Disclaimer: I do not own or make claim to any part of the Harry Potter or Buffy universe or characters.
He’s sitting in a bar, too drunk to slam his drinks down in one swallow. He’s staring into a shot glass half-full of vodka, wishing that he cared how bad this was for him. The world feels slightly off balance, tilted on its axis just a few degrees, and he knows that he’s exactly four and a half drinks away from unconsciousness. He’s had practice at this whole alcohol thing.
He hears glass breaking from the direction of the bar, and raises his head to stare over the top of his shot glass. A man shouting, red in the face, his anger pressing the woman beside him against the bar. The bartender says something to the man, then turns and yells over his shoulder.
“Huffy!” Harry blinks, very slowly. Seems a bit of a stupid comment to make – the man’s about to start a fight, of course he’s huffy. He frowns at the red-faced man, who is now waving his hands at the woman. Someone should stop this, before the girl gets hurt. Harry reaches for his wand, wondering why it is so much easier to care about other people. Perhaps it is because they are more alive. As the angry man raises a fist, and Harry raises his wand, a blonde blur weaves through the crowd of spectators and hits the man on the back of the head with one tiny fist. Harry stares at the blonde woman as she grabs the unconscious man by the shoulders and begins to drag him towards the side door.
He can see death hanging over her shoulders like an ethereal cloak. This woman is dead, or should be – but she’s walking around anyway. Pushing through a haze of alcohol, Harry decides that he needs to find out how she came back. Why. He tries to take his wand out of his pocket, realises that he’s already holding it, shakes his head, then holds his head very still as the room begins to spin. Ugh. Touching his wand against his temple, Harry murmurs an eight-syllable word and his left hand turns bright yellow. He murmurs a slightly different word, and the alcohol vanishes from his system. Clear-headed, he restores his hand to normal and gets up to follow the blonde out the side door.
She’s got the man sitting-leaning against the wall, and she’s flicking through his wallet. Harry scratches his head, wondering if he should interrupt her thievery or come back later, then realises that she is looking for an address. Presumably she’s about to call the man a taxi. Gracious. Harry would have cursed the man crosseyed and let him stumble home by himself – but then, Harry’s always overreacted when it comes to girls. Harry opens his mouth, and the realises he has no idea what to say. ‘So how did you come back from the dead’ seems a little blunt, but starting up a normal conversation presents additional problems – firstly, it’s hard to transition from ‘so you’re a bouncer then’ to ‘why aren’t you dead”, and secondly, Harry hasn’t had a normal conversation in over a year. He feels unqualified to start one.
“What do you want?” The blonde says without turning around. Harry smiles. His dilemma is solved.
“I want you to answer a question,” he says easily, as if neither the question nor the answer are really that important. Harry was once a terrible actor, but not anymore, and it’s always a shock when he finds himself lying with practiced ease.
“And what’s that?” she asks, tucking the unconscious man’s wallet in his breast pocket and turning to face Harry. He shivers, then forces himself to relax. He doesn’t want this perky revenant to see how much her predator’s eyes wory him.
“How did you come back from the dead?” he says, and goes on as she stiffens and her hands curl into fists. “Only, I did it as well, by accident, and I was curious whether you can do it on purpose.”
“I didn’t do anything,” she snaps, and Harry gets the feeling that she’s bitten off a much a longer response. “How did you know?” She moves half a step closer to him, feet shoulder width apart, ready to move in any direction.
“I have some special…artifacts,” he says carefully. “They’re what brought me back – or, I suppose, stopped me from going at all. They let me sense death, and it’s all around you.”
“Yes,” she whispers, staring through Harry for a moment. “It is.” She moves her shoulders, as though lifting – or perhaps removing – some weight on her back. “I didn’t bring myself back,” she says in a stronger voice. “Someone else – a friend – cast a spell. Because she…I don’t know. She missed me, needed me. Something like that. She didn’t know what she was taking away from me.”
“You went on?” Harry asks, knowing the question is rude as he speaks. “I mean – past the veil? I only went halfway.”
“I was dead for a months,” she says. “Dead and buried. And happy.”
“Ah,” Harry breathes. “Yes. I saw my parents, and my – uncles. They were waiting for me, but I didn’t go to them. I had something to do here, but when it was done…” He shrugs. “Seems like I’m just waiting to get back there.”
“I felt that. For a while.” Her voice is flat.
“How did you make it go away?” Harry’s voice is raw. The blonde tilts her head, thinking over the question.
“It doesn’t leave,” she says slowly. “Not all of it. But you can see the world as something more than a – a waiting room. Eventually.”
“It’s been a year,” Harry says. The blonde shrugs.
“It’s like being born. You have to learn it all again.”
“How to think. How to talk. How to love.” She folds her arms. “How to hurt.”
“Thanks,” says Harry. He stands in the side street with her, until the taxi arrives, with death heavy around them both.
This is a test story – of formatting, of my ability to write in present tense, and of just how much I yearn to write Harry/Buffy comradeship fics. Turns out, a lot.