Author’s Note: Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo. The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. Speech:
“Who’s on first.” Thought:
*What’s on second.
#I-don’t-know’s on third.# And where is Buffy in all this? Two notes: 1) the time frame between Buffy’s fight with Dawn and Dawn meeting Percy is much longer than can be read from Neither a borrower. 2) I swear that there is no bashing other than of villains. I do not own Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter. Auld acquaintance
Buffy Summers growled as she stumped down Charing Cross Road. It had not been a good month up to now.
She’d had a fight with Xander. She’d told him to be careful and he’d accused her of trying to make him ‘fray adjacent’ again. It was amazing how much bile one could spew over the phone in half an hour. He’d refused to answer her calls and not believed her explanations.
Then she’d had a fight with Dawn, who’d listened in on her conversation with Xander and had told Buffy she wasn’t going to be made ‘fray adjacent’ either. And Buffy had told her that she didn’t mind if Dawn entered the fray, as long as she got her degree. That had resulted in a screaming match, in which Dawn had told Buffy that Buffy wasn’t their mother and not the boss of her and if she wanted to party she would party!
And Buffy had replied that as she paid the bills, she had at least some say in the matter. That had not gone down well. Buffy feared that there might be a crack in her front door from the force of Dawn’s exit as she left for Oxford. Dawn hadn’t mailed, phoned or written and hadn’t answered any of Buffy’s attempts at communication either.
After two weeks of that she’d called Willow, who had been unexpectedly cool, not at all sympathetic and quite distant, as if Buffy had done her some great injustice or injury. And Buffy couldn’t think of one for the life of her. If there was any injustice in that relationship, it was that Willow still hadn’t apologized properly for bringing her back from the dead or for kicking her out of her house, or answered any of her quite long letters with more than one or two terse and uninformative lines in an e-mail.
So then she had headed for the London Headquarters, to find one of the local Slayers to spar with. And had been called into Giles’ office.
Not asked to come up, not invited, called. As if she was an errant trainee Slayer, a wayward girl in need of reprimanding.
Giles had told her that he had expected more of her, that he’d hoped that she’d finally grown up. But that obviously she was not ready for the responsibilities that her position entailed. And that if she didn’t shape up, he’d petition the Board of Directors to remove her.
That made Buffy wonder exactly what he did want her to do. She’d set up the Italian, German and French Houses, the European Oversight House and found and helped train several dozen Slayers. The sheer gall of Giles amazed her. She really needed to talk to the others about his attitude, but the others weren’t talking to her.
So after storming out of headquarters, she’d wandered through London and now she was looking for a place to sit, drink and sink into gloomy depression.
The entire thing was falling apart. It had taken a lot of effort to get the New Council up and running, sweat, tears and more blood than she was comfortable of thinking about. So many of the newly called slayers had died… Been taken. Demons had seen their chance, governments had too. Warlocks and witches had killed slayers and harvested them for parts. The Brave New World that Buffy had hoped would grow from the Calling of the new Slayers was more like a Deep Pile of New Shit. She walked down the road, deep in her morose and depressed thoughts and saw the dingy looking pub almost by accident. It was dark and fairly gloomy looking and dirty and a large, rusty old pot hung outside as a sign.
“Perfect place to get drunk and depressed,” Buffy muttered before stepping up the worn stairs and going inside. She blinked once to let her eyes adapt to the gloomy conditions and then went to the bar.
“Whisky,” she ordered curtly, slapping some money down on the bar.
The old, bald, toothless barkeep gave her an odd look, then reached back with one arm and unerringly grabbed a bottle, the other simultaneously picking up a glass. He poured her drink, all the while eying her with curiosity mixed with disdain.
Buffy took her drink and looked round. The pub was quite full, with people dressed in long… dresses? And weird hats? Buffy groaned. “Great. I wandered into a bloody SCA meeting.” *Bloody? Oh man, I’ve been around the Tweedies too long!*
She pushed herself away from the bar and located a table where a dark-blond young man was sitting, a glass and a bottle in front of him. It was the only table with less than three occupants. And the only occupant who wasn’t looking at her as if she was wearing her underwear on the outside. And he was wearing just pants, shirt and a sweater, not those weird robes that made Buffy think they were all aiming to become morbidly obese and had already bought the dresses. Buffy went over and boldly sat down.
The young man looked up, his face slack and pale and his eyes red-rimmed. His right hand clutched half-full glass and his left a bottle of dark amber liquid with the picture of an old man smiling and winking and toasting with a glass on it and the words ‘Ogden’s Finest Sixty year old Firewhisky. Aged in oak casks from the Spanish Armada’ on it.
The words were strange enough, but the fact that the old man was really winking and that his beard was wagging as he drank down the glass he held was really weird and interesting. Normally she’d be on the phone to Willow right now, but after the way that the Witch had spoken to her she really wasn’t in the mood. Dawn would have been the second person to call, but she wasn’t answering Buffy’s calls. That left Buffy to deal with this herself.
“Hi, I’m Buffy!” she told the man cheerily. “May I join you?”
The man burped. It was a hard, moist noise, the sort of expulsion of gas only achieved by someone who had been drinking heavily for quite some time.
“Shure,” he slurred, and took another belt from his glass before topping it off from his bottle.
Buffy looked at the bottle with some wonder. If he’d drunk all that it was a miracle he was still sitting, let alone conscious.
“So, what’s your name?” Buffy asked chirpily.
“ ‘S Neville,” the man grumpily replied. “Don’t wanna talk.”
“Oh. That’s too bad. I was hoping you could tell me about the old guy on your bottle,” Buffy tried to coax him.
Neville looked at the bottle as if seeing it for the first time. “Ogden. He founded dishtillery, in 1589, bought a whole lot a wood from the Spanish Armada and made barrelsh and barrelsh of whusky. Weskit. Whisky.”
Neville carefully enunciated the last word, poured the contents of his glass down his throat and then the remainder of the bottle in the glass and downed that too. He grimaced and Buffy noted that he had rather large front teeth that protruded slightly. “TOM! ‘Nother bottle!”
Tom, apparently this was the barman’s name, approached and eyed Neville. “You’ve had enough, Nev. More than enough. Go home.”
Neville hiccoughed. “No home.”
Tom shook his head. “You do have a home, Neville. Remember? The flat in Diagon Alley?”
Neville laughed, but it ended in a choking sob. “No home. Just house. Oh, Hannah…”
Buffy looked at the man and then at Tom. “His girlfriend left him?”
Tom nodded. “ ‘Bout five months ago. Said he spent too much time chasing Death Eaters and not enough time with her.”
“Death Eaters?” Buffy asked. “What are those, proponents of Suicide by overeating?”
Tom froze. “You don’t know what Death eaters are?”
Buffy shook her head. “Nope. Is that something British?”
Tom’s eyes narrowed. “What about Voldemort?”
Buffy’s forehead wrinkled as she translated the French. “Flight before death? Not exactly Foreign Legion material, is he?”
Tom looked over his shoulder and Buffy saw that one of the patrons, a man in a red robe with a self-important expression on his face rose and approached. He carried a wand and smiled in a condescending manner that set Buffy’s teeth on edge. She could feel the tingle of magic on her skin as others drew wands as well, many of them hiding the act under the table.
“Miss, it might be better if you left, there’s nothing interesting for you to see here,” the man in red told her, his voice warm like treacle and just as sticky and clingy.
Buffy snorted. “These are not the droids you’re looking for? One wave of that stick of yours and I’ll shove it some place where you really don’t want it. Don’t make me tell you twice. And if you think I can’t, if I can stake vampires with a pencil, you shouldn’t be a problem,” she threw back her head and finished her drink in one swallow. “Tom? Hit me again, and make it a bottle.”
The man in red gawped. “Stake? Vampires?”
Buffy grinned at him. “They call me Slayer. The
Slayer. You’ve got thirty seconds to sit back down and let me drink in peace with my friend Neville here. Otherwise I’m gonna have myself a new toothpick, capisce?”
The man nodded numbly and withdrew, carefully putting his wand away. Tom shrugged and went to the bar, fetched a bottle and put it on the table.
Buffy smiled as she poured a small amount in Neville’s glass and a much larger one in her own, then downed it and refilled her own glass while shoving Neville’s back at him over the table. “So, tell me about this girlfriend of yours. What’s she like? Is she a bitch?”
Neville shook his head. “No. She’s luverly. Wunnerful. Hannah. Loved her so much…” Neville took a sip as tears tracked down his face. “Stupid. Din’t know what I had. Spent all my time lookin’ for dumb Dark Wizards. She wanned… Wanted, a family, a home. I jus’ wanted to kill them all.”
Buffy nodded sympathetically and slugged back her drink. “Yeah, I know how that feels. Did you manage to get any?”
Neville shrugged. “Some. They’ve gone, all gone. Can’t find them anymore. Like they’re all veiled or hidden you know?”
Buffy smiled. “Yeah, a friend of… an acquaintance of mine is quite good at that. So, you got a wand too? To cast spells with?”
Neville nodded and drew the wand Buffy had noted in a holster on his right forearm. “Cherry, 13 inches, unicorn hair.”
He looked at it mournfully and Buffy noted that there was a crack that ran lengthwise along it.
“Been castin’ too many Dark spells. The core is rebellin’ against me,” Neville explained in a low, sad voice. “I am darkness, I. Everybody hatesh me.”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad, Neville,” Buffy soothed, slugging back another glass and refilling it from the bottle. “I don’t hate you.”
don’t know me,” Neville retorted. “Hannah hates me, an’ Luna, an’ Ginny and my wand. They all hate me,” he looked at the wand again.
“Ol’ Olivander hates me too, won’t sell me a new wand, ‘cause I murdered this one,” tears started to run down his face.
Buffy took his free hand and smiled at him. “I don’t hate you. I can tell you’re a good guy, Neville. Just a little overworked and with an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.” *Quoting Princess Bride already? Man, this is strong stuff.*
Neville sniffed. “ ‘S nice of you to say so. But I’m a failure. Harry an’ Ron caught more Death Eaters an’ Hermione’s gonna be the Minister, an’ Luna is lookin’ for Snorcacks… I’m jus’ Neville. Jus’ Good Ol’ useless Neville.”
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t buy that. They wouldn’t treat you like they do in here if you were nothing, Neville. You’re drunk, and angry and worried and tired. You want the fighting to be over, for there to be peace. But you’re not nothing.”
Neville looked at her. “Slayer. Thought that was a legend. They’re all real young.”
Buffy bristled. “Are you telling me I’m old?”
Neville shook his head. “No, Slayers ‘re fourteen, fifteen. You’re older. Beautiful. Gorgeous eyes. Too old, your eyes. Like Harry’s. Or Luna’s.”
Buffy smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Aaaww, you do know how to flatter a girl. ‘Nother drink?”
She noted that she’d finished a bottle and a half, Tom having quietly replaced the bottle she had emptied. She was feeling the buzz quite badly now.
Neville shook his head. “No. Gotta go home. Gotta work tomorrow, fin’ more Death Eaters.”
He put his hands on the table, pushed himself upright. His eyes rolled up in his head and then very slowly, like a great tree cut down in the forest, he fell.
Buffy sprang up and caught him, bearing his weight easily. But she staggered nonetheless, as the drink hit her legs. She looked around. “So where does he live?”
Tom looked at the man in the red robes, who glowered. Tom gave him a mild look back, but it seemed to convince the man in red to act slightly more civil than before. “I’ll take you there. Come with me, please Miss,” he told Buffy curtly.
Buffy smirked. “I don’t go anywhere with strangers. You got a name, Red Shirt?”
The man glared. “Auror
Buffy gestured grandly, with Neville draped over her shoulders. “Lead on, Auror Baxtrad.” He led her out a back door into a dingy back area filled with crates and boxes and tapped a brick wall with his wand. It opened like a flower and Buffy giggled. “Pretty.”
Baxtrad gave her a withering look and nodded. “It sure is, Miss. Do you need help with Auror Longbottom?”
Buffy shook her head and hoisted Neville’s arm more securely around her shoulder. “Naah, we’re good. Lead on!”
Baxtrad gave her a resigned look and led the way. In front of a well-kept building in the Georgian style he stopped. “He lives on the second floor.”
Buffy nodded and reached into Neville’s pocket, fishing out a key. “Will this work or does he have thard wingies? Ward thingies?”
“You have Neville, his wand and his key. If you aren’t a dark creature, you should be able to get in,” Baxtrad told her curtly.
Buffy nodded. “ ‘Kay, thanks, bye!” She opened the door and carried Neville up the stone steps at a trot.
Baxtrad shook his head and returned to the Leaky Cauldron. When he came in he heard to his irritation that Tom was making a Floo call to tell Harry Potter that at least Neville had stopped drinking.
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS Neville Longbottom’s Apartment building, Diagon Alley
The wards that Buffy expected weren’t there. She’d never mentioned it to Willow, mostly because they didn’t talk any more, but ever since she’d come back from the dead, and possibly a bit before then, Buffy had been able to sense wards. She could feel variations in strength and in some cases, purpose. And there weren’t any. If Neville really was hunting Dark Wizards, there should be wards. Tom had said there were wards.
Buffy might be drunk, she wasn’t that drunk. She could also sense a vampire and hear the slight noises of people moving on the floor above. Far too furtively for a normal neighbour. The door she’d just opened was the door to the hall, one that Neville shared with the downstairs apartment and the attic apartment. There should still be wards to keep this semi-private area safe. If there weren’t any it would be possible for anyone of the street just to walk in, and the hall was far too nicely appointed for that.
She gently put Neville down on the floor and took a deep breath, trying to find her centre. It was difficult, what with the drink, but she had been the Slayer for longer than anyone in history and had learned a few tricks.
There was a grunt and Neville stood up, using the wall as a support. Buffy blinked. She’d thought him far too drunk to do more than drool.
Neville looked around, blearily. His eyes narrowed. “Wardsh ‘ave been tampered wif,” he whispered drunkenly. He waved his wand. “ ‘S six o’ them,” he waved it again and Buffy felt a wave of clarity move over her.
“Do you know any vamps?” Buffy asked quietly. “I can sense one and I don’t suppose it lives here.”
Neville’s lip curled. “Only Sanguini. Fucking bastard. Went over to Riddle ‘s soon as he thought that he would win.”
Buffy nodded. “Ah. So a nasty, treacherous vamp. Nothing new there. Any idea how old he is? Or if he’s a Master?”
Neville shook his head. “Sorry, no idea. I think he was turned somewhere in the 19th century and was registered at the beginning of the twentieth. But his protection got revoked when he went over to Voldemort.”
“Registered? Protected?” Buffy growled. “Don’t tell me you people accept vampires?”
Neville shrugged. “Some do, yeah. They can register and stuff. But you’re the Slayer. Diff’rent rules anyway,” Neville hiccoughed.
Buffy smirked and stretched like a cat. “Okay then. Let’s do this thing.”
She was ready to sprint up the stairs but Neville shook his head and went first, making enough noise that it sounded like an awfully drunk man was dragging himself up the stairs. Neville concentrated, his face twisting into an agonized mask and he gently touched the top of her head with his wand.
Buffy shivered as something that felt like metal dust fell over her. She blinked as her sight blurred and sound became slightly distorted.
“Disillusion,” Neville whispered at her then turned and stumbled up the stairs, singing under his breath, with the occasional loud word in between the drunken mumbling.
Buffy tilted her head. “Hmmm, unexpected depths,” she muttered and followed him, making sure her almost silent ascent was further masked by Neville’s stumbling and singing.
Neville fumbled with his wand and the tall, broad door to his apartment opened, letting Buffy see the disarray beyond. She somehow doubted it had anything to do with the ambush she was expecting.
Buffy could feel the presence of other people in the apartment as soon as she set foot over the threshold. Their breathing, their scent, the way their weight pressed upon the old hardwood floor. There were indeed six of them, and one of them was a vampire. She felt them move as the wands came up and she jumped. Neville ducked to the floor and rolled. She heard the men call out “Avada Kedavra!” and five flashes of green light filled the room, momentarily revealing the locations of the attackers.
“SECTUMSEMPRA!” He called out and a flash of bright steely light flew from his wand. Buffy heard two screams, cut off in gurgling and felt a splatter of hot blood hit her cheek. Neville had launched his attack from the floor, at about the height of their opponents’ necks.
Buffy hit her own target with both feet, feeling his ribs give under the force of her attack, stalled her fall with her left arm, spun on it, kicked another ambusher hard on his arm, hearing it crack and feeling the bones shatter under her pump. There was a clatter as a wand fell and a whimper as the owner of arm and wand collapsed to his knees sobbing.
Buffy slithered in the dark and grabbed the wand. The vampire was jumping at her, hoping to use its superior strength to bring her down. With a quick roll she was out of his way and pushed her back against the floor, landing upright on her feet. She threw the wand, hard, at a moving shadow and heard a satisfying squelch as it penetrated his shoulder. There was a scream, cut off by a flash of red light. Buffy side-stepped the vampire that was trying to close with her again, flinging it hard against the wall with a deft kick in the small of his back as it passed.
The room was full of screams and sobs and the vampire must have realized it was in trouble and ran at the window, covering its head with its arms and jumped. There was a horrible crash and then it fell back on the floor, stunned, the glass vibrating slightly in its frame.
Buffy drew Mister Pointy and leaned over the fallen vamp, slammed the stake into his heart and withdrew it quickly. The vampire fell to dust with a whisper of sound and a tiny whimper.
Neville raised his wand. “Lumos,” he said and the room filled with bright light. Buffy blinked and looked around. She could see the places where furniture had been removed, leaving different colours on the paint of the walls, and where pictures were gone it was even more visible. She could see the piles of old, unread newspapers, the empty bottles. It was not the home of a happy bachelor. The atmosphere was not improved by the five heavily wounded men dressed in black robes, wearing masks and the magic charged dust of the vampire.
Neville gave her a shamefaced look, then gestured with his wand again. “Expecto Patronum!”
Buffy blinked as a stream of vapour flowed from Neville’s wand, hesitating and finally coalescing into a huge lion. Neville looked at it and the lion took off.
“Help’s on the way,” Neville slurred.
“Do we need it?” Buffy gestured at the groaning wizards. “Seems we did pretty well ourshelves- selves,” she noted that her momentary lucidity was departing quickly. “What did ya do?”
Neville shrugged. “Short term charm to get rid of the effects of the alcohol. It’s hitting us extra hard now. An’ we need people to take these guys to the shells.”
Buffy nodded. That was logical, she supposed. There were sounds, once quickly following the other, of what sounded like light thunder claps and then there were running feet coming up the stairs. The man in the red robe who’d been in the Leaky Cauldron was the first inside, wand at the ready, followed closely by another man.
Both goggled at the sight. Nevile smirked and leaned against the wall. “‘Ullo, Baxtrad. I go’ some work for you.”
The Auror looked at the bloody scene and swallowed. “Bloody hell, Longbottom. What did you do to them?”
Neville gave him a very long, hard look. “I took them down, Baxtrad. They broke into my home and tried to ambush me. What was I supposed to do, cast Expeliarmus, wait for them to escape and have them try again next week?”
Baxtrad looked at where one of the wizards was vainly trying to remove what looked like wand from his shoulder. The wood had splintered, but it was clear that it had gone clear through his shoulder blade and was quite stuck. “This is going to be a mess to report, Longbottom. We’re Aurors, not killers”
Neville took a step forward and Baxtrad took a step back at the icy cold in the younger man’s eyes, even if his step were wobbly with drink.
“If shit-heads like you would have acted instead of licking Voldemort’s arse, Baxtrad, my parents would still be Aurors. As it is? I don’t give a shit if they fire me today or tomorrow. Do you understand what I’m saying, you pencil-pushing stamp-licker?”
Baxtrad and his patrol nodded and backed off. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, they started to gather up the wounded and the dead. Buffy looked at them owlishly, then staggered away, trying to escape the smell of blood. She washed her face, getting rid of some of the blood, but the smell of it clung to her, lingered in her nostrils. She found a bedroom, took off her jeans and top and collapsed wearily into oblivion.
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS
Buffy woke the next morning with a throbbing head. That was a rare occurrence. She had only had one hangover in her life and that was after the famous, or infamous, Beer episode. She was quite sure that Willow, ever the tech geek, had made pictures of her, or even movies. She groaned. The room was quite dark, much darker than she expected. There was also… She reached out. A warm, large, male smelling and feeling body, next to her in bed. Wearing… Buffy’s hand roamed gently and carefully and with appreciation over the well toned body, Boxers and nothing else. Another hand moved over her own body and encountered panties and a man’s t-shirt. She concentrated on her body. She felt no traces of the slight muscle spasms that were always present after sex and smiled slightly. *At least I didn’t have a drunken one-night stand.*
Her hand wandered down slightly more and her eyes widened. *Which is actually a bit of a pity. Wow!*
Neville stirred and groaned and then froze. So did Buffy, as she realized her hand was still in a delicate place.
Neville whimpered. “Ow.”
Buffy was suddenly and quite forcefully reminded of her own hangover. “Yeah, me too. Got aspirin?”
Neville very carefully shook his head. “Hangover potion. I’ll get up and get you one. Errr…”
Buffy, realizing the reason for his hesitancy, swiftly withdrew her hand. “Sorry. I wanted to know if we, you know…” she let her voice trail off.
Neville snorted and then groaned. “After all we drank? I’d be lucky to be able to even think about it, let alone perform.”
Buffy grinned. “Well, at least you’re honest about it.”
Neville sat up, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, then gingerly rose. He groaned with every move. “Merlin, why did I think it was a good idea to drink?”
Buffy, getting up herself, echoed his groan. “That’s what I was wondering. I take it Ogden’s is magical? I’ve never had a hangover from normal alcohol.”
Neville grinned. “That must be useful…” Then his eyes narrowed. “Drink a lot do you?”
Buffy was about to scoff, when she thought about how much she had drunk the past few weeks. Months even.
“Too much,” she admitted. “I forget, at least for a while, when I drink.”
Then she wrinkled her nose and made a disgusted face. “Though the taste in my mouth right now might be a good reason never to drink again. Ugh.”
Neville nodded, very carefully. “Yeah, I know. C’mon, I’ve got the potions in the bathroom cabinet.”
He took a step, groaned, paled, clapped a hand in front of his mouth, then ran towards the bathroom. Buffy, seeing his face and smelling the vomit, followed closely on his heels.
Buffy looked up from the toilet and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. Neville smiled at her rather weakly and let go of her hair.
“Thanks,” Buffy muttered. Neville handed her a glass of water and she drank thirstily. She frowned after she’d finished the glass. “Neville?”
“Yeah?” Neville answered, after finishing his own water.
“Errr… Did we beat up five wizards and a vamp last night? Or was that a dream?” Buffy asked tentatively.
Neville frowned. “If we didn’t, we had a shared dream experience.”
Buffy grinned. “Then we probably beat the wizards. That Baxtrad guy, is he gonna be trouble?”
Neville looked pensive. “I don’t know. He might be. He’s an old-style Auror, from before the Final Battle. Guys like him are the reason Voldemort could rise again.”
Buffy scowled. “And let me guess, he’s got lots of friends in the right places? Yeah, I know the feeling. Do we have to do something about this?”
Neville shrugged. “I don’t know. I expect we’ll be summoned to the Ministry to explain what happened, make statements. We’ll see what happens then.”
“Will you get sacked?” Buffy asked.
Neville shrugged. “I don’t care. It’s not like I need the money. I might miss the excitement, but maybe I’ve had enough of that as well.”
Buffy nodded. “Okay, makes sense to me. Now give me one of those potion-thingies,” she gave him a suspicious look. “They don’t taste of old gymsocks, do they?”
Neville smiled at her. “I don’t know. I’ve never tasted old gymsocks.”
Buffy was clean and fresh and looking around the spacious sitting room of Neville’s apartment, or flat as Neville kept calling it. There was no trace of the fight of yesterday night. As a matter of fact, Buffy was wondering if it even happened.
“Did we really fight those guys in here?” she asked. “I mean, there’s like no damage or anything,” she ventured as she looked at Neville who stood behind an old-fashioned cast-iron range.
“Baxtrad may be an arse but he’s good at cleaning up. I’ll go over it later and see if he missed anything,” Neville replied as he lightly tossed the tomatoes in the frying pan in front of him. “Do you like bacon with your eggs and ham?”
“I like bacon with my bacon,” Buffy quipped. “Only if I try to make bacon I get charcoal. Don’t you have magic to do that stuff? You seem to do everything else by magic.”
“Making breakfast? I suppose. I just like cooking. I mean, I could use magic to prune my plants, but it wouldn’t be the same,” Neville gestured absently at the collection of pots on the windowsill.
Buffy eyed them. They tended to have the colour that her own plants had after a week under her ‘care’. “They’re kinda dead, Nev. I don’t think pruning is gonna do much good. Composting might, though.”
Neville turned to look at the plants and his shoulders slumped. “Ah. I seem to have forgotten about tending my plants in the past few weeks.”
Buffy walked into the kitchen and put a hand on his shoulder. “We can get you some new plants, don’t worry,” She looked around the kitchen. “And some new herbs. And… errr… is that fungus?”
Neville eyed the strange purple growth that protruded from dirty pan on the breakfast bar. “I think so. Seems rather vigorous.”
“We don’t need no stinkin’ fungus,” Buffy stated firmly. “Let’s get rid of that right now. Or maybe… Do you have a fridge?”
Neville nodded and pointed. Buffy took a deep breath and opened the cabinet door. Her eyes widened. “Holy cow! We should have let some of this stuff at those Deep Throaters. Or is chemical and biological warfare banned around here?”
Neville gave her a glare, then leaned forward and poked her with a long, calloused finger. “Be silent, Bacon torturer.”
Buffy squeaked indignantly. “Hey! I told you that in utmost, non-teasing confidence! And this is totally way beyond burning bacon or exploding lasagne! This is like the invasion of the Fungus!” she prodded a particularly virulently green specimen. It made a soggy noise and blew out a few spores. Buffy hastily closed the fridge. “I think that entire thing needs to be melted down to slag, Neville.”
Neville gave his fridge a dubious look. “Errr… Yeah. Okay.”
Buffy blinked. “What?”
Neville shrugged. “I can’t recall cleaning it or throwing anything out since Hannah left, so…”
Buffy held up a hand. “She left like five months ago, right?”
Neville nodded rather sheepishly as he slid the steaming tomatoes onto a hotplate and added some butter to the pan. “Yeah.”
Buffy took a step away from the fridge. “Eww and double eww. And EEEEEEWWW! for good measure.”
Neville snorted. “I have to agree on that.”
Buffy smiled at Neville across his dining room table. “Amazing how you can bond over the porcelain altar, eh?”
Neville smiled back. “That, two bottles of Firewhisky and a battle with Death Dippers, yes.”
Buffy smirked. “And a valiant, if ultimately futile attack upon whatever it is that is growing on your breakfast bar.”
Neville winced just as he was about to bite into his ham, eggs and bacon. “Please, don’t remind me, I’m trying to eat.”
Buffy cut some of her own breakfast, four eggs, bacon, half a string of sausages (wrapped in bacon) and a bowl full of fried tomato. (With bacon bits)
Neville was actually a good cook, at least as far as she could tell from the way he’d prepared breakfast after they’d both recovered a bit from being sick and had downed a hangover potion each. And they’d built up quite an appetite in their attempt to subdue the purple fungus. That fungus was scary. Buffy smirked. And, maybe kind of fun.
“Yeah, true. Neville? Tell me about these Death-eaters and why you felt you had to chase after them? I mean, besides them breaking into your house and wanting to kill you, what did they do? What do they want?”
Neville put his knife and fork down, then picked up his wand. “Death Eaters… they followed a man who called himself Voldemort. He wanted to purify our society, destroy all those who weren’t of pure bloodlines-”
“A racist? Like the Ku Klux Klan?” Buffy interrupted.
“I don’t know the Coo clucks clan. They sound like chickens?” Neville sounded confused.
Buffy sniggered. “Ooooh, I like that one. No, they’re racial bigots. So you’re not pure enough for them?”
Neville looked into the distance. ‘I’m a pureblood, for all that matters. No… My hate for him is far more personal. My parents were Aurors, that’s policemen in your world. Some of his most rabid followers tortured them into insanity when I was just a baby.”
Buffy reached out instinctively and took his hand. “Oh, Neville. I’m so sorry.”
“I visit them every week in the hospital. They don’t know me. They never will. Hannah… Hannah didn’t understand why I hate the Death Eaters so much. Her own mother was killed by them, but she didn’t understand.”
Buffy nodded. “I think I do. My Mom died of an aneurysm. But my Dad is alive, but he doesn’t care about me and my sister. He keeps sleeping with new secretaries and ignoring us. He wasn’t even there for Mom’s funeral. I loved Mom and I miss her, but knowing he’s there and doesn’t seem to care… That somehow makes it worse.”
Neville looked at her, his eyes bright. “Yeah. Like that. They’re alive but not really. They’ll never know me, or hold me or be proud of me.”
“Yeah,” Buffy nodded. “I just want him to acknowledge I’m his daughter. I know it’s sad and pathetic, but he is my Dad. Mom was angry about me being a Slayer, being Chosen, about having no choice. We fought about it a lot. But she was so proud of me whenever I saved someone. The way she hugged me told me she loved me. I miss that.”
Neville squeezed the hand that held his. “Tell me about her. Tell me about what it’s like being a Slayer.”
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS Ministry of Magic, office of Kingsley Shacklebolt, Minister of Magic
Kingsley Shacklebolt was reading the report with some amazement. Apparently Neville Longbottom was a heinous murderer and deserving of the Dementor’s kiss for fighting against the five Death Eaters who had broken into his home, even going so far as to Imperius his neighbours and the cleaning lady -who Kingsley assumed had little enough to do in Neville’s flat except dust around the bottles- to gain entry for their vampire cohort.
The fact that Priori Incantatem showed that all five had launched killing curses at Neville and whoever his companion for the night was apparently had not registered with the more senior Auror. *I really need to get rid of him and his ilk,*
Kingsley rubbed his face with his hands. The Sectumsempra that Neville had used had done considerable damage but all five men had lived, though the vampire had been staked. That, ultimately was the best solution, even if that idiot Worple would complain that a ‘great light of elegance and learning has been snuffed out’ or some such rot. The fact that Sanguini had killed well over a hundred Muggles since the rise of Voldemort apparently did not matter as much as the fact that he wrote bad poetry.
He picked up his wand and sent out his Patronus, asking Neville to come by later that day, bringing his witness. Maybe taking her to the Ministry and showing his colleagues just how deep he had sunk with his one night stands would shame him into cleaning up his act. His work was starting to suffer under his drinking and his reputation under the constant presence of women of loose morals. Kingsley returned to the report.
“Blonde strumpet? I really need to have a word with Kidderminster about Baxstrad,” Kingsley muttered.
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS Neville Longbottom’s Flat
Neville was sitting on the couch, Buffy beside him. They were drinking tea and eating a crumpet each.
“Okay, so fire’s out. It seems to grow when we use water. Got any vinegar?” Buffy asked as she studied the spots on her top where the purple fungus had flung some of its substance against her in its headlong flight. It was currently lodged in the cupboard under the stairs. Whenever they approached it made a noise like a growling puppy.
Neville looked around the dirty room, noting that the only sign of yesterday’s battle was the place where Sanguini’s face had met his greasy window and left a smear. He sipped his tea thoughtfully. “I think I’ve got some Balsamic vinegar?” he offered.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Oh, really, Neville! Even I know more about cleaning than that!”
There was a sudden silver flash and there was a silvery lynx in the room with them. “Longbottom, report to my office at one thirty sharp, and bring the young lady
as well,” a deep resonant voice spoke. The lady was said with heavy irony. The Lynx disappeared.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “What was that about? Was that like that Lion-thingy you did?”
Neville blinked. “Yeah. That was the Minister, Kingsley Shacklebolt.”
“Is he the sort of Minister who would like to experiment on a Slayer? ‘Cause I’ve been so been there done that!” Buffy said airily but with a hard edge to her voice.
Neville’s looked confused, then his expression hardened. “I don’t think so, but if he even suggests it, I’ll kill him.”
Buffy smiled. “Why Neville, that’s the nicest thing a boy has said to me in years.”
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS Entrance to the Ministry of Magic
Buffy looked at Neville with a raised eyebrow and a little grin. “Neville, if you want to hold me close all you have to do is ask.”
Neville flushed slightly and gestured at the old phone booth. “It’s the entrance. I don’t know if it will let you in without me. Sorry you have to get so clo-”
He was cut off by Buffy dragging him into the little space with her. “I was joking, Nev,” she smiled up at him winsomely. “Now how do we get into this much vaunted Ministry of yours?”
The Atrium was much as Neville had described it, big, long and gaudy, its peacock blue ceiling and dark wooden flooring and the flashing Floos and the ever changing golden runes reminding Buffy of a Mall at Christmas. More tack than taste. Buffy wrinkled her nose at the huge statue in the centre. “That is ugg-lee! Okay, where to now?”
Neville gestured. “Security.”
Buffy sniffed and walked up to the desk. Neville handed over his wand and the witch behind the counter gave Buffy a look. “Do you have a wand to be declared?”
“Nope,” Buffy told her brightly.
“Your wand was damaged?” The witch asked.
“Nope,” Buffy smiled.
“I cannot allow you entrance without a registered wand,” the witch gave Neville a look. “No matter who your boyfriend is.”
Buffy’s brows rose. She looked at Neville, who was gaping like a fish. “Boyfriend? Since when does drinking a couple of bottles of firewhisky and beating up some thugs together make people boyfriend and girlfriend? Because if it does, I bet all your Aurors are having orgies right now.”
Neville groaned and the witch spluttered. “What? What?”
“I don’t have a wand. I do have an appointment with the Minister, at one thirty. Now are you gonna let us pass, or is the Minister gonna get annoyed with you?” Buffy’s smile was friendly but her fingers were tapping her thigh in a tight, rapid rhythm.
The witch glared at them, then nodded curtly. Buffy smiled again. “Gee, thanks. I’ll be sure to mention your excellent manners and flexibility to the Minister,” she walked passed the desk and Neville followed.
“I’m sorry about that, Buffy,” Neville told her softly.
Buffy gave him a look. “Neville, as long as people think that others are inherently inferior to them, they will follow guys like Voldemort. Maybe your Minister should think about that when he hires people. And your sculptor when he thinks that ‘poor Muggles’ must be protected by ‘heroic Wizards’,” she gestured at the huge sculpture behind them. “That does not inspire me to extend the hand of friendship.”
Neville looked over his shoulder, eying the sculpture. “Yeah, I know. Things haven’t changed as much as we’d like. A lot of people didn’t actively support Riddle, but they didn’t actively support us either. A lot more, if you catch my drift.”
“Yeah, I get it. So, how do we get to this Minister?” Buffy asked.
“This way,” Neville offered his arm, and Buffy took it.
The Minister was not quite what Buffy was expecting. He was big, and bald, and black and his voice was deep and rumbling and erudite.
“Neville, good afternoon. Who is your… friend?” He asked.
Neville gave the Minister a long look. “This is Miss Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer.”
“Vampire Slayer?” Kingsley echoed, stunned. “What? Don’t be ridiculous, that’s a myth!”
Buffy snorted and rolled her eyes. “Gee, I hear that a lot. I know I’m totally unbelievable, but the way people keep telling me I cannot be the Slayer? Amazing,” she went to the Floor, picked up a shining poker and glared at Shacklebolt. “Watch closely.”
She tied and folded the steel bar into a pretzel and then twisted it more and more tightly until she had a ball of rolled steel in her hands. “Now do you believe?”
Shacklebolt nodded numbly. “Yes. I-I do apologize. I was expecting you to be one of Neville’s whores.”
Neville froze. Buffy very gently put down the twined steel. “Would you care to repeat that, Minister?” she asked.
Neville’s face had gone white and his fist was white around his wand. “My what?”
Shacklebolt sighed. “His whores. Ever since Hannah left him, he’s been seen in the company of a number of women of ill repute-”
“You mean the girls I’ve met since I was put on the vice squad?” Neville grated out. “The ones who I’ve been trying to rehabilitate instead of arresting?”
Shacklebolt looked at Neville’s face. Then his eyes narrowed. “Stay here. Sit down. Don’t do anything until I get to the bottom of this. Minsy!”
There was a pop and small, wizened house elf appeared. “Little Minister Shacky called?”
Shacklebolt sighed. “Zanna, what are you doing here? I called for Minsy.”
“Little Minister Shacky’s Mother told Zanna to take care of Little Minister Shacky,” the old elf told the man with large, woeful eyes and voice. “Little Minister Shacky don’t want Zanna to serve anymore?”
Kingsley groaned and rubbed his face with his hand. “Get these people some tea or whatever they want in the way of food and beverages. We’ll talk about this later, Zanna,” he strode out, muttering.
Zanna looked at the two guests and smiled. “What is sir and miss wanting?”
“Can you do a Latte Macchiato? With a donut?” Buffy asked.
Zanna bobbed, smiling. “Zanna is being able to do that. Sir?”
“Tea and two dry biscuits, please. And bring some sandwiches for Miss Buffy, please Zanna,” Neville smiled. “I can hear your stomach. You need to eat to keep up your strength.”
Buffy scowled at him good naturedly. “Okay, Zanna, you heard the man. Apparently I need food to keep up my strength. Don’t know why he’s fussing so much.”
“Maybe miss is pregnant?” Zanna asked excitedly. “Zanna will tell Kipsy!”
“NO-O!” Neville shouted as the elf popped out. “Oh Merlin, I’m so dead!” he groaned.
Buffy blinked. “Okay, two things. One, what was that thing I just asked for a latte and two, why are you dead?”
“That was a house elf, they’re sort of tied to us, our blood. That was Zanna, who is a Shacklebolt family elf. Kipsy is Grandmother’s house elf, who will tell Gran, who will come by to see what girl I got pregnant without even telling her about it. Then she will find out that you’re not my girlfriend and not pregnant and will be very annoyed that you aren’t,” Neville explained morosely.
Buffy made a gargling noise. “What? You mean, like, they’re slaves?”
Neville sighed. “No, they’re not. Look, Goblins like to make money and create stuff, Centaurs like to gallop, look at stars and shoot arrows. House Elves want to care and nurture and have chosen certain wizarding families to do it for. Do you remember those old stories about fairies doing people’s housework? That was House Elves who needed to work. And they leave when you give them clothes or shoes. And they’re very loyal.”
Buffy crossed her arms. “Okay. I’ll withhold judgement until I’ve spoken with a few of them,” then she frowned. “Wait, your Gran is gonna be annoyed that I’m not your girlfriend?”
Neville groaned again. “My Gran wants great-Grandchildren.”
Buffy looked sceptical. “So she’s so desperate that she wants you to have been making babies with some girl she’s never met and might be a drunken floozy?”
Neville gave her a look. “You’re not a floozy. But yeah, basically. I think that Gran is more worried about the family line than about who I do it with.”
“Well, isn’t that just a wonderful compliment,” Buffy replied dryly.
Neville sighed. “Yeah, I know. Sorry. It’s just Gran.”
Buffy glared at the table until Zanna returned with a tea tray, a younger elf in tow with a huge tray with sandwiches. “Master Neville’s Miss must keep her strength up,” the younger elf told Buffy smugly. “Lady will be expecting Master Neville and his Miss for dinner tomorrow.”
Just as Kipsy was about to pop out, Buffy grabbed her ear between two fingers. “You can tell your lady that I am not Master Neville’s Miss, that I’m not pregnant and that I will most certainly not be calling tomorrow for dinner. Is that understood,” she hissed into the little creature’s face.
Kipsy squeaked. “Yes miss, Slayer Miss! Kipsy understand. Kipsy will tell lady.”
Buffy released the ear. Kipsy looked at Neville. “Lady going to be very sad Master Neville is not going to be a daddy. Master Neville should ask Slayer Miss. Slayer Miss would make good mother,” and popped out.
Neville groaned again as Buffy spluttered in outrage. “That, that… How dare she!”
Zanna’s ears were drooping. “Slayer Miss is not pregnant?”
Buffy echoed Neville’s groan. “No, Slayer Miss is not pregnant.”
“Zanna will hope Slayer Miss will have little Miss or Master soon,” Zanna patted Buffy’s knee and apparated away.
Buffy splutter changed into a gargle.
The door was flung open and Shacklebolt came back in. “Right. My apologies. I’ve been getting reports that were more than biased and supported what was printed in The Prophet. I should know better than to believe anything that’s printed in the Prophet by now,” he bowed his head. “Miss Summers, Neville, my heartfelt apologies.”
Buffy smirked. “That’s alright Minister Shacky.”
Shacklebolt glared, first at Buffy who smiled serenely, then at Neville who was blushing but also grinning widely. “Very well. That having been done… That was an excellent haul last night, Neville. Five Death Eaters and Sanguini. With some luck we can get them to talk about who’s shielding them.”
“And where the others are hiding?” Neville asked hopefully.
Shacklebolt shook his head regretfully. “Apparently they’re a cell.”
“Hmmm, not unusual for a terrorist group,” Buffy mused. “Well, we can go look for them later.”
“Later?” Kinglsley frowned at Neville. “I expected you to start hunting for clues immediately.”
Neville opened his mouth to speak but Buffy interrupted. “There’s probably questioning to be done and lots of preliminary work, right? And as Neville had more luck bringing down those Death Beetles by being on the Vice Squad, and seeing as he got five of them, I don’t doubt a few others will be coming out of the woodwork to take him down. And then we’ll whack ‘em, like moles.”
Kingsley gave Neville a look. “She makes a certain amount of sense. Do you agree?”
Neville shrugged. “Fine by me. Do you happen to know any good fungicide spells?”
BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS HPHP BtVSBtVS Neville Longbottom’s apartment, Diagon Alley, two weeks later
The wards on the door were recently set up, Harry noted. The front hall was a lot cleaner than last time he had visited and the strange smell Neville’s neighbours had complained about was gone. Harry had told them to go and see the landlord about it, hoping that the threat of being thrown out of the apartment might shock Neville into gaining some control over his life. Regrettably it had turned out that Neville was the landlord. The Longbottoms had invested in real estate long ago and were apparently quite well to do. And since none of his tenants wanted to risk getting kicked out of their homes by their drunk and irate neighbour-cum-landlord, they kept quiet and Neville’s flat filled with bottles and rubbish. The communal downstairs hall had taken on a smell of old vomit as the scourgify spells no longer could deal with the accumulating stench of months of drunken spewing. Now the cobwebs were gone from the a mirror, the boot rack was tidy, the elegant hat stand was orderly and a table beneath the mirror bore a flowering orchid in a low, porcelain vessel.
Harry walked up the stairs to the first floor, noting that the dust that had gathered was gone and the steps, banisters and landing were polished and the carpets clean.
The elegant halls were once again well lit, the lamps lighting automatically as he came near and the skylight clean and repaired. The door to Neville’s flat was no longer covered in scratches and dents but once more shining deep, wine red between the carved doorjambs.
Harry pressed the bell, hearing the tinkle, then the measured steps and the door opened.
Neville smiled at him. “Harry, hi,” He stepped aside and Harry gave him a look at the lack of invitation and then walked in. The private hall held another coat and boot rack, another mirror and another flowering plant. Harry hung up his robes and his brows rose when he noticed that Neville was wearing a pair of slippers and a pair of dainty ones was standing by the hat stand, next to Neville’s Dragon Hide boots. Harry slouched into the living room, noting that there was a dogbowl filled with water under the hall table. *Neville’s got a pet?*
Harry looked around his friend’s apartment critically. He could see that the detritus of Neville’s descent into an alcoholic haze had been cleared away. There were a number of well-tended plants, of many species and sizes, on the window sill and growing around the windows. A huge bunch of flowers stood on the dining room table, visible through the large sliding doors, and another on a small table next to the couch and a smaller bunch on the mantle. The scene was gentle and relaxing, except for the sword, obviously well cared for, that lay on a Daily Prophet
on the coffee table, a whet stone and jar of oil and a cloth next to it.
“Like what you see, Harry?” Neville asked with a smirk, seeing his friend’s amazement.
Harry grinned. “Well, it’s good to see you sober. We’ve been worried about you these past months, mate.”
Neville smiled and gestured at the couch. “Butterbeer? I’ve got no alcohol in the house.”
Harry nodded and sat. “Please.”
Neville handed Harry a glass and a bottle and Harry popped the cap and took a swig from the bottle, disregarding the glass. “Ginny won’t let me do that.”
Neville sighed. “Is she still angry with me?”
Harry blinked. “Angry? Ginny?” He opened his mouth and then shook his head. “No. Neville, she and Luna were upset with you for a bit when you told Luna that no matter how much you felt attracted to her it wouldn’t work for the two of you. That was honest, upfront. It was a lot better than Ron and Hermione’s squabbling until they finally admitted they were better off as friends.”
Harry grimaced at the memory. “Luna’s forgiven you too. But we’re still worried.”
Neville looked at his own Butterbeer, picking at the label. The enchanted milkmaid upon it looked at him anxiously as more and more of her habitat disappeared. “I can imagine. I’m better now, though.”
Harry scratched at the label of his beer. “Are you? I’ve heard rumours in the office Neville…”
Neville laughed. “This is about Buffy, isn’t it?”
Harry hesitated. “Is she really a Slayer? She threatened Baxtrad…”
“He was about to Obliviate her. And the fact that Baxtrad is on probation should tell you something about the value and veracity of his opinion. Buffy knows enough about magic to know that he was planning something. And yes, she’s The Slayer,” he retorted sharply. “She’s also my friend.”
Harry looked at the flowers and the sword. “Friend?” he asked sceptically.
“Separate bedrooms, Harry. We can both do with a little company,” Neville swigged from his beer.
Harry’s sceptical look was enhanced by a raised eyebrow. “Ri-ight.”
Neville shuddered. “You look like Snape when you do that, Harry,” He twisted his bottle in his hands, then sighed. “Okay, I like Buffy. I like her a lot. But it’s only been two weeks. I don’t think she thinks about me like that. I mean, she’s gorgeous and I’m just…” he gestured down at his rumpled sweater and slacks.
Harry shook his head. “That’s just laundry, Neville. But… she’s a Slayer. Can she even you know…” he waggled his fingers.
Neville rolled his eyes. “She’s human, Harry, just like you or me but just with an even worse destiny. You were called the Chosen One by the Daily Prophet. She was chosen for things even more terrible by a destiny so old we cannot even imagine. And she’s got the nightmares to prove it. And I know she’s had boyfriends and I don’t think any of them complained about…”
He waggled his fingers back at Harry. “How do you manage with Ginny if you can’t even say the words, Harry? Have sex. Make love.”
His face was wistful as he spoke the last words.
Harry smiled. “With Ginny I have no problems. But it sounds to me like you’ve got it bad, mate.”
“Probably. Yeah. Yeah,” Neville replied. “I’ll get over it.”
“Get over what?” The door had opened and Buffy entered. Harry, getting his first look at the Slayer, swallowed. Baxtrad had definitely stinted on the description. ‘Small and blonde’ didn’t even come close to do her justice. Then he focused on the purple, rippling, ovoid, whumping thing that followed her into the room, excitedly rolled over to Neville and fluffed up, making a purring noise as it rubbed itself against his legs.
“What in Merlin’s name is that?” Harry asked.
Buffy gave the purple thing a fond look. “That’s Albert. Neville bred him until he was over two feet high. He can do tricks, too.”
Neville groaned at Harry’s guffaw. Buffy turned to him her amusement forgotten. “Neville, get over what?” Buffy asked anxiously. “Are you ill? You look pale?”
Neville, mortified, groaned.
Buffy almost ran over to him and felt his forehead. “No fever. Is this one of those magical diseases? Something left from a Cruciatus?”
Harry snorted. “You. He thinks he has no chance, so he’s going to be all noble and get over you without even asking.”
Neville dropped his bottle. Buffy gave him a radiant smile. Harry grinned and got up, putting his bottle next to his unused glass. “Good to have met you, Buffy. Hope to see you around.”
The last thing Harry heard before he left was Buffy scolding Neville for thinking she wasn’t interested and that he wasn’t good enough for her. And why wasn’t he wearing the clothes she’d laid out for him, the ones Kipsy had washed and ironed?
And as Harry closed the door behind him, he grinned widely. End note: A much shorter version of this was actually the second one written, back when I intended for none of these to be much longer than ‘A beautiful morning’.