Dumbledore revived nearly everyone from their group. He conjured up a couple of cots in which Harry and Willow were lain, and then the rest of them went to work disarming and securing the unconscious Death Eaters. Some of the ones who had been knocked out by the Slayers’ attack were starting to stir, but there was no sign that any of the ones that Harry’s blast had taken out would be waking up soon.
The job of securing the scene was soon taken over by the squads of Aurors that started to arrive from the Ministry. The wards surrounding Voldemort’s stronghold had fallen on his death, and dark magic detectors all over Britain had reacted to the burst of power. The first Aurors to respond had been very cautious about entering what had once been the Riddle house, and they were amazed to first find half a dozen bound, unconscious Death Eaters in the entry hall, and then dozens more in the throne room upstairs, being presided over by Professor Dumbledore, some of his students, and a few Muggles. The first Auror to enter Voldemort’s throne room had nearly had her head taken off by Kennedy, before Dumbledore stopped her.
Messages were quickly dispatched, and every off duty Auror, and all the others who could be spared from other duties, was called in to help secure the premises. Kingsley Shacklebolt took command of the scene and was soon barking orders to dozens of junior Aurors. Those who weren’t securing the prisoners where searching the rest of the building, looking for anyone who might be hiding there, and for any dark magic artefacts that needed to be impounded. They found a few unconscious Death Eaters in some of the other rooms: Harry’s blast hadn’t been confined to the throne room.
None of the Aurors could figure out what had knocked most of the Death Eaters out, and Dumbledore chose not to enlighten them. He merely said that it was a side effect of the burst of power that had been released when Voldemort died. Some of the Aurors wondered how Dumbledore and the others with him had escaped that burst. Others found it hard to believe that Voldemort was indeed dead, even though this time there was clearly a body. They had thought that Voldemort was dead once before.
Dumbledore deflected most of their questions, telling them that he had to get his students back to the school, and with that he pulled a large wooden spoon out of his pocket. He moved between the cots that Willow and Harry were lying in. “If two of you would take hold of Harry and Willow’s hands,” he said.
Buffy reached out to take Willow’s, and Ron took Harry’s. Dumbledore held the spoon out in front of him. “All right now, everyone touch the Portkey. Three…two…one…”
Buffy felt the familiar tug behind her navel, and the world spun around her. When it stopped she was back in the Hogwarts hospital wing, by the foot of Dawn’s bed.
Madam Pomfrey had been examining Dawn’s hand when they arrived, but she quickly dropped that to check on the new patients that had been delivered to her. Her examinations of Willow and Harry showed that they weren’t suffering from anything other than exhaustion, and she prescribed sleep for both of them. They were placed into beds on opposite sides of Dawn.
Giles removed his glasses, and rubbed his temples. “Do you have anything for a headache?”
“Hey Giles, you got knocked out twice in one day,” said Buffy. “Is that a new record for you?”
Madam Pomfrey reached into her pocket, and pulled out a small bottle. “Take two of these, and call me in the morning.”
Giles looked at the bottle. “Aspirin?”
“Muggle-born students kept asking me for it, so I decided to check it out,” said Madam Pomfrey. “It really does have some most astonishing properties.”
Buffy moved over beside Dawn’s bed, and took her left hand in hers. “How’s she doing?” she asked. She could see that Dawn had stopped shivering, and her hand felt warm.
“She’s doing fine,” said Madam Pomfrey. “I have reattached her finger, and the graft seems to be taking well. I expect that she’ll sleep for another day though. You should go get some rest yourself.”
“No,” said Buffy. “I want to stay here with her.”
“Suit yourself,” said Madam Pomfrey. She looked around at the other students: Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. “You lot are going to bed now though.”
They all tried to protest, but both Buffy and Professor Dumbledore backed up Madam Pomfrey. Dumbledore summoned Professors McGonagall and Lupin to escort them back to their dorm rooms. The professors were given doses of Dreamless Sleep potion to administer to the students once they got there to make sure that they went to sleep. Madam Pomfrey wanted to send Kennedy away too, but she refused to leave Willow’s side, and the look in her eyes made it clear that she was willing to fight anyone who wanted to try to make her go.
Buffy was sitting quietly with Dawn, holding her hand. The hospital ward was dark, only a little light coming from a few dim candles burning in the sconces on the walls. She heard a distant crack—the sound of something apparating—and looked toward it, but she didn’t see anything. She figured it was probably one of the house-elves. Dobby had brought her and Kennedy some midnight snacks, and he and Winky had a habit of checking on them fairly frequently. Kennedy was dozing in her chair beside Willow’s bed, and didn’t react to the noise at all.
Buffy heard the sound of something hard tapping on the stone floor…something like tiny hoofs. She looked again, and saw a glint of gold shining in the candle light. Trei moved cautiously down the ward, looking like the slightest motion might startle her away. Buffy froze, not wanting to frighten the Trivet off.
Trei moved past the end of Dawn’s bed, coming around to the opposite side from Buffy. She bleated softly, and nudged Dawn’s shoulder with her nose. Then she looked up at Buffy.
“She’s going to be okay,” whispered Buffy. “Thanks to you. I’m going to have to talk to Hagrid. Make sure you get a lifetime supply of carrots, and whatever else you may like to eat.”
Trei bleated again, rested her head on the mattress beside Dawn’s head, and closed her eyes.
Dawn started to thrash in her bed at about three in the morning. Buffy had nearly dozed off in her chair, but Dawn’s sudden movement, and the crack of Trei disapparating woke her. “No!” cried Dawn. “No more! I’ll tell you! I’ll tell you!”
Buffy moved to sit on the bed, and clutched at Dawn’s hand. She stroked her hand across Dawn’s forehead. “Hey Dawnie, it’s okay,” she said softly. “You’re safe now. You’re safe.”
Dawn seemed to calm a bit, but she kept tossing. “No! Not again!”
Buffy looked up and saw Madam Pomfrey coming. Kennedy had gone to fetch her as soon as Dawn had started thrashing. “Is there anything you can do for her?” she asked. “More of that Dreamless Sleep potion maybe?”
Madam Pomfrey shook her head. “Too much Dreamless Sleep just makes things worse, in the long run. When it wears off, the mind tries to catch up, and the dreams are worse. Extended use will cause them start coming as hallucinations when she’s awake.” She pulled a vial from the pocket of her robes. “This is a muscle relaxant. It will keep her from hurting herself by thrashing around.” She administered the potion, and soon Dawn was lying still. She still kept mumbling things, and crying out, but Buffy’s grip on her hand, and the sound of Buffy’s voice seemed to calm her. She was soon sleeping quietly again.
Dumbledore came back into the hospital wing that morning, accompanied by Dobby levitating five breakfast trays. Buffy’s stomach started to rumble. She’d lost track of the last time she’d eaten a proper meal. Dumbledore conjured up a table on which three of the trays were placed, and invited Buffy and Kennedy to join him. The last two trays were placed on the tables beside Willow’s and Harry’s beds.
“So, how are things going in the rest of the world?” asked Buffy quietly as she ate the omelette that had been prepared for her.
“The wizarding world woke up to find that the Daily Prophet had put out a Special Early Edition.” Dumbledore placed the newspaper on the table in front of Buffy. She could see that half the front page was taken up the headline: “VOLDEMORT SLAIN!”
“Wow!” said Buffy. “They printed his name!”
Dumbledore smiled. “Yes, and that is the best indication there is that this time, he is truly dead.”
“The body wasn’t enough?” asked Kennedy.
“When dealing with a wizard as steeped in Dark Magic as Voldemort, no, I’m afraid that sometimes even having the body isn’t enough.”
Buffy looked at the headline again. “Wait a minute: ‘SLAIN’? They don’t think a Slayer did it, do they?”
“They don’t know,” said Dumbledore, “But it seems that they have discovered that a Slayer was in some way involved. There are also rumours attributing it to Harry, Miss Rosenberg, and myself. Cornelius is trying to claim that it was a crack team of Ministry Aurors who were responsible.”
“Typical,” came a voice from the direction of Harry’s bed.
Everyone turned to look at him. “Harry! You’re awake! How are you feeling?”
“I’m feeling that I’m getting entirely too used to waking up in this place,” said Harry, “And that your breakfasts smell delicious.”
“Oh!” Buffy got up and slid the hospital table over his bed, while Professor Dumbledore adjusted the bed to raise Harry into a sitting position. She lifted the warming lid from his tray. “Here’s yours.”
“He’s really dead?” asked Harry. He saw Buffy, Dumbledore and Kennedy all nod. “And everyone else— Oh god! Willow!”
“Willow’s going to be fine.” Buffy pointed across Dawn’s bed to where Willow was still sleeping. “Looks like that was a really good shield spell she was using. Voldemort only knocked her out.”
Harry’s eyes came to rest on Dawn. “How’s she doing?”
“She’s doing okay,” said Buffy. “Madam Pomfrey is keeping her asleep, so she can recover quicker, but she should be ready to wake up tonight.”
“And Ron, Hermione and Ginny?” asked Harry.
“They are well enough that I had to lock them out of here until after you have had your breakfast,” said Professor Dumbledore. “The sooner you eat, the sooner you can see them.”
“Can’t you people keep quiet, and let a girl sleep?” asked Willow.
Harry and Willow refused to eat their breakfasts in bed. They both got up and joined Buffy, Kennedy and Dumbledore around the table. Harry was half way through his breakfast when an image flashed through his mind. An image of Buffy’s face, looking scared, and with it the memory of being full of hate and loathing for everyone, and everything around him. He remembered that he had just killed Voldemort, and he knew that what Buffy had been afraid of in that instant was him. He stopped eating, and pushed his plate away.
Buffy looked at him, her face full of concern. “What’s the problem?”
“How can you look at me like that?” asked Harry.
“Like you are now? You saw what I did to Voldemort. You saw what I can do. I saw that it scared you. But now you act like nothing happened.”
Buffy reached out and put her hand on his. “Harry, if I turned away from my friends, just because they happened to have killed someone who needed killing, I wouldn’t have many friends left. And I’ve killed people too, and if my friends had turned away from me, I wouldn’t have any friends left. I know what it feels like to kill someone. Every time I think about any of the people I’ve killed, I feel sick inside.”
“But you were afraid of me.”
“I wasn’t afraid of you. I was afraid of what may have happened to you. Taking Voldemort’s magic like that—absorbing so much dark magic—it can corrupt a person. But you didn’t let that happen. You could just as easily have killed everyone in that room. You could have set yourself up as the new Dark Lord, but you didn’t let that happen.”
“It happened to me,” said Willow. “A couple of years ago…I let the magic take control of me. I killed people. I nearly killed Buffy and Giles. I almost destroyed the world. I would have, if Xander hadn’t stopped me.”
Harry looked at Dumbledore. “You knew about that?” He saw Dumbledore nod. “Then why did you start to teach me, if this sort of magic is so dangerous?”
“Leaving you untaught was the greater danger,” said Professor Dumbledore. “Miss Rosenberg lost control because she did not have a sufficient appreciation of the hazards of what she was doing, and she made some bad choices.
“I told you once, Harry, that it isn’t our abilities that make us good people, or bad. It is our choices. You continue to make the good choices.”
“But I feel so…ill,” said Harry. “Thinking about it, I want to throw up.”
“Good,” said Buffy.
“Yes Harry. Good. It’s when you stop feeling ill about doing things like what you did to Voldemort, that I’ll start to worry about you.”
Madam Pomfrey examined Harry and Willow again after breakfast, and pronounced Willow fit to leave the hospital. She wanted Harry to stay for another day though. She gave Kennedy a sharp look. “I think you and Miss Rosenberg could both do with some more rest though.”
“Your room has been prepared for you,” said Professor Dumbledore. “On your way out, why don’t you tell the young people waiting in the hall that they can come in and see Harry now.”
“And I want you two to rest,” said Madam Pomfrey when she saw the way Willow and Kennedy were looking at each other.
“Spoilsport,” muttered Kennedy as she and Willow left the room.
Ron, Hermione and Ginny came charging in just after Willow and Kennedy left. They were brought to a sudden halt by the way Madam Pomfrey was glaring at them. “Take it easy, you lot. There are still sick people here.” She cast a significant look toward the bed that Dawn was sleeping in.
“Oh, sorry Madam,” whispered Hermione. “We’ll be quiet.”
“See that you do.” Madam Pomfrey returned to her office.
Giles had followed the kids into the room. He looked at Dawn in her bed. “How is she?”
“Madam Pomfrey says she’ll be fine,” said Buffy. She returned to her seat beside Dawn’s bed, and took hold of her hand again.
“You haven’t slept for two days,” said Giles. “Why don’t you get some rest?”
“I couldn’t,” said Buffy.
“We’ll watch Dawn,” said Harry. “Call you if there’s any change.”
“I want to be here.”
“At least lie down in one of these beds,” said Giles. “You’ll still be here if she needs you.”
Buffy let herself be talked into lying down “for just a few minutes.” She was unconscious thirty seconds after her head touched the pillow.
|Chapter 53: Counterstrike||Contents||Chapter 55: Recovery|