Dawn was not quite sure what to make of the austere, robed woman who called herself Amelia Bones. She was certainly an improvement over that jerk who had tried to force his way into her house, but being better than a violent, home invader was hardly a sterling endorsement. Of course, Tara had sort of vouched for her, but, considering that Tara kept worrying her lip and stealing fretful glances towards the brown-haired, blue-eyed, older woman, Dawn was taking her recommendation with a grain of salt.
So, all in all, Dawn was feeling more than slightly wary, as she settled herself between Willow and Tara on the comfy, brown loveseat in her living room. Across from Dawn and her friends, Madame Bones had seated herself upon the living room's cushioned chair in a ramrod straight posture, while her auror guys poked and prodded at a variety of the room's knickknacks and ornaments with their wooden sticks.
After a moment, one of the robed men nodded to Madame Bones, who seemed to have been waiting for his confirmation.
“Excellent, Auror Williams. Just as I told you, I suspect that we have little to fear from Miss Rosenberg and Miss Maclay, so why don't you all back up a little ways.”
“Madame Bones, we were instructed to ensure your safety. I'm not sure-”
“Well, I'm quite sure,” the older woman interrupted Williams, offering her subordinate an unamused expression. “Setting aside the fact that I am quite capable of defending myself, Williams, I am sure that you will still be able to carry out your duties while you are standing in front of that wall back there.”
Amelia Bones pointed to the white wall ten feet behind her chair.
“Moreover, in my experience, and I believe that you'll recall that I have rather a lot of it, these sort of interviews always proceed far more smoothly without a half-dozen, well-armed aurors looming over our hosts.”
As she watched the cowed auror guys retreat a bit further back, although Dawn noticed that they were still in the room, facing she, Willow and Tara, Dawn had to at least give the old lady some props for fortitude. Madame Bones was apparently not a woman to be messed with lightly. Of course, neither was Willow Rosenberg.
“Excuse me, Miss Bones,” the red-haired Wiccan spoke up, watching the older woman warily, “but could you tell us what exactly you're doing here? I mean, you guys showed up at the crack of dawn, attacked our house, and, from what I saw, pretty much fried the Buffybot for no reason at all. I think that we at least deserve an explanation, well, you know, once your minion guys are done poking all our stuff with your sticks.”
Amelia Bones turned back towards Willow, her expression seeming to briefly war between mild amusement and disapproval before it settled back on impassivity.
“I understand your frustration, Miss Rosenberg, and can assure you that Auror Dawlish will receive a reprimand for his behaviour. However, at present, there are a few other matters we must discuss.”
Dawn rolled her eyes.
“Oh great,” she muttered. “A reprimand. That'll show him. What kind of stupid title is 'auror,' anyway? It sounds like some sort of professional cookie eater.”
“Dawnie,” Tara hissed back at her, making a shushing sound.
“That's quite alright, Miss Maclay,” Amelia intoned. “Miss Summers has every right to feel ill used. As I said, Auror Dawlish's actions were entirely inappropriate.”
“Even so,” she continued, raising an eyebrow challengingly, “I would prefer if, in the future, you would refrain from referring to my aurors as either 'minion guys' or 'professional cookie eaters.' Aurors are, after all, the world's first line of defense against dark, magical forces. As such, I believe, they deserve a modicum of respect.”
“If you say so,” Willow replied, frowning skeptically. “But aren't you kind of forgetting the slayer? I mean, no offense to you guys. I'm sure you do some good stuff, but doesn't the 'one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness' kind of trump your little pointed hat brigade?”
Madame Bones frowned back at Willow.
“Miss Rosenberg, are you a member of the Watcher's Council?”
“What? No way. I-I mean, do I look British to you? Although, I guess there might be non-British watchers too. I mean, there'd have to be, right, or-”
“Miss Rosenberg,” Madame Bones interrupted.
“Oh, sorry,” Willow replied. “Just babbling. I mean, that was just me babbling, which I sometimes do, like now, except now I'm stopping. Totally stopped. So, uh, right. No. I'm not a watcher.”
Madame Bones frown lessened only slightly.
“I suppose that's good, although it sounds like either you are acquainted with a member of that council or have read one of their texts.”
Dawn replied, her eyes boring into Madame Bones challengingly.
“Giles used to be a watcher, before he got fired. What's so bad about that? I mean, at least he doesn't randomly attack people's houses or go around in dumb looking bathrobes.”
Madame Bones sighed in exasperation.
“Miss Summers, the problem is that our government is on rather poor terms with the Watcher's Council, so you being in close contact with one of its members would present considerable problems for Minister Fudge's administration.”
“Wait a second,” Willow interjected. “What does Dawnie have to do with anything? If you're-”
“Miss Rosenberg,” Madame Bones interrupted forcefully. “If you could stop asking new questions for a moment, I would be happy to explain everything. Is that acceptable?”
After a moment, Willow reluctantly nodded. As Madame Bones gaze swept over them, Dawn and Tara nodded as well.
“Excellent,” Madame Bones declared. “Then, firstly, let us deal with what I suspect will be the simpler part of this business. Three days ago, the British Ministry of Magic, in cooperation with our American counterpart, dispatched a pair of aurors to Sunnydale, in order to make contact with Miss Summers. A few hours later, one of our aurors was found dead, while the other remains missing.”
“With me?” Dawn asked. “Why-”
“Miss Summers,” Madame Bones interrupted. “We'll get to that in a moment. Please let me continue.”
“Now, some members of the Wizarding World have suggested that Miss Rosenberg and Miss Maclay may be behind this murder and disappearance.”
“What? We didn't have-”
“Miss Rosenberg,” Madame Bones interrupted once more. “I am not accusing you. In fact, I have seen absolutely no evidence linking any of you to these crimes. However, in order to avoid some fool attempting to prosecute one or all of you, it would be helpful if you would submit an affidavit detailing your whereabouts on the night in question while under the effects of a mild truth charm.”
“A-A truth charm? You mean that you want to mess with our minds?”
“No. The spell would be on the parchment on which you would pen your accounts. It does not interfere with your mind at all. Instead, the charm simply highlights in green all words which you believe to be true, while highlighting in red words which you believe to be false. The charm is not foolproof, but, I believe that it will be sufficient to prevent anyone from successfully launching a case against any of you, unless new evidence comes to light linking you to these crimes.”
“Oh,” Tara replied, reassured. “Um, I guess then, um, Willow, that sounds okay, right? I mean, if they're just checking whether we're telling the truth.”
“Well, I guess. I mean-”
“Tara,” Dawn interrupted. “I have a question. I mean, before I write this account or whatever.”
“Um, okay, Dawnie. I'm not sure I'll know the answer, but-”
“Who are these people?” Dawn demanded, waving towards not only Madame Bones, but also the aurors behind her. “I mean, before today, I'd never even heard of a Ministry of Magic or magical evil hunters, well, I mean, other than you guys, or any of this stuff. And-And it sounds like Willow doesn't know either, but you've been all mysteriously knowledgeable girl, just sitting silently there. I mean, if Willow doesn't know either, then it's not just me, so-”
“Dawnie,” Willow interrupted, defending her girlfriend, even if a part of her was just as curious as Dawn, “Tara knows a lot more than me about a lot of magical things, so-”
“No, Willow,” Tara interjected. “I mean, you know so many amazing things, and-”
Then Madame Bones cut in, momentarily stilling the conversation, as Dawn, Willow and Tara took in her mildly bewildered expression.
“Miss Summers, are you saying that you know nothing at all about the magical world?”
“What?” Dawn replied in a supremely offended tone. “I know lots of stuff. I mean, I've seen vampires and demons, and, and I've seen lots of powerful spells, and, and, yeah,” she finished nodding. “I know tons about spooky, magical stuff. I just don't know about-”
“The magical world,” Madame Bones finished for Dawn, her eyebrows furrowed in deep thought.
“What about your father? You grew up with him, didn't you? Didn't you ever notice...” Madame Bones trailed off, seeming momentarily uncertain.
“I wonder,” the older witch continued, drawing her wand smoothly from a holster on her forearm. “It would be terribly unethical, but-”
Madame Bones cut herself off, as she pointed her wand towards Dawn. Cornelius Fudge was not as unaware of muggle customs as many of the Ministry's purebloods, but, by his own admission, he had spent a number of years with his daughters. Considering how the Cornelius Fudge she knew relied upon magical means for just about everything, the idea of him successfully hiding his magical background from even his youngest daughter strained credulity, unless, of course, he had made extremely frequent use of memory modification charms upon her. While doing so was technically not a crime, performing frequent, long-term memory charms on a person, particularly a child, was well-known to have a wide variety of deleterious side-effects. At times, particularly recently, Madame Bones had felt that Cornelius had exercised poor judgment, but it was hard to believe that he would do such a thing to his own daughter.
More likely, it was some political enemy of Cornelius who had cast the charm, or perhaps a wizard who had been unaware of her identity and trying to uphold the Statute of Wizarding Secrecy. However, if performed improperly, there might still be substantial psychological or even physical damage.
Dawn flinched back from Madame Bones' wand, as Willow and Tara started forward, moving to shelter their ward behind their own bodies. The aurors behind Madame Bones stiffened, feeling the tension ratcheting up in the room, before, noticing what was going on around her, the older witch woke herself from her brief reverie.
“Wait, wait,” Madame Bones requested, pointing her wand towards the ground and away from Dawn. “I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking, and did not intend to frighten you. I just, well, had a rather disturbing thought. Perhaps, we should have addressed matters in another order after all.”
“Miss Summers,” Madame Bones continued, “the reason why two aurors were dispatched to speak with you three days ago, as well as the main reason why I have been asked to come here today, is to inform you that your father intends to take custody over you, in light of your mother and sister's recent deaths.”
“What?” Dawn croaked. “Dad? I mean, but...”
Dawn trailed off, looking both increasingly distressed and confused.
“I don't understand. I mean, Dad hasn't even called since before Mom died, and why would you be here for Dad, anyway? Why wouldn't he just call or something, and how would Dad even know any magical evil fighters or whatever? And didn't you say you were from England? Dad's in Spain, so, if he was going to send magical evil fighters to get me, shouldn't they be Spanish magical evil fighters?”
“Miss Summers,” Madame Bones spoke soothingly. “I understand that this must come as something of a shock. It was in fact why I was pointing my wand at you a moment ago. I was concerned that you might be under the effects of a memory modification charm, and wished to perform a test in order to determine whether or not this was the case. If a memory charm has been used upon you, then it would explain much of your confusion. Would you object to this test?”
“So, the spell just checks if anyone's ever performed a memory spell on me?”
“Not exactly. However, it's not at all dangerous. The memory assessment charm simply produces a rough assessment of the proportion of one's memory which has been magically altered. Is that alright?”
“Um, I guess that sounds...”
Dawn trailed off, her eyes widening in sudden realization.
“I mean, no way! Um, I can't because, um, because, um, I'm allergic!” she finally declared.
Madame Bones looked at Dawn in mild bemusement, not seeming to know quite what to make of the young girl's reaction.
“Allergic to... what exactly?”
Then Willow cut in, having come to the same realization Dawn had reached.
“She means that she's allergic to bad news! It's just an expression, like two peas in a pod, or forewarned is forearmed, or that sort of thing. She just means that, well, after all the bad news she's had recently, she can't take any more bad stuff right now. Who knows what it might do? She could have a seizure or faint or maybe even spontaneously combust – well, probably not that last one, but still, right now, memory spell news equals serious badness, and Dawnie's not up to that. Right, Dawnie?”
“Right,” Dawn chirped, offering Madame Bones her best, 'Oh, woe is me. I can no longer stand to live in this cruel world,' expression.
The older woman did not look convinced, but seemed unwilling to press the issue just then, replacing her wand in its holster.
“I see. I suppose that the spell is not urgent, although I would advise it. Frequent exposure to long-term memory charms can be very damaging and dangerous. In all honesty, I would suggest consulting with a mediwizard.”
Dawn nodded seriously, while internally throwing that particular piece of advice into her mental trash compactor. She could not imagine anything good possibly coming out of some magical doctor discovering that her whole life was a lie.
“Even so, we don't need to remove any memory charms in order to tell you why I am here. Your father, Miss Summers, is Great Britain's current Minister for Magic – the head of Britain's magical government. In order to assure your safety, he has dispatched a number of aurors in order to bring you back to England.”
Dawn blinked, tilting her head sideways.
“Huh? So, you're saying that my Dad's actually some sort of secret wizard?”
Madame Bones attempted to interject, but was cut off, as Dawn continued her monologue.
“And he runs some sort of secret wizard government?”
“And those guys who attacked our house were people he sent to assure my safety?”
“And he doesn't actually live in Spain?”
“And he's some sort of secret wizard?”
Dawn blinked again, and then rolled her eyes, scoffing at Madame Bones' claim.
“Yeah right. Just how dumb do you think I am? My Dad is the last person in the world who could be a secret wizard. I mean, he doesn't even believe in vampires. Couldn't you have at least come up with something slightly more believable? How about this one? Dawn, I've come to take you away to a secret, invisible, magical school in a carriage drawn by my magical, invisible horses. I mean, I wouldn't have believed that either, but it's at least a little closer to being within the realm of possibility, right?”