Dawn couldn’t remember ever feeling so miserable. Even when Glory had taken her, she’d been warm. Now she was wet, and cold, and shivering, and not just from the cold. The after effects of the Cruciatus curse left her trembling. Every bit of her body could still feel it: like the pins and needles feeling she’d feel in a part of her body that had fallen asleep, when the flow of blood was first restored to it. But this feeling didn’t go away after a few seconds. It went on and on.
She didn’t notice when the man appeared at her cell door again. “Come here!” he told her.
Dawn looked up at him. “What?”
The man didn’t repeat his order. He just pointed his wand toward her, Dawn tried to brace herself for a new round of unthinkable torment, but he didn’t use the Cruciatus curse on her this time. “Mobilicorpus!”
Dawn felt herself get yanked toward the cell door. She was in such poor shape that she didn’t even manage to get her hands up to protect herself before she slammed into it. Something in the back of her mind told her that she’d be adding a large lump on her forehead to her catalogue of injuries, from where it hit the bars. She felt him grab her right arm, and pull it out through the door. She felt his hand on hers, pulling on her littlest finger. She felt something cold biting at the base of it, and then he let her go. She fell back onto the floor of her cell.
Dawn lay stunned, not wanting to think about what she knew had just happened. If she didn’t think about it—didn’t look at it—it wasn’t real, but she knew that it was too real. She raised her hand up in front of her face, and saw the bloody stump where her finger had been. She screamed.
Dawn didn’t know how long she lay there, crying on the cold stone floor, but something in her forced her to push herself back up into a sitting position. Lying on the floor sapped the heat from her body too quickly. She pulled at the silk scarf that was knotted around her neck—a Christmas present from Harry—and wrapped it around her hand as a bandage. It was difficult to knot it, working with only one hand and her teeth, but she managed to get it securely tied after several attempts. She pulled her knees up against her chest, and wrapped her arms around her legs. She lowered her head onto her knees and let herself cry again.
A dejected group returned to Dumbledore’s office. Hagrid had taken Buffy and the others to the place in the Forbidden Forest where he had found Dawn’s things. They had searched the area for more clues, and Willow had cast spells to try to determine where Dawn had gone from there, but they had found nothing.
The group that had been searching the southern perimeter was also back, with the same results. No one had found anything that might indicate where Dawn had been taken.
Willow was trying her repertoire of locator spells, hoping that one of them would show them something, but so far she wasn’t having any luck. Whoever had taken Dawn hadn’t been lax with their wards, and she was thoroughly hidden from magical detection.
No one had wanted to go to their rooms as the night wore on, so Dumbledore had conjured up some cots for people to sleep in. None of them actually got any sleep, but they had all taken turns lying down in them.
Harry was standing by one of Dumbledore’s windows, watching the sun rise. A part of his mind thought that it was a beautiful sight. He wanted to share it with Dawn. Another part of his mind was afraid that he would never get the chance to share a sunrise with her. He saw a flicker of movement out over the forest. He watched it slowly grow until he could see it clearly. “Professor, there’s an owl coming this way.”
Dumbledore had seemed to be dozing in his desk chair, but he came instantly alert. Buffy joined Harry at the window. They watched the owl as it kept coming toward them. They stepped aside as it swooped through the window.
The owl dropped a small package on Professor Dumbledore’s desk. It turned and tried to fly back out through the window. Buffy’s hand lashed out and caught it.
The owl screeched and beat its wings. It clawed at Buffy’s hand with its talons, and bit her with its beak, but she didn’t seem to notice. She kept her grip on it. “Someone get me something to put this thing in!”
The noise the owl was making had roused everyone. Hermione conjured up a cage, and brought it to Buffy. Buffy shoved the owl into it, and latched the door closed. She turned back toward Dumbledore. “So, what did it deliver?”
Professor Dumbledore was opening the envelope attached to the small box on his desk. “That is what I am trying to discover.” He pulled out a single sheet of parchment, and read it. His face blanched, taking on the same colour as his hair and beard. He let the parchment fall to his desk.
“What is it?” asked Buffy.
Dumbledore didn’t say anything. He reached for the box with trembling hands. He opened it. Buffy didn’t think it was possible, but his face turned even whiter.
“What is it?” asked Buffy again.
“I am so sorry,” said Professor Dumbledore. He picked up the parchment and handed it to her.
Buffy looked at the note in her hand, she read through it quickly, but her mind refused to process what it said. She read it again:
Here is a piece of your student, Dawn Summers. If you do not wish to have her returned to you in similar sized pieces, give me the Key. A new piece will be delivered to you at dawn each morning until the Key is in my possession.
Buffy stood frozen in place, holding the note in her fingers. She hadn’t felt so helpless since the night that Glory had taken Dawn. She didn’t know what to do. She felt someone tug at the parchment, and looked up to see Giles taking the note from her. She let him have it, and looked back at Dumbledore. He had just replaced the lid on the box. “Show me,” she said.
“Miss Summers, there is no need for you to see this.”
“Show me!” snarled Buffy.
Nearly everyone was surprised by the tone in her voice. Giles wasn’t. He’d read the note now. He watched Dumbledore hand the box to Buffy, and he watched her open the lid. He could see the severed finger that the box contained.
Buffy slowly replaced the cover on the box. She felt cold. A deep down coldness she hadn’t felt since the first days following her resurrection. She heard Willow asking what the note said, and what was in the box, but her voice sounded distant. It barely registered in her mind when she heard Giles read the note out loud for the others.
“What do we do now?” asked Willow.
“We have to give Voldemort the Key,” said Hermione.
“We can’t,” whispered Harry.
“What?” asked Hermione.
“She’s your girlfriend, you git!” shouted Ron. “What’s so bloody important about this bloody Key? We’ve been trying to research that bloody thing for half the bloody year, and we haven’t found a bloody useful thing it can do!”
Buffy looked toward Harry and saw the despair in his eyes. She knew then that he knew. “The irony’s a bitch, isn’t it?” she asked him. She saw Harry nod.
“What is going on?” asked Ginny. She had noticed that Buffy was agreeing with Harry, and several other people in the room were looking like they were too. She couldn’t understand it.
Buffy sighed, and looked around the room. Everyone here was a friend of Dawn’s, and she had heard the stories of what they had gone through in the last few years. “Okay, here’s the deal, and you can’t breathe a word of this outside this room: the reason we can’t give Voldemort the Key is that he’s already got it. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
“What?” asked Hermione.
“We can’t trade the Key for Dawn, because Dawn is the Key,” said Harry.
Dawn wasn’t aware of how long she sat huddled into a ball on the floor of her cell. She never really went to sleep—she hurt too much for that—but she wasn’t really awake either. She was cold, and she was thirsty and hungry. Her nose told her that she had pissed herself too, probably while she was undergoing the Cruciatus curse, but she hadn’t been aware of it at the time.
She had cried herself out long ago. Now she just sat huddled up to conserve her body heat, and shivered. She had tried to get up, to warm herself with some exercise, but she was too sore and tired.
She heard a crack! She knew that sound, but she was too tired to pay attention to it. Then she felt something brush against her ear. ‘Great!’ she thought. ‘Now I’m sharing my cell with bugs.’ She couldn’t bring herself to look up though.
Something nudged the side of her head again, a lot harder this time. A lot harder than any bug could, or even a rat, unless it was a ROUS. Dawn raised her head to see what new horror was here to torment her. She blinked when she saw herself looking into a pair of large brown eyes. She blinked again at the golden triangle of horns above them. “Trei!” she gasped, and she wrapped her arms around the Trivet’s neck. “Oh Trei!”
She sat holding the Trivet in her arms. It was warm and soft and wonderful. She started to cry again. The Trivet bleated back at her. “How did you find me?” she asked.
The Trivet looked at Dawn like it thought she had just asked a very foolish question. Dawn remembered Hagrid’s first Care of Magical Creatures class. ‘Trivets can apparate anywhere, even Hogwarts. They just have to know someone at wherever they’re going to.’
“You can take a message!” Dawn whispered to the Trivet. “You can get help!”
Trei just looked at her and bleated.
“I need something to write on!” said Dawn. “I need something to write with!” She started to feel at her pockets. It wasn’t really any use. She’d already done that, long ago, and she knew that her pockets were all empty. She looked around her cell. It was almost as empty as it had ever been. The only thing in it that hadn’t been here the last time she’d looked was Trei.
Dawn was also wondering about what to write. She had no idea where she was. There were no windows anywhere near where she was so she didn’t even know if it was day or night. “God, what can I tell anyone?”
After a couple of seconds Dawn realized that the most important message she could send was also a very simple one. She had to let people know that Trei could find her. She started to tug at the knot that bound her scarf around her hand. Getting it untied turned out to be almost as hard as it had been to tie in it the first place, but she managed to get it undone. She unwrapped her bandage. She hissed a bit from the pain as the last bit pulled away from the stump of her finger. Her blood had dried into the silk, and pulling the bandage free started the stump bleeding again. Dawn ignored it and wrapped her scarf around the Trivet’s neck. She tied it as tightly as she dared, without risking choking Trei.
“Go to Hagrid!” she told the Trivet. “You have to take my scarf to Hagrid!”
Trei just blinked, and bleated at her.
“You have to go!” said Dawn. “Go to Hagrid!” She heard the sound of a door opening at the far end of the corridor. “Now! someone’s coming!” she hissed.
Trei bleated one last time, and disappeared with a crack!
“What was that?” called the voice from down the hall.
Dawn started to panic. No one could know that Trei had been there. She kicked at her cell door, hoping that the noise that made would be enough like the noise of the Trivet disapparating. “Let me out of here!” she screamed. She kicked the door again.
Her masked tormenter appeared outside her cell. “Stop that racket,” he told her. “Won’t do you any good anyway. May just make me take the next finger ahead of schedule.”
“Let me out!” yelled Dawn. She kicked at the door again.
“If you’re going to be that way…” the man raised his wand, and for a moment Dawn was afraid she’d gone too far. She was almost relieved when she heard the spell leave his lips. “Stupefy!”
|Chapter 50: Kidnapped!||Contents||Chapter 52: Rescue|