This is a sequel of sorts to Harry Potter and the Key of Dagon but I make no promises that you can draw any conclusions about how that story will end from what you read here. You don't need to have read that story to understand what is going on here. The lack of mention of some prominent HPatKoD characters in this story means nothing about what those characters fates might be. I also reserve the right to maim, or kill any character mentioned here in future chapters of HPatKoD.
This story was written for the Twisting the Hellmouth Secret Santa event.
It was just after sunset when Dawn popped onto the road that led between Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. She could see the gates of the castle only a few yards away through the light snow that was falling. She could also see that someone was leaning against one of the pillars beside the gates. He straightened up, and came toward her. She saw that it was Harry. She dropped her bag, and ran to greet him with a hug and a kiss.
"Miss me?" asked Harry after he came up for air.
"Terribly," said Dawn. "It's been a whole week!"
Harry grinned at her. "Think how bad this long distance relationship thing would be if we couldn't apparate." He let go of Dawn, and walked down the road to where she had dropped her bag. "Come on, the feast's starting soon." He scooped up the bag, and started back toward the castle.
Dawn fell in beside him. "I didn't keep you waiting out in the cold did I?"
"Nyah." Harry slipped his free arm around her waist. "You're right on time. And I like watching the snow fall. It's soothing."
Dawn's arm went around Harry. She looked ahead toward the castle, glittering with its fresh coating of white. "Pretty too. Makes the place look even more magical."
Harry smiled at her. "It's not the only thing that's looking magical in this snow."
Dawn tightened her own hold on him. "You are quite the charmer, Mr. Potter, but I'm still a California Girl at heart. Let's get inside where it's warm!"
They left Dawn's bag, along with her hat, coat, and gloves in entry hall of the castle. The House Elves would take care of getting them all moved up to her room. They joined the last of the students entering the Great Hall for the Christmas Feast. Most of these same students would be taking the Hogwarts Express back to London tomorrow morning to spend the Christmas holiday with their families.
Professor Snape entered the hall at the same time as Harry and Dawn. He smiled and nodded to her. "Happy Christmas, Miss Summers."
Dawn was too startled to reply right away. It took her a couple of seconds to recover. "Uh…right…happy Christmas, Professor." She and Harry turned toward the Gryffindor table while Snape made his way to his seat at the high table.
Dawn and Harry took a couple of empty seats across from Ron and Hermione. "What's up with Snape?" asked Dawn. "Is he possessed or something?"
"No one knows," said Ron. "He's been acting weird for a month. He smiles; he hardly ever deducts points, not even from Neville, and he hasn't given anyone a detention since November! It's not natural!"
"I heard him whistling 'White Christmas' this morning," said Harry.
Dawn stared across the hall to where Snape was just taking his seat at the head table. "Has he washed his hair?"
"That's got to be the weirdest thing!" said Hermione. "He actually looks pretty good these days." She saw the way Ron was frowning at her. "You know, for a professor."
Conversation about the strange transformation that had happened to Professor Snape was put on hold by the appearance of vast quantities of food on the table in front of them. Everyone was too busy eating to talk for the next several minutes, and when conversation picked up again Dawn found that her Hogwarts friends wanted to hear her news, about going to school with Muggles.
Giles and the new Watchers' Council had arranged to get Dawn into Oxford, but first she had to pass her 'A' level exams, which meant she was spending this year attending a school near Giles' home in Westbury. She hadn't given up on her magical education though, and was taking Hogwarts courses by correspondence, and spending some weekends at the castle for extra tutoring. It made for a very busy schedule, and Dawn was glad that she didn't actually have to take the OWL exams this year. (She was planning on taking her NEWTs for DADA and Potions though.) She was going to be a Watcher after she graduated from Oxford, and while her magical education would certainly be a big plus there, the Watchers had been unaware of the Wizarding World up until last year, so they didn't require that their members have the sort of education that Hogwarts provided.
Conversation returned to the mysterious behaviour of Professor Snape while they were eating their desserts. Dawn learned that he had been seen leaving the Hogwarts grounds several evenings over the past month, and not returning until early the next morning.
"I think he has a girlfriend," said Hermione.
"Snape?" asked Ron. "What sort of girl would want to date that greasy git?"
"Since he's washing his hair now, he really isn't all that greasy," said Dawn.
"But still, it's Snape!" said Ron. "What girl could have standards that low?"
"We should follow him," said Harry. "Find out what he's up to."
"He disapparates as soon as he clears the grounds," said Ron. He saw the looks that several people were giving him. He spread his hands and tried to look innocent. "What? I just happened to be out for a walk, and I saw him disappear!"
"Is there a way to find out where someone is apparating to?" asked Dawn.
"Nope," said Hermione. "Not without planting some sort of tracker on them."
"An enchanted object, that you can follow with magic."
"So can we do that?" asked Ron.
"It's an invasion of privacy," said Hermione. "Professor Snape has a right to a private life you know."
"He's been invading our privacy for six and a half years," said Ron. "Turnabout is fair play."
They went back to the Gryffindor common room together after the meal was done. Most of the students went to bed early, since they had to get up the next morning to catch the train back to London. That gave them the opportunity to privately formulate their plan for how to follow Professor Snape, the next time he left the castle.
It was after midnight when Hermione yawned. "Oh, I got up too early this morning." She got up off the sofa. "Good night all." She leaned down and gave Ron a kiss. "See you in the morning." She waved to Dawn and Harry, and disappeared up the stairs to her room.
Dawn stood up too. "I should be getting to bed myself."
Harry quickly rose to join her. "I'll walk you to your room." He put his arm around her waist again, and smiled back at Ron as they made their way out the portrait hole. "'Night mate!"
Harry and Dawn went down to the sixth floor guest room that had become Dawn's home away from home, when she was visiting Hogwarts. With her not being a full time student here this year, she hadn't been placed into one of the dorms. She was staying in the Mermaid Room.
Having a private room had some wonderful frills, one of which Dawn took advantage of as soon as the door was closed behind them. She turned to Harry, wrapped her arms around him, and started to kiss him. It was a long, deep, slow kiss, that lasted forever…or at least long enough for Harry to pick her up and carry her to the bed. They fell into it together.
Dawn giggled as they started to pull at each other's clothes. "Do you think Ron and Hermione think they're fooling anyone?" she asked.
"About as many people as we are," said Harry. "It's hard not to notice that he's sneaking out of our room nearly every night, and doesn't get back until just before morning…and even with the extra nap they take in History of Magic, they're both always yawning. Good thing she made Head Girl this year. I don't know what they'd be doing if she didn't have a private room." Harry sat up long enough to pull off Dawn's boots.
"They'd probably be sneaking down here, at least on the nights I'm not visiting." Dawn went to work on Harry's belt. "Or, you know, there may be some really kinky things you could get the Room of Requirement to supply for you, if you wanted it to." She got the belt open quickly. "Now shut up, and come here." She pulled him back down into the bed with her.
Harry awoke to the feeling that he was alone. He reached out for Dawn and felt only the bed. He opened his eyes and saw her shadow on the wall in front of him. He rolled over.
Dawn was sitting motionless on the window sill, looking out into the night. Harry thought she was breathtakingly beautiful, her skin bathed in silvery moonlight. He could stare at her all night. She turned her head and looked at him. "Good morning."
"It's not morning yet," said Harry.
"Just about." Dawn nodded out the window. "The moon's just setting."
Harry rolled out of bed, and padded across the floor. He stood behind Dawn, and wrapped her in his arms, feeling her warm skin against his own. She went back to looking out the window, at the moon setting behind the mountains to the west. It seemed to loom impossibly large, and it bathed the entire grounds of the school in its silvery light. The clouds that had accompanied last night's snowfall had cleared away, and the sky was full of stars. The new fallen snow on the ground seemed to glitter in the moonlight with its own constellations. The stars were starting to fade though, with the hint of morning light that was starting to appear in east.
They stayed together at the window in silence, with Harry holding Dawn in his arms, watching the moon set. Neither of them needed to talk. They just enjoyed the feeling of having the other close to them.
The moon vanished behind the mountains at about the same time as the gathering daylight washed the last stars from the sky. Dawn looked down toward the gate on the road from Hogsmeade. She could see a cloaked figure coming quickly up it. "Looks like Snape was off on one of his rendezvous again last night."
"I wonder where he goes," said Harry.
"That's what we mean to find out tonight." Dawn turned to Harry and kissed him. "Now come on, we've got time for a nice long bath before breakfast, and I want you to scrub my back."
Harry's hands moved over her skin. "Hmm…I want to scrub all of you."
"Good thing we've got lots of time," said Dawn.
Hermione and Ron arrived late for breakfast, and looking a little flushed. Hermione laid down a black swatch of cloth in front of Dawn and Harry. "Here, we just need to plant this in his cloak, and we can follow him anywhere!"
Harry looked up at her. "When did you find the time to make this?"
"She's very good at multi-tasking," said Ron.
Dawn didn't want to think about what that could mean. "So, who's going to plant it?" She looked around the table. "Why is everyone looking at me?"
"Because if you get caught, Snape can't make the next six months of your life hell," said Ron.
"Hey, I still want to get my Potions NEWT!"
"So do we, but you come in for tutoring only every other weekend or so," said Ron. "We have to be here all the time, and if you get caught, Hermione can tutor you."
"Thanks for volunteering me, Ron."
"No problem. You drafted me into SPEW."
"It's not SPEW anymore, remember. We changed the name. It's HELP, the House Elf Liberation Party."
"And you still haven't talked a single Elf into joining it," said Ron.
"If you'd just take it seriously for half—"
"Hey, hey, we're getting sidetracked from the main issue here," Ron interrupted before Hermione could get going in one of her House Elf rights rants. He tapped the swatch on the table with his finger. "The plan for planting this on Snape."
"Right." Hermione turned to Dawn. "We'll create a diversion during your Potions lesson this afternoon, and then you'll sneak into Professor Snape's office, and put this in his cloak. He leaves it hanging on the rack beside the door." She flipped the swatch over, showing its grey underside. "Press this side against the lining and it will stick to it, just like velcro."
"What's velcro?" asked Ron.
Dawn finished off the twenty-third counter clockwise stir of the potion she was preparing. She used her wand to lower the flame under her cauldron. "There, now we just let it simmer for five minutes before we add the bee stingers." She pressed a couple of buttons on her watch to start the timer running. Setting the timer also triggered the charm in her watch that signalled the others that it was time for their diversion. Seventh year potions were often very time critical in their preparation. She needed the diversion to happen at a time when it was safe for her to leave her potion unattended.
Professor Snape frowned at Dawn's watch, and flipped over a five minute hour glass. He still didn't trust her Muggle timepiece.
There was a loud bang from the corridor outside the Potions dungeon. Dawn didn't have to pretend to be startled by it. "What was that?" she asked.
"I don't know," said Professor Snape. There was a second, louder explosion, and the sounds of students crying out in alarm. "Wait here," he told Dawn, and went to the door.
Pink smoke billowed into the dungeon when Snape opened the door. "What is going on out here?" he bellowed as he disappeared into the smoke. He closed the door behind him.
Dawn wasted no time. She ran to the door that connected to Snape's office at the side of the classroom. She quickly eased her way through it.
It was dark in the office. Dawn pulled out her wand. "Lumos!" a bright light appeared at the end of it. She quickly scanned the office, and found Snape's cloak in its usual place on the rack by the door that lead out to the hallway.
Dawn pulled open the lapel of her robe, and peeled the swatch of charmed fabric away from its lining. She examined the lining of Snape's cloak, and quickly decided it didn't much matter where she put it. The lining was as black as every other item of apparel in Snape's wardrobe. She quickly attached the swatch to a section of the lining at the back, where it wouldn't be covering any of the inner pockets.
She left Snape's office, closed the door, extinguished her wand, and slipped it back into her pocket. She glanced at her watch and saw that it had only taken her about thirty seconds. She sat back down in her seat by her simmering potion.
Dawn was adding the last bee stinger to her potion when Professor Snape came back. "So what was going on out there?" she asked him as she started to stir, clockwise this time.
"Someone, probably one of your Gryffindor friends, thought it would be great fun to set off some fireworks in the hallway outside the Slytherin common room entrance."
"Why do you think it would be one of my friends?" asked Dawn.
Snape smirked. Dawn really couldn't believe she was seeing that expression on his face. "Please do not insult my intelligence, Miss Summers. Who else would set off fireworks outside the Slytherin common room?"
"Good point. Fifteen…sixteen…seventeen, and done!" She removed her stirring ladle, and lifted her cauldron from the flame. "Allow to cool for ten minutes, and pour into vials. Each vial will contain one dose of acromantula antivenom."
"Well done, Miss Summers. I think I will forgo my usual test for student antidotes. You will not have to try it out on yourself. You may go as soon as you have cleaned up your workbench, and poured the potion into its vials." He started toward his office door. He paused and looked back at her before he entered it. "If I don't see you again, Happy Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Professor," said Dawn as he disappeared into his office. She shook her head as she went about cleaning up her workbench. She really couldn't believe the way he was acting.
"So, you planted it?" asked Ron quietly. They were nearly alone in the Great Hall for dinner that night, with only half a dozen other students sitting at the Gryffindor table. Nearly everyone had left to spend the Christmas holidays with their families. The Slytherin table had the most students sitting at it. Over a dozen Slytherins were staying at the school over the holidays this year. Mostly because they had one, or sometimes two, parents who were spending Christmas in Azkaban.
Ron was staying at school this year because his parents were off visiting Charlie in Romania again, and Hermione was staying mostly because Ron was. Dawn had invited them all to come to her home for Christmas itself, but that was still a couple of days away.
"Yes, I planted it," said Dawn. "What did you do, anyway?"
"Basic Blaze Box," said Ron.
"Aren't you afraid it'll get traced to you?"
"Nope," said Ron. "If they do find enough to actually track down the serial numbers, Fred and George's records will show that that particular set was bought by Crabbe and Goyle. I've got witnesses of me using every set that their records say I bought from them."
"Snape knows it was you, though," said Dawn.
"Knowing and proving are two different things." Ron started to look a little nervous though. "Not that Snape ever needed any proof to make my life miserable. How mad was he?"
"That's the weirdest thing." Dawn looked at the teacher's table where Snape was smiling and chatting with Professor Sinistra. He didn't seem to be eating much. "I think he thought it was funny!"
"He must be some sort of alien," said Harry. "Aliens kidnapped the real Professor Snape, and replaced him with a not-evil clone."
They all gathered in Dawn's room after dinner to watch the roadway through omnioculars for Snape to depart, and to shoot the breeze. Hermione was taking her turn when she spotted the dark cloaked figure moving toward the gate. "There he goes. Get ready."
Harry sat on the floor with an atlas open to a map of the British Isles; it was unlikely that Snape was apparating farther than that. He had a bowl full of a sparkling powder ready.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" asked Ron.
"Yeah, this is an easy one," said Harry. "Willow taught it to me."
"He's going out the gate," said Hermione. She watched for a few more seconds. "And he's gone."
"Alright then," said Harry. "Let's see just where he went." He took a handful of the powder, and blew it over the book. Little sparkles fell onto the open page, and began to coalesce in the south west of England.
"Huh," said Dawn. "Looks like Bath. Not far from where I live."
"You haven't seen him around there have you?" asked Ron.
"If I had, we wouldn't have to be going through all this."
Harry had flipped a couple of pages ahead in the atlas, to a larger scale map of south-western England. He blew another handful of powder over it. The sparkles once again coalesced into a single bright spot, in the center of the town.
Dawn grabbed her hat, and coat. "I know a good place to apparate to near there. Let's go."
Everyone grabbed their coats. They were all dressed in Muggle clothes since they didn't look too out of place in many wizarding areas: lots of wizards, especially the younger ones, sometimes wore Muggle clothes, but wizard garb would definitely draw attention on Muggle streets. They left Dawn's room, ran down through the castle, and out the front door. They were all a little breathless when they got to the gate.
"Okay," said Dawn. "I haven't had much practice at group apparating, so if I lose anyone, we'll meet at Giles' house, and try again from there. Everyone ready?" She looked around and saw everyone nodding. "Alright." She held out her hand. Harry, Ron and Hermione all placed their hands on top of hers. "On three. One, two, three!"
Dawn concentrated on her destination as she disapparated. The world seemed to spin around her for an instant, and then everything was still again. She could hear the echo of the crack they had made coming from the wall on the other side of the park they'd arrived in. A quick look around showed that there was no one else there, other than her and her three friends. She gave them all a quick visual check to make sure no one had splinched themselves. Group apparation, with only one person acting as the guide while everyone else followed, could be tricky. Everyone seemed to be all there.
"Which way now?" asked Ron.
Hermione held out her hand, and placed her wand on her open palm. "Point me!" she said. Her wand spun around a couple of times, and then settled down to point to the north west. "That way!"
The quartet followed Hermione's wand through the streets of Bath. It lead them to a cozy looking little Italian restaurant.
"Okay, so, what now?" asked Harry.
"We use your invisibility cloak to sneak in, and see who he's having dinner with," said Ron.
"But I didn't bring my invisibility cloak," said Harry.
"What?" asked Ron. "You were supposed to bring your cloak!"
"No one said I was supposed to bring it!"
"But that's what we always do!" said Ron. "Jeez! You'd think you'd have learned that by now! How are we supposed to sneak up on him without the invisibility cloak!"
"Guys!" said Dawn. "Chill! We don't need the cloak!"
"What are we supposed to do?" asked Ron. "Just stand around out here, and wait?"
"If you want to put it that way…then… Yeah!" said Dawn.
"He has to come out some time," said Dawn. "We find some place where we can keep an eye on the door without being seen."
"And we wait," said Ron.
"Yep. Just like waiting for a new vamp to rise."
"But we've never done that," said Hermione.
"Believe me, there's nothing to it," said Dawn. "Just imagine you're in History of Magic, and the time just flies."
They were still standing in the shadows, half way down the block, a couple of hours later. "Okay," said Ron, "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with 'S'."
"Streetlight," said Hermione.
"How'd you know that?"
"It's the third time you picked it!" said Hermione.
"Now I know why Buffy always brought along a yo-yo for her stakeouts," said Dawn.
"Heads up guys," said Harry. "Someone's coming out."
The conversation hushed, and everyone turned to look toward the restaurant. They'd had several false alarms by now, and if it wasn't for Hermione's wand, that still kept pointing that way whenever they checked, they might have thought that Professor Snape had somehow managed to leave without them spotting him.
This time it wasn't a false alarm. They saw Professor Snape come out of the restaurant, and then turn back toward his companion. Their view of his companion's face was blocked by Snape's body, but it definitely seemed to be female, and Snape seemed to be kissing her. The kiss was a rather long one. The couple broke it off eventually, and turned away from Dawn and her friends. They started to walk away down the street.
They all set off in pursuit. Fortunately there were lots of people out doing last minute Christmas shopping so it was easy for them to blend in with other people on the sidewalks. The tall black shape of Professor Snape, with his companion in a red coat, and hanging on to his arm were also easy to keep track of amid the other pedestrians.
Whoever it was, was much shorter than Professor Snape. The top of her head was about level with his shoulder, and she had a slight build. That was about all they could tell about her though. She had the hood of her coat pulled up over her head, so they couldn't even tell what colour her hair might be.
They followed the couple for three blocks, until they came to the entrance to a small hotel. It was in a very nice neighbourhood, and there was an understated elegance to the building that said 'expensive' to Dawn. The couple stopped just outside the door, and the woman turned to Professor Snape. He leaned toward her, and her head tilted back. Her hood fell away as their lips touched, and Dawn could see her blonde hair.
Dawn's breath caught in her throat. She heard the gasps of her companions. "Buffy, how could you?" she whispered.