Many thanks to my beta on this Cordyfan. All mistakes are still mine. Once again I cannot upload normally and using tags throws everything into disarray, so no cursive or bold.
The last chapter of this story. I am currently not planning to write the trials. If you absolutely want to see them, put it in a review and if I get enough requests, I’ll consider it.
Thanks to Dreamweaver for recommending this story.
Chapter 14 Storm’s end
Neville groaned. He hurt everywhere. But he couldn’t groan in peace. Fully three quarters of all the wizards and witches involved in the attack on Pur Sang, and all of the wizarding defenders, had been incapacitated and taken to St Basil’s after the final push to destroy the darkness that had been purged from the wards.
*And the Dementors. There were hundreds of Dementors in there…* Neville shivered under the warm blankets as he realised the enormous power that Willow possessed, first to purge the wards, then to seize them and finally to destroy the
Darkness that permeated the entire castle. Even with the help of all the wizards casting Patronuses, he knew that she was indeed more powerful than Dumbledore, Riddle and Harry together.
Beside him there was another groan and Neville looked over. Ron was on the bed next to him, looking rather pale and wan.
“Somebody get the name of the giant that hit me?”
“You do know that violence is a mating behaviour among Giants, don't you Ron?” Neville heard George say.
“Always knew he fancied the strong, physical type,” Bill stated over Ron's horrified coughing.
Neville grinned slightly. He saw the older Weasley brothers lying in beds opposite and Harry was still sleeping in the bed next to him.
The door opened and he shifted slightly to see who was entering. He smiled when he realised that his visitor was small, blonde and green eyed. She was also pale and worried, which few people would have realised from her demeanour.
“Buffy,” he whispered. Buffy was at his side so fast he was almost sure she'd flown, and holding his hand, lightly yet firmly. He felt the thin band of her engagement ring around her finger.
Then she was on the bed and he put his arms around her and he just lay there, savouring her warmth and strength and her love.
“Whoa, B. Want a moment alone with your boy, cougar?” Faith's teasing voice came from the doorway. She swayed into the room and leaned over to lightly kiss Ron on the lips, giving him a good, long look at her cleavage as she did so. “Heya, Big Red,” she purred.
George sniggered. “Don't know whether I should be jealous or relieved.”
Percy came in, hand in hand with Dawn. “Ah, here you are.”
“Perce,” George waved. “Did the earth move at sunrise?” he winked outrageously as Dawn blushed and rolled her eyes while
Percy made a strangling noise at the back of his throat.
“Don't mind him, Perce. Have you seen dad or Ginny?” Bill asked anxiously.
“Ginny is fine, a bit shaken but she'll be allowed out in a day or two. Dad is recovering nicely. He already consulted with Minister Shacklebolt,” Percy replied urbanely. “Faith, I think there are rules against that sort of thing in hospitals.”
Faith had straddled Ron and was now kissing him not at all lightly. “B's doing it,” she defended herself.
Percy looked from where Neville and Buffy were lying, Buffy's head on his chest, his large, calloused hand gently stroking her hair, to Faith, her chest almost in Ron's face, hair mussed from their passionate kisses, her t-shirt awry.
“I think Buffy isn't quite as exhibitionistic as you are, Faith,” Dawn smirked.
Faith smiled. “Yeah. Looks like I've got to teach her all over again.”
Xander stepped into the room, his tread almost soundless on the spell-enhanced linoleum. There were five beds in the room and all were occupied by girls or young women.
One had long, dirty blonde hair that was spread like a fan over the white pillow. Her face was pale. He carefully stepped up to the bed and Luna opened her eyes.
“I thought this was a vision of me after childbirth,” her eyes were full of tears. “I should have known better.”
Xander fell to his knees. “You were pregnant?” he managed in a strangled voice.
Luna shook her head, “No, I was just hoping.”
Xander let out a breath. “Oh. That's alright then. Willow would tease me if I got you pregnant before we got married.”
“Married?” Luna frowned. “Are you asking me to marry you?”
Xander nodded. “Yup. I was going to wait until you were out of here and there was a nice forest glade with flowers or something, but then I thought, nah, that's cliché. Of course, asking the girl in hospital because you fear to lose a single second with her is also rather cliché, but I never claimed to be wholly original.”
“Willow said I should accept no substitutes,” Luna smiled at him. “Do you have a ring? It's blue isn't it?”
Xander smiled and dug into his pocket, unearthing a rather battered looking box. “Yeah. And no.”
Luna blinked. “It isn't blue?”
Xander shook his head. “Nope, silver and emerald,” he smirked at her. “I take it this does not correspond with your visions?”
Luna shook her head happily. “It doesn’t.”
“So. Yes?” Xander asked hopefully.
Luna held out a slim fingered hand. “I must admit I was expecting this in about a year’s time.”
Xander smirked at her as he slipped the ring on her finger. “I’ll try and keep surprising you.”
He leaned in and kissed her. “If you don’t mind.”
Luna smiled as she kissed back. “Not at all.”
In the bed opposite, Ginny Weasley smirked.
Arthur blinked awake when he heard a familiar voice. “They say it will take a while for him to wake up. He had an immense amount of curses cast upon him over his lifetime,” there was awe in the voice.
*Charlie,* Arthur realised. He let out a croaking noise that ought to have been 'Charlie', too.
“Dad?” A relieved Charlie was suddenly by his bed. “You're awake. How're you feeling?”
Arthur smiled slightly. “Ruddy awful. What happened?”
“Lady Willow broke the hold of al the curse scars and dark spells on everybody,” Charlie said in an awed voice.
Arthur blinked at his son very slowly, three times.
“You're here because of Nagini's bite,” Charlie told him. “Like we thought it did have parts of a curse with it.”
“Others?” Arthur croaked.
“Almost everybody was affected. But the Healers say that they'll be able to cure everybody, completely. No scarring. No residual effects. Bill was bleeding from his face and now he hasn't got a scar left!” Charlie was nearly euphoric.
Arthur smiled. Then he blinked, again. There was a girl standing by the bed opposite. She was dressed as a muggle and in what might best be described as 'a provocative manner.'
She was looking at the bed's occupant, a very pale man with a very large nose and black hair. She reached out and took his hand.
Arthur looked at Charlie, who grinned. “That's Faith. Not surprised you don't recognize her without a weapon in her hand.”
Arthur gave his son a look. “Ron?”
“She went to him first. They were quite pleased to see each other,” Charlie grinned. “Fred was quite vocal about it.”
Then he leaned forward. “You do realise Mum is gonna lock Shacklebolt out of the wards, don't you? What were you
thinking helping him with that memo?”
Willow was scowling at the medical files, flipping through them, occasionally asking Madam Pomfrey or Hannah for an explanation.
“I don't understand. Why didn't the spell lift the curse remnants on us? All of us have been touched by dark magic oodles of times.”
Buffy smiled at Xander who was sipping a cup of lukewarm tea. “It probably did. Just hit us differently. I know I had a load of extra aches after that. A few cuts. A headache. So I'd say that I only escaped this place due to Slayer healing. Faith was asleep when it hit, but she had blood on her pillow when she woke up.”
“What about me and Xander?” Willow waved a hand. “I'm like, bathed in darkness!”
“Probably why nothing happened, Will. As for me?” Xander lifted his eye patch. Buffy and Willow gasped.
“It's weak as hell though, and it gives me a splitting headache,” Xander reported as he put the eye patch back on his newly grown eye.
“We'll look at it later. What did you mean?” she asked anxiously. “Why nothing happened?”
Xander sighed. “Will...”
“What he means is that is who and what you are,” Hannah interrupted.”
“Who I am?” Willow shrunk in on herself.
Hannah reached out and put an arm around her girlfriend. “Yes. But that isn't a bad thing. You could not be the witch you are with out that Darkness in you. You are equally powerful with what might be called Light and Dark magic. Without that balance of the two in you, you wouldn't be The White Witch. You quite probably wouldn't be Willow,” she soothed.
“Oh,” Willow bit her lip. “I am so sorry about Duplessis.”
“He's recovering too,” Hannah hugged her again. “And you didn’t do anything to him. You just didn't prevent him from
doing something stupid. I was just... shocked.”
Willow gave he a crooked smile. “I love you.”
“And I you,” Hannah smiled back, grabbed Willow's head and kissed her.
“Well, this seems to be becoming a habit of mine,” Minerva stated from the doorway.
Arthur Weasley sighed.
“Arthur?” a deep, smooth baritone spoke from the other side of the room.
Arthur stiffened. “Yes, Severus?”
“If you exhale in over-exaggerated faux-Celtic Weltschmerz one more time I will personally make sure you do not get a visit from your granddaughter for the next week,” Snape growled. “Now be silent and let me sleep. I’ve got decades of Dark spells to heal from.”
Arthur smiled slightly. “Of course, Severus.”
“And do try not to sound so disgustingly cheerful,” the former spy and potions master grouched.
“Of course Severus,” Arthur answered mildly.
“Good,” Snape grunted. “Peace at last.”
The door opened and Faith walked in, her eyes flicking immediately to the dark haired man in the further bed.
“I do not need my bedpan changed. I have not bled through my bandages. I am recovering nicely and if you come near me with that thermometer again I will find a way to make you suffer,” Snape said in his silkiest, most threatening tones, never opening his eyes.
“Good to see you too, Snape,” Faith told him cheerily. “And you're just the sort of patient I thought you would be.”
Andromeda Tonks was almost running when she arrived at the doors of St. Basil's hospital. Her usually neat hair was in disarray and her face was flushed and anxious.
The Welcome Witch smiled at her. “Can I help you? Is it an emergency?”
“My name is Andromeda Tonks. I was told my husband was here?” Andromeda asked in a trembling voice.
The Welcome Witch consulted a list. “Oh! Oh yes.,” she pushed a button and a bell chimed softly. A young, rather harassed looking junior apprentice healer appeared minutes later.
“Yes?” she asked rather tersely.
“This is Mrs Tonks. She's here to see her husband,” The Welcome Witch replied sternly.
The young woman flushed and nodded at Andromeda. “Oh, of course. This way, please Lady Andromeda. Your husband is in the Serious Spell Damage and Dark Curses Ward.”
Andromeda winced. “Wh-what's the prognosis?”
The girl smiled. “Excellent, actually.”
Andromeda gave the young healer an incredulous look. “Excellent? How is that possible?”
The girl shrugged. “I’ve got no idea. But you’d think that after all the curses and stuff there would be residual Dark energy blocking the healing. There’s none. So though it will take a while for him to recover, and he will be magically rather weak while he does so, he should recover fully.”
“You seem quite knowledgeable about the matter,” Andromeda asked hesitantly.
The girl smiled again. “I know, I look too young to know anything, right? But the Senior Healers have been talking about little but these cases, so we all know what’s going on. And it’s a nice message to be able to give to families, many of whom thought that their relatives were dead. So we’re all rather enjoying telling people.”
Andromeda smiled back. “That I can imagine.”
The young healer stopped in front of a door. “There are privacy charms up around the beds, but they won’t stop loud noises. And if he’s asleep, please don’t wake him,” she opened the door and Andromeda went inside, to look upon the face of the husband she thought she’d lost.
Alastor Moody had lived by his senses, survived by them. Even in his captivity, wandless and overworked in the mines below Pur Sang, he had been able to tell that guards were coming, had been able to prepare for the day he knew would come when the slaves could rise up and destroy their captors.
He had never believed that Voldemort had been victorious, like the Death Eaters had wanted them to believe. Too many things hadn't added up. There were to few prisoners of them, not all of them were dangerous, not all of them able-bodied. Too few new ones had come in, and none of the sort he might be expected. And all heavily obliviated..
The Death Eaters had been too few and too incompetent. too worried and frightened. And not enough of his old enemies had come by and tortured him.
So when the sounds of fighting had sounded, Alastor had taken up the pick that the Death Eaters didn't see as a threat and had neatly brained the insecure looking guard who stood watch over him with it.
The slaves of Pur Sang had risen. With wands taken from Death Eaters and arms and legs strengthened by heaving picks, hammers and crowbars, they had assaulted the guards and had been able to prevent them from acting on their orders and killing all the prisoners.
He'd been cut off from the main body of his forces, but he had led the small group with him into a thick-walled room and held off the Death Eaters, all the while hoping that he was tying up enough of them to give Ted the chance to connect with who ever was attacking the mine and the castle.
He had been rather surprised to see the mixed force of Aurors, Shrivers, Thestries and young women and girls. Pleasantly surprised after he saw the way in which the young women dealt with the Death Eaters.
He and his fellows been taken up by a few of the attackers and then quickly and thoroughly debriefed about what he knew about the fight, the disposition of the enemy forces and other prisoners.
Then they'd been put into the triage area and had been thoroughly checked while messages were carried to St. Basil's to prepare for an influx of wounded among whom Death Eaters might be hidden.
Occasionally they would be approached and asked if a certain person was a guard or a prisoner. They had not been allowed to drink anything except water provided by the Healers that had been checked by at least two of the attacking forces.
Moody approved. Sensible precautions taken to prevent Polyjuiced Death Eaters escaping custody.
The huge flash of light that had poured over all of them had been a surprise and though he had tried to stay conscious, he had failed. And that brought him here.
He was awake and could smell the scent of a hospital. And something else. A scent of briar and heather and lavender, with just a hint of catnip.
“I know you're awake, Alastor,” a familiar voice spoke. “No need to try and hide. You're quite safe.”
Alastor opened his eye. And blinked. He smiled slightly. “Hello Minerva. It's good to see you.”
“It's good to see you too, Alastor. A great surprise, but very good.”
“I seem to have more fingers than I remember having this morning,” Moody asked as he flexed them.
“Six days,” Minerva told him dryly. “You also have more leg than you did before. And a touch more nose.”
Alastor brought the hand up and felt his nose while he wiggled his toes. “How?” he asked suspiciously.
“The short answer is magic. The long answer is combining flesh growth potions and Skele-gro and bits of you and then using customized attachment spells,” Minerva told him with a smile. “I told them you'd want to keep the eye, though.”
Alastor frowned. “If my nose could have been re-grown it would have been. It’s a curse scar.”
Minerva smiled and got out a stack of shrunk and folded sheets of parchment. “You're not the first to ask that. The explanation is written down on here. I don't pretend to understand it, even Poppy isn't sure she does. You can read it later. Now, I think you probably have a lot of other questions.”
Alastor considered what he should do. Then he decided that if they'd wanted information there were far easier methods to get it than by an elaborate hoax. He would remain vigilant. And ask his questions.
Pur Sang, that night
Faith stood by the bed and looked at the empty shell that was all that was left of the man who had claimed to be her father.
The door opened. “Faith?”
“Yeah, Little Red?”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Don't call me that.”
“Ron's bigger,” Faith smirked.
“No doubt,” the witch replied dryly. “I need to talk to you. About Ethan.”
“I know. He won't wake up. It isn't a coma. It would be more humane to let him die. Snape told me about Dementors,” Faith said in a brittle, tired voice. “I was just thinking of a dignified way to do it.”
“Actually, that was why I'm here. And not,” Willow reached into her pocket and got out a glowing orb.
“What's that?” Faith asked suspiciously.
“An orb of Thesulah and it glows because it holds souls.” Willow told her succinctly. “Several of them. From Dementors.
Apparently it takes a while to digest them. At any rate, this one amongst others, holds Ethan's.”
Faith leaned against the bedpost, all strength suddenly gone from her legs. “A-are you saying what I think you're sayin'?”
“I know a ritual to re-soul a person. And I don't even have to draw these from wherever it is that souls stay,” Willow smiled. “I need a few more days to divine who all the souls are and if there are relatives who ought to be warned and stuff. And to get a bit more of my strength back. But then...”
“Fuck Red,” Faith whispered. “You'd really do that for him? Me us?”
Willow gave her a long, level look. “I owe you, for something. You may owe me more. I may or may not kick your father a few times when he does wake up. But I want to give you two at least the chance to have some sort of father-daughter relationship. But if he messes up?”
Faith nodded. “I understand.”
“Good,” Willow sighed. “I'm sorry I can't do it right away, but I really don't think I should be soul related magic quite so soon after those wards.”
Faith reached out and touched Willow's shoulder gently. “Don't get yourself killed, Red. Your little tongue hockey partner would be very sad.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Stop calling her that.”
Neville rather shakily rose with one arm around Buffy. With any other girl her size, he would have been hesitant to put his weight on her. With Buffy, he took all the support he needed. “I feel as weak as a baby.”
“Madam Pomfrey says it's all those Cruciatus curses working their way out of your system,” she glared at him angrily. “And once all this is over I'm gonna have a very long, hard word with those Carrows. And Snape.”
Neville smiled. “Snape already had a word with the Carrows.”
Buffy huffed and led him over to the small table in the corner. “A pity you weren't a member of the Council back then. I could've gone medieval on their asses.”
Neville chuckled. “I wish I could've seen you facing down Kingsley and that Weymartin bloke. Does he still think he's a hamster?”
“Yup,” Buffy smirked. “We handed him over though. At least this way we don't have to clean his cage. And since he did it to himself, while threatening me, it might be in his family's and the Canadian Ministry's best interest to keep him that way.”
Neville winced. “Nasty. I'm serious though. I do wish I could have seen that.”
Buffy smiled. “More embarrassing material on Little Minister Shacky?”
Neville shook his head. “I love it when you show your intelligence.”
“You love me for my mind?” Buffy asked sultrily, pushing her shoulders back and her chest forward.
“Well, not just your mind. But now I come to think of it... You would look great in Ravenclaw robes. With glasses,” Neville smirked.
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Dunderhead.”
Royal Canadian Thestral Mounted Police Headquarters, Cellblock D
Rupert Giles was in his cell, sitting on his bunk with his head in his hands. He’d spent several days in St. Basil’s and he was lucky he had enough magic for the cures they used to have effect.
But they hadn’t saved him from the goodness of their hearts. Despite the fact that he’d apparently been heavily Imperiused, both the Council and the Wizarding World wanted to do the correct thing and give him a trial. If he was found guilty, he would no doubt be executed.
The truth needed to be known. None of the Scooby Gang had been by to see him. Giles could understand that. He wasn’t even sure anymore who he was. Where Giles began and the men and woman who had controlled him ended. Maybe, at his trial, he would find out.
Slayer HQ North America, former Castle Pur Sang, six days after the battle
“So we’re gonna move them to the cells below the Headquarters in London. And make sure that they all know that we still have all the rooms they used available,” Xander outlined the plan.
“And then we put them on trial. And everybody who laid a hand on a Slayer, we end,” Buffy stated firmly. “Be they wizard or Council. Unless it can be proved that they were under the Imperius. Which Willow can do.”
“End?” Shacklebolt asked carefully from where he sat opposite the Scoobies.
“Execute. Put to death. End,” Buffy told him. “No more leniency because of bloodlines. Such things will not be tolerated. The last time you neglected to send a lot of people to prison who murdered and raped and tortured and burned. Because they were members of old, pureblood lineages and often rich.”
She leaned forward in the high backed chair that was hers, eying the Minister. “That will not happen again. Their wealth will be confiscated. If they have children, they will be taken away and placed with foster parents who do not believe in the Pureblood ideology. They will not be put with family who are just the same as murderers except for lacking the backbone to actually kill. Or who were lucky enough to duck your so-called justice.”
Neville smiled at Shacklebolt coldly as the man squirmed under Buffy’s gaze. “I warned, you. I told you again and again that there was a conspiracy, that things weren’t over. That it wasn’t just a few frightened rogues. But you believed your old Auror friends. Did you know that Kidderminster lives remarkably well for a man of no wealth and limited income? Did you ever think to check where his money came from?”
“Kidderminster? I won’t believe that!” Kingsley protested.
“He was instrumental in the Death Eaters being able to run their ‘potions ingredients’ smuggling,’” Willow spoke for the first
time. “He turned a blind eye in exchange for money. We’re quite sure that he did the same in exchange for allowing Death Eaters to flee Britain, or perpetrate crimes.”
“You can’t be serious! I’ve know the man for years!” Kingsley pleaded.
“Which doesn’t really paint you in a good light now, does it?” Xander said in a mocking tone. “We weren’t impressed with our own government, but you people? I’m beginning to think that you don’t have anyone who isn’t on the take.”
“He's been an Auror for years,” Kingsley tried again.
“And we'll have him thoroughly investigated and if he was involved in this, he will receive punishment in keeping with his crimes,” Buffy stated with finality. “If he condoned 'illegal ingredients trading',” she spat the words, “I doubt he will get off with a fine and a slap on the wrist.”
Shacklebolt opened his mouth to protest. Neville leaned forward. “Save it for the trial, Kingsley,” he told the man not unkindly. “You may be the only character witness that will want to speak for him.”
“He's your commander-” Kingsley angrily began.
“Former commander. I resigned, remember? Who preferred Baxtrad over me, tried to destroy my career, and actually succeeded. Oh, and who told me to my face I only got the job because I had friends in high places,” Neville retorted. “Which may or may not be used in the investigation. You never did get them to clear my record, did you?”
Buffy snorted contemptuously. “Of course not. That might offend one of Kidderminster's patrons, or lead to an investigation, or god forbid, lose him some Death Eater votes in the Wizengamot.”
Buffy leaned back and closed her eyes. “You know what? I've had enough of your lying platitudes. You can leave anytime.”
“But we aren’t done yet!” Kingsley sputtered.
“Yes, we are. Leave. Oh, and tell your ridiculous minions that if they continue to try and get through our wards, or make another move against a Slayer, be it attempted bribery or an attack, we will use lethal force. Against the entire organisation.”
“What are you talking about?” Kingsley stammered.
“The one we caught identified himself as an 'Unspeakable'. Before his brain melted out of his ears,” Buffy smiled grimly.
Shacklebolt swallowed heavily. “Oh.”
“Oh, indeed,” Buffy drawled. “And why are you still here?”
The Minister rose, looked warily at the people he'd been attempting to negotiate with, nodded once, and left.
Xander sighed. “You were being rather antagonistic, Buffy. Any reason?”
“Other than the seven attempts to get in here, the attack on Chao Ahn, the offer of a kilogram of gold by a honey trap-handsome guy to Tess and the attempt on my life by that Unspeakable guy?” Not really,” Buffy replied sarcastically.
Xander rolled his eyes. “We need some allies if we want to deal with them. I mean, Shacklebolt is a politician, but somehow I don't think he's really crooked. More of a Real Politker.”
“Since when do you speak German?” Willow grinned.
“Since Luna bought a book on Bismarck at the Airport thinking it was about a species of double winged penguins,” Xander sighed. “Now she's gone all political theory girl.”
The Burrow, six days after the battle
When the Portkey from the international Portkey Station near London deposited them on the lawn outside the Burrow Buffy was instantly alert, ready to beat back the attack she’d been expecting ever since they had arrived back in England.
They’d gotten strange glances at the Portkey Station under Heathrow, but in spite of her fears, there had been no concerted attack by Aurors or sneak hits by Unspeakables or Hit Wizards.
That they were travelling with Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Neville Longbottom and various other heroes of the War against Voldemort might have had something to do with it, of course.
There was a sudden rush and suddenly Bill was holding Victoire and Fleur and Arthur was almost bowled over by Molly.
Teddy toddled at Harry and threw out his arms and the dark-haired wizard caught him and threw him into the air.
She smirked slightly when Joyce threw herself at Xander and completely bowled him over, taking Luna down with them. Or at least, Luna went down. Knowing her, she probably did it voluntarily, just for fun.
There was a whinny and suddenly a strange looking bat-winged creature with huge teeth and a bony face ran at Ginny. The redhead squealed. “JAMIE! Come to mummy sweetie!”
Harry looked dreadfully put upon as his fiancée hugged and petted and cooed over the thestral yearling.
There was a strangling noise from Kennedy. “Jamie’s a Thestral?”
Buffy gave the younger slayer a look. “You didn’t know?”
Kennedy shook her head. “The way she talked about him I was sure he was her kid!”
“Not unless she's been really kinky,” Buffy grinned.
Then there was a heavy fwumphing noise and Albert flung himself at Buffy, almost bowling her over in his enthusiasm, and slithered and slinked his way around her as if making absolutely sure she was unhurt.
Buffy laughed as the soft purple fur tickled and then louder as the ecstatic beast launched itself from her at Neville and gave him the same treatment.
“I guess we should count ourselves lucky he isn’t a dog. We’d be covered in dog slobber.”
Neville managed to capture the wriggling Albert in his arms and grinned at her.
Then Molly Weasley had finished hugging Arthur and turned to the others. But the first one she drew into a hug was Faith, who’d been standing aside watching the greetings from the sidelines.
“You must be Faith. I’m so happy to meet you. I’ve not seen Ron this excited about a girl, well, since he first realised they made funny noises if he pulled their hair.”
“MUM!” Ron called out in embarrassment.
George was leaning against a tree a laughing his head off. Molly threw him an indulgent look and then blinked. Then she looked at Bill. “Your ear? Your scars?” she whispered.
Ginny smirked and lifted Harry’s hair showing his scarless forehead. “Courtesy of the Witch of the West: all curse scars de-cursed. Courtesy of St. Basil’s Hospital, all reopened wounds fully healed. Without scars. Though George is still bitching about how much his ear itches.”
Molly was gaping as she still stood hugging Faith, who was standing as stiff as a board. The older woman stood back and eyed the Slayer. “Who did you lose?”
Faith blinked. “What?”
“You act like one bereaved. But not entirely. What happened, dear?”
Faith gave her a crooked grin. “I met my dad for the first time in my life. He got his soul sucked out by a Dementor. Willow isn’t sure if she can put it back or if it has been too traumatised and will just leave.”
Molly looked around wildly. “P-put a soul back?”
Faith nodded. “Yeah. Willow’s got experience with that. She caught the souls of the people kissed by the Dementors when we destroyed them. So she’s gonna do the spell for all of them, but she needs to be sure that the ones for the people who are dead go to where they need to be. So there's been a delay while she tries to match souls to names.”
Molly shuddered. Several of the other wizards looked pale and shaken. “Merlin. Such power… And such daring, to cast such spells.”
“You aren’t going to call it Dark?” Dawn asked rather tentatively.
Molly sighed. “A few years ago I would have. Since then I’ve decided that the intent of the spell is what is important. Spells dealing with souls are supposed to be dark. But is carefully trying to place them back in the bodies they were ripped from evil? I doubt it. Yet the magic deals with souls.”
Arthur grinned broadly at her. “That’s my Molly-cuddles! Always managing to distil things to their very essence!”
Molly gave him a fond smile. “Where are Willow and Hannah? I was expecting them as well. Why aren’t they here?”
Faith started to chuckle as did Buffy, and Dawn. “Well, you see, Han-hon was just a little bit peeved that her sweetie had met half the wizarding world but not her father and little brother.”
Molly smiled. “Ah. Well, remind me to Floo some food over to Ambrosius’ later. He’s a fine man, but he cooks like Arthur.”
A shudder went through several of the younger Weasleys.
George clapped his hands to his face and exclaimed “The horror!”
“I’m not that bad,” Arthur protested mildly as he led the way inside.
Charlie laughed disbelievingly. “Dad, your food would give a dragon indigestion.”
Arthur tried and look offended, but failed. “I suppose I shall need to practice.”
“Not on us, you won't,” Ron muttered as he offered Faith his arm.
Faith gave him an amused look and took it.
Harry and Ginny exchanged incredulous looks. “Did Ron just act like a gentleman?” Ginny stage-whispered.
“Maybe we should check for polyjuice,” Harry replied.
“Shut it, you prats,” Ron growled. Faith laughed.
The food had once again been wonderful and those who had stayed at home were listening avidly to the tales of those who'd been part of the attack.
Joyce was sitting between Xander and Luna and was nodding off into sleep. Victoire was sleeping on her father's lap.
Teddy was with Harry. Andromeda was still with Ted, who was recovering at home from the privations of his enslavement.
Ginny was glaring at Kreacher, who’d shown up halfway through dinner and had not moved from her side all night.
“What in Merlin’s name is wrong with you? I know how I like my coffee, thank you very much! I don’t want some weak herbal tea tasting of roses! What is this stuff anyway?”
Molly and Fleur’s eyes widened as they looked at the wizened elf, as did Luna’s.
Kreacher drew himself up, his shoulders back. “I is Black House elf. True Lord Black told Kreacher that he has granted title to cousin. Kreacher now serves formerly False Lord Black.”
Harry grinned slightly. “Draco had a talk with him?”
“New Lord Black and Lady Black now Kreacher’s responsibility. Rosehips from Black greenhouses. Rosehip tea good for Lady Black. True Lord told me to take care of Cousins. So Kreacher does,” the elf said with dignity.
“So? Take care of me! Bring me coffee!” Ginny growled.
“No, that won’t be necessary, thank you Kreacher. Fresh Rose hips you say?” Molly asked with a slight smile.
“Kreacher picked them himself,” Kreacher made a slight bow.
“Then thank you, Kreacher. I’m sure you will take excellent care of my daughter. Hmmm…” Molly looked pensively at Fleur. “You can sense Black blood, can you not?”
Kreacher nodded, looking slightly suspicious.
“Is there anyone else here of Black blood who might benefit from rose hip tisane?” Molly smiled slightly.
Kreacher looked at her. Then his usually dour face flashed into a wide grin, that vanished as quickly as it appeared. He closed his eyes and seemed to concentrate.
Ginny glared at her mother. “Mum! I want my coffee! Why are you encouraging him?” she hissed.
Molly waved a hand. “He’s only looking out for your best interests dear. Now hush.”
Ginny growled. Luna smiled slightly.
Kreacher pointed at Fleur. “She's carrying Black blood as well.”
Molly smirked at that, seeing the stunned, happy expressions on Bill and Fleur's faces. “Kreacher? If you would be so kind?”
Kreacher bowed, took Fleur's tea cup and saucer from her nerveless fingers and popped away. He returned swiftly with a new cup that wafted a scent similar to Ginny's.
Bill grasped his wife's hand. “Thanks, Kreacher.”
Kreacher bowed again. “Is pleasure,” he looked rather surprised at saying it.
Ginny had gone very pale. “As well? Mum? Kreacher?”
Kreacher pushed her tea cup a little closer to Ginny. “Lady Black should take tea. Lady Black looking peaky. Lady Black must be strong and in good health to bear new Black.”
Ginny made a little squeaky noise of surprise. Harry's mouth fell open in shock.
Fleur was smiling broadly and she and Bill each had a hand on her stomach.
Kreacher looked at Harry. “Kreacher did ask Lord Black if he had enough potions,” he bowed. “Next time Kreacher will not need to ask. Lord Black is very wily.”
Ginny glared indiscriminately between the elf and her husband. Harry made a strangled noise. The house elf smirked and popped away.
Buffy had been looking at the goings on with a slight, frozen smile on her face. Her eyes kept flicking between Vicky and Joyce.
Neville leaned in and whispered into her ear. “Lady Slayer shouldn’t worry. She’ll have a little girl of her own if Young Master
Neville has anything to do with it.”
Buffy froze, then smiled. “I thought you just wanted an heir for the Longbottom name?”
“No, that’s Gran. I just want a kid or two and for them to be happy and healthy,” Neville hesitated and then drew Buffy to her feet and out of the room and into the garden and behind one of the haphazard hedges of the Burrow.
Buffy looked around. “Not really the time to give me a tour, Nev?”
Neville smiled at her very nervously. “I-I just wanted to ask you, in private, if you're really sure you want me? I mean-”
Buffy reached up and put a finger on his lips. “Yes. Very. I've never been so sure of anything in my life, Neville.”
Neville smiled at her, still nervously. “Ummm... Now that we're engaged we really need to go and see Gran.”
Buffy put her arms around him and hugged him and he hugged her back, holding her gently. “I know. I doubt she'll try to cut me up and sell me as potions ingredients.”
“If she tries, I'll defend you,” Neville assured her.
Ethan felt strange. As if his limbs weighed tons. As if he'd been perfectly free, and was suddenly chained. he remembered cold, then nothing.
With a sudden start he remembered. The Dementors surrounding Faith, his Patronus, the cold surrounding him as he poured his strength into the magpie, hoping it would be enough to keep her safe. “FAITH!” he sat up, his voice hoarse with disuse as he called her name.
“Well, that is encouraging,” a voice said thoughtfully. “I never imagined he'd ever call out anybody's name but his own.”
Ethan had to grin at the familiar blonde Slayer. “Sorry to disappoint you. But if you would like to try under different circumstances...”
There was a sword at his throat. “I do not trust you. As a matter of fact, trust in you on the whole is in short supply. I would not make jokes like that until you've proven that we can trust you,” Buffy told him in a calm voice.
“B? He just woke up. Could you wait with threatening my Dad until he does something to deserve it?” Faith asked.
“He's done plenty to deserve it, Faith. So this is his last warning. The only reason we're giving him this chance is because of you and what he did for you,” Willow chimed in. “Now we'll leave you two alone.”
Ethan lay back on the pillows of his bed and looked at his daughter. “So. We won.”
Faith nodded. “Yeah. Didn't even lose anyone in the battle. Unless you count a lot of enemies and Runs-with the Buffaloes.”
Ethan frowned. “Who was she? Can't say I know the name.”
“A Slayer. She was apparently used as a key part of the defences of the place. B and Red fought her and set her free,” Faith patted the stone beside her. “It was a long time ago, but she was still one of us. Oh, and almost you. You got the Dementor's kiss.”
Ethan nodded. “I surmised as much. What happened?”
“Willow made sure to siphon off all the souls that the things had taken and then found out whose they were. And put back the ones that could be,” Faith shrugged. “You included.”
Ethan gave her a smile. “They must appreciate you very much if they're willing to bring me back and put up with me. Considering the trouble they went through already to get you out off here...”
Faith gave him a startled look. “I suppose they do. Yeah.”
A slow, happy smile spread over her face and Ethan smiled back.
Black Hall, Kent, Black Family Country seat
The Hogwarts House elves, given permission to help prepare the feast by the Headmistress to aid their commander during the Battle of Hogwarts, had outdone themselves. The tables groaned under the weight of the food as the guests gathered in the main hall of the old house. Long dilapidated by lack of funds, the influx of Harry Potter's money had allowed for it to be restored.
Now it was being used to welcome back heroes thought dead and unexpected new ones.
Alastor Moody stood beside Minerva McGonagall, uneasily in the robes he hadn't worn in years. The calluses that had built up on his hands had been removed at St. Basil's and a new wand was stuck in his arm holster. His new magical eye, still without most of the enchantments of the older one, sat firmly in his empty socket.
“Stop fidgeting Alastor,” Minerva told him quietly.
“I feel like a bull being prodded before going into the slaughterhouse,” Alastor growled.
“Behave or you might feel like an ox being prodded,” Minerva smiled at him sweetly.
Alastor chuckled. “I've missed you, Minnie.”
“I've asked you not to call me that, Alastor,” Minerva sighed.
“Yes, I seem to recall such a request. I shall take it under consideration,” Alastor glared as a young photographer took a picture of them.
“Can you look at each other and smile, please?” he asked as he looked down and fiddled with his camera.
The former Auror took a step forward. “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!” he bellowed.
The photographer squeaked like a mouse and nearly fainted with shock. Alastor grinned at him toothily. “If you take one more picture of us, I will disembowel you with a teaspoon.”
The boy squeaked again and fled. Alastor looked at him disgustedly. “To think I fought, bled and was enslaved for idiots like him.”
Ted Tonks was walking rather warily, as if still unsure what lay around corners and how people would react to him, his grey hair swept back and hanging loose around his shoudlers. Andromeda was at his side, but between them was a much smaller shape, of a young boy who currently had turquoise hair.
“Granpa! Granma! Duckies!” Teddy tugged at their hands and with a shared smile they let Teddy drag them off to the duck pond.
Severus Snape was not a tactile person. He was famed for it. When Harry Potter had entered the room, Snape was hiding in the corner. Because in the wake of Potter followed two women who Snape feared. One had already waylaid him earlier, but that would not stop her from doing so again. The other was a force of nature that made hurricanes seem like gentle breezes: Molly Weasley.
When he was a young man, new to the Order, the then much younger Weasley Matriarch had always thought that Snape needed more and better food, proper sleep and hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.
Severus Snape cringed at the very thought of it. Then he blinked. Walking next to Molly Weasley was a young, blonde woman, a baby in her arms, with pale blonde hair that he would recognize anywhere. And to confirm his suspicion, beside her walked Draco Malfoy, whose hair had held that exact same colour when he had been that age.
His godson. A boy he had tried to shield, tried to show how wrong what Voldemort was doing was. He thought he had failed, but maybe he hadn’t, not entirely. Snape, years of training and conditioning forgotten, took a step forward.
Draco and Harry saw the movement, both going for their wands. Potter recognized him first, though he looked surprised, or shocked at something. Draco had his fingers on his wand, then his hands dropped and his eyes widened. He let out a strangled, childlike cry and took three hesitant steps. Then he accelerated into a stumbling run and threw his arms around Snape.
Minerva McGonagall knew all about her former colleague and unfortunate predecessor’s dislike of being touched. As did Molly Weasley, though she stubbornly tried anyway.
And yet, here was Severus Snape holding Draco Malfoy in a soothing, yes, caring hug, his face set in the impassive mask that only those few who knew him best knew masked intense emotional upheaval.
“Uncle Sev,” Draco finally whispered. “You’re alive. You're here... I didn’t believe them. You’re alive…”
“An unfortunate occurrence if ever there was one,” Snape acknowledged dryly. “And who is the young lady?”
Draco heard the unspoken. ‘And when did you get her up the duff?’ and smiled. “Amy? Come meet my godfather. Uncle Sev, this is Amy, my wife; Amy, Uncle Severus.”
Amy had walked up while the two men were hugging. The baby was looking at the older wizard with large, pale blue eyes and then a small tilt of her lips and a gurgle signified she apparently approved of him. “TA!”
“Quite,” Snape eyed the child with clinical detachment. “Enthusiasm is something your enemies may exploit, child.”
Draco laughed. “Her name is Nymphadora Eileen. And I don’t care if she gets sorted into Hufflepuff, and I’m certainly not raising her to think like that.”
Snape’s mouth flickered marginally. “Eileen?”
Amy gave him a wry grin. “I put my foot down about Severina. Sorry.”
“Severina? You were going to call her Severina?” Snape reached out and stroked the baby’s cheek, seemingly unconsciously. “How utterly loathsome.”
“It was a passing notion,” Draco answered urbanely.
Molly Weasley got out a handkerchief from her voluminous handbag. Most of the women seemed to be dabbing at their eyes and so was Arthur. Alastor was surreptitiously checking if the sky was still blue.
George blew his nose loudly. “Gosh, isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen?” He whispered saccharinely at his sister.
Snape turned to glare at him, as did Draco and Amy. In Amy’s arms little Nymphadora suddenly sported shoulder length lanky black hair and a vicious scowl.
Ginny started to giggle. “No. That is!”