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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)vidiconFR1598780,0851591501417,09128 May 115 Jul 14No

Converstations, clashes and loss

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta Letomo for editing and suggestions for flow and clarity.

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. And you can thank Twilightwanderer for the Abbott and Costello.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Well, I’m back. I hope to be able to resume a more frequent schedule of posting at least something. I’ve been distracted by some other stories, parts of which will be posted soon. In the meantime I hope that this will please and excite.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.

Chapter 85 Conversations, clashes and loss

Chesterfield Hill, Mayfair, London, Giles Family Town House, January 3rd 1996

Quentin Travers was unexpectedly interested in Jenny. It rather frightened her. Apparently the recent loss of so many Watchers had driven home the point that there were rather too few good field Watchers. Jenny felt a bit like a prize cow being led to the snorting bull, so that he might beget plenty of calves upon her.

Rupert had led the older man upstairs, to his father’s study, leaving Jenny alone in the large sitting room. She was sitting on the couch, trying to read an old magazine. Horse and Hound. Somehow she wasn’t quite sure who in the Giles household read it. It didn’t seem to fit any of them. She wondered if Rupert rode. Horses made her nervous. She much preferred cars.

“Jenny? Would you mind joining us?” Rupert called from upstairs.

Jenny rose. “Coming!” she climbed the stairs and then the next set and arrived at the study. Travers sat with his hands folded over the head of his cane. Rupert looked rather unhappy.

“Miss Calendar, thank you for joining us,” Travers began. He ran a hand over his face. Jenny thought he looked tired and worn.

“I understand from Dr. Giles that you have a certain… Leverage, even though that is not the word I am looking for. That your presence is accepted and appreciated by the Slayer and her family?” Travers continued.

Jenny’s eyes narrowed at Rupert. “What exactly have you been discussing? My private life?”

Travers shook his head. “Miss Calendar, I assure that there is nothing nefarious going on. We merely need your intercession.”

Jenny crossed her arms and glared at Rupert, who cowered behind the desk. “Why?”

A slight smirk played around Travers’ lips. “Two reasons,” he tapped his cane. “I need to tell Dr. Meier some very bad news. I’d prefer to survive the experience.”

“What sort of bad news?” Jenny asked warily.

“A Potential Slayer. She’d been put with a very good, kind foster family by the Meier House in Boston. Watchers, of the previous administration, attacked her home, killed her foster mother, kidnapped her and drove her foster father to insanity. She was rescued from those… scum by another Watcher, Dr. Diana Dormer,” Travers continued. “Dr. Meier was very interested in her case due to the involvement of his charities.”

Jenny’s eyes narrowed. “And?”

Travers hands tightened on his stick. “They were attacked, tortured and killed by a powerful vampire known as the Hound. He has an ability to sense Potential Slayers. My predecessor wanted him captured alive to analyse that ability. I want him extremely dead.”

“Oh,” Jenny suddenly realised how haggard Rupert looked. “You knew Dr. Dormer?”

Giles nodded. “She was a good friend and a dedicated Watcher. She would have taken good care of Miss Lehane.”

“If at all possible I would ask you to allow me to bring Dr. Meier the news myself,” Travers explained. “If he saw me without your intercession there might be considerable trouble. He’s not fond of Watchers.”

“No shit, Sherlock,” Jenny muttered. “What’s the second matter?”

Travers gave her a long, measuring look, then looked back at Giles. “Yes, I see why you like her. She has your disregard for authority figures.”

Giles blushed slightly and fumbled for his glasses. Travers smiled slightly. “The second matter is rather more sensitive.”

Jenny’s eyes narrowed. “Even more?” her eyes hardened. “If you think for one instant that I’ll help you convince them to let you take her into Council care, you’re not only delusional, you’ll be dead!”

Travers lifted his hands in defence and shook his head. “No, nothing like that. Long ago, the Watchers’ Council established a number of strongholds. Strongholds and depositories. One such depository is located in the United Kingdom. On several occasions it has been attempted to enter it, costing the lives of several Watchers and one Slayer.”

“And let me guess, you want Buffy to go in there and risk her life to get some trinkets?” Jenny said acidly.

Travers shook his head. “Miss Calendar, might I inquire what the Council has done to you to dese-”

Jenny got up. “If you can’t think of any reason why I wouldn’t trust you lot, you really need to recruit some more intelligent people. Ru? Don’t ever try this again,” she gave Giles a very hard look and stomped downstairs. There was a sound of a door slamming.

Travers looked at Giles. “That could have gone better.”

Giles rubbed his face with his hands. “That was a bloody disaster. I told you that she wouldn’t trust you. The very notion of the Cruciamentum appalled her. She knows about Faith Lehane and what happened to her and the Howards. She was spitting nails when she realised how Kendra was treated by Sam Zabuto. And you know he is by no means the worst Watcher. Kendra doesn’t even know her own last name.”

Travers sighed. “I realise that we’ll have to work hard to-”

The door slammed again, and then the footsteps sounded and the front door shut with a boom that resounded throughout the house. Giles shot out from behind the desk and was down the stairs and in the master bedroom in seconds, noting the open closet and the missing clothes and bag. None of Jenny’s new clothes, just the ones she’d brought. He ran down the second flight of stairs and tore open the front door. Jenny was nowhere to be seen.

“Oh, bloody hell,” he whispered.

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Sunnydale High, morning of January 3rd 1996

Neave Cameron was making her way to the High School. She’d been asked to teach a few remedial classes for Jenny Calendar, and since Dr. Meier was footing the bill, it paid quite well. And it would look good on her résumé. It was dark and ordinarily she’d not have left her home, but she’d forgotten her notes and she needed them to give Jenny a full overview of what the pupils had managed to achieve. She hummed a little as she stepped through the doors and then froze as she saw the three men who were lounging just inside.

“Good evening Miss Cameron,” the youngest of them smiled. “We’re to take you to our leader. I think he wants to you to take a message to your employer.”

Neave’s scream was cut off by a large hand over her mouth.  

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Wallbrook House, Canon Street, London, January 3rd 1996

Mist frosted from the breaths of the children as they made their way towards the house, chattering and giggling. Suddenly Buffy froze, holding back her siblings and parents. “Who’s there?” she asked sharply.

From out of the shadows by the door, from under the portico came a sob. Before Buffy could react her mother had run passed her and taken the steps and the sobbing became louder. “Jenny!? What are you doing here? My god, you’re frozen, Simon get the door open and someone get something warm for her!”

Buffy looked at Willow and Kendra and frowned. “Okay, why would Jenny be here without Giles? This doesn’t sound good.”

Joyce shook her head. “I think Rupert is probably fine right now,” her voice made it clear he probably wouldn’t be for much longer. Simon opened the door and Joyce led Jenny inside, up the stairs and into a bathroom, commanding Simon to get some cocoa ready.

When Jenny emerged from the bathroom, warm and dressed in a heavy robe, her face still marred by tears, Joyce took her to a small drawing room furnished in reds and browns and sat her down. “Well? What did he do?”

“H-how did you know?” Jenny sobbed.

Joyce sighed. “Experience. I can’t see Rupert cheating on you. Did he let his parents run over you rough shod?”

Jenny shook her head and was about to answer when the doorbell rang. The younger girls were in bed and the others were at least getting ready for it. Probably packing away some of the clothes and other items they’d bought during the trip. That probably meant that the house’s caretaker, an elderly woman who went by ‘Mrs. Welby’ would open the door. That allowed Joyce to attend to the shattered young woman beside her. Mrs Welby was more frightening than whole platoons of dragoons.

She was therefore rather disturbed when Mrs. Welby led in four women. Well, led three and wheeled one. The eldest looked about Jonathan’s age, one maybe a few years older, the other two easily in their fifties or sixties.

“Can I help you ladies?” She asked rather sharply.

The old, white-haired lady in the wheelchair smiled. “We came to commiserate with Jenny. Lillian wants to apologize for not slapping Rupert more often when he was young and impressionable and Priss wants to apologize for the fact her husband can be a single-minded idiot. I’m Beatrice Witheringham-Thomas, this,” she gestured at the woman pushing her wheelchair, “Is Jane Ashby, my niece.”

Joyce noted there was a strong resemblance between the two women, both were rather fragile looking, with long, elegant face and hands and calm grey-blue eyes.

Beatrice put a hand on the youngest woman’s arm. “This is Priss Travers and that’s Lillian Giles, Rupert’s mother.” 

Joyce looked at the other two women. Lillian Giles sat next to Jenny and the younger woman allowed herself to be comforted. Joyce took that in thoughtfully as she studied the women who settled themselves. Jane sat next to Beatrice’s wheelchair, on a straight-backed chair, Priss sat in a deep armchair, looking tired and worn.

“Are you Council?” Joyce asked, her voice hard.

Beatrice shook her head, a slight smile on her lips. “Coven. I used to be the Magistra Maxima. I really didn’t get on too well with the Council. Still don’t really.”

“Then why are you here?” Joyce asked

Lillian spoke, scathingly. “Because my idiot son allowed himself to be convinced by Priss’s idiot husband that a matter of honour demanded that they recruit your daughter for a very dangerous mission. And that the only way to do that was to ask Jenny to convince you to let her go. Men!”

Joyce’s eyes narrowed “I see. What sort of mission?”

Beatrice sighed. “My niece, Jane’s twin sister, was a Slayer. She died in an attempt to fulfil the same mission that they want Buffy to go on.”

“What sort of mission are we talking about here?” Joyce asked suspiciously, her eyes on the haggard face of Jane Ashby.

Beatrice tapped her fingers on the armrest of her wheelchair. “Lillian?”

Lillian kept her arms soothingly around Jenny and started to speak. “When the Watchers’ Council was founded by Death he granted them the knowledge of a number of strong places, not just of defence, but of knowledge.”

“Wait a second, the Watchers’ Council was founded by Death? I thought they were a subversive group who fought the wizards?” Joyce asked confused.

Lillian frowned. “No. It was set up as an insurance policy, should the Wizards fail. A lot of them were… well evil is too strong a word, but they were all children of their time. Feudal lords, of great power and wealth, demanding tribute and obedience in exchange for keeping their people safe.”

Joyce frowned. “Not quite what Simon told me…”

Beatrice nodded. “Yes, you see that’s the problem. We don’t know who’s telling the truth, or if both sides are lying or just plain wrong. The last Wizard has been dead hundreds of years. We do know that Simonides was atypical and that his family has every right to be annoyed with how they were treated by the Watchers.”

“But the important thing is that Ruth would rise up from the dead and kill me if I even contemplated sending a fellow Slayer to go into a situation like this without proper support. Certainly not just to recover her remains. Neither she, nor I would want that upon our conscience,” Jane told Joyce quietly. “Which is what I told Quentin, but like a typical male, he decided he knew best.”

“If even a small percentage of the legends about the Repository are true, I understand his obsession,” Lillian admitted. “It would hold information that has been lost for centuries, if not millennia.”

Jane shook her head. “And I think you lost it for a reason, with the way the Council treats the Slayer.”

Lillian gave the other woman a look. “We’re not going into that tonight, if you please, Jane.”

Jane’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t think you can tell me what to do, Lillian Giles! It wasn’t your sister who was sacrificed for your fucking Watchers’ views! Lets see how you’d like it if your daughters were sent out on a mission like that.”

Beatrice cleared her throat. “Jane, language, please. Lillian, kindly remember that neither you, nor the Watchers’ Council are responsible or in charge of Miss Summers. Her parents are,” her gaze was mild but both younger women winced slightly.

“Yes Aunt Bee, sorry Aunt Bee,” Jane murmured.

Lillian gentled Jenny’s suddenly stiff shoulders. “Ms. Summers, it is quite correct that you are Buffy’s mother and her guardian, but some dangers-”

Joyce held up a hand. “If the Watchers’ Council, through Mr. Giles, has a reasonable case for Buffy being needed elsewhere, we will allow Buffy to participate. At the moment I think her station on the most active Hellmouth in the world is sufficient. And in the last instance, it is her decision. Not mine. Not yours. Only Buffy makes decisions of this magnitude about Buffy’s life. Life changing decisions involving my children always include my children. Are we clear?”

Lillian nodded, wide eyed. Jenny had turned around, her eyes wide as well.

Bee chuckled. “I think we are, dear. Quite clear. I assume Miss Calendar will be staying with you?”

“Yes, Jenny will be staying here. Lady Lillian, you may tell your son that once he’s gotten his head out of his ass and his priorities straight, he can see her again,” Joyce told the older woman. “Until then, all communications are off limits.”

Jenny turned round, eyes blazing. “Mother! That is my decision! If I want to kick Ru’s ass that is my right! I don’t…” her voice trailed off as she saw Joyce’ smirk. “I fell right into that one, didn’t I?”

Joyce smiled approvingly “That’s my girl. You really aren’t very good at the weepy stuff, Jenny. Sauce and vinegar is much more your style.”

Lillian smiled slyly. “I was thinking vomit, but it certainly isn’t moping. But you’re quite right. This is far beyond an apology. This, will require grovelling.”

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Hogwarts Castle, quarters of Severus Snape, January 4th 1996

Severus Snape was staring gloomily at the tea service on his table. His brother, sister, and future sister in law had invited themselves over. He'd given orders to Tibby to serve tea in his rooms. He'd completely forgotten that he'd stored his mother's tea service here. It was about the only thing that remained of the Prince heritage. The thin porcelain bore the hand-painted crest of the Princes, though the motto was thankfully absent. *We shall rule them all, indeed.*  

The wards told him his visitors had arrived and a gesture opened the door. “Come in,” he told them, not rising from his deep armchair.

“My Severus, aren't we a little sunshine this morning,” Clarice mocked.

“Well, sister dear, that might have to do with the little chat you had with Lupin last night,” Severus sneered. “Heard a few things about me, did you?”

“You mean that you are a bullying sarcastic asshole? We figured that much out ourselves, Severus,” Clarice told him calmly. “The way most of those children cower before you is evidence enough of that.”

“Which is why you should either retire from teaching or restrain yourself. You're doing the cause you serve no good and the one you oppose is strengthened,” Simon pointed out, picking up a teacup and inspecting the escutcheon, noting the crown and the rearing black dragon. “Appropriate.”

“Riddle will kill me as soon as he returns then,” Severus sneered.

“Why did you join him, Severus? All everyone here knew was that you were a half-blood. That can't have made life in Slytherin House, or as a Death eater very comfortable,” Joyce inquired.

“Revenge. Power. Anger. Hate. The usual things that lead a young man to do stupid things. That and companionship, everyone I knew who was willing to talk to me was a Slytherin and most of them were going to join immediately after Graduation. I was too poor to buy an apprenticeship with a reputable Master or to go to University and was looking at a starvation wage job for long hours for most of my life,” Severus laughed bitterly. “I was too proud for that. I had no desire to end up like my father. Or at least the man I thought of as my father,” he sipped his tea and stared into the fire.

“All the members of the Inner Circle had to recruit a certain number of lower ranking recruits, cannon fodder if you will, and promising ones whenever they could. Lucius had protected me in school. The Malfoys have always recognized skills and intelligence and he was willing to overlook my Blood Status. Make no mistake; if they hadn’t found out about their children, they would still be willing to serve Riddle. Lucius didn’t really get along well with Dumbledore and his ilk and as he once told me, at least Riddle had manners. Abraxas Malfoy was a downright Mugglehater. Lucius merely thinks, or thought, them inferior. Moderately useful in the best case. Narcissa was raised in the same belief. It is hard to shake what you were taught from the cradle.”

“He seems polite enough to us,” Joyce noted.

Severus laughed again, this time with genuine amusement. “That would be because you are about as far removed from Muggledom as you can be. You are a senior witch of the Warren line. Your daughters are magical up to the hilt. The fact that Simon is a near Squib doesn’t mean anything. Lucius has never considered that a failing. Many Squibs can have magical children, especially if they marry others who are squibs or who have magic. And they needed Simon to dissolve the Oath. Oh, they’re learning and adapting. But you wouldn’t have liked them very much a year ago.”

“So Lucius recruited you?” Clarice returned to the subject.

Severus shrugged. “I didn’t take much convincing. Sirius Black was still on the other side of the fence then. And I would have been willing to sell my soul to get a chance to hex his balls off, preferably several times.”

“Lucius told me that Riddle could arrange that, and more. I was seventeen, young and stupid. But that is no excuse. My father was an abusive bastard and his behaviour towards my mother and me certainly didn't do my views of Muggles,” Severus used the word deliberately, “Any good. When you’re young and poor and angry it feels good to kick down and out.”

“You enjoyed it, didn't you?” Simon sipped his tea calmly, seemingly unperturbed by his younger brother’s outburst.

“At first, yes. Though after some time my conscience awoke. Most people can only murder, rape and torture for a limited time without proper training before they start to crack,” he drank his own tea, swallowing the contents of the cup in one gulp, and then filled it again.

“I have to say though that I wasn’t very courageous and didn’t try to leave until quite late. Too late, really, to save even what little was left of my soul. It was the closest thing to a home, a family, I’d had in my life. My mother was a weak woman, and a Pureblood. She married my father who was an abusive drunk. Mother instilled in me the values of Pureblood life, all the courtly graces that her own family had never used since no one visited. She taught me how to speak properly, rather than in the ghastly accent I was born amongst. My father was an uneducated drunk who beat her and me, feared and hated us because our magic and despised us for our intelligence and desire to learn. I've never known why she married him. My education at home was sadly lacking in morals and good examples and at school it was hardly better. I made my choice and I’ve regretted it. I fear I can’t say I regretted it immediately. But I would like to think eventually I’d have left, even if it would have cost me my life.”

“And what about the future?” Simon asked quietly. “What will you do? Do you trust your colleagues and allies to stand by you?”

Severus shook his head. “Don’t be melodramatic. Albus Dumbledore may have made mistakes and may not be infallible, but he is a good man. He knows why I am doing this. He trusts me. Minerva may think I’m too harsh with the children, and Filius that I’m a gloomy bugger with no sense of humour, but they do trust me to take care of these children and serve the ‘Side of the light’.”

“And Lupin?” Clarice’s lip curled.

Snape sighed. “Lupin… Lupin was much like me. More intelligent than his friends, with an uneasy home life and background. Alone for much of his life before Hogwarts. Gryffindors tend to be less close-minded than Slytherins about monsters and beasts and lack of wealth and such things. He was immersed by them, like in a warm bath. And he was afraid to lose his friends and didn’t stand up to them. He improved once he left school, as all of us did. My main problem with him is that he’s a werewolf. That I fear what he is,” Snape sneered. “And that the stupid bugger won’t learn to brew his own Wolfsbane.”     

“Ah. So it wasn’t his fault that you became a Death eater?” Joyce asked delicately.

Snape gave her a look, smirking slightly. “He thinks that? Oh dear…”

“Severus, no baiting the werewolf, I've got too few brothers to have one of them eaten,” Clarice told him bluntly. “Anyway, he’s convinced of it.”

Severus laughed. “I’m a more complex person than that, Clarice. Their bullying was bad, yes. They ought to have been stopped, punished, yes. Black very likely ought to have been brought up on charges, yes. But plenty of people have been bullied and grew up to overcome that. I didn’t. I made my choice. Lupin just has an overdeveloped sense of guilt. The man feels that everything that has happened to him and who he’s ever known that is even remotely bad is his fault. It comes from his parents losing almost everything after he was bitten. It still hasn’t sunk in it was the Dark Lord’s anger at his father’s actions that caused him to be bitten, and that they loved him enough to keep him at home instead of casting him out. They accepted what that would mean, too.”

“What happened to them?” Joyce asked.

“They fled to the Colonies after an attack on their home some time after we all finished school. Lupin refuses to meet them or travel there, because he thinks it will make their lives easier. He really should, werewolf restrictions are far less stringent over there,” Severus noted.

“And the other Marauders?” Simon asked curiously. “And the way you treat Harry?”

Severus shrugged. “I disliked James Potter for a number of reasons. I have to act in a certain way to Harry to make myself believable should Riddle return soon. He is… annoying in a Gryffindor way, but no more than most. If he didn’t look the way he did, I would have no problem with him, I think.”

“And Black and Pettigrew?” Clarice’s voice was hard.

“Pettigrew was a weak hanger-on. He only dared to face me with plenty of backup. He showed a spine maybe two or three times in his life, the last time when Black blew him to smithereens. Black’s betrayal didn’t surprise me as much as it did other people, though it did a little. He seemed to have become more stable, more balanced. There is a regrettable trend to insanity in the Black family, as old as Pulchritudia.”

“After Hogwarts, when he had to face real life, even Black seemed to improve slightly. He tried to convince his brother that joining Voldemort was a bad idea, without hexing or cursing him, which in his case was remarkably grown up,” Severus looked at the fire. “I admit I never thought it likely he would betray his friends. He cannot have been of sound mind, for the only thing that really mattered to him was their friendship, especially James Potter’s.”

Snape sat up. “I embraced my own destiny. What I did, I did of my own free, if misguided, will. Dumbledore could have given more guidance, been less biased, more understanding, less in a panic… Things might have been different, but in the end, I made my choice. All of those who joined Voldemort did. I murdered, raped, looted, killed, tortured and burned, and I will regret that forever. All I can hope is that Albus has learned his lesson, though going from what I see of how he treats the Slytherins compared with the other Houses, that seems unlikely.”

Clarice grinned fiercely. “Oh, I don’t know… You might be pleasantly surprised.”

Snape gave her a wary look, wondering what disaster his sister had called down upon his head.  

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Kendall home, 4th of January 1996

Harmony was singing. It was a beautiful thing to hear. Cordelia was leaning against the doorjamb as Harmony searched through her wardrobe, picking up and discarding items of clothing.

“Hot date, Harm?” Cordelia knew quite well what and who her foster sister was dressing up for, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t ask. Harmony got childlike pleasure from talking about things. 

Harmony beamed at her. “Owen asked me out! On a real date, with dancing and stuff!”

Cordelia smiled. She’d seen Owen approach Harmony just before Harm left to get the Twins from music lessons, and had guessed at what they had been discussing from Harm’s brilliant smile, but she’d had a meeting at the High School with Principal Snyder, her Mom, and Mr. Duncan and Miss Matthews from Child services. So she’d been sent upstairs by Eliza to get Harmony to come down and actually ask permission without her mother having to tell her to do so.

*Mom totally can be sneaky,* Cordelia decided. “Oh? Where and when?”

“Tonight! The Bronze! Isn’t it awesome!” Harmony gushed.

“Yeah, that’s great! So how long are you gonna be out? How’re you gonna get there?” Cordelia asked.

Harmony blinked. “Oh. I-I ought to ask Mom…” she bit her lip. “Do-do you think she’ll let me? I-I just told Owen I could…”

Cordelia shrugged. “Won’t know until you find out. C’mon, we’ll ask her together. She’s in the garden, pruning the roses.”

They went down the stairs, Harmony looking slightly nervous. That was when they heard the shrieks. The Twins were screaming. The girls charged down and into the kitchen and were amazed to see that a huge, tan Eagle Owl was flying around the kitchen apparently in distress.

“Fliss! Mel! Sit down! It’s a Post Owl! It’s a real Post Owl!” Harmony cried out. “Just like Daddy told us!”

The Twins looked at the bird with accusing glares. “It flew at us!” they echoed.

The owl hooted guiltily. Cordelia gave it a dark look and pointed at a chair back. “You. Sit.”

With a startled squawk the owl obeyed. Eliza came running into the kitchen, a pruning knife in her hand.

The owl skittered away from her and threw a frantic look at Cordelia. Eliza looked at the owl. “Ah. An owl. Ummm. Kindly give me the message. Harmony, there’s some bacon in the fridge, get some for…him?”

The owl hooted and extended a claw. Eliza untied the green and silver cord and removed the envelope. It was addressed to Marcus Terentius Bedell, Esquire, and Mrs. Bedell. “I assume you were told to wait for an answer?” she asked the owl.

It hooted again. Eliza nodded. “Good. It may take a while, so you can rest. Would you mind if the girls petted you?”

The owl gave the four girls a wary look, then let out a resigned hoot.

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Rook House, January 4th 1996

“And while Luna is at Hogwarts you will eat with Arthur and me every other day. And Narcissa and Andromeda insist that you eat with them at least once a week. Is that quite understood, Xenophilius?” Molly Weasley was laying down the law as she swiftly cleaned the kitchen with a number of powerful cleaning spells.

“Yes Molly,” Xeno meekly submitted.

Arthur grinned. One of only three men in the wizarding world to have faced a Nundu and lived, the only one to have taken a picture of one, that man was quaking in his boots as Molly made clear that he was not to be alone. Luna was beside her father, looking at the scene wide eyed, but without her usual absent air, seemingly quite impressed with what was going on.

Molly nodded decisively. “Good. Well then, both of you be careful and remember that our door is always open, hmmm?”

The Lovegoods nodded. Molly smiled at them both and then led Arthur outside.

Luna scooted closer to her father, and he put an arm around her shoulders. “Well my little Pomegranate, care to tell me why young master Malfoy keeps looking at me as if he expects me to hex him?” Xeno asked.

Luna coughed, blushing. “Errr… you see, Daddy, when you… fell ill… there were a number of ways to prevent me becoming a ward of the Ministry. One was under the Attendant Mother act, which we used. A-and the other was under the Act of Affiancing. Which we didn’t use in any way or form,” she added hastily.

Xeno looked at his daughter’s unusually red face, grinned slightly and decided to keep his silence.

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Hogwarts Infirmary, January 4th 1996

Poppy Pomfrey was updating her records. As the Matron she was a qualified Mediwitch, a specialist in pediatric magic and medicine. Even if her affiliation with the Order had meant that she’d learned a lot about healing curses and injuries. She had one of three Floos in Hogwarts that connected directly outside in her office. Like the other two, in the Headmaster’s office and the Staff room, it was heavily warded and could be disconnected quite easily by Albus. But as she was one of the ‘resident’ healers of Hogsmeade, it allowed her more and quicker exits than the other teachers. And her job was not quite fulltime, even with the numbers of injuries, illnesses and nervous breakdowns that the pupils suffered in the course of a school year.

She owned a cottage in Hogsmeade but since the death of her brother and husband in the conflict with Grindelwald the cheery house held nothing but gloomy memories for her. She preferred staying at Hogwarts, where there were usually people around to distract her.

The door opened and she heard the voices of Albus, Severus and the Ambassador. She checked her uniform for stains and strange substances saw it was perfectly clean and starched and rose to meet them.

“Gentlemen. How may I help you? Stomach salts, perhaps” She lifted a brow at them.

Albus smiled and shook his head. “No Poppy. Simon has a request.”

Poppy eyed the American. He looked a lot like Severus. And that meant she could read him, a little. About as much as she could read Severus at any rate. “And what request might that be?”

Simon sat down on the chair facing Poppy’s desk. “When we cast the spell that freed the souls of the children that were stolen, we also destroyed the foster parents of those who were taken alive.”

Poppy gasped. “That’s horrible!”

“Is it?” Simon asked mildly. “They were kidnappers who were going to make sure that the children would become soldiers, spies, assassins, using their magic. If any of them cared about the children more than they did about their so-called duty and patriotism, the spell will have spared them. But the point is that these children have been flooding Child Services back in the US. We’ll need help to find out who their real, biological parents are.”

Poppy ‘ah-hahed’ in comprehension. “I see. You need a medical or legal professional to cast Revelatio Familias. And I take it you prefer a medical professional?”

“Well, I am a doctor. And most lawyers I know don’t tend to put children at their ease. Do you know any people who would be willing to help? The Channeling ritual that does the same is rather longer, at least three hours each time, and rather more frightening,” Simon asked.  

“What you mean to ask is if I would be willing to help out,” Poppy smirked. “I’ve known Severus for far too long to be taken in by you, my boy.”

Albus coughed, hiding a laugh. Severus merely smirked.

“Well, that would be an ideal solution, but you are very busy, so I understand if you cannot help,” Simon shrugged. “If you know any trustworthy healers, especially those specialized in children who would help, I’d be very grateful.”

“I seem to recall you’ve been wanting to visit your family in the Colonies for some time now, Poppy?” Snape suggested.

Poppy glared at him. “Severus-”

Snape continued smoothly. “I’m sure Simon would never even consider asking you to do this for free. There are about two hundred children who need to be tested from what I understand. A considerable amount of time. What would the current fee for such a search by Muggle means be? If it could even be done?”  

Simon nodded in acknowledgement. “It could be done, but it might take years and then in many cases the parents would only be found only if we’re lucky. This will allow us to establish parentage which we can then prove by normal means so that the courts will accept it. And as for remuneration, I asked and I understand that a spell like this costs about twenty-five Galleons when performed at St. Mungo’s and about twice that when done by a very expensive solicitor. So I was thinking about thirty Galleons per spell, plus ten percent for each as a bonus. If you should want to travel to the States, Madam Pomfrey, it would be all expenses paid and an additional stipend of five thousand Galleons for the inconvenience and the advice.”

Poppy’s eyes widened. “That’s a lot of money…”

Severus snorted. “Don‘t worry, he’s good for it.”

“Will you consider it, Madam Pomfrey?” Simon asked.

Poppy nodded. “I will most certainly think about it, yes.”

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The Bronze, evening of January 4th

Cordelia was watching indulgently as her sister danced with Owen. Owen was being a perfect gentleman. Rather too many boys thought that with Harm being not too clever, they could get away with things. Eliza and Marcus Kendall had instilled in their daughter a considerable stubbornness in this regard. And of course it helped that so far during every step on the dating road that Harmony had taken she’d been accompanied by Cordelia, who had views of people taking advantage of Harmony.

The one annoying thing about the current situation was the absence of a date for Cordelia herself. Quite a few eligible boys were apparently more interested in her biological father’s pocketbook than in Cordelia herself. That was rather disheartening to discover. Seeing that Harmony was hardly going to leave the dance floor now that she was having so much fun, Cordelia glumly returned to the study of her coke. It was nearly gone and she was wondering if she should go and buy a new one. She’d have to make her way to the bar and stand in line. It used to be that boys did that for her, but so far not a single one had offered.

There was a soft cough and Cordelia looked up. Kevin Benedict, Sunnydale High’s premier Track star was standing by her table, tall, dark, good looking, with a glass of coke and a glass of orange juice in his hands.

“C-can I offer you a drink, Cordelia?” He squeaked out in an endearingly uncertain way.

Cordelia smiled. “Yes, thank you. Have a seat.” *Bingo!*

Kevin pushed over the coke and sat down. “You looked a bit down. I thought you could use someone to talk to,” he offered, now rather more smoothly.

“Talk? About what?” Cordelia asked, a bit haughtily.

“You and me?” Kevin replied with a smile. “And how other guys are dumb for not realising that there’s always been more to you than mouthing off and money?”  

Cordelia scowled at him. “Aren’t you supposed to flatter me outrageously instead of insulting me?”

“I call ‘em like I see ‘em, beautiful,” Kevin smirked. 

Cordelia rolled her eyes at the back-handed compliment, but inwardly she smiled. “So, how’s things in the world of track? Chase any good hares lately?”

Kevin laughed. “Not lately, no.”  

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January 5th, HogwartsCastle

“Promise you’ll write, okay? Dad’s said I can use the Eagle to send mail back,” Kit urged Luna.

Luna nodded. “Sure I will!”

“No, she Will, you Luna, me Xander,” Xander deadpanned, pointing at Willow, Luna and himself in turn.

Buffy groaned and thumped his arm. “Xander! I still don’t understand why anybody would let you watch Monty Python.” 

Buffy looked around the room. Fudge and Dumbledore were speaking with Simon and Joyce and lots of people were hugging and saying goodbye. Narcissa was saying something to Dawn that had her youngest sister squealing with excitement. She wondered if it was something that would make for trouble later.

She sighed as she looked around the huge room a last time. It was rather neat to meet a whole load of new people like this. Some of them were scared of her, but others were definitely admiring. Charlie Weasley, for instance. Buffy wasn’t quite sure if her status as a Slayer or that of a pretty girl attracted him more. Not that it mattered, with a perfectly good, if sunlight allergic, boyfriend at home. They were leaving for New York and due to the extension of their time in Britain, were taking an extra week in New York to meet some people Papa knew. Snyder had very quickly folded at the mere suggestion of some new instruments for the band. When she’d been living invisibly in the school Evy had done a number on many of them. Not that anyone knew she’d done it, but still.

Buffy looked at the corner of the room where Uncle Severus was lurking. With a grin she motioned her head at Willow and Kendra, who caught it, saw the direction Buffy was now going, and quickly followed. He noticed immediately and was obviously trying to edge towards a door unnoticed. Buffy accelerated and intercepted him before he could leave, hugging him tightly around the chest, burying her face in his robes. He smelled of sandalwood and camphor. “I’ll miss you, Uncle Severus.”

Willow and Kendra joined in the hug. “We’ll miss you too, Uncle Severus!”

Snape gritted his teeth at the smirks on the faces of the collective Weasley children. Buffy gave him a last rib-cracking hug, grinned at him, winked and then moved to the Weasley Twins. “Okay, no doubt the lot of you think that now that you've seen the softer side of Uncle Severus, you got primo blackmail material? Well, think again. Uncle Severus is only like this with us. And if I hear that any of you gave him any trouble during classes or out of it? I’m so gonna ask Mom and Papa to ship me back here to use you for training dummies. Comprende?”

To give some extra emphasis to her words she grabbed the fronts of the Twins' robes and lifted them off the ground. Fred and George gulped and nodded.

Buffy smiled sweetly and put them down again, then turned to Ron, Harry and Hermione. “Hermione? Keep them in line okay? No goofing off during potions. It's too dangerous to do that.”

Hermione nodded solemnly.

Ron did as well, then moved over to Buffy and gave her a daring hug. “Don't suppose you'd be willing to give Fred and George a thumping before you leave? To save yourself a journey? I mean they're bound to mess up...” He whispered.

Buffy laughed. “Nope, Mom put like huge restrictions on who and when I can beat up. Sorry,” then she turned away and nodded to where Kit was saying her goodbyes. “Watch this.”

Kit had moved carefully towards the Bedell family. Simon was discussing Lucius' visit to Sunnydale, explaining why it might be wise to use Normal transportation even though the notion was rather repugnant to Lucius.

Draco was listening to the advantages and disadvantages of Normal travel over Magical travel when Kit pounced, kissed his cheek and ran away, very quickly.

Lucius lifted an eyebrow at his son's stunned expression. “Interesting,” he drawled. “Tell me, Simon, how do you and Joyce feel about arranged marriages?”

Draco made a gargling noise while Narcissa glared at her husband. “Really, Lucius! Behave. You know its bad manners to negotiate more than one marriage contract at a time. You're already speaking with Xeno about a match with Luna.”

Draco whimpered. Simon shook his head. “Kit is too young anyway. She isn't eleven yet. We can speak again when she's older.”

Draco fled. Narcissa smiled. “Poor boy. We really shouldn't tease him like that. I'll go and comfort him.”

Lucius made a slight bow. “And do tell him that now that Xeno is awake again the negotiations are officially on hold.”

“I shall consider whether that will actually make him feel better,” she bent her head at Simon. “My Lord, I hope to see you in the Colonies soon.”

Simon bowed and took and kissed her hand. “I look forward to it.”

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Aboard Concorde, over the Atlantic Ocean

Joyce was looking out over the vast clouds that towered beside the supersonic plane. Concorde was an experience, that was for sure. Xander, Willow, and Kendra were all immersed again in the technical data that was available. Rowan was pouting because she wasn't actually on board the plane. Kit and Dawn were in the cockpit with Simon. Buffy was sleeping, certain there was nothing demonic on board and taking the opportunity to sleep without fear of interruptions other than by little sisters. Joyce felt slightly queasy, but not unmanageably so. They would spend some more time on the East Coast, the children having received dispensation due to the nature of the people they were meeting.

Governors of New Hampshire who were descended from the founder of that State were hardly common, after all. With all that had been happening it had been impossible to meet with Jed and Abbey and their children during the short stay in New York. This would allow the children on both sides to satisfy their curiosity.  Joyce’s offer that each of her children would write an essay about the history of the Bartlett family and their long-standing ties to New Hampshire probably made the dispensation easier for the school to bear. Though most of the children hadn't been as happy about the offer.

Joyce smiled and settled back to try and get a nap. She had some time yet before they came in to land.

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Sunnydale, January 5th, Kendall House

Marcus Kendall was sitting at his desk, the thick, embossed paper in front of him. He trailed his fingers over the set of arms that formed the letterhead. Two alert, rearing dragons, their rear paws resting on skulls, supporting the shield, a black field with two crossed swords on black and a silver skull on blue. A grinning skull sat atop the shield. Then his eyes moved down again to the text, despite the fact he had read it so often that he could probably repeat it verbatim.

My dear Marcus,

You blithering idiot! Did it ever occur to you to occasionally check what was going on in the wizarding world? Father has been dead for almost twenty years! Do you know how much time and money I spent to track you down? How much I worried?

Though I suppose I understand that you were reluctant to reveal yourself in any way. Not that father would have spent a Knut on trying to cull you once you had really gone underground. It was, I admit, inspired to actually hide on the most active Hellmouth. Inspired and more than slightly insane. And to start a family there? You are a braver man than I, or at least more foolhardy.

A true pity you’re a Squib. You’d no doubt have been sorted into Gryffindor and Father would have died of a shattering apoplexy and that would have saved us all a lot of trouble. On the other hand you’d probably not have married Elizabeth, and Lord Simon tells me your little girls are lovely. Narcissa (You may remember her, Miss Black, daughter of Cygnus Black III and Druella Rosier), can’t wait to meet them. All blondes with grey-blue eyes I understand from Lady Joyce. Don’t worry, I’ve told Narcissa not to spoil them. Too much. And you’re adopting another girl, possibly? It will be interesting to meet her as well. Lady Joyce tells me she is somewhat of a firecracker. Considering their children, that makes me wonder.

And yes, they are the Joyce and Simon you know. And, yes, in case you were wondering about the crest, the Vicari really don’t have any imagination when it comes to names. So you’d better be polite to them. Call them Lord and Lady Vicari and don’t antagonize them. And I feel I should point out that Lady Willow is currently the Heir presumptive. I’ve sworn allegiance as the head of the Family and I expect you and yours to behave accordingly. 

Once I've set some things in motion over here I'll travel to the Colonies and meet you and your family. You will probably wish to remain in California? I must admit the notion that any Bedell speaks like the children of his Lordship horrifies me, but I fear there is little to be done about it now. Take care of yourself and your family.

Your loving brother, Lucius.

Marcus trailed the flowing, elegant script with his finger tips. His brother had been looking for him. All this time he had been hiding in fear and Lucius had been looking for him. He was so getting his arse kicked when Lucius came to visit. He rose to go and help Eliza in the kitchen.

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New York, Park Avenue, MeierMansion, January 5th 1996

Abbey Bartlett looked through the black gates, down the white gravelled driveway and up at the huge mansion on Park Avenue, then at her husband. “You know, knowing about Simon's money and seeing things like this...” she waved her hand at the stern, classic façade, “Are two completely different things.”

Zoey took her mother's hand, rather subdued. “I think I like his apartment better.”

“So do I, Zoey. But Simon has decided that as long as he still owns the house, he might as well use it. I think he last regularly lived here in the mid seventies,” Jed gave the building a look of distaste. “I can almost feel his father's presence in that place.”

Annie whimpered and dug into her mother. Lizzie shivered, rubbing her daughter’s shoulders, checking on Gus, well wrapped up in numerous layers before drawing her thick winter coat around her, and looked at Ellie. “Still don’t believe in atmosphere, El?”

Ellie, the most pragmatic of the three Bartlett daughters looked up at the towering façade and then straightened her shoulders. “It’s just a house. The trees and stuff make it look dark, but, I mean, how bad can Uncle Simon’s father have been?”

Abbey shivered and paled. Jed put an arm around her shoulders. “Imagine the worst man you can possibly imagine. And then double that,” he told his daughters quietly.

The door flew open and two girls sprinted up to the gates, laughing as they dodged around each other and the heaped snow, their breath misting in little staccato puffs. They stopped at the gates, grinning, cheeks flushed by the cold. “Hello! I’m Dawn, this is Kit! You must be Gov -governor and Dr. Bartlett?”

Jed nodded. “Yes, and these are our children. Elizabeth, Eleanor and Zoey, and our grandchildren, Annie and Gus.”

Dawn nodded as Kit fumbled with the gate opener and the gate slowly swung open. “Granpa Charles says to come in quick, ‘cause it’s freezin’ and he doesn’t want his great grand-god children to catch cold,” Kit waved a hand at the huge house. A tall, powerful shape leaning on a cane stood waiting in the doorway.

Abbey took a compact out of her clutch and checked her hair and make-up as her daughters looked on in disbelief. “Mom? It’s just Uncle Simon. Family, you know?” Zoey half-joked.

Jed smirked. “Ah, but that was before your mother realised Dr. Winchester was here…”

Ellie let out a squeak and plunged into her own bag, leaving Zoey and Liz to look on in bemusement and Jed in amusement.

Kit rolled her eyes, walked over to Liz and her children and smiled at Annie. “Hey. I’m Kit. Wanna go inside? Mama and Dad won’t let us slide down the banisters, but apparently your granddad did it too, so I’m sure he can convince them to let us do it too.”

Abbey sniggered at Jed’s affronted expression. “I was six.”

“So? From what Dad say’s Annie’s seven. Perfect age,” Kit argued.

“Yes, but we weren’t allowed to do it either,” Jed countered as he led his eldest and youngest daughter up the broad driveway.

“But you still did it, not matter what Papa’s parents said. And Papa’s grandparents said you shouldn’t, but they both laughed, too,” Dawn brought up.

Kit grinned triumphantly at her sister’s remark. “And we’ve got a shi-”

Jed coughed and Kit looked at Annie and Gus, nodded and waved compliance. “A boatload of grandparents around to make sure the punishment won’t be too bad.”

Jed sighed and looked up at the two men standing in the doorway. “Simon, Charles. These two are trying to corrupt my grandchildren,” he mock-scowled at the cheerful Dawn and Kit.

Annie ran up the steps and threw herself at Simon who lifted her high and swung her ‘round before handing her off to Charles. Liz gave both of them a quick hug, as did Zoey.

Jed was looking at the broad banister with an expression of reminiscence on his face. “We really slid down that? You must have gotten me drunk!”

Simon grinned at “Well, I seem to recall that my ancestor once took yours on a drinking spree that sent Philadelphia reeling. Or was that Ben Franklin?”

“I don’t recall,” Jed stated blandly. He shook hands with Charles and embraced Simon. “Good to see you.”

Abbey and Ellie had finally managed to finish their toilettes to their satisfaction and joined them. As they came in Charles stepped forward and engulfed Abbey in a huge hug. “And how is my favourite student?”

Kit huffed. “I thought Dad was your favourite student?”

Charles grinned at her as he released the flustered Abbey. “No, your father was the one who took most of my time. Abigail here was definitely my favourite.”

Simon laughed, released Ellie from the hug he’d given her and hugged Abbey. “Teacher’s pet.”

Abbey gave him a haughty look. “Well, you were hardly up for the job. Sooo… Where is she?”    

Simon smiled. “This way,” he led them through a door, down a corridor and into a wall of noise.

“What in the name of all that is holy is that?” Abigail asked, shocked.

“That is a group of teens who’ve just heard they’ll get tomorrow  to shop in Manhattan,” Joyce said dryly from the doorway. “Courtesy of good ol’ dad.”

Simon shrugged. “I put them all on a strict budget, Love.”

“Two-hundred and fifty dollars each is not a strict budget for a bunch of fifteen year olds. And I know Xander is sixteen and Buffy nearly,” Joyce glared.

“I have accounts at Bauman and Ursus-” Simon began, only to be interrupted by a squeak of joy and then an even more powerful glare from Joyce.

“Ooohhh… We’ll talk about this later, Simon Coenraad Hendrick Meier!”

Jed whistled. “Wow. She’s got your name down pat, Simon. Dutch version and everything.”

“I practice every night in front of the mirror,” Joyce replied blandly. “And of course I have to use it a lot.”

Abbey laughed. “Excellent. Keep that rake in line. I’m Abigail Bartlett. This is my husband, Jed, who is supposed to be governing New Hampshire.”

“Hey, I’ve got a lot of good people who can take care of things until I return. It’s not like I’m the President,” Jed complained.

“Meaning he doesn’t have good people to take care of things?” Simon asked dryly. “I’ll tell him that next time he calls.”

Abbey laughed. “Enough, you two! Simon, show us the house. I mean, it can’t all feel like the Addams’ Mansion, can it?”

Dawn snorted. “Yes it does. And we’re creepy and we’re kooky!”

Kit grinned. “Speak for yourself, sister. I ain’t ooky!”

“Katherine, ‘I am not’, if you please,” Joyce corrected with a smile. 

Kit pouted. “Yes Mama,” she grinned at Annie. “C’mon, I’ll show you the trophy room. It’s got a lion!”

Annie looked at her mother, who nodded. “Go and have fun, dear.”

Dawn and Kit each grabbed one of Annie’s hands and smiled. “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Dawn, quipped.

“Dead, I hope?” Abbey muttered as the girls ran off.

“Very much so. Grandfather shot it on safari when he was visiting Africa with Teddy Roosevelt,” Simon explained. “Its name is Melvin.”

Zoey mouthed ‘Melvin?’ at Ellie, who grinned back. “So, you got any more kids hiding in there, Uncle Simon?”

Simon smiled. “Yes. Well, not hiding. Come meet the family.”

He led the way into the room and Joyce smiled as they all passed in. Liz, carrying Gus, stopped and looked her in the eye, smiling as she did. “Thank you. For making him so happy.”

Joyce smiled back. “Thank you for keeping him alive for me.”

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Hank Summers’ apartment, January 7th 1996

Hank groaned as the phone rang. He’d just come in from a run and had hoped for a quiet evening. He really had been working to hard. And if this was the office asking him to take another case… It was Buffy’s birthday in ten days and he hadn’t gotten her a present yet and he was going to be there. Joyce had said he could be.

“Summers!” he almost yelled into the phone.

“Mr. Summers? This is Simon Meier. I’m calling so that we can coordinate Buffy’s birthday presents, unless you do not wish to?”

Hank sat down on one of the kitchen chairs, mopping his face with the kitchen towel he’d snagged as he went in there to get a bottle of water. “Coordinate? What did you have in mind?”

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Sunnydale, January 7th, 1633 Revello Drive

Jack Price had only joined Primary Bodyguard Team on the fourth of January. With the ever expanding family, the numbers of the PBT had risen from four to nearer to twenty. And if the Doc and Missus didn’t stop gathering up kids, there was going to be a battalion of them. Having been a member of MIC Central Security, becoming a member of the Primary Team was a big promotion. Selcetion was intense, even now that is was much expanded and training in some ways surpassed that of even SpecOps, since the original four had all trained as SpecOps of four different nations, combining the training and methods of all four.

Not to mention the educational opportunities and the really excellent pay. And, after a couple years here, he would have chance to be fast-tracked to join the Secret Service.  For someone that wanted to be a bodyguard, that was the ultimate goal. Joining Meier's team was the fastest way to do that, when you didn't have a Master's in Law Enforcement.  He had gotten a Bachelor's, and then joined the Meier team right out of College. And now, he had made the Primary team. 

The group had finished their day's search, looking for the missing woman, Neave Cameron, with no luck.  He didn't understand why the other's seemed so blasé about her disappearance after the first night. They were saddened, but just seemed to have given her up for dead. They had tried to tell him some fairy tale about Vampires or something like that, but who could believe a story like that? It was obviously some way to haze the rookie.

He wouldn't be like them. He would find her, and maybe get a bigger jump on that fast-track to the Secret Service. Meier took care of his people and if he saved one of them, even after being kidnapped and suffering who knows what for a few days, he’d get noticed. And Meier would know about his goals and there hadn’t been a President since Washington who didn’t listen to the Meiers. So, after he finished the first night-shift, he had a quick dinner with the others, went up to his room, gathered his gear for a night patrol, and went out the window.

He was never seen alive again. 

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Sunnydale, January 7th, Kendall House

Cordelia had been very quiet since the letter had been read and shared. She’d paled and retreated upstairs avoiding the rest of her family, even the Twins. She sat at the table a silent and pale wraith.

Eliza, to be honest, had had quite enough. So she was knocking on Cordy’s door. “Cordelia! I’m coming in, whether you’re ready or not!”

There was no answer. She opened the door and saw Cordelia, sitting on the bed, knees drawn up and her cheek resting against her left knee. Her right hand was idly playing with her toes and her vacant gaze was fixed on the walnut tree outside in the garden.

Eliza sat down next to her and Cordelia looked up, disturbed. “Oh. Hey Mom,” and turned back to gazing at the tree.

Eliza’s brows rose. Happy though she was that Cordelia so easily called her ‘mom’, her foster daughter’s behaviour was otherwise quite worrying. “Want to tell me what’s wrong?”

Cordelia sighed. “Not really. But if I don’t, I won’t get any peace, will I?”

“No, you won’t,” Eliza smiled. “So tell me or I’ll call Harm and the Twins to tickle it out off you.”

Cordelia sighed again. “It’s Rosenberg. Willow. We’ve loathed each other for years. I think as soon as we set eyes on each other. I don’t like her new father much either.”

“Ah. I see. And?” Eliza asked, puzzled.

“So, we have to obey them, don’t we? We’re sworn to their service because Lucius, Uncle Lucius, as the head of the Family did that oath thing?”

“Yes?” Eliza smiled. “And don’t let either your father or uncle hear you call it the ‘Oath thing’. Their family has been working towards that goal for eight centuries.”

“I know Rosenberg-” Cordelia began.

“Willow,” Eliza corrected. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if the adoption had gone through already, so no longer a Rosenberg.”

Cordelia gritted her teeth, “Yeah right. Look…. She… I… I haven’t been very nice to her, okay? And no matter how cutely innocent she looks, Willow can be quite vindictive.”

“Yes? And?” Eliza prompted.

Cordelia glared and started to talk very fast, as if to get it off her chest. “She’s gonna want to humiliate me. I know it! Patronize me, look down on me! Call me her servant! I’m not doing it! I refuse! I’m not gonna listen to her! Obey what she tells me to do! I don’t care! I’m not kissing Willow Rosenberg’s ass!” Cordelia almost yelled. 

Eliza blinked. Then she started to giggle. “Oh dear. Oh, Poppet… I think you need to get a handle on your Uncle Lucius’ Slytherin sense of humour…”

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Rupert Giles’ apartment, Sunnydale California, 7th of January 1996

Giles sighed as he fell into his chair. He groaned when his cheek touched the silk shirt on the back of it. Jenny had left that here before they went to Britain. He’d called his Father in hopes of getting some vindication for his actions, but had been surprised that the man had told him he was an idiot and hung up. His whole family had shown up in the townhouse hours later.

And once his mother had finished giving him her patented ‘I’m very disappointed, Rupert,” speech, his father had called him a blithering idiot, again. The old man had also handed him a bottle of whisky and told him to get drunk, think about his sins and start to figure out creative ways of groveling before setting out to have ‘a bit of a talk’ with Quentin Travers.

Miranda had sighed at him and shook her head and said that ‘Dad’s going to be too old to teach your sons cricket if you keep this up, Ru,’ and left him to gaze moodily into his glass.

Esther had just slapped the back of his head. And his mum had gone and had a talk with Jenny and her mum. He felt like he was thirteen again and he’d just kissed Victoria Underwood and made her cry. But apparently Jenny was willing to at least listen to his groveling, which his mum told him was very gracious of her.

So the next morning, rather more bright and early than he’d wanted, he’d gone to the Meier House on Canon Street and he’d groveled. He’d handed over everything he knew about the Stronghold to Buffy, so she could form her own opinion, and groveled some more. He’d also groveled to Joyce. As his father had mentioned it never hurt to butter up your mother-in-law.

And then the phone call had come from Angel and before he had been able to fully reconcile with Jenny, he was back to help the Ensouled Vampire to try and figure out what the Master and his Shaszat ally were planning. And since Buffy was absent, they might be able to figure out some more training opportunities for the Slayer. Giles was still worried about the blasé manner in which the Family treated the Prophecy from the Pergamum Codex. That they could contemplate the certain death of their daughter and sister in such a way…

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1630 Revello DriveCalifornia, Saturday 13th of January1996

The cars that were unloading were all black BMW’s. The children were laughing and smiling and having fun.

Dawn and Kit were bouncing in and out of the door. Buffy was wondering out loud if all her new clothes and shoes would fir her cupboard. Willow and Rowan had pooled their money and bought a lot of upgrades for Willow’s computer.

Kendra was clutching a set of first edition Enid Blyton Malory Towers books as if she was never going to let them go.

Xander had bought a leather jacket and was busily showing it off.

Jenny was moping a little, twisting her engagement ring around her finger. Joyce walked up and put an arm around her. “You’ll be alright. Rupert has learned an important lesson about what and what not to ask.”

“He was doing what he thought was best,” Jenny sighed. “But lots of people do and mess up magnificently. I just wish he’d get his head out of his ass sometimes. He’s completely blind to the faults of the Watchers.”

Joyce lifted an eyebrow. “I should know better than to use language like that around impressionable young minds. But Simon is completely blind to their good side, and I have the odd notion that his own family has done some creative editing of their history to show themselves in a better light. It’s just this thing about males we’ll have to learn and live with.”

Jenny smiled a little sheepishly. “Why ever do we put up with them?”

Joyce smiled back. “I’ll explain it to you when you’re a little older.”

Jenny laughed.

 
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