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Old November 28th, 2012, 9:54 pm
jmunay10  Male.gif jmunay10 is offline
First Year
 
Join Date: 01st September 2012
Posts: 59
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion

Chapter 26 ~ Mabel

Bellatrix paced back and forth, clouds of dust puffing up with each step, as she waited restlessly for Wormtail to return. Her mind was reeling – could it really be possible? Could they help the Dark Lord to return? If they could, she would be the most rewarded of all his Death Eaters! Her lips curled into a cruel smile, as she thought of the revenge the Dark Lord would wreak upon those fools in the Order of the Phoenix – particularly Potter. Her stomach tightened momentarily as Narcissa flashed into her thoughts. No, she thought angrily, stay away Cissy – you are a figment of my imagination! She shook her head as though to rid herself of the haunting echoes. When they had first arrived at the Gaunt house, Wormtail had forced her to drink a foul concoction that had sharpened her mind and helped her to banish the voices from her head while he whispered plans to her. She felt energised and alive for the first time since she had leant of the Dark Lord’s defeat. There could not be a more perfect time – the Mudbloods and imbeciles were so busy celebrating the Dark Lord’s demise that they would not notice his resurrection, right under their very noses! She sighed with deep satisfaction. They would need assistance; witches and wizards of strength, who believed in the Dark Lord and all he could bring them. Wormtail was spreading the word at that very moment, seeking out only those who could be trusted; Lucius and Draco and…She cursed to herself – she no longer knew who was left. Many Death Eaters had fled once they heard of the Dark Lord’s fate – others were still locked up in Azkaban, and the most loyal servants had laid down their lives for their cause.

Idly, she considered Crabbe and Goyle, two men she knew were still alive, but on the run from the Ministry. True, they were stupid beyond belief, but they were easy to manipulate and would do whatever she ordered. Incredibly, they were still at liberty – it seemed the Auror’s didn’t consider them too great a threat as they were still successfully in hiding. Pouring herself a goblet of elf-made wine, she wondered how Wormtail was progressing, if he had managed to persuade Lucius to return. He had been gone for a week now, but took care to send Bellatrix parcels of food and drink. They had decided it would be unwise for her to perform too much magic until they could be certain that they were safe from detection. Draining her glass, she sighed deeply again, setting the goblet down on a filthy table. Soon… soon… if she planned everything with meticulous detail, the Dark Lord would rise again…
“Okay… bacon and egg?”

“That’s mine!”

Harry chucked a sandwich wrapped in wax paper to Ron.

“Plain bacon?”

“Yes please!”

Another sandwich flew through the air to Hermione.

“Sausage?”

“Thanks, Harry.”

Harry handed one to Neville.

“So… that leaves the egg, bacon and sausage for me.” Harry unwrapped a very thick sandwich and took an enormous bite, ketchup squirting everywhere.

“Eurgh, Harry! That is re-volt-ing!” Hermione wrinkled her nose in disgust, her sandwich as yet untouched. “Are you sure you don’t mind being our delivery boy?”

They were seated at stools around the counter of Neville’s shop. It was very early on Thursday morning and Harry had called a meeting to update everyone on the latest news. There wasn’t really that much to report, but it was a good way to air out new ideas without being overheard. Through a full mouth, Harry shook his head: “No – ‘specially if it means we can have a meeting without interruptions.”

They were beginning to find Tonks’s constant clumsiness a little bit annoying – they all adored her and were thrilled about the upcoming wedding – but sometimes they just wanted to have a cup of tea without having to repair it three times - and there had been a few too many close calls with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley walking in at awkward moments. Harry was sure that Mrs. Weasley knew something was going on and was surprised that she hadn’t had suspicions earlier. As the mother of seven children, she was usually faster at scenting out secrets than anyone else Harry knew. Although some in the wizarding world might be shocked to hear that Harry Potter was delivering sandwiches to his friends most mornings, he found it was the perfect excuse to get out of the Weasley house without arousing the suspicions of the eagle-eyed Mrs. Weasley.

Neville finished his sandwich and knelt down behind the counter, rummaging amongst bottles and jars until he re-appeared, dumping a large tub on the counter.

“Right – breakfast time for the Venomous Tentacular!”

Hermione gave him a hard look. “Neville…”

Neville gave a small shudder and sighed. “Sorry – I forgot – breakfast time for Mabel.”

Harry and Ron burst out laughing. “Mabel?!” they asked in disbelief.

“Hermione has named all the plants in the shop.” Neville said, through clenched teeth with a very fixed smile on his face. Hermione beamed at him, then shot a scowl at Harry and Ron.

“What?” she said defensively, “It is a well known fact that talking to plants is very nurturing – the Prince of Wales does it!”

Harry laughed, nearly choking on his sandwich, but Neville and Ron looked confused.

“Who’s the Prince of Wales?” asked Ron with a frown.

“Ronald Weasley!” Hermione was outraged, “Do you mean to tell me you don’t know who the Royal family are?” Hermione demanded, her eyes wide with shock.

“Royal family?” repeated Ron, still bewildered, “Nope, never heard of them!”

“They’re the Muggle Royal family, to be fair Hermione,” Harry pointed out, reasonably, “how do you expect this lot to know about them?”

Hermione sighed and shook her head.

“Anyway,” said Harry, deciding it was high time the meeting got back on track, “the Map is nearly ready. Lupin says there’s an incantation we have to recite over the parchment, then it should be ready to go.”

“Wow,” said Neville, eyes bulging in awe, “so, we’ll really be able to see where she is?”

Harry nodded solemnly. Hermione and Ron looked very serious, their sandwiches lying forgotten on the counter.

“And are you sure you got the layout of the house right?” Hermione asked.

“Yes,” he replied firmly, “I used the Pensieve twice – there is no way I could have got it wrong.”

“And there’s still no sign of Dumbledore?” asked Ron with an anxious expression.

“No, none. But I wouldn’t worry. Dumbledore always turns up when we need him.” But the others did look worried.

Harry had visited Dumbledore’s portrait several times over the past few weeks, and each time, he had found the golden picture frame empty. He had hoped that Dumbledore would visit him again in his dreams of the mysterious golden room, but that hadn’t happened either. Normally, Harry would have been very concerned about this, would have taken it as a snub from Dumbledore, but now he knew differently. Dumbledore trusted him to do this right, to follow his instincts, and knew that he wasn’t needed to watch over Harry’s every move. He looked at his friends calmly.

“Don’t worry,” he repeated. “This Saturday is Halloween – that’s when we do it.”

“And do you think you’re ready for that kind of magic?” Hermione asked, frowning.

“I’ve got my check up at St. Mungo’s tomorrow – and I feel fine.”
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Neville, who had been listening to this exchange so far in silence, cut her off: “If Harry thinks this is the way to do it, we should trust him.” As he spoke, he prised the lid off the tub of food for the Venomous Tentacular. The contents of the pot stopped Hermione from any further arguments; inside, great, slimy things wriggled about.

Harry and Hermione stared, too revolted for words, but Ron gasped:

“Hey! Are those flobberworms?”

“Yeah,” Neville laughed, breaking the tension, “Hagrid finally found a use for them. He sells them to me – watch this…” He disappeared out the back, and returned with the plant, staggering slightly under its weight. Setting it carefully on the counter, he plucked a wiggling worm from the tub with brass forceps. The Venomous Tentacular’s vines suddenly stood to attention: Neville held out a worm and in a flash, the plant had gobbled it up.

“Whoa – Mabel likes her flobberworms, doesn’t she?” remarked Ron, nose wrinkled in disgust.

Neville grinned, looked at the plant with adoration in his eyes. Harry, Ron and Hermione rolled their eyes as one.

“Right you lot – I’m off to Lupin’s,” Harry chuckled, sliding off his stool and balling up his sandwich wrapper. “See you later.”
Harry strolled back down Diagon Alley, thinking anxiously about Saturday. Not only would he be Apparating again and activating the new Map – but it would be Ginny’s first Hogsmeade weekend. Harry had planned to spend the whole day with her, before she returned to Hogwarts to the Halloween feast and before he made his way to Grimmauld Place to perform the incantation for the Map. He hoped the weekend would go well – the separation had been quite hard on both of them, even though they kept Hedwig extremely busy with daily letters. He smiled to himself as he thought of her last letter. Ginny was equally as excited about their date as he was. He had the whole day planned out; he would meet her at the Hogwarts gates then go exploring in the village. From there, they would go to the Three Broomsticks, being very careful to avoid the hideously ruffled Madam Puddifoot’s – though this wouldn’t be too much of a problem as Ginny despised the place as much as he did.

He was brought out of his pleasant daydream by the sight of a familiar figure up ahead.

“Lupin!” he called, hurrying further up the road.

Lupin turned out the sound of his name and smiled: “Hullo, Harry! What are you doing here?”

“I just came from Neville’s shop – we were having a meeting…” he gave Lupin a significant look. Lupin nodded, giving Harry a discreet wink. “What are you doing here?”

Lupin grinned and pointed to the shop he was about to enter, Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions. “I thought I’d get my dress robes for the wedding early – I took the morning off from work. Actually,” an idea dawned on Lupin, “it’s a good thing we ran into each other – we could get your best man robes too…” he looked eagerly at Harry.

“Er… well, I really should be”-

But Lupin was already ushering him into the shop. Madam Malkin greeted them warmly, patting Harry on the shoulder for so long that it grew numb. After an hour spent trying on robes, they settled on a pair of midnight blue dress robes. Harry marvelled at the change in Lupin, as he watched him laughing happily – totally at ease. If Tonks has this affect on Lupin I suppose I can put up with the clumsiness, he thought, smiling to himself.

As they left the shop, Lupin suggested they have drink together before he returned to the Ministry. They walked to the very end of Diagon Alley where the Leaky Cauldron sat. Tom spotted them from the window and rushed outside.

“Harry! Remus! Come on in – the special of the day is ready – Nogtail stew!” he rubbed his hands together, looking at them expectantly.

“I’m afraid we can’t stop that long, Tom” said Lupin, leading the way to the bar. Harry hung back for a moment – Nogtail stew?

Looking disappointed, Tom ushered them to a table.

“Just a pot of tea please, Tom.”

“Right you are Remus – and what have you gents been up to this morning?”

“Shopping for wedding clothes,” said Lupin, indicating their bulging shopping bags.

“Oh that’s right!” Tom crowed with delight, “Finally going to make an honest woman of our Tonks then?” he beamed from Remus to Harry.

“I hope so,” said Lupin quietly, “er… sorry to be a pain Tom, but I’m due back at the Ministry soon…”

“Oh yes – of course! Forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on! One pot of tea coming up!” He shuffled away, shaking his head to himself.
Turning to Harry, Lupin said, “Harry, there’s one thing I forgot to mention the other day.”

Harry looked at him questioningly, as Tom reappeared with a teapot, two teacups and saucers. Once he had ambled away and was out of earshot, Lupin resumed what he was saying:

“Tonks and I have found somewhere to live.”

“Wow – that’s great, Lupin! Where?” Harry grinned as Lupin poured them each a cup of tea.

“We’ve found a lovely two-bedroom cottage in Hogsmeade, not that far from the Shrieking Shack, actually.” He smiled wryly.

“Excellent – when are you moving in?”

“As soon as possible. We’ll need to do some work on the place, and decided it would be best to get it done before the wedding. Between you and me,” he lowered his voice so Harry had to lean in closer, “I’d like to get as much done as possible while Nymphadora is busy at work.”

“Ah, yes. That might be a good idea.” Said Harry diplomatically.

“You may have noticed that my bride-to-be is a little clumsy?” Lupin’s eyes twinkled.

Harry nearly spat out his tea. “Er, yeah, I might have noticed a thing or two.”

Lupin burst out laughing. Harry grinned sheepishly. Wiping his eyes, Lupin asked:

“So, now that we have a home, we would love it if you would come and live with us. I’m sure you love it at the Weasley’s but Nymphadora and I feel that your place is with us.”

Harry suddenly realised that Ron wasn’t the only person who still had people to inform of his moving. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, fiddling with his teacup as he did so.

“Actually,” he began, “the thing is Lupin, I was planning on moving myself. To Grimmauld Place.”

Lupin looked surprised. “Well! Why didn’t you say so?”

“I dunno – busy I suppose. The Map has been the biggest thing on my mind recently.”

“Understandably so,” said Lupin, looking at Harry calmly. “But are you sure you want to live in that huge house alone?”

“Oh I won’t be – Ron and Hermione are moving in with me too.”

“I see. Er, does Molly know anything about that?” Lupin frowned.

“No, not exactly. Hermione’s told her parents, but we’re still waiting for Ron to tell his.”

“And he hasn’t quite got around to it?” asked Lupin shrewdly.

“No, not yet. But now we know when we can move in, he’ll be forced to get it over with – oh – not that I’m rushing you out the door or anything”-

-“That’s quite all right, Harry – I can perfectly understand how exciting it must be for the three of you to live together. Once Lily and James got married, Sirius, Peter and I often talked of getting a place together…” he trailed off. He and Harry looked at each other for a moment, each sipping their tea. Lupin cleared his throat. “Well that’s enough doom and gloom for one day! I think you’re making the right decision, Harry – it’s time the three of you got out and started to live your lives. I’m sure Molly will come round to the idea.”

Harry slurped the remainder of his tea. “We’ll see…”
Harry decided to retrace his steps and tell Ron and Hermione that their move would be happening a lot sooner than they had originally anticipated. He hurried to Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines, dragging Hermione away from an elderly wizard who wanted to know more about the best way to deal with bouncing bulbs.

“Harry! I was just about to make a sale!” she hissed as he directed her towards the back room, leaving the wizard to delve into the tray of bulbs alone.

“Yeah, sorry – look – can you come to the Weasley’s for dinner tonight? Lupin and Tonks are moving out in a week, so I think it’s time we made Ron tell his parents about Grimmauld Place.”

Hermione gasped: “Oh Harry! You mean we can move next week?” she hopped excitedly on the spot, grabbing Harry’s hands, all thoughts of selling bouncing bulbs vanished.

Harry grinned: “Yeah! But if we want Ron to join us, we have to make sure he tells his parents.” There was a loud crash from the front of the shop. Hermione peered through the black curtain to see the old wizard knock the tray over. She groaned, turning back to Harry.

“You’re right,” she said quickly, “okay – I’ll come for dinner tonight – but how are we going to make Ron talk? You know what he’s like when he gets nervous!”

“How could I forget? Don’t worry - I’m going to tell him right now. See you at dinner.”

Hermione nodded as she hurried back to the bulbs, which were now bouncing all over the shop. Harry narrowly avoided being hit in the eye by one and slipped out the front door. His last thing he saw before the door clicked shut was Neville and Hermione running up and down the aisles, Stunning bulbs in midair, while witches and wizards took cover. Harry was still laughing to himself as he entered Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.

“Hiya Harry,” chorused the twins, who were chatting to a customer, demonstrating Headless Hats. “If you’re looking for young Ronald, he’s out the back,” they smirked at Harry, who wondered what they had poor Ron doing now. His question was answered moments later, when he found Ron in the stock room, surrounded by tottering piles of magical tricks, and a thoroughly miserable look on his face.

“Hi Harry,” he said morosely.

“What are you doing?” Harry asked, picking his way carefully through the heaps of stock.

“Fred and George have got me doing a stock take,” he said bitterly, “though why I have to do this in October I don’t know.”

“How do you do a stock take?” asked Harry, taking a seat on a large crate full of Skiving Snackboxes.

“I have to count every single piece of merchandise, and write it down here.” He held out a sheaf of parchment. Harry saw that it contained a list of every single magical mischief item that Fred and George had in the shop. Ron had only managed to get about quarter of the way down the first page; there must have been at least ten pages in total.

Ron sighed loudly and resumed counting boxes of Extendable Ears.

“Er, Ron – have you been counting all of these by hand?”

“Yeah, why?”

“’Cos I know a much better way – look…”

Harry pulled out his wand and carefully drew an invisible line around the pile of Extendable Ears. “Duco!” he muttered. A thin line of grey smoke appeared where he had traced around the boxes. It hovered there for a moment, before twisting into a number: one hundred and eight-five. The number lingered there for a few more seconds then vanished.

“Excellent!” roared Ron, snatching up the parchment and writing the number down. “Where did you learn to do that?”

“Where do you think?”

“Hermione?”

“Yep.”

Ron scrambled to his feet and tried the charm on a heap of Spell-Checking Quills. Once again, a smoky number snaked its way into the air, lingering just long enough for Ron to record it on his list. He grinned cheerfully at Harry.

“This’ll show those two – I’ll have this done in no time.” He was just about to start on the packets of Canary Custards when he asked, “So what are you doing here anyway? Got more news on the Map?”

“No,” Harry began carefully, “I just saw Lupin – he and Tonks are moving out next week.”

“What?” Ron dropped his wand in surprise. Blue sparks shot out the end, setting a packet of Canary Creams on fire. Harry extinguished the blue flames with some water from his own wand.

“…So that means we can move next week? Cool!” Ron beamed. Harry waited, looking at Ron, waiting for realisation to dawn.

“Oh wait,” Ron frowned, “That means I have to tell mum, doesn’t it?”

Harry nodded.

“Oh no,” murmured Ron, sinking back down to the floor.

“It’ll be fine,” said Harry bracingly, “I just spoke to Hermione – she’s going to come to dinner tonight, then the three of us can tell her – together.”

“Yeah, okay… I suppose the sooner we get it over with the better?” he looked at Harry, eyebrows raised.

“Exactly. I’ll see you later.” And with that, he left Ron alone with his stocktaking and worries.
“You three are quiet,” remarked Mr. Weasley, spooning more potatoes onto his plate.

Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. They had been eating in near silence for five whole minutes, a record in the Weasley household. The only sound was the clink of cutlery against plates, as they avoided the subject that had brought them there.

It was Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s turn to exchange a glance. “What’s going on?” demanded Mrs. Weasley suspiciously.

Ron swallowed, looking to Harry and Hermione for help, but they had suddenly become very interested in their steak and kidney pie. Taking a deep breath, Ron looked at his mother.

“Well… the thing is Mum – Dad,” he looked at Mr. Weasley beseechingly, “Harry is moving out – to-to Grimmauld Place.” Harry choked slightly on his dinner.

“What?” said Mrs. Weasley, looking shocked, “but Harry dear, why on earth do you want to go and live there all alone for?”

Harry remained silent, but gave Ron a hard look.

“Er… he won’t be living alone… Hermione’s going to live there too…”

Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked from Harry to Hermione with raised eyebrows. She turned bright pink and Harry noticed that comprehension was dawning on Mr. Weasley’s face.

“Well,” continued Mrs. Weasley, “I know you kids want your independence, but I’m not sure you’re ready for”-

“Ah, Molly dear?” said Mr. Weasley hesitantly, “I don’t think Ron is quite finished yet.”

Mrs. Weasley turned her gaze upon her youngest son. Ron gulped.

“I’m moving with them.” He scrunched his eyes up and leaned as far away from his mother as possible.

Mrs. Weasley stared at him for a moment. Carefully, she placed her knife and fork either side of her plate and plucked her napkin from her lap. Dabbing her mouth with it, she took a deep breath-

-“Well I think that sounds very exciting, don’t you Molly?” asked Mr. Weasley quickly, eyes wide with fear, obviously trying to smooth over what was coming…

“Exciting?” she asked, with a tight smile, “EXCITING? I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT THINK IT’S EXCITING!” she bellowed, making Harry and Hermione flinch, “He is far too young - there is no way Ron is ready – he will NOT be leaving - Arthur! SAY SOMETHING!”

Mr. Weasley heaved a deep sigh, taking his time to pull a handkerchief from the inside of his robes and mopping his face before he answered his wife.

“Molly,” he began gently, “Ron is eighteen years of age. He’s working now and it’s only natural that he wants his independence, a-and if you think about it,” he rushed on, seeing his wife puff up furiously again, “Grimmauld Place is the safest place he could live – what with all the protection charms and its Unplottable location”-

-“He’s too young!” she sputtered, “and so are you two!” she rounded on Harry and Hermione. Harry looked desperately at Mr. Weasley for assistance while Hermione looked like she wanted to dive under the table.

“Now Molly,” Mr. Weasley began again, “You can’t have a go at those two – I’m sure they know what they’re doing”-

-“’Know what they’re doing?’” sputtered Mrs. Weasley, very red in the face now, “They’re just children, Arthur! They can’t possibly”-

“Mum!” All eyes swivelled to Ron as Mrs. Weasley fell silent. “We are old enough – I’m old enough! Fred and George were a year younger than me when they moved out! I’m not a baby! I got my NEWT’s, I got a job – what else do I have to do to be treated like a grown up?” he stood up furiously, his chair hitting the kitchen floor with a clatter, his turn to have a scarlet face.

“Well for a start,” cried Mrs. Weasley, also rising for her chair, “You don’t say ‘grown up’ if you are a grown up! Ron,” she said, calming down but looking thoroughly distraught, “who’s going to cook your dinner? What about your washing? Are you sure you want to start doing all that for yourself?”

Harry thought it was time he spoke up. He looked to Hermione for help, but she looked like she had been Petrified.

“Mrs. Weasley – we’ll look after Ron – we’ll look after each other, won’t we?” he added tersely, kicking Hermione under the table. Mrs. Weasley sat back down, looking defeated.

Hermione snapped out her stupor. She nodded quickly. “Y-yes! Mrs. Weasley, we understand that you’ll miss Ron, a-and Harry,” she said hesitantly, “but we won’t be far away! You can visit us, we’ll visit you – I bet you’ll hardly notice that they don’t sleep here.” She reached out carefully and patted her on the arm, ready to snatch her hand back if necessary.

Mrs. Weasley heaved a teary sign. Mr. Weasley took her other hand. “We had to expect this day would come, Molly,” he said gently. Ron righted his chair and sat back down, his face slowly turning back to its normal colour.

“I know! I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon! I can’t imagine this place with no kids – and soon Ginny will finish school and then she’ll want to leave me too!”

“Mum,” said Ron, leaning in, “it’s not that we want to leave you! We just want our own lives.” Mrs. Weasley nodded, a tear running down her cheek.

“I know, I know – it’s just I can’t remember a time when we haven’t had at least one of you lot running round the house.” She took a deep, steadying breath, reaching out for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s hands. “But I’ll miss you terribly,” she let out an odd, watery sort of chuckle, “but I suppose your father’s right. I can’t keep you here forever.”

Hermione gently extracted her hand from the pile, and got up to get a box of tissues. She offered it to Mrs. Weasley, who blew her nose loudly. Nobody spoke for a moment, anxious not to upset Mrs. Weasley any further.

Finally, Ron dared to speak: “If it makes you feel better,” he said brightly, “you can come over and do my washing any time!”
Harry awoke early the next morning. Today was the day of his last check-up with Healer Smethington and he didn’t want to be late. Pulling on some jeans and an old t-shirt, he hurried out of his room to the kitchen, where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting together quietly, sipping tea.

“Morning, Harry,” said Mr. Weasley, while Mrs. Weasley gave him a wan smile. Harry returned the greeting with a pang of guilt – he knew that the reason Mrs. Weasley looked so drawn was because of him and Ron leaving next week. He quietly set about making some toast, painfully aware that Mrs. Weasley had not jumped up to offer as she usually did.

“What wakes you up so early this morning, Harry?” asked Mr. Weasley brightly.

“Got to go to St. Mungo’s – Healer Smethington wants to check me out before I can Apparate by myself again.”

At these words, Mrs. Weasley stood up suddenly, hastening to the stove. “Why didn’t you say so dear? You’ll need more than toast this morning – let me make you some eggs and bacon to go with it – would you like a cup of tea?”

Relief spread warmly through him. It didn’t matter how cross Mrs. Weasley got with him or Ron – if they needed her, she would be there. Mr. Weasley tipped him a sly wink from behind his newspaper, whose headline bore yet another rehash of the story of the great Harry Potter and his defeat of Lord Voldemort. Two pieces of toast flew out of the toaster. Harry’s arm shot out and caught them on a plate with expert reflexes.

“I see we don’t need to test your reactions,” said Mr. Weasley admiringly. Harry grinned, spreading butter on his toast as Mrs. Weasley slid six rashers of bacon and three fried eggs onto his plate.

“Now you eat up dear – you don’t want to get to your check-up feeling light-headed.” Anxiously, she felt his forehead and peered into his eyes.

“I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley, really.” Said Harry, secretly relishing her mothering, as Ron entered the kitchen hesitantly.

“Morning,” he said, looking at his mother uncertainly.

“Morning, Ron dear. Sit down and I’ll get you some breakfast.”

Ron took a seat opposite Harry, looking at him with raised eyebrows, obviously relieved that they were off the hook.

“Got your check up today?” he enquired.

Harry nodded. “Hopefully I’ll be Apparating home.”

“You’ll be fine dear, don’t you worry.” Mrs. Weasley reassured him, absentmindedly smoothing down his hair.

Moments later, after bidding farewell to Mrs. Weasley and Ron, Harry (with Mr. Weasley’s assistance) Apparated to the London street leading to St. Mungo’s. After melting through the cool glass in the entrance, he found himself in the busy waiting area. Looking up, he saw Healer Smethington pacing up and down at the far end of the room. Ignoring the Welcome Witch who was trying to catch his eye, Harry strode to meet him.

“Harry, my boy!” Healer Smethington shook his hand heartily. “How are you feeling?”

“Good thanks,” Harry said quietly, flattening his fringe down. Healer Smethington’s booming voice was beginning to attract the attention of other witches and wizards in the waiting room.

“Good, good! Right this way,” he ushered Harry down a long corridor, lit with floating orbs and showed him into a large room. It contained an antique-looking wooden desk that was overflowing with sheaves of parchment, quills and inkbottles, and magical medical books were stacked higgledy-piggledy on the bookcase. There was a long examination couch, upholstered in red velvet with a matching chair and several lethal looking medical instruments hovered in midair, waiting to be put to use.

“Right, young Harry. If you’ll just hop up onto the couch, I’ll take a look at you,” he peered good-naturedly at Harry through small spectacles. Hoisting himself up, Harry lay back and tried to relax. Healer Smethington listened to his heart, gently felt his ribcage and checked his eyes and ears, muttering inaudibly to himself. The room was quiet, save for the tick of an ancient gold clock that sat in the middle of the mantelpiece.

“Right then!” rumbled Healer Smethington, shattering Harry’s reverie, “This all looks top-notch! Now, if you wouldn’t mind standing up, I should like to see you try and Apparate from here to the far end of the room – no need to panic, just take a deep breath and concentrate on where you want to go.”

“Right,” said Harry, casting his mind back to that odd little man who had taught them to Apparate at school. What were those three things again? Destination, determination and-

-“Anytime you’re ready, Harry,” said Healer Smethington again, invading Harry’s memories.

“Oh, right.” Harry mumbled, trying to focus. He screwed his eyes up and turned on the spot. Opening his eyes again, he was delighted to find himself on the other side of the room.

“Excellent!” roared Smethington, “How did that feel?”

“Er, weird,” said Harry, “but Apparating always has felt weird to me.”

“Don’t like that squeezy feeling, eh?” chuckled Smethington knowingly, “you’re not the first, certainly wouldn’t be the last. Lots of wizards prefer travelling by Floo powder. I think a few more try’s should do it…”

By the time Harry was ready to leave, he had the beginnings of a headache. Healer Smethington had made him Apparate first to different points in the room, and then, with mounting excitement, had asked Harry to Apparate all over the hospital. He had startled a fair few Healers by suddenly appearing out of thin air, but overall, he was very pleased with his progress. Thanking Healer Smethington, Harry exited the hospital and made his way down a secluded alleyway. Concentrating his mind upon the kitchen of the Burrow, he turned on the spot and-

Pop!
“Harry!” cried Mrs. Weasley; dropping the silver she had been about to polish. “You did it! How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine thanks,” Harry grinned, dropping into a chair and picking up the piece of silverware. “Want some help? I’m an expert at cleaning.”

“Oh no, that’s okay dear. You look a bit tired. Why don’t you go and get some rest?”

Harry yawned. He was feeling a bit done in. With thoughts of cleaning out Hedwig’s cage, he trudged up the rickety staircase to his room. Peering at himself in the mirror, Harry lifted his fringe to examine his scar. Since the demise of Voldemort, he hadn’t experienced so much as a twinge of pain, and - apart from a mild headache from Apparating too much - his head had been free of pain ever since. Sinking onto his bead, he closed his eyes, ready for a long nap, thinking that Hedwig’s cage could wait a bit longer, when there was a sharp crack.

Harry’s eyes flew open and he automatically reached for his wand, but there was no need.

“Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby stood in the centre of the small bedroom, gazing up at Harry adoringly.

“Dobby!” Harry moaned, “What did you do that for? I nearly hexed you into oblivion!”

Dobby dropped to the floor, pressing his nose into the worn out old rug.

“Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter! Dobby is only wanting to visit Harry Potter t-to see how he is, sir! Shall Dobby go now?” Harry could hear a quaver in his voice; meaning Dobby would soon burst into tears.

Sighing, Harry reached down and pulled Dobby to his feet.

“No, Dobby. Don’t go. I’m really pleased to see you, but next time you should come to the front door and knock first, all right?”

Dobby nodded, his great ears flapping, orb like eyes surveying Harry’s every move. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, Harry cast around for a topic of conversation.

“So, er… how are you Dobby?”

“Dobby is very well, Harry Potter sir! But,” here his ears drooped slightly, “Hogwarts is not the same since the great Albus Dumbledore is gone…” he trailed off sadly, eyes swimming with unshed tears. Head snapping up sharply, Dobby added fearfully, “But I is not speaking ill of my mistress, sir! Headmistress McGonagall is very kind, and she is still paying Dobby one Galleon a week – just like Albus Dumbledore – but – but”-

-“But it’s not the same as having Dumbledore around, is it?” Harry replied, taking note of the fact that Dobby was plainly itching to grab something and punish himself with it. “It’s all right, Dobby,” he said kindly, trying to think of a change of subject, “Do you want to hear my news?”

Dobby nodded in ecstasy, all sadness forgotten.

“Me, Ron and Hermione are moving in together! We move out next week and”- he stopped abruptly. Dobby looked like Harry had stuck a knife in his side.

“What’s the matter?” Harry asked, perplexed.

Dobby gave a great sniff. “Harry Potter is moving to his own house?”

“Yeah…?”

Dobby broke out into loud wails, falling to the floor again and beating his tiny fists on the floor.

“Dobby – what is it?” asked a bewildered Harry, reaching for Dobby’s flailing arms.

“Harry Potter is moving to his own house, and he is taking Kreacher with him! Dobby isn’t liking Kreacher! He is a bad house elf! Kreacher won’t look after Harry Potter properly!”

“Wait! Don’t be daft, Dobby! I’m not taking Kreacher with me! He can stay in the Hogwarts kitchens where the other elves can keep an eye on him!”

If Harry had thought this would calm Dobby down he had been severely mistaken. If anything, his wails increased in volume. Worried that the noise would bring Mrs. Weasley on the run, Harry carefully but firmly lifted Dobby into a sitting position on the edge of his bed.

“Dobby - be quiet!”

Dobby ceased his wailing almost immediately, hiccoughing as tears continued to trickle down his face.

“What on earth is the matter with you?” Harry asked incredulously.

“Harry Potter is moving out and Dobby is not happy! Dobby wants to look after Harry Potter and his most noble friends! Dobby is working very hard and is not wanting any money or any days off and is making a treacle tart for Harry Potter every night!”

“What? You-you want to come and work for me?” Harry hadn’t been expecting this. “But what about your job at Hogwarts?”

“Dobby will leave, sir! Dobby wants to look after Harry Potter, the bravest, cleverest most fearless”-

-“Dobby stop! Hermione would kill me for having a house elf!”

“Is the most knowledgeable Miss Hermione not liking Dobby, sir?” He looked distraught.

“No, no – it’s not that. Hermione likes house elves, in fact, she thinks they aren’t treated properly and she’d go mental if she knew I was letting you work for me without paying you! She reckons house elves should all be set free – and get paid holiday and pensions.”

Dobby was speechless for a moment. Then in a whisper, he asked: “Is Miss Hermione not right in the head, Harry Potter?”

Harry burst out laughing. “Well, we do wonder sometimes, Dobby. Look, let me talk to Ron and Hermione about it. Ron would love you to work for us,” at these words, Dobby hopped up and bounced on the bed with glee, “but like I said, Hermione is another matter.”

“Harry Potter! You is the kindest, most gallant wizard in the whole world, and Dobby is working for you even if it means wages and paid holidays and pensions!”
At half past ten the next morning, Harry carefully Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts. He was due to meet Ginny at eleven o’clock, but was so anxious to see her he decided to arrive early. Pulling his cloak tighter against the cold breeze, he squinted through the gates, waiting to catch a glimpse of her. It was a Saturday, so she was probably enjoying a late breakfast in the Great Hall. Stamping his feet to keep warm, he glimpsed a flash of fiery red. Harry’s stomach flipped over and his heart rate sped up: Ginny! Smiling into the collar of his cloak, he watched her walk gracefully down the driveway, laughing with her friends, hair fluttering behind her. All thoughts of the plans he had made for their day evaporated: he wanted nothing more than to find a secluded spot and kiss Ginny until the sun set. Looking up, she saw him. Pausing for a moment, her eyes lit up, her mouth curving into a soft smile.

“Harry!” she squealed, breaking into a gallop and racing the rest of the way to the gates. Harry laughed as she threw herself into his arms. He swung her around and their lips met, kissing her deeply, ignoring the catcalls and whistles of the Hogwarts students who were watching with amusement. When they finally broke apart, they were both grinning insanely.

“What do you want to do today?” asked Ginny, eyes sparkling.

“Well, I thought we could go and explore Hogsmeade and do some shopping, go to the Three Broomsticks and have a drink… or we could just stay here and do this,” he dipped his head to kiss her again. Giggling, she pushed him gently away.

“C’mon,” she said, tugging his arm, “this is my first Hogsmeade weekend – we have to see everything!”

Sighing contentedly, Harry allowed himself to be pulled down the lane, thrilled to be with Ginny again.

“So you told mum about moving out?”

“Yeah – at first she went a bit, well, er”-

-“Mental?” Ginny suggested.

Harry laughed. “Yeah, something like that. But I think she’s all right with it now.”

Hogsmeade village came into sight. Hogwarts students were milling about everywhere, calling out greetings to Harry and Ginny as they strolled along the cobbled street, looking in the windows of Dervish and Banges and Scrivenshafts, firmly avoiding the lane that led to Madam Puddifoot’s. Reaching Zonkos, the wizarding joke shop, they were pleased to note the sign in the dark window:

Coming soon! Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes – For all your Hogwarts mischief making needs, look no further! 10% discount to all students (excluding prefects and Head Students)

Harry and Ginny chuckled to themselves. During the war, Zonko himself had shut up shop and fled the country. Fred and George had wanted to buy the place for a long time, and now that life in the wizarding world was almost back to normal, they were anxious to open a branch close to Hogwarts.

Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny entered Honeydukes next. The rich smell of chocolate surround them, and they inhaled deeply.

“Ooh,” sighed Ginny, eyes closed in appreciation, “I love chocolate – let’s get one of everything!”

Giggling conspiratorially, they grabbed a basket and began to load it with supplies for Ginny, to tide her over until her next Hogsmeade weekend. While Ginny debated whether she should buy the Fudge Flies or the Chocoballs, Harry perused a shelf heaped with chocolate covered fudge, when he felt a tug on the back of his cloak. Turning around, he wasn’t sure if he was amused or dismayed to hear:

“Hiya, Harry!”

Little Dennis and Colin Creevey stood very close to him, gazing up and waving frantically at him, forcibly reminding him of Dobby.

“Hi Colin, hi Dennis – how are you?”

“Harry – what are you doing here?” asked Colin excitedly.

“Well, I’m just doing a bit of shopping with”-

“Oh! You’re here with Ginny! Hiya, Ginny!” Colin and Dennis waved their miniscule arms madly at Ginny.

“Hi boys,” she smiled as she turned back to the Fudge Flies. Harry noticed that Dennis, the younger of the two brothers, had turned a deep crimson colour when Ginny looked at him.

“Hey, Harry – we read all about what happened at the Ministry, with You-Know-Who!” said Dennis.

Before Harry could answer, Colin interrupted again, rummaging in his robe pockets. “Look, Harry!” he produced a camera, “Can we have a picture?”

“Well, now’s not really a good time…” he trailed off, gesturing to Ginny.

“Oh that’s all right, Harry!” said Ginny brightly, “In fact, why don’t I take the picture for you, Colin? That way you can all be in it!” she gave Harry and evil grin, while Colin and Dennis excitedly scrambled into position either side of Harry.

“Okay – everyone say ‘Fizzing Whizzbees’!” instructed Ginny. With a loud pop and a puff of black smoke, the picture was taken.

“Wow! Thanks Ginny, thanks Harry!” exclaimed Colin, still rooted to the spot, gawping at Harry.

“Er, right – well, we’ve got things to do Colin…” Harry raised his eyebrows at the brothers, wondering how he could get rid of them.

Ginny came to the rescue; taking each brother by the elbow, she steered them to the door of Honeydukes:

“Right, I’ll see you later then, make sure you get us a copy of that photo, won’t you? Bye!” and with a charming smile, she ejected them from the shop before they could tell what was happening. Turning back to Harry with a laugh, they took their sweets to the counter, but Ambrosius Flume, the owner of Honeydukes wouldn’t let Harry give him a penny.
“Harry, lad – your money is no good here”-

“But”- Harry stammered, beginning to feel very uncomfortable about not being able to pay for things nowadays.

-“No buts! If it weren’t for you, I would never have been able to re-open. I would have been ruined! Now you take this lot – no arguments!” he thrust a large Honeydukes bag into Harry’s arms.

“Er, well – okay, thanks Mr. Honeyduke.”

“My pleasure, Harry, my pleasure.”

They stepped out into the cool afternoon air. Deciding he had had enough of crowds for the time being, Harry took Ginny to a peaceful meadow down on of the winding lanes. Once he felt they were far enough from prying eyes, he conjured a thick blanket for then to sit on, nestled in the long grass.

“This place is pretty,” Ginny said, leaning back into Harry, who wrapped his arms around her.

“Mmm,” he murmured, breathing in the flowery scent of her hair. “This is where Tonks and Lupin are having their wedding ceremony.”

They surveyed the meadow together in companionable silence for a few moments.

“So how’s the Burrow without me?” she asked after a while.

“Quiet!” Harry grinned and leaned in to kiss her. Quite some time later, when they finally pulled apart, Harry began to fill her in on all that they had been up to, including his hospital check-up and the strange visit from Dobby.

“I think Dobby is sweet,” said Ginny, who thought it was a great idea that Dobby should work for Harry.

“Er, yeah. Sweet is one word to describe him, I suppose. But Hermione won’t be happy.”

“But Ron would love it – no washing, no cleaning – he’ll be in heaven! I’m sure between the two of you, you can convince Hermione.”

“Maybe… Dobby will have to wait though. Tonight we’re going to activate the Map.”

At these words, Ginny sat up straighter, looking very serious.

“And then you’ll go after her?”

Harry nodded solemnly. “I just wish I could talk to Dumbledore – he hasn’t been around for ages.”

“Maybe it’s not time yet? You know – to go after her. Dumbledore said you would know when the time was right.”

“I dunno. We’ve done everything we can with the Map, at least, Lupin and Hermione say we have, so it must be time.”

Ginny remained silent but looked troubled. Not wanting to worry her, Harry looked at his watch.

“It’s getting late – we should get a move on if we want to fit in a drink at the Three Broomsticks.” He Vanished the blanket with a flick of his wand and they hurried towards the pub.

There was only time for one Butterbeer before Ginny realised she would be late for the start of the Halloween feast. Throwing a Galleon down on the table before Madam Rosmerta could refuse, Harry and Ginny gathered her bags of sweets and chocolate and hurried out of the pub. Telling Ginny to take a firm grip on his arm, Harry performed his first Side-Along Apparition in a long time. Re-appearing perfectly at the gates of Hogwarts, they kissed several more times, between promises to write, and pledges to miss each other terribly. Finally, they could delay their parting no longer. Ginny turned and made her way reluctantly towards the castle. Harry watched her until she disappeared through the huge front doors, with a heavy heart. Concentrating on the Burrow, he Apparated home to meet Ron and Hermione. From there they were going to number twelve, Grimmauld Place to activate the Map...


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