Merging With Traffic
Disclaimer: All things Ats, BtVS, and Harry Potter belong to their respective owners, Joss Whedon and JK Rowling. However, the plot is mine as far as I can tell, so please ask if you want to use it.
WARNING: This chapter gets violent at one point. If that bothers you. . .well, you were warned.
Everyone in Dumbledore's office was completely silent, looking back and forth between Cordelia, the Headmaster, and Snape, who had an expression of extreme horror on his features.
"Chase, I'm warning you! If you do not shut yourself up this instant, I'll curse you into the next millenium and take whatever punishment Dumbledore feels inclined to give. I'm certain it will be worth it, as you will be permantently gone from my life." Snape tried to sound threatening, but the people in the room who were listening closely could hear a slight pleading tone in his strained voice.
Cordelia ignored him, and with a disgusted glance in his direction she bit out, "Nothing compared to Angelus? Hardly! At least he didn't have a soul when he killed his mother."
Snape rose from his chair to loom threateningly over Cordelia for a moment, before opening his mouth to yell at her, or perhaps curse her into the next millenium as threatened. However, he found he could not speak, and with an angry whirl of his robes, he spun about, and stormed out of the Headmaster's office.
Dumbledore sighed, and in a voice that seemed thick with exhaustion, he turned to Cordelia. "Are you happy now, my dear? Perhaps you will leave Severus alone after this."
Cordelia did not answer, but merely stood, shocked. Evidently, whatever she had been expecting Snape to do, that wasn't it. "I- yes. If he leaves me alone." She turned to face the Headmaster then, and he was surprised to see a sad look on her face. "Tell him that, please. Tell him I'll back off if he will." Then, with a quick look at the kids, she added, "And if he'll leave the students alone."
"I'll do that," Dumbledore said kindly. "Now, I believe that is all we need to discuss tonight," he said to the remaining Order members. "You may all return to your homes now."
The Order cleared out, but Cordelia remained standing in the middle of the room, still shocked. Before he left, Remus spoke quietly to her.
"Cordelia? Come on."
"What? No, no. You go ahead," she said, smiling weakly at him. "I'm going to sleep in the dorm tonight, but I'll come visit you in the morning."
"Well, then, would you like me to walk you back?"
"I can find my own way back, thanks," she snapped at him, and then instantly softened. "I'm sorry. I'm just tired. I'll see you in the morning. . .good night."
"Goodnight," Remus said softly, turning and heading for the hospital wing.
Cordelia stood alone in Dumbledore's office for several moments before turning around and flopping into a chair across from the headmaster, who was now watching her with an unreadable expression. After a few long seconds she heaved a great sigh and then spoke.
"I'm sorry. I didn't-why didn't you stop me?"
Dumbledore smiled gently then. "I didn't know. Lemon drop?" he said, offering her one of the candies from his desk, which she took absentmindedly and popped in her mouth. "If I had known what you were going to say, I certainly would have tried to stop you."
"You mean, you didn't know that he had. . .done that?"
"No, I didn't."
Cordelia was confused. "But then, how did you know you could trust him?"
"That, Ms. Chase, is between myself and Severus."
"Do you think I should go apologize?" she asked after a moment.
Dumbledore chuckled. "I would not advise it. If I know Severus, he is in a temper at the moment and is concocting various horrible potions, all of which he will throw at you the moment you enter his chambers. Perhaps in a few days."
Cordelia nodded tiredly then, and rose from her chair. "Goodnight, Headmaster," she said as she walked towards the door.
"Goodnight, Ms. Chase."
She turned then and stared at Dumbledore, as though contemplating something. Finally, she smiled hesitantly and said, "You can call me Cordelia. If you want to."
Dumbledore smiled, the twinkle in his eyes revealing his pleasure at her peace-offering, and said softly, "Goodnight, Cordelia."
Cordelia exited the Headmaster's office slowly, ready to retreat to the Gryffindor Girls Dormitory and a much needed rest. However, this was not to be.
Arthur Weasley stepped out of the shadows and said, "Ms. Chase?"
Cordelia supressed a groan. She was so tired, and she didn't feel like talking to anyone else. Still, she had made enough enemies in the last couple of days, and she really didn't want another one, so she plastered on what she hoped was a sincere looking smile, and turned around.
"I wanted to say thank you," Mr. Weasley said, reaching up and removing his hat from his head.
Cordelia was certain she had heard him wrong. After all, in the brief time that she had known him, she had threatened his son, yelled at his daughter, and talked his wife into allowing both of their underage children to join the Order. "What?" she asked.
"I just wanted to say thanks," he said, now twisting his hat in his hands. At her blank look he elaborated. "For what you said to Percy."
"Perc- I- what?"
"You don't know?" he asked, and then continued with a nervous chuckle. "No, I don't suppose you would. When would anyone have told you, with everything that's happened tonight? Percy came to The Burrow after Madame Pomfrey released him from the hospital wing. He told us about what happened to Penelope and his-our grandchild. He apologized for everything, and we all reconciled. He's even talking about moving back home after the funeral."
Cordelia stared at him, unable to comprehend why he was telling her this. "What does this have to do with me?"
Mr. Weasley looked surprised. "He said it was you that made him realize that he had been wrong. Something you said, I suppose."
Now, Cordelia was shocked. She had felt so guilty about yelling at Percy the way she had, but it looked like it had done some good after all. "I'm happy for you," she said.
Mr. Weasley smiled then. "The whole family is coming up for lunch tomorrow. Molly would like- we would all like it if you would join us. Harry too."
Cordelia grinned widely then, and said, "I'd be glad to."
Dumbledore was sitting at his desk rereading the article about Lucius Malfoy when a soft voice spoke out of the shadows.
"Albus? May I have a few moments?"
"Of course, Severus. I've been expecting you."
Snape gave a bitter laugh and collapsed into a chair across from the Headmaster's desk. "I-I wanted to explain about what that woman said earlier."
"That is unneccessary. I trust you."
"I know. It's not about that. I need to tell someone. And as you are the only person here who tolerates me, I suppose it should be you." Dumbledore gave a slight nod, and Snape continued.
"I had already been a death eater for four years before the. . .incident that Ms. Chase referred to occured. I thought I had proven my loyalty, but I guess I was wrong. Do you remember the raid on Hogsmeade, in July of the year that the Potters were killed?" Dumbledore nodded, and Snape continued. "You remember then, the atrocities that were commited that night. Rape. Torture. Murder. It was. . .the worst night of my life, up until then. Like I said, I had been a death eater for four years, but I'd mostly just been a lackey. Run an errand here, cast an Imperius there, one or two crucios. Nothing like that. Never rape. Never watching as one of my schoolmates was tied up and. . .used until there was just, nothing left. Nothing but a shell."
"You are referring to Ms. Taylor."
"Yes. She was my friend. But she refused to follow the Dark Lord. And as a Slytherin, a pureblood, this was the greatest offense of all. So they made an example of her. Everyone was supposed to take a turn. Take a turn. That was the phrase Malfoy used. Like she was the latest model of broomstick, on display for a test drive. It made me sick. I couldn't do it, but I didn't stop them either. I ran of into the bushes and heaved until my stomach was empty. Then I stayed there, lying on the ground until I couldn't hear her screaming any more." There were tears glinting in his eyes now, and he was having difficulty speaking.
Dumbledore was unnerved by Snape's display of emotion. In all of his years as Severus' friend, he had never once seen the man display anything other than inpenatrable calm or unpacifiable anger. With a gentle smile and encouraging nod he said, "Go on, dear boy."
"Voldemort found out about my refusal to take part. He wanted to make me prove my loyalty." Here, Snape stood, and began to pace restlessly about the room. "He took me to my parents house. Just me, and him, and Malfoy. He murdered my father, right before my mother and I. She was horrified. She loved him, of course. She fainted. Malfoy tied her to the stairs. When she woke up Voldemort told me to look into her eyes, and murder her. I refused. She was my mother, Dumbledore. I loved her, I swear I did."
"I know you did. I remember how fondly you spoke of her in your school days. I remember how you were when she died."
"He and Malfoy cast the cruciatus on me. At the same time. He asked me again. I still said no. It went on that way for hours. The curses never lasted long. Certainly not long enough to drive me insane. Just enough to make me scream. Make her scream. She started begging me to do as they asked. Said without my father, what did she have left? Just a son who had gone dark. Just another Slytherin to be disappointed in. She was a Gryffindor, you know. Bane of my existence, in my school days. I used to get teased so badly. I refused for so long. I kept thinking they'd just give up, and kill me. Then, I couldn't stand it anymore. I did it. I looked my mother in the eyes, and I murdered her."
With those last words, Snape collapsed in his chair. The room was silent for a long moment before he spoke again. "I guess I'll go pack my things now."
"Why on earth would you do that, my dear boy? There's nothing you have told me here tonight that I could not have found out, had I wished to. But I trust you. You do not need to leave."
"Cordelia has promised to be civil, if you will do the same. I believe she feels badly about tonight's incident."
"She is a good woman, Severus. She has merely made some mistakes. You of all people ought to be able to understand that."
Snape gave a short laugh. "Believe me, I do. I will be civil." Then he yawned. "I'm sorry, but I am exhausted. I believe I'll retire for the night."
"Very well. Goodnight. And Severus? I think if your mother could see you now, she would be very proud."
"Thank you, Albus."
Sirius hated Los Angeles After eleven years in Azkaban, one on the run, and one stuck in Grimmauld Place, he had thought it wouldn't matter where he was, as long as he was free. He had been wrong. He felt as confined in L.A. as he had at the Order headquarters, and the confinement was even worse here. At least in London he had Remus, Tonks, multiple Weasleys, and even occasionaly Harry.
No. Not Harry. Mustn't think about Harry. That was a bad path to go down, and one that Sirius just didn't feel like dealing with right now.
For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why in the hell he was here. Being dead hadn't really been that bad. Sure, it had been a little too white for his tastes, but at least he would have known what was going on with his friends and family. And James had been there. James and Lily. Yes, he definitely should have stayed in White World. Unfortunately, Doyle had pounced on his weakness. When the thought of being alive again hadn't swayed Sirius, the funny little Irish man had casually mentioned freedom. Before he knew it Sirius had forgotten all about James and Lily and was steaming south on a one way ticket back to earth. And now, here he was, stuck in the Hyperion hotel playing glorified gopher to four seriously depressed individuals.
He supposed Angel must have been alright once. After all, the guy had apparently done something heroic enough to warrent intervention from the Higher Powers. Honestly though, Sirius couldn't imagine what. All he'd been told was, "Hey, this guy needs your help. We'll see you when you die again." Well, not in those exact words, but that was the gist of it. He had done everything on his own, from finding his charges to getting them to trust him. Except they didn't trust him. He honestly believed the only reason they kept him around was because they need someone who could make supply runs without being recognized and subsequently killed by Wolfram and Hart. Not that Sirius had any idea why Wolfram and Hart wanted to kill them. Nobody ever told him anything, except what kind of sauce they wanted on their latest take out meal from Italian to Go.
As if someone had been reading his mind, a knock sounded on the door. Without waiting for a response, Gunn rolled his wheelchair into the room and said curtly, "Angel wants you."
Sirius was about to bite out a curt reply, most likely something about telling Angel to get his own damn dinner for once, but before he could say anything Gunn had slammed the door and could be heard rolling down the hallway to his room. Probably to sulk. Merlin, that was all anyone ever did in this stupid place: sulk. Well, not anymore. Sirius was in a Marauder kind of mood and he was going to get something done tonight if it killed him. He had been here in L.A. for almost two months now, and he was fairly certain he the Higher Powers hadn't given him this job so he could play housekeeper to two nuetered vampires, a demon, and an invalid for the rest of his life. It was time to get this mission, whatever it was, going, even if he had to piss everyone in the place off to do it.
With this new resolution fresh in his mind, Sirius trugged down the stairs and into Angel's office, giving the vampire a fake grin and cheeky salute as he collapsed into a chair.
Angel raised an eyebrow. "You're in a good mood. Word from home?"
Sirius' smile disappeared. "I don't ask you questions about the past, you don't ask me. That was the deal, remember?"
Sirius expected a reaction to that. Angel was boss and he generally didn't like to have his authority questioned especially by Sirius. To his surprise though, Angel just sighed. "We can't keep living this way."
Sirius' feet dropped off the desk where he had placed his feet in an attempt to get a rise from Angel. "I was going to tell you the same thing."
Angel smiled, for the first time since Sirius had known him. "Well, I guess we're on the same page then. Listen, I've already talked to Gunn, Spike, and Illyria about this. We're opening for business again. Help the hopeless."
"Sorry, that's just something a friend of mine used to say."
Angel's face closed up instantly and Sirius knew this subject would not be discussed further. He attempted to change the subject. "So, we're opening for business?"
"Yeah. Tomorrow. We're in danger from Wolfram and Hart still, but we're all tired of sitting on our butts thinking about the last year. Besides, this is more important than not getting killed."
"Wow. It's like Order of the Pheonix: L.A. Style," Sirius said, under his breath, unknowingly echoing similar words spoken just a few hours earlier by someone he'd never met.
"What?" Angel asked.
"Nothing. So, what am I supposed to get for dinner?"
Angel shook his head. "Nothing. Spike's gone to the grocery store. That's not why you're here. Sirius, we're opening for business, which opens us back up to danger from Wolfram and Hart. I'll get into particulars later, when the others get here, but for now all I need to know is are you with me? Not as an errand boy, but a real member of the team. I know I haven't mentioned it, but I haven't forgotten what you did for me. I would be dust now, if you hadn't shown up in that alley when you did. You've proven yourself more than worthy and I want you by my side."
"I'm with you. I've got nowhere else to go," he said, grasping Angel's hand across the desk and giving it a firm shake. "Besides, now that you're finally out of your funk, maybe I can get whatever that Doyle guy wanted me to get done done," he added under his breath.
"Thanks. I appreciate it," Angel responded, before turning away to look at something on his desk.
Knowing he'd been dismissed, Sirius stood up to leave, but hesitated when he mentioned something else Angel had said. "Who are the others? The ones who are coming?"
"Hmm?" asked Angel, obviously distracted. "Oh, an old. . .friend. Buffy Summers. And my son."
Shocked, but knowing from the way the vampire had spoken that he would get no more out of him, Sirius left anyway. He had a feeling tomorrow was going to be a very interesting day.
"What was that?" Doyle demanded.
"What was what?" Jenny asked innocently. A little too inocently, if you asked Doyle.
"Angel's been moping around for months, not to mention Sirius, and now suddenly in the same hour they decide they've had enough and it's time for action? That's not a coincedence, Calendar."
"You're right, it isn't. In the immortal words of one ex-demon, 'I was being patient, but it took too long.' "
"Jen, how many times have I told you: don't model your management strategies after Anya."
"Oh, good. Well, remind me not to, because I think this little twist you've added might just be the shove these idiots need to get our plan moving. One small, tiny little criticism though. Buffy's not supposed to be involved."
Jenny frowned. "Yeah, I know. I wasn't expecting that. I guess we'll just have to hope for the best."
"Whatever, but if I get fired because of you, I'm telling."
"Now you know how I've felt these last four and a half years."
And instantly the two guardian "angels" were involved in a seven-year-old-like tongue sticking out war.
Cordelia was standing in a dark bedroom of the Hyperion hotel. She recognized the room as one of the ones on the second floor near the staircase. It was Fred's old room, she thought, but the things in it were unfamiliar to her. Tossing on the bed was the dim form of a man. She had a vague feeling that she knew him from somewhere, but she couldn't place it. The tossing was becoming more violent now. She tried to move towards him, to call out, maybe offer comfort, but she could do nothing. Suddenly, he shouted her name.
She was in another room now. This time she recognized not only the room, but also the person in it. Gunn sat by the window, an almost empty bottle of whiskey in his hand. He was holding a picture of all of them, in one of the rare times that they had been happy. His thumb was stroking gently over the curve of Fred's neck.
"I miss you," he whispered.
Cordelia was in Angel's office. He was alone, sitting at his desk and staring at a picture, tears rolling down his face. With a shock, she realized it was a picture of her.
"Oh," she breathed. Whatever had kept her silent and still earlier had left her now and she found she could move.
Tears sliding down her own cheeks now, she crossed the room and crouched by Angel's chair. Wrapping her arms around him from behind, she rested her cheek against his.
"I miss you, Cordelia."
For a moment, she thought he could see her, could feel her arms encircling him. Then she realized he was still looking at the picture.
She stood and walked around so that she was standing in front of him. She rested her hands on either side of his face and looked into his eyes.
"I loved you."
"I love you, too," she managed to choke out. She cried harder still when he didn't even flinch.
Suddenly, with a violence that surprised her, Angel leapt from his chair and flung her picture with all his strength at his office window, shattering the glass.
"I hate you!" he yelled to the ceiling, as she herself had done not so very long ago in white world.
Cordelia awoke with a start, confused for a moment as to where she was. Then she remembered. She was in the hospital wing at Hogwarts with Remus. She had come back here after her talk with Mr. Weasley and climbed into bed with him instead of going back to the dorms as she had said she would.
She felt Remus' arms tighten around her stomach and pull her closer to him. "What s'matter, Cordy?" he asked sleepily.
"N-nothing," she forced herself to say. "I just had a bad dream. Go back to sleep."
He buried his head in her neck and within moments his deep, even breathing let her know he was asleep again. She stayed awake long afterwards though. She had been so sure that she was getting over Angel, had even thought she was falling for Remus. But that dream. . .God, she missed him! It seemed to her that her arms ached and felt empty. That she had truly been holding him only moments earlier, instead of only dreaming. And who was that man in Fred's old room? And why did she feel like she should know the answer to that question?
Sirius was tossing a turning in his bed. He was having the strangest dream. He could here Remus' voice, and a woman's. She was teasing him.
"Face it Lupin. You're nothing but a big, soft puppy."
Then he saw Harry. He was smiling at someone of in the distance. Sirius turned in that direction, and through a haze that seemed to surround him suddenly, he could see a shapely figure walking towards his godson, brown hair framing her blurry face like a halo.
"Hey there, boy wonder."
Then he was in a room with Angel. His boss looked unbelievibly sad, and he was speaking softly to a brunette woman. Sirius could only see the back of her head.
"I'm just on a different road is all, and this is my off ramp."
Then, Angel, Harry, and Remus' voices all blending together, calling for the same person. "Cordy!"
Sirius sat up in shock. Blindly, he reached over and turned the lamp on his bedside table on. He was sitting in the middle of his bed, his covers tangled around his legs and sweat pouring over his body.
To my readers: Wow! If anyone actually reads this chapter after the way I've been neglecting you guys, I promise to love you forever. But you'll note that it was extra long to make up for my horribleness. So, anyway, I'm out of school until January 7, so you can expect at least one more update. And if I get a computer for Christmas like I'm hoping, you can expect (relatively) regular updates from now on. If not. . .well, we'll cross that bridge if we come to it. In the meantime, I'm really curious to know what y'all think of this chapter, so feel free to let me know. But no flames please! Don't think I could handle it. Anyway, thanks to all who reviewed after chapter 13. I really appreciate it.