A coven at breakfast
Author’s note: A short explanation added to this chapter about the Grand Magistracy for ayg. Yes, I do take suggestions like these very seriously. See the advantages of reviews? Your Jenny question will be answered pretty soon as well. Chapter 24: A coven at breakfast
When the old witches came inside Simon was slouched on the couch, his head on the backrest. Joyce had gone up to check on the girls and would then head down to check on Xander.
Danielle sat down opposite him. “I’m sorry Simon. I always seem to be doubting you…”
Simon did not move or speak.
“We shouldn’t have pressured you into the Grand Magistracy, and after we did we should’ve let you go when you asked-” Danielle continued in a rather hopeless tone of voice.
“Yes, you should have.” Simon interrupted her. “Hopefully people will listen to my successor when she states that an unwilling Grand Magister is singularly useless.” He added scathingly.
Danielle winced and sighed. “You’re not useless Simon, you never were, never have been. We should have done more to show how much we appreciated what you did-”
“Like what? Not send me out to get nearly killed on a bi monthly basis and then discuss how much better my father had been at that sort of thing?!” Simon’s voice was angry and hard.
He sat up, glaring at them. “Nothing
the two of you can say can make this right, so let’s leave it there. You didn’t care for years, I see no reason to care about your guilt now. Heaven knows I’ve got enough of my own to bear.”
He looked at them silently for about half a minute. “Patrick Madison was dying. Pulchritudia had left a minefield of mind charms in his brain. He would’ve died within the year, in agony, weeping blood and with not a thought left in his mind. I wouldn’t have attempted it otherwise and I’ll show you why I dared take the risk later.”
Penelope exchanged glances with Danielle. “Could you, umm reveal a bit?”
“Still don’t trust me?” Simon stiffened.
“No…Nosy as hell.” Danielle replied, not in the slightest abashed.
Simon grinned slightly and dug into his trouser pocket and gently tossed it at Penelope. “Do you know what that is?”
“A rather nicely carved piece of jade…” She blinked as her fingers ran over it. “It feels…pure.”
Danielle leaned over to look at the stone and gasped. “An Abluarium. Simon, where did you get this?”
“Pat and I made it. He’s not a lapidary of great skill so it’s a fairly soft stone, but the carvings should protect it.”
“You…made…” Danielle stammered.
“Yes. How else am I supposed to teach Willow and Amy?”
“But…how?” Danielle looked up from her scrutiny of the stone in wonder.
“I believe I once told you my… “ He smiled. ”…our family wrote down everything and took everything not nailed down if it was to do with magic? Why does it surprise you there are instructions on creating Abluaria in there?”
“My God Simon…” Danielle was awed.
“And to answer your question about why I dared, there’s a Node point, an actual honest to something Wizard’s Node, up there.” He pointed in the general direction of Hooghwater.
The old witches sat stunned and his slight grin widened. “Yes…Thought that might be your reaction. I felt justified in making the attempt…as I feel justified in taking you there tomorrow.”
Joyce came down and looked into the living room. Seeing no dead bodies she let out a sigh of relief.
“Girls safe in bed?” Simon asked.
“All tucked in safe and sound. I’ll go check on Xander.”
Penelope looked as Joyce left. “A remarkable woman…I’ve never seen a bunch of teens go to bed with so little fuss.”
Simon crossed his arms and almost pouted. “I don’t know how she does it, I can glare at clocks, make pointed remarks but they won’t go to bed for me until I actually say it. Twice.”
Penelope exchanged a look with Danielle. “Don’t complain too much Simon…that’s more than most parents manage.”
The adults sat in the living room talking. Joyce and Simon had made up the beds in the spare basement rooms quickly, vetoing a stay in the Sunnydale Arms. The boarding house was ill kept in her considered opinion.
Danielle looked at them seriously. “I’d like to thank you. For Willow.”
Joyce smiled. “Why do you feel the need to thank me for something that I love doing?”
“Possibly because no one else would do it? I would’ve done it when I was younger…”
“And you’d have done it well.” Joyce looked at the older women and rose. “And since tomorrow is a school day and I’ve got to preside over breakfast for the hungry masses I’m calling it a night.”
Penelope smiled. “Is that a diplomatic way of letting us know we look worn out Joyce?”
Joyce looked down self consciously. “Maybe, a bit. But…it’s been an emotional few days and I could do with sleep myself.” Simon smiled and rose as well, hugging her.
“I’ll close up. You can stay up if you want to?” He addressed the last at the guests who smiled.
Penelope answered. “Hardly. We drove from LA and we had an emotional day as well, to put it mildly. And I drove over from San Fran the day before.”
Simon nodded. “And tomorrow I’ll take you to the hospital to have you checked out and then we’ll go to Hooghwater to see if I can do something about your enchantments Nanny.”
“Simon, it’s far too dangerous. I’m an old woman and…”
“Nanny…Don’t…Willow would never forgive me if I didn’t try…”
Joyce leaned into him. “And he wouldn’t either. He feels guilty enough about not realizing it wasn’t a natural stroke and only visiting you once a year.”
“Joyce!” Simon looked embarrassed.
Danielle laughed a little sadly. “Oh Simon… you’ve found your match. And I did raise you, you know, I know how guilty you get,” She chuckled. “At least I don’t have to drag myself upstairs to tuck you in. I can let Joyce take care of that.”
“I assure you Nanny, that Joyce has entirely different means at her disposal to calm me down.” He winked, and Joyce blushed.
Penelope laughed at the expression on Danielle’s face. “Oh dear…it looks your little boy is all grown up…”
The white haired lady rose, sighing. She looked at Simon and took a hesitant step towards him. “Simon…”
He gave her a considering look and then stepped forward, engulfing her in a hug.
“Simon, I’m so very, very sorry…” Danielle whispered.
“So am I Nanny.”
“Thank you for not…for…”
“I understand Nanny…Maybe one day…”
“Thank you.” Danielle sniffled a little and hugged Simon even closer.
Joyce smiled a little sadly. Danielle finally loosened her hold on Simon and stood back. Joyce walked up to him and hugged him. “Ready for bed?”
“Yes.” He kissed her lightly and she made a little purring noise, stopping only when she remembered they had an audience.
Danielle grinned. “Well I suppose we’d better get to bed then Penny, other wise they won’t get enough sleep
tonight…” She winked at Joyce.
Joyce groaned and buried her face in Simon’s shoulder, who smiled down at her golden curls. “Go to bed, love.” Joyce sighed and practically ran up the stairs. Danielle and Penelope looked after her with some amusement.
“Don’t keep her waiting too long now…” Penelope grinned as she headed for the kitchen and the basement. Danielle merely chuckled. Simon rolled his eyes, locked the doors, set a few wards and turned off the lights before going upstairs. Joyce was in bed with her head buried under her pillow.
He sat next to her and put a hand on her shoulder. “Joyce?”
“How am I supposed to look her in the eye tomorrow?” He voice was muffled by the pillow and her embarrassment.
He smiled. “Oh love, Nanny had an adventurous youth. I hardly think anything we do in here will shock her and I’m certain she’s very happy for us.”
“She’s your mother Simon. She’s your mother in all but blood. And now she thinks were up here…”
He snorted and kissed her neck, slowly licking and nibbling, caressing her back and shoulders, making her almost purr. “Simon…”
He smiled against her skin. “Want me to stop?”
“Don’t you dare.”
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There was a certain routine to the Revello drive household. Every morning Joyce and Simon would reach the kitchen almost simultaneously, be it a school day or the weekend, and then they would prepare breakfast. And since none of the children would be awake yet at such an ungodly early hour, there would be kissing and mild petting. Joyce would wear the steel rimmed specs and usually she would end up with her back against the fridge in a rather passionate embrace at least once.
This morning was no different. So it was a slight shock to the two to hear the sound of a cleared throat just as they were just getting into the petting.
Joyce carefully looked beyond Simon’s shoulder to see the older two of her three houseguests; she groaned and buried her face in Simon’s shoulder. There was a chuckle and Joyce whimpered, and then fled out the door her eyes wet. Simon turned and glared.
Danielle gave him a thoughtful look and nodded, then passed him and followed Joyce out the door. Penelope stood and looked at him with an unreadable expression.
“I must admit you’re the last person I’d ever thought to see acting like that…”
“There’s always a first time.” Simon responded snidely.
“Not a Magister. I’ve officially moved my residence to Sunnydale. Sunnydale doesn’t have a coven. Hence I’m a Singularis.”
Penelope blinked. “Interesting…the Concordat can’t even call upon you.” She shrugged. “I can’t say I blame you… You’ve a right to more than a little happiness and peace,” She gave him a leering grin. “Well such peace as you can get between a house full of teens, the combined hormones of you and Joyce and a Hellmouth.”
He chuckled. “I see. So you don’t disapprove? Of her I mean?”
“I had a non magical spouse Simon and so did my daughter.” She smiled a trifle sadly. “My brother married a witch…”
“I never met your brother…”
“He was latent, and he died in ’71, a few weeks before you came back. He killed a warlock called the Witch Hunter, said he had to, to safeguard his family.” She smiled sadly. “His wife died fifteen years earlier…they never had children. He was a good, decent man.”
“I’m sorry I never met him.”
“So am I, I think if you had, you would’ve helped him. And I would at least still have one sibling.”
Simon gave her a look. “You had another?”
Penelope started squeezing oranges. “My sister…she ran away from home at fifteen. I haven’t seen her since”
“I see…Can I ask her name? I do have certain non-magical resources…”
Penelope considered a moment, watching the orange as she pressed it down on the electric juicer. “I-I don’t know…”
“It might help…bring closure…”
Penelope threw the half orange in the bin and picked up a new one. “Philippa. Phillipa Cecilia Johnson if you want to be complete…”
Simon dropped a pile of plates and swore violently and loudly in Dutch. Then he sat down and swore some more. Penelope looked on wide eyed and rather pale. Joyce ran in, cheeks flushed with worry.
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Joyce Summers hadn’t felt this embarrassed in years. Then she heard the voice calling behind, not too loudly so as not to wake the children. “Joyce, will you stop being embarrassed for being in love?”
“Penelope and I aren’t teenagers. We both have given birth and are fully
aware of the mechanics and the joys of sex and kissing.” Danielle gave her a dry look.
Joyce flushed furiously. “But…”
“Joyce…we were young once…” Her mouth flickered into a smile. “Well, I doubt your daughters would qualify you as young, but still, we were younger once, and we enjoyed what you and Simon are doing…”
Joyce let out a whimper.
“Good heavens dear, you’re acting like you’ve been caught naked on Times Square, not kissing in your own kitchen. I can assure you I’ve done worse and Penelope was quite into the Hippie movement, and got engaged no less than six times. I’m not completely certain how often she was married. I may have fallen asleep for a bit during the ride here while she was talking about it,” She thoughtfully tapped her chin, “no matter really, I’m certain she’s had plenty of men in between.”
Joyce’s whimper became louder.
Danielle started laughing softly. “Oh dear…this is about me being his mother of sorts isn’t it?” She put a hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “So this is not helping. Joyce, you may not believe this, but this is the happiest I’ve seen Simon since he was about five years old, when I first became his nanny, his nurse was completely under his father’s thrall, his mother was a pill popping alcoholic and well the less said about his father…” Danielle’s face twisted in remembered anger and hate. “And I didn’t help with foisting the Grand Magistracy upon him…I don’t know how much he’s told you…?”
“Everything. From the beatings to the fight the day before his eighteenth birthday to the….umm… experiments
of his youth. Nikki…The War against the Five…He said he wanted me to know everything so I’d never be surprised…”
“It’s amazing he’s willing to kiss you in a place where there’s even the slightest chance of being seen. I thought yesterday was extraordinary enough…”
Joyce blinked. “Ummm. He’s kissed me in front of the children, and in the Gallery and at the restaurant and outside against the car and in the park…”
Danielle gasped, her left hand clasping into a fist on her chest, the right on her stick. “Oh Goddess…” She took a step towards Joyce who looked at her in amazement and was even more amazed when she was dragged into a hug.
“Thank you. After his mother’s death…I was certain he’d never…”
Joyce hugged the older woman back. “Most of the work was done by Marcel and Margaret and some other friends out East I haven’t met yet…And Charles of course…I’d think you were more aware of his progress.”
“Joyce, I was mostly out of it for seven years… I’ve barely known my own name certain days…. I’ve only been recovering since Catherine Madison’s disappearance. I know he visited, but most of the past seven years are a blur of images and attempts to get my mind back.”
“Oh… I see.”
“What does Marcel have to say about it? About you and Simon I mean? And Charles? How is the old coot anyway?”
Joyce blushed. “Ummm… Marcel’s rather amused…and apparently he wasn’t expecting the recovery to be so…ummm…complete. But when Buffy started complaining about the mushy stuff between us being worse than facing vampires… Charles is coming over for Thanksgiving. He may be here for Veterans’ Day…some of his old army comrades live in California.”
“Buffy talks to Marcel? About facing vampires?” Danielle unerringly homed in on the part of the conversation that Joyce had tried to gloss over.
Joyce gave the older woman a brittle smile. “And here I thought you’d figured it out already…Buffy’s the Slayer.”
Danielle tightened her hug. “Oh…you poor thing.” Joyce tried to hold back her tears but here for the first time was another woman, a mother, who immediately understood. She started sobbing and Danielle held her close. It didn’t take long for Joyce to regain control but the old witch made a mental note to make certain her shoulder was available for a longer cry at a later time.
“Simon understands as well as any man can. But he’s not a mother.”
Joyce gave her a grateful look, wiping her eyes. “Yes…so…am I an acceptable daughter in law?”
“Oh very much so dear, that was clear from the moment I saw him look at you.”
Joyce grinned. “Glad to hear it. At least one
of our mothers approves.”
Danielle shrugged. “I’m just happy for the two of you.” Her mouth quirked. “All
Joyce flushed. “All of them…I must admit…some of the people he’s been with…wow…and you know, the…ermm…images that come to mind of him with, errr certain people…”
Danielle blinked and flushed at the dreamy expression on Joyce’s face. Then she saw the wicked twinkle in the younger woman’s eye and gave her the glare that had had Simon quaking in his boots as a ten year old.
“There a certain things a surrogate mother does not want to know.”
“Oh really? Not even the really juicy bits?”
Danielle winced. “Especially the really juicy bits…Joyce…” She said it warningly as her sort of a daughter in law opened her mouth to let out a piece of knowledge Danielle was certain she’d never be able to erase from her mind. Whatever Joyce was going to say was interrupted by a loud crash from the kitchen accompanied by Simon’s angry voice swearing in Dutch. Danielle felt Joyce stiffen. “Hurry dear, I’ll follow.”
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Joyce arrived in the kitchen to see Simon sitting at the island. She saw the pale worried face of Penelope Halliwell and all her protective instincts came to the fore.
“What happened? What did you do to him?”
“N-nothing…we were talking about my family…”
“Your family? Talking about your family?” Joyce moved next to Simon and put a hand on his shoulder; he stiffened but did not move. She moved closer and leaned into him. Danielle limped into the kitchen and took in the scene. She limped up to the stool opposite Simon and heaved herself onto it.
Penelope sat down as well. Noises from below and above showed that the children were waking up.
“We talked about my family…”
Danielle looked confused. “Prue, Piper and Phoebe? He’s known about their potential for years; why would that upset him?”
“No, my brother and sister.”
Danielle gave her a look. “Brother and sister…I didn’t know about any brother or sister.”
“My brother is dead, he was a latent. My sister ran away from home when she was fifteen. She was…very powerful and she hated her destiny with a passion.”
“Aha. Well I can imagine…”
“Philippa Cecilia Johnson.” Simon’s voice sounded tired and old. Joyce staggered and almost fell, would have if Simon had not supported her.
Buffy ran into the kitchen in her dressing gown and wielding a mace. She took in the scene and tried to hide the weapon nonchalantly behind her back. Xander came up the stairs carrying a baseball bat and a bastard sword. There was a clatter on the stairs and Dawn came in view, kept from fully entering by Willow and Amy, both of whom were carrying a short sword in a rather inexpert manner. Danielle and Penelope exchanged looks. Xander nonchalantly threw his weapons back into the basement where they landed with soft thuds on a pile of garden lounger pillows. Amy and Willow only managed to look sheepish, fumbling with the hilts of their swords.
Simon took a deep breath. “Buffy…would you get some photographs of your family please, especially those of your grandmother and aunts. As young as possible” Buffy gave him a strange look but at her mother’s affirmative nod hurried to the dining room closet. She was back in minutes with the oldest albums. There was a picture of her grandparents holding her in there, as well as her parents’ wedding. She remembered something and ran upstairs and returned with the small framed photograph of her grandparents’ wedding. Joyce pointed at Penelope who accepted the picture with trembling hands.
Simon swore, rather inventively in five or six languages and stormed into the garden, slamming the door behind him with a loud bang.
Buffy glared after him, and then moved to support her shocked mother. “Okay, what just happened there?”
Danielle ran a hand through her hair. “Let’s just say…coven politics. Simon is afraid people will politicize his love for Joyce.”
Xander blinked. “What? Why?”
“The Johnson family is a branch of one of the oldest and most powerful magical families in the USA, the most powerful Spirit wielders…there is only one family older and, well lets say that people have been wondering what would happen if the twain should mix…and how the politics of it would play.”
“Meier.” Joyce whispered.
“Yes. I’m sorry.”
“That’s not it.” She took a breath and looked at the teens. “Buffy, Willow, Amy, Xander, you’re responsible for a decent breakfast. Dawn, you’re responsible for eating well and not getting in the others’ way.” She rose. Taking in the collective pouts she smiled indulgently. “I’ll make pancakes tonight…and teach you lot how to make them...properly.”
Willow and Amy nodded. Buffy looked considerably less sure. Joyce waved her over and whispered in her ear. “Just make sure Dawnie eats ok, I know you’re not good in the kitchen…yet.” Buffy nodded. Getting Dawn to eat was something she could do.
Joyce saw Willow edging towards the cloche and sighed. “Willow…breakfast is more than just cheese…” The redhead blushed and moved away, still looking longingly at the paper wrapped Cheddar.
Joyce turned to the adults. “Let’s go sit in the dining room.” She grabbed the carafe of coffee that Simon had set brewing before they started kissing and Penelope picked up four mugs, possibly hoping Simon would join them later. Danielle grabbed the cream that she knew Penelope used in her morning coffee.
They sat around the table. Joyce filled the mugs with coffee. Penelope sniffed at it and raised her eyebrows. “Strong. Smells lovely”
“Simon made it. He’s partial to good coffee. And I think he picked up his notions of strong in the army.”
Danielle smiled. “You said that it wasn’t politics.”
“No… Simon… his father tried to arrange marriages. It started when Simon was twelve. When Simon left home, part of the reason he never came back was because he was afraid his father would implant something in his mind.” Joyce replied heavily.
Danielle winced. “Oh dear…I knew about the attempts at arranging marriages of course…”
Penelope looked from one woman to the other in astonishment. “Would his father do that? I mean, I never spoke to the man much but he always seemed perfectly charming…”
Joyce spoke harshly. “Simon describes him as the nicest mass murdering psychopath he ever had the pleasure to need therapy about.” Penelope opened her mouth to reply and Joyce raised a hand forestalling her words.
“I know he saved the world several times. So does Simon, he just disagrees with his methods of doing so. I disagree with the way in which he raised Simon. And nothing you say will make me change my mind.”
Penelope gave her a look. “That bad?”
Joyce nodded. “Worse. Can either of you see that sort of thing? Tampering with his mind?” Joyce’s voice was anxious.
Penelope and Danielle both nodded. Danielle sighed “But only if he’ll let us…his mind has always been opaque…he’s very good at guarding his thoughts…Even when he was a little boy.”
“Courtesy of having them invaded every time he met his father.” The venom in Joyce’s voice startled the older women,
“Fucking bastard.” Penelope’s decided remark made Danielle blink. “With your permission, I’ll ask him Danni…I don’t think he needs his mother poking around in the private areas of his mind.”
“I’m not really his mother…” Danielle protested.
Joyce smiled. “He seems to think different.” She looked at Penelope. “Could you do it fast…before…”
“Before he does something stupid? I’ll go talk to him now.”
“No need.” Simon was standing in the door. Joyce swallowed and he knelt by her chair, taking her hands in his. “I don’t care.”
“If he did…put something in my mind…” Simon took a deep breath. “To make me love you…it would be the only good thing the bastard ever did for me…And I don’t think I want to lose it…”
“No.” Joyce put a hand to his face. “No, I love you, but no. I won’t…I don’t want to wonder. I don’t want to wake up at night and look at you and think that you might be under a spell.”
“Joyce… we took one look at another and we… its hardly natural…” He looked down at their intertwined hands face twisted in fear and grief, loathing and longing.
Penelope snorted. “Danielle, are you seeing this?”
“Oh yes. Now I’m really looking, it’s blatantly obvious.”
Simon and Joyce looked up in a synchronous movement. “What is?”
Danielle rolled her eyes. “Soul bond, you ninny. Or whatever you want to call it.” Simon blinked mouth open in stunned surprise.
“Soul bond? What’s that?” Joyce held Simon’s hand tightly.
“A match between souls, a destined union. A bond so deep it cannot be sundered. It has many names and descriptions.” She chuckled. “I always knew Simon was a closet romantic…Does he leave you roses on your pillow?”
Simon flushed and Joyce giggled. “Yes, he does…so this isn’t…”
“I don’t think that a dead man’s spell could last that long…he died in 1971, Simon.”
“We’ll soon be certain. With your permission?” Penelope looked at Simon, who sighed.
“I’ll need to get a potion from the car.”
Penelope left quickly and Joyce gave Simon a sideways glance. “So what does this bond entail?”
Danielle grinned at her. “When he was out there, upset, what was he doing?”
“Kicking my car’s tires.” Joyce answered without thinking and then blinked. “How did I know that?”
“Emotional bleed over I’d say. You two need to work on that.”
Joyce frowned. “So we’re telepathic?”
“I strongly doubt it. You’re just aware of strong emotions the other is sensing and a general location if you’re close or direction if you’re not. You can probably sense if the other is in danger or pain.”
Joyce grinned at Simon. “Good thing that children are out of the question then, I don’t think men are built to take labour pains…And please get off your knees now Simon…I don’t think that position is particularly good for them.”
Simon got up but leaned forward to whisper something in Joyce ear that made her blush furiously and thump his shoulder quite hard with her fist. She hissed at him. “Stop that you jerk!” She hid behind her hair and refused to look at him or Danielle.
Danielle gave Simon a measuring look. Simon looked at the table. “I think you have some apologizing to do young man…”
“Yes Nanny.“ Simon sounded contrite and sat down. He took a breath “I’m sorry love…that was inappropriate.”
“Apology accepted.” Joyce nodded and then leaned forward whispering in his ear. This time it was Simon who flushed.
Joyce grinned at Danielle and then grew serious again. “Why does Penelope carry a mindreading potion with her?”
Danielle looked embarrassed. “For me…I wanted to be sure…”
Simon ah-ed. “That Willow’s foster parents would be good for her and weren’t just interested in her for her powers.”
“Understandable.” Penelope came in and sat down. She pushed the potion at Simon who opened it carefully and sniffed, grimacing.
“You rather than me…smells vile.”
Penelope shuddered. “Tastes worse…” She downed the potion and grimaced. She closed her eyes. So did Simon.
“I need to look at the memories of your father…get a feel for his magic.”
Simon nodded. Penelope’s eyes opened in shock. Her mouth twisted in revulsion. “Holy Goddess…the bastard…” She sat for a minute or so, her eyes closed before she shook her head. “Well there’s no spell or anything like that.” She gave Simon an amused grin. “A healthy amount of lust…”
Simon flushed. “Yes, thank you.”
Joyce giggled and mouthed “I told you so.” at him.
Penelope laughed. “And incredible control. Which explains your ability to use Ley lines as you do.”
Danielle grinned at the couple. “Control huh?”
Joyce blushed bright red again. “I-I’ll go help with breakfast.” She rose to leave.
Simon groaned, burying his face in his hands. “Will you two stop teasing us about our sex life you dreadful dried up old harridans!”
Penelope and Danielle exchanged looks. Joyce grinned from her position near the door. “Nice one Simon. Come on, we’ve got kids to feed. There may even be some cheese left.”
Danielle grimaced. “Do you think we deserved that?”
“I didn’t. I’m not dried up.”
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Willow pounced on Simon the second he walked into the kitchen.
“Dad…what does the Grand Magister do?”
Simon flinched and Willow put a hand to her mouth. “I-I meant…I’m sorry…I-I just wanted…”
Simon ran his hand over his face. “Willow…you’ve got a right to know.” He glanced at the clock. “Well I suppose we’ve got time for a short lesson in history and magic…”
He put a slice of bread in one of the toasters and pushed down the lever.
“Grand Magisters are supposedly elected by a majority of magic using members of all the covens and serve terms of seven years. They may not resign without permission from the Grand Coven and have to be part of a coven…they can only be forced to resign after losing a duel.”
Willow blinked. “Ummm…so how do you get out of it?”
“Usually? Death. All of my ancestors since before the formation of the Concordat have died while holding the office, save my grandfather…who was merely rendered paraplegic.”
Simon opened a jar of marmalade and was about to spread a thick layer on his toast when Joyce cleared her throat and looked significantly at his midsection. He dropped half the marmalade back into the jar and got another significant look. Simon sighed and dropped some more. The toast was spread rather thinly.
“Since the founding of the Concordat the Meiers have held onto the position of Magister and High Magister of New York…and except for a short period between my grandfather’s…physical incapacitation and father’s majority the Grand Magistracy as well.”
“D-did your father kill him?” Amy asked with a touch of fear in her voice.
was allowed to step down…you see, the Secretariat, the bureaucracy of the Concordat has always been funded out of private means…and the only family with the wealth to do so…”
Buffy nodded and spoke, spraying crumbs over the table. “Are the Meiers.”
Jocye sighed. “Buffy, manners. Don’t speak with your mouth full.”
“The Grand Magister searches out enemies of the Concordat, rogue magic users, demons, you name it, and leads local covens in battle…The High Magisters do the same on a District level.”
Amy shook her head. “That’s silly. I mean, the Grand Magister, everybody knows who he is… if everybody knows who you are…they’d kill you, just like that!” She snapped her fingers “When you’re not looking!”
“Well…yes…one reason why it is not a very popular job…but the Concordat does cast a number of powerful spells on its High Magisters, the Questors and the Grand Magister…wardings that prevent their identities from becoming known outside the coven. No one sworn to the spell can break the warding. Those who try usually die insane.”
Amy looked frightened. “So…”
“If you knew…and tried to tell…as my apprentice…yes, you’d go insane.”
Amy gulped down a swallow of milk and exchanged a frightened look with Willow.
“So what else does he do?” Willow asked in a rather timid voice.
Simon gave her an understanding look. “He also proposes policy on national matters and controls the foreign affairs of the Concordat.”
“Foreign Affairs? Like what?” Willow asked in curious voice.
“The other national covens…the Supreme Mugwump of the International Wizards’ Confederation…like that.”
The redhead scowled. “Oh haha. Make fun of your daughter who asked a serious question, why don’t you…Supreme Mugwump?”
Simon shrugged and grinned. “These are people who wander around in robes swinging wands and consider all people who cannot use magic to be inherently inferior…ride broomsticks in a game they call Quidditch. And have yet to divine the use of electricity or I sometimes think the wheel. So a stupid name like that
is hardly going to stop them…”
Willow looked at her grandmother in disbelief. “Nana?”
“It’s true dear…Simon also very nicely avoided that the Grand Magister has to deal with the Watchers’ Council…How many did you banish from the US last year?”
“Eighteen…a further eleven were handed over to the appropriate authorities for kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and various other crimes.” Simon smirked.
Buffy looked thoughtful and a bit scared. “Kidnapping?”
Danielle looked at Simon, who sighed. “Not all Watchers are like Giles…or Merrick…they take Potentials or Slayers away from their families, kidnap them as babies if they think it necessary. I won’t stand for it. And neither will the Concordat…otherwise I’d never been able to banish them.”
Buffy munched a new piece of toast. “And who sees to the training of these potentials?”
“Watchers who are willing to let them live with their families…or take them in if the families don’t want them…or my people. They’re not left to fend for themselves Buffy.” Simon assured her.
“So why wasn’t I…”
Simon scratched his nose and looked at Joyce. “I think your grandmother may have warded you somehow…But I’d need to ask her.”
Buffy growled. “Gran has a lot of explaining to do…”
Joyce rapped the table. “And we will try to keep from judging her until she has a chance to explain. Simon?”
Simon’s face went bleak. “There are other…duties…executioner…is one.”
Willow walked around the island and hugged him. “Dad…stop it. I love you. I’m sure you only did what you had to do.”
“Did I? I sometimes wonder…” Simon looked into the distance and seemed unwilling to talk anymore.
Penelope gave him a worried look. “Well that’s most of the duties actually. There’s some administrative work, but most of that is done by the Secretariat.”
Dawn put down the bowl of yoghurt she’d been eating from, still half full. Buffy gave her a look and she picked it up again. “Sooo…how powerful are you Simon? As a witch, you know?”
Danielle winced. She looked at Simon who was still lost in thought and by the look of him not happy ones. Willow still had her arms around him and she was starting to look worried. Danielle looked at Penelope who smiled and waved a languid hand. Suddenly Dawn hung in the air, a good foot above her stool. As Dawn looked around a little wild eyed Danielle spoke.
“Simon only has magic because his training started so early and was so…ruthless. He should have been latent, he has no more magical talent than a normal man…it’s been beaten and forced into him.” She sighed. “I-I always thought his power would grow as he grew happier…but...there’s nothing there that can grow. Using ley lines…is like walking on razors. He-he’s been risking his life not only against every enemy he’s faced with magic, but against the magic itself as well…”
Penelope put a comforting hand on the old redhead’s arm. “Danni…” Dawn softly dropped back to her seat and hurriedly grabbed onto the island top.
“No Penelope, it’s my fault! Simon should have been allowed to live a life without magic. And after his father’s death, I forced him back into it.”
Simon snorted, coming to himself. “Don’t be ridiculous Nanny; I was voluntarily, if unhappily fighting evil in Britain all through Medical School.”
“I could’ve done without the Grand Magistracy, I’ll admit, but kindly don’t beat yourself up about things you didn’t do…” He smiled wanly. “That’s my job.” He put his arms around Willow and hugged her. The younger redhead sighed in relief.
“I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have asked…”
Simon put a finger to her lips. “No…it’s my fault…I should have been teaching you and Amy much more. I’ve rather stupidly been waiting until the Abluaria are finished…but I can teach the theory without those quite well.”
Joyce looked at the clock. “Okay kids…time to get ready. We’ll be driving you to school.”
Willow and Amy looked at each other. Joyce gave them both a warning look. “I’ll consider going out there and looking at what happens as a transgression of rule two…understood?”
Both young women reddened, gulped and nodded.