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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571477386,06128 May 115 Jul 14No

Of sisters and lovers

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.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Regrettably the forum Glendon so kindly created has failed for lack of attention. I think I shall have to upload the information there in some other form on this site.  Sorry about that, Glendon. I should have taken better care of your work. (How have you been?)

Many thanks to Firstomega, Glendon and RedCalypso for recommending this tale.

Ninety-seven recommendations, wow. Lonely Souls may never reach the ‘most recommended’ top twenty-five but I’m very proud of, and very happy with this.

And of course the number of reviews does put me in the top twenty-five of that one. Thank you all.

78 Of sisters and lovers

Hogwarts, main hall

Harry was not unaccustomed to fear. But when he heard that Luna was missing the fear that gripped him was on a level he had only experienced when he'd gone into the Chamber of Secrets to save Ginny.

His panicked gaze swept the great hall of Hogwarts, looking for ways he could help, could do something besides huddle in miserable fear while four girls, two of them his sisters, were in danger.

It landed on the startled face of Draco Malfoy, who was standing in the doorway, between his parents, his broom clutched in his hand.

Lucius handed Draco his own broom, as did Narcissa. Then the elder Malfoys moved away from their son, apparently telling him to stay put, Harry ran to him. “Draco!” He hissed, “Can your broom carry two?”

Draco blinked in surprise. “What?”

“Your broom, can it carry both of us?” Harry insisted.

Draco shook his head. “Not high enough or fast enough to out fly a Dementor. But I've got my Dad's broom too, come on!”

Harry nodded, took the elegant, sleek broom from Draco and followed him ourtside. The boys quickly mounted and rose up. Beneath them a golden haired girl ran towards a large group of Dementors. There was a flash of light and a sword was in her hand.

“Cor!” Harry whispered, awed. It got even better when the girl swung the sword and a Dementor died. The boys quartered the area, noticing the streak of golden light that stopped beside the blonde girl that had to be Buffy, and stabbed a long, golden-headed spear into a Dementor.

“Potter! There's only two girls down there!” Draco yelled at him.

Harry looked around. His seeker's sharp eyes saw the track of footprints. He pointed and noted Draco doing the same. They took off down the tracks, knowing, guessing, hoping, that the other two girls were there.  

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At the edge of the Forbidden Forest

Lockhart towered over the two girls lying on the ground. He bent over and removed Luna’s wand, stuffing it into the pocket of his robe. Luna’s eyes went to the shining blue gem dangling from his neck on a silver chain. Lockhart smirked and touched it. “Now I’ll just carry you outside the wards and a quick apparition to my chambers and then we can start making those memories…” he leered.

Luna whimpered. Kit looked at the blond man with wide eyes. Lockhart smiled and reached out to caress Kit’s cheek. Then he took Luna’s wand out again, and with two wands in hand started to cast. “Mobilicorpus!” He gestured and the girls flipped over, facing the ground and he started moving pushed the girls ahead of him, whistling softly as he walked.

Luna tried to see where they were going but the frozen, snow-covered ground was singularly uninformative. It didn't help that she didn't know where she been to begin with. She wondered what Kit was thinking. Luna had a pretty good idea of what Lockhart was capable of, even if she was not supposed to. Or according to more conservative members of wizarding society, even know how procreation worked until the night of her wedding to her lord and master. Luckily other, wiser heads had prevailed on that subject. A hand touched her hair and Luna was torn from her carefully constructed pattern of thoughts.

“You know, it will be the first time I've been with a Princess. Most of you are quite well protected. Really quite remiss of your Daddy to not protect you better,” Lockhart changed his position to walk between his prisoners and patted Luna's bottom. “But then, his soul probably isn't in it,” Lockhart chuckled.

Luna would have lashed out at him had she the power over her limbs, would have screamed, raged, torn him apart with spells. But she was bound in magic and helpless and the man she was sure had taken her father's soul was walking beside her and was going to do horrible things to her and her new friend.

And that was when things changed.

There was roar of anger and a grey, translucent being flew at Lockhart, mouth wide open and spectral sword aimed at the blond’s hand. Lockhart squealed and reared back as the Bloody Baron attacked.

An icy cold hand seemed to wrap itself around Lockhart’s spine as the Grey Lady hovered behind him. He reflexively ducked in on himself and his concentration wavered, dropping the two girls to the ground. They landed with thumps and grunts, face-down in the snow. Lockhart glared at the two ghosts.

“You think that a couple of ghost are going to stop me? Think again!” Lockhart motioned with his wand, and then gazed stupidly as he noticed that he was no longer holding it. His numb, icy cold fingers had dropped it when the Baron’s sword passed through them.

His eyes narrowed and he gestured with Luna’s wand. “Excorci-” the spell he was about to cast was cut off when he was blown off his feet.

Lockhart had landed against a fir tree, hard. He shook his head, trying to clear it, then rose, rather shakily. “It will be my great pleasure to destroy you, Baron,” he hissed. He looked around to see how he had ended up against the tree.

Kit sat gasping with Lockhart’s wand in her hand, pointing it at the man, her eyes wide and fearful.

“Well, now. Isn’t that interesting. Another little witch. That will make this even more fun! Accio wand!” Lockhart grinned as his wand flew out of Kit’s hand. “Young witches are especially delectable. They discharge magic involuntarily in such a delightful way.”

******

“Potter! Down there!” Draco gestured at the group near the edge of the Forbidden Forest. Two ghosts and two girls and a man in light blue robes.

The ghosts were floating between the man and the girls, as if defending them. Harry gritted his teeth and dove, Draco right on his bristles. They tore through the air at the brooms’ top speeds aiming straight for the man in blue.

******

The shadows on the snow alerted Lockhart to the approaching brooms. He jumped back under the tree and shot off a Stupefy, striking the first flier. The rider fell off, tumbling into the snow. Lockhart grinned and launched two more stunning spells at Luna and Kit, catching the girls as they tried to flee.

He took a step away from the canopy and looked around to locate the last broom rider. He saw no one and went to check on the one he had shot down. Lying in the snow, unconscious and bleeding from a scratch on his head, lay Harry Potter.

Lockhart grinned. “Well now, this should get me some interesting memories. The Boy Who Lived To Become My Bitch.” Lockhart chuckled again, then cast a full body bind before renervating Harry.

Harry woke with a groan, looking up into the blue eyes and grin of Lockhart. “Hello Harry! Good to see you. I’m sure that one way or another we’ll become great friends.”

Harry glared at him, but was unable to speak.

The Bloody Baron in the meantime hung quietly, his eyes closed, next to the former professor. Lockhart ignored him. With quick, muttered spells and flicks of his wand he flipped the three teens face down again and started to walk, under cover of the edge of the forest. Suddenly a wind picked up, swirling the snow into Lockhart’s face. The man spluttered and the children fell down as his concentration broke. Another pale, floating shape appeared, the Grey Lady, her face not just stern but furious. Lockhart looked round to see the Bloody Baron approach from behind. The snow blew again and again his sight was blocked.

There was a ‘whoosh’ and Lockhart stumbled back as he felt a hand near his chest and tried to grab it, but it was gone before he could. He felt a snap and the silver chain that hung around his neck broke.

His scream of agony became a burble of agony as he fell to his knees, flesh sloughing off his face, until the skin lay tight over the bones of his skull, his lips starting to burn with purple fire and huge numbers of tiny black blisters forming all over his skin. He scratched weakly at them and screamed as each blister touched burst, sending crackling energy along his nerve endings.

Harry and Luna sat back up, with Kit looking on, open mouthed and horrified.

There was slight thud and Draco landed, a pale blue glue emanating from within his frost-cold fingers. He shoved the hand at Luna. “Here.”

Luna blinked and then looked at him with flashing eyes. “I don’t want anything that belonged to that man!”  

“It wasn’t his,” Draco answered curtly. He opened his hand and showed a pale blue glowing crystal. “If anyone should have it right now it is you.”

Luna gulped, her eyes going very wide. “I-is that?”

“Your father’s soul. Yes,” Draco confirmed uneasily. “He told me so.”

Luna closed her eyes and held out her right hand and Draco very slowly let the gem and the silvery chain drop into it. There was a sudden flash of bright light and then Luna was crying and tenderly cradling the gem to her chest. “Oh, Daddy…” 

Harry looked at his cousin with narrowed eyes. “How did you know to get that?”

Draco shrugged. “The Lady. She mimicked grabbing it. I figured she knew what she was doing.”

Harry opened his mouth to object when the Lady suddenly hovered behind Draco, an expression of mild displeasure on her face as she looked at Harry. Harry closed his mouth with a click.

The Lady nodded in approval and then gestured peremptorily at the Baron who set off towards the Castle at a higher speed than any of the children had ever seen a ghost achieve. Then she floated over to Luna, studied her face and bearing for a full minute and very carefully started to pet the girl’s hair, an expression of intense concentration on her ghostly face.

Luna gasped. “Oh.”

“Are you alright?” Draco demanded as he eyed the Lady suspiciously.

“Yes. I can feel her, almost like flesh, as if she’s only just died,” Luna replied.

“Ewwww!” Kit uttered feelingly. “Yuck.”

Draco and Harry exchanged glances. Draco shuddered. “What she said.”

Luna pouted. “She’s just being nice, you know. She’s much better at touching people than Myrtle. Not nearly so cold.”

Harry looked at the floating ghost and nodded dubiously. “If you say so, Luna.”

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Near the Front Gate

Buffy was having fun. The feelings of despair that the Demoaners spread was stopped cold by the silvery light of her sword and the golden light from Evy’s spear-club-axe thing. It changed form on occasion. She didn’t think Evy knew how to control it; her cousin looked far too rattled by the changes to know what she was doing.

The floating demon things kept floating towards them, apparently lacking any sense of self preservation, tactics, strategy or defence ability and they were really easy to kill. Buffy felt like she was in a turkey shoot. It was a pity she wasn’t really, because she knew she was going to be hungry once all this was over.

“Kit isn’t here!” Evy called out, fear in her voice.

“Neither is Luna, but we can’t get through these things, there’s too many of them,” Buffy noted as she swung again. Dawn and Ginny cowered between the two older girls.

“Why do they keep attacking? We’ve killed dozens!” Evy swung her spear and it changed into a mace, crushing the hood of one of the Dementors. It keened its death wail and Buffy shivered.

Her eyes widened as she took in the surrounding area. “Cold. Whenever one of them dies, he spreads into ash and mist, and things get colder. When they scratch us, too! They’re trying to bring us down by inches!”

Evy gritted her teeth as one of the Dementors did indeed claw her, just before she stuck her spear through its chest. Cold spread out from the little wound, as if a barrel of ice was concentrated on the little spot, less than an inch square. Not even the warmth from the spear was enough to drive it off.

“They’re killing themselves to kill us!” She agreed with Buffy.

“It makes no sense!” Buffy swung her sword, jerking her other arm out of the reach of an attacking Dementor. “They’ve lost a quarter of their number, they should be retreating!”

“Buff? I’m getting tired…” Evy admitted in a low whisper only audible to Buffy’s Slayer hearing. She swung the spear again. Buffy felt a chill run down her spine.

*Not a Slayer, not even trained to fight. As a matter of fact, she’s just recovering from major malnutrition and neglect. She can’t keep this up. And alone, they’ll surround me. Crap, maybe this wasn’t such a hot idea after all.*   Out loud she laughed. “Don’t worry, we can deal with them!”

Evy nodded and gripped her spear with greater strength, slashing and stabbing and bashing for all she was worth. But Buffy knew it wasn't enough.

“EXPECTO PATRONUM!” A chorus of voices sounded and a group of silvery animals charged at the gathered Dementors. A second chorus of “Revelio Anima Animalis!” and the group was joined by a second one, became a host. An angrily snorting mare with flaring manes, a pelican, a tabby cat, a snarling badger, a large, luminous moth, a buffalo cow, a large Bald Eagle, a huge shambling Grizzly and a huge wild boar sow. A tiny little penguin hopped at the rear, trying to keep up, but it kept stumbling and falling into the snow.

The Dementors broke and scattered before the silvery creatures, disappearing in all directions.

Evy, finally able to drop her guard, leaned on the spear, gasping for breath, the glowing spear losing its aura as its butt stuck in the dirt and its wielder's energy faded. Then an auburn haired tornado was beside her, almost lifting her feet off the  ground in her need to hug her and make sure she was alright..

“Evelyn Amanda Ellis! What the HELL did you think you were doing?” Arlene whispered fiercely.

Evy clung to her mother and Arlene, far too happy to clasp her daughter to her breast, didn't seem to expect an immediate answer.

Cecilia Ellis strode towards the children, flanked by Molly and Minerva. Her face was  thunderous. Behind her James walked with an expression almost as dark, Pomona Sprout on one hand and Septima Vector on the other. Madam Pomfrey and Andromeda Tonks followed behind.

“Heya, Gran! Granddad!” Buffy called out cheerily, trying to hide the luminous sword behind her back without success.

“Buffy Anne Summers...” Cecilia's voice was hard but whatever she was going to say was cut off by James, sounding tired but resolute

“Was doing her job. Though next time it might be better is she waits until more experienced heads tell her what her options are. Won't you, young lady?” He gave Buffy an intense stare while carefully stowing away a medicine pouch and a necklace hung with very large and strange teeth.

Buffy looked at her feet, trying to avoid her grandfather’s censure. “You mean like those glowing animal thingies?”

James chuckled as he gently helped Dawn to her feet, holding her close. “They're physical manifestations of our spirit animals. Around here they call them Patronuses. And yes, they are an excellent way to drive off Soul Leeches.”

“Oh, so they can kill them too?” Buffy asked, her voice curious.

“Kill them?” Minerva asked, astonished. “Dementors cannot be killed!”

Buffy snorted and scuffed her foot through the ashy scummy layer that covered the snow. “S'Yeah right! Deader than doornailed Dodo's!”

Andromeda sniggered as she leaned down to inspect the ash surrounding Buffy. “I like her, she reminds me of Cissy in a temper, all fluffy and more dangerous than lightning.”

Molly was hugging Ginny and looking at Buffy with gratitude. “Thank you, for saving my daughter. That's both of them you’ve saved now.”

Buffy nodded. “Happy to help. And talking about that, Where's Kit and Luna?” Her voice was light but the undertone of worry was clear to all who heard her.

Madam Pomfrey was running diagnostic spells on Dawn and Ginny. “Don't worry, the Headmaster is leading a cavalcade of annoyed alpha males to save them.”

Molly nodded, her eyes narrowing. “And when I get my hands on Harry...” She shook her head. “A pity the garden doesn't need de-gnoming in winter.”

Minerva looked grim. “I’m sure Severus can find something for both Potter and Malfoy to do. Idiot boys.”

Cecilia shook her head. “Let’s worry about that later and get these children back inside and fill them up with chocolate.”

Buffy, Evy, Dawn and Ginny perked up. “Chocolate sounds good!” Dawn piped up.

James laughed. “I thought it might. Come on, your mother is worried sick.”

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The edge of the ForbiddenForest

A series of variegated ‘pops’ startled the children. Dumbledore and Kettleburn appeared, along with Flitwick. Severus had side-along Apparated Simon, who looked distinctly green around the gills. Tonks twisted in and fell face down in the snow. Arthur appeared as well, as did Lucius, all the wizards landing upright and with their wands at the ready.

The newly arrived group took in the situation and then men hurried to their children, Lucius grabbing Draco, Arthur quickly assessing Harry before shooting the boy an apologetic look and gathering the softly weeping Luna into his arms.

Harry smiled his understanding.

Kit in the meantime ran at Simon and threw herself into his arms, where he sat on the cold ground.

Simon, hugging his second youngest closely on the frozen forest floor, glared at his brother. “You did that on purpose.”

Snape raised an eyebrow. “Would I do that to you?” Then he started an elaborate set of diagnostics on all the children that had Kettleburn and Flitwick blinking.

Lucius looked up. “Well?”

“They’re all fine,” Snape’s eyes narrowed as she saw the light blue glint shine through Luna’s fingers, then his eyes flickered towards the writhing, burbling form of Lockhart. “Ah. Now we know how he avoided the results of your spell, Filius.”

Flitwick raised his white eyebrows. “We do?”

Snape pointed. “He was shielded. By another’s soul.”

Flitwick’s eyes narrowed in loathing as he looked at what had once been an admittedly handsome man. “Well, another crime for which he deserves to be punished.”

Kettleburn pocketed his wand. “I’d say his punishment was sufficient. For now.”

Snape held out a hand to Simon, who took it and was pulled to his feet, Kit still clinging to him.

“Now that that is over with…” Snape glared at the two boys, who unconsciously drew nearer to each other.

“What in the name of Merlin did you think you were doing, Mr. Malfoy?” Snape barked. “You were acting like a moronic Gryffindor!”

Albus coughed. “Really, Severus, for all you know half your family could have been sorted into Gryffindor. And Mr. Potter and Mr. Malfoy may have acted precipitously, their actions did save Miss Holburn and Miss Lovegood. And brought down Lockhart.”

Snape glared and stomped off to cast a very harsh Constricto at Lockhart. A keening burble escaped the man as the ropes tightened around his body. No-one made the objection that Lockhart was in no condition to flee.

“Professor Snape does have a point, however. Draco? Care to explain this?” Lucius asked mildly.

Draco glanced at Luna and flushed a little. “Not really, Father.”

Lucius pursed his lips to hide his smile. “Ah. I see. Quite.”

Kettleburn beamed. “Ah, like father like son! Do you remember, Filius, Albus, when Lord Malfoy ran from the Astronomy tower to the Quidditch Field and jumped a fourth year Gryffindor for flying so recklessly that the younger Miss Black fell from her broom? He was what, a third year? And she in her second?”

Lucius pale complexion pinked slightly. “Yes, quite. Nevertheless, circumstances were different.”

Arthur rose with Luna in his arms. “Somewhat, yes. Harry? Go with the Headmaster please, I don’t want to Apparate with both of you.”

Severus looked at Simon who sighed. “Don’t drop me this time, I’m carrying Kit.”

Severus nodded and took Simon by the elbow, gazed down on Kit, crying softly in her father’s arms and Apparated out. Lucius, with Draco, And Albus with Harry followed.

The rest of the party looked at the wreck of Lockhart. Tonks swallowed and looked at Flitwick. “You cast this spell, sir?”

Flitwick gave the young Auror in training a look. “Yes.”

Tonks nodded. “Right. Heat of the moment. I understand.”

Kettleburn looked at the man beside him. Filius Flitwick was the epitome of a Ravenclaw, a personification of his House. He never did anything in the heat of the moment; he was logical and cool and collected. The spell he had cast on Lockhart had been exactly what he intended to do.

Kettleburn smiled. With the Dementors discredited after the attack on the children, and they would be discredited, there was no doubt about it, there would be no Kiss for Lockhart. He would suffer the agonies he was going through, probably for years, kept alive by the darkness he himself had created and that Flitwick had unleashed within him. It was fitting. And the old teacher saw no reason to disabuse the young Auror of the notion it had not been planned. They apparated out, leaving only the Lady and the Baron.

The Baron gave her a hopeful, wistful look. And for the second time in three days, for the second time in almost a millennium, the Lady gave him a grudging nod of approval.

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Hogwarts, Main Hall  

There was an awful lot of fussing going on. Joyce and Simon fussed over Buffy, Dawn and Kit, Molly and Arthur fussed over Harry, Ginny and Luna. Draco was fussed over by Narcissa and Lucius.

Evy was in the arms of Arlene and Jon, who was looking both proud and frightened.

The other children were gathered in little clumps, worry on their faces.

Near the great doors the Grangers stood, uncertain about what to do.

By the fire Alastor Moody stumped to and fro, a deep scowl on his face, waiting for his Floo call to the office of the DLME to be returned.

Buffy shivered. “I'm right in front of the fire and I'm still cold!” she complained.

Madam Pomfrey nodded. “Yes, that is one effect of Dementors. Hot cocoa is being prepared as we speak, and some bars are being fetched too.”

The doors to the office flew open and Snape strode in, cloak billowing. Behind him came a group of house elves bearing trays with steaming mugs. Another elf carried a tray stacked high with slabs of Honeydukes Chocolate.

Snape gestured and the elves started handing out the mugs and the children and adults accepted them eagerly.

Buffy closed her eyes and smiled. “This is like the bestest chocolate ever!”  There was a chorus of agreement from her brother and sisters and the Weasleys.

Dumbledore sniffed his own mug. “It smells amazing. Why don't you always make it like this, Tibby?” Dumbledore asked one of the House elves. The elf wobbled its ears as if in distress and popped out of the room, leaving Dumbledore to look at the empty space in surprise.

“Well, that was odd. However, delicious as it might be, we have more important things to discuss. Miss Lovegood, would you mind?”

Luna nodded reluctantly and placed the gemstone on a table. Many of the adult wizards and adepts gathered round, studying it.

“We must return him to his body, somehow,” Dumbledore mused. “If it can be removed, it should be possible to restore him.”

“You cannot raise the dead,” Cecilia stated in a flat, cold voice.

Albus waved a hand. “He still lives, though in a vegetative state. But how can we return him without sending his soul up into the aether?”

“I don't know, but we have to try, please?” Luna pleaded.

“We shall do our best, certainly. I suggest all of us try and recall any possible means. Miss Lovegood, this is the only captured soul we have, we'll need to run a few tests and find out how tightly he is bound to the crystal. May we do so?” Albus asked, his expression neutral.

Luna bit her lip. “It won't hurt him?”

“It shouldn't. But we cannot guarantee it. We have very little knowledge of this sort of magic. I know of no-one who does,” Lucius told her from the corner of the table. Narcissa had Draco beside her on a nearby couch and was smoothing his already smooth hair. Tonks was taking pictures. Harry and Ron would have laughed except that Harry himself had his hair dried and combed by Molly just after his return. He looked unusually neat. Ron was keeping quiet in case he drew his mother’s attention.

Willow spoke up. “Rowan does,” she said in a very soft voice.

“Your sister? How would she know of such darkness?” Albus voice was surprised.

“Experience,” Willow replied. “Mom, I need to talk to Aunt Penny and Uncle Vic, we need Rowan here.”

Joyce gave her daughter a look. “And just when and why did you decide to reveal your sister this way?”

Willow pointed at Luna. “Just now. And I know how Row thinks, because it is the way I think, because we share a lot of memories. And the memories we don’t share, most of them I’m happy not to share. But she’s me, and I’m her and I know that if either of us could help Luna get her dad back, we would.”

Joyce smiled. “Well, I suppose that is good reasoning. Xander still has the phone. I’m sure Aunt Penny can find the Leaky Cauldron and get here quite fast.”

Willow blinked. “You’re not angry?”

Joyce gave her a wry smile. “Slightly. I was convinced you’d talk to us first. Your father was sure you’d take the plunge and commit without talking to us. But you will be apologizing to Rowan for deciding for her, understood?”

Willow nodded sheepishly. “I did sorta volunteer her, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did, but you're right that she probably won't mind. Now go call her,” Joyce smiled as Willow hurried out the door.

“Phones don’t work near here, there’s no mobile coverage,” Hermione announced.

“Dad has a dedicated satellite phone, just for his use. It shouldn’t be a problem,” Willow responded absently.

“A dedicated phone? Dedicated to what?” Hermione asked, quivering with curiosity.

“Him,” Willow got the phone from Xander and left, accompanied by Xander and Flitwick. Hermione looked after them in astonishment.

Clarice went to stand beside her sister. “So, what did you bet Simon, Joyce?”

Joyce glared, a slight flush rising on her cheeks. “None of your beeswax, Clarice.”

“That bad, eh?” Clarice teased.

“Oh, shut up,” Joyce grumbled, her eyes on her departing children, while she watched her grandparents cuddle her youngest daughters.

******

Buffy’s eyes kept straying to the sword that lay on the table beside the spear Evy had put down. She would have liked to pick it up, but the dark eyes of Severus Snape found her whenever she went close to it. It had taken her mother to actually take it from her hand for Buffy to release it and now she felt curiously empty. As if a part of her she didn’t know she’d had, was missing again.

She sneaked a step closer, sipping her new mug of cocoa, as Madam Pomfrey insisted on referring to it, and glared when her uncle’s eyes landed on her again, despite the fact he was on the other side of the hall, talking to Moody the moody Owler. She gritted her teeth and stepped away again, circling through the hall seemingly at random, talking to Charlie Weasley because she knew it worried her mom, then listening to Hermione grill Willow and Patrick as they were creating a new set of magic blockers to allow the camera and stuff to work, with Professor Flitwick watching like a hawk. She wandered off again, trying to get nearer to where the sword, *My sword, darnit!* lay.

She almost jumped out of her skin when her Uncle’s rich baritone sounded form behind. “It’s yours you know.”

Buffy turned and glared. He looked… amused. “What is?”

“The sword. It is the Sword of the Chosen. It’s yours,” Snape said again.

“How do you mean, mine?” Buffy asked, confused.

“I found it in a museum,” Severus explained. “I took it because it seemed… right.”

“You stole from a museum,” came another, angry sounding voice. Joyce stepped up, her face indignant.

“Yes, I did,” Severus faced her calmly and answered equally calmly. “Or at least, other people stole the sword and I made sure it did not fall into the wrong hands. I’d met one Slayer and I thought for some reason that I would meet others, that the weapon would be more useful when in the hands of those for whom it was made. Without it, I doubt very much even Buffy would have been able to defeat so many Dementors.”

Joyce shuddered and reached out to hook Buffy into an embrace. “Point. Good point. But what about the museum?”

Snape shrugged. “I checked. They stated that they were removing an exhibit of old, fake weaponry and expanding the one about an attempt by Squire Addams to create a Scottish variant of Cognac. Using potatoes and peat, apparently. They’d completely forgotten about it, even the room the collection was in, before that.”

Joyce sighed. “It still feels bad to me.”

Snape’s mouth quirked. “I rescued the rest of the weapons from the skip, does that make you feel better?”

“You have more weapons?” Buffy interrupted gleefully.  “Show me!” She grabbed Severus’ arm and started to drag him off. “C’mon Uncle Sev, show me the sharp, pointy things!”

Severus looked rather perturbed and turned to Joyce for help but she merely smirked and rolled her eyes. “Don’t touch anything Uncle Severus tells you not to touch, dear.”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah, yeah, sure. C’mon Uncle Sev! What sort of weapons are they?”

“Buffy Anne?” Severus’ voice was smooth and cold.

“Yeah?”

“My name is Uncle Severus. If you call me Uncle Sev again I will enact upon you a vengeance so horrifying to your sensibilities they will speak about it at this school in hushed whispers for generations. Am I clear?” his voice had taken on tones of decided menace, reminding Buffy of a recent conversation regarding toilets and toothbrushes.

“Yes Uncle Severus!” she squeaked in an embarrassingly high and trembling voice.

“Good. Let’s go then. Oh and Kendra? You may come too,” Severus threw over his shoulder without looking around at the other girl, whose face lit up when she heard the invitation.

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Hogwarts, an hour later.

Lucius Malfoy had taken Narcissa to the Infirmary. The news that someone who had first hand experience about being stolen at birth and locked in a gem was coming by, on top of Draco taking off to rescue Luna had upset her enough that Madam Pomfrey had decided she should lie down.

The information had led to some discussion and a lot of pensive faces.

Things had quieted down a bit. The four girls who had been crying intermittently, had stopped.

Luna was standing by the table, leaning anxiously against Molly, watching the wizards study the gem that held her father's soul, her eyes going to the doors every so often to see if they were opening to let in the people who might help her father.

The doors opened and a woman enter carrying a briefcase, accompanied by three dark haired and beautiful young women. Charlie and Bill let out soft whistles of appreciation, instantly quelled by Molly’s glare.

Phoebe winked saucily as she passed the Weasley boys. Piper and Prue merely nodded, though not without a twinkle in their eye.

Willow waved them over excitedly. “Aunt Penny! Good, I'll set things up. Uncle Patrick, are you ready?”

Patrick nodded and handed her a glass bead bracelet, crafted from items found in various classrooms. “It may not last very long.”

“It’s a marvellous piece of work,” Flitwick's eyes gleamed. “My grandfather once showed me a Goblin werkyng. Any Goblin Master would love to have the teaching of you, or to learn from you,” he grinned. “We need to find out to what Lineage you belong, Patrick.

“Later. First We've got to get this to work,” Willow interrupted severely. The little professor blinked in surprise and Minerva wasn't the only one to hide a smile behind her hand.

The camera and earphone and mic were quickly set up again. Eying the equipment Willow took a deep breath and then placed them back in their regular positions. “Okay, Rowan, can you hear and see?”

“Loud and clear, sister dear,” Rowan replied. “Let's do this.”

Albus cleared his throat. “Thank you for agreeing to help us, Miss Rowan. Now, there are some experiments we need to run, some information you can hopefully provide. We know very little about these matters and would appreciate it greatly.”

“Okay,” came the slightly tremulous reply. “I'm ready.”

“Very well. Miss Lovegood? I think it might be wise if you weren't here for this discussion.”

Luna looked about ready to object but a soft touch on her shoulder from Molly dissuaded her. “If you say so, Headmaster,” Luna cast one last, anxious look at the gem and allowed herself to be led away.

She joined the group of newcomers in the furthest corner. “Hello,” she murmured. “They’re gonna do stuff to Daddy’s soul. Professor Dumbledore said it might be wise to not be there. So I thought I’d get some distraction. You don’t mind distracting me, do you?” she asked hopefully.

Penelope smiled. “Not at all my dear. I think it is very wise of you to leave that discussion to those less close to the matter. By the way...” she hesitated, then took a deep breath. “Are you related to Wendelin Lovegood?”

Charlie Weasley, standing not far away, heard the question. “Wendelin? You mean Wendelin the Weird? The Witch who let herself get burned because it tickled? She’s related to you, Luna?” He laughed, though without malice. 

Luna’s face that had gotten a little brighter at Penelope’s question, fell again, her cheeks pink. “She’s my great-great-great-great grandmother. And there is no need to be rude,” she added, almost in tears.

Before Charlie could apologize he was grasped and hoisted into the air by Penelope’s telekinesis. “What did you just call the Lady Wendelin?” her voice was harsh.

Charlie gulped as he felt the grip tighten. “W-Wendelin the W-weird?”

“The Weird? The Weird? One of the greatest, most selfless of all witches in history and you call her ‘The Weird’?” Penelope hissed. “A woman who saved hundreds of people from being burned by teleporting them away, giving them money to start new lives, even on occasion taking their places on the pyre? That Wendelin? The woman who saved the magic-less, Outcast girl who became the Ancestress of the American House of Warren? That Wendelin? The woman to whom I and my granddaughters and nieces and sister owe their lives? That Wendelin? The woman who bankrupted herself helping thousands of people all across Europe and the Americas to escape the Witchhunt? She was Weird?”

Charlie was gasping for breath and whimpering. Luna stepped up to Penelope and touched her arm. “He didn’t mean any harm. He just didn’t know. Please, let him go.”

Penelope looked shocked at what she’d been doing and gently let Charlie down. “I’m sorry, young man. I’m afraid my temper got the better of me.”

Charlie wheezed and nodded, then squeezed Luna’s shoulder in thanks and mouthed ‘I’m sorry’ at her.

“That was a considerable display of skill, Lady Warren,” came Molly’s deceptively calm voice. “If you do it again, I will skin you and feed you to the Thestrals.”

Penelope’s mouth twitched. “So noted. I do apologize, Lady Margaret. Now can someone tell me where I can find the idiot who taught history to Charles here?”

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The Ministry of Magic, Office of Cornelius Fudge

“This will not do, Crouch! We need the Dementors! If we have to hire people to do their work we’ll be bankrupt within the year!” Fudge thumped his fist on the table.

“Apparently they crossed the wards of Hogwarts to assault some very gifted young witches. Including the Ambassador’s two youngest daughters. The Ambassador is not pleased and Madam Bones is insisting she must go and placate him,” Crouch tried to soothe the man.

“This will not do Crouch! You told me that the Dementors were under control and yet they attacked children on the Hogwarts grounds, again!” Fudge glared at the other man. “And Director Bones told me that Moody had delivered a report to you that made it quite clear that they might not be under control, and that you suppressed it. And that makes me wonder what other things you have not told me… MADAM BONES!”

Bones came in, her face severe. Fudge addressed her. “Madam Bones, it is with great regret that I’m ordering you to take Mr. Crouch into custody and to start an immediate investigation into his actions.”

Crouch gasped like a fish on dry land. “Minister?”

Fudge held up a hand. “Be silent, Crouch. I have no desire to listen to your pitiful excuses. Director Bones, the review is to span the entire period of Mr. Crouch’s service at the Ministry, with special attention to his period as the Director of the DMLE.”

Bones looked at Fudge with something akin to respect. “Yes, sir. What about the threat of Black, sir?”

Fudge bit his lip and tapped his desk with his fingers. “I hate to do this but I’m recalling all the Aurors on holiday to active duty. Also activate the reserve corps and everyone who’s retired in the past five, no make that ten years. Set them up however you wish. Send the Dementors back to Azkaban, the holding facilities there will keep them in?”

Bones nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll do that immediately, Minister. Shacklebolt, Scrimgeour, take Mr. Crouch into custody.”

Fudge looked as the man was led away. “Considering you seem to have a rapport with the Ambassador I’d ordinarily give you the Department of International Magical Cooperation to lead, but as you dislike the job… Thicknesse is doing a good job at managing the DMLE’s international office, isn’t he?”

Bones blinked. “He is, Minister, an excellent one.”

“I’ll name him Director Pro tem, then. We can have him affirmed by the Wizengamot if he does well,” Fudge decided. “Now, we need to go to Hogwarts to placate an Ambassador.”

“I think withdrawing the Dementors will help with that considerably. Might I inquire what changed your mind, Minister? You seemed adamant in using them before…” Amelia let her voice trail off into a question.

Fudge sighed. “I hoped we had them under control, that the earlier attack was a fluke brought on by the heightened emotions of the Quidditch match. But this latest attack cannot be ignored. Four girls…” his shoulder slumped as he shrugged helplessly and gestured at his desk were a picture stood of Fudge playing with three young girls. “Your niece is there, my granddaughters will be there next year. All those other children, I won’t risk them,” he straightened. “Consult with the Aurors, draw up a plan to defend Hogwarts from Black. Concentrate on keeping the Potter boy safe.”

Bones nodded. “Yes, Minister,” she coughed. “You might want to change before you meet the Ambassador, sir.”

Fudge sighed and looked down at his clothes. “I spilled tea over myself when I heard the news. And a buttered crumpet.”

Bones’ mouth twitched. “Still pants at Scourgify, Caramel?”

Fudge grinned a little at the old Hufflepuff nickname. “Oh, shut it Skully,” Then he gave her a look. “I don’t suppose you’d care to assist an old Housemate?”

Bones grinned and gestured with her wand. The sticky, smelly mess on Fudge’s jacket disappeared. He nodded and straightened his robes. “Thank you. Let’s head out to Hogwarts.” He extended his arm and Amelia took it.

As Amelia smiled and Cornelius smiled back, his mind was busy.

*How can I use this? I’ve got Amelia firmly on my side. I’ve gotten rid of Crouch, and he’s completely discredited so anything he says about me will be denounced as slander. The Aurors can do things that the Dementors are not allowed, enter homes… Yes, this may work very well. Now I need to find a way to make the budget balance… I wonder… Maybe we can sell some parts from magical creatures… A pity that the Slayer is the Ambassador’s daughter, otherwise we’d be able to sell her for a good amount of Galleons…* 

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Sunnydale, Kendall House

Cordelia tried to peek around her blindfold, but it had been well tied. Her arms and hands were extended as far as they could and she was moving slowly. The short grass, she’d helped mow it earlier that day, smelled wonderful and she could hear the giggles emanating from her sisters. Harmony had never been able to maintain her silence during this game when they were younger and apparently neither could Felicity and Melody.

“I’ll get you, you little Twits,” she mock threatened.

“Hah! You’ll never catch us. Nyah Nyah!” Melody called out.

Cordelia lunged, her cheerleader training standing her to good stead. There was an ‘eep’ and Melody scampered out from under her outstretched fingers, just before Cordelia could nab her.

“Never? That was pretty close, I’d say…” Cordelia grinned, and then quickly suppressed it. It wouldn’t do for people to see how much fun she was having… Suddenly she froze. She was allowed to have fun, to be childish, to play with her little sisters, to giggle with Harm in public when they tried on make-up. *Not too much or you’ll ruin your skin!* the voice of her new mother reverberated in her mind. *Or look like a cheap tramp. Yes, Cordelia, that means you!*

Cordelia gulped and swallowed, standing still, trying to suppress the tears that threatened to pour down her cheeks. There was a soft touch on her hand. “Cordy? You okay? We can stop if you want to?”

Fliss’ voice was slightly worried. Cordelia lunged. But it wasn’t a grab, at least not one like Felicity was expecting. She suddenly found herself enveloped in a hug. “No, I’m fine. More than fine,” Cordelia sniffled. “Got you though.”

“Hey! No fair, I was worried!” Felicity objected indignantly.

Cordelia laughed. “Yeah, you were. Tough!”

Suddenly Cordelia felt fingers digging into her sides, just in a sensitive spot. She shrieked with sudden laughter as the tickling started, ripping off her blindfold. Fliss soon added her own little fingers to Harmony’s and Melody’s assault.

Cordelia collapsed under the heap of blondes, still laughing.

******* 

Marcus Kendall was standing by the window of his study, looking into the garden and smiling, the book he’d been looking at disregarded on his desk. He felt movement beside him and Eliza joined him. “What are you looking at?”

Marcus smirked. “Cordelia bet the Twins that she could throw more strikes than them…”

“Oh dear… What did she bet?” Eliza lips twitched.

“An hour of time for each strike” Marcus sniggered. “Cordelia was going to make them do her chores.”

“And the Twins?” Eliza looked out, to see that Cordelia was wandering through the garden, blindfolded. The Twins were hiding behind trees, as was Harmony.

“Blind man’s Bluff?” Her mouth twitched as Cordelia stumbled into a shrub.

“Before this it was tag, before that it was Hopscotch…” Marcus grinned.

“She doesn’t really seem to mind…” Eliza frowned. “Wait a second, she knows the Twins are the Under Twelve Town Bowling Champions, she’s seen the trophies…”

Marcus raised an eyebrow. “Ah, but if she just offered to play games with her sisters that would be seriously uncool, would it not?”

Eliza sighed and shook her head. “Think the twins guessed?”

“I’m sure they did,” Marcus smiled. Melody narrowly avoided being grabbed as she taunted Cordelia. He was about to continue when Cordelia suddenly froze, a strange expression on her face.

Felicity approached her and was swept up into a hug. And minutes later the game had devolved into a massive tickle fest.

Marcus smiled at his wife. “Shall we go join them?”

Eliza smiled back. “Blindfolds, Marcus? How kinky…”

Marcus laughed. “Don’t let Harmony and Cordelia hear that. We’d never live it down.”

Eliza grinned. “Come on, you,” and led him out of the room by his hand.

On the desk, the album lay, forgotten. Two blond boys in robes were running through a garden laughing, their soundless laughter unheard as they ducked behind topiary and trees.

End Note:

I wonder how I can bring Lockhart back as a villain…

 
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