Things had cooled down at Hogwarts between the attack on Voldemort and the Zabini trial, but they heated up again the next morning when the account of the trial appeared in the Daily Prophet. Dawn felt like every eye was on her as she entered the Great Hall for breakfast, but people quickly turned away when she looked in their direction. This time she couldn't downplay what had happened to her, and Rita Skeeter's 'exposé' about her and Harry's relationship didn't help either.
Hermione put her copy of the paper back down on the table. "I should have left her in the bottle."
"It's not that bad," said Harry. "At least this time she's more or less got the facts straight." He looked around the Great Hall. "And it's not like it's coming as news to anyone here. I'm kinda surprised it's taken her this long."
Ron decided to change the subject. "So, Dawn, are you signed up for apparating lessons?"
"Yeah, I put my name down last night." She looked at Harry. "Too bad you can't join us."
Harry smiled back at her. "Hermione and I will just have to wait till the fall."
"So, how do they teach apparating, in a school where you can't apparate?" asked Dawn.
"Professor Flitwick's classroom is charmed to allow apparating within it," said Hermione. "You can't apparate into, or out of it, but you can apparate from one side to the other."
"Makes it easy to find all the pieces when the students splinch themselves," said Ron. "Fred and George managed to split themselves up a couple of times, and I'm still not sure if they got put back together right. I think Fred might be walking around on George's legs."
"Once you can apparate across the room without splinching yourself, they take you into Hogsmeade for longer distance practice," said Harry.
"So what are you guys going to be doing, while we're apparating?" asked Dawn.
"Studying," said Hermione, at the same time as Harry said "Extra Quidditch practice." Ginny looked torn between the two.
"The season is almost over!" said Dawn. "Why the extra practice?"
"I really want to beat Ravenclaw," said Harry. "Even if we don't stand much of a chance of winning the cup, we'll still be able to say that we beat the team that did."
Dawn settled into her seat beside Blaise in the Potions dungeon. "'Morning."
Blaise was looking rather uncomfortable…worse than she'd looked that day in the library, a month ago. "Uh…Hi Dawn."
"How's it going?"
"Um…alright…I guess. I'm really sorry."
"What for?" asked Dawn, though she was pretty sure she knew the answer.
Blaise looked down, refusing to meet Dawn's gaze. "For what my uncle did to you."
"Not your fault," said Dawn.
"Old saying," said Dawn. "You can pick your friends. You can't pick your relatives. What he did has nothing to do with you."
"Forget about it! I'm fine now!" Dawn paused, while Blaise just looked at her. "Okay, I find this dungeon even creepier than I did before, and I really don't like being in small rooms anymore, and Madam Pomfrey tells me that my finger is probably always going to be a little stiff, and it aches a bit on days when it's going to rain, but I just want to forget about all that. So, what new torture does Professor Snape have for us today?"
Blaise flinched a bit at the sound of the word 'torture.' "I uh, really don't know."
"What's the use of having the man as your head of house, if you can't get some advance warning about what he's planning to do to us?" asked Dawn.
Blaise allowed herself to smile. "So, does McGonagall give you advanced warning for what she's going to be doing to us in Transfiguration?"
As the week wore on, people stopped looking away when Dawn entered the room, and instead of being greeted by sudden silences, people continued on with their conversations…usually about the upcoming Quidditch match. Everyone expected it to be the best game of the season. The two teams were pretty evenly matched, with both of them favouring a fast flying game with skillful Quaffle handling, rather than the brute force approach taken by Slytherin. Eric's pool for the game was giving nearly even odds. Ravenclaw was slightly favoured for points scored with the Quaffle, but Ginny was favoured to catch the Snitch. Professor Trelawney predicted that it would be raining that day.
The weather was perfect when Dawn and Hermione sat down together in the stands on the final Saturday in May. The sky was a cloudless blue, and the sun was warm on their faces. The Ravenclaw and Gryffindor Quidditch teams were out flying laps around the pitch. Three quarters of the school was there to watch the game. The Slytherin section of the stands was rather sparsely populated, but nearly everyone else seemed to be there. There was no clear favourite among the fans. The Hufflepuffs seemed to be split about 50:50 between cheering for the two teams. Even a few of the Slytherins were cheering for Gryffindor, after the humiliation that Ravenclaw had handed their team a month earlier.
Madam Hooch blew her whistle, and tossed the Quaffle into the air to start the game. It quickly became apparent that all of the people expecting a fast, action packed game were not going to be disappointed. Both teams were in top form, and they flew to and fro across the pitch at breakneck speeds, passing the Quaffle between them. Rob Harding's commentary on the game got a little confused sometimes during some sequences where Roger Davies and Laurie Davis made several quick passes back and forth between each other in attempts to confuse the Gryffindor defense. After the second time he got Davies and Davis backwards while shouting "Davies to Davis to Davies!" he switched to using their first names. They were more successful at confusing Rob than they were Ron though. Neither team seemed to be able to score. Both Ron, and Ravenclaw Keeper made several spectacular saves.
Laurie was the first to score. Roger managed to fool Ron with a feint to the left hoop, before quickly passing to Laurie. She had seemed to be tied up dodging bludgers being fired at her by Jack and Andrew, but she managed to break past them at the last instant, and into position to take the pass and score on the right. Gryffindor came back with a goal scored by Colin Creevey, followed up quickly by another scored by Harry. The lead see-sawed back and forth several times, with neither team getting more than two goals ahead of the other. The fans in the stands were cheering themselves hoarse.
Dean Thomas got so tired of yelling that he started using his wand to send up a shower or red and gold sparks instead of cheering. Several more Gryffindors joined in, and then the Ravenclaws responded with blue and bronze sparks of their own. Waves of red and gold, and blue and bronze surged up and down the stands with the Chasers racing back and forth across the pitch.
A roar went up, starting in the Hufflepuff section of the stands. The Snitch had appeared over them. Ginny and Cho were both at the far end of the pitch, and took off toward it, but it vanished again, to wherever Snitches vanished to, before they could reach it. A groan of disappointment went through all the spectators. It was quickly replaced by cheers and red and gold sparks from the Gryffindor stands as Lavender scored, and tied up the game again.
It was mid afternoon when the Snitch appeared again. This time Ginny spotted it before anyone in the stands, and she took off after it, with Cho following an instant later. The Snitch dove and wove through the Chasers over the pitch with Ginny and Cho right behind it, but this time it didn't get away. Ginny snatched it out of the air, accompanied by a roar from the crowd, and a burst of red and gold sparks. The final score was 230 to 60 for Gryffindor, which was far short of the 390 point lead they needed to take the Quidditch Cup for that season.
Both teams landed their brooms in front of the section of the stands from which the Professors had been watching the game. Ginny received hugs, kisses and backslaps from her teammates for catching the snitch. Roger Davies came up to Harry and stuck out his hand. "Good game, Potter!"
Harry clasped his hand. "You too, and congratulations on winning the cup."
Roger gave him a bit of a lop sided smile. "It could have been yours, if Slytherin hadn't rolled over and played dead for us."
"Don't worry about it," said Harry. "We'll win it back next year…Ravenclaw will be the house with an almost entirely new team."
"You better hope so, Potter," came Professor McGonagall's voice. "I quite like having this in my study."
Harry turned and saw that McGonagall had come down onto the pitch, carrying the Quidditch Cup. She turned to Professor Flitwick, who had accompanied her. "Well, Filius, take good care of it," she said with a smile. "I expect to get it back in at least as good condition as it is now." She handed the cup to Professor Flitwick, who nearly tumbled over under its weight. The trophy was bigger than the tiny Professor.
Roger Davies rushed forward to steady the cup. "Here, Professor. Let me." He lifted the trophy out of the Professor's hands, and held it up over his head.
A roar went up from the Ravenclaw section of the stands. Polite applause came from the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs. The Slytherins mostly kept quiet. One of the few exceptions was Rob Harding, who seemed to be cheering as enthusiastically as the Ravenclaws…with the benefit of having his voice amplified so he was making almost as much noise on his own as the entire Ravenclaw section.
Roger passed the cup off to Cho, and he picked up Professor Flitwick and placed him on his shoulder. They started to lead a parade up toward the castle.
The stands emptied out as most of the students followed after the Ravenclaw team. Harry and the Gryffindor team hung behind, and their friends gathered around them. Dawn came up to Harry and gave him a hug. "Well, I guess that's it for Quidditch for this year. Are you disappointed?"
"Not much," said Harry. "Quidditch is fun, but it's not my life. There are a lot more important things."
Dawn pulled back a bit, and frowned at him. "All right. Who are you, and what have you done with the real Harry Potter?"
Harry laughed. "I think he's grown up a bit."
"Not too much, I hope," said Ron. He was standing with his arm around Hermione's waist.
"Nyah," said Harry. "Come on guys! Tonight's our last chance for a good party, before exams start. Ravenclaw may have won the cup, but we still whipped their asses!"
"Arses, mate," said Ron. "You've been hanging out with that Yank too much."
"And I intend to keep doing it." Harry swung his broom into position. "Come on Dawn, I'll give you a lift up to the castle."
Dawn smiled. She couldn't help thinking something very phallic as she climbed onto Harry's broom in front of him. "So…you ever given a girl a ride before?"
Harry's hands came around her waist to grasp the handle. "Nope. You're my first."
"I think we better take it easy, then."
"Don't worry. I'll be gentle." Dawn could hear the laugh in Harry's voice. He knew what they sounded like too. They slowly rose off the ground together.
Harry entered Professor Dumbledore's office. His usually neat desk was covered with rolls of parchment. He looked up at Harry and smiled.
Harry hesitated for a moment before he spoke. "Er, I can come back later, if you're busy, sir."
Dumbledore's smile broadened. "No, no, stay. I could use a break from all of this." He waved his hand over the desk. "I'll be glad when we finish all the trials, and I can get back to just the mountain of paperwork it takes to keep the school running. What did you want to see me about?"
"I was just wondering, sir, do I have to go back to the Dursleys this summer?" Harry was afraid that he sounded very close to whining. He tried keep his voice level. "Now that Voldemort is dead, I don't really need the protection of staying with my relatives."
"I understand your reluctance, but there are still Death Eaters out there who have not been captured. It still isn't very safe for you."
"I'd think that, after what happened to their boss, they'd want to stay far away from me," said Harry.
"Yes, true, if they were rational people, but for the most part, they are not."
"And there are places just as safe as the Dursleys'," said Harry. "Grimmauld Place, for example. I do own it now."
"I somehow don't think it is Grimmauld Place that you were planning to go to," said Professor Dumbledore.
"Er…no. Willow said that she would introduce me to her coven, teach me more about how to handle this new magic of mine. Mr. Giles said I could stay with him."
"And Dawn," said Dumbledore.
"And Dawn," said Harry. "And Buffy and Kennedy will be there…and a few other Slayers. They've invited Ginny and Professor Lupin too, for more Slayer and Watcher training. Lots of people to protect me from Death Eaters."
"You will be seventeen at the end of July," said Professor Dumbledore.
"Er…uh…yeah?" Harry wondered where Dumbledore was going with that.
"You will be of age," said Professor Dumbledore. "At which time, where you live will not be anything that I, or anyone from the Ministry either for that matter, has any say over."
"You're saying that I have to stick it out until then?" asked Harry.
"I'm saying that until then, the Dursleys are your legal guardians." Professor Dumbledore looked at his desk again. "Even if we wanted to change that, the Ministry is so backed up in paperwork right now that it would probably take a year."
"So I just have to wait a month," said Harry.
"Or you could ask the Dursleys." Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled. "If they give permission for you to stay with friends over the summer, I don't think anyone will raise any objections."
Ron looked around the yellow and black decorated Great Hall. "So tell me again how Hufflepuff wound up winning the House Cup?"
"They kept studying and working while you guys were all too busy celebrating the death of Voldemort to keep up with your school work properly," said Hermione.
"Oh, right," said Ron. "They've got a completely skewed sense of priorities."
"They're not the ones with the skewed priorities," said Hermione.
"Are to," said Ron. "How many times in a person's lifetime is the worst Dark wizard of the age defeated?"
"At least twice," said Harry.
"And this is the first year since I was ten that there hasn't been an apocalypse for Buffy to avert," said Dawn. "Also a good reason to party instead of work."
"If we're supposed to be partying, where's the food?" asked Ron.
"I think we're still waiting for Professor Dumbledore," said Hermione.
"Where is he?" asked Neville.
"He's been pretty busy lately," said Harry. "He said something about running the Wizengamot being like herding cats."
The door of the teacher's entrance opened, and Professor Dumbledore appeared in it. He moved quickly to his seat at the center of the high table. He remained standing as he looked out over the students. "I'm sorry I'm late, so I will spare you from any sort of opening comments." He waved his hand, and the tables filled with food. "Tuck in!"
Platform nine and three quarters was its usual madhouse of kids trying to find their parents, parents trying to find their kids, and friends bidding joyful—or tearful—goodbyes to friends, with many promises to owl over the summer. The screeches of owls, and the caterwauling of cats accented the din.
Harry pushed a cart carrying his trunk, and Hedwig's cage along the platform. Dawn was beside him, pulling her trunk, with Yanka's cage lashed to the top of it. Ron had his and Ginny's trunks, and Pigwidgeon on the cart he was pushing, and Hermione pushed her own cart along beside him. "Why am I pushing this?" asked Ron. "Ginny's the one with the super strength."
"Yeah, but I'm under cover," said Ginny. "Besides, would you want all of your friends knowing that I'm stronger than you?"
They paused when they met Jack and Andrew. "Well, it was good playing with you guys this year," said Harry. "Keep in touch."
"We will, Harry," said Jack. "And win the cup for us next year!"
"It'll be easier without him hitting bludgers at the wrong team," said Andrew.
"Hey, I'm not the one who nearly knocked Brown off her broom!"
"No, you're the one who nearly knocked Weasley off hers!"
"Hey, at least I can blame that on the blizzard!" said Jack. "Couldn't see a ruddy thing! You did it in clear weather!"
"You're the one who did that?" asked Ginny. "I thought it was Goyle."
"I was aiming at Goyle," said Jack, "but I missed."
Harry laughed. "I take it back. I'll be happy to be playing with some new Beaters next year."
"Randall and Allan are good kids," said Andrew. "They'll do you proud. We would have won this year, if the breaks had gone a different way."
"If wishes were broomsticks, Muggles would fly," said Harry. "You make your own luck."
"That you do, and you made us lots of luck with You Know Who," said Jack. "See you around!" He and Andrew started to disappear into the throng.
"Not if I see you first!" Harry called after them. They just laughed and waved as the crowd swallowed them. He turned back to Dawn. "So, have you spotted Buffy yet?"
"No. She's too damn short! Oh, look, there's Bill!"
Ginny and Ron spun around. "Where?"
Dawn pointed. "Over there…and I can't make them out but there are some shorter red haired people with him." Bill Weasley's head rose above most of the others in the shifting crowd. An opening parted for a moment and Dawn could see that most of the Weasley clan was there to greet their returning children. "Come on!" She wrapped one arm around Harry's waist, and grabbed the handle of her trunk with the other. "They'll give Buffy a beacon to home in on!"
They started moving through the crowd. Dawn soon saw that Buffy had already homed in on the Weasleys, as had the Grangers. Buffy hugged Dawn as Mrs. Weasley hugged and fussed over her returning children and Harry, and Hermione hugged her parents.
Dawn let go of her sister. "You bring it?" she asked.
Buffy pulled a gift wrapped box out of her bag. "I brought it." She handed it over to Dawn.
"What's that?" asked Harry.
Dawn handed it to him. "A present."
Harry hesitated for a moment. "You shouldn't have."
"Yes I should have," said Dawn. "Now take it, and open it."
"I didn't get you anything."
"I'm sure you will fix that oversight, at some time in the future," said Dawn. "Now, you are not getting out of here until you open it."
"Alright." Harry started to carefully unwrap the box.
"It'll take forever that way," said Ron. "Just tear into it!"
Harry got the box unwrapped, without tearing the paper, and lifted the lid to look inside. "A cell phone?"
"A Willow Special," said Dawn. "Guaranteed to work anywhere. Now you've got no excuses for not calling me."
"I won't need excuses." Harry blushed. "I mean, I'm going to call, so there will be no need for them." He pushed a couple of buttons, and saw that Dawn's number was already programmed into it. "Thank you."
"You're welcome," said Dawn. "I expect to hear from you as soon as you've talked to the Dursleys about spending the summer with us. If I don't hear from you before ten, I'm sending Buffy in to rescue you."
Buffy looked around. "So, um, where are these Dursleys?"
"Oh, you'll never see them in here," said Ron. "Even if they'd try to cross, I don't think the barrier would let them."
"They should be waiting on the other side," said Harry.
Dean Thomas came by, with a man that Dawn assumed must be his father. "I'm on my way," he told them. "See all you guys in the fall." He gave Ginny a hug. "Bye Gin!"
"Bye Dean! Be seeing you!" She waved as Dean and his Dad walked off toward the barrier.
"That's it?" asked Buffy. "You guys seemed pretty serious at New Years."
Ginny shrugged. "Dean's nice, but I don't think he's for me. I never felt close enough to tell him about…you know." She looked around the platform, and saw Neville with his grandmother. "I think I'm going to give Neville a try next year."
"Ah!" cried Ron. "Don't tell me such things! I was just getting used to the idea of you and Dean!"
They joined the line of people exiting the platform with Dawn firmly attached to Harry's side. Once they got off platform nine and three quarters the returning Hogwarts students and their families quickly merged with the busy Saturday afternoon traffic in King's Cross station.
Dawn felt Harry tense up. She glanced at him, and saw that he was staring at something ahead of them. She followed his gaze and saw a large man with a ruddy complexion, a moustache, and almost no neck scowling in their direction. There was a large boy standing beside him, who was obviously his son. If she'd seen the boy back home in Sunnydale Dawn would've figured that he was probably on the school football team…one of the linemen. He had a look about him that she'd seen on a lot of school jocks, like he thought he could get away with anything. "The Dursleys?" she asked quietly.
"Two of them, anyway," said Harry. Dawn could feel his discomfort. He tried to pull away from her.
Dawn wouldn't let him. The boy's look seemed to have settled on her, and she didn't like it. She could feel him mentally undressing her. It made her feel very creepy.
"So, why don't you introduce us to your relatives?" asked Buffy. Dawn could hear the dangerous edge in her voice.
"Alright," said Harry, but Dawn could hear the reluctance in his voice. She still didn't let go of him as they moved toward the Dursleys.
Harry stopped a few feet short of his uncle and cousin. "Hello Uncle Vernon, Dudley."
Buffy put on her most insincere smile. "Aren't you going to introduce us, Harry?"
"Oh, er, Uncle Vernon, this is my girlfriend, Dawn Summers, and her sister Buffy."
Buffy stuck out her hand. "How do you do?"
Vernon looked at Buffy's hand with obvious distaste, but he slowly reached out to take it. He intended it to be a brief handshake, but once Buffy had taken hold of his hand, she wouldn't let go. Her smile turned predatory. "I hear that you've already been threatened by some of Harry's friends if—you know—you mistreat him in any way. I just want you to know that I'm on the list too." She tightened her grip slightly, and Harry saw sweat start to break out on his uncle's face.
Buffy finally let go, and Vernon stood flexing his fingers, trying to get the feeling back in them. She turned to Dawn and Harry and smiled…this time it was genuine. "Time for you two to say goodbye."
Dawn dropped the handle of her trunk, so she could hug Harry properly with both arms. "God, I'll miss you. Don't forget to phone."
Harry's arms went around her. "I won't." He kissed her tenderly on the lips. Dawn's hold on him tightened, and she deepened the kiss. Only the thought of all the eyes on them kept Harry's hands from moving down off her back.
"Break it up, you two," said Buffy. "You'll be seeing each other again, soon enough. Dawn, we have to get going. The traffic is going to be awful, this time of day."
Harry and Dawn let go of each other reluctantly. He smiled and reached out to touch her lips with his finger. "Bye. I'll call from the Dursleys'."
Buffy had picked up the handle to Dawn's trunk, and she took hold of her sister's elbow with her other hand. She started to gently pull her away. "Bye Harry. See you soon."
"Bye, Buffy." Harry waved as they disappeared into the crowd. The last thing he saw was Dawn's hand waving back at him over the heads of some people.
"Cor! What a piece of tail!" said Dudley.
Harry snapped around to glare at his cousin. "You talk about her that way again, and you'll have one! Again!"
Dudley suddenly looked frightened. "But…but…you can't do magic away from that place!"
"I'm not supposed to, before I'm seventeen," said Harry. "That's not very far away…" He looked toward his uncle. "And Buffy…she could have broken every bone in your hand, if she wanted to." He looked back at Dudley. "She could rip your arms off, and beat you to death with them." He looked back and forth between his uncle and cousin, enjoying the looks on their faces. "So, where's the car. We don't want to keep Aunt Petunia waiting, do we?"
Vernon Dursley sputtered. He looked like he wanted to hit something, but he held his temper in check. He looked around nervously, aware that there were several wizards still very close by. He could see several familiar looking red headed people watching them. He waved in the opposite direction. "It's over that way."
"Then shouldn't we be going that way?" asked Harry. He wondered if maybe he was enjoying the consternation on his uncle's face a little too much.
Vernon Dursley tried to recover his gruff demeanour. "Yes…right…get moving Boy! We don't have all day!"
Harry grabbed the handle of his luggage cart. "Lead the way." He smiled as his uncle turned, and started to walk briskly away. He looked back briefly to wave goodbye to the Weasleys and the Grangers.
"And I won't have you running up the telephone bill, talking to your friends!" said Vernon, without looking back to see if Harry listening, or even following.
Harry smiled. "Yes Uncle." He pushed his cart along after Vernon Dursley, for the first time actually looking forward to his summer holiday.