Dawn sat on her bed in their hotel room with her Powerbook in her lap, typing up one of her essays for Professor Snape, while keeping half an eye on the TV. The BBC was showing snooker. Fortunately it didn’t require a lot of her attention, so she could write while it was on.
She was interrupted by a tapping noise at the window. She set aside her computer and went and pulled aside the drapes. She saw the snowy owl sitting on the window ledge. “Hello Hedwig!” She released the catch and pushed open the window to admit the owl.
Hedwig hopped across the window sill. She had an envelope in her beak that she let Dawn take, and then with a couple of powerful flaps of her wings she flew across the room and took up a roost on top of a lamp.
“Thank you!” Dawn looked at the envelope and saw it was addressed to Buffy. “Sorry I don’t have any treats for you. I’ll have to owe you.”
Hedwig hooted. Dawn wasn’t sure if the owl was saying she understood, or if she was just hooting. She took the envelope, went to the door that connected to Giles’ room, and opened it.
While Dawn had spent most of the day and a half since leaving Grimmauld Place working on her Potions assignments and watching TV, Buffy had spent it on the phone, touching base with all the other Slayers around Britain, making sure that everything was under control and there were no new crises that needed her personal attention. The underworld was still pretty much under: still reeling from the shock of having over a thousand Slayers to worry about, world-wide, instead of just one. Things were pretty calm, even by non-Hellmouth standards.
Dawn caught Buffy and Giles between calls. He was just writing up her last call in his journal when she came into the room, waving the envelope.
“What is it?” asked Buffy.
Dawn handed her the envelope. “Hedwig just brought a letter for you.”
Buffy ripped open the letter. “Still getting used to the idea of Owl Post.” She pulled it out and scanned it quickly. “Okay, the shopping trip is on for tomorrow. They can meet us at 10:00 in the Leaky Cauldron. We’re supposed to write back to confirm.” She looked up at Dawn. “Sorry, they don’t say if Harry’s coming.”
Dawn tried to hide her disappointment. “That’s okay.”
“He still might show,” said Buffy. “Not saying could just be part of Moody’s security.”
Dawn brightened up a bit. “You think?”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high,” said Buffy. “He may be stuck in the house.” She got the pad of note paper supplied by the hotel and started to write her reply. “I guess we’ll have time to visit the bank first, get some cash. Set up an account for you with Gringotts. From what we’ve heard, a couple of thousand pounds should be plenty to see you and Ginny though the term. We’ll make it three, just to be safe.”
Buffy finished her note, and sealed it in an envelope. “Um, how do I address this?”
“I think just writing ‘Ginny Weasley’ should be good enough,” said Dawn. “Hedwig will get it to her.”
“Okay.” Buffy wrote Ginny’s name on the envelope and gave it back to Dawn. “Here you go.”
Dawn took the envelope back to her room and held it out for Hedwig. “Here you go girl. Take this back to Ginny, and give Harry a kiss for me.”
Hedwig hooted, took the envelope in her beak, and flew out the window.
“I wonder how much she understands me,” said Dawn as she sat back down on her bed. She picked up her remote control to see if there was anything more exciting than snooker on TV.
Buffy and Dawn arrived in front of the Leaky Cauldron a little before ten o’clock. Dawn glanced at the book store next door. “Oh, there’s something I want to get first. Go ahead, I’ll catch up with you!”
“Dawn—” It was too late, Dawn had vanished into the book store. Buffy looked at the blank wall. “I still can’t see it,” she told herself.
Buffy took a deep breath. “Okay, we do it the old fashioned way.” She walked up to the wall and reached out with her hand. She felt brick. She started to walk along the wall, running her finger tips along it, until the brick under them vanished. She tried and found that she just couldn’t get her eyes to point to where she knew her hand was. “This is the place,” she told herself. She brought her hand back a little way until she could feel where the edge of the opening was, and stepped toward it.
The door appeared in the alcove as soon as Buffy was past where the wall should have been. She went up the two steps, and into The Leaky Cauldron.
Tom didn’t glare at her this time. He smiled and nodded off to the side. Buffy looked where he indicated and saw a group of people all sitting around a table. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Mrs. Weasley and Harry. There was a sixth person there she didn’t recognize, but from the colour of his hair she guessed he must be another one of Ginny’s brothers. He was rather handsome, with long hair pulled back in a pony tail, and some sort fang in an earring. He was tall and slim, and looked to be in his late twenties. He rose from his seat as she approached the table.
“Hi!” said Buffy.
“Hi Buffy!” said Harry. “This is Ginny’s oldest brother Bill. He works for Gringotts; we thought he could help you get your account set up.”
Bill held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you.”
“A pleasure,” said Buffy.
“I’m not really involved in accounts,” said Bill, “but I can help guide you through it. Make sure you get first rate treatment from the Goblins.”
Harry was looking around. “Er, where’s Dawn?”
“Don’t worry, she’s coming,” said Buffy. “She suddenly decided she needed to get something from the book store next door. She should be here any minute.” She looked at Bill. “So, I want to set up an account that will pay Dawn and Ginny an allowance for their pocket money through the term. Can we do something like that?”
“Ginny won’t be needing your money, Miss Summers,” said Mrs. Weasley.
Buffy looked at the way people shifted uncomfortably around the table, and she remembered the Weasleys’ uncomfortable reaction to her mentioning money before. “I’m sure she doesn’t, but I have access to a very large sum of it, which is meant to help Slayers. Part of that has been allocated to a scholarship fund meant to see that each Slayer gets the education she needs. Ginny is entitled to her share of that fund.”
“We are quite capable of paying Ginny’s way,” said Mrs. Weasley.
“I certainly never meant to imply anything else.” Buffy mentally kicked herself for not seeing this coming. She should have recognized the Weasleys’ reaction when she first saw it. They were people who were self sufficient, and proud of it, even when they were just scraping by; they weren’t going to be taking any handouts from anyone, especially when they were just scraping by. It was the sort of attitude that had led to her working double shifts at the Doublemeat Palace. This was not an argument she was going to be able to win now, especially in front of an audience. “Okay, so I’ll just need Bill’s help setting up the account for Dawn.”
“Speaking of…” Buffy looked around, happy for the interruption. “Hi Dawn! So what did you suddenly have to buy?”
“Late birthday present for Harry.” She handed him the bag in her hand. “Sorry for the lack of wrapping.”
“You shouldn’t have,” said Harry.
“I know, but I did anyway.” Dawn looked at Bill. “So who’s this?”
“Oh, this is my oldest brother, Bill,” said Ginny. “He’s going to help Buffy get your bank account set up. Bill, this is Dawn Summers.”
Dawn and Bill shook hands while Harry pulled his present out of the bag: a boxed set of The Lord of the Rings. “Thanks,” said Harry. “Now I can learn about that Gollum guy.”
“I figured you could use something to keep you entertained while you were shut up in that house,” said Dawn. “I’m glad they let you out today.”
“Well, the Alley is crawling with Aurors,” said Harry, “Just in case Moldywart tries something, so they figured it would be safe enough.”
“So, I think we better get busy,” said Buffy. “We have a lot of shops waiting for us to deplete their stock!”
They returned to the Leaky Cauldron a couple of hours later. Dawn was dragging a quite ordinary looking trunk behind her, but if you looked carefully you’d see that the wheels weren’t quite in contact with the floor. It also felt no heavier now, with nearly everything they had bought packed into it, than it had felt when it was empty. About the only item Dawn had bought that hadn’t gone into her trunk was a cage containing a small screech owl with cinnamon coloured plumage.
They ate lunch together, and this time Buffy insisted on picking up the tab as a thank you to Mrs. Weasley for all her help in getting Dawn outfitted. They started to plan their assault on the stores they’d have to hit that afternoon to get the things that Ginny and Dawn would need for their training. Buffy had been slowly working Mrs. Weasley all morning and had gotten her to agree to let Buffy pay for all of that too, on the grounds that this was extra Slayer related shopping, above and beyond the normal back to school outfitting.
Ron and Harry soon slipped off into their own conversation, mostly about Quidditch, when it became clear that the girls were mostly talking about clothes. By the end of lunch Harry wasn’t feeling quite so bad that he wouldn’t be allowed to go along. His freedom to move around wasn’t being extended into Muggle London today, so he and Ron were going back to Grimmauld Place. Mrs. Weasley was reluctantly going with them. She didn’t really want to let Ginny go without her, but Buffy, Hermione and Dawn all promised that they’d make sure that no wild Muggles carried her off.
After lunch, Dawn opened her trunk and started pulling stuff out. It wasn’t just her shopping that had gone into it. She had nearly everything the others had bought too. She took out piles of books, new robes, potions ingredients and other things that went into four piles on the table for Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione. Dawn’s trunk had lots of drawers and compartments in it which had allowed them to keep everyone’s things separate. The interior expanded as required, so there was lots of room. It even had a bracket inside the lid into which Dawn’s new broom was clamped.
Hermione’s pile was split between Harry, Ron and Mrs. Weasley, who also took Ginny’s. “So how are you guys getting home?” asked Dawn.
“Oh, we’re going by Floo,” said Mrs. Weasley. “First to the Burrow, and then on to Headquarters from there.”
Buffy looked at Dawn. “Did that make sense to you?”
“’Fraid not,” said Dawn.
“Floo is a fast way for wizards to travel,” said Hermione. “It’s a network of magically connected fireplaces that you can move between almost instantly. We’ll show you.”
Everyone grabbed their piles and they all went to the Leaky Cauldron’s large fireplace. Since everyone’s hands were full Hermione took the bowl of Floo Powder off the mantle, and tossed a pinch into the fireplace. The fire turned green. Mrs. Weasley stepped into the flames. “The Burrow!” she said, and vanished. Hermione tossed in another pinch, and Ron followed her.
Harry turned back to Dawn. “Er, nice seeing you again. Wish I could stay longer.”
Dawn smiled at him. “I wish you could too. I’ll see you again soon. The train back to school, if not sooner.”
“Yeah, and er, thanks for the present too.”
“Stop yacking and kiss her, you idiot!” said Buffy.
Harry and Dawn both blushed, but then he did as he was told, to a smattering of applause from around the inn. Buffy’s outburst had attracted a little attention. That made them blush more. Hermione let Harry escape through the fire.
“Okay!” said Buffy. “Now that we got rid of the guys, and the Mom, we can get down to some real shopping!”
They started by walking back to Twiddlings Hotel. The hotel concierge tried to raise an objection to them taking Dawn’s owl up to their room, but Buffy pointed out the bit in the fine print of the ‘no pets’ section of the hotel rules that made an exception for birds in cages. They took Dawn’s new stuff up to her room and introduced Giles to her owl, who hadn’t been named yet.
They took a taxi from the hotel to a mall where they hit the stores and got Ginny and Dawn outfitted with what Buffy called ‘a proper training wardrobe.’ It included a couple pairs of top of the line cross-trainer shoes for each of them, sweat suits, sports bras and other such items. From there they went to a martial arts supply store that Giles’ friend Robson had recommended to them.
Robson was one of the few surviving members of the old Watcher’s Council. He’d spent a couple of months in the hospital after nearly being killed by the First’s Bringers, after they had killed Nora, the Potential Slayer in his care. Robson had declined their offer to take charge of one of the new Slayers, Nora’s death was still too painful for him, but he had been a great help in coordinating the reformation of the Watchers. He wasn’t one of what Xander called the REMF Watchers, like much of the old Council had been. (Rear Echelon Mother F******, a term Xander remembered from his Halloween soldier experience.) Robson knew the price that the Slayers were being asked to pay.
Robson was also partially responsible for Buffy being able to finance this shopping expedition. Between them, he and Giles had known where most of the old Council’s assets had been hidden away, and with the aid of some magically enhanced hacking by Willow, had helped get control of those assets passed over to the new organization.
Buffy had been amazed by just how much money there was, which just made her more annoyed at the old Council. All the time she’d spent barely scraping by, worrying about whether she’d be able to keep her house, how she was going to put Dawn through school, working at the Doublemeat Palace to make ends meet, and the Council could have made all her money problems go away out of petty cash. There was enough money that all of the new Slayers were now on salary with generous expense allowances for work related purchases, in addition to the scholarship fund for the girls who were still in training.
Buffy and Faith were even given back pay. Buffy had objected to that, but she was overruled by the others, so now she and Dawn had over half a million dollars. (In order to keep from having to give half of her back pay to the government in taxes, they had disguised it as a late life insurance pay out from the death of their mother, and half of it went to Dawn instead.)
It was nearly five o’clock when they got back to Twiddlings Hotel. All of their new kick boxing pads, and helmets and other such items were packed away into Dawn’s new trunk before she and Buffy escorted Hermione and Ginny back to the Leaky Cauldron to take the Floo back to Grimmauld Place.
|Chapter 20: Number Twelve Grimmauld Place||Contents||Chapter 22: Practical Defence|