Snakes Alive, Part II
Disclaimer: BTVS owned by Joss Whedon, et. al.; HP by J.K. Rowling. This work is for fun, not profit. I own none of the characters. Any failure on the humor front is, of course, mine.
A/N: Maybe 5 years post-Chosen for BTVS. Ignores Season 8-9 comics. Starts with HP Book 1 and is mostly AU, non-canon after that. All significant action takes place in the Potterverse.
Chapter 12: Snakes Alive, Part II
Buffy was communicating mentally with Willow as she raced towards the Ravenclaw tower.
'I hated to leave them there,' she said, 'the basilisk is probably more dangerous than Greyback.'
'Yep,' agreed Willow. 'But you blinded it. They should be able to hold it off. And you know it was the right thing to do.'
'Stupid Slayer dreams,' thought Buffy. 'If they get hurt, I'm giving the dreams up for good.'
'You know you can't do that, Buffy.' Willow projected a mental image of her resolve face. 'And this time, you know it's for their own good.'
'It's for Harry's own good,' replied Buffy. 'Not Hermione's. She's ours. And we did invite Dudley up here. So if he gets killed helping out Harry, it's pretty much our fault.'
'We're just gonna have to trust the PTB on this, Buff,' said Willow. 'I know you don't like that, and I don't either, but Harry's got a key role to play here. We've been futzing with the timeline too much already.'
'Yeah, yeah. Granted. The PTB have their reasons,' she shook her head in annoyance. 'But I don't have to like them,' she added.
'Just focus on the mission,' replied Willow evenly. 'Get Greyback.'
'Right. Greyback. Nasty mean werewolf,' said Buffy. 'If I'm quick enough, Xander and I can get back to the dungeon to help Hermione.'
'We'll see, Buffy,' sighed Willow. 'We'll see.'
Willow shook her head. She knew Buffy wouldn't be back in time, and Buffy knew it as well. They'd both been fighting their destinies too long not to realize that sometimes you couldn't alter things that were meant to be. It was Harry's snake to deal with and, if he didn't, the kids down in the Slytherin dungeon were going to be in a world of hurt. She had enough on her plate, cleaning up the survivors in the halls outside Hufflepuff. Hopefully, it would go better downstairs than it had up here.
They had 11 dead in this part of the basement. 4 house-elves, 3 Hufflepuff old lags who'd wandered away from the party to cruise their former stomping grounds, and 2 pairs of older students who'd picked the wrong corridor to try an adults-only version of the Humpty Dance. She'd also had to teleport another dozen or so to Madame Pomfrey. They'd either been caught by side glances of the basilisk or been bowled over by the snake's heavy passage. She'd communicated with Giles early on, and he was rallying the Professors to get the other House's kids out of harm's way, but they were bound to be too late to help the Snakey-snakes. She wondered where the heck Dumbledore was this evening. Of all the times to turn up missing.
Whatever the outcome, this was bound to shake things up here at the school. Which, after all, was exactly the game plan the PTB wanted, bastards that they were.
Slytherin's Common Room was long, deep, and dark. As Harry went down the steps from the entryway, he could feel a certain coldness in the air that he immediately associated with the passage of the basilisk. It seemed to have gone down to the far end of the room, where windows looked out below the surface of the lake. It must have coiled itself up somewhat as the furniture at that end was thrashed and jumbled like the snake had been writhing around a good bit. He could just make out its bulk in the dim greenish light. He held up his hand to halt the others.
"Now what?" he muttered out the side of his mouth to Hermione as she came up beside him.
"Is that the basilisk down there?" she whispered.
"I think so," said Harry. "What else could it be? Dudley, do you still have that sword?"
"Right here, Harry," replied Dudley in a low tone. "We're not going to charge it are we?"
"It doesn't seem advisable," agreed Harry softly. "But what are we going to do with it? Buffy may have blinded it but it's still a huge snake with poison fangs."
"Maybe we can stack the furniture up and pin it in until Buffy gets back," Hermione started to say, when Draco Malfoy suddenly walked out of one of the dorm entrances halfway between them and the snake.
"Look out, Draco!" hissed Harry.
Draco turned towards the entryway at the sound of Harry's voice. "Potter! And Granger. And a Muggle. What in God's name are you doing in our dungeon?" he accused in a loud, carrying voice.
The snake charged as soon as Draco spoke. Malfoy spun around at the sound of furniture splintering or being knocked aside. The sight of the snake, blood dripping from its shattered eyes, seemed to have him momentarily paralyzed.
"Run, Malfoy!" screamed Hermione.
At this prompting, he did something which neither the snake nor its three pursuers expected: he transformed into a mouse. In that form, he took off at high speed towards the sloth's habitat in the corner of the room opposite the staircase. The basilisk, apparently catching the appealing scent of the rodent, pursued him.
"He's an animagus," exclaimed Hermione. "But how could he have learned to do that so young?"
"It doesn't matter," said Harry impatiently, inwardly marveling at how Hermione could question every detail about magic even in the middle of a life or death crisis. "Let's see if we can trap it in there."
They ran to the entrance of the habitat. The school had heard about this thing. The Slytherins couldn't resist bragging about it even though the Hufflepuffs had created it for them. It was really a remarkable bit of magic, in that, once you entered it, you appeared to be entering a real tropical rainforest. Some even speculated that it WAS a real rainforest. No one had the guts to go very far in, because of the occasional howls of the jaguars, but as far as anyone had gone, the terrain had been as rich and varied as anyone could expect in a real jungle.
Whether it was a real jungle or not, Hermione agreed that trapping the snake inside the habitat might be a way to put a stop to any more casualties. The name of the sloth's island roughly translated as "shield of the goddess." If it would just shield these bally Slytherins, then that would be good enough for her.
Harry raced into the habitat, wand first. The basilisk was moiling around in the long grass of the first clearing, apparently trying to locate and snap up Draco, who had completely disappeared from sight. However, its hearing must've been better than they thought, because it whirled towards them at the sound of the twig which snapped under Dudley's first step into the clearing. It raised itself up, 15 feet or more into the air, and poised itself as if to strike.
Hermione and Dudley froze instantly, while Harry carried on a step or two, then did the same. "Harry," Hermione whispered, "I'm out of plans. How do we seal this place up?"
"Can you contact Willow mentally again?" asked Harry out of the side of his mouth. "I have the feeling she must've built this place if she's all you say she is with the magic."
"Good idea. I'll try," replied Hermione, equally low. "But we're going to have to run or distract it, though. Because it's about to strike if it doesn't go after Malfoy again."
"She's right, mate," added Dudley for good measure. "Is that wand of yours good for something other than pointing out where our impending doom is coming from?"
A fish jumped in the small pond on the other side of the clearing. The basilisk's head turned in that direction. Distraction, distraction, thought Harry wildly. What spell could he use? Maybe he could throw something. That spell that Flitwick had been using in Charms? What was it?
The snake's head was pointed in their direction again. Just then, he noticed the sloth hanging from the branches of the mangrove tree closest to the entryway, closer to the snake than them. It was eyeing the proceedings rather unconcernedly, he thought, which is perhaps what inspired Harry at this point. 'Ah! Got it!' he said to himself exultantly.
"Propello!" he shouted, pointing the wand at the sloth and then flicking it towards the snake.
The fight with Greyback was relatively brief. He was just where Willow said he would be, trying to bridge the gap between Xander's precarious platform and a 3rd floor corridor of the main staircase, where a portion of the steps had obligingly vanished before Greyback could pursue him up it. The only problem was that the flight above had also disappeared, leaving Xander stuck on the landing with nowhere to go.
Greyback heard or sensed her coming and turned, snarling. His transformed figure looked odd, too large for a wolf, too strangely-shaped to be a man, covered with matted hair and a very frightening muzzle full of teeth on the business end. It was also holding a wand clumsily in its right paw, or hand, or whatever. That surprised her, because she assumed he would've been in too wolf-like a mindset to cast any spells while transformed. But Buffy didn't have time to identify the differences between this type of werewolf and those of her own world. She simply raced in and with one blow of the Scythe, had his wand arm off at the bicep.
The man-like wolf, or wolf-like man, depending on your perspective, howled bloody murder at this. Not that it would do him much good. The Scythe had plenty of silver in its makeup, so that was one arm that the lycanthrope wasn't going to grow back when he transformed again. She caught Xander's eye and nodded. Xander summoned his broom, then flew over to back up Buffy, positioning himself behind her, between Greyback and the stairs to Ravenclaw.
The wolf charged suddenly, extremely quick even on only three good legs. Buffy waited to see if it was a feint, then swung for the decapitating blow. Greyback halted his charge and twisted away just a instant late, the blade of the axe putting a deep gash into his muzzle as well as taking out his left eye. He staggered back, looking for a way to escape, but the only option was to get past the diminutive Slayer or else to jump 3 stories down the stairwell -- a good 75 foot drop given the Castle's high ceiling. Chancy enough when in normal circumstances; potentially fatal in his weakened condition.
Buffy didn't want Greyback dead necessarily, not yet at least. She had some questions he needed to answer first. So, seeing his predicament, she released the axe and drew out her wand, contemplating the panting, bleeding wolf.
"Kinda stings, don't it?" inquired Buffy sweetly. "Let me just change you back to a human now that you're hurting, and we'll put a band-aid on those boo-boos, whaddya say?"
The werewolf growled menacingly, but Greyback was indeed hurting. She couldn't possibly be powerful enough to force him to transform, not with the full moon in the sky. But he couldn't see getting past her with that axe in her hand. This must be the Slayer he'd heard so much about. Maybe she'd make a mistake with her wand and he'd be able to take it from her, though the boy behind her had his wand in one hand, a sword in the other, and a large axe strapped to his back. Quirrell obviously hadn't told him the truth about what kind of opposition he was facing here while the professor went off in search of the Stone.
The girl was waving the wand in the complex motions of the Homorphus Charm. She finished with a flourish and a strong "Homorphus transmutato!" To his shock, Greyback felt himself turning back into a human. 30 seconds later, he was naked on his knees in front of the Slayer. She used her wand again to bind his wounds, then summoned a robe that draped itself around his body.
Greyback had to admit he was out of his depth. Physically, this tiny girl had come within an inch or so of ending him permanently. Now she was using her wand as if she had a century of practice and with a power rarely seen outside of the strongest Dark Wizards. If she knew any of the Unforgivables, and was willing to use them, he was going to be singing like a bird.
He was immensely gratified, therefore, when Snape suddenly charged down the upper stairs, wand in hand and shouting: "Get away from him! He's a werewolf!" He pointed his wand past Greyback and yelled "Reducto!"
Snape's curse collapsed the ceiling between the Slayer and Greyback, who took his chance and leapt the railing aiming for the 2nd floor bannister. He grabbed it with his good arm, pulled himself onto the stairs, and then raced downwards to his pre-arranged meeting spot with Quirrell -- the Quidditch pitch. He was going to have to fly one-handed and one-eyed it seemed, but maybe his new Dark Lord could fix that for him. He was highly annoyed that he hadn't had a chance to bite any students, but with that Slayer creature and now Snape on his tail, discretion was the better part of valor.
He sincerely hoped Quirrell had gotten the Stone. If not, this was going to be a bloody disaster for both of them.
The basilisk snapped at the sloth, catching it through the chest, then threw back its head to swallow the small, unfortunate animal whole. Hermione looked at Harry, realizing that he had no idea what he'd just done. Willow and Buffy had laughingly relayed the story of Lord Voldesloth to her months ago, as well as the prophecy that was at the core of Dumbledore's obsession with the battle he was not-quite preparing Harry to wage. 'Well,' she thought to herself, 'I guess some prophecies come true no matter what you do to avoid them.' She hoped there weren't any with her name on them out there. Voldemort's fate was certainly deserved, but that was small comfort at seeing its sudden, remorseless resolution.
Snapping out of it, she followed Harry's example and used another throwing charm to uproot a small bush and heave it behind the snake, its rattling landing distracting the basilisk again. Dudley was busy pointing out other things to Harry that they could throw as well. Hermione took the chance to communicate with Willow mentally.
'Willow, Willow,' she thought as loudly as she could. "Can you hear me?'
'Yes, Hermione,' replied Willow. 'Kinda busy with the casualties up here though.'
'Sorry!' thought Hermione. 'But the basilisk has gone into the sloth's habitat. Is there some way to trap it in here?'
'Sure,' Willow replied agreeably. 'Get out of it and I'll shut the aperture from this end. You're really on Isla Escudo de Veraguas if you're in there. But we'll still have to go back and kill it, 'cause Ngobe-Bugle fishermen visit that island all the time.'
The snake cut off Hermione's next reply. To her dismay, it charged directly at them. Harry shouted at the two of them to run while he continued using his wand to throw things at the snake. They took him at his word and fled toward the entrance, which to their horror suddenly disappeared as they moved toward it.
'Willow,' thought Hermione desperately, 'we're not out yet! Open the aperture.'
'Sorry, Hermione,' replied Willow, more than a little concerned. 'I didn't shut it! Someone must've closed it from inside the Slytherin Common Room. I'll try and move the manual switch mentally, but that's tricky from this distance.'
As the snake bore down on Harry, Draco suddenly reappeared in his human form running on a diagonal path away from the snake. "Hey," he yelled, waving his arms, "over here."
The basilisk checked up, first leaning towards Harry, then towards Draco. Thinking fast, Harry sprinted across the clearing until he was directly opposite Draco. Then he started waving his arms and yelling as well.
They now were at three points of a triangle, with the snake in the middle. Dudley, mimicking the other two, started screaming and making as much noise as possible to distract the basilisk. The monstrous reptile seemed unable to make up its mind as to who it should try and attack. It was leaning one way, then another, its massive coils writhing and twisting, advancing a few feet in one direction, then retreating to do the same in another. They had it stymied for a moment, but only for a moment, as it abruptly made up its mind and hurtled towards Hermione and Dudley, apparently deciding on taking the larger target first.
"The tree," yelled Dudley. He and Hermione ran to the sloth's mangrove tree and went straight up it as fast as they could. They were clinging to the top of the tree, perhaps 30 feet up at the most, when the snake started lashing itself into the branches of the tree, lunging upwards on its long powerful body in an attempt to search them out.
Harry sprinted to a point opposite the snake and yelled to Dudley. "Willow's sword," he screamed, "throw me the sword, Dud!"
Dudley hurled the sword to him at the same time that the basilisk thrust past the trunk and attacked Harry. As he caught Willow's magical blade, the snake raised up almost twenty feet, then struck down at him. Holding the sword up with both hands, Harry was immensely gratified to see the sword penetrate the roof of the snake's mouth and go straight into its brain. He was less happy at the fang piercing his forearm and the death throes of the thrashing snake that sent him flying across the clearing, where he impacted the ground near Draco with a shattering thump.
"Owwww! Ow, Ow, Owwwie, Ouch!" groaned Harry. "That's going to leave a mark, I bet."
"Potter!" screamed Draco in his face, "Potter! Are you ok?"
"Not so much," replied Harry.
He felt like his arm was burning off, his head was banging unreasonably and his vision seemed to be doubled. He couldn't feel his legs at all. As good a reason to pass out as any he could think of. With a strange smile of satisfaction on his face -- he had killed a basilisk, after all! -- he promptly did so.
Xander was busy digging Buffy out from under the rubble that Snape had unintentionally dropped on her head. He would've been more concerned if he couldn't have heard Buffy moaning and groaning underneath the various layers of plaster, wood, and stone that had landed on her without warning.
"Hi, Buff!" he said brightly, when he could finally see her face again. "Long time no see!"
"Right," she moaned, "who got the number of that bus that just ran over me?"
"Your pal Snape," laughed Xander. "He must've thought he was helping us out by blocking the staircase like that."
"Too bad he did it by dropping it all on my noggin," said Buffy wearily. "What happened to Greyback?"
"He did a bunk, as they say here in the Isle of mucho Britishness," replied Xander. "Snape ran off chasing him down the stairs, but I don't think he'll catch a werewolf, even when it's in human form."
"Why didn't he at least try and miss me?" she wondered.
"I think your Forget-Me-Now spell is still playing with his mind," laughed Xander, "he still barely notices us in class. He probably forgot you were standing there when he cast that Reducto."
He moved the last of the debris off Buffy. Her wand arm was bent at a funny angle and she had numerous cuts, scrapes and bruises on her body, as well as a large bump on her head. Nothing Slayer healing couldn't handle, though Willow might need to see if the arm required setting first.
"Looks like a typical night of slaying, Buffy!" he said cheerfully. "Minus the actual slayage, that is."
"Right," griped Buffy. "No satisfaction getting injured if you don't take out a few demons on the way." Her face suddenly stiffened as she remembered. "Wait a minute! What about the basilisk? Harry and Hermione may need our help still! We'd better get down there!"
They looked at each other in concerned surmise, then they jumped up to ride tandem on Xander's broom, zooming off towards the dungeons at a breakneck pace.
Willow arrived at the Slytherin Common Room just in time to see Buffy punching Marcus Flint unconscious.
"Winning friends and influencing people again, huh, Buff?" she snarked.
"That idiot shut the aperture to the habitat with Hermione and the others still inside with the basilisk," growled Buffy. "He was standing here all proud of himself too!"
Willow shook her head while Xander made a face, but he couldn't help but agree with Buffy. Flint's version of responsibility was typically Slytherin, but that was no excuse. Harry, Hermione and Dudley could've called for help rather than going after the snake themselves, but lots of Slytherins could've been hurt if they had. He pushed the button and the aperture opened. The Scoobies rushed in towards the slightly battered and disheveled crew surrounding Harry.
The snake's dying body was still writhing in reaction to the sword through its brain. Buffy moved in that direction and called the Scythe. Assessing the threat remaining (none), she completely hacked off the basilisk's head with a few well-placed blows. The body stopped twitching at that. She then pulled Willow's sword out its mouth, being careful not to touch any of the deadly fangs. She went over to the little group around Harry.
He had regained consciousness under Willow's ministrations. "Good job, Harry," she chirped. "That's some quality slaying there." He looked at her and nodded weakly, grateful for the sincere appreciation of a job well done.
"Wait, how'd you know it was him?" asked Draco.
"'Smatter? Jealous?" snorted Buffy. "He's the only one hurt and there's blood on one of those fangs over there, that's how."
She neglected to tell him that she'd seen it all in a Slayer dream months and months ago. Buffy was just happy the thing was dead and Hermione and Dudley were both still among the living. It had been a little unclear in exactly how the snake was killed and if anyone else was hurt besides Harry. She'd sighed in relief when she saw them all standing unhurt around the wounded Harry; she hadn't been able to tell who anyone was besides Harry in her dream.
Draco started to reply but Buffy caught his eye and let the Slayer peer through a little bit. He promptly turned back into a mouse and ran out of the habitat.
Willow and Xander laughed at that. "Did he help at all, Hermione?" asked Xander, who was now in pretty good humor at seeing her and Dudley safe and sound.
"Actually, he was sort of brilliant," admitted Hermione. "He can transform himself now, apparently. He led it in here as a mouse, then he transformed back into himself and helped distract it when it almost had Harry."
"Well, you go, Draco Malfoy," smirked Buffy. "The what-are-you-man-or-mouse thing seems to be working well for him. Next time Willow will have to bring him cookies."
"Buffy," said Willow, interrupting the snarkfest, "we need to fix Harry up quick. Or he's gonna die on us here."
"Loving your bedside manner, Dr. Caligari," said Harry faintly. "Why am I going to die?"
"Basilisk venom. Invariably fatal without an antidote," replied Willow. "But don't worry, I've got a different solution in mind."
"Need you and the Scythe, Buffy," she snapped. "Kneel down here. Harry, put your hand on the handle. Hermione, Dudley, Xan. You too. We're each going to loan Harry a tiny bit of life essence and some Slayer power to drive that poison out."
They all did as she asked, while Willow quickly sketched a pentagram around them. She started chanting. At first nothing seemed to be happening, but then the blood flow out of Harry's wound stopped. Next, something that must've been the snake's venom started trickling out of the wound. Willow whipped out a small vial and captured the poison before it dripped onto the ground. Finally, Harry's wound closed. Willow kept chanting and then hurled the vial at the border of the pentagram, causing it to shatter and the poison to be incinerated by the warding around the group. Harry's eyes closed instantly at this and he fell into a deep, restoring sleep.
Dudley looked at the crew, awestruck. "All in a day's work, eh? God, how do I go back to normal school after seeing all of this?"
Buffy winked at him. They had other plans for Dudley, but too early to tell him about that. Now, time to clean up the mess and count the casualties. Giles was going to be furious when he found out how much she'd known about the events prior to tonight. But she couldn't have guessed how this was gonna play out. Those poor folks in the Hufflepuff corridor were heavy on her conscience already, even though she hadn't seen any of THAT in her dreams. The PTB really had a lot to answer for, she thought. Someday, if it was the last thing she did, she was gonna make sure they did.
Interlude 12: Harry the Hero
The Wizarding press had a field day with the Hogwarts disaster. Harry was the recipient of most of the praise. Hermione, Draco, and, surprisingly, even Dudley got quite a bit of press as well. The involvement of the Scoobies was not even mentioned. This had Buffy smirking. Willow's deflective spells, and a quick explanation to Harry and Dudley that the Scoobies wanted to maintain a low profile, were enough to keep the reporters off the scent.
-- The Daily Prophet's headline shouted "The Hero of Hogwarts: Harry Potter" with a subhead saying "Boy Who Lived Teams with Malfoy Heir and Friends to Defeat Hogwarts Basilisk." They ran articles of similar vein for the next few weeks, and even did a feature on Dudley's bravery in supporting Hermione and the "Dynamic Duo" of Potter and Malfoy.
-- The snobbish Anti-Muggletonian led with "Slytherin's Monster Defeated" with a subhead of "Pure Bloods Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy Team Up to Bring Down a Legend." Hermione was mentioned dismissively as a Muggle-born who accompanied the two elite boys during the fight. Dudley was not mentioned at all.
-- Witches' Wear Weekly did a full spread on the fight, including a photo shoot on a set mocked up to look like the battleground, with the four key participants in stylish wizarding clothing. Dudley was praised for his look in particular, as he happened to bring with him some special pre-launch items from MUGLSTYL, which was about to begin its kick-off campaign in that popular rag. Buffy loved the publicity as MUGLSTYL had been chiefly her baby for the previous 9 months.
-- The Wizarding Times magazine put together a detailed profile of Harry, a timeline of the attacks by Slytherin's monster some 50 years back, an analysis of the probability of other dark creatures lurking under Hogwarts, and a complete dissection of the fight, the location of the participants, the comments of the survivors of the basilisk's rampage through the hallways, and editorials calling for tighter security control in Hogwarts, which had appeared seriously undefended. This article was the only one that made the Scoobies nervous, as a number of the survivors mentioned Willow by name in discussing their rescue after the basilisk's passage. Fortunately, Madame Pomfrey and the team of medi-witches that flew in shortly after the alert went out were given most of the credit for their recovery.
-- Constant Vigilance and Wizarding Security -- technical magazines for the Auror community and those interested in the Dark Arts -- picked up on the theme of security started by Wizarding Times. Alistair Moody wrote an editorial for Wizarding Security which hit one nerve square on -- where, precisely, had one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore been during the biggest crisis at Hogwarts in the last half-century? Moody praised Harry Potter's ability to rise above his mere first year training to kill a dark creature most adult wizards would've fled from, but much of the column implied that his old friend was losing his touch if a group of first-years had to take on such a potent adversary.
-- The directors of MUGLTECH moved swiftly to sign Harry up for technical advice -- with a hefty advance and producing credits -- on a video game and movie to be developed documenting his heroism, with a working title of "Harry the Basilisk Slayer." This, of course, provoked peals of laughter from the Scooby insiders, though they would not explain it to the creative types who headed the new MUGLTECH content division.
Only The Quibbler stayed contrarian. They ran an article saying Harry Potter was undoubtedly the real heir of Slytherin and most likely released the creature into the Castle only to fool Wizarding society into believing he wasn't the next Dark Lord. An accompanying piece speculated that the Slayer, whose return had been touted by the paper, had really killed the basilisk and rescued Potter from his own folly. As no one paid any attention to the Quibbler, this passed unremarked by any but Hermione and the Scoobies, who could do nothing but shrug. Not quite true but too close for comfort.
If anyone connected the obituaries a few months later for Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel to the attack at Hogwarts, it was never mentioned in the press. That the Stone had gone missing during the basilisk attack was known to very few.
Buffy summed up the Scooby view of the frenzy by saying, "It puts Harry in the position that the PTB wanted and is pretty well-deserved, to be honest. But the cost was too high. Way too high. And we're going to have to deal with that down the road."