Disclaimer: BTVS owned by Joss Whedon, et. al.; HP by J.K. Rowling. This work is for fun, not profit. I own none of the characters. Any failure on the humor front is, of course, mine.
A/N: Maybe 5 years post-Chosen for BTVS. Ignores Season 8-9 comics. Starts with HP Book 1 and is mostly AU, non-canon after that. All significant action takes place in the Potterverse.
Hermione's 15th birthday party was arranged by Willow and Buffy. After quibbling about who and how many to invite to the event, they'd ultimately decided to "go large", as Willow called it, and had invited all of Hermione's friends, family, a good number of their professors from Hogwarts, and even quite a few members of the Ministry. All of the key executives of MUGLTECH, MUGLSTYL, MUGLSPRT, MUGLNEWS, MUGLMDIA and the many related divisions of Magical User's Group, Ltd. were also on the invite, along with appropriately aged offspring. Hermione's "Sweet 15" -- as Buffy insisted on referring to it -- had thus grown to near-epic proportions; she only hoped it wouldn't be too formal and grandiose to be enjoyable.
Rather than have the party at the school, the Scoobies had decided that the premises of the Historical Society in Diagon Alley would make a better choice. The large 1st floor ballroom with attached kitchens was the decider. The Headmaster would've been more than happy to allow the school's Great Room to be used for the banquet/dance that the two Scoobies eventually planned for Hermione. But it was actually less of a problem for the Hogwarts contingent to come down to London than it was for all the others who were ultimately included to go the opposite way. The kitchen help would've been a severe problem, too, as Hogwarts was still somewhat shaky in that area. Hermione was rather embarrassed by all the fuss, but her parents were delighted at the attention the three Scoobies continued to lavish on their daughter.
Buffy had another agenda, naturally, which she'd discussed with Giles and Wesley at some length before the evening began, for the "after-party" activities. Those would take place up on the 6th floor in the ritual area of the map room, with a MUCH more limited invitation list. Giles would never forget that fateful day that he and old Wesley had used the locator to spot Buffy and the others at Hogwarts. The changes in his life since that day had been vast, he reflected. As Buffy had warned him on their first meeting, she, Willow and Xander had spent considerable time on his personal training as a Watcher. He had certainly disabused himself of the notion that the job was the sinecure he'd imagined from reading the ancient journals. Far from simply watching, the Scoobies insisted that a real Watcher must have a wide range of skills, knowledge, and capabilities, as well as actively participating in what they so euphemistically called "slayage."
He was ready now for that real responsibility, he thought. The things he'd both seen and done in traveling the continents with the Scooby trio, Hermione, and their occasional "special guests" had clued him into the fundamental nature of the supernatural, what the "dark side" truly represented in threats to the wider world, and how the Slayer and her companions were routinely able to thwart those threats. To say it had been an eye-opener would be to vastly understate things. He suspected he'd seen and helped defeat more "big bads" in three years than most Aurors would see in a lifetime -- not that the Scoobies thought that any of the "bads" had been particularly "big" by their standards. Even old Wesley had gotten involved on occasion, before his other responsibilities pulled him away from any practical field service.
With the banquet over and the party now going full swing, he'd danced with a few of the students, as well as some of the younger female professors. Now he was being sought after by quite a press of the junior female execs from the MUGL empire. Giles had thought service with the Historical Society was a cushy ride for life. He was now finding out how much more enjoyable a few bumps, a little drama, and quite a bit more action than his former "life of leisure" -- as Xander contemptuously referred to it -- had provided, could actually be. He felt intensely alive now that his calling had real purpose. Hmmm, still several hours before the "after-party" would kick off.
If he could just cut out one of these young lovelies before the evening was over, he'd be happy to demonstrate that intensity to her in a more congenial setting upstairs.
Harry was taken aback at the scale of Hermione's party. Buffy had insisted on black tie for the men but he hadn't imagined the sheer number of invitees. He'd learned a lot from Hermione's association with the Scooby trio, he had to admit it. But he was still surprised at the depth and breadth of their acquaintance with the wider Wizarding world, considering how low they kept their profile while at Hogwarts.
Second and third year at Hogwarts had been a whirlwind in many ways. Harry's battle with the basilisk had ushered in a series of fundamental changes in the school, including policy, personnel, theory, and practicum. Dumbledore had resigned as Headmaster, unable to curb the outcry that the multiple student and alumni deaths had generated within the Wizarding community. Hufflepuff had been hit very hard indeed, and their alumni came out of the woodwork to demand changes within the school. Dumbledore had to admit that his preoccupation with Voldemort had led him to overlook the need to finally deal with Slytherin's monster, the existence of which he'd long known. When Fudge disappeared early in the summer, held to ransom by the goblins, he'd gladly moved on to take temporary charge of the Ministry. Seeing as his own instruments confirmed that Voldemort had also died the night of the basilisk attack, he figured it was for the best that he now controlled Ministry operations -- rather than worrying about Harry and Hogwarts -- as he faced the puzzle represented by the End of Days.
Dumbledore had been replaced by old Wesley Price. This was surprising to many, as he was even more ancient than the previous headmaster, but he had been an outspoken critic of the way that the school was run for many years. When his name was put forward as a candidate, all of the most vocal opposition to Dumbledore's continuance had come together to support him. The vast changes that Wesley introduced made it clear that age was no impediment to new ideas.
The curriculum had been thoroughly upgraded. Muggle technology studies were mandatory now, while the word Muggle itself had been banned. Traditional 'non-magical' learning including mathematics, history, science, classics, and the arts were all now woven deftly into the magical curriculum. Wesley had vowed graduates of Hogwarts would be just as prepped to enter Oxbridge as if they'd attended any of the major publics. He was fiercely determined to remedy the "magical IQ deficit" that Willow had acquainted him with, resulting from the inhabitants of the Wizarding world repeatedly overusing magic for simple tasks.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, courses on the ethics of magic had also become compulsory. Concepts long discarded within the Wizarding community -- keeping the magical balance, ethical relationships with non-magical peoples, the line between offensive and defensive magic, the negatives pertaining to the unnecessary use of magic, etc. -- were causing both students and their parents to rethink what their status as witches and wizards really meant. Was all this power really meant just to make their personal lives easier? Shouldn't they be out helping the wider world with these gifts? Using them in an altruistic manner, rather than simply to make it easier to crack and fry an egg?
A major uncertainty in everyone's mind resulted from MUGLTECH's clever repackaging of Muggle technology and concepts. Was it really true that Muggles were smarter than Wizards, precisely because they didn't have or, apparently, even NEED magic to get things done? Headmaster Price was determined that no one ever need answer that question and he was quite ruthless in making the necessary changes to Hogwarts to ensure that it wouldn't continue to be asked.
An unforeseen change, one which had evoked more than a few howls of protest from alumni, had been the abolition of the traditional House system of education within the school. It seemed obvious to everyone in the castle that the enmity generated during the sorting process had driven the four Hogwarts houses to extreme positions. Whether the Sorting Hat had been doing a good job of classifying the students or not was academic. The identity of the Houses was so strongly bound to them that it seemed Slytherins almost necessarily became not only cunning but outright evil, Hufflepuffs loyal but slow, Ravenclaws intelligent but morally ambiguous, and Gryffindors brave but not always the sharpest tools in the shed. The new Head was determined that no student should be pigeon-holed or marginalized in the future; the House system went by the boards with scarcely a murmur of protest within Hogwarts.
For Harry and the other first years, the change was not of massive impact. They'd bought into their House identity, yes, but it had hardly had time to sink in before they'd been informed that was all over. Once the dormitories were reorganized by academic year, not House affiliation, and the House identities were shifted over to the sports teams, they adjusted rapidly. You could be a Gryffindor in Quidditch but in the new football leagues join Hufflepuff, or whomever, if you could play both at once, that is, as the seasonal overlap was quite challenging. Friendships were being made and unmade across all the traditional lines. Without the Slytherin House reputation as the bogeyman, it turned out most of their matriculants were very little different from any of those within the former Gryffindor, Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw Houses.
The biggest change for Harry was that the furor over him which began with the basilisk fight simply refused to die down. He'd increasingly become regarded as the most influential student in the school, his relatively young age notwithstanding. He had perforce become part of the new student government system and had been drafted into a wide range of committees on student life, sports, etc. With Quidditch and the "defensive" training Hermione insisted he practice with her under Buffy's tutelage, he had little time even for such close friends as Ron Weasley.
By the time the second and third years had once again ended in attacks upon the school that he played a key role in thwarting, he'd become resigned to the fact that he was never going to blend in within Hogwarts or the Wizarding world in general. When Greyback's mixed pack of rabid wolves and other were-animals penetrated the castle at the end of the second year, Buffy and her Scooby friends had done most of the work in containing the dangerous were-creatures and finishing off the worst of them. But it was Harry who'd ended up facing Greyback, defending a group of first-years in the Great Hall, and ultimately putting Willow's sword through his heart, ending the fierce, asocial wolf's short reign of terror once and for all.
Then, just a few months ago, the goblins had attempted to seize the Castle and hold its inhabitants for ransom, having failed at using former Minister Fudge for the same purpose. While Willow had done battle with the goblin's magicians, Harry, Buffy, Hermione, Xander, and, oddly enough, Dudley, had hunted the invading force throughout the grounds and even into the Forbidden Forest, capturing most, killing quite a number, and running the rest off to their mountain strongholds. Harry had been awed by Buffy's combat abilities, which he'd only seen a taste of in the training sessions she put him and Hermione through. Without her, it would've simply been impossible to defeat the well-planned goblin infiltration. But no one besides the small group of fighters out in the grounds had seen this. Rather, all they saw was the sword-to-sword fight he'd had with the Great Goblin on the front steps. It was his blow that brought the Goblin down and seemingly sealed the victory.
He'd caught sight of Buffy and Xander grinning at him as the reporters -- many of whom had apparated to Hogsmeade as word of the fight spread -- swarmed him after the Great Goblin expired. They'd slipped away unmolested with Dudley and Hermione. Harry was hard pressed to explain their role to a crowd whose only interest was the latest adventures of the "hero of Hogwarts."
The worst part of these two busy years had been the slow deterioration of his friendship with Ron Weasley. He had so little time to simply hang out with Ron that the only place they saw each other was in class, if then. While they were still much more than nodding acquaintances, there was a resentment there on both sides -- Ron wanted to be included more, which was practically impossible, while Harry simply envied the lack of demands on Ron's time -- that had led to a number of arguments.
They hadn't even roomed together third year: Harry had moved in with Xander and a couple of other established Quidditch players, while Ron oddly enough had taken first to hanging around with, then eventually rooming with two former Hufflepuffs, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Ernie MacMillan. He heard they'd even taken up playing football for the new Hufflepuff league team, but he hadn't had a shot at catching one of their fixtures yet. He was practically too busy to even play Quidditch, much less take up football-spectating.
Harry sighed. This type of party was the perfect time to buddy up with Ron and make fun of how people were dressed, what they were talking about, etc. But he'd found himself completely surrounded by girls from all over the Wizarding world, not just Hogwarts, and for once he found the attention not quite so bothersome. He'd caught a glimpse or two of Ron, but with his dance card so full, as it were, he'd really been too distracted to run him down and try to make amends with him. Maybe he'd be at the after-party, thought Harry, though Willow had been quite cryptic about what that entailed.
Anyway, his next dance partner was dragging him back to the center of the ballroom floor. She was a 16-year old girl from France who had a really quite fascinating way of rubbing her female "assets" all over him as she "danced," if you could call it that. Harry, despite his fame, was all of fourteen yet. Fixing things up with Ron, he thought, would simply have to wait.
The after party had been on Buffy's mind for some time when she finally gave the high sign to Willow and Xander about 2 am. She went off to look for Hermione and luckily found Harry and Dudley with her. She tapped her wrist, pointed upstairs, and mouthed "30 minutes" to the three of them. Giles and Wesley had already made their way out of the ballroom. From the look of things, the party itself would continue for some time. She purposely avoided Ron Weasley, who'd been trying to hit on Willow in an on again, off again style for the last year or so. He had taken to cornering Buffy and asking her all sorts of questions about the red-headed witch. They had just managed to get Neville over his crush and now Ron had started in. She shook her head impatiently -- if they only knew. Well, that wouldn't matter after tonight, anyway.
As she wandered through the crowd, she realized just how much she'd enjoyed things since they'd arrived in this timeline. Without any real world-ending scenarios, they'd been able to make a lot of friends throughout the Wizarding world. Their clean-up duties had scarcely been taxing by their standards, and the MUGL, Inc. venture had been a real eye-opener to them. None of the Scoobies had ever really participated in a business enterprise before. Their experience with the new Watcher's Council had been useful but working with MUGL, Inc. had given them an appreciation for, as well as skills in, planning and leading organizations that "their" Giles -- Big-G as Xander called him -- was going to find hugely satisfying. With all the MUGL lines on a massive roll, they'd firmly shored up their own bank accounts as well as providing a mechanism for the vast funds of the Watcher's Council to be recycled into the world economy. Not bad as a sideline effort really. And the shoe budget going forward was simply going to be immense! She hoped Cordelia was shaking her head in envy, whatever plane she might be on these days.
Buffy continued to meander slowly through the crowd, talking to familiar faces, telling a few jokes here and there, just living in the moment a bit. She had a sense of things winding down, for good. It was almost like a post-graduation party, or the end of a long-running play, she thought. Tomorrow, the world would look different; tonight, however, there was still time for fun. She caught sight of Fred and George moving in her direction, but she froze them with a look and a shake of her head to stop them from joining her. They looked disappointed but shrugged and moved on. They didn't really know about the whole Slayer thing but they'd long ago realized that Buffy and the other Scoobies weren't mere schoolchildren. What they were was hard to say, but Buffy had helped them with many pranks and also provided them with a lot of ready cash for developing their joke shop, so they weren't going to pry into her unofficial official business, as it were.
Buffy generally enjoyed the twins but they had no further part to play this night. She watched them in amusement for a little while though, as they continued to chat up every attractive female in the crowd, remotely near their age or not. Then she continued her cruising, making sure to speak to almost every acquaintance she'd had so far in this reality. No rush, she thought. No rush at all. Eventually she found Hermione's parents sitting in one of the window seats, waiting patiently. She'd told them earlier about the ritual they'd planned and they had wanted to be included. She gave them a big beautiful smile and, as they looked at her expectantly, nodded vigorously. It was time.
Mr. Granger stood and offered his wife one arm, and Buffy the other. Hermione's big night was just getting started.
Now the small group was gathered in the antechamber to the 6th floor Map Room. Buffy and the Grangers arrived last -- she winked at Hermione when she saw the startled look at her parent's presence. She went forward with them to Hermione and took her arm as well.
"Are we ready?" she called over her shoulder to Giles.
"Yes, it's all set up," replied Giles. "But I'm still not sure that this is quite the way we should proceed…"
"Don't worry, Giles," said Buffy. "We're experts on doing things differently, right Wills?"
"Ye-up," replied Willow. "Scooby trademark -- not following the well-beaten path."
Mr. Granger leaned in to Hermione and whispered, "Do you have the slightest idea what this is all about?"
"Not the foggiest," said Hermione. "Buffy just said it was my 15th birthday present, but I could turn it down if I want."
Buffy grinned at this. Well, the cat was almost out of the bag. "Let's go over to the ritual area now," she said, leading them past the map to the gorgeously figured major pentagram and related minor pentagrams on the far side of the room.
"Line them up, Giles," she commanded. "Wesley, as the Senior Watcher and head of the Council at this time, why don't you come up and stand beside me and Hermione. Wills, we need you up here too, ya know."
Giles positioned Harry and Dudley in one protective pentagram, himself and the Grangers in another, all facing in towards the main ritual, where Buffy, Willow, Hermione and Wesley were standing. Xander took up his place in a third pentagram behind the central one. He was grinning at the confused looks on Hermione's, Harry's, and Dudley's faces.
"If you would be so kind, Willow," said Buffy in an exaggeratedly formal tone, "let us begin."
Willow took a deep breath, then raised her hands slowly upward, breathing out and, as she did, the overhead lights were extinguished and all the candles in the room began to light, one bank after the other, until the entire chamber was lit by the ethereal candle-fire, blowing in an unseen breeze. The same breeze was also blowing Willow's hair, though it seemed to touch no others. As they watched, her hair slowly turned from its normal rich red to purest, snowy white.
"All here know the lore: one girl in all the world, a Chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer," recited Willow. "I am the Supreme Sorceress, bound to both the Earth and the Slayer line, an aspect of the Goddess, mistress of both Dark and Light."
"I am the Slayer Prime," intoned Buffy, "direct incarnation of Sineya, Old One, Champion of the Light, protector of humanity against the darkness, across all earthly realities."
"I am the One who Sees," replied Xander, "Arbiter of passage, mediator of change. What I view in the Slayer's realm, I must render judgment upon."
"I am the Senior Watcher," said Wesley strongly, "for a thousand and another thousand years, we have waited for the Slayer to return to this reality. Now there is one with the Potential before us. She has excelled in her training. She has proven her courage many times over. Her intelligence is second to none. And her skills in magic are among the highest of any this age. I judge her worthy."
"As do I," said Buffy.
"And I," replied first Willow, then Xander.
Harry had been watching this with his eyebrows raised. He had been "read in," as Xander liked to call it, to the Slayer concept at the end of their second year, after the battle with Greyback and the rabid wolfpack. It seemed like they were talking about selecting a new Slayer. But didn't the current one have to die, he was thinking? And who were they talking about anyway? Then it hit him, just as Buffy began to speak again.
"Hermione Jean Granger," Buffy said commandingly. "Step forward."
Confusedly, Hermione did as she was told. Her mind was whirling. Was what she thought was about to happen really about to happen? No one had hinted to her that this was possible; she'd just this morning been planning to ask Buffy about the dreams she'd been getting recently. Strangely realistic, uncomfortable dreams, she had to say. But Buffy was still talking.
"Hermione," said Buffy, in an almost normal tone now, "Willow, Xander and I traveled through a rather nasty temporal anomaly to reach this reality, to help prepare those within it to reach the End of Days, the merging of this world with ours. For that merger to go smoothly, to avoid several potential apocalypses I've seen in the future here, this world needs a Slayer."
"And," added Willow, "it's time for the three of us to journey home, leaving this reality one Slayer short."
"So, Hermione," snarked Xander from his place behind the others, "what they're trying to tell you is that they have a candidate in mind for the job. You."
"That's right," chimed in Buffy. "Basically, Hermione. We came here for you."
"Me?" mouthed Hermione, in complete shock at this unexpected turn of events.
"Uh huh," agreed Willow, "even when Wesley and Giles searched for the Slayer, what the map was really showing was the Potentials, of which you are the only one in this world. You happened to be at Hogwarts, which is why the three of us were there in the first place. Without an existing Slayer in this world, there was no way for you to fulfill your Potential."
Giles looked askance at Wesley, who merely shrugged his shoulders. 2000 years of waiting and they used the map wrong? Well, they looked to be ending up with a Slayer anyway.
"Right," said Buffy. "And we've spent the last three years training both you and Giles, who is now just about as fit as possible to be your Watcher."
"And let's not forget," added Xander, "we've also managed to help Harry get ready for his own role, as Champion of the Wizarding world." Xander winked at Harry. "You didn't think you were out of the woods yet, did ya?"
Harry absorbed that with only the slightest of winces and a shake of the head. No, he hadn't really thought so. Too much of the mad stuff kept happening around him to think that destiny was through with him yet.
"Plus," said Buffy happily, "we've even managed to find a regular mortal Hero to back up both of you guys. Dudley, all that training we've been giving you wasn't just for laughs. Take a bow, kid, you're the new X-factor around here."
Dudley smiled broadly, then looked at Harry, who gave a brief grimace, but then smiled back, more reservedly. They'd never really become reconciled, despite the vast changes in Harry's lifestyle since Willow had removed the anti-magical compulsion on the Dursleys. But now it looked like they were going to be stuck with each other. He reached out his hand, and when Dudley shook it, they both said "Partners" at the same time and it seemed, finally, to be alright.
"So, Hermione," Buffy asked, in all seriousness now, "there's only one question you have to ask yourself. Are you ready to be strong?"
Hermione gasped at that. Willow had told her the story of the battle against the First and the activation of the Slayer line. It had seemed so mythic at the time; she had to admit she'd daydreamed about what it might have been like for her to get such power. Now Buffy was offering it to her on a plate, telling her it was her destiny, essentially.
But is that what she wanted? Hermione could have few illusions about the life of a Slayer. She'd been best friends with Buffy and Willow for three years now. Buffy made the impossible things she did look easy, and what they'd said about their reality made it clear that the whole "one girl" thing was no longer true. But Slayers had always died very young before Buffy, living a year or two at most. Could she expect to beat that, even when the worlds did merge and there were hundreds of sister Slayers running around?
Buffy and Willow were looking at her compassionately. They both knew the turmoil she was going through. No Slayer had ever been offered the choice -- they'd simply been Chosen. If she turned it down, it would complicate things, but they would never blame her. They would find another way, that's what the Scoobies did. They found a way. But they knew their girl, didn't they? Hermione. The best and the brightest, one girl in all the world. They looked at each other, then looked again to Hermione and broke out into identical wide smiles.
And suddenly, as if signaled by them, Hermione knew her choice. Of course she would accept the power! The Scoobies, the Powers that Be Harry, Dudley, the whole Wizarding World, and everyone else in this reality -- of all of them, she was the one best suited by background, temperament, and training to hand-hold this reality through to the End of Days. And when that happened, she would find her friends at the end of it, she knew that from the hints they'd given her. The power was not offered lightly, and she would not accept it lightly. But accept it she would. She WAS Hermione Granger after all. There was no challenge which she could not face and, looking at the Scoobies, then back at Harry and Dudley, Giles and her parents, she knew the choice was the right one in all their minds too.
She looked up, smiling now, her confusion gone. "I'm ready," she said simply.
Buffy and Willow looked at each other again and nodded, Xander unconsciously echoing it from his place behind the center circle. Buffy then lifted her right hand and called the Scythe. As it flashed into existence within her grip, Willow began chanting, not using the same activation spell she had used the last time, but rather a general protection against ill-usage and effects during the ritual. They'd decided that, one-on-one, Buffy had all the power necessary to let Hermione claim her destiny.
"Step forward, Miss Granger," ordered Wesley. "As Senior Watcher, the Council approves your taking up the duties of Slayer. Now, if you will, place your hands on the Slayer's Scythe."
Hermione moved towards Buffy. At the last second, Buffy asked, under her breath "Are you sure you're sure?" At Hermione's nod, she moved the mystical weapon between the two of them. Wesley, per Buffy's previous coaching, laid one hand on Hermione's shoulder and one on Buffy's. Slowly, Hermione reached out and put her hands on the haft of the Scythe, so that each girl had both hands firmly gripping the ancient talisman of the Slayer line.
"Wonder twin powers, activate," muttered Xander just loud enough for the others in the central pentagram to hear.
Willow snorted. Buffy glanced over her shoulder and raked Xander with a steely gaze. "Shape of a Giant Praying Mantis, anyone?" she questioned.
Xander bit down hard and clammed up. Hermione was merely staring at them in wonder. More cryptic California-isms.
"Ok, enough of the foolin' around. Hermione, here we go!"
Buffy closed her eyes and concentrated, searching for the Slayer within. Ah, there she was. Nice and close to the surface. Guess she know's she's up to bat. Now, reach for Hermione. She let her senses flow through the haft of the Scythe, into Hermione's hands which were gripping the weapon nervously, then up her nerve endings, until she finally touched the edge of Hermione's consciousness.
'Hi, Hermione,' she thought to her friend. 'Ready to meet the Slayer?'
'I don't know, Buffy!' replied Hermione. 'This is giving me a wiggins!'
'If you've been hanging around us long enough to use 'wiggins' like that, then you must be ready,' Buffy thought back to her. 'Ok. Take a deep breath. Here she comes!'
Buffy and Hermione found themselves standing side by side in a starkly beautiful but somewhat bleak desert setting. Hermione was looking around in awe, a bit fearful, but also intrigued by their sudden reality shift.
"Where are we?" she asked, bemused by the rapid change in location.
"In my head, or our heads, or somewhere like that," replied Buffy. "It's a place where Giles took me for a vision quest once upon a time. It's where I met the First Slayer originally."
"Is she here?" gasped Hermione. "I don't see anyone else."
"Oh, she's here," said Buffy. "Sneaking up on us, no doubt. I didn't want to tell anyone else, but she's bound to want to fight you. It's kinda her deal."
"You mean she wants to spar?" asked Hermione. "I can do that, I think."
"Well, more like she wants to kill you. If you don't measure up, that is," Buffy hastened to add. "Sineya is picky about her Slayers and I think she was miffed when we did the activation spell that brought so many on together without getting a chance to choose which one she liked best."
"So," said Hermione. "She's going to take it out on me."
"Yep," replied Buffy. "That's about the size of it. But don't sweat it. She's pure power and rage, no technique at all. You'll pass with flying colors."
She looked around in some mild satisfaction. It appeared this was going to work. She'd gotten them both here. Now all they needed was the Slayer.
Hermione was scanning the area rather wildly, searching for evidence that the First Slayer was about to pounce. She glanced over at Buffy for reassurance and was shocked to see that her friend's countenance had been transformed. The tall, willowy California blonde had been replaced by a feral-looking African figure, hair ratted and flying away in all directions, dangerous-looking white stripes in an inexplicable pattern decorating her face and figure.
"Buffy," she breathed. "I don't think she's sneaking up on us. I think she's you!"
Startled out of her contemplative mood, Buffy looked at her hands and arms, then felt her hair. "Why that tricky little scamp! Who'da thunk she'd pull this gag?" Oh, well, she thought, if this is how they had to play it, then she may as well get to it.
"I think she wants you to kill me, Buffy," said Hermione. "Not that there's anything strange about that, huh?"
"Well she's gotta learn you can't always get what you want," replied Buffy. "As a Slayer, she should know that already. I'm not gonna fight you to prove something we already both know."
"So, how do we work this then?" inquired Hermione. "You said it's never been done this way before. Do we have any fresh ideas?"
"Just one," said Buffy. "There's a bit of an ick factor to it, but let's try it anyway."
"How much ick?" asked Hermione. "I'm still not used to all the gore that you generate in slaying."
"Well, more of a personal ick than a gooey gorey ick," replied the Slayer. "I think we're going to have to sorta merge our consciousness together to get this done."
"I would never question your expertise in anything Slayer-related, Buffy," said Hermione, "But how on Earth…?"
"Like this," said Buffy. "Close your eyes. Ok, that's good." She moved around until she was positioned behind Hermione in the elaborate dream space they were sharing. "Well, here goes nothing." She stepped forward, forcing herself directly into Hermione's self-projection. Like stepping through a waterfall, Buffy thought distractedly as she slid herself into Hermione's consciousness.
The sensation was very odd, thought Hermione. It felt as if Buffy had vaulted directly into her body. She could feel her trying out her muscles, opening her mouth, breathing in and out, while simultaneously she was doing the same with Buffy's body.
"Ok, now, don't fade on me, Hermy. I'm gonna see if I can unleash my Slayer power for you. When I do, I'm hoping it will transfer. You need to sorta watch what I'm doing here, then you'll understand it better when you need to reach for the source yourself."
Buffy felt around internally for the core of her Slayer self. She slowly opened up all of the channels to let the power pour forth. And, oops! She kinda let everything else out with it too. She could feel all her Slayer memories, the fights, the dreams, the injuries, the recoveries, all the drama of her time in Sunnydale and as the Slayer Prime ever since, all of it being transferred to Hermione as well.
Hermione staggered a bit at the influx of power and the immensity of the data flow she was encountering. Buffy's face turned a little red as she realized Hermione was getting literally EVERYTHING, ALL her post-being Chosen memories, personal, explicit, imagined, and otherwise. Oh, well. The penny Buffy peep show seemed to be working. She could feel the Slayer power coursing through Hermione's body as well as her own. It felt like it had when she'd seen it in her Slayer dreams now. Hermione would be the Slayer she was meant to be, and if Buffy had to suffer a little personal embarrassment for that to happen, then so be it.
As the flow of power and memories slowed, then finally ceased, Buffy waited patiently for Hermione to get her mental and physical equilibrium back. This was high on the weird o'meter even for her, it must pretty much be setting a new personal record for Hermione.
The others watched as a golden ball of energy seemed to surround Buffy and Hermione. Wesley remained standing with a hand on each girl's shoulder, awkward-looking as his hands disappeared into the glowing ball of energy. They waited for perhaps 3 very long minutes, then suddenly the glow dissipated. For a brief moment, the impression of two fierce, painted African warriors facing off over the ancient weapon appeared before their startled eyes.
The almost tangible image faded, though Harry for one would never forget that glimpse at the warrior spirit within the Slayer form. As it did, Buffy and Hermione simultaneously let go of the Scythe, which returned to its ethereal location, waiting to be called. With a huge smile, Buffy stepped back and said chirpily, "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you none other than, Hermione the Vampire Slayer!"
Xander, Willow, Giles, Dudley, and the Grangers all clapped, whistled and cheered. Harry just stared, unsure whether this was an occasion which he really wanted to applaud. Hermione bowed her head in confused acknowledgement, obviously still reeling and a bit disoriented with the power she'd just received. She gave a small gasp as some of the Sunnydale memories she'd gotten from Buffy came to the fore suddenly.
She looked up at Buffy, then at Willow and Xander, with tears in her eyes, remembering the many events she'd seen through the blonde Slayer's viewpoint. "Oh, Buffy! You, you, you, you know…and came back. And Willow and Xander, the two of you, you lost…you lost…" She couldn't speak as the emotions overcame her and the tears flowed freely.
"Ah, ah, ah!" Buffy wagged her finger. "Don't go there sweetie! The past is past, that's the way we're playing it. And even if it hasn't really happened yet in this reality, we're gonna leave it that way."
She stepped forward and enveloped the shaken girl with a large hug. Xander and Willow came forward and took their turns, as did the Grangers, then Giles and Wesley. Only Dudley and Harry hung back, Dudley out of sheer embarrassment, Harry because he still felt like an outsider in this tight, Scooby-centric ceremony.
Wesley spoke quietly to Buffy as the others took turns congratulating Hermione and patting her on the back. "I saw most of that, too, my dear. Perhaps not in the detail that Hermione did. But all the high points. Most remarkable."
"I know you did, Wes," said Buffy. "I wanted you to know how it really was, how it really is. I think you were born in the wrong era. You should've been there with us."
"I'm honored that you think so," said Wesley a bit pompously, but with a gleam in his eyes. "I must say, these last few years have been the highlight of an old man's life. I'm surprised, though, that you didn't let Giles see it."
"He'll get his chance," said Buffy cryptically. "He'll be with us when the merge happens. Plenty of action to go around right about that time."
"And I won't be, eh?" chuckled Wesley. At Buffy's stricken look, he hurried to add. "You're not telling me anything I don't know, dear girl. I can't possibly last another 9 years. I'm just refreshed that you're so willing to admit it."
"I'm gonna miss you, Wes, you know that" said Buffy. "And if I say anything else I'm gonna start crying too."
"Let's avoid that, then, shall we?" said Wesley. "I suggest we return to whatever's left of the party downstairs and start closing the shop up."
"One last dance first, with you," said Buffy with a smile. "For old time's sake, let's say."
"Always happy to accommodate a lady," replied Wesley with a smile. "By all means, let us dance to the End of Days."
It was almost dawn. The Grangers had gone home, thrilled at their daughter's new powers, though when Hermione really briefed them on exactly what it meant to be a Slayer, she suspected that thrill would be lessened to a great extent. Willow was preparing the portal to the temporal anomaly that would let them return to their own reality, circa 2008. Xander was in the corner talking a few final Quidditch details with Harry, with Dudley chiming in from an interested spectator's standpoint. Buffy had been going over a few things with Giles for which he would need advance warning.
Hermione still couldn't quite get her mind around the house-elves and their origins. She'd seen it all when she got Buffy's full Slayer memories. No wonder they'd finally revolted after the basilisk incident. It was amazing to her that it'd taken that long. But another point she had to get clear on was more pressing, and while Harry was distracted by Xander, she asked Buffy about it.
"Yep," said Buffy. "He's got to be absolutely kept clear of any Grathnars on his 15th birthday. And by that, I mean, completely isolated from any possible Grathnar contact, no matter how minor."
"But I thought you kicked them all off this world?" asked Hermione.
"We did," Buffy agreed. "But Grathnars are tricky. They might sneak back in for a play like that. And since they start as human, and they look exactly like a human, you're gonna be the only who can reliably recognize one. You'll feel it in the ol' Slaydar if any are around the two of you."
"Are you sure he's infected? He doesn't have any of the stigmata that sometimes shows up with demon possession, you know." replied Hermione.
"He's got it alright," said Buffy. "Take my hand and I'll show you." She concentrated briefly until she could sense the implanted demon seed, biding its time and awaiting activation to take over its human host. "Do you feel it now?"
"Oh, yes. Now I've got it," replied Hermione. "Well-spotted, Buffy. Have you always been able to sense things like that?"
"Look at the memories again," said Buffy cheerfully, "I stunk at it for the longest time. It made my Giles s-o-o-o mad. But, on the Hellmouth, there was a lot less need to spend time sensing demons and more of the 'see demon, slay demon' thing going on. I've been working on the senses ever since Sunnydale though, and when I was in…well…that other place you saw, that's when I really nailed down that part of the Slayer package."
"It's very helpful when you show me things like that, Buffy," said Hermione. "Are you sure you can't stay longer? I'd dearly love to spar with you now that I have a chance at keeping up with the Slayer powers."
"No can do, Hermy," replied Buffy. "If we had time to spare, then we could've let you wait on the whole power transfer. You've got the Slayer memories. Just dig in them and you'll find what you need."
"I wish I had your confidence in me," said Hermione in all seriousness. "There just seems so much left to do…and with you-know-what possibly happening to you-know-who, I may be gray-haired next time I see you."
"Nope! You are going to be one smoking hot Slayer chickie, full of confidence and on the bounce next time I see you. Plus, you'll be way ahead of all the newbie Slayers with all the experience you'll wrack up being the Chosen One here by yourself." said Buffy. "Though I guess I shouldn't tell you that. Don't want you to get overconfident."
"As if, Buffy," said Hermione rolling her eyes. "I would just prefer to avoid a major train wreck."
Buffy thought about this for a few seconds. "But you have all my post-merger memories of you too now! Just peek forward a bit in what you got from me whenever you need a confidence boost! No train-wreckage there, or at least nothing permanent, anyway."
Hermione just shook her head. Keeping her memories and Buffy's sorted out was going to be a challenge. From the Slayer standpoint, she could already tell it was going to be brilliant. She'd basically absorbed everything Buffy had learned on that front and, comparing it to where she was in her own training, she knew that it was a massive leg up to feel that real experience, even if it was just borrowed. She didn't think Slaying was going to be the problem, as much as managing all the loose ends of this world. Buffy's experience told her that all you could do was take it as it came, but that warred with Hermione's own desire to tie things up in a neat packaged solution. She would definitely have to work with Giles to sort those feelings out. Anyway, it appeared that Willow had her portal sorted out. That meant it was time to say good-bye. Even thinking about it was making her stomach hurt.
Buffy, Xander, and Willow stood in front of the glowing portal that was opening behind them.
"One last thing," Willow said. She pulled out her sword -- the one Harry'd been using so successfully. She handed it to him, and then handed over her Sineyan wand as well. "Harry," she said in a serious tone, "this sword was forged eons ago by true elves. It has never been touched by goblin or any other demonic magic. It is the sword of the Champion of the Wizarding world. And now it belongs to you."
Harry was stroking the handle of the sword. It'd felt right in his hand from the first. He guessed it was meant to be that way. "But what about the wand. I already have a wand and I like it pretty well."
"Well, Harry," said Buffy. "That wand was also meant for you. And it's not been limited by what the Grathnar demons who infiltrated the wand-making clans of this world have done to it. I think you'll find it quite a bit more powerful than your original wand. And it can never fail while you're holding it. That's a plus, I think."
Harry looked at the wand dubiously and shrugged. He'd have to give it a try, he supposed. He could stand being more powerful. But he wasn't going to give up his own wand unless it felt right to him. Maybe as a backup? Willow hid her smile at his confusion; she knew he'd be taking that wand a lot more seriously in the very near future.
Buffy continued talking. "Dudley, Xander is going to give you his sword, and his wand as well."
Xander turned the two weapons over to Dudley. "Dud," he said. "This sword has a history that is probably longer even than the one Harry has. It is meant for a true, non-magical human champion. Believe it or not, that's you. And the wand, well, let's just say you're never going to be a Wizard, but as long as you have that wand on you, you're going to be able to use defensive magic to protect you from wizards. It's the wand of a non-magical Hero. And that's gonna be you, pal."
Dudley glanced at Harry shortly. It looked like they were going to be closer than maybe Harry had ever planned. He was up for it. And this wand was like manna from heaven. He'd wondered how he could possibly play in the Wizard's game. Now he had some reason to think he could manage it. Hero, he thought, I quite like the sound of that. He nodded at Xander, who was still grinning sardonically at him. "Right, mate. Got it."
Finally, Buffy handed her wand to Hermione. "Hermione you don't need a weapon, 'cause you're tied to the Slayer Scythe. You can call it whenever you need to. It will come to any Slayer in need, but the primes, like you, me and Faith, well we kinda have priority."
"But what if we all need it at the same time?" asked Hermione. "Who does it go to?"
"I think since our timelines aren't yet in phase, it won't matter until we actually unearth it in Sunnydale," replied Willow. "And after the merger, it's gonna go to the place of most need, just like it does for us."
"Anyway," said Buffy, "you'll know when you really need it, and it'll know, and things will work out. It always has for us and it's been quite a while since Sunnydale. Now, here is the last Wand of Sineya."
"That was the Slayer's wand," added Willow. "Whenever a Slayer in this world was a witch, this wand was presented to her, and never used by anyone other than a Slayer. It has all the power of the other two wands and more, because it is also directly linked to the Slayer line, just like the Scythe is. I know you have a wand, but believe me, as the stupid stuff around the time of the merger starts to happen, you're gonna want to tap into the extra power this wand can give you."
"But what wand is Buffy going to use in the meantime," asked Hermione in confusion. "Or you or Xander, for that matter?"
"Don't worry about us," laughed Willow. "I never used a wand until I came here. And Buffy and Xander really weren't magical until they came on this trip. They can do without easily enough."
"Right," said Buffy. "Where we're going, wands are almost irrelevant. That's a huge part of the End of Days for your world. At that point, only a few of you guys, comparatively speaking, will have enough power to channel it through a wand the way you do."
Harry looked a bit stunned at this. Hermione was frowning. She'd heard hints about this before, but they'd never been quite so blunt about it before. She needed to study Buffy's memories and find the prophetic dreams to review the End of Days.
She had to ask though: "But Harry and I…we'll still be…I mean, we'll still…"
Xander reassured her. "You'll still have your magic. In fact, the two of you are going to be two of the most powerful mages in the world at that point. Not on Willow's scale, but still very, very powerful."
Hermione and Harry both looked more than a little relieved at that. Harry was busy running through his mind the possibilities: who would keep their power versus losing it? He could think of quite a few folks he'd rather were not magical, if it were up to him. But it wasn't, so no use thinking about it until this "merger" happened. He still didn't really understand the whole End of Days thing. Hermione would, of course, know more. That was her job, after all. Or would she be more like Buffy now? He needed to talk to Giles and Wes and try to understand how all this was going to work with Hermione going forward, that was obvious.
"So, gang," said Willow cheerfully. "That's pretty much it. I can see our portal is just about three people-sized by now. So, it's time for to go."
The Scoobies took turns hugging, or shaking hands, or both, with Hermione, Harry, Dudley, Giles and Wesley.
Hermione and Buffy were the last to separate. In the brief few hours since she'd given the power and memories to Hermione, the two of them had become less like friends and more like sisters, practically twins in fact, given the way they were moving around in almost a mirror fashion and the thoughts they were sharing. They both were tearing up when Buffy finally stepped back.
"Ok, enough," she said. "You've got a big job you need to focus on, and I'll be seeing you again in about two seconds anyway. So, the waterworks are turned off now, agreed?"
Hermione was wiping her eyes still, but nodded her head. A random thought popped in, however, a remnant from the Buffy's-eye view of the world she'd so recently gotten. "Yes, I agree," she said, "but Buffy, tell me, would you? Why do I see you as so much shorter in your memories than you are now?"
Willow and Xander burst out laughing. Buffy broke out in a big smile as well. "'Cause I've been juicing my height a bit every since I've been here," she said jubilantly. "I'm so gonna kick Dawnie's ass height-wise when I get back."
All of them laughed at that, though Harry and Dudley were a little unclear on just who Buffy was talking about. Then Buffy waved to Wes and Giles. "Your watch, I believe, gentls. Hermione, Harry, Dudley. The duty's yours now."
"It'll really be 9 years before we see you again?" asked Hermione.
"Well, about 8 3/4 now," said Buffy. "Don't worry. It'll fly by once the Slaying gets rolling."
She turned, waved again. Then followed Xander and Willow into the portal. They disappeared, and the portal snapped shut behind them, before disappearing from their view completely.
Harry turned to Hermione and Dudley. "Well, it's the three of us now I guess. But I refuse to call us anything like 'Scoobies.'"
"Well, Harry," said Dudley, "I've always liked the Three Musketeers."
"No muskets, no musketeers," said Hermione. The three started bickering over a possible name as they headed upstairs towards the guest rooms where they'd each spent the night prior to the party.
Wesley looked at Giles, who shrugged. This wasn't quite the way either of them had ever imagined it, but by damn, they had their Slayer. They had a mission. They had the resources of the full Watcher's Council to help rebuild the Slayer's network. And they had a World-ending scenario to manage. Things could not have been better. They both started for the Council's main book room. No time to start like the present. No time at all.
As the portal opened in the main conference room of the New Council offices in London, Buffy could hear Dawn shrieking loudly to the others: "They're here! They're back. Woohoo!"
She was almost bowled over as Dawnie grabbed her and executed the next best thing to a Slayer hug she could manage.
"Dawn," she said, "a little air please! Geez, it's only been about 3 months for you guys."
Dawn let her go only for her to be enveloped by Hermione, who was almost as excited as Dawn to see her. "Buffy!" she whispered, "now we can really catch up on everything that happened before the merger. I am SO happy that you're back."
Buffy grinned as Hermione stepped back. She traded hugs with Giles, Faith, and some of the senior Slayers from Sunnydale, watching in amusement as Xander and Willow also got reacquainted with Hermione.
She was standing quietly there when Dawn finally planted herself in front of her again. "Ok, Buffy, what's the sitch? Why are you wearing a dress that's obviously about 3 sizes too big, and cut for a way taller person? Not to mention those heels that could fit about two of your feet in each one?"
Everyone turned to look at Buffy after this remark, and Buffy was inspecting herself as well. She looked up at the ceiling and shook her standard, Buffy-sized fist at the unseen denizens she was sure were laughing at her from on high.
"Damn you, Whistler," she cried. "One thing, one little thing you and the PTB could've done me for. But n-o-o-o-o…"
She was almost spitting in rage. The roar of laughter than rang out around the room was not exactly a consolation. She sighed. There was always next time...
A/N: So, the story is done. I would like to say a thank you to everyone who reviewed, recommended, tracked, and/or read this piece. For those who tracked this story faithfully, and were anticipating a lot more chapters to come, I also need to apologize. I really had meant to write the full second and third year at about the same length I had the first year. I had always planned on extracting the Scoobies early from Hogwarts, but the length of the piece simply got out of control. My wordy writing style was no help, and the scope was simply too large to get on just by good editing. I had hoped about 100k words would do for the whole story, but this fic's first year alone is nearly the size of HP #1. A bigger problem was that I really lost the voice of the piece somewhere along the way, not to mention a lot of the humor. I couldn't see slogging along for another 20-25 chapters being both wordy and unfunny. So, this Epilogue ends things reasonably similar to how I would've ended it if I wrote the full stories of years 2 and 3, and gives many hints of what those years would've looked like. I hope it suffices for now. Thanks again, PJxxxx.