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This story is No. 2 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: The second (much longer) installment in the Waifs and Strays AU. Covers season 1. Please READ THE SERIES INTRODUCTION!

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501409,70528 May 115 Jul 14No

Home improvements and Curious apprentices

A note on chronology:

For the purposes of this story line I’ve set the Battle with Lothos in the Schoolyear 1994-1995, the first season in 1995-1996. I’ve condensed the storyline of the first season episodes: The first eight episodes all take place between the start of the school term and January 1996, making Buffy fifteen years old. (References to sixteen will be retroactively changed, I want to write that birthday. ;-)) This means that I’ll write a Halloween chapter, a Christmas chapter and a Buffy’s Birthday chapter. I’ll probably write a short Xander centric fic about his birthday later. Or do it at Christmas.

I hope this AU meets with approval?

Chapter 14: Home Improvement and Curious Apprentices

Buffy walked up to Amy as the other girl was rummaging through her locker the next morning.

“Heya Ames, how ya doin’”

“Hey Buff. Fine. More than fine.”

Amy still had the happy to be alive and all is much better grin that she’d worn since her mother’s disappearance and her father’s return to her life.

“Can we talk? In private?” Buffy looked apologetic.

Amy blinked, then shrugged. “Sure.” She pointed at the empty classroom across the hall. “In there?”

“Yah.”

They went into the classroom and Buffy sat on a desk, legs swinging.

“Amy… You’ve seen my Mom’s boyfriend, right?”

Amy nodded. “Yeah? Guy who drops you off some times? A touch old, but still good.”

Buffy chuckled. “He knows about…” She waved a hand vaguely. “You know.”

Amy crossed her arms across her chest. “And?”

“He wants to see you, get you a magic teacher. ‘Cause, you’re like gonna be a powerful witch”

Amy paled and her eyes widened. “H-how do you know?”

“Didn’t. Simon’s of an old, old magic-y family. Your Mom couldn’t have done the things she did in your bod if you couldn’t do magic, and pretty big magic too.”

“Oh. Why the training?”

“’Cause your Mom did horrible dark magic-y things in your body and Simon says that leaves sort of traces and without trainin’ you may go dark like your Mom.”

Amy gasped and started trembling. “NO!!” Buffy was off the table and kept the taller girl from collapsing.

“Easy Ames, easy. I’ve got you. That’s why I’m here, ‘cause Simon wants to keep you white.”

Amy took a couple of deep breaths. “Okay.” She shuddered. “Can he… come to my home? Talk to my dad? He left Mom ‘cause…”

“Yah, don’t think that’ll be a problem. You still live where you used to?”

”Yeah. Dad moved back in.”

“No step mother?”

“Nah, Mom just thought that, he left ‘cause Mom was a bitch.” Amy sighed, straightening. “So when?”

“This afternoon? Simon said it ought to be as soon as possible.”

“Okay.”

“I’m sorry, Ames.”

“No.” Amy shook her head. “I don’t wanna be like my mother. Not ever. And if this… Not ever!”

Buffy gave the bigger girl a firm hug. “I hear ya girl. I hear ya.”

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Buffy stood in front of the gate to the Madison house, looking up at the attic where Catherine

Madison had brewed her evil. Simon was at her side and Willow next to him. The gate had been altered, the devil’s head had been changed into the form of a standing angel and a layer of primer had been applied to the whole of it. She knew Simon wanted to do this and she knew he wanted to have both of them here to make it less frightening for Amy. And he did not want to let Willow out of his sight or away from Joyce and the gallery wasn’t closed yet.

Buffy took a deep breath and reached to open the gate but Simon stopped her, closing his eyes and extending a hand. “Interesting… Let’s go in.”

 

He opened the gate and walked up the path, ringing the bell. The door was opened by a tired looking large framed middle aged man. He had once been in excellent physical shape, but too much beer and too little activity had given him a large belly. His blond hair was graying at the temples, his face was red veined and careworn and his nose had been broken and showed the effects of too much drink. His eyes were a deep blue and he wore worn jeans and a red lumber jack shirt over work boots.

“Yes?”

“Mr. Madison? My name is Simon Meier. I’m here to talk about Amy.”

The man looked at him warily, then at the sun. “Patrick Madison.” He stood aside but did not invite them in. Buffy nodded approvingly and entered without invitation, as did Willow. Simon smiled, amused. “May I come in Mr. Madison. The sun is still up?”

Amy’s father looked. “Do you need an invitation?”

Simon scratched his nose. “Well… my mother would be terribly disappointed if I just waltzed in. Bad manners you know. And… it weakens my magic.” He looked apologetic.

Patrick nodded. “Threshold. Of course. Please, come in.”

Willow looked at them in surprise. “Y-you know about magic?”

Patrick grimaced. “You’re Willow right? You used to come to Amy’s birthdays?”

Willow nodded. “Yes, Mr. Madison.”

“Well I was married to a witch for years, so yeah, I know about magic.”

Simon sat down in the living room where Amy was seated, eating brownies from a plate, looking apprehensive. Patrick sat down next to his daughter and Willow and Buffy next to Simon.

“Mr. Madison, what do you know about magical training?”

“Usually it’s done by parents. Mother to daughter, father to son. I had a lot of fights with Catherine about what she wanted to teach Amy.” He snorted. “She stopped teaching Amy ‘cause she thought she was too weak.”

Simon nodded understandingly. “Mr. Madison, I’d like for Amy to get training, to prevent her from going the way her mother did.”

Madison looked wary. “The local coven is a bunch of hippies. Don’t believe in the real stuff. Only magic users around here are wack-jobs or in deep hidin’”

Simon smiled. “You looked for a teacher for her.”

Madison nodded, taking Amy’s hand. His daughter looked at him wide eyed. “Sure did. Didn’t want my little girl becoming like her Mom. Don’t know why I stopped, really. Don’t know why I left her here.”

Simon pursed his lips. “May I?” He extended a hand towards the younger man and after a brief Moment of thought the blond nodded.

Simon put a hand on Madison’s temple and grimaced. “Urgh…nasty. She performed a number of spells upon you, over a period of time. Her death removed the foundation of the charms, so they’re dissipating. If you want I can hasten the process…” He looked a question at the other man who perked up. Amy gasped and grasped his hand more tightly. 

“Right now?” Amy asked, her eyes were wide with worry and her teeth bit her lip.

Simon shook his head. “No, sorry. I’m not a very powerful magic user; I need to tap into ley lines. Can you come to Hooghwater Huis? We can go there now if you want.”

“Hooghwater?” Where’s that?” Madison looked confused.

Buffy rolled her eyes. “That’s his family’s name for it. We ordinary mortals call it Banker’s Manor.”

Madison looked surprised and a bit sad for a second. “Yeah, sure. But first we need to talk about Amy.”

“Of course.”

“Who’d do the teaching? You?”

“If she wants. I haven’t been able to locate any reputable practitioners myself, so the nearest teachers I know of are members of the LA coven.”

“You taught before?”

“Yes, never a full apprentice though, I used to be too busy. However I’ve decided to train Willow here and I can take another apprentice at the same time without problems.”

Madison looked at his daughter. “Sounds good to me.”

Willow had been fidgeting since the apprenticeship conversation had started.

Simon was about to say something when Willow shook her head. “T-there’s some things Amy ought to know before she becomes Simon’s apprentice.” She blushed fiercely and rose, taking Amy by the hand and dragging her off. Buffy sniggered a bit and Simon looked confused. Buffy tilted her head, extending her Slayer senses to listen to what Willow was whispering into Amy’s ear.

“His family is really old. And they’ve got like this ritual, the apprentice bond and he knows when you’ve used magic and if you use it without permission you get punished.”

Amy looked askance at her friend’s odd behaviour and whispered back. “Yeah? So? Sounds like a smart thing to do, magic’s dangerous, and you saw what my mother did.”

“Yeah, but… the old families use you know… s-spanking…” Willow looked down at her feet, highly embarrassed.

Amy blinked flushing herself. Then she grinned. “So’s you’re problem getting caught or not getting caught? ‘Cause that’s not so bad a thing.” She glanced at Simon’s trim form.

Willow blushed furiously. “AMY!”

“Thought so.” She grinned widely at Willow and winked at Buffy who was manfully trying to restrain her laughter. “Mr. Meier? If dad doesn’t mind, I’d love to be taught by you.”

Buffy did laugh out loud at Willow’s mortified look. Mr. Madison scratched his head. “Well, if you want to honey, sure.”

Simon looked from Buffy to Willow to Amy. Amy flushed a little more, but still grinned. Then he shrugged. “Very well. Amy, if you would?” He held out his hand and Amy put her own against it. Once again the little white tendrils crawled over his hand, this time around Amy’s fingers and his and then dissipated. A very light tinge of grey was visible and Simon nodded. “That grey means that you’ve done black magic, or at least the body has. If your mind had done so as well, considering the spells she used… it would have been black.  If you refrain from doing so for a while, it will disappear.”

Amy tensed and then relaxed. “I feel all… tingly.” She winked at Willow who glared at her. Simon sighed and muttered something about teenagers. Mr. Madison gave Amy a reproving look though there was relief in his eyes.

Simon looked back at him. “Shall we go? There’s still enough light to safely perform the needed rituals and get you back.”

Madison nodded and the group left. “We can go in my car, it’s large enough.” Simon stated as Madison walked towards his old Ford pick up truck, which was in bad condition.

Madison looked at the old Volvo and smiled. “Classic European. Nice.”

Simon glanced at Buffy and Willow who rolled their eyes. “See? It is a good car.”

The teens got in the back and Madison rode shot gun. 

“So did you forge the gate yourself?”

Madison nodded. “Yeah. I’m a metalworker. I own a construction company.” He sighed. Amy winced.

“Interesting. You did work on your own home?”

“Yeah. I made a bid for working on Banker’s Manor. Couldn’t do enough work, company’s too small.”

Amy cringed on the back seat.

“There’re a lot of smaller buildings on the estate, I’ll make sure you get some work there.”

“I don’t need pity work.” Madison bristled.

“Not pity. Mr. Madison… there’s magic in your house and in that gate.”

“W-what?” Madison asked, stammering in surprise.

“You have magic.” Simon enunciated the words clearly. He looked at the man’s stunned face and took in the amazed faces of the teens behind him in the rear view mirror.

“There are many types of magic, using devices, spells, rituals, only the mind. You employ a type of magic called infusion. You cannot actively cast spells, I think, but you can infuse an item with magic, an item, object or house that you create. It’s a very rare gift.”

Madison gaped at him. “B-but how?”

“Probably faerie or goblin blood.”

“WHAT?” Amy and her father shouted in unison.

Simon winced at the noise. “Mr. Madison… you know magic is real… why did you make us walk into your home without invitation? And why were we not surprised?”

The other man grimaced and looked at Amy. “’Cause of the vampires.”

Amy gasped. “V-vampires?”

“Yeah. Why do you think I always want you to be home before dark, honey? Or tell you not to let anyone in after dark.”

Simon nodded approvingly. “Very wise. And there are other magical creatures in the world, often quite well hidden very rare, or now extinct. Some of those mingled with humanity a long time ago, leaving traces of their power in the blood. Sometimes it runs strong in the family, sometimes it fades only to reemerge after generations.”

“Wow.” Willow was stunned. “So can you find out if it’s goblin or Faerie?”

Simon looked at the Madisons, and then smiled gently at Willow. “Not just to satisfy your curiosity, no.”

Patrick Madison grinned. “I’d like to know. If there’s no reason not to?”

“None that I know off. Neither goblins not Fae are inherently evil. Just different. I’d say goblin, offhand, but that’s just because you work with metal. Goblins had more affinity with that.”

“Ah, the cold iron thing-y is true then?” Willow and Amy interrupted simultaneously.

Simon sighed and Madison chuckled. “Got your work cut out for you there.”

“Simon. Call me Simon. I’m going to teach your daughter magic. It’s a relationship of trust.”

“Patrick. Or Pat. So. This infusion stuff… Is there money in that?” He looked hopeful.

Simon looked thoughtful. “Oh yes indeed. There will be an awful lot of work for you in the magical community, building houses, forging, if you want this known. That gate is pure genius. What were you thinking while forging it?”

Madison thought for a bit. “Keeping bad things out. Vamps. Keeping Amy safe. Letting me know when she came in.” Amy glared at him.

“I sensed something about dogs and Jehova’s witnesses…”

Madison snorted. “There’s this dog that pisses on the gate and shits right in front of it. And I like sleeping in of a weekend when I get the chance.”

Amy giggled. “You put up a ward against Jehova’s witnesses? And the Camperman’s dog?”

Simon smiled slyly. “That alone is money in the bank.”

Madison laughed. “Never thought of it that way.”

Simon turned the car into the gateposts. The great steel hinges were set, but no gates as yet. “I’ll have my Estate manager contact you for help on the gates. Paid consultant’s fee, of course, if he has already got a supplier. But you may get the whole contract if you can make the bid.”

Pat looked thoughtful. “Don’t think I have the forge for it. Is it a restoration or replacement job?”

Simon blinked. “I honestly don’t know. I’ll have Miller contact you.”

“Won’t he…mind? You know, me getting a job just like that?”

Simon snorted. “Once he knows what you can do you’ll have work coming out of your ears. Did Amy help with the gate? I felt something feminine.”

Amy blinked. “I sat with him while he forged. I used to do that when I was little, until Mom stopped me.”

“Merged forging. I’d like to observe you forging, with and without Amy there, if you don’t mind.” He looked eager, and Buffy noted the same expression on Willow’s face.

Pat shrugged. “If I’ve got the work, sure. Lots of people like to see me forge.”

Simon grinned. “I get that when I do my pottery.”

Buffy and Willow looked amazed. “You do pottery?”

“Yes. It’s very soothing.”

He pulled the car over in front of the house and Pat whistled. “Even bigger than I thought. No wonder I didn’t get the job. Haven’t got the men for it.”

The great doors of the house opened and Miller appeared, in a suit, with a helmet on his head. Buffy jumped from the car. “Heya Miller.”

“Miss Buffy. Miss Willow. Dr Meier.” He looked a question at Simon who shrugged.

“This is Mr. Patrick Madison and his daughter Amy. I will be teaching her alongside Willow.”

Miller’s smooth face flickered in surprise. “Two apprentices sir? Really?”

“Yes Miller, two of them. By the way, I’d like Mr. Madison to act as consultant on the work here.”

Miller perked up. “Indeed sir? Does he know of anyone with skills in blacksmithing? I still need a suitable contractor for the gates. Only one local company has space but lacks the skill for fine metalwork.”

Simon looked at Patrick. “I’ll leave you to sort the details. But keep in mind I need Mr. Madison to help with work on the private project I mentioned this morning. His skills are… eminently suitable.”

Miller looked at Madison with even more interest. “Indeed sir? Interesting. Will Mr. Madison be on retainer?”

“Miller… Later.”

Miller bowed his head. “Of course sir.” He extracted a small business card from a case and handed it to Madison, who took it in a sort of daze. “Please contact me tomorrow Mr. Madison.”

Simon led the group away into the park and Amy started humming. “I love this place. Mom hated it, she kept trying to get into the power here, but the lines refused to obey her.”

Simon nodded absentmindedly. “She didn’t own them and the area is a centre for white magic. A black witch was hardly going to manage it.”

Pat looked around. “All this is yours?”

Simon sighed. “Yes. I’d appreciate if you’d keep it quiet.”

Patrick looked at the house, then at Buffy and Willow and nodded, slowly.

“Yeah. I get that. Not a word out of me.”

They reached the monolith and Willow and Amy smiled. Patrick relaxed as well. Simon took of his coat and tie and hung them over his cane, which he stabbed into the ground.

Simon took off his shoes and socks and sat cross legged in front of the monolith, breathing deeply, eyes closed. After a minute or two he started to smile and then opened his eyes, rising. His eyeballs completely white he turned towards Patrick.

“May I?”

The younger man swallowed. “Yeah. Yeah sure.”

Carefully placing a hand on each of Madison’s temples Simon looked into the man’s eyes, muttering a few words. Sweat started on both men’s brows and Patrick trembled. Simon murmured a few more words, his face tightening. The blonde man’s knees started to buckle and Simon moved down with him, muttering words desperately. They knelt, face to face and then Simon removed his hands. Patrick fell sideways and started vomiting. Amy rushed to his side to help him up, to prevent him from suffocating on his own vomit. Simon sat back down, cross-legged again and once again breathed deeply, closing his all white eyes. Willow and Buffy looked on, eyes wide and wary. After a few minutes Patrick had stopped vomiting and Simon opened his eyes, back to their normal green flecked brown.

“Crap. Sorry for saying this Pat, but you married one hell of a bitch.”

The younger man rose, wiping his mouth. “Yeah. Not my smartest move. But even that had its better side.” He drew Amy close to him. Willow swallowed as she noted that the broken nose was mended, the red veins and puffiness around the eyes gone. She even thought some of the grey had receded from his hair.

Amy took her father’s face in her hands and studied him. “Wow. So what was wrong?”

Simon grimaced. “What wasn’t? Your mother placed things in your father’s mind without consideration to his health and happiness. She wanted him docile and biddable, which made him apathetic. She wanted him to back off from what she did to you, which drove him away. She wanted him to be punished for leaving her, so she scrambled his mind, to let him make mistakes in his business and the whole thing drove him to drink.” He shuddered. “Nasty. I’m rather glad I never met her.”  

Pat shook his head, as if to clear it. “So… I didn’t leave Amy ‘cause I was afraid?”

“No, you were enspelled. You also just kicked your alcohol dependency.”

Patrick snorted. “Haven’t touched a drop since I got Amy back. But it’s good to know that wasn’t me either. Never liked it in college.” He hugged Amy tightly.

Simon rose after pulling on his socks and putting on his shoes. “I’ll drive you home.”

“Simon…” The younger man still stood shakily. “Thanks. Thanks.”

“My pleasure and my duty.”

“Duty?” Willow immediately inquired and Simon sighed as he pulled on his coat.

“I’m a senior member of the Covens. We have to rectify abuses of magic. This was one hell of an abuse. I need to find out why the Questors didn’t find Catherine and stop her before. C’mon lets go, I want to be home and help with dinner.”

The small group solemnly filed out of the clearing, Amy supporting her still stumbling father. Willow pulled at Simon’s jacket after a minute or two.

“What are questors?”

Simon grinned at her.  “I owe myself a dinner with Joyce, I thought you’d hold out longer than that.”

Willow flushed uncertainly and Simon put a hand around her shoulders and gave her a hug. “Just teasing Willow, it’s an entirely legitimate question. Questors are the policemen, the investigators of the CCA.” Buffy’s ears pricked up, Willow’s eyes went wide, Amy stiffened slightly. 

Willow blinked rapidly. “P-policemen? Investigators? C-CCA?”

“Hmm. Concordated Covens of America, it’s an organization set up around the same time as the United States. Every nation has a similar organization, though happily the Covens have always cooperated far more than the governments of the nations they live in. The Questors are not full time at their tasks of course, but when magic users act against the Coven laws they’re searched out and prosecuted. I need to inquire why that was not the case with Catherine Madison.”

Amy chimed in from behind them. “So normally what mo- Catherine did would have been punished…”

“Considering the severity of the offence she would probably have been executed. Wilful possession without other than a selfish motive, malicious enchantment and personality changing spells, destroying a body’s immune system. All of those are felonies of the first grade under the Acts of Magic.”

Willow gulped and Amy paled. “E-executed?”

Simon nodded a trifle grimly. “Yes. Magic is far too dangerous and open to abuse to let perpetrators of such crimes go unpunished. And the things Catherine did were…beyond reprehensible; transferring her own spirit to a younger body, that’s among the most powerful and darkest of necromancy. Most who oppose such opponents without strong magic of their own suffer death or a worse fate.”

Willow looked at Buffy who had started to tremble, her eyes very wide. Simon realizing what his words had done said a word under his breath, halted Momentarily and hauled Buffy under his other arm. “I’m sorry Buffy. I should have realized.”

Buffy swallowed heavily. “I knew… The spell she cast on me. I barely survived.” She turned her large hazel eyes, wide with fear and wet with tears on him. “I don’t want to die Simon.”

“I know little one, I know. I’ll do everything I can to prevent it.” Simon soothed.

“Could you have…” Buffy didn’t finish her sentence, looking up at him.

“I could have negated the spell, if I’d been able to tap into a leyline. Out there” He nodded to the manapoint,  “I would have wiped the floor with her. If she’d caught me unawares… or in town… It would have been very different.”

“So you’re not really powerful?” Willow said it rather disappointedly.

Simon smiled. “No. I can barely levitate a matchstick.”

Amy snorted. “That’s useful.”

Simon shrugged. “It’s what you do with the matchstick that matters. A lot of magic users believe that the most powerful should be in charge. Personally I think the most suitable, the most able should be. A mix of power and knowledge.”

Amy looked at Willow before the red head asked the question.  “So what exactly can you teach us if you can barely levitate a matchstick?”

“Can you?” Simon asked rather pointedly.

“Can I what?” Amy asked, confused.

“Levitate a matchstick.”

“Ummm. No?” Amy admitted, rather sheepishly.

“Then that will be step one. And the fact that it’s all I can levitate does not mean I can’t teach you the basics of magic. The principle is the same.”

“But…” Willow looked a trifle rebellious.

“Willow…In mathematics, does the formula for calculating the area of a triangle change with the triangle’s size?

Willow rolled her eyes. “Of course not, the …oh.” She flushed. “Sorry.” She exchanged a glance with Amy who looked a bit shamefaced as well.

“It’s alright. The basics of magic are the same for everyone. I can teach both of you the basics formulae and casting methods of spells. And from that I can guide you to learn by yourselves. Under strict supervision of course.”

“Of course.” Willow and Amy chorused, rolling their eyes.

Patrick grinned at Simon. “I wish you good luck with them. You’ll need it.”

They reached the house and Simon looked at his watch. “Now is as good a time as any to give you the basics of Covens… What were you planning to eat Patrick?”

“Ummm…we had some meatloaf and stuff…I’m not a very good cook.”

Simon took out his phone and dialed. “Hello love, its Simon. Can I bring in two guests? A builder I think would be perfect for the house and his daughter. Patrick Madison and his daughter Amy. Yes. Yes dear. Next time when I bring guests I’ll try to warn you earlier.” He laughed at something that was said on the other end of the line.” Yes dear… I’ll swing by there later. See you soon, love you.”

He put his phone back in his pocket and glanced at Patrick and Amy. “You’re invited, no discussion. Now let’s go see if Miller knows a place where we can sit.”

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Miller had installed them on comfortable couches in the library. Amy and Patrick sat rather stiffly while Simon poured the tea that had been brought in by the tall manservant.

“So… where shall we begin? The theories and foundations of magic? Or the organization of the magical communities?”

Willow looked at Amy. Amy swallowed a sip of tea. “Ummm…anything that will prevent us getting killed by those Questors?”

Simon nodded. Laws of the Concordat. Right. Well, a little bit of history and then we’ll do those.” He took a sip of tea.

“The Concordat was founded in 1773. Before that time it had been nominally under the Coven of East Greenwich. It is made up of Covens, each of which has a minimum of three members capable of doing magic. There is no maximum to the number of members. The leader of a Coven, who is elected by the magic using members, is called a Magister. The covens of the Concordat are organized under High Covens, each being contiguous with a state, territory or protectorate of the USA. They are led by elected High Magisters. Above the High Covens is the Grand Coven, which consists of all the High magisters and whomever they invite. They nominate candidates for the Grand Magister, who again, is elected by all the members.”

He smiled cynically. “A lot of old magic using families have a great deal of influence, people like the Warrens, Johnsons, Meiers, Abrahams, who’ve been around for a while…these dynasties hold, by virtue of having been here a long time, and being white, and having a lot of magical strength, most of the political power of the Concordat.”  He took another sip of his tea.

“Clear so far?”

The others nodded. Simon continued. “Now the High Magisters and Grand Magister are the trouble shooters, they have to go out and deal with people like Catherine In such cases they take on the title Questor Magister or High Questor, to keep things nice and simple.” He grinned at Willow, who’d taken out a pad and was taking notes.

“Sometimes a coven nominates members of the coven who are magically more powerful or capable than their Magister, that person is a Questor. All Questors, even those who are also High Magisters, have to account for their actions.”

He looked at Amy and Willow. “And now we get to the meat of the matter…what you should not do…Basically, the laws are based upon commons sense and decency: If you don’t want people doing it to you, don’t do it to them.”

Willow blinked. “That’s it? Don’t do onto another? That’s it? Sheesh.”

Simon grinned. “The jurisprudence is pretty complicated sometimes. Anyway, next to harming by magic, killing by magic, controlling another’s mind or body it is also forbidden to travel in time, try to raise the dead, and open a gate to hell or one of the other Outer dimensions. Séances and such are permitted, the spirit has to be willing for that,.” He looked thoughtfully at Willow and Amy. “Until a Mentor considers his apprentices fully trained he’s responsible for their actions. So kindly refrain from getting me killed.”

Willow looked stunned. “R-raise the dead? W-we can do that?”

Simon scratched his nose. “Well…supposedly only mystical deaths…and even that would take tremendous amounts of power. More than any practitioner alive today possesses. And then the Questors would show up and kill you. If they could. And the Powers that Be of both sides would want to have a word…And the results would most likely be iffy anyway…So, possibly, but better not.”

Willow looked at Amy. Both looked rather pale. “So… say I tried to up my grades by influencing my teacher’s mind?” Amy began.

“Depending on the level of manipulation, the penalty might be anything from a fine, through corporeal punishment, to stripping the magical talents, to death. On the whole I’d say don’t do it…” Simon stated matter of factly while sipping his tea.

Willow swallowed audibly. “C-can you teach us not to do that by accident?”

Simon laughed. “Such things can’t be done by accident Willow. It takes preparation and an active will to read a mind…usually.”

“U-usually?”

“I know one witch whose power ran out of control… she heard everything.” Simon finished his tea. “Sometimes all a Questor can offer is…mercy.” He rose. “We need to swing by the store, Joyce told me to bring some things. And I don’t think I can tell her I’ve been talking construction with you this long.”

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Joyce Summers was cooking when Simon came in with three giggling teenage girls waving a cucumber in each hand, a man in an old pair of jeans and lumberjack shirt and builder’s boots. Simon bore the most long suffering expression she’d ever seen on his face. He gave her a glare.

“This is the very last time I take these girls to the store. I’ve never been so embarrassed in my life…”

The man who had to be Patrick Madison grinned broadly at her and winked. Buffy, Willow and Amy merely exchanged glances and collapsed into fits of laughter. Joyce sighed and took the cucumbers from their unresisting hands. *It’s good to see Willow laugh like this, she had me worried there for a while…”

“Thank you. Now go out and let us work. Mr. Madison, can I get you anything?” The three teens left, still giggling.

Patrick put a bag of groceries on the island. “Patrick Madison. Pleasure to meet you. No, I’ll take a walk around the place and see what needs doing.” He looked at the sagging kitchen wall. Then he grinned at Joyce. “And actually I think this looks worse than it is. I’ll tell you over dinner.”

Joyce nodded and started turning the cucumbers into salad, setting Simon to peel apples for the desert she had planned; warm glazed baked cinnamon apples with vanilla ice-cream. 

When the roast potatoes and the roasted beast had been eaten, the glazed apples and ice-cream had been devoured and the kids were throwing quips at each other in the living room, Joyce, Simon and Pat settled down at the dining room table with a carafe of tea and a pad of paper.

“Right, first thing, the damage really isn’t as bad as it looks. It’s not the foundation itself. Couple of decades ago there was this guy who built houses in Sunnydale but didn’t want to waste money on making the foundations high enough, so he used wooden beams to raise the foundation walls… now that wouldn’t be too much of a problem if he used the right quality wood. But Ol’ man Chase was always more about money than quality. Now we can lift the wall with jacks and then we use brick to raise the foundation. We still need to do the back wall, even if the addition gets built, to support the second floor. Most of the damage is cosmetic, and the roof will need to be straightened and re covered, but that’s actually all fairly easy work. As for the foundations of the rest of the house we do it bit by bit. That’s actually fairly standard. Now about these additions…” He took out a folder of sketches. Joyce reached out and took them, giving Simon a look.

“And when did these get drawn?” Joyce demanded to know

“If you pay enough, even top flight architects will deliver fast work.” Simon smiled back.

“You got a top flight architect to design this addition? May I ask why?”

“Big names get approval faster.”

Joyce pushed her glasses further up her nose and looked at the top right corner of the plan. She gulped. “Vernon DeMars? Simon!”

“He occasionally likes doing things like this… and nobody ever asks him. He rather enjoyed drawing these up.”

Joyce took out a letter that was pinned to the plans. “A month ago. You asked him a month ago. Simon…for a global executive, you are really bad at subterfuge. And it won’t work. They won’t give approval faster just because he’s famous.”

Simon lifted an eyebrow. “I have people for subterfuge. And I think they will.”

“You’re impossible.”

“I bet you the choice of our Halloween costumes that this application will pass within a fortnight.”

Joyce smiled. “You’re on. Why DeMars?”

“He’s quite big locally. But won’t draw too much attention.”

“I see… and who did you have in mind for the next addition?”

“Sir Norman Foster.”

“Very funny…”Joyce blinked. “You’re not joking are you?”

Patrick laughed. “I’m not getting into this one.” He rose and sauntered into the living room.

Joyce rested her chin on her hands and looked across the table at Simon.

“And what makes you think you can get away with this?”

“Because Christopher Wren is dead, as are Van de Velde, Horta and Van Campen. That sort of cuts down the number of architects you like to one and a half, Foster and DeMars.”

Joyce shook her head. “You’ve been looking at my book closets again…”

“I admit it.”

“You’re much too good at subterfuge.”

“My people say I don’t pay them enough. I’ve had to do it myself for a while.”  He winked.

“Simon, you’re impossible…but I love you.”

There was a knock on the door and Willow’s voice sounded. “Excuse me…I’ve been sent to make certain all the clothes are still on and you’re giving a sterling example to the young people in this house we’ve all become accustomed to…”

Joyce grinned. “We’re alright dear. Fully clothed too.”

Willow giggled and opened the door. “So umm…maybe you’d like to join us? Or we could come here? ‘Cause, you know, we understand that you’ve got to talk about stuff, and I know the house needs work…” She stopped her babble as Joyce rose and hugged her, pulling her in close. Willow made a little mewling noise and started to cry.

“It’s alright dear…we’re doing everything we can. And everything we can is quite a lot where Simon is concerned.”

Simon smiled. “I’ll be going down to LA tomorrow to help deal with matters and my lawyers have things well in hand.“

Next chapter we turn to Xander once more…
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