An Omnipotent Aunt - Or Not.
"Morning, sweetheart," Nix greeted, sitting next to Dawn at the Gryffindor table. Despite her efforts to wait for her friends, Dawn's roommates had dragged her down for breakfast some ten minutes earlier, claiming the need to get to know each other. To be honest, the Key was finding the room-sharing all to familiar – there were moments last night she could almost have believed that she was back in Sunnydale, in the overcrowded Summers home when it had become host to the Potentials last year. Luckily, the waves of sadness at the loss of the girls went unnoticed – let no one say playing poker with Spike had taught her nothing. And at least everyone had their own (ridiculously big and comfortable) bed.
"Hey, Nix," she replied, as he wrapped an arm round her back to give her a half-hug. As he released her, Dawn caught sight of the rest of the seventh year girls 'aww'-ing the display of affection, and she knew instinctively that she'd be subject to another round of questions about her friendships with the boys as soon as the girls were alone. In some respects, Hogwarts really isn't that different to Sunnydale High, Dawn mused, half-smirking.
"Sleep well?" he asked, and she felt like hitting him – Buffy had told them that the first night wouldn't have any nasties to speak of, as there tended to be a mass demonic exodus at the start of the summer – no less easy prey, and nowhere near as much magic to feed off, so they could have a night off. The only night off they'd be getting in the foreseeable future, Dawn knew. There was one thing she'd have to hope changed: her roommates weren't exactly early to go to bed last night, and to stay inconspicuous in her absences, she'd either have to be in bed when they went to sleep and sneak out afterwards, or use a heavy-duty illusion and Disillusionment charm to slip out earlier in the evening, after claiming an early night. The latter trick couldn't be done with any regularity – how many early nights can one teen need? – so she was sincerely hoping it was just the excitement of the first night keeping them up past midnight. After all, the later they could start patrol, the later they got to bed afterwards, and the less sleep they all got. Nix's situation would be a little different, having two roommates who were well aware of the excessive sneaking out he'd have to do – but then again, the twins seemed determined to follow them, so that may not be a blessing.
Across the Hall, she saw the entirety of Slytherin House enter in one long line, Connor near the front with the other seventh years. They were flanked by what was probably the Prefects, and filed down the table, seventh years at the head, and the pupils decreasing in size away from them. The House sat in unison, and Dawn's eyebrows shot up as Connor sent her a roll of the eyes, and she muttered:
"What are they, drilled?"
"No one's ever figured it out, so maybe. But they do that every day, and every year," Alicia Spinnet told her, leaning over the table.
"In first year, I thought they were robots," Sophie Lewis, the one Muggleborn in Dawn's dorm added, causing those who had any idea of what robots were to laugh, namely Dawn, Nix, Angelina, and Jack Warner, (the seventh year boys Prefect, though he was hardly a Percy, but with the other options being Fred, George and Lee, he won hands down). Alicia, Lee and the twins were all Purebloods, and looked at them as if they'd come from another planet.
"Sorry, it's just… the image…" Jack managed to get out between chuckles, but eventually succumbed to the mad laughter of the rest, who were nearly rolling around on the benches. Eventually, they regained composure, Angelina wiping at her eyes as she said:
"May have been a little pre-class hysteria there…"
"Evidently so, Miss Johnson. I would hope that you are more composed when I see you in class later today," a stern, but vaguely amused voice came from above them, and they all schooled their features into the nearest thing to contrition they could manage on seeing the Deputy Headmistress, their timetables in hand. "And while I am not against students laughing, such displays of merriment can usually be achieved without nearly falling on the floor, can they not?"
"Yes, Professor. Sorry," Alicia answered, blushing slightly.
"Try and control yourselves in future. Here are your timetables – Miss Potter, Mr. Selva, you have two weeks to finalise on your courses. Oh, and congratulations on your results," their Head of House finished, before moving on to the next group. Fred instantly stole Dawn's timetable, looking at it and grimacing.
"I haven't finally decided my subjects yet," Dawn defended herself, seeing the twins shared look of horror.
"You have no free periods," George countered, looking her as if she'd grown an extra head.
"Well, I couldn't pick until I'd at least had one or two lessons of each, could I? I'm going to drop some, don't worry," Dawn replied archly.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Fred muttered sarcastically, rolling his eyes.
Dawn tugged it back to herself, scanned it and laughed. As the twins stared at her as if she was completely insane, she said:
"This is way lighter than my timetable last year! God, I thought I had ten hours of classes a day, the way you two were carrying on."
"That is light?" Fred asked incredulously, both twins' eyebrows raised almost into their hairlines.
"High schools have pretty full schedules," Nix shrugged, adding, "This is laidback, comparatively."
Two hours later, Hogwarts' Potion Lab, the Dungeons.
"Laidback, I said. HA!" Nix muttered, glaring at his cauldron.
"Chill, moron. It's just Chemistry, and cooking," Dawn hissed back, neither daring to distract themselves from their potions to use mind-speak.
"Neither of which I'm very good at," the princeling shot back, almost growling. Across the room, Connor's shoulders shook with suppressed later – despite the conversation not being discernable to human ears, and so safe to continue in Snape's realm, the half-vampire teen could hear every word, and was occasionally throwing his opinion in.
"Understatement," Connor muttered, gaining him a half-smirk and a swear word.
"You're hardly doing better yourself, Aurelius," Nix fired back once he'd recovered a little composure. Dawn shook her head, giggling too softly for anyone else to hear.
"Hush up, now, Sunrise," Connor hissed, ignoring the angrily muttering Shade. "This isn't easy for everyone, you know."
"Sorry, it's just… you're both over-concentrating. This is instinctive, in a way. You know what effects things have, what'll blow up when mixed, and you combine whatever'll do the job best."
"So what, we just throw whatever in?" Nix asked incredulously.
"No, but… think about what's going in. The instructions are generalized, they have to be. But no two samples of an ingredient will be precisely the same, so you have to use a little judgment. Like use four little beans, or two big ones, if the book says three," Dawn answered thoughtfully.
"And how the hell do we tell a big bean from a regular one?" Connor muttered irritably. The Destroyer was not the most patient of beings at the best of times, and the fumes of the potions they were making were only adding to his annoyance.
"It's just instinct," Dawn chided him softly, dropping a handful of lacewings into her cauldron. The gently bubbling contents turned a soft green, and she lifted her book to match the colour, before pouring a sample into a vial. Nix gazed down at his own effort, currently acid green and hissing violently. He threw in his lacewings, and it paled to a sickly yellow-green. The Shade shrugged, corking a vial and saying, "Close enough."
Lunchtime, Gryffindor Table.
Harry sighed at the greeting, much to his friends' amusement. His young aunt swung onto the bench next to him, with the rest of the seventh years filling the rest of the empty slots.
"Hello, Aunt Dawn," Harry responded, hoping the title would annoy her.
"Now, now, Harry, I'm not your Aunt until you get into trouble. And even then I doubt I'll be much of a role model," Dawn grinned, remembering a few particularly colourful episodes on her permanent record.
"Well, not a good one, anyway," Nix countered, adding, "Good at getting out of trouble maybe, not definitely not an example of how to not get into it."
"And you're better?" Dawn retorted, eyebrows raised.
"Said nothing of the sort, darling," Nix returned with a grin, thickening his usually soft accent. Hermione had once asked why he had the Irish lilt, rather than a New York drawl or a mix of the two, and the Shade teen had replied lazily that either of the other options would sound perfectly awful.
"So we've decided that you both can't keep yourselves out of trouble, then?" Harry asked dryly.
"Ah, but unlike you, we can get out of it," Nix answered.
"Little incident in Defence?" Dawn prodded quietly.
"How do you know about that already?" Ron questioned in shock, mouth empty for once.
"I am everywhere," Dawn answered, semi-seriously.
"And by that she means we learnt years ago to listen to gossip, discard the bull, and take in the truth. This school's grapevine is incredibly well-developed," Nix replied, rolling his eyes at his friend's supposed omnipotence.
"Must you ruin my fun?" Dawn shot back, turning her back on Harry to argue with her supposed best friend.
"Didn't you know? It's his primary function," a calm voice interrupted from behind, causing the black-haired girl to whip back round.
"Hey, Sunrise," Connor drawled, a half-smile slipping onto his face. "Letters for you. Came with mine."
With that, he turned and left, not quite sure enough of the lay of the land to risk upsetting the balance any further by staying. After all, just by taking it over, he'd gotten stunned looks from all House tables, and some downright hostile looks from some of the other red-and-gold tied students. No, the Aurelian teen needed to be secure enough in his place in Slytherin house that nothing he did could turn them against him – he needed to sleep, and his dormmates being out for his blood wouldn't make that easy. He was off to a good start: the questions last night had been fielded with a slow drawl and just enough fact to keep them on their toes, as well as making use of a few of the more intimidating effects of knowing full well you're the strongest person in the room. As soon as he had them too terrified to cross him, for fear of his family if nothing else, Connor could spend his time however he wanted. Until then he'd hang back and hope nothing happened to force him to reveal his true colours early in the game.
Directing his attention to the conversation he'd just left, he heard the tell-tale rustle, letting him know that Dawn had quickly glanced at the parchment and hidden it in her bag. She then continued to wheedle details about the kid's confrontation with the new Defence teacher, ending with a classically Dawn piece of advice – 'why go for the obvious approach? Subtle and covert rebellion works so much better!'. Right, so she'd be plotting tonight. Reaching his own table, he dropped into a seat with the seventh years boys, and listened with half and ear to their conversation.
History of Magic, Back Row, After Lunch.
Well, at least I know I'm dropping this class, Dawn thought lazily, having tuned out the ghostly professor within the first minute of the lesson. Honestly, I should have listened to Buffy – she said it was pointless, but nooooooo, I had to see for myself…
She glanced to her left, and saw Nix openly building a house of cards, and then glanced right, and saw Connor leaning back in his chair, playing catch with a muggle tennis ball. She smothered a laugh seeing the annoyed looks the rest of the class – all Ravenclaws, and all ignoring the droning spirit to make notes form various textbooks – were shooting her friends. Spotting the opportunity for a little peace and privacy, she fished out the parchment envelope Connor had tossed her at lunch, and began to read.
How's Hogwarts? Which House are you in? And what about Peaches Junior, and Grey? God, I miss that place. You think you won't, I know, but give it a hundred years, you'll see.
How's the nephew? Figured out he's part of the madness yet? He will, but if he's anything like you and big sis, he'll cope. Sounds a lot like you, with all the trouble he seems to get into – yes, nibblet, the stories are all over the American Wizarding districts, as well as a few darker whispers, so I'll keep my ear to the ground. I took mini-me down there for some supplies, and did a little digging. According to rumour, even you'll have trouble keeping him out of scrapes, so remember everything I taught you. Little Houdini that you are.
Anyway, Peaches' domain is damn boring. I'm still a ghost to anyone except you and mini-me, despite Fred nearly fixing me. Got in a bind with an evil bugger by the name of Pavayne – kept trying to drag me down to hell, and then the tosser said he'd kill Fred, unless the ritual turned him solid instead of me. Which it did, but Forehead Boy locked him in a nice little cell for all eternity. Poetic justice – bugger gets to live, but with only a little hole to see a bloody unused corridor through. Turns out he had more power as a spook.
I want to hear from you regularly, platelet, or I'll be coming to check on you. And keep in touch with mini-me, too. Boy's going spare that you get to go to Hogwarts and he can't. I swear, if I ever meet his parents, there'll be hell to pay. Then again, I can't say I'm surprised. Moronic Purebloods – I should have known my family wouldn't change.
Watch your back, kiddo.
Dawn stifled a laugh, and pulled the second sheet of parchment to the front.
Please ignore anything Spike said about me. It's all fabrication. Yes, I'd like to go to Hogwarts, but I had a little brother. Much as I want to see how he's grown, it'd hurt far too much to meet him or any family member. Especially as my father probably made sure he doesn't remember me – he was only four when I was thrown out, as I remember. And before you attempt to convince me no one could be so cruel – save your ink. We both know the truth.
I do, however, miss you. You gave me what I've wanted since I was a child and I'll never be able to thank you enough for that. Spike's considering seeing if I can get a magical tutor here in LA, a wand-user of course. I bought one in Sapphire Row yesterday, and you were right (as usual, annoyingly), it is ridiculously easy to control. I'm applying for the O.W.L.'s tomorrow, so I should sit them at the end of the month – handy little thing, that absorption spell. I'll probably sit the N.E.W.T.'s early next summer, as I still have senior year to get through.
High school in L.A. is alright – Spike actually enrolled me in Hemery, just for a laugh. Tell Buffy they rebuilt the gym, and there's a plaque telling everyone that it was constructed by a 'generous benefactor' after a 'crazed arson attack' by a former student. Wonder if that was the Council? They did seem like the type to sweep their mistakes under the rug by buying someone off. Classes are fairly standard, though the physics teacher is horrible. I've got ten Galleons that say he turns out to be something evil. If you won't take it, I'll switch the bet around and try and goad Connor into it – I'm smart enough not to bet against you. Without you three, school and the rest of it are boring. I suppose I'm just used to all the mayhem and madness that follows you around.
Kai's been in touch, he sounds pretty pissed off that he can't get in touch with you here anymore, though it serves him right for disappearing off the radar for the last month. Did you manage to get your mobiles working in the castle? If you did, (I'll be shocked if you didn't) send me your number and times that I can call you.
Dawn hid a soft smile, before pulling out a notebook. Adding a few lines to the already covered pages in her loopy handwriting, she smiled, seeing another avenue to explore.
Outside the Fat Lady, Hogwarts, Nearly Midnight.
Harry Potter let out an inaudible sigh of relief when the Fat Lady came into view. His detention with Umbridge – she definitely didn't deserve the Professor honorific – had only finished a few minutes ago, and of course the squat woman hadn't offered him a pass to explain why he was out so late. He'd been lucky to avoid Filch and his cat on his way, and would probably have at least one more detention looming over him if it wasn't for the Marauder's Map he'd had in his pocket. He rubbed the back of his hand in an attempt to soothe the lingering ache, and gave the password to enter the Tower. He was almost to the boys' staircase when he heard the unmistakable sound of the portrait creaking open slowly, and three familiar voices speaking softly outside. Torn between relief that it wasn't a teacher who'd caught sight of him out in the halls after hours, and curiosity as to why they were still outside, he froze in the empty common room. Harry resisted the urge to inch nearer, but also couldn't quite force himself to carry on up the stairs.
"It's still weird, the Forest being so quiet. I don't trust it," Connor's voice was just about loud enough to reach Harry's ears, and the muted edginess in the tone kept the younger boy in place.
"It might be normal, remember. Everywhere has a different cycle in terms of activity, and if it's the magic that draws them, there probably won't be enough fresh energy around to draw much attention," Nix argued softly, his lilting voice more at ease than Connor's.
"We'll keep an eye on it," his youngest Aunt put in, reassuringly, "the numbers will probably pick up, you'll have something more fun to fight against, and then you'll relax, 'kay?"
"If you say so, Sunrise," Connor sounded unconvinced, Harry realised. Then again, from what he'd learned of the teen over the summer, he wasn't as laidback about everything as the rest of the Scoobies appeared, and seemed to put more trust in a solid plan than in the improvisation Dawn seemed to employ. Probably why he's in Slytherin, Harry's mind added, having a plan is more of a cunning way to work.
Noticing the voices had gone quiet, and instead were replaced by the sounds of crawling through the portrait hole. He immediately began to rush towards the stairs when Nix's voice stopped him.
"Eavesdropping, kid?" Somehow the softly asked, but pointed, question stopped him in his tracks again. Feeling a wave of guilt hit him, Harry turned around sheepishly.
"I didn't mean to," he offered weakly, his eyes flicking between his aunt and one of her best friends.
"Why were you even down here, Harry?" Dawn asked, concern lacing her tone. She sank onto a sofa, Nix taking an armchair across from her. She waved Harry to join them, and he sat down next to her, slightly confused at the turn in the conversation.
"You aren't mad at me?" he asked hesitantly.
"Be a little hypocritical if I was," she answered with a quiet self-depreciating laugh.
"Dawnie used to eavesdrop almost constantly on the Scoobies," Nix added, flashing a grin. "No, the only reason I stopped you was to see how much you heard, and how much made sense."
"Only from Connor saying that the Forest is quiet. What did he mean – there's loads of magical creatures in there!"
"Not many demons," Dawn answered, "A lot less than we expected to tell the truth."
"What does that mean? Are they all joining Voldemort?"
"It's a possibility," Nix answered, sighing.
"But not our first option. A lot of things effect the demonic population in an area – feeding supply, ambient power, magic, presence of a Slayer, likelihood of being under the radar. Hell, those Acromantulas would put a fair few off," Dawn quipped, before turning serious again, "In Hogwarts' case, the feeding supply isn't as good as a big city, but better than little villages and towns; ambient magic and power is off the scale; the three of us being here makes things harder, but also presents the possibility for glory, and they're more likely to be found out. Even though the Wizarding world doesn't necessarily believe in demons as much as they should, a little research would let someone know what they're up against. Hogwarts without a Slayer wouldn't usually be considered worth the risk by most demons, except for those who need the magic to survive or strengthen them. With the three of us here…"
"It becomes a target," Nix took over. "Supposedly, we're less protected, being split from the rest of the group, and without a lot of our resources. It'll be a big temptation for anyone looking for a bit of glory, or a way to rise up the ladder."
"Will you be alright?" he asked, feeling slightly ashamed of the tremor in his voice.
"Oh, Harry, we'll be fine. Don't you worry about us," Dawn answered, pulling him into a half-hug. "It's my job to worry about you, remember?"
Harry excused himself fairly quickly after that, not used to people caring about what he did enough to worry. As he lay in his bed, staring at the hangings in an attempt to fall asleep, he grinned to himself against his will. It felt good to have people care about him.