XV – The Good Guys
“You could just let all of us go,” suggested Harry.
“And then there’s nothing to stop your wizards screwing us over,” said Willow.
“So you’re holding us hostage.”
“No.” Dawn stood up from the conference table and stretched. “We’re not going to go that route.”
“But…” Willow’s eyes narrowed and seemed to darken a little.
“Get over it, Willow, we’ve screwed up. Those guys out there are a magical SWAT squad. Illyria says so, Percy and Harry say so, Spike thinks that they’re telling the truth, and they sure as hell look like it to me. They’re cops, and they think that they’re dealing with something like Waco. If we don’t make some concessions, and fast, they’ll be coming in with everything they’ve got. Your wards will probably stop them for a while, we might even be able to fight them off if they break through, but you’ve got to sleep some time, we’re running low on supplies, and we aren’t criminals or terrorists, remember? We’re the good guys, and we need to act like it.”
“Willow, do you want to see Kennedy hurt? Or Vi, or any of the others?”
“Of course not!”
“Okay. Now Percy seems to think that there may be some sort of treaty between us and these wizards, and what I’m hoping is that there’s something in there that’ll be the basis for future cooperation, and for getting out of this mess without anyone going to jail. So far I think we can write everything off as a series of unfortunate mistakes.” Dawn looked at Percy for confirmation. “Not least Harry stunning everyone in sight when he broke out. There's been mistakes on both sides.”
“I… honestly don’t know,” said Percy. “If there’s a legal precedent for cooperation between our organisations then we can probably do that, but without it there’ll have to be a proper investigation. We can work around the… um… wrongful imprisonment, if none of us press charges. Harry, Mister Bury; are you both all right with that?”
“I suppose I did panic a bit when Dawn told us about Illyria… so yes, I’ll agree to that,” said Harry.
Bury nodded; “I'll go along with it if someone will pay me for my time.”
“I think the Ministry can organise something. Now, the remaining questions are the return of the body and the hearse, harbouring a demon without a proper Dark Arts research permit, and the whole Slayer Curse business.”
“There is no curse,” said Dawn, “and the sooner you take that on board the better. All of those girls were already potential Slayers and all of them would have been hunted down and killed if we hadn’t cast the spell to release their potential. We didn’t curse them, we saved their lives.”
“We’ll need some documentation on that, and on the exact nature of the spell you cast, but it ought to be regarded as extenuating circumstances. Now, with regard to the demon…”
“God-King.” Percy spun round, to find Illyria standing immediately behind him, in her blue form. “Your petty Ministry means little to me, and nobody is harbouring me. I choose to stay here, because it is marginally more interesting than the alternatives I have considered. Of course, if you give me reason to become interested in your parliament of wizards…”
“I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” Percy said hastily. “But would you be prepared to talk to historians? It’s apparent that our knowledge of the early history of magic is woefully incomplete, any information you could give us would be very welcome.”
“That might be… acceptable.” For some reason Willow started giggling. Illyria’s head snapped around. “And your cause for amusement?”
“Sorry; I was just imagining the next generation of magical school kids trying to get their heads around everything you could tell them, all those gods eating each other and destroying worlds. It’ll blow their minds.”
Harry grinned. “It can’t be worse than our current syllabus. It won’t be as boring anyway.” Even Percy smiled at that.
“That just leaves Kendra,” said Kennedy.
“The body goes to her family,” Harry said flatly.
“We are her family,” Dawn said firmly. “Not blood relatives, though come to think of it Rona is some sort of distant cousin, but she died a Slayer and Slayers look after their own. And there are practical reasons why we don’t want her buried anywhere that isn’t under our control, especially in the middle of a community of magicians. There are dark wizards that would love to have the body of a Slayer.”
“Not since Voldemort went down.”
“Don’t kid yourself,” said Spike. “I’ll wager that the day he died half a dozen others began thinking about taking his place. How long has it been now, about ten years?”
“Nine,” said Harry.
“Okay, then by now you’re probably off your guard a little, not quite so vigilant. You might not notice a discreet bit of grave robbery, especially if it’s not a witch or a wizard’s grave.”
“It’s… possible, I suppose,” said Percy. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of arrangement. I’ll have to talk to her relatives.”
“Which means at least another couple of days before the funeral,” said Bury, “which means I need to refresh the bloody preservation spells. She’s already past due.”
“Well past,” said Spike. “You might not be able to smell it yet, but I can.” Most of the people in the room looked a little queasy.
“I’ll need my wand for it,” said Bury. “And I need to care for the thestrals too.”
“They’re fine, I think,” said Kennedy, “some of the girls have been looking after them. They’re weird, but kinda cute if you can get over the skeleton look. And they really like cheeseburgers.”
“We’ll be giving the wands back once you’re outside the wards,” said Dawn. “Sorry, but I think we’ll have to take things one step at a time. The thestrals will be okay here until we settle this, or if things drag on we can let them out. Willow, can you do something about the body for now?”
“I guess, some sort of stasis effect should prevent further deterioration.”
“All right… then I think we’re done.”
“Just like that?” asked Harry.
“Just like that.” Dawn held out her hand, and Percy shook it, then Harry. “Okay, one last thing to settle. Who’s going to go out to make the phone call?”
“Can’t be me,” said Willow. “And I don’t think it should be you, if the deal falls through you’ll be needed here. Same goes for Illyria.”
“Me then,” said Kennedy. “If things get physical Vi can take charge. I have the numbers programmed into my phone.”
“Works for me,” said Dawn.
Willow kissed Kennedy and said “Be careful, baby,” then turned to Harry and Percy and said “Umm… I think I should maybe apologise. Most of the people who used to run the council were wiped out a few apocalypses ago, and I guess they would have handled this better. We’re still picking up the pieces, and it’s kinda easy to assume that everyone’s against us. Constant vigilance and all that stuff. Sorry.”
“It’s understandable,” said Harry. “We’ve all been there, I think.”
Illyria stood, and almost seemed to be pouting. “If there is to be no violence, I will see to the thestrals. But you disappoint me.” She walked out.
“We disappoint her?” said Harry.
“Illyria likes a good old-fashioned punch-up,” said Spike. “Why do you think she hangs around with us? She was looking forward to smashing a few heads.”
“Okay,” said Willow, leading the way to the lobby and out onto the forecourt. Spike stayed inside, out of the sunlight. In the distance they could see several broomsticks orbiting the castle. “Walk out until you hit the wards. I’ll make a gap, but you’ve got to go through in single file, and as fast as you can.”
Vi came out with a heavy steel box on her shoulder and gave it to Kennedy.
“The wands are in the box,” said Willow, “the combination is your birthday. It’s warded against magic. Go through last, and don’t open it or let them touch it until you’re outside the wards.”
“No problem,” said Kennedy.
“Okay,” said Dawn, “let’s do this.”
Harry went forward until he was touching the inside of the wards. Close to they looked like a curtain of rippling blue glass, unlike anything he’d seen before. At his touch a perfectly circular hole opened, a tunnel several yards long. “Run,” shouted Willow. “I can’t hold it for long.”
They scrambled through. Kennedy came last, and looked a little shaken. “That was a little too close.” She held out the steel box; the last couple of inches were gone, cut off with mirror-smooth edges, revealing the foam plastic liner. “I don’t think your wands were damaged.” She dialled numbers on the lock and opened the box, then stepped back. “Okay. You guys want to help yourselves?”
Harry grabbed his wand, and gave it a trial flick; “Avis!” A small flock of twittering birds appeared and flew off.
“Neat!” said Kennedy. Percy and Bury found their own wands and tried them a little less flamboyantly, as the Aurors approached cautiously from behind their own wards.
“Okay,” said Harry. “Let Percy do the talking, and… umph!!” Suddenly Ginny was hugging him, and for a while he forgot all about talking.
Comments please before I post to archives. Probably one more part to go, plus epilogue.
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