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Freakazoid High

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Freakazoid High

 

By Karen

 

The room was in darkness, the light cotton curtains blowing in the warm early autumn breeze that blew through the open window. The area was a curious mixture of child and woman, stuffed animals mixing with make up and small slinky tops. The walls around the large comfortable looking bed were covered with posters of the latest bands and pretty boy pin ups. A typical teenage girl’s bedroom.

 

Aside from the large, and sharp, sword hanging over the bed and the glowing green vortex forming in the middle of the room of course.

 

The glowing hole grew larger until it was about the size of a large serving platter. It held steady for a few moments and then a head poked through. The girl glanced towards the closed door and eyed the mirror positioned next to it, designed to give her a view of the room that she couldn’t see behind her. She then stretched her neck out as far as she could and carefully looked at every portion of the room she could conceivably see from her restricted spot. Satisfied she appeared to be alone the portal grew rapidly in size until she hopped through it gracefully and turned back to peer into the vortex, “All clear.”

 

The smug grin on her face lasted precisely three seconds until an angry blonde vampire rolled out from under her bed and grabbed her ankle, yanking sharply to bring her crashing to the floor.

 

Dawn Summers hit the ground with a nasty bump and yelled, “Busted!”

 

Connor Angel’s head, which had been following his girlfriend into her room, froze and then shot forward suddenly quickly followed by the rest of his body. The impassive face of his father appeared behind him and then Angel and Cordelia followed their son through the portal.

 

Connor bounced to his feet, braced for an attack and then realised the hefty shove that had sent him flying had come from his father. His shoulders slumped, “Oh crap.”

 

Cordelia sent him a furious look, “Doesn’t even begin to cover it, young man.”

 

Dawn pulled her leg from Spike’s hand and accepted Connor’s hand to bring her to her feet. The vampire flipped to his feet and wagged an angry finger in his ‘daughter’s’ face, “You are in a whole world of trouble, ‘Bit. What the bleedin’ hell do you think you’re playin’ at?”

 

Dawn sneaked a look at Connor’s unhappy face and her own shoulders slumped to mirror his, “So busted.” She mumbled quietly, “Next time you go first. You’ll be able to smell the secret demon trap.”

 

Spike’s face screwed up in righteous parental fury and he bellowed, “Next time?”

 

Connor stared at the floor and flushed, “I should have been able to smell my Mom and Dad waiting for us. My bad.”

 

Spike glared at the sullen pair, “There will be no ‘next time’. ‘Next time’ is happening over my staked an’ dusty body.” He paused and then gestured to Angel, “And ‘is. Right, Peaches?”

 

Angel nodded, “Right. And don’t call me that!”

 

The room fell silent as Dawn’s bedroom door opened and Buffy stepped inside to flick the light switch and nod cordially at the occupants, “Hi guys.” She walked into the room, stopping by Spike’s side, “You caught them in the act?”

 

Dawn looked horrified, “No he did not! Connor hadn’t even come through when Spike pulled his little James Bond routine. There was no catching in the act of any kind.”

 

Spike’s eyes narrowed ominously, “You can tell because Peaches Jr still has all ‘is arms and legs attached.”

 

Buffy glared at Dawn, “I meant, caught in the act of opening a dimensional portal in your bedroom unsupervised and sneaking out to meet your honey. Not caught opening anything else.”

 

Dawn winced and slanted a shifty look at Connor, “Oh. Sorry.”

 

Buffy’s eyes narrowed then she pointed firmly to the still open portal, “And you can close that dimensional doorway right now, young lady! You are so grounded!”

 

Dawn heaved a sigh and looked as though she was going to try and protest, but one look at Buffy standing with her arms folded, scowling forbiddingly had her pouting and concentrating on the open, green hole.

 

For a moment nothing happened and then the doorway shrunk rapidly until it was no bigger than a nickel. Dawn glanced at the stern faces surrounding herself and Connor; looked longingly back at the tiny spark and then it abruptly disappeared. The young girl flung herself petulantly onto her bed. She folded her arms, “There. Happy now?”

 

Connor eased round Spike and sat down next to Dawn. He nudged her slightly with a sharp elbow and hissed, “I’m thinking this will go a lot better if you look sorry.”

 

Angel moved in front of him and raised an eyebrow, “Think again, sport.”

 

Connor looked up at the four pissed faces surrounding him, “Really? Not at all?” Four heads shook in unison, Connor shrugged and leaned back on his elbows, “In that case, sulk your butt off, honey.”

 

Dawn gave an unintentional giggle and then abruptly sobered as Buffy spoke, “What the HELL did you think you were doing? Its past one in the morning and you’re sneaking around with a boy on a school night, and using dangerous powers for your own ends into the bargain! You are seventeen years old, not thirty.”

 

Dawn stared at her sister in outrage and then looked pointedly at Angel, “I’m sorry, what were you doing at my age?” She waited a beat and then added, “Or should I say who?”

 

Buffy flushed a deep red as Spike growled and Angel said, “Don’t look at me, I was evil! She was trying to kill me.”

 

Cordelia raised an eyebrow and adjusted the fit of her short leather jacket, “I think she was referring to how you became evil, sweetie.”

 

Angel winced, “Oh. In that case, that would be me.” He glared down at the two teenagers, “But that doesn’t make it right.” He rallied briefly, “And we didn’t use dangerous powers!”

 

Connor raised his hand to stifle a sudden sharp cough that sounded suspiciously like the word, “Acathla!”

 

Angel’s mouth dropped open, “That was just the once. And I was evil!”

 

Spike nodded in rare agreement with his sire, “S’right.” He wagged another finger at the two on the bed, “And we all know how that turned out don’t we?” He nodded significantly at Buffy and continued, “Just goes to show, crime never pays.”

 

Dawn eyed Spike, “Uh-huh. Just the once, right? Does anyone remember…….oh what was his name………..” She clicked her fingers in a display of fake memory loss and then smacked her hand onto her thigh in triumph, “That’s it. The Judge? Any thoughts?”

 

Spike’s mouth opened and then snapped shut. His eyes slid to Angel’s and the dark haired vampire took over again, “We didn’t raise him.” Dawn raised her eyebrows and he continued rather lamely, “We just put him back together.”

 

Dawn nodded understandingly, “Oh, so it doesn’t count if you just make a living, breathing, evil 3D puzzle?” She nudged Connor, “Remember that.”

 

Connor nodded, “Noted.”

 

Buffy and Cordelia exchanged glances as Spike and Angel spluttered in confusion. Cordelia sighed, “Angel, not helping here sweetie.” She smiled coolly down at the kids on the bed, “This is getting us nowhere and they all paid for their mistakes a long time ago. There’s no point dragging all this up when we’re chock full of teenage rebellion right here, right now.”

 

Buffy began to nod in agreement and then frowned, “Hey, what do you mean their mistakes?”

 

Cordelia shrugged, “Well its not like I went around raising evil, dead people all over the place.”

 

The Slayer folded her arms and cocked an eyebrow, “Can I just remind you how we acquired Anya? Or has that totally slipped your Higher Being mind?”

 

Cordelia gasped, “That was once, I nearly died and I was in pain. Emotional pain! Hello, dumped by a dork for a geek and had a rebar through my stomach. Not big with the calm thoughts.” She put her hands on her slim, denim clad hips, “And I wasn’t the one that ran out on my sacred duty for months leaving her friends to pick up the pieces or hid the return of her insane ex-squeeze from hell after he killed half the town and tried to suck the world into a fiery pit of pain.”

 

Angel scowled, “Hey!”

 

Cordelia spared him a brief glance, “Sorry, sweetie.”

 

Buffy put her hands on her own hips and got up in Cordelia’s face, “Well, I didn’t torment a girl so much she turned herself invisible and tried to cut my face off.”

 

Dawn winked at Connor and addressed the four ‘adults’, “See, that’s my point. You guys weren’t so perfect at our age either.”

 

Buffy and Cordelia’s heads whipped round and they both snapped, “Shut up!”

 

Dawn nodded, “Shutting up now.”

 

She took Connor’s hand as Spike weighed in, “Come on now girls, there’s no need to fight, you both made silly little mistakes…….”

 

Cordelia slapped an impatient hand on his t-shirted shoulder, “Back off, Bleach boy!” She turned back to Buffy and then whipped round again to say smugly, “And speaking of silly little mistakes……can we say sex-bot?”

 

Connor stroked a gentle finger over Dawn’s palm as the heated argument deteriorated into a free for all and said in a low, admiring aside, “God, you’re good.”

 

Dawn grinned, “And you’re surprised by this?” She winced as Angel brought up the frat boy snake episode and had both his ex and current lovers rounding on him, “Well, I think our work here is done. Wanna go get a soda downstairs?” Connor nodded and they stood up slowly, edging silently round their furious parents and made for the door.

 

Willow stood in the doorway with her mouth hanging open as Dawn and Connor made their way out. “Wh…what’s going on?” Dawn shrugged and continued past. Willow watched the couple head downstairs and then ran into the bedroom to try and pull the furiously arguing people apart, “Guys, stop it. What’s going on?” She winced as all four began shouting their years old grievances and said weakly, “Oh.”





 

The next afternoon found an uneasy peace in the Summers house. Buffy was in the basement, working out her rage on backed up laundry and her punch bag. Spike was in their room systematically going through the family photo album and defacing every picture of Angel he could find with artistic fake eyelashes and unlikely looking dresses, and Willow was pouting in the kitchen as she made their afternoon snack over all the wonky spells she had performed that had been dragged up in the five way argument that had finally finished at four am.

 

Cordelia and Angel had finally left with Connor through a portal that Dawn had obligingly called up for them and the last sight the star crossed lovers had of each other was Connor being pushed down on the lobby sofa by Cordelia as she began to yell and Dawn rolling her eyes as she was launched into by Buffy, Spike and Willow.

 

Dawn had managed a couple of hours sleep before getting up for school, so when she came through the back door she was, understandably, not looking her best. Her hair was scraped back in an untidy ponytail and the make-up she had put on that morning had melted and shifted slightly during the day, until she resembled an exhausted panda. She dropped her school bag on the floor with a sigh and slipped one hand under her loose sweater to scratch at her flat stomach as her other reached for an apple from the bowl on the side, “I’m beat.” She yawned hugely, “I’m going to take a nap.”

 

Willow glared at her as she stirred batter in a bowl, “Think again, Houdini. There’s a yard out there that needs cleaning and windows that need washing.”

 

Dawn stared at Willow with her mouth open and a piece of half chewed apple on her tongue, “What? That’s not fair, I was up all night!”

 

Willow’s face hardened, “And whose fault was that, Miss Trip The Light Fantastic? Get your glowing green butt out in that yard and make with the raking of the leaves already.”

 

Dawn’s face fell as she looked out on the carpet of dead rotting leaves that Spike was so proud of. “Bu…..”

 

Willow’s resolve face looked back at her, “Hustle, missy.”

 

Dawn stuck out her lip, turned and slammed out the back door. Willow nodded to herself and began to stir the batter slightly happier now Dawn was as miserable as the rest of the house. She scowled as she thought of one of the accusations levelled at her the night before and cast a dark look at the basement door and the ceiling above her, “Don’t get what they’re so cranky about. Its not like they actually got married.” She stirred harder, “And hello? Bionking each other silly now!” The bowl slipped out of her hands and smashed onto the floor. Willow stamped her foot in frustration and then glared out the window. Dawn stood on the lawn, leaning on her rake and swaying in a patch of sunlight with a small smile and her eyes closed.

 

Willow’s eyes narrowed and she flicked her finger at the girl, smirking as a bolt of blue fire shot out through the glass and grounded in Dawn’s butt. The brunette’s eyes opened with a yelp and she leapt a foot into the air. She caught sight of Willow’s unamused face through the glass and rubbed a hand on her stinging cheek, “Alright already! I’m raking, I’m raking!”

 

Willow nodded and set about cleaning up the mess on the floor with a smirk,

 

“Darn tootin’ you’re raking.”








Later that evening when Dawn had finally finished all her chores and had been allowed to crash out, the senior members of the Scoobs had congregated in Buffy’s living room.

 

“You gotta admire the ingenuity, though. Beats the hell out of shinning down the trellis and sneaking into the Bronze.” Xander, although distressed to learn of Dawn’s forays with Connor, was also grudgingly respectful of the two tearaways imitative.

 

Buffy glared at her friend, “So not the point, Xander.”

 

Xander lost the ‘impressed’ face and adopted ‘responsible’ face. “Right. Totally getting the ‘bad, Dawn, bad’ vibe.”

 

Anya sipped her cold soda and leaned into her husband’s side, “I think its sweet. Moonlight trysts, young lovers discovering each other for the first time. Bet it brings it all rushing back, huh Buffy?”

 

Spike choked on his mug of warm blood as Buffy shot a lethal look at the vengeance demon, “Let’s not go there. I had enough re-visiting my teenage years last night, thanks.”

 

Spike wiped a dribble of blood of his chin and smeared some that had fallen on his t-shirt carelessly into the material, “And there was no bloody discovering of anything on either side, demon girl.”

 

Anya buried her nose in her glass, “If you say so.”

 

Willow jumped in from where she was lying sprawled on the floor, “Turns out they’ve been meeting up almost every night in LA and going out on dates all over the city.” She shook her head, “I can’t believe they got away with it for so long.”

 

Xander hooked an ankle over his knee and leaned back against the sofa to curl an arm around Anya and tuck her more comfortably against him, “How did they? I can be a bit slow sometimes…” Spike snorted derisively, “But I think even I’d notice a big, honkin’ green hole opening up near me every night.” He waved a hand to cover the three people in front of him, “Especially being, y’know, all super-powery.”

 

Buffy snagged a handful of chips from the bowl on the table, “She got smart. Waited till we out patrolling or had crashed for the night, then……pfft!”

 

Anya nodded, “That is smart.”

 

Buffy ignored the demon, “They didn’t see each other at weekends ‘cos they’re generally helping with the badness and stuff, just met up on school nights.” She shook her head, “What’s even more amazing is that their grades didn’t suffer at all. Let’s face it, we’re generally out till all hours and she must have been partying most every night, but not a single grade slipped below a B.”

 

Xander grinned, “Brainy as well as beautiful.” He nodded to Spike as the vampire held up fresh bottle of beer and the beverage flew through the air to land with a practised smack in his palm, “So how did they get caught?”

 

Spike put his empty mug on the floor and cracked open his own bottle of beer, “We got ‘ome a little bit earlier than planned the other night.” He tilted the bottle and took a long swallow of beer, “Turned down the street and the Dawn’s window was lit up brighter than Hiroshima.” He ran a hand through his messed up hair and glared at his boots propped up on Buffy’s prized new occasional table, “Burst into the house, legged it up the stairs and then heard bloody Bonnie and Clyde saying nighty night before I got to the door.”

 

Buffy smacked his shoes off the table for the third time that night with a warning glare, “I dragged him back downstairs before he could smack the door in and we called Angel and Cordelia. The rest is history.”

 

Xander grinned, “Busted.”

 

Buffy scowled, “So busted.”

 

“So what now?” Xander scratched absently at his chin and looked thoughtful, “How do you go about punishing the most powerful being in the history of the world ever?” He gave his friends a lopsided grin, “Gotta be pretty tricky. Your mom had a hard enough job punishing you, and you were just a run of the mill Slayer.”

 

Buffy paused in the middle of snagging another large handful of chips and looked deeply offended, “Hey!” She leaned back and into Spike’s consoling pat on the top of her head, “Well, Will had her cleaning up the yard and washing windows the minute she got in from school. She did her homework and then had dinner and then Spike took her up into the attic and got her cleaning up there.” She shrugged as she popped a chip in her mouth, “Ground her I suppose.”

 

Anya snorted, “Yeah, like that’s gonna work. Dawn’s an omnipotent dimensional traveller.” She tilted her head to one side and said in a stern voice, “You stay in your room, young lady, and no skipping out to Brazil while I’m gone!” Her voice pitch went up as she tried to imitate Dawn’s voice, “Ok. I’ll stay right here, Buffy.” She gave a knowing grin, “I’m betting she won’t even wait till you’re at the bottom of the stairs before she’s off.”

 

Willow jumped in again before Spike and Buffy could get a word out, “As much as I hate to admit it, Anya has a point. None of us have a chance of stopping Dawn from going anywhere if she wants to.” Her face creased in a worried frown and she wiggled her toes in thought, “She has no real idea what she can do yet and if she gets pissed at us she might make a mistake without one of us being around to help her if it gets ugly.”

 

The room fell silent. It was a big source of worry that Dawn’s powers were largely untested, one of the first rules Giles and Buffy had laid down being that she only tried to use them if one of the Scoobs was around to keep an eye on things in case she unintentionally let an uber demon into their dimension or, worse, got sucked into a hell dimension by mistake.

 

Their fears hadn’t exactly been laid to rest when on one of Dawn’s first attempts to open a portal to another dimension she managed to find the one that was inhabited solely by shrimp. They’d been shovelling dead fish out of the basement for days. Although the profit made by a quick thinking Anya by selling the first day’s worth off to local restaurants had paid everyone’s bills and living expenses for a month.

 

Buffy shook her head, “She has to learn that there are boundaries.” She gestured helplessly, “We’ve all gone to the dark side on a power trip and had some pretty Darth Vader-y experiences.” She sighed, “It’s our job to teach her that power is there to be used responsibly not whenever she feels the need for a quick smoocherama.”

 

Xander glanced towards the stairs, “How do you know she’s up there now? She could have headed out the minute she thought it was clear.”

 

Willow giggled and pulled her sweater down more comfortably over her bum,” I set up an alarm charm in her room to alert us at the first sign of mystical energy rising. Plus, she was so tired when Spike finally let her out of the attic she couldn’t talk, I think it’s a safe bet she’s going nowhere tonight.” The smile on her face widened as a knock came at the door, “That’ll be Giles. I’ll go.”

 

The oldest looking member of the Scoobs walked into the living room with a smile and returned Anya and Buffy’s hugs, shaking Spike and Xander’s hands firmly and then collapsing onto the sofa with a tired sigh. Spike moved to the drinks cabinet and poured the Watcher a large glass of scotch and handed it over with a grin, “There you go, gramps. Look like you need that.” His eyebrows shot up as Giles raised the glass, chugged the three finger’s worth and held out the glass for a refill. He eyed the Giles with surprise, “I’ll just get the bottle shall I?”

 

Giles wiped his hand across his mouth and felt his heart sink as he looked at Buffy. She didn’t deserve this, none of them did. Hadn’t they sacrificed enough for the good fight? He took the bottle and newly re-filled glass from Spike, “You might want to get glasses for everyone else.”

 

Buffy stared wide-eyed at Giles, “It isn’t another apocalypse is it? ‘Cos I think we’ve already met our quota for this year.”

 

Giles managed a weak smile, “I’m sorry, Buffy, I’m being terribly rude.” He rubbed a hand over his exhausted face, “I’ve been travelling all day and the last two weeks at the Council have been most…..taxing.”

 

His Slayer sat beside him and took his hand in hers, “You don’t have to apologise to us. I’m sure whatever it is could have waited until you had some sleep.” She nodded towards the stairs, “If you want to get your head down now……..”

 

Giles squeezed her hand, “I’m afraid it couldn’t wait, Buffy.” He took a deep breath, “Thank you all for making sure you were here tonight. I’m afraid the Council has had some most disturbing intelligence and from what we can find out its one hundred percent accurate.”

 

The serious tone of voice sent a shiver of apprehension down Willow’s spine and she leaned into Xander’s side, reaching for Spike’s hand as she did so. The vampire turned his head and gave her fingers a brief squeeze, before turning back to fix suspicious blue eyes on Buffy’s de facto father.

 

Giles met his gaze for a moment and then turned to meet Buffy’s worried hazel one, “Its bad Buffy. Dawn is in great danger and I’m afraid we have no hope of protecting her.” He took a breath as the Slayer’s face paled, “There’s more. The intelligence we’ve received also indicates that Connor may also be in danger.” They all jumped as a knock came at the door and Giles said, “Ah good. That will be Angel and Cordelia, I’ve asked them to join us.”

 

Willow hurried to the door to let their friends, smiling worriedly at their greetings and then giving a more enthusiastic smile to an exhausted looking Connor. She met Cordelia’s eyes for a moment and then slipped an arm through the teenage boy’s, “Hey sweetie, why don’t you come with me and get some shut eye.” She pulled him towards the stairs and began to hustle him up the steps.

 

Connor dug his feet into the carpet, “But I want to stay down here.”

 

Angel slipped a supporting arm round Cordelia and said, “Son, go to bed. Nothing’s going to happen tonight.”

 

Connor scowled, “But if it concerns me and Dawn we should be here…”

 

He broke off as Spike wandered into the hallway. The vampire looked expressionlessly at him for a moment and then jerked his head, “Go to bed. I won’t let anyone do anything that’ll upset Dawn, that means you’re covered too.” His eyes narrowed, “And keep in mind I’m a vampire mate, and if I think for one damn minute I hear you go near my girl’s room I’ll be up those stairs so fast you won’t know what’s hit you.”

 

Connor stared calmly back at Spike and cocked his head to one side, “Your word?”

 

Spike snorted, “I absolutely swear that if you go anywhere near Dawn tonight I’ll feed you your feet while they’re still attached.” He waited a beat, “And you have my word that no one will make you and Dawn do anything you don’t want to do, this little pow-wow is strictly for information only.” Connor nodded and allowed Willow to lead him up the stairs without further argument.

 

Cordelia stared at Spike, “How did you do that? Connor never caves that quickly.”

 

Spike shrugged, “I’ve got a way with kids. C’mon, let’s go see what the watcher’s got his stuffy knickers in a twist about.” He took the coats held out to him with a frown and then shrugged and beaned them over his shoulder, “Stop being a prancing nancy, Peaches and get your fat arse in here.”

 

He stalked off to Buffy’s side and Angel followed him, saying irritably, “Stop calling me that!”

 





The next morning Dawn woke up and stumbled out of her room and downstairs to the kitchen. The make-up that had shifted slightly during the previous day had been left on overnight, due to complete exhaustion thanks to her over protective, no sense of fun, can’t-remember-what-its-like-to-be-young guardians, and had got together during the night to wage a sudden and vicious assault on her face.

 

Black streaks and pink powder ringed her eyes, some smudged over her nose, but that was ok because it contrasted nicely with the escaped deep rose lip liner that had made a break north and was currently disappearing up one nostril. She scrubbed a bleary hand through her hair and winced as her fingers got snarled up in the wild, tangled strands. She walked through the kitchen door simultaneously scowling, yanking on her hair and yawning hugely and gave Connor a nasty shock as he closed the refrigerator door and turned to say good morning, “Aaaaaaaah!!” The carton of eggs he was holding flew into the air as he jumped, recoiled in horror and then they landed with a smash on the kitchen floor.

 

Dawn screamed at the unexpected bellow and stumbled back against the wall with her hand still stuck to her head and eyes wide with shock. “Connor? What are you doing here?”

 

Connor looking equally shocked stared back at her, “Dawn? Is that you?” His face flushed with fury, “Baby, what did they do to you?”

 

Dawn looked confused, “Huh? Who did what to me?”

 

She cut off as Spike, Buffy and Angel all burst into the kitchen with drawn swords and furious yells.

 

“Where is it ‘Bit? What’s happened?” Spike glanced at Dawn out of the corner of his eye and then did a startled double take, “Christ, nibblet, what happened to you?”

 

Buffy stopped glaring round the kitchen and swung round to face Dawn. A woman who had faced make up rebellion for many years, she sized up the situation in an instant. Her sword came up to rest on her shoulder; she kicked Spike hard on the ankle and said, “Erm….sweetie, you’ve got a little something on your face.” She turned to Connor and looked from him to the mess on the floor, “And you might wanna get those cleaned up, Destructo Boy.”

 

“Is it gone?” Buffy turned back to a thoroughly bewildered Dawn and winced as she saw the black streaks had now been extended to just above her chin, thanks to some extensive rubbing.

 

Angel turned to glance at Dawn and recoiled slightly before saying weakly, “Nearly.”

 

Buffy put a firm hand on Dawn’s shoulder and pushed her out of the kitchen, “Go shower.” She watched her head for the stairs and added as an afterthought, “And don’t look in the mirror before you do!” She tossed a derisive look at the three men, “Wusses.”

 

Spike watched her stalk out of the kitchen and then turned to a still shaken Connor, he grinned nastily, “Don’t look so nummy first thing does it, mate? Wait till it gets to be her time of the month and see how bad it gets then.” He turned and stalked off after Buffy.

 

Leaving Angel to deal with the confused Connor. “Time of the month? What does that mean?”

 

The former Scourge of Europe squared his shoulders and opened his mouth, preparing to face his responsibility as a parent to an enquiring child. Unfortunately the calm, well-structured explanation got lost somewhere between his brain and his vocal chords and a feeble, “Ask your mother.” emerged before Angel scuttled off in Spike’s wake.

 

Connor blinked in the dim light afforded by the well-curtained kitchen window, “And you people think I’m strange.”

 





An hour later everyone had breakfasted, showered and, in Dawn’s case, been coaxed out of their rooms after taking one look in the mirror and diving back into bed with a scream, and were now gathered in the living room.

 

Dawn was still completely mystified as to why Connor and his parents had shown up so unexpectedly and why all the adults were behaving so strangely. Xander kept peering out of the windows and up into the sky, and for some reason looking nervously at the fireplace, and Buffy, Spike and Angel were twitching at every little sound and reaching for weapons that lay at their feet.

 

Willow and Cordelia were engaged in a low serious conversation with Giles out in the hall and Anya was sat perched on the coffee table, biting her nails and darting anxious glances at Connor and Dawn when she thought they weren’t looking. Dawn frowned as Buffy reached for her sword as a car went by on the street outside and said firmly, “Ok, what’s the what? Not that I don’t appreciate the day off school and everything, but you’re all behaving much weirder than usual, which I didn’t think was actually possible, and I want to know what’s going on. Now.”

 

Buffy’s eyes darted to Giles’, who nodded firmly at her. She stared back at him for a moment before her shoulders slumped with resignation and she turned back to her sister, “Dawnie, you know we love you, right?” Dawn nodded slowly, and Buffy opened her mouth to continue, but before she could get another word out a loud pop sounded and there was suddenly three figures standing beside Anya and the coffee table. The demon gave a yip of surprise and toppled off onto the floor, and the two vampires and Buffy jumped up and hefted their weapons.

 

Giles sprang into the room with a shout, “STOP!” The three froze as he continued hurriedly, “This is the man I told you about. He can help us.”

 

Buffy eyed the tall, white haired man in the purple robes and matching hat and slowly lowered her sword. She nodded to Angel and Spike to do the same and then cut her eyes to Giles, “I recognise that outfit! That’s the one you wore the day the Magic Box opened.”

 

Willow peered round Giles’ shoulder, “Hey it is! And there’s the little wizarding hat!” She grinned at the white haired man it was currently perched on, “It looks better on you.”

 

The man beamed at her with a twinkle in his eye and then shook Giles’ hand firmly as the watcher strode forward, “Thank you for coming at such short notice.”

 

“Oh not at all, not at all. Least I could do.” The sparkling blue eyes turned to Connor and Dawn and the affable smile increased, “Ah, the infamous Miss Summers and Mr Angel.”

 

Connor stood and moved slightly in front of Dawn, blocking her from the man’s view. “I don’t think we’ve met.” His eyes narrowed in warning and his fists clenched at his side as the skin rippled alarmingly at the back of his neck. He knew whatever this man was, it wasn’t fully human.

 

Giles stepped hurriedly forward, “Connor, Dawn, I’d like you to meet Professor Albus Dumbledore.”

 

His tone implied that the two teenagers should give a modicum of respect even if they didn’t recognise the name. Connor folded his arms and planted his feet widely, remaining silent. Dawn cocked an eyebrow and looked bored.

 

Rather than being offended at the truculence of the two teenagers, Dumbledore chuckled delightedly and ushered forward his companions, “Oh I can see you’re going to get along famously.” He beamed happily between the lanky, dark haired boy and the very tall red headed one that stood either side of him, and then the scowling boy and girl by the couch, “One infamous pair to another, eh?”

 

He pointed to the dark haired boy and then the red head, “Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley meet Connor Angel and Dawn Summers.” The two sets of teenagers eyed each other dispassionately as Dumbledore clapped his hands together and Xander surreptitiously moved a jar of stakes out of Dawn’s reach. “I can see this is going to work out marvellously. You two will make fine additions to the school at the start of the new term.”

 

The tension level in the room reached an all time high as Dawn shot out of her seat, “We’ll make a fine addition to what now?”

Chapter Text

Dawn stood and glared at her sister and Spike accusingly, “We’ll make a fine addition to what?”

 

Buffy moved forward nervously, “Dawn, sweetie, just hear us out…”

 

Connor snatched Dawn’s hand and pulled her roughly past the red-headed boy to march to the door, “I don’t think so.” His hand moved to the base of his neck and clasped the short sword he had snug in a scabbard there as Giles and Xander moved to block him, “Move.”

 

His blue eyes glittered coldly as he looked between them and then Cordelia shoved between them and snarled, “Connor Angel, sit your butt down before I kick it into the middle of next week.” Her eyes flashed as her son made no move to obey her, “Now!” Connor stared at her for a few seconds and then nodded shortly before pulling Dawn back to stand beside the window.

 

Ron muttered to Harry, “Crumbs, and I thought Mum was scary!”

 

Harry nodded in agreement and took his eyes off the beautiful woman glaring at the boy and watched the two teenagers as they stood belligerently by the large window, still looking as though they’d make a break for it any minute.

 

Connor slipped one hand around Dawn’s waist and pulled her tight against him, “We’re listening.” His tone made it clear that it was under protest and that at the first sign of a strange pile of schoolbooks and any funny looking man dresses, he and Dawn were leaving. By whatever means necessary. He glanced out the window and was reasonably sure he could have Dawn out and up the street before anyone realized what happened.

 

Unfortunately Buffy realized it too; she folded her arms and said warningly, “You break that window and I’ll have you working it off well into next year.”

 

Dawn pressed against Connor’s warmth and said in a low, hurt voice, “You’re sending us away?”

 

Buffy’s face fell and she exchanged a stricken look with Spike, “No, sweetie, of course not. There’s things you don’t know and…….”

 

Connor cut her off for the second time as he spat harshly, “So tell us.”

 

Angel swallowed at the look of hurt and betrayal on both faces and he took an instinctive step forward but then halted when Dumbledore said quietly, “You know, I think we’d all find this much easier if we had some chocolate. What do you think, Harry?”

 

Harry winced, personally he’d had enough medicinal chocolate to last him the rest of his life, but if that’s what the old man wanted……”Yes, sir.”

 

Dumbledore clapped him on the shoulder, “Excellent. Why don’t you and Mr Weasley go with the lovely Ms…” His eyebrows rose as he looked at Willow.

 

She frowned at him in confusion for a moment and then jumped, “Oh! Oh, Rosenberg, Willow Rosenberg.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, “Right, you boys go with Ms Rosenberg and see what you can dig up, eh?”

 

Ron and Harry exchanged glances that said they’d much rather stay and see the drama unfold but then turned and followed Willow to the kitchen with one last curious glance at Connor and Dawn still standing rigidly by the window.

 

Dawn slipped her arms around Connor’s waist and tried to stop the uncontrollable trembling that vibrated lightly through her body, “This is because of what happened the other night, isn’t it?” Her eyes widened pleadingly, “I swear, Buffy, I won’t do it again.” She cast a quick look at Dumbledore and her eyes shimmered with tears, “Please, don’t do this.”

 

Spike swallowed at the hurt and fear in his girl’s eyes, “’Bit, this has nothing to do with the other night.” He handed his sword to Angel and walked forward to stop before Dawn and Connor. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and then after a moment, laid the other on Connor’s shoulder. His head jerked back to indicate Dumbledore, “Listen to what the old bloke in the dress and Giles has to say and then decide.” His eyes rested levelly on her face, “An’ then if you two brats still want to stay here, then I promise you they’ll ‘ave to go through me to get you out.”

 

Dawn whispered, “Pinky swear?”

 

Spike scowled, “What am I, six?” He hurriedly took his hand off her shoulder and extended his hand with the little finger extended as her face fell again, “Bloody hell. Alright, pinky soddin’ swear.” Dawn curled her finger around his and they shook their hands down sharply, “Happy now?”

 

She sniffed and gave him a tremulous smile, “Yes.”

 

Spike ruffled her hair, “Good. Now you and mini-poof go and sit down and be good kids. You’re showing me up in front of the manly men there.”

 

Dawn gave a watery smile and slipped past Spike to lead Connor to the sofa.

 

They settled back into it and both fixed wary eyes on Giles and Dumbledore.

 

Giles cleared his throat, “Yes, well, the thing is…” He trailed off and stared helplessly at the two young faces before him.

 

Anya, now standing and leaning back up against Xander, huffed impatiently, “Oh for god’s sake.” She fixed Connor and Dawn with a matter of fact look, “Giles has been told by the Watcher’s Council you’re in danger.” Her eyes rolled, “Yet again. Only this time you have the most powerful dark wizard in all of history after you and his untold hordes of dark worshippers.” She looked around her at the shocked faces, “What? They needed to be told.”

 

Her chin lifted defiantly, “I happen to think there’s way too much coddling of the children happening in this house. Besides, if they find out where she is then the bad wizards will hit Sunnydale and destroy us all and I have a child of my own to think of now and I don’t want it to be turned into a dung beetle before I get to see it as a human.”

 

Xander hissed, “Anya!”

 

Dawn blinked, “You’re pregnant?”

 

Anya nodded, “Yes.” Her face screwed up with annoyance, “Oh damn it! We were meant to announce it over an expensive dinner that you would all offer to pay for, as a sign of your good wishes.” She turned an anxious face up to Xander,”They’ll still do that right? And they still have to buy us gifts?”

 

Xander closed his eyes and groaned. Buffy gave an excited squeal, “A baby! You’re going to have a baby!” She flung her arms around Xander and gave an enthusiastic squeeze that had his back cracking and his eyes popping. Anya beamed as Dawn bounded up and threw her arms around her, all other considerations forgotten for the moment.

 

Giles cleared his throat, “Well. That’s most…I must say…How wonderfully…”

 

Spike snorted and extracted Xander from Buffy’s happy arms and slapped his back, “Good to know you’re not completely useless, eh Harris?” He gave a wide grin and then tugged Xander to him in a manly embrace, “Can’t believe I’m actually happy there’s going to be another soddin’ Harris walking around.”

 

Xander grinned goofily, “And I can’t believe that William the Bloody Annoying is going to be godfather to my child. Go figure.”

 

Spike gave a shout of laughter, “Me either.”

 

They all turned as Willow came out of the kitchen, “What’s going on?”

 

Xander took Anya’s hand and led her over to Willow to place the witch’s hand over the demon’s belly, “Say hi to your niece or nephew.”

 

Willow’s hand flexed in surprise on Anya’s still flat belly and then her eyes filled with happy tears, “Oh. Oh! Really?”

 

She looked in awe at Anya’s midriff as the demon said firmly, “Yes. I have about another month before I get fat. It will be most unpleasant.” She placed her hand over Willow’s, “I expect you will offer me lots of help and advice. I will happily accept it, mortal babies are notoriously fragile.”

 

Willow gave Xander a watery grin and then threw her arms round Anya, “I’ll give you whatever you need.” She bobbed down and pressed her cheek to Anya’s tummy, “Hey baby, hey in there!”

 

Anya stepped back smartly, “I still like Xander, don’t get any ideas.”

 

Xander choked as Willow gave a watery giggle and said, “Don’t worry, Ahn, you’re safe.” She gave Buffy a sly grin and turned her back on Anya to cross to the Slayer’s side, “Fat women don’t get me off.”

 





Ron and Harry peered round the corner from the kitchen and watched silently as the tense group from moments before became one laughing mass of people, hugging and smiling as they offered their congratulations to one of the tall dark-haired men and the small, angular woman at his side. Even the boy who had been shouted at by his mother was giving the woman a hug and rubbing her belly, before punching the dark- haired man lightly on the shoulder.

 

Harry stepped back, “Weird.” He went back to the counter and continued to measure scoops of drinking chocolate into a massive silver teapot, “Threatening to hit people with swords one minute, and throwing a party the next.”

 

Ron took one last look at party that had broken out in the living room, shrugged and followed his friend, “Americans. All mad as hatters.” He brightened, “Although being allowed to apparate and disapparate without a license isn’t too bad.”

 

Harry nodded and flashed an answering grin, “Not bad at all. I can’t wait to tell Hermione.”

 

Ron rolled his eyes, “Now what do you want to go and do a thing like that for? I can just hear her now…” His voice rose up to an angry falsetto squawk, “Harry Potter, I can’t believe you were so irresponsible. When I think of what could have happened to you…blah, blah, blah.”

 

Harry sniggered appreciatively, “And she’ll lose the plot completely when she finds out Dumbledore was in on it.”

 

Ron snagged an apple from the bowl on the side and sighed happily, “Yes she will.”

 

He tilted his head towards the people in the living room, and the two sullen teenagers in particular, “What do you think?”

 

Harry carefully eased a full pan of hot milk off the stove and began to pour it into the teapot, his eyes flickered up to follow Ron’s gaze to the door before he returned his attention back to the hot chocolate. When the last drop of milk had been poured he took up the long spoon he had ready on the counter and began to stir. The fumes from the hot drink wafted up and he found himself sniffing appreciatively at the aroma, he frowned and then realized he hadn’t answered Ron, “Sorry mate, miles away.” He pushed his black hair back from his forehead for a moment, revealing the famous lightening scar, “They seem a bit odd.”

 

Ron snorted, “Americans.”

 

Harry flashed another grin, “Is that your expert opinion as Head Boy?”

 

Ron flushed, “Leave off, Harry. I’ve had enough mickey taking from Fred and George these holidays to last me the rest of my life.” He shook his head despairingly, “I don’t think they’ll ever get over the shame. And Percy’s still not speaking to me.”

 

Harry laughed and placed the lid back on the overlarge pot, “Still jealous?”

 

Ron got up and helped begin pile mismatched mugs and cups on a tray, “I think he actually turned green at one point.” He lifted the tray and waited for Harry to pick up the pot and then they began to amble towards the doorway, “It’s not like I wanted bloody Head Boy. Do you remember me asking for this?”

 

Harry gave his friend a droll look, “Welcome to my life.”

 

Ron laughed, “Good point.” He took a deep breath and squared his shoulders, “Ready to face the nutters again?”

 

Harry rolled his eyes, “Well at least we can rule out a career in the Ministry for you. Subtle’s just a word to you, isn’t it?”

 

Ron grinned over his shoulder, “Not even that mate, not even that.”

 






When everyone had accepted a cup of hot chocolate, in Spike’s case with a healthy splash of scotch, they sat down and waited for Albus Dumbledore to begin to speak. Dawn felt a bit calmer, although Connor was practically vibrating with tension next to her, and she sipped her hot drink slowly, surprised that she felt more at ease with every sip. The Professor had a very calming aura around him, even ignoring his less than conventional appearance. The long silver hair stretched in a tangle free shimmering mane to his waist and he moved easily despite his obviously advanced years. Blue eyes twinkled at her from behind gold-rimmed half moon spectacles as he swallowed a large mouthful of chocolate and beamed merrily, “Ah, that’s the ticket. Nothing better than a nice bit of chocolate to calm the nerves.”

 

Out of the corner of his eye, Connor saw the two boys that had come with the old man exchange glances and then the red-headed one took his friend’s cup and sidled up to Buffy’s prized hibiscus plant. The boy glanced casually around the room and then tipped the contents of the two mugs into the soil with a grimace. He rejoined his friend looking mightily relieved and they exchanged smug looks, Connor looked down at his own mug and felt his stomach heave slightly at the wrinkled skin that had formed on top of the liquid. He leaned forward and set the untouched mug on the table and then eyed Dumbledore, “Tell us about this new power.”

 

Dumbledore looked delighted at the firm order, even though Connor had made his statement as belligerent as possible, “Not new, oh no. Lord Voldemort has been around and making trouble for some years now. Eh, Harry?”

 

Dawn and Connor looked at the dark haired boy as his hand rose to touch his forehead in an almost reflex action before nodding, “Yes, sir.”

 

“No, I’m afraid Voldemort has been a problem for some time.” For the first time Dumbledore looked saddened, “There have been some heavy blows to all of us over the years from that particular menace.”

 

Buffy leaned forward, “So why hasn’t anything been done? Why let it go on?”

 

“Alas, things are never that simple. The dark is always more seductive than the light and the fear of evil is enough to make even the bravest hold still at times.” The old man sighed, “He was stopped, once, for a time, by young Harry there.” All eyes swung to the squirming brunette in the corner as Dumbledore continued, “Years passed and we allowed ourselves to grow complacent in our wards and measures against evil.” He sighed, “And then he came back. The first time in our own school. Again Harry, this time with Ron and another courageous student stopped him.”

 

Connor eyed the two boys with grudging respect. Maybe they were manly dresses after all.

 

“And so it has gone on, year after year. We have always been able to force him back but never vanquish him completely.” He smiled at Ron and Harry briefly, “Although those two reprobates had a very good try last year.”

 

Ron and Harry exchanged guilty looks as they thought of their adventure through the forests of Albania and their furious battle to save Hermione and her family when they were snatched by a group of the Dark Lord’s supporters. It had taken some fast talking by Ron’s father and Dumbledore to keep them out of hot water at the Ministry when the two boys had apparated without a license in the middle of Diagon Alley with an unconscious underage witch and her two muggle parents.

 

Dumbledore smiled at their discomfort, “Our Misters Potter and Weasley have never been ones for standing still in the face of danger.”

 

Willow exchanged grins with Xander, “Why does that sound familiar?”

 

Dumbledore smiled, “Yes, Mr Giles said you might be familiar with the concept.”

 

The Scoobs grinned at their long suffering Watcher as he eyed them with resignation, “I’m afraid they really don’t understand the idea of organized regrouping in the face of overwhelming odds.” He sighed, “They tend to lean more towards being stupidly brave and ignoring all common sense.”

 

Buffy shrugged, “Hey, whatever works.”

 

Anya squeezed Giles’ arm, smiling lovingly at him, “And you taught us everything we know.”

 

Spike choked on his drink at the offended look on Giles’ face as Xander sniggered and turned his face to the wall to hide the smirk. Dawn cocked her head to the side and looked levelly at Dumbledore, “I don’t mean to trash all that you’ve been through, but still not seeing what all this has to do with me and Connor.” She put her cup on the floor and spread her hands in confusion, “We don’t even live in your world, what could this Mouldy Wart want with us?”

 

It was Harry and Ron’s turn to choke at the new name that had unintentionally just been given to the Dark Lord. Ron grinned, “You know, they’re growing on me.” Harry nodded in agreement and had a brief happy image of himself facing down Voldemort for the last time and calling him Mouldy Wart just before he vanquished him. His grin widened, the imagined look on the dark wizard’s face would be enough to keep him warm on many a cold winter’s night.

 

Dumbledore cleared his throat and ignored the sniggering from the far corner, “Lord Voldemort has received word that a key to open dimensions walks in this world.”

 

Dawn snorted, “Where’s he been? I’ve been walking in this world for nearly four years now.” She exchanged glances with Connor and rolled her eyes, “Doesn’t sound too bright for an evil genius if you ask me.”

 

Connor nodded in agreement, “Not the sharpest stake in the box.”

 

Harry nudged Ron, “I could really like them.” Ron smirked and privately wondered just what Connor and Dawn’s history was that allowed them to be so unconcerned that the darkest wizard in the world’s history was looking for them. He had the feeling that Voldemort rated pretty low on their terror level right now.

 

He blinked; did she just say she’d been alive for four years? His eyes flickered around the room; no one else seemed to notice anything unusual. He sighed, Hermione was right; he really needed to start paying more attention.

 

Dawn gestured at Willow, “Plus, we’re no slouches in the powerful mojo department ourselves.” She nodded at Anya, “In fact, we’re pretty chock full of it. If we took down a god, what makes you think we can’t kick your boy’s ass?”

 

Ron blinked again. No, everyone else in the room seemed to find the girl’s statement perfectly normal.

 

Dumbledore looked positively delighted, “You will fit in well. I can see you and Harry will complement each other wonderfully.”

 

Connor shot a narrow look at Harry and silently appraised him. Harry swallowed and silently willed Dumbledore to shift back to the main part of the story as Connor’s hands flexed ominously against his knees.

 

Thankfully the old man obliged, “I’m afraid as powerful as your own witch and various supernatural entities are they would fail in the event of a concentrated attack. The only place in our world that the Dark Lord hasn’t managed to get a firm foothold in is Hogwarts.”

 

“Your school?” Dumbledore nodded at Dawn’s question and watched her intently as she thought for a moment, then said hesitantly, “And you think this guy knows who I am?”

 

The old man shook his head, “Not yet, no. But it is only a matter of time, then he will gather his forces and attack.”

 

Connor slipped his arm unobtrusively around Dawn’s waist, “And where do I come in?” He squeezed Dawn apologetically, “So far it all seems to be about Dawn. Why do I have to run and hide?” His lips curled with disgust as he completed his question and Ron got the impression that running and hiding wasn’t something that Connor had much experience with. And absolutely no patience with.

 

Dumbledore smiled at the deceptively innocent looking boy in front of him, “The Destroyer. The name alone is enough to draw Voldemort’s attention, but when it became known that there is a link with the Key, although the link remains unclear to his spies, it is enough to draw his malevolence down on you.”

 

Connor nodded, “Understood.”

 

Dawn and Connor looked round as Buffy spoke, “It’s your decision, guys.” She darted an apologetic look at Giles as she continued, “I get that it could bring stuff to Sunnydale that we have no hope of defeating, but this is a decision that has to be theirs.” She took Spike’s hand in hers, “If you decide you want to stay and duke it out, then we’re here for you. All of us.”

 

Dawn watched the torn expression in her sister’s eyes and then looked at Angel for a moment, who watched Connor with the same tortured look. She thought for a moment, “What guarantee do we have that he won’t attack anyway?” She looked around at her family and then back to Dumbledore, “If we go with you and...hide.” The expression on her face made it clear that she didn’t think anymore of the idea than Connor, “Then what’s to say that he won’t hit town and kill everyone anyway?”

 

Dumbledore’s face sobered slightly, “I can’t offer you a guarantee that he won’t, but if he finds that you are no longer here then his attack may be swifter and less harsh.”

 

Dawn looked unconvinced, “Or he could go nuts and level the whole town.” She linked her fingers with Connor and pressed his hand tightly to her waist, “If we stay here, we could help. We might make a difference.”

 

Connor watched the white-haired man closely as he considered his next words, “Yes, you might. No one knows what may happen, after all, but your powers are new to you and Giles tells me that you have limited control over them at present. We could help you with that. Hogwarts has a fine faculty experienced in all manner of the mystical arts and we could help you hone your powers greatly.” He tipped his head to one side, “And when you finally face the Dark Lord, your strength and control will be increased immeasurably.”

 

Connor gave a grim smile, “So he will find us eventually?”

 

“Oh yes, of that there is no doubt.” Dumbledore smiled over the rim of his glasses, “But with certain steps taken, he will find it much harder to defeat and use you to his own ends.”

 

Connor said firmly, “But we will get to fight him eventually?”

 

“Most definitely.”

 

The expression on the boy’s face suddenly looked much happier, “And whatever happens, Dawn and I will be together?”

 

“You have my word.”

 

Connor met his father’s eyes for a moment and then placed a gentle hand on Dawn’s face to look deep into her eyes. He brushed a light kiss over her mouth and whispered, “I can think of worse things than living and dying by your side.” He frowned suddenly, “But no dying without me. That was not fun last time.”

 

Dawn smiled and rubbed her cheek against his calloused palm, “Deal. Are we going?”

Connor kissed her again, “We’re going.” A mischievous smile lit up his face, “A whole term of school without Spike breathing down our necks?” He kissed the tip of her nose, “Figuratively speaking, of course. Sounds good to me!”

 

Spike scowled from where he sprawled in his chair, “Hello, vampire? I can hear you, you know.”

 

The whole room looked round at a strangled yelp from the corner, “Vampire?” Ron and Harry were staring with abject horror at Spike.

 

The vamp in question frowned, “Well, yeah. Problem?”

 

“You’re a vampire.” Harry had gone rather pale, whilst Ron raised a shaking hand to his neck where he had been savaged the previous year. “You’re a bloody, filthy vampire!”

 

Spike nodded slowly, obviously considering the red-headed boy one step down from Xander on the intelligence scale, “Yeeess.” He pointed at Angel and said a tad defensively, “So’s he!” He scowled, “And I happen to keep myself spandy fresh, thanks.”

 

Angel nodded cordially at the two boys, “Hello.”

 

His eyebrows rose as they flinched back and he looked helplessly at Cordelia, “I… uh...Cordy...”

 

Cordelia smiled and stepped forward, “On it.” She shot a huge grin at the two unhappy boys, “Look, there’s no need to be scared…” Her face fell abruptly as she stared at Angel with a look of utter terror, “Blood, lots of blood. The Bronze, you need to get to the The Bronze.”

 

Ron clutched at Harry and whimpered as Cordelia grabbed Angel’s arm, “They’re going to die. You need to hurry.”

 

The vampire nodded, “On my way. Spike!”

 

The blonde was already moving and tipping Giles carelessly off the weapons chest on which he was perched, and ignoring the indignant protest with the ease born of long practice. “Stakes for all, Peaches.” He snatched up a handful of wooden weapons and passed them to Willow, “What are we dealin’ with ‘ere, cheerleader?”

 

Cordelia concentrated on the images in her head, her hand shooting up to snatch a light sword out of the air as Buffy tossed it to her without even bothering to turn her head, “Some vamps, two, no three big demons.” She shook her head, “They don’t look familiar.”

 

Harry’s eyes bulged slightly as the Dawn’s sister, Muffy or something, snatched a heavy broadsword out of the weapons chest and stalked to the middle of the room, “Ok, here’s the drill. Spike, Angel, head for the sewers, quick as you can.  You got the backdoor.” The two vampires nodded and ran for the basement and the newly installed sewer access that Xander, Giles and Spike had installed the week the vampire had moved in with Buffy.

 

The Slayer turned to Willow and Xander, “You guys are with me and Cordy. We need the holy water bombs and you’re taking the cross bows and controlling aerial manoeuvres.” The two nodded and headed for the kitchen to grab the box under the sink with their less traditional weapons.” Buffy turned to Giles, “You’re co-ordination guy. Keep an eye out for anything unusual.” She gave Anya an apologetic smile when the demon stepped up gripping a small axe, “Sorry Ahn, you’re on restricted duties as of now. Research only.”

 

Anya pouted, “What?” She looked outraged, “I’m pregnant, not sick!”

 

Buffy nodded, “And that’s the way we’re going to keep you.” Her eyes swung to Dawn and Connor, “Stay here and look after our guests.” She ran for the front door as Xander and Willow headed out, “Watch your backs!”

 

Dawn nodded, “Don’t get dead.” The door slammed behind them and then it was quiet. For about two seconds.

 

“Right, Connor upstairs, make sure all the windows are shut and get the crosses up against them.” Connor ran for the stairs as Dawn stepped seamlessly into Buffy’s shoes as group leader, “Anya, go round all the downstairs rooms, same deal.” She turned to look at Professor Dumbledore, “Stay in here and away from the windows. I need to go and secure the basement. If anyone knocks at the door, don’t invite them in or step outside. There may be a chance that the Bronze thing is a diversion and they could hit Slayer central.” She snatched a sword off the wall that Ron had assumed was ornamental up until now. Dawn gave a wry sigh, “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

 

Harry and Ron stared dumbstruck at their headmaster as they were left alone in the room. Dumbledore smiled and rubbed his hands together, “Well, this is exciting isn’t it?”

 

Ron and Harry looked at him and then looked at each other. Harry spoke, “What Central?”








Half an hour later Dawn replaced the phone, “Stand down red alert. Crisis contained. One of the demons got out and is heading out of town, they’re going after it, but Buffy says that it shouldn’t take more than an hour. Spike and Angel have stayed at the Bronze to try and clear up a little.” She replaced her sword on the wall and sat next to Connor with a sigh of relief, “Nobody got badly hurt, just a run of the mill sacrifice. The vamps got in through the sewers and Angel said he and Spike might have a look around before they head back to make sure there’s not a nest down there.”

 

Connor nodded, “Ok. They need help?”

 

Dawn shook her head and clasped her hand loosely in his, “Nah.”

 

Anya got up with a happy smile, “Good. I feel hungry and as I was not allowed to fight, strangely productive. Who wants lunch?” Dawn and Connor beamed at her in approval. She returned their smiles and headed into the kitchen, “Lasagna?”

 

Professor Dumbledore stood and nodded at Ron sitting in the armchair and Harry perched on the armrest. “I think I’ll join Mrs. Harris in the kitchen and let you young people get acquainted.” He bustled off in Anya’s wake, muttering happily, “Fascinating. Muggle cooking, absolutely fascinating.”

 

Ron and Harry watched him go and then turned back to the two Americans who were far too comfortable with sharp weaponry for their liking. Dawn and Connor for their part were unimpressed with the squealing English boys that freaked over Spike and Angel, and were wondering how to ditch them.

 

Harry smiled uncertainly, “So, you’re coming to Hogwarts?”

 

The boy and girl looked back at him and nodded in unison but didn’t deign to acknowledge his question with a comment.

 

Harry cleared his throat uneasily, “Right. That’s great.” He threw Ron a look that plainly said ‘For Merlin’s sake, help me out here!’ and nodded stupidly, “That’s great. We have a lot of fun.”

 

Dawn and Connor exchanged looks and then looked back at Harry coldly. Harry kicked Ron’s ankle sharply.

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron grabbed his throbbing ankle and glared at his friend, “What the bleeding hell was that for?” Harry glared back and raised his eyebrows to indicate it was now Ron’s turn to make small talk. Ron rubbed his ankle theatrically for a moment and then turned to Dawn and Connor. “What was all the fuss about earlier? The swords and stuff.” He waved his hand to indicate the still open weapons chest, “That happen a lot?”

 

Dawn looked at the empty trunk, “Yes, actually.”

 

Ron opened his mouth and then closed it again. He sneaked a look up at Harry and then concluded weakly, “Oh. Right.” He smiled uneasily, “Weird.”

 

Connor lost interest in the two boys altogether and tipped his head back to contemplate the ceiling and just how long it took to make lasagna from scratch. He narrowed his eyes and wondered what the chances were of getting Anya to use her powers to speed the process up a bit.

 

Dawn started playing with the ends of her hair and answered Ron after a long pause, “Not really. We’re on a Hellmouth and Buffy’s the Slayer. These things happen.”

 

Harry mentally snapped his fingers. That was it, Buffy not Muffy. He shifted his weight on the narrow arm of the chair and adjusted his robes, “What’s a slayer?”

 

Dawn yawned and said in an undertone to Connor, “I am so bored of this speech. We really need to get cards printed or something.” Her boyfriend nodded in agreement as she looked over at Harry and continued, “In every generation there is a chosen one. She will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” Dawn held her hand up to the light and examined the nails critically as she said in a bored tone, “Yada, yada. ‘She’ in this case being Buffy.”

Ron and Harry exchanged confused looks and then Ron said slowly, “Right. Um… she does know she missed two?”

 

Dawn was surprised into a giggle, she gave the red head a semi-friendly grin, “Kinda hard not too. She’s boinking the blond one.”

 

There was a brief pause and then Ron screwed up his face in disgust, “Ugh. She’s screwing a dead man?”

 

Connor raised his head from the back of the sofa, “We prefer the term ‘Alternatively Alive.”

 

Ron looked horrified, “You’re a vampire too?”

 

Connor smiled reassuringly, “Of course not.” He watched as Ron’s face flooded with relief, “My father is. He’s the one with the dark hair.”

 

Harry laughed as he watched Ron’s face fall again and said, “Sorry. Its just where we come from vampires aren’t a good thing.”

 

Dawn relaxed slightly against Connor’s side, “They aren’t that great here. Spike and Angel are…different. They have souls. Their demons are pretty dormant.” She paused, thought of Riley when Spike had killed him the previous month and said honestly, “Well, unless they get pissed, then they get pretty intense.” Dawn tilted her head and said curiously, “Have you met many vampires?”

 

Ron touched his neck and his face clouded, “One or two.”

 

Connor cocked his head and scowled sympathetically, “Got bit, huh?”

 

Ron thought of the puckered scar that measured four inches across on the base of his neck, “You could say that.” His mouth dropped open as Dawn pulled the neck of her top down to reveal a smooth, white shoulder and a white bite mark marring the otherwise blemish free skin.

 

“First time staking a vamp.” She let her top spring back into place and then pulled up the hem of her shirt to twist round and show four raised white scars running along her lower back, “Last time out with a hell hound.”

 

Connor snorted and rolled up his sleeve, “Oh please.” He extended his bicep and flexed the raised lividly purple scar that ran from his shoulder to his wrist, “Now that’s a scar!”

 

Dawn poked his arm and mocked, “You drew that on before you came over.” She hiked up her pants leg, “I win!”

 

Connor raised his eyebrow at the jagged white scar that bit dip into her calf muscle, “Whoa.” He stroked a gentle finger along her skin, “What did that?”

 

Dawn grinned, “Crashed my bike through our patio door when I was six.” She squealed with laughter as Connor grabbed her and began to tickle her unmercifully. After an elongated battle, which ended with Connor face down on the sofa and his girlfriend pressing a cushion over his head and then bouncing her butt off it shouting, “Loser! Loser!” at the top of her voice, Dawn faced Harry and Ron again.

 

“So, any other battle scars?”

 

Harry slowly pushed his hair back off his forehead, “Just this.” He gave Dawn a shy smile, “Voldemort gave it to me when he killed my parents.”

 

Dawn’s eyes flashed with sympathy and then she caught the resigned look come over Harry’s face as he saw it. She cocked her head to one side and came to the conclusion that Harry Potter had had all the sympathy he could stand over that particular scar, “Now that’s a doozy.” She nudged Connor, “See? Subtle yet dramatic. You want to get one of those.”

 

Harry let his hair flap back down and gave Dawn a wide grin. He had a feeling he was going to like her after all

Chapter Text

An hour later and things were going swimmingly. Dawn, Connor, Harry and Ron had retired to Dawn’s bedroom while they awaited the return of the others and were swapping tales of their adventures amid much hoots of disbelief and catcalling from each other.

 

“No way! In a box?”

 

Connor nodded, “Uh-huh. Took him right out into sea and heaved him overboard.”

 

Ron grinned, “Remind me never to piss you off.”

 

Harry choked on his soda and ducked Dawn’s playful swipe as the coke dripped onto her bed cover, “And you died?”

 

Dawn scowled at the brown mark on her previously immaculate white cover, “Yup. Which is what you’ll be doing if you don’t get that cleared up.”

 

Ron smirked, “Nah, not Harry. He’s the boy-who-lived, you can’t kill him. What would the Daily Prophet write about then?”

 

Harry scowled at his friend, “Oh ha ha.” With a swift kick Ron was sent flying off the bed and crashing onto the floor, “Maybe they could start on their second favourite subject….you!”

 

Dawn snagged a handful of the pretzels that Connor had swiped from the kitchen and laughed as Ron flushed an unhappy red, “It’s not my fault. Bloody Rita sodding Skeeter.”

 

He climbed off the floor and back onto the bed as Harry explained to their two new friends, “After we got Hermione home, a reporter from the wizarding world that we’ve had run ins with before managed to sneak into the Merlin Memorial Hospital and get to Ron while he was still under a spell to control the pain from his little scratches…” He laughed as Ron took a swing at him, “And little Ronnikins here gave her a full exclusive on everything we’d been up to on our trip and the next morning we woke up to the headline ‘Ron Weasley: Saviour of the Saviour of the World!’ with a lovely picture of the hero himself unconscious on a hospital bed, wearing nothing but his underpants!”

 

Ron finally managed to get Harry in a neck lock and silence his howling friend, “Yeah, yeah, very funny.” He rubbed his knuckles briskly over Harry’s hair, ignoring the yell of pain, “Thanks to bloody Rita Skeeter I couldn’t even get home these holidays so I’ve had to stay at Hogwarts with the-boy-no-one-wants here.”

 

Harry popped up again, “And don’t forget all those people from ‘Teenwitch’, ‘WizardingWow!’ and ‘PlayWitch’ that want you to pose in those pants again!” He snorted with laughter, “’Cept ‘PlayWitch’, they just wanted some tasteful shots of the hero of the hour with a just broom and a wand.”

 

Ron glared at his helplessly laughing friend as Dawn and Connor tried to hold back the giggles, “I’ll stick that broom and wand somewhere in a minute…”

 

They all turned as Dawn’s bedroom door opened and Willow stuck her head in, “Grub’s up. Come and get it while it still looks kinda dead.”

 

The door shut again and Harry turned to Dawn uncertainly, “That was a joke, right?”

 

Dawn shrugged and allowed Connor to pull her off the bed and into his arms for a quick kiss, “Hmm? Oh, yeah, sure.” She walked to the door with Connor and then turned to grin back at the two boys following her, “But just in case, grab a stake from the jar in the hall. We did mention Anya’s also a demon right? She’s a little…inventive, when it comes to cooking.”

 





Thanks to Professor Dumbledore the Summers dining table had been extended a little to accommodate the wealth of extra diners sitting down to lunch. Dawn and the other teenagers bagged one end of the table and began to dig enthusiastically into the plates of steaming lasagna, garlic bread and salad. Ron and Harry eyed theirs uncertainly at first and then after cautious prodding with their forks, attacked the steaming plateful with abandon.

 

Buffy helped herself to a generous slice of lasagna and said in an undertone to Spike, “So, she looks ok, right?”

 

Spike glanced down the table at Dawn happily chatting to Harry as she shoveled a fork load of pasta and meat into her mouth, and winced as she continued to chew as she talked, “Yeah, she looks ok.” He sipped his mug of blood and placed his hand over hers, “If she wants to go, Slayer, then we should let ‘er.” He looked at Dumbledore briefly as he explained to a fascinated Anya the concept of house elves and cooking, “I think this bloke’s ok. He’ll look after ‘er.”

 

Buffy nodded and pushed the pasta round her plate, “I guess. I just can’t help feeling that we’re being hasty about all this. There must be something we can do to keep her safe here.”

 

Angel looked round from where he sat on her left hand side, “I don’t think there is. I had Fred get on the computer last night as soon as Giles called us. From what she was able to pull up on this Voldemort he’s a real bad ass.” His eyes flicked down to Connor and he said in a lower tone, “I don’t think we stand a chance if we stand and fight now. Maybe with a few months research…” His voice trailed off, making it clear that he was uneasy about their chances even then.

 

Buffy sighed, “I know. I just wish there was something we could do. I don’t like the idea of her being so far away, especially after what happened last month…”

 

The three fell silent again as they each remembered the desperate hours when they thought Dawn had been lost to them forever after getting staked by an ex-lover of Buffy’s.

 

Dawn snorted at the end of the table having caught Buffy’s last remark, “Hello? Welcome to my life. How many times have I had to watch you die now? You owe me.” She nudged Harry companionably, “She’s died three times that we know of. It’s getting embarrassing.”

 

Ron and Harry’s heads swivelled round to gape at the squirming Buffy. “Three times? Bloody hell!”

 

Buffy scowled at Ron’s awed exclamation, “It’s not like I did it on purpose. The drowning thing hardly counted, the tower thing saved the world and the getting shot thing was a total accident.”

 

Dawn smiled gently at Willow as they both remembered the loss of Tara and then gave the witch a broad wink, “I’m just saying, you’d think with all the times you’ve up and died on me you’d cut me a little slack on the one time I did it.” She grinned at Cordelia, “Although I get the feeling that people from Sunnydale aren’t gonna find it as easy to die as they used to. The Powers are getting pretty p/o’d with us showing up in the spiritual realms, then turning round and heading back home again.”

 

Cordelia looked longingly at the garlic bread and then regretfully decided that she’d rather have smoochies with her dead hunk of a lover than him whining for the next few days that she was burning his mouth every time she kissed him. She looked up at Dawn and returned the grin, “Ain’t that the truth. You know, sweetie, you could think about making a little retreat for the Scoobs once you get your powers down. Y’know, somewhere we can kick back and relax the next time we kick the bucket. Just somewhere to hang while we figure out whether we have to come on back or not.”

 

Dawn looked at Cordelia thoughtfully, “Hey, that’s not a bad idea.” She flicked a wicked look at Buffy, “And I could get one of those cool revolving doors fitted, save you some time, Buff.”

 

Anya leapt enthusiastically into the breach, “Or one of those giant rubber bands that the fluffy cartoon desert dog uses when he’s trying to catch that annoying honking bird.”

 

Xander threw back his head and laughed, “Slingshot Slayer! I like that.”

 

Giles scowled at all of them, “Ahem. As entertaining as this is, perhaps we could get back to more important matters rather than giving Dawn silly ideas that could destroy the dimensional balance.”

 

“You really need to lighten up, Giles.” Cordelia gave the watcher a disapproving look and bit down on a tomato and resolutely ignored the garlic bread that now seemed to be waving it’s tushie seductively at her and calling her name like a stinky little siren.

 

Willow, peacemaker extraordinaire, jumped in hastily, “So, when do you want the kids to be ready? I mean there’s plane tickets and books and all kinds of stuff we need to get them.” She bounced slightly on her chair as she thought of all the academic shopping to be done, earning an exasperated look from all her friends.

 

“You are such a geek.” Xander ruffled her hair affectionately, ignoring the outraged pout from his oldest friend.

 

Dumbledore smiled, “I’m afraid their school supplies are rather specialized, you won’t be able to procure them locally.” He popped a bit of garlic bread into his mouth with a beatific smile and chewed happily for a moment before continuing, “I have brought a device with me that will make travel much easier as well. In fact, all they need are some funds and we can leave as soon as they have packed a few personal effects.”

 

Connor blinked, “You mean today?” He looked at Dawn and saw she looked as stunned as he did, “I thought we’d have a few days.”

 

Dumbledore shook his head, “Oh no, indeed. The school term starts in two days and you need quite a few pieces of equipment. I rather thought we’d be off after we’ve finished this splendid lunch.”

 

Buffy dropped her fork onto her plate with a clatter, “But…but…it’s too soon. What about the schools they’re at now? They’ll have to be told. There’s transfer papers to take care of and Dawn’s under state supervision, I have to inform them.” She looked wildly at Spike and saw him staring in disbelief at Dumbledore.

 

Dawn gripped Connor’s hand, “My friends. I have to say goodbye to my friends. And Connor has people in LA.”

 

Connor looked confused for a minute and then realized that he’d never actually got around to telling Dawn that he had no friends in LA aside from his father’s crew. And he was pretty much wearing what he owned.

 

Giles leaned forwards and divided his attention between the two stunned sets of parents, “The council will take care of all that. As far as any authorities will know, Dawn and Connor have both transferred out of state, in Dawn’s case to complete her final school year under the supervision of her father.” He pushed the nearly empty plate of garlic bread aside and Cordelia’s nose twitched like a rabbit’s as the succulent pieces of bread began to call her name again. Giles continued regardless, “They will do some traditional lessons at Hogwarts under certain carefully selected tutors and then they will sit their finals either here or in England, depending on how long it takes us to neutralize this new threat.” He smiled at Buffy, “Whatever happens, their education will not suffer I promise you.”

 

Dawn cut her eyes to Connor and muttered, “Well, that’s a relief.” He ginned at her dry tone and then looked at Angel as his father spoke up quietly.

 

“So, they’re leaving today?” He looked at Connor for a moment and his eyes showed briefly his pain at losing his precious son again.

 

Connor blinked at the love and pain radiating from his father and then gave Angel a slow, sweet smile, “But this time, you know I’ll be back.”

 

Cordelia took her love’s hand and firmly turned her back on the increasingly lascivious garlic bread, “Yes, we do.” She squeezed Angel’s hand firmly, “You’re going to have a blast.”

 

Dawn slipped her hand into Connor’s under the table and felt some of her tension ease slightly as he stroked his thumb over her skin. She smiled at Buffy bravely and then at Spike, “We’ll be fine. We’ll miss you guys, but this is definitely the right thing to do.”

 

Spike nodded shortly and then looked at Professor Dumbledore sharply, “They’ll be in separate bits of the school after lights out, right?”

 





It was just past three in the afternoon when Dawn and Connor stood in Dawn’s front room and prepared to say goodbye to their families for what might have been forever for all they knew. Dawn had packed a small suitcase containing underwear and a few favourite articles of clothing and it stood ready at her feet. A small backpack hung over her shoulder with a diary, a picture of the Scoobs and the essential hardware that no Scoob travelled without. Stakes, holy water, a small collapsible crossbow and two spare crucifixes to go with the one that hung around her neck.

 

Unbeknownst to Spike there was also a packet of condoms that Willow had slipped her earlier. Dawn’s eyes flicked to the witch who gave her a broad wink and exchanged smug looks with Anya. Dawn still reeling from the fact that two of her unofficial guardians had basically given her the green light in seducing Connor, gave them an unsteady smile and swallowed nervously as she thought of the book that Anya had slipped into her hands when Willow’s back had turned. After a quick glance through it the book had been tossed in the bottom of the suitcase and the lid slammed firmly down, she was positive that not even Buffy and Spike could manage some of the positions depicted and they were among some of the most flexible people she knew.

 

She watched as Connor was hugged by his mother and father, who slipped him what looked to be a considerable roll of cash. The boy stood tall in a fitted leather jacket, battered jeans and his usual washed out t-shirt. A hastily purchased backpack stood on the floor next to him filled with new underwear and a change of clothes that Cordelia had instructed him to wash on occasion not just throw on the floor to rot in a steaming heap.

 

Dawn gave a watery smile as one by one Xander and the others hugged her tightly and whispered words of love and encouragement. She clung tightly to Willow as the witch snuffled into her hair and then she was enfolded in Giles’ warm embrace. “Take care of them, ok?”

 

The older man nodded, slightly choked up himself, “I will, I promise.”

 

Dawn raised herself to kiss him affectionately on the cheek, “Good. Because if I hear Buffy’s died again before I get that rubber band fitted I’m gonna be pissed.”

 

Giles laughed and brushed an affectionate hand over her cheek, “You have my word, no dying of any kind will be permitted.”

 

He stepped back as Spike nudged him out of the way and enveloped Dawn in a fierce hug, “You write everyday, y’hear me, Nibblet? Don’t you let any o’ them bloody magical misfits give you a hard time.” He pulled back and stared into her eyes with a twisted grin, “You tell ol’ Spike if any of ‘em get outta hand and I’ll be over quick smart to drain ‘em and snap their pansy little arses into bits.”

 

Ron and Harry looked slightly green at his vicious statement, but Dawn’s eyes flowed over despite her best intentions and she flung her arms around his neck to hold him tightly, “I love you too, Spike.” She pushed her face into the curve of his neck and whispered, “I’m going to miss you so much.”

 

Spike clung to her for a moment and then pulled her arms from around his neck and turned her into Buffy’s embrace. His face worked for a moment and then he turned to stare casually out the window fighting for control. Xander snatched a handful of tissues from a box on the table and held them out, wincing in disgust when Spike threw him a poisonous look and wiped his face and nose on the sleeve of his t-shirt. “Ewww!”

 

Spike growled, “Just be thankful I ain’t blowin’ me nose on you, Harris.”

 

Buffy held Dawn softly to her and whispered, “You know why I agreed to this, right? I don’t want you to go but…” Her breath hitched slightly, “Oh god, Dawnie, I can’t watch you die again.”

 

Dawn sniffed and hung on to her sister tightly, “I know, it’s ok.” She stepped back and gave a wry grin, “Now you know how I feel every time you go out the door.” Tears trickled from her eyes as she kissed Buffy’s cheek and said unsteadily, “Just promise me, the minute this guy gets dusted you’ll bring us home.”

 

Buffy leaned gratefully against Spike’s chest as he slipped unsteady arms around her, “I promise. The ashes won’t even have time to touch the floor.”

 

Dawn smiled and turned into Connor’s arms. She hung on tightly as Cordy and Angel scooted to stand with the Scoobs and Harry took hold of her suitcase. Professor Dumbledore held out a carrot, “Just place your finger on here and keep it pressed firmly down.”

 

There was a brief silence as Dawn and Connor regarded the white-haired old man and briefly reconsidered the wisdom of entrusting their lives to a man that thought it was entirely normal to travel by root vegetable and then they exchanged looks and put their fingers out to gingerly touch the slightly muddy surface.

 

For a moment nothing happened and then Dawn felt herself jerked forward suddenly, she heard Spike yell “DAWN!” and then she had the sensation of rushing forward whilst staying in exactly the same place.

 

With a sudden jolt they halted and she was thrown face first into Harry’s shoulder. She gave him an apologetic smile and straightened up only to stare incredulously around herself as she realised that she was most definitely no longer in Sunnydale. Ron grinned at Connor and Dawn as they turned in a slow, stunned circle, “Welcome to Diagon Alley.”

 

Dumbledore took them into The Leaky Cauldron to book some rooms for the night and then once their bags had been stowed away led them into the bright morning sunshine, “Well, I think Harry and Ron will be able to look after you from here. I’m afraid the time difference puts us a good few hours behind California, will you be alright?”

 

Dawn blinked at the nearest shop that was piled high with cauldrons of every size and colour, “What? Oh, yeah, we’ll be fine. We’re used to being up at all hours.”

 

The professor nodded, “Capital. Well, stay in the alley and you’ll be perfectly safe. The boys will show you where you need to go to get your money changed over and then they’ll take you to pick up your school things, alright?” Dawn and Connor nodded dumbly, “Marvellous. Well, have fun and Potter, no more than two pints of butterbeer, you rascal!”

 

He strode off into the bustling crowd of witches and wizards thronging the narrow street and was soon lost too sight. Harry grinned at the two Americans as they stared around themselves, “Unbelievable isn’t it? I first came here when I was eleven and I had no idea magic was real, much less lived with vampires and stuff.” He jerked his head, “This way, don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to it.”

 

Connor took Dawn’s hand firmly in his and followed the two boys down the street. Everywhere he looked men and women were bustling about in long robes, going about their daily business. He was aware of stares following them as they walked but soon realized that they were directed at Ron and Harry rather then Dawn and himself in their jeans and leather jackets. It seemed Harry and Ron were aware of it also as their pace picked up considerably until they finally entered the doors of a gleaming white building at a brisk trot.

 

Ron wiped a hand over his glowing red face and glared around himself, “Bloody Rita Skeeter.”

 

Harry caught the eye of a group of simpering girls, standing giggling as they eyed himself and Ron with delight, “Bloody hell.” He steered Dawn and Connor over to a built up desk and resolutely tuned out the whispers and pointing fingers behind them, “Hello. We’d like to open two accounts and change some muggle money, please.”

 

The goblin behind the desk leaned forward and peered down, “Identification.”

 

Harry pulled his account key out of his pocket and passed it over, the goblin glared over his half moon glasses looking uncannily like Giles for a minute, “Not yours Mr. Potter. Theirs.”

 

Harry flushed, “Oh. Right.” He rocked back on his heels and looked at Ron who was busy glaring furiously at a young woman holding a copy of the Daily Prophet that featured his nearly naked body on the front and whispering frantically to her friend. Both women looked up at him and broke out into giggles. Ron’s big hands clenched into tight fists, “I’m going to bloody stuff that woman’s quill and stupid glasses down her throat when I catch up with her.” He looked round as Harry poked him sharply in the side, “What?”

 

Harry tugged a hand through his already untidy hair, making it stick up at angles and giving him the air of a faintly worried hedgehog, “They need ID.”

 

Ron directed one last glare at the two giggling women and then turned his full attention to the problem in hand, “So, show them your key, you stupid git.”

 

Harry sighed as Dawn smothered a smirk of amusement, “Not our ID. Something for them.”

 

Ron rolled his eyes and turned to the goblin, “They don’t have any. They live in the muggle world.”

 

The goblin looked at Dawn and Connor, “Are they going to Hogwarts?” Ron nodded, “Then they can use their acceptance letter as identification.”

 

Ron and Harry exchanged slightly panicked looks as Harry said, “They don’t have acceptance letters. Professor Dumbledore went and got them personally.”

 

The goblin managed to convey with one twitch of his eyebrow that if Professor Dumbledore failed to provide adequate identification for his enrolling students that would ensure their smooth transition from muggle to wizards then that was hardly his affair…or problem. And he wouldn’t care if it was. He leaned back in his chair and began to examine some parchment documents before him, “No identification, no money.”

 

Ron crossed his arms over his chest, “Fantastic. Now what?”

 

Harry opened his mouth but before he could get a sound out, a bellow echoed round the cavernous walls of the goblin bank, “’Arry Potter! I’ve bin’ lookin’ fer yeh!”

 

Ron was sure if he’d have blinked he would have missed what happened next. Connor and Dawn went from looking at him and Harry as they did battle with the goblin, to bursting apart, whirling round and somehow ending up with Dawn clinging to Reubus Hagrid’s best hairy suit and holding a sharp looking dagger to his throat and Connor aiming a crossbow bolt dead between his eyes.

 

“Bleeding hell!” Ron stood staring as Harry shot past him with a yell and jumped in front of Connor waving his arms frantically

 

“No, no, no! He’s a friend! Stop it!”

 

Connor narrowed his eyes, “Are you sure?” He peered round the frantically hopping Harry and eyed the frozen Hagrid up and down, “He didn’t sound very friendly.”



Harry was now engaged in trying to pull Dawn off Hagrid’s shoulders, “Yes, I’m sure!” He tugged at Dawn’s legs, “Will you get down!”

 

Connor put up his crossbow, “Ok. I think he’s alright.”

 

Dawn sniffed, “Hmm.” She glared for another moment and then slithered down to stand on the floor, “Ok, but if he goes postal on us, I’m blaming you guys.” She sauntered back to Connor’s side casually tucking her knife back into the sheath strapped to the small of her back.

 

Hagrid stared in amazement at Harry and Ron and then at their two companions, “Wot are they? Did Dumbledore hire yeh some bodyguards?”

 

Harry was busy trying to peer up at Hagrid’s throat to check for damages so Ron, with a last incredulous look at Connor and Dawn, answered, “No. They’re new students, he wanted us to look after them.”

 

Hagrid tipped his massive head to one side, “Blimey. Bit nervy aren’t they?”

 

Harry grinned affectionately at his friend, “A bit. How are you Hagrid?”

 

The giant took his eyes off Dawn and Connor and beamed happily down at his two young friends, “Fine. Bin’ busy with some important work for the headmaster...” He tipped his head to one side and tapped his nose with a wink, “An’ I bin off to see Madame Maxime o’ course.” Harry and Ron grinned as Hagrid flushed a wonderful bright scarlet and continued hastily, “Just as friends like, nothin’ funny goin’ on.”

 

Harry turned and waved Dawn and Connor forward, “Hagrid, this is Dawn Summers and Connor Angel. They’re joining the seventh year with us. Dawn, Connor, this is Reubus Hagrid, groundskeeper at Hogwarts.”

 

Hagrid extended one massive hand, “Pleased t’ meet yeh.”

 

Dawn placed her much smaller hand in his and smiled briefly, “Hi. Sorry about before; we thought Harry might be in trouble.”

 

Hagrid shook Connor’s hand and smiled down at the slightly embarrassed Dawn, “Don’t you worry yeh ‘ead about it, miss, ‘appens all the time.”

 

He turned back to Harry, “What yer doin’ ere then ‘Arry? Getting’ yeh stuff for school are yer?”

 

Harry’s face clouded as he remembered why they were standing in Gringotts in the first place, “We were trying to change some muggle money over and open a couple of new accounts, but we haven’t got the right identification.”

 

Hagrid’s face flushed angrily, “What? Don’t they know who yeh are?” He pushed past the teenagers to thump an angry fist down under the snobbish goblin’s nose, “Yeh listen ‘ere you little bastard, yeh ‘elp Mr. Potter ‘ere do what he ‘as to do or I’ll feed yeh to me blast ended skrewts, so help me, I will.”

 

The goblin rocked back slightly under the loud shout but otherwise remained unmoved, “No identification, no money.”

 

Hagrid scowled, “Why yeh…..” He raised his fist again, plainly intending to bring it down on the goblin’s head when a new voice interrupted.

 

“Is there a problem?”

 

Hagrid turned his head and bent over slightly to focus on a small wrinkled head that just about came up to his knees, “An’ who are you?”

 

“Edan Alanus, head goblin at Gringotts.” The gobin looked up at Hagrid in disapproval and flicked a piece of invisible lint from his immaculate robes, “Is there a problem?”

 

Hagrid scowled, “Too right there’s a problem. ‘Arry Potter and Ron Weasley are ‘ere doin’ official business for Professor Dumbledore, and this little pip squeak won’t let ‘em do it.”

 

Ron shut his eyes as Hagrid’s voice bounced of the walls of the bank, “Oh bloody hell.”

 

Hagrid swept on, “That’s two of the bes’ boys its ever been my privilege to know, an’ a prefect and head boy at Hogwarts I’ll ‘ave yeh know, and yer little servin’ git ‘ere won’t let ‘em do their business.”

 

Harry smothered a laugh as Ron muttered, “There’s never a bloody evil wizard around when you want one is there?” Harry glanced at Dawn and Connor and found them both highly entertained by the scene Hagrid was creating. He jumped as he heard his name.

 

“I do apologize, Mr. Potter. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do, however…” The goblin swept on ignoring Hagrid’s rumble of extreme disapproval, “If Mr. Hagrid here could be prevailed upon to sign for your friends’ good character and identity then we can get the accounts set up forthwith.”

 

Harry blinked, “Oh. Well, I could sign for them…”

 

“Unacceptable I’m afraid. The procedure requires a signature of an adult.”

 

Harry looked helplessly at Hagrid who beamed happily, “O’ course I’ll sign for ‘em ‘Arry. Come on then, let’s get started!”

 

He nudged the goblin still sitting behind the desk, “Oi, you, get yeh finger out.” The goblin glared angrily at the giant as he loomed over him and then began to collect various parchment forms together with annoyed rattles and shakes.

 

Harry nodded to the head goblin as he stalked off and then grinned at Dawn and Connor, “Right then, we’d better get a move on. Still got a lot to do.”

 





Connor folded his arms and glared threateningly at Harry as he held out a black robe, “I am not wearing a dress.” He tensed his arms, making his biceps bulge alarmingly against the tight leather covering them. His eyebrows came together as Harry took another step closer, “I. Am. Not. Wearing. A. Dress.”

 

Harry sighed, “It’s not a dress. It’s a robe and everyone has to wear one at Hogwarts.”

 

Connor stared flatly into Harry’s eyes, “Not me.”

 

Dawn choked back a snigger as Harry glared back at her boyfriend and abruptly lowered the robe with an impatient sigh, “Look, Connor…” He visibly fought for patience and then said in a reasonable tone, “Connor, we’ve been here forty minutes now and we still haven’t picked up your uniform. You are going to Hogwarts, you need a uniform, this…” He waved the piece of black cloth with a scowl, “Is your uniform. Can you at least put it over your shoulders, just for a minute, so we can make sure that you aren’t going to be tripping over the hem when you wear it at school?”

 

Connor raised an eyebrow, “I’m not wearing a dress.”

 

Harry stopped short of stamping his foot but did succumb to the urge to throw the robe on the floor, ignoring the annoyed exclamation from Madame Malkin, and bellowed, “Dawn!”

 

Dawn hopped down from the footstool she was on and skipped over to Harry’s side. She was wearing her new Hogwarts’ robes over her jeans and tee shirt and brushed happily at the soft, heavy material as she beamed up at the exasperated brunette. “Yes, Harry?”

 

“Will you talk to that bloody, irritating idiot and tell him it’s not a bloody dress?”

 

Dawn’s grin widened as Harry’s voice rose in a shout and she turned to look at the stubborn Connor. He divided his glare between Harry and his girlfriend, “I’m not wea…”

 

Dawn rolled her eyes and jumped up beside him on the narrow dressmaker’s platform. She pressed her mouth to his and flicked her tongue teasingly against Connor’s upper lip, “Yeah, yeah. I know, you’re not wearing a dress.” Her arms slipped around his neck and she pressed herself up against him, rubbing enticingly until his arms loosened and wound around her waist to pull her flush against him. Dawn leaned in even more and began to skip butterfly kisses along his rigid jaw and along the line of his neck.

 

“You know…” kiss, kiss, lick “Giles told me that in the old days…” she sucked a tiny fold of skin into her mouth and grazed her teeth lightly against it, grinning when she felt him shudder, “That a sign of a really macho guy…” kiss, kiss, lick and suck, “Was when he wore a robe all the time but still knew how to show he was all man.”

 

Harry blinked as her pelvis tilted towards Connor slightly and rubbed against his crotch. He didn’t know about the American but he was about to promise Dawn Summers just about anything as long as she came over to him and gave him the same treatment.

 

Connor licked suddenly dry lips and desperately tried to remember what he was so annoyed about as all the blood in his body abruptly headed south. Dawn raised herself up on her tiptoes and ran the edge of her tongue in a slow movement along the lobe of Connor’s ear, “I can so see why those old guys had so much appeal to the ladies in the big dresses.” Her teeth nipped lightly at his ear and then her mouth began a slow, warm path back to his mouth, “I’ve been watching all these guys all day, and I gotta tell you…” Her mouth nipped lightly at the corner of his, “The way those robes flow about them when they walk really gets me going.” Her mouth closed over his and she pressed against him with a little moan as he pulled her in and began to savage her willing lips.

 

Harry was aware his mouth was hanging open as he watched the two on the pedestal but he couldn’t seem to get himself together enough to close it. He blinked as Connor pulled Dawn up on her toes and wrapped one strong hand in her hair to pull her head back to give him better access to her mouth. She shivered and pressed against Connor as he took control of the kiss and left the boy who lived wondering what would happen to him if he did that to some of the girls of his acquaintance. He blinked again as one of Connor’s hands snaked down Dawn’s back to cup her butt and pull her more firmly against him. Harry felt his mouth begin to sag open once more. Why didn’t he know any girls like Dawn?

 

“Ahem. Ahem.” Madame Malkin appeared in front of Harry’s line of vision, a scowl marring her normally cheerful face. “Mister Potter, this is an establishment of good repute, and while I would never normally criticize you…”

 

Harry tore his eyes away from the oblivious couple, “What? Oh. Oh. Right. Sorry.” He edged round the angry witch and moved to tug awkwardly on the hem of Dawn’s robe. “Dawn.” The entwined lovers ignored him except for a low moan from Connor as Dawn’s hips bucked against him when he clenched her butt again, “Dawn!” Harry felt his face glow with embarrassment and he was fairly certain if they didn’t knock it off soon then his hair would burst into flames from the heat of his skin, “DAWN!”

 

Dawn blinked as she heard her name come from far away and then looked over her shoulder as she felt another tug on her robes and saw a hot pink Harry staring up at her, “Um…yeah?”

 

Harry looked up at her glowing face. Her eyes were incredibly bright, but heavy lidded with lust, her lips swollen after the less than gentle attentions of Connor’s mouth. She dragged her tongue over the trembling tissue of her lower lip and tried to focus, “What…um…is…um…” Harry raised an eyebrow as she sucked in a shaky breath and blinked furiously to focus on a train of thought, “What is it?”

 

Connor blinked as Harry gestured at the irate looking witch behind him and breathed in the scent of Dawn with a heavy dollop of both their arousals as he tried to regroup his thoughts, “Madame wants to fit the robes.”

 

Dawn’s eyes moved slowly to the proprietor and then drifted back to Harry, “Right. Ok. That should be fine.” She loosened Connor’s arms around her and then jumped gracefully off the pedestal. Unfortunately her concentration was still on the tingling in her lips and the pure fire that seemed to be raging in her groin, and her knees went from under her to send her toppling face forward onto the floor.

 

Harry scooped her up, “Are you alright?”

 

Dawn nodded vacantly at his anxious face, “Huh? Oh yeah. I’m fine.” She cast a look over her shoulder at Connor as he stood staring with the fixed expression of a hungry lion seeing his first antelope after a dry spell. Dawn gave Harry a faintly smug look, “Fixed his wagon, huh?” Her knees continued to tremble as Connor’s tongue flicked out, making him look more predatory than ever, “I need to sit down for a minute.”

 

Harry watched her stagger off to sink unsteadily into a chair in the corner. He turned back to Connor and then blushed yet again when he caught sight of the tell tale bulge in the front of his jeans. Harry whirled in a blaze of material that surely would have had Dawn dribbling if she’d have been in any state to notice it, and grabbed Madame Malkin’s arm as she bustled by him in a bundle of moral indignation, “We may need another minute here, Madame.” He ignored her squawk of fury and bustled her back over to Dawn, “Dress robes. Please.”

 





After the three had left the robe shop and had met up with Ron, fresh from a frantic battle with an elderly witch determined to see up his robes in order to confirm that he really did look that good naked, they made their way down the street to Mr Ollivander’s wand shop.

 

Dawn and Connor wandered ahead slightly, the screaming sexual tension between them silent now except for a slight frisson whenever they would catch one another’s eye. Harry mooched along in their wake listening with half an ear to Ron as he spluttered in indignation beside him, “In the middle of the sodding queue for Merlin’s sake! My bloody arms full of bloody books and some old hag with three warts and a stoat on her shoulder lifted up my robe and yanked on my bloody belt!”

 

Harry was still pre-occupied with the Dawn and Connor hot lovin’ road show (one night only, get your ticket while you can!) and nodded vacantly, “Yeah?”

 

Ron shifted the heavy bags he carried that contained four complete sets of Hogwarts year seven reading requirements, “Yes! She was older than my mother!” His face blushed tomato red again, “I ended up dancing round sodding Flourish and Blotts like a dervish and getting bitten by a rogue copy of The Monster Book Of Monsters that had escaped and gone wild in the home medicine section and had hidden in the relaxant charms, doped out of its mind until I stood on its spine and it shot up my robe.” He shuddered, “It could have been very nasty.”

 

Harry nodded, “Nasty, yeah.” He stopped suddenly and put his hand on Ron’s arm to pull him to a halt outside a shop that advertised self-flaming lamps and fires (Get ‘em while they’re hot!). “Ron, do you think Dumbledore’s gone a bit far this time?” He nodded at the backs of Dawn and Connor as they continued their slow walk up the street, “I mean, it’s a bit risky isn’t it? The son of two vampires and someone that can destroy the world as easy as she can snuff out a candle. There must have been somewhere else he could have sent them.”

 

Ron frowned, “What are you on about? You heard him, there’s nowhere that they’re going to be safe.” He flexed his fingers unhappily against the twine biting into them, “You saw their families, if they don’t stand a chance of protecting them if Voldemort comes for them, then what chance are they going to have hiding anywhere in our world except Hogwarts?”

 

Harry frowned uneasily, “I know. It’s just…” An image of Connor dragging Dawn against him in Madam Malkin’s popped up in his head again and he blinked slightly stupidly at Ron, “They’re so different to us.” He gestured helplessly and tried to explain, “I knew they would be different but…” He flushed, “They kissed while we were looking for robes.”

 

Ron shook his head in confusion, “Yeah, so?”

 

Harry ran nervous hands through his unruly hair, “I mean kissed. I thought he would chew her face off at one point.” Ron still looked none the wiser and Harry threw up his hands impatiently, “She was trying to persuade him to try on some robes and she started messing around with his neck and then all of a sudden he was practically pulling her hair out and there was all this weird energy and stuff.” His eyes flickered uncertainly, “It was like they were animals. He was just attacking her face and she was egging him on for more.”

 

Ron glanced at Connor and Dawn as they realized that they were alone and stood watching them from up the street, “Yeah? Blimey.”

 

Harry nodded, “They aren’t like us. I can’t imagine ever grabbing a girl they way he grabbed her and not getting slung in Azkaban for it.”

 

Ron’s widened respectfully as he looked at Connor, “Really?” His look turned inward and he said slowly, “Did she like it?”

 

Harry thought of Dawn staggering across the shop and her dazed expression as she sank into the chair, “Yeah, I think so.”

 

Ron’s expression grew thoughtful, “Yeah?” He formed a picture of a certain bushy haired acquaintance, “Make sure you get me the next time he does it, I’d better take a look for myself.”

 

Harry rubbed his scar worriedly, “Do you think I should mention it to Dumbledore?”

 

Ron gaped at the earnest look Harry wore for a moment and then reminded himself that for all intents and purposes, when it came to the real world, his friend was one of the most sheltered people he had ever met. He gave Harry a grin, “Nah, we’ll leave it for now, see how it goes.” He started to walk slowly up the street, “Just remember that they’re muggles and they’re bound to do some things differently.”

 

They’re getting a bit of a snog for a start. Unlike some wizards I could mention.

 

Harry looked slightly reassured, “So you don’t think I should worry?”

 

Ron shook his head, “No.”

 

I think if we don’t get a couple of birds this year we may as well jump from the roof of Hogwarts without our broomsticks, but I don’t think you should worry about the people that are actually getting laid. Bastards.

 

Ron gave Connor a slightly bitter grin as he drew level outside Ollivanders, “Alright?”

 

Connor nodded, “Yeah. Do you want a hand with those?” He reached for the bags hanging from Ron’s purple hand as Dawn wandered away from the three boys and into the wand shop behind them. His fingers had just closed on the string handles when he heard her scream ring out from the shop and he spun round to sprint through the door.

 

Harry and Ron burst through the doorway at Connor’s heels and stared in astonishment at the mound of writhing wood that Connor was hurling himself at in fury. Ron jumped forward, “What the blinking hell is going on?”

 

He grabbed a handful of the long wooden sticks and then realized that he was actually holding a handful of wands, he blinked and threw them behind him only to shout in surprise as they flew back to stick to the pile of wood that he now realized was the wands that normally rested peacefully on the shelves in the shop. Harry joined them, “Where’s Dawn?”

 

Connor ripped handfuls of wands away from the quivering pile, “Under here.” He cursed as the wands flew back to stick to their mates with sharp clicks, “Dawn! Dawn, can you hear me?”

 

A slightly muffed, “Yes!” came from somewhere under the wood and then there was a pause of a few moments before a slightly firmer, “And whatever happened this wasn’t my fault! I am so not to blame for this.”

 

Connor’s shoulders sagged slightly with the relief that she sounded unhurt and then whirled round as a dry, papery voice said behind him, “Then I would very much like to know whose fault it is.”

 

Ron and Harry turned, Harry guiltily thrusting a handful of wands behind his back as they met the unimpressed eyes of Mr Ollivander. The wands wriggled furiously in his hand and then slipped like eels through his fingers to stick lovingly back to the rest. Harry winced, “Hello, Mr. Ollivander.” He looked from the empty shelves to Connor standing with his crossbow out again and pointed at the aged shopkeeper and then finally to the huge pile of wands on the floor, “I can explain.”

 

Dawn’s disgruntled voice came from behind him, “Can we explain after we lose the matchsticks of love, please? Ow!” The pile of wands jumped slightly as though they had been goosed, Dawn continued wryly, “If I stay under here much longer there’s no way I’ll be able to wear white on my wedding day.”

Chapter Text

“Well, this is interesting.” Albus Dumbledore rocked slightly on his heels and looked down at the shivering pile of wands on the floor, “My, my, yes. Very interesting indeed.”

 

Harry shuffled his feet nervously, he’d rather been hoping that the headmaster would have something more to say than ‘interesting’ when he had finally been tracked down and brought to Ollivanders. His eyes shifted to Connor who had managed to produce a small, heavy looking axe from somewhere about his person and was eyeing the wood holding his girlfriend hostage with a thoughtful look and a slight tick in his jaw.

 

There was another yelp from under the pile of wands and then Dawn’s voice said coldly, “Great. I’m happy that you seem to find this so fascinating. Meanwhile, I’m not getting any more wood free. A little help would be good.” She yelped again, “And just so you know, the little white wand with the gold trim that keeps trying to disappear up my ass is fire bound when I finally get out of here.”

 

Ron sniggered and then caught Mr Ollivander’s eye and abruptly sobered. He fixed his eyes on a dusty, empty shelf and put his hands behind his back, concentrating on looking as innocent as he knew how. Which, as he was a Weasley and brother to Fred and George and best friend to the infamous Harry Potter, wasn’t as innocent as it could have been.

 

Mr Ollivander shuffled forward, “Professor Dumbledore, I must insist, with all due respect, that you do something to alleviate this problem. I cannot understand what you were thinking of, letting such a volatile student wander around unsupervised in the first place.” He glared at the pile of wands on the floor, “And to actually allow a student to threaten harm to one of my wands is simply beyond the pale.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, “Of course, Mr Ollivander, I quite understand and I apologise profusely for any inconvenience and distress caused.” He paused and stroked a thoughtful hand over his beard, “However, I’m afraid that we simply did not see such a situation arising. This really is most unexpected.”

 

From under the wands Dawn sighed crossly, “Not helping!”

 

Connor moved and hefted his axe, “That’s it, get out of my way.”

 

Harry and Ron jumped forward, caught hold of Connor’s arms and were alarmed to find that he didn’t even seem to notice and dragged them along the floor in his wake. Dumbledore raised a hand and said calmly, “That won’t be necessary Mr Angel. I said the situation was unexpected, not impossible to deal with.”

 

Connor stopped two feet away from the wands and glared angrily at the white haired old man, “Get her out of there, right now, or we’ll all be going home with a lot of spare stakes tonight.” He raised the hand that held the axe and Harry swung forwards like the worlds largest novelty handbag, “I’m beginning to really lose my temper.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, “Understood. Miss Summers, can you hear me?”

 

Dawn scowled under the heap of wood, “I’m temporarily buried under some insane sticks, I’m not deaf!”

 

“Capital! I believe you may be able to help yourself rather more than anything we might attempt at the moment.”

 

Dawn winced as the little white wand tried to burrow lovingly down her pants again, “I think if I was in a position to do anything about the situation Professor, I’d have done it by now. Will you quit it!” She tried to shuffle her bottom forward as the wand disregarded her and managed to nose its tip under the elastic waist of her panties.

 

Connor growled and Dumbledore said hastily, “Miss Summers, I believe that the problem may lie in the residual mystical energy you are secreting without being aware of it. The wands in Ollivanders are dormant, waiting for their owners to come and claim them. As they have no bond formed with a witch or wizard as yet, they found themselves irresistibly drawn to yourself as a source of great magical power.”

 

Dawn held her breath as the wand edged under her panties and then lifted her butt quickly then lowered it to trap the wand between flesh and floor before it could investigate further. Her eyebrows shot up as it wriggled in ecstasy against her skin, “No kidding.” She scowled as another wand began to make its way up her pants leg, “So what do I do? These pants are only made for one, y’know.”

 

Connor’s eyebrows drew sharply together as Ron and Harry formed a mental picture of just what was happening under the wands. Ron grinned. Now that was an interesting image.

 

Dumbledore cleared his throat, “Quite. I believe you might find the problem resolves itself if you consciously try and draw your power away from the wands and try to lock it beyond their reach. I believe Mr Giles has worked with you on several different meditation techniques to allow you to open yourself to your power, perhaps if you used one of those but in reverse as it were?”

 

Dawn blinked thoughtfully and the jerked her head back as one enterprising wand tried to wiggle up her nose, “Ok, I’ll give it a go.” She shut her eyes and began to centre herself, “But if this doesn’t work then Connor better be ready with something sharp and choppy.”

 

Connor gripped his axe handle, “Just say the word, sweetie.”

 

Dawn allowed a small smile to flicker over her face and then made herself relax and try to ignore the wriggling bits of wood as they felt the tenseness leave her body and began to try and burrow closer. She felt mind leap gently into a warm abyss and float joyfully in the space it found there. Her hands uncurled as she opened herself up to the power that hummed along her skin and bathed herself in the glowing green energy. Slowly her breathing relaxed and she began to pull the energy towards her centre a piece at a time, visualising it washing backwards and forwards like an ocean against a beach. Instead of letting the energy flow from her in gentle waves as Giles had taught her she concentrated on the feeling of gathering it in and holding it as it washed through her body.

 

Harry nudged Connor as a wand fell to the floor, “I think its working.” The three boys watched silently as one by one the wands fell to the floor and lay dormant once more. Slowly pieces of Dawn came into view as more and more wands fell away, until finally she was left kneeling on the floor in a small pool of shaded wood.

 

Professor Dumbledore smiled, “Excellent.”

 

Dawn’s face creased slightly with concentration, “Wait.” The lines smoothed away again and then suddenly the wands rose into the air and began to resume their rightful places on the shelves.

 

When the last box lid had closed, Dawn’s eyes opened, “Ok?”

 

Connor stepped forward and scooped her off the floor, “Are you alright?”

 

Dawn laid her head on his shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze, “I’m fine. Sorry if I scared you.” She frowned, “Ow!” With one arm still round Connor’s waist she reached back and dug down the back of her pants. A moment later her hand emerged clutching a white, gold tipped wand, “I missed one.” She handed the warmed wood to Mr Ollivander, “You might want to give it a clean before you sell it.”

 

The shop owner received it with a look of distaste and held it between his fingertips like a dirty diaper, “I think under the circumstances you might consider it a gift.”



Dawn took it back with a grin and shoved it carelessly in her back pocket, “Cool!”

 

Mr Ollivander winced, “Young woman, that is a ten and half inches of pure ash wood, tipped with the gold donated by a leprechaun, with the hair of a pure bred siren running through it.”

 

Dawn cocked an eyebrow at the wizened figure, “Its also a lot more intimate with my butt than I allow on a first meeting and its damn lucky its not a smoking piece of charred wood.” She leaned against Connor’s chest, “Well, that was fun in the way of the type of fun that isn’t. Is stuff like this going to be happening a lot?”

 

Dumbledore shook his head jovially, “Oh I shouldn’t think so. Now we know of this particular problem we should be able to take steps to prevent it recurring.” He beamed happily, “All’s well that ends well, after all.” Clapping his hands together, Dumbledore turned to Mr Ollivander, “Well, now that you appear to have the situation under control I think I’ll get back to my meeting at the Ministry.” He waved to the four teenagers and walked out into Diagon Alley whilst Ollivander was still spluttering indignantly.

 

“Not big with the explanations is he?” Connor stepped behind Dawn and pulled her against him, wrapping his arms around her waist and holding her like a giant comfort blanket.

 

Harry grinned, “Its one of his more endearing qualities.” He peered over his glasses and lowered his voice to a mystical whisper, “All things in the fullness of time, Harry. We must not try to understand today what will be revealed tomorrow.”

 

Dawn smiled wryly, “And I think I just pin-pointed why you guys have had so many problems with Mouldy Wart. You really need to get a jump on these whole mystical dark power things, otherwise before you know it, its twenty years later and some girl you’ve never met is getting up close and personal with a bunch of wood.”

 

Ron snorted, “Plus, Dumbledore’s a bit mad.” He shrugged as Dawn and Connor stared at him, “What? You must have noticed he’s round the twist? We are talking about a man who sent three eleven year old kids to defeat a dark lord of magic, after all.”

 

Dawn’s mouth dropped open, “He sent you to fight Volleyball?”

 

Harry shrugged, “Well, not actually gave us a big sword and kicked us out the door, but pretty much, yeah.”

 

Ron gave them a big grin, “S’alright, it builds character.” He glanced out the shop window, “We’d better get a move on, its getting late and I’m getting hungry.”



“Big surprise.” Harry grinned as Ron glared at his muttered comment and then nodded at Mr Ollivander, “I think we’re ready to fit Connor with his wand now.”

 

The small, wiry man glared at the four, “Are you quite sure? You wouldn’t like a few moments to plan another small piece of unadulterated mayhem before you leave?”

 

Connor shook his head, “No, we’re good, thanks.” He gave Dawn another light squeeze, “Maybe you should wait outside, sweetie.”

 

Dawn was already on the move as Ollivander began to walk towards Connor with a fierce scowl and a tape measure, “Already gone.” She snagged Ron’s arm, “We’ll meet you guys in that ice-cream parlour up the street.”

 

Connor grinned after her as she towed a thankful Ron towards sustenance and then jerked back in surprise as the tape measure the dusty old man was holding began measuring him up with no apparent help from its owner. Harry smothered a laugh at the slightly panicked expression on the other boy’s face and stepped forward, “Relax, its just magic.”

 

Connor’s eyebrow’s shot up as the tape measured his inside leg, “Oh that makes me feel better.”

 





Ron groaned with pleasure, as he tasted the first heavenly spoonful of chocolate and raspberry sundae, “Oh Merlin, thank you. If you weren’t already taken I’d have to marry you.”

 

Dawn grinned at him over her own mountainous sundae, “You do know that I just sprung for the ice cream, I didn’t actually make it?”

 

Ron rapturously licked his spoon, “I don’t care. One more second of shopping and I’d have handed myself over to Voldemort himself for the chance of a coke and a bag of crisps.”

 

Dawn looked round at a crash from behind her, and saw a young serving witch staring in horror at Ron. She looked from the mound of broken cutlery on the floor back to the pale witch, “What’s her deal?”

 

Ron glanced up and winced, “Damn it, I keep forgetting.” He raised his voice, “Sorry about that!” His pulled an apologetic face that was somewhat marred by another heaped spoonful of ice cream being shovelled in. Dawn waited while he swallowed and then leaned in as he said in a lowered voice, “Most of the wizarding world are afraid to speak Voldemort’s name out loud. If they have to talk about him then they call him he-who-must-not-be-named.”

 

Dawn took another bite of ice cream, “Yeah? But not you and Harry?”

 

Ron shrugged and flushed as a group of giggling young witches went past and pointed delightedly at him, “There’s only so many times you can defeat a dark, evil wizard and become afraid to say his name out loud.” He hunched his shoulders up round his ears and winced as a particularly forward young witch gave a piercing wolf whistle, “Oh Merlin.”

 

Dawn spluttered with laughter, “What’s the matter with you?”

 

Ron cast a hunted look over his shoulder, “Ever since all the fuss about us going after Hermione a few months ago we haven’t had a moments peace.” He shoved another bite of ice cream in his mouth; “It was funny at first, now it’s just…” He scowled darkly and licked his spoon, “Let’s just say I used to be a bit jealous of all the attention Harry used to get and now I’m not finding it as wicked as I thought I would.”

 

Dawn nodded sagely, “I here ya.” She flicked her hair back over her shoulders, “So, you had a pretty rough time getting your friend back?”

 

Ron nodded, his red hair blazing under the late summer afternoon sun, “You could say that. Bunking off school, vampires, werewolves, a smattering of giants and then fighting off Death Eaters and whatisname.” He frowned as he remembered, “Hermione nearly died and her parents were in a really bad way by the time we got them out.” His eyes glazed as he remembered the final panicked moments of the battle and the decision to illegally apparate them all out of Albania, “It was the toughest thing we’ve ever done and it wasn’t made any easier that we also had Aurors from the Ministry after us, trying to bring us in. At the end we had to do something that could have killed us all anyway, just to get away from Vold…well. You know.”

 

Dawn smiled, “Sounds like a blast. So.” She wiggled her eyebrows wickedly, “This Hermione sounds pretty special.”

 

Ron’s face lit up at the mention of his friend, “She is. Far too concerned with homework and lessons, but she’s absolutely brilliant.” He choked at Dawn’s smirk, “Not that way. We’re best friends. It’s not like you and Connor.”

 

Dawn patted his arm, “No one is like me and Connor.” Her expression flickered slightly, “To tell you the truth I’m a bit worried about that.” She cast a quick look over her shoulder to make sure there was no sign of the other two and then lowered her voice, “This is the first time that we’re actually going to be together without the imminent threat of demons and other nasties coming at us every five seconds, I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with that.”

 

Ron finished his ice cream, “How d’you mean?” He looked at Dawn’s half eaten ice, “Are you going to finish that?” Dawn pushed it across the table to him with a grin and he continued around a mouthful of slightly melted ice cream, “I thought you and Connor were pretty solid.”

 

Dawn rested her arms on the table and propped her chin on her hands, “We are. Its just we’ve never just spent time together with just us. We’ve always been about the fighting of the big nasty.” She began to twist a lock of deep brown hair around her fingers, “Even when we were sneaking out to meet each other we were meeting up to grab a bite to eat, take in a movie and then go behead some unspeakable fiends. Hell, the first time we met we ended up fighting for our lives all night and rescuing a bunch of civilians.” She fixed her newly green eyes on Ron, “I’m just worried that we can’t stand up to having a normal day to day relationship. Just going to classes and hanging out.” Her eyes shadowed with an old fear, “What if he stops noticing me or just forgets about me? I’ll be on my own again.”

 

Ron swallowed the last sticky mix of ice cream and strawberry sauce and eyed Dawn carefully. Up until now, he’d assumed that Dawn was the one in control of the relationship with Connor. He seemed to follow where she led without question and be content just to be in her company, but now a whole new perspective had been opened up before him. He had the feeling that Dawn had followed Connor’s lead on the exterminating of evil every minute of every day, simply because she was too scared to stand still for a moment and see if they could just be normal kids enjoying being with each other.

 

Ron wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and grinned at Dawn, “You’re pretty hard to forget, Summers.”

 

Dawn gave a small smile, “Thanks.” She sighed, “I love him. I love that he’s so solid and loyal. And funny. Did you know he was funny?”

 

Ron laughed, “Oh yeah, I found him hilarious when he pulled a crossbow on Hagrid in one of the best guarded banks in the world.”

 

Dawn grinned, “Made me laugh.” Her face sobered, “He’s just so uncomplicated and I’m worried that when he sees what else may be out there, all the stuff he’s missed out on, that he might just…move on.”

 

Ron stretched his arms out to the side with a sigh and tipped his head to the side as he said, “I don’t think you have to worry.” His arms came round to link at the back of his neck, “He’s nuts about you, anyone can see that. And its not just because you’re a bit of a knockout.” Dawn flushed a light pink, “He loves all of you. When we were back in Ollivanders he dragged Harry and me across the shop floor without even noticing we were there just to get to you. That’s not a bloke that’s going to forget about you the minute he claps eyes on another bit of skirt.”

It was Ron’s turn to look worried another thought occurred to him, “That’s a bloke that’ll start chopping people’s arms and legs off if they look at you the wrong way.” He straightened, “Has it occurred to you that maybe he’s just as worried about sharing you with other people? He might not like it at all.” An image came to mind of Connor not liking sharing Dawn with other people and he was being not happy complete with a big axe and a very determined look in his eye. “Crumbs.”

 

Dawn looked startled, “No. Why would he worry about that? He knows how I feel about him.”

 

Ron winced, as his mental picture of Connor started swinging his axe with abandon, “All the same, wouldn’t do any harm to mention it.” Imaginary Connor produced a large sword and began swinging happily, “Fairly soon, ok?”

 





Harry and Connor wandered out of Ollivander’s shop and paused on the pavement, ignoring the thinning crowd of shoppers around them. Connor fisted his hands on his hips and scowled thoughtfully at the floor, “Huh.”

 

Harry swallowed nervously, “Are you ok?”

 

“How many wands do you think that old guy has in there?” Connor ignored Harry’s question and turned to glare back through the shop window, “Hundreds? Thousands?”

 

Privately Harry thought it was more likely to be tens of thousands, but something told him that pointing that out might not be the most prudent thing at the moment. “Probably.”

 

Connor’s scowl deepened, “And I couldn’t make one of them work?” He took a step back towards the shop doorway, “There’s been a mistake. I want to try again.”

 

Harry hastily grabbed his arm, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Although they both stood at about the same height of five eleven, Harry was very aware that the boy who’s arm was tense with frustration in his grip could quite easily throw him clear across the street if he wanted. He chose his words carefully. “Look, its not uncommon. Even in wizarding families, they sometimes have someone born that’s not magical.” He smiled reassuringly, “Just because you can’t make a wand work doesn’t mean you’re defective or anything.”

 

Connor’s eyebrows shot up into his hairline, “I know that! But if I can’t use magic then I can’t go to that stupid damn school with Dawn and there’s no way she’s going without me.”

 

“Oh.” Harry let go of Connor’s arm, “So you don’t care that you’re not a wizard? You’re just bothered about leaving Dawn?”

 

Connor rattled the now firmly locked shop door and pounded his fist against the wooden door frame, “Well, yeah.” He drew back his foot and kicked smartly on the base of the door, “What else would I care about? OPEN UP, OR I’LL KICK IT DOWN!”

 

Harry grabbed Connor’s arm and yanked him back, “Stop that! People are looking.” He pulled Connor up the street, “We’ll come back tomorrow. We still have a day to kill before school.” He hustled Connor up the street smiling weakly at the glaring faces around them, “For Merlin’s sake, just leave it!”

 

Connor scowled and allowed himself to be pulled along, “Fine. But first thing tomorrow we come back here and get that old guy to give me a wand that works. Or else.”

 





Ron pushed back from the table in the Leaky Cauldron with a sigh, “That was great.” The remains of a five-course meal lay on the wooden table before them; Dawn was privately convinced that Ron had eaten at least half of it himself. She groaned slightly as she sat back and rubbed her belly. Everything had been delicious but she was fairly sure that it wasn’t normal to be able to put away soup, cheesy potato skins, steak and jacket potatoes, strawberry cheesecake and cheese and biscuits and still be able to move. At least, not without splitting at the seams anyway.

 

Harry caught her eye and grinned, “We’ll soon have you fattened up.”

 

Dawn looked horrified, “You will not!” She scowled, “And who says I need fattening up?”

 

Connor slipped an arm round her waist and hoisted her onto his lap as he snagged the last piece of cheese from under Ron’s hand, “Not me. You feel just about right.” He rubbed his face against her shiny brown hair, “And you smell fantastic. What’s that you’re wearing?”

 

Dawn snuggled against his chest and smiled at Ron as he raised his eyebrows pointedly at her, “Just some shampoo that Willow gave me. She makes it herself, I don’t really know what’s in it.”

 

Connor looped an arm around her shoulders and tucked her firmly under his arm before stretching his legs out under the table with a happy sigh, “Well, you want to tell her whatever it is, it works.”

 

Harry grinned and glanced around the pub. Filled with mostly wizards and witches up from the country for a day, they were attracting attention but nothing overly uncomfortable. Tom the landlord had become used to having the famous Harry Potter and the newly famous Ron Weasley as his guests over the summer and had taken it upon himself to warn off any over enthusiastic admirers that bothered the two boys. Harry sighed happily and slowly allowed himself to relax and enjoy the company of his best friend and the two strange new ones he had picked up. He had found a moment to have a word with Professor Dumbledore and pass on the information that Connor was as muggle as they came and therefore magical instruction classes may be more of a challenge than they thought.

 

Dumbledore had listened gravely and then reassured Harry that it made no difference to the plans for Connor and Dawn’s safety. He had also taken Connor aside before dinner to explain that his magical inability had been anticipated by both himself and Giles and arrangements had been made to allow him to remain at Dawn’s side wherever possible. And then he had asked politely that Connor refrained from re-visiting Mr Ollivander’s shop in the morning and kicking in the door as threatened.

 

Ron sipped at a frothy pint of butterbeer and allowed his eyes to drift half closed as he listened to the casual conversation from the other three. Unwittingly his thoughts began to drift to Hermione, as they did so often these days, and he smiled as a picture of his friend formed in his mind. Of medium height, with her slight over bite and mass of wavy brown hair, she stood before his eyes smiling happily at him wearing understated robes in a soft rose pink that picked up the equally delicate flush on her cheeks. He allowed his gaze to drift down her body, grinning in appreciation as he lingered over her breasts that pushed against the soft material and the turn of her shapely ankles as they peeked put from under her robes.

 

He shifted slightly in his seat as his jeans began to tighten and allowed his eyes to skim back up her body to her face…which for some reason was flushed and now sporting an angry glare rather than the winsome smile that had previously adorned it. Ron frowned…that wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all.

 

He’d had this fantasy many times since the now infamous rescue of Hermione and her parents and she was meant to start peeling the robes seductively off her shoulders and stand coyly before him in silk ivory lingerie, trembling like a nervous fawn. He felt a sudden niggle of worry…and weren’t the usual fantasy robes a good deal shorter and made of a gauzy blue material?

 

“SHIT!” Ron sat bolt upright and sent his butterbeer flying as he realised he had been checking out a very real flesh and blood Hermione. Harry spun round as Dawn and Connor jumped up and Dawn flung herself across the table to tackle Hermione to the floor and press a wooden stake against her chest.

 

“NO!” Ron flung himself across the table at Dawn and landed on his knees beside the winded Hermione, “Will you stop bloody doing that?!” He tugged her arm away and leant protectively over the gasping girl on the floor, “This is Hermoine! Get off!” He shoved at Dawn’s shoulder, sending her sprawling on the floor with an angry squawk, and looked down into a now almost purple face. “Hermione! Are you alright? Hermione?”

 

Hermione gasped for air as Ron pulled her off the floor and smothered her face against his chest as he patted her back frantically. She batted at his shoulder indignantly and finally managed to get some air into her poor abused lungs, “Ronald Weasley, what the HELL is going on?” She managed to turn her head to glare at Dawn as Connor pulled her up from the floor, “And who the bloody hell is that?”








Hermione turned as a soft knock sounded at her door, “Come in.” She gave a cool smile as Dawn Summers poked a sheepish head into the room, “Oh. Hello.”

 

Dawn winced and edged into the room, shutting the door behind her. “Um, hi.”

 

She twisted her hands nervously before her, “Look, I’m really sorry about earlier.

 

I guess I’m still a little jumpy about everything.”

 

Hermione sniffed, “I see.” She turned back to her open trunk and began to sort through the things she would need to get ready for bed, “Do you normally try to stab people with bits of wood when you first meet them?”

 

Dawn gave a slightly uneasy laugh, “Actually, yeah. It saves time later.” She shrugged uncomfortably as Hermione turned with raised eyebrows, “I come from a kind of rough area.” She flushed under the cold look Hermione gave her, “Anyway, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’ll leave you to get ready for bed. Sorry.”

 

Hermione watched as the girl began to turn towards the door and then her natural good nature came to the fore, “Wait.” Dawn paused and looked back over her shoulder, “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be rude.” Her shoulders slumped, “Well…actually I do. I’m sorry, its not you I’m angry with. Could we perhaps start again?”

 

Dawn gave a wide grin, “Sure.” She walked forward and extended her hand, “Dawn Summers, pleased to meetcha.” She shook Hermione’s hand firmly, “And not a bit of wood in sight, see?” She held up her hands on either side of her head and smirked, “Who says I can’t learn from my mistakes?”

 

Hermione’s expression thawed slightly, “Hermione Granger. Its nice to meet you too.” She waved a hand towards the bed, “Would you like to sit down?” She stood awkwardly in the middle of the room as Dawn sat on the edge of the bed and glanced around her, “I’m afraid I don’t have any drinks to offer you.”

 

Dawn waved an expansive hand, “Don’t sweat it. I drank enough of that butterbeer stuff to float a ship. I drink anymore and there’s a good chance I’ll wake up swimming.”

 

Hermione giggled and perched on the bed beside Dawn. An awkward silence fell as they both stared at the floor waiting for the other to speak. The silence stretched out and then they both opened their mouths at the same time…

 

“You really stab people as soon as you meet them?”

 

“So who are you angry with?”

 

Their eyes met and then they both laughed, Dawn leaned back on her elbows and said wryly, “Well, I’d say this bonding session is going really well.” She rolled her eyes, “I’m not that great with the ‘getting to know you’ thing.”

 

Hermione pulled herself further up on the bed and crossed her legs, “Me either. It took me nearly a whole term to make the two friends that I have.” She sighed wearily, “People don’t tend to understand me that well.”

 

Dawn gave her a warm smile, “Me either. Back home all I have are two friends that are as socially untouchable as me and my family.” She swallowed a sudden lump in her throat at the thought of Buffy and the others and continued brightly, “And they’re even weirder than I am.”

 

Hermione frowned, “And your boyfriend. The one downstairs. Connell.”

 

Dawn laughed, “Connor. And I don’t really know him that well.” Her eyes clouded slightly, “Up till now we tend to kill things together and make out when we’re done. I’m beginning to have a bit of a jelly-belly about it.”

 

Hermione leaned back slightly and said uncertainly, “Oh.” She glanced around the room looking for inspiration and finally settled for a cheery, “That sounds nice!”

 

Dawn choked back a laugh, “Don’t worry, I’m nowhere near as homicidal as I sound. We’re demon hunters.” Hermione failed to look reassured and Dawn sighed, “Ok, this may take a while.”






Ron, Harry and Connor sat in the bar of the Leaky Cauldron, hunched over fresh pints of muggle lager and scowled into their tankards. Every so often one of them would glance towards the ceiling with a worried look and then look despondently back into their drinks. Tom, once he’d got over the shock of someone nearly being staked on his pub floor, had restored calm admirably fast and had taken the unusual step of serving muggle alcohol in a doomed effort to cheer the boys up. After the first couple of points he’d realised he was on a hiding to nothing and now just kept the drinks flowing thick and fast to the three morose boys in the corner.

 

Harry glanced up at Ron, “How do you think its going?”

 

Ron looked up at his best friend and shrugged, still wallowing in mortified horror that he couldn’t tell ‘real’ Hermione from ‘ready, willing and able’ Hermione, “Dunno. You know what she’s like when she’s got a bee in her bonnet.” He narrowed his eyes at Connor, “You two really need to stop attacking everyone we know.”

 

Connor raised his eyes unhappily, “How were we to know she wasn’t a threat? You looked terrified.”

 

Harry nodded, “Yeah, he’s right, mate. What was that about?”

 

Ron flushed, “Nothing. She just surprised me that’s all.” He directed a dark look at both unconvinced faces, “Just bloody drop it alright?”

 

Harry and Connor exchanged looks and then went back to staring into their pints. Harry sighed, “They’re bound to hate each other now. Hermione hates anyone getting the best of her.”

 

Connor nodded, “Dawn hates admitting that she’s wrong.” He chugged back his drink and then waved to Tom, “Let’s have another drink and then go up and calm things down. Maybe they’ll have got it out of their system by the time we get up there.” He nodded his thanks as Tom whisked his empty mug away and replaced it with a fresh drink, “Don’t worry though, Dawn wouldn’t hurt a human too badly.”




Harry hunched his shoulders up around his ears and thought of all the curses Hermione had learned over the years. He had a nasty feeling that Dawn wasn’t the only one they had to worry about. He snatched at his own drink and sucked desperately at the bitter drink inside. Bloody hell, he had a really bad feeling about this.

 





Dawn screwed up her nose and squealed with helpless laughter, “Ewww! Slugs? Real ones?”

 

Hermione nodded and broke into fresh giggles, “Yep. It was disgusting. Poor Ron, he was only trying to stick up for me.” She shoved her hair back from her face and wrinkled her own nose as she remembered; “He was throwing them up for hours.”

 

Dawn hooted with laughter, “Oh, that’s gross.” She propped herself up on her elbows, “So, are we cool now?” Her head tipped to one side and she grinned at Hermione’s flushed face, “No burning desire to hex my ass into the middle of next week?”

 

Hermione shook her head, “Strangely enough, no.” She plumped a pillow behind her head, shrugging before she laid back, “Must be something to do with the all powerful being thing.”

 

Dawn nodded and let her head full back onto the bed, propping her feet comfortably against the wall, “I get that a lot. Not!” Her head turned to face Hermione, lying at the top of the bed, “So, now we’re all kinds of good, can I ask you a personal question?”

 

Hermione looked at her warily, “What is it?”

 

Dawn smiled reassuringly, “Well, actually it’s two, but one of them will keep. You said you weren’t angry with me about the whole accidental staking thing. Who were you angry with?”

 

Hermione sighed, “I don’t think you’d understand.”

 

Dawn rolled over onto her side, “Try me.”

 

Hermione glared up at the ceiling and then sat up abruptly, “Me. I was angry with me. And Ron.” She made a fist and thumped it down on the bed, “And bloody, sodding Voldemort.” He eyes closed and she said with a desperate weariness, “I am so tired of Ron and Harry saving me all the time.”

 

Dawn raised her eyebrows, “I kinda got the feeling that if they hadn’t come after you, you and your folks would be dead now.”

 

Hermione nodded and opened her eyes, “I sound so ungrateful don’t I? They risked everything coming after me the way they did, but…oh, sometimes I wish they hadn’t.”

 

Dawn grinned, “Ungrateful, no. Slightly insane, yes.” She scooched round until she could sit up and cross her legs to face Hermione, “You do get that you’d be dead, right? As in not of the living?”

 

Hermione allowed the ghost of a smile to flit across her face, “I know.” She sighed, “But they just seem to think I need them to fight all my battles. Its like I’m only good for finding the right spell or piece of information and then I should leave all the rough stuff to them.” Her face screwed into a petulant scowl, “It’s getting really irritating.”

 

Dawn laid a hand on Hermione’s arm, “First, I totally get where you’re coming from. I wasn’t always encouraged to be the way I am now. I had to fight for it and make people see the real me. Second, everyone needs rescuing once in a while; remind me to tell you about my sister getting her superhero ass captured sometime. Thirdly, I had you down cold. There was nothing you could have done to protect yourself.”

 

Hermione snorted, “That’s all you know. I had my wand in my pocket and you were about to find out what it feels like to be a rat.”

 

Dawn’s mouth fell open and then she tipped her head back and let rip with a belly laugh, “Really?” She laughed again at Hermione’s nod, “Go you! Girlpower!”

 

Hermione looked pleased and then her face fell again, “They’re never going to see me as anything but the brainy sidekick.” She propped her chin up on one hand and said gloomily, “I bet they don’t look at you that way.”

 

Dawn snorted, “Hell, no. They think I’m insano weapons chick, remember?” She grinned at Hermione mischievously, “I’ll make you a deal. I’m gonna need some serious help getting up to speed with the whole ‘good witch of the north’ thing, you give me some pointers and I’ll let you train with me.” She studied Hermione, “You look like you’re pretty fit and from what you just said, you’ve got pretty good reflexes. I’ll teach you to handle yourself physically and you teach me how to be a bad ass witch.” She stuck out her hand, “What do you think? Partners?”

 

Hermione looked at the outstretched hand and then up at the young American, “Really? Are you sure?”

 

Dawn nodded firmly, “Absolutely. Besides, us social rejects gotta stick together, right?”

 

Hermione laughed, “Absolutely. Ok, partners.” She shook Dawn’s hand, “This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

 

Dawn gripped the other girl’s hand and said with feeling, “God, I hope so. I don’t think I can get through the next few months with just three boys to talk to.” She released Hermione’s hand and waggled her eyebrows, “No matter how cute they are. Which brings me to my other question.” She slanted a curious look at Hermione, “What’s the deal with you and Ron? You guys are hot for each other, right?”








Connor’s head poked slightly unsteadily around the top of the stairs, “I can’t hear any screaming.”

 

Ron moaned, “Bloody hell, they’ve only gone and killed each other.” His head sunk back against the wall as the stairwell swum due to the influence of several more lagers than was prudent.

 

Connor sniffed the air, weaving slightly on his perch at the top of the stairs, “Nope. Can’t smell any blood.”

 

Harry wobbled uncertainly and grabbed Ron’s robes to steady himself before he toppled back down the steps and proved to the wizarding world not only was he the boy-who-lived he was also the boy-who-was-an-incredibly-cheap-drunk. “Don’t even joke about that!” He stifled a belch and tried to focus through his smudged glasses, “Maybe they’ve hexed each other unconscious.”

 

Ron shook his head, “Nah, Dawn doesn’t know any spells yet.”

 

Connor edged forward slowly, “Dawn was looking through some of those books you picked up before dinner. I think she’s a pretty quick study.”

 

Ron followed Connor slowly and heaved an unsteady Harry up behind him, “Oh brilliant. That’s all we need.”

 

They weaved carefully down the dimly lit corridor, bouncing off the walls and shushing each other loudly. Finally they stopped outside Hermione’s room and Connor pressed his ear against the wood, “I don’t hear anything.”

 

Ron nodded in resignation, “They’ve killed each other.” He looked faintly outraged, “And after all the trouble we went too to bloody save that girl as well.” He glared at Harry, “That’s gratitude for you!”

 

Harry put his ear against the door and listened hard, grateful for the chance to lean his body up against something and try and stop the world spinning, “They might be asleep.” Connor put his ear back against the door and Ron tried to lean over the other two to see if he could hear anything through the ancient wood.

 

Which was of course the moment that Dawn chose to wrench back the door and allow them all to tumble to the floor in a tangle of drunken limbs in the very best tradition of the Three Stooges.

 

Hermione gasped in surprise as Dawn said triumphantly, “I told you I heard something.” She poked Connor with her foot, “What do you think you’re doing?”

 

Connor raised his head and beamed happily at her, “You’re not dead!” He poked Harry in the ribs, “I told you I couldn’t smell any blood.”

 

Hermione walked over to stand by the slightly nonplussed Dawn and eyed Ron and Harry as they staggered to their feet. She leaned forward and sniffed their breath and then gave an angry exclamation, “Are you drunk?”

 

Ron pulled himself up to his full height and looked haughtily down his nose, the effect only slightly marred when he lost his balance and staggered against the wall, “Absolutely not.” He gave Hermione a conspiratorial wink, “But I think the other two might be.”

 

Harry groaned as cold sweat broke out on his forehead, “I think I’m going to be sick.” And he was.

Chapter Text

Dawn sat on the edge of her bed in the Leaky Cauldron and stared sadly at the stake in her hand. It was made of polished wood, more finely carved than the usual weapons in the Scoobs arsenal, and near the thickest end a small caricature of Spike, complete with fangs and bumpy forehead grinned out at her. Along the length of the wood were the words ‘SCOOBS RULE!’ as carved by Xander in a quiet moment at work. She traced the line of the letters and her eyes misted as she thought of her sister and the rest of her family. Buffy should just be finishing up at high school for the day and heading home to Spike, nervously anticipating another badly cooked meal at the hands of the ever optimistic vampire. Willow would be just heading into her last class of the day before running home to grab a quick snack and then heading out with Buffy and Spike to Giles’ house to meet up with Anya and Xander.

 

A lone tear slipped down her cheek as she pictured everyone sitting round, researching the latest threat to Sunnydale’s populace or merely having a casual chat as they drank sodas and tea and waited for the vampires and demons to hit the street. Spike and Xander would be driving Giles crazy, flicking through his books and leaving them lying all over the apartment. Willow would be surfing the net, or possibly discussing capitalist government strategies and their advantages with the money-hungry Anya. Buffy and Giles would be going over new training strategies or sharpening blades whilst running herd on the others and making sure everyone was properly equipped before they all headed out and seriously ruined evil’s night.

 

Dawn sniffed as a tear trickled down the side of her nose. Although it had been less than forty-eight hours since she had seen Buffy and the others, there was an unbearable ache in her chest, made worse by the knowledge that in ten minutes she would be going out the door and catching the train to her new school. The last two days had been fun but now the seriousness of the situation had come home with a bang. She cupped her hands around the stake as the tears began to flow thick and fast, who knew how long it might be before she was back home and on familiar ground? All of a sudden the thought of uninterrupted smoochies with Connor for the next few months weren’t enough to keep loneliness and homesickness at bay.

 

She jumped as a sharp knock came at the door, and then stood up and wiped a swift hand over her face. She slipped the stake into the leather carrier she wore under her jacket and bent over her newly purchased trunk, “Come in.”

 

Hermione stuck her head round the door, “Morning Dawn. Are you nearly packed? The cars will be here soon.”

 

Dawn pushed down the sleeve of a robe and closed the lid of her trunk, “Uh-huh.” She sniffed again as her nose continued to run, “I’ll be there in a minute.”

 

Hermione frowned, “Alright.” She began to withdraw and then said uncomfortably, “Are you ok?”

 

Dawn nodded at the genuine concern in the other girl’s voice and cursed silently as the tears welled up again, “Yeah, sure. I’m just coming.”

 

Hermione watched as the Dawn’s slim shoulders began to quiver and her face flooded with understanding, “Oh! Hang on, I’ll be right back.” The door closed with a crash as she darted away leaving Dawn to try and repair her light make-up and cover up the traces of her tears on her flushed face.

 

She jumped as a light tap came on the door and Hermione burst in without waiting for an answer. The English girl was carrying what seemed to be a large cage, covered with a deep red velvet cloth. Hermione held it out to her new friend, “Here. It was meant to be a surprise on the train, but you look like you need it now.”

 

Dawn took looped her fingers through the metal ring at the top of the cage and placed it gently on the bedside table. She lifted the cover slowly and then her mouth dropped open as a small, silvery grey owl blinked sleepily at her and gave a gentle admonishing hoot for waking him up. “Oh!” Dawn stretched out a finger and stroked along the owl’s wing as he stretched on his wooden perch, “An owl!” She glanced up at Hermione as the owl sidled across the wooden bar and began to nibble at the peach nail polish adorning her nails, “He’s lovely, but I don’t understand. I don’t think I should keep him as a pet, it’s not fair to keep him in a cage.” The owl hooted and bobbed his head up and down as though agreeing with her.

 

Hermione shook her head; “He’ll only stay in the cage until we get to school. He’s for carrying letters and stuff to your family, and for them to write to you.” She clicked her tongue at the bird and grinned as the owl hooted back agreeably, “The wizarding world doesn’t have a conventional mail service, we use owl post. Whenever you want to write to your sister just tie the letter to his leg and he’ll take it straight to her.” She patted Dawn’s shoulder awkwardly, “You looked like you needed a lifeline.”

 

Dawn couldn’t help the tear that leaked from the corner of her eye and she gave a shamed sniffle, “I’m sorry.” She turned away from Hermione and scrubbed irritably at her face, “I don’t know what’s with me. I’ve spent all my life bitching about Buffy and now I feel like there’s a huge, gaping Buffy-shaped hole where my heart should be.” She pressed a hand against her chest, “God, it hurts.”

 

Hermione looked helplessly at the tearful girl, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say.”

 

Dawn gave a watery giggle, “Not a lot to say, I guess.” She wiped her face again and squared her shoulders, “Well, I’ve faced vamps, hell-gods and Spike when I got caught out after curfew. How bad can a new school be?”

 

Hermione’s eyes flickered for a moment as she thought of Snape, Malfoy, most of Slytherin house and the uncertainty of what you were actually eating if you went to tea at Hagrid’s, “Oh dear.”







Connor looked at the small ball of fluff, sleeping on its perch. “What is it?”

 

Harry and Ron exchanged looks and then joined Connor in peering at the golden owl in the cage, “It’s an owl. It’s for you.”

 

Connor looked at Ron as he tailed off uncertainly and then back the fluffy bird, “I’ve heard of them. They’re great hunters, right?” He looked at the cage suspiciously, “Why do I need a hunting bird? What do I need to kill?”

 

Harry sighed, “You don’t kill anything with it. Seriously Connor, you need to hold off on the ‘die, die’ mentality for a while, it’s getting out of hand.”

 

Connor curled his lip, “Just as well. If I wanted to kill anything with this I’d have to ram it down their throats and choke them to death.” The three boys looked at the harmless looking bundle of fluff again as Connor continued, “So what is it for?”

 

Ron straightened and glanced towards the stairs to see if the girls were on their way down as he said, “It’s for writing to your family. We don’t have a mail service at Hogwarts, we use owls.”

 

Connor looked even more confused, “Why do I want to write to my family?”

 

Harry looked nonplussed, “To let them know you’re alright I s’pose. See if they’re alright.”

 

Connor cocked an eyebrow and asked curiously, “Do you write to your family?” He frowned, “Dawn said she’d write to Buffy and Spike, she can tell them I’m ok and they’ll tell my dad.”

 

Harry flushed as he thought of the Dursleys and the unlikelihood of him ever writing to them of his own free will, much less just to swap details of his daily life, “Well, no, I don’t personally, but Ron writes to his all the time.” He fixed Connor with an earnest expression, “It might make you feel more at home if you were in regular contact with your mum and dad. Less…lonely.”

 

Connor caught the edge of some indefinable emotion in Harry’s voice and glanced quickly at Ron to see a look of deep sympathy flash over the other boy’s face before he realised he was being studied by the American. Connor shifted uneasily, “We don’t really have that kind of relationship.” He shrugged, “Besides Dawn will be there. She’s all I need.”

 

Harry slanted a look at Ron and said weakly, “Right.” He gave Connor a faint smile, “But just in case, why don’t you keep the owl? You never know, eh? Think of it as a welcome to England gift.”

 

Connor darted another look at the sleeping bird and then at the two boys, “I have nothing to give you in return.” His face brightened slightly, “Unless you want some weapons? I have a lot of those.”

 

Ron turned in relief as he heard the sound of Hermione and Dawn coming down the stairs, “Er, no, that’s ok mate. Thanks all the same.” He gave Hermione a wide smile as she stepped into the bar, “Ready?”

 

“Absolutely.” Hermione smiled casually at Ron as he held out her muggle denim jacket, “We just need to bring down Dawn’s trunk.”

 

Connor nodded, “I’ll get it.” He dropped a quick kiss on Dawn’s head and caught the faint aroma of salt, “Are you ok?” He put a gentle hand under her chin and tilted her face up to his, “Have you been crying?”

 

Dawn looked into his concerned eyes and smiled, “No, of course not.” She patted his wrist and stepped away, “I used a new facial scrub.”

 

Connor frowned and looked at Hermione, who quickly turned her back and busied herself straightening her collar in the mirror. He looked back at Dawn who flushed guiltily under his thoughtful look, something was obviously wrong but if Dawn didn’t want to tell him then…”Ok. I’ll go get your trunk.”

 

Dawn watched him take the stairs three at a time, torn between relief that he had let it go so easily, and irrational irritation that he hadn’t pushed her to fess up. He was meant to love her, dammit, didn’t he care that she was obviously not happy about something? She looked up at a hand on her shoulder, “Alright Dawn?”

 

Harry’s green eyes smiled down at her. “Yeah, I’m fine. Are we good to go?”

 

Harry nodded, “Yes. The cars from the Ministry are outside and the wizard escort are waiting.” He nodded towards Connor’s owl, “We just have to load your stuff and that in the cars and we’re ready.”

 

Dawn squinted and then moved over to the table and peer in at the tiny owl still comfortably asleep on the wooden perch, “Is this Connor’s?” She clicked her tongue gently, “Hey, there little fella. Hey.” The owl gave a tiny snore and completely ignored her, Dawn grinned, “Well, aren’t you the laid back little guy.” She turned as Connor appeared at the bottom of the stairs with her trunk balanced on one shoulder and carrying her own owl cage in his other hand, “Looks like you got yourself a pet.”

 

Connor smiled warily, “Yeah.” He looked down at the little grey owl that seemed to be glaring angrily at him, “Yours bit me.” He raised the little bird to eye level and eyeballed it, “If I didn’t know any better I’d think Spike sent it to cover for him.” The owl screeched and flapped its wings furiously as Connor let his hand fall back to his side quickly, sending the cage’s occupant stumbling along its perch, “Oh well. I can always use them for target practice.”

 

Dawn laughed as Ron hastily relieved Connor of the bird and passed it to Hermione, “We’d better go.” The head boy glowered at Connor, “Try not to kill anything unless you absolutely have to.”

 

Connor swung the trunk effortlessly off his shoulder and onto the floor, “Right. Can you two get that? I want to talk to Dawn.” He crossed the room and clamped a hand on Dawn’s arm as she started to protest and said firmly, “It’ll only take a minute.”

 

Hermione raised her eyebrows inquiringly at Dawn and, after a slight pause, Dawn nodded. Hermione swung into action, “Right, you two grab the trunk and I’ll carry the owls out to the cars.” She glared at Ron and Harry until they moved to the trunk and heaved it up between the two of them with difficulty, “We’ll see you outside. Don’t be too long.”

 

Connor waited until they were alone and the door had shut out the sounds of the London street before he let go of Dawn’s arm and planted himself squarely in front of her. “What’s wrong?” He crossed his arms over his chest and looked calmly down into her uneasy eyes, “And don’t try and tell me everything’s fine because I know you. I can see you’re upset.”

 

Dawn shook her head, “Connor, really, everything’s okaaaaaaaay…..” She yelled in surprise as Connor scowled and lifted her off her feet to plonk her firmly down on the table behind her.

 

He leaned in and placed his hands on either side of her thighs, “Don’t treat me like an idiot. We aren’t going anywhere until we get this sorted out, you’ve been acting weird for the last couple of days and I want to know what’s up.”

 

Dawn crossed her own arms and sneered furiously, “Oh yeah, ‘cos you were just so approachable yesterday with the hangover from hell.”

 

Connor coloured with embarrassment, “That’s not the point.”

 

Dawn snorted and pushed at his annoyingly immobile chest, “You’re right, totally not the point that you had your head down the pan for the best part of the morning, whimpering like a little girl.”

 

Connor growled menacingly, “I was not whimpering!” His brows drew together threateningly, “And I wasn’t hung over. I was ill.”

 

Dawn snorted again, trying to wriggle out from under his arms, “Yeah, right. Will you stop looming all over me?”

 

Connor locked his elbows and leaned in until he was practically nose-to-nose with his obstinate girlfriend, “No, I won’t.” He sighed, his breath fanning gently over cheek, “Dawn, please, talk to me.”

 

Dawn’s eyes closed as the warmth of his breath and body enveloped her. She shook her head, “There’s nothing.” She shut her mouth as her breath hitched and Connor muttered something rude under his breath. He slipped his arms round her and pressed her head to his shoulder and she felt the tears begin to start again, “Don’t. I’m fi..fi..fine.”

 

Connor gathered her closer and replied wryly, “Obviously.” He pressed a kiss to her shining hair, “I know that I’m not good at the emotional stuff, but you know you can tell me things, right? I mean, I might not understand but I’ll always listen and be here for you.” His eyes widened as Dawn burst into noisy sobs against him, “Or not.” He squeezed her tightly and rocked in panic, “Are you hurt? Have I done something?”

 

Dawn tried to get her breath, “N…n…no.” She pressed her slightly sticky face into his neck, “I d…don’t wa…wa…want to l…lo…lose you!” Her voice rose in a terrified wail and she flung her arms around his waist to grip desperately at him.

 

Connor, now seriously out of his depth, stared in mystified bemusement at the wall over her shoulder, “Am I going somewhere?” He tried to turn his head to catch a glimpse of Dawn’s face still pressed tightly against the curve of his neck, “I’m coming with you, we’re going to be together all the time.” He winced as his words had the opposite effect to the one he intended and Dawn began to sob louder. “And that’s a good thing.” He paused uncertainly, “Right?”

 

Dawn nodded frantically and Connor relaxed a little, “Ok. So we’re going to be together and that’s good, but you’re still afraid you’re going to lose me?” Dawn nodded again and Connor promptly lost the ground he had gained, “O-kaay.” He rolled his eyes and picked her up to turn and sit himself down on the table and settle Dawn comfortably on his lap. He rocked her backwards and forwards and waited for her sobs to ease. Finally she grew quiet, aside from the odd wet hiccup, and he stroked the hair from her damp face, “I love you.” He flinched as another sob started, “Don’t start crying again!”

 

Dawn couldn’t help the giggle that escaped at his panicked order, “I won’t. I’m sorry.” She tried to scramble off his lap, “We’d better go.”

 

Connor rolled his eyes, “I don’t think so.” He put a firm hand against her face and made her look at him, “I want to know what’s going on.” He kissed the tip of her red nose, “Now.”

 

Dawn focused on his left ear and shrugged uncomfortably, “No…” She jumped as he gave a warning growl and then her shoulders sagged, “I just…I miss home, that’s all.”

 

Connor tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, “And you thought I wouldn’t understand?” He skimmed his knuckles down her cheek, “Why would you be ashamed to tell me that?”

 

Dawn stared in shame at the floor, “I don’t want you to think I’m not dealing.” She sighed, “You’re always so together and stuff and I just feel so…stupid.”

 

Connor stayed silent for a moment and then sighed, “You think I don’t get scared?”

 

Dawn shrugged, “Not that I’ve noticed.” She began to twist her fingers together nervously, “You just take everything in your stride and you don’t seem bothered about leaving Angel and Cordy at all.”

 

Connor shrugged, “I’m not.” He looked down at Dawn’s shocked gasp, “What? I’m not going to lie to you. I love my mom and dad a lot, but the best thing I can do for them is to be here. With you.” He narrowed his eyes thoughtfully, “I haven’t had the life you’ve had. Hell-dimension, tried to off my dad, streets of LA and then trying to fit in a family that doesn’t know what to make of me. Not a lot to miss.” He shifted her more comfortably onto his lap, “Then I meet you. Brave, funny, hell on wheels with a stake and an axe…” He kissed her open mouth, “And I fit.” His eyes crinkled, “Of course, you can’t drive worth a damn and you’re a little scary first thing in the morning, but everyone has flaws, right? You’re what I love, the only person I can’t be without.”

 

Dawn choked, caught between a giggle and a strangled sob, “Hey!”

 

Connor raised a hand to run his fingers through her hair, “The only time in my life I’ve ever been truly scared is when I thought you’d left me in that basement. And I grew up in a hell dimension, so I know from scary.” He shrugged, “The way I see it, my life’s pretty ok if you’re in it. Everything else will work out.”

 

Dawn’s face fell, “But what if that won’t be enough? What if you spend all this time with me and you decide I’m not enough? I don’t know if we can be normal together.”

 

Connor snorted, “Honey, I thought we covered this when we first met, normality isn’t an option for us.” He grinned, “I don’t love you just because you can decapitate demons nearly as fast as I can. I love you because you make me laugh, you’re gentle and kind and you don’t quit. Ever.” He twisted his head so he could peer in her eyes, “You’re my only real friend, Dawn, and I know enough to realise that’s something that you don’t take for granted.”

 

Connor stood and lowered Dawn to the floor until she stood facing him. His forehead lowered to touch hers, “The moment I first saw you, when you told me that demon was a mutated bear, I knew that you were what I came looking for when I opened that portal from Quor’toth.” He cupped a hand against her cheek, “I came looking for you across dimensions and it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d found you working the graveyard shift at a burger bar and unable to fight your way out of a paper bag, I would have recognised you as mine.” He smiled at her with his heart in his eyes, “You could never bore me or disappoint me because you’re Dawn, and I love you.” His smile widened, “I’ll love you till the day we die because there is no one else in all the dimensions that can make my soul sing like you.”

 

Dawn swallowed, “Oh Connor.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and clung to him, “I love you.”

 

Connor’s grin grew smug, “I know.” He wrapped his arms around her tightly,

 

“And how great does that make me? Someone like you loves someone like me.” He patted her butt, “And that’s what going to save every boy that looks at you twice from a painful and bloody death.” He grinned as she gasped and jerked back, “What? You don’t think I’ve been thinking about all the competition I’m going to be facing?” He leered at her, “You may not have noticed but you’re pretty hot. And I’m not exactly Mr Congeniality.”

 

Dawn laughed, “Where the hell did you get that from?”

 

Connor swiped at the tracks of her tears, eyes brimming with mirth, “Cordelia, who else?” He cocked his head to the side, “My point is, that there’s a lot of new stuff coming to worry about and you could just have easily taken one look at all those new kids in their hot, swirly dresses and decided that you wanted rid of the guy with no social skills and a mean line in stacking up the dead bodies. Particularly as I can’t even conjure a rabbit out of a hat.” He grinned confidently at her, “But you won’t because I’m yours and you’re mine and there’s no one else that can be that for either of us. Pretty cool, huh?”

 

Dawn smiled radiantly, “Yeah. Pretty cool.”

 

Connor beamed at her and kissed her firmly, “And whenever you feel like you want someone to lean on you can come to me. Missing your family doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong and it gives us something to fight for.”

 

Dawn sighed, “You never stop surprising me.” She tilted her head, “You really don’t think I’m being a wimp?”

 

Connor kept a firm arm around her shoulders as he led her to the door, “What are you kidding me? I’ve seen you face down the worst the underworld has to offer, and Spike, with nothing more than a smile and mean left hook. Believe me honey, the word ‘wimp’ has never even entered my mind.” He ushered her out into the street, “The word ‘hot’ features regularly though.”







“It’s a wall.” Dawn looked at the wall and then at an anxious Harry and Ron, “It’s a brick wall.” She folded her arms firmly, “I am not running through a solid brick wall.”

 

Ron danced from foot to foot acutely aware of the speculative looks they were getting from the muggles streaming round them. Between them they had four owls, one large ginger cat, five trunks and two huge knapsacks bursting at the seams with weaponry. Inconspicuous they weren’t. “It’s not solid. It just hides the Hogwarts train from the rest of the station. Just run at it!”

 

Connor and Dawn exchanged looks and then looked back at the wall. “It looks solid.” Connor reached out and slapped a hand against the brickwork, “It feels solid.” He glared at Harry, “It is solid.”

 

Harry shook his head and looked uneasily around him. The bodyguards supplied by the Ministry were standing about fifteen feet away, twitching at every unexpected movement from the muggles around them, and he was fairly certain that pretty soon one of them would snap and then goodbye King’s Cross, hello smoking pit of panicked charms. He stepped closer to Connor and lowered his voice, “Its just bespelled to keep muggles out. Please, just trust me!”

 

Dawn blinked worriedly, “But Connor is a muggle!” She slipped her hand into Connor’s, “If it’s spelled to keep muggles out, how is he going to get in?”

 

Harry opened his mouth and then shut it again with a snap. Oh bloody hell!

 

Dawn gripped Connor’s hand tightly as Ron and Harry stared helplessly at each other and said firmly, “If Connor can’t get through then I’m not going. I won’t leave him.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes, “Oh for goodness sake.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a group of tickets, “Didn’t any of you listen to Professor Dumbledore this morning?” She sighed at the group of four blank faces, “The barrier isn’t spelled to keep muggles out, it’s spelled to keep anyone who isn’t enrolled in Hogwarts out. You need your tickets in your hand and it’ll cover any family members who are with you. Like Ginny and Mrs Weasley our first year, remember?” She shook her head, “Honestly, I think sometimes I’m the only one to ever listen to anything teachers have to say.”

 

Ron frowned, “Dumbledore was around this morning?” He thought for a minute and then turned to Harry, “Do you remember seeing Dumbledore this morning?”

 

Harry shook his head, “Nope.” He turned back to the exasperated Hermione, “Why didn’t you tell us he was there?” He clucked his tongue and wagged a finger at her, “It was a bit rude, Herm. I would have liked to have said hello.”

 

Hermione’s face turned a brilliant shade of red as her temper exploded, “What?” She spluttered angrily, “He was there at breakfast. You had your stupid, thick head stuck in that bloody Quidditch magazine and Ron was scoffing his third helping of bacon and eggs.” She threw up her hands, “You must remember!”

 

Ron and Harry managed to keep straight faces for another few seconds and then burst out laughing. Ron poked the furious Hermione in the ribs, “Gotcha!” He wiped his eyes, “Bloody hell, Hermione, I can’t believe you thought we’re that thick!” He chuckled as she smacked him on the arm, “Watch it, you might do me some damage!”

 

Hermione clenched her fists and glanced at Dawn who was valiantly trying to hide a smirk, “Give me another few weeks and I will do!” She sniffed and turned on her heel, “I’ll see you on the train.”

 

Harry stifled another belly laugh and grabbed the handle of her trolley, “Hang on, Hermione. I’m sorry, honestly.” He grinned at her for a moment until she gave him a grudging smile in return, “Did Dumbledore really say that Connor could get through with a ticket?”

 

Hermione gave him a pitying look, “Yes. Which you’d know if you bothered to pay attention.”

 

Harry smiled winningly, “But I don’t need to pay attention. I have you to do that for me.”

 

Ron hooked an arm around both their necks and nodded seriously, “And it was bloody good bacon, Hermione.”

 

Hermione fought to keep a straight face and then giggled as they beamed fondly at her, “Oh you two, what would I do without you?”

 

Ron squeezed her into his side before stepping away to grip his own trolley, “Probably suffocate under a mountain of homework.” He nodded to Dawn and Connor, “Ok, Connor, you come with me. Dawn, you go with Hermione. Harry, bring up the rear.”

 

Harry tugged a lock of his hair over his forehead, “Right away your headboyship, sir.”

 

Ron looked pained as they all fell into position around him, “That’s not funny, git-face.” He took a firm hold of his trolley handle and looked at Connor, “Right, run right at the wall and don’t hesitate. Ok?” Connor nodded and gripped his own trolley, Ron rocked back on his heels, “Ok, now!”

 

Dawn watched with her heart in her mouth as the two boys sprinted towards the wall and then she gasped as they hit and kept right on going. Hermione glanced up at the clock on the wall, “Only ten minutes to go. Ready Dawn?” Dawn swallowed and reminded herself that she’d done much weirder things than this. She nodded and began to run alongside Hermione when the girl took off at a fast trot, the only problem she had was that she couldn’t currently remember any of them. The wall loomed up in front of her and she closed her eyes as the trolley closed touched the bricks, tensing for the expected crash, and then she had a feeling of pressure before bursting into fresh air.

 

Dawn opened her eyes and pulled up sharply as she very nearly ran her trolley into a group of small children. Connor reached out an arm and tugged her out of the way and then Harry burst through the wall and skidded to a halt beside them. Dawn stared around and felt her mouth drop open. A huge red steam engine puffed away on the tracks while hundreds of children and their parents stood around chatting and calling to each other in the last few minutes they had before the train pulled out. Owls hooted and trolleys rattled as they were pushed across the wide platform and everywhere she looked there were men and women in robes every colour of the rainbow. “Whoa, magic central.”

 

Harry gave her a brilliant smile, “Fantastic isn’t it? Come on, this way.” He began to push his trolley in the wake of Ron and Hermione as they made their way down the platform. Dawn fell in next to Connor and followed, craning her neck in every direction, trying to assimilate everything at once.

 

“Ron! Ron!”

 

Ron spun round as he heard someone call his name and glared at Connor, “No weapons!” He turned back and opened his arms as a small, plump, red-haired witch flung her arms around his neck and burst into tears.

 

“Oh Ron!”

 

Ron flushed bright red and wrapped his arms around his mother, “Hi Mum. Alright?” He patted her back awkwardly and rolled his eyes at Harry as his friend stood grinning to one side, “Alright, Mum, calm down, I’m alright.”

 

Mrs Weasley pulled back and slapped her youngest son’s arm, “Don’t be cheeky.” She looked him over from head to foot, “Have you been eating properly?”

 

Ron rolled his eyes again, “Yes Mum. I told you me and Harry would be alright at the Cauldron.”

 

Mrs Weasley turned and saw Harry, “Harry, dear! Come here.” She tugged him towards her and gave him a firm hug, brushing the hair from his forehead in a loving gesture, “Are you alright, dear? Had a good summer?”

 

Harry grinned as his favourite woman in the world, after Hermione, patted him lovingly and tried to smooth his stubborn hair flat, “Yes thank you, Mrs Weasley. How are you?”

 

Mrs Weasley stepped back and folded her arms glaring at the two boys, “You mean apart from having my youngest son off gallivanting over half of Europe, the wizarding press crawling all over the Burrow, an empty house all summer because it’s too dangerous for the two of you to come home and only having a few minutes to see you before you go off to get in Merlin only knows what trouble at school this year?”

 

Ron winced, “Er, yeah?” Harry’s face went blank and he thought, Home, she called it my home.

 

The witch bristled, “That’s all you have to say?” She glared furiously at both boys, “I’ve been out of my mind with fear over what might be happening to you and that’s all you have to say?”

 

Ron shifted his feet unhappily, “Oh Mum, don’t go on. All that happened months ago.” He took a step backwards as his mother swelled like a small, angry toad, “Oh bloody hell.”

 

“Months ago? Months ago? Do you have any idea what you put me and your father through? All the nights we sat up worrying and…”

 

Connor watched as the two boys he had formed a tentative friendship with writhe with embarrassment as the older woman systematically tore every last strip of teenage dignity from them. He winced as her voice rose until she was nearly screeching and muttered to Dawn, “Jeez, I thought my mom was bad.”

 

Dawn giggled and then smiled as Hermione joined her and watched her two best friends reap the benefits of their notoriety, “Ooops, I see Mrs Weasley found them.” She gave Ron a sympathetic smile and then said to Dawn, “This is Ginny Weasley, Ron’s sister. Gin, this is Dawn Summers and Connor Angel, the new students I was telling you about.”

 

Dawn smiled at the slight redhead by Hermione’s side, “Hello.” Connor spared her a brief nod before turning fascinated eyes back to Harry and Ron and their own personal hell. Dawn winced as Ron’s mum went up a notch with the outraged yelling and then studied the girl before her. Long, red hair fell to halfway down her back, offsetting the creamy coloured skin and gunmetal grey of her eyes. On the left side of her face, a still livid scar ran from eyebrow to beneath her jaw, twisting her mouth into a permanent half smile. She was a few inches shorter than Hermione, but with a slender body swamped by the black school robes she wore.

 

Ginny flushed under the scrutiny from the stunningly pretty girl and swung her hair self consciously forward, hiding the disfiguring scar she had received in the battle for Hogwarts at the end of the last term. She smiled shyly, “Hello.” Her eyes flickered to her brother and mother, “She’s just relieved to see them.”

 

Dawn grinned, “Sounds it.” She squeezed Ginny’s arm lightly in reassurance, “Don’t sweat it, you should meet our parents.” She rolled her eyes, “Hysterical doesn’t even begin to cover it.”

 

They all looked up as Mrs Weasley finally stopped yelling and caught sight of Hermione, “Oh hello, love. I didn’t see you there.” She bustled over and caught the young woman in a bone-crushing hug, “I’m so glad you’re alright, dear. How are your parents now?”

 

Hermione hugged the smaller witch enthusiastically, “Fine thank you, Mrs Weasley. I just wanted to say how sorry I am about all the trouble the boys got into because of me.” She shook her head making her brown hair dance on her shoulders, “I really can’t apologise enough for all the worry you must have gone through.”

 

Ron’s mum cupped an affectionate work-roughened hand to Hermione’s cheek, “There, there, dear. It wasn’t your fault. I can hardly blame you for getting yourself kidnapped like that.” She fixed Ron and Harry with a gimlet eye, “I know if you’d have been there then none of this business would have happened.”

 

Ron’s mouth fell open in outrage, “What? Well of course it wouldn’t have happened woman, she’s the bloody reason we went buggering off to bloody Albania in the first place!”

 

Mrs Weasley’s mouth tightened, “Don’t you use that language to me, Ronald Weasley. I meant that Hermione’s obviously the only one of the three of you with more sense than spine.” She patted Hermione’s cheek once more and then gathered Ginny to her side, “I don’t know between you three and Ginny, it’s a wonder I have any colour left in my hair at all.” All four English teenagers blushed as she turned to Dawn and Connor, “And who might this be?” Her eyebrows went up as Connor took a cautious step behind Dawn. Fearless when it came to demons, he’d lived with Cordelia too long not to possess a healthy respect for any woman who possessed the title mother and could yell louder than Angel when he got his monthly credit card bill. “It’s alright dear, I don’t bite.”

 

Connor looked unconvinced and Dawn held out a hand, “Hello ma’am, I’m Dawn Summers and this is Connor. We’re pleased to meet you.” She grinned and elbowed Connor in the stomach, “Say hello to Ron’s mom.” Connor gave a small smile and nodded warily, Dawn sighed, “Sorry, he’s not much with the small talk.”

 

Mrs Weasley smiled at them both, “Quite alright, my love. I expect he’s a bit shy.” Dawn giggled at the thought of her tough, demon-hunting boyfriend being called shy and gave Mrs Weasley a wide smile as she continued, “Are you joining Hogwarts this year?” She looked them up and down, “You’re a little older than most first years.”

 

Harry stepped forward hurriedly, “Exchange programme. Professor Dumbledore picked them up and they’ve been staying with Ron and me at the Cauldron, Mrs Weasley.”

 

Hermione caught the slightly frantic tone of voice and seamlessly picked up the conversation, “Oh goodness, look at the time. We really need to get on board the train.” She grabbed Dawn’s trolley and took off at a brisk trot, “Come on, we’d better hurry.”

 

Mrs Weasley frowned as the teenagers all hurriedly took off after Hermione, “We’ve got a whole minute left yet!”

 

Ron grabbed Connor’s owl and shoved Ginny through an open carriage door, passing her the cage and then helping Harry with Dawn’s trunk, “You know how it is, Mum, head boy and prefect stuff to do.” He ignored Hermione’s squawk as he lifted her bodily into the train and then shoved Connor in after her, “We’ll write you as soon as we get there.” The carriage door slammed behind him and he stuck his head out, “Don’t worry, we’ll behave this year, I promise!”

 

Mrs Weasley blinked, “Alright dear.” She smiled proudly, “Look after Ginny and remember you’re Headboy now, no more breaking the rules!” Her eyes misted over, “Your father and I are so proud of you, Ron…”

 

Ron grinned, “Thanks Mum.” His mouth fell open as the train began to move and he realised in the haste to get away from his mother that Harry had been left on the platform “Harry!” Ron flung open the door and grabbed the neck of his friend’s sweater, heaving him inside, “What are you doing, you pillock?” He slammed the door shut again and pulled Ginny up beside him to wave to their mother, “Bye Mum! See you in a few months!”

 

The brother and sister waved until their mother disappeared from sight and then Ron pulled his head in and shut the window. “Bloody hell, that was close.” He looked down at his much smaller sister, “Alright Gin?” He pushed her hair away from her face and scowled, “Are you ok now?” He traced a gentle finger down her scar and then pulled her into a brotherly cuddle when she flushed and glanced unhappily at Dawn and Connor, “Ginny…” His voice trailed away and he squeezed his arm around his sister lightly, “I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”

 

Hermione nudged Harry, “I’m hungry. Come on.” Harry looked confused as she tugged on his jumper and pushed him into the swaying corridor, Hermione sent Dawn a significant look, “Dawn?” The brunette nodded and grabbed Connor’s arm to pull him into after the other two, softly shutting the door behind them.

 

“What’s going on?” Harry pointed back inside the carriage, “All my money’s in there.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes and shoved him unceremoniously down the swaying corridor, “Get moving, Harry. Ron and Gin need a moment.” She kept them moving until she found an empty compartment and then ushered them all inside. “Sorry about that, but Ron hasn’t seen Ginny since her accident and he’s a bit shaken up.”

 

Dawn nodded, “What happened?”

 

Hermione’s face darkened and she glanced at Harry before he shrugged and gestured for her to continue, “Hogwarts was attacked last year, while we were in Albania. Ginny ignored orders for everyone under the sixth year to stay in the common rooms and joined the main fight. She got hit with a curse from a Deatheater and nearly died.” Hermione wrapped her arms around her waist and rocked slightly on the seat, “We were fighting for our lives at the time and then we appartted in the middle of Diagon Alley and the Ministry arrested us and put us straight in the Merlin Memorial because we were in such a bad way. Ginny spent three weeks in the Hogwarts infirmary before she was well enough to travel home and then when Harry and Ron were well enough to go, the Ministry decided that it was too dangerous for them to go back to the Burrow.” Her eyes filled with tears, “My parents are under Ministry supervision at a secret location and Ron and Harry were kept at the Cauldron under twenty-four hour guard.” She looked at Harry as he slipped his arm around her shoulders, “Poor Ginny’s been on her own all summer and Mrs Weasley says that the mediwitches can’t do anything more for her scar.” Tears began to trickle down her face, “Oh, poor Ginny.”

 

Dawn’s face shone with sympathy, “I’m sorry.” She looked at Connor and he shrugged helplessly as Hermione buried her head in her hands and began to sob in earnest. Dawn turned back to face Harry as he made soothing noises and patted Hermione’s back, “And this is all because of this dark who-ji-ma-whatzit?” He nodded grimly. Dawn leaned forward and pulled Hermione’s hands away from her face, “I can’t do anything about what’s already happened but I can promise you that this guy is going down.” She watched Hermione’s eyes as the girl sniffed back her tears and let a cold smile cross her face, “I don’t care how all bad ass and mean he likes to think he is, he’s never come up against the Slayer and her crew before and we are going to put him in the damn ground.” She held out her hand to Hermione and crooked her little finger, “Pinky swear.”

Chapter Text

Two hours later and all of them were seated in their original compartment, shrieking with laughter as they had a noisy game of exploding snap. Ginny had relaxed slightly and now sat between Ron and Hermione as they waged a vicious war on Dawn, Connor and Harry. When the last card had disappeared with a loud bang in mid air, Ron leaned back against the seat and rubbed his belly, “I’m starving. Anyone know when the trolley’s coming round?”

 

Hermione grinned affectionately at him, “Its not. Dumbledore’s decided that we’re going to have a proper dining car this year, Neville told me when I ran into him coming back from the loo.”

 

Ron brightened, “Yeah?” He stood up and patted his pockets, making sure his wallet was safely inside, “Well, come on then. I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I’m famished.” He looked down at his sister, “Gin?”

 

Ginny shifted uncomfortably at the thought of the looks and whispers she’d encounter if she met anyone she knew. Her hair fell forward over her face and she shook her head, “No, it’s alright. Mum made sandwiches. I’ll stay here.”

 

Hermione and Dawn exchanged looks as Ron opened his mouth to protest and then both girls grabbed an arm and guided him out the door. Hermione called back over her shoulder, “Ok Gin, we’ll bring you back a chocolate frog.” The girls marched the protesting Ron up the corridor with Harry and Connor bringing up the rear.

 

“What’s going on?” Ron shook Dawn’s hand off his arm and scowled down at the two girls, “Why don’t you want Ginny to come?”

 

Hermione squeezed his arm, “Oh Ron, of course we want Ginny to come, but she’s obviously a bit nervous at everyone seeing her face. We won’t be long and then at least when she does have to face people it can be at school and she can get away if she needs to.” She tipped her head to one side and smiled at him, “She just needs a few more hours to get herself together, alright?”

 

Ron glanced at Harry who nodded at then back at Hermione, “Ok.” His muscles bunched under her fingers as he snarled, “But if anyone says anything to her…”

 

Hermione stepped through the door to the adjoining carriage and gave him a sly smile, “Then I have the very curse to make them regret it, I promise you.”

 

Dawn smiled at Connor as she slipped past him and then rolled her eyes, “Damn it, I forgot my money. Have you got any on you?” Connor dug into his jeans pocket and pulled out two Knuts and a single Sickle. She sighed, “I’ll run back to the compartment and get my purse. Go on, I’ll catch you up.”

 

Connor shook his head, “I’ll come with you.”

 

“Connor, I think I can find my way back down a straight hallway, on a train that I can’t actually get off.” Dawn stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, “I’ll just be a minute. You go and make sure Ron doesn’t pull a Xander and eat everything before I get there.” She gave him a bright smile and a small shove, “Go on.”

 

Dawn watched him step reluctantly back through the door and then turned to head back to their compartment. She was maybe ten feet away from her destination when she first caught the sound of voices from where she had left Ginny. She tipped her head to one side and listened intently for a moment and then a low distressed noise that sounded like the younger girl had easing her lucky stake out from her shoulder holster. A quick look up and down the long corridor reassured her she was alone and then she was sidling carefully along the carriage wall to the slightly open door of the compartment.

 

A girl’s voice, mean and filled with spite reached Dawn’s ears, “Honestly Weasley, this little obsession with Potter has to stop, you know. First you follow him around like a pathetic little house-elf for all those years and then you go and get yourself a matching disfigurement.” The voice filled with vicious laughter, “And you’d think you were hideous enough without the twisted face.”

 

Dawn’s hand clenched on her stake as Ginny’s answered in a low, shaky voice, “Just get out of here, Pansy. Leave me alone.”

 

Another voice joined in, “Oh, is the littlest Weasel going to cry? Should we go and get your deformed boyfriend for you, Weasel? I bet he can make it better.”

 

Dawn swung into the room just as a sharp crack rang out. Ginny stood with her back against the window, eyes wide in her white face, with three girls facing her and their backs to Dawn. One of the girls had a hand clapped to her cheek, “You little cow!” Her hand moved down from her face and reached inside the robes she wore, “I’m going to make you pay for that…”

 

Ginny gasped as she saw Dawn’s furious face over Pansy’s shoulder, “Dawn, get out!”

 

Dawn grinned as the girl threatening Ginny swung round and presented her unprotected, fat, pug face and a nose that was just made for flattening. Dawn, ever accommodating, raised her right fist and jabbed smartly into the girl’s face. She turned to the side and kicked out with a powerful foot into a large, ugly girl’s chest. The girl went down with a choked cry, right on top of the one that was crying and holding her nose.

 

Dawn smiled at the remaining girl, “Hi. You have two choices. One, I kick your ass. Two, you get the hell out of here while I just kick your buddies asses.” Her smile widened as the girl whipped a wand from her robes and drew breath to shout a curse. Dawn jumped up and grabbed the top of the doorframe and then swung both feet up to land squarely in the middle of the girl’s face. The wand flew out of her hand and she crashed backwards into her friends on the floor. Dawn’s feet hit the floor and she stepped forward to kick the wand out of reach under the seat, “Oh, I was so hoping you’d choose option number two.”

 

Ginny gaped at the brunette as she swiftly grabbed the two remaining wands and threw them behind her into the corridor. Dawn slammed the door shut and then reached down and grabbed hair and robes to drag the shrieking girls up and onto the seats along one side of the travelling space. Dawn nodded with satisfaction as she spotted two magnificent black eyes beginning, one hefty nose bleed, and unless she was very much mistaken, a rather fetching bruise along the largest girl’s face where she’d hit her head on the way to the floor. “Not bad for two minutes work. You ok, Ginny?”

 

Ginny stared in horror from the wailing girls on the seat to her brother’s new friend, “What did you do?”

 

Dawn pushed her hair back behind her ears, “Something that should have been done years ago by the looks of things. What’s their deal?” She glared down at the girl with the bleeding nose, “Who the hell are you?”

 

Ginny shook her head and stumbled forward, “You’d better go before anyone finds us.” She swung her hair over her scar and bit her lip, “I’ll tell people it was me. Quickly!”

 

Dawn snorted, “I don’t think so. No one gets to take credit for this except me.” She nudged Ginny with her elbow and grinned happily, “Pretty hot stuff, huh?”

 

Ginny shook her head unhappily, “You don’t understand. If they tell people what you did…” She gripped Dawn’s arm with a shaking hand, “They’re Slytherins.”

 

Dawn failed to look even slightly worried, “They’re also nasty, vicious bitches who deserved a good smacking.” She clapped her hands together looking pleased with herself, “And there I was in the clinch. Who are they?”

 

Ginny blinked, “Pansy Parkinson, Millicent Bulstrode and Emily Nott.” She looked at Pansy who was staring at Dawn through her blood and tears with intense hatred, “Oh Dawn, you really shouldn’t have done that.”

 

Dawn raised her eyebrows, “Oh Ginny, I really should.” She eyed the three girls grimly, “And as for you three, consider this a wake-up call. A very gentle wake-up call. The next time I catch you even breathing the same air as my friend here I’ll break someone’s arm, got me?” She leaned forward and got in Pansy’s face, smirking at the hiss of fear as the girl leaned back in her seat, “I hate bullies and I really loathe bullies that pick on people in packs. Remember that the rules have changed ladies, there’s a new bad ass in town.” She straightened up and finished scathingly, “And, by the way, I’ve met better looking demons than you three and if you make any more remarks to Gin about her battle scar then I’ll make sure you meet them too. Now get out of here.”

 

She stepped back as the three girls rushed for the door and then stuck her head out into the corridor to watch them run screaming up the corridor. Dawn laughed and pulled her head back inside the compartment, “Well, that was fun.” She beamed at Ginny, “Wasn’t that fun?”

 

Ginny sank onto a seat and her eyes filled up with tears, “I’m so sorry. You’re going to get in so much trouble because of me.”

 

Dawn looked stricken, as the girl burst into tears and moved to wrap a comforting arm around her shoulder, “Don’t cry Trouble’s my middle name, I don’t care.” She rubbed Ginny’s arm briskly, “Really, I was jonesing for a work out.” She stared reflectively at the top of Ginny’s head, “Not that was much of a work out but…” She shrugged, “I’ll take what I can get.” Ginny’s shoulders shook as she began to sob in earnest, “Oh Ginny, don’t. They got what they deserved.”

 

“I…I’m sorry. I’m not usually like this.” Ginny scrubbed at her face with her sleeve, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” She looked up into Dawn’s concerned green eyes, “You’re being so kind and you must think I’m such a wimp.”

 

Dawn raised her eyebrows, “Hardly. I heard the smack you gave the one with a face like a Fyarl’s ass.” She hugged Ginny to her, “Go you.” She pushed Ginny’s hair back from her face as the other girl stared miserably at the floor, “And I heard what you did a few months ago. Not seeing the wimp anywhere on you.”

 

Ginny gave Dawn a startled look, “Who told you about that?” She flushed, “I didn’t do much and I nearly got myself killed.” She touched her face, “And all I have to show for it is this.”

 

Dawn tilted her head to the side and studied the scar, “Yeah, pretty bad.” She grinned, “But you still have a face to wear it on, so that’s a plus.” She ignored Ginny’s hurt eyes and traced a finger over the raised flesh, “The colour will fade in a few months, it’ll turn silver and it won’t stand out so much.” Her head cocked to the side and she smiled gently, “It’s nowhere near as bad as you think. No one important is going to care about one little mark when the rest of you is such a babe.”

 

Ginny coloured prettily, “What?”

 

Dawn patted her arm and stood up, “A babe. Major hotness alert. Plus, the guys go wild for battle scars.” She laughed, “Well, the guys I know anyway. How do you feel about vampires?”

 

Ginny gave Dawn a startled look as the taller girl dug out her wallet from her bag, “Wh…what?”

 

Dawn grinned as she tucked her wallet safely into her jeans pocket, “Kidding, just kidding.” She grabbed Ginny’s hand and pulled her towards the door, “Come on, I’m starving and the longer we leave the boys alone with the food the less chance there is of us getting any.”

 

Ginny dug her heels in, “No, really, I’d much rather stay here.” She gasped as Dawn’s hand tightened and she was tugged off her feet into the corridor, “I don’t want to see anyone yet. I’m not ready.”

 

Dawn closed the door and pulled the protesting girl up the corridor, “You’re never going to be ready. Bite the bullet, get it over with and stop being a wuss.” She stepped through to the next carriage and continued merrily, “Besides, with a bit of luck there’ll be more Slitheries that make some cracks and I’ll get to smack someone else around for you. Yay!”




 

In the end it was nowhere near as bad as Ginny feared. The dining car was packed with students of all houses, but above a few whispered comments and covert looks no one paid Ginny’s face much attention. Ron on the other hand was getting steadily more annoyed.

 

“Oi, Ron, show us your tackle, mate!” Dean Thomas bellowed across the dining car and then fluttered his eyelids at the scarlet head boy, “I never knew you were so fit. All these years sharing a room and I never noticed what a catch you were!”

 

Ron glared furiously across at his fellow Gryffindorr, “Belt up, Dean.”

 

Seamus Finnegan pretended to swoon, “Ooh, you’re so masterful.” He laughed, “Hermione, is he like that in the sack?”

 

Hermione choked on her glass of pumpkin juice as Harry and Connor hastily leaned across the table and grabbed Ron before he could fling himself on the laughing Irish boy. Dawn fought to keep a straight face as Ginny giggled and snagged another pumpkin pasty. Hermione wiped a dribble of the cold juice off her chin and turned to Seamus saying coolly, “I’d have thought if anyone would know, Seamus, it’d be you.”

 

The grin fell off Seamus’ face abruptly as Ron hissed, “HERMIONE!”

 

Dawn lost the battle and broke down into helpless giggles as Hermione shrugged and daintily popped a piece of pasty into her mouth. She glanced at Ginny as she felt the girl tense beside her and looked round to see a tall, blond boy sweeping down the narrow aisle towards them. Her eyes travelled over his shoulder and she winced as she saw the three Slytherin girls that she had trounced earlier crowding in behind him and behind them the largest humans she’d ever seen outside of a wrestling ring.

 

“Potter.” Harry looked up at the familiar cool drawl and into Draco Malfoy’s cold blue eyes. He glanced at the swollen faces of the girls behind Malfoy and then let his eyes rest on Crabbe and Goyle for a moment before he looked back at the pale Slytherin and nodded.

 

Ron scowled and looked at Connor, “Now him you can kill.”

 

Connor sniffed the air, “He doesn’t smell like a demon.”

 

Dawn turned her body slightly to block the group’s view of Ginny and eyed the tall, pale-faced boy, “Are you sure?” She eased her stake out of its holder and ran her finger over the tip, “He looks dead.”

 

Malfoy folded his arms and glared down at the people around the table, determinedly not looking at Ginny, “When you’ve quite finished, there’s a little matter that I think needs to be resolved.” He jerked his head back to indicate Pansy and her friends, “They were attacked a little while ago and their wands stolen. I believe your new…acquaintances might have had something to do with it.” The word acquaintances was drawn out with distaste, the way someone else might say dung beetles.

 

Harry calmly met his eyes, “I don’t think so, Malfoy. They’ve been with us the whole time. Push off, we’re eating and you’re curdling the pumpkin juice.”

 

Malfoy's eyes flickered briefly and then he said, “Actually I rather think this is something the head boy needs to deal with, Potter. Can’t be the one in the limelight all the time, after all.” He looked at Ron, “Well, what are you going to do about it?”

 

Ron sighed and took a huge bite of a pasty, “Hang on…” He chewed slowly then looked at Dawn and Connor, “Did you do it?” He continued without waiting for them to reply, “Nope, wasn’t them. Bugger off now. Please.”

 

Hermione looked at Dawn with a sudden dreadful suspicion as the brunette bared her teeth at the cowering Slytherins girls and waggled her fingers in a mocking wave. She switched to stare for a moment at the guilty looking Ginny and then groaned, “Oh no…”

 

Ron looked up at his friend at her low moan and then followed the line of her appalled gaze to the cheerful looking Dawn. “Oh bloody hell!” He put a hand over his eyes as Dawn’s grin widened and muttered, “Five minutes you were gone, five sodding minutes. How can you possibly have time to get in this much trouble in five minutes?”

 

Dawn tried, and failed, to look modest, “It’s a gift.”

 

Connor looked at the three girls and their bruised faces, “You did that?” He cocked his head to one side, “Looks like your balance was a little off on that one.” He gestured to Emily Nott and the discoloured bruise down one side of her face, “Sloppy, honey, very sloppy.”

 

Dawn grinned at him, “Shows what you know, I donkey kicked her in the chest and she smacked her face going down.” She sniffed smugly, “I’m betting there’s a boot mark smack dab centre if she took her top off.” She looked back at Malfoy and frowned doubtfully, “Are you sure he’s not dead?”

 

Ron buried his face in his hands, ”I can’t believe you beat them up.” His head rocked from side to side, “I can’t believe you beat them up.”

 

Harry looked worriedly from the smug Malfoy to the unrepentant Dawn, “Did you steal their wands as well?”

 

“Pfft, of course not!” Dawn waved a dismissive hand and reached for a cauldron cake, “I took them off them and threw them into the corridor.” She crammed the cake into her mouth, “S’not my fault they ran off without picking them up.”

 

Malfoy curled his lip at her, “Yes, that is surprising. Who’d have thought they wouldn’t be able to see through all the blood and pain?” He glared at her coldly, “You’ve ruined their faces.”

 

Hermione whispered dryly, “How can you tell the difference?” Dawn choked on a crumb of cake at the sly question and Hermione thumped her helpfully on the back as she glared coolly at Malfoy, “Have you asked them why Dawn hit them?” Her eyes flickered to Ginny and then back to Malfoy, “I’ll bet she had a good reason.”

 

Draco’s eyes shifted to Ginny who was huddled in the corner, hiding behind her curtain of hair, “I hardly think that’s relevant.”

 

Connor leaned back in his seat and threw a casual arm over the back of his seat, “I think it is.” He gave Malfoy a level look, “If that’s alright with you.” He had caught Hermione’s telling glance at Ginny and was pretty sure he’d figured out what had happened. His mouth tightened into a cold smile, “I think it’s a very good idea we find out what happened.”

 

Dawn felt Ginny shift uncomfortably beside her and reached a lightening fast decision, “Nothing. I ran into them in the corridor and they wouldn’t move out of my way, so I hit them. No big. Sorry.” One glare from her hard green eyes had Pansy shutting her mouth before the other girl revealed Ginny’s attack on her. Dawn pressed back against Ginny for a moment in reassurance before finishing coldly, “My bad. Now leave it alone.”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Dawn sheltering Ginny and then he looked at Hermione. The two eyed each other for a few moments before he looked back at Malfoy, “You heard her. She said sorry, now get lost.”

 

Draco half turned to look at Pansy and then he looked back at Potter and his friends. The slight brunette’s story had, by sheer coincidence, matched exactly with Pansy’s hysterical explanation when she had burst into his compartment but after seeing Hermione’s look of startled comprehension when she looked at Ginny, he was beginning to have a feeling there was more to the story than met the eye. He smirked, “I don’t think so, Potter. Weasley, I insist as head boy you do something about this. I’m afraid I can’t allow an attack like this go unpunished.” He looked at Ginny out of the corner of his eye as she swung a stricken face up to him, “If you do not act accordingly, I’m afraid that I’ll have no alternative but to report this to my head of house when we get to the school.” His smirk increased mockingly, “As senior prefect for Slytherin, I’m sure you understand I can’t do anything else in good conscience.”

 

Ron jumped up, “Why you slimy…”

 

Hermione grabbed for his arm as Ginny shot up white faced and yelled, “No!” She grabbed Ron’s other arm and said urgently, “Ron, you can’t punish her, she was protecting me!” She darted a look at the suddenly expressionless look on the Slytherin prefect’s face and then said urgently to her brother, “She was protecting me. I hi…hit Pansy and Dawn came in as they were about to curse me. She didn’t do anything wrong, it was all me.”

 

Ron’s mouth dropped open, “What? Ginny, what on earth did you do that for?” His brows drew together sharply, “What did they do to you?”

 

Dawn winked at Connor as Ginny closed her mouth and stared mutinously at the floor, “That’s my cue.” She stood up and eased into the aisle until she stood before Malfoy and then turned to Ron, “They had Ginny trapped and were being mean about her scar and…” She caught Ginny’s sudden shake of the head and continued smoothly, “And other stuff.” She stared up into Malfoy’s eyes, “It was three against one and even when I came in we were still outnumbered. You’ll look pretty stupid telling that to a teacher.” Her head tilted appraisingly, “Are you absolutely sure you aren’t dead? You really don’t look like someone on nodding terms with a pulse.”

 

Malfoy blinked and then shook his head dismissing her remark, “Is this true?” His eyes rested on Ginny for a moment before glaring at the three girls behind him, “Is that what happened?”

 

Pansy squirmed under his furious look, “Draco, of course not. We were just having a conversation with Ginny when she came in and attacked us.” Her eyes flashed spitefully, “You know I would never do anything like that. After all its hardly poor Ginny’s fault she’s had her face ruined.”

 

Draco caught Ginny’s flinch from the corner of his eye and swung round to nod at Ron, “I’ll take care of this Weasley.” His eyes rested on Ginny for a moment, “You have my word this will not happen again.”

 

Ron’s mouth fell open again, “What?” He was pretty sure Harry and Hermione wore identical looks of shock at Malfoy’s statement.

 

Malfoy ignored the gasps of shock and surprise coming from all around him and nodded at Dawn, “I apologise for any upset caused.”

 

Dawn shrugged, “Like I said, no big.”

 

Malfoy nodded, “Right. Weasley, I’ll leave it up to you how you wish to deal with your sister and her friend and I’ll deal with my own house members, I trust that is acceptable?”

 

Ron whispered weakly, “Um…yeah.” He shook his head to clear it and stared disbelieving at his mortal enemy, “Yeah, that’s fine.”

 

Malfoy turned and grabbed Millicent’s arm, giving her a quick shove to get moving. Ron stared after the Slytherins as they were herded out by the senior prefect and wagged a finger unsteadily after them, “And let that be a lesson to you.” The sounds of protesting Slytherins sounded until the carriage door shut, cutting them off. Ron sank back down onto his seat, “Did that just happen?” He pinched his arm sharply, “I’m not dreaming am I? Draco Malfoy actually let Dawn and Ginny off the hook, didn’t he?” He twisted round and met the astonished eyes of other people in the dining car, all of whom had been silent while the confrontation was happening. “Everyone else saw that, right? I haven’t gone mad?”

 

A murmur of assent echoed round the room as Harry blinked uncertainly behind his glasses, “I suppose that was Malfoy? Not someone pretending to be him?”

 

Connor and Dawn exchanged puzzled looks, “What’s the big deal? Dawn was right and the other girls were wrong.” Connor shrugged, “Case closed.”

 

Hermione shook her head, “It’s not quite that simple with Malfoy. He’s been out to get us since our first year.” She glanced worriedly at the carriage door, “He’d never normally let an opportunity like this go. He’s up to something.”

 

Ginny spoke up, “He’s not that bad.”

 

“Ginny!” Ron looked at his sister in horrified amazement, “Have you gone stark staring mad? It’s MALFOY! Of course he’s that bad.”

 

Ginny flushed, “He helped me last year when I was hurt.” She remembered the calm way he had held her and taken her to the hospital wing when she had been out of her mind with pain after being hit by the death eater’s curse and said more firmly, “He’s not how he used to be.”

 

Harry spoke up hurriedly as Ron looked like he was about to explode, “Well, we can’t worry about it now. We’d better get back to the compartment and get changed into our robes. We’re nearly at the school.”

 

Ron shook his head in disbelief at his obviously deranged sister and stood up, “Yeah, alright, mate.” He gestured for Hermione to go in front of him and then shook his head again, “Malfoy’s not that bad. Honestly!”

 

Dawn eyed Ginny curiously as she dipped her head to hide another blush and then caught up to Ron, “So, seriously, really not dead? He’s definitely human?”

 

Ron sighed gloomily, “Unfortunately.”

 

Dawn pictured the slim, pale face again in her mind, “Weird.” Who’d have thought someone could be that pale and still be all pulse having and upright?




 

When they finally arrived at Hogsmeade station Dawn and Connor found themselves separated from Harry and the others by a beaming Hagrid. “Professor Dumbledore says yer to be sorted. Yer to come along o’ me and the firs’ years.” His face lit up as he waved to Hermione and Ginny, “Alrigh’ girls? Had a good summer, did yeh?”

 

Connor scratched at his neck where the cloth of his robe and his tie were conspiring to make life very uncomfortable, “We’ve got to be what?”

 

Hagrid hugged Hermione and Ginny enthusiastically, “Yer to be sorted. Yer to come with me, an’ I’ll take yeh to the school with the firs’ years.” He patted Ginny affectionately on the head and raised his lantern to bellow, “Firs’ years wi’ me. Follow me firs’ years!”

 

Harry patted Dawn’s arm, “Go on. They just want to decide what house you’ll be in. It’s nothing. We’ll see you at the feast.” He raised a hand and waved to Hagrid, “See you at the feast, Hagrid!” The half-giant turned and waved and then began to lead the new crop of wizards and witches off to the boats. Connor took Dawn’s hand and led her off to follow the small children who were staring around them with huge, nervous eyes as they followed Hagrid’s lantern into the dark.

 

Ron made for the horseless carriages and then stopped and bellowed after the two Americans, “And don’t bloody hit anything!”

 

Connor looked back as he waited at the side of the station house for Hagrid to finish counting heads and make sure he wasn’t missing anyone. His teeth flashed as he grinned at the disgruntled shout and then he frowned as a flash of moonlight on pale hair caught his eye. He narrowed his eyes and realised that he could see the boy that had accused Dawn earlier lurking in the shadows of the train as it was unloaded. He stood alone, his robes pulled tightly around him and staring intently towards Harry and his friends as they sauntered casually to their rides up the castle. Connor frowned uneasily, what was he doing?

 

He was just about to nudge Dawn when he saw the boy’s shoulders tense as Ginny fell back slightly behind her brother and looked around her. Her head turned and she cast a quick glance behind her as though she was aware of eyes watching. The blond boy drew back further into the shadows as the small red head peered uneasily into the dark, she jumped as Hermione called her name and ran to catch up with her brother and climb into the carriage they were sharing.

 

Connor watched as the boy eased forward out of the shadows and stood looking after the carriage as it made its way towards the school. The thin, clever-looking face was looking at the carriage with a mix of curiosity and reluctant longing as he stood on the cold platform and Connor was prepared to bet his last stake that the lonely figure wasn’t yearning after Harry Potter or his buddy Ron. His mouth twitched with amusement. Well, well, and to think he thought school would be boring!

 

Dawn pulled sharply on his hand to bring his attention back to her as Hagrid shouted and the group of small children moved off into the trees and down a dark, unlit path. “Connor, stay alert.” She frowned suspiciously at him and then peered at the platform, “What’s the matter? Is there something out there?”

 

Connor glanced back and saw the boy had disappeared again; he shook his head and pulled out a stake to hold it loosely beside his leg as he followed the two small girls in front, “No. I just wanted to make sure that they unloaded our stuff properly.” He squeezed her hand lightly, “Come on, lets get this over with. You take point.”






 

Dawn and Connor entered the great hall at the rear of the first years and waved happily to Ron and the others when they spotted them at the head of the Gryffindor table. Ron waved back and hissed to Hermione out of the corner of his mouth, “Do they look like they’ve been in a fight to you?”

 

Hermione chuckled and patted his hand reassuringly, “Calm down, Ron. They’re now officially Dumbledore’s problem, right?”

 

Ron narrowed his eyes as Dawn and Connor stalked past, staring up at the bewitched ceiling completely oblivious to the stares and comments they were attracting from the students that hadn’t seen them on the train. He glanced at the Slytherin table and saw that the whole house was directing poisonous looks at the two as they followed the first years to the platform at the front of the hall and stood watching the teacher’s table expectantly. Harry nudged him in the ribs and said in a low voice, “Might have a problem there.” Ron nodded in resigned agreement and turned his head to watch as the sorting hat was brought forward and sat on its stool. Name him a single day when there hadn’t been a problem with Slytherin.

 

Professor Dumbledore stood and winked down at Dawn before smiling merrily at the rest of the school, “Welcome back!” He peered over the top of his glasses and surveyed the young faces before him; “It’s a positive delight to see so many of you return after the slight unpleasantness at the end of last term.”

 

Ginny looked up as she felt eyes on her and found herself staring into Draco Malfoy’s cool blue eyes. Their gazes held for a few seconds as they both thought of the pitched and bloody battle for their school and the terrible hours of screaming fear that they had managed to survive. A small smile flickered over Ginny’s face and then she turned back to face Dumbledore. Malfoy’s eyes stayed where they were for a minute before he slowly and thoughtfully turned his attention back to the headmaster.

 

Dumbledore gestured towards Dawn and Connor, “It also gives me great pleasure to introduce two new students to the seventh year. Miss Summers and Mr Angel are joining us from America and I’m sure you’ll all make them feel very welcome.” Harry and Ron looked at the Slytherin table and rather doubted it but smiled and clapped along with the other three house tables. Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled as he clapped his hands together, “Marvellous. Well, to the sorting and then onto the feast.”

 

Professor McGonagall stepped forward and unrolled a large parchment she held in her hands, “When I call your names, please step forward and place the hat on your head. You will then be sorted.” She nodded and the sorting hat was brought forward to sit on a stool. Connor and Dawn jumped along with all the first years as a huge mouth appeared on the front of the beaten looking thing and it began to sing in a deep, husky voice:

 

Although you see,

What appears to be,

Some old leather and cotton,

And some rather tattered threads

Let me assure you,

You’ll never have a smarter hat,

To sit upon your heads.

 

Connor’s hand suddenly grew a long, silver dagger, “Is it evil?”

 

Dawn eyed the singing hat doubtfully, “I don’t think so.” She winced as the hat tried for a high C and failed miserably, “Although I’m not discounting that theory.”

 

I’ve sorted wizards great and small,

I’ve found the witches who are best of all

And I’ve seen the minds

Of those born to rule

The weak and strong alike,

And I can tell you here and now

If you think I’m just a hat

You can take a hike

 

Dawn rolled her eyes, “Smart it may be, Elton John it ain’t.”

 

Connor frowned, “Who?”

 

I can see inside your minds

And see where you belong,

I can see where you might fit,

And which house will make you strong,

So come to me, if you dare

And put me on your head,

Be it Gryffindor, Ravenclaw,

Hufflepuff or Slytherin,

I’ll read your mind and see,

The proper place where you belong

And who your friends should be!

 

The hall broke out in enthusiastic applause as the hat shut its mouth and Dawn stared incredulously around her at the clapping wizards, “Did they just listen to the same song we did?”

 

Professor McGonagall glanced at the scroll in her hand, “Akers, Simeon!” A small boy with slicked back hair and a pale face stepped forward and placed the hat on his head. All was silent for a moment and then the hat’s mouth opened again and it bellowed, “Slytherin!” The Slytherin table erupted with cheers and the small boy climbed shakily off the platform and made his way to his new housemates. “Angel, Connor!” Connor squeezed Dawn’s hand and stepped forward, whilst at the Gryffindor table Ron closed his eyes and implored, “Don’t kill it, don’t kill it.”

 

Connor placed the hat on his head and kept his eyes on Dawn as a voice began to whisper in his mind, “Hmm, difficult choice. I can’t see any magical talent in you at all, but you aren’t a simple muggle either. Too savage for Ravenclaw, too simplistic for Hufflepuff.”

 

Connor rolled his eyes up to look at the hat brim as the voice continued, “Slytherin couldn’t use your power and Gryffindor value brain as well as brawn.

 

Hmm.” Connor shifted uncomfortably as he felt the hat’s presence work insidiously through his mind, “I can’t see where you’d fit. You don’t belong here at all. You’d best leave and…”

 

Connor’s hand rose and gripped the hat firmly underneath its point, he flexed his fingers and kept his eyes on Dawn as he thought calmly, “See that girl over there?”

 

The hat’s material writhed against his fingertips angrily and Connor ignored the startled exclamations all around him as he continued to speak in his mind, “She belongs here and I belong with her. She’s where I fit, so unless you want to find out what it’s like to be reshaped into a pair of gloves you’ll quit the mystical crap and put me with her, ok?”

 

The hat continued to writhe against his merciless fingers, “How dare you! I’m the sorting hat and I have never been treated so disrespectfully in all my days. I am the most powerful hat in the world and you cannot threaten me!”

 

Connor grinned mirthlessly, “Powerful, huh? Can you grow legs and run really fast? Because that’s the only thing that might save you if you don’t do what I tell you.” He crushed his hand around the hat, “Understood?” He took the hat from his head and looked it dead in the brim, “You think about it for a while and me and Dawn will be over here. Watching you think. Carefully.” He brought the hat to his mouth and whispered, “And just in case you’re wondering, I’m armed to the teeth, and I can put a knife through your point with my eyes shut. Don’t try to get smart.” He placed the hat back on the stool and nodded at Professor McGonagall as he sauntered past her, “It needs some time to think. Dawn and I will wait until the end.”

 

Dawn looked from the implacable Connor to the sorting hat as he rejoined her, “What happened?”

 

Connor slung his arm around her shoulders and met the twinkling eyes of Professor Dumbledore, “It’s considering its options.” His gaze drifted to the hat, which appeared to be watching him from the stool, his eyes narrowed, “Carefully.”

 

Professor McGonagall turned to the headmaster and stared at him completely bewildered by the turn of events. Dumbledore nodded to her to continue and she glared for minute before turning back to her parchment, “Avery, Henry!” Her voice cracked like a whip, making the boy whose name had been called tremble violently as he approached the hat.

 

Dawn looked away and turned her head to peer up at Connor, “What did you do?”




 

The sorting ceremony progressed quickly and soon Dawn and Connor were the only ones left standing by the teacher’s table. There had been a brief pause when Dawn’s turn had come on the list but Professor Dumbledore had shaken his head briefly at McGonagall and she had skipped to “Syms, Alanna” with barely a pause.

 

The hall fell silent and all eyes turned to Dawn as she was motioned forward and the hat placed on her head. There was a silence of a few minutes and then the hat opened its mouth and screamed. Connor barely had time to move when the hat shot vertically off Dawn’s head and disappeared screaming up to the enchanted ceiling. Dawn flung herself to the floor and rolled to come up with a stake in one hand and a crossbow in the other as Connor arrived beside her and produced his axe and a stake. The hall exploded with noise, as the students yelled and screamed in panic, and above the racket Connor could just about hear Ron yelling, “No killing! No killing!”

 

Dumbledore reared to his feet and bellowed, “Silence! SILENCE!” The students and teachers paused as his voice echoed around the hall and gradually the room fell silent. Dumbledore stared around himself and said calmly, “There is no cause for alarm.” Harry, Ron and Hermione burst through the milling students with wands drawn as the headmaster continued, “Please resume your seats.”

 

Dawn found herself between Ron and Connor as the teenagers instinctively went back to back and searched the ceiling of the hall, “What the hell just happened?” She tracked her crossbow along her line of sight, her eyes never leaving the air above her.



Ron braced his shoulder against Hermione’s and hissed, “No idea. Never happened before. Hermione?”

 

Hermione stared into the magical stars and clouds scudding along above her head, “No idea. There’s no record of anything like this ever happening in ‘Hogwarts: A History’. Harry, is your scar hurting?”

 

Harry shook his head, “No, not even a twinge. It’s not Voldemort.”

 

“I didn’t really mean that I’d stab it. It was just a threat.”

 

Dawn nodded, “Ok, keep your eyes peeled gu…what?” She kept her eyes on the ceiling and hissed, “What do you mean it was just a threat?”

 

Connor winced, “It was going to tell the hall I didn’t belong here so I threatened it.”

 

Ron groaned, “I bloody knew it!”

 

“Ahem.” Dawn’s eyes moved sideways at the sound of a throat being gently cleared and she saw Dumbledore giving them a pointed look, “Perhaps we might persuade the hat to return if we aren’t so…gung-ho in our persuasion tactics?” He smiled gently, “And the removal of the weapons would alleviate the tension considerably. I assure you, you are all quite safe here.”

 

Dawn’s eyes moved back to the ceiling, “Connor?”

 

Professor McGonagall hissed a disbelieving breath, “Young lady, the headmaster has requested you stop this nonsense at once. Obey him.” She stared at Harry, Hermione and Ron as they remained staring up at the ceiling, wands at the ready, “Potter! Weasley!”

 

Dawn ignored the Scottish witch and repeated, “Connor?”

 

Connor gave a last piercing look above him and then relaxed reluctantly. “Stand down.” He stepped forward and lowered his axe but not sheathing it, “Just stay alert.” He glanced around at the pale faces of the students, “I’m going to take a look round and make sure we’re secure.” He jumped off the stage and loped up the central aisle ignoring Professor McGonagall’s outraged shout to come back immediately.

Dawn lowered her crossbow and held it loosely by her thigh, “Harry, any other ways in or out of this room?”

 

Harry nodded, “The professors entrance.” He cut his eyes to the red-faced McGonagall, “Um, Dawn, you might want to call Connor back. I think we might be in trouble.”

 

Dawn eyed the witch and then Professor Dumbledore. He looked back at her with an expression of mild interest and raised his eyebrows. Dawn nodded, “Connor!” She waved a casual hand at him as he stood by the hall doors, “Come back. I think it’s ok.” She watched as he paused for a moment and then rested his axe nonchalantly on his shoulder to make his way back to her. Dawn waited until he was back by her side and then faced the teacher’s table again. She looked at the horrified faces staring back at her and then at Dumbledore’s amused expression, “Just what the hell is going on here?”

 

The headmaster flashed a brilliant smile at her belligerent tone and rubbed his hands together happily, “I have no idea.” He leaned forward and winked at the five silent teenagers, “Exciting isn’t it?”

Chapter Text

The hall was silent. For the first time in Hogwarts history the beginning of term feast had ended with all four houses packed off to their common rooms to finish their meals in uneasy silence. Professor Dumbledore stood beside the teacher’s table and clasped his hands behind his back, “Well, well, well. What an interesting start to the new term.”

 

Dawn and Connor sat side by side with their arms folded and eyed the old man impassively. Ron, Harry and Hermione stood uneasily beside them, shifting from foot to foot and casting glances between the headmaster, the two Americans and the rest of the faculty grouped around the Professor. Connor glanced up at the ceiling, “Is that thing ever coming down?”

 

Dumbledore allowed his eyes to drift upwards, crinkling with amusement, “All in good time, all in good time.”

 

Dawn leaned back and grabbed an abandoned goblet of pumpkin juice, “Is there anything to eat? I’m starving.”

 

Professor McGonagall stepped forward and snapped, “Young lady, I would think the last thing on your mind would be food. You are in a great deal of trouble and I would suggest you remember who you are speaking to.” She sniffed and turned to the three Gryffindors, her Scottish accent becoming more pronounced in her agitation, “And as for you three…”

 

Professor Dumbledore placed a restraining hand on her arm, “Now, now, Minerva, we must remain calm.”

 

“Calm?” McGonagall’s voice screeched incredulously across the hall, causing the unhappy few within the cavernous walls to wince in startled pain. Connor clapped his hands over his ears, his face screwed up in shock as his overly sensitive hearing was assaulted. The older woman took a breath and lowered her voice with considerable effort, “Calm? Professor Dumbledore, they ignored your orders, brought weapons into the school, threatened the Sorting Hat…”

 

She trailed off, too angry to form coherent speech and Dumbledore nodded in amusement, “Yes, quite the first impression, eh?” He rocked back on his heels slightly as he smiled benevolently at the teenagers before him, “A very memorable start to your year as head boy, Ron. Very memorable indeed.”

 

Ron flicked a glance at Harry and Hermione and then met the headmaster’s eyes with a shrug, “Sorry, sir. We thought they might need our help.”

 

A low, cool voice entered the conversation, “As always you seem to have decided that the rules do not seem to cover you and your friends, Weasley.”

 

Connor looked up as a tall, gaunt figure stepped up beside the headmaster and tensed sniffing the air cautiously. He glanced back at Dawn to see she’d already palmed her stake and was tensed to spring, “He’s clean. Not a demon.”

 

Dawn eyed the man in disbelief, “Seriously?” She looked him slowly up and down, “He’s a good guy?” Her elbow nudged into Hermione’s side, “There’s nothing evil about him at all?”

 

Harry folded his arms across his chest and glared at Professor Snape as he muttered, “Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly.”

 

Snape’s cold eyes rested on Harry for a moment as he glared hatefully over his hooked nose, “Pardon, Potter?” His eyes glittered with malice and spite as Harry drew himself up to his full height and stared defiantly back at him, “Did you say something?”

 

Hermione gripped her hands together tightly, stifling a moan as Harry opened his mouth to speak and then they all turned as Professor Binns floated up to join them. Hogwarts’ only ghostly professor shook his head, “I’m sorry, headmaster, I simply cannot persuade the hat to come down. It’s nesting on the central beam and quite refusing to consider leaving the spot.”

 

Connor tipped his head back and narrowed his eyes to stare into the ceiling, “Can you lift the charm on the stars and stuff?” Professor Dumbledore nodded and Connor reached for Dawn’s hand as he began to move to the centre aisle, “Ok, do it. We’ll get your hat.” He left Dawn leaning against a table as the charmed sky melted away and then paced quickly down the aisle until he was under the supporting beam in the hall. Connor could make out the darker shadow of the hat against the dim light afforded in the ceiling and he turned to look speculatively at Dawn.

 

Professor McGonagall opened her mouth to speak and was hushed into silence by Professor Dumbledore as he gestured for her to watch the two young people. Connor walked back to Dawn and tilted his head to one side, “Do you trust me?”

 

Dawn grinned, “Do you have to ask?”

 

Connor gave her a wide smile and then backed away as he kept his eyes locked with hers, “I’m going to throw you.”

 

Dawn ignored the gasps and protests behind her as she began to sprint towards him and as her foot hit his waiting hand said, “You’d better catch me.”

 

Harry Potter had seen some down right disturbing things in his time as a wizard but the image of the slender girl being thrown a hundred feet into the air by her not-quite-creature-of-the-night boyfriend would live with him till the day he died. What was even more amazing was the way Connor seemed to sense the Sorting Hat move the minute Dawn’s foot hit his hand and he adjusted the direction of his throw to bring Dawn directly into the fleeing hat’s path.

 

Dawn soared through the air, snatching the hat with the same competent skill that Harry had caught countless snitches, and then somersaulted in midair and then came down towards the ground in a graceful, feet first fall. Harry was dimly aware of Hermione and Professor McGonagall screeching in horror beside him when it looked as if Dawn would plummet into the unforgiving stone floor and then there was a blur of black robes as Connor somersaulted through the air and caught her neatly in his arms before landing on his two, perfectly balanced feet.

 

Dawn pushed her hair out of her eyes and kissed Connor’s cheek as she slipped out of his arms, “That was fun. We should do that more often.”

 

Connor grinned at her flushed cheeks and bright eyes, “Adrenaline junkie.” He adjusted his robes over his shoulders with a pained grimace and then twitched the folds of Dawn’s robes until they hung in perfect order around her once more.

 

Dawn smirked as he slung an affectionate arm around her shoulders and they headed back to their stunned and horrified audience, “ Why else do you think I hang out with you?” She held up the hat as it writhed in her fingers and winced as it began to make a high pitched keening noise, “This thing is really giving me the wiggins.” She reached Professor Dumbledore and held out the piece of leather with a moue of distaste, “Here. One insane hat.”

 

The Professor took it with a smile and gathered the open-mouthed professors into a huddle around him as Dawn and Connor stalked past him and rejoined Harry, Hermione and Ron. The three English students stared in incredulous shock at the pair as they hopped casually back onto the table and began bickering over the goblet of pumpkin juice that Dawn had appropriated earlier. Connor finally gave up on his struggles to relieve Dawn of the cup when she bit him hard on his wrist and looked up to find three bug eyed faces watching him speechlessly. “What?” He frowned as no one spoke and continued to watch him with abject horror, “What? What’s the matter?”

 

Hermione gestured weakly to Dawn as she gulped at her goblet and then back to Connor, “You…you…and Dawn…and you…”

 

Connor looked at Dawn and then back to Hermione and, drowning in a sea of confusion and unfinished sentences, he nodded encouragingly, “Yes?”

 

Hermione looked weakly at Harry, “What she means is…well, you…and then you…”

 

Connor lost interest abruptly, “Ok, page me when you’re coherent.” He craned his neck and brightened happily, “I see food.”

 

Dawn abandoned her pumpkin juice hurriedly, “Oh, where?” She yelped angrily as Connor jumped off the table and made use of his super speed to make for the foot of the Gryffindor table and an abandoned plate of sausages, “Hey, share the wealth.”

 

Hermione, Ron and Harry turned as one and watched as Dawn jumped off the platform and headed towards her frantically chewing boyfriend with a determined and hungry look, on her face. “They just aren’t normal.”

 

Ron cocked an eyebrow at Harry’s muttered comment, “Really, you think? What tipped you off?” He looked on in stupefied amazement as Connor evaded Dawn’s greedy grab and somersaulted without any apparent effort over the wide table and landed on the floor without losing a single sausage from his plate. “How does he do that?” His hands spread wide in a gesture of complete bafflement, “I mean, seriously, how does he do that?” He watched as Connor grinned tauntingly at Dawn and waggled a sausage at her mischievously before shoving it into his mouth in one go, “If I tried that I’d be flat on my face before I even cleared the table.”

 

Hermione watched as Dawn feinted left and then leapt onto the table to cartwheel gracefully off and snatch a sausage before Connor could whisk the plate out of her way, “How can she do that?” Her eyebrows went up as Dawn paused suddenly and a sly, calculating grin stole over her face. She nonchalantly leaned one slim hip against the table and ignored Connor as he waved the plate of food under her nose to stick out her tongue and swirl it lightly round the end of her stolen spoils. “Now what’s she doing?”

 

Harry’s jaw sagged as he watched Dawn apparently focus on nibbling at the tip of the tube of meat with every sign of; there was no other word for it, lusty enjoyment. “Oh Merlin.” His eyes cut to the group of teachers but they seemed to be completely oblivious to anything going on behind them, and were instead giving the Sorting Hat their full, grim, undivided attention as they stood in a tight circle around it.

 

Ron felt his face slacken and wished that the rush of blood to his pants meant that his trousers would feel as loose. He blinked as Dawn cocked her head, widening her eyes suggestively at Connor and gave coquettish smile before closing her white teeth over the meat and giving a gentle tug to suck a little more of it in her mouth. Connor stood frozen as he watched Dawn, the plate of sausages tilting forgotten in his hand, as he watched the tip of her pink and wriggling tongue flicker against the crisp, golden sausage.

 

“Mmm.” All the spit in Harry’s mouth dried clean up as Dawn gave a low, delighted hum and her cheeks hollowed as she sucked another miniscule amount of her impromptu phallic weapon in her mouth.

 

Hermione looked at Ron and Harry as they stared in hormonal fascination at Dawn’s softly flexing lips and tongue, “What’s the matter with you two?” She narrowed her eyes in bafflement as she looked back at Dawn, and then she stared for a long moment at Connor’s stupefied expression and his glazed eyes, “Oh for…You aren’t serious?” She planted her hands on her hips, “You aren’t seriously telling me that…that…a girl eating a sausage…”

 

“Ha, su-cker!” Hermione’s attention snapped back to Dawn as the girl suddenly lunged forward and snatched the plate of sausages from Connor’s hand, dancing back triumphantly, eyes filled with wicked mirth, “You’re just too easy!” She spun gracefully on her heel and marched back towards the platform, throwing the flabbergasted Hermione a smug smile. Dawn stepped onto the platform and made for the table, boosting herself onto the smooth, aged wood and holding the plate out to Hermione, “Sausage?”

 

Hermione looked between Ron, Harry and Connor grimly and then tossed her head, “You’re an embarrassment to your sex.” She stuck her nose in the air as Harry and Ron twitched at the mention of the word sex and stalked with robes swirling angrily around her to join Dawn, “Was that some sort of charm?”

 

Dawn cast an eye over her plate and snatched up a particularly plump and golden delicacy and stuffed it in her mouth with all the restraint of a hellhound savaging a teen in formal wear. She chewed quickly and swallowed to ease the congestion in her mouth a bit, before answering Hermione and giving the English girl a spectacularly good view of the half masticated meat still on her tongue, “Nah, that’s an Anya trick.” She looked smugly at Connor as he stood still by the table wearing the beginnings of an annoyed scowl as he slowly came back from his own personal happy place, “It only works on the smoochie frustrated or the permanently horny.” She chewed again and swallowed her mouthful before putting the plate to one side and grabbing another sausage up to nibble on, this time normally.

 

“Fortunately that covers all teenage boys and Xander. The trick is not to look like you’re doing anything until you’ve reeled them in and then give it a lot of tongue and lip action, their own perverted little minds do the rest.” With a happy shrug she watched as Connor’s face began to flood with angry colour and grinned smugly at him, “A girl uses every weapon she has. I’ll never be able to match Connor in the sheer super-speed stakes so I took advantage of the fact that he hasn’t had his hormonal hands on me yet and he’s wound tighter than Ahn and Giles on tax day.”

Hermione shook her head, “Amazing.” She sneered at Ron and Harry as they stood in thoughtful, and stiff-legged silence, a few paces away from the table, “I’m deeply ashamed that I share the same species as these people.”

 

Dawn eyed Connor as he stomped back to the platform and pointedly turned his back on her to stand with Ron and Harry, “Oops. Someone doesn’t like being reminded that he’s Joe Average when it comes down to the teenage hormone wire.” She looked between her boyfriend and the plate of meat and then shrugged, “Screw it, I was hungry.” She smirked at Connor as he glared over his shoulder at her, “Do you think there’s any bread? I could really go for this in a sandwich. With mustard and ketchup.”

 

Hermione opened her mouth to reply and then frowned suddenly as she caught a flash of red by the doors of the hall, “What’s that?”

 

Dawn stared into the gloom and then hopped off the table, “Connor?”

 

Connor sniffed, “Its Ron’s sister. She’s been there all along.” He turned slightly as Dawn came up beside him, pointedly keeping his back to her, “Which you’d have know if you were paying more attention to your surroundings instead of playing childish games.”

 

Ron scowled and threw up his hands in disgust, “For Merlin’s sake, I told her to go straight to the dorm and to stay there.” He stomped to the edge of the platform and jumped off to storm up the main aisle, black robes billowing like an angry cloud behind him, “This is exactly how she got hurt last time!”

 

Harry exchanged looks with Hermione and muttered with a grin, “Except for the hoards of insane, dark wizards and their familiars, of course.”

 

Hermione rolled her eyes as she watched Ron reach Ginny and grip her arm angrily to jerk her up on her toes as he began to speak furiously to her, “Obviously. Goes with out saying.” She winced as Ron’s voice rose as Ginny shook her head mutinously, “Oh dear, I think he’s going to blow. Harry, we’d better do something.”

 

Harry shook his head, “Oh no. I like Ginny just as much as you do, but I am not getting in the middle of that.” He shook his head again as Hermione glared at him and folded his arms across his chest for emphasis, “No. No way.”

 

“Coward.”

 

Harry nodded firmly at the mocking hiss, “Absolutely. Ron’s my best friend and I am not going to risk falling out with him over this. You know how long it takes him to come out of a sulk, Hermione.” The sentence finished on a pleading note, which apparently cut no ice with Hermione. Harry shrugged as her glare intensified and employed the Connor method of dealing with issues. He turned to face the opposite direction and determinedly ignored them.

 

“Fine, just fine.” Hermione glared at his back for a moment and then swung to face Dawn, “Dawn, get your sausage.”

 

Dawn choked back a giggle as Hermione hopped off the platform and began to walk quickly towards the two arguing siblings, “Right behind you, sweetie.”

 

Connor turned in a blur of speed and fury, “The hell you are!” He grabbed Dawn’s arm before she could make it to the table, “You are not pulling that crap on Ron.”

 

Dawn looked pointedly at his hand, “Excuse me? When exactly did you pick up the title ‘boss-of-me’?” She tossed her hair back over her shoulder and glared at him defiantly, “And I thought you weren’t speaking to me, Sulko Boy.”

 

Connor’s eyes narrowed warningly, “I was not sulking.” His nostrils flared with annoyance as Dawn snorted mockingly, “I do not sulk. I was treating your stupid little display with the contempt it deserved.

 

”My ass!” Dawn stepped forward until she was toe to toe with Connor and lifted her chin, “I sucker punched you and you can’t stand losing. You were sulking your butt off, mister.”

 

“Better than acting like a…”

 

Dawn’s finger poked him smartly in the chest, “Don’t even think about finishing that sentence, pal.”

 

Harry edged up beside them, “Er…Dawn, Connor…” He smiled uneasily as both furious faces whipped round to face him, “Maybe this isn’t the best time for this discussion.” His eyes flicked to the side and indicated the now silent teachers who stood watching them, “Just a thought.”

 

Dawn and Connor switched their glares from Harry to the assembled faculty and then stepped back from each other slowly. Dawn tugged her arm from Connor’s grip, “This is not over.”

 

Connor folded his arms across his chest and gave his best impersonation of Angel in full glower mode, “Damn straight.”

 

Unfortunately ‘the look’ was water off a duck’s back to a girl who had grown up in a house with slayers, witches and vampires and Dawn snorted with derision before stomping back to her seat on the table. Connor scowled and opened his mouth and then switched his attention to Dumbledore as the elderly professor joined them, “Well, have you found out what the problem is yet?”

 

Dumbledore smiled happily, “Oh yes, indeed. Fascinating, quite fascinating, I must say.” He peered towards Ron, Hermione and Ginny who were now engaged in a heated three-way argument, “Perhaps if your friends will join us, I might be allowed to explain.” He chuckled, “When they’re quite ready of course.”

 

Harry sighed in doomed resignation, “I’ll get them.” He looked at Connor mournfully, “If I don’t make it back alive, tell Mrs Weasley that I did my best.”

 

Connor was surprised into a smile, “Got it.” He waited until Harry hopped off the platform and then turned to say in a low voice to Dumbledore, “Just so we’re clear, I don’t care what your thing says, I’m not leaving Dawn here unprotected. If you even think about making me leave, I’ll level this place to the ground.”

 

Professor Dumbledore looked unconcerned at the low, menacing threat and replied mildly, “I was rather under the impression that I ran this school.”

 

Connor raised one eyebrow, “The school, yes. Dawn and I, no.” He stepped closer to the old man, “There’s a reason they call me the Destroyer.”

 

Blue eyes twinkled down at him, “Whilst you are students here, you fall under my authority and protection, Mr Angel.”

 

Connor squared his shoulders and said firmly, “Only as long I allow it.” His eyes narrowed, “We play by your rules as long as it allows me to keep Dawn safe, the second that changes, all bets are off. Clear?” He stepped back as Harry approached with the other three in tow, still arguing furiously, and finished, “I don’t want to have to have this discussion again.”

 

The professor watched him for a moment and said inscrutably, “I quite agree.”

 

He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked delightedly on his heels, “I must say, you really are a breath of fresh air around here. I can see this term is shaping up to be quite a lively one, yes indeed.” The smile turned on the group of Hogwarts students that weren’t threatening to dismantle the school, and himself, piece by piece, “All ready? Marvellous. Perhaps you’d like to join myself and the staff whilst we consider the unexpected situation we find ourselves in?”

 

Ron flushed suddenly under the eyes of his headmaster, “Sorry, sir.” He glared at Ginny, “This isn’t over.”

 

Before Ginny could reply, Dawn joined them, “Yeah, yeah.” She glared at Connor, “There’s a lot of that going around. Care to join the winning team, ladies?” Ron’s mouth opened and closed in speechless fury as Ginny and Hermione both sent him one final glare and joined Dawn to stare defiantly at the three boys. Finally Ron was able to force his words out past the ball of anger in his throat and he spat at Harry, “Barking, the lot of them. Barking mad, I tell you.”

 

Harry grunted noncommittally and stood by Connor and Ron as they glared back at the three unimpressed girls. Dumbledore nodded, “Wonderful. Professors, if you please?” The teaching staff grouped themselves around the headmaster as he looked at the six tense teens, “We’ve managed to calm the Sorting Hat down and extract an explanation for its behaviour.”

 

Dawn eyed Connor grimly, “I think I could hazard my own guess at that.”

 

Connor met her eyes for a moment and then looked back at Dumbledore as the professor continued, “It seems we failed to take in to account the sheer potency of Miss Summers’ presence.”

 

“Hold up, I didn’t do anything!” Dawn glared at the old man.

 

Connor smirked, “That’s going to end up on her gravestone.” His voice went up to a mocking falsetto squeal, “It wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do it!”

 

Dawn scowled at her boyfriend and held up a hand, two fingers nearly touching, “You are this close, bud…”

 

Professor Dumbledore interrupted quickly, “I don’t believe I said it was deliberate.” He waited until he had their full attention again and then nodded at the hat, which seemed to be squatting at the far end of the long table, watching them all sullenly, “The hat reads people for magical potential, for their strengths and weaknesses, and when it touched Miss Summers’ mind…well, I believe the closest analogy would be to liken it to drowning.” He clapped his hands together and beamed proudly at Dawn as though she’d just scored an A in her NEWTS, rather than scared the living essence out of a millennia old magical artefact,

 

“The shock of finding itself touching pure magical energy rather than the faint echoes of magical potential was overwhelming to say the least.”

 

Ron stared at Dawn in awe, “Whoa.”

 

Harry nodded, “Seconded.”

 

Dawn blinked and began to look worried, “Wait, I don’t think…I…” She stared helplessly at Connor and her face fell despondently, “Freaks really are us, huh?”

 

Connor moved towards her, all animosity forgotten, and put his arm around her shoulders, “What difference does it make?” He tipped her face up to his and looked into her wide, green eyes, “We knew how powerful you are.” He smiled and brushed his hand over her cheek lightly, “This just confirms everything we thought we knew, you’re still the same person.”

 

Dawn smiled shakily, “Yeah, but knowing it and then…knowing it.” She shrugged, “It’s just big, you know?”

 

Hermione frowned in sudden thought as Connor gave Dawn a reassuring hug, “So what happens now? If the Sorting Hat can’t sort her, what’s going to happen? You have to be sorted into a house, everyone knows that..” Ron and Harry frowned and then looked at the group of teachers as Hermione continued slowly, “If you aren’t in a house then you can’t go to lessons and if you can’t go to lessons then you can’t go to Hogwarts.” Her face paled suddenly, “Professor Dumbledore, you can’t send them away, you just can’t!”

 

Dawn raised her face from Connor’s shoulder and met his eyes blankly. On the one hand the decision had been made to come to Hogwarts for not only theirs and their families protection, but the protection of the world, but on the other hand…Oh, on the other hand, they could return to their homes, their lives, and face down whatever threatened them at the sides of people who they knew and loved. Connor watched the guilty hope swim into Dawn’s face and smiled faintly, “Whatever happens, we’ll be together, that’s all that matters.” Dawn smiled at him and then turned her head to look at Professor Dumbledore as he held up his hands to stop Hermione’s impassioned plea.

 

“I have no intention of sending them away, Miss Granger, I assure you, but the situation must be considered carefully before any decisions can be made.” He looked at the professors around him, “Whatever happens, we must all take unprecedented steps to accommodate Miss Summers’ and Mr Angel’s special requirements.”

 

Harry shifted slightly, “What steps, Professor?” He ignored the sneer that Snape send him behind Dumbledore’s back and continued, “What’s going to happen to them?”

 

Dumbledore shook his head, “I really couldn’t say, Harry, but I imagine the first thing we need to do is find them somewhere to sleep tonight. Obviously they cannot stay in any of the house dormitories under the circumstances.” He smiled at the four Gryffindors, “But that of course is none of your concern. I suggest you all retire to your dormitory and I’m sure that you occasionally see your young friends around the school grounds.”

 

“Wait just a bloody minute…”

 

“Weasley!”

 

Ron glanced at the furious face of Professor McGonagall, “Sorry, Professor, but you’re not seriously saying that we won’t be with Connor and Dawn anymore?”

 

Professor Dumbledore gave Ron a confused smile, “Well, I wouldn’t have thought so, Ron. You’re Gryffindors and Dawn and Connor cannot be part of the usual school activities if they don’t belong to a house.” His blue eyes rested on Harry for a moment and then he finished, “I really don’t see any way around the situation at the moment, I’m afraid.”

 

Harry stared at the silver-haired man for a moment and then focused on Dawn and Connor watching the group of wizards with wary eyes. A tingling was starting in his fingers and spreading slowly through his body and he knew, deep in his bones, that something was happening. He looked at Hermione and Ginny as they stood watching Dawn and Connor anxiously and his scar began to itch as his eyes moved to Ron. The taller boy looked unhappily at him, “Harry…”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed as he looked at Professor Dumbledore and he said, “Can I have a moment with Ron and Hermione, please sir?”

 

Dumbledore cut off the murmur from the teachers behind him with a quick gesture, “Of course, Harry.” He gave the young man an unreadable look, “Take as long as you need.”

 

Harry nodded and dragged Ron and Hermione to the far corner of the stage, out of range of the others. He smiled apologetically at Ginny and then huddled together with his two best friends, “I have an idea, but I don’t think I can do it with out you.”

 

Ron said dryly, “When can you ever?” as Hermione gave Harry a worried, suspicious look.

 

“Never.” Harry flashed a grin, “Hopefully I won’t this time either.” The grin melted from his face and he said soberly, “It’ll mean a big sacrifice and I don’t know how to explain that it’s the right decision except that I just know.” He gestured helplessly with his hands as he groped for words, “Its like being back in that hut with Hagrid and the Durselys and deciding to go with him, I know this is what I have to do, everything in the past few years has led up to this and Dawn and Connor.”

 

Hermione looked at Ron for a long moment and then squeezed Harry’s hand tightly, “I’m with you, Harry. Whatever your plan is, I’m in.”

 

Harry squeezed her fingers tightly and then looked at Ron. His best friend nodded, “Me too.” He flashed a weak grin; “Mum would never forgive me if I abandoned you now.”

 

Harry took a deep breath and looked unhappily at his two best friends, “Let’s hope she forgives me. I think Dumbledore was trying to tell us something when he kept mentioning the houses and I don’t think it’s just because it might cause problems with lessons. I think he was trying to tell us that we have to stay with them, that somehow it’s vital that we stay with them.”

 

Hermione glanced back over her shoulder at the professors and met Dumbledore’s intense look as he watched them talk, “I think you might be right.

 

So, what’s your idea?”

 

Harry swallowed again, “It was when he mentioned us being Gryffindors that I realised we might have another option.”

 

Ron jerked back suddenly as appalled realisation flooded his face, “You aren’t serious?” He stared wildly between Harry, Professor Dumbledore and the watching Dawn and Connor, “Merlin, Harry, tell me you’re joking?”

 

Harry shook his head, “No, I think he wants us to leave Gryffindor.”

 

Hermione licked suddenly dry lips and nodded slowly, “Yes. I think he does.” She caught Ron’s arm in a firm grip and said earnestly, “Don’t you see, Ron? All that talk about houses was trying to tell us something.” She looked back at the Professor once again and then up into Ron’s shocked eyes, “He wants us to form a new house, one with Dawn and Connor, they’ll stay at school and we’ll be with them to prepare for whatever’s coming.” Her already pale face drained of all colour as she said urgently, “It’s the only way; we have to leave Gryffindor.”






Dawn nudged Connor in the ribs, “What’s going on?” She watched as Ron bent to whisper furiously to his two friends and Harry and Hermione hissed urgently back, “Trouble?”

 

“I don’t know.” Connor frowned in confusion, “Maybe. They’re talking about the houses still.” His eyebrows rose as a particularly choice expression fell from Ron’s angry mouth, “Never heard that one before.”

 

“What? What’d he say?” Dawn looked interested, “What’d he say?”

 

Connor winced as Hermione came back with an uncharacteristically crude rejoinder, “And I don’t think that’s anatomically possible.” He grinned down at his girlfriend as she desperately craned her neck towards the three friends, “And I really don’t think you should be hearing that kind of language.”

 

“Please, I live with Spike, remember? You hang around after he gets stuck with a load of poisoned darts from a Donanculas demon, and there isn’t a lot you haven’t heard.” Dawn hurriedly schooled her face into one of innocent denial as Harry, Ron and Hermione stopped talking and then nodded firmly to each other. “Heads up, they’re coming back.”

 

Harry jerked his head when he passed them on his way back to Professor Dumbledore, “You need to hear this.” Connor and Dawn fell into step behind Hermione and Ron as they passed by and Hermione gave them a reassuring smile.

 

Harry stopped before the headmaster, “Sir, we may have a solution to the problem.”

 

Dumbledore nodded gravely, “Yes, Harry? Any thoughts you may have will be welcomed.”

 

Harry glanced back at Hermione and Ron and smiled gratefully as they both gave him firm nods. Hermione’s hand crept into Ron’s as Harry turned back to face the teachers. Ron jumped slightly and then smiled down at her reassuringly as he squeezed her cold hand in his.

 

“We…” Harry’s voice faltered for a moment and then he clenched his fists in the folds of his robes and said firmly, “We’d like to have your permission to leave our house and remain with Connor and Dawn, sir.” He stared into Dumbledore’s eyes as furious protests burst out all around them and continued, “We think it’s the only practical solution.”

 

Professor Snape elbowed past the much smaller Professor Flitwick and said angrily, “You aren’t seriously going to permit this, headmaster? Its bad enough to allow Potter and his followers carte blanch with school rules, but to permit this…this…”

 

Dumbledore held up a hand as words actually failed the gaunt man, “I don’t think Harry has finished, Severus. Harry?”

 

Harry avoided Professor McGonagall’s shocked face and gave a weak smile as the headmaster nodded encouragingly at him, “We aren’t suggesting that we be allowed to remain houseless. We thought…that is…”

 

Ron tugged on Hermione’s hand and pulled her with him until they stood shoulder to shoulder with their friend, “There’s no rule that says that there can only be four houses at Hogwarts, sir. It’s tradition, nothing more.” He tilted his chin defiantly as Snape snarled at him, “If you allowed it we could form our own house. A new house.”

 

Professor Dumbledore cocked his head to one side thoughtfully, “Have you considered all the implications, Harry? You will be able to remain a prefect, every house must have them after all, but you will lose your place on the Gryffindor team as seeker and captain.” Harry nodded jerkily as he continued, “It is likely some of your friends will not be understanding about your decision. You may encounter more problems than you realise.”

 

Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione, “We know what we’re doing, sir.”

 

Snape’s fingers cut through the air like angry knives, “Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.” He sneered, “You don’t even have enough to make a Quidditch team.”

 

All eyes turned as Ginny stepped up beside Hermione, “Nearly.” She squared her shoulders and looked the headmaster in the eye; “I’m requesting permission to join them if they go, sir.”

 

Ron flinched as though he’d been struck, “Ginny, don’t be stupid, you can’t do this.” He let go of Hermione’s hand to step in front of his sister and grip her shoulders, “You don’t know what you’re saying.” His voice lowered to a pleading whisper, “It’s dangerous. We aren’t just doing this out of the goodness of our hearts, we have to!”

 

Ginny nodded and her hair swung away from her face, revealing her scar as she stared into her brother’s eyes, “I know.”

 

Ron shook her furiously, “I won’t let you do this.”

 

A slow smile bloomed over Ginny’s face, “You don’t get a choice.” She twisted in his grip and stepped around him to look once more at Dumbledore, “I want to go with them, sir.”

 

Professor McGonagall clutched at the headmaster’s arm, “Albus, you can’t seriously be considering this madness? I won’t allow it.”

 

“Minerva, I value your opinion above all others, but I think in this you are wrong.” Professor Dumbledore patted his deputy lightly on her hand and nodded to the four Gryffindors, “You are resolved in this? It is a great deal to sacrifice for near strangers.”

 

“It’s the right thing to do, Professor.” Hermione slipped a hand into Ginny’s and smiled at her, “The only thing to do.”

 

Over the overwhelmingly loud protests from the faculty, Dumbledore nodded, “Very well. As of this moment you are no longer Gryffindor. All rights and privileges of that house are forfeit to you and you may no longer wear their colours.” He held out his hand, “If you please, children.”

 

Slowly, Harry reached up and fastened his hand over the Gryffindor badge sewn over the heart of his robes. He clenched his fingers and then with a sharp tug, severed the ties of the last six years. He held out his hand and dropped the scrap of material into the headmaster’s palm. Ron, Hermione and Ginny followed suit, until they stood staring blankly at the professor’s hand and all that had defined them at their time at Hogwarts. Long fingers closed around the badges and whisked them into the depths of the headmaster’s robes. Professor Dumbledore smiled proudly at the four heartsick faces before him, “Well done. Oh, well done.”



Chapter Text

Dawn stared at the dark wooden door as it closed gently behind Professor Dumbledore and then whirled on the four dazed ex-Gryffindors, “And again, and I really don’t think I can stress enough the importance of this question…What the HELL did you guys think you were doing?” She threw up her hands in enraged disbelief, “Not that we don’t appreciate the gesture, but what the freakin’ hell are you playing at?”

 

Dawn spun on her heel and strode across the room furiously, smacking irritably at the heavy, purple curtains hanging before the windows, “I can’t believe you guys just did that.”

 

She looked at the four British teens as they sank in unison on a large squashy sofa and stared blankly before them at the floor of their new common room. Their, as yet unnamed, common room. Base of their, as yet unnamed, new house.

 

Just an hour before they had been Gryffindors, pride of their house and the school, and now they were four people without identities and not so much as a clue between them about where to go from here. Dawn sagged onto the arm of a soft, deep chair, “It may not be too late. We could go to Professor Dumbledore and tell him you made a mistake.” Her face and voice was filled with guilt and sympathy at her new friends’ predicament, “Guys, we can fix this.”

 

Surprisingly it was Ron, the most vocal resister of Harry’s plan, who raised his white face and said firmly, “No. We’ve made our decision.” He swallowed, “There’s no going back now.”

 

“There is.” Dawn sprang to her feet once more to pace restlessly round the room, “This isn’t like having your head cut off or something, you can go back. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

 

“Actually, you can go back from that.” Connor pushed away from the wall where he leant in the shadows and moved into the light in the middle of the room.

 

Dawn paused in her pacing and even the miserable four on the sofa looked up in reluctant curiosity, “What?”

 

“You can come back from a beheading.” Connor shrugged, “What? My Uncle Lorne’s had his head cut off three times and he’s still walking around.” He looked thoughtfully into the flickering fire in the grate, “Well, it took him a while to recover last time, but we think that was because that chaos demon ran off with his head and they were using it as a soccer ball for a couple of days before we found them again.”




He waved a reassuring hand through at five speechless, and slightly nauseous, faces, “Oh don’t worry, he was fine. Just had a tendency to wander round in circles for a few days and fall over when you didn’t expect it.” A grin flickered across his face, “Not great when you’re running across a rooftop to challenge a pride of Valurums and your backup falls ass over…” He stopped; at last aware that nobody else in the room appeared to be seeing the funny side of the story. There was a tense pause and then Connor coughed, “Sorry. Go on.”

 

“What?” Dawn shook her head to clear it of all the unpleasant images that were now crowding it thanks to Connor’s sharing of the slaying anecdotes, “I…uh…”

 

“You were saying that they could still change their minds.” Connor gestured helpfully towards Harry and the others, still staring at him with disbelief, “About the house thing. They could still go back, and then I said…”

 

Dawn held up a slightly panicked, defensive hand, “I remember, I remember!” With a last shudder and disbelieving look at her boyfriend she turned back to the others, “The point is that this doesn’t need to be final.”

 

Hermione frowned in thought, “No. I think it does. Unless the headmaster wanted this to happen there’s no way he would have allowed it.” She shrugged as Dawn threw her hands up in the air again and resumed her angry stomping around the room; “He’s turned a thousand years of tradition on its head in just one night to allow us to remain together.” She pushed back the heavy weight of her bushy hair and cupped her chin in her hand as her brain started to function again and she began to work through the problem in her mind, “There’s only ever been four houses at Hogwarts, named after the founders of the school and whatever talents the especial founder of each house prized above all others.” Her finger tapped against her cheek, “For instance, Godric Gryffindor’s most valued talents or traits were bravery and loyalty.” She wrinkled her nose as she stared at the floor, “I just can’t see why the professor wanted this to happen.”

 

Harry leaned his head back against the sofa back and tried to ignore the greasy sickness in his stomach as he thought of the cosy, familiar Gryffindor common room and his familiar room and bed in his dorm, “What do you mean?” He gestured to the silent Connor and distressed Dawn, “He wanted us to be with them.”

 

Hermione stood up and shrugged off her outer robes, revealing her grey school uniform underneath. She walked to a small writing desk standing to one side of the curtained windows and rummaged until she found a quill and some parchment. Unrolling the parchment, she hooked a foot around the leg of a the desk chair and pulled it out to drop onto it and spread the parchment out on the desk and begin to list in a small, tidy hand their names in a neat column. “No, there’s something else.” Her tongue poked from the side of her mouth as she stared down at the names in concentration, and gave Ron and brief happy moment before the crushing weight of his unhappiness flooded back over him.

 

“If all he wanted was for us to be together then he would have just ignored what happened with the hat and just put them in Gryffindor with us.” The quill tapped against Hermione’s lip, “He wanted us with them, but he wanted us alone with them.” Much happier now she was working through a problem and could concentrate on something other than their new predicament Hermione looked at Harry and Ron with bright eyes, “That’s it. He wanted us to be alone with them!”

 

Ron eyed Dawn and Connor and they eyed him right back, “Why? That doesn’t make any sense.”

 

Connor shifted, “He’s getting us ready.” Five faces stared expectantly at him and he sighed in annoyance, “It’s obvious if you think about it.” Walking to stand before the fireplace he placed his hands behind his back and said firmly, “He’s marshalling his forces against what-his-name.”

 

Harry, Ron and Hermione rolled their eyes and said in unison, “Voldemort.”

 

“Exactly. Him.” Connor nodded in agreement, “Dumbledore’s making his move and he’s readying the key players.” He tapped himself on the chest and nodded towards Dawn, “We know why we’re here. Dawn’s got the power; here she can learn how to use it. I’m here because Voldemort knows we have a connection, and it’s possible he may want whatever power I have as well.” He pointed at Harry, “You were the first one to ever hurt him, nearly kill him, it’s obvious you have a role to play. Ron has been at your side in one way or another in practically every conflict you’ve ever had with him, particularly the one a few months ago.”

 

Connor smiled coldly, “The power you two have together floods from you in waves and you know how to use it. You work well together and there doesn’t seem to be any questions of trust or loyalty between you and that’s a powerful weapon on its own.” His attention moved to Hermione, “You’ve not only got the magical power you have the intelligence to wield it and direct the use of our powers as well. You’ve proved you’re strong, mentally and physically, and you’ve stood against Voldemort on your own and you haven’t broken. Again, power.”

 

Ginny tensed as the dark blue eyes moved onto her, “Ginny’s strong, talented and she’s survived attacks by his followers.” Connor smiled warmly at her, “She’s brave, loyal and she knows how to pick the winning side, which also makes her clever.” Connor looked apologetic for a moment, “She obviously has a role to play, otherwise she wouldn’t be allowed to be here, but I don’t know what it is yet. She hasn’t faced off against the head guy, she hasn’t had anywhere near the experience of dark magic that you guys have and she hasn’t got an overt connection with anything that’s been happening other than her natural bond with Ron.”

 

Hermione clicked her fingers excitedly, “Not true.” She hooked an arm over the back of her chair and raised her eyebrows at Ginny as though asking for permission for something. Ginny hesitated and then nodded slowly. “She does have a connection with Voldemort. In our second year, and Gin’s first, she was possessed by the spirit of the teenaged Dark Lord and nearly died as he tried to drain her essence.” A strand of brown hair was rudely shoved behind her ear as Hermione continued, “We’ve got someone that’s intimately familiar with the workings of Voldemort’s mind and how he thinks.”

 

Connor gave a pleased grin, “That’s it then. Dumbledore’s collected us together because he knows between us we have everything we need to defeat this guy once and for all.” He raised a hand and ticked off points on his fingers, “Knowledge, power, courage, strength, intelligence…” He paused for a moment and then looked around him, “The only thing we don’t all have for each other is trust. That’s why we’re here.” He held at a hand for Dawn and smiled as she came to his side and slipped her hand into his, “Dawn and I are used to working together and we trust each other with our lives. The same goes for you guys.” He squeezed Dawn’s hand in his tightly, “We’re here because without trust between us all the power we have is useless. He wants us to become a team.”

 

Harry raised his head from the back of the sofa, “Don’t be stupid. Of course we trust you, we wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

 

“Oh yeah?” Dawn looked around her pointedly, “Who here would have trusted Connor to throw them earlier in the hall?” Silence was her answer, Dawn nodded, “See?”

 

“But we don’t know him like you d…” Ron’s voice trailed off.

 

“Exactly.” Dawn smiled triumphantly, “Just like I wouldn’t trust any of you to get my back if we got in a fight.” She shrugged apologetically, “I know you’d try, but I know Connor would.”

 

Hermione nodded slowly, “It makes a certain kind of sense.”

 

Ron curled his lip, “If you’re a batty old wizard with more hair than sanity.”

 

Harry gave a half-hearted grin at his friend’s words, “I think they’ve got it. Remember our first year and what happened with Quirrell? He gave us just enough information to allow us to work it out for ourselves because he thought I had the right to face down Voldemort if I could.” He sat forward and dangled his hands between his spread thighs as he stared at the floor, “He’s given us this because it’s just enough to give us what we need when Voldemort comes for us again.” His head came up and he said morosely, “When the school’s told what happened in the morning I don’t reckon more than a few people and the teachers will be speaking to us. We’ll be literally all we have.”

 

Dawn rubbed a tired hand over her face, “Oh God, I’m so sorry.”

 

Connor tugged her close and looped an arm around her waist, “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal about changing houses anyway? It’s just a name and a place to sleep.”



Ron stared at Connor, dumbstruck, “What?” He got to his feet and flushed to the roots of his carrot coloured hair, “It’s a hell of a lot more than that, Yank.” He tugged at the front of his robe where his house badge had been just hours before, “Being a Gryffindor was more than just a name. Every member of my family for the last twelve generations has been in that house. Every member. The closest friends of my parents and their parents were in Gryffindor. I’ve spent more time with the people in that house in the last six years than the members of my own family. We share everything, not just a name!” He broke off gasping for air, glaring furiously at Connor and ignoring Hermione and Ginny’s white faces and Harry’s restraining hand on his arm.

 

“Where were they before?”

 

Ron blinked, “What?”

 

“Your family. What house were they in before? You said it’s only been for the last twelve generations that they’ve been in Gryffindor, so where were they before?” Connor cocked his head to one side and looked expectantly at Ron.

 

“What does that have to do with anything?” Ron shook his head in confusion and stared blankly at Connor.

 

“Well, for a start, it says to me that things change. And rather than waiting for fate to change things this time around, you went out and changed them.” Connor squeezed Dawn to him and gave a small smile, “When your family were first sorted into Gryffindor do you imagine they were any more pleased about it then than you are now?”

 

Ron’s mouth opened and closed as he digested Connor’s words and then his mouth just hung open as Ginny said quietly, “Slytherin.” Every pair of eyes in the room swung towards her as she stuck out her chin and repeated firmly, “It was Slytherin. Nineteen generations of Weasleys were in Slytherin before Herbert Weasley was sorted into Gryffindor. And Mum’s family were Slytherins for over a hundred years before they had the last fifteen generations in Gryffindor.”

 

Hermione gasped, “No. Ginny, you aren’t serious?” She looked at the grey-faced Ron, “You’re just winding us up, aren’t you?”

 

Ginny shook her head, sending her red hair dancing around her face, “No. Where do you think George and Fred get it from? The plans, the schemes, the deviousness? Why do you think it was so easy for Voldemort, Tom Riddle, whatever, to reach me? We carry Slytherin blood.” She smiled nervously, “After the possession, I had to know why. Why me? What about me made it so easy for him?” Her hands twisted together nervously as she explained, “I spent every spare minute I had in the Library when I came back for my second year looking into possessions and stuff, and then one day I ran into Professor Dumbledore in there and he made a few suggestions that set me looking at our family tree.”

 

Ginny shrugged, “We go all the way back to the time of the founders and at one time or another people we’ve shared our bloodline and heritage with have been in all four houses.” She looked at Harry; “It’s the same with the Potters, Harry.  Your line goes back to the time of the founders as well and your ancestors have roots in all four houses the same as ours do.” She looked around her at the deathly silent room, “But the most predominant houses in both our histories are Slytherin and Gryffindor, we’ve links to Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff, but our roots, most of what we are comes from the other two.”

 

Ron staggered back until his legs hit the sofa and he fell in a boneless sprawl, “Oh God, I feel sick.” He turned an anguished face up to Harry, “Remember the slugs?”

 

Harry nodded, Ron rubbed an unhappy hand over his gut, “This is worse.”

 

Dawn looked at Ginny; “You researched three separate families back a thousand years by yourself?”

 

Ginny nodded, “Yes. Although with the various off shoots I could track it was more like seventeen.”

 

“We’ve found our research girl.” Dawn nudged Connor and both Americans beamed happily at the small redhead as Dawn continued, “You have no idea how much we suck at research.”

 

“I’m a Slytherin?” Ron was still focused on the most upsetting aspect of the night so far, “Me? A Slytherin?” He looked imploringly at Harry, “Please tell me we’re still in the Cauldron pissed on muggle beer.”

 

“I wish.” Harry looked gloomily at Ginny, “Are you sure about this?”

 

Ginny nodded, “Oh yes. There’s no mistake.”

 

Ron folded in on himself and moaned dramatically, “This is it. The end. I’ve left Gryffindor and now I’m a bloody Slytherin.” He buried his face in hands and mumbled, “Just call Voldy and let him put me out of my misery now.”

 

Despite the recent unwelcome revelations Hermione felt her mouth twitch in unwitting amusement at Ron’s distress, “Oh come on, Ron, it’s not that bad.”

 

“That’s what you think. You’re alright, the worst anyone can call you is mudblood.” Ron scrubbed his hands through his hair, “If this gets out everyone will know I’m a bloody Snakehead.” His head shot up in horror as another thought occurred to him, “Merlin! I’m just like Malfoy!” He clutched at Harry’s robes, “Put the death curse on me, mate.” He let go to pat at his robe pockets, “I’ll write a note before you do it and tell the Ministry I asked you to. It’ll be like that…what to you call it…euphemism?”

 

“Euthanasia.” Hermione grinned in open amusement at Ron now.

 

“That’s right, euthanasia.” Ron nodded frantically, “No one would blame you, mate. It’d be for my own good.”

 

“Only if you do me first.” Harry brushed at Ron’s freshly clutching hands, “Bloody hell, this is worse than everyone thinking that I was Slytherin’s heir.” He had his own horrifying thought, “Oh God, what if Dumbledore got it wrong when he thought it was just because of Voldemort attacking me and I really am the bloody heir?”

 

Hermione blinked, startled, “Good grief, I hadn’t thought of that.” She eyed Harry and then turned to Ginny, “I suppose it could be possible, couldn’t it?”

 

Ginny nodded warily, “I suppose, but I don’t think that Professor Dumbledore would have told Harry what he did if he thought there was chance he could be an heir for real.” She paused and then finished hesitantly, “Would he?”

 

Harry sank down beside Ron, “Oh Merlin.”

 

Dawn broke into the conversation, “And for those of us just tuning in…?” She sighed as everyone stared at her in bewilderment, “That’s American for ‘what?’”

 

Hermione shook herself, “Oh, sorry. When Gin got possessed there was this big thing with something called the Chamber of Secrets and a basilisk. That’s a giant…”

 

“Snake.” Connor nodded at his companions as they looked at him, “Met one once.”

 

“You met one?” Ron stared at the other boy’s cool statement.

 

Connor shrugged, “Well, I say met, killed might be a better description.” He shrugged, “Anyway, sorry, go on.”

 

Hermione glanced at Dawn and said faintly, “Does he do that a lot?”

 

“Kill things or interrupt conversations with upsetting anecdotes?” Dawn grinned lovingly at Connor, “The answer to both would be an emphatic, yes.” She rose on tiptoes to kiss his cheek affectionately, “You get used to it.”

 

“Oh good.” Hermione forced her eyes away from Connor’s unrepentant smirk and tried to think where she’d left off, “As I was saying, there was a chamber under the school and the Basilisk was…”

 

“You killed a basilisk?” Harry’s mouth was hanging open in shock, “Really?”

 

Connor grinned, “Oh yeah. I was when I lived with my first father and one migrated nearby.” His eyes unfocused as he stared into the middle distance, “He sent me out one morning and it took me most of the day, but I finally managed to cut its head off and haul it home.”

 

“You took it home with you?” It was hard to decide who looked more horrified, Harry or Ron.

 

“Well, yeah, there’s good eating on one of those things.” Connor looked surprised as his audience rapidly turned various shades of green, “What? You don’t think I left it just sitting there for the other scavengers, do you?”

 

“Oh Merlin.” Ron clutched his stomach, “You ate a basilisk.”

 

Dawn patted Connor’s arm weakly, “Too much information, honey.” Although more used to her friends and family eating weird and wonderful things she still found her stomach churning at the thought of Connor sitting down to a chunk of giant snake demon. She tried to smile, “Don’t tell me, tasted like chicken, yeah?”

 

“Not really.” Connor ran a tongue around the inside of his mouth as he remembered, “More like really salty pork.” He smacked his lips, “We had a few good meals off that thing, I can tell you.” He eyed the nauseous faces surrounding him and said defensively, “What’s the matter? I was a growing boy, I needed the protein.”

 

Ginny looked nervous but decided to ask anyway, “How old were you?”

 

“Um…six or seven I think.” Connor waved a negligent hand in the air at waist height, “About this high, anyway.”

 

“Oh God.” Dawn’s eyes filled with tears at the thought of a tiny Connor being sent out by his stepfather to slaughter a demon who knew how many times his size, “Oh God.” She clasped a hand to her mouth, “Connor…”

 

“Dawn, what’s wrong?” Connor pulled her into his arms in alarm and squeezed her tightly against him, “Baby, what is it?”

 

Tears trickled down Dawn’s cheeks as she wrapped her arms around her love and her heart broke as she realised he really didn’t see just how wrong the story he had told was. “Connor, you were just a baby.”

 

“I was not!” Connor stared in outrage at the top of her head as she cried against him. “I was never a baby!” He thought for a moment and then allowed, “Except for when I was of course, but I was hunting alone by the time I was three.” He looked panicked as she began to sob in earnest, “What?” Looking at Hermione and Ginny for help proved fruitless as both girls stood staring at him with tears shimmering in their own eyes, “Don’t you two start!” Connor gestured frantically at Ron and Harry, “Make them stop!”

 

“Six or seven?” Harry ignored Connor’s emphatic hand signals and whispered again, “You were six or seven?”

 

“Yes! Go make them stop!” Connor’s eyes were wide with panic that in a way that was never seen when he faced down bloodthirsty fiends, “Now! Make them stop now! Dawn, honey, I’m sorry, please stop crying.”

 

Ron nudged Harry with a shaking arm, “Makes you look a bit shabby, doesn’t it?” He grinned weakly; “You need to get more of a jump on these things apparently.” He nodded sagely at Connor; “He only managed to kill our one when he was twelve.” Ron got up to cross to Ginny and Hermione as Connor glared at him, tossing back over his shoulder, “Pansy.”

 

It was Connor’s turn to stare, “You killed a basilisk?”

 

Harry flushed under the incredulous look, “Yes.” He added hurriedly, “And before you ask, no I didn’t eat it!”

 

Connor patted Dawn’s shaking back, “Did I say anything?”

 

Ron rolled his eyes, grinning as he nodded his head down at Hermione and Ginny as he held one in each arm against his chest and then at the crying Dawn, “You really have to ask?”

 

Connor sighed as he looked down at his distressed girlfriend, “I’m always doing this.”

 

“Making women cry?”

 

Connor scowled at Ron’s laughing enquiry, then nodded with a hang dog expression on his face, “I tell a story about when I was growing up and then the next thing I know I’m knee deep in tissues and tears.” His face darkened, “Sometimes even my dad joins in.”

 

Dawn raised her sodden face and punched his shoulder, “Of course he does, you dork.” Her face worked as fresh tears welled up, “It’s so saaaad…”

 

Connor winced as she trailed off in a wail and her head hit his shoulder again, “Dawn, honey…”

 

Harry held up a hand, “Connor, please, I’m begging you, in the name of all that’s magical or holy don’t say anything else!” He stood up and said firmly, “We’re all tired and overwrought…” Dawn sobbed loudly and Harry didn’t miss a beat as he continued, “Some more than others.” He jerked his head at Connor and Ron meaningfully; “I think we should hold off on any more explanations for tonight and have a look round our new quarters before we go to bed. What do you say?”

 

Ron looked annoyed as Ginny wiped her face stickily against his robes, “Good idea, mate. Do you two mind?” He eased back from the two snivelling girls and rolled his eyes in disgust, “Oh for…” He patted his pockets, “I’ve got a hanky in here somewhere.”

 

Connor pulled Dawn off him, and was vaguely surprised when there wasn’t a wet slurping sound to accompany the move, “That sounds good. What do you say, sweetie?” He took her heaving shoulders and silent, stricken  expression as agreement, “Great. Let’s go shall we?” He caught hold of Dawn’s hand in his and dragged her after him as he made his way to Harry’s side, “Where to first?”

 

Harry eyed the three sodden girls, “Bathroom, I hope.”








In the end the first room they came to on the next level wasn’t the bathroom, but the girls’ bedroom helpfully labelled with a smiling picture of a witch and a bed on the ancient wooden door. Dawn turned in a slow circle in the beams of moonlight flooding through the window, “Wow.” She stared around her entranced, “This is amazing.”

 

Hermione knelt on the curved window seat and peered out into the Hogwarts grounds, “I know. This is wonderful.” She turned and gestured to the other two girls, “Come and look at this. You can see everything from up here.” She waited until Ginny drifted up beside her and pointed, “Look, there’s the Whomping Willow and there’s the lake…” She squealed and waved frantically, “There’s the lake monster!”

 

Ron grinned at her happy face and said dryly, “I don’t think it can see you, Hermione.”

 

“No, no, it’s waving at me, look! I can see its tentacles…Oh!” Hermione’s face fell abruptly.

 

Dawn joined the other two girls, “What?”

 

Fighting back giggles Ginny said; “It just grabbed a bird and dragged it under the water.” She avoided Hermione’s eyes and spluttered, “It was feeding.”

 

“Oh.” Dawn squeezed Hermione’s shoulder sympathetically, “It’s probably too late to save the bird but if you like Connor and I could go down tomorrow and slay it for you.”

 

“NO!” The three girls swung round in alarm as Ron stepped forward hurriedly, “There will be absolutely no killing of anything unless I say so, is that clear?”

 

Dawn looked hurt, “I was just saying…”

 

“There will be no killing of anything.” Ron put his hands on his hips and glared between Connor and Dawn, “That’s non-negotiable. We’re going to have enough problems without you two going round and indiscriminately slaughtering anything that moves.”

 

“We don’t do that.” Connor looked deeply offended, “They always attack us first.” He pointed at Hermione, “And she did say it was a monster. Ok, technically not a demon but definitely falling under our area of expertise, I’d say.”

 

“Always attack you first?” Harry joined Ron and grinned faintly, “Two words. Hagrid. Hermione.”

 

There was a short reflective silence.

 

“Ok, so not every time, but…” Dawn shut up as Ron pointed a firm finger at her.

 

“No. If there’s any doubt then check with me or the others, but otherwise no killing.” Connor opened his mouth and Ron cut him off sharply, “Or maiming. Or anything else that will end with groaning and/or unconscious bodies on the floor or blood on the walls.”

 

Dawn and Connor stared at each other in silence for a moment and then Dawn turned to Ron, “What about…”

 

“No!” Ron’s face flushed with angry exasperation, “No cursing people, no fists accidentally meeting flesh…” He glared at both of them and said with flat finality, “In fact, you know what, no touching of any person or thing with intent to harm at all.”

 

Harry and Hermione fought back laughs at the downcast expressions on Connor and Dawn’s faces. Ginny crossed to Dawn and squeezed her shoulder lightly, “It’s not so bad.” She smiled, “There’s hardly ever any reason to want to hurt someone at Hogwarts.” The attention of the room was switched to Ginny in disbelief and she flushed lightly, “Well, there isn’t.” The silence stretched uncomfortably, “Ok, maybe once a year.” Harry’s eyebrows rose pointedly, “Alright, once a term, then.”


Ron coughed into his hand, “Malfoy!”

 

Ginny glared at her brother, “He’s changed.”

 

“Right. I suppose he’s not still sneaky, cold-blooded, devious, unpleasant…”

 

Ginny hesitated, “Well, yes…”

 

“Exactly.” Ron looked smug and then hurriedly looked back at Dawn and Connor, “And I was joking on the train. He’s off-limits as well. Unfortunately.”

 

Hermione climbed off her window seat, “Anyway, I thought we were meant to having a look round our new house?” Her gaze moved approvingly around the girls’ bedroom, “I must say, this is a very nice.”

 

The room was round and four large four-poster beds were lined in a semi-circle around the wall furthest from the door. Heavy purple curtains hung against large windows that ran nearly the whole way around the room and under those, wide, cushioned window seats stretched invitingly, just begging to be sprawled upon at their leisure. Behind them the heavy oak door stood open and on either side two huge, oak wardrobes that matched the beside tables beside each bed stood waiting to be filled. A large soft rug was thrown over the stone floor, purple weave almost shimmering in the moonlight. Hermione turned in a slow circle and beamed, “Yes, this will do very nicely.”

 

Dawn threw herself backwards onto the nearest bed and grinned at the heavy curtains looping attractively from each of the four corners, “Not too shabby.” She sat up and pushed her hair back, “Let’s go see what else we can find.” She got back to her feet and grabbed Connor’s hand, “I want to see where you’ll be sleeping.”

 

They left the dorm and turned right, away from the spiralling stone stairs that had led them upstairs from the common room. The next door along revealed a large white bathroom, four baths stood with partitions between them and, to Dawn’s delight, shower attachments were fixed into the wall above each bath next to a small white sink. Opening two doors at the far end of the bathroom, they found a cupboard divided into four and stacked with white, fluffy towels already monogrammed with purple italics with each girl’s initials.

 

Hermione looked curiously at the bottom right hand pile of towels that were empty of monograms, then shrugged and looked back at the other three piles, “Professor Dumbledore works fast.”

 

Dawn touched the pile with her initials on them and hummed approvingly, “Doesn’t he though?” She walked back to the partitioned toilets and peeked inside the nearest one before giving a hoot of laughter, “I don’t believe it!”

 

The others joined her in staring into the stall and then broke down into laughter. Harry shook his head, “Only Dumbledore would monogram toilet paper.” He pointed at the tiny HG that adorned the bottom of each perforated sheet, “No one to blame but yourself if you run out now, Herm.”

 

Hermione grinned, “Unless someone sneaks in to steal it and decorate the statue of Salthazar Slytherin with it this Halloween. Again.”

 

“What do you mean by that?” Ron grinned mischievously and spun on his heel, “I don’t know what you’re trying to say, Hermione, but I’m deeply offended.”

 

Hermione grinned at his hurriedly retreating back, “Right, Ron.” The group followed the erstwhile head boy out of the room and continued their way along the dimly lit corridor, “Of course not.”

 

Harry smirked as Connor and Dawn grinned knowingly at him, “What?” He contrived to look innocent, “I don’t know what she’s talking about either.”

 

“Uh-huh.” Dawn patted him on the arm, “We believe you.”

 

Ron opened the next door along, poked his head inside and withdrew, “Our bathroom. Same as yours.” He closed the door and proceeded along the corridor looking mildly surprised, “That’s odd.” He opened the next door along, looked inside and then gestured to Harry, “Bloody hell.”

 

They hurried to catch up to him and then crowded in the doorway to peer inside at another bedroom. Dawn elbowed her way past Ron and looked around, “What? What’s the problem?” She eyed the room closely, “Looks just like ours.”

 

Hermione followed her into the room, closely followed by Ginny and Connor, “Yes, it does. I think the boys are surprised because we’re all on the same side.”

 

“That’s kind of a given, right?” Dawn shrugged in puzzlement, “That’s why we’re all here, after all.” She shot Ron and Harry a pitying look, “Try to keep up, guys.”

 

Ginny laughed, “No, Hermione means that the dormitories are on the same side.” She gestured in the general direction of their own room, “You know, in easy reach.”

 

Connor prodded a bed and nodded approvingly, “Good idea. Makes sense to be close together if we come under attack.”

 

Ron took a moment to imagine himself rushing to Hermione’s rescue when hoards of slavering Death Eaters burst in on them one night. He grinned to himself. Will you look at that? She’s got that see-through thing on again. His grin widened. And she’s bloody grateful, too! He jumped as he realised everyone was staring at him expectantly, “What? Oh yeah. Good planning.”

 

The group looked at him oddly, all aside from Connor, who sniffed the air and gave him a knowing grin. Ron was suddenly very grateful he was still wearing his robes as he became aware of certain stirrings below his belt. “Right, best see if there’s anything else, yeah?” He backed hurriedly out of sight and hurried down the corridor leaving the others staring after him in confusion.

 

Hermione made her way to the door and paused to lay a concerned hand on Harry’s arm, “He did get properly checked out at the hospital before they let you out, right Harry?” She bit her lip worriedly, “I mean, there’s nothing wrong with him after what happened in Albania, is there?”

 

Harry looked between his two best friends in bewilderment, “No. He was given the all clear.” He chewed his lip thoughtfully, “Maybe we should get Madam Pomfrey to take a look at him though, just in case.”

 

Connor snorted as he eased past them, trailing Dawn in one hand and a sleepy looking Ginny in the other, “I wouldn’t bother, he’ll get over it.” He flashed a wide grin at Hermione, “He just needs some time to work stuff out.”

 

“What does that mean?” Hermione frowned at Harry, “Is there something going on that I should know?”

 

Harry stared at her thoughtfully, “That’s funny. That’s exactly what I was going to say to you.” He took her arm in his hand, “Come on, Gin looks like she’s going to fall asleep any minute, we’d better get a move on.”

 

“Now this is more like it!” They both picked up their pace as Connor’s jubilant voice echoed down the corridor and then swung into the last open door.

 

“Good grief!” Hermione stared around her, “What is it?”

 

Connor crouched and sprung upwards with a powerful move to catch hold of the wooden rings embedded in the ceiling some fifty feet above their heads. “Training room.” He swung agilely across the ceiling and twisted sharply as his hand stretched for a wooden ring only to have it vanish as his fingers closed on it. He grunted as his body folded and he managed to get a toehold on another ring, leaving him dangling upside down and grinning at them, “Tricky.” The grin disappeared along with his toehold as he plummeted to the ground. A chorus of startled yells echoed around him as he hit the floor and lay on his back staring at the ceiling, “Very tricky.”

 

Dawn grinned down at him, “Hey, fly boy, you ok?”

 

Connor bounced to his feet, “Of course.” He cast a wry glance at the ceiling, “It won’t get me so easily next time. What else is there?” He crossed to the nearest wall and grinned widely as he took down a tipped broadsword, “Oh yeah, now this is nice.”

 

Dawn smiled lovingly at him as he swept the sword through the air and spun into a blur of black robes and flashing silver, “Men. Give ‘em something sharp and pointy and they’re happy.” Her eyes lit up as she caught sight of a double-headed axe, “Oh, mine!”

 

Ginny felt her jaw drop as Dawn snatched the axe from its holders on the wall and whirled to throw it at a dummy at the other end of the huge room. The blade sunk into the thing’s head and sent it flying backwards with a heavy thunk. “Did she even aim?”

 

Ron shook his head, “Let’s just pretend that she did, shall we?” He stared around him, “This is amazing.” The room was easily half the size of the great hall, various weapons glittering on three of its walls, with a mirror stretching from floor to ceiling on one side to reflect the main floor area. A huge mat covered a third of the floor, pommel horse and three heavy looking punching bags hanging from the ceiling behind it. Various dummies were set up along the walls, just waiting to take whatever was thrown at them, and there was a complicated pattern of ropes slung from the ceiling which Connor launched himself at with abandon and swarmed through with a grin. The grin turned to a whoop as the robes began to coil around him and he twisted and turned between the strands as they tried to tighten around his body to squeeze the breath from him.

 

Harry tore his eyes away from Connor as Dawn gave a whoop of her own to see the dummy she had pegged with the axe was climbing to its feet and tugging the axe from its head to launch back at her. She twisted in a blur and caught the axe nimbly by the handle to spin back and hurl it back the dummy in one seamless move. “This is great!” Dawn bent back as the axe went whistling by her face, then straightened to spin into a powerful flying kick to send the advancing dummy back against the wall, “Buffy would go nuts for this!”

 

Connor dropped down onto the dummy’s shoulders as it stumbled forward again and twisted its head off its shoulders, “You’re telling me! Can you imagine my dad’s face?” He somersaulted off the mannequin’s shoulders and tossed the head carelessly over his shoulder, nodding at the dummy as it continued to walk towards Dawn, “See, another thing that doesn’t stop when you rip its head off.”

 

“Smart ass.” Dawn judged her moment and then dropped to the floor to sweep her legs around and bring the thing crashing to the floor, “So, any ideas on how we ki…” She stopped as she caught Ron’s eye as she jumped to her feet, rolled her eyes and finished, “turn it off?”

 

Hermione stepped forward and pulled her wand from her robe sleeve, “This should work. Desisto!” The dummy froze with its hand millimetres away from Dawn’s ankle. Hermione nodded happily, “Thought so.” She grinned as she caught Connor’s speculative look at the other dummies, “And I think that’s it for tonight. We need to get to sleep, we have the first day of school tomorrow.”

 

Connor looked longingly at the plethora of weapons and new training toys, sighing reluctantly, “Ok. Do you want me to start bringing the trunks up?”

 

Harry shook his head, “No need. They should be in our rooms by now.” He shrugged as Dawn and Connor stared at him, “I have no idea, things just happen. Come on.” He guided Ginny out the door as she stifled a huge yawn, “Let’s call it a night. You can come and look over it more tomorrow.”

 

They made their way back down the corridor to the boy’s dormitory and were just starting to say their goodnights when Ron groaned, “Merlin. Dumbledore said we had to choose a name for the house and let him know.”

 

Connor looked around him and raised his eyebrows as his companions all sagged dispiritedly, “What’s the problem?”

 

Harry stuck a hand through his hair and scrubbed wildly, vaguely hoping that the motion would help his over taxed mind function a little clearer, “It’s a big deal. It needs to reflect what we are, who we are.” His eyes blinked tiredly behind his glasses, “Like Ravenclaw has the thinkers and planners and Hufflepuff has the workers.”

 

Connor shrugged, “Oh, that’s easy.”

 

Dawn cocked an eyebrow at him, “Care to share?”

 

Connor looked around him seriously, “Strong together.” He gestured to each of them in turn, “That’s what we are, isn’t it?”

 

“Ye-es.” Ron glanced at Hermione and Harry for support, ”But it lacks a certain… something.”

 

“Ok.” Connor nodded, “Give me a minute here. I don’t know if I can remember it very well.” Dawn shrugged as everyone turned to look at her whilst Connor’s mouth worked silently. “Got it!” Connor beamed triumphantly, “My first father taught me Latin when I was young. Durus Catenatus. Strong Together. What do you think?”

 

“I think I’ve never found you sexier.” Dawn kissed the pleased Connor hard on the mouth, “Go hidden depths boy!”

 

Harry looked at his three friends, “I like it. What do you think?”

 

Hermione nodded and smiled, “It has a ring to it.”

 

Ron frowned thoughtfully, “It might work.”

 

Ginny smiled as everyone looked for her opinion, “It’s perfect.”

 

Harry smothered his own yawn, “Right. I’ll just go and let Dumbledore know.”

 

Connor exchanged a look with Dawn, “No, it’s alright, Dawn and I will do it.”

 

Hermione smiled knowingly as she dug an elbow into Harry’s side to silence him. “Ok. Just go down to the fireplace in the common room, write it on a bit of parchment and say ‘Professor Dumbledore’ as you throw it in. He’ll get it.” She took Ginny’s arm, “’Night boys. See you in the morning.”

 

Connor tossed a casual wave to Harry and Ron as he left them standing by their door and followed the two witches down the corridor. Dawn smiled gratefully at Hermione as she and Ginny peeled off into their room, “I won’t be long.” Hermione smiled back and nodded goodnight to Connor as she shut the door.

 

They walked in silence down to the common room and then Dawn watched as Connor carefully wrote on a scrap of parchment. He handed it to her with a rueful smile, “Here, you’d better do this part, God knows what would happen if I tried.”

 

Dawn grinned and moved to the fireplace. “Professor Dumbledore!” She threw the paper into the fire and watched as the paper winked out in a flash of green light. “Well, that’s it.” Her head laid back on Connor’s shoulder as he came behind her and slipped his arms around her waist, “Quite a night, huh?”

 

Connor stared into the flames as he breathed in her scent, “Uh-huh. Nice trick with the sausage, by the way.”

 

Dawn gave a tired giggle, “ Well, you use what you got, its called improvisation. And we still didn’t get a proper meal.”

 

Connor turned her in his arms and leaned down to brush his lips over hers, “I love you, Dawn.”

 

Dawn nibbled at his lips, “I love you, too.”

 

She shivered as Connor’s arms tightened and he pulled her closer to whisper against her mouth before he claimed it in a firm kiss, “It will be ok, you know.”

 

Dawn’s head swam as his head lifted some minutes later and she smiled into eyes heavy with love and desire, “I know. Durus Catenatus, right?”

 

Connor cupped his hand at the base of her skull and pulled her head back slightly to deepen the angle of his next kiss, “Damn straight.”

Chapter Text

 

Draco Malfoy was convinced he was in heaven. Or hell, depending on your point of view. After a restless night spent tossing and turning, fighting back visions of shy, red-headed witches from his beleaguered mind, he had come down to breakfast to find the Gryffindor table in a state of high excitement and rumours that Potter had been kicked out of Hogwarts.

 

Draco immediately exercised his position as head prefect of Slytherin and caught the ear of one of his new house members to send the petrified child over to the Gryffindor table to eavesdrop on the other house. Within minutes the shaking boy was scuttling back to report that Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, his sister and the infernal mudblood they hung around with had failed to arrive at the house dormitories the previous evening. A sharp cuff around the head had sent the child scurrying off again to find out if anything had been seen of the two Americans they had been travelling with, but all reports suggested that they had vanished as conclusively at the four senior Gryffindors.

 

Torn between wild hope that Potter, Weasley and Granger really had been sent down from Hogwarts on the tip of Dumbledore’s pointy boot and annoyed, reluctant concern that Ginny may have shared their fate, Draco was in no mood for Pansy ‘Piggy’ Parkinson and her fawning attentions that morning. Which was a shame as she was only too eager to share them after a long summer apart.

 

“Just think, no more Potter or Granger. And if Weasley’s gone as well that must mean that you’ll be next in line for head boy.” Pansy clutched his upper arm in both hands and actually batted her still slightly swollen eyes at him as she simpered in his ear, “Oh Draco, wouldn’t it just be simply wonderful?”

 

If your head inexplicably fell off and you stopped twittering in my ear like a deranged house-elf? Yes. It would. Don’t let me stop you.

 

Draco made a big production of tearing his eyes away from the empty table that had appeared from nowhere and had nestled in between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw. “What?”

 

Covering her annoyance that the blond boy was quite obviously not paying her the slightest bit of attention, Pansy gritted her teeth and made sure her ample bosom was pressed tightly up against Draco, “I said, wouldn’t it be wonderful if you were made head boy now that Weasley and his little friends have left the school?”

 

Draco was mildly alarmed to find that he actually felt a little nauseous at the thought of Ginny being permanently removed from his reach and tried to tell himself it was because he hadn’t finished playing with her yet after the previous school year. Anything else was too horrifying to think about. “Of course.” He frowned, “What’s that table doing there?”

 

Pansy glanced across at the empty wooden table, “Probably there to seat the new kids.” Her face tightened spitefully, “My father says that they’ve let so many mudbloods in this year they’ll probably have to let them sleep with the house-elves.” She giggled, “Because there won’t be any room in the dormitories, do you see?”

 

“Yes.” Draco spared her an unreadable look, “I can see where you get your wit from, Pansy.”

 

Pansy looked pleased, “How sweet.”

 

Draco blinked; genuinely taken aback that she had missed the thinly veiled insult. “Yes. Aren’t I though?” He glanced down the table towards Emily and Millicent both still showing the faint traces of Dawn’s attentions the previous day despite Madam Pomfrey’s clucking attentions the day before. He glanced at Pansy’s slightly flatter than usual nose and stifled a sudden smirk at the thought of the air-headed fools finally getting a taste of their own medicine.

 

Then he frowned at the distinctly un-Slytherin-y thoughts. He was morally ambiguous, dammit! Catch him playing sodding champion of the underdog like Harry bloody Potter.

 

His eyes drifted back to the empty table in uneasy contemplation, “I don’t like that table.”

 

“Yes, it is rather ugly, isn’t it?”

 

Draco shut his eyes and wished for a brief, wistful moment that the American girl had managed to hit Pansy just a little harder and dislocate her terminally flapping jaw. He was fairly sure that Madam Pomfrey always took a little longer to fix joints and the thought of a few days of Pansy with her mouth wired shut was becoming increasingly appealing. “I meant that I’m not sure it’s there to cope with overspill, Pansy.”

 

Pansy turned slightly, making sure her chest rubbed firmly across his bicep, and stared at the offending object, “Why else would it be there?” She turned back and Draco gritted his teeth as her flabby breasts scraped back across the material of his robes once again, “I don’t understand.”

 

Fortunately the extremely pithy comment that sprang to his lips was cut off as Seamus Finnegan leapt to his feet at the Gryffindor table and shouted loudly, “Harry!” The hall went deathly silent as all conversations ceased and people turned to stare at the open doors. Harry had halted in mid-step and was flushed an unhappy red as he realised that he was once again the centre of unwelcome attention. Ron and Hermione flanked him on either side, as always, with Ginny standing to Hermione’s left next to Dawn. Connor stood at the other end of the uneven line, eyes travelling watchfully over the expectant faces before him. His eyes briefly met Draco’s and he seriously surprised the other boy by nodding briefly at him before smirking at the silent Pansy beside him.

 

“Harry! Where have you been all night?” Seamus hopped over the bench at the Gryffindor table and hurried up to Harry, “We didn’t know what happened and then your and Ron’s trunks disappeared from the dorm.” He clapped a hand on Harry’s shoulder, “We thought you’d left us for good, boyo!”

 

Harry opened his mouth and tried to speak but the words just wouldn’t come. He looked over Seamus’ shoulder and saw Dean and Neville wave with relieved grins for them to come and join the Gryffindor table. Then he caught sight of the empty table between Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw in the centre of the room. “Seamus…”

 

Draco looked from Potter’s face to Ginny’s as the group hesitated by the door. His eyes narrowed as he saw her flinch slightly as she saw the empty table in the room and he began to get a very nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach. His eyes snapped back to Harry as the dark-haired boy shook his head helplessly, “Seamus…I…we…”

 

Seamus stepped back a pace, his broad, honest face creasing suspiciously, “Harry, stop pissin’ about and come sit down. You can tell us all about it over breakfast.”

 

“What a splendid idea.” Most of the hall jumped as a harsh voice floated into the room and then Professor Snape materialised behind the group in the door, “Potter, please join your house table. I believe you’re delaying the start of breakfast.” The forbidding potions professor folded his arms and glared at Harry and Ron as they stared blankly at him and then back at Seamus. “Well? Is there a problem?”

 

Seamus scowled suddenly as he realised something was amiss with Harry’s robes, “Harry, where’s your badge?” He poked a hard finger into Harry’s chest at the spot where the Gryffindor colours usually resided as though expecting the badge to suddenly appear with the contact, “Have you lost it? You’d better be finding it before McGonagall sees…” His voice faded as he realised that Ron, Hermione and Ginny were also sans badges, “What’s going on? Where are your badges?”

 

A feather could have been heard to hit the floor in the breathless silence that followed the question and Harry somehow found his voice under Snape’s mocking eyes. “We gave them back.” He was aware of the others closing ranks behind him as his voice sounded in the cavernous room like he’d put an amplifying charm on it. “We aren’t Gryffindors anymore.”

 

“What?” Seamus’ jaw sagged and he forced an uneasy laugh, “Stop joking around.”

 

Ron shook his head as the colour drained from Seamus’ face and the faces of the Gryffindors behind him froze with shock, “He isn’t joking, Seamus.” He clenched his fists in the folds of his robes and said steadily, “We left the house last night and we can’t come back.”

 

“No.” Seamus shook his head, “This is one of your jokes. A stunt. You’re just trying to wind us up.”

 

“No, Seamus.” Hermione shook her head, hair bouncing against her pale face, “It’s not a joke. Do you think Ginny and I would go along with it if it were?” She gestured at Dawn and Connor, “We had to make a choice.” She took a deep steadying breath and said, “We had to choose to stay with Connor and Dawn.”

 

“What?” Seamus stared in blank shock at the two tense Americans and then back at his former housemates, “You chose them over us?” His arm swept out to encompass the silent Gryffindors behind him, “No. That’s not possible. You wouldn’t do that.”

 

“We did.” Harry’s heart sank at the wild look on Seamus’ face, “I’m sorry, Seamus. We had no choice.”

 

“No. What about the Quidditch team? The house cup…” Seamus turned as Dean Thomas walked up beside him and Neville joined his other side, “Are ye hearing this?”

 

Dean nodded, “Yes.” His face was tight with furious anger, “They’re dumping us because something new’s come along.” He folded his arms across his chest, “The famous Harry Potter’s finally showing his true colours. I suppose after everything that happened last term we just aren’t good enough any more, is that right, Harry?”

 

“No!” Harry’s mouth fell open in horror at the flat, hateful tone, “Merlin, Dean, you know me better than that. You know Ron better than that.”

 

“I thought I did.” Dean shook his head in disgust, “I really thought I knew you both.”

 

Hermione stepped forward with a stricken look, “Dean, please.” She placed a hand on his arm and gasped as he wrenched away as though she’d burned him, “Neville…”

 

Neville’s eyes shone with bitter betrayal, “No Hermione.” He crossed his own arms and spat, “I always knew that you three didn’t care as much about Gryffindor as the rest of us but I never thought you’d do this.”

 

“Now wait just a damn minute…” Dawn moved furiously towards the three boys and was brought up short by Ron’s hand on her arm, “I am not going to stand around and let them talk to you guys like that!”

 

Ron smiled grimly into her eyes, “Yes you are. This isn’t your battle, Dawn.” He shook her arm lightly in warning and gave a wry twist of his mouth as he said quietly, “What is it you people say? Stand down.” He gave a breath of a laugh, “That’s an order.”

 

Dawn shot one last fulminating look at the angry boys and reluctantly stepped back to Connor’s side. He reached out and squeezed her hand and then gave her a light shove to send her to the right as he turned and scanned the left side of the hall looking for signs of any trouble. A slight movement behind him had Connor turning and looking into the glittering eyes of Snape. “One move with a weapon, boy, and I will have you cursed quicker than you can blink.”

 

Connor raised his lip in an amused snarl, “You’ll have to be pretty damn fast.” Suddenly he was standing behind the potions teacher and smiling at his gasp of surprise as he leaned forward to whisper, “And I’m a little off my game today. Just think how fast you’ll have to be when I get up to speed.” He moved again as Snape began to turn and then was standing leaning against the wall as the gaunt man was forced to spin in a confused circle trying to catch up with him, “Sir.”

 

Ginny stared at the angry Gryffindors in front of her, then at Connor and Snape as they began to face off behind her and clutched at Hermione, “We need to do something. This is getting out of hand.”

 

Hermione tore her eyes away from Ron and Harry as they fronted up to their friends and looked around the hall searching for ideas. She chewed her lip as the tension level rose to stratospheric levels and wracked her brains for anything that would help diffuse the situation. Sixth and seven year Gryffindors were rising from the house table to come to stand with Seamus and the others as they started to shout furiously with Harry and Ron and Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff were whispering behind raised hands as the silence disappeared before hurtful angry words. The Slytherins looked delighted and as though they were about to break out the champagne and truffles any minute.

 

At the sound of a fist smacking into flesh Hermione spun round with a scream and watched as Ron and Seamus fell into a swearing, struggling heap on the floor. She was reaching for her wand as Harry lunged after his friends and then went down with a shout of his own as Dean tackled him with a roar and after a brief hesitation, and a nervous look at Snape, Neville ran to help Dean hold Harry down. Ginny reached for her wand as Hermione whipped hers out and then both girls shouted ‘Impedimenta!”

 

Dawn and Connor pushed past them as the five yelling boys on the floor froze for a moment and hurriedly grabbed Ron and Harry, hauling them away from their antagonists. Dawn grabbed a handful of Harry’s robes, tugging him to his feet and shoved him behind her, “Enough!” She planted her feet and stood with eyes blazing as Seamus, Dean and Neville got to their feet, shaking off the effects of Hermione’s charm, “Enough.” Her tone gentled as behind her she could hear a spitting mad Ron now yelling furiously at Connor, “We don’t want any trouble but if you touch them again then Connor and I will get involved and it will not be pretty.”

“Get out of my way, muggle!”

 

Dawn’s eyebrows rose as Dean stepped forward with a snarl and she took her own wand out of her pocket, “Let’s see…” She flicked it through the air, “Quietus!” Dean’s mouth opened and closed soundlessly as he advanced towards her and Dawn smiled, “Well that worked! Muggle, schmuggle.” She turned as Dean stopped and grabbed at his throat in surprise, “Ok, everyone cool off.”

 

Ron opened his mouth, tried to speak and then looked comically amazed as nothing came out. Dawn looked at Hermione as the English girl’s mouth opened urgently and once again nothing emerged. “Oh crap.” Dawn turned and surveyed the hall as from one end of the room to the other people were desperately trying to communicate with their neighbours, “I may have OD’d on the magics.” She glanced up at a light touch on her shoulder and looked into Connor’s laughing eyes. He gave her a double thumbs up and a wry smile as he mouthed, “Good job!”

 

Dawn huffed, “Oh, shut up.” Her eyes narrowed as Connor’s eyes crinkled and he dissolved into a fit of silent laughter, “You know what I mean.” She stared round her absently as she mused aloud, “I’m sure the counter-charm was in that book I read.” She tapped her finger against her thigh as she thought furiously, “What was it now? Sana…something. Sanatations? Sanarus?” Hermione tapped her on the shoulder and mouthed urgently, “What?” She watched as the other girl’s lips moved slowly, “So..Son-a-rus?” Hermione shook her head frantically and tried again, “Son-or-rous.” Hermione nodded and Dawn repeated, “Sonorous? That’s the counter charm? Right.” She gripped her wand and pushed her sleeve back, “Everyone hang on. Sonorous!”

 

The room was suddenly filled with a thunderous noise. Dawn winced, “Oh yeah, that’s much better.”

 


 

Malfoy sat and watched the display by the main doors of the Great Hall and for the first time in his life found himself unable to think of anything to say. At all. He had heard Potter and Weasley confirm that they had left Gyrffindor house to the hall and then everything else was lost due to the buzzing in his head. Well, the buzzing and Pansy bloody Parkinson twittering nineteen to the dozen in his poor, abused ears and punctuating each sentence with an excited screech and her nails digging into his bicep as she held his arm in a vice-like grip against her chest.

 

It didn’t seem possible. Leaving one’s house? That wasn’t what happened. You arrived at Hogwarts and were sorted into your house and there you stayed. Defined, shaped and moulded into what your house required of you. Draco stared at Ron and Harry as they exchanged bitter, angry words with Dean Thomas and Seamus Finnegan and was ashamed to admit that underneath the ingrained hatred and built up loathing of six years of all things Potter and Weasley, there was a tiny, miniscule part of him that felt, just for a moment, a twinge of envy. He glanced around his ecstatic housemates and then at his two particular friends Crabbe and Goyle, having the situation explained to them in small words by Millicent, and wondered at the possibilities that would open to him if he weren’t a member of the most untrustworthy house at Hogwarts.

 

When the American girl had restored sound to the room with a flick of her wand, he was able to catch tiny snippets of Ginny’s agonised voice as she pleaded with some of her sixth year friends to calm down and just listen to her for a moment. “Susannah, please, if you’ll just let me…” The low, tense voice was drowned out as her brash older brother bellowed furiously at Seamus and gave a firm suggestion as to what the smaller boy could do with his wand and his opinions on Ron’s loyalty to Gryffindor and his friends.

 

As much as Draco was entertained by the image that the words raised, he willed Ron to belt up so he could hear more of Ginny’s speech to her friends. Ah, there we go. “No! That’s not it at all. Paul, you know that’s not what happened. We don’t want to…” It was Potter that reacted loudly to drown out Ginny this time and Draco growled as he-of-the-scar shifted to block Ginny from his eyes as well.

 

Bloody, sodding, toad-eyed, scar faced, stupid haired…oh, hang on, he’s moved back again. Maybe he’s not so bad.

 

Draco jumped like someone had just let off a Filibuster’s firework under his bench and stared horrified at Ginny. Did he just think that Harry ‘the boy-who-just-won’t-die’ Potter wasn’t that bad because he moved to allow an unrestricted view of Ginny Weasley? He gripped the edge of the table and looked in glazed shock at the said Weasley. Oh no, that’s just too cruel. Not even I’d be that evil. Malfoy sent a pleading look at the ceiling above his head. Whatever’s up there stop pissing about, alright? There is no way I want Ginny Weasley, ok? No bloody way in hell. She’s skinny, she’s got orange hair and she’s got a horrible disfigurement. He took a deep shuddering breath. I’m a Malfoy, she’s a Wea…She’s on the ground! A shrill cry of surprise echoed through the hall as Ginny was shoved to the floor when a particularly furious sixth year pushed by her to reach Harry and Ron. Before he knew what he was doing Draco had jumped to his feet and was stepping over the bench, wand gripped tightly in his hand.

 

“Draco! What are you doing?” Pansy shrieked with surprise as she was nearly dragged to the floor thanks to her death grip on his arm, “People are looking!”

 

Draco tugged his arm free, “Well, they are now, thanks to you. ” He marched down the hall, “Someone has to take control of this situation before it gets out of hand. House prefects with me!” Without waiting for a response to his order he rounded the end of the table and made his way to where Hermione was helping Ginny to her feet as Dawn held her attacker face forward against the wall in an arm lock. “Are you alright, Weasley?” Ignoring the stunned look on Granger’s face Draco tugged both girls out the way of the one of the Gryffindor beaters and looked them over coldly, “Stay here and out of the way while I clear up your latest mess, ok?” Ignoring the tingling in his hand where he had touched Ginny’s arm to move her, Malfoy turned in a swirl of black robes and shouted angrily, “I said prefects to me. NOW!” He met Professor Snape’s eyes, “Sir, I assume you’ll need our assistance in controlling the situation?”

 

Snape looked as though the last thing he wanted was the situation diffused and was actually delighted about Gryffindor house lining up to take pot shots at Harry and Ron, but thanks to Malfoy’s firm question had no choice in replying through admittedly gritted teeth, “Yes. Thank you Mr Malfoy.”

 

Draco nodded, “Sir.” He turned as the confused prefects from all four houses joined him, “If anyone makes a move towards Potter or the others disarm them and deduct twenty points from their house. Fifty if another blow is thrown.” He spun on his heel and stalked up to Dawn, “Let him go.”

 

“I don’t think so.” Dawn tugged the boy’s arm again and bared her teeth in a mirthless grin at his yip of pain, “This little worm hurt Ginny.”

 

“And he will be dealt with.” Draco folded his arms, “Let him go, please.” He nodded as Dawn reluctantly stepped away from her captive and the boy sagged with relief and rubbed his sore arm. For about a second. “Your name?”

 

“Wh…what?” The smaller boy stared up at the tight, furious face of the scariest Slytherin in school.

 

“Your name.” Malfoy bit the words out like machine gun fire and his pale eyebrows drew together ominously, “I want your name.”

 

“Ja..Jason Nellison.”

 

“Ah, yes, the Gryffindor keeper. Well, thanks to you your team is now down two members. Automatic match ban for the first three matches, fifty points from Gryffindor and a week’s detention starting tonight with myself.” Draco bared his teeth, “Clear?”

 

“What?” Nellison drew himself up angrily, fear of the prefect forgotten in the anger of the harsh punishment, “You can’t do that!”

 

“I rather think I can.” Draco glared pointedly, “And if I hear another word come out of your mouth it’ll be seventy-five points and a month of detention. Maybe you’ll think twice before you go shoving little girls around. Return to your seat.”

 

The two boys engaged in a brief staring contest before Jason reluctantly moved off and then Draco nodded to Dawn, “If you would stand with Weasley and Granger while we get the situation under control.” He turned around without waiting for her answer and walked quickly to the volcanic group arguing with Harry and Ron. Dawn’s mouth hung open as she watched him and then she shook herself and looked for Connor making sure he was ok and not beating the tar out of anyone before joining the still stunned Hermione and Ginny.

 

“That’s the same guy from the train yesterday, right?”

 

Hermione nodded, “Yes.” She straightened her robes as she eyed Draco incredulously, “Yes it is.”

 

Dawn smiled at Ginny and then looked confused, “So what’s the deal with him? I thought you guys were like mortal enemies or something.”

 

Hermione shook her head baffled, “We were.” Her mouth fell open unattractively as Malfoy insinuated himself between Ron and Dean and began to speak in a low serious voice, “I mean we are.”

 

“Well, I don’t think he got the memo.” She glanced at Ginny who was watching Malfoy with pink-cheeked fascination, “Are you ok?”

 

“What? Oh yes.” Ginny started guiltily, “Yes, I’m fine thanks.” She tore her eyes away from Malfoy and the now stunned into silence group of boys, “This is terrible.”

 

Hermione nodded miserably, “I know. I didn’t think it would be this bad.”

 

Dawn eyed the Gryffindor table that was now reluctantly re-seated and the line of prefects that stood ranged between them and the objects of their angry betrayal, “Definitely not taking it lying down.” She straightened as she caught sight of Professor Dumbledore out of the corner of her eye, “Here comes the cavalry.”

 

Hermione and Ginny turned as the headmaster walked slowly up the central aisle, “Oh thank goodness.” Hermione twisted her shaking hands together, “Maybe he can calm things down.”

 

Dawn smiled absently at the heartfelt words and watched as Malfoy dispatched Seamus, Dean and Neville with another glare and a metaphorical flea in their ears. Her eyes narrowed as Neville scratched suddenly at the side of his head. At least she hoped it was metaphorical.

 

“What do you think you’re doing?!” Ron’s outraged howl bounced off the walls and roof of the hall as he finally found his voice, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re playing at?”

 

Draco eyed the taller head boy sardonically, “It would appear I am defending my head of school from attack.” He cocked his head haughtily, “Would you prefer I let them continue to assault you?”

 

“Yes!” Ron’s face was nearly purple with shame and disbelief at the horror of being saved by from his former friends by his most hated enemy, “Of course I bloody would!”

 

“You really are the most pig-headed arse I’ve ever had the misfortune of meeting, Weasley.” Malfoy’s voice was filled with disdain as he drew himself up and drawled scornfully, “Perhaps you’d have also been happy with me leaving your sister at the mercy of your former housemates?”

 

“Ginny?” Ron’s head snapped round as he focused on his sister, “Ginny, what’s happened? Are you ok?” He shoved past Draco and headed for the three girls standing to the side, “Do you need to go to the hospital wing?”

 

Ginny sent a fulminating look at the smirking Draco as he met her eyes over Ron’s shoulder, “Of course not. I just fell over.” She huffed impatiently as Ron grabbed her head in both hands and looked her over worriedly, “Get off, I’m fine!”

 

Malfoy took his eyes from the furious look on Ginny’s face and looked down at a touch on his arm. Harry was frowning slightly as though his words cost him but he managed to mutter, “Thank you.”

 

A wintery smile flickered over Draco’s pale face, “Please, don’t mention it. Ever.” He smirked, “And it wasn’t an entirely altruistic move on my behalf, Potter. I imagine being hauled up in front of the old boy to explain why I allowed the head boy and the famous Potter to get ripped to pieces at breakfast would have been an uncomfortable experience.” He nodded at Professor Dumbledore, “Good morning, sir.”

 

Professor Dumbledore smiled at the two boys, “Good morning, boys. I see you’ve made your little announcement, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded miserably, “Yes sir.”

 

“Very well, very well.” Dumbledore caught sight of Connor over Harry’s shoulder glaring ominously at Snape and, moving quite fast for such an old guy, joined them to clap Connor on the shoulder and guide him away from the angry looking potions professor, “Good morning, Mr Angel. Perhaps you’d like to take your seat?” He tugged at Connor’s shoulder firmly, “Now, Mr Angel.” With a last dark look at Snape, Connor moved to Harry’s side and then they both walked to join the rest of their small group and go to their achingly empty house table.

 

Professor Dumbledore nodded to Draco, “Thank you, Mr Malfoy. If you would rejoin your friends?” He waited until the blond boy nodded to the still tense prefects and they dispersed to their separate houses and then said in an undertone to Professor Snape, “I imagine that it was a fairly difficult situation to control by oneself, Severus.”

 

Snape sniffed at the faint tone of condemnation in the mild remark, “I wouldn’t know Headmaster.” He drew his robes around himself with a flourish, “I was occupied in controlling the savage American.”

 

“And you’re still conscious? Well, well, capital!” Dumbledore beamed delightedly at the younger man as Snape’s sallow skin flushed furiously, “I imagine Mr Angel is still feeling the effects of his relocation overseas. I must have a word with Poppy and see if there’s anything she can suggest.” He bustled back down towards the teacher’s table, “Well, come along Professor, we must get things moving. First lesson of the term is in half an hour.”




 

Connor and Dawn stood with Ginny as she queued for her first class of the morning, Precise and Proper Care of Magical Books and Artefacts with Madam Pince, and eyed the collection of sixth year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs watching the three of them with a mixture of anger, disgust and, in the case of the Hufflepuffs, deep curiosity.

 

Although Ginny would never admit it out loud she was pathetically thankful to learn that Dawn and Connor would be joining her in some classes when Harry and the others were attending lessons that were not applicable to Dawn and Connor’s unique skills or there were no muggle classes scheduled for them. The thought of facing her classmates on her own had twisted her stomach into knots as she tried to choke down a piece of toast at breakfast and she had only managed to swallow some orange juice when Dawn had pointed out that they were sharing their first lesson.

Connor stood to one side watching the assembled students with the expression of a bored lion trying to decide if he was hungry enough to make the effort to hunt and Dawn kept a careful expression of calm nonchalance on her face as she leaned on the other side of Ginny. Ginny feverently wished that Madam Pince would hurry up and arrive as she happened to know that Connor was concealing a blunted stake at his side for use as a impromptu cudgel and Dawn was gripping her wand and dying to try out a curse she had found for turning someone’s hair to blades of grass and they were both itching for an excuse to use them.

 

“Move aside, move aside!” Ginny’s shoulders sagged with relief as the elderly librarian bustled down the corridor and bumped aside glowering teenagers like they were rag dolls. She pointed her wand at the door and muttered her password under her breath before slamming back the door and hurrying inside, “To the main tables, students. Pair up and put on the goggles you find on your tables, please. We’re starting simply today but if anyone gets shot in the eye by the protective wards on the ‘Art of Mystical Warfare and Annihilation’ I’ll never hear the end of it from Madam Pomfrey. Quickly and quietly, please.”

 

Ginny looked around herself at her classmates and bit her lip as they moved as a unit to turn their backs on her. Dawn glared at the room and nudged Ginny, “Stay with me and Connor, we’ll probably need some help.”

 

Ginny smiled shakily, “Of course.” She turned as Madam Pince sailed up to their table, “Is that ok, Madam?”

 

The elderly librarian peered over the top of her half moon glasses and smiled bracingly at the unhappy girl, “I think that’s a very good idea, Miss Weasley.” She surreptitiously squeezed Ginny’s hand as she passed by, “Cheer up, my dear.”

 

Blinking back tears at the unexpected kindness Ginny tugged on a pair of goggles and picked up a pair of long handled tweezers. Connor tugged on his own goggles and then patted her shoulder uncomfortably, “Don’t worry, it’ll be alright.”

 

Ginny glanced around her at the scowls and dark looks coming from every direction as the Gryffindors settled down to re-bind the books under Madam Pince’s instructions, “I don’t see how, they hate us. This is much worse than I dreamed it could be.”

 

Dawn raised her chin and defiantly returned the scowls as she stared around the room, “Huh, they have no idea how bad things are gonna get if they pull any payback crap on you.” She patted Ginny’s arm, “You guys aren’t the only ones that have the loyalty thing going on for you. Let’s see how they like having the Destroyer and the Key all over their butts.”

 

Ginny took her eyes off her work for a minute, “Thanks, Dawn.” Both girls jumped at a surprised yelp from Connor and turned to see him beating frantically at his smoking fringe.

 

“Hey, I’m on your side, remember?” Connor beat out the last of the smouldering sparks on his head and frowned reprovingly at Ginny. “Direct the lightening bolts to the people that want to make you cry.” He turned to Dawn, “Is my hair ok?”

 

“What is it with you guys and your hair?” Dawn giggled as Connor rolled his eyes upwards to see the damage, “I swear, Angel passed the hair obsession on to every kid he ever had. Sweetie, you look fine.”

 

Ginny smothered her own laugh as she nodded seriously, “Really, absolutely fine. I’m so sorry.”

 

“Yeah, you look it.” Connor grinned at her and smoothed a hand over his head again, very generously deciding not to beat some manners into the room of teenagers that had dissolved into petty laughter. He frowned, “Are you sure you’re not just saying that?”

 

Dawn rolled her own eyes, “God, Connor, you look fine!”

 

Connor smoothed his hair down one last time and then nudged Dawn, “And what did you mean by that crack about Dad? What other kids?”

 

“Hello, Spike?” Dawn snorted, “Sometimes I think the only reason that vamps can’t see themselves in a mirror is evil’s way of making sure they actually get off their butts and do something.” She nudged Connor’s side, “For kick-ass warriors of the light you guys sure do a lot of primping and moisturising.”

 

“I do not moisturise!” Connor flushed a guilty red under Dawn’s pointed look, “That’s sunscreen! I mean, hello, I live in LA!”

 

Ginny and Dawn looked silently, and eloquently, at the grey, and above all English, sky and rain pounding against the bevelled windows of the library. Then Dawn leaned forward with a smug smile and scraped her finger along Connor’s jaw and showed him the tiny white blob of cream on the tip. She sniffed it delicately and then glared at him, “Hey! This is my twenty-dollar a pop three-in-one cream! Suncream my ass!”

 

Connor bent his head as Ginny began to giggle helplessly at his shifty expression, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He poked the book lying forgotten on the table, “What should we do with this?”

 

Dawn folded her arms; “See how much it hurts when I whack you over the head with it?” She pursed her mouth angrily as Ginny hurriedly snatched the book off the table and cradled it protectively in her arms, “When did you go through my stuff?”

 

Connor sighed, “I didn’t go through your st…” He scowled defensively, “Ok, fine, I may have gone into to your bathroom this morning to borrow some soap and saw it on the shelf.” He folded his own arms and glared, “Mom says that I have to take care of my skin.”

 

“Connor you fight the forces of darkness not bad beauty products. The average demon is not going to care what state your face is in.” Dawn poked her finger into his chest, “And just so you know, I even so much as sniff at mascara on you, and I don’t care how soul-matey we are, you are out of here.”




 

Harry shut the common room door behind him and leaned against it with a relieved breath, “Thank Merlin that’s over.”

 

Ron threw his over-loaded school bag against the wall with an angry shout and roughly shoved his hands through his already mussed up hair, “That has got to be the worst day I have ever lived through.” He pulled his hands wearily over his face and scrubbed at the skin, “Including the one where it was touch and go if that giant was going to eat me.” He threw himself down in a boneless sprawl on the couch and stared up at the ceiling, “The whole bloody school hates us.” His head turned as Connor came down the stairs from the dormitories, “Merlin, what happened to you?”

 

Connor gingerly touched his face and the brand spanking new boils now housed there, “Got cursed.”

 

“Really?” Harry gave his new friend and housemate a sympathetic grin, “What makes you think that?”

 

Connor snorted wryly and propped his butt against the arm of the chair, “Getting jumped by a load of sniggering girls when I walked back from that stupid gardening lesson with Ginny.” He waved a hand through the air as Ron pushed himself upright in concern, “Its ok. She’s fine; I knocked her out of the way. She’s upstairs putting together a potion to take the edge off before she tries the counter-curse. She wants to wait for Hermione to get home to double check the spell before she hits me with it.”

 

Harry winced at the pustulant red and yellow growths covering Connor’s face and neck, “Is it sore?”

 

“What do you think?” Connor shifted uneasily, “It’s all over too.”

 

Ron blanched, “You mean…” He gestured to the general area of Connor’s crotch and concluded weakly, “All over?”

 

“Oh yeah.” Connor shifted uncomfortably, “All the way over. They never would have got me either if I hadn’t been a little off from that stupid confusion spell earlier in the day.”

 

Harry blinked, “You’ve been attacked twice?”

 

Connor stood and gave up on trying to get comfortable, “Try seven times and you’ll be closer to the mark. Eight if you count the plague of birds that attacked me when I used the bathroom in between classes.” He rolled his shoulders and tried desperately to think of anything but the throbbing, itching blemishes marring his usually smooth skin, “I dodged the first couple but they got me good with something called a conjunctiva curse on my way to my math class with Dawn after lunch and it was all downhill from there.” He glanced unhappily up the stairs, “How long does it take to make a potion anyway?”

 

Ron and Harry exchanged looks, “Bloody Slytherins.” Ron spat the words out bitterly and thumped a clenched fist down on the sofa cushion, “Wait till I get hold of Malfoy.”

 

“What’s he got to do with this?” Connor looked at Ron in surprise, “It wasn’t him.”

 

“Of course it wasn’t.” Harry scowled darkly, “He wouldn’t get his hands dirty, just get one of his bloody minions to do it.”

 

“No, I mean it wasn’t his house.” Connor shrugged apologetically, “Sorry, guys, this was strictly Gryffindor work all the way.”

 

“Gryffindors did this?” Ron seriously doubted his heart could take another shock. The last couple of days had been very trying and he was convinced that it was only a matter of time before he got one shot of adrenalin too many and combusted on the spot, “Our Gryffindors?”

 

“Red and yellow badges and really anti anything American?” Connor nodded, “Yep, that would be them.” He jerked his head back towards the stairs; “They got Dawn two classes before the end of the day and turned her blue. Again, all over. She’s upstairs trying to wash it off with some stuff Ginny gave her. Apparently there’s no counter curse, just lots and lots of time with carbolic soap and a loofah.” He shrugged uneasily, “The last I heard she’s scrubbed herself orange and was changing again to a light shade of green. Ginny said there’s normally about twelve shades to work through and she should be back to normal tomorrow.”

 

Ron and Harry gaped disbelievingly at him and Connor frowned, “You didn’t get anything like this today?”

 

Harry shook his head, “No! I never thought it would come to this. We’ve had some name calling and most people have refused to speak to us but nothing like this.” He took off his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes, “You say that they tried to attack Ginny as well?”

 

Connor tucked his hands into his pockets to avoid the increasing temptation of rubbing frantically at his skin and thought back to the last attack, “I don’t know.” He mentally replayed the moment he saw an arm flick down from the bushes by the lake and the group of girls laughing as he turned to fling himself at Ginny and took her down to the wet grass, “It’s possible, but I don’t think so. All the other attacks have been directly against me and if you guys haven’t had any trouble then it’s unlikely that they would have been aiming for Ginny.”

 

Harry nodded, “That sounds about right.” He exchanged looks with Ron, “They’re trying to force the muggles out.” His eyes flicked apologetically to Connor, “Sorry.”

 

Connor waved a hand, “I kind of figured that out.”

 

Ron jumped to his feet, “But why are they targeting Dawn and Connor, they haven’t done anything!”

 

“In their heads they have.” Harry propped his head gloomily on his cupped hands and stared into the fire, “They’re the reason we’ve left Gryffindor.” He gave an awkward shrug, “Without Connor and Dawn coming to Hogwarts none of this would have happened.”

 

Connor nodded, “True.” He eased his head from side to side uncomfortably, “And I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next attack.” A faint grimace crossed his face as he thought he felt a particularly ripe boil burst on his back, “This is just a laugh a minute.”

 

Harry tipped his head to one side, “Why are you here and not in the hospital wing?”

 

“Ginny wanted a chance to try and heal me on her own. She says that if something does happen to any of us there’s a good chance we might not be able to get to proper medical help and she thinks we need to be prepared.” Connor shrugged, “I figured seeing as nothing’s broken or bleeding I might as well let her have a go.”

 

Ron kicked the side of an armchair, “Bloody hell.” He kicked the chair again and then thumped it with a clenched fist for good measure, “Bloody hell.” He stood for a moment scowling down at the innocent piece of furniture and then turned to face the other two boys, “Right, here’s what we do. When Connor and Dawn have been fixed up we all sit down and go through every spell or curse we’ve ever learned, there has to be something in there that we can use as a protection charm to stop most attacks around school.” He pointed at Connor, “You aren’t to go anywhere by yourself for the next few days.” He held up a hand to forestall Connor’s protest, “No. You’re the most vulnerable of all of us at the moment and no matter how fast you are you’re going to get hit again at some point. If we can’t find a protection charm then you need a magic user with you to hold off your attackers if you manage to dodge the curse or spell.”

 

Harry stood up and nodded, “Right. And I think it’s a good idea one of us has a word with a prefect at Gryffindor and make it clear that any attack on Dawn and Connor will be taken personally.” He looked thoughtful, “Where’s Hermione anyway? Shouldn’t she be back by now? Arithmancy finished half an hour ago.”

 

Ron blanched in sudden concern, “You don’t think they ambushed her?” He drew his wand and made hurriedly for the door, “I’m going to look for her.”

 

Harry nodded, “Wait for me.”

 

Ron had just touched the door when it was pushed open from the other side and Hermione stumbled through the opening completely overloaded with books and a very heavy looking bag. “Oof!” She stumbled back as she bounced off Ron’s chest, then blinked up in surprise as he caught her and placed her on her feet, “Ron, what are you doing hiding behind the door?”

 

Ron reached round her, slammed the door shut and then relieved her off her bag, “Looking for you. Sweet Merlin, Hermione, what have you got in here?”

 

“What? Oh just some extra reading.” Harry and Ron exchanged indulgent smiles behind her back as she stacked the books in her arms carefully on a nearby desk and then looked up to catch a glimpse of Connor for the first time, “Oh goodness!” She hurried across to him, “What happened?”

 

Connor grinned ruefully, “Long story.” He grabbed her hand and tugged her towards the stairs, “I’ll tell you upstairs. Ginny needs you.” He made a face as he felt another suspicious pop on his backside, “Ginny needs you now.”

 

Hermione looked back over her shoulder as she was all but dragged from the room, “I just saw Professor Dumbledore and he gave me something for all of us. In the front pocket of my baaag…” Her voice trailed off in a shriek as Connor pulled her impatiently up the stairs and Ron looked at the bag in his hand. He shrugged at Harry and opened the bag flap to rummage in the front pouch.

 

“Hell.” Ron stared blankly at the scraps of material in his hand, “I suppose this makes it official.”

 

Harry joined him and touched the pile of house badges that lay on his friend’s palm. He lifted one up and held it up to the light. Against a background of purple a phoenix was depicted in full flight encircled by a band of five glowing colours. Above and below the phoenix’s wings on either side of its body there was a tiny animal. A lion for Gryffindor, a snake for Slytherin, an eagle for Ravenclaw and a badger for Hufflepuff. Harry touched an unsteady forefinger to the bright circle surrounding the four animals, “Blue for Ravenclaw, silver for Slytherin, black for Hufflepuff, gold for the Gryff’s and purple for us. A circle for strength and a phoenix for…what does a phoenix stand for anyway?”

 

Ron shrugged, “Merlin knows. How many times we can drag our collective arses out of the fire?”

 

Harry sniggered and tilted the badge towards the fading light at the windows, “It’s carrying something in its mouth.”

 

Ron frowned and squinted at the badges he held and then laughed, “A key. A key and a stake.” His eyes were brimming with laughter as he looked up at Harry, “Well, he’s covered all the bases anyway.”

 

“Durus Catenatus.” Harry read the name of their house as it rippled across the spread tail feathers of the phoenix and smiled, “Let’s hope so.”

Chapter Text

 

Harry dropped his bag on the floor and leaned wearily against the corridor wall. It was the last lesson of Friday afternoon and he’d never been so glad to see the weekend looming in his life. Beside him Ron and Hermione dropped their own bags and leant just as wearily beside him, ignoring the vile looks and muttered comments from all around them as the Slytherins and Gryffindors arrived in dribs and drabs for their first Defence Against the Dark Arts lesson of the year.

 

Their first week had to have been the worst that any of them had ever endured at Hogwarts. Worse than everyone thinking Harry was Voldemort’s heir, worse than the time he had become school champion, even more terrible than the painful weeks when Hermione had been snatched and they didn’t know if she was alive or dead. All four houses were united in their hatred and disgust for the traitors, as they had become known. Although, to be fair, Slytherin were behaving just as they had done for the last six years towards Harry and his friends. Some things never changed after all.

 

When the six had gone down to breakfast wearing their new badges the morning after the announcement it had taken the combined forces of Dumbledore, McGonagall and Madam Hooch to quell the furious protests from all four houses at the use of their own colours and mascots in the new design. And Ron spent half an hour in the hospital wing when someone managed to slip a curse by Dumbledore and change his ears into huge, misshapen wings. All in all, he’d had better starts to his day.

 

Harry opened his eyes and looked up the corridor as Dawn and Connor rounded the corner engaged in a loud argument. “All I’m saying is that you can’t call one of the greatest romantic tales in the history of literature stupid just because you don’t find the ending satisfactory.”

 

Connor rolled his eyes at Dawn’s high-pitched tone, “It is stupid. They meet, they fall in love, ludicrous situations occur and then they die. That’s not romantic, that’s…stupid.”

 

“It’s Romeo and Juliet!” Dawn glared at her erstwhile boyfriend, “No way is that stupid!”

 

Connor realised Dawn was in danger of going into serious pout mode and grabbed her suddenly to twirl her round off her feet and high in the air, “You’re telling me that if Spike and Buffy had refused to let you see me then you’d have gone trotting off to the magic box and taken a stupid potion to get them to bury you?” He swung her and caught an arm under one of her knees to cradle her against him, “Or that you’d have taken all that nonsense about houses and family seriously?” His mouth captured hers in a brief kiss, “Yeah, right.”

 

Dawn blinked; she’d lost her train of thought. What was it now? Oh yeah, Connor’s inability to appreciate great literature, “Star-crossed lovers. Moonlight trysts. Families at war.”

 

Connor grinned, “Been there, done that.” He nodded at Harry, Ron and Hermione as he drew level with them and dropped Dawn back onto her feet, keeping an arm around her shoulders, “I preferred West Side Story. Catchier tunes.”

 

“When did you see West Side Story?” Dawn screwed her neck round and stared at Connor incredulously.

 

“Don’t tell anyone but ever since Dad got Gunn into ballet he’s branched out. Opera, classical music and a serious addiction to show tunes. We killed a nest of vamps one night, then got pizza in and had a movie marathon.” Connor winked, “His favourite is ‘Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.’” Determinedly oblivious to the poisonous looks coming his way Connor nodded to the students in the hall, “Hey.”

 

Dawn fought back a fit of giggles at the thought of tough, street-wise Gunn moon-eyed over fifties musicals, “That’s so…so…”

 

“Lame?” Connor looked resigned, “Wait till you see him and Lorne do their Lady Marmalade turn from Moulin Rouge.” He shook his head; “You have no idea how bad it can get.”

 

Dawn smiled at her three housemates, “Hi, guys. Good afternoon?”

 

Hermione’s eyes flickered for a moment towards the hostile students watching them and then she nodded, “Not bad. You?”

 

Dawn shrugged, “Apart from Connor’s total lack of imagination it was fine.”

 

“It was stupid.” Connor looked imploringly at Ron and Harry, “Help me out here.”

 

“Yes, Potter, do tell us how much you enjoyed the girly play.” Malfoy’s eyes sparkled with malicious amusement; “I understand there are some fine examples of the betrayal of one’s closest friends in that particular work. Perhaps you, Weasley and Granger found some helpful hints?”

 

“Sod off, Malfoy.” Ron’s hands clenched into fists and he shook Hermione’s restraining hand off his arm, “Just keep your stuck up nose out of other people’s business.”

 

“Or what?” Draco’s expression turned from one of amusement to a sneer, “You and your house will make me sorry? All five of you?” He shuddered, “Oh, now I’m scared.”

 

“Six.” Connor squeezed Dawn’s shoulders and eyed the blond boy coolly, “There’s six of us. You remember Ginny?”

 

Connor was looking for a reaction and grinned as a tiny flicker shook the confident sneer for a moment. Draco rallied admirably in the face of Connor’s knowing smirk, “I hardly think the littlest Weasel can be counted, do you?”

 

“Oh, I happen to think she’s very important.” Connor smiled sunnily at the sudden flush that stained Draco’s cheeks, “She comes in useful when you least expect it.” He continued with a wicked grin, “You wouldn’t believe how valuable she is to some people.”

 

From the look on Dracos’s face that he was the only person in the confined space that caught the double meaning in Connor’s innocent statement and he took the only course of action open to him. He shut up.

 

Dawn darted a confused look between Connor and the thoroughly routed Slytherin and made a mental note to ask him what the hell had happened in their exchange that had quenched the prefect so successfully. From the look of Ron, Hermione and Harry they were just as baffled as she was.

 

“What are you all doing out here?” The voice cracked like a whip from behind them and Dawn and the others jumped as Professor Snape swept past them in a whirl of black robe and lank hair, “Inside and be seated. We have a lot to cover today.” He turned at the entrance to the classroom and his eyes rested with gloating anticipation on Connor for a moment, the only student not to flinch when his voice had sounded so unexpectedly, “There is a great deal to be done.”

 

Ron was rooted to the spot with horror as the other students leapt after the Professor. “Oh bloody buggering hell.” He stared at Connor, “Oh shit. What the hell is Snape doing here?”

 

Hermione pulled a copy of her timetable from her bag, “It says here that the professor for DADA is Thenarus.” She shook the paper in her hand suspiciously, “It’s definitely down here as being Thenarus.”

 

Harry hurriedly shoved Dawn and Connor into motion, “Well apparently it’s not. Stay alert, Merlin knows what Snape’s got planned for us.”




 

The lesson went progressively downhill from there. Snape’s first order of business was to announce with no small amount of satisfaction that he would be taking the class on a permanent basis for all seventh years for the rest of the year. The Slytherins burst into a wild round of applause as the Gryffindors and Harry’s group stared in morose horror at the gloating professor.

 

“No, no, no.” Ron’s face drained of all colour, “Somebody up there really hates me.”

 

Hermione patted his arm shakily, “Maybe it won’t be that bad.”

 

“Miss Granger!” Hermione jumped as Snape bellowed her name, “No talking in class without my permission. Five points from Gryff…oh yes, you no longer belong with your former house.” A snide smile graced his sallow features, “Five points from whatever it is that you call yourselves now.”

 

Ron and Harry glared at Snape as Hermione flushed and bit her lip. Dawn and Connor exchanged looks and then turned back to face the professor with assessing looks in their eyes. Dawn was mentally cataloguing all the ways she knew to hurt someone without leaving any evidence. She looked at Ron from the corner of her eye and was fairly sure he’d let it go just this once.

 

“Right. A brief quiz to ascertain just how much knowledge you have retained over the years. Mr Malfoy, the best way to repel a magical attack if you please?”

 

Not once in the twenty fast paced minutes that followed did Snape call on any of Durus Catenatus house although Ron did get another five points deducted for looking at Snape in an offensive manner. Twice.

 

“Well, obviously there is some work to be done to bring you all up to an acceptable level.” Snape nodded in satisfaction to Crabbe as he finally finished mumbling the answer to the last question. “Excellent. Ten points to Slytherin. Now, I think a practical demonstration of your skills.” His black eyes glittered as he made a show of selecting his victim. “Mr Angel, if you would oblige me?”

 

Connor looked up from his desk where he had been half-heartedly mentally going over his training session from the previous evening. Harry jumped up from his seat, “No! That’s not fair, you know he doesn’t know any magic!”

 

“Silence!” Snape looked altogether too pleased with himself, “Another ten points from your house for being rude and consistently annoying, Potter.”

 

Connor stood, “It’s alright, Harry.” He grinned at Dawn and winked, “I don’t mind.”

 

The class was silent as he made his way to the front and stopped before Snape to cross his arms and look calmly at the Professor. Snape smirked, “No weapons, Mr Angel.”

 

“No weapons.” Connor took his robes off and revealed a short-sleeved white shirt and grey trousers. “Just me.” Dawn began to smile.

 

“In the cupboard in the corner is a boggart. It is an extremely unpleasant creature. Defend yourself.” Hermione gasped and made to stand up but Dawn grabbed her arm and shook her head. This should be good.

 

Connor watched as Snape crossed to the cupboard and tugged open the door to reveal…Connor. The entire class joined Hermione in gasping as the double stepped from the depths of the dark space and into the light. Dawn frowned briefly and then her face relaxed into understanding as the double’s face rippled and vampire Connor stood before them. Their worst fears, they were facing their worst fears. Some rather impressive screams bounced off the high ceiling.

 

Connor took a step back before he could stop himself, then stopped and pursed his lips thoughtfully, “Huh.” His eyes skipped to look at Snape, “Cute.”

 

Harry stood up, “Connor, it feeds off your worst fears. The only way to defeat it is with a spell!”

 

Connor’s eyes cut to all sides as he looked for weapons, “Really?” His voice was mildly curious as he forced his muscles to un-tense and not betray the sudden rush of anxiety he felt at the manifestation of his worst, primal nightmare, “What’s the spell?”

 

Harry danced on his toes in frustration and ignored the sharp command from Professor Snape to shut up, “You can’t use it! You’re a mu…”

 

Connor looked unmoved. “Yeah, I’m a muggle. What’s the damned spell?”

 

“Ridikulous!”

 

“I know it is. What’s the spell I need?” Connor moved cautiously backwards as the boggart moved towards him and kept his eyes firmly on his own distorted demonic face.

 

Harry groaned, “No, the spell is Ridikulous. You have to think of something not scary and say the charm.”

 

“Silence, Potter!” Snape’s voice cracked angrily through the room, “Let the muggle defend himself.”

 

“Right.” Connor nodded his understanding to Harry, “Gotcha.” He reached without looking and snatched Goyle’s wand from where it lay before him on the desk and waved it half-heartedly, “Ridiculous.” He tossed the wand back to its owner and gave an exaggerated shrug, “Guess I’ll just have to try it my way. Oh well.”

 

Dawn’s grin grew wider and she nudged Ron, “Ten knuts on Connor for a knockout.”

 

“What?” Ron took his eyes off the scene playing out at the front of the class for a second and stared at Dawn, “What?”

 

“Ten knuts on Connor for a knockout.” A smack of flesh on flesh and a shrill scream from the front of the room had them both turning back to the action and Dawn pouting, “Dammit Connor, I’m trying to open a book here, slow it down a little!”

 

“Sorry sweetie.” Connor cart wheeled over the top of the boggart’s head and flicked it on the base of its neck with his thumb and forefinger, “Ugh, sticky. That better, hon?” He twitched his head to the side as the boggart reached for him and ducked under the outstretched arm, “Oops, you missed. Try again.”

 

Dawn stood up determined to prove once and for all to the assembled students and teacher that there was nothing weak or vulnerable about herself and Connor and the best way to do it as far as she was concerned was show them just what happened when you showed a member of the batpack or a Scoob a demon. But hopefully with less blood and guts. “Ok, five’ll get you ten that my boy there has the bogie on the ground inside a minute. Any takers?”

 

“Twenty points from your house, young lady!” Snape glared furiously at Dawn as she gave him an impudent smirk, “Gambling is strictly prohibited at this school.”

 

It felt like the room shook as Connor threw the howling boggart into the wall. Dawn turned away from Snape as it tried to scramble to it’s feet and make a run for it’s cupboard and shrugged, “Fine. Looks like he’s nearly done anyway.”

 

Connor grinned and muttered, “Not quite.” He lined up the panicked boggart in his sights and took firm hold of Professor Snape’s desk. With one quick tug he pulled it up and over his head and threw it after the screaming creature.

 

Parchment, ink and books went flying and then the five foot long, ancient oak desk weighing in at over two hundred pounds smashed into the boggart and there was a sad, wet splat.

 

Connor dusted off his hands, “Now I’m done.” He sauntered across the class and used his toe to hook a large splinter of wood into the air and snatch it in one hand. With the other he leaned down and rummaged through the pile of broken wood until he found what he was looking for and hauled a very sorry looking vampire Connor up onto its toes. The Boggart yelped and twisted away from Connor’s hold, jumped into its cupboard and slammed the door shut. After a pause there came the faint sound of a key turning. From the inside.

 

Connor tossed the sliver of wood in his hand over his shoulder and banged sharply on the side of the cupboard, “I’ll be keeping my eye out for you.” The sound of muffled yelp and then sobbing came from behind the wooden door, “I see you again and I’ll make it hurt. More.”

 

“What did you do?” Snape strode forward and grabbed Connor’s shoulder to spin him round. He thrust his face into Connor’s and shouted, “What did you do?”

 

Connor wiped stray flecks of spittle off his face, “I defended myself as instructed. Sir.” He nodded towards the ruined desk, “It was getting away and I used my surroundings to help me win. Sorry.” The wolfish grin on his face made it clear that he was anything but sorry. “That’s my defence against the dark arts. I hurt them.” Connor’s eyes found Ron’s grinning face and he shrugged, “I would have killed it but I understand that’s frowned on here.”

 

“You destroyed my classroom!” Snape was actually shaking with anger.

 

Connor took a slow look around the silent room. The white-faced students, the relieved and ecstatic faces of his own house, Dawn doing a victory dance at the back of the room and finally the shattered pile of wood on the floor and the heavy sobbing from the cupboard. “Well, yeah.” He cocked his head to the side. “The Destroyer. Clue’s kinda in the name.” Connor looked to Dawn as she wiggled happily in celebration, “Why are people always surprised by that?”

 

Dawn shrugged as she shook her booty, “Beats me.” A smug, triumphant smile was flashed at the room in general, “Bet they’ll remember it now.”




 

It was Saturday afternoon and after a heavy morning’s slayer training Dawn and Connor were standing with Harry, Ron and Hermione on Hogwarts’ quidditch pitch beside two broom sticks.

 

Dawn stared up at the bright blue sky and then down at the long, thin piece of wood at her feet. “You want me to go up there?” Harry and Ron nodded. Dawn poked the broomstick with her toe, “On that?” Harry and Ron nodded again. “Oh, I don’t think so.” Dawn backed away, waving her hands in horror, “I’ve got this thing about heights. Funny story. Big tower, crazed god trying to sacrifice me. Remind me to tell you sometime. On the ground. Bye!”

 

Connor’s iron grip stopped her making a break for the school, “Chicken.”

 

“Damn straight. Cluck, cluck. Want me to lay you an egg?” Dawn twisted her arm trying to shake her boyfriend loose, “You’re meant to be on my side, remember?”



Connor slipped his other arm around Dawn’s waist and hoisted her off her feet, “I am on your side. We agreed you’d try this.”

 

“That’s was before I remembered just how far apart the ground and the sky are!” Dawn squirmed like a landed fish, “I like the ground. We have a very strong relationship, practically going steady, exclusive you could say.” Her green eyes were wide as she stared imploringly at Connor, “I don’t want to break up with it.”

 

“If she doesn’t want to you shouldn’t make her.” Hermione tucked her hands into her jeans’ pockets and pursed her lips, “I don’t see why this is so important.”

 

Connor glanced at the brown-haired girl between Ron and Harry, “Because this is an advantage and we should utilise it. If I could do it I would.”

 

Ron nodded and winced as he rubbed at his shoulder, “And I let you hit me with a big stick for an hour this morning. You owe me.”

 

“I hit you with a big stick on the ground!” Dawn pushed against Connor’s restraining arms, “And that was combat training. This is…well, I don’t know what this is but I’m not doing it.”

 

Connor sighed, “Give us a minute.” He hauled his protesting girlfriend off a few feet and then set her down, keeping a firm grip on her shoulders, “What’s the problem? You’ll let me throw you in the air at the drop of a pointy hat but not give this a go. That isn’t like you, Dawn.”

 

“Oh yeah, it is. Totally like me.” Dawn looked anxiously back at the broom on the ground and then back at Connor with a shudder, “You threw me and I knew you’d catch me. I get on that and I fall off, what happens?”

 

Connor pushed a lock of hair from her face as the autumn breeze whipped it into her eyes, “I catch you again, just like I always do.” He smiled, “Do you doubt me?”

 

Dawn leaned into his palm, “Of course not. You, I have complete faith in. Me, I uber doubt.”

 

“Well you shouldn’t.” Connor wrapped his arms around her and kissed the top of her head, “I know that you can do this, and if it makes the difference between life and death someday then you have to know it too.”

 

Dawn leaned into his quiet strength, “You know, sometimes you’re an awfully big monkey on my back.” Her eyes closed as he chuckled and stroked her hair, “I wish that you could be up there with me.”

 

“Me too.” Connor looked wistfully at the broom for a moment and sighed deeply, “Looks like fun.” He pulled her away from his chest and gave her a bracing grin, “But I can’t go up there with you so you’ll just have to trust that I’ll be down here waiting for you if you fall.”

 

“Great.” Dawn shook herself and squared her shoulders, “Let’s get this over with. You’ll still love me if I knock all my teeth out, right?”

 

“Absolutely.” Connor nodded gravely, “Just don’t expect me to chew your food for you.”

 

Dawn shot him a glare and walked to Harry’s side, “Ok, launch me.”

 

Harry smothered a smile at her unhappy demand and placed his outstretched palm over his Nimbus on the ground. “Place your hand over the broomstick and say ‘Up’ clearly.”

 

Dawn stood next to her own broom, “Up!” The broom shot off the floor and into her palm with a hard smack, “Ow! Goddamn it!” Dawn wrapped her slightly numbed fingers around the smooth wood and gritted her teeth, “Now what?”

 

Harry threw his leg over his own broom and gripped the wood between his thighs with practised ease, “Mount it and find where it’s most comfortable.”

 

“And I have never been more glad that Anya is an ocean away than at this moment.” Dawn muttered reflectively under her breath as she avoided looking at Connor’s sudden grin and Ron’s frantic coughing fit as Hermione kicked his ankle, “Ok, now what?”

 

“Grip the shaft firmly…” Harry felt his face heat dramatically as Ron and Connor both choked and stared fixedly at the sky while Hermione suddenly found her fingernails extremely interesting, “And kick off gently from the ground and hover. Like this.” He demonstrated as Ron fought to bring his attack of the sniggers under control. “See?”

 

Dawn studied Harry and then looked longingly at the ground before nodding, “Right.” She clenched her jaw and kicked off, stifling a shriek as the broom took off and then thankfully hovered a few feet above the ground. She gripped the hard wood between her palms like a lifeline and wobbled on the broom as she tried to find her balance.

 

“No, no, no.” Harry shook his head and took both hands off his broom to lean across and adjust Dawn’s position, “You have all your weight in the middle, you need to extend your arms like this and move your bum back a few inches…” He paused aware that his hand was on Dawn’s right flank and that Connor’s eyes appeared to be burning a hole in the side of his head. His hand jerked back as though Dawn had bitten him and he flushed scarlet again. “Sorry.”

 

Dawn wobbled again, “What?” Her eyes flicked to Harry’s face and then back down to her broom as her balance wavered suddenly, “What do I do now?”

 

“Take your feet and hook them back over the bristles. Like an anchor, see?” Harry responded to Dawn’s panicked question instinctively and forgot all about the protective homicidal boyfriend with supernatural speed and the ability to forge weapons out of innocuous everyday furniture. “Use the top of your feet and keep them firm against the bristles. You need to find your centre of gravity and balance from there.”

 

Ron watched as Harry slowly led Dawn on a very shaky lap of the Quidditch pitch, “Y’know, I think she may actually turn out to be even worse than you on a broom, Herm.” He nudged an affectionate elbow into his scowling friend’s ribs, “I didn’t think that was possible.”

 

“Get stuffed, Ron.” Hermione winced as she watched Dawn slowly topple to the side and then finish her u-turn clinging like a monkey to the underside of her broom, long hair sweeping the ground below her. “Merlin, I think you might be right.” She glanced apologetically at Connor, “Sorry.”

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Connor sighed with disappointment as his grand plans of air borne attacks against their enemies died a fiery, screaming death, “And you suck on a broom too?”

 

“I do not suck…” Hermione caught Ron’s eye and her shoulders slumped slightly, “Ok. So I’m not the most coordinated person in the air.”

 

Ron put a casual, friendly arm around Hermione’s thin shoulders and ignored Connor’s knowing grin, “It’s nice to know you’re human enough to suck at something, Herm. Perfection isn’t as attractive as some people think.” He smiled down into her indignant eyes and moved his arm into a neck grip as he ruffled her hair, “Besides, now you have something in common.”

 

All three looked as Harry and Dawn pulled up besides them and Dawn fell off her broom with a yelp. Hermione looked outraged, “We do not! I was never that bad.”

 

“Hey!”

 

Hermione looked down at Dawn’s reproachful face on the floor, “Sorry, Dawn.”

 

Dawn climbed to her feet and poked the still hovering broom, “I think we can safely say this is a wash out.”

 

“Nonsense. You just need some practice.” Harry’s broom was weaving backwards and forwards through the air as though anxious to take to the sky.

 

“Why don’t you show me how it’s done then?” Dawn glared at her friend, “If it’s that easy.”

 

“I thought you’d never ask!” She was knocked out of the way as Ron leapt for her broom and he and Harry kicked off into the sky like bullets.

 

“Oh now you’ve done it.” Hermione shaded her eyes with her hand as she stared after the two shrinking figures, “They’ll be up there for hours now.”

 

Dawn and Connor stared with open mouths as Harry and Ron dodged and weaved through the air with the grace and precision of ballet dancers. High altitude, high speed, non-dancing dancers, but dancers none-the-less. Xtreme ballet.

 

“Oh my god.” Dawn swallowed and whispered faintly, “They’re going to die.”

 

Harry and Ron pointed their brooms directly at each other, coming in at eye- blurring speed and then at the last moment one took the high road and one took the low with shouts of glee as they were buffeted by the other’s slipstream.

 

“You’d think wouldn’t you?” Hermione watched with fond resignation as Harry came at Ron from the side, went under his broom and then looped around to fly off upside down waving Ron’s shoe triumphantly over his head, “Wait until you see them play Quidditch.” She took her hand from her face and stared at Dawn sadly, “Except you won’t. I keep forgetting they can’t play now.”

 

Dawn winced, “Ouch.” She took Hermione’s hand apologetically, “I’m so sorry. You guys have given up so much.”

 

Hermione shrugged, “We did what we had to do.” She smiled as she remembered that morning in their training room when she had thrown Ron six feet when he attacked her from behind, “Besides it’s not all bad. Learning to defend myself is a big plus.” She frowned as Dawn’s eyes widened suddenly, “What?”

 

Connor grabbed Dawn and pulled her to the side as Ron came out of nowhere with an evil grin and snatched Hermione off her feet to carry her screaming with surprise into the sky in a steep vertical climb. Connor grinned as he watched Hermione’s frantically kicking feet and her arms clutch tightly at Ron as he banked in mid-air and took off after Harry, “I really want one of those.”




 

Ginny was ensconced in a corner of the library getting a jump on her divinations homework when Draco found her. Not that he’d been looking. He’d just found himself unexpectedly restless in the Slytherin common room that Saturday afternoon and the prospect of fighting off Pansy’s attentions for the rest of the day was unappealing to say the least. And he’d curse anyone that said when he found out that the rest of Ginny’s house was outside, leaving her somewhere in the school unprotected, he’d left his common room so fast that he actually blurred when he shot out the door.

 

He stood for a moment out of sight and watched her as she frowned over an astrological chart and then scribbled notes down on the parchment by her hand. Her orange hair hung in a shining curtain around her face, concealing her scar, and the deep blue of her simple top complemented her pale skin and vivid hair beautifully in the bright sunlight that streamed through the domed ceiling. Cheap and old though said top was.

 

Draco looked around himself as Ginny stood up without seeing him and browsed along the shelf behind her until grabbing a book with a grunt of satisfaction and carrying it back to her seat. Excellent, aside from Madam Pince they were alone in the cavernous library, most students taking advantage of the pleasant weather outside or safely tucked away in their common rooms with their friends. He waited until Ginny was re-seated, engrossed in her new text and then slipped round the corner and up behind her. He leaned close to her unsuspecting ear and said silkily, “Alone at last, Weasel.” The suave manner lasted exactly a second until Ginny’s head flew up in surprise and cracked him on the nose.

 

“Ow! Merdin buddy fuck!” Draco stumbled backwards clutching his throbbing face as Ginny jumped up and grabbed the back of her now aching head, “Whad the stoddin hell did you do dat for?”

 

Ginny grabbed her wand off the table and pointed it at the tall, swearing Slytherin, “What did I do? What the hell are you playing at sneaking up on me?” She darted backwards as Malfoy straightened and looked furiously at her, making sure to put the width of the reading table between them, “And don’t even think about cursing me or I’ll make you sorry.”

 

“Really? And what makes you think that you’re any match for me?” Draco pulled the shattered pieces of his dignity around him, looking as forbidding and evil as he knew how.

 

Ginny’s eyebrow went up as she said smugly, “Well, for a start, I’m not the one bleeding all down the front of my expensive shirt.” She smiled mockingly, “Good job it’s black.”

 

Forbidding and evil dissolved before the flamethrower of furious and humiliated. “What?” Malfoy wiped a hand under his now thankfully numb nose and stared in disbelief at his reddened skin, “You made me bleed!”

 

“And I’ll do it again.” Ginny waved her wand threateningly at the older boy, “Just give me a reason.”

 

“Miss Weasley!” Ginny jumped and thrust her wand behind her back as Madam Pince hurried up, attracted by Draco’s pained yell, “What’s going on here?” The elderly professor looked suspiciously at the bleeding prefect and then at the small, slender girl flushed with guilt, “Are you alright?”

 

Draco’s mouth fell open. Alright? Just who was bleeding their life’s blood all over themselves exactly?

 

“Oh y…yes, th…thank you, Madam.” Ginny darted a look at Malfoy and then back at the librarian, “We were just…Malfoy was…he…”

 

“I tripped over a chair and hit my face on the bookshelf, Madam. Weasley was making sure I was alright.” Draco pulled a spotless handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his nose adding bitterly, “And I am. Fine. In case you were concerned. At all.”

 

From the look on her face it was clear that Madam Pince was neither believed his story or was in the least concerned about the prefect’s health. “Is that true, my dear?” She smiled gently at Ginny, “Is that what happened?”

 

Ginny looked at Malfoy who glared meaningfully at her behind the librarian’s back and then nodded, “Yes. That’s what happened.”

 

Madam Pince turned to stare suspiciously at Malfoy who returned the look with one of injured innocence and then nodded reluctantly, “Very well. I shall be at my desk if you need me.”

 

There was a long silence as they watched the woman return to her desk and re-settle herself with her beloved books and then Ginny said quietly, “Are you really alright?” She gestured to Malfoy’s smeared and swollen face “Is it sore?”

 

“I’m bleeding.” Draco glared over the top of his now stained linen at Ginny, “What do you think?”

 

“Well you shouldn’t sneak up on people like that.” Ginny hesitated for a moment and then moved round the table, “Here, sit down and let me take a look.” She rolled her eyes at his suspicious face, “Oh don’t be so wet. Sit down.”

 

Draco found himself tugged into Ginny’s vacated chair and her small hands on his face as she tipped his head back and peered at his nose. “Where does it hurt?”

 

“OW!” Draco hurriedly moved his head out of reach as Ginny tweaked none-to-gently at his nose, “Watch it!”

 

“Don’t be such a baby.” Ginny took the bloody handkerchief from his hands and tipped his head back as she pressed the cloth against his nostrils, “You’ve had worse than this when you’ve played Quidditch, I’ve seen it.” She took the cloth away and looked at his face, “There the bleeding’s stopped. What a load of fuss about nothing.”




Malfoy blinked as she squeezed the back of his head lightly and smiled at him, “You should probably go to the hospital wing to get something for the swelling.” Ginny tapped his cheek lightly, like she would Ron or Harry, and moved away to perch on the edge of the table, “I’m sorry I hurt you.” Her brow wrinkled as he continued to stare blankly at her, “Malfoy? Are you alright?” Ginny felt a stab of concern, “Can you hear me? Is your vision blurred?”

 

Draco frowned. Who the hell was this Malfoy character she was talking to? He could still feel the heat of her fingers on his skin and any other concerns were lost in the horrifying realisation that he had the mother of all crushes on Ginny Weasley of all people. He tried to swallow and calm his racing heart.

 

It just wasn’t possible. Ok, he could admit to having a faint, very faint, grudging respect for her after she had helped him rescue Snape last term and fought so courageously at the battle for Hogwarts, but to actually have feelings for the girl? The concern he had felt for her at the first breakfast of the term had been chalked up to a moment’s madness and he had very firmly put it in the box in his mind marked ‘Things Never, Ever, To Be Thought About Or Admitted To. Ever.’

 

Ginny watched in confusion as he leapt up from his chair and actually back away from her, “Stay the fuck away from me, Weasel.”

 

“Wh…what?” Ginny followed him as he stumbled backwards and his usually pale face was drained to the point of transparency, “Malfoy, what is it?” She looked over her shoulder to make sure there was no nasty beastie lurking behind her as his eyes bugged in wild horror, “What’s the matter?”

 

“Don’t touch me!” Draco bounced off a bookshelf, finally got his shaking legs to listen to his screaming mind and practically ran out of the room, “I won’t forget this!”

 

“Forget what?” Ginny blinked, “I said sorry for hurting you. And I really think you should go to see Madam Pomfey!” Her voice rose to a shout and then she turned to look at Madam Pince as the librarian hurried up once more, “What did I do?”




 

Later that evening Dawn finished her latest letter to Buffy and Spike and signed off with a flourish. “That’s it. I’m going to the owlery. Connor, you done?”

 

Connor looked up from his own much shorter missive home, “Yeah.” He signed his name and stood up with a sigh, “I still don’t get why you can’t just ask Buffy to pass a message on for me.”

 

“Because this will make Angel and Cordy happy.” Dawn grabbed a light jacket off the back of her chair and made sure her wand was tucked into her jeans’ pocket, “Come on. Ron, we’ll be about twenty minutes.”

 

Ron looked up from where he and Hermione were engaged in a fierce game of wizarding chess by the curtained windows, “You want one of us to come with you?”

 

“No!” Connor tugged Dawn towards the door hurriedly, “It’s fine. Dawn’s got her wand if we have any problems.” The door slammed shut behind them and the re-opened as Connor’s head poked back through, “Make it half an hour.” He grinned and disappeared again.

 

Ron shook his head, “What was that about?” Hermione, who had caught Dawn’s smug grin as she was shoved through the door, gave him a pitying look and took his knight. With extreme prejudice.




 

Dawn stroked the top of her owl’s head and rubbed her cheek against its wing, “Hey, Gordo. How are you?” The grey owl clicked its beak affectionately at her and then screeched warningly at Connor as he joined them clutching his own bird in an unimpressed fist.

 

“It won’t wake up!” Connor shook the golden owl angrily and directed a dark look at Gordo, “This thing hates me.”

 

Dawn allowed Gordo to scramble up her arm to perch on her shoulder and then grabbed Connor’s arm and rescued the still peacefully snoozing bird, “Probably because you gave it brain damage. Be gentle.” She took the owl away from her boyfriend and smoothed its rumpled feathers, “Hey, little guy. Connor, you really need to think of a name for him soon.”

 

“Dead.” Connor folded his arms and snorted at Dawn’s glare, “What? It will be if it doesn’t start staying awake for more than just meals. I wasn’t kidding about the target practice you know.” Dawn giggled as she tickled the admittedly well-rounded tummy of Connor’s bird and Gordo stretched his wings to display his own sleek body. Connor rolled his eyes and took the owl back again, “Fine. Useless. I name you Useless the owl.” He made sure that his letter was strapped securely to the owl’s leg and then strode to the window and casually dropped the bird into the air.

 

“Connor!” Dawn dashed across the room and peered into the darkness, “What if it doesn’t wake up?” Gordo took off from Dawn’s shoulder and glided into the sky with an angry cry.

 

“Then I don’t get to use it for target practice.” Connor shrugged and leaned against the sill, “No big.”

 

“Oh thank God!” Dawn sighed with relief as the two owls coasted through the air suddenly and gave farewell hoots before flying off across the top of the forest. She punched Connor’s arm, “That was mean.”

 

Connor waggled his eyebrows and shook his head in disagreement, “That was smart. I knew the damn thing would wake up before it hit the ground. It’s a bird for god’s sake!” He edged a little closer to Dawn, “And now we’re all alone. Together. For the first time in days.”

 

Dawn eyed him in amusement as he leered at her, “And you’re thinking what exactly? We should get down and dirty under a hundred nesting birds?” She looked pointedly at the school owls overhead and then at the dubious marks on the floor and sighed dramatically, “I just can’t understand why I’m not ripping your clothes off as we speak.”

 

“Me either.” Connor hooked a finger in her waistband and backed away towards the corner of the room and a small wooden door. He reached behind him and twisted the knob to reveal a tiny room with a pile of broken chairs and some blankets on the floor. “Which is why I’m so glad I found this the other day.”

 

Dawn laughed as he wrapped his arms around her and spun her through the air before taking them both onto the blankets, “This is why I love you. An answer for everything.”

 

Connor’s fingers crept under the hem of her top and she shivered, “So, want to get down and dirty with me now?”

 

Dawn nodded, “Oh yeah.” A sudden grin flashed across her face, “Make it good, Romeo. We’re on a clock.”

Chapter Text

 

Halloween.

 

A few weeks later and their world hadn’t noticeably improved. True the stealth attacks and nasty curses flying from all directions had ceased after Dawn had beat the tar out of Crabbe and Goyle when they decided to jump her one night when she had been hurrying back from a late meeting with Professor Dumbledore. Nearly the whole school had been attracted by the screams and howling as they had attacked her near the Great Hall and it was a very thoughtful student body that had gone to their beds that night.

 

Particularly after Connor had been heard to answer Hermione’s worried inquiry as to whether he should do something to help and he had turned to her with a look of blank astonishment and asked why he should rush to aid of a pair of bullying cowards like the unhappy Slytherins. And then proceeded to laugh his ass off when Dawn rammed Goyle head first into a suit of armour and smack the wobbling ass as it wriggled and squirmed in a bid to be free.

 

Classes were hard, Hermione had driven everyone crazy drawing up study schedules and homework groups until Connor had blown in self defence and locked her in his wardrobe for an hour in a bid for some peace. Dawn had finally managed to get the key from her boyfriend and released the scarlet and furious Hermione and it was a very lucky Connor that went to bed that night as a human rather than as a tub of custard. They seemed to be constantly in class, doing homework, working with Dawn to get her up to speed on magic, training until they could no longer stand with the tireless Connor or helping with Dawn’s forays into inter-dimensional portals. Harry had been almost too busy to realise that the Quidditch season had started but in the end he spent the afternoon of the first match of the season staring longingly out of the boys’ windows at the distant figures of the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor teams and then sunk into a funk that lasted three days when Gryffindor were trounced by their opponents and were beaten a massive 260 points to 90.

 

Now it was All Hallow’s Eve and the three girls of Durus Catenatus, or the ‘Budgies’ as the rest of the school had unkindly nicknamed them after seeing their mascot of the phoenix, sat in their common room and enjoyed their first afternoon of the term where they didn’t have a single thing to do.

 

Hermione sighed as she stared out of the common room window at the driving rain and the light fading from the October sky. “I am so bored.”

 

Ginny looked up from where she was half-heartedly playing exploding snap with Dawn and gave her own gusty sigh, “Tell me about it. I can’t believe that Dumbledore refused us permission to go to Hogsmeade this year.” She picked at a hole on her denim-clad thigh as she muttered, “And its not like we have any friends that will pick us anything up.”

 

Hermione sighed, “Its not like he had a lot of choice, Gin. From what the Daily Prophet’s been reporting Voldemort’s supporters have really started coming out of the woodwork. The last thing we need is to all go into the village and then get attacked by Death Eaters.” She gestured at Dawn, “And it’s unlikely that he knows who Dawn is yet. Imagine if she was taken along with us and we handed him the very person he’s searching for. Plus, away from school and the teachers, the other houses might have some ideas about getting funny with us again.” Hermione shrugged as the other two girls raised their eyebrows at her, “You know what I mean. Funnier than they have been. At least with the entire school pretending we don’t exist we stand a chance of making it through to the end of term without getting hexed by any of our supposed friends.”

 

Ginny cupped a hand around her jaw and sighed, “I know. But…it’s Hogsmeade.”

 

Dawn smiled sympathetically, “What did you need?”

 

“Need? Oh, I didn’t need anything.” Ginny shoved her hair back as it fell in her face, “I want half a dozen chocolate frogs, some of Bott’s beans, a look at the new dress robes and then several butterbeers.” The last of the cards exploded, “What I have is a piece of mouldy cheese and a half-chewed cockroach cluster. Yum.”

 

“Cheese?” Hermione turned away from the window and stared at Ginny, “Mouldy cheese?”

 

“Dobby.” Ginny shrugged and smiled, “He does his best but the other elves like him about as much the other houses like us and the kitchen scraps are pretty grim from that direction.”

 

“Things are pretty grim all round.” Hermione flopped her bottom down on the window seat and wrapped her arms around her raised knees, “These last few weeks have been hard on all of us.”

 

Dawn rubbed ruefully at her black eye, “You aren’t kidding. That damn demon got me good this morning.” That Saturday morning had been the latest in her sessions with Professor Dumbledore to develop her powers as the key and it hadn’t gone well. The attempt to open and hold a link to an uninhabited island in the Pacific had in fact resulted in opening a doorway to an unknown dimension that was inhabited by really big demons with a lot of arms and major issues towards the bipedal. To say the thing that came through the portal was pissed would be a slight understatement.

 

Thankfully Connor had been standing by with a sharp sword and an axe before the demon had done any more damage then smacking Dawn into the wall of their training room and snatching the Professor’s hat before cramming it into his mouth in lieu of the nimble old man as he dodged out of the way. They’d be scrubbing demon guts out of the training mat a month from now.

 

Dawn, the thought of Willow’s brush with dark magics always lurking at the back of her mind, had refused to be treated by Madam Pomfrey, insisting that she be left alone and that her eye had to be allowed to heal naturally. She was especially conscious of her own use of magic and made sure wherever possible that she did things the muggle way. Which now meant that she had to attend the Halloween feast with a bruised face and her left eye swollen shut.

 

“Does it hurt badly?” Ginny made to stand up, “I could make you a potion. Just for pain relief.” Ginny was well aware of Dawn’s uneasiness about interfering magically with the natural order of things after the last long, lonely weeks at school and it was a source of great private satisfaction to Professor Dumbledore that his plan had worked and strong bonds had been forged between all the Budgies in their enforced isolation.

 

“Nah.” Dawn motioned Ginny back down, “I’m just antsy.” She smirked at the pounding rain, “I wonder if the boys are having fun.” Connor had lead the miserable Harry and Ron into the rain two hours before for combat training, claiming that the rain was a good opportunity to see how they performed in difficult conditions. Dawn had been excused on account of her suspiciously sudden headache when Connor had suggested the practice and Hermione and Ginny had both been at the library and safely out of reach.

 

“I bet they’re soaking.” Hermione pressed her face to the window and shivered, “It looks so wet and cold out there.”

 

“Oh dear.” Ginny stretched her socked feet towards the roaring fire and wiggled them happily, “What a shame.” She was still smarting from an earlier argument with Ron involving her wand, two pounds of sugar and the impracticalities of turning Professor Snape into a human lollipop. Honestly, it wasn’t like the man couldn’t use a little sweetening and it was Halloween! And since when was Ronald Jonathan Weasley afraid of a pulling a prank on a teacher?

 

“Don’t be petty, Gin.” Dawn wagged a finger at the grinning girl and bounced to her feet, “It doesn’t become you.” Ignoring Ginny’s tongue as it was stuck out at her Dawn pulled her boots on, “I fancy a walk. Anyone want to come down to the hall and watch the duelling club?”

 

Ginny shook her head as Hermione nodded and grabbed her own boots, “Nope. I’m going to stay here and wait for Ron to come back and look extra-specially warm and cosy by the fire.” Her heart raced painfully in her chest and she sent a fervent prayer heavenwards that she didn’t look as guilty as she felt.

 

Hermione checked to make sure her wand was securely in her pocket and smiled at Ginny, “Are you sure? I dare say he won’t be pleasant when he gets in.”

 

“Is he ever?” Ginny made a shooing motion, “Honestly, I really can’t be bothered, you two go on.”

 

Dawn patted her own wand and nodded as she followed Hermione, “Ok, remind Connor that its dress robes tonight will you?” The two girls raised a hand in farewell and the door closed behind them. Ginny sat for a few moments and then when she was certain they’d gone stood up and raced up the stairs to the boy’s dormitories.






 

Connor held out a hand to Ron on the ground, “You ok?”

 

Ron gripped the other boy’s hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet, wincing at the sucking sound as his body parted company with the gungy ground, “Bloody marvellous. Can’t tell you how much I enjoy being knocked flat on my arse for the ninth time in a row.”

 

Connor grinned, “You’ll get used to it.”

 

“Great.” Ron wiped ineffectual hands down his legs in a bid to try and scrape some of the mud off his jeans, “Please tell me that’s it now.” He looked miserable in the driving rain with his hair plastered to his head and covered in black mud from head to foot. Although there was no denying that the intensive training sessions he and the others were undergoing with Connor and Dawn were really starting to pay off, Ron was really starting to question the obsession Connor had with training them in every conceivable weather and situation. Rain, sun, howling autumn gales, the dead of night, bright sunshine and the never to be forgotten day when Connor had them flying at full throttle through the edge of the forbidden forest while he fired arrows at them to test their reflexes, all good training, all totally exhausting.

 

Connor looked from Ron and then the equally bedraggled Harry by his side and smiled sympathetically, “Yeah. We’re done.” He rolled his shoulders and eyed the lights in the castle windows that looked even more welcoming than usual from his position in the pounding rain. “We should go get cleaned up before…” His head snapped round suddenly and he peered towards the outskirts of the Forbidden Forest, just visible in the gloom.

 

Ron and Harry exchanged worried looks and moved to Connor’s side. Ron spoke in a low voice, “What is it?” In one hand he gripped his wand and in the other the wooden stake that he and Harry had been training with for the last two hours.

 

“I don’t know…” Connor tried to shake the feeling of unease but his senses were screaming at him to pay attention to them, “I think I can…oh hell.”

 

Harry’s heart plummeted to his squelching boots, “Why does that not fill me with confidence?”

 

“Dammit.” Connor pointed towards the forest, “Do you see them?”

 

“See what?” Ron stared frantically into the darkness, “I don’t see anything, You’re just mucking about, right?”

 

“Connor.” Harry’s voice was low and filled with anxiety, “I see them.”

 

“What? See what?” Then Ron realised that Harry was facing in a completely different direction to Connor and his head turned to stare towards the Quidditch pitch, “Oh fuck.”

 

“It’s started.” Connor eyed the group of twenty or so vampires that were emerging from the forest and then glanced at the similar sized group that was advancing from the quidditch pitch. “He’s made his move.”

 

Ron looked up into the sky and pointed at the Dark Mark that hung in the sky over where he hazarded Hogsmeade should be, “Look.”

 

Connor and Harry glanced up. “What is it?” Connor frowned and then moved his eyes hastily back to the approaching demons.

 

“The Dark Mark. They’re attacking the village.” Harry swallowed and gripped his stake, “What do we do?”

 

“You’ve had the training, you’re ready for this.” Connor kept his voice low and calm, “You know what we have to do.”

 

“I’m really hoping you’re going to say run.” Ron swallowed unhappily as the sounds of demon snarls reached the three boys.

 

Connor’s mouth twitched in a cold smile and then he sighed as a white-faced boy was pulled out of the group of vampires coming out of the forest, “Not quite. They have a hostage.” He risked a look at the vampires advancing on his other side and saw that they had two terrified looking girls with them, “Make that three hostages. Why?”

 

Harry thought furiously for a moment, “Hogwarts is a residence, people live here. They needed an invite.”

 

“Shit.” Ron met the eyes of one of the girls and realised she was a fourth year Gryffindor that he had once played chess with on a rainy night much like this. “It’s alright, everything will be alright.”

 

The vampire holding the girl grinned at the Head Boy, flashing his fangs and teeth, “Guess again, fellas.” All three boys shouted in protest as the vampire raised a hand and ripped the girl’s throat out before their eyes. The girl stood stock still for a moment and raised her hand to her throat, blinking in shock as black blood spilled over her fingers and then her eyes rolled in her head and she crumpled to the ground to lay still.

 

Ron moved faster than he ever moved before in his life. He whipped his wand through the air and bellowed, “Amandatio Remedium!” The girl was snatched off the grounds by invisible hands and then hurtled through the air towards the school and away from the startled vampires.

 

“What the hell was that?” Connor tensed for the coming fight as he hissed at Ron out of the corner of his mouth, “Where did you send her?”

 

“Hospital wing.” Ron fought back the rising bile in his throat as he stared at the sobbing girl still left with the vampires, “They might be able to do something for her.”

 

Connor stayed silent for a moment and then said quietly, “They might not.”

 

“Either way we couldn’t leave her lying there.” Harry shook off the terrible fear and shock he felt at the vampire’s attack and forced himself to think calmly, “And we still have two hostages to set free. Connor?”

 

Connor was too busy frowning at the hooded figures that were appearing behind the vampires, “They’re new.” He sniffed the air, “And I think they’re human.”

 

Ron glanced back and blanched, “No they aren’t. They’re Death Eaters. Connor, we need help, we don’t stand a chance with only the three of us.”

 

Though it went against the grain for Connor to admit defeat, much less before so much as a punch had been thrown, he was forced to concede that Ron had a point. They were outnumbered at least twelve to one by his hasty calculations and despite his calm statement to Ron and Harry they were nowhere near ready to attempt a win against the vampires against those kind of odds. “Ok. Can we free the hostages?”

 

Harry thought quickly, “Yes. We can do that. Be ready to create some kind of diversion.” He lowered his voice and whispered to Ron, “Ready? To Dumbledore.” Ignoring the approaching Death Eaters Harry shouted, “Now, Connor!” He didn’t even get to finish the words before Connor launched himself at the demons with a yell as Ron and Harry pointed a wand each at the two hostages and screamed, “Amandatio Dumbledore!”

 

The effect was instantaneous and dramatic; the two hostages were ripped away from their captors and shot into the night sky, screaming with terror as they hurtled towards the school. Ron drew breath and then bellowed, “Incendio!” Flames shot from the end of his wand and blasted the foremost vampires as they advanced towards the boys and the night was suddenly alive with the whirling, blazing bodies and the screams of the demons as they died.

 

Harry ran after Connor and kicked out at a vampire as it reached for him, “Incendio!” The demon burst into flames and spun in panic, crashing into another demon behind it, “Connor, get down.” Connor dropped instantly to the floor at Harry’s yell and covered his head as another burst of flame shot over his head; he rolled to the side and jumped to his feet staring wildly about him and then somersaulted through the air to land next to Harry and grabbed his arm before running back to Ron’s side.

 

All around them were vampires screaming with pain and bursting in explosions of ash as they died from the boys’ spells. The Death Eaters were easing closer, still behind the protective wall of vampires but their wands were drawn and ready in their hands. Connor stared around himself, “Why aren’t they trying to kill us?” He punched away a grasping vampire and then kicked another in the face as it reached for him, “Why aren’t they using magic?”

 

Ron set another demon alight, “I don’t know. Don’t give them any bloody ideas!”

 

Harry backed away as a vampire grabbed at him, “They don’t want to kill us. They want us alive.” His eyes widened as a Death Eater raised its wand and he reacted instinctively. “Expelliarmus!” The wand flew into the night, “Or maybe they’re waiting till they get clear shots. Connor, we can’t take them all.”

 

Connor spun into a blur of fists and feet as he took on two vampires that got a little too close in the ever-shrinking circle around the boys, “Get out of here! I’ll hold them off as long as I can.”

 

“NO.” Ron struck out with his stake and growled as he missed the vampire’s heart and lost his weapon as the demon pulled back with it still stuck in his shoulder, “We aren’t leaving you.” He was shivering with terror and cold but his face was set as he looked around him, “We stay together.”

 

Connor punched another vampire, “Then we get taken together, you idiot. Get out of here.” He ducked a clawed hand and winced as another demon landed a kick in his ribs, “GO!”

 

“HARRY!” Harry’s head jolted up at the sound of a hoarse scream and he felt his mouth drop open as a hooded figure bore down on them from above on a broom and clutching another in his hand.

 

“Bloody hell!” Ron forced his eyes away from their would-be saviour hurtling towards them and snapped his wand through the air once more, “Incendio!” Demons exploded into flames all around them as Harry and Ron provided covering fire for the rescue attempt and Connor went into overdrive to cull the snarling mob. The person on the broom pulled out of his steep dive and flew straight through the screaming demons; swearing as he dodged blasts from Death Eater wands and threw the spare broom at Harry, “Go! Boy, give me your hand!”

 

Connor hesitated for a minute, saw Professor Dumbledore appear behind the Death Eaters and then the rest of the faculty were suddenly beside him. “Boy, come on!”

 

“Connor!” Connor saw Ron and Harry already astride their broom and still blasting fire at the demons as their teachers began to engage the Death Eaters. Connor ran for the other broom and swung himself up behind the figure, “Go!” The brooms took off from the ground, slightly slower than usual thanks to their unusually heavy loads and ascended into the sky surrounded by hastily aimed curses from the desperate Death Eaters. Connor stared back over his shoulder and his eyes widened as he caught sight of the main entrance to the school and the flood of bodies bursting through the doors.

 

“Harry, Ron, we have to get to the school!” Connor was afraid for a minute that his words had been torn away in the slipstream and then he saw Ron turn and stare behind him and yell urgently in Harry’s ear. Harry tugged sharply at the broom handle between his thighs and sent them hurtling back towards the school. Connor clutched grimly at the person controlling his own broomstick as they went after his friends and followed them to the besieged castle.





 

Ginny Weasley blinked in horror at the smirking boy before her. Bad enough she should get caught deep behind enemy lines but the shame of being caught by Draco Malfoy was enough to make her want to fall into the nearest hole and never see the light of the sun again.

 

The blond Slytherin grinned nastily at her, as she stood frozen in the dim lights of the Slytherin common room and, without taking his eyes from her white face, took his wand from his pocket and pointed it over his shoulder at the door behind him. Before Ginny could react he had spoken the words of a binding charm and the door glowed briefly as it locked itself against her. Malfoy smoothly returned his wand to the inside of his cloak and strolled over to a deep chair in front of the roaring fire, he sank down in its depths with a pleased sigh and leaned his head against the leather back. He allowed the silence to stretch for another few minutes before steepling his fingers under his chin and raising one perfectly shaped eyebrow, “Well?”

 

Ginny was torn between wanting to give herself completely to the panic that surged in her now she was at his mercy and the fear of exactly what Ron and the others were going to do to her when they found out about the night’s events. On balance she decided she was more worried by the immediate threat of the smirking evil guy than a possible brotherly beating some hours hence. She swallowed uneasily, although the chances of receiving the brotherly beating were growing slimmer every second she was at Malfoy’s dubious mercy.

 

Ok, Ginny, think. What would Hermione or Dawn do in a situation like this?

 

The red head’s fingers fluttered uneasily against her denim-clad legs, she shivered slightly inside the baggy hand me down sweater of Fred’s that she wore, sighing in irritation with herself.

 

Well, for a start, they wouldn’t have been stupid enough to catch Harry’s invisibility cloak on a chair and have it fall off just as Draco Malfoy of all people was in exactly the right position to catch them breaking into the Slytherin common room. Idiot .

 

Ginny gave another irritated sigh

 

Good job, by the way. Really. Excellent work, Ginny.

 

She forced herself to stand tall under Malfoy’s cool speculative gaze and avoid looking at the invisibility cloak now pooled uselessly at her feet as she managed to say steadily, “What are you going to do?”

 

Malfoy’s nasty little smile widened until it was a great big grin, “Anything I want to.”

 

Ginny refused to acknowledge the shiver of apprehension that rippled down her spine and instead squared her shoulders to say, “My brother is going to bloody kill you.”

 

Malfoy continued looking at her coolly and then gave a cold little laugh, “I don’t think so.” He brushed some imaginary dust from his immaculate black robes and glanced up at her from under his eyelashes, “I think we both know that little Ronnie holds no fears for me.” Ginny’s eyes flickered from side to side as though searching for an escape route and Malfoy slouched lower in his chair and said calmly, “You take one step in any direction and I’ll put the body bind curse on you, and then all hope really will be lost, eh Weasley?”

 

Ginny tensed as though she was preparing to make a bolt for it and then suddenly his wand was in his hand and pointing dead centre at her chest. Malfoy didn’t even give her the small grace of leaning forward in anticipation, just cocked his head to one side and drawled, “Don’t make me do it.” They stared at each other for a few seconds more and then slowly Ginny forced her body to relax, Malfoy nodded shortly and gestured sharply with his wand, “Come and sit down.”

 

Ginny forced her feet to begin to move and slowly began to make her way across the carpet towards the chair opposite Malfoy. He kept his eyes on her as she lowered herself into the chair and then pursed his lips as he considered her bone white face. Ginny flinched when he flicked and pointed his wand and then a cup of steaming hot chocolate appeared on the small table at her side and a plate of steaming chocolate cookies.

 

She stared at him incredulously for a moment and he stifled a chuckle at the absolute amazement on her face, he took a moment to compose his features to the appropriate level of menace and then sneered, “You look like you’re going to faint at any moment, I prefer my victims conscious and able to scream.” Ginny looked uneasy at his calm words and he rolled his eyes impatiently, “For Merlin’s sake, Weasel.” Malfoy stood in one easy move and snagged a cookie from the plate without looking, “They aren’t poisoned, look.” He took a large bite and then grabbed the mug of chocolate and took a healthy swig, he coughed and said with watering eyes, “A bit hot maybe, but not poisoned.”

 

Ginny cautiously accepted the cookie he thrust into her hand and shrank back in her chair as he retook his seat. Draco cocked his head and studied the object of his unwanted dreams for the past few months. Nope, still skinny, still had orange hair and she was still horribly disfigured and he still had no bloody clue why his most pressing concern so far this term seemed to be getting her alone and possibly naked.

 

Of course the chances of that happening had rocketed since he had re-entered his common room so suddenly that he had startled her into falling against a chair and dislodging her concealing robe. Malfoy flashed an unconsciously wolfish grin and frowned as Ginny jumped slightly in her seat, “You know Weasley, with all the ruddy brothers you have at home, you’d think you’d have a bit more spine in you.”

 

Ginny’s hands tightened on her cookie and she gasped in dismay when it broke in a shower of crumbs over the chair and the expensive looking rug on the floor. Her eyes darted up to Malfoy’s again and she winced at the faint look of disgust in his eyes, “I…I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to, you’re just making me nervous.” She straightened in her chair and said defiantly, “And I do have spine, you know I do. My brothers just don’t make a habit of locking me in a room and threatening to body bind me when I have no hope of defending myself, that’s all.”

 

Draco popped another morsel of cookie in his mouth, “More fool them. Perhaps if they had done that, then you wouldn’t be risking their mighty wrath when they find out where you’ve been tonight. And do you seriously mean to tell me you came here without your wand?”

 

Ginny couldn’t help the slight wince at his words. Oh, Ron was going to kill her! Her hands twisted together nervously, “I…forgot it.” Or she’d grabbed one of Fred and George’s trick wands in her haste to get out the door before Connor and the others returned. Whatever. She tilted her chin and glared at him, “What are you going to do?”

 

Malfoy cocked his head consideringly, saying slowly, “Well, that rather depends on you. I could call Professor Snape right now and report you. Breaking into another house’s quarters is serious, you know. You’ll likely have every point your house has earned stripped from them and some they haven’t earned yet.” Ginny winced. Great, dishonour and a violent, painful death at the hands of her ever-loving brother. Her life was going so well.

 

Malfoy nodded to himself as she began to tremble in the chair, “I see that doesn’t hold quite as much appeal for you as it does for me.” He leaned forward in his chair so suddenly that Ginny was embarrassed into a short scream, “Tell me what you were looking for and how the bloody hell you got in here and I might let you get out of here in one piece.”

 

Hmm, tell Draco Malfoy that she had reason to believe there was another secret chamber hidden inside the Slytherin common room, yet again courtesy of Salazar Slytherin, that may possibly hold the key to the destruction of the wizard that most of the Slytherins worshipped like he was a combination of Merlin and John Lennon? Not likely. “I…I can’t.”

 

Draco leaned over to snag some silvery powder from a little golden cauldron besides his chair, “Very well, you leave me no alternative but to summon Professor Snape.”

 

He drew back his arm to hurl the powder into the fire and Ginny yelled, “No!” She looked desperately between his hand and the fire and then sagged in pretended defeat, “Please no. I’ll tell you what you want to know.”

 

Malfoy’s face flooded with triumph for a moment and then he slowly lowered his hand to his lap, still tightly grasping the powder, “Get on with it then.”

 

Ginny bit her lip and stared beseechingly into his eyes for a moment before finally acknowledging that she really had no option but to make up the most convincing lie she could think of and hope against hope that he was arrogant enough in his power over her to fall for it. “I came looking for anything that might help us in our research on the Dark Lord.” Draco remained silent as she twisted her hands nervously together and then blurted, “I’ve already done Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw.” Please, please don’t let me start to blush!

 

Malfoy pursed his lips together silently and then frowned, “And how did you manage to sneak your way in here?”

 

Ginny shifted uncomfortably and then decided reluctantly on the truth for this particular question, “I…I overheard Crabbe in the Great Hall telling Goyle the new password this morning.”

 

Malfoy rolled his eyes, “Bloody typical.” He raised his wand slightly as she made to stand up, “Where do you think you’re going? Sit down.”

 

Ginny’s mouth fell open in horror, “But I told you everything.”

 

The older boy grinned disarmingly at her, “And I don’t remember saying you could leave. I need to think for a minute.”

 

He got to his feet and stood staring down at the fire for a moment, before swinging round and fixing her with a level stare, “Your brother and Potter sent you on this little mission aware of the risk you were running if you got caught?”

 

Ginny flushed unhappily, “They don’t know I’m here. They’re out with Connor.”

 

She scowled at him suddenly, “And everyone is meant to be at Hogsmeade anyway, what are you doing here?”

 

Draco blinked at her and then returned the scowl, “That’s none of your bloody business.” He folded his arms across his chest and his face fell into thoughtful lines as he continued to look down on her, once or twice he grimaced as though a bad smell had passed under his nose and then, finally, he gave a sharp, decisive nod. “Right, here’s the deal. I’m going to let you out of here.” He held up a hand to forestall her questions, “Let me finish. You get out of here and you don’t come back. I’m changing the password tonight and I’ll make damn sure that you don’t have access to it again.”

 

He gave a huge, pissed off sigh, “However, I am going to give you the password to my prefects office. You know where it is?” Ginny nodded dumbly, “If you think the Slytherins may be in possession of anything that may help you then you come and see me and I will decide whether or not to give it to you. Do not tell Potter or your infernal brother about this and don’t ever bring anyone but yourself with you. Understand?”

 

Ginny nodded again, and hoped she didn’t look as shell-shocked as she felt. She swallowed quickly and managed to whisper, “Are you serious?”

 

Draco grinned suddenly at the disbelieving look on her face, “Yes, I’m serious.”

 

Ginny eyed him cautiously, “Why? Why would you help Harry and Ron and why would you help me?”

 

Malfoy gave an uncomfortable shrug, “Because as much as I hate you, Potter and your whole rotten family I hate the thought of the Dark Lord returning more. Things were…untidy under his control and I don’t want to play a part in bringing those times back.” He rolled his shoulders under his cloak and stared at the floor for a moment, thinking of the rescue of Snape, the battle for the school and the scenes at his own home over the summer when a muggle family unwittingly ran into some Death Eaters in the woods near his house. He swallowed the sudden taste of bile in his mouth as the youngest child’s screams sounded again in his ears and muttered, “Just because I happen to be in his house, it doesn’t mean I am him, anymore than any other Slytherin is. Do you understand?”

 

Ginny shook her head, “No.”

 

Malfoy opened his mouth to give a caustic reply when a loud banging came at the door. Ginny jumped and the two exchanged startled looks before Draco grabbed her wrist and yanked her to her feet, “Not a word!”

 

Ginny squeaked with fright as she found herself bundled under his robes, then pulled hurriedly for a few steps before being shoved down and pushed back against something hard. Seconds later Draco’s warm back pressed firmly against her and he whispered harshly, “Don’t move and don’t make a sound. Damn” Ginny felt his arm rise and heard the words “Accio cloak!” before the slippery folds of the invisibility cloak were bundled under his robes to her. She grabbed the material and shut her eyes as he muttered the counter curse to unbind the door, then the room suddenly filled with irritable voices. She whimpered involuntarily, he pressed back sharply to silence her and then his back rumbled against her cheek as he drawled, “What’s the matter with you lot? Hogsmeade even deader than usual?”

 

Ginny stiffened as she heard Pansy Parkinson say icily, “No, we just couldn’t stand the appalling weather anymore, which you’d know if you had bothered showing up at all.” There was a brief pause and then the girl continued spitefully, “Although it looks as though you had a little party all to yourself up here without us. And why was the door locked?”

 

Draco frowned and followed her pointed gaze, to see Ginny’s cookies and cold chocolate still on the table by the girl’s abandoned chair. Ginny felt rather than heard the low growl go through him and she shivered as he said grimly, “I wasn’t aware that my eating arrangements were of such interest to you, Pansy.” His muscles tensed under Ginny’s cheek as she tried to edge further back into the chair’s recesses, she gave a light gasp when he slouched back against her firmly and said, “In the future, I’ll be sure and discuss my schedule with you at all times. Now if you’ve finished your impression of an impossibly nagging wife, I think it’s time you went to get ready for the feast. All of you.”

 

Ginny held her breath at the sudden startled silence. Unconsciously her fingers dug into Malfoy’s shirt fabric and she pressed her forehead against his shoulder blades as she waited for the other members of Slytherin house to obey.

 

Pansy’s fat, pug face turned an unattractive splotchy red and she spluttered disbelievingly, “Bu...but...it’s only half past five and this is the common room, you can’t order us out of it.”

 

Draco cocked an eyebrow and said coolly, “I think you’ll find I can do whatever I please while I’m head prefect of this house. I don’t feel like sitting and listening to you lot twitter on like a bunch of idiots for the next hour, so the lot of you will get to your rooms, get into your dress robes and stay there until I say it’s time to leave, is that clear?” He paused and then said silkily, “That is unless anyone really fancies calling me out on a duel and being transfigured into a commode for the night.”

 

Ginny listened to the sudden scrambling of hasty feet as his fellow house members fled before his cool threat and then Malfoy said in a low voice, “You’ll have to stay there for a moment in case anyone comes back down.” Ginny nodded and then her mouth fell slightly open in surprise as he continued gruffly, “Are you alright?”



She swallowed and managed to stutter, “Ye…yes. Thank you.” One shoulder lifted in a shrug and then they sat silently for a time.

 

Ginny felt her eyes begin to droop as the warmth under the robes steadily increased. The heat of Malfoy’s body was pulsing against her own and she felt her head begin to drop more than once. She pinched herself hard on the back of her hand several times, desperate not to fall asleep but finally the stress of the last hour and the stuffy heat became too much for her and she drifted into sleep with her cheek pillowed against her unlikely saviour’s back.

 

Malfoy sat with the Weasley girl under his robes for another ten minutes before he was reasonably sure that he’d put the fear of Voldemort into the other students and it was safe to get the redhead out. He allowed himself another few moments to enjoy the feel of her surprisingly relaxed body against his, rolled his eyes, mentally kicked himself and then spoke in a low voice, “We’d better go now.” There was no reply under his cloak and he frowned slightly, “Hey, girl, you can come out now.” Still no response.

 

He made to sit up and nearly garrotted himself as his robes stayed put under the weight of the girl currently hiding under it. Muttering a stream of vicious swear words under his breath, he reached up and undid his cloak. Carefully he slipped his arms out of the sleeves and then stood, clothed only in his all black trousers and t-shirt to glare down at the huddled black mass that hid Ginny Weasley.

 

Malfoy reached down slowly and pulled back the heavy material to reveal the sister of Ron Weasley, the person Draco hated most in the world after Harry sodding Potter, curled up in his favourite armchair fast asleep. Her hair was stuck to her sweaty face and she was a quite stunning shade of red after her enforced sauna, but she still looked surprisingly pretty to the prefect’s eyes. He growled and scowled menacingly at the sudden twinge of lust he felt and leaned down to hiss, “Wake up!” Ginny stirred uneasily but then settled down again to cuddle into the depression in the leather left by his body. Malfoy rolled his eyes in exasperation and took hold of her shoulder to shake her briskly, “Weasley, wake up!”

 

Ginny awoke with a start and, displaying the razor sharp reflexes she’d managed to hone over the years spent sharing a house with Fred and George, hauled off and punched him in the eye before her own had fully opened. Malfoy yelled with pain and surprise as he staggered back and Ginny took full advantage of his momentary loss of control to jump from the chair and make a break for it. However uncharacteristically lenient he had been over her transgression she was fairly sure that whatever truce they had managed to come to had been destroyed when she had injured his face for the second time in a term.

 

Malfoy’s mouth twisted with rage, “Oh I don’t think so.” He ran after the fleeing girl and took her down with a heavy tackle ten feet from the door. All the breath left Ginny’s body as she hit the floor, fortunately cutting off the terrified scream that burst from her lips that would have surely alerted the other members of Slytherin to her presence. Draco grabbed her shoulder to roll her onto her back and then straddled her waist before capturing her wrists to pin her beneath him on the floor. Ginny thrashed in panic and then they both froze in horror as they heard a voice on the stairs to the dorms.

 

“Malfoy? What’s going on?”

 

Draco glared down at the white face below him, “Not a word.” He turned his head towards the stairs, “Nothing Crabbe, I spilt some ink on my robes. Go back upstairs.” He cursed savagely as two huge feet came into view on the stairs and yelled furiously, “You take another step and I swear it’ll be your last with both feet attached. Do as I say and go back upstairs.” The feet froze and then slowly backed up the stairs and out of view. There were another few tense moments of silence and then Ginny jumped as a savagely angry face swooped down to hers to hiss, “What the bloody hell was that about?”

 

“I…I’m sorry. I panicked.” Ginny blinked as Draco’s nose touched the tip of her own.

 

“You hit me. Again.” Draco tightened his grip on her wrists and spat angrily, “I can’t tell you how much I’m beginning to hate that.”

 

Ginny writhed for a moment beneath him and then stilled, “Well, maybe if you didn’t keep threatening me and being horrid I wouldn’t keep hitting you!” She gasped for breath and shifted again, aware that if he just moved a few inches up her body she would be able to get a clear shot at his unprotected crotch with her knee.

 

“I did not threaten you and I am not horrid.” Malfoy’s mouth twisted in annoyance as Ginny snorted and he continued, “You broke into my house’s dormitories. I think under the circumstances I’ve been very reasonable.” Much to Ginny’s annoyance he eased back until he rested his backside on her thighs and kept a tight hold on her wrists to pin her in place, “I don’t understand how such a tiny thing can do so much damage to a person.”

 

Ginny glared, “Just because I’m a little smaller than you doesn’t mean I’m weak. I grew up with Fred and George, you know? You learn things.”

 

Now he’d got over his initial annoyance at being smacked in the face yet again by the youngest Weasley, Malfoy found himself quite enjoying the situation they now found themselves in. Although his worst nightmare would be for Ginny to discover the irrational effect she had on his normally excellent senses, Draco was not above indulging in his attraction to the girl if he could use it as the excuse to exert his power and control over her. The feel of her slim body between his thighs and thump of the pulse in her wrist against his fingers was making things happen in his pants that were most enjoyable and he was especially getting a kick out of the wild, wary look in her eyes. Oh yeah, nothing like a little power to get you buzzing.

 

“A little smaller?” Malfoy grinned, “My dear Weasel, in case you haven’t noticed, I stand a good foot above you and I probably out weigh you twice over. Compared to me you are as insignificant as a mouse to a hawk.” He leaned forward again and quickly moved to clasp her wrists together in one hand before trailing the other along her cheek, “And you still owe me for the little debacle in the library. You have no idea of the damage I could do to you, darling, and I’m afraid there is nothing you could do to stop me.”

 

Ginny’s eyes widened as his cool fingers skimmed her scar and her body began to tremble under his as she felt the sudden hard bulge in his trousers press intimately against her, “No…don’t touch me like that…”

 

Malfoy was very much afraid he couldn’t stop. Who would have thought that her skin would feel so delicate and warm, or that her hair would tangle so enticingly around his fingers when he touched it? “Ssh. It’s alright.” His hand trailed down hr neck and he pulled a long finger over her small collarbone before skimming up to trail around her lips, “Be still.”

 

Ginny’s eyes filled with terrified tears as Malfoy stared at her mouth and licked his own lips, eyes glazed and heavy with an indefinable emotion. She was surrounded by the weight of him and could feel what she imagined to be the evidence of his arousal twitch against the apex of her thighs as he leaned towards her, “Don’t touch me like that.” She flung her head to the side and said in hoarse desperation, “I’ll scream!”

 

Draco shook his head and managed to get a hand over her opening mouth before she could release the beginnings of a yell, “No! Don’t be stupid, you’ll have them all down here.” He stared at her terrified eyes and felt sudden nausea at the fear and hate in them, “Don’t scream. I’m going to let you up now and then I’m going to give you your cloak and walk you out to the great hall, ok?”

 

Ginny’s eyes were huge in her white face, “Weasley, Ginny, do you understand me? I’m not going to hurt you. It was just payback for hitting me. I’m not going to do anything to you.” He belatedly realised that sitting on top of Ginny and still pinning her to the floor wasn’t the best position to be in when trying to convince her that she had nothing to fear from him. Slowly he eased off her, still keeping his hand on her mouth, until he knelt beside her, “There. I’m going to take my hand away now and it’s very important that you don’t make a sound, alright?” Ginny nodded jerkily and Draco took his hand slowly from her face.

 

“My wrists.” Ginny tugged at the hand still holding her arms stretched above her head, “Please…”

 

Draco hurriedly released her arms and then felt the decidedly unfamiliar stab of shame when she rolled away from him and scrambled to her feet, pressing back against the wall as she blinked back tears, “Don’t you ever…You disgusting, horrid…Don’t ever put your hands on me again.” Ginny’s freckles stood out sharply against the shocked paleness of her skin and she trembled with reaction as she spat her words at him.

 

Malfoy climbed to his feet and tried desperately to pull himself together and somehow repair the situation with the right words. Although he cheerfully admitted to being a bully and all round git, he had never, in all the time since he had first noticed girls, ever had the urge to physically hurt them. It was amusing to see how much emotional pain he could occasionally inflict on the twits that fluttered around him, just to see how much they could take before retreating into tears and recriminations, but the actual idea of making them physically afraid of him had never appealed. He stared at her wordlessly as she shook, watching him fearfully and took a step towards her, stopping when she flinched, “Ginny, I’m not going to hurt you. I…”

 

Ginny gave a sob, cutting off the first apology that he’d ever willingly offered another person in his life, “Stay away from me, you vile bastard.” She held out a warning hand and blinked back more tears, missing the look of pain on his face at her words, “Just give me my cloak and let me out of here.”

 

Malfoy turned, staring blankly back into the common room and then walked blindly to the chair to retrieve her cloak. He picked it up and stood for a moment before walking back to Ginny and holding it out to her, “Here.”

 

Ginny snatched it away from him and threw it over herself, finally letting the tears flood out now she was hidden from his eyes, “Let me out.”

 

“I meant what I said. I want to help you.” Draco stared at the spot where he guessed Ginny still stood, “The password to my room is Fidus.”

 

“We don’t need your help.” Ginny moved as quietly as she could towards the door and then wrenched it open, “Stay away from me.”

 

Malfoy heard the rustle as she climbed through the door and jumped after her, “Ginny, wait…” He cursed as he heard the sound of her running feet and stared helplessly into the dim corridor. “Idiot.” He smacked his hand against the wall, “You absolute fucking idiot.” He reached to slam the door shut and then paused as a distant scream echoed from up in the castle. Draco cocked his head to the side uneasily and strained his ears, snarling furiously as he heard another terrified yell. It sounded like trouble had once again come to Hogwarts and Ginny Weasley was heading right into it. He spun and raced for his own cloak, making sure his wand was securely inside before flinging it around his shoulders and barrelling through the door in Ginny’s wake.

 

Chapter Text

 

Dawn and Hermione were perched comfortably on the edge of Ravenclaw’s dining table happily oblivious to the dramas being played out by their housemates around the school and were watching as Professor Thenarus, the new DADA teacher, instructed the first and second years that were too young to go to Hogsmeade in the basics of disarming their opponent. Dawn swung her legs idly and smiled at a young Hufflepuff making the boy blush deeply and turn away, “They look so cute with their little wands and stuff.”

 

Hermione watched as the chosen representative from Gryffindor was blown off his feet by the one from Slytherin and smacked down onto the hard surface of the Gryffindor table. “Oh yes. Incredibly cute.” The boy pushed himself to his feet and staggered back to an en guard position, “They’re just like little kittens.” The mechanics of disarming the opposite person was lost in the sudden need to see just how many pieces the two boys could blow each other into. The professor shouted with alarm as the young Gryffindor, with a roar of approval from his housemates, waved his wand, screamed a curse and the young Slytherin was suddenly blasted backwards through the open hall doors.

 

“Ouch.” Dawn winced, “That had to hurt.”

 

Hermione nodded as the new teacher was suddenly lost in a sea of yelling and shoving children, “Perhaps I should lend a hand.” A shower of sparks went up from the centre of the jostling crowd of kids and she jumped off the table, “Make that definitely.”

 

Dawn hopped down behind her, “Want help?”

 

Hermione shook her head, “No. Will you go and check on the kid that just got knocked out the door?” Dawn nodded and moved off as Hermione headed towards the professor’s aid. Her eyes narrowed and she pointed a finger at a second year Gryffindor stealthily aiming a wand at the backside of a skinny Slytherin girl, “I see one spark, MacGregor and there’ll be no feast and a lot of bed pans in your future!”

 

Dawn grinned to herself as she walked briskly through the hall doors while Hermione began to restore order with the confident authority that the rather dazed professor lacked and her eyes skipped quickly over the corridor outside as she searched for the vanquished Slytherin, “Kid? Hey, Slytherie? You ok?” She felt an uneasy prickle between her shoulder blades as she looked at the floor that was empty of any evidence of a slightly flattened eleven year old and shivered at the strong breeze blowing up the passageway from the main castle doors.

 

Dawn looked back over her shoulder at Hermione as she began to stridently lecture the large group of children and making sure she kept in her friend in her line of sight, Dawn edged further away from the doors. She frowned as she thought she heard the sound of a brief scream floating in from outside and the hairs on the back of neck rose in warning, “Oh crap. Herm…oof!” The warning shout to her friend was cut off as a cold, dead fist smacked into her jaw and sent her skidding across the stone floor. Dawn rolled as soon as she hit the ground and came to her feet, looking wildly around her to see vampires flooding up the steps from the front door and already blocking one of the passageways leading into the school and away from the hall. “Holy shit.” Dawn’s eyed the demons grimly as they moved towards her and then heard the first terrified scream sound from the great hall, “This can’t be good. Hey!”

 

The vampires that were moving into the hall and towards the defenceless children inside paused as Dawn yelled out to them, “Hey! You don’t want them; trust me, all stringy and anaemic. They’re British! Come bite me, I’m from Sunnydale. Chock full of Hellmouth zing!” Hermione’s urgent voice sounded from inside the room as she started to try to get the children to safety and the demons’ attention began to wander back in that direction. Dawn grabbed the hem of her sweater and yanked it over her head, leaving herself in a white training vest that bared her neck and arms and yelled desperately, “Look, all the nummy goodness you can swallow! And I have some Slayer in me. Mmm, Slayer-y treat.!”

 

That got their attention. “Slayer?”

 

Dawn moved a few inches to the left nearly laughing with relief when the demons turned their heads to follow her movement, “Uh-huh. Slayer sub, get it while it’s hot!”

 

“Liar.” A grey haired vampire sniffed the air, “You are no slayer.”

 

“Nope. She’s my sister, though. Same blood deal going on.” Dawn moved again, making sure to keep her hair away from her neck as she bared it towards them, “All mega-spicy with slay-gal potential.”

 

“We’ll get to you, girl.” What appeared to be the leader, a rather wrinkly man who looked to have been about sixty when he died, motioned to three demons next to him, “Get her and bring her to me. The rest of you get the children.”

 

Dawn cursed and jumped up onto the wide stone railing, “Were you not listening? Sla-yer blood here.” She sprung into the air as a vampire grabbed at her legs curling into a ball to somersault down some seven feet further along the rail, “Look, people are going to get hurt...”

 

“Yes, you.” The vampire in charge watched in irritation as Dawn evaded the vampires going after her yet again, cart wheeling through the air to snatch an ornamental axe from the wall and slice the head from a snarling female vampire as she landed beside her. Dawn blurred as she attacked the two vamps nearest to her and then she was standing in a settling cloud of ashes. The leader’s eyes glowed a furious gold, “Stop her!”

 

“Atchoo!” Dawn sneezed violently, rubbing hard at her itching nose, “Dammit, it’s only been a couple of months!” She ducked a rush by two large males and nimbly skirted a slender girl’s two-inch long talons, “I can’t believe I forgot how irritating it is when you breathe vamp dust in.” There was a strangled scream as she flung herself to the floor, cut the axe along a vampire hamstring and then rolled forward to spring to her feet again. “Note to self: Next time wear mask.” Dawn twisted to the side wincing as someone’s claws raked along her back and she felt the trickle of hot blood against her skin, “Nearly…” The axe swung through the air taking the head from a large black man, “Try again. Ooops, you can’t, you’re dead. Next.”

 

“She’s one girl, how hard can it be?!” The leader looked on in disbelief as Dawn settled into the familiar rhythm of fighting hordes of demons for her life, “Take her down!”

 

Dawn’s eyes widened as the demons rushed at her in a large, snarling bundle, “Hey, no fair!” She swung out with the axe, kicking out as the vamps broke and then formed a circle four bodies deep all around her, “Dammit, come at me in ones or twos!” She pulled the axe back over her shoulder to give her the extra force she needed to separate heads from bodies in front of her and screamed in rage as it was snatched away leaving her with two fists, two feet and a pitifully small cross around her neck.

 

Dawn hit out and kicked away as many vampires as she could but there were just too many of the demons to fight, plus their numbers were so high they were able to use the very effective method of closing in on her until there was no room to even turn much less punch anyone. Two wary male vampires took hold of her arms and dragged her across the floor on her knees until she was staring up at the leader. He smiled coldly and slammed a fist into her already swollen eye and Dawn obligingly gave a pain filled scream, hoping that if she at least pretended to be more beaten than she was then they might let their guards down a notch. Her heart thumped painfully as from the hall terrified screams and yells began to sound. “Shit.” Dawn shook her head dazedly and bit hard at the inside of her mouth until her eyes filled with tears, “Please, let them go. They’re just children.”

 

There was a frightened cry in the middle of the group of vampires and then the struggling, terrified figure of the young Slytherin was passed from demon to demon until the leader held him dangling above the floor with his neck bared. The pitiful expression on Dawn’s face melted away into one of homicidal rage, “You lay one fang on him and I swear to God I will kill you. A lot.”

 

The vampire kept his eyes locked on Dawn’s as he leaned forward and very deliberately scraped a single fang in a line down the boy’s neck “Noooo!” Dawn thrashed and screamed as the boy’s eyes rolled up in his head in terror and the vampire’s head reared back to strike the killing blow, “No! Come bite me, for god’s sake, bite me!” The vampire opened its mouth to reveal its fangs, his head moved in a fast downward strike…and then it suddenly exploded in a ball of ash.

 

“Wow.” Dawn blinked, “That’s never happened before.” She looked hopefully at the shocked demons as the child fell to the floor in an unconscious tangle of limbs and said again, “Come bite me?” There was a definite lack of any more demons exploding. Dawn sighed, “Dammit.”

 

All eyes turned to the right as a female vampire screamed, clutching at her chest where a sharp wooden point was pushing out through her shirt and then she burst over the floor. Dawn’s eyes widened and she looked worriedly around her as the demons began push and shove against each other as they panicked, “Um…what’s going on?” Another vampire screamed, clutched its chest and exploded only this time Dawn had caught a glimpse of a slim white arm clutching a makeshift stake before it winked out of sight. Unfortunately she wasn’t the only one.

 

“There’s someone else here!” A young looking vampire stared hard at the spot where the arm had been and sniffed the air, “I can smell them. They’re using magic to stay hidden.”

 

Dawn’s heart leapt into her throat as she thought for a moment that Harry or Ron had somehow managed to slip unnoticed between the vampires wearing the invisibility cloak. She was fairly confident that it wasn’t Connor as all the demons were still standing and there were no severed limbs scattered over the floor. From the corner of her eye she saw the arm strike out again and her heart plummeted back to its usual position in these circumstances: her boots. Unless Ron or Harry had suddenly shrunk by a good half a foot it was unlikely they were the ones trying to save her ass.

 

The vampires all began sniffing the air as they prowled slowly through the space, leaving Dawn twisting and struggling in her captors grasp when the screams from the hall increased in volume. Dammit, where the hell were the teachers? A fist cuffed her round the side of her head, Dawn saw stars for a moment before a shrill scream ripped through the air and Ginny Weasley was divested of her protective cloak and backhanded across the cold floor. “NO! Ginny!” Dawn tried to rise to her feet and shouted furiously as cold hands forced her to stay on the floor, “Leave her alone!”

 

Ginny screamed again as she was dragged up by her long hair and then pulled along behind a laughing demon. Dawn stared into the eyes of the new leader and said truthfully, “If you don’t let her go right now you’re going to make me do something I’m going to really hate.”

 

“Oh yeah, what’s that?” The vampire gestured for Ginny to be forced onto her knees, “You gonna turn us all into frogs?”

 

“No.” Dawn shook her head, “Worse. Much, much worse.” She tried to look at Ginny beside her but the vampires gripped her hair forcing her to remain kneeling in rigid supplication before them, “I’m warning you. I’ve never tried this before and I’m not even sure it’ll work but if it does things aren’t going to be pretty.”

 

Some vampires shifted uneasily away from Dawn’s immediate vicinity but most remained in a loose circle around her and Ginny grinning with arrogant amusement. Dawn nodded to herself, “Ok, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She sighed deeply and muttered, “I really don’t want to do this. It’s so humiliating.” She locked her eyes on the vampire in front of her and her chest swelled as she took a huge gulp of air, “Connooor! HELLLLPPP!”

 

“That’s it?” Ginny trembled in the hold of the vampires and blinked in shocked horror, “That’s your big plan?” She chewed her lip as cold fingers bit into her wrist and almost wished she were back in the Slytherin common room under Malfoy. At least he wouldn’t have bitten her. Well, actually, thinking about the look in his eyes maybe he…No! Ginny shook herself mentally. Don’t even go there, as Dawn would say. Ever.

 

“Pretty much.” Dawn struggled frantically as she was dragged to her feet and her head forced to the side, “He might be out of range.”

 

“Or not.” Connor’s voice came from high above their heads, “Harry, Ron, I got this. Go help Hermione!” Ginny cried out with surprise as Connor suddenly dropped down in front of her, punching the vampire holding her so hard that he flew over the balcony rail ten feet away and disappeared screaming down the stairs. Connor nodded at Ginny, pulled her protectively behind him and then turned to grin at Dawn, “Hello, lover.”





 

Inside the hall, Hermione had managed, along with Professor Thenarus, to get all the children behind a ring of fire but the panicked students were coming to the point where they stopped listening to their protectors and were pushing and shoving at each other in a bid to stay away from the snarling demons trying to reach them through the white-hot flames.

 

“Everybody stay calm!” Hermione raised her voice to be heard above the screaming and roar of the fire, “Help’s on its way. Stay still or you’ll be burned!” She met the eyes of the small, dark professor and they exchanged looks of mutual desperation. Hermione risked a glance behind her at the teachers’ platform that they had ended up backed against and felt her heart pound with fear as she saw that the vampires had managed to get up there and completely surround them. “Oh no.” She looked wildly towards the doors of the hall and saw more vampires come flooding into the hall and fought to control her own panic, “Dawn, where are you?”

 

A sudden loud scream brought her attention back to the immediate situation and she turned to find a vampire had managed to leap the six-foot high flames from his standing point on the platform and was now in the midst of the hysterical group. The vampire’s eyes flashed gold as he bared his fangs, shoving aside students to get to Professor Thenarus and ordered the professor harshly, “Drop your shields!”

 

The professor swallowed and shook his head as the demon stalked towards him, raising his wand, “Incen…”

 

“No!” Hermione screamed as she pushed towards them, “No, the children, you might hit the children!” The professor shouted with pain as the vampire backhanded him away and then screamed himself as he landed in the roaring circle of fire. Hermione swept her wand through the air, “Aqua Exstinctor!” and a jet of water burst from the tip, dousing the flames and the roasting professor. The screams around her increased in intensity as the vampires moved forward, reaching for the terrified kids and Hermione found herself facing off against the vampire that had originally broached the protective circle.

 

“Witch.” The vampire’s eyes glowed gold as he shoved a howling girl from his path and grabbed at Hermione.

 

“Yes.” Hermione stepped back and then kicked out suddenly with her foot, slamming into the demon’s kneecap with a nasty crack, “Also recently trained in martial arts.” Her foot shot out again and kicked the vampire under the chin sending him skidding back along the floor. Hermione muttered under her breath,

 

“Dawn, I love you.”

 

She spun and stared with wild eyes around her at the horrifying scene. Everywhere she looked children were being attacked and the only other adult in the room was unconscious with vicious burns scarring his face and body. “Oh God.” She ducked out of the way as a vampire ran at her, pointing her wand at the long table where only a few moments before the dying children had been duelling and arguing, “Discutio!”

 

The table shattered in a shower of sharp wood and Hermione ran towards it screaming, “Use the wood! Stab them in the heart!” Her voice was lost in the maelstrom of sound around her and she was only able to retrieve a long sharp piece of table leg and jab it into a vampire draining a sobbing Gryffindor. The vampire failed to die. “NO!” Hermione stared in panic at the vampire as threw the child to the floor and turned on her, “You were supposed to die.”

 

“Through the heart, bitch!” The vampire reached around and grabbed the wood from between its shoulder blades, “You missed.” He backhanded her to the floor, then straddled her as she tried to raise her wand, knocking it away and taking a handful of her thick hair to wrench her head to the side, baring her throat. Hermione screamed as his fangs descended and then blinked in shock as Ron Weasley suddenly dropped from the sky like a ginger avenging angel.

 

“Get the fuck off her, you bastard!” Ron tackled the vampire to the floor and struck out furiously, “Don’t you ever fucking touch her again!”

 

Hermione rolled to the side with a sob and snatched up another piece of wood as Ron’s head snapped back when the vampire bunched up a fist, catching him on the chin. As Ron rocked back, Hermione lunged forward and slammed the makeshift stake through its chest, sobbing with relief as it froze and then exploded under Ron’s body. “Ron, are you alright?” Hermione grabbed frantically at her friend as he fell forward on all fours, “Are you alright?” She flinched back as he raised his head and she met hard, wild eyes, “Ron?”

 

“Death Eaters and vampires everywhere.” Ron pushed to his feet and grabbed Hermione in one hand and a stake in the other, “The professors are all fighting outside, we’ve got to hold them back here. Come on!” He stared above him and saw Harry and their still unnamed saviour flying above their heads blasting fire at any vampire not too close to a child, “We’ve got to get the kids out of here!”

 

Hermione stared around her at the floor and saw her wand, “The Accio charm, Ron!” She snatched up the slender wood and dodged another demon, “Accio them!”

 

Ron nodded and punched a vampire as it reared above him, “Right.” He jumped back a pace and stood shoulder to shoulder with Hermione as they raised their wands, bellowing in unison, “Accio students!”

 

From all around the room limp and still struggling bodies were snatched into the air, flying towards Ron and Hermione. The vampires roared with anger as their prey was snatched from them and turned as a body to chase after the children. Hermione refused to look too closely at the pile of children that lay bleeding and crying before her and shouted, “Circino Accendo!” as she cast fire charm, this time making the flames shoot twelve feet into the air.

 

Ron stared upwards again through the fire, “Harry!” Harry looked down, nodded and pointed his broom in a steep dive towards Ron in the centre of the ring of fire. Ron saw the man on the other broom see what Harry was doing and he turned quickly to Hermione, “Hold your hands up.” He shoved his hands into the air to demonstrate, “Quickly!”

 

Hermione shook her head, “What? Ron, I don…” She screamed in surprise as Harry burst through the wall of fire, Ron grabbed hold of the end of the broom as Harry passed and then both her friends flew straight through the opposite side of the flames.

 

“Get ready!” She flinched at the shout and then moaned with terror as she saw another broom about to follow in Harry’s wake. Her hands reached up, she screamed as the other broom hurtled towards her and a strong hand gripped one of her wrists pulling her into a fiery hell of smoke and heat until she burst out into the cool air of the hall on the other side. The hand let go of her abruptly and she rolled along the floor coughing and spluttering, eyes streaming with shock and fright.

 

“Hermione!” Ron dropped to his knees beside her and beat at the smouldering hem of her top, “Are you alright?” He cast an anxious look at the vampires, breathing in relief as he saw Harry and the mysterious stranger buy them a few seconds as they resumed their attack. He gathered her shaking, gagging body into his arms and cradled her against his chest, “It’s alright, love, it’s alright.”

 

Hermione took a deep shuddering breath, pushing her face against his filthy shirt for a moment before pushing her way free and climbing to her feet on shaking legs, “I’m ok.” She gripped her wand and shook as Ron climbed to his feet, “I’m ok.”

 

Ron frowned as she swayed and jumped forward to catch her in his arms once more, “You aren’t. Herm, get back with the kids where it’s safe.” He was suddenly very angry with himself that he’d taken her back into the battle with him, “You shouldn’t be out here.”

 

Hermione blinked in outrage and shoved back from him, “What?” The howls of dying vampires sounded all around her, “Why the hell not?”

 

Ron cast an anxious look back at the slowly advancing demons and said the first words that came into his overwrought mind, “It’s dangerous and I won’t be able to protect you and fight at the same time. Go!” He shoved her back towards the fire, turning to run back into battle.

 

Hermione went all right. She went ballistic and puce with rage and adrenalin as he turned his back on her, her palm lashed out to crack across the back of his head in pure fury as she shouldered him out of the way, “Sod you, Ron. Sod. You.”

 

Ron gaped in astonishment as the object of his increasingly erotic dreams barrelled past him and threw herself at the nearest demon, “Hermio…” He stopped as she snatched a piece of splintered wood from the floor, ramming it unerringly into a growling demon’s chest before flourishing her wand, pointing it at another vampire and screaming a fire charm. “Bloody hell!” Ron shook his head and pulled himself together enough to run after her, swinging his own wand through the air to ignite more undead bodies around him. Obviously the training sessions with Connor and Dawn were starting to pay off in spades with more than just himself and Harry.






 

Outside the hall things had swung quickly in favour of the team with the pulses since Connor had dropped in. As he punched one of Dawn’s captors over the stone balcony after the one he had knocked away from Ginny, Dawn had wrenched her arm free and swung her fist round so hard that she lifted the remaining vampire holding her off his feet, sending him skidding on his back along the floor. “I told you it wouldn’t be pretty.” Dawn watched her captor fly away from her and actually snarled as she whirled on the other demons, “I am going to kill you guys so much for this.”

 

Connor spun and managed to kick three advancing vampires clear across the room before back flipping up onto the stone railing and pulling Ginny up beside him, “Stay up here and set as many as you can on fire. Dawn and I will take care of the hand-to-hand stuff.” He squeezed her hand without waiting for her reply, jumping to curl into a ball and spin across the room with a fierce battle cry.

 

Ginny stared after him for a moment and figured now was not the time to tell him that the only wand she had on her was one that turned into a rubber chicken when you used it. She took an uncertain step to the side as a vampire managed to get past the furious Dawn, who had been reunited with her axe and was screaming some absolutely filthy words as she threw herself into battle, and sprang towards her, “Oh Merlin…”

 

“Incendio!” A voice screamed the spell above the noise of the pitched battle and Ginny found herself stumbling backwards as the demon burst into flames inches from her legs.

 

“GINNY!” Connor’s head snapped round as he heard Malfoy yell in panic and he saw Ginny on the balcony, arms wind milling frantically as she tried to regain her balance and not plummet down to the unforgiving stone stairs beneath her. He shoved aside his opponent as he broke into a run, painfully aware that his speed and strength just weren’t going to be enough this time.

 

Ginny’s mouth opened in a terrified cry as she lost her battle with gravity and she toppled backwards; Draco ducked a wild swing from a demon as he pointed his wand and yelled, “Wingardium Leviosa!” Connor’s eyes met Ginny’s terrified ones as she tumbled backwards and then he was at the railing grabbing frantically for her as she fell out of reach.

 

“NO!” Connor’s shout of denial bounced off the walls, then he was staring in disbelief as the young girl suddenly stopped her free fall and then bobbed upwards through the air to hover unhurt above him.

 

“Connor, watch out!” Ginny pointed in horror as she saw two demons take advantage of his distraction and come at him from behind. Connor whirled as one of the demons reached for him and straight-armed it away, a swift kick to the stomach knocked the other one back and then he found himself face-to-face with the wild-eyed Malfoy.

 

“What the bloody hell is going on?” The Slytherin prefect was flushed with colour as he dodged yet another grab.

 

Draco glanced up at Ginny as she floated through the air above him and shouted down, “Malfoy, cancel the spell!”

 

“I don’t bloody think so!” Draco ducked behind Connor as another wave of hungry demonic adversaries ran towards them, “You can bloody well stay up there!” The words ‘where you’re safe’ were bitten off before he could make a complete idiot of himself and he ignored her angry shout to yell to Dawn as Connor met the rush of fangs and claws, “What do you need?”

 

“Wood!” Dawn sucked in a breath as she leaned backwards out of the way of a set of rancid fangs, “Fire, holy water…” She yelled with pain as she took a hit to her abused eye, “We need to get their numbers down!”

 

Draco looked around him at the bloody confusion, realizing although Dawn and Connor were slowly culling the numbers of the vampires there were still at least twenty of the disgusting things in the confined space and the dust of Merlin knew how many covered the floor beneath his feet. He staggered backwards against the railing and tried desperately to think as his ears rang with the sounds of battle and death. Then he had it.

 

With a quick gesture he brought Ginny down from the air and into his side. Wrapping one arm around her struggling body he pointed his wand, “Summers, Angel, get down!”

 

Dawn glanced over and saw the wand moving through the air and her eyes widened, “Shit! Connor!” She dove for the floor and threw her hands protectively over her head as she heard Connor do the same with a loud curse.

 

“Wingardium Leviosa!” The charm blasted out of Malfoy’s wand as he put every ounce of power he had into it, hit the main body of the vampires and, aside from five or six that weren’t close enough to come under the influence of the spell, the demons took Ginny’s recently vacated place in the air.

 

Connor jumped up and grabbed one of the stunned vampires left on the ground, ripping the head from its shoulders with a furious shout and an explosion of ash. Dawn rolled to her feet and swung her axe, neatly separating another head and body and nodded to the remaining vampires on the ground sagely, “Now he’s pissed. Connor, can you take it from here?” Her answer was an anguished scream as a demon got its non-beating heart literally ripped from its chest, “Guess so.” She ran to join Malfoy and Ginny, frowning slightly as Ginny squirmed frantically against the older boy’s hold, then shook her head and pointed urgently at the swarming mass of bodies overhead, “Can you flambé them?”

 

Sweat rolled in thin rivulets down Draco’s face as he fought to maintain the spell and keep his hold on Ginny at the same time, “No…” He sagged suddenly and Ginny was forced to grab at him to stop him hitting the floor, “I can’t hold it for much longer either.”

 

“I haven’t got my wand.” Ginny braced her legs and swore as Draco’s body shook against her with strain, “I can’t help.”

 

Dawn nodded, “Right.” She reached under her t-shirt and into her back pocket withdrawing her own wand, “It’s Incendio, right?” Ginny nodded and Dawn turned to face the vampires, “When I say ‘now’ drop the spell.” She took a breath, “Now!” Draco dropped the charm as Dawn’s white wand flashed through the air and she shouted, “Incendio!” The demons barely had time to begin their journey back to earth before they were hit with the blast of power, then it was raining ash and flaming chunks of meat. “Connor, let’s move!”

 

Malfoy gasped for breath as Dawn took off at a dead run for the entrance to the hall, followed by her boyfriend as he grabbed a sword from the wall and took the head off the last vampire standing, “Has she been on the Pepper-Up potion?” He grunted as Ginny shoved away from him and backed away, “Ginny!” He reached for her as for the second time that night she turned and ran from him into certain danger, “Oh for…” He pushed away from the railing and staggered after her, “Weasley!”






 

To say Dawn was startled when she saw the scene in the hall was an understatement. In the air Harry and another person were flying at full throttle around the room and blasting fire charms left and right, Ron and Hermione were alternately staking, screaming their own curses or screaming furiously at each other. Behind the battling boy and girl was a huge ring of fire that surrounded a group of screaming children and there was still at least thirty vampires dodging curses and wild thrusts of stakes. Dawn narrowed her eyes, “Right.” She singled out a group of five vampires edging round on Ron and Hermione’s blindside, “Incendio!”

 

Ron and Hermione yelled with surprise as they felt the sudden blast of heat at their backs and Hermione shouted with relief as she saw her friends run into the main body of the hall, “Dawn, Connor!”

 

“Right here, Hermione.” Connor somersaulted over the head of a group of demons, “Dawn, stakes!” He grabbed a couple of pieces of sharp wood and tossed one to his girlfriend as he plunged his own into an unguarded chest, “And they work just fine!”

Dawn gripped the shaft of the wood and glared around her at the devastated hall, “Nobody leaves this room unless they have a pulse or a note from their mom explaining why not, ok?” She ran forwards and engaged a vampire with a savage backhand across his face, “You guys are so out of your depth now.”

 

Ginny skidded into the hall in Dawn’s wake, her eyes immediately landing on the shattered table and the pile of splintered wood scattered on the floor. “Ginny!” She glanced over her shoulder as Malfoy called her name again and then darted out of reach of his fingers to make for the DIY stakes.

 

Just as Ginny’s fingers closed on a sharp looking stake, someone grabbed her from behind and she was pulled up and against a hard, dead chest. Her eyes widened as she heard a low snarl behind her and then she instinctively reached for the hand clamped on her shoulder, yanking it round to her mouth. Without hesitation Ginny sunk her teeth into the unprotected hand and ground down as hard as she could, fighting the urge to vomit at the touch of the dead flesh against her tongue.

 

“Aaaarrgh!” The vampire holding Ginny abruptly shoved her to her knees and stared in disbelief at his bleeding hand, “You bit me!”

 

Ginny scrambled to her feet and flung herself at the demon, “Ha! How do you like it?” The stake in her hand slammed into the demon’s chest and he burst in a very satisfying cloud of dust, still staring at his hand in surprise. Ginny whirled back to the main fight, “Git.”

 

“Dammit, Ginny, will you…Fuck!” Draco’s eyes widened as he saw the pitched battle and he froze, “Oh fuck!”

 

“Hey!” Connor shouted across the room as he saw Malfoy frozen in the doorway, “This isn’t pay-per-view, pal! Grab a weapon and get slaying.” He stabbed a vampire economically with his stake, “See? Just like that.”

 

“Pay-per…?” Draco shook his head in a daze, “I don’t…”

 

Ron ran past pursued by three snarling demons, “Kill them, you prat, KILL THEM!”

 

“Right!” Draco raised his wand and aimed for the demon at the rear of the three chasing the Head Boy, “Incendio!” He looked for Ginny but she was lost to him as she engaged her first opponent and then he was fighting for his life as a vampire came out of nowhere and took him to the floor.




 

Ron dropped his stake and stared around himself as the last pained scream died away, “Is that it?”

 

Malfoy rolled to his feet with a groan and leaned back against the wall, “I think so, yes.” He took a deep, shaky breath, “Is everyone alright?”

 

“Yeah.” Ron wiped an exhausted hand over his mouth, “You?”

 

“Fine.” Malfoy suddenly tensed as he realised who he was talking to and watched as Ron did the same. The two boys eyed each other for a moment, unsure of how to react to their first non confrontational conversation since meeting six years earlier before they both turned to look towards the sound of Dawn’s voice, “Connor, we need to go and do a sweep for any that we missed. Harry, mysterious guy, go check on the professors. The rest of you, get that fire out and see to those kids.”

 

Malfoy watched as Dawn and Connor sprinted out, clutching stakes and swords, and Harry and his mysterious companion flew out in their wake, saying snidely “Quite the little general isn’t she?”

 

And just like that the brief cease-fire ended. “Piss off, Malfoy. It’s thanks to Dawn we made it through alive.” Ron pushed away from the wall and started towards Ginny and Hermione as they hurried towards the shocked and now mostly silent children in the ring of fire.

 

“Well, I see yet another close brush with death hasn’t improved your disposition any, Weasley.” Draco staggered after his arch-nemesis, “And I suppose we had nothing to do with the victory?”

 

Ron turned, eyes flashing angrily, but whatever he was about to say was cut off by Hermione’s tense voice, “Not now! Just bloody leave it, Ron.” She cast the counter charm to dissipate the fiery wall and her voice hitched, “Oh Merlin. Ron, Malfoy, quickly!”

 

Ron shot Malfoy a last scorching look before breaking into a stumbling run to reach Hermione and his sister’s side. He stared silently downwards before swallowing the bile that leapt into his throat at the sight of the small, blood-streaked faces that looked mutely back at him, “It’s alright. It’s over now.” Aware the words were pitifully inadequate Ron reached out for the nearest child, a Slytherin, and picked the pale boy off the floor, “It’s ok. We’ll get you sorted out. Hermione.”

 

Hermione nodded, “Is there anyone who…isn’t conscious?” She bit her lip as she realised she had been about to say dead and forced a gentle smile on her face, “If you’re awake you’re probably ok for a minute and we need to get help for the ones that aren’t.”

 

“My…my…friend.” A coloured Hufflepuff raised a tear-streaked face and blinked through her curls at Hermione, “She won’t wake up.” Hermione looked at the limp body in the small girl’s arms and her eyes blurred with tears. The face and entire left side of the thin body was covered in blood with flesh hanging in tatters from the ruined throat, “Her name’s Mi…Milly.”

 

Hermione tried to force words out of her mouth, then found herself being elbowed aside with a muffled curse as Malfoy stepped into the huddled pile of children and bent to the child, “Why don’t you let me take Milly?” He frowned as the girl shrunk away from him and her eyes fixed on his house badge, “It’s alright. I’m a prefect. I have to help the Head Boy over there. See?” He pointed towards Ron and the girl’s eyes blinked dazedly up at him, “Ginny and Hermione will look after you here and I’ll take Milly to the hospital wing, alright?” His arms moved around the blood-soaked body and he tried not to gag as the scent of copper and the death-release hit his nose, “I’ll look after her…” He stood in one quick motion, turning as the girl screamed and reached for her friend, “Granger…” Hermione shoved past him and restrained the little girl as he moved off; face blank with horror and shock.

 

Ron stared as he marched towards the far end of the hall with the body, “Merlin…” Then he walked back towards the children and began the grim task of sorting the living from the dead.




 

Dawn and Connor met up at the top of the staircase outside the Great Hall. “Anything?” Dawn eyed the shadows stretching away down the dark corridor that Connor had just emerged from.

 

“No. You?” Connor gripped his stake tightly as Dawn shook her head, “We weren’t ready. They attacked and we weren’t ready.” His eyes stared bleakly into the hall where he could see Ron and Malfoy laying down an obviously dead body just inside the door.

 

Dawn shook her head and grabbed his hand, swallowing tears as she turned her back on the scene in the hall, “No. We were as ready as we could be. There was just too many.” Her head bent forward against his chest, “We were lucky it wasn’t worse.”

 

Connor blinked as his vision blurred and he crushed her to him in a tight, desperate hug, “I should have been better. Faster. I could have stopped them…”

 

Dawn’s face streaked with tears as she clutched at him, “No, you couldn’t. Connor, we did what we could.” She sobbed a breath, “It just wasn’t enough. Oh God, those children.”

 

They stood for a moment trembling against each other and then, abruptly, they both stepped back and wiped their faces. “We can have a meltdown later.” Dawn shoved sticky strands of hair off her face and squared her shoulders; “Right now we need to find out if the teachers are ok and set up a perimeter guard for the night.” Connor nodded and took her hand as they started down the stairs and into the grounds.








Out by the lake Harry had just touched down beside Professor Dumbledore. “Sir! Sir, are you alright?”

 

The old man looked as grave as Harry had ever seen him in the light of the moon, surrounded by bodies. “Yes, Harry, quite alright. The school?”

 

Harry abandoned his broom and hurried to his Headmaster’s side, “We stopped them, sir.” He bit his lip as he thought of the carnage in the Great Hall and his throat thickened, “They need medical help though.”

 

Dumbledore nodded, “Of course. Minerva!” Harry turned and saw Professor McGonagall’s pale face behind him, pinched with fright and streaked with tears, “There are casualties to be dealt with inside. Please gather whoever you can and aid Poppy. I suspect it will be a long night.”

 

Harry blinked as the elderly woman blinked out of sight and he realised belatedly that the teachers had apparated to their aid earlier, “Sir!”

 

Dumbledore smiled wearily at Harry’s shocked tone, “I run this school, Harry, it does not run me. I thought it was time for a change regarding the advisability of allowing teachers to apparate and disapparate in school grounds. It has always been within the Head teacher’s power to adjust the charms and barriers around the school as he or she saw fit.” His blue eyes stared around him at the bodies on the floor, “These are unusual times after all.”

 

Harry blinked with surprise and nodded, “Yes, sir.” He turned as the professor’s eyes looked past him and saw the person who had flown so bravely to their rescue approach, still shrouded in their concealing cloak.

 

The figure pushed back their hood and smiled at the stunned look on Harry’s face, “Hello Harry.”

 

“Viktor!” Harry gaped stupidly at the sallow complexion of Victor Krum, “But… what…how…”

 

The renowned seeker bowed in Dumbledore’s direction, “I haff taken your Headmaster up on his offer of sanctuary at last.” A pained look flashed across his face, “Durmstrang and its faculty haff fallen to the Dark Lord and there vas nowhere left for me to go. My skills as Quidditch instructor vere, how do you say, surplus to requirements? Help vill always be given at Hogwarts to those that ask for it, yes?”

 

Harry nodded, “Yes.” He swallowed and held out his hand, “I’m glad to see you, Viktor.”

 

“And I you, my friend.” Viktor shook hands and looked about him gravely, “I just vish ve had met under better circumstances.”

 

Harry bit his lip, then jumped as Snape loomed out of the dark, “Headmaster, we have lost Professor Flitwick and Madam Sprout is badly injured.” His eyes rested on Harry for a moment and unless Harry was very much mistaken there was a flash of relief across his face before he snapped, “Don’t just stand there, Potter. If you can walk we need able bodies.”

 

Harry swallowed the lump in his throat at the news that the kindly, old Professor of Charms had died in the fight and nodded shortly, “Yes, sir.” His eyes flicked briefly to the sky where the Dark Mark was fading, “The village, Professor Dumbledore? Only the students too young to go were attacked at the school. I don’t know where the others are. I…” His voice failed him for a moment; “I didn’t see them during the battle.”

 

“We must see to our wounded here first, Harry.” Professor Dumbledore squeezed Harry’s shoulder lightly; “Aurors would have been summoned to Hogsmeade as soon as the alarm was raised. We must trust in the Ministry to see that our students were kept safe.” He looked round at the sound of running feet and smiled briefly as Dawn and Connor ran into view, stakes and axes at the ready. “Miss Summers, Mr Angel, you’re unhurt?”

 

Dawn swept the area with an experienced eye, relaxing slightly as she realised for the moment the danger had passed, “Yeah. Everybody make it ok?” She eyed Snape warily, paying special attention to his neck, “Still with the pulse having, there?”

 

Harry clapped a hand over his mouth as a slightly hysterical giggle welled up in his throat at the furious expression on Snape’s face and Dumbledore stifled his own smile as he said, “We are mostly unhurt. The Death Eaters captured here tonight must be restrained and kept safely for the arrival of the Ministry.” He frowned as Connor kicked savagely at a prone body, “And treated with respect.”

 

“Kids died here tonight.” Connor’s face was a mask of savagery as he kicked the body again, “Little kids were ripped to pieces because of these pieces of crap. Don’t tell me how to treat this scum.”

 

Dawn moved to Connor’s side and took his arm, missing Snape’s nod of approval as the Death Eater was lifted off the floor by the power of Connor’s next kick and sent flying to crash to the ground ten feet away. “Connor, baby, let it go.” Dawn clutched his head in her hands and rose up on her toes until their eyes were level and whispered, “Meltdown later, remember?” She waited until she felt the furious tension drain from Connor’s body and then glanced back at Harry,

 

“We’re needed at the school. You with?” Harry nodded and Dawn continued as she looked at Dumbledore, “You need to set up a guard. Can you do that or do you need me and Connor on patrol out here?”

 

“Go.” Dumbledore gestured towards the castle, “I will join you as soon as I am able. Measures must be taken here that I must see to before anything else. Viktor, I’m afraid I must ask you to forsake your anonymity and help within the school.”

 

“Of course.” The lanky youth nodded and gestured back towards where he had left his broomstick, “Ve vill get there much faster if ve fly. Miss?”

 

It was a measure of the exhaustion that was beginning to make itself felt that Dawn simply nodded, ”Sure. Let’s go.” She clutched Connor’s hand as she followed Krum and Harry fell into step beside behind them. Professor Dumbledore watched them as Harry and Connor climbed onto the Firebolt, kicking off into the sky and then Viktor and Dawn followed them the cool night air.

 

“Remarkable children.” He closed his eyes for a moment and then smiled tiredly at his most trusted ally, “Miles to go before we sleep, eh Severus?”

 

“As always, Headmaster. As always.” Snape pulled his robes about him and nodded towards Madam Hooch who was crouched over the plump figure of Madam Sprout on the ground, “She needs you.”

 

For the first time in a long time Professor Dumbledore felt his age as he made his feet move, “Then let us see what is to be done.”

Chapter Text

Dawn wiped a hand over her sweating forehead, groaning as she straightened from applying a bandage to a young boy’s neck and glanced around the hall. Connor, Ron, Harry, Victor and Malfoy were all at one end carefully arranging the dead in a row alongside the doors and Ginny, Hermione and several professors were bustling amongst the rows of weeping, savaged survivors as they attended their injuries. Dawn squeezed the shoulder of the dazed Ravenclaw that she had been caring for and moved onto the next temporary cot to smile at the pale face on the pillow there. “Hey. How are you feeling?”

 

“I can’t find my sister.” The boy lying against the pillows stared at Dawn with wide, terrified eyes, “She got taken when the fire went out and now I can’t find her.”

 

Dawn kept her eyes away from the dead at the other end of the hall and smiled gently, “If you tell me her name, I’ll find out where she is.” She bit her tongue to stop the well meaning but empty assurance that she was sure the girl was alright. “Is she in your house?” She glanced at his house badge, “Is she in Slytherin?”

 

“No.” The boy looked as though he was fighting back a sob, “Sh…she’s in Hufflepuff. She’s a year younger than I am.”

 

Dawn gripped his hand as tears began to trickle from the corners of his eyes, “I’ll go look for her as soon as I’ve cleaned you up, ok? I’ll find her.” She waited until she received a shaky nod of assent and then began to wipe the dried blood from his neck and shoulder, “What’s your name?”

 

“D..David. David LeRoy.” He stared up at the ceiling as Dawn smoothed a wet cloth against his throat, “Will those things come back? Will they attack us again?”

 

Her heart clenching at the underlying terror in the thin voice, Dawn shook her head, “No. They won’t come back.” She forced herself to concentrate on the task in hand and not the urge to go and smack the snot out of any demons she could find. “Connor and I will make sure of that.”

 

“Why did they do it?” David gripped her wrist as she smeared a thick white paste over the two deep gashes on his throat and repeated desperately, “Why did they do it? We’re just kids, we haven’t done anything.”

 

“No, you haven’t.” Dawn shook her wrist free and then clasped his hand in both of hers, “Nobody did anything to deserve this. They’re demons, evil, and it was nobody’s fault that this happened.” Her face hardened as she whispered, “I swear to you that I will find the person responsible and I will make them pay.”

 

“You’ve fought them before.” The words were more a flat statement than a question.

 

“Yes.” Dawn nodded, “Feels like all my life.”

 

“Were they after you?” The boy’s eyes pierced Dawn like a dagger and she felt the familiar weight of guilt settle in her chest, “Did they come here because of you?”

 

“I don’t know.” Dawn kept her gaze straight and strong as she looked down at the child, “Maybe.” Her heart clenched as David snatched his hand away and rolled stiffly onto his side, she stood and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Dawn.” She turned as she felt a hand on her shoulder and met Ginny’s eyes, “I’ll take over here. Go and rest for a minute.” Dawn glanced once more at the stiff form on the bed and then nodded as she moved away to look for David’s missing sister. Ginny placed a hand on the injured boy’s shoulder, “Turn around and let me treat you.”

 

“She said she would find my sister.” The young voice was filled with fear and hate, “The filthy bitch said she would find my sister and she’s the reason that they came here and my sister might be dead.”

 

“No.” Ginny pulled the boy sharply towards her, ignoring his yelp of pain, “No, she’s the reason you’re alive now. She’s the reason we’re all alive now and if you ever speak about her like that again I’ll make those demons seem like house-elves in comparison, do you understand me?” Ginny snatched her hand away from the stunned boy and clenched her fists at her side as he stared at her in shock. The numb horror of the evening’s events was starting to wear off and she was awash with furious, irrational anger at every living thing in the hall.

 

“That’s a marvellous bedside manner you have there, Weasley.” The cool voice made her start and she spun round to glare up at Draco Malfoy, “What are you going to do for an encore, stab a kitten?” Malfoy eyed her body as it shook with reaction and then glanced down at the bed, “I’d like a word with LeRoy, unless you plan on actually kicking him while he’s down?” He took a step nearer the bed and managed to conceal his wince as Ginny stepped back so fast she stumbled over the edge of the bed and nearly managed to fall on her ass.

 

“It’s my sister, isn’t it?” David’s face was the same colour as his white pillow and his hands clenched at his heated blanket as he stared up in terror at the prefect, “You found her body, didn’t you?”

 

“No.” Dawn nudged Malfoy out of the way and then stepped back and waved Connor past, pointing at the girl in his arms, “We found her, complete with soul and a pulse.”

 

“Rachel!” The boy scrambled up and grabbed at his weak but mercifully alive sister, “Rachel, you’re ok!” Connor placed Rachel down on the bed and exchanged weary smiles with Ginny as the reunited siblings enjoyed their reunion. Then Connor jumped in startled surprise as David pushed his sister away and fetched her a hefty thump around the ear, “What the bloody hell did you think you were doing? I told you to stay with me and now you’ve gone and got yourself attacked and Mum and Dad are going to blame me.” Draco and Connor’s mouths dropped open as the unfortunate Rachel was shaken hard enough to make her teeth rattle, but Dawn and Ginny exchanged knowing looks at the familiar sound of an older sibling tearing a strip off the younger one, “You are so stupid. You never bloody listen…”

 

“Hey, hang on a second…” Connor reached out to stop the abuse and yelped as he got his hand smacked for his trouble.

 

“You stay out of this, muggle.” David gripped his sister’s shoulders and fought to get his words out, “If you ever do anything that bloody stupid again I’ll bloody kill you myself. You stupid, selfish…stupid…” His chest heaved and tears sprang to his eyes.

 

“I couldn’t find you.” Rachel blinked, it has to be said, stupidly at her brother and touched a dazed hand to her throat, “I remembered what you said and I tried to find you and then someone…bit me?” She frowned in confusion, “Did someone bite me when I was looking for you?” David seriously impressed Malfoy when he reeled off a string of vicious curses and yanked his sister against him, not noticing that when Rachel began to sob tears trickled down his own face as he took up his litany of complaint against his sibling once more, “You’re so stupid. I don’t know why I bother…”

 

Dawn turned as Ron joined them and nodded sagely, “His little sister?” He flashed a tired grin at Ginny, “I see where he’s coming from. Madam Pomfrey wants us all at the front of the hall to check us over.” His eyes shadowed briefly, “She’s done all she can for the others now.”

 

Connor nodded and motioned to the misty-eyed Dawn and Ginny that they should leave the two children alone to enjoy their peculiar reunion and then took Malfoy’s arm to guide him away. “I still need to speak with my house member, Angel.” Draco shook his arm free of Connor’s loose grip, “If you don’t mind.”

 

Connor raised an eyebrow and looked Malfoy up and down, “You also have a couple of cuts that need looking at. Leave them alone for a minute and get yourself seen to and then come back when you’re a little less…bloody.”

 

“Is that your professional opinion?” Draco managed to find a weak sneer from somewhere, even though he was battling exhaustion, shock and the last tendrils of mind-numbing terror from the attack.

 

Connor, who battled those emotions practically every day of his life, worked up a much better sneer and gave Malfoy a hearty shove to send him staggering out into the narrow aisle, “Yes.” He reached for Ginny and Dawn and ushered them out before him before following them away from the bed, “And you might want to consider that there’s always more blood inside you begging to be let out.” His teeth flashed in a feral smile, “If you catch my drift?”

 

Ron snorted at the indescribable look on Malfoy’s face and slipped one arm around Ginny’s shoulders then, after a brief hesitation, his other arm around Dawn’s. Both girls leaned against him with a sigh and he cuddled them close as he began to lead them towards the waiting school nurse. Connor poked Draco sharply between the shoulder blades to get him moving after them and then followed the rag-tag procession casting an eye over the now mostly calm hall.

 

The children were now mostly silent with only the occasional muffled sob echoing through the room. The Professors moved with grim purpose through the room attending to injuries or just laying hands on huddled and shivering bodies in a bid to give what little comfort they could. Connor glanced at the line of twenty-three bodies that were beyond any earthly help. Fifteen first years and eight second years had died horribly at the hands of the vampires and despite his deep shame and sorrow at the children’s loss, Connor was also deeply relieved that they had managed to keep the death toll down to such small numbers. The most serious injuries had been moved to the hospital wing, but large as it was, there was simply no room for the overwhelming numbers of injured to be housed there and Madam Pomfrey had wasted no time in making full use of her newly sanctioned apparating abilities and moving like mob-capped lightening between the triage centre in the hall and the desperate need of the children in the hospital.

 

Connor leaned against the wall as Professor McGonagall bade Ron and Harry to strip off their shirts and began to examine their various cuts and bruises from the fight. Even though Harry had remained in the air for the most part he had still managed to acquire an impressive collection of bruises and an especially impressive cut over his eye from a hurled chair that a vampire had thrown in an attempt to bring him down off his broom. Ron was a livid canvas of purple and blue with fat streaks of red blood trailing over his chest and back where he had been clawed and battered through the fight. His face was covered with dried blood from where he had taken a hit to the left side of his face and the skin over his eye and on his cheek had burst into two jagged cuts. Connor turned as he felt a light touch on his arm and blinked wearily at the young assistant witch to Madam Pomfrey, “Yes?”

 

“Miss Summers said that you have a bad cut on your back that needs looking at.” Penelope Clearwater smiled coolly at the blood soaked face before her and tugged lightly on Connor’s arm to encourage him to follow her to the long dining table that was doubling as an all purpose examination table.

 

“I’m fine. I’ve had worse.” Connor scowled as the blonde ignored his protests and kept moving, towing him behind her.

 

“I’m sure you have, Mr Angel, but I think you’ll find you haven’t had worse at Hogwarts. Please take your shirt off.” Penelope gave her own scowl as Connor batted her hands away from his shirt buttons and clutched his shirt neck to him like a Victorian maiden, “Don’t be ridiculous. I merely wish to assess your injuries.

 

“I can take my own damn shirt off and I said I’m fine. Leave me the hell alone.” Connor pushed away from the table and stuck his jaw out belligerently, “Go see to the people that are really hurt.”

 

Dawn looked round Connor’s raised voice and dodged around the Auror trying to bandage a nasty cut on her chin, “Connor, it’s ok.” She hastily nudged Penelope aside and stood in front of her boyfriend to face the older girl, “It’s fine, I’ll take care of it.” She could feel Connor vibrating with tension and stress against her back and reached back to place one soft hand on his thigh, “Really, we’re used to taking care of each other, I’ll deal with it.” Penelope eyed them both narrowly for a moment before giving a reluctant nod and moving briskly off to Ginny’s side. Dawn turned to Connor, “You ok?”

 

“Yeah.” Connor flashed a strained smile, “She tried to take my shirt off.”

 

“The slut.” Dawn gave a gasp of mock outrage and grinned, putting her hands on his hips to push him gently back against the table before smoothing her palms up over his stomach and chest to fiddle with the small buttons of his shirt, “Doesn’t she know that’s my job?”

 

Connor bit his lip as Dawn caught the edge of a ragged nail against the torn skin of a wound on his chest, “I tried to tell her that.” His breath hissed out from between his teeth as Dawn ignored the people all around her and bent to brush her swollen and bruised mouth over the injury, “She said she could take you.”

 

Dawn giggled against his skin and flicked out her tongue to brush his nipple as she stood up, “She probably could. Hell, at the moment Clem could probably take me.” She smoothed the hair off Connor’s forehead and smiled wearily, “I can’t remember the last time I fought this hard.”

 

Connor raised a hand to cup her face as her eyes filled with tears, “Are we melting down now?” His hand trembled against her cheek as he saw another body being carried in through the hall doors and added to the line of children, “Because if I start I may never stop.”

 

Dawn bent her head forward until their foreheads touched and she looked into his eyes as she whispered, “I don’t care. I love you, Connor.” Her arms went around his neck and she pressed up against him as hard as she could, “I thought they were going to kill them all.”

 

Connor buried his face in the curve of her neck, “Me too, honey, me too.” He squeezed his eyes shut against the burn of salty tears against his lids and tried to force away the image in his head of twisted and torn bodies when the vampires had finally been defeated. His arms folded around Dawn’s waist and he clutched at her desperately as she began to vent her fear and anger in a storm of angry weeping, soaking the skin of his chest as her tears mingled with the drying blood there.

 

Ron raised a hand to stop Madam Pomfrey as she turned from him to go to his friends when she heard Dawn’s sobs, “Leave them for a moment, please Madam. They just need a minute.”

 

“Mr Weasley, they may be grievously injured and they are obviously deeply distressed…” Madam Pomfrey’s face was lined with care and shock as she glared at Ron; her lips were pursed with annoyance at one of her students daring to tell her how to care for the injured in her care.

 

“I said leave them!” Ron’s voice cracked like a whip and he jumped off the table he was seated on to tower over the elderly witch. Hermione felt her mouth drop open as her best friend stood bare chested with his hands on hips and glared down at one of their teachers to say firmly, “They aren’t in any need of any medical attention at the moment and until I say so you will leave them be. Is that clear?”

 

Madam Pomfrey’s mouth opened and shut as she made a peculiar gobbling sound in the back of her throat and her face flushed with shocked fury. Ginny stared speechlessly at Hermione before the brown-haired girl stumbled hastily to Ron’s side, “Ron, I don’t think…”

 

“Be quiet!” Hermione joined Madam Pomfrey in the shocked gobbling competition as Ron switched his gaze to her, “And why haven’t you gotten fixed up yet, Hermione?” Hermione blinked as Ron took her chin in his hand and turned her face to the side to glare angrily at her bruised face, “Right, go over there, sit down and I don’t want to hear another word from you until you’ve been treated, understood?” Ron moved his hand from Hermione’s shocked face to her shoulder, turning her to march her firmly back to Ginny’s side and calling over his shoulder, “Madam, I would appreciate it if you would come and see to my sister and Hermione. Please.” Despite the courtesy added on to the end of the sentence it was quite clear from Ron’s voice that he had just issued an order and expected it to be followed. Now.

 

Harry watched in dumbfounded amazement as the mediwitch reacted with unthinking obedience and hurried hastily after the Head Boy and then met the coldly amused eyes of Professor McGonagall as she began to clean his face, “I believe the Headmaster’s choice in Head Boy was eminently sensible this year, Mr Potter.”

 

Harry nodded as he watched over the Scottish witch’s shoulder as Ron caught the attention of one of the ministry’s Aurors and, keeping an eye on the still speechless Hermione, began to discuss the arrangements to guard the hall of injured children for the night. “Yes, professor, I think it was.”

 

“Were you surprised that Professor Dumbledore did not give you the honour?” Professor McGonagall kept her voice lightly curious but her eyes were fixed on Harry’s face observantly as she began to smear on a thick white potion that smelled unpleasantly of sulphur and decayed roses.

 

Harry blinked. “No!” He shook his head slightly and smiled tightly, “I’ve got enough problems without worrying about being Head Boy.” He grinned at his Ron as the taller boy began to issue sharp orders to the Aurors around him and direct the flummoxed older wizards around the hall, “Ron’s always been the one for the strategies and battle plans, I’m the muscle. He’s just what the school needs this year.”

 

“Hmm.” Professor McGonagall snorted wryly, “Perhaps if he could be persuaded to pay a little more attention to his studies he might also set the example of academic excellence to the younger students rather than just his bravery and courage.”

 

Harry sucked in a breath as the witch prodded sharply at a bruise spreading across his ribs and then said harshly, “Not a lot of point if all the students are dead, Professor. Ron’s exactly what we need at the moment and Professor Dumbledore knew that I think. We can rely on him to do what’s right for Hogwarts.”

 

There was a long pause and then Professor McGonagall placed a hand against Harry’s cheek softly, “Quite so, Harry, quite so.”

 

Harry smiled slightly and then rolled his eyes as he saw Ron begin to bristle over the witch’s shoulder, “Of course we can also rely on him to make a complete arse out of himself at every opportunity.” He jumped down to the floor and winced at the look of disapproval on his former head of house’s expression at his choice language, “Sorry, Professor. Excuse me will you?” He slipped around the woman and hastened to Ron’s side as Victor Krum joined Hermione and Ginny.

 

“Her-my-o-ninny, you are hurt.” Hermione’s eyes widened as she stared in surprise at Victor Krum and then jumped as he leaned forward to kiss her forehead, “I vas very sorry that ve could not reach you sooner.”

 

“Victor! What are you doing here?” Hermione’s gaze unconsciously skipped to Ron as his eyes narrowed and he glared darkly at her former sometime boyfriend. She eased to her feet and shifted uncomfortably as Victor gripped her hands passionately, “I…I didn’t know you were here.” Her eyes widened as she realised that he was the other person that flew with Harry during the battle, “Goodness, you flew through the fire!”

 

“Yes.” Victor pulled her hands up to his mouth and brushed his lips over her bloodstained knuckles, “I vould haff flown through vorse to reach you, Her-my-oh-ninny. I haff been staying on Hogwarts grounds secretly after Durmstrang fell but because of the battle I haff now been able to tell you that I am here. You are pleased, yes?”

 

“Er…” Hermione glanced again at Ron who was glowering forbiddingly at Viktor’s back and at Harry who was desperately trying to divert his friend’s attention from the reunion, “Yes, of course Viktor, I…” The rest of her sentence was cut off as she was tugged against the lean chest of Viktor Krum and he began to passionately kiss her neck, “Oh! Um, Viktor, I…”

 

What she had been about to say was lost as Viktor was suddenly pulled away from her and Ron yanked her behind him. “Krum.” Ron all but snarled the name as he glared at the much smaller man, “Hermione’s had a nasty shock.” It was unclear whether Ron meant the fight or the reappearance of the renowned seeker. Hermione opened her mouth to speak and then yelped as his fingers tightened fiercely on her wrist in warning before Ron carried on smoothly, “You can see she’s tired and we still have a lot to do. You can see her in the morning.”

 

“I vish to speak with Her-my-oh-ninny now, Ron. I haff been vaiting a long…”

 

“And I said you can see her in the morning.” Ron stepped towards Viktor and shamelessly made use of his extra height and bulk as he forced the dark haired man back a pace when he invaded his personal space, “I’m afraid I have to insist. I need her with me.”

 

Harry shot Ron a shocked look at the harshness of his tone and comprehension dawned as he stared between the speechless Hermione, the glowering Viktor and the possessive grip Ron had on Hermione’s wrist. Ron flushed as Harry’s mouth formed an understanding ‘oh’ and then Harry flashed a wide grin at his friend and took Viktor’s arm firmly, “Ron’s right, Viktor. We have a lot to do. Come with me and we’ll find out about where you’re to sleep tonight.” He tugged the spluttering Bulgarian away still grinning at Ron’s scarlet face.

 

“What the bloody hell do you think you’re playing at Ronald Weasley?” Ron stumbled forward as Hermione used her free hand to shove him smartly between the shoulder blades, tugging her imprisoned wrist free as he tried to regain his balance, “How dare you speak to Viktor like that?”

 

“Herm…” Ron turned and took a step backwards as his love went off like a bushy, brown-haired rocket under his nose.

 

“What the hell gives you the right to treat me like that? And how could you be so rude to Viktor? He saved us and all he wanted to do was say hello to me!” Hermione’s chest heaved with outrage as she clenched her fists at her side and Ron made a concentrated effort to focus on her angry face rather than the tantalising flesh moving under her torn sweater. He blinked as Hermione took another deep breath and poked a sharp finger into his naked chest as she snarled, “What the bloody hell gives you the right to start acting like a…a… Neanderthal arse the minute a very dear friend…”

 

Ron grabbed the finger that seemed to be trying to bore straight through to his heart and thoroughly lost the precarious hold he had on his temper, “Me? What gives you the bloody right to act like some kind of tart the minute Vikky bloody Krum turns up on the scene?” He let go of her finger sharply and indulged in a poke of his own against her shoulder as he spat accusingly, “You said it was over between you!”

 

“Um…” Ginny winced as she glanced around the hall and saw that her brother and her friend were the centre of the students’ and professors’ fascinated attention, “Come on you two, perhaps this isn’t the time…”

 

“Belt up, Gin!” Ron glared at his sister as she flinched back from his angry roar,

 

“This isn’t anything to do with you.” He swung back to Hermione the very picture of moral outrage, “This is all about her and her filthy, idiotic taste in men!”

 

Hermione gasped, “You sod! What the hell does it have to do with you who I see? You can stick your opinions right where the sun doesn’t…”

 

“Perhaps we should allow them some privacy, Weasley?” Ginny leapt a foot in the air at the quiet voice in her ear and then wriggled as Draco Malfoy took her arm firmly as he pulled her into the shadows by the wall. He stood in front of her, blocking her view of Ron and Hermione as they shouted furiously at each other and placed a casual hand beside her head, preventing her from making a break for freedom further into the hall.

 

“Stay away from me.” Ginny took comfort that her command came out in a firm voice and was unaware that her eyes were wide with panic in her face.

 

Draco tipped his head to the side and kept his face blank as he saw the pulse in her throat beat wildly under her skin. His feet shifted when he felt the sting of shame at her fearful look and then he hastily stepped back as Ginny opened her mouth to scream when she misunderstood his move and thought he was moving closer to her, “Alright, alright!” He held his hands up and tried to look as unthreatening as he possibly could. “Don’t lose your head, Weasel. I assure you, not even I would dare to try and have you right under the noses of Saint bloody Potter and your brother.” He moved quickly as Ginny tried to dart past him and blocked her way again, “I merely wished to make certain you were unharmed.”

 

“What do you care?” Ginny raised a hand to push past him and gave a small scream as he grabbed her wrist and stared at the marked skin there, “Let go of me!”

 

“You are hurt.” Malfoy ignored her frantic tugging and examined the dark red marks that were turning purple against the pale cream of her arm, “Have you had these looked at?”

 

Ginny flushed as he traced a slow finger over her bruises and pulled desperately at her wrist, “No!” She pushed against his chest frantically with her other hand, “And the vampires didn’t do that, you did!” She missed his sickened look as she kicked wildly out, “Let me go!”

 

Draco let her go so abruptly that she fell heavily back against the wall. Their eyes met and held for a moment before Ginny tugged the sleeves of her jumper back down over her arm and pushed past him and back into the light of the hall. “Ginny…” Malfoy reached for her as she darted past him and then his hand dropped back to his side as he whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

He watched her as she skirted the still shouting Ron and Hermione and almost ran to the safety of Connor and Dawn’s side. The two Americans had finally broken apart and were now watching the floorshow that Ron and Hermione were providing with the same avid interest as the rest of the hall. Dawn smiled at Ginny and slung an arm around the younger girl’s shoulder as she muttered something and Connor grinned as he leaned down to add his own comment.

 

Draco was just turning away from the scene when Connor’s eyes narrowed and his head shot up to stare around the hall. His eyes darted around and then settled on Draco still standing in the shadows. Connor kept his eyes on Malfoy as he leaned down again and sniffed at Ginny’s head and then he darted a look at her pale face. A horribly dark look flooded his face as his lips drew back in a feral snarl and Draco took a step back from the wave of pure male menace that suddenly flooded his way. Connor looked for a moment as though he would shove Dawn aside and come for the Slytherin prefect but he instead settled for keeping one arm about Dawn as he nudged her to one side and then looping his other one tightly around Ginny. He snarled again when she visibly recoiled before realising who it was that held her and hesitantly laid her head against the side of his chest.

 

Draco felt his mouth drop open with shock as Connor mouthed deliberately, ‘Watch your back.’ and felt his throat go dry as he realised that somehow the other boy had managed to put two and two together and come up with a glaringly obvious four. He drew the ripped and tattered remnants of his robe about him as he stepped back further into the shadows, uneasily remembering Connor’s fight with the boggart and the bloodthirsty fury on his face when he had quite literally ripped apart demons with his bare hands. He had the feeling that a reoccurrence of a vampire attack was the last thing he needed to worry about now that Connor Angel was apparently gunning for him.

 

Harry had succeeded in off-loading the furious Krum on Madam Pince and was making his speedy way back up the hall towards his two best friends. Although reeling from the realisation that Ron’s crush on Hermione hadn’t died as much of a death as he had thought, Harry was still in control enough of himself that he realised it was up to him to call a halt to the slanging match in the hall as apparently everyone else in the vicinity was too enthralled to bother.

 

He picked up his pace as Ron snatched at Hermione’s shoulders to haul her up onto her toes and shake her furiously while he bellowed in her face and Hermione’s hand snaked up between them to slap furiously across Ron’s injured face. Of course, breaking up the fight might actually become a moot point if they actually killed each other first. Harry caught Connor’s eye and broke into a run as the other boy slipped hastily away from Dawn and Ginny to try and pull Ron away from Hermione before he actually snapped her neck by mistake.

 

“You bastard!” Connor winced at Hermione’s high-pitched howl as Harry caught her against his chest and dragged her back from Ron when she tried to scrape her fingernails down his cheek, “You bloody bastard!”

 

Connor pressed Ron back as the taller boy tried to grab her back from Harry, “Come on, just calm down.”

 

“I’m going to bloody kill her!” Ron tried to knock Connor aside and bellowed angrily, “Did you hear what the bloody hell she called me?”

 

“She didn’t mean it!” Connor shoved Ron back a step and gripped his arms, “What the hell is the matter with you both? Just calm down…Oof!” Connor crashed into the nearby table, eyes wide with stunned surprise, as Ron shoved him aside and folded in half clutching his midriff wheezing, “Ron!”

 

Hermione squirmed frantically in Harry’s arms half-blinded by angry tears and yelled, “Yes I did! I meant every word! He’s a filthy, scum-sucking piece of…”

 

“MISS GRANGER!” Professor McGonagall stepped in front of Ron and glared authoratively between the two teenagers, “I will thank you both to remember that there are some very sick children here and they have suffered enough upset for one night without the added trauma of seeing their Head Boy and a senior prefect descend into a common brawl.” Her piercing gaze swung to Hermione’s face, “And I don’t need to remind you that there is acceptable use of language in a school and then there is the filth that just came out of your mouth, Miss Granger.”

 

Hermione swallowed and looked around her at the avid audience still glued to herself and Ron and bit her lip, “I…I’m sorry, Professor. I don’t know what got into me.” Her body sagged as the tension abruptly drained away and Harry released her, keeping a cautious hand on her shoulder just in case she decided to go postal again, “The battle and…and…” Her eyes filled up again and Dawn and Ginny hurried forward to flank her as she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

“Long night.” Dawn, with her own partial meltdown behind her, put a consoling arm round Hermione and glared accusingly at Ron, “Your first big vamp attack always takes it out of you. The stress you know.” Ginny slipped an arm around Hermione’s waist and glared at her brother furiously in place of the man that was currently giving her problems. Ron looked slightly startled at the venomous looks he was receiving from Dawn and Ginny and glanced behind him to make sure there wasn’t a vamp sneaking up behind him that they’d missed. He didn’t look especially reassured to see there wasn’t.

 

“Yes, of course.” Professor McGonagall looked at the teenagers around her and realised somehow she had allowed their bravery and capable manner blind her to the fact that they were still, in essence, children. Their faces were drawn and pale with strain and looked unbearably young, Ginny and Dawn especially looked barely older than the first and second years they had fought so hard to save. “I believe you have done all you can here for this evening. Perhaps it might be best if you retired to your…”

 

“Seamus!” Ron’s shout of relief made everyone jump and then he was leaping forward as Seamus Finnegan and Dean Thomas led the first wave of the returning students from Hogsmeade. Harry and the others followed in Ron’s wake as he hurled himself at Seamus, Dean and Neville as they staggered tiredly through the doors of the hall. “Thank Merlin you’re ok!” Ron cast quick appraising eyes over the drenched and shocked group of students that were climbing the stone stairs slowly and filling the passageway behind, “Did everyone else make it?”

 

Seamus stared up at Ron with blank eyes and then looked past him to the beds and injured filling the hall, “Did they come here too?” He shook his head vacantly, “We tried to stop them. We tried to get back and…” Seamus clenched his hands at his side and shook his head, “There were just so many o’ them.”

 

Dean dragged his forearm over his face, smearing the blood from a nasty gash on his forehead into his hair, “What happened?” From the corner of his eye he caught sight of the covered bodies lying in a row, “Oh God…”

 

Harry hastily moved to block Dean’s view, “They attacked here as well. Death Eaters and vampires, we held them off as long as we could, but…”

 

Neville swayed, “We saw the Aurors in the school grounds but we thought they were just here protecting the school.”

 

Harry shook his head, “No.” He stood on his tiptoes to peer over his friends’ heads, “Have you any injured?”

 

“Yes!” Justin Finch-Fletchley pushed his way forward cradling Hannah Abbott in his arms, “Han got hit with a curse. We can’t wake her up.” His knees buckled suddenly and Connor moved like lightening to snatch the unconscious girl from his arms before they both hit the floor.

 

“Connor, get her to Madam Pomfrey.” Dawn stepped forward as Ron and Harry hastily grabbed at Justin, “The rest of you get in here. Anyone able to walk or wait for medical attention help the ones that can’t. Hermione, Gin, check for bites…”

 

“Get lost!” Dean swung out with his fist and caught Dawn on her jaw as she took Neville’s arm, “Stay the fuck away from us you bloody…” Ron’s fist came out of nowhere and ploughed into Dean’s face to send him crashing to the floor.

 

“ENOUGH!” Shaking with anger and reaction Ron stood over Dean breathing heavily and staring wildly at the shocked faces before him, “That’s enough, no bloody more.” He kicked Dean back to the floor as the other boy tried to scramble to his feet, “STAY DOWN!” Ron shook off Harry’s hand and pointed a rigid finger at the students before him, “You may not want to listen to her but, by Merlin, you will bloody listen to the Head Boy.”

 

He grabbed Seamus by the scruff of his cloak and shook him violently, “We’ve been fighting demons and Death Eaters all night and I am damned if I’m going to fight you lot as well. Get your whining, pathetic arses in here and do as she said or I swear by all the houses I will make you sorry you escaped from Hogsmeade tonight.” Abruptly he let go of Seamus and shoved him forward into the hall, “Now move it!”

 

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Dean climbed to his feet and stood swaying before Ron, “You bloody traitor…”

 

“He’s the Head Boy.” Hermione and Ginny flanked Ron and then Dawn and Harry joined them, holding their wands steadily before them. Hermione lifted her chin and stared Dean down, all anger with Ron put aside in the face of the animosity directed at them, “He’s the Head Boy and what he says goes, now do as you’re bloody well told or the lot of you will find out first hand how we won here tonight.”

 

There was an angry murmuring from the students and Dawn braced herself as they began to push forward then from behind her there came a scream. She spun around and saw one of the bodies on the floor had risen and pushed aside the cloak covering its formerly dead face. “SHIT!” Dawn bent and grabbed for a discarded stake on the floor, “Connor, we got a live one here!”

 

She ran towards the snarling, distorted demon that now inhabited the body of a wiry dark-haired boy, oblivious to the screams that filled the room again. She was aware of Connor vaulting beds and students behind her and then she threw herself forward to tackle the deceptively frail looking demon to the floor and smack her sore fist into its eye. As its head snapped to the side Dawn reared up and without hesitation plunged the stake in her hand into its chest. The demon froze, staring up at Dawn in disbelief and as it crumbled into dust beneath her she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

 

Connor skidded to a halt beside her and hauled her to her feet, “What the hell was that? They shouldn’t be able to rise that fast.”

 

Dawn stared at the other bodies on the floor then became aware of the fresh wails and screams behind her. She glanced back and muttered, “It might be different with magical humans. We can’t take the risk, we’ll have to dispose of the bodies tonight.” She took his arm and walked hurriedly back to Ron and the others, ignoring the horrified looks on Dean and the others’ faces. “I don’t know if any more will rise but we need to make sure they don’t. We need to burn the bodies.”

 

Ron closed his eyes for a moment and then nodded, “Ok.” He glanced sideways at the now silent students and squared his shoulders decisively, “We need your help. What Dawn just killed was a demon and if we leave the children where they are then there’s a chance more demons could take over their bodies and then it’ll start all over again. I need volunteers to help us take the bodies into the grounds and burn them before that happens.”

 

“She k…killed a k…kid…” Neville pointed a shaking hand at Dawn, “R…right in f… front of us.”

 

“Oh for the love of the Goddess!” Dawn put her hands on her hips and tilted her chin challengingly, “Will you listen! They aren’t kids anymore, they’re dead. All of them. Vampires killed them and there’s a chance some of them have been turned and that they could rise as demons themselves. They’re demons and they have no souls, nothing human in them any longer. Connor and I are demon hunters. Killers. We fight demons and we slay them and trust me when I say you don’t want to ignore what I’m saying to you. You need to get over your whole holier-than-Gryffindor ‘tudes and wise the hell up because if you don’t then you are all going to die. Horribly.” Her gaze snapped to Dean, “And just for the record, Wesley Snipes, you pull that fisticuffs crap with me again and I will personally slay your ass where you wobble, are we clear?”

 

Ginny broke the silence that followed Dawn’s exasperated speech, “Right, I think we’re all casting from the same page in the spell book now. Hermione and I will help anyone that needs medical help and then join you outside, Ron, ok?”

 

Ron nodded, “Ok.” He jerked his head at Dean and strode off without looking back, “Move it.”

 

Connor looked at Dawn, “Wesley who? I thought his name was Dean?”

Chapter Text

 

An hour later and all the senior members of all four houses stood with Harry and his friends as Ron touched a flaming torch to the funeral pyre that had been hastily assembled near the edge of the Forbidden Forest and set light to the bodies of those that had fallen in the second battle for Hogwarts. Draco Malfoy stood at the front of the massed ranks of Slytherin behind him and kept his eyes on the fire as it began to claim the small bodies visible through the smoke.

 

While Ron and the others had been engaged in starting to transport the dead from the hall, he had belatedly remembered that his own house had returned from Hogsmeade just before the attack had sounded and had sped off to the Slytherin common room filled with a terrible suspicion. He had erupted through the still open door and stared wildly around him at the empty room before slowly turning and looking at the wide stairs leading to the sleeping areas. Fists clenched at his side he had began to move towards the steps before common sense managed to batter its way through the haze of red fury clouding his mind and vision and he realised that although he was by far the most skilled wizard in his house, the likelihood of his being able to take out all of his house by himself was slim to none.

 

Draco stood in the middle of the room, breathing heavily as he tried to think of his best course of action. He found it hard to believe that it was happy coincidence that his house members had arrived safely back before the village was attacked and knew without a doubt that one or more of the students had been warned by their parents of the coming attack. He thought furiously for a moment and concluded that his own decision to stay at school and not visit the village would be interpreted by his friends as a precaution to safeguard his skin after a warning by his own parents.

 

Draco frowned slightly, why hadn’t he been warned? After the events of the summer holidays he should have surely been informed, if for no other reason than he could have seen to it that the lower years of Slytherin were kept safely out of harm’s way. Shaking off a niggle of unease, he glanced up at the stairs again and reached a decision, striding quickly forward he bellowed up the stairs, “Down here, now. All of you!”

 

He retreated back to the dying fire and stood with his back to it as his housemates came slowly down the stairs, waiting patiently until they stood quietly before him in their dress robes for the feast. Draco swept a negligent hand through the air and drawled carelessly, “You won’t be needing your good robes. The attack on the school and the village finally happened and we’ve all been ordered to the hall to assist Potter and his merry band in clearing the dead.” He kept his eyes carefully hooded but watched carefully for any signs of triumph or pleasure on the faces before him. Good Slytherins to a man, they kept their faces a careful blank. Draco sighed sharply, “Well, go on and get changed. It doesn’t pay to keep old man Dumb-as-a-door waiting after all.”

 

Pansy stepped forward frowning, “What happened to you?” She indicated Draco’s robes that were far from their usual immaculate black, “Why do you look like that?”

 

Cursing furiously in his head, Draco forced himself to give her a cool smile; “I got caught up in the battle when I went to lead our kids back from the hall. Sadly, some of our fanged friends seem to be a bit colour blind regarding the house badges and they decided I looked a tasty treat.” His smile slipped from cool to meaningful as he raised his eyebrows at her, “I’m sure you remember what that’s like, Pansy.” The girl flushed and then bit her lip as she fluttered her eyelashes coquettishly at him. Fighting the urge to hex her into the middle of next week, Draco instead managed to find a smirk dripping with innuendo and sex deep inside himself, “Now as much as it pains me to order you out of your clothes and straight into another set, I’m afraid I really must insist.”

 

Malfoy managed to hold himself erect until they had all disappeared up the stairs to the dorms once more and then turned and vomited helplessly into the fireplace. He gripped the mantle above his bowed head with white-knuckled hands as his stomach heaved time and time again and the faces of the dead children, some his own housemates for Merlin’s sake, swam before his eyes. Finally, after an eternity, he stilled and straightened to draw a shaking arm over his mouth. With a quick flick of his wand he re-ignited the dead fire and then muttered a charm to disguise the gut-wrenching smell of burnt vomit in the room. When the rest of the house rejoined him, he was once more the image of his old self and only someone who looked very closely would have seen the tiny spark of righteous fury in his eyes as he coldly ordered them to follow him back down to the hall.

 

Draco lifted his eyes from the fire and looked up to meet the weeping eyes of Ginny Weasley as she stood in Harry Potter’s arms, watching the fire burn. For a long moment they stared at each other and then Draco blinked as Ginny mouthed one word at him. Tomorrow.

 

Ron stood with an arm around Hermione’s shoulder as he tossed the torch in his hand onto the flames and swallowed against the burn of tears in his throat. All around him were sobs and wails as the children burned and by his side Dawn and Connor stood tall with set faces as they determinedly saw their grim duty through to the end. He pulled Hermione closer against the old shirt that McGonagall had thrust into his hand before they had begun to carry the bodies out and wondered how they did it. His mind was in danger of shutting down completely from the horror and carnage he’d witnessed that evening and he wasn’t exactly a stranger to danger himself. But Dawn and Connor had, by all accounts, faced this and worse practically every night of their lives and yet still they stood tall ready to face evil down the next time it showed any of its many faces.

 

As though aware of his thoughts, Dawn turned her head to face him and stared for a moment with reflected flames from the fire dancing in her luminous green eyes. Her face was drawn with exhaustion but the expression of resolve and bitter fury on it was one that Ron would remember until the end of his days. Dawn reached for his hand and squeezed lightly, “Voldemort had his day today.” She took Connor’s hand with her other one waited until Ron linked his with Hermione and she had linked with Harry and Ginny. Dawn nodded, turned back to the fire and said flatly, “Now it’s our turn.”






 

Connor waited until he was sure everyone was fast asleep and then quietly slipped from his bed. He paced to the window, ignoring the cold air against his nearly naked body and leaned against the window seat to stare down into the dark and silent school grounds. Behind him Harry and Ron slept deeply, worn out by the events of the evening and if he strained his ears he could hear the slow, even breaths of the three girls in the other dormitory. He rolled his shoulders slowly and deepened his breathing to try and slow his racing mind and un-tense his body from the earlier savage fight, but was forced to admit defeat after five futile minutes wheezing like a steam train up a sharp hill.

 

A movement caught his eye and he stared towards the Quidditch pitch where a figure weaved back and forwards through the air like they were salaaming down a mountain in Austria. Connor narrowed his eyes a stray moonbeam caught the hair of the figure and he saw a flash of white blond hair. He glanced back at Harry and Ron and then made up his mind abruptly. Quickly and stealthily he dressed in jeans and a top and grabbed his axe from the foot of the bed. After sticking his head into the girl’s room to check that they were sleeping peacefully, Connor slipped through the common room and out into the school. He managed to make it through the main body of the school without being spotted but just as he was starting down the stone staircase his name was called softly across the empty hall. “Mr Angel.”

 

Connor turned and was unsurprised to find himself looking at Professor Dumbledore, “Oh hey, you’re still up.”

 

“As are you, I see. Do you have permission to be out of bed?” Professor Dumbledore suppressed the twitch of his lips at Connor’s genuinely startled expression at the thought of the Destroyer needing permission to be going anywhere, much less for a midnight jaunt through a recent battleground. “Is there something I need to be aware of?”

 

“Uh…No?” Connor hurriedly tucked his axe out of sight behind his back as the Headmaster looked pointedly at the weapon and shrugged, “Don’t leave home without one.”

 

“Quite.” Dumbledore tucked his hands into the sleeves of his robes and peered at Connor in the dim light, “Are you alright, Mr Angel?”

 

Connor rolled his shoulders uneasily under the penetrating eyes, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little wired from the fight, is all.”

 

“I see. Perhaps Madam Pomfrey could make you a potion to help you…”

 

“No!” Connor scowled darkly, “No magic.”

 

Dumbledore eyed the boy for a moment and then nodded, “As you wish. Perhaps I could be permitted to accompany you on your stroll before bed?” His teeth flashed in the dark, “I also seem to find myself a little…wired?”

 

Connor looked suspiciously at the old wizard for a minute and then gave a belligerent shrug, “Whatever.” He turned and headed down the stairs not waiting to see if the older man followed him. Outside Connor deliberately turned in the opposite direction to the Quidditch pitch and moved at a brisk pace towards the lake, his eyes on the floor and mouth firmly closed to discourage any attempt at small talk.

 

Professor Dumbledore kept pace effortlessly for a few minutes and then took a deep lungful of air, “I find the world seems a much cleaner place after a sharp shower of rain, don’t you think?” Connor grunted but refrained from actually replying, concentrating on suppressing the urge to break into a run and leave Hogwarts and the scene of the battle behind him for a time. The wildness was clawing inside him to be released and his skin hummed with the need to let go his restraint and just drive his body to complete exhaustion in a bid to suppress the bloody images in his head. The Headmaster glanced at Connor from the corner of his eye and sighed quietly before saying, “I imagine this must be very difficult.” He gestured around him at Connor’s inquisitive look and explained, “Forced to live in a world that you neither respect nor trust and surrounded by people who seem to wish you nothing but harm.”

 

Connor gave a bark of bitter laughter before he could stop himself, “Story of my life.” Long lashes swept over his violet eyes to hide the sudden flash of vulnerability in their depths.

 

“And yet you risk your young life at every opportunity to save the very world that has betrayed you so badly.” Dumbledore shook his head, “I imagine it must be a very lonely existence.”

 

“It was.” Connor felt his heart sigh as an image of Dawn’s loving face popped into his mind, “Not any more.”

 

“Ah, yes, the lovely Miss Summers.” Professor Dumbledore smiled widely, “I imagine she must be a great comfort to you.”

 

Connor nodded and glanced over as they passed Hagrid’s cottage and Fang gave a frightened yelp, “She’s everything.”

 

“And yet, here you are, alone in the small hours of the morning wandering through the deserted school grounds and talking with a man old enough to be your grandfather.”

 

Connor snorted, “You look good for three hundred plus.” His eyes were bright with sudden humour as he grinned at the white-haired old man, “Or are you really a sprightly five hundred? My parents are vampires, remember?”

 

Dumbledore gave a rich chuckle, “Of course.” He shook his head, “Well, I can claim to be somewhat advanced in years but thankfully nowhere near my three century mark. My point is that perhaps you could have talked to Miss Summers and she could have helped you settle?”

 

Connor’s face darkened into a scowl again, “She’s tired. She didn’t need to worry about me tonight.”

 

“But perhaps she wanted to?” Dumbledore cut his eyes to Connor’s profile, set and strained under the light of the moon, “I believe Miss Summers would have welcomed the opportunity to help you set this evening behind you.”

 

Connor shook his head sharply, “No. We were together tonight but now this is my time to…to…” He trailed off as his fists clenched and his chest heaved for breath before he burst out, “She doesn’t need to see the darkness in me.”

 

“Forgive me, Mr Angel, but I don’t believe Miss Summers would see the darkness in you if you dipped yourself in black paint and suddenly sprouted horns.” Professor Dumbledore gave a roguish grin at the look on Connor’s face, “I may be old but my memory is as good as it ever was. I can remember the power and thrill of love and the wonder of looking on my soul mate’s face and seeing nothing but perfection there.” The grin faded to a soft smile of affectionate memory, “And between you and me, Elise was quite homely in comparison to your love and meaner than hippogriff in heat. Ah, here we are.”

 

Connor tore his eyes from the wise face above him and gave a startled blink as he realised that somehow they had wandered through the school grounds until they had arrived at the edge of the Quidditch pitch. He flushed guiltily under Dumbledore’s amused eyes and made a point of focusing on the figure speeding through the air high above them.

 

“I imagine Mr Malfoy would be glad of someone to unburden himself to tonight.” Professor Dumbledore very carefully kept all expression out of his voice but couldn’t resist taking a peep at Connor’s horrified expression from the corner of his eye.

 

“I don’t do bonding.” Connor folded his arms across his chest and spoke in tones of deep finality, much like the one tone he had used in Madam Malkin’s when it came to trying on the man dresses/robes. “And I don’t do expressing or sharing of emotion. Ever.”

 

“I see.” Professor Dumbledore clasped his hands behind his back and cocked his head to one side thoughtfully as he watched Malfoy hurtle towards the ground in a break neck dive and wrench his broomstick up at the last possible moment to avoid death by high velocity impact. “Perhaps you might consider sharing this instead?” He brought his hand out from behind his back and Connor gaped at the bottle of whisky clasped in his hand.

 

“You want me to get one of your students drunk?” Connor eyes darted between the bottle and Dumbledore’s face incredulously, “You actually want me to get one of the people in your care drunk?”

 

“Absolutely not.” Professor Dumbledore shook his head reprovingly, “I want two of my students to get drunk. Yourself and Mr Malfoy to be exact.”

 

Connor’s eyes darted from side to side nervously as he briefly considered the possibility that he’d taken a hit to the head tonight that had gone undetected in the chaos of the battle and its aftermath and he was now hallucinating his ass off. Either that or Cordelia and Angel were hiding behind a nearby tree waiting for him to reach for the whisky and were then going to pounce and deliver the disappointed parent lecture of a lifetime. He sniffed the air suspiciously. Nope, no trace of hair-gel or slightly cloying perfume.

 

“If you don’t allow yourself to let go soon you may snap. I suspect that may be a bad thing.” Professor Dumbledore kept his tone light but his expression was deadly serious as he stared at Connor, “I firmly believe that age is a state of mind and not of the body, Connor. As you are so reluctant to accept magical assistance, perhaps a more traditional remedy may help.” The bottle waggled again, “There is no shame in taking help where it is needed and I know that without assistance yourself and Mr Malfoy will continue blame yourselves for tonight’s events and will face much greater problems along the line.” The whisky was shoved into Connor’s unresisting hand, “Take it, and with my blessing go and get thoroughly relaxed.”

 

Connor stared open mouthed as the old man wheeled around and strode back towards the school, calling over his shoulder, “I will make sure that you remain undisturbed. Please stay away from the school whilst you are…indisposed.” Connor stayed rooted to the spot until the shape of the old wizard was lost even to his enhanced night vision and then stared at the bottle of amber liquid in his hand. He raised the bottle and sniffed suspiciously at it, but aside from the metallic smell of the foil wrapped around the lid he could detect no scent of anything but glass. Connor turned as he heard a muffled thump and saw Draco rolling heavily across the grass of the Quidditch pitch before coming to a halt and lying motionless face up on the ground.

 

Connor broke into a run and sprinted to the other boy’s side, skidding to a halt beside Malfoy’s head, “Are you alright?”

 

Malfoy blinked as Connor’s face suddenly blocked his view of the stars and then groaned, “Oh fan-bloody-tastic. What do you want?”

 

“Still not dead then?” Connor reached down and hauled Draco to his feet, “Anything broken?”

 

Malfoy batted away Connor’s hands as he checked him for broken bones, “Do you mind!”

 

“Relax Mary, your virtue is safe with me.” Connor gave Malfoy an old-fashioned look and nodded in satisfaction, “Well, you seem fine.”

 

“It’s Malfoy!” Draco glared at Connor as he resettled his robes around him, “Muggle.”

 

Connor raised an eyebrow, “Oh yeah, you’re definitely ok.” His fist moved so fast through the air that Malfoy would swear later it blurred and then he was flying through the air for the second time in under a minute to crash painfully back to the ground. Connor stomped after him, placed his heavy boot on Draco’s unprotected throat and ground down sharply, “Now tell me what the hell you did to Ginny earlier or I’ll crush your windpipe like a newt eye.”

 

“Ah…ugh…ahh…”

 

Connor scowled at the desperate gasping from under the sole of his boot and pushed down a little more, “And don’t bother to lie to me because I smelt you all over her, you son-of-a-bitch.” The pressure increased just a little more, “And I smelt her fear. If you hurt her you’re just a step away from the ass-kicking of a life time, buddy.”

 

Draco beat frantically at Connor’s ankles as his air supply was cut off and his face began to turn purple through lack of oxygen. Connor watched with interest as the boy beneath his foot began to foam at the mouth, “Cool. You don’t get this with demons. Can you make the blood vessels in your eyes burst as well?” Draco paused for a minute in his wild flailing to stare in disbelief at the fascinated face above and then with a frantic burst on energy began to thump Connor’s leg again. Connor winced, “Ow, that stings.” His boot eased back slightly and Draco sucked desperately for air, “Let’s hear it then, Molly.”

 

Malfoy’s face worked as he tried to drag in air and he spat hoarsely, “Mal..foy. My name is Malfoy. Connie.”

 

Connor’s eyebrows went up in reluctant admiration, “You’re one of those never-know-when-to-quit-types, huh?” He took his foot off Draco’s throat and hauled him upright before giving him a hard cuff to the side of his head that sent him to his hands and knees, “I respect that, I really do, but unfortunately for you I respect Ginny more.” He kicked Malfoy’s arms out from under him and watched as the other boy pitched face forward into the wet grass, “So tell me what happened between you and I absolutely swear I’ll only kill you the once. Probably.”

 

Draco raised his head from the ground, spitting out grass and mud, “Piss off, you…”

 

Connor rolled his eyes, “Oh for God’s sake, just give it up already.” He leaned down and pushed Malfoy’s face back into the mud, ignoring the wildly flailing arms and bucking of the larger boy, “Just answer the goddamn question.”

 

Draco sucked in a mouthful of air as his head was yanked back, “Nothing! Nothing happened!”

 

Connor shoved his head back down, “Liar.” He pushed down hard and rubbed the blond head in his hand furiously into the floor. “Try again.”

 

“I…pushed…her…down.” Draco spat out more mud and blinked to clear the filth from his eyes, “She…broke into…our common room…and I caught…her.” His chest burned with more than a lack of oxygen as he saw again Ginny’s white fearful face and he tried to tug his hair from Connor’s implacable grip, “I didn’t… mean to…hurt her.”

 

Connor sat back on his heels and then abruptly let go of Draco, “But you did.” He watched as the wet and filthy prefect rolled onto his back and stared up at the sky, “Didn’t you?”

 

“Yes.” Draco rubbed a hand over his face and scooped the mud from his eyes, blinking at the burning in them, “Yes, I did. I got…caught up in the moment.”

 

Connor nodded, “It happens.” He glanced around him and then reached out and snagged the abandoned bottle of whisky, “Drink?”

 

“What?” Malfoy pushed himself up onto shaky arms and stared from the whisky to Connor’s face, “What’s this, a condemned man’s last drink?”

 

Connor laughed, “Kinda.” His teeth flashed in the starlight, “Only it’s not me that’s gonna be killing you.” He ripped off the foil on the bottle and unscrewed the cap, “Here’s to Ginny Weasley, slayer of dragons.” He tipped back the bottle took a healthy swig and then completely ruined his man-of-the-world persona when he choked and spat the whisky straight in Malfoy’s eye.

 

“HEY!” Draco recoiled and scrubbed frantically at his face, “Are you completely insane?” Connor clutched at his throat and gasped entertainingly as the some of the potent liquid made its way down. “Give me that!” Malfoy snatched the bottle out of Connor’s unresisting hand, briefly considered cracking him over the head with it, and then took his own pull. Much to Connor’s secret shame the only reaction Malfoy gave was a tiny gasp and a shudder. “Good stuff.”

 

“God…” Connor blinked back tears as he found he was able to breathe again, “What the hell is that stuff?”

 

“Firewhisky. Circa 1960 if I’m any judge.” Malfoy handed the bottle back to Connor and watched with a sneer as the smaller boy took a much more cautious sip, “And what the hell did you mean about Weasel?”

 

Connor shivered as the whisky made its way down and a slow warmth spread through his belly, “Huh? Oh, it’s kind of obvious how you feel about her.” He took another swig of the liquid and held the bottle back out to the appalled Malfoy, “More?”

 

“What?” Draco stared in horror at Connor, “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t feel anything for the little carrot except revulsion and…” He glared at Connor’s knowing smirk, snatched the bottle to him and took a long pull. “Merlin…does everyone know?”

 

Connor rolled onto his back and lay companionably alongside Draco, “Nah, just me.” He took the bottle away from Malfoy hastily when Draco raised it again, “And I’m not going to tell anyone. Does Ginny know how you feel?”

 

“No.” Draco flopped back onto the ground and flung an arm across his eyes, “What would be the point? She hates me.”

 

“You’ve got it bad, huh?” Connor raised himself up and took a swig before flopping back down again, “And she doesn’t hate you. If she hated you then you’d be in a lot of different pieces right now and I’d be answering a lot of sticky questions about why I was covered in your blood.” He nudged an elbow into Draco’s side, “Tell me what you did and I’ll tell you how much grovelling you can expect to have to do.”

 

Draco raised his arm, “And why the hell would I tell you anything?”

 

Connor grinned up at the sky and watched as the stars began to swim lazily from side to side, “I don’t see anyone else falling over themselves to listen do you?” He raised a hand to scratch at one ear when a light buzzing began to sound and missed, “’Sides, I know how it feels to be with a girl and have her cut out your heart with just a look.” He toasted the moon, “Nothin’ like it.”

 

Malfoy snatched the bottle back, raised his head to take another pull and thumped his head back with a groan, “That’s not me.” His fingers began to go pleasantly numb as the whisky started to work with a vengeance; “I don’t get that way over girls.”

 

That struck Connor as highly amusing, “Sure you do.” He laughed and felt the hard ball of tension inside him loosen slightly, “There’s not a man on this planet that doesn’t get like that over women. ‘Cept my Uncle Lorne. But he’s a demon so he probably doesn’t count.” He squinted thoughtfully at the dark sky, “And the ones that like guys. And the ones that have that thing about the goats.” He turned his head and looked at Draco’s startled face, “What’s up with that, do you know?”

 

“Goats?” Malfoy snuck a sneaky peek at the level of whisky in the bottle and then looked back at Connor, “Goats? Where the hell did you get that from?”

 

Connor waved a hand through the air and narrowly missed poking himself in the eye, “It’s just something Spike and Xander were talking about.” He rolled onto his side suddenly, “Anyway, so not the point.” He frowned as he tried to remember what the point was. Aha! “The point is that everyone goes a little nuts over a girl sometime. Look at Ron and Hermione.” He sniggered, “What an idiot.”

 

Unclear as to whether Connor was calling himself or Ron an idiot, Malfoy chose the more appealing option, “Always was. He’s been after getting in Granger’s pants for years but got stuck being her sodding surrogate girlfriend instead.”

 

Connor snatched the whisky, “I meant you.” Ah, that cleared that up then.

 

“Oh.” Draco snatched the bottle back after missing on the first go, “I’m not an idiot.” He rolled onto his side, took another hit and sighed, “I’m bad to the bone but I’m not an idiot. I really scared her.” He blinked in astonishment as the last sentence burst from him in a rush and then glared at the whisky, “This stuff is a lot stronger than I thought.”

 

Connor took a firm grip on the grass under him as the world tilted and nodded, “Oh yeah. So what did you do that scared her?”

 

“I tried to kiss her.” Draco’s face fell mournfully and he tried to focus on the end of his nose as he realised he could no longer feel it, “I tried to kiss her and she ran away.”

 

“That doesn’t sound so bad.” Connor smiled bracingly and decided not to mention that his entire body had gone numb and he wasn’t sure if he could stand any longer. There were more important things at stake after all. “I kiss Dawn all the time.”

 

“Yeah, but I bet you don’t hold her down on the floor and threaten her while you do it.” Draco tipped the bottle towards his mouth again and jumped as Connor burst out laughing.

 

“Have you seen my girlfriend?” Connor gave another whoop of amusement, “If I pulled that crap on her and they’d still be finding my remains a month later.”

 

“What a very special relationship you must have.” Draco tried to sneer but was alarmed to find his face muscles no longer seemed to be responding, “Does my face look alright to you?”

 

“Huh?” Connor squinted at Malfoy’s mud smeared face and the blades of grass stuck to his chin like a jaunty green goatee, “Oh yeah, you look fine. What did you go and do a thing like that to Ginny for?”

 

“I didn’t mean to!” Draco gestured wildly with the whisky bottle and splashed alcohol liberally over himself and Connor, “We got caught by the others and I hid her and then she fell asleep and hit me.” He scowled in remembered outrage, “What’d she do that for? I wasn’t hurting her.” Connor nodded encouragingly and Draco continued, “And then when I chased her and caught her she just smelled so good.” He took a good sniff of the night air as though remembering the moment, “All soapy and clean.”

 

Connor nodded approvingly, “Ginny’s very clean. And she’s got great teeth.”

 

“You noticed that too?” Draco took another swig of the whisky and then handed the bottle to Connor, “They really go with her eyes.”

 

It was a measure of just how drunk Connor was getting that this remark made perfect sense. “And her eyes are really pretty.”

 

“Oh yeah.” Malfoy scowled suddenly, “Hey, what the hell are you doing looking at her eyes?”

 

Connor sniggered, “Dawn gets really ticked if I go round looking at other girls’ chests.”

 

Draco continued to scowl for a moment and then broke down into helpless giggles with Connor, “I’ll bet.” He continued to giggle for a moment and then the laughter faded, “What am I going to do? She’s never going to want me after that.”

 

Connor cocked his head to one side, desperately relieved that it hit his shoulder and didn’t just fall off. That whisky really was incredibly strong. “You have to show her that’s not you, that you made a mistake.” He eyed Draco’s large frame, “Lets face it, you could have really hurt her if you wanted to but you didn’t, you stopped. Why did you stop?”

 

“I…I don’t know.” Draco thought back to Ginny stretched taut under him and her white, tearful face, “She said she’d scream.” Self-disgust filled him, “Merlin, all I could think about was how she felt and how she’d taste and she was scared out of her mind.” Bile clawed up his throat, “I’ve never lost control like that in my life.”

 

“Me neither.” Connor gave a tiny smile, “Except for the first time Dawn was injured in front of me. I didn’t hear her threats or feel her struggles, all I knew was that I had to get my hands on her and make sure she was ok. I nearly ripped off her top and had her half naked over me before she managed to break through to me.” He carefully shook his head, “Not quite the same thing but I know how it feels to lose control with a touch. Makes it worse when you hold yourself tighter than duck’s ass at any other time.”

 

Malfoy choked at the colourful analogy and then eyed Connor thoughtfully, “Yes. That’s it exactly. I just don’t understand how I lost control like that.”

 

“Welcome to the wonderful world of love.” Connor took another pull from the whisky and handed it back to Draco.

 

They lay in silence for a few minutes and then Malfoy pointed at a high turret, “That’s her window. I’ve been out here every night for the last month watching it, just to catch a glimpse of her. What a twat, eh?”

 

Connor stared up at the window and then looked back at Draco, “That’s also Dawn’s window.”

 

Draco blinked at the sudden threatening growl and said hastily, “I didn’t mean like that! I mean just watching her when she was walking around or sitting by the window reading.” He hung his head to hide a sudden flush, “I looked away when she started to undress.” He gave a sudden disgusted snort, “She’s turned me into another bloody Potter.”

 

Connor eyed him for another minute and then suddenly grinned, “Would that be so bad?”

 

“YES!” All trace of humility was gone as Malfoy lifted his head and looked daggers at Connor’s face, “I’m not out to save the fucking world. All I bloody want is a warm willing body and to keep my rather large fortune, thanks. Look out for number one, mate, that’s my motto.”

 

Connor’s grin widened, “Yeah, that’s what I figured. The whole time you were fighting alongside us in the hall I could see you were just dying to run off and count your Galleons.”

 

Draco tipped the whisky bottle back and said bitterly, “Didn’t do any bloody good did it? They still died.”

 

“Yeah, they still died.” Cold sobriety washed over Connor and he snatched the bottle away for a long pull of his own, “Whatever you do it’s never enough. Dammit.” The bottle suddenly hurtled through the air and Connor sat up and raked his hands through his hair, “It’s never fucking enough.”

 

“Oi!” Draco watched the bottle disappear into the night and then sat up beside Connor resignedly, “Right bloody pair we make, eh?”

 

Connor gave a mix of a sob and a laugh, “Oh yeah. Screw-ups R Us.”

 

They sat in silence for long minutes until Malfoy said uncomfortably, “You saved a lot of lives tonight. You did the best you could.”

 

“And there’s the kick in the ass.” Connor raised his head and stared blindly at the school, “My best wasn’t good enough.” He tugged at the grass beside him, “When we got back to the dorm tonight we cried.” He gave an embarrassed shrug and glanced at Malloy’s profile, “All of us. We cried for an hour or more but it didn’t help.”

 

Draco nodded and amazed himself by confiding, “I threw up. That didn’t help either.”

 

“At least I had people with me. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on my own then.”

 

Draco shrugged at Connor’s careful words, “It made no difference to me, I’m used to being on my own.”

 

“You don’t have to be.” Connor kept his eyes on the castle as Draco stared incredulously at him, “There’s no rule to say you have to be on your own.”

 

“And wouldn’t that be entertaining?” Draco laughed bitterly, “Draco Malfoy joining forces with Harry ‘I’m so wonderful’ Potter and his little band of do-gooders. Thanks but no thanks, I think somehow I prefer my own company.”

 

“I didn’t mean that.” Connor shook his head and gripped Draco’s arm as he tried to get to his feet, “I mean that there’s nothing stopping you and me being friends. We’re a lot alike.”

 

“Oh yes?” Malfoy sneered at Connor cynically, “Do tell. Exactly how much do I have in common with a muggle demon killer with a deplorable haircut?”

 

Connor scowled at the mention of his hair but ploughed doggedly on, “Well for a start, we’re both in love with women we don’t deserve and neither of us are what you call pillars of the community.” He grinned suddenly, “And I actually think I’m hated by just as many people as you are in this school.”

 

Malfoy couldn’t help reluctant laugh that burst from him, “Oh surely not? I didn’t think that was possible.”

 

Connor cocked his chin and looked smug, “I do the impossible every day. Believe it.”


“What about Potter and Weasley? I can’t see them being too delighted by you becoming chummy with their own personal devil.” Draco jerked his head towards the school, “Just not Quidditch, you know?”

 

Connor shrugged, “Harry and Ron are my friends but I’m not about to let them tell me who I can or can’t speak to. Besides…” Connor smiled mischievously, “Are you going after Ginny or not? I could come in handy.”

 

Malfoy blinked in surprise, “You’re actually saying I should pursue her?”

 

“Well, yeah.” Connor frowned, “You want her don’t you? And she was sticking up for you whenever Harry and Ron started picking on you before tonight.”

 

“She was?” Malfoy didn’t need a mirror to know that a highly embarrassing sappy grin was spreading across his face, “She stuck up for me?”

 

“Yep.” Connor nodded and then said seriously, “But if you hurt her again I will have to kill you.”

 

“Of course.” Draco stared back towards the castle thoughtfully, “I don’t think we should mention our…alliance to Potter and the others just yet. They wouldn’t understand and I believe it would be beneficial to keep our council from the rest of the school.”

 

“Gotcha.” Connor stretched his hands over his head and was amazed to find that the bitter, burning tension in his chest had disappeared and all that was left was a light head from the whisky and a faint drag of tiredness, “We’d better get back.” He glanced around for his axe and saw it lying beside Malfoy’s abandoned broom back in the middle of the pitch. “Time to see if all that whisky will let us stand.”

 

It was an effort, but they finally managed to stand upright and then make their unsteady way to their belongings. Draco put his hand over his broom and muttered ‘Up!’ while he braced Connor as he bent for his axe. “Where did you get the whisky anyway?”

 

Connor fought the urge to collapse on the ground as his head swam and straightened with a muttered curse. He had the feeling if he told Draco he had been given it by the Headmaster for an officially sanctioned booze fest he might lose all the bad-boy points he had gained with his new friend. “Stole it.”

 

Draco grinned and swung a leg over his broom, “You are a naughty boy. Hop on, muggle, I’ll give you a lift.”

 

Connor got on behind Malfoy and clutched at him tightly as the broom weaved unsteadily upwards, “Should we be on this when we’re drunk?”

 

“Probably not.” Malfoy laughed as he squinted to try and bring the castle into focus, “I’ll try not to hit anything.”

 

Connor grinned and looked down at the ground rushing beneath his dangling feet, “God, this is great. I wish I could fly.”

 

“Why can’t you?” Malfoy glanced back over his shoulder and cursed as the broom pulled sharply to the left with the motion. He managed to steady them and shouted back, “What’s stopping you?”

 

“Muggle, remember?” Connor waved at a watching Auror and received a salute in reply, “No magic.”

 

Draco landed them with a bump on the castle steps and climbed clumsily off the broomstick, “So? That’s not a problem.” They staggered through the castle doors and up into the Entrance Hall, “Meet me by the Quidditch pitch tomorrow night at twelve o’clock and we’ll break a few more rules.”

 

Connor gripped the banister leading up the stairs to his bed, “Ok. It’s a date.”

 

Malfoy staggered off in the direction of the Slytherin dungeon clutching his broom, “You wish, Angel, you wish.”

 

Connor laughed and made his careful way up the stairs oblivious to the blue eyes watching his progress. Professor Albus Dumbledore stepped out of the shadows and clapped his hands together, “Marvellous. Simply marvellous.” He turned and made his way towards his own quarters. Now it could begin.

 

Chapter Text

 

The Hogwarts the students awoke to the next morning was very different from the one they had risen to the day before. For a start they hadn’t been locked in their tower the previous morning and Connor wasn’t looking like his head would fall off every time he moved or Ginny booted their common room door.

 

“Why…won’t…it…OPEN?” Ginny pounded the sturdy oak door with her fist and then kicked it again for good measure, “It…won’t…even…budge!” She fell back panting with exertion and pushed her hair back from her sweaty face.

 

Ron and Harry grabbed an armchair and lifted it between them, “Get out of the way, Gin.” Ginny backed hastily away at her brother’s command and watched as the comfortable chair was used as an impromptu battering ram. And then watched as it slammed into the door, shattered into a pile of leather and wood and Ron and Harry crashed cursing to the floor.

 

Dawn gripped her axe, “Move!” Harry and Ron scrambled for safety as she sprinted forward with an enraged yell and brought her axe squarely down in the centre of the wooden door. Ginny winced as Dawn yelled again, this time in pained surprise, and the axe head bounced off the handle and flew backwards to narrowly miss the miserable looking Connor. Dawn sucked her throbbing fingers and glared at her severely hung over boyfriend, “Your turn.”

 

Connor raised his throbbing head from where it lay on the back of the sofa, “What do you…” He swallowed and ran his tongue over his dry lips, “What do you want me to do? Can’t you try magic on it again?” He swallowed again and whispered pitifully, “Please?”

 

“No can do, mate. We’ve tried every charm, hex and spell we know between us. The damn thing just won’t shift.” Ron cocked a mischievous eyebrow, “Maybe you could be sick on it? I know when you tried it with me this morning I got out of your way pretty damn sharpish.” Harry choked back a laugh at Connor’s woeful attempt at a glare and hurriedly straightened his face as he saw Dawn’s much better effort dart from Connor to Ron and then to himself.

 

To say that Dawn was unimpressed to open her bedroom door that morning and find her boyfriend unconscious on the floor, wearing naught but a sock, tighty-whities and a whisky soaked grin would have been an understatement. After checking that Connor was indeed unconscious and not dead, and that his clothes in fact had been dumped in a meandering trail behind him from the common room and not stolen in a vicious prank, Dawn had proceeded to kick her boyfriend awake with unsympathetic, and malicious, enthusiasm.

 

The howl of protest from Connor had awakened Ginny and Hermione, who both shot out of bed with their wands drawn thinking they were under attack again, and they were treated to the not unpleasant view of the toned and beautifully muscled backside of Connor Angel rolling around on the floor and then scrambling in self-defence to his unsteady feet. Ginny pushed her hair back from her bruised and scratched face, “Goodness!”

 

Hermione fighting her own hair back and down to one eye thanks to a lucky punch from a demon the previous night took a few seconds longer to realise there was no danger and then gasped most appreciatively as Connor’s butt bounced from a well-placed kick from Dawn, “Oh my.”

 

“You bastard!” Dawn couldn’t have cared less if Connor had stripped all his clothes off to give her a spontaneous lap dance complete with baby oil and the sex toys that Buffy and Spike liked to pretend she didn’t know about, “You complete bastard! I thought you were freaking dead!”

 

Connor trying to dodge Dawn’s wild kicks and clutching his throbbing head, unstuck his swollen tongue from the roof of his mouth and muttered sincerely, “God, I wish I was.” He staggered against the wall and held out a shaking hand, “Honey, please, I’m sorry. I really don’t feel well.”

 

“Good!” Dawn’s screech brought Ron and Harry skidding out of their dorm room and sprinting to the girl’s door with their wands out and grim expressions on their faces. “I hope you damn well feel like shit!”

 

Ron reached to support Connor as the smaller boy staggered, “What happened, mate? Has there been another attack?” He sniffed at Connor suddenly and then recoiled sharply, “Bloody hell, you smell like a brewery.”

 

Hermione still standing inside her room and thus not within range of the truly spectacular odour emanating from Connor felt a blush spread across her face as she realised she was living the secret fantasies of half the adolescent girls at Hogwarts. Ron and Harry hadn’t bothered to grab a robe before rushing out of their rooms and stood in the corridor wearing just the pyjama bottoms they had slept in. The very, very low-slung pyjama bottoms they slept in. Even supporting the wilting Connor between them and fending off the yelling Dawn they looked positively beautiful in the early morning light with their rumpled hair and newly defined torso muscles, thanks to the daily physical training sessions that had become part of their lives since meeting Dawn and Connor.

 

Hermione’s eyes drifted slowly over Ron’s chest and stomach and felt a sharp ping go off in her stomach as she realised that her old friend was most definitely not a gangly boy any longer. Hermione eyed Harry and, although he was very impressively shaped, privately thought that he was sadly lacking in comparison to the sheer breath taking size and shape of the Head Boy. Then she shook her head lightly, wondering whether she ought to get herself to Madam Pomfrey and get checked out. She’d obviously lost her mind somewhere between fending off hordes of the evil undead the previous evening and waking up that morning. She jumped as Ginny elbowed her sharply in the side, “Wh…what?” Why was everyone silent and looking at her? A deeper blush stained her cheeks, “What is it?”

 

Ginny gave her an odd look, “I said, haven’t we got something that would help Connor? A pain relief potion or a re-hydration draught?”

 

Hermione was alarmed to find that her eyes seemed to be glued to Ron’s chest. However much she tried to tear her gaze away, her eyes bounced back to his nipples with the inexorable force of the earth orbiting the sun. “Um…”

 

Ron frowned and shifted uncomfortably as Hermione trailed off and stared at his chest wide-eyed. He glanced down and winced as he saw his pale skin mottled with cuts and ugly bruises from neck to waist. Not exactly looking like ‘PlayWitch’ material this morning. Completely misinterpreting her glazed look, he pulled the pitiful Connor in front of him to hide from her gaze and said testily, “When you’ve quite finished, Herm, could you and Gin sort something out for Connor so he can at least stand up by himself?” Ron met Harry’s eyes over Connor’s throbbing head, “Showers?”

 

Leaving Hermione and Dawn glaring after the three of them as they half carried Connor up the corridor, and Ginny stifling her giggles manfully, Ron and Harry guided the moaning Connor into the bathroom. Propping Connor on the side of a bath and leaving Harry to hold him up, Ron reached for the shower attachment and started the water running, “What the bloody hell did you do last night?” He straightened up and glared down at the now distinctly green Connor, “And where the hell did you get booze in this school?”

 

“I…um…I…” Connor gulped unhappily, “I think I’m gonna be…”

 

Harry jumped out of the way as Connor fell backwards into the bathtub and vomited in spectacular fashion all over himself, “Merlin…” He swallowed and backed away as he felt his own stomach revolt in sympathy, “He’s not looking good.”

 

Ron moved hurriedly to the windows and flung them open to admit the cold November air, “And he smells worse. I haven’t seen anything like this since Fred and George spiked Perce’s drinks at their graduation party and he did the Highland fling on the kitchen table.” He shared a reminiscent grin with Harry, “Bloody amazing how he kept going when he slipped and fell on that wand, wasn’t it?”

 

“Yeah.” Harry chuckled at the memory of the staid, sensible Percy buck-naked on the Weasley table with a joke wand hanging out of his arse, flickering between a droopy chicken and polished mahogany. “And how he kept dodging your mum’s curses I’ll never know.”

 

“Weasley reflexes, you learn young in that house let me tell you.” Ron edged cautiously back to the whimpering Connor, “You’d think after that lager in the Cauldron he’d have learnt he couldn’t take his booze.” Connor moaned pitifully and Ron smirked as he watched the other boy try and sit up, “Think he’s finished?”

 

Harry held his hand over his mouth and nose as he moved to the head of the bathtub and reached for the shower faucet, “Unless he’s actually going to try and sick up his stomach, I reckon so.” He shot a sympathetic look at Connor, “Sorry about this. Brace yourself.” With a quick twist of his hand a powerful jet of ice-cold water shot out and hit the unfortunate Connor. Eyes wide with shock and cold Connor jack-knifed into a sitting position and scrabbled pitifully for the edge of the tub.

 

Ron moved forward and jabbed Connor’s shoulder with a sharp forefinger, sending the American back to the floor of the bath, “You’ll thank us for this later. Stop when he goes blue, Harry.”

 

Harry nodded and grinned, “Or he drowns. Whatever happens first.”

 

An hour later, Ron gulped at the look of unabated fury on Dawn’s face. It was apparent that Connor would be wishing his friends had drowned him before the end of the day. Ron shrugged and switched his attention to Hermione, “Herm, any thoughts?” He eyed her flushed face as she jumped as though a Hippogriff had suddenly kicked her and frowned; she was definitely acting oddly today.

 

Hermione bit her lip and turned hurriedly away from her friends to cross to the window and stare down into the school grounds to give herself some time. She had a lot of thoughts currently making her brain hurt and unfortunately most of them had to with the half-naked Ron she had seen that morning.

 

She shook her head, what was wrong with her? He was Ron, her friend, her annoying mate with the bad temper and a mean line in sarcastic remarks just guaranteed to have her grinding her teeth and flouncing off at least ten times a day. Ron wasn’t a…a…boy! She clenched her fists tightly, whatever thoughts she was having she was going to stop them right now; she was not, absolutely not, going to develop a crush on Ronald Jonathan Weasley.

 

With her now restored logical and calculating mind Hermione turned back from the window, unaware that Ron had followed her, and crashed headlong into his arms. “Whoa, steady there, Hermione! You alright?”

 

Hermione looked up into Ron’s face and her own blanched with horror as her heart crashed against the wall of her chest. She could feel the heat of his fingers through the material of her robes and was hazily aware of the scent of soap and the liniment potion that he’d used on his bruises that morning wafting up her nose. Logic and Calculation waved as they packed their bags for their unexpected vacation and cheerily handed over the keys to Hermione’s mind to Hormonal and Lusty on their way out the door. Hermione swallowed, “Oh damn it.”

Ron righted her with a pat on the head, “S’alright, no harm done.” He pointed at the still locked common room door, “Any thoughts?”

 

Hermione stared blankly at the door, “It’s locked.” Dawn’s eyes swung from glaring at Connor to join the rest of the room in staring incredulously at Hermione. Hermione flushed, “What?”

 

“That’s it?” Dawn put her hands on her hips and resisted the urge to stamp her foot and scream. She was still tired from the events of the previous evening, unbelievably pissed at Connor and her temper was not being improved by the knowledge that when Buffy had saved the world at her age the worst she woke up to the next morning was a snit fit from their mom and a de-briefing from Giles. Dawn froze and hurriedly emptied her mind of the sudden explicit images of Giles debriefing anyone and focused frantically back onto the current problem of being locked in her room like a child. “Goddamn it!” She spun and kicked at the door in frustration, “What the hell is going on?”

 

Hermione edged away from Ron and glanced out the windows again, “There doesn’t seem to be any danger.” She pointed down at the grounds, “There’s a lot of ministry Aurors out there, maybe they did it.”

 

Dawn stomped over to the window, “Well they can just undo it.” She fumbled with the window catch and snarled furiously when it refused to budge, “FUCK IT!”

 

“Dawn!” Hermione stared reproachfully at her friend, “I don’t think there’s any need for that. The Ministry obviously think we should stay out of the way and in safety…”

 

Ginny crossed to Dawn’s side and handed her another axe, “Here, try this.” The younger girl grinned at Dawn’s grunt of thanks and Hermione’s tut of disapproval, “And Herm, after the scene you and Ron caused in the Hall last night, I don’t think you’re in any position to be commenting on someone else’s language.”

 

“That was completely different.” Hermione flushed with a mix of anger and remembered embarrassment and glared at Ron, “And completely his fault.”

 

“My fault?” Ron drew himself up to his full height, “I don’t think so, Hermione. I wasn’t the one…”

 

“Ronald Weasley, don’t even think about trying to weasel out of…WHAT?” Hermione rounded on Harry as he tried to muffle a snort of laughter, “What is so funny?”

 

Harry backed up a step, “Sorry. I…um…thought you…um…made a joke.  Y’know…Weasel/Weasley? Like Malfoy?” He gave her an uneasy grin, “Obviously not. My mistake. Sorry.”

 

Fortunately Hermione was prevented from exploding by Dawn swinging back from the window in defeat and throwing the axe to slam into the doorframe leading to the stairs, “Ok, that’s it. All those in favour of not being locked in here anymore, come with me.” She took a breath and flung out her hand with a look of fierce concentration on her face, “We’re going to find out what the hell is happening.”

 

Connor struggled to sit up, “Ah, hun, what are you do…Oh crap. Weapons!” Heroically ignoring the increased pounding in his temples Connor leapt out of his chair as a very familiar green light suddenly appeared in the centre of the room, “Get some weapons!”

 

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.” Dawn gritted her teeth and concentrated on building a picture of the Great Hall in her mind as she began to create her doorway, “Really, can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”

 

“Are we sure this is a good idea?” Hermione drew her wand and moved hastily to stand behind Dawn, “I’m sure if they needed us downstairs they would have called. We’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

 

Harry had a sudden unwelcome vision of the stained training mats upstairs after Dawn’s last attempt to open a safe portal, “Dawn, frankly I think you’ve had better plans.”

 

“Detention at least.” Hermione’s eyes widened in time with the portal in the middle of the room, “Maybe suspension…”

 

Ron couldn’t help the grin at the object of his affections even as he backed away from the glowing green door and accepted a sword from Connor, typical Hermione. Always worried about the consequences rather than the actions that preceded them. Dawn shook her hair back and lowered her hand as the door stopped growing and a hole four foot by four foot hung in the air, “Let’s live dangerously.” She made sure her wand was securely in her robe pocket and then sprinted forward to dive through the portal.

 

Ron shook his head, “That’s all we ever seem to do around you people.” He shrugged, “Oh well, in for a penny…” With a reassuring smile at Ginny he followed Dawn with a loud yell.

 

Hermione stood and watched as one by one the rest of her house disappeared through the portal and then muttered gloomily, “Probably expulsion.” She gripped her wand and walked to the portal, “Azkaban at the outside.” Gingerly she stuck her foot through, “I hate my life.”




 

“OW!” Spike shook his head irritably as he climbed to his feet and glared at the fluorescent yellow demon hissing at him, “That bloody ‘urt!” He glanced at the shoulder of his duster, “And you ripped my soddin’ coat.”

 

“Yeah, that’s my biggest worry.” Xander ducked as the demon’s mate spat something unpleasant and green at him, “Your oh-so-cutting-edge-couture’s been damaged.”

 

“Hey, this coat ‘appens to be practically an antique.” Spike vaulted over the tombstone he’d just crashed inelegantly against and landed lightly on top of a mausoleum, “Don’t see any of your spawn-of-whatever-the-soddin’-hell-shirts making it to the top of the GQ list.”

 

“I’m an…” Xander dodged nimbly round the back of his opponent and swung the sword he carried into the back of its neck, “…individual.” He shut his mouth hurriedly as a spray of orange blood hit his face.

 

“Yeah, an individual great prat.” Spike judged his moment and leapt from the top of the mausoleum to land with a nasty crunch on top of his own opponent’s head, “Gotcha!” He rolled gracefully off and jumped up to finish the demon with a quick twist of its head to make sure its neck was well and truly broken, “I win!”

 

Xander scrubbed the sleeve of his shirt across his newly slimed face, “Eww. And you always win, Fangless.”

 

“Too right.” Spike cast a look around to make sure Buffy was nowhere to be seen and fished out a pack of smokes from his pocket, “Fag?”

 

“Asshole!” Xander glared indignantly at his friend and then at the squashed paper packet in his hand, “Oh. Right. And no, not looking to die any quicker than necessary thanks.”

 

Spike shrugged and lit his own cigarette, “Suit yourself.” He began to make his way through the cemetery at Xander’s side, “Although living on top of a Hellmouth and raisin’ a half-demon sprog ‘ere doesn’t seem the best way to ‘ave a long and happy life, Chubs.” He elbowed Xander companionably in the ribs, “And you’ve ‘ad some truly ‘orrible ideas over the years.”

 

“The least of which was deciding not to stake you when I had the chance.” Xander whapped Spike upside the head, “And keep your anemic English elbows out of my ribs.”

 

“Just sayin’ like.” Spike grinned at his friend, “How is the little missus anyway? Still keepin’ you on your toes?”

 

Xander booted a discarded skull out of his path and scowled around himself to make doubly sure that they hadn’t missed any demonic grave-robbers on their nightly patrol, “Oh yeah. She decided at four o’clock this morning that she couldn’t possibly face getting up without a bowl of dried chicken gizzards and so I got packed off to the Magic Box to raid the stash that Giles thinks she hasn’t found yet. And then she waited till I got back to tell me that she really needed a bottle of hot sauce to wash them down and she finished off the last of it the day before with the fruity ice-cream.”

 

Xander jumped quickly round the corner of another mausoleum in case there were demons waiting to pounce and then shrugged at Spike when the demon rolled his eyes at his antics, “Hey, you never know.” He sighed, “I love Anya, but if I hear one more sentence start with the words, ‘Xander, the baby you created and placed inside me requires…’ I’m gonna think about doing a demonic C-section, y’know?”

 

Spike brightened up, “Really? I’ve always wanted a go at one of them. Make sure you give us a bell, like.”

 

“You are truly scary sometimes, do you know that?” Xander shook his head and balanced his axe over his shoulder, “Wanna stop by Willy’s for a beer before we go to Giles’?”

 

Spike puffed out his chest at Xander’s words, “Scary? Me? You’re just sayin’ that.”

 

“Seriously, there’s nothing else in town that makes me go ick as much as you do.” Xander gave the delighted vampire a wry smile and shook his head in amusement at the happy grin on the pale face.

 

Spike clapped the human on the shoulder, “You’re a real pal, Xan. Drinks are on me.” He turned his head at the sound of pounding feet, body tensing in anticipation of attack and then relaxed when Willow came hurtling through the cemetery gates, “Looks like we’re taking a rain-check on that beer, Chubs.”

 

Xander narrowed his eyes as he watched his best friend sprint towards them, “Crap. We’re not due a rising or anything are we?” He opened his arms and swiftly stepped to the side to intercept Willow as her momentum threatened to propel her past them and head first into the mausoleum behind them, “Whoa there, witch-gal.”

 

Willow clutched at Xander and gasped for breath, “Sp…Spi…Dawn…” Her chest heaved as she sucked in oxygen and both men tensed with sudden misgiving at the mention of the youngest Scoob’s name. “Dawn…letter…big fight…Buffy…”

 

Fortunately Spike spoke fluent panicked Willow, “Something’s happened to Dawn?” Willow gulped more air and nodded frantically, “Is the Slayer at ‘ome?” Willow’s knees gave out and she squeaked as Xander clutched her more tightly against him and Spike spun in a whirl of leather and furious fear, “I’ll meet you there!”

 

Xander watched the vampire speed away from them and shouted after him, “Right behind you!” Another thought occurred to him, “And pop a breath mint! Buff’ll smell the cigs a mile away!” Spike lifted a hand in acknowledgement and disappeared from sight. Xander looked down at Willow’s brick-red face, “You ok?”

 

“Sure…” Willow waved a hand and tried to stand by herself, “It’ll take more than…a mile of dead out run to…finish me…”

 

Xander grinned, “I think it was more like a mile and a half, Wills.”

 

Willow nodded thoughtfully, “That…explains the...flashes of light…behind my eyes…and the urge…to be sick, then.” Her knees gave out again, “I may need… a minute.”

 

Xander redoubled his grip, “Gotcha.”




 

“Once I can understand. Twice, could happen to anyone, but three bloody times?” Ron pulled himself out of the lake and glared at the equally wet Dawn, “Can’t we just walk up to the hall from here?”

 

Dawn wrung out her hair and slapped a piece of duckweed of her shoulder, “No!” She glanced over Ron’s shoulder and rolled her eyes, “Oh crap, here they come again. Get ready…”

 

Connor gripped Ginny’s wrist and hauled her onto the bank of the lake as a group of Aurors hurtled towards them with wands drawn, “Make it good, sweetie.”

 

Dawn nodded and flung out her hand to open another portal, “Go!” Ron grabbed Hermione’s hand and they both jumped through the portal, closely followed by Harry and Ginny and then lastly Dawn and Connor. The first Aurors reached the spot as the green hole disappeared with a loud pop and were left staring at empty air.

 

“Where the devil have they gone this time?” The first Auror, a tall black man with a fierce scowl and impressively high Afro, fisted his hands on his hips and glared around him, “I thought Dumbledore said only teachers could apparate on the grounds since he altered the charm.”

 

One of his companions, a short, tubby man with a goatee he mistakenly believed gave him an air of rakish charm, scratched his head with the tip of his wand, “I don’t think they’re dangerous.” He looked dubiously at the now still waters of the lake and stepped back as the giant squid waved a languid tentacle, “Surely no one would apparate in the middle of the lake three times in a row on purpose. Maybe they’re lost.”

 

“Well we’d better find them damn quick.” The leader sighed heavily, “Ok, team one stay here in case they drop in again. Team two, with me.”

 

The tubby man watched team two move off and shivered in the cold November air, “Students. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t transfigure them into slop buckets.”




 

Dawn pushed herself up onto her knees and looked around her, “Are we there yet?”

 

Ron growled at her as he stared around him at nastily familiar surroundings, “No.” He climbed to his wet feet and pulled Hermione up beside him, “We’re somewhere worse.”

 

Harry rolled to his feet and groaned, “Oh bugger.”

 

“Would you mind explaining exactly just what you think you’re doing in my common room?” Draco Malfoy lowered his wand and gestured impatiently to the rest of the Slytherins grouped behind him to do the same, “I’m assuming there’s another dire emergency and people are being slaughtered as we speak?”

 

“You’d think wouldn’t you?” Connor pushed himself to his feet and glared at his girlfriend, “This isn’t the Great Hall.”

 

“Really? What tipped you off?” Dawn whipped out her wand and pointed it at Millicent Bulstrode as the much bigger girl moved towards her, “Don’t even think about it, Bulldog.”

 

Hermione eyed the Slytherins uneasily, “That’s Bulstrode, Dawn.”

 

“Uh-huh, whatever.” Dawn lowered her wand, “Don’t mind us, we’ll be out of here in just a minute. I think I took a wrong turn at the Whomping Willow.” She smiled at Ginny as the red head touched her wand to Dawn’s robes and whispered a drying charm, “Thanks, Gin.”

 

Ginny smiled back, “No problem.”

 

“No, your problem seems to be that you’ve not only broken into a fellow house’s common room, again, but that you’ve also used illegal apparating magics to do it.” Draco watched Ginny’s face blush bright red at the mention of her previous evening’s activities and ignored the puzzled and guilty looks that passed between Harry, Ron and Hermione.

 

“I thought he never worked that out.” Ron hissed out the corner of his mouth and tried to look as though he’d never heard of Polyjuice potion, much less used it.

 

“Well I didn’t tell him!” Harry shifted uneasily, “He must have asked Crabbe and Goyle why they rushed out so quickly that night.”

 

“Or he’s done the same thing to us!” Hermione bit her lip, “What if he’s done the same thing to us?” Three pairs of eyes fixed suspiciously on Malfoy who looked confused then just ignored the Trio and refocused on Dawn.

 

“Perhaps you might explain just what the hell is going on?” Draco folded his arms across his chest and sneered down his nose at the battered looking appearances of Connor and his friends. Bruises and cuts still livid across nearly every piece of their exposed skin, they were now looking even rattier thanks to their three dunkings in the lake and the rather embarrassing landing in the middle of the Whomping Willow that led to an undignified scramble for the safety of the floor and the near removal of Ron’s head thanks to a particularly determined branch. “I’m assuming it can only be a matter of great importance that would lead you to make such an impolite, and illegal, entrance?”

 

“Hey, British guy, pull your wand out your ass and cut the Giles speak will ya?” Dawn stretched out her hand again and grinned as Slytherins scattered right and left, “I told you, we’ll be gone in a minute.”

 

Ginny choked back a giggle at the indescribable look on Malfoy’s face and swung her hair forward to hide her grin as she completed her drying charm on Connor. Connor carefully nodded his thanks and said to his erstwhile drinking buddy, “We were locked in our house this morning.” He glanced ruefully around him, “And now we’re locked in yours.”

 

Draco sent one last poisonous look at Dawn and walked to Connor’s side, “I see. And how exactly did you manage to get out? We’ve been trying for the last two hours.”

 

Connor pointed at Dawn as the now familiar green hole appeared in mid-air, “Dawn got pissed, the rest is history.” He kept a wary eye on the rest of Slytherin house as they began to mutter angrily amongst themselves, “We can’t seem to get near the Great Hall though. We’ve managed the grounds, the Ravenclaw bathrooms and what we think was about a hundred feet above the North tower but we were falling kinda fast and we didn’t really have time to do anything but scream and yell at Dawn to open up another portal before she did and we ended up back in the lake. Again.” He leaned back wearily against the wall and muttered, “So, I feel like crap, how about you?”

 

Draco gave him a bewildered look at the abrupt change in subject and then peered closer at the pale skin on his new buddy, “You look like dragon shit. Didn’t you get Granger to mix you up a potion this morning?” He brushed at his immaculate robes smugly, “I feel fine.”

 

Connor manfully resisted the urge to use his sword on his new friend and instead settled for staring morosely at the floor, “Of course Hermione made me something, it just stopped me being sick though, I still feel like crap.”

 

Draco cast a quick look around and made sure that most of the room’s attention was diverted and then bent his knees to look quickly into Connor’s eyes. His mouth widened in a quick smile and he shook his head, “Morgan-le-Fey save me from do-gooders.” He moved to stand in front of Connor and whipped out his wand, “I’m betting that she made a potion to strip the alcohol from your body, no wonder you feel like death. Hold still.” Before Connor could evade him he tapped his wand on the other boy’s shoulder and muttered something under his breath, Connor’s eyes widened as the lethargy and stiff pain left his body and his blood began to flow normally through his veins again.

 

“What did you do?” Connor moved his head experimentally, profoundly grateful when it didn’t so much at hint at falling off.

 

Malfoy eased back to the side and leaned against the wall casually, “Granger took all the alcohol from your body, even the small amount of alcohol that is produced naturally. I just put it back.”

 

“With magic.” Connor’s voice was heavy with misgiving and suspicion as he raised his hand to stare at it with properly focused eyes.

 

“Well of course with magic, what did you expect, a nice cup of tea and a foot rub?” Draco gave Connor a cold smile, “Just because you find yourself carrying the handicap of being an inferior being doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t make use of our natural talents. And you did take Granger’s potion.”

 

“It was medicine.” Connor frowned in annoyance, “And who are you calling inferior?”

 

“Connor!” Both boys looked round at Dawn’s shout, “We’re out of here.”

 

Connor nodded and pushed away from the wall as the rest of his house gathered in front of the green portal, “Right there, sweetie.” He glanced back at Malfoy and lowered his voice, “We still on for tonight?”

 

Draco eyed the dimensional doorway and then looked back at Connor, “Certainly.” He watched as the smaller boy walked away from him and then just as Connor put out a foot to follow his friends through the doorway, pushed away from the wall and took him in a flying tackle round the waist, “But why wait?” The Slytherins screamed as their head prefect disappeared from sight, but before they could go after him, the light snapped out of existence and the common room was restored to its usual dank self.






 

The atmosphere at Revello Drive was as tense as Willow could ever remember it. Buffy paced back and forth before the fireplace, clutching the roll of parchment that had been delivered that night by a huge, grey owl and occasionally punched the wall in fear and frustration. Thanks to Buffy realising that if she didn’t relax the new house rule on smoking, her mate was likely to combust with pent-up energy and directionless aggression, Spike was chain-smoking heavily and staring from under half-lidded eyes at his love as she paced. Anya and Xander sat together on the couch holding hands and white with unease at the news the parchment had delivered and darting worried looks at Giles as he spoke briskly into the phone.

 

“Yes…yes…I understand that, but…well, yes, but….now look here, I don’t see why…You are aware of the importance of this girl and boy? They could very… yes, yes, I see…Quite so…yes…Look you sodding bastard…” Giles’s face flooded with angry colour as whoever was on the other end of the line hung up on him, “Why you…”

 

Buffy stopped pacing as calm and reasonable mental-Giles moved hurriedly aside and let mental-Ripper have control of their body long enough to rip the phone jack from the wall and then toss the entire piece of equipment through the fortunately open window. She exchanged worried looks with Spike and said, “What did they say? Have they got any more news on Dawn and Connor?”

 

Giles kicked the sofa, “No. And they’re refusing to contact the Ministry of Magic for any information. The most they would tell me was that incidents of violence and mayhem have broken out all over Britain and Ireland and there have been several reports of magical deaths in the last twenty-four hours.” He kicked the sofa again, “Our orders are to remain on the Hellmouth and monitor the situation here as reports are starting to come in from council operatives around the world that the mayhem isn’t just localised to Britain.” He pointed an angry finger at Buffy, “The next time any of those stuff-shirts from the council show up here I want you to attack and not stop until they’re a little smear on the floor.”

 

Willow’s eyebrows went up in shock, “Giles! They’re human, you can’t do that.” She flinched as the frazzled Watcher rounded on her.

 

“She’s my bloody Slayer and if I tell her to hit something then she bloody well does it!” Giles snatched his glasses of the end of his nose and began to polish the lenses so hard the left one popped right out of the frame and shattered on the wooden floor. “Sod it!”

 

Anya wriggled forward until she was perched on the edge of the sofa and reached over her bump to grab her purse from the floor. She rummaged for a moment in the bag and then withdrew her cell phone. Snapping open the phone she tapped the keys and held the phone to her ear, “Information? I’d like the number for Sunnydale airport please.” She jerked her head at Willow, “You could be using these few moments to contact Angel and find out how many of his people are coming with us.” Ignoring the stunned looks around her, Anya returned her attention to the phone by her ear, “Pardon? Yes, if you could text the number to the phone that would be wonderful. Congratulations on your most efficient service.” The phone snapped closed and Anya looked around herself at the silent room, “I suggest you all begin to think about what you wish to bring with you. Giles, have the airlines relaxed their rules on travelling with lethal weapons if you have no license? Willow, will you get on the phone to Los Angeles, I need to know how many tickets I’m booking. Spike, look into getting boxes for you and Angel.” Anya pushed herself to her feet and clapped her hands together, “Come on, people, none of us are getting any younger…”

 

Xander jumped to his own feet, “Anya, we aren’t going to England.” He paused and looked at Giles and then Buffy, “Are we?”

 

“Xander, go and find me some chicken gizzards.” Anya gave an exasperated snort as the room failed to leap into motion around her, “Look, as entertaining as spending the few hours arguing amongst ourselves about whether or not to disobey those stuffy watchers would be, we all know we’re on the first flight to England.” Anya’s hands perched on her pudgy hips and she glared angrily at the room, “So for once can we just make a decision without the drama and excitement you people seem to find so essential and get a damn move on?”

 

A slow grin spread across Spike’s face, “Yes ma’am, demon-girl.” He crossed the room to plant a hearty kiss on her forehead and clicked his fingers at his mate, “You heard the woman, let’s move people!”

 

“I really don’t…That is to say….” Giles chewed at the arm of his glasses, “Do we think this is wise? If we leave the Hellmouth unprotected…”

 

“Screw the Hellmouth.” Buffy crushed the piece of parchment in her hand and just managed to stop herself from stamping her foot, “I’ve given that thing too much of my life already, it doesn’t get to have Dawn too. Wills, get on the phone to LA and find out if they know what’s going on.” She looked at Anya, “Thank you.”

 

The demon shrugged, “No problem.”

 

Buffy bit her lip and looked uncomfortable, “But you can’t come with us. If anything happened to the baby…”

 

Anya’s narrowed, “If you want to wake up tomorrow the same shape you went to sleep, don’t finish that sentence. It’s perfectly fine for the baby to fly and I’m coming.”

 

“Anya…” Xander stopped short as his wife whipped round and shook a finger under his nose, “Never mind.”

 

“If you think for one minute I’m staying here like a good little mindless housewife, you guys have another think coming.” Anya glared over her shoulder at Buffy, “I’ve had just a big a hand in raising that girl as you have and she belongs to me just as much as any of you. I’m going.”

 

“I, uh, I don’t think Dawn actually belongs to any of us, so to speak.” Willow snatched up her own cell as Anya rounded on her, “And I’m ringing…”

 

“Po-faced British guy.” Anya poked Giles sharply between the shoulder blades; “You’d better look out any contacts you have that might actually be of some use when we land. Xander, I’m still waiting on those chicken gizzards.”

 

Buffy tried again, “Anya, I appreciate this, I really do…”

 

“You know that boils-on-the-penis thing?” Anya buffed her nails casually on her shirt and eyed Buffy meaningfully, “That spell can be adapted.” Her gaze flickered down to Buffy’s crotch and back up again, “Very, very easily.”

 

There was a split second of silence and then Buffy turned to Giles, “The Council will pick up the bill for super-sizing the airline seats, right? We can’t expect Anya to fly coach.”

 

Giles tore his horrified face from Anya’s direction and twitched as she coughed and nodded towards his own groin, “Oh, absolutely. No trouble at all. We’ll slip the extra expenditure in under wear and tear on weapons or something.” He moved smoothly to place Spike in between himself and the demon and clapped his hands together, “Right then, I suggest we get cracking.”

 

Anya rolled her eyes, “Isn’t that what I just said?” The whole room fell silent as Willow suddenly raised her voice.

 

“Angel, I know, I get it, really I do…” The witch swallowed audibly as a furious voice sounded through the phone, “That’s nice, honey, and I’m sure Connor will appreciate it, but…” Willow’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline, “No! No, you absolutely cannot do that! Well maybe if you stopped throwing things at it, it would let you catch it!”

 

Spike whistled as his sensitive hearing caught what Angel was screaming down the phone and he moved to take the phone from the scarlet Willow, “S’alright, Red, I’ll take it from here. I’m not sure you’re old enough to be hearin’ that kind of language, like.” He put the phone to his ear and his mouth dropped open, “I’m not sure I’m old enough to be hearin’ that kind of language!”

 

Spike’s face flooded with alarm as he listened to Angel at the other end of the phone then he bellowed furiously, “Peaches, you bloody great wanker, stop firing soddin’ arrows at the bloody thing and try something else!” There was a pause of a few seconds and then Spike winced and said wearily, “I didn’t mean an axe, you pillock.” The vampire put a hand over the phone and turned to Giles, “D’you reckon that bloke in the dress is really attached to ‘is owls, like, or d’you reckon he might not notice if one got lost in the line of duty so to speak?” Giles’ glare said it all. Spike took his hand away from the phone and muttered uneasily, “You got any resurrection spells, mate?” He glanced again at Giles and continued, “And see if one of your humans is any good with a needle and thread.”

Chapter Text

 

 

“Mr Potter, sir!” Harry looked up from where he was sprawled on a cold, stone floor and yelped at the wizened face thrust into his. The face gave its own little scream of surprise and then moved closer, “Mr Harry Potter? It’s I, sir, Dobby!”

 

“Dobby?” Harry pushed himself up onto his elbows and stared around him at the welcome familiarity of the room he now found himself in. His face cracked in a grin, “Result!

 

Dawn rolled to her feet, “Did we make it?”

 

Ron grinned at Dobby as the house-elf waved to him and climbed to his feet, “Near as damn it. Nice one, Dawn.”

 

Dawn looked around her at the huge room and the tiny beings that peered nervously at her from all around, “Er…hi.” She blinked at the panicked withdrawal of heads and bodies and then looked at Ginny, “Where are we?”

 

Ginny shoved her hair back from her face, “Kitchens. Right under the Great Hall, you’re getting better.”

 

“I don’t think she could get any worse.” Hermione sagged onto a wooden chair and clutched her stomach, “Does anyone else feel at all sick?”

 

“Me.” Draco Malfoy let go of Connor and stood up to straighten his robes, “What the bloody hell was that?”

 

“Eeee!” Dobby glanced up from where he was trying to smooth Harry’s hair flat and scrambled behind Harry’s legs, “It’s Master’s child. Eeee!”

 

Ron stared at Malfoy incredulously, “What the bleeding hell are you doing here?” He looked at the equally surprised Dawn, “Who invited him?”

 

Malfoy sniffed, “Don’t get your faded, sagging underwear in a twist, Weasel. I assure you I have no more wish to crash your little party than you do to have me here, but you and your little band of unfortunates seemed to be my best bet for getting the hell out of my house and finding out what the hell was going on.” He flashed a smug grin, “I hitched a lift, as it were.” The grin faded and he glared imperiously at the still wailing Dobby, “Will you stop that hideous noise? I really have no idea what you are whimpering about.”

 

Ginny moved to scoop Dobby up into her arms, “Piss off, Malfoy, he’s frightened.” She glared menacingly at the Slytherin, “You stay away from him.”

 

“Willingly.” Draco peered at the screaming creature in the object of his affection’s arms and understanding dawned, “Oh, it’s you. Dippy, isn’t it?”

 

Harry moved in front of Ginny and the elf and blocked them from Malfoy’s sight, “Dobby. And you can’t have him.”

 

“Thank the stars for that.” Draco eyed Harry disparagingly, “Must you make it your business to protect every snivelling weakling that crosses your path, Potter? Hey, elf, stop that noise at once, do you hear?” Draco drew himself up to his full height and seriously annoyed Harry when he peered directly over the dark-haired boy’s head, “I’m not here for you, you disgusting little bag of snot.” Amused silver eyes glanced at Harry’s face, “I mean the elf, obviously.”

 

Connor choked back a snigger at the thunderous look on Harry’s face at the casual insult and then he jumped to his feet, “Malfoy, back away from the… the…” The psuedo-threat lost impetuous slightly as Connor completely forgot what the creature in Ginny’s arms actually was, “The…um…thing.”

 

“Dobby. He’s a house-elf.” Hermione got off her chair and poked Malfoy sharply in the chest, “And his family kept him as a slave for years.” She poked Malfoy again, “They were cruel and inhuman and Dobby’s terrified of them. You stay away from him you…you…pig.”

 

Looking highly annoyed, Draco grabbed Hermione’s finger before it could make contact again and said scathingly, “Granger, get your buck-toothed, brush-headed person away from me before I forget I’m a prefect and hex you into next week. I don’t want the scabby little sod and I’m certainly not going to do anything to it. Now, piss off!”

 

“Get off her, you…” Ron snatched Hermione away from Malfoy and shoved the blond back a step, “Don’t you ever speak to her like that again!”

 

Dawn grabbed Ron’s arm as it came up and Connor yanked Malfoy back to his side. “Stop it! Stop it, right now!” Dawn slapped Ron’s arm and glared between the two boys, “We’ve got bigger problems at the moment in case you’ve forgotten.” She looked around her at the stricken house-elves, “I’m sorry, that was unbelievably rude of them.”

 

A house-elf by the huge cooking range shook its withered little head, “Oh no, Miss, they is welcome to whatevers they wants to do here.” It grabbed a large frying pan from a hook over its head and offered it to Ron, “Does Master want a weapon?”

 

Another elf ran forward and plucked cringingly at Malfoy’s robes, “Does young Master wants me to takes his place?” It lowered its head, showing a large expanse of rough scalp, “I is good at being beaten, sir.”

 

Malfoy nodded curtly at the elf, “Certainly. Front and centre, if you please.” He smirked at Ron and gestured to the elf, “Whenever you’re ready, Weasley.”

 

“Why you…” Ron snatched the frying pan from the elf by the range and moved only to shout with anger as Ginny passed Dobby to Hermione and darted forward to grab the pan from her brother’s hand and swing it in a double-handed grip straight at Malfoy’s unprotected belly.

 

“I’ll take that, Ron.” Ginny watched as Malfoy folded with a very undignified honking sound and then raised the pan over her head, “May as well finish the job…”

 

“Or, we can not hit a guy when he’s down.” Connor snagged Ginny around the waist and pulled her backwards, thus saving Malfoy from a nasty concussion. He relieved Ginny of her pan and tutted reprovingly at her, “We’re the good guys, remember? Code of honour and all that.”

 

Ginny pushed out of Connor’s arms and said angrily, “If he can even spell the word ‘honour’ I’ll eat the Sorting Hat.”

 

Malfoy straightened up, still clutching his belly and with pained tears streaming down his face spluttered, “H-O-N-O…”

 

Dawn smothered a smile at Ginny’s glare at the prefect and interrupted Malfoy’s recitation, “Ok, well now we’ve finished bitching amongst ourselves can we work on a way to get out of here?” She turned to the elf that was still crouching before the cooking range, “Can you get upstairs, or are you locked in?”

 

“Oh no, missus. We is been taking food and whatevers the masters wishes upstairs all morning.” The elf bobbed up and down like an eager little yo-yo, “They is very busy and does not wish to be bothered by having to come down to the kitchens.”

 

Dawn clapped her hands together, “All I needed to know. Blondie, you ok, or are you staying here?”

 

Malfoy let go of his belly and managed to say in an approximation of his normal voice, “I’m perfectly all right, thank you.”

 

“Ok.” Dawn gestured to Harry and Ron to lead the way and continued flatly, “Since you’ve invited yourself along on this little escapade, you’ll follow our lead, is that clear? We don’t have time for private agendas.”

 

Malfoy sniffed disdainfully, “Of course.” He adjusted his robes and said dryly, “I didn’t expect anything else in the presence of the great Potter and his intrepid little band.”

 

Connor choked as Dawn scowled at Draco and then stalked out of the kitchens with Ginny and Hermione. He grinned up at the tall blond as they followed the others from the room and said in a low voice, “You really do suck at making friends.”

 

“It’s a gift.” Malfoy flashed a tight smile at Connor, “And my curse.”

 

“What are you, Spiderman?” Connor’s grin widened but this time in self-congratulation at the confused look on his new friend’s face, “Cool! It’s normally me going ‘huh’?” He clapped a friendly hand on Malfoy’s arm, “It’s a muggle thing, don’t worry about it.”

 

Malfoy looked down his long nose, “I can assure you I won’t be.” He peered up the stone staircase where Ginny was just disappearing round a bend, “She’s in a lovely mood this morning.”

 

Connor snorted, “Just be thankful she didn’t take a leaf out of Dawn’s book.” He rubbed reflectively at his backside, “A little ray of sunshine she was not.”




 

They made it to the Great Hall after dodging yet more patrols of Aurors in the corridors to find the huge room was filled wall to wall with silent, bloodstained people and it took the seven teenagers a few seconds to realise that there had been a marked increase in the numbers being given medical aid during the night. Dawn stared at a bedraggled and muddy elderly wizard and then exchanged puzzled looks with Ron, “What the…?” She dodged out of the way as Madam Pomfrey bustled past, bearing a tray with a bowl of murky water and filthy bandages, “Did we sleep through another attack?”

 

Ginny clutched Harry’s arm and pointed at a man moaning on a bed, “Harry, look, it’s Zonko!”

 

Harry followed Ginny’s pointing finger and then jerked as he recognised the barmaid from the Three Broomsticks pub in Hogsmeade, “Oh hell, these are the Hogsmeade villagers.”

 

“Mr Potter, oh, Mr Potter…” A witch in her middle twenties clutched Harry’s other arm, tears streaming down her face, “They took my Nicky, sir. Took her and killed my husband. What are they going to do?” Harry shot Ron and Dawn a panicked look as the woman sank sobbing to her knees, “Please, she’s just three, sir, please help her…”

 

Harry stepped back as the woman grabbed at the hem of his robes and began to press her lips against the soft material, “I’m sorry. Please, calm down…” He tried to twist away as Ginny put her arms around the hysterical woman and stared with dry eyes at the watching hall, “I’m sorry, so sorry…”

 

Ron clamped a hand on Harry’s shoulder and pointed his wand at the woman on the floor, “Dormio.” He nodded in cold satisfaction as the woman fell into a deep sleep and tucked his wand away, “Herm, Gin, get her to a bed. It’s better if she’s out of it. You alright, Harry?”

 

Harry nodded, “Yeah, its just…y’know…”

 

“Yeah, the marvellous Harry Potter.” There was no bitterness or mockery in Ron’s voice just understanding and pity at his friend’s pain. He looked around the hall, “Any suggestions?”

 

Harry’s eyes narrowed, “One for a start. You!” He gestured at an Auror standing just inside the door to the hall, “What’s going on? Why are the older students locked in their towers?”

 

The Auror flinched at being spoken to by the famous boy-who-lived and muttered, “We…we thought it was best with the casualties from the village being brought here.”

 

Ron and Harry exchanged grim glances before Harry took out his wand, “Oh you did, did you?” He glanced around the hall again and saw the exhausted and pinched faces of the professors and those adults that were able moving amongst the wounded, tending where they could, “Ron, I’m going to try and find Dumbledore. You alright for a minute?”

 

Ron nodded and swallowed bile as he caught sight of a new line of bodies behind the hall doors, “Yeah. I’ll try and get a grave detail organised.” He glanced at Dawn, “How soon before they rise?”

 

Dawn tore her eyes away from the disaster scene before her and met Ron’s eyes with a reassuring shake of her head, “Not an issue. They won’t rise while the sun’s up.” She peered around Ron’s shoulder at the bodies, “Do you think the vamps did it?”

 

“Dunno.” Ron shrugged and braced himself to start checking the bodies, “Only one way to find out. C’mon.”

 

“Mr Weasley!” Ron, Dawn and Connor turned at the sound of Ron’s voice being called, “Mr Weasley, I’m so relieved to see you unharmed.” Cornelius Fudge bustled towards them from the front of the hall.

 

“Oh bloody hell.” Ron rolled his eyes and nudged Dawn behind him, “Stay still and keep quiet, I’ll deal with this. Minister Fudge, good to see you!” He raised his voice and held out his hand, “I just knew you and the Ministry would be here the minute the danger had passed.”

 

Hermione choked at the thinly veiled insult, “Oh, Merlin. Ron…”

 

Ron winked at his best friend and dragged her forward, “I was just telling the Minister how glad we were that he came here to us, Herm. Aren’t you glad?”

 

“Miss Granger.” The Minister’s smile dimmed slightly as he looked at the reason for Ron and Harry’s increased infamy over the past few months, “I’m glad to see you well. No ill affects from the summer, one hopes?”

 

Hermione, normally polite to a fault, nodded shortly and then turned her back on the Minister. “One does. Ron, I should go and see if we can help with the nursing duties unless there’s anything else we should be doing?”

 

Ron shook his head, “No, that sounds like a good plan, Gin go with her. Connor, Dawn, can you check the bodies so we know if there’s anything else we should be worried about?” The four nodded and moved swiftly to carry out his instructions as Ron turned to Draco, “Can you find someone and see about getting the older students out of their houses and get them organised into some kind of workforce?”

 

Malfoy eyed the Minister with amusement as he noticed the heir to the largest wizarding fortune in the land for the first time and paled dramatically, “Certainly. Fourth years and above?”

 

Ron glanced around him at the devastated people, “Better make it fifth and above. Send any seventh years with basic medical charms to the hospital wing.”

 

“Understood.” Malfoy gave a polite bow to Mr Fudge, “Minister…”

 

“I must protest!” The two boys focused on the small rotund Minister that anxiously spun his ever-present bowler hat between his pudgy little hands, “The students have been confined to their common rooms for a reason, Mr Malfoy, and it is not within your power to…”

 

Ron raised a hand to silence the older man, and, much to his amazement, it worked, “But it is within mine.” He glanced around the hall, “I can’t see Professor Dumbledore anywhere, and whilst the other teachers and staff are busy with other duties then the students become my responsibility as Head Boy.” Ron drew himself up to his full height and smiled coldly down at the much smaller man, “I’m asking Draco to call the houses because I fail to see why they should be cooped up in their dormitories when they could be being useful here with the wounded.” One big, brawny hand clamped down on the Minister’s shoulder, “I’ll take complete responsibility for them, Minister.” He jerked his head at Malfoy, “Go find someone to lift that charm.”

 

“Mr Weasley…” The Minister was going puce with rage at the casual disregard of his orders but Ron was in no mood to cater to the nervous little man’s hysterics that morning.

 

“Connor, Dawn!” Ron pointedly turned his back on the old man and called across to his friends hastily checking the bodies, “Anything?” Connor glanced up and shook his head; Ron breathed a small sigh of relief at the small mercy and then turned back to Mr Fudge, “Do you know where Professor Dumbledore might be found, sir? I think I need to speak to him quite urgently.”

 

“Young man, I am not prepared to be disregarded and questioned by a schoolboy when I am in the middle of one of the greatest emergencies since You-Know-Who was in power.” The Minister slammed his bowler hat back onto his head, “Now either you remove yourself and your friends from my sight immediately or I will be forced to order the Aurors to escort you back to your house.”

 

Ron cocked an eyebrow, “Look, you pompous bag of wind, if you think for one minute…”

 

“Weasley.” Ron spun around as the low voice of Severus Snape sounded behind him. The potions master eyed the tall red head with distaste for a moment before continuing, “The headmaster had just ordered me to summon you from your house, but I see, as usual, you have found a way ‘round your situation and pre-empt the order.”

 

“Professor Snape, I was just…” Ron gestured to Mr Fudge.

 

“Yes, I can see what you were ‘just’, Mr Weasley.” The grim teacher stepped to the side and jerked his hand to indicate the packed hall, “Perhaps I could be allowed to speak with the Minister whilst you co-ordinate with Madam Pomfey to send the students where they are most needed?” Black eyes flickered when Malfoy came hurrying back through the hall doors, “I believe Mr Malfoy might assist you.” Ron looked like he might protest for another minute but Snape jerked his head sharply, “Now, Weasley, now!” Ron nodded and pushed past the potions master; barely pausing as the teacher hissed quietly, “Keep Angel and Summers out of the way. Their identities must not be revealed.”

 

Ron’s eyes widened and he nodded briefly in acknowledgement of the order before striding quickly across to Dawn and Connor and waving for Malfoy to join them. Snape watched them for a minute before turning to the Minister with a sigh, “I really must apologise for Weasley’s behaviour, Minister. I’m afraid this is what comes of allowing him, along with Potter, virtual free rein within the school walls.”

 

Mr Fudge snatched his bowler hat off his head, “This is simply intolerable. I have been insulted and ignored in front of my own men, my own people, and I will not allow…” Snape folded his arms and allowed his eyes to glaze over as he listened to the tubby little man vent his spleen all over the marked and bloodstained floor of the Great Hall. He sighed deeply; Dumbledore owed him big for this.




 

Ron, Dawn, Connor and Malfoy huddled together in a small group and watched the Minister for Magic wave his arms around and yell at the wooden figure of Professor Snape. Connor slipped an arm around Dawn’s waist, profoundly grateful that she appeared for the moment to forget about the serious snit she was in with him, and leaned back against the wall, “Who’s the short guy?”

 

Ron sneered derisively, “Cornelius Fudge, Minister for Magic.”

 

Dawn raised her eyebrows, “I’m guessing not a popular guy?”

 

Ron shook his head, “Not ‘round here.” He glanced uneasily at Malfoy; “He spends an awful lot of time pandering to wizards with a few bits of gold in the bank and not enough time concentrating on what can be done to stop things like this happening. He’s not Harry’s biggest fan since the business with the Triwizard Tournament and Harry getting snatched, thinks he’s touched or something. Shut it, Malfoy.”

 

Draco flashed an unrepentant grin and obediently closed his mouth. Connor smirked and then looked back at Ron, “So what’s the big deal?” He jerked his head at the hall, “I think we can safely assume that Harry’s in his right mind after all this. Surely this Minister will start getting things in order now?”

 

Ron shook his head again. “Don’t count on it. I reckon the first order of business will be for the Minister and his cronies to work out the best way for them to come up smelling like roses and somehow manage to pin the blame somewhere else.” He looked around. “And as I can’t see Professor Dumbledore, I reckon the smart money’s on him.”

 

Dawn exchanged a surprised look with Connor. “What? How can he pin this on the Headmaster?”

 

“Very easily.” Malfoy watched the controlled mayhem in the hall under hooded eyes and spoke in a low, controlled voice. “Despite the fact we managed to repel another concentrated attack on the school last night, the fact remains that children died here.” He met Ron’s eyes. “Add to that the battle at the end of last term where other students were killed and the fact that the Dark Lord has managed to infiltrate the school several times in the last few years, and Dumbledore could be in quite a bit of trouble.” He glanced at Connor almost apologetically, “And I’m afraid when it comes to the attention of the Ministry that a muggle demon hunter has been given a place at a magical school and demons were a part of the attacking forces then it’s almost certain that certain measures will be taken by Mr Fudge and the senior board of wizards.”

 

Connor straightened up. “That could be a problem, couldn’t it?” He looked worriedly at the Minister and Professor Snape and at Dawn, “Is that a problem?”

 

Dawn sighed, “I’d say so.” She crossed her arms and glanced down at the bodies at her feet and then up at Ron, “Any thoughts?”

 

“Snape said to keep you two out of the way. Dumbledore’s orders, I presume.” Ron shifted uneasily as the Minister pointed their way and glared at the small group, “I think it goes without saying the ‘no killing’ rule has been reinstated.”

 

Despite herself, Dawn laughed, “Gotcha.” She dug a teasing arm into Ron’s ribs, “Although technically speaking it never actually got revoked.”

 

“It’s a little hard to remember to give permission to kill demons when the bloody things are trying to rip your face off, Dawn. I think it was one of those situations where actions speak louder than words.” Ron grinned down at her and then turned at a shout behind him. “Oh bollocks.” Harry was being dragged into the hall between two large Aurors with another man following them. “Now what?”

 

The man following Harry and his captors caught sight of the fierce blaze of Ron’s hair from the corner of his eye, “There’s some more of them! Arrest them!”

 

Dawn and Connor completely misread the situation and spun round to take care of the threat apparently sneaking up behind them, blinking in confusion when they found themselves facing the smooth and empty stone wall. Dawn tensed even more, “Get what, are they invisible? Connor, can you smell anything?”

 

“No.” Connor’s head swung slowly from side to side, “Not a thing. What are we getting?”

 

“Us.” Draco clapped a hand on Connor’s shoulder and swung him around, “We would be getting us.” He pointed at the group of Aurors swarming towards them. “Say hello to Azkaban, children.”

 

Dawn’s eyes bugged at the large and grumpy looking men fast approaching, “They’re getting us; what did we do? And why does that name sound familiar? Is the little fat one Azkaban?”

 

“I’ll explain later.” Ron stepped in front of Dawn and Connor and nearly fell over with surprise when Malfoy moved smoothly to stand at his right shoulder and directly in front of Connor. “What are you doing?”

 

“Something very stupid.” Draco muttered and pulled his robes about him to stare imperiously at the Aurors now hovering a few feet before them. “What is the meaning of this?” He trod heavily on Ron’s foot to forestall whatever incredibly unhelpful abuse the taller boy was preparing to launch into and continued coldly, “I trust you know who I am? I demand an explanation for this disgusting display of scare tactics.”

 

Dawn peeked round Ron’s shoulder and watched as a large, heavily muscled Auror actually scuffed his toe into the ground as he tried to avoid the cold silver eyes of the Slytherin prefect. She glanced back at Connor and mouthed, “Wow, he’s good!”

 

Draco folded his arms, “I’m waiting.” He turned his head and glared at the men still holding the struggling Harry, “Let him go this instant!”

 

The Auror who had ordered his men to take them strode angrily over, “I ordered you to arrest them, do it!” As he came closer Ron muffled a groan as he realised it was one of the Aurors that had spent the better part of the morning chasing them around the grounds as they had tumbled in and out of Dawn’s portals. The man flicked a hand at the group of teenagers, “Arrest them and detain them in the dungeons until I can question them. Illegal apparating and possible mis-use of dark magics.”

 

“On whose authority?” Malfoy drew himself up to his full height. “And on what evidence?” He lowered his voice and hissed at Ron. “What the bloody hell have you been up to now, Weasel?”

 

Connor blinked, “Dungeons? What dungeons?” He leaned towards Dawn and whispered in an undertone. “He means Snape’s classroom, right? That’s not so bad.”

 

“I don’t think so, sweetie.” Dawn scowled at the Aurors and added indignantly. “And it was so not dark magic.” She reached for her wand and shoved at Ron’s back, “Get out of my way!”

 

Malfoy’s hand snaked back behind Ron and neatly slapped over Dawn’s mouth as she yelped in outrage. “I said, on whose authority?”

 

“Mine.” The hall froze for a moment at the sound of a new voice and then all faces turned to the hall doors as a tall, blond man walked slowly through them.

 

Draco froze for a moment in surprise and then nodded shortly at the familiar sneering face. “Hello, Father.”




 

Hermione looked up as she heard the shouts at the front of the hall and her eyes bugged as she saw Harry get dragged through the doors between two large men and a third point at Ron and yell something angry. From the look on his face she was fairly sure it wasn’t ‘Thank goodness you’re all right, would you like a cup of tea?’ Without taking her eyes off the drama at the front of the hall she reached out a hand to tug Ginny’s sleeve. “I think we might have a problem.”

 

Ginny looked up from where she was assisting the much wilted looking Penelope Clearwater in setting a man’s broken arm. “Is it more important than this man’s pain?”

 

Hermione’s eyes widened, as she was the first to see Lucius Malfoy walk through the hall doors. “I’d say so.” She glanced over her shoulder at Ginny. “And when did you take a pompous pill? ‘More important than pain’ indeed!”

 

Ginny caught sight of Malfoy Senior. “Got caught up in the moment, sorry.” Carefully she laid the man’s arm on the bed and straightened up. “What’s he doing here?”

 

“Making life miserable as usual.” Hermione put her hands on her hips and scowled as she watched Ron go pale and even Draco blanche at his father’s sudden appearance. “We’d better get over there.”

 

Ginny sighed. “Must we? I’m beginning to think this ‘Durus Catenus’ thing is highly over-rated.” She directed her own scowl at Malfoy Snr. “And I really don’t like that man.”

 

Hermione squeezed Ginny’s hand and was unsurprised to find it cold and shaking despite her casual words. “I know. I absolutely swear, he even looks at you sideways and I’ll hex his nose off myself.” She winked at her younger friend, bolstered by her own words. “And do something extremely unpleasant with his cane.”

 

Ginny gave Hermione a droll look. “I think my brother’s been a bad influence on you, Hermione.”

 

Hermione flashed a proud grin. “Actually, blame Dawn. She can be very… inspiring.” Both girls looked around at a yell from the top of the hall and Hermione sighed. “See, who else would think of evading Aurors by using them as offensive weapons against each other?”

 

Ginny followed on Hermione’s heels as the older girl started to sprint towards their friends. “Excellent. We should make it to Azkaban in time for lunch.”




 

“Right, we all know what we’re doing?” Buffy was once more pacing before her fireplace but this time she faced not only the Scoobs but also several representatives from Angel Investigations. Angel and Cordelia stood in tense silence near the window as Fred and Gunn shared the sofa with Anya and Xander, and Wesley perched on the back. Buffy tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, “The truck will be here in a moment for Angel and Spike and the rest of us will make our way to the airport.” She swung round as Giles entered from the kitchen, “Anything?”

 

The Watcher shook his head, “No, I’m afraid not. I’m unable to reach anyone from the magical community through my usual sources. Professor Dumbledore is quite unreachable.”

 

The dark haired vampire scowled darkly at Giles. “Great. I’m thrilled. Can we get going now?” He looked down as Cordelia squeezed his hand in warning, “What?”

 

“Sweetie, calm down.” Cordy gave her mate a smile and tried to send soothing thoughts his way. “We can’t go anywhere until the plane takes off and that’s not gonna happen for another couple of hours. Just chill.” She chewed on her lip nervously as she glanced back at Giles, “There’s no one else you can think of that might be able to help us?”

 

“I don’t know.” Giles gave Cordelia a strained smile. “I might be able to contact some Watchers or wizards stateside, but as we don’t really seem to be suffering with the same problems that the UK is it might be a bit pointless.” Giles took off his glasses and rubbed at his tired eyes. “It’s all very baffling.”

 

Xander squeezed Anya’s shoulders and sighed, “I hate it when he says that.”

 

Anya nodded in absent agreement. “Me too. When Giles is confused things never end well.” She paused in thought for a moment, “Actually, strictly speaking, when he does know what’s going on it never leads to flowers and candy. Well, perhaps once. Maybe we should do a swap with Angel’s uptight English guy.” She turned to Fred. “Does his research tend to end in blood and guts fests, or do you find yourself just performing the occasional location spell and such?”

 

The Texan smiled softly at Wesley, “It pretty much ends in blood and guts.” Her dark eyes glowed with humour as she giggled, “If we’re really lucky there’s stuff left to dissect sometimes at the end.”

 

Gunn grinned at Xander as he pulled a face from Anya’s other side, “She’s a scientist. You learn to love her.”

 

Desperately trying to shake the image he now had in his head of the slender brunette ass deep in entrails and skipping happily as she dissected glistening purple and red innards, Xander gave a weak grin. “Right.” He shook his head as he caught Anya’s eye and asked himself who was he to judge other people’s happy places. The woman who was having his baby was obsessed with withered chicken gizzards as an all around upper and he still wasn’t entirely sure what a chicken gizzard was or whether they came withered or you had to dry them yourself like jerky.

 

Another image popped into his head of Anya and Fred teaming up and dissecting demon chickens whilst Anya swiped their elusive gizzards. Xander blinked again and then tried frantically to focus his over-active mind on something less disturbing…like a nice brutal apocalypse. Unfortunately, for once, the universe decided to oblige.

 

“BUFFY!” The front door burst open as Dawn’s friends Kit and Carlos erupted into the hallway, “SPIKE!” Kit dodged around Cordelia and threw herself at the blond vampire. “Spike, there’s trouble, you’ve got to do something!”

 

Carlos leaned against the wall and wheezed, “Hey.” He waved a hand at the startled room. “How ya doin’?”

 

Spike gripped Kit’s arms and guided her to sit down on top of the weapon’s chest. “What’s the fuss about, Suzie Sioux?” He smoothed her dark hair back from her face and crouched in front of her. “What trouble?”

 

Kit fought for breath and clutched his cold hands. “Demons…in town.” She shook her head. “I think. They had hoods on.”

 

Carlos took over. “They’re blowing things up.”

 

Giles exchanged worried looks with Wesley. “Things?”

 

The young boy nodded. “Cars. Stores.” He paused and then finished unhappily. “People.”

 

Kit shook Spike’s hands in hers. “There’s kids everywhere.” Her eyes filled with frightened tears. “Curfew’s not for another couple of hours and they’re near the Bronze.”

 

“Buffy?” Giles looked at his Slayer. “What do you want to do? We have to leave for the airport shortly.”

 

Buffy shook her head angrily. “The only thing we can do. We need to put this down hard and fast. Anya, stay here with the kids. Keep them safe.” The demon opened her mouth to protest but subsided at a pleading look from Xander. Buffy snatched a sword from the wall and headed for the front door. “Everyone else with me.” Spike squeezed Kit’s hands and then joined the hasty, and heavily armed, exodus out of the door after Buffy.

 

Anya closed the door after them and turned to the two winded teenagers in the living room. “Don’t worry. Buffy and the others will have it sorted out before you know it.” She smiled brightly at Kit. “Would you like a nice cold soda?”

 

Kit shook her head and tried to return Anya’s smile. “No thanks.” She moved from the chest and flopped down next to Carlos as he fell onto the sofa. “They will be ok, right?”

 

Anya peered out the window to the quiet street and said reassuringly. “Of course. We have a plane to catch in a few hours. Buffy would not let all that money be wasted.” She said absently as she craned her neck to see the end of the street. “Did you recognise the demons?”

Carlos shook his head and wiped his sweating forehead. “Nope. They weren’t that big though. Just kept laughing and blowing things up.”

 

Kit nodded in agreement. “And calling people names.”

 

Anya glanced down with a frown. “Names? What like ‘big-butt’ or ‘git’?”

 

Despite herself, Kit laughed. “Spike was here, Anya.” She frowned in concentration. “No, it was something like mulled-blood or mogul.”

 

Anya’s face paled suddenly as the words rang a distant bell from one of Dawn’s letters. “Mud-blood? Muggle?” She gripped Kit’s shoulder tightly. “Was that it?”

 

Kit shifted as Anya’s nails dug into her flesh. “Ow! Yes, that was it.” She batted at Anya’s hand. “You’re hurting me! Anya?” Kit exchanged an uneasy look with Carlos at the demon’s stricken face. “Are you ok?”

 

Anya let go of the girl and stared back out the window. “Oh penis.”





 

Dawn had been doing remarkably well holding onto her temper right up until the moment an Auror had mistaken her delicate looks for weakness and grabbed her arm to try and twist it up behind her back as Lucius Malfoy again ordered his only child and his companions removed to the dungeons for questioning. Angry green eyes had glared at the offending Auror as Dawn said calmly. “Ron? About that whole ‘no killing’ thing…”

 

Ron, torn between wanting to rip the elder Malfoy’s head clean off his shoulders and/or shove it up his rigid, evil arse, reached for his wand. “Maiming only, Dawn.” He heard the sound of fist smacking into face behind him and added. “If any body parts get taken off, make sure they’re easily regrowable.”

 

Dawn spun into a powerful kick and sent the Auror flying back at his buddies that were starting to raise their wands. “Gotcha.” She dodged as an Auror at the back managed to get off a curse and pointed a finger at him. “You’re next, sonny. Connor, stay low.”

 

“My favourite place.” Connor braced his hands on Draco’s shoulders and then jumped into the air to somersault over his friend’s head and whistle through the air to land behind the main attacking party. “’Cept for when I want to go high, of course. Harry, duck!”

 

Harry obligingly let his legs go boneless and winced as Connor mirrored Dawn’s flawless kick from moments before to take out both men holding him. He was rising as they were falling to the floor and then he pushed Connor out of the way as he saw Lucius Malfoy point his wand at Connor. “Get down! Everyone, protective charms, NOW!”

 

Ginny caught Harry’s desperate shout but was forced to yell at Hermione to duck instead of muttering the words that would cast an invisible barrier around her as she saw Lucius make his move and screamed as her friend dropped to the floor. “Furnunculous!” All the rage and fear that Lucius inspired in her went into the curse and Ginny was delighted to see that not one patch of skin was left unmarked in the small measure of time before Ron took advantage of Lucius’ shock and knocked him off his feet with a solid upper cut to the jaw.

 

From all around the hall screams of terror and alarm sounded as the unfortunate villagers were once again caught in the middle of a pitched battle. Ron, Harry and Connor moved as one to a small clump of cots on which lay several wounded men and ducked down to the floor. Ron took his wand out of his pocket and ducked as a charm whistled over his head. “You know, I’m really starting to wonder why we bother.” He ducked lower as another charm was sent his way. “We should just bloody let the lot of them get on with it and then take care of Voldemort when he’s killed everyone else.”

 

Harry looked up at the moan of terror from the man on the bed. “Don’t worry, it’s ok, we won’t really do that.”

 

“Don’t…say…his…name…” The man clutched at his wounded chest and his eyes rolled back in his head. “He…must…not…”

 

Harry’s eyebrows snapped together. “Oh for Merlin’s sake, he’s just a man!” He jumped angrily to his feet and pointed his wand at the Aurors moving in on him. “Incendio! Incendio!” Great jets of flame burst from his wand and Harry threw back his head to scream in frustration. “Voldemort! Voldemort! Voldemort! See? Nothing happens!”

 

Ron sprang up, clipped Harry neatly on the jaw and dragged his friend back down to the floor once more. “Well, I wouldn’t say that exactly. Have you gone completely mad? Now they’re going to think we’re working for Snakehead!”

 

Connor cursed as a ball of fire bounced off the wall behind him and muttered sarcastically as he fired a bolt from his crossbow into an unfortunate wizard’s thigh. “Yes, because this situation could actually get worse. Why are they trying to arrest us anyway?” His arm snapped up and he sent his axe flying through the air to slice through a wizard’s robes and pin the material, and the wizard, to the floor. “I thought we were on the same side.”

 

Harry rubbed his throbbing jaw. “Apparently not.” His face darkened. “Whatever’s going on you can bet Malfoy’s father is behind it. The bastard.”

 

Ron nodded in agreement. “Right.” He risked a look over the top of the cot and saw the medi-witches and Professors scrambling to get the wounded to the far end of the hall and safety. “We need to get out of here.”

 

Harry leapt on top of Connor as a wizard aimed his wand and screamed the body-bind curse. The two boys pressed flat against the floor as the curse whistled overhead and struck the wall. Harry pushed himself up to glare at Ron. “Really, do you think so?”






 

The scene that had greeted the Scoobs and the Fang gang when they had screeched to a halt at the top of Main Street and jumped from their cars was one of pure, unadulterated mayhem. Screaming bodies lay everywhere, in some cases floated through the air, and in the centre of it all was a group of laughing, cloaked figures waving thin sticks through the air.

 

Buffy stared in horror and felt her stomach sink. “Giles…”

 

The Watcher nodded. “Not demons. Wizards. They’ve tracked the Key. Willow, a barrier, if you please.”

 

Willow bit her lip and gestured to the people dying all around them. “Giles, if I put up the barrier then we can’t help them.”

 

“And we can’t help them if we’re dead!” Giles’ voice cracked like a whip, making Willow jump. “A barrier, now.”

 

“No.” Angel placed a hand on Willow’s arm and shook his head. “We won’t be able to help these people if we’re protected. They’re dying because of our children. We fight.”

 

“Bloody right.” Spike pressed a quick kiss to Buffy’s head and hefted his axe. “C’mon, Peaches. Last one turned into a stink beetle’s a poofter!” He charged forward with a loud yell.

 

Cordelia shook her head and raised her own weapon as she started forward after the attacking vampire. “The worst battle-cry in the world ever.” She gripped her sword tightly as Spike made his presence felt by removing the head from one of the wizards and the entire group’s focus was moved from the screaming humans all around them to the grim-faced people running forward with weapons raised. “And so not what I want as my epitaph.”

 

Buffy smiled grimly as Spike made the most of his surprise attack, and the scant seconds he had left before being overcome by pain from his chip, and buried his axe neatly between a stunned wizard’s legs. “Me either.” She ducked as the first of many curses was fired her way and came up muttering, “But I’m not planning on writing it any time soon either.” She ran another couple of steps and then jumped high into the air to somersault down to Spike’s side as he fell to his knees, clutching his head. “Nice move, hun.”

 

Spike pushed the screaming man off the edge of his axe and somehow turned in the same movement to bury his axe in the throat of another man raising his wand. “All part of the service, love.” He shouted weakly in surprise as a pair of wizards in front of him were snatched off their feet and hurled though a shop window. “Fuck me!”

 

“Thanks for the offer, but gay now!” Willow performed a hasty spell under her breath and flung out her hand to push back a group of three wizards that were about to hex Fred, Gunn and Xander as they followed Cordelia’s lead. “I’ll settle for ice-cream later.”

 

Spike gave a pain-filled laugh. “You got it, Red. You can bloody bathe in it for all I care.” His game face came out as he spotted more wizards appear out of nowhere. “Slayer…”

 

“I see ‘em.” Buffy ducked another curse and was aware of Willow screaming spells behind her as she went forward to meet the new threat. “Let’s pick it up, people. We’ve got a plane to catch.”

 

“Crucio!” The curse hit out of nowhere and Buffy’s legs went from under her as the most intense, crippling pain she had ever felt in her entire life gripped her body. She hit the floor face first and lay bucking sightlessly as she tried to force away the pain but was ultimately unable to do anything but scream helplessly as it felt like her body burned from the inside out.

 

Xander saw Buffy go down and pushed past Gunn to start to run for her. “Buff!” He had taken two steps before the same voice shouted again and Xander went down under his own onslaught of unbearable pain.

 

Willow could do nothing but hold off her own attackers as one by one her friends dropped screaming to the floor and lay there, unable to do anything to help themselves. Her red hair was starting to tinge with black as the rage and fear inside her began to upset her careful control and the spells and curses she screamed were no longer defensive but designed to hurt as much as possible.

 

Finally she stood alone before a long line of black-robed figures as the screams of the tortured and the dying echoed endlessly from the walls around her.

 

Willow gasped for breath as suddenly the wizards facing her put up their wands and silently parted as a tall, slim figure strode arrogantly through. Her skin buzzed as she felt the hate and power roll off the robed person and she instinctively took a step backwards as one pale hand came out from under the robe and reached for her. “Come here, witch.”

 

“I don’t think so.” Willow could feel a small trickle of blood start from one nostril as the toll of her magic usage began on her body and she began to tremble lightly as exhaustion took hold. “That way does not lay puppies and ice-cream.”

 

“Why make this harder than it has to be? Wiccan magic has long been thought a poor second to the concentration of power a wizard possesses with his wand. You cannot possibly win.” The voice seemed to undulate through the air and Willow gritted her teeth as she shook off the feeling of the man’s words slipping like oiled robes around her body. “We have come for the Key. Give it to us and we will leave you in peace.”

 

Willow stumbled back another step and shook her head. “I’m sorry, was that ‘peace’ or ‘pieces’?” Something tells me you might have a little problem telling the difference.” She gestured towards her screaming friends. “Stop what you’re doing to them and we’ll talk.”

 

“I don’t believe I will.” The figure’s wand sliced through the air and he shouted, “Crucio!”

 

Willow raised her hands but couldn’t deflect the curse before it hit her and she collapsed heavily to the floor. She writhed in futile panic against the pain swamping her, eyes blinded by agony. The figure walked slowly to stand above her and then raised an arm to sweep back its concealing hood.

 

A hairless scalp shone in the moonlight and two glowing red eyes stared distastefully at Willow as she screamed piteously on the floor. “I am Lord Voldemort, mudblood. Tell me where to find the Key and I shall kill you quickly.” The Dark Lord’s wand tapped Willow’s shoulder briefly and he muttered the word to halt the charm on her. Long seconds passed as Willow gulped for air and tried desperately to reorient herself and the dark wizard gave her a cold smile. “Tell me where I shall find the ones they call Key and Destroyer or you will suffer untold agonies whilst I break you and everyone you love.”

 

Willow panted as she looked up into the evil face above hers and tried to force her trembling arms to support her weight. She finally gave it up as a bad job and lay in the gutter helpless before Voldemort. “Kiss…my…Wiccan…ass…you…freak…”

 

“So be it.” Voldemort nodded and tilted his head as he looked down at the girl before him. “Crucio!”

 

Willow screamed again.





 

Draco stared in horror as his father first sprouted the most disgusting crop of boils he had ever seen and then crashed to the floor when Ron hit him. He turned as he heard Hermione scream Ginny’s name and saw the small red head hit by a spell from the Minister for Magic. The shock at seeing his father suddenly appear out of nowhere and then calmly order his arrest died a blazing death as Ginny hit the floor and he jumped his father’s stunned body as Fudge aimed his wand at Hermione. “Granger, watch out!” Draco’s wand whipped through the air as Hermione dropped to the floor again for the second time in under a minute and he bellowed. “Expelliarmus!”

 

The Minister’s wand flew out of his hand to be neatly snatched out of the air by Snape as the Potion’s master pointed his wand at Fudge and shouted above the screams and curses filling the hall. “Weasley, get them out of here. NOW!”

 

Ron looked round from where he was fighting shoulder to shoulder with Harry and Connor as he heard his name. “What?” He was wild-eyed with anger and confusion as what was apparently his own side threw everything they had at him and his friends and curses exploded against the protective spells that all of the magical members of his house had been carrying in readiness since the beginning of the eventful term. Not for the first time Ron found himself blessing Hermione’s thoroughness in research and abilities in the magical arts, as without the charms Durus Cateanus would have been toast before the combined might of the Ministry and the Aurors.

 

Snape dodged behind the Minister as an Auror blasted a binding curse at him and sneered as the spell hit the unfortunate Mr Fudge instead. “Take them out of here!” He rolled nimbly under a cot as another curse was sent his way and came up the other side in a dusty tangle of robes and lank hair. “Get them all out of here now!”

 

“To where?” Ron felt his heart sink as he caught sight of more Aurors pounding up the stairs from the grounds and heading for the hall. He sucker punched a small man and yelled. “We’re trapped!” As an afterthought he shouted indignantly. “And we’re the good guys!”

 

Draco turned at Ron’s shout and then bent and snatched a handful of Hermione’s robes. “Get up, mudblood!” He ignored her yelp of anger at the hateful term and pushed her to where Ginny lay frozen on the floor. “I’ll cover you while you unbind her and then I need you both to accio some broomsticks, can you do it?” He flung himself bodily over Hermione and Ginny as an Auror roared a curse and then raised his head to send a return volley. “It’s our best chance!”

 

Hermione, reeling from being attacked by her own side and then being saved by Draco Malfoy of all people, gaped awkwardly up at her unlikely saviour. “What?”

 

Draco pulled her into a sitting position and crouched protectively over the two girls. “Granger, just bloody do it. We’re running out of time.” He fired a curse at an Auror as the man aimed his wand at a very busy Connor. “Confundous!” The man reeled as the charm hit and walked hard into the wall. Draco saw his father push himself up on shaky arms and yelled furiously at Hermione. “Granger, do it!”

 

Hermione nodded and hastily began to mumble the counter charm to the binding spell on Ginny. She screamed as a charm narrowly missed her and Malfoy pushed her lower. “It’s alright, Granger.” He aimed for the man who had just attacked them and blasted him off his feet. “I’ve got you covered.”

 

Hermione realised just how badly her world had tilted on its axis when she not only believed Malfoy’s hasty assurance but also took comfort from it. She finished the counter-curse, her wand tapped Ginny’s shoulder and she helped the other girl sit up. “Ginny, are you alright to cast a charm?”

 

Ginny nodded shakily and swallowed to ease the dryness of her mouth. “I think so. What one?”

 

“We’re accio-ing some brooms.” Hermione ducked behind Malfoy’s broad back as she saw another wand aimed in their direction and then a horrible snapping sound told her that either Dawn or Connor had taken care of the threat. “Ready? On three.”

 

Malfoy counted under his breath with the girls as he tried to watch every part of the hall at once and then joined them in yelling, “Accio Broomsticks.” The shout had barely time to die away before Snape scrambled in undignified haste across the hall floor.

 

“Mr Malfoy, go with Potter and the others. Do not remain here, do you understand?” The normally cold, blank face was flushed with adrenalin and fury as he clutched at the younger boy’s arm. “It is essential that you get Granger and Weasley Junior to safety with the others.”

 

Draco blinked at the urgency in his housemaster’s voice. “Sir? My father…”

 

“Your father is unimportant.” Snape bit out the words and then looked up as a high-pitched whine announced the arrival of the broomsticks. “It is imperative that you seven remain uninjured and free. Go!”

 

Years of conditioning to obeying Snape had Draco grabbing a girl in either hand and sprinting for the others before he fully registered his teacher’s command. Ginny and Hermione huddled close to his side and took a moment to release their own protection barriers. Hermione screamed as a particularly vicious curse bounced off the wall and shouted. “Malfoy, stay with me and Ginny. We’re under a barrier!”

 

Draco kicked out at an Auror and unapologetically shoved a slow moving nurse into two more. “What?”

 

“We’re wearing a charm. Stay between me and Ginny and you’ll be covered.” Hermione copied Malfoy’s move to send three Aurors and a Professor she vaguely remembered from third year Muggle Studies flying into a group of cots. She clutched tightly at Draco’s hand as they sprinted towards Harry and the others and yelled again. “Like Connor. Stay between me and Ginny like he’s doing with Ron and Harry.”

 

Draco nodded and renewed his grip on Ginny’s hand. “And you didn’t think to mention this last night because…?” He dragged the two girls to one side as another group of large Aurors charged them and laughed savagely as Hermione and Ginny both whipped their wands through the air and shouted to bring fierce jets of water bursting from the tip of the wood. Behind him he heard Snape casting charms and curses wildly to cover them and then they somehow managed to reach Dawn’s side. She turned, stared at them and then her eyes widened with shock as she clapped a hand to her head and screamed.

 

Malfoy let go of Hermione and Ginny’s hands hastily as Dawn dropped like a stone and managed to swing her clumsily into his arms. “Get those broomsticks down here! Weasley, Potter, we’re leaving!” Draco caught a movement from the corner of his eye and turned to meet his livid, and lumpy, father’s eyes. Silver clashed with silver for a moment and then a vicious parody of a smile adorned Lucius’ face as he raised his wand at his son. “Petrifi…ooof!”

 

Connor shook his fist to free the little bits of pus that clung to the skin from his punch as he vaulted a yelling Auror and landed neatly behind Harry on his broom. “Let’s go!” He turned to Malfoy as the blond boy swung onto his own broom with Dawn still clutched awkwardly to him. “Don’t drop her!”

 

Ron kicked off as Hermione gripped his waist with one hand and provided covering fire for the others as they lifted off. Ginny, the only one flying solo, led the hasty retreat through the hall doors and blasted a fierce fire charm at the Aurors grouped there to provide a vital few seconds of relief from dodging curses and charms. Hermione and Ron took the rear and Hermione fired every charm she could think of back into the hall as the four brooms hurtled out into the cold November sky.


Harry pointed his broom directly at the weak sun and yelled back to Connor. “Are they following us?”

 

Connor craned his neck. “Not yet. What just happened back there?” He cast an anxious look at Dawn still sagging in Malfoy’s arms. “Has everyone gone completely nuts?”

 

Ginny looped round to fly next to the two boys and caught Connor’s last outraged remark. “Yes!” The wind nearly whipped her shrill reply away but her set, pale face spoke volumes as she shouted again. “Where are we going?”

 

“Anywhere but here!” Ron’s voice made the three of them jump as he came alongside them and jerked his head back grimly. “Incoming!”

 

Connor swore as he looked back and saw what looked to be an entire fleet of broomsticks take off from the grounds. “We need a plan.”

 

“We’ve got one!” Dawn and Draco caught up with the others and even though Dawn was swaying with shock and her face pale with tension her voice was firm with resolve. “Everyone follow us.” She leaned back into Malfoy’s chest for support and reached out with both hands to fling everything she had into her next move. “We’re going on a fieldtrip…” A field of green energy exploded into life in the middle of the drab sky and Dawn screamed. “Go!”

 

Harry stared backwards at the grim-faced Aurors that followed them and his eyes widened as one of the lead flyers pulled out their wand. “Oh shit…Ron, go, go!” He leant forward and willed his broom to move as fast as it could, aware of Draco and Ron on either side of him desperately doing the same. Ginny looped under the three brooms and banked in mid air to send another fire charm after their pursuers and then wheeled round to join the others as they plunged into the portal. The doorway held for a few breathless seconds and then just as the Aurors climbed to where it hung, the green light snapped out of existence as quickly as it had appeared taking all trace of the seven fugitives with it.




 

Anya smiled sweetly at the man that had just rung the doorbell. “Yes?” Sheeyed the clipboard in his hand. “Can I help you?”

 

“I’m here to pick up two crates.” The man popped his gum and scratched idly at his left buttock. “Need you to sign for ‘em.”

 

“It’s such a hot day.” Anya leaned against the doorframe and raised an eyebrow coquettishly.  “Would you like to come inside and…cool off?” She flapped the collar of her woollen sweater against the light chill of the November night and tried to look as warm as she knew how.

 

The man raised his eyebrows and stared at her protruding stomach. “Uh, no, thank you. Ma’am.” He shifted uncomfortably as Anya pursed her lips and ran a long-nailed hand over her thigh. “I’ll just take the boxes.”

 

“Really?” Anya licked a long wet trail over her lips. “You wouldn’t like to expose your hard, muscled arms to some cool air and…” She trailed off as the man backed up a step in panic and scowled. “Well, you don’t have to be like that about it! I’m pregnant, not leprous. And we only want your truck anyway.” Anya swung a clenched fist with all her might and hit the man’s temple squarely. “Idiot.”

 

Carlos and Kit pushed hastily past her and grabbed the felled deliveryman by his ankles to drag him quickly out of sight into the house. Carlos straightened as Anya slammed the front door and looked at her quizzically. “And the ‘Cruel Intentions’ impression was because…?”

 

Anya sniffed and reached for her jacket. “It always works in those silly films Xander and Spike watch when there aren’t any girls around. The slutty housewife invites the manual labourer into her home under a flimsy pretext loaded with innuendo and then he is under her spell and does whatever she requires of him.” The demon squinted thoughtfully at the wall. “Although there is usually more orgasms involved.” She shrugged. “I thought it would be more subtle than bashing him over the head with a lamp.”

 

“Yes, because hitting him with your full demon strength was so erotic.” Kit fished the keys to the man’s truck out of his pants and held them out to Anya. “Why do we need the truck again?”

 

“We need a vehicle big enough to fit everyone in when we go to their rescue.” Anya snatched at the keys and sailed through the front door with the two teenagers in hot pursuit. “It is big enough to be used as a weapon.” She rounded the hood of the truck and paused to look pointedly at the two teens. “And because we cannot afford to replace one of our own cars if things go wrong and we have to blow up this one.”

 

Carlos grinned as he opened the passenger door and helped Kit climb inside. “Hey, Connor was the one to blow up the cars last time, not us.”

 

Anya snorted as she stuck the key in the ignition and started the engine. “A likely story. I have read extensive material on children in preparation for my own spawn and I know how your devious little minds work.” Her foot pushed the gas to the floor as she peeled away from the curb and hurtled to the end of the street. “You’ve been suspiciously well-behaved for some months now, that just means that you have something up your funky little sleeves that will require serious monetary compensation and/or therapy. It’s what teenagers do.”

 

Kit eyed Anya warily. “Did you just call your baby, ‘spawn’?”





 

Connor stared around himself as Harry hovered in the night sky and then turned to Dawn. “Where are we?” He looked down at the ground and frowned at the graveyard he saw there. “This isn’t Hogwarts.”

 

Dawn took a deep shuddering breath and closed the portal behind her as Ginny shot through with a yell. “This isn’t England.” She took a deep whiff of the familiar night air. “Welcome to Sunnydale, people.”

 

There was a stunned silence as everyone stared at the slender girl and tried to think of something to say. Hermione finally managed to get her jaw and voicebox working in tandem and stuttered. “Su…Sunnydale? Your home?”

 

“Uh-huh.” Dawn patted Malfoy’s arm that had redoubled its grip about her waist and was cutting off her air supply. “Land of the free and home of the dead. Enjoy.”

 

Ginny stared about her with wide eyes. “We are in so much trouble. The school really gets nasty when you leave school grounds without permission.”

 

Connor answered her caustically. “Considering the school was doing its damnedest to lock us up and throw away the key, no pun intended, I don’t think they get to have a vote on this.” He nudged Harry and jerked his head to indicate they should get nearer Dawn. “Are you ok, sweetie? You looked pretty rough back there.”

 

Dawn squeezed Connor’s hand hard and looked soberly at him. “We have to find the others and fast.” She stared around her anxiously and then looked back at her love. “I had a flash, a vision, something, at the school and the others are in trouble. It was like someone put a hook in my head and was reeling me in. Which kind of explains why we’re not in the lake again.” She put a hand to her head and frowned as she remembered. “I was in Cordelia’s head…I think.” Dawn shook her head in confusion. “I don’t know how, but I know they’re in trouble. I think someone’s come for the Key. We need to get to them.”

 

Connor paled. “Are they ok?” He swallowed the sudden surprising bitter taste of fear at the thought of his family in mortal danger. “Are they…” He tried to force the word ‘alive’ past the lump suddenly taking up residence in his throat but couldn’t.

 

Dawn shook her head helplessly. “I don’t know, sweetie. I just know they need us.” She bit her lip. “They don’t have a defence against the way these guys fight.”



Ron flew his broom alongside Harry’s and Draco’s and said grimly. “They do now.” He patted Dawn’s shoulder. “We’re taking the fight to them, right?”

 

“Oh yeah.” Connor gripped his axe tightly and looked keenly about him, stretching his senses for any sight or sound of a battle. “I am so past letting this Dark son-of-a-bitch live another second.” He suddenly pointed to the east. “That way. I can smell battle.”

 

Dawn nodded. “Gotcha. Guys, you up for this?” She looked at the tight faces around her and then craned her neck to look back at Malfoy. “This isn’t your fight.”

 

Malfoy shifted uneasily as he suddenly became the focus of all of Durus Catenatus house. For long moments he stared at Ginny’s face, half hidden by her hair and shadows of dark clouds and then he looked at Connor who gave him a wide, knowing grin. Despite a desperate urge not to die horribly at the hands of the Dark Lord, and an even more desperate urge to turn his broom for the horizon and head for the hills, Draco found himself smiling back as he said sneeringly. “Considering I seem to be making rather a habit of yanking Potter and Weasley’s nuts from the fire this term, I rather think I better come along and ensure their continued good health.”

 

Harry narrowed his eyes at the arch-nemesis that had plagued so many of his teenage years and muttered sincerely. “I hate you.”

 

Connor nodded. “Then it’s settled. Everyone follow my lead.” He tapped Harry’s shoulder and pointed to the horizon. “Go.”






Willow writhed on the floor as the pain hit and then just as suddenly it was gone. She gasped and sobbed on the floor forcing her face up to stare into the laughing red eyes above her. “Give in, mudblood. You have done well but you can not win.” Voldemort gestured expansively around him at the screaming bodies of her friends and smiled almost tenderly, “All your champions are defeated. Your faith in them and your distorted magical religion is misplaced. Give yourself, and what I seek, to me.”

 

Willow laboriously got to her hands and knees and then managed to climb to her feet. She looked past Voldemort for a moment and then made a great show of trying to focus her bleeding eyes on his. “I wasn’t always a Wicca.” She staggered slightly but just caught herself before she went to her knees once more and sucked in a much needed breath of air, “I was born Jewish. In my culture it’s said that every Jewish baby gets 11,000 guardian angels on the day of their birth.” Her legs gave out finally and she crashed gracelessly to the floor once more.

 

“How charming.” The Dark Lord gestured once again at the desecrated area, “Your point would be?”

 

Willow grinned weakly through the blood covering her face and pointed up, “The reinforcements are here.”

 

Voldemort’s head whipped up just as Connor’s boot lashed out and it was with great satisfaction that the Destroyer heard the unmistakable snap of a breaking nose. He let go of Harry’s waist and with a yell somersaulted off the broom to land beside Willow and scoop her up in his arms. Without pausing he leapt into the air once more and landed with catlike grace twenty paces away next to his screaming parents.

 

Depositing Willow on the ground, Connor ducked a curse from the Death Eater guarding them and rolled across the floor to pull his crossbow and execute the man where he stood. He leapt to his feet and smiled coldly as Dawn, Hermione, Ginny, Draco, Ron and Harry jumped from their brooms and landed next to him. Connor looked around himself at the Death Eaters and snarling demons, “Ok, guys.” He took a deep breath and gave them their orders, “Get ‘em.”

Chapter Text

 

The Death Eaters stared in stunned silence at the seven teenagers that had suddenly dropped from the sky. With the exception of Draco, all of them were still covered in bruises and cuts from the previous night’s battle, not having found the time to be properly healed by the medical staff at Hogwarts, and they presented an arresting sight as they stood among the screaming bodies of Buffy and the others glaring coldly at the dark wizards. Hermione glanced up at Malfoy beside her as he got a good look at the wizard Connor had kicked so enthusiastically to announce their arrival and hissed under his breath. “No…”

 

“Get ‘em?” Dawn shook her head. “Sweetie, you really need to learn some cool opening lines.” She swung her wand towards a particularly optimistic Death Eater who was trying to creep up on the defiant teenagers and blasted him off his feet with a muttered curse. “And the next idiot to try and sneak up on my ass is going home carrying their own in a bag. Hermione, Ginny, get those curses off my family. Ron, Harry, let’s get some protection up.”

 

Harry and Ron nodded and before any of the Death Eaters could stop them, swept their wands before them and shouted. “Protego Obexicis!” Ron smirked as the first curse bounced harmlessly off the invisible barrier. “Merlin, we’re getting good.”

 

Hermione and Ginny dropped to their knees with nervous looks at the dark wizards closing in on the group and began to work as fast as they could to remove the curses from Buffy and the others. Dawn narrowed her eyes. “Ok, which one of you ‘David-Copperfield-wannabes’ is Mouldy Wart?”

 

Despite the extreme grimness of just about every aspect of their lives, Ron found it in him to laugh at Dawn’s belligerent question. He grinned at Harry. “Now I can die happy.”

 

“Potter.” The enraged hiss raised the hackles of all the teenagers as the Dark Lord stepped through his followers, his menacing presence slightly toned down by the pale hand clapped to his face and the blood trickling over his chin. Harry’s hand shot to his own face at the sudden white-hot pain from his scar. Voldemort’s furious red eyes glared across the top of his bony appendage. “You’ve troubled me long enough, boy, I’m going to…”

 

“Oh, can it, freak show.” Dawn put her hands on her hips and sneered at the nightmare of the wizarding world. “You are going to do nothing. We, on the other hand, are about to hand you your asses on a plate.” She tilted her head and sniffed the air appraisingly. “You’ve got some power there, hot shot.”

 

Voldemort stared back at the young brunette and his hand dropped away from his face with a growl. “The Key.”

 

“She prefers Ms Key.” Connor glowered at the pale man and drew back his crossbow and muttered in an aside to Dawn. “Are you going around with some kind of sign on your back?”

 

Malfoy took his horrified eyes off of the Dark Lord and nudged Harry in the ribs. “Ms what?”

 

Harry gripped his wand and scowled. “We’ll explain later.”

 

Draco expelled a shaky huff of air as he went back to warily watching the mass of evil confronting them. “How very optimistic of you. You really think there’s going to be a later?”

 

“Malfoy…” Voldemort seemed to register Draco’s presence for the first time and gestured confidently to him. “Come to me, my faithful servant. You have done well.”

 

Aware of his companions tensing in fury beside him Draco stared at Lord Voldemort for a long moment and then slowly, very slowly, shook his head. He forced himself to ignore the pull of the Dark Lord summons and drew himself up to say with cold dignity. “Actually, I don’t think I will. I don’t serve you.” He gasped with pain as his arm suddenly felt like it had been plunged elbow deep into a furnace but managed to keep his voice steady as he said emphatically. “I will not serve you.”

 

“Malfoy, what are you doing? What’s going on?” Ginny looked nervously up at the tall, blond boy as sweat broke out on his forehead and he was forced to clutch at his arm with a whimper. “What’s happening?” She stood from her crouch on the floor and snatched at his sleeve to pull back the material and reveal the Dark Mark in all its terrifying glory burning deeply into Draco’s pale arm. “Oh Merlin…”

 

Draco laughed bitterly through the overwhelming pain. “Surprise.”

 

Harry took a handful of Ginny’s robes and yanked her away from the prefect. “Not really.” His wand came up and pointed at directly at Malfoy’s heart. “Get away from us.”

 

“I…can’t…” Draco’s eyes rolled back into his head and he sagged to his knees. “I won’t…go back…”

 

Dawn looked uncomprehendingly between the boy on the floor and the white-faced wizard watching his pain with perverted pleasure. “What’s going on? What are you doing to him?” She turned to Harry. “Is the barrier failing?”

 

Ron gripped his wand as Harry shook his head and snarled. “The barrier’s fine. It’s the Dark Mark. It’s how Voldemort calls his followers. It’ll burn until Malfoy goes back to his side.” He lashed out with his foot and kicked Malfoy onto his back. “Let me help you on your way.”

 

Connor looked down and into Malfoy’s streaming silver eyes. Draco’s face was twisted with agony, and some fear, but he managed to whisper fiercely. “Then it… will burn…forever. I…won’t…go…back…”

 

“Good enough for me.” Connor blurred and then suddenly there was a crossbow bolt quivering in Voldemort’s shoulder and a piercing scream was torn from the wizard’s throat. “Damn it, I was aiming for his head. Oh well, whatever works.” Connor laughed as another barrage of curses bounced harmlessly inches from the end of his nose. “Did we forget to mention the barrier only works one way?” He bent down to grip Malfoy’s uninjured arm and pull him to his feet as the mark abruptly stopped its intense burn. “You ok, Draco?”

 

Malfoy staggered slightly and blinked cold sweat out of his eyes. “You believe me? Just like that you believe me?”

 

“Yeah.” Connor grinned and slapped Malfoy on his back, nearly sending him flying again. “That and I can smell when someone’s lying to me. It’s a whole son-of-a-vampire thing. Hey, Dad!” Connor waved cheerfully to Angel who lay panting on the floor as Hermione broke the curse on him and then the Destroyer looked at Harry and the others in turn. “He’s telling the truth, trust me.”

 

“He’s a sodding Death Eater!” Ron was nearly crimson with rage. “You can’t bloody trust him.”

 

Connor put himself between Draco and the other two boys, crossing his arms to say calmly. “I’m not asking you to trust him. I’m asking you to trust me.” Dawn turned away from the three boys to keep a careful eye on the muttering dark wizards and hoped Connor could sort things out quickly, it looked like things were about to get busy again. Connor cocked an eyebrow and stared first at Harry and then at Ron. “Can you do that?”

 

“Guys…” Dawn bounced lightly on her toes and risked a quick, impatient glance over her shoulder. “Get a move on, the natives are getting restless…”

 

Harry looked and saw five Death Eaters line up before Voldemort as another wizard tended to his injury and then back at Malfoy, pale and shaking with echoes of pain, but with wand drawn and ready to fight. For a single moment Draco’s face was gone and Snape’s was there before him, Harry blinked and nodded his head quickly. “Ok, Connor. We’ll follow your lead.”

 

Ron took another few moments, but finally gave a short, jerky nod. “Right. Just don’t come crying to me when he turns us all into newts and feeds us to the giant squid.”

 

Connor grinned as the two boys took up position on either side of Malfoy and stood ready to fight off the impending attack. “Check. No whining when I’m a newt.” He stepped up to Dawn’s side and smiled lovingly at her. “Ready when you are, sweetie.”

 

“Ok. You…” Dawn pointed an angry finger at Voldemort. “You and me have some issues to sort out, Chalky.”

 

The Dark Lord pushed the hooded figure tending him aside and took two fast paces towards Dawn, surprising a scream from Hermione. “Come to me, child. You cannot hope to stand against my might. You will be mine.” The white face sniffed at the air in much the same way as Dawn had moments earlier. “You leak pure power with every breath you take. The very air around you sings with it.”

 

“Yeah?” Dawn looked absurdly flattered and simpered delightedly. “Really? You’re so sweet. Time to die.” Her hand rose lightening fast in the air and a bolt of green fire shot from her wand to ground in Voldemort’s chest and take him off his feet to crash to the ground some twenty feet away. “Cool.”

 

“There’s our cue, boys!” Connor fired his cross bolt and spun to kick the teeth from a nearby death-eater’s head.

 

Dawn swept her wand through the air again and knocked death-eaters off their feet like skittles as she stomped after Voldemort. “You guys take care of the others and I’ll sort out Bright-eyes.” A death–eater screamed as Dawn took the opportunity to land a firm kick to his unprotected groin and she laughed. “Give ‘em hell!”

 

“Always do.” Connor tucked and rolled to come up directly in front of a cloaked wizard and punch him in his lower stomach, moving hastily out of the way as the figure bent double and vomited in reflex where the Destroyer had been moments before. “Gross.”

 

Harry, Ron and Malfoy moved forwards together. “Stay between me and Harry, Malfoy. The protection charm on us should give you some cover as well.” Ron fired off a curse that knocked a death eater flying through a plate glass window.

 

“Avada Kedavara!” All three boys threw themselves to the ground as a large bulky man in a cloak pointed his wand and shouted the killing curse at the top of his voice.

 

Harry was the first to scramble to his feet and, without any semblance of pity, set the man on fire. “Except against that. I don’t think they want us alive!”

 

Ron dragged his robes from his shoulders and threw them to the ground as they tangled about his legs. “What a surprise. Girls, how are you doing?”

 

“Just dandy.” The voice was weak when it sounded but Willow pushed herself off the floor and narrowed her eyes at the surrounding wizards. “Hit the deck.”

 

Ron’s eyes widened at the sight of the red head drenched in blood but as her hands rose his sense of self-preservation kicked in and he threw himself to the floor, flinging out his arms to take Harry and Draco with him. “Get down…”

 

The shock waves knocked everybody within twenty feet from Willow to the floor as she threw back her head and screamed into the night. “Absumo!”

 

Hermione screamed as she was knocked flat on her back and clutched wildly at Ginny as the other girl landed heavily on top of her. She was buffeted by incredibly high winds and the sound of the air roaring echoed painfully in her ears. After long moments the noise finally died away and Hermione bravely opened her eyes to look straight into the ice blue ones of a wryly grinning face.

 

“Alright, luv?” Spike patted the shocked girl’s shoulder paternally and plucked Ginny from Hermione’s lap to enable her to sit up. That accomplished he collapsed shakily onto his back and beamed up at her. “Red’s gone a bit mental, should be alright in a minute. You’d be Hermione would you?” Hermione nodded speechlessly and Spike gestured to the battle that, thanks to Dawn and Willow thoroughly losing their tempers, was rapidly turning in the good guys’ favour. “S’pect you want to be goin’ and helpin’ your mates now, right?” Hermione nodded again as Spike patted her hand. “You scoot along and me and the others’ll catch you up. Just need a bit of a breather, like. Go on now.” He watched as Hermione grabbed Ginny and hurled themselves towards the swearing Ron, Harry and Malfoy as they picked themselves up from the floor. “Cute kid.”

 

“What the bloody hell was that?” Harry stared in open-mouthed shock at Willow as the redhead staggered and he jumped hurriedly forward to catch her in his arms. “What did you do?”

 

Willow shook her head woozily. “Gave ‘em a taste of some Wiccan power.” Her legs buckled and she smiled weakly. “I think I need a minute.”

 

“Traitor!” The scream of rage drew everyone’s attention to a man on the floor whose hood had fallen back and was pointing at Malfoy with an expression of disbelieving rage. “Betrayer!”

 

“I can see you two have met.” Ron looked between Malfoy and the man on the floor who was scrabbling to get his legs under him. “You forgot sneaky git.”

 

“Don’t, Ron…” Hermione bit her lip and looked at Malfoy as he stared silently at the man on the floor. “Malfoy…”

 

Draco looked down in surprise as he felt a light touch on his arm and was amazed to see Hermione’s hand lying against his sleeve. He raised his eyes to her face and their gazes locked for a long moment before Hermione’s hand fell away and Draco turned back to the man on the floor. “Mr Nott.” His voice was as cool as ever but Ginny and Hermione caught the underlying tension. They exchanged nervous glances and gripped their wands a little tighter as Draco took a few steps forward. “I would advise you to stay down.”

 

“You’ll die for this.” The heavyset man climbed shakily to his unsteady feet. “None leave the Dark Lord’s service and live.”

 

“I was never in his service!” Draco’s voice cracked like a whip and Harry and the others flinched at the venom dripping from every word. “He was never my Lord.”

 

“You took his mark!” Nott swayed before Malfoy’s rigid figure and gestured to his companions. “They are fools to trust you.”

 

“Good point.” Ron narrowed his eyes and shook his head wearily as Death Eaters began to recover from Willow’s spell and climb woozily to their feet once more. “But does any one listen to me? Not bloody likely. Wingardium Leviosa!” A Death Eater was plucked from the floor and sent flying into the side of a building with a nasty crunch.

 

“Don’t be an ass, Weasel.” Draco didn’t bother to turn from Nott’s contemptuous eyes and his face was a blank mask as he continued. “I was forced to take the mark in the summer or I would have been killed.” He shook the sleeve of his robe back and Ginny flinched as she saw the Dark Mark burning against the white skin. “This proves I have a vested interest in saving my own skin, nothing more. Voldemort is not my master and he never will be; I serve no man but myself.”

 

“Well, that makes me feel loads better.” Harry bellowed a charm that sent a torrent of water from the tip of his wand and watched as a group of hooded wizards were swept hard up against a shop front and through the window with screams of terror and pain. “Really, it makes this so much easier knowing that you’re just looking out for number one.”

 

“And you aren’t?” Draco sneered disbelievingly. “Or have you finally succumbed to your own publicity? Perfect Potter, defender of all things weak and helpless.”

 

Harry blinked at him for a moment and then swore loudly. “DAWN!” He leapt forward and shouldered Nott to the ground roughly. “Dawn, don’t kill Voldemort!”

 

“What?” Ron’s mouth dropped open as his best friend raced up the street blasting curses at the Death Eaters between him and Dawn. “What did he say?”

 

“He said don’t kill Voldemort.” Hermione began to chase after Harry. “Come on!”

 

Connor shook his head. “It’s definitely a new approach to fighting evil but I really don’t think it’s gonna catch on. Follow me, guys.” He broke into a sprint after Hermione and quickly overtook her.

 

Ginny shoved Draco and Ron. “Go on, I’ll stay here and guard their families. GO!” She watched as the two boys began to race up the street on the strangest rescue mission of their lives and turned back to the Slayer and her companions. “Hello, I’m Ginny. I’ll be your protector for this evening. Please stay down and out of evil’s way at all times.”

 

Buffy raised her tangled blonde head and focused blearily on the tiny redhead with the scar and nervous tic in her jaw. “You’ve been spending way too much time with my sister.”

 

Ginny fired off a fire charm at two approaching Death Eaters as the others began to totter unsteadily up the street after her brother and friends and smirked as two sets of robes went up in an impressive roar of flame. “Don’t I know it.” She peered anxiously past the two flaming wizards that were desperately trying to rip their burning robes off and yelling fit to wake the dead, which in Sunnydale was always an occupational hazard. “Stay down and try and get your breath back, I don’t think it’s over yet.”





 




Dawn had barely felt the shockwaves of Willow’s fury and was instead intent on pressing her advantage home with Voldemort as hard as she could. She also remained blissfully unaware of the approach of her friends and was concentrating on channelling every ounce of disgust and hatred for Voldemort’s atrocities through her wand and at the parody of a human face falling back before her. “Come on, you son of a bitch, fight me.” She screamed a fire curse and laughed mockingly as Voldemort barely managed to parry her attack. “I thought you were the tough guy, all skanky and down with your big evil self. You really gonna let a barely trained half-breed take you down?” Another fire curse exploded inches from Voldemort’s face. “Fight me you bastard!”

 

“Crucio!” Dawn ducked as Voldemort fired off the curse at her and then spun into a scissor kick that landed squarely in his stomach. “Ooof!” Voldemort staggered back in wide-eyed shock as all the breath was kicked out of his lungs.

 

Dawn tossed her hair back and her face twisted in a gloating grin. “You arrogant, stupid jerk.” She spun again and this time her foot cracked across his jaw to send the old wizard spinning to the ground. “Up to your ass in protective charms but you have nothing to stop a good old fashioned smack-down, do ya?”

 

“Mudblood bitch…” Voldemort pointed his wand again. “Cruci…”

 

Dawn’s foot slammed into the fallen wizard’s face and his head cracked sickeningly off the floor. “Bite me.” She reached to the small of her back and withdrew her small dagger that she habitually carried there. “This ends now…”

 

“NO!” Dawn yelled with surprise as she was tackled physically from behind and both she and her attacker sprawled heavily over Voldemort, her wand skittering from her hand. “No, don’t kill him!” Harry grabbed Dawn’s shoulder and rolled them hastily away from his mortal enemy. “You can’t kill him…”

 

“Harry?!” Dawn’s eyes bugged as she rolled to her feet. “Have you gone completely NUTS? That’s what we’re here for!”

 

Harry scrambled up and shoved Dawn further back. “They took children. He knows where they are!” His wand shook slightly as he pointed it at the fallen wizard. “We need to find them.”

 

Dawn’s face was a study of confusion. “What?”

 

“At the village, they took children, he knows where they are.” Harry gripped Dawn’s arm as his eyes darted between his friend’s face and Voldemort. “We can’t kill him until…”

 

“Imperio!” Voldemort’s voice was weak but his aim with the curse was true and Connor stopped in mid-sprint as he was hit full on. All expression bled from his face as he stared vacantly down at the red eyes on the ground and Voldemort whispered weakly. “Kill them. Kill them both…”

 

Connor lifted his head and focused on Harry and Dawn, he nodded. “Yes, master.”

 

Harry’s eyes widened in horror. “No. Dawn, get dow…aaah!” He stumbled backwards as Connor raised his crossbow and fired point-blank into his chest. He was aware of Dawn’s scream as he fell and then there was nothing put the pounding of blood in his ears and the burning pain from the arrow that had gone straight through his right lung.






 

Carlos gripped the door handle as Anya took the truck around the corner on what felt like two wheels. “Are you sure you don’t want me to drive?”

 

“No, thank you.” Anya slapped the horn as a bunch of bleeding people suddenly appeared in front of the truck. “For the love of D’Hoffryn, get out of the way you stupid sacks of meat!”

 

Kit screamed as Anya coaxed another burst of speed from their stolen vehicle and people dove right and left to avoid being mown down like grass before the demon’s single-minded effort to get to the Scoobs as quickly as she could.

 

“Anya!” Kit peered into the wing mirror as they sped away and breathed a shaky sigh of relief. “Be careful, you nearly hit them.”

 

“The father of my child is in danger of being turned into something icky and non-bipedal.” Anya blasted the horn again as she turned the final corner to their destination. “If I have to squash a few humans to prevent that, then I believe it is an acceptable compromise.”

 

“Dawn!” Carlos pointed through the windscreen at the familiar, slim figure fifty or so yards ahead. “There’s Dawn.”

 

Kit stared in bewilderment. “How did she get here? She’s meant to be in England.”

 

Carlos frowned uneasily as he recognised the tall figure that Dawn was frantically backing away from. “Isn’t that Connor? What are they doing?” He was flung forward as Anya slammed on the brakes of the truck and they halted with a teeth-clenching squeal.

 

Anya gripped the steering wheel as she saw Dawn suddenly get backhanded to lie in a crumpled heap on the street. “Something’s wrong.” Her eyes widened as she saw Connor bend to snatch a sword from the street and move towards Dawn. “Something’s very wrong. Weapons!”

 

Carlos didn’t waste any time and flung open the truck door snatching an axe from the truck floor as he did so. “Connor!” Putting everything he had into his frantic run, Carlos took off towards Dawn as she stared up at Connor from the road. “Connor, no!” He was aware of Kit and Anya running screaming behind him but all he was aware of was Connor raising his weapon above Dawn as she lay vulnerable on the sidewalk below him. “Connor!”




 

Dawn screamed as Harry fell back clutching his chest and stared in terror at Connor. “No! Connor, what have you done?”

 

Connor cocked his head. “Killed him.” Two quick strides brought him within reach and he backhanded Dawn off her feet and sent her skidding along the rough street. His face seemed to flicker briefly in confusion as he watched her limp body land wrapped around a fire hydrant and then he shook it off walked slowly in her wake.




Dawn pushed herself up onto her hands painfully and stared in horrified disbelief as the man she loved snatched a sword from the floor and twirled it absently in his hand as he focused on her exposed throat. “Connor, no. It’s the controlling curse Harry told us about. You can fight it. Please, baby, fight it.”

 

“Through the heart, boy. I need every drop of blood in her. Don’t spill a drop.” Voldemort’s voice was filled with hateful satisfaction as he watched Dawn’s face dissolve into a rictus of fear and hurt at Connor’s acknowledging nod. The dark wizard laughed painfully. “Always assuming there’s a piece of her heart left unbroken, of course.”

 

Dawn screamed as Connor raised the sword over his head and rolled to one side as the heavy weapon lunged towards her. “No!” She somehow managed to scramble to her feet and then was forced to keep spinning awkwardly as Connor jabbed his sword straight at her chest. “Connor, you don’t want to do this. It’s me, Dawn, I love you…”

 

“Dawn!” The shout bounced off the walls of the destroyed street as Carlos raced towards them not seeing the dark figure on the ground. “Dawn, run!”

 

“Carlos, stay back!” Dawn dodged and weaved as Connor cut and lunged at her. “Stay back!” She yelled as Connor caught her shoulder with the heavy blade and her left side went completely numb. “Oh, God, Carlos, stay back!”

 

“Dawn…” Carlos gripped his axe as he ran. “I’m coming, hold on…”

 

“Avada Kedavra!” Voldemort turned as the young boy streaked towards him and screamed with murderous delight when the curse flew from his wand and struck Carlos full on the chest. “Avada Kedavra!”

 

Carlos was knocked off his feet by the blast of green light and didn’t even manage to cry out before he landed dead at Kit and Anya’s feet. “Carlos!” Kit was running too fast to stop and tripped over his lifeless body, something that probably saved her life as Voldemort fired another killing curse at them. Anya yelled and dove awkwardly out of the way, landing heavily and fetching up against a ruined storefront. The demon clutched her belly as the baby gave a protesting kick and gasped at a sudden sharp tug of pain in her lower abdomen. “Not now!” She gestured frantically to Kit. “Get down! Get down!”

 

Kit scrabbled round on her bleeding hands and knees and flung herself across Carlos’ body. “CARLOS!” She pressed shaking fingers to his neck and felt hysterically for a pulse. “CARLOS! Oh god…” Tears blinded her as she pressed her cheek to his unmoving chest. “Carlos, please…” She screamed as she was suddenly grabbed from behind and literally hurled through the air to land beside Anya.

 

Draco flung himself before the two girls and bared his teeth as he watched Ron and Hermione begin firing curses at Voldemort to try and divert his attention from the helpless Harry and Anya and Kit. “Stay down, muggle!” He grabbed Kit’s arm as she tried to shove past him to reach Carlos once more and shoved her roughly to the floor. “Stay down! He’s dead, you can’t do anything for him now.” Ignoring the Anya’s shocked cry and Kit’s frenzied sobbing Draco turned back to watching the street and cursed as Dawn fell awkwardly before Connor. “Stay here!”

 

Ron shouted as he narrowly avoided being hit with the killing curse himself and rolled clumsily behind an upturned trash can. He could see Harry lying motionless on the sidewalk and was frantic to get to his friend but the relentless onslaught of curses he and Hermione were under from Voldemort and the Death Eaters coming up fast behind them made that course of action impossible and it was all he could do to keep himself alive as he ducked and weaved before the Dark Lord’s fury and the shouted curses from his followers behind them. They had taken out as many Death Eaters as they could in their hasty pursuit of Harry and Dawn, but for every wizard they knocked down two seemed to come out of nowhere to take their place.

 

Over the other side of the street Hermione was trapped in a shop door way, managing to get off an occasional spell and curse but unable to do any real damage as she couldn’t aim properly from her weak position. A shout attracted Ron’s attention and his eyes widened as he saw Draco erupt from where he was meant to be guarding the two women that had appeared from nowhere and shouting at the top of his voice back down the street. Ron looked where Draco was headed and his eyes widened as he saw Connor rear back to strike as Dawn had fallen to the ground yet again.

 

“Connor, please, listen to me. This isn’t you. Harry said you could fight the spell, we tried it remember?” Dawn sobbed in panic as Connor sneered at her and raised his sword. “Connor, I love you, don’t do this…” She turned her head as an angry bellow sounded and she saw Draco pelting towards her madly, face twisted with effort as he raced to save her. Her fingers brushed cold, hard metal and she saw a broken length of rebar lying by her side.

 

Connor paused and looked down at Dawn’s pleading face, a frown flickered over his face and his arms seemed to relax slightly for a brief second but then Voldemort screamed. “Kill her!” The confusion was gone from Connor’s face in an instant and his arms tensed above his head again as he laughed evilly. Draco shouted again and Connor turned his head to look for the source of the new battle cry at the height of his swing. Time seemed to slow for the watching Ron as he saw Dawn lunge desperately for something beside her and then rear up to plunge it deep into Connor’s body and clear through to the other side with a desperate sob. Connor stumbled back in shock and Ron was able to see that a thin iron bar was now firmly embedded in his chest, right above his heart. Dawn screamed hysterically as Connor tugged at the bar as he fell to his knees and then toppled slowly to the floor to lay still.

 

“Watch out!” Hermione’s frantic warning pulled Ron out of his shocked daze and he looked up in time to see Voldemort point his wand at Malfoy and open his mouth to shout a curse.

 

Ron swore later that he had never reacted so fast in all his life. “Wingardium Leviosa!” The spell was uncontrolled and the movement of his wand wild as Ron cast his spell but Draco was plucked from the floor with a yell to be sent soaring backwards and out of the way of the killing curse that would have hit him milliseconds later. Ron swore as he saw a lamppost directly in the path of Draco’s wild flight but could do nothing but stare in horror as the other boy slammed into it with a brutal crunch and was bent backwards around it from the force of the collision. The snap as Malfoy’s spine broke under the pressure and the brief scream of agony before he fell to the floor would haunt Ron for the rest of his life and he could do nothing but gaze in dismay at the crumpled body that now lay at the foot of the streetlight.

 

“Oh no.” Hermione shook her head. “No. No.” Bodies of people she loved seemed to be all around her and her eyes filled with panicked tears as she realised that the remaining Death Eaters were now streaming towards them and to their Lord’s aid. “RON! Ron, they’re COMING!” She shook with fear and grief as the first Death Eater raised his wand and her mind was totally devoid of any means of protecting herself. The wand seemed to rise slowly before her and Hermione watched in numb horror as she waited for her end.

 

When the thunderous crack sounded in the street Hermione was convinced that she was dead for a moment and then a wonderfully familiar voice bellowed. “Expelliarmus!” Hermione stumbled back with a cry of shock as the Death Eater was disarmed and her rescuer followed up his astonishing entrance with a terrific punch to the man’s face that laid him out on the street. A shock of red hair blazed in the moonlight and Fred Weasley stretched out his hand. “Alright, Hermione? Come on, mate, let’s get out of here.”

 

“Fr…Fred?” Hermione clutched his hand like as lifeline and blinked with shock as she was tugged to his side. “Fred!”

 

“Yeah, that’s me.” Fred gave her a tight one-armed hug as he blew another Death Eater off their feet. “The cavalry’s here, sweetheart. Stay close.”

 

Hermione didn’t need telling twice as she followed Fred across the street to where George was fighting before an equally stunned Ron. Fred shoved her down and then stood shoulder to shoulder with his twin to fire curse after curse at the Death Eaters who were fighting a number of new arrivals in the street. Flashes of light lit up the night and Hermione’s ears rang with the almost unbearable levels of noise that had escalated with the arrival of their rescuers. She tried to look around the street to try and catch a glimpse of Dawn but the heaving, writhing mass of fighting figures made it nearly impossible to make out any particular person.

 

“Watch out!” The female screech made Hermione jump and she very nearly blasted the brown-haired pregnant woman off her feet before she realised that one of the two stumbling people she was dragging behind her was Dawn. Anya hurled Dawn forwards with all her strength, sending the stricken girl tumbling into Ron’s waiting arms and then with a loud grunt shoved Kit, her other companion, to the floor behind Hermione. Anya rolled to a stop beside their flimsy barricade of the trashcans and gasped. “I didn’t think we’d make it. Where’s Buffy?”

 

“Buffy?” Hermione shook her head in bewilderment. “I don’t…”

 

Anya swore as a charm bounced off the wall above her head and repeated impatiently. “Buffy, the Slayer, the one who should be here getting her ass shot up in my place. I am pregnant, you know.” The bitter reproach finished with a pained grimace as Anya clutched at her belly and moaned low in her throat. “Although not for much longer if I do not get to a hospital. I may have damaged the baby.”

 

“Baby?” George Weasley stared in horror over his shoulder. “There’s a baby out here?”

 

Cold sweat broke out on Anya’s forehead as her belly gave another warning twinge. “It’s becoming more likely by the minute.” She gripped Ron’s arm tightly, eyes wide with fear. “You, wizard-boy, where is Xander? I need him. Is he alright?”

 

Ron rocked the nearly catatonic Dawn in his arms, freckles standing out lividly against his white skin. “What?”

 

“Xander, my husband.” Anya’s grip on Ron’s arm tightened as pain exploded in her lower abdomen. “Is he alright?” Huge, fat tears began to pour down her angular face. “I think I have damaged our child, I don’t want to lose him too.”

 

Hermione cried out as she glanced down and saw a slow stain of blood flower on the crotch of Anya’s pants. With a quick movement she tugged off her filthy robes and threw over Anya’s body as she started to shake. “All Dawn’s family are fine.” Hermione stripped off her school cardigan and tucked it under Anya’s head as she forced the demon to lie back. “I’m Hermione, I’ll take care of you, don’t worry.” Her wide eyes met Ron’s and she mouthed. “Get help, NOW!”

 

Ron looked despairingly from Dawn lying shaking in his arms to Anya’s white face on the ground. “How?”

 

Hermione peered through George and Fred’s legs and out onto the street where the fierce battle still waged. She turned back to Ron. “Go for Ginny. She’s got much more talent with this than I do. She might know something that can help her.” Hermione bit her lip and her eyes filled with tears. “And the boys. Hurry, Ron!”

 

Ron nodded and shoved Dawn at the sobbing Kit as he raised his wand. “Accio Broom!” He crouched on his haunches and stared up into the sky waiting for the arrival of his broom, the familiar high-pitched whine barely sounded through the noise of the battle but within seconds the familiar object was in sight. Ron looked back at Hermione. “I’ll be right back.” His heart turned over at her pinched white face as she nodded at him and then he mounted his broom with a shout to his brothers. “Look after Hermione. I’m going for help!”

 

Fred whipped round as Ron kicked off from the ground and hurtled into the air.

 

“Ron, get back here!” He swore fluently as his youngest brother disappeared down the street and then shook his head despairingly. “If he gets himself killed I just know Mum is going to blame me.”

 

George ducked as another curse whistled over his head and bellowed. “Sod Ron, lets just get out of here alive first!”




 

Ginny was bouncing nervously on her toes, torn between staying with Dawn and Connor’s families and the need to join the others in the middle of the fight since the sudden upsurge in screaming heralded fresh problems. The adults they had come to save were sitting or lying on the street in various states of shock and pain but were showing some signs of recovery from their ordeals. Only two death eaters remained behind to try and break down the barrier that Harry and Ron had erected and they were becoming increasingly frustrated that all their attempts were proving fruitless.

 

“Oi, kid, what’s the hold-up?” Spike’s body still trembled with the aftermath of the curse but he had managed to get himself onto his feet. “People to save, dark wizards to massacre, let’s get a soddin’ move on.”

 

Ginny looked over her shoulder and bit her lip. “I told the others I’d guard you. It’s not safe for you out there.” As if to punctuate her comment a screaming body flew through the air to bounce off the shield and lay whimpering on the street. To Ginny’s relief it proved to be one of the enemy and not one of her house. “I can’t take the risk.”

 

“Risk is what we do, kiddo.” Buffy was pale and shaking as she and Willow clutched at each other for support, but her jaw was firm with purpose. “My sister’s out there and she needs help. Let’s go.”

 

Ginny shook her head. “I can’t let you. Even if you can fight, what about the others? I can’t leave them unprotected.” She gestured to Giles, Wesley and Fred who lay silent on the floor. Giles, in particular, looked in a very bad way. Blood streamed from his nose and his breaths came in desperate, shallow gasps as Cordelia moved with frantic haste to try to help him. Ginny cast another anxious look down the street and then moved to join Cordelia. “Here, let me try something.” She closed her eyes, murmured under her breath and then sagged with relief as the tortured sound of Giles fighting for breath faded and his chest began to move more easily.

 

“So we’ll go and you stay here.” Angel staggered but his grip on his weapon was tight. “I need to get to Connor.”

 

“Connor can take care of himself.” Ginny jumped as another curse bounced off the charm wall behind her. “My job is to keep you alive and that’s what I intend to do. The first person to make a move to get past me is going to get the hexing of a lifetime.”

 

“That’s my son out there!” Angel’s eyes flickered gold and his voice deepened to a growl as he glowered at the small girl defying him.

 

“I know.” Ginny’s voice was small but hard with purpose. “He’s also one of my best friends and I am not going to face him when this is over and tell him that I let you get killed by letting you join a fight that you didn’t have a chance in. NOW SIT DOWN!”

 

Willow’s eyebrows rose. “Look, missy, I don’t know who you…”

 

“GINNY!” The tense group all jumped and stared at the sky as Ron shouted his sister’s name. “GINNY!”

 

Ginny’s mouth dropped open as she saw her brother plunge down from the sky on his broom and scream a curse to take care of the two Death Eaters at the charm barrier. Ron pulled his broom up sharply and yelled. “Hermione needs you, quickly!”

 

Ginny dashed past Spike, snatched her own broom from the floor and kicked off. “Hermione’s hurt?”

 

Ron shook his head as Ginny flew through the barrier and pointed back the way he had come. “Not, Herm. Everybody else.”

 

Ginny nodded and pointed her wand back at Angel and the others. “Stay behind that barrier!”

 

Ron watched as his sister took to the air, robes flapping behind her, and then turned back to the stunned Sunnydale crew. “Xander, get on!”

 

Xander shook his head from where he leaned against Gunn. “What?”

 

“Get on.” Ron gestured impatiently. “Hurry, Anya’s been hurt.”

 

“What? Anya’s at home…” Xander’s face, already white, bleached of all colour. “She’s not here.”

 

“She’s hurt, come on.” Ron snatched at Xander’s arm as the older man stumbled quickly towards him and helped in onto the broom. “Hang on.” Without another look at Xander’s companions Ron kicked off and tore through the air to the battle down the street once more.

 

“Cordy, stay with the others.” Angel waited for Cordelia’s quick nod and then took off in an unsteady run. “Everyone else…”

 

“Right behind you, Peaches.” Spike put a bracing arm round Gunn’s waist and followed his grandsire through the barrier.




 

“Hermione, stay down, we need to get you there and help the others.” George’s hair was sticking up every which way and he was scarlet with adrenalin from the fight. “Stay out of sight and you’ll be ok. Have you got your wand?” He rolled hastily to the side as a Death Eater shouted a curse at him and then fired one back. Hermione nodded fearfully as he gave her a bracing grin. “Cheer up, Herm, you can do the clean up and dish out some really nasty prefect punishments.” He reached out and touched her dirt smeared face lightly. “Watch yourself. Ready, Fred?” At his twin’s nod George braced his hands on the ground and then burst out into the main battle. “GO!”

 

The twins had barely left when Hermione felt a sudden breeze and Ginny Weasley dropped grim-faced from the skies. “Hermione, are you alright?” Ginny stared around her at the group of girls. “What on earth’s happened?”

 

“Ginny, quickly, she’s pregnant and she’s bleeding.” Hermione tugged Ginny onto the floor and motioned to Anya’s clammy face. “She’s one of Dawn’s friends.”

 

Ginny cast a quick look at Dawn as she peeled Hermione’s robes from Anya. “What’s wrong with Dawn?”

 

Hermione stifled a sob and shook her head. “I’ll tell you later. Can you stop the bleeding?”

 

Ginny stared at the top of Anya’s legs, now drenched in blood. “Oh Merlin. I don’t know.” She looked at Anya’s face, alarmed to see that the older woman appeared to be losing consciousness. “No, stay awake!” Instinctively she hit out and cracked Anya across the face. The demon’s eyes opened wide with shock and Ginny hissed urgently. “Stay awake. I’m going to try and help you. Hermione, try and do something for Dawn.”

 

Hermione wept with fear as she crouched over Anya’s prone body and reached out to clutch Dawn’s hand. “Dawn. Dawn, can you hear me?” Empty green eyes stared blankly at Hermione as the brown-haired girl shook Dawn’s wrist. “Dawn, please, we need you.” Hermione looked at the black-haired girl holding Dawn in her arms as Ginny began to mutter a charm under her breath. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?”

 

Kit shook with shock and she tried to swallow the tears that were making it almost impossible for her speak. “Car…Car…” She shook her head. “Carlos. Th… They killed him.” She screamed as a body flew overhead and landed with a stomach turning crunch next to them.

 

Hermione’s eyes widened as she looked into the familiar face of Lee Jordan, the Weasley twins' best friend. “Lee?” Hermione scrambled over Anya and felt for a pulse, her wand slipping from shaking fingers. “Lee?”

 

“He’s dead, mudblood.” Hermione turned with a gasp as Ginny screamed behind her and looked in horror at the owner of the voice. Voldemort stood over them, leaning heavily on a small, portly man with a silver hand. Ginny raised her wand, but was too slow and flew backwards as the smaller man muttered something and an orange light exploded from his wand and hit her chest. She lay still for a moment and then clutched her face and screamed mindlessly as her scar began to throb with livid, burning light. Voldemort lifted his wand and pointed it at Hermione as she moved instinctively to try and shield Anya from his malicious red eyes. “As will you be. Avada Kedvavra!”

 

Hermione screamed and threw herself bodily over Anya, hopelessly trying to protect the woman from the killing curse and then screamed again as brilliant green light exploded above her head, but it wasn’t the killing curse. Dawn’s hands had risen as Voldemort began his curse, his gloating voice managing to break through her grief-stricken catatonia, and she had put everything she had left to force a portal to open before the curse and suck it harmlessly away from Hermione and Anya. “NO!” The voice came from above them as the spell left the tip of Voldemort’s wand. “Xander, NO!”

 

Kit looked up, tears streaming from her eyes at the brilliance of the portal’s light rather than her grief now, and she saw a dark shape plummet towards them and the portal. Dawn cried out and the portal shut down as quickly as it appeared but far, far too late. Kit met Xander’s terrified eyes for a moment before he, and the brilliant green light, winked out of existence.

 

“Xander!” Anya’s scream was torn straight from her heart. “Xander, no!”

 

Voldemort laughed delightedly. “Another muggle gone.” His wand trained itself on Dawn. “I will spare the others if you come with me now, Key.”

 

Dawn pushed Kit’s arms from around her waist and staggered to her feet, eyes empty again with renewed loss and fear. She took one slow step towards Voldemort, then another as Hermione snatched at her frantically. “Dawn, you can’t. Dawn!”

 

“Come to me, Key.” Voldemort stretched out a white hand and laughed triumphantly. “Come to me…”

 

The bolt of blue fire came out of nowhere and hit the side of Voldemort’s head with an impressive bang. Hermione struggled to her feet as the Dark Lord was hurled, still clutching his human crutch, into the air and grabbed Dawn with both hands. She stared at the direction the curse had come from and realised that suddenly the sounds of fighting had ceased. In the middle of the street surrounded by bodies and the figures of his supporters stood Albus Dumbledore, glowing with power and his white hair and beard fairly crackling with righteous rage.

 

“Dumbledore.” Voldemort hissed as his own supporters helped him to his feet. “The Key is mine.”

 

Dumbledore shook his head slowly. “I rather think not, Tom.” He raised his hand and pointed his wand at the heart of his old student. “I rather think not.”

 

Hermione watched as another bolt of blue fire burst from the Headmaster’s wand tip and then cried out in disbelief as Voldemort and what could only have been Peter Pettigrew apparated with a loud crack a split second before the spell hit. Shouts of anger came from all over the street as the Death Eaters still capable followed their master and then there was nothing but the silence and the moans of the dying.

 

“Dawn? Connor?” Buffy pushed her way past Dumbledore and caught sight of her sister. “Oh, thank God. Dawn!” The Slayer forced her aching body into a run and gathered Dawn into her embrace as Hermione released her to cradle Ginny still screaming on the ground. “Sweetie, are you ok?” Buffy drew back and smoother Dawn’s hair from her face. “Are you alright? Where’s Connor?”

 

Dawn blinked as Angel appeared behind her sister and her arm rose slowly to point across the street. “Connor’s over there. Right where I killed him.”



Chapter Text

 

For all of the conscious members of Durus Cateanus, the minutes immediately after their first battle with Voldemort would be lost in a blur of frantic activity and confused shouting. Dawn was aware of Angel howling as he raced to Connor’s side and the shouting and frantic movements of the reinforcements as they moved amongst the bodies littering the street. Ron knelt watching with glazed eyes, holding Hermione and Ginny in shaking arms, as Angel moved his hands over the prone Connor in panic, searching for any sign of life.

 

Dawn stood empty-eyed in Buffy’s embrace as the two girls watched the vampire. Spike came stumbling up. “Bit.” He grabbed the two girls and glanced at his grandsire. “What’s going on?”

 

Buffy’s eyes shimmered with tears. “Connor’s been hurt.” She looked around her helplessly. “Everyone’s been hurt.”

 

Spike followed her gaze and then his eyes widened as he caught sight of Anya on the ground. “Fuck!” He raced to her side and dropped onto his knees as he caught the overwhelming scent of blood. “Demon-girl, what’s happened?” He swore again as he saw the amount of blood staining her thighs. “Hold on, luv, hold on. SLAYER!” Spike clutched the silent Anya’s hand. “Hold on, baby.” He looked at the screaming Ginny in Ron’s arms and the stricken Kit still leaning against the wall. “Kit, bleedin’ help them! Snap out of it!”

 

Kit blinked slowly at Spike’s harsh tone. “What?”

 

“The chit.” Spike jerked his head at the small girl clutching her face on the floor. “Help her! What’s the matter with you, are you hurt?”

 

Kit shook her head and moved to Ginny’s side. “No. I…” Her throat thickened unbearably. “Carlos…he…he…”

 

Spike looked around for the young boy. “Where the bloody ‘ell is he? We need all the hands we can get. BUFFY!”

 

Kit began to weep softly and whispered so quietly that Spike almost missed it. “He’s dead.”

 

The vampire froze. “What?” He stared around him in the confusion. “Don’t be bloody daft. Where is he? Carlos! Carlos, get over here!”

 

Kit sobbed as she tried to pull Ginny’s hands from her face. “He’s dead.” She turned a stricken face up to Buffy as the older girl arrived with Dawn still in her arms. “Carlos is dead.”

 

Buffy dropped down beside Spike and pushed Dawn towards Kit. “God, Ahn… Spike, go find Willow.” She bit her lip at the blood on her friend and gave her lover a gentle push as she said in an undertone. “Then go and look for Carlos.”

 

Spike nodded and vaulted Ron and the girls in one panicked leap. “RED!”

 

Buffy watched him race down the street and then looked down at Anya. “It’s ok, sweetie. We’re here now.”

 

Anya stared at the Slayer with dry eyes. “Xander…”

 

Buffy nodded distractedly. “I know, honey. We’ll get Xander for you. Just hang on…”

 

Anya shook her head. “No. Xander’s gone…” Her face twisted with heartsick agony as she clutched Buffy’s hand in a fevered grip. “Xander’s gone.”

 

Buffy’s hands clutched at Anya’s tightly. “What?” She looked wildly around her as though expecting Xander to come popping up from behind a bin wearing a foolish grin and cracking one of his lame jokes. “Xander!”

 

Ron swallowed and tried to soothe his pain-wracked sister as he said. “He jumped off the back of my broomstick when he saw Voldemort about to curse Anya.” Silent tears began to trickle down his filthy, bruised face. “He didn’t see Dawn send a portal to swallow the curse and jumped to try and save them. He went right into the portal.”

 

Buffy shook her head in denial. “No. Oh, no…” She jumped as Professor Dumbledore laid a hand on her shoulder and stared at him in betrayal. “You said you would protect them…”

 

Dumbledore seemed to flinch and then nodded. “I know. We must leave here. We can only hold back the muggles for so long.” He turned and gestured to Fred and George who ran past him carrying a stretcher and began to gently lift Anya onto it. “Please, hurry. We will see to your injuries at the school.”

 

Ron shook his head emphatically. “No way, there’s no way we’re going back there. They tried to arrest us!”

 

Buffy moved hurriedly out of the way as Anya was lifted from the ground and borne away. “What? Hey, bring her back here!” She screamed as Anya and the two boys carrying her disappeared in a loud clap of sound. “Anya!”

 

Dumbledore took her arm in a bony grip and moved her aside, as another stretcher team appeared to take charge of Ginny. “Please, we have to go.”

 

“Get off her!” Ron lunged forward and shouted furiously as his sister was taken out of his reach. “Ginny…”

 

“Ron, Hermione, trust me.” The Headmaster had never looked more serious as he stared at his students. “No harm will come to you at Hogwarts. Please, go with Mr Wood.”

 

Ron blinked and shook his head. “Oliver?” He stared at the former quidditch captain. “Oliver?”

 

Oliver Wood smiled and gripped the disbelieving hand that Ron stretched out to him. “Come on, mate. I’ll look after you both.” He wiped a smear of blood from his cheek and gave Ron’s hand a gentle tug. “Come on, Ron.”

 

Hermione clutched at Ron’s other hand. “Ron…”

 

“It’s alright, Herm.” Ron squeezed her hand tightly and determinedly didn’t look at Dumbledore. “Oliver’ll see us alright.” He looked past the older man. “Harry!”

 

Dumbledore nodded quickly to Wood. “Take them with Harry. They should be together. Go!” Oliver nodded and quickly moved off, tugging a small can of air freshener out of his robes as he did so. He held it out to Ron and Hermione and they disappeared along with Harry and his carers with a loud bang. “Miss Summers, please come with me. Bring both your charges.” Dumbledore gestured to Dawn and Kit as they stood side by side. “Hurry!”

 

Buffy scowled up at the tall old man and then nodded brusquely as she caught sight of Angel and Cordelia being taken along with Connor from the street by an escort of wizards. She gathered the girls to her and promised bitterly. “There is going to be a reckoning for this. Let’s go.”

 

Professor Dumbledore held out a can of tomato soup. “Touch this; the spell will do the rest.” Buffy gave the old man one final glare and then took Dawn and Kit in a firm grip in either hand and pressed their fingers to the can. Nothing happened for a moment and then she felt a sharp tug just below her navel. The world shimmered and then the blood soaked streets of Sunnydale were gone and the three girls found themselves standing in the middle of the very crowded hospital wing at Hogwarts.




 

Dawn remained only hazily aware of her surroundings as the hospital wing exploded into frantic life around her.

 

“Get that boy into a bed!”

 

Everywhere she looked there seemed to be badly wounded and lifeless bodies and bustling frantic figures in white all shouting and pushing as they fought for the lives of the Sunnydale wounded.

 

“I need some help here! She’s bleeding heavily and I can’t find any life signs from the baby…”

 

She made eye contact with a little girl on a cot, eyes huge in a thin pale face, and a thick white bandage at her throat. Dawn frowned and then realised that the child was a survivor of the battle for Hogwarts that had taken place a scant twenty-four hours before. It seemed like days.

 

“The arrow won’t come out of his lung without tearing. I need someone to hold him down!”

 

Dawn stumbled as she was wrenched from Buffy’s arms and pushed towards a bed. Penelope Clearwater peered into her eyes and she ripped Dawn’s shirt away. “Miss Summers, have you any other injuries? Dawn?” Dawn looked down at the clean hands probing her wound and then allowed her eyes to drift back to the controlled mayhem that was taking place behind the other girl.

 

“Ginny, Ginny, can you hear me?”

 

Buffy shoved the taller figure of Penelope aside. “Get away from her.” The Slayer took Dawn’s face between her hands and stared into the blank green eyes. “Dawn, sweetie, it’s ok. I’m here.” Dawn stared dumbly back at her without any sign of recognition.

 

“His spine is completely shattered. It will have to come out. Someone get me the Skelegrow!”

 

“Dawn!” Buffy gripped her sister’s shoulders and shook her lightly. “Dawn, honey, say something.” Dawn stood passively in Buffy’s hands and her sister’s eyes filled with tears. “Don’t do this, Dawnie. Don’t give up on me…”

 

“Miss, best to leave the…UGH!” The Auror who had tried to pull Buffy to the side and allow Penelope access to her patient flew across the room and smashed into the wall with a grunt of pain.

 

Buffy’s lips drew back from her teeth in a feral snarl. “Stay away from her.” She let go of Dawn as another Auror stepped up to her and spun to kick him twenty feet through the air. There was a crash of bedpans as he landed and the conscious in the room began to scream. “You’ve done enough, just stay away from her!”

 

“STUPIFEY!” Buffy jerked in shock as the spell hit her and then fell bonelessly to the floor. Dawn watched with detached indifference as Professor Snape sneered in satisfaction as he lifted his wand and then as Spike and Angel turned with a roar to rush to Buffy’s defence and received the same treatment. One by one, the remaining members of the Scoobs and the Fang Gang were knocked out as they screamed battle cries and ran to their fallen comrades aid and then Dawn was left staring blankly as her sister was lifted up and carried away from her. Penelope hurried forward again and began to clean Dawn’s wound with quick competence. Within minutes she was efficiently bandaged and her filthy top pulled back on and then Penelope nodded to someone over Dawn’s shoulder and melted away.

 

“Miss Summers, Dawn, can you hear me? Miss Summers?” Albus Dumbledore touched Dawn’s face lightly and spoke in a low, unthreatening voice. “Dawn, my dear, you are quite safe. Listen to me, Dawn.” He took one of her icy hands between his own and rubbed her flesh gently. “Dawn, listen to me, you must say something. You are safe now, quite safe. No one will harm you or your friends here.”

 

Dawn gave a tiny jerk at the mention of her friends and focused on the blur of white inches before her eyes and with difficulty brought into focus the solemn face of Dumbledore. “Professor?”

 

The headmaster breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness, I thought we had lost you there for a moment.” He patted her ice-cold hand kindly. “Come with me, my dear. There is nothing you can do here tonight.”

 

“I killed them.” Dawn’s green eyes were dazed and wide with horror. “I killed them all.” Her body began to shake under the thick blankets that someone had thrown around her shoulders. “They’re dead…”

 

“No!” Dumbledore took a firm grip on Dawn’s slender shoulders and squeezed her hard. “No, you did not kill them. They are alive.” His eyes narrowed as her head shook in denial and he pulled her unresistingly to her feet. “Look…” He shouldered a white-robed medic out of the way and forced Dawn to look at Harry on the hospital bed. “He’s alive.” Swiftly Dawn was turned to the other side and Dumbledore pointed down at a still whimpering Ginny. “Alive.”

 

Dawn touched a hesitant finger to the back of her friend’s hand and jumped as Ginny moved slightly. “Oh God…” Tears began to fall down her filthy face. “I thought…I thought…”

 

The headmaster nodded sympathetically. “I know, my dear, I know.” He pulled her blanket more snugly around her shoulders and started to guide her to the door. “Let us find you some rest. Professor Snape is replenishing the stocks of sleeping potion that he made earlier and he’s just measuring you a draught…”

 

Dawn stopped dead as she caught sight of a familiar body lying motionless on a bed in a corner of the room. “Connor…” The wail of grief silenced the urgent bustle behind her as Dawn trembled by the door. “Connor…”

 

With strength surprising in a man of his advanced years, Professor Dumbledore wrapped his arms around Dawn as she tried to run to her love’s side. “Miss Summers, there is nothing you can do for him. Miss Summers…”

 

“CONNOR!” Dawn screamed in denial as she saw a woman bustle forward to draw a curtain around the bed. “CONNOR!”

 

“Poppy, a sedative charm, quickly please.” Dumbledore grunted as Dawn collapsed screaming with pain in his arms and her dead weight took them both to their knees.

 

“CONNOR!” Dawn writhed and managed to squirm free. She scrabbled around Madam Pomfrey as the matron reached for her and ran for the curtain that hid Connor. Inches ahead of her pursuers she ripped the material aside and threw herself at the bed. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…” Hands gripped her shoulders and tried to pull her away as Dawn fought like a wild cat for her freedom. “Connor, I’m sorry…”

 

“Dawn…” Professor Dumbledore pulled Dawn back and held her tightly to him. “Dawn, try to calm down.”

 

Dawn’s eyes were glued to the silent body on the bed. “I didn’t mean to, I didn’t want to kill him…” Her breath came in short, sharp pants and spots danced before her eyes as hysteria rose within. “I didn’t want to kill him; I love him…”

 

CRACK!

 

The entire room gave a shocked gasp and Madam Pomfrey cried out in horrified protest as Severus Snape backhanded Dawn so hard the blow nearly sent both the student and the headmaster to the floor. Dawn stared in shock at the potions master as a livid red handprint bloomed on her cheek; Snape glared down his hooked nose. “This is a sickroom, Miss Summers, and unfounded hysteria is not tolerated. Mr Angel is alive, you have not killed him.” He nodded to the headmaster and took Dawn’s arm in a hard hand as Dumbledore let her go. Snape led her briskly to the bed and took one of her small, cold hands in his and pressed it to Connor’s neck. “There. A pulse. I can assure you Mr Angel is in no more mortal danger than you are.”

 

Dawn’s fingers shook as she felt under her touch the weak, but unmistakable, flutter of a pulse. “It’s a trick. You’re just trying to protect me. It’s a trick…”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Snape curled his lip and sneered disparagingly down at Dawn. “What possible reason would I have for wanting to spare your feelings? I am merely stating the truth. The muggle is alive and if you have quite finished with your embarrassing display of emotional hysteria I believe you should leave Madam Pomfrey and her staff to do their job and return to your house until you are needed.”

 

“But…but…” Dawn’s face somehow managed to get even paler and her eyes, sore from weeping, began to shimmer with something like hope. “I saw him die. I stabbed him and killed him.” Her chest began to heave and tears filled her eyes once more. “I killed him…”

 

“Miss Summers, I would advise you not to continue with this pitiful display or to continue to call me a liar.” Professor Snape gave Dawn a brisk shake and then released her to glare at her in disgust. “I can assure you I have no problem repeating the course of treatment I just administered. You have received adequate care for your injury and there is no reason for you to remain underfoot when so many people are in urgent need of aid. Come with me please.”

 

Snape pointed at the door, and then when Dawn still hesitated gave her a small shove to get her moving. “Now, Miss Summers. I assure you if there is any change in the muggle’s condition I will alert you. Headmaster, I will take responsibility for Miss Summers. I believe she would be well served to be kept out of the way of the other students until she has back what passes for her control on her emotions.”

 

“Very good, Severus.” Professor Dumbledore smiled faintly as the dark-haired man steered Dawn none-too gently from the room and then turned as Madam Pomfrey bustled up, bristling with indignation.

 

“Albus, you cannot be serious. That poor young girl needs care and understanding, Severus Snape is no more equipped to deal with her needs at the moment than I am to deal with playing Quidditch.” The matron’s face was drawn with fatigue but her eyes were alive with outraged disbelief.

 

Dumbledore shook his head. “Poppy, Severus is exactly what Dawn needs at this moment in time. I have absolute faith in his judgement and abilities in this matter.”

 

Madam Pomfrey sniffed. “I see, and the fact that I have over twenty-five years experience in dealing with medical situations, some of them extremely severe, does nothing to tell you that I may have some very real reservations about this situation?”

 

“Of course, Poppy.” Dumbledore patted the matron’s shoulder and smiled wearily. “But Dawn needs something other than what your medical expertise can give her at this moment.”

 

Madam Pomfrey sniffed. “Really. Such as?”

 

“Something to believe in.” The headmaster shook off the exhaustion that was gradually stealing over his body and smiled again. “I have found there is nothing more difficult to disbelieve than Severus Snape in his full, disparaging splendour. He will neither sugar coat what has happened with well-meaning platitudes nor will he lie to the girl. That is what she needs.”

 

“Hmm.” Madam Pomfrey turned on her heel and marched away down the ward. “On your own head be it.”

 

Dumbledore watched her go with weary eyes. “It always is, Poppy; it always is.”





 

Dawn looked vacantly about her as Professor Snape shut the door behind them. “This isn’t my dorm.”

 

“It most certainly is not.” Snape waved his wand, muttered under his breath and the room was lit with flickering light from the fireplace and the glass lamps on the wall. “I have a duty to the other students in this school and while you are so obviously mentally unbalanced I prefer to keep you where I can see you. These are the Slytherin guest quarters.” Without bothering to look at Dawn, still swaying by the door, the professor strode over the stone floor of the room and opened a dark, wooden cabinet. “I have your sleeping draught; you are going to drink it and then you will get into bed where hopefully you will sleep off this ridiculous malady of extreme self-pity and wake-up somewhat more useful than you’ve proven so far.” Snape turned back from the cabinet holding a small glass of liquid and looked Dawn up and down scathingly. “Although I rather doubt it.”

 

Dawn blinked. “It’s cold.”

 

“It’s a dungeon, it’s meant to be cold.” Snape glanced around the austere room, nodding approvingly at the formal furniture and undecorated walls. “We Slytherins do not believe that the comfort of the body necessarily equates with the function of a well ordered mind.” He walked back to Dawn. “Drink this.”

 

Dawn took the glass and stared at it uncomprehendingly until the professor gave an impatient hiss and she hesitantly put it to her lips. Snape stood over her until she drained it to the last drop and then took the glass and shoved her towards a door in the corner of the room. “Through there you will find the bedroom and some night clothes. Please put them on and get into bed.”

 

Dawn stumbled forwards and stopped by the door. “Ron, Hermione, I don’t remember seeing them in the infirmary…”

 

“They are fine. Professor Dumbledore ordered them to be returned to their dormitory the moment he was assured of their physical health. They are well guarded and are safe for the moment.” The firmness of Professor Snape’s voice brooked no argument. “I believe they left before it became necessary to sedate your sister. Now, do as I say and I will contact the hospital wing for information on Mr Angel’s condition.” He watched as Dawn opened the door after another slight hesitation and disappeared into the room beyond. After a quick fire call to Professor Dumbledore and a hasty slug of fire whisky snatched from the cabinet, the sallow faced man walked across the room and tapped on the bedroom door. “Miss Summers, are you clothed?” A small murmur of assent came from behind the door and Snape cautiously opened the door to check that Dawn was in bed and decent then he marched into the room.

 

Dawn lay in the middle of the huge bed, her eyes pools of fear in her face as she watched her teacher approach. Despite himself, Snape felt something akin to pity as he looked down on the still filthy face on the white pillows. He folded his arms to hide his discomfort and glared down. “Mr Angel is resting comfortably. Professor Dumbledore will remove the curse before he leaves for his quarters for the night and your…friend should awaken in the morning with nothing more than a slight stiffness from his wound.” Dawn’s eyes began to leak silent tears, which prompted the professor to sniff in exasperation and snap. “Stop that. I just told you that he would live.”

 

“I…I know.” Dawn’s vision was blurring from the sleep draught, giving her the appearance of a slightly boss-eyed kitten. “I believe you. You wouldn’t be mean to me otherwise. You’re just like Spike.”

 

“I beg your pardon?” Looking highly affronted by her slurred remark, Snape spat. “What did you just call me?”

 

“My…dad…” Dawn’s eyes drifted shut as the sleeping draught began to really kick in.  “Just…like…my…d…” Her head rolled to the side on the huge pillows and her breathing evened out as she slipped into her drugged sleep.

 

“Wake up!” Snape shook Dawn’s shoulder firmly. “Wake up, right now! How dare you speak to me like that. Ten points from your house! I’ve seen your father, I am nothing like that…that…” Words failed the poor man at the horror of being compared to Spike and he could only scowl ominously down at the oblivious girl in the bed.

 

When Dawn failed to stir, Snape bent to pull the covers over her shoulders and tuck them under the mattress. Muttering under his breath he stomped around the bed and did the same thing on the other side before adjusting her pillows to make her position more comfortable. With a final glare he left the room, carefully leaving the door open an inch in case Dawn woke in the night and called out, and then settled himself in a high backed chair before the fire with his bottle of fire whisky and a large glass tumbler. The flames played over the drawn face for a few minutes as he sipped his whisky and stared into the fire’s depths and then the Potions Master looked back at the bedroom door indignantly. “Your father is a demon! Make that twenty points!”






 

Ron closed the door behind him with a soft click and leaned against it wearily. “That was, without doubt, the worst night of my entire life.”

 

Hermione nodded as she collapsed onto the sofa. “I know.” Her eyes filled with tears. “Poor Dawn.” She bowed her head as the tears spilled onto her cheeks. “And poor Connor. I don’t know how he’s going to live with himself.”

 

Ron hastily pushed away from the door and crossed to his weeping friend. “Herm, don’t.” He sat beside the crying girl and put an awkward arm around her shoulder as she cried. “It’ll be alright, you’ll see. Dumbledore will have something up his sleeve to make things right.”

 

“Connor tried to kill Dawn.” Hermione turned and pushed her face blindly into Ron’s shoulder. “How can anyone make that alright?” She flung her arms around Ron’s neck and cried. “How can it be alright ever again?”

 

Ron held her tightly against him as she cried and fought the urge to join her in the sob fest. “I don’t know.” He squeezed her tighter against him and said desperately. “I don’t know, but I promise you it will be.” One hand found its way into Hermione’s bedraggled hair and he began gently working the tangles through his fingers. “Don’t cry, love. We’ll get it sorted out.” He sat staring into the fire as Hermione cried out her residual terror and anger at the night’s events, trying to think of the right words to say to make things seem brighter. With the rest of their house in the medical wing and themselves barely able to stand it was all he could do to keep sitting upright on the sofa and eventually Ron decided the best thing he could do would be to just let Hermione cry herself out, or unconscious, and then get them up the stairs to bed.

 

The minutes ticked slowly by with the only sound in the room the heaving of Hermione’s sobs and then that too died away until only the soft popping of the logs in the fireplace echoed off the stone walls. Ron squeezed Hermione’s shoulders lightly. “Are you ok?”

 

Hermione nodded against his damp robes. “Yes.” She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Ron.” She allowed herself another few seconds in his arms and then pushed away from him. “We should go to bed.”

 

Ron smiled softly at her swollen face. “Things will be better in the morning.” He tore his eyes away from her trembling lower lip and told himself that kissing her now would be the absolute worst thing he could do under the circumstances. He contented himself with patting her cheek and getting to his feet to hold out his hand. “Come on, we’ll want to be up early to get back to the others.”

 

Hermione took his hand and allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. “Ok. I’m sorry for being such a wimp.” She looked back as Ron tugged sharply on her hand and glared at her.

 

“Don’t ever be sorry for that, Hermione.” Ron squeezed her hand tightly. “You’re one of the bravest people I know and you have nothing to be ashamed of for being upset over what happened to your friends.” He smiled at her warmly. “It’s a good feeling knowing that you can do that with me.” Another silence stretched between them as they stared into each other’s eyes. Hermione took a hesitant step back towards Ron and he suddenly shook his head. “You’re making me all soft now. Come on, bed, before I start having a burning desire to braid your hair or something.” He grinned a lop-sided grin. “That’s the last thing I need, going all girly and stuff.”

 

The thought of tall, broad-shouldered Ron ever being in the same sentence with the word girly, much less actually being it was enough to force a tiny laugh from Hermione as she allowed him to lead her up the stairs to the dormitories. “I think you’re safe.”





 

Ron was just starting to drift off an hour and a half later as the door to the boys’ room opened. “Ron?” Hermione stuck her head slowly inside the dark room and peered into the gloom. “Are you awake?”

 

Ron, caught firmly between dreaming and awake, raised his head. “’Mione? ‘Zat you?” His head wobbled as his eyes drifted closed again. “S’matter?” His head hit the pillow with a soft thump.

 

Hermione shivered in the chill of the corridor and wished that her thin cotton pyjamas afforded her a bit more protection. “I can’t sleep in that room on my own. Can I stay with you tonight?” She looked at Harry’s unoccupied bed. “I won’t disturb you.”

 

Ron’s face smoothed into a beatific smile as he realised he was having one of his favourite fantasies to ease him into sleep after his difficult night. Praise Merlin! “Sure. C’mon.” He patted the cover over him and mumbled. “Plenty o’ room.”

 

Hermione, half way to Harry’s bed, froze with one foot in the air and looked towards Ron’s bed. “What?”

 

Ron lifted the covers invitingly. “C’mon, love.” He shivered. “S’cold.”

 

Hermione sidled uncertainly over to look down on Ron’s face as he smiled into his pillow with his eyes shut. “You want me to sleep with you?” Her voice nearly rose from its careful whisper but she managed to pull back from a full-blown screech in time. “In your bed?”

 

Ron groped for her hand and pulled her down onto the mattress. “Don’ wanna sleep on the floor, d’you?” He wriggled happily as she lay rigidly next to him. “Tha’s not how it goes, love.” His head swam as sleep crept inexorably up on him and he pressed a sloppy kiss against her neck. “’Night, Herm…”

 

Hermione stared up at the bed’s canopy, rigid with shock as Ron’s body went lax with sleep against her. A horrible realisation was stealing over her that Ron wasn’t quite as awake as she had thought him to be and he had in fact been talking to her when asleep. She had landed with her head pillowed on his arm, her legs still dangling off the edge of the bed, and her stomach was feeling the heat of Ron’s other hand as he curled it possessively over her. She turned her head as he gave a light snore. “Ron?” Hermione scowled uncertainly. “Ron, I don’t think this is a good idea. We’ll get in all sorts of trouble if anyone finds us.” She jumped as he frowned and mumbled something under his breath before slipping his hand further round her waist and pulling her more securely against him. “Ron!” Hermione tried to squirm lose, suddenly sure that leaving her room was a truly horrendous idea, and only succeeding in making Ron cling onto her with all the tenacity of a limpet to a rock.

 

Hermione lay biting her lip in the dark as she tried to work out a way to extract herself without waking Ron up and thus having to endure a very humiliating conversation as to why she’d apparently invited herself into his bed. She gave a gasp of surprise as Ron suddenly rolled onto his back, taking her with him to sprawl on top of him and bringing her cold feet into contact with his warm legs. “Aaaiiii!!!” Ron’s eyes popped open with shock. “What the bloody hell…?” He moved his legs away from the ice blocks that were Hermione’s feet and stared wild eyed at the bushy hair spread over his chest, “What’s going on? Who’s that?”

 

“Ron, it’s ok. It’s me.” Hermione’s world spun as Ron gripped her shoulders and pushed her onto her back and then leaned over her with his fist cocked and ready to punch out. “It’s me! Hermione!”

 

“Herm?” Ron uncurled his fist and scrubbed the hand over his face in a bid to wake himself up. “What’s happened? Is everything alright?”

 

Hermione’s eyes widened as one of Ron’s legs slipped over one of hers and rested on the mattress between her legs. “Yes! Everything’s fine!” She tried to sneak unobtrusively away from him. “I was just checking on you, you were talking in your sleep.”

 

Ron blinked sleepily. “I was?” He looked down at their entwined bodies. “I must have said something pretty spectacular. What time is it?” He peered around the dark room absently. “Is it time to get up?”

 

Hermione pushed against Ron’s shoulders fruitlessly and wished passionately that she had chosen to fall for someone a little smaller, Colin Creevey say. “No, you’ve only just gone to sleep. I’ll go back to my room now that I know you’re ok.”

 

“Ok.” Ron shifted as though he was going to let her up and then moved back. “What were you doing here anyway?” Even through the darkness Hermione could see his worried frown. “Was I screaming again?”

 

“What? No!” Hermione paused in her efforts to push him off her. “Screaming?”

 

Ron squirmed uncomfortably, incidentally getting his leg every intimately acquainted with the wide-eyed Hermione’s inner thighs and muttered defensively. “I have nightmares some nights.” He shrugged irritably as Hermione’s mouth dropped open. “Well, after some of the things we’ve seen…”

 

“Me too.” Hermione blurted out what had previously only been confessed to Dawn and Ginny. “Me too. I didn’t want to sleep alone tonight so I came in to see if I could sleep in Harry’s bed for the night.” She felt a fiery blush start. “Then you started talking and I…tripped.”

 

Ron eyed her shadowed face uneasily. “What did I say?” The pause between Hermione explaining that he had started talking to her and how she had ended up in his bed was just a little too long for his liking. “Was it embarrassing?”

 

“No, of course not!” Hermione decided that discretion was the better part of valour, or bold face lying, if you prefer, and said earnestly. “I didn’t hear most of it. You mumbled.”

 

Ron eyed the shadow of her head against the white of his pillow. “I did?”

 

Hermione nodded. “Yes. I’ll go now. See you in the morning.” She kicked at the covers that had managed to tangle around her legs. “Sorry, I’m going now…”

 

The information that his lower body was entwined pretty intimately with Hermione’s finally hit Ron’s sleep addled brain, with the knowledge that they were all alone for the first time in months hot on its heels. He took two seconds to think about his next move and then gave an elaborately casual yawn. “No need for that, Herm.” Still keeping one of his legs draped over hers Ron reached down and yanked the covers over the both of them. The arm that was curled under Hermione’s shoulders moved and Hermione found herself being turned to face Ron’s chest as he settled back down against the pillows. The echo of Ron’s voice rumbled under her cheek as he shifted his legs and snuggled her more comfortably against him. “It’ll be morning soon; you may as well stay here.”

 

Hermione held her body in a rigid line and said urgently, “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Ron.”

 

Ron thought it was a bloody marvellous idea and grinned above Hermione’s head at the bed canopy. He answered her in a sleepy voice. “Don’t be daft, Herm. It’s just me. Go to sleep.” His hand moved from her shoulder and began to rub in slow circles on her back. “It’s just me.”

 

Which was kind of the problem, Hermione reflected. She wouldn’t give it much more thought if it had been Harry, or even Connor, but the fact that it was Ron that was holding her in the darkness and warmth of his bed took her problems to a whole new level of wrongness. And it wasn’t helping her to relax that she felt the touch of his fingers against the small of her back as his gentle caresses slowly rucked up her jammie top.

 

Ron, on the other hand, was quite enjoying it.

 

Hermione wriggled in protest. “Ron…” She gasped as she swore she felt his lips brush over her head. “What are you doing?” Her heart pounded in her chest as his other hand began to stroke through her hair. “Ron?”

 

“Ssh.” Ron breathed in the scent of Hermione’s freshly washed hair and smiled as he felt the smallest loosening of her body as his touch and the warmth of the covers began to affect her.

 

Hermione had never felt less like sleep in her life. Her body was nearly vibrating with longing as Ron’s hands stroked and touched her and she was astonished to realise that one of her own hands was moving softly over the skin of his bare chest. She was even more astonished when Ron shivered under the touch of her fingers and pulled her closer.

 

“Mmm, that feels nice, Hermione.” Ron pulled her up his body until they were nose to nose. The faint light from the moon caught his eyes as he looked seriously into hers. “I want to kiss you now. Are you alright with that?”

 

Hermione stared back. “Why?”

 

Ron smoothed a strand of her hair back from her face and grinned at her. “Because if I don’t I might explode.” He nuzzled the side of her face and whispered roughly, “Because I’ve fancied you for months and I thought this would never happen. I didn’t think you thought of me like that.”

 

“Believe me, it was a shock to me too.” Hermione’s dry tone belied her amazement that she was lying in the arms of one of her best friends and he was asking to kiss her. “I don’t want to ruin our friendship though.”

 

Ron snorted. “Hermione, the chances are we’re all going to die trying to finish Voldemort. If both of us are left standing at the end of all this, can we worry about ruining our friendship then?” He smiled shyly. “I absolutely promise not to stop being your friend in the meantime.”

 

Hermione leaned backwards as he moved in for a kiss and laughed nervously at his growl of frustration. “Ron, I’m not sure I’m ready…”

 

Ron’s eyebrows shot up to his hairline, “Whoa, steady on there, Herm! I’m just talking about a snog and maybe a bit of hand holding; what are you thinking about?” He gave her a virtuous look. “What kind of a boy do you think I am?”

 

Hermione exploded with giggles at his innocent expression and buried her head in the curve of his neck.

 

Ron grinned and squeezed her tightly. “I’m not after anything tonight except to hold you and sleep.” He kissed the top of her head. “If you want to give me a goodnight kiss I’m not going to fight you off but that’s as far as it goes, alright?” He eyed her as she raised her head and smiled at him. “I want to get this right.”

 

“Ok.” Hermione nodded. “We’ll get it right.” She leaned forward and nervously pressed her lips to his. “How was that?”

 

“Not bad.” Ron cupped her skull and pulled her closer. “But I think we need to practice. You game?”

 

Hermione shivered as his breath feathered across her cheek and closed her eyes as he nibbled at her chin in a move he shamelessly borrowed from Connor. “Definitely.” She slipped her arms up around his neck and began to stroke his hair. “We need to get this absolutely perfect.”

 

Ron’s eyes crossed as she began to kiss his neck. “You do know that there isn’t going to be an exam at the end of this right?” His mouth dried as she brushed soft kisses up across his face. “It doesn’t count towards your final marks.”

 

Hermione smirked in a very un-Hermione like way. “That’s what you think. Pucker up, Weasley, there’ll be questions asked at the end.”

 

Happy sparks bounced in Ron’s stomach as their lips met and lingered. He broke the kiss with a gasp and rolled them slowly until he lay looking down at Hermione. “That’s ok. I’m great at the practical stuff.”

 

Hermione smiled. “Prove it.” And sparks went off in her own stomach as he did.

Chapter Text

 

Ginny opened her eyes with a groan and stared in confusion at the white ceiling above her. Her scar throbbed on her face and her entire body seemed like one big bruise, but seeing as the last thing she remembered was staring up at Lord Voldemort she was more surprised to find herself alive than concerned with any injuries. She turned her head to the side as she heard a whispered murmur and saw Harry lying beside her in a hospital bed. “Ha…Harry?” Ginny rolled painfully onto her side and whispered urgently. “Harry? Are you awake?” A quick, nervous look around her did nothing to suppress the feeling of rising panic as Ginny recognised the all too familiar sight of the Hogwarts medical wing. “Harry!”

 

“Miss Weasley.” Ginny fell back against her pillows with a muffled yelp as Madam Pomfrey walked quickly towards her. “You are quite safe, do not be alarmed.” The matron laid a cool hand against Ginny’s forehead and then reached into her pocket for her ever-present bar of emergency chocolate. “Now, a quick bite of this and back to sleep for you.”

 

“Wh…mmmphf!” Ginny choked as the old woman shoved a huge chunk of chocolate into her mouth as she tried to ask what was going on. She was fairly sure that unless she’d gone completely mad, the last time she had seen her school it had been over the back of her broomstick as she had fled capture by the Ministry and assorted hangers on. Ginny chewed frantically and swallowed the mouthful of slightly bitter gunge hastily. “What’s happening? What are we doing here?” Madam Pomfrey looked down at the white hand gripping her arm urgently as the young girl whispered. “Madam, we can’t be here. The Minister…”

 

“The Minister has talked with Professor Dumbledore and the unfortunate situation you left this morning has been resolved. Please close your mouth, Miss Weasley.” Ginny’s jaw clicked together with a snap as Madam Pomfrey pushed her back against the pillows and shook her head in outrage. “I must say, I can’t imagine what the Aurors were thinking of, attacking innocent children like that. The Headmaster had some strong words for them, let me assure you!”

 

“Strong words…they tried to kill us!” Ginny’s face flushed with anger as she glared up at the matron. “They were with Lucius Malfoy and they tried to kill us!”

 

“Nonsense.” The old woman clicked her tongue disapprovingly and patted Ginny on top of the head. “They were merely trying to detain you for questioning although they were jolly heavy handed about it. Now, you obviously need your rest. I shall wake you for breakfast.”

 

“You bloody won’t!” Ginny made a grab and caught Madam Pomfrey’s apron strings, yanking her back to her bedside. “You’ll tell me what’s going on. What’s wrong with Harry? Where’s my brother?”

 

“Miss Weasley…” The look of anger and surprise on the nurse’s face did nothing to squash Ginny’s attitude and she kept a fierce grip on the woman’s clothes as she hauled herself up on the bed.

 

“Don’t you ‘Miss Weasley’ me. I’ve been under attack from every side for what feels like the last week and I am not going to sit here like some…some…damsel while you go on about your business. Where. Is. My. Brother?” Ginny’s face twisted in a furious scowl. “If you don’t tell me I am going to make you very sorry.”

 

“That’s the spirit, Weasel.” The faint comment was barely above a whisper, but Ginny’s head snapped round like it had been bellowed into her ear.

 

“Malfoy?” Ginny stared at the occupant of the bed on her other side. “Is that you?”

 

“Sadly, yes.” Draco’s eyes flickered to the side, but his head remained braced on his pillow by a large padded clamp that fitted on either side of his head. “I can’t see you…”

 

Ginny scrambled from her bed with a gasp and ignored Madam Pomfrey as the older woman tried to protest. “Merlin, you’re blind?” Ginny put her face close to Draco’s and peered into his silver eyes. “Can you see anything at all?”

 

Malfoy hid a grin as he managed to catch a glimpse down Ginny’s nightie when she bent over him in concern. “I can make out a shadow I think…come closer, I think I can nearly see your…”

 

“MR MALFOY!” Madam Pomfrey yanked Ginny back sharply and glowered at the unrepentant grin on the Slytherin’s face. “You are a prefect and I expect you to act like it! Miss Weasley, there is nothing wrong with Mr Malfoy’s eyesight. He cannot move his head as his spinal cord was shattered in the course of your earlier battle. We have had to remove it and he will be kept here for the next forty-eight hours under strictly controlled doses of Skelegrow as he grows his new one.”

 

Ginny glared at Draco and spat. “I wasn’t aware he had a spine to lose in the first place.”

 

“Ouch!” Draco’s grin widened. “That hurt.”

 

“That’s enough. This is a sick room and you two will act accordingly. Miss Weasley, back into bed this instant.” Madam Pomfrey held up a warning hand. “Since Mr Malfoy is awake he can tell you all that you need to know, it will help to take his mind off the pain. I have other patients requiring my care. Into bed.”

 

Ginny hesitated for a moment and then reluctantly climbed back into bed. Madam Pomfrey whipped out her wand, murmured a charm and Ginny’s bed moved sideways towards Malfoy until the two bed frames touched with a small clang of iron. The nurse put away her wand in her pocket with a sniff. “Please keep your voices down. When you go to sleep the beds will return to their original positions.”

 

Draco managed a very credible leer in Ginny’s direction. “Is there any chance we could have the curtains drawn for some privacy…” His eyes widened as Madam Pomfrey leaned over him and silently dared him to finish his sentence. “Never mind.”

 

Ginny waited until Madam Pomfrey had bustled off with a final glare and then sat up and moved into Malfoy’s line of vision. “What the bloody hell is going on? What are we doing back at Hogwarts?”

 

Draco eyed her body, outlined most delightfully in her white gown against the glow of a lamp on the opposite wall and decided; all in all, having your spine removed and re-grown wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been. “Do you want the long or the short version?”

 

Ginny began to fiddle uneasily with the ends of her hair. “Just tell me what happened.”

 

“Right.” Draco took a deep breath. “Connor got hit with the Imperio curse by the Dark Lord and tried to kill Dawn. She had to stab him to stop it. Some muggle friend of hers got struck by the killing curse rushing to the rescue and about the same time your brother decided to save my life by crushing my spine.” He took another breath and plunged on. “Connor shot Potter with a crossbow before he attacked Dawn and hit a lung or something. There’s a muggle woman down the other end of the room who’s pregnant and may lose her baby and her husband was sucked into one of Dawn’s portals and no one knows where he is now. Your brother and Granger have been sent to your dorm and Dawn’s somewhere with Snape from what I can make out.” He squinted thoughtfully at the ceiling. “I think that’s about it. Oh, apart from you. You passed out when one of you-know-who’s followers hit you with a curse and did something to your scar.”

 

Ginny stared at the cool face on the pillow in dry-mouthed horror. “What?”

 

“Your scar.” Draco looked at her. “You were screaming your head off when they brought you in.”

 

Ginny shook her head. “No, about the others, tell me again. Slowly.”

 

Draco rolled his eyes but obliged her and when he had finished Ginny sat with her hands clasped over her mouth in dismay. “And I’m sorry for the other night.” Malfoy’s eyes were fixed firmly on the ceiling as he rushed the last sentence out, and he waited for Ginny to speak.

 

“Are they going to be alright?” Ginny bit her lip and glanced back at Harry. “They’re not going to…die, are they?”

 

Draco blinked. “What? Oh, no, they’ll be fine.” He felt the first stirrings of annoyance in him. “Did you hear me? I said I was sorry for what happened the other night. In my common room.”

 

Ginny stared at him in confusion. “Yes, I heard you. So? I think there’s more important things that have happened since then, don’t you?” She craned her neck and tried to peer up towards Connor’s curtained off bed. “Do you think I could see him for a minute?”

 

“I’m apologising here!” Malfoy wished with all his heart that his spine would grow a bit quicker, instead of leaving him lying helpless on the bed like a sack full of jelly. “I think the unconscious people who have no hope of waking until morning can wait another few minutes.”

 

Ginny looked at him in pitying reproach. “They’re my friends and I love them. They can’t wait.” She hopped off her bed and hissed at the little blast of pain from her scar. “I’m going up to Connor, I’ll be right back.” Silently she slipped up the ward, determinedly not looking at the other beds, all occupied with sleeping casualties and stopped by the curtains that hid Connor. Ginny peeped around the corner of the curtains and saw Madam Pomfrey engaged in a quiet discussion with another white gowned figure, oblivious to Ginny’s whereabouts. Ginny eased back and took hold of the white curtain and then with a final glance to make sure the coast was clear, slipped inside.

 

Connor lay on his cot, pale-faced against the pillows, and a bandage wrapped tightly around his chest. Ginny frowned as she saw his wrists were secured to either side of the narrow bed, immobilising him completely, and that similar restraints held his feet and legs at the bottom of the bed. “Connor?” Ginny jumped at the loudness of her own voice and moved closer to her friend. “Connor, can you hear me?” She reached out with one hesitant hand and laid it on the cool skin of his arm. “It’s me, Ginny.”

 

“I’m afraid Mr Angel is incapable of answering you, Ginny.” Ginny jumped a foot in the air with a muffled scream at the quiet comment behind her. Albus Dumbledore smiled gently at the young girl and held out a blanket. “Here, the nights are quite chilly now.”

 

Ginny flushed guiltily and took the blanket to throw it around her shoulders. “I’m sorry, Professor. I know I shouldn’t be here, but I just wanted to see him.”

 

“Of course you did, my dear.” Dumbledore patted Ginny on her shoulder absently and joined her at Connor’s bedside to look soberly down at the still face. “Quite natural. We have broken the curse on Mr Angel, the restraints are merely a precaution.” The old man gave a gentle sigh. “He grew quite restless when the curse was lifted and we feared he would do more damage to his wound.”

 

Ginny chewed her lip. “He will be alright, won’t he Professor?”

 

“I do hope so, Ginny, I do hope so.” The Headmaster folded his hands before him sighed heavily. “There is a sedated vampire in the next wing who would be most annoyed if he were not.”

 

“Where’s Dawn?” Ginny laid her hand over Connor’s and squeezed the warm flesh tightly. “Malfoy said she had been hurt and that Professor Snape…”

 

“Miss Summers is fine. She sustained a wound to her shoulder, but she has been treated and is indeed under the care of Professor Snape for tonight.” Dumbledore paused as though he was waiting for an objection, but Ginny only nodded and waited for him to continue. “You are not surprised at my choice of guardian?”

 

Ginny shook her head. “I know Dawn pretty well. She needs hard facts and truth at the moment, not well-meaning words and coddling.” Ginny squeezed Connor’s hand again. “She’ll be devastated and inconsolable over Connor…” A small smile ghosted her mouth. “Somehow I can’t see Professor Snape being a secret coddler and consoler, he’ll give her what she needs.”

 

Tiny lines of worry and strain eased around the Headmaster’s eyes and he smiled almost gratefully. “Exactly. Its reassuring to have someone that knows Dawn well agree with my decision.”

 

“What about her sister? What’s happened to Dawn’s family?” Ginny brushed a lock of hair carefully from Connor’s face and adjusted the lie of his blankets. “Are they staying with Ron and Hermione in our house tonight?”

 

“No.” Dumbledore watched as Ginny made Connor more comfortable and smiled at the small redhead moving busily around her fallen friend. “I’m afraid they were quite naturally distressed when we brought them here. Madam Pomfrey thought it was best that they rest for a few hours, particularly after the elder Miss Summers attacked two Aurors when they attempted to take her sister from her, and we have stupefied them all in a small room along the hall.” He clasped his hands behind his back and peered over his glasses at Ginny as she finally stopped fiddling with Connor’s bed and looked up at him. “Now, I believe we should you back to bed before Madam Pomfrey realises you are here and decides that she will stupefy both of us. Follow me.”

 

Ginny was hard pressed to stifle a giggle as the most respected wizard of her time poked his head through the curtain and looked in guilty fear towards Madam Pomfrey’s desk. A bony finger crooked at Ginny to signal the coast was clear and the girl squeezed Connor’s hand once more in goodbye before following the tiptoeing Dumbledore out onto the main ward. They moved quickly and quietly back down the room and Ginny hopped back onto her bed quickly with a quick wink at Malfoy.

 

Draco was still sulking about his knocked back apology and merely scowled as Ginny flashed past him in an orange and white blur to dive under her covers. Professor Dumbledore smiled as Ginny pulled the covers up to her chin and then moved to Draco’s side. “How are you, Mr Malfoy?”

 

Draco gave a curt smile. “I’ve been better, sir.”

 

“Quite so, quite so.” Dumbledore patted Malfoy’s head paternally and earned himself a fierce glare before continuing. “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable?”

 

“Well, having my original spine back might be quite useful and perhaps being able to spend the night in the comfort of my own room, but aside from that I can’t think of anything, Professor.” Draco’s voice dripped with sarcasm and his face clouded with annoyance when Professor Dumbledore smiled at him delightedly.

 

“Well, I can see a little discomfort is doing nothing to crush your remarkable spirit. Perhaps I could arrange to have a box of Bott’s beans delivered to you in the morning. I understand they have a remarkable effect on sick children.” The headmaster ignored the outraged look on Malfoy’s face on being called a child and nodded to Ginny. “Well, I believe you both need some rest. I’ll look in on you in the morning.” He gave them both a casual wave and walked out of the infirmary.

 

Draco scowled at the ceiling. “Crack-pot old fool.”

 

Ginny cuddled under her blankets and wished with all her heart she was back in her comfortable, familiar dormitory. “Shut up, Malfoy. Go to sleep.”

 

There was silence for a while before Draco cleared his throat and whispered. “Ginny, are you awake?”

 

Ginny who had been busy soaking her pillow with silent tears decided that as her bed was still pressed up against his it would be pointless to pretend she was, sniffed and snapped. “What is it, Malfoy?”

 

Draco clenched his teeth to stop the vicious remark he wanted to make and instead whispered. “The muggle, Connor, is he going to be alright?”

 

Ginny rolled over and stared at Draco’s face, hidden by his clamp and the dim light. “What do you care?”

 

“Did I say I cared?” Draco tried for his customary sneer but the pain from his re-growing spine and residual shock from the night was finally catching up with him and he merely sounded exhausted. “I just wondered whether he was still breathing.”

 

Ginny paused for a moment and then said. “Yes. He’s still breathing.”

 

There was another silence and then Draco said quietly. “Is he going to be alright?”

 

Ginny’s eyes grew hot and moist again and more tears began to slip down her tired face. “I don’t know.” She laid her suddenly aching head onto her damp pillow. “Good night, Malfoy.”

 

Draco blinked as his own eyes blurred and told himself it was tiredness affecting his vision. “Goodnight, Weasley.” He tried to swallow the burning feeling in his throat and lay staring at the ceiling until dawn’s early light began to filter through the windows and he fell into an uneasy doze.




 

The next morning dawned quietly. Dawn woke in the Slytherin guest quarters and stared at the ceiling above her for long moments before the events of the previous few days came back with an almighty rush. She sat bolt upright in the bed, gasping as her shoulder gave a protesting twinge. “Connor!” Her feet hit the floor with a slap as she jumped out of bed and ran for the door of the bedroom. “Connor…” She stopped with a gasp as Professor Snape appeared in all his greasy haired glory in the doorway.

 

“Miss Summers.” Snape gave a pained grimace and turned to look into the sitting room where he had spent a very uncomfortable night. “Please put on some clothes.”

 

Dawn looked down at her borrowed nightdress. “What?” She frowned in confusion. “Why? I couldn’t get any more covered if I tried.” She grabbed the back of the professor’s robes and tugged impatiently. “Connor, is he ok? Is he… Did he…”

 

Snape batted her hands away from him with a sharp slap and drew his robes tightly around himself to prevent further yanking. “The muggle is fine. He is still resting comfortably.” He kept his eyes firmly fixed on the ceiling as he growled. “Would you please dress yourself in something more suitable.”

 

Dawn sagged with relief and closed her eyes for a moment then tensed up again. “And the others? Are they ok? Can I see them?”

 

“All fine. Will you please shut this door and get into your robes?” Professor Snape sniffed in disgust. “And a hot bath might also be beneficial.”

 

Dawn scowled. “Well, excuse me, it’s a little hard to stay springtime fresh when people keep trying to kill you.” She sniffed at herself and nearly staggered at the undeniably pungent odour of her body. “You got a shower down here?”

 

“Madam Pomfrey did ask that you kept your dressings dry.” Professor Snape risked a quick glance over his shoulder and saw Dawn peeling bits of dried blood and other unidentifiable things from her stained hands and arms. “Stop that! I will draw you a bath and you will be able to bathe without irritating your wound further.”

 

Dawn looked up and shook her head. “A shower’s quicker. Trust me, I’m well on the way to being healed. It’s a Summers thing.” She turned towards the bed and then paused without looking back. “Thank you.”

 

As unused to accepting thanks as Dawn was to offering them to him, Snipe froze in surprise at the low words and then forgot his uneasiness with her state of undress and turned to face her. “Pardon?”

 

“For last night.” Dawn twisted the material of the nightgown between her fingers and slowly turned to face the much older man. “I can’t have been easy to deal with and I just want you to know I appreciate you helping me.”

 

Snape blinked and sneered. “I did what I did for Professor Dumbledore, young lady…” His eyes bulged in annoyance as Dawn waved a hand and interrupted him.

 

“Whatever. You were very…” A trace of her old cocky grin flashed over her face. “I want to say kind but we both know I’d be lying, you walloped me but good.” Dawn touched the fresh bruise on her face and finished. “I didn’t think I could survive that kind of pain twice in a lifetime but you helped me do that, for whatever reason, and I owe you.”

 

Snape covered his confusion at her obviously sincere words by raising an eyebrow questioningly. “Twice? You’ve attempted to kill Mr Angel before?”

 

Dawn flinched slightly and then shook her head. “Not Connor. Buffy, my sister, died because of me once before and the thought of…” She swallowed several times as she tried to finish her sentence and then shook her head helplessly. “You helped me deal.”

 

An uncomfortable silence fell between them for a few moments before Snape gave a brusque nod. “Very well.” He cleared his throat. “The bathroom is through there.” He gestured to a door on the right. “The house-elves should have left you fresh clothes. I will send to the kitchens for a light breakfast and then take you to your friends.”

 

“Thank you.” Dawn moved quickly to the bathroom. “I’ll be ready to go in five minutes.”

 

“I highly doubt it.” Snipe sniffed as he turned away. “Despite all blood-soaked evidence to contrary, you are a female after all.”




 

Twenty minutes later Dawn and Professor Snape turned into the corridor leading to the Infirmary and saw Ron and Hermione just heading into the hospital door. “Hermione, Ron!” Dawn ran forwards and waved. “Wait up!”

 

The two British teenagers hurriedly dropped each other’s hands and watched their friend run up. Dawn stopped inches away and looked them over anxiously. “Are you guys, ok?”

 

Ron nodded and winced as he took in her technicolour face. “Yeah, you?” He touched a particularly impressive bruise on her jaw and shook his head. “You should get that looked at.”

 

Dawn gestured to Professor Snape stalking up behind her. “Batguy already looked me over before we headed out.” At the horrified looks on Ron and Hermione’s faces she waved her hands frantically. “Not, like, all over. Just above the neck. Strictly skin for public viewing only. PG13.”

 

“When you’ve quite finished, Summers.” Snape pulled his robes tightly around himself and glared in disgust at the three battle-marked teenagers, although he didn’t quite match the look of sheer revulsion on Ron’s face at the idea of Dawn being checked over by the potions master. “I do have considerably more important things to do this morning than stand around and watch you and your friends indulge in your juvenile conversations.”

 

Dawn rolled her eyes and winked at Hermione. “Gotcha. You guys ready?” The other two nodded and Dawn took a deep breath as she pushed open the door. “Then let’s do this.”

 

The hospital wing was silent when they entered, weak winter sunlight streaming through the high windows shone on the floor, and even the pictures around the wall were quiet as they moved from frame to frame along the walls and kept watch over the injured. Two Aurors stood like matching bookends just inside the door, but at a nod from Snape they moved aside and let the three friends enter. Ron found himself in the middle of the two girls as they crowded closer to him and each slipped a hand into his. He squeezed lightly as they tiptoed forward and looked around themselves for their friends.

 

A flash of red hair caught Ron’s eye and he turned to see his sister struggling up in bed and waving an arm sleepily. “There’s Ginny.” He strode across the floor with Dawn and Hermione in tow and grinned in relief at his sister. “You’re ok.”

 

Ginny smiled at the two girls as Ron gathered her carefully in his arms and hugged her gratefully. “Just about. How are you three? Did you manage to get any sleep last night?”

 

Fortunately Dawn was too focused on Ginny to notice the identical flood of colour that stained Ron and Hermione’s cheeks at the mention of the previous night. Hermione deliberately turned from Ginny and studied the other occupants of the room as she avoided her friend’s eyes. Dawn shrugged. “I kinda lost it. I stayed with Snape.”

 

Ginny nodded and patted Ron’s arms to get him to let her go. “Professor Dumbledore told me. You ok now?”

 

Dawn looked anxiously towards where she had last seen her boyfriend. “I will be as soon as I see Connor. Have you heard how he is?”

 

Ginny shook her head as she leaned back on her pillows and gestured to the bed next to her. “Not since last night. I’ve had to keep Malfoy company.”

 

“Oh, finally remembered me have you?” Draco’s voice dripped with bitter contempt. “Please, don’t let the man with no spine affect your touching reunion.”

 

“Malfoy.” Ron’s face flooded with guilty colour again, although sadly for less pleasurable reasons than before, as he belatedly realised who occupied the bed next to Ginny. “Are you alright?”

 

“Why does everyone persist in asking that damn fool question? I’ve had my spine removed, what do you think?” Looking extremely annoyed Draco nearly went cross-eyed as he tried to include Ron, Hermione and Dawn in his bitter look without moving his head. “I’ve had to piss in a funnel, twice, and I’ve had to endure a bed bath from someone who is old enough to be my ancestor several times over. My male ancestor. I loathe and despise the lot of you.”

 

Hermione blinked in surprise at the flood of genuine relief she felt at the familiar sneering voice. “He’s ok.”

 

Ron coughed awkwardly and moved to Draco’s bedside as he said in a low voice. “I’m sorry for what happened. I just reacted and, well…” He gestured weakly at Malfoy lying immobile on the bed. “I never wanted this to happen.”

 

Malfoy eyed Ron for a long moment. “I know. You saved my life. I’m not sure what’s worse, lying here like a helpless sack of blood or owing a Weasley a life-debt, but for what it’s worth…thank you.” Looking deeply uncomfortable the boys held each other’s gaze for a moment before Malfoy finished snarkily. “At least I didn’t end up like that muggle. No spine is better than no heartbeat I suppose.”

 

“Draco…” Ginny hissed angrily in Malfoy’s direction and looked worriedly at Dawn. “Show some respect, Dawn’s standing right here.”

 

“What?” Dawn looked from one uncomfortable face in confusion as she felt her heart speed up with fear. “You said Connor was fine…”

 

Hermione caught Dawn’s arm as she turned away from Ginny’s bedside and started towards the curtained cubicle at the other end of the ward that hid Connor. “Dawn, calm down, I’m sure he is. Malfoy wasn’t talking about Connor.” She bit her lip at Dawn’s worried look. “Oh Merlin, you don’t know.”

 

“Know what?” Dawn’s heart was slamming with fear against her ribs and she began to tremble in Hermione’s grip. “What don’t I know?”

 

“Dawn…” The new voice had the tense group breaking apart and staring at Buffy, Spike and Kit who had arrived silently behind them. “Dawn, sweetie…”

 

Kit stepped forward and hugged Dawn as Buffy’s voice faltered. She stepped back but took both of Dawn’s hands in her own. “They’re talking about Carlos.” The goth girl’s face was white with strain and grief and her eyes, already sore from weeping, filled with tears. “He died in the battle.”

 

Dawn shook her head. “No, I saw him, he was fine…” Her voice faded as she remembered a flash of light and a scream as Connor reared over her. “Oh God, no…”

 

Kit squeezed Dawn’s hands tightly. “I’m sorry.” She looked round as Spike came up beside the two girls and slipped his arms around their shoulders. “We brought his body with us…in case…we didn’t…”

 

Spike pulled Kit against his chest and hugged her tightly as he looked into Dawn’s stricken face. “We didn’t want to leave him all alone in the street, like.” Tears began to spill down Dawn’s battered face and Spike pulled her close. “Ssh, Nibblet, I’m ‘ere now. I’ll look after you, pet.” He swayed gently as he cuddled the two sobbing girls. “It’ll be alright.”

 

Buffy joined him with a sober face and drew a tender hand down Dawn’s hair. “We’re here now, honey.” She rubbed Kit’s back as the girl shuddered against Buffy’s mate. “We’re all here for you now.”




 

Ron sat next to Hermione in the room that had been allocated to the visitors from America and watched Dawn as she sat slouched between Willow and Kit, staring at the floor. From the moment he had met her, she had always seemed so full of life and fire, but now, without Connor and after the loss of Carlos, she seemed somehow blurred as though she was out of focus with the rest of the world. Her body, which always seemed so strong and practically vibrating with purpose and energy, looked smaller and weaker, as though the life force animating it had been weakened in some small but vital way over the previous few hours.

 

Ron glanced up as the door opened and Buffy stalked angrily through it. “They won’t let me see Anya.” If Dawn looked like she was slowly diminishing under the horrendous pressure of death and the wounded, then Buffy was almost glowing with energy and purpose. Her hazel eyes were sparking furiously as she slammed the door shut behind her and her hair seemed to crackle with golden fire around her set face. “They say she’s still unconscious but that’s all they can tell me. Goddamit!” She whirled and punched the solid stone wall behind her, sending Fred and Gunn who were seated silently nearby scrambling for safety as sharp pieces of stone and dust exploded over their heads. Buffy glanced down. “Sorry, guys. Giles, I feel the need to kick some serious ass here.”

 

Giles, seated comfortably in a deep armchair and looking much recovered after a night in the hospital wing under intensive magical care, nodded as he eyed his slayer. “I know, Buffy, and I appreciate your feelings but I do feel…”

 

“Unless that sentence is gonna end with ‘you and Willow should go out and get ready with a slay happy Wicca smackdown on Dumbledore’s ass’ then I’d save your breath, Giles.” Buffy placed her hands on her hips and glared. “I am so past waiting and seeing.”

 

“I’m with Buffy.” Willow looked up from where she was stroking Dawn’s arm soothingly. “This has gone way past us following their lead. Things are out of hand. We need to start looking for Xander, Carlos needs to be…taken care of.” She flicked an unhappy look at Dawn and Kit beside her and then continued. “We still haven’t heard from Angel or Cordelia about Connor and no one will tell us anything about Harry.”

 

Wesley stood up from the bed he was perched on. “I’m as concerned as all of you but…”

 

“Belt up, Giles 2.” Spike shoved away from the wall he was leaning on and flicked his fag butt on the floor. One heavy boot stomped on the glowing end and he glared around the room. “I sent my girl here thinkin’ she’d be safe. The next time I bloody clap eyes on her she’s covered in bleedin’ bruises and fightin’ for her life.” He jerked a thumb at the silent Dawn and Kit. “Another one of my kids died last night an’ I don’t give a flyin’ fuck about those soddin’ wizards and their feelin’s. I’m goin’ to find out that poofy head wizard and find out what the bleedin’ hell’s goin’ on. He can’t bloody hide forever.”

 

Buffy jerked her head at Willow as she turned to follow Spike from the room. “Will, power up.” The red head nodded and with a final pat on Dawn’s arm jumped to her feet. She had barely taken three steps from the sofa when the door to the room suddenly opened and a bed was pushed clumsily into the room.

 

“Bloody hell, Potter, have a bloody care would you?” Malfoy glared impotently at the ceiling as his bed bounced off the doorframe. “I am trying to grow a spine here, you know. I would quite like it to be as straight as the last one.”

 

Harry ground his teeth and managed to manoeuvre the bed through the gap with millimetres to spare on either side. “You try pushing your moaning arse around when you’ve just been shot with a bloody crossbolt and see how you do. Git.” He kicked the door shut behind him and leaned on the head of Malfoy’s bed, gasping for breath and an unhealthy green colour. “Alright everyone?”

 

“Harry!” Hermione jumped to her feet and brushed past the surprised Slayer to rush to his side. “Are you alright?”

 

Harry winced as she hugged him but managed a smile and a wave to the other occupants of the room. “A bit weak and feeble, but...”

 

On the bed Draco sniffed. “No change there then.”

 

Harry reached down and slapped Malfoy’s clamped head. “Shut it.”

 

Ron joined Harry and Hermione, face glowing with relief. “Thank Merlin, we couldn’t find you and no one would tell us where you were. Ginny was beside herself when she realised you’d been moved in the night.”

 

Harry swayed slightly and smiled gratefully as his two best friends hurriedly escorted him to the nearest chair. He sat wheezing for a few moments before nodding to himself and saying breathlessly. “S’ok, they moved me to Madam Pomfrey’s room. My lung collapsed and they were working on me all night.” He thumped his chest and then doubled over when he knocked all the air out of his fragile lungs. “Good as new now though.”

 

Malfoy rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “Oh yes, you’re a regular hero. It’s taken us nearly half an hour to make it fifty yards down the corridor.”

 

Ron looked at the hospital bed, and its annoyed occupant, and then back at the still gasping Harry. “Why did you bring him, and how on earth did you manage to sneak him and the bed down here?”

 

Harry scowled. “When I got back to the ward and Ginny told me where you all were I decided to sneak out and come and find you. I got half way off the bed when face-ache here decided he wanted to come along for a change of scenery and threatened to yell his head off if I didn’t bring him. I found my wand in the bedside cabinet, cast a disguising charm and here we are.” Harry leaned back against his chair and muttered resentfully. “Change of scenery, my arse. You’ve seen one ceiling; you’ve seen ‘em all. I have no idea what he’s playing at.”

 

“That’s right, mock the cripple.” Malfoy glared impotently at the ceiling. “You just wait until I’m back on my feet, Potter, I’ll make you…OW!” The bed shot forward several feet as the door was shoved open behind it and Draco was given a nasty jolt. “Watch it!”

 

Ginny Weasley appeared out of mid-air and glanced absently at Malfoy as she hurried into the room, folding Harry’s invisibility cloak over her arm. “Stop bloody lurking behind the door, Malfoy. Harry, it’s all quiet.”

 

Ignoring the outraged spluttering from the hospital bed, Harry nodded. “Right. Give us a hand, Ron.” Sweat sprang out all over his face as he was pulled to his feet, but Harry’s voice was firm as his eyes found Dawn. “Connor’s still in the ward. The curtains are drawn around the bed and Ginny’s been keeping watch under my cloak since she got discharged an hour ago. The only ones with him are his mum and dad. Take the cloak and be quick.”

 

Dawn’s eyes widened as she stared at her friend. “What?”

 

“Dawn, I’m going to keel over any minute, take the bloody cloak and go and see Connor!” Harry’s voice shook with strain and urgency, but still rang with authority. “Hurry!”

 

A helpful shove from Kit had Dawn on her feet and reaching to take the cloak from Ginny. “Harry, what Connor did, that wasn’t him, he…”

 

“Oh for Merlin’s sake, I know that!” Harry gripped Ron’s arm tightly as he watched Dawn draw the cloak around her shoulders until only her head was visible. “We’ll talk about it when you get back. Go!”

 

Dawn’s face filled with wordless gratitude and she drew the hood over her head, disappearing from sight. Spike and the others looked around frantically as they heard her footsteps and then the door opened and shut and they were alone with Dawn’s friends. Harry’s legs buckled. “Finally, I thought she’d never go.” He collapsed back into his chair and looked around the silent room. “Ok, will someone please tell me what the bloody hell is going on and why we’re back at school and nobody’s trying to kill us this time?”

 

“Ah, all excellent questions.” Giles took off his glasses and began to polish the lenses.

 

Spike rolled his eyes and interrupted scathingly. “Means he hasn’t got a clue, right Watcher?”

 

“No, not at all…” Giles flushed angrily under the sceptical looks from his younger colleagues and shoved his glasses back on his nose. “Fine, no, I haven’t got the foggiest. Happy now?”

 

Spike nodded in knowing resignation at the room. “Told ya.”





 

Dawn stopped outside Connor’s cubicle and listened warily for voices inside. Whoever was in there was speaking in low murmurs, too faint to hear, but she was positive that she could pick up at least two different male tones from the mix. She glanced behind her at the ward and saw that most of the medical staff were busy tending to their other patients. There was a gap between one side of the curtained cubicle and the wall and rather than part the curtains in the proper place and risk instant exposure, Dawn crept silently to the gap and held her breath as she stepped through.

 

Angel and Cordelia stood holding hands on the opposite side of the bed to where Dawn found herself, with a man she didn’t know almost directly in front of her and the Minister for Magic standing at the foot of the bed. Dawn’s lip curled in a snarl and she took a step towards the unfortunate Mr Fudge before she remembered she was there incognito. Her attention was drawn to the bed as Cordelia reached down and she watched as Connor’s hair was smoothed back gently from his forehead. Moving quietly around the unknown man, Dawn pressed close to the bed and stared down at Connor’s unconscious face.

 

He looked pale but peaceful against the pillows, a white bandage wrapped around his otherwise naked torso, and his chest and upper neck were a lively pattern of bruises courtesy of spending the last few days fighting for his life and having a metal bar shoved through his body. Dawn bit her lip as she looked at him and nearly crumpled with relief as she watched his chest rise and fall steadily and saw the proof of life beating steadily at his throat.

 

Angel’s head came up sharply suddenly and he looked around the small cubicle piercingly. Dawn froze as he sniffed at the air and then looked straight at her. “Mr Fudge, Mr Babity, my mate and I would like to be alone with our son now.”

 

Cordelia looked startled at Angel’s firm order but at a gentle squeeze of her arm stayed silent and watched as the two men nodded and the left the cubicle. “Angel, what…” Angel put his hand gently over Cordy’s mouth and shook his head at her as he listened intently to the sound of the two men walking away. When he was apparently satisfied that they could not be overheard, he released Cordelia and she slapped irritably at his arm. “What the hell was that about?”

 

Angel looked back at where Dawn stood. “You can come out now.”

 

“What?” Cordelia looked around in confusion. “Who can come ou…Holy crap, Dawn!”

 

Dawn smiled warily as she dropped the hood of the invisibility cloak and her head appeared to hover in mid-air. “Hi guys.” She slowly took the rest of the cloak off. “I…I…”

 

“Oh, baby…” Cordelia moved hastily around the end of the bed and gathered Dawn into her arms. “Its ok, sweetie.”

 

Dawn hugged Cordelia tightly as she looked at Angel. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to do it.”

 

Angel touched one broad finger to the back of Connor’s lax arm and shuddered before giving the distraught girl a reassuring smile. “I know. You had no choice. The headmaster told us what happened.” He sighed and looked blindly down at Connor. “They took the curse off.”

 

Dawn reached for Connor’s other hand and clutched it tightly. “I know, Professor Snape told me. Has he woken up yet?” Angel and Cordelia exchanged worried looks across the bed and Dawn felt a horribly familiar rush of fear. “What? He’s woken up, right?”

 

Cordelia slipped a comforting arm around Dawn’s shoulders. “Not exactly, honey. He got antsy when they took away the curse and they had to restrain him and stun him.” She battled back tears as she began to stroke Connor’s hair again. “He should have woken up this morning but…”

 

Angel clutched his son’s other hand and continued as Cordelia broke off. “Something’s wrong. He’s in no danger physically but they can’t make him wake up.” He made himself meet Dawn’s wide eyes. “They aren’t sure if he can. It might have been too much for his mind to take and…”

 

“No!” Dawn shook her head firmly. “Not Connor. We’ve practised with this curse. He’s in there, he just doesn’t want to wake up yet.”

 

Cordelia squeezed Dawn again. “That’s what we think, Dawn, we’re not giving up, I promise.” She took a deep breath. “But the wizarding guys think that the reality of the curse and the power behind it might have been more than he could take. He might not be able to come back.”

 

Dawn gripped Connor’s hand tightly and shook her head again. “No, not Connor. He’ll find a way back.” She raised his hand to her lips and pressed them hard against his skin. “He promised, when we go, we go together. He’ll come back for me.”






 

Over the next forty-eight hours even Dawn’s firm belief in Connor began to wane as the Scoobs, the Fang Gang and the remaining members of Durus Cateanus took turns in sitting around Connor’s bed and talking mindlessly to him in the hope he would wake up. During the quiet, grim days Malfoy was released from the hospital wing with his new backbone and took Dawn’s place under Professor Snape’s care as it was deemed unwise to send him back to his house. Anya and her baby were stabilised and the demon had managed to spend brief periods awake, but the pain and shock over Xander’s loss proved too much for her to cope with and Willow finally had given permission for her friend to be placed in a charmed healing sleep until the body and mind were both strong enough to cope with the harsh realities of her life.

 

Harry and Ginny had both thrown truly spectacular tantrums until Madam Pomfrey had been forced to release them from her care in favour of being able to devote her precious time to the other wounded and the casualties that were arriving at Hogwarts by the hour as all over Britain Voldemort struck at wizarding strongholds and families loyal to the Ministry and Professor Dumbledore. And as Harry had pointed out, they were only going to sneak out again if anyone did try to keep them confined to the infirmary.

 

On the evening of the third day of Connor’s coma, Dawn and Ginny had been forced away from his bedside to go and join Harry and the others in something to eat before returning to spend another few hours with Connor and then retiring to their dorm for the night. The two girls walked silently through the castle, everywhere they looked were tense, fearful faces and armed Aurors. An air of suppressed terror seemed to taint everything within the castle and the air itself was almost greasy with the fear and worry of thousands. Dawn shook her head as she watched a young witch pull her toddler out of their paths and huddle up against the wall. “Don’t they get we’re the good guys?”

 

Ginny glanced at the young mother disinterestedly. “Apparently not.”

 

Dawn sighed. “God, I wish this would all stop.” She raised an eyebrow as a young wizard marched around a corner, spotted the two young girls and then spun on his heel and marched briskly back in the direction he had come. “And that doesn’t help. If the Ministry think we’re safe enough to have around then I don’t see why they can’t issue a statement telling everyone else that!”

 

“What, actually do something constructive for a change? Our Ministry?” Ginny gave a bitter laugh. “In your dreams. Besides they haven’t actually filled us in on why we’re not public enemy number one anymore yet, never bloody mind the rest of the school!” She nodded to a trestle table that was set up just outside the Great Hall. “There’s the others.”

 

Dawn acknowledged her friends with a wave and followed Ginny as the redhead wove a quick path through the mass of temporary dining tables that now crowded the wide space outside the Great Hall, thanks to the legitimate dining area itself now housing refugees from Voldemort’s wrath. The two girls joined Harry, Ron, Hermione and Kit and peered uneasily at their nearly untouched plates. Ginny poked a pile of grey meat on Ron’s plate. “What’s that?”

 

Ron nudged the meat gingerly with his fork. “I don’t know, but I’m fairly sure it tried to bite back when I stuck my knife in it.”

 

Ginny edged away. “Oh. I think I’ll have the soup.”

 

Hermione gave up trying to beat her mashed potatoes in submission and pushed her plate away with a sigh. “Any news on Connor?”

 

Dawn accepted a goblet of water from Kit with a sigh and shook her head as she drained it and then held it out for a refill. “No. Still the same.”

 

Harry squeezed Dawn’s hand and smiled bracingly. “Don’t give up. We’ll get him back.” He caught a glimpse of a blond head slipping down the stairs behind Dawn’s shoulder and frowned. “Where’s Malfoy off to? I thought he was still meant to be keeping off his feet?”

 

Dawn glanced back over her shoulder. “He could probably use some air.” She rolled her head from side to side on her neck. “I know I could. It’s getting kinda ripe in here.”

 

“And the food sucks.” Ron looked dolefully at his plate and then pushed it away with a grunt. “Life sucks.”

 

“No argument here.” Dawn smiled at Kit. “How you holding up?”

 

Kit shrugged. “Apart from my mom having a meltdown that I’m now inexplicably in England, my best friend dying and being surrounded by people that hate me for being a normal human?” Dawn nodded. “Ok, I guess. You?”

 

“Could be better.” Dawn looked guilty. “I’m real sorry about your mom.” It had taken some effort but Willow had managed to literally conjure up a cell phone, and Kit had placed the call to reassure her frantic mother she was still alive the day before. Sunnydale was a town under siege, with the demons not only taking advantage of the devastation left by the attack of the wizards but also the absence of the Slayer and her team. Kit’s mother had been torn between weak-kneed relief that her daughter wasn’t as dead as she had thought and sheer fury that she had been spirited away to England by Buffy and the others. Kit had tried desperately to give some kind of explanation that didn’t make her sound completely insane but in the end had settled for just telling her mother the unlikely story that Buffy had reacted instinctively to the danger and had managed to get a friend with connections to fly in with a charter plane and snatch them from danger. According to Kit’s mother Carlos’ parents hadn’t noticed he was missing yet and she rang off with a half-hearted assurance that as soon as Buffy could arrange flights back she would be home. It also cheered Buffy up no end to be informed that she and the others could expect to be arrested for abduction and the endangerment of a minor the minute they set foot back on US soil.

 

Harry changed the subject hastily as the American girls fell into an awkward silence. “How many more people do you think they can fit in the school anyway?” He looked around the heaving room. “It looks like they’ve packed half of the wizarding world in here. The house-elves can barely keep up with the extra work as it is.”

 

Ron stifled a grin at the annoyed look on Hermione’s face at the mention of the increased workload for the house elves and poked his dubious looking meat again. “And their standards have really slipped.”

 

Dawn felt her stomach roll over as Ron prodded at his dinner and stood hastily. “I’m not hungry. Buffy and the others are having dinner with Professor McGonagall in her quarters tonight; wanna go spend some extra time with Connor?”

 

The others nodded and stood up from the table, ignoring the increase in whispering and pointing as they made their way to the hospital wing. The group walked in silence towards the medical wing and it wasn’t until Dawn gasped in shock that Ron took his eyes from the floor and realised they had arrived. He peered over Dawn’s head to see what had caused such a strong reaction and blinked at Connor’s bed, completely empty of all things Connor.

 

“Connor?” Dawn spun in a tight circle, her voice alive with hope. “Connor?”

 

The group stared around the hospital wing, searching for their friend, as Madam Pomfrey bustled up. “Miss Summers…”

 

Dawn gripped the woman’s shoulders tightly. “Has he woken up? Where is he?” Her hands shook with excitement. “Is he ok?”

 

Hermione frowned uneasily as she saw the look of pity on the matron’s face and exchanged worried glances with Ginny. Something wasn’t right. “Miss Summers, I’m sorry.” The elderly nurse flushed with guilt. “We thought it would be best to do this when you weren’t here. Kinder.”

 

Dawn’s face flooded with terrible suspicion. “Do what? What have you done with Connor?” She shook the woman hard. “WHERE IS HE?”

 

“Dawn, take it easy.” Harry pulled Dawn back and behind him before saying grimly to Madam Pomfrey. “What’s been done with Connor, Madam?”

 

“His father signed the papers this afternoon. He’s being taken to St Mungo’s, there’s nothing more we can do for him here.” Madam Pomfrey backed up a step at the look of fury on Harry’s face. “It was the only thing we could do for him.”

 

“Did Dumbledore agree to this?” Ron clamped a hand on Dawn’s arm to hold her still. “Does he know?”

 

The matron shook her head. “No, the headmaster is attending an emergency summit at the Ministry headquarters. He is being asked to explain his recent actions to the Council. The Minister sent word this afternoon that he…”

 

Harry turned his back on the stuttering woman. “Hermione, a locator spell, quickly! Ginny, Ron, accio some brooms.” He gripped Dawn’s shoulders and said firmly as the others worked their charms behind him. “He goes nowhere without Dumbledore’s say-so. I don’t know what Fudge is up to but we’re not giving Connor up. Kit, you fly with me.”

 

“Mister Potter…” Madam Pomfrey’s eyes bulged as Harry turned back to her with his wand drawn. “What do you think you are doing?”

 

“Sorry, Madam. Petrificus Totalis!” Ginny awkwardly caught the woman as her legs snapped together and she started to fall face forwards onto the floor. Kit moved to help her lift the witch onto Connor’s empty bed and Harry ignored the shouts of protest from the other patients to point to the summoned brooms as they hurtled through the door. “Everyone mount up.”

 

Ginny dragged Hermione to a broom and they both climbed on as Ron pulled Dawn behind him to another one. Harry helped Kit on and then climbed on himself. “Hold on tightly. Hermione, go!”

 

Hermione nodded and released a small ball of light that she held curled in the palm of her hand. “Connor!” The ball hovered for a moment and then shot out of the room with the three broomsticks fast on its heels.

 

They flew wildly through the castle for long minutes, dodging shouted protests from various wizards and witches they encountered until at last their guide took the well known path to the tallest Hogwarts tower. Kit closed her eyes as Harry sent the broom flying up the steep steps and tried desperately to think of anything but the fact she was flying through the air at breakneck speed on a primitive household appliance. The wind whipped her long hair back behind her and her cheeks throbbed with sudden cold as they burst from the shelter of the confined stairwell and into the night air.

 

“STOP RIGHT THERE!” Ron’s voice echoed furiously into the night and he pointed his wand at Angel, Cordelia and two cloaked figures as they stood by a hovering stretcher. “DON’T MOVE!”

 

Angel’s mouth dropped open in shock as Ron and Dawn landed and leapt off their broom to point their wands at him. He took a step towards them and then it seemed to be raining teenagers as Harry and Ginny brought theirs in to land. Hermione pointed her wand at Connor’s escort as Ginny brought them down and yelled. “Expelliarmius!” Two wands flew through the air and landed with a satisfying smack in the young witch’s hand.

 

Angel growled warningly. “Back off, Dawn. This doesn’t concern you.” His eyes flickered yellow in the darkness. “I don’t want to hurt you…”

 

“Not an issue.” Ginny’s wand sliced through the air. “Petrificus Totalis!” She nodded with satisfaction as Angel crashed to the floor and then did the same to the stunned Cordelia. “We don’t have the time to argue, someone will have raised the alarm by now. Grab Connor!”

 

Dawn and Kit looked up from where they had been anxiously checking him over and Dawn said frantically. “Where are we going to take him? He needs medical help and we can’t keep him safe in school.”

 

“I don’t know about that.” Hermione yelped with surprise as another small ball of locating light bounced over the top of the tower to be swiftly followed by another broomstick. Draco Malfoy waved with exaggerated nonchalance. “Evening all. Summers, I have someone here who insists she’s related to you.” He landed with a gentle bump and turned to gallantly assist a slender figure off the broomstick behind him. “She seems to think you need her help.”

 

Dawn straightened slowly as Malfoy’s companion moved forward and into a patch of moonlight. A delicate, pale face smiled gently at her as a soft white hand smoothed back long midnight black hair. Dawn took a hesitant step forwards. “Dru?”

 

Drusilla smiled happily. “Hello, little bird. Your granny has come to visit.”

Chapter Text

 

Dawn broke the stunned silence, “Drusilla!” She pushed past Ron and flung herself at the vampire, “God, Dru…”

 

“Hush, dearie, hush now.” Drusilla folded Dawn into her embrace and cooed gently in the overwrought girl’s ear as Dawn began to sob onto her shoulder, “I am here now and all shall be well.” Her wide eyes travelled around the top of the tower and settled on the unconscious Connor, “I shall bring little brother back to you, little one.”

 

Dawn clung tighter to Drusilla’s slender form, “Dru, they’re going to take him. Please…Please…”

 

“No, my sweet.” Gently Dru untangled Dawn’s arms from around her neck and eased the girl back, “They shall not take him from you.” She lifted a pale hand to Dawn’s cheek and wiped away her tears, “Be calm, my love, your Granny is here and all shall be well.” Dru’s eyes flashed amber suddenly as one of the medi-wizards moved forward in protest and her game face flickered into life for a moment, “Back! You have been bad little dogs and I shall give you a spanking if you aren’t nice. Ruff!”

 

Ron eyed the new addition warily. “Yeah. Or we can just do this.” His wand moved quickly and stunned the two wizards. “Bit quicker I think.”

 

Despite herself Dawn gave a watery giggle, “Dru, it’s so good to see you.” She sniffed back more tears, “I don’t know what to do anymore. Connor’s so ill and they want to take him away but they can’t and…and…” Her throat closed over with emotion and Dawn was left just gulping air as she tried to bring herself under some kind of control.

 

Drusilla brought Dawn into her side and smiled happily at Kit, “Little cat. It’s good to see you again.”

 

Kit smiled back at the demon, “You too, Drusilla. I’m sorry I never said goodbye last time, but…” She gestured helplessly at Dawn, “Things were kind of intense.”

 

Dru squeezed Dawn lightly, “I remember.” She tensed suddenly, “Daddy and his love will be angry and William will soon know I am here. We must hide and they shall go seek.” Dru turned to Draco still standing silently at her shoulder, “Help the other boys with my brother, we must leave.” She looked at Dawn, “Is there somewhere we can go that you can hold against attack?”

 

Dawn straightened and thought furiously for a moment, “Yes.” She turned to Hermione, “If we got him to the dorm, can we hold out there? They won’t be able to get in easily, right?”

 

Hermione tore her eyes away from the pale woman holding her friend and nodded at Dawn, “We can hold them off for longer there. Only Dumbledore really has the power to bypass the password.”

 

“Then that’s where we go.” Dawn was suddenly all business, “Harry, can you summon the Invisibility cloak for Dru and me? We’re the fastest on foot. You can take Kit, Gin can take Hermione and Malfoy and Ron can handle Connor between them. Do whatever you have to do to get Connor home safe. We’ll be right behind you.”

 

“Got it.” Harry gestured to Kit to follow him as he hastily performed the spell for his cloak.

 

Hermione looked uneasily at Dawn. “Are you sure you’ll be safe?” She flicked an unhappy glance at Dru swaying in the night air. “She doesn’t look very stable.”

 

Dawn squeezed Dru’s hand and smiled almost fondly. “She isn’t; she’s vicious and bloodthirsty and completely insane.” She took a deep breath. “But she’s the best chance we have of getting Connor back now.”

 

“Good enough for me.” Ginny snatched her broom up. “Hermione, let’s go. We’ll have to fly through the castle; all the windows are charmed against attack. Harry, Ron, you ready?”

 

Ron looked around from where he was securing Connor’s stretcher to the back of his broom with ropes coiling from the end of his wand and nodded. “Ready. Malfoy?”

 

Draco finished tying his own ropes with a flourish. “Ready. Do try and keep up, won’t you, Weasley?” He grinned at Ron’s glare as they rose on their brooms with Connor strung like a bizarre hammock between them.

 

Harry caught his cloak as it came flying up the stairs and threw it to Dawn. “Let’s go.”

 

Dawn snatched at the cloak and flung it around her and Dru. “Don’t stop for anything. Keep him safe.”

 

Harry tossed her a salute and then dove down the stairs with his wand drawn and Kit hanging on for dear life behind him. Ginny and the two boys quickly followed, Connor floating behind like a balloon, and Dawn drew the cloak over her own and Dru’s heads. “You ready?”

 

Drusilla nodded. “Of course, my love. What about Daddy and his mate?”

 

Dawn spared Angel a quick glance as she followed the others, making sure to keep a good grip on Drusilla. “They can take their chances. Connor’s the only important thing now. Stay close, Dru.”




 

Dawn and Dru made it to the Durus Cateanus common room less than three minutes after the others. Ron and Malfoy were waiting by the door and the minute Dawn and the vampire burst into the room they slammed the door shut and cast a binding charm on the door. Ron smiled at Dawn. “That should hold for a while.”

 

Dawn tossed Harry’s cloak on a nearby chair and made for the stairs. “Any problems?”

 

“None worth mentioning.” Malfoy stretched his aching back. “We put him in your room, the others are with him.”

 

Dawn motioned Drusilla ahead of her and looked at the two boys. “Thank you. For everything.”

 

Ron waved a hand negligently. “Forget it. Just make sure it was worth it, go bring him back.” He watched as Dawn smiled and then took the stairs two at a time in Drusilla’s wake.

 

Draco crossed his arms and thought of the hexings they had dished out to the people that had tried to stop them in the mad dash back from the tower. “Forget it? We’re a bit free and easy with our favours aren’t we, Weasley? I’m thinking that this little escapade puts Angel and Summers in our debt for some years to come.”

 

Ron walked across to the window and glanced out at the silent grounds. “Yeah? Well I’m thinking that between us, most of the members of my house have saved your expensive, evil hide more than once in the last week.” He smirked at Malfoy. “And if we can let that go, then you can write off this little ‘debt’.”

 

Malfoy quirked an eyebrow. “I’m evil? Expensive, undoubtedly, but evil?”

 

Ron tapped his own forearm meaningfully. “Stamped, sealed and delivered.”

 

An indefinable emotion passed over Malfoy’s face as he glanced at his own arm where the Dark Mark lay hidden and then his trademark sneer was firmly back in place. “I was considering a kitten but I didn’t think it would go with the image.”

 

Ron was surprised into a laugh at the dry comeback and then sobered as a loud bang came from the door to the common room. “They’re here.”

 

Both boys stood and moved to the centre of the room to face the door. Malfoy took a deep breath and gripped his wand. “First one to fall gets the beers in at Azkaban.”



Ron raised an eyebrow without taking his eyes from the door. “They serve beer at Azkaban?”

 

“They’ll serve naked women on sticks if you pay enough. I’m rich remember?” Draco grinned. “Not that I expect you to understand the finer nuances of having more than two galleons at any one time.”

 

Ron smiled at the familiar insult. “I really loathe you.”

 

“And long may it continue.” Malfoy glanced towards the stairs as the banging and shouting outside the door increased in urgency. “What ever they’re doing up there, they’d better do it fast. It sounds like they aren’t going to bother bypassing your password and are just going to blow the bloody door off.”

 

Ron shrugged. “They’re paying for any damages.” He snuck his own glance at the stairs and bounced lightly on his toes. “Come on, Dawn, come on…”




 

In the girls’ bedroom Harry and Hermione stood by the door, wands at the ready in case their pursuers made it past the common room door and Ron and Malfoy whilst Dawn and Ginny stood by Dawn’s bed and watched Drusilla sink into a trance as she held Connor’s limp hand and begin to the mental journey to find him.

 

Ginny slipped her arm around Dawn’s waist and eyed the deceptively fragile looking vampire. “So, totally evil then?”

 

Dawn rubbed her hands up and down her arms and tried to stop shivering. “Totally. But not with Connor or me. Dru loves family and to her that’s what we are. I think in her own way she loves us.” Dawn bit her lip as she remembered Dru coming after her when she died at Riley Finn’s hands months before. “If anyone can get him back, Dru can. She’s got some serious psychic power going on. I can’t lose him, Gin.”

 

Ginny looked up at the rail-thin, battered girl next to her. “I know.”

 

“No.” Dawn shook her head. “You don’t. I feel like I can’t breathe. I’ve known him less than six months but he’s my whole life.” The shivers wracking her body intensified. “When it comes to him and me, all bets are off. When I died in the summer, Connor tried to get his dad to turn me.” She smiled at Ginny’s shocked gasp and nodded. “I know. Connor Angel, scourge of vampire kind, was willing to have my ass demonised rather than let me die. He doesn’t know that I know that. It sounds so…stupid when I say it out loud but I don’t think we can live properly without each other. Nothing seems real anymore.” She looked guiltily at Kit standing nervously beside Hermione and Harry, clutching an axe and preparing to use it on anyone that tried to take Connor from them. “Even stuff like Carlos dying and losing Xander doesn’t seem important when I know that Connor isn’t with me. I’m so selfish.”

 

“No.” Ginny turned Dawn to face her and looked earnestly into her eyes. “No, you aren’t. Your friend is dead, there’s nothing you can do for him, and Xander can’t be found at the moment. Connor is here, alive, and he needs our help. You aren’t selfish for making him a priority. There’ll be time to grieve and mount rescue missions when we’re back together again. All of us.”

 

Dawn smiled faintly. “You think?”

 

“I know.” Ginny’s voice was firm and she looked at Connor lying still on the bed. “He’s coming back to us and when he does we’re going to take care of everything that needs taking care of.”

 

“Thanks, Ginny.” Dawn raised a hand to squeeze one of Ginny’s. “Thank you.”

 

“Hey, what are friends for?” The two girls watched the silent tableau on the bed for another few moments before Dawn spoke in a rush.

 

“We’ve never even slept together.” Her eyes filled with tears. “He never even knew that I wanted him like that.”

 

Ginny blinked in startled surprise and blushed. “What? I thought…well, you always seemed so…”

 

Dawn nodded. “I know. We never did though. Came close a bunch of times but we always stopped.” Tears began to leak down her face. “I don’t know why we did. I wish we had. Maybe it says something about us that we didn’t; maybe what we have isn’t as real as I thought it was.”

 

“Stop it.” Ginny gave Dawn’s arm a firm shake. “Stop it right now. Of course what you have is real. If you’ve been together all these months and not slept together it says that what you have is as real as it gets. It isn’t all about the hormones and teenage lust; it’s about your feelings for each other. It was just never the right time for you. I think you know when it is.”

 

“You think?” Dawn scrubbed the back of her hand over her face. “You really think so?”

 

“Yes.” Ginny said with deep sincerity. “When I find someone, I want it to be like you and Connor. I want to feel like I can’t breathe if they’re not with me; I want the world not to matter if they get lost. I want to know that I’m a half of a whole, because despite all the pain, I think it’s worth it. All of it.”

 

“It is.” Dawn nodded and looked down at Connor’s unconscious face. “It’s worth everything.”




 

Drusilla looked at her surroundings and pouted in annoyance. “Not pretty, not pretty at all.” She turned in a slow disapproving circle. “No colours, where are all the pretty colours?”

 

“There are no colours here. This is Quor’toth.” Connor materialised beside the vampire. “This is my home.” He looked around the blackened and twisted distortion of a forest surrounding them. “This is where I belong. Go away, Drusilla.”

 

“Little brother.” Dru reached out a pale hand and scowled when Connor shied away from her touch. “I am here to take you home.”

 

“I am home. Go away.” Connor turned to march into the hideously deformed trees. “Leave me alone.”

 

“No, this was never your home.” Drusilla walked gracefully beside the boy. “Only your prison.” She matched her pace to Connor’s as he began to speed up and then broke into a run. “You cannot flee me, I will follow you wherever you will go.”

 

“Leave me ALONE!” Connor leapt in mid-step and ripped a jagged branch from a tree. With a snarl he turned and plunged it into Drusilla’s chest and straight through her heart.

 

They stood staring into each other’s eyes for a moment and then Dru gave a delighted shimmy. “Oh, it tickles!” She watched as Connor staggered back in shock and giggled. “Naughty little brother, being all mean to your sister. I shall have to punish you.”

 

“That never did any good.” The low, grating voice had Connor cringing on the floor and hiding his head in his hands as Daniel Holtz stepped from the trees. “I tried to punish him for the sins of his birth, force the evil from him, but nothing worked.” The old man looked in disgust at the boy on the floor. “He is a creature of the dark, nothing will save him. Isn’t that right, Stephen?”

 

Connor flinched at the sound of his old name. “Father, I’m sorry; I tried…”

 

“It’s alright, son, things like you aren’t meant for the world outside.” Holtz laid a heavy hand on Connor’s bowed head. “You were always meant for the dark and the demons, never for…”

 

“No!” Drusilla’s eyes flashed gold and she stepped forward. “No! He is not yours, he is ours. We love him, not you.” Her lips peeled back in a snarl. “Go back to your rest, old man, leave our boy in peace.”

 

“The worst of Angelus’ sins and she dares to talk to me of love?” Holtz sneered. “What do you know of what I sacrificed to keep this thing safe?”

 

“Nothing. I know nothing.” Dru glared. “He was never yours to keep safe. He was Daddy’s boy and you took him. His soul was never yours to protect. Leave!”

 

“Will you let this blight on God’s earth talk to your father like that, Stephen? This abomination…”

 

“Not Stephen, Connor! He is Connor.” Drusilla vamped out and lunged for Holtz. “Connor.” She fell forward as the old man vanished with a cruel laugh and then turned as Connor raised his head.

 

“He’s right. I should never have left here. I don’t deserve to be out there.” Anguished tears rolled down Connor’s face. “The things I’ve done…”

 

“Mean nothing.” Drusilla knelt in front of the stricken boy and cocked her head to one side. “They mean nothing. Daddy and the little bird are lost in their pain as they feel you slip away. They cannot survive your loss.”

 

“Angel will be fine.” Connor wiped futilely at his wet face. “He’ll get over it.”

 

“No, daddy will be lost. He cannot lose you again. He needs to know that there is something in this world he can fight for.” Drusilla smiled. “Something that makes his existence real.”

 

“He fights every day, he doesn’t need an excuse.” Connor laughed bitterly. “If he knew who I really am…”

 

“Then he would still love you.” Drusilla’s voice was firm. “Have you tried to show him, let him see you as you really are?”

 

“Oh yeah, I can just see that going well.” Connor gestured to the trees around them and then to himself. “Hey Dad, say hi to your half-crazy, murdering kid. And by the way, that whole trying to kill your girlfriend thing you had a few years back, turns out it wasn’t a hereditary one shot deal. Cool, huh?”

 

“That is not how he sees you. Or how Dawn sees you. She wants you to come back to her.” Drusilla twisted her hands together. “She needs you to come back to her.”

 

“How can I go back? I tried to kill her.” Connor stared around the black landscape of his mind. “How can I go back when she’s seen what I really am?”

 

Drusilla smiled sweetly. “Our little bird has always known who you are, brother.” Her head tilted to the side and she swayed gently from side to side in a non-existent breeze. “She loves the whole not just the parts. Her pain and loss scream across the dimensions as she cries out for the return of her lost love.” A canny look came over the vampire’s face and she smiled gently. “Would you leave her alone and incomplete for the rest of her days? Dying by inches, as the missing piece of her heart grows like a sickness inside her and slowly consumes her soul.”

 

Connor shook his head. “Dawn wouldn’t let that happen, she’s strong. She’d go on.”

 

Dru nodded and moved closer to Connor, black eyes glittering in her pale face. “Yes, she would go on, but she would never again be whole. There would always be something that would pull at her, telling her that she is missing a vital part of who she is.” A white hand drifted towards Connor’s face and traced the curve of his cheek. “We do not choose who to love, little brother, and we cannot choose when not to. If you leave her now, she will be forever alone. No man’s touch will ever be truly felt, no emotion ever truly experienced, she will whither and die like flowers in the snow and go to the end of her days mourning the loss of the one that would not trust in her love for him.”

 

Connor’s eyes filled with tears and he clenched his fists. “No one loves like that. That’s for children’s books and fairytales.”

 

“No.” Dru shook her head. “You know that is not true.” Her hand moved down to hover over his heart. “You love like that, is it really so hard to believe that little bird can love the same way? Love you the same way?” Silence stretched between them as they stared into one another’s eyes and Drusilla whispered. “Trust in love.”

 

Slowly, very slowly, Connor’s hand came up from his side. Never taking his eyes from Dru’s face, he brought his fingers near to hers and said quietly. “I just have to take your hand?” The vampire nodded. Connor took a deep breath and with a convulsive movement brought their hands together with bruising force. There was a flash of green-tinged light and then nothing but the sound of silence.




 

Draco crouched behind the sofa with Ron and listened to the attempts of the Aurors outside to break in. Both boys were grim faced but determined that Connor would not be taken from them. Ron jumped at the sound of splintering wood and muttered. “This is it. Are you ready?”

 

“Never more so. They’re not having him.” Draco gripped his wand and ground his teeth. “I won’t let them take him.”

 

Ron looked mildly surprised at the vehement tone of voice and flicked a quick look at Malfoy’s white, set face. “Why does it matter so much to you anyway? You don’t know him.”

 

“He’s my friend.” It was hard to see who the simple declaration rocked more, Ron or Draco. Malfoy blinked and repeated slowly. “He’s my friend.”

 

Ron stared at the bane of most of his life and, for once, could think of nothing clever or sarcastic to say. He nodded. “Fair enough, he’s mine too. Let’s make sure we both get to keep him. When they come through that door we’re casting a shield spell, the same one we used in America. It’s Protego Obexicus and it will trip the other defensive spells we’ve got set up in here. One sharp downward slash with your wand.”

 

The door exploded off its hinges with a loud crash and Ron and Draco reared in perfect synchronicity over the sofa back. “PROTEGO OBEXICIS!” The first Auror bounced off the barrier charm that had served them so well in the battle with Voldemort.

 

Ron smiled coldly. “Evening, gentlemen. Nice day isn’t it?” He peered at the Auror on the floor, cursing and clutching his nose, and nudged Malfoy. “That looks sore.”

 

Draco nodded in agreement. “Dreadfully sore. I’d get some ice on it if I were you, old man.” He grinned cockily at the people crowded into the room and backed up into the doorway. “Hello, may we help you?”

 

“Malfoy, Weasley, get this barrier down, right now!” Cornelius Fudge was vibrating with fury at the sight of the two teenage boys smirking at him.

 

Draco glared at the little man. “Oh you’re back, are you? Quite finished with your scheming in London? Where’s our headmaster?”

 

Fudge went purple with impotent anger at the boy’s sneering tone and ignored his question. “There is a dangerous person at large in this school and we have reason to believe you are harbouring them.”

 

Ron and Draco exchanged amused glances. Ron chuckled. “What do you think tipped them off?”

 

Malfoy shrugged. “Could have been the high-speed chase through the school hallways and the Auror I left hanging from the chandelier in the Not-So-Great Vestibule.”

 

Ron nodded thoughtfully. “Could be, could be.”

 

Another thought occurred to Malfoy. “And which dangerous person would that be? We’re harbouring quite a few, you know. You need to be more gender specific, correct use of grammar and all that.”

 

Minister Fudge clutched at his hat and the brim crumpled under his frustrated fingers. “I’m warning you both, take down this barrier or face the consequences…”



Draco and Ron turned towards the stairs as a new voice sounded. “Blow it out your arse, Fudge.” Ginny stepped into the room and shook her head in response to Ron and Draco’s silent query. She glared at the Minister. “We’re not giving you either Connor or Drusilla. Ron, Harry says to tell you another few minutes.”

 

Ron nodded. “Right you are, Gin. Minister, as soon as Harry gives us the all clear we’ll drop the charm and you can arrest the lot of us.” He folded his arms across his chest and added firmly. “But not one second before Harry says the word.”




 

Dawn glanced around at the sound of a crash from the direction of the common room and watched Harry and Ginny exchange urgent words by the door, before Ginny left the room quickly and disappeared into the corridor. Harry smiled bracingly at Dawn. “She’s gone to give them a hand. Hermione and I will stay here.”

 

Dawn nodded and turned back to her anxious vigil at Connor’s bedside. Drusilla moved gently from side to side in her trance, a small smile flickering over her face, but other than that there was no sign of life from either of the two. Dawn bit her lip and squeezed Connor’s hand between hers. “Please, Connor, please.” And, just like that, her prayers were answered.

 

“I’m sorry.” Dawn nearly missed the faint whisper from the bed, but she felt the feeble squeeze on her hand. Her head came up and she stared in disbelieving joy as Connor blinked blearily at her. “I’m so sorry…”

 

“Connor…” Dawn dropped his hand and threw herself onto his chest, completely forgetting the wound there. “Connor, you’re ok!”

 

Connor winced as his chest gave a warning twinge but forced his arms off the bed and around Dawn’s shaking body. “Yeah. I’m sorry, Dawn.”

 

“I don’t care…” Dawn’s head shook violently from side to side and she pressed her face into his neck. “I thought I’d lost you.”

 

“Never.” Connor blinked back his own tears as Dru rose with a smile from his other side and patted his cheek softly. “I’ll always come back to you.” Dawn lost herself in frenzied weeping against his chest as Connor caught Harry’s eye. “Harry, I…I…”

 

Harry walked forward with a wide smile and clasped Connor’s arm tightly. “Forget it, mate. I’m just glad you’re back.”

 

Connor gave a weak smile. “Me too. Are the others ok?”

 

Harry’s grin widened at the typically Connor question. “Fine. They’re preparing to fight to the death for you downstairs though.”

 

Connor shifted in the bed. “Better get down there then.” He frowned as he felt an unfamiliar sensation against his legs. “What am I wearing?” He slipped one hand beneath the covers and the scowl deepened as he discovered his hospital gown. “Am I wearing a dress?” He struggled to dislodge Dawn and sit up and discovered another interesting piece of information about his current attire. “There’s nothing on my butt! Why is there nothing on my butt?” Connor shook Dawn’s shoulder urgently. “Where the hell are my pants?”




 

Ron was leaning against Ginny, watching the Ministry Auror’s trying to take down his and Draco’s spell and wearing a very annoying grin. “Oh, nice try!” He gave a sympathetic look to the man that had suddenly just had his incisors lengthen down to his toes. “Don’t worry, Hermione’s jinx traps will only last twenty-four hours. She’s good isn’t she?”

 

Draco snorted in amusement as a very, very, small woman suddenly grew a very, very, large head. “She’s bloody evil. Did she think of all those booby-charms herself? Oh, bad luck!” A cursing Auror hopped away as he suddenly turned half man, half kangaroo.

 

Ron nodded and wondered absently when they might be able to grab a bite to eat. “Yeah. She’s been working on protective charms and defensive measures for months now.” A bolt of lightening zapped from the barrier and grounded inches away from Minister Fudge’s feet. The little man leapt into the air with a squeak as Ron scratched his nose and added reflectively. “’Course, her offensive measures aren’t too bad either.”

 

“Let me through!” The room looked around at the sound of a loud American voice and Ron peered over the tops of the Aurors’ heads to see Angel shouldering his way through the wizards, a grim look on his face. “Get out of my damn way.” Angel shoved Fudge angrily out of his path and came up against the barrier. “Let me in right now.”

 

Ron shook his head. “Found you did they? Sorry, mate, no can do.” He jerked a thumb towards the ceiling and shrugged sorrowfully. “Under orders.”

 

Angel vamped out and smashed his fist off the barrier wall, making Ginny scream, the two boys jump and a wizard that didn’t duck the defensive charm as quickly as Angel turn into a small pot of carnations. “That’s my son in there!”

 

“I know.” Ron stepped towards Angel and said sincerely. “And I’m sorry, but we can’t let them take him. Drusilla seems to think she can help bring him back.”

 

“Drusilla can’t be trusted. She’s a demon.” Angel was practically dancing on the spot from frustration. “You’re all in terrible danger…”

 

Ginny interrupted Angel firmly. “We’re always in terrible danger. Drusilla is a demon that has already saved Dawn from dying once this year. Dawn says we can trust her and we believe her. You are not taking Connor out of here.”

 

“You can’t keep me away from my son!” Angel snarled in furious anger. “I want this barrier down and I want it do…” His voice died away as he caught a movement on the stairs and his eyes widened in amazed wonder.

 

Connor grinned as he stopped on the last step with his arms draped over Dawn and Kit’s shoulders for support. “Hi, Dad.” Much happier now the backless hospital gown had been discarded and he was wearing a pair of comfortably familiar jeans and a t-shirt, Connor gave a little wave to the wizards behind his father. “Hello.”

 

“Connor.” Angel managed the brief croak and then had to be satisfied with gaping in shock at his son.

 

“That’s me.” Connor smiled at Ginny as she ran forward and threw her arms round his waist with a whoop of joy. “Hey, Ginny. Guys.”

 

Ron and Draco grinned stupidly at their friend and Ron shook his head mockingly. “Took you long enough. We were about to give up and let them have you.”

 

“Quitter. I’m lucky Draco was here to stop you.” Connor winked at Draco and smiled down at Dawn, glued to his side. “Head for the sofas.” The room was silent as Dawn and Kit walked Connor slowly across the room to the sofas, with Harry and Hermione bringing up the rear and Ron, Draco and Ginny arranging themselves in a watchful line behind the seat to keep an eye on Angel and the older wizards staring at them. Connor arranged himself comfortably on the sofa with Dawn clamped firmly to his side and Kit clutching nervously at his hand and stared at the silent adults. “What’s going on?” He screwed his head back to look questioningly at Ron. “Who’d we piss off now?”

 

Ron grinned goofily at Hermione, who blushed and looked away, before answering his friend. “Everyone. They wanted to take you away.”

 

Connor nodded. “Aah.” He looked down at Dawn clinging white-faced to him.

 

“That explains this then.” He patted her shoulder comfortingly. “It’s ok, sweetie.  I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Dawn shuddered and burrowed closer. “I thought you were dead. I thought I killed you.”

 

Connor’s eyebrows rose. “Let it go, Dawn.” He frowned in thought as more vague memories came back to him. “We went over this upstairs, I think I probably deserved it.” He looked down as his love whimpered and pressed a kiss to her shining hair. “Don’t worry about it, baby, I still love you.” Connor looked up at his father and grinned. “This whole lover’s-fight-to-the-death must seem pretty familiar to you, got any tips?” Angel opened and shut his mouth wordlessly and Connor chuckled. “Helpful as always. Where’s Mom?”

 

“Right here.” Cordelia shoved Cornelius Fudge aside with a sneer of contempt and looked her son over with over-bright eyes. “This idiot tried to tell us that you were gone.”

 

Connor shrugged. “Nearly was.” He jerked his head towards the stairs. “Drusilla came and found me.”

 

“Daddy!” Drusilla clapped her hands together and squealed with happiness. “Daddy is here!” She slipped lightly down the last few steps and twirled in tight circles across the room. “Now we shall be a family and play with our dollies and have cake before bedtime.”

 

“I don’t do dolls.” Connor looked levelly at Drusilla and said firmly. “Come take care of Dawn for me, Dru. I need a word with my dad.” He squeezed Kit’s hand before releasing it with a smile and untangled Dawn’s arms from around his waist as she shook her head in protest. “It’s ok, honey, I’ll come right back.” Connor kissed Dawn’s head again and passed her into Dru’s waiting arms. “I’ll come right back.”

 

With a grunt of effort, and a shake of his head to Hermione as she moved to help him, Connor got to his feet and then moved carefully across to his father. Although his chest was tight, it didn’t feel painful and the shakiness that seemed to have affected him after he had woken had mostly passed. Connor smiled to himself, all in all he felt a lot better than someone who’d had an iron bar rammed through their chest had a right to. “You ok, Dad?”

 

Angel reached out a hand and growled as it bounced back off the barrier. “I thought I’d lost you again. Connor, I…” His throat worked as he tried to find the right words. “I…”

 

Connor took another step and walked through the barrier, voluntarily hugging his father in public for the first time in his entire life. “I know, Dad. I love you too.”

 

He leaned his head against Angel’s shoulder as the vampire crushed his son to his chest and began to weep unashamed tears. “I’m ok. I’m ok.”

 

Cordelia, tears blurring her own eyes, turned to Harry and the others. “Thank you. Thank you so much.” She tried to walk to Dawn and was thrown back with a gasp as she hit the barrier. “What was that?”

 

“Barrier.” Ron glanced quizzically at Harry. “Are we dropping it?”

 

“Probably best.” Harry watched enviously as Connor stood in his father’s embrace. “I think we’re ok now.”

 

Draco eyed the Aurors and the still furious looking Fudge. “Your judgement has a lot to be desired, Potter.” He sidled to the side so he stood firmly between Ginny and the Aurors. “Let’s hope we don’t get to share a cell at Azkaban.”

 

Ron crossed to Hermione’s side and planted himself squarely in front of her. “I second that. On three, Malfoy, you slimy little git?”

 

Despite himself Malfoy laughed and nodded in agreement. “On three, you orange-haired throwback.”

 

Ginny poked his shoulder blades indignantly. “Hey!”

 

Draco winced as he remembered whom he stood protectively in front of. “I see you as more a burnt auburn.”

 

Ginny scowled. “Twat.”

 

“Shocking language, Weasley.” Draco tutted and shook his head. “What would your mother say?”

 

“She’d say, go wash your mouth out this instant, Virginia Weasley.” Molly Weasley pushed past the unfortunate Mr Fudge and stood with her hands braced on her ample hips, feet wide apart. “I don’t know what you children think you’re playing at but it’s stopping right now. Get this barrier down!”

 

“Mum…” Ronald Weasley, veteran of savage battles and self-confident Headboy of Hogwarts school, jumped a mile and flinched in horror as his mother glared across the room at him. “What are you doing here?”

 

“Never mind that, Ron Weasley, you get this barrier down right now or you’ll get more than the back of my hand!” Molly fairly quivered with rage as she swept her eyes over the eight teenagers and one vampire. “I’ve never heard anything like it! Getting in fights with the Ministry, going off to America, stealing sick people from hospitals…”

 

Harry twitched as his de facto mother’s voice rose steadily into a screech and exchanged miserable looks with Ron and Ginny. Ron gave a heavy sigh and nudged Malfoy. Draco, staring in fascinated horror at Mrs Weasley, blinked and nodded warily. The two boys waved their wands and muttered the counter-charm and then nearly fell over each other trying to back away as Molly marched towards them still shouting at the top of her lungs. “What did you think you were playing at?” Ron yelped as his mother fetched him a cuff round the ear and scrambled hurriedly out of range of her next angry swipe. “I told you anymore nonsense this year and there’d be trouble!” Harry’s own ears rang as he was on the receiving end of the next exasperated slap. “The last thing I said to you was not to get into anymore trouble…” Ginny clutched the side of her head as her mother’s hand connected with her ear and then burst into giggles at the look on Malfoy’s face as he received an angry smack around the back of the head that sent him stumbling forwards with a shout.

 

“Do you think this is funny?” Molly rounded on her only daughter and raised her hand again. “You think that hearing my children have gone gallivanting off to another country to fight You-Know-Who again is funny, do you?”

 

Ginny hurriedly straightened her face as Draco stared dumbfounded at her mother and rubbed his stinging ear. “No, Mum. I’m sorry, Mum.” She pointed at the tall, blond swearing a blue streak under his breath behind her mother. “But you just hit Malfoy, Mum.”

 

Molly looked nonplussed for a moment and then rallied admirably. “Well, I’m sure he deserved it.” She glared at the indignant Malfoy. “I thought you had more sense than to get mixed up with this lot.”

 

Draco gave another hard rub to his ear and muttered sulkily. “Me too.”

 

“And Hermione…” Molly began to swell up with rage again. “I thought, out of any of them, you’d have more sense than to go along with this nonsense!” Hermione cringed and edged behind Harry as she became the focus of Molly’s righteous wrath. “Of all the crack-pot, scatter-brained, stupid things to do…”

 

Connor looked round at a light touch on his shoulder and into Cordelia’s eyes. “And don’t think you’re getting away with any of this, young man.” Cordy scowled at her erstwhile son and poked his arm. “I’m just holding off until you’re feeling better.”

 

Connor’s mouth opened wide. “Me? I was unconscious, I had nothing to do with it!” He realised he was looking a little too healthy and tried to look a bit more pale and weak and concluded pitifully. “I was nearly dying…”

 

“Ha!” Cordelia fixed him with her best ‘mom’ look. “Try that on someone that doesn’t know you, Connor Angel. From what I hear there’s plenty that we need to have a talk about.” She tugged him out of Angel’s arms and into her own embrace. “There’s going to be a reckoning, buddy.”

 

Connor looked gloomily over her shoulder at Ron and the others as they cowered before their own maternal nightmare. “Yes, ma’am.”

 

Dawn and Kit watched from the sofa, safe in Drusilla’s arms, as the room vibrated with Molly Weasley’s anger. Dawn sniffled as she watched Connor in Cordelia’s embrace and gripped Dru’s hand tightly. “Thanks, Dru.”

 

The vampire smiled and blew a kiss to Angel as he stared at her cuddling the two girls. “My pleasure, my love.”

 

Kit flinched as Molly reached new heights of fury and ducked her head in case she got dragged into the line of fire. “Their mom is really angry. I’m so glad mine isn’t here.” She looked up as the sound of a throat being pointedly cleared and flinched as she saw Buffy and Spike glaring at the three on the sofa and looking most unhappy. “On second thought, I want my mommy.”

 

Dawn blinked her swollen eyes and sighed wearily. “Seconded. Wake me when we get past the lecture and on to the punishment.” She closed her eyes and leaned her head against Dru’s shoulder. “Probably some time tomorrow.”




 

Two hours later and everyone was settled down for the night. Ron, Ginny, Hermione and Harry had finally been rescued from Mrs Weasley and had been sent to bed with Kit and strict instructions to stay there until told otherwise. Draco had been escorted back to the Slytherin dungeons to spend the night in the guest quarters under the supervision of Professor Snape and Connor had been moved to a small room off the main hospital wing with Dawn flatly refusing to leave his side. Buffy had watched as her sister had followed Connor’s stretcher from the room and called after the two teenagers that she and Angel were going to sort out somewhere secure to leave Drusilla and then both sets of parents would be along to talk to their children. Dawn could have cared less, she had Connor back and all was right with her world.

 

They were happily lying on the narrow hospital bed in each other’s arms when a brisk knocking at the door announced the return of Angel and the others. Connor pressed a kiss to Dawn’s head and then called. “Come in.” Both teenagers grinned as Buffy, Spike, Angel and Cordelia poked their heads into the room. “Dad.”

 

Angel smiled mistily at the warm tone of voice from his son and squeezed Cordelia’s hand tightly. No matter how good he tried to tell himself his relationship was with Connor these days, it always gave him a buzz to realise that Connor felt something for him other than homicidal hatred and disgust. “Hey, son.” He stumbled as Spike elbowed him carelessly out of the way. “Spike!”

 

“Move it or lose it, Peaches.” The younger vampire swaggered forward with a wink at Connor. “Although it’s doubtful anything’s gonna be shiftin’ that load of lard from ‘is arse anytime soon. How ya doin’ Broody Jr?”

 

Connor grinned at the scowl on his father’s face and accepted the rough caress of Spike ruffling his hair. “Ok.”

 

Spike nodded as he moved round the bed and dropped a kiss on Dawn’s head. “Thought so. That bunch of pansies were all convinced you’d be at death’s door and not long for this world, but not your Uncle Spike. Smoke?”

 

Dawn giggled as Spike offered a crushed packet of cigarettes to Connor and received a glare from Buffy and the others. Spike winked at her. “Bunch of poofs.”

 

“Put them away, Spike.” Buffy eyed her vamp with exasperated annoyance and then turned the look on the two teenagers. “Feeling better?”

 

Dawn grinned at her sister and entwined a hand in one of Connor’s revelling in the feeling of it warm and safe in hers. “If we say no, will you not shout at us till morning?”

 

Buffy raised an eyebrow. “What do you think?” She saw her sister’s hand wrapped around Connor’s from the corner of her eye and the white-knuckled grip made her heart clench with sympathy at the horrors the two had endured over the last few days.

 

“That’d be a no then.” Connor smiled at Dawn and then at his father. “Give us your best shot, we can take it.”

 

Cordelia raised an eyebrow and sat on the end of the bed, slapping irritably at Connor’s feet. “What would you like us to take a shot at? The huge fight in the school hall, the dangerous portals opening all over the damn show, the other huge battle in the school hall, with your own side no less, or the incredibly stupid, dangerous, nearly fatal portal trip to Sunnydale that nearly got a bunch of civilians killed along with you?”

 

Dawn blinked and said weakly. “Man, that’s a long list.”

 

“That’s the tip of the bleedin’ iceburg, missy.” Spike raised an eyebrow and wagged his finger for good measure. “You should be ashamed of yourselves, like.”

 

Buffy rolled her eyes at the unconvincing tone. “Could you sound a little more angry and a little less proud papa, please? They nearly got each other killed!” She looked soberly at Dawn and Connor. “Remind me again what the first rule of slaying is?”

 

Connor looked at Dawn and muttered. “Don’t die.”

 

Angel cupped a hand to his head. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that, could you speak up?”

 

Dawn sighed and repeated with Connor. “Don’t die.”

 

“And why is it you two have so much trouble remembering that?” Cordelia’s foot tapped on the stone floor. “Other kids manage to go whole weeks at a time without forgetting how to breathe!”

 

Dawn nestled closer to Connor. “Look who’s talking.”

 

“Don’t even go there, Dawnie.” Buffy’s foot joined Cordy’s in tapping an annoyed tattoo on the floor. “I was seriously considering getting it tattooed on you.”

 

Cordelia reached for something on the floor with a sudden grin. “But fortunately I was there to talk her out of it.” She held up a bag. “We got you this instead.”

 

Angel ruffled Connor’s hair lovingly. “Think of it as highly specialised personal protection.”

 

Connor eyed Cordelia suspiciously as she reached into the bag and drew out two pieces of cloth in Durus Cateanus purple. “What’s that?”

 

Buffy took one from Cordelia and unfolded it. “These are your new handy-dandy, specialised Connor and Dawn fightin’ tops. Voila!” The two women shook their material out with a flourish and beamed at the two on the bed.

 

Dawn blinked and then began to giggle. Cordelia held a man’s t-shirt, whilst Buffy held a girl’s baby-t, but both were inscribed with the same legend in vivid gold bubble writing. “DON’T DIE! ”

 

“Subtle. Very subtle.” Connor shook his head wryly. “Where did you get those from?”

 

Buffy smirked. “That Scottish lady helped us. That’s not all though. Spike?”

 

Spike rolled his eyes but came forward willingly enough to scrape a nail across the palm of his hand and allow a drop of blood to fall on the man’s t-shirt. Dawn and Connor jumped as a voice suddenly bellowed. “DUCK! DON’T DIE!”

 

“Get the hint now?” Cordelia wrapped her arms around the startled Connor and hugged him tightly. “Don’t die.”

 

Connor hugged her back and tried to calm his racing heart. “Got it.”





 

After Angel and the others left Dawn nestled closer to Connor and breathed in the familiar warmth of his skin with a silent prayer of thanks. “I love you.”

 

Connor smiled up at the ceiling and squeezed her gently. “I know. I love you too.” He twisted his head around and kissed her shining hair. “More than anything.”

 

Dawn pulled herself closer still and nuzzled her face into his chest. “If I go all weak and girly will you hold it against me?” Her breath began to hitch slightly. “I think I need to cry again.”

 

Connor felt her begin to shudder against him and whispered. “I can do weak. Just hold onto me.” Long minutes past as Dawn wept in his arms and Connor shed a few silent tears of his own. Finally they lay spent and in exhausted silence. Connor’s hand drifted slowly through Dawn’s hair, tangling the long strands around his fingers as her hand stroked lazy circles on his chest.

 

Dawn bit her lip as she traced his scar. “I don’t think that’s going to fade.”

 

Connor shrugged against his pillows. “I can think of worse things than wearing your mark over my heart.”

 

“How do you do that?” Dawn raised her head and looked into Connor’s eyes. “How do you make everything ok with just a few words?”

 

Connor grinned at her and brushed a hand over her bruised cheek. “Not everything.” The smile faded slightly as he saw the bandages still on her shoulder from his sword attack. “There are some things I can’t make ok.”

 

Dawn pressed her lips to his and whispered. “You missed my heart, but I still get to have your mark. That’s good enough for me.” Her lips drifted to his neck and suckled gently. “I nearly lost you, Connor. I don’t want to do that again.”

 

Connor let out a surprised breath as she slipped her hand down over his chest and stomach. “Dawn?”

 

Dawn pressed closer. “I want you.”

 

“You’re not thinking straight. I…Dawn!” Connor bucked and rolled them on the bed until he was braced over Dawn and holding himself on trembling arms. “I don’t want to hurt you. You…”

 

“Ssh.” Dawn pressed her fingers to his lips and smiled tremulously. “I don’t want you to hurt me either. I just want you to…” A light flush stained her cheeks and she whispered nervously. “I really need to be close to you after…after Carlos and Xander and…I just want you. Do you want me?”

 

Ignoring the throbbing from the wound on his chest in favour of the one in his pyjama pants Connor swallowed and muttered earnestly. “Oh God, yes.”

 

“Then come here.” Dawn slipped her arms around his neck and raised her face to his. “Come here and show me how much.”




 

Professor Dumbledore looked up with a smile as the door to his office opened and Professor Snape and Draco Malfoy walked in. “Gentlemen.” He waved a hand to the two chairs placed facing him on the other side of his desk. “Take a seat.”

 

Draco glanced at Snape and then walked slowly across the room, acutely aware of the portraits of previous headmasters watching and whispering amongst themselves as he sat in one of the high backed chairs. Dumbledore smiled at him. “All better, Mr Malfoy?”

 

Draco stretched his spine and winced slightly as the vertebrae popped but nodded briskly. “Quite recovered, sir.”

 

“Good, good.” Dumbledore steepled his hands under his chin and looked expectantly at the blond boy. “Professor Snape tells me that you wish to discuss something of great importance and you did not feel it could wait until morning.”

 

Draco took another deep breath. “Yes, sir.”

 

“Very well. Proceed.” Dumbledore sat back in his chair and waited for Draco to begin.

 

Draco glanced at Professor Snape almost apologetically and then looked Dumbledore dead in the eye. “Well, sir, it’s about my house…”

Chapter Text

 

Dawn looked into Connor’s eyes as he eased her back on the bed and brushed the hair from her flushed and bruised face, “I love you…”

 

“I love you too. I won’t hurt you.” His voice was low with desire and love as he leant down to nip her lips between his teeth, “It’s nothing that we haven’t done a thousand times before.” His teeth flashed in the darkness, “With one exception.”

 

Dawn ghosted her hand down the bruised, marked skin on his back and then stroked his chest through his bandages. “I know, it’s just…it’s big, y’know?”

 

Connor shook with laughter. “I like to think so.”

 

Dawn exploded with giggles before she could stop herself. “This is meant to be romantic!”

 

“And it will be.” Connor nuzzled the soft flesh of her throat, “I’ve been reading up on this sort of thing.” He let his fingers drift lightly over the small swell of her breasts, grinning at her small squirming motion at the touch, “I’m meant to be all manly and in control.” He gave a sage nod as he captured one delicate earlobe between his teeth. “I can do that. All you have to do is lie there and accept my experienced administra…God!” His eyes crossed as Dawn’s fingers cupped him and rubbed gently through the thin material of his pj’s.

 

“You were saying?” Dawn smirked as she did a little nuzzling of her own. “I believe you were just about to demonstrate how manly and in control you are?”

 

“Ugh!” Connor’s tongue tried to unstick itself from the top of his mouth. “Control won’t be high on my list of priorities if you keep doing that.”

 

Dawn’s fingers flexed. “Who said I wanted control?” She gasped as Connor grabbed her wrist and pulled it above her head to cuff it with her other one in one broad hand.

 

“Wish granted.” His mouth found hers as he pressed against her firmly and drove the breath from her lungs. Stars and sparks wheeled behind her eyes as she tried to adjust to the mouth that was quickly taking everything she had to give and more, without pausing to allow her a moment to find her balance. Her body strained against his as his other hand moved to cup her butt and press their pelvis’ firmly together as he rubbed against her sensitive flesh and she felt the flames of desire lick hotly at her centre.

 

Connor tore his mouth away from hers and made a wet trail down to her throat as he whispered hoarsely. “The first time I saw you I wanted to do this. I saw you standing over that dead demon at camp, hair all tousled with your skin glowing and your eyes laughing into mine and I wanted you naked.” Dawn bucked as he nipped at the skin where neck curved into shoulder. “Every time I’ve had you in my arms or beneath me since then all I’ve wanted is to take you like this.” His mouth moved back to hers as she gasped at the first touch of a hand cupping her breast. “You make me crazy and all I can think about when you get close to me is this.” Connor’s fingers plunged under her lacy bra and with one quick tug ripped the delicate clothing away. “I want to keep you like this forever, safe and warm next to me. I want to protect you.”

 

Dawn licked dry lips as she tried to gather her scattered senses, “Connor…I… I…” Her eyes blinked dazedly, “I don’t think…”

 

Connor’s fingers cupped her cheek and stroked over her bruised skin. “You never do.” In the dim light afforded by the moon streaming through the window he looked down at her still pale face and repeated quietly, “You never do. So impulsive, so reckless…So beautiful…” He kissed the corner of her mouth. “It drives me crazy. Sometimes I have to stop myself from just taking you and branding my claim on you for everyone to see.”

 

“What do you mean?” Dawn shifted restlessly as Connor’s voice deepened and his eyes drifted possessively over her face.

 

“I mean that I inherited more from my parents than good night vision and an occasional need for some supernatural speed.” Connor pushed his groin firmly against Dawn’s and smiled at her intake of breath. “I mean that Angel isn’t the only one to want his mate to recognise his power and possession of her. I mean that sometimes the only way I want you is beneath me and begging for mercy as I drain you of every bit of resistance and will.” Dawn’s eyes opened wide as he kissed her firmly and whispered against her slack mouth. “I mean this first time you get to do nothing but what I want you to do, because I really, really, need to know that I have the control here for once.”

 

Dawn managed to focus for a brief second. “I’m your mate?”

 

“In every way there is.” Connor’s eyes filled with love and he pressed his forehead against hers, as he looked deep in her eyes. “This is for life. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

 

The world seemed to shrink to nothing but the violet eyes boring into hers as Dawn assimilated his words. Carlos’ death, Xander’s loss to the dimensional portal, Kit’s presence at Hogwarts was forgotten in the moment that she heard his low voice whisper forever to her. She didn’t care that she was seventeen, there were whole worlds out there that she could experience and explore, deep inside she felt something click into place and knew that whatever else happened this was true. She belonged to Connor, body and soul, for the rest of her life.

 

“Yes.” Dawn’s lips met Connor’s in a gentle kiss. “I know. This is forever.” She felt his hand release her wrists and pulled her arms down to wind around his neck and pull him closer as the kiss deepened.

 

Connor sighed into her mouth and gathered her closer, sinking his fingers into her hair and cradling her delicate skull in his hands. Sighs and whispers floated through the air as they spent long minutes reaffirming their love and desire for each other and then Connor rolled to bring Dawn on top of him and reached up to pull her top and tattered bra from her body.

 

Her small breasts glinted in the moonlight as he cupped the two mounds of flesh and then he sat abruptly to lick and suck gently at the soft flesh. Dawn bent her head and she pressed against the side of his neck as his warm breath and tongue trailed over his nipples and then she gasped as he curled his tongue around one dusky peak and tugged it gently into his mouth. Her fingers dug into his shoulders as he worried at the sensitive flesh and her mouth opened soundlessly to press against his shoulder while he ruthlessly drove her out of her mind.

 

Connor groaned as Dawn pressed against his crotch and began to rub in time with the pulling of his mouth at her breast and he ached to feel flesh against him instead of the material of their pants. Ignoring her murmur of protest he moved her off him and onto her back on the bed as he quickly tugged off her tattered jeans and white panties and then knelt above her to strip off his shirt. Dawn trailed hungry fingers across the smooth hardness of his chest and stomach as he flipped the catch on his pants and pushed them down his thighs along with his boxers as he moved over her again.

 

Connor’s eyes drifted shut as her hot touch sent reactionary chills down his spine and managed to work his pyjama bottoms off his legs and kick them to the floor. Although they had been naked together before there had never been the same awareness or urgency that there was now they knew they would finally be consummating their relationship. Every sense was heightened as they touched and tasted each other and the smell of their joint arousals was making Connor’s head spin in the cool of the room.

 

Dawn stroked along his torso and then slipped her hand to the crisp curls and his straining arousal. She paused and looked at him shyly, mindful of his earlier statements and Connor smiled gently as he nodded his permission. Warm fingers encircled him, startling him so much with their heat that he bucked hard once against her hand before he could stop himself. Dawn pressed her lips to his chest as he held himself on straining arms above her and mimicked his own actions as she swirled her tongue around his flat nipples. Connor hissed as he lost himself to the bliss of her fingers and mouth, fighting to bring his ‘demon side,’ as he called it, under control before he just plunged into her and took his own pleasure without any regard for her own.

 

Dawn smoothed her fingers over the silky steel in her hand and breathed in Connor’s unique scent. Musk, clean sweat and just the faintest hint of the sun were all mixed together in his pores and she licked and sucked at his chest as the pressure of her fingers increased and she began to move her hand faster against him. “Dawn!” Connor’s arms shook as he fought to bring himself under control and not explode in her hand and bring the moment to a premature close.

 

Dawn nipped at his nipple and thrilled at the dark whisper as he trembled against her, “Mmm?”

 

Connor put all his weight on one arm and gripped her wrist slightly with his free hand. “Stop.” Her mouth moved into a pout as he tugged her fingers away from him and the threat of immediate orgasm faded from a raging fire to a dull pounding in his groin. “Just for a while. I won’t be able to last if you do that.”

 

He pressed his knee between hers and sank down between her spread thighs. Dawn’s eyes widened as she felt him intimately against her most personal place for the first time and she couldn’t help the sudden wary tensing of her body. Connor braced himself on his elbows and stroked a hand through the hair that lay spread on the pillow around her head. “It’s alright. I won’t do anything until you’re ready.”

 

He determinedly forced his mind away from the slick, wet heat that pulsated against his naked flesh and instead concentrated on lulling his love into relaxing beneath him. Gentle fingers stroked along strands of hair as he whispered to her all the words of love that he stored inside him for the moments when she let herself lean against him and show her vulnerable side instead of the cocky, almost brash, exterior that was her usual mantle. He kept his hips still and concentrated on kissing his way around her face, teasing her lips until she sighed and began to relax into his touch. Connor concentrated on her neck for a while as her hands stroked delicately along the line of his back and made him tremble and then moved down until he suckled once more at her breasts. Dawn’s hands never ceased moving as she arched beneath him her fingers plucking restlessly at his hair as he increased the pressure of his mouth and re-ignited the desire inside her.

 

Connor smiled against her skin as she sighed his name and decided that before he thought about entering her there was one more thing he really needed to do. Dawn had only allowed him to taste her intimately once before, shortly before they had been caught using portals to meet up, and he had spent nights dreaming about the feel and taste of her against his tongue ever since. They had been pretty intimately involved one way or another for months but Dawn was inexperienced enough that she was deeply wary of letting Connor perform such intimate acts on her, particularly when she was yet to gain the confidence to do the same to him.

 

Connor breathed in her musky scent as she shifted restlessly beneath him and knew that as much as he wanted to do this for Dawn, he also really needed to do it for himself. He allowed his fingers to slip down to the apex of her thighs as he nipped at the underside of her breast and began to stroke her gently in the way he knew she loved as he slowly dragged his mouth over her ribs and worried at her other nipple with his other hand. The sight of her sprawled wantonly under him as she stared sightlessly at the ceiling above her was ambrosia to his eyes and he gave a smug, masculine smile as he bent to dip his tongue teasingly in her navel. Her stomach muscles tensed under his cheek and he squeezed his hand gently over her breast as his tongue began to skate over her lower abdomen. “Let me do this.” His fingers pressed against her entrance and stroked lightly at her inner walls for a moment. “Please. I really want to do this to you.”

 

Dawn stared at his dark shape looming over her in the moonlight. “Connor, I…”

 

He pressed a light kiss to the inside of her thigh and flicked his tongue against the skin as she hissed in startled pleasure. “Just let me do this and I’ll make it good for you, I promise.” He gave her a few seconds to form another protest, then nodded and pushed her thighs further apart until she lay completely exposed before him. Knowing that she wouldn’t be able to let him lie there and study her as he wanted while she was still so uncertain about her body’s beauty he regretfully promised himself a leisurely exploration at a later date and bent his head to flick out his tongue and press gently at her entrance.

 

Dawn’s eyes opened wide at the soft, wet touch and her hands flew instinctively to Connor’s head as she tried to wriggle away. Connor growled lightly in protest and ignored her weak attempts to move him, lapping gently at her flesh until her hands fell bonelessly to the bed and he could settle down to the wonderful task of discovering her body with his lips and tongue. He nudged her thigh with his shoulder, moving her legs even further apart and edged his tongue higher as he searched for the small hidden part of her that had her crying his name when he stroked her with his fingers.

 

Dawn cried out at the sudden stab of heat as Connor found the spot he was searching for and her mouth went dry as he drew slow circles around and around and had her breathlessly sobbing as the heat built within her to unbearable levels. Connor’s finger eased its way inside her and he began to move it backwards and forwards in slow time with his mouth and tongue as he brought Dawn to the very brink of her orgasm and then, by increasing the pressure of his tongue slightly, pushed her sobbing over the edge and into a maelstrom of sensation as his tongue lapped at the flood of juices from her and moved against the rippling flesh under his mouth.

 

When Dawn was finally calming from his assault on her, Connor raised his head and licked at his lips, savouring her taste and feel of her on his skin. She lay with her head to the side, chest heaving as she shivered with aftershock and he realised if he was going to take her the best time would be now when her body was lax with pleasure and she was still wet from his attentions.

 

Quickly he leaned over and opened the top draw of his bedside cabinet and withdrew the small box that he kept in his overnight bag, thoughtfully sent up by Harry earlier in the evening. Extracting one of the condoms that Gunn had given him before he left LA, he ripped open the foil packaging and clumsily sheathed himself in the slimy rubber. Connor cupped his hands under Dawn’s butt and raised her slightly off the bed. “Dawn, baby, do you still want me?” He refused to even think about what would happen if she said no and waited until her stunned eyes focused on him. “Do you still want me, love?” Dawn licked her dry lips and nodded, tensing nervously as she felt his head press against her and then begin to slip inside.

 

Connor moved slowly, gasping at the heat of her as she stretched around him and watched her face as he pushed his way in. Dawn bit her lip as her flesh burned and she was forced open as the hard length of him began to slip inside. Although his fingers had been inside her more than once, it was a very different sensation to the one of hard thickness that she was now experiencing and her eyes filled with uncomfortable tears as he pushed gently forward.

 

“Are you alright? Am I hurting you?” Connor froze as he scented her tears before he saw them shimmering in her eyes, “Do you want me to stop?”

 

Dawn shook her head and raised a hand to cup his cheek. “No. It just feels strange.” Her breath hitched as he began to move forwards again. “Will you come down here and let me hold you? I really want to hold you at the moment.”

 

Connor hastily covered her with his body as her voice trembled and gathered her close. “Ssh, it’s ok.” He kissed her temple lightly as her arms wound around his back, “I love you.”

 

Dawn gasped as he slipped further inside. “I love you, too. Just don’t let me go, ok?”

 

Connor flexed his hips and squeezed Dawn tightly as he pressed completely inside her. “I won’t. Hold onto me.” He held still for long moments and whispered nonsense in her ear as she adjusted to the feel of him inside her and the weight of him over her. When he felt the dreadful tenseness in her body begin to fade, Connor began to move slowly in and out of her as he took her mouth in long, slow kisses and continued to whisper words of love in a low voice.

 

Dawn was unable to believe that at last she and Connor were finally taking the final step in their physical relationship. Her muscles were still lax from the mind blowing orgasm that he had brought her too with his mouth and now, as the slow motions of his hips eased the last worries she had about the most intimate act from her mind, she felt a new kind of sensation start to flood her body.

 

It wasn’t orgasm, she might not be experienced but even she knew it took more than a poke with a penis to achieve that, especially the first time, but a liquid warmth enveloped her limbs and she found herself begin to drift as Connor stroked himself into to her time and time again with more tenderness and care than she would have believed possible. His hands were cradling her head gently as his mouth sipped from hers like her lips were the finest ambrosia and the feeling of love and almost reverent worship were combining to bring tears to her eyes with just the sheer joy of finally being taken by Connor Angel.

 

Connor kissed her face as a happy tear fell. “Are you sore?” He didn’t wait for her denial and whispered. “Hold on to me.” Dawn gasped with surprise as she found herself rolling with Connor still inside her and then she was lying on top of his chest looking down into his eyes. Connor cupped her surprised face. “I don’t want to hurt you. This way you can stop me if I go too fast or far.” He pushed gently at her shoulders until she sat straddling his hips and then his hands gripped her waist as he urged her to begin rocking gently against him.

 

Dawn bit her lip as she felt the depth of his penetration increase and rocked awkwardly against him. Connor kept his hands on her waist as Dawn tried to find her rhythm and stroked her skin as her internal muscles pulled and tugged at him insistently. He squeezed his eyes shut as she worked him and then arched up suddenly as he felt the unmistakable rush begin in the pit of his stomach. Dawn gasped as Connor’s fingers gripped her tightly and faltered in her movements as he began to piston his hips wildly up against her.

 

Connor couldn’t help the roar that burst from him and he gripped Dawn’s slim hips tightly enough to leave bruises as he bucked helplessly up into her and the world exploded into a confusion of sensation and brilliant colour. Dawn melted against his chest as he finally began to still, pushing her face into his neck as his arms caught her to him and threatened to squeeze the last of her breath from her. “God, I love you.” Connor’s chest heaved and he turned them swiftly to have Dawn under him as he peppered her exhausted face with kisses, “I love you so much.”

 

Dawn cuddled closer and smiled happily, “You’d better. I don’t think I can let you go after that.”

 

Connor laughed and kissed her forehead, “I was pretty special wasn’t I?” He laughed again as she socked him in the ribs and then rolled onto his back to dispose of the condom and bring her to nestle against his heart as he settled against the pillows. “Are you ok? I didn’t hurt you did I? I know it’s not meant to be great the first time.”

 

Dawn winced as she felt a slight twinge as she got comfortable but shook her head, ”I’m ok. I think I feel pretty good all things considered and as first times go it was pretty alright I think.” She blushed and mumbled against his skin. “I know that it’s harder for girls to, you know, and I wasn’t expecting you to do what you did for me.”

 

Connor squeezed her lightly and then laughed, “You want to know something funny?” He waited until he felt her nod and continued, “You remember when we were back in that basement with that insane ex of your sister’s and you said that the key had to be kept pure and stuff to still work?” Dawn giggled as she remembered his plaintive face and response and Connor reached down to pinch her ass lightly in punishment, “I was absolutely convinced that I was going to have to go through life celibate and never know what it was like to be with you like this.”

 

Dawn’s head came up off his shoulder, “What? Connor, that’s not funny, that’s terrible!” Her teeth flashed in the moonlight as she smiled dopily at him, “Or really, really sweet. Would you really never have sex again to be with me?”

 

“Of course. The term is ‘soulmates’ not ‘sexmates’, you know.” Connor met her eyes virtuously for a moment before laughing and confessing ruefully, “But I admit that I much prefer the way things turned out.”

 

Dawn giggled, “Me too.” She smothered a yawn and cuddled her head on his shoulder, “Can I stay here tonight?”

 

“I have the chains ready under the bed if you even think about leaving.”

 

Connor kissed the top of her head and then choked as Dawn replied sleepily, “Maybe next time, sweetie. G’night.”

 

Chapter Text

Fred skipped happily down the corridor that ran alongside the Infirmary, humming a happy tune to herself and idly contemplating breakfast. Her long hair tumbled down her back in a riotous mass of curls and her slender body was clothed in her habitual pants and baby-t. Although deeply concerned about the situation that had brought them to England, she was also quietly delighted that she was finally able to be reunited with Connor. The previous few days had been spent in miserable lethargy as they hoped and prayed for his return and then sheer misery when Angel and Cordelia had reluctantly given permission for him to be moved to London when all hope seemed to be lost for his recovery.

 

When Cordelia and Angel had exploded back into their guest quarters the previous night to announce Connor’s return from the great beyond, Fred and the others had been beside themselves with joy and it was only with the greatest reluctance that they had agreed to wait until the next day to see their boy. Fred had been awake since five, anxiously awaiting the first rays of dawn to touch her window and then minute the sky had lightened she had slipped out from beside the sleeping Gunn and into her clothes.

 

Fred searched the doors as she moved along the passageway and beamed as she saw the name Angel, Connor glowing gold in the weak light. She turned the handle quietly, not wanting to disturb him if he was asleep, and went inside noiselessly. The thick curtains were drawn across the windows and she could just make out the huddled shape of a body on the bed in the light from the flickering fire in the grate. Tiptoeing silently across the room, Fred promised herself just a reassuring look at Connor as he slept; possibly a quick kiss, and then she’d go and wake Gunn and Wesley for breakfast. When she reached the side of the bed, Fred peeped over the huddled mass of covers and frowned disapprovingly at the mass of hair spread over the pillow. When she had taken her turn in trying to wake Connor up in the main hospital wing, his hair had looked a little longer than was normal but nowhere near this length. Fred tutted quietly, it was nearly as long as her own hair and she was…a…girl.

 

Fred clapped a hand over her mouth just in time to stop the startled squeak as she realised she was looking at a girl. A very specific girl. Dawn Summers. Who was cuddled up in bed with Connor Angel. Fred cautiously eased the covers back to uncover Dawn’s shoulder and gave another muffled squeak of horror. Dawn Summers was cuddled up in bed with Connor Angel and apparently both of them were as naked as jaybirds. Backtracking away from the bed, Fred’s eyes were huge in her face. This wasn’t good; this wasn’t good at all.

 

She finally bumped up against the door, fumbled for the handle and then staggered out. Fred stood staring at the door for a moment then turned to slump against it with a low moan…and jumped a mile when she looked straight into Spike’s curious blue eyes. “Aaah!” Fred clutched at her throat, her eyes bugging wide in panicked horror at the sight of Dawn’s adopted father. Dawn’s lean, mean, throat-ripping-out machine of an adopted father. “Spike!”

 

“Fred.” Spike nodded as the thin girl stared at him with terror filled eyes. “You alright, luv?”

 

“Um…yes…why shouldn’t I be alright?” Fred blinked like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck. “I’m fine.”

 

Spike eyed her warily. “You seem…” He looked her up and down deciding tense was completely the wrong adjective to use when referring to the rigidity of her body. “Loopier than usual. Connor alright is he?”

 

“Oh, fine, fine.” Fred nodded vigorously and waved her hand. “Just…fine.”

 

“Right. Need to see ‘im about somethin’ Dru said.” Spike cocked his head to the side and studied her for a moment before shrugging. “Well, I’m just going to…” He reached past Fred for the door handle and she plastered herself against the wood.

 

“NO!” Spike stepped back and Fred shook her head emphatically. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. Connor’s very…tired. He’s very…Asleep, he’s asleep! As in not awake.” She took a deep breath and smiled encouragingly at the vampire. “You should go.”

 

Spike’s face darkened in suspicion. “What’s goin’ on?” He scowled ominously and then sniffed the air. “I can smell you’re lyin’ about something,’ Taco-Belle.” Fred watched in horror as Spike’s face went rigid with fury. “An’ I can smell sex. Is Dawn in there?”

 

Fred put her hands against Spike’s chest and shoved him as hard as she could when he sprang towards her. “NO!” She plastered herself back against the door once more. “No, Dawn’s not in there…” Spike’s eyes flashed yellow and he growled warningly as Fred yelled desperately. “And neither is Connor!”

 

The frantic yell brought Spike up short. “What?”

 

Fred nodded earnestly. “It’s true. Connor’s not in there. The um, the sex is um… well…”

 

“Is me.” Charles Gunn loped up the stone corridor and waved a wooden stake warningly at Spike. “Step off, Sir Broods-less. She’s mine.”

 

“I can smell Dawn…” Spike’s eyes flashed yellow again and his teeth flashed threateningly.

 

“Ye-ees, because Fred just went to tell her that she could move Connor back in before anyone got up. He offered to stay the night in the dorm last night and give Fred and me a little quality time, y’know? Bunkin’ with Wes and Angel ain’t exactly helping me get all romantic.’” Gunn winked at Spike and then for good measure winked at the horrified face of Fred. “You made sure everythin’s all neat as a pin, baby?” Fred nodded dumbly. “Cool. Let’s go get some breakfast. I sure worked up an appetite last night.” With another broad wink at Spike Gunn gripped Fred’s arm and tugged her away from the door. Leaving Spike staring after them Gunn hustled his girlfriend away from the vampire and down the corridor.

 

“Ch…Charles, Connor and…” Fred yelped as Gunn squeezed her arm tightly and practically lifted her off the floor one-handed. They rounded the corner and out of Spike’s sight. “But Charles…”

 

“We bought the horny little bastard some time, Fred. That’s all anyone can do.” Gunn broke into a jog. “If he had any sense the minute he heard Spike talking to you, he woulda locked his fool ass inside that room and got Dawn to portal her butt the hell outta there.” He broke into a full out run as a distant crash sounded behind them, consistent with a vampire bouncing off a heavy wooden door, and a bellow of rage. “Let’s go eat.”






 

Ginny and Kit were sitting talking quietly on Ginny’s bed when a wild-haired Dawn burst through their bedroom door like the hounds of hell were after her and dove for her bedside cabinet. The two girls sat open-mouthed as Dawn feverishly rummaged through the cupboard and then snatched her overnight bag with a shout of relief. Without glancing at either Ginny or Kit she flung open her wardrobe and grabbed fresh robes and school uniform before turning and running back through the door. Ginny turned to Kit. “What was tha…” She looked around as Dawn sprinted through the door again and then raced round the room grabbing every perfume and toiletry aid she could find before legging it back through the door. There was a silence of a few moments and then a scream from Hermione who was taking an early morning bath and was seriously surprised by Dawn Summers kicking down the bathroom door in her haste to get under a shower.

 

Kit looked at Dawn’s undisturbed bed and a look of understanding showed on her face as she looked around the perfume free room and put a Sunnydale two and two together. “Oh!” Kit began to giggle as Ginny shot her a look of utter confusion. “She spent the night with Connor.” As Ginny looked even more perplexed Kit began to laugh harder. “And she so got busted. Spike’s gonna kill her, there’s not enough perfume in the world to stop him smelling Connor on her.”

 

Ginny nodded as she caught up. “Oh. I see.” She smiled happily. “I’m so glad.” Ginny’s cheeks flushed a light pink. “Do you think she knows she forgot to put her clothes back on?”

 

Kit fell sideways onto the bed as her giggles overtook her completely. “Oh God, I hope not. I just wish we had a camera.”

 

The girls turned as a light knock sounded at their door. Harry smiled shyly at Kit. “Hi. Um, Dawn’s dad is downstairs and he’s asking for her. Is she in the shower?” He frowned as Ginny’s blush deepened and Kit began to gasp for breath. “What? What’s so funny?”




 

When Dawn was finally persuaded out of the shower, smelling like she’d been spent the last few hours fermenting in a florist’s, Buffy and Willow had arrived to meet Dawn for breakfast and had been filled in on the situation by a livid Spike. Hermione had taken one sniff of Dawn when she came down the stairs and had flung open the windows to the common room, completely disregarding the heavy rain outside and the brisk wind, and then shepherded the rest of the house out of the room in short order, leaving Dawn to explain why she stank of dead roses and had had been sighted by no less than five different people in panties and tattered vest top as she frantically portalled all over the castle trying to get from Connor’s room to her own ahead of Spike.

 

Buffy fixed serious hazel eyes on her sister and tried to stay upwind of the truly incredible smell emanating from her. “Sweetie, it’s not the fact that you spent the night with Connor…”

 

Spike glowered from across the room where he had been forced to retreat in self-defence as his nose throbbed from Dawn’s counter-measures. “Yes it is! That’s exactly the bloody point!”

 

Buffy cast a dark look over her shoulder at her mate and then included Willow who was trying to keep a straight face as she stood by the fire. “Shut up, Spike. You’re not helping.” She turned back to Dawn. “It’s the fact that you tried to hide it from us.”

 

Dawn glanced uneasily at Spike who was muttering to himself in the corner and making alarming clenching motions with his hands as though imagining throttling someone. “What was I supposed to do? Stick my head round the door last night and say ‘Hey guys, just thought I’d let you know, I’m off to get laid. Catch you later!’” She fixed her sister with a pitying look as Spike snarled viciously in the corner. “I can see that would have gone real well.”

 

“I’m not saying that either.” Buffy bit her lip and obviously chose her next words carefully. “It’s just the last few days haven’t been easy on you and Connor and I wasn’t wild about the idea of leaving you alone with him last night when you were just visiting, if I’d have thought for one single solitary second that you were gonna…”

 

Dawn held up a hand. “Stop right there. Me and Connor aren’t you and Angel.” A small smile flickered across her face. “For a start my boyfriend went evil and I had to kill him before we slept together.” She took Buffy’s hands in hers and squeezed as her sister blinked back tears. “I know this must be weird for you on some level, but at the same time I know this is right. Connor makes me happy.” Dawn looked past Buffy to Spike and smiled lovingly at his surly face. “He makes me Spike happy, not Angel or Riley happy.”

 

Spike tried to hang on to his scowl at her words but in the end settled for curling his lip and scuffing his boot angrily on the floor. “I thought we agreed not to mention that pillock’s name again.”

 

Dawn grinned and nodded apologetically. “Sorry.” She looked back at Buffy. “If I was any other seventeen year old then I’d say you were right, this isn’t normal and I shouldn’t be this invested in one boy.” Dawn sighed and rolled her eyes wearily. “But I’m not normal. Connor’s not normal. No one else in the entire world is going to get us like we get each other. All the stuff that’s happened to us proves that life moves pretty fast and I’m not going to give up the one thing that has my world making sense just because of some stupid numbers.” She smiled brilliantly and finished simply. “I love him.”

 

The only sound in the room for a moment was of Willow and Buffy sniffing back tears at Dawn’s declaration and then Spike sighed heavily. “Bleedin’ hell, I’m not even gonna get to kick his poncey little arse just once am I?”

 

Dawn shook her head. “Nope. Not even once.” She stood and crossed to Spike, who made a concentrated effort to ignore the over-powering stench of flowers emanating from her, and kissed his cheek. “Not even a little bit.”

 

Spike looked into her serene eyes and shook his head. “Fine. But when he decides that he wants to claim you proper like, then I’m gonna make him bleedin’ work for my say-so.” His eyes narrowed as Dawn flushed guiltily and he roared. “He’s bloody claimed you hasn’t he? He’s already bloody done it!”

 

Dawn stepped back as vamp spit flew all around her and coughed uncomfortably. “You need permission for that? Seriously?” She looked round at Buffy. “Did you get permission for that? Nobody told me I needed permission for that.”




 

When Dawn, her sister, her sister’s smirking best friend and her sister’s really, really annoyed vampire finally joined the others for breakfast it was evident that the good news had been spread to one and all. Angel looked like he was sitting on a crucifix and sucking a lemon soaked in holy water, Cordelia was staring with misty eyes at Connor one minute and then biting her lip in concern the next, Fred and Gunn were darting guilty looks at everyone and Wes and Giles were both sitting with sober faces and also apparently sharing Angel’s crucifix. Connor sat between Harry and Ron and looked up with a wide beaming smile as Dawn walked to their table. He stood and moved to take her in his arms. “Ok?” A deeply distressed look crossed his face. “What’s that smell?”

 

Dawn nodded sheepishly. “Yeah, we’re all ok. And the smell would be me.” She wrapped her arms around him tightly and nuzzled into the curve of his neck with a sigh of sheer happiness as Spike snarled behind her. “Obviously Spike needs a little time.”

 

Connor stopped breathing through his nose and pressed his lips to Dawn’s hair as he met Spike’s eyes, flashing wildly between yellow and blue in his agitation. “I’ll take care of her. And did you have to dip her in boyfriend repellent?”

 

Spike curled his lip. “She did that to herself, like. And take care of her? Yeah, right.” He gestured to Dawn’s face and battered body. “You’ve been doin’ a bleedin’ fantastic job so far, pup.”

 

Dawn opened her mouth to pithily inform the two most important men in her life that she didn’t need anyone to take care of her, but Buffy’s hand touched her arm gently and the Slayer shook her head and whispered. “It’s a guy thing. Let Spike have this, at least.” She grinned. “Think of it as his way of walking you down the aisle.” Dawn rolled her eyes but obediently walked away with Buffy as Connor and Spike squared off at each other behind her.

 

Willow giggled lightly at the pained  expression on Angel’s face as Dawn approached and decided the supernaturally powered amongst them had suffered enough. With a quick wave of her hand and a muttered a charm she had Dawn’s natural scent restored and Angel’s everlasting gratitude, the overpowering scent of dead flowers was gone and everyone was, literally, breathing easier.

 

Hermione and Kit moved up to allow Dawn to squeeze onto their bench between them and Hermione gestured the toast in her hand at Spike and Connor. “Will they be ok?”

 

Dawn reached for her own piece of toast and smiled hesitantly at Angel as he handed her the plate. After a moment he smiled back, but his eyes and face were tense with worry as he looked back at his son. Dawn bit her lip and then turned to answer Hermione, making sure her voice carried clearly down the table. “They’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.” She grinned sheepishly at Hermione. “I kinda got married last night.”

 

Hermione had just taken a mouthful of pumpkin juice to wash down the last of her toast and promptly choked as she tried to yell in surprise and swallow at the same time. Dawn patted her frantically on the back as the other girl went a very worrying colour and dribbled most unattractively down her chin and over her robes. “Vamp married, I got vamp married!”

 

Gunn’s jaw dropped. “Holy shit! I thought they just boinked.” He yelped as Fred dug a bony elbow into his side and glared at her. “What? You did too!”

 

Harry and Ron sat frozen in astonishment as Kit squealed and threw her arms around Dawn. “He claimed you? Congratulations!” She smiled sheepishly at the English teenagers as they exchanged gob smacked looks. “It’s a Sunnydale thing.”

 

Dawn returned Kit’s hug and blushed lightly. “We claimed each other.” She touched a hand to her wounded shoulder and smiled. “Already did the blood thing, just needed to make it official.” Dawn snuck a look at Angel and Cordelia. “Connor explained it to you guys, right? You know that we know what we’re doing?”

 

Cordelia returned Dawn’s smile. “Of course, sweetie. It’s just…” She gestured helplessly. “You’re so young.”

 

Connor sauntered over and placed his hands on Dawn’s shoulders as she leaned back into him. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is we found each other and we’re staying together.” His face hardened as he looked around the silent table and then at Spike. “Nothing will take her away from me.”

 

All eyes were on Spike in the breathless silence that followed and he drew the moment out before giving a sharp nod of approval. “Now that’s a claim. She’s all yours, pup.” His  expression was bittersweet as he looked at Dawn and grinned. “May God have mercy on your soul.”

 

Dawn scowled. “Hey!” Before she could form another word a throat cleared behind her. The table turned as one and stared silently at some twenty Aurors that stood in a loose semi-circle blocking their view of the rest of the hall. Dawn shot an anxious look at Harry and Ron as she climbed hurriedly to her feet. “This doesn’t look good.”

 

Ginny took another hurried bite of toast as she stood up. “If I have to get in another fight before I’ve finished breakfast I’m going to be really annoyed.” She frowned as she caught sight of the hall being hurriedly emptied of other people over the Auror’s shoulders and looked indignantly at Hermione. “I was joking!”

 

Hermione wiped sticky pumpkin juice off her chin and stealthily palmed her wand. “I don’t think they are.”

 

Dawn and Connor stood shoulder to shoulder as Buffy took a fast pace forward and put her hands on her hips. “What’s going on?” She looked calmly at the rank of wizards and saw Spike and Angel slip to her left and Cordelia, Fred and Gunn moved to cover the right. Giles and Wesley came up behind her to stand in silent support at her back. “What do you want?”

 

The wizards parted silently to show Cornelius Fudge standing clutching a rolled piece of parchment and then moved just as silently to close ranks again behind him. The Minister of Magic sniffed and unrolled his parchment. “By order of the English Ministry of Magic, I hereby order the immediate arrest and detainment of Harry Potter, Ronald Jonathan Weasley, Hermione Jane Granger, Virginia Helena Weasley, Dawn Summers, Connor Angel and…” He faltered for a moment as he looked at Kit but then finished firmly. “And companion. You will surrender your wands and any weapons immediately and give yourself into the custody of the Aurors.”

 

Dawn glared. “Oh, this is getting way old.”

 

Ron curled his hands into fists and leaned forward to brace them on the table. “What the bloody hell are you talking about, Fudge? On what sodding charges?”

 

The little man drew himself up to his full height, two inches below Buffy in stocking feet, and flushed with self-importance and anger. “Mis-use of dark magic, attacking official Ministry personnel, apparating without licenses, again, the abduction of an official ward of St Mungo’s hospital, consorting with and abetting demons, contributing to the deaths of several students and one professor…” He sneered at the silent group before him, confidence bolstered by the twenty wands pointed at Harry and his friends. “Would you like me to go on?”

 

Giles groaned. “Actually, I beg you to stop.” He grabbed Buffy’s arm as she tensed to spring at Fudge. “No! That will not help, Buffy.”

 

“Don’t worry, Buff, I got it.” Willow smiled serenely and spread her hands to the side. “Just hang on to something.”

 

Dawn shivered as she suddenly felt the unmistakeable crackle of serious mystical power. “Willow…”

 

“Cornelius!” Professor Dumbledore strode through the Aurors with a smile and Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall at his back. “There you are, I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” The benevolent smile washed over Dawn and then others with a twinkle of his blue eyes before resting back on the Minister. “The room you requested is prepared. Miss Rosenberg, I’m afraid I must insist that you remain calm for a few moments longer, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for the situation.”

 

Spike hooked a strong hand in the back of Dumbledore’s robes and jerked the old man’s face down to his. “You fuckin’ bastard. You nearly get them killed, disappear for fuckin’ days so I can’t kill you and now you want to fuckin’ arrest them?” The smooth complexion of Spike’s human face disappeared as his demon one came forth. “I’m gonna bleed you dry, old man.”

 

“Spike, no!” Dawn pushed past Giles and Wesley and hooked an arm around Spike’s throat. “Let him go!” She pulled with all her might on Spike’s neck. “Just…let…him…go!” Spike snarled and then reluctantly let himself be dragged back and shoved to Angel’s side. Dawn shook her head at her sister and the others, particularly Willow. “Just stand down, ok? Give me a minute here.” Another few moments passed but slowly people relaxed their tense bodies. Dawn nodded and looked at Dumbledore. “Sir?”

 

Professor Dumbledore’s eyes shone with humility for a moment at the calm, trusting look in Dawn’s eyes and then he laid a hand on her shoulder as he looked at the rest of her house. “Miss Summers, we have been called to appear before a gathering of the wizard’s council and Mr Fudge to explain ourselves and our actions.” His blue eyes were expressionless as they looked at Ron and Harry and held up his wrists, bound by golden chains and indicated with his head his own escort of Aurors. “Myself, Professor Snape, Mr Malfoy and your good selves are required to attend and present our case before the council and other interested influential parties that the full truth may be known.” A brief smile shone through the white beard. “The time has come for us to reveal our true colours. I ask that you follow Mr Fudge’s orders and decrees to the letter.”

 

Dawn glanced over her shoulder at Connor and then at the rest of her friends. One by one all eyes turned to Ron and they waited silently for his word. Dumbledore and Ron locked eyes for nearly a full minute before Ron nodded and reached into his pocket and drew out his wand. He extended his forearm and laid the thin wood formally on his sleeve as he bowed. “Mr Fudge, my wand.”

 

Connor smiled reassuringly at Angel and then reached behind his back to pull out a long dagger from a sheath at the base of his spine. A quick jerk of his arms had his wrist stakes flying out of his sleeves and then he reached under his robes and produced a collapsible crossbow and a short broad sword. Ron and Harry handed over their wands and copied Connor to produce four more stakes, another crossbow and a small axe between them. Hermione, fighting a hysterical giggle at the looks of incredulous shock on the Aurors’ faces as the pile of lethal weapons on the table grew, laid her wand on the table and bent to unsheathe the dagger she carried strapped to her ankle, the stake she had strapped to her thigh and the two she wore in a shoulder holster. Ginny stared belligerently at Fudge for a moment and then rolled her eyes in annoyance and grudgingly handed over three stakes, one small axe, a length of heavy chain from around her waist and a dagger. Kit reluctantly handed over her stake and a small knife and then glared as Connor reached over and tugged out the onyx chopsticks holding her hair in a bun and revealed two needle sharp stiletto blades. “Traitor.”

 

Dawn divested herself of two stakes, a dagger, another crossbow and a silver knuckleduster. She squeezed Buffy’s arm as she opened her mouth to protest and said quietly. “No, this is our fight.” She winked briefly as an Auror took her little white wand and grabbed her wrists to clap a golden pair of manacles around them. “It’ll be ok, just trust us.” Buffy looked at Angel and Spike as they both snarled ominously and then back at her younger sister. Dawn watched as Hermione and Ginny were cuffed and repeated urgently. “Trust us, Buffy.”

 

Reluctantly the Slayer nodded and moved hurriedly to help Cordelia with Angel and Spike as they vamped out. Connor eyed the Auror chaining him grimly and then looked pointedly at Dawn. “You know what I said about the chains last night?” Dawn grinned questioningly. “I was kidding, sweetie.”

 

Dawn waggled her eyebrows. “Yeah?” She sighed gloomily as the Aurors began to move them towards the exit. “Turns out I wasn’t.”

 

Angel watched as his son and his friends were led off and then looked at the glittering array of weapons left behind on the table. “How the hell did they manage to carry that lot around and still stay upright?”






 

 

None of the veteran Hogwarts students were overly surprised to see that they were led to the seventh floor and down to the corridor that housed the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy’s battered end by trolls. Harry cocked an eyebrow at Ginny as they were marched along side-by-side. “The Room of Requirement.”

 

Ginny, occupied with trying to tread on the back of Minister Fudge’s robes as they walked closely behind him and therefore garrotte the little creep, grunted and didn’t deign to look up. “Great.”

 

Ron, marching alongside Hermione, poked Harry in the back and hissed. “What do you reckon our chances are of changing the ‘requirements’ when we go in?”

 

Harry grinned. “Not much. Anyway I thought you said we’d go along with this?”

 

“Yeah.” Ron smiled bracingly at the white-faced Hermione and slipped her a wink. “That was before I came to my senses and remembered that Dumbledore has single-handedly been responsible for us all nearly dying more times than I’ve had hot dinners.”

 

Connor gave an impressed whistle behind Ron as he walked between Dawn and Kit. “Damn. That’s a lot of hot dinners.” He nudged Kit as she trudged silently at his side. “Ron can eat more than all of us combined.”

 

The dark-haired girl summoned a brief smile but then returned to her gaze to the floor. Connor exchanged a worried look with Dawn and she leant around him to whisper. “Don’t worry, Kit, it’ll be ok. I promise.” Kit gave another brief smile but didn’t reply. Dawn straightened up and leaned towards Connor to whisper. “Keep her close. Are you up for a fight if it comes to it?”

 

Connor blinked in wounded indignation. “When have I ever been not ready for a fight?”

 

Dawn patted his arm placating. “Good point. I’m sorry.” She twisted her head round and caught a glimpse of the American contingent bringing up the rear behind the Aurors surrounding them. “Spike and Angel do not look happy.”

 

Connor glanced back and grinned. “Colour me stunned. They’ll be ok; I could hear Mom and Buffy warning them not to do anything stupid on the way up here. They’re under pain of torture, death and no smoochies for the rest of the year if they say one thing out of place.” He smirked. “It was the no smoochies that cut the deal.”

 

Dawn laughed and then quietened as an impressive door on the right was opened and they began to file through. Her first impression was one of great space and height. Flickering torches lit the walls above the heads of hundreds and hundreds of people stacked into tiered seating before them, all along the wall to the right and also behind them. Against the left wall was a large wooden dock, with steps ascending to its base some four feet off the stone paved floor. Before the dock was a comfortable looking chair on a raised plinth that Mr Fudge marched towards as Harry and Ginny were forced to lead their friends towards the dock.

 

Connor smirked at the highly disgruntled figure of Draco Malfoy already seated there as an Auror unlocked his chains and pushed him up the steps. “Hey, Draco. How’s it going?”

 

Draco looked pointedly at the wizards and witches occupying the spectators’ gallery and then at the Aurors lined up at the base of the dock and commented dryly. “Actually, by your standards, wonderfully well. No one’s tried to kill or cripple me for a whole nine hours. I think it must be some kind of record.” He cleared his throat awkwardly as Ginny brushed past him without speaking and took a seat two chairs away. “Good morning, Ginny.”

 

Ginny glanced at him and then turned to begin a low conversation with Hermione. Connor grinned at his friend and took the seat next to Ginny as Dawn sat down between him and Malfoy. Draco nodded briefly to Dawn and then was left staring speechlessly at her as she brushed a light kiss over his cheek. “Morning, Draco. Sleep ok?” She smiled at his stunned look and nudged him familiarly in the ribs. “Don’t panic, I don’t have cooties or anything.” The smile dropped from her face as she caught sight of Drusilla standing in a large cage at the far end of the dock, wearing heavy looking iron manacles. “Hey, there’s Dru!”

 

Drusilla smiled at Connor and Dawn as they made to stand up again and gave them a broad wink. “Rest easy, dearies, all shall be well.”

 

Dawn gripped the wooden rail of the dock and snarled angrily. “They’ve got you in a cage, Dru. That’s never good.” She twisted her head around to look for Spike and Angel and saw them staring at Drusilla and exchanging heated words. “Do you want me to get the guys to bust you out?”

 

“Oh no.” Dru smiled and shook her chains. “They make such a pretty noise. Sit down, beloved, your granny is quite well.” She pursed her lips and blew a kiss to Dawn as the young girl hesitated. “Sit, little one.” Dawn looked indecisively at Connor and then with one more anxious look at Dru, took her seat.

 

“Ahem.” Minister Fudge smacked the arm of his chair with a little hammer. “I call this emergency session of the Wizard’s Council to order.” He waited until the room quietened and then glared piercingly at the people in the dock. “We call the first of the accused, Professor Albus Dumbledore.”

 

Connor leaned towards Ginny. “We? Who’s we?” He followed Ginny’s pointing finger and saw a row of five serious looking elderly wizards and witches almost hidden behind Fudge’s chair. “Oh.”

 

Harry watched as Professor Dumbledore stood and beamed merrily at Fudge and the silent ranks of wizards. “Good morning!” The old man stood tall and unconcerned in the dock and then started to wave up into the spectators’ gallery. At least half waved back.

 

“Dumbledore! You will show the due respect and reverence to these proceedings.” The Minister glared up at the wizards waving at the old man. “Stop that!”

 

Dumbledore looked surprised and combed casual fingers through his beard. “But of course, Cornelius. I intend to show this gathering the exact measure of respect I feel it deserves.” He winked mischievously at Hermione and waved up to the gallery again without missing a beat. “Molly, dear, I trust you slept well?”

 

Mrs Weasley looked up from watching her knitting and smiled at the headmaster. “Quite well, thank you, Albus. Ron, Ginny, have you all got clean handkerchiefs?” She squinted across the room disapprovingly. “Harry dear, I really do think you might have brushed your hair.”

 

Fudge banged his hammer on the arm of his chair again. “Mrs Weasley, unless you wish to find yourself in the dock with your offspring I suggest you remain silent!” He flushed as Molly looked at him then sniffed and returned to her knitting without deigning to respond to his order. Ginny and Ron grinned proudly at each other as Harry licked his fingers and tried to smooth down his hair. Fudge cleared his throat. “Professor Dumbldore, you stand accused of allowing muggle children into Hogwarts School without informing any but a select few of their situation, endangering the lives and directly contributing to deaths of several students, ignoring missives from the Ministry regarding the situation with the Dark Lord and shamelessly encouraging lawlessness and disrespect towards myself and the rest of the ministry within your student body. How do you plead?”

 

“Guilty, guilty and guilty.” Dumbledore’s pronouncement sent shock waves around the room and the room was alive with protests and outraged shouts.

 

Ron caught Connor’s eye. “Uh-oh.” He slanted a look at his headmaster and then sunk his head into his hands with a moan. “We’re buggered.” Hermione tsked at his language but patted his arm as she looked worriedly between the dignified figure of Professor Dumbledore and that of Fudge, practically bouncing in his chair with malicious happiness.

 

“I see.” Fudged peered over his half-moon spectacles, his nose twitching like a rabbit’s. “Have you anything to say in your defence?”

 

Professor Dumbledore clasped his hands behind his back and rocked on his heels. “Oh, I hardly think that’s necessary, do you Cornelius?” He pursed his lips thoughtfully. “I believe my actions will speak for themselves.”

 

“Very well.” Fudge banged his hammer on the arm of the chair and nodded a couple of Aurors at the base of the dock. “Remove Professor Dumbldore from this courtroom and have him transferred to Azkaban to await formal trial and sentencing.”

 

Dumbledore held up a thin finger. “I’m afraid that won’t be possible, Cornelius. I am here as a representative and advisor for the accused students as well as to answer for my own alleged crimes.” He peered over his own spectacles with a small smile. “You surely weren’t going to leave them undefended in your court?”

 

In the short silence that followed, Harry began to smile.

 

“What?” Fudge opened and shut his mouth and then, alerted by the unhappy murmurings from the public gallery, blustered. “Of course not! This court will be conducted in a fair and even manner, that…”

 

“Capital!” Dumbledore beamed at the discomforted Minister and turned to nod to Severus Snape. “I am, of course, assuming that Professor Snape stands accused of much the same crimes as myself?” Fudge glanced at the charge sheet in his hand and nodded warily; clearly suspicious of whatever Dumbledore was going to say next. “Well, shall we just take it as read that Severus will be pleading guilty along with myself and that he will be only too happy to surrender himself to your Aurors’ keeping once his duties to his house member have been discharged?” Dumbledore clapped his hands together briskly and nodded to Snape to follow him as he made his way from the dock. “We’ll be seated just over here. Too many accused spoil the trial, you know.”

 

“House member?” Fudge sputtered indignantly as the two men made their way from the dock as the Aurors stood around in confusion and made their way to the public gallery. “What house member?”

 

“Ahem.” The quiet clearing of the throat had all eyes turning back to the dock and to the annoyed face of Draco Malfoy. He pointed to his chest where the badge of Slytherin shone against the black of his robes and then raised an eloquent eyebrow at the court. “That would be me. I realise it can be difficult to focus on the lesser mortals when the wonderful Potter is in the room, Mr Fudge, but in the interest of a fair hearing I really must insist we all get the same treatment.” Draco folded his arms across his chest and rolled his eyes to the ceiling as he muttered under his breath. “Pillock.”

 

Ron grinned and nudged Harry. “Y’know, aside from the whole Death Eater/slimy git thing, he really starts to grow on you after a while.” Harry, smarting from Draco’s crack about his fame, grunted and glared at the blond boy.

 

Draco looked disgusted. “You take that back right now, I don’t grow on anyone!”

 

Dawn patted his arm consolingly. “I think he meant like mould.”

 

Looking slightly mollified, Draco shot one more annoyed look at Ron. “He’d better do.”

 

Dumbledore seated himself in the front row of the gallery next to the severe figure of Professor McGonagall and waved a hand at Fudge as Snape seated himself with a glower and flurry of robes. “Carry on, Cornelius. I took the liberty of enquiring what I can expect for lunch at Azkaban and I understand it’s a rather runny gruel.” He gave a jolly smile. “I’m quite looking forward to it.”

 

Fudge gave the beaming headmaster a poisonous look. “Very well, Albus, although I must insist that your input into these proceedings remains limited to advising your students. I will not tolerate any further rabble-rousing or inflammatory actions on your behalf.”

 

Dumbledore waved an unconcerned hand through the air. “Quite right. Proceed.”

 

The Minister gave the other man another glare and then turned his attention back to the students in the dock. “We’ll start with Mr Angel.” Fudge peered over his glasses. “What is your relationship with the accused?”

 

Connor looked at the Minister and then at the line of people standing beside him. “Which one?” He pointed helpfully to the range of suspects. “Only there’s quite a few and I don’t want to get the wrong one.”

 

Ginny stifled a giggle and saw Hermione hastily bring a hand to her mouth and fake a cough as she smothered a laugh of her own. Mr Fudge glared at Connor. “Are you trying to make a mockery of this court, Mr Angel?”

 

“No, sir.” Connor looked shocked and shook his head. “You’re doing that quite well on your own without any help from me, sir.”

 

It took a moment for the insult to register but when it did, Connor and the others had the satisfaction of seeing the Minister go purple in under three seconds and momentarily lose his voice from rage. Connor grinned and waved to his dad as Angel made valiant attempts to keep his own face straight.

 

Fudge took several moments to get himself under control and then hissed barely audibly. “Your relationship with Miss Summers. Clarify your relationship with Miss Summers.”

 

It was on the tip of Connor’s tongue to ask the Minister to speak up but he reluctantly decided that would be pushing his already shaky luck. “Mate.”

 

“I beg your pardon?” Mr Fudge sneered. “Do you mean friend? You need to be clear for our records.” He gestured to the frantically scratching quill that was recording their every word faithfully.

 

Connor sneered back and did a considerably better job of it. “No, I mean mate. As in life partner.”

 

Fudge sniffed. “I see.” He shot a disapproving look at the gallery where Buffy and the others sat and then carried on. “Very well. Now perhaps you’d like to explain how you were…”

 

Connor leaned forward. “And niece.”

 

Fudge abruptly lost his place in the conversation. “Pardon?”

 

“And niece.” Connor pointed to his expressionless girlfriend and continued earnestly. “Dawn. Also my niece. Well, technically my great-niece, because otherwise the whole mate thing would be…tacky, but still, niece. Is that specific enough for you?” Up in the gallery Giles dropped his head into his hands with a small, heartfelt groan.

 

“She…she…you’re related?” The Minister stared incredulously between the two brunettes.

 

Connor nodded. “Oh yeah.” He pointed up to Angel. “See, that’s my dad.” Angel waved. “Drusilla’s his childe, which makes her my sister.” Dru dropped a curtsey and clanked her chains. “Spike’s her childe.” Spike flipped Fudge the bird and got slapped by Willow. “And he claimed Dawn as his childe a couple of years back, which makes her my great-niece.” Connor smiled and finished merrily. “It’s all very simple really.”

 

Dawn peered at the blurring quill and asked politely. “Did you get all that or would you like him repeat it again slowly?”

 

“But…but…” Minister Fudge stared wildly between Connor and the Californian group either smirking or glaring at him. “But…you…the Slayer…”

 

Connor shook his head. “Oh, I’m not related to her. Well, not by blood anyway. That one’s my mom.” He pointed to Cordelia who glowered at the little man on the plinth. “My dad claimed her as his mate. My birth mom died having me. She was also my grandmother.” Connor paused and thought for a moment.

 

“Although, technically, she was sired by Drusilla as well so that would also make her my niece. Buffy’s only related to me because she’s Spike’s mate. You remember, he’s my nephew.” Willow grabbed for Spike’s hand but wasn’t quick enough to prevent another defiant flick of his fingers as Fudge looked dazedly up at him. Connor paused and cocked his head to one side as another thought occurred. “Although I believe Dad did claim Buffy way back in the day. I suppose she’s also kinda my sister. Or is it another mother?” Connor looked worriedly up at the gallery. “Does that one still count? Only if it counts, then that makes Dawn my niece, my aunt and my sorta sister.”

 

Dawn looked alarmed. “Eww. That’s not good.” She looked at Ginny who was screwing up her nose and eyeing Connor with distaste. “I am SO not being his sister.”

 

“Si…sis…sister?” Fudge was looking more distressed by the moment. “Miss Summers is now your sister?”

 

Connor looked up at Angel, Buffy, Giles and Wesley who had gone into an urgent huddle as Spike and Cordelia tried to work out the family history on their fingers. “Um, possibly. Give us a minute.” He watched his father for a few moments and then slapped a hand on the dock. “Wait, I think it’s ok. Dad’s claim was kinda accidental, I think.” Giles and co looked around hopefully with Buffy and Angel nodding vigorously in agreement. “And Dad’s claim on Mom and Spike’s claim on Buffy was made with everybody knowing exactly what was happening and agreeing to it?” There was more vigorous nodding from the gallery. “So that cancels out the claim that got made by mistake, right? If Dawn was made out of Buffy, even if that kinda makes Dawn Buffy’s kid, then that means that all previous claims were null and void when Dawn got made, right? The monks only made her Buffy’s sister so it wouldn’t look weird the Slayer having a kid. So, I think we’re ok, definitely not my sister, unless…”

 

Dawn slapped a gentle hand over his mouth. “Stop right there, Einstein. I’m running with it. You guys happy to go with that?” Giles and the others put their heads together briefly and then, looking mightily relieved, all nodded. Dawn frowned at Connor. “Sweetie, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Stop helping.” She shook her head as Connor opened his mouth to protest and repeated firmly. “Stop. Helping.”

 

Harry nudged Ron. “So if Buffy’s her mother then what does that make Angel again? I think I lost track somewhere.”

 

Ron’s brow crinkled and he surreptitiously made use of his fingers as he tried to work it out. “Her grandfather, I think.”

 

Hermione sighed irritably and gave Ron and his fingers a scornful look. “Her great-grandfather. It makes him her great-grandfather.”

 

Draco raised an elegant eyebrow. “Adds a whole new meaning to the term ‘purebloods’ doesn’t it? Talk about keeping it in the family.”

 

“Yuck.” Ginny curled her lip at Draco and, unintentionally, gave him a very happy moment. “That’s disgusting.”

 

“What?” Draco spread his hands and tried to think of something that would make her do that wonderful thing with her mouth again. “I’m just saying there’s not a lot of point in going looking elsewhere if you’ve got totty like that at home.” He sighed happily as Ginny’s mouth pursed and then grinned shamelessly at Connor as the other boy rolled his eyes knowingly.

 

“Remind me again why we let him tag along?” Ron eyed Draco in disgust. “What purpose does he serve exactly?”

 

“Order!” The courtroom focused on Fudge as he banged his little hammer hysterically. “This court will come to order!” The court did indeed come to order, although Willow did have a tough time forcing Spike not to flip a cigarette he’d broken off at the base to create a butt and then lit at the Minister. Fudge straightened his hat, which had slipped to the side slightly. “Miss Summers, are you saying that the elder Ms. Summers, your sister is in fact your mother?”

 

Dawn nodded. “Yep.” She waited until Fudge settled back in his chair with a wary nod and then added gleefully. “Only kinda not. My mom is my mom, Buffy’s just kinda the raw parts they used to make me.”

 

Fudge closed his eyes and whispered faintly. “Make you?”

 

Dawn winked at Connor and propped a negligent hip against the wall of the dock. “Uh-huh. We’re being specific, right?” She didn’t bother waiting for an answer and with an evil smile at Connor swept on. “I’m like thousands of years old, or four if you’re going to get human about it, and I’m really this glowing green energy ball all squashed up in this body. There was this crazed hell-god called Glory and she wanted the key and then monks, the ones that made me, stuffed all the key-y goodness into me and sent me to Buffy and mom so they would protect me.” Dawn sucked in a breath and tried to ignore the muffled snorting from Ginny and Hermione as they attempted to subdue more giggles. “So she found me and used me to open the way to her home, but Buffy killed her and then had to go jump so she could, like, save the world and stuff and then I got killed a couple of months back and it turns out that I don’t need to bleed to be the key; I just am, so that was pretty cool.” Dawn nodded to herself. “I think that’s it. Oh, I used to have blue eyes but they’re green now. It’s because I’m the Key. It’s a whole big thing.”

 

Harry couldn’t prevent the huge grin that stretched across his face as a muscle began to tick in Fudge’s chubby chin and he swapped smirks with Malfoy before he realised that he had done so. Recognition dawned at the same time with each boy and they hurriedly looked away from each other, scowling furiously at opposite ends of the room. Dawn nodded affably to the Minister. “If you gave us some paper we could make you a diagram to make it a bit easier.”

 

Malfoy sighed gloomily and settled back to close in his chair to allow his eyes to drift closed. “I can see this is going to take some time. Wake me when it gets interesting.” One eye popped open to fix scathingly on Fudge. “Or that old fool drops dead. Whatever comes first.”

 

Chapter Text

 

The large courtroom was silent as a thin, nervous looking man read from a strip of parchment that trailed behind him for six feet on the floor and looked to have at least another foot rolled up. The atmosphere was one of tense speculation and attention and a breathless hush had fallen over the riveted wizards and witches. Well, aside from the bored ones in the dock.

 

“You know, before I got mixed up with you lot, this sort of thing hardly ever happened to me.” Draco looked at the panel of judges and Cornelius Fudge with a jaded eye and then at Connor. “Why do you think that is?”

 

Connor shrugged and continued to stroke Dawn’s long hair. “Just lucky I guess.” He blew out a long breath and nudged Kit. “How long has it been now?”

 

Kit looked up from where she was peeling black nail varnish from her fingertips and shrugged. “I don’t know, my watch is on the fritz, an hour maybe?”

 

Ginny ground her teeth irritably. “And they’re still reading the charge sheet?” She snuck a look at her mother who was looking more thunderous by the minute. “Mum’s going to explode if they don’t stop soon.”

 

Ron stretched his arms above his head with a yawn and waved cheerfully at Fudge as the Minister glared at him. “Well, at least she knows we’ve been keeping busy.” Even Draco couldn’t help a snort of laughter at Ron’s dry remark and the others clapped hands hastily over their mouths to muffle the giggles as the Minister and the judges glowered ominously. Dawn caught Giles’ eye as she turned her head to hide her smirk and hastily straightened her face to reflect as suitable expression of sombre concern at his fierce glare. Apparently having a good time at one’s own trial was a strict no-no in the mother country.

 

Harry suddenly sat bolt upright as the doors to the courtroom opened and a familiar squat figure walked hastily through them. “Oh no, not her.” Ron, Hermione and Ginny lost all urges to laugh along with Harry as Dolores Umbridge, former Hogwarts Defence of the Dark Arts professor, Headmistress and High Inquisitor scuttled towards Minister Fudge wearing her trademark pink alice band, cardigan and a hunted look. The reason for the hunted look quickly became apparent as Peeves, the Hogwarts poltergeist floated through the door after her and took aim with a handful of fresh, steaming dung.

 

Dawn squinted at the ugly little woman. “Who’s she?”

 

Ron’s face was a picture of misery. “You know we thought things couldn’t get any worse?” Dawn nodded warily. “They just did.”

 

Draco flashed a smug grin. “Speak for yourself, my day’s looking up!”

 

“PEEVES!” Professor Dumbledore’s voice thundered through the room. “That won’t be necessary, thank you.”

 

The little ghost hovered in mid-air and scowled with disappointment. “But Professor, I went and got it from the hippogriffs fresh this morning.” He sniffed the clump of dung in his hand appreciatively. “I thinks they ‘ad some goblins for their tea last night, it’s lovely and runny.” As if to prove his point something green and liquid dropped to the floor. Peeves leered at Umbridge. “It’ll look beautiful against that lovely wool, it will.”

 

“That will do, Peeves.” Dumbledore nodded at the little man with a good-humoured smile. “Float along, now. I believe Myrtle would like some extra help in her bathroom this morning.” Peeves hesitated for a moment and then with a last menacing cackle at Umbridge exited the courtroom, leaving a pungent smell of hippogriff crap in his wake.

 

Kit looked after the retreating ghost and then directed a dark stare at Dawn and Connor. “Y’know, when I don’t find things like that surprising anymore, I know I’ve definitely spent way too much time with you guys.”

 

Connor clapped an appalled hand over his sensitive nose and tried not to gag. “Tell me about it. Give me blood and guts any day.” He saw Spike and Angel both looking revolted in the gallery and exchanged disgusted looks with them. “Has anyone got any mints?”

 

“This session of the Wizard’s council would like to call Dolores Umbridge to the witness stand.” Fudge looked positively rapturous as he motioned with his wand and a tall, slender witness box appeared out of nowhere. “Miss Umbridge is a witness for the prosecution.”

 

Hermione glared fiercely as the hated woman scuttled forward and climbed onto the platform. “No, really?” She exchanged a grim look with Harry and folded her arms petulantly across her chest. “I’m shocked.” 

 

Ron waited until the courtroom fell silent and Umbridge had just opened her mouth to speak and then began to click his tongue loudly as he imitated the sound of a horse's clopping hooves. The effect was instantaneous and dramatic as the woman turned grey and nearly fell off her perch with the force of her flinch. Ripples of confused laughter spread around the courtroom as Umbridge’s alice band slipped over her eyes and she flailed blindly before clutching at the wooden bar before her like it was a lifeline. Harry laughed and clapped Ron approvingly on the shoulder. “Nice one, mate.”

 

Connor raised an eyebrow as the squat woman managed to right herself and pushed her hair band back into place. “And surprisingly effective. Is that some weird magic thing?”

 

Hermione resisted the urge to stick her tongue out as Umbridge glowered furiously at the dock and instead answered Connor’s question. “Unfortunately not. She came to Hogwarts a couple of years ago and made everyone’s life miserable until she got kidnapped by some centaurs.” An evil little smile crossed Hermione’s usually kind face. “Now every time she hears horses’ hooves she panics.”

 

Dawn’s eyebrow lifted appraisingly. “Every time?” She leaned back in her chair thoughtfully as she caught the malicious glint in the woman’s eyes as she looked at Harry. “Good to know, keep that in mind people.”

 

Minister Fudge darted a dark look at the casually chatting teenagers and then transferred his attention back to the woman in the witness box. “I’d like to thank you for coming here today, Miss Umbridge, and braving the site of so many unpleasant memories.” Professor Dumbledore blinked innocently as both supreme judge and the witness looked accusingly at him. “I would like you to tell me in your own words exactly what happened the last time you were at this school.”

 

“Hem Hem.” Harry’s teeth ground together at the familiar irritating sound of Umbridge clearing her throat and promised himself whatever happened to him, he would make sure that when she left Hogwarts this time he’d personally see to it that she did it covered in fresh centaur dung as it was squeezed out by a herd of pursuers and thrown by himself and the others. “I came to Hogwarts as a Defence against the Dark Arts professor when my predecessor had been discovered to be a spy for You-Know-Who. When I arrived at the school I found it to be run in direct contravention to the Ministry’s directives and wild rumours and scandal mongering was actively encouraged amongst the staff and students by Professor Dumbledore.”

 

Ron, privately impressed that he’d managed a whole thirty seconds before his temper snapped, leapt to his feet with an angry shout. “That’s because he knew the truth and the Ministry were a bunch of cowardly, spying toss-pots! You might as well have been working for bloody Voldemort for all the use you were, you old bag!” He looked down as Hermione and Harry grabbed his arms and tried to yank him down to his seat. “What? She is!”

 

Ginny looked at her scarlet-faced brother and nodded in agreement. “He’s got a point.”

 

Hermione shot Ginny an annoyed look and tugged at Ron’s arm. “This isn’t helping!” She jerked her head at Fudge and Umbridge as they exchanged gloating looks. “You’re giving them exactly what they want.”

 

“Hem, hem.” The eyes of the court fixed on the malevolently satisfied face of Umbridge. “This is precisely the kind of thing I was talking about. The students in this school run amok, led by Potter and his friends and wilfully encouraged by Professor Dumbledore. They have no concept of their correct place in the community and knowingly consort with the worst our society has to offer. Why, in my time here I was unfortunate enough to have to rub shoulders with giants…”

 

“Stop right there!” Hermione shoved Ron back onto his seat and proceeded to ignore her own advice in spectacular fashion as she pointed a shaking finger at the rotund woman. “If so much as one word passes your lips defiling Hagrid’s character or anyone connected with Professor Dumbledore in or out of this school, I will personally see that every foul, evil thing you did whilst at Hogwarts is made known to the magical community.” Hermione gestured wildly with her arm to indicate the public gallery and nearly knocked Harry’s glasses off. “There’s quite a few parents up there that will be only too interested in how their children were treated by you and what ‘discipline’ measures you thought were appropriate.” Hermione bunched her hands into fists and leaned them on the rail of the dock staring at Umbridge like they were the only two in the room. “I will bury you if you give anything but the true facts of your time with us, are we clear?”

 

Dawn shared an impressed look with Ginny. “Goddamn!”

 

Draco caught Connor’s eye and whispered in the tense silence. “Am I the only one feeling a pressing need to change my underwear?”

 

Connor stared open-mouthed at Hermione and shook his head. “Nope.”

 

“Miss Granger, are you daring to dispute Miss Umbridge’s suitability as a reliable witness?” Fudge blinked wildly at the furious figure of Hermione. “She is one of the most respected…”

 

Hermione’s voice cracked like a whip across the room. “I’m willing to be cross-examined under Veritaserum, is she?” The eyes of the court swung to the flushed, pink face of Dolores Umbridge as Hermione finished in cold satisfaction. “Then I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions. Sir.” Hermione sat down with a thump between the startled Ron and Harry and folded her arms as the court exploded into uproar. “Next witness, I believe.”

 

Ron and Harry stared at each other over her bristling head and swallowed in uneasy unison. A brief, silent battle of wills was fought until Harry reluctantly placed a hand on Hermione’s arm and then promptly flinched back when she turned narrowed eyes on him. “Alright, Hermione?”

 

“Fine.” Hermione bit the word out and her eyes narrowed still further. “Any reason I shouldn’t be?”

 

“No.” Harry swallowed again. “No reason.” He tried a nervous smile. “It’s just the last few days have been a bit tense…” His voice failed him as Hermione’s face tightened still further and he finished weakly. “No reason.”

 

As Dolores Umbridge began a furious exchange with Minister Fudge and the noise in the courtroom skyrocketed, Professor Dumbledore allowed himself a brief smile and cast his eyes to the dock and the teenagers there. Things were progressing very nicely indeed.




 

Much to Durus Cateanus’ satisfaction, Dolores Umbridge left as swiftly as she arrived after Hermione’s challenge and they settled back a trifle complacently to await the arrival of the next witness against them. Draco was idly watching the play of light on Ginny’s hair as she talked quietly with Dawn and only realised that the second of Fudge’s witnesses had entered the room when he heard Ron swear viciously behind him. He turned his head and was somehow unsurprised to see his father stride towards the witness box. Father and son’s eyes met and held for a long silent moment before Lucius stepped up and faced Mr Fudge.

 

Dawn frowned as she placed the ice-cold face, mentally stripping it of the lumpy boils that had been adorning it the last time they had met. “Hey, isn’t that…”

 

“Yeah.” Harry felt his blood begin to boil again. “Malfoy’s father.” He ground his teeth at the supercilious look Lucius directed his way. “The way this is going they’ll be calling bloody Voldemort as the next witness.”

 

Connor snorted and darted a worried look at Draco before muttering. “Is there anyone you guys haven’t managed to piss off over the last few years? Y’know, someone who might actually like us?”

 

“I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head.” Hermione answered absently and looked uncertainly between the two expressionless faces of the Malfoys. “Draco, are you alright?”

 

“Certainly.” Draco looked away from his father and surprised both himself and Hermione when he gave her a tight smile. “I’m perfectly fine.”

 

Connor’s hairs rose on the back of his neck and he felt an uneasy shiver roll down his spine, he darted a look up at his own father and saw Angel muttering to Spike as both vampires eyed the new witness. Angel’s dark eyes moved to Connor when he felt his son’s look and he raised a questioning eyebrow. Connor shook his head and mouthed. ‘Not Good. Will you back me?’

 

Utter surprise crossed Angel’s face at the fact that Connor felt he even needed to ask and he mouthed back ’Of course.’ Connor blinked at the ready answer and then a huge grin plastered itself over his face. Angel grinned back until Spike thwapped him round the head and rolled his eyes between the two. ‘Pillocks!’

 

“State your name for the record please.” Minister Fudge wasn’t looking quite so delighted to be in close proximity with Lucius Malfoy but an aura of eagerness surrounded him none the less.

 

“Lucius Malfoy.” Lucius swept cold eyes over the room and then stared back at the dock where his only son and heir was cosily ensconced with Harry Potter and friends. “Father of Draco Malfoy.”

 

Connor, still having deep feelings of misgivin