Connor MacLeod looked at the group of people now seated in his favorite sanctuary in New York over his art shop. He was curious if they would help him, for the most part they were Duncan’s friends. Sure he knew of them, and what they were capable of, he had even met a few of them before, but of all of the Immortals here, he knew Duncan and Methos the best. Now he was going to be asking a favor from this group. By the old ways of his and Duncan’s Clan, he could ask the favor, but he knew that people such as these didn’t get as impressed by those sorts of things any more. No, he would just have to plead his case, and see if any of them would help.
“So, what was it that you wanted us all here for, Connor?”
“Yeah, we know something is up when you beg us all to come down here like you did,” Amanda said. “I hope it’s not another one of those crazy adventures you MacLeods are getting so famous for. Especially since I was on the verge of stealing this great piece of jewelry. I thought you were the one that liked to stay below the radar.”
Joe snorted at this. “You know as well as the rest of us do, lass, that the Highlanders are nothing more than fancy trouble magnets. Course, I could say that about the rest of you, as well.” He gave an amused glance at Amanda. “The others manage to get by on the money that they make, and be happy, but not you. You have to go and steal rare and precious things all the time.”
She smirked at the teasing she was receiving. “But darling, there’s just no fun in that kind of lifestyle. Besides, it also ensures that a lot of my Watchers are young enough to keep up with all the activities.” The room was filled with light laughter as the two insulted and talked to each other.
Connor laughed along with the others. “I guess that would be my cue, now that you’ve all gotten over whatever edginess, you may be feeling about this meeting.” He put down a stack of folders that had the information he had been mailed. Methos had gone through and pulled out all the irrelevant information, so they could understand quickly just what it was that they were dealing with. Some of the folders had different information, but that was because they were labeled for certain people. Like Joe’s had everything about the Watchers, or Rachel’s had mentions of what various artifacts had done. “What you are looking at is something that a friend of mine sent me. This friend of mine needs help.”
“Help with what?” Richie asked. “The way you wanted us all down here, we thought that the world might be ending.”
“Unfortunately, that is exactly what is going to happen, unless we help Connor’s friend,” Methos said. The words of the oldest person there stopped whatever smart mouthed comments any of the others might have had if Connor had said it.
“End of the world?” Duncan looked at his Clansman, wondering what the elder MacLeod had gotten himself, and what was starting to sound like the rest of them, into this time.
“Aye. It seems that the daughter of an old art student of mine is a super hero, and she’s gone and made certain beings extremely upset.”
“Sounds like an interesting person,” Rachel commented.
“Sounds more like one of the MacLeods had a hand in raising her, if you were to ask me,” Methos muttered, glaring at the two men who managed to attract more trouble than any Immortal had a right to. And when some person or other wasn’t chasing them, they were trying to help some other idiot that had gotten in over their heads. He really couldn’t complain too much about that last bit though, since those same heroics had occasionally saved his own head. Of course, he might have remained under the radar of most of those people, if it wasn’t for their clan. They were both a blessing and a curse.
“Take a moment and read what that is, then give me your decision,” Connor said as he went and looked out the window. Connor and Methos, having already made their choices, waited and wondered what the others would choose. Rachel seemed to find the idea of a female warrior, capable of the things that she was, particularly satisfying. The two Immortals by the window were having a whispered conversation about any other allies they might be able to pick up.
“What about this Angel character?”
“If he’s not still mad about the last Immortal that he ran across. If that’s the case, we’ll have to deal with him and a very annoyed protégé.”
“Why, what happened?”
“Another Immortal of my acquaintance, tied the two of them up, and spent the entire night with their enchanting traveling companions.”
“So, they may not have any love for Immortals?”
“Not particularly. The only person that could probably help us is Gabriel.”
“The person that introduced me to the world of Vampires. You may know him better by his storybook name.”
“Storybook name?” Connor asked, surprised that an Immortal would have a name described like that.
“Yes,” Methos nodded. “I’ve tried calling Van Helsing, but he never answers his phone anymore.”
“Oh, Van Helsing Of course, how could I forget about him? Are you going to be inviting Blade along as well?”
“You need to get out more old man,” Duncan said, nodding to Connor as he joined them by the window.
“Maybe,” Methos shrugged. It was not the first time that the Immortal was unaware of some new trend, and it probably wouldn’t be the last.
“You would know if you didn’t insist on reading all of those thousand page books,” Richie said, picking up a wooden stake from a nearby table. He twirled the weapon experimentally in his hand.
“Last I checked, I was better than Joe on a computer,” Methos replied, raising his eyebrow at the man who was one of the youngest Immortals.
“Enough of this teasing stuff,” Joe said as he stomped over, file in hand. “I have some questions. Like, what do we know about these other Watchers? Are they like the ones that I came from? Or are they an entirely different group? I didn’t think a name that dull, would be that popular.”
“We’re not sure right now,” Methos admitted. “I’ve been using my connections with our particular Watchers to try and figure out if there is anything that connects the two. So far, I haven’t found a thing. So either our Watchers are oblivious, or they’ve hidden the information down so deep that only the top people know about any kind of connection between the two.”
“That lack of information is disturbing, you know.”
Connor turned to the others, who were still looking through their files. “I have some things that I need to take care of downstairs. Tell me when you have reached your decision.”
The Immortal headed downstairs to see if he had any alcohol. Knowing the group, once they decided, there would probably be toasts to the fight. Once they got that part out of the way, they would want to get going. But he wanted to know as much as possible right now and was ordering various ancient texts that he had found, written in Sumerian and Babylonian, about various dark beings. Hopefully, one of them would have something that could help them with this First being they would have to fight. He nearly made it to the door when a man with blood running from his throat was thrown through it.
“Trouble!” Connor called up the stairway before three men in black robes attacked him. He was barely staying ahead of the men, each of who held a wicked looking dagger as long as his forearm. He slapped one blade out of the way, and ducked another. The attacks were erratic, but they were also slowing him down from joining the others. He saw more of the figures, over the shoulders of his opponents, beginning to come up the stairs. The numbers surprised him, and the momentary lapse allowed one of the robed men to bring his dagger down on his shoulder. Hissing in pain, Connor grabbed the figure that had managed to get behind him and swung him around so the other two daggers could hit him. While they were all momentarily distracted, he kicked the one in front of him and ran back upstairs. He gripped his shoulder, where the dagger had bit into him, as he ran back into his home. He pushed the heavy doors shut before any of his robed attackers could enter behind him. He then rushed into the room where the others were all talking, shutting these doors as well.
He glared at Amanda slightly as he threw his coat off to look at the wound. It would heal, but it would need time considering how deep it was. “So, Amanda, what did you steal from a cult that would bring them all down on our heads like this?”
“Nothing!” the other Immortal protested as the door behind Connor shuddered from the impact of several bodies hitting it.
“That door won’t hold very long,” Joe observed.
“It wasn’t meant to hold off an army,” Connor snapped. “It was made to hold one or two people off long enough for me to get to a weapon.” He nodded to some of the weapons that were displayed around the room. Richie and Duncan were pushing a couch in front of the door while they tried to figure out what was going on.
Methos looked at Connor after a particularly heavy blow. “I think this is supposed to be a rather heavy-handed warning about getting involved in that war. You do remember reading about the Bringers, don’t you?”
“Aye,” Conner answered. “Though I was more interested in dodging all the weapons than in noticing if their eyes were there or not. The hoods make it kind of hard to tell as well”
“Well, since I don’t think any of us particularly wants to live in a hell world, let’s not let them think that they can just kill us.” The watcher pulled out his gun and began checking the number of bullets it had, and the extras that he carried as well.
“It would be so much easier if you would though,” a voice complained as a man stepped out of the shadows.
“Ramirez?” Conner questioned in surprise.
“Not quite,” Methos said, his eyes narrowing. “It’s the First.”
“Right, on the first try,” Ramirez said, clapping his hands sarcastically. “While some of you might have been easy to mess with, there are also those in your group that would have been expecting that kind of trick. Then there are those who are a little bit used to my methods. Right, Death?”
Methos didn’t respond to the taunt as he helped the others brace the door with more furniture. “Can we help you? Or are you here just to gloat?” He asked.
“Well, you could all die, as in really die. But somehow, I doubt that you’d be willing to do that. Of course, one never knows when dealing with you, Death. The others were always so much easier to predict, but you were the wild card of the group.”
“The others enjoyed the work we did, more than I,” Methos replied. “Although I must admit, I never did think that I would ever have the problem of dealing with you again.”
Ramirez laughed coldly. The laugh was the last confirmation that Connor needed to know that this was not his former mentor, but some dark being. “Leave him alone!” He snarled, drawing his katana. Moving quickly, he brought the blade down in a blow that sliced it open from shoulder to hip. If only it had been solid.
“Don’t waste your strength, Connor. It’s only an image of the dead, remember.”
“Sorry,” Conner replied as he glared at the smirking figure. He remembered the last time he had seen the person that this thing was impersonating. A man that died protecting his first love.
“Yes, Highlander. I can’t be touched,” the figure mocked. Connor shot it a final glare before turning back to the door. “What a temper he has,” the First said appreciatively. “Toned with a certain sadness that seems to just swallow him. Certain people have done well in making his long life, hard.”
“Leave him be,” Methos said. “We’ll deal with your foot soldiers, as well. Then, know that by attacking us here, you have ensured that we will all be going to help the Slayer.”
“Then if you survive the trip, I guess I’ll be seeing you there, Death. Who knows, maybe it will be an old home week for you.”
“It’s Methos, or Adam, now,” the man said, knowing that it was pointless to argue, but that he might as well try before the figure faded from view.
Methos turned to hear one of the Highlanders swearing in Gaelic, Latin, Italian, and French. “Anybody that has died then, is fair game to that thing?” Methos just nodded as images of people passed through his thoughts. “The door won’t hold much longer,” he continued as he got himself under control.
“You’re a master of understatement,” Joe growled as he finished checking his guns. The others were fingering their swords and knives that they kept on them at all times.
“The door will break open pretty soon, Connor,” Methos said, trying to calm the Highlander some more. “I suggest that while Joe shoots them, we rush them and try to get them to spread out.” The others nodded in agreement.
The door burst open after three more hard blows. Richie and Duncan, who had taken positions to the side, easily sliced through the first two that fell through the broken door. Joe fired his gun into the crowd, over the heads of the two fallen Bringers. He watched as the first bullet tore into the knee of one and his second bullet went straight through an eye, or what would be an eye on a regular person. He stopped watching the damage he was causing after that, and just emptied his gun into the crowd. He dodged a thrown dagger before hiding behind a cabinet to reload his gun.
Rachel and Methos had been the first through the doors. Methos, with his large Claymore, was able to slice through the limbs of three different opponents, while Rachel’s smaller sword slashed across the throat of another. Duncan and Connor went through next, rolling and coming up with their Katana blades shining. Their blades caught attacks that would have ended up in their arms, before the wielders were dealt with.
Richie looked longingly at the doorway that led to the fight, but stayed where he was. He knew that if the others became hurt, it would be up to him to pull them back in here until they healed. Besides there were still more and more people, if you could call them that, coming in through the door from the lower levels. At the moment, there were four per person, which meant that the others were all fighting about five of them at once. Joe stood next to him now that his gun was reloaded.
“We have any idea how many of them there are?” The Immortal shook his head as Joe lined up with one that was about to stab Duncan in the back. With amazing accuracy, he brought him down with one shot. “They bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘whites of their eyes’,” the Watcher commented as the Bringer fell.
Richie nodded; he narrowed his eyes as he watched Connor make his way into the kitchen area. “Watch both of the Highlanders, Joe,” he said. The old man turned and watched as Connor stabbed one through the stomach, then surprisingly left his sword in the person. The man then began throwing kitchen blades at the others who had followed after them.
“Doesn’t look like I need to,” he commented dryly, shooting one that was trying to trip Rachel. She was busy punching another across the face.
“Well, that looks to be about all of them,” Richie said as the last Bringer came through the door.
“Good, because they’re getting tired, and I’m out of bullets,” the Watcher said as his last one caught another of Duncan’s opponents, leaving the Immortal with just four now, since the groups had reinforced each other where needed. Grinning, the old man picked up a heavy pole from the now destroyed table that had blocked the door. “What are you waiting for, boy?” the grizzled man growled as he headed into the fight.
Smiling, Richie headed for Rachel, figuring that of all the fighters, she would be the least angry for his help ‘ Methos and the MacLeods were born in warrior cultures, so maybe she will be slightly more forgiving of me,’ he thought as he sliced his sword into one, only to feel a knife sink into his back. ‘Figures,’ he thought. ‘I go to help the pretty lady, and she ends up saving me.’ He felt the sword that entered the Bringer’s heart go through his sword arm and he fell to the ground when she pulled it out. He watched Joe mercilessly pounding on one of the robed figures, and Connor walk out covered in blood, both his and that of the Bringers. Methos was leaning heavily on his sword, but they had managed to win, mostly due to the fact that these characters were not all that well trained. None of them were under any illusions; they had all seen war before, and they had just joined a new one as far as they were concerned.
“You have a week to get your gear together, and then everyone that’s going will be driving to California,” Connor said a couple of hours later, after they had finished bandaging their wounds. The others nodded in agreement. They were not people to fool around with, and they would fight this thing now that it was going after them. Besides, none of them particularly relished the idea of fighting with every being that they met in the city.
War had been declared on them, and that was something this First was going to regret ever doing.
Hermione sighed as she looked at the books that were scattered around her. There were books here that were supposed to be copies of things that predated Hogwarts itself. Yet she still couldn’t find anything on these Slayer people. It was seeming more and more likely, that somehow this Slayer, despite being a magical being, stayed beneath the Ministry’s radar. It was as if someone was actively erasing records of these people! She had tried a different approach, and had found that even the names of most of the regular people were not registered as squibs. So that destroyed that idea. She was just glad that she had been allowed to check out some of the information on well-known vampires. She had found out about the vampire order that her cousin talked about, though the book seemed to have some things missing and the letter had told her more about the four vampires. Though, there had been a few trivia facts in the book that she had found interesting. The Order had been made up primarily of four vampires. The eldest was Darla, who was somewhere around five hundred years old , and a descendent of the Master himself. Her childe was Angelus; he was around two hundred years old with a reputation better than Voldemort’s. His childe was Drusilla, who was around a hundred and sixty years old. According to the book, she had been a squib with the ability to see the future, but she was also insane. The last member of the quartet was Spike, or William the Bloody, said to be around a hundred and fifty years old and nearly as powerful as his grandsires. He was supposed to have killed two demon hunters; it was the closest thing she got to any kind of information on the Slayer.
How did they do it? Were they using Obliviators to keep the information hidden? Were the records she needed hidden in the department of Mysteries?
It had been a while since she had gotten the letters, and when Harry wasn’t busy with his own workload, practices, or things with Dumbledore he was trying to help her. Though he was sure that Madam Pince was watching him all the time, because of that bloody book that he had gotten from Slughorn. Despite his feeling of need for the book, she was sure that Harry could do the work himself if he would just calm down and do the things that a regular schoolbook said. But that wasn’t Harry’s way, was it? No, he had to prove that he was worth the trouble that everyone thought he was. Personally, though, she was growing worried about him. She didn’t think that he had mourned yet, and that he was just trying to hide from his grief, while Remus was embracing his grief whole-heartedly, making him unable to break through the tough exterior that Harry was projecting. She sighed, he wasn’t even interested in the help that she had given him, even when she had told him that the book had belonged to that Prince girl. He still wasn’t doing anything about it. It frustrated her to no end that Harry was doing that, and Ron was too busy either nearly getting killed, or making out with Lavender of all people, to help.
“Penny for your thoughts, little lady?” a familiar voice asked.
Looking up, Hermione swallowed as she looked at Sirius. He was casually sitting in a chair, grinning at her. “S-S-S Sirius?” She stuttered, shocked at seeing the figure that was supposed to be dead. “But you’re dead.”
“Seriously,” the man joked, a grin on his face as he looked around as if searching for someone.
“But Harry saw you die.”
“Says the girl who talks with ghosts a few times a year,” the dark haired man said, laughing in his usual barking manner.
“How do I know its really you?”
“Let’s see. During your third year, you and my godson had to rescue me from getting a kiss by stealing one of Hagrid’s animals that was supposed to be executed, and flying up to the office I was locked in.”
“But how come you’re still in color? Ghosts are supposed to be imprints, so they’re white, black, and gray. Although, there’s a theory that the color represents life and…”
“Not sure,” Sirius said, cutting her chatter off as she tried to analyze the situation. “But I never did like those black and white photographs anyways, so it’s better this way,” the Marauder said, grinning. “Unfortunately, at the moment I think the only people that can see me are you, Harry and Ron.”
“That’s odd; I wonder what could cause that?”
“Who knows?” Sirius said, shrugging. “And it’s a crime really if you think about it. This beautiful mug, stuck with only three people being blessed by being able to see it. And what’s worse, I can’t even hold anything, so there’s no making Snivillus’s hair turn pink, or better yet red and gold.” The man grinned, as he seemed to be thinking of ways that he might be able to do that particular trick.
“Honestly, Sirius, I swear you’re as bad as the twins sometimes. Even when no one can see you but me and the boys.”
“That may be, but I do know that you’re trying to get involved in some dangerous stuff there,” he said, pointing to the books that were on the table.
Hermione blushed. “Sorry, but I need to know how to help my cousin in California.”
“Does she want your help?” He asked calmly, all traces of amusement gone. He looked at Hermione curiously, with a little bit of sternness that she wasn’t used to seeing, though it briefly reminded her of McGonagall, scarily enough.
“Well, not exactly,” she admitted. “But I need to figure out a way to help her.”
“Hermione, the last time you tried to help someone, this is where I ended up,” Sirus said, waving at his own body. “Now, I don’t know all the details, but I think you should be careful about what you’re getting yourself into, instead of going in half-cocked. That’s why you’re supposed to be the brains of your group.”
“I’m not saying don’t do it, but I want you to think about it first. Is this why you were given this information?” Hermione shook her head in defeat. “Then maybe you should let somebody more used to this stuff handle it.”
“And who would that be? The Order?” she asked sarcastically. “You know as well as I do, that they’ve become more and more focused on meetings than anything else.”
“All is not what it appears to be, Hermione. Sometimes you have to go a little bit deeper to find what you are really looking for,” the ghost, or not quite ghost of Sirius said. “The idea of a secret organization is just that, to keep everything secret. And last year, we needed information more than anything else. You lot have actually, in a way. been spoiled by the fact that your individual missions were all that you cared about. Unfortunately, the adults decided that it was time to cut you off because they were involved now. They thought that you no longer needed to be involved, because they could take care of it ,” he said, posing slightly as if trying to look mature. “That is where they were wrong; you need to know the basics if you’re going to fight.”
“Do we have to fight?” Hermione found herself asking, despite knowing that she would fight alongside Harry and Ron. ‘Who am I kidding?’ she thought to herself. ‘The three of us will be standing alongside Professor Dumbledore when the time comes.’ Still though, there was a part of her that wished she didn’t have to worry about these sorts of things. Like if the three of them were going to live long enough to see their twentieth birthdays. Longer lifespan her arse! They may age better, but it seemed they just had more people trying to kill them.
“You’re the one that makes the choice, Hermione,” Sirius said calmly as he got up. “I’ll be around if you need an ear to listen Oh, and don’t tell anybody that you saw me. I don’t want to have everyone acting all weird if I’m in the room and they can’t see me.”
“All right,” she agreed, wondering why the specter, or whatever he was, didn’t want the others to know that he was around.
“Jefferson Davis Hogg! Get that bum of yours out of that there bed and explain yourself! Right now!” A voice bellowed in the lavish room.
Instinct took over as the large man fell from the bed in his haste to respond to the voice that had once bellowed at him like that all the time, and was right in his ear like it had been when he was growing up. He removed the silk that covered his eyes to look at the bulldog like face of someone that was supposed to be long gone. It was a face he hadn’t seen since he was thirty-eight.
“Papa? What are…? I mean how?”
“That doesn’t matter right now, JD,” the figure all but growled, glaring at his son while adjusting his jacket. “Just listen to what I’m telling you. And for once in your life, you nincompoop, I want you to follow through with it. Do we understand each other?”
JD glared as his mind finally woke up enough to understand what was going on. “I don’t know what it is you think you’re doing, but no one gets away with impersonating a Hogg! Especially not my father, Washington Theodore Hogg!”
“I’m glad your still Hogg enough to recognize me, Jefferson Davis.” The figure had puffed his chest out slightly when his name was mentioned. “Now, will you be quiet and listen to me, JD Hogg? Or do I find someone who can take you out to that back room and tan your hide for me? Just like I used to have to do every time you let Jesse Duke beat you.” Boss Hogg winced as he remembered those whippings. No one knew about those; not even his fat wife, Lulu.
“All right, so you’re Washington Theodore, huh? What is it that I can do for you?” He asked snidely. "Because if you didn’t have anything to say, then I’m going back to bed.”
“Jefferson Davis Hogg! You will not sass me; I don’t care how old you are.” The figure was now purple in anger. “Is that understood?” The man nodded reluctantly, slightly scared, as he realized that this might very well be his father. “Good, now I want to know why the Dukes are still in Hazzard County? With all the plans you’ve had, they should be on the other side of the world. Instead, they’ve gotten themselves a bit of a goose egg going.”
“What?! Well, don’t worry about that, papa, I’ll have them in so much debt that Daisy won’t be able to argue if I want her to serve drinks in her underwear.”
“I don’t care about her. She’s only part of the problem. I want you to get rid of Bo and Luke; I want them placed in prison so deep, not even that orange rust bucket they have will be able to jump that area. And I want you to deal with that piece of junk as well. And no more of that impounding junk that you do. I want you to take a bomb and blow that thing away, instead of pussy footing around getting rid of that monstrosity.”
“Yes, sir,” JD said, unconsciously saluting the figure in front of him.
“Good. Now then, let’s see,” the figure said as it began pacing the room in thought. If you can’t take the farm from Jesse, then do one better.”
“And what would that be?”
“Simple! You destroy it!” The figure practically yelled at him, making the fat man flinch slightly. “I really do wonder if you are a Hogg sometimes. If you can’t manage any of that, which wouldn’t surprise me with those pathetic excuses for lawmen that you have on your payroll, I want you to go and contact Dewey and Hughie Hogg. Maybe I can fix the three of you, before anything else happens,” the figure said, settling for just glaring at its son. “It’s a shame that the one Hogg worth the name is stuck in prison, but since he’s a bit stupid when it comes to the Duke girl, maybe its better this way. Unless we can figure a way to make her part of his payment, control like that would be true to Hogg tradition. Now, I want you to think about what you know, and figure how to take care of them Dukes.”
JD nodded as he began thinking of ways that he might be able to deal with this ghost that seemed to think that the only important thing was taking care of the Dukes. What about the fact that he was one of the richest Hoggs in history? Did that not count for anything to this ghost? He tried to remember everything he knew about his father and he began remembering a few things about the man. Like the fact that his father had been one of the worst Duke haters ever, and had actually arranged for several Dukes to leave Hazzard County in one way or another. Yes, it was time to truly follow his father’s footsteps, and not a foolishly inspired friendship that while officially over, was still a bit there. WT Hogg smiled at his son when he saw the calculating gleam come into his eyes as he began to plan. Yes, he was ready to start on his true destiny. With a nod, the figure disappeared.
Smiling, Boss Hogg picked up his phone and dialed. “Roscoe, you numbskull! I want you to find something to get on them Dukes and I want you ready to start it the minute I get into the office! Is that understood? No, I’m not going to explain why, pea brain, I just want it done. Or I can easily divorce your fat sister. Good.” He slammed the phone back down and crawled back into the bed. Hoping that the dipstick could find at least the glimmer of an idea that he could work with, because he knew that Cletus wouldn’t be any help in this. He simply didn’t have the mean streak that other Hogg’s had, which was just a crying shame.
The First shook its head in amusement as it watched the fat pig go back to sleep. Hopefully, this would keep those farm boys out of its hair. It should have gone to see the sheriff in Smallville, now that it thought about it. The Sheriff did not like the alien, or its family, for constantly getting involved in her work. There was still that possibility, if it did something soon. Oh well, it still had other tasks to deal with, like getting that Winnie the Pooh obsessed potential to do herself in, which would be somewhat amusing, considering what it was that was pushing the girl like that. Maybe it should rub that into their faces, just for fun.
Hogwarts 6th year Boys dorm
Ron studied his essay one more time; normally he would have asked Hermione to go over it, but lately he wasn’t sure that would be such a smart favor to ask, considering the fact that the three friends were currently at odds with each other. He honestly didn’t know why he had decided to start going out with Lavender. Maybe it was the challenge that his sister had thrown at him, or maybe it was the voice that he sometimes thought that he heard, encouraging him to take what he wanted, and then be gone. There were times when the voice seemed stronger than others. He had briefly thought of talking to his father about the way he seemed to be acting, maybe even Bill and Charlie, but his father might want to talk about things other than that, and the entire trio seemed to agree on one thing: they didn’t want to talk about that night at the ministry. And knowing his father, he would say that the pent up emotion from that night was influencing his decision-making. Quite frankly, he had heard enough of that bloody speech, all he wanted to do was ignore that train of thought. He groaned as he laid the quill down; he may have dropped the subjects that were no longer necessary to be an Aurora, but that didn’t mean that they had to enjoy all of their remaining classes. Though on the bright side, he had finally been freed of having to deal with the tea bat. Too bad Lavender set so much stock in that rubbish.
He chewed his lip thoughtfully; he had to figure out how to deal with all of the things that were happening. He wasn’t going to be the first to crack, no matter what, he promised himself.
“Looks like you got some problems kid,” a strange voice said. Ron looked up; a figure that could have passed for one of the twins sat on the floor leaning against the wall.
“Who are you?” He asked suspiciously, his hand reaching for his wand, hoping he could stun the guy before he did anything.
“Well, I’m your Uncle Fabian on your mothers side, for some reason I’ve been granted a temporary pass to come down and talk to you. But at the moment, I can only talk to you, not anybody else in the family, not even your mother.”
“Bloody hell,” the red head moaned as he fell back against his bed. This was supposed to be his uncle? The man, who along with his twin, Gideon, had taken down five Death Eaters, before they were able to kill the two of them. They had been like Fred and George, able to anticipate each other; the only difference, though, was that his brothers were pranksters by profession, while his uncles had been fighters and strategists.
“So what appears to be the problem, oh nephew of mine?” Fabian asked as he looked at the teen, who was trying to grasp the fact that a man who had been dead for more than fifteen years was talking to him.
“The usual You-Know-Who stuff,” the boy answered hesitantly. Even if this was nothing more than a joke, or something that one of the bad guys had set up, it wasn’t like he was going to just spill his guts. No, he was too good a chess player to let something like this get to him. He would show this thing, or person, that it would take more than this to stop him.
The man winced. “Don’t you just hate how that guy won’t ever just cooperate and die already? I mean everyone should have one death, and one death only. Although, from time to time, it is helpful when people come back. Anyway, how bad of a strategist is he? He always goes for the kings first, before he even bothers with the knights or anything.”
Ron nodded. “I know, he’s always trying to take Harry out, who is the most protected guy in the world, when he should have been targeting the rest of us. Dumbledore is like the queen, while people like Sirius are somewhere between pawns and knights.”
“Yes, but no one except you has noticed the way things are going right now,” his uncle countered, a piece of grass dangling from his lips, giving him an almost farm boy appearance that was hard to copy, as he idly chewed the strand. “Now then, the question is are we on the smart side of the war?”
“Sorry, I’d just rather not see my sister and the rest of you anytime soon.” Ron nodded, looking thoughtful. “I mean, you know what it’s like to worry about your sister when there’s nothing you can do,” he said as he thought for a moment. “But back to the fights that are to come. If you’re going to stick it out through the war, then you can’t let yourself be distracted, no matter how many things come up. You have to stay focused on the fights that matter, and right now the fights that matter to you, are the ones that have to do with You-Know-Who.”
“But what about Hermione’s cousin?” Ron asked.
“She was just warning you about something that might come up. while this whole war is getting ready to really take off. This seeming peace right now is only lulling you into a false sense of security. He’s going to hit you where you’ll least expect it. Is that what you really want?
“No,” the red head growled.
“Then you can’t let yourself be distracted,” Fabian pointed out again. “Don’t worry, you’ll, unfortunately, get the hang of this mess sooner or later. But remember to give Potter his space, it’s obvious that he needs it. He has a lot to work through, and knowing him, from what I’ve been able to see, the guy needs to work through this himself.”
“Right,” Ron said, glad that he and his uncle agreed. “Hey, I don’t suppose you could help me on this potions essay?”
“I’m here to help you with important things, not to waste my time with things I barely scraped by in the last time I was here.” The figure shuddered for a moment before disappearing. Ron got up; he needed to owl his mum about his uncle later. Ask about him and stuff, maybe he could find something that would help him determine if it was really his uncle’s spirit, or something else. Maybe Hermione would know. Oh yeah. she was mad at him right now and Harry wasn’t around to play the peacekeeper anymore.
“Hey, I’m back,” Prue called as she entered the large house. Piper and Phoebe smiled as they met their older sister by the door. She had been spending even more of her time than usual at work. She was hoping to accumulate enough good reports so she wouldn’t have to put her current job at too much risk when she disappeared for a while.
Piper had told her boss she was going to be out of touch for a while soon, and that if he didn’t like it he could hire somebody new. She had told him though, that she would put in as many hours as she could, so that he wouldn’t have to be too taxed, as she had politely put it. Inside, she had thought it was the best way to keep her job, and let the idiot think that she actually cared what he thought. She was just glad that he no longer tried to make her do the work of three people, but had hired a few new people to do things.
Phoebe hadn’t really had to worry, since she didn’t have a job. She was just going to be tagging along after her rather successful sisters on their family vacation. But where as she would rather be looking into various clothing styles, she was instead studying everything that they had been able to find on monsters of various kinds.
Prue had taken to looking for monster information, as well, by checking various artifacts and where they had come from. Sometimes she could use names and dates that had been recorded in the letters and records, to see if she could find anything about some of the characters that had been mentioned to them. There had been a letter that she had found, that had mentioned the Scourge of Europe as a group of murderers. An Irishman, that was thought to be slightly insane, was supposed to have led the group; other than that, there hadn’t been a whole lot that had been easy to find.
Phoebe had found more in the Book of Shadows, much to the displeasure of her older sister, who had been out researched when it came to this subject. The thought that an ancestor of theirs had actually met or come across the group was kind of scary though, they had all admitted, after reading the more impressive facts about the group. The Scourge had been recorded in graphic detail; it had even mentioned the tattoo that the leader was supposed to have on his back, that marked him as a member of the Order of Aurelius. “So, what did you find today?”
“That there is always something, or somebody, after us,” Prue grumbled said grumbling. “Cole Andy is still being a jerk about the whole running off thing.”
“Let me guess, your makeup coffee got interrupted.”
“Yeah, one minute we’re having the time of our lives, just being us. Then a minor warlock thought it would be fun to try and throw a few spells at me, and I had to pretend like it was nothing when he was taken in.” The other two shook their heads in sympathy as their sister described her relationship troubles.
“Anything on the supernatural side?”
“Not really, but there does appear to be an increasing number of people leaving the town, on vacations and stuff, where are beloved cousin lives. But that’s only a rumor at the moment; I’m trying to figure out how close to the truth is right now.”
“With a business like the one you work in, you’d think that talking to another specialist would be easy.”
“You’d think so, but the only people who might be able to help me are in LA or England, and all the people in England seem to have disappeared, and my boss says that it might be dangerous at the moment to talk to anyone in LA. He’s asked that we try not to get involved with them right now.”
“Was there a real reason, or was he just being odd?”
“He mentioned something about a cult that was spreading all over the place, but other than that, he didn’t say much.”
“Weird,” Piper commented.
“Yeah, so are we about ready to get this show on the road?”
“Yeah, we just have to decide if we want to take the Book with us and a few other things, then were just about ready.”
“Why wouldn’t we want to take the book with us?”
“Well, you do remember those guys that tried to steal it when dad came around right?” Phoebe asked, grinning at the fact that she knew about a potential danger before her sister.
“True, but we won’t be much help without the book, though,” Prue argued. “So, it would be better on all of us, if we take it, or we might as well not even bother going. Because I think that we’ll need to provide all the muscle we possibly can. Which means that we need to bring the Book with us.”
“Says the only one of us capable of doing anything helpful that doesn’t require the book,” Phoebe shot back.
“Look, it’s not Prue’s fault that she’s the only one with a power that will hurt these things,” Piper interceded, not wanting to listen to their sister complain that she was the only one that was stuck without a cool offensive power to use, and instead got stuck just having visions.
“But it’s so unfair,” Phoebe whined at her two sisters.
“Forget about that kind of nonsense, dearies,” a voice said, and they turned and looked up the stairs to see someone they had never seen before. “Your battle is not with the creatures that she fights anyways. Your fight is with the ones that are drawn here. If you leave, who will help the people here? Do you think it a mere coincidence that since you’ve gotten your powers you’ve run into problem after problem?” The woman shook her head sadly. “No, I’m afraid that is not the real answer, though it may be the one that you want. The true answer is that you are now Champions of light, and your battle is here in this town, not there.”
“Who are you?” Piper asked as she glanced around for a weapon, just in case their powers didn’t work against this woman, who seemed to know more about their powers and abilities. Since she was blocking the way to the attic, there wasn’t much of a chance of getting up to the book and asking it for help, or at least for a good protective spell.
“I am one of your ancestors, child. I too was once cursed, and blessed, to be a witch, just like you now are. It was long ago, when people were even more scared of the supernatural than they are now, that I fulfilled my duty.”
“Cursed? How was being a witch a curse?” Prue asked, curious what kind of answer she would receive from this specter. Maybe this ghost could explain things to them enough that they could be better prepared to handle the various demons and warlocks that came out of the woodwork and tried to kill them all the time.
“By becoming witches, the Charmed Ones specifically, you have all but put targets on the front of you that the entire dark mystical world can see. You will be placed into fight after fight until you finally die. Very few witches are allowed the pleasure of growing old like your grandmother. In less than five years, I see at least one of you girls dead, from one fight or another.”
The three sisters swallowed uneasily at the thought that one of them might die in just a few years. “And I thought my visions were bad sometimes,” Phoebe muttered. “Um, question? If you’re an ancestor, are you a ghost or something like that?”
“You could say that,” the woman replied, a slight grin on her face. “And I have been watching over you as best I can, but there is little I can do right now to help you. But this looks like a time that you need advice, before you do something truly foolish.”
“What? Going to help our cousin?” Prue shook her head at the woman. “I disagree with you on that. In fact, by making the family larger and more connected, we actually are likely to be more powerful.”
The woman laughed at her, while the other two shook their heads at the ghost, specter, or whatever it was. Nobody with half a brain laughed at their older sister like that and expected to live. “Good thing she’s already dead,” Piper commented to Phoebe, who nodded in agreement.
Prue glared, almost defiantly, at the figure now. Her temper now getting the better of her as she clenched her fists, and barely resisted the urge to send the small table flying into the figure. Just to test how solid this ghost was. “How do we know you’re not the First?” She asked. “Trying to keep us out of the fight?”
“Simple, child,” the woman answered, seemingly oblivious to the anger that was radiating from the young woman. “If I was the First, I would have come to see you as your mother or grandmother, not as some unknown ancestor. But I was the guardian chosen to watch over you, and see how you dealt with our legacy. And if absolutely necessary, make sure you didn’t do anything too stupid, that you weren’t ready for. Like taking on a being that is older than time itself, and is mightier than anything that you’ve ever seen before. Even this Slayer relative of yours will be hard pushed to fight such a thing, and she has several years of experience.”
“Everyone needs a bit of help from time to time,” Phoebe argued. “Even Prue, when she actually admits it.”
“She has her companions for that,” the woman countered. “She has her own ancient power, that predates your own, the power of an ensouled vampire, one of the most powerful witches, after yourselves of course, A young man with an uncanny ability to survive and a great head for tactics and unconventional thinking, the descendent of a former Slayer, and a watcher whose name is still feared in the streets of London. No, when it comes right down to it, we should leave the saving of the world to the professionals. You’re not quite ready to go to bat the way you are now, but someday you will be”
“Maybe not,” Prue said, her voice now hard with anger. She really hated to be belittled by people that didn’t know her, family or not. “But like Phoebe said, everybody needs a little help from time to time. And if you know about the various people that help our cousin, then naturally the people that they’re fighting are going to be expecting them. Where as, we’re still new enough to the game that we might be able to provide a few surprises that could be needed.”
The woman looked unconvinced. “That is not the way this works, child,” the woman said, obviously getting annoyed with the headstrong witch. “You need to stay here and deal with the creatures and warlocks that come here. If you leave, there is a chance that they will destroy many of the things here. There may not even be a town for you to come back to.”
“We’ve already made our decision,” Piper stated, finally speaking, now that she was sure that her sister wouldn’t accidentally throw something at her, just by looking her way. “Besides, this town has managed to survive all these years without witches guarding it, it can survive a month or so without us. We’re all going to California to help our family. Who knows, we might come back even stronger for it.”
“Perhaps. Of course, it’s more likely that you will never come back at all, and there will be no one left to protect the people of the this world. I hope that will be your dying thoughts,” the woman said as she disappeared, leaving the three of them alone with their thoughts.
“Are we doing the right thing?” Piper asked hesitantly, after they had all moved into the kitchen to get drinks.
“Ask me after this is all over,” Prue replied as she put her head down and closed her eyes, exhausted from holding all of her power in, as well as spending all the time that she had at work. She tiredly gripped her cup of coffee as she considered all aspects of the conversation. Was she doing the right thing, leading her sisters into a fight that wasn’t even theirs? Usually the only times they did anything, was because they had been attacked. Sure, they had caught the gangster that had used the kid Piper had met, and the whole wedding incident. But those were the only times where they had really been the aggressors.
“Hey,” Piper said, grabbing her sister’s hand. “We’re doing the right thing here. Don’t worry about it.”
Prue smiled at her sister. “Then why do I feel like I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life?”
“Might have something to do with the whole arguing with some old lady that’s been dead for who knows how long.”
“Around a hundred and fifty years, judging by her clothes,” Prue said dully as she drank from her mug.
“Sometimes it’s just freaky the way you do that,” Piper commented refilling her cup.
“Besides, why are you worried?” Phoebe asked. “It’s not like we’ve ever done things the way we were supposed to anyway, right? So going to help our cuz out, should be just about right for us, right?” The three sisters all grinned at each other and realized that were even more convinced about doing this now than before.
Hogwarts, Far Side of the Lake
Harry watched the squid splash around for a moment before he looked back down at the list of defensive spells that he had with him. Most people probably wouldn’t be surprised to see him with a pile of DADA papers since it was not only his best subject, but he was also the Boy-Who-Lived; he had to know these things. Harry was currently looking at the list that had fire spells on it. The incendio spell, while good, might not be enough to hurt vampires. He needed other spells that would help him combat them. It was almost a shame that no one had taught him the way to battle those sorts of things. You’d have thought that with a racist like Umbridge, her stupid theory books would have had something like that. He had checked his third year books and had managed to get a slightly better idea on spells that would hurt them, and might even kill them if he could keep the spells up long enough.
“Studying again, eh, Harry?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied not really looking at the figure that was sitting down beside him, other than noticing that he was wearing Hufflepuff yellows.
“Gee, I suspected a bigger welcome than that from you, Harry. Especially after the whole dying thing, you know.”
“Huh?” Harry looked at the figure and practically fell over as he realized who was sitting next to him. “ Cedric? But your… I mean I saw…”
“Easy there, Harry,” Cedric said as he watched the other boy gape at him in shock. “I’m not really here, and there’s only a few people that can see me. I’m not actually sure who can see me right now, to be honest.”
“What are you doing here?” Harry asked as his hand began moving toward the other boy.
“Don’t do that. I’m not here in that sense,” the boy, who now looked like he was the same age as Harry, \which in a way he was, said. “I mainly came to make sure that you’re focused on the right things.”
“I try,” Harry said shrugging, feeling uncertain as he talked to the boy that he had watched die. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“For what?” Cedric questioned. “For me getting killed by someone neither of us could see? You got my body back to my mum and dad. I couldn’t ask you to have done more, as a matter of fact I didn’t. And as for fighting Voldemort, you’ve done really well at that. Just don’t forget that you can’t stop.” Harry nodded in understanding. He knew that the others were tired of their adventures, as much as, if not more than, he was. The only difference was that they had the choice to walk away. He Harry was in this no matter what.
“By the way, thanks for at least trying to be nice to Cho,” Cedric said. Harry began squirming uncomfortably when the seventh year girl was brought up. “Don’t worry. I know about that great date that you had.” Harry was now swallowing uncomfortably. “But the thing is, despite how much I might have cared about her, Cho was a bit of a user. She may have cared for me, but I also know that there was no way she should have been able to bounce between boys so fast. I sometimes wonder what it is that she plays at.”
“Maybe she doesn’t want to be hurt again,” Harry offered, trying to find a different way of looking at it.
“Maybe.” Cedric shrugged, a wistful look on his face as he seemed to be thinking of Cho. “I’m just sorry that you had to be the rebound guy. It was kind of obvious that you liked her. But you pulled back faster than anything I’ve ever seen, when you finally realized that we were together.”
“She was your girl ,” Harry returned, as if that answered everything.
“The courage of a Gryffindor combined with the loyalty of a Hufflepuff,” the other boy said, shaking his head. “I think you might have been thrown into the wrong house.”
“Thanks,” Harry said, glad that he was able to now look into the face of the boy who had died right in front him.
“No problem. Now, let’s get down to why I was told to talk with you in the first place.”
“I had a feeling it was more than just a bit of girl trouble that you needed to talk to me about,” Harry tried joking. “Cause if that was the problem, they probably would have sent my dad.”
“You’re right. It’s about this whole cousin thing of your friends. Do you really think that now is the time to go and get involved in another war, when you’re barely even making a difference in this one?”
“It’s what I have to do though,” Harry argued. “Maybe I still have a saving people thing, but I also know that I have to do things this way.”
“Did people die so you could run off and get killed in something else before you deal with Voldemort? How many more will come between you and death before you get that through your head?”
“At the moment it’s four, Cedric, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of each of them in some way or another. But I can’t let Hermione do this sort of thing on her own. I have to be the one to help her now, like she’s always done for me.
A look of annoyance briefly crossed Cedric’s face before he turned back to the Gryffindor. “Are you so sure that this is what you want to do? You can’t just jump from war to war and hope that nothing goes wrong. Trying to fight on multiple fronts is dangerous, and it’s not something you should even consider.”
“But Cedric, if she fails, then what’s the point? The world will be ruled by hell beasts if I don’t help.”
“Be careful, Potter. You’re on a pathway that is littered with dangers you may not walk away from. Then where would all of the people you claim to love be?” Harry didn’t know what to say to this and watched as Cedric started fading. “I’ll be back. Try and keep this conversation quiet , all right? And do a quick check on Cho for me. “
He was gone. Harry was more confused than he had been in a while. While a part of him didn’t want to think about what Cedric had said, the seeds of doubt were now in place. And what if someone else died this time? What if it was one of the Weasleys or Hermione? Maybe it would be Hagrid, or even worse, Remus. Who was he willing to risk next? Harry sighed as he glanced at the dropped parchment that held all of the information for fire spells. Spells he didn’t need to look at right now since he was so lost in thought.
The First smiled; the three teens were so confused after its visits that they didn’t know who to trust anymore. Soon things would come about, plans that one of its lesser minions had already set into motion over here would take fruit, and it would find the people here even more disorganized than they were now.