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Sacrifice Par Amarth

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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
LisetteFR1522146,09471819,64914 Aug 0328 Sep 03Yes

Chapter 14

Illustration
Sacrifice Par Amarth: Chapter 14
by Lisette

Legalese: See Chapter 1 for disclaimers and ratings.

O o O o O o O

"So I of course pointed out to Mister Creevey that such behavior-"

Sighing absently, Remus allowed Professor Sinistra's rambling diatribe about the youngest Creevey boy to wash over his tired shoulders as he strained to nod in all of the appropriate places. Not that the Astronomy Professor seemed to notice or care about his lack of attention. More times than not the witch was more concerned with listening to herself speak, rather than carrying an actual conversation - not that Remus really minded. It had been a long day with a double DADA class with the Slytherins and Gryffindors combined - never a good combination and something that he would truly have to speak with Dumbledore about someday. Whoever had thought it would be a good idea to place the two rival houses together in hopes of learning was far too optimistic of the age-long feud ever being solved that easily, even when the actual number of Slytherins were so minimal compared to past years. Something to do with the downfall of Voldemort, he was sure.

"-and that was before his older brother, Colin, decided to-"

Spearing a green piece of lettuce with the tongs of his fork, Remus nodded absently once more at the brief lull in her never-ending speech as he lifted his head, his gray eyes drifting around the bustling Great Hall. It was the evening meal time and from the looks of it, every student was in attendance this night, the din practically drowning out Sinistra's ramblings and creating a soothing background rumble. Munching quietly on the green, he turned his graying head to the side, nodding briefly at Dumbledore as the headmaster smiled knowingly at the DADA professor before returning to his own conversation with Minerva.

"-his bloody muggle camera that never seems to-"

The Astronomy Professor's never-ending monologues were legendary amongst the Hogwarts staff, and Remus was quite sure that it was due to his seemingly endless patience that he was somehow, inevitably, always seated beside the older witch. Not that he could really complain, for her ranting provided the perfect opportunity for the werewolf to finally relax for the first time that day, his mind drifting to what really mattered: namely, his very best friend who was still being held under lock and key in Madam Pomfrey's infirmary, as well as the son of his other best friend, a certain Harry Potter that was even then ensconced on some tropical beach thousands of miles away, protected by the very best of the Council of Watcher's wizards and witches. They were his family, the only ones that he had left, and the sight of Sirius' healing frame, still gaunt and sickly after a week beneath Pomfrey's care, was enough to cause his own frame to bend beneath the weight of his many worries. Worries for Sirius. Worries for Harry. Worries for them all.

"-and then I... Remus, are you even listening?" Sinistra demanded, finally drawing the DADA professor's attention as a faint blush heated his cheeks.

"My apologies," he murmured as he straightened in his seat, dismayed by the fact that for the first time, his inattention had been so obvious that the astronomy professor herself had noticed. "I-" he began, his words falling silent as the many candles that floated above the large room began to flicker. Confused, he found his eyes drawn to the winter swept night that was displayed on the enchanted ceiling, frowning as the candles flickered even more sporadically as some change in the air itself twisted his inner wolf's enhanced senses. Startled, he quickly pushed back from his chair, his wand appearing in one hand as the professors up and down the table did the same, the children falling quiet as a deathly silence spread throughout the entire Great Hall.

"Albus," Professor McGonagall whispered, her voice wavering slightly as she turned her small, beady eyes towards the headmaster for guidance as she swept her free hand out towards the terrified children, her question obvious.

"Minerva, I want-" the aged wizard began, only to fall silent as the flickering intensified as all eyes were drawn to two slender silhouettes that flickered for just a moment, right before the head table, before shifting into the unmistakable form of Harry Potter and Buffy Summers.

Startled, Remus could do nothing but stare as the silence stretched, all eyes locked on the two teens who were shivering madly and clinging weakly to one another, Harry clad only in a long pair of shorts while Buffy's skin was more exposed than not in what seemed to be nothing more than her black under things. "Harry?" he finally murmured, forcing the choked name past numb lips as the teen's wide green eyes followed the sound of his voice until he locked on his former professor's face. A flash of stark fear fading into something that resembled relief - before quickly fading into something unreadable as Buffy sagged in his arms.

"Help us," Harry returned, his words a whispered plea as the color drained from his face and his knees began to buckle.

Without thinking, Remus was vaulting over the table, dishes and cutlery crashing to the floor as he crossed the distance to Harry and Buffy in seconds - and froze as he met Snape, of all people, right beside the young couple. For a moment, he and his former nemesis merely stared at each other, the potion master's face unreadable. But then even that was forgotten as whatever strength had been keeping Harry and Buffy standing quickly fled, the two teens collapsing as pandemonium erupted around them as the students and faculty alike jumped to their feet and hurried to get a better view.

Grunting, Harry felt his eyes slip shut as his quick descent to the hard stone floor was arrested by a pair of familiar, thin arms. Sighing tiredly, he slowly forced his tired eyes to blink open, Remus' concerned face blinking into view as his former professor supported Harry's weight. Closing his eyes once more, Harry forced his legs to hold him as Remus helped him to stand, trying and failing not to sag against the older man as one of his arms was draped across the werewolf's bent shoulders.

"Harry? Harry!"

Harry forced his eyes open once more, this time being greeted by the worried faces of Hagrid and Ginny Weasley, as well as Remus, who continued to support his weight. Shaking his head slowly, Harry tried to focus past his debilitating weakness and instead turned his head wearily until his eyes locked on Buffy's small frame, cradled in Snape's arms and surrounded by Dumbledore and McGonagall.

"-to the infirmary."

"No," Harry quickly whispered, quietly at first. "No," he repeated, his voice growing stronger as Dumbledore finally turned away from his and McGonagall's inspection of the small slayer. "Not there," Harry clarified, trying to get his mind to move faster in order to keep up with his mouth... or maybe he was really trying to get his mouth to keep up with his mind. To be honest, he wasn't quite sure as everything seemed to be very muddled at the moment. All he really wanted to do was go to sleep for at least a week if for no other reason than to allow his tired limbs to rest. Then again, Harry hated being the center of attention, and with all of the worried and concerned gazes that he could just feel on his tired body, he knew that sleep would have to wait. Especially if Buffy... Buffy.

Straightening a little more, Harry lifted his head to find Dumbledore still staring at him in concern, idly realizing that some time must have passed as they all awaited his explanation. Shaking his head slowly, Harry forced his trembling legs to hold him as his gaze drifted once more to the tiny blonde that lay so still in his former professor's black-clad arms, her eyes closed and her breathing soft and even. "We just.. we just need a moment to get our strength back," he continued, forcing himself to concentrate on his words as he turned back to the old headmaster. "We had to apparate," he explained, shaking his head slowly as he glanced back towards the sleeping blonde, "and I had to use too much from us both to go that far. We just need... just need a moment."

Sighing softly through pinched lips, Professor McGonagall finished her inspection of the girl before grudgingly nodding her head in agreement. "It does seem as though she's merely sleeping," she murmured as she undid the clasp of her own outer cloak and draped it over the girl's indecently clad form, unable to prevent the small blush from staining her cheeks.

"Please," Harry pleaded, his eyes locked with Dumbledore's. "Buffy will freak if she wakes in there again."

Smiling softly at the boy's odd choice in words, evidence of the many months he had spent in the American girl's company, Dumbledore slowly nodded his head in acquiescence. "Bring them to the slayer's old chamber," he stated, his words soft as Snape nodded curtly and turned away in a swirl of billowing black robes, the mobs of curious students instantly parting before him. Inclining his head towards Dumbledore, Remus waited until Hagrid joined him at Harry's other side, the half-giant easily supporting the rest of Harry's weight as the three began to slowly follow after the potions professor. "Minerva, if you could handle this," Dumbledore added, waving towards the students who were even then beginning to whisper madly amongst themselves, Harry's name rolling off of many lips, "and then contact Mister Giles and Mister Fellows at the Council of Watchers."

"Of course, Albus," the stern witch replied promptly before turning back to the student body, working to gain order.

"And Miss Weasley," the headmaster added as he turned to the 7th year Gryffindor. "Would you please go to the Infirmary and see that Sirius knows of his godson's... arrival?" he asked, his blue eyes twinkling.

Nodding shyly, Ginny quickly turned and hurried away, leaving the headmaster free to sweep from the halls in his own magenta robes, his feet carrying him down many a little known shortcut until he was soon falling into step beside his Potions Master, his blue eyes falling gravely onto the slayer's pale features. By necessity alone, he and some of his staff were well aware of the mantle that had been placed on this small girl's shoulders. Now, not only was she cursed with the fate of a slayer, but she was also burdened with the knowledge that she had been entrusted a mystical key. No, not entrusted. She now was this Key that was so desired by a pair of Hell Gods. And by Harry's love for the slayer, that also meant that the young wizard, the hope and hero of the wizarding world, was just as deeply entrenched as the slayer. Which in turn meant that they both would have the unquestionable aid of every wizard and witch who knew of their dilemma.

Groaning softly, the small slayer opened her eyes, blinking at her surroundings as she began to weakly pull against the arms that held her. "Harry?" she murmured, her confusion evident as she caught glimpses of stone walls and passages - and then full-out recoiled as she took notice of the person that was carrying her.

"Shh," Snape murmured, his voice silkily soft as his arms tightened around the small slayer, stilling her movements as the headmaster opened the portrait door before him, waving him towards an open door to his right that led into a bed chamber that sported a large canopied bed done in the soft blue of a summer day. In just a few long strides he quickly crossed the large room and then settled the girl onto the soft mattress, ensuring that McGonagall's dark robes covered the girl's tanned skin as much as possible before stepping away - only to have his efforts thwarted as the others hurried into the room, Potter stumbling to the bed and pulling Buffy into his arms, the cloak falling away to reveal the girl in all of her inappropriateness.

"Buffy, are you alright?" Harry asked as the small slayer sagged against him, her arms wrapping loosely around his shoulders as she rested her golden blonde head against his bared chest.

"I thought you said we weren't going to do that again," she returned, smiling softly as his body heat began to warm her chilled skin.

"I did," Harry agreed, returning her smile as relief blossomed within him. He knew from previous experience that drawing upon Buffy's power - upon her core - was something that was never meant to happen for a slayer, and something that drained Buffy and left her feeling far weaker than normal. He knew that, yet at the same time, he had thought it would be different this time as instead of relying completely on her, he had drawn upon his own strength as well. Yet apparently, tandem apparition just wasn't meant to happen over such long distances - a fact that he hadn't taken into effect when considering the effects it would have on the both of them. "Yet I did say that I wouldn't do it unless we were faced with another dark evil wizard that needed to be conquered - and while not wizards, I think escaping Hell Gods counts-" he began, only to have the rest of his argument forgotten as Sirius charged through the door, Ginny Weasley hot on his heels.

"Harry! What's going on?" Sirius demanded as he shoved Snape into a wall in his haste to reach his godson, his hands frantically reaching for Harry as he cupped his chin between his hands.

Which was really just as well because even as Harry was pulled away by his godfather, Giles was already bursting into the room, Samuel Fellows hot on his heels as the watcher froze for a moment before throwing himself at his slayer. "Good Lord, Buffy! What's happened?" he cried as he settled on the bed on the other side of Buffy, Harry and Sirius, his hands pulling the small slayer into a quick, fierce hug before pushing her back, his hands locked on her small, bare shoulders as his eyes swept over her pale features.

"Giles, I'm fine," Buffy returned, smiling slightly as her watcher ignored her assurances as his speckled gaze swept over her lean form, his expression turning puzzled.

"Good Heavens, Buffy. Whatever are you wearing?" he murmured, unconsciously drawing the attention of the many people in the room and directing it towards her scantily clad frame.

"What are you both wearing?" Sirius added, a small, confused frown pulling at his own lips as he took in his godson's half-clad form.

"Our swimsuits," Buffy replied for the both of them, a small blush staining her cheeks as she quickly snatched up the ends of McGonagall's black cloak and drew it up to her chin.

"Why, pray tell?" Giles persisted, smiling wryly at the blush that was staining his slayer's pale cheeks.

"Obviously, because we just finished going swimming-"

"-and have been lying on the beach ever since," Harry finished, shrugging absently as Sirius' frown deepened.

"Beach?" he murmured, his blue eyes narrowing upon the two. "Where have you two been?" he asked as he shot his best friend a nasty glare. In the past week, Remus had merely told him that Harry and Buffy had gone underground with the Council's protection, always refusing to say more until he got better. And while he was still sore and aching from the Hell Gods' brutal torture, that didn't mean that his mind was in any way incapacitated. And seeing as how it was in the dead of winter in Great Britain, and everywhere else in the northern hemisphere, that could only mean that his godson had been staying in a location far, far away from the castle.

"A little island in the Caribbean," Harry returned, unwittingly confirming his godfather's line of thinking as he stretched his weary limbs. "Which is apparently a pretty long way to apparate from," he added with a wry smile at Buffy as she frowned at her boyfriend.

"Apparently," she agreed dryly before turning back to her watcher. "We just had the distinct pleasure of meeting a certain pair of Hell Gods," she announced as she waved her hand absently before allowing it to flop back into her lap.

"And the Watchers that were with you?" Samuel murmured, fearing that he already knew the answer as Buffy turned sad eyes towards him. For a moment, she seemed to only be able to meet his heavy gaze before she slowly shook her head.

"I'm sorry," she murmured, leaning against her Watcher as the older man draped an arm around her and held her against his side. "There was nothing we could do," she added before sighing heavily, leaning her head against Giles' shoulder. "And now they know that I'm the Key and they're looking for me," she finished as she closed her eyes and relaxed against her watcher, a thick silence falling upon the room.

"So what do we do now?" Sirius asked, breaking the terrible silence before it could smother them all. "Can't they just stay here-"

"No," Buffy interrupted, her voice vehement as she straightened, her eyes flashing. "I'm not putting anyone else in danger because of me."

"Besides," Harry added as he dropped a light, comforting hand on Buffy's bare shoulder, "not even Hogwarts is safe." He turned and nodded apologetically at Dumbledore, who had been so silent since entering the room. "The watchers were all trained wizards and they barely even slowed them down. Magic won't win this fight."

"We need to go somewhere where no one knows where we are," Buffy continued as she shot her watcher a worried glance. "We just endanger everyone by-"

"You're not disappearing again," Giles cut in, his voice flat and unwavering as Sirius vehemently nodded his agreement, Harry meanwhile breaking into his own arguments with his godfather.

"Giles-"

"You're not, and that's final," the watcher countered, his eyes turning hard as he glared at his slayer. "I will not have-"

"The monks were right," Buffy interrupted, the cloak forgotten as her arms crossed stubbornly across her chest. "We need to go underground in a place where no one knows our location."

"And I say-"

Clearing his throat loudly, Dumbledore stopped the arguments before they could escalate as he gently rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet, waiting patiently for all eyes to turn towards him. "It sounds to me," he began, a small, serene smile lifting his lips and pulling at the corners of his long beard, "that what you need is a secret keeper."

"Brilliant," Sirius declared, a large smile lifting his lips. "We'll send you off someplace like we did Harry's parents, and this time, I'll be the keeper and-"

"No you won't," Remus cut in, his features tight as he hesitantly stepped forward, stopping his best friend before he could get fully carried away. "If I might remind you, you shouldn't even be out of the infirmary right now. Padfoot, you almost died a week ago and you're not strong enough to work the magic-"

"Moony, if you don't stop-"

"Remus is right," Giles cut in, his gaze softening as he noticed Sirius' sickly pallor and the dark bruises that were still visible on his gaunt cheeks. "You're not well," he began, only to lift a hand to forestall the man's arguments before they could start. "Which is why I'll be the secret keeper."

Scowling, it looked as though Sirius was about to protest further when Harry silenced his godfather with a small hand on the older man's arm. "Sirius, it's alright," he stated, his voice quiet as his godfather reluctantly turned, his tired blue eyes staring worriedly at his godson. "You've already done your part, and besides," he added, a wry grin lifting his lips as he jerked a thumb back to where the watcher was absently stroking Buffy's hair as she leaned heavily against him, the small slayer obviously struggling to remain awake. "Do you really think that Giles would ever give up our location knowing what it would mean? That he'd ever break?"

Sighing softly, Sirius slowly shook his head as he shrugged out of his own outer cloak and wrapped it around his godson's bare shoulders. It didn't matter that Harry was now eighteen and a man in his own right. In Sirius' eyes, he would always be the skinny, scared thirteen year old that had granted mercy to the man that had killed his parents - and that had stepped out on a limb and given trust to a stranger, the man he had spent the past few months believing that had played a part in their murders. "No, I don't suppose he would," he agreed as he pulled his godson against him, smiling contentedly as Harry leaned tiredly against his frame.

And for a moment, a blissful silence fell upon the large bed chamber - a silence that was of course broken by a sleepy yawn and an even sleepier question as Buffy cautiously opened one green eye. "So what's this secret thing?"

O o O o O o O

With a small clink of shifting ice, the amber liquid sloshed over the small cubes and crept towards the lip of the tumbler before running over the top and down the side of the cool glass. Ignorant of the mess, a shaking hand dropped the heavy bottle and then seized the tumbler with the other, eyes narrowing as the glass was brought to thin lips and as the cool liquid burned a fiery trail before settling in a stomach that was already protesting from too many days of similar abuse. Not that it mattered. For no matter how much of the expensive, imported scotch that Monsieur Robert Bertrone poured down his miserable throat, the promised relief was never more than a fleeting hope that soon left him feeling more drained then before.

Two weeks. Two long and unbelievably hellish weeks had passed since his petite Celeste, his slayer, had selflessly given herself for her duty. A selfless act that went so horribly wrong. It had been two weeks since his slayer had fallen, two weeks since she was destroyed in the most cruel way possible, two weeks since the part that was irrevocably Celeste had been stolen from her... and two weeks that he knew his slayer continued to live on, imprisoned in a body that offered no escape from the hell. He had tried to save his slayer that night, abandoning every rule ever laid before him as he left his cozy seat by the sidelines and rushed forward - only to arrive too late. And then, when no one else had been brave enough to set his Celeste free - when no one else had loved Celeste enough to see her suffering end... he had tried to give her that final gift. To give her that final release. And he had been denied.

Hand clenching at his side, Bertrone angrily knocked back another tumbler, feeling the alcohol burn down his throat and not caring. The other slayer, the putain that called herself Faith, had stopped him before he could finish his gift. The doctors and their damn American beliefs celebrated as they brought his Celeste back, returning her to her prison as they praised their mighty gifts - gifts that rivaled a God. A God... it had been a God that had taken away his Celeste, and another God that had returned her to her hell.

Bertrone had awoken later that night to find himself surrounded by his fellow watchers, their faces pitying and compassionate. Fellows had been there, a fool of a man that had commiserated with Bertrone's loss and had had the nerve to absolve him for his attempted sin. He said that he understood how grief could lead to a temporary sort of madness, and that all was well. Celeste still lived. As if that made anything well. Only then had Fellows seen his anger, his grief at what had been allowed to happen... and he hadn't understood. Instead, Fellows had sent him back to his ancestral home in France with idle promises that the Council would now see to Celeste's needs. They would see to his young Slayer for the rest of her days, and when Bertrone returned to his senses, he would be reunited with his slayer.

His slayer.

Apparently what Fellows refused to understand was that his slayer was dead and all that remained was a shell of the girl that had lived so brightly beneath his wing. The girl that had been tall and beautifully graceful, strong and swift, deadly and kind, but most of all - the girl that had possessed a mind far keener than people three times her young age. No, his slayer was dead to him, her essence stolen from her in a way that left a mockery of the vibrant girl in her place. She was dead, and all thanks to the two Hell Gods that... were standing right behind him.

"Have you come to finish what you have started? To reunite me with my Celeste?" he murmured, his voice remarkably clear and strong as his shaking hands poured yet another tumbler of the strong drink, his cold gray eyes meeting their own in the mirror before him.

"All of that effort to find you... merely to kill you?" Dahmascus asked, laughing softly as he settled into an antique chintz chair, his eyes absently skipping over the many fine things that littered the small study. "I think not."

"We were actually looking for your assistance," Serantine continued as she settled elegantly on a sturdy settee, her long pale legs stretching out beside her lean form as she ran a hand through her thick masses of curly red hair.

Snorting softly, Bertrone turned away from his dark-paneled mantle, the small, sticky tumbler clutched in one hand with the cool amber liquid sloshing unnoticed over the top and splashing his dark shoes. "Then apparently you have wasted your time and effort," he stated, his voice cool as he raised his glass in a mock toast. "For as someone should have mentioned, I have been suspended from the Council. I cannot be of help to you," he added before curtly downing his drink, a small grimace twisting his features as he turned back to refresh his glass.

"Then perhaps we can help each other," Serantine suggested with a small, enchanting smile.

Snorting once more, Bertrone shook his head wryly as he poured himself another drink. "Madame, I have been a watcher for over thirty years," he stated, his voice clipped and frosty as he turned and leveled a glare at the two gods. "My father was a watcher, and my father's father was a watcher. Despite my current relations with the Council, I would never betray everything that I have ever believed in for any reason."

"Even for your Slayer?" Dahmascus asked, freezing the French watcher in the act of raising his glass to his lips as the man turned narrowed eyes towards him. "It's really quite simple," he continued, waving his hand absently before him. "We don't belong here. We belong in our world and all we wish to do is return home."

"Time is running short," Serantine added, "and all we need to get home is the Key."

"You mean Miss Summers," Bertrone clarified, his expression unwavering.

"Whatever," she sighed, waving away his words as she sent Dahm an exasperated expression. "The point is, if we don't use the Key to get home at the time of the alignment, we're stuck on this little planet of yours for another five hundred years."

"You can't kill us," Dahm added indifferently as he inspected his short nails, his tone almost bored. "No one can and we will continue to survive on the essence of your kind. You know," he murmured, his eyes lifting as a small smile twisted his lips, "those like your Slayer. Celeste, wasn't it?"

Eyes narrowing, Bertrone felt his anger build as he took a threatening step towards the smug God. "And what will happen when the portal opens?" he asked, his voice icy.

"When the portal opens, the doors to all realms will be open and hell will be unleashed upon your world," Ser replied casually. "But only until the portal is closed. Besides, isn't that what you people are for? Fighting evil?" she persisted, her smile widening. "We just need the portal open long enough to return to our home and then you will be rid of us and we will be rid of you. Forever."

"A few minutes of Hell on Earth in return for salvation," Dahm added as he spread his hands before him. "Is this decision really that difficult?"

Stunned by the knowledge the Hell Gods were so willingly providing, Bertrone found himself weakly settling into a worn armchair without even realizing that he had moved from the mantle. So much information - information that they had been searching for, for so long. If the others could only know - if he could only get the information to Giles or... "But the Key is a part of the Slayer now," he murmured, his distracted thoughts finding focus as he slowly raised his head, gray eyes meeting violet. "How do you plan on extracting the key?"

"You let us worry about that once we get our Key," Dahm returned, waving his hand absently before him.

"And the Slayer?"

"What's the life of one Slayer when you'd be saving the lives of countless others like your Celeste?" Ser quickly returned as her slow smile began to build until it was blinding - blinding and seductive. "Or Celeste herself?" she murmured, watching as the man froze in his seat. "We can give back what we took from her," she continued, smiling slyly.

"Think of it," Dahmascus added, leaning forward slightly in his chair. "An even trade: a slayer for a slayer."

Mind whirling, Bertrone settled back in his chair, his hands hanging limply at his sides. To regain his slayer... but at what cost? Betraying everything that he had ever stood for? But for what? For the protection of a slayer that he barely knew? One that had already lived and fought for over five years - far longer than the average slayer. The girl would die, sooner or later - such a thing was inevitable. But could he really betray her to the gods that had stolen his Celeste in the first place? Yet he now knew what the others didn't. Truly, wasn't it the better choice to simply give the Gods what they wanted and send them on their way? A few minutes of Hell on Earth for the cost of one slayer - and in return they would rid their world of two unstoppable demons that would have ruined the lives of thousands of others over the course of the next five hundred years when they would simply try again - if they could even try again. What would happen to the Key when Buffy finally did follow the fate of her predecessors and succumbed to the nature of all slayers? Would the Key die with her, cursing their world to an eternity with the hell gods, or move on in another form? Which was the worse Evil?

Stumbling to his feet, Bertrone hastily made his way back to the mantle, his hands shaking as he poured himself another drink. What would his father have done? Would he have turned his back on the Council? Aligned himself with the Evil that he fought? Betray a Slayer and everything he held dear in the hopes that the ends justified the means? Could he really do such a thing? Shaking his head, Bertrone lifted the tumbler to his lips - and then froze as his eyes fell on a silver, gilded frame that sat so innocently beside the nearly empty bottle.

"Celeste," he whispered, his tumbler forgotten as his hands lifted the frame and cradled it in his hands, his eyes lovingly tracing over the young, smiling face that beamed back at him. In the end, the answer was so simple. It didn't matter what his father, or even his grandfather would do. It didn't matter what anyone would do. All that mattered was the innocent face that smiled up at him from the simple photograph. Once, not that long ago, Bertrone had come to the realization that he would die for his Slayer. In turn, it seemed that he would betray Heaven itself if it meant getting her back. "A slayer for a slayer," he murmured, his eyes never leaving the photograph, and thus never seeing the slow smiles that lifted the faces of the Gods that had destroyed her.
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