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

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

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Joyce-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501409,93128 May 115 Jul 14No

Winter Depressions

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.#

To catch up a bit on my posting schedule another chapter. Expect the next one in two weeks, though. 

Many, many thanks to Abryxis , OtteryLexa and Letomo for recommending me.

Please, read and review, let me know what you think. And I’m working on a readers’ guide…

Chapter 82 Winter Depressions

Wells family house, Sunnydale California, 31st of December 1995

Tucker Wells sat in the roleplay room. The Witches of the Concordat had gone through the place with a fine toothed comb and taken everything magical. The grimoires he’d gathered, the foci and spell components, all had been removed. Around both his wrists they’d placed leather bracelets that blocked his magic and let them know when he tried to remove them, or have them removed. They’d been quite clear about what would happen to him if he did. He was on probation until his trial and if he violated the terms of his probation, he would be burned out. His ability to do magic completely destroyed. Which might drive him insane. Or if they considered him to dangerous, or too far gone into Dark magic, they’d kill him. Execute him according to the terms of a treaty with the government that Tucker hadn’t even known existed. He closed his eyes. Andrew had been dabbling in magic to, and he’d spoken about it with Jonathon and had heard that Michael Czajak was dabbling too. *Maybe… Maybe I ought to warn them. I’m gonna die. I summoned demons, I planned to send them to attack kids. I was gonna cast a spell to make girls like me. I’m so fucking dead!* He let out a soft sob. *Not even eighteen yet and I’m gonna die…* he straightened up slightly, frowning. *Before they kill me, I’ve gotta convince them to train Andrew and Jonathon, before they get into trouble themselves.* 

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Angel’s apartment, Sunnydale 31st of December 1995

Angel sat on the couch, looking at the screened off windows of his living room, wondering when things had become so strange in his life. He was waiting for everything to fall apart. He had a girlfriend he loved. But he was lying to her to make sure she would be ready to face her doom. He was sure that the prophecy in the Pergamom Codex was no less than a death sentence for her. But to give her at least the idea she could win, he wanted he to be the best trained Slayer ever.

“And if she really talks to her Papa about the hours of her training, and realizes what Giles and me have been doing, I’m gonna be lucky if she stakes me,” He muttered as he mournfully sipped a glass of blood mixed with Bourbon. He looked at the clock and sighed. “Better go out and patrol. That at least will give her one less reason to rip my balls off.”

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The Master’s Lair

“It seems that the Concordat has gotten to Mr. Wells,” Rochus noted as his tentacles trailed over the white back of the girl sitting on his lap.

The Master sighed. “And I had such hopes for him. Most disappointing.”

“We can try and woo some of the other young magic users to tread a darker path,” Collin suggested.

“With the current presence of so many Concordat Magisters I fear they would be noticed and restrained swiftly,” the Master tapped his long fingers on the armrest of his chair. “No, no I fear that the only way to encourage the ways of dark sorcery in this town is to gently guide them to less obvious, immediately darker magic such as mind-control.”

Rochus nodded and a long, toothed tongue caressed one of the girl’s chakra points. She let out a whimper and a flash energy discharged onto the demon’s tongue and tentacles. 

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Kirby family Home, 31st of December 1995

The loudly and heart-felt called “Shit!!” drew the attention of Anna Kirby. She knocked on her younger son’s bedroom door and heard an angry grunt as reply. Another knock got an irritated ‘Yeah, what?”

Anna opened the door. Dave was lying on his bed, curled up around the pillow he was clutching, his face a mask of misery.

“David? Are you alright?” Anna asked, quite worried. “Of course you aren’t, you wouldn’t have called out. What’s wrong?”

“Got a mail from Willow,” Dave muttered.

Anna sat down on the bed. “Oh dear. How bad is it.”

Dave grumphed.

“David? Talk to me. It wasn’t a ‘Dear John’ letter was it?” Anna coaxed.

 Dave shook his head.

“Then what is it?” Anna asked gently.

Dave sighed and held out a hand. The finger nails were elongated and thick, the fingers much longer than usual and covered in smooth white scales.

“They’re staying a week longer. I got upset and this happened,” Dave closed his eyes. “Gonna find out if she really wants me.”

Anna snorted. “Well, this is rather earlier than we expected. And I wouldn’t worry about Willow. The problem will be to rein in all her curiosity.”

Dave looked at his hand. “You think?” he asked uncertainly.

“I’m sure,” Anna told him firmly. “Now, was it painful? The first transformations can hurt sometimes.”

“No, it sort of tingles though,” Dave put his hand back under the pillow.

“I’ll ask your father to help with return transformation, he’s better at it than I am,” Anna rose. “Oh, and David? You’re not changing in front of Willow any time soon. I’m not ready for grandchildren quite yet.”

“MOM!”

Anna smiled as she closed the door.

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Danvers Cars and Maintenance, 31st of December

Hannah Harris grinned at the man who was leaning on the great black hood of the car. “Simon is gonna be very annoyed.”

Gilbert Danvers, Motor Mechanic extraordinaire, nodded solemnly. “'t’ll do him some good, a little frustration. And Xander will like it,” he patted the hood affectionately. “'s a good car, in good shape. Bit big for a boy his age, but I’m sure he’ll find a use for it soon enough.”

Hannah snorted. “No doubt. But I think Joyce and Simon will make sure the only use he makes of it for a good long while is to drive his sisters to school.”

Danvers sighed. “Waste of a good car for a growing boy, that’ll be.”

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UCLA Campus, Dykstra Hall Co-educational housing

“Oh, come on Fred,” Adrian wheedled. “Just this once?”

Fred threw her hair over her shoulders. “I’m workin’ Adrian. I need to finish this.”

Adrian sighed and leaned in to nibble Fred’s neck. “You’re always studying. All study and no play makes Fred a dull girl.”

Fred giggled. “Stop that. I promised Professor Seidel I’d finish this paper so he can give me extra credit I need so I can take the advanced class next term.”

“Okay. Well, I’m going now. I’ll talk to you tonight, okay?” Adrian sighed, trailing a few fingers down Fred’s back to the area of bare skin showing between her jeans and shirt.

Fred bit her lip. “I might be working still…”

Adrian smirked. “I think I can convince you then to let loose a little…” He ran his fingers along the waistband of her jeans and Fred shivered and closed her eyes.

“Well, y’all have to be very convincing,” she smiled slightly.

“Trust me, I will be,” Adrian whispered in her ear. He kissed her cheek and left. He strode down the hall, meeting a young blond at the intersection.

“Well?” The girl asked sultrily.

Adrian grinned. “Working again. She really has no idea how to have fun,” he put his hands on the girl’s hips and pulled her in for a kiss. “But happily she’s too absorbed to realize just how good she is for our grade average.”

The blonde giggled and took Adrian’s hand. “Come on, lets go and have some fun!”

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Los Angeles, 31st of December 1995, Offices of Hodgkin, Murphy and Jones, Attorneys at Law 

Hank Summers smiled a little as he stepped into the foyer of the building. Sometimes it was very easy to make people happy. He had brief to deliver to HMJ and he knew that it was on his way home and that it would save a runner the trip and allow him to go home early. So he’d told his secretary he’d take it himself. He approached the elevator, stepped in as the door dinged open and picked the right floor, whistling softly as he rose up the shaft. The door dinged open again and Hank stepped out, moving to the desk. A young woman, with hair so dark a brown it was almost black looked up from her work and smiled. “Can I help you, sir?” she asked politely.

Hank smiled back. “Hank Summers of Sawyer, Harcourt, Hewton, Massey and Partners. I’ve got a file and a proposal for Mitchell Murphy… Brenda?” he read of her name tag.

“Yes, Mr. Summers. I’ll see that he gets it promptly when he gets back,” Brenda smiled.

“Thank you. Happy New Years for later!” Hank waved and left, whistling again. Joyce had the girls for the Holidays, and they were staying longer in Britain but he’d been promised that the first two weekends after they returned they’d visit him. He smiled a little. It was going to be fun.

Brenda sighed as she turned back to her work. She been working since the twenty-seventh, leaving the latest family home to her brother and parents. Her parents had understood her need to be elsewhere. They still didn’t accept that she hadn’t acquiesced to the pictures made of her, still looked at her with palpable disappointment. She could do without that. Her face grew more cheerful as she remembered the mail that Prue had sent her, so very enthusiastic about the things she’d seen and done in London and Scotland. They were staying a week longer and hoped that next time Brenda could join them.

Brenda turned a page of the textbook Mr. Murphy wanted her to read, to learn the ropes. He had pointed out that few made it in Hollywood or the acting profession, but that there was always need of good lawyers and that lawyers needed paralegals. And she had taken a minor in Law… *Maybe. Maybe…*

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Camp David, Maryland, Presidential Country retreat, 31st of December 1995

Owen Lassiter sipped a glass of sixty year old whiskey he had been given by Bill Menson. He smirked. Outside in the snow the old Judge was stalking, two huge dogs on a lead, and commenting harshly on the winter evasion skills of the two secret service men that accompanied him.

Five others were taking notes. As the assistant chief of security, Ron Butterfield had said to a skeptical secret service man, ‘Any man who survived Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Chosin Reservoir was worth FUCKING LISTENING TO, UNDERSTAND?’ Owen found himself agreeing with the usually laconic Butterfield. Ron’s father had died in Korea.

A throat was cleared behind him. “Uncle Bill still having fun?”

Owen turned around and smiled at his son. “I think part of the fun is knowing he can get in out of the snow at any moment. And that this bottle is waiting for us. For a man who complains about the weather so much, he really likes getting out into the snow.”

Rick Lassiter smiled back. “You could propose him for any bench in California, you know, he has the credentials and the Democrats would love him. Heck, he might even have a shot at the Supreme Court.”

“He’d gut me with a K-Bar. No thank you. I’ll leave him right where he is,” Owen smirked.

Rick chuckled. “Probably wise. Mac wants to speak with you.”

Lassiter sighed. “Oh, very well. Come in, Mac.”

The President sat down and looked at his Deputy Chief of Staff. “Well?”

Mac McConnell handed the President a file. “These are the mysterious deaths and casualties that occurred, limited to the upper echelons of the government and military, on the night of the…” McConnell’s face took on the look of a man who had just swallowed a whole lemon. “The Winter Solstice.”

Lassiter took the file. He studied it for a few moment. “Brucker? Ward? Erdmann and Cohiskey?” He shook his head. “Well, so much for that then. There’s going to be a whole lot of special elections. Can you bring me one limited to the judiciary? And one for the military?”   

Mac gawped. “y-you’re just letting them get away with it? These people murdered US Senators! Generals, Representatives, hundreds of others!”

Owen looked at Mac and sighed. “Mac… How’s Jimmy?”

“Jimmy? Jimmy’s fine? What’s that got to do with it?” Mac demanded. “Sir.”

“How would you feel if Jimmy had died just before or after his birth? And then you found out that people had been using his soul to power the most horrific rituals and advance their own careers? Knowing that the police, the courts could not touch them? And that they’d done it for decades, to hundreds, if not thousands of children? That your children had been stolen, kidnapped, brainwashed and trained to fight you?” Owen asked.

Mac closed his eyes. “Jesus. Is that why they did it?”

“Yes Mac, that is why they did it,” Lassiter confirmed.

“I can understand it then, I suppose. But why can’t they be a part of the Government? Why do they act so secretively?” Mac asked.

Lassiter sighed. “Washington asked Franklin the same question. Franklin said that as long as man feared and sought to burn those different, those different ought to be allowed to police and protect themselves. That the world was not ready to acknowledge these people. And that only war could come from revealing them. And whatever side was victorious would have to ruthlessly oppress the side that lost to ensure its own safety. This way, at least, they protect and police their own. They hand over those who commit crimes with magic. They destroy those beyond redemption.”

Mac looked sceptical. “If you say so, Mister President.”

Lassiter smiled. “Several adepts are burned out and handed over to the courts every year, did you know that? As many as five in bad years, sometimes only one. They respect that justice, punishment needs to be seen. Last time some of those involved in trying to break the adepts to the yoke of the US government were allowed to get away, to ensure the safety of the nation during the Cold War. This time, no one, no matter how insignificant, will be allowed to walk away without judgement. Some will be punished harshly, others may get off with a slap on the wrist. But all will be known, and know the wrath of the Concordat.”

Mac shivered. “I still find the notion of an independent group doing stuff like this on US soil highly unpleasant.”

“Try telling that to the parents whose children where stolen or killed by a secret US Government group that broke more laws and articles of the Constitution than I really want to think about,” Lassiter replied dryly. “These people weren’t innocents gunned down by madmen. They were mad dogs put down by the gamekeepers. Gamekeepers who are now very suspicious of their government and its motives and unlikely to be willing to cooperate with us any time soon. And that may bite us on the ass quite soon.”

Mac nodded. “I understand, sir. I’ll have those lists on the military and judiciary for you tomorrow.” 

Lassiter shook his head. “No, Mac. You’re going home and play with Jimmy and talk to Joanna. We can’t appoint judges without Congress anyway. So I’ll see you in a few days.”

Mac hesitated for a moment and then nodded. “Yes, Mr. President.” He left, closing the door softly.

Owen returned to watching the dogs play in the snow and Bill Menson teach a young security officer how to blend into the snow-covered woods. 

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Colorado Springs, General George S. Hammond’s house 31st of December 1995

George Hammond looked at his daughter as they washed up the crystal champagne flutes for later. They had been his wife’s favourites and were cherished by his daughter, only removed for festivities. They needed to be washed before they were used tonight.

Harper was looking at the glassed-in cupboards above the sink, her eyes far, far away.

“Harper?” George asked softly.

Harper startled. “Sorry, Dad. I was miles away.”

“I know where you were, Harper. I know exactly where you were,” George said sympathetically.

“Why do things like this happen to us, Dad?” Harper asked, her voice shaking.

George sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t know what Carl was thinking.”

“I thought we would be together for ever and ever!” Harper put the flute she was drying, wringing the drying cloth in her hands. “I thought he really loved me!”

“I know love, I know,” George took his daughter in his arms. Two days after Christmas Carl Newman, Harper’s husband, had announced he was in love with another woman and had left the house, stating he would send a divorce settlement through his lawyer.

The girls were still crying on and off, asking George and Harper if they had done something wrong, if it was their fault. It had taken all George’s willpower not to go out and shoot his soon to be former son-in-law.

The doorbell rang. George looked up, slightly disturbed, put Harper on a kitchen stool by the breakfast bar and went to open the door. He blinked, seeing Airman Weterings. Behind her, at the beginning of the driveway, was Jack O’Neill, leaning against his car. 

Carol looked at her commanding officer hesitantly. “Colonel O’Neill told me that the threat from Marigold was neutralized, that I should go out, and then he took me here… He-he wouldn’t take no for an answer, sir.”

George Hammond frowned over his shoulder at his second in command. Jack just nodded solemnly and got into his car.

George looked at the insecure young airman who looked almost ready to cry and impulsively took her arm. “Well, ordinarily I’d welcome you with more cheer, but my blasted son-in-law just abandoned my daughter and granddaughters. So I fear it won’t be as merry as I’m sure Colonel O’Neill was hoping. But you’re very welcome in this house.”

Carol gasped. “Oh. I’m so sorry. How are your granddaughters? M-maybe I can talk to them?” she offered tentatively.

Hammond looked at the departing headlights and suddenly realised why Jack had brought Carol here. From a heavily broken home herself she would know exactly what the girls were going through. “Yes. I think that might help them a lot. Thank you, Air… Carol.”

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Holding Cells, Sunnydale Research

The thin, emaciated, dried out husk that had once been Tony Harris lay staring vacantly at the ceiling. For the past few weeks things had been getting dimmer, and memories of his life were fading fast. The other husk, that had been occupying the bunk opposite ever since they had both lost the ability to move was only a dimly recalled amorphous mass. The mindscape that Tony Harris had conjured for himself, that had once held so much delight and promise, was becoming stale and hopeless. And then something stirred. A great, snake-like thing moved into his sight. Its inhuman features stretched into a mockery of a smile. “Anthony, Roger. It is time for you to join me,” it whispered in a sibilant voice, its forked tongue flickering. The snake made a gesture suddenly Tony was no longer alone. Roger was with him, and both were facing the snake.

It laughed. “Welcome, my slaves, to your eternity.”

Tony screamed as a terrible pain wracked him, a scream echoed by Roger's.

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Kendall House, Sunnydale, 31st of December 1995

Marcus Kendal sat on the couch, his head in his hands. Eliza's arm was around him. On the couch opposite Harmony and Cordelia were holding Felicity and Melody in their laps. The Twins were biting their lips, trying not to cry. The older girls were not doing much better.

“Can't we run?” Cordelia asked softly.

Marcus shook his head. “There's nowhere we can hide. I was hoping they'd not consider the Hellmouths safe places to hide, more dangerous even than He-who-must-not-be-named. So I counted on the fact they probably thought me dead.  Now that they've figured out how I've been hiding, they can send people to the Hellmouths. Eventually they'll find me,” he took a deep breath. “We have to choices. I leave and we hope that they won't come after you. Or we all run. Eliza?”  

Eliza grabbed his hand. “Marcus... Will they leave us alone? Do you really think that?”

Marcus hesitated. Then he shook his head. “No. That House elf will have recognized that the girls are my daughters. He'll report to my father. And my father...” Marcus shrugged helplessly. “None of you have magic...” His breath caught in his throat like a sob. “I’m so sorry, so sorry…”

Eliza hugged her husband, her eyes filling with tears. *He'll kill us, and our children. Can any father be so cruel to his own son? Just because he, the girls can't do magic?*

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Hogwarts, House elf quarters

Dobby woke, groaning, from his sleep. He was not alone. He reached out, grabbed the hand of the Elf that stood by his bed. “Traitor!” the other elf hissed. “Traitor to Blood, Traitor to House!”

Dobby whimpered. “Tibby must take me to Former Mistress. Dobby has found Young Master Marcus. Dobby must tell, tell he scared Young Misses Bedell Witches, Dobby must be punished.”

Tibby blinked as the other elf faded back into unconsciousness. He put the wounded elf's hand on the blanket. Lifted him off the bed and teleported him to the small room that the elves used for the aged and infirm among them. “Dobby wounded serving Family, must be healed. I shall go report to Lady Bedell,” Tibby declared.

Tibby apparated out of the room, leaving Dobby to the care of the elves in charge of the small elven infirmary and appeared in a small room off the Great Hall. Lucius and Narcissa were kissing, rather passionately and flew apart at the soft 'pop'. Narcissa's robes were quite askew and several of Lucius buttons were undone and his hair was mussed.

Tibby cleared his throat. “Dobby returns yesterdays. He is very sorry he scare little Witch Misses but he found Young Master Marcus. Dobby say he deserving punishment. Is Lord Bedell wanting to punish Dobby or should Tibby fetch Master Marcus?”

Lucius gaped. “He-he found...” He closed his eyes. “Merlin, after all these years. No, thank you Tibby, I will discuss Dobby's punishment with my brother later.”

Tibby nodded and left. “Me will tell Dobby.”

Narcissa took Lucius' hand. “Dobby found him! That has to mean that he's the man Lady Joyce and the girls thought he was!” 

Lucius pulled his lip. “Possibly… Ummm… Tibby!”

The elf appeared again. “Lord Bedell be calling Tibby?”

“Could you please ask Dobby to report to me? Other elves or humans may be there when he does so,” Lucius asked.

Tibby hesitated. “Dobby not being able to speak, Dobby being bruised and tired and sleeping. But Tibby can try and wake Dobby.”

Lucius held out a hand. “No, let him sleep. Thank you Tibby.”

Tibby apparated away and Narcissa looked at her husband with large, wide eyes. “Bruised? What do you think happened?”

Lucius frowned. “I think that Marcus attacked him somehow. Dobby would allow him to, I think...” Lucius groaned. “Oh, Merlin! Marcus doesn’t know Father is dead!” He ran out of the room. Narcissa took a moment to address the worst of her rumpled condition and then followed him. She just hoped that Molly wouldn’t be there. The older woman would see through her pathetic excuses and give her that knowing smile…



Great Hall

Simon was leading Joyce towards the High Table for the Old Year’s Dinner that Dumbledore was throwing when Lucius burst out of one of the rooms that Simon, with more accuracy than tact, had called ‘the make out rooms’. He looked around wildly, spotted Simon and ran up, face pale and anxious.

“Do you have a way to reach Marcus Kendall?” he demanded, his hands grasping Simon’s robes.

Simon stiffened and then put his hands on the distraught wizard’s, gently disengaging him. “I might have. If you could give me a reason?”

“I think he’s my younger brother and he might be scared out of his wits right now because his old house elf found him and he doesn’t know our father is dead. Please!”

Lucius was about to fall to his knees when Simon grabbed his arm and dragged him towards the door.

“WILLOW! ROWAN! WE NEED THE PHONE!”

Willow had been watching the scene with interest and ran up, phone already out. “I don’t have the number on here. We may need directory inquiries.”

Simon nodded. “We’ll go outside, the satellite won’t be able to penetrate the wards.”

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San Pedro Prison, San Juan de Lurichango, Lima, Peru

When he had been transferred to Peru from the American Prison where he was being held, the US press had howled in indignation, quite sure that with his family connections Juan Sabancaya would be out of jail and back living in the lap of luxury within minutes.

Juan had thought so himself. Right until he’d been led through the gates of San Pedro. Right until the very thorough full body cavity search. Right until he’d been thrown into a room with more than fifty other prisoners. Most of Juan’s family, those members who were adult at any rate, were now in Peru’s prisons.

Juan was not living in the lap of luxury. Instead he now found himself in the lap of someone who was called Grise and who had claimed Juan as his own. Juan’s son was on the floor beside him, licking their new master’s feet. Juan’s father had succumbed to the prison within days and had been carted away like so much trash. With the removal of the keystone of their sacrifice, the favour of Machida had been withdrawn. And they’d been unable to replace it fast enough. Nor had they been willing to sacrifice one of the virgins of their own family. Right now Juan was wondering why they had been so squeamish. They were only girls after all.

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Boston Massachusetts, Winchester family House, 31st of December 1995

Charles Winchester looked at his guest with some concern. He’d chosen to spend time with Pierce rather than travel to Britain with his family. He didn’t think Pierce would be happy to travel with them. Pierce was drinking. A lot. He hadn’t drunk this much since Korea, since he’d returned from Korea and Mary had told him to quit. 

But Mary was gone and Pierce… Pierce was looking to join her. He kept up a brave front for his children, but Little Hawk, Benjamin Franklin Pierce Junior, had specifically asked Charles to intervene. Francis was too ill to travel. Their meeting in Louisiana was a farewell, they all knew. The irrepressible old priest was fading and Charles personally would miss him deeply. They all would.

“Put down that glass, Pierce,” he commanded harshly as the other man reached for the bottle again. “You’ve had enough. More than enough.”  

Pierce snorted. “Right. Why should I?”

Charles gestured his own glass towards the mantle. “Because even at our age, things can change.”

Pierce walked towards the fireplace on unsteady feet, studying the photographs stood there almost as if it was the first time he saw them. It was quite likely it was the first time. He’d been sloshed almost from the time he arrived.

A long, surgeon’s finger trailed down the glass. It was the largest picture on the mantle, replacing the former centerpiece, a clock that had stopped years ago.

Charles sat in a large chair, a ten year old girl on each arm rest. Simon stood behind the chair, his arm around a very attractive blonde woman. A boy leaned up against Charles’ knees and two redheads, one on a TV screen were laughing. A short, grinning blonde was poking a determined looking girl who had at least some African blood and was obviously trying to maintain a serious mien.

“Simon’s family?” Hawkeye queried.

“Yes,” Charles replied.

Hawkeye looked at the other pictures. Each of the children had a picture of their own. The youngest were reading a book and curled up on Charles’ lap, sleeping. The boy was brandishing a cavalry saber that Hawkeye thought he recognized. A look above the north-facing window showed that the sword that had hung there was gone. The little blonde was wearing a Kimono and her hair was in an elaborate Geisha updo that brought a reminiscent smile to Hawkeye’s face. The two redheads were sticking their tongues out at each other, then the next picture showed their outrage at having been caught on camera like that. The African American girl was reading a large leather bound book, one foot tucked under her as she sat on the couch, frowning at what she was reading.

“Every day you live, every day can bring wonderful changes,” Charles said with feeling as he looked at the pictures.  

Hawkeye nodded as he studied Simon sitting on a garden bench talking with a petite slender woman he thought he ought to know and an older redheaded woman who was looking at them both with maternal pride. “Yeah. Maybe you’re right.”

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Beckforth Family House, Maryland

Janet yawned, then smiled. The days with her mother and sister and niece had been remarkably pleasant. The house was mostly filled with warmth and laughter. Eileen almost burst into tears when she saw the pictures. Every time.

It was the best evidence for Janet how much the loss of her siblings mattered to her older sister. How much of what had happened had been caused by being possessed by Pulchritudia Black. It also helped that both her mother and her niece and her sister were pouring out the Mother power in spades. Janet could feel it. Especially from Mary.

A slight snore came from Tara, who was curled up against Janet. They’d been going through the family albums, something Eileen didn’t think she was able to do without leaking tears all over them.

“Soooo…” came Mary’s voice from the kitchen.

Janet grinned. She could almost feel her mother’s curiosity vibrating on the air. *Here it comes.*

“Can we expect another call from that Roy who called to wish you a merry Christmas tonight? There are certain rules you do have to abide to while you live in this house you know…” Mary teased.

“MO-OM!” Eileen whined.

Tara stirred. “Mhmm?”

Janet kissed the girl on the forehead. “Go back to sleep honey, just your grandmother hoping at least one of her daughters will get married again.”

“Gibbs?” Tara murmured

Janet smirked. *Bingo! Last name!* “We’ll see, baby, we’ll see.”

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Jeton House, 31st of December 1995

Amelia Bones glared at the Minister of Magic from the chair. “If you think you’ll get away with this Minister of Magic Cornelius Oswald Fudge you have another thing coming!”

Fudge smirked. “Oh? What are you planning to do about it, Director of the DMLE Bones?”

Amelia floundered for an answer and then glared at him some more. “You’re an evil man, Fudge!”

Fudge laughed and handed her a mug of elf-made cocoa, then distributed the other three mugs to three of his cherubic looking granddaughters, blonde little angels with bright blue eyes and rosy cheeks. And wide grins.

“I must admit I didn’t think we’d land a snowball on you, Amelia, let alone manage to take you down…” Fudge grinned again.

Amelia huffed, still shivering from the snow that had gone down her robes when Fudge had tackled her. Fudge had an amazing turn of speed for a man so portly.

“I was thinking,” she state archly. “Important, matter of state thoughts.”

 Fudge sipped his own cocoa while one of the Jeton elves set about cleaning and drying Amelia’s outer robes. “Really? So your old teacher won’t be at all interested in hearing how your vigilance had dropped?”

Amelia’s glare intensified. “You wouldn’t dare!”

“Wouldn’t I?” Fudge smirked. “Alastor Moody has petitioned me fourteen times to be allowed to remain on the active list. I was actually thinking of negotiating the deal of putting him in charge of all Auror training in return for granting his request. Including refresher courses for senior personnel…”

Amelia’s eyes widened. “Re-refresher?”

Cornelius nodded solemnly. “Yes, I think that it would be wise to have all Senior Aurors and bureaucratic personnel of the DMLE take some of those. Considering the current dangerous situation.”

Amelia shivered, this time not only from the cold of the snow. Fudge nodded at one of the Elves, who hurried off and swiftly returned with warm dry robes. Another elf put up a screen for Amelia to change behind. The three little cherubs giggled.

Fudge smiled at them. “Girls, why don’t you go find your parents, hmm?”

The girls nodded and downed their cocoa, then took off at a run, followed by a wary House Elf who shot Fudge reproachful look.

The Minister sat down, watched the fire and drank his own cocoa while Amelia changed into warm dry clothes.

After a few minutes she joined him. “Well?” he asked, wearily. “I assume this is not a social visit?”

Amelia shook her head. “I’m sorry, it isn’t. I went into the Secret Archives. I found some things.”

Fudge sighed and rubbed his free hand over his eyes. “Don’t pussyfoot around, ‘Lia. How bad is it?”

Amelia sipped. “Black never had a trial. Crouch had him sent to Azkaban on the basis of the words: ‘It’s my fault, all mine.’ Then he sealed the file.”

Fudge’s eyes bulged and he spewed his cocoa into the fire. “Merlin’s hairy balls!” He groaned. “How did that happen? Why didn’t Dumbledore, or anyone else for Avalon’s sake, notice?”

Amelia sighed. “You know as well as I do that most Death Eaters were tried in Judicial Sub-Committees to prevent them from escaping because of the ‘neutral and uncommitted’ members of the Wizengamot. You know that most of the Hogwarts Staff doted on Lilly Potter. Crouch used that to block Dumbledore from being involved in the trial, conflict of interest. He allowed an interview, but he was present himself,” she hesitated. “I think Black may have been Confunded and in shock.”

Fudge frowned. “Why didn’t Dumbledore notice that?”

“Because he was in shock himself. He was so proud when Black distanced himself from his family, so proud of Lily. So happy that James Potter had turned his life around from being a rude bully to a thoughtful young father. That Peter Pettigrew was showing his inner courage. He’d been to visit Frank and Alice the day before they were tortured into insanity, and the day after… He lost so many friends, pupils… He was in shock himself, Cornelius,” Amelia shuddered. “I never thought about it myself, but I recently received a book from Arthur Weasley about Mu- Normal Aur- Police procedures. They mention shock as a danger to civilians and Aurors, so I asked him to find information about it. I’ve seen what they describe, Cornelius. And felt it.”

Fudge pulled his lip. “So it isn’t something that just affects Mug- Normals?”

“No,” Amelia stated emphatically, “It affects every human being. But we tend to think we can cure everything with magic. You remember Professor Dorian talking about it being impossible to cure the mind by magic alone? And Professor Flitwick doing the same? If we could cure the mind and soul by magic, why does Pomona Sprout spend most of the first week at Hogwarts with a Firstie on her lap?” 

Cornelius smiled reminiscently. “She always did that, even when we were still in school.”

Amelia nodded. “Yes, I remember your first night...”

Fudge smiled back. “And I yours. Did you ever find your teddy bear?”

Amelia rolled her eyes. “Twit. But you understand what I’m saying?”

Cornelius nodded. “Yes, I do.”

“And then there’s something else you should know…” Amelia began.

Fudge closed his eyes and groaned. “Oh, Morgana.”

“The Malfoy family has ceased to exist,” Amelia told him calmly.

Fudge paled. “What? Someone killed them? Merlin, Amelia!”

Amelia shook her head reassuringly. “No. They reverted to their original name. Bedell.”

Fudge dropped his mug with a resounding crash.

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Kendall family Home, Sunnydale

The house that had been filled with laughter and love and had always embraced her with its strength and kindness now felt like a house of death, like a morgue, a house filled with plague. Marcus Kendall had been on the phone to the LA Meier House, desperately trying to get a place for Cordelia, but they were not going to take in a girl merely on his say so, and he couldn’t tell them the truth and Cordelia would not slander the Kendalls and the Kendalls wouldn’t slander her.

So Cordelia sat with Melody in her lap and rocking backwards and forwards as the girl sobbed, frightened out of her wits. She sat looking, sightless and silent, looking at the cupboard that held the amazing books of the Kendall family and that now were the stark, harsh symbols of their doom. Beside her sat Harmony with Felicity, doing the same. Eliza was in the kitchen, the clang of pots and pans loud in the quiet of the graveyard atmosphere. Marcus had gone to the Clinic, to do what no one wanted to say, but Cordelia could guess. If their fate was awaiting them, at least it would be painless. She wondered how the news would describe it.

The phone rang. No one picked it up, it kept ringing, and ringing and seemed to echo the desperation that hung throughout the house.

Finally Harmony picked up the phone fumbling and hitting the speaker phone as she did. “Harmony Kendall,” she said in a tired, tear-filled voice.

“Harmony, thank goodness. This is Simon Meier. I need to speak to your father, urgently,” Simon’s voice sounded anxious. “Is he alright?”

“No, no we’re not alright. None of us are,” Harmony replied tonelessly.

“Oh no… what did he do?” Simon asked. “Did he…?”

Cordelia frowned. “Excuse me, how do you know something is wrong? Are you psychic or something?”

There was a rather bitter laugh. “I hope not. No… Ummm… Did he have a visitor, perhaps? A bit of a strange one?”

“You mean that House Elf thing?” Cordelia asked sharply.

“You know about House Elves?” Simon sounded surprised and relieved. “Well, that makes this easier. Where is he? Your father I mean.”

“He went to the Clinic…” Cordelia swallowed.

“An emergency?” Simon sounded as if that sort of thing happened to him all the time.

“No… Yes… he went to get something, I think,” Cordelia replied, looking at Harmony, who was still holding the horn in some sort of death grip.

“Oh, Morgana’s tits, stop pussy-footing around!” A cultured voice shouted. “Look, my name is Lucius Bedell and I want to speak to my brother before he does something stupid, again!”

A shocked shiver ran through Melody. “Bedell? You said Bedell? Not Malfoy?”

“Who are you?” Lucius asked, curiously. “And yes, I was Lucius Malfoy, now I am Lucius Bedell.”

There was a loud clash of pottery. The door to the kitchen had opened and Eliza had come in and had dropped the plates with confectionary she was carrying. “What? Who are you? What are you doing on the phone?”

There was noise like a cleared throat and a rather sulky “I apologize, My Lord,” and then the voice on the phone was once again Simon’s. “Because he swore allegiance to the Patriarch of Vicari, his name is Lucius, he took it from me after looking how I used it, which apparently even a wand wanker can imitate and he’s worried sick about Marcus. Oh, and he’s Lord Bedell now. Abraxas Malfoy has been dead almost twenty years, apparently. Marcus hid a bit too well.”

“D-dead?” Eliza asked, shocked.

“Very much so,” Lucius yelled in the background. “Look, just tell him not to do something stupid like jump off towers to see if he can suddenly fly or set his pants on fire to try and force his magic to douse it, okay? He tends to overreact. I’ll be traveling with Lord Vicari to visit you as soon as possible!”

“Lord Vicari?” Harmony spoke for the first time. “D-does that mean we’re free?”

There was a laugh. “Yes, we are. Who are you, my dear?”

“Harmony,” Harmony replied. “So Daddy was right? You really do want him back, Squib or not? And us too? Even though we can’t do magic either?”

There was a snort from the other end of the phone. “Can’t do magic? We’ll discuss that too. Ummm… Did Dobby scare you?”

Cordelia mouthed ‘Dobby?’ at Harmony, who suddenly looked horrified.

“That was Dobby? Daddy’s elf? Oh, we’re so sorry! Is he badly hurt?” Harmony asked.

Lucius was silent and then finally spoke. “Badly enough that he did not report himself. But he also Apparated all the way to the Colonies in a very short time, and back again, and that wouldn’t have done him any good. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more. I was rather… distracted by the news.”

Harmony gulped. “C-could you let us know?”

“Of course,” Lucius promised. “As soon as I can. I, ah, apparently have to ‘hang up’ now. Errr… Do you happen to know how to placate Lady Willow? She’s glaring at me rather angrily,” he asked very quietly.

Cordelia laughed, almost hysterically. “Feed her cheese. I doubt she’ll complain when she gets a taste of Stilton or Cheddar!”

“Thank you. I shall do that. I will speak with you all, and hopefully see you, soon. Good bye,” Lucius hung up.

Eliza fell onto the couch, slumping bonelessly. “Oh.”

Harmony blinked at the phone in her hand. Fliss pulled on her arm. “Harm? D-does this mean we’re gonna live? A-and we get to meet uncle Lucius? And see the Manor where Daddy grew up? And the peacocks?”

Harmony looked at her mother. Eliza sat looking at the opposite wall, her face blank. “Mom? Are we gonna go to Britain and do all that?”

Eliza rose, rather wobbly Cordelia noted. Then she started to laugh, grabbed Felicity by her hand dragging her off Harmony’s lap and hugged her, and then Harmony and Melody and Cordelia. “Yes! Yes I think we are!”

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Hogwarts Apparition point

Willow glared at Lucius, rubbing her rear. “You pushed me!”

Lucius looked more than a little embarrassed. “I did? I do apologize. I was rather anxious to reassure my family that no harm would come to them.”

Willow ‘Hhmphed’. “Well, okay, I can understand that. But don’t do it again! Dad! Don’t push that!” She grabbed the phone from Simon who had been looking at it intently. Willow let out a breath and pushed a few buttons.

“It took ages to program in all those numbers. Don’t push anything except the buttons I showed you! Sheesh, how do you even deal with all that medical equipment if you can’t even handle a phone?” Willow asked.

Simon cleared his throat and shot a warning glance at Lucius, who quickly wiped the amused look off his face. “They, ah, make more sense to me? And at least they don’t call me at all hours.”

Willow shook her head in exasperation, rubbed her bottom again while glaring at Lucius and walked back to Hogwarts, muttering to Rowan about Luddite Dads and their pushing-overy side kicks.

Lucius looked at Simon. “Pushing-overy?” he asked.

Simon shrugged. “You get used to the language. Eventually. Come on, Tonto.”

Lucius eyebrows lifted. “Tonto, My Lord?”

Simon gave him a musing look. “Hmmm, maybe Robin suits you better…”

“What are you talking about, My Lord?” Lucius asked, exasperated as he followed the older man back into the castle.

Simon smirked. “Nothing, nothing at all.”

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Los Angeles, AndersonMansion, 31st of December 1995

The two men were sitting in the over-large, over stuffed chairs and sipping very expensive drinks.

“It’s confirmed then? The Sabancaya have lost the favor of the Lord Machida?” The older of the two men spoke.

“Yes, Mr. Anderson, it is so. The Sabancaya allowed the keystone of their sacrifices top be removed and Machida has punished them for it,” the other replied. “It offers you a golden opportunity to… expand.”

Anderson rubbed his chin. “Hmmm… I don’t have any daughters… But I have a niece. Callie. I think I can convince my brother that for the good of the family Callie ought to change schools. I seem to recall there is an exclusive school in Sunnydale?”

“Kent, yes. It has quite a good reputation. Quite near Crestwood as well,” the other man replied. It was his duty to his client to supply him with all the knowledge needed.

“Very good, very good. She can be the new cornerstone. We’ll have her wedded to Machida soon,” Anderson smiled and toasted his guest. “You don’t feel the need to try yourself, Holland?”

Holland Manners shook his head. “That would be abuse of Lawyer-Client privilege. And of course I have my own arrangements.”

“Of course. Well, here’s to the New Year. May even more wealth come our way than in the last,” Anderson toasted.

Manners clinked glasses with him and drank. It really was excellent brandy. 

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Hogwarts Castle, 31st of December, eleven PM

Dawn was yawning. Kit too. And their yawns had infected Hermione, Harry, Ginny, Luna and Ron. Draco was stifling his, but he too was affected. Twelve o’clock was approaching and the children really wanted to see the fireworks at the castle and Hogsmeade in the distance. But twelve o’clock is late when you’re a child who’s been active all day long. Buffy and the others were yawning as well, Joyce noted. Evy, who still tired quickly after her exertion fighting the Dementors, had fallen asleep though she’d demanded Arlene wake her before twelve. Joyce smiled as despite all her efforts, Dawn’s eyes fell shut. Luna had curled up against Andromeda Tonks, much to the older witch’s delight. Joyce grinned at the other mothers and then returned to her description of the Kendall Twins. All of the witches were firmly convinced it had to be a sign of the girls’ magical abilities.

Lucius in the meantime was glaring at Simon. “My name is Lucius! Not Sancho, not Tonto, not Robin or Bucky or Sandy or Toro, or-or Haddock! LUCIUS! LUCIUS!” he almost stamped his foot in rage.

Severus was looking on in amazement, with Arthur Weasley beside him. “He actually got Lucius to show his temper?” Arthur whispered, awed.

“Amazin’, isn’t it? He got under my skin within minutes. Still does, when he wants to,” Clarice drawled.       

“But why?” Arthur asked, bewildered. “I mean, Lucius swore allegiance to him! Why make him so angry?”

Clarice grinned. “Watch and listen.”

“I see… what is my name, Porky Pig?” Simon stood watching the clouds passing across the ceiling.

Lucius sighed in defeat, and spread his arms. “Simon.”

“Very good, Lucius. Now see that you remember it,” Simon admonished gently. “Even without using the oath I can make your life hell.”

Lucius shuddered. “I noticed.”

Arthur blinked. “That was it? He didn’t want to be called Lord Vicari?”

“Apparently. Most intriguing. I shall see if I can get the same result. I do after all know Lucius quite well,” Severus ran his fingers along the buttons of his robes.

Arthur stifled a chuckle. “Well, that ought to be something to see,” he looked at the small group of women in a corner, chatting. “What are they talking about?”

Clarice rolled her eyes. “Narcissa is grilling Joyce about her new nieces. It got old real fast. I think she wants their clothing sizes before she even meets them.”

“Ah, I see. It will be interesting to meet Marcus Ma- Bedell. I must admit I always believed he was dead, in spite of Lucius’ hopes in the matter,” Severus added thoughtfully. He looked around. “Amazing.”

“What is?” Arthur asked.

“I’m seeing my sister without her betrothed’s tongue down her throat and hands up her robes,” Severus replied deadpan. “Not that I mind in the least. I saw far more of her than a good brother should.”

Arthur snorted.

Clarice glared at Severus and poked him in the side. Then she glared at Arthur. “Just you wait until Ginevra starts noticing boys!”

Arthur choked on his laughter, a dismayed expression on his face.

Severus cleared his throat. “Where’s my inestimable future brother-in-law anyway?”

“Professor Flitwick wanted him to have a Revelatio Familias spell cast. I wasn’t allowed to be there in case it got embarrassing,” Clarice replied sulkily.

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Infirmary

Patrick looked at the elaborate family tree with wide eyes. “Ummm… not to sound impolite… But how old are you?”

Filius grinned and wiped at his eyes, getting rid of some tears. “Well, as you can see from this, old enough to be your great-great-grandfather. And then some. I’m so very happy to meet my little brother’s descendant. Very happy indeed, my boy.”

Patrick cleared his throat. “So that makes me what, ummm, one thirty second goblin? Of House Flitwick?”

Flitwick shook his head. “No, see here, and here?” he pointed at two marks. “Those ancestral lines are non-human too, this is a goblin lineage, House Grobdock, a very fine old family, and this is a Fae lineage, House Resiran. So you’re one-sixteenth goblin and one thirty-second Fae.”

Pat nodded, numbly. “I see. Errr… Now what?”

Flitwick smiled. “Well, I’ll take you and your intended to meet the rest of the family if you want. Your delightful daughter, my great-great-great Grand niece, as well. Hehheh, Minerva will be tickled pink!”

“Ummm, Simon said that errr… well, you know, I sell what I make and build…” Patrick shrugged.

Flitwick nodded. “And rightly so. Not all goblins reclaim all their work. Our houses would fill up too fast and a lot of it does perish from age and use. It’s mostly so we can reclaim things that would be lost, or destroyed or abused. And it doesn’t work on houses anyway, those are special, belong to the Blood, not the maker. Goblins don’t really understand selling a house, though. Bequeathing it, yes, certainly, but selling?” He shook his head. Then he dabbed at his eyes again. “Fastolph’s line, oh this is wonderful!”

Madam Pomfrey cleared her throat.

Flitwick looked up and then at the clock. “Oh, yes, I am sorry Poppy! Come, Patrick. Let’s go talk to Clarice and Amy. Wonderful! What a wonderful surprise for the new year!”

Patrick followed the bustling little man, looking bewildered. Poppy smiled at him in encouragement and left the Infirmary, flicking off the lights with her wand.

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Jeton House

Amelia Bones watched as Cornelius stood looking out the window, his three granddaughters clustered around him, waiting for the fireworks to start. He had been silent, silent and tired looking ever since her revelation. Not even the antics of the girls or the good-natured ribbing of his daughters had brought him out of his funk. Amelia was worried enough not to leave, despite the intrusion on the family moment. Then again, she’d babysat all three of Cornelius and Magda’s daughters so she was well known to them.

Mabel Haversham, the eldest of the daughters, moved to stand next to Amelia just as the first rocket burst in the sky. In the soft blue-green light Amelia could see tears run down Cornelius’ face. “Whatever did you and Dad talk about?”  Mabel asked. “He hasn’t been this upset since Mum died.”

Amelia sighed. “I’m afraid it’s a secret, Mabby. But I think it brought back bad memories.”

Mabel shook her head. “Everything does. He has nightmares, you know,” she hesitated. “Was he really trained as a hitwizard, like that Skeeter woman wrote? He-he didn’t really kill Xeno Lovegood, did he?”

Amelia snorted. “Your imagination is still as wild as ever. No, Cornelius wasn’t a hitwizard. But the War was hard on him. And losing your mother…”

“She never recovered from the attack. I don’t think he ever forgave Dumbledore for the way he spoke at her funeral. I’m not sure I ever did,” Beulah Hitchcock spoke from behind them.

Amelia’s eyes widened and then she closed them. “Ah. Yes. I see. That explains a few things. Yes…”

“Aunty Melia?” Ada, youngest of the three spoke up. “Are you alright?”

Amelia nodded sadly. “Just a few pieces of the puzzle that fell into place, is all. Sometimes the whole picture is something you’d rather not see.”

She looked at the man by the window. “Because it hurts.” 
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