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The Better Part of Valor

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This story is No. 2 in the series "Rosenberg's Army". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Which is more valorous: discretion or courage? Harry and Willow prepare to end the war against Voldemort once and for all, even if they have to flee before they can fight. (Sequel to Black, White, and Red All Over) ON HIATUS

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Willow-CenteredLegacyWeaponFR18520,2293429,57513 Jun 1213 May 13No

Out of Time

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; JANUARY 8, 2007

The end of the winter break had come, and Harry Potter was looking forward to resuming his magical education along with his friends. The early months of the school year had been quite eventful, to say the least. Before term had even started, he’d been rescued-slash-kidnapped from the Dursleys by an American witch named Willow Rosenberg, who had introduced him to a world where teenage girls fought terrifying creatures that would give even Death Eaters pause.

From there, Rosenberg had taken him back to Britain and had become a highly effective and highly controversial Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for Harry’s fifth year at Hogwarts. She had given the Ministry no ground as she staunchly announced the truth of Voldemort’s return to all who would listen, and ended up unraveling a Ministry conspiracy to cover up the truth in the process.

She’d also managed to get Dolores Jane Umbridge arrested, and the very thought of that hag rotting in Azkaban brought a grim smile to Harry’s lips. Umbridge had paid off one of the Hogwarts Governors to try and kill Professor Rosenberg, nearly killing Ginny Weasley in the process. It had all been a pretense to allow Umbridge to assume control of Hogwarts with the help of a ‘Safety Service’ which had really been a secret police force. Harry’s spine tingled in a sort of fear as he recalled Rosenberg’s later lesson on the other, earlier SS during World War II.

But then the truth had come out about Umbridge and her schemes, and life at Hogwarts began to return to normal. But Harry’s mind tended to wander towards the unknown dangers outside of Hogwarts. Voldemort was still out there, and now that he had been exposed, he would probably make a move very soon.

Since he had been staying at Sirius’s house, which doubled as the headquarters of Dumbledore’s secret Order of the Phoenix, Harry had some idea of just how much trouble they were in. Sit-down meals with the Weasleys and the Marauders had become far scarcer. One bit of good news was that in light of Rosenberg’s brutal and unrelenting truth-telling, the truth about Sirius and Peter Pettigrew had come to light, and Harry’s godfather was a free man once more.

They had taken a walk outside together, and had sat down to eat in a small restaurant in downtown London, where they had simply talked and gotten to know each other a little bit better. Some might have said it wasn’t much, but it had meant the world to Harry. Given how long Sirius had been cooped up in one place or another, Harry wagered it must have meant even more to him.

It was good knowing that Sirius was able to work openly to fight against Voldemort, and his godfather had let him know just how much he wanted Harry to pay attention in all of his classes. Even Snape’s class, he had said. The man might be an unkind word that Harry wouldn’t repeat with teachers in earshot, but he did know his stuff.

Hagrid had returned from wherever he had gone; Harry had seen him at the staff table at breakfast, though he’d been unable to have any sort of talk with him, as the large man had been in a deep talk with Professors Dumbledore and Rosenberg, and the latter two had not looked happy at all.

Whatever it was that had Professor Rosenberg looking worried, Harry figured he’d find out soon enough, as her class was first on his schedule today. She was certainly unlike any of their previous Defense professors, focusing as much on psychological and non-magical tactics as she did on learning new spells. Harry now had a ‘uniform’ for Defense classes which was designed to enable quicker and stealthier movement and to provide a smaller target, according to the Professor. Harry couldn’t help but feel it made him look like a skinny child with black paint all over his body given how snug the clothes were. Thankfully, they were far from uncomfortable.

Harry arrived early to the classroom, but several students were already there. Gryffindors and Slytherins had this class together, but after Umbridge, the animosity between the two houses was less obvious than it had been previously. That, or else things were truly improving, but Harry didn’t want to jump to conclusions. Still, if anyone could convince the Slytherins that Voldemort was the enemy, it would be Professor Rosenberg.

Willow walked into her classroom just as the bell rang to find her class in animated discussion about what they would be learning this term. Willow had a good lesson planned for today, but she had to prepare before she could properly teach.

“All right, everyone! Settle down, settle down. Now, I’m going to take roll call a bit differently today. I’m gonna walk around and tap you each on the shoulder, at which point you will tell me your names and I will check you off. I know, I know, it sounds silly, right? But this will factor into today’s lesson, so don’t cause any trouble.” With her Resolve Face firmly set, Willow began her trek across the classroom. The students looked confused, but thankfully, they didn’t question her just yet.

A few minutes later, Willow had made physical contact with each of her students, and was confident that she could proceed. “Okay, then. Thanks for putting up with that. I’d get used to it if I were you, since it looks like Voldemort may no longer be the biggest bad out there right now, since it looks like he’s in cahoots with something that I hope none of you ever have to face. But you have to be ready for it if you do.”

The classroom was silent, and not even a desk could be heard creaking. Willow definitely had their attention. “So, the reason I went around and touched you on the shoulder is because this enemy can look like anyone who has ever died, and I’ve been out of touch with all of you for a few weeks. However, while it can take the shape of any being that has ever passed on, it is also intangible. You can’t touch it,” she said to clarify.

“This being is a master of psychological manipulation. It will appear to you in the guise of people you once knew who have died, or else its servants may have killed a friend of yours, and it will trick you into thinking they are still alive. Whenever you speak with someone, make sure you touch them to check if they’re really there. Because even if they tell you things that only the actual person would know, it’s a trick. It knows everything that the dead have ever known, and it will use that knowledge to manipulate you into doing what it wants. Also, since it is basically a being consisting of all of the evil everywhere in the world, it knows everything that anyone alive knows, except for sensations based on touch, and even that is just a guess.”

A few hands went into the air. Deciding that now might be a good time to start taking questions, Willow called on Ron. “Yes, Mr. Weasley?”

Ron cleared his throat, clearly looking nervous. “Well, um, what exactly is it, and what does it want?”

The other hands in the air went down, and Willow smiled a joyless grin. “It’s Evil, Ron. That’s not just me describing an aspect of it, that’s what it is. This being is a manifestation of all the evil that has ever existed in the history of the world. As for what it wants… Well, death and destruction on a global scale would be my best guess. But to accomplish that, it needs to act through servants and minions, and it’s looking like Voldemort may be in league with this thing. He probably thinks it’s working for him, but he’s deluding himself. And for its minions to succeed, it needs to eliminate those who would stand against said minions, hence the psychological manipulation.”

Another hand went up. “Yes, Miss Brown?”

“H-how do you even know about this thing? A-and how do you know that it’s working with You-Know-Who?”

Willow sighed. “I suppose it’s best that you know. In preparation for Voldemort’s eventual assault, an envoy was sent to the giants of Europe to attempt to negotiate for their support. Now before you get all worked up…” Willow said to cut off the flurry of protests from the class, “I know that giants aren’t always the most friendly of things, but even convincing them to stay neutral would be a huge victory. Because if they join Voldemort, well, that’s just not good for us.

“So our envoy gets there, but he sees the giants talking to someone that he can’t see, but who the giants recognize as one of their greatest chieftains ever. Only he isn’t really there, and he’s also been dead for centuries. He’s a legend among giant-kind, and so when their legend appeared to them, telling them that it’s their destiny to serve Voldemort, they weren’t about to disagree. Our envoy got back and told us everything, and now we know what we’re up against.”

Draco Malfoy sat in the front row of the classroom taking notes. Only he didn’t realize that he was taking notes. Draco wasn’t very aware of much, actually, save for a distinct pleasurable sensation saturating his entire being. There was a soft voice there that sounded a bit like his father. It told him to sit in class, to take notes like a good student, and then, at the end of class, when Rosenberg’s back was turned, to use the device that the Dark Lord had given him.

Draco didn’t know what it did, but deep within that realm of pleasure, something didn’t feel right. This isn’t normal, he told himself, and he was startled to realize that he could still think for himself. What happened to me?

It doesn’t matter, Draco, the distant father-like voice told him. Just do what you’re told, and the pleasure will be even greater.

But, why? Draco asked. Even as he asked it, he could feel the cushion of happiness smothering out his free will.

Because it must be done. You know this, Draco.

It all made so much sense, though he couldn’t say why. But he did as he was told and he listened to the lecture about the being that Rosenberg eventually identified as the First Evil. Deep down, Draco registered that this thing he was being taught about was the one who had planned this thin that he knew he had to do, but it didn’t seem to matter that much.

The bell rang, but the class didn’t get up just yet.

“All right, everyone,” Rosenberg said. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to go over any of the stuff from the actual curriculum today, but y’know? Life-threatening evil and all that needs to be talked about. So, read the first four chapters from Part Seven of your reading material. We’ll go over that next week, and we’ll have a combat exercise on Thursday. So, uh, class dismissed, I guess.”

The students began to put their notes away and get up towards the door. Draco put his notes into his bag as a pretense to search through it and pull out the rod that he had been given. It was dark red in color, about two feet long. It wasn’t a wand, but it did do something. He held it close to his forearm to hide it from anyone watching him.

Why am I doing this? Draco wondered idly.

It doesn’t matter. But doing it will feel so good, his father’s voice told him.

Rosenberg went over to her desk and began to reach into her bag for something. Her back was to Draco. He took aim with the thing in his hand and pressed the button on the handle.

A blast shot forth from the rod and hit Rosenberg square in the back. She shot forward and propelled her desk across the room, and then she fell down.

Willow got to her feet, and she felt strong. She felt powerful. She felt her surroundings and knew that this place was full of magic just waiting to be tapped. But it wasn’t the kind of magic she wanted. No, true power came from the darker side of magic. Hadn’t her earlier experiences taught her that? She needed to prove herself, and for that, she needed all the dark power she could muster.

She felt a small tug of magic inside her jacket, and she withdrew a wand. “A worthless tool,” she said coldly, dropping it to the floor. It didn’t make the sounds of wood hitting stone, but that didn’t matter. She eyed the boy holding the strange device at her.

“I remember that,” she said wistfully. “The Toth used that to split Xander in two. Am I also split?” She looked down and saw a red-haired girl who looked like herself on the floor. “I guess so,” she said, twirling a strand of black hair from her own head.

Waving her hand, she brought the boy, Draco Malfoy, closer to her. She touched his mind and felt the effects of the Imperius Curse. The caster had been his father. Willow almost felt sorry for the boy, but not quite. “Your father answers to Lord Voldemort, doesn’t he?” Willow sneered.

Willow didn’t notice the other students fleeing the classroom. They were beneath her. She didn’t wait for Draco to answer, but simply delved into his mind and sought out the answers she needed. Malfoy Manor. That’s where your Dark Lord is, and that’s where I’ll take his power for my own. And if the First gets in my way…

“Then what?”

Willow turned to see Buffy sitting atop a desk, her legs dangling as she smiled sweetly at Willow. It wasn’t Buffy, she knew that, but it was a convenient chance to get some answers. “You’re the First.”

“I am,” it said with Buffy’s voice. “Are you going to try and stop me?”

“That depends,” Willow asked. “Are you going to stop me from taking all the power I can find?”

“Hmm… I’ll tell you what, Willow,” the First said thoughtfully. “You want power, right? I’ve got power you can’t even conceive of. So, what do you say? You scratch my back, I scratch yours?”

“I’ll think about it,” Willow said without hesitating. “But first, I need to suck Voldemort dry. I don’t want a rival running around, trying to take what’s mine, after all.”

“No, we can’t have that, now can we?” ‘Buffy’ smiled and hopped to her feet. “Let’s go. We’ve got lots of power to gather, and some of it is going to be tricky to get to.”

Willow came to her senses, lying on the floor near her desk. Her wand was sitting on her body as if it had been dropped on top of her. She opened her eyes just long enough to see what looked like herself, only all dark and veiny talking to Buffy. Only it wasn’t really Buffy.

“What?” Dark Willow sneered. “You having performance issues? All the evil in the history of the world, and you can’t get to it?”

“Oh, don’t you worry. The Sunnydale Hellmouth may be gone, but there are still six others. Alas, three of them are sealed and locked away rather tightly.”

Dark Willow smiled, and Willow felt sick at the power flowing off her. “Locked away, you say? No problem. After all, every lock has its key. But first, Voldemort.”

‘Buffy’ just shrugged. “Your call. Leave the boy, though. He’ll only get in the way.”

Dark Willow dropped Draco Malfoy to the floor, and with a gush of magical wind, she was gone.

Harry watched the scene unfold from underneath his invisibility cloak. Ron and Hermione wouldn’t fit without giving the three of them away, so Harry was left alone to dissect what had just happened. A hand on his shoulder caused him to look up, and he saw Dumbledore standing beside him, slowly becoming visible as a disillusionment charm wore off.

Professor Rosenberg – the red-haired one – got up from the floor and stumbled over to Dumbledore. “I have to warn them. Have to hide her.”

Dumbledore simply nodded. “Fawkes,” he said, and the phoenix appeared. “Take Professor Rosenberg to where she needs to go, and then return quickly with whoever she needs to protect.”

Willow breathed heavily as she got to her feet. “Thank you,” she said, taking hold of Fawkes. “Um, do you know the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington DC, Fawkes?”

Apparently, he did, given that both phoenix and teacher vanished in a plume of red flame.

Dumbledore turned to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. “Come with me, you three. Quickly now.”

Harry took off his cloak and followed Dumbledore to his office. The gargoyle jumped aside without a password as the Headmaster approached, and Harry soon found himself inside Dumbledore’s office, where Snape was already waiting.

“The First has made its move, Severus. Professor Rosenberg has been split into two distinct entities, one of which may is likely to aid the First. The other is closer to the Willow you have come to know, but her powers are greatly weakened. She will require your aid. As will these three.”

Harry didn’t like being talked about as though he was not there, but he kept quiet for now. If the First Evil was making a move, and if it was everything that Professor Rosenberg had claimed it was, then what chance did they have?

Snape didn’t look at Harry. “Does the dark Rosenberg intend to join up with the Dark Lord?”

“No, Severus. I believe she means to usurp him.”

A flash of fire brought Fawkes back into Dumbledore’s office. Rosenberg also reappeared, along with… “Dawn? Faith? What are you doing here?” Harry asked.

“Long story. No time,” Faith said. “Red says you can hide us, Big D. That so?”

“It is,” Dumbledore said. He took a rectangular case off his desk and removed the top to reveal seven devices that looked like wristwatches, only with a series of rotating numbers on them.

“Severus, take this one,” Dumbledore said, handing him one that was jet black. The other six were silver, and Dumbledore handed one each to Rosenberg, Dawn, Faith, Hermione, Ron, and Harry. “Put these on, quickly. Severus, you recall our discussion in case something like this should happen?”

“I do, Headmaster. How long should we wait before returning?”

“As long as it takes, Severus. You know the stakes.”

“Harry,” Hermione whispered. “Look beneath the numbers. Doesn’t that look like…”

“An hourglass,” Harry confirmed.

Snape began fiddling with his wrist-device, and then the numbers on Harry’s and the others began to change as well. There were three rows of four numbers. The first ended up on 1200, the other on 0621, and the last on 1006.

Dumbledore placed one hand on Harry’s shoulder, and another on Rosenberg’s. He looked Dawn straight in the eye. “Good luck, to all of you,” he said. Removing his hands, he turned to Snape. “Now, Severus.”

Snape pressed a button on the side of his wrist-thing, and the world rushed past Harry in a whirlwind. He had seen this happen once before, in his third year when he and Hermione had used the time-turner to save Sirius from the Dementor’s Kiss. Were these things on their wrist also time-turners? If so, the sensation was different. It was smoother and less disorienting, but also faster and stranger.

When the world finally stopped moving, Dawn found herself in what looked like the same room, only the decorations were far sparser and vastly different. No one else was present at the moment. There was a desk near where Dumbledore’s desk had been, but it was circular with four wooden chairs around it.

Dawn really wished Buffy was here with her, but she understood why she couldn’t have come. If the First was really back, then Buffy needed to stay to dispel the illusion that ‘Buffy’ was an evil, intangible force of utter darkness and bitchiness. Buffy had volunteered Faith to protect her, and Dawn knew that to trust Dawn to Faith’s care was not something that her sister would ever do lightly. Faith had made her mistakes, but so had Willow, and the two had become closer over time as they tried to make amends together.

Speaking of Willow, she looked like crap. She looked weak and drained and not as confident as she usually was. “Willow? Will? Are you gonna be okay?”

The red-haired witch wiped her eyes. “I don’t know, Dawnie. So much has happened in the last hour or so, and what just happened?”

“I believe we would all like to know the answer to that question.”

The seven of them turned towards the office door to see four people standing there: two men and two women. One of the men, the one who had spoken, looked like a lion might look if he was a man, and the other was bald with a silver beard and a sharp face. Of the women, one looked cool and regal with elegant dark hair, and the other had a kind, round face that looked motherly.

Faith crossed her arms and sized up the four newcomers. “And who the hell are you supposed to be?”

“Uh, Faith,” Willow said softly. “I believe that these are the Four Founders of Hogwarts.”

“That we are,” the kind-looking woman said politely. “And who might you be? It is about time for lunch, so if you would care to explain over a meal, you are more than welcome to join us in the celebrations. You do know that today is the Solstice, of course.”

“Yes, of course,” Dawn said, looking at the device on her wrist. The first number, 1200, likely meant noon, given that they were offering lunch. The second number, 0621, stood for June 21st, which was the Summer Solstice.

The last number, 1006, that must mean…

“Willow, Faith,” Dawn said as calmly as she could, “I think I might pass out soon. Like right about now.” And pass out she did.

Hello again! Here begins Part II of the story that started in 'Black, White, and Red All Over.' Last time, I thought I might have written Willow a bit too Mary-Sue-ish, so I'm going to try to avoid that in this part of the story. If you haven't read the first part of this series, I highly recommend you do so for maximum enjoyment of this story.

I do not own Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They belong to JK Rowling and Joss Whedon, respectively. I'm just grateful to them for giving me the chance to tell my own story with the wonderful characters and worlds that they created.

I am looking for a beta-reader, so if you are interested, please send me a message.

Reviews are like hugs: they make everything better.

Many Thanks for taking a look, and I hope you enjoy the story! ^_^
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