Thanks for all the reviews! =) Sorry it took me so long to get back, work's been a real... yeah, anyway ;) here's more to the story!
AJ just knew she was going to end up killing someone before the night was over. Not just anyone, but the greasy haired, scowling idiot, Severus Snape. Harry was right. She'd rather ride one of the dead horses- bareback- than continue sitting next to the Potions Master even a minute longer. Professor Dumbledore was the sweetheart she'd remembered from his visits to the Academy. McGonnagal looked rather severe, but AJ could see a hint of a personality hiding in there somewhere. Professors Sprout and Flitwick were cute, and Trewlany looked like a nut. Hagrid was still her favorite hands down, and the rest of them were okay- not that she was really eager to become buddies with all of them at the first meeting.
Willow was having a grand time, talking a mile a minute once they'd gotten through the introductions and the kids started filing in. The sorting had been kinda weird and AJ was glad- not for the first time- that she wasn't a student. The robes were bad enough. The honey-blonde slayer scowled down at the black robes she'd had to put on once they'd entered the school, the action "suggested" by Professor McGonnagal. They made her look like she belonged in the church chior. But hey, she wasn't the only one. Her eyes narrowed at Snape as he made another droll comment. At least she looked half-way alive, unlike a certain jerk sitting next to her. Maybe next time she could trade places with Willow.
"No, I'm not the only activated slayer," AJ answered his rude question. Well, it hadn't been rude per-sey. Just the way he said it. "There's thousands of us since Will did the activation spell four years ago. I'm a junior slayer."
"Ah, so you were the only one they could spare."
"No, actually," Willow cut in, having overheard the last part of their conversation. "AJ is at the top of her class. She's close to completing her training and moving to senior slayer status. She's been helping the original slayers train the younger ones. Which is why I thought she'd be perfect to help train the students in hand-to-hand combat."
"You are teaching the students hand to hand combat?" Professor McGonagall cut in from the other side of Dumbledore. She looked a little impressed that no one had thought to incorporate that into their lesson plans so far. She also looked a little worried.
"Yes, ma'am," Willow chirped, her green eyes bright as she spoke of her lesson plans she'd spent months going over. "There's more than one way to go into a fight. What if their wands get taken away or broken? They need to know what to do so they won't freeze up and get themselves killed."
Professor McGonagall nodded, her eyes thoughtful. "And you'll be teaching the physical aspects, Miss Parsons?" Professor Flitwick asked, peering around Hagrid's massive frame to look at the young girl.
"Yes, sir. I've been trained in several fighting styles with weapons and without," AJ answered matter-of-factly, then winked slyly. "I promise to be gentle with the kiddies."
"Incredible," Professor Flitwick grinned over at her, his little face bright with enthusiasm. "I dare say it's a pleasure meeting a slayer. I've read all about your kind and I've always wanted to meet one in person."
"I always thought a slayer would be more... refined," Snape mumbled from beside her and AJ turned to glare at him. The last straw just landed.
"You know, I can hear you, bud."
"My name is not bud- or buddy, thank you, Miss Parsons," Snape snapped back, his dark eyes narrowed. "You will call me by Professor Snape or sir, nothing else. Are we clear?"
"Crystal," AJ said shortly, her tone icy. "And you will remember that I am not a student you can order around. I am here as a guest and an assistant to a fellow Professor. Keep the nasty comments to a minimum and we won't have a problem." She looked over at Willow, who was trying not to smile. Then she looked past her to Dumbledore, who wasn't even trying to hide his smile.
"Willow tells me you have a full gym set up here on the grounds," she asked the elderly wizard without losing stride.
"Absolutely. Professor McGonnagal will show you after dinner is over, if you would like. I realize you haven't had much time to acquaint yourselves to the school because of your late arrival."
"Darn those demons anyway," AJ muttered, then looked innocent when Willow elbowed her, hard. "I mean, we were kinda- tied up at home. Quite literally for our little witch here."
"AJ," Willow blushed and glared over at her slayer, who raised her eyebrow. "I was taken hostage by a clan of Polmargin demons. As usual, they wanted to sacrafice me to their patron demon god to bring about the apocolypse."
"A witch of your power was bested by a group of demons," Snape's voice dripped with distain as he raised his eyebrow at her.
"Even a powerful witch can be bested when the circumstances are right," Willow snapped back, starting to get irritated. "Something about a binding spell and magic iron chains that are unbreakable unless the caster is out of commission. And in this case, these demons are rather hard to kill. Long story short, I was kidnapped and put in a small, cold coffin-like room warded against magic and physical attack. Add in the iron chains and even I was helpless."
Her eyes were a little haunted as she continued, her voice dropping down slightly as she held out her wrists, which still held the faint ring of bruises- even after a healing spell. "AJ, Buffy, Faith, and three other slayers rushed to the rescue and stopped them before they stabbed the dagger into my heart."
"And I sense more to that story, but the feast is ending," Dumbledore said gently, resting an aged hand on the young witch's slightly trembling one. "Shall we continue this later?"
Willow smiled at him gratefully, knowing from experience that the old wizard had impeccible timing. Not to mention that he knew the whole story, having recieved the full details when they owled him about coming late. The original plan had been for Willow and AJ to arrive two weeks early to learn their way around the school and prepare for the start of the school year. But the attack had happened less than three days before they were supposed to leave. By the time Willow was safely home, she'd needed more time to recover before they could leave. Hence the arriving with the students.
It didn't take very long for McGonnagal to show them around to the important places- namely their classroom and the massive room they were going to use as a gym. They'd get a better tour the next day when it was daylight. The classroom was impressive, a good size for what they needed it for. Amazingly it had plenty of windows, which were covered by thick draperies. It was kinda bare for Willow's taste, but she'd change that tomorrow before classes. It wouldn't take very long for the redheaded witch to get things to her liking.
AJ had really liked the gym Dumbledore had provided for them. She'd grinned from ear to ear when she'd realized that he had probably just modeled it after the gym at the slayer's academy. It was smaller, but then they didn't have two thousand plus girls that needed to use it.
Their rooms situated above the classroom were nice, kinda like a two-bedroom apartment without a kitchen. AJ had chosen her room because of the huge window beside her bed. She wondered if they'd known that she liked to sleep where she could look out the window at the stars. She wouldn't doubt it if they had.
After another long talk with Willow about their lesson plans for in the morning, AJ had taken a shower and crawled in bed. She lay on her side and watched out the window, looking at the stars that seemed so much brighter here. Maybe they were magic, too.
Magic. It was something she'd never believed in. It was the stuff of dreams, where Cinderella was rescued by her fairy godmother, and Snow White was brought back to life by true love's kiss. In her reality, there had been no such thing as magic.
Before her dad died, it hadn't been that bad. Her mother had still been a heartless bitch, but he'd curbed it somewhat. But when he died when AJ was twelve and the twins were five, it seemed like their mother snapped. It started out bad, then got worse, and worse. AJ shivered and pulled her blankets up to cover her ears. No, magic wasn't something she'd ever believed in. Until now. When Willow and the others had pulled them out of that house, she'd started believing.
She closed her eyes and snuggled down deeper into her blankets, trying to clear her mind so she could sleep. It was hard, but she tried to think of some place quiet and peaceful. She thought of home and what they'd be doing right now. Probably patrolling before a late-night snack, then falling into bed, exausted. Then she thought of the library and the mounds of books waiting for her to read through. When that didn't help, she started naming off the recent demonology texts Giles had made her help shelve.
It didn't take very long after that and she was drifting into a deep sleep.