It was much too early. He was tired. His head was aching. But here he was. Here he had to wait. On a weekend of all days. Bloody Ministry. He tapped an annoyed finger on his desk. The harsh thumping in sync with the grandfather-clock that stood by the door. And after what seemed like hours the flames in his fireplace finally turned green.
"It's about bloody time," he muttered under his breath and slowly rose from his seat.
The man that came out of the fireplace had streaks of gray in his mane of tawny hair and bushy eyebrows; he had keen yellowish eyes behind a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles and a certain rangy, loping grace even though he walked with a slight limp. There was an immediate impression of shrewdness and toughness, and his yellowish eyes scanned every inch of the room as he strode toward the large, oak desk.
"Quentin," said the man in greeting
"Nice to see you again, Rufus," Quentin replied, extending out his hand. "I haven't had the opportunity to congratulate you on your recent promotion. I'm positive that with your experience you'll bring the position of Minister for Magic to greater heights."
Rufus Scrimgeour shook the man's hand roughly and quickly.
"Thank you. May I?" he asked in the same manner as his handshake, and motioned to the plush, burgundy chair behind him.
"Please," he replied and, stiffly, both men sat down.
"I appreciate you meeting with me so early on a Saturday. I know this must be an inconvenience for you, but my schedule has been rather busy, as you can imagine, with the troubled times as they are," said Rufus.
"There is no rest for the righteous," Quentin said, a smug little smile on his face.
"Yes," muttered Rufus in contempt. "Well, let's get right down to business. I've met with the Muggle Prime Minister recently and he has been informed of our situation with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He has also been notified that extra magical security has been added to his staff for his protection."
"And I've come to inform you of the same," he continued as if Quentin had never spoken. "We've placed a few Aurors within your staff and have also strengthened the protection charms around your buildings. As you've had such close ties to the Ministry before, I was certain you'd have no qualms about this. A man of your position must understand that certain measures must be taken in times of war."
Quentin Travers's frowned. Had no qualms, did he? Quentin didn't like it when the Ministry overstepped its boundaries. He never let Fudge step a toe out of that delicate line the Ministry and the Council shared, and he certainly wasn't going to let the new Minister for Magic do as he pleased. Not in his territory.
"Rufus, I thank you for the assistance, but the Council has its own means of protection. We don't need any additional security, I assure you. Our Shamans have already strengthened our magical barriers and we had placed a group of Ra'lai demons at every possible entry way the moment we were made aware of the return of He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named. You do not need to worry yourself about the Watcher's Council's security. We can defend ourselves," he said pointedly.
Rufus Scrimgeour never cared for Quentin Travers. He had first met the man the day after he had been promoted to Head of the Auror department. All Aurors were briefed, although minimally, on the existence of the Watcher's Council, and of the Vampire Slayer, when hired, in the instance that one day both worlds would need to cross paths, but the Aurors were never told of their specific identities. But part of that change would change for an Auror who was promoted. The Head Auror would meet with the Head of the Watcher's Council and be given a more detailed explanation of who the Council was, of their purpose to the world. They would be told of the Slayer, of her responsibility, her skills, but not under any circumstance would they reveal her identity - that was made very clear. It was a very informative meeting, one Rufus found immensely interesting, one he would've enjoyed more if Rufus Scrimgeour and Quentin Travers didn't come to dislike each other from the first handshake. It was a feeling for both of them, an instinct that neither man would bow down to the other, and instead of respecting that kind of authority, it had the opposite effect. Mistrust brewed as egos clashed, and from that day on Quentin Travers and Rufus Scrimgeour knew they would never be friends, even acquaintances, for as long as they had to deal with each other.
"Quentin, as powerful as your defenses may be, this a threat you have never faced before," he said in tone tinged with arrogance. "As I recall, the last time He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named came to power the Watcher's Council was left untouched because it had been virtually invisible, unknown, to the likes of You-Know-Who. You may not be so lucky this time around. It is not wise to underestimate that which you have not faced."
Quentin may be a lot of things, but he was never one to lose his composure. Even now, as he was on the verge of telling Rufus what he could do with his Aurors and protective charms, Quentin needed to make it clear that the Watcher's Council was not, under any circumstance, under Ministry control.
"As powerful as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named may be, and I am aware of how great a threat he is not only to the Wizarding world but to rest of the world as well, I feel I should remind you that the Council is not weak. We have been through many wars before," said Quentin resolutely. "We have faced demons, witches, wizards, enemies of all kinds that neared apocalyptic proportions, and we've managed to save the world time and again – without assistance from the Ministry. And we will continue to do so no matter what new threat may come our way."
When the Ministry and the Council became aware of each other's existence, an alliance between the two worlds had been formed, along with an understanding that each institution was to live by its own rules and that there was to be no interference in the other's matters unless asked. It had been a strict business arrangement, even after Quentin Travers and Cornelius Fudge found themselves to be good friends, over the years that line was still in place. Rufus Scrimgeour was overstepping that line, he knew it, and he didn't care. He had a job to do and that job was to stop Voldemort and save lives, invisible lines and alliances be damned.
"As I recall it wasn't the Council who's faced these wars it was the Slayer. It is she who has faced the demons and has saved the world time and again. And your current Slayer is in America, is she not?" said Rufus, and it unnerved Quentin.
When Fudge had stepped down as Minister he had promised Quentin, and his promise as a friend was all he really had now, that he would not speak a word of Buffy Summers being a Vampire Slayer to anyone. Quentin was positive he had kept that promise, but Rufus's question troubled him nonetheless. Currently, Quentin had two Slayers in America and he hoped Rufus wasn't referring to the one that was little more valuable. The one that could not only slay vampires but jinx them as well. The one Quentin still, in his morbid little mind, thought of as his secret weapon. But Rufus had said 'Slayer' not Slayers and that eased his nerves.
"Yes, she is, but you misunderstand. The Slayer is not our defender, she is merely an instrument. When one Slayer dies the next one is called. I'm sure you remember all the details from our first meeting. Where there is one there will be another, but through it all, the Ministry will always stand. The Council fights evil. The Slayer is the instrument by which we fight. The Council remains, the Slayers change. It's been that way from the beginning."
He was smug, arrogant, and stubborn and it was getting tiresome. It was like talking to a wall, but a wall had more sense. At least a wall knew what to keep out. It wasn't about Ministry/Council boundaries, or the amount of power the Council had to protect itself, it was Quentin's pride that was preventing him from accepting the assistance his organization needed. And pride got people killed. Fudge had it and that's why he wasn't Minister anymore.
"Quentin," Rufus said, his tone holding no trace of hostility, of arrogance. Rufus needed to make this man understand that the lives of his Watchers, of his employees, were in his hands, and if he left those hands open everything would fall into darkness. "I understand the limitations between the Ministry and the Council. And though you may have faced your share of wars, you have never faced anything like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. He is ruthless, and unlike your demons, he is also clever and intelligent, making him all that more dangerous. His knowledge of the Dark Arts exceeds measurement. But he is not only one man; he has an army of followers. Followers I am sure include more than only wizards and witches. Demons. Vampires. And his numbers are only growing. You know what is best for your Council."
What was best for his Council . . . what was best for his Council was that it remain a Watcher's Council. To stand on its own two feet. To continue being a force to be reckoned with. To continue with its own identity. That's what was best for his Council. If Voldemort succeeded in overtaking the Ministry, the Council would be the next line of defense. They needed to be strong to do what needed to be done. Their knowledge of magic was not like that of the wizards and witches. It was ancient, powerful, and so different from Voldemort's magic that it may be the only thing that could stop him . . . if it came to it; if everything else had failed and it were up to the Watcher's Council to end him. The Council must be preserved, guarded for its valuable information. Quentin Travers was that guardian. And he will protect it from anyone he deems a threat to it.
"Please remove your Aurors and your enchantments from our buildings. We will arrange another meeting and discuss our security options, but I will not have any Ministry interference until that time," he said swiftly with no room for discussion.
It was a disappointment. How could one man be so arrogant? So blind? So willing to risk the lives of innocent people for his pride?
Rufus knew that anything else he could say would be futile and he left the argument as it is. He didn't have time to waste on deaf ears.
"All right, Quentin. Have it your way." He rose from his seat and stared down at the man who defiantly remained in his chair. "I'll have my assistant contact yours."
The air still felt strained after Rufus left through the fireplace. The hot air that had been exchanged still clinging to the atmosphere.
Quentin leaned back in his chair and mentally reviewed their conversation. The moment Rufus was made Minister for Magic Quentin knew there would be problems.
From their first meeting Quentin knew they would never get along, never see eye to eye, and any respect between them was minimal, nearing nothing but basic courtesies. Neither man would ever admit if the other one is right (as Quentin proved minutes ago). Voldemort was a threat the Council had never faced before and even if the Council could do without the Ministry's protection they could not do without their knowledge. The Watcher's didn't know Voldemort as well as the Ministry did, and they would be almost blind to any attack. But no matter the threat Quentin will not let Rufus and his Aurors stomp around as if they owned the Watcher's Council. He will not let them act as if the Council was under their control. But he will also not risk the lives of his employees if he did not need to. Quentin Travers will open his doors to Ministry of Magic, he will accept their assistance, but he will not let an imbalance remain between both sides. If Rufus was going to have Aurors inside the Council walls than Quentin was going to have someone inside the Wizarding community. After all, it was only fair.
He saw Dumbledore's charred, shriveled hand that remained without explanation. He could still feel the suffocating pressure that surrounded him as he Apparated for the first time in his life. He remembered the face of Horace Slughorn - a very odd man to say the least. Slughorn who looked very much like a walrus. He was short, enormously fat, bald, old man with an immense belly. He had prominent, gooseberry colored eyes, and an enormous, silver, walrus-like moustache. He also had a very strange hobby of 'collecting' students; it was a peculiar penchant of self-serving favoritism hiding as mentoring promising pupils. He seemed immensely proud of himself for discovering all the top students he had a hand in grooming. Students who had grown up to excel in all parts of Wizarding life whether it be sports, business, or newspaper editing. All to his benefit of course, which included such fringe benefits as free Quidditch passes from the Holyhead Harpies whenever he pleased and even a gift from the proprietor of Honeydukes on every birthday. Slughorn also seemed too impressed that Muggle-born witches could be extremely powerful. And as someone who had a best friend and a mother that were Muggle-born, that amount of impressiveness didn't sit well with Harry. Even if Slughorn had called Lily Potter, nee Evans, one of his absolute favorites, the way Horace said it, tacking it on as 'but' after commenting on his surprise that the impressively talented Lily was a Muggle-born witch, well, irk wasn't really a strong enough word. Harry liked him even less when Dumbledore had warned him, after they left Slughorn, the recently procured teacher of Hogwarts, that, "He will undoubtedly try to collect you, Harry. You would be the jewel of his collection; 'the Boy Who Lived' . . . or, as they call you these days, 'the Chosen One.'"
He didn't want to be collected by anyone and the thought of it still tightened Harry's nerves as he lay his head on the bed that had previously belonged to either Fred or George.
After Dumbledore and Harry finished their stop in the charming village of Budleigh Babberton, to persuade, and have Harry succeed, in bringing Horace Slughorn back to the teaching staff of Hogwarts, the pair finally made it to the Burrow. It was there, and in the privacy of a broom shed, that Dumbledore had informed Harry that he would be taking private lessons with him the upcoming year. Much to the relief of Harry as he would never have to be left alone in a room with Snape again, and there would no longer be an excuse to fiddle with his mind. Dumbledore also advised Harry on something else, on how it would be best if he shared the contents of his prophecy with Ron and Hermione to alleviate the weight on his shoulders. It was advice someone else had told him weeks ago, someone small, blonde, and could punch a hole in you if she wanted to . . . maybe he should start listening to her more often.
After their conversation, the pair entered the Weasley home, bumping into a sad, ill looking Tonks who was almost unrecognizable with all her bubblegum-pink hair replaced by a much somber mousy-brown, as she was leaving. Dumbledore stayed not too long after depositing Harry, as he had a meeting with Rufus Scrimgeour, and Mrs. Weasley made quick work of feeding Harry after the Headmaster was gone. Mrs. Weasley was staying up late to wait for Mr. Weasley, who had been promoted to head of the Office for the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects, and was being kept very busy due to the fear ramping through the streets and seedy wizards who were taking advantage of it by promising 'protective potions and jinxes' and the like that offered no more protection than a shoe, and nearing one a.m. he finally arrived. Harry conversed with the heads of the Weasley household, but the moment he yawned, Mrs. Weasley ordered him right up to bed. To Fred and George's old room that was still filled with boxes, which was where he now lay. The events of the day flashing quickly in his mind as he drifted off to sleep. And in what felt like seconds after he closed his eyes, Harry was awakened by what sounded like cannon fire as the door burst open. Bolting upright, Harry heard the rasp of the curtains being pulled back. The dazzling sunlight seemed to poke him hard in both eyes. Shielding them with one hand, he groped hopelessly for his glasses with the other.
"Wuzzgoinon?" he mumbled.
"We didn't know you were here already!" said a loud and excited voice, and he received a sharp blow to the top of the head.
"Ron, don't hit him!" said a girl's voice reproachfully.
Harry's hand found his glasses and he shoved them on, though the light was so bright he could hardly see anyway. A long, looming shadow quivered in front of him for a moment; he blinked and Ron Weasley came into focus, grinning down at him.
"Never been better," said Harry, rubbing the top of his head and slumping back onto his pillows. "You?"
"Not bad," said Ron, pulling over a cardboard box and sitting on it. "When did you get here? Mum's only just told us."
"About one o'clock this morning."
"Were the Muggles all right? Did they treat you okay?"
"Same as usual," said Harry, as Hermione perched herself on the edge of his bed, "they didn't talk to me much, but I like it better that way. How're you, Hermione?"
"Oh, I'm fine," said Hermione, who was scrutinizing Harry as though he was sickening for something, but Harry only had a fleeting look of her expression because his attention soon turned to Ron, who was leaning toward Hermione, about to touch her face, and Hermione retracted back when she saw him coming.
"You've a bit of . . . " he said, and gestured toward the stray lace of toothpaste that Hermione had on her chin.
A slight blush came to Hermione's cheeks as she quickly wiped the toothpaste away, and Harry wasn't sure if the blush was due to embarrassment or something else entirely.
The conversation carried on and despite the horrible things going on at the moment there seemed to be one bright, or dim, depending who's relaying the news, spot in the horizon.
William Arthur 'Bill' Weasley and Fleur Isabelle Delacour were engaged to be married. It should have been a magnificently joyous time, and if it weren't for the fact that Mrs. Weasley, Ginny and Hermione were on the verge of killing the girl, it would have been.
Bill had the brilliant idea of having Fleur stay with his family during the summer so they could all get better acquainted, so they could grow to love her as much as he did, he didn't count on the fact that the other women in the house were so ready to jump out a window every time they saw her. Fleur, or, Phlegm, as Ginny so adoringly called her, no matter how many times Mrs. Weasley asked her not to, may have meant well in the things she said and did, but it was hard to get past the fact that every time Fleur opened her mouth nothing but superciliousness seemed to spew out. Ron, and the other men, of course, had no qualms about the beautiful, blue-eyed, silvery-long-haired girl who just happened to be quarter-veela, after all she was almost-family, and you had to be nice to almost-family. Harry was privy to the first hand experience of the living situation when Fleur had gone up to deliver Harry's breakfast, with an annoyed Mrs. Weasley trailing behind, and Ginny, already present, as she had come to say her hello to the new occupant, and the women of the house were nearly sizzling at Fleur's mere presence and Ron was too awestruck to notice his blatant staring of his future sister-in-law. And all Harry could think was, Good luck, Bill.
After Fleur, Mrs. Weasley and Ginny left the room the conversation turned back to Harry, and it had finally come to that moment when Harry had taken Dumbledore's advice and told Ron and Hermione everything. Everything about his private lessons with Dumbledore and everything about the prophecy Buffy had smashed a month ago. Harry confirmed all their suspicions, everything the Daily Prophet had said how in the end Harry was the only one who could defeat Voldemort, how he was the Chosen One, because neither could live while the other survived.
It was a heavy load of information, exciting as it was frightening, but all of it flew out the window once Harry mentioned that he had been told by Dumbledore that the OWL results would be arriving today and Hermione rushed down the stairs forgetting all about prophecies and Chosen Ones.
Harry and Ron followed Hermione out and the trio waited anxiously in the kitchen for their results, and when three handsome tawny owls finally arrived it was a miracle that Harry, Ron and Hermione were able to open their envelopes without ripping them apart.
Harry fumbled with his envelope before he finally got it open, and taking a deep breath, he looked at the results from long hours of studying and five years of schooling:
Ordinary Wizarding Level Results
Exceeds Expectations (E)
Harry James Potter has achieved:
Care of Magical Creatures: E
Defense Against the Dark Arts: O
History of Magic: D
Ron's results were almost identical to Harry's except there wasn't a single 'Outstanding', but that did not temper Mrs. Weasley joy.
"Well done!" she said proudly, ruffling Ron's hair. "Seven OWLs, that's more than Fred and George got together!"
"Hermione?" said Ginny tentatively, for Hermione still hadn't turned around. "How did you do?"
"I — not bad," said Hermione in a small voice.
"Oh, come off it," said Ron, striding over to her and whipping her results out of her hand. "Yep . . . ten 'Outstandings' and one 'Exceeds Expectations' at Defense Against the Dark Arts." He looked down at her, half-amused, half-exasperated. "You're actually disappointed, aren't you?"
Hermione shook her head, but Harry laughed.
"Well, we're N.E.W.T. students now!" grinned Ron. "Mum, are there any more sausages?"
Harry looked back down at his results. They were as good as he could have hoped for. He felt just one tiny twinge of regret . . . This was the end of his ambition to become an Auror. He had not secured the required Potions grade. He had known all along that he wouldn't, but he still felt a sinking in his stomach as he looked again at that small black E.
To try and take Hermione's mind of the OWL results, and to help distract Ginny before she strangled Phle-Fleur, the quartet gathered outside in the summer sun. They sat beneath the shade of a tree but it wasn't long before OWLs and certain names found themselves into the conversation.
"I wonder what Neville got on his OWLs," said Ginny as she gathered and stripped apart blades of grass. "Or what Buffy's gonna get on hers after she takes her makeup exams."
"She's supposed to take them next week isn't she?" asked Ron. "Isn't that what she said when we saw her?"
"Saw her?" asked Harry.
It was as if cold water had been poured over them; as if they'd been caught letting out a secret that wasn't supposed to be let out. All three backs stiffened, their eyes went wide and they looked at each other as if trying to form some sort of escape plan. It took a minute for Hermione, Ron and Ginny to relax, but even then, Ron and Hermione shifted uncomfortably.
"Yeah," said Ron and cleared his throat. "Yeah, we, er, we . . . i-it wasn't anything–"
"We went to Sunnydale two weeks ago," Ginny interrupted casually. What was the point of beating around the bush now that the cat was out of the bag?
"All of you?"
"Not all, just me, mum, dad, Ron, and Hermione and her parents," she said, continuing her dismemberment of the grass. "It was hard for dad to take time off work as he just got promoted, but thankfully, it all worked out. But Bill wasn't as lucky. Gringotts wouldn't budge, and Phlegm couldn't go because she did not vant to leave 'er Bill all alone," she said in her best Fleur impression that caused everyone to smile. "Fred and George couldn't go either because of their booming business, but they'll most likely drop in on Buffy. In the middle of slaying no doubt."
Pangs of alienation began to hit Harry like spikes, and he hoped his voice sounded calm as he asked, "How was it?"
"Hot." Was the first thing that came to Ron's mind. "But, yea, it was pretty cool."
"It's a rather interesting little town," Hermione chimed in.
"If you overlook the large demon population that creeps out at night and always keeps trying to kill people," said Ginny.
Harry had only been to Sunnydale once, a little to busy with not dying to go sightseeing, but he could imagine the town in his head. He could see all of them walking around (without him), having fun (without him), and even fighting off a few vampires (without him), and thinking of that last part begged the question: "Did you go slaying?"
Ginny looked behind her toward the house. Even if Mrs. Weasley was way out of earshot one can never be too careful.
"Buffy and Faith sneaked us out three times," she said with a sly grin.
"Under heavy guard by Buffy and her friends," said Ron petulantly like a child who had been told he was too young to play with the big kids.
"Well that was because you almost keeled over when you saw your very first, bonafide demon," Ginny teased.
"I did not almost keel over!" he responded indignantly. "Besides I wasn't the one who stood there like a statue when it came rushing at me."
"I didn't stand there like a statue!"
"Oh, really? So Faith just happened to knock you to the ground, after she told to move three times, but you didn't budge an inch, for the fun of it?"
Ginny flipped her hair, picked up a dandelion, and said in a superior tone, "I didn't hear her."
No, of course she didn't. It's very hard to hear someone when they're yelling at you. Completely impossible.
Harry could picture it all, and aside from jealousy, it felt strange hearing Ron talk about Buffy and her friends so casually. Hear how Ron had spent an entire week with them, talking, laughing, hunting demons and vampires by Buffy's side, when almost a year ago he could barely say Buffy's name without wanting to punch a wall, barely look her in the eye without wanting to strangle her. It took him months to finally get over his resentment, and hearing him now, talking about Buffy without wanting to gag, was like a bloody a miracle.
"How long did you stay for?" Harry asked. The bitterness of his jealousy slightly mollified at the fact that Ron and Buffy had, in fact, buried the hatchet. If all it took was fighting off a few demons, he would've thrown them in the Forbidden Forest ages ago.
"Only a week. Mum didn't want to stay very long," Ginny replied.
"My parents didn't want to stay long either. They felt a week was sufficient," said Hermione.
"Mum actually wanted to leave the day after we got there, but, eventually, she came around," said Ron.
"Despite the blistering heat, and the demons, she actually liked Sunnydale," he replied cheerfully. "She accidently did magic in front of some Muggles the second day we were there and when no one batted an eye, and no Aurors came to take her away, she relaxed."
A small, sad smile appeared on Ginny's lips. "I think it was the first time she relaxed in weeks."
It was the first time they were all relaxed in weeks. Despite the high mortality rate in Sunnydale, there was no one out there targeting them specifically. The danger was high, but discreet, in a way that didn't have them looking over their shoulder every five seconds. Demons only came out at night and nothing unexpected came their way. It felt nice. And it was a shame Harry wasn't there to enjoy it.
"How'd Sirius look?" Harry asked, not trying to dwell on that serene look on their faces as they reminisced about a time he didn't experience.
"Happy. Tanned," said Ginny.
"And healthy. He's put on a bit of weight," said Hermione.
"Buffy called it happy weight," added Ginny. "Though I'm sure he wasn't happy when Buffy poked him in the stomach as she said it."
Good. Better than good, it was great. "And how's Buffy?"
He had exchanged letters with Buffy, as promised, but Harry would still like to know how she was doing. Have some witnesses to prove she wasn't being eaten up by the Mouth of Hell . . . and preferably very far away from ex-boyfriends who happened to be vampires, 'cause, you know, they're dangerous, those vampires.
All three made a sound that was half exhaustion and disbelief at his question.
"Filled with more energy than I ever knew existed in a person," said Hermione. "She managed to slay every night and still have the energy to take us out every afternoon."
"The Scoobies were great on the energy, too. They were with Buffy and Faith on all their patrols and always chipper the next day," said Ginny.
"Except for Faith," Ron said.
"Yeah, she's not really a day person."
"Scoobies?" asked Harry, and they told him what they had been told about the origin of the term. Of a cartoon show about a group of meddling kids and a semi-talking dog with a slight addiction to Scooby snacks. "Sounds like everyone had a good time."
He didn't want them to see how upset, how disappointed, he was that he hadn't gone; that he wasn't there to enjoy their fun and adventure of discovering a new place with so many secrets. Harry wanted them to feel free of any obligation, but he couldn't help it, the second they explained what Scoobies meant, that they were let in on an in-joke with Buffy (who was his friend first by the way), it felt like all the pretense had deflated from his body. And it didn't go unnoticed.
"Harry," Hermione said sympathetically. "Everyone wanted you to come. Sirius had repeatedly asked Dumbledore about it, but he said it wouldn't be safe for you."
"We weren't sure about telling you, because . . . " Ron tried to explain.
"No," Harry said. "No, I'm glad you did. That you got to see Sirius and made sure he's all right. Maybe I'll get a chance to see it myself soon." It was a hope he had been holding onto since leaving Sunnydale, and had grown even more since Sirius had told him about how much he loved it there. It was a hope that burned brighter since hearing about his friends' vacation and Harry needed to move the conversation along before he yelled about of how unfair the whole situation was. He was trying to control his temper, because apparently he had a problem with that. "Where'd you stay?"
"Buffy's old house. Not very big but it did fit all of us comfortably," answered Ginny.
The mood changed. Where it was light hearted before, Ron, Ginny and Hermione were now careful to not seem too excited about their trip.
"Mrs. Summers put it on the market when they left Sunnydale, but when she returned, and saw that it was still available, she bought it back. They're going to keep it as a summer home," Hermione said.
"Lucky it hadn't sold," Ginny tacked on.
"Nobody wanted to buy a house in a town well known for mysterious deaths and disappearances. Imagine that?" said Ron.
Ron's joke lifted things a bit, but not enough to disparage a lull in the conversation. A lull Harry felt responsible for.
"How did your parents enjoy Sunnydale, Hermione?" he asked.
"Oh, they were wary of it at first, after I informed them about Sunnydale's history, but they were also curious to see how magic and Muggles interacted with one other," she answered in a reserved tone. "Mr. Giles was especially helpful once we arrived. He made them feel more comfortable. He is a Muggle after all. As a matter of fact they had quite a bit in common. They got along very well."
"Especially when they went on about . . . who was it, Hermione? The name of that group?" asked Ginny.
Ginny gave a short laugh. "I thought it was weird how excited they were talking about cream, until Hermione explained that they were actually talking about a Muggle band."
"They went on for hours about music. Seemed completely obsessed," said Ron.
And Ginny burst at that one.
"What?" asked Ron.
"They were obsessed?" she said amidst her laughs. "What about you and that television?"
"And McDonald's," added Hermione, her wide grin nearly spilling in giggles. "Xander made the mistake of introducing Ron to their restaurants."
"Made us eat there at least once a day the entire time we were there."
"Sometimes he'd take it to go and eat it as he sat in front of the television watching that show."
"That show!" said Ginny, remembering exactly why her brother was particularly obsessed with television. "It was on re . . . re . . . "
"Reruns," Hermione said.
"Reruns, yes, thank you. It was on reruns, two hours a day, for a week, and after Ron got roped into watching that first episode he was infatuated."
The girls laughed, and though Ron was irritated by their mocking, there was a curious expression on his face as he looked at Harry.
"You watch television don't ya?"
"Sometimes," he answered warily.
"Ever seen a program called Beverly Hills 90210?" he asked and the girls laughed even more.
"Don't think that I have."
"Oh, you should," he said excitedly, eager to talk about it. "It's amazing what they go through. I mean . . . you think we have problems."
And Ron went on and explained everything he knew about Beverly Hills 90210 as Harry humored him, and the girls sputtered out laughter until it was time for lunch.
Note: Between getting a cold, having middle of the night road construction outside my house, constant barking/yapping from my neighbor's dogs at all hours of the night, my sleep has been nearing nonexistence, which does not bode well for my focus the next day. Not to mention getting swallowed up by the Hunger Games trilogy, which, yes, I'm completely obsessed with, and have been picturing Buffy entering the arena and kicking ass, but no! Wizards must come first, and they do, believe me. I've literally got the entire series planned out inside my head, even spilling over to the last seasons of Buffy with Harry and gang . . . if I decide to write that much, which is a lot, so I might just end at book seven before I overstay my welcome :)