Not mine, Whedon and Rowling own the characters, Rob Halford and Judas Priest own the song “Angel”. For fun, not profit, so please don’t sue.Author’s Note:
This is for the “Andy Hallett Memorial Challenge.” This is a snippet of a fic that I am in the process of writing. Basic backstory is this: A few years after the end of Deathly Hallows, Hermione decides that a change is in order, and that Ron is not the right one for her. She quits her job and runs away to Los Angeles, as far away from the United Kingdom and her old life as she could get. While there, she finds out that Wesley, whom she grew up with, is living there.Magic of Music
“Come on Hermione, I know you’re going to love it here,” Wesley said as he led Hermione down the stairs that led to, apparently, a karaoke bar named Caritas.
“Never would have thought you would hang around some karaoke bar,” Hermione replied with a small smile. Ever since she had run into Wesley that fateful night a couple of weeks ago, he had continually surprised her. This was just the latest in a long line of new and exciting things that Wesley had shown her, and she loved every minute of it. Meeting Angel was a little awkward, but once she found out why he didn’t want to shake her hand or have her come anywhere near her, it was all right.
“Well, this place is special,” Wesley said as he pushed open the door. The inside of Caritas was dimly lit and tastefully decorated, the brightest point of the room being the stage where the karaoke machine was set up. It looked like any other upscale lounge in the area, but Hermione knew something was off. There was something about the air around them; there was warding of some sort around. As well, while some of the patrons appeared human, most did not.
“Uh Wesley… did you know that this place is a demon bar?” Hermione whispered into Wesley’s ear. Wesley just smiled and wrapped an arm around Hermione’s waist, leading her to the bar.
“The Host prefers the term sanctuary,” Wesley replied as he sat next to a demon that appeared to be oozing as he patted the stool on his other side. “Come, sit, you’ll be safe here. There is a sanctuary spell around here, so all violence is prevented.”
“That’s reassuring,” Hermione muttered under her breath as she surveyed the room. People were sitting around, talking, watching the stage which was being commandeered by a red demon who was singing a rather off-key version of “Like a Virgin”. Hermione shook her head in amazement as she turned back to Wesley. “So, am I going to be able to meet “The Host”?”
“My ears are itching, someone must have been talking about me,” said someone from behind the bar. Hermione turned, and her eyes widened when she was faced with a tall, grinning demon who looked almost human in appearance, save for the pointed nose, green skin and red horns protruding from his forehead. “What’ll you have?”
“Hello Lorne,” Wesley said pleasantly. “I’m just showing Hermione the sights, and tonight I thought I’d stop by and visit you.”
“Always good to see you, Sweet Cheeks,” Lorne replied with a grin. “Are you going to sing for me tonight?”
Both Hermione and Wesley were a little surprised because the question was directed at Hermione and not Wesley.
“Um,” Hermione said. Oh, that’s eloquent,
she thought. “I don’t know, I’m not very good.”
“You’re only singing for me, no one else,” Lorne replied. Hermione’s confusion must have shown on her face, because Lorne launched into a quick explanation. “I’m an empath demon; I read people’s auras. I do that best when they sing.”
“I see,” Hermione said, still unsure. Wesley frowned, worried; he had brought Hermione here to see if she would sing. Ever since her arrival in Los Angeles, she had seemed a little lost, and Wesley had hoped that Lorne would be able to help her get back on the right track in her life.
“Well, let me know if you change your mind. Should be a slow night, so there won’t be much of a wait if you do decide to sing,” Lorne said with a small smile and a wave before going off to sit down and listen to the singers.
“I think you should sing,” Wesley said as soon as he was sure Lorne was out of earshot.
“Now why do you think I should sing?” Hermione asked, arching an eyebrow. Out of all of the things he had shown her in the last couple of weeks, this was one of the weirder ones.
“It couldn’t hurt,” Wesley replied with a shrug. “You’ve been out of sorts, not sure where you’re going since you got here, correct?”
“Since before then, actually,” Hermione corrected. “But yes.”
“I thought Lorne might be able to help with that,” Wesley continued, taking Hermione’s hand in his own and squeezing it. “I’m worried about you and I want to help. This is one of the best ways I could think of that would help you find your way.”
“Well, when you put it that way,” Hermione said with a thoughtful look. “I still don’t know if I’d be able to go up there in front of all of these people, even if I’m only really singing to Lorne.”
“Sing to me, then. You used to do it all the time,” Wesley suggested. He remembered times in their youth when Hermione would sing or hum under her breath whilst studying with him. On rare occasions he would ask her to openly sing, and she would oblige, even though she protested all the way until she opened her mouth to sing, claiming that she wasn’t very good.
“You still remember that?” Hermione asked, surprised. She would have thought Wesley would have tried to forget her horrid warbling.
“Of course I remember that,” Wesley replied. “Come on, for old times’ sake?”
Hermione thought for a moment; she was doing a lot of things for “old times’ sake” lately, so why would she stop now? Besides, where’s that Gryffindor courage you were so damn proud of?
Hermione thought, somewhat disgusted with herself. She’d been rather cowardly as of late, running away from Ron and her problems back home, and now it was high time she did something that didn’t involve running away.
“Okay, I’ll do it,” Hermione said, tilting her chin up with pride. She got up and marched over to where Lorne was sitting, hanging back until he was finished giving the last performer their reading. She approached, cautiously, and tapped Lorne on the shoulder.
“You gonna give it a try?” Lorne asked when he saw who it was. Hermione smiled shyly and nodded, causing Lorne to beam up at her. “Good choice. You go on over there and pick a song and I’ll go and introduce you. Remember, you’re really only singing for one person, so forget everyone else until it’s over.”
“O-okay,” Hermione said, still a little unsure. Lorne got up from his seat and patted Hermione’s should reassuringly before heading up to the stage. Hermione followed, setting up the karaoke machine; thankfully, there was a list of easy-to-understand instructions posted right next to the machine otherwise she never would have been able to figure it out.
“We have a special treat for all of you tonight,” Lorne said into the microphone. “A debut performance from the lovely Hermione!”
Hermione gulped and approached the stage. She took the microphone from Lorne as he passed her on his way down. Standing there, she knew she looked like a deer caught in the headlights until the music started to play. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Hermione opened her mouth and began to sing.Angel,
Put sad wings around me now
Protect me from this world of sin
So that we can rise again
We can find our way somehow
Escaping from the world we're in
To a place where we began
And I know we'll find
A better place and peace of mind
Just tell me that it's all you want
For you and me
Angel won't you set me free
Hermione opened her eyes after that, her confidence growing since she hadn’t been heckled off of the stage yet. Her gaze met Wesley’s and everything else faded away as she sang to him. Her voice gained strength as she continued to sing, the notes coming from the bottom of her heart.
Wesley sat, mesmerized by the girl – no, woman, he reminded himself – on the stage, signing to him as if it were ten years before and she was singing to him during the holidays. It was if they were the only two people in the room, a feeling which both excited and worried Wesley. He may have had a schoolboy crush on Hermione in his youth, but had dismissed it and hadn’t thought about it until she had fallen back into his life two weeks ago. He was falling hard and fast and it scared him.
Before too long the song was over, the last guitar riffs fading into the background. Hermione snapped back to reality as the patrons of Caritas cheered, whistled and clapped for her. Blushing, she placed the microphone back on the stand before vacating the stage and heading to where Lorne was sitting.
“Not very good, you say?” Lorne asked, arching an eyebrow. Hermione blushed further, her face now looking like it was on fire. “You’ve got some pipes girl, but we have to talk about your fabulous voice later. For someone who looks like a little ray of sunshine, you sure have seen some dark times. Don’t let that light inside of you get put out because of the badness in the world. The world needs someone like you in it. You want to break out and gain independence from your previous life, your old friends. More power to you; it’ll happen, whether you want to stick around here or go off somewhere else. Something’s tugging at your heart telling you to stick around here for a while. If that feels right, stick with it.”
“Do you know what that could be?” Hermione asked. It was rather nice having someone tell her what was in her heart; instinctively she knew it was true, but it still felt good to have someone verbalize it.
“All I can do is speculate on that,” Lorne replied, glancing over his shoulder. Hermione followed his gaze, which fell on Wesley, sitting at the bar and studiously looking away from where she was seated. “You’re feeling unsure about jumping into something so soon after leaving home. When the time is right, you’ll know.”
“Thanks Lorne,” Hermione said, her eyes still trained on Wesley.
“No problem. Don’t be a stranger, it’s been a while since we’ve had someone lighting up the stage like you did,” Lorne replied with a wink. Hermione, whose face had just gone back to its normal color, blushed again before getting up and heading back to Wesley.
“What did Lorne say?” Wesley asked as Hermione approached.
“This, that and the other thing,” Hermione replied with a shrug, not wanting to reveal too much. After all, an aura reading was a personal thing and not something to be shared with the masses. She sat on the stool next to Wesley, turning her body so that she was angled towards him.
“That so?” Wesley asked.
“Yes, that so,” Hermione replied, patting Wesley’s knee before putting in a drink order. She was a little surprised when Wesley covered her hand with his own, squeezing it like he had earlier. She smiled and blushed a little before turning her hand around and squeezing back.
Maybe she finally found where she belonged.
NOTE: This is completely hot off the press, written on a whim while at work this afternoon. Any and all mistakes are mine.