Chapter 27 pt 2
Sorry for the wait everyone! I signed up to do the Merlin Big Bang at Paperlegends on LJ foolishly thinking I'd be able to finish this while working on that story... and then my BB story took over my life! It's a Merlin/HP crossover entitled "Through the Eyes of Minerva's Owl" and anyone interested can find it either on my ff.net account or my shiney new AO3 account, where I write under the name Morena Evensong. Okay, shameless self-plug done, now onwards to the next chapter!
Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last chapter and to biblioseros
for betaing this one!
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Buffy or Harry Potter or any of the the other characters, places, ect in their respective universes.
The Prophecy of the Four Chapter 27 –
Ascension part 2
The sudden buzzing noise in her jeans startled Buffy, but she forced herself to remain calm at least on the outside as she reached for the cellphone in her pocket.
“Buffy here,” she said.
“This is Mila. Willow says the wards are down.”
“Got it, thanks Mila.”
Buffy ended the call and turned to meet the eyes of each person with her as she hit speed dial. Connor looked back with intense eyes, his body thrumming with energy even as he crouched motionless in the midst of the shrubbery they were hiding behind. Veronica, tight ringlet curls pulled back into a thick pony tail, was tense, her eyes betrayed nervousness but the former ballerina's body was like a coiled spring, ready to leap into action on Buffy's word. Renata, on the other hand, looked like a rugby player ready to charge full-tilt at her opponent with a mighty battle cry. Well, a rugby player with an axe in one hand and a crossbow strung across her back.
Next to them, Arthur and Bill Weasley looked a bit frail in comparison but Buffy knew the wands in their hands were potentially more dangerous than any of the sharp bladed weapons she and her slayers carried.
She put the phone to her ear and waited for Giles to pick up.
“Yes hello,” Giles said as he answered his cellphone.
“Hey Giles, just got the call. The wards are down. We're heading in.”
“Very good, I'll inform the wizards if they don't already know.”
“Gotcha. Wish us luck!”
“Good luck, Buffy.”
“You too, Giles.”
Giles turned to Brigadier Benton.
“That was Buffy,” he said. “She's just heard from Willow. The infiltration group has been successful and the wards are now down. She and her group are moving in.”
Brigadier Benton nodded and then proceeded to give orders to the lieutenant sitting at the radio that had been set up by the bar. Giles, meanwhile, turned to Xander's table. Xander, Vi and Gwen had all gone silent as soon as the cellphone had begun to ring.
“Gwen, could you go inform the wizards of the wards being down?”
“Sure thing,” the slayer replied. She stuffed the last bite of her sandwich into her mouth with her left hand while grabbing a broadsword from the collection that was leaning to the left of the door with her right and then running out the door.
“Vi, please tell the other slayers to come and collect the rest of their weapons.”
“Get radio and go into observatory position?” Xander interrupted as he hastily cleared all their wrappers off the bar table and threw them into the trash. “Will do.”
Giles rolled his eyes.
“And make sure all the civilians get inside!” Brigadier Benton called after them as they ran out the door.
Voldemort grinned. It was a terrifying, malicious grin. The death eaters gathered around him shivered at the expression. He revelled in their fear. Everything he'd done, his long years of research and information gathering: everything had been for this one moment. This
was when he would finally collect his due.
The power he was about to obtain would leave him without rival in the Wizarding World.
He was about to step into the magical circle when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. His eyes narrowed, grin vanishing as he watched a death eater approaching from the manor at a run.
The death eater stopped at the edge of the cleared grass to catch his breath.
“My – gasp – my lord,” the man finally managed to get out. “I-I'm sorry to – gasp – interrupt. LeStrange sent me. There are – gasp - intruders in the manor. L-Lucius Malfoy has betrayed you, my lord.”
Voldemort snarled. He'd always known Lucius Malfoy was an opportunistic, pretentious weasel of a man but hadn't cared so long as it worked in his favour. Now he wanted nothing more than to hunt that weasel down and listen to him scream.
But he would not let that pretentious snake get in the way of his goal. He would deal with him later.
“MacNair,” he said, his voice soft and even. “Take six men and dispose of the intruders.”
MacNair stepped forward and bowed.
“And Malfoy, my lord?” he asked.
“I'd like him alive if you can. But so long as he's no longer a nuisance, I don't care what you do to him. Make use of the werewolves if you have to.”
MacNair grinned maliciously.
“As you wish, my lord.”
Voldemort paid little attention to them as they left. Although, he couldn't help but wonder how the intruders had gotten in.
Dawn swallowed nervously and finally looked up at the others. Remus was staring at her in surprise, while Lucius Malfoy's face showed something akin to wonder.
She averted her eyes again and her gaze fell to a body lying crumpled on the ground. His normal eye was open, staring into oblivion even as the magical eye continued to swirl around, though sluggishly. Dawn shivered.
“That was the killing curse, wasn't it?” she finally broke the silence.
“Yes, it was,” Remus answered quietly. He made his way over to the body of Alastor Moody and closed the man's eyelids. He paused over the body, hand trembling.
“I-it just seemed so... so easy,” Dawn continued. “There's not even any blood.”
Someone placed a hand on her shoulder and Dawn looked into Draco's eyes. He looked like he was holding back tears by force. Oh god, she realized, this was how his mother had died.
“That's why it's forbidden,” he said, a slight rasp in his voice.
She nodded. Movement drew her attention back to Remus who was now standing again, his right hand clenched white-knuckled around his wand and his jaw tense. “We need to get going. I doubt I was the only one who felt that. There will be other death eaters on their way.”
“My brother-in-law also mentioned sending someone to inform the Dark Lord of my treachery,” Lucius reminded them.
As Dawn and Draco got to their feet, Draco's father walked over and waved his wand over Moody's body while he recited a spell Dawn couldn't quite make out. Moody's body disappeared with a slight shimmer. Remus raised an inquiring eyebrow at Lucius.
“I've banished his body to a corner dungeon. You can't take it with you; it'll only slow you down. After your ragtag army has succeeded, you may return to collect it.”
Remus nodded. “Thank you.”
Lucius Malfoy snorted, dismissing the comment with a wave of his hand. “Just leave the way you came and you shouldn't have any problems.”
“Father, what do mean?” said Draco. “Aren't you coming with us?”
Lucius smiled at his son, his eyes full of regret.
“I'm sorry, Draco,” he said softly. He walked up to Draco. “But no, I'm not. I invited that monster into this house and I cannot just abandon it to him. There are too many ghosts here who wouldn't forgive me if I ran away now.”
He embraced Draco. This time, Draco's arms immediately came up to return the gesture and held on fiercely. When they stepped away from each other, Lucius' hand lingered on his son's shoulder.
“I'm proud of you,” he said with a small smile. Then the smile disappeared and a fierce, determined expression replaced it. “Now go.”
“Malfoy!” Remus called after him as he turned to leave. Lucius turned back to him with an arrogantly raised eyebrow. “What are you planning to do?”
Lord Malfoy smirked. “I am going to play a little deadly game of hide and seek with the scum that seem to think they have the right to sully my ancestral home,” he drawled. Excitement flashed in his eyes.
Something occurred to Dawn then. “Uh, if you happen to come across the other half of our group, tell them 'the Bit' sent you,” she said.
Lucius' eyes snapped to her, narrowing. “Other half?” he asked, sounding highly unimpressed.
“Uh yeah. They're rescuing the prisoners in your dungeons.”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course they are,” he muttered. Then he sighed and waved a hand imperiously. “Very well, if I see them I shall deliver the message and lead them out of danger.”
“She's saying it for your own protection, you know,” Draco said. “The demon, who made two aunts out of aunt Bellatrix is in that group.”
“I see. 'The Bit' you said?”
Dawn giggled. “Yup. They'll get it.”
“I do hope so.” Lucius nodded, turned smartly on his heel and walked to the ballroom door. “Good-bye then.”
Lucius' hand was on the doorknob when his son called out. He took a deep breath and faced the young man. Draco almost looked embarrassed by the outburst, but he quickly pulled himself together and looked his father in the eye.
“I-I'll see you afterwards,” he said.
Lucius smiled. “Yes,” he said. “Good-bye, Draco. And good luck.”
Lucius peeked carefully outside before stepping out of the ballroom. The door closed softly after him. Dawn took a deep calming breath.
“Come on, let's get going,” she said.
Draco nodded and took a deep breath of his own, before turning on his heel and leading the way towards the fireplace. Remus followed behind them, watching the ballroom carefully for movement.
Minerva McGonagall met Kingsley Shacklebolt's eyes across the lane. He nodded to her. Then they both watched as two ministry aurors crept up to the Malfoy Manor gates and began disabling the wards there.
She disliked having to co-operate with the Ministry but as Moody has reluctantly pointed out, the Order simply didn't have the necessary manpower to launch such a large-scale attack. It also meant they could afford to send their own people with those from the Watcher's Council without feeling their absence quite so keenly.
Already she rather missed Alastor's gruff yet comforting presence beside her on the battlefield.
It took them approximately twenty minutes to disable whatever nasty hexes the Malfoy family had written into their front gate against intruders.
And then they attacked.
Buffy led her group through the hedge of hawthorn bushes that ran along the outside of the manor's stone wall while wishing she could just take an axe to the whole thing. They smelt nice enough but the damn spikes were picking at her clothes and leaving scratches on her skin. Every now and again, she would hear someone behind her take a sharp breath or curse quietly.
Finally, she found the spot Draco had mentioned, where the bushes seemed to part just a bit along the wall. She paused and took a deep breath, hoping the boy had this right. She tightened her grip on her sword and straightened. Then she walked directly at the wall-
-and suddenly found herself looking at a tree grove.
She jogged up to the first tree and stilled in its shadow, scanning the area for movement. She didn't see any. Behind her, she heard the others emerging through the pretend wall.
The grove was about the size of a small park with perfectly manicured grass. Buffy spied a few ornate wooden benches sitting in the shade of a cluster of trees. She was pretty sure she recognized most of the leaves as being oak and chestnut – she remembered a trip to the park with her parents where her father had had to kneel down in order to show her the differences between tree leaves.
In the distance, she could see the Malfoy Manor regally overlooking the grounds. It looked like a small castle, complete with three pointy towers – one large, tall one in the middle with two short, squat ones on either side of it. It probably looked much more impressive from the front with the main door in view. Between the grove and the manor, Buffy saw a stretch of gardens.
Buffy wasn't too proud to admit she was impressed by Draco's ancestral home.
The others joined her by the tree. Connor let out a low whistle. “You know, I was sort of assuming he was making it sound like it was bigger than it was,” he said quietly. “Guess not.”
“Nope, not really,” Buffy agreed. “Thankfully, the gardening staff seem to have the day off, 'cause there's not a whole lot of hiding space around here other than tree shades and that will only help so much.”
“So you're suggesting we just walk around until we find You-Know-Who?” Arthur asked.
Buffy nodded. “Pretty much. I mean, that was sort of the plan all along, since we don't know exactly where he's gonna be. I just really hope he's not doing this indoors.”
“I thought Willow and Giles said that would be impossible,” said Bill with a frown.
“Not impossible so much as really, really dumb.” Buffy shrugged and then twirled the sword in her hand. She smiled brightly “Alright, let's go find us an evil wizard!”
For all of Buffy's apparent lack of concern, Bill couldn't help but notice how carefully she moved. Her footfalls were silent and slower than they could've been. Such was the case with both younger slayers as well as the boy, Connor. It made him feel like a noisy lumbering oaf in comparison.
It was little wonder that Buffy was the first to notice them.
Though he'd been watching his surroundings diligently, Bill was a bit surprised when Buffy suddenly froze mid-step and then crouched slightly, as though preparing to break into a run. For a few moments she said nothing, only looked.
“Feel it too, huh?” Connor whispered. Buffy nodded.
“What's going on?” the curly-haired slayer whispered.
“Vas iz dat?” the German slayer asked, shivering.
Bill exchanged a look with his father and then both of them moved forward to join Buffy.
“I don't know,” Buffy answered with a frown.
“Look, there!” Connor suddenly hissed, pointing at a spot in the distance to the right of the manor.
Bill squinted and gradually a sort of dark grey cloud seemed to emerge from amongst the trimmed garden hedges. He heard his father curse.
“They don't look very friendly,” Buffy commented.
“It's dementors,” his father said.
“Memory-reliving, soul-sucking wraith demon things?” Buffy asked.
“Uh yes, that would be about right. I take it Mister Malfoy told you about them?”
“Yeah. And I was oh so looking forward to meeting them too.” The corner of Bill's mouth twitched with amusement at the sarcasm in Buffy's voice. “Guess that means you two get to take the lead. 'Cause we couldn't find any non-magicky way of dealing with them.”
“You know, most things die if you chop their heads off,” said Connor. “Well, except for Lorne.”
“I think a rokekka demon's the same. You have to chop its tail off or something, I think.”
“Never met one.”
“Me neither. Don't even know why I know that.”
“The problem with dementors is that you can't get close enough to them to do any sort of physical damage,” said Bill.
Buffy nodded and stepped aside to let Bill and his father pass by. Then they began advancing again, watching the swarm of dementors as it came towards them. The closer they came, the heavier and colder the air around them seemed to become. Bill knew it was all an illusion, but it didn't help the feelings of despair that were washing over him, the voices whispering in his mind that he couldn't possibly do this, that perhaps it would be better if he didn't fight back, because then Fleur would be able to go find herself a husband that matched her beauty...
Bill took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment, picturing Fleur in his mind. He thought back to that single, perfect moment when that beautiful, amazing woman had agreed to marry him and remembered the look in her eyes later, when she'd stood before him in her wedding dress as they were bound together for the rest of their lives.
He opened his eyes and raised his wand.
The silvery swallow that flew out of his wand shone brightly even under the afternoon sun, its long forked tail looking like a trail of magic glitter. His father's weasel scurried right behind it and together they scattered the dementors out of their cluster. The swallow chased after a small group of them until they were safely sailing away from them and then it doubled back. The weasel patronus, meanwhile, managed to chase another group off in the other direction.
But there were still at least a dozen of them left and, while they weren't clustered as tightly together anymore, they were still coming right at them.
Bill looked at the wand in his hand and wondered if it were possible to cast more than one patronus charm. He shrugged. There was only one way to find out. He raised his wand, but suddenly his wrist was grabbed by a slender hand.
“Hang on, this spell of yours doesn't actually destroy them?” Buffy asked, her eyes never leaving the dementors.
“No, I suppose it doesn't,” Bill answered. The coldness was beginning to seep into his skin. Behind him, he could hear the two young girls groan.
“Then what use is it exactly?” she asked.
Bill blinked down at her.
“Well, it allows us to get rid of them and keep them from devouring our souls,” his father answered.
Buffy rolled her eyes. It was Connor, who spoke up.
“What Buffy means is that chasing them away so they can go hunt down someone else is sort of useless in the whole scheme of things.”
“They're going straight towards where everyone else should be attacking right now,” Buffy agreed. “Not to mention the village where the military and other non-magicky people, who can't defend themselves against these things, are.”
Bill's eyes widened. He'd never thought of what happened to dementors after they'd been chased away.
“Merlin,” his father whispered, looking horrified. “The last thing the attackers at the front need is dementors on top of death eaters and possibly demons.”
The cloud of darkness was getting stronger. Bill looked at the wand in his hand, now nothing more than a useless stick. He didn't notice when his swallow patronus landed on his shoulder.
“What are we supposed to do then?” he said. “There's no other way to fight them.”
“There's always a way,” said Buffy.
She turned away from the lost, hopeless look that had settled on the man's face. She could feel the effects of the dementors too, but for now it was like standing next to an open hellmouth and she could bear that. She had
borne that. Victoria and Renata weren't as well off since neither one of them had ever been to a hellmouth. She suddenly wished she'd had the forethought to bring Vi with her.
“Wanna test their resilience to decapitation?” Connor asked with an excited grin that was all teeth and zero humour.
Buffy met his eyes briefly and echoed his grin. “Totally game for that.”
They ran to meet the oncoming dementors.
Buffy focused on keeping her limbs moving, forced her mind to think only one, single thought: 'I have to win'. It was how she'd defeated the First's uber-vamp general. Before her eyes she saw a parade of images. Her mother's dead eyes, staring up at the ceiling as she lay sprawled out on the couch, Angel looking up at her with confused, vulnerable eyes just before he was sucked into hell through the spot where he'd been impaled on her sword, Willow sneering down at her with hollow, black eyes...
Buffy pushed those images away and swung her sword at the boney, outstretched hands reaching for her. There was a high-pitched shriek and Buffy swung again - this time aiming higher. The cloaked creature collapsed to the ground like a puppet that'd just had its strings cut.
“Well, that answers that question,” Buffy attempted to quip, but the humour felt flat.
More dementors glided towards her and she grit her teeth. Dawn standing at the edge of the platform in a long white dress, blood pouring down her front from the jagged cuts in her torso while tears streamed down her face, the portal a large swirling mass of energy in front of her...
Buffy swung her sword at the next target almost without thought. The air around her felt thick as though she were trying to move in some sort of see-through jelly. Her limbs felt heavy and she couldn't remember ever feeling as cold as she did now. Above her she could see the sun, but the jelly in the air seemed to prevent its rays from reaching her.
Another dementor slumped to the ground. Angelus sneering at her, telling her she was nothing but a weak little girl, another one he'd had fun with before tossing away, laughing at the tears that flowed down her face: the arms that had once gently held her, the hands that had shown her pleasure only a few days ago, now hard and cruel as they struck her...
Breathing was becoming difficult, her lungs felt like they were freezing over and her wheezing breaths sounded louder than the rattling wheezes coming from the dementors. Buffy braced herself and swung the sword again. Opening her eyes and seeing nothing but oppressive darkness, smelling nothing but mildew, earth and death, feeling satin underneath her fingertips and then moving her hands to discover the smallness of the space she was in was not an illusion of the dark. Confusion, fear. Banging her hands against the top, feeling it splinter on impact, peeling the wood away to discover dirt above her and then panic, pushing up against the dirt, digging, moving frantically upwards, forever digging upwards, until suddenly there is fresh air. Crawling, pulling herself up until she is out of the dirt and looking at a tombstone, her own name carved into it...
There were still three dementors directly in front of her. Buffy managed to lift her sword towards them, but it wobbled in her grasp, or maybe that was her wobbling. The freezing jelly in front of her vision was making it hard to tell. Why was it suddenly so dark? Looking down into the cavern, into the very heart of what lay on the other side of the hellmouth, at the army of the First, the sea of ancient vampires ready to pour into her dimension. She was only one person and she couldn't even stop one... an army was impossible. Maybe this was where she'd finally lose...
The sword slipped from her frozen fingers. Buffy followed it to her knees. The darkness surrounded her on all sides, pressing in on her. She saw movement out of the corner of her eyes and looked up. Sineya stood beside her, looking down at her. There was sympathy in her eyes. Except the ancient slayer never showed sympathy: she wasn't human enough for it.
Buffy wanted to say something, but she couldn't figure out how. Her throat was frozen. Giles saying good-bye, leaving her alone in a world she didn't want to be in, a world she didn't care about, all harsh and full of hate, full of fear. Leaving her... Giles leaving her, her mom leaving her, Angel leaving her, everyone always leaving her...
There was movement again, Buffy felt something reaching out for her. She looked up at the slimy gray scabbed hands inches away from her face. The thing had its hood back and she looked into dark gray, bottomless eyes.
She knew she should be moving, but she didn't understand why. It was hopeless. She should've just stayed dead...
A light flew across her vision and then the eyes and hands disappeared. Buffy blinked in surprise. She looked up and watched as a silvery-blue sparrow flew a circle around the dementor. Suddenly, Connor was beside it swinging his axe at its neck. The dementor collapsed to the ground.
She blinked again, taking note of how much lighter it seemed to be getting, how much warmer it had become and how much easier it suddenly seemed for her to breathe.
“Miss Summers!” a voice called to her and then there were arms around her, pulling her up.
Buffy let Arthur Weasley help her to her feet, still feeling a bit disorientated. She looked around her, seeing dementors laying on the ground in crumpled heaps. She saw the swallow return into Bill's wand and Connor further away dispatching the last of the dementors.
Buffy took a deep breath and looked up. Had the sun always been this bright and warm?
“Are you alright, Miss Summers?” Arthur asked her.
“Uh...” she said. She then took a deep breath and shook the remaining cobwebs out of her head. “Yeah, sorry, yeah, I am now. Thanks. Wow, Draco sure wasn't exaggerating about those things.”
She caught Veronica and Renata's eyes and smiled reassuringly at them. The girls looked shaken, but they smiled back. Then Connor joined them, his axe hefted over his shoulder.
“What I want to know is how you managed to shake off their effect,” Bill said to him.
“I didn't really,” he said. He paused for a moment, looking contemplative. “See, I have two sets of memories. One set is fake – up to a point – and is, like, plastered on over top of my real ones. But the nice, fake happy family human ones are kinda set up as my default, so I kept getting flashes of bad memories as Connor Reilly. Those bad memories? Completely ridiculous to the part of me that's the Destroyer.”
“Two sets of memories?” Arthur gaped. “How in Merlin's name did you acquire two sets of memories?!”
“Long story. Never thought it'd come in handy, that's for sure.”
“Well, at least now we all know dementors can be killed by decapitation,” she said brightly. “And we know which direction to go in.”
“We do?” Bill asked.
“Yup! Those demented things came from the right, which means good ol' Voldy's cooking somewhere on the left side of the manor.”
“It's rather unfortunate that's the side that's farther away.”
Buffy shrugged and picked up her sword before leading them onwards once again, hoping no one noticed the slight, unsteady shake in her limbs.
The doors to the ballroom opened and a tall man with skin as pale as porcelain and long dark hair tied back in a pony tail walked in. His silver-tipped shoes clicked softly on the marble floor. Barely five steps in, he pausied to survey the scene.
Master Warlock MacNab looked at the clumps of dark robes that littered the floor. There were four of them, including one against the far wall which he was fairly certain had been a minion Voldemort had been rather fond of. One of them was still alive.
MacNab's eyes next roamed to the knocked-over pedestal. Lazily, he waved a hand in the living death eater's direction and watched as a thin dark veil settled over the unconscious form. He walked towards the pedestal, not bothering to watch the body thrash as it suffocated.
The area around the pedestal was covered in pieces of stone. MacNab frowned in annoyance. That explained how the ministry wizards had been able to attack. The problem with magic-cancelling wards was that a person couldn't tell if they went down unless they were outside them. Idly, he wondered whether this was a remnant of Severus Snape's hand or if there was a second traitor.
He could feel the residue of that strange magic he'd felt outside. This was the room where it had been cast. Had it been used to destroy the statuette? He doubted it. Destroying a stone figurine didn't require that much force.
It was a mystery.
He heard a groan behind him and turned to find a fifth death eater slumped against the wall next to the doors. He appeared to be bound with magic – wizarding magic. MacNab patiently waited for the death eater to open his eyes and see him.
The death eater's eyes widened. MacNab smiled pleasantly.
Screams echoed from the ballroom as MacNab opened the door and left it behind him, the bounce back in his step. He paused at the foot of the first stairwell. It was a wide and led upstairs to a wide array of guest quarters – or so it had been described to him.
He summoned his pets and sent them scurrying along the shadows of the manor. He choose the central corridor and walked down at a more sedate pace.
Illyria stood by the entrance to the Malfoy Manor. She watched as wizards battled one another. Their magic was inventive, but pitiful. Had she full use of her powers their spells would be of little concern. It was unfortunate that her shell was unable to handle her essence.
She heard screaming and saw one of the 'good' wizards fall down in a twitching heap. It was the tall older woman in charge of the wizarding school. McGonagall, a faint human voice whispered into her mind. Illyria looked over the battlefield and found the death eater who had cast the spell.
He had his mask and hood up as he approached the headmistress. Suddenly, a crossbolt came sailing at him and hit him in the shoulder. He dropped his wand and screamed in pain, his other hand shot up to the wound and found the wooden stick poking out of his flesh. Meanwhile, McGonagall had stopped screaming. She raised her wand with a shaking hand and incanted a spell.
The death eater fell to the ground and lay still. Illyria looked behind her to where the slayer sitting in a large, leafy tree was busy re-loading her crossbow.
She looked back to the battlefield. The wizards of the Order of the Phoenix were doing well, but even with the support from their ministry, it was clear they were outnumbered. And they had nothing to properly take cover behind. Illyria frowned. She disliked this form of fighting. She had been promised demons to fight. There were no demons here, only humans with magic.
Annoyed, she walked into the battlefield anyway.
“Fred!” she heard someone cry out and turned to look in that direction.
She recognized the red-headed twins from the infirmary: older brothers to the red headed boy who was friends with Harry Potter. One twin was kneeling down beside the other, who was sprawled out on the ground - several long bleeding gashes across his torso – and checking his pulse. Illyria could tell from where she stood that the cut-up one was still breathing.
Then the uninjured twin was on his feet, deflecting a curse. He looked furious. However, he didn't get the chance to cast his own spell, before the death eater attacking him cast another, which required him to shield again.
Illyria walked up behind the death eater casting and reached up. His neck snapped with a satisfying crunch. She released the body and it crumbled to the ground. The redhead stared at her in bewilderment.
“Uh, thanks,” he said.
Illyria nodded to him.
Loud crashing called her attention away from him. Six large creatures stomped their way into the fray. They towered over the wizards, standing at nearly eight feet high and they were vaguely humanoid - if having two distinguishable legs and two distinguishable arms growing out of a lump that resembled a torso and a smaller round-ish lump on top of that, which could've been a head if one squinted, counted as being humanoid. They rather resembled something a child would sculpt out of clay. In fact, they looked like clay been used to make them. Illyria could see the souls burning inside each of the clay creations, animating them.
Several of the Order wizards attempted to stop them before they got too far. Their spells bounced off the hard clay surface of the creatures. That was when Illyria noticed the symbols carved into their torsos.
Illyria cocked her head to the side and smirked.
When they reached the wizards, the soul-animated clay creatures – golems, that soft voice inside her head whispered – they split into several directions, ignoring death eaters (though not going out of their way to avoid them as several quickly discovered by getting knocked harshly to the ground) and going straight for any aurors and Order of the Phoenix members.
Kingsley Shacklebolt cursed his bad luck as one of them went straight for him. His spells weren't working on it at all. It lifted one giant fist above its head and Kingsley backpedalled for all he was worth, too afraid to take his eyes off the creature. The fist came down.
It stopped before it connected with his head. He blinked and looked past the fist, to where a small hand was holding the massive arm as though it were nothing. Illyria, he realized with widening eyes. The former demon god king pushed the arm aside and took a step towards the creature.
Her punch sent it staggering back a few steps and left a slight dent in its torso. She then turned to Kingsley.
“You take care of the wizards, we will deal with these golems,” she said.
Then she ran at the golem. When he looked to his left, he saw four slayers joining her in the attack.
“Right, death eaters,” he said to himself. “I can do death eaters.”
He turned in time to see a death eater sneaking up on Molly Weasley. Kingsley raised his wand.
The death eater slumped to the ground. Kingsley looked for his next target.
Moving an entire village's population while they were under a spell had been relatively easy. Now that the spell had been removed and its effects wearing off, keeping them where they were was turning out to be the more difficult part. Luckily, the muggles became relatively docile again once Avery demonstrated the cruciatus on a particularly loud young man.
The armed demons surrounding them as a perimeter guard helped as well.
Avery kept half an eye on the muggles as he watched his master prepare to begin the ritual. He looked in the direction of the front entrance and sneered. If the ministry thought they stood a chance of stopping the Dark Lord now, they were fools.
The Dark Lord removed his cloak and then his robes until he was clothed in nothing but loose-fitting black muggle undergarments to preserve his modesty. The hag from the Circle of the Black Throne handed him a heavy solid silver goblet containing smoking liquid, which he took in both hands.
Then he stepped into the circle drawn in blood and ashes. Once he was in its centre, he stopped and began to chant.
Avery frowned, suddenly feeling the air grow colder. Someone behind him gasped and Avery turned to glare at them. Then he saw the approaching dementors. Cursing under his breath, he stepped forward, walking towards them until he was well out of the way of the ritual. He could feel the cold seeping into his bones as five of the dark-cloaked creatures approached.
“Expecto Patronum!” he chanted.
At his silent command, the salamander that scurried out of his wand circled them and chased them off towards the fight in the front of the manor. It would give the aurors something else to worry about. Then he look back in the direction they had come from.
He looked back to his master, who was looking at him askance out of the corner of his eye. The magical circle surrounding him was glowing slightly. Avery nodded to him and turned to the death eaters who still remained.
“You five,” he said, pointing at five of the ones closest to him. “Come with me. It seems we might have someone attempting to surprise us from the back.”
“Wait,” a deep, resonating voice said just as they were leaving. Avery turned to the diminutive demon lord. “Take a few of my demons with you. According to Dermain's surveillance, Buffy Summers is not to be found at the front. I highly doubt that means she has opted to forgo this battle.”
Four demons detached themselves from those surrounding the muggles and made their way towards his group. Avery watched them approach warily.
“Very well,” he said. He didn't trust demons, but wasn't enough of a fool to argue against additional manpower.
Azazella led them back through the servant passageways, navigating the narrow winding routes without the slightest hesitation. It amazed Charlie that she could remember them so well as they all mostly looked the same to him. Behind him, Spike silently glided along, his sword out and ready.
The demon in front paused at an intersection of corridors and looked around with narrowed eyes.
“I feel faint traces of magic,” she finally said. “They were not here before.”
“Yeah, I think I feel them too,” said Spike. “But we're on a schedule, so just keep an eye out.”
Charlie nodded, despite having no idea what they were talking about. He hadn't felt any magic at all. But he gripped his wand tighter and watched the corridors around him studiously.
“You know,” the vampire whispered when they finally emerged from the stone labyrinth of servant passageways. “I was rather hoping to come across at least something to sharpen my sword on.”
“Uh, I'm actually perfectly fine with not having met anything dangerous,” said Charlie. He looked at Spike. “Er, well, more dangerous.”
“To mourn a mischief that is past and gone is the next way to draw new mischief on,” a smooth, male voice said from the opposite end of the corridor.
“Aah, but I like new mischief,” said Spike with a grin, stepping towards the voice. “Besides I rather prefer 'to be or not to be' myself or possibly thinking about that dagger that I see before me, its handle towards my hand. Wouldn't mind clutching it myself.”
There was a pause and then a figure in an elegant black pin-striped suit walked out into the corridor, his pale skin giving him a ghostly look. His left eyebrow was raised in amusement. “An educated vampire?” he said. “How intriguing.”
“Well we all 'ad to come from somewhere.”
The man smirked.
“True. But tell me, vampire, do you really believe that 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer?”
“Spike,” Azazella interrupted their banter. “The magic I felt in the corridors earlier is his.”
Spike nodded, his eyes never leaving the figure before him. The man looked past Spike.
“Hm, you must be Angela,” he said. “I thought I felt ancient magic earlier. So you are one of the four then. Pity. We were rather hoping you'd side with us.”
“Who's 'we'?” Spike asked.
“I am Master Warlock MacNab of the Circle of the Black Thorne.” A pause. “Albion Chapter.”
The warlock bowed slightly, a mocking tilt to his lips. Spike growled at him. Charlie swallowed around the cold lump in his throat and tightened his grip on his wand. If the man before them was a warlock, then that meant magic. At least he looked human. Mostly
Spike took another step towards MacNab and grinned.
“Then that means I can kill you,” he said.
MacNab laughed, a lovely musical laugh that made all of Charlie's hairs stand on end. Finally, the warlock stopped and began to walk towards them, the smile on his face growing sinister.
“Poor little vampire,” he taunted. “So used to hiding in shadows you don't take notice of them anymore. Not even when there are more than there should be.”
Charlie frowned and then looked down. His eyes widened. He saw Spike's shadow, which wavered slightly as the tourches swayed. Then he saw where the shadows from the edges of the corridor came out to meet his shadow
“Spike, look down!” he cried.
Startled, the vampire looked down and almost immediately, the ring of shadow that surrounded him began to darken.
“Shit!” he cried and jumped away.
The shadow leapt after him.
Spike scrambled away from the shadowed edges of the corridor and into the light of the torches, but the dark spot of shadow clung to him like a dark, see-through slug. The vampire tried to use the hand not holding his sword to shake it off, but the black lump simply spread thinner and thinner until Charlie realized it wasn't actually spreading anymore but vanishing into his clothes.
Spike screamed and fell to his knees, his hand digging into his thighs, supernaturally strong nails tearing at the fabric.
The corridor seemed to get darker. Charlie looked up and his eyes widened as the shadows from around the edges rose up the walls and across the floor. And then they began to spread away from the walls: inky black tendrils reaching out for them. The tendrils began to grow tiny little fissures, which mutiplied and took shape until the walls looked like they were sprouding dozens of large black centipedes.
MacNab smiled pleasantly.
Angela stepped in front of Charlie just as half the centipedes separated from the walls and launched themselves at them. Charlie jumped backwards in alarm. He watched with wide eyes as they surrounded her like a wriggling mass of black scarves.
Black demon flames burned them away to nothingness. Azazella gripped the two curve-edged spears that crossed over her back and stared the warlock down. MacNab stared at her with a worried frown.
“You're not the power I felt earlier,” he said. “Which means there's a second group somewhere...”
“Oh bloody 'ell,” Charlie heard Spike whisper.
He spared the vampire a glance and froze, his eyes widening. Spike was staring at his arms. There were large buldges just under his skin and they were moving, scurrying around like small, living creatures. Charlie had to look away before he became sick.
There was a musical chuckle. “Like my pets, do you?”
Charlie glared at the warlock. Azazella bent her knees slightly, as though preparing to crouch. Beside him, Spike erupted into a deep, hacking cough that sounded rather painful. Charlie glanced at him again and was just in time to watch the vampire bend over, open his mouth wide and nearly choak on his cough. A round, inky black beetle dropped from his mouth to the floor.
The beetle's anteni twitched from side to side, then it scuttled about to face Charlie. Then it jumped.
“Incendio,” he incanted as he backpedalled.
The beetle burst into flames and fell to the ground, where its legs twitched a few times before it dissolved.
The shadows along the walls suddenly began to writhe uncontrollably and Charlie took a deep breath. Right, so fire worked. Thankfully, fire was easy. He pointed his wand at the section of shadow that was creeping up closer to Spike and cast the spell again. The fire burned for several seconds before the shadows dissloved.
More shadows moved over the fire.
Azazella's demon flames burst out around her and then out to the sides, creating a wall of burning black the shadows couldn't move past. But when the flames receeded, the shadows were back, moving faster than before, their shapes even more defined as though their creator was no longer interested in playing around.
Charlie looked behind the shadows and saw that, indeed, MacNab was scowling angrily.
Then Spike hacked up another beetle. This time, Charlie set fire to it as soon as it touched the ground.
“Help Spike,” said Azazella in a harsh whisper.
Charlie nodded and moved to the vampire, keeping an eye on the shadows as he did. He went to grab his arm, but Spike pulled away.
“Don't think that touching me is such a great idea, mate,” he said, his voice sounding rather strained. He looked down at his arms. “I can feel it, just beneath my skin, like it's molding itself to my body. I-I think it might be able to get out if it really wanted to. Only reason it's not, I think, is because I'm dead and so I don't sweat or anything.”
Charlie shivered involuntarily.
“Can you stand then?” he asked.
Spike nodded and slowly stood up, shaking slightly at the effort of making his limbs move, but he grit his teeth and managed it. It took him a few steps to get the hang of movement. Azazella said a few words in a harsh-sounding language Charlie didn't recognize and suddenly the corridor felt like a furnace. Charlie looked back and saw there was a large wall of fire protecting their exit.
“How long is that going to last?” Charlie asked when they paused briefly for Spike to cough up another beetle.
“Not long,” said Azazella. “It is likely already dying out.” At his incredulous stare she elaborated. “Despite my preference for black flames, fire is not actually my strongest element.”
Charlie never got the chance to ask what was her strongest element, because then they were running again, navigating down narrow corridors. He trusted Azazella knew where she was going but he was certain they weren't going back the same way they'd come.
The shadows caught up with them at an intersection of corridors, cutting off their retreat. Charlie set the shadow wall in front of the on fire and then realized to his dismay that the shadows had become smarter. A second wall of shadows stood just behind the first one.
Footfalls clicked along the corridor they'd just come from. MacNab came into sight moments later. He looked furious.
“How dare you do that to my shadows?” he asked in a low, menacing snarl.
He lifted his hand. The shadows along the wall began to wriggle again.
Bright light flashed along the corridor, causing Charlie to shield his eyes from its glare. He heard Spike cry out and felt Azazella disappear from his side.
When the light died down, he looked up to where MacNab had been and saw Azazella standing there, her spears drawn and blood dripping from their tips. Charlie saw a body laying on the ground in front of her, a pool of blood beginning to form around it.
“Well, hello, Lucy, fancy meeting you again,” said Spike cheerily.
Charlie turned and gaped. Lucius Malfoy stood in the corridor, looking highly annoyed.
“The Bit sent me,” he said in a very precise tone, looking at the vampire. Charlie wondered if maybe he was disappointed the spell hadn't turned Spike to dust.
Spike raised an eyebrow. “Oh she did, did she?”
“Yes.” Malfoy's eyes widened and he paled slightly when Azazella returned to their side. “They're already on their way to the hidden fireplace.”
He seemed to shake himself and then turned to walk away.
“Are they alright?” Charlie called after him.
Malfoy paused and looked over his shoulder. “Alastor Moody is dead, but the others are fine.”
Charlie closed his eyes at the news. It sounded unbelieveable.
“Well, come along then,” Malfoy continued. “Follow me.” He smirked. “I know a shortcut.”
The flames in the Hogwarts medical wing fireplace roared to life, startling Ginny out of her reverie. It took her mere seconds to collect her thoughts and then she was hopping off the windowsill she'd been sitting on while she waited.
“Dobby!” she called.
Almost immediately, there was a soft pop and the house elf appeared.
“Please get Madame Pomphrey,” Ginny said, before Dobby had a chance to ask. “They're back.”
Dobby looked at the fireplace and nodded. Then he disappeared again with another pop.
No sooner had the house elf left, Charlie stumbled through the fireplace. Ginny felt a little bit of the tension inside her ease: that was one brother accounted for.
“Charlie!” she exclaimed and ran to his side to see if he needed any help.
Charlie looked up at her and smiled. “I'm fine, Gin, but we'll need Madame Pomphrey-” He looked back to where Spike had just come in behind him, closely followed by Angela. “-and probably Willow, too.”
“Dobby's already gone to get Madame Pomphrey.”
Ginny watched as Dawn and then Remus came through the fireplace. Draco Malfoy came through, looking a bit shakey, and then the flames died down. She frowned. Madame Pomphrey, followed by Willow and then Harry, Ron and Hermione, burst in through the medical wing doors.
“Oh my, I'm so glad you're finally back!” Madame Pomphrey exclaimed, sounding a bit breathless from her dash up the stairs. “You seemed to be taking such a long time, we were getting worried.”
“Dawn!” Willow called and then stopped so abruptly that Hermione ran into her from behind. “Oh drats! We're supposed to give Buffy the signal. I'll be right back.”
She ran back out and they could faintly hear her shouting something down the stairwell, before the door managed to close shut behind her. Meanwhile, Madame Pomphrey had done a headcount.
“Where's Alastor?” she asked.
“He didn't make it,” Remus answered. Hermione gasped.
Any other comments were momentarily stalled as Spike went into another coughing fit. Then - to everyone's horror - he hacked up two shadow beetles.
The Malfoy Manor gardens were a visual delight of colours. Flower beds were planted along stone-paved paths with a variety of plants: domestic, exotic and magical. Though on closer inspection it looked a bit overgrown and in need of a good weeding, it was clear that someone had set the garden up with much love and care.
In the centre of the garden stood a large circular marble fountain with a majestic stone dragon standing on its haunches, its wings spread and water pouring out from its wide-open jaws. At its feet lay a smaller dragon. It was curled up in sleep, but every so often it would raise its head and look around, occasionally even get up and wander around the fountain. Malfoy family stories said it sometimes flew around the garden when no one was looking (it had been several generations since anyone had claimed to have confirmed that).
The fountain itself stood in the middle of a small intersection of pathways, which also contained two ornamental wooden benches and several cherry trees. A marble bird bath stood a little further away, in the centre of a flower bed just beyond the intersection.
Avery cared for none of this as he led his group of death eaters and demons through it. The dementors had been congregating at the edge of the arboretum, which was where he headed. Thus far, he hadn't encountered any more, which worried him. He scanned the area, looking for anything out of place.
Suddenly, he heard a grunt and then a cry of surprise behind him. He turned around in time to see one of the younger death eaters – Flint, he thought his name was – jump to the side with a surprised yelp as one of the demons fell forward. There was an axe sticking out of the back of its head.
Loud cries filled the air and then there were two girls falling out of one of the cherry trees. They immediately began attacking the demons with swords. The demons growled and met them with their own swords. A young women and a boy fell out of two of the other trees: the woman also setting herself against the demons, the boy punching Flint and sending him flying into two others, before leaning down to retrieve the axe out of the dead demon's head.
Avery frowned. What were muggles doing here? Just as he was about to help the demons get rid of the nuisances, he spied movement out of the corner of his eye. His head snapped to the right and his wand came up even before he consciously realized he was being cast against.
The shield came up just in time to block two spells. Angry at himself for allowing the muggles to distract him from his surroundings, he cast a bone-shattering curse at the elder of the two wizards. Then he cast the shield charm again to avoid a curse from the younger one.
“Crumple, Goyle!” he called.
Seconds later, the two death eaters stood by his side.
“Weasley,” Goyle sneered.
“Why hello Goyle,” the elder wizard said and Avery noticed both men had red hair – no doubt Arthur Weasley and one of his older sons.
Avery left his two fellows to deal with the father and he turned to the son.
“Crucio!” he cast.
“Protego!” the young man countered.
“Mobilis terrum!” he cast pointing at the ground in front of his opponent.
The ground around the other wizard began to shake, throwing him slightly off-balance.
“Crucio!” he tried again and this time the curse hit and the younger Weasley fell to the still-moving ground with a scream of pain.
Out of the corner of his eye, Avery could see the demons weren't doing as well as he would've thought. He suddenly wondered if perhaps these weren't muggles after all. He needed to end this quickly.
“Finite incantato,” he said and the screaming stopped. “Avada Kadavra.”
With a surprising burst of energy, the younger wizard threw himself out of the way of the killing curse, landing with an impact that made him cry out in pain. Avery paid him no mind and instead swung around and pointed his wand at the axe-wielding boy.
The sickly green spell sprung from his wand and hit the boy just as he was stepping away from a demon he'd wounded in the arm. The boy noticed when the spell hit him and looked down at his own chest with widening eyes as it briefly glowed green. In fact, the glow of the spell flashed around his entire body for just a fraction of a second.
Then Avery watched as suddenly the spell returned back to him, leaving the boy unharmed.
Two death eaters and two Weasleys paused and stared for several moments as Avery slumped to the ground, somehow killed by his own spell. They all looked at Connor.
Arthur pointed his wand at Goyle. “Stupify”
The death eater froze then fell backwards. Bill, meanwhile, stupified Crumple before scrambling to his feet. Then they stared at Connor again, who had shrugged and then beheaded the demon he'd been fighting before being hit by Avery's curse.
When the death eaters were subdued and the demons were dead, the party took a minute to catch their breath.
“Uh, so was that spell I got hit with supposed to do something?” Connor asked Bill and Arthur.
“Yes, it was supposed to kill you,” Arthur answered.
“Oh, well, score one for being special then.”
“Hey that's twice in one day, what are you gonna do for your grand finale?” Buffy asked.
Then a flash of light caught her eye and she looked at the direction of the village, watching as a single flare streaked up into the sky. She smiled, a weight of worry easing from her.
Her sister and the manor infiltration group were back at Hogwarts.
Vi and Gwen had barely had any time to react to the death eaters who'd suddenly popped in behind them before they'd been grabbed and had wands pointed at their throats. Then Vi felt a sharp tug at her navels as the world swam around her like a momentary psychedelic dream. When the world righted itself again, she found herself facing a mostly familiar-looking group of wizards along with several of her sister-slayers and Illyria – who looked up briefly before going back to playing punching bag with a seven foot tall person-shaped thing that looked like it was made out of grey play-doh.
“Surrender or we'll kill the muggles!” the death eater holding her called out. Vi winced as she felt his wand jab into the side of her neck. She glanced to the side where she saw Gwen being held in a similar manner. The other slayer met her eyes and raised an incredulous eyebrow.
Suddenly Vi felt sort of insulted. “Are we, like, hostages?” she asked quietly, knowing Gwen would hear.
“I think we are,” Gwen answered.
“Silence, muggle!” the death eater holding her hissed.
Vi refrained from rolling her eyes. She was trying to decide whether to break the wizard's wand before she jabbed him and threw him at the play-doh monster or break a couple of his ribs first, when a red light flashed across her eyes. Vi blinked and looked up. She frowned when she didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Except...
“Oh,” she realized, before looking down at her chest. She stomped down on the automatic panic, knowing the red dot wasn't meant for her. Vi exchanged glances with Gwen, who had a red dot of her own at her collar bone – right above her captor's heart. She looked back out towards the village and saw Corporal Lake watching from the shadow of a house. He nodded to her and then spoke into a radio. Vi nodded carefully back.
Vi couldn't quite resist the smirk. “You moved off the manor grounds,” she said to the death eater holding her. The man snorted, scoffing at her stupidity. “That was actually a really dumb move, you know. Now you're out in the open where anyone, including us silly, blind muggles, can see you.”
Vi dropped to the ground. The death eater hadn't expected the move and wasn't holding her tightly enough to stop gravity from pulling her away from his grip. She heard him curse, but before he managed anything more there was the quiet sound of an impact and then Vi could feel him falling away. She looked back. The death eater's white mask was beginning to stain red around a small hole in his forehead.
Vi got up and unsheathed her sword. She charged at the nearest death eater, pausing only to duck under a spell. He cast a second spell when she was nearly upon him, which she twisted out of the way of and spun her way into a high kick that sent him teetering backwards. She dropped down and kicked his legs out from under him. He screamed when she stabbed her sword through his wand hand. One punch knocked him unconscious.
There was a loud crash accompanied by the dull sound of falling rocks. Vi looked up and her eyes widened at the sight of two more play-doh monsters crashing through the stone walls around the manor. The fighting had moved away from the main gates so thankfully there wasn't anyone in their immediate vicinity.
Vi swallowed and ran carefully towards Illyria and the other slayers. “Any tips on how to destroy these things?” she asked them.
Illyria looked at her with cold, indifferent eyes. “No.”
From a little ways behind her, one of the other slayers looked up and shrugged. “You basically just hit it 'till you smash it.”
“Right.” Vi turned back to the two new monsters and took a deep breath.
She was about to charge at them when a loud, high-pitched whistling sound stopped her in her tracks. Then something hit the first play-doh creature and it exploded into pieces. Vi brought a hand up to shield her face from flying debris. There was a second high-pitched whistling sound and then the second creature blew up as well.
Vi blinked. “Or rocket launchers work too,” she said. She looked back and grinned at Corporal Lake. Then she ran to help the other slayers.
Within the confines of the magic circle, the Dark Lord could feel ancient magic answering his call, summoned by his chanting. It felt like being caught in the midst of an invisible whirlwind: the wild turmoil battered at him from all sides, but he stood strong. This was what he'd been searching for and it exceeded his wildest expectations.
This was no longer simple magic, confined by spell and ritual. This was power. And he would tame it to his will.
He shouted out the final words of the chant to make them heard over the maelstrom. Sparks of power flashed in the air within the circle. Voldemort raised the chalice to his lips.
Dermain's frown deepened as he felt two more souls being released from his power as another golem fell. They were falling too quickly for it to be aurors. Apparently they'd underestimated the strength of the Watcher's Council and their willingness to ally themselves with wizards.
A loud explosion sounded from the front and Dermain felt two more souls released. He clenched his fists. Well, well, it seemed Buffy Summers was an even more formidable opponent than they'd given her credit for. At this rate, he would need to gather more souls soon. He glanced quickly to the magical circle, where Voldemort was too enthralled by Old Magic to hear anything from outside. It was just as well.
Then he looked to his companions. Lady Zhur met his gaze stoically, her dry lips curled into an irritated disgust. There was no need for panic yet, however...
“My minions have not yet returned,” Lord Belzak said in a low rumble. He was looking away from them thoughtfully, staring in the direction they had gone earlier. “I think we now know where the Slayer is.”
“She is likely not alone either,” Dermain added with a nod.
“Hmm...” Now he glanced to them and raised an eyebrow in question. Lady Zhur nodded once and Lord Belzak turned to the remaining demons and ordered all but a handful to go to the back and let nothing through in the harsh syllables of demon tongue.
Dermain returned his gaze towards the front, where he could now make out definitely sounds of gunfire. “Then I shall leave things here to you,” he said. “It would appear the attackers think they have our measure. I believe it is time for some personal intervention. I will meet you at the appointed place.”
“Very well, Dermain,” said Lady Zhur. “We will take care of things here.”
As he walked away, he felt the sizzling of power behind him intensify and allowed himself a small, satisfied grin. He didn't need to look behind him to know the circle was now glowing as it worked to keep the storm of power within its boundaries.
Soon, it would be done.
Buffy ran. She hated leaving the others behind to fight the new batch of demons on their own, but she could feel the build-up of magic in the air. Connor had told her they'd be fine, that they'd handle it and she had to believe him, to believe in them. She'd been around too much powerful dark magic to not recognize it and realize what it meant. They were running out of time.
So she ran. Her legs were burning as pushed them well beyond what human legs should have been capable of, her lungs felt like they'd been filled with smoke and her vision was beginning to blur. Only the fresh wound on her left arm felt numb.
Finally she saw it. To the left there were people – probably the ones missing from Avebury. Death eaters and demons surrounded them, staring them down menacingly, but at least they were alive. For now. The magical circle was easy to spot, the power amassing within it swirling around like a compact storm that gave off the occasional flash.
In the centre of the circle she saw Voldemort – just as ugly as she'd imagined him. He was holding a chalice in his hands. He lifted it to his lips and Buffy suddenly realized she wasn't going to make it in time - that even at beyond top slayer speed, she was still too far away.
She allowed herself three seconds of panic before her eyes scanned the area. She changed direction and ran towards the ornamental tree hedge on her right. The hedge was surrounded by a boarder of white granite stones slightly smaller than baseballs. Buffy skidded to a halt as she grabbed one, took a second to find her target and then threw it with all her might. The stone flew through the air...
...it hit the side of the chalice, knocking it sideways. Smoking liquid splashed out and hit the ground as Voldemort fumbled to keep hold of it. Buffy willed the chalice to fall. It didn't. Voldemort turned hateful red eyes to her.
“Do not worry, Lord Voldemort, we'll take care of this pest,” she heard a voice tell him.
Her eyes darted to the gravelly female voice and she saw two figures standing at the edge of the circle. One was a small, red-skinned demon wearing a regal-looking black cloak and the other was an ugly, hunched-over woman wearing a red velvet cloak and in desperate need of some serious hair salon intervention. Members of the Circle of the Black Thorn, Buffy realized. Worry flashed through her mind as she realized there should've been more of them, but then she didn't have time to wonder where they'd gotten to, because the demon was ordering the rest of his minions to attack her.
Buffy cursed and ran towards the magical circle, a desperate attempt to outrun the demons. They were upon her before she'd covered half the distance.
Arthur and Bill wheezed their way around the corner, even Bill feeling like an old man beside the slayers and their supernatural agility and speed. They paused to catch their breaths. Bill cursed when he realized Buffy hadn't managed to stop He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named yet. She had her sword drawn and was defending herself against five demon warriors.
“You get civilians,” he heard the German slayer say.
“We'll help Buffy with the demons,” Veronica added. There was a steady determination in both their eyes, echoing the looks they had given Connor when he'd told them to go on, that he'd deal with the rest.
Beside him, he could see his father nod. They both turned to the left, where death eaters were standing guard over dozens of muggles. Bill gripped his wand. There was no way to hide their approach from the death eaters.
He swallowed. “Then let's go,” he said, knowing there'd be no room for delicacy this time. He took a deep breath. The group split up and Bill ran forward, the words of the killing curse already on his lips.
In her haste to finish off her opponents quickly, Buffy knew she was being sloppy. The deep cut in her side was proof of that. She cursed under her breath and urged herself to calm down. Behind the demons, she could see the spiralling magic as it whipped around within the circle. Five demons had attacked her and so far only one had gone down. She grit her teeth and swung her sword, meeting her opponent's blade and pushing it away before turning to the side to avoid a blow from her left. She swung her sword downwards, catching a third demon in the hip, just below its breastplate.
She felt movement behind her and cursed, throwing herself bodily out of the way and into a roll. She heard a clang of metal as she rolled into a crouch. Buffy blinked and let out a relieved breath at the sight of Renata parrying the demon's sword. To her right, Veronica fell upon another demon like a sword-swinging banshee.
Buffy leapt into action, her limbs suddenly feeling stronger and her movements sharper than moments before. Less than a minute later, another demon fell to the ground, its innards spilling onto the grass. She turned back to the circle to watch Voldemort finish drinking the smoking liquid inside the chalice.
Time around her seemed to freeze as her eyes widened in horror. Then she did the only thing she could think of. With a flick of her wrist, Buffy changed the grip on her sword and threw it at the dark wizard like an oddly-shaped spear.
The sword shot like a missile towards Voldemort. Buffy held her breath as she watched it fly. Then she heard chanting and suddenly a streak of grey light hit the sword, making it wobble along its course. Buffy cried out in alarm, but the sword didn't stop. It shot through the light that had enveloped it.
And sliced through Voldemort's upper thigh before embedding itself into the soft soil inside the circle. The wizard hissed in pain as blood poured down from his wound and along his pale skin. Then he looked up to meet Buffy's eyes again. Glowing red eyes began to glow brighter. The pupils slitted.
The Dark Lord Voldemort began to grow bigger as his human skin dissolved and he became something much less human.
From inside the church tower, Xander could just about see the battlefield... it was a rather odd-looking battlefield given that he could only see half of it. He saw fighting outside the manor, and he knew where the Malfoy Manor was, approximately, but the grounds were covered in heavy wards that his binoculars weren't strong enough – or possibly just magical enough – to penetrate.
Gunshots, screams and shouts of alarm exploded into the silence of his vantage point. Xander frowned and turned to look over at the buildings where army snipers had been carefully positioned with rifles and a few rocket launchers. The previously statue-still soldiers were now frantically fighting off what looked like a small army of birds. One perched itself on a satellite dish for a few moments and Xander got a good look at it. It looked like it had been made out of clay.
Xander bent down and grabbed the radio.
“Basecamp, this is Eagle Eye, I repeat: Basecamp this is Eagle Eye,” he said into the radio as he straightened again so that he could watch what was going on. “Looks like one of the bad guys has a Hitchcock fetish. The snipers are under attack by animated clay birds. I think they might need backup.” He frowned. “Uh, Basecamp, you guys there?”
Something flashed out of the corner of Xander's eyes and he looked away from the besieged soldiers. As he watched, the air seemed to flicker like an old television with bad reception and then the landscape just melted away. He gaped at the large manor that came into view, surrounded by a stone and iron fence. He immediately found the magical circle-
“Oh shit on an ever-loving donkey stick,” Xander whispered under his breath as he stared at the humongous black snake-like demon. There were long spikes running down its back and two sets of fins growing out of its upper half. It roared and even from where he was standing, Xander could feel the ground shake.
The monster dove forward and Xander caught a flash of blonde hair moving out of its way. Buffy. Xander took a deep breath and turned the radio on again.
“Basecamp, this is Eagle Eye. We've got a problem. I mean, a bigger one. I can see the Malfoy Manor now and looks like Buff was too late and we've got ourselves one transformed dark lord. I repeat, the ascension was a success.” He paused to wait for a response, tension seizing his body and making him jitter. The newly-ascended demon had stopped chasing Buffy, but was now going after a group of people running about, picking them off as though they were mobile midday snacks. “Heellooo, Basecamp, uh please respond. I repeat, please respond Basecamp this is Eagle Eye.” There was still no reply and Xander felt worry shoot through him. “Uh, Giles, you there?”
He used his binoculars to scan the street, looking for the now-familiar pub. He found it and the radio dropped out of his hand. The front of the building looked like someone had simply ripped it out. Xander swore and dug out his cellphone, dialling Vi as he ran down the tower steps. It rung and rung and then went to voicemail. He tried Gwen. Again, no luck.
At the entrance to the church, Xander paused and ran a hand through his hair. Finally, he dialled Willow's phone. Mila picked up on the second ring.
“Oh thank the gods. Mila please find Dawn and ask her to send Azazella. I think something's happened to Giles. The pub we set up as our base has been totally smashed up. I'm heading there now, but I can't get ahold of anyone and I'll probably need backup. Oh, and Voldy's managed to finish the ritual. Don't know what happened exactly, but I'm pretty sure the huge-ass snakey demon thing on the front of the lawn ain't the family pet.”
He heard Mila's sharp intake of break, but the girl's voice was steady when he replied. “Okay, I go tell Dawn to send her demon to help.”
The line went dead. Xander slipped his phone into his pocket and ran to the pub.
Up close the damage to the pub looked even worse. However, Xander didn't get the time to inspect it properly as he spied one of the large clay monsters hovering just inside. He unsheathed his sword and crept closer. The creature didn't move. Xander took a deep breath and ventured a careful look into the pub.
There was an older man with a long beard standing amidst the debris. He was holding a crystal over the twitching body of Brigadier Benton that shone bright blue. Benton let out a strangled cry and then his body stilled. The crystal's glow died and became a dull blue swirl trapped within its walls. The man stepped over the body and made his way towards a second. Xander's eyes widened as he recognized the brown tweed jacket.
He drew his sword and charged at the man. The man turned and frowned at him in annoyance, but Xander's view was cut off as something large and very, very solid stepped in front of him. He skidded to a halt and ducked the large clay arm that threatened to shatter his skull and everything else. He quickly backpedalled and then tripped and fell backwards. His lower back hit something sharp and hard and he screamed as pain shot up his spine and down his legs.
The monster advanced.
A column of black flames erupted out of the ground in front of him and Xander closed his eyes in relief. There was loud crash and when he opened his eyes again, it was to see Azazella standing over the chunks of hard clay that used to be the giant walking sculpture.
“Thank you,” Xander said. Azazella glanced to him and nodded in acknowledgement. He scanned the pub.
The bearded man was gone.
Buffy stared at the giant snake demon. It didn't look exactly like a snake – the fins, for one, were entirely un-snake-like and it was missing the long fangs snakes were famed for (although it compensated for those with dozens of razor-sharp teeth T-Rex would've been envious of). She was given a few moments to stare in horror at the new demon as it seemed to blink and take a few moments and orientate itself.
Then the demon looked down at met her eyes. All traces of humanity were gone from its eyes: they looked rather reptilian and were the colour of molten lava. The demon opened its jaws and lunged at her.
Buffy ran and then leapt to the side, narrowly avoiding its jaws. She heard screams and was on her feet before she'd figured out where they were coming from. The first thing she saw were people running and flashes of light. There was a man in striped pyjamas that didn't quite manage to cover his beer belly running away, towards the manor. The giant snake demon lunged and swallowed him whole. Buffy grit her teeth and clenched her hands uselessly.
She looked back to the circle. Her sword was still sticking straight out of the ground, where it had embedded itself after she'd thrown it. Buffy glanced back to Voldemort - in time to watch as Renata and Veronica both rammed into his side to grab his attention away from the fleeing civilians – and then ran to the sword.
Buffy pushed past the edge of the magical circle and ignored the tingling that felt like a hundred electric spiders crawling over her skin as she ran through it. The dark magic would've probably been suffocating except that memories of Sunnydale overshadowed the present. And the memories of true suffocation in the presence of the dementors was fresher still. Her right foot dug into the soft soil as she pivoted, grabbing her sword even as she swung 'round to run back in the opposite direction. Her eyes narrowed on the long, spiked back.
It wasn't over yet. She was still alive.
From somewhere Buffy felt energy infuse her limbs, as though some sort of reserves she didn't know she had were suddenly kicking in. Her injuries felt seemed irrelevant, minor nuisances. She flew towards Voldemort, leapt onto his tail and then ran along the spines on his back. Her feet automatically adjusted for the demon's movements with the agility of a seasoned sailor on a stormy sea. Somewhere behind her, she heard a cry of outrage.
Buffy stopped just behind the top fins and raised her sword before thrusting it into the demon's flesh, pushing it down until her knuckles touched its scales.
Voldemort screamed and the air shook with his anger. He thrashed his head violently and Buffy cried out in surprise as she finally lost her footing on the now blood-slicked scales. She had only enough time to realize she was falling before impact with the ground knocked the wind out of her.
“Buffy!” she vaguely heard someone call from somewhere beyond the white spots in front of her eyes. Then there were arms on her, helping her to sit up and Renata's face wavered into focus. She felt the girl's body freeze when she looked away and Buffy followed her gaze.
Voldemort was curled up inside the magical circle and the circle was glowing. Buffy scanned it and, sure enough, she saw the ugly hag and the mini demon warlock standing just inside. She could hear chanting, but didn't recognize the words. The light of a wizarding spell whizzed towards them, but didn't make it through the boundary.
The light along the edge of the circle intensified and then it flashed. Buffy blinked against the sudden bright light. When the light dimmed again, all three of them had vanished.
Okay, hands up: how many of you had guessed this wasn't the end of this story yet? Other than how this seems to be the fic that never ends? Lol, seriously though, there is an end in sight. Probably only about 4-5 chapters left. Author's Notes:
“To mourn a mischief...” -
Othello (Act I, Scene iii), William Shakespeare... and yes what follows is Spike and MacNab bantering in Shakespearean prose. Quotes are from Hamlet
. Connor's immunity to the Killing Curse –
Not entirely sure if I'll manage to squeeze the explanation into the next chapter so if I don't I thought I'd do it here. As we all know, the reason Harry didn't die when Voldemort cast Avada Kadavra on him as an infant was because of his mother's sacrifice. She died to protect him, to allow him to live. Now if you'll all recall Darla sacrificed herself via stake through the heart in order for Connor to be born. Yes, it was all a bit complicated and whether or not she did it out of love is possibly debatable, but in theory it's still knowingly sacrificing herself for the other.
Based on that logic, anyone wanna take a guess at what other prominant character in this story should also be immune to the killing curse?