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Lonely Souls

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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571490393,27728 May 115 Jul 14No

Mixing Worldviews and Visions

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver.

The following ways of notation may be found in this story. This is excluding whatever I need to represent chatting, texting and stuff like that. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Greek: ^Who cares?^

Ancient Egyptian: »Who’s that?«

Latin: ~Who’s who?~

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

Thanks to evilredknight, watcherabc and wuoreb for recommending me. This story now has ninety recommendations! All my other recommenders, know that I appreciate every one of you, and for sticking with me.

Please continue to let me know what you think by means of reviews as well. If you wonder what effect it has, just ask Spacedcadet. If you have ideas, questions or think you know where the story is going please make it a private review. I can answer more fully there, without spoiling it for other readers. I won’t always reveal everything though.

Some people wondered about Severus and Simon looking so much alike. I took a description that Alan Rickman made of himself for Simon, and made Snape a lot uglier. Most of the hints of their being related lies in the psychology. Portrait of the Philanthropist contains a few, billowing coats and cloaks and such.

Any suggestions for what I should do when I reach 100 recommendations and 1000 reviews?

Chapter 76 Mixing Worldviews and visions

Walbrook House, Canon Street, London

Penelope had forgotten how hard it could be to keep a teenager entertained when that teenager was worried, feeling alone or frightened. Add ‘disembodied soul trapped in a machine’ and you had Rowan. Normally Rowan and Willow were not all that hard to keep occupied. A book would usually do. But usually Willow and Rowan had their parents there, as well as the other children.

Today, Rowan was alone. Her video feed and mic had cut off as soon as the Family had stepped through the weird green fire. It had taken Danielle and Cecilia and James hours to quiet the girl down. According to Danielle it was even worse than when Willow had gotten into the Dutch coffee caramels that Simon had bought Joyce as a joke.

“Aunt Penny?” Rowan asked, in a small voice. “Do you hate me?”

Penelope blinked. “Hate you? Heavens no, child. Why would we hate you?” 

“Because I’m not real. I’m just a-a thing, a thing in a machine,” Rowan nearly whispered.

“You’re a soul, Rowan. Not a thing. And I understand people are working hard to build you a body, so stop moping,” Penelope told her repressively.

“You hate me because I’m unnatural, just like you hate Brenda,” Rowan’s voice was accusatory.

Penelope sighed. “I don't hate Brenda. What gave you that idea?”

“She isn’t here, is she? If she's family, if you love her, why isn't she here?” Rowan demanded.

Penelope looked over to the corridor outside where Prue was looking, her hands very carefully behind her back, at one of the paintings that hung there. It was by Titian and depicted St. Jerome in his library. Opposite it, the only art work in the library beside the bookcases and vaulted ceiling, hung an etching by Rembrandt which showed a rare idealized scene of the Library of Alexandria.

“Prue? Could you come in here?” Penelope called out.

Prue tore herself away from the painting and walked over. “Sure. What's up, Grams?”

Penelope smiled. “Your cousins are having a terrible influence on your speech patterns. Prue, Rowan is worried we don't love Brenda because she isn't really family and isn't here.”

Prue rocked back on her feet. “Boy, you don’t ask any easy ones, do you?” she directed at Rowan. Then she sat down. “Okay... Grams, could you call in Phoebe and Piper?”

Penelope nodded and rose. Prue faced the screen and rested her chin on her hands. “Rowan, Brenda... Brenda was made, from me. People took some of my tissue and used it to create her, then she was implanted into the body of the woman she knows as, is for all intents and purposes, her mother. She was raised by a loving family, in a good home.”

“Yeah, and some bastard raped her and hurt her and they told her to go away and didn't believe her! They didn't love her either!” Rowan glared angrily.

Prue shook her head. “They do love her. I know that for a fact. I also know that she's with them right now, but she'll be back in LA soon. She got a job as a secretary and receptionist and they want her to start work over the holidays. Sometimes if you want to eat, you need to do things like that.”

Rowan's glare did not measurably lessen. The door of the Library opened and Penelope led in her other granddaughters.

“Heya Prue. Row. Prue, you wanted to talk with us?” Phoebe called out.

“Yes, Rowan thinks she isn’t loved and that Brenda isn't either,” Prue explained.

“Oh. Well, if she wants to believe that, she should go right on, then in  a few years she'll be thoroughly messed up and Shrinks will make thousands of dollars from her,” Phoebe smiled cheerily. “Can you wait until I’ve got my shingle? I want to get on the bandwagon and earn a bit.”

Her grandmother and sisters looked at her as if she was insane. Piper made shushing motions with her hands.

Rowan blinked. “Wha’?”

“And after twenty years and alienating your family, you’ll find out we love you still and always did and that you threw away several thousand dollars. That will be two cents, please,” Phoebe held out her hand. 

Rowan looked at the youngest Halliwell incredulously yet amused. “Are you serious?”

“I think she is,” Victor spoke from the doorway, a tray of chocolate and tea in his hands. “I know that look, she had it when she was two and wanted cookies really badly,” he teased.

Phoebe stuck out her tongue. “Well, did you bring any?”

“A very nice assortment, even. Now what seems to be the matter?” Victor put the tray down and started handing out the beverages.

“Rowan feels unloved and thinks we don’t love Brenda either,” Phoebe told him succinctly.

“Ah. I see. This has to do with the fact they’ve only been with the family a short time?” Victor sipped his tea.

“And we’re not really yours, yeah,” Rowan said softly.

Victor shook his head. “Rowan, I understand this is difficult for you. Hel- Heck I barely understand it myself. I have four daughters instead of three and haven’t even met one of them. Never saw her, even though she’s twenty years old,” he suddenly looked very tired and much older and gazed at his daughters. “But then I didn’t see my other three daughters grow up either. But she’s still one of my girls, mine and Patricia’s. And if she’ll have me, I’ll be a father to her,” he shrugged. “I’m quite sure that Simon and Joyce have made quite clear they want you. And that Willow, Buffy and the others have done the same. And the fact you can’t get through to them merely means that you and Willow and Dave will have to work harder to create technology that functions in a high magic environment,” Victor told Rowan firmly. “Heaven knows it took me ages to work out the kinks in the television reception back at the manor.”

Rowan looked down at the edge of the screen. “I’m just worried.”

Prue had been watching and listening to her father reassure and scold her cousin and stepped up next to him, giving him a hug. “We understand that, Rowan. Maybe… Would you like Bren’s e-mail address? You can talk to her yourself that way.”

Rowan perked up. “No need, I got it already from Mom’s mailbox…” she looked around at the disapproving faces. “What? I love Mom, but Will and I’ve got to reset her mailserver at least once a week when she messes it up, and Neave over at MIC says Dad is even worse!” She rolled her eyes at so much technological incompetence.

Victor grinned. “Now that I can believe. So, what protocols do you use?”

Penelope sighed as Rowan started to rattle on about servers and mail servers and routers and firewalls. “Oh dear, that’s set her off…”

Prue looked at her father and exchanged a look with Piper and Phoebe. “Yeah, it has,” she leaned over and kissed Victor’s cheek. “Nice distraction…Dad,” she whispered.

Victor winked slightly and returned to his conversation with Rowan.

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Hogwarts

The faculty was playing the Weasleys, and Snape was explaining the game to those who wanted to listen. He was surprisingly knowledgeable about the game, actually, as was Lady Malfoy.

“The Beaters use their clubs to launch the Bludgers at their opponents, to distract them or knock them off their brooms,” Narcissa explained. “The Seeker looks for the Golden Snitch and the Chasers run interference, to stop the Seeker from being bludgeoned. They also, and that is their primary task, score points by throwing the Quaffle through the hoops on the goal posts. The Keeper is supposed to keep them from scoring.”  

Willow looked down at the field and then surreptitiously tapped the strange device on her shoulder again, rather hopefully. When nothing happened she sighed.

“Something wrong, dear?” Narcissa asked.

“No, nothing,” Willow shook her head.

Narcissa gave her a look that reminded Willow uncomfortably of Joyce and Willow folded “I-I… its complicated.”

Snape, from her other side where he had been explaining things to Dawn and Kit. “Try to explain then, niece.”

Willow groaned. “Okay… what do you know about technology?”

“Teck-nologie?” Narcissa asked, confusion on her face. “Has that to do with Queen Mary?”

Willow looked equally confused and Snape rolled his eyes. “Technology. It’s like the Hogwarts Express Narcissa, Mu-Normal ways of doing things we use magic for, nothing to do with Mary, Princess of Teck,” he looked keenly at Willow. “That said, the device on your shoulder looks like a microphone to me, but much smaller than I remember. Are you recording this?”

Willow bit her lip and shook her head. “But I’d like to. Something is interfering with the recorder and the transmission.”

Snape snorted. “That happens near large concentrations of magic, niece.”

Willow rolled her eyes. “If that were the case, uncle, we’d not get any TV back home, as it is built near a Hellmouth.”

Narcissa gasped. “H-Hellmouth? You live on a Hellmouth?”

Snape looked interested. “Which one? Sunnydale? Cleveland? New York?”

“Sunnydale. Dad managed to seal up the crack in the New York one again, and Cleveland is mostly dormant and much smaller. It probably won’t do much unless someone tries to open it. And the Coven there does its best to keep it closed,” Willow explained.

Snape leaned back, his face thoughtful. “My brother closed a Hellmouth?”

Willow grinned. “Well, not alone. He finally convinced the East Coast Covens to try. I mean, they were all very frightened that they’d be burned out or corrupted, but he pointed out that they could go for the slow or the fast corruption and at least there would be mmfmmf!”

Willow glared at Dawn, who giggled and moved her hand from Willow’s mouth as her elder sister glared. “Babbling, Willow. Anyway, isn’t if unfair to have all those young redheads play those old gee- Professors?”

Narcissa suppressed a smile at the girl’s change of words. “Well, you see, all those professors are quite powerful and used to play. Professor McGonagall was once Gryffindor Captain and Professor Kettleburn played professionally between the wars.”

“What wars? World War One and Two?” Dawn wrinkled her nose.

Snape grinned. “In the Wizarding World we call them the Shaman War and the Dragonblood war. They were fought concurrent with The Boer War and the First World War.”

“Dragonblood War?” Willow asked curiously.

Snape shrugged. “It was fought to gain control over various magical resources. When people realised that about then that these resources, mostly creatures, were becoming rare, they urged their leaders to go to war to increase their own access to the sources. Most magical creatures since then have only been seen as resources, the fact that they are living beings has often been conveniently forgotten.”

Willow gasped. “That’s horrible!”

Snape’s dark eyes fastened on the emerald green ones. “That is human nature, which is essentially the same for wizards and Normals. Or do they no longer have massive poultry farms where each chicken is allowed only enough space to sit and tear its feathers out?”

Willow shuddered and nodded. “Yeah, true.”

Out above the pitch Kettleburn swung around, handling his broom with great skill, getting a feel for the wind and the conditions.

Dawn looked at the old man with his false limbs sticking out and asked. “So he was born in the nineteenth century?”

Snape nodded. “In the eighteen-sixties, yes.”

Dawn grinned. “No wonder bits have fallen off him then, if he’s that old.”

Narcissa coughed, suppressing a laugh. “That was mostly war wounds and fighting evil, dark creatures dear. Now the game is about to begin. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. And if you’re cold, we can cast warming charms.”

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Hogwarts, Great Hall, after the game

Albus Dumbledore rubbed his hands together and then clapped them. Immediately the tables began being set by House Elves, dishes and cups and saucers and platters with cakes and pie appearing. “That was an excellent game! Good flying there, Harry!”

Rolanda Hooch looked rather wistful. “I’m getting too old for Quidditch.”

Harry grinned at the flying instructor. “Oh come on, Professor, you did great! If you hadn’t had to dodge that Bludger you would have caught the Snitch!”

Hooch smiled. “Thanks for saying so, Mr. Potter. But I know that my best flying days are long behind me.”

Fred and George Weasley had stripped off their Quidditch gear and were listening to the conversation with interest. Beside them a very tall man and a petite woman were looking at the spread of delicacies in some confusion.

“What is this? Patrick, what do you think?” the woman asked.

“I have no idea love, why don’t we stick to the tea?” the man, obviously Patrick, replied rather nervously.

Fred and George exchanged glances. George shook his head but Fred ignored him and walked towards the couple. “Hey, I’m Fred! Maybe I can explain some things for you? This is Pumpkin Juice, it might not be to your taste but you ought to try it. This is just plain normal Darjeeling tea and this is rosehip tea…”

As he spoke the young redhead started preparing a plate of delicacies and pointed at others. And just before Patrick poured Clarice a cup of tea and handed it to her, Fred slipped three drops of a strange pink liquid into the cup.

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Hogwarts Great Hall

“Well, this really was a most interesting day,” Joyce looked around the vast room, taking in the clumps of talking people. “But we really should be leaving.” She smiled at Molly and Narcissa, with whom she had been speaking. “It’s getting late and at least some of the children ought to be in bed soon.”

Molly chuckled at the small gathering of the youngest, the four girls were playing Rummy, a game neither Ginny nor Luna had known before that afternoon. “You’re quite right. And it is time for some of mine to go to bed as well.”

Joyce rose from the comfortable club seat she’d been occupying and started towards the fire. “I just hope that none of them got lost in this place.”

Narcissa smiled. “Then we’d send out Hagrid with one of his hounds. He’d find them in no time.”

“And slobber all over them,” Molly grinned.

Joyce grimaced. “Ugh.” Another look around the room and she sighed, then stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled loudly enough to cut through all conversations and hubbub. “KIDS! We’re going home!”

Molly looked at the younger woman with wonder in her eyes. “Dear me. You have to teach me that. It would be tremendously useful.”

A loud whistle at her side made her turn. Narcissa lowered her fingers and smiled impishly. “What? I’ve watched Quidditch since before I went to Hogwarts.”

Lucius strolled over. “You whistled, my dear?” He bent over Narcissa’s hand and gently kissed it.

Molly raised her eyebrows at the display and looked at Joyce. “There’s probably a story there.”

Joyce laughed. “We’ll hear it later. Ah, Simon is gathering up the herd.”

Simon was indeed bringing together the children, aided by Arlene. They smiled as Buffy made their way over, her face set in determined lines, obviously hoping to negotiate a longer stay. “I understood from Lady Clarice you have another, a twin, sister?” Molly asked as Joyce smiled at the antics of her children trying to avoid going home and bed.

“Yes, Lolly, she’s the youngest. She runs a home decorating shop in LA and Harry is an accountant. They were planning to come but Lolly felt very ill and Harry and Celia didn’t want to leave her alone,” Joyce replied, her face betraying anxiety.

“Ill? What sort of illness?” Molly asked.

“Well, she’s pregnant and…” Joyce shrugged.

“Oh. Will everything be alright?” Narcissa placed her hands on her abdomen, instinctively protecting her unborn children as she commiserated with another pregnant woman’s plight.

Lucius put an arm around her shoulder. “Easy love, it will be fine. No one will get at them,” he murmured, too low to be heard.

“Wait, get at them? Who got at your babies?” Buffy asked sharply.

Lucius blinked. “That was a private conversation. How did you hear it?”

Buffy rolled her eyes and tapped her ear. “Duh! Super Buffy Slayer hearing! Now, what’s the what? Who’s threatening babies?”

Lucius smiled grimly. “The Dark Lord.”

Joyce had paled considerably since the beginning of the conversation. “Dark Lord? Not Marigold?”

“Marigold? What is Marigold?” Narcissa asked in confusion.

“A secret and highly illegal American government organization that stole Lolly’s babies’ souls, as well as hundreds of others,” Joyce explained thoughtfully. “But apparently they weren’t active here.”

Narcissa’s eyes narrowed. “It was you!” she spat.

Joyce took a step back at the vehemence of the words. “What was me?”

“You! You set the children free!” Narcissa took a step closer, her eyes flashing. “You set them free! Why didn’t you-”

Her forward movement was stopped by Buffy’s hand. “Whoa, Lady! You’re not upsetting my mom or getting upset yourself. Pregnant Catfight? Not happening tonight! And why are you so angry anyway? You wanted your kids’ souls to be held by evil sons of bitches?”

“Buffy, language!” Joyce said automatically.

Narcissa closed her eyes, regaining her equilibrium. Lucius put a hand on her shoulder.

It was Molly who spoke. “Your sister, the one who is not here, she was part of the group who freed the souls?”

“Most of the world’s Channelers were part of that group,” Joyce replied, her eyes on Narcissa.

Molly nodded. “Why? Why so many?”

Joyce bit her lip. “To set the souls free a great deal of power was needed…… and to punish the guilty, even more.”

Molly gestured at Narcissa. “Cissa lost four babies to He-who-must-not-be-named. Her own sister took them.”

Buffy smiled in sudden understanding. “Oh, I get it! She’s angry ‘cause she didn’t get to kick Merlin flamin’ butt!” 

Molly groaned and glared at her second oldest son. Joyce sighed and turned to Buffy. “You were talking to that Dragon Wrangler, right? Charles Weasley?”

Buffy nodded, a bit abashed. Joyce shook her head. “Try not to pick up too much of his speech?”

Narcissa was smiling at the little blonde. “You understand?”

Buffy shrugged. “Yeah, well, I get annoyed enough when Dawn nicks my Pom-poms. I can’t imagine what I would feel if she killed my babies and stole their souls.”

Narcissa sighed. “Well, she’s in Azkaban already.”

There was a sound as of a throat being cleared. “She’s alive?” An elderly voice inquired.

Narcissa looked around at the noise. Jon was standing behind her, leaning on two canes. She looked at him pensively. “Yes, she’s alive. I would have been informed had she died.”

Jon pursed his lips. “Hmmm. Perhaps you could delicately inquire into inexplicable, strange and horrible deaths, Lord Malfoy? And do you have any notion as to the power of the wards on Azkaban?”

Lucius looked wary. “Why?”

“Because Simon unleashed a justice spell. No one who stole a soul ought to be alive without massive protection,” Jon smiled darkly. “Wouldn’t it be ironic if being in jail saved some of their lives…” 

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Hogwarts, upper corridor, near the AstronomyTower

Severus smirked as he heard the noises coming from the broom cupboard. He had wandered out of the Great hall for some peace and quiet. It was amazing how insistent his new family was to include him and it had driven him to near distraction. This however, would be a balm to his tortured soul. Catching Weasley and Clearwater, while his parents were in the school? Priceless.

He flung open the door with a flick of his wand and swept into the cupboard, a sneer on his face. “Well, well, what have we here? Young lo- WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING WITH MY SISTER, MADISON?”

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Walbrook House, Canon Street London, evening of the 28th 

“That was positively the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me.” Clarice groaned as she fell into a couch after the Family had returned, her face still flaming with mortification.

Cecilia snorted. “Really? Getting caught making out by your baby brother? That’s the worst you can come up with?”

Clarice groaned again. “That’s the edited version,” she finally admitted in a very soft voice. “We were a bit beyond making out.”

Cecilia’s eyes narrowed. “What? Clarice, what were you thinking!?”

“Not much except ‘Patrick hot, Patrick yummy’,” Clarice whispered. “I’m sorry; I don’t know what came over me, us.”

Cecilia looked thoughtful “Hmmm, did you eat and drink anything? Did anyone give you anything?”

Clarice’s eyes widened in realisation. “You think I was drugged?” she asked, horrified.

“I think you both were. It sounds to me like a potion of some sort,” Cecilia explained.

Clarice sat thinking for a minute. Then she gritted her teeth. “That Twin! Fred Weasley! Oooh, is that boy in trouble!”

Cecilia pursed her lips. “I think I’ll come along tomorrow and have a word with the young man in question…”

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Latchetts House, Ashby family manor, Clare, 28th of December

Beatrice Witheringham-Thomas, née Ashby, was sipping tea in the library at Latchetts. The old house creaked under the assault of the December wind and snow. Her elder twin granddaughters were asleep on the couch, having admitted to being riddled by nightmares since the night of the Solstice. The door opened and a man clad in a dressing gown, pyjamas and slippers came in. He too, was carrying a cup. “Good evening. Or should I say, good morning.”

Bee nodded at him. “Quentin. Couldn’t sleep either?”

Quentin ran a hand through his hair as he put his cup down. “What with the Twins and Priss having nightmares? Not really, no.”

“Are they sleeping now?” Bee asked her own face haggard.

“Yes. But it took a while before we could settle them down,” he glanced at the two young women on the couch. “A pity we didn't have more room in the bed.”

“Any idea what is causing it? You did specialize in ancient curses, didn't you?” Bee asked wearily.

“No, I don't. I know Priss has been making enquiries to see if others are affected. Mostly it seems the coven elders are struck. Jane is especially badly off. She hasn't slept a wink since the ritual. She keeps seeing Ruth's death,” Quentin sighed. “We may have to contact the Concordat and ask if they have this problem and how they are coping.”

“Hmm, I'd think that this was a way for Marigold to get even, but I get the feeling that this was a warning from some other being,” Bee pondered.

“Wonderful. An unknown being of unknown strength attacking us in our sleep for unknown reasons. Just what I've always wanted,” Quentin remarked cynically.

Bee laughed. “Well, it feels to me as if whatever it is; it’s harbouring its strength. I'll call Ceres and have her warn the Concordat.”

“Hmmm. And tell the buggers that this is the last time they get my girls into a merge!” Quentin growled.

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Hogwarts, 29th of December

Now that the route was known travelling to Hogwarts was almost routine. Cecilia was coming along, together with Danielle, to chew out Fred and meet Severus respectively. Otherwise the same group was going as the day before, except that Willow and Rowan had spent an hour the previous evening with Patrick to create a small bracelet to hang from the camera and microphone and now hoped Rowan could actually listen in and record. They were received in the Teachers' Lounge and the younger generation quickly set off on further explorations. 

Simon settled in one of the battered old chairs and looked at Dumbledore. “So, who has the Ministry detached to represent their cause?”

“Director Bones and Senior Auror Moody,” Dumbledore replied. “They will be here presently.”

“Good, I want to get this over with,” Jon interrupted. “I have other things to do.”

“More important than this?” Dumbledore seemed surprised.

Jon shrugged. “A couple of young idiots summoned a demon a few decades ago. I need to help them perform a Ritual of Disavowal.”

Dumbledore's eyes gleamed with interest. “Really? Most interesting. A Named demon?”

Jon nodded. “Eyghon the Sleepwalker.”

Dumbledore raised a hand to his beard and stroked, his eyes twinkling with interest. “I don't suppose you would allow me to observe?”

Jon shrugged again. “I have no problems with it. And if something goes wrong a nice strong focus user might be just what we need.”

Dumbledore beamed. “Excellent! Ah, here come my other guests. Director Bones, Auror Moody, welcome, welcome!”

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Simon and Jon, accompanied by the representatives of both sides and trailed by a glum looking Severus, moved towards the main gates where a cluster of Dementors was hovering, waiting to feed, or patrolling to protect the innocent, depending on who one asked.

They were walking slowly, With Dumbledore pushing Jon's wheelchair, clearing a path through the snow with his wand as they chatted about the differences between modern times and the ‘good old days’.

Behind them Simon walked with Lucius and Bones and Moody walked at the rear with Severus, his eyes, magical and real, constantly monitoring the surroundings for possible dangers. Snape occasionally rolled his own at the man's paranoia.

“So, Director Bones... Could you give me your opinion on Dementors? Off the record?” Simon asked quietly.

“Off the record? If we could get rid off them, I would. I don’t care that they save money. I don't care that they are a truly terrifying punishment that does actually work as a deterrent. They are evil and what we subject the prisoners in Azkaban to is inhuman,” Bones told him, equally softly. “But the Department can't afford prison guards and that means using Dementors.”

“How do your Aurors feel about them?” Simon cast a glance back at Moody.

“Those I trust dislike them. Those that don't...” Bones let her voice trail off.

“I see. In what category does Moody fall?”

“He hates Dementors but he doesn't cry any tears for those in Azkaban. He's been an Auror for almost sixty years,” Bones clarified. “He dislikes lawbreakers.”

“Ah. Auror Moody?” Simon called out.

“Yes, Your Excellency?” Moody replied, his eyes still roving over the wintry landscape.

“How would you go about protecting Hogwarts from Sirius Black?” Simon asked.

Moody snorted. “Not with Morgana-licked Dementors at any rate!” He was silent. “And he's not after Hogwarts, or the general student population, all his attempts so far have been to get at Harry Potter. So I'd assign him bodyguards. Especially after the first time Black got in here. It shows neither Dementors nor the Wards will hold him out. They're useless here. Useless for anything but guard duty.”

Simon nodded. “Yes, I see. Thank you. Do you have a control amulet?”

“Yes,” Moody replied curtly.

“Do you think it is sufficient to keep Dementors from attacking?” Simon continued his inquiries.

Moody considered. “It depends. Most of the time, yes. But if a big enough incentive were available, I think they could break loose from control.”

“What!” Bones turned around. “Why in the name of Merlin didn't you ever tell me that, Moody?” she barked indignantly.

Moody shrugged. “I sent reports to Vickers-Hornington, Urglebunt, Sackville-East, and Crouch. All it got me was a reprimand and the reports were classified as secret. I figured there was no use and someone is making me retire this year, so...”

Bones gave the old Auror a fond if exasperated look. “I've held them off for ten years, Alastor. Your injuries should have disqualified you quite a while ago.”

Moody grudgingly nodded.

Simon had been thinking. “Crouch? Bartemius Crouch? He was your immediate predecessor?” he asked Bones.

“Yes,” Bones replied, her eyes still on Moody. “The others preceded him.”

“Hmmm, conflict of interest there,” Simon drew his fur-lined white cloak closer around him. “Is it me, or is it getting even colder?”

Moody grinned. “That's the Dementors. Don’t worry; they won’t attack you with me here.”

“I'm greatly reassured,” Simon replied dryly, his eyes flickering from left to right. Then he froze. He very slowly turned to Bones. He pointed to the floating, black cloaked forms. “Those are Dementors?” His voice was filled with loathing as well as a trickle of fear.

Bones nodded. “Yes, that's them.”

Simon gritted his teeth. “Those are Soul Leeches. Some of the most evil, depraved and hated demons in the world. The only thing that controls them are amulets developed by Herpo the Foul. Made of the breastbones of pregnant women, dipped in the heart's blood of the fathers of their children and infused with the souls of their unborn babes. If you are wearing one of those, I'll kill you now.”

Moody lifted an eyebrow and looked at Bones. “We'll have to look into that. And the amulets are made of silver. If you're right...”

“They are intelligent beings, Moody! They can recognize a cushy set up when they see one. Food supplied without having to hunt for it, ability to range freely, the occasional accident...” Simon gestured angrily at the Dementors. “Those things are as evil as demons get and you use them as bloody guards for your children? Want to invite a couple of vampires in for dinner and hand them your newborns?”

Bones flushed. “Dementors have been used for centuries! There is no evidence connecting them with Soul Leeches!”

Simon glared at her and Dumbledore. “And what if I show you the evidence? The Watchers’ Council, the Covens, all will have proof of their nature.”

Bones glared back. “If you can prove this, if! Then I will of course immediately propose the Minister and the Wizengamot to seal them in.”

“It takes centuries for one of them to die,” Jon noted. “Nasty creatures. They were used for torture in ancient Egypt, you know.”

“Hmmm, it seems that my premise was correct,” Dumbledore looked at the grey and black creatures with loathing in his eyes. “Well, if you have seen enough, Ambassador?”

“I have. And I wish to get away from those… things!” Simon shuddered.

“As we all do. Come, let us get inside and have something warm to drink, some chocolate will make us all feel better,” Dumbledore started pushing the wheelchair back, chatting quite cheerfully with Jon about demonic possession and how to deal with it.

Severus Snape drew his cloak around himself and musingly looked at the old man. Before when he had met Dementors the tugs at his memories had been of childhood conversations with Lily. Now he found the memories that came to the forefront of his mind were of a nine-year old girl demanding to see his owl. He glanced at Jon Carnahan and when the old man met his eyes with a slight smirk, glared.

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Sybill had not been down the day before. She had awakened with a vast and menacing migraine and it had not lifted until late at night. She still had an awful throbbing headache, but as she had barely drunk anything and not eaten at all the day before. Rubeus had made it quite clear she had to either come down for breakfast or he’d come up to feed her. Sybil had just enough sense left through her headache to realize what gossip that would cause. And though the notion of being fed by Rubeus, and slowly sipping porridge from a spoon and watch the poor dear man blush as she lapped it up had its appeal it wouldn’t be nearly as fun without someone else watching. Besides the Concordatial Ambassador was going to be there, with his family and Sybil did want to see them. She had met few Americans in her life and was wondering if they had different notion on divination than she had.

She looked around her white bedroom, straightened her shawl, closed the white cupboard that held her raucously colourful wardrobe and left her rooms. 

She descended the stairs, feeling her headache increase with each step. She gasped as a blinding flash of lightning seemed to run through her skull, staggered and grabbed the wall, her vision blurred.

“Are you alright?” A kindly, warm voice asked.

“Of course she isn’t alright, Mom! Just look at her. Come on, Ma’am, let me help you!” A much younger voice. Sybil would guess fifth or sixth year, if it were a pupil but this girl had an American accent, like her mother. Sybil felt a hand on her arm. And then she screamed. And screamed. And screamed until her throat was raw. 

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Hogwarts’ Grounds

“Are you sure we’re allowed to be here?” Dawn asked rather nervously as they approached the stable building by Hagrid’s hut.

Luna nodded. “Yes, students are allowed into the stables and near the paddocks as long as we maintain adequate safety measures.”

“Safety measures?” Kit asked anxiously. “Is this something that can earn us more path sweeping? It snowed again last night!”

Luna smiled a little. “No, Professor Hagrid painted lines on the floor around the loose boxes with dangerous creatures, we’re not allowed to cross them without permission, but we can look at them. We can also pet the creatures considered safe.”

Kit and Dawn exchanged another glance. “Okay, show us,” Dawn said. “And are there unicorns too?”

Luna smiled at Ginny, who giggled. “We can’t see the unicorns. They’re wild and run in the Forest and we’re definitely not allowed in there,” Ginny explained. “But the stables and the paddocks are alright.”

They went inside, and Luna went straight for a large stall at the back. “Hello Edgar,” she whispered, fondling something invisible.

Ginny rolled her eyes. “Luna and her thestrals.”

Kit shivered. “Man that thing is ugly! How can she pet him like that?”

Ginny froze and then nodded, her eyes rather sad. “Oh, yeah, you’d be able to see them,” then she brightened slightly and led Dawn over to another box. “This is Greywing, she belongs to Neville, a friend of Harry and Ron’s. I’ve petted her, so I’m allowed to introduce people to her. Want to meet?”

Kit and Dawn nodded, eyes wide as they took in the huge hippogriff. Greywing turned her head towards them and clawed the ground, then let out shriek of recognition upon spotting Ginny. Dawn and Kit looked on in awe and wonder as Ginny instructed them on how to meet and greet a Hippogriff.

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Hogwarts proper

Sybill’s eyes were fastened on Buffy’s pale and tear-lined face. “Line Breaker, World Shaker, death will reach out for thee, Thirst-quencher will be the end of thee, and love the beginning,” Sybill’s voice was deep and hoarse.

 “Sybil! Sybil!” Minerva tried to calm the woman, gripping the younger woman’s wrist as Sybill clawed, trying to rip out at her eyes put of their sockets as she had done once before.

“Old One! Old One Sunk into the flesh of the young, Mindbreaker. Make her into the Chosen One, take what is hers and become the One!” Sybil gibbered, still in the deep voice of prophecy and then screaming in her own. “I see them! I see them dying! The poor girls, dying, dying, hurting, wounded!” 

Buffy was looking at the woman writhing on the ground, her eyes wide and face pale, shivering a little. She leaned back in her mother's arms, for the first time grateful for her lack of inches as she could huddle in the safety of her mother's warmth, tucked under her chin.

“I did that to her. Oh God. Mom, I did that to that poor lady!” Buffy whispered.

Joyce kissed Buffy’s head and gave her an encouraging hug. “She’s having visions, Buffy. And right now they may be because she saw you, but you are no more at fault for her getting them than you are for Aunt Arlene’s. This is not about you, it’s about her.”

Buffy nodded, but still turned her face away when Sybill’s eyes turned back to her, then moved to her mother’s middle. Buffy bristled and immediately placed herself squarely between her unborn sibling and Trelawney.

“Heir of the Wandering Death, Scion of a broken line, Broken spirit, fallen son, fathered on the beloved one, bound with father’s soul as one. One was taken, both must die, souls were broken, love undone,” Sybil screeched out.

Joyce gulped and put her hand on her stomach. Buffy looked about ready to slug the screaming Sybill into unconsciousness.

“Mom? What's going on here?” Willow asked her voice confused and frightened as she wandered towards the screams, Xander beside her and her hand tight on her brother’s arm.

Sybill looked towards Willow’s voice and let out a soul rending cry. “From three Great Roots the World Tree grows, three heads, three pairs of shoulders to bear the weight of the world. One of Spirit, one of Earth, one of Faith.”

Willow looked at the raving woman in fear and confusion, and then edged towards Joyce and Buffy's location. “Mom? Who's the crazy lady?” She asked softly enough that only Buffy and Joyce heard. A soft affirmative noise came from her shoulder as Rowan wanted to know as well.

“She's the Divination teacher, I think. The one we didn't get to meet yesterday,” Joyce answered, equally softly as Sybill continued to scream and sob.

Madam Pomfrey ran up, carrying her emergency kit and Hagrid was just behind her, his large face anxious.

“What's going on here?” Arlene's voice rang out, Evy peeking out from behind her shoulder.

Sybill's eyes fastened on the girl, widening impossibly behind her glasses. “Heiress to the Sun, Blood of the Wise, Bearer of the Sacred Spear, Hero before the Open gate, Mistress of the Barge of Death, Imhotep's Bane and Get, darkness flees before the Light she brings!”

Evy shuddered and hid while Arlene's eyes narrowed.

Minerva looked at them all apologetically. “I'm dreadfully sorry, I don't know what’s happening. We bound her core to keep her visions from overwhelming her a few days ago, and when we removed the block she seemed fine again...” she shrugged helplessly.    

Arlene sighed and closed her eyes. With a swift movement she pulled a thin platinum chain out from under her robes, a deep, opaque blue stone hanging from it. Then she knelt by the other woman and put her hands on her shoulders, meeting Sybill’s crazed and panicked gaze. “Sister be silent, sister be safe, your centre is clear and your visions abate. We are the daughters of Cassandra, the heirs of her curse, together we stand to bear the burden of the truth.”

Sybill's sobbing lessened and her eyes fastened on Arlene’s. “Sister...”

Arlene smiled. “Easy. Find your centre. Stay there. Do not let what you see in the world draw you into the place of visions.”  

Sybill whimpered. “It hurts. It hurts... I can but see and cannot act.”

Arlene put a soothing hand on the other woman's forehead. “I know. Deep breaths, find your centre.”

Obediently Sybill went into the ancient meditation techniques, her breaths getting deeper and more even as the rhythm took hold.

Minerva looked at the two women and rose form her kneeling position. “You’re a Seer, like Sybill?”

Arlene shook her head. “No, I’m a Seer. From what I can tell she’s a Prophetess,” she gently stroked the other woman’s face until Sybill’s strained face relaxed. “The poor thing.”

Minerva McGonagall, looking at her stricken colleague, could not help but agree.

End Note:

Mary, Princess of Teck, was the wife of George V of Great Britain and the Grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_of_Teck

 

 

 

 
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