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The Hunter's Prelude

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This story is No. 2 in the series "California Series". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Sequel to California. Buffy and Joey visit Hogwarts.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Buffy-CenteredechoFR1327,7802279,5071 Dec 035 Sep 04Yes

the lovers, the dreamers, and me

Title: The Hunter's Prelude
Author: echo
Summary: Buffy and Joey visit Hogwarts.
Rating: 13
Disclaimer: Not mine. The BtVS stuff is Whedon's. The HP characters belong to JK Rowling.
Spoilers: Thru the end of season 7 in the Buffyverse. Thru OotP in the Potterverse.
Notes: This is the sequel to California. I played with the time lines a bit. For Buffy, it's about ten years past the series finale, and for Harry it's about a little over a year since the events of Order.
Music: "Rainbow Connection" is by Paul Williams, I think. All I know is Kermit sang it. "I Want it That Way" by the Backstreet Boys, "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" is by Elton John. But the versions referred to in this fic are all covered by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Joey was all nerves.

Her mom had been asked to guest speak at Hogwarts by Professor Lupin and Professor Dumbledore. The slayer had readily agreed. Joey was nervous because she was getting to go. Some man named Bill Weasley was coming by in a car sent by the Ministry of Magic to take them to a place called King's Cross Station where they would take a train to a place called Bog's Lead... or was it Frogs Tree'd... maybe Dogs Peed? No. Log's Weed? Hog's Steed? No, that wasn't it either. Why did she have so much trouble with the names of things sometimes? It was annoying. Sometimes the real name of something just... avoided her brain.

Well, anyway, a train was taking them to this hog pee town, it had to be called Hogs Peed because they were taking boats to Hog parts. It was a nasty thing to name a town, Hogs Peed, but who was she to complain?

They called Los Angeles the City of Angels. She only knew one, and he was so not what was under the definition of 'angel' in the dictionary. Joey figured, often, that with as much as went on in LA, with as much as Uncle Angel and his friends had to fix, that LA might ought to be considered for the title City of Devils instead. Heck, one time when she visited, she had been kidnapped. Uncle Angel had been REAL mad about that. Joey had been quite certain that he didn't even like her until that night. He never looked at her really unless she made him by being so annoying he had no other choice. But that night he'd held her real tight and said he'd never let anything hurt her. Ever.

She was a believer after that.

"Joey."

The voice startled her. She was getting like her mom. Too many thoughts.

"Yes, Uncle Giles?"

"You have a package."

"Oh!" She scrambled from where she had been thinking in one of the front rooms and into the hall.

Giles was holding a thin package in his hand. Joey recognized it instantly. She took it and ripped the brown packaging paper off. She was very nearly jumping up and down. There was a little note attached to a plastic CD case with a silver disk glimmering in the muted hall light. The piece of paper had familiar print on it.

*

Mini-slay,

Another addition to add to the library of your ever-continuing musical education. I hope you enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed burning it for you. I'll be making a stop in England in a few months. Plan on seeing me then, Lil Jo.

All my love,

Uncle Oz

P.S. Uncle Devon says, hello and don't forget to brush your teeth in case the boys try to kiss you, after which you should kick them in the shins. Well, he didn't say shins, but I felt that was more appropriate. You know how Uncle Devon is. Don't want your mommy mad at him again.

*

"Uncle Giles?"

"Yes?"

"What does appropriate mean?"

"It means suitable or fitting. Why?"

"Uncle Oz said Uncle Devon told me to kick the boys if they tried to kiss me. Uncle Oz said in the shins, but he said that wasn't what Uncle Devon said. He said shins was more appropriate."

"It means that whatever body part Uncle Devon suggested you kick was not for polite conversation."

Joey giggled. "You think he meant the ding dong?"

Giles blushed darkly. "Can we NOT have this conversation? Please."

"There's nothing wrong with the word ding dong. Aunt Faith says it all the time. That and wang and noodle. Though I dunno why anyone would call it a noodle. Noodles just sort of hang there all limp-like, huh? I mean-"

"That is QUITE enough on that subject, thank you."

"But Aunt Faith-"

"And yes, Aunt Faith is exactly the person you should be taking your cues from. Speaking like her is the right way to a spanked bottom and a mouthful of soap." Giles said sarcastically as he rolled his eyes.

"What are we talking about?" Willow asked cheerily as she came from upstairs.

"Ding dongs and spankings." Joey answered.

Willow missed the last step and very nearly took Giles to the floor. He righted her, then righted his glasses which seemed to have gone a bit askew from her bumping him.

"I don't think that's very appropriate, Giles." Willow hissed.

"I... that is to say... she..." Giles sputtered and gestured to Joey.

"Oh." Joey said, understanding. "I get it now. Talking about ding dongs is not appropriate. Thanks, Uncle Giles."

Then she trotted off to listen to Oz's CD.

Willow looked at Giles. "You know there's a distinct possibility that girl is gonna have severe issues when she grows up."

"Well, then she'll fit in with this group just fine, I'll wager."

Willow scowled. "I can't believe you invited that conversation."

"I did not invite the ding dong!" Giles snapped as the front door opened.

"Oh no. Are we talking about Angel again?" Xander said as he shuffled inside with a duffle bag in his hand and a knapsack on his shoulder.

"Xander!" Willow squealed as she threw herself at him.

Xander dropped both his bags and grabbed the slight redhead. "Hey, Wills. Missed you too."

"Can you two not block the doorway with your icky public display?" A familiar voice snapped from behind Xander.

Giles straightened. "Cordelia?"

She pushed her way inside dropping two suitcases before throwing her arms around Giles.

Giles blew some of her sandy brown hair out of his face. "I didn't know you were with Xander in Mesa Verde."

"I heard he was there investigating that whole coyote-people thing, so I decided I needed a vacation. I went to help out."

"How was it?"

"Dusty and full of ruins. Actually, we spent more time near Durango, and we did find a slayer. Lovely little Native American girl, Navajo I think, named She Who Walks the Spirit World... or Sarah Spottedhorse. And Oh! Xander and I got Native American Names. I'm Biting Flower and he's Laughing One. We smoked a pipe and everything. It was WAY gross, and I saw funny green spots on everything for HOURS after... and Xander, he got HUNGRIER. I didn't even know that was possible."

"Biting Flower?"

"There was an incident right after we got there. Bit of confusion at first. I might have gotten in a bit of a tussle with one of the local boys, and uh, taken a nip at his hand during said tussle."

Willow's eyes were wide.

"Yes," Xander said. "She bit someone during a bar fight."

"I shudder to think. Do I want to hear tell of it?" Giles asked.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. "Probably not."

"So this Spottedhorse person...."

"She came with us. We dropped her off at the dorms. She was real scared until Dawn and Vi got a hold of her. I recommend Dawn as her watcher. I didn't know key girl spoke Navajo or whatever. The girl might not be Navajo. But anyhow, Dawn and Sarah, those two hit like peanut butter and jelly."

Willow grinned. "I'm not surprised about the Navajo... or whatever. Dawn speaks more languages than even I do. She even speaks troll and gobbledygook."

Cordelia snorted. "Please. Even Xander can speak troll."

"Hey!"

"Oh, sweetie, I'm sorry. I bruise your fragile male ego, Laughing One?"

Xander just scowled at her.

"At least they didn't call you Dances with Demons or He of the Bug People."

He scowled harder.

Joey was suddenly standing in the hall. She was staring at Cordelia's rounded belly. "Aunt Cordy, you're pregnant! Or that's the biggest cyst I've ever seen!"

Willow and Giles gasped, noticing her stomach for the first time. She looked to be about six or seven months. It made sense why they'd finally come here. Then they looked at Xander in unison. He blushed. Joey squealed and ran to the seer.

Cordelia crouched and hugged the little girl to her. "It's not a cyst, you adorable little monster. Don't wound Aunt Cordy's ego like that."

"Who else can you trust to be completely honest?"

Cordelia opened her mouth.

"Besides Uncle Spike."

"Too true."

"You know what? I'm so glad you and Uncle Xander finally came home. I missed you. Uncle Oz made me a CD, and he's coming to visit.... and I'm a witch. I met the principal-type guy of the Hog parts witch school, and he said I was a witch, and I'd get a letter in four years. I get to be a witch like Aunt Wills, isn't that super cool?"

Xander's jaw had dropped.

Cordelia smiled and tweaked Joey's nose. "It's the essence of cool, Joeybaby."

"Hogwarts, not hog parts." Giles corrected.

"Whatever."

Joey then moved to Xander and held her arms out for him. He lifted her into a tight hug. He could smell the flowery shampoo in her soft blonde hair. They were all chatting excitedly, specifically Willow and Cordelia when the doorbell rang.

Cordelia and Xander jumped when a house elf rushed past them to answer it.

"Goo! What's with the hairless cat that walks on its hind legs?" Cordelia asked.

"That's our house elf. Smoot."

"So... guessing not evil or Buffy would have made with the slaying by now?"

"Mommy doesn't ALWAYS make with the slaying." Joey said.

Cordelia raised an eyebrow at the girl.

"Smoot's very not evil." Willow said. "He was freed by his previous family, poor thing, so we took him in. He's the best house elf ever."

"Miss Willow is too kind to Smoot." The house elf said as he led in a tall man with a long red ponytail and an earring.

"Hello, salty goodness." Cordelia whispered.

Xander elbowed her.

"You must be Bill Weasley." Willow said as she moved forward with her hand out. "Willow Rosenberg."

They shook hands.

"I'll just leave Giles with the rest of the intros and go get Buffy." Willow said before she turned and hurried up the stairs.

"Rupert Giles. This is Xander Harris and Cordelia Chase. The little blonde one is Josephine Summers, but please call her Joey."

Bill shook hands with each of them.

"Your hair is cool." Joey said.

"Can you please tell my parents that?"

Joey giggled.

"You ready to see Hogwarts today?"

"Am I ever!"

Bill looked up at the sound of feet hurrying down the stairs. His first glimpse of the slayer shocked him. This petite blonde woman rushing down with the redheaded Willow Rosenberg on her heels was Buffy Summers the Vampire Slayer? She was so little. She was also dressed in black boots that were hidden under a long black skirt. She topped that off with a black V-neck sweater that showed off the barest hint of cleavage. A silver cross hung around her neck. She was fastening an earring to her ear as she hit the last step. Her blonde hair was twisted into a loose bun at the base of her skull.

Harry and Remus had mentioned she was pretty, but as she and hers had yet to come to an Order meeting, he had not seen for himself. Actually, Remus had worked her beauty into any conversation he managed to have about her. Bill could see why now. She was pretty, and there was a definite aura of grace to her. Not what he had expected.

"I'm ready. I'm sorry I..." Her eyes landed on Xander and Cordelia. "Oh holy crap!"

Buffy hugged Xander tightly and kissed his cheek before throwing herself at Cordelia. She pulled back with a funny look on her face.

"Two heartbeats." Then she looked down at Cordelia's belly. "Oh. My. God."

Cordelia just smiled at her.

"There is so gonna be a talk when I get home."

"If it's about using protection-" Cordelia murmured.

Buffy giggled and kissed the other woman on her cheek. Cordelia's eyes shown brightly with happy tears. The two of them had not always been friends. In fact, there were times when Buffy had been sure she hated Cordelia Chase.

But that just was not the way of it any longer.

"You're going, Buffy?" Xander asked. "Already? We just got here. Cordy hasn't even managed to get on your nerves yet."

Cordelia glared at him.

"I have to go speak at the school. I'll be back."

"Buffy's giving a presentation on averting apocalypses." Willow said proudly.

"Thanks, Mom." Buffy kidded.

Xander grinned. "Well, she is the master on the subject."

"We all are." Buffy said as she lifted Joey from his arms then took her coat and a black briefcase from Willow's arms. Finally she looked at Bill.

"Buffy Summers."

"I gathered. Bill Weasley."

"I figured."

They smiled at one another as they headed out with several calls of 'good luck' and 'have fun'. Giles followed and placed Buffy smaller weapons chest in the trunk of the vehicle. Xander helped by carrying the small overnight bag that Buffy had packed for herself and Joey.

Then they were off.

*~*~*~*~*

Bill sat on the train quietly watching Ms. Summers go over some of her papers that she'd pulled from her briefcase. He had offered to shrink her weapons chest when they were boarding the train, but that daughter of hers had informed him that 'Mommy doesn't like other people touching her weapons'. Bill had snickered. He couldn't help it. The child's words had been laced with double entendre. The slayer had flushed scarlet and told her daughter not to talk for a while, so the train ride was occurring mostly in silence but for the rustling of pages.

Joey was listening to muggle headphones and bobbing her head. Then she started singing. "Tell me why-eee... ain't nothin' but a heartache. Tell me why-ee... ain't nothin' but a mistake. Tell me why-ee... I never wanna hear you say, I want it that'a way..."

Buffy stopped then. "What on earth ARE you listening to?"

Joey yanked off the headphones. "Uncle Oz mailed me a CD."

"Of WHAT exactly?"

"Me First and the Gimme Gimmes."

Buffy's eyes narrowed.

"They do what Uncle Oz calls cover songs. It's my lesson for this week... how the same song can sound WAY different depending on who plays it. How a song can be sucky before and cool after."

"I'd be interested in this lesson, I think" Buffy was still a bit skeptical. "And don't use the word sucky."

"May I?" Bill asked.

"I would prefer you didn't use it either." Buffy said with a wry grin.

"No, I meant..." They both looked at him as he took Joey's headphones and pulled out his wand. "You know this won't work at Hogwarts, right?"

"I know. Uncle Giles gave me this book called 'Hogwarts, A History'. I read all about it. The magic makes the electricity go all wonky."

Bill nearly dropped his wand. He couldn't wait for this kid to meet Hermione. He flicked his wand at the headphones. "Sonorus."

A muggle music sound filled the compartment. There was lots of guitar and a heavy drum beat to it. Bill felt himself being pulled in, though he did not know the song. The sound of it had him firmly in its claws. It was obviously midway through.

Buffy smiled. "Neat."

Joey bobbed her head and sang along. "Someday we'll find it... the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me!"

Buffy joined her. "All of us... under its spell. We know that's it's probably maaaaa-gic!"

Bill was in awe. There was something about the two of them just now. He felt as if he were intruding on a personal moment.

Joey reached over and clicked next to the player.

"Hey." Buffy said.

"This one's better, Mommy. It's one of our songs."

Bill's eyes went wide. They had songs, the two of them? It reminded him of his sister and his mother. The two of them had things as well. Not songs, but there were certain things, certain inside jokes that he, his father, nor any of his brothers got. Sometimes it was almost as if Ginny and Mum spoke a different language than the rest of them. It must be a mother/daughter thing. There was something magical about that sort of bond in Bill's opinion.

Buffy was confused about the guitar sound until she heard the lyrics. She recognized the song. It had been sped up and punked up a bit in this cover. Leave it to Oz. She'd have to thank him. This version was more 'get up and dance' than the original, but the words still held the same meaning to her. She never said anything to anyone, but the lyrics always reminded her of Spike. This seemed to be more his version though. Hard, gritty... like Spike himself. She could always picture him knowing and saying these words. Somehow it was more-so with this edgy version of the song.

And he'd always been wrong about her. She had loved him... just not the way he'd wanted her to. They'd tried, but it was just... off with them. Always. He had no light to counter her dark, and Buffy had always been under the impression that was what she had needed after Angel.

How wrong she was. How foolish. Thank the higher powers she was finally getting smarter with age because she certainly could not have gotten any dumber about a few things. Love being one of them. She always wanted the one thing her partner could never give her.

I can't light no more of your darkness
All my pictures seem to fade to black and white
I'm growing tired and time stands still before me
Frozen here on the ladder of my life

Bill watched in awe as the two of them leaned into each other's faces and sang.

Too late to save myself from falling
I took a chance and changed your little life
But you misread my meaning when I met you
Closed the door and left me blind... blind... blind

Bill started when Buffy jumped to her feet and yanked Joey into her arms. They were still singing, but also sort of dancing in their little compartment.

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's someone else I see
I just allowed a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

He was gaping. He couldn't help himself. The slayer had seemed so reserved this whole time. She'd been reminding him a bit of Percy, but this... this was absolute silliness. They were likely disturbing everyone else on the train. Bill quickly cast a silencing charm on the compartment.

I can't find, oh the right romantic line
But see me once and see the way I feel
Don't discard me just because you think I mean you harm
But these cuts I have, they need love to help them heal

Joey was standing on the seat. She screamed along with the words and grabbed Bill's hands. She was swinging his arms back and forth, trying to get him to dance.

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's someone else I see
I just allowed a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

He finally gave in and bobbed about a little. Charlie was really the only male Weasley who could dance properly and that was due to the Gypsies who lived near the Romanian dragon reserve where his brother worked.

Don't let the sun go down on me
Although I search myself, it's someone else I see
I just allowed a fragment of your life to wander free
But losing everything is like the sun going down on me

After that he was gone. As the song winded to its close, Bill was dancing just as silly as the slayer and her daughter. An attendant opened the door then, likely to tell them they were at Hogsmeade Station, but the man clamped his mouth shut and closed the door. The three occupants started laughing insanely.

"Well, that was awkward." Bill said.

Buffy snorted. "Welcome to my world."

Bill smiled. He liked her. Not LIKED liked. Friendly liked. Like she could have been his best friend or something. Like she could have hung out with him and Charlie and their friends during his Hogwarts days drinking butterbeer.... like she still could.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

"Most of our songs are about sunshine."

Bill looked at Joey as he was making sure Buffy's weapons chest made it with them. The slayer was a few feet away peering into the growing night.

"What?"

"Me and Mommy have songs. I could sense that you wondered about that earlier. Most of them are about sunlight or something."

"Oh?"

"Sunshine chases most of the dark bad shadowy things away."

Bill blinked.

" 'Ello, there, Bill."

Bill looked up. "Hello, Hagrid."

Joey looked up too. "Holy poop on a stick."

Buffy walked over slowly. Bill noticed she had one hand in her long black coat. Her eyes had gone cold. They were unblinking at Hagrid.

"Hagrid, might I introduce Buffy Summers, the vampire slayer, and her daughter Josephine Summers... Joey. Ladies, this is Rubeus Hagrid... but everybody calls him Hagrid. He's the Care of Magical Creatures professor and the keeper of grounds and keys at Hogwarts."

Buffy relaxed and took her hand off of the stake hidden in the lining of her coat. Bill noticed the ice in her eyes melt to a warm glow of friendliness as she held out a delicate hand to Hagrid.

"Nice to meet you."

"Likewise."

"Are you an ogre?" Joey asked.

Buffy poked her in the arm.

"Ow!"

"Er, no. I'm a giant. Half ter be exact."

"Cool. I've never met a giant before."

Hagrid grinned. "Well then it really is a pleasure ter meet ya."

Joey grinned.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They rode across a murky lake in boat that needed no oars. Joey was completely fascinated. She was even more fascinated when the castle come out of the light fog rolling across the lake. Buffy was a bit impressed herself.

Joey was walking in with her mouth agape.

Hagrid and Bill were talking quietly as they made their way through the quiet corridors.

"They should 'ave just settled down for supper."

Hagrid swung the great oak doors to the hall open. Buffy blinked. The place was filled. All eyes turned to the four entering.

"They're all staring, Mom." Joey whispered.

"Stare back."

Joey scanned the hall. Suddenly her blue eyes locked with green ones behind glasses. "Harry!"

Buffy made a grab for Joey but she was a bit too late in noticing what her daughter was planning. The little blonde scrambled across the hall and threw herself at Harry Potter. The teenage boy caught her to him, laughing a little.

"Oh look." Someone said loudly in a sneering voice. "Potter's got himself a new girlfriend."

Joey let go of Harry and scanned the other table for the owner of that voice. Her eyes lit on a boy with hair as blonde as hers and eyes the color of sterling.

"I'm too young. Duh! Pervert." She snapped nastily.

Someone sitting near them choked.

Joey turned back to Harry, forgetting the nasty boy who used more hair product that Uncle Angel. "We rode in a car and then a train to get to Hogs Peed-"

"Hogsmeade." A hulky redhead boy said with a snicker.

"Whatever. Then Bill made my walkman play loud on the train and we sang and danced and Bill looks funny when he dances. Then we rode boats with no oars or motors. It was cool, Harry. I like your school. I can't wait to go here."

Harry grinned.

"I'm surprised Mommy could see the place though since she's a muggle, but maybe since she's not a regular muggle she could see it."

Harry's brow scrunched in confusion.

"Muggles can't see Hog parts."

"Hogwarts." The redheaded boy corrected again with some more snickering.

"Whatever. They can't see it. It says so in 'Hogwarts, A History'."

A girl with lots of curly brown hair next to the redheaded boy perked up. "You've read 'Hogwarts, A History'?"

Joey held up two fingers to indicate she had read it twice.

"Finally, Hermione." The redhead said with a chuckle. "You've found a kindred spirit."

"What's your name, mister smartypants?"

"Oh sorry, Joey." Harry said with a sheepish look. "That's Ron Weasley and that's Hermione Granger. They're my best friends. That's Ron's sister Ginny. That's Neville Longbottom. Over there's Seamus Finnigan and taller one is Dean Thomas. Those two are Dennis and Colin Creevey."

Buffy had walked up to collect her daughter. "Joey, hon, you can meet everyone later. They're waiting on us to start dinner."

"Hello, Ms. Summers." Harry said politely.

"Harry, I've told you that you can called me Buffy. Ms. Summers makes me feel so old."

"And we wouldn't want that." He said with a grin.

Buffy smirked at him as she lifted Joey into her arms and headed for the head table. She heard the redheaded boy that Bill had pointed out as his little brother Ron whisper something hysterical to Harry.

"Harry, were you just flirting with that woman?"

"No."

"It looked like you were, mate You grinned all silly and everything... and the tone your voice took."

"That's just how you talk to her. They're all like that. Her and her friends. Trust me."

Buffy was grinning as Bill led her to three empty seats. She stopped to shake Professor Dumbledore's hand and get introduced to Deputy Headmistress Minerva McGonagall. She was told she would meet the rest of the staff after dinner. As she moved to one of the empty chairs, Buffy noticed Remus Lupin. A sly grin spread on her face. There was something infinity likable about the man. He rose and held out her chair... next to him. Buffy looked for Joey. Bill had already helped her into her chair.

"Hello, Professor Lupin." Buffy murmured.

"Ms. Summers, I believe I told you that you were allowed to called me Remus."

"Ok. But no more Ms. Summers. The name's Buffy."

"All right then... Buffy. Just remember the Remus. Professor Lupin makes me feel as though you are one of the students."

"And we wouldn't want that." She smirked at him.

Remus swallowed. It had been a great while since a woman flirted with him.

Dumbledore stood. "As you can see, we have guests. This is Ms. Buffy Summers the Vampire Slayer and her daughter Miss Josephine Summers. I'm sure a lot of you have questions. Please save them for tomorrow after Ms. Summers has been fed and has had a good night's sleep. Tuck in."

Buffy jerked when food just appeared on the tables. Cool.

"Mommy." Joey whispered.

"Hmmm?" Buffy said as she spooned some macaroni and cheese onto Joey's plate.

"Do you have Mister Pointy on you?"

"Yes. You know that I do. Why?"

"There's a vampire at the other end of the table."

"What?" Buffy leaned around and scanned the faces of the other people.

Her eyes landed on a pale figure with greasy hair wearing all black. She started in panic and fumbled to get her stake from the waistband of her skirt. Then she stopped.

"He's not a vampire."

"Are you sure, Mom?"

"What's the matter?" Remus whispered. He'd noticed the whispered conversation, but had not listened in, fearing it might be private.

"So Dumbledore hires wolves and giants. What about vamps?"

"What?"

"Are there vampires on staff here?"

"No, why would you..." He cut himself off with a loud crack of laughter.

Several eyes turned to him. Professor Lupin was not known for his laughter. Not that he was an old sour cranky pants like Snape, but he just didn't get too emotional about things one way or the other. He just tended to be serene and seemingly unaffected. Calm.

"What is it?" Bill whispered, leaning around Buffy and Joey.

Remus wiped the tears from his eyes. "Buffy thought Snape was a vampire. I think she was about to slay him."

Bill let out a loud guffaw that Buffy was certain shook some dust on the rafters loose.

"It's not THAT funny." Buffy snapped.

"It is when you know him." Bill said between chortles. "You might be tempted to stake him anyway upon further inspection. He takes surly and unpleasant to whole new levels."

Buffy glared.

"I find..." A voice said from behind them. "That I must know what is so humorous at this end of the table."

Buffy blushed as she looked up at Dumbledore.

"Oh Buffy was just considering staking your potions professor because didn't think he was of the living. Nothing too serious, Professor Dumbledore." Bill said casually.

Buffy made a squeak noise.

Dumbledore chuckled. "Then, Ms. Summers, I quite invite you to check for a pulse when you shake Severus's hand."

Buffy gave him a look that strongly reminded everyone of a pit viper right before it stuck.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They were being introduced to the staff. Joey kept yawning. Buffy knew he daughter was bored and likely very tired, especially with how heavy their dinner had been. Not that it wasn't excellent. Someone had certainly found out what Summers women liked to eat. Many of their favorites had been on the menu tonight.

That didn't stop her daughter for doing one of those wacky things Buffy was known for in her younger days.

Dumbledore had just introduced one Severus Snape to the both of them Buffy shook his hand politely. Joey grabbed his hand and placed two fingers to his wrist.

"Josephine." Buffy hissed when the man tried to yank his hand away, but the girl held fast.

"I'm checking for a pulse." Joey hissed out of the side of her mouth.

Snape gave the little girl a look that would have peeled back paint. Joey just stared blankly.

"All right, mister. You may be alive, but you are still suspect!" She snapped, waving a finger at him.

"Joey!"

Snape folded his arms across his chest. "Suspect of what, might I ask?"

"You may."

"Well?"

"Shiftiness."

"What?"

"You look shifty-"

"Josephine Finn Summers!"

"I don't trust you. And no, you aren't a vampire, but you look like one. So no trust."

"I'm terribly sorry. She-"

"What a rude little child."

Joey glared at him and mimicked his folded arms and stiff stance. "Pfft! If you thought that was rude, then you don't really know what the word means. I have an Aunt Cordy who could make you cry."

Buffy was about to say something, but Dumbledore placed a hand on her arm. He was completely fascinated by the exchange. Most of the younger children held some fear of Severus Snape. Joey Summers had barely batted an eyelash.

"Is that so?"

"Sure. She's made Uncle Angel cry, and he's a big bad vampire. They don't call him the Scourge of Europe for nothing. I think she even made Uncle Spike tear up once, but he blamed that on grit in his eye. My Uncle Spike has another name too... William the Bloody. He and Uncle Angel killed way lots of people before they got all soul-having."

"Is that a fact?"

"It is."

Snape arched one brow. The two of them were locked in a stare in the exact same stance.

"Oh, they don't kill anymore... unless the right person asks."

"I take it these fearsome creatures adore you."

"From tops to toenails. Every last hair on my head."

"How fortunate for you."

"Whatever. Besides, I'm not rude. I'm just straightforward. I have what Uncle Giles calls an appalling lack of tact."

Snape's lip twitched. He might have smiled if he had not gotten himself under control.

"So what do you teach again?"

"Potions."

"Mommy, is that the chemistry one?" Joey whispered over her shoulder.

"Yes."

Joey looked at Snape with a gleam in her eye. "I'm gonna kick butt in your class."

"Oh?"

"I'm real good at mixing things."

"Potions is more that merely mixing things."

"Well, duh! I'm just saying."

"We'll see."

"Yeah, I guess we will." And with that she whipped her back to him and stalked off.

Buffy looked at Snape with a wilted sort of smile. "She's a bit intense."

"There's no need to apologize."

"I wasn't."

Snape looked at her sharply.

"Joey is as she is. Accept her or not. She doesn't care."

"Is that truly the daughter's sentiment... or is it the mother's?"

"Joey doesn't need your approval, and neither do I."

"I had gathered as much." Snape said with a nasty little smirk. "I begun to wonder who would annoy me once Miss Granger graduated. Now it seems I have that answer."

Buffy's eyes narrowed. "I should have staked you at dinner."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Buffy was sitting on the window seat of the rooms she and Joey were staying in. The slayer was staring out over the lake. There was a fingernail of a moon out tonight. It was peeking through the clouds. She was wearing her flannel kitty jammies and a pair of wool socks. Buffy heard a noise behind her and turned. She made a face.

Joey was dressed for bed in a pair of gray thermal long johns with an old Sunnydale High t shirt thrown over them. Her feet sported wool socks and her fuzzy black cat house slippers. Her robe was thrown on over everything. The worn thing was pale pink flannel. It was getting old, but it was something given to her by Aunt Dawn, so Joey would probably insist upon wearing the robe until she couldn't fit in it any longer, or it fell apart.

Joey crawled up into the window seat with her mother. Despite the cold outside, the room was quite toasty.

"What are you thinking?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Because, Mommy, you always have complicated thoughts."

Buffy laughed a little. "This one's not. I was thinking about how this was like being a princess in a tower. Like in a fairy tale.... except I'm not the princess."

"You could be. You're pretty enough."

"I was once, you know. I used to be the princess. I was quite happy being the princess."

"And then you became the knight?"

"Yeah."

"Which was better? Which made you more happy?"

"It's not fair to compare them." Buffy said wistfully as she traced a shape in the condensation on the glass. Then she looked at Joey. "But I'm glad I'm the knight."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Long after they had fallen asleep, something woke Buffy. She crept out of their room silently after donning her sneakers and a sweater and placing her blonde hair on a ponytail.

She treaded almost noiselessly across the grounds, gripping a stake in her hand. She came to a stop at the edge of a forest. Damn, if those trees didn't make her skin hum like her hellmouth had. She closed her eyes for a minute and inhaled. Just like Sunnydale.

It was almost heady. She had not smelled anything like Sunnydale in a very long time. Not even the hellmouth in Cleveland smelled like this. It was sweet death and darkness, that unique smell known only to Sunnydalians. The scent of something unnatural.

A twig snapped to her left. Buffy whirled around to hide behind a large tree. She waited, her senses going into slayer-mode. She gripped the wood in her hand. Her muscles tensed, waiting to spring. Whatever it was moved closer. It was coming her way. Good. It wasn't right to get all worked up and not fight.

Out of the corner of her eye, something black moved just past her hiding spot. Buffy threw herself at it. The body went down easily. She was swinging her stake... and stopped less than an inch from the chest of the potions professor.

"Oh."

"Ms. Summers, we meet again."

"I'm so sorry." Buffy said as she scrambled to her feet and helped him to his, rather effortlessly. "I though you were... uh... er..."

"A vampire?"

Buffy blushed, thankful the moon was not full. "Well... a something anyhow. Look, I'm really sorry."

He just looked at her.

"What?"

"Charming slaying attire. Is that what you always slay in?"

Buffy glared. "These are my jammies."

One black eyebrow went up.

"What are you doing creeping around looking all creepy in the creepy woods in the middle of the night anyhow?"

He held up a cloth bag. "Deadly nightshade. It's best to collect it after midnight when the moon is in its wax."

"Oh."

"And yourself?"

"Oh I don't make a habit of collecting weird plants."

"No, I meant what are YOU doing out at this hour?"

"I had a tingle."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I just had this... feeling. Haven't you ever gotten those? Slayers get them a lot. They usually go hand in hand with prophetic dreams. Like a gut feeling. Like you know something's gonna happen, you aren't sure exactly what, but you know you have to be ready for it." Buffy stopped at the way he was looking at her. "Nevermind. Now I'm being creepy. Sorry."

"No. It's quite all right. You make perfect sense."

"You know, that is the first time anybody's ever told me that. I'll have to tell Giles that at last I have found someone who I make some sense to."

As they walked back to the castle, he made a few snide comments about her kitty jammies... for which she threatened him with a sound beating, but other than that, the conversation was none.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

She was wandering... in a long black nightgown. The kind that touched your toes when you walked. It was all sleeveless and lacy at the top. It reminded Buffy of something Drusilla might wear.

She was not supposed to be here. That was for certain.

"What do we do with traitors to the Dark Lord?" Someone asked.

There was a forest. It was dark. There was a cauldron on a fire nearby, an alter, and a chair. She moved more around the crowd gathered in the forest with their dark cloaks and white masks. Obscene grayish white faces of distortion shrouded in all that black. It reminded her of something.

As she came more around the crowd... odd that no one was noticing her... she noticed there was a person strung up. His pale chest had several bleeding carvings in it. It reminded Buffy of that time the First had gotten a hold of Spike. She could see the blood running into the man's black slacks. His dark hair was hanging in his face. His arm, she noticed, bore the tattoo of a skull with a snake coming out of the mouth. It was just below the elbow on the inside of the forearm.

As the man lifted his head to look at her, Buffy gasped. That face was familiar. Snape.

Can't even shout
Can't even cry
The gentlemen are coming by
Looking in windows
Knocking on doors
They need to take seven
and they might take yours
Can't call to mom
Can't say a word
You're gonna die screaming
but you won't be heard

Buffy shivered as the childlike voice seemed to come from the very trees.

All the cloaked figures turned to her. Buffy felt them closing in. She moved suddenly and knocked the cauldron over the ground that hissed and bubbled as it was awash in whatever had been inside. She took the wooden chair and smashed it against the great pewter cauldron until she came up with two legs that worked as weapons.

She swung them expertly around her body using a combination of short staff and sai moves.

"Bring it." She hissed in that low tone of hers that meant she was rabid with anger that could boil over at any second.

"Summers, look out!"

She spun about and raised one of her weapons with a shrill battle cry.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Buffy jerked straight up in her bed with a silent scream. Her hand was over her pounding heart. It took her a minute to remember where she was. Wow. Some dream. She was sweating even.

A house elf came around to wake them shortly after that.

Buffy was slightly cranky because she'd had a bizarre dream about Snape. One of those bizarre slayer dreams. She had not had one of those since the days of fighting the First. She felt like something bad going to happen to him. Buffy squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her hand to her face. It meant something. It had to... and that little rhyme, that had been the thing she'd heard in her dream before the gentlemen stole all their voices.

Was that to happen here? Were there more gentlemen? And what did Severus Snape have to do with all of that?

"Mommy?"

She smiled at Joey. There'd be plenty of time for research a bit later. She had a presentation to give. Buffy grabbed the dream journal she always carried with her now and jotted down a few notes for Giles to peruse before rising for the day.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*

They were in the great hall.

Joey had opted to sit with Harry and his friends... well, on Harry's lap. Buffy could not figure out what it was about Harry that Joey liked so much. Not that Harry wasn't great. He was. Very much so, but Buffy had never seen her daughter so take to someone.

She was not the best speechmaker in the world, but she held her audience rapt. She told stories. Her stories. The Scooby stories. A few of the girls got weepy when she had to kill Angel. Some of them even got weepy when Spike gave his unlife in the battle against the First. There had been cheering when they blew up the high school with the snake mayor in it. But there wasn't a dry eye in the house when she died for Dawn. It all went to illustrate how an apocalypse could be many things, and that a slayer's responsibility had changed with her calling.

"Now... how would you all like to see a practical demonstration of vampire slaying?"

There was some clapping, lots of murmuring, and some shock.

"You all can thank your Defense Against the Dark Arts professor for creating this for me. They aren't real vampires, but the slayer in me won't know the difference. Also, no need for alarm, there is a barrier between yourselves and the vampires. The only one inside it will be me."

She was standing on the raised platform where the teachers' table had sat. At her nod Remus opened a box that appeared to be the size of a pet taxi. Strangely three shapes crawled out of it. They stood and shook themselves out. A few people screamed at their demonic faces.

Buffy looked at Remus. "Three? I'm insulted."

Someone screamed when Buffy was grabbed from behind.

Harry rose to his feet with Joey in his arms.

"Sit back down, Harry. Just watch."

"Oh! No fair!" Buffy slammed her head back. "For you!"

It broke the nose of her attacker. She freed herself. There were three more behind her. She produced a stake and sent it screaming through the air into the chest of one vampire. It exploded to dust right about the time she produced another stake and stabbed the vampire closest to her. Four left. She dropped to one knee when another swung at her. Her arm went up, and dust showered down on her as she rolled out of the reach of one of the remaining three. As Buffy sprung to her feet, she had somehow produced another stake. She twirled the two pieces of wood on her hands viciously.

"Come and get it."

The last three rushed her. In a fury of arms, there were three more piles of dust. Buffy twirled the stakes in her hands like some sort of gunslinger before deftly tucking them into the back waist of her pants.

The hall was quiet for a second before it exploded in applause.

*~*~*~*~*~*

As Buffy and Joey were getting ready to head back home, the slayer pulled Albus Dumbledore aside.

"I don't want to alarm you, sir, but I need a way to get here from my home quickly. Or specifically wherever Professor Snape is going to be frequenting."

"I must say, no one's ever warned me that they were planning on stalking Severus."

"That's not what I..." Then Buffy realized he was joking. "I had a dream about him."

"Is this something I'm going to be embarrassed to hear? I'd hate to be imagining Severus in any sort of sexual setting."

"It wasn't like that!" Buffy snapped. "I'm serious! I had a slayer dream, and he was the star!"

Dumbledore sobered instantly. "I apologize. Do go on."

"I think he's in danger. Does he play both sides... in the non-sexual way? What I mean is, does he spy?" She whispered the last part.

Dumbledore was shocked. How did she know? She had not been to an Order meeting as of yet. None of her people had. None of them should be aware of Severus's extracurricular activities.

"I think they know." Buffy continued. "He can't go back. I saw what happens if he does."

"It has been becoming more perilous for some time now, Ms. Summers. I will speak with Professor Snape."

Buffy smiled at him, but inside she was frowning. Somehow she didn't think a warning and a stern talkin' to were gonna stop Severus Snape from doing what he felt he needed to do. Buffy had the feeling she might have to play out this particular dream sequence in the future.

She chanced and glance at the object of her future rescuing efforts. He was staring at her. Buffy smiled at him. He seemed startled by this and scowled at her before looking away.

Buffy frowned.

*~*~*

end fic
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