Dawn re-entered the lobby of their hotel a couple of hours later, and saw Buffy rushing toward her. “Dawn! Where is she? Willow said she vanished again! After all we’ve been through to find her, I don’t want to lose her!”
“Buffy, relax,” said Dawn. “I explained everything to her, and left her to go talk things over with her family. She knows where we’re staying, and I know how to get a message to her, if something comes up.”
“But what if she just disappears?”
“It’s her choice, remember?” said Dawn. “That’s part of what this is all about. The girls get to choose for themselves if they want to be Slayers. We didn’t talk about it much, but I got the impression that they’ve all seen some pretty dark stuff themselves. We’ll be hearing from her again.” Dawn started up the stairs toward their room. “So, did you and Giles talk with Mr. Lupin?”
“No,” said Buffy. “Turns out he’s pretty hard to find too. He wasn’t home at the address he gave us. It doesn’t look like he spends much time there. There was a couple of days’ worth of newspapers piled in front of his door. We tried back at the bookstore, to see if Mr. Cross could tell us where to find him. All he’d do was promise to pass on the message that we were looking for Lupin, if he bumped into him.”
Dawn came out of the bathroom the next morning towelling her hair dry. Buffy went in to take her turn. The phone rang just as Dawn heard the shower starting. “I got it!” she called to her sister. She went to answer the phone. “Hello? … Okay, I’ll be down in a few minutes.”
Buffy poked her head out of the bathroom. She hadn’t gotten into the shower yet. “Who was it?”
“The front desk,” said Dawn. “They’ve got a letter for me.” She started to get dressed. “You know, in a better hotel, they’d deliver it to our room.”
“But then you’d have to tip the guy who brought it,” said Buffy. “And we picked this one because it was closest to where Ginny appeared and disappeared most often, not for the quality of the service.” She disappeared back into the bathroom, and Dawn could hear her splashing around in the shower when she left to get her mail.
Dawn got back to their room just after Buffy got out of the shower. She was holding a parchment envelope in her hand. “What is it?” asked Buffy.
“Don’t know yet,” said Dawn. She looked at the envelope she was holding again. There was no stamp on it, no return address, and the man at the front desk had said that it had just shown up in his in basket. The address read:
Miss Dawn Summers
Twiddlings Hotel, Room 314
in flowing script, written with bright green ink. Dawn flipped the envelope over and looked at the red wax seal on the back of it again. A coat of arms was pressed into it. An ‘H’ surrounded by a badger, lion, snake and eagle.
“Well aren’t you going to open it?” asked Buffy.
Dawn smiled. “Okay, but if it explodes in my face, I’m blaming you.” She carefully opened the envelope, and pulled out the parchment letter inside. It was written in the same flowing hand, and green ink.
Dear Miss Summers,
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have asked for my assistance in the matter concerning their daughter Ginevra. We wish to meet with your sister Buffy and Mr. Rupert Giles this afternoon at two o’clock for tea in the Leaky Cauldron. I would greatly appreciate it if you could show them the way.
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Order of Merlin, First Class, Grand Sorc., Chf. Warlock, Supreme Mugwump, International Confed. of Wizards)
“Well?” asked Buffy.
“We’ve been invited to have tea with Ginny’s parents,” said Dawn, “and some guy with a very weird title.” She handed the letter to Buffy. “What do you think?”
Buffy read the letter herself. “I think we’re going to have tea.” She handed it back to her sister. “What does one wear to tea with the Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards?”
“I have no idea,” said Dawn.
They hadn’t really packed any formal wear, and they decided not to go shopping for anything. Buffy and Dawn were wearing the most conservative of the clothes that they had packed when they arrived in front of the Leaky Cauldron at five minutes to two. The outfits were intended to produce a calming first impression. Casual, dark slacks and blouses with subdued colours. Giles was wearing what Buffy tended to think of as his ‘Librarian Suit.’ It had been ages since she’d last seen him wearing it.
Buffy and Giles looked around. “Um, where is it?” asked Giles.
Dawn pointed at the door. “Right there.”
“I don’t see anything Dawn,” said Buffy.
“I told you, it’s hidden by a glamour.”
Dawn watched as Buffy closed her eyes, and tried to clear her mind. Her eyes opened again. “Nope. Still no door.”
“Glad there are still some things I can do better than you.” Dawn held out her hand. “Here, take my hand, grab Giles, and watch your step. There’s two steps up.”
Buffy grasped Dawn’s hand with her right and Giles’ with her left, and followed as Dawn led them toward the wall. Dawn seemed to just vanish from sight in front of her, but she could still feel Dawn’s hand in hers. She moved forward a couple more steps, and crossed an invisible threshold. The entrance to the Leaky Cauldron appeared before her. “Whoa! Looks like a bit of a dive. We may be overdressed.”
“I think that’s just to discourage anyone who manages to see past the glamour,” said Dawn. “Come on.” She pushed open the door. Buffy and Giles followed her inside.
The interior didn’t raise Buffy’s opinion of the place much. It still seemed rather dim and shabby. She looked around. It seemed to be a lot bigger than it looked from outside too. The man behind the bar was frowning at them. He looked like he thought they didn’t belong there. Buffy was getting tired of seeing that look on people’s faces. “Can I help you?” he asked.
“We’re supposed to be meeting a Mr. Dumbledore here,” said Buffy. “He’s expecting us.”
The man’s frown vanished. “Meeting the Professor, eh? He did say he was expecting someone, has a room reserved upstairs.” He started to come around the bar.
“It’s okay Tom,” said Harry from the stairway. “The Professor asked me to show them up.”
Harry led Buffy, Dawn and Giles up the stairs. They passed a couple of people dressed in colourful robes coming down and Buffy began to wonder if maybe she should have worn something else. Harry seemed to read her mind. “Don’t worry about your clothes. Mr. Weasley just loves all things Muggle…er, you should be warned, he tried to dress like one himself.”
Harry led them down a long hallway. Now Buffy was sure that this building couldn’t fit in the narrow space between the record and book stores. Something weird was definitely going on. He stopped in front of a door and knocked lightly on it. A muffled voice invited them to come in.
Harry opened the door and led them into an elegant sitting room. A sofa and comfortable chairs were set up around a table on which tea cups and a pot were waiting. Several people were standing waiting for them. Buffy immediately identified Ginny as a fellow Slayer. There was a connection between them that she felt instantly. From the look on Ginny’s face she could feel it too. It was also immediately apparent who her parents were. A middle aged couple with flaming red hair. His was starting to thin, but hers was quite abundant. He was also dressed in a mismatched pair of pinstriped pants, and a golf sweater. Ginny and the woman were dressed in the least colourful robes Buffy had seen yet, and Ginny’s had a crest, like the seal on the envelope their invitation had come in, on them. Also present was Remus Lupin, who was wearing threadbare robes, instead of threadbare tweed.
The fifth person waiting for them was the most extraordinary. While Mrs. Weasley’s and Ginny’s robes looked not too unlike something you might see at a university graduation, his looked like they’d been through some sort of explosion in a paint store, and the colours kept changing. He had the longest, and whitest hair Buffy had ever seen, and his beard was so long he kept the end of it tucked in his belt. His eyes, behind half moon glasses, had a twinkle in them that belied the grave expression on his face.
He was the first to speak. “Remus, I believe you know everyone present. Why don’t you make the introductions.”
“Certainly Professor.” Remus stepped forward. He gestured toward Buffy. “Professor Albus Dumbledore, I would like you to meet Miss Buffy Summers, if my information is correct, the Slayer.”
Dumbledore held out his hand. “Pleased to meet you Miss Summers.”
“Pleased to meet you too.” Buffy shook his hand. “But I’m not the Slayer anymore.” She smiled toward Ginny. “I’m just a Slayer.”
“Of course,” said Dumbledore.
“With Miss Summers we have Rupert Giles…” Dumbledore shook his hand. “…and Miss Dawn Summers.”
Dumbledore took Dawn’s hand, and he looked at her with eyes that seemed to see right through her. “Extraordinary! So that’s where it got to!”
“What?” asked Dawn. She had a very bad feeling about this.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Dumbledore smiled, and looked like what Santa Claus was supposed to look like. “After a hundred and forty-five years the mind starts to wander. I just remembered where I left an ice cream sundae that I misplaced last April.”
Dawn smiled at him, but she was feeling there was nothing wrong with the way this man’s mind worked. He knew something he wasn’t saying.
Lupin continued the introductions. “On the other side of the room we have Miss Ginevra Weasley, if my information is correct, a Slayer.”
Buffy stepped up to her, and smiled. “Hi! Glad to finally meet you!” She held out her hand.
Ginny took it carefully. “Hello.”
Lupin gestured toward the man and woman. “And Ginny’s parents. Arthur and Molly Weasley.”
Buffy greeted them more solemnly. She could see the worried look in their eyes. “How do you do.” She shook first her, and then his hand.
“And finally, I think everyone has already met Harry, who’s back there in the corner, hoping we’d forgotten about him,” said Lupin.
“Harry, why don’t you take Dawn and show her around Diagon Alley.” Dumbledore smiled. “Maybe she can keep you out of trouble.”
Harry smiled. “Okay Professor. Come on Dawn.” He opened the door for her, and then followed her out of the room.
“Why don’t we all get comfortable.” Dumbledore held his hand out toward the chairs around the tea table. One of them drew back a bit, and Dumbledore indicated that Buffy should sit in it. It pushed itself back in as she sat down. Giles took the chair beside Buffy, and the Weasleys sat on the sofa on the other side from them, with Ginny in the centre. Dumbledore and Lupin took chairs at either end of the table.
Dumbledore withdrew a wand from his robe, and gestured at the teapot. It rose up, and poured into the seven cups on the table. “Milk or sugar, Miss Summers?”
“Oh, um, sugar please,” said Buffy. “And please, call me Buffy.” She was trying not to be too impressed…this wasn’t that astonishing. Willow could pull something like this off if she wanted too, but Buffy didn’t think Willow could have done it as casually as Dumbledore was doing it. She watched as a spoonful of sugar was added to her cup, and the spoon stirred it. She glanced around the table to see how the others were reacting. Lupin and the Weasleys weren’t reacting to the tea stirring itself at all, as if it was part of the way tea was always served. They seemed to be watching for Buffy’s reaction. Giles on the other hand was visibly trying to control himself. His hand kept starting to move up toward his glasses before he pushed it back down again.
Dumbledore asked Giles how he liked his tea, and prepared it to order. He didn’t inquire of the Weasleys, or Lupin. He prepared each cup the way he knew they liked it. Ginny got three sugars, and extra milk.
Dumbledore leaned back in his chair once everyone had a chance to take their first sips. “Now Buffy, we have heard what your sister told Ginny and her friends about how she came to be a Slayer, but young memories being what they are, that means we heard four different versions of the story. Perhaps you should repeat it for us.”
Harry led Dawn back down through the pub and out the back door into the empty courtyard behind it. “This is Diagon Alley?” she asked. “Not very impressive.”
“Doesn’t look like much does it?” Harry smiled and pulled out his wand. He tapped a brick on the back wall three times. The brick started to wiggle and turned itself sideways, opening up a small hole. More bricks around it started to wiggle and turn, making the hole grow until an archway opened up, large enough for Harry and Dawn to walk through. On the other side was a cobbled street, which twisted and turned out of sight.
Harry watched Dawn as he led her through the arch, delighted by the way her eyes went wide and looked around, trying to take everything in. The architecture of the buildings was eclectic, a mish-mash of styles from different ages, and different countries. No two buildings looked alike, or even looked like they belonged on the same street together, but they all looked like they belonged exactly where they were. Right by the archway was a shop offering a special two for the price of one offer on their pewter cauldrons, and a little way down an apothecary was offering a special on conjuring powder: 10 Sickles an ounce. Dawn did a rough estimate in her head based on the two Sickle per dollar conversion rate. “Ha!” she told Harry. “Anya used to charge less than that.”
“You know someone who sold real conjuring powder?” Harry tried to keep the doubt out of his voice. “It’s pretty hard to come by. That’s the best price I’ve ever seen for it.”
“Anya knew the troll that sheds it,” said Dawn. “She got it straight from the supplier, cutting out all the middle men.”
They wandered down the Alley together. Dawn stopped often to look at things displayed in the various shop windows. Harry remembered his first trip to the Alley, and how he’d wished he had eyes in the back of his head so he could take everything in.
Dawn wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as he had been. The Alley was pretty much the quietest Harry had ever seen it. Voldemort’s return finally becoming public knowledge was hurting business. The Daily Prophet was reporting that retail sales in most sectors were down. (But there was a rise in sales of protection charms, and other such items.) He was also surprised that she actually recognized some of the magical items for sale, knew what they were, and how they worked. When she’d told him the other day that Mr. Giles used to run a magic shop back in Sunnydale he had assumed that she had meant the sort of shop that sold ‘magic tricks’ to Muggles, but after she correctly identified a couple of charms in one shop he took her into, he started to think that maybe she really did know something about this stuff. Maybe this Anya person really had known a conjuring powder shedding troll.
Dawn was thinking of maybe buying something for Willow, but she was having a tough time figuring out what the prices were. She knew a Sickle was worth about fifty cents, but she didn’t have a clue about Galleons or Knuts, so she asked Harry.
“Seventeen Sickles to a Galleon,” said Harry, “and twenty-nine Knuts to a Sickle.”
“That’s nuts!” said Dawn. “They’re both prime numbers!”
“Actually there is some sort of magical explanation that’s supposed to make sense—there’s power in primes—but I tend to agree with you,” said Harry, “There’s some talk of switching over to a sexagesimal system, but so far the idea hasn’t caught on.”
“Sexagesimal?” asked Dawn. “Sounds like it should have at least an R rating.”
Harry laughed. “That’s one of the reasons it hasn’t caught on. No, it means base sixty, like time. Keep the Galleon, but divide it up into sixty ‘minutes’ and have each minute divided into sixty ‘seconds.’ Of course we wouldn’t call them minutes or seconds, that would be too confusing…or maybe with wizards being the way we are, we would call them minutes and seconds.”
“So, if I wanted to buy something worth more than two Sickles, would I be able to?” asked Dawn. “Do any of these shops take Muggle money…or maybe VISA?”
Harry laughed again. “A couple might take Pounds, but for the most part they’ll want actual Galleons, Sickles or Knuts, and wizards still haven’t discovered credit cards, which, by and large, works out quite well for them. Rarely hear a wizard complaining that they’ve maxed their credit limit. Of course Gringotts tends to get very touchy with people who overdraw their accounts.”
Harry pointed to an imposing white marble building with a goblin in a scarlet and gold uniform standing beside the burnished bronze doors. “The wizard bank. Run by goblins. They could exchange your money for you if you like.” He stopped and thought a second. “Or I could do it. I should have thought of that before! If you see something you like, I’ll buy it, and you can pay me. I’ll give you a better exchange rate; Gringotts really tries to gouge the Muggles.”
“Thanks!” said Dawn. “Sure it isn’t an imposition?”
“Not at all!” said Harry. “I should have thought of this sooner! I’m always strapped for cash when I’m with the Dursleys. They won’t let me have any. This way I can get myself some spending money for the month I have to spend with them every summer!”
“My aunt, uncle and cousin,” said Harry. “I’ve had to live with them ever since my parents died, when I was a baby.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Dawn was left feeling like she’d really stuck her foot in her mouth.
“No, it’s okay, you couldn’t know,” said Harry. “In a way, it’s kinda refreshing to meet someone who doesn’t know about how my parents died. I’m afraid I’m quite famous among the witches and wizards of the world.”
“My mom died a couple of years ago,” said Dawn. “It’s the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Harry and Dawn spent a little time just looking at each other. A moment of shared understanding. Dawn broke the silence. “Oh, and didn’t we just get all depressing there! We need to find something fun!”
Harry grinned. “You want fun? Come on!” He led her a little farther down the Alley, to a section where several small shops were crowded together. “Here we are: 93 Diagon Alley, Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes!”
“Is this Ginny’s family’s business?” asked Dawn.
“Not exactly,” said Harry. “It belongs to a couple of her older brothers.” He leaned a little closer to whisper to her. “With me as their silent partner, and financial backer.” He raised his voice again. “Their mother threatened to disown them when they dropped out of school last year and opened it up. She did toss them out of the house, but they still go back to scrounge at least a couple of meals a week out of her.” He lowered his voice again. “Mrs. Weasley doesn’t know I gave them their start-up money, so she still likes me.”
Harry went to the door, and pulled it open. “Whatever you do, don’t eat anything that Fred or George gives you, or that you bought here. The fun is feeding them to your friends, or even better, to your enemies.”
Dawn followed Harry into the crowded little shop. She immediately spotted the red-headed twins who must be Ginny’s brothers. They were a little shorter than Ron, with stockier builds. Ron, Hermione and a couple of other kids she didn’t recognize were also in the shop. Ron and Hermione looked like they were just hanging out. The kids looked like they might be customers.
“Hi Harry!” called out one of the twins. “Is that the Muggle who wants to take our little sister away?”
“We don’t want to take her away!” said Dawn.
“Don’t mind Fred,” said Harry. “He’s just an idiot.”
“You’re right,” said the twin who had spoken. “Fred’s an idiot. I’m George. What do you intend to do with our sister?”
Dawn glanced toward the two strangers. “We intend to help her finish her education before she goes on to do anything else. What she does with her life after that is up to her.” Dawn looked at the two strange kids in the shop again. “And it certainly isn’t anything I plan to talk about in front of an audience.” She could see that Fred and George weren’t looking very happy with her, and neither were Ron or Hermione.
Harry decided to change the subject. “Hey, Hermione! I was explaining wizard money to Dawn, and I got an idea: if your parents haven’t exchanged their Muggle money yet for your school expenses this year, have them come see me. I’ll give them a better exchange rate than Gringotts, and I’ll take a cheque. Gringotts only deals in cash with Muggles,” he added in an aside to Dawn.
Dawn looked around the shop. She couldn’t figure out what most of the items for sale were. What the heck were Ton Tongue Toffees, (5 for a Sickle) Canary Creams, (20 Knuts each) a Portable Swamp, (15 Galleons) or Weasleys’ Wildfire Whiz-bangs (5 Galleons for a Basic Blaze Box, or 20 for a Deflagration Deluxe Set.) That last item sounded like it might be fun though. “So what kinda stuff do you sell here?” she asked.
“The finest supplies for the wizarding joker!” said George. “Unfortunately most of our merchandise is off limits for sale to Muggles, or for use against Muggles. The Ministry is threatening to shut us down if they have to unengorge another Muggle’s tongue. They made us change the formula so they only stay swollen for ten minutes.”
“Swollen tongues?” asked Dawn.
Fred pointed to the Ton Tongue Toffees. “One of our best sellers. Makes the eater’s tongue extend up to ten times its normal length.”
“See why I told you not to eat anything you get from these guys?” asked Harry.
The two customers left with a supply of Canary Creams, and a Basic Blaze Box. Fred went to the door, put up an “Out to Lunch” sign, and waved his wand at the windows. “Obscuratus!” The windows went black. He turned back to Dawn. “Okay, now we don’t have an audience.” He was scowling. “What do you intend to do with our baby sister?”
|Chapter 4: Found Her!||Contents||Chapter 6: Explanations|