DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, J.k. Rowling and others. I don't own any of this, just the plot and words gluing my story together.
SUMMARY: Faith, Hogwarts, Christmas, Someone plays Santa
SPOILERS: All seasons of BtVS. HP: post-OotP
RATING: PG13 for some innuendo /subtext
DISTRIBUTION:
TtH, here, and my blog fanfic pages.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: First fic for the 2004 Winter/Holiday Fic-For-All at TtH. Pairing #112 (Other notes at end)


Faith sat huddled under her coat against the bitter Scottish winter. The lake shore was the only place outside of the Forbidden Forest she'd found where she could indulge in the only vice Dumbledore hadn't completely forbidden her during her stay at Hogwarts. Sitting on the huge rock poking out of the snow covered shore she could smoke to her hearts content. The frowns and verbal disapproval of many of the other residents of the castle couldn't reach her here.

For reasons that had her completely mystified and occasionally annoyed, the wizarding world seemed to have no problems with cursing or maiming ones' enemies and, based on the behavior of the older students she'd observed at Hogwarts, almost seemed to expect it. But light a match and set fire to a small paper tube of tobacco, and breath in the results, and they acted like she was trying to end the world.

Taking out another cigarette and the lighter she'd 'borrowed' from Buffy when she'd been given this assignment, Faith lit up one of her precious remaining tubes of death, as Hermione Granger had so inelegantly described them. There were times when she regretted coming from Boston. As one of the few experienced slayers familiar with living in a cold climate she seemed to end up with more than her share of ice demon hunting and winter rescues.

She stared at the castle over the glowing red tip of her cigarette. She needed to get inside soon or she would miss dinner and as much as she hated being gawked at by over a hundred budding magical mischief makers while she ate, her normally efficient slayer metabolism needed even more energy than normal to keep her going in cold weather. And she'd made the mistake of skipping dinner and raiding the kitchen only once. House elves seemed to have an overdeveloped sense of fear of vampire slayers. It had taken days for them to get over their fright from her only visit. The rest of the castle's inhabitants had yet to forget the resulting week of badly cooked mush they'd gotten instead of their normal meals.

She'd just stomped out the remains of her cigarette in the snow when Faith sensed someone or something watching her. Her slayer senses weren't reacting to the presence beyond telling her it was there so it wasn't anything evil or life threatening. Figuring it was just the Potter kid or his annoying sidekicks using his rumored invisibility cloak she pretended to ignore the faint giggle coming from whomever it was and stomped up the path from the lake towards the castle.

Hanging her coat up in the entryway closet normally reserved for guests and professors, Faith took a deep breath to calm her nerves and joined the throngs entering the Great Hall for dinner. Stoically eating the odd assortment of edible items that appeared on her plate, Faith ignored the conversations going on around her. Dumbledore, his usual charming self, occasionally sent a question in her direction but the others at the table, with the exception of Professor McGonagall who always seemed to be watching her as if she were going to steal the silver, ignored her presence. She'd been introduced to them when she'd first arrived but since she didn't spend any time with any of them she was now treated as if she were just another part of their environment, like the house elves and ghosts.

The students, on the other hand, were a different matter altogether. They constantly stared at her or talked about her with their friends. Her presence seemed to confuse them. She wasn't a professor and she was too old to be a student. Her clothes, even toned down at Dumbledore's request, weren't anything they'd ever seen before, leather and denim in black, dark greens and browns. And she kept to herself. They didn't know who or what she was and couldn't quite place her in their universe.


Faith knew her stay at Hogwarts over the Christmas break was probably going to be lonely. They didn't expect anything to happen yet but she felt she needed to be there keeping vigil just in case. Several days earlier packages from several of the Scoobies and other friends she'd made within the Council had started to arrive with ample warnings to not open them until Christmas. But she wasn't good at pretending it was a real substitute for the week long holiday celebrations in Cleveland and London she was sure she was missing. This was the time of year that Slayers and Watchers trickled home from the far flung corners of the globe they'd been sent to during the previous year.

She'd taken on this project knowing she might miss out on the holiday fun. But she wasn't too upset. Too many good friends and former lovers had fallen in the last year and she'd really needed the self imposed solitude at Hogwarts to get herself back together again. The rest had understood her need to stay away and hadn't pressed her to come home yet.

Something woke her early Christmas morning. Sitting up and looking around her bedroom she couldn't see anything out of place or any movement to explain what had woken her. Quietly climbing out of bed, she stealthily crossed the room and entered her sitting room. A fire was burning merrily in the small fireplace. Sitting on a small table in front of it was a tray containing a large mug of coffee, silverware, and all of her favorite breakfast foods. Next to the tray was a long slim box wrapped in bright red and gold paper and tied with a green bow.

Sitting down on a plump cushion in front of the table, Faith examined its contents. The table seemed to be empty of any clues about who could have left the food and present. The tantalizing smells coming from the steaming waffles and sausage were hard to resist. The present could wait, she thought, spearing a sausage link with the fork and taking a bite.

Ten minutes later, giving a contented sigh, Faith leaned back from the table before reaching over and picking up the slim present. She carefully opened it to reveal a long box. Lying in the slim box, on a soft felt bed, was an exquisitely designed knife. The blue steel of the slim blade almost glowed as she picked it up. The well balanced knife fit her hand like it was made for her. Turning it over, she noticed her initials inlaid in the handle. It was obviously intended for her. Mystified and unable to find anything to indicate who it was from she carried it into her bedroom and placed it in the special trunk Xander had built for her. As an added precaution Willow had warded the trunk so only Faith could open it. The knife would be safe there until she had a chance to find out where it came from.

----

The rest of the day passed quickly. She'd wandered down to Hogsmeade for lunch after opening her other presents. She spent the afternoon training in the Room of Requirement in an attempt to burn off excess energy. Dinner itself was an odd affair. Dumbledore had insisted that anyone remaining in Hogwarts on Christmas day join him in the Great Hall. As she slipped into bed later that night after a thorough patrol of Hogwarts, inside and out, all she could think of the evening was that it was an experience she hoped to never repeat.

The week before the New Year passed in a similar fashion. Each morning she woke up to another mysterious present and hot breakfast waiting for her in her sitting room. Mornings she explored the castle. Afternoons were spent training. The day after Christmas it was another knife, identical to the first. The next day it was two beautiful boot sheaths for the knives. When confronted, Dumbledore claimed no knowledge of the appearance of the objects though she could have sworn his eyes twinkled when she asked.

The third day she received something that could only have come from someone who knew she was a slayer. It was a long, slim wooden stake. It was very close to being a work of art. The day afterward, she received a spring loaded wrist sheath for it. On the fifth day Faith received a pair of boots from her mysterious benefactor that fit perfectly and which seemed to be designed to go with the boot sheaths she'd received earlier. Dumbledore just smiled at her and noted that they seemed to be made out of impervious dragon leather. The sixth day she found a pair of thin, dragonskin gloves waiting for her. She knew this largess wouldn't last forever and she was very curious to find out where it was coming from. Unfortunately, she hadn't been able to find out who was responsible. Even staying awake all night she'd been unable to catch them in the act.

----

Waking up late on January first, she had to admit that some wizards knew how to celebrate the New Year. No flashy parties. No inane large objects ascending on a pole. Just a good, solid drinking session. She'd spent the evening in Hogsmeade, dragged there by Hagrid and Remus Lupin. Between them they'd managed to seriously deplete the fire whiskey stores at both the Hog's Head and Three Broomsticks without getting thrown out of either place. Which Remus claimed was a first for them.

They'd then gone back to Hogwarts and watched fireworks over the lake to the accompaniment of another bottle of fire whiskey before heading to bed. Groggily waking the next morning she wasn't sure how she'd managed to end up in bed alone afterward but given the choices the previous night she wasn't too upset.

She'd put a pillow over her face to block out the daylight and was about to go back to sleep when she felt movement on her bed and heard a husky voice giggling. She was so surprised she scrambled into a sitting position much too quickly for someone who'd drunk so much fire whiskey the night before. Forgetting the reason she'd sat up, Faith moaned and, keeping her eyes closed against the painful light, rubbed her aching head, muttering a few choice words under her breath.

"Here, try this." the husky voice now told her as a small glass was placed in one hand. "It helps Bill and Charlie when they've over done it."

Having no reason to not trust whomever this was, Faith quickly swallowed whatever was in the glass, just barely managing to not choke on the horrific taste. "What was that!" She gasped seconds before an intense wave of heat flooded her body, leaving her shaking in shock.

"Hangover cure." the voice told her with some amusement.

Faith took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Wearing a bathrobe that revealed more than it concealed and sitting on Faith's bed with her feet tucked under her was someone Faith vaguely recognized as the youngest Weasley, Ginny. "What can I do for you?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant, as if finding barely clad, nubile young women in her bedroom were a normal, every day occurrence.

"Don't you want your last present?" she was asked.

Faith had grown a lot since the Sunnydale collapse but an opening like that was almost too much for her to resist. "You're younger than I normally prefer." She told the red head with a smirk. "But since you're offering it would be rude of me to turn you down." She leaned towards the now blushing younger woman.

"Oh!" She stammered as Faith moved closer. "That isn't what I meant." She reached behind herself and pulled out a wrapped package that she thrust at Faith. "Here!"

Faith took the package from her and winked at the young witch "That's too bad. Could have been fun." Opening the package Faith found a small leather backpack.

"It's like that one Lara Croft uses in those games." Ginny told her eagerly. "It will last forever and you'll never fill it up. It also won't get in your way when you're fighting."

Faith raised an eyebrow at the description. It would certainly be useful. "Why do you think I need it?" She asked Ginny curiously. "And why all of the other gifts?"

"Well... I sort of adopted you." Ginny told her, shifting nervously on the bed.

"Adopted me?" Faith squeaked in surprise.

"Yes." She shrugged. "When we found out you were a vampire slayer I did some research."

"We? Who else knows what I am?" Faith asked. She knew the teachers certainly wouldn't tell the students.

"Just Hermione." She looked nervously at Faith. "She recognized you from some book she read lsat year. We haven't told anyone." She said quickly. "Not that they would believe us anyway."

"Okay." Faith sighed. She wasn't trying to hide who she was but they hadn't planned on advertising her presence. "Please don't tell anyone else."

"Sure." Ginny smiled at her.

"So..." Faith continued after a moment. "What did you mean you adopted me?"

"When we were researching vampire slayers, I noticed something strange." Ginny told her.

"Strangeness and vampire slayers are good friends." Faith told her with a grimace. "What did you find?"

Ginny played nervously with her robe. "There's never been a slayer who was a witch. A couple were squibs. But no witches."

"And?" This wasn't news to Faith. Several of the new slayers came from wizarding families but had no wizarding magic themselves.

Ginny avoided Faith's eyes. "But there have been a few who had a very close friend or sister who was a witch."

"You mean very close like Buffy Summers and Willow Rosenberg?" Faith asked with a smirk. She'd never seen any proof that Buffy and Willow were more than good friends but she knew other people tended to assume there was something else going on between them and she found it highly amusing to help spread the idea.

"Y..yes..." Ginny stammered, blushing again. "Slayers who are that close to a witch live a lot longer than solitary slayers. And we think it's not just because the witch can help them with magic."

"That's interesting." Faith mumbled, leaning back against the headboard. If it was true this was important news. The new Council was constantly looking for ways to lengthen the lives of all slayers but training only helped increase survival rates so much. "Where do you fit into this?"

"I volunteered to adopt you." Ginny told her with a small, hesitant smile.

"I don't need a sister." Faith protested. "And what happens when I leave Hogwarts? I won't be here forever."

"No. But neither will I." Ginny shrugged. "I needed to decide what to do when I finish Hogwarts next year. Being a Slayer's Witch sounds much more interesting and exciting than my other choices."

Faith stared at her. "Slayer's Witch? Whose idea was that?"

"Professor Dumbledore." Ginny giggled. "I don't think he was serious but Hermione and I think it is an excellent idea. Of course, I think part of it is that she's excited about the research possibilities."

"I'm a slayer. How do you know I'll still be alive when you finish here?" Faith asked, trying to keep her concern out of her voice.

"Because I know you will." Ginny told her firmly. "All of those things I've given you will help keep you alive until I can join you. I have every confidence that you'll survive."

"What makes you so sure?" Faith asked faintly. Having someone else believe in her so much that they were willing to plan their life around her survival was a new experience.

"I just am." She sighed and looked Faith in the eye. "You should know that next time I won't turn you down." And with those words she quietly climbed off of Faith's bed and strode out of her bedroom, leaving behind a stunned slayer.


Notes:

- Too bad this is a one shot fic. Could be fun to extend it someday.
- No one else will appear in this ficlet.