Buffy Summers hated her life at the moment. Well, she frequently hated her life. From the moment Merrick had shown up outside of Hemery High in Los Angeles and informed her that she was the Chosen One, her life had been an emotional roller coaster. Which in a weird way was usually okay. Some people had normal lives that they were used to. She had hers and she really didn’t know any other way to live anymore. Besides, she had always loved roller coasters.
But this was a turn she had not expected. Secret societies she barely knew anything about, marriage, magic, war, guys that eat death, Hitler-wannabe, Giles actually having a blood family. It was a little much, even for them. She supposed it wasn’t really all that bad and in no way was the worst thing they had ever faced. If she were actually honest, she could see some of the benefits. It was an easy way to get the New Council to form and alliance with the Order of the Phoenix without giving away too much to Fudge. And she really didn’t doubt at all that Giles would have everything dealt with before long. That didn’t mean she had to be a good sport about it.
She would have been much better about it all if she got as lucky as Faith or Xander. Faith was pretty lusty over Giles’s nephew and, considering the looks the redhead sent the dark-haired Slayer when he thought no one was looking, Buffy would not be surprised if an actual genuine relationship formed there. And the weird but spunky girl Xander had gotten was just that. Weird and spunky, but nice. They were going to at least be amicable acquaintances if not friends. Even Dawn had gotten a decent draw. Harry was a sweetie and, if he hadn’t been chosen to marry her sister at age seventeen, Buffy probably would have liked him a lot. She still liked him, even though he and Dawn had declared a mini-war. But at least he was still a good boy at heart.
Willow, however, wasn’t so lucky. Apparently, the twin redheads hadn’t been joking about their brother. Willow had been very upset after she had met with her husband to be the previous day. Buffy knew that the tears had been mostly caused by fatigue and emotional drain and not the bastard Willow was set to wed, but she had still wanted to cause damage. Xander had been set to kill. But Willow had stopped them as she went from depressed and hurt to just angry. And Willow was scary when angry, even without the black eyes.
But Buffy…well, Buffy was quite positive that she had it even worse than Willow. Severus Snape looked like the bad guy off the Smurfs. His attitude was even worse. Honestly, Buffy thought that the Voldemort guy would make a better husband.
She stood there in the drawing room, considering all this and more. Then, as if by some twisted sense of fate, the object of her aversion suddenly stepped out of the fireplace and into the room, making as if to walk through it quickly and onward to some other destination. But Buffy wanted this over with. And she wouldn’t let him continue to avoid her forever.
In just a few quick steps, she was standing right in front of one Severus Snape, glare matching his own glare. “Giles said I had to talk to you.”
He held her gaze and for a moment she thought he might try and do anything to get away from her. But then his mouth crooked into a sneer and he gave a short and very stiff nod. “If you must.”
Buffy frowned when she realized he was just going to stand there in front of her, all stiff and tense. “Would it kill you to relax and just talk for a second?”
“Yes,” came the reply with no hint of humor or mockery. She almost believed he would keel over right there in front of her if he relaxed.
But she didn‘t believe him and his attitude was really starting to grate on her already frazzled nerves. She narrowed her eyes at him and brought her hands up to rest on her hips. “Listen here, you booger-headed butt-monkey--”
“Such mature and well-thought insults,” he cut her off smoothly before turning to swoop around her. “Extremely witty.”
Buffy moved to intercept him before he could make a getaway. “You think you’re a big bad, huh?” she started in a grave voice, noting the fury on his face with nothing more than a shrug. “Well, whatever reaction you’re used to getting, don’t even think for a moment that you scare me. You’re not even a little bit impressive.”
This statement seemed to have somewhat of the effect she had hoped for because the man seemed to freeze and regard her more seriously. Then he gave in and turned away from her, taking the first seat he came to, which happened to be one of the chairs facing the settee. His eyes never left her as he sat. “Neither are you.”
Buffy rolled her own eyes and flopped down on the settee, glaring back at him with just as much power. “I want my own room.”
He inclined his head once. “Agreed.”
“And we’re only gonna do the nasty the one time,” Buffy continued, “so enjoy it while you can.”
His glare turned even icier. “You might find it hard to believe, Miss Summers, but being forced to copulate with you will not be the highlight of my life.”
She ignored this and went on, “In two months, you’ll give me a sample of your stuff and I’ll go take care of the baby problem the lesbian way.”
He blinked then, clearly confused, which was an interesting expression on his sour face. “Excuse me?”
“Muggle science,” she said slowly as if talking to an idiot child. “They can take your stuff and make me pregnant without you ever laying a hand on me. Besides, with my Slayer anatomy, it‘s pretty much the only way I could get pregnant.”
He considered this for a moment then nodded once again. “Fine. Perfect, actually.”
“I want to live in London near my friends,” Buffy said firmly after matching his stiff nod.
“Fortunately, that will not be possible,” he replied with a small hint of satisfaction in his voice. “I am a professor at the British school of witchcraft and wizardry. Most of my time is spent there.”
Buffy narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms in front of her as she raised the power of her glare. “Listen, I’m giving up a buttload of shit to help you out. Living here in Grim Reaper with all my friends, well, this has been more like a sucky vacation in which the airline lost my luggage. But there’s no way I’m leaving everyone and everything I know to go live in some school for teenaged magicians. Sounds like a bad soap opera waiting to happen. No to mention Dr. Frankenfurter gives me the heebie-jeebies. That‘s right. I saw The Worst Witch. I’m frightened of Tim Curry.”
He raised an eyebrow as she finished her tirade. “Am I actually supposed to understand your nonsensical ramblings?”
“Nonsensical?” Buffy repeated icily. “I thought you were a teacher. Kinda pathetic teacher if you can’t understand words. No wonder they all hate you.”
Anger flashed in Severus Snape’s black eyes. “Since it is actually I who will be saving you from a fate beyond the likes of which you can possibly imagine, I refuse to have my life altered any more than is necessary.”
“Bullshit,” Buffy snapped back at him. “You’re saving yourselves. You think Giles has me fooled? Has any of us fooled? Well, maybe Dawn and Xander, but Dawn’s pretty quick on the uptake and Xander…well, whatever. But I know that having us go through with this is less about our safety, which we can totally take care of ourselves, and more about putting on a nice face for the public. Cause we‘re all famous and everything. Your man Dumbledore doesn‘t want to rock the boat for some reason and somehow has Giles in his pocket.”
Snape watched her carefully. “Miss Summers--”
“I don‘t play politics,” she interrupted pointedly. “But if Giles is worried enough to have us go along with this, I can pretend the reasons you gave us are the truth. But don’t think for a second I’m as stupid as you are, Gargamel.”
Instead of the fury she had come to expect from Severus Snape, he suddenly seemed tired. “Would you cease with your Muggle insults?”
Even though she felt a little bad at his sudden fatigue, she felt worse for herself. “No.”
He gave her a look. “Miss Summers, you have no line of employment. I do. For me to lose my position would be catastrophically detrimental, for both myself and the war effort. You having to sleep at the school and Floo back here would be inconvenient to you at the very most.”
“I am the Slayer,” she started stubbornly, “I have duties--”
“Which can be fulfilled at Hogwarts,” he broke into her tirade smoothly. “The Headmaster actually suggested that you may well wish to take up your line of work at Hogwarts.”
Buffy frowned. “Why do you need a Slayer at your magic school?”
Snape looked at her as if she was the biggest idiot on the face of the planet. “There is a great threat to Hogwarts from the Dark Lord and his followers. Do you honestly need me to explain it to you? Not even Gryffindors are that inept.”
Buffy rolled her eyes and shifted in her seat. “What about my friends?”
Snape raised one of his long eyebrows. “The lovely soon to be Mrs. Potter will certainly be at Hogwarts as I assume you will want her to continue her studies.”
This was something that Buffy was conflicted on. Dawn had been all ready to go to a nice school, all arranged by Giles, but now it seemed that everyone expected Dawn to attend this magical school. While Buffy had known for a very long time thanks to first Tara and later Willow that Dawn had the makings to be a powerful witch, she had never really been comfortable with the idea of letting her sister go down that path. It had destroyed Amy Madison and Jonathan Levinson and nearly destroyed Willow. Even Giles had had a very bad experience with magic. And of course there were the countless times she herself had personally encountered magic.
Buffy sighed and looked down at the floor. “We were sending her to Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. It was supposed to be nice.”
“A lovely Muggle school, no doubt, but your sister is a witch,” Snape’s harsh voice countered easily, as if the decision weren’t a hard one at all. “She should be trained accordingly. I thought this was already decided.”
Buffy‘s heated gaze snapped back up to him. “It’s under discussion, but since Harry has a school and Dawn has to get a new school anyways…”
He held her gaze for a moment before blinking. “At least you demonstrate a capacity to be logical, however underused it may be.”
She cocked her head and gave him a wide smile. “Thanks for the compliment, Sevvie.”
He ignored this. “Miss Rosenberg has shown an interest in coming to Hogwarts and I do believe Mr. Harris will follow whatever you women decide to do. I expect my schedule to be disrupted and torn asunder to accommodate them. I will arrange it with the Headmaster so that you will be able to learn magic as well.”
“I hate school,” Buffy muttered tiredly as she gave in. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
“I’ll assume that was once again one of your Muggle absurdities,” Snape murmured.
Buffy wrinkled her nose at his comment. “You know, I dislike that word. ‘Muggle’. It’s kinda insulting.” She paused for a second before nodding. “I’ll give you this, but I expect something from you in return later on.”
He hesitated before sighing. “We shall see about that.”
“Oh, we will, I promise,” Buffy replied in a saccharin sweet tone.
Snape just chose to ignore this is well. “Also, Professor Dumbledore has asked if you would be willing to assist in some of the classes.”
“Classes?” Buffy repeated as she sat up, alarmed slightly. “I don’t know magic.”
“But you are an authority on what you do,” he countered. “I daresay Dumbledore will ask that you give a seminar on being the Slayer or demons or some such nonsense.”
She sighed and shrugged. “Oh, well, yeah, I guess I could do that.”
“Very well.” he said in a clipped tone as he rose to his feet. “I will make a note of it to inform him of your acceptance.”
She got up as well and looked at him for a moment as she tried to think of something else they might need to discuss. When she decided there wasn‘t she gave him a nod. “I don’t like you.”
“I loath you,” he replied in a sincere voice.
“Later, then,” she replied and walked out of the room in search of her friends. She didn’t have to go far. They were in the kitchen. Dumbledore, Giles, Harry, Hermione, and the redheads (too many of them for her to be expected to keep them straight) were all there too. And everyone was practically beaming.
Buffy blinked almost scared to ask. Almost. “What?”
Dumbledore met her eyes with his twinkling blue ones. “I’m delighted to report that I have some very good news.”
Buffy felt the relief pour over her. It tingled, almost orgasmic. Suddenly she found herself squeezing Albus Dumbledore in a very tight hug. “Oh. Oh! You are a good man. You are a kind man. You are my hero.”
Dumbledore gave her an odd smile as he very carefully extricated himself from her grasp. “Well, I am very happy to be those things, Miss Summers.”
Buffy just continue to bask in the happiness. “So I guess we can cancel that picket line. And the bomb squad. So how did you do it?”
Now Dumbledore was confused. “Do?”
“Get the fascist law thrown out,” Buffy clarified before looking over at Willow. “Is it fascism?”
Dumbledore‘s hand on her shoulder interrupted any reply Willow would have made. Buffy turned back to him to see the twinkle was slightly deadened. “I’m sorry, but I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding. The Civil Union Decree is still very much in affect.”
The floor dropped out from under Buffy. She stood there, looking at Dumbledore, completely dumbstruck. “Then what kind of news can make you so happy? Voldemort choked on a jawbreaker?”
Giles decided to rescue Dumbledore at that point and stepped forward. “Albus was able to take a first step in dissolving this law. It has been weakened by the Wizengamot.”
Buffy decided not to ask what the hell a wizen-whatsis was and instead focused on the important bit of information. “Weakened? How?”
“Well, they’ve changed much of the law’s timetable, for one thing,” Arthur Weasley explained. “From next week on, all couples will have two months to marry from the time of petition with no timetable on consummation, though it is implied that it would be required about three months into the marriage for couples are still only given one year to have a child, though there are now loopholes for those who need more time. The marriages can now also be dissolved completely within five years of the first child’s birth.”
Buffy sighed, feeling a little better about the situation but not much. “That’s a little better, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it reasonable. The whole thing is still a slave trade.”
“Ah, yes, about that as well,” Arthur continued, looking pleased. “Everyone petitioned now has the right to turn away three proposals before falling under the one month time restriction.”
“A veto?” Buffy asked, turning to Giles. “Why don’t we just do that?”
“You have many more petitions than the three,” Giles pointed out gently.
Of course, Buffy knew that. “Oh.”
“Some of the bias has been lessened as well,” Molly Weasley jumped into the conversation. “Muggle-borns have been given the right to petition. Purebloods still cannot be petitioned for, though.”
“At least it’s a step,” Hermione pointed out gently.
“So, what are these loopholes?” Faith asked, revealing the track the conversation had been on before Buffy had come down.
“Well, if a couple finds it difficult to conceive,” Dumbledore began as if repeating himself, “all they need provide is a note from a Healer that explains the situation. I expect Madame Pomfrey could be easily persuaded to see difficulties in all of you, whether they exist or no. Also, all those couples in which the female is attending a school or training of some sort are not required to produce a child until a year after their education is completed. In affect, all will be marriages in name only.”
Dawn nodded slowly as she took in all this information. “I don’t have to be really married to Harry anymore?”
Buffy took a seat at the table next to her sister and muttered, “Thank god.”
Giles nodded and smiled. “Now, with these relaxations it is my hope to have the decree fully overturned by the time any of those, er, dates come about.”
Willow shot the Watcher a curious glance. “Did you get a hold of Wesley?”
Giles shook his head. “I called, but apparently they were tracking a werewolf girl at the time. Something about members of the aristocracy wanting to eat her alive. I left the message to call me back as soon as possible with Harmony.”
The got everyone‘s attention.
“Harmony?” they all repeated in unison.
The look on Giles’s face told them he agreed with their opinion of that. “She’s Angel’s secretary.”
Xander snorted. “Right.”
“Once we get the weight of Wolfram and Hart behind the plans we’ve outlined,” Giles continued, “it shouldn’t take too long for us all to get back to our own separate lives.”
“That said,” Dumbledore added quickly, “I hope all of you realize you will still need to marry this week.”
“These changes do not go into affect until next week,” Arthur Weasley explained slowly. “Your deadlines are before that time under the old provisions. You won’t have to have a child or consummate the relationships as soon as you would have had to, but you still must marry.”
Buffy groaned. “Oh, hell.”