see Faith, with Dudley's tremendous bulk over her shoulder, easily keeping pace with him. Truthfully it looked as if she was keeping herself in check, trying not to outdistance him.

It took several minutes to arrive at Four Privet Drive. “Oh, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia are going to cross.” Harry said, as he made his way up to the door.

Faith didn't say anything, she simply followed along behind the boy.

The door suddenly flew open. A tall, gaunt woman with long dark hair and a very, very nasty scowl on her face appeared. She saw Dudley, slumped over Faith's shoulder and gasped as she put her hands up to her mouth in terror. “Diddy? Diddy, what's the matter?”

Faith didn't wait for an invitation. She simply barged her way into the house and moved to the sofa, setting the boy down. He was white as a sheet and still whimpering and shivering. “He was attacked.” Faith said, kneeling in front of him and checking his pulse while looking at her watch.

Vernon came running out of the kitchen, all bluster and fury. “What is this, then?” He roared. He took one look at Dudley and raced forward. “What happened, son?”

“This…girl said he was attacked.” Petunia said, horrified.

Vernon whirled on Harry. “By friends of yours, no doubt.” He snapped.

“Relax, big man. Kid didn't have anything to do with it.” Faith said. She rose to her feet. “If it weren't for him…” She watched Dudley shudder. “Oh, shit.” She said, pushing the boy's parents back in time for Dudley to boot all over the coffee table and living room floor.

Vernon stepped over and roughly took Faith's arm. “Well, thank you for bringing him home. We can take it from here.” He began dragging her toward the door none too gently.

“Whoa.” She said, gripping his wrist and tearing his hand free of her arm as though he were a child. “First off, don't you ever paw at me. Not unless you wanna lose a hand, second…” She stopped when she saw Petunia standing before Harry, snarling and spitting. Harry for his part was trying desperately to explain that he had nothing to do with what happened to Dudley.

It was then that Faith noticed it. Dudley was dressed in brand new shorts, t-shirt and expensive athletic shoes. Harry, for his part was clad in second hand hand-me-downs that even the homeless would be hesitant to wear. Vernon was snapping and shouting at her, but she didn't care, she was too busy realizing the truth. “You give him all of Dudley's hand-me-downs, don't you?” Faith asked him.

Both parents stopped their tirade and stared at her blank faced. “What?” Vernon asked.

“Harry. I mean, look at what Big D here is wearing. Those shorts, that shirt and those shoes are a hundred bucks, easy. Excuse me, at least seventy five pounds.” She pointed to Harry. “I'm betting you those wouldn't get you five pounds if you tried selling them at a garage sale. When was the last time you bought that kid some new damn clothes?”

“He's served perfectly well by Dudley's old things.” Vernon said, matter of fact. “And who are you to be criticizing how we raise our boys?”

Faith slowly turned and looked at him. “Harry?” She asked. “When was the last time you had anything new?”

“Don't answer that!” Vernon snapped. He tried to speak more, but Faith slapped her hand over his mouth.

“You're done talking now.” She said to Vernon. She then turned to Harry. “Well?” She asked him.

“They've never bought me new anything. They did pay for my glasses, but it's been almost two years.” He said, sadly.

“That's a lie.” Petunia said. “Don't tell tall tales.”

“You never buy me anything.” Harry said. “You just give me all of Dudley's old things.” He was getting angry now. “Name me one thing that you've bought me.”

“We bought you a bed.” Petunia said. Vernon meanwhile was trying desperately to pry Faith's hand off of his mouth. He was turning beet red.

“You bought me a bed when I was five, Aunt Petunia!” He shouted at her. “You never spend any money on me. You never celebrate my birthday, you never take me to get ice cream with you. You barely feed me.”

“What do they make you do around here?” Faith asked. She was ignoring Vernon who was now nearly purple in the face with rage.

“Everything.” Harry snapped, viciously at the woman. “You make me do everything. I cook, I clean, I do all the laundry, I'm your slave! I don't have any friends outside of Hogwarts because you won't let me have any. Any friend I have made, Dudley has beat up to keep them away from me.” He was enraged now.

“Have they ever abused you?” Faith asked. Her voice was cold and hard.

“Have they?” Harry was pacing around now, his hands flailing. “They lock me in my room when they have guests and I'm not allowed to make a sound. Dudley breaks something because he's a useless oaf and I get blamed for it, beat and sent to my room without supper.” Petunia was looking absolutely shell-shocked that Harry would have such cheek to air such dirty laundry in public.

Faith sighed and looked back at Vernon, who had stopped struggling and was just staring holes into her head. “Yeah. I figured it was something like that.” She released him. “Why do you stay here?” She asked the boy.

“Because as long as I stay here, I'm protected. Voldemort can't touch me if he…” Harry stopped. Everyone turned to look at him. “He can touch me.” He said, softly. He looked at Faith. “Voldemort can touch me.”

Petunia and Vernon both paled. “Lord…hang on,” Vernon, said, his face twisted into a mask of confusion. “I've heard that name before. Wasn't he the one that…”

Harry nodded. “Murdered my parents, yes.” His voice was suddenly very tired.

“But he's gone,” Vernon shot impatiently. “That giant bloke said so. He's gone.”

Faith glared at him, angrily. “Christ, dude.” She said. “You are one heartless motherfucker, you know that?”

“I'll not have that kind of language in my house.” Vernon said to her.

“Shut up, you tubby moron.” She snapped back at him. “Before I plant your ass like corn.”

“He's back,” said Harry, ignoring the pair's exchange. To him it felt very peculiar standing in the Dursley house, speaking calmly and collectively about Lord Voldemort. The arrival of the Dementors in Little Whinging drastically crashed the great impenetrable wall that separated the ignorant muggle world and that of the Wizarding public. The cat was most definitely out of the bag. At least as far as this house went.

“B-b-back?” Aunt Petunia asked, her voice a cracking whisper. It looked as though the woman would keel over at any moment.

Harry nodded. “Yes. He came back a month ago. I saw him.”

Faith stepped closer to her and helped her into the chair. In her fright, she'd gripped the girl's hand like a lifeline. She was fairly certain the woman wasn't aware of it.

“Hang on,” said Vernon, looking from his wife to Harry and back again. He was obviously dazed and confused by the seemingly innocent, yet appallingly serious conversation they were all having. “Hang on.” He repeated. “This Lord Voldything's back, you say?”

“Yes.” Harry confirmed.

“The one who murdered your parents.” The man clarified.

Harry nodded. “Yes.”

“And he attacked Dudley?” Vernon asked.

“No. He sent Dementors after us.” Harry said.

“That's what you guys call 'em?” Faith asked. “I just thought they were ghosts.” She shrugged. “Learn something new every day.”

“What's a…Dementoid?” Vernon asked.

“They guard the Wizard prison Azkaban.” Petunia offered.

Everyone turned to regard her. A stone cold silence filled the room. “Why's everyone looking at her like that?” Faith asked. “It's not like it's a secret or anything.” Now everyone was looking at her. “Seriously?” She was somewhat shocked. “This castle of stone, The mountain king roams all alone in here, but he's not the only one. Lost inside, forever hidden from the sun.” She looked at them and gave everyone a 'really?' look. “Have…none of you people heard the cover Savatage did of Edvard Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King? Madness Reigns in the Hall of the Mountain King?” For several seconds they looked at her like she'd grown another head. “John Oliva said outright that he based the song's lyrics on a place his dad told him about where evil sorcerers went to die.” She paused a moment. “Christ, people get some damn culture.” She shook her head. “Jesus.”

Vernon and Petunia both looked from her and back to Harry. “So this Voldy-chap is sending dismembers after you?”

“Voldemort.” Harry sighed. “And yes, it looks like he is.”

“Okay.” Faith said. “I'm not gonna pretend to know who that is.”

“You're American, aren't you?” Harry asked.

“That explains a lot.” Vernon snapped.

“Funny.” Faith said as she stepped over to Harry. “So if you stayed here, then this Moldy-butt fellow couldn't touch you?”

“That was what the protection spell was supposed to do. He wouldn't have been able to reach me, to touch me. But he can, don't you see?” Harry said. “He did a spell. He was able to touch me after that.” He looked around the house. “I don't need to live here.”

“Well, that settles it.” Vernon said, his voice calm. He drew in large breath and growled at Harry. “You can get out of this house, boy! OUT! OUT! I should've done it years ago! Owls treating the place like a rest home, puddings exploding, half the lounge destroyed, Dudley's tail, Marge bobbing around on the ceiling, and that flying Ford Anglia…OUT! OUT! You've had it! You're history! You're not staying here if some loony's after you, you're not endangering my wife and son, you're not bringing trouble down on us, if you're going the same way as your useless parents, I've had it! OUT!”

Harry wasn't sure how to feel about what Vernon was bellowing on about. He had no reason now to stay. But at the same time…where would he go? It would take him several days to get in contact with Ron and see about coming to his house. And given that everyone who'd contacted him told him not to leave the house, he wasn't sure how to feel. He couldn't stay here, that was obvious. For all of the Dursley's abuse of him, Vernon was right. As long as he was here, they were in danger. The spell that protected him was useless now. He wasn't sure how far that spell went to protect them. If he could be harmed, maybe they could also. The Dursley home was no longer safe for him. And if he had Dementors coming after him, then they were in great danger. He could ward them off if he had to. They would be helpless.

“You're right.” Harry said. “If I stay here, you all could get hurt.” He gave them all an apologetic expression. “I know I was never the boy you wished me to be.” He sighed. “I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all of this.”

“As well you should be.” Vernon snapped. “You've been nothing but a bother. You're ungrateful and don't have even the common decency to warn us that some, some freak is after you.” The man was understandably angry. “We should have just closed the door and left you in the cold.”

Faith sighed and shook her head. “I just know I'm gonna live to regret this.” She then looked Harry in the eye. “I got a place. It ain't much, but it's well…” She looked around at the gathered family. “It ain't here.”

“Then it's a paradise by comparison.” Harry said, happily. The last statement Vernon had made was too much. To know that Harry, as an orphan sparked no sense of compassion from the man was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. “Far be it for me inconvenience you further.”

Before anyone could say or do anything else, an enormous owl swooped in through the

kitchen window. It soared across the kitchen, dropped the large envelope at Harry's feet, and banked sharply and zoomed outside again and off across the garden.

Harry eagerly ripped open the envelope and pulled out the letter. Faith stepped around to read it beside him. Harry read it aloud to the pair of them. “Dear Mr. Potter, We have received intelligence that you performed the Patronus Charm at twenty-three minutes past nine this evening in a Muggle-inhabited area and in the presence of a Muggle. The severity of this breach of the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery has resulted in your expulsion from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Ministry representatives will be calling at your place of residence shortly to destroy your wand. As you have already received an official warning for a previous offense under section 13 of the International Confederation of Wizards' Statute of Secrecy, we regret to inform you that your presence is required at a disciplinary hearing at the Ministry of Magic at 9 a.m. on August 12th. Hoping you are well,

Yours sincerely, Mafalda Hopkirk, Improper Use of Magic Office, Ministry of Magic.”

Faith could see the look of utter devastation in his face. “What's all that mean?”

“Just what it says.” Harry said, sadly. “I've been thrown out of Hogwarts.” He looked at Faith. “They're going to come and destroy my wand. Everything I've been through, I'm going to need it.”

She shook her head. “Then they're not gonna destroy it.” She said, simply. “Come on. Grab a few changes of clothes and shit. We're outta here.”

Harry turned to run up the stairs. A loud crack rent the air. Dudley looked at the window, his face still pale and shaking. Petunia screamed, now clutching her husband.

A large brown barn owl sat on the sill, shaking it's head as if it had just collided with the window. Faith opened it and the owl immediately stuck its leg out. She could see a parchment rolled up around the animal's foot. She removed it and unrolled it. “Harry, Dumbledore's just arrived at the Ministry, and he's trying to sort it all out. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR AUNT AND UNCLE'S HOUSE. DO NOT DO ANY MORE MAGIC. DO NOT SURRENDER YOUR WAND. Arthur Weasley.” She looked at him. “He seemed pretty adamant about not leaving here.” She could see that he was terrified. She didn't know the first damn thing about what was going on, but she couldn't leave him alone. Not now, and not like this. Looking at him, she was reminded way too much of how she felt when she first got to Sunnydale and realized Kakistos had followed her. “Go get a bag packed.” Faith said, moving toward him. “We're gonna go to my place and hold up. I promise I'm not gonna let anything happen to you, okay?”

“But if Arthur Weasley says to…”

“Whoever he is, he ain't here. But you got those Ministry goons coming. Which means you need to be someplace else. I've dealt with magic users before. They ain't gettin' to you unless they get through me first.”

He sighed and nodded, moving up the stairs. She turned and stared at Petunia with her arms crossed. Vernon continued to stare at her. “I suppose you think I'm a monster for wanting him out of my house.”

Faith shook her head. “Actually, that part I get.” She moved closer to him. “I'm just wondering who the asshole was that left him with you in the first place.”

“Dumbledore.” Petunia said, softly.

“Petunia.” Vernon growled.

“Shut up. I wanna hear this.” Faith said to him. She looked back at Petunia. “Go on.”

“When Harry's parents were killed, I was the only living blood relative he had. In order for the magic that my sister tried to be fully realized, Harry had to be able to call home a place where his blood dwelled.” She looked up at Faith. The girl could see the incredible conflict in her eyes. “I just…I was so incredibly envious of Lily, you see.”

Vernon held his wife as she broke down in tears. “Can't you see you're upsetting her?”

“Vernon?” Faith said, moving closer to him. “I want you understand something. Three months ago? I'd have done a lot worse than upset you people. I'd have spread your asses all over this god damn house.” She shook her head. “But I'm not that girl anymore. But get this through that fuckin' watermelon on top of your neck. Right here, right now? You're seriously making me long for old habits.”

Without warning, another owl swooped down the flue, dropped an envelope onto Petunia's head and flitted back up the chimney.

“If you keep pissing me off, I'm gonna relapse and make sure you all die screaming, staring at pieces of yourselves.” She glared at him. “You get me, round boy?” Both Vernon and Petunia could see the barely controlled mayhem and promise of pain in her eyes. Vernon maintained his defiant glare, but he shut his mouth. People like this made her sick. Harry was obviously underfed, overworked and was treated like shit. Both she and Harry knew that they had nothing to do with what happened to Dudley, but the boy's parents simply didn't buy that. They were so wrapped up in their son that they blamed Harry for the boy's condition out of spite. She really wanted to do nothing more than beat the three of them within an inch of their worthless lives. Honestly, she didn't really understand why she wasn't. It wasn't like anyone would blame her. More than likely, no one would care. But here she was, just glaring at them.

Harry came thundering down the stairs, a huge trunk behind him and a cage with a white owl in it. “I'm ready.”

“An owl?” Faith asked, looking at it. “That thing best not keep me up.”

“This is Hedwig. And she's very well behaved.” Harry said, proudly. “Aren't you, Hedwig?” The owl gave a hoot and ruffled it's feathers a touch, before settling back down. He looked at the letter Petunia clutched in her hands. “You might as well open it. That's a howler. I'm going to hear it anyway.”

As if on cue, the letter burst into flames and formed a bizarre face, staring directly at Petunia. “Remember my last, Petunia!” The letter bellowed in a deep sinister voice. With that, it crumbled to ash and fell to the floor.

For long moments, no one said a word. “Come on.” Faith said. “We're out of here.”

“And good riddance to you.” Vernon said, angrily. “Been nothin' but trouble since you were dropped at our doorstep.”

“No.” Petunia said, her voice soft. “You can't leave, Harry.”

Harry stared at her in confusion. Faith snorted derisively and headed for the door.

“Wh-what?” Vernon asked, just as confused as Harry.

Petunia didn't look at Harry. “He stays.” She got to her feet and smoothed her house dress.

“He…but Petunia…” Vernon said, turning toward his wife.

“If we throw him out, the neighbors will talk.” She was regaining that same bitter tone rather quickly. She was still pale as fresh snow, but her voice was all business. “They'll ask awkward questions, they'll want to know where he's gone. We'll have to keep him.”

“But Petunia, dear…” Vernon was quickly running out of bluster.

Faith watched the conflict on Harry's face…and didn't have a damn clue where it was coming from. They were saying he could stay, not because they actually gave a shit, but because they were worried about what their neighbors would think. It smacked of serious bullshit to her.

Petunia turned to Harry. “You're to stay in your room,” she said. “You're not to leave the house. Now get to bed.” To her, that was the end of it.

“Who was that Howler from?” Harry asked, curiously.

“Don't ask questions.” Petunia said, sharply.

“Are you in touch with wizards?” He asked, again.

Petunia's face and voice grew more angered. “I told you to get to bed!”

Harry was insistent. “What did it mean? Remember the last what?”

His Aunt was shouting now. “Go to bed!”

“How come…?” Harry tried again.

“YOU HEARD YOUR AUNT, NOW GET TO BED!” Vernon roared, spraying spittle all over the place. It was the last thing he did before Faith's fist crashed into the side of his face, sending him spiraling to the carpet, unconscious. Petunia shrieked and ran to her husband. Dudley rose shakily to his feet and tried desperately to lunge at Faith.

She had to give him credit. If he were in his right mind and in fit form, he could have thrown a decent punch. But as messed up as he was, his balance and strength was shot. She stiff-armed him in the chest, sending him right back to the sofa where he was seated before. “Stay!” She said, pointing to him. He sat there, shivering. She patted his head. “Good doggie.” She hoisted the massive trunk with ease, moving out of the house. “Christ, I hate these people.” She said as she went. “Come on, Harry. We're gone.”

Harry had made certain that he'd taken everything that was important to him and left the Dursley home with no intention of going back. They'd made it no more than a block when another owl screeched in the night, dropping another letter in front of him. He knelt and picked it up. He set Hedwig down and tore into it. “Dear Mr. Potter, Further to our letter of approximately twenty-two minutes ago, the Ministry of Magic has revised its decision to destroy your wand forthwith. You may retain your wand until your disciplinary hearing on 12th August, at which time an official decision will be taken. Following discussions with the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry has agreed that the question of your expulsion will also be decided at that time. You should therefore consider yourself suspended from school pending further inquiries. With best wishes, Yours sincerely Mafalda Hopkirk, Improper Use of Magic Office, Ministry of Magic.”

Faith shrugged. “Well, that's better isn't it? At least it's up for debate.”

He sighed and stuffed the letter in to his pocket. “I guess so.” He said, lifting his owl back up. “I'll just have to wait until the 12th before I know what's going to happen.”

Faith led him to her flat. “It's not much, but it's home.” She said, pushing the door open.

Harry looked about and smiled. “I like it.” He looked to the right and saw her large, comfortable bed. The kitchen was small, but well appointed. Her sofa was nice and looked incredibly plush. She had a large television and a small DVD player hooked up to it. A small stack of DVD's sat on the simple entertainment stand.

“You get the couch, loverboy.” She said, taking his trunk over and setting it next to the window. “What all you got in here, anyway?” She asked him.

“Mostly my school supplies for Hogwarts.”

“Hogwarts?” Faith furrowed her brow. “I've heard that name somewhere before.”

“It's the most prestigious school of magic in the whole of Europe.” Harry offered proudly. “I've completed four years thus far.”

She nodded. “Rock on.” She said, smiling. “I got my GED in high school.” She moved to the small closet and pulled out a pair of shorts and a tank top. “I'm gonna grab a shower. You can help yourself to whatever's in the kitchen, but you drink my last coke and we're gonna have words.” She went into the bathroom and closed the door.

Harry looked around and sat on the sofa. It was actually very, very comfortable. He lifted Hedwig and stared at her. “This has been a right bizarre day, hasn't it?” He stuck his finger in and caressed the spot between the owl's eyes. She leaned her head forward and let out a chittering coo. He smiled and set her down beside the sofa. He wasn't sure how long he sat there dozing before he heard the bathroom door open. He turned…and was stunned.

Faith stepped out, carrying her clothes in her arms. In the short shorts that she was wearing, he got a very good look at her long pale legs and her tight toned butt. He didn't realize he was staring as intently as he was until he heard her clear her throat. “You keep looking at me like that, you're gonna start giving me ideas.”

“Sorry, I've just never been in the room with a girl dressed so…scantily.” He said, turning his attention away from her. “I didn't mean to stare.”

“You gay?” Faith asked. As he looked at her and shook his head, she chuckled. “Then yes, you meant to stare. That's what boys do. You stare, you want and if you're really, really lucky, you get.” She moved to the fridge and pulled out a soda. “You want one?” She asked him.

He shrugged and nodded. “I don't drink much soda.”

Faith pulled another and moved over to the couch, sitting on the end opposite him. “I get the feeling you don't do much.” She popped the top on her can and sipped it. “So what's the deal with you and that family? What was all that mumbo jumbo about this Voltaire-mung guy being able to touch you?”

Harry sighed and looked at her. “You don't have an early engagement, do you? It's going to take some time to explain.”

“I'm a night owl anyway.” Faith said, settling in. “And I like knowing who I bring home.”

Harry took a drink of his soda and began telling her of what he'd gone through. First about being left with the Dursleys and how they mistreated him. He was shocked at how angry Faith seemed to be getting about it. He continued on detailing his years at Hogwarts. She was an incredible listener and shared that she knew a little about the wizarding world. Not so much about the world itself, but a lot of the aspects of it, she was familiar with. He finished off with witnessing the death of Cedric and the spell he watched Voldemort use that allowed the dark lord to physically touch him.

Faith was quiet for quite a while. She stared at him for almost a minute straight. She saw his eyes. They were the same kind of eyes that looked at her when she stared in the mirror. Filled with fear, pain, anger, regret and everything that made one's soul heavy and hard to bear. Yet, like her, bear it he did. “Sounds like you've been through hell.”

“You could say that.” Harry said, softly. “But no one seems to care.”

“Believe it or not, I know how you feel.” Faith said.

“How?” He asked. He didn't wanna sound curt, but he was pretty sure he failed. If Faith caught his shortness of tone, she showed no sign of it.

“Because I know what's it's like to be different.” She said. She wasn't sure why, but for some reason, she found herself opening up to him. She just…wanted to talk to him. To tell him everything. About her, what she'd done, what she'd been through.

It was nearly two in the morning when they finished talking. Harry knew more about Faith that anyone alive. And Faith knew quite a bit about not only Harry, but the wizarding world as a whole.

Faith looked at her clock and rose to her feet. “I've gotta get some sleep. I've got work in the morning.”

Harry stared at her a moment. “No.” He said, shaking his head. “You don't.”

“Um…” Faith furrowed her brow. “Someone's gotta pay the bills here, kid.”

“I will.” Harry said to her.

She laughed at him and immediately stopped, pressing her hand to her mouth. “I'm sorry. That just came out.”

“Tell you what?” Harry said. “Call in sick for work tomorrow. I'll show you something that'll blow your mind.”

Faith stared at him a moment. “What are you, like, a secret trust fund baby?”

Harry grinned at her. “You might say that.”

She bit her lip, looked at the queen sized bed, and back to him. She then offered him her hand. “Bed's big enough for two.” She said, softly.

Harry gulped and took her hand letting her help him to his feet. He stripped down to his boxers. Faith had to admit, though he was a bit on the skinny side, the kid was cut. His abs were washboard and his limbs were lean and corded. She fought the urge to jump him. Probably because he was only fifteen. Not that that would have stopped her. But they simply climbed into bed, getting one “Hoo!” From Hedwig before Faith turned the bedside lamp out.

It was the first night in a very, very long time that Faith slept soundly. Her thoughts drifted to the young man beside her. He wasn't a boy, not to her. He'd been through too much, seen too much to ever be a child again. His innocence was plain out and out gone. Just like hers was. She was suddenly very protective of what was hers. She growled in her sleep. “Mine.” She said, absently. In her dream, he pulled her tighter. Her arm was thrown over Harry's narrow chest and her leg draped over his.

For his part, Harry had his arm wrapped about her shoulders and his finger absently twirling her thick chocolate brown hair. As sleep claimed him, his dreams were filled, not with that night in the graveyard, but of the beautiful girl that lay next to him. Somehow, deep inside, they had found a connection. In a very, very short time, they found peace in one another.

Both had smiles on their faces as they slept.