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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591497402,59928 May 115 Jul 14No

Poems and rituals

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.#

Thanks to Darkcountess for recommending this story.

Apologies for the delay in posting RL is a bitch sometimes. Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.

Chapter 84 Poems and rituals

Sunnydale, The Eloquent Page bookshop, January 3rd 1996 

Owen Thurman really hadn’t expected to be browsing through a second hand bookshop with Harmony Kendall looking for poetry, ever. But here he was, and there she was, talking to him about poetry. And there were her little sisters, Melody and Felicity, so alike it was almost frightening, looking at him with cold, steely gazes. It was quite clear that they were as protective of Harmony as she was of them and that they were quite willing to eviscerate him with their shiny barrettes. Blue for Melody and red for Felicity, it was the only thing that allowed Owen to tell the two of them apart.

Harmony had apparently read Emily Dickinson, and Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound and Rudyard Kipling, Stevie Smith and Marianne Moore. And she understood them, on some deep, visceral level. He’d shown her the lyrics for Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and the explanation she gave of it went way beyond the usual LSD trip. It was as if she had taken the trip with Lennon. 

It was weird. And odd. And incredibly hot. Okay, so she had the conversational skills of a concussed duckling outside of songs and poetry, but she understood them, on that wonderfully, sexy, deep visceral level. She was also, well, sweet, when she wasn’t trying to be nasty. It was obvious that there were two sides to Harmony Kendall, the one side who was shallow and tried to hurt people with biting sarcasm, insults and bullying. And was very bad at it. And the other that seemed to be only come out with her family and friends. That Harmony was kind and gentle and protective. It was also clear to Owen, who had some experience with such things, that she had a huge crush on him and was on her best behaviour around him.

Harmony came over, a book in her hand. “This is the one I was talking about, look,” she held out the book.

Owen smiled as he read the title and author on the spine. It was a bound version of the poems of Robert Graves. “Ah, I see. Why don’t you read it to me and then we can talk about it, okay?”

Harmony nodded and opened the book. It was obvious she’d read it before, she found her place quickly and started to read without the hesitation in her voice she normally had when reading, as her voice tried to catch up with her brain.

“Wild Strawberries

Strawberries that in gardens grow

Are plump and juicy fine,

But sweeter far as wise men know

Spring from the woodland vine.”

Owen closed his eyes and let the warm, honeyed voice flow over him, exalt him. And he smiled.

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Hogwarts, office of Albus Dumbledore, January 3rd

Albus Dumbledore read through the translations that had been made of the ritual with interest. One was much shorter and to the point than the others, the Rom words replaced by Latin. Two others, in French and English, were in the same hand, slightly longer. They had been written swiftly, but unlike the obvious labour that had been put into the translations provided by Jenny Calendar, Evelyn O’Connell and Jon Carnahan, this was written in smooth, flowing script, as if by someone who spoke these languages as easily as Albus spoke English.

“This is most interesting, Severus. Where did you get it?” he asked his potions professor, who looked at him sourly.

“Yes, Severus. I wasn’t aware of any experts in ancient Rom and I thought between myself and Bathseda we really would know. Where did you find one?” Flitwick smiled as he read the ritual, pursing his lips at some of the effects.

Severus scowled. “I asked a friend who asked a friend. It was simple.”

“A friend of a friend who’s fluent in at least two ancient languages?” Albus pursed his lips. “Are these… Old friends, Severus?”

Severus flicked his eyes at the headmaster, almost rolling his eyes at the coy fashion in which the old man stepped around the issue of Immortals. “Yes, they are.”

Albus nodded. “Very good. I’m sure we can trust the translations then.”

“I’m sure we can,” Severus told him sourly. No need to tell the old man that Galati was actually on the Council that condemned the Kalderash for the crime of ensouling a vampire.

“Hmm,” Albus studied some of the wording. “The more power we have, the easier this will be without overloading ourselves. What do you think, Severus, should we invite Simon to participate?”

Severus rolled his eyes. “Don’t be ridiculous. Simon would only be able to help if he tapped into a leyline or the Nexus under Hogwarts, and from what Clarice told me, he’s been doing that sort of thing far too often. For all we know his brain is about ready to leak out of his ears. He needs to recover, not to strain himself.”

Albus lifted an eyebrow. “Really Severus, is that concern I hear in your voice? From the man who once told a student that he really didn’t care if he turned himself into a human torch as long as he didn’t get soot on the ceiling?”

Severus glared. “I’m just trying to make sure that one of the larger assets we have in the war against Riddle will actually be available, when the bastard comes back,” he snarled, before he rose and stalked out of the room.

Albus chuckled. “Well, well. It seems to me that his having a family is getting under Severus’ skin.”

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The Montague Hotel, Montague Street, London, January 3rd 1996

Samantha Carter very rarely indulged. She knew exactly what alcohol did to the brain and she liked her brain the way it was, thank you very much. She admitted that since the formation of SG-1 she’d drunk a lot more than before, but that wasn’t hard if one glass of red wine a month was usual. She hadn’t even had more than a glass of champagne on New Years. *Holy Hannah, my head hurts,* Sam groaned. The noise of it hurt and the slight movement of air hurt, and the small amount of light leaking into the room around the black-out windows hurt. She groaned again. It didn’t help. She stumbled out of the bed, into the bathroom, vomited noisily into the toilet, thanking her lucky stars at least her hair was short, went to the sink, splashed some water on her face, took three aspirins, drank several glasses of water and crawled groaning back into bed. *Not even a breakthrough in String Theory is worth this.*

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Wallbrook House, Canon Street, London

Buffy hesitated in front of the door to the private office. Her mother and future step-father had sent Dawn to fetch her, but now that she was here, Buffy was running down a possible list of misdemeanours that might be the reason for the summons. The only thing she could think of that would merit a summons was, well, she wouldn’t be here alone, that’s for sure. *And Mom would be shrieking at the top of her voice about conniving daughters, too,* Buffy smirked to herself, took a deep breath, and knocked.

“Come in, Buffy,” her mother’s voice called out.

Buffy entered and closed the door. She noticed that her mother was on the large chesterfield sofa in front of the fire. Joyce patted the sofa. “Come sit with me, honey.”

Buffy saw the sadness in her mother’s eyes and gulped. “Is there something wrong? Is it Dad?”

Joyce sighed. “Come sit. And yes, there’s something wrong, or there might be.”

Buffy sat. Joyce rubbed her eyes with the hands and sighed again. “Buffy, I need you to understand that… You know that Jenny got the original of the curse placed on Angel?”

Buffy nodded. “Yeah. Grandpa Jon was going to translate it with his sister, right?”

“Yes. But Severus knows someone who reads ancient Rom a lot better than Jon and Lady Evelyn,” Joyce hesitated before continuing. “You know we hoped that having the original text would allow us to see what the nature of the curse is, what the loophole is. Regrettably it doesn’t. We think that the Gypsies withheld that part.”

Buffy groaned. “Aww, man!”

Joyce lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean ‘Aww, Vampire?’”

Buffy glared. “Mom! This isn’t funny!”

Joyce nodded. “No, it isn’t. For all we know this clause may cause him to revert to vampire form when he eats a Twinky.”

“He hates Twinkies,” Buffy pointed out.

Joyce sighed. “I know dear. But that’s not the point. The point is we don’t know. That means that anything that he hasn’t done since the curse was activated might break it.”

“Anything?” Buffy “Anything like what?”

Joyce shrugged. “That’s the point, we don’t know. It might even be the Twinkies. It might be drinking carrot juice. All we know is that Jenny was sent to observe him and report on his general demeanour and behaviour. So it’s more likely to be something general to do with that than specific, like an action. But that is just a guess.”

Buffy frowned. “Wonderful. Now what?”

“Now we consider very carefully what we’re going to do, how we’re going to deal with this,” Joyce explained.

“We?” Buffy gave her mother a look. “What exactly have you got in mind, Mom?”

“You’ll have to have a chaperone at all times. Just in case he changes. We may institute a watch on him ourselves. We’re also going to ask William Weasley to come for a visit and study the curse. Professor Flitwick would be able detect it’s there, but he admits that he lacks knack for detecting and breaking curses that Mr. Weasley has.”

“William? Oh, you mean Bill. Yeah okay, that sounds like a good idea. But ummm… Chaperones?” Buffy glared. “We’re not, like, living in the Victorian era!”

“No it isn’t. And it’s just a temporary measure, I hope,” Joyce took her daughter’s hands and held them. “Well, first we’re going to try and anchor Liam’s soul in Angelus’ body, so the question might become moot. But everybody says that altering an enchantment or curse already in effect is more difficult than casting a new one. So we don’t know how, or if, that will work. So… we made a list.”

“A list,” Buffy stated coldly. “What sort of list?”                        

“This one,” Joyce took a deep breath and handed several sheets of paper to Buffy.

Buffy took it and started to read. Her brows started to crunch in annoyance. “What?! What’s this, this is, like, totally Medieval! You can’t do this!”

Joyce cleared her throat. “Hardly Medieval. I think plenty of today’s parents would agree you’re far too young for the things on that list. These are all things he hasn’t done since his soul was cast back into his body. And besides the things you seem to be focusing on, that seems to include eating most foods, walking hand in hand and learning Braille. Though we doubt it’s the last,” Joyce added. “This is just what we remember he told us he hadn’t done.”

“But this is gonna be hell! We can’t, he can’t, do anything! And a chaperone? Always?” Buffy bristled. “Don’t you trust me? Us?”

Joyce pursed her lips. “Angel… Not really. Liam O’Connell was a womanizer in the eighteenth century, when girls your age were fair game. Back when the virtue of girls of lower class was for sale to the men of the upper class. He killed all his family except the illegitimate son he begot on the family servant, hence the O'Connell family. Then he was a vampire who thought rape was perfectly acceptable. So you’ll have to admit his record is against him. You, mostly-”

Buffy scrunched up the papers in her hand, tears coming to her eyes. “You don’t trust me?” She tried to get up and run off, but Joyce held on tightly.

“Buffy! Sit down and let me finish!” Joyce told her daughter in a commanding voice.

Buffy sat, but pulled her hands from Joyce’s, dashing away her tears. Joyce sighed. “Buffy… you’re young. And afraid. And you know that one mistake, a single moment of bad luck, loss of focus…” Joyce swallowed heavily, choking back a sob. “Could mean the end. Next week, or e-even tomorrow or tonight. So I understand that you want to get as much out of life as you possibly can. And I want that for you. But there are things that it’s wiser, certainly in this day and age, to wait for. And despite the risks, with your Papa's help, the training and support, the help of your Grandparents and Aunt Penny, I think it won't be next week, or tomorrow. I think you'll live long enough to have children. Hopefully even grandchildren. But I know what it is like to be young. And Liam can be very persuasive.”

Buffy glared. “You think I’d let him talk his way into my pants? That he would try?”

Joyce shrugged. “He fell in love with you without knowing you, just on your physical appearance. Forgive me for being cynical about his intentions. And he apparently can be very charming and persuasive. And other girls have been convinced, who had far more certain futures, to do things they’d later regret.”

Buffy opened her mouth and then closed it, disgruntlement clear on her face. “So bottom line is you don’t trust me.”

Joyce shook her head. “No, the bottom line is that you’re, despite your strength, and the being the Chosen One and being strong willed and intelligent, fifteen years old and still learning what it means to be a girl, a young woman, in this day and age. And that I worry, perhaps excessively so, and that I, and you know this and I admit it, disapprove of the fact your manipulative boyfriend is twelve times your age and looks ten years older than you. How would you feel if Dawn or Kit, or Kendra, came home with a boy of twenty-five when they were fifteen?”

Buffy scowled at her mother and crossed her arms. “I can’t kill them, right?”

“No, you can’t,” Joyce smiled.

“And the chaperone?” Buffy asked glumly, lowering her hands to her lap.

Joyce rolled her eyes. “The bodyguards are not chaperones, and you know it. And they’re just as non-negotiable for you as they are for Dawn and Kit and Kendra and Willow and Xander. Especially for you. They’re your back-up while Slaying and the first line of defence should… Buffy, could you kill Liam if he lost his soul, became Angelus again and started killing people?” Joyce asked gently.

Buffy gulped. “Oh,” her hands tightened around each other. “I-I hadn’t thought of that.”

Joyce smiled wryly. “Good thing we did. So, will you abide by the list? All the points? Even the ones about the two of you,” Joyce stressed two.

Buffy blushed. “Yeah, I suppose?”

“You suppose?” Joyce’s brow rose a trifle. “Don’t tell me the horse has bolted already?”

“MO-OM! No!” Buffy blushed even more. “Just… I might have let him cop a feel…”

Joyce sighed and shook her head. “Well, if he had I doubt the loophole would have been a problem. I would personally have staked him. We’ll amend the list. And have a very serious conversation. Oh, and Buffy? Make sure that he doesn’t again. No matter if it is now struck off the list.”

Buffy blushed, leaning her elbows on her knees and covering her red face with her hands. “Man, this is an embarrassing conversation,” she groused. 

“Tell me about it,” Joyce grinned wryly.

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Hogwarts, 3rd of January 1996

There was a considerable crowd of wizards and witches in the great hall, gathered around the carefully drawn circle that held the crystal that contained the soul of Xenophilius Lovegood and his slack-faced, drooling body. Lucius and Severus, most familiar with Dark spells, would lead the ritual, with help from Albus, Filius, Minerva and Silvanus. A second circle of wizards and witches stood by to render aid when necessary, Arthur, Bill and Charlie Weasley among them.

Molly had taken Luna to gather ingredients for some potion she was trying to make. The last attempt had coated the kitchen range in a strange, sticky purple goo that had caused Fred to be stuck to the oven door when he’d tried to sneak some cookies. Molly had taken note of the recipe. So, of course, had Fred and George.  

“Should we have told Miss Lovegood about our intentions?” Narcissa murmured to Arthur in the second circle. She would not take part, but she wanted to see the preparations

Arthur shook his head. “No, I think not. Her magic has not yet matured and settled and it might adversely affect the ritual.”

Narcissa’s pale brow wrinkled. “How could it?”

Arthur smiled fondly. “Well we did have to temporarily bind her magic before. She's quite powerful, especially when she's upset. And telling her not to be here? Luna is a Ravenclaw and quite fearless when it comes to gathering knowledge, as well as very knowledgeable about the halls and nooks and crannies of Hogwarts. She would find a way to observe. Add to that we don't want her to be affected by what might turn out to be quite a dark spell and you've got the reasons. The same reasons no other children are here, or were told,” Arthur smirked. “Otherwise Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny would all be here.”

Narcissa nodded. “True. And on that note I promised Professor Trelawney I’d take a walk with her. I certainly don't want to get drawn into a Dark spell myself.”

Arthur grinned. “Trying to bag a godchild for herself, is she?”

Narcissa laughed. “Possibly. But actually I think she wants advice on clothes.”

Arthur raised an eyebrow. “I was under the impression she cared little for such things?”

Narcissa smirked. “Well, she might want to attract a beau…” her eyes flickered to Severus, who was intent on the circle.

Arthur grinned. “Has she Seen anything?”

Narcissa shook her head. “I don’t think so. But she is young enough, and companionable and smart enough, and Niviene knows when she bothers to do anything about her appearance, pretty enough, to make some wizard an excellent wife.” 

Arthur smiled. “True. Now be off with you, girl. We don’t want any of this Dark magic to hurt the babies,” he shooed at her with his hands.

Narcissa rolled her eyes, but smiled. “You’re a worse mother hen than Molly, Arthur.”

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Hogwarts, 3rd of January, Remus Lupin’s Office

Remus Lupin had kept to himself during the holidays. The presence of so many strangers upset the wolf within him. He couldn't even help with the ritual, as his lycanthropy might interfere with the magic. All in all he felt both miserable and useless. Currently he was hunched over his desk, preparing himself for the ordeal of the full moon. It would be full on the fifth, so he would change tomorrow night. With luck he would be able to teach on Monday. With even more luck, he wouldn’t be gutted by the Slayer.

He was experienced enough as a werewolf to sense her, a predator like no other. Her very presence shook him. And despite the assurances of Dumbledore, he was sure that she looked at him with calculation in her eyes. There was a knock at the door and Remus groaned. He could feel the Slayer, standing outside. This was it. He was going to die. At least there would be people at his funeral. Well, some. Maybe. If it didn’t come out he’d been a werewolf and the parents kept their children at home for fear that even his corpse would infect their little angels.

“Come in,” he rasped out.

The door opened. To his surprise it wasn’t the Slayer who entered, but her mother and aunt. “Lady Joyce, Lady Clarice?”

Joyce turned around. “Wait here, Buffy,” she told her daughter who was standing behind her.

Buffy gave Remus a glare. “If you hurt Mom or Aunt Clarice, Professor, I’m going to lock you in a silver cage and then tell Papa that you did. And watch what he does to you.”

Joyce shook her head. “Professor Dumbledore told you that Professor Lupin takes every precaution and was an innocent victim. Now wait outside,” she firmly closed the door. Then she gave Remus a cool, measuring look. “Which no doubt makes you wonder why she is here, does it not?”

Remus nodded. His mouth was dry. Suddenly these two women were even more frightening to him than the girl outside.

Clarice glared at him. “What I want to know is why my little brother is scared to death of you! What did you do to him?”

Remus groaned. Then he rubbed his face with his hands. He gestured at the chairs by his desk and went to the tiny kitchenette attached to his office. He boiled water, made tea. He carried the tea things to the desk and put them down, poured both women a cup. “I was in the same year as Severus. I became friends, for the first time in my life, with three other boys in Gryffindor,” his scarred fingers closed around his own heavy mug.

“We were bullies, bullies of the worst kind. We only picked victims we knew would not be supported. Severus was poor, aloof, frighteningly intelligent and capable. He didn’t get along with the teachers, they didn’t understand him. He wasn’t popular in his own House, he had no friends. We hated him because he was in Slytherin and feared him because he already knew so much magic, and a lot of it was Dark,” Remus held up a hand to forestall any remarks. “Not an excuse. It was the truth. But since then I’ve come to realise that every spell that deals with life-force, even the most benign curative or healing spell, has an element of Darkness. Severus was never a beacon of light, but the four of us, we were certainly part of what drove him to Darkness. And nobody, not a single teacher stepped in. He was too unlikeable, too different, too strange.”

Remus mournfully sipped. “I was not the worst bully, but I certainly did not do enough to stop the others. We were horrible to him. As for why he fears me? When I was a student, this was before the current treatments became available; I spent the nights of the full moon in the Shrieking Shack, off the Hogwarts Grounds. Sirius, Sirius Black, goaded Snape, piqued his curiosity. And Severus took the secret tunnel to the Shack…”

Clarice’s eyes widened. “You attacked him!”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but yes, I did. Another of my friends, James Potter, Harry’s father, saved him,” Remus smiled bitterly. “And instead of punishing the lot of us, Dumbledore told Severus never to tell anyone. Sirius didn’t even get detention. I think that probably was the last straw, the final reason why Severus truly went dark for a while. If the Light was Albus, James, Sirius, Peter and me, he wanted nothing to do with it. And I can’t blame him, really. We treated him like shit and he decided to find people who treated him at least a little better. Riddle valued him for his skills as a potioneer, his intelligence, and his hatred of Dumbledore. We made Severus Snape into a Death Eater.”

Clarice was nearly growling with anger. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t rip your balls off and feed them to one of Hagrid’s pets?”

Remus gulped. Magic was roiling of the woman in waves. She was also, from what he understood, a highly trained Auror equivalent among the normals. One thing he had learned was never to underestimate the anger of a woman.

Remus shook his head. “I have none. I probably deserve it.  I wish I could say that was the last time I ever helped in bullying Severus. But it wasn’t. I was too frightened of losing the few friends I had. We weren’t even punished for almost killing him. We were never as cruel again as we’d been before, partly because we had grown older and more responsible and partly because of the shock of that. James changed after that. I think he realised what almost happened and finally started to think a little. Though Sirius never truly realised the terrible thing he’d done, he always considered it a marvellous prank. Severus has avoided me ever after. And now you tell me he’s scared to death of me. I thought I’d at least have smelled it…”

Clarice shook her head in disgust. “I’m goin’ to give that old man a piece of my mind! And you, you…”

Remus looked at his hands. “I can supply you with a blunt knife, if you wish. I doubt I will ever have a better use for my balls anyway.”

Clarice snorted. “Masochist, are you?”

Remus shook his head. “A realist. Werewolves are not considered good marriage prospects in our world. And I have no skills to live in yours. And it would be too dangerous for others if I did try to make a life among non-magical people.”

Clarice looked as if she seriously considering accepting his offer. Joyce shook her head. “No, Ris. If we killed everybody who was a thoughtless ass as a teenager, we'd run out of people. And I somehow doubt that Severus took things lying down.” 

Remus sighed. “He didn't have much chance, it tended to be four against one almost every time. But he did get in the occasional shrewd blow.”

“So a coward too, are you? Always four against one?” Clarice gave Lupin a contemptuous glare. Then she turned on her heel and left.

Joyce rose and gave Lupin a look. “If I find out that you're still harassing Severus, I'll hold you down while Clarice uses that blunt knife, understood?”

Remus nodded. “Quite understood.”

Once she had left, Lupin started to wash up and suddenly wondered if telling Neville to imagine Severus in Augusta Longbottom’s dress might be considered harassment. He broke his mug and botched the Reparo twice.

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The Great Hall

“Severus?”

Simon moved into the shallow alcove that held his brother, who glared at him. “I’m trying to clear my mind before the ritual, Simon.”

Simon nodded. “I know. I just wanted to ask if maybe you’d like to use this,” he held out the thin, carved bone wand, balancing it on his palm. “I realise that you’re attuned to your own wand and this might just get in the way, but-”

Severus’s eyes had widened and he swallowed. “Simon…”

“And I also know what it means to be allowed to borrow a wand. You’re my brother, Severus. And since you can actually use this thing…” Simon shrugged.

Severus took the wand with trembling fingers. His lips pursed and he waved it slightly. A flare of white light flew from the tip, spiralled around Simon and Severus in a dazzling display, lightly touched Willow and Hermione where they stood talking to Kendra, whirled past the high mezzanine, emerging in a stupendous arc and finally slammed into the ceiling of the Great Hall.

Silence reigned for all of a few seconds. Then Willow and Hermione came running. “UNCLE SIMON! DA-AD! UNCLE SEVERUS! WHAT WAS THAT!?” the girls chorused, faces flushed.  

Severus looked at the wand and a tiny little grin appeared on his face. “I take it Clarice hadn’t touched this yet?”

Simon shook his head, a little bemused.

Severus held up the Bone Wand. “The wand, as you should know, Miss Granger, chooses the wizard. Or in this case, recognizes it.”

*****

Lucius took a deep breath and started the incantation. Behind him, the others joined in on certain words. The ritual hadn’t been written with focus users in mind and Lucius hoped the short controlled bursts of power from the wands could be adapted to fulfil the role of the steady flow of power that would emanate from a Coven circle or Rom clan ritual.

He imagined the sad, forlorn face of Luna Lovegood, gritted his teeth and gestured with his eyes for Severus to step in. He did, his voice sonorous and smooth, adding an extra thread to the spell, forcing the connection between the body and the gem that held the soul. The power of the Bone Wand vibrated in the air. Lucius felt an answering hum and his eyes narrowed. He’d expected his own wand to react, but Dumbledore’s had as well. He wasn’t aware that the Dumbledores had a Family wand.

Lucius swirled his wand. For this ritual he had taken it from its customary place inside the walking stick that protected the ancient focus. Family legend had it that it had been created by Death himself for the first Bedell to serve a Vicari. That it had appeared one morning, lying on a grassy hill, waiting to be used. Personally Lucius believed it had been crafted by an excellent wandmaker and tied to the Family, not just a person. It grew in power with each generation. Dumbledore’s wand thrummed, powerfully, with an edge to it. The Bone Wand sang, as if it was happy to be in use again. It had lain locked up for generations as the Vicari followed the Channelers’ way, only taken out on the rare occasions that one of them needed a focus.

He spoke the final words of the spell, in Latin, like the rest, but more familiar than the others. They had been oddly appropriate after all. “Mens sana in Corpore Sano!”

A bright blue light enveloped the stone and then extended towards the body of Xeno. The stone cracked and shook and an eerie wail filled the great hall. The connection between stone and body trembled and bucked, bulging and flailing. Severus gritted his teeth, sweat bursting out on his forehead. Lucius trembled with effort as he tried to drive the soul towards the body.

Suddenly there was a commotion. Luna hurled into the room, running full pelt towards the group, screaming at the top of her voice. “DADDY! NO! Don't leave me Daddy!”

Molly Weasley hurried after her, but was unable to catch up with the girl. Dumbledore looked up, as did Flitwick, McGonagall and Kettleburn, worry etching their faces.

Then the connection stilled and the stone crumbled. A white light filled the Hall. And Xenophilius Lovegood opened his eyes. He gasped and coughed and Poppy Pomfrey was at his side in seconds, running diagnostics, but he pushed her away , sitting up, jerkily, like a puppet on a string, and Luna, sobbing, threw herself into his arms.

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General George Hammond’s house, Colorado Springs

Carol Weterings was in the garden of her commanding officer's house, chasing after the awkwardly toddling youngest granddaughter of said commanding officer.

The little girl was giggling. Harper was watching the scene, her eldest daughter, Kayla, on her lap, while her father was making hot cocoa. Harper smiled a little at the scene. Carol was nice and gentle and understanding. She knew what the girls were going through from her own experience. Even a very young child would miss a parent. And the huge fight Harper and her soon-to-be-ex-husband had before he left didn't help.

Harper had never understood why women wanted to prevent their children from seeing their husbands after a divorce. Right now she could not only understand but really wanted to cut his balls off, preferably with a very blunt knife. Or two bricks. Her arms tightened around Kayla and the little girl cuddled deeper into her. The door opened and her father carried a tray with five mugs on it outside. Well, three mugs and two sippy cups. He held it in front of them and Harper removed a mug and a sippy cup. 

On the lightly snow-covered lawn Carol caught Tessa and threw her high up into the air. The girl shrieked with laughter. Harper smiled and handed Kayla her cup. She took her a sip of her own cocoa as Kayla took hers in both hands and tipped it to drink. Carol carried the giggling Tessa to the porch and sat down on a chair, accepting a mug and a sippy cup from Hammond with a rather bemused expression.

George Hammond smiled down at her and drank his own cocoa, the brown liquid leaving a moustache. Harper smiled at Carol's expression. He'd done that for her  when she was a little girl, to make her laugh, and now did it for Kayla and Tessa, and apparently Carol was not immune either. The august General Hammond with a chocolate milk moustache was just immensely funny.

“Thank you, sir,” Carol thanked him, suppressing a grin with difficulty.

Hammond smiled. “You're welcome, Carol.”

Carol drank her cocoa, helping Tessa with her drink, still too stunned to really believe the reality of the situation. But just occasionally she let slip a happy smile.

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Hogwarts Infirmary, 3rd of January 1996   

 Xenophilius Lovegood was lying in bed, smiling good-naturedly. He looked slightly confused at all the excitement, but bore the investigations stoically.

Luna lay against him on the bed, absolutely refusing to move. She hadn’t even let go of him while they were moving him here. It had been interesting to see how Dumbledore had floated the two of them through the corridors.   

Madam Pomfrey had very firmly stated that he couldn’t be moved to St. Mungo’s by Apparition or Floo until it was sure that his soul was truly tied to his body once more. That meant that there were now half a dozen Healers gathered around his bed. One of them was trying to get Luna to move.

“Now, my dear girl, we don’t want to interfere with your father’s healing now, do we?” he told her pompously.

“Well, I certainly don’t. But I’m not sure about you,” Luna replied.

The healer’s eyes narrowed. “Now, young Miss. We know what is best for your father. Don’t interfere.”

Luna frowned. “But you didn’t even know what was wrong with him, nor how to heal him. That was done by others. So how can you know what’s best?”

The Healer was obviously unused to being spoken to like this, especially by a child. “Get off that bed right now, young lady!” He put a hand on her arm and suddenly he flew backwards, striking the wall hard. He sank down unconscious.

The other healers reared back in shock. They glared at Luna, but the girl’s eyes had widened and she was looking at her father. Xeno’s eyes, usually so vague, were hard, and his usual calm, easy-going expression had gone. “You will never lay a hand on my daughter, do you understand?” he stated more than asked softly. 

The Healers looked about ready to protest but fell silent at Xeno’s implacable expression. They looked at the still crumpled form by the wall, now being treated by Poppy, and then back at the man in the bed and then nodded their agreement.

The hard lines sank out of Xeno’s face and his eyes softened. He hugged Luna to him. “Well, I believe we were discussing how I felt. Hmmm… I think I feel a bit peckish and a more than a trifle confused. I assume that the Nargles are congregating around me. Luna dear, can I bother you for a repellent?”

Luna nodded and took a butterbeer cork from her pocket pointed her wand at it and spoke. “Repellio Nargellia!” A soft strawberry red flash of light surrounded the cork and sank into it.

Dumbledore smiled at the spell, his eyes curious. “Most interesting… We’ll need to discuss that charm at a later time, Miss Lovegood. Ladies, Gentlemen, I suggest that we let Mr. Lovegood and his daughter rest now. You can ask your questions once we are sure he’s stable enough to be moved, either to his home or St. Mungo’s,” the smile was friendly, but there was just a slight edge to it that showed that any group as unenthusiastic about the cure that had finally brought back Xeno as the St. Mungo’s staff really shouldn’t claim to know what was best for him.

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Hogwarts Great Hall, after the Ritual 

There were small groups of people talking all over the large room and Albus was watching them with kindly, twinkling eyes. His gaze rested most often on the corner of the room where Willow, Kendra and Hermione were discussing the history of the Founding with Percy. He heard a soft cough and looked up.

In the chair next to him, the one that Filius often used, sat the Slayer, kicking her legs. “You’re really creeping Ken out, you know. And Ken doesn’t creep easily. And Mom isn’t amused either. Wanna tell me why you keep looking at Ken if she’s the last lollipop in the box, Professor?” Her tone was light, but there was an undertone of threat in it as well.

Dumbledore gave her a long, slow look, then nodded. “Please ask your sister and mother to join me in my chambers in say, ten minutes?”

Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “We already know she’s a Potential.”

The twinkle in his eyes died. “I know. This has nothing to do with that, though it saddens me greatly.”

Buffy sighed. “Okay, ten minutes,” she rose and nodded to him, going off to gather up her mother and sister.

********

Office of Albus Dumbledore, ten minutes later   

Joyce looked at the old man behind the desk with rather colder eyes than usual. The gargoyle had moved out of their way without asking and the torches had led them up and they’d found Albus sitting behind his desk, looking at a book that lay open upon it. “Well?”

Albus looked up. “Miss Meier-”

“It’s still Young. U-until the adoption papers come through,” Kendra interrupted.

Albus smiled and nodded. “Ah. I see. Kendra… Do you know if your name is a family one? Do you know anything about your family?”

Kendra frowned. “I was very small when the Watchers came… I-I don’t know? I cannot remember. I’m not even sure if Young is my family name, but it is in my passport.” 

Dumbledore sighed. “Well, no doubt someone can find out. The reason I have been looking at you is two-fold.” He turned the book around. It was obvious that it was a Wizarding photo album. On the left hand page a woman was seated, high cheek-boned, with a strong, firm chin and mouth and a light caramel coloured skin. “My mother. Kendra Dumbledore.” 

Joyce and Buffy looked from the picture to Kendra, who was gaping like a fish. “That could be Kendra, but a decade or two older,” Joyce finally said.

Albus nodded. “My mother was born on Jamaica, a mugg- Normal born witch. As far as I know she what was then called ‘a free person of colour’, but mother was very reticent of about her past.  I know she had several sisters, but that is about the extent of what I know. She came to Hogwarts, as Jamaica was still part of the British Empire back then.”

Buffy started to snigger. “So this is another of those long lost relatives things?”

Albus shrugged. “Possibly. The likeness your sister bears to my mother is striking, but I doubt very much we are more than sixth or seventh cousins. Barely any more relation than you are to your neighbours back home. Even among wizards the relationship is so distant we would barely be considered family.”

Joyce looked at the album, then at the Headmaster. “Okay, so Kendra bears the same name as your mother and an uncanny likeness to her. What’s the second reason?”

Dumbledore’s eyes moved from Kendra to Buffy, and then to Joyce. “I was… saddened by her possible fate.”

Joyce nodded in understanding. “Well then, now that’s all explained, I’d like to ask the Headmaster some questions. Family related questions. Unless you’ve got questions, Kendra?”

Kendra shook her head, looking rather dazed. “No. I may have some later, is that alright?”

Dumbledore smiled at her. “By all means. I shall do some investigating, see what I can find out from our side of things.”

Kendra smiled at him, made a small curtsey and then left, Buffy trailing, sending a last searching glance at Dumbledore before closing the door.

Dumbledore looked a question at Joyce.

Joyce gave Dumbledore a hard look. “I hope that this is the extent of your interest in Kendra? You’re not going to try and ‘unite’ the families? To continue the line as purely as possible?”

Dumbledore had just taken a sip of tea spewed it onto the table. His eyes were wide with shock. “Ms. Summers! Really! I realize that you consider the wizarding world old-fashioned and backwards, but I would never inflict myself on Kendra in such a fashion. Besides, as far as I know my brother has, albeit it irregularly, provided for the continuation of the family,” there were blushes of embarrassment and anger on the old wizard’s face.  

Joyce nodded. “Very good.”

Dumbledore’s eyes narrowed. “You knew already that I wasn’t interested in Kendra that way. Why exactly did you feel the need to ask me?”

Joyce smirked. “Because Buffy and Kendra are listening at the door and this should’ve properly disgusted them.”

Dumbledore chuckled and waved a hand. The door opened again, showing two guilty and indeed, disgusted looking girls. Joyce lifted an eyebrow. The girls shuffled their feet and then ran down the stairs.

Then Joyce turned to Dumbledore. “Now… I had a talk with Professor Lupin about Severus’ schooldays…” 

Dumbledore kept his face calm with an effort. *This is going to be bad.* 

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Fountain Courtyard, Hogwarts

Clarice was standing on the broad rim of the frozen fountain, her breath coming out in puffs, a few ice crystals of snow fallen from the tree over head sparkled in her hair. She lifted an arch eyebrow at the man who stood looking at her, arms crossed. “What?”

“Nothing, you look beautiful,” Patrick smiled, spreading his arms helplessly.

“Flattery will get you everywhere,” Clarice smirked, then jumped at him. Patrick caught her, swung her round and kissed her.

“Clarice, do you have the… Oh, for FUCKING MERLIN’S SAKE!” Severus growled and turned on his heel.

Clarice giggled into Patrick’s chest. “Poor Severus.”

Patrick grinned into her hair. “He does seem to have the worst luck…”

“Hmmm. At least he won’t interrupt again. And it’s far too cold here for real groping. So at least we didn’t give him a show this time. Patrick?”

“Hmmm?” Patrick answered.

“Kiss me again.”

“Hmmm.”

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Severus stalked into the great hall, face thunderous and fell into a chair by one of the smaller tables set up by a Christmas tree.

Simon was looking at the fierce game of chess being played by Dawn and Ron and looked up at his younger brother. “From your expression I’d say ‘Ris and Pat are at it again?”  

Severus merely glared. Dawn wrinkled her nose. “Is this to do with that Bond thing that Ron’s brothers did?”

Severus snorted. “I think that’s just an excuse.”

Ron looked at Snape and cleared his throat. “Sir? How does it work? The Bond thing?”

Snape turned towards Ron and lifted an eyebrow, then looked at Dawn. “Do please try not to be infected by the horrid Californianisms my nieces are trying to inject into the beautiful Queen’s English, Weasley Six.”

Ron winced. Snape gave him a thoughtful look. “Professor Flitwick is an expert on the subject. I’ll ask him to explain it to you, shall I? Filius!”

Filius, who had been teaching Willow a few simple wand motions sauntered up and grinned. “Ah, Severus. From your expression of supreme disgruntlement I take it you found your sister and my nephew?”

“Oh, shut up,” Snape snapped. “Mister Weasley here wants to know about bonds.”

Filius perked up. “He does?”

Willow’s eyes sparked with interest. “Ooooh, me too!”

Filius smiled. “Well, it’s hardly a secret.”

Willow fluphmed onto an armchair, crossed her legs and looked at Filius expectantly. Rowan blinked at him from her screen. Hermione came up as well and soon the Charms professor was surrounded by eager listeners. Percy and Penelope, hand in hand, stood at the back. Simon and Joyce stood by the fireplace. 

Filius smiled around the circle, gestured with his wand and levitated himself onto a high chair. “Now, bonds. Contrary to what many people think, they aren’t really rare and not even restricted to magic using beings. As far as I, and professor Vector, can determine, everyone has at least three or four, possibly more, people they can form such a bond with, of their own age group. That is for the instantaneous creation of a bond, such as with Lord and Lady Vikissy, I mean Vicari.”

Buffy turned round, saw her mother guiltily remove her lips from Simon’s and shook her head in mock despair.

Filius grinned apologetically and continued. “Those instantaneous bonds are the rarest. Other bonds are far more common. Most mothers have a bond with their children, though some are stronger than others. And they don’t have to arise spontaneously. Bonds may grow, and become quite strong, between couples, good friends, siblings. Especially the young. They can be encouraged to grow too, by love and circumstances.”

“Ah. Does that mean that George and Fred have a bond?” Percy asked, eyeing his younger brothers.

Filius nodded enthusiastically. “Indeed they do! A very strong one. One sign of the bond is the ability to feel, or know, what the other is thinking. A vague notion where the other is may be a part of it as well.”

Buffy raised a hand. “Errr… so… theoretically… If I ran into this guy who was way older than me, there could be an instant bond?” she asked, hopefully.

Filius nodded. “Certainly. Though if the age difference was considerable, the sort of relationship that would most likely develop would be friendship or an avuncular one.”

Buffy winced. “Ah. Okay. Thanks.”

Flitwick looked trifle surprised but continued. “Bonds grow deeper with time, and in some cases, especially sudden death, they may leave the surviving bondmate in deep despair,” he cast a furtive glance at Piper, who had joined the group as well. Piper nodded grimly. “And in extreme cases, it may even lead to insanity.”

Buffy whistled softly. “Okay, Mom, Papa? I’m locking you in so as to keep you safe, okay? Insanity? So much not of the fun.”

Xander sniggered, “If we lock them in the bedroom, they won’t mind. As long as we push some food in on occasion. Is that a side effect of a bond too, Prof F?”

“ALEXANDER GABRIEL MEIER! Behave!” Joyce called loudly, as a blush crept up her face.

Simon cleared his throat. “And apologize for that moniker to Professor Flitwick, too.”

Xander looked contrite, but his eyes twinkled mischievously. “I’m sorry for calling you Prof F., Prof F.”

Filius lifted an eyebrow. “Hmmm… Lady Joyce? I understood from your father that young Alexander is a Heyoka in training?”

Joyce smiled. “Well, not so much ‘training’ as ‘attempting to goof off’, but yes.”

Filius brightened up. “Excellent! I’ve long wanted to see the effects of certain charms on a Heyoka. Perhaps I could prevail upon you to allow me to hire his services for a few hours? I believe he mentioned he needs a job?”

Xander’s eyes widened. “Errr… Not as a guinea pig, thank you.”

Filius tapped his wand to his lips. “Guinea Pig… Minerva, you’re the expert, how do you think a transfiguration spell would react when it came into contact with a Heyoka?”

Minerva looked interested, her wand twitching in her hand. “I must admit, I’ve no idea…”

Xander whimpered and backed away, hiding behind Joyce and Simon. Joyce gave him a over her shoulder look. “And there, Xander, is the reason why you don’t meddle in that affairs of wizards. Or call them names.”

Willow and Rowan giggled as Flitwick and McGonagall thoughtfully swished their wands. “Fly, you fool!” Willow called out. Xander ran.

Rowan had collapsed against the edge of her screen with laughter. “By George, I think he’s got it!”

Buffy sniggered. Joyce sighed. “Okay. So what happened to Ris and Patrick?”

Flitwick smiled. “Well, they gained a bond sooner than they otherwise would have done. And due to the suddenness of it, probably far more intensely. As you yourself can testify, a sudden bond causes a great deal of physical attraction and-”

Buffy groaned. “Ixnay on the physical attraction! I don’t wanna know!” 

“Music to my ears,” Simon muttered.

Buffy glared. “Very funny, Papa. Haha,” she turned to Flitwick again. "Any other bonds?”

Flitwick pursed his lips. “Well, there are the Dark Bonds. Vampires quite often bond with their Sires, though the bond is unequal. The Sire gains all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of the bond. They can also use an enthrall ability to tie people to them.”

Buffy cast a look in Joyce's direction. Joyce raised an eyebrow.

Flitwick ignored the byplay. “Dark bonds exist in many shapes. Between demons and their worshipers is one. And Light bonds can be corrupted, if one of the members is. And of course Dark magic can be used to transform a person's spirit or personality if someone with whom they have a bond is, well enough of that.”

“Professor? What about the Dark Mark, is that a bond?” Harry, who had been quietly listening, asked, looking at Snape.

Flitwick sighed. “Yes, that. The Dark Mark... It is a vile thing. He-who, I mean Riddle, created a Bond with all his senior death eaters, through the Dark Mark. It takes a great deal of strength to resist the power he can exert through it, I should imagine, and I'd think it would be a very painful thing to do. To try and do so for even a short time is quite painful. When you fear the pain so much, the fact that there is no oath sworn is of little import, even the fear of pain will drive them back into his arms.”

Willow cast a look at Severus, who had stiffened when Harry asked the question, then she rose and threw her arms around him. The Weasley children looked thoughtful. Severus stood stock still for a few seconds, then put her arms around the girl.

Harry nodded to himself, as if he understood something.  

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Hogwarts Stables

Hagrid had the habit of putting piles of old newspapers in the stables for use under bedding or as bedding. And the big black dog who was sometimes known as Sirius Black had picked up the habit of reading them as well as he could. As a dog his mind was not quite as sharply focused as when he was a human, but it was sharp enough to read the Prophet. At the moment was biting the skin between his rear toes, thinking. He had managed to scratch the curls out of his tail. And he really needed to find a way to locate all the pictures that had been taken of him, because if they ever fell into Remus’ hands… Padfoot shivered.

He looked at the newspaper again and growled. It very carefully did not state that he was innocent, just that he hadn’t received a trial. He knew that already. He also knew the quality of the trials the Wizengamot preferred. He, as an outcast from his own House, would quite swiftly find his way back into Azkaban, locked even more securely down. And quite possibly Remus would tell them that he was an Animagus. There were spells to force an Animagus into his human form. And to keep him there. 

No, he was not going to give himself up and throw himself on the mercy of the Wizengamot. Not without a lot more proof. Peter would do nicely as proof. Peter fucking Pettigrew, who was responsible for the deaths of James and Lily. And for the haunted look in Harry’s eyes. Even if he’d been getting better. The Prophet was full of Harry being fostered with the Weasley family, and that Molly Weasley was a Mother Witch. And that Luna girl who sometimes spoke with Harry was living with them as well, because Xeno had fallen to a Dark spell. Weird Xeno, several years older than the Marauders, who had managed to land the magnificently beautiful Soleil Albany, no D’Albane. Weird Xeno, who looked at all of them so knowingly whenever he saw them, first at Remus, and then when Soleil had graduated he had sat in the audience and applauded and looked at the four for them all knowingly. It had given Sirius some serious worry. Hah.

It was tempting to go out and meet the members of the DMLE head on, but he wouldn’t survive, no matter what the Minister promised. The only way he could was to prove that Peter was alive. And for that he needed to get inside Hogwarts. And with the influx of Channelers and everything, Sirius really couldn't go into Hogwarts. It was just too dangerous. He’d heard rumours that many channelers could see auras and recognize Animagi, and supposedly see through other disguises and he really didn't want to put that rumour to the test. 

So Sirius had to wait until the hordes of American invaders had left once more. Even his accomplice inside the castle was of little help. Several of the young ladies visiting liked cats and thought him a darling creature. Sirius sighed and put his head on his paws. *And Merlin help me if Remus ever finds out about Hagrid checking my anal glands…*

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Calder’s Nook, Hogwarts 

Xenophilius Lovegood was listening intently to his daughter’s words. In front of him lay a yellow legal pad and the old-fashioned fountain pen that Soleil had bought him upon their betrothal was in his hand. It allowed him to take notes with far greater ease than with a quill and he absolutely refused to use one of the charmed quills that wrote down the words of interviewer and interviewee. He considered them a plague upon true and honest journalism. Xeno was taking careful notes, of people he should thank, and of people he should have a word or two with, and of course there were the six pages of notes on Luna’s view of the Rotfang-Lich conspiracy. He was amazed he had never made the connection and was rather worried that he might have been Confunded to ignore the obvious. He tapped the paper with the fingers of his left hand. “So this man Travers tried to kill you? How was he dealt with?”   

Luna blinked. “I do not know. I-I didn’t think to ask…”

Xeno smiled at her. “Don’t worry about it, my little radish. I shall make certain inquiries. And the American lady who helped save you? She wasn’t Obliviated?”

Luna sighed. “I don’t think so. I think Buffy would have been very annoyed if they had done so. And she knew about magic anyway.”

Xeno nodded. “I must thank her. She was very brave.”

Luna nodded. “Yes, she was. But Buffy was amazing!”

Xeno smiled. “I’m sure she was. But so were you. Now, tell me about your nature observations.”

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Bedell (Formerly Malfoy) Manor, Wiltshire

Narcissa was looking out over the manor park, her eyes red-rimmed from crying and her gaze fastened on the horizon. The door opened softly and Lucius slipped in, looked at her, and then gestured in Andromeda. His face was impassive, but he cast a pleading glance at the older woman, who nodded reassuringly.

Lucius entered his sitting room and smiled at the sight of Ted Tonks, looking highly uncomfortable, sitting in one of the lushly upholstered chairs. “I’m not going to hex you into oblivion, Ted.”

Ted looked around. “I must admit I never expected to sit here. Is that a curse board?” he asked curiously, pointing at a wooden board that hung next to the fireplace.

Lucius blinked. “Yes. But I’ve got no notion how to work it or how to get rid of it. It’s not the most comfortable of items to have near when one is entertaining guests. I’m a bit surprised you recognize it...” He let his voice trail off in a question.

Ted smiled. “Andromeda is an excellent teacher. She’s taught me a great deal about Pureblood manners and the reasons behind them. And I taught her about Muggle things. Dora has always been too angry at the Blacks for casting her Mum out to want to learn. She’s only started doing so since Narcissa started her training.”

Lucius mouth worked. “Yes, her training.”

“You don’t approve of it?” Ted asked sharply.

Lucius groaned. “I never thought I’d meet anyone who could make a worse mess in our kitchen than Cissy. And she fell through no less than three pieces of topiary that took a master garden-mage two years to create, stepped on two peacocks, managed to bring down six portraits and tripped over all of Cissy’s cats.”

Ted snorted. “Ah. Now that I can understand. Our house had not just to be made Baby proof but baby-Dora proof. I am grateful to Narcissa for what’s she’s done. Dora has become a great deal more confident. And confident is something different than brash.”

Lucius smiled. “Well, you and Andromeda can repay us by babysitting on occasion…”

Ted laughed. “That we will, and gladly.”

Lucius cleared his throat. “Have you visited Saint Mungo’s? Or a Muggle hospital, like I suggested?”

Ted seemed to age ten years before Lucius eyes. “Yes. You were right. There are no conflicting Rhesus factors, or any other trouble that the Normal hospital could find.”

Lucius closed his eyes. “Shite.”

“Yes. We aren’t sure yet what to do-” Ted began.

“You wanted a big family, so have one. Nymphadora might be a bit jealous that her siblings will be closer together in age, like Draco will be, but she’ll understand. And with the money of her dowry coming to you, there should be no financial problems about it,” Lucius declared. “And we can assign a house elf to you to help, if need be. They love children and babies in particular.”

Ted smiled. “Andy did mention that the Black family elves tended to spoil them dreadfully,” then he shook his head. “But it’s not that simple. We’re both too old-”

Lucius waved his hand. “You’re thinking like a Mug- Normal, Theodore. Andromeda is quite young enough to have several more children. Even if she does not produce them in batches like Narcissa is doing. You’ve got at least fifty more years to look forward to, I'd say.” 

“Batches? If Andy and Cissy hear that, you do realise that Cissy will lock you out off all the bedrooms?” Ted noted deadpan.

Lucius winced and rose, picking up a decanter of Firewhisky. “Ah. Perhaps I can offer you a slight encouragement not to tell her?”

Ted smiled at the decanter. “Is that the eighty-year old?”

“Indeed it is. And don’t worry about the ladies. I’ve got two elves watching, to warn us should we be needed,” Lucius stated as he poured two tumblers.

********

Andromeda Tonks, née Black, knew that far-away expression on her youngest sister’s face. It was the one for when the hurt of the world was too much. She had worn it when their grandmother had died. She had no doubt worn it when she had buried her babies. Andromeda had her own version of the face, and could understand Narcissa wearing it right now. She stepped into the room and moved to stand next to her sister. After about half a minute Narcissa held out a parchment. Andromeda solemnly held out her own.

The younger woman’s lips started to quaver and tears came to her eyes. “It really was her, Andy. She killed my babies!”

Andromeda’s tears started as well. “Ted and I went to a hospital. Th-there are no reasons why we should not have been able to have more children after Nymphy.”

Narcissa gulped. “How many times did you try, Andy?”

“We tried seven times… After that it just hurt too much. I-I never… Never past the first trimester,” Andromeda’s tears were flowing freely now. “I always thought it was my fault, that the Blacks were just too…” she waved a hand.

“Pure?” Narcissa said with a sneer and a sob. “You can say ‘inbred’, Andy. I thought the same quite a few times.”

Andromeda put her arms around Narcissa and the sisters cried quietly for some time.

“So what do we now?” Narcissa asked eventually.

“Well, first we go and stop Lucius and Ted from getting completely blasted. And then? Nothing,” Andromeda replied softly.

“What?” Narcissa hissed.

“Cissy… Bella was hit by a curse so powerful it ripped through the wards of Azkaban as if they were paper and reduced her to a nearly-literally boneless puddle of screaming, putrefying flesh. And yet she hasn’t died. Can you think of anything worse to do to her than that?” Andromeda asked. “If so, I’m taking you to a Mindhealer right now.”

Narcissa grinned in spite of her grief. “It does seem to be a sufficient punishment, does it not?”

“Yes. Though the thought that Simon did that…” Andy shuddered.

Narcissa shrugged. “It saved me the trouble of doing it myself.”

Andormeda gave her youngest sister a sharp look, but there was no sign of humour in Narcissa’s eyes.

“She killed my babies, Andy, to use them, and yours, to power that madman Riddle. If you think I was going to let her off with a few Crucio’s and an Aveda Kadavra, you’re wrong,” Narcissa told her quite calmly.

Andromeda opened her mouth to protest, then sighed. “Actually… the only reason I might have interfered was to get my own curses in.” 

“I never liked Bella much, Andy. She was always too… Unstable. She was my sister and I loved her, but she lost the right to any forbearance on my part when she killed our children. Now let us go and save our husbands from the evils of alcohol.”

Andromeda laughed. “Very well. I should warn you though, Ted tends to be an affectionate drunk.”

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Chesterfield Hill, Mayfair, London, GilesFamilyTown House, January 3rd 1996

Jenny had fallen in love with the town house the minute she’s stepped through the door. Yet the very notion that her boyfriend? Fiancé? She wasn’t quite sure what he was; had grown up in the splendour of this house and the huge Failand House scared her. She was just a little Gypsy girl who taught Comp Sci, how would society look at her?

She loved the museums and the shops and the fact that Rupert needn’t be careful with money so she now owned a far greater number of designer clothes than she ever had hoped to possess. And some really naughty lingerie that she wasn’t sure she ought to show to Mo- Joyce. Rupert wasn’t entirely in the parental’s good graces, what with being a Watcher. She was also quite unsure if Rupert’s parents really approved of her.

It was really quite enough to make her nervous. Which explained her squeak and jump when the doorbell rang. Rupert was in the study, working on his own translation of the Pergamum Codex, and they’d dismissed the notion of bringing a maid or other servant. Esther had leered knowingly when Jenny had said she wanted some privacy. And had gotten a tap on the head from Lillian for it, which amused Miranda and Rupert greatly.

So Jenny timorously approached the huge front door and opened it. There was a man standing there, with thinning hair and a pugnacious nose and chin with a high forehead, leaning on a cane. “Ah… My name is Quentin Travers. I would like to speak with Rupert Giles with regards to Miss Summers.”    

 
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