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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591496402,13928 May 115 Jul 14No

Old Oaths for New

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta, Letomo.

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.#

Greek: ^Who cares?^

Ancient Egyptian: »Who’s that?«

Latin: ~Who’s who?~

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

Many thanks to Glenholme, Midon, Misty and WEMB for recommending this story. I hope all of you enjoy the next chapter.

 

Chapter 80 Old Oaths for New

“TWINS?” Buffy called out loudly as he mother finished telling the family of the recent discovery.

Joyce winced slightly. “Volume, Buffy. Yes, twins.”

Xander closed his eyes. “Don’t tell me, twin girls, right? I’m going to be outnumbered for ever and ever.”

Joyce shook her head in fond exasperation. “Actually, one of each. Fraternal twins.”

Dawn and Kit were whispering and then Dawn looked up. “So, have you thought of names yet?”

Joyce shrugged. “Well, with a boy, it’s easy. Simon Coenraad Hendrik Meier.”

Simon opened his mouth to object but Joyce forestalled him with a raised hand. “That is not open for debate. That name has been in your family for longer than the United States has existed.”

Simon sighed. “And here I was hoping for Alfred.”

“We can call the girl Alfredina,” Xander quipped.

Buffy poked him in the ribs. “No giving funny names to my baby sister. It’s bad enough I have t cope with Buffy, no matter how cool Mrs. Chandler is.”

Joyce chuckled, and winked, “I promise to settle on a name before the anaesthetic kicks in this time.”

Dawn smirked. “I knew mom had to be drugged up to call you something that stupid,” stuck out her tongue at Buffy and ran away.

Buffy growled. “That little…”

Joyce raised an eyebrow. “Well, what are you waiting for? Chase her!”

Buffy blinked. “What?”

“That was a challenge. Go catch her. She’s feeling frightened and insecure and wants to know that you still think of her as your So-not-a-baby-sister. Despite this one being on the way.” Joyce put a hand on her stomach.

Buffy grinned. “Soooo… I can chase after Dawn and administer a well-deserved punishment?”

Xander smirked. “I know… Death by tickle!”

Kit rolled her eyes. “Death by tickle for telling the truth, I mean, come on, you do have a ridiculous name! Mama must have been stoned out of her gourd to think that one up,” She looked up to see Joyce’s expression and grinned weakly. “Oops?”

Joyce cleared her throat. “Kendra? Would you be so kind as to assist me?”

Kit backed away, eyes widening as her foster mother and sister approached. “Hey! Dawn’s over there!”

“And Buffy, Xander and Willow will attend to her. You, Katherine Melanie Joan, are getting the Mama Tickle Treatment,” Joyce smirked.

Kit let out a tiny whimper as Joyce’s fingers found the ticklish spots in her sides, before bursting out in helpless giggles.

Willow looked after the rapidly disappearing Dawn and then at Kit. “I think I’ll help Mom, you two have fun with Dawn!” she called to Buffy and Xander who were chasing after the youngest.

Joyce shook her head in amusement as Kit hiccoughed with helpless laughter. “You do realise that after the holiday you’ll be running again, Willow? No matter if Hurst gave you a week off? All that rich food has to come off again you know.”

Willow closed her eyes and whimpered. Joyce relented. “Oh, very well. I think Kit is ticklish in the bends of her knees…”

Willow happily pounced. Kit squealed.

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Clarice sighed as she looked at her older brother who was wearing a dreadfully smug grin as she looked at his future wife across the Hall. “It’s not like you had anything to do with it, you know. Joyce’s body is in charge of this pregnancy, not your itty-bitty seed.”

Severus, next to her, snorted. “How elegantly put. Now, was there a reason you two wanted to see me?”

Clarice nodded. “Yes. About two things, actually. Have you thought about Evy’s problem?”

Severus suppressed a sigh. *Ah, and here comes the price…* “I have made a cursory inspection, and looked over the notes provided. It is possible to lift the enchantments, but it would need a Master Legilimens using the power of three closely related magic users all with strong natural Legilimency or Occlumency. That is not a combination that is easy to find.”

Clarice bit her lip. “What if she doesn’t get help?”

Severus looked over to where the Weasley Twins were outrageously flattering Evy, complimenting her on her prowess with the spear and asking if she wore traditional Amazon garb. Evy looked delighted and mortified at the same time.

“Her mental coherence will deteriorate and she will slowly lose her mind over the next few years”   

“Oh. We’d better start looking then,” Clarice looked frightened and pale.

Severus looked at the girl again. Then he sighed. “Headmaster Dumbledore is a highly skilled Legilimens. We three have sufficient power,” he hesitated and then sighed. “I may be a more powerful Legilimens, and certainly Occlumens than Dumbledore. I-I can also compensate for Simon’s lack of power if need be. But  if Simon taps into the nexus here, which I know he can do because I felt him do it when we went looking for the girls. That should satisfy the mystical and power requirements.”

Clarice took a step closer to him, and looked up. “That would mean that Dumbledore might have access to parts of your mind you’d prefer to keep hidden. You would do that for Evy?”

Severus looked at the girl again, then at the quiet Simon and then at Clarice. “I think you understand why I’m doing it, Clarice.”

Clarice gave him a quick hug. “You’re a far better man than you give yourself credit for. Now, the second reason is your stipend. I’ve been getting mine retroactively, in Dollars. Do you want yours in Dollars, Pounds or those Galleon thingies?”

Severus stiffened. “Stipend?”

Simon snorted. “Galleon thingies? The children are rubbing off on you, Clare. And yes, Severus, all first generation children are entitled to a stipend. You will receive one, but your offspring won’t. My children will get one, but their offspring, except Simon the sixteenth’s over there, won’t,” he gestured at  It’s the family tradition.”

“Would I’ve gotten this money even if I’d not offered to help Evy?” Severus asked skeptically.

“Yes. Being a bastard is not a reason to block your inheritance. Now if you really were a follower of Riddle, then it would have been different. The Patriarch can withhold the stipend if he fears it will be abused. That does not mean squandered. It means using it to foment rebellion or buying slaves,” Simon explained, smirking slightly. “Plenty of stipends have been squandered.”

Severus nodded. “How high is this stipend? Three or four hundred Galleons a year?”

Simon shook his head. “That’s what, 2000 pounds? You do realize that your entire society is on the brink of economic collapse, don’t you Severus? The sort of subsidies that your government pays to keep prices down can’t be maintained indefinitely.”

“So it’s less?” Severus tried to keep the disappointment out of his voice. *Three hundred Galleons would have been a gift from Merlin.*  

Clarice grinned and bounced on her toes. “Can I tell him? Can I?”

Simon smiled indulgently. “Go ahead.”

Clarice’s grin widened into Cheshire proportions. “Okay, now with all the family duties Simon is foisting of on you, like the House’s seat in the Wizengamot and the superintending of the Secret Estates in the wand wizarding world, your stipend would be about seven million pounds annually,” Clarice sniggered at the shock that Severus swiftly wiped of his face by iron control of his emotions. She’d done much the same herself on the occasion when Simon told her how much money she would be getting. “So with the retroactive payment since age eighteen and with the increase at age twenty-one, the Estate owes you one hundred and twenty-six million pounds, excluding interest. So using the exchange rate for wizards, that would mean about twenty-five million Galleons.”

This time Severus’ shock took longer to pass. “I’m rich,” he choked out.

“Yes. You are. You’ll forgive me if I order you to be paid in stocks and bonds mostly rather than in cash. I did the same for Clarice. It’s much better for the property than liquidating the shares and paying cash,” Simon remarked dryly.

“I can get treatment… I can buy a house…” Severus whispered.

“Yes, you can,” Clarice smiled. “And a laboratory for your potions,”

Simon grinned. “If you dare. As soon as the girls realize how many cute little fuzzy creatures end up in your cauldron the wobbling chins and quivering lips will greatly cramp your style.”

“And how would they find out?” Severus asked dryly.

Simon smirked. “It’s either teach them potions or make snow angels, Severus.”

Severus looked over to where Dawn and Kit were being mercilessly tickled by their brother and sisters, cousins, grandmothers and great aunt. Then he shuddered. “I’ll risk the wobbling chins. They’ve never had effect on me before.”

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Two hours later, Hogwarts Potions Laboratory

Severus was wondering if making snow angels, no matter how embarrassing to him personally, might not have been a better idea. Kit and Dawn’s reaction when they heard that a simple Sleeping Draught contained the liver of a hamster in hibernation had not been good for his nerves. Nor had the reactions of the older girls. Willow and Rowan had hysterics about the fresh frog legs needed for the Jumping potion.

Finally Severus had settled down to have all of them brew one of the mildest strengthening potions. It contained mostly household herbs and became magical solely by the infusion of the brewer’s own internal magic into the mix, combining with the symbolic strength of the ingredients.

He watched like an eagle while his new found family muddled or sailed through the recipes. Piper was the best, showing an instinctive understanding of how the ingredients mixed and matched and how to stir and how long to simmer, but he could see that Kit would one day be a great potion’s Mistress and he was certain that Willow’s native power and intelligence could catapult her into the very highest ranks as well. But then he felt she could probably succeed at any academic subject.

Buffy however, was about as good at potions as she was at cooking. That meant that he’d given Simon a very pointed look and his elder brother had taken up station by his eldest daughter to make sure Severus had a classroom to teach in after the Holidays.

That left Severus to observe his nephew. With rising amazement and fear. Alexander was like the bastard lovechild of Longbottom and Finnegan. Or possibly Crabbe and Goyle. Or even all four of them. So far he had exploded two potions, vanished three, covered the surface of his desk with something resembling asphalt and had caused a flame to flare up from his highly controlled burner to lick the ceiling of the classroom, melting the bottom out of a solid iron cauldron. Severus was quite sure that in one instance, all the boy had been doing was boiling water.+-

It was like watching a train wreck, horrible and unstoppable. It also piqued his scientific curiosity and that was why Severus hadn’t stopped the boy yet. He suppressed a smile as Piper combined rosemary, thyme and sage into a smooth, bubbling blue base for her potion and nodded approvingly. He wandered past the desk that held Hermione and Iphigenia Granger, absorbed in brewing their potion. He hesitated, then paused, shaking his head. He could trust Hermione to keep her inexperienced older cousin from making mistakes. He looked at Simon and pondered. His brother would be disappointed if he wasn’t told that the Grangers were relations, no matter how distant. He sighed resolved to speak to his brother later.

*My brother. My elder brother. What a strange thought,*  Severus mused as his gaze swept the room, looking for dangerous developments or just waste of materials.

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Failand, Somerset, December 30th just before noon  

The old barn was quite warm, having been converted for use as a gymnasium, a new barn having been built further away. Inside, on the hardwood floor a triple circle had been drawn with black and red wax, with a pentagram surrounding the whole. Runes had been chalked around the perimeter of the pentagram and Thomas Giles, dressed in grey robes, was studying them. “I’ve never seen these before.”

Albus Dumbledore, bent over and studying the same rune Thomas was, nodded. “I’ve seen them in books, but I never considered combining them like this. Most interesting.”

Thomas looked over to the center of the circle. Jonathan Carnahan was minutely examining the circle and the runes. The unlit candles that would activate the whole sat in their positions. In a corner the people for whom the ritual was being performed were feverishly studying the words, again.

“Do you think it will work?” Thomas asked, quietly, his eyes on the young woman in the dark slacks and red sweater who was talking to his wife and daughters in the opposite corner, her gaze wandering over to Rupert every so often, doing her best to hide her anxiety.

Dumbledore looked at the circle, the runes, then pursed his lips. “It’s been used before, successfully. So it should work. I’ve studied the runes and the ritual and the Arithmancy show it should work too. So yes, I think it will.”

Thomas saw how Moder helped Jon to his feet. “He looks so old.”

“He is old, of course. His strength is diminished and he knows this. Yet he has chosen not to fade away. He has chosen to go out fighting,” Dumbledore smiled. “It is not such a bad thing, really, helping others until you can help no more.”

Thomas Giles looked at his son again, surrounded by his friends, all looking subdued and frightened even if they tried to hide it. All of them had things to lose, people they cared for. They were very different from the rebellious youths they had been. “I just hope that Rupert can find some peace. That this nightmare will pass. That he can be happy.”

Dumbledore’s smile widened. “Well, if all else fails, we’ll unleash Mr. Moder. He gets very testy when Demons try to take advantage of humans. But personally I think that the ritual will be successful. After all it isn’t Jon who is providing the strength; it is your son and his friends and even us, who will do that. He will merely lead the ritual.”

Thomas nodded. “That will still place strain upon him.”

Albus gestured at the white-robed man who was now directing the bearers of the Mark of Eyghon to take their places. “Again, that is his choice. Jonathan knows what he is doing, accepts the risks and will carry through with it. Stop worrying and just be ready to supply your strength.”

Thomas nodded. “I will, as will Miranda and Esther.”

Dumbledore stepped forward and took his position in the circle. Jonathan stood at the center, with the Marked in the circle surrounding that and the others in the outermost one. Jonathan squared his shoulders and pulled himself up to his full height, then raised his arms and started chanting. Dumbledore stood ready to lend his strength even as his mind took careful note of every word and inflection.

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Hogwarts, Main Hall,December 30th just before noon  

Narcissa smiled as the two squabbling little girls walked ahead of her towards the large table that would seat them all for lunch. Soon she would have a little girl of her own, and possibly, Guinevere willing, more children after that. The younger of the two, Dawn, turned around and looked at Narcissa. “Excuse me? Can you tell us something?”

Narcissa raised an eyebrow. “I can tell you many things. But I assume you want to know something specific?”

Dawn nodded and gestured at Tonks, who was walking a few steps ahead of them. “She told Professor Sprout that comportment was worse than Potions and the worst thing was that it was taught by an ogre crossed with a Dementor. What’s comportment? And do we have to learn?” Dawn asked anxiously.

Narcissa cleared her throat. Tonks had frozen and now looked, very carefully over her shoulder, meeting Narcissa’s gaze. Her eyes were wide and fearful, like a frightened deer facing a lion.

“Errr… A very nice Ogre and a well behaved Dementor?” Tonks whispered.

Narcissa moved forward like a great ship under sail, her face implacable. Tonks took one look at her face and ran. “Nymphadora Cassiopeia Tonks! I want to have a few words with you!” Narcissa spoke in a soft, yet carrying voice.

Tonks didn’t stop, but speeded up. It was then that a couple appeared in the doorway, a large, broad man with a big brown beard and a tall, elegant woman with a large head of black curls. Tonks spun her arms, eyes wide and tried to avoid the couple, but she couldn’t and ran into them headlong, bowling all three of them over and onto the stone floor. Narcissa was by them in an instant, waving her wand, getting them to their feet. Then her hand shot out and nabbed Tonks by the ear. Tonks whimpered.

“A cross between a Dementor and an Ogre, Nymphadora?” Narcissa asked softly.

Andromeda gave her daughter a look. “You, young lady, have just earned yourself an additional three hours a week of comportment.”

Tonks whimpered and her hair went grey.

Dawn and Kit exchanged a look, very slight grins playing around their mouths. Then a throat was cleared behind them. They turned, to see Patrick and Clarice, who were looking at them disapprovingly. “I happen to know that you both know that comportment means manners and behaviour. You asked about it when you found out about the wedding…”

Dawn and Kit looked at their feet, which they were shuffling awkwardly. Joyce, alerted by the goings on at the door, came over. “What is going on here?”

“Your daughters played a prank on Tonks. Which has landed the girl several extra hours of comportment lessons,” Clarice explained.

Joyce took one look at the guilty faces and sighed. “Well, I think some lessons might do you good as well. Narcissa? Can you take on two extra pupils?”

Dawn and Kit squeaked as the blue eyes fastened upon them. “I think that might be arranged, yes. We’ll start right after lunch.”

The little girls winced and Joyce, one hand firmly on their shoulders, led them to the table.

*****

Luna Lovegood had followed the goings on with interest. She looked over at Myrtle, who nodded and started flowing up the Forbidden staircase, as near to the wall as she could. Molly bustled over and put an arm around Luna’s shoulder, leading her away from the staircase. Luna looked at it longingly. She knew that her foster family were worried about her, feared that she would injure herself, throw herself off the stairs again. She could understand that. She could also understand that telling them about Mister Portrait might not be wise. He was a little too different from other portraits to be quite normal. And he was hers. His secret was hers to keep. No-one needed to know he existed.

Luna looked at the pearly form of Myrtle and smiled. Restrictions were just guidelines to a determined Ravenclaw.

*****   

Myrtle arrived at the top of the stairs just as the Headmaster announced the beginning of lunch. She floated to the portrait and smiled. “Hello.”

The dark form nodded in response. “Hello Myrtle. It has been a while since either of you visited me.”

Myrtle nodded and took a sitting position in mid air. “We’ve been busy. Lots of visitors. Do you know about House Vicari? The Patriarch and all his children are here!”

The portrait cleared its throat. “That is an interesting development. Tell me more.”

*******

Myrtle flowed down the stairs, humming softly. Mister Portrait had been very interested in all the things that had been happening. And he’d suggested a number of ways that might help Uncle Xenophilius, just like Luna had thought he would. Myrtle knew that most of the books he’d advised her to look for were either heavily restricted or even in the Headmaster’s Library, behind lock and key, but it was a start. Myrtle sometimes wondered how old the portrait was, with all the knowledge he had and in some cases, lacked. The search for his identity had stalled with all the things that had been going on. They hadn’t even found a hint as to whose portrait they had been talking to. But at times like these, with a list of books and spells to try, she didn’t care. She had knowledge and could impart it to others.

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Failand, Somerset

“I denounce you, Eyghon, as an impostor and a stealer of souls and youth,” Thomas Sutcliffe boomed in a deep voice.

“I renounce you, Eyghon, as one who has a hold on me,” Philip Henry continued.

“I abjure thee, Eyghon, to be gone from our bodies and our souls,” Deirdre Page invoked.

“By our will, by the will of this circle, for the love that we bear and the Light that we seek, we renounce, denounce, abjure and excoriate thee, Eyghon,” Rupert Giles finished.

“Be exorcised! Be cleansed! Be Free of the taint of Eyghon’s mark!” the adepts in the surrounding circles chorused. Power ran thick through the air and the four in the second circle staggered and cried, falling to their knees, grasping at their arms, or thighs, or lower back, wherever the tattoo that bound them to the demon was located.

Jenny looked on worriedly as Rupert grimaced, his hand on the place where she knew his tattoo was. The circle flared, bright white light filled the room. Four screams echoed through the high-beamed space and then, blinking to regain their vision, the people in the third circle, saw the prone bodies of the five in the first two.    

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Former etiquette classroom, Hogwarts

The wary pupils stood behind their desks, backs straight, arms at their side. Even Tonks, who had attempted to claim she was too old for that, but Aunt Cissa had a way of making her feel about eight years old, so she’d given in with some quiet mutters. Narcissa strode up from the door to the front of the class. “I can teach you how to fit into any society, face any situation, with poise and equanimity. If you pay attention you can be at home in any place, talk without embarrassment with both the highest and the lowest. I can teach you to face births with proper behaviour and even face with dignity that ultimate discombobulater, death.”

She turned and sat behind the desk. The group of children and young men and women gaped at her. That morning Professor Snape, introducing them to the subject of potions, had spoken similar words. To hear them from the mouth of Narcissa Malfoy was disconcerting.

Hermione and Iphigenia, eager to learn more about wizarding culture, as well as Ginny and Luna, who had been sent by Molly who had told them quite firmly that running through the halls and upending Professor Flitwick, no matter how unintentional, had joined the original three. Penelope Clearwater had joined to comfort Luna. Prue, Piper and Phoebe had been ‘volunteered’ by their grandmother, who noted that a few manners never hurt anybody and cost nothing. The elder Weasley boys, Bill, Charlie and Percy, noting that a number of attractive young women were going to be present, had decided to sign up.

Buffy, Willow, Kendra, Evy and Amy had enacted their master plan and set off a dung bomb under the high table as Professors Sprout and Kettleburn were playing a game of Wizard’s chess. At that point Joyce, Arlene and Clarice, driven to distraction by their teenage daughters’ giggling, sword waving, fading in and out of sight and attempts to imitate the Weasley Twins in pulling pranks, had sent the group in its entirety to Narcissa’s class while they considered a true and proper punishment, ignoring the girls’ vehement protests that the class itself was punishment enough. Kendra, who had behaved most exemplarily had asked to join as well to ‘increase her understanding of the etiquette involved in dealing with focus users’ Joyce had tried to explain that the other girls were being sent as punishment and that it wouldn’t be fair to Kendra to send her as well. Kendra looked so woebegone at being denied that Joyce had given her a hug and permission, both of which were gladly accepted.

Some sniggers by Xander, Harry, Ron, Fred, George and Draco that manners were for girls, accompanied by a loud belch produced by Xander had led to Joyce, Molly and Narcissa deciding that bad manners were apparently contagious and that some time learning comportment would be an excellent remedy to them. Fred and George’s attempt to flee had been deftly blocked by Andromeda and Danielle.

All this had resulted in a rather fuller class than Narcissa had expected. She gazed over the group of sullen teens, pre-teens and twenty-something’s and then flicked her wand, causing letters to appear on the blackboard.

“You are ladies and gentlemen, and you will learn to behave as such…”

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Failand, Somerset

Rupert Giles groaned. “Hush, love. You’ll be alright,” a soothing voice and a cool hand on his forehead interrupted the groan.

“Oh, lord. My head hurts,” Rupert complained.

“Yes, and it will a bit longer. How is your arm?” Jenny asked.

“Feels like a burn. What does it look like?” Giles asked anxiously.

“Raw hamburger?” Jenny joked. “Actually it looks like a freshly applied tattoo. Of a Wedjat, in blue, gold, white and black.”

Giles blinked. “Oh. It worked then. That’s good. How are the others?”

“Tired, but good. All of you have the Wedjat mark,” Jenny took his hand, before it could touch the place. “Don’t touch that, it’s still healing.”

“What does the mark signify? Does Dr. Carnahan know?” Giles asked anxiously.

“Well, he thinks you’re all now sworn to serve him and his line, and that it’s possible you have to obey his every whim,” Jenny told him biting her lip. “He’s in a room with Deirdre right now-”

“What?!” Giles roared, rising from his bed in a single jump. “She’s married for heaven’s sake!” he tore open the door and came face to face with Deirdre.

“You know Rupert, they told me you’d become gullible with old age, but this really saddens me. You owe me and Jenny twenty Quid each, Tom,” Deirdre Page told Thomas Sutcliffe who was standing beside her.

“Dammit Ripper! The old you would at least have asked if you could join!” Tom grouched as he paid the women their winnings. 

Giles glared at Jenny. “Very funny. Haha,” he crossed his arms. “So, what does it really mean?”

“What I said, we think, but without the mindless obedience,” Jenny answered, tucking the two ten pound notes into her pocket. “So you’ve better make sure nothing happens to Evy.”

Giles nodded. “That was my intention anyway. Why was I out so long?”

“Proximity to the Hellmouth, my dear boy. It engenders most interesting changing in the magical wavelength of your core,” Dumbledore declared from the doorway. “Now get out of bed, your father is worried Jonathan will convince both your sisters to join him for ‘a little nap’ and eagerly wants your interference.”

Tom sniggered. “Rupert interfere in another man’s orgy? Not likely.”

Giles growled and stalked past him out of the room. Deirdre shook her head. “Ordinarily, possibly not. Involving his sisters, of course he would. You owe us another Tenner each, Tom.”

Tom sighed but paid up. Dumbledore smiled and gave Jenny his arm, leading her to the sitting room. “A pity that Jon is rather tired. I’m sure he would have enjoyed spending some time with the Misses Giles.”

Jenny sighed. “I thought you were supposed to be a sweetly eccentric old man with a candy obsession and not some elderly pervert?”

Dumbledore chuckled. “Ah, but I was young once…”

Jenny smiled and shook her head.

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Hogwarts, Severus Snape’s quarters

Norman and Kyle Granger sat rather diffidently in the deep green and black arm chairs in the Potion Master’s sitting room. They looked at the burnished wood paneling, the book cases overflowing with books and tomes and then grinned. “Nice place, Professor Snape,” Norman complimented him.

“I like the décor,” Kyle affirmed.

Severus nodded his acceptance of the praise and poured tea. He looked over to where Simon and Clarice sat.

“I’m sure you’re all wondering why I invited you here.”

Norman shook his head. “Actually, Hermione and Iphigenia figured it out. Since we are descended from the Vicari, and you three are the Senior Vicari and Lord Vicari is the Patriarch, they assume this is about us toeing the family line,”

Simon looked at Severus. “Interesting. How far back?”

Severus shrugged. “Further than Willow, and from a housemaid of no particular family.”

Simon nodded at the twins on the opposite couch. “Well, the family line is quite simple really. Don’t be evil.”

“Ah. We have a problem there,” Kyle deadpanned. “You see, Norman here’s a dentist, and I’m a chartered accountant.”

Clarice laughed. “Oh, I like you two already. Severus, do you have cookies?”

Severus gave his sister a look and cleared his throat. A House Elf appeared and looked at him questioningly. “Biscuits, please, Tibby.”

Tibby nodded and disappeared with a slight pop. Simon looked at the place the elf had occupied with distaste. Then he turned to the men on the couch. “Now, you aren’t closely related, but since apparently your ancestress got the short end of the stick and this is about it for the family, is there anything we can do to help you?”

“Money you mean?” Norman asked bluntly. “We’ve got enough, thank you.”

“Not money. I was thinking more along the lines of advice. Your branch of the family hasn’t had much to do with magic for a very long time, if ever,” Simon clarified. “We can help you, and your families, adapt to two daughters who do have magic.”

Norman and Kyle exchanged glances and then relaxed. “Now that might be useful.”

“And of course Simon has some very nice books,” Clarice spoke in the same deadpan voice as Kyle had earlier.

The two men looked up, their eyes gleaming. “Books, you say?”

Clarice nodded solemnly. “Books and tomes and scrolls, oh my.”

Severus glowered at them all. “As long as you realize that I’m not giving Miss Granger any special treatment at this school because of some diluted blood relationship. Nor will I lend her any books.”

Norman shook his head sadly. “And here she was all set to call you Uncle Severus and share her love of romance novels with you.”

Severus gave him a cool glare. “Please do not jest.”

“Jest? I fear I’m deadly serious, Severus. Hermione, and Jean for that matter, are closet romantics with a penchant for bodice rippers,” Norman explained.

Severus gave his brother and sister a put upon look and sipped more tea. Simon smiled and started to expound on the contents of some of his libraries.

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Hogwarts, Comportment classroom

Narcissa Malfoy had finished her class and had rather expected her vic- pupils would have esca- found other constructive things to do by now.  

It therefore rather surprised her that her two youngest pupils were standing in the doorway and watching her and her husband converse. The girls’ gazes, fastened upon Lucius’ aristocratic features, were rather disconcerting. If they had been five, or maybe even two years older she would have understood. Her husband’s looks, like her own, often garnered a lot of attention. Usually those looks came from older girls however. It somehow felt slightly wrong to treat these two girls in the way she would usually confront Lucius’ fangirls.

Lucius was wearing his hair swept back from his face and tied with a leather band. He often did that when playing Quidditch or working on spells and she loved when he did so as it showed his chiseled cheekbones. Right now the looks the girls were giving him were making her uncomfortable.

When they had been watching for several minutes, rather hindering Narcissa’s in her designs upon her husband, she turned to them. “Is there anything I can help you young ladies with?” She asked pointedly.

Dawn shook her head. Kit nodded.

“Is that a yes or a no?” Lucius asked, amused at the girls and at his wife’s well-concealed irritation.

The girls exchanged a glance and then there was a lot of elbowing and prodding and “You ask!” “No, you ask!” Finally, after a cleared throat and crossed arms from Narcissa, Dawn was victorious using a combination of ‘you’re older and’ve known them longer!’ and Kit, still glaring at her sister, began speaking. “Errr, you see, there’s this man we know, well, not really know, but he’s like, the dad of friends of ours and he looks just like you. So we were wondering if you had a twin brother?” Kit finished quickly.

Lucius froze, his face becoming hard and angry. He rocked on his feet, then leaned forward until his nose was only half an inch from Kit’s. “None of your business!” he hissed and stormed out of the room, leaving the girls frightened and ducking out of his way.

Narcissa looked at their crumpling faces and sighed, then put a comforting arms around their shoulders. “I’m sorry about that, dears. My husband is sensitive about that subject.”

Dawn nodded and Kit bit her lip. “Yeah. Okay. But he really looks a lot like Mr. Kendall.”

Narcissa, who had been rubbing her hands over their backs in soothing circles, suddenly stopped. “Mr. Kendall? His name is Mr. Kendall?”

Dawn looked up, warily, at the tone of voice. “Yeah, Mr. Kendall. He’s Melody and Felicity’s dad. And Harmony’s too I s’pose.”

“Do you happen to know what his first name is?” Narcissa asked, a slight tremor in his voice.

Dawn looked at Kit, who shrugged her ignorance. “Mister? I don’t know. Mama might.”

Narcissa pushed the girls out of the door and towards the hall, propelling them down the passageway quickly. In the hall she saw that Joyce was talking with  Jean and Merrowynne Granger, apparently discussing some of the paintings in the Hall. The two girls were getting alarmed now, but Narcissa kept her hands deftly between their shoulders and they both knew that running would only cause more trouble.

Joyce saw them approach and gave a resigned sigh. “What did they do now, Narcissa?”   

Narcissa shook her head. “Nothing that warrants punishment. They were just curious. Joyce? There is a man in Sunnydale by the name of Kendall,-”

“Marcus? What about him?” Joyce asked surprised. Then her gaze fastened upon her daughters. “Did you two bother Lord Malfoy about that? I told you that there are lots of people who resemble each other and not everyone who looks alike is related. Your Papa and Uncle Severus are the exception, not the rule,” she scolded.

“Marcus Kendall. And he lives on the Hellmouth?” Narcissa asked mildly.

Joyce nodded. “Yes…”

“DOBBY! DOBBY!! This is about the family!” Narcissa called out. There was a soft pop and a wary looking Dobby, half hidden behind Joyce, looked at Narcissa.

Narcissa nodded at the small creature. “Dobby, could you detect Master Marcus if he lived thousands of miles away?”

Dobby drew himself up straight. “Yes, Former Mistress!”

“Could you detect him if he lived on a Hellmouth?” Narcissa persevered.

Dobby looked offended. “Of course, Old Mistress.”

Narcissa’s brow lifted marginally at the word Old. “Could you detect Master Marcus thousands of miles away on the world’s most powerful Hellmouth? Sunnydale?”

Dobby was about to answer when his eyes widened and his ears and shoulders drooped. He blinked and then looked up. “I-I don’t know Former Mistress.”

Narcissa gave the small elf a pleading look. “If you were closer to the Hellmouth, could you find him?”

Dobby nodded. “Dobby thinks so. Dobby go and find Master Marcus!” With a loud pop the elf disapparated.

Joyce looked at the empty air. “He can teleport that far?” she asked in a stunned voice.

“Not quite. But he can teleport to stepping stones. It’s how old time wizards traveled to the Colonies, by Apparating from Atlantic island to island, resting before they continued onwards. House elves to need less rest between long and heavy apparitions though,” Narcissa clarified.

Joyce looked from where Dobby had disappeared to Narcissa. “What does he want with Marcus?”

“Dobby was Marcus Malfoy’s personal house elf while he grew up. If anyone can find him, it’s Dobby,” Narcissa explained.

Joyce looked at Jean and Merrowynne and groaned. “Is everybody in the magical world related?”

Narcissa smiled. “In Europe, I’d think so. There’s no one going to Hogwarts at the moment who’s not at least a third cousin to me. In the Colonies, there may be a bit less inbreeding, at least among the Channelers.”

Joyce shook her head in disbelief. “It seems that everybody is family.”

Merrowynne shrugged. “Most small communities and societies are inbred and heavily interrelated, Joyce. A good example is the Samaritans in Israel. Genetic research has also shown heavy inbreeding among certain other religious sects and Bushmen and Aborigines. With witches and wizards mostly marrying other witches and wizards, it’s not really all that surprising. What is surprising is the relatively low number of deformities, deficiencies and defects.”

Narcissa smiled sadly. “Ah. Well, in so far as they cannot be cured quickly by magic…” she shrugged. “Many families allow them to die. We had a rather acrimonious, sometimes violent struggle some four centuries ago where the right of the Head of the Family to order the fate of ‘non-productive members’ was decided. That was when the Vicari were supposed to have been… destroyed.”

Joyce shuddered. “So you kill the ones who aren’t healthy?”

Narcissa shook her head. “No, most can be saved. Most Squibs were banished, or locked away. There was a powerful movement at the beginning of the century to sterilize and castrate them, to prevent them spreading their ‘weak blood.’ But these days all children are cherished. At least in most families,” she finished darkly and sadly.

Merrowynne swallowed. “Ugh. In this day and age?”

“In this day and age, yes,” Narcissa could feel the fear in the two girls in front of her and leaned forward to give them a hug. “And we really shouldn’t discuss this in front of you dears. Go on and play. I think Draco and Harry fled outside.”

Kit perked up and smiled. “Draco’s outside?” she called a quick goodbye and hurried off, followed by Dawn.

Joyce looked after her daughters, amusement twinkling in her eyes. “A slight crush on your son methinks.”

Narcissa sniffed haughtily. “It won’t be the first young girl to fall for my son,” then she smirked. “Your Katherine is a very determined young lady. It might shake him up a bit to be chased by someone so different.”

Jean laughed. “Chased by a Californian. He won’t know what hit him.”

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Hogwarts, Quarters of Severus Snape, afternoon of the 30th of December

Lucius Malfoy stood in front of the portrait of the lady clad in almost translucent white linen that concealed the door to the quarters of the Head of Slytherin.

He took a deep breath and clamed himself. *Amazing how mentioning Marcus, even obliquely can still upset me. I’ll need to apologize to the girls later, and Narcissa as well.*

“Kindly tell Professor Snape I would like to talk to him,” he addressed the painting. The Lady Most Bare, for that was the only title that she bore among the Slytherin boys, gave him a put upon look and disappeared. He smiled as the movement caused her dress to cling to her voluptuous figure. Studying the ‘movements’ of the Lady had been a favourite pastime of young male Slytherins for generations.

After a short time, less than a minute, the painting swung aside, showing the short hallway that ended in the heavy, intricately carved and inlaid black metal door. The door opened and Severus, wearing his teacher’s robes beckoned him inside. Lucius strode forward, feeling the wards test him, flow over him in a begrudging manner as they recognized him and let him pass.

“Lucius. You seem agitated?” Severus greeted him.

Lucius flopped down into a seat. Severus raised an eyebrow and sat down as well. “What’s wrong, Lucius?”

Lucius closed his eyes. “Many things. You have found a brother, and mine is still missing. There is a chance that I might fulfill my Family’s oath, but bearing this mark…” he held up his arm, signifying the Dark Mark he bore, “It may be that I will not see my children grow up. I’m… uncertain.”

Severus steepled his fingers. “Do you really think that Simon will condemn you when you explain the full situation? He’s not an ogre, Lucius.”

“We betrayed his family, our oath. What if he demands a sacrifice?” Lucius objected.

“I think you’re being as melodramatic as a Gryffindor. Yes, the Bedell’s betrayed the Vicari, despite the oath. But there was significant provocation. And the founder of your Line did help the Heir escape. Or at least allowed it,” Severus pointed out.

“What if he doesn’t see it that way?” Lucius fretted. “What if-”

“He’s not going to demand a blood sacrifice of your children. If he thinks he can’t accept your new oath, at least he’ll absolve you of the old one! Stop dithering and go find him. TIBBY!” Severus called out and the little house elf appeared with a pop.

“Tibby, bring some herbal tea for Lord Malfoy,” Severus ordered, then turned to Lucius. “Pull yourself together. You have an oath to fulfill.”  

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Hogwarts, Office of Minerva McGonagall, December 30th

Simon looked around the room with interest. The walls were line with books and anatomical drawings, as well as detailed sketches of many objects. A straight chair stood in front of the desk and a comfortable desk chair behind it, obviously meant to berate and punish students. Two more chairs hung from Shaker hooks on the wall beside the fireplace, used as temporary storage places. In the one case a vase of flowers and in the other a cat bed. A low table and three deep club seats finished the furnishings.

Simon sat down in one of the leather seats and waited. A few minutes later Minerva guided in a nervous looking Lucius Malfoy, who sat down after a look at Simon. Minerva ordered tea from her house elf and then left.

Simon steepled his fingers and looked at the younger man. “You wanted to see me?”

Lucius closed his eyes. “I-I… I need to…”

“Beg forgiveness for the crimes perpetrated against my family?” Simon asked as he accepted a cup of tea from the house elf with an uncomfortable look.

Lucius opened his eyes. “You knew?”

Simon shook his head. “Recently. There were some notes in the files on the wizarding world and our position in it. I knew about the… expulsion in general terms of course, and the various reasons. Just not the precise ones.”

Lucius accepted the tea with trembling hands. “I bear the mark of Vol- the Dark Lord.”

“Hurts to say his name?” Simon inquired.

Lucius nodded. “Even now, yes.”

“Why did you swear allegiance to him?” Simon asked.

“I didn’t swear anything. No oaths. Just this brand. There is only one Oath a Malfoy takes,” Lucius declared with dignity. “We had lost… lost three children. He promised that he would save Draco. Then a few weeks ago we found out he was responsible for the loss of the first three,” Lucius face twisted in anger and anguish.

“Wasn’t there anyone else who would help?” Simon asked.

“Dumbledore was more judgmental in those days. I had been outspoken in my opposition to some of his reforms. My father as well. We disagreed with the cancellation of the lessons in etiquette and rituals and many other things besides. When I approached him… he refused, he considered the needed spells too Dark. It is only recently that we have resolved some of our differences,” Lucius explained. “So I turned to the next most powerful wizard.”

“And I’d say that was a pretty foolish thing to do. You were young. Were you that badly in need of an heir?” Simon remarked acidly.

Lucius cringed. “We… the Family, after the Vicari were driven out and then thought destroyed… We swore an Oath.”

Simon shrugged. “So, you swore an oath-” he cut himself off and his eyes widened. “You didn’t!” he gasped. “You-you? A Soul Oath by the entire Blood?” he asked aghast.

“Yes,” Lucius whispered. “Until we were forgiven and possibly reinstated.”

Simon closed his eyes. “Bloody hell. I admire your loyalty, but I have to point out that was rather stupid.”

Lucius’ lips quirked. “Narcissa expressed the same sentiments… Only more forcefully.”

Simon shook his head. “Considering the situation in which the Bedell made their decision, I see no reason to withhold the Absolution of the Patriarch of Vicari.”

Simon rose slowly, adjusting his snowy white robes, then extended his hand. Lucius, eyes wide, rose as well, then knelt, taking the extended hand in both his own.

“I, Simonides Conradis Henricus Vicari, Patriarch and Lord of the Lineage of Vicari, the House of Simonides the Elder, the Kin of Alexandros the Great, by the power that is mine by my birth and affirmation, hereby declare that the acts of betrayal of the House of Bedell during the Wars of the Brothers towards my House and Lineage are forgiven. No grudge shall be born or price demanded, no feud continued. So mote it be,” Simon intoned.

Lucius had grown very pale during the recitation and then bowed his head. “I, Lucius Tiberius Malfoy, Patriarch and Lord of the Lineage of Malfoy, of the House of Bedell, the Kin of Kendall the Great Bard, hereby acknowledge and receive with thanks this absolution,” then he looked up again, meeting Simon’s eyes. “And I swear the allegiance of my House and Lineage to the House and Lineage of Vicari, from now until the Lords Vicari absolve us of this oath, to serve in all things with Counsel and Wand, Word and Spell,” he bent his head again.

Simon sighed. “I, Simonides Conradis Henricus Vicari accept the Oath of the Lord Lucius Tiberius Bedell and name him and his heirs the Ushers of my House, with the full responsibilities and emoluments thereof.”

Lucius swallowed, then blinked. Two tears streamed down his cheeks. “Thank you, My Lord.”

Simon hoisted Lucius to his feet. “I just hope the emoluments don’t bankrupt me. I have no idea what they are,” he joked. “Nor of the duties.”

Lucius smiled. “Well, we’re mostly self-supporting, but you offer aid in times of need, and a set of new robes for every adult of the family every Michaelmas, as well as a meal at that time. You also promise to help with the dowry for any daughters, should the Patriarch of Malfoy have more than three,” his smile became rather smug.

Simon shook his head. “Wonderful. Do I at least get the Ius Primae Noctis?” he asked. “If your daughters are going to be as pretty as Draco… Actually, I wonder if that right doesn’t extend to all your offspring anyway…”

Lucius spluttered in surprise and shock, the smug smile disappearing. “What?”

Simon raised an eyebrow. “Gotcha.”

Lucius sighed. “First Bedell to serve a Lord in six hundred years and I get one with a rotten sense of humour.”

Simon shrugged. “Now that I have a peon, I intend to enjoy it.”

Lucius eyebrows rose. “Peon? Hmph.”

Simon opened the door. “I’ve never had a peon to oppress before, so I have much to learn.”

Lucius sighed again. “You’re going to keep calling me that, aren’t you?”

Simon smirked. “Just a little while, Lucius. Just for a little while,” he turned serious. “You do realize you’ll have to take an oath in public to complete the ritual?”

Lucius nodded. “I know. It will not be a problem,” he hesitated. “Will you publicly accept Severus?”

“If he wants to. It’s his choice,” Simon replied.

Lucius pursed his lips. “He bears the same mark I do… I- I introduced him to the Dark Lord.”

“Call him Riddle,” Simon suggested. “I know. Severus told me.”

“I did it to ingratiate myself with Riddle, to protect Narcissa and Draco. I have no excuse,” Lucius confessed.

“Severus had his own reasons to want to join at that time. We’ll discuss it at a later time,” Simon smiled. “And it’s not as if I haven’t got more than a little Darkness in me myself.”

Lucius looked skeptical. “With that robe?”

Simon shrugged. “My Father wore something similar and I think he was probably worse than Riddle. A lot smarter and more circumspect. But certainly not a better man. He would not have joked about the Ius Primae Noctis. And he would have claimed Narcissa, too.” 

Lucius stopped stock-still. “Merlin,” he whispered. “You’re serious?”

Simon nodded. “Regrettably, yes. My father was not a nice man at all. Shall we go the Great Hall? I’m sure Narcissa is anxious to see you alive and breathing.”

Lucius moved again, his face still shocked. “I just never imagined…”

“Your family rebelled because one of my ancestors was a raving loony. What makes you think he was the last one?” Simon asked as he strode into the Great Hall. He led Lucius over to Narcissa, who was standing with Joyce, a strained and anxious expression on her face. Upon seeing Lucius, she jumped at him and he caught her in a hug, swinging her round.

“All is forgiven, beloved. We are all free,” he whispered in her ear. He was the only one in the Great Hall who heard her quiet sob.

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Hogwarts, Astronomy Tower, sometime before dinner, December 30th    

“Lucius? Do you have time to speak?” Severus asked the blond wizard who stood looking out over the Hogwarts grounds from the top of the Astronomy Tower.

Lucius whirled round, then dropped to his knee, his head bowed. “I am yours to command, My Lord.”

Severus snorted and reached out, helping his friend to rise. “Save that one for Simon, he might get a kick out of it.”

Lucius lifted an eyebrow and dusted off his robes with a negligent wave of his wand. “I’m hoping that doing that every time he calls me ‘peon’ will make him so embarrassed he will stop,” He turned to lean on the parapet and Severus joined him. “So. How are you?” Lucius asked after a few minutes of companionable, Slytherin silence.

Severus gaze was fastened on the idly swinging branches of the Whomping Willow. “Confused.”

“I can imagine. One moment you're a half-blood and poor as a church rat. the next you're a member of one of the most magical and richest families in the world. It has to be quite a change,” Lucius commiserated dryly.

“Richest?” Severus asked sharply. “You know about the money?”

“Hmmm, yes. I happen to know for a fact that the Vicari family still has considerable holdings both in Britain and the Continent, as well as the Americas and Asia. And the Meiers have a vast fortune,” Lucius looked at his hands. “You know I never tried to make you beholden, do you Severus? You're my friend. Possibly my only real friend. I really would have paid for that operation without any thought or desire for repayment...”

“And I would have felt bad about accepting it, worse about the notion of living in your debt, whether you acknowledged it or not,” Severus put a long-fingered hand on his friend's shoulder. “But yes, I know. I knew it when you asked a half-blood to become your son's godfather.”

Lucius smirked. “You do realize I can now say that was all calculated and I knew all along, don't you? Rub the noses of every supercilious bastard into the fact that my son has the current Heir of Vicari for a godfather?”

Severus smirked. “Is Cissy organizing a High Tea?”

“Yes. Unless you want it kept quiet?” Lucius gave him a look. “It might not be the safest thing in the world to be, your father's son. When he returns.”

“You think he'll return?” Severus asked sharply.

Lucius hesitated. “Severus... I've been thinking. A lot. And talking to people and reading. That Diary I gave to Ginny Weasley, why did it affect her so strongly? How did it come to take over her mind so completely? How was it able to form a physical body? That sort of sentience from a spell? I thought it was like an enchanted mirror at first, spouting his ideals, his notions… Now, I’m not so certain.”

Severus leaned his elbows on the parapet, intertwined his fingers and looked into the distance. “What are you implying, Lucius?”

“Have you ever heard of something called a Horcrux, Severus?” Lucius asked quietly.

Severus froze. His eyes widened a tiny fraction and his nostrils flared slightly. “Merlin...”  He whispered. “You may be right, Lucius. You may very well be right. We need to talk to Simon.”

“Simon? Not Dumbledore?” Lucius looked surprised.

Severus waved a hand. “Both of them. But… It is very strange. You know I’m very slow to trust people, Lucius. But I know, deep down, that Simon will stand by me as long as I deserve it. And he also has a very ruthless way of looking at things I find oddly comforting. He will not spare himself, nor ask anything of anyone he will not do himself.”

“And no doubt you also know, deep down, that Lady Clarice will harry and hound you until you wear something other than black, tell you to wash your hands before eating and generally, and with great delight and to the great amusement of all present, embarrass you like only a sister can?” Lucius smirked.

Severus glared at him. Then his face softened, but only very slightly. “Even that is… bearable. From her.”

“So. What did you wish to talk to me about?” Lucius asked, cautiously.

“Money. Simon has told me exactly how much my stipend is. I have no idea what to do with it, beyond getting my medical problems attended to.”

Lucius laughed. “Ah, now that I can help with. Come, Severus. Let’s go talk to your brother and see what investments he proposes in the Mug- Normal world.”

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Sunnydale, California, December 30th, Mini Golf Course

The Twins were bickering and Cordelia groaned. “Look you two it’s really very simple. You get the red ball,” she pointed at Felicity, “and you the blue. There will be no confusion about whose ball is whose. Okay?” the last word was said with an undertone of threat and the girls nodded and quickly took appropriately coloured balls to go with their clubs. Cordelia looked on as Harmony picked out her own pink ball, the same colour she had used for as long as Cordelia had known her. Cordelia picked the black and silver one she always had. Black after all, went with everything. 

She led her foster sisters onto the course. Melody won the draw and went first. She swung with concentration and the ball plopped into the hole easily. Melody smirked and collected her ball, gesturing at Felicity to go next. Fliss ‘hmphd’ and took her place.

Standing in front of the small lunchroom Marcus and Eliza Kendall grinned as the rivalry between the sisters emerged on the field of glory that was the Kendall Family Mini Golf Tournament. Harmony was quite willing to defer victory to one of her competitive little sisters but Cordelia would never do anything but her best in such contests. After all, how would they learn if they did not stretch themselves?

Eliza chuckled as howls of anguish from the Twins showed that Cordelia had just succeeded in mastering the dreaded Double Windmill.

Marcus shook his head in faux commiseration. “Those poor girls, so dreadfully obstructed in achieving their well-deserved victory by someone better and more experienced…”

“It will do them good to learn a little humility and overcome a little frustration,” Eliza smiled. “And Cordelia is showing them the right technique, look.”

Marcus grinned as he saw Cordelia patiently show Felicity the right movement and timing to tap the ball in between the blades of the windmills. “I wonder how long it will take them to pick it up?”

“Not long, I’d wager,” Eliza smiled fondly.

“Wager what?” Marcus waggled his eyebrows.

Eliza thumped his arm. “Behave, you scoundrel!”

Their happy banter was disturbed by a fearful shriek. Expecting to see Cordelia soundly trouncing the Twins, they were horrified to see a small, big-eyed and  eared, round-shouldered creature appearing amidst their children.

A shrill voice called out in glee. “FOUND! FOUND! FOUND!” The creature lunged at Felicity, arms outstretched.

Harmony reacted instantly to protect her sister, swinging her club to meet the creature’s chin. The resounding crack could be heard even on the terrace. Cordelia was not far behind, her own club, stood against a tree while she was teaching the twins, once again in her hand, her blow landing on the top of the creature’s head.

Marcus was running towards the scene, pale and shaken. Cordelia swung again, lower this time, hitting between the legs and launching the little creature a slight distance. It wailed in agony. In mid-air it changed direction and was thrown violently against a tree, head first. Another pained howl came from it and with a crack it disappeared just after it landed and just before a blow from Cordelia could smash its sternum.

Cordelia and Harmony stood panting, the Twins thrust behind them. Marcus had halted a few feet away from them, his chin sunk onto his chest, his hands dangling empty beside him, his shoulders slumped in despair and defeat.

Harmony looked up and saw him. “Daddy? What was that thing?”

Marcus stumbled forward, fell to his knees and hugged the Twins to him. “That was a House elf. They’ve found us, Harmony. They’ve found us.” 

End Note: 

Pope Leo X allegedly spoke the words “Now that God has given us the Papacy, let us enjoy it.”

A wedjat is one of the symbols of Horus, the so-called ‘Eye of Horus’.

The Stepping stone Route via the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Greenland was used by the Vikings to reach America. And possibly before them by Irish monks. Seems like just the way wizards might travel…

The Ius Primae Noctis or ‘Right of the first night’ is a heavily romanticized notion that liege lords could claim the first night with a bride of any couple under their jurisdiction. Unlike what Braveheart says, it was never invoked in Scotland. It may have existed, but never in law, only in custom.

Michaelmas, 29th of September, the Feast of St. Michael, was one of the traditional days when taxes were paid, rents were due and accounts were settled.

 
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