The people in Dumbledore’s office were looking even worse than they had that morning. A grim faced Willow had taken a blood sample from Dawn’s finger, on the theory that she’d get better results with her blood in a locator spell than she had with the hairs recovered from Dawn’s brush. The finger itself had had a preservative spell cast on it, and been sent to Madam Pomfrey.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny had finally passed out in the cots Dumbledore had provided, and Giles was dozing in a chair. Kennedy was sitting by the table that Willow was working at, her elbow resting on the table, and her head resting on her hand. She looked like she was asleep too.
“Damn it!” Willow slammed her fist down on the table, startling Kennedy awake. Yet another attempt at a locator spell had come up empty.
Buffy came up behind her, and rubbed Willow’s shoulders. “Why don’t you get some rest, Will? You can’t do Dawn any good if you’re asleep on your feet.”
“Look who’s talking,” said Willow.
“Hey, I’m the Slayer,” said Buffy. “Sleeplessness is part of the job.”
Dumbledore came back down into his office. Buffy looked up at him. “Anything?”
“No,” said Dumbledore. “The Aurors have traced the owl. It is a public post owl, from London. Anyone could have sent that package.”
“Any fingerprints, or fibres, or any of that other stuff they talk about on CSI on it?” asked Buffy.
“I’m afraid not,” said Dumbledore. “Forensic Aurors are very good at gathering that sort of evidence. Unfortunately, our adversaries are also very good at masking it. There is nothing particularly distinctive about the parchment, ink, or the box. Any of them may have been obtained at any one of a dozen places, and they aren’t the sort of sale that anyone would keep a record of. None of the sales people interviewed can remember selling that particular combination of items to anyone, if they were purchased together at all.”
“What about the three guys who tried to grab Dawn last month?” asked Buffy. “Have you learned anything from them?”
“No,” said Dumbledore. “Remus is looking through transcripts of the interviews with those men again, but he is not hopeful. I am not the only one who can guard secrets behind a Fidelius. All Death Eater strongholds are similarly protected. Severus has been in contact with some of the agents that he has managed to recruit in Voldemort’s camp, but they have been unable to tell him anything either.”
“I can’t just stand around here!” said Buffy. “Point me at something I can beat some information out of!”
“Miss Summers, I understand your agitation, but we do not work that way,” said Dumbledore. “There are proper procedures that must be followed.”
“That’s part of your problem,” said Buffy.
“What do you mean by that?” asked Dumbledore.
“You say that you are in a war with Voldemort, but you’re trying to fight it with cops. Cops can’t fight a war. It’s not what they’re trained for. You fight a war with soldiers. Cops aren’t soldiers.”
“If we allow ourselves to fall into using Voldemort’s methods, are we any better than he is?” asked Dumbledore.
“I didn’t say that you throw the rule book away,” said Buffy. “You need a different rule book. Soldiers have their rules of engagement too, but they aren’t the same rules that a cop has.”
Dumbledore paused to consider his response to that. If he came up with one, he never had the chance to deliver it. There was the sound of heavy footsteps on the stairway. Someone was in too much of a hurry to wait for the spiral staircase to carry them up to Dumbledore’s office. Buffy turned to the door just in time to see Hagrid’s huge body filling it.
“Professor Dumbledore, sir!” cried Hagrid, before he stopped to pant for breath. “Tha Trivet sir! Dawn’s friend Trei!” He couldn’t say any more. He waved the item in his hand.
Hagrid’s arrival had woken everyone up. Harry’s eyes locked on the bit of silk waving in his hand. He darted forward, and snatched it away. “It’s Dawn’s scarf!” He ran it through his hands, and then stopped, seeing the reddish brown stains on it. “Oh Merlin! That’s blood!”
Professor Dumbledore held out his hand, “May I have that Harry?” Harry wordlessly handed him the scarf.
Dumbledore looked the scarf over carefully, as if looking for any secret message that may have been written on it. “Where did you find this Hagrid?”
“Trei, sir! Tha Trivet,” said Hagrid. He had his breathing under better control now. “She turned up at my hut, jus’ a few minutes ago, an’ tha’ were tied aroun’ her neck! I knew it t’were Dawn’s sir, so I ran all the way here!”
“Trivets can apparate to anyone they know!” said Hermione. “Trei found Dawn!”
“Dawn should have named her Lassie!” said Buffy. “Can she lead us back?”
“Possibly,” said Dumbledore. “We could put something on her that is charmed so we could follow it.” He paused to consider that for a moment. “No, the wards around wherever they are holding Dawn are probably too strong for us to have any more luck trying to track such an object than we have had at locating Dawn. If Miss Rosenberg hasn’t been able to locate her, even with some of Dawn’s own blood to work with, it is doubtful that we would be able to charm a tracker powerful enough in the time we have available.”
Buffy felt the hope that had suddenly risen in her come crashing down. “Then what good is this?”
Dumbledore started to smile. “It may be pointless to try to track the Trivet, but we don’t need to know where it is going. Trei knowing is sufficient.” He turned to his desk, and started to search it for something.
“What are you looking for?” asked Ron.
“Something suitable to be made into a Portkey,” said Dumbledore. “Something that can be easily and securely attached to the Trivet.”
Buffy’s hand went to her neck, and she pulled the silver cross necklace she was wearing over her head. “Will this do?” She held it out to the Professor.
“Yes! Perfect!” said Dumbledore. He took the necklace by its chain and held it up. “This will do quite nicely.” He touched the tip of his wand to the silver cross. “Portus!” He held the necklace out toward Hagrid. “There! Take this back, and put it on Trei. Ask her to deliver it to Dawn.”
Hagrid hesitated for a moment before he took the necklace. “Tha’ ain’t goin’ ta port me nowhere is it?”
“No, no,” said Dumbledore. “It has been…keyed to Dawn, so to speak.” He seemed to be the only one who appreciated his pun.
“Let’s go!” said Buffy.
“Ah, Miss Summers, I believe it would be best for Hagrid to go alone.”
Buffy turned to frown at Dumbledore. “Why?”
“Because the Trivet will not come near anyone other than him,” said Dumbledore. “He can accomplish his task most quickly if he is by himself.”
“Oh, right.” Buffy felt herself coming down again from the roller coaster ride that the last few minutes had become. She had been looking forward to a little action, even if it was just a trip to Hagrid’s hut.
“We will go to the hospital wing,” said Professor Dumbledore.
“Dawn will be in need of immediate medical assistance, so that is where the Portkey will take her,” said Dumbledore. “It isn’t often that I hope that Poppy will have a new patient soon.”
Dawn’s shivering had gotten even worse when she finally woke up. She was lying on the cold stone floor, and couldn’t even muster the strength to make herself sit up again. She pulled her knees up, and lay there in foetal position. Her mind was fogged, she couldn’t think clearly. She knew that there was something that she was hoping would happen soon, but she couldn’t remember what it was.
She felt something nudge her ear, and something wet and warm slide over her cheek. She opened her eyes. “Trei? Wha’ you doin’ here? You…you were ’possed to go to ’agrid.”
It took her several seconds to notice that her scarf was gone from around the Trivet’s neck. In its place was a familiar necklace. Dawn reached out with her hand and grabbed it.
Dawn felt a yank, like something had hooked her just behind her navel, and pulled her backwards. The world seemed to whirl around her, and then she felt herself hitting the floor. It was a different floor from the floor in her cell. This one was smooth, and warm, but it was just as hard. She heard a startled “Bleat!” from Trei, followed by the crack of her disapparating. She heard a sudden babble of excited voices: voices she recognized, voices of her friends, and felt people crowding around her.
One voice cut through all the others. “Dawn! Dawn! Are you alright?”
Dawn thought that that was a very stupid question to ask. She had never felt less ‘alright’ in her life, but she forced a smile onto her lips. “Peachy,” she managed to mumble to her sister. She felt Buffy’s hand go around her own left hand, and she clutched at it tightly.
“Clear back everyone!” came Madame Pomfrey’s voice. “Give me room!”
Dawn felt most of the people crowding around her back away a bit, but she kept her grip on Buffy’s hand, refusing to let go of it. She felt herself be lifted, and placed onto something soft and warm. Everyone seemed to go away, except for Buffy and Madam Pomfrey. She felt her clothes get stripped away, and heard Madam Pomfrey muttering cleaning and healing spells under her breath as she examined Dawn’s body. She heard her muttering more things. Words like ‘Cruciatus shock,’ ‘hypothermia,’ ‘dehydration,’ and ‘exhaustion.’
Eventually Dawn felt herself get wrapped in warm, soft pyjamas, and covered with blankets. The bed contorted under her, lifting her up into a nearly sitting position, and something warm was brought to her lips. She smelled the chocolate, and nearly smiled. Chocolate: Madam Pomfrey’s miracle cure-all. She suddenly realized that she was incredibly thirsty, and hungry. She gulped the warm chocolate down as quickly as Madam Pomfrey would let her. She wanted to ask for something more, but sleep took her before she could get a word out.
Buffy felt Dawn’s grip on her hand relaxing as the bed reshaped itself, lowering Dawn back down. Dawn’s hand felt cold, and she was still shivering. She looked at Madam Pomfrey.
The medi-witch smiled at Buffy. “She’ll be fine,” she said. “She needs warmth and rest most of all now. I put some Dreamless Sleep potion into her chocolate, and I’ll be rehydrating her, but I expect that she will fully recover.”
“Thank you, Madam,” said Buffy.
“No need,” said Madam Pomfrey. “I’m just doing my job.”
“Some people don’t get thanked enough for doing their jobs,” said Buffy. “Thank you!” She reluctantly pulled her hand away from Dawn’s, taking the object that had been pressed between their palms with it. She could see the imprint the cross had left on Dawn’s palm. She lifted her necklace up before her, and looked at it.
“What are you going to do?” asked Madam Pomfrey, as she turned her attention to the stub of a finger on Dawn’s right hand.
Buffy kept looking at the cross dangling in the air in front of her. “My job.”
|Chapter 51: A Small Package||Contents||Chapter 53: Counterstrike|