*~* Calm Before *~*
Remus turned slowly. His daughter was rushing up to him with a package in her arms. He took a moment to study her. She could look quite girlish at times. Like today. She almost looked like a student. She was wearing all black, long skirt, v-necked jumper, socks, shoes, robes... except for her crisp white shirt. The look was topped off by hair up in a bun that would have made McGonagall quite proud and a black tie with the Hogwarts crest on it.
Tara was out of breath when she reached him. "You haven't had a class yet have you?"
"No." He replied looking at her oddly. "I have my first in about ten minutes. Why?"
"Good." She grabbed his arm and steered him into the staffroom.
Several of the teachers were in there taking a bit of a break already as the first morning class had been taught by a lot of them already, or they were getting prepared for their first lessons.
"Here." Tara said handing him per parcel which was wrapped in brown paper. "I meant to give it to you last night, but I... got distracted."
Got distracted indeed. Remus wanted to holler at her. She always 'got distracted' when Sirius was about. He noticed 'Mad-Eye Moody' was sitting in the staffroom and shot the man a harsh glare. But he was far too intrigued by the fact that she'd gotten him a present to do much else. Remus pulled open the paper and his hands moved over soft material of a deep midnight blue. He unfolded it. Robes. Brand new. Blue ones with... little silver half moons embroidered around the collar.
"I sewed the moons myself. By hand. You know, the muggle way."
He looked at her in awe. It was quite honestly probably the nicest set of robes he'd owned in a great while. "You didn't have to..."
"But I wanted to."
He hugged her then. Tightly.
McGonagall was peering at him over the rims of her spectacles with this pleased expression on her face as she gathered her scrolls and headed out. She was rather fond of Remus and Tara. Watching the two of them learn to be father and daughter was quite interesting. It was obvious he'd never had anyone try to take care of him before.
"Am I..." He started. "Do I..."
"Go put it on."
"You don't like it?"
"No, that isn't it at all. I've... it's just... they're so nice. Far too nice to teach in."
"Don't be ridiculous. Go change."
He grabbed both sides of her face and bent her head forward, so he could kiss her forehead. "You are the best gift."
Tara smiled widely. Sirius pulled his copy of the Daily Prophet up over Moody's grizzled face to hide the smile that had cropped up on it... because it was a scary look for him.
Anya was all excited.
Someone was trusting her with impressionable minds. Well, yes, Remus Lupin was the teacher and she was just helping out, but still for Albus Dumbledore to have such faith in her... it felt really good. She had never stood on her own before. She had wanted to. But she had been laughed at. She was too opinionated, too vicious, too not-human. Well, that wasn't really an issue now. And boy, she'd never seen D'Hoffryn as frightened of anything as he had been when Dumbledore showed up with Anya in tow.
"Hello, Professor Emerson."
Anya looked up. Dawn was grinning at her.
"Well, hello, Miss Summers. How are you liking Hogwarts?"
They were both just about to giggle. And no one seemed to get why. It was a Sunnydale thing. They were both saying 'can you believe we're HERE' without really having to say it. Anya pulled Dawn down, so they could whisper.
"Did you have sex with Harry in the restroom of the train, Dawnie? Do I need to give you the sex talk?"
"What? No! And NO!"
"You know boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, right?"
"Anya, please." Dawn whimpered.
"And don't let him say he's finished unless you've... you know... too."
"Not that you should be having sex yet anyway."
"I'm not having sex." She hissed.
"Why not? Does he have erectile dysfunction?"
"Oh my God."
"Oh Dawnie, I'm so sorry." Anya patted her hand sympathetically.
"There's nothing wrong with Harry's equipment!"
The class started tittering with laughter.
Dawn closed her eyes as if in pain. "Shoot me now."
"Thank you for your information, Miss Summers. We're all quite pleased to know Harry's in working order. Would you please take your seat?"
Dawn looked up, beet-red, into the twinkling eyes of Professor Lupin. "Right." She practically ran and slid into the chair Draco had kept for her.
"So everything works properly on Horny Potter." Draco said out of the side of his mouth.
"Shut up, Malfoy."
It was only the first day, and things were already settling into a pattern. Harry had just sat down at the Gryffindor table when he noticed Lily and Dawn walking in. Dawn's eyes were wide and a bit fear-glazed. Lily was speaking to her in hushed tones. Harry instantly got to his feet, ignoring the looks he was getting from some of the Gryffindors as he headed to the Slytherin table. He further ignored the glares he was getting from the Slytherins for crossing the invisible line into their turf.
"What happened?" Harry asked. Dawn had been fine when he'd seen her after lunch.
"Stupid Trelawney." Lily snapped. "She was all sorts of seeing Dawn's death in class today, and then she said something about Buffy dying, and it gave Dawn a wiggins."
Harry ignored the glares he was getting and sat next to Dawn. "She predicts my death every year. And look, here I am."
"It's just... I mean, I don't mind her telling me my number's up. I'm not afraid to die. I've been there. That brink. It doesn't frighten me. Not nearly as much as having Buffy be gone again." She looked at Harry with this solemn look in her eyes. "It was... hollow without my sister in this world."
"Your sister's gonna be fine. For a long while."
"How do you know?"
"She's resilient. Like me, and I don't plan on kicking the bucket anytime soon so..."
"And I had better go. The natives are getting restless." He nodded to her glaring housemates.
"I'd rather not." Harry said as he got to his feet.
"They hate you less than they hate me."
Harry just grinned. He was walking away when someone called something out.
"Hey, Potter, how's it hanging?"
There was a smattering of giggles. Harry whipped around. Dawn had gone very red.
"It's hanging fine thanks." He raised an eyebrow at the Slytherin who'd addressed him. "Not that you'll ever find out. That's reserved for..." He looked at Dawn. "...others."
Several people nearby started howling at Harry's casual retort. Harry walked coolly back to Gryffindor table, trying desperately not to blush and wondering where in the hell that remark had come from. He took his seat in between Ron and Seamus.
"What was all THAT about?" Ron asked.
"Trelawney was predicting Dawn's and Buffy's deaths in divination today. Sort of freaked Dawn out."
"Somebody ought to lock that Trelawney up." Dean Thomas snapped. "She's depressing."
"They ought to make her retire." Neville said in a nervous whisper. "Professor Maclay's much better at divination than Professor Trelawney... but er, don't tell Lavender I said so." He cast a nervous glance down the table to where Lavender Brown was sitting with Parvati Patil.
"How would YOU know, Neville?"
"I went to see her earlier, and she did a tarot reading for me. It was... interesting. She also read my palm."
"Professor Maclay can do that?" Harry said. "Tara knows how?"
Neville nodded. "And she's not creepy about it either. I felt comfortable the whole time. Which is amazing for me."
"Dawn should just drop the class." Hermione stated. "Especially if she's bothered by death omens."
Just then Ginny hurried in and slid into the seat next to Hermione. "Sorry." She said breathlessly.
"Been snogging Malfoy again, I see." Seamus said with a chuckle.
"What?!" Ron screeched.
"Well, if I have, Seamus Finnigan, it's certainly none of YOUR beeswax."
Seamus chuckled again. "It's too bad Ron's dead gone on our Hermione. You two could make a real sweep with the houses if he started dating Pansy Parkinson."
"As if he'd be seen with that nasty thing." Hermione muttered.
"Meow." Seamus said. "Our Mione doesn't like Parkinson."
"And you do, Finnigan? Perhaps I should waltz on over and tell her you're interested, hmm?"
Seamus sputtered. "I am not interested in Pansy 'pug-face' Parkinson. If I were interested in ANY Slytherin, it'd be Lily."
Then his eyes went wide as he realized what he'd just said rather loudly. Several girls near them at the Hufflepuff table giggled. Seamus rolled his eyes. Dean was trying - badly - to hide the fact that he was snickering under his breath.
"So..." Hermione said, not put off by his embarrassment. "Why Lily?"
Seamus actually blushed.
"Mione." Ron said.
"Well, Finnigan? Let's have it then. Why Rosenberg?"
Seamus seemed to find his mashed potatoes VERY interesting. "I dunno. She's just neat. Not like other girls. And... and I think those black streaks in her hair are kinda cool. And.. and she's smart... like you. And funny. She just SAYS stuff, you know? And she's pretty."
Dean was snickering so hard he was about to choke. Until he noticed Hannah Abbot rushing over to the Ravenclaw table. "Oh hell, Seamus."
Dean nodded. Hannah was already whispering frantically to Padma Patil. Then Padma, and her fellow Ravenclaws in their year Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst turned and looked right at Seamus. Then Padma rushed over to her sister Parvati and started whispering.
"I'm thinking Lily might know you fancy her by tomorrow morning, Seamus." Ron said.
They were in the library.
For once Draco was actually doing real homework in the library after dinner. Dawn kept rubbing her eyes, and Lily was pacing near the small table their books and scrolls were piled upon.
"Dawn, if you're tired, go back to your dorm and go to sleep."
"Can't." She said without even looking up at him. "I want to finish my transfiguration homework first. McGonagall wants ten inches on changing a falcon to a footstool by tomorrow."
"Dawn-" He started but was interrupted by Lily hissing at them.
Draco and Dawn looked up. Lily waved them over to the bookshelf she was nearly pressed up against.
"What?" Draco said.
Lily gestured them over violently. Dawn sighed and got up, pulling Draco with her. As they got closer to Lily, they heard voices.
"I just can't believe Harry Potter's gonna go like some Slytherin."
"He liked her before she was a Slytherin. It makes sense that he still would."
"But she's FRIENDS with Malfoy."
Someone sighed dreamily. "Malfoy."
"Oh don't start."
"Have you SEEN him this year? Gods, he's gotten good looking. All tall and severe looking. Ginny Weasley is SO lucky. Did you SEE the way he kissed her? I don't know how she was able to stand up after. I would have fainted."
"You look like you're about to faint just talking about it, Mandy. I just don't see how you could fancy him now."
"He's all rough looking... in a good way. His hair for starters, hanging in his eyes like that. Those gray eyes. I could just swoon."
Mandy continued as if nothing had been said. "And he's almost as tall as Ron Weasley now. And he rolled up his sleeves in Herbology today and..." She paused dramatically. "He has a tattoo."
"What?" Two other voices screeched in a whisper.
"Yep. I didn't get a good look at it. I was a bit distracted by the way the muscles in his arms were moving, but yes, Draco Malfoy has a tattoo on the inside of his forearm. Just below the bend of his elbow."
"Don't you see?"
"Oh honestly. How did the two of you ever get into Ravenclaw? Those blank faces. Use the brains I know reside in those heads. The place he got the tattoo. It's where the dark mark goes."
"But it WASN'T the dark mark, Padma."
"Well naturally. I doubt even Malfoy would be fool enough to receive the mark then go showing it off. Crabbe or Goyle on the other hand..."
"I just can't believe Seamus Finnigan has a crush on that Lily Rosenberg."
Lily jumped so hard she knocked into the bookshelf.
"What was that?"
Draco glared at her.
"Someone's over there."
The three of them scrambled back to their table. Unfortunately Lily and Draco tried to sit in the same seat, and she ended up in his lap right as Mandy Brocklehurst peered around the bookshelf.
Draco winked at her. "How you doing there, Brocklehurst?" He purred.
Mandy went bright red and shot back around the book shelf. The three Slytherins started chuckling. Just then Ginny walked up with fellow Gryffindors Colin Creevey and Natalie MacDonald.
"I'll talk to you two later." Ginny whispered.
Colin and Natalie nodded.
"What's going on?" She whispered as Colin and Natalie walked off. Ginny was looking suspiciously at Lily sitting on Draco's lap.
Lily rolled her eyes. "Bored now. Look, Weasley, no need to worry. I have as much romantic interest in Draco as you do in Ron." She grabbed all her stuff and stalked off.
"I didn't mean to-"
"Don't worry about it." Dawn said to Ginny. "She's just like that some days. She gets all cranky for no reason at all. She'll be completely over it by tomorrow." Dawn gathered all her stuff as well.
"I thought you wanted to finish your transfiguration homework?" Draco said.
Dawn winked at him. "I can do it tomorrow morning. I think I'm gonna head back to my room."
Draco gave her an exasperated glare that said she was in no way subtle.
She leaned down and kissed his temple. " 'Night, Drake." She smiled at Ginny. " 'Night, Gin."
Then Dawn pranced off leaving Draco and Ginny quite alone in their small alcove of the library. Ginny sat down in the seat vacated by Dawn rather gingerly.
"So..." She said. "What did you do all summer? Since I didn't get to hear when I should have."
He grinned. "How much time have you?"
"Won't you get into trouble? Being out of Gryffindor tower with me?"
"Pfft. Hermione's a prefect. SHE'S understanding of my plight."
"You." Ginny pulled a scroll out of her bag and a quill and started going over something.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm listening. I just want to look over my potions assignment again."
"Let me see it." Draco said, taking the scroll. His eyes scanned over the page. "Where's your book?"
"Some of this is wrong."
Ginny pulled her potions book out of her bag and scooted closer to him. She guessed their talk would be another night as he seemed determined for her to find the correct answers herself. With a few hints from him, of course.
They were completely unaware of the shadow that moved along the wall near them... watching.
Willow shot up out of the chair she had fallen asleep in. It was a bit warm from the fire in the chamber that joined her rooms to Severus's. She was breathing heavily.
"Willow?" Snape asked.
"I just had a weird dream, but I can't remember it. I should remember it."
He was at her side in and instant. "Are you all right? Do I need to take you to Poppy? Or Albus?"
"You worry too much." She said looking at him.
But he had a wide-eyed look when her eyes met his... because hers were solid black.
Tara was walking through the castle. It was deserted. More deserted than usual. She was barefoot and knew her feet should be cold on the stone floor, but they weren't. She could feel no cold. The nightgown she had on was fluttering around her legs in a breeze she could not find.
She looked up and saw a shadow moving in one of the towers that was not in use. Firelight glowed in the window. Someone was pacing up in that tower. Tara stepped a bit closer and continued to stare.
"They're hidin' her here, ya know."
Tara spun around with a gasp. There was a man standing before her with short, scruffy, black hair and big blue eyes. He was a bit short, and his accent had been decidedly Irish.
"Who am I?" He chuckled. "Don't worry that pretty head a'yours 'bout that just yet, princess. I'm just tellin' ya what ya need t'know fer now."
"Person in a tower?"
"You'll be needed."
"He didn't explain proper, did he now?"
"Yer vampire." The man shook his head. "Ya'd thin wit all the writin' an' spoutin' off at the mouth he used ta do, he'd be a mite bit more wit the explainin'. She was a drop in the ocean compared ta ya. He ain't the ocean, girl. Ya are. Ya've got power. Lots of it. More power than yer ma ever hoped to have. Thas what it's been 'bout. All this time. Yer power. An' yer gonna need it."
"Me? Powerful? No."
"Yes. If ya'd really wanted to stop Willow from returnin' that vampire girl's soul, ya could've."
"I'm not more power than Willow."
"No. But yer damn close."
A scream of rage echoed down from the tower.
Tara jerked awake with a gasp, scattering scrolls everywhere. Several of the other teachers who were in the staffroom looked at her in alarm.
"Professor Maclay, are you all right?" Sirius asked.
Tara was trying to control her breathing. She hadn't had a dream like that in a long while. She was desperately trying to remember where she had been standing in it, where that tower was. Something was here, there in that tower... someone. And something else was coming for whoever it was. She could feel it.
Tara looked up. "I... I think I'll just be off to b-bed."
"Perhaps I should walk you then. You seem a bit shaky."
"Thank you, Mr. Moody."
As she took his offered arm she noticed the way a lot of the others were looking at them oddly, and then a voice penetrated her head. It was familiar yet not.
You think you know... what's to come... what you are. You haven't even begun.
Tara tried to shake off the cold chill running down her spine, but she could not. Something was coming. Or possibly already here.
Across the castle in Gryffindor tower, Harry Potter had his hand pressed to his forehead as his scar gave a burning sting of pain.
And in another part of the castle, Dawn Summers had one hand holding herself upright against the wall just outside the Slytherin common room entrance while the other hand was pressed firmly against the scar on her collar, her books and papers litering the floor where she'd dropped them. Because her scar had given her such a sharp throb of white hot pain it had nearly stolen her breath away.