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This story is No. 3 in the series "Twist of Fate". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Part 3 of ToF Trilogy- What if Glory wasn't the hell God that was driven out of her hell dimension, but rather the two gods that opposed her? Buffy and crew are about to find out first hand how two lesser hell gods aren't necessarily better than one.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Television > Pretender
Harry Potter > Buffy-Centered
LisetteFR1522146,09471819,65414 Aug 0328 Sep 03Yes

Chapter 10

Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 10
by Lisette

Legalese: See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.

O o O o O o O

"So this is the renowned library of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?" Bertrone asked, his gray eyes piercing the dimly lit room, the candlelight reflecting off of the heavy snow that fell beyond the narrow windows and fracturing on the many dusty tomes and scrolls that littered the many bookshelves that disappeared on either side and into the dark shadows of the cavernous room.

"It is," Samuel Fellows agreed as he smiled amiably at the French watcher, the thin man moving towards one of the shelves and running a narrow finger over the spine of an ancient text. "And I cannot even begin to count the number of hours that I have spent in this room during my time here at Hogwarts, and many years thereafter."

"Dumbledore has been kind enough to allow the Council to reproduce many of the library's books and scrolls to add to our own vast library," Giles added as he settled on the corner of one table, a fond smile lifting his lips as his eyes traced over the room that hadn't changed in the thirty years since he had been absent from the school's halls. "As has Madame Maxime at your own Alma Mater," he added with a small nod at the French watcher.

"Ah yes, Beauxbatons," Bertrone murmured, a small smile lifting his lips as Wesley moved past him, the ex-watcher's eyes scouring over the titles of the many texts. "It has been many a long year since I last visited the ch√Ęteau - and even longer since I was a student there."

"Well," Wesley began as he absently lifted one large text from a high shelf, "if your Beauxbatons can brag of even half the library of this castle, then I must admit that Oxford seems to have left me at a disadvantage when faced with the knowledge that you wizards had at your fingertips."

"Ah, but you shouldn't so easily dismiss your muggle studies at Oxford," Samuel reproved gently as he smiled at the younger man. "After all, the Watcher's Council doesn't place her trust in someone, nor gives a man the care of not one, but two of our slayers, quite so freely."

"Yes, well seeing as how Travers was in charge, I cannot exactly take your compliment for what it is," Wesley returned with a self-depreciating smile. "Also, as I'm sure that Giles will attest, I was a bit of a prat during my time in Sunnydale."

"I was going to suggest ninny," Giles offered with a small smirk as Wesley scowled at him, "but prat will serve."

Frowning at Giles, Samuel curtly shook his head. "Regardless, from what I've heard about then and now, it wasn't a matter of our trust being placed in the wrong man. Rather it seems that the odds were against you before you had even arrived in the States, and your actions since that time have obviously worked against any imagined misdeed you may have committed."

Smiling thinly, Wesley nodded curtly at the head of the Council as he shrugged away the man's words. "Or perhaps I was just never meant to be a watcher," he countered as he turned back to his perusal of the many books that filled the library. "Faith and I never quite saw eye to eye, and that says nothing on how often Buffy and I butted heads during my brief stint as her watcher. Actually, how you two manage to care for these girls without strangling them first is really beyond me. Give me a broody vampire over hormonal teenage girls any day!" he added with a sharp laugh, as Bertrone snorted somewhere from his darkened corner.

Frowning softly, Giles shared a troubled look with his old friend, his eyes darting to the darkened shadows that concealed the French watcher. Even if Faith would never betray Celeste by coming to either Giles or Samuel with the increasing tension between the youngest slayer and her watcher, with Xander, Willow and Tara all sharing the same living space with them, it was only a matter of time before the young people had come to him with their concerns. Concerns that, he in turn, had shared with his old friend and coincidentally, the French watcher's boss. Not that he blamed the man for the trouble - or Celeste, for that matter. Instead, as he had pointed out to Samuel, Giles knew that it was a problem that every watcher and their slayer went through - he and Buffy included. Of course, it was those words that he was eating now as Samuel inclined his head towards him before pointedly moving towards Wesley, creating some excuse mid-stride and then tactfully excusing them both from the room.

Sighing, Giles slowly made his way deeper into the library and found the French watcher stationed before one of the narrow windows, his breath fogging the frozen glass and his eyes locked on the snowy darkness outside.

"You know," Bertrone began as he fingered his suit coat absently, his eyes not really seeing anything but his own memories, "that this is the first Christmas Eve that Celeste and I have truly been apart since she first came to me as a child."

"But you're not apart," Giles countered quietly as he settled on a wooden chair behind the watcher, his eyes critically traveling over the man's stiff frame.

Chuckling dryly, Bertrone shook his graying head. "Oh, but we are, Monsieur Giles. In every way that matters, we could be oceans apart this night."

Sighing once more, Giles slowly shifted in his chair, the soft creaking of the wood echoing in the otherwise silent room. For a moment, he sifted through his thoughts and memories of his many years with Buffy, some good, others quite bad - yet with a start he realized that he wouldn't trade any of them. "You know," he murmured, his smile turning wistful as he parroted the man's earlier words, "I was told that I was going to be a watcher from the time that I was the smallest lad. My grandmother had been a watcher, and my father after her, and I knew that soon it would come to me." Sighing softly, Giles slowly shook his head as he thought of those long ago years. "For a time, I tried to run away from my destiny, but that just got me into even more trouble and soon, not only did I accept it, I embraced it," he admitted, lost in his own thoughts. "I vowed that one day I was going to be the best damn watcher that the Council had ever seen.... however, I was never placed with a potential. And after a time I came to accept that I was never going to be given a slayer to guide," he admitted with a small frown, thinking of his work at the British Museum in London when his work as a watcher left him unfulfilled. "Yet when the next slayer to be called turned out to be an unknown potential with no watcher to guide, train, or prepare her for her destiny, and when her first watcher, Merrick, was killed after only a few months... I knew that I was going to have my work cut out for me. I was right," Giles continued, smiling wryly as he thought back on the fiery girl that had first walked into his library in Sunnydale - the one that had refused him and her destiny from the very beginning.

"Buffy was a headstrong and willful girl that fought her destiny as hard as she could," the watcher continued, his eyes focusing once more and realizing for the first time that somewhere along the way, he had gained Bertrone's undivided attention. "It took her death to finally convince Buffy that this was not something that she could run from. People needed her, and in turn, she needed me just as much as I needed her." Meeting Bertrone's shuttered gaze, Giles slowly nodded his head. "In time, both Buffy and I came to respect one another, and in more time, that respect turned to love," he admitted, knowing that had Travers still been around, such an admission would have caused him to be fired as Buffy's watcher - again. "I've only been Buffy's watcher for four years... I've only known her for four years," Giles amended with a small smile. "But I can tell you now that I love that girl more than life itself. I have become more than a watcher to her, and she is more than my slayer. You, however," he continued, his eyes boring into Bertrone's steely gray - a gray that was slowly melting beneath Giles' steady gaze, "have had your slayer for far longer."

For a moment, the words remained unspoken as both men matched wills, their eyes locked upon one another as Giles dared the man to deny it. In the end, it was impossible for the French watcher to do so. Sighing, he wearily relaxed against the window he had been staring through, one hand lifting to run through his pristine hair. "I have tried not to love her," he admitted with a small frown. "Tried not to care..."

"But it's impossible, isn't it?" Giles asked with a knowing smile.

"Quite," Bertrone agreed, a small smile pulling at his lips before it disappeared beneath a breath of despair, his eyes dropping down to the hands that he cradled before him. "And now I fear that I am driving her away."

Nodding slowly, Giles allowed the man a moment to collect his thoughts as he lifted his glasses from their perch and absently began polishing the clean lenses upon the hem of his sweater, oblivious to his trademark gesture and the smirks it would have garnered from the others. "What I've learned from Buffy," he began, his gaze turning thoughtful, "is that what we've been taught about the relationship between a watcher and his slayer can never be. Not truly," Giles amended with a small frown. "To distance ourselves from our slayers prevents us from forming the bond that's necessary in keeping them alive. For as I've learned, to help our slayers, we need to love our slayers," he continued, his eyes lifting to take in the man's cautious gaze. "This is something that Samuel and I have debated on at great lengths over the years, and we've come to the conclusion that the old ways are the wrong ways. While it's true that we need to give them the space needed to fight the darkness, we also need to provide the love to see them through the certainty that some day, the darkness is going to steal their light from us and the world."

"But how can you do that willingly?" Bertrone asked through a dry throat, his stomach clenching painfully as Giles hit the brunt of his anxiety right on the head - openly addressing the unspoken fear that had plagued the French watcher since the very moment that his slayer had been called. "How can you do that knowing that someday someone is going to steal your slayer from you?"

"I can't," Giles admitted, his voice quiet and the pain evident in his voice. "It would be impossible to live each day under the tremendous weight that someday she will leave me," he continued as he lifted his determined green eyes to his fellow watcher. "Instead, I live each day with the thought that today... today I have this one more day with Buffy. Today I have this one more day to help my slayer, to guide her, to teach her, train her... and most importantly, I have this one more day to love her and receive her love in return."

"But someday-"

"Someday Buffy will lose her fight against the darkness and someday I will be alone," Giles interrupted, forcing the words through his clenched lips as his eyes turned down to the hands that were fisted in his lap. "Someday she will die, and when that day comes, I hope that I will be able to remember all that Buffy has lived for, all that she has fought for, all that she had struggled for, and all that she has suffered for. And on that day, I hope that I will have the strength to do what she would have wanted me to do: and that's to keep on living, fighting, struggling, and suffering. For when that day comes, I know that she will be with me, slipping into my role and watching me and waiting for me to make her as proud as she has always made me," Giles whispered, vainly trying to keep his tears at bay as he slowly smoothed his hands before him. And then, with a final sigh he lifted his watery green eyes and smiled sadly at the older man that stood before him. "It is a watcher's final gift to his slayer."

Nodding slowly around the lump in his own throat, Bertrone turned away from Giles and faced the dark night once more. "And when that day comes..." he murmured, his voice dying as he settled his forehead against the cool glass. "When that day comes, I can only pray that I will have the strength to see it done."

O o O o O o O

Miss Parker eyed her tired reflection in the gilded mirror, one hand lifting to pull her long auburn hair back into a simple twist while she secured the loose bundle with an elastic band. Bending down, she turned the ornate faucets and patiently waited for the water to heat before filling her cupped hands and splashing it against her skin, the warm water easing away the stresses of the day and causing the lines on her face to dissolve and smooth away.

It had been a long day that started very early that morning with a couple of short hours in the office to finish off a few last minute details before she, Jarod, and Sydney had made the quick trip to Hogwarts... a school that was founded on magic. Shaking her head ruefully, Miss Parker began scrubbing the make-up from her face, her lips quirked at the thought. Even though it had been almost a year since she had been officially introduced into the darker, more supernatural aspects of their world, she still found herself grasping at the possibilities and the intricacies that such revelations meant for the Centre, and more importantly, herself. Miss Parker had spent the last thirty odd years with one goal in mind, and that was to make her father proud - to live for her father - his Angel. Somewhere along the way that goal became skewed as Jarod entered her life and somehow managed to become so entangled in her lonely existence that her every waking thought, and many sleeping ones, seemed to revolve around the Pretender... her childhood friend. Now, with the rest of her family dead and gone and the Centre in her hands, Miss Parker found herself suddenly thrust into a world that she could never have imagined: a Centre that answered to an organization that was founded on the idea that Good and Evil existed... and the kicker was, they worked for the Good side, which meant in turn, so did the Centre. Then... then there came the complex and yet so simple relationship with the Pretender that she had spent four years hunting. Four years making his life miserable, and then in the course of one they went from the hunter and the prey to colleagues... and now so much more. When did things get so complicated? And yet when did they become so simple?

"Honey, if you scrub your face any harder, you're gonna be splotchy."

Gasping, Miss Parker stumbled back from the ornate sink, her hands desperately trying to wipe the water from her eyes as she gaped at the small bathroom - the small, empty bathroom. "Who's there? Show yourself," Parker barked as she automatically reached for the gun that she stopped carrying over eight months ago.

"Now don't get your panties in a tizzy - you're a muggle, aren't you?"

Frowning, Miss Parker slowly advanced towards the sink she had just abandoned, her eyes locked on her wide-eyed reflection - the one that quickly shifted into a glare as she caught her own bewildered expression.

"Now sugar, there's no reason to be giving me that look!"

Startled, Miss Parker's eyes grew wide as she stared at the mirror in abject wonder. "You're the mirror," she murmured, one hand tentatively reaching out to touch the cool edge of the round glass. "And you're talking."

"As things often do in the magical world," the mirror responded in kind before it seemed to cluck its tongue... if it had a tongue. "Now aren't you a pretty little thing? You don't really need all that make-up, you know? Looking as you do right now, all natural and all - wheeie, you're a beauty!"

For perhaps the first time in her life, Miss Parker found herself speechless as her cheeks began to feel uncomfortably warm. Confused, she allowed her eyes to settle back on her own reflection and frowned when she realized that she was blushing. Blushing. She, Miss Angela Catherine Parker, was blushing. Instantly the blush was doused beneath a wave of cold as Miss Parker turned narrowed eyes back to the mirror. To the talking mirror. Frowning, she tilted her head to the side and stared at the beautifully crafted, and obviously antique piece of clear glass. And then, even though it was probably rude on some level to do so, Miss Parker turned and opened the door behind her and slipped into the bedroom that she was sharing with Jarod. "There's a talking mirror in there," she stated, her voice even as Jarod looked up from the small device that he was tinkering with on the large, canopied bed that sat in the middle of the room.

"I know," Jarod returned, his eyes lifting for the briefest of moments as he grinned at her, before quickly turning back to what he was working on. "She... and I do think it's a she, told me that I shouldn't put so much gel in my hair," he admitted with a small grin as he finally gave up on the little computer and tossed it to the bed beside him. "And did you know that my computer won't work here?" he continued as he lay back on the bed, his eyes following Miss Parker as she began working with the buttons on her blouse. "Hermione said something about all of the magic interfering with muggle technology."

"But I saw Willow and her girlfriend working on their laptop after Buffy and the vampire finished their demonstration... Angel, right?" Parker questioned as she slid the silk shirt from her shoulders and dropped it on the nearby dresser.

To say that the demonstration had been interesting would have downplayed the incredible rush of adrenaline that she had felt as she had watched the three slender girls battle with a ferocity and speed that seemed impossible. Then, when she thought that it couldn't have gotten any more amazing, the vampire that apparently had a soul and was one of the good guys, had stepped onto the mats and a fresh volley of fighting began. Oddly enough, this fight seemed even more amazing than the last for the simple reason that when the slayers fought, they fought as three separate individuals with amazing skills. Buffy and Angel, on the other hand, seemed to fight as one unit in a way that was almost beautiful.

If she was to be honest with herself, Parker knew that after witnessing something like this, it was no wonder that her brother had tried to capture it and make it his own. To want to be able to control something like that, aside from the trivial fact that it was morally wrong, was something that she could understand. The only difference was that Miss Parker could see straight away that the force that was Buffy was something that couldn't be owned by anyone, no matter how hard they tried. And while the other two slayers and the vampire himself were amazing fighters, Miss Parker couldn't help but think that in some way, Buffy was just that much... more. It was certainly possible that she was just biased in her opinions, but it still didn't stop her from voicing the question of whether Buffy's newfound Key-ness had anything to do with it - a question that Harry had overheard as he had merely smiled and repeated, once more, that the key was as much a part of Buffy as the slayer. If that was the case, then the merge was indeed truly seamless. "Anyway," she continued, forcing her thoughts back on track, "if the magic interferes, why were they able to use their computer?"

"Some kind of Wiccan alterations," Jarod sighed, a lazy smile lifting his lips as Parker slowly kicked off each high heeled shoe.

Feeling his eyes upon her, Miss Parker turned to Jarod with a question in her eyes. One that was quickly answered as Jarod abandoned the bed and moved beside her, his eyes glimmering in the torchlight as his hands trailed down her bare arms before circling behind her and landing on the warm flesh of her back. Her eyes drifted shut as Jarod's lips pressed against the soft base of her neck, his warm breath tickling her skin as he pulled her against the broad planes of his chest. He was so different from Tommy... so very different. While Tommy had always been a gentle lover, he almost seemed rough compared to the tenderness that Jarod displayed. The Pretender touched her as though she was spun glass, his hands as light as feathers and his lips always warm against her skin. And more importantly, Jarod never had sex, nor did he simply make love to her. Instead, it was as though he made love to every inch of her body, bestowing equal amounts of love to everything that he touched and never leaving her doubting the way that he felt about her. He made her feel loved, treasured even.

Sighing softly, she slowly lifted her arms until they were wrapped around Jarod's neck, her fingers playing with his short, dark hair as he continued to bestow soft kisses upon her bared neck and shoulders. "I love you, Jarod," she whispered, the words coming far easier than she had ever imagined possible.

"And I you," he murmured, his voice so low she had to strain to hear it as he gently gathered her long frame in his arms and carried her back to their large, canopied bed. "Merry Christmas, Parker," he whispered as he gently settled her on the plump comforter, his lean body draping over hers as he continued to land teasing kisses on her flushed skin.

"Angela," Parker returned, a small, sly smile lifting her lips as Jarod turned to her in question. It wasn't that he didn't know her name, for he was one of the few that she had bestowed that gift upon when they were but small children. It was more the fact that since her father had gifted her with her nickname of Angel so long ago, and especially after her mother's death, Miss Parker had latched onto that simple name as a way to show how very important her relationship was with her father. He, and he alone would be allowed to call her by her given name while to the rest of the world, she would be known as Miss Parker. Jarod knew this. Jarod knew how much she had loved her father and how deeply she had grieved his death in the weeks after Raines had revealed the murder. More importantly, Jarod knew how, now more than ever, that given name had become even more precious. But now, in an enchanted castle and when surrounded by friends and loved ones - while in the arms of the man that she loved, the man that she would die for - it was now, more than ever that she wanted to hear that name again. That she wanted to hear it from Jarod's lips. "Please call me Angela," she whispered, her eyes glistening as Jarod seemed to peer through them and into her very soul.

"I love you, Angela," he finally whispered, a small smile pulling at his lips as he gently cupped her chin in one of his large, calloused hands. Then, with a small sigh he deftly bent his head down and pressed his lips against hers, the rest of the world forgotten as somewhere, deep within the castle's walls a clock struck midnight and the night began its slow movement into day.

O o O o O o O

"So what did you do?" Ginny breathed, her soft breath fanning out her long red hair as she arched imperceptibly closer to the dark-haired girl, her wide brown eyes fixed before her.

"I told him to get his hand the hell off my ass before I knocked him into Vegas," Faith returned as she smacked her fist into her palm, her lips curled in a smirk as the young Gryffindor squealed at her words, Hermione instantly wincing and trying to throw a pillow to get the girl to quiet down a little.

Rolling her eyes dramatically, Cordelia twisted on the bedspread of the large, canopied bed that was next to the slayer's and arched a dark brow at Willow and Tara who were cuddled on the bed next to hers. "She hasn't changed a bit, has she?" she asked around a wide yawn as she adjusted her thin chemise.

"Not an iota," Willow agreed with a sleepy shrug as she burrowed down in the covers beside Tara, the other girl already fast asleep.

"Oh, I don't know," Buffy added from her place beside Celeste on a nearby bed. "She's not trying to stab me or anything - I'd call that a marked improvement."

"Hey, let's try to remember who gutted who here," Faith quickly cut in as she tossed a pillow at the blonde slayer, Buffy easily dodging the feather-stuffed fabric and sending another pillow flying back at her.

"You.. you stabbed Faith?" Celeste asked, her eyes growing wide as she turned back and forth between the two other slayers.

"Only because Faith was evil at the time," Buffy quickly assured, laughing as another pillow smacked into the back of her head. "Besides, it's kind of like a slayer initiation or something. You need to get as close to biting it as possible during your first year or else you're off the team," she stated, her eyes dancing. "Now Faith, here, settled for a knife in the gut to pass the initiation - and didn't even get close enough to death to trigger the calling of a new slayer, I might add - while I, on the other hand, went all out."

"Oh, get off it!" Cordelia interrupted as she threw a spare pillow at Buffy. "You just wanted an excuse to make out with Xander."

"Um, hello. It's called mouth to mouth," Buffy cut in, her face twisted in a grimace. "And can we say ewww? I love Xander and all, but you're the one who was big into the Xander smoochies. Oh, and Willow, too, of course," she amended as Willow promptly glared at her friend.

"Hey, leave me out of this one! And you'll notice, so a passing thing. I mean, liking of the girls now," she added as she indicated the girl that was sleeping soundly beside her.

"So we noticed," Faith returned dryly as she propped herself up on one of the pillows that she had rescued from the stone floor, her brown eyes snapping back to the other girls as the conversation went in circles around her. After much debate and despite the desperate pleas of those involved, Professor McGonagall had made an executive decision earlier that night to maintain some 'modicum of propriety' while students resided within the castle walls, and had all but insisted that the girls and boys be separated and placed in separate bed chambers for the night. Thus, after much cajoling which later ended in threats, the girls finally relented and retreated to the enlargened room a few hours ago, promising to get some sleep - and lying through their teeth.

Yawning, Buffy shifted on the large bed until she could look at the younger girl that shared her bed without craning her neck too much, her arms pillowed below her head as her steady gaze rested upon the third slayer. "So the Council knew you were a potential slayer since you were a little girl, right?" the blond asked, curiously cocking her head to the side.

"Since I was five, yes," Celeste murmured, her fingers absently playing with the velvet curtains that hung beside their large bed.

"That's neat," Buffy stated, smiling softly at the girl. "Beside Kendra, I've never met a Council-raised slayer before," she admitted with a small, sad smile as she thought of the strong, dark-skinned girl that had touched her life so briefly. "They only found out that I was a potential after I was already called, and Faith was only discovered a few years before she was called."

"And by then, it was already too late," Faith added with a wicked grin. "I was already the girl you see today and no amount of training bullshit was going to change that," she stated proudly.

"And to think of how things could have been if they only would have found you a little sooner," Cordelia sighed dramatically.

Ignoring them both, Buffy smiled once more at the younger girl. "So what was it like? Being raised by your watcher, I mean," she clarified as the girl's innocent smile seemed to darken slightly.

"Oh, it was wonderful when I was younger... mais now?"

"Translation: things are a bit rocky on the watcher front?" Hermione ventured as she shifted beside Cordelia, remembering the hushed conversation she had overheard between Xander and Willow earlier that day.

"Exactly," Celeste sighed as she wearily lay back on the bed, her eyes tracing the patterns on the canopy above. "And I do not understand it at all! It is like I can do nothing right by him now and all we do is fight," she muttered, her features twisted in a hard frown.

Nodding sympathetically, Buffy slowly sat up and hugged a pillow to her chest. "Giles and I went through something similar," she admitted, shaking her head ruefully as she thought of the man that she had come to see as a father - especially when her own father went AWOL. Frowning, she realized that her mother had died a year and a half ago and her father still hadn't even bothered trying to contact her... not like she was making a huge effort on her end, either. There was something about being abandoned that put a damper on the whole father/daughter relationship. And in the end, Buffy couldn't help but realize that locating Hank Summers would only complicate a life that was complicated enough as it was. Besides, why did she need a Hank Summers when she had a Giles? "I think at first I even blamed Giles for me being the slayer. I didn't want it."

Laughing, Celeste quickly shook her head. "That was never the case with Monsieur Bertrone and I," she stated, eyes glimmering as her lips lifted in a wry smile. "Ever since I was little I had always wanted to be the slayer. To be the one girl in my generation to-"

"Yeah, yeah," Faith cut in, waving her hand at the girl. "Kid, we know the spiel. Besides, now you get to share the burden."

"Which is a good thing," Buffy stated with a firm nod. "And seeing as how I'm the only one here that's ever done this gig solo, you might as well take my word for it. While Scooby support is definately the key to survival, Slayer back up is always of the good," she finished with a small smile at her friends - a smile that quickly faltered as she saw the sad, almost wistful smile that pulled at the youngest slayer's lips. Sighing, Buffy gently nudged the girl with one foot, drawing her attention once more. "Listen, I don't know your watcher," Buffy began, "but I do know what's in his eyes whenever he's looked at you today - and that's love."

Buffy drew her knees to her chest as she thought of her own watcher and the love that he no longer feared showing. "Sometimes... sometimes I think that our watchers have the harder job. Ours is so straight forward," Buffy murmured, her eyes drifting down to look at her small hands before she turned to meet Faith's understanding gaze. "We live, love, fight, and die more fiercely than anyone else because we know that our time here is short," Buffy stated, her whispered voice sounding as loud as thunder in the quiet room as Celeste's eyes met her own, "and we have to put an entire lifetime of experiences and emotions into the short time we're given - and whatever we give this world will have to last our loved ones far longer than we ever did. It's a slayer's legacy - something that the Council will never teach you but something that each slayer just knows. It's also something that takes our watchers a little bit longer to figure out," Buffy continued, a wry smile lifting her lips. "Until that day you just need to give him the space to-" Buffy broke off, her eyes sliding over to the heavy wooden door to the room, seconds before someone rapped upon the hard wood.

Confused, she watched as Ginny Weasley scampered across the cold stone floor and pulled open the heavy door, revealing a slightly disheveled version of Celeste's watcher. "-knock on the door," Buffy finished, a small smile lifting her lips as the man's shadowed gray eyes slid over each girl until they finally founs his young slayer.

"Celeste," Bertrone began, one hand absently reaching up to attempt to straighten the hair that he had mussed earlier as his eyes locked with her own. "A word, if you will?" he asked, stepping away from the door and gesturing to the hall behind him.

Confused, Celeste took in her watcher's haunted expression, her eyes critically roaming over his usually pristine frame and frowning as she realized how out of sorts her watcher seemed. Turning, she looked to the petite blonde slayer who merely inclined her head in her watcher's direction before pointedly turning away and engaging the other girls in another conversation.


"Of course," the girl returned as she slid from the high bed, shivering as her bare feet fell upon the cold stone floor, and then hurried across the room and followed her watcher into the torch-lit hall beyond. "Is there something wrong?" she murmured, unconsciously slipping into their native language as her watcher drew her before him, his gray eyes gently sliding over her slender frame as his weathered hand cupped her pale chin. For a moment, Celeste felt as though she were five once more as strangers took her from the parents that she barely remembered and gave her to this tall, elegant and imposing man. To a scared, heartbroken five year old, the grim frown he wore seemed terribly frightening... yet the second that the Council members disappeared, leaving her alone with the stranger, the hard frown had disappeared beneath the gentle smile that he wore now.

"Ah, ma petite... where have the years gone?" Bertrone murmured, his eyes shimmering in the dim lighting as he marveled over the young woman that the tiny, frightened child that had been placed in his care many a year ago, had become. Celeste was only fifteen, but already she was breathtaking. Tall and slender, a naturally pale complexion and long, shimmering hair that was the color of the deepest night with wide blue eyes that contained so much innocence and now... now so much strength. And fifteen was such an odd age, creating a strange mixture of girl and woman in the child before him - a mixture that had been compounded by the strength, speed, and wisdom of the slayer. His slayer.

"I.. I do not understand," Celeste admitted with a small frown. "Is everything alright, Monsieur Bert-"

"Non, Celeste," her watcher interrupted, a single finger lifting to still her muffled words. "I have taken some good advice this night and thought long on what I was told. And he was right. Monsieur Bertrone is a title for strangers. You, ma petite, are no stranger," he murmured as he gently brushed a strand of dark hair from her eyes. "You must call me B'one," he stated, his voice firm.

"Bee-own?" the slayer returned, trying out the unfamiliar word.

"Yes - a nickname from my youth. A name that only my family ever called me by," he murmured quietly, his eyes intently meeting her own and waiting for the girl to process his words and to find what had gone unspoken. And, as he knew it would, it took only seconds for his meaning to become clear as Celeste's eyes widened, their clear, cerulean blue shimmering with unshed tears. Smiling gently, Bertrone nodded his head once before gently pulling her close and allowing himself to hold her as a father would hold his daughter and as a watcher was always forbidden to hold his slayer. Yet in the face of the girl that stood before him, and who was now cradled in his embrace, such rules seemed ancient and unimportant. All that mattered was the child that he cradled in his arms for the first time - and, as he quickly vowed, not for the last. "Je t'aime, ma petite. Je t'aime," he murmured, his voice a rough whisper against her ears.

Sighing softly around her tears, Celeste clung to her watcher and allowed the long awaited words to wash over her soul like a soothing balm. Secretly she had always hoped to hear those words from her watcher but deep down, feared that she never would. But somehow, in this enchanted castle in a world that she had only ever glimpsed, it seemed that even dreams could come true. "Je sais," she murmured, a small, watery smile lifting her lips as she pushed her lips near his ear. "Et je t'aime aussi, B'one."

O o O o O o O

The picture of stealth, Buffy moved through the empty halls of Hogwarts as a huntress searching for their prey, her army following on silent feet behind her. Stilling before a heavy wooden door, Buffy lifted her hand and instantly her troops froze while her two generals silently moved to her side. Looking to each, Buffy nodded once before extending her senses out around her, her eyes falling shut in concentration as her generals followed her lead. Seconds later, she opened her brilliant green eyes and turned first to her left, where Faith minutely shook her head, and then to her right, where Celeste mimicked the older slayer's movements. Smiling, Buffy nodded her agreement of their silent assessment and cautiously pushed open the heavy door before gliding into the large room beyond, the early morning sun shining through snow-washed windows and bathing the room in golden light.

Grinning, Buffy's swept over the eight large canopied beds that were spread out in a circle around her as she did a mental tally - and then frowned at the results. Turning, she beckoned for one of her troops to step closer, the tall Californian easily picking her way through the others until she stilled at the slayer's side. "Where's Angel?" Buffy murmured, her question a mere whisper of breath that fanned across the other girl's cheek.

"Forgot to pack a midnight snack," Cordelia returned, rolling her eyes dramatically. "Said he was going to check out the selection in the Forbidden Forest."

"Ewww," Buffy whispered before quickly shrugging her shoulders, storing the information before beckoning for her troops to take their places, infinitely glad that she had been able to 'borrow' Harry's Marauder's map the night before in order to help she and the others perfect their arrangements. Turning, she watched as each girl moved until they were standing quietly at the foot of one canopied bed, her eyes following their movements and ensuring that each one was in the correct position. After all, they had spent hours the night before arguing who got which one and she didn't want all of that diplomacy having been for nothing. Nodding slowly, she then turned and jerked her thumb at Hermione and Ginny who quickly withdrew their wands from their long skirts. Turning, the girls then locked eyes with one another and together they muttered a short incantation while waving and flicking their wands just right. Seconds later the floor was covered in a thick blanket of bitterly cold snow, magically pulled in from the winter world outside and making Buffy instantly thankful that Willow had had the foresight to suggest everyone wearing their shoes before making the trek.

Grinning, Buffy felt the temperature in the room begin to drop as she motioned for each girl to go to the next step as they all quickly bent low and fashioned a small pile of wet, dripping snow balls. Then, as one unit they each hefted one large ball into one hand while the next reached for the thick, velvet curtain that hid the bed's occupant from the room. Grinning wickedly, Buffy nodded to each of the girls and then took a quick breath before facing her own shadowed bed.

"Now!" she shouted, her voice echoing like a gunshot around the circular room as each girl threw back the curtains and heaved the dripping snowball at the huddled form that had been hidden behind each curtain; Hermione pelting Ron, Willow nailing Xander, Cordelia smacking Wesley, Ginny slamming Percy, Faith pounding Gunn, Celeste soaking Charlie, and Tara beating Bill. And Buffy... grinning maniacally, Buffy watched in grim satisfaction as her own wet, snowy-cold snowball soared over the rich, heavy bed coverings and splintered upon contact with the back of Harry's sleepy head.

Yelping, the dark-haired wizard bolted from beneath his heavy coverings as the cold snow dripped down his back, dimly aware of similar exclamations, yelps, and curses being emitted from his many roommates around him. Shaking his head, Harry surged towards the table beside his bed and slid on his glasses - just in time to be pelted by another wet, dripping snowball - this one catching him at the base of his neck with the majority of the icy water sliding beneath the thin tee-shirt he wore. Cursing loudly, Harry looked up in time to catch Buffy's mischievous grin before she launched yet another snowball at him - this one nearly taking his head off as he yelped and ducked to the side.

"Men, we're under attack!" Xander hollered from across the room as he tried to duck the many snowballs Willow kept lobbing at her best friend. "Attack!" he roared as he dove forward and unceremoniously tackled Willow backwards and into a large bank of snow behind her, her laughing shriek adding to the mayhem as the guys finally overcame their initial shock and attempted to fight back. Instantly the room became a thunderously loud and confused mass of wrestling bodies, hurtled snow, shrieking laughs, and frozen gasps as everyone tousled and tried to soak their opponent the most.

Laughing so hard that she was having troubles breathing, Buffy easily rolled with Harry's tackle and then pinned him effortlessly beneath her, her shoulders shaking as Harry's eyes widened in horror at the snow that was pressed against his back and soaking through his thin clothing. "Merry Christmas, Harry - and I told you this wasn't over," she stated sweetly even as Harry's eyes narrowed upon hers. Recognizing that look of concentration, Buffy had only a moment to realize the implications before a wave of snow lifted her off her feet and sent her crashing into Faith and Gunn's wrestling forms. Staggering to her feet and more than a little wet, Buffy was about to dive bomb Harry once more when someone cleared their throat noisily from the open doorway behind her. Freezing, Buffy slowly turned as the room fell silent, her face flushing despite the room's cold as her eyes lit upon Professor McGonagall's disapproving form.

For a moment, the professor merely glared at the room and its occupants, her small, beady eyes traversing the bed hangings that were torn from their hooks, the snow that covered more than it didn't, and the sixteen young people that were spread around the room with their faces flushed, their wet clothing sticking to their bodies, and many of them gathered in quite a few indecent positions with their assailants... and then her disapproving frown twitched slightly, and then twitched again as the older woman seemed to struggle with something. Finally, she seemed to gain some measure of control as she called out in a choked voice that sounded much higher pitched then normal. "Everyone will be gathering for the Christmas feast in an hour. You won't want to be late."

Then, turning on her heel she began marching from the room, her shoulders shaking slightly before she stopped and turned back once more, unable to hide a small snicker as it twisted her lips. "And please see that you clear up this mess before the house elves see what you've done, will you?" she asked smartly before leaving the room in a thick, befuddled silence.

O o O o O o O

Sighing softly, Buffy tried to stifle her disappointment as she gazed fondly at the two people that stood before her. Willow, Xander and Buffy - that made three. Three original Scoobies gathered together again... and for far too short of a time. Sighing again, Buffy met Xander's warm brown eyes and Willow's shimmering green before all three came together in a big group hug. The final Christmas brunch had come and gone hours ago and as the daylight began to fade into coming night, the inevitable time to once more part had come upon them. The LA crew and the group from the Centre had been the first to leave, quickly followed by the Weasley family. In the end, only the group from Sunnydale, Ron, Hermione and Sirius remained behind - and even they had to be going soon. Buffy and Harry included, as Giles continued to point out from his position near the head of the Watcher's Council.

"Idontwantyoutogo," Willow whispered, her words a muffled cadence against Buffy's blonde head as her best friend slowly drew away.

"I second that," Xander added as he sent a fierce glare to where Giles and Samuel were waiting to accompany her and Harry back to the Council's headquarters. With their mission in Russia completed, it was once more time to debrief and be reassigned. Giles had hinted something about man-eating mummies, and she was really hoping that meant Egypt. After all, Egypt was warm. As in Sunnydale-in-the-middle-of-summer-warm, which was a blessing after the bitter cold of Russia - not to mention the frigid temperature in her watcher's mother country.

"I wish we could stay longer," Buffy agreed, wanting to add the unspoken desire to go back with her friends as well. Oddly enough, she kind of missed the Hellmouth. The past two days had been filled with stories of the UC that Willow attended, the construction site that Xander was the foreman at, and the large house that the Scoobies now occupied. To Buffy it all sounded wonderful, and secretly she desperately wanted to see it all... wanted to be a part of it all. Instead, she was forced to stay on the outside of this little Scooby gathering, heeding the fervent advice of a monk that had been dead for the past two months, while the other Scoobies got to be in on all of the action - not that the book-party really sounded like any kind of action that Buffy really wanted to be a part of. Still, there was something wrong with her friends working themselves to death on a problem that centered around Buffy while the slayer herself got to skip out on the hard stuff and play protector for the world. It seemed unfair, and while her friends had every right to be bitter by the way things were working out, they weren't. Instead, they were the same old Willow and Xander: a warm smile lifting her lips as Xander cracked his goofy grin. And in their eyes, all that showed was the love that they had for their missing Scooby.

"Well, as soon as we find the Knights of Bombay-"

"Knights of Byzantium," Willow automatically corrected with a small, exasperated sigh.

"Then we'll get all the good stuff, get rid of the Big Bads, and bring you home," Xander finished with a deceptively bright smile.

"Can I bring a Harry?" Buffy asked as she looked to where the wizard was embroiled in his own goodbyes to Ron and Hermione.

"Only if he's housebroken," Xander returned evenly as he placed a small kiss on the top of her head.

"And if not, I'm sure that Faith can help train him," Willow added as she nodded to where Faith, Celeste, and Bertrone were patiently waiting. "I hear she's good with a whip and-"

"Will, please," Xander cut in as he fervently shook his head. "Enough with the scary visuals!"

"You're telling me - he's my boyfriend," Buffy added as she glared darkly at the oblivious slayer. "If anyone's going to be using whips on Harry, it's so going to be me."

"And I really didn't need to overhear that," Sirius sighed, shaking his head as he bypassed the trio and made his way over to his godson and his friends. "Harry, can I have a moment?" he asked, nodding politely to Ron and Hermione as they both attempted to finish their goodbyes and scurry away. "Actually, if you wouldn't mind staying," he added, interrupting the young couple and holding them back with his words. "This is for you as well as Harry."

"What is?" Harry asked, his confused green eyes locked on his godfather's as the man fumbled in his dark robes for something.

But before Sirius could find what he was looking for, Bertrone joined their small circle as he touched the other wizard's shoulder. "Remus is looking for you," he stated, his gray eyes meeting Sirius' troubled blue as he nodded back in the direction from which he had come. "He mentioned that the gods are starting to get destructively restless where you last left them. It's time to make an appearance before they do too much damage."

Sirius nodded in wearied agreement even as he forced a smile for the teens. "Yes, I rather imagine that the States don't really need another Grand Canyon, do they?" he asked before finally locating what he had been looking for as he withdrew a small, poorly-wrapped parcel from the hidden depths of his worn cloak. "But I wanted you to have this before I left," he explained as he passed the package into Harry's hands.

Startled, Harry looked from the package to his godfather's smiling eyes before curtly shaking his head. "But we decided that no one would exchange gifts this year, what with everything-"

"Yes, but that rule doesn't apply to a godfather giving his godson a gift," Sirius interrupted with a bright smile. "Besides, I've been meaning to give this to you for awhile now. Open it!" he urged, his smile growing brighter as Harry gingerly fingered the heavy bundle.

"Well open it already," Hermione urged as she nudged her friend. "Unless... it's not going to explode or anything, will it?" she asked, frowning as she turned cautious eyes to the man that had been known for his pranks in his days.

"Not this time," Sirius agreed as Harry finally pulled the spellotape away to reveal a small, dirty square mirror within.

Confused, Harry slowly eyed the gift before turning back to his godfather. "Uh... thanks," he muttered, not really sure what kind of reaction his godfather had expected.

Sirius reached forward with a knowing grin and ran his fingers over the cool glass of the old mirror. "This is a two-way mirror," he explained with a fond smile. "I've got the other, and if you need to speak to me, just say my name into it; you'll appear in my mirror and I'll be able to talk in yours. That way, no matter where either of us are, we can always talk to one another," he finished as Harry beamed at his godfather. "Your father and I used to use them when we were in separate detentions," he added, grinning impishly as Harry impulsively reached forward and hugged his godfather close to him. (HP: OoTP p.858)

"It's brilliant," Harry breathed as he slowly pulled away, his eyes shining as Sirius gently ruffled his messy black hair.

"Now you take care of yourself and that girlfriend of yours," the aged marauder instructed, a small, wistful smile lifting his lips.

"You just worry about yourself," Harry retorted, his smile dimming as all of his worries for his godfather, forgotten for the past few days, came crashing down upon his young shoulders. "Be careful, Sirius."

"I always am," he returned as he ruffled Harry's hair once more before turning away from his godson. Sighing heavily, he began to follow the French watcher across the Great Hall and towards his old friend - only pausing to turn back to the godson that he would do anything to keep safe. "I'll see you soon," he added, his voice a hard line as he met Lily's emerald eyes, shining from her son's tanned face and containing so much worry. "I promise."
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