No changes. See Prologue.A/N:
Hadn't originally planned to post this until I finished several more parts of "The Other Girl
" (which it contains some mild spoilers for.) but things change and the Muse insisted. A/N:
Although this isn't a direct sequel to my "Red Raider" series, (and you don't HAVE to read it to understand this (so far)), it contains background info on some things that happen in this story.
Perci lugged the large, oblong box up the stairs and into the small suite, sighing as she dropped it on the floor. With her strength, it wasn't a heavy box but its unusually long shape had been very awkward to maneuver through the warren of hallways and stairs in the student dorms that would be her home for the next few terms. Especially without attracting any attention.
She felt a slight twinge at the thought of her wand, a constant companion for the last seven years, lying buried deep in one of the boxes still waiting in the boot of the car her parents had purchased for her that summer. While each summer had been a minor test of her resolve to remain magic-free, after living in the magic drenched atmosphere at Hogwarts for most of the last seven years, this first term would be the real test. Could she start living without magic, for all intents and purposes living like a muggle.
Perci knew that if she wanted to survive at Oxford without breaking the Ministry of Magic's secrecy laws she wouldn't have much choice. She'd been planning to live as magic free as possible for almost two years. But resisting the urge to use the magic that had been a major part of her years at Hogwarts had yet to be tested.
With the Ministry restrictions on underage magic, it had been easy to pretend she was a muggle during her summers at home with her parents, at least until her seventeenth birthday. Even with two daughters who were witches, her parents had almost no contact with the wizarding world, though she knew that would probably change if Hermione ever got around to marrying that Weasley git.
Sharing a room with the American her sister had set her up with was not going to be easy. She didn't know much about her soon-to-be roommate but she was certain she was a muggle. Reading between the lines of the several letters they'd exchanged over the summer, Perci assumed Dawn Summers, the roommate she hadn't really wanted, was completely unaware of the wizarding world and magic.
She thought about this person she hadn't met yet as she moved the rest of her possessions up to their rooms. Hermione, the one time they'd talked that summer, had been surprisingly vague about her future roommate. Perci was admittedly curious. But she was also very suspicious, certain that something was going on. Why would someone with the opportunity to attend any number of good muggle universities in America travel all the way to England to go to Oxford?
There had to be a good reason for her sister wanting her to room with this girl, other than her being the sister of a friend of Ginny Weasley's. That in itself, Ginny Weasley being close friends with a muggle, had been a huge surprise, almost as huge as when she'd read in the Quibbler that the youngest Weasley had gone to America to work with muggles.
Even with her excess energy, it had taken Perci a half hour to move all of her things into the rooms. Putting her last box down on a clear spot on the floor, she looked around at the chaotic explosion of boxes. She'd managed to swing an early arrival in student housing, with the hope of settling in before her roommate showed up for the University's international student orientation in two days.
But before she could do that she needed to take her car back home. Now that she was moved in, she didn't have any use for it. Everywhere she needed to go was within walking distance. It would just sit there for the entire term begging for attention and distracting her from her studies. If she needed to go anywhere outside of the city she could read a train schedule as well as anyone else. Or break her vow to never apparate again if there was a real emergency at home.
Closing the door behind her and carefully locking it, Perci walked down to the car, feeling only slightly naked without her wand in its usual place. Although she went every summer without it, it had been a comfort when she was away from home, an added amount of safety. She shook her head. She needed to get used to the feeling. She wouldn't need it. There was very little chance of running into someone who might try to hex her at this very muggle-oriented school.
But she still had the urge to carry something. If not her wand, at least something like it. Leaning against her car for a moment and closing her eyes, she could almost feel what she wanted. She would know it when she held it in her hand. Something made of very smooth wood. With a sharp, pointed tip. But other than that its exact nature seemed to escape her. Her fingers tingled with the faint echo of a memory.
This feeling that she needed something to replace her hidden wand and the dreams seemed to be connected with the changes she'd gone through at the end of fourth year, but she couldn't quite nail it down. She'd started having dreams about it that she couldn't really remember during her last year at Hogwarts. With a start she realized she'd been rubbing the fingers of her wand hand together, lost in a memory of something she couldn't quite grasp.
Frowning, she climbed into the small car, put it into gear, and pulled carefully out into the late morning traffic, trying to ignore the way the other moving objects caused her eyes to twitch uncontrollably and the hair at the back of her neck to stand up. If she timed it right, she could be back in time for dinner.
Dawn pushed open the door of her new home for the next term and looked around. She was a day early, even before the almost endless rounds of University orientation activities her college required foreign students like herself to attend. Her roommate wasn't expecting her until later the next day but she'd arrived early so she could have a chance to get to know her before they both became immersed in their studies. From Ginny's description, she was very smart but not very sociable. After years of dealing with slayers like Faith and Kennedy, Dawn was pretty sure she could handle one stand-offish roommate.
Checking out the small bedrooms it was obvious from the pile of boxes in one that Persephone Granger had already moved in, though apparently just barely. She looked around for a place to drop the things she was carrying. She hadn't brought a lot up from London. Just her laptop, the things she needed to access the Council network from her desk, several weeks worth of clothes, and more than a few books. If she needed anything else she could get it locally. Most of her things had fit easily into the trunk of the car she'd rented for the move. Not wanting to stand out and attract gossip, Dawn had refused Giles' generous offer of a car and driver from the Council motor pool.
Wandering into the empty bedroom, she dropped her things at the foot of the bed. Looking around, she had a feeling that something was missing. Shrugging her shoulders, she headed back to her car. It could wait until later.
Dawn sighed with relief, collapsing onto her bare mattress, just barely avoiding the things she'd put there earlier. She liked to think that she was in very good shape after so much time around the training watchers and slayers who'd wandered through the Council offices and her life over the years. But it had already been a long day and she was only human. Getting up before daylight so she could arrive as soon as the college offices opened had taken some doing. After the late night going away party her sister had insisted on having she was exhausted. And it wasn't even lunch yet.
Groaning, she sat back up and looked around at the chaos in her room. She knew if she could just get a start on unpacking her clothes the rest of it would be easy and could wait until after lunch. Examining her room, she realized that she hadn't been imagining things. There was something missing. Her bedroom did not have a closet. Instead there was a large wardrobe in one corner.
"If C.S. Lewis or one of his characters wanders out of that thing in the middle of the night I'm not going to be happy," she muttered to herself before getting up to look at it. Standing in front of it, she wondered how she was going to squeeze in all of her clothes, glad for once that she didn't have her sister's wardrobe issues.
Tackling the boxes one at a time, Dawn dumped her clothes out onto the bed, sorting them into small piles before moving them to either the wardrobe or the small dresser standing next to it. She only stopped when her stomach announced very loudly that she was hungry. Grimacing, she checked the boxes still remaining unopened in her room and the sitting room. Most of them seemed to be full of books and other Council materials she'd insisted on bringing in case she needed to do any extra-curricular research if she couldn't get to the London office.
Frowning in thought, she made quick work of the ones in the outer room, moving them into a pile in the far corner of her small room. She didn't want her roommate, when she came back from wherever she'd gone, to think she was trying to take over the whole room. Looking at the pile, Dawn decided she was going to need a larger bookshelf before she unboxed them.
Before heading out to grab a sandwich at the small cafeteria she'd noticed next door, Dawn cleared off a corner of the desk she'd claimed in the sitting room, making room for her laptop. While she ate it could crunch through the data for a small project she needed to finish for Giles before the start of classes used up any of her free time. She grinned slightly as she took it out of its case. She'd managed to snag one of the special laptops that Willow had set up as spares before her pilgrimage the spring before.
She didn't think Giles or Willow had been fooled at her request for a laptop that was tough enough to survive in a college dorm room, but since it was in the Council's best interest for her to be able to help out, no one had objected. It only took a couple minutes to set up the laptop and to connect the small wireless hub she'd brought to the campus network with the instructions she'd been given with her room key. The hub, sitting unobtrusively on a small shelf above her desk, would provide a secure tunnel through to the Council's internal network.
Fortunately, she didn't have to do anything to get it all working, thanks to several programs Willow provided for all Council travelers. It would have taken her at least an hour to set it all up herself. As soon as it was running she now had both secure voice and data through to the London office. She smirked at the thought, wondering if the campus techies would ever notice how she was piggybacking on top of their network. She suspected they wouldn't. Willow and her techies were very good at what they did.
Leaving it to chatter away, she finally made it out of the door, wondering when Faith would make her appearance. She'd been getting that vague feeling that a slayer was somewhere in the neighborhood since arriving on campus. She hadn't had a lot of time to hone her newfound ability to detect any local slayers so she wasn't sure how accurate it really was. She was fairly sure it was Faith.
She assumed she was out exploring Oxford, looking for any signs of vampires or other demons and would show up eventually. Buffy had agreed to her attending Oxford with the condition that one of the slayers she trusted clean up the city first. Dawn was rather proud of herself for convincing both Giles and Buffy that Faith was the best person for the job. Hopefully she would have a chance to talk with her before she met her roommate.
"Where have you been?" Dawn said, on her way back to her room after a very late lunch, addressing Faith who was leaning against her rental. "Did you find anything?"
"Just got here," Faith told her, raising an eyebrow, hands stuffed in her jeans pockets, apparently oblivious to the looks she was getting from passing students, though Dawn caught a very faint glint of amusement in her eyes.
"No," Dawn objected, stopping in front of her. "You got here before I did, I felt you."
"You felt me?" Faith smirked, causing Dawn to blush.
"You know what I mean," Dawn said, waving her hands vaguely.
"Must have been someone else," Faith said. "I've only been here for a couple minutes."
Dawn frowned at her, puzzled. "No... there shouldn't be anyone from the Council here this term, other than myself. Of any sort."
"Are you sure one of the slaybabies isn't around?" Faith asked.
"You know Buffy doesn't like you calling them that," Dawn said, shaking her head.
"She calls them worse," Faith said, smirking.
"No she doesn't," Dawn said, trying not to laugh. "Okay..." she admitted when Faith raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "She does but most of them don't know any Japanese so they think it's a compliment when she does it."
"I thought you were the language genius in the house?" Faith asked. "When did she learn something other than Valley?"
"You know she isn't dumb!" Dawn protested. "Any more than you are. She decided after Sunnydale that she needed to know how to communicate with all of the new girls in a language they know."
"How many did she learn?" Faith said, looking impressed enough at the idea that Dawn answered her honestly.
"Not too many. I think Willow and Giles decided that five would do it," Dawn told her smugly. She'd had a hand in that decision, though Buffy wasn't aware of it. "Most of the world speaks English, French, Spanish, Japanese, or some dialect of Chinese."
"Buffy knows all those?" Faith shook her head, standing up in response to a gesture from Dawn. They continued talking as Dawn led her through the maze of hallways up to her room.
"Well... she's learning. The English she already knew. We lived in LA and had neighbors who only spoke Spanish so she picked up that there. Mom went through one of those phases where she insisted we learn some language because it was the thing to do and Dad insisted Buffy learn Japanese so he could impress some of his clients. Wasn't much use in Sunnydale. She claims she'd forgotten it all by then, but she seems to have relearned them pretty quickly." Dawn shrugged. "The French and Chinese I'm not sure about. Willow might know."
"Oh," Faith murmured. "No Russian?"
"Russian? Not that I know of." Dawn looked at her suspiciously, wondering where Faith had gotten that idea from. "She spent a month there last year while we were setting up the Moscow office so she might have picked up a word or two then."
"It was more than a word or two," Faith said, laughing. "She knows some wicked sounding swear words."
"Some times she does the blonde airhead thing too well," Dawn grumbled. "How am I supposed to feel superior when I don't know these things?"
"Don't worry," Faith told her. "There are plenty of things you know that she never will."
"You're just trying to butter me up for something," Dawn said, pouting.
"Well, yes," Faith said, pulling her to a stop. "Did it work?"
"It depends on what you want." Dawn tried to ignore the warm feeling radiating from Faith's hand on her shoulder.
"Haven't decided. Let me think about it," Faith said with a wink, causing Dawn to blush.
Looking around to see if anyone had heard her, Dawn noticed that they'd ended up in front of the door to her new rooms. Shaking her head, she pulled out her key.
The tour of her rooms took less than a minute.
"I know it isn't too impressive," She mumbled, wishing she had something fancier to show Faith.
"No, it's great," Faith said, flopping down onto her bed. Grabbing one of Dawn's hands she pulled her down next to her. "It's better than some of the places we stay at when we're on the road."
"We?" Dawn looked at her. "We as in you and Buffy?"
"Yes. And sometimes Willow's K-doll when we can pry her loose."
"My sister? Staying in dumpy hotels?" Dawn looked over at her in amazement.
"Well... she does insist on clean towels and shampoo," Faith said, laughing at her expression. "And a separate room when Kennedy comes with."
"Does Willow know you drag Kennedy along just to annoy Buffy?" Dawn asked curiously.
"Willow doesn't mind," Faith said in protest. "She thinks I'm trying to get the two of them to get along better."
"Faith!" Dawn giggled. "That's just mean!"
Hearing a key in the door, they stopped talking. The vague feeling that there was a slayer or someone with a similar magical signature nearby, that she'd thought was just Faith, increased dramatically.
"There's your answer," Faith told her, apparently having felt something also. Sitting up and pointing towards the sitting room, "Told you I just got here," she said.
"No way! Buffy wouldn't do that to me," Dawn protested with a whisper, before she also sit up and peered around the door at what could only be her new roommate. "Besides, I've seen the list of newbies Giles put together from that scroll we got from Luna and she's not on it. Anywhere," she continued in as low a voice as possible, hoping her new roommate wouldn't hear her.
"Maybe it's wrong? Or she's one of the special ones that Giles can't explain?" Faith said. "We already know it ain't perfect."
"Maybe," Dawn said. "But I think someone would have said something."
"Maybe she doesn't know?" Faith asked, showily rolling off the bed, causing Dawn to roll her eyes at the maneuver.
"How can you not know something like that?" Dawn whispered, gawking at Faith.
"Beats me," Faith said, ignoring her while poking around in Dawn's things. "You'll have to figure that out yourself. You're the one who wants to be a watcher. I'm just the muscle."
"Bitch," Dawn muttered, giving Faith her best evil eye.
"You just noticed?" Faith said, winking at her before returning to her snooping.
Hearing several voices, Perci cautiously entered the small sitting room. Putting down the books she'd just purchased, she looked around the room, feeling an unfamiliar presence that was setting off alarms in her head. She could see signs that her roommate had apparently arrived a day early. There were several unopened boxes and, with the exception of something that looked like a laptop, a pile of other things she didn't recognize on one of the desks in the room.
"Hello?" she called out, wishing she'd taken her wand with her.
A tall brunette came out of the second bedroom. "Hi!" She held out a hand "I'm Dawn, you must be Persephone."
"Perci," she corrected automatically. "Only my sister calls me that."
"Oh, okay," Dawn said, staring at her oddly.
She could still feel another presence. It hadn't gone away when Dawn had appeared. "Is there anyone else here?"
"Just Faith," Dawn told her.
"Faith!" Dawn said, "Stop being nosey and come out here!"
Perci stared at the leather clad woman who suddenly appeared in the room. Something about her was definitely causing her to need to do something - to attack or run away. She wasn't sure which but she could feel her heart suddenly beating much faster and the muscles in her arms, shoulders, and legs tensing. And then she started having problems controlling her breathing, like her reaction after the time she'd faced three of Slytherin's most vicious duelers in an alley in Hogsmeade her sixth year. Feeling herself start to collapse, Perci desperately locked her knees.
"Whoa!" Without seeming to move, this Faith was between her and escape, an arm wrapped around a shoulder, holding her up. Perci shivered at the contact.
"Geeze, Faith, give her a heart attack," she could hear her new roommate say through the faint buzzing in her ears.
"Wasn't my fault," Faith protested, her voice loud in Perci's ear. "That's the first time that's happened."
Perci desperately tried to push herself away from Faith. She wasn't sure what was going on between herself and this woman, but she knew she didn't want to be anywhere near her.
"Sit her down here," her roommate said. Perci could feel something pressing against the back of her legs.
"Unlock your knees and sit back," Faith told her. "Slowly. There's a chair right behind you."
Perci followed her directions, taking a shaky breath as Faith guided her into the chair and let go of her shoulder.
"Faith, stop hovering," Dawn said. "She's not going to pass out, right Perci?"
"No," Perci said faintly, watching Dawn grab the chair from her desk and sit in it.
"Has this happened before?" Dawn asked, her intent look making Perci feel nervous.
"No," Perci mumbled.
"You went to the same school in Scotland as your sister and Ginny," Dawn stated.
"Yes," Percia said cautiously.
"Did anything strange happen to you several years ago?" Dawn asked. "Stranger than normal?" she quickly corrected herself. "Did you get stronger? And does the name 'Sunnydale' mean anything to you?"
"Maybe," Perci said.
"Didn't that Luna chick say it wasn't possible?" Faith asked from somewhere to Perci's left.
"Well, it looks like she's wrong," Dawn said. Groaning, she closed her eyes. "Why me? Nothing ever happens at Oxford, Dawn. Enjoy the experience, Dawnie. We'll only call if there's an apocalypse, Dawn," she mumbled in a low voice.
"Not good?" Faith asked.
"What's not good?" Perci asked, no longer feeling like the world was turning inside out. "What's going on?"