: I own neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter, but I would if wishes were horses.Summary
: After months without word, Snape stumbles back into Buffy’s life, this time with a proposition the Slayer is unable to refuse. It will take her to England to act as the last link between two sides of a war shaking the foundation of a world that could never be her own.Spoilers
: All seasons of BtVS and up to book 6 of HP.Rating
: FR15/Strong PG-15.Note
: Wow, I’m writing again. *Gasp* This is a continuation of Perdition, with a plot bunny that finally seems to fit where the story left off. Read it
if you’d like the background, but this can be taken by itself too, if you accept that A Slayer and A Wizard walked into a bar…London, England
“He’s getting too close.”
The room was dreary. Floorboards creaked whether they moved or not, the walls and one tiny window covered in the grime of neglect. God knew what stains were on the blanket. Despite the frosty December air, Buffy stayed near the window, well away from the questionable bed he stood in front of. He looked like death warmed over.
“I thought that was the point.” She brought her coat sleeve up to cover her hand as she attempted to wipe some small bit of the glass clean. With cautious eyes, she stared past her weary face and into the street below. The firelight from countless old-time streetlamps flickered in dull yellow pools onto the cobblestones, revealing no one.
Behind her, Snape snorted. Arrogance was laden heavily in the sound, but arrogance colored everything he said or did. “Potter’s not ready for a confrontation. You know that.”
“He’ll never be ready,” Buffy replied with the harsh realism that too much time in the world inevitably bought. She turned sad eyes to his hard, unflinching black gaze. “He’s just a boy.”
“And you were just a girl, but you still met your destiny,” he pointed out, colder than the chill that had settled permanently into the dingy hotel room. “So will Potter. But not yet. You must slow him down—distract him for a little while longer.”
Frustration rose, choking her. She hated this and desperately wished she’d never come, had said no to him, wished that she had never heard of Dark Lords and prophesized deaths. Wished she could go back to the States and leave the Boy and his crumbling Order to fend for themselves, and just get on with a semi-normal life. Angry, Buffy banged a fist against the frame, causing the whole wall to tremble perilously. The wood was so rotted she could probably bring the whole wall down with a few well-placed kicks.
“Yes, that’s it,” Snape cut in ruthlessly, like a dagger pressing into her back. “Bang on the walls. Perhaps you’d like to throw a tantrum here on the bed while you’re at it. It would be convenient for our cover, should anyone come asking questions.”
Whirling around with the sudden urge to hit him
instead, she balled her fist and shouted, “Just shut up for once! I’m so damn tired! Do you have any idea what’s going on? The Order is falling to pieces, especially Harry, and I can’t hold them together! They won’t listen, and why should they? This isn’t my fight!”
“Then why ever did you come?”
It was a good question, and it stopped her as effectively as any bucket of ice water could have, washing away her fury and leaving something raw and painful in its place. Disgusted with the fact she’d never be able to answer why to his face, all Buffy could do was stare back out the window with the sickening feeling that she didn’t have to tell him, because he already knew. He knew and he used that knowledge just like he used everything and everyone else. And she was too much of a coward to call him on it. So she just closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against that softened window frame, wondering why her whole world had turned upside down.Because someone was there for me when I needed it and he had no one else to turn to. No one else who’d believe him.
She smiled an empty, tight smile, and for a moment her face looked like the stern face reflected in the glass before her. Sev is right, I am a stupid, silly girl. Because I shouldn’t believe him either.
But she did. She did because she’d been there at his weakest for two days, holding a vigil that he must have kept for her a year before. She’d seen the same loss in his face, the same pain, and she’d known for certain that he had understood so perfectly because he was in hell too, and from there she’d been lost.
From then to now, there had never been the option of turning back…1
The cemetery was surprisingly well-lit despite the time of night. Apparently, someone had the brilliant idea to build a parking lot right next to the old stone gate, and the tall streetlights shone down across the tall wall separating the living from the dead like spotlights in the distance of some grotesque theatre production of her life. But a graveyard is the farthest thing from a stage. It was the reason Buffy hated patrolling this particular cemetery. Something about the ugly glare of those lights forever blazing down on the rows of headstones and silent statues seemed beyond disrespectful, it was downright creepy.
And like the moths that fluttered erratically towards those distant lights, they also drew vampires—lots of vampires. Cats used whatever light afforded to them in the darkness, bounced it around in their eyes, and were able to see as well as if it were a sunny day. The same principal applied to vampires. To them, that parking lot in the distance made living in Old Memorial seem like the suburbs of LA, next to everything but without the disadvantage of smog. It also drew teenagers, which made very convenient snacks for the resident baddies.
So while Buffy hated this place, she couldn’t exactly avoid it, either. The hunting was too good.
She moved silently between the rows of headstones wiped clean from weather and time. Faces of angels peered down at her missing noses and mouths, only the indentation of eyes remaining, no deeper than thumbs, to bear silent witness. God, she hated this place.
Buffy checked out all the usual spots, the numerous crypts and mausoleums, until she found what she had been looking for. A nest was the technical term, but that word never properly describes what it’s like stepping into an underground building and finding six vampires lounging in the shadows, playing cards. No matter how long Buffy slew, the hair raising on the back of her neck as dread seeped down her arms to rest in the hand holding her stake would always be another part of the job. It was the grotesque shape of their true faces that did it, the crevasse around their fanged mouths and yellow eyes that instantly punched the gut, especially when there were six sets of fangs and eyes gleaming in the darkness.
The playing cards scattered as the vamps finally got over their own surprise at finding a little blonde woman standing in the doorway, a silhouette lit by those stadium-sized lights shining through the doorway. Buffy feinted immediately, but wasn’t quick enough to avoid a kick aimed at her wrist. The stake went flying into the darkness, and she could only hear it roll away across a smooth, cold floor.
Redoubling, Buffy jack hammered the vampire away from her and immediate pivoted on her heel to catch the shoulder of the second. Using the leverage, she swung onto his back, clamping her knees to either side of the second vamps hips, then took a firm grasp of his head. The crunch of bone and dry sinew was sickening, the sound echoing throughout the spartan lair. She was already to her feet when the body began disintegrating, unable to hold itself together now that the demon possessing it had fled.
This was the most dangerous part now that the remaining five knew how real the threat to their unlife was. The following moments blurred by in a flurry of kicks and punches as they all fought to make it through the night. More than a few landed on Buffy, a knee into her stomach and a uppercut slammed painfully against her jaw, snapping her head back far enough to make her see stars. She regrouped quickly, driving them back with a series of high, furious kicks that would have made Jet Li hang his head in shame.
Finally she had enough breathing room to make a dash for her stake, but it was risky. On her knees, Buffy frantically swept her hands around the area she had heard it land. Still searching, the biggest of the remaining vampires took the opening and leapt onto her back. Her scalp was brutally ravaged as he grabbed her ponytail and yanked. Buffy, scowling, waited until she felt the hot, fetid breath on her neck before putting her head to good use by bashing it into his nose. There was the crunch of pulverized cartilage, and Buffy was free to scamper forward in a rush to grab her stake. Finally, finally
, her fingers found its sanded-smooth side, and she whipped around with it. The big guy didn’t know what had hit him, not until he looked down in time to see that little pale hand clinging to the roughly carved hilt, the pointy end already embedded deep into his chest. It was a glance he caught just before exploding into ashes.
She was about to launch herself at the next vampire nearest to her when a sudden eruption of fire halted her mid-stride. In a blink, the remaining four vampires were enveloped in bonfires. Buffy, worried by this development more than relieved, took several cautious steps backwards and away from the carnage as they all dissolved into burning embers. She raised her stake, though what protection it would offer from possible spontaneous combustion… but it was definitely better than nothing.
“No need to thank me, of course,” a darkly amused voice said, emanating from one of the crypt’s many deep shadows. “But then, as I think back on it, you never thanked me the last time I assisted you, Miss Summers.”
Buffy didn’t lower her stake, even if the snide tone was more than a little familiar. It had been stuck in her head for the past six months, refusing to leave her in peace. Especially when it was late and she was alone. “Snape?”
Suddenly, there he was, slipping from shadows as black as his glittering eyes. His smile was taut, as if his lips weren’t quite used to unfurling in the upwards direction. Then again, it seemed he was strung out, if the red veins in his eyes to the clenching of his shaking hand around his wand had anything to say about it. But the robes he wore flowed about him as dramatically as ever, even if they did look more rumpled this time around. Almost
, she thought, like he’s slept in them
Buffy didn’t dare drop her guard. Not even for an old—well, friend wasn’t quite right. Neither was acquaintance. A man she’d met in a demon bar, and now found hanging out in a Vampire’s crypt during a poker game? “What are you doing here?”
“Ah,” he murmured, eyes taken in her appearance with a casual glance before meeting her own hard gaze. “I could ask the same of you.”
Buffy’s lips pressed together into a firm line of displeasure. It was going to be one of those nights, she just knew it. “I asked first,” she insisted stubbornly.
He smiled again, but it didn’t hold any humor. “I’m here to recruit the vampires into my Dark Lord’s personal army of hellions, of course.” Wearily, he flicked his wand in her direction. “Your turn.”
Buffy blinked. Oh.
“Wait… you what?”
“You heard me,” he hissed, suddenly standing taller as his posture straightened to intimidating heights. “Now answer my question, Summers, or I might change my mind about keeping you alive.”
Brows lifting incredulously, Buffy shifted her feet subtly and prepared to dodge whatever magic he was planning on tossing her way. “The usual. Taking a stroll through the cemetery. Y’know how peaceful it…can…be,” she finished haltingly.
“If one is looking for peace, no better place than a cemetery,” he answered smoothly, before his voice hardened again. “Stop lying to me, Summers. Do you think I’m an idiot?”
He wavered again, a slight sway on his feet, and she knew. Smiling with confidence, Buffy shook her head and lowered her weapon. “Well, apparently this street’s running two ways. Maybe you came here to sign them up to be all they could be, but it looks like they didn’t take to your offer. Just a tip, it might have something to do with the presentation. Condescension? Not the best way to make new friends.” Her smile turned sweeter. “They said no, and then they decided to have a little snack before playing a round of Texas Holdem.”
Snape’s wand lowered to his side, and then he lurched after it, catching himself on the wall before collapsing entirely. “Yes,” he muttered. “Heightened observational skills would be a prerequisite of the job.” Then, without a word of warning, Snape suddenly collapsed.
Buffy watched his descent to the floor, and then dropped her guard with a sigh. “Great. Boys and their posturing. Can’t just lay there after getting bitten, oh no. Have to be all manly man and burn them all up with a little,” she flicked her stake in a good imitation of the wizard lying unconscious across the room.
She crossed over to him and looked down before crouching beside his unconscious form. “I suppose now you’re expecting one good turn deserves another?” She frowned, more worried than she wanted to let on, even if he would never know. “Oh. I hope you’re not as heavy as you look.”
It turned out he wasn’t. He felt like he hadn’t eaten well in weeks. Bones dug into her as she carried him through the streets of downtown Cleveland all the way to General Hospital. She garnered strange looks as she walked through the sliding doors. A short blonde carrying in a lanky man dressed in long black robes, no where near Halloween, was certain to earn some attention of the decidedly not-good kind. Luckily, the doctors and nurses weren’t as keen on answers pertaining to how she had managed to carry him in, and why he was dressed the way he was, when his pulse was slow and he was completely unresponsive.
They took him from her, laying him onto a rolling gurney while asking questions at blinding speed which she struggled to keep up with. She bounded after them when they began rolling him towards the curtained off areas of the emergency room, watching as they cut open his frock coat and shirt. Buffy’s eyes rounded at the skeletal mass of skin and bone that had hidden beneath layers of clothing. Several ugly-colored bruises the size of fists and feet decorated his midsection, proving the vampires must have got the jump on him before he had time to bring up a wand and defend himself.
“Looks like a severe case of malnutrition and dehydration,” one of the ER Doctors proclaimed, stethoscope pressing against the visible ribs that slowly rose and fell.
“I told you,” Buffy repeated loudly for what felt like the tenth time. “He’s lost a lot of blood!”
“Hook up the IV,” the balding doctor ordered one of the nurses before turning in Buffy’s direction. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he went on in a stricter tone, before sliding the curtain shut and cutting off all view of Snape.
Fuming, she turned and stalked back to the waiting room to sit in one of the ugly green plastic chairs they had bolted together. Like someone would want to steal one.
Buffy hated hospitals. It wasn’t just the constant smell of antiseptics in the air, or the chill that seemed to seep into everything. It was the miserable faces of the people all around her, the pain that seemed soaked into the whitewashed walls. The trashcans marked with biohazard signs. It was the cleanliness that was so unnatural, the sort that tried to hide something much more frightening than any demon Buffy had ever fought—the one thing she couldn’t beat. It was memories of death.
Letting loose a deep breath, Buffy hugged her midsection to hide the bruising on her arms and settled in for a long, uncomfortable, wait.