Chapter Two: Light Reading
When the bell rang, Buffy made her way to the bench outside where she knew Willow would be, dragging a schoolbag that was so heavy with books she feared it would rip. In addition to her textbook, she was carrying two volumes Giles had found that covered time travel, as well as a familiar-looking spellbook she had packed on a whim, and a particularly heavy book on mystical artefacts that could be very useful later. She hoped the bag wouldn’t rip; she would have some explaining to do if the contents fell out in full view.
*I’m gonna turn into a bookworm,* she realised in horror. *Oh well. Hope Giles appreciates it.*
“Hi – Willow, right?”
“Hi!” Willow said brightly. “Um, w-would you like to sit here?”
“Sure, thanks,” Buffy said, sitting down next to her. “So … tell me more about Sunnydale High?”
This time, as Willow told her things she already knew, she paid attention. *I can’t just spend half the next seven years zoning out of conversations. Got to focus.* It was only a minute or so before Xander showed up with a boy in tow that Buffy realised was Jesse.
*He’ll be the first,* she decided as the pair laughed and joked with each other. *Jesse is not going to die tonight. I’ll stop it. Somehow.*
Buffy collapsed onto her bed the minute she got home. She felt exhausted. She also knew she had a busy night ahead of her.
“Okay, Buffy, think,” she said out loud. “Can’t just wing it tonight. Need plan of action.” She put her head in her hands and tried to relive the night as she remembered it. The problem was, seven years was a long time and the details had gone fuzzy.
“I go to the Bronze,” she muttered. “That I remember. Was Willow there? Oh, yeah, she was - And Jesse went off with Darla - Of course! Willow went off with a vampire too … So how do I save Jesse without getting Willow killed?”
She looked around her old bedroom as if hoping it held the answers. “This is no use.” She kicked her schoolbag in frustration, and let out a yelp of pain as her toe connected with a sharp corner of a book cover. “I have to remember more clearly than this …” She trailed off, inspiration striking, dropped to her knees and pulled out the spellbook.
Of course, she *thought* she had recognised it. The spell Willow had used on everyone’s memories had been in it. Surely if there was one to *remove* memories … Buffy flicked to the index, and ran her finger down the page, searching for “memory” under M. “Ah-hah!”
She nearly tore the pages turning frantically to the ones listed, and the entry listed after the spell was a potion – one to sharpen the memory.
“Perfect,” Buffy whispered. She scanned the ingredients. The magic shop should have them all. It would take only half an hour to make. She scribbled a list down on a spare piece of paper, hunted for and found her purse, and left the house.
The bell above the shop door jingled as she stepped inside. It was darker and dingier than it had been – or rather, would be – when it was Giles’ Magic Box. Buffy hesitated, unsure where to start looking – everything was arranged differently.
“Can I help you?”
She jumped, and spotted a man behind the counter. “Oh, hi. Yeah, you can.” She pulled the list out of her pocket. “Uh, I need these items. And I’m kinda in a hurry.”
He glanced at it. “Well, you’re in luck. We have all this here.” He looked at her quizzically. “Memory potion, huh?”
He started taking things off the shelves. “You sure you know what you’re doing?”
“I only ask because you’re young, and that’s a powerful potion. You want to be careful with it.” The shopkeeper paused. “How much are you making?”
“In that case, you’ll want something to carry these things in.” He reached behind the counter and brought out a carrier bag. “Just be careful, love; you need a lot less of that stuff than you think, and you can find yourself remembering things you might not have wanted to.”
“Thanks. I’ll be fine.”
Buffy paid for the ingredients, and he wished her good day. As the door closed behind her, she said quietly, “And I’m older than I look.”
Buffy re-read the tiny, handwritten print for what seemed like the hundredth time as she added the last ingredient to the third potion attempt bubbling merrily on the stove. Underneath the ingredients list, she noticed, there was a warning: *The potion is strong; only a small amount will suffice. Large quantities can result in damage to the brain.*
“Well, it’s not like I’m planning on chugging the stuff down,” she muttered. She would just take it sip by sip until it worked and bottle the rest.
When the potion was ready, it turned clear, which Buffy was relieved about – beforehand it had been a murky kind of grey-brown. She poured a single swallow’s worth into a glass and downed it in one.
*Okay, first night at the Bronze,* she thought, and gasped. The moment it had crossed her mind she was there, chatting to Willow, looking for Giles; she could even feel the beat of the music. She remembered every detail: what was said, what she wore, even every word the band sang, which she hadn’t even been paying attention to at the time.
“Wow,” she breathed. “The shop owner was right, that’s powerful stuff.”
Buffy grabbed a pen and paper and started scribbling down the events of the evening, unsure how long the potion would last. When she finished, she folded the paper and put it in her pocket, filled an empty water bottle with the rest of the potion and washed out the saucepan and glass. As she worked, she noticed how the slightest thought could immerse her into any other memory, even ones she hadn’t realised existed. Buffy smiled as she relived a cuddle with her father when she must have been about a year old. The potion really was incredible.
“And going to be *very* useful,” she muttered.
Perhaps the best way to tackle her situation was to sit down, under the potion’s effects, and draw up an exact timeline of everything she knew. That would help her work out what she wanted to change, what didn’t matter, what she had to be careful about, and what she had to let happen, as well as hopefully help to predict any consequences of what she did change.
It would take a long time, she realised. Right now, she had to focus on stopping the Harvest whilst keeping everyone alive. Buffy thought hard and eventually came up with a plan of action, which she also wrote down. Checking the clock, she realised her mother would probably be home soon, and it was beginning to get dark.
As she made her way upstairs to get changed, Buffy’s thoughts turned to Joyce. She was determined to save her mother no matter what. Even if she had to pull Slayer moves on every doctor in the hospital until they agreed to keep her in longer. Much longer. Long enough to be able to act quickly enough to save her.
*There’s only so much I can do,* she realised suddenly. *Just knowing it’s going to happen doesn’t necessarily give me the power I need to stop it.* Buffy shivered and blinked back tears. She couldn’t lose Joyce all over again. She just *couldn’t*.
But just in case … she would make the most of the next five years. Make more of an effort to spend time with her, Buffy thought. And maybe she should tell her about the Slaying earlier, so it wouldn’t be the huge divide between them that it used to be.
Buffy sighed. She would have to think about that later. She changed her clothes, pocketed a stake and four small bottles of holy water, and slid another stake up her sleeve. After a pause, she had a brainwave and pinned up her hair with a wooden cross. Examining it in the mirror, she concluded that it was impossible to tell what it was – no vampire would see it coming, she thought smugly. Shame a stake would be too difficult to disguise. Maybe she could work on that idea another time.
She jumped and looked up. Joyce was standing in the doorway. Buffy had missed hearing her come in. “Mom!”
Joyce laughed as Buffy positively bounded over and hugged her. “You’re very excitable today, Buffy.” She paused, and looked at her daughter suspiciously. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” Buffy said in what she hoped was an innocent voice. “Can’t a girl just be happy to see her mother once in a while?”
“When it’s you, it usually means you want an allowance raise.”
Buffy mock-pouted. “Not every time.” They both laughed.
“So, how was your first day?”
*I aged seven years, and there was a dead guy in the locker.* Instead of saying this out loud, Buffy just replied, “Okay.”
“Did you make any new friends?”
“Possibly. I’m gonna see them tonight, at a club.”
Joyce raised her eyebrows. “Will there be boys there?”
“Two of them *are* boys, Mom. And yes. Don’t worry, I’ll be careful.”
She waited for Joyce’s next comment, about how she had a good feeling about Sunnydale … but it didn’t come. Instead, she was looking at Buffy with a strange expression. “Mom? You okay?”
“Just …” Joyce smiled and shook her head. “It’s nothing – I just thought – something’s changed.”
“What do you mean?”
“You just seem a bit … different,” Joyce said slowly.
Buffy shrugged and faked a smile. “Just the same old me. Honest,” she said, crossing her fingers behind her back.
Joyce smiled. “If you say so, honey. Well, have fun.”
“I will,” Buffy murmured.
AN: I know the memory potion seems to make it too easy … but I have plans. Mwahaha.
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