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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)vidiconFR1598780,1331571484390,84328 May 115 Jul 14No

Ancient and Noble Blood

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.#

Many thanks to Kirinketsu for the recommendation, and thanks to all who reviewed!

Chapter 83 Ancient and noble blood

Office of Albus Dumbledore, 1st of January 1996

Simon stood in front of the fire, rubbing his hands to get warm. Running after newly energized ten-year olds was quite tiring, and in the middle of a winter night in Scotland, bloody cold, too.

Clarice was in an armchair, teeth chattering and her hands around a huge mug of hot cocoa, provided by Tibby. ‘In an armchair’ might not have been quite correct as Patrick was actually in the armchair and Clarice was in Patrick’s lap.

Severus was scowling at the two of them, from the deepest, darkest chair he could find. Lucius and Narcissa were there as well, Narcissa dozing fitfully, waiting for the meeting to start. 

Joyce was the last to arrive, face flushed by the cold of the bitter December night.

“Well, Aunt Penny, the P’s and Mom have them all well in hand and on their way home. Now what is so important that we had to meet right now and couldn’t go home with our children?” she asked pointedly. A slight pop next to her alerted her, and as she looked beside her she saw that a mug of steaming spicy cocoa had been made, and delivered, for her as well.  

Albus Dumbledore rose from behind his desk and joined them by the fire. “Dark things,” he looked at Severus, who scowled at the ground and then spoke.

“As you know I bear the mark of Riddle on my arm,” Severus said heavily. “In my foolish youth I was swayed by his vision, his methods, his group, the feeling they gave me of being included, of not being alone.”

Clarice smiled and snuggled a bit deeper into Patrick’s embrace. “We can understand that, Severus.”

Severus glared at her. “Do you two really have to be so horribly vulgar about your relationship? You’re acting like two Fifth Year Hufflepuffs.”

Clarice merely raised an eyebrow and burrowed deeper, Patrick’s arms tightening around her middle.

Severus sighed and continued. “It took me some time, but I realised that I had been an idiot. I fear it took me far too long and I did… terrible things… while coming to that conclusion,” he looked at his folded hands. “Terrible things.”

“We’re aware of your past, Severus. Mine isn’t exactly lily-white either,” Simon’s words were gentle and he wondered why Severus flinched at them.

“Yes… But when I defected from Riddle, I defected to Albus. I’m his spy. Which leads me to the problem. If I acknowledge you as my brother, my family, I put you in danger, and I endanger the mission to defeat Riddle,” Snape replied.

Simon looked at Joyce, who shrugged. “My eldest daughter is a Slayer, my son a Heyoka, one of my daughters was killed before she was born and is a spirit in a machine, the other is more powerful than any member of my family ever has been.”  

There was as stir from Dumbledore at that, his eyes widening.

Joyce continued. “Kit had to stake her own mother and lived alone, on the Hellmouth, for months. I think we can handle danger. And Severus, there’s a very simple solution that really should have occurred to you and Albus.”

Severus raised an eyebrow. “Which is?”

Joyce smirked. “Why Severus, you just have to lie to him.”

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The Great Hall of the Wizengamot, Winchester, 1st of January 1996, eleven o’clock

Each time a Patriarch or Matriarch entered the great hall a tiny silver bell would ring in the carillon that hung above the Gate, known colloquially as the Gate of Chimes.

If one entered who had not been the Leader of their Family the previous year, a larger bell would ring in tandem. Cornelius Fudge was watching the bells and listening to the talk of the Representatives. The indignation about an Ambassador from the Concordat laying down the law, the insecurity about the Dementors, the fear of Black. Normally he would be walking around, working the room. Today he was sitting behind the large wooden desk that was the Minister’s traditional seat.

Behind him rose the seven ancient stone steps to the large wooden chair that had been Merlin’s throne. Merlin, who had been the intermediary between the magical and non-magical worlds. Towering above the throne was a huge baldachin, of deep blue cloth, embroidered with silver thread. The symbols of the United Kingdoms of the Isles of Britannia appeared on the silver shield that hung at the front of the baldachin. Fudge looked over his shoulder, at the withered chair and the Baldachin that was a mere three hundred years old. Carved into the back of the chair, almost worn away with the centuries of use, was the single, grinning skull that was the symbol of the ultimate arbiter, the final judge, Death.

It was a grim reminder, and Cornelius felt it was a good thing it was there. Death came to all men, be it sooner or later, after a life of wisdom or folly. That was the meaning of that old tale he’d read his youngest granddaughters only that morning. Death and the three Brothers.

The room was filling up fast. Not even a scion of the least family took his seat without ceremony, though Fudge would officially welcome all of them. The Patriarchs of Noble Houses would enter through the gate and then the Ceremony of Presentation would begin and all the new members would be introduced more fully.  

Cornelius smiled mechanically when Dumbledore came in and took his own seat, opposite him. The old man looked… He looked happy and relaxed. Fudge looked up, disturbed, by a babble of voices from the Family Gallery. A pretty redhead and a small, gorgeous blonde had come in, talking animatedly, and then the Ambassador’s wife was guiding in the rest of her brood, a slightly harassed look on her face. 

Fudge smiled at that. He had three daughters and eleven grandchildren. He could sympathize.

The seats had filled up and quiet overtook the hall as the occupants waited for the hour of noon. The sun struck the centre of the great rosette window and struck the back of Merlin’s Throne. The great doors beneath the gate of Chimes that had been closed fifteen minutes before flew open. Fudge looked on impassively as one by one the new incumbents of their family seats entered, heard their names called out and took their places. Everyone knew that there was no Ancient or Noble or Ancient and Noble House to be re-inducted today. Then there was a trill, as an old, old bell rang, the tarnish that had covered it falling away, showing the sparkle of silver in the sunlight. A woman strode through the gate, wearing robes Fudge vaguely recognised as those of a Magister of the Concordat, her head of greying brown hair held high and her piercing blue eyes fierce. 

Hermes, Lord Kendall, The Keeper of the Chimes, who knew every single of the bells’ positions by heart, looked at her in disbelief, then up at the bell again, opened his mouth and finally called out.

“By virtue of her Spirit! The Matriarch of the Noble House of Warren!” 

There was complete silence, except for the resolute footsteps of the new Matriarch. It was unexpected, but occasionally an old Seat was claimed by a cadet branch.

The gathering looked avidly at the door. There were shapes there, waiting. That meant that whatever family came through next had a higher standing than the Warrens.

The tinkle of the bell showed a middle-aged, kindly looking woman, her red hair gleaming in the sun, her formal robes spanking new, her hair carefully coiffed, a tiara of pearls set on her head and pear-shaped pearl earrings dangling from her ears. Hermes beamed. “By virtue of her Spirit! The Matriarch of the Noble House of Prewett!” he called out.

There was a murmur of approval. Old Muriel Prewett had finally given up her seat to her single remaining niece, Margaret. Rumours about it had been flying since the Weasleys had claimed Harry Potter under the Attendant Mother Act.

In his seat in the upper benches, Arthur Weasley beamed and nudged his neighbours. “Doesn’t she look wonderful?”

Tammas Lodestone looked at the warm and radiant woman. Molly had always been more motherly than pretty, never a conventional model of beauty but today she was as radiant as the day she married. “Magnificent,” Tammas agreed. “Truly splendid. So will Ginny inherit Prewett? Or Bill?”

Arthur smiled. “We don’t know yet if Ginny has the Mother power. We do hope she’ll have an easier time bearing a girl. Six boys before that might annoy her a little.”

Tammas laughed. “It might at that.”

The men were distracted when a single tone sounded. A figure all in black came in, his purposeful stride, sallow face and crooked back recognisable to all. “The Patriarch of the Noble House of Prince!” Hermes, called out, his voice sounding even more pleased than when Molly Weasley had come through the Gate.

Fudge nodded as again the murmur of approval ran through the hall. Many of the more old-fashioned lords and ladies had been pressing Snape to take up his mother’s family’s mantle for years, despite the lack of wealth and estates attached to it, regardless of her disinherited status. There were bylaws to allow that, if there were no other contenders for the title. It was an old and noble family, even if sadly decayed. Severus' position as the youngest Potion Master in the world, the youngest in centuries, would add lustre to the scratched and tarnished escutcheon. 

A swish of black and pearl robes came through the gates and then a single, discordant tone rang from one of the bells lower on the carillon, and it fell silent, only to have the trill taken up by one higher up. Hermes eyes bulged and he paled so far Fudge thought he would faint.

“The P-Patriarch of Ancient and Noble house of Bedell is taking his seat, vacating the seat of the Noble House of Mal Foi,” he stammered out. 

Instead of the previous silence there was pandemonium, uproar, chaos. All other three of the Kendall family branches, even old Marcellus Forthingay-Kendall who went through life in a half-doze and tended to sleep through the few Wizengamot meetings he attended, were on their feet, screaming and demanding an explanation.

Then, just below the dusty, ancient bronze bell that hung in the centre of the carillon of Lineages, a silver one lost its tarnish and rang, once. Hermes Kendall fell back, leaning against the wall in shock.

A figure clad in white and silver made his way towards the centremost of the nine long-empty seats on the first row, behind the Chief Warlock. Only then did Hermes manage to call out. “The Patriarch of the Most Ancient and Most Noble House of Vicari.”

This time the shouts and screams shook the very rafters of the ancient Hall.

Cornelius rose, clearing his throat. The old Sonorous enchantment on his position activated. He had to clear his throat three more times and look at Albus to bang the gavel and call for order before he could speak.

 “It is with great pleasure that I welcome those new to this chamber, and especially those of ancient lineages we had long thought lost. I hope that we can work together to ensure a better, safer, society for our children than we knew ourselves, a richer, stronger future. Lady Warren, Lord Prince, Lord Bedell, Lord Vicari, I hope your strength and wisdom will serve as a support for this Chamber for many years,” he sat down again, waiting for Dumbledore to thank him, open the meeting, address the members and then they could try and get some work done.

********

The Great Hall of the Wizengamot, Winchester, 1st of January 1996

When a break was called an hour and a half later, the portly middle-aged Hermes Kendall was the first to corner Lucius, closely followed by the ancient Marcellus Forthingay-Kendall, young and unsure Hymereticus Kendall-Godolphin and dour and serious Zimiaticus Kendall-Bainstridge. “Lucius,” Hermes greeted his younger cousin, coldly. “We would like to know what your plans are now.”

Lucius looked up from his writing and rose. “I intend to serve My Lord. Any of the House ofCynddelw Brydydd Mawr who seek to serve him as well will need to ask him. Any who wish him harm…” he made an elegant gesture with his cane and Hermes swallowed as it swept just past his nose. “Beyond that, I have no interest in the other Lineages.” 

“Are you telling us you don’t intend to re-integrate the Houses? Not to command us or our children to do your bidding?” Zimiaticus growled. “Why don’t I quite believe you would pass up that opportunity?”

Lucius shrugged and nodded at the Gallery. “Over there are Lord Vicari’s betrothed and children. All his daughters, their cousins, his entire family, would have… words with me if I tried to enforce those rights. And despite the fact that the arranged marriage between Narcissa and me has been quite happy, I know of far too many examples of them ending in murder or mutual hatred,” he flashed a quick grin. “Not that unarranged marriages don’t. But I don’t see the need to bear the guilt for marrying off say, your daughter Sophronia to Gerardus Goyle.”

Zimiaticus pursed his lips. “But, if say, Sophronia had feelings for a young person, you might be willing to intercede, using your new… influence?”

Lucius rubbed his chin. “Well, if it’s a matter of parental disagreement, yes. If you want me to force the boy into a marriage-”

Zimiaticus shook his head. “Not a boy. Her parents do not approve of Sophie, or their daughter’s, life choices”

Lucius threw an amused look at Hermes, who was spluttering in shock at the revelation of his young cousin’s preference. “In that case, I think a short conversation with the Chief Warlock ought to be sufficient. And the Minister, too.”  

Zimiaticus looked at his cousin. “Just like that?”

Lucius shrugged. “Well, I have three children on the way and I might need a babysitter on occasion. You and Elphidia were always quite good with children, I remember.”

“Three?” Marcellus interrupted, waking up from his customary half doze. “Triplets?”

Lucius smirked. “Yes indeed.”

Marcellus beamed, gripping the younger man’s hand. “Congratulations! Congratulations indeed! Come, Zim, let’s go talk to Albus. I could do with a Lemon Drop.”

*********

Severus was skulking in the shadows of one of the huge stone pillars. The Old Hall was only used for full meetings of both chambers of the Wizengamot, both the so-called 'elected' members and the hereditary ones. It offered a great many dark and shadowy places for discussions and Severus was using one of them for a bit of peace and quiet. He was definitely not hiding. Not at all.

“There he is!” A young voice called out. “UNCLE SEVERUS!”

Severus sighed in resignation. Dawn and Kit were waving at him. He could pretend he hadn't seen them, but the sudden, immense silence that had fallen over the hall at the unexpected, highly enthusiastic, appearance of his brother's brood made that rather difficult.

Willow had the Rowan cam on her shoulder, as usual, and was flanked by Kit and Dawn. Kendra was trailing, Hermione at her side, looking up at the impressively carved, moving ceiling. Wizarding heroes, fauns, satyrs, nymphs, centaurs, and countless of other magical creatures gambolled across it. Severus suspected it had been designed to give bored Members something to look at during long speeches.

“Uncle Severus!” Willow called out breathlessly as she covered the final distance..

“Yes?” Snape crossed his arms and scowled menacingly. He did have a reputation to maintain, after all.

Willow flipped open her writing pad. “We've got some questions. Now we didn't have much time to collate them, but I won the draw, so I get to ask them first. Hermione?  Have you got your addenda ready?”

Severus looked at the girls, hiding his mounting horror behind an impassive face. The list looked to be quite long. Willow took a ballpoint she'd tucked behind her ear and assumed a scholarly expression. Hermione and Kendra stood nearby, to make certain she forgot nothing.

“Now, when you came in all those bells chimed, are there different tunes for different occasions? Hermione didn’t know, it wasn't in any of the books she read,” Willow began.

Severus suppressed a whimper. A throat cleared. Lord Athanasius Morrow, an old bore if there ever was one, had sidled up, no doubt to moan about the lack of respect for traditions as exhibited by the younger generation.

“These girls are your nieces. Lord Prince-Snape?” the old man inquired.

Snape glared. “That would be Vicari-Prince. And yes, these are Simon's daughters.” He gestured at the figure in white and silver, who was being assailed by large numbers of sycophants seeking favours, then indicated the girls in turn. “Willow, Kendra, Katherine and Dawn. This is our cousin. Miss Granger-Vicari,” his dark eyes landed on Hermione, his voice cold.

Hermione pursed her lips, obviously wanting to know about the difference in nomenclature but restraining herself. She knew that he still had to act distantly towards her, she was after all a pupil, which the others were not. Still there was a degree of menace in his tone that was markedly absent while he was discussing the other girls. Snape could almost see her hand quiver as she held it back from rising above her head, to ask for an explanation.

Lord Morrow's brows rose and he looked over at where Simon was being swamped by sycophants eager to gain whatever political advantages might be made from speaking with the Ambassador of the Concordat and the only Patriarch of a Most Ancient and Most Noble House in the Wizengamot. “Indeed? All of them?”

Severus smirked. “For all intents and purposes, yes.”

There was a crash. And an exasperated “XANDER! BUFFY! GET  AWAY FROM THERE!” showed where the eldest of the brood were, obviously having revealed themselves to Joyce by some mischief.

“But Mom! The stupid suit of armor pinched my butt!” Buffy whined.

Lord Morrow looked over his shoulder, unruffled, actually seeming approving. “That would be animated Armour of Lord Hieronymus Diggle. Not a gentleman I'd trust my granddaughters with.”

Willow perked up. “Animated Armor? Can you tell us about that?”

Lord Morrow stuck out his pigeon chest. “I'm considered an expert on the history of the Wizengamot, its procedures and this Hall.”

Hermione drew a clean quill from her hair. “Can you tell us about the Gate of Chimes? How it works? What it does?”

Morrow beamed and grasped the front of his robes as he assumed a pose Severus recognized from his cousin Slughorn's more pontificating moments, right down to the quivering of the huge white moustache. “But certainly, I'd be delighted. It's good to see such enthusiasm for our history and uses from young people. The Gate of Chimes, or the Gate of Procession to give its official name, was constructed by Merlin Emrys in the year 585...”

********    

The Great Hall of the Wizengamot, after the break

Lucius Bedell stepped out of his seat, his face serene, took a place in the middle of the floor and raised his wand in an age-old salute. “I, Lucius Tiberius Bedell, Patriarch and Lord of the Ancient and Noble House of Bedell, conforming to the ancient oaths and customs, swear the allegiance of myself and my lineage to the Patriarch of the House of Vicari, and whatever representatives he might appoint to enact his will.”

He swished his wand down and a large gong that stood in the back of the room sang out with a deep tone. Simon rose and raised his own wand. “I, Simonides Conradis Henridcus Vicari, accept the oath of Lucius Bedell and his family and lineage and extend to him the protection that my house can offer.” 

There was a murmur of approval from the chamber. Then Marcellus pounded the arms rest of his chair in approbation, followed by his cousins, and the hall burst into cheers.

********    

Luna Lovegood, by reason of her birth and the ranks of her Foster parents, was present at the proceedings of the Wizengamot. Her father was the lord of a minor House, but had never bothered much with it, claiming that the power was held by a small group of wealthy families who owned the Rotten Boroughs that elected the Lower House and, through their own seats, controlled the Upper House. He was morally certain that in several cases the actual heads of these families were ancient wizards who had allowed themselves to be turned into vampires, thereby extending their lives, or as Xeno had it, 'unnaturally avoiding a natural process'. Since they were Rotten Boroughs held on behalf of vampires, he’d called it the ‘Rotfang Conspiracy’

Luna had believed her father's words, taken them to heart wholly. Now she was wondering if there might not be a fallacy. Many of the members of the Wizengamot were very old. And everybody knew that Vampires didn't show their age. And if you had to live forever, it was far smarter to allow yourself to be turned while you still had some strength and mobility, Luna thought. Not to mention that the room was filled with sunlight and all her surreptitious spells showed that everybody here was human. Well, mostly. Some had Goblin and Fae blood, she thought. At least, they weren't vampires.

Luna sighed. *Daddy's not going to be happy when I tell him that the Wizengamot and the Ministry have been taken over by Liches, not Vampires.*   

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Hogwarts, Study of Albus Dumbledore, 1st of January early evening

Albus sighed as he lowered himself into his chair. He felt quite tired, but rather content. Most of the things he’d wanted to accomplish over the holiday had been, and more. The Dementors were discredited and gone. Harry still had protection, but now from Aurors. Lucius had strengthened their position in the Wizengamot by coming down firmly on Albus’ side. Ties with the Concordat, long shaky, had been unexpectedly strengthened. A breakthrough had been made with regard to Riddle. His long held fear, that Tom had indeed resorted to horcruxes, had been confirmed. It was bad news, but it was a very valuable piece of information. The fact he had to have created more than one…

He leaned back and then looked up again when the fire on the grate flared green. Simon and Clarice had taken Severus into one of the negotiation nooks and told him that he needed some time away from the Wizarding world. The Potion Master’s objections had been firmly waved aside by his sister and he’d been dragged off to the Cannon street house after the Ceremony. The fact that the dragging had been done by Dawn and Kit had made it impossible for Severus to refuse without hurting the girls' feelings.

Albus smiled. Apparently Severus wasn't completely immune to wobbling chins, quivering lips and tearful eyes, no matter what he might claim.

Minerva was in her family's ancient manor, looking for as much family history to give to Amy to read as she could convince the girl to accept.

That meant that very few people were left who might call him. Albus gestured at the fireplace. The face of Amelia Bones appeared. Albus smiled. “Amelia! What a pleasant surprise. Did you wish to speak or come through?”

“Come through, Albus. What I have to say I think needs to be conveyed in person,” Amelia replied, her face serious.

Albus nodded and lowered his wards. Amelia Bones stepped through, her face grave.

Albus gestured at a chair and rang a little bell that signalled the kitchens he’d like some tea for him and his guest. He’d long ago come to an arrangement with the House Elves that kept them from unnecessary Apparating. Every time they did, he felt the wards of Hogwarts shimmer and shake slightly. He made small talk, offered candy, until the tea arrived.

“May I ask what brings you here, Amelia?” He asked quietly as he poured, ignoring the manners that his mother had drilled into him. He had never understood why a lady should pour, even when she was the visitor.

Amelia picked up the delicate white and gold cup with the tiny arms of the Dumbledore family. “Cornelius Fudge hates you, you know.”

“Yes. I’m not entirely sure why, but yes, I know,” Albus replied heavily, the usual twinkle gone from his eyes. “I’ve tried to explain that I don’t want the Ministry but he won’t believe me.”

Amelia sighed. “And that is why he hates you. He feels that if you’d been Minister during the War, He-who, Riddle I mean, would not have risen to such power. That all the people who died because of Riddle would still be alive. Including Magda.”

Albus Dumbledore had always been a larger than life figure in Amelia’s eyes as a child. Even as an adult he seemed vast, powerful, near infallible. Now he just looked old and tired. “Ah. That would explain it.”

Albus ran a thin hand through his white beard and Amelia noticed with startling clarity the slight tremor and the veins clearly visible through the papery and aged skin. Powerful wizards could live a long time, but Albus had not had an easy life. She took a deep breath. “He also blames you for the eulogy you gave at Magda’s funeral.”

Albus sighed. “I should have guessed he would.”

“You talked about the heroes of the war at his wife’s funeral! A woman who never moved out of the kitchen except to go to work at St. Mungo’s!” Amelia spat.

Albus swilled some tea in his mouth. “Do you remember Fabian and Gideon Prewett?”  

Amelia bit back an oath. “Of course I do.”

“Did Edgar ever tell you about the night they came in, one with that bandage around his head, the other with that sling around his arm?” Albus asked.

Amelia snorted. “Oh, yes,” her face turned slightly bleak. “I still have the pensieved memory he made. Moody made that remark asking them where they’d learnt their healing spells, and they walked up to him, their eyes so sad and we all wondered who’d died and they said an Episkey cannot heal a broken heart. Then they threw those bandages onto Alastor and…” she snorted, remembering the senior Auror’s expression as the bandages wrapped him like he was a mummy. “It was priceless.”

“There had been a raid that evening. They’d almost died. They’d run into someone’s kitchen,” Dumbledore stressed the word, “and instead of being kicked out, the lady of the house healed them. Magda was that healer. Cornelius wouldn’t join the Order; he felt his position precluded it. Magda wouldn’t fight because of her children. But she would heal people, because of her oath.” Albus gazed into his teacup. “Do you think he knows how many lives she saved? She was the healer who treated Molly Weasley when she was attacked. The only one who dared treat the blood traitor. Molly might have lost Percy if she hadn’t. What is a hero, if not that?”

Amelia blinked, several times in amazement. “Magda? Magda Fudge? Little Magda Floodward?”

“Magda Floodward was magnificent woman, who died for her ideals. She was a healer,” Dumbledore stated, almost coldly. “And a hero.”

Amelia nodded numbly. “You should tell Cornelius that.”

“I probably should,” Albus said tiredly. “But it will not make him hate me less for the fact that someone Crucio’d and tortured her so badly that it took her two years of insanity to die.”

Amelia cleared her throat. “Why didn’t you ever become Minister?”

Dumbledore laughed. It was a bitter laugh. “Because I hoped that I could train young people not to repeat my mistakes. Because I knew that I could not truly be the leader so many hoped for.”

“Your mistakes?” Amelia ventured.

But Albus did not reply, merely stared into his tea, his eyes far away. Amelia thought she saw a tear run into his beard and his lips move, but she could not make out what he was saying. When she realised that he was not going to speak any more, she finished her tea and left.

It was only when she arrived back home that she remembered she hadn’t told him about Sirius Black and Post Traumatic Stress.

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Wallbrook House, Cannon street, London

Severus Snape was an intelligent man. He knew when he had run up to the limits of his knowledge. Ancient Rom was not something he was expected to deal with and his grasp of the language was minimal, or if he was honest, non-existent. He also seen that Bathseda Babbling, Filius Flitwick and Albus Dumbledore were no more knowledgeable about the Gypsies ancient tongue than he was. Jon Carnahan admitted it was like ancient Indian languages, and different enough that he wasn't sure what the translation would lead to.  

That meant that Severus needed to call in the help of a friend. And that was why he was currently in his brother's so-called study. He would have been more impressed by it if he hadn’t known that Simon hadn't used the bloody thing, ever. To Severus it was just a white elephant, part of the conspicuous consumption that was part and parcel of being a Vicari. Or a Meier. Though Simon had pointed out that after the initial purchase they actually rarely consumed anything, they just maintained. Wallbrook House had been in their family for generations, its value had risen more than a hundred, if not a thousand fold, and even the upkeep was offset by clever tax constructions and the occasional lease to a carefully selected temporary occupant.

Severus scowled. He was delaying. With a sigh he picked up the phone and dialled. On the fourth ring it was picked up.

“Allo, Oui?“ A sultry feminine voice answered.

“Hello Thérèse, this is Severus,” Severus waited in trepidation.

Thérèse Theban, Tiri to her friends, Nefertiri to those in the know, let out a girlish squeal. “Severus! How wonderful to hear your voice! How have you been? Have you and that lovely girl, what’s her name, oh yes, Sybill, gotten together?”  

Severus winced allowing his features to show his discomfort. There were some advantages to the phone over the Floo. “No. like I explained before, we are just good friends.”

“Tish-tosh,” Tire replied. “Love based on friendship is the strongest.”

Severus closed his eyes and tried to force back the memories of long, red hair and intense green eyes. “No doubt. But that is not why I called.”

“Considering how much you like phones it's miracle you're calling at all,” Therese teased.

“I need your help, or Darius',” Severus replied quietly.

“And it's not about a matter of love?” Therese asked, disappointed.

“No. A man's soul was taken from his body. We may have a means of putting it back, but it's written in ancient Rom, I was hoping that Darius might read the language, or know someone who does,” Severus explained.

“A Hirudo Anima?” Therese's voice was cold.

“No, a spell based upon their abilities, not a Dementor.”

Therese made a sound of loathing. “A vile act. I will ask Darius. Hold for a minute.”

Severus looked at the bookcase in front of him, until Darius took the phone minutes later. “Severus, my apologies. I was in the garden. I do not know Ancient Rom. But I know someone who does.”

“Excellent! Who?” Severus asked.

“A man called Jacob Galati; you've met him,” Darius reminded him.

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LongbottomCastle, Greenhouses, January 1st 1996, Evening

Neville Longbottom was looking at the assortment of plants his Uncle Algy had sent as a Christmas gift. The evening light was sending its last amount of warmth into the greenhouses, and the magical glass gathered and strengthened it. He heard a rustle of cloth and turned around, seeing his grandmother. She looked around, taking in the plants. She gently touched a rose, one of six that stood in the greenhouse all year through. “Your mother planted these. She loved herbology,”

Neville frowned. “But why did she plant them here? They’re just Rosa Canina.”

Augusta smiled. “Dog rose. Yes. Alice… ummm… stole the cuttings for these.”

“Stole?” Neville was surprised that his grandmother wasn’t full of disapproval for his mother’s actions and even more surprised she was talking about her.

“Hmhmm. Stole. She was trying to find out how to duplicate an enchantment, she and Lilly Potter,” Augusta touched one of the stems, looking reminiscent. “They had a great deal of fun while they were pregnant with you and Harry.”

“Oh. What enchantment?” Neville asked.

Augusta laughed. “Love Rose, Neville. How to create a Love Rose.”

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Daily Prophet Editorial, 2nd of January 1996

DID CROUCH FRAME BLACK?

In an exclusive interview with the Prophet, Minister Fudge and Director of the DMLE Bones stated that previously unknown files clearly show that the investigation into the actions of Sirius Black were at the very least badly bungled, and at the worst, a sign of corruption in the highest echelons of the Ministry. The then Director of the DMLE, Bartemius Crouch, now removed from his post as the Head of the Office of International Magical Cooperation seems to have been heavily involved. As the Minister said:

“Ordinarily we would keep such an investigation confidential until we’d found evidence for guilt or innocence. However, in this case such flagrant breaches of the rights of the accused were perpetrated, and the results, twelve years in Azkaban, were so severe, that we see the need to make this public now. I would urge Mr. Black to come forward, to approach a member of the DMLE and assure him that if he does so, he will not be harmed and his case will be fully reviewed. I’m willing to swear a wizard’s oath to that. But I still urge the general public to keep their distance from Mister Black. After so many years in Azkaban his mental state, as I know from a visit I made to him just before his escape, is not good, and he may lash out if surprised. Mr. Black is still a very powerful and skilled wizard and received advanced Auror training. If a member of the public sees him, please contact the DMLE, do not try to approach him yourself.”

Inside with Rita, 2nd of January 1996  

THE MINISTER’S MISTRESS?

Is there more to the close friendship of Amelia, Lady Bones, and Sir Cornelius Fudge, Bart., Minister of magic than a long-standing friendship that started in the Hufflepuff Common Room? Rumour abounds about their late night dinners and talks, the ‘behind closed doors’ meetings and the easy familiarity between the two. Since the death of Magda, Lady Fudge ten years ago from injuries received in the aftermath of the Walburgis Conflict, they seem to have formed a relationship far closer than normal between members of the Ministry. This reporter has observed them holding hands and walking closely together and Lady Bones is a frequent visitor at Fudge Manor and Jeton, the Ministerial country estate.

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2nd of January, The Burrow

Molly Weasley sighed as she took in the mess that her kitchen had become. “Luna, dear, what are you doing?”

“Brewing a potion, Aunt Molly,” Luna replied absently.

Molly pinched the bridge of her nose. “And why are you brewing in the kitchen? And what are you brewing anyway?”

“Because it’s the best place in this house. I can’t use Maman’s lab, the house is locked up. And I won’t brew in the bedroom, like George and Fred,” Luna replied as she dripped a few drops of some viscous green liquid into the softly bubbling cauldron. 

Molly crossed her arms. “And why do you need to brew this now, Luna?”

Luna actually flushed a little. “Because of the time of the month,” she muttered.

Molly frowned at the ingredients. “I didn’t realize you suffered from cramps, Luna. You should have told me. But these aren’t what you need to brew the Comfort Potion to counter them.”

Luna’s flush deepened. “Errr… I don’t suffer from cramps.”

Molly crossed her arms. “Then would you kindly tell me what you are brewing?”

Luna gulped at the stern expression. Very few people in the world made an impression on her calm and placid exterior, but even Luna’s mother had quailed before that particular look. This was not kind Molly Weasley, this was Lady Margaret Prewett, almost the last living member of the once-mighty Prewett lineage who was also, and at the same time, kind Molly Weasley. The combination was most disconcerting. 

Molly tapped her foot. Ron gave in to the foot tap. Then came the slight frown and the tightening mouth. That was the point when even the Twins would start to whimper.

Luna folded. “I’m trying to brew Wolf’s Balm,” she admitted

Molly’s brows drew together. “Wolf’s Balm? I’m not familiar with…” Her voice trailed off. “Who do you know who’s a werewolf, Luna?” she asked, her voice firm.

Luna swallowed. “I-I’d rather not say.”

Molly sighed. “A pupil? Or a teacher?” She lightly stressed teacher.

Luna’s eyes widened. “You know?”

Molly snorted. “We’ve known for years, dear. Now, tell me about this potion and what it does.”

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O’Connell Estate, January 2nd 1996

The helicopter landed lightly on the snow-covered lawn, driving whips of snow against the ground, a few flecks hitting the man waiting on the terrace in front of the great door. The rotors spun to a halt. The helicopter door was opened and a teenage girl jumped out, her hair half auburn, half black followed by a serious looking woman with the same auburn hair colour. They both turned to aid the next passenger to exit, and old man who walked with two canes. Alex O’Connell made his way towards them as the pilots unloaded Jon’s wheelchair. The girl glared at the old man and Jon sat, with a put upon expression on his face but with a twinkle in his eye.

“What an interesting entrance, Uncle Jon,” he drawled.

“Ah, Alex. Simon decided that he wasn’t going to risk his niece and sister in law on the roads. Arlene, Evelyn, this is my nephew, Alexander Jonathan O’Connell. Alex, this is Arlene and this is Evelyn,” he introduced with aplomb.

Evy looked at him, then her mother, bit her lip and held out a hand. “Evy. Very pleased to meet you.”

Alex smiled, took her hand and kissed it. “No, I’m delighted to meet you. Shall we go inside? Mum and Dad are waiting.”

Evy looked at the house, wide-eyed. “That’s their house?”

Alex smiled. “Yes. Ostentatious, isn’t it?”

Evy nodded and took Arlene’s hand, who squeezed it comfortingly.

Alex looked over his shoulder at the neo-gothic façade spreading out behind him and then at Jon. “I never really understood why Mum and Dad bought it. I never really saw them like a lord and lady of the manor.”

Jon shrugged. “Rick wanted to keep Evy in the manner she was accustomed to. And Evy wasn’t going to protest the Library. I assume that’s where she is?”

Alex opened the door and let them in. “Yes. Mum has been busy with that translation since you sent that ritual.”

Jon grinned. “Some things never change.”

Alex led the way to the library. A well dressed old lady was sitting at a huge library desk, surrounded by piles of books, open and closed, a pad of paper in front of her and a number of different coloured pens and pencils on the table, stuck behind her ears and in her long, silver-white hair. There was an old gentleman dozing by the fire, a pile of books on the table next to him. He looked up sharply when they entered, smiled and rose.

“Well now… Evy?”

“Hm-hm?” came a preoccupied voice from amidst the pile of books.

“Our guests are here,” the man grinned at Jon, winked at Evy and Arlene.

“What? Why didn’t you tell me!” Evelyn O’Connell rose, patting her hair, dragging her glasses back down on her nose, trying to bring order to the chaos that was her outfit.

Evy looked at her and giggled, relaxing from her stiff posture.

Evelyn blinked and looked at her namesake and smiled. “Oh. Hello. Here as in here in the room. Ah.”

“Hello,” Evy smiled back. “You’re just like Grandpa Jon when he’s reading stuff.”

Evelyn looked at Jon. “I am? Really?”

Evy smirked. “Well, and when there’s a pretty lady about.”

Jon sighed. “I get no respect. Really.”

The older Evy grinned at her brother. “I’d say she just had gotten to know you very well in a short time. Now you two, come here and let me look at you,” she looked at Evy and Arlene expectantly.

Arlene lightly pushed Evy forward, a hand on her shoulder. “I’m Arlene Ellis. This is Evelyn.”  

Evelyn O’Connell raised her hands and pulled her younger namesake into her arms. “It is wonderful to meet you both.”   

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Sunnydale Mall, The Little Golden Bookshop, January 2nd  

Owen Thurman was standing in front of the poetry section of the bookstore in the mall. Well, section might be a big word. Shelf would be a big word. It was several books, all large collections of poetry by major British poets. Shakespeare, Byron, Milton, Keats. He really shouldn’t expect too much from the place, it was a franchise of a major bookstore chain and hardly catered to the more rarefied tastes of readers. If Emily Dickinson could be called rarefied. Neither the Town nor the School Library held much poetry beyond what The Little Golden Bookshop offered. Owen sighed. For a few days he’d hoped to find a way to combat the ennui of life. The mystery of Buffy Summers and then finding out the truth… It had sent his mind reeling in ways he’d never expected. It had made him feel alive.

And then she’d dumped him. He wasn’t quite sure why. Somehow he must have messed up, messed up badly. The way her face had become drawn and tight when he mentioned his excitement about hunting vampires. To him it was exciting, to her… She’d told him it was over, that she couldn’t be with him. She’d left before he could explain.

She’d left, and taken his passion, his new excitement with her.

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” A young voice asked, curiously.

Owen looked down. A girl, looking to be about ten, with long, silvery blonde hair looked up at him from large, blue eyes and a long, impish face.

“Books,” he replied curtly.

The girl snorted. “No, really? I thought they were barbeque briquettes.”

Owen smiled in spite of himself. “Maybe where you live.”

“Naah, Mom and Dad would not be pleased if we maltreated books. This place isn’t much fun though,” the girl replied with a disapproving look.

“Then why are you here?” Owen asked, getting a bit annoyed with the girl.

“Because it’s better than clothes shopping with Harm and Cordy. I like the Eloquent Page better,” the girl sniffed. “They have lots of old song books and stuff. Harm likes them and we want to get her a gift.”

“We?” Owen asked, looking around.

Another impish face popped out from behind a bookcase. “Me!”

Owen looked from one girl to the other. “Okay… Harm… Harmony Kendall? You’re her kid sisters, right?”

The first twin grinned. “Oh, good, you passed the first test.”

“First test?” Owen looked down at her.

“You didn’t call us baby sisters,” the little blonde explained. “Now, do you know if they have songbooks here? Otherwise we’ll have to get Mom to drive us.”

“And where is your mother?” Owen smiled, starting to rather enjoy talking with the little girl.

“Picking out clothes for Cordy so she doesn’t buy anything too trashy,” the second blonde explained. “Her father won’t let her get any of her old clothes, he’s even selling them.”

Owen frowned. Like all students he’d heard rumours about Cordelia Chase fleeing her parents’ house, but this sounded, well, petty. “Okay. I see. I don’t think they have many songbooks or lyrics here. I didn’t know Harmony liked that sort of thing.”

“Oh, she loves songs and singing and poetry. She says she can sort of feel what the people who wrote them felt,” the first girl told him. “I’m Melody, that’s Felicity. Who’re you?”

“Owen. Owen Thurman. I’m a year above Harmony and Cordelia,” Owen explained.

“Okay. Can you show us those songbooks?” Felicity asked.

Owen smiled. “I can do that. What sort of poetry does Harmony read?”

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Wallbrook House, Cannon Street, London, January 4th 1996

Severus Snape for many years was well known for the fact that he never smiled. However even he had to admit that the scene in front of him was strangely amusing. Albus Dumbledore was sitting at an ancient and vast library table, laptop in front of him, being taught the basics of typing and the internet by Rowan and Willow. Albus was loving it. Severus made mental note to catch up with his nieces later. Obviously Mug- Normal technology had progressed a great deal since he had last truly paid attention to it. 

In the corner Minerva was talking with Clarice and Patrick about possible visits. Amy was opposite them, her legs dangling over the armrest of a huge dark blue chair reading a McGonagall family journal, referring to an old Wizarding photo album as she did so. She looked up occasionally to roll her eyes at Clarice’s position in her father’s lap, but otherwise just kept silent. Severus was sure he even saw her smile, very slightly once.

Penelope and her daughters were in a corner with a huge grimoire and a number of rare books from the Hogwarts Library and Albus’ personal collection. Irma Pince would have a fit if she knew they were outside of her library.

He looked up as the door opened and Kit and Dawn ran in, faces flushed by the cold, followed closely by Kendra and Simon and Joyce.

Joyce grinned at the family atmosphere. “Well, isn’t this cosy. Anyone seen Buffy?”  

“She’s out with James and Cecilia, they’re showing her how London has changed since they were last here,” Penelope grinned. “And the place where they met.”

Joyce nodded. “Buffy will no doubt try and escape to do some shopping. Oh, well. What are you reading?”

“Albus brought a grimoire on mental magic. It’s quite interesting,” Phoebe replied. “You know, mental commands and stuff.” She looked at Severus who raised and eyebrow. Phoebe blinked and rose, bent over slightly and put a hand on her hip, sticking out the other one. “I’m a little teapot, short and stout-”

Albus turned and glared, true anger in his eyes. “SEVERUS!”

Severus held up his hand. “I just reflected her, Albus. I think Penelope should have a word with young Phoebe about mind controlling spells.”

Penelope glared at Phoebe, who was still helplessly performing the children’s rhyme. Once she’d run through it twice, she stopped, blushing furiously and looking at her feet.

“We will discuss this later, Phoebe. We do not mess with people’s minds!” Penelope told her granddaughter in a very tight voice.

Dumbledore was looking at the youngest Halliwell with interest. “Lady Penelope… How strong are your granddaughters in the arts of Mind Magic?”

Penelope frowned. “Well… Actually I’m not sure. But like all witches of our line they’ll have an innate ability to withstand possession from any but the most powerful opponents.”

Albus nodded. “Yes… Could I speak with you and your granddaughters in private?”

Simon shook his head. “Albus, they’re untrained-”

Dumbledore held up a hand. “Simon, do you think Evy would prefer you, Clarice Severus and me in her mind, or these three young ladies and me? Or even Penelope?”

Phoebe looked up. “Us. I’ll do it.”

Piper looked sceptical. “Like Simon said, we’re barely trained. What good would we be?”

Dumbledore smiled. “Well, this would not actually require skill on your part, but power. Your power levels should be very similar. Simon, Severus and Clarice are rather more unequal in power. It would probably be easier if you were the power source.”

“Let’s go next door and discuss it, shall we?” Penelope proposed.    

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Simon was kissing Joyce in front of the fireplace of the ‘Very green Drawing Room’ as the children called it. There was a scratch at the door and after a moment it opened and Buffy’s head appeared. She rolled her eyes when they didn’t react to her presence, entered and closed the door.

When that still did not get her any reaction she cleared her throat.

Joyce tore her lips away from Simon’s and gave her a look. “Yes, Buffy?”

“Papa? Why do house elves feel weird and why don’t you like them?” Buffy asked bluntly.

Simon sighed and leaned his forehead against the side of Joyce’s head. His arms tightened around her and Joyce gave Buffy a look.

Then Simon turned to look at Buffy. “We’ll go to the library. If I’m telling you that, everybody should know.”

Joyce pursed her lips. “Even Dawn and Kit?”

Simon opened his mouth and then closed it again. “Yes, even Dawn and Kit.”

Joyce gave him a look. “If they have nightmares, you’re the one who’s going to comfort them in the middle of the night.”

Simon smiled. “I don’t mind. Very well. Let’s do this.”

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Simon looked around the room, then sighed. “We’ll have to jump in history a bit from where I ended last time. After the death of Merlin around the year seven hundred the families of the European wand wizarding world began a massive feud. He’d left several descendents, all with about equal rights to claim his position. The other families lined up behind the lineages of Merlin-”

“‘Scuse me!" Willow had her hand up, her face confused. “But why weren’t the Vicari in charge? Isn’t our line older than Merlin’s?”

Simon smiled. “Actually, I don’t know. All I know is that Merlin appeared one day, and an ancestor of ours trained him. Then, well, legend says Death himself named him King of the Adepts,” he shrugged. “We were hardly going to gainsay the being whose vicars we are.”

Willow looked sceptical. “Death. You keep talking about him as if he’s a real, well, person. Isn’t that a bit odd? I mean, couldn’t it just be a clever ruse to enable us to hold onto power?”  

Simon looked at Willow and then at Buffy, than back at Willow. Willow grinned sheepishly. “Being too logical?”

Simon nodded. “The Wand Wizards had forgotten the Slayer truly existed. All our records are quite clear: Death exists. They even have descriptions of him. He looks nothing like a skeleton, by the way,” he finished dryly.

Kendra cleared her throat, “Dis is all verry int-” she stopped as Joyce swivelled in her seat, gulped and continued, her overly heavy Jamaican accent dropping immediately. “It’s very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the matter of House Elves, does it?”

Simon smiled. “No, it doesn’t. At any rate, there were eight lineages that claimed descent from Merlin, he lived for about two-hundred and fifty years, that we know. He was a true Wizard, as far as we can tell, too,” Simon looked at the back of the room, where Severus was frowning. “Severus?”

“Why didn’t the Vicari claim the position again after his death?” Severus asked.

“Because the other Lineages weren’t inclined to listen to us. It had been several centuries. Eventually we were forced to take sides, or rather, form our own,” Simon gestured. “There was a lot of backstabbing, a few large scale battles, at least according to magical standards. And lots and lots of assassinations and betrayals by loyal friends and retainers. The Lineages decided they needed to defend themselves against that. They wanted servants that would be unfailingly and unflinchingly loyal to them, bound by the most powerful magics available to them, their Blood.”

Simon looked sorrowfully around. “So they took goblins and drained them of their blood, and took their own bastard children and took theirs, and filled the goblin corpses with their own blood, grafting it in with magic, and then…” he spread his hands. “Every House Elf is descended from those first, created beings. They are unable to disobey their family. They tend to go insane when they do and try to find a family with Blood to serve when their own dies out. An insane House Elf is not a pretty thing.”

Severus swore. “Buggering Merlin! Homunculi! They’re all homunculi!”

“SEVERUS! Language,” Joyce reprimanded him at the same time as Clarice did.

Simon smiled grimly. “Yes, they are.”

Buffy raised a hand. “Okay, thanks for making me feel with the stupid. But what are humus cufflinks?”

Severus cleared his throat. “Buffy Anne? I know for a fact that you perfectly understood the theory behind the potion I set you to brew, even if your impatience and, I think, the magical energy within you prevented you from brewing it. I know you possess considerable native intelligence. If I hear you purposely mangling the English language again in any company that knows this, I will…” He pursed his lips. “Place upon you a curse that will make it impossible for you to dress with style.”

Buffy gasped and paled. “Y-you wouldn’t!”

Severus turned slightly to look at her. “Ask your cousin Hermione just what I am capable of, young lady.”

Joyce shook her head, trying to suppress a smile. “Severus, quit terrorizing my daughter. And I must admit I’d like to know more about homunculi myself, if they are so evil.” 

Severus looked at Simon, who shrugged. Then the potions master began to speak. “I assume that it’s still forbidden among Channelers to raise the dead back to life? Homunculi are part of that law. A body, or piece of flesh, is taken and filled with the life energy of another being, shaped and moulded into what the caster desires. It usually becomes a slave to its creator.”

Willow frowned. “Like a golem?”

Severus shook his head. “No, Golems are not alive, they’re constructs driven by a magical force or other energy. The most famous golems were driven by faith magic, of course.”

“Ah. I see. But, umm, if all this happened in the eight century, ummm, why is it still so evil?” Rowan asked from the screen.

“Because they made these homunculi so that they can procreate, and they are encouraged to do so. Each and every house elf that is born is a cousin to the family it serves, a magical creation and an affront to the laws and balance of magic,” Severus scowled. “They go mad if they cannot serve their family, which really ought to have been a very large indication something was very wrong, and are able to perform acts of magic that few wizards can, which should have been an indication that they were not part of the natural order of things.”

Xander frowned. “Ummm, Granpa James? You told me that going against the balance and stuff would cause, like major upheavals and explosions and lead to endless problems?”

James nodded, thoughtfully. “It would explain a lot of the problems the focus users have faced the past few centuries. Declining numbers, wars, atrophying magic, death of lineages…” He looked at Simon. “If you knew this, why didn’t you act?”

Simon smiled grimly. “What should we have done, exactly?”

Kit swallowed. “I… the only way to stop this, is to prevent them from having b-babies? Or killing them all? Right?”  Joyce, feeling her distress, moved to sit beside her and hugged Kit and Dawn to her.

Severus nodded heavily and looked at Simon. “I assume the Vicari tried to stop this?”

Simon shrugged. “Eventually, when we realised there were very few people we could marry without getting a dowry of house elves. At first we were a bit busy in trying to stop the wars. It took two hundred years and the emergence of the various Kingdoms of Magic to completely do that.”

Buffy frowned. “Okay. How did the goblins react?”

Simon gave her an approving look. “Well, they were understandably upset, still are as a matter of fact, even if they’ve apparently forgotten why they distrust focus users so much.”

Severus let out a bark of laughter. “Don’t tell me all those goblin rebellions were caused by this? We really need a new History of magic teacher.”

Penelope shivered. “That was also one of the periods many channelers left the magical world, I assume that was for a similar reason?”

Simon nodded. “That and channelers are not quite as good at combat unless they’re also in possession of a spirit power.”

Dawn frowned. “So there’s house elves out there that belong to us? Our family? And they’re all alone out there? And unhappy? Like Tibby? How is that possible?”   

Simon spread his arms and hands to show he didn’t know either. “I don’t know. From what I read Hogwarts was set up as a sanctuary and asylum at first, though for who, I don’t know. It might have been the house elves and the building might be the reason they don’t go insane.”

Buffy sighed. “Wonderful. With my luck, all the enchantments will fail and then I’ll have to fight them all.”

Severus stroked his chin. “Hmmm… Potter liberated one of the Mal- Bedell house elves through a trick. It also seems rather more… independent than most. We might want to ask him if we can examine him. It’s possible that the old enchantments are fading…”

Buffy groaned. “Uncle Severus! Please!”

Severus turned to her again. “Buffy…” He said in an unusually gentle tone. “Do you really think I, or anyone in this room would let you fight alone?” 

End note:

Well, that was a lot of talking heads. I hope to get some more action in there soon. And I’d like to reiterate that Simon does not speak truth. He speaks truth as he sees and knows it…

 
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