Disclaimer: None of these characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Harry Potter belong to me; I'm just using them to hopefully write an entertaining story.
Author's Note: SURPRISE! I'm back! I did promise that I wouldn't abandon this story, and I'm living up to that promise. Well, things have been pretty full on since I was last writing, I've been working two jobs and so it is really hard to find the time to write, I reckon this chapter took me a couple of months to write. Please be patient with my updating, I'm doing the best I can with the present situation and I hope I haven't lost you all, - and that my writing isn't too rusty. Enjoy!
Thanks for everyone's continued support, I probably wouldn't have made it this far without you all.
"Then what's wrong?" he asked.
"It seems like there's always something that has to remind me that things aren't ever gonna be that simple for us," she explained, glancing over to see Harry throw her an understanding look. "I-"
Just as she was continuing on, she was cut off as the sight of Harry standing in front of her disappeared and everything went black. Although, she hadn't fainted again, she was still conscious and suddenly she felt as if she was being squished by a garbage compactor, or something of the sort. Her heart began racing a mile and minute, not liking this strange, unpleasant sensation. A moment later, she released a large breath as she could suddenly make surroundings out around her again, and relief quickly washed through her. However, this didn't last long when she scanned her surroundings and realised that she wasn't at Shell Cottage anymore.
Chapter Twenty-Two – When They Come Clean
Feeling rather light-headed from her completely unexpected journey, and not to mention that it was the first time she'd ever apparated, Dawn momentarily supported herself by placing a hand on the foreign wall beside her. She directed her eyes upward enough to notice she was in a hallway somewhere, somewhere she definitely hadn't been before. Where am I? she quickly thought in a panic. Her next urgent thought was - why did the baby bring her here?
After the initial apprehension had begun to settle, as well as her dizzy spell subsiding, she was able to recognise that perhaps deep down there was even some relief at being freed from her safe house. She told herself that the baby wouldn't just deliver her into danger. At least, she didn't think it would.
She heard a sudden set of footsteps, no doubt hearing her slightly disorderly entrance.
"W-who are you?" An anxious older woman's voice appeared behind her.
Removing her hand from the wall, Dawn carefully turned to face the woman, who she could only assumed lived or owned the building she'd unintentionally invaded, while subconsciously placing a hand on her protruding stomach as she did so. Dawn watched the woman's gaze fall down towards her belly in curiosity, as she took the time to study the older woman. She was in her fifties, with dark hair that was lightly touched with strands of silver and a soft face, although Dawn could tell it was one that had seen its share of stress by the lines that had formed around both her mouth and forehead. And even though the woman seemed quite alarmed and threatened by Dawn's unexpected appearance, tightly grasping a wand and pointing it in her direction with great purpose, there was a motherly air to the woman that reminded Dawn of her own mother.
"Uh," Dawn began awkwardly. "Hey there, I-"
The woman's eyes widened slightly as she spoke, and suddenly she was lowering her wand. "Never mind, dear… I know who you are," she cut Dawn off with a look of recognition, simultaneously placing her wand back in her pocket.
Dawn was taken aback. How did this woman know her, if she had no clue as to where she was? The confusion must have been evident on her face, because the strange woman was quick to jump in with an explanation.
"Just about everyone knows who you are by now – it's been all over the Prophet since you and Harry Potter were at Hogwarts." Dawn already knew from her short time at Hogwarts that the Daily Prophet was a wizarding version of a newspaper. The older woman approached her and gently took her by the arm, ushering her down the hallway. "I'm Andromeda, by the way… No need to be alarmed, I'm a friend of the Order."
Dawn somewhat relaxed at the mention of the Order, confirming her thought that her unborn child wouldn't have intentionally delivered her into evil's grasp, however, she was still slightly unnerved at not knowing where she was. She didn't get a chance to speak up before she was guided through a door on their left.
"Now, you must come and sit down and tell us how you came to be here," Andromeda said in a soft voice as they entered a room.
"Mum? What's going on?" a new voice spoke up, causing Dawn's head to snap around. "Dawn! What are you doing here?"
She was greeted with the sight of an exhausted-looking Tonks sitting in an armchair, clutching a small bundle, wrapped tightly up in a white, knitted blanket. The baby began to stir at the sudden loudness, obviously not appreciating being disturbed from its slumber.
Andromeda approached Tonks and moved to take the crying baby. "Nymphadora!" she chastised in a half-whisper, to which Dawn noticed Tonks roll her eyes. "You cannot be so loud around such a newborn child."
Dawn was able to quickly register a resemblance between the women that she hadn't had a chance to notice until then. As she watched their interaction, she quickly came to the realisation that, for whatever reason, she'd been apparated to Remus and Tonks' house. Searching for an answering, her thoughts swiftly travelled back to the last few moments back at Shell Cottage, of Remus' arrival and how she'd been somewhat overwhelmed by Remus asking her to be Teddy's godmother. She remembered thinking of how she may not ever get a chance to meet her new godson - her magical, unborn child had obviously had other ideas, and surprisingly, the whole thing didn't completely shock after what she'd been through. However, Dawn did silently wish that she could get some warnings with those kinds of things.
"Yes, mum," Tonks replied almost robotically, drawing Dawn's attention back to the present conversation in the Lupin's living room. The new mother looked quizzically at her. "So, Dawn, what are you doing here? I thought they had you protected in a safe house," she looked past Dawn for a moment. "Did my husband bring you here?"
Dawn promptly shook her head, not quite knowing how to explain the situation. "Uh, not really... I kinda came by myself."
The mother and daughter shared a look of both shock and confusion.
"But you obviously can't apparate, you're not a witch," Tonks stated.
"We both heard the crack of an apparition," Andromeda chimed in, little Teddy had settled again in her arms, she gently soothed him back into slumber with a soft rocking motion.
Dawn scratched the side of her head and then brought her hand to rest on her pregnant belly. "Uh, well here's thing – I can't apparate," she paused for dramatic effect. "I just got pulled along for the ride, 'coz apparently Junior here takes after its father."
"The-the unborn child has the ability to apparate?!" Andromeda spluttered in disbelief, she noticed Tonks appeared just as shocked as her mother and couldn't blame them. She was getting quite used to surprising people nowadays, so she simply nodded in response. "T-that's extraordinary! So, I'm deducing from your nonchalance that the child has already displayed similar abilities?" The grandmother continued to quiz her with a shocked fascination.
"You could say that," Dawn managed, squirming somewhat under the attention, while an ironic voice in her head mocked the action. There was a time when she was back in Sunnydale, living in Buffy's shadow, that she would have given anything to be the centre of attention. Now a large part of her looked back in envy of those times of fading into the background.
"This was obviously an unexpected trip then?" Tonks finally spoke up after quietly observing the previous exchange. "No one else would know that you're here?"
Tonks' question quickly reminded Dawn of the danger that her presence brought with her. Whilst part of her felt relief to be released from the confine that Shell Cottage had become, she was struck with an overwhelming guilt of the risk that her unforeseen visit put on both Tonks and her newborn son. She found herself taking a few steps back towards the doorway.
She brought her hands up apologetically as she shook head her vigorously. "Shit, I'm so sorry! I'm putting your family in danger," she blurted out.
"Don't be silly, Dawn," Tonks said with a shake of her head. "It's not as if you had any control over this."
Andromeda swiftly handed Teddy back to his seated mother and looked between the two other women. "I must go and send a message to Remus immediately," she explained, to which Tonks gave an approving nod, before promptly leaving the room.
A silence fell over the room, an uncomfortable one for Dawn as she still stood by the doorway. She pensively found herself watching Tonks stare down at her newborn baby with a look that she couldn't quite put an apt description to - one of wonder, joy, accomplishment and yet still so much more. She shuffled her feet awkwardly, she felt like an intruder of the moment of bonding between mother and son. However, the noise her feet made was enough to break the spell and make Tonks glance back up at her.
The older woman smiled at her. "Don't just stand there, Dawn – please come and meet Teddy, he is your godson, after all. Remus did ask you and Harry?"
She smiled and nodded as she crossed the room until she was standing by the armchair, Tonks gestured her towards the padded footstool that rested beside the chair, and so she slowly took a seat.
"Would you like to hold him?" Tonks questioned, although she didn't really wait for a response before she started placing the newborn in Dawn's arms.
The teenager hadn't really had any experience around babies, so she was more than reluctant to hold one that wasn't even a day old yet. The terror must have been written clearly on her face, because Tonks smiled at her encouragingly and showed her how to cradle Teddy so that his head was supported in the nook of her arm.
"That's it," Tonks continued to encourage her. "Don't worry; it'll be good experience for you."
The witch certainly did have a point – if Dawn was going to have one of her own in a few months time, it was kind of important that she at least have held a newborn before. She knew that she still had so much to learn, as she looked down at her new godson just as he was letting out a large yawn.
"He's so small," she commented quietly, scared that she was going to set the baby off.
Tonks chuckled. "Well, I certainly think that he was big enough at the time."
Dawn found herself laughing along as well, although she was still slightly horrified each time the thought of childbirth floated across her mind, so she tried her best to quickly think of something a little less daunting.
Meanwhile, the two women fell into a comfortable silence for what felt like quite a while, casually conversing here and there, as Teddy's eyes drifted closed in a content slumber from his soft cradle in her arms. Dawn could also see that Tonks was still rather exhausted from the events of the past day, so she limited the conversation and gave her a chance to relax and recover.
Before long, Dawn's attention was taken by the sound of several cracks of apparition. She briefly glanced down at Teddy to see him flinch marginally at the sudden noise, only for his body and facial expression to go back to one of a deep sleep. As she looked back up towards the doorway, a warm feeling of comfort and home immediately washed over her, and she knew exactly what it meant.
She glanced back over at Tonks, who was also looking in the direction of the apparitions. "Harry's here," she said with such certainty that the older woman threw her a look of surprise.
Harry glanced up at the clock for what felt like the hundredth time, as he paced the kitchen of Shell Cottage. It had been over half an hour and there was still no word, one moment Dawn had been standing before him, the next she was gone. From that moment on, everyone had been sent into a nervous frenzy - Buffy had accused him of doing something at first, but she'd soon realised that he was just as confused as the rest of them. Since then, all he could do was wear out the kitchen floor with his pacing, whilst Remus, Buffy and Fleur tried to discover what had happened.
In the meantime, Ron stood by the sink quietly, while Hermione approached Harry and tried to place a hand of comfort on his shoulder. He shrugged it off and continued to helplessly pace, all the worst case scenarios were running through his head and were preventing him from finding any comfort from his best friends. He was just praying that Dawn hadn't been put in harm's way - after all he'd been through over the years, he knew he couldn't lose her too.
"I don't understand, Remus," Buffy almost whined as she entered the kitchen, Harry could see the stress was taking its toll on her as well. "Where the hell is my sister?"
Remus, Willow and Fleur followed closely behind her, the wizard bringing his fingertips to his temples in clear frustration, a crack in his usually calm and collected demeanour. Harry could see that he had come to care for Dawn over time; why else would he have asked her to be Teddy's godmother?
"All I know is what Harry had observed... that she somehow apparated somewhere, although we are unable to trace where," he answered despondently.
"About the apparition," Hermione spoke up, drawing everyone's attention. "Since Dawn's not a witch, we can only assume that it's a result of the baby's growing abilities, don't you agree?" This earned a stiff nod from Remus. "Well, I'm guessing that if the baby is responsible, that surely it wouldn't put her in any danger. Something has had to have triggered this apparition." She turned to look directly at Harry. "What we you both talking about when she disappeared?"
"Well Lupin had just asked us to be the godparents and we'd both accepted, and then..." He trailed off, staring at the floor as he tried to find the answer.
"What the hell is that?!" Buffy's loud exclamation tore him from his thoughts.
His head snapped up to see a silver light whizzing speedy circles around the room before settling on top of a dining chair to the left of Willow. Once it had stopped moving, Harry was able to recognise it as a Patronus in the form of a tiny sparrow, although he had no idea of whom the Patronus belonged to, he had never seen it before.
Remus brought his pointer finger to his lips to signal everyone into silence. "It's a message from Andromeda," he simply said, not bothering to fall into an explanation for the non-Wizarding folk present.
Harry vaguely recognised the name, although couldn't quite place where he had heard it before, he only hoped that they came bearing good news.
"Remus, we have had an unexpected visitor grace us with her presence," a middle-aged woman's voice filled the room, clearly startling both Buffy and Willow. "You may want to come at once."
These few words didn't instantly remove the dread in the pit of Harry's stomach, for one, they didn't explain much about what had happened and how Dawn was. He knew that the terrible nervous feeling wouldn't subside until he could see Dawn again for himself.
Whilst Buffy and Willow were still looking quite confused, Fleur exhaled with relief and placed a hand on Remus' shoulder. "Phew, well 'zat 'iz quite funny 'zat all 'zis time we 'ave been worried 'zat she 'as only been at your house!"
The Frenchwoman instantly triggered Harry's memory, and quickly he realised who the Patronus belonged to. He remembered back to when Sirius showed him his family's tapestry and how he'd mentioned his cousin Andromeda Black, who despite her Pureblood family had married a muggle. She's Tonks' mother, he thought to himself as relief flooded through him, knowing it meant that Dawn was safe with both of them.
"At your house..." Willow trailed off questioningly at Lupin.
Lupin, who had visibly relaxed, promptly nodded. "That was Andromeda Tonks – my mother-in-law," he explained to those who didn't know, which counted for half the room.
"Uh, why would Dawn be at your house?" Ron spoke up for the first time, clearing his throat in the process.
"Yeah, what Red said," Buffy said, nodding in Ron's direction.
Lupin frowned in thought. "Well, I suppose-"
"So that she could meet her godson," Harry found himself cut in, as he came to a realisation out loud that made all eyes in the room focus on him. "Uh, but maybe we shouldn't get into that now... shouldn't we see if Dawn's alright now?"
"Hell yes!" Buffy replied, looking over to Lupin for direction.
The werewolf simply nodded and they spent a moment arguing over who should accompany Lupin to find Dawn. Buffy was obviously always going to be joining him, while Willow volunteered to stay with Ron, Hermione and Fleur. Whilst trying not to sound too desperate to join Lupin and Buffy, Harry was insistent on accompanying them. Although there was some hesitation from the pair because they were obviously concerned for his safety, it wasn't as if they could stop him from going, he was of age after all, not to mention that was the mother of his child out there, who was in just as much danger from leaving the protective wards of Shell Cottage as he was.
Before long, the three of them had apparated to the Lupin/Tonks household, Buffy side-apparating with Lupin. They were greeted by a middle-aged woman that Harry could immediately see shared a resemblance with her two sisters, Bellatrix and Narcissa, although he noticed there was softness in her face that the other two siblings lacked.
"Ah, Harry Potter," she began, like he'd heard so many times from many people over the past few years. "It's so nice to finally meet you after hearing so much about you from both Remus and my daughter," she finished with a smile. "I'm Andromeda Tonks."
Harry was caught slightly off-guard; there was a tone in her voice that made him believe the she actually was only referring to what she'd been told by Tonks and Lupin, and not by what the Wizarding Community had been saying about him all these years. He found it highly unusual and refreshing, and decided then and there that he already liked the woman standing before them.
"Uh, it's nice to meet you too," he replied pleasantly, although in his mind he was still worrying about Dawn.
Andromeda then noticed there was another stranger was standing in her entrance hall, so Lupin stepped in to introduce the two women to each other.
"This is Buffy Summers."
"Oh yes, you're the slayer," Andromeda's face lit up in recognition. "Very nice to meet you." Buffy briefly returned the sentiment. "Remus did mention that you are Dawn's older sister, I suppose you are all wondering as to her whereabouts - she is just over in the sitting room with Nymphadora."
Lupin simply nodded and proceeded to lead them down a hallway and towards the back end of the house, Buffy followed behind eagerly, followed by Harry, and then Andromeda at the rear. Just as Harry entered the sitting room, he heard Buffy call out her sister's name and was then able to catch sight of the brunette for himself, just as the slayer approached Dawn's side.
She was sitting beside Tonks, with a small bundle in a blanket cradled in her arms. The sight caused him to stop in his tracks for a moment, he was struck with the reality that in just a short few months, that wouldn't be his godson there in her arms, but their own son or daughter. The thought took the wind out of his chest, and he needed a moment or two to collect himself again. As he did so, Buffy was throwing Dawn a million questions to see if she was alright, and to figure out what had happened, whilst Remus went between talking quietly to his wife and joining in on Buffy and Dawn's discussions.
Meanwhile, Andromeda came to stand beside him. He turned his head ever-so-slightly and glanced over to see that she was looking over at him with a knowing looking.
"She seems like a remarkable young lady," the witch said quietly.
Although he'd only just met the woman, he couldn't help himself from nodding with a barely audible reply, "She is."
Andromeda smiled at him and then moved towards everyone who was in the room. "I think we should move discussions away from my exhausted daughter and grandson, so that they can get some much-needed rest," she suggested firmly, motioning towards the doorway.
"Oops… yeah, sorry there Tonks!" Buffy was quick to apologise, then looking back down at her sister. "You coming? Don't want you making another disappearing act before we can get you back."
A ghost of a sombre look fell over Dawn's features as she nodded, perhaps unnoticeable to most people, but Harry saw it. "Yep, just few more minutes here – I'll catch up."
Lupin pulled his wife's hand and brought it up to his mouth for a moment, before he and Andromeda lead the way out of the sitting room, with Buffy following closely behind. Harry lingered behind, especially considering he hadn't even had a chance to talk to Dawn since arriving at Lupin's house. Considering he was earlier toying with the idea that she might have been in grave danger less than an hour ago, he was extremely eager to tell her how relieved he was to see her safe and sound. So he walked over to the two remaining women, upon his approach Dawn looked up at him with a large smile.
"Hey," she said softly.
"Hi," Harry replied, telling himself to keep his cool in front of the pair, even though his heart was still recovering from the recent events. "Are you alright? I-" he stopped himself from saying too much just in time, the fact that Tonks was sitting right beside Dawn didn't escape him.
"Peachy," Dawn said casually, glancing back down at Teddy, she clearly didn't realise the extent of panic she'd put everyone through while she was unaccounted for. "Looks like Junior really wanted us to meet our godson..." she trailed off, meeting his gaze again. "Wanna hold him?"
"Uh," he began nervously, looking towards Tonks unsurely.
Due to his deprived upbringing and lack of real family as a child, Harry had really never even seen a baby up close in his seventeen years, let alone held one. And Teddy looked so tiny and fragile; he had visions of himself accidentally doing something harmful to the newborn. What about when it's your own child? That's not very far away, an annoying voice told him, which unfortunately had a valid point.
Harry sighed. "I don't know how," he ended up admitting to the two women.
Tonks waved a dismissing hand at him. "That's alright, Harry - Dawn didn't either."
He looked back to Dawn, who nodded in confirmation. He found this piece of information quite comforting for some reason, perhaps it was because he knew that he and Dawn were both in the same position and would be learning and sharing everything together. They were certainly in everything together from now on; he would make sure of it.
After both Dawn and Tonks had instructed him on how to properly hold Teddy, he found himself spending a few moments of reflection. Here he was, now a godfather holding his brand-new godson. He couldn't help but imagine Sirius and his parents at his own birth, filled with so much love and excitement, not knowing what horror was in store for them all. Although he knew it was a definite possibility, he just really hoped that Teddy didn't have to lose his parents or his godfather to war and destruction like he had. Not to mention, Harry wished the same for his own child.
Teddy began to whimper and squirm in his arms, which very quickly developed into a loud wail - Harry thought it was a good opportunity to give him back to his mother. Tonks stepped in and quickly tried to soothe the tired and stressed baby, giving Harry an opportunity to turn his attention back to Dawn, who was staring at him peculiarly.
"What?" he asked self-consciously.
She giggled under her breath and shrugged. "Forget it," she replied.
Whilst Tonks was distracted with Teddy, Harry gently took Dawn by the elbow and pulled her over to the other side of the room, in a corner between the doorway and a bookcase.
"What's up?" It was now her turn to quiz him, she looked at him with raised eyebrows, obviously wondering about the sudden relocation.
This slightly irked an annoyance in Harry, that Dawn was completely oblivious to how scary her unexpected apparition had been, especially when you considered how she had been asleep for days after the baby had last used magic.
"Well, are you alright? Do you feel okay?" He looked up and down, as if checking her over.
She nodded. "I'm fine... I mean, a little more with the tired than usual, but I'm not gonna pull another Sleeping Beauty on you, if that's what you're freaked about," she replied; at least she somewhat understood Harry's concern.
Harry stepped in closer to her and lowered his voice to a whisper. "Of course I'm worried, Dawn," he glanced over to the doorway, followed by an occupied Tonks, and then back Dawn. "You disappeared right in front of me - you could've been in danger. I-" he stopped talking suddenly, frustrated that they were reduced to whispering in the corner, when all he wanted to do was show her how relieved he was to see her.
Footsteps echoed up the hall, causing Harry to self-consciously take a step back from Dawn. A moment later, Buffy peered into the room again, her eyes eventually falling on them.
"Well," she said impatiently. "What are you guys doing? Let's get moving!"
Dawn nodded, quickly thanked and farewelled Tonks and then followed her sister. Harry hesitantly followed behind them. He just couldn't stop himself from pondering just how complicated things had become, especially when it came to Dawn.
Dawn's return to Shell Cottage was a bittersweet moment, she had savoured in the change of scenery, not knowing when she'd get another opportunity to leave again. Although, at the same time, she felt more comfortable to back in the safety of the wards, knowing that she wasn't putting Tonks, Andromeda or Teddy in unnecessary danger. In the meanwhile, Willow had been the first to greet her with a huge embrace and a sigh of relief, followed by a stream of 'welcome back's from everyone else. It didn't take long for them all, especially Buffy, to grill her for details of her unexpected apparating experience, especially due to the unusual circumstances of it. She thought that they were all concerned that it might happen again, personally, considering the baby had saved her life and given her the opportunity to meet her godson, she trusted that it wouldn't happen again without good reason.
For the moment, her sister was fussing over her as usual, and whilst she knew it came from a place of love, sometimes she had to hold back a roll of the eyes here and there. At the same time, Hermione was in the process analysing the baby's increasing abilities, when Dawn sensed Harry's stare from across the kitchen. She glanced over in mid-sentence to see that he was hovering over by the door that led out to the staircase. She could immediately feel his resolution in seeing her in private; she could tell there was something on his mind ever since they'd been reunited at the Lupin's because he'd been acting a little strange, much quieter than usual.
"Hermione, I'm just gonna crash upstairs for a bit," she said quickly, directing her gaze back at the brilliant witch.
"Are you alright?" Hermione responded with a concerned look, at the same time Dawn could also feel Buffy's eyes on her.
She looked between the witch and her sister and nodded. "Yeah, just a bit tired is all, with Junior apparating me and whatnot." She tried to settle their minds with a casual wave of her hand. "Don't worry, it's not repeat of Hogwarts, I'm just a little spaced out."
Dawn wasn't exactly lying either, she did feel slightly weary from the whole experience and relished in the thought of escaping the group for a while. She turned her head back towards the door and saw that Harry had already disappeared from his position by the door, so she quickly finished dismissing herself and immediately ascended the staircase. When she reached the top, she saw that the door to her room was left ajar, so she walked over and pushed it open to find Harry standing by the window. He looked over when she entered, she could see that there was now a softer look in his eyes.
"Hey." She smiled pulling the door closed behind her.
She'd barely had time to close the door before Harry was across the room and had put his lips on hers. Then she almost didn't have any time to react before she felt his lips leave hers, and was pulled against him into a tight embrace.
"Whoa, what was that for?" she inquired with raised eyebrows, caught off-guard by Harry's unexpected enthusiasm.
Harry pulled away from her with slightly reddened cheeks. "Sorry," he mumbled before clearing his throat. "I didn't get a chance to do that earlier," he added.
She reached over and took his hand in hers. "Hey, I'm not complaining," she said with a laugh. "Sorry I didn't think about how freaked out you must've been with my Houdini act earlier. I-" she paused to stifle a yawn, drawing out the 'I' sound in one long note as she did so.
Harry frowned at her. "You should get some rest," he began, nodding in the direction of the bed. "Sleep seems to help you recover."
Because she felt herself growing more and more tired, she didn't bother arguing with him. Still grasping his hand, she went over to the bed, pulling him with her. They'd been able to build this silent communication, she didn't have to say anything for him to follow her lead and climb onto the bed beside her. Harry placed some pillows behind him and propped himself up against the head of the bed. Being the middle of the day, Dawn knew that he wasn't at all tired but they both knew that she probably wouldn't get the sleep she needed if he wasn't there.
She slid down until her head was resting against the side of his chest, his arm automatically snaked around her back, enveloping her with a warmth and security, which she hadn't felt in a very long time.
"Harry?" she found herself mumbling into his chest.
"Yes, Dawn?" he responded softly.
She paused in that moment, not quite knowing what to say as her eyes became heavy. "I… thanks," she found herself saying before everything became hazy with sleep, although in that moment she swore she heard him form a muffled reply.
When Dawn opened her eyes again, the sun was actually breaking through the clouds and was streaming through the window in beams of soft, pale-yellow light. She let out a sigh of relief when she realised that she could still feel the gentle rise and fall of Harry's chest under her head, relieved by the fact the she hadn't fallen into a sleep that lasted for days, like she had when the baby had saved her from the killing curse. She was glad that at least being apparated had only worn her out for a few hours, so she let out a deep sigh of contentment. She slowly craned her neck up to see Harry's beautiful green eyes gazing back down at her.
"You're still here," she stated with a smile.
Harry nodded strongly. "Why wouldn't I be?" he asked, there was something in his tone that Dawn couldn't quite pick.
She pushed herself up to a seated position, twisting around to face him. "Dunno, just thought you might skip out after I fell asleep," she said, rubbing her eyes sleepily. "What time is it?"
He glanced down at his watch for a moment. "Just after half four."
She couldn't help but giggle at his decidedly British reply. She had decided that if things didn't work out between her and Harry after everything, and well, she didn't die, that she wouldn't be able to go back to American men again. The more she thought about it, the more fitting being with Harry seemed – two of the main male figures in her life thus far were British, not to mention Angel was originally from nearby Ireland. It all seemed to piece together in her mind.
After her amused reaction, The Boy Who Lived threw her a confused look. She just waved off his confusion with a shake of her head and a quiet "never mind".
"So you've been sitting here for hours while I was out of it?" she asked, to which he nodded. "Wasn't that kinda boring?"
He shrugged nonchalantly. "I didn't mind at all, really. I had loads to think about."
"Is that a good thing?" she found herself joking, although she was quite interested and concerned at the same time about what could have required that much contemplation. The serious look that formed on his face didn't really fill her with confidence either. "Oh god, what is it?"
She pushed herself off the bed and turned to face him, Harry quickly followed suit. He shifted his feet in obvious uncertainty; Dawn could tell that he was hesitant of her reaction.
"Well, we obviously can't predict your sister's reaction, and I know you wanted it to be between us…" He took in a deep breath, running a hand through his hair. "But after what happened earlier, I was both so worried and then relieved to see you again - although I didn't feel like I could really show it around everyone else." Dawn began to wonder where his monologue was heading. "I don't want to make my life any more complicated - especially with you, Dawn... I don't think we should try and hide from everyone downstairs anymore…" He paused to take another deep breath. "Uh, but it's your choice in the end."
Whilst she had enjoyed being able to share some things with just Harry and no one else, she immediately knew he was right. There were so many other things going on in their lives, sneaking around like ninjas was already starting to become tiresome. Not to mention, Dawn always seemed to notice a never-ending guilt in the back of her mind for keeping more secrets from Buffy, particularly after concealing her pregnancy from her for so long.
"You're right," she replied with a sigh, noticing that Harry visibly relaxed at this, like perhaps he wasn't expecting her to agree so easily. "I can't keep keeping secrets from Buffy."
"Should we go talk to her now?"
She shrugged. "I guess... Like ripping off a bandaid – get the pain over quick. Unless you've got a better approach?"
Harry looked thoughtful for a moment. "Well, actually, I think I might," he finally said and she felt Harry take her hand in his.
As the pair neared the kitchen with each descending stair bring them closer and closer, the voices pouring out into the entry hall got louder and louder. Harry could hear a strong male voice that alerted them to the fact that Bill was home from his work at Gringotts, in Diagon Alley. He was able to make out the retellings of the day's events directed at the curse-breaker, who'd obviously missed all the strange happenings.
Meanwhile, neither teen had said a word to each other. Harry still held Dawn's hand securely in his, and to him it felt like two pieces of a whole that were always meant to fit together. He briefly wondered if she was feeling the same thing. He glanced across at her and gave her a small, reassuring smile, in which she returned, even though he knew she had just as many nerves bubbling in her stomach as he did. He was certainly anticipating that they might have to encounter an angry slayer in a matter of moments, although while trying not to show his trepidation for Dawn's sake.
Before he knew it, they were at the doorway and he found himself hesitating for a moment. Dawn had taken another step, causing a pull on their linked arms. She turned to look at him.
"Come on, Harry," she began quietly. "You're right, let's just play it down… play it cool. You'd have no trouble with that, I mean, you are British."
She let out a small giggle and took another step, which pulled him with her before he could respond or feign offence at her quip. He took a quick double-step to catch up and fall at her side once more. Everyone was present, apart from Lupin, who had gone back home to his wife not long after they'd returned. Harry knew this because the werewolf had come searching for his whereabouts upstairs, knocking quietly on the door and to be greeted with the sight of an unconscious Dawn curled up comfortably against him. Remus simply smiled and nodded at him, before bidding him a farewell, not at all surprised by the sight in front of him, which made Harry believe that Lupin had already been somewhat aware of the whole situation beforehand.
Hermione was in mid-sentence when both he and Dawn entered the room, hands still strongly linked. Without missing a beat, the brunette witch seemed to understand that he and Dawn were trying to fly under the radar because she continued talking when everyone else turned to look, trying to keep all their attention away from them. He told himself that he would have to specifically thank his friend later on, because it certainly did reduce the awkwardness in the moment. Bill and Fleur both quickly looked away and went back to what they were doing, while Harry noticed a small smile creep on Willow's face, who also said nothing and turned her attention away. Meanwhile, Ron looked somewhat shocked, and perhaps a little upset that he'd been kept out of the loop by his best friend. He knew he was well overdue for a talk with the redhead and banked it into his mental 'to do list'.
However, he had still yet to gauge the most important reaction of the group, slightly nervously throwing a quick look towards Buffy as he and Dawn joined the group, taking seats at the dining table opposite the slayer and in between Willow and Hermione. Once seated, he glanced casually over at the blonde sitting across from him - although it was no surprise that she'd been watching them, Harry was totally surprised to see her look back away from them and turn her focus back to what Hermione's talking. It was only when he felt Dawn squeeze his hand to get his attention, that he realised they were still clasping each other's hand underneath the table. She threw him a look with raised eyebrows that showed that she was just as surprised as he was about her sister's reaction, or lack thereof.
Harry definitely hadn't expected his idea to work quite as well as it did. He was thankful to avoid another dramatic encounter with Buffy, even if he did feel like he was much less intimidated by her than when he had first met her. He was even happier to save Dawn from the added pressure, knowing that she'd already been through so much more stress than any normal pregnant woman usually endured.
The conversation continued to flow through into dinner, when Dawn excused herself to the bathroom, Harry noticed Buffy quietly slip out of the room on her sister's trail, relatively unnoticed by the rest of the room. He debated with himself on whether he should follow the pair, when Ron settled himself into Dawn's unoccupied chair.
"Harry, mate," the redhead began quietly in a hurt voice. "I thought we told each other everything," he paused thoughtfully. "I guess that stopped when you met Dawn…"