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Harry Potter and the Mystical Key

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Summary: -Update Interlude - A chance meeting and dark alliances lead Buffy, Dawn and the Scoobies into the world of Wizards, Witches, and assisting in the Second War against Voldemort.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > Dawn-Centered > Pairing: Harry PotterCBrownFR15851,56954419,52619 Apr 055 Sep 08No

Alliances

Author's Note: Long wait huh? Yeah, so not only did I have some slight computer problems going on, but I also was very sick for a week. And then my dad fell ill the following week, and had to see doctors and have tests about a huge blood clot in his leg. (He couldn't even walk a few steps without pain). It looks like he's going to need surgery too.

All this means, I didn't feel much like writing at all for a few weeks, even if I had had more time to.

And then - well, ever have a chapter where there is too much going on, and too many people are talking, to the point that it drives you crazy? Well, that's what I was dealing with this part of the story. This is the longest chapter of the story to date, and the hardest out of all of it to write.

Remember when I said there would be an "Exposition Chapter - Part II"? Well, this is it.

I hate exposition.

Anyway, I hope the fact that this is the longest and most wordy chapter to date will make up for the very long delay between parts. This chapter pretty much set up the next part/arc of the story, which is why it is so long.

There are one or two things from other sources you may recognize in this chapter. Credits for them are given at the end of the chapter.

One last word of warning - I've read Half-Blood Prince and am going to be working in as much of the "new canon" as I can (not so much all the 'ship stuff, as I'm keeping what I have planned regarding those; just mostly the things regarding Voldemort and his past), so there will be spoilers for that book in this story from this point on, though the main plot of the story is still very much what I've already have had planned for a few months now; so this story is now parallel and A/U to book six.

* * * * *


Chapter Five: Alliances


"I shall have all my devoted servants returned to me, and an army of creatures whom all fear . . . ."
-- words spoken by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named on the night of his return, as told by Harry Potter to Rita Skeeter, and first published in The Quibbler.



Harry knew that if he didn't get out of this place very soon, he would go mad.

It had been four days now since the Ministry had brought him under their protection here at the Ministry - keeping him under constant guard in their private suite of flats - and he was well sick of it all now. It was truly a nice flat Harry allowed himself to admit; there was a sitting room with a floor to ceiling bookcase completely filled with books, a bedroom with a king-size bed and comforter all to himself. He even had his own bar-fridge in the sitting room that appeared to be charmed so that it would never grow empty - stocked with all the Butterbeer and candy anyone could wish for. There was even a Wizard Wireless.

The Daily Prophet was delivered every morning, so he wasn't completely cut off from any news also. The raid had been the main topic of discussion for two days straight, (Harry's name being mentioned more than once as he had taken part in the event; though, oddly, the fact that The Slayer had been there too wasn't mentioned at all), before the news of another attack came - also cause by Death Eaters and some unknown demons who had been with them.

Five people had been killed in the attack - two of whom were apparently muggles.

If anybody had any doubts that Voldemort had returned, they were now gone. The Second War had begun.

True to his word, Mr. Weasley had been to see him every morning and every late afternoon before he left for the day. He'd even been spending his lunch hours with Harry. But Mr. Weasley hadn't had any news about when Harry could leave the Ministry just yet, and asked him to please be patient just a little bit longer. And he couldn't give Harry any more news than he already knew about the second raid that had happened.

However, it was already late afternoon, and Mr. Weasley hadn't been to see him at all today.

And Fudge was still being perfectly insufferable. Only now, it was in a completely opposite manner to previously. Instead of treating Harry as if he were nothing more than a attention seeking liar - or worse - he was now treating Harry as if he were Harry's own father, constantly checking up on him, sending him new clothes, and constantly coming to tell Harry that if there was anything he needed, he had only to ask.

Fudge had even had the nerve to stage a ceremony in Harry's honor that very morning, with Daily Prophet reporters jammed into his large office, and presenting Harry with a Medal in the Order of Merlin - First Class for alerting the world to Voldemort's return . . . as if Fudge and the Ministry hadn't just spent a year trying to deny Harry's claim!

The medal was now in the waste-paper basket next to the bar-fridge.

He was trying to be patient. Really, he was. But he wanted out of this place. Now.

Hedwig had finally returned to him last night, with only a short note from Dumbledore, telling him to just please hold tight, and he would come for him soon.

Feeling like a caged animal, Harry began pacing up and down the room, as he had been doing since lunchtime. The only bright spot Harry had had all day was the letter that arrived that afternoon - via Hedwig - from Dawn. He had sent his owl off with a letter to Dawn not soon after Hedwig's return last night, and Dawn had sent a nice lengthy letter in reply.

It has been a rather odd letter though, and that didn't count the fact that it had arrived not on parchment paper, but regular stationary style paper instead. No, it was some of the content of it that had confused him. She told him that something exciting had just happened, but that she couldn't say anything specific about it; that she had - in fact - been warned not to. She had also hinted that she may not have to go to Italy to school after all, as she had first thought.

If Dawn was to go to school in England, it would be a nice plus, Harry knew for sure. It would mean he would get to see her more often than not.

However, he'd much rather get out of this place and get to see her now.

A hearty rhythmic knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.

Mr. Weasley! Finally! Harry thought as he hurried over to the main door. The two guards that stood watch by the main door always knocked like that when someone was about to be admitted by them into the room.

"Where have you -" Harry started to demand, as the door opened, but he stopped abruptly when he saw that the person standing in the doorway wasn't just one person, and that neither of them were Mr. Weasley - but Ron and Hermione.

"Harry!" Hermione exclaimed as she rushed inside and threw her arms around him in a huge hug. "Oh! We're so sorry you had to come here! I can only imagine how much you must have hated it!"

"How are you mate?" Ron asked, giving him a wide grin as he entered the room after her. For a change, he hadn't looked as though he'd grown any taller than Harry in the few weeks they'd been apart, though he was still as gangly looking as he always was.

"What - how did you two get here?" Harry exclaimed in surprised at the sight of his two best friends, and returning Hermione's hug.

"Dad and Dumbledore brought us," Ron explained.

"Yes," Hermione said as she finally released him, pushing some of her bushy brown hair away from her face. "When we heard they were coming to get you today, we practically begged them to take us with them."

"Dumbledore's here? Where is he?" Harry asked quickly, looking out into the hall behind his friends.

"Still talking with Fudge," Hermione told him with a sigh. "Mr. Weasley's with him. Fudge still doesn't want to let you out of here it seems like."

"Great. Knew I shouldn't have come here in the first place." Harry grumbled as the two guards left, shutting the main door with a loud thud.

"Ugh! Glad they've gone," Ron said, with a wrinkling his nose. "They did this weird spell on us to make sure we weren't hiding anything dangerous or something."

"Ron, they had to check us to make sure we weren't a threat to Harry - for his protection," Hermione explained smartly.

Ron, however, wasn't paying attention, but now staring around the fancy - and expensive looking - room in awe. "Wow! Look at this place! I'dve come here sooner if I were you Harry, if I knew I'd have gotten a room as posh as this," He opened the small fridge by the window, and began to rummage around in it. "Blimey! Look at all that Butterbeer! And chocolate frogs!"

"Have as much as you like," Harry said with a wave as he flopped back into one of the large winged-back chairs in the sitting room.

"Thanks mate!" Ron exclaimed happily, as he took out not one but two bottles, as well as some of the chocolate frogs and settled on the floor.

"So what's Dumbledore been up too all this time? Why hasn't he come to get me sooner?" Harry demanded as his anger from before began to rise back up.

Ron and Hermione exchanged a glance. "Well, we're not exactly sure," Ron said around a mouth full of chocolate.

"What do you mean?" Harry asked, folding his arms.

"Well, they don't exactly let us sit in at any of the Order meetings Harry," Hermione explained anxiously, as she sat down in the chair opposite him. "So we only know as much as they're willing to tell us."

"And the things Fred and George will tell us - they're full Order members now, you know," Ron said as he popped his now third chocolate frog in his mouth.

"Anyway, from everything they - and anyone else - would tell us, it looks like Vol -Voldemort is building his army back up again," Hermione said, ignoring Ron's shudder when she said the Dark Lord's name. "And it looks to be even bigger than the one he had the last time."

"Lots of vicious creatures too from the tell of it," Ron said with another shudder. "Demons - some that even the Aurors have never heard of."

"Like the ones I saw with the Death Eaters in front of the Leaky Cauldron that night," Harry noted grimly.

"Most likely," Hermione agreed with a nod.

"Yeah, what about all that Harry? You never did tell us the whole story about how you got in the middle of all that when you wrote back," Ron said.

Harry gave a small grunt. "You're not going to believe it all," he told them - and launched into the full account of everything that had happen to him the past few weeks; about how he'd first met Dawn, hanging out with her, (he ignored the waggling eyebrow look Ron gave him at this point), and how the two of them had been going to the Leaky Cauldron after the concert they'd gone to that night. ("I can't believe you tried to bring a muggle there Harry! What were you thinking of?" Hermione had reprimanded him). How the Death Eaters had attacked with the demons, and how he and Dawn had had a narrow miss with both.

When he got to the part about finding out that her sister was the Vampire Slayer however, Ron quickly sat up with a start and spit out - into one hand - part of the chocolate frog he'd just bitten into. "Wait a minute!" he interrupted, looking absolutely flabbergasted. "Her sister is the Vampire Slayer? The Vampire Slayer?"

"Are you sure?" Hermione asked, also looking completely thunderstruck.

Harry nodded, bemused. "Very sure."

"Blimey! And here I thought Fred and George were just trying to pull our legs when they said that the Order had gotten in contact with her!" Ron exclaimed sharing another glance with Hermione.

"The Order is in contact with The Slayer?" Harry asked in surprise, sitting up quickly in his chair - the content of Dawn's letter from that afternoon popping back into his thoughts.

"That's what Fred and George told us - though we didn't believe them," Hermione said, sounding as if she still didn't believe it, even now. "I mean, the slayer's just a myth. She doesn't really exist," she said with a firm shake of her head. "It's just a load of rubbish!"

Harry however was already on his feet, and hurried over to the desk where Dawn's letter was sitting. Quickly, he re-read the passage where she had told him something exciting was happening, but had been warned not to say anything specific.

"What's that?" Hermione asked as she and Ron came up behind him.

"It's a letter from Dawn," Harry explained, folding it down slightly so they couldn't read it over his shoulder, and turned around to face them. It wasn't that he didn't trust Ron and Hermione of course, but he still felt Dawn's letter to him was rather - private. "The day Miller and the security detail came to get me Dawn was there, and she spoke to her sister on the phone before they showed up. Her sister told her that they'd gotten two Owl Posts that afternoon."

"They got Owl Posts?" Hermione asked skeptically.

"Yeah. One of the letters was from the Ministry - but Dawn didn't get a chance to tell me who the other letter was from before I left. And in this letter I got from her today she said that something exciting was happening, but that she couldn't talk about it in the letter. That someone told her it wasn't safe to, though she didn't say who told her that," Harry told them. "If the Order is in contact with her sister -"

"But that's impossible," Hermione said with another shake of her head. "I mean - how can she really be The Slayer?"

"You didn't see her fight Hermione," Harry said, thinking back to what he'd witnessed on Charing Cross Road that night. "I did. Those demons were throwing people around like - like they were nothing but rag dolls. But Buffy took them all out - and did it as if it were the easiest thing in the world to do."

Ron - eating the last of the chocolate he taken from the refrigerator - was looking at Harry wide eyed, as if just discovering something he'd always imagined had finally just come true, before changing to a look of slight confusion. "The Slayer's name is Buffy?" he asked incredulously.

"Well, I still think the whole idea of a slayer is quite ridiculous really," Hermione said in an authoritative tone. "I mean honestly, one girl chosen to fight all the evil creatures of the world? How is she supposed to do that all by herself? It's completely impractical!"

"What else did Fred and George say about The Slayer?" Harry asked, still focused on the more interesting matter at hand.

"Only that Dumbledore wanted her help - wants her as an ally, like with the foreign wizards he's been bringing in on the Order's side this past year," Hermione explained.

Harry again remembered what he'd seen Buffy do to those demons on Charing Cross Road. If she and her friends became an ally in the fight against Voldemort . . . .

The Chosen One was supposed to protect the world from all manner of evil creatures; could maybe she be the one who could actually stop Voldemort?

Maybe he wouldn't have to become a murder after all . . . or just another of Voldemort's many victims.

"Hey, what's this?" Ron asked, interrupting Harry's train of thought. Ron was now standing by the waste-paper basket, where he had gone to throw away his empty candy wrappers and Butterbeer bottles. He was not throwing his trash away, however, but had pulled out Harry's Order of Merlin medal from the basket and was now examining it with great interest.

"Oh, that," Harry said with distain. "Fudge gave it to me today; 'For honor and bravery in alerting the world to the return of a great foe' - or some such rubbish," he said with a roll of his eyes.

"Really?" Ron said, sounding rather suspicious. "This is an Order of Merlin - First Class. It's a pretty big deal getting one," he said.

"Well Fudge probably figured it would make himself look good or something," Harry said off-handedly. "He's been being a real nuisance ever since I got here - always checking on me, telling me that if there's anything I need he'll get it for me. As if he really cared or something, and hadn't just spent the last year trying to have me expelled," Harry groused, venting more of his frustration of the past few days.

"Hm. I would think Hermione and I could have been given one too, considering that we were with you when that all happened," Ron noted mildly, looking at Harry with a slightly envious look.

Harry could only gape at his best friend, completely floored. Of all the -! Here he was, unable to make even the smallest decisions about his own life it seemed like sometimes, and all Ron was upset about was that he hadn't been given something as silly as a medal!

"Oh Ron, honestly! Harry's right that Fudge probably just gave it to him to make himself look good!" Hermione exclaimed. "Even your father's said how much trouble Fudge is in because of the Ministry's denial that Vol - Voldemort was actually back!"

"Look, if you want the medal Ron, it's yours. That's why it was in the trash - because I certainly don't want it!" Harry said, still not quite believing the ridiculousness of this whole situation, that Ron could actually be feeling jealous about something like this. True, he hadn't told either of his best friends about the prophecy, but that didn't stop Harry from feeling somewhat resentful that Ron was acting like Harry's situation in all of this was something to be envied.

Ron continued to look at the medal quietly . . . just as a loud knock sounded on the main door - which flew open a second later, and in walked Professor Dumbledore, followed by Fudge and Arthur Weasley. Fudge was talking heatedly yet nervously, while Dumbledore was acting quite calm as they all walked in.

"Dumbledore, you know I think its best! Why can't he just -!"

"Ah! Here you all are," Mr. Weasley said, noting Ron and Hermione were in the room as well.

"Harry. I've heard you've been treated quite well since you've been here?" Professor Dumbledore asked Harry with a smile as he came over to him.

"Uh, yes," Harry said.

"Good, that's good." He turned, finally looking back at Fudge. "I'm sure Harry is quite grateful for the safe guard you've given him the past few days Cornelius, truly. But he should resume as normal a life as possible."

"Albus, I do not see why the boy can't just remain here - he will be much safer under guard here, and he wouldn't end up in the thick of trouble again - like what happened on Charing Cross Road!"

"I promise you Cornelius, Harry will be quite safe at the Burrow with Arthur and Molly. And I'll be looking in on him from time to time myself. It won't be that long - he'll be returning to Hogwarts in little more than a month."

"And what we discussed about that," Fudge stated. "Remember what I said about the parents of the students feeling much safer if -"

"Yes, yes, I will give you all the information you need when I see you again before term starts, I promise you. I too think it's as good a proposal as any for the time being."

Fudge - after taking a moment - nodded his head slowly, though he still looked as if he didn't want to let Harry out of the building. "Well, I suppose . . ."

"Good! That's settled then!" Dumbledore interrupted brightly. "Thank you for your help Cornelius. We shall be out of your way, just as soon as Harry has gathered his belongings. I'm sure you have more urgent business to attend to, so we won't keep you from it any longer."

It was an obvious dismissal, and Fudge knew it. For a moment he looked rather defiant - as if he would refuse to leave, before he turned on his heel, and stormed out of the room.

Before either Harry, Ron or Hermione could question what Dumbledore had agreed with Fudge to about, the Professor turned back to Harry. "I'm assuming you haven't had a chance to pack your belongings yet?"

Harry shook his head. "Uh, no I haven't."

"Well, I'll come with you then, as I'm sure there are few questions you have to ask me," he said with a smile. "Come along. Arthur, could you please tell Alastor we'll be down in a few minutes?"

"Certainly. Ron, Hermione, come along, we'll wait outside," Mr. Weasley said, as Harry and Dumbledore went into the bedroom to collect Harry's belongings.

* * *

It had been almost a month since Harry had last seen or spoken to Professor Dumbledore, the same night that Sirius had died and Harry had learned of the reason that Voldemort had killed Harry's parents and had tried to kill Harry himself. Standing there with him now, Harry noted that he appeared much older and slightly more tired looking than Harry had remembered.

He had almost been desperate to talk to the headmaster the past week - and now, facing him, Harry really didn't really know where to begin.

"Um -," Harry said awkwardly, and headed to start gathering his stuff. "It shouldn't take me that long to - um, pack my stuff -" he said, picking up his invisibility cloak from where it lay half-out of his trunk to fold it back up and put it inside, but Dumbledore spoke up.

"Leave out your invisibility cloak Harry," he told him. "I think it would be best, in fact, that you keep it on you at all times. There's no telling when you might have to use it to escape, or just to hide and keep safe," Dumbledore said seriously.

Harry looked at him for a moment, and then took his cloak out of the trunk. "All right," he said, placing it on the bed, and began gathering some of his other clothes instead.

"So Harry, have you had any questions from Fudge or anyone else from the Ministry about what happened in the Department of Mysteries?" Dumbledore asked him.

Harry shook his head. "No sir. Not really. I - I mean, don't they already know what it was all about anyway?"

Dumbledore shook his head. "No I don't believe they do - not really. And we've been rather fortunate there hasn't been a huge leak about where the focus of what happened that night has been since the incident was spread over the entire Department of Mysteries, and not just about the hall of prophecies specifically. The captured Death Eaters refused to speak about what, exactly, they had been looking for."

"Because of Voldemort," Harry guessed.

Dumbledore nodded. "I doubt Lucius Malfoy wishes to get on his master's bad side anymore than he already has. There have been whispers about what they were there for, but no one has any conclusive proof - especially about what the prophecy may have said."

"So no one really knows what the whole thing said," Harry stated. "Especially because it smashed."

"As of now? Only three people really know what it says - you, I and Professor Trelawney. There are probably some people who have guessed, but no one can really prove anything, which is why I'd like to think there hasn't been a bigger leak about it. With the demons joining forces in even greater numbers than they did the first time - well, the focus has been on that more than anything lately."

Harry thought for a moment. "But you're saying there has been whispers about it sir? That some people might have guessed what the prophecy said?"

"Well, not about the second part of it - as I said, only you, I and Professor Trelawney know that. That hasn't changed. It's the first part of it - the reason Voldemort attacked you and your parents that night - which some people appear to have guessed about. But, again, as I've said - no one really knows." He paused for a moment, then said, "Including, may I say, your friends."

"You think I should tell Ron and Hermione? About the prophecy and what it really says, I mean?" Harry asked, rather surprised. Ron and Hermione, of course, had been there that night along with Ginny, Luna and Neville. So they already knew that it had been a prophecy that the Death Eaters had been there to get.

"Well, it is up to you, but yes, I do," Dumbledore said firmly. "You trust them with you life as I well know - and they would never betray the information. Information is power Harry - and, as far as the prophecy goes - we have an advantage over Voldemort in that we know the specifics of it and he does not." He leaned forward a bit. "Also, the weight of it is not something you should try and carry alone Harry," he said gently.

Harry looked at him a moment, but said nothing.

"Those you trust can help you Harry, even with this."

Harry just looked at him for a moment longer, before turning back to gathering his things. "I don't think I'm ready to tell them just yet," Harry said quietly. "But I'll tell them. They should know - you're right." It was Ron and Hermione's reactions to the news he was most worried about. How would they react to the idea that Harry either had to kill someone, else be killed himself?

Even he didn't know how he felt about that idea yet.

The room was quite for a few moments, as Harry continued to - rather slowly now - to pack his things.

"I guess you've heard," Dumbledore said breaking the pause, still in that quite tone of his, "that Sirius has been cleared of all charges against him?"

"Yes, Fudge told me the first night I got here," Harry said.

"Yes, well, we found a copy of his will, and he's left everything to you."

Harry looked up again, frowning slightly. "To me?"

"Yes. You now have more gold to go along with the account you already have at Gringotts. And Hagrid has taken Buckbeak back to Hogwarts to care for him. I hope you don't mind I gave him permission to do that?"

"No, I don't mind. Fudge won't try and kill him again though will he?"

Dumbledore smiled warily. "He was only driven to in order to please Lucius Malfoy - who I'm sure Fudge is not so eager to impress anymore."

Harry couldn't help but also smile at the knowledge that Lucius Malfoy was now being held as a prisoner in Azkaban. "Then tell Hagrid for me that Buckbeak is completely his again. I know he'll take perfect care of him."

Dumbledore nodded, pleased. "Good, good. There are two other important things as well; first, Sirius also left Grimmauld Place to you."

Harry gave a swallow as he felt his chest tighten - after everything that had happened, he couldn't really wrap his mind around the idea that he now owned Sirius' house. He hadn't even been back to the place since before Sirius had died. "The - the order can keep using it for their headquarters. I - I really don't want it," Harry said, rather brokenly. "In fact, I really would rather not have to go back there at all anymore."

"Well, unfortunately, that is the place I'm taking you to tonight," Dumbledore said gently. "I'm sorry Harry," he said holding up one hand to stay off the protest Harry was about to make. "It should only be for one night however, and you can then go to the Burrow with Ron and the rest of his family sometime tomorrow."

"Why can't I just go to the Burrow tonight?" He really didn't want to go back to Grimmauld Place, where Sirius had had to spend so much time wandering around the big house with only his prejudice Muggle hating mother's portrait and the just as disgusting little house elf Kreacher for company.

"Arthur and Molly don't mind having you there of course, it's mainly just a question of extra security that will be needed there - and that won't be ready until late tomorrow at the earliest."

Harry sighed, dejected. He didn't want to be an inconvenience to the Weasleys, and it would - hopefully - only be for one night. "What was the second thing?"

"The second thing is - Kreacher. He's yours now too."

"Well, I don't want him either!" Harry said furiously, throwing some of his old jeans into his trunk.

"I thought as much, but it would be unwise to free him as you well know."

Harry pursed his lips together. Yes, unfortunately he did know.

"If I may say - you could send him to work at Hogwarts - in the kitchen with the other House Elves. By Sirius' Will you're his master now, so he'll listen if you order him to."

The Hogwarts kitchens. Dobby was there - he could possibly keep an eye on Kreacher, and tell Harry and Dumbledore if the sneaky little elf was up to anything.

"Okay, I'll tell him to go there the minute I see him."

Dumbledore gave a nod. "Good," he said, and then looked at Harry with a slightly critical eye. "Tell me Harry - has your scar hurt at all again since that night you wrote me about?"

Harry glanced up and shook his head. "No. It's only been just that once, after what happened on Charing Cross. It didn't even hurt after the other attack just recently."

"I thought as much. Voldemort's control slipped for a moment that night, and that's why your scar began hurting as it did."

"His control slipped? What do you mean?"

"I'll bet your scar hasn't felt any pain since that night at the Department of Mysteries, correct? With the exception of that first raid a few nights ago of course."

Harry nodded. "I kind of thought it would be hurting all the time now, what with Voldemort back and all."

Dumbledore nodded. "It more than likely would, but hasn't because the Dark Lord has probably been using Occlumency techniques against you - since you being privy to his thoughts as he would be to yours would not be a wise thing at the moment."

Harry's brow knitted in slight confusion. "But if he's using Occlumency against me -"

"- why did your scar burst into pain that night," Dumbledore finished for him. "From what I have deduced, Voldemort received a rather nasty shock after that raid; something he hadn't foreseen or counted on at all. And that's what you felt - his anger at that surprise."

"What surprised him?" Harry asked.

"My best deduction would be that it was the conformation of the existence of someone who - until that moment - he only believed to be nothing more than a myth."

It took Harry less than a second to guess to whom Dumbledore was referring to. "The Slayer," Harry stated.

Dumbledore smiled. "Yes. She arrived at the most inopportune moment, it seemed, and he lost a good many of his first demon recruits to her skillful dispatchment of them."

"Have you been in contact with The Slayer Professor?" Harry asked, as he quickly added the last of his items into his trunk, but leaving out his invisibility cloak as he'd been instructed to, and instead folded it up and stuffed it into one of his jacket pockets. "I was with her sister when they got two Owl Posts, and Ron told me Fred and George said -?"

"Yes, I have spoken with The Slayer," he said, his eyes twinkling. "Quite a lovely young woman - and I very much enjoy the novel way she has of speaking; I never knew there were so many ways to make a pun out of something," he noted as he stood up. "But are you all packed then? Good. I'll see you out to meet Alastor and the others, and then I must go and run an errand."

"You're leaving again?" Harry asked warily. After all this time waiting as patiently as he could to get a few of the answers he wanted, and Dumbledore was just going to take off again?

Dumbledore obviously noticed the look on his face, and gave him a reassuring look in return. "Yes, but don't worry - there will be time for many more questions and answers later tonight, I assure you of that."

* * *

Grimmauld Place almost resembled Platform 9¾ during the start of first term when Harry, Ron, Hermione, Alastor Moody and Mr. Weasley finally arrived, Dumbledore having Disapperated to perform whatever errand he had to before they'd left the Ministry. What looked to be sixty or more people were in the hall, moving in and out of the kitchen and the sitting room, talking with each other in groups, creating a low din of voices.

"What's going on?" Harry asked as they began to try and press forward through the rather tight throng of people. He felt many of the eyes of the people in the room turning his way, staring at him curiously as he tried to get by.

Ron shook his head. "I've no idea." Harry looked over at Hermione, but she shook her head in a negative gesture.

"Come on everyone," Mr. Weasley said, gesturing them forward. "We might be a little late - I didn't expect this many people to be here so soon," he said, his brow furrowing.

"Is there an Order meeting tonight or something?" Harry asked, unable to keep from bumping into people as he tried to squeeze by them. Most of them didn't seem to mind and gave Harry a bright smile and hello, clearly recognizing him.

Mr. Weasley didn't answer Harry's question, as he finally spotted someone in the crowed of people.

"Oh! There's Molly. Molly!" He called out to his wife, who was moving in the other direction down the hall, but turned around at the call of her name. "Molly! We're back!"

Mrs. Weasley was already making her way over to her husband, and gave Harry a motherly hug as soon as she reached them. "Harry dear! How are you? Are you alright?" She hadn't changed very much since the last time Harry had seen her - still looking rather paler that she normally did, as she had last year.

"I'm fine, thanks," Harry said, rather tiredly however, already feeling knackered.

Mrs. Weasley patted his cheek affectionately. "Good, good. Well, take your things upstairs and get settled. Dinner will be served soon, before the meeting officially begins of course."

"So there is a meeting tonight," Ron stated, glancing back and forth between his parents.

"Yes there is," Mrs. Weasley said shortly. "And I'm sure Fred and George will tell you all about it, even though I've told them time and again not to," she noted with disapproval. "Now help Harry get his things settled upstairs - I need to find some things to transfigure into more chairs to put in the kitchen." She gave her husband a haggard look. "We've already run out, and news is there are even more people coming here tonight than everyone first thought. And I don't know if we have enough food for them all -"

"Don't worry Molly," Mr. Weasley said, laying a hand gently on her shoulder. "I'll take care of the chairs, you see about dinner."

Mrs. Weasley gave her husband a grateful look, and then turned back to Ron, Harry and Hermione as he headed off into the crowed. "Well. You three get upstairs - dinner will hopefully be ready soon," she told them, hurrying back towards the kitchen, leaving the three of them standing in the hall.

"I wonder what could be so important that so many Order members from everywhere are coming here for?" Hermione asked, as they leaned there heads closer together so they could hear each other.

"Well, let's go find Fred and George," Ron said, picking up one end of Harry's trunk. "Mum's right - they'll tell us what going on."

As Ron and Hermione helped Harry carry his things up to the room he and Ron had shared last time, Harry felt an empty feeling wash over him. From what he could see, the place looked much cleaner since the last time he had been there.

When Sirius had been alive.

Harry angrily pushed the thought to the back of his mind, as he and the others entered the room -

- and Fred and George were waiting there when they walked in, pouncing on Harry the second he walked inside the room, in greeting.

"Hey Harry!" Fred chirped. "How -"

" - are you doing?" George continued. "Fudge didn't drive you -"

" - stark raving mad, did he?" Fred finished.

Harry gave the twins a short grin. "I'm alright and yes he did."

There was a laugh. "We all figured as much," a female voice spoke up. It was Ginny, who was standing just behind her brothers. "Hi Harry," she said with a smile. She'd gotten slightly taller since he'd last seen her, her long red hair pulled back in a ponytail.

"Hey Ginny."

"So what's with all the people downstairs?" Ron asked them, sitting down on his bed, after he and Harry placed Harry's trunk at the foot of the other twin bed.

"Yeah, your mum said there was some big meeting tonight," Hermione said. "What's happened?"

Fred and George glanced at each other, and then grinned. "It's because someone really important is coming here tonight," Fred said.

Hermione, Ron and Harry all glanced at each other, confused. All that fuss downstairs for one person? "Well, who is it?" Hermione asked.

Instead of telling them, however, the twins just kept smiling. "Take a guess," they said together.

Harry sighed and flopped back on the second bed in the room and looked at the ceiling. "I'm really not in the mood for guesses right now," he said tiredly.

"Do you know who it is Ginny? You've been here same as them all day," Ron asked his sister.

"No," Ginny said. "And they wouldn't tell me either," she said, obviously indicating Fred and George. "They said I had to wait till all of you got back. It's been like this for over two hours now, since before mum brought us over from the Burrow."

"Would you two just tell us already," Hermione groused, sounding more than perturbed, in the same tone of voice he had herd her use with the twins before last year when - as a prefect - she had stepped in to stop them from using First Years as test subjects for the products for their joke shop. Her arms were folded, and her lips pressed together in annoyance.

Fred and George glanced at each other - it was obvious no one the room was going to attempt to make even one half-hearted guess at who the mystery person was. "Okay fine, ruin our fun," Fred sighed. "You don't have to give us that 'prefect' look of yours Hermione."

"Yeah, got that same glare from you quite enough last year," George said evenly.

"So who is it then?" Ginny asked.

The twins both grinned, looking quite pleased with themselves - as they exclaimed together, "The Slayer!"

Harry sat up so fast from where he'd been laying down on the bed that his glasses slipped down off his nose. Ron completely jumped up from where he was sitting next to Ginny at the bombshell Fred and George had just dropped. Ginny too looked just as floored as her brother, and even Hermione was blinking at Fred and George as if she couldn't fully comprehend what they'd just said.

"The Slayer is coming here?" Ron exclaimed, flabbergasted.

"Yes! Tonight, along with some of her own allies, from what we've been told," George informed them, clearly enjoying their surprise. "Dumbledore set up a meeting with her and the Watcher's Council, to formally meet the Order."

"That's what the meeting last night was about," Fred said, enjoying himself just as much as his brother appeared to be. "She and her allies have agreed to an alliance with the Order, and are coming here - tonight - to talk about more specifics."

"Seems once it was confirmed The Slayer was coming tonight, every witch and wizard in the Order decided to come to tonight's meeting," George told them, knowingly. "Bill and Charlie are already here, and lots more from other countries are showing up too."

The look on Ron's face looked to be a cross between fear and anticipation. Hermione was scowling, as if the news that The Slayer actually did exist was still too unbelievable to fully accept.

However, all Harry himself could focus on was the news that Buffy was bringing some of her allies along with her tonight. He knew that one of them would probably be Mr. Giles, since he was the head of the Watcher's Council of course. But other allies . . . did that mean Willow and Xander?

And - more importantly - did that also mean that Dawn would be coming as well? Would he really get to see her again so soon?

The hope that he would made his heart give a pleasant feeling thump.

"Harry, you were on Charing Cross Road when she showed up the first time. Did you see her?" George asked him.

Harry blinked. "Uh, yeah. I, well, I saw her before that actually."

"Really?" Ginny asked surprised. "Where?"

However, Ron spoke up before Harry had a chance to say anything. "He was on a date with The Slayer's sister at the time," Ron said with a slight smirk, having finally shaken off some of his stupefication from the news that the slayer would be coming over that night.

It was now Fred and George's turn to look surprised at a revelation, both of their mouths dropping open - at the same moment - in disbelief.

"You went out with the sister of the Vampire Slayer?" Ginny asked, looking even more stunned than she had at the news that the slayer herself was coming to Grimmauld Place that night.

Harry felt a sheepish grin beginning to spread on his face. "Uh, yeah, I did. I mean, I met her almost two weeks ago, but didn't meet her sister until that afternoon - before the raid. I didn't know her sister was The Slayer till that night though. Dawn was with me on Charing Cross Road that night, and her sister came looking for her when she heard what was going on there."

"Dawn?" Fred asked, finally finding his voice.

"The Slayer's sister. Her name is Dawn," Harry explained.

"And The Slayer's name is Buffy," Ron informed them with a grin. He was obviously enjoying being able to give his brothers even more information about The Slayer than they had.

"Buffy?" Ginny repeated, her nose wrinkling slightly. "You sure that's not just short form for anything? Like Elizabeth?"

Harry shook his head. "No. Dawn told me it's not."

"So The Slayer's sister is a witch?" George asked.

"No she a Muggle," Harry informed them - and told them the whole story that he'd told to Ron and Hermione earlier; about how he and Dawn had first met, and about how they'd ended up on Charing Cross Road that night.

"And so you've been dating her for almost two weeks now, and didn't tell us? Sly Harry! Very sly!" George chuckled, waggling his eyebrows at Harry after he'd finished his story.

Before Harry could correct George about that night having actually been he and Dawn's first (and still unofficial) date, Mrs. Weasley's voice called out from the first floor. "Ron! Harry! Everyone! Come and eat! Dinner's ready!"

* * *

The downstairs area seemed even more crowed by the time Harry and the others entered the kitchen. Mrs. Weasley was scuttling about between people, using her wand to move and place even more food on the already covered table, while Mr. Weasley talked and chatted with people, while helping those that wish to sit down to find a seat.

As in the hall, Harry barley recognize anyone there, though everyone seemed to take particular note of him, some even stopping him to great him and shake his hand. Harry did notice Ron's older brothers among the large group of people, as well as Kinglesy Shacklebolt. He spotted Remus Lupin on the other side of the room, talking to Tonks, both of whom waved at Harry when they spotted him.

"Here mate, I got us both a plate," Ron said, pushing his way over to Harry. He had entered the throng of people who were still crowded around the main table the minute he'd entered the kitchen, and now held a plate heaped with food out to Harry.

Harry took the plate and looked around. "Is there anywhere to sit?"

"I don't think so," Fred said as he and George came up to them, already eating some of the corn beef pilled high on his plate.

In the end, they all ended up sitting on the floor, against one of the walls on the far side of the room. Hermione and Ginny came to join them a short while later, choosing to wait to fix their own plates after the crowd by the table had thinned a little.

Lupin and Tonks came over to say hello and catch up a bit. It was from Lupin that Harry learned that Kreacher was hiding up in Sirius' mother bedroom, and Harry made a mental note to go up to the room and order him off to Hogwarts before the night was over.

At one point, Harry's eyes narrowed when he caught site of Snape moving through the crowd of people. He knew Dumbledore had said repeatedly that Snape could be trusted, but Harry would never forgive Snape for the way he had treated Sirius last year. Part of him knew that it was irrational to blame Snape for what had happened to Sirius, but Harry knew that Snape's malicious comments about how Sirius could only stay here at Grimmauld Place - and not do anything - had probably motivated his Godfather to leave for the Department of Mysteries that night.

That was not something Harry was ever going to forgive Snape for, no matter how much Dumbledore said he trusted the man.

Just as dinner seemed to be winding down a little over an hour later, with all the used plates being collected for washing, there was a commotion by the kitchen door.

"What's going on?" Hermione wondered aloud as they all stood up to try and get a better look.

A tall, dark haired wizard pushed himself through the people nearest the door, looking very excitable. "She's here!" he exclaimed. "She's here!"

A jolt went through the room, and Harry felt his stomach do a flip. He knew the excitable wizard had meant that The Slayer had just arrived - but his mind was on another person who he hoped was with her.

Suddenly, there was a sound of something breaking in the hall, and with that, Sirius's mother's portrait - which had been miraculously quiet all this time - began to scream at the top of her voice -

"MUGGLES! MUGGLES IN THE HOUSE OF MY FATHERS! THE SHAME! THE DEFILEMENT! OUT! OUT OF MY HOUSE! BLOOD-TRAITERS, MUDBLOODS, AND NOW MUGGLES! DEFILEMENT! DEFILEMENT!"

"Well, I've never been insulted by a painting before. At least, I think it was insulting us," Harry heard Buffy quip as the crowd of people by the door parted to let her entered the kitchen, lead by Professor Dumbledore; her friends and her sister following in right behind her.

A huge grin spread across Harry's face at the sight of Dawn, who was busy looking back into the hall where Sirius' mother's portrait was still screaming about muggles being in the house. "I'm really sorry - I didn't even see that vase," she was saying, a slightly embarrassed look on her face.

"It's quite alright Miss Summers. Truly," Dumbledore reassured her. "Please everyone, have some food if you wish - there's plenty of it," he said, gesturing towards the main table where all of the leftover food was still laid out.

It was only then that Harry noticed that Giles, Willow, and Xander weren’t the only ones who'd come with Dawn and Buffy. Following behind them were six more people - one boy and five girls whom Harry didn't know at all. The boy had brownish-blonde hair and looked to be older than Harry, but a year or two younger than Xander. One of the girls, who had thick dark hair and dark almond-shaped eyes, looked to be around the same age as Buffy. There was also a smug looking brown-haired girl, standing rather close to Willow as she spoke to her, who looked around the same age as Fred and George.

The three remaining girls all looked to be around Harry's own age: there was a confident looking redhead; a perky looking, freckled faced brown-haired girl; and a pretty, rather quiet-looking black girl.

"Great - I'm starved!" the dark-haired girl exclaimed heading right for the table of food. Xander, the three younger girls, and the other boy headed over to the table of food as well, right behind her.

"Harry!" Dawn exclaimed with an enthusiastic wave as she spotted him on the other side of the room. She broke away from her sister and the others, and made her way quickly over to him.

Harry came forward to meet her just as she reached him, and she threw her arms around him in a warm hug. Her hair smelled like roses and jasmine he noted as he hugged her back, and Harry felt himself grow slightly warm at the thought. He heard Ron, Fred and George all giving quiet snickers behind him, but he didn't care. Dawn was here, and for the moment, that was all that mattered to him.

"How are you?" she asked as she pulled back to look at him with a huge grin of her own. "Miller didn't drive you completely crazy or anything did he?"

Harry gave a wry chuckle. "No, Fudge was too busy doing that to me for him."

Dawn laughed. "Oh Harry, I have so much to -"

The sound of someone loudly and deliberately clearing their throat caught both his and Dawn's attention, and Harry turned to see a phalanx of his friends standing just behind them - Ron wearing a highly amused smirk on his face.

"Harry, aren't you going to introduce us?" George asked, wearing the same type of smile as Ron and giving Harry a wink.

Harry refrained from rolling his eyes at their not-at-all subtle display. "Dawn, this is George, Fred, Hermione, Ron and Ginny. Everyone, this is Dawn Summers," he said, introducing everybody in turn.

They all exchanged pleasant greetings, except for Ron who skipped right to what he felt was the important part of who Dawn was. "So are you really the sister of the Vampire Slayer?" he asked her directly, after the first bit of hellos had been said.

Dawn blinked at the question, and Harry thought he saw what looked to be a slightly annoyed expression cross her face for a second. "Uh yeah," she said in a slightly irked tone. "I am. Buffy's over there." She pointed over to where Buffy stood surrounded by almost every member of the Order, saying hello to everyone who was introduced to her. Harry saw Mr. Weasley in the tight crowd, and Ron's dad looked to be trying to closely examine the hand Buffy had just given him to shake.

"Well come on then, let's go meet her," George said, taking off without a backwards glance, Fred following right behind him.

"Come on mate," Ron said to Harry as he too began to follow after his two brothers.

Harry glanced at Dawn, who had a rather deadpan look on her face as she glanced back at him - as if she were rather used to being in her sister's shadow, and wasn't surprised when it seemed to be happening again among Harry's friends. She had mentioned in their talks before about sometimes wishing she could be seen more than just "Buffy's Little Sister," and that had been even before Harry had discovered that Buffy was The Slayer.

Having someone mythical like the Vampire Slayer as your sister had to mean Dawn was pushed into the shadow a lot more often than not.

Harry gave Dawn a knowing grin. "That's okay. I've already met her."

Understanding his meaning, Dawn gave him a smile back that gave him that warm feeling again.

Ron looked slightly taken aback, but then just shrugged. "Okay. Come on guys," he said to Hermione and Ginny; the latter giving Harry a small, rather searching look before following her brother and Hermione.

Harry cleared he throat. "So I - I got your letter."

Dawn chuckled. "Yeah, never sent mail by Owl before. But it was way cool. I really want an Owl of my own now."

"Well, you could get one," Harry told her. "But when you go off to school I don't know if they'd let you keep and Owl there. Although - are you still going to Italy for school, or did you really find a way out of it?" he asked.

Dawn smiled brightly - looking completely giddy all of the sudden. "That's what I wanted to tell you! It's not 100 percent official yet, but yeah it does look like I'm not going to be going to school in Italy after all!" she explained excitedly.

"Well, that's great!" Harry said truly happy for her. He knew how much going away from all her friends and family to school had worried and bothered her. "So, where you are you going to go to school? Here in England?"

"Actually - it's so weird," Dawn said tucking some of her hair behind one ear, the giddy look still on her face. "And you're like never going to -"

Just then, Professor Dumbledore tapped the side of a glass goblet that was on the main table with his wand as he spoke up, interrupting everyone, so as to get their attention. "Everyone, everyone. There will be more time for talking with Miss Summers and - oh, pardon me, Buffy," - Dumbledore corrected as Buffy gave him a raised eyebrow look - "There will be time to become more personally acquainted with Buffy and her companions later on. We should spend some time, at least for a bit, about the reason we are all here I should think," he said with a smile. "So if everyone will just find a seat -"

Mrs. Weasley nodded. "Right. Ginny, Ron, Hermione, Harry - why don't you take Miss Summers' sister and -" she looked over at the three girls who appeared to be the same age as them - "her friends upstairs. You can show them around, and take some food along with you -"
"But mum!" Ron and Ginny, in unison, said in protest.

"No buts!" Mrs. Weasley said firmly as she began to try and direct them all out of the room.

Harry remembered how when this had happened last year Sirius has intervened for him. Now, he knew was going to have to do it himself - there was no way he was going to be sent from the room as if he were still just some little boy!

Dawn was quiet, but was giving her sister a look that clearly said Buffy better not even think of trying to send her from the room.

The three other girls didn't say anything either, but all looked terribly amused by the situation as they continued to stand exactly where they were, eating the grapes and other fruit they had been munching on since they'd first arrived.

Before Harry - or anyone else - could voice another objection however, Buffy spoke up. "Actually ma'am," she said to Mrs. Weasley. "Dawn, Vi, April and Kira can all stay here. I've learned not to try and keep things such as this from Dawn anymore," she confessed, giving Dawn a knowing look and smile. "And the others are actually part of why we're here in the first place. So they have to stay."

"What - what do you mean they're a part of it?" Mrs. Weasley asked in confused surprise at Buffy's firm tone that Dawn and the other girls be allowed to remain in the room.

Buffy smiled, and pointed at each of the three girls - as well as the other two girls who come with them - in turn, as she introduced them. "Everyone, this is Kennedy Montgomery -"

"Hey," said the brown haired girl who was still standing close to Willow.

"- April Dean" - the pretty black girl gave a nod in greeting - "Violetta Crawford -"

"Call me Vi, please," the redheaded girl noted pleasantly as she popped a grape in her mouth.

"- Kira Bradley -"

"Hi!" the freckled face brown-haired girl said with a perky wave.

"- and Faith Lehane."

"'Sup!" the dark haired girl said around the mouthful of food she was paying much more attention to than anything else at the moment.

"And they're -"

But before Buffy could continue, there was the sound of someone - loudly and insistently clearing their throat. It was the young man who had also come with Buffy and the others. Buffy glanced at him, and he gave he a look that clearly said Aren't you forgetting something?

Buffy rolled her eyes. "And this is Andrew," she said, jerking a thumb in the boy's direction.

Andrew waved at everyone. "Hello, new magical friends!" he said brightly.

"And they're part of it," Buffy continued, a smile spreading across her face, "Because they're all slayers - like me."

For a long moment, no one spoke, as everyone just stared opened mouth at the revelation.

The sound of Andrew clearing his throat again broke everyone out of their shock.

Buffy glance over at Andrew, exasperated, and rolled her eyes again. "All except Andrew I mean."

* * *

After the meeting was over, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Fred and George sat talking with Dawn about the things she'd experienced when growing up on the Hellmouth. Since Dawn and the other girls their own age had been allowed to stay, Mr. Weasley has intervened for Harry and the others with his wife, and they had been allowed to remain as well. ("If The Slayer is allowing her own sister to stay, then there's really no harm in it Molly," he'd argued.)

After the first initial revelation that their was now more than one slayer in the world, Giles had thought it best to bring the members of the Order up to speed on the origin of The Slayer - and Andrew, (who had begged in a way that had made Buffy comment that the only way to stop him from being annoying and pouty later was to give him what he wanted), was the one who had given them the history:

"Gather round new magical-people friends," Andrew had begun with bright enthusiasm. "For an extraordinary tale I like to call: The Slayer of The Vampyrs."

Here, he'd raised one hand to his chin, which he'd stoked, as if deeply contemplating what he had just said.

Harry had had to pursed his lips together, trying desperately to suppress the laughter that had been making its way through him. Next to him, Ron hadn't had as much luck holding back his laughter, and had given a barely concealed snort, as had Fred and George. Lupin had place one hand over his mouth trying to hide his amused smile, and even Dumbledore's eyes had been twinkling with mirth. In fact, out of all the "new magical-people friends" in the room, only Snape had looked completely unamused.

"Oh good lord," Giles had muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose, while Buffy had just given Andrew another pointed look.

Andrew, obviously taking those things as a cue to get on with it, had cleared his throat and continued:

"Uh, many eons ago, on the Dark Continent, three powerful elders decided to fight evil with a taste of its own sinistro," he'd explained, walking slowly around the table as he spoke, and now stopping behind where one of the slayers - Kira - was sitting. He'd placed his hands on her shoulders as he'd continued. "They took a young girl, like this one. And invoking the strongest magicks they could summon, imbued her with the power of a demon," - here, he gave Kira two makeshift horns with his crooked forefingers, "- and thus, the first Slayer of The Vampyrs was born."

Moving away from Kira he'd continued to make his way around the table, clearly caught up in the story. "But alas," he noted. "The existence of a slayer is often brutal and short-lived. And the 'primitive,' or the 'First Slayer', as some call her, boasted no exception. However, the wise elders had foreseen the inevitability of her death, and devised a way for her power to live on, passing from one girl to the next. There are many potentials, as we experts -" he'd gestured between himself and Mr. Giles, "- like to call them. All of them experiencing vivid dreams, some say nightmares, of the heroics of past slayers. But only one can be chosen."

Xander had given him a short pat on the back when he was done and had once again resumed his seat. "That was good," he'd said approvingly, causing Andrew to beam.

"'In every generation, there is a Chosen One,'" Lupin had recited, thoughtfully.

Giles had nodded. "Yes. Out of hundreds, sometimes maybe thousands of potentials, per generation."

"And they gave her the power of a demon? This is why The Slayer is strong enough to fight them?" Snape had asked, looking as if the very idea repulsed him.

"The strength and power of a pure demon, to be more precise about it," Giles informed him. "All the demons that walk the earth these days are, uh tainted. Hybrids - their power diluted through centuries upon centuries of breeding among, or uh - in the case of vampires - infecting humans. Finding a pure demon in this world is actually more than rare. And the purest and most vicious of them were banished from this world long ago of course."

"What would a pure demon be like?" Kingsley had asked curiously.

Giles, Buffy and her friends all had exchanged glances. "Well, for one, they're bigger," Buffy had noted in a wry voice.

"Also takes over 100 tons of dynamite and TNT to kill one," Xander had said dryly. "That, or a Volcano."

"Okay, but if there's only one Chosen One, how could all of them be Slayers?" Hermione had interrupted, gesturing towards Faith, Vi, April and Kennedy.

At this question, Buffy and her friends launched into the story of what had caused an initial split in the slayer line - Buffy's death and resurrection by CPR (the concept of which had to be explained to the non muggle-borns - and most of the half-bloods - in the room, who knew nothing of Muggle medical practices), before moving on to the story of the final battle in the Hellmouth in California, and what had really caused it to close; a massive battle with ancient Vampire demons. And how it had been Buffy's idea to activate all the potential slayers who had been coming from all over the world seeking protection from the evil spirit that had been trying to kill them all, and extinguish the slayer line forever.

It was during the telling of this that had cause a slightly awkward moment between the two groups; when everyone had learned that Willow was - in fact - an Earth Witch. A muggle who practiced what Witches and Wizards like them called Earth magic, and called themselves Wiccans. (Learning that Willow was one had automatically explained some things to Harry that he hadn't understood before - like how she and the others had been able to know exactly where he and Dawn were that night on Charing Cross Raod. She'd obviously had done a spell of some sort to find them.)

Most natural born witches and wizards were more than wary of Earth Magic users. Mostly because those who grew powerful enough to perform the type of complex spells that Willow seemed to have had to do in order to activate all the potentials in the world usually couldn't control that level of power. In the end, the power usually ended up controlling them instead and the Wiccan would - more often than not - end up destroy the people around them, and themselves as well.

"That must have been quite a dangerous spell you had to pull off," Snape had noted once the story had finished being told, his gaze locked critically on Willow - and not even bothering to hide his disdain.

Willow had looked quite sheepish at all the eyes in the room that were looking at her just as critically as Snape was. A small few - such as Lupin - had seemed slightly impressed; others - such as Hermione's - had looked at Willow rather warily.

"Yeah, well she's an incredible person," The Slayer called Kennedy has said with a challenging look on her face. "She's a Goddess."

Snape's eyes had narrowed slightly at Kennedy at this exchange - but he didn't say anymore as the young slayer locked her eyes on him, giving her only a dismissive glance as he turned away again. Harry couldn't help but give a slight grin at the knowledge that Snape had been the one to break the gaze between him and the outspoken slayer first.

Kennedy and Willow were now standing aside and talking with Mrs. Weasley, everyone else mostly giving Willow a wide berth. Snape had been speaking with Dumbledore and Buffy a few feet away, though he would glance over at Willow now and again.

Out of everyone, Snape had seemed the most off-put by the purposed alliance with the slayers and the Watcher's council, even though it had been Mrs. Weasley that had voiced concern about letting girls who looks so young to put their lives in such danger. Buffy had assured her that fighting evil was what slayers were made for - and that this fight with Voldemort they were all going to be a part of, even if there wasn't an alliance now between the two groups.

"From what I've read and been told about this guy," Buffy had said. "He and the people with him see no problem killing innocent, non-magical people, right? He's not just intent on taking over your world, but my world too - a world we slayers are all sworn to protect. So this is our fight, just as much as it is yours."

"Plus, with the number of demons Voldemort looks to be recruiting this time around, watcher knowledge and slayer strength will be quite helpful to such fight," Dumbledore said with an assuring nod.

It had been decided that the most experienced slayers would come to train in England at the new Watcher's Council headquarters - that had already begun construction where the remains of the old Watcher's Council had been located - as soon as possible, so they could begin to help watch and guard along with the Order members who were all doing so already.

Dawn was just finishing relating the story of how Buffy and her friends had had to blow up their old High School in order to defeat a pure snake demon that had once been the mayor of their town, (the story of which had only been eluded to during the meeting earlier, and caused Ron and his brothers to hoot and clap at the idea of actually blowing up one's school), as he sister and Dumbledore headed over to them. Snape was not with them anymore, having moved on to speak with another order member whom Harry recognized as Emmeline Vance.

Harry noted that Ron completely clammed up when he too spotted Buffy nearing them, his eyes now wide and completely fixed on her as she approached. Ron had been acting in awe of Buffy ever since she'd come in the room, and he hadn't had a chance to really meet her after she'd first arrived either. All during the meeting, he'd tried to act like he wasn't just staring at her - which he had been, and he had mostly been singing Buffy's praises since the meeting had ended, much to Hermione's more than obvious annoyance.

"Telling Harry and his friends apocalypse stories, Dawnie?" Buffy asked her sister with a grin, as she and Dumbledore walked up. "How'ya doing Harry?"

"Fine, thanks," Harry said. He too hadn't really had a chance to say hello to her before now.

"Did you really blow up your high school once?" George broke in, looking utterly marveled.

Buffy shrugged. "Well, it was either that, or let our entire senior class get eater by the big ol' demon snake-mayor," she quipped.

"Wicked!" the twins exclaimed together.

"Told you so," Dawn said to the twins smugly, then looked at her sister. "What's up?" she asked.

Buffy gave her sister a quiet smile that - to Harry - seemed to have a touch of sadness to it. "Well, I thought you'd like to know that the final arrangements for everything have just made."

"Really? Is that it?" Dawn said, suddenly bursting over with excitement.

Dumbledore smiled at her. "Yes. I have spoken with Professor Snape and he is willing to come to Hogwarts for the remainder of the summer. He was the last of the four I had to make the request of, and he had agreed."

"Agreed to what?" Harry asked. He looked at Dawn. "What's going on?"

Dawn looked at him, the biggest smile he's ever seen on her face in the short time he'd known her. "It's what I wanted to tell you before, but I couldn't because I didn't know if it was really going to happen. But it is! I'm going to go to Hogwarts!"

"What? You're going to Hogwarts?" Harry repeated, completely floored - caught at the moment somewhere between disbelief and confusion.

"But, but she's a muggle!" Hermione exclaimed, just as confused. "How can she go there?" she asked, glancing up at Professor Dumbledore.

"Dawn will be going to Hogwarts," Dumbledore explained calmly, "Because she is a witch, not a Muggle as it was believed."

"But how is she really a witch?" Harry asked after a moment, shaking his head - still unable to really believe it. He looked at Dawn. "You acted like you'd never even seen a wand before when we were in that alley on Charing Cross. How can you be a witch?"

"Well, I honestly didn't know I was a witch until just a few days ago," Dawn explained, still smiling.

"You didn't know? How is that possible?" Hermione asked.

"It was our wacky Hellmouth at work again," Buffy explained as she gave Dawn's hair an affectionate, sisterly stroke. "Apparently, it blocked out Dawn's signal to this world - so she kinda got skipped over it seems."

"Seems that I should have been going to a Wizarding school before now anyway," Dawn told them. "And now I get to!"

"Well from all you've told us about living there, I guess someone being able to do magic isn't that strange a thing, huh?" Harry said thoughtfully, and then chuckled, as he and everyone else looked at Dawn in wonder and surprise. Dawn was going to Hogwarts! It seemed to Harry almost too good to be true!

"Yep. When weird things happened not because of the Hellmouth - well, those were the things that were usually more shocking than anything," Buffy said rather faithfully.

Hermione, however, was looking between Buffy and Dawn still with a confused expression on her face. "Wait a moment. You're saying the Sunnydale Hellmouth blocked her signal? And that's why you never got a letter from any of the magic schools in America?" At their nods, Hermione shook her head. "That can't be right - it doesn't make any sense."

Buffy looked at Hermione with a raised eyebrow; it was even half as intimidating as the look she'd given Harry when she'd thought he'd deliberately brought Dawn into trouble, but it was still rather imposing.

"Hermione!" Ron exclaimed, finally breaking his gaze from Buffy and speaking, looking rather scandalized that Hermione had actually taken issue with something the Vampire Slayer herself had said.

The attention of everyone in the small group was on her now, and Hermione actually stumbled a little as she said, "I - I mean, from - from what I've read about Dark Nodes they don't block out magic, they actually enhance it - make it more powerful - because they're constantly drawing on that type of energy, and also -"

Harry thought he saw Dumbledore give Hermione an impressive look - as Buffy interrupted her with a slight chuckle. "Wait - you read that in a book?"

"Yes," Hermione said with a frown.

"Well, living on a Hellmouth is rarely a 'by the book' situation," Buffy said with a smile. "You learn that petty quickly after having been fated to die, but still coming back to save the world in the end," she said, referring to the story she and the rest of the Sunnydale people had told about how Buffy had drowned and died because of a prophecy; but then had been brought back to life by Xander using CPR a few minutes later - causing the first split in The Slayer line.

It had been a story Harry had taken particular note of.

Ron was now staring at Buffy again, as if she were a mountain of gold galleons that he had just been told was his. "Wicked," he whispered in awe.

Hermione gave Ron a dark look, before tuning back to Dawn. "Aren't you going to be rather behind in everything?" Hermione asked, still not letting up on her questions.

Dawn gave her a half smile. "Yeah, wanna know another funny thing about living on top of a Hellmouth? When some evil entity decides to try and open it and release an ancient vampire army on the world, school gets canceled before the semester ends; and you end up not finishing 10th grade because of that." she explained, then shrugged. "I was behind anyway."

"Miss Summers will be taking special classes for the remainder of the summer - to determine what natural skill level she may already be at, and where the best place for her should be," Dumbledore explained evenly. "Oh it is very unusual of course," he added with a smile, "but Dawn wants to come to Hogwarts to learn, and that alone is reason enough that she should be allowed to attend."

"So when are you going for your placement classes?" Harry asked her.

"August 1st, right?" Dawn asked, looking up and over at Buffy and Dumbledore, the latter of whom nodded.

"Correct."

"I'll be going with you - make sure you get settled in okay before I hafta go, alright?" Buffy told her.

Dawn frowned. "I thought you weren’t going anywhere till September?"

"I wasn't, but with the alliance and all now, we're going to have to move things up a bit. Willow and Kennedy are already talking about heading off to South America to look for new slayers there, and Faith's heading back to America tomorrow to fill Robin in on what's going on. So I might as well start finding the ones here and around Europe sooner rather than later. It's okay Dawnie," Buffy said, noting Dawn's darkening look. "I'll be back before you start school officially; and Xander hopes to have the construction of the main building of the new Watcher's Council and the training school for the slayers up by mid October at the latest. I'll come by then for another visit, alright?"

Dawn shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, though Harry could tell she was still slightly less-than-happy. "Sure, okay. It's cool."

"Professor, could I - I mean, could we all go with Dawn? While she's at Hogwarts taking summer classes I mean," Harry asked, pointedly ignored the sound of muffled chuckling that could be heard coming from Fred and George from behind him at the question.

"I'd like to say yes, but I'm afraid not Harry," Dumbledore said with a regretful sake of his head.

"What? Why not?" Harry asked in surprised. He honestly hadn't thought Dumbledore would say no.

"Well, as you know, Hogwarts does not remain open during the summer months. It was though a lot of effort and a slight bending of the rules - which the school's governors are blissfully unaware of right now (though they will not be for long) - that I was able to assure Miss Summers could even come herself this early. Not even all of the teaching staff will be there to evaluate her - only the four heads of houses and myself. So having any more students there right now would not be a wise thing."

"Not to mention not all the security measures for the school are in place yet," Kingsley said coming over, having overheard the discussion. "You're safer around here for now Harry."

Harry frowned, but didn't argue. He understood that it was only for safety reasons that he wasn't being allowed to go . . . but Dawn leaving on August 1st meant that he would only see her for three more days - tops - before she'd be gone for a full month.

Dawn seemed to read his thoughts. "So, you want to come along tomorrow?" she asked him. "I mean when I get my wand and stuff?"

"Sure," Harry said. Maybe he could buy her a gift or something before she left for the month.

"We can all go, right?" Hermione asked, looking thoughtful.

Kingsley and Dumbledore exchanged a glance. "I don't see why not," Kingsley said. "Aurors have been all over Diagon Alley lately, ever since the raid happened. And I'm sure Remus or Tonks could accompany you there as well - just in case."

"Perfect. You can even get the Owl you said you wanted at Diagon Alley as well," Harry told her, and the way her eyes lit up at the idea made him grin. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad - they could still write, and maybe the Weasley's would let him use their fireplace so they could talk to each other now and again through the floo network. She'd probably get a kick out of that.

It was only one month after all. After which, they would both be at Hogwarts and he would get to see her almost every day.

"Well, if you all don't get some sleep, you're not going to be awake at all tomorrow morning to want to go anywhere," Mrs. Weasley said, having come over in time to hear the last part of the conversation.

It was clear she was hinting it was time they all headed upstairs now. Unlike before, however, no one tried to argue. Not even Harry, who began to feel slightly dead on his feet at Mrs. Weasley's very mention of the word sleep.

"We should be heading out anyway," Buffy said. "Giles and I have to go over the list of slayer we've found so far, and which of them are going to be assigned here for training."

Everyone began saying their good-nights and goodbyes. Facing Dawn, Harry thought he would maybe kiss her on the cheek, but with Ron, Hermione, Ginny and almost the entire Order of the Phoenix in the room, it wasn't a very private place to kiss her - even just on the cheek.

In the end, he leaned in and gave her a hug, which George commented on as they all finally headed upstairs.

"Why didn't you just kiss her Harry? She obviously wouldn't have been mad if you had," he said with a cheeky grin.

"Too many people watching," Harry said shortly, though with a slight smirk, not at all denying that the thought had crossed his mind.

"Oh-ho! Prefer to be alone, eh?" Fred said in an obnoxious voice.

"Oh stop it you two," Hermione said with a roll of her eyes. "Doesn't anyone else besides me find all of this more than just a little odd?"

"Find what odd?" Ginny asked, speaking up. She'd been rather quite for awhile.

"Well, the fact that not only does the Vampire Slayer just happens to really exist, but that her sister is apparently a witch? And that, for some reason, neither Dawn's parents or her sister ever bothered to send her to school for it?"

"You don't think that Dark Node they lived on blocked her signal - like Buffy said?" Ginny asked.

Hermione shrugged and shook her head. "I've just never read of any Dark Node doing such a thing before, and -"

"Oh Hermione please," Ron said tiredly, cutting her off. "None of us have ever been born and raised on a Dark Node - especially for as long as they have. I would think The Slayer would know more about it and what it does than anyone in our world would." It was obvious Ron held Buffy's opinion in high regard and esteem from the tone of his voice.

Hermione gave Ron a nasty look, but didn't finishing saying what she'd been about to.

For his part, as he followed Ron into the room they shared, Harry didn't really care what had prevented Dawn from going to a Wizard school before. All that mattered was that she was going to be going to one now.

And best of all, the school would be Hogwarts.

* * * * *

From the "Credit where credit is due" department:

Faith's last name is taken from Joss Whedon himself - who said it was "Lehane" on the Whedonesque message board - because some company needed a last name for her for some Buffy Roll Playing game, and "Lehane" was the one he chose, saying that this was now her official last name.

Andrew's summation of the origin of the slayer is blatantly ripped-off from the Angel: The Series season five episode "Damage," written by Steven DeKnight & Drew Goddard. The info had to be given "on screen," and this was the most un-boring way I could find to do it. ;D

The character of the Vampire Slayer known as Kira comes for the comic book/graphic novel Tales of the Vampires, written by Joss Whedon.

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