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Forever is too long even for us

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This story is No. 11 in the series "Waifs and strays". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Faith Lehane's life prior to ending up in Sunnydale, as seen in the Waifs and Strays AU

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Highlander > Faith-Centered(Current Donor)vidiconFR211141,9851614516,38914 Jul 114 Mar 12Yes

NOTE: This story is rated FR21 which is above your chosen filter level. You can set your preferred maximum rating using the drop-down list in the top right corner of every page.

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Chapter 11

Author’s Note:

Thanks very much to my Beta’s, Letomo and EllandrahSylver.

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.

yourself be heard.

Speech: “Who’s on first.”

Thought: *What’s on second.*

Vision: #I-don’t-know’s on third.#

Greek: ^Who cares?^

Ancient Egyptian: »Who’s that?«

Latin: ~Who’s who?~

Telepathy: %Who’s that in my mind?%

Many thanks to Blackett, SpacedCadet and wozwashi for recommending this story. It is much appreciated.

WARNING! Allusions of abuse, torture and rape.

Chapter 11

Boston, American Watchers Headquarters

Adrian Marchbanks was a member in good standing of the Watchers' Council. He'd been assigned to the Boston House because of his attention to duty and detail and felt confident that in a few years time he would receive a promotion to the ranks of the true field watchers and be assigned a Potential to train. Until that day he was willing to wait and to obey orders. The orders for now included the keeping watch in the cavernous foyer of the headquarters of the Watchers in the US.

It was not a very responsible position, what with the enchantments that hid the place from those who did not know where it was. It had been built during the period of British rule, in a meadow a good distance outside of Boston by an old magical family and hidden by them. Things had changed since then; the city had grown up around the house. The family had died out and the house was now the property of the Watcher's Council. It had been added to and altered; the basement had been dug out and prepared to contain such creatures as the Council wanted held. Bathrooms and toilets had been added when the original enchantments wore out and the technology of normal humanity caught up to, and exceeded, common charms.

When Roger Wyndham-Pryce had come to the United States it had been one of the few properties already owned by the Council that could bear even his grudging approval. All that was unknown to Adrian, which was why he was still a low-ranking watcher and unlikely to rise much higher.

Another reason why he would likely not rise higher was standing outside, looking up. *Really Roger, you actually spewed the truth about your headquarters after the barest minimum of torture. How dreadfully disappointing. And how predictable.*

Frank shook his head at the stupidity of the man and then opened the door, his gun in hand inside his coat pocket, his knife in the other.

“Good morning.” He greeted the man on guard.

“Good morning. You'll need to sign the book.” Adrian replied.

“Certainly.” Frank leaned over the desk and drew a pen from his pocket. Adrian leaned closer to look at his signature. “Were you part of the group that grabbed that Lehane girl?”

Adrian snorted. “Yeah. And that asshole Weatherby gave strict orders she wasn't to be touched. Can you believe that? A hot little bitch like that and the only ones who got to play with her were a bunch of moronic street toughs.”

“Indeed, rather heartless of him,” Frank drew the thin stiletto from his pocket and with a quick slash cut the man's throat, jumping back to avoid the spray.  “And good night.”

Frank looked around the hall, noting that it was set up much like an English manor of the Georgian type and went up the stairs to the master bedroom. He had work to do, before he was finished. He had something special in mind for Messrs Collins and Weatherby.

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LoyolaUniversity, New Orleans, Louisiana

Faith looked a little uncertainly at the stooped old man who opened the door for them. His hair was white and he wore a cassock and dog collar and a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles. He had thinning white hair and a kind, weathered face. “Ah. You would be Faith, I imagine. Hello Diana.”

Diana Dormer leaned in slightly and kissed the old priest’s cheek. “Father Mulcahey. You’re looking well.”

“I’m feeling old. You look wonderful as ever. And I thought I told you to call me Francis.”

“Nonsense, Francis, you’ll outlast the sun.” Diana replied with a smile.

“I hope not.” The old priest stepped aside and Diana ushered in Faith.

“Yo, nice digs!” Faith exclaimed.

“Rather large for a single old man. I'm actually house-sitting for my nephew who's on a three year teaching and study sabbatical in Britain. Let me show you your rooms. Faith, I'm putting you in one of the girls' rooms. I assume you don't mind.”

“Naah, anything will be fine, thank you.” The last words were practically drawn from the girl by a look from Diana, who then nodded approvingly.

The room was quite large and held a bed and a desk and brightly painted walls. The bed was made with white duvet covers and the carpet was soft under her feet. ”It's wonderful, thank you.” Faith smiled at the old man, who grinned back.

“Do you want to join us for tea later Faith?” Mulcahey asked.

“No, thank you. I think I’ll rest and wash up a bit. 

The old priest checked if the cross was still hanging where it should, murmured a quick blessing over the window and took Diana to her room.

Faith looked around, biting her lip. If Gladys was still alive, if Frank was still alive, she'd still have had a room like this, a room of her own that she could have decorated and slept, studied and partied in. Now, she never would; Diana was unlikely to buy her more than the absolute minimum needed, well, maybe a bit more. If she did become the Slayer after all, it would in essence be money wasted. Faith didn't think that Diana would keep her after her use as a potential was gone, so she'd better do what she could to earn what diplomas she could. With a bit of luck she'd end with a GED and maybe a year of college if she played her cards right.

From the hints she dropped Faith thought that Diana was probably lesbian, but she'd shown no overt interest in Faith, unlike the leering bastards who'd kidnapped her and had taken every opportunity to feel her up.

But Diana's attitude might change. Once Faith got older she might demand payment in kind for the support and maintenance of Faith. Faith fell on the bed, buried her face in the pillow, smelling the fabric softener. It was the same as Gladys used. Very softly Faith started to cry.

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“That is a very unhappy young woman.” Father Mulcahey remarked as he filled Diana's cup from the large earthenware teapot.

Diane smiled grimly. “Tell me about it. She- the things they did to her, her life was bad before, and then it got better, a lot better and then the Council came... And it got a lot worse.”

“I understand.”

“I had to get her out of there. She wouldn't have lasted ten minutes if she'd been called as the Slayer.”

The gentle old eyes suddenly became hard. “And no doubt you talked to her a great deal about that?” he asked in a voice like ice.

Diana blinked. Her eyes opened wide in horror as she understood and she plunked down the cup she's been drinking from and hurried up the stairs.

Father Mulcahey smiled. *Well, for a minute there I thought I was wrong about that girl. Turns out all she needed was a sharp, swift kick. I think I'll bake cookies. Teenagers always like cookies.* He looked at the clock. It would take them a while to get sorted. He shook his head. Diana was a good woman, but her experience with teenagers was limited.

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Faith was sobbing when the hand touched her shoulder. She started and tried to surge to her feet, or to put her back in against a wall until she'd assessed the situation. 

“Faith, easy. It's just me.” Diana soothed. “We have to talk. About our relationship.”

Faith gulped, her eyes wide and fearful and still full of the tears she had been crying. *Dragging the covers over me is not gonna help if she wants to take me. She's still stronger and better trained than me.*

Diana stiffened at the girl's fear and her efforts at locating a shield or escape route and then sighed.

“Faith, calm down. I'm not going to make an attempt at your virtue. That's not what I meant by relationship.”

“Ain't all that virtuous anyway.” Faith replied, without thinking.

“There's virtue and virtue. Faith, I need you to understand something. I am going to train and educate you as best as I can, so that if you get called, you can be the best possible Slayer and live as long as possible.” Diana gently pushed Faith's hair away from the girl's face. “And if you don't get called, I’ll train and educate you as best I can so that you can find a fulfilling job, and have a good life. You're not getting kicked out; you're not just a weapon to me, not just a means to an end.”

Faith blinked. “Oh.”

Diana smiled and pulled Faith in for a hug. The girl stiffened.

“Oh, relax Faith, I'm not going to rape you, I told you, you're not my type.” Diana joked.

“Everybody who cares for me dies or gets hurt,” Faith replied softly. “You should just see me as a weapon. It would be safer for you.”

“Safety is vastly overrated. Now, I want you to make me a promise young lady. Next time you feel this frightened or uncertain about anything; you come talk to me, okay?”

Faith nodded. “Okay.”

“Good, we're agreed on that. Now, Father Mulcahey has promised to help teach you. He's quite a good teacher, one on one.” She smiled reminiscently. “Not quite so good in front of a room full of pupils.”

Faith bit her lip. “Is he even allowed to like you?”

Diana frowned in thought and then she giggled a curiously girlish sound. “You mean because I like women? Father Mulcahey decided long ago that though the Church has rules about that, it has ignored plenty of other ones in its own favour. So he'll ignore that one in his and mine.” 

Faith grinned. “Ha! So you are gay!” she exclaimed with satisfaction.

“Lesbian, and yes. Why, you weren't sure?”  Diana teased.

“You kept dropping hints. But, no, I wasn't. So what is your type?”

Diana's smile faltered and her eyes became distant. “Redheads.” Then she slapped her hands on her knees and rose from the bed. “Well, let’s go downstairs before Father Mulcahey tries to bake cookies and burns down the kitchen.”

“He does that?” Faith decided it was probably wiser not to discuss the matter of Diana's type further for now. But sometime quite soon she was going to have that conversation. Faith Lehane was a very determined young woman when she was curious.

 “Yes. He tends to be a bit absentminded when he's reading. And he's always reading.” Diana smiled indulgently.

“I don't know how to cook. Well I can heat a can.” Faith admitted.

“Then you’ll have to learn. It's a skill everybody should know. Come on.”

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Weatherby smiled as he saw Diana Dormer leave the old priest's house. She was going for a jog and would pass through a small park, and in that park he would lie in wait. He wondered if the bitch had ever had a man, or if she'd always been a dyke. No matter. A real man would teach her a lesson, and if she lived, if he let her live, she might even learn to appreciate him. He knew she had the Lehane girl. She'd been buying too much food in Boston for just herself, and even if she didn't tell him right away where the little bitch was, Weatherby was sure he'd break her eventually. The little bitch must be wearing some sort of non-detection charm. He started his stolen motorbike and took off, leisurely. It would take Dormer a good half hour to get to where he planned to ambush her.

The copse was silent except for the rustle of the leaves in the wind. Weatherby smiled. There was an old drain in the copse that led to a dry tunnel. Good enough for his initial plans. The unmarked, stolen van stood just outside the park gates, ready for the second part of his plan. He was looking forward to this. 

“You know, Clarence, you really should learn to keep in contact with your base. That way when your base goes boom, you’ll know about it. And when the Boogie man comes round, you’ll know to run.” An icy voice spoke behind him.

Before Weatherby could move the speaker was on top of him and a syringe had stabbed into his neck. Weatherby groaned, trying to struggle, but the drug was too strong. 

When Weatherby woke up again he was tied to a hurdle, face down. He was naked. “They’re both in excellent health and ya’ll ‘ll love the accent.” A soft, southern drawl next him drew his attention and he turned to look. “They’re completely straight, but I’m sure that with time they’ll come to enjoy it.”

Weatherby’s eyes widened in shock. He growled against the ball gag in his mouth. The southern drawl laughed. “Ya’ll have gone Pulp Fiction in this place. I’m sure they’ll love it!”

The speaker stepped up to Weatherby and smiled into his face. “I already said goodbye to Mr. Collins, and I’ll do the same to you. I’m sure you’ll have a jolly old time… Pet.”

Frank Howard left the basement and walked up the stairs, ignoring the frightened noises coming from behind him. He walked out the door and drove the stolen van to the parking lot where he wheeled out the stolen bike, that he drove to another parking lot, this one in a town where he parked the bike, unlocked, in full view of a group of disreputable looking teenagers, got a cab to the nearest airport and took a flight to New York. It was time to finish. And then it was time to seek redemption.

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It was cold in the basement and wet and it smelled bad. It was amazing what you could get used to after having been locked into it for months. Bernard sat against the cold concrete wall on the stinking mattress and sighed. He itched and his ribs hurt. So did his hands, and knees, and various other parts of his anatomy. He was getting too old for hunting demons, and this was not going to help. He knew that the end of his active demon hunting days was nigh. Robin would be disappointed. He would have to learn to live with it. Bernard rose, groaning. He probably had picked up rheumatism. Hell, Robin had probably picked up rheumatism.

“Stupid bloody git.” Bernard muttered. Then he looked up. He heard a noise. The basement door. Someone was coming down. The only one who knew they were here was Fred, or Frank as he supposed he'd have to learn to call him now. Bernard shivered. He remembered the day that Nikki had almost died, the seven vampires having hemmed her in, until the sword wielding man had appeared. That had been before Meier had attached himself to them, before the Council had destroyed the trust between him and Nikki.

Before Simon Meier decided to destroy the Council of Watchers in America. Bernard prepared himself to fight. He might be old, but he was not going to die without attempting one more time to escape their captor.

“Hello Bernard, It's time for the final curtain. Exeunt Omnes.”

The voice that spoke to him through the door was tired and old. Bernard had had the distinct displeasure of having spoken to numerous old vampires. Master vampires half a millennium and more in age, some even older. Some of them had sounded this old, this bored, this blasé. Fred Dillingbroke was not a vampire, but neither was he human. Before this had happened Bernard would have called him a hero. A warrior for good. Now he did not know what the man was, or who.  

The door opened and Bernard stiffened, ready to sell his hide dearly.

“You will be pleased to hear that Robin is fine, or as fine as he can be, considering the injuries I inflicted upon him.”

Bernard blinked. This was not quite what he had expected. “So he'll die healthy? Well, that's a great relief.”

The man in the doorway chuckled wearily. “No, I thi-.”

A shadow appeared behind him, a pipe or post in his hand and struck. Frank's eyes glazed over and Bernard gasped in shock as the battered form of Robin came into view from behind the falling man. “Robin?”

“Son of a bitch! You'll never hurt my father again!” Robin kicked the fallen man in the ribs and winced. He was still barefoot. Bernard moved over to the door and felt for a pulse. There was none.

“What did you hit him with?” he asked curiously. “And how did you get out?”

Robin smiled, hefting the metal bar in his hands. “After he caught you when you escaped I spent quite some time planning this. He was very clever; he cleared this place of almost every possible weapon. But the bar at the door upstairs... once he came down, once that door was open; I could get up there and get it. As for how I got out, I broke the grate from the sewer and rubbed a part of it against the walls and floor until I had a lock-pick.”

Bernard smiled, proudly. “That's my boy.” He patted the fallen man and took a pistol. He looked at the corpse again, put the gun to its temple and fired. Then he rose from his crouch and led the way up the stairs. It was an old house, and they were in the kitchen, empty except for a table and three chairs that had seen better days. Standing by the rickety table was a suitcase, and on two chairs were two suits of clothes. Two pails of water were boiling on the stove and a printed sheet of paper with a few lines on it lay on the table, and two plates with sandwiches were beside it.

Bernard picked up the note.

Once we were not exactly friends, but certainly not enemies. I regret my actions towards you; I have learned you had nothing to do with what befell me and mine. For what I did to you and your son, I apologize. For what I did to the organization of which you are a member, I claim full responsibility and do so with pride. If I should die today, I will die not a happy man, but one whose vengeance has run its course. Not a man at peace, but one who might find it again one day. If I do not die today, I may find that peace again, though I doubt I will find the love that I lost once more.

As you may have noticed, you are now once again free. I hope that the items in this room will help you. 

The suitcase contains supplies, the clothes should fit you. There's a map of your location and five thousand dollars in cash. Your mortgage has been paid and in your house you will find a copy of the Codex Blariacumensis as well as some spare cash I took from members of your organization. You may tell them I told you that whenever a Watcher takes a step wrong, I will be there to cut of the offending foot.

The note was unsigned and Bernard read it twice before checking the supplies. Robin was washing off the worst of the filth at the sink, using the boiling water and cold water from the pump that sat over the sink.

The suits were cheap but would do, the shoes were new, well made walking shoes. Bernard found the money, two cheap watches and the map. He sighed. He wasn't sure what to do with the corpse in the basement, but finally decided he really didn't care. They were far enough from anywhere that if they dragged it into the nearby forest, the wildlife would deal with it. No one was likely to call in the man as missing. Bernard sighed. Robin seemed to be okay now, but once the reality of the situation hit, it would be different. Robin had killed, no destroyed, dozens of vampires. He'd never killed a man before. And despite the fact the man was a murderer, a kidnapper and a torturer, he was still human. It might be wise if he never read the letter. His guilt was bad enough without knowing that the man had shown remorse. Bernard sighed. No, Robin would want to know the truth. With another sigh he got up, his joints creaking, and joined Robin at the sink to wash.      

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Quentin Travers looked around the big, heavy oak table. At his right and left hand sat Iphigenia Granger and Neville St. Claire-de Combercy. He looked down the table at the faces of his rescuers.

“Very well. The reason for what happened was the assault on the house of Mr and Mrs Howard. The attack resulted in the death of Mrs. Howard and the kidnapping of their foster daughter. The last fact was hidden by magic and Mr. Howard believed her to be dead. He also believed that she had been raped and abused. He may have thought that the Council had decided to punish her for not immediately obeying their injunction to join them. We may never know.”

Travers let out a weary sigh. “Once I deduced what the problem was, I brought it to the attention of the Augustus, the head of the Thirteen. He, however, did not consider the death of a few Field Watchers a problem. He dropped information for Mr. Howard to find, to guide him to the Watchers he wanted dead.”

At the other end of the table Darius snorted. “Was he insane or deluded?”

“Possibly both. At any rate, after Frank Howard's attack on the Academy I contacted a man I'd met some time before, a mister Severus Snape, and inquired if he might be able to help locate Howard. He told me he could not do so without some personal effects which we did not have. But he promised to contact certain acquaintances of his to inquire into ways of helping defeat this man,” Travers inclined his head at Darius and Marcus.

“Which led to the revelation that Frank Howard was a highly skilled Immortal general and warrior. It would be nigh impossible to find or catch him without considerable risk or bloodshed. If he was driven underground, thwarted, it was likely that he would expand his vengeance to Potentials and other innocent bystanders.”

Travers looked around the table, his face sagging with fatigue and his eyes full of grief. “Based on that information I promulgated a plan. I contacted Mr. Howard and explained the situation, tried to convince him that the majority of Watchers was not like the men who had attacked his wife and daughter. And I offered him the ones who had, so that his vengeance might be directed at those deserving of it.”

Travers looked at his hands, folded in front of him on the table. “I made that choice, I enabled Howard to find some of the most secret holdings of the Council and provided information to breach their defences.”

He smiled grimly at the young people by his side. “I intended to die with them. However, I was informed that I would not be able to do so. I was removed from my position and incarcerated-”  

“And tortured and beaten.” Neville interrupted.

“Not as badly as some. They wanted me healthy and most certainly didn't want it to be generally known I was dead.” Travers soothed the young man.

“What I can't understand is why they thought that what they did to Miss Lehane would work. Their plans were hardly of the calibre that might be expected of a group such as the Watchers,” Marcus asked, thoughtfully looking at Travers.

Travers shrugged. “The short answer is nepotism combined with an inability to face reality. They were unable to believe that they were not right. They conceived of the Slayer as a weapon, and forgot that she is always a person as well.”

“Why did they want you alive?”

The great doors to the room blew open, showing the outlines of two persons. They entered the room, with swift, silent steps.

“Because Mr. Travers has made a number of enemies who would be delighted to get their hands on him. Good evening, forgive my sudden entrance,” the figure in black robes who swept into the room in a billow of cloth and the smell of aniseed and Dittany. “Including some of his former friends and relations.”

The other person, a beautiful dark haired and dark eyed woman, moved immediately to Darius and kissed him. “I missed you, my darling.”

Darius smiled up. “I missed you too, beloved Nefertiri,” he rose and drew out a chair for the woman, but instead of that she pouted until he sat down with a sigh and she nestled on his lap.

The dark robed man took the chair instead, a gesture of his hands moving it back.

“Wow. Errr, Who are you?” Neville asked rather nervously. “Errr, Sir?”

“Severus Snape, you can call me Dr. Snape,” that worthy replied with a sneer. “And you?”

“Neville St. Claire-de Combercy, sir,” Neville replied with some dignity.

“Neville? Indeed.” Snape glared at the young man, making him swallow and pale. “Well, Travers, do you require my aid to finish off here? Or can I go back to work?”

“If you would make a sweep of the castle, to check for Dark magic and such, I would be much obliged,” Travers replied.

Snape nodded. “I'll go do that now,” he rose again, exiting the room without greeting anybody.

“What a lovely man,” Iphigenia remarked after the doors had closed behind Snape.

“He's a good man, Miss Granger, of great physical and moral courage. Do not let his less than pleasant manner deceive you,” Darius reproved her mildly.

Iphigenia blushed. “Sorry, sir.”

Neville had been looking at the table, frowning. “Sir? How did the Council sink so low? The Charter-”

“Ah. I was wondering if you would spot that,” Travers sighed, rubbing his face. “Several centuries ago there was a civil war among the magic users and they split in two main groups, Channelers and Focus Users. Both groups sought to hide their powers from the general populace. The initial reason for that was that they did not want to be used as weapons, or slaves.”

Darius winced. “Good and cogent reasons.”

Travers looked at him with some surprise and then continued. “The war was fought about dominance, the focus users can use their magic more easily, and do so more frequently. They used this power to exert power over Channelers and normal people alike. They coined the word 'Muggle' to denote a non magical person. The focus users consider themselves superior to normals and Channelers both. And to other magical beings. Before the two groups split, the Great Sundering, they call it; they'd created wards and spells to keep normal people from noticing the use of magic.”

Travers looked around the table, noticing the rapt attention even from the Immortals. “The Focus users can access their magic more easily. The use of the focus allows them to perform magic only the strongest Channeler can with facility, including spells that curse and destroy men, animals and property. The Focus users were victorious and most of the Channelers fled magical society, feeling discriminated and oppressed. The Channelers tended to be the more open-minded members and after their civil war, the Focus Users quickly lost touch with the developments in normal society, and even those in Channeling circles. They just weren’t at the same level, according to the focus users, as them. They lacked the amenities and the cultural accomplishments of the focus users.”

“Bigots,” Iphigenia concluded.

“Very much so, I fear,” Travers agreed. “They drove, and still drive, out of their society those of their children who could not use magic with the wands they use as focus and withdrew unto themselves. They only allow children whose magic naturally breaks through to get a magical education and do their utmost to keep children from normal households in their world, trying to impress them with their values and the worth of their accomplishments.”

Travers looked down at his hands, lying folded together on the table. “One of the things they accomplished was to classify magical beings. These had been forced to join the magic users behind their wards and spells, as they might betray the existence of magic. A centaur eventually becomes a hard thing to explain.”

Neville chuckled and Travers smiled, grimly. “But the magical beings of course were not given equal status to the focus users. They started calling themselves Wizards by this time by the way, and the females Witches.”

“Inequality between the sexes as well?” Iphigenia noted.

“Not as bad as it used to be, but certainly it still exists,” Travers confirmed. “One of the 'creatures' they classified was the Slayer. They classified her as dangerous, inferior to wizards, to be tamed and to be used to safeguard Wizardly society.”

Nefertiri gasped. “They would do such a thing to the Chosen?”

“Oh, yes. They also took note of the Watchers' Council. It was rich, influential and needed to be controlled to control the Slayer, who needed to be controlled to protect their world and way of life. So it was a win-win situation. So they used it as a source of income and sinecures for their non-magical offspring, so that the poor children would be able to live at least partly in the way they were accustomed to,” Travers sneered.

“When did all that start?” Darius asked, his face thoughtful.

Travers smiled sadly. “The first infiltration started in the 1750's. The damage to the Watcher's organization became really noticeable about 1900. The Council grew as an institution with the rise of the British Empire. And as the Empire fell, so did the power of the Council fade. At least partially. And as the world shook off the yoke of British and European rule, the posts for the Pure-blooded Squibs began to take up more and more of the total functions within the Council.”

“And they saw the Council as a livelihood and not a Calling, and the Slayer as weapon, a tool, and not a Chosen hero to be supported,” Darius concluded.

“Yes,” Travers sighed. “The Council was never angelic or pure good. Too many of the things the Watchers had to do were not pure, or white. But the Wand wizarding world... they really managed to destroy whatever had been built.”

“So it's all the fault of these wanding wizards?” Fitzcairn asked unbelievingly.

“Oh, heavens, no,” Travers stated, his face stern and sad. “There are more than enough corrupt and murderous bastards in the Council's history that had nothing to do with the Wand Wizards. Before the British Empire governments had their own Councils and a Slayer called within a nation's border was seen as an asset to the government. Slayers were assassinated by rival governments if a strong potential existed in their country. It just grew easier with Wand Wizards in charge of the Council. They could Apparate, that's teleport, and use other magical means of travel. When a Slayer needed to be called in a certain place, they could make sure that the old one died leaving the way clear for the new one to appear where 'needed'.”   

Iphigenia shivered. “Wonderful. And these are the people we're facing?”

“Oh, the Council is mostly clear of their influence now, I think. Mr. Howard was most thorough,” Travers answered. “Not to mention that there is a faction in the Wizarding world which wants to let the Council get on with its work. Then again, I've heard of the resurgence of the group that wants to annihilate the Council and take control of its wealth and the Slayer directly.”

“So there are Wand users who want to help us?” Neville asked, looking relieved.

“Oh, yes,” Darius grinned. “Severus for one.”

“He's a wanding wizard?” Neville's eyes bulged.   

“A very accomplished one. And not amused by the abuse of the Slayer,” Darius assured him.

“A worthy and trustworthy ally,” Travers added.

“If you say so, sir.” Neville rather grudgingly allowed.

The door flew open again and Snape strode in, cloak and robes billowing as she studied those present, his eyes fastening on Iphigenia. “You, girl, are you a virgin?”

Iphigenia blushed so brightly she almost lit up the room. “I beg your pardon? Honestly, what kind of thing is that to ask of a lady?”

“An important one. Are you the only woman beside Miss Deveraux and Lady Nefertiri in the building?” Severus continued impatiently.

“I-I don’t know?” Iphigenia stammered out. “I think so?”

“Right. Sit still,” Snape ordered, drew his wand and started making complicated motions with his wand while muttering strange phrases under his breath.

“Would you mind telling me what this about?” Iphigenia demanded flushing again as the wand tip hovered over her abdomen.

“They had a number of interesting rituals planned with you at the centre of them. One of them requires a certain amount of preparation,” Snape answered.

“What ritual are you talking about, Dr. Snape?” Travers asked, his eyes on Iphigenia’s anxious face.

“It wouldn’t have worked, but the preparations involve poisoning the sacrifice,” Snape answered absently, his wand trailing slight green sparks. “Odd, that shouldn’t happen…”

“What shouldn’t happen? I swear, it you are hurting her…” Neville half rose and only Travers’ hand on his arms stopped him from lunging at Snape.

Snape threw him a glance. “Yes, it must be the name that imparts such utter brain-rot.”

“Severus, please explain yourself,” Darius asked gently.

“I was so certain… but the light should be orange… What is your name, girl?” Snape inquired harshly.

“G-Granger. Iphigenia Granger.” Iphigenia answered, with quite dignity.

“Granger? Wonderful,” the wizard sourly remarked. “I should have known. I thought… well to be honest I thought they were performing something called the Theft of Death. It’s a very nasty and dark ritual and I know of no cases in the past seven hundred years of it succeeding, so there probably is something wrong with the instructions, but the poison should show up in red sparks, not green.”

“Theft of Death? I thought they were performing the Transferio Vitae?” Amanda asked quietly.

Snape gave her a long, considering look. “No, that only works on Lightning Warriors, as I fear you know very well. No, the Theft of Death is more intricate, longer, and, well, doesn’t work.”

“What is it supposed to do?” Neville asked as Snape made the move with the wand again, frowning as he got the same result.

“It allows you to summon death, by stealing the final moment of the sacrifice’s life. But it doesn’t work. It never has. Why isn’t this orange?” Snape asked himself in vexation.

“Miss Granger, would you describe to Professor Snape your family’s arms and motto?” Travers asked, his face worried.

Iphigenia sighed. “I really do wish you’d explain more about what’s so important about them, sir. Well, it's a black field with two crossed swords on blue and a silver skull on black, and the motto is-”

“Memento Mors… Merlin’s hairy balls, that’s why they’re green!” Snape interrupted her. He dragged a vial from a pocket, uncorked it, placed the mouth on Iphigenia’s arm and muttered a word. The vial filled with blood and Snape corked it quickly, muttering another word that stopped the flow of blood. “I’m going to my lab, I’ll be back as soon as possible. Do not exert yourself, Miss Granger, and avoid direct sunlight, moonlight and don’t drink any alcoholic beverages,” his robes blew around him as the door opened at a wave of his wand and then there was a loud crack and he was gone.

“Sir? What was that about?” Iphigenia asked in a tiny voice.

“Miss Granger… If you really are a member of the Vicari family… It might just be possible that Death might be summoned by a ritual such as that. And the reason it never worked before, is that no one ever dared sacrifice a Vicari before.” Travers answered his voice calm and even to keep Iphigenia calm as well. 

“Summon Death? They would kill a Vicari and summon Death. And what exactly would they think would happen next?” Nefertiri scoffed. “Morons! He would deal with them slowly.”

“Don’t you mean swiftly?” Neville asked.

“No, slowly. He would not be amused about one of his Vicars being tortured to death. Those who would perform such a ritual would know his wrath,” Nefertiri answered pleasantly. 

Neville swallowed. “Ah. I see. Errr, does Dr. Snape know what he’s doing?”

“I doubt there’s a poison in the world that Severus cannot craft an antidote for, given sufficient time,” Travers assured him. “And he will do his utmost. Always. Neither his pride, nor his conscience will let him do any less.”

Neville rose. He walked to stand beside Iphigenia and took her hand. The girl had been staring straight ahead but now looked at where Neville’s hand clasped hers. “Nev?” She whispered.

“I’m here, Genie. I’ll always be here,” Neville assured her.

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Severus Snape sighed. “Well… that’s easier than I thought. All I need is the blood of Death. Wonderful.”

Albus Dumbledore sat by the potion master in the latter’s private lab, has hands folded and his face pensive. “Death’s blood? What? Oh. I’m sorry Severus, I wasn’t listening.”

“That’s alright Headmaster, I wasn’t talking to you anyway,” Severus answered, snidely. “Why are you even here?”

“Now, now Severus. I’ve been teaching such classes as you could not, due to your entirely legitimate absence, you drop in a casual remark the fact we have a Scion of House Vicari in the School and you do not expect me to come and sit with the one person I can talk to it about?” Dumbledore chided gently.

“What? Why can’t you tell Minerva? Tell the world? I mean, it would make a difference to know that a Vicari was back, and opposing Pureblood doctrine… oh. I see. The danger to her would be too great, you think,” Severus sneered. “After all, she is Gryffindor.”

Albus sighed. “Severus, she would be hounded by the press, every Pureblood family would try to entice her in a Marriage contract, with or without her consent and Death Eaters would try and kill her-”

“The first and the last already occur on a fairly frequent basis. The second might actually help her confidence about her looks,” Severus replied icily. “If she were in Slytherin you would be announcing this to the world and offering her your protection, because no one else could help her.”

Dumbledore’s lips thinned. “Severus, you go too far.”

“Do I? Your bias to Gryffindor is as strong as ever, Headmaster. Until the day I see that change, I will continue to remind you of your ‘little mistakes,” Severus sneered.

“They weren’t little Severus,” Dumbledore told him in an exasperated tone of voice. “And I would not expose any child willingly to such a thing. Not anymore. Miss Granger’s lineage can remain a secret, must remain a secret.”

Severus gave him a look. “Very well. I will give you the benefit of the doubt.”

Albus chuckled, if sadly. “Thank you, Severus. Well, it does explain a great many things about Miss Granger. Her power for one, I always wondered, most first generation Normal-borns are not quite so powerful, though half-bloods tend to be more powerful.”

“Well, I’d be happier if I had a single drop of Death’s blood…” Severus eyes widened. “I need to speak to Poppy, and I’ll need you as well, Albus, to give permission. Come with me,” the Potion Master left the room quickly and Dumbledore followed. Dumbledore smiled. He’d had exactly the same expression Severus had now when he had figured out the twelfth use for Dragon Blood.

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Darius smiled as Iphigenia drank the potion with a grimace. Severus moved his wand and the sparkling lights glowed white. The black clad wizard nodded, once. “That deals with that. If you’ll excuse me, I have Dunderheads to teach,” and went out, robes billowing dramatically and doors opening at the glare of his eyes.

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November 3rd 1995, Loyola University, New Orleans

Faith yawned and smiled as she heard the old priest in the room next door start to sing a hymn. She wasn’t very fond of priests, usually, but Father Mulcahey was an exception. He was funny, in a gentle way, kind-hearted almost to a fault and wise. People from all over the country called him. People from his old unit called all the time.

Just now a friend of his called Charles had called, ecstatically, to report that his son had finally found love. The look of sheer, unbounded joy on the old priest’s face had been a wonder to see. And now he was by the little travel altar in his bedroom and singing and praying and thanking God for granting a man so worthy the reward he deserved, even if the man’s faith in Him was nonexistent.

Faith yawned again, almost asleep. She heard the door open, the soft footsteps, felt the soft lips press her forehead and the blankets tucked around her. She smiled a little, and then fell asleep, knowing that she was safe and loved.

End Note:

I do not own: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter, Highlander or M*A*S*H. I did create Iphigenia and Neville.

 

 

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