I own nothing. Just playing.
"You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."
- Albert Einstein
It's been three years since I was forced to marry. Well, I say forced, but really I think that, had I met my wife under any other circumstances, I still would have married her. I would have been a fool not to. I wouldn't change a thing.
I remember when the Muggle Marriage Act came down from the Ministry. The Minister had been pushing for it for a year but none of us truly thought it would pass. To force the Muggleborn wizards and witches in our society to marry purebloods for the sake of replenishing the Wizarding population after the war seemed like a ridiculously archaic idea. Especially the clause that ordered them to procreate. We all thought it would be overturned immediately and that would be the end of it. But, to our horror, it was rather well received in the government. It would have passed sooner if not for the picket lines that marched around in the lobby claiming that it was an infraction of human rights. I agreed.
The worst part, for me anyway, was when they proposed an amendment that would force 'Magical Creatures to breed. It was being voted on that very day, but I wasn't allowing myself to think about it. I wasn't a young man anymore, and the thought of marriage and children at this point in my life was a little overwhelming. And besides, who on Earth would want a bunch of monsters creating more tiny monsters? Barking mad, the lot of them. There was no way the amendment would pass.
I had gone to the Ministry that afternoon with Albus Dumbledore. He had people to speak with about trying to get me cleared to teach at Hogwarts again. Personally, I had thought he was fighting a losing battle, but he was bound and determined that I get my position back. I humored him, but it was more than likely from the desire to not spend the rest of my life in menial jobs than a true belief it would happen. I was running out of places in Wizarding Britain to work since I had been fired from each one after a few months, once they realized what I was.
We were walking past the Minister's office on our way out when Albus stopped. There were raised voices from inside and I desperately wanted to move on and not eavesdrop on the conversation, but at the same time, I wanted to hear what someone would be brave enough to yell at Fudge for.
"No, you don't seem to understand," a woman's voice exclaimed. An American woman. Interesting. "I don't know how exactly I'm registered with you, but I'm not a witch! How can I be subject to your marriage laws if I'm not even a witch?"
They were subjecting Muggles to this law now, not just Muggleborns? I looked at Albus openmouthed. The man was smiling serenely; his eyes twinkling merrily as he blatantly listened to the occupants of the office.
"You were registered by your employer, Quentin Travers," I heard the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, reply.
Another voice joined in. British male. "Quentin Travers has been dead for well over a year and Buffy hasn't been working for him for the last five years. How could he have possibly had her registered?"
"It would seem that he registered Miss Summers eighteen months ago when the law was first being discussed. Regardless of your American citizenship, he had the right to register any of his employees," the Minister answered pompously. "And although you are indeed not a witch, you are a Magical Creature and all Magical Creatures are required to be registered and tracked."
"You classify me as what now?" the woman's voice said, low and teeming with suppressed anger.
Fudge didn't seem aware of his blunder and he continued on as though he hadn't heard her. "As a Magical Creature, subject to article five, subsection seven, paragraph two of the Marriage Law amendment, passed just this morning, the list of men you may accept proposals from is here. I believe the head of Magical Law Enforcement has already given this to you once." I could hear the rustling of parchment and then a bit of silence.
My stomach knotted at the knowledge that the amendment had truly passed, but I was distracted again by the conversation from within the office.
"Indeed. So, you're saying that within the next three months, Buffy has to marry one of these…six people?" the man growled. "And within a year, produce a child? I don't think I have to explain to you, sir, that with her calling, any child would become a target of every dem…"
"That's the law," Fudge said firmly. "Even Magical Creatures are required to breed."
"Call me a 'creature' one more time and I will feed you that ridiculous hat!" the woman exclaimed. "And what happens if I ignore your carbon dated decree? Gonna punish me?"
Albus and I both chuckled softly at the woman's cheek. She was clearly a spirited thing.
"If you are not married within the next quarter year to one of the approved men, you'll be sent to Azkaban prison," Fudge was informing them.
A low and dangerous laugh sounded from the man. "You think there's a prison out there somewhere that could hold her? Bloody hell, man, she may look innocent and weak, but I think you forget she could reach across this desk and snap your neck one-handed."
Silence could be heard in the office until the woman spoke again. "I bet I can move faster than you can draw your wand. Wanna find out? No? Then get your hand off it. You may have magic, but I have nine years of fighting for my life against things you couldn't imagine or even pronounce. I have kept this damn planet turning for you and everyone else out there. And do I get a 'Hey, thanks, Buffy'? No! I get suckered into a marriage law because of a tweed clad loser with delusions of grandeur who, by the way, couldn't count me among his employees since I never saw a paycheck!" Her voice has started softly but had risen to a trembling shout by the end.
I looked over at Albus again, confused by her words. He, on the other hand, looked as though he had been expecting them and I began to wonder if it was by accident that we were standing there at all.
"Miss Summers," Fudge was saying, "no one is going to be above this law. You want to threaten me? Be my guest. I can have the Aurors in here faster than you can say 'Quidditch.'"
"Say it?" came the bemused female voice. "I don't even know what it is."
"Rest assured, this is not over," the man said and the creaking of chairs told us they were all standing within the office. "Good day, Mr. Fudge."
The door opened and out stepped a tall man in his early forties with brown hair and alert green eyes. He was dressed in casual gray slacks and a black turtleneck sweater. He walked purposefully toward the elevator at the end of the hall, a young blonde woman following closely behind him.
She was small, barely reaching the man's shoulder. Gray pants and a dark green sweater clung to her lithe form as she lengthened her stride to fall in beside the older man. Her hair fell in gentle waves to the middle of her back and it bounced as she moved.
Albus began to follow them, and seeing that I had no choice, I went as well. They had to wait for the elevator, so we caught them easily in spite of their earlier brisk pace.
"Hello, Rupert," the old man at my side said cheerfully.
The two people spun around, bodies tense and eyes dark with distrust. The man though, this Rupert, obviously recognized Albus, for his face registered shock and confusion, with the slightest bit of shame mixed in. The girl glanced at her companion, but then turned her weary hazel eyes back to us.
"P…Professor Dumbledore," the man stammered. "I didn't expect to see you here."
The Headmaster clapped him heartily on the shoulder. "Now, my boy, none of that 'Professor' nonsense. You're not in school any longer. Call me Albus."
"Giles?" the young woman questioned, almost as though she was asking if she was allowed to let down her guard.
It was then I noticed that she had palmed an object that was mostly still inside the sleeve of her jumper. Under normal circumstances, I would have assumed it was the handle of a wand, but this girl was no witch and the coiled tension of her body spoke of someone who had seen battle. A warrior. It was something that not even those in the Voldemort War had. And about the time that I realized that the object was probably a knife, it had already disappeared again up her sleeve.
My eyes flew to hers in shock, but she was watching me with unguarded amusement. She had studied my face while my brain had fumbled for the answers to the miniscule mystery. I felt myself blush for not noticing.
"Never hurts to be prepared," she said softly. "Especially in this place."
"No, I suppose it doesn't," I answered.
"Buffy, this is Albus Dumbledore, my old headmaster," Giles was explaining, but I heard nothing of the exchange.
I was watching the girl.
She was lovely. Her hazel eyes twinkled in definite amusement at her companion's discomfort. She offered her hand to the old man with a dazzling smile. "Buffy Summers," she said, and they shook.
"Rupert, Miss Summers, this is Remus Lupin," Albus said, indicating me. They shook hands with me as well and the elevator door opened with a ding.
We stepped in and as the contraption began to move, Buffy pulled a folded and slightly crumpled piece of parchment from her trouser pocket. She seemed lost in thought, leaving her companion and mine to discuss in low tones the purpose of their visit.
"Wait," she said after a few moments. "Your name is Remus Lupin?" Her wide eyes pinned me to the elevator wall.
I nodded my head.
She considered me carefully, not noticing or perhaps not caring that the two men with us had fallen silent. But she said no more, simply watched me.
Giles stepped closer and began reading the parchment over her shoulder. Halfway down, his eyes stopped moving and his brow furrowed. He looked down at Buffy's face and then over at me, his expression inscrutable. "You're on this list," he said carefully.
"And what list is that" Albus asked, but the twinkling in his eyes said that not only did he know, but I was getting the feeling it was the entire reason we were at the Ministry to begin with.
"That arrogant pillock gave Buffy a list of approved men to wed," Giles spat angrily.
"And I'm on the list?" I asked incredulously.
Buffy wordlessly handed me the parchment and I looked at it in shock.
"Fenrir Greyback! You don't want to get yourself involved with him!" I exclaimed.
Albus looked over my shoulder. "And Rubeus Hagrid is engaged to be married already. Two of these names belong to goblins, and Firenze is a centaur, so I'm afraid that wouldn't work out too well for you, my dear," he said with a chuckle. "It appears that Remus is your only real choice."
Buffy only looked irritated. "It's a choice I shouldn't even have to make! This isn't the Dark Ages!" she huffed as the elevator doors opened and she stormed out.
I had assumed Albus would take the Floo back to Hogwarts when he had concluded his business, but instead he transfigured his robes into a gray suit with a bright purple tie and followed the others out the visitor's exit. I thanked Merlin that I was already wearing brown trousers and a white button-down shirt, and I joined them.
Once on the street, the young woman turned to her friend. "Can't we just go back to America and ignore this? What're they going to do? I mean, really?"
Giles sighed heavily. "More than likely you would become a fugitive. They could arrest you. Imprison you. I don't rightly know, Buffy. We could contact…Angel," he said, and even someone who didn't know him could tell the entire idea was appalling and distasteful in his view. "He runs a law firm now. Perhaps there is a legal way around this that we have yet to consider."
"A world of no on contacting Angel," Buffy said decisively. "The law firm's evil. I'm not sure he's on the same side anymore. And even if he is, I'm way past the point where he needs to ride in and save me, you know? So not a damsel in distress."
"Well, whatever you decide to do, I will support you," Giles said, placing a fatherly hand on her shoulder.
It was an interesting display and I felt like a bit of a voyeur. I couldn't quite figure out their relationship. He couldn't possibly be her parent for they seemed closer than that. And yet, he was definitely not her lover.
"Rupert," Albus interrupted, "Remus and I were just going to head over to the Leaky Cauldron for a butterbeer. You and Miss Summers should join us."
It was exactly like being back at school. The headmaster made what seemed to be a suggestion, but it wasn't. He fully expected everyone to do precisely what he said. And Rupert Giles and I were no exception.
Giles ushered Buffy along the streets of London. She kept her head down, staring at her shoes, brow creased with contemplation as she walked. Her friend and mine were quietly chatting as we walked, something about California, but I wasn't interested. Or listening. I was wondering why I had yet to receive a missive from the Ministry if I was going to be forced into a marriage.
But apparently I needn't have bothered. At the door of the pub, an official looking barn owl swooped down on us and dropped a letter into my hands.
"Thank you," I shouted sarcastically after it. I turned the letter over in my hands. A letter from the Ministry for Remus J. Lupin. No one ever uses the middle initial unless it's supremely important or incredibly bad news. Perhaps both.
Albus shot me a concerned look, but I waved him off. He and the others entered the Leaky Cauldron and I leaned against the wall next to the door, breaking the seal on the note.
There were three pieces of parchment inside. The first informed me that, because of the lack of magical creatures left in the wizarding world after the end of the War, all those with near-human intelligence were required to breed, myself included. There was a list of approved women for me to petition. The next page was the list. There were only a handful of names and I was perversely pleased to note 'Buffy Summers' at the very top of the list and disgusted by the fact that Olympe Maxime was on it as well.
The third piece told me that the Wizengamot had reviewed my case and they were denying the motion for me to be reinstated as a Hogwarts professor.
In a fit of frustration, I crumpled the parchments in my hand a little and entered the pub. A firewhiskey, I decided, would do me good. I ordered at the bar, tossed a few sickles, all I had with me, onto the counter, and made my way to the table where the rest of my group had accumulated.
Albus and Giles had seated themselves on one side of the booth, leaving Buffy alone on the other. I raised an eyebrow at the scheming headmaster, but he only gave me a blithe, innocent look.
I tossed the ball of parchment to the middle of the table. "I can't teach again and I have to get married," I announced.
"Did you get a list too?" Buffy asked miserably.
"Of course," I replied cheerfully. "Must monitor whom the 'creatures' choose to breed with, after all."
"I showed you my list," she returned, slightly more jovially. "Let me see yours."
I grinned as I smoothed the crumpled parchment and handed her the middle piece. Nothing lifts one's spirits like realizing you're not alone.
"Hey! I'm on your list!" she exclaimed with a flirtatious wink. It was almost as though she was dealing with the stress of the situation by forcing herself to be cheerful. But there was a tight, almost brittleness around her eyes that betrayed her fear and unhappiness.
I put my arm on the back of the booth behind the woman seated next to me and began pointing to the names and telling her about the people on the list.
"This one's a banshee. This one's a goblin, I believe. She's a centaur. Madame Maxime is a half-giant…"
"A half-giant?" she interrupted, turning her head to look at me inquisitively.
I realized how close we were when she shifted and only a few inches separated our faces. I licked my lips and watched her eyes dart down to follow the path of my tongue. She began to blush and I decided that the only humane thing to do was to put her out of her misery.
"She's almost twice my height and perhaps four times wider," I said softly.
Her eyes widened as she looked back down at the parchment. "That's one big woman."
"That she is," I chuckled. "But she's engaged to marry Hagrid, so alas, my love is unrequited." I stuck out my lips in a bit of a pout and pretended to wipe a stray tear from my eye.
She chuckled and patted my thigh. I went very still to attempt to quell the arousal that had risen unbidden in my loins and prayed she wouldn't notice.
"Think of it this way," she said, completely unaware of my predicament, "you may have dodged a bullet."
"How so?" I asked, hoping my voice didn't sound strained and employing a technique James and Sirius had devised to get rid of . . . embarrassing situations such as these.
Severus Snape naked on a cold day.
Thank Merlin, it still worked.
"At least you won't have to figure out the logistics of sleeping with a woman that size."
Not what I was expecting.
And clearly not what Rupert Giles had been expecting either, if the thorough cleaning he was giving his glasses was any indication. "Buffy," he admonished sharply. "I hardly think that's appropriate . . ."
"Quit being so repressed and British," the young woman returned. She leaned forward a little. "I mean, really think about it. She's like, what? Ten feet tall or so?" She looked to me for confirmation and I nodded curiously. "Now look at Remus. He's fairly tall, but look at how thin he is. If she got on top of him, she could crush his hips!"
Albus began to chuckle as Giles blustered and rubbed the lenses of his glasses so hard, I felt sure they would crack under the strain.
"Clearly living with Faith has had an adverse effect on you," he said primly. "I had hoped you would be a good influence on her, but I've obviously overestimated you."
Buffy shrugged unrepentantly. "It was bound to happen eventually," she said with a dismissive little wave of her hand. Then she turned back to me, "Okay, what about this one?" she asked, pointing to the next line on the list.
I glanced over the unfamiliar name and shook my head. "The only other one I know is this one," I said, indicating the last line on the parchment. "Gabrielle Delacour is part Veela. She's also all of sixteen years old."
Buffy looked at Giles. "Veela?"
"An inhumanly beautiful woman," he answered, pinching the bridge of his nose.
At first, I had thought Buffy might be a Veela. She was extraordinarily beautiful and I felt that primal pull towards her, the same way I had heard other men had been drawn to the stunning creatures. But what Giles had said in the Minister's office about strength had quelled that notion. And then I thought she might be a Lycanthrope, but she didn't smell like the fur and damp earth that accompanied most of us. No matter how hard one scrubbed, the scent was always there, detectable by only the keenest of noses. Buffy smelled like a normal person. Slightly citrusy shampoo, a touch of sandalwood, as if she had been near incense, coffee, probably drunk earlier in the day, and the tiniest bit of arousal, which I attributed to the sex portion of our conversation.
"What are you?" I blurted out. Then, as the three others at my table froze, I covered my face with my hands. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…" I trailed off, completely unsure of what to say. Of course, I hadn't meant to say it so inelegantly, but that didn't mean I didn't want to know what she was, because I so desperately did. I floundered and groped for words, but was left wanting.
Buffy turned to me, watching my confusion and embarrassment with a bit of amusement. "What're you?" she returned.
I stared at her for a moment before turning away. There was a lot of werewolf hatred and fear in the Wizarding world. And, for some reason I wasn't ready to examine, I didn't want this young woman to hate me. But she wasn't a witch. Maybe I would still have a shot.
'A shot at what?' I berated myself. 'You're old. She's young and beautiful. You're a fool to think she wants anything to do with you.'
Aloud, I whispered, "A werewolf." I kept my eyes on the table before me, not wanting to see the revulsion or the pity I was certain would flood her eyes.
I heard her quiet chuckle from beside me. "Is that all?" she asked. "By the way you're acting, I thought you were going to tell me you were a crazed hellgod bent on world domination."
I looked up in shock. Giles was smiling fondly, if somewhat exasperatedly, at the girl, while Albus beamed at her before turning knowing blue eyes on me. A slender and delicate hand entered my vision and I shifted to face its owner.
"Nice to meet you, Remus Lupin, Werewolf," she said, grabbing my right hand and shaking it. "I'm Buffy Summers, Vampire Slayer."
I felt my eyes bulge and my jaw drop. I gaped at her, mouth opening and closing like a fish, as I struggled to reconcile the tiny, grinning girl in front of me to the myth of the Slayer. Only…not a myth. It was no wonder that Giles had told Cornielius Fudge that Azkaban would never hold her. She'd probably be able to break right through the walls.
Suddenly, Giles relationship to Buffy, something that had been eluding me, became glaringly obvious. "And you must be her Watcher," I concluded.
The man nodded once. "I was, but there is really nothing more I can teach Buffy. Now I run the Watcher's Council. We primarily teach the new Slayers, and once they are seen fit for active duty, they and their Watchers are assigned to different parts of the world." He spoke quietly, as though he was afraid of being overheard in the entirely empty pub. He softly told me what seemed to be a very abridged version of how there came to be enough activated girls to warrant an entire school, clearly pleased to tell someone who wasn't aware of the circumstances surrounding their fantastic feat.
And I was suitably impressed. There were eight hundred young Slayers they were training. Buffy was something of a professor of weapons and tactics. She had cancelled her classes for the day just to go and argue about the Marriage Law with the Minister of Magic.
"It is unfortunate that we have such a problem finding people to teach the girls," Giles lamented before downing the rest of his butterbeer.
"Well, that's kinda Kennedy's fault, isn't it?" Buffy said irritably. "God, she just has to be better than everyone else. 'Oh, I'm Willow's girlfriend, I don't have to take classes. I don't have to listen to you, Buffy. I don't have to listen to anyone.'"
The mocking singsong voice she adapted was the perfect imitation of every stuck-up, prissy, and snotty girl I had ever gone to school with and I could easily see how a teacher would have given up trying to have an impact on someone like that.
"Yes, I understand that," Giles said patiently, "but the fact remains that there is no one to instruct the girls on Magical Creatures. We don't want another kelpie incident."
Buffy narrowed her eyes at him. "It wasn't Amanda's fault. How was I supposed to know to warn her about them? It's not like we had water horses in California." He face looked stricken for a moment. "I know I'm the senior Slayer and all, but I'm not qualified to teach them everything they need to know."
"Well," Albus interjected, "You are in luck. You se, Remus is a former Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts and knows a great deal about the malevolent magical entities in Europe."
I was about to protest, preparing to site the reason I had resigned from Hogwarts and the reason the Ministry refused to allow me to go back, but all that died on my lips when I saw the hope on Buffy's face.
"The kelpie killed the girl," I said flatly.
Giles was the one to answer. "Yes. She was out with her Watcher, Andrew, patrolling near Edinburg."
"On a date," Buffy coughed behind her hand.
Giles frowned at her, but continued his tale. "Amanda loved horses. Everyone knew that about her. So, when they saw a horse on the banks of the river, she rushed over to pet it."
I furrowed my brow. "Didn't they notice the dripping mane?"
"It was raining," Buffy said softly. "She reached out to touch it and her hand stuck like glue. Even with Slayer strength, she couldn't stop it from dragging her into the river."
There was a moment of pained silence for the fallen girl and I used it to think. Although the Watcher's Council had long been a British based entity, the Slayer herself, or so I had heard in Defense Against the Dark Arts class as a lad, was almost never stationed in Europe. Grindelwald and Voldemort aside, there hadn't been a lot of supernatural villains around. Not enough to warrant a Slayer, anyway. But now that there were so many, girls could be stationed in every country on the globe with some to spare, and they needed to be taught about the dangers other than vampires.
"Would you consider a position with the Watcher's Council, Mr. Lupin?" Rupert Giles was saying.
I looked at him sadly. "I'm quite sure I'm not qualified, Mr. Giles. The girls will need someone well versed in such things, and I'm afraid I only have a basic knowledge."
Buffy turned on the bench seat to face me. "You knew that a kelpie should be wet. No one else knew that right off. You're qualified," she announced, leaning forward and placing her tiny hand on my thigh once again. "At least you've got teaching experience. And what you don't know, you can pick up as you go along. That's what the rest of us have to do."
I looked into her pleading green eyes and considered. I loved teaching at Hogwarts. It was by far the most rewarding job I had ever held. And, importantly, I couldn't continue to live with Sirius and his wife and allow them to support me. Not if the Ministry was going to force me to take a wife. Teaching the Slayers would be a paying job. And, if I was entirely honest with myself, it was an attractive thought that teaching would place me near Buffy.
I suppose I could give it a shot," I acquiesced.
She gave me a huge grin and then turned to Giles. "Great. Now you've reconnected with your past, and not in a 'band candy, Ethan Rayne' kinda way, you've got a new teacher, we've potentially made a new friend," here the smile dropped off entirely, "but all that pales in comparison to the fact that I have to get married."
I felt her pain. Really. It hadn't been far from my mind either. And to make things slightly more nerve-wracking, Albus was grinning and winking at me.
I noticed, and was rather impressed with my self control, that Buffy's hand was still on my leg. I consciously decided to channel Sirius' boldness, so I reached down and slid my hand under hers, palm up, twining my fingers with hers while glancing slyly at her from the corner of my eye. She was biting her lip and looking at our joined hands.
I gave her digits a quick squeeze and she returned it, turning to give me a brilliant smile.
Could I do this? I mean, I had to marry someone. The Ministry had decreed it. And this young woman…she was amazing. A Slayer. Bright. Funny. Beautiful. And she was smiling and blushing all because I was holding her hand. And to make matters even more surreal, we sat across from her former Watcher and my former Headmaster.
And, I'm almost positive although perhaps I'll never know, but I think I was about to ask her to marry me. I was already running out of reasons why I shouldn't. I turned to her, grasping her hand a little more tightly…
And then the bartender, Tom, was at our table, passing out butterbeers.
"Mr. Lupin," he said, holding out an envelope to me. "This just came for you." He turned on his heel and clomped away.
I reluctantly disengaged my hand from Buffy's to break the wax seal and pull out the parchment. It opened to reveal the loopy handwriting of a young woman. I took a drink of my butterbeer, savoring the rich flavor, as I scanned over the letter. As I came to the middle, I took a gasping breath, aspirating my buttery drink, choking and gasping for precious air.
When I finally regained my composure, I answered to the questioning eyes of my companions. "Gabrielle Delacour has just asked me to marry her. Honestly, what would I want with a sixteen year old girl?" I asked incredulously. And then I realized how dirty that would probably be interpreted.
"Maybe it's a midlife crisis thing, "Buffy teased. "I'm not going to judge."
"Perhaps," I began slowly, "if I am to marry, I would prefer a woman such as yourself, rather than some child." It was a leap of faith, but even if I was far too shy and embarrassed to speak plainly of it, I wanted her to be aware of my interest and attentions. If I had to mare someone, I already knew that I wanted it to be her.
"What are you saying, Mr. Lupin?" she asked and I noticed the flicker of uncertainty in her eyes.