DISCLAIMER: Still don’t own it. Still very hard to admit that, y’know.
A/N: Ok, this is the last of the chapters I had all ready to go, so it may be a while before you hear from me. Don’t worry though, I WILL NOT abandon this little nugget.
A/N 2: To all those waiting patiently to see some Slytherins (and some deeper explanations) you’ve only got a couple of chapters to wait, I promise. And yes, there will be a pairing. ;-) Actually you can probably already guess the pairing!
REVIEWERS: Thank you to all my reviewers, here’s the honour roll;
Queensarrow, Rosewill, Rachel, Jillian, Bluie Twilight Star, Kat, Charlotte, Sonofgloin, Eleclyalll, ZombieGurl98
Dawn awoke on the most comfortable bed she’d ever slept in, yawning and blinking in the darkness. She frowned, wondering why it was so dark, until suddenly it dawned on her; the curtains were drawn around her bed. Her bed in the fifth year girls’ dormitories for Gryffindor, at Hogwarts. She sighed. It was too much to hope that this was all just some strange dream.
Pushing aside potentially depressing thoughts, Dawn stretched and got out of bed, careful to slide the hangings aside as quietly as possible, lest she wake Lily or any of the other girls in the dorm. She didn’t think a 7AM wake-up call on a Saturday morning would make the best first impression. There was a small bundle that someone had left on her bedside table, and on closer inspection Dawn found a clean blouse and skirt, and a toiletries bag. She gratefully seized the offering and tiptoed through the door Lily had pointed out as the bathroom entrance. Dawn quickly bathed, mindful of her bandages, and was soon dressed and ready as she ever would be to face whatever the day held in store for her.
She slipped downstairs, stepping into the quiet Common Room at the same time as Remus, who was already looking much better than he had yesterday.
“Morning, Dawn,” he grinned.
“Hey Remus. How’s it going?” Dawn replied easily. All that time couped up together in the hospital wing had slightly accustomed her to the sweet young werewolf.
“All right. How’d you sleep? I guess the first night in a strange place is always weird- I don’t think I slept at all my first night at Hogwarts.”
As Remus finished speaking, Dawn heard several sets of heavy footsteps coming down the stairs and a moment later, a bleary-eyed James, Peter and Sirius stumbled into the room.
“Who’s genius idea was this?” James grumbled, while Sirius yawned and stretched beside him.
“Don’t worry Prongs, a good breakfast will wake you up.” At the mention of breakfast, Peter immediately perked up, ushering the group towards the portrait hole. “Instant Wormtail- just add breakfast,” Sirius quipped, winking at Dawn as she giggled.
They made their way down to the Great Hall, and Dawn stumbled clumsily into a seat at the Gryffindor table, her eyes focused on the ceiling. It was just like looking straight up at the pale morning sky, and Dawn was so captivated she barely even noticed her own less-than-graceful entrance. “How-?”
Remus, the only one who had not yet stuffed his mouth full of bacon, answered her half-asked question. “It’s bewitched, the ceiling, to reflect the sky. Neat, huh?”
“Very cool,” Dawn grinned, turning her attention to the table at last while Remus dug in. The other three boys were already half way through their first plate each. Dawn quickly filled her own plate with bacon, eggs, toast and sausages, hoping to satisfy her rumbling tummy. James looked at her plate, eyebrows raised. It was covered with food, but still was not even half as full as his had been when he’d started.
“Whoa- for a girl you can eat a lot!”
Immediately, Dawn’s fork froze an inch from her lips. Blushing, she went to lower it, but James was shaking his messy head, grinning at her.
“No, it’s brilliant! Most of the girls around here eat like anorexic rabbits. It’s good to see that you eat right, Dawnie. Like Evans,” he added to himself, causing Sirius to snort pumpkin juice out of his nose when he burst into raucous laughter. For a moment, Dawn thought Sirius was about to get a handful of James’ eggs squarely in his face, but then it seemed as if James reconsidered and stuffed the food into his own mouth instead.
Breakfast finally over, the group made their way up to the Headmaster’s office, and Dawn couldn’t help but enjoy the ride up the moving staircase this time. Despite the early hour, Dumbledore looked as alert as ever as he rose to greet them.
“Good morning to you all. I trust you slept well in your new bed, Miss Summers?” his blue eyes twinkled in her direction.
“Ah, excellent. Now, I have made your travel arrangements for the weekend, as promised, but first I must lay down some ground rules. One, I would prefer it if your little excursion did not include a trip into muggle London.” Both James and Sirius managed to keep straight faces, though Dumbledore was smiling knowingly at them.
“Two, I have booked three rooms at the Leaky Cauldron for you. While there, you are under the instruction of the Innkeeper Tom, and your curfew is sunset, no later. You are to be at the Leaky Cauldron by sunset and you are to remain there until morning. Understood?” Dawn nodded, as did the boys, although they followed somewhat reluctantly.
“And three, the use of the school bank account is a privilege. I trust that none of you will abuse it.” With that, Dumbledore handed Dawn an ancient looking key and smiled as she slipped it carefully into shirt pocket. He then handed Remus a sealed envelope. “I have organised a Port-Key to transport you all to Diagon Ally, and you will catch the Hogwarts Express home at 11AM sharp tomorrow. Any questions?”
Dawn tentatively raised a hand.
“Um, what’s a Port-Key?”
“A magical means of travelling, Miss Summers. Quite safe, I assure you. You simply touch an object charmed to act as a Port-Key, and it will immediately transport you to the destination it is programmed to go to.”
“Like a teleportation spell?” Dawn wrinkled her nose. “I hope it’s more accurate than Willow’s.”
Dumbledore chuckled. “It is very accurate, I assure you. Now if you would all take a hold of this- have a good weekend and please stay out of trouble,” he implored the boys, handing them a length of rope.
Dawn hesitated, then latched onto the rope, and the boys all casually took a hold of it. With a final smile, Dumbledore flicked his wand and Dawn felt a tugging behind her navel. She tried to scream, but couldn’t hear the sound of her own voice, and then all of a sudden her feet slammed into a cobblestone pavement.
She overbalanced, stumbling back against something. Just as her butt was about to hit the hard ground, a pair of hands hooked under her arms and she was hoisted back to her feet. She felt a twinge in her stomach from where the skin around her healing cuts had been pulled, and rubbed at them.
“Are you ok?” asked a voice behind her, which belonged to the owner of the pair of hands that had caught her.
Dawn nodded quickly. “I’m fine, Sirius. Thanks.” She looked around to make sure no one other than the four boys she was with had seen her spectacular clumsiness. Luckily, it was quiet in Diagon Ally, but the second Dawn caught sight of the place, her mind was so overloaded that she forgot everything else.
“Whoa,” she breathed, stepping forwards, barely feeling Sirius’ steadying hands slip away from her. There were just far too many different magical stores for her to take stock of all at once. Robes stores, Quidditch stores, stationary stores, owl stores, wand stores, and every other magical store Dawn could or couldn’t think of lined the Alleyway. Slowly, a sly grin spread across Dawn’s face. If Buffy could see her now, she’d have a fit. Then her smile dimmed a few watts. If Buffy could see her at all, she wouldn’t even be here.
By now the boys had all crowded around her, eager to see the look on her face as she took in Diagon Ally. They watched as her open-mouthed wonder morphed into a sly grin, which then inexplicably faded.
“All right, Dawn?” James frowned.
Dawn looked up, startled, as if she’d forgotten she was not alone. “Um, where first?” she said quickly, forcing a smile.
“Gringotts,” Remus supplied, pointing to an enormous white stone building in the centre of Diagon Ally. “We’ll need to get some money organised for you first.”
“Right. Money is good,” Dawn agreed, and they made their way up the stone steps and through the doors of the Wizarding Bank. Dawn stifled a shriek when her eyes fell on the creatures behind the counters. For a second she thought she’d walked right into the headquarters of Glory’s minions.
“Don’t worry,” Sirius whispered in her ear. “Wormtail is afraid of the Goblins, too.”
“Am not!” Peter burst out loudly, having overheard, but Dawn couldn’t help but note the way his little eyes flicked worriedly at each Goblin they passed. She turned to Sirius.
“I’m not afraid of them,” she said earnestly. “They just startled me, that’s all.”
While they had been talking, Remus and James had each gone up to a Goblin teller to make a transaction.
“Come on, Dawn. We need that key Dumbledore gave you,” Remus called. She hurried over to hand the key to the Goblin, and Dawn noticed that he was already holding the envelope Dumbledore had given Remus, now opened.
James pulled Peter over to his counter. “You guys go on, Wormtail and I have a bit of business to take care of ourselves,” he winked conspiritually at the other three as the Goblin led them away.
Dawn shot an inquiring look at Remus and Sirius, but they just shrugged far too innocently for her liking. The group arrived at what looked like a little mining cart and the Goblin held the door open for them. Dawn got in, a little apprehensively, and a second later she knew why. The instant the little door closed, the cart took off at break-neck speeds of its own accord. Dawn latched onto the side so tight she left fingernail marks in the wood. She was too scared to even turn her head and glare at Sirius, who she could feel shaking with laughter beside her.
The cart finally shuddered to a halt, and Dawn had the impression that she was several hundreds of feet underground.
“Vault seven hundred and thirteen,” the Goblin announced as they piled out onto a small stone landing. She watched, fascinated as the Goblin drew a long, sharp fingernail down the centre of the vault and it unlocked, creaking open. There, in the very forefront of the packed vault was a decent sized pouch, labelled ‘Dawn Summers’. The Goblin motioned her forwards and Dawn scrambled in, snatched the pouch up, and backed out as quickly as possible. She didn’t want that unbreakable door closing her in.
The ride back up to the surface was barely less terrifying than the one down, but Dawn managed to pry her fingers from Remus’ arm once they reached the top. James and Peter were waiting for them, large, cheeky grins covering their faces.
“Ok, let’s go,” James said, and they left the Glory’s minions look-alikes behind, much to Dawn’s relief.
“Where to now?” she asked.
“Ollivander’s, I guess,” Remus shrugged, pointing to an ld shop with an ancient purple painted sign hanging above the door. “Probably makes sense to start with a wand for you.”
Dawn followed the boys into the store, clutching her moneybag tightly in her fist. The wand store was dusty and shadowy, filled with row upon row of shelves stacked with long, thin boxes.
“Miss Summers! Ah, I’ve been expecting you,” a voice from the shadows announced.
Dawn yelped. “I wasn’t expecting that,” she squeaked as an old man crept into the light and the boys all snickered.
“Hello, Mr Ollivander,” Remus said politely. “We’ve come to help Dawn collect her school supplies.”
“Yes,” Ollivander muttered, his measuring tape already taking Dawn’s measurements of its own accord. And Dawn really didn’t see how the length of her thighs was going to have any effect on choosing her wand. “Hold out your wand arm, dear.”
With a confused look at her companions, Dawn slowly extended her right hand towards Ollivander. He studied it a moment before turning to a shelf and pulling out one of the boxes. From it he took a long, brightly polished wand and handed it to Dawn.
Remembering what she’d had to do in Dumbledore’s office, Dawn gave the wand a quick wave. An entire shelf of wands tumbled down. She practically threw the wand away from her onto the counter.
“I am so
sorry,” she squealed, looking to Ollivander apologetically. She was absolutely mortified.
“Quite alright,” the wand smith waved her apologies away while Peter tried desperately to quell his shrill sniggers. “Perhaps this one,” Ollivander handed her another wand.
Twenty six wands later, Dawn was beginning to tire of the task. She also doubted there were any breakables left in the store that she hadn’t, well, broken. She sighed dejectedly as the twenty seventh wand set its own box on fire, on the verge of giving up.
“Don’t worry,” James told her, clapping a hand to her shoulder so hard she stumbled forwards a bit. “I heard that some guy had to try over a hundred wands before he got one to work for him. It’s supposed to be some sort of record or something.”
“One hundred and nineteen,” Ollivander confirmed. “In the year 1893, I well remember it.” He handed Dawn yet another wand, and as she touched it, something clicked within her.
A surge of power flowed through her veins and a green glow swelled around her for a moment before it subsided. “Whoa,” she breathed.
“I’d say we have a match,” Sirius grinned, relieved that their time in the store was coming to a close. The frequent explosions and other destructive forces Dawn had caused with the rejected wands had only been funny for the first fifteen minutes or so. But it had been two hours since breakfast now and he was getting hungry.
“Ah. Redwood, ten inch. Good wand, nice and strong. Core is the heartstring of a dragon,” Ollivander announced, apparently pleased with the match.
Dawn’s relieved smile dimmed. “This has a part of a dragon’s heart in it?” She looked at the wand and promptly put it down.
“Do not worry, my dear. I never use any ingredients in my wands that have not been given freely by their donors. Dragons can bequeath their heartstrings in their wills.”
“Oh. Ok then,” Dawn picked her wand back up and tugged open the strings of her pouch. “How much is this?”
Ollivander named his price, and the moment he did Dawn turned her money over to the nearest boy, Peter, and let him handle the transaction. A moment later they had bid the wand smith farewell and were making their way back along the Alleyway, Dawn receiving a quick lesson on wizard money as they went.
“I’m hungry,” Sirius announced. “It’s time for ice-cream!”
The others just sighed, knowing there was no stopping Sirius when he had his mind set on food, and followed him into the ice-creamery. The boys all gave their orders while Dawn stared at the selection before her.
“And what’ll you have, missy?”
“Um. . . That one, and that one,” she pointed randomly at two different flavours and everyone in earshot immediately winced at the combination. As soon as they had all paid for their ice-creams, they wandered out into the sunshine and Dawn licked at her cone.
“Taste alright?” James asked, watching her with a smirk.
Dawn nodded happily.
“Know what flavours they are?”
Dawn shook her head.
“Well, that red one is tomato sauce, and that yellowish one is chutney with mayonnaise.”
Dawn shrugged. Strange food combinations had always been her specialty. Maybe the monks who’d made her didn’t get the taste bud detail right? “It’s really nice, you should try it sometime,” she said.
James pulled a face before turning his attention to his own cone. “No thanks, give me triple choc and raspberry any day.”
They lounged around a secluded part of Diagon Ally while they finished their ice-creams, then headed straight to Madam Malkins’ Robes for All Occasions for Dawn’s school robes.
She was grateful to be ushered off into a private room for her measurements to be taken, and returned to the main part of the store a little while later with the promise that she’d have three sets of school robes and one set of dress robes for collection within an hour. With a little help from her friends, she paid upfront for the robes and they moved on to the next store.
An hour and a half, and an almost empty money pouch later, Dawn’s school supplies were well and truly taken care of. They lugged Dawn’s belongings upstairs to their three rooms at the Leaky Cauldron, claiming the single room in the middle as Dawn’s. Sirius had got as far as opening his mouth to suggest himself sharing one of the double rooms with Dawn, but James and Remus had each elbowed him hard enough in the side to keep him quiet. When everything was stacked neatly in Dawn’s room, they all went down into the Inn to introduce her to the taste of Butterbeer. Remus was pointing various landmarks of the Leaky Cauldron out to her.
“That’s the bar,” Remus said.
“Where witches and wizards all go to gossip,” Sirius added.
“And over there is a sort of meeting area, like a Common Room, even.”
“Where witches and wizards all go to gossip.”
“And there’s the fireplace.”
“Where witches and wizards all floo in to gossip.”
“Sirius,” James groaned. “Shut up.”
“That’s the door that leads to muggle London,” Remus said, pointing at the far wall of the Leaky Cauldron. Dawn’s eyes rested on the door, a half-wistful expression flitting across her face.
“London,” she breathed. “I always wanted to see London.”
Remus bit back a groan as he watched James and Sirius exchange identical evil grins. Peter grinned to himself, wondering what exciting adventure his friends were cooking up now. Before Dawn knew what was happening, she was being dragged down a crowded London street for ‘the grand tour- Marauders’ style’. She looked incredibly apprehensive at first, not wanting to go breaking rules after Professor Dumbledore had been so good to her, until Remus came up with an excuse to ease her mind (and his own).
“Well, Dumbledore knows you’ll need casual clothes, too.”
“See,” Sirius grinned, slinging an arm about Remus’ shoulders. “This is why we love Moony- he’s got all the technicalities to keep us out of trouble!”
“But weren’t we supposed to order her casual clothes at Madam Malkin’s, when we ordered her robes?” Peter piped up.
James hit him with a silencing charm. “And that’s why we always practice out silencing charms on Wormtail,” he added. Peter shot James a sour look as Dawn giggled at the antics of the four friends.
“Pfft- practice. Who needs practice,” Sirius scoffed, at which Remus rolled his eyes. It was widely known that Sirius and James were two of the most talented wizards Hogwarts had seen in a long time, and they certainly weren’t afraid to flaunt their talents. It seemed their favourite outlet was their increasingly creative pranks on the Slytherins.
A sobering thought suddenly occurred to Dawn. “Um, guys? How can I get my stuff in the whatsitcalled, muggle world? I don’t have any money for it with me.”
“Why, Muss Summers, what did you think Prongs and Wormtail were doing all that time in Gringotts? Making friends with the Goblins?” Sirius joked. Dawn shuddered. The Goblins in the bank really had reminded her entirely too much of Glory’s minions. She was pulled out of her unpleasant thoughts by James waving something under her nose. Her eyes widened as James stuffed the large wad of cash back into his jacket pocket. She’d never seen so much money just waved around like that in her life.
“You’ve been planning to do this all along,” she realised.
“Yep,” Remus replied unabashedly. “Why else would I have the whole necessary shopping excuse all ready to go with?”
Dawn just smiled and shook her head as they made their way into the first shop. Two pairs of jeans later, she wondered why Peter was being so quiet. He couldn’t possibly be that shy all of a sudden, could he? Then it hit her.
“Hey, how long do silencing charms work?”
“What? Why? Oh! Sorry, Wormtail,” James realised and muttered the counter-curse. “Forgot about that.” Peter scowled, until James wrapped him up in a bear hug and began apologising profusely in the most exaggerated manner imaginable.
“Get off,” Peter said in his squeaky voice as he pushed James away, but he was laughing along with the rest of them.
A little over an hour later, Dawn had enough casual clothes to last her a good, long while. Aside from her two pairs of jeans, Dawn also decided on a couple of other pairs of pants, a few skirts, a handful of tops of assorted styles, and a warm jacket for the winter. With a cheeky grin, Sirius dumped as many of Dawn’s shopping bags as he could into Peter’s dumpy arms before offloading the rest onto Remus.
“I’m hungry!” he announced, not for the first time that day.
“What else is new?” James countered with a snort.
“Well! We don’t need them, if that’s the way they’re gonna be, do we Dawn? We’ll get our own snacks!” Sirius exploded in mock outrage. He hooked his arm through hers and started marching her off in the direction of the food court. They had barely taken five steps when Dawn spoke up.
“Yes, my dear Miss Summers?”
“Doesn’t James have all the money?”
Sirius stopped so suddenly that Dawn stumbled forward a couple of steps before he steadied her. He turned around to glower at his three laughing friends, who followed them to the food court, still sniggering as they walked.
As the boys’ ‘little snack’ was about five times the size of Dawn’s, a burger and fries which constituted a full meal in her book, she was finished much quicker than they were. She scooted over in her seat to speak quietly in James’ ear while the others were occupied elsewhere. Remus was busy judging the speed-eating contest that had sprung up between Peter and Sirius.
“Do you think I could have some money, James? There’s just a few other things I need to get before we head back.”
While swallowing his mouthful of triple cheeseburger, James stared at Dawn. “What?” he said when he’d swallowed. “Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of time. We’ll take you wherever you need to go when we’re done here.”
“No, no, no,” said Dawn quickly. “You guys are still eating. And I won’t be gone long, promise,” she gave him an almost imploring look.
James frowned. “What do you still need, anyway?”
Dawn felt the heat creeping up her neck and over her face as she blushed. “Just- something,” she mumbled.
It took several seconds of analysing the pinkness in the girl’s cheeks and straining his mind to try and figure out what else she could possibly need to buy, and obviously not want four guys she barely knew around to witness the purchase, but finally James understood. A wicked grin spread across his face, terrifying Dawn, and when he spoke it was in a voice so loud she was sure the entire food court heard him.
“Guys, hurry up. We still have to shop for Dawn’s underwear!”
The entire table froze. A fry that was dangling out of the corner of Peter’s mouth dropped back onto his tray, unnoticed. Remus, Sirius and Peter all stared at the maniacally grinning James and the furiously blushing Dawn. Peter looked intrigued at the prospect of underwear shopping with a girl, Sirius looked much like James did; as if all his Christmases had come at once. Remus just gave the mortified girl a sympathetic smile, but his amber eyes were dancing in a way that told Dawn there was no way he was going to rescue her from her dilemma.
“Thanks, James,” Dawn finally managed to squeak out. “But I think I can manage this one myself, y’know.”
“No bloody way!” Sirius boomed. “We’re going right now!” He looked down at his tray, at the half-eaten triple cheeseburger still sitting there, then back at Dawn, as if caught in a moment’s indecision. Then he simply picked up his remaining half-a-burger and crammed the entire thing into his mouth.
“Right then, let’s go,” he said around a chunk of meat pattie and jumped to his feet.
Dawn’s face was burning with embarrassment, but Sirius and James each took one of her arms and marched her determinedly into the nearest lingerie store. The four boys immediately started browsing the racks of lacy, satiny and otherwise intriguing undergarments, apparently oblivious to the stares they were receiving. Dawn, however, standing off to one side, was keenly aware of every eye in the store, as well as those of some passers-by, trained squarely on her and her companions.
Peter was tactlessly staring at the life sized pictures of underwear models that adorned the walls while Remus, a hint of a shy blush staining his cheeks, was trying to figure out exactly how many different types of bras there were to choose from. James and Sirius were rapidly procuring armloads of underwear and Dawn hated to admit it, but it looked as if they had actual taste. Even if every garment they chose was very much on the racy side of things. They stood side by side, examining a black satin thong.
“She’d look good in this,” James mused. Dawn blushed.
“She’d look even better out of it,” Sirius countered with a wink. Dawn turned purple and ducked her head to hide her face.
Remus noticed her alarming new complexion and sidled up to her. “Are you ok, Dawn?”
Dawn just nodded, still refusing to look up. Remus shrugged and turned back to his bra deliberations. A severe looking sales assistant stalked over to Dawn at that moment.
“Can I help you, Miss?”
“No thanks, I’ve got all the help I can stand,” she mumbled. “Unless you’ve got one of those floors that open up and swallow people whole?” she added hopefully. From the impatient sniff of the sales assistant as she turned on her heel and walked off, Dawn guessed that was a ‘no’.
By now, Sirius and James were satisfied they had the underpants front covered, so they turned their attention to bras.
“There’s so many different kinds,” said Remus in an awed voice. “How’re we supposed to choose?”
“Easy,” said James. “We’ll just get as many of them as we can this time, and come back for the others whenever we can.” Dawn’s eyes widened at that. Coming back? More total humiliation in a lingerie store? She didn’t think so, somehow.
At long last, the four boys conferred and agreed they’d picked out all they could for Dawn this time around, and James and Sirius proudly dumped their selections on the counter. It took fifteen minutes for the clerk to ring it all up. Finally done, they picked up a bag each and turned to the mortified Dawn. Seeing her discomfort apparently for the first time, Sirius walked over to her and gave a mock bow.
“My Lady Dawn,” he said importantly. “On behalf of my Marauding friends and I, I thank you for the high honour of selecting your underwear. Our humble gift to you,” he presented her with his bag.
Dawn took the bag from Sirius’ hand and, despite herself, she giggled. All four boys noticed from that moment on, Dawn seemed to relax just the tiniest bit around them. They wandered out of the shopping centre and started aimlessly roaming the streets of London, so Dawn could take in some of the sights. The city was breathtaking as dusk settled over the buildings and parks.
“It’s getting dark,” Peter remarked.
“Observant of you, Wormtail,” James snorted.
“Well, maybe we should be heading back to the Leaky Cauldron, if we want dinner before we go out tonight,” Remus suggested.
“Where are we going tonight?” Dawn asked, curious.
“Clubbing,” Sirius answered promptly. “Can’t say we’ve shown you London till we’ve shown you the night life.”
“But we’re only fifteen.”
James waved his hand impatiently at her. “Minor detail,” he said dismissively.
Dawn frowned in thought. “Ok, by now I’ve figured out that Dumbledore knew we’d come into muggle London all along,” –the boys all looked mildly impressed with her powers of deduction- “but wouldn’t that be why he specifically said we were to be back at the Leaky Cauldron by nightfall?”
“Yeah, but he never said we couldn’t go out again after that,” Remus argued. It seemed they had well and truly thought this one through.
“Yes he did,” Peter piped up.
,” James retorted, and Peter was unable to speak during the entire walk back to the Leaky Cauldron.
* * * * *
At five past twelve, Dawn heard a faint knock on her door. She gave herself a last, quick once-over in the mirror, which told her she looked “very pretty” and eased the door open. Sirius stood there, grinning, his dark hair flopping casually over on eye.
“Ok, the coast is finally clear and the others are waiting for us outside. C’mon,” he whispered.
He grabbed Dawn’s hand and pulled her quietly down the hallway, down the stairs, and across the ground floor of the Inn until they reached the muggle door. He eased it open and they slipped out into the balmy night.
Remus, James and Peter stood on the sidewalk, grinning proudly at her, their doubts about her nerve dissolving. All of them had half expected her to chicken out at the last minute and remain in her room for the night, just as Dumbledore expected her to. Dawn smiled nervously back, supremely apprehensive as to what the night held in store for her.
“Everybody ready?” James asked, and received four nods of confirmation in return.
They made their way very quickly across town and Dawn couldn’t help but keep her eyes peeled for things that go bump in the night. All those memories of being a Slayer’s little sister seemed to be finally having a positive influence over her.
“Ok, here we go,” James murmured, pulling a piece of shimmery material out of his back pocket and enlarging it.
“What is that?” Dawn asked.
James grinned devilishly and covered himself in the material, becoming invisible in the process. “The source of all my power,” his smug voice announced.
“An Invisibility Cloak,” Peter told her, his voice squeaking in his obvious excitement. “They’re really rare,”
James whipped the Cloak off with a flourish and reappeared. Next thing Dawn knew, she’d been pulled roughly to his side, the other boys crowding around them. A moment later, James draped the Cloak over the entire group and they slowly shuffled around the corner to the heavy front door of the club, careful not to let the bouncer hear them. It was only a few minutes before a large group approached. The bouncer checked their I.D.s and opened the doors up for them, allowing the invisible group of minors plenty of time to slip into the club.
In a deserted corner, five underage teens suddenly appeared from underneath a Cloak and blended into the crowd. A small, wistful smile tugged at Dawn’s lips. The club wasn’t that big, there was a stage, a dance floor, a bar, some tables and even a platform above their heads. It was the Bronze, only English and it didn’t admit minors. By the time she had finished looking around, James had somehow made his Cloak disappear back into his pocket. They threaded their way through the crowd and snagged a table, pleased to have made it into the club undetected thus far.
“So this place is pretty cool, huh?” James yelled to Dawn over the thundering music.
“Reminds me of the Bronze- the club back home,” Dawn grinned, shifting in her seat to make herself more comfortable.
Sirius and James were scanning the crowd, almost predatory glints in their eyes as they surveyed the several pretty young women in the club. Dawn grimaced to herself, wondering what made the two fifteen year-olds, handsome as they were, think they actually stood a chance with women five and six years older than them. They say around for a while, chatting and trying to remain inconspicuous lest security catch sight of them and cut their big night out short. But it seemed they were safe.
All of a sudden, Sirius sprang out of his chair and made an announcement. “C’mon, fellas. . . lady. It’s dance time!”
Dawn balked. Dancing. She was never very good at that, with the movement and the grace and the style, all those things she really didn’t possess. Dawn was all about clumsiness, awkwardness, and definitely not built for the dance floor.
“I- uh,” she began to stutter an excuse, but was immediately interrupted by a large hand yanking her forcefully out of her seat.
“No excuses,” James ordered while Dawn tried in vain to free herself from Sirius’ iron-like grip.
“I can’t dance,” she squeaked, large blue orbs fixed on the dance floor as if some horrible fate awaited her there.
“What did we just say about excuses?” Remus scolded playfully, helping Sirius pull Dawn towards the throng of dancers.
“Besides, didn’t you just say this was like the club back where you’re from?” Peter pointed out.
“I never said I danced there!” Dawn protested, trying in vain to tug her hands free. “And Buffy only ever let me go there once, for Tara’s birthday-” she felt a pang at the mention of her Sunnydale family and broke off. Before she could recover to finish her sentence, she found herself drowning in the crush of bodies. She now gripped Sirius and Remus’ hands tightly, afraid of losing them and never being able to find them again in the chaos.
The group found themselves in a pocket of space, Dawn’s hands were suddenly freed and she bit her lip, praying to all of Willow and Tara’s Goddesses that she wouldn’t make a complete fool of herself. Sirius leaned in close to speak in her ear.
“Just relax, Dawn. You can’t be as bad as Peter.”
Looking over at the Gryffindor in question, Dawn’s eyebrows rose sharply. A second later she was fighting the fit of the giggles threatening to engulf her as she watched Peter thrashing his limbs about not quite in time with the music. Then, all of a sudden, Sirius grabbed her and spun her around, a self-satisfied smirk on his face when she regained her bearings and shot him a dirty look.
“See! Not so hard!” he bellowed over the music, giving her a winning smile.
Dawn huffed, but nonetheless relaxed a little and attempted to dance. As the night wore on, she found that it wasn’t as hard as she’d worried it would be, and couldn’t help but think that Sirius was right on both counts. She also wasn’t as bad as Peter. Nobody could be as bad as Peter, not even Xander.
She sighed, shoving her sweaty hair out of her face. Xander. Twice tonight she’d thought of her lost family, and twice the loneliness had come crashing into reality for her. Remus noticed the sudden drop in her enthusiasm and raised his eyebrows at Dawn, looking pointedly at their table, which was still miraculously free.
“Want to sit?” he mouthed.
Dawn nodded gratefully. They waved to the others and threaded their way through the crowd to the table. Dawn collapsed into a seat, suddenly feeling quite drained.
“All right, Dawn?” Remus asked.
Dawn forced a nod and a half-truth. “I’m ok, Remus. Just feeling a little wiped out.”
“You’ve had a rough couple of days. I’m sorry, we shouldn’t have dragged you out so late at night. Would you like to go back to the Inn?”
“No, the others are still having fun,” she said quickly, looking to the dance floor. It seemed that James and Sirius stood a better chance with the older women than she had given them credit for. Scary. “I just need to sit down for a minute. Really.”
“Well would you like a drink then?” Remus offered with a warm smile and Dawn nodded gratefully.
Remus headed off towards the bar and Dawn let her eyes rove around the club, trying not to appear as the underage loner she felt like at the moment. But something about the club suddenly felt off to her when she stopped to really look. Something that made her feel. . . unsafe, somehow. A familiar kind of unsafe. . .
Dawn’s eyes widened as she looked around. The place was crawling with vampires, and something about the way they were moving told her they were getting ready to attack. Her blue eyes, wide as saucers in her rapidly paling face, landed on Remus as he reappeared with their drinks.
“Here you go,” he handed her a root beer. Dawn ignored it.
“We have to go. Now,” she insisted.
“Ok,” Remus said, nonplussed, and Dawn wondered for a moment if all werewolves were as laid back as both Remus and Oz seemed to be. She tugged on his sleeve urgently.
“Please, we really need to get out of here,” she begged.
Seeing her distress, Remus nodded. He put down the drinks on the table and led Dawn through the throng of dancers to almost the middle of the dance floor, where Sirius and James were surrounded by women, and Peter was trying to squeeze into the circle with them. Somehow, Remus managed to get a hold of both Sirius and James and mutter into their ears that Dawn needed to get out of the club as soon as possible. Immediately, even.
James frowned, not understanding until Remus gestured to Dawn, then the door, inclining his head as if to prod him through it. James looked back at Dawn, who was looking more and more terrified by the second; one of the women the boys had been dancing with, she was pretty sure, was a vampire. Reluctant to leave so early, it was only three in the morning after all, James sighed and collared Peter and Sirius, dragging them forcefully towards the exit.
A blast of icy night air hit them as they came out into the open, and the pounding of the music was stifled by the heavy door thudding closed behind the group.
“What’s going on?” Sirius asked, a bite of annoyance in his voice. “Why the hell are we leaving so damn early?”
Remus shrugged. “Dawn needed to get out of there. Are you ok, Dawn?”
At that moment, the muffled sounds of screams reached their ears, coming from inside the building they’d just escaped. The boys were dumbfounded, but Dawn’s worst fears had been realised.
“Not ok. Run,” she said quickly, giving the two nearest boys, James and Peter, a push in the right direction before taking off herself. They didn’t need to be told twice; only Peter, the chubby one, lagged behind as the rest made it across town and back to the Leaky Cauldron in record time. At the door, they waited for Peter to come lumbering around the corner before slipping into the darkened pub and up the stairs.
Collapsing together in Sirius and James’ room, they all let out the collective breaths they’d been holding. Sirius threw himself on his bed, Peter and Remus flopped onto James’, and Dawn slid down on the floor against Sirius’ bed, huddling in a little ball. She’d never faced vampires before without the innate knowledge that her sister would be there to rescue her at any moment. Noticing that she was still not ok, James sat down beside her, patting her back a little awkwardly.
“Hey, Dawn. What’s going on?”
Dawn lifted her troubled gaze to his. “Vampires,” she said, so quietly that the others had to lean in to hear. “Attacked the club. We would’ve died if we had’ve stayed there even a minute longer.”
“Hang on a minute,” Peter butted in. “How come you didn’t know anything about our kind of magic, but you picked a club full of vampires before any of us did?”
Dawn only hesitated a moment. The only people who knew about this, the only people she was allowed talk to about it, were a world away and possibly gone from her life forever. And she somehow felt she could trust these four boys with her somewhat unconventional upbringing. It was, she found, even easier than telling Dumbledore about Buffy.
“My sister’s the Slayer. In my world, vampires are a lot worse than here. Or so Dumbledore said,” Dawn snorted. She thought the massive raid on the club tonight constituted a definite vampire problem. “Anyway, the Slayer is a girl chosen to fight vampires and demons, it’s a birthright, much with the blood and gore and the little sister being kidnapped. After two or three times being kidnapped by vampires, and two or three hundred lectures about them by Buffy, you tend to start noticing the signs of a vampire attack.”
Sirius let out a low whistle. “Brilliant,” he breathed. The other three boys, so busy agreeing with Sirius’ declaration, did not see the silent tears that had begun to create glistening silver streaks down Dawn’s cheeks. She curled even tighter into a little ball, gripping her knees to her chest so tight her knuckles were turning white with the effort. It was several moments before Sirius noticed the slight shaking of her hunched shoulders.
“Wormtail, what did you do to her this time!?” he demanded loudly, ignoring Remus’ quick whispered, “Shh, Padfoot.”
Dawn tried to force a laugh, but all that escaped her lips was a sort of strangled sob. James slipped an arm around her shoulders and Sirius slid off his bed to sit on her other side, offering silent support as he squeezed her small hand in his. Over her head, the two boys enveloping her exchanged confused glances, not knowing what exactly had set her off.
Peter frowned over at Remus, and spoke in a low, contrite voice. “Um, what did I do?”
Remus just shook his head slightly to indicate that it wasn’t Peter’s fault, his eyes never leaving Dawn’s slim form. She let out a slight shiver, and it was then that he noticed their fire had died at some point. He aimed his wand into the fireplace and muttered a quick spell under his breath. It roared back to life, the crackling sounds and orange flickering drawing Dawn’s attention. She stared into the fire for the longest time, lost in thoughts behind a glassy blue stare and James and Sirius, who could not see her face, started to wonder if she’d dropped off to sleep at some point.
A hushed, husky voice startled them. “I miss Buffy,” Dawn said hoarsely, drawing a shuddering breath. The four friends exchanged glances, each searching for something to say that would ease their new friend’s pain. As it turned out, all they needed to do was listen.
“It’s just. . . I’ve never had to face anything without her before. She was literally my protector, she would’ve died for me if I’d let her. She made me feel safe no matter what, and I guess I’m just scared to live without that. And now I don’t know if I’ll ever get to feel that protected again,” she broke off in another sob.
James tried to tighten his grip around her shoulders, but was surprised by Sirius pulling Dawn out of his reach and into a tight hug. A feeling of warmth engulfed her. She snuggled into the boyish chest, letting the world fall away as she’d done in Buffy’s arms not so long ago.
“Never fear, the Marauders are here,” Sirius joked lightly, eliciting a tiny giggle from Dawn as his friends rolled their eyes at his antics. Then his tone turned serious. “Don’t worry, Dawn. We’ll take care of you.”
As his words washed over her, Dawn twisted in his arms to meet his pale blue stare, surprised by the sincerity she found there. The last of her tears dried and she sniffled loudly. She immediately blushed and looked away, embarrassed by her disgusting display of nasal pyrotechnics. Chuckling, James slipped a handkerchief into her hand for her to blow her nose.
“Sorry,” she muttered, handing it back to him without looking up.
“No problem,” James returned, still chuckling as he accepted the now drenched handkerchief and stuffed it back into his pocket. Sirius had loosened his hold on Dawn, but had kept one arm casually slung over her shoulders, forcing her to remain pressed close to his side. Unable to resist, Remus arched an eyebrow at Sirius’ apparently comfortable position, and was not surprised to receive a cheeky wink in return.
“By the way,” James told her, “Sirius wasn’t kidding before when he said we’d take care of you. He really is the loyal type like that.”
“The loyal type of what?”
Suddenly, a mass of black fur smothered Dawn. A bear-like dog had materialised by her side, where Sirius had been seated only a moment before, and Dawn let out a startled yelp.
Immediately, she clapped her hand over her mouth, and the black dog’s tongue slurped happily at her cheek before he turned and chased his tail a couple of times for her entertainment. Dawn couldn’t help it; she burst out laughing and the dog bounded back over to lick her face again. Pale blue eyes pleaded with her, and Dawn took the hint to start scratching him behind the ears. She turned to speak to James, her hand still lazily petting the dog.
“How’d he do that?”
Careful not to disclose too much information too soon about all of them, James shrugged. “Sirius is an Animagi. Took the best part of three years to work out how, but he can transform into a dog at will, he’s only just managed it these last couple of weeks.”
“Oh. So, can anyone do it?” Dawn asked, still trailing her fingers through the thick fur.
“In theory, yes,” James said slowly, for some reason his lips twitched for a moment as if he was about to smile as his hazel eyes flicked to something just over her shoulder. Engrossed in his explanation, Dawn paid the gesture no attention. “Though not all witches and wizards have the knack for it, it can be really difficult and go horribly wrong. Which is why the Ministry of Magic keeps a really close eye on anyone trying to do it, and why it’s illegal to be unregistered like Sirius is, and why you really can’t tell anyone about this. Ok?”
“Sure,” Dawn replied. It seemed only fair that they had each exchanged a secret now. It was kind of trust-inspiring. She didn’t notice Remus and Peter’s faces contorting with the effort of not laughing at her hand still stroking the dog.
“I could get used to this,” a smug voice announced.
Dawn jumped and looked back to the dog she had been petting. Horrified, she stared at the grinning fifteen year-old boy who had reappeared beside her. Who still had her fingers running through his hair. She froze, eyes widening as Peter, Remus and James started to cackle. Dawn snatched her hand away, ignoring Sirius’ crestfallen expression. She went to flee to the safety of her own room, but James grabbed her arm and she thudded back to the floor unceremoniously.
“Sirius was only playing, Dawn. Don’t go running off on us just because he happens to be a complete prat.”
She looked from James over to Sirius, who gave her his best puppy dog face. She sighed, her embarrassment not quite subsided, and gave him a quick shove away from her. The other boys laughed, and Sirius, straightening up, beamed proudly at her.
“You’ll be one of us yet,” he declared. “Hey, if it’ll make you feel better, you can try on all that underwear we bought you today and show us!” he said brightly, his voice hopeful. Dawn turned beet red once more.
“Padfoot,” James groaned. “Ignore him, Dawnie,” he instructed. “Unless you really want to?”
“Worth a shot,” Sirius shrugged, shooting a winning smile in Dawn’s direction, and her blush was no longer one of embarrassment.
Remus checked his watch and sighed. “Well, it’s 4AM. I guess we should get some sleep, if we wanna make the Hogwarts Express tomorrow morning. Well, later this morning.” He and Peter got to their feet and made their way towards the door. “You coming, Dawn?”
“Well walk her back to her room in a bit,” Sirius said quickly. “Night guys.”
“Wait,” Peter squeaked. “I thought Dawn was gonna try her underwear on?”
Lightning fast, Remus slapped Peter upside the head and shoved him out the door a split second before James, wand already aimed, could hex the living daylights out of his chubby, clueless friend.
“Night,” Remus called as they disappeared. A second later, the sound of a door nearby thudding closed reached their ears. Sirius and James relaxed back against Sirius’ bed, Dawn still nestled between them protectively.
“Wormtail can be a prat too sometimes. Are you sure you’re all right?” James prodded.
Yawning, Dawn nodded. “Yeah. Just a minor breakdown a little earlier. Sorry ‘bout that.”
“Don’t worry about it, kiddo,” James assured her.
“I’m not a kid,” Dawn almost growled. One thing would never change for her it seemed; even in another world she had to fight to be recognised as someone to be counted.