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Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders



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Old November 28th, 2005, 3:53 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

CHAPTER ONE

Accord and Initiation


A loud “CRACK” split the salty night air between the crashes of sea water against the boulders below. Two figures appeared in the mist, one just as tall as the other, each wearing flowing, black robes and holding what seemed to be wands with bright tips illuminating their steps. The first one had a graceful gait and had stark blond, almost white, hair which cascaded down to the small of her back. The other marched just behind broodily toward the immense entrance of a cave at the cliff’s pinnacle. He had the same white hair, his just down to the collar of his cape.

“You should have paid more attention to your lessons!” she said, sounding impatient and reproachful, “Disgraceful,” she bellowed, grabbing the boy by the wrist and tugging him along more quickly, “A student going into his seventh year…having to rely on his mother to apparate! Come along, quickly. We’re late, but just…Don’t want to add tardiness to your faults!”

“Faults!” The boy stopped in his tracks so suddenly he took the woman by surprise, causing her nearly to fall backward. “Oh, PLEASE, mother, like I need to be scolded for things as trivial as apparition or tardiness,” his face reddened with anger and resentment. “Anyway, I’ve accomplished a task much more important than any of that stuff. I’ve fulfilled the missions he gave me, which is more than anyone can say of you or father, or anyone else for that matter!”

Narcissa glared at her son, again impatient but this time muddled with concern. “Yes, Draco, you did manage to find a way for us to infiltrate Hogwarts, although you took you sweet time with that! And, true, Dumbledore is dead.” The impatience was now gone, and all that remained in her countenance was the concern. “But, NO, YOU DID NOT fulfill your mission. You did not kill him, you left it for SNAPE. You’ll be lucky if he doesn’t kill you tonight for your hesitancy!”

“What do you know?” Draco said, standing firm, “You weren’t there. And, since were on the subject, I had perfectly good reasons for hesitating.”

Narcissa resigned to the fact that Draco would not budge until the conversation was complete. She let go of Draco’s hand, turned directly toward him. “Your mission was to get us in and for YOU to kill him, not to keep Dumbledore at bay and wait for someone else to finish the job. And I know all of your reasons for hesitating. I’ve had a full account on what happened up on that tower. You didn’t have the spine for it. That will need to change.”

“Lot you know. I was up there a good five minute before anyone else showed up. Dumbledore and I were alone.” Draco paused for a moment and looked at his mother, who was preoccupied with being discovered and had begun tugging at his arm again. He said in a hushed voice, “…and he offered us…”

Another loud “CRACK” split the air. Narcissa and Draco spun around to the source of the interruption. About thirty feet away, a short, disheveled man appeared, his back toward them. He was struggling with a large, black cauldron and a sack slung over his shoulder. Draco peered at him, trying to discern who it was. Draco had met most of the Death Eaters before, either as a child or during his first and only meeting with the Dark Lord. He didn’t recognize this man, who looked to be a muggle of the foulest order. The man was hunched and acted confused while he continued to struggle with his accoutrements. The sack kept falling off his shoulder every time he bent to grasp the cauldron, almost comically if it hadn’t been so pathetic,. If he had been any sort of wizard, the cauldron would have been floating beside him and moving as if by its own accord. But this man continued to labor with the cauldron, intent it seemed on getting it and himself to the cave’s entrance. Then, Draco noticed something peculiar about the man. One of his hands seemed to be encased by a glimmering, silver glove which reflected brilliantly in the moonlight.

Narcissa grabbed Draco by the chin and turned his face away from the man to meet her’s. “I know of everything that happened on the tower that night,” she said in a stern whisper, trying not to bring the man’s attention to them. “Dumbledore’s dead. He can’t help anyone anymore. Not that he would have helped us anyway. He was just trying to back himself out of a corner, trying to persuade you to let him live and get to his wand. And he at least succeeded in stalling you with promises of protection, for which I give him little credit. He could have promised you a Firebolt and it would have given you pause. But he was just delaying the inevitable.” Her frustration turned to disdain, “How did this happen, given your blood lines. How did you become so weak…”

“I AM NOT WEAK!” Draco shouted.

At this the man, who had just stopped at the cave’s entrance, turned quickly. The gape in his mouth due to the surprise quickly turned to a smile as he recognized the pair. He abandoned the cauldron and sack there, and hurried over to them, limping a bit, but laughing, almost giggling, all the while over.

“Narcissa! It’s a joyous night, is it not?” The man attempted to hug Narcissa, but his foul stench of stale cheese and rat droppings caused her to start backward and turn her head. The man met her outstretch hand. “Don’t touch me, Peter, you foul creature! The Dark Lord has his uses for you, but I have none.”

Peter seemed not to even notice that he should be offended by her remark. He looked at Draco, surveying him up and down, then turned back to Narcissa and said, “Yes, a joyous night! Another Death Eater back amongst us, returned to us” Peter looked back at Draco with a gleam of envy in his eyes, “and perhaps a new one to join us as well.” With this, Peter turned, smiling again at Draco, who too had turned his head away once the nasty aroma met his nostrils. Peter’s attentions again turned to Narcissa.

“Of course, the Dark Lord is unpleased, very unpleased, that Snape had to blow his cover by killing Dumbledore, when he put his faith in this one to do it. But the boy did manage to get us into Hogwarts right under Dumbledore’s long, crooked nose! If it were to me, I’d cut the boy some slack, give him another chance. But not up to me, is it. On the whole, the Dark Lord is pleased, what with the negotiations going so well to boot. But it’s difficult to see what he will do with this one.” He peered at Draco again, “Could go either way…”

“Well, we should be on, then,” Narcissa said, intent on halting the conversation. “We’re already late. Draco, carry this.” They had made their way to the cave’s entrance, and Narcissa grabbed the sack and shoved it into Draco’s hand. “He obviously hasn’t the ability to manage more than one thing at a time.”

Draco screwed up his nose at the sack, which, much to Draco’s astonishment, wreaked even more than Peter. He thought of complaining again to his mother, but thought better of it, given he was now in the presence of another Death Eater. His look of disgust, however, did not escape his mother. “Seems as though your stomach has joined your spine,” she seethed.

Even with the burden of the sack lifted from him, Peter was still struggling with the cauldron. Narcissa looked back at him annoyed and gave a lazy flick of her wand. “Wingardium Leviosa”, she muttered, and the cauldron lifted from the silt, and its lip struck the crouched Pettigrew squarely on chin. The cauldron gave a low, droning ring, which slowly faded away through Peter’s curses. Draco burst out in laughter, but stopped immediately when his mother turned her stare at him, fierce and growing even more impatient. “Let’s go!” She gave another flick of her wand at the cauldron, “Ambulo Incomitatus.” At this, the cauldron’s four small feet began to grow into long, thick legs until the legs met the ground. After a moment, the legs began to move, and it lumbered on through the entrance to the cave, followed closely by the three.

“Many thanks, Narcissa. Given everything I’ve been through…”, he looked down at his silver hand, “The Dark Lord has been so generous to me in return for my services, but the journey has been difficult, none-the-less. But our journey seems to be close to an end…”

Peter’s words were cut short. Two loud thuds followed by two loud “CRACK”s, almost simultaneous, near the entrance to the cave behind them caused them to start and turn, all of them instinctually pointing there wands at the source of the noise. Looking back, they saw nothing but the entrance to the cave, and the cliff and sky beyond, it’s small pinpoints of light still partially obscured by mist.

They stood like that for a few moments, waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. Draco then spoke, “Perhaps someone else apparated behind us?” Narcissa noticed his wand was shaking, and she gave a look of hopelessness at him.

“That didn’t sound like apparition,” said Peter. “Praebeo”. Draco remembered this incantation from Professor Flitwick’s classes in his second year. It was meant to reveal one who was in hiding, but still nothing presented itself at the entrance. They all stared at the spot for a few more seconds, wands still at the ready, then three figures came into view through the mist.

Fenrir Greyback strode along ahead of the other two, his long hair flowing in the breeze. Draco felt sick to his stomach. The last time he had seen Greyback was that night on the tower. He had talked at Dumbledore about eating children, how he enjoyed it, even when he wasn’t transformed. He suppressed his reaction to throw up, not only from the sight of Greyback. He had started to realize that the sack he was carrying smelt of rotting flesh. Draco recognized the other two as Crabbe and Goyle’s fathers.

As Greyback passed through the cave entrance, Crabbe and Goyle in tow, trying hard to keep up with Greyback’s enormous strides, he called out, “Narcissa. A great night, isn’t it! So much accomplished, yet so much more to do! How I’ve missed these congregations,” he seemed to have some sarcasm in his voice, but Draco couldn’t be sure of it. “We’re late! Don’t want to keep the Dark Lord waiting.”

As Greyback passed Draco, he stopped, sniffed the bag, and a smile crossed his face. “Ahhh, smells like a fresh kill. Draco, I’m impressed. Seems you’ve acquired a skill you did not possess that night on the tower. Glad to see you have developed the stomach for it.”

“Well, actually that’s mine,” said Peter, as he took the sack from Draco, who made no pretense at not being glad to be rid of it.

Greyback looked to Peter, who he had seemed to completely fail to notice until that moment. “You do serve your master well, Peter, very well indeed. Not much you can do on your own, without his direction, of course. Fourteen years as a rat…Well, let’s get on with it.”

The six of them strode along a narrowing corridor which was covered in algae, passing the lumbering cauldron along the way. “Looks like your handiwork, Narcissa,” said Goyle, as they passed it, which brought forth a chuckle from Crabbe. Narcissa cut them both a piercing glance, and Draco could have sworn he heard her hiss as she did so.

After a few minutes of walking, the corridor becoming even more narrow as they went along, barely wide enough for them to pass two across, there opened up a vast cavern. They had emptied into it at the top of a ramp way which circled the cavern wall and descended along the way. At the bottom, at the center of the cavern floor, a greenish-lit fire was blazing. There were other Death Eaters there, forming a sort of semi-circle around the fire. None of them looked up when they entered, nor when the others started to descend the ramp way. Draco recognized some of them, but some he had never seen before. There were some gaps in the line, but for the most part, it seemed that the Death Eaters, except for those that were dead or in Azkaban, had returned to their lord.

“Draco, come now,” Narcissa called back at her son. He realized he had stopped at the top of the ramp way, transfixed on the scene below, not knowing if he should turn back, flee. But this was impossible, he knew. As soon as he turned, he was sure he would drop dead on the spot, or perhaps Greyback would catch up with him and rip his throat out. Not to mention the fact that the cauldron was now approaching him, and the ramp way was too narrow for him to pass it to go back. Draco began his descent.

The cavern was high, at least sixty feet. He wobbled as he walked and stared up at the expanse. Around the gathering was a moat of still, black water. The others had made it down to the group on the floor, and all except Narcissa took their place in the semi-circle. She waited at the base of the ramp for Draco, and when he arrived, she grasped him tightly, kissed him on the cheek, then on the palms of both hands, then led him to the center of the semi-circle just in front of the fire. The cauldron made it down to the cavern floor, and walked deliberately to the fire. Once over the fire, it promptly sat down on it.

Narcissa turned Draco so he faced the cauldron, away from the Death Eaters. She looked her son lovingly in his eyes, and spoke, but not to him, apparently to no one at all, “On behalf of myself and my husband, I present my son, Draco Malfoy, for judgement, and, should it please the Dark Lord, to be marked as our equal.”

The cavern was silent for a few moments, even after the echo of her words died, until the cauldron began to steam and boil. This came as a surprise to Draco, as he had not seen anyone near enough to the cauldron to fill it. He shifted slightly, uncomfortable with the silence and inactivity. His adrenalin had been rushing up to this point, and he was growing unnerved with the pause. Nothing was happening, and no one was speaking. What was going on? He turned to face his mother, but she had taken her place with the other Death Eaters in the semi-circle. There were gaps in their line. One, next to his mother, his father should be standing in. He expected them, too, to be confused, but they all stared at him, blankly, almost through him, looks of patient anticipation in their faces. His mind wandered to his father, imprisoned in Azkaban. Then, his thoughts turned to that filthy mudblood, the reason his father was there in the first place, the reason he would not return to Hogwarts, the reason he was given his mission last year. "The chosen one, indeed," he thought. "We'll see who has been chosen!”," he thought. "We'll see how has been chosen!"

He started to speak to his mother, ask what he was waiting for, why HE was being kept waiting.

Then he saw them.

The two snakes slithered from behind a stalagmite at the far end of the cavern, one from each side of its base. The smaller of the two, if one could call it that, was at least twelve feet long with a diamond-shaped head and the same pattern on its back and tail. Its white belly glided it, almost melancholy, toward the edge of the moat and it fell gracefully into the black water, creating almost no ripple, and vanished. But Draco seemed to hardly notice it. His eyes were fixed on the other, which was winding, quite quickly, directly toward him.

It was massive, monstrous, at least twenty feet in length, its girth just as impressive. It was sack-cloth black with no shimmer, with a hood behind its head, cobra-like. The only hint of color on the behemoth was its eyes, which were blood red slits that also reflected the flicker of the green fire upon which the cauldron rested.

To Draco’s amazement, none of the Death Eaters stirred at these events. Each simply turned their heads slightly and followed the serpent’s progress. The monster stopped suddenly, as if it had suddenly realized something, as it reached Peter, who was standing at the end of the semi-circle, still clutching the foul-smelling sack in his glimmering hand. The snake turned its head. Its nostrils met the sack, and drew in a deep breath through them. It seemed to smile just slightly as it held the aroma in its lungs, much as a school girl sniffs a rose given to her by a handsome boy. It gazed at Peter approvingly, then continued its trek toward Draco.

A cold chill ran up and down Draco’s back as the serpent saddled up to him, its head seeming to survey the hem of his robe, then the cauldron just in front of them. Draco had followed its progress toward him, hoping that it would turn away, slink into the water, perhaps, as the other had, and leave him be. When he was sure it was indeed headed for him, he swung his head forward and stared directly in front of himself, the wafts of steam from the now rapidly boiling cauldron starting to encircle him. He felt paralyzed as its huge head and hood slowly rose in front of him until its blood red slits met his eyes. Draco felt its hot breath across his face, and though he smelled blood. Then, suddenly, he felt a piercing pain in his ears, but the pain left so quickly he didn’t have time to flinch or cry out. The pain and fear forced him to close his eyes. Then, Draco heard something in his mind.

“What do you fear, boy?” It was a sinister, whisper of a voice. Immediately, an image of the snake popped into his mind, but the voice spoke again, “You do not fear me boy, only what I can do to you. TELL ME, what do you fear?”

A different image began to float into his mind. It looked like a scar, shaped like a lightning bolt. Just before the image came clear, Draco suddenly remembered his lessons with Professor Snape. It was like a reflex. His mind flashed blank. He thought only of a white tablet, clean and bare. He could feel the voice trying to speak to him again, but he focused on the tablet and nothing else. The voice died away, and he knew it was gone now. Then he opened his eyes to find that the giant serpent had moved away from his face, and was slithering to the other side of the boiling cauldron.

The serpent was now directly opposite Draco, facing him across the cauldron, its red eyes still even with Draco’s. Its massive body and tail began to coil up underneath its hooded head, and its tongue flicked out once, which startled Draco, who flinched just in time for its forked tip to miss hitting him on the nose. The tongue retracted back through the small opening in its mouth. Then, its mouth opened wide, and hissed. Draco could see its huge fangs pressed back at the roof of its mouth, and it hissed at him. Draco flinched again, and as before Draco smelled blood, this time intermingled with an aroma of sulfer. But the snake’s fangs did not lower, it did not strike. It lifted its eyes toward the ceiling of the cavern, shuddered and shook violently, as if attempting some form of violent molting. Then, all of a sudden, its head fell into its coiled body behind the cauldron, out of sight from Draco. Then, slowly, in the spot where the snake had just been, a man began to rise, naked, his flesh pink, but pale. Peter rushed behind the figure and draped a black, hooded robe around him. Then he moved quickly in front, his back to the cauldron and Draco, obscuring Draco’s view of the man once more. Peter tied the robe, and began to hood what Draco guessed was the man’s head.

“Enough!” The man hissed. “I am not without my faculties anymore, Wormtail. I am quite capable of dressing myself! But I am not fully displeased with you. It smells as if you have brought me a delicious meal! Venison?” At this, Wormtail nodded quickly, then moved away and back toward his place in the semi-circle.

Draco looked at the sight that he had not been aloud to view in his one other meeting with Lord Voldemort. His face was paler than the rest of him, but his face was clearly handsome, with the exception of his eyes, which remained blood red slits. He seemed to recognize his face, but he knew not from where.

“Draco Malfoy,” he said abruptly, giving Draco another start, “You have been presented for my bequest of the privilege of serving me. Indeed, you have already served me in certain tasks that I set before you. It was necessary to test you, you understand, before I could pass judgment on you. How well do you think you succeeded in your mission?”

Draco was beginning to become please with himself. The Dark Lord was actually considering him to be a Death Eater. He spoke boastfully, “Very well, my Lord. I succeeded in infiltrating Hogwarts, and Dumbledore is dead…”

Draco suddenly fell to the ground, he felt white, hot pain, unbearable pain. He wished it would stop. “Please, no more,” he thought, “Please, I’d rather die.”

Then, as quickly as it came, the pain stopped. “Get to your feet, boy! Now!” Voldemort was towering over him, like a bully who had just knocked his prey down, then admonished them to stand so that he could knock it down again. “Your mother is right. You are weak, both in mind and spirit! You must learn obedience, humility if you are to stand with me! You must learn to control your thoughts while your body is in pain! You must not waiver in the face of your enemy, as you have done numerous times here tonight!”

“I wish only to serve you, my Lord,” Draco said as he regained his feet, with a presence of mind that astounded his mother, who was looking on with concern again.
“You lie! You would serve anyone who would vanquish your enemies! You would stand with those who would bring you power, in front of them if you could! I see it in your soul. You would kill me if you could if I got in your way, would you not?”

Before he could think of what he was saying, Draco blurted out furiously, “Yes! I would!”

Voldemort paused, pulled back, and said very quietly, very deliberately, “Very…well…said.” Draco looked back at him, into those red eyes, his fear and anger now replaced with astonishment and pride. “But you are here to be judged first, not hazed.”

Voldemort moved back slowly behind the cauldron and faced Draco again. “Draco, I will say that, had it not been for you, Dumbledore would be alive today. Had it not been for you, my servants would probably never have gained entrance at Hogwarts. You do have the bungling qualities of your parents, however. The poison, the necklace, both novice attempts. But, you are young, and only time will tell if you will learn more finesse. Although, if bloodline has any say, I doubt you will. Your father never learned.”

Draco stiffened at this insult on his father. His father had always served Voldemort, always.

“I see this angered you again. This is good, commitment to family, especially your extended pure-blood family is a necessary requisite in service to me. But do not forget this,’ Voldemort gaze burned into Draco’s eyes, “if I am gracious enough to allow you to serve me, I am the father before your father! You obey me, and forsake me for no other! Or YOU WILL DIE.”

Draco’s smugness was gone now, and he stood staunch, determined not to say another word if he could help it, anything to hurry this along.

“Back to your judgement. Yes, you were able to do things none of my servants was able to accomplish. But, Draco, you failed in your mission, did you not? You failed to kill Dumbledore as I ordered, did you not? You had him cornered, I hear. Impressive. I suspect he was concerned with other matters he felt were more pressing, but, none-the-less, impressive. But why didn’t you kill him?”

Draco did not speak. He was a coward, that’s why he didn’t kill him. Like his mother said, he didn’t have the spine for it. He had never killed anyone, and he had not been prepared for how difficult it would be.

“WHY DIDN’T YOU KILL HIM!” Voldemort shouted, his eyes now burning red. “I told you, your life, your parents lives were at stake! Was this not enough motivation! Perhaps this will teach you!”

Voldemort pointed his wand at Narcissa. “CRUCIO”. Narcissa fell to the ground, writhing in pain, screaming. Voldemort turned to Draco, “Now, do as I say, and it will stop!”

A large dog appeared before Draco. “Torture it!” Draco did not hesitate. “CRUCIO!”. The dog writhed in pain, it wailed.

“Now, kill it!”

“Avada Kedavra”, Draco screamed. The dog fell dead.

Then, just next to the dog, a baby appeared. It was in a basket, wrapped in blankets. It looked to Draco to be very young.

“Kill it!” Voldemort screamed again. Draco turned to his mother, still writhing in pain. “Do it!” He looked at Voldemort, uncertain. Then, he looked back at the baby, and he noticed, on its forehead, a scar, the shape of a lightning bolt.

Without hesitating, Draco pointed his wand at the baby.

“AVADA KEDAVRA!”

End Chapter 1

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Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:41 pm.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 7:42 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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CHAPTER 2

The Ties that Bind


It had been a surprisingly quiet summer at Number 4, Privet Drive. Apart from the first two weeks back from Hogwarts, Dudley Dursley had been, much to his mother’s chagrin, noticeably and thankfully (at least to Harry) absent. Dudley had received invitation to attend the Royal Boxing Club’s summer training and sparring camp in Liverpool. Given his obvious talent and liking for beating others, Dudley accepted and would not return until August.

“Fine and noble sport, boxing,” Uncle Vernon had bellowed upon reading the invitation and realizing that this and eating up everything in the house were his only talents. “One of the original Olympic sports, if memory serves. I myself had a go at it during my service with the Royal Navy. Pity about my knee.” Harry had never seen Uncle Vernon so pleased to write a check as when he was sending off the tuition.

Uncle Vernon was careful not to address Harry any more than necessary. He was very intent on not raising any issues, given the fact that Harry would not be his responsibility in two months time. And since Dudley had left, the Dursleys had taken to eating out most nights, meeting with friends and acquaintances, spending their evenings at the pub, and thoroughly avoiding Harry. Aunt Petunia had not even set foot in the kitchen all summer, and left Harry to make do with eating whatever was around the kitchen, which was usually not much.

All this suited Harry just fine. He had been extremely bored, but he had promised Dumbledore that he would not leave the Dursley’s until tomorrow, his seventeenth birthday.

That morning, Uncle Vernon had received a message from the head of product placement at Grunnings, asking him to dinner that night. He had worked there for twenty years, and he was sure this must mean that he was being considered for promotion. He would, Harry knew, be in much after he went to bed, and seeing as tomorrow was Saturday, would not wake until long after Harry had left for the burrow.

“See there, Petunia!” he said, putting on a suit that he saved for special occasions, which Harry had never seen him wear. “Hard, honest work, diligence and patience is always rewarded.” Harry knew that he had said this loud enough for him to hear. “Well, everything seems to be coming around, no coincidence the timing, I’m sure!” Harry’s temper flared a bit, but the light at the end of this night’s tunnel was too much for Harry to risk. No need getting in dutch with the Ministry for underage magic when tomorrow he would no longer be underage.

Uncle Vernon bounded down the stairs, followed by Aunt Petunia, who was intent on brushing the dust off of Uncle Vernon’s broad, meaty shoulders. As Uncle Vernon came to the front door, he turned and pecked his wife on the cheek, “Wish me luck!” Then, almost embarrassed, he realized Harry was sitting there. He opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, then said to Harry, “Make sure you tidy that room before you leave.”

“Don’t worry, I will,” said Harry, a resigned feeling coming over him. He was sure that Uncle Vernon would at least say something kind, especially now that he knew he was rid of him forever. After all, Harry felt that way about him.

Then, Uncle Vernon said, “Good luck, Harry Potter…”

Harry was dumbstruck, then all returned to normal…

…your going to need it!”

Uncle Vernon bound out the door, feeling particularly pleased with himself.

Aunt Petunia watched her mate walk down Privet Drive toward the tubes entrance, happy to see him with a hop in his step. It had been a long time, a very long time, since she had seen him with so much hope in what the future held. Harry saw her smile, a genuine smile, one that Harry had never seen before. She had, of course, smiled many times before, at Dudley’s birthdays, around the holidays when neighbors had stopped to comment on the progress of her turnips or the festive, overblown decorations meticulously placed on the front of the house.

But those smiles, Harry now realized, paled in comparison with this one. The smiles he remembered now seemed forced, impatient and sure to fleet. This was a smile of success, accomplishment, satisfaction, relief, and most of all love for her family. She slowly closed the door, and turned to Harry. He noticed that the smile was now one of the old ones.

“All packed then, read to be off?” She stated, not concealing her anticipation for the blessed event of Harry’s final departure.

“Yeah. Don’t worry, nothing will keep me lingering in this house past midnight tonight,” Harry said to her tersely, defiantly.

“But, I thought you were leaving in the morning?” Aunt Petunia stated, with no hint of concern, seeming to wait on his answer as if begging him to speed his exit by a few hours.

It was true, Harry had scheduled to meet Mr. Weasley at the Leaky Cauldron at six the next morning. But he couldn’t stand it any longer, couldn’t stand that house any longer, couldn’t stand to perchance hear Uncle Vernon’s gloating at his well deserved promotion when he returned, or to see one more shred of happiness befall the family that had caused him so much hardship. He wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway, and at midnight he would have fulfilled his promise to Dumbledore.

“Well, then, that speeds things up a bit for us, given your imminent departure,” Petunia said matter of fact, “I was going to have to wake you when Vernon was asleep for this. Sit down Harry.”

Harry’s stomach fell. After all the dodging on both parts all summer long, Petunia was going to add her parting shots, perhaps to outline what a miserable life he would lead form here on, vilify herself for accepting the burden of raising him. Or perhaps endlessly drone on about how foolish his parents had been, choosing their lot in life, and how foolish he was for choosing the same fate, even put in her own nomination for sainthood for her sacrifices.

Harry sat on the ottoman, while Petunia strode to the chaise and sat, the noise of the plasticine covering crinkling as she settled.

“Harry, I won’t pretend that I…we, actually…have been anything but monsters to you your entire life. At least, for my part, had my reasons, very good ones, which I trust you will discover before too long.” She seemed clumsy, almost regretful, wringing her hands as she spoke.

She continued, “You no doubt remember how furious your Uncle was when you returned summer before last with Dudley after being attacked. He was ready at that time to cast you out. I, too, was ready to be rid of you that night, as I believed you had harmed Dudley as well. Until, you remember, the howler arrived.”

“Yes, I remember,” Harry said, wondering where this was going, but curious, even though he would have rather been in Azkaban than sitting on that ottoman across from his aunt. “It was from Dumbledore, wasn’t it.”

He had thought much about Dumbledore that summer. He had experienced many emotions about his death. At first, he denied it. How could so powerful a wizard die, leave the cause at such a critical time, when Voldemort was becoming more powerful, leave him when he needed him so much now. A thousand questions about horcruxes, about Professor Snape and why he could have been so foolish to trust him, about himself and even his parents, had entered his mind that summer. He would quickly catalog them to ask him when he returned to Hogwarts, then suddenly would realize there would no one to ask, possibly even no Hogwarts to return to. Then he was angry, for the same reasons. How dare he leave him alone to face this! Then sad, that neither he, nor anyone else, would be able to experience the pleasure of being in the presence of a man so kind, so intelligent, so honorable. He now accepted that Dumbledore was gone, forever.

He had kept up with the news through Ron, who would send him Daily Prophets on a weekly basis. There was no word of Dumbledore’s miraculous return, no story of his supreme intellect of feinting death until the coast was clear. There was a very flattering obituary, then in the couple of weeks that followed, many editorials and testaments to his accomplishments, how sorely he would be missed. As the weeks moved along, however, these articles became shorter and relegated to higher numbered pages, as more “pressing” news on “Where is YKW? Is he really back?”, “A profile of Severus Snape, ‘former’ Death Eater. Wanted man. What went wrong?” and British National quidditch playoffs took over the front page.

There were also many stories relaying commentary from important figures in the Ministry as to whether Hogwarts would reopen for what would have been his seventh, and final, year there. He was surprised when he read the headline of an interview by Rita Skeeter with none other than Delores Umbridge titled “Umbridge says YES to Hogwarts, throws her hat in”. It went on to quote Umbridge as saying things like “…valuable institution, nay invaluable. Our children must be schooled in the proper use of magic…security, of course, must be tightened. The previous administration, obviously, was very lax in its implementation. Saw it first hand during my brief stint, and tried to address it…Professor McGonnagall is a fine educator, to be sure, but the administration of Hogwarts, especially during these trying times, should be steered by someone with experience in such matters and knowledge of the ministries directives…wholesale changes are needed. Following in the vein of the previous headmaster would be, in my opinion, a grave mistake…” Harry felt secure in his decision not to return. If this would be the condition upon which Hogwarts would reopen, he didn’t want any part of it.

Harry returned his attentions to Petunia, who had been struggling to determine where to go next.

“You remember what the howler said, then?”, ignoring his inquiry about its author.

“Yes. ‘Remember my last’. You never said what it meant, or who sent it, or even why you would be receiving an owl post in the first place.”

“It was, of course, from Albus Dumbledore,” she said, as if she was pleased to confirm what Harry had already surmised. “He was the one who left you here the night your parents were killed. He left you, along with a note as to how you came to be there. This note, to be frank.” She jutted out her arm abruptly, her hand clutching a tattered envelope, the flap open enough that Harry could see a letter still rested inside.

Harry sat astonished for a moment. He didn’t know if his aunt was thrusting it toward him to take it, or simply to introduce it to the conversation. After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Harry rose to take the letter from Petunia. Petunia’s released the letter into Harry’s, and she said to him. “You may read it, but you may not keep it.”

Harry turned to go up to his room, but his aunt’s voice stopped him. “Here!” Harry turned back and placed himself back on the ottoman.

Harry looked at the envelope. The paper was thick, and a brownish, red spot remained where the wax seal has been. After these almost seventeen years, he could still make out the ornate “H” from the Hogwarts crest. He turned the envelope to its front.

Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Dursley
4 Privet Drive
Little Whinging
Surrey

It was Dumbledore’s writing. It was more clear, more crisp than the notes he had received last year, informing Harry of his next lesson. But it was definitely Dumbledore. He wanted nothing more than to read it, be in touch with Dumbledore again, see his handwriting again. He had so looked forward to receiving his letters last year, longing to see that handwriting on the outside of an envelope. But this was different.

This was written that night, the night his parents were killed. This note was not written with anticipation, with fervor. This note was written, Harry was sure, with much hesitancy and reservation, deliberately and begrudgingly. He was also being forced to read it and control his emotions, given his aunt had just made it clear that he was to read it there, with her present, or not at all.

Harry carefully extracted the note. Where the back of the note was exposed by the open flap was darker than the rest. It appeared to have stains, water stains, in various hues of age, and he could feel the indentations of the script inside, evidently put there by a bird’s quill feather. He opened the once-folded letter and began to read.

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley,

It is with solemnity, regret and my deepest sympathy that I must inform you that your sister, Lily, and her husband, James, have died this evening. Their deaths are mourned throughout our community, and their extraordinary lives will be the source of inspiration for all those who had the pleasure to know and love them, and for generations that will follow who learn of their most noble deeds in the quest to preserve that which is good and true.

I deliver to you this night, their only son, Harry, who Lily valiantly and successfully defended to her last breath. Care for him, as I am sure Lily would have cared for your own, had the roles been reversed.

Enclosed you will find a key to a safe box located at Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. I was asked to pass it along to you by Harry’s godfather. It can only be opened by one who is related by blood. Therefore, you Petunia, being Harry’s last living relative, are the only person who can access it. I trust you remember the way to Diagon Alley.

Your humblest,

Albus Dumbledore
Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Harry added a new water stain to the letter, a tear gently dropping from the end of his nose onto the parchment. It was then he realized that his joined the others, which his aunt had shed and set there over the years. It was at that moment he knew that his aunt had loved her sister, had mourned her death, continued to, and still did.

Harry was brought back by a tissue emanating from a box in front of his face. Aunt Petunia had risen, and was gently dabbing her own tears away from her cheeks. Harry took one and wiped away his own tears. Then he gently blew his nose into it, at the same moment Petunia did the same. They uncomfortably chuckled at each other, after which Petunia seemed to right herself and continued.

“Harry, I dearly loved Lily. She and I were sisters,” Harry could tell she was fighting back more tears, “She and I were very close until she received her letter of acceptance to Hogwarts. Well, actually it was the summer she returned from her first year.

“I was actually just as excited about her attending. I thought it very thrilling. That school year, she wrote me every week, told me of her classes, as much as she could, or was allowed, about boys she had met and who she was in love with that week. It seemed from her letters that she was much sought after. I must admit that I began to feel my life was mundane in comparison, and became a good deal jealous. I stopped writing as much back, and by the time she returned that first summer, I was determined to show her that life had gone on without her. I had hoped that she would retaliate by begging me to let her hang around with me and my friends.”

Aunt Petunia blew her nose again, then continued, “But she didn’t. She took to reading as much as she could from those dusty old books, quarantining herself away in her room, just as stubborn as I was being. Then life and other pursuits seemed to keep us from reconciling properly, she being away almost ten months a year, and I taking most summers away at some foolish camp or retreat…Harry are you listening?”

Harry was, but not completely. Harry’s mind was racing. The first part of the letter he had completely expected, although he wasn’t prepared for the emotion it would evoke. But the last of it shook him. A safe box at Gringott’s? This he knew nothing of! What had been in it! And how would Aunt Petunia know how to get to Gringott’s?

“What, uh, oh, yeah, heard every word,” Harry dodged, “What was in the safe box, Aunt Petunia?”

Aunt Petunia suddenly turned the reddest shade of infuriated he had ever seen, “Excuse me! Here I sit, pouring my soul out to you, and you are preoccupied with the promise of money and keepsakes in some horrible, goblin-infested bank. Just for your information, you ungrateful git, exactly what I have been espousing these few minutes, what you have been summarily ignoring, it seems, has been what has kept you, all of us, alive and safe for these seventeen years. And, to answer your completely misguided and insensitive question, I have no idea what is contained in that box!”

Harry stared at Petunia with his mouth wide open. How did she know of goblins? Well, that she could have known from his mother, of course. But how had she known that Gringott’s was run by Goblins? And why wouldn’t she tell him what was there, in that safe box, which, by his accounts, was probably left there for him in the first place. How did she know of the things that had kept him safe all these years, and what did she mean “kept all of us alive and safe.”

“I never even considered for a moment going back down to that filthy place again after I visited it with your mother before her first start of term at that school,” Aunt Petunia’s indignation showed through for the school that Harry could now see was the projection for his mother turning her affections away from her. “She wanted me to go along with her to gather up all her items for school. I was thrilled to do so at first, but upon entering that alley, I saw things that made my stomach turn. Shops with dead things hanging in jars, eyes floating in gelatin, and those goblins, foul and rude creatures.”

Aunt Petunia seemed as if she would be sick for a moment. She closed her eyes briefly, as if trying to make it go away by not looking at it, and she continued, “Lily, on the other hand, was completely transfixed with everything, almost giddy. I knew then that this would be something that she and I could not share. And, as time wore on, I feared that her passions for witchcraft and magic would consume her, be her undoing if she let it. And I proved to be correct.”

Harry thought of arguing the point with her, that it was Voldemort, or Snape, or Pettigrew, not magic itself, that had condemned his mother and father, but he knew that it was futile, and she did have a point. Plus, he needed more answers from her.

“And Vernon would not have allowed me to go there, anyway. Of course, both of us wondered what might be there. Perhaps money intended to assist us in your upbringing, important papers and such. But neither of us would dare, given what other possibilities that box may contain. I wasn’t wholely sure that Lily had directed anyone to deliver you to us if something should become of her and James. After all, they did not leave a will.”

“Perhaps it was in that safe box!” Harry retorted through his teeth, his jaws clenched, in so much fury that he had to dig his fist into the back of his knee to resist the urge to pounce on his aunt. He had to keep his composure, he had to find out where the key was.

Petunia shuffled uncomfortably, as it was obvious that she had not considered this possibility. Her demeanor changed, aware that Harry had become very upset. Harry took this as his opportunity.

“Where’s the key, Aunt Petunia.”

Petunia rose and walked into the kitchen. She returned holding her key ring, and strode over to her china cabinet. She chose a key, unlocked its glass front doors, and opened it. With the same key, she unlocked the bottom-most drawer, opened it, and then slid it out completely from its slot. She turned it over, and taped to the bottom was a key and what appeared to be a small, glass vile stopped with a cork.

Petunia brought them both over to Harry, but only gave him the key. On it was the Gringott’s stamp and the number 7. Petunia returned to the chaise and sat.

“Take out your wand.”

Harry stared back at his aunt in amazement. Harry put the key in his pocket quickly, then did as he was instructed. The letter was still in his other hand.

“Now, tap the letter and say “Sister”.

Did he dare? What was Petunia up to?

“You know I can’t perform magic outside of School.” Harry turned to look at the time. It was just before 10:30. “At least not for another couple of hours.”

“Dumbledore assured me that this magic was innocuous enough. It is too weak to be detected,” she said. “And don’t worry, it won’t destroy the letter. Furthermore, it’s much more important to me than it is to you, at least sentimentally. I have no wish for it to be destroyed.’

With that, Harry tapped the letter. “Sister,” he uttered. Nothing happened for a few seconds, then one word slowly materialized at the bottom of the letter.

“(over)”

It was, again, in Dumbledore’s hand, but it was in the faintest yellow. Harry looked up at his aunt, who motioned with her hand to turn it over.

Harry did so, and he read the following, in the same hand and faint, yellow ink.

“Petunia. This is written in personal-specific ink. It is used to write from one solitary person to just another solitary person. Only you can read this, so do not fear that your husband will notice. Another can only read this if you allow them to, and even so only if they are a wizard or witch of some capacity and have a wand, and only after uttering a charm, as password if you will, which is of your choosing alone.

Your sister loved you very much, please know that. She also loved James very much, and loved this boy enough to die for him.

I must warn you that you and your family are in grave peril. This has to do with Harry, but has nothing to do with whether you decide to care for him. To the point, you and your family will be much safer should you decide to take him in.

Please allow me the opportunity to explain this to you more clearly personally. I will call at your home again in tomorrow, at precisely two hours after noon. I trust you will see to it that you are alone.

A.D.

P.S. In case you forget, for the bowl it is “Reveal your secrets”

Harry looked up from the letter. It was becoming clear to him now. “Remember my last!” It wasn’t this letter. Petunia had met with Dumbledore the next day. That had been their last communication. It could explain why Petunia did not chuck him out that night two years ago when she received the howler, why she knew about dementors and the name Voldemort, why she insisted that he stay.

“Harry, I did meet with Dumbledore the next day,” she said. She held the vile out if front of her, “He said to give you this on two conditions. The first, not before your seventeenth birthday and, the second, only if he were not alive upon the occasion.”

With that, Harry grasped the vile. It contained a short, silver strand which moved like mercury against the glass. It was a memory, one of Dumbledore’s.

“He also asked me to give you this,” she said, as she rose and headed back toward the china cabinet. She took a brief detour to grab her foot stool, then placed it down in front of the cabinet. She climbed, and reached up for a hideous, ceramic bowl that was adorned with squirrels chasing nuts and finches carrying off worms. She brought it over and set it on the table between them.

Harry did not need an explanation for this one. He immediately tapped the bowl. “Reveal your secrets.” Immediately, the bowl turned to stone, strange etchings banding it on its outer rim. It was a pensieve!

Harry had almost forgotten the conversation. Petunia then continued, “He explained to me about this Lord Voldemort, that he had killed your parents and had tried to kill you, but failed, and seemed to have killed himself in the process. But Dumbledore said that he did not believe that Voldemort was dead, that he knew that he would come back, search for you and try to destroy you.”

Harry heard her, but all the time more pieces were falling into place in his mind. All along Harry had thought, deep down in her soul, that Petunia had to have cared for him a little. Why else would she have taken him in?

“He said that this Voldemort would stop at nothing to find you if he returned. He would know that you were protected, possibly spirited away by wizards. He would search out his blood relatives for information on your whereabouts first, knowing they were non-magical and would be no match for his powers. He would kill them once he knew where you were, or if he was convinced they did not know. But if I agreed to keep you, raise you, he could protect us…”

She hadn’t done it to help Harry! She had done it to save herself, her foul husband, and that lump of a son of hers!

“You *****,” Harry exploded at her. He shoved the vile in his other pocket and grabbed the pensieve, and sprinted up to what, in just one hour, would no longer be his room.

End, Chapter 2

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



CHAPTER 3

Still on Post

Harry bound up the stairs three at a time. He was intent on locking himself in his room until he could leave this dreadful house, these dreadful people. He found the door, ran in and shut it with a “SLAM” which rattled the dining room crystal chandelier as much as it rattled Hedwig, who started from napping.

He locked the door, then moved to his trunk. He put the pensieve, the key and the vile in it and shut it, then sat on his bed, fuming.

“I’ll show her! I’ll show the lot of them!”, he thought to himself. He jumped up, produced his wand, and started quickly jinxing everything in the room: the door with an unbreakable lock, the bed with one that made it shake violently when anyone laid upon it, a charm that if any muggle stepped foot in the room, a torrent of rain began to fall in the room.

Then, Harry heard the grandfather clock in the entranceway drone out the Westminster chime in four, full quatranes, followed by the most beautiful twelve “gongs” he had ever heard.

Harry grabbed his trunk in one hand, Hedwig in the other, and clunked down the stairs as loudly as he could. Aunt Petunia was sitting in the front room, still gazing stupidly at the letter that Dumbledore had written almost seventeen years before. He felt no remorse for his aunt; she had done nothing but prolonged his agony, made him live it every day he wasn’t at Hogwarts, or the Burrow.

The Burrow. The mere thought that he would be there in just a few hours gave him the only hint of happiness at that moment. He reached the door, at which Petunia uttered, “Don’t you come back here, ever again!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t!” Harry shouted back as he grasped the knob, feeling a freedom he had never experienced in all of his life. Free, he was finally free of these wretched people.

He flung the door open, darted out, and smacked right into something, bowling it over. His Uncle Vernon look up at him, sprawled on the stoop to Number 4, Privet Drive. Instead of tearing into him for being so clumsy, not paying mind to where he was headed, Uncle Vernon simply said to him, “Allo, ‘Arry, where you off to?”

Harry noticed that Uncle Vernon’s gaze was glassy, and his speech was slurred. Uncle Vernon was snockered!

Uncle Vernon grappled around the ground with one hand, determined, it seemed, to find the keys that he was just about, undoubtedly, to put into the lock. It seemed to escape him that the keys rested in his other hand. Upon realizing they were there, Uncle Vernon righted himself, stood, then staggered a bit, and caught himself with the door frame.

Aunt Petunia came running to Uncle Vernon’s aid, helping him through the doorway and into the foyer, a look of utter disgust on her face as she propped him up.

“Vernon, have you been drinking?”, Aunt Petunia exclaimed. “What on earth has possessed you!”, as Harry stood, just past the stoop, looking back at the spectacle.

At her words, Uncle Vernon seemed to remember something he had forgotten, then, all at once, began to sob into his wife’s shoulder uncontrollably.

“Vernon, what in the world has happened!” Aunt Petunia said, clearly struggling to keep Uncle Vernon up under his immense weight.

Without lifting his hear from her shoulder, Uncle Vernon said, “Petunia! I’VE BEEN SACKED!”

At this, Harry burst out laughing. Both of them turned toward Harry with the most shocked expression on their faces, as Harry turned to run down the street to meet the Knight bus, feeling particularly pleased with himself.

Harry darted down Privet Drive, thinking back on the charms and jinxes he had put on the room, and laughed to himself, thinking about Aunt Petunia attempting open the door, to no avail. Then, Uncle Vernon busting it down and being doused with a torrent of rain. But then he thought about how the Ministry would react, how they had admonished him in the past for performing underage magic, how he had only nearly escaped reproach in the past, and every time only with Dumbledore running interference. He also came to realize that he had, once again, allowed his emotions to control his actions, his anger to control them. Dumbledore was no longer there to save him from himself, and he resolved at that moment to try better to control himself. After all, he was no longer underage. He could no longer use his age as an excuse. He alone would have to answer to his weaknesses.

As he rounded the corner of the block of Privet Drive he could still hear Aunt Petunia excitedly trying to extract more information from Uncle Vernon, who was still sobbing rather loudly between his boisterous explanations. All the while, Petunia was trying to keep his voice at a respectable level, fearing the neighbors might hear this dreadful and socially damaging news.

Then, Harry heard a loud “CRACK” split the night air. It came from behind him.

Harry stopped dead in his tracks. He knew the sound, knew what it meant. Someone had apparated right there, right in the middle of Little Whinging. He had to chose there, in that split second. Was it friend or foe? Should he flee, or should he turn to see who it was?

Harry whipped around, and immediately heard the shrill cries of his aunt and uncle, then heard their door slam. The fool, whoever it was, had apparated directly in front of them!

Harry saw a box fly backward from the door and land on the sidewalk just in front of the Dursley’s. It was…a gift? The box was wrapped rather haphazardously with newspaper, and was adorned with a crudely tied bow of what appeared to be twine. Then he noticed that a photograph on the paper was moving.

Harry stood there for a moment, unsure what to do. He still did not see anyone, but he was sure that someone would go to retrieve the gift. Then, he heard a rather high-pitched voice.

“Oh, I’ve missed Harry Potter! He’s left before I could deliver his present!” The voice was soon met with a body, a short, wrinkled body, wrapped in badly torn cloth, which moved sullenly toward the box. Harry could make out the figures large ears as its long fingers curled around the box and lifted it up off the ground, and Harry noticed he was wearing one sock on his left foot.

“Dobby!”, Harry exclaimed, as hushed as possible but loudly enough for him to hear. The odd creature spun around, and a smile grew large on his face as he recognized Harry. And, with a “SNAP” of his long finger, he was gone. A split second later, Dobby the house elf apparated with a “CRACK” next to Harry.

Dobby thrust the box at Harry, “Mister Harry Potter! Dobby is happy, very much happy, to see you. And I am glad, indeed, to present Harry Potter with his birth day gift!”

“Dobby, what are you doing here,” Harry exclaimed. Dobby bowed his head, obviously concerned that he had done something wrong.

“I thought Harry Potter would like his gift.” Dobby leered up at Harry bashfully, but Harry knew that the gift was not all Dobby was there to deliver. Dobby seemed to reconsider his false pretenses, “Oh, Kreacher said it was wrong to come here, that muggles may see me. But Harry Potter needs my help. Harry has left the house where he is safe and is safe no more, there or anywhere, now he is of age.”

It was just then that Harry realized what Dobby already knew. In his rush to extricate himself from the Dursley’s, and given the events that had preoccupied his mind that night, he had forgotten the danger into which he had put himself. He was out in the streets, unprotected and alone. Just as he had been when he first saw Sirius, and as he had been with Dudley that night they were attached by the dementors. What was he thinking? He hadn’t been, at least not any further ahead than the next five minutes, all evening.

“Harry Potter should not be in the streets alone,” Dobby said, “I should accompany you to somewhere safe.”

Harry was now extremely glad to see Dobby.

“Thank you Dobby,’ Harry said, and accepted the gift from him. “I am supposed to meet Mr. Weasley, Ron’s father, in about six hours at the Leaky Cauldron. I was headed to the Knight bus to take me there. Can you carry Hedwig for me?”

Harry handed Hedwig to Dobby, then grasped his trunk and darted around toward the bit of sidewalk that he had met up with the Knight bus for the first time five years ago. But he noticed Dobby was not following.

Dobby stood staring at Harry, not moving from his spot on the pavement. Dobby said, “Mr. Harry Potter is very kind, very kind indeed. I would like to accompany you, but,” his eyes seemed to tear up a bit, “unfortunately ‘my kind’ are not permitted on the Knight bus.”

Anger and frustration welled up in Harry. Harry had come to learn that the wizarding community held prejudices, their prejudice against muggles and mudbloods second only to theirs against creatures such as elves. And Harry couldn’t apparate yet. He couldn’t even start to learn until he was seventeen, today in fact. But then, Harry had an idea.

“Dobby, when you apparate, is it the same as when a wizard does it?” Harry inquired. “What I mean, is, when wizards apparate, they can take someone along with them.”

“Yes, sir.”

Good, take my hand and apparate to the Leaky Cauldron,” Harry said.

“As you wish.”

Dobby took Harry’s hand in his, and with the other snapped his fingers. With that, Harry felt a tug at his belly button, and they were moving together, very fast, through London, and both came down with a thud in front of the entrance to The Leaky Cauldron.

Harry and Dobby crossed the threshold of The Leaky Cauldron. The pub was empty, with the lone exception of the barman, who was cleaning his mugs behind the bar.

“Sorry, closed for the night. Last call was some thirty minutes ago,” he said automatically before he had even turned properly to see who had strode in at this hour of the night.

Then, he met Harry’s gaze, then glaced just higher to his forehead to be sure, then exclaimed, “Well, blimey, if it isn’t Mr. Harry Potter! To what do I owe the plea…,” his greeting was cut short as he noticed Dobby peering around Harry. “Beg pardon, buttheir kind not allowed…”

Harry interjected quickly, “Oh, he’s mine. Inherited him from my uncle. Since it’s my seventeenth birthday today, he mine now, all legal. Didn’t realize he wasn’t allowed in, given I’ve had him just an hour or so.”

The barman returned his volley, “There allowed through, just not allowed in, the pub. Do you have a room?”

“No, but I was hoping you had one to let for the rest of the night,” Harry said. “I’m meeting with Mr. Arthur Weasley of the Ministry here in about six hours, but we arrived a bit early.”

“I’d say you’re early! Well, see Mrs. Parson’s at the desk, through there. I think there may be a room available” the barman said. “And, happy birthday to you. Seventeen you say,” the barman pondered,” Of age now, eh? See you don’t go jinxing up everything while you’re here just ‘cause you’re legal now.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you,” Harry said, as the two started across the pub to the corridor that led to the reception area.

“And, by the way, if he’s your property and all, he ought to be carrying that for you, shouldn’t he now?” The barman nodded toward the trunk, which Harry was dragging behind him across the floor. The barman gave Harry a wink and a smile.

“Uh, oh yeah.” Harry turned to Dobby, “Carry this, would you?”

Dobby gave Harry an understanding look and took the trunk from Harry. He was starting to understand Hermoine’s disdain for the treatment of elves at the hands of wizarding folk.

They entered the room at the top of the stairs. Harry plopped himself down on the bed, while Dobby set the trunk down at the foot. Then, Dobby carefully set Hedwig down on the nightstand. Now that he was sitting, Harry realized how incredibly exhausted he was, and he would be meeting Mr. Weasley in just five hours.

Harry looked over to Dobby, who was standing there, staring at him, almost expectantly. “Uh, well, thank you Dobby. You were a great help tonight.” Dobby simply nodded. “Um, well, I suppose I am OK…here...now… Dobby.” Dobby just wasn’t taking the hint. Harry wanted nothing more than to sleep, for Dobby to bid him a fond farewell and good luck, and SNAP out of the room, but he didn’t. Harry saw Dobby’s eyes shift to the box that Harry had set down beside him on the bed.

Harry felt a little embarrassed that he had forgotten the present. After all, he had carried it the whole way. He remembered the other gifts he had received from elves before, and he was much to tired to deal with something else dangerous or messy.

Harry picked up the present carefully and cautiously untied the twine, then ripped the paper off. Inside was a smaller box, which looked to be just longer than one that would hold a bracelet or a fine pen. Harry opened the box, shielding his eyes a bit with their lids in case something horrible shot out.

Harry was not prepared for what he saw resting in cotton inside. It was a wand, an old one.

“Is Harry Potter pleased with is present?” Dobby looked as if he would burst with anticipation.

Harry stared at it for a moment, astonishment clearly having overcome him. Then he said, “Where on earth did you get this. This is Dumbledore’s wand!”

Dobby couldn’t tell if Harry was pleased or not. In fact, Harry wasn’t sure if he was pleased or not either. He had not thought about what had happened to Dumbledore’s wand. But, now that he thought about it, he didn’t remember seeing it next to Dumbledore on the ground that night, on the grass beneath the tower. He only saw the locket, which Harry still had. It hadn’t been snapped in two at the funeral, as he had heard was custom. In fact, he could remember the last time he saw Dumbledore’s wand.

“I hope you are pleased, Harry Potter. I picked it up, from the ground that night, that horrible night. Picked it up after Master Malfoy and the others bound down the stairs of the tower, after they killed him, after you revealed yourself and followed them.”

Harry thought he was dreaming. “You were there? You saw what happened? I didn’t see you.”

“Nor did we you, until you revealed yourself,” Dobby said, seeming confused that Harry did not understand why he had been there that night. “We were invisible. That was the best way for Master Malfoy to not know we were there, carrying out your orders.”

Harry had completely forgotten. With thoughts of Dumbledore, of returning to the Burrow for the wedding, of horcruxes and Hogwarts, he had forgotten that he had sent Dobby and Kreacher on a mission, a mission to tail Draco and update him on what he was up to.

They had been there that night. They had seen the whole thing. Draco disarm Dumbledore, the other Death Eaters arrive, and then Snape…Harry stopped thinking of it. He couldn’t bear to relive it in his mind again.

Harry looked down at the wand again, saw it for the first time that close. It was exceedingly simple, given that the wizard who used it was so complex. But, then again, perhaps that was why it was so simple.

“Thank you, Dobby, very much,” Harry said quietly, “not only for giving it to me, but also for having the presence of mind to fetch it.”

“I know how much you admired him, Harry Potter. He was a great wizard, and known to be very kind and gentle to elves. That is why so many coveted a position at Hogwarts. I understand he saw to it that elves were treated with respect.”

“Thank you, again, Dobby.” Harry thought for a moment. This couldn’t be right. He couldn’t keep this wand, could he? He should hand it over to someone, shouldn’t he? But who? His first thought was of Mr. Ollivander, but he was sure he would have heard if he had been found. He had read no such news in the Daily Prophets over the summer. In fact, now that he thought about it, there hadn’t been any mention of Ollivander at all. Mr. Weasley? No, he’d just want to hand it into the ministry, which would assure that it would come up missing.

Harry decided that the best course of action would be to put it in his trunk for safe keeping and ask the one person would who be sure she knew exactly what to do with it… Hermoine.

“Now, you should sleep,” Dobby said to Harry. “I shall wake you at 5:30, one half hour before you are to meet Master Weasley’s father. That should give me enough time for my report.”

His report? What was he…he hadn’t….they hadn’t.

“Dobby, have you and Kreacher still been tailing Draco! All summer long!”

“Of course, we have,” Dobby said, rather boastfully, “All summer long. Also, many thanks for allowing me to sleep. I assure you, however, I was awake and well attending whenever Master Malfoy was awake. And he has certainly been busy.”

Well, that was that. Now Harry knew it would be a sleepless night.

Dobby explained that he and Kreacher had tried to follow Malfoy up the stairs that night, but met with an invisible barrier that kept them from continuing up. They had cowered while others showed up, fighting fiercely all around them. Then, they saw others go to the stairs. One waved his wand at it, and he was able to pass through. He was waiting to allow others through the barrier. He and Kreacher saw this as their opportunity to flee the fighting around them, and managed to pass through the barrier just ahead of the last of the others.

“So they hadn’t seen it all,” Harry thought, “They only saw from when the Death Eaters arrived.” At least they could corroborate the fact that it was, indeed Snape, who had killed Dumbledore.

“Then we fled down to follow Master Malfoy, which was difficult, indeed, with all the fighting,” Dobby recounted. “We kept up with them until they reached the gates at Hogwarts, until they disappeared. We apparated just behind them, but could not find Master Draco.”

So, Dobby and Kreacher had both seen the fighting on the lawn, were there. They had seen him and Hagrid trying to stop Snape, and had stood by while Snape countered each of Harry’s attempts to attack him.

“Dobby, you saw Professor Snape attacking me that night?” Harry questioned, crossly.

“Indeed, I did,” said Dobby. “I was much aggrieved at it!”

“He had no idea you were there,” Harry fumed. “Why didn’t you help me?”

“Because, Harry Potter asked Dobby not to ever try and save his life again,” he said, matter of fact, proudly, “and Dobby obeys Harry Potter to the last!”

Harry then remembered, and he couldn’t be upset with Dobby. He had asked him this after the quiddich match his second year, when Dobby had sent the rouge bludger at him.

“Dobby,” Harry said, resigned, “you have permission from this day forth that, if you see my life being threatened, to do what you can to save it, okay?”

“Oh, thanks to Harry Potter. I would not like to see him harmed.”

“Anyway,” Harry returned to the story, “you couldn’t find Malfoy? I thought you said you and Krecher had been tailing him all summer long?”

“We did search for him, a full fortnight, but could not find him. He was not at his home and never returned there.”

“Then, how did you find him again?” Harry was getting frustrated trying to extract the information from Dobby like this, but elves had a way of answering with just the information required.

“Oh, Krecher received a message from his mistress, and when we arrived, he was there as well. I have been so worried about Kreacher’s state of mind since his master’s death. Trying to serve two masters is not in an elves nature.”

His mistress! Harry was Kreacher’s master! Two masters!

Then it came to him. He has discussed this possibility with Dumbledore last year, the possibility that the elf may not honor the will left by Sirius, giving Harry his possessions, that an elf may not honor the bequest of his master in favor of following rightful progression of family property. But that meant…

“Kreacher has been taking commands from Bellatrix LeStrange, hasn’t he Dobby,” Harry said, almost not wanting to know the answer.

“As much as he can, sir, yes,” Dobby said. “As I say, it has been difficult for poor Kreacher. Elves are, with of course the exception of your truly,” he boasted, “dependent upon their masters for direction. When an elf doubts the source of his direction, ‘tis a difficult taks for an elf to determine what to do. I have seen elves left masterless die for starvation, simply because of the lack of someone commanding them to eat. Given his masters continual absence, Kreacher begrudgingly learn some independence, so much so that when Master Sirius did return they were constantly at odds.”

Dobby continued, “However, Kreacher is on the other side of a coin now, has to choose what commands to follow. He is conflicted about who his master is. One the one hand, his old master’s “command” was to serve you. However, on the other, rightful progression should lead him to follow the commands of Miss Bellatrix.” Dobby paused, and shook his head, clearly unable to reconcile to conflict as well.

Then he continued, “Oh, it’s easy enough, given plenty of time, to satisfy more than one master should the commands not conflict with each other. But should they conflict, given most elves inability to think for themselves…Elves can make independent decisions, given no guidance. But, an elves primary motivation is to serve and, given conflicting commands, they lack the ability to choose a course of action. I fear for Kreacher should this situation come to pass.

“I have even heard that some wizards have made sport of this, call it ‘Follow the Bouncing Elf’. The wizard’s master tells his elf to follow the commands of another, then that wizard commands him to obey a third, then that wizard commands the elf back to the first. Then, they take turns commanding the elf to do opposite ends of the same task, such as one saying “pick up that spoon”, the other “don’t pick up that spoon.”, leading the elf into much consternation, usually leading the elf to tears, sometimes madness if prolonged.”

Harry couldn’t help but chuckle to himself, given the scene playing out in his head, but quickly his amusement turned to nausea when he put himself in the elf’s place. Then he realized that he, himself, had been the elf in the game most of his life.

“Has Kreacher been asked to perform conflicting tasks, by me and Bellatrix?” Harry inquired, partly for Kreacher’s concern, but also partly for concern for himself.

“No,” Dobby said, “but I fear it is only a matter of time.” Dobby continued, “After we found Master Draco and his mother, they were staying with Mrs. Bellatrix, we stayed there with them. They went nowhere, they were hiding, waiting for their orders, they said. I had to stay invisible the entire time, and luckily Mrs. Bellatrix never suspected or asked whether Kreacher was alone.

“Master Draco studied with Mrs. Bellatrix and his mother. They mocked him for his lack of knowledge of the Dark Arts. But he learned quickly. He has become very powerful. Then they received a message in the fire that said ‘He is ready.’

“Master Draco and his mother immediately apparated, and Kreacher and I followed as you instructed, invisible so we would not be seen,” Dobby said. “We found ourselves on a cliff, high above the ocean. Then, another man showed up, carrying a cauldron and a sack. He had a silver hand.”

“Wormtail!” Harry thought. It must have been a meeting of the Death Eaters. And Draco was invited! He knew he had been right last year, knew Malfoy had joined them.

“They went into a cave. We tried to follow them, but when we reached the entrance, we were met with an invisible barrier. We saw them turn, and we feared we would be found. At that, we apparated back to the LeStrange house.

“Mrs. Bellatrix was furious at Kreacher. She asked where he had gone, why he had left. Kreacher said he was following orders, orders to follow Draco. Mrs. Bellatrix said those were not her orders; who’s orders was he following. Kreacher said ‘my other master, Harry Potter.’ ”

Harry’s heart leapt down to his stomach. She knew, Bellatrix knew. Knew Kreacher was taking commends from Harry, knew he had ordered Kreacher to tail Malfoy.

“What did she do then, Dobby,” Harry said, fearing the answer would be unpleasant.

“She smiled at Kreacher and said, ‘Kreacher, I AM your master, and you will continue to obey Harry Potter.’ “

Harry was confused. What was she up to? He was too tired to figure it out now. He needed to rest. But, at the very least, he had a leg up on Bellatrix now. He knew she knew, but she didn’t know he knew.

Too much had happened in the past few hours, and he was exhausted. He needed rest, needed sleep.

“Dobby, please go back to the LeStrange’s. Please look after Kreacher,” Harry now felt terrible he had inadvertently put Kreacher in this predicament, “but tell him not to come unless I call for him. That is very important. And keep yourself hidden. And, thanks again for the present. I can not think of a better one.”

“Of course. Good night, and Happy Birthday, Harry Potter.” And, with a “SNAP”, he was gone.

Harry fell back on the bed, and thought of everything that had happened that night. Petunia and Uncle Vernon (he chuckled again to himself when his uncle’s voice ran in his head “I’ve been sacked!”), the vile, the pensieve, Dumbledore’s wand, Kreacher and Dobby, and the key.

Harry had to sleep, had to get some rest. After all, he had to convince Mr. Weasley in the morning to stay, stay in London just a few more hours, just enough time for Gringott’s to open, just enough time to see what his parents had left, what Sirius had meant for Aunt Petunia to fetch.

Harry drifted off, knowing he would be awakened much too soon.

End Chapter 3

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:45 pm.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 1:35 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Blood Brothers

Harry gazed into Ginny’s eyes, which were shimmering with anticipation. Warm sunlight beamed down from the sky, adding to the heat between them. Harry cradled the back of her head in his hand, running his fingers through her auburn hair. Her essence met his nose, hints of jasmine and honeysuckle filled his soul. Her full weight was upon him.

A light breeze swept through the Burrow, and passed them there, under the old, white Oak that was just far enough from the house for no one to see. She shuddered slightly, and they both giggled bashfully.

Harry couldn’t imagine what he had been thinking. How could he break it off with her? They had been through so much, the two of them. Had fought together, laughed together, cried together.

He was at the place he had loved the most, with the person he dreamed of being with the most. And, for the first time, they were alone, completely and utterly, together.

“Harry,” she said, as she closed her eyes, and moved her lips down to meet his. Harry closed his eyes too, his stomach in knots but with butterflies flitting there as well.

“Ginny,” he said, and moved his head up to meet her lips…

“Whoa, mate!”

Harry sprung awake as Ron backed away from him, a look of revulsion over his face as he wiped his mouth and spat.

“What was that about!” Ron shouted, “Stupid git, you nearly kissed me!”

Harry bolted out of bed, thankful that he was still fully dressed. “Sorry, must have been dreaming.”

“Not about me, I hope!” Ron countered, as he found a seat in the chair in the corner. The shock had worn off now, “Sorry for smacking you, but you gave me a right start!”

Harry laughed an uncomfortable laugh, and Ron followed suit. He hadn’t expected Ron to be the one to fetch him, but he was extraordinarily glad it hadn’t been Mr. Weasley.

“What are you doing here?,” Harry said. “I thought your dad was coming to get me?”

“He and Bill brought me. They got an urgent message from the Ministry last night. Seems some muggle artifacts are acting up out in Little Whinging,” said Ron, a hint of sarcasm in his voice. “Wouldn’t know anything about that, eh?”

Harry blushed a little, thinking back on the charms and jinxes he put on his room back at Privet Drive.

“Your dad’s not upset, is he?” Harry asked.

“Nah, he was glad not to have to accompany mum on their shopping anyway. Plus, Bill had to go into the Ministry, too. Scrimgeor’s got everybody’s knickers bunched with all the changes, everything going on at Hogwart’s, following up on You-Know-Who sightings, and everybody’s pulling all sorts of weird hours.” Ron got a devilish look on his face. “Heard Percy’s getting the brunt of all the work, though, being the Ministry’s right-hand patsy. Serves him right, the buggar.”

“So, your mom’s here, too?” Harry asked.

“Yea, she and Fleur are out in London proper looking for a wedding dress,” Ron answered. “Some reason, she’s determined on wearing a muggle dress. Seems to think Diagon Alley won’t have what she fancies. She wants to look at imports. Bit of a compromise, really. She wanted to go all the way to Paris to get one at first.”

“Is..?” Harry started.

Ron cut him off, “Yeah, yeah, Ginny’s with them, too,” he said sardonically. “I swear, am I the only one around who isn’t completely whipped!”

Harry cut Ron a look. Ron shuffled in his seat, knowing what Harry meant.

“Bugg off, mate,” Ron said, looking down at his shoes, his feet sifting the grime on the floor beneath them. “Haven’t heard from her all summer.”

Harry could tell Ron was devastated, but he changed the subject, seeing as his stomach was grumbling.

“I’m starved!” Harry said. “Is the kitchen open yet?”

“Open! It’s nearly lunch, Harry!”

Harry just then noticed that his room was full of sunlight.

“What time is it?”

“Nearly noon,” Ron said as he rose to head downstairs.

Noon! Gringott’s would be open. But, he was starved. He threw his invisibility cloak over his trunk, and he headed down behind Ron to fill his stomach before they set off.

He and Ron plopped down at a table in the pub. Ron grabbed a roll from the basket in front of him and shoved it in his mouth, and began to speak.

“So, ammyfig fum appm ovr smmr?” Ron said with his mouth full of bread as he reached for a glass of meade.

“Fun, no,” Harry said, “Interesting, plenty. But,listen mate, I’ve got to get to Gringott’s after we eat. When you suppose we are heading home.”

“Whenever Dad gets back from Little Whinging, I suppose. He said he should be back mid-afternoon,” said Ron. “But he said not to leave here, unless it was to go to Fred and George’s shop. Said that now you were with us, you were his responsibility, and not to let you outta my sight. Plus, you won’t be needing any money, at least not at the Burrow.”

“Look, Ron, it’s not about money,” said Harry in a hushed voice.

He told Ron everything that had happened the previous night and into the early hours of the morning. About Petunia and Dumbledore’s note, the pensieve, the memory, the safebox key, Dobby and Kreacher, and about Malfoy. He thought it better to keep Dumbledore’s wand to himself.

Ron was transfixed the entire time, continually shoving food and meade down his throat. Harry was thankful to be the one talking throughout, as he was sick of being hit in the face with food every time Ron spoke.

“Whoa, you had a busy summer, and all in one night!” Ron mused. “What you expect Malfoy’s up to?... I’ve only ever seen one pensive before, what’s it look like… Can I look at the memory with you?... Man, your aunt’s a B***H… Never heard of an elf serving two masters before…”

Harry interrupted Ron, “We’ll get to all that, but first things first, right? I’m here now, only paces from Gringott’s, and who knows when I’ll be back here again. I’ve just got to see what’s in that safe box!”

Ron’s face screwed up, “Alright then, but we’ll have to stop off at Fred and George’s first. If Dad shows up before we get back, they’ll need to cover for us.”

“Thanks, Ron,” Harry said, relieved, “Let’s go.”

Harry and Ron darted out the back of the pub to the brick wall that Hagrid had first lead him through, his first steps into his new, rightful place. Harry drew his wand and tapped the bricks in order. The wall moved away, and formed its customary arch into Diagon Alley.

Harry and Ron strode down Diagon Alley, which was less crowded than Harry had ever seen it, the hustle and bustle he remembered from years passed gone. Many of the stores were empty, some with “Closed for Summer” in their windows, some with simply “Closed.” He could see that Ollivander’s was still closed, and Florean Fortesque’s ice cream stand had been replaced with a cart manned by a hunched witch who was selling boil-removing cream. A chill ran up Harry’s spine as he passed the wand shop.

“Heard any news on Ollivander, or Fortesque?” Harry inquired, as they made their way toward Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, which seemed to be the only shop doing a brisk business, given the volume of people coming and going, the bell at the top of the door chiming for each.

“Ollivander never has showed up,” said Ron, “Dad thinks You-Know-Who may have got him. He said that last time You-Know-Who was in power, he was able to figure a way for Inferi who were wizards when they were alive to use wands.” Ron shuddered at the thought. “Imagine, dead blokes you can’t kill, walking around with wands.”

Ron was right to shudder. Harry never had the chance to describe to Ron how horrible Inferi were, and how hard they were to stop. If it hadn’t been for Dumbledore that night in the cave, he probably would be at the bottom of that horrid lake with them now and for eternity. It seemed to Harry that every foe had it’s weakness, it was finding out what it was in time that was the key.

“Fortesque’s up at St. Mungo’s though,” Ron said. “ ‘bout a month or so ago, he was walking up and down the street, here, screaming ‘Get your ice cream here, get your ice cream’, completely stark naked! Memory completely obliterated, Dad said. No idea where he’d been, or who he was, for that matter. Dad says he’s in the same ward as Lockhart.”

Harry was saddened for a moment. Florean Fortesque had always been kind to him. But then, he began to chuckle from the absurdity of it. “Must make for some interesting banter,” Harry said. “ ‘Who are you’, ‘no, idea, who are you’ , ‘pleasant day today, eh’, ‘have no bleeding idea.’”

Ron and Harry laughed as they stopped to admire the joke shop’s display window. It was full of all sorts of merchandise and signs. They could see at least two dozen patrons inside, all looking intently at their intended purchases, some of them testing them out. One man had a horn growing from his forehead, while his companion was doubled over in laughter, while three girls in Ravenclaw robes giggled while staring down at a box with the writing on it, “Whipping Cream! He love you for always! ‘Your Bidding’ will be his new middle name!”

“Decline in traffic doesn’t seem to have affected this place, eh,” Ron said, as they peered through the window.

All of a sudden, Harry felt a chill over his left shoulder. The rasp of two shallow voices breathed down on him. “Don’t turn around!” Harry and Ron turned to each other with horrified looks on their faces.

They both drew their wands and whipped around. Harry was face to face with two dementors, hovering just in front of them.

“Ohhhhh, SPIDERS,” Ron exclaimed, backing himself to the glass of the display window.

“Spiders?’ Harry thought. Then, he noticed that these dementors were not moving in, just like the one in the maze…

“Ridiculus!” Harry shouted at them both.

All of a sudden, two identical faces were staring back at them, each topped with bright red hair. They were howling with laughter.

“I wish I’d had a mirror so you two could have seen your own faces,” Fred exclaimed.

“Priceless!” George guffawed as they both fell to the ground, unable to contain their enthusiasm. “Ron, you may want to check your trousers!”

“Real funny,” Ron shouted at them, then, he glanced back at his bottom sheepishly. Content that he had not soiled himself, he said, “And to think I was looking forward to seen you lot!”

“Aw, come on, Wonnie-boy,” Fred said, getting to his feet. “A little spider doesn’t frighten you, does it!”

“That was brilliant,” Harry said in amazement. “I thought for sure you were boggarts!”

“Well, that’s the point, isn’t it,” George said, producing a small, ceramic jar with a large cork holding in its contents. He shook it, and Harry and Ron could see small, black pustules that seemed to contain a dark fluid. “ ‘Boggart Bogies’ is what were calling them.”

“Pure essence of boggart in them,” Fred continued. “Sufficiently diluted with randy meade, of course, so it’s not a dangerous dose.”

“Effect only lasts a few seconds,” said George. “But the short duration’s well worth the results! You were our first test subjects, human at least.”

“We surmised that the cat had gotten sick of us turning into a Rottweiler,” Said Fred, “figured we needed human subjects. And there you stood, all ripe for testing.”

“Yeah, well with all the money you two reportedly have been making, you would think you could hire some gineau pigs,” Ron said.

“We’re doing well enough, thank you very much,” retorted Fred, puffing out his chest.

“But we’ve got a debt to pay, haven’t we,” said George to Fred, winking.

“Certainly!” Fred shot back.

Fred and George each opened one of the two doors that led into their joke shop, “After you, Gov’ner!” They each bowed at Harry, who passed through the doors. Fred and George were careful to cut Ron off at the threshold, leaving him in their wake.

“Mister Harry Potter…and guest,” Fred shot a derisive look at Ron, “please follow us to the administrative offices!”

George whispered to them, “That would be the curtained door behind the counter.”

The four passed through to Fred and George’s office. It was a mess. Both desks were cluttered with papers, forms, fliers, purchase orders.

“Between the joke shop out front, and our government contracts for protection items in the back, were swamped!” Fred said. “But, better to be busy than bored, I always say.”

“We’ve got an advert in the Daily Prophet for an administrative assistant, but haven’t had any bites yet,” George said. “Paperwork’s not our strong suit.”

“Yeah, but it seems our products are worth the risk to come to Diagon Alley,” Fred stated. “Which brings us to the reason you are back here, Harry.”

Fred moved to a painting of a young, blonde sleeping witch on the wall. As he moved it aside, the witch in the painting awoke and laughed, “That tickles! Stop that!” Behind the painting was a wall safe.

Fred pressed his thumb against the handle, then George did the same. With that, the safe opened. All sorts of items were in the safe, pieces of jewelry, a bottle of champagne, and other things that looked to be inventions. Also inside rested a sack tied at the top with rope. George grasped it and shoved it into Harry’s hand.

“There you go mate,” he said.

“Every knut of your investment,” Fred said, “plus a hefty bit of interest on top.”

“Can’t tell you how much we appreciate you bank rolling us, Harry,” George interjected. “Don’t know what we would have done without you. Not only the money, mind, but also the belief in us. And it was nice to start off not owing goblins. Hear they can be a nasty sort if you’re late on payments.”

Harry looked back at the twins, who were smiling from ear to ear. Ron looked on, dumbfounded. Harry almost protested, but they were obviously proud of their accomplishment, so he decided to swallow his pride in favor of theirs.

“No problems, mates,” Harry said. “I’d do it again.” Harry tied the sack to his belt, knowing he would be in Gringott’s shortly, where he could deposit it.

Harry nudged Ron, who came out of his stupor. “Oh, yeah,” Ron said. “Speaking of goblins, Harry and I need to go to Gringott’s. If Dad shows up before we get back, will you cover for us?”

“Sure,” Fred said, “Don’t want to be running around Diagon Alley with THAT strapped to you for very long with the seedy characters we’ve seen around lately.”

“Uh…sure,” Ron stammered.

“Yeah, but get back quick,” George said, “It’s almost three.”

“Okay, thanks guys…and thanks again,” Harry said, tapping the sack on his belt.

“No thanks needed,” George said as they strode to the front door of the joke shop. “And, remember, anything in the shops yours for the taking! Your money’s no good here!”

“Oh, Harry, wait,” Fred said. “Got to show you this one!” Fred went back through the curtain and came back with a medal hanging from a blue and white ribbon.

“Watch this!” Fred said. He looked at George and slipped the medal around his neck. Nothing seemed to happen.

“Think you’ve got a dud there, Fred,” Ron said boastfully.

“Do I now, Ronald?” Fred said, as he turned to look at Ron. As soon as his eyes met Ron’s, Fred was suddenly not Fred anymore. He was… Ron.

“Ahhhhh!” Ron exclaimed, not in the least expecting to be staring back at himself. George died laughing.

Fred turned to Harry, looked him in the eyes. Harry was now staring back at himself. It was a very disconcerting feeling. Fred slipped the medal off his neck, and quickly turned back into himself.

“Variation on a theme, this one,” he said, holding it out to Harry. “We came across a Metamorph-Medal through a stroke of good luck, and a hefty payout, mind you.”

George continued his brother’s though, “What with Metamorph-Medals being banned by the Ministry, we had to turn it in. But not before we tinkered with it a bit. We figured out how it worked, and started making these.”

“We call them looking-glass Medals,” Fred said. “Look into someone’s eyes wearing one of these, and all of a sudden you look like the person you’re staring at.”

“But only to the one you’re staring at!” George said.

“That’s spooky, that,” said Ron.

“Here, you take it, Harry,” Fred said.

“Sure, thanks,” Harry said, as he stuffed it into his robe pocket. Ron and Harry headed into the street. Harry waved back at the twins as he and Ron walked toward Gringott’s Wizarding Bank. His stomach tensed as his mind raced, thinking to himself “What is in that safebox?”

“Hey, isn’t that Seamus?” Ron said, holding his arm out and stopping Harry. Seamus Finnegan was striding alone down Diagon Alley quickly. “Hey, Seamus!” Ron called out. Harry was happy to see Seamus, but he was growing impatient with all the distractions in getting to Gringott’s.

Seamus wheeled around and seemed to see them. But instead of waving and heading over to them, he picked up his pace, evidently intent on getting somewhere. Harry could see he was carrying a bundle of cloth or a scarf, and it looked as though something was peeking from inside it. Harry recognized it.

“Ron! In his hand!” Harry said hushed. “That’s the Opal necklace. The one that almost killed Katie Bell last year.”

“But what’s Seamus doing with it?” Ron said. By this time, Seamus was in a dead sprint, headed straight for Knockturn Alley.

“I don’t know, and I have a suspicion that’s not Seamus!” Harry said. “Let’s see if we can catch up with him!”

Harry and Ron sprinted toward Knockturn Alley. By the time they entered it, Seamus was nowhere to be seen.

“I bet I know where he’s headed,” Harry said.

“Yeah, me to,” Ron said. “Borgin and Burke’s.”

Ron and Harry hurried down the dark, cobblestone path that led to Borgin and Burke’s. As they reached the store front, they peered into the display window, crouched down so they wouldn’t be seen.

They saw Seamus at the counter, talking excitedly to Mr. Burke. No one else seemed to be in the shop. He pulled out the scarf that contained the necklace and threw it onto the counter. Mr. Burke jumped back as if he had thrown a snake in front of him, then seemed to admonish him for his behavior. Seamus seemed to pay this no mind, though, and continued his exchange, all the while darting glances over his shoulder. Then he spun around and sprinted toward the door.

Harry and Ron ducked back into a side alley. Once there, they heard the doors bell tinkle, then heard running footsteps hurrying toward the side alley. They saw Seamus rush past, heading back up toward Diagon Alley. They waited for his footfalls to die out before they emerged.

“Think he saw us just now?” Ron said, nervously.

“No, I don’t think so,” Harry said.

“What’s that necklace doing round anyway?” Ron said. “We turned it in to McGonnagall last year after the whole Katie Bell thing. I would have thought the Ministry would have it for safekeeping or purging.”

Harry was wondering the same thing as well. He thought back to that day, then remembered, “We DID give it to McGonnagall. But she gave it to Filch, remember?” Harry said. “She told him to take it to…”

“SNAPE! Oh, yeah,” Ron now remembered. “Blimey, gave it right back to a Death Eater, she did! Dumb luck, that! But, then again, no one suspected him then. Well,” Ron’s look turned embarrassed, “no one but you, of course.”

“Look, Ron, we’ve got to get that necklace,” Harry said. “We’ve got to get it back and get it to the Ministry, or maybe the Order! We can’t let it fall back into a Death Eater’s hand again!” Harry peered at Ron for a moment, then Ron understood.

“I’m not goin’ in there! And I’m certainly not going to touch THAT thing!” Ron exclaimed. “I had my fill of ‘attempted murder by dark magic’ last year, remember!”

“Come on, Ron,” Harry pleaded. “Burke has seen me before, plus I’ve got my calling card, don’t I?” Harry pointed to his scar.

“Oh, alright!” Ron resigned. “What do you want me to do?”

Harry plucked the sack from his belt and handed it to Ron. “Just go in there, glace around for a minute, then go up to the counter. Look like you’re really interested in it and ask how much.”

“How much you willing to part with,” Ron said.

“I don’t care,” Harry said back, “Offer him the lot if it takes that. I never expected to get this money back in the first place.”

“Okay,” Ron said, shrugging. “But don’t go disappearing on me, in case he tries something funny!”

“Fine. I’ll be right here. Don’t worry, go on.”

Harry peered back through the window and watched as Ron entered. Ron looked a little green and nervous as Burke said, “Oh, ‘owdy. Anything particular in mind?”

“Uh, no, thanks. Just looking” Ron said nervously as the door shut.

Harry couldn’t hear anything from inside the shop from then on. He saw Ron look around a bit more, moving slowly toward the counter where the scarf still rested. Harry could see the opal center stone peeking out a bit.

Ron finally made it to the counter, and saw Ron pretend to admire the opal, not doing a very good job of it, though. He saw Ron plop the sack of money up on the counter while talking with Mr. Burke. They exchanged words a couple of times, all the while Burke shaking his head and waving his hands at Ron.

After a moment, Ron picked up the sack and strode to the door, without the necklace.

Ron came to Harry and shrugged, “Sorry, Harry. He wouldn’t sell it. Said it wasn’t his to sell.”

Harry was disappointed, but said, “That’s alright, Ron. I suppose we’ll just have to inform the Order it’s here. Maybe Tonks, or Lupin. Or maybe your Dad.”

“No way, Harry,” Ron exclaimed. “He finds out we left Fred and George’s, let alone came down here…” Ron’s words trailed off. They began to walk away, back up to Gringott’s. Harry reached into his pocket to get the safe box key, but his hand met something else. He stopped and smiled at Ron.

“Hold on! Got an idea,” Harry said.

“Oh, great! Harry has an idea,” Ron said sarcastically.

Harry pulled out the medal Fred had given him. He took the sack back, and Ron followed him back down to the store front window.

“Ron, stay here, I’ll be right back.”

Harry headed to the door and slipped the medal around his neck. He went in, keeping his head pointed down at his feet.

“After, sir, Anything particular in mind?” Burke repeated as Harry strode over to the counter. Harry did not speak, and continued to move to the counter.

Burke’s voice was more demanding this time, but growing nervous, “Say, who are you! What you want!”

Harry reached the counter, where the Opal necklace still laid inside the scarf. Harry swung his eyes up to meet Burke’s. Burke’s face turned white, astonished, Harry knew, to be staring back at himself.

“BOO!” Harry exclaimed. At this, Burke screamed and ran for the back of his shop. Harry seized the opportunity. He opened the sack and dumped the money out. Then, he carefully picked up the scarf and necklace, placed it into the sack, and tied it shut. He could hear Burke in the back, shuffling through things, muttering, “My wand, where is it. Damn woman, always tidying up in here!”

Harry ducked out of the shop, and the door shut behind him just as a bolt of red light hit it, shattering the glass. Harry sprinted up the street, Ron just a step behind.

They rounded the corner, and ducked into a sweets shop. They looked out the front glass and saw Burke crest the hill. He glanced around, down both sides of Diagon Alley. Then, a puzzled look came across his face. Harry and Ron exchanged a glance and giggled, knowing what was going through Burke’s mind. He had crested the hill, chasing himself, and now he was doubting what he had seen. He was standing there, not knowing exactly who he was chasing!

Then, Burke turned and headed back down Knockturn Alley, back to his shop, where he would be pleased to find a pile of money. But then, he would realize the necklace was gone.

Harry stood up and tied the sack to his belt. “Come on, Ron. I need to get to Gringott’s.”

“Yeah, Dad should be back any minute.”

Harry and Ron strode down the block to the next corner where Gringott’s stood. They walked up the stairs of the snowy white building, staring up at the burnished bronze doors, beside which stood two goblins wearing uniforms of scarlet and gold. Harry turned around, looking a little uncomfortable.

“Ron,” he said, bashfully, “I don’t mean this the way it’s going to sound, but would you mind waiting out here? It’s just…I’m not sure what’s going to be in there…my parents left it and all…”

Ron stared at Harry with a glazed look, and then realization sunk in, “Oh…sure mate, no problem….I, er, I’ll just wait out here. I can see Fred & George’s from here anyway. I’ll keep an eye out for Dad.”

“Thanks, Ron,” Harry said, thankful Ron had received the hint. ‘Suppose I’ll be safe enough in here.”

“Sure mate, but hurry it up, will you?” Ron said with a smile.

Harry turned and walked up through the first set of doors. He met the second, silver set, and reminded himself of the warning there that he had first read seven years ago. Hagrid had told him then that Gringott’s was the safest place in the world, second only to Hogwarts. Now, it surely wasn’t second.

Harry walked over to the information desk as he pulled his key from his pocket. The old goblin behind the desk peered at Harry over his spectacles as he advanced. Harry reached the desk, and laid the key down that Aunt Petunia had given him.

“Here to claim the contents of this safe box, please sir.” Harry said respectfully.

The goblin looked at him suspiciously, then said, “Highly doubt you’ll claim them,” he stated. “Haven’t issued a new safe box since before you were born, I’d say by the looks of you. Only a couple still unclaimed. Last name!”

“Potter, sir.”

At this, the goblin’s eyes widened, and his eyes leapt to Harry’s forehead. His eyes widened even further when they met the scar, the shape of a lightning bolt.

“Ah, Mr. Harry Potter. Pleasure, however,” he said, as he surveyed two cards he had pulled from what looked to be a note-card holder, “neither is registered under the name “Potter”.

The goblin picked up the key, and studied it. “Yes, this is one of ours, however. Number 7. This is highly irregular.”

The goblin placed the card down on the desk in front of him, and called out, “Griphook, please!”

Harry glanced at the cards. At the top of each, he saw a number, one said 6, the other 17. His heart sank. His box wasn’t here anymore. His silly aunt had missed her opportunity. They had retired his box when his parents had died, or after some period of inactivity, or possibly the bank had claimed the contents for non-payment of fees. Harry could feel the blood rushing to his face.

The goblin turned back to Harry, and reached to claim the cards back. Harry had been staring at them the whole time, but had not been paying attention to them. As the goblin swiped them up, he thought he noticed that the card on top, the one with the number 6, had said “LONGBOTTOM”.

Harry tried to crane his neck to follow the card back, but the goblin shoved them quickly back in the box and shot Harry a suspicious look. At that moment, Harry was relieved to hear a high, graveled voice, “You called for me, sir?”

The goblin behind the desk peered at Harry for a second more, then turned to address the short goblin that had led he and Hagrid to the Sorcerer’s stone. He leaned down and whispered in Griphook’s ear. Griphook nodded his understanding, his expression not changing.

“Mister Potter, please follow me,” Griphook said, as he turned on his heels. Harry nodded to the other goblin, who handed him the key back andcontinued to stare.

Harry followed Griphook through the main lobby of the bank, to a marble wall at the back. Griphook stopped at the wall, then passed his hand over a section of it. The section seemed to melt away, and they were now standing in front of an archway.

Griphook walked through, and Harry continued to follow. He was confused. “Why are they leading me through here if my box is gone?” he thought, still infuriated with his aunt for not coming to fetch his things all those years ago. Then, Harry got bold.

“Excuse me, Griphook, where are we headed? He said my box was no longer here.”

“No, your box is still here, Mister Potter,” Griphook said. “Just empty, or at least void of anything of value. Still, no one has been in this vault in at least ten years, so it won’t hurt to be sure. No one uses safeboxes any more over vaults. Not nearly as safe.”

“What do you mean, not as safe,” Harry inquired.

“Vaults will suck someone in and trap them if what’s contained there isn’t theirs,” Griphook explained. “Safeboxes only need a key and a bit of familiar blood from the one who established it. Odd you have the key, though. We always reclaim them when an account is closed.”

They made their way down a dark, stone corridor. Torches lining the wall sparked to life as they approached them, lighting their way. Harry looked back, and the archway had returned to marble. He was feeling a little nervous now.

They stopped at the end of the corridor. There were two doors, side by side. Griphookpasses his hand over the one to the left, which creeked open slowly. A torch in the room lighted as he and Griphook entered, and Harry’s eyes met three walls, at least twenty feet high, full of empty, rectangular slots of varying sizes and dimensions. He could see, at the very top of one wall, two slots that were filled. “Numbers 6 and 17,” Harry thought. Griphook was looking up at them as well, with his finger pointing and counting the top row.

“Yes, numbers 6 and 17, only one’s filled,” Griphook said, matter of fact. Harry had held a little hope that they had made a mistake. He turned to follow Griphook out. He was surprised, though, when Griphook turned to open the door on the right.

They passed into this room, and Harry could see that this one was the same as the other, except the slots, with the exception of two at the very top, were filled with boxes. Griphook turned once in the room and pressed a button on the inside frame of the door, and the rows began to move as if on some sort of conveyor. Harry followed the top row down, until a box with a big brass “7” was at his eye level. Griphook moved over to the box and extracted it from it’s slot, and handed it to Harry.

“Probably empty, but still worth a look,” Griphook said, and handed him a pin. “Prick your fore-finger and thumb, then grasp the key. Just knock when you’re done,” he said as he walk back out into the corridor and shut the door behind him.

Harry placed the box on the floor, then sat with his legs crossed, cradling it. He pricked his finger and thumb and grasped the key. He slid the key into the lock and turned it, but hesitated to open it. Was it empty? It may contain nothing of value, but it could still contain something of value to him, he pondered as he lifted the top of the box, the hinge squealing as he did so. Harry peered inside it, hoping against hope that there would be something there.

It was empty, save a small slip of paper, folded in two. Harry cursed under his breath as he picked up the small slip, which seemed to be smudged with a reddish-brown finger print. He unfolded it, and it contained one simple word.

“HA”

He didn’t know what it meant, and he didn’t care. Someone had taken what belonged to him, what his parents had left him. He had imagined that it might contain more pictures, maybe their wands, or perhaps their wedding rings. Instead it, along with his hopes, was empty.

Then he thought, “But who? Who could have emptied it?” He still believed that his Aunt Petunia. He saw her look of disgust when she told him of her one trip to Diagon Alley, and believed she didn’t come here. But who, if it wasn’t her? Dumbledore’s note had said she was the only one that could open the box, the only one with her sister’s blood necessary to open the box.

Harry folded the paper back up, and started to throw it back into the box. Then, he noticed the reddish-brown smudge again. It looked to still be wet. It was blood.

Harry’s heart fell into his stomach. He and Petunia weren’t the only ones. They weren’t the only two on the planet that had his sister’s blood running through their veins. There was a third. Fury welled up in him as he muttered under his breath.

“DUDLEY!”

End, Chapter 4

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:46 pm.
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  #4  
Old November 29th, 2005, 7:03 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Chapter 5

CHAPTER 5

Knezzle Out of the Bag

“But how did he get here, get to Diagon Alley?” He wondered. “How did he know about the key, the box itself? Or, that his blood was needed to open it?”

He sat there for a moment, running these questions through his head. Had he seen his mother open the drawer and seen the key, taped underneath? Even so, he wouldn’t have known what it was to. Maybe he had seen the note, the one Dumbledore left for the Dursleys. But still, he wouldn’t have had the foggiest what “Gringott’s” or “Diagon Alley” were. Perhaps Aunt Petunia had told him. But why would she do that? She wouldn’t want Dudley coming there any more than she wanted to come herself.

Then, he thought, it really didn’t matter now, anyway. The only thing that mattered to him at that moment was not how, but why? Why would Dudley do this? And where were his parent’s things now?

Harry chucked the note back into the safebox and shut it. He stood up, which was difficult given all the contents of his pockets and the sack tied to his belt. He needed to get rid of some of this dead weight, and he also suddenly realized he didn’t have a home to take anything to anyway. Harry rapped on the door, and Griphook opened it.

“Can I re-establish this box account?” Harry asked him.

“Certainly, Mr. Potter,” Griphook answered. “However, I would be remiss if I did not advise you to keep any valuables in your vault. As I said, vaults are much safer.”

Harry considered this, but he needed to get back to the joke shop with Ron. Mr. Weasley was probably there already.

“Thank you, but I haven’t the time,” he said as he placed the sack in the box. “No need to carry this around,” he thought, “Don’t know who to give it to, anyway.” Then, he thought of the locket that he had been wearing around his neck since the end of last term, the one he and Dumbledore claimed in the cave, R.A.B.’s false horcrux. He removed it and placed it in the box as well. After all, he knew every word of the note inside; he had read it at least a thousand times over the summer as he pondered his mission, to find the horcruxes and destroy them. His thoughts turned to Hermoine, and wondered if she had found any clues as to his, or her, identity, over the summer. She hadn’t sent him an owl all summer, which concerned him as well.

Harry locked the box, slipped the key into his pocket, and handed the safebox back to Griphook. He left Harry there to replace the box in its slot on the wall, in the room to the left.

As they passed through the archway that had just been a solid, marble wall into the great expanse of the bank lobby, Harry noticed Ron rushing through the doors. Ron spotted Harry, and motioned with his hands for Harry to come quickly. As Harry reached him, Ron said, quite out of breath, “Come on, Harry! I just saw dad go into the joke shop!”

Harry and Ron darted out of Gringott’s, receiving menacing looks from the guards out front as they passed.

“Where’s your cloak,” Ron said.

“It’s back in my room at the Leaky Cauldron,” Harry said while he ran, almost stumbling on one of the many out of place cobblestones.

“Damn, we’ll just have to sneak in, I suppose,” Ron said, as they slowed to a brisk walk two shops away. But sneaking wouldn’t be necessary. Arthur Weasley popped back out of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezies and glared at the boys, his face red with anger. They both dropped their heads and examined their shoelaces.

“Where have you been,” Mr. Weasley shouted. “Ronald, I left you strict instruction. Not only for Harry’s safety, but for yours as well! And, Harry, mind I’m glad to see you, but given the fact that I’ve had to do some pretty fine tap dancing at the Ministry this afternoon to cover for your handiwork at your aunt and uncles last night, and need I remind you that was underage magic, I’d think you would be a bit more appreciative than to go gallivanting around Diagon Alley, especially with your protection lifted!”

The boys said nothing. They simply stood there, heads hung.

“So, appropriate punishment,” Arthur said, calming a bit, given it appeared no harm had come to them. “Ron, I was ready to face the argument with your mother and take the position that you needn’t be part of the wedding party, but given today’s events…”

“Aw, DAD, no, anything but that,” Ron exclaimed, a sour look crossing his face.

“ You WILL be in the wedding party, and you’ll act as if your thrilled to be there!” Mr. Weasley said. “As for you, Harry, can’t really dole out punishment to you, but mind yourself. Just please go gather your things and come back here straight away. We need to get home, sooner rather than later. You two have five minutes to fetch it all.”

With that, Mr. Weasley spun back into the shop, and Harry and Ron walked back toward the brick wall that led back to The Leaky Cauldron.

Harry collected his trunk, throwing the invisibility cloak and the new medal from Fred and George into it, grabbed Hedwig, and headed back down to The Leaky Cauldron pub to meet back up with Ron, who had lagged behind there to stuff his face with mince meat pie left over from tea. They rushed back down to the joke shop, where Mr. Weasley and a newly-arrived Bill Weasley were waiting.

Harry looked at Bill, and saw that his wounds from Fenrir Greyback’s attack at Hogwarts that night had not healed, as Lupin had predicted. Bill’s mood, however, seemed jovial enough, and he greeted Harry with a warm handshake. Of course, if he were marrying Fleur, he’d be jovial too.

“Good to see you again, Harry,” Bill said to Harry.

“Hello, Bill,” Harry said, trying hard to mask a wince as he gazed up at a still-open and oozing wound on his forehead.

Bill noticed Harry’s wince, and said, “Don’t worry, Harry. They don’t hurt anymore. Just a nuisance, really, me bleeding all over the place. It gets bad a couple of days before a full moon, but goes away shortly thereafter. Tonight is a full moon, so this is as bad as it will get,” Bill said as he mopped the blood from his forehead with a handkerchief.

Harry started to ask about whether anything happened to Bill at the full moon, but Bill, seeming to have anticipated, gave what seemed to be a rehearsed monologue.

“Nothing happens to me, at least physically,” Bill said. “I spent three full months visiting St. Mungo’s every week during full moons. The healers there were quite interested in the effects of a non-lycanthropic werewolf attack. Seems the only medical effect from the attack has been a real affinity for wild game and insomnia during bright phases of the moon.” He gave Harry a nudge, “But I’d make sure you lock your bedroom door at the Burrow on full moon nights!”

“Oh, come off it, Bill,” Ron said. “You know good and well your okay.” Ron turned to Harry, “St. Mungos’ given him a clean bill, so to speak. Mom’s just had to get used to not burning everything she cooks.”

Harry and Bill chuckled as Mr. Weasley finished up his conversation with Fred and George, “…don’t forget, Saturday at ten. You’re mother’ll have my head if your not there for the rehearsal.”

“We’ll be there,” Fred and George said in unison, and Mr. Weasley emptied into Diagon Alley.

“Well, all, we ready?” he said, glancing at his watch, which now said 4PM. “Good lord, I sincerely hope your mother isn’t home yet. Okay, Bill, grab Harry, I’ll get Ron and follow just behind you.”

With that, Bill grasped Harry by the shoulder, and Harry felt the familiar tug on the inside of his belly button. They whirred through the air and quickly settled on a small dirt road, the one that led to the Burrow. Bill led Harry a few paces away, and, as promised, Ron and Mr. Weasley appeared with a “CRACK” just on the spot they had appeared.

The four of them walked down the lane. Mr. Weasley started in on admonishing Ron on their absence from the joke shop just behind he and Bill, all the while Ron trying to plead his case to avoid the wedding party. Harry saw this as an opportunity to ask Bill about some things that only someone at the Ministry would know.

“Bill, I was wondering, have you heard anything about Hogwarts?” Harry said, hoping he wasn’t too out of line.

“Yes. Actually, the Board of Governors decided just yesterday to reopen,” Bill said as he strode lockstep with Harry. “The Board and the Ministry have always been of one mind that education in witchcraft, as the Founders believed in establishing Hogwarts, is best taught with conformity in practice, rather than haphazard at home. Of course, some students’ parents have needed some convincing that the school will be safe. But, all in all, I think the protections the Ministry has put in place will make it safe again. Plus,” Bill’s tone seemed to turn grave, “with Dumbledore the main focus of You-Know-Who’s attention all these years, many believe that his absence now decreases the likelihood of foul play there significantly.”

“Will McGonnagall be headmistress?” Harry asked

“Well, sort of,” Bill said. “McGonnagall has accepted the position of temporary headmistress in charge of academic direction, but the Governors, and McGonnagall as well, truth be told, believe that school administration and coordination with Ministry and the Governor’s mandates should be handled by someone with more, shall we say, political finesse and serve as co-head, at least until a proper search for a permanent headmaster or mistress can be conducted.”

“Have they decided who that would be,” Harry said, all the while thinking he knew. It had to be Umbridge.

“Actually, yes, they decided today,” Bill said. “Cornelius Fudge.”

“Cornelius Fudge!” Harry thought. Well, that was that. If Hogwarts wasn’t doomed with Dumbledore’s death, it surely was now.

“Cornelius Fudge? Why would they select him?” Harry said, curious why the Ministry would put a man who had conducted the position of Minister of Magic with such ineptitude at the head of Hogwarts administration.

“Come on, think about it, Harry,” Bill said with a lilt to his voice. “Demoted from Minister, years of service and nowhere to go, and nowhere to stick him. Dependent on the Ministry for everything he gets, everything he is. He’ll be worse than Umbridge when it comes to Ministry mandates, won’t he. He’s got no backbone left. I’m just glad McGonnagall is still there. Hopefully, the Board will see fit to grant her full Headmistress status before Fudge can mess things up too much.”

“Will she still be head of Gryffindor House?” Harry asked Bill, not able to think of anyone else who could.

“Yeah, and Slughorn is set to take over as head of Slytherin,” Bill answered. “McGonnagall will still be teaching transfiguration, and Slughorn has agreed to take over as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Brave man, Slughorn, given the fate of all that have gone before him.”

“Then, who will be teaching Potions, since Slughorn is taking the Dark Arts job?” Harry asked.

Bill looked over at Harry for the first time since they had apparated, quizzically, “You mean Ron hasn’t told you? You two must have really been up to something this afternoon for him not to bemoan his ill-fortune. Mum’s taken the position, at least until they can find a full-time replacement. She’s excited about it, really. With all the kids gone nine months of the year and Dad so busy, she’s knitted enough sweaters for us all for twenty Christmases. Plus, she likes the idea of being there to watch over Ginny and Wonny-boy.” Bill said this last sentence loud enough for Ron to overhear.

“How many times do I have to tell you,” Ron hollered, “Bug off with that “Wonnie-boy” stuff.”

“Whatca goin’ to do about it, Wonnie-boy,” Bill taunted, and Bill and Ron took off in a sprint. Mr. Weasley caught up with Harry and walked with him. Harry was sure that Mr. Weasley would have more to say about Little Whinging now that they were alone.

“Well, Harry, excited about your final year?” Mr. Weasley said, obviously trying to create small talk to lead up to more important subjects. “Are you still considering of Auror as a career?”

“Yes, sir, I suppose,” Harry said back, knowing in the back of his mind that he had no intention of attending, and wishing they could pick up the pace to the cottage.

“Well, what with Dumbledore’s, um, departure,” he stumbled a bit over these words, “ should be an interesting year. But, the Governors and the Ministry are resolved to reopen. Security plans are to the hilt, and I doubt anyone who shouldn’t be entering will be able to get in.”

Mr. Weasley said these words with a little too much confidence, belying what he, and Harry, knew to be true. And that was, for every year Harry had attended except one, Voldemort had gotten someone in, and the year he didn’t Sirius had. Now that he had the benefit of six year’s hindsight, he had wondered whether everyone’s opinion of Hogwarts’ vaunted protection was misguided. After all, he had a map that showed secret passages in, and someone as inept as Draco Malfoy had been able to accomplish it as well.

But all Harry said back to Mr. Weasley was, “Yes, sir, I suppose you’re right.” He wasn’t about to argue with him, especially as kind as he and his family had been to him over the years.

“Well, at least you and Ron will be able to finish out your last year. I’m still in a quandary where Ron wants to go from here,” he said. Then, he stopped Harry with a hand to his shoulder.

“Now, Harry, I know you’re probably expecting this, but please mind your temper. I covered for your antics back in Little Whinging last night. I was able to convince Scrimgeour himself that, given your impending birthday, it would not be prudent or productive to open up a can of worms by charging you with underage sorcery. He seemed concerned not to ruffle your feathers, I will say. But, your lack of judgment when your temper flares concerns me. Magic used in anger always produces a result that is less effective than magic used with clarity of mind. You need your wits about you, everyone does, this year.”

“I know, sir,” Harry said, at least knowing that he wouldn’t be facing the Wizengamut again, “I will do better.”

“Perhaps you should try your hand at Occulmency classes when you return to school,” Mr. Weasley said. “Occulmency tends to calm the emotions.”

“Well, sir, I have, actually,” Harry admitted. “Two years ago, with Professor Snape. I wasn’t very good at it.”

“Well consider the teacher,” Mr. Weasley said. Harry was encouraged with the amicable tone Mr. Weasley had, and was glad that Mr. Weasley was talking to him as an adult.

They started back down the lane, toward the cottage. They walked in silence, and as they approached the front gate, Harry caught sight of the old oak tree in the distance at the crest of a hill behind the cottage, the one he had dreamed of that morning, the one he and Ginny were under. In his mind, he smelled the jasmine and honeysuckles, then he looked down at his stomach and said to himself, “Oh, shut up will you!”

Bill had burst through the door of the cottage with Ron on his heels, and Harry could hear loud thuds and something break inside, followed by a high-pitched “AGHHHHH!”

Mr. Weasley called out through the door, “Boys! Calm it down, now!” as he walked through. Ron was lying on the floor of the kitchen. Bill had him in a headlock, and was chanting, “Uncle? Come on Ron! Uncle?” Both of them were soaking wet.

Behind them, a surprised Tonks stood there, who had evidently not expected the intrusion, for she had appeared to have dropped a large water urn which laid shattered on the floor.

Tonks looked much better than the last time Harry had seen her. Her hair was a bright red, very similar to the Weasleys’ color, and her face seemed to radiate. She smiled as the surprise vanished, realizing the intruders actually lived there. Then she looked over to Harry.

“Hey! Whotcha, Harry!” Tonks said.

“Hey, Tonks,” Harry said.

The words were barely out of his mouth when an excited Remus Lupin rushed in the back door, his wand at the ready. When he saw the spectacle at his feet, he sighed, relieved, and replaced his wand into his vest pocket.

“Harry, good to see you again!” Lupin said.

“UNCLE, say it!” Bill screamed at Ron, who’s arm was now braced behind him in a rather uncomfortable looking position.

“Never!” Ron said. Then, there was a loud “CRACK”. Bill fell face forward to the floor. Ron had disappeared. Then, another loud “CRACK”, and Ron apparated back, right on top of Bill. “HA! I was just waiting for the right time to use that one!”

Bill moaned back at his brother, “Okay, Uncle, you got me Wonnie-boy!”

Arthur Weasley had been looking on the entire time, then finally said, “All right, all right! Enough! Let’s get this place cleaned up. Your mom will be back soon enough.” Harry could tell that this was just show, and that Mr. Weasley had shown in his face that he was impressed with Ron’s apparating ability.

Ron leapt off of Bill, a triumphant smile across his face, and he began to gather up the broken pieces of pottery. Lupin grabbed a mop and shoved it into Bill’s hand, who started mopping up the water.

Lupin moved over to Harry, “Need some help with this?” he said, as he pointed to Harry’s trunk.

“Sure, thanks,” Harry said back, grateful for it. His arms felt as if they would fall off for lugging it around. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, Arthur and Molly have been nice enough to let me stay here with Tonks during full moons, Lupin answered. “Tonks has become very proficient at making the antidote potion, but she still gets uneasy this time of the months. Arthur has agreed to let us stay here those nights for added protection, or at least the façade of it.”

“So, are you and Tonks…” Harry said as they climbed the stairs.

“We are ‘an item’, if you will,” Lupin responded. Harry thought Lupin showed a bit of pink in his cheeks. “Now, if we could move to more less personal issues, please?”

“Okay,” Harry obliged. “Have you been working at all?”

“Yes, Tonks and I, along with other Order members, have been trying to track down Snape and the other Death Eaters. Haven’t had any luck, though. The Ministry has their other aurors out as well.”

“So, the Order believes that Snape killed Dumbledore, right?” Harry had wondered all summer whether the Ministry and Wizengamut would believe that Snape was guilty. He remembered back to his other run-ins with the Ministry as they related to Voldemort and the Death Eaters, and always felt uneasy about their reaction.

Lupin was silent to the question until they reached Ron’s room. Lupin set Harry’s trunk down on the spare bed that Mrs. Weasley had made up for him, and Harry settled Hedwig on the dresser. Then, Lupin turned and shut the door.

“Harry, mind you keep your temper in check,” Lupin said with a hushed voice, “but the Ministry is not convinced, given the physical evidence, that Snape is guilty.”

At this, Harry felt the blood rush to his head. “Of course,” he said, “they aren’t going to believe me. After all I’ve told them in the past, all that they didn’t believe that ended up being true, they’re going to let him get away with it.” Harry’s voice was getting louder and more furious.

Lupin put his hands out and gestured down, admonishing Harry to be quiet. “Look, Harry. The Ministry and the Wizengamut are looking for him. They know he was up there when Dumbledore died. They have witnesses that he went up the tower and came back down. The also know, however, that Greyback and two or three other Death Eaters were there too, along with Malfoy. But they are looking for him for questioning only at this point.”

Lupin continued as Harry tried to subdue his rage. “But, they have no evidence, other than your testimony, that you were up there at all. Only Dumbledore knew you were up there. And, unfortunately for us all, his voice is silent to the matter.

“Also, the report that came back from the Ministry coroner listed the cause of death as trauma sustained in the fall. There is no solid evidence, again save your testimony, that the killing curse was even used, let alone killed Dumbledore, or that Snape did anything inappropriate. And, unfortunately, the word of Severus Snape, given Dumbledore’s reknown trust for Snape, in front of the Wizengamut would hold much more weight than yours. Even if Draco and the others there that night testified that Snape killed Dumbledore, which they wouldn’t, the court is not going to see their testimony as crebible. It would be your word against Snape’s.”

Harry couldn’t believe it. Snape was going to get away with it, get away with killing Dumbledore. His anger turned to defeat, even contempt for the Ministry altogether.

“But, the killing curse leaves no sign that it was the cause,” Harry said. “Of course the coroner would find the fall as the cause of death.”

“Listen, Harry,” Lupin continued, “all the facts will be laid out in the Wizengamut, whether it’s to put someone on trial or to determine whether there was foul play involved at all. I strongly advise you to keep your feelings on this matter to yourself, for your own protection.”

Harry couldn’t believe it. It was all turning around on him again. “But, you believe me, don’t you?” Harry said to Lupin, looking for an answer as much as for support.

“Yes, Harry, I believe you,” Lupin said. “I have never trusted Severus Snape, and I know him better that most anyone else. He has always been untrustworthy, and the longer he is missing, the more guilty he becomes in my mind.”

Then Harry remembered what Dobby had told him. “But, what if someone else had seen it?”

Lupin’s eyes widened, “What do you mean, ‘someone else?’”

Harry recounted the story that Dobby had relayed, that he and Kreacher had seen Dumbledore’s death as well, could testify that it was Snape that had killed him.

Throughout the story, Lupin’s surprise seemed to leave him, and his face showed more concern.

“Well, the Wizengamut won’t hear testimony from elves. Not that they are bigoted, mind you, just that an elf’s primary responsibility is to obey it’s master. They have no qualms lying to a court if instructed to do so by their master. This makes their testimony highly suspect.”

Harry couldn’t think of anything more. He had, again, hoped beyond hope, that people would believe him. He wouldn’t be that naive again. To relieve his disgust, he turned to another subject.

“Have they found Draco?” Harry asked.

Again, Lupin looked at Harry disappointedly. “Unfortunately, no. Nor have they been able to find his mother or aunt.”

Harry then relayed the story that Dobby told of following Draco, his mother and aunt.

“Well,” Lupin said, “perhaps we can catch up with them, if they still are staying at Bellatrix’s. She hasn’t been under direct suspicion, nor was she at the tower, so she hasn’t been aggressively pursued for questioning. But if she’s been harboring Draco, that changes things.”

Harry’s disgust had grown with every word, so he decided to ask about something he hoped would be unrelated.

“Lupin, do you trust the Ministry?” he asked. Lupin looked back at him confused. Harry clarified, “what I mean is, do you trust that they are on the right side, our side.”

“Harry,” Lupin sighed, “that’s a very difficult question. As you get older, you will come to realize that what you viewed as the right side and the wrong side become more muddled, until you are unsure as to what is right and what is wrong. Many people, especially in politics, never even say ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. You’ll hear words like ‘liberal’ vs. ‘conservate’, ‘pro-life’ vs. ‘pro-choice’, as if there is no such thing as right and wrong, just divergent viewpoints. But, I’m digressing. Why do you ask?”

“Well, last year, Scrimgeour came to me two times and asked me, basically, whether I would come out and, I guess the best word is ‘endorse’, the Ministry publicly,” Harry recounted. “He said it would give people hope, give people more confidence that the Ministry was the good guy, I guess.”

Lupin burst out in a synical laughter, “Typical,” Lupin said. “Harry, don’t come near that one with a ten foot pole! You stick to your gut. But to answer your questions, yes I believe in the Ministry, on the whole, but I do not believe in some of the things it does.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Harry said. “Ever heard of Stan Shunpike?”

“Yeah, the Knight bus billetter. Heard he’s still in Azkaban for helping the Death Eaters. Don’t believe it myself, but I don’t have a say.”

“Well, I might,” Harry said under his breath.

“What was that?” Lupin asked Harry.

“Uh, oh, nothing,” Harry said, rising from the bed. “We ought to ...”

“Yes, we probably should,” Lupin said, and they headed downstairs.

They left Ron’s room and headed downstairs. The kitchen had been cleaned, and Tonks was putting on a pot to boil and was looking curiously at the stove knobs. Mrs. Weasley had not yet returned, and Harry surmised that she had left instructions for Tonks to start supper. Harry traversed the kitchen, and he sat down across from Ron, who was at the kitchen table reading the day’s Daily Prophet. Harry could see the main headline:

HOGWARTS TO REOPEN!
McGonnagall/Fudge to Serve as Co-Heads

A picture of Cornelius Fudge was there. He was standing at a podium, waving his arms and speaking, trying to look very important. Behind to his left stood Scrimgeour, his head high and a broad smile across his face; behind to his right stood Minerva McGonnagall wearing her bright emerald robes, her tartan cap, and a surly grimace.

“Bill told me Hogwarts was reopening,” Harry said to Ron. “Too bad we’re not going to finish up this year,” he continued dejectedly, in a whisper so no one else could overhear.

Ron didn’t look up from the paper, “Uh…yeah…about that…,” he said cautiously.

Harry glared at him. “Ron, you ARE going to help me, aren’t you,” Harry said, still whispering. “After Dumbledore’s funeral…remember…you and Hermoine said you would help.”

Ron turned sheepishly to Harry and said, “yeah, but I didn’t honestly think it would reopen this soon. I figured it’d take at least a year to get things sorted. Plus, now that school’s back on, Mum and Dad would KILL me if I didn’t go back for my final year.”

Harry’s already brewing frustration escalated. “Well, they seem to be okay with Fred and George having dropped out,” Harry whispered, bluntly.

“Well, opening up a joke shop on Diagon Alley’s a little different than gallivanting around searching for bits of…You-Know-Who’s…soul, innit?” Ron replied, matching Harry’s tone. “Anyway, we were all caught up in the moment then. Look, Harry, I’m not saying I’m not going to help, but we’ve got to finish up our last year. You can’t be an auror unless you’ve graduated. Plus, we’ve got to have somewhere to come back to, a home base or something, don’t we? It can’t be the Burrow.”

Harry’s mood subdued. Ron did have a point. Harry hadn’t even considered this. They couldn’t rightly go hopping from place to place without a home to return to. And Hogwarts would be the best place. After all, it was more of a home to him than any other place else on earth.

But how would he be able to attend classes and perform his duties as quiddich captain, let alone practice, while hunting down horcruxes? Something would probably have to give.

Harry’s thoughts and their conversation, though, would have to wait. At that moment, Mrs. Weasley came through the door, closely followed by Ginny.

Ginny had changed over the summer. She seemed taller, maybe even taller than Harry now. And there didn’t seem to be an ounce of baby fat left on her body. Her usual wardrobe of loose fitting clothes was replaced with form fitting ones which revealed how Ginny’s form had changed as well. In Harry’s mind, all for the better.

Harry felt his face grow warm, and his stomach turned as he looked at her. Ginny hadn’t seemed to notice him, though. She was toting several shopping bags, all of different sizes and bright colors, as was Mrs. Weasley.

“Hello, all,” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. “Ginny, take those up to my room and come back down for these,” she said as she released her grip and settled in a large armchair. Ginny bounded up the stairs.

“How was shopping?” Mr. Weasley said obligatorily while concentrating on the potatoes he was attempting to peel with a pocket knife.

“Don’t know how muggles do it!” she said with a sigh of exasperation. “Buses to submerged trains, and all the walking, and no shop has the sizes…”

“OW!” Mr. Weasley shouted. He had cut his thumb with the knife.

“Arthur, honesty!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed as she jumped from the chair. “Can’t get a moments rest! And your bleeding all over the potatoes!” With this, she extracted her wand, gave a chant, and Mr. Weasley’s wound was mended. Then, with another, the knife and a potato levitated and began their peeling on their own.

“Sorry, Molly, just trying to help.”

“Well, thank you, Arthur,” Mrs. Weasley said. “But stay out of my kitchen, will you please.” With this, Mr. Weasley slipped into a chair next to Ron.

“Oh, hello Harry!” Mrs. Weasley said as she noticed Harry there. “Good to see you! Excited about Hagwarts opening back up?”

“Yes, ma’am”, Harry replied. “Ron and I were just discussing it.”

“Well, they haven’t given us much time. I’m at my wits ends, lessons to plan, the wedding,” she said as she washed her hands at the sink. “Arthur, I will need to be at Hogwarts tomorrow, most of the day. Need to sort out lesson plans, give McGonnagall my required readings,” Mrs. Weasley said. Then a puzzled look crossed her face. “Arthur, where’s my Aunt Regalia’s urn gotten off to?”

Mr. Weasley nudged Ron, determined not to be the source of her anger.

“Uh, well mum, Bill and I sort of, um, broke it,” Ron said, his face screwing up.

“How on earth! Honestly!” she cried out at him. “Well, where are the pieces then?”

“In the rubbish bin, mum,” Ron said. With that, she pointed her wand at the bin. The pieces hovered over it and began to piece together, as if an invisible hand were working on a jigsaw. Then, fully repaired, it floated over to a shelf, where it settled.

Mrs. Weasley turned to Tonks, who was over the pot still, looking into it as if waiting for something to happen, but she hadn’t known how to light the burner. “Tonks, thanks for the help. Now let me handle it from here, dear. Have a rest.”

Tonks slid into the chair next to Harry, and Lupin slid into the other next to her.

The adults at the table began to talk with each other, and Ron returned to his Daily Prophet. Then, Harry saw Ginny come bounding back down the stairs. She headed over to the bags and her eyes met Harry’s. She seemed to blush a little, gave him a smile and a quick wave, and headed back up, passing Bill on his way back down. Harry smiled back as his face blushed, then he felt a hard kick to his shin, and saw Ron peering over his paper at him.

“Mum, where’s Fleur?” Bill said as he moved to sit along with the others.

“Oh, she’s off to collect her parents,” Mrs. Weasley said. “They decided to come over a couple of days early. They had to travel by portkey into Diagon Alley, given how apparating over the channel is tricky this time of year.

“You left her alone?” Bill exclaimed, concerned.

“Of course not, dear,” Mrs. Weasley replied, “She’s in good hands. Hermoine Granger’s with her.”

Ron’s paper plopped down on the table in front of him with a thud, and he stared at Harry as if he were about to be struck by a truck. Harry glanced over at Mrs. Weasley, but couldn’t tell if she had noticed Ron’s reaction. Harry looked at Ron hard, and Ron came to his senses and picked up the paper and stared at it as his mother continued.

“Yes, we met up with Hermoine at Flourish and Blotts. I was looking over the potions text books and she and her parents were there. She’s just returned from studying abroad in the States. Somewhere called Wellesley?? In Massa-whuzzits, something like that. Only School of Witchcraft and Wizardry left there, she said. I didn’t know there still was one. She’ll be accompanying the Delaceour’s back this evening. I told her parents we could keep her ‘til school starts. We’ll set up the tent for the boys, the girls and the Delaceours will stay in the house.”

A look of sheer panic crossed Ron’s face, and Harry chuckled to himself a little.

“Hermoine’s agreed to accompany me to Hogwarts and help me with my lesson planning. Right smart, that Hermoine,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Kept on about how much she’d enjoy it. Her parents are so proud of her. Now where’s Ginny?”

“Here, mum,” Ginny said as she bounced back down the stairs.

“Oh, right, there you are,” Mrs. Weasley said. “Ginny, take the ham out of the ice box and bring it over, would you please?”

“Sure, mum.” As Ginny walked over, Harry saw that she had tied back her hair. Her face seemed to sparkle, her lips shined. He also noticed that she had unbuttoned the top and bottom button of her shirt, revealing her bellybutton. Harry blushed and turned his head quickly, again meeting a glaring stare from Ron.

“Knock it off, will you,” Ron said.

“Harry retorted, “Yeah, well we’ll see what’s what when Hermoine gets here.”

Ron shuffled a little in his seat, “Oh, shut it, would you?”

The next couple of hours passed with conversation and eating. Conversation ranged from Hogwarts’ security to Bill and Fleur’s upcoming wedding. Charlie was due in on Friday from Romania, but no one had heard from Percy. However, the subject of Percy was changed quickly by Mrs. Weasley, who was obviously still troubled by his behavior toward his family.

Harry and Ginny exchanged quick glances during dinner, but were careful not to give themselves away. Harry was becoming more encouraged at returning to Hogwarts; this meant more time with Ginny.

“Look at the time!” Bill said. Harry glanced down at his watch which read eight o’clock. “Where are they, I wonder?”

Before his words died out, the door opened and Fleur stepped in “ ’Allo, all,” she said. She entered the cottage, and was followed in by her parents.

Fleur’s father was a short, dumpy man. His head was balding into a crescent with a sparse amount combed over the top of his head. He wore a full, vested pin-striped suit, and he fumbled with a burgundy bowler in his hands. He walked with a prominent limp.

Mr. Delaceour’s wife couldn’t have been more different than her husband. She was taller than he by two heads at least. She looked identical to Fleur with no hint of age in her features. Her long, blonde locks, which had just the hint of curl, cascaded to the small of her back and seemed to drape around her neck and shoulders like a shawl. She wore a magnificent sea-foam colored robe which seemed to sway with her movements.

“My I introduce my parentz, Jean-Jacques and Rosa Delaceour,” Fleur said, bowing to all.

The women at the table had already risen to greet the arrivals, but all the men were still seated, staring blankly at Mrs. Delaceour.

“Gentlemen!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed with as much decorum as she could muster. There was a noisy rattling of chairs as they all stood, a couple of them banging their knees on the table in the haste.

“Lucky bloke!,” Lupin said under his breath, but a little too loudly. Then, his face winced, and Harry could see Tonks twisting her pinched fingers into his side.

“Welcome, welcome,” Mrs. Weasley said, as she reached across to shake Mr. Delaceour’s hand enthusiastically. “So glad to finally meet,” she continued as she moved to embrace Mrs. Delaceour.

“You are so gracious to ‘ave us,” Mr. Delaceour said. “May I call you Molly?”

“Of course, of course. We’ll be family soon enough,” she said and turned to the table. “Pardon their manners, please.”

“Oh, no apologies needed,” Mrs. Delaceour said, “I ‘ave become very used to men staring. Comes with the territory, eh.”

“Mrs. Weasley started up the introductions, beginning with Mr. Weasley. Harry, Ron and Ginny leapt up from their seats and began clearing the table. Harry and Ron were side by side at the sink when Mrs. Weasley approached.

“… And this is my youngest son, Ronald, and his friend…”

“Mr. ‘Arry Potteur! Well, je ne pense pas,” Mr. Delaceour had completely passed over Ron’s outstretched hand and grasped Harry’s with both of his. His eyes completely missed Harry’s eyes, and went straight to the scar, a greeting to which Harry had become accustomed.

Mr. Delaceour was silent a moment, then said, “I see we’re not the only ones who have gotten used to staring. Very glad to make your acquaintance.”

“Thanks, yours as well,” Harry said back.

“Come, sit won’t you,” Mrs. Weasley directed them to the table. The adults found places, and Harry noticed that Mrs. Delaceour seemed to float rather than walk. Mr. Weasley began pouring wine into goblets.

“Mum, can we go upstairs?” Ron asked. “Harry needs to sort his things.”

“Yes, but don’t get too settled,” she said. “I need you boys to help your father with the tent in a bit.”

Ron and Harry climbed the stairs, closely followed by Ginny. As they reached Ron’s room, Ginny said, “Harry, have a good summer?” She was smiling at him, and Harry felt his stomach start up again.

“Yeah, alright I guess…” Harry said.

“Ginny, bug off would you,” Ron said to his little sister. “Harry and I need to talk, alone if you don’t mind particularly.”

Harry saw Ginny start to retort back, but he interrupted her. “Ginny, what say you wait for Hermoine and the two of you come up when she gets here?”

“Okay, Harry,” she said, not taking her glare off of Ron. Then, she turned in a huff on her heel and stormed down the stairs. Harry pushed the door to behind her.

“Harry, I didn’t get to ask,” Ron said. “What was in the safe box?”

“Huh, oh yeah,” Harry had completely forgotten. “Nothing, well a note actually.” Harry recounted the events in Gringott’s and his suspicion about Dudley.

“Well, I suppose among our future destinations will be Liverpool then,” Ron said. “I’d like to smack him a few times.”

“Yeah, but he’s a tough one,” Harry said. “I doubt both of us could take him, without using magic, of course.”

“So, we’ve got about a week ‘til the wedding and about two more before classes start back,” Ron said with a mischievous look, “I’m sure we can plan a day trip somewhere between.”

“Thanks, Ron,” Harry said. “I really didn’t want to go their alone. Never been there.”

“Oh, I have, loads of times. I’ve got an uncle that lives there,” Ron said. “He’s a fisherman, or at least that’s his muggle cover.”

“Heard anything about how Hagrid’s getting on?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, he’s doin’ alright mum said,” Ron said. “She’s been at Hogwarts at least two days a week since she got offered the Potions job. Puts a bit of a damper on it for me, mum being at school and all. Surprised they didn’t make her head of Gryffindor. That would have just made my year.”

“Well, she’ll be busy enough,” Harry said. “I doubt she’ll hover too much.”

“Wishful thinking, that!” Ron said. “Hey, show me that pensieve, would you!”

“Sure.” Harry opened his trunk and showed Harry the pensieve and the vile with the memory in it. Ron said it looked like a really old pensieve.

“You going to look into the memory, then?” Ron said.

“Yeah, but not now,” Harry said. “Too much going on.”

“Well, if your going to wait ‘til things calm down around this house, you’ll be looking at that memory at Hogwarts,” Ron said.

“Maybe I’ll look at it after everyone’s gone to sleep tonight,” Harry said.

“Think I could look with you?” Ron said.

Harry thought for a minute. He had no idea what it contained, only that it was old, as old as he was. He wondered if there would be any memory he wouldn’t want Ron to seem. But, then again, this was Dumbledore’s memory. And Dumbledore allowed him to share the horcruxes with Ron and Hermoine. Why would he have cared if they saw this one?

“Sure,” Harry said. “But we’ll need a look out. You can’t tell if someone’s coming up on you when you’re in one of these things.”

“Maybe Hermoine will,” Ron said.

“I’m sure she would,” Harry said. He was really looking forward to seeing her. He had no idea that she was considering studying abroad, and he had always heard such wonderful things about the States. He also now was wondering whether she had had a chance to investigate R.A.B., who it might be.

“Yeah, maybe,” Ron said, preoccupied in his thoughts as well. Harry was sure he was thinking of Hermoine as well, but not exactly for the same reasons.

All of a sudden, the door cracked open a bit and a cat rushed in. It stopped, looked around and, seeing an empty sack on the floor, rushed directly into it, thrashing around on the inside.

“CROOKSHANKS, where are you.” The boys heard Hermoine Granger’s voice as they heard her footsteps clomping on the stairs. Ron’s face turned white, and Harry said to him, “Will you calm down. She’s the same Hermoine she’s always been.”

Hermoine opened the door fully, and revealed she was not the same Hermoine she had always been.

She looked, in a word, striking. Her hair was straightened, her knotty curls gone. Her face looked mature, and she seemed taller. She had an air of confidence in her posture, different than the one of arrogance she had always carried. Even so, she seemed more calm, more clear, more laissez-faire.

‘Harry, Ron, how are you,” Hermoine rushed over to Harry and hugged him. Then, she she did the same with Ron, not in the least bit uncomfortable. “It’s so good to be back. America was wonderful, but I missed England.”

“Hermoine, you look, um, terrific,” Harry said.

“I feel terrific too, Harry,” she said. “America is so different, but I learned so much, not only about magic, but about myself. I’ll have to tell you all about it, but first things first. Any developments on the horcruxes?”

“Well, no, haven’t really had any time since I left Little Whinging,” Harry said.

“Well, I got back from the States a couple of days ago, and I’ve been pouring through the Hogwarts’ library for any clues. No mention of Horcruxes, of course, but I did find this!”

She produced a small book which seemed familiar to Harry. It was black leather with green and silver bars on the spine. It looked more like a diary, actually.

“It’s the Slytherin membership book from twenty five years ago,” Hermoine said. “I had looked at everywhere I could think of in the Hogwart’s library, but they didn’t have any complete listings of students, faculty and the like. Then I remembered that the common rooms have books there as well, but only ones of import to that house.”

She continued excitedly, “I looked through every one in the Gryffindor common room. Then, I thought, silly girl, if you want to find a Death Eater, Slytherin would be the place!”

“You went down to the Slytherin common room?” Ron exclaimed. “How’d you manage that!”

“Well, of course all the professors have been back, trying to put together their lessons. Professor Slughorn has become rather smitten with me, I must say. Think I might be joining you in the Slug Club this year, Harry,” she said, a little of the arrogance creeping back in. “So, I just asked him if I could look. Told him I was researching something for potions class. He let me go, no problems.” Then, she got an excited look on her face. “Harry, open it to page 13! Second name from the bottom!”

Harry flipped through the pages and stopped. Page 13. He scanned to the bottom. There, in black ink in very poor cursive penmanship was the name:

Regulus A. Black

R.A.B. Could it be? He thought he had though this, but he musthave said it out loud.

“It has to be Harry,” Hermoine said. “A Slytherin. House of Black, you remember the wailing pictures at Grimmauld Place. And, he was a Death Eater. Died as one. And who else would have known where a horcrux was but a Death Eater, someone close to Voldemort?”

Ron still winced at the name involuntarily.

“Great work, Hermoine,” Harry said excitedly. “But where does that lead us.”

“Back to Grimmauld Place, of course,” Hermoine exclaimed. “That was the family home. Anything he owned would have gone to Sirius, and everything of Sirius…”

“…Is mine!” Harry finished her sentence.

“So, what’s a horcrux?” The three spun their heads around. Just on the other side of the door stood Ginny, a puzzled look on her face.

Hermoine turned back to Harry and mounthed, “Sorry!”

Ginny meandered into Ron’s room and plopped onto the bed, obviously with no realization as to the importance of the conversation and the subject matter. She looked up at the three, Hermoine and Ron looking at Harry to see what he would do.

“Well, it’s got to do with Voldemort,” Harry said.

“Oh, of course, You-Know-Who,” Ginny blurted out. “ Honesty, Harry, as much as you carry on about him, you’d think the two of you were seeing each other,” she continued, exasperated.

Hermoine laughed, breaking the tension between them all, “Ginny, you’re so direct. I love that about you.”

“So, meet any boys over in America, Hermoine,” Ginny said, casting a taunting glance over at Ron.

“Ginny, stop that,” Hermoine said, “Wellesley is an all girls school. We had a couple of mixers and a dance with some of the muggle all boys schools.”

“Oh, I see, cat’s away, mice will play,” Ron said sarcastically.

Hermoine whipped around to Ron, and said, “Ron, I don’t seem to recall ending up last year with any kind of arrangement between us.”

“Well, I thought…,” Ron bumbled. “And why didn’t you write me all summer.”

“Ron, owls have a hard time over the channel, let alone over an entire ocean,” Hermoine retorted. “And if this is the kind of jealousy you are going to display…”

“Jealousy, hah,” Ron said.

Hermoine bit her lip, then continued, “…then perhaps we need to discuss this in private.”

Harry had become very uncomfortable. Ginny, on the other hand, was rapt in it, listening intently to every word.

“What’s to talk about,” Ron said stubbornly, “Seems you’ve made up you mind.”

Hermoine exploded. “Ron, you are thick! What do you think kept me going over in the States, what I wanted to return to. Not a country, not a school, and certainly not my parents. And aren’t there more important issues at hand other than the fact that I fancy you!”

These last words echoed in the air as everyone in the room froze. Harry’s mouth was agape, but Ginny had a broad, triumphant-like smile across her face. They stayed that way for a moment, Hermoine scowling at Ron. Then, a look of panic crossed her face, and she clasped her hand quickly over her mouth, trying to keep the words in her head that had already slipped out.

Ron and Hermoine stared at each other, and it was obvious that they were now completely oblivious to the presence of anyone else in the room, perhaps in the world.

Ginny got up from the bed, “We’ll just be going then, leave you two. Come on Harry,” Ginny said, placing her hand in his.

“Oh, yeah,” Harry said, breaking out of his trance. “Okay, yeah.”

They moved to the door, leaving Ron and Hermoine, who still hadn’t moved since that moment. As they reached it, they had to pause to allow Crookshanks to pass, who had finished with his mission in the bag, and had darted out of it in a flash of orange and bounded down the stairs.

End, Chapter 5

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:47 pm.
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  #5  
Old November 29th, 2005, 9:50 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Serpent Uncovered

Harry and Ginny emptied into the hallway, and Ginny quietly closed the door.

“About time…,” she muttered as she and Harry moved to the landing. Then she turned to Harry. “Harry, it’s good to see you again,” she said as she hugged him tight.

Harry felt a lump in his throat and a sense of relief. He hugged her back, smelling the jasmine and honeysuckle from his dream.

“Look, I’ve though all summer about what you said,’ her head was hung down, “…you know, at Dumbledore’s funeral. I see your point. But Harry, I don’t care. I’m strong, probably stronger than Hermoine, even. Sure, she runs circles around me when it comes to smarts, but I can handle myself. I can fight. You don’t grow up around six brothers not learning how to scrap!”

“But, Ginny,” Harry said, “T couldn’t bear it if something happened to you. Voldemort’s dangerous, evil. If he knew…”

“Harry,” she interrupted. “I love you.”

“And I love you too…” Harry said these words, those words he swore he wouldn’t say until he was safe, she was safe, everyone was safe. He said them without thought, said them from his soul. He loved Ginny and there wasn’t any point in denying it. “And that’s exactly why…”

“Shut up,” she whispered as she grabbed him, and kissed him.

Harry was stunned for a second, then he lost himself with her, in her. He felt warm, safe, and powerful, and he noticed the butterflies in his stomach had disappeared.

Then suddenly, she pulled back, all too soon for Harry.

“And that’s exactly why you HAVE to let me help you!, she said, firmly. “We love each other. Your heart knows it. As much as you try, you can’t protect me. He’ll see it, know it, sense it in your heart, your mind, your soul. The fact that you love me, and that fact alone, puts me at risk above anyone else. If I’m with you, by your side, you can protect me better.” Then, she smiles, “Not that I need any protecting, mind you, you chauvinist!”

Then Ginny hit him on the shoulder, and it really hurt.

“Now, you’ll have to tell me everything. I only heard bits of it up there,” she continued. “But later, we need to get downstairs.”

Harry couldn’t speak. What had just happened? How did he get downstairs. How did he get to the kitchen table? Oh, yeah, he and Ginny loved each other, They just told each other, that was it. And they had kissed.

“What have I done?” he thought, as his stomach began to churn again, and he was getting a headache. “What have WE done. This is awful, wonderful, horrible. And why did I feel powerful.”

Harry snapped back to reality, “Seen that look before,” Lupin said, smiling, as he sat down across from Harry, “staring back at me in the mirror lately.”

Harry couldn’t even muster a smile back. In fact, he couldn’t muster any emotion. He had no idea how he felt.

“Ginny, where’s Ron?” Mrs. Weasley said.

“Up in his room,” she said, almost giggling, “with Hermoine.”

Mrs Weasley froze, and Harry could see that her ears had turned red.

“Ronald Weasley,” she shouted, “Down here, this instant!”

They all heard a loud BUMP overhead, followed closely by a door banging open.

Hermoine waltzed down the stairs, a satisfied smile on her face, her cheeks flushed. Ron followed, his face as red as his hair, all the while down rubbing his backside. There hair was tussled, their clothes disheveled.

“Ron, you and Harry go help your father outside with the tent,” said Mrs. Weasley, who didn’t dare turn around. “Hermoine, you’ll be staying in Ginny’s room. Take your bags up and get sorted out.”

The quartet split by gender, the girls heading upstairs, the boys heading out, followed by Lupin, to assist Mr. Weasley and the other men with the tent. It was a very clear night, and the full moon shined down on the group. Once up, they all entered the tent and began opening up cots. Harry remembered the first time he had been in the tent, all the revelry surrounding the quidditch World Cup a few years ago. And the horror that accompanied it, when the Death Eaters resurfaced en masse. A chill ran up Harry’s spine when he thought back on it, remembered how cruelly they treated everyone, how much they seemed to enjoy it, and the first time he saw the Dark Mark in the sky.

They finished up with the tent and Harry and Ron went back to the house to collect some bedding for the cots. As they entered the house, they noticed Ginny and Hermoine were alone and had settled at the kitchen table. They were snapping beans and throwing them into a large wicker basket. They were going on about Fleur’s dress, how beautiful it was, how they couldn’t wait for the wedding, and whispering commiseration about how utterly deplorable their sea foam colored dresses were.

Harry and Ron sat across from them. The girls seemed to blush a bit as they sat, and an uncomfortable silence wafted in the room as Harry looked at Ginny, Ron at Hermoine. Then, Ginny piped up.

“So, what’s this horcrux thing?” Ginny said, changing the unspoken subject.

Hermoine and Ron looked at Harry, wondering the same thing as Harry, would this be breaking his promise to Dumbledore? If it did, would it matter? Harry thought for a second. Ginny was right, she was strong. She possessed certainty in her thoughts and actions. She never had been one to hesitate, either from fear, logic or emotion. Even Slughorn had been impressed enough in her acumen to include her in his circle. They could use her talents, and Harry couldn’t see any reason why inclusion into this knowledge shouldn’t extend from Ron to his sister.

Harry told her all about it, about Riddle, about horcruxes, what they might be, where they might be. He told them all about their adventure in the cave. They all winced and shuddered when he relayed the bits of the story about the Inferi. He recounted what the potion had done to Dumbledore. Even Hermoine did not have any insight on what the potion was, although she had some ideas about its purpose.

“Obviously, it was intended to be drunk,” Hermoine said. “Based on what he said, how he acted, it sounds like he was seeing a memory, or reliving one. Sounds like it was horrible, like he was looking at something being done to someone. Hard to tell, though, if it was his memory or someone else’s. Must have been really horrible to be strong enough to debilitate someone.”

“Yeah, sounds like Dumbledore, though,” Ron said. “You know, hurt me, not them. Wonder if he was being poisoned as well?”

“I think so,” Harry said. “It did make him very weak. I basically had to carry him away. Dumbledore said before, when he told me about the ring and what it did to his hand, that Voldemort probably made the enchantments just strong enough for the person who found them or tried to destroy them just weak enough so he could find them, get the horcrux back, and find out how they managed it. Just before he killed them.”

“Well, if that’s the case, and if I’m right about R.A.B. being Regulus Black,” Hermoine said, “then we know a little bit about his last days, then. Evidently, he found out where the locket was, or already knew seeing as he was a Death Eater, retrieved the locket after drinking the potion and took off with it.”

“Yeah, but obviously You-Know-Who caught up with him.” Ron said.

“But if he already knew about it, Hermoine,” Harry said, “why did the note say ‘it was I who discovered your secret.’”

Hermoine thought for a second, but it was Ginny who spoke next, “Maybe the horcrux thing wasn’t the secret. Maybe it was something else.”

“Perhaps,” Hermoine said, contemplating, “but horcruxes, in general, are a pretty big secret anyway.”

“But that night he died, or almost at least,” Ron said, glancing over at Harry “He was just, you know, spirit-like. How could he have gone and gotten one of the horcruxes. He evidently needed help from Bertha Jorkins, Professor Quirrell and Pettigrew just to get back here from Albania, didn’t he? Someone had to know, apart from him, so they could go fetch one, right?”

“That’s true,” Harry said. “Perhaps Regulus knew about them, maybe even all the Death Eaters knew, and still know what they are and where they are.”

“But, Harry,” Hermoine said, concerned. “If the Death Eaters knew about the horcruxes, why would they have waited over ten years to reclaim one of them and bring him back? If anyone other than Voldemort knew about the horcruxes, it must have been very few, or possibly only one or two others.”

“My money’s on Snape if you ask me,” Ron said. They all sat for a second in silence, none more satisfied that they were making any progress.

“Well, here’s what we do know,” Hermoine said, breaking the silence, “R.A.B. knew he would be dead, and soon, had discovered a secret, and intended to destroy the real horcrux. If it was Regulus, or a Death Eater for that matter, it had to have been one who wanted Voldemort defeated.”

“Well, that points to Regulus, too.’ Harry said. “I remember looking at the Black family tree up on the wall at Grimmauld place with Sirius. He mentioned his brother, Regulus. Said Voldemort had him killed probably. Said he heard after his death that he had gotten cold feet once he saw Voldemort’s true colors.”

“Fetching that locket doesn’t sound like cold feet to me,” Ginny said. “Sounds like Voldemort had plenty of reason for killing him.”

“True,” Hermoine said. “Sounds like Sirius should have been proud of his brother. But it does sound like he knew he was dying, or that he would, after fetching a horcrux. But it bothers me that he says he ‘discovered’ his secret. If the horcruxes was the secret, that means that Regulus wasn’t entrusted with their knowledge to get them if Voldemort ever died. He either found out about them on his own, of there’s some other secret.”

“Yeah, plus, if he was entrusted by Voldemort to know about the horcruxes in case he died,” Harry said, “and Voldemort found out he had betrayed him, someone else needed to know about them, right?”

“I still say it’s Snape,” Ron said.

“Or maybe someone who was in Azkaban or unable the whole time,” Harry said. “That would be who. Barty Crouch, Jr., Bellatrix, Narcissa…”

“That’s all I can think of,” Hermoine said, as the others nodded their agreement.

“What about Pettigrew?” Harry said.

“Well, he was here the whole time, wasn’t he. He sure didn’t leave here to look for any horcruxes,” Ron said. Then he shuddered. “Still can’t believe he was Scabbers the whole time.”

“Or it was someone who was biding their time, you know,” Hermoine said “making sure it was safe, but just got beat to the punch by Pettigrew.”

“I’ve got three words for you,” Ron said, impatiently, “Snape, Snape, and…oh what’s the other one…oh, yeah, SNAPE!”

“Honestly, Ron, of course Snape is under the highest suspicion, especially given the fact that he killed Dumbledore,” she said, impatiently, “but he has a lot of alibis doesn’t he. Dumbledore trusted him immensely. He was absolved by the Wizengamut and vouched for by Dumbledore, and he never did bring Voldemort back with a horcrux, did he? It seems, other than him not getting the Dark Arts job, til last year of course, that he was doing right well for himself. If he was the one who Voldemort entrusted with the knowledge of his horcruxes, why didn’t he use that knowledge. He had the most opportunity, the most freedom. We need to exhaust all the other options.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Ron said, resigned. “Well, one things for sure. I’m glad no one else needs to go drinking that potion again. Sounds like awful stuff.”

“I wonder if that was a memory there in that basin,” Ginny said.

Then, it clicked. Why hadn’t he thought of it. “It was a memory!” He exclaimed, a little too loudly. Ron and Ginny shushed him, but no one came in.

Harry continued in a whisper, “The basin, it was a pensieve. I just didn’t put it together because there wasn’t a memory strand in it. I bet you that potion was some sort of memory, but changed into a liquid, or combined with some slow-acting poison!”

“You could be right, Harry,” Hermoine said. “Magic is often disguised in other forms. Just look at a portkey. Muggles never think twice about them, but there designed that way as not to garner attention. Perhaps Voldemort disguised one of his memories by masking it in with the potion? Then enchanted it so that it could only be seen if the potion was drunk?’

“Right brilliant, that,” Ron said. “you’d have to drink it to see it, and drinking it would kill you. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”

“Sounds like Voldemort,” Harry said, sarcastically. “Wants you damned no matter which way you turn.”

“I wonder if this R.A.B. even got a chance to destroy it?” Ginny said.

“Dunno,” Harry said.

“Yeah sounds like the finding it, rather than destroying it, seals your fate,” said Ron.

“Well, if that’s the case, we’ve got some work to do,” Hermoine said. The other three looked at her quizzically, and she continued as if they should know what she was thinking. “Well, if we’re going to go off looking for these things, we don’t want to go dying off when we find one, do we?”

Harry hadn’t thought of this. “Well, it seems that it’s what is protecting the horcruxes that’s the issue, not so much the horcrux, if we go by the locket. And I never did find out exactly what happened to Dumbledore’s hand, whether it was finding the ring or destroying the horcrux that turned it that way.”

“Well, given his track record,” Hermoine said, “I would guess that he’s protected them in more than one way. We’ve just got to have our wits about us when we come across one. We can’t destroy them if we don’t collect them up.”

Then, Harry’s thoughts turned to his own pensieve and the memory upstairs. He wondered if he had time tonight. He told Hermoine and Ginny about it as well.

“Let’s go up to my room, see if we can do it up there,” Ginny said. “I’ll keep lookout. The three of you can take a look at it. How long these things take, anyway?”

“I suppose they could last a while,” Harry said. “But all the one’s I’ve seen take no more than five minutes.”

“Well, we should be able to manage five minutes,” Ron said. “But Ginny, if you hear anyone coming, you’ve got to pull us back out, got it.”

“Sure,” she said, and they rose to head up the stairs.

They reached Ginny’s room to discover it empty. It seemed the adults had all decided to retire to the tent for more conversation and drink.

Ron had split of from them and had ducked into his room to retrieve the pensieve and the vile. He brought it to them when Ginny stuck her head out of her door and motioned for him to come.

“Never worked one of these before,” Ron said, turning the pensive in his hands.

“No problem,” Harry said with a sigh. “I’ve had plenty of experience.”

Harry set the pensieve on the floor and they all kneeled down around it. Then, Harry took the vile with the liquid silver strand in it, removed the cork, and poured the slippery substance into the basin.

“What now,” Hermoine said, looking at it curiously.

We’ve got to stick our faces down in it,” Harry said. Ginny gasped, horrified.

“Don’t worry,” Harry said. “It’s kind of like looking through a telescope. You see things up close, but you’re still standing where you were. And it’s just a memory, so no one in it can see or hear you, but you can see and here them. Ginny, just pull on my shoulder if anyone comes.”

Hermoine and Ginny nodded their understanding, but Ron said, “What a teliescope?”

“Never mind,” Harry said, “I’ll explain later.”

With that, Harry, Ron and Hermoine clasped hands, and their faces descended into the pensieve.

The trio fell into the Dursley’s living room and landed face to face with Harry’s aunt. She was much younger looking than Harry ever remembered her being, save from photographs. The lines around her eyes and mouth from squinting and screaming at Dudley and he were yet to be etched there. She was, in fact, wearing the same red cardigan sweater that she had on in the family photograph on the mantle from when Dudley was an infant. Harry noticed that this picture wasn’t even on the mantle yet. She had a look of concentration on her face, and she fumbled with the pearls around her neck.

“The decision, of course, is yours alone, Petunia,” a soft voice said. Each of them turned to the source of the familiar voice. There, right next to them, stood Albus Dumbledore, looking just as old as they had always know him to be, his hair the same shade of white. He wore an ornate purple robe; however, his hat was in his hands. Harry couldn’t remember ever seeing Dumbledore without his hat on. There was a carpet bag next to his foot.

“…but, again, I warn you,” he said, sternly but at the same time, kindly, “that whether you decide to take him in, or not, the risk to you, and your family, remains great. In fact, as I mentioned in my note to you, your risk could very well be diminished if you decide the former. As long as Harry resides with kin, those who share his blood, I can protect all of you. There are ways around it, of course. But the ways around the protection, as well as the protection itself, are very old magic, indeed. Only a handful of wizards would know of it, let alone ways around it.”

The trio turned back to Petunia, the pearls now a flurry of motion between her fingers. She stood there, fiddling and thinking, her brow furrowed, silent and unsure. Dumbledore waited patiently. But Petunia did not answer, the only noise in the room the inane clicking.

“Perhaps, a moment alone,” Dumbledore said, softly. “I have had a long journey. I wonder if I could impose upon you to use your facilities?”

Petunia was lost in thought and seemed to have completely ignored him, her pearls continuing their clicking. Then, she suddenly stopped, awakened from her trance, “I’m sorry?” she said to him.

“Your facilities?” Dumbledore repeated. She still didn’t seem to comprehend. “…Your water closet?”

“Oh, yes,” she said, finally focusing on him rather that herself. “There, next to the front door.”

Dumbledore picked up the bag and proceeded toward the front door. Petunia settled down on an ottoman and resumed her absentminded clicking. The trio followed Dumbledore.

They reached the lavatory door, which was just next to the stairs. Dumbledore turned to see Petunia lost deep in thought, staring at, rather than through, the front window. He turned quickly, then quietly ascended the stairs. As he reached the landing, he turned and entered Dudley’s open door.

There they saw a rather large crib in a very meticulously decorated nursery. A large infant was banging on the crib bars with a bottle, a determined look on his face. But Dumbledore seemed not to notice him. He headed over to a far corner of the room where a small basket lay. In it was another, smaller child with a scar on his forehead, sleeping soundly.

Dumbledore took out his wand casually, then chanted something. A great, bright light emanated from the tip of the wand. The entire room filled with it, prompting the child in the crib to stop its pounding and stare at him blankly. Then, it vanished as quickly as it came. Dumbledore leaned over and kissed the child on the scar lightly, then quickly moved out of the room and back down the stairs. He quietly slipped into the lavatory.

He closed the door behind him, then set the bag down next to him. He placed his hat on the towel cabinet next to the door, then opened the bag. From it, he extracted a small, glass vile and placed it on the sink. He removed its cork, then he looked into the mirror. The trio looked at his reflection as he paused, seeing only him, not themselves, of course. The he spoke to his reflection.

“Harry’” he said, quietly. They saw each other flinch with surprise. After a few seconds, he continued, “I take it I have died. Pity…” he paused for a moment. Then he continued, “I also take it that, since you are seeing me here in this memory, you are of age. I am glad,” he said with a smile. “I hope this memory finds you safe and happy, however I expect the opposite.” The smile was now gone.

“The events of the past two days have been met with much rejoice because of you. However, I fear that what you have been bequeathed, quite unintentionally to all, is a curse as well as a badge of honour.

“I tell you this now, here, because I can not while I am alive,” he continued. “I also tell you this now, after you have turned seventeen, because you are now of age.”

They were transfixed on Dumbledore, on his words. “Harry, you have, before your first birthday, defeated a very powerful and evil wizard, or at least have contributed to his self-defeat. Given your age, I am more inclined to believe he has thrown the quaffle into his own goal, made a grave error in judgment. His name is Voldemort. But you undoubtedly know this by now.”

“Listen to me carefully, Harry,” he said as his eyes tightened. “You have a great enchantment upon you. It has been given to you by your mother who died to protect you, to save your life. Sacrifice for the benefit of another, sacrifice made intentionally, knowingly in the face of grave peril, is a courage beyond courage. It is the ultimate sign of the most powerful force in the world, whether in the magical world or the muggle world. A power which can defeat any evil, any curse or enchantment. But, it is something that must be nurtured and cultivated, because all other emotions are easier than it. It is part of nature, to be true, but it becomes more powerful the more it becomes selfless. You will find, I hope, this power, the power of love, for it will, I fear, be the only power that will defeat this Voldemort should he return. In order to use love, you must have love and be loved. Voldemort, unfortunately, has never loved or been loved, not even by his parents.”

Dumbledore stopped for a moment, then continued, “But, alas, I have been vague and, I suspect have given you little in the way of specific instruction that you undoubtedly were searching for, or why else would you be viewing this.” He stroked his beard in thought.

“Ahhh, specific advise, let’s see. I haven’t much time.” He pondered for a moment, staring at the sink, then, raised his finger. “Yes, firstly, trust your instincts, and first impressions. I find that, in my over 100 years on this earth, that what I thought to be true of a persons character upon first meeting was, after time passed, the most correct.”

He thought again, stroking his beard throughout, “Secondly, once you have both sides of a story, pat yourself on the back. Then, start looking for the third, fourth, and so on. There are rarely two sides of a coin, regardless of the expression.”

“Thirdly, I will never die if those who remain loyal to me continue to be so. As long as you remain loyal to me, I will never die. Just look upon me, and I will answer.”

“And finally,” he said, “there will be many people in your life, Harry. Many you will trust, and just as many will betray you. Their reasons for betrayal will be as many as the stars in the night sky, as varied as snowflakes. However, there is one who you can always trust. He has made a secret oath to obey me and protect you, forever, and to ensure that Voldemort never regain his power. He had no choice actually, just as your aunt doesn’t in the decision she is contemplating right now. When you feel you can trust no other, you must trust in him, seek him out. This will be difficult, as you will find him to be no semblance of ally, only foe. For this, there are reasons, reasons which, should it become necessary, you will know. But, when all have deserted you, he alone will hold your salvation. He is a teacher at my school, Hogwarts. His name is Severus, Severus Snape.”

Harry’s neck snapped as he turned to Ron and Hermoine, who were both staring back at him with the same, gaping mouth. Snape! Even then, Dumbledore was hoodwinked. Just days, perhaps, since catching him eavesdropping on Professor Trelawney’s prophecy, knowing that it was he who had betrayed his parents and gone to Voldemort with it. Knowing that he was a Death Eater, knowing how much he hated his parents. Hary felt as if he were going to be sick.

“Well,” Dumbledore continued, “I suppose that has been enough time for your aunt to realize that she has no choice,” he said as he replaced his hat on his head. He extracted his wand again, then suddenly turned to his right, staring Harry directly in the eyes.

“Choose love, Harry,” he whispered. “You will never regret choosing love.” With that, he smiled, then turned back to the mirror. He pointed his wand to his temple, and all went black.

Just then, Harry noticed a rather strong pull on his shoulder. With that, they all settled back down in Ginny’s room.

“About time you noticed,” Ginny exclaimed to Harry. “Mum’s down in the kitchen calling for us!” The trio regained their wits quickly.

“Ron,” Mrs. Weasley’s voice boomed up the stairs. “Your father needs those beddings, now! What on earth is keeping you!”

Got them, mum,” Ron shouted back. “Be down in a second!”

“See that you are!” She cried back. “And Harry, collect your things as well. I need to make up Ron’s room for the Delacoeurs.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Harry called back.

“Are the girls up there as well?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Send them down as well,” Mrs. Weasley said.

Ron rushed out into the hallway to the linen closet to collect the beddings, while Hermoine and Ginny rushed down the stairs. Harry rushed back to Ron’s room with the pensieve and vile. Once there, he replaced the memory into the vile, stopped it and shoved it all into his trunk He collected Hedwig, then lumbered down the stairs.

The ladies had all filed back into the kitchen. It seemed as if hundreds of conversations were occurring all at once, interspersed with laughter. Harry made a beat for the door and headed outside toward the tent.

A small bonfire was going, the men sitting around it. Great bursts of laughter filled the night air, As Harry approached, he heard Mr. Weasley say something to the group about Sir Patrick encouraging someone to taste a tomato, which was followed by another burst of raucous laughter. Harry passed by the congregation and headed into the tent to find Ron, who had placed a set of bedding on a cot, staring at it as if willing it made with mere mental suggestion.

“What are they on about?” Harry asked, gesturing out the tent.

Ron rolled his eyes, “Oh the story of Sir Patrick Delaney Podmore. Only heard it a hundred times. Dad breaks it out everytime we have company.”

“Is that the Sir Patrick from Hogwarts, the ghost?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, the story of how he lost his head,” Ron said. “Never found it funny, thought, the story. Quite boring really, until his head gets lopped off. Evidently, Sir Patrick was something of a gardener.” Ron shrugged.

Harry’s thoughts, though, had turned to the memory in the pensieve. Trust Snape, indeed. Trust him to what? He had killed Dumbledore, that’s what trusting Severus Snape had gotten him. One thing he would obey, however. Harry would be searching Snape out, but not for the reasons Dumbledore intended.

Evidently, Ron’s thoughts had shifted as well. “What do you think he meant? ‘Look upon me, and I will answer’”, Ron quoted from the memory. “Can’t rightly look upon him encased in that tomb, can we?”

“Dunno,” Harry said perfunctorily. He was curious, but the events of the past two days, and his lack of sleep, had Harry pondering only one question. “Which bed’s mine?”

“This one, I suppose, next to mine,” Ron answered. Harry picked up a second set of linins and began making his cot. Ron peeked over at him and copied everything Harry did. Once made, they plopped down on their cots. Despite the ruckus outside, Harry fell asleep instantly.

Harry dreamed of his parents for the first time in a long while. He dreamed he was younger, much younger, perhaps five or six. He was in a large front room in a small house with a large bay window. He was down on an oval rug with many multicolored stripes, pushing a toy truck around and around the perimeter.

His mother was in a chair. She seemed to be knitting. His father was in another next to his mother’s, separated by a small table on which stood a small portrait of the three. His father and mother cradled an infant Harry in their arms smiling. Harry noticed that his forehead was clear, no sign of the scar, the reminder of what, evidently, had never happened.

His father’s face was hidden by the paper he was reading, “The Godric’s Hollow Gazette”. Harry glanced at his mother to see she was already looking at him, smiling. Harry returned to his roundabout.

Then, he heard it, faint, outside in the sky. It was the light sound of wings flapping in the dusk. Harry turned to the bay window, but saw nothing at first. But the sound became louder, and the flapping seemed to multiply. Then, the sky began to darken, and he could see hundreds of small, black dots filling the sky on the horizon. It looked like a swarm of bees. But as they drew nearer, he saw they were much larger creatures.

The first of the hoard came into focus. They were immense, completely fleshless, their black coats clinging to their skeletons. Black, leathery wings supported them in their flight. They looked like dragon headed horses, and they were looming, headed straight for the house.

Little Harry rose in fear, and tried to mutter a warning to his parents. He turned to see them, still seated, smiling at him. “What’s the matter dear,” his mother said, with concern. “Harry, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost!”

All the breath had left him. He couldn’t speak, Little Harry simply pointed at the window as the creatures approached. They were close enough now for Harry to see their pupil-less, white eyes, void of emotion as if rolled back into their heads.

Harry jerked awake, and turned toward Ron who evidently had been startled as well. But Harry noticed that the sound of wings was still around him.

“Sounds like owls,’ Ron said, puzzled. “And a load of them! Who’d be posting this late!”

They jumped up from their cots, only to be met by Hermoine, who thrust open the tent’s flaps. Ginny was behind her, and they both had a startled, but somewhat satisfied, look on their faces.

“They’ve turned themselves in, Harry!” Hermoine exclaimed. “The Ministry has them!”

She thrust a wad of newspaper into Harry’s hand, and Harry unfurled it.

DAILY PROPHET
SPECIAL LATE_NIGHT EDITION



SNAPE, MALFOY SURFACE
Turn Themselves Over to Ministry for Questioning

In a stunning turn of events in the death of Albus Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class and late headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the Ministry has confirmed with the Prophet that Severus Snape, reformed Death Eater and former professor of over fifteen years tenure, has turned himself over to face interrogation by the Wizengamut regarding the mysterious events of little more than two months hence.

According to reliable Ministry sources, Mr. Snape also delivered to minister Rufus Scrimgeour, Draco Malfoy, son of imprisoned and accused Death Eater Lucius and suspected Death Eater Narcissa Malfoy. Mr. Snape and the younger Malfoy have been accused by some as being present on the high tower at Hogwarts from which the late headmaster plunged.

Ministry coroner, Languine Reaper, has previously submitted that the late headmaster had died as a result of the fall, seeing no evidence on his person of any injuries inconsistent with that conclusion.

However, the sequence of events surrounding how the late headmaster was flung from the tower remains clouded in mystery. Reports from the school that night suggest that others were present on the tower when the late headmaster met his death. Stories have surfaced suggesting that, in addition to the three, as many as four others were there, including none other than Mr. Harry Potter himself.

These sources, who were at the grizzly scene beneath the tower that night, report that Mr. Potter claimed to be there on the tower, charmed with some sort of incapacity spell, rendering himself a mere spectator to the action.

These sources also report that Mr. Potter accused Mr. Snape of performing the killing curse on the late headmaster, then flung his lifeless body over the parapet. Mr. Potter also accused Draco Malfoy of holding the late headmaster at bay until Mr. Snape arrived to carry out the deed. Many witnesses also reported seeing Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Snape fleeing the scene.

Transcripts from Mr. Snape and Mr. Malfoy’s initial interrogation, recently procured by the Prophet from the Ministry, however, tell a decidedly different tale.

In stories that do not vary in detail, each claim to have been informed of the presence of Death Eaters in Hogwarts castle, fighting Aurors who had recently been stationed there for the students’ protection. They made there way to the tower antechamber in time to see three subjects climbing the stairs to the tower, among them known You-Know-Who supporter and lycanthrope Fenrir Greyback.

They followed them up to the tower to see Dumbledore battling the three, but were unable to prevent the massive Greyback from hurtling Mr. Dumbledore from the tower to the ground below. Both claim to have given chase, but could not catch the trio as they fled the school. Both maintain their innocence and refute Mr. Potter’s claims as to their involvement in the late headmaster’s death.

Upon further questioning, both claim that they did not see the aforementioned supposed witness, Mr. Potter, on the tower at all. However, Mr. Snape has alleged that Mr. Potter and one Rubius Hagrid, former prisoner at Askaban and game keeper at Hogwarts, thwarted his attempts to apprehend the suspects on the Hogwarts lawn while in chase, attacking him with spells and hindering his progress.

Asked for comment, Minister and head of the Wizengamut special committee Scrimgeour, released a brief statement, which follows:

“Misters Snape and Malfoy are in custody. However, they have not been charged with any wrong doing, and are being held only for formal questioning regarding the death of late headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Mr. Snape, although his past is checkered, has been a loyal servant to the Ministry, Hogwarts, and to Mr. Dumbledore himself for over fifteen years. Everyone can be secure that we will leave no stone unturned in our investigation as to whether the late headmaster’s death was the result of any foul play, and, if so, that the responsible parties will come to justice.”

When pressed for an answer regarding Mr. Snape’s charges against Mr. Potter, the Minister stated, “Mr. Potter has given me his testimony the night of the late headmaster’s death, and it has been entered into the record. I have no doubt that Mr. Potter will be more than cooperative should the Ministry or the Wizengamut require his further testimony or clarification. As to Mr. Snape’s specific charges against Mr. Potter, the Ministry shall review his testimony and act appropriately under wizarding law.”

Even though Mr. Potter is now of age, should Mr. Potter stand accused of any wrongdoing, the Ministry has confirmed that he would be charged as underage since his alleged actions were carried out as a minor.

As of press time, no formal charges have been entered, nor has the case been reclassified from its original, formal designation as “unexplained”. However, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Fenrir Greyback for suspicion of murder as a result of the interrogation.


They looked at Harry, stepping back a bit, fearing his response. To their surprise, Harry laughed. Each of them traded curious looks, then Ron said, “You alright, mate?”

“Sure,” Harry said. “I see what there playing at. Snape’s just trying to cover for himself, and for Malfoy. Wouldn’t expect them to act any differently. They don’t think there were any witnesses, or at least they know I can’t prove I was there. Plus, what can they charge me with. Attacking a professor? Doubt it, that would be the headmast..or headmistresses job. Underage magc? Can’t, I was at Hogwarts, wasn’t I?”

Harry paused for a moment, then rushed out to the fire. Each of them sat, either staring over the paper or still involved in it. Harry made a bee line for Mr. Weasley as the others followed.

“Disgraceful journalistic principals, Harry. I’m sorry…,” Mr. Weasley said as he rose from his log.

Harry cut him off, unintentionally, his thoughts driven by his purpose. “Mr. Weasley, are you going to the Ministry tomorrow?”

“Why, yes Harry, I have some work to do…”

“I wonder if I could accompany you,” Harry said, “I need to speak with Scrimgeour.”

“Well, Harry, one just doesn’t barge in to the Minister’s office and demand an audience,” Mr. Weasley said, fatherly.

“He’ll see me. I can read between the lines. It’s quite the other way around.” Harry said matter-of-fact. “He has requested an audience with me, and I’m happy to oblige.”

Arthur looked at him, concerned, then smiled and said, “Of course. We’ll leave at 8?”

“Thank you, sir,” Harry said, and crawled into his cot, leaving the others back at the fire, dumbfounded.

End, Chapter 6

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:49 pm.
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  #6  
Old November 30th, 2005, 3:37 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
First Year
 
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Location: Atlanta GA, USA
Age: 52
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Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Principles Compromised

Harry was awakened out of a dead sleep by the chilly night air rushing through the tent’s opened flaps. Mr. Weasley was shaking Harry awake. He could see that Ron was still sleeping soundly, and Mr. Weasley whispered to him as he nudged his shoulder.

“Harry, better get a move on if you want to accompany me,” Mr. Weasley said, trying not to wake the others, all of whom remained slumbering. Harry rose, noticing that he had fallen asleep wearing his glasses. “Sure, thanks,” he said wearily, “I’m up.”

Harry replaced his shirt with a clean one from his trunk and gathered his wand, then followed Mr. Weasley out. It was still dark, and the cottage seemed mile away as he walked, his thighs burning from lack of stretching. As they approached the kitchen door, Harry could smell the wonderful aroma of fried eggs, bacon, sausage and toasting bread. He saw Mrs. Weasley pass by the open window, a flurry of activity over the stove, then the sink then the oven.

“Good morning, Harry,” she said as they entered. “Didn’t think you’d be one to rise so early this morning, what with the fesivities last night.” She was careful not to make mention of the article, which Harry was sure had her concerned. Harry was thankful for her gracious silence on the subject.

“Good morning,” he yawned.

“Harry’s accompanying me to the Ministry this morning, Molly,” Mr. Weasley said. Harry saw a look of astonishment on her face, to which Mr. Weasley countered. “Not to worry Molly, he’s going of his own volition. We’ll be seeing the Minister this morning to discuss, well…” Mr. Weasley stopped short of it, obviously having been debriefed on the sensitivity of the subject the night before by his wife.

“Wel then, can’t meet the Minister of Magic on an empty stomach,” She said, as she raked a fried egg and a heap of sausage and bacon on a plate. “Need your strength,” she continued as she ladled a dollop of gravy over some toast and the sausage links.

“Thanks very much,” Harry said as he sat at the table and began to eat with Mr. Weasley. They sat in silence, with the exception of Mrs. Weasley’s humming of “Oh, my poor heart, where has it gone…” while she cooked more eggs, scrambled this time. Harry’s stomach was in knots, though, and he barely managed to get half of it down.

“Well, Harry, let’s be off. Nearly eight,” Mr. Weasley said as he rose from his empty plate to kiss Mrs. Weasley on the cheek. “We should be back around noonish,” he said as he wrapped his scarf around his neck.

“Please do, Arthur,” she responded, “We’ve still so much to do before the weekend.”

“I’ll try and make it back sooner, dear.”

With that, Harry and Mr. Weasley strode down the dirt lane to the spot that it seemed was the most conducive to apparating, since it was the spot Harry had seen everyone appear and disappear from in all the time he had spent at the Burrow.

Once there, Mr. Weasley turned to him and said, “Harry, how about you try it on your own, eh? Ever apparated successfully?”

Harry thought back to the only time he had, when he apparated back to Hogsmeade with Dumbledore in tow, from that horrible oceanside cave.

“Yes, sir,” Harry said, nervously. “But just once.”

“Well, no time like the present for your second try,” Mr. Weasley said. “You remember the phone booth, the one we went through for your hearing?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry replied.

“Fix your mind on it,” Mr. Weasley said. “Just outside it though, not in it. Hate to have to extract you from the frame. And not to worry, I’ll be just behind.”

“Okay,” Harry said. He closed his eyes, focusing on that telephone booth. Then, he stepped forward, felt that feeling of compression, then his ears were filled with honking horns. He opened his eyes to find his nose pressed right up against the glass of the phone booth. He moved aside a bit, and Mr. Weasley popped up right next to him.

“Well done, Harry, well done,” he patted him on the shoulder while studying him over. “Not a hair out of place, it seems. Now, let’s go and see if we can’t stir up some trouble, heh!”

They entered the booth, and Mr. Weasley again fumbled to remember the numbers again, “What was it, oh yes 6…then 2…4…and 4 again, then back to 2.”

The same cool female voice inquired of their identity, to which Arthur obliged. Another badge slipped down the chute, which read “Mr. Harry Potter, Level 2 Restricted”. The voice then gave the same instruction to Harry about relinquishing his wand, then they were off, swallowed up by the ground.

They made their way to the elevator. They came across only two others, one on the way out of the elevator, and one wizard who entered the elevator on the six. He was very dirty and shabby looking, and had a worm sticking out his neck. They stood there in silence, each glancing between their feet and the floor indicator over the door. Finally, the elevator came to rest at Floor 3, and the unseemly wizard got off. Mr. Weasley turned to Harry as the doors shut behind him, and said to Harry, “Seen it a thousand times. He’ll be fine.”

Then the elevator stopped at the next floor where Mr.. Weasley’s office was. They emptied into the hallway, and Harry followed Mr. Weasley to the right. They strode down a long corridor, at the end of which were two, large ornate wooden double doors. A sinewy dragon scaled each, its tail at the bottom, and its head at the top, breathing fire up and consuming the top corners. Just to the right of the doors was a desk tended by a small woman with a high, pointed hat.

“Please state your name and your business with the Minister, please,” she said rote, not even looking up.

“Mr. Arthur Weasley and Mr. Harry Potter. Requesting an audience with the Minister regarding the investigation regarding the death of Albus Dumbledore.”

Her head popped up so quickly Harry thought it would snap off. She looked right passed Mr. Weasley, her eyes transfixed on Harry’s forehead. After a moment, she regained her composure and said, “Oh, hello Arthur. How’s Molly.” she said cordially. “How are the wedding plans coming?”

”Coming together well, Grace,” he replied, “Glad I’m not paying for it. How’s John?”

“Dreadful! I think I told you last time I saw you,” she started, “can’t seem to fix that problem with his, well, for another time,” she cut herself off, seeming a little embarrassed.

“The Minister is in conference at the moment with Mr. Fudge and Mrs. McGonnagall and Umbridge regarding Hogwarts’ opening. I expect them to be all morning, given I’ve made lunch reservations for them all…”

Before she could finish, the large double doors swung open. Rufus Scrimgeour emerged, limping a little and thrust his hand out. “Harry, so glad to see you,” he said, his face beaming. “Good morning, Arthur.”

Harry could see Professor McGonnagall sitting in one chair in front of a grand desk, staring down at her lap underneath her tartan cap. Seated to her left was Delores Umbridge, who was craning her neck so far to see out that she nearly fell from chair. Her toad-like face winced as she righted herself. Also, there was Cornelius Fudge, who had risen from his chair to Professor McGonnagall’s right and was striding toward the door, his lime green bowler a blur between his fingers.

Scrimgeour shook Harry’s hand excitedly, “To what do we owe the pleasure, Harry.”

Harry felt a little uncomfortable. “I don’t mean to interrupt. I can come back, later…”

“Nonsense, nonsense,” Scrimgeour beamed. “Always have time for you Harry.”

Harry heard Delores Umbridge mutter under her breath in disgust as Cornelius Fudge took a respite from turning his hat in his hands long enough to shake Harry’s.

“Thank you sir,” Harry said, mustering his courage. He glanced over at the others in the room, wanting them gone, but Scrimgeour said nothing, awaiting Harry’s purpose.

“I wonder if we could speak about…your proposal. The one you made me last year,” Harry said, trying to whisper.

“Of course, of course,” Scrimgeour exclaimed, as he turned around. “We can table this discussion until lunch. Cornelius, Minerva, Delores, please,” as he bade them exit with a motion of his arm. “I shall meet you all later. I think we’ve laid enough groundwork for the morning.”

“Of course,” said Fudge, trying to act stately. “Ladies, we can retire to the conference room for our planning. Shall we?”

Delores Umbridge shot up out of her chair, obviously well put out by the interruption, and stormed passed Harry and Mr. Weasley with her nose held high as if she smelled something rotten. Professor McGonnagall rose more slowly, and walked to Harry.

“Hello, Harry,” she said with a forced smile. “Doing well?”

“Yes, Professor,” Harry replied.

“Excellent,” she said back, and strode out of the room, followed by Fudge.

“Arthur,” Scrimgeour said and paused. Mr. Weasley quickly interpreted the Minister’s meaning, and asked Harry, “You’ll be alright?”

“Yes, sir,” Harry said. “Thank you.”

“Minister,” Mr. Weasley said with a quick bow and closed the doors slowly behind him.

“Harry, I’m glad to see you,” Scrimgeour said. “I suppose you’ve heard the good news. Snape is here now, being questioned. Along with Mr. Malfoy.”

“Yes,” Harry said, trying to conceal his contempt. “I read the Prophet article last night.”

“Yes, about that,” Scrimgeour said, a little uncomfortably. “No harm meant, of course. Severus’ accusations are without merit, I’m sure. However, we must run it up the legal flagpole as it were. I’m sure nothing will come of it as you are concerned.”

“I’m not really concerned with myself, Minister,” Harry said with a little bite. “I think you know why I’m here.”

“Ah, Mr. Stunpike, I gather,” he said, as he strode behind his desk and motioned to the center chair McGonnagall had just occupied. “Sit, please.”

Harry sat and sunk into the chair, which was still warm. He felt dwarfed in front of Scrimgeour. His chair seemed to be upon a pedestal and he seemed to tower over him. However, this did not intimidate Harry.

Harry mustered more strength, “I have a proposal for you.”

“A proposal for me?” Scrimgeour said, chuckling a bit. “Harry, even though charges against you I find to be baseless, I find you in no bargaining position, Unless, of course…”

“Yes, I know what you want,” Harry said, feeling a little besmirched. “And you know what I want.” Harry peered at the Minister, who peered back, both determined.

“Very well, but just so there is no misunderstanding,” Scrimgeour said. “The Ministry will release Stanley Shunpike, and I will make sure that the charges against you are never brought to judgment. But in return…” Harry braced for the coin to flip.

“In return, Harry, firstly, you will make a public statement about the Ministry, that you agree and support its efforts in the hunt for You-Know-Who and the Death Eaters. You will say in no uncertain terms that the ministry has your support as it relates to our efforts. You will follow this up with, and make mention during your statement of, a full written statement which will outline your support for the Ministries efforts in more detail, which will be published, in its entirety, in the Daily Prophet.” He pulled open a drawer and extracted a document and handed it over to Harry. “I’ve done you the favor of drafting it for you. You, of course, can review it and we can discuss any modifications.

“Second,” Scrimgeour continued, “You will testify, as you may be ordered by the Wizengamut, regarding the events you witnessed on the Astronomy tower the night of Dumbledore’s death, should Mr. Snape be charged and stand trial for murder.” Harry couldn’t believe his ears. Did this mean he believed him? That he was there? That Snape was guilty? “You will answer truthfully and fully, and to ensure this you waive your rights to refuse the administration of veritaserum just prior to your testimony.

“And, thirdly,” he continued, “and this will stay between the two of us, you will tell me where you were and what you and Dumbledore were doing just prior to returning to Hogwarts that night. Mind, we have testimony from Rosmerta from Hogsmeade that she saw the two of you apparate out from Hogsmeade that evening, and just before bed, returned, just prior to Dumbledore’s death. We know you two were together, but Harry, it is important that we know where you two were, what you were up to, especially if it has to do with You-Know-Who. There is power in numbers, Harry. I am just as invested in defeating him as you are. The Ministry can help, and it will. But we can only help to the extent you let us. After all, where you go, he will follow.”

Harry read over the statement. It was innocuous enough to him, except for a certain part. It actually was pretty much how he felt. It mentioned that the Ministry agreed with Harry that the Ministry had made grave errors in the past (Harry surmised that was more for Fudge than Harry), and gave his support for the Ministries more recent actions, including heralding them for finding Snape (which, technically was untrue, seeing as Snape had turned himself in).

Also, Harry was thrilled with the prospects of being able to tell the story of that night, especially if he was under the veritaserum, in front of the Wizengamut. Then, no one could doubt that he was there, couldn’t contest what he had seen. He thought of the look on Snape’s face when the verdict would be read, “On count one, murder in the highest degree, the Wizengamut finds the defendant, Severus Snape, GUILTY.” He smiled a little.

But, he couldn’t bend on the third, he knew. There were reasons Dumbledore didn’t share their experiences, their knowledge of Lord Voldemort with the Ministry. There were reasons he made him promise to tell no one, outside Ron and Hermoine, about their lessons last year. And, he had already violated that promise, inadvertent as it was, by agreeing to share it with Ginny after she overheard them discussing R.A.B. and the horcruxes. He couldn’t violate it again, especially by giving it up to someone he didn’t truly trust, and someone Dumbledore obviously didn’t either. Then, Harry wondered something.

“Before we get into that,” Harry said, “May I ask what Delores Umbridge’s role in the reopening of Hogwarts is?”

Scrimgeour seemed caught off balance. “Well, Harry, she is the only one alive who has experience as headmaster of Hogwarts. She gives valuable insight into…”

“She has nothing to do with Hogwarts, whatever,” Harry said, resolute.

“Harry, I do not wish to bring Hogwarts administration into our agreement,” Scrimgeour said. “And, you must understand, I do not have unilateral control. I have the governors to answer to..”

“That didn’t stop Fudge, did it,” Harry retorted. “Seemed he and Umbridge had a good stranglehold on Hogwarts two years ago.”

Scrimgeour’s eyes peered into Harry’s, then he folded, “Okay, it’s on the table. She’s a bit of a pain anyway. I’d like to send her back to the continent, truth be told. This gives me a reason.” Then, he righted himself, thinking he had said too much. “Do we have an agreement?”

“Minister, I respect your position, both as Minister and in the present climate,” Harry said. “I agree to your first condition, with one exception. I will, neither verbally nor in writing, state my allegiance to the concept of corporal punishment.” With that, Harry extracted the quill from its well on Scrimgeour’s desk, and struck through a sentence in the body of the written statement that stated. “I support the Ministries position, and legally endorsed authority, on the death penalty.”

“Dumbledore’s man, through and through,” Scrimgeour said plainly. He hesitated a second, then said, “Agreed, as amended.” With that, Scrimgeour waved his hand over the document and the sentence disappeared.

“On your second condition, I agree without reservation,” Harry said.

“Agreed, then,” Scrimgeour’s smile growing.

“On your third condition, however, I respectfully can not oblige,” Harry said, hoping that this would not break the whole deal. He kept his composure, and stared back at Scrimgeour, awaiting his move.

Scrimgeour glared back at him. The room became uncomfortably silent, each one waiting for the other to concede. Scrimgeour, though, grew tired of the silent filibuster. “Harry, do not do this alone. We can help. This is as much, if not more so, for you than it is the Ministry.”

“I can not, sir, I promised Dumbledore,” Harry said, pleading in his eyes. “And, incidentally, I am not alone.”

“Then, I can not release Shunpike,” Scrimgeour said flatly, settling back, unflinching, in his chair. However, he did not rise to show Harry out, and he did not speak. He was obviously not done, or thought Harry shouldn’t be.

“Sir,” Harry said, lying. “I made an unbreakable vow with him.”

Scrimgeour peered at Harry, skeptical. “Unbreakable vow, you say? Dark Magic, that,” Scrimgeour said, almost casually. “Sincerely doubt you, and especially Dumbledore, would be mixed up in a charm which would kill you or he.” Harry had obviously lied for no reason. He didn’t believe him. Harry had said it in desperation, and he wished he could take it back. But before he could, Scrimgeour smiled and said.

“But, then again, can’t rightly take the chance, can I?” Scrimgeour said, rising. “Can’t have ‘the Chosen One’ dropping over dead in the Minister’s office!” Scrimgeour extended his hand to Harry, and asked Harry, “Agreed, on all points? Your statement and testimony for Shunpike’s release and your absolution?”

“And Umbridge?” Harry asked, wondering if he had forgotten.

“Off to Albania, tonight,” he said relieved. “Should make for interesting lunch conversation.”

Harry was stunned, but resolved not to show it. He rose from his chair, extended his hand upward to meet Scrimgeour’s, and they shook.

“Agreed,” said Harry, unsure completely of what he had just done, but his main mission accomplished. “Oh, and one more thing,” Harry said as they both rose and headed for the doors.

“Yes?” Scrimgeour inquired.

“Would it be possible to give the story to The Quibbler, rather than The Prophet?”

“Don’t see why not. I’ll have my secretary contact Mr. Lovegood. He’s been on me for an inside story since I took office. This should keep him from calling for a while.”

With that, Harry turned and strode out the doors and down the hallway to Mr. Weasley’s office.

Harry entered Mr. Weasley’s office to find it empty, at least empty of humans. It seemed as though the stacks of files and papers had doubled since his last visit. Harry sat in the only chair other than Mr. Weasley’s.

He sat and began to think. He realized that this was the first time in the past two days things were quiet around him. He wondered if he had done the right thing. Then, he thought back to Sirius, how he had described Azkaban, and how he refused to describe it as well. No innocent person should have to endure it, even without the Dementors. He also remembered the look on Hagrid’s face years ago when Fudge had informed him that he would have to return there, fearing that he had reopened the Chamber of Secrets. Everything he had sacrificed was worth it, he resolved.

Then, he thought back to the previous evening, Dumbledore’s memory. He felt justified in his renewed hatred for his aunt. He was right that she had only taken him in to protect herself and her family, not out of concern for him or out of love for her sister.

He smiled, though, remembering Dumbledore kissing his forehead. Dumbledore had been the closest thing to a grandfather Harry had known, and his heart warmed at the memory of it.

But then, he started to wonder. What had they all meant, Dumbledore’s “specific” advice?

The part that encouraged Harry the most was the penultimate piece of advice he gave. “Just look upon me, and I will answer.” Harry thought he had worked that one out. The only place Harry knew of where he could “look upon” Dumbledore now was in the headmaster’s office, the portrait that had appeared after his death. He remembered seeing it there when McGonnagall and the others were questioning him afterward. He was certain that that was what he had meant. After all, the portraits talked. And they talked about things they knew in the past, when the subjects were alive. Perhaps there was enough magic in the world that could preserve enough of a persons mind, thoughts, soul, that would enable someone to speak from the grave, answer questions.

But getting to it would be difficult. He wasn’t even sure who would occupy it now? McGonnagall? Fudge? Neither, or both? He didn’t know. But he knew he had to try, and no one could know.

But then, he thought of the other pieces of advice. “Trust your first impressions.” He thought of Professor Snape and his first impression of him, which was terror. This conflicted with what he told him in the last, to trust Snape. How could he trust in someone who he despised, loathed, and even feared so? And how could Dumbledore have trusted him? And what was this “oath” he spoke of, between them? He had never discussed that before. In fact, Dumbledore was always careful never to divulge why he trusted Snape so completely. Why didn’t he discuss it with him when he was alive?

Then, a sickening feeling came over him. He thought back on all he had been through with Dumbledore. Hogwarts had been infiltrated every year. Dumbledore had mistakenly trusted Snape. Dumbledore was always at odds with the Ministry. If fact, most he had come in contact with at the Ministry disagreed with Dumbledore’s views on important issues.

Harry felt doubt in Dumbledore, more so than he did during his fifth year at Hogwarts. Doubt in his decisions, doubt in his abilities, doubt in his wisdom. And Harry had always, deep down, resented Dumbledore’s reluctance to be open with him, especially in matters that concerned him, his “only on a need to know basis” front.

But Harry couldn’t think more about this. He had to trust Dumbledore, had to remain loyal…had to remain loyal…had to…had to…

End, Chapter 7

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Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:50 pm.
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  #7  
Old December 1st, 2005, 12:47 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Location: Atlanta GA, USA
Age: 52
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Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Mersey, Dudley!

Harry awoke to Mr. Weasley’s voice, just outside his office. Someone had evidently just stopped him upon entering, and they were discussing the new crop of protection amulets underground that had surfaced in Lancashire. It sounded as if they were turning the people who wore them a nasty shade of pea green and giving them an odor of vomit.

“Well,’ the woman said, “I’ll give them credit. Whoever made these knew that even You-Know-Who wouldn’t come within a furlong. Nasty smell.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Mr. Weasley chuckled, “But I don’t think that’s what the adverts claim. Anyway, let me know when you’ve found the makers.”

Harry rubbed his eyes as Mr. Weasley sat across from him. “So, how’d it go with Scrimgeour, Harry?” he asked.

“Oh, it went well, sir,” Harry said. “Thanks again for bringing me.”

Mr. Weasley paused a second before responding, but Harry didn’t elaborate. Mr. Weasley respected Harry’s silence. Anyway, he’d know the results soon enough from The Quibbler. Harry just hoped that Mr. Lovegood wouldn’t stretch the story out so much as to be unrecognizable. “Well, I’ve finished what I needed to. Ready to head back?”

“Yes, sir.’ Harry said, as they both rose and headed back down the corridor to the elevator. Once on the street, Harry and Mr. Weasley apparated back to the Burrow.

They strode back to the house, and entered the kitchen to see Ron, Hermoine and Ginny just sitting down to lunch. A large platter of finger sandwiches was on the middle of the table, as well as a large bowl of potato salad.

“Hi ‘ya, Harry,” Ron said, as he ladled a large glob of potato salad on this plate. “Just in time. Mum’s potato salad is the best!”

Harry grabbed a plate and a mug of cocoa.

“Mum,” Ginny said, trying to act casual, “can we eat outside?”

“Yes, but don’t go too far,” Mrs. Weasley replied. “I need you to help with the bridesmaids dresses in a bit.”

Ginny rolled her eyes, then said, “We’re just going to eat under the old oak, okay.”

“Yes, that’s fine. Just be back here within an hour.”

The quartet walked through the valley, and they all sat down in the grass under the tree. It’s thick, long branches cast their shadows across them, the sun high in the cloudless sky. It seemed to beckon them, cozy and tranquil. Ginny was sure to guide Harry next to her, and Ron and Hermoine sat across from them.

“So, how’d it go with Scrimgeour,” Hermoine said. “What did you want with him anyway?”

“He promised that I wouldn’t get in trouble for what Snape and Malfoy said. And he’s going to release Stan Shunpike,” Harry said, as Ron’s face lit with surprise. Ginny, however, seemed not to hear him. She looked at Harry, but her mind was elsewhere.

“No, you convinced him to release him from Azkaban!” Ron said. “How’d you do that?”

“Or, more to the point, I suspect,” Hermione said concerned, “what did you have to give up.”

Hermoine had always been astute. “Well, you’ll see in The Quibbler, probably this evening,” Harry said, a little afraid of Hermoine’s response. “I had to give a statement of support for the Ministry, what there doing to catch the Death Eaters.”

“Harry, you’ve sold out!” Hermoine said, shocked and disappointed.

“Look, Hermoine,” Harry said, “You’ll see when you read the statement. It’s not what you think. It’s not like it says the Ministries full of saints or anything. It just says that the Ministry’s doing a fair job recently.”

“Harry, don’t be so naïve,” Hermoine retorted. “You know the Ministry, and you know the general wizarding community. They’ll twist it around. You’ll just be viewed as a Ministry puppet.”

“Honesty, Hermoine, I don’t care.” Harry said, flatly. “Public opinion of me doesn’t concern me. I just want to go back to Hogwarts, find the horcruxes, defeat Voldemort and get on with my life.”

“ ’Sthat all?” Ron said, sarcastically, his mouth full of potato salad. All the while, Ginny had still not spoken, and Harry was beginning to feel uncomfortable with her unwavering gaze.

“Plus, Hermoine, don’t you think it’s worth it for the release of an innocent man from Azkaban?” Harry said, hoping for her approval.

“Honestly, Harry,” she said, disapprovingly, “how in the world do you know Stanley Shunpike IS innocent? You don’t even know what they have been holding him on, specifically, I mean? He may be a Death Eater, for all we know. Perhaps they’re holding him because he’s got the Dark Mark on his arm!”

“Can’t hold someone in prison just cause they’ve got a tattoo,” Ron said between bites.

“Well, of course not Ron,” Hermoine said, showing a little frustration. “But, add it up. Stan Shunpike, at the quidditch world cup camp, right near where the dark mark was set off that night. Put that together with a “tattoo” on his arm and that’s a lot of evidence.”

“Yeah, but Hermoine,” Harry said, doubtingly, “Have you ever met him, talked with him? Not the brightest bulb in the world.”

“Well, neither is Peter Pettigrew,” Hermoine retorted.

“She’s got a point,” Ron said, stuffing a ham finger sandwich into his mouth.

“Who’s side are you on anyway,” Harry said as she turned toward Ron.

Ron glanced at Hermoine, who had turned to glare at him. “Her’s,” he said, as he pointed at Hermoine, and shoved another sandwich in his mouth, this time pimento cheese.

“Well, I’m on Stan’s side. I don’t think for a minute that he’s guilty.” Harry said, resolved.

“Harry, that’s not the point,” Hermoine said. “The system is in place for a reason. If people with power just go around making deals, compromising their principles, to release people from prison, there’s no need for the law. What if he is guilty? What if he’s a Death Eater and goes out and kills someone?”

Then he remembered Dumbledore’s advice. Trust first impressions. He remembered back to that night on the night bus, his first impression of Stan. There was no way he was a Death Eater, no way he was capable of evil.

“Look, Hermione, I get what you’re saying,” Harry said, “but everybody knows there just holding him ‘cause he was at the scene of the crime, so to say. There just trying to make it look like they might have a Death Eater. My saying they are doing a decent job, then at the same time releasing Stan, will be viewed together.”

Hermoine relaxed, and said, “Hadn’t thought of that.” She said. “You’re probably right.” Harry wasn’t about to admit that he hadn’t thought of it before either, not until that very moment.

“Well, if that’s all you had to give up…” Harry shuffled uncomfortably. “Harry?...”

“Well, I also agreed to testify at Snape and Malfoy trial, if there is one,” Harry said.

“Well, of course, you would have to,” Hermoine said. “You’re a material witness to Dumbledore’s murder. That doesn’t sound like something he would put into the deal. You're required to testify if you’re subpoenaed.”

“…under veritaserum,” Harry added.

“Harry! Why on earth would you agree to that!” Hermoine said. “They could ask you anything, what you and Dumbledore were up to that night, or worse! Harry, this is a bad idea.”

Harry didn’t care though. Stan would be free, and he was sure that, since Scrimgeour thought there might be an unbreakable vow involved, he wouldn’t allow any questions on that subject. But he wasn’t about to tell Hermoine that he lied to the Minister of Magic, not in her present state.

“Look, Hermoine, your just going to have to trust that I know what I’m doing,” Harry said.

Hermoine looked about to start back in, but Ron placed his hand on hers, “Hermoine, let Harry handle the Ministry. I don’t think Stan’s guilty either, nor do loads of people. And I don’t think the Minister would free him if he thought he was a Death Eater, regardless of what Harry offered up. They already have enough of an image problem. He’s not going to let a Death Eater out when he’s already in Azkaban, not given the current climate.”

“Oh alright,” she said, begrudgingly. Ginny seemed to have broken out of her love-drunk stupor, and said, “Look, you guys need to get me up to speed. I have no idea about half of what’s going on.”

They spent the remainder of the lunch telling Ginny about last year, the lessons with Dumbledore, the trip to the cave, what a horcrux was, where they might be, what they might be, and Dumbledore’s insistence that Harry find them and destroy them.

“So, any idea what they are, where they may be?” Ginny said when they finished.

“Well, the Black house, for starters,” Harry said. “If Regulus is R.A.B., and he didn’t get a chance to destroy it, that would be the most likely place it would settle after his death. And technically, legally, I own the house. So, that’s one.”

“And, if another is Nagini, like Dumbledore suggested,” Hermoine said, continuing Harry’s thoughts, “We’ll have to destroy her when we meet Voldemort to defeat him. She never sounds to be far from him.”

“I’m pretty certain that, if he did choose one thing each from the founders,” Harry said, “One was the silver cup of Helga Hufflepuff’s. But I have no idea where that one would be.” Obviously no one else had any ideas, the silence amongst them thick.

“And the only known relic that belonged to Gryffindor is his sword,” Hermoine continued. “Which is in the headmaster’s office.”

“Yeah, but how could that be a horcrux?” Ron said. “It’s been in the headmaster’s office for ages, hasn’t it?”

“Not sure.” Harry said. “We know it has been out of that office once, though, when I killed the basilisk.”

“Perhaps it was let out before,” Ginny added, “perhaps it was sent to someone else who needed it before.”

“Myrtle!” Harry exclaimed. “Moaning Myrtle! That was murder, wasn’t it?! Maybe that’s when he created the first horcrux!”

“But, how does that relate to the sword?” Ron asked.

“Well, it was the sword that Fawkes brought me to kill the basilisk?” Harry thought, “Perhaps he brought it to Tom as well? He would have been with Myrtle, there when the basilisk killed her. Maybe he knew the sword would come to him, somehow, and he used it as a horcrux instead of to kill the basilisk.”

“Bit of a stretch, Harry,” Ron said, and the others agreed. They moved on.

“And I’ve never even heard of a Ravenclaw artifact,” Hermoine said. The silence among them confirmed that none of them knew of one either.

With lunch, and their conversation, at an end, they rose and started back to the cottage. Then Harry asked the group, “So, who’s up for a little journey?” They all stopped, and saw the mischievous sparkle in his eye, a wry smile across his face.

“Oh, great,” Hermoine said. “What type of ‘journey’?”

“A quick trip to Liverpool,” Harry said and looked at Ron, who smiled the same wry smile. “Got a little score to settle with my dear cousin, Dudley.”

Hermoine sighed, knowing there was nothing she could do to stop them. She nodded begrudgingly and Ginny did the same. Hermoine muttered under her breath, “Men!”

“Oh, and I forgot to tell you,” Ron said, “I asked mum this morning about my Uncle Stuart, the one I told you about that lives there? You know, see if she’d give anything up. He’s coming to the Burrow this evening. He’s staying here for the wedding. Maybe I can convince her or dad to let us go collect him.”

“And slip away for an hour of so?” Harry said, “Brilliant Ron. Think they’ll let you?”

“Don’t see why not,” Ron said, mischievously, “as long as they want me out of her hair. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I can make a great nuisance of myself when I try…”

“And even when you don’t!” Ginny huffed.

“But why’s it so important Harry?” Hermoine said.

“Look, that git nicked my parents stuff, MY stuff, out of that box. I know it!” Harry said. “And that chocolate on the note was fresh. He probably still has the stuff that was in it with him. And I want it.”

“Yeah, Hermoine,” Ron said. “Plus, it must be important stuff, or why would Sirius have been so keen on Dumbledore delivering it to his aunt? And why would his parents keep it separate from his vault?”

“Okay, you’re both right,” she resigned. “But let’s please see if we can keep out of a row, alright?”

“Okay, I just want my stuff,” Harry said.

“Well, for me, I can’t promise anything,” Ron said. “I’ve wanted to give that idiot a poke since I met him.”

Hermoine glared at him, and he knew if he didn’t promise she’d rat them out. “Okay, okay. No fighting.” Ginny whispered in Harry’s ear, “I’ll lay him out for you if you want,” and winked at him. Harry smiled.

They reached the house with their plates and mugs, and deposited them into the sink. The kitchen was empty. A brush sprang to action on its own and began scrubbing.

“Ginny, Hermoine, please come up to my room,” Mrs. Weasley called. “I need to fit these dresses!”

“Coming, mum,” Ginny called back up the stairs and they trudged up the stairs to meet their sea-foam green fate.

“I’d like a nap!” Harry said, realizing he still hadn’t caught up with his sleep.

“Sure, mate. Head out to the tent. You’ll be able to get some rest out there. I have to meet up with the rest of the guys at Diagon Alley to be fitted for my tux,” Ron said, a sour look coming across him. “I should be back in an hour or so. I’ll wake you up when I get back. I’ll see if I can get Dad to say it’s okay to go to Liverpool.” Then a scowl appeared on his face, “Hope they’re not sea-foam blue too.”

Harry laughed a bit, and headed out to the tent, laid on his cot, and slept.

Harry awoke to Ron jostling him violently.

“Harry, get up! Dad says we can go!” Ron said excitedly. “But we’ve got to get a move on. Get up!”

Harry rose and put his glasses on. “The girls coming?”

“No. mum won’t let them,” Ron said. “Too much to do for the wedding. I swear, you’d think a wedding was the quidditch world cup or something, the way they carry on.”

Harry didn’t even think of arguing. “Ron, how we going to get there?” Harry asked.

“Apparate, of course,” Ron said.

“But I’ve never been there.” Harry said. “How am I going to visualize it.”

“Yeah, hadn’t thought of that.” Harry was feeling more uncomfortable about the trip all of a sudden. “Well, you can just piggyback with me. I been there loads of times, and Dad told me the best place to apparate.”

Harry was unsure, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. He didn’t know anyone else that had ever been there, and he didn’t have time for muggle transport.

“Alright,” Harry said. He gathered himself and his wand and they walked out to the apparition spot in the lane. Harry put his arm around Ron’s. Ron concentrated hard, and stepped forward.

They came down, and Harry’s nose was filled with cool, salty air. To his right, Harry saw a large river. On it at a dock were a few small boats that had prices on them. “Two hours for the price of one! See Liverpool from the Mersey!” one said. In front of them was a large, ornate building. It was at least twelve stories, and was very wide. It ran length-wise perpendicular to the river, and had two tall spiers on either end. The spier on the end close to the river had a large clock, which looked even larger than the one at Hogwarts; the other was open air.

Harry followed Ron away from the river and toward the street on the other side of the building. “That’s the Liver buildling,” Ron said. Harry looked up at the impressive building, and noticed that it was crested with gargoyles. They looked like…

“Are those Gryffins?” Harry asked.

Ron peered up, then said, “Yeah, sure looks like it. Never noticed that before.” They reached the road, and walked down further from the river. “He lives about half a mile away, maybe not that much, down near the Cavern Quarter. You know, where the Beatles used to play before they were famous and all.”

They turned onto James Street, which quickly turned into Lord Street. At the corner of Lord and Whitechapel, they turned left passed the old Cavern club. Just passed it, Ron stopped and turned right at a few, small row houses. He approached number 3 and rang the bell. As he removed his finger, they could hear a tune playing inside, “Someone knockin’ at the door…somebody ringin’ the bell…:”

A few seconds passed, but no one answered. “Well, I guess he’s not here yet. Must still be back at the dock. I’d rather not be here when he arrives from work. Eel smells horrible. What say we find out where this boxing academy is?” Ron said with a determined smile. “I think there’s an information centre down the road a bit.

Harry followed Ron back down Whitechapel again, and they turned left down Seel Street. As they walked, Harry noticed a massive cathedral. It was black, and looked ominous. Ron saw him looking at it.

“Creepy, innit,” Ron said. “They call it ‘Dracula’s Castle’ because of how creepy it is. It’s really the Anglican church, though.”

They continued down, and Ron stopped at a large cart that had maps stuck all over it. “Here it is,’ Ron said. ‘I thought it was down here.” No one was manning the cart. They glanced through all the advertising leaflets, but saw nothing of the boxing academy. Then Harry noticed that the side of the cart had a large legend on it. He peered down the alphabetical list of places in Liverpool, finding Royal Boxing Club.

“Here it is,” he called to Ron who was still looking through the leaflets. “Nelson Street, in Chinatown. Let’s see…. You are here…Nelson street…it’s just round the corner. Down to the end of this street. Then to the right.”

They hurried down the street and turned the corner. As they did, there eyes met with a fantastic sight. It was a huge arch, deep red, adorened with Chinese writing and figures of dragons chasing ribbons. Multi-colored tiles rimmed the entranceway to the small village inside. Harry and Ron passed through it. Ahead, just on the right, was a building with a small, brass sign next to the door.

“Royal Boxing Club”

“Here it is,” Harry said, as he opened the front door. It opened into a small entrance room that looked a little like the reception area in the Leaky Cauldron. An older lady sat on the other side of an opening of the wall, her spectacles down at the end of her nose, reading a book.

“May I help you?” She called out, as she put the book down, careful to place the bookmark in it before it closed.

“Uh, yes ma’am,” Harry said, a little nervously. “We’re here to see Dudley Dursley, a student here this summer?”
“Oh, you arrived so quickly!” She darted out of sight, and reappeared a moment later from the other end of the wall.

Harry and Ron looked at each other curiously. How would she know they were coming?

She approached them, and asked, “Which one of you is related to Dudley?”

“I am,” Harry said, hesitantly, backing away a bit as she thrust out her hands to greet him.

“Are you his brother?” she asked.

“No, his cousin,” Harry said. “But, look, is he expecting us?”

“Well, we have no idea, of course,” she said, “We haven’t been able to get an answer out of him for almost a week now! Won’t even answer the door for meals. We know he’s in there. The students can hear him snoring at night. But he won’t come out, and we can’t get through the door to get him out. Perhaps you can persuade him…”

Harry had no idea what she was talking about, but they played along. They followed the lady up the stairs, to a long corridor with doors on either side, just a few paces from each other. This was obviously the club dormitory.

“This is it,” she said, as they stopped at a door, which looked a bit worse for the wear.

“Yes,” the lady said, “we’ve even tried breaking it down, but it won’t break, and it won’t open. We had a locksmith out last night, but when he put his skeleton key in, he was shocked back. Nearly killed him, it did.”

Harry and Ron looked at each other. Obviously, a witch or wizard had been there. For muggles to be unable to open one of their own doors, it must have been magically sealed.

“Ma’am, I wonder,” Harry said, thinking on his feet, “could you leave us alone with Dudley. Perhaps there is something embarrassing, something only a family member…”

“Oh, yes, of course,” the lady said. “And I’ll inform the head instructor that you have arrived. He’ll be glad a family member has arrived.”

She headed back down the stairs and they heard the front door close back up.

“Dudley!” Harry shouted. “Open this door, you fool! What’s going on in there!” Ron had already taken out his wand, prepared for the worst.

“Who’se that?! Who’se there?!” he whispered back. But, it wasn’t the brash voice of the Dudley he had always known that answered. The voice was simpering, and it sounded terrified.

“Dudley, it’s Harry,” he said. “Open up, would you?”

“I can’t. It won’t open,” Dudley said, still simpering. “They’ve locked me in here to die.”

Who would have done this? And why to Dudley? No matter how much Harry hated Dudley, he was afraid for him.

“Step back, Ron,” Harry said. Ron stepped back, keeping his wand pointed at the door. “Dudley, get away from the door!”

“Okay,” Dudley said, and they heard him shuffle away.

“Alohomora!” Harry chanted, and a bolt of light hit the lock. It clicked, and the door slowly creaked open.

Harry and Ron rushed in. Dudley was crouched down in a corner, a coat draped over his shoulders. He looked as though he had lost weight, and he seemed to be shivering. He did not rise when they came into the room.

Harry moved to Dudley and bent down to touch him, but Dudley cowered away, closer into the corner as if he wished to hide in it.

“Get away, get away,” Dudley cried. “Put those things away. No more magic, no more…”

Harry pocketed his wand, and gestured for Ron to do the same, which Ron did.

Dudley, look, it’s Harry,” Harry said, as he carefully and slowly turned Dudley’s chin toward his face.

“Where’s mum,” he said. “Where’s dad? They said they called for them this morning.” Dudley said, crying, a pleading look in his eyes.

His aunt and uncle were on the way? He couldn’t let them find him there. They’d think he did it to him, whatever it was.

“Look, Dudley, I don’t know, but I expect they are on their way,” Harry said. “What happened to you?”

Dudley looked at Harry, tears rolling down his face. “They made me do it, Harry. I didn’t want to. I really didn’t care what was in that box. But they made me go to that horrible place, with those horrible creatures in it.”

“The bank, Gringott’s?” Harry asked.

“Yes,” he said. “They came here last week. They stormed in and grabbed me. They knew about the box, they knew there had to be a key. When they described the key, I remembered it. I had seen it before, one day when mum was cleaning, years ago. She took the drawer out and I saw it. I always wondered what it was to.”

“Who came, Dudley,” Harry asked. “Who did this.”

“There were four of them,” Dudley said as he shuddered. “I didn’t see there faces, though. They wore masks, hideous masks that looked like skeletons. Two of them stood over there, guarded the door. One was tall and one was short, but both were fat.”

Crabbe and Goyle, Harry thought. He glanced over to Ron, who seemed to have come to the same realization, given the look on his face.

Dudley continued, still blubbering, “The two that held me down, one had blond, almost white hair, he was asking the questions, but he was being told what to ask by the other.”

“What’d the other look like, Dudley?” Harry said, already thinking he knew.

“He was tall, and he was shouting the questions at the blond one, who would ask them to me,” Dudley said. “He wore all black, and his wand was pointed at me the whole time. I could see some kind of tattoo on his forearm, a skull and a snake. And his hair, it was black, and greasy. It almost looked like two curtains around his face.”

“What did they do, Dudley,” Harry said, wanting answers, needing answers before they were interrupted.

“They took me back home. I have no idea how. They tried to get in the house, but they couldn’t. It was mid-afternoon, so dad wasn’t home. They made me sneak in and get the key. Mum never even knew I was there.

“Then, they grabbed me again and we showed up at this large, white building on a strange street. It had that name, Gringott’s, the same one that was on the key. They told me to act casual, go in and ask for box 7. They followed right behind me. It was filled with horrible looking creatures…”

“I know, Dudley, I know,” Harry said, frustrated. “I’ve been there.”

“They made me go back there, open the box. They poked my thumb, poured my blood on the key. They made me take everything out of it.”

“What was in it, Dudley,” Harry said, his voice starting to sound angrier. “Where is it.”

“It was filled with paper’s, that’s it,” Dudley said, starting to sound angry himself. “It’s over in my closet. Now, will you help me?”

Harry sprang up, and darted for the closet door. There was an open box full of papers. He grabbed it, and shut the box top. Dudley had risen from the floor, and was standing in the corner, using the wall to prop himself up. He was glaring at Harry.

“You didn’t come to help me, did you,” Dudley said. “Your kind did this to me! Were you one of those with a mask on, or you! You only came to get your stuff, your filthy parents stuff. Where are my parents?”

“I don’t know Dudley,” Harry said, “But I think they are on their way.”

With that, Dudley sprang at Harry, who didn’t have a chance to get to his wand. The coat that was draped over him flung off and fell to the ground as he lunged at Harry, determined to tackle him.

Just before he reached Harry, Ron chanted “Petrificus Totalis”. Dudley froze in midair, just inches from Harry.

Then, they noticed Dudley’s arm. His right arm was black and withered. It looked like it was starting to shrink back into its socket. It looked like, Dumbledore’s hand!

“Dudley, I know you can hear me,” Harry said. I’m going to release you, but don’t try to attack me again, or I’ll do much worse, got it!”

Harry extracted his wand and chanted the counter-curse, and Dudley resumed his free fall and hit the floor with a thud. He rose quickly, started to charge at Harry again, but stopped when he saw both of their wands pointed at his head.

“Dudley, what happened to your arm,” Harry said.

Dudley again looked frightened, “They told me not to tell, that if I told I’d die on the spot.”

“Dudley, you’re already dying,” Harry continued. “Tell me what happened and I can help. I think I know who did this to you, and I’m already after them. Now, tell me, what else was in that box.”

Dudley stared at them, unsure. But he knew Harry was right. If this was magic, only Harry could help him, save him.

“It was a cup,” Dudley blurted out. “A silver cup. It had some kind of hedgehog on it. They made me pick it up, and when I did…the pain was awful. I looked down, and my hand had turned black, and it’s been moving up, fast.”

The cup! Hufflepuff’s cup! They had found it. They had beat them to it. Crabbe, Goyle, Malfoy…and SNAPE!

Harry and Ron looked at each other, defeat in their eyes. Then, Harry heard footsteps coming up the stairs, then a voice, “Where is he? Where’s my Dudders?” It was Aunt Petunia, and the clomping close behind had to be his Uncle Vernon.

Harry turned to Dudley and said, “Tell her St. Mungo’s. She’ll know that name. If anyone can help, they can. Got it?”

Dudley shook his head in understanding. Then Harry and Ron nodded at each other. Harry clutched the box, and they apparated back to Uncle Stuart’s doorstep.

“Aw, bloody hell,” Harry heard Ron say as they appeared back at Ron’s uncle’s flat. “Mums going to kill me for losing more shoelaces!” he said, looking down at his shoe tops. Harry took inventory of his person, and noticed that everything looked fuzzy. He reached up to his face to discover his glasses were gone.

Ron cast him a knowing look, and said, :Round the back of your head.” Harry reached back to discover his glasses on his head backward. He turned them to find one of the lenses shattered.

“I’ll save Hermoine the trouble,” Harry said as he pointed his wand at the glasses. “Occulous Reparo,” he chanted, and they were mended.

Harry thought back on Dudley and his blackened, withered arm. “You think they’ll be able to help him at St. Mungo’s?” Harry asked, as Ron rang the bell.

“Well, if they can’t, don’t know who could, other than maybe Snape,” Ron said. “But, seeing as Dumbldore could save his hand…” Ron’s words faded off, and he shrugged.

Harry wasn’t sure why he even cared. It seemed just punishment for the way he had treated him his whole life. Still, Harry felt badly for Dudley, even responsible for it. It seemed that his Uncle Vernon had been right to fear his world. Had they never taken him in, if Dumbledore had chosen some alternative other than leaving him on that doorstep at Number 4, Privet Drive, Dudley probably would be fine right now. He still would be ignorant, but possibly he would be blistfully so.

“Oh, great,” Ron said, peering down the lane, “he hasn’t been in yet. Hold your nose.”

Coming up the lane was a man, about Ron’s fathers age. He had the same red hair as the rest of the Weasley’s. He was thin, but muscular. His face looked sea-worn, but he walked briskly. Harry saw that he was carrying two large, mesh sacks which were full of black, shiny wriggling eels.

“Ron, good to see you again,” Stuart Weasley exclaimed as he approached. “Oy, help me with these.” Uncle Stuart thrust the sacks at Ron, who took a step back and turned away his face. Harry understood why as the foul stench of slimy eel hit his nostrils. Ron held the sacks out from his body and headed around the back of the flat building. “The freezer’s unlocked. Just chuck them in. And who do we have here?”

“Harry, Harry Potter, sir.”

Curiously, but thankfully, Uncle Stuart did not stare at his forehead, at his scar. He didn’t even look at his face really. He fumbled with his keys, and said, “Good to meet you, Mr. Potter. I’d shake your hand, but I’d better wash up first. Eel is tough to get off your hands.”
Harry noticed that Uncle Stuart had a large scar on his cheek, which started at the corner of his mouth and extended a good two inches across.

Ron came back from around the corner, his hands held out and a disgusted look on his face just as Uncle Stuart had managed to find the right key on his keychain. They entered the flat, and Uncle Stuart went straight to the kitchen and began to lather his hands with some orange soap.

“So, Ron, come to collect me, have you?” Uncle Stuart said. “Well, good, I haven’t even had a chance to pack yet. Do me a favor, would you? While I get my clothes sorted, open up that closet there and pull out those two boxes and tape them up, will ya. Taking them with me.”

“Sure,” Ron said as Uncle Stuart climbed up his stairs. Harry and Ron struggled with the boxes, which were very heavy, but they managed to get them taped up and put them on the stoop just outside the door. They came back in, and sat down in the small living room.

“Thanks for the help back there with Dudley,” Harry said.

“No problem. You’d have done the same for me,” Ron said. “In fact, you already have loads of times.”

Uncle Stuart came back down the stairs with his trunk and he had changed his clothes. Harry was thankful he could smell that Uncle Stuart had generously doused himself with cologne. “Ready, are we?” he said, as he tied a scarf around his neck and put on a wind breaker. “We’ll need to walk up to the Liver Building. Don’t like apparating from here, too many muggles what with all the shops across the street.”

They strode out the door, and Harry and Ron bent over to pick up the heavy boxes which they were dreading having to carry all that distance. Uncle Stuart gave them a wry smile and said, “Men, if you’re going to make it around the muggle world, you need to use your heads, your ingenuity. Let me show you. Wingardium Levioso.” With that both boxes levitated in front of them. “Now, put your hands on either side, like your holding them up, and just push.”

Harry and Ron did as they were told, and found that the boxes were light as a balloon, and they could simply push the boxes in front of them. Harry placed his small box of papers on top of Uncle Stuart’s box. They made their way easily back down to the Liver Building and stopped at a small clearing behind a large tree. The salt was heavy in the air, and Harry noticed a large tour boat traveling down the Mersey River. Its top level was full of sightseers, some of whom were snapping pictures. On the side of the ferry was a large banner which was announcing the opening of football season and the Liverpool Reds first match.

Harry looked at the large crest on the banner. It was red and white. A large red bird holding what oddly enough looked like gillyweed was inside the crest, which was settled between two flaming torches. Above the crest was a ribbon with the words “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Harry turned to Ron, who was picking his nose. Harry chuckled to himself, but felt grateful for him none-the-less. And grateful for Hermoine and Ginny, and he realized that what he had told Dudley was true. He was not alone.

Ron discarded his bogey on the tree, and they all apparated back to the burrow.

End, Chapter 8

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Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:51 pm.
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  #8  
Old December 2nd, 2005, 1:42 am
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Chapter 9

A Hollow Journey

Two weeks had passed with much festivity. Fleur and Bill’s wedding had come off well, unless you asked Molly Weasley. Her fretting and worrying about the details and arrangements had soured her relationship with Fleur. But a reconciliation of tears and hugs after the ceremony seemed to have bound them tighter, much to Arthur and Bill’s relief.

The Delacoeur contingent paled in comparison to the Weasley’s in volume, the latter group comprising about three-quarters of the attendees. It seemed that, just like Arthur and Molly, the rest of the Weasley clan shared their affinity for avid procreation. The left side of the aisle was a sea of red hair, and even Percy sacrificed the spare couple of hours to attend. But, he was quickly back to the Ministry, and Charlie back to Romania and the twins back to Diagon Alley all too soon for Molly.

Now, the Burrow seemed back to its normal state, with just Ron and Ginny to coddle. Of course, Mrs. Weasley was fast and furious to pull together her lessons as Potion’s Master for the upcoming year. She was flitting the past week between the Burrow and Hogwarts with Hermoine in tow as her pet. Hermoine seemed thrilled to be in such a position, as was painfully obvious from her consistent, albeit well deserved, boasting.

Even so, Harry had the chance just days ago to seek her advice on Dumbledore’s wand.

“Of course you’ll turn it in!” she exclaimed upon this revelation. “Yes, it is customary for wands to be snapped when the common witch or wizard passes. But great wizard’s wands are kept for posterity, especially for Hogwarts headmasters and mistresses. I read somewhere that it is rumored that the founders wands are kept at Hogwarts, you know.”

Of course, Harry should have expected her reaction, and he promised her that he would turn it in to McGonnagall when he returned to Hogwarts. But he hoped that she would forget all about it, because he had no such intention. Even though he knew it was the proper thing to do, Harry felt in his heart that Dumbledore had destined for him to keep it. And he was going to keep it, at least for a while.

The easing of activity around the Burrow, as well as Mrs. Weasley’s frequent absences, had also allowed he and Ginny a fair amount of time together. Mr. Weasley had taken the two weeks off from the Ministry for the wedding and a well deserved vacation. But he seemed oblivious to Harry and Ginny’s feelings for one another and never seemed to feel the need to chaperone their activities. But Ron had kept an annoyingly close watch on them, frequently interrupting their most innocent of exchanges. Harry was a little glad for his intrusions, though, as he was having a hard time concentrating on love with all the other thoughts in his head.

Harry thought frequently about Dudley and whether he was alright. He, of course, had heard nothing from him or Uncle Vernon or Petunia, nor did he expect to. He thought about visiting him at St. Mungo’s, but each time he reminded himself that Aunt Petunia would be there day and night until her precious Dudders was well, and he really didn’t want to see her again.

The Quibbler had presented his statement to the Ministry the day after he spoke with Scrimgeour, and, much to Harry’s surprise, it had not been modified. The Quibbler and the Prophet’s front pages for the past two weeks had been filled with stories of Stan Shunpike’s release and editorials surrounding the daily revelations regarding Snape and Malfoy. The letters to the editors of the Prophet were decidedly even as to Snape’s guilt or innocence, and more than a few letters discussed Harry’s witness of and possible involvement in Dumbledore’s death. After reading a few earlier in the week, Harry had resolved stick to the factual news stories and steer clear of the opinions and editorials.

Just two days ago, Harry was reading the headline story in the Daily Prophet, which brought about mixed emotions. The Wizengamut had formally charged Snape with murder, citing that they belived there to be enough physical and circumstantial evidence to bring him to trial. It also said that Draco would be tried with him for many charges, the most serious of which was accessory to murder. The trial was set for a week from today, which was just one week prior to Hogwart’s reopening.

Harry was relieved that the Ministry and the Wizengamut had found the wisdom to charge them, but Harry felt a knot in the pit of his stomach, knowing he would have to face them both from the witness stand. He had also begun to worry about what Hermoine had said about being under the influence of the veritaserum on the stand, and whether the Wizengamut might ask him questions which he didn’t want to answer. But he was also relatively confident, given Scrimgeour would be leading the Wizengamut at trial, that any information regarding he and Dumbledore was off the table. Still, Harry had asked Mr. Weasley if he knew of a good wizarding barrister he could ask a few questions, and he had an appointment with him in Diagon Alley on Monday.

The thing that consumed Harry the most, however, since their trip to Liverpool, was the cup, Hufflepuff’s cup. He was sure now that it was a horcrux, given the number it had done on Dudley’s arm. But even with this confirmation, there were so many unanswered questions for which he, Ron, Hermoine and Ginny had no good answers.

What was it doing in his parents lock box? Had his father or mother put it there? It had to have been someone with his blood, and he doubted Petunia would have been involved with it, let alone have traveled to Diagon Alley.

Who else knew it was there? Did Sirius know? After all, he was the one who gave Dumbledore the key.

If it was his mother or father that had placed it there, how had they come across it? Had one of them, or maybe both of them, found another one of Voldemort’s hiding places? Was he not the only reason Voldemort went there that night? He remembered that one more than one occasion, people who knew his father had said “James was already dead. Your mother had the choice whether to die.” He had always taken it literally, to mean that his father was dead before his mother had decided to die to protect him. Could this mean that his father had found the cup, been stricken with the deadly repercussions? Had Voldemort gone to Godric’s Hollow to find James as well, to retrieve the cup, find out how James had gotten it, and then finished him off?

And how did Snape know where it was, about the safebox? The only people who could have possibly known the contents of the box were his parents and Sirius, maybe Lupin or Pettigrew, and the remote possibility that Dumbledore knew. But Dumbledore had never mentioned it. And, if Pettigrew had known, wouldn’t Voldemort have known it was gone well before now? Why now, how did they just find out? Was Voldemort collecting up all the horcruxes, and if so why? Or was he just trying to get this one back to some other hiding place? And now that Snape and Draco were in custody, where was it?

With all the questions regarding the cup, they had all accepted that most, if not all, of these questions may never be answered. The only thing that really mattered was getting it back and destroying it. That meant finding out what they had done with it.

Harry had also reviewed the papers that he had gotten back from Dudley, the ones that were in the safe box. There were two wills, one for each of his parents, and Harry had read them. Although there was a fair amount he didn’t understand, he was relatively sure that they were simple, being only ten pages long, and that it basically gave everything to the other or, if they died at the same time, to him. There were two deeds, one to the cottage where they were killed and one, also to a house in Godric’s Hollow, which he guessed was to his father’s parent’s house. He knew that the cottage had been destroyed, but he never had wondered about his grandparent’s home. He remembered that Sirius had said that he used to stay there when he and James were teenagers, when he was not welcome at Grimmauld Place. He was glad to be seeing the lawyer to clarify whether the will was what he thought, and also whether the deeds were still valid, whether he still owned the properties.

And that was all.

Seeing these things about Godric’s Hollow only served to reinforce the feeling he needed to go there. And he needed to do it soon, with the trial and start of term so close. He hadn’t mentioned going to anyone, reminded them that they said they would go with him. He appreciated their offers at Dumbledore’s funeral to accompany him but, more than anything else, this was something he had to do alone. Well, at least as the only human, that is.

He had contacted Dobby last week and had asked if he would accompany him to Godric’s Hollow with him. Even though it was a muggle village, Harry didn’t see this as a problem, given the relative ease with which elves were able to turn invisible. For emotional and sentimental reasons he wished to be alone; but for protection, he wanted company, someone he knew he could trust completely. And Dobby had displayed not only his allegiance to Harry, but also considerable magical strength, when he turned Lucius Malfoy away from him after Harry had snuck that sock into Tom Riddle’s diary. Dobby had enthusiastically agreed, and said he awaited Harry’s calling.

Sitting there, under that same oak where he had dreamed about being with Ginny, he resolved that he would go now, today. He wanted to go during the day. He wanted to be able to visit his parents’ graves, perhaps return to where the cottage once stood, perhaps even see if his grandparent’s house was still there. Maybe, when it was all done, he may have a home to go to, one of his own. His enthusiasm drove him to leap up and stride to the cottage.

Harry told Ron and Ginny that he was going, who said they would cover for him. Their father was going to be busy with repairs to the house, and they didn’t expect their mother and Hermoine back until late in the evening.

Harry then called for Dobby, who apparated just outside the house.

“Harry Potter, you called for me?” Dobby said.

“Yes, Dobby, how is Kreacher,” Harry said cordially.

“Oh, you are so kind to ask,” Dobby said. “Kreacher is as well as to be expected. The Blacks are not known for their kindness to elves, but he is much relieved that you instructed him to obey just one master.”

“That’s good, Dobby. Any news on following Draco?” Harry asked, hoping he may gain some insight on their attack on Dudley, or possibly where they took the cup.

“Unfortunately, no,” Dobby said. “After I returned from seeing you last at The Leaky Cauldron, Mrs. Bellatrix instructed Kreacher to no longer look after master Draco. Kreacher has been housekeeping mostly.”

Harry was disappointed with this news, “And have you been tailing Draco still?” Harry said, hopeful.

“Oh, yes, I have, with the exception of lately. As you may know, elves are prevented from entering the Ministry without their master and, seeing as I am masterless, I can not follow Master Draco while he is awaiting trial.”

Then Dobby seemed to recede a bit bashfully, “Well, with one exception. Master Draco was met one night by two other young men and an older man they called “Professor”. They talked for a moment at Mrs. Bellatrix’s house about journeying somewhere. But, the man they called Professor, he knew I was there. This man had that same mark on his arm as Master Lucius. I have stayed invisible, of course, following your request. But this man,” Dobby said, as fear crossed his face, “he knew what I was thinking, Harry Potter, and he spoke back at me to leave, without speaking. And even though I was invisible, he looked right at me. I was frightened and I left.” Harry saw the terror in Dobby’s eyes, and he couldn’t blame him. Harry felt the same urge to run from Snape every time he saw him.

“I returned about an hour later, upset with myself that I had left,” Dobby continued, “but they were gone. Master Draco and the two younger ones returned early the next morning, but thankfully this “professor” did not. Dobby is sorry if he has disappointed you.” Dobby had made a fist and looked to be ready to thrash himself with it.

“No, Dobby, that’s fine,” Harry said quickly. “I would have run away from him, too. Are you still okay with accompanying me to Godric’s Hollow?”

“Oh, yes indeed, I am,” Dobby said, jumping with a little too much glee.

“Okay, but please, stay invisible,” Harry reminded him. “This is a muggle village, and the only place they’ve seen elves are in story books. Got it.”

“Yes, sir,” Dobby said. “And where is this ‘Godric’s Hollow.’”

“It’s in Yorkshire, near the moors,” Harry said. “We will have to fly, on brooms.” Since Harry had never been there, they couldn’t apparate there; and since it was a muggle village, the Floo network wasn’t there. Other than muggle transport, the only way there was to fly.

“Oh, Harry Potter,” Dobby said with a dismissive hand gesture, “I will apparate us there. Elves do not need to visualize a place to apparate there as humans do. We are like the Floo network in that we only need say the name of the place, mind very specifically, in order to apparate there.”

Harry smiled. He was not looking forward to flying because it had grow a little cold and windy, and the trip would have taken much longer than he wanted by broom. After all, the moors were all the way on the east coast of Britain.

Harry held Dobby’s hand, then Dobby snapped his fingers and they were off.

After what seemed like the longest apparition trip in his life, they both settled down at the edge of a small forest. Ahead of them in the distance, Harry could see a modest village which was walled all round. They were slightly elevated, and Harry could see a few steeples and a small, golden-domed building that he supposed was the town hall. A narrow, dirt lane lay a few yards away which winded its way down the hill and directly to the town gates. For some reason, Harry was reminded of Hamlet, the scene where he came across Yurick’s skull.

Dobby had already turned himself invisible, but Harry could hear his feet shuffling along beside him.

As they approached the gates, Harry saw he had underestimated the height of the walls. They were at least thirty feet high. At either side of the gates, on the pillars that held it there, were perched two gold griffins. Across the top of the left gate was a banner that read “Rich in Diversity”. across the top of the one on the right, “Golden with God.”

Harry had always wondered whether the town had gotten its name from his house’s namesake, Godric Gryffindor. This seemed to solidify his suspicions, and also gave him some insight as to why his parents had chosen this place to hide from Voldemort.

They strode into Godric’s Hollow, into a market where vendors were hocking their wares. They called to Harry as he passed. “Gov’ner, interested in some fresh parsnips?” one called out, “Fresh radishes for you today?” said another. Harry nodded his no thanks as he passed them all. One tried to approach Harry carrying a loaf of bread, but before he reached him and had a chance to say anything, he tripped over flat on his face over Dobby.

Harry leant over to help the man up, then helped him dust off.

“Thanks to you, sir,” the man said. “Don’t know what tripped me up. Must just be eager, times have been tough,” he said as he reached down to retrieve his loaf.

“No problem,” Harry said. Harry took this as an opportunity. He pulled the deeds from his pocket that he had thought to bring with him. He pulled his parents’ deed out and asked him, “I wonder if you could tell me how to get to this place.” He was careful to fold the deed over so that his parents name was not visible.

The man looked at it for a second, then looked back to his loaf. Harry pulled a gold galleon out of his pocket and handed it to the man. He looked at the coin curiously, and said, “This gold?”

“Yes,” Harry said. “I’m afraid it is all I have.”

The man stared at him for a second more, then shrugged and pocketed the coin. He gave Harry the bread. He looked again at the address, and said, “Oh, yeah, just go up this main road, go left, probably a furlong, then go left again. Won’t find much there, though. Been a vacant lot for ages.”

“Thanks,” Harry said, then pulled out the other. “And this one?”

The man looked again at the second, but his jovial mood had left him once he read the address. “What you want to go there for? I’ve never seen you round here, come to think of it. What’s your business here anyway?” the man said with suspicion.

“Oh, just, er, doing some research on the area for a thesis,” Harry mumbled. “I’m a medieval history major, and I’m doing a paper on towns in the Yorkshire area.” Harry was sweating a little.

The man glared back at Harry. “Well, you’ll find plenty of history at that address, you will,” he chuckled, “That’s the old Potter house. Been vacant for almost twenty years now. No Potter’s left that anyone knows of. Agents have tried selling it, but the ghosts always run them out.”

Harry wasn’t about to let on his lineage. “So, you know where it is?”

“Of course, it’s only the largest and probably the oldest house in Godric’s Hollow. Legend has it the town’s founder built it for himself over a thousand years ago. It’s that one, there. The Potter’s were said to be loosely related.”

The man pointed over the shops to a large, stone house, more a mansion really. It was at least three stories; Harry couldn’t really tell as the bottom floors were obscured. The place seemed to lurk over the entire town, as if it was watching it, looking at them there now. Harry could also see that there was a large church steeple just to its left.

“It’s just a couple of stone’s throws from that first one you showed me,” the man said.
“But mind yourself, it is haunted, believe me.”

Harry thanked the man and strode toward his past, toward the place where it had all started.

They reached the sight of his parent’s cottage. The only thing on the lot was a large, blackened circle where he was sure the cottage once stood. A chill ran down Harry’s spine as he stood there, staring, almost waiting for something to happen. A memory to spark, a vision, something, anything. After standing there, prostrate for what seemed like an eternity, Dobby finally interjected.

“Harry Potter, who or what are we waiting for?” He said curiously.

Harry sighed disappointedly, and said, “Oh, nothing Dobby. Let’s head up to the other.” He still didn’t know what he had been waiting for, but it appeared nothing was going to happen.

They walked up the lane toward the large, stone house. Harry could see the church that lay just passed it. Between them was a cemetery. As it came into sight, Harry stopped. He felt a sudden sadness. He had always lived knowing his parents were dead. But he had been much too young for closure when they died. As he grew, he had missed the thought of them, always felt pained when others spoke of them. But he had never been in the presence of any tangible sign of their mortality. He resumed up the hill, and a tear rolled down his face.

He stopped at the gate that led to the front door of the mansion, and that is what it was. It was four full stories, and was as broad as it was high. It was in a bit of disrepair, but nothing that looked major. He thought for a moment about going to into the house. In fact, the place seemed to beckon him, as if it was longing for him to enter.

But he didn’t have the time. He could always come back. It had waited this long for him. It could wait a bit longer.

Harry and Dobby walked a bit further and entered the cemetery gate. It was a large cemetery and wound its way to the side of the church. The plots near the mansion, however, were fenced off from the rest. There were only a few headstones in this area, and he made his way to two sets of two that were nearest the house.

The first set were his grandparents, his fathers mother and father. They were large, and he noticed they had died the same day, just a few years before his parents. Then, he moved to the left, being careful to step around his grandparents.

The first was his mother’s. It said, simply, “Lily Evans Potter. Born March 15, 1960. Died October 31, 1981. Devoted Mother.”

“Bit of an understatement,” Harry muttered under his breath. He wished he had brought some flowers, but the only thing he was able to place on her grave were a few tears.

Then, he looked over to the other.

“James Potter. Born April 3, 1960, Died November 1981.”

Harry’s sadness turned to astonishment, his tears instantly cut off.

“November!” he exclaimed so suddenly that he heard Dobby leap.

“May I help you?”

Harry whirled around, and his hand subconsciously reached for his wand pocket.

Standing there, behind him a few paces, was a man. He looked to be in his 50s, maybe his sixties. He was dressed like he belonged inside the church, not lurking about a cemetery startling mourners.

The man looked at Harry, and recognition flushed his countenance. But this man looked at his face, and his eyes never moved to his scar. “You look just like him. Just like James,” he said, calmly. “But your eyes…”

“Yeah, like Lily’s” Harry said sharply, as he had grow impatient with the comparisons over the years. “You knew them?”

“Yes, in fact I married them,” the man said. Then his face turned a bit sad, and he sighed, “… and buried them as well.”

Harry stared at him for a moment, and the priest in front of him gave no indication that he was in the least bit impatient or uncomfortable. Harry had never considered that his parents had performed a Christian ceremony. In fact, the whole wizarding world seemed to be oblivious to organized Christian religion. Harry knew very little of it either. He had attended Church of England services a few times when he was young with the Dursley’s on his Aunt Petunia’s insistence. However, his Uncle Vernon and Dudley wore her down with their complaining on Saturday nights about having to attend as well. He couldn’t remember attending after the age of six or so.

Harry had, however, learned a bit about religion in general in History of Magic. He had learned theories about the “miracles” of the bible actually being magic, had learned about the Roman and Christian witch hunts and the Crusades of the medi-eval and Renaissance and Reformation periods of history, how they saw witchcraft itself as evil and how muggle extremists had attempted to burn witches and wizards whether they were evil or not. These These things, coupled with the boredom he had experienced in Anglican Church with the Dursley’s, had convinced him that Christianity was not for him.

He had also learned about the more magic-based religions, like Greek and Roman mythology, which recognized the existence of magical creatures and divination, as well as the Druid religions that had flourished in England in centuries past and held the same core concepts of the Wizarding world. In fact, it had long been rumored that Merlin himself was a Druid.

But this priest seemed harmless enough. In fact, he seemed to have surmised that Harry was done with is reflection.

“It is good to see you again, Harry. My name is Father Benedict,” he said as he strode over to Harry quietly with his hand outstretched.

Harry removed his hand from his wand pocket and shook Father Benedict’s hand. “We’ve met before?” Harry said to him, confused.

“Yes, but you wouldn’t remember it,” Father Benedict said as he folded his hands in front of himself. “You were only a couple of months old when I baptized you.”

He had been baptized? Harry had never known this.

Father Benedict continued, “Your parents were good people, Harry. As were your fathers parents. I suppose you realize that this was their house.” Father Benedict made a motion to the mansion. “Your father, however, never did seem to take the faith to heart, but your father’s and mother’s parents wouldn’t hear of them not being married properly in Gid’s eyes.” Father Benedict glanced up at the sky, “But, it is getting dark. Would you like to come into the church and chat a bit? I’m sure you have many questions, and I would be glad to answer what I can.”

It was getting late, but Harry couldn’t pass up the opportunity. “Yes, sir,” he said, and they walked through the cemetery toward the church.

The church was small and looked as if it could hold no more than thirty people or so. It’s steeple, however, was very tall. Inside, two rows of pews were on either side and stained glass windows adorned each wall leading up to the pulpit. The ceiling looked like the inside of a boat with exposed beams meeting each other at the center. They walked together in silence to the front pews and Father Benedict offered Harry to sit.

“So, what brings you here, now, after all these years? Looking for some answers?” Father Benedict said.

“Yes, sir, but I’m not exactly sure what the questions are,” Harry said truthfully.

“Ah, yes. I can’t tell you how common it is to hear people say they want answers when they aren’t asking the right questions,” he said to Harry. “But, I find that if I can just get people to ask, they eventually find the right ones. So, ask the first one you have in your head right now, and let’s see if we can find the right questions. And maybe, just maybe, we can find the answers.”

“Ok,” Harry said. “I guess the first question I have is why does my father’s grave say that he died in November? I was told that he and my mother died together, on the same night.”

“Well, Harry, I can tell you that they did die within a few days of each other,” Father Benedict said solemnly. “But I can tell you that I do know that your father did not die the night your mother did.”

“How do you know that?” Harry said, keeping his voice low because of the echo in the empty church.

“Because your father came to me the next day,” Father Benedict said. “The town was horrified at her murder, of course. No evidence of how she died, and no sign of you or your father, either. The house destroyed as if it had collapsed on itself for no apparent reason. In fact, some had theorized that your father had possibly killed her and taken you away.

“Your father, however, came to me the next morning. He assured me that he had not killed Lily, that he loved her and he would never do such a thing. He also told me he was being hunted by followers of her killer, and that he had been betrayed by an old friend who had led her killer to them. He said that he had watched your mother die protecting you, and that the killer tried to kill you as well, but that the killer died instead of you. When I asked him how this could be, he did not answer. He merely said ‘It must have been a miracle.’

“He told me that your godfather, Sirius…” he paused a moment seeing the surprise in Harry’s face at his name, “Yes, I knew Sirius, too. He was your father’s best man at the wedding…He told me that he had given you to Sirius and asked him to get you to a family friend. He said that he couldn’t take you with him because this killers followers were after him and that he was afraid for you. He said he had to get to them before they got to him first.

“I will say that I had some difficulty believing him fully, because only your mother was found in the ruins of their cottage. No other body was found. But, I admonished him to stay, to go to the police with is story. However, when I told him that Lily’s body was the only one that was found, he feared that the police would think that he had killed her. He was also convinced that these people that were after him would never be captured by the police for some reason, he wouldn’t tell me why. He also told me that the police would never believe the truth of how she was killed and why she was killed. So, I blessed him and he was off.”

Father Benedict sighed a little, then said, “Your father’s body was found a week later lying in your grandparents house. There were no marks on his body, no physical reason found for how he died. And no one reported anything suspicious. Since I had seen him the day after your mother’s death, and since it was uncertain what day he died, his tombstone was marked only with November, 1981.”

Harry was dumbfounded. He had always believed that his father had died before his mother, died trying to protect him and his mother. And he had watched it happen. He must have been prevented from trying to defend them, perhaps Voldemort had debilitated him somehow. And then, when Voldemort died, the curse was lifted, like when Dumbledore froze him that night on the tower. Perhaps his father had found Hufflepuff’s cup and Voldemort was holding him to question him after he killed his mother and him, to find out how he had found it, and then kill him. But if Voldemort was dead, or at least his body was dead, and his father alive, who killed his father, and how was it that his father’s spirit came from Voldemort’s wand during the Priori Incantatem?

“Harry,” Father Benedict said, “I’m sorry that you had to hear these things from me. But knowledge is power, second only to the power of love. I hope this knowledge helps you.”

“It seems to have created more questions,” Harry said.

“Yes, that’s usually how things work,” Father Benedict said calmly.

“Did you know my grandparents?” Harry asked.

“I met your father’s parents just before they died,” Father Benedict answered. “They were very well respected, and your grandfather served as mayor for a time. They were very philanthropic as well. During their lives, they were the main benefactors of this church.”

“By the looks of their house, they were wealthy,” Harry stated.

“Yes, very,” Father Benedict replied. “As I understand, your family has been very well-to-do for centuries. In fact, your family is descended from the town’s founder. He is entombed here.” Father Benedict pointed to the wall next to the entrance of the church.

Harry saw a tomb there, about six feet up the wall. Father Benedict rose from the pew and Harry followed.

“The founder built this church over a thousand years ago in honor of St. John the Baptist,” Father Benedict said as they walked over. “Members of his family have lived in the Hollow ever since, with the exception of the last seventeen years.”

Harry looked up at the tomb. At the top, it read “St. Godric”. In the middle was a cross, and at the bottom was a crest, the same one that he wore on his robes. It was the Gryffindor blazen. Harry felt pride swell in him, as he remembered his sorting. He was right to fight the sorting hat that night, right to insist that he not be placed in Slytherin. He not only belonged in Gryffindor house, he was a Gryffindor.

Then, Harry turned to Father Benedict. “Sir, do you believe in magic?”

“That’s an interesting question, Harry,” Father Benedict said, pensively. He paused a moment, then said, “I suppose all true believers in God must believe in magic. Have you ever seen a bush engulfed in fire and it not be consumed by it? Have you ever seen water turned to wine? A loaf of bread made to feed a village? Or seen an entire sea split? These things I suppose you could call magic, and we all believe in them. After all, what is magic other than the use of supernatural power to make impossible things happen? It’s just that we don’t call them ‘magic’. We call them miracles. And they are derived from God’s love for us.”

Harry reached his hand out to Father Benedict and bode him farewell. As he walked off, Harry turned and said, “Thank you, Father. Hopefully I will return one day and bring the founders blood back to Godric’s Hollow. But, for now, I have many things to accomplish.”

“Farewell, Harry Potter,” Father Benedict said, then mumbled under his breath, “he is his father’s son.”

Harry walked into the night and looked over at his grandparent’s house once more. It still seemed to beckon him, beg him not to leave. But he had to, he knew. He would never be at peace until Lord Voldemort was gone.

Harry started when he felt a tug on his shirt. “Harry Potter, are you alright?” All he saw was a hand floating in the night air tugging at him. He had completely forgotten that Dobby was there had accompanied him.

Harry chuckled, and said, “Yes, Dobby. I’m fine. In fact, I’m rather happy.”

“Dobby is pleased at that.”

“Dobby, thank you for accompanying me. You can return now if you wish.”

“Thank you, sir. Good night to you,” Dobby said. Then, with a snap of his fingers he was gone.

Harry stood there for a moment, still feeling the house tugging at him to come closer, to enter. But then he thought of the Burrow, and knew he needed to get back. He thought of the Burrow, stepped forward and felt that tug at his bellybutton…

End, Chapter 9

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:53 pm.
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  #9  
Old December 21st, 2005, 7:38 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

For those of you who have missed me, I have been posting my story at dissendium.com, but their downtime and server issues have been frustrating me. I really like their site, but it's too unreliable at this point.

So, I am posting Chapters 10 & 11 here and perhaps I'll keep them here. I've also repost the first 9 chapters as well for those who missed it.

Chapter 10

The Brother's Revelation

Harry awoke after hardly sleeping. He had spent a couple of sleepless nights after returning from Godric’s Hollow, all the time running what he had learned from Father Benedict over in his mind.

The shock of hearing that his father had witnessed his mother being killed, and especially the fact that he did or could do nothing to prevent it, troubled him deeply. He had learned a great deal about WHAT had happened that night, but what kept him awake those nights was WHY? He felt that he would never find contentment until he under stood why.

Why didn’t his father prevent it all? Could he have prevented it? Was he forced to look on, or was it trepidation that caused his inaction?

And who had ultimately killed him, and for what purpose? Voldemort was already dead, or so everyone thought. Why did James still fear for himself? For Harry?

Harry thought he might know, and that was the cup. Hufflepuff’s cup. His father must have found the cup’s hiding place and gone to retrieve it, destroy it. Voldemort somehow found out that James had the cup and came to Godric’s Hollow that night, partially, to exact his revenge and retrieve the horcrux. This must have been one of the ways his parents had “thrice defied” him. Harry also wondered how they had defied him twice before.

But the anxiety surrounding these questions quickly were replaced with a more imminent, a more ominous one.

The trial of Severus Snape and Draco Malfoy hung over the wizarding community that week more than anything Harry could remember, with the possible exception of the return of Lord Voldemort. The entire content of the Daily Prophet and The Quibbler for the week were consumed with, articles about the “facts’, editorials as to their guilt or innocence, even whether Dumbledore was murdered or not, even articles about Harry and his being the only witness scheduled to testify as the remainder of the case was to be forensic and circumstance.

Harry did his best to avoid reading any of it. He really didn’t want to remind himself of what he was about to face. He had no misgivings about what happened that night. Snape killed him, Draco helped him do it, and that was that. And he remembered every second of it. It was engraved into his consciousness for all of time.

Harry looked for ways to distract himself. He had taken to practicing his flying and his quidditch moves with Ginny, who seemed to be the only one who cared about the effect of all the conversation around him. The rock in his stomach put there by the impending confrontation turned into a knife when he heard the others talk about the trial, and it seemed his only escape was to fly, to do that which he loved so much with someone who shared his passion for it.

Ginny had obviously taken quidditch to heart over the summer. She was considerably stronger, and Harry found out first hand during their scrimmages that the baby fat she had was not lost, it had just turned to muscle. She had also become very fast and dexterous. They frequently played at catching the snitch and Ginny caught it almost as often as he did. She always was quick to blame his shortcomings on his distractions, but Harry couldn’t blame his failings on lack of concentration. Ginny had just become that good.

He found himself during these scrimmages thinking about Gryffindor’s chances next year, assuming he could get Ron away from Hermoine long enough to practice at keeper. But then he remembered that he probably wouldn’t be able to captain the team, possibly not even play, for lack of time.

But as soon as he dismounted his broom from exhaustion or dark, the rock in his stomach returned. That rock this morning was a boulder.

He had met earlier in the week with the barrister Mr. Weasley had recommended. He was very surprised that Scrimgeour had suggested that veritaserum be used during the trial, and was doubly concerned that Harry agreed. However, upon further consideration, he did concede that if Harry’s testimony was truthful and as long as the Wizengamut asked only for factual information related to the charges, there was little for Harry to be concerned with. He also confirmed that the Wizengamut would not ask questions that didn’t relate to the case. In a murder trial, the Wizengamut would be the only inquirer. However, he did tell Harry that he ran a small risk that the defense would address him directly. Even though this would be out of order and Harry wouldn’t be required to answer, the veritaserum effects would compel him to answer, and answer truthfully.

The barrister also looked over his parents’ wills and the two deeds. He confirmed that Harry was, indeed, the beneficiary of the two properties in Godric’s Hollow. And they were his, as long as the government had not taken possession for nonpayment of taxes. He was further encouraged when Harry told him that he had just recently visited and found them unoccupied. The barrister had made copies of the documents and promised to send Harry an owl at Hogwarts when he had confirmed this.

But all Harry could think of as he lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling, was Snape. How he had always felt in his presence, how nervous he had always made him. How afraid he was of him. Of his magical prowess; Snape had made him feel foolish and weak that night on the lawn, blocking his spells before he could even get them out of his mouth. How afraid he was of his mental prowess; Harry now realized that Snape was always reading his mind, probably had always been. His lessons with him in occulmency had taught him this, along with the fact that Harry was powerless to block his legilimency.

And how afraid he was of what he was capable of. He had used an unforgivable curse. He had killed. He had killed the person who had probably been the kindest to him in his life, and who had risked his reputation and others’ trust in him for trusting Severus Snape.

Harry felt as if he would never know what could have possibly given Dumbledore so much confidence in Snape, confidence in his allegiance, and why he trusted him so. He had trusted Snape with so much, given him his trust to teach his students, to teach Harry Occulmency, and trusted him, above all others, to save his life that night on the tower. Harry had offered that night to fetch others that night as he stumbled, weak and dying from that horrible potion. But Dumbledore had insisted on Snape. Why?

Harry looked over at Ron, who was still sleeping. He could hear the clanging of pots and pans downstairs and could smell bacon being cooked up. The boulder in his stomach had returned, but he resolved to get up and eat something.

He rose from bed and descended the stairs to see Ginny had already arisen, and was helping her mother with breakfast. When she saw him, she strode over with a glass of orange juice and offered it to him.

“Drink this. You will need your strength,” she said with a smile, and turned back to scrambling eggs, not leaving him time to refuse.

Harry sat at the table and drank slowly. Ginny set a plate in front of him and sat down with her own across from him.

“How are you feeling this morning?” she asked cautiously.

“I’m okay, I guess. Nervous a little,” Harry said. “Don’t know if I can eat, though.”

“Well, you do need to try,” Mrs. Weasley interjected. “You need your wits about you today. And veritaserum tends to make the stomach queasy, so it’s good you get something on it.”

Harry picked up his fork and began to force some eggs down, but the boulder in his stomach wouldn’t seem to allow it.

Ginny looked at him as he tried to eat, and she saw the consternation on his face. Then, she said, “Don’t worry, Harry. Dad has pulled some strings so we can all be in the gallery today. We’ll all be there for you.”

For some reason, knowing they would be there, knowing she would be there, settled him enough so he could eat.

Harry heard Hermoine and Ron coming down the stairs talking about the trial. As soon as they entered the kitchen, Ginny shot them a derisive look and the silenced, sitting down at their plates.

“This all, mum,” Ron said, staring at his plate. “I’m starved! Can I have more?”

“Honesty, Ron, there’s enough pork on your plate to cause you to grow a snout!” Hermoine said with a chuckle. Then, Ginny made a snorting noise, and the three of them laughed.

“Oh, come off it,” Ron said, then started on his bacon.

The remainder of breakfast conversation was, thankfully and purposefully, devoid of anything concerning Snape or Malfoy, trials or murder. Harry felt as if he were sitting around the Gryffindor table once again. He almost expected to turn his head and see Seamus chatting with Dean, or turn around and catch a glimpse of Luna involved in The Quibbler, or Colin popping up and snapping another photo of him. Even turning to see Malfoy and his cronies at the Slytherin table. He would have preferred suffering their slings and arrows that to deal with the trial, where he would be in just two short hours.

It was then he realized how much he missed Hogwarts, how much it would cost him to not finish out this year. And not so much just to finish up, but, more importantly, to finish up with all of them.

“Want to go for a snitch rematch?” Ginny said to him, seeing he was lost in his thoughts. “Two more and I’ve matched you!”

That was so typical of Ginny and her competitive nature. She had actually been keeping score!

“Sure,” Harry said.

They gathered their brooms and headed out, leaving Ron and Hermoine to finish their breakfast and return to their conversation about the trial, for one more glorious diversion into the morning sky.

“Argghh!!!”

Harry stood in front of the mirror, alone in Ron’s room, trying for the fifth time now, to tie his crimson and gold tie around his neck so that the thin end was shorter than the fat one. He was becoming unnecessarily frustrated with the exercise. After all, he had been tying ties half his life now. He had also just wasted ten minutes searching for his watch, only to discover that it was already on his right wrist.

His nervousness and preoccupation were getting the better of him, he now realized, turning the most rudimentary tasks into comedy of error. He was glad that Ron was accompanying him to the Ministry of Magic because he didn’t dare attempt apparating in his current mental state. He wasn’t confident he could clear his mind sufficiently enough for it, and he didn’t want to chance becoming a permanent fixture of some building a block down from the Ministry.

He stopped for a moment and struggled to take a deep breath. His first two attempts failed, his lungs refusing to allow enough air in against his fluttering diaphragm. He managed on his third, but felt a sharp pain on his side like he had pulled something.

He finally got his tie straight, then sat on the bed and closed his eyes. “Remain calm,” he thought. But this wasn’t working either. He needed something to calm himself.

Then, an image of Dumbledore popped into his mind. He had never seen him flustered. Not against Voldemort that night when they fought at the Ministry, not even when Draco held him against the wall of the tower that night, even as weak he was from the poison. He had always been a pillar, calm, collected, confident.

This helped a bit. Harry rose and reached into his trunk to get his wand. He placed it in his pocket and, as he did so, he caught a glimpse of another, resting at the bottom of the trunk partially wrapped in a scarf. Harry paused a moment, then he stooped over and picked it up.

Harry cradled the old wizard’s wand in his palm. All of a sudden, he felt a peace wash over him. His mind seemed to instantly clear, the tempest that had raged there replaced with a cool, spring day. Harry looked at the wand for a moment more and he realized he was breathing steadily, deeply.

Harry tucked Dumbledore’s wand into his belt at the back of his pants, then put on his robe.

Harry and Ron walked into the Ministry and met a long queue of witches and wizards waiting to gain entrance. The registration desks ahead were fully stafeed, but the line was moving slowly.

“Great!” Harry said. “I’ve got to meet with Scrimgeour at least a half hour before the trial starts to take the veritaserum. I’ll never make it!”

Ron only shrugged.

Just then, the wizard they had queued behind turned to them, a scowl on his face. He looked as if he was about to be short with Harry, but before he spoke, his eyes met the scar on Harry’s forehead.

“Harry Potter!” he exclaimed.

The entire corridor fell silent as all eyes turned at him. He felt instantly small and wished he had brought his cloak.

An old woman at one of the registration tables called out, “Mr. Potter! Front of the line please. Witnesses don’t queue up.”

Harry did his best not to trip over the hem of his robe as he and Ron walked down the line of people, all of whom gawked as he passed. He and Ron reached the old woman, who placed around his next a ribbon from which hung a card that read “Witness for the Prosecution, Ministry v. Snape/Malfoy.”

The woman then placed her open hand in front of them. “Wands, please.”

Harry’s face flushed. He hadn’t remembered that wands weren’t allowed inside the Ministry! Would she know about Dumbledore’s tucked in his belt?

Harry fumbled into his pocket and produced his wand. Ron did the same. The woman headed back to the table with them and placed each in a small, black box. She then placed the lids on them. Across the top of one appeared gold lettering that read “Harry Potter”, across the top of the other “Ronald Weasley.” Then, she walked the boxes over to a metal door behind the table, produced a key and went inside, and returned empty handed. She motioned for them to proceed.

Harry and Ron walked toward the elevators.

“Hurry up, would you?” Harry whispered as he tried to rush him down the corridor.

“Why, what’s up?” Ron said.

But before they reached the elevators, the old woman called out. “Mr. Potter!”

Harry stopped dead. He turned slowly while checking the back of his pants, making sure he hadn’t tucked his robe into them exposing Dumbledore’s wand. He hadn’t.

His eyes met her’s across the expanse of the long hallway, and he felt a drop of sweat run down his temple.

“GIVE ‘EM HELL FOR US, EH!” she cried.

The corridor erupted with cheers from the queuing masses. It echoed against the walls, louder even the cheers he remembered from the World Cup. Harry couldn’t help but smile back at them, which brought a renewed round of cheers. Then, the elevator chimed and they climbed aboard.

Harry and Ron entered the lift and Harry pressed nine. They exited into the hallway with the bare, stone walls of the Department of Mysteries and descended the stairs down to the left. As with all murder trials, it was to be held in old courtroom number 10, the same one where Harry had his hearing two years ago, the same one Harry had seen many times in Dumbledore’s pensieve from the Death Eater trials.

Ron opened the door to a standing room only crowd. People were already lined around the back of the rounded walls, three deep in spots, for a lack of seats. They had also placed some rows of chairs on the floor, equal amounts to the left and right. Directly ahead of them in front of the empty Wizengamut enclave were two chairs, the arms of which were covered with those chains that sprang to bind the accused wrists. Harry could see a line of red heads in a row of seats midway down on the left. The Weasleys had found seats, and Hermoine as well, who sat on the aisle next to Ginny.

“Well, good luck mate,” Ron said and slapped Harry on the back. “If you get nervous, I hear imagining everyone in their knickers helps.” Ron strode down the aisle and sat between his mother and Ginny, who turned and waved at Harry, He waved back as the door eased closed, and turned to head back for the lift, to floor two, and make the walk down the long hallway to the dragon encrusted doors of Scrimgeour’s office.

Harry hadn’t known what to expect from the veritaserum. It had just been Scrimgeour and Percy, who administered it to Harry. It had been sweet and sour, and seemed to go down easily enough. He had to sit in Scrimgeour’s office until the trial began, but Scrimgeour had had just enough time to exchange pleasantries with Harry and assure him he would be conducting the questioning. There would be no questions outside of the facts of what happened on the tower that night. He said he would not ask any questions outside those parameters, especially any to do with his and Dumbledore’s whereabouts just prior. This eased Harry’s mind a bit, but the rock in his stomach was still there. He still had to confront Snape.

Percy had been cordial enough. They spoke about Hogwarts reopening, Percy’s duties as Minister’s assistant. Percy, as he always had, tried to glorify his duties to make himself soundimportant. But Harry understood, he was a go-for. Harry kept this to himself, however, not wanting to embarrass him, because interspersed in their conversation were questions about his mom and dad, about Ron and Ginny. Harry could tell that Percy missed them all, no matter what type of front he put up. Yes, he and his parent’s views on the Ministry and their powers varied greatly, but Percy had always been black or white, while his parents were willing to except and embrace the grey.

Within twenty minutes of the administration of the veritaserum, Harry began to notice that the rock in his stomach had disappeared. He felt joyful, felt like he wanted to talk with people, anyone, and tell them how wonderful he felt. The rock seemed to have turned into a flitting butterfly. The only word that could describe his mood was giddy, like he hadn’t a care in the world.

Percy, who as Wizengamut under-secretary would be transcribing the proceedings, walked with Harry to the courtroom. As they opened the double doors, all eyes turned on them, and the room fell silent. The Wizengamut members had already taken their places and were talking amongst themselves very animatedly. Percy led Harry to the only seat left unoccupied. It was right up front and far to the left, and was just steps from the witness stand, which was attached to the Wizengamut enclave. He could feel all eyes on him, and the silence in the room was deafening. As he sat, Scrimgeour banged a small, glass ball.

“Please bring the accused.”

The door to the courtroom behind opened, and Harry could see everyone in the gallery turn or crane their necks to get a look. Between two escorts walked Draco Malfoy, a look of smug determination on his face. As he walked through the throng of chairs, he stared at Scrimgeour with contempt. His gaze never wavered, even as he sat and the chains coiled around his wrists.

Then, the doors opened again. Severus Snape entered the courtroom, his split curtain of black hair even greasier, as if liquid would drop into his eyes. He held his head high and looked forward, the same determination in his face as Malfoy projected. Snape, however, was followed by his escorts. He strode ahead of them disdainfully, as if it was beneath him to have to be escorted anywhere. He sat down quickly, but refused to set his arms down on the armrests. He glared up at Scrimgeour, who spoke to him.

“Mr. Snape, please place your wrists down so that they may be bound.”

Snape looked down at the arm rests, gave an unconcerned gesture in his eyebrow, and lackadaisically set his arms down. The chains sinewed around his wrists while Snape let out a yawn.

“Mr. Severus Snape,” Scrimgeour began, “you are accused of the premeditated murder of one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class, former Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You have entered a plea on record of innocent, is that correct?”

“Yes,” Snape said casually.

“Mr. Draco Malfoy,” Scrimgeour continued. “You are charged with being an accessory to the premeditated murder of one Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, Order of Merlin First Class, former Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You have entered a plea on record of innocent, is that correct?”

“Yes,” Draco hissed quickly.

“The indisputable facts, as we know them, are thus,” Scrimgeour said as he raised a piece of parchment to his face. “That, on the night of May 23 of this year, afore-mentioned Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore died, his body being found on the lawn of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is also not disputed that his body came to be there as a result of a fall from the Astronomy tower. The Ministry coroner has entered his findings to the record, and they are conclusive that the damage to Headmaster Dumbledore’s person was sufficient to have terminated his life, and finds no other evidence of any other injury which could have caused his death.

“It has also not been disputed that, just prior to his fall, both of the accused were on the astronomy tower. Many witnesses have given written testimony in pre-trial actions that Mr. Malfoy, firstly, ascended the stairs to the astronomy tower, followed shortly by one Fenrir Greyback and two to three other unnamed individuals. Then, Mr. Snape was seen by these same witnesses, many of whom are aurors and were there to protect the castle, ascending to the Astronomy tower approximately five minutes later. These events were not disputed by the accused during interrogation. Is that still your recollection of the sequence?”

“Yes,” they both said together. As he spoke, Harry surveyed the Wizengamut. It was comprised mostly of the same people he remembered from his hearing. Delores Umbridge was again seated to Scrimgeour’s right. However, Amelia Bones, of course was no longer to his left. Percy had taken her spot.

“Now, for the disputed information,” Scrimgeour continued. “You have both made statements that corroborate with each other. Mr. Malfoy, you contend that you entered the Astronomy tower roof to find Headmaster Dumbledore there, alone. Is that still your testimony?”

“Yes,” Draco said quietly.

“And, you contend that you and Dumbledore talked casually,” Scrimgeour said, “that you had no designs on harming him, correct?”

“Yes,” Draco said.

“And, you stated that Mr. Greyback and three others you know to be supporters of You-Know-Who burst in on you and Dumbledore,” continued Scrimgeour. “That you feared them as well. Is that correct, Mr. Malfoy?”

“Yes,” Draco said, seeming to become weary of their questioning.

“Mr. Malfoy,” Umbridge asked. “How did you know they were Death Eaters?”

“They had that mark on their arm,” Draco said. “The Dark Mark, I think they call it.” Draco fidgeted a bit.

“The Dark Mark,” Umbridge said questioningly. “And of course you knew what this meant because of you r parents?”

Draco was silent, but Harry could see his face turning red with anger.

“Let the record show that Mr. Malfoy refuses to answer,” Scrimgeour said to Percy.

“No, I’ll answer,” Draco burst out. “I knew what it was because of Snape. He’s got one! And he told me what it means. It means you’re a Death Eater, a You-Know-Who supporter!”

The gallery became a buzz of whispering. Harry expected to see a reaction from Snape, but he simply continued to stare at Scrimgeour, no concern across his face.

“Silence in the gallery, please,” Scrimgeour said, raising his hand. He continued, “And, Mr. Malfoy, you claim that you and Dumbledore attempted to fight them, and that Dumbledore lost his wand. That Greyback picked up Dumbledore and hurtled him over the rampart. Just at that point is when Mr. Snape arrived on scene. Is that correct?”

“Yes,” Draco said, smugly.

“Tell me, Mr. Malfoy,” a tall man with spectacles said, “how exactly did Dumbledore lose his wand?”

Harry could see Malfoy shuffle a bit, then he said, “One of the Death Eater’s chanted the expelliarmus and it flew over the ramparts.”

A collective chuckle of disbelief emanated from the Wizengamut members. Umbridge addresses him next,” Mr. Malfoy, you expect us to believe that the great Dumbledore would be caught that off guard?”

“Yes, I do,” said Malfoy, a little boastfully.

“What did you do to help Dumbledore? He is your headmaster,” Umbridge said, with a little sarcasm, “I expect you were beside yourself, with his being attacked.”

“I, well,” Draco stumbled a bit,” I couldn’t help. I was fighting the other three!”

Another small chuckle, then Scrimgeour said, “Yes, Mr. Malfoy. I’m sure Dumbledore would have made you take care of three on your own.”

“Mr. Malfoy, why did you flee the scene?” the man with the spectacles questioned. “And why didn’t you turn yourself in sooner for questioning?”

Draco did not answer, he simply stared ahead. “Let the record show that Mr. Malfoy refuses to answer,” Scrimgeour said again to Percy

The Wizengamut members congregated, and they talked softly amongst themselves. Then, they turned to address Snape.

“Mr. Severus Snape,” Scrimgeour said to him. “You have given testimony that you were informed by Professor Flitwick of the presence of Death Eaters in the castle the night in question.”

“Yes, Minister,” Snape droned out.

“You were able to make your way to the tower. You entered just as Greyback hurtled Dumbledore over ramparts?”

“Yes, Minister,” Snape said, trying to act sad.

“Did you see Dumbledore lose his wand?” Umbridge asked.

“No, he had already lost it apparently,” Snape said.

“And why did you flee?” Scrimgeour asked.

“I didn’t,” Snape said matter of fact.

The courtroom was silent again, and Snape clarified, “As I’m sure witnesses have said, I followed the others down and onto the lawn. I was CHASING them, as I have said many times before. They had killed my headmaster. I was trying to catch them.”

The Wizengamut did not respond. Snape continued, “Also, Draco here was traumatized, I could tell. I don’t know why he ran, perhaps the same reason as I. Revenge, to catch his killers. But I ran after him as well, but to protect him. I am his head of house and, while school is in session, his welfare is my responsibility. I was simply adhering to my oath as educator and mentor.”

Snape sat and awaited more questions. But only one more was asked.

“Severus Snape,” Scrimgeour said loudly. “Did you kill Albus Dumbledore?”

“Absolutely not,” Snape said calmly. “He was like a father to me. I loved Albus Dumbledore.”

Liar,” Harry thought as his temper flared a bit.

Shut up, Potter,” Snape said. But not out loud. Harry turned to see Snape staring at the Minister still. He was talking to him mentally, and listening too!

Harry attempted to clear his mind, but he never was a match for Snape. “Don’t waste your energy, Potter. You can’t keep me out of your mind. Just accept it and focus on other things.” Snape’s voice bounced off the insides of his head, and Harry turned white. He realized that the boulder had returned, and he wasn’t feeling carefree anymore as a result of the veritaserum.

“Well,” Scrimgeour said, “seeing there are no other questions for the accused…Mr. Harry Potter.” Scrimgeour turned with the rest of the courtroom. He felt instantly small again. “Please take a seat in the witness stand.” He gestured to the chair next to the Wizengamut. Harry rose and strode to it, and sat.

“Mr. Potter,” Scrimgeour said, a little less threateningly than he had addresses Snape and Malfoy, “you contend you were present, were in the company of Dumbledroe when he died on the tower. Is that correct?”

Harry opened his mouth to speak. Although air passed, all that emanated was a small squeak like a mouse. To this, Malfoy smiled wide at him.

“Yes, Minister” Harry responded, finding his voice.

“These two contend they never saw you there,” the bespectacled man questioned. “How is this?”

“I have an invisibility cloak,” Harry said. “Dumbledore told me to hide myself before Malfoy, er, Draco, arrived.”

“Why would Dumbledore want you hidden?” Delores Umbridge countered spitefully.

“I don’t know, ma’am. He just insisted.”

“So, you have no way to prove you were there?” Scrimgeour said. “None of them saw you?”

“No, sir.” Harry responded. “I suppose not.”

The members of the Wizengamut grumbled amongst themselves, but Scrimgeour raised his hand for them to quiet.

“Harry, please tell us what you saw happen.”

“Dumbledore had told me to cover my self. With my cloak, I mean,” Harry said. “As soon as we touched down, Draco burst through the door. Dumbledore must have put some sort of charm on me, because from that point on until…until he died, I couldn’t move. Draco ppeared and disarmed him right then.”

The gallery was transfixed, but the Wizengamut seemed disinterested and acting as if they were listening politely.

“Draco said he was sent to kill Dumbledore by Volde…” The entire courtroom groaned. “You-Know-Who. But he couldn’t do it. Dumbledore seemed to be talking him out of it. Then, Greyback and the others showed up. Some wanted to kill Dumbledore, but others said Draco had to. But he still couldn’t do it.

“Then,” Harry stared down at Snape. He was surprised, but all his nerves were gone. All he felt was hatred and rage. “Then HE burst in. Dumbledore begged him to help, but he just killed him.With the Aveda Kedavra. HE KILLED HIM!”

“Harry, Harry, calm down now. Take a second,” Scrimgeour said, the rest of the Wizengamut now listening intently, some of them even looking afraid.

Harry breathed deep, then he heard it again, “Nice theatrics, Potter. That one should win an award,” Snape said to him in his mind. “Such passion, such hatred.

Shut up, Snape, you filthy murderer,” Harry thought.

It’s PROFESSOR Snape to you Potter.”

Harry tried again to focus on the blank tablet, tried to keep Snape out. But it seemed he was done with him for now. Snape seemed to be looking intently at the Scrimgeour who had just been handed a parchment from a man who had come into the assembly from the door in the back.

“Members of the Wizengamut. It seems we have been successful with Mr. Greyback.”

Malfoy seemed to stir a bit, but Snape’s face did not change. But, obviously, this had gotten his attention away from Harry. Scrimgeour examined the parchment, then began to read.

The inquisitors for the Ministry of Magic, having procured from the auror, Alistair Moody, two nights ago, one Mr. Fenrir Greyback, suspected of the murder of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore, and, acting under the authority of the Wizengamut, have procured from him, and such has been given of his own volition, a memory from the night in question. The visual quality is excellent. however, the memory is without sound, reason unknown. However, the inquisitors can state free from doubt that the memory has not been tampered with visually.”

The courtroom erupted in conversation. Scrimgeour pointed his wand to his throat, obviously put out with the interruption, and said very loudly, “ORDER!” Then, he continued.

"The transcript of the memory is as follows. BEGIN MEMORY. Subjects present, Albus Dumbledore, Draco Malfoy, three unidentified adults. Outdoors, appear to be high over ground, possibly on tower. Dumbledore is surrounded by others. Draco Malfoy is holding Dumbledore at bay with wand. Dumbledore seems to be unarmed. Draco Malfoy appears to be angry, Dumbledore seems to be serene, however, ill of health. END OF MEMORY. Other facts, two brooms present on tower.

This ends the report from the inquisitors for the Ministry of Magic.”


Scrimgeour peered over the parchment at Draco, and his stares joined the others from the Wizengamut. “It seems you may remember things a bit differently that they happened, Mr. Malfoy,” he said solemnly.

“The Wizengamut will confer and render a verdict. Bailiff, please keep everyone where they are. This shouldn’t take long,” Scrimgeour said. The Wizengamut rose and they filed through the door behind them to deliberate, while Harry remained there in the witness chair.

The gallery became a flurry of conversation. Harry looked over at Malfoy. He looked put out, unconcerned but definitely disdainful. Snape’s countenance, however, had changed markedly.

He looked concerned, deep in thought. He was still staring up at the Wizengamut box. Then, Snape looked over at Malfoy, his concern not wavering. Then, he turned his head slowly and glared at Harry.

Harry tried to avert his eyes, but his courage returned and he stared directly into Snape’s black, boring eyes.

“Potter, you have no idea how foolish you are, do you,” Snape said inside Harry’s mind. “Don’t you realize by now that I knew you were there, on the tower that night. I could hear your mind then, just as I hear it now, as I always have!”

Harry shifted a bit. He stared to feel the effects of the veritaserum wearing off, and e was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. He was sweating a bit, but he didn’t give Snape the satisfaction of looking away. He glared at him.

“You are going to get what you deserve,” Harry thought back. “I’ll give them my memory of that night, if that’s what it takes. Then they’ll see. They’ll see you murdered him!”

Snape’s look of concern turned a little , and he smiled. “Potter, Askaban doesn’t scare me,” he thought back at Harry. “I’ve seen much worse things than the inside of a prison cell. I have greater purpose than myself for remaining free.”

“Yeah, like gathering up the horcruxes for your master, no doubt,” Harry shot back.

Snape’s eyebrow piqued up.

“I know you have the cup,” Harry thought back. “I’ve seen Dudley. I know you did that to him!”

Snape looked impressed. “Well, inevitable, I suppose, that you would find out. An unfortunate outcome for your cousin, to be sure. But, it was necessary, given the greater cause.”

“Greater cause! Yeah, helping Voldemort hide the horcruxes again,” Harry retorted in his mind, “so it will be impossible for him to die.”

“Harry, as always, you have allowed your immense inherited pride to cloud your judgment,” Snape shot back. “You have no idea what you are talking...”

Snape’s attention was diverted, and heis head turned toward the Wizengamut box. They had started to file back in, and one by one they took their seats. Scrimgeour and Percy sat last. Scrimgeour gaveled the small, glass ball again rapidly and called the session back in order.

“The Wizengamut has reached its conclusions and verdicts. Please, silence.” He said.

“Firstly, the Wizengamut is unanimous in its finding, given the evidence and testimony given here and in pre-trial motions, that Dumbledore’s death was, indeed, the result of foul play.”

The gallery started its whispering again, to which Scrimgeour rapped the ball again.

He continued, “The Wizengamut has officially entered the charge of murder to this case. However, no physical evidence has been given that Albus Dumbledore’s death was a result of anything other than falling from the Astronomy tower, whether physical or magical.

“Severus Snape,” he continued, “we have heard testimony from you and others as to your character. You were, of your own admission, once a Death Eater. You supported You-Know-Who, and have been tried in the past for crimes, including murder and being an accessory to murder. On those charges, however, you were found to be innocent, principally due to the character reference given by none other than Albus Dumbledore himself.”

Harry looked over at Snape. He was looking at Scrimgeour, listening intently.

Scrimgeour continued. “Throughout your tenure at Hogwarts, there have been many occasions where the Ministry has suspected your continued allegiance to the Dark Lord. However, on each occasion, your character has been vouched for by Dumbledore. He would never give his reasons for his undying trust in you, but we were in no position to argue with his logic, flawed as many of us felt it may be given your past.

“As professor, your record is impeachable. You have conducted yourself in an exemplary manner, and have gained the trust of your fellows, many of whom have given character testimony on your behalf. You have defended the school from incroachment many times, and have risked considerable personal harm to do so. Dumbledore’s faith in you has never waivered, and all here know that he, above anyone else, knew you better than anyone else in this world.

“It is, therefore, the finding of this body, given weight to all the evidence presented, that you are innocent of the charges of the murder of Albus Dumbledore.”

The courtroom erupted. A couple of people clapped, but mostly Harry could hear “No!” Harry couldn’t believe it, but he knew, and so did Snape, that Harry still had a card to play. He could still offer up his memory.

Snape looked at Scrimgeour. His lips were pursed, but Harry could see the faint hint of a smile. He then turned to Harry, and the smile grew. Harry’s heart fell as the chains around his wrists sprang open.

“Potter, don’t you realize by now...” Snape thought to Harry.

“Draco Malfoy,” Scrimgeour had now turned his attention. “After given weight to the evidence presented...”

“You can’t defeat me. That night on the lawn should have taught you that...”

...and given our finding that the death of Albus Dumbledore was, in fact, murder...”

“...But, as always, as in my classes and in occulmency lessons, you refuse, due to your pride, to accept my instruction...”

“...and given the facts contained in the memory of Fenrir Greyback which completely counter your testimony...”

“...And that pride, that thirst to be first, to refuse to believe that I may know better than you, has clouded your ability to glean the truth...”

“...that, on the charge of accessory to murder, the Wizengamut finds you guilty!”

All of a sudden, Snape’s voice inside Harry’s head fell silent. Snape wheeled his head around to face Scrimgeour. Harry couldn’t remember a time when he had ever seen Snape afraid, but this was fear. Snape snapped around to Malfoy, who was still bound, a look of terror on his face. Malfoy turned to Snape, “I thought you said you would...”

“Silence, boy,” Scrimgeour said.

Snape snapped up out of his chair. He was no longer concentrating on Malfoy. He seemed to be locked in thought.

“Harry!” The voice in his mind had returned. But it was not Snape. It was female, familiar. It was Hermoine! Harry turned his head to Hermoine, who was still sitting there on the aisle, her gaze fixed on him.

“He’s calling his wand! He chanted the Alohomora to unlock the wand door!” she thought to him. “He’s already called out the accio spell!”

“Being you were of age when your crimes were perpetrated, you have been sentenced as an adult.” Scrimgeour continued, ignoring the fact that Snape had stood. After all, he was a free man now. “The sentence for being an accessory to murder is thirty years in Azkaban without the possibility of parole…”

Harry heard a muffled wail at the back of the gallery above. He looked up and saw a hooded witch, her face obscured by a veil. As she whirred around to exit, he could see she was convulsing heavily. As she ran through the door, Harry could see a small lock of long, blond, almost white, hair flutter behind her.

Snape still stood in front of his chair, looking to be deep in thought. The gallery had become a flurry of whispers, and a few of them had risen and were rushing to the exits, intent on relaying the news to the outside world.

“Guards, please remand Mr. Malfoy into custody.” Two large guards moved to Draco, and grasped him, one to each arm. Snape did nothing to stop them, still mired in his trance. Draco’s chains sprang open and the guards struggled to make him stand. He was flailing, crying out “No! Mother! Help! Snape! Help me!”

Harry shot a look over at Hermoine, but she was no longer looking at him. She was staring at the doors at the back of the main floor, looking intent and coiled, as a snake about to strike. Then, the doors burst open, and a wand flew fast through the air. Hermoine leapt into the aisle to grasp it.

But Snape had lept too. He reached the wand just as Hermoine did, their fingers almost intertwined around its base. They both hit the ground hard. They both sprang up, neither succumbing to the others grip as the entire courtroom looked on in stunned silence.

Then, Snape drew back his elbow and brought it down hard, meeting Hermoine’s nose with a crack. Her head snapped back, and Harry saw blood shoot from her nostrils all over Snape’s robes. Hermoine let go the wand and fell in a heap, motionless on the dungeon floor.

Harry had risen from his seat in the witness chair, unsure what he could do. Snape lifted his wand into the air and chanted.

“Immobul…”

But before he could get the immobilizing spell out, a fist met his temple. He fell to the ground next to Hermoine, a stunned look on his face as he looked up at Ron who was cocked back ready for another go.

Snape, righted himself quickly, though, and pointed his wand at Ron. Ron immediately froze, petrified, and fell on top of Hermoine hard.

Snape rose quickly, seeing guards coming for him. He lifted his wand again, but something caught the corner of his eye.

Harry stood in the witness box. He had remembered the wand in his belt, Dumbledore’s wand. He was standing, almost bracingly, against the back of the witness box, the wand pointed at Snape.

“Sectumsempra!” Harry shouted. A jet of light emanated from Dumbledore’s wand and headed toward Snape. Snape, however, had matched him, whipping his wand down at Harry. He must have chanted a nonverbal spell, because a red jet of light was hurtling toward Harry as well. Harry and Snape both squinted and braced for the wands’ consequences.

But their bracing was in vain. The jets met in midair. Harry’s wand was vibrating hard, and Harry felt that same electric charge he felt when his and Voldemort’s wands met in the graveyard when he had returned. Harry grasped the wand hard and started to concentrate hard on pushing.

Everyone in the courtroom froze and glared at the awesome spectacle. A narrow band of bright, gold light connected the two wands. Harry and Snape, who was struggling with his wand as well, were lifted from the ground. Then, the band of light splintered and created the same golden dome that had encased Harry and Voldemort. Harry could hear the thunder of horse’s hooves, which was growing ever louder, but he concentrated on pushing. He knew what was coming next. Perhaps, for once, he knew something that Snape didn’t.

Harry stared at the beams of light that connected their wands, waiting. Then, he saw the first small, white particle move from the tip of his wand onto one. He pushed with all his might and it raced toward Snape, who Harry could see was still concentrating hard on holding his wand, not understanding that it was now time to push. The particle shot quickly, but stopped an inch from the tip of Snape’s wand. Snape must have instinctually started to push back.

Harry glared into Snape’s eyes. Snape returned his gaze with a hardened scowl, his teeth gritted in futile concentration. After a moment a pushing, though, Snape’s face softened, resigned and defeated, and allowed the small particle to meet the tip of his wand.

The courtroom was filled with blinding light as Snape struggled to keep his wand. Then, a look of horror filled Snape’s eyes as he, and everyone else in the assemblage, could see a few long, silver-white hairs floating out of the tip. There number increased, blowing fiercely like a fan was blowing them out of the tip. Then, Harry could hear astonished moans and cries from all around as the solid head of an old man squeezed through the tip.

Harry fought to keep his grip on Dumbledore’s wand as he saw Dumbledore spill completely from Snape’s. Dumbledore seemed to hover with them.

Dumbledore, however, seemed to be completely oblivious to the gravity of the scene. He looked calmly around the scene, squinting. Then, he looked up and said, “Harry, is that you?”

No one moved. Everyone was stunned, as anyone would be who had not experienced the Priori Incantatem, seen someone dead come to life through it. Snape, too, was transfixed on his former headmaster.

Then, Dumbledore calmly reached into his robe pocket and produced a pair of half-moon spectacles and unfolded the arms. He spoke as he did so, “Well, it seems that in death, as in life, I am still hopelessly nearsighted.” He placed the spectacle on his nose and fastened the arms round his ears. He looked on Harry and said, “Harry! It is you. It is good to see you again.”

But then, Dumbledore looked over at Scrimgeour, who’s face had turned white, like all others there. “Rufus…excuse me, Minister…hello. Ahhh, we are at trial, are we?” Dumbledore said, cordially, bowing a bit. Then he looked over at Snape, then back over to Malfoy. The guards who had been holding him were still there, holding on, but Harry could tell their grip was loose due to the shock of the scene.

Dumbledore’s face turned grave quickly. He whipped back to Snape, and said solemnly, “Severus, what has happened…” Snape could not speak back. He looked to have guilt, remorse etched in his face as he still struggled to keep his grip on his wand. Harry thought he saw a tear fall from the corner of one eye.

Then, Dumbledore turned quietly to Harry, and spoke, “Harry, as you trusted me when I was here, for the same reasons, you MUST trust Severus. If you are to remain loyal to me, you must obey me in this!”

Then, he turned to Snape, “Severus,” he said, fatherly, “To you as well, as you trusted me when I was here, for the same reasons, you must trust Harry. If you are to remain loyal to me, you must obey me in this. Take the boy and hide.”

Then, Dumbledore turned back to Harry, and said rather calmly, “Harry, it is time. Please, drop my wand.”

Harry looked on stunned, but kept his grip. He didn’t want to let go. He had forgotten how real his parents were that night in the cemetery, how they seemed to be there, unharmed. He did not want to let Dumbledore go. He needed him.

Dumbledore lowered his head a bit and glowered at Harry over his spectacles, in an admonishing and also almost disappointed way. Harry succumbed and dropped the wand.

In a flash, Dumbledore’s spectre was sucked back into Snape’s wand. Without hesitation, Snape raised his wand in the air.

“Immobulous!”

A flash of brilliant white light snapped in the air of the courtroom. Everyone had frozen. Harry felt again that helplessness he felt that night on the tower, unable to move, unable to fight. He simply looked on as Snape rushed over to Malfoy. He pried his captor’s hand from Draco’s arms, thrust his rigid body over his shoulder, and ran to the door. As he reached it, Snape suddenly stopped and turned. He glared at Harry for a moment, then Harry heard his voice again, still not kind, but not harsh either.

“Remain loyal to him, Harry.” Snape thought to Harry. “Show your trust in me Potter, and I will reciprocate.”

Then, Snape rose his wand with his free hand, and chanted “Accio wand!” Dumbledore’s wand sprang up from Harry’s feet and lunged to Snape. He caught it in the same hand that held his, clutched them together, and burst through the doors.

Harry could hear his footsteps clomping hard against the stone stairs, loud due to the increased weight of Draco’s body. Snape was on his way back to freedom once more.

End, Chapter 10

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Last edited by MerlinBlack2; December 21st, 2005 at 7:54 pm.
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  #10  
Old December 21st, 2005, 7:56 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 11

Sacrifice

Neville had never known his grandmother to sleep. Of course, he had seen her doze off at times in front of a fire, or seen her head bob while reading the Prophet. But he had never seen her asleep, at night. She had always put him to bed at night, and had always, by the look of her, been up in the mornings long before he dragged himself downstairs for breakfasts.

She was a cold woman. She always spoke harshly, quickly. She had an opinion on everything, and had no mechanism in her brain for containing them there. She could even be unusually cruel at times, for which she never apologized.

“Neville,” she had once said to him after a particularly animated beratement of a house elf who had burnt her toast, “stupidity is unforgivable. Every creature in this world has a brain, and it is beyond me why so many see fit not to use the one they’re given and look to others for answers.”

Neville had always feared his Gran. She had a booming voice which was quick to cut anyone off if she felt their contribution to the discussion was impertinent or incorrect. Others complained that she couldn’t possibly know what they were going to say if she wouldn’t let them finish. But she always proved that she not only knew what they were about to say, but also knew what they meant and when they were lying.

She was also a very powerful woman, both physically and magically. There hadn’t been any spell she couldn’t do, no potion she couldn’t make to perfection. She apparated easier than anyone Neville had ever seen and frequently snapped about the rooms in the house for wishing not to walk.

All of this had made Neville a very nervous child. Of course, Gran had never taken any credit for Neville’s anxieties, attributing it to his nature (from his mother’s side of the family, of course) and the trauma of seeing his parents in their state and witnessing his grandfather’s death at a young age.

But he did love his Gran. After all, he didn’t have a say in the matter. Once, when he was about seven, after a particularly cruel tirade directed at him involving not eating his brussel sprouts, which had ended for her by saying, “Neville, I punish you because I love you,” Neville blurted out “No you don’t! And even if you do, I don’t care, because I don’t love you!” to which his Gran had replied, “You have no choice! I’m all you’ve got!”

This exchange, even at the age of seven, had made him realize how much he really did love his Gran. After all, through her tough exterior, her intolerance and lack of patience, she had always been there. She had raised him when she could have been elsewhere.

Just before his parents had been attacked, subjected to the crutiatis curse and relegated to a life of banal existence, Dumbledore had offered Augusta Longbottom a position at Hogwarts. When Neville had once asked her which position, she had replied, “Any position I wanted other than headmistress, of course. And I would have taken it, if…”. She had obviously wanted the position, because she never finished the sentence. She simply walked away to the kitchen. It was the only time Neville could remember seeing a tear come from her eyes.

Neville had always known from a young age that he was a disappointment to his Gran. She was a great witch, and his father was regarded as the most proficient auror of his time. His Gran was particularly proud to boast that her Frank had caught as many Death Eaters in his time as Alistair Moody, and had never lost an appendage or organ. She was also very fond of his mother, given how she spoke of her auror prowess as well. After all, Alice was pure-blood as well, and was exceptionally gifted in Dark Arts defense. However, she often decried his mother’s emotional vulnerability and sentimentality, saying that it had probably been this quality in her that doomed them both.

According to her, his mother and father had met when they were very young. Augusta Longbottom and Alice’s parents had been friends for years and had attended Hogwarts together. His grandfather’s had worked together at the Ministry at the Department of Mysteries, and when Frank and Alice had announced their engagement just two months after graduation, his Gran said she couldn’t have imagined them with anyone else. As a pair, his Gran had always said, they were unstoppable. It was only when they were separated they were vulnerable.

But Neville, according to Gran, couldn’t have been more different than his parents. Neville had always been clumsy and awkward. Until the age of eight, he had never shown any propensity for magic. His uncle had once thrown him from a dock into a lake, hoping that the threat of drowning would awaken his innate, genetic talents. But all Neville had done was flail and sink, nearly drowning, and had to be saved by his Gran who, rather than admonish her brother, admonished Neville and lamented her poor fortune to have such a magically inept grandson.

But, at the age of eight, his uncle had held him out a second story window, again trying to release his latent abilities, but accidentally dropped him. Neville still didn’t know to this day how, but instead of crashing to the pavement, he bounced like a rubber ball, across the lawn and into the garden. Rather than admonish his uncle, his Gran rushed into the garden, picked up her grandson in a fit of glee, and hugged him until Neville thought he might loose consciousness. It was the first of two times he had seen his Gran really smile. The second was when, a month before his eleventh birthday, she received an owl from Dumbledore.

Neville had never questioned where home was. It was right here, at his Gran’s.

Since his first year at Hogwarts, his Gran had filled his summers with lessons and practicing. She contended that he was to be as great a wizard as she was a witch, as good at magic as his parents. It would just take hard work and study to unlock his true potential. She instructed him herself in the living room, eight hours a day, every day, every summer.

But every night, just like this one, just one week before the start of his seventh year, after their lessons and their supper, after his bath, Neville shut the door to his room and pulled up the floorboard next to his bed. Underneath it, in the crawl space between the 2nd and 1st floor, were several jars. He had started stealing them from his Gran’s rubbish bin when he was about four. They had contained anything from pickles to mayonnaise to used up potions. He had always cleaned them out and dried them meticulously, because their future residents were his most valuable possessions.

This night, he pulled one from the very back. It was the first one he had started, and it was much smaller than the rest. It was occupied by hundreds of small, browning slips of paper. He sat cross-legged on the floor and cradled the jar between his pajamaed pant legs, opened the jar, and drew in a deep breath. Even after all the years, almost thirteen now, his nostrils enjoyed the sweet smell of wintergreen. Neville thought of his mother, wondering if she would ever remember, ever look into his eyes and say, “Hello, son. I’ve missed you.”

After a few minutes and as many tears, as every night that he could remember in his Gran’s house, he closed the jar back up, replaced it and the floorboard. He stared at the wall in front of him, examining the cracks in the plaster. He thought of how good it would be when his parents were free from their illness. He raised his pajama sleeve, then scrolled it up to reveal his bare forearm. He wondered if it would hurt, wondered how long it would be before his parents would be free, wondered if his Gran would ever understand, ever forgive him.

Neville crawled into bed to dream once more of a life worth living, and for the first time believing that it would be possible.

End, Chapter 11

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  #11  
Old December 26th, 2005, 10:36 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 12

The Last Returning

There had been no hint as to the whereabouts of Snape or Draco since they made their famous exit from Courtroom 12 at the Ministry. The Daily Prophet was full stories of dead end leads and false sightings. Aurors had been dispatched to hunt. Even Kingsley Shacklebolt, who had recently been promoted to Head Auror, was in the field searching for them.

Harry had liked Shacklebolt very much. He was a confident figure, very tall and muscular. Sirius had told him once that Kingsley was the best dueler he had ever seen. Kingsley had been a seventh year when Sirius and the other Marauders were first years. Sirius had explained that the Dueling Club had been established by Shacklebolt and some other of his classmates during their third year, and operated in secrecy in the dungeons near the Hufflepuff commonroom. Charm dueling was, and always had been, strictly forbidden at Hogwarts. However, Sirius had said that he, as well as others, thought on more than a few occasions they had seen Dumbledore out of the corner of their eyes while they looked on at duels, for him only to vanish when they turned in their surprise.

Shacklebolt was a Hufflepuff, and he was quite the man on campus according to Sirius. He was good at everything he tried, and he managed to try everything. His last year he was voted most likely to be an auror, and true to form achieved auror status quicker than anyone before or since, even Alistair Moody. He was also a very charming man, and during his school days was much sought after. Even professors seem to grant him many favors, and he never served detention regardless of the severity of the infraction. Sirius had commented once that he must have been friends with Gilderoy Lockhart given his finesse with women and men alike.

It had taken a full five minutes for the immobulous charm to wear off in the courtroom. Everyone seemed to grog out of their stupor quite dumbfoundedly. Then, to a person, the enormity of the events while they were locked solid, relegated to mere spectators to the Half Blood Prince and the Pure Blood Cowards’ flight, snapped to their faces. Some cried out, some simply sat and glared, not believing what they had seen.

Once Rufus Scrimgeour had come to, he instantly called the Wizengamut into chambers and ordered Percy to alert Kingsley to summon all the resources at his disposal to hunt Snape down. There was a mad rush of people out of the courtroom as if a fire had just broken out.

Harry, however, had the more immediate purpose of aiding his friends. He saw people rush out of the courtroom, some stepping right over Hermione and Ron, who still lay in a heap on the dusty, stone floor. More blood had pooled around Hermione’s face. Harry had leapt down to them. Ron was groggy, but was coming to.

“Wha…what happened?” he stammered as he tried to right himself and stand. Then, a look of horror crossed his face as he saw Hermione, her now straight hair being matted by the blood still coming from her nose against the floor.

Harry and Ron turned her over, and tried to awaken her. Ginny and her parents had rushed over. Mrs. Weasley took inventory of Ron while Harry and Mr. Weasley tended to Hermoine.

“Her nose is broken, definitely,” Mr. Weasley said to Harry while he fumbled with Hermione’s wrist. “She’s got a solid pulse though. I’d better get her off to St. Mungo’s. Damn these dungeons! I hate apparating out of here, and so far below ground…”

“Arthur, you have no choice!” Mrs. Weasley exclaimed. “She needs attention immediately! Perhaps if we take her together?”

Ginny stood over Hermione with shock etched in her face. But her gape held nothing to Ron’s. He was ghost white, and he had started to cry. Then, in an instant, fury overcame him.

“That *******!” he exclaimed. “That right *******! I’ll off him if it’s my last, you mark my words! I’m going with you too.”

Mrs. Weasley looked at Ron, at his display of emotion, and looked lovingly at her son. Harry could see the look of understanding in her eyes, and saw that she now knew, understood. “Of course, dear,” she said in a coddling way. “Your father can handle Hermione. I’ll take you along with me. Wouldn’t hurt to have you looked at as well, make sure you don’t have any after effects.” Then, she turned to Ginny and said, “You stay with Harry. He’s had a good shock as well with whatever that was that happened. And Merlin’s beard, I don’t think I’ll ever get over seeing Dumbledore like that. But, more important matters at hand…Arthur…are you ready.”

“Yes, dear,” Mr. Weasley said, Hermione’s limp body cradled in his arms. “Come straight away, just after me.” Then, Mr. Weasley stepped forward and was gone in a CRACK. Mrs. Weasley grabbed onto Ron’s hand with some difficulty, given how it was shaking. She stepped forward too, and Harry and Ginny were left alone together.

“You think Hermione will be okay,” Ginny said, tears flowing from her eyes and dripping onto her robes.

Harry hugged her tightly and felt her shivering. “Yeah, she’s been through worse I suppose,” Harry lied. Harry cursed her under his breath for trying to intercept the wand.

“I knew it was coming,” Harry said. “That was foolish of her. She should have just let me handle it. If she had just…”

“Just what, I wonder!” Ginny said, as she broke violently out of Harry’s arms, staring at him defiantly, the tears in her eyes replaced with blind fury. “Let you, a man, handle it, I suppose! The ‘chosen one’, indeed. More like the ‘chauvinist’ one if I have a say! We can handle ourselves just fine, thank you very much. Hermione will be fine, just battle scars.”

Harry blushed as he endured her tirade. It had been a quite stupid thing to say, he realized now. After all, if she hadn’t warned him it was coming, if she hadn’t thrown Snape off balance a bit, the brother wands would never have locked in the Priori Incantatem. And all in the courtroom had seen it. Now everyone knew that it was Snape who had killed Dumbledore.

“You’re right, of course…” Harry stammered.

“Of course I am,” she fumed back. But she looked into Harry’s eyes, and her furor seemed to fade a bit. “What was that, anyway, what your wands did? Is that the same thing that happened…”

“Yeah,” Harry interrupted. “The night in the Riddle cemetery, when he came back. Priori Incantatem. It only happens when the wands’ cores are from the same animal. Must have been Unicorn.”

“Yeah, I heard the hooves too,” Ginny said. “So, the spells reverse out of the wand? Well that settles it then. Everyone knows now that it was Snape. Now, it was just a matter of finding him.”

As her words died out, the door behind the Wizengamut box swung open, and Scrimgeour surveyed the room. He caught sight of Harry and called out to him rather hurriedly, “Potter! Good, you haven’t left. Come back here, we need to speak with you.” He was noticeably shaken, and he whirred back through the door, obviously not thinking for a moment that Harry wouldn’t obey.”

Harry looked over at Ginny, who didn’t even wait for him to speak. “Oh, no,” she said, admonishingly. “I’m going with you! You heard mom, I’m to stick to you!” A broad smile crossed her face as she held his hand. They walked together up the steps to the box and walked through it to the back and through the small door behind.

The room was lighted by many candles along the walls and a great chandelier hung from the ceiling just above a large, round table. It was old and wooden, and in front of each chair Harry could see deep grooves where generations of arms had rested. The entire Wizengamut was seated around it, with the exception of Percy. Harry could hear a flurry of discussion among them, but as Harry and Ginny entered, they all fell silent. Harry felt someone enter behind them, and he and Ginny whirred like cats to see Percy. He obviously hadn’t noticed Ginny, for he rushed to the last remaining open seat and picked up his quill to begin dictating.

“Harry,” Scrimgeous said loudly, “Are you aware of what happened just now?”

“Yes, sir.” Harry said respectfully.

“Well, what curse was that you performed,” Delores Umbridge said quickly over Scrimgeour. “No doubt some sort of deception charm meant to sway our finding on the facts presented. No doubt taught to you by Dumbledore…”

Harry opened his mouth to unlet the torrent of his response, but Scrimgeour had beaten him to it.

“Delores! Mind you are only here for a brief respite as you are still a member of this body,” he said furiously. “If you think that you will sway my favors and allow you to remain here rather than return to Albania, you are sorely mistaken. I shall direct the questioning, and I will, or will not, ask for your input as I may require. Understood!”

Delores Umbridge’s toad face wrenched up, but said nothing more.

“Now Harry, what exactly was it that happened?” Scrimgeour said pleadingly.

“The Priori Incantatem,” Harry said.

“Hogwash!” said a rather surly looking man with a hat with what looked like a stuffed cat on top. “The Priori Incantatem is mere conjecture. No one has ever seen it performed.”

“Well I have,” Harry said, his frustration at not being believed coming through. “Twice now.”

There was a collective gasp of astonishment from the table, but Scrimgeour was of one mind and pressed on. “What do you mean twice? When have you seen it before?”

The night You-Know-Who returned, the night of the last task of the Triwizard Tournament,” Harry said calmly. “It’s how I got away from him. His wand and mine are brothers, share the same core. Dumbledore explained it to me…”

“Dumbledore! Dumbledore, indeed,” Delores said, not able to contain herself. “Here it is! I was right. Dumbledore, indeed…”

Scrimgeour turned quickly and glared at Umbridge. He was red with anger at the interruption. He pointed a long wand at her and chanted “Allez Albania!” Umbridge simply disappeared, and Harry hoped in the back of his mind that she had come down with a hard thud in her new country on her enormous backside. Ginny hardly could contain her laughter.

Scrimgeour turned to Percy and said, “Well, might as well get the views of an expert. Bring him down here, will you Percy?”

“Yes, sir,” Percy said. It was just then that he looked over and saw Ginny standing there. He stopped transfixed, obviously upset with her apparent transgression on his sacred soil. But he didn’t have but a second, not a chance to admonish her, before he thought better and rush up the stairs at the back of the room and away.

“And how did you manage to get a wand in here anyway?” Scrimgeour said to Harry. “Didn’t you leave it at the desk when you entered?”

Harry tried to think of a way out, but he knew that he had to give it up. It was the only way he could prove what had happened.

“I did leave my wand at the desk, sir,” he said bashfully. “The wand I used was Dumbledore’s.”

“Merlin’s beard!” Scrimgeour cried as a rumbling started amongst the other Wizengamut members. “How on earth did you come to it?” But he turned to another old man at the table with a beard with was tied in knots all the way down to his ankles. “Calmulus, please see that the wand detectors in the entrance are checked.”

Percy rushed back down, thankfully interrupting Scrimgeour’s interrogation. He was by an old man with long fingers. This man strode over to Harry and gazed at him with his wide, pale eyes shining like moons.

“Mr. Harry Potter,” Ollivander said cordially, “Holly and phoenix feather. Never forget that purchase.”

What followed was a rather long, drawn out explanation from Ollivander regarding the theory of the Priori Incantatem. It seemed that the courtroom spectacle and Harry and Mr. Ollivander’s explanations swayed the Wizengamut into believing that it was what they had witnessed. The Wizengamut was unanimous in reopening deliberations on their innocent verdict.

They seemed, however, not at all fully convinced of Snape’s guilt. Some even offered up that it may have not been Snape, but someone using Snape’s wand. After all, and Harry had to admit this to be true, the spell was wand specific, not user specific. Cedric’s body had come out of Voldemort’s wand the night in the cemetery, and Wormtail had used Voldemort’s wand to kill him.

But the Wizengamut had no argument to combat Harry’s memory. Harry had agreed to provide it to them, and in the end had no recourse but to find him guilty. Sentencing would occur when Snape was found and brought before them again. Based on what Harry heard following their perusal of his memory, he was pretty sure they would put him to death.

What was surprising to Harry, he pondered again as he strode into King’s Cross Station, part of four wide with Ron, Hermione and Ginny, each following behind their baggage carts, was that he felt a tinge of remorse for Snape. This, coupled with the conflict within him of Dumbledore’s spirit admonishing him to trust Snape, made him very uneasy. He hoped that he could find Snape before the aurors did, at the very least so he could resolve in his mind that Dumbledore was wrong to trust him and that he had in fact maliciously and without reservation or reason murdered him.

The four passed through the invisible barrier between Platforms 9 and 10 and emptied onto a rather subdued Platform 9 ¾. Gone were the sentimental goodbyes, well wishes and jubilant faces eager to return to another year at Hogwarts. The scene was melancholy at best, with quiet hugs and kisses of hesitant departures, parents and students alike wondering what this year would hold given the change in administration and the promises of increased security. Harry wondered whether they would even be allowed off school grounds this year for visits to Hogsmeade. Surely the Ministry would keep the students on school grounds, inside its circle of protection.

All the aurors and Order members who weren’t hunting Voldemort would be stationed at Hogwarts this year, he had learned from Mrs. Weasley. She had added school patrol to her duties as a staff member when she was not instructing in Potions classes. Adult protectors would also be stationed in the dormitories at all times, much to the dismay of the students. The dorms had always been a refuge from the peering eyes of the adults and faculty, and Mrs. Weasley, of course, had been stationed with Gryffindor house. This was especially troublesome for Ron who, now that he and Hermoine had professed their love for one another, would again be relegated to “just friends” unless they could find some way to steal away.

Harry also had to contend with his full feelings for Ginny given her mother would rarely be further than ear shot. But Harry had much more on his mind than courtship. He had so much to do and, it seemed, little time to do it. With school, quiddich (he had agreed to stay on as Gryffindor captain and seeker), and defining his career goals, his free time would be sparse. And it would be filled with the mission Dumbledore had left in his care, that of finding the remaining horcruxes and destroying them. After all, school, love, career, these were all things that his future would not hold until the future according to the prophecy had played out.

He was glad to have the hunt for the horcruxes to occupy his mind, for it gave him a distraction from the inevitable meeting with Lord Voldemort. He wondered if destroying the horcruxes would make Voldemort less powerful, but believed the contrary. The knowledge that his horcruxes were gone would probably strengthen him, knowing that he would surely die forever if he lost.

“Firs’ years, ‘long this wae!” Harry heard as he was walking to the back carriage, struggling with his trunk and Hedwig.

And there he stood, as massive and awe-inspiring as he remembered. Hagrid was at the end of the platform, waving his arms admonishing the first years to him to give them their boarding instructions. His face looked tired, standing there in his long, multi-furred coat and his ever present umbrella crooked on one arm. He caught sight of Harry and smiled a bit and waved to him.

Harry smiled back and waved, then boarded the train behind the other three. He wondered how Hagrid was keeping up. Hagrid had always been the most loyal to Dumbledore, more so than even Harry had been. Harry’s trust in Dumbledore had wavered at times, but Hagrid had always remained steadfast in his allegiance to Albus Dumbledore. He was sure that his death had left Hagrid with an empty place as big as his giant heart, and wondered whether the school would keep a place for him given Dumbledore’s absence.

Ginny had given Harry a quick peck as they boarded the train and then set off to the car ahead where the six years were. Harry, Ron and Hermione settled in their compartment, one seat of which was already occupied by one rather large toad.

“I’m sure Neville’s looking for this one, eh!” Ron said. “He’s always losing him, and just like Neville, he’s off looking for him while he sits here guarding his things.” Ron attempted to shove the toad off into the floor, but Trevor had other ideas. Without batting an eyelid, Trevor turned his head in a quick snap and bit Ron’s finger.

“Ouch!” Ron said as he jerked his finger out of his slimy mouth. “I swear, you’d think I was kibbles given how beasts keep biting me! First a rat, then a dog, now a bleeding toad!” Trevor simply turned his head back to the front, and gave a loud croak, not budging from his seat.

They had just become settled in their compartment a few minutes later when Hagrid’s voice again boomed down the seventh year’s compartment.

“All seven year’s off the train,” he called out. “Leave your personals in their compar’ments, if you please!”

“Wonder what that’s all about?” Ron asked as he stuffed a wriggling chocolate frog in his mouth and shooting Trevor a derisive look as he exaggerated his open-mouth chewing. Ron seemed never to eat better than when he was on the Hogwart’s Express.

“Dunno,” said Harry.

“Perhaps they are giving each year instruction before we get to Hogwarts,” Hermione said. “I’m sure there are new security measures in place and we should know about them before we get there.”

“But why wouldn’t they just call the prefects out?” Ron said, who had already placed his prefects badge on his robe. Hermione’s prefect badge had never left her robe. “That’s usually something they let us handle and explain to our houses.”

“That’s true,” Hermione said, her still purple-bruised nose wrinkling in thought. She still spoke as if she had a stuffed nose, but she had come through her encounter with Snape no more worse for the wear. “Well, no way to find out other that to find out,” Hermione said and whisked away out of the compartment.

“Harry and Ron turned to head out of the compartment. No sooner had they come to the door when Neville ran into them both, almost knocking them down.

“Ahh, sorry mates!” Neville said, a bashful half smile on his face.

“Mind your clumsy self, would you Neville?!?” Ron said. In an instant, Harry saw Neville’s face turn in a way he had never seen before. His visage was one of anger, almost rage. It would not have made Harry feel so uncomfortable if it weren’t so unlike he knew Neville to be.

“Oh, I beg ‘pardon, Master Weasley,” Neville said sarcastically and rather out of character as he bowed deeply. “I suppose I should just mind to make way for you more talented lot, shall I?”

Ron’s words failed him, and he was not prepared to make a retort. All he could say was, “Er, no, I didn’t mean…”

“Yeah, I know what you meant,” Neville said, his eyes narrowing while rushing into the compartment and scooping up Trevor, who gave another loud croak at Ron as they swept past.

“Seems someone grew something over holiday,” Ron muttered to Harry as Neville leapt down the stairs to the platform.

“Yeah, two of something if you ask me,” Harry retorted. “But, Ron, ease up on Neville. He’s got a lot going on, just like me. No parents and all, and his Gran is a bit of a witch. Well, even more of one than the usual order.”

“Yeah, I guess I was a bit rude.” Ron said and shrugged. They made there way onto the platform where the rest of their class had formed a semi-cirlce around Hagrid and a rather weary looking Professor Flitwick.

“As I was saying,” Professor Flitwick aid in his meek, mousy voice, “all seven years who have passed apparition last year will be traveling to Hogwarts his year by that method. As I’m sure all of you have been practicing your craft over the summer, given your freedom to practice magic outside school without fear of reproachment, we shouldn’t have any mishaps.”

The semi-circle was a buzz of excited whispers, as no one had ever heard of any student, let alone a whole class, be given the opportunity to apparate to Hogwarts.

Professor Flitwick continued a little louder over the hum of surprised voices. “And anyone who has become of age during the summer will be allowed to apparate if they can demonstrate that they are proficient with a quick test. I believe the only one’s who were not of age as of the end of last term were Mr. Potter…a there you are,” Professor Flitwick had caught Harry’s tardy descent to the platform from the end car and pointed to him to join he and Hagrid, “and….yes…Mr. Longbottom. Please, both of you, come here…”

Harry blushed a little. He wasn’t keen on testing his apparition skills in front of the entire class, especially after he caught sight of Crabbe, Goyle and Pansy Parkinson, who were casting taunts and jeers at he and Neville as he walked to the center of the semi-circle.

However, for himself, Neville seemed to have a confident gait Harry had never seen in him as he strode to one side of Professor Flitwick. Harry settled uncomfortably in between Flitwick and Hagrid, who gave Harry a rather hard slap of encouragement on his back which nearly knocked him down. At this, a loud chortle emanated from the Slytherin enclave.

“Are you both ready to attempt your apparition?” Professor Flitwick said, turning left then right to them both.

“Um, yes sir,” Harry said a little resignedly.

“Yes, Professor!” Neville said confidently.

“Well then Mr. Longbottom,” Professor Flitwich said. “Good to see you are so confident. I’m sure your grandmother has taught you well over the summer. And Harry,” he turned to Harry, “I’m sure you’ll do just fine. But we must see about each of your proficiency. Now, one at a time,” Professor Flitwick turned around and faced the long, empty platform, “apparate just a few yards ahead, to the other end of the platform, if you will. Harry, you first.”

Harry tried to block out everything, which included a fair amount of heckling from his audience. Professor Flitwick shushed them, and it was silent. Harry stepped forward and with a CRACK, he was gone, and reappeared at the other end of the platform, unharmed and with all his appendages.

“Good, very well done!” Professor Flitwick said as Hagrid smiled proudly on. “I don’t foresee you’ll have any problems with a longer distance.”

Professor Flitwick then turned to Neville, “Now you, Mr. Longbottom. Now concentrate and focus just on the end…”

CRACK! Neville didn’t wait for Professor Flitwick to finish his instruction, and he disappeared. Professor Flitwick’s head snapped back in astonishment from being so cut off, and even Hagrid seemed put off by Neville’s rather abrupt departure.

They turned to the other end of the platform, but all that met there eyes was fog and smoke from the train wafting at the other end of the platform. Neville did not reappear. They waited there as the seconds tickled off, there faces turning more and more concerned as each ticked by.

“Oh, dear,” Professor Flitwick said finally. “Oh, dear me.”

A burst of laughter came from the Slytherins as they realized that Neville had probably come down somewhere completely unintended.

“Probably part of a lamppost somewhere outside the station,” Pansy Parkinson uttered between her chortles.

“Yeah,” Crabbe laughed back at her. “It’s a wonder he didn’t leave that hideous toad right there!”

“Hagrid!” The muffled voice of Professor Slughorn could be heard coming from somewhere near Hagrid. Or, more to the point, somewhere inside Hagrid.

Hagrid started, then pushed his coat aside and slipped his large, meaty hand inside his trouser pocket. He drew a coin from it, and spoke back to it. “Professor, you called?”

“Yes, Hagrid,” Slughorn’s voice said from the coin. “I’m here at Hogwart’s station. You said you would call ahead before any students would apparate! But no matter, Mr. Longbottom has appeared. As perfect an entry as I have seen from such a youngster. Carry on then with the rest!”

Harry looked around at Hermoine and Ron, who shared his startled look. Then, the Gryffindor’s there cheered and began their taunts in earnest of the Slytherins for their turn. Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s shock turned to smiles, pleased with Neville’s new found bravado.

The remainder of the seventh years apparated to Hogwart’s station with only one mal-instance. It seemed Crabbe and Goyle had tried to be cute and apparate at the same time. They arrived at Hogwart’s station with one foot fused to the others. The rest of the seventh years, including most of the Slytherins, had a hearty laugh as they led the procession to the gates, feebly stumbling over each other, reminding Harry of the three legged races from muggle primary school field days. Madame Pomphrey met them at the gates with a stretcher, which she realized once there would not accommodate them both. The rest of the students left them there, and didn’t see them back for the first dinner of the new year.

The Great Hall was decked out as any other start of term feast. But a pallor hung along with the banners from the rafters as everyone noticed the middle chair at the head table was noticeably vacant. The only thing that sat there was a high, pointed hat that Harry had never seen without Dumbledore beneath it. There was no conversation as they filed in, unsure what the start of term announcements might hold, and even who might deliver them. The staff was all seated on either side of the hatted chair. Harry saw that Cornelius Fudge was seated to its left. Professor McGonnagall rose from her chair to the right of it, and stepped to the podium once everyone had been seated.

“Returning students,” she began. “Before the sorting, I have some…start of term notices,” she said with some difficulty. “This year’s activities will be dedicated to the memory of our most-beloved headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. His vision and dedication to the education of the youth of the wizarding world was, without question, unparalleled. Only the Founders themselves have had as great an impact at Hogwarts as the late headmaster, and his legacy is inside each of you. The headmaster’s hat shall serve vigil over each meal and meeting in the great hall this year as a reminder to all of his service, of his vigilance, his love, and his faith in all of us.”

She fought back tears for a moment, and the silence was deafening. Even Peeves stood against the wall, still and locked with is hat in his hands over his lap. “Join me in a toast,” as she said these words, a goblet appeared in her hands, and she raised it to his chair. A goblet appeared in front of everyone, and the scraping of the chairs was loud as everyone shot up. All the goblets were raised high.

“To Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. In his house, we remember his life. We shall remain always loyal.”

The room followed her lead and drank. Harry sipped and realized it was wine. He and Ron looked sideways at each other, and turned it up again, intent on downing it in one gulp. But the goblet had disappeared, along with it their hopes of a slight buzz to accompany dinner.

“Now,” McGonnagall had regained her staunch, matronly composure. “Seventh years will meet with their counselors tomorrow morning to discuss their ambitions as to career. Notices as to time and counselor are already posted in your common rooms. So that your counselor may be prepared, please write your three top career positions to the right of your name before you retire. They will be collected at midnight tonight.

“Also, please be warned that there is a strict ten o’clock curfew for the entire school year.” A collective groan emanated from the four tables, at which Professor McGonnagall raised her hands. “Quiet! All students must report to their common rooms and be counted each night. Any tardiness will be rewarded with 100 points being taken from your house total. Also, trips outside school grounds, including visits to Hogsmeade, have been indefinitely cancelled…”

A ruckus erupted which her hands could not silence. Seeing her difficulty, Cornelius Fudge rose and pointed his wand to his throat. “Please, everyone, please. These measures are for your safety. Given the events of the previous year, Hogwarts is not safe without these added protections. As Ministry liason and co-headmaster this year, it is incumbent on me, and may I say most of your parents agree with the Ministry on this, to ensure your well being to the utmost. As such, aurors are stationed on the grounds and within Hogwarts castle as well. If any student is caught off school grounds and is detected by an auror, their instructions are to curse first and ask questions afterward. With security breaches what they have been in the past few years, the only way we can leave Hogwarts open is by strictly adhering to these rules.”

Professor McGonnagall continued as Fudge took his seat again. “Of course, anyone who is of age may, with proper approval from their head of house, their prefect and Mr. Fudge, travel outside Hogwarts…” a small cheer from the seventh years went up…”but not without chaperone from a staff or grounds member…” the cheer died away.

“Well, at least you won’t have to sneak out anymore,” Ron whispered to Harry. Ron had seemed to have forgotten that all of them would be doing their fair share of sneaking if they gained wind of the whereabouts of any horcruxes.

“Also, given the, er, departure of Professor Snape…” at the sound of his name, there was a wild hissing from the gallery, “Professor Slughorn will be assuming the duties of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and will also be the Slytherin head of house. Our new Potions master is Mrs. Molly Weasley,” Mrs. Weasley stood quickly and waved to Ron and Ginny, who took turns hiding their faces in their robes. “Mrs. Weasley will also be assuming the post of head of Gryffindor House…”

“Oh, no!” Ron let out involuntarily. The smile vanished from Mrs. Weasley’s face, and her arm stopped mid-wave. She peered at Ron, who reddened and looked as if he would rather be face to face with a howler.

“Yes, Professor Weasley, good to have you here at Hogwarts again,” McGonnagall covered and clapped, which was returned with clapping from the tables. Mrs. Weasley seemed not to notice however, and continued her piercing gaze at her son as she slowly sank back into her seat.

“As for the headmaster position,” McGonnagall continued, “Duties regarding schooling and House matters will be handled by myself, and all administrative duties and grounds will be coordinated by Mr. Cornelius Fudge, former Minister of Magic.” Fudge had begun to rise from his seat, but stopped short of fully erect at the word “former”. He politely waved to a smattering of applause, then took his seat back quickly.

“Now, Hagrid, please see the first years in, and let us begin the sorting.”

As the first years filed in behind Hagrid, Harry felt warm. A sense of purpose and order filled him. But a restless anticipation also bit at him. It was as if he couldn’t wait for it to start, or be over. He looked into the awe-stricken faces of the first years, all of them innocent and unsuspecting of the wonders and the evils that crouched in waiting for them around every dusky or murky corner for the next nine months.

It looked like every year before, but he knew it was destined to be anything but.

End, Chapter 12

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  #12  
Old January 23rd, 2006, 3:10 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 13

A Sorting of Sorts


Harry sat in Professor McGonnagall’s office, nervous, not knowing what to expect from her. He had drawn her as career advisor. He had hoped that she was now occupying the headmaster’s office, but he had learned from Nearly Headless Nick at dinner the night before that would remain vacant until the Ministry had decided on a permanent replacement. He had hoped to have a few moments alone there, to test out his suspicion about what Dumbledore had said in his memory. “Just look upon me, and I will answer.” He would have to find some other way of getting in there, but he had no idea how.

After dinner the first night back, the Gryffindor common room was abuzz regarding everyone’s choices of career. There was much bantering back and forth, and most everyone was unsure what they should choose. All except Hermione, of course.

Hermione seemed to always have known what she wanted. She was the first to write hers down, and everyone rushed over to the sign up sheet to see what she had chosen.

“Hogwart’s Librarian?” Ron had exclaimed. “Look, Hermione, I know you love books better than life itself, but librarian? And here?”

“Of course, Ronald,” Hermione said tersely. “Hogwarts has the largest and most prestigious collection of books since the Library at Alexandria. And it has books here that were protected from the Inquisition and the Crusades. Plus, I’ve always wanted access to the restricted section. Only Harry’s been able to get in there.”

“Well, then put in for the library in Alexandria, then,” Ron said. “I liked Egypt, loads better than this place.”

“Honestly, Ron,” Hermione said, exasperated. “Does anything stick in that brain of yours? We learned about the seven ancient wonders our first year. It was destroyed, by fire, ages ago…Oh, really, you are so thick.”

“Sorry, but I don’t make habit of clouding my mind with things that don’t exist anymore,” he shot back. “And your second choice, Creature relations liaison? You want to make a career negotiating with sub-humans?”

“They are “sub-humans” Ron. They just are different,” Hermione tried to explain. “There just different than humans. Centaurs, goblins, elves…”

“Oh, there it is again,” Ron cut her off. “Still pining with that S.P.E.W. business, eh. You would have thought you had learned your lessons a couple of years back when the house elves told you to buzz off.”

“Ron, elves have been repressed so long they don’t know what they want,” Hermione shot back. “It will take a while, but they will see the benefits of free will, just like Dobby has….right Harry?”

Harry hadn’t really heard a word they had said. He had developed an innate ability to silence his mind whenever Hermione and Ron started in on each other.

“Uh, yeah, whatever Hermione said,” Harry bumbled. “She usually right, you know, Ron.”

Harry had no idea what he wanted to be. Harry had lived his entire life in the service of others. His Aunt Petunia, Dumbledore, Hogwarts, even Voldemort at times. Harry couldn’t remember a time where he was able to truly think of himself, be selfish and think of what he wanted. And being forced to when he had had no practice made it all the more frustrating. It had been suggested on more than one occasion that he become an auror. But Harry had had enough of chasing bad guys, and he wasn’t through with that yet, either. Plus, it was a job that he had been chosen for, not one he took willingly.

The only thing he could think of that made him happy was flying. He loved quiddich, and he was good at it. He had been captain for a year, plus this one would make two if he could fit it into his already loaded calendar. But he couldn’t rightly put down “Professional Quiddich Player”.

Not that it had stopped Ron. He had stridden to the sign in sheet and scribbled “Professional Quiddich Player on Chudley Cannons….or something at the Ministry with my Dad.” Harry knew he only had added the Ministry bit to satisfy his mother who, to Ron’s growing misfortune, was selected as his career advisor.

At ten to midnight, all the spots had been filled but two, Harry and Neville’s. Hermione had gone to bed hours ago, and now all that remained there were Harry and Seamus, playing a game of wizard’s chess with Ron looking sleepily on, annoyingly suggesting moves to the both of them. Harry and Seamus had exchanged an uncomfortable few words about Harry and Ron seeing him in Diagon Alley and jutting in and out of Borgin and Burke’s with the necklace. Seamus denied ever being there, which is what Harry thought. Someone must have disguised themselves as Seamus, or perhaps used polyjuice potion to look like him, and he had a good idea it had been Draco. After all, Harry had seen Draco in Borgin and Burke’s many times, and he knew how to make the polyjuice potion. He had disguised his lookouts last year when he was in the Room of Requirement.

“Ron,” Harry finally said in frustration, “why don’t you sit here if you want to play then.”

“Geez,” Ron said. “Thought you might want to win a game for a change. You going to write anything in, anyway? You’ve only got ten minutes before they collect ‘em up.”

“No,” Harry said. “I’ll just wing it. I’ve got McGonnagall, and she’ll talk me through it. Although she’ll probably end up with auror, she’ll probably have other less glamorous options given my past grades.”

Just then, Neville peeked his eyes around the corner of the wall that held the last step down from the boy’s dorms. He looked around suspiciously, but evidently could not see the three of them for the large couch in front of the chess table.

“SHHH!” Seamus mouthed to Harry and Ron, as they grew broad smiles on their faces. They peeked over the back of the couch and saw Neville quickly tiptoe over to the sign in sheet. He pulled out a quill and began writing.

The three of them were careful not to let Neville hear them as they slipped up behind him, holding their breath. They saw him scrawl “Auror” next to his name. Neville paused for a moment looking at the other two vacant slots. Then, in these, he jotted down the same word twice again.

“Auror, hey!” Seamus said loudly enough to make Neville leap around to face them. His face was bright red.

“Uh, yeah,” he said nervously. Then, a certain resolve came over Neville. “And why not! I’ve got the grades. And it’s in my blood, isn’t it? Most of my family have been aurors.”

“Well, Neville, I’ll give you credit for setting a high bar,” Ron said admonishingly. “But I’m afraid you’ll trip over it. You’d better write in an alternate, maybe head of the Hogwart’s Green House…”

“Lot you know,” Neville said as he stormed back up the stairs.

“Man, what’s got everybody wound so tight,” Ron said as Neville disappeared up the stairs.

“You can be a bit…direct, Ron,” Harry said nervously. “And, remember, back at the Ministry. You were flailing around with a brain attached to your head, and Neville and I had to save your sorry…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Ron interrupted. “You always have to remind me of that. Well, I’m off to dreamland.”

“Yeah, me too,” Seamus said. “I’ve got the first meeting of the morning before breakfast. We’ll finish up the game tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Harry said, yawning. “I’ll be up in a minute. I guess I should write something down. I seem to thrive under deadlines.”

Harry watched Ron and Seamus climb the stairs, then turned to the sign in sheet. But, as he reached for the quill, he heard a voice behind him.

“Harry,” it said. “Are you alone now?”

Harry swung around, but saw no one.

“Harry, over here,” Lupin called out again. “The fire.”

Harry looked at the hearth and saw Lupin’s face glowing green in the embers. He rushed over and said quietly, “Yes. I’m here.”

“Good,” Lupin said, his eyes darting back and forth. “I don’t have much time. I’ve been waiting ages to get you alone. Meeting of the Order, Saturday, at Grimmauld Place. Ten O’clock in the morning. Bring Ron and Hermione, but just them.”

“Okay,” Harry said. “but what’s going on?”

But Harry was staring at the fire again. Lupin had already left. He stood there in shock. Something must have happened, something bad.

Then, he remembered the sign up sheet. He turned to walk to it, but it had vanished.

So, there he sat, wondering how much of a tongue lashing he would have to endure from McGonnagall for failing to choose career paths. How was a seventeen year old supposed to know what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives? He had barely seen anything outside Privet Drive and Hogwarts castle. He had no idea what was out there to see, or to do. It seemed silly for him to have to pin himself down so early in life.

Harry yawned as he waited. He hadn’t gotten much sleep the night before. It took him ages to fall asleep from mulling over what could be so important a development that the Order was meeting, and why they needed him, Ron and Hermione. He had told Ron about it when they woke, but Hermione had already headed off earlier that morning for her career counseling. Ron was thrilled that he would, perhaps, finally be allowed to hear a full meeting.

However, to Harry’s pleasant surprise, Professor McGonnagall seemed to bound into the room, a proud and happy smile across her face, as she sat behind her desk. She was holding a rather thick file folder with “Harry Potter” on the tab, full of pink detention slips peeking out. Harry had never seen his “file” before, but had heard it referred to many times, mostly by Snape and Filch.

In the other hand, she held one envelope, the seal of which was broken. It looked to have some crest on the return post address spot, but Harry couldn’t make it out.

“Harry,” McGonnagall said, still smiling as she peered at him. “You don’t know how glad I am that you wrote nothing down as to career!”

Harry thought for a moment that this couldn’t be Minerva McGonnagall. The students had often joked that her face would crack in two if she ever attempted a smile, or that her facial muscles wouldn’t be able to turn the corner of her lips up for lack of practice. Surely, someone had stowed the real McGonnagall away in some lock box, like Barty Crouch, Jr. had done with Moody, and was snipping her hair over a goblet full of polyjuice potion.

“Um, excuse me, professor?” Harry said. “I think I may have heard you wrong. You are happy I didn’t write down any career choices?”

“Not just happy, Potter, thrilled is more like it!” McGonnagall beamed. “If you had put down some sort of practical career choice like auror, I would be obligated as your counselor to help you achieve that goal. But, as it is, you seem to be undecided, yes?” She asked, completely ignoring his file, but excitedly waving the envelope in her hand.

Harry felt extremely uncomfortable. She was acting almost giddy, like a fourth year having just been asked to the Yule Ball by a seventh year. He didn’t understand, so he simply answered her question.

“Yes, I am undecided. I really have no idea…”

“Well then, I am free to pass this along to you,” she said excitedly. She handed the envelope over to Harry, her hand shaking slightly as she let it go. Harry looked at the front of the letter. It was addressed to Dumbledore, but McGonnagall must have received it just after his death. He looked at McGonnagall, her grin growing more comical as the seconds passed.

He flipped the envelope over and saw that the return address did, indeed, have a crest on it. The blazen field was patterned with the Union Jack. It was split in three sections, one on top, and two side by side on the bottom. The first on the bottom contained two balls, the second, a large quaffle. In the field of the top half, a golden snitch glided quickly left to right. A ribbon below read “Fraternati Lascivio Vici”

Harry’s eyes grew large, knowing that slogan. He had heard it at the quiddich world cup, shouted through the enclave of tents before the game.

“This is from the…” Harry started.

“Yes, yes, Potter!” McGonnagall burst, not able to hold her composure any longer. “The British National Team! You have no idea how difficult it has been to keep this under my cap all summer!”

Harry couldn’t believe it. He tore open the envelope and began reading, scanning really, all the while being given a commentary by McGonnagall.

“They want you to try out for the team for next year’s world cup! As seeker, can you believe it!” McGonnagall said, beaming again with pride. “I saw it in you that day, your first year. The way you handled your broom, never having been on one before! Pure, natural talent. Of course, we’ve had other students play for England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland…but NEVER as SEEKER.”

Harry hurried down the letter:

“We are pleased to extend to Mr. Harry Potter an invitation to participate…

“…our scouts have reported his talents, not only on the pitch but also his remarkable dexterity shown during the Tri-Wizard Tournament against the Hungarian Horntail…

“…we are in need of seekers, as our last seeker has been petrified since the last world cup…

“…we would be honored to have him stay at the National Training Camp in London following his graduation this summer for try-outs…”

“…if selected, he will reside at the training camp, all expenses paid, including room, board, meals and a healthy monthly stipend for normal, ordinary course incidentals, until the next world cup next August…”

“…please use this year to hone his skills. Madame Hooch will be sent training instructions…”

“…please respond by the end of the year so we can ready the necessary accommodations.”

Harry gaped at it, and would have drooled if he had any saliva left in his mouth. His heart was pounding, and his palms were sweating. This had to be a joke. No one had ever mentioned the possibility. Was he really that good?

He slowly looked up to McGonnagall, who’s grin was now just downright silly looking.

“Oh, Harry, I’m so proud,” she said. “And your parents would have been as well. James did so love playing, and your mother enjoyed watching him. So, I take it I can respond in the affirmative?” she asked, her eyes begging him to say yes.

British National Quiddich Team Seeker. The chance to face Krum, possibly! The chance to play in the Quiddich World Cup! Ron would be completely green!

His heart leapt up his throat and he smiled wide, uncontrollably. But then, as always before when true happiness seemed a hairs breath away, reality shocked him back.

Harry wanted to say yes. He wanted nothing more at that moment than to say yes. But he couldn’t. Not yet. He had to talk with Hermione and Ron first. And especially Ginny. He couldn’t decide until he knew he had their support with the horcruxes. He couldn’t commit to McGonnagall until he knew he would be able to give quiddich a fair amount of attention. He couldn’t let down Dumbledore, break the promise he had made.

“Professor McGonnagall,” Harry said. “I have until the end of the year. Is it possible…what I mean is…can you hold on to it and I’ll let you know…”

McGonnagall’s face drooped a bit, but she knew as well as any other that Harry still had to contend with Voldemort. If Harry didn’t act, Voldemort would. And it was always better to be on the offensive than the defensive.

“Of course, Harry,” she said. “But remember, you are only accepting an invitation to compete for the spot. You can always change your mind and not attend…”

Harry thought for a moment, but he did not want to embarrass himself, McGonnagall, the school, if he accepted and then made a fool of himself at tryouts because he hadn’t committed the time to it.

“No, but I will let you know before Christmas,” Harry said. “That should be enough time to decide.”

“Very well, Harry,” McGonnagall said. “I will keep this between us until you decide. You don’t need any outside influence in the matter, I’m sure,” she said as she unlocked a door to her cabinet and placed it on a shelf. Harry could see the time-turner that Hermione had used their third year to handle a double class load hanging there as well.

“Well, just so you are prepared if you do decide to accept,” she said, lockingthe cabinet door back and returning to her seat. She flipped open his file and placed her spectacles on her nose, “we will have you in two physical activity classes this year. And, given your past displays of acumen in dark arts defense and spells, I think Auror would be the right alternate track.”

“Okay, I suppose that I would be best to choose something I’m good at,” Harry said.

“You’ll have to keep the grades high, Potter, especially first term. You’ll also be taking all advanced placement courses, so the coursework will be heavy. I would suggest finding a suitable study mate. Granger would do well in that capacity, and I understand you and she get along famously…

“Now, that means Advanced Dark Arts, Potions, and Charms for the entire year; Advanced Herbology and Transfiguration added for first term only, and the required double complement of Auror Instruction in second term.”

“Auror lessons?” Harry had never heard of this class before.

“Yes, auror lessons,” McGonnagall said. “That’s why your marks first term must be high. Only the top ten students after first term in auror track stay there after first term. Auror lessons are taught off campus, twice a week at the Ministry. I believe Kingsley will be instructing this year, that is if he is able to make some progress finding…by the way, how are you getting to Grimmauld Place this Saturday?”

Harry stared at her in amazement.

“You know about the meeting this Saturday?” Harry said, a shocked look on his face.

“Of course,’ McGonnagall said. “I know of all the Order meetings, although it’s rare that I attend. I am a member. But this meeting, given the subject matter, I must attend.”

“What is the subject matter?” Harry asked.

“You will find out when we are there. It would be best if we not speak of it here,” McGonnagall said, as she pressed her forefinger to her lips “We should all arrive together. There is safety in numbers. I will come to the Gryffindor common room and meet you, Professor Weasley, Ronald and Miss Granger at 10 ‘til and we’ll travel on foot to Hogsmeade and apparate from there.”

Harry was uncomfortable with McGonnagall’s new, less formal personality. He thought she was bad before, but this was worse. It was like your mother trying to turn herself into your best friend.

Harry took his class assignment list from McGonnagall, which was a good thing, because after opening the letter, he couldn’t even remember what classes she had recommended. He was still basking in the knowledge that he was good at something, and even more, that others had recognized him for it. He tried not to let his pride overwhelm him, but he was bursting at the seams to tell someone. But who?

He needed a clearer head to talk with Ron about it. Ron, he knew, would eventually be glad for him. But Harry knew Ron well and long enough to know his own pride would get in the way initially, and there was no way to tell how long he would sulk. And Hermione and Ginny were out as well. There was no way they would be able to keep it from Ron. Hermione wouldn’t care too much anyway. She never really understood the importance of sport. And Ginny would be the opposite. She would be beside herself, unable to contain it within herself. And he really didn’t want it getting out at school, anyway. He was subject to enough focus, and he didn’t want to add more fodder to the already heaping helping he had to carry on his plate already.

Hagrid, of course, would be thrilled as well, but he was never one to be able to keep a secret, so he was out. The twins, well they would just use the information to needle Ron. And, no offense to any of them, he was looking for advice as much as praise and none of these choices quite fit his mentor requirements. The only two that Harry ever looked up to in that way were Dumbledore and Sirius, and they couldn’t exactly help now.

Harry grew frustrated, wondering why people had to be so complicated. He was running out of friends to tell.

Then he remembered Oliver Wood. Oliver had been Harry’s quiddich captain for his first three years, and accepted the keeper position for the Puddlemere United reserve team upon graduation. Harry had never known anyone else who loved quiddich as much as Oliver, and Harry had always looked up to him. Harry was grateful to him for teaching him the game. He wasn’t at school anymore, and he didn’t know of anyone who kept up contact with him, so it would be unlikely for anyone at Hogwarts to find out. And he was the only person, other than maybe Victor Krum, that Harry knew that played quiddich at a higher level.

By this time, Harry had reached the Fat Lady.

“You certainly have a furrowed brow,” she said. “Anyone I know? Miss Chung? Perhaps Miss Weasley, or possibly Miss Granger?”

“Oh, gross,” Harry said, disdainfully. “Don’t you think about anything else? And, not that it is any of your business, it has nothing to do with girls, thank you very much.”

The Fat Lady seemed taken aback, “Well, no need to get so huffy about it. Based on what I heard from them leaving this morning, I thought…”

“Thank you very much,” Harry said again as he cut her off. He stood there while the Fat Lady stared back at him, clearly insulted by being interrupted. “THANK YOU VERY MUCH…it’s the password….”

“Oh, dear me,” the Fat Lady said. “I seem to have forgotten myself.” With that, her portrait swung open and Harry rushed into common room. The only person there was Hermione, who was sitting on the couch in front of a small fire. She was holding a hand mirror and looking into it, which wasn’t like Hermione. She never had been one to worry about appearance very much.

Harry caught a glimpse of the image in the mirror, and it didn’t look at all like Hermione. The image looked to have reddish-blond hair and very fair skin. The face, itself, was quite different than Hermione’s. It was long, not round like Hermione’s. Harry could hear Hermione’s voice, but the image in the mirror’s lips was pursed, closed.

Hermione swung around to Harry, startled. “Oh, Harry, hello,” she said quickly as she placed the mirror down beside herself, out of sight. “So, how did your career counseling go? Mine was fantastic. Professor Flit wick said librarian was a good fit for me, and he even said that I had an excellent shot at coming in at Hogwarts right after graduation. Seems its hard enough to find good librarians, not to mention one’s that don’t mind fighting the occasional book now and then as well as sorting them…”

“What’s that?” Harry had made his way over to her and was now standing in front of her, pointing at the ornate, silver mirror, which was laying face down.

“Oh, that,” she said with a nervous giggle. “Just my mirror. My mum gave it to me over summer holiday. Been in my family years. I’m surprised she parted with it to be honest…”

“Mind if I have a look?” Harry said.

“Oh, surely not. Of course,” Hermione said, still rather quickly for. She turned it over slightly, and seemed to peek at the glass quickly before handing it over to Harry. Harry looked at his face staring back at him, nothing odd about it whatsoever.

“And who were you talking too?” he said suspiciously.

“Oh, that,” Hermione said. “Just myself. You know I learn better if I verbalize my lessons. Great way to build memory skills, you should try it Harry…”

“But we haven’t even had any classes yet,” Harry reminded her.

Hermione was silent for a second, then blurted out, “Well, of course I’ve had my books for weeks now, and I’ve read ahead. Nothing like some advanced preparation…”

Harry felt he knew what was going on, but she evidently didn’t want Harry to know about it. Sirius’ mirror had looked very similar, but not as feminine. He didn’t press her on it. He was intent on getting to his room anyway and writing to Oliver. If he hurried, he could get the letter out of the owlery by lunch time.

“Okay, then,” Harry said. “It went alright. Auror, of course. Oh, and McGonnagall suggested that we work together on our lessons this year.”

“What? Why would McGonnagall want you to help me….ohhh….nevermind,” Hermione said. For a smart person, Hermione could be very thick at times. “Oh, yes, that should be splendid. Plus, we’ll all need as much help from each other this year, given the, well, you know what’s…”

“Oh, yeah,” Harry whispered. “That reminds me. Anyone else around?”

“No, they’ve all gone. Why?”

“There’s an Order meeting Saturday at 10 A.M. At Grimmauld Place. Lupin spoke to me through the fire last night after everyone else went up. He wants you, me and Ron to be there.”

“An Order meeting?” Hermione pondered. “I wonder what could have happened? And why on earth would they want us there?”

“I don’t know. Lupin left the fire before I could ask.” Harry said. “McGonnagall knew about it, though, but she wouldn’t say much. But she did say that she needed to be there. I think it may have something to do with the school.”

“Oh, I hope not,” Hermione said, rolling her eyes as she started chewing on her thumbnail. “Hasn’t this place been through enough the last few years? I hope their not thinking about closing it up again.”

“Well, McGonnagall is going to meet us here Saturday a few minutes before ten,” Harry explained. “Well, I’ve got a letter to write. I want to get it off before lunch.”

“Who on earth to?” Harry had turned to go up the stairs, hoping she would just forget that bit about writing. He hadn’t meant to say it, but he was in a hurry and he got too far ahead of himself.

“Oh, to Oliver Wood,” Harry didn’t want to lie. He had learned they were much more trouble remembering later than the truth. “I haven’t talked with him in ages, and I wanted to find out how he’s doing with Puddlemere United.

“Oliver? Oh, yes. He’s playing for them now, isn’t he?” Hermione stared at Harry for a second. Then, she smiled a bit, and reached to pick up one of her text books, flipping it open and sticking her nose in it. “Well, give him my best, not that he will remember me anyway.”

Harry turned and began climbing the stairs, but Hermione said to him in a devilish way, without looking up from her book she had cradled up with, “…and when were you going to tell me about British National Seeker, eh.”

Harry stopped dead in his tracks, and turned slowly back. “How did you know…” He looked at her mischievous smile, which told him everything. “Okay, no legilimens on me from here on out, you got it! That’s just not polite!”

“Okay,” she returned, laughing. “Last time, I promise. I wouldn’t want to linger in your mind very long anyway, based on the little I’ve seen in there regarding Ginny…”

“That’s enough, Hermione!” Harry said, growing brick red.

“Alright, alright,” Hermione conceded. “No more. I promise.”

“And don’t tell anyone about the seeker position. Especially Ron.”

She seemed astonished at this, and said, “Of course not. I’m not telling Ron. You think I have a death wish? No that one’s on your shoulders.”

That, and so much else.

End, Chapter 13

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; January 23rd, 2006 at 3:21 pm.
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  #13  
Old January 23rd, 2006, 3:11 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 14

A Traitor Amongst Us


Ron couldn’t bemoan his being paired with his mother as career counselor any more, Harry hoped. He was a sulken wreck. Molly Weasley had, of course, admonished him regarding his primary career choice as professional quiddich player as quite impractical and unlikely in accomplishment. His second choice she felt a bit vague. So, she had given him the same as Harry got, Auror. Her thinking, according to Ron, was that if he didn’t make it in the top 10 and be able to continue, at least he would have the benefit of the knowledge if he did indeed end up on post at the Ministry.

“How in the world am I going to be able to devote time to keeper if I’ve got my face in books all year?” Ron had said to Harry, exasperatedly. “I’d prefer Snape return, murderer or not. At least he didn’t hold out any such lofty ideals about my ‘potential’”.

Ron’s foul mood wasn’t even lifted with the coming visit to Grimmauld Place anymore. After all, his mother would be there too, and no doubt his brothers to further grind his nose in it all. The only thing that seemed to lift his spirits at all was the fact that he and Harry, at least for first term, would be in mostly the same classes. Harry wasn’t about to ruin his one happy thought by mentioning the National quiddich team.

Hermione, on the other hand, would only be joining them for one, Charms. Her track now was significantly different given her career choice, with classes in Magic World History, Dewey Cataloguing Techniques, Research Symposium and a few others they couldn’t pronounce.

Harry was glad for a break from Ron in his two physical education classes, Advanced Techniques in Quiddich, which Ginny was in as well, and Physical Training for Life, although the latter seemed to be where the last quarter of the mentally gifted in his class seemed to rest. Crabbe and Goyle were in it along with most of the other Slytherins in his class.

His first week, he was astounded at the amount of homework he received, almost 600 pages to read between them all, each requiring a synopsis by Monday. But at least he had already read Quiddich Through the Ages many times before. It also helped that Hermione had already read the rest of them all as well. She still wasn’t giving Harry any answers directly, but if an answer needed finding, she knew the page number every time.

As they finished up breakfast Saturday morning, Ron began to get a little excited.

“What you suppose they’re meeting about? Why they want us there? Never seen McGonnagall show up, and I hear both Bill and Charlie are coming too.” There were at least a dozen others, but neither Harry nor Hermione heard them all. They simply let him run out of steam, then Hermione said, “Ronald, calm down. I’m sure we’ll find out when we get there.”

They trudged up to the Gryffindor common room where Mrs. Weasley was waiting for them.

“Come on now,” she said to them. “Nearly 10 as it is, and you lot need to get dressed.”

“Um, we are dressed mum,” Ron said sarcastically, “”do these look like our skivvies!”

“Ronald, watch that mouth,” Mrs. Weasley said, as they noticed she was dressed to the nines, full length formal dress robes and a high hat, both the darkest black Harry had ever seen. On her robe lapel was a golden pin the shape of a phoenix rising spectacularly from ash. “And…oh, I must have forgotten to tell you lot, what with all my class planning and nerves at it being my first week. You need your dress robes on. And Ron, pick a pair of socks without holes, please. Now, up..up, all three of you. And hurry, no time to waste.”

“What’s that all about?” Harry said to Ron as they bolted up the stairs.

“Dunno,” Ron said back. “Never seen her all decked out like that before. Must be some sort of special meeting…”

They changed quickly into their dress robes and hurried down the stairs. Professor McGonnagall had already arrived, and she was dressed the same as Mrs. Weasley, except she also wore a ribbon of deep purple with a medallion hanging from it. The medallion was gold as well, and looked to have the face of an old wizard on it, vaguely like Dumbledore but not quite.

“Oh, honestly Ron!” Mrs. Weasley said as she straightened his tie and licked the palm of her hand, smacking and rubbing a stray lock of hair into place. “You’d think you’ve never seen a mirror before.”

“Mum, I don’t want to smell like your spit!” Ron fussed back.

“Is Miss Granger ready?” Mrs. McGonnagall said, glancing up the empty stairs.

“’Miony, get your face outta that blasted mirror and get down here!” Ron shouted as he looked at his socks, one of which did have a hole in it. He pulled his trouser legs down a bit to conceal it from his mother.

“I’m coming!’ she said as she whisked down the stairs.

“We’re off then,” Professor McGonnagall said. “Molly, we’ll meet Hagrid at the gates.”

“Hagrid’s coming too?” Harry said.

“I suppose,” Ron said as they walked behind the ladies. “He is an order member, and it seems they are all making this meeting for some reason. Must be important. Charlie hardly ever leaves his dragons. They get mighty feisty when he’s not around. He raised most of ‘em, so he’s like their mother.”

As they made their way to the gates, they came upon Hagrid’s cabin. Harry had thought Hagrid’s outfit for the Yule Ball a few years ago looked ridiculous, but this one took the cake. He was decked out in a white ruffled shirt, a bow tie that looked like it belonged on a clown, and a black dress robe that looked like a tent. He must not have been able to find a cobbler in time, because he still wore his work boots. The only thing missing was a red rubber nose.

But Hagrid was smiling wider than he had ever seen him smile before, so Harry left his jabs in his pocket.

“’arry, Ron, ‘Ermoyonie! Professors.” He said as he bowed. “Now Fang, stay outta them blast end skrewts, will ya. Ya know how they did yer bowels las’ time,” he said, waving his hand in front of his nose exaggeratedly. “ All ready then?”

“Yes Hagrid.” McGonnagall said. “We’ll apparate just outside the gates.”

They all strode out and each apparated away, back to the Noble and Most Ancient House of Black, Number 12, Grimmauld Place.

“Is it still hidden?” Harry asked Hagrid after they came down. “I thought Dumbledore was the secret keeper? Does the protection go away when he…”

“Yea, it wouldda,” Hagrid said. “But, fer some reason, he made me secrit keeper. Strange, just the day affore he, ya know…”

“Yeah, strange that.” Harry replied.

“Yeah, odd it was. Said he trusted me ev’n more’n Snape, to trus me widdit.” Hagrid relayed. “Afterward, I got to thinkin’, like he knew sumthin was gonna hppen to ‘im. Weird, I know, but that wot I thunk. Impossible, o’ course.”

“Yeah, impossible.” If Harry had learned anything in the past few years, it was this. Let Hagrid talk, and you’ll find out more than you ever wanted to know.

“Here we are,” Professor McGonnagall had stopped in front of the crack between two large buildings.

They stood there for a moment, then the battered door of number 12 emerged from between them. They walked up the stone steps, through the door and passed the hideous elf heads on the wall.

“Ah, you’re here.”

Everyone except McGonnagall took a jump back. Alistair “Mad-Eye” Moody had appeared in front of them out of nowhere, evidently having hidden himself to fend off intruders under his invisibility cloak. “Just waiting on a couple others, then we can start.”

“Good,” McGonnagall said. “Now, you three wait in here. I will be back for all of you shortly.” She led them into a drawing room just off the main corridor as Mrs. Weasley and Hagrid proceeded toward the dining room.

“Harry, mate! Still knocking around with that loser brother of ours?” Fred Weasley said as they entered.

“Yeah, are you thick!” George continued. “Don’t you know he’s nothing but trouble?”

“Nothing but trouble. Fat lot coming from you two!” Ron shot back. “What’re you doing here?”

“No idea,” George said.

“We were about to ask you the same,” said Fred. “Some sort of Order meeting. Must be important.”

“We saw Kingsley himself come in right after we got here with Dad,” said George. “Must be right important for him to take off from his hunt for ol’ Snapy-poo.”

“Yeah, I think it’s a full house,” continued Fred, “except for the affore-mentioned You-Know-Who, Jr. Elphias, Dedalus, Dung and Hestia, there all here.”

“Even Alberforth showed,” George said.

“You mean, Dumbledore’s brother?” Harry said, astonished.

“Yeah, shocker that, eh,” George replied. “Mad-Eye said it was only the second time he’s ever met him. I think something happened to him a while back. He seems not so right in the head.”

Just then, the twins fell silent as they stared behind the three in the direction of the door they had just come through. The three turned, and Harry and Ron’s looks mirrored the twins’.

“ ‘Allo, everyone!” Fleur exclaimed, obviously as surprised to see them as they were to see her. “I ‘ad no idée zat Beel was breenging me ‘ere to see you!”

Bill followed her in sheepishly as Fleur and Hermione shared a hug.

“Boys!” Bill snapped. “She’s my wife!”

“Oh, yeah, sorry there Bill,” George said. They were all flushed in the face, but sufficiently snapped out of their trances.

“Brother,” Fred called out at Bill as he tried to duck back out the door. “Why in the blazes are we here, anyway?”

“Yeah,” Ron said, “and why the fancy duds?”

Bill simply smiled and closed the door behind him.

“Zooo, you all do not know why wee are ‘eer eizzer?” Fleur said. “Zis ees veree unlike Beel to keep secrets for me.”

“Well, Fleur, we do know that just about the whole membership of the Order of the Phoenix is here,” Hermione said. “And Harry said the McGonnagall said that it may have something to do with Hogwarts.”

“But if it’s just got to do with Hogwarts,” Harry said, puzzled,”why on earth would Fred, George and Fleur be here?”

“Well, hadn’t thought of that,” Hermione said, stoking the logs in her mind again.

“Well, seems we’ll find out soon enough,” George said. “Pity we can’t find out sooner.”

“Yeah, the door to the dining room has a Imperturable Charm on it.” Fred said. “Extendable ears won’t work.”

“So you’ve no idea why we’re all here?” Harry asked hopefully.

“Nah,” George said. “Heard Lupin whisper something to Moody about whether he had the badgers…”

“But I’ve no idea what anyone would want those foul creatures around for,” Fred continued George’s thought, “Nasty beasts, really, and no known use for them in potions and such.”

Harry began to feel a little uncomfortable. Badgers? Dress robes? And absence from this place had not made him grow any fonder for it. He fully understood why Sirius hated being holed up here. It was dark, musky, dusty, and Mrs. Black’s portrait was wailing non-stop with all the non-pure bloods passing by her. At least that had stopped within a few minutes of their arrival. Harry had guessed that Mrs. Weasley had finally draped something over her.

But this was a convenient turn. He had wondered how he would find the time and the means to come to Grimmauld Place. Back at the Burrow, the foursome had discussed the possibility of the locket being there. And if it was there, barring some magical technicality, it belonged to him as a condition of Sirius’ will. He just hoped that, given the thorough cleaning they gave it and, god forbid, his discovery in Hogsmeade last year that Dung had a lot of things from the house. Well, if the latter were the case, he could confront Mundungus Fletcher here. Order Member or not, if Dung had stolen Sirius’ things, his things, he was going to insist on their return.

They whiled away at least half an hour there without a word from any of the order members. Fleur and Hermione were talking excitedly about newly married life, how much more she was in love with “Beel” now that they were married, but disparaging London and its weather, traffic, lack of sunlight. The boys discussed the success of the twins’ shop, Ollivander being squirreled away at the Ministry, and Ron getting his fair amount of ribbing on “mum” being able to watch his every footfall at school.

Finally, the door slowly opened. Bill and Charlie stood on either side of it, just outside, each donning wry smiles. Over their dress robes hung a very bright red and yellow shawl which appeared to be made of phoenix feathers. High wizard’s hats muddled with the same colors stood tall on their heads.

“Follow us,” Bill said.

“Two by two,” Charlie instructed. “Fred and George first, then Harry and Ron, then Fleur and Hermione. When you get in, walk down front, split off from your partner and walk to the opposite ends.”

“Opposite ends of what?” Ron said.

“Ron, shut up and just do as we say,” Bill shot back. Ron stiffened and they fell in line as instructed. Then, Bill and Charlie walked down the corridor, and they followed. As they passed Mrs. Black’s portrait, Harry had to stifle a chuckle when he heard her whispers, “I wonder if they are gone. Filthy mudbl…I think I just smelled one!...Oh, it’s gone. Blast this curtain, can’t see my nose…” her voice faded away as they reached the door to the dining room.

Bill and Charlie swung one open each and held out their arms beckoning them to enter.

All the furniture had been removed to accommodate everyone. Grand banners hung from the corners of the ceiling to the floor all around the walls, covering the morose portratis of the Black family members. They were all the same: bright green fields adorned with one large phoenix, its head thrust skyward, engulfed in flames but flying forth from them at the same time. Straight ahead of them at the other end of the room stood the entire membership of the current Order of the Phoenix, with the exception of Bill and Charlie who stood sentinel just inside each door, which were now closed behind them.

They stood facing them in a semi-circle against the back wall. A large cauldron emitting sparks, steam wafting upward in the shape of a large bird climbed to the ceiling, then disappeared, and then started it’s ascent over again, separated them in half. On the left, from the left was Mundungus Fletcher who, although he was in dress robes, appeared as though he hadn’t worn or cleaned them in years given their stains and fit. Next stood the tall barman from the Hogshead (this must have been Alberforth, Harry thought), his clothes in not much better stead than Dung’s; then two men Harry remembered had helped him escape from the Dursley’s (they must be Diggle and Doge), the first waering a tall, violet top hat and the other with bright silver hair. Next stood Mr. Weasley, then Hagrid and McGonnagall just to the left of the cauldron.

On the other side of the cauldron stood Kingsley Shacklebolt. He towered over the rest, other than Hagrid. His dress robes were immaculate, and no wrinkle was evident, partly due to the strain his muscles had upon them from the inside out. Following to his right were, Moony (who evidently had found it unnecessary or too time consuming to adorn himself in dress robes), Mrs. Weasley, Lupin and Tonks, who’s hair was now a shimmering red and yellow replica of the phoenix robes Bill and Charlie sported. The line ended with the pink cheeked Hestia Jones and Dursley neighbor Arabella Figg. The line ended, curiously, with a stool, upon which rested what looked to be a large coin.

To the left of the cauldron, just in front, was a perch, upon which sat the large phoenix, Fawkes; and, directly opposite, to the right, suspended in midair, as if its subject were beneath it, hovered the hat that just a few days ago sat in the middle chair at the beginning of term feast.

Each of the sit took there places as Bill and Charlie had instructed, forming a line in front of the cauldron. As they settled in, some of the Order members walked forward in silence.

Fred was next to Harry, furthest from the left. Arthur Weasley moved to face him. Hagrid moved in front of Harry, a wide smile on his face and a tear making its way down his bulbous cheek. The rest were paired as well, McGonnagall to Hermoine, Tonks to Fleur, Moody to Ron, and finally, Molly to George.

Then, Kingsley Shachklebolt strode to the front of the cauldron. He held out his hands and a rolled parchment appeared out of thin air. He unfurled it and began to read from it.

“Order of the Phoenix members. We gather as one, as our forerunners have, in the pursuit of defense of good, and with the purpose of banishing evil. Our struggle is never-ending, but our resolve is eternal. We gather today to accept into our fold new members…”

Harry’s heart leapt! They were becoming Order members! He peeked down the line to his left at the same, goofy smiles that he was sure he shared with all of them.

“…one’s that have shown their commitment through their deeds to our struggle. Each have demonstrated their willingness to sacrifice of themselves to fight for what is right, for what is just, and for what is noble.

“The phoenix is a symbol of many things, all of them noble. Of the cycle of life through destruction, the will of nature to continue. Of healing and strength. Of beauty and of grace. And of a commitment to others, whether friend or foe.

“Now, before these witnesses, you are all welcomed to our fold.”

Arthur Weasley extended his arms and hugged Fred first. He held his hand out. In it he held a pin that looked like the one the others wore. But it was black and tarnished. He pinned it to Fred’s robe with a broad smile.

Then Hagrid grabbed Harry off the ground and squeezed him tight, large puddles of tears collecting on Harry’s shoulders. He finally dropped him, and pinned the same, drab looking ornament on his chest. As he did so, he whispered in Harry’s ear, “This was your dad’s. Hope you don’t mind, but ‘Ermione’s getting’ your mums.”

Harry glanced over at Hermione, who wore a smile as big as a Cheshire cat. Her eyes met Harry’s and she must have overheard what Hagrid had said, for tears began to stream down her face uncontrollably. McGonnagall gave her a matronly hug and pinned her as well. Fleur and Ron followed, but no hug came from Mad-eye, and Harry could tell that was just fine with Ron. Then, lastly, Mrs. Weasley grasped George in a fit of sobs.

The six of them looked between each other, unable and not daring to speak, looks of wild astonishment in their eyes. However, Fleur seemed a little more composed than the rest. Harry wondered if all of their hearts were beating out of their chests as his was, and he thought he felt a little faint and his breath was hard to come by.

The presenters made their way back to their places, and Kingsley continued.

“The Order was established to defend the weak, support the masses, promote charity of the rich and gifted, and to maintain constant vigilance..”

“Oy to that!” Blurted Moody.

“…and to maintain constant vigilance over those who would use magic for personal gain and the procreation of evil across the land. You have been selected to join our struggle, for that is what it is. Evil surrounds us at all times, and we must not fail in our mission. Our world, both magic and muggle, depend on, nay require, utter victory. Will you join us in the Order of the Phoenix? What say you all…”

“OUI!” shouted Fleur, as if called to battle.

“Absolutely!” Chanted Fred and George in unison.

“Yes!” Ron said, a look of sheer amazement on his face.

“I will,” Said Hermione quietly, obviously overcome with emotion.

All eyes were on Harry. He struggled to get the words out over the lump in his throat. At last, he had found his family. At last, he was home. At last, he had confirmation of his purpose. His legs, however, weren’t so confident. They buckled and he felt himself fall to the ground, his mind falling into the black.

But he righted himself, stood straight, and shouted, “CONSTANT VIGILANCE!”

A great cheer filled the room. Then, Fawkes raised his head to the rafters and bellowed up and out for all to hear. It was song and battlecry intermingled. It was beautiful and frightening all at once.

All of a sudden, Harry felt a FLASH on his chest. He looked down quickly to see that the badge had caught fire. But it quickly extinguished itself, and what rested on his chest now was a bright gold phoenix, animated and constantly rising from ash. He looked around at the others, and theirs had changed too.

The six took turns hugging each other, and the rest of the Order members joined in, each congratulating the other. When the hugs were done, McGonnagall admonished everyone to stand back. She clapped her hands, and the long dining table reappeared, filled with a feast of food and wine.

But, before they sat, Alberforth walked sullenly over to Dumbledore’s hat, picked it up, and held it in front of Fawkes. A tear dropped from both of their eyes. All were silent as Fawkes spread his wings, lifted off, grasping the hat, and flew out the window and out of sight, to place it back where it belonged. At Hogwarts, in the Great Hall, in the center seat.

“Now,” McGonnagall said, her hands outstretched, admonishing everyone to sit. “Welcome, new members of the Order of the Phoenix. Each of you has demonstrated the talents and resolve of defenders of the good. We will adjourn for your first meeting after dinner. We have much to discuss.” A wry smile crossed her lips as she continued, “However, we have one more matter which requires immediate attention. And, if I may say, it has been far too long in coming.”

The new initiates looked between each other as they sat, whispering between themselves what could be so important that it could not wait for the meeting. However, the other order members simply sat, each of them trying to contain themselves.

McGonnagall and Shacklebolt stood at the head of the table as the others sat.

“Rubeus Hagrid, front and center, sir!” Kingsley said, authoritatively.

Hagrid stopped midpour of his wine. His eyes darted around as if he had been caught nicking the Christmas ham from the Hogwarts kitchen. He cleared his throat, blushed a bit, set the carafe down and stood. He strode uncomfortably toward the head of the table, and was stopped by McGonnagall just a few steps in.

“Please Hagrid, bring your umbrella…” McGonnagall said with as much terse as she could muster through her growing grin.

“Ahh, yes Perfessor,” Hagrid said with trepidation. His face grew instantly brick red, and Harry and the rest all knew what he was dreading. Somehow, they had found out about his wand, which he had hidden in his umbrella handle.

As Hagrid walked back to his chair where his umbrella hung, he gave a darting look over at Harry. His face was winced, and he mouthed, “Uh-oh,” at Harry. He picked it up, the only sound in the room his giant footfalls which were buckling the wooden planks under his feet. He trudged up to the head of the table, a look of panic and defeat in his eyes as he stood, almost cowering in front of Shacklebolt, if that was possible given his towering stature.

“Rubeus Hagrid,” Shacklebolt said. “There have been reports lately that certain magic has been performed and credited to you. Of course, you have been suspended from the performance as a result of the crimes which you were charged with in the past?”

“Um, yes sir,” Hagrid said, still standing prostrate and bowing a bit to Kingsley. “But, I can explain tha’. You see…”

Shacklebolt held up his hand, unmoved, “There have also been reports that you used magic to try and stop the intruders on the lawn the night that Dumbledore was killed? Is this correct?”

“Ahh, yes sir?” Hargid said.

“And tell me, Rubeus,” Shacklebolt continued. “How is it that you, with out a wand,” at this Kingsley’s eyes moved to the umbrella dangling from Hagrid’s right hand, “were able to conjure such magic?”

“Ahh, well you see…” Hagrid began, but Shacklebolt had already made to take the umbrella. Hagrid’s hand flinched to draw it back, to which Shacklebolt succumbed. But, Hagrid, looking around at all the eyes looking at the scene, the younger in shock, the older seeming just short of laughter curiously, knew it was lost. The game was up.

Hagrid handed it over to him carefully, and Harry could see a tear fall from his cheek.

Kingsely Shacklebolt took the umbrella from Hagrid, patting him on his shoulder with his other hand. Then, he looked at it, turned it a couple of times in his hand, and said, “Oak? I’d say 15 inches?”

“Sixteen, actually. Righ’ bendy. Good for disarmament,” Hagrid said, proudly and seeming to forget he was being reprimanded.

“Reveal your secrets,” McGonnagall said, her wand pointed at the umbrella. The umbrella seemed to fold into itself. When it was done, Hagrid’s wand rested in Shacklebolt’s hand.

Hagrid didn’t even look up. Harry could tell that this was one time Hagrid wished he wasn’t so large, wished he was as small as a mouse so he could scurry away, hide.

“Rubeus,” Kingsley said softly but sternly, “you didn’t think you would get away with it, did you?”

“Well, I…” Hagrid’s head snapped up, and he seemed bent on defending his actions. Harry was about to leap up as well, but he saw Lupin peering at him across the table and he knew he would be out of place. Harry sunk back down, frustrated and fuming at the injustice of it all.

Then, Kinsley did something Harry didn’t expect. He held out Hagrid’s wand and placed it back in Hagrid’s outstretched hand. Hagrid took a second to fold his fingers on it, but when he did, he smiled.

All looked on as Kingsley began to speak again.

“Rubeus Hagrid, you have shown, throughout your life at Hogwarts, an unfailing dedication to the institution, its faculty, its students and, in particular, our beloved headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. You were given his faith when others believed you unfaithful, were bestowed with his trust when all others thought you untrustworthy. Time and time again, without fail, you proved his intuition to be without fail. You have defended the school, and on many occasions the entire wizarding community, against those who would seek to cast our world into darkness.”

At this, the order members all rose, and the six new initiates followed suit. Harry looked into Hagrid’s face, and his face was in disbelief, and he had began crying in earnest now. His shoes were now completely wet.

“Rubeus Hagrid,” Shacklebolt continued, not attempting anymore to hide a wide grin, “by special proclamation of the Minister of Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour, and with the concurrence, by unanimous vote, of the Wizengamut in special session, I have been given the distinct honor of bestowing upon you the right and noble, and much well deserved, rank of Wizard, first class, along with all the rights and responsibilities appurtenant therewith.”

Hagrid stared at Shacklebolt, and looked as though he was trying to speak. But his breath had escaped him. He was utterly speechless.

“Hagrid,” Shacklebolt said, amicably, looking down at Hagrid’s wand in his meaty fingers, his knuckles white form grasping it.“Use it well.”

“Hurrah!” The order members yelled, and Hagrid gave a start.

“Hurrah!” Hagrid turned to meet there cheers, tears still falling down, but a stupid, full-tooted grin staring back at them.

“Hurrah!”

Everyone had raised there goblets and were toasting Hagrid.

“Speech! Speech!” They all cried out.

Hagrid cleared his throat and wiped the tears from his eyes, trying to compose himself. Then, he blew his nose so hard into his hankerchief that the table shuddered. He placed it back into his breast pocket and spoke.

“Ne’er before in my life ‘ave I been so happy.” He said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “Thank you all, each of you. And especially you, “Arry. If it ‘adn’t been for you…”

The room fell silent, and McGonnagall cleared her throat as everyone shot glances around the room.

“Er, but anyway,” Hagrid continued. “Thanks to you all. It’s been difficult, now, with Dumbledore gone. I suppose this means I can still stay at Hogwarts, then?”

“Stay?” McGonnagall. “Of course you’ll stay! It is your home, Hagrid. And not only stay, we were hoping you would continue in your current position?”

“Oh, blimey, it’s like Christmas, this is!” Hagrid bellowed. “Of course I will.”

“A toast,” Kingsley said, raising his goblet high. “To Rubeus Hagrid! A friend to all, and a wizard to boot!”

Everyone laughed and chanted, “Here, here!” and drank. Harry couldn’t remember a time when Hagrid looked so happy.

“Now, let’s eat!” Hagrid shouted, as he strode to his chair and sat down. He grabbed his goblet, downed it all in one gulp, and everyone began filling their plates. Harry looked at Hagrid and smiled as Hagrid ladled a huge dollop of cranberry stuffing on his plate. All seemed right with the world tonight. He hoped it would last.

After dinner and a few too many sips of wine, the order began to file into the drawing room. It had been filled with chairs around the walls for the meeting, and Kingsley Shacklebolt sat in the middle. Harry sat between Hagrid and Hermione, who couldn’t stop admiring the glowing medal on her chest.

Harry had learned from Lupin during dinner that Kingsley had been elected Order leader since Dumbledore had passed. His choice, according to Lupin, was a logical one. He was very connected at the Ministry and was very well liked by everyone. He was very savvy, and seemed to be owed favors wherever they needed one.

All the order members had come to rest in their chairs, and Kingsley called the meeting to order.

“Now, reports from the field.” Kingsley said. It was obvious he was a man of action and didn’t mince his words or purpose. “Remus, last we heard the werewolves were still undecided. Any news since Greyback’s release?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” Lupin said with a grave voice. “Greyback has indeed returned, and is little enchanted with how his replacement conducted negotiations with either side. He has discarded his lieutenant, rather permanently, and has cut off communication with me. It has been two weeks now, and he is not returning any of my owls…”

“He’s probably eating them,” Moody said.

“Yeah, they like foul for a snack,” Hagrid whispered to Harry and Hermione, who looked as if she was turning green.

“Talks were going well, and his lieutenant was very forthcoming,’ Lupin said. “But I fear his loquacious nature may have been a motivating factor in his disposal. I learned from her that they have been in talks with the Death Eaters, and that You-Know-Who has promised them a colony of humans for hunting and feasting upon his return to power in return for their services. You remember, he attempted to set one up inside the Azerbaijan last time.”

“Yes,” Kingsley said. “Just around the time the communists were losing their grip there. He probably would have succeeded if the wall hadn’t come down. The Kremlin was rather fond of striking deals to keep Baku stable, given its oil reserves, and unconcerned with the effect on its people. If we had not kidnapped him when we did…”

“Of course, it is difficult to negotiate with them given the cyclical nature of their mindset. They are rather amicable around the new moon, but when the full moon is near, the only thing that concerns them is feeding. I’m not sure what has come over Greyback, but he seems to have developed an appetite for blood regardless of the moon’s phases. Unfortunately for us, this has made him unwilling to entertain anything we offer.”

“Any ideas where You-Know-Who may set them?” Arthur Weasley asked.

Lupin darted his eyes over toward the new initiates, “Probably the same plan as last time. He’ll want them to control the weaker of magicians. He’ll probably set them on the schools.”

Set them on the schools?! Harry’s eyes widened, and he saw the same reaction from Ron and Hermione.

“Well, we’ll need to further fortify Hogwarts, then. Since they aren’t particularly magical, our defenses need to be natural. And we’ll need to notify Madame Maxime and the Durmstrang administration.” Kingsley said matter of fact. “We should see if we can get the mere-people on our side. They were rather effective last time.”

“Yes, but they won’ be too keen on a figh’ like las’ time,” Hagrid said. “They lost a lot back then, an’ they’ll wan’ some say.”

“Of course, they’ll have their say, Hagrid.” Kingsley said. “They know they hold the cards against us. Their song was able to lure them to the waters last time, and they were very adept once they were in their environment. They know they’ll have to share their waters with the Inferi if You-Know-Who succeeds. At least we have less of a threat from them this time, correct Arthur?”

“Yes,” Arthur Weasley spoke up. “We have Ollivander squirreled away at the Ministry. He’s cooperating rather nicely. Of course, he maintains he was unaware that his wands were being supplied to the Inferi last time. You remember, he blamed that on his understudy.”

“You-Know-Who found out they could use wands, but only ones made with a Thestral-mane hair in the core,” Hagrid whispered again the Harry and Hermione, narrating. “Righ’ hard to get from the beasts. Ollivander claimed he ne’er thought of usin’ them. Blamed his charge for it, but he came up dead righ’ after. Killed by You-Know-Who cause he got found out. But by then, it was too late. Already had a mess of ‘em by then…”

“Well, better to have him where we can keep an eye on him. If the past is any indication, Ollivander will go where the trade is. If we can keep wands out of their hands, they will be of no use to him against the living.” Kingsley said. “They could still neutralize our otherwise inanimate defenses…And what of the Giants? Hagrid?”

“Well, o’ course, yer can’t keep their attention for long,” Hagrid said. “They like it alrigh’ up in Greenland, but it gets mighty cold durin’ the winter months. They got a good enough leader. Names Galtig. But he seems jus’ to want fire, clothes an food fer ev’ryone. They’ll stay outta it ‘slong as they ain’t attacked. But iffin they promise ‘im a better location…They really liked Mongolia las’ time.”

“Well then,” Kingsley said, “I will broach that with the Minister again. He’s had a tough time with the Minister in China, and the muggle politics have been difficult lately. Seems no one wants Giants lumbering around their neck of the woods.”

“They’ve been very interested in our dragon cures of late,” Charlie offered. “Seems the Chinese Fireballs have contracted a strain of influenza like the one we saw with the Hungarian Horntails we saw three summers ago. Perhaps the current Minister would be interested in an accord…”

“Are ze Giantz partial to ze mountains?” Fleur spoke up boldly. “If zo, perhaps they would like ze Pyrenees. Beaubatons eez zere, just outzide Andorra. Madame Maxime can speak with ze Andorran Minister. She eez very close with ‘im”

“Thanks, Mrs. Weasley,” Kingsley said, acknowledging her with a bow of his head. “Perhaps the Pyrenees would suffice. Please discuss this with Madame Maxime. If the Andorran Minister agrees, perhaps we can discuss his long standing request for first tier status.” Fleur smiled wide at her contribution.

“Now, what of the vampires?” Kingsley asked McGonnagall. “They were leaning toward You-Know-Who last time…”

“As you know, Horace Slughorn has been in touch with Eldred Worple,” McGonnagall reported. “He reports that they are, on the whole, disinterested in both sides’ entreaties. However, Horace seems confident that Eldred is entrenched enough. Sanguini likes the positive press he gives them, and we all know that the Nosferatu want nothing to endanger their supposed non-existence with muggles.”

“Well, I fear I have no real news to report,” Shacklebolt admitted. “It has been almost a year, and there have been no dementor sightings. I fear we must resign ourselves to the fact that they have joined You-Know-Who. All indicators point to that general conclusion. As for the interrogation of Lucius Malfoy, we have turned up nothing. We are confident he has the unbreakable vow upon him, and we don’t want to press him on anything for fear he would pass before our eyes. He could prove valuable.

“As for the hunt for the other Death Eaters, I can report that we have been successful in detaining his wife, Narcissa. She was discovered leaving the Ministry after the trial of her son, Draco.”

Harry’s heart skipped a beat. Of course! That had been her he had seen, leaving the courtroom when his verdict was read. They had caught her!

“Don’t have anything concrete on her, other than the Dark Mark, of course,” Kingsley continued. “But she’s being questioned about Draco’s possible whereabouts. We’ll probably have to release her soon, though.”

Harry’s heart sunk again.

“And as for the whereabouts of the rest? And You-Know-Who himself?” Molly Weasley asked.

“We have a suspicion he and the other Death Eaters are somewhere in Denmark.” Kingsley said. “We’ve had reports from the Danish Ministry of increased magical activity just west of Skagen. We’ve dispatched aurors there, but we haven’t heard back from them yet. Very good likelihood it’s a diversion, though. We’ve never been able to pinpoint him before with dark detectors.”

“Speaking of dark detectors,” McGonnagall said. “Let us not forget the main purpose for this meeting.”

“Of course not, Minerva,” Kingsley said as he rose and moved his chair around with the rest against the wall. “Please, you have the floor.”

McGonnagall gave a casual flip of her wand and a table appeared where Kingsley Shacklebolt had just sat. Then, she reached within her robe and produced a pocket watch. She set it down on the table and pressed the lock open. Harry could see multiple hands on its face, some barely moving and some whirring quite fast. It looked like…

“This watch was left to me by Albus just before he passed. He gave it to me the night before he died. He told me he had been searching for clues about You-Know-Who, what he was up to, what he was hunting,” McGonnagall said. “He told me that his hand had been damaged in that pursuit. He wouldn’t tell me how,” at this she glanced over at Harry, who involuntarily glanced away as she did this,” but he said that it was an unfortunate necessity.

“I believe we have all wondered why he has spent so much time away from Hogwarts over the past few years, and for me, I have wondered how he could know when to return. This is the answer.” She motioned to the watch as everyone looked on.

It is a Dark Detector,” she said. “Designed by Albus himself. It was able to show him when Hogwarts was in danger, even when he was worlds away.” She tapped it lightly with her wand.

It emanated a green glowing smoke. Out of the smoke rose a small castle, or an image of one. As it grew larger, Harry saw that it was an image of Hogwarts! He saw its parapets grow up, then the large clock tower. Then, he saw it grow broad, encompassing Hagrid’s cabin, the lake, even the dark forest.

“Albus explained to me that whenever danger was at Hogwarts, this watch told him, to a certain extent, that it was there. He said almost casually that every time he left, he could count on it detecting something wicked.”

Harry looked at the image, an exact replica of Hogwarts. Above what was the Gryffindor tower, Harry could see a small green skull hovering, a serpent entwined in its mouth.

“Professor,” Harry said, cautiously. “Is that…”

“Yes, Mister Potter,” McGonnagall said gravely. “The Dark Mark.”

Everyone traded horrified looks. What did this mean? Was someone dead? Why were they all here if Hogwarts was in danger.

McGonnagall seemed to understand. “It does not mean that someone has died. It does mean, however, that there is a Death Eater at Hogwarts.”

Harry’s face flushed. McGonnagall continued.

“It has, of course, always had the Dark Mark circling Hogwarts. That is, until this summer, when Severus left. The night Albus died, I had it open, as he instructed, and within an hour of him leaving, there ware no less than six of these hovering over the castle. If I hadn’t been tending to it, more may have gained entrance.

She paused for a moment, trying to collect her emotions.

“This summer, it was silent. Until the first students began to arrive.”

End, Chapter 14

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Last edited by MerlinBlack2; January 23rd, 2006 at 3:22 pm.
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  #14  
Old January 23rd, 2006, 3:13 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 15

Confundus Lifted


Neville sat on the cold, stone sill peering out the open window from his dormitory room. So much, had transpired over the past couple of months, a lot of it he didn’t understand. But that wasn’t something foreign to Neville. He seemed to always have difficulty understanding things. All his life, his Gran, his professors, even his classmates had wondered, and many of them insensitively aloud, had wondered why he always seemed so confused, so unable to comprehend things.

His parents, as his Gran was wont to constantly remind him, had always been quick on the take. Everyone in his family had always displayed a talent for what amounted to a photographic memory. They had all been accomplished legilimens, to which his Gran had always credited his parent’s prowess in interrogation.

The events of the past two months, though, he would never forget. He had awoken out of a deep sleep one morning, just before his birthday. He had peered out of his curtains, wondering if the noise that had stirred him had come from outside, but he saw nothing but the shadows of the houses on the lane, there shudders still closed awaiting the first crow. He wondered why he didn’t hear his Gran’s pots clanking downstairs, smell the bacon and eggs creeping into his nostrils, as she normally was just about done with breakfast by now.

He crept down the stairs to find his Gran, curiously slumbering in her knitting chair. Neville was taken aback, because he rarely saw his Gran asleep. But, he imagined she was tiring in her advanced age, and slowly climbed back up the stairs to leave her be.

He slipped into his water closet and began to brush his teeth. He was very tired, and he felt himself nodding off as he brushed. His Gran had taken a vehement interest in his magical progress, and she was instructing him now at least eight hours a day. She had taught him how to apparate rather well, but he was still having difficulty with his transfiguration. His Gran had been impressed with his patronus, though. It was nearly fully corporeal now. Neville had Harry to thank for that. The DA lessons had been a great help with him in Defense Against the Dark Arts.

He felt himself nod off again, but he was snapped to full consciousness when, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a face in the corner of his mirror.

The black eyes that stared into his through a curtain of greasy hair pierced through him as they always had. Neville feared nothing more than Severus Snape. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping he was dreaming, his heart pounding as he felt his knees begin to falter. He grasped hold of the sink, whispering, pleading to himself, “Please, be a nightmare. Please, go away.”

“No such luck, Longbottom,” Snape said, coldly. “I can assure you, I am very much real. Now, don’t say a word. Turn around. But first, spit and wipe your mouth.”

Neville did as Snape instructed. He turned and was face to face with him. The bathroom was so small that his long, crooked nose almost touched Neville’s.

Snape looked Neville up and down, slowly and rather disdainfully. Neville felt silly, standing there in his pajamas, but he couldn’t speak or move he was too terrified. He knew everyone was looking for Snape, and he couldn’t imagine why he was here, in his Gran’s house.

“I have no idea what Dumbledore was thinking,” Snape muttered to himself. “True, your parents were highly talented aurors. They almost caught me once. But you seem to have inherited none of their talents. Pity. I fear you won’t acquire them before you’ll need them.”

“Wha…what are you…” Neville was barely able to stammer out.

“Quiet, Longbottom,” Snape said. “Suffice it to say your services are required.”

“But, you killed D..D..”

“What I have or have not done is of no concern of yours,” Snape hissed at him. “The only thing that should be of concern to you is two weeks nigh.”

With that, Severus Snape pulled from his pocket what looked to be a small vial.

“Now, drink,” Snape said, as he pulled the cork and thrust it toward Neville.

Neville was frozen in fear. Was he poisoning him? Why would he want him dead? What was he after? Did he dare?

“I am after nothing,” Snape said. “I am merely a messenger here. I had to come because I am the only one who can help you. Now, Longbottom, do as I say. Drink.”

Neville’s hand shook violently, but he managed to get the vial to his lips. As he drank, he felt the clouds of his mind part, clouds that he never really knew were there. It was if a curtain had been lifted on his life’s play. He remembered things he had long forgotten. Some good, some bad, and some horrible.

“Now that I can see that the charm has been lifted,” Snape said quietly and unconcernedly, “think back to tour childhood. You were visited by Dumbledore on your eighth birthday. Do you recall?”

Neville thought back. It was difficult, so many thoughts lost forgotten flashed in his mind. But he concentrated, and he saw Dumbledore come to him.

He was in his room, playing with a bright red ball. He remembered looking up, curious who this man was, long beard and a tall, funny looking hat. The man knelt in front of him and tossed the ball back at him. Neville remembered dropping it.

“Neville Longbottom,” the old man bowed to him. “My name is Albus Dumbledore. One day, you will recall meeting me here today. Unfortunately, it will be a very long time indeed before you do. The fate of our world may very rest in your hands someday. I say this to you now, not for you to understand, but simply to remember.

“Your parents, as I am sure you have been well reminded, are great wizards. They asked me long ago to protect you. So, I am here to do just that. I felt it unnecessary until now because, according to your grandmother, you haven’t displayed anything in your childhood that resembled magic. That is, until a few days ago.

“There are things in your memory that need hiding, things that people will want from you if they know you have them. You will, when the time is right, remember them. But only when you have the power to understand them, and the power to conceal them on your own. Memories are very powerful, Neville. Remember that.

“Now, I apologize for this. I will have to place upon you a charm. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt at all. It is meant to protect you. But, it will have some rather unavoidable consequences, but they are the nature of the charm and necessary if you are to be protected. Until we meet again…hopefully in three years’ time.”

With that, Neville remembered Dumbledore lifting his wand and chanting, “Confundio.”

Neville’s face was white with fear still with Snape ogling back at him. But he also felt rage well up in him. Dumbledore had done this to him! He had placed a Confundus charm on him! That’s why he was so forgetful, why he had been so inept for all these years!

“Regrettable, yes,” Snape said, almost sympathetically. “But, as it was, necessary.”

“So, what does it mean?” Neville said, shaking.

“It means, of course, there is something there in your memory that Voldemort needs,” Snape said coldly. “It’s up to me, now, to figure it out if he is to be defeated. Now, Longbottom, I have a proposition for you. Your parents…”

Neville felt the rage within him rise again, and he thought of calling out to his Gran. But before he could, Snape spoke.

“She won’t hear you,” he said casually. “She’s not hurt, just sleeping. Now, as I was saying. Your parents, I can help them.”

Neville’s eyes widened.

“Yes, it will be difficult,” Snape continued, “but I think they have been misdiagnosed. I do not believe they were tortured into their current state. I believe, as Dumbledore also believed, that they turned a rather nasty spell upon themselves. I believe that same memory, the one Dumbledore protected you from, is why. Now, it wouldn’t do to obliviate the memory. It would have to be some sort of Confundus charm, powerful enough not only to render their memories hidden, but also powerful enough for Voldemort to believe that they couldn’t possibly remember anything.”

“Is that why they are still alive?” Neville asked. “Voldemort needs the memory? He needs it to return to power?”

“Yes, I believe so.” Snape said. “But, Dumbledore didn’t think Voldemort knew you had the memory. But, Longbottom, he knew you were there, when your parents were tortured.”

“How did he know that?” Neville said, growing impatient.

Snape’s eyes turned sullen, and he turned away from Neville. He spoke quietly, and for the first time, Neville heard what he thought was regret in Severus Snape’s voice.

“Because, Neville,” Snape said. “I told him you were. I was there as well.”

Neville couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Snape had been there! Had he tortured them as well? He must have.

“Neville, there are many things in my past that I wish I could undo,” Snape said as he held Neville’s shoulders. “I am trying to make things right. You must trust in me, the same as Dumbldedore did. I may be able to save your parents. But only after the Voldemort is defeated.”

Neville looked at Snape’s face. The look of regret was evident in it. Neville nodded.

“Good,” Snape said, resolutely. “Now, I will be back in a fortnight. Just after, I will be turning myself into the Ministry. After that, you will be protected by a servant, one who has been there all along, but you knew not. He will have the Dark Mark as well. But he is on our side. He has been since before your parents…”

“Neville? Are you up?” Neville’s Gran had obviously awakened, and he could see that Snape was astonished at this. In a wink,, Snape was gone, and Neville stood there, still trembling, wondering if it had really happened.

“Neville?!?! Come down at once.” His Gran had called. “I’ve dozed off. Odd that. Now, come down and help me with breakfast. We need to get to your lessons, work on your transfiguration…”

Neville continued to look out the window, playing the scene over and over again in his mind. He had wondered where Hary and Ron had gotten to. He hadn’t seen them all day. Hermione for that matter either.

Snape had never shown back up. He had convinced himself by now that it had been a dream, that it never really happened. He figured he had just been exhausted, that his mind had tricked him into believing there was some sort of hope for his parents.

But then, he was having a rather better time remembering things. Since that day, he had excelled at everything his Gran had taught him. “About time,” he remembered her saying, smiling all the while. “I knew you had it in you. Just took some time, and the right instructor!”

Something in the sky caught Neville’s attention. It was flying through the air. It looked to be a large bird, glowing red and yellow. As it came closer, Neville saw it was Fawkes, carrying what looked to be Dumbledore’s hat in his talons.

“That’s odd,” he thought. He followed it right onto the grounds, and Fawkes flew into an open window of the Great Hall.

“Neville,” a voice croaked behind him. He swung around hard, almost falling out the window.

Before him stood a grungy looking man. He looked to be about forty. His hair was jet black, and it seemed to be slicked down and matted to his head. His face looked vaguely familiar, but Neville knew he had never seen this man before. His cheeks were full, but the rest of him was rather sleek.

“Wh…who are you,” Neville said as he whipped his wand out and pointed it at the intruder.

The man didn’t flinch. He simply rolled up his sleeve to expose his forearm. The hideous skull with the serpent running through its mouth wriggled there, and all at once Neville realized Snape’s visit hadn’t been a dream.

“You’re the one,” Neville said, quietly. “Snape sent you, to protect me?’

“Yes, I’m the one,” the man’s hoarse voice answered. “But Snape didn’t send me. It was Dumbledore. And I’ve been here all along.”

Neville stared at him curiously, and stared to ask him what he meant.

The disheveled man seemed to have read his thoughts, and said, “Seen your toad lately?”

End, Chapter 15

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; January 23rd, 2006 at 3:22 pm.
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Old January 23rd, 2006, 3:15 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 16

The Serpent’s Locket


“I’m just beside myself,” Hermione said, as Ron and Harry listened, too dumbfounded to offer a rebuttal. “Another Death Eater at Hogwart’s! How do they keep getting in?”

“Dunno,” Ron said absentmindedly. “Seems they are always finding a way, doesn’t it?”

They sat in silence for a moment in the study of Number 12, Grimmauld Place. Most of the Order members had already left, most to return to their posts at Hogwarts or the Ministry, or back to the hunt for Severus Snape. Mrs. Weasley and McGonnagall had remained behind to accompany the three back to Hogwarts.

“Well, at least we know it’s not a professor,” Hermione said, thinking.

“How you figure?” Harry said.

“Well, if the Dark Mark wasn’t flying over that replica all summer, it couldn’t be a professor or a staff person,” Hermione answered. “All the professors have been at school most of the summer, and the staff live there.”

“Well, there goes my justifiable reason for A.K.ing Filch,” Ron said disappointedly. “I figured he’d be in with You-Know-Who more than anyone else.”

“So, you think it’s a student?” Harry asked.

“Don’t see that it could be anything other,” Hermione replied. “Unless someone snuck in the same time we all arrived.”

“Not likely,” Ron said. “Aurors were all over the place, and everyone was checked with dark detectors at the gates, remember?”

“Well, one sure way to find out,” Hermione said. “We’ll just have to keep our eyes open, look for anyone acting odd, then report it to McGonnagall.”

“We’ve always got the map as well,” Harry said. “It detected Pettigrew. I just didn’t know he was animagous at the time. If there’s a student at Hogwart’s who’s a Death Eater, they’re bound to be there looking for something. Which means anyone walking about at odd hours where they shouldn’t be is cause for suspicion.”

“We’ll, not that it’s not important, but while we’re alone,” Harry said, peeking back through the door to see if anyone was lurking, “I’m glad we’re here. Remember our conversation back at the burrow, about Regulus possibly being R.A.B.?”

“Yeah,” Ron said.

“Well, while we’re here, and as it seems, unsupervised for a bit,” Harry said, whispering, “we might as well look around the place and see if we can spot that locket. If R.A.B. is Regulus, chances are that locket is here, or was here at some point.”

“Speaking of Black family possessions,” Hermione said, “did you get a chance to confront Mundungus on those things you saw him with at Hogsmeade last year?”

“Yeah,” Harry said. “But he said he sold them all. I thought about telling Moody or Lupin, but Sirius didn’t seem too fond of any of that stuff anyway, so I decided not too.”

“But did you ask him if he took a locket?” Ron said.

“Well, of course,” Harry said. “He said he’d never seen a locket.”

“Well, maybe it is still here,” Hermione said. “Where do you suppose it would be?”

“I expect Regulus would have hidden it pretty well.” Ron said. “Not something you expect to see on display in a cabinet.”

“I suppose not,” Harry said, then a thought occurred to him. “Unless, of course, Regulus was anything like Sirius,” Harry said with a smile.

“What do you mean, Harry?” Hermione asked.

“Well, think about it,” Harry said excitedly. “If you were Sirius, knowing Sirius like we did, and you had something you knew people would be looking for. And you knew people would think you would have hidden it away to protect it…”

Ron smiled with realization, “You’d put it right out where everyone could see it! No one would think you would be that stupid…”

“Exactly!” Harry said, trying to contain his enthusiasm. “Sounds just like something Sirius would come up with, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose,” Hermione said, still not completely convinced. “But we cleared most everything out of here that week with Sirius, remember?”

Harry and Ron’s excitement faltered. “Yeah, almost nothing left here that belonged to the blacks. Unless it’s fixed in with magic, like those stupid paintings and their Permanent Sticking Charms.”

“Yeah, fat lot of good trying to get those things out of here did,” Harry said. “Hey, where you going?”

But Hermione had already dashed out the door and was heading down the hallway, right for the paintings. Harry and Ron jumped up to follow.

“Hermione,” Ron said. “What are you doing!?! Don’t open that…”

But it was too late. Hermione had flung the curtain open to reveal the motley Black family portraits. They all sprang awake, and opened their mouths to begin their taunts. But Hermione had obviously thought ahead and flicked her wand at them. Their mouths opened wide, but no sound came from them. Once the Black family realized they had been rendered mute, they became much more animated and cross.

Hermione began studying each quickly. "Yes, there, see," she said pointing into one, then moved to the next, "and there! They weren't there before."

"Who wasn't there before," Harry said, not understanding.

"Not WHO, Harry," Hermione said excitedly, "but WHAT!"

She moved to one painting where a rather surly, middle aged man wearing a three breasted suit sat in an arm chair in what looked like the Grimmauld Place library. He continued his unproductive mouthings at them as they looked at him, his face turning beet red at the disturbance.

“Look there,” Hermione said, pointing at the man, which he seemed to draw back from. “On his chest, there, you see?”

“Yeah, I see it,” Ron said, unimpressed. “That’s an Order of Merlin. Looks to be first class. So? I thought the Blacks were pretty well honored by the Ministry in their day.”

Realization hit Harry, though. “Ron, don’t you recognize it?” Harry said. “Remember, when we were helping Sirius clean out the house…”

“Exactly!” Hermione interrupted. “That medal was in the drawing room, in one of those glass front cabinets. We chucked it out, along with the rest of that stuff.”

“But, Hermione,” Harry said, with deference, “it could just be that…” Harry paused briefly to look at the name below on the frame, “…dear old Horatio was wearing it when this portrait was made.”

“Well, explain this.” She moved to the next painting of a woman with slick black hair and wore a tall hat with a small stuffed bird on top. “Look, behind her, on the desk.”

“Okay,” Ron said with an air of disbelief. “A couple of rusty daggers, a claw and a coiled snakeskin?”

“Yes,” Hermione said defiantly, ‘again, things we cleaned up and threw out.”

“So, are you suggesting that these things aren’t merely painted into the portraits,” Harry said slowly, as if Hermione had gone a bit mad. But then he remembered, Hermione was a bit mad, but generally was correct with her hypotheses. “That they used to actually BE those items?”

“Exactly!” Hermione said. “I think these things were placed in these paintings magically.”

“Well, Hermione,” Ron shrugged, “I’ve never heard of a charm or incantation that rendered a three dimensional object two dimensional, not to mention enables you to stick it ON a painting, let alone IN a painting.”

“Well, neither have I,” Hermione said, defiantly and sticking to her position, “but there is loads of magic we don’t know. It’s possible.”

“But why would they be in there in the first place?” Ron said, scratching his head.

“To hide them,” said Harry.

“Well, I will agree that it is a rather clever way to hide something,” conceded Ron. “But we threw those things out? Sirius didn’t want them anyway. He was disgusted with them.”

They thought for a moment, then Hermione said, “It wasn’t Sirius that hid them. It was Kreacher!”

“Oh, yeah,” Ron said, a smile coming to his lips. “Sirius was pretty upset with him for taking things back out of the bags and hiding them in his room, wasn’t he?”

“Yes, he was,” Harry said. “Kreacher kept saying that “his poor old mistress” wouldn’t have wanted those things to be thrown out.”

“Yes,” Hermione said. “Plus, with Mundungus in and out all the time, he may have been scared that he might steal them after Sirius….well, you know…”

“Yeah, and he didn’t seem above stealing things from here once Sirius was gone,” Harry said, thinking back for about the hundredth time that night how much he missed Sirius. Harry looked up at Sirius’ mother’s portrait. Her long, yellow, wrinkled face was screaming silently at their stares. Harry wasn’t surprised to see a large gold ring with the Black family crest on her finger, or that she was now, as she had never been before, holding that small music box that had almost put them to sleep that day with Sirius.

“Well, Hermione,” Harry said, pointing at them, “I think you’re on to something. There are two more.”

“But what about the locket?” Ron said. “I don’t remember a locket….”

But Harry did. Right after that silver thing had crawled up his arm that day and tried to cut him, Sirius had handed him a heavy, gold locket. They had tried to open it, but couldn’t. Harry put this one side by side in his mind with the memory of Tom Riddle, or by that time Voldemort, at Hepzibah’s.

“I do,” Harry said, “we all saw it. We had it in our hands; at least I remember it now.”

“Oh, yeah,” Ron said. “That one we couldn’t open, right?”

“Yeas, I remember it too,” Hermione said. They looked at each other, guilt on their faces. “Literally slipped through our hands,” she continued.

“Well, we had no idea at the time, of course,” Ron said.

“Yeah, and Sirius was adamant about getting rid of everything,” Harry said, dejectedly.

“Well, if everything else is here, in these paintings,” Hermione said, determined not to give up, “perhaps it is here somewhere.”

They searched the entire house, top to bottom. But they couldn’t find any paintings anywhere. Sirius must have managed to get all the rest out.

“They sat in the dining room, eating on some left over rice pudding. Each of them wore a sullen look, feeling as if they had let loose one of the other in a flood.

“Well,” Harry said. “Maybe Dung lied? Maybe he did steal it?”

Ron and Hermione both gave him a forlorn glance, evidently very tired and growing weary of the subject.

“Maybe,” Ron said, “we just need to get back to school and go to bed. What’s keeping mum and McGonnagall anyway.”

“Mr. Weasley,” Professor McGonnagall said from behind them so quietly they started, “not that you would know, but cleaning up after 20 or so people takes a while for only two people. If you were so concerned about the hour, you could have offered a hand.”
She moved over to the cauldron, which was now empty, and waved her wand at it. It disappeared.

Ron didn’t answer her. He simply screwed up his face, obviously giving her suggestion no consideration whatsoever, and whispered to them, “She certainly chose the right animagous, the way she can sneak up on people.”

Professor McGonnagall continued her housekeeping, flitting her wand at the stool and the perch, both disappearing like the cauldron had, as they continued to mindlessly bite at their remaining rice pudding.

Harry felt like he had let Dumbledore down. He had had the locket in his hands! If he had been greedy like Dung, or needy like Ron, or even curious like Hermione, he might have kept it. But, seeing as he was, at the time, just interested in Sirius’ happiness, he was just as happy as he was to chuck them in a rubbish sack.

“Ow!” Harry said, as he felt Hermione dig her elbow into his ribs.

“Yikes!” Ron said under his breath, and Harry saw that Hermione had pinched Ron’s side, “What’s the big…”

But Ron stopped at her expression. She was looking up at the green, phoenix banners, one by one, as McGonnagall, evidently unaware of her audience, flicked her wand and rolled them up, culminating in a “poof”, and they were gone. Harry and Ron traded looks in amazement.

As each one furled up, it exposed one more Black family member. Harry had forgotten about the portraits there. Their eyes followed McGonnagall to that one, then the next, with each a collective suspense followed by disappointment, seeing no locket adorning any of their necks. Then, as she flicked her wand for the last, Harry saw black boots, then, the bottom of an intricately hemmed, black robe. As the green banner moved slowly up, they ducked their heads down, as if they could peek under it to get a look underneath, even if just a split second early. The waist, then watch pocket.

They each gave out a quiet, jubilant squawk, as the green banner revealed a man’s chest, adorned with an oval, gold locket, which hung from his neck from a golden chain.

Their utterance was enough to cause the subject of the painting to flinch and dart his eyes over at them. It had also drawn a curious look from Mrs. McGonnagall.

“Something surprise you three,” she said, suspiciously.

“Yes, indeed!” the man in the painting retorted at them. “You’d think a man could get some rest. It’s a devil getting any in that office, what with all those silver gadgets whirring around.”

Harry looked up at the man’s face, and recognized him from somewhere, but he wasn’t sure…

“So sorry to wake you, Phineas,” McGonnagall said to the man. “We will be leaving very shortly, and you will have the room to yourself.”

At his name, Harry remembered.

“I hope so, Minerva,” Phineas replied, seeming rather put out. “I just fell asleep, what with all the commotion earlier.” Then, he became a bit more cordial, “Any news on gaining entry to the headmaster’s office, Minerva? It could use a good dusting, and…”

“No, Phineas,” McGonnagall said rather abruptly. “And we could table this discussion for another time, please?”

He seemed offended, but then said to her, rather quickly, “oh, but of course. These must be students.” Phineas looked over at them, and stopped at Harry. “You, boy,” Phineas said, pointing at Harry, “I remember you from somewhere, don’t I?”

“That’s enough, Phineas,” McGonnagall said, as she flicked her wand and a curtain appeared, which fell over him as he tried to continue, but his words fell silent.

As she did this, Harry noticed Hermione appeared to be talking into her hand. Then quickly, before Professor McGonnagall had turned back to them, she stuck her wand in her closed hand and flicked it out the door, toward the kitchen.

“Minerva,” they heard Mrs. Weasley call, “would you mind helping me?”

“Oh, yes Molly, be right there,” McGonnagall said. She turned to them and said, “We’ll be leaving shortly, about ten minutes I would guess. Meet us in the drawing room up front and we’ll head out together.” She left the three of them there, and walked off to the kitchen.

As soon as she was out of sight, the three of them bolted up and tugged at the curtain hard. It fell to the ground in a heap, waking Phineas again. He opened his mouth to scream at them again, but Hermione was a quick with her wand this time as she was the previous. Phineas looked shocked at being rendered mute, and his face became very cross and he shook his finger at them.

“Headmaster, I apologize,” Hermione said, and she bowed, “but the three of us have something rather important to ask you.”

Phineas’ mouth stopped, but he still looked rather cross.

“Beg your pardon sir,” Hermione said, giving her voice a little charm this time, “…but, being such an avid Hogwart’s historian, I can tell you that your service to the school, as chronicled by many since your departure from this earth in physical for, Phineas Nigellus Black, is legend. Everyone to whom I speak regards you as the finest headmaster of all that came before and after you. I wonder, may I benefit from your indomitable wisdom?”

At this, Phineas smiled and puffed his chest out. He waved his hand to them in agreement, and waited for Hermione to lift the curse. She flicked her wand, and he spoke.

“And, who may I have the pleasure of meeting,” Phineas said cordially as he bowed to Hermione deeply within his frame.”

“Miss Hermione Granger,” she replied.

“Granger…Granger,” he said to himself as he rose from his bow. “Ahhh, of the French Granger’s, I presume. Pure blood family of the Alsace region?”

Hermione looked a little offended by this, but kept up the game, “Uh, yes sir, English line. Came over about a century ago, fleeing the Germans.”

“Yes, those Germans,” Phineas said back to her, “and those muggles call a German there Queen. Indeed.”

Hermione was getting impatient with Phineas’ bigotry, and cut to the chase, “I wonder, sir…I was so admiring that locket…”

Phineas looked down, cradled it in his hands, and looked at it smiling, “Oh, yes, wonderful isn’t it. Pure goblin-wrought gold. I believe it may have been Salazar Slytherin’s. See, the ornate “S”, here on the back. Can’t get the thing open, though. You know, the Black family is not so removed from Slytherin’s line…”

“Yes, sir,” Hermione said, obviously concerned about the time, “I wonder, if it isn’t too much trouble…you did you come across it? Did you have it during your lifetime?”

“Oh, no,” Phineas responded. “I would have taken much better care of such a valuable piece. Much more care than Sirius did. I only received it just after his death.”

“Oh, you must have been thrilled to receive it.” Hermione said. “And, may I ask, who gave it to you.”

“Oh, of course,” Phineas said. “It was that wonderful servant of the house, Kreacher. Most astonishing thing I think I’ve seen in years. He simply reached into this portrait and handed it to me. Then again, elves do have far different magic than us humans…”

“It IS such a lovely piece,” Hermione said, turning the charm on thick now. “I wonder, would you mind terribly if I took a closer look? Perhaps I could even give a try at opening it for you?”

“No, not all. I wouldn’t mind a bit,” Phineas said, succumbing to her flattery. “I’m sure a lady of your obviously first-estate upbringing would appreciate such a magnificent treasure. Dumbledore is quite taken with it as well…”

Harry couldn’t contain his surprise, “Dumbledore has seen it? When…how?”

“Ahhh, I remember you now, boy,” Phineas said, peering at him. “Your that insolent Potter boy. The one that could see the Dark Lord’s thoughts. Saw that snake attack the Weasley man, aren’t you.”

“Um, yes sir,” Harry said back bashfully, nodding a bit.

“Well, if you must know,” Phineas said, “He noticed it around my neck just after he died.”

“After he died?” Ron said. “How…”

“Phineas has another portrait in the headmaster’s office,” Harry said. “Dumbledore’s portrait has seen it there, I suppose.”

“Quite right, boy,” Phineas said. “Albus asked me about it just the day after his murder. He asks me about it just about everyday, now. Being rather a pest about it, if you want to truth.”

“Sir, I beg your pardon,” Harry said, “but, what you were saying to Professor McGonnagall about the headmaster’s office…can McGonnagall not get in?”

Phineas glanced back at the door, seeing if McGonnagall was anywhere to be seen. Then, he leaned in and whispered to them, “Honestly, I don’t know why they’re making such a fuss about keeping it a secret. It seems that the gargoyle won’t move aside to the password. Dumbledore said to me that same day that he had changed it. I don’t believe him, though. How could he? He’s not headmaster anymore, plus he is dead.”

“Sir,” Hermione said, trying to get the boys back to the point, “may I?”

Phineas turned his attention to Hermione again, a smile returning to his face. “Oh, yes, of course. But, I fear we would need some sort of similar magic to get it to you and back again.”

Phineas slipped the necklace down off his neck and held it out to Hermione, who reached out to attempt to take it.

“Wait!” Harry said quickly, grasping her arm and holding it back, remembering what the cup had done to Dudley. He turned and grabbed a linen napkin off the dining table and handed it to Hermione. “Don’t touch it directly.

Hermione wrapped her hand in the napkin, nodding to him her understanding. She reached out again to grasp it, but, as they feared, her wrapped fingers simply met the canvas. It buckled a bit, not able to make the transition into the living world.

“No use asking him to smash it up, I suppose?” Ron whispered to them.

“Smash it up, you say?!” Phineas had overheard him and retorted in surprise, quickly drawing back the locket. “Why on earth would you want see destroyed such a beautiful thing?”

Hermione shot a disapproving look at Ron. True to form, he had again easily foiled her best efforts by opening his mouth.

“You three!”

They jumped around, startled by Professor McGonnagall’s voice behind them.

“What are you three up to?” she asked as she walked rapidly over to them.

But it was Phineas who came to their defense, “Miss Granger here was just admiring my locket here…”

“Well, Phineas,” she said, “as you said before, I’m sure you need your rest. Good night, Phineas.”

“Good night all,” he said as the curtain crept back up to cover him like a bed sheet.

She turned to them with a stern look and said, “It’s time we returned. Now, off, the three of you. Outside, into the street. Molly is waiting for us there.”

The trio hung back from her just enough so that they could whisper to each other.

“D’you suppose Kreacher would be able to get that locket out of the painting?” Ron said.

“Well, if he put it there, I suppose he would need to be the one to get it out,” Harry said, his face screwed up, deep in thought. “But who knows when we’ll be back here? And I think I remember Dumbledore saying once that Phineas’ only other portrait is in the Headmaster’s office. And if McGonnagall can’t even get in there, how are we?”

“Well, Harry,” Hermione said with confidence. “He obviously changed the password because he didn’t want anyone to gain entrance that might know what it was, except the one he meant to find it.”

“What’d you mean?” Ron said, confused.

“All I’m saying is it sounds like Dumbledore, or his portrait rather, knew what it was when he saw it. Phineas did say that Dumbledore was rather interested in it, commenting daily on it. He knew that this place was already hidden to anyone other than the Order members, so he probably figured it was already safe enough here,” Hermione contemplated. “And he probably knew that you would be here eventually, Harry, and that you might recognize it.

“Now, the headmaster’s office is subject to a fair amount of comings and goings, especially during term. So, there is a good chance that someone up to no good…”

“Yeah, like Snape or Malfoy,” Ron interjected.

“Yes, possibly,” Hermione said. “or, perhaps he knew there was another Death Eater at Hogwarts all along, or suspected it, before he died. So, once he saw the necklace around Phineas’ neck, he locked the gargoyle up to keep anyone out. Anyone, that is, except Harry.”

“It makes sense, Hermione,” Harry said, “but I have no idea what he might have changed the password to.”

“Well, he would have changed it to something you would figure out pretty easily, I suppose,” Ron said.

“Yes, that would make sense,” Hermione said, “but he also would have had to make it something difficult enough that no one else would figure out either, or make it nearly impossible to guess or say by happenstance.”

Harry thought on this as they passed through the threshold and emptied into the street where McGonnagall and Ron’s mother were waiting to accompany them back to Hogwarts. He had hoped it would be obvious, just pop into his head. But, after a few seconds, he realized it was probably going to take some thought. And he had proved he wasn’t very good at guessing passwords last year when he tried to enter the Room of Requirement to see what Malfoy was up to.

“Well,” Harry said. “I have no bloody idea what it could be.”

“We’ll help you,” Hermione said. “Three heads ARE better than one.”

Unless, of course,” Ron said with a shudder, “the three heads are attached to a dog’s body.”

Harry and Hermione grinned back at Ron, and in an instant, they were being pulled by the belly button back to Hogwarts.

End, Chapter 16

Let me know what you think at www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=78705



Last edited by MerlinBlack2; January 23rd, 2006 at 3:22 pm.
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  #16  
Old January 31st, 2006, 2:29 am
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

First part of Chapter 17:


Chapter 17

Memory from the U-Bend

The two months that followed their induction into the Order of the Phoenix had been uneventful to all but Hermione. Weeks upon weeks were filled with reading, lessons and homework. Harry had always thought that life became easier when you grew up, but he was coming to the unsettling realization that it became harder and more complicated.

They hardly had any time to think about finding horcruxes, trying to gain entrance to the headmaster’s office, or searching for the slippery resident Death Eater. He knew that Snape had gained custody of the Hufflepuff cup, and even given Hermione’s search through the library for anything that might still survive of Godric Gryffindor’s or Rowena Ravenclaw’s, bore no fruit. But not for no mention of their heirlooms. Quite the opposite.

There were hundred’s of things linked to them, here at Hogwarts, throughout Brittan, on the continent, and even across the Atlantic. But since they were over a thousand years removed from them, even the one’s they picked out as possibilities could have changed locales thousands of times. The only artifacts credited to them that they had actually seen before were the sorting hat and the sword, which Dumbledore discounted as impossible to have been charmed by Voldemort, and the ceiling in the Great Hall.

“Good luck obliterating THAT!” Ron had commented when they brought it up as a possibility. “Plus, that’s just creepy. To think we have been sitting under a bit of Voldemort’s soul while we ate…” he said as he shivered.

Harry had managed to sneak up to the headmaster’s office a few times at night the first couple of weeks, trying to coax the gargoyle with anything he could think of that he and Dumbledore alone may have shared. “London Underground” for his knee scar, “Ear Wax” for the flavor of the only Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean that he ever saw him eat, “Horcrux” at Hermione’s suggestion. But nothing worked. He resigned himself that it would just come to him at the right time, and he hadn’t ventured up there to try in weeks. Plus, he had already been nearly caught twice by Filch, and once the only thing that saved him was his cloak.

He had even tried calling Kreacher to see if he would tell him how and why he had placed the locket in the portrait. But, much to Harry’s chagrin, Kreacher seemed not to be obeying Harry anymore. His conversation had become very erratic, and Harry surmised this was more from old age than from disobedience. When Harry had visited him twice in the Hogwart’s kitchen, and all he said to Harry, in a lilting, almost gleeful voice, both times was, “Kreacher has his master back! Kreacher has his master black! Kreacher has just one to answer! Kreacher has master back!”

His lessons were going even worse than everything else. He was woefully behind in all of them. Even Hermione was frustrated with his lack of attention, and her tutoring him had come to an end after a month. She was too tied up in her new classes and seemed none to happy about having to relive the ones she had already mastered. She was also spending a good bit of her spare time as Mrs. Weasley’s teacher’s assistant in Potions.

Mrs. Weasley obviously knew a lot about potions, but she seemed to know very little about teaching. She was very fast with her instructions, and almost no one could follow her. She was one of those people who learned things very quickly by nature, but because it came so easy for her she lacked the ability to explain them to others who didn’t share her passion or acumen. Harry was starting to realize why Ron fancied Hermione so much.

Quiddich training with Madame Hooch was proving to take all the joy of flying away from Harry. She was a relentless trainer, and Harry left the pitch every day with saddle sores from so many complicated feinting maneuvers. She also was keen on non-flying training, and subjected Harry to side splitting wind sprints and to isometric weight training that left him dizzy and wanting for a cot.

Defense Against the Dark Arts classes, however, were his only sliver of enjoyment. He was well ahead of his classmates on most all of the Defense incantations, and he seemed to do nothing wrong in the eyes of Professor Slughorn. He was continually commenting during classes on how well Harry performed, even when Harry knew there were others who had done it better. These sorts of “teacher pet” comments were drawing him the same types of looks as when most of these same classmates were wearing “Potter Stinks” buttons during his four year when he was in the Tri-Wizard tournament. Even Neville was beginning to express his frustration at Harry’s “Slug Club” status.

Neville, for his part, was continually amazing Harry in DADA classes. He was far ahead of where he had been two years ago when the DA was in full swing. His Patronus was fully corporeal, and was able to discard four boggarts posing as dementors. He had lost weight and had gained muscle, which he used once in their first week. He was being taunted by Blaise Zabini, a Slytherin that Harry had just barely gotten to know in the Slug Club last year. As always with Slytherin’s, he picked on Neville and his new found physique, stating that it was about time he shaped up, and made a comment that he wondered if his parents had noticed. To this, Neville smashed his nose with his fist, then stated that Blaise was beneath magical punishment and a muggle thrashing was all he was fit for.

Harry was uncomfortable with Neville’s new found personality. But girls certainly didn’t share Harry’s trepidation. It seemed that Neville’s sensitive nature and his ability to dance quite well complimented his new, sleeker physique in the wooing department. He had also started to write some of them poetry which Harry thought was dreadful, but that seemed to make the girls swoon even harder. Harry had tried to talk with Neville casually about things out of concern. But this was the only class that he and Neville shared, and Neville seemed to always be just passing through the common room in the evenings, spending his nights under the stars with some new girl. And he never seemed to be in bed by the time Harry, Ron and Seamus fell asleep, and he always seemed to be out of the dorm room before they awoke.

Trevor, his toad, however, was a different story. The warted spectre that seemed to ever be lost in years passed this year had taken up residence at Neville’s head board and had taken over. It seemed to never move, and it also seemed to always be staring at Harry. He woke up, it was staring, he dressed, it was staring, he walked to the lavatory, it’s bulging eyes followed. Ginny may have been the last thing he thought of when he went to bed and the first thing he thought of when he woke up, but Trevor was the last and first thing Harry saw. Trevor’s uncomfortable presence had made the other three bunkmates feel uncomfortable in their own rooms, and each of them kept finding ways to be gone from it.

As for Ginny, she and Harry were finding it difficult to sneak any private moments. Just as with Hermione and Ron, Mrs. Weasley’s constant presence in the common room and in the girl’s dormitories was putting a wet rag over Gryffindor’s romantic life. The other houses, however, were having their own issues with Flitwick, Spout and Slughorn. Ginny joked with Harry that if the Dark Lord could only be defeated with love, he would find Hogwart’s a haven due to its lack thereof.

In those brief moments when he wasn’t falling asleep in a book’s spine, or thinking about Ginny, or racking his brain trying to figure out the puzzles that were Voldemort and Dumbledore, he let the joy of being considered for the British National Team enter his mind. He still hadn’t told anyone about it. Hermione had kept her promise and hadn’t told anyone, and she hadn’t pestered him about his decision. Harry felt as though Hermione was of one mind that it was foolhardy and that the only true course should be auror for Harry. But Harry had found it much easier to dodge bludgers than Death Eaters. He had also received an owl back from Oliver Wood just a day after coming back from Grimmauld Place who, to his surprise, had been offered a tryout as keeper. He had written that he would be a fool not to at least try out, as he was going to and felt he had no chance given the crop of talent out there. But he said that Harry was the best seeker he had ever seen, including at the professional level.

So, as a lesser of two evils more than anything else, he had decided to accept. He would wait, however, to tell McGonagall at Christmas break, hoping most everyone would be gone, including Ron and Ginny. He would have to find a way to tell them then, hoping he would finally get a few days to think uninterrupted.

Today, Madame Hooch had kept him out on the pitch until dusk practicing the Wronski Feint. She seemed to have it in her mind that Harry should be able to produce the most difficult maneuver in all of quiddich without difficulty, and seemed even more determined to have him succeed at each failing. But the night sky encroached, and she had to concede to darkness. After dinner, which included having to sit on a pillow for the soreness, he walked out to the athletic department, intent on soaking in the hot tub to sooth his aching muscle. But something had gone wrong with the pipes, so they were not operating properly. Harry sulked back to the castle, wishing the Gryffindor common room had a Jacuzzi, but reality dictated that his soother would be his hard mattress and his lullaby a toads croaks.

But then he remembered the prefect’s bathroom. Its wonderful bath, steaming hot water and various mind settling fragrances. He wondered if it would be occupied. He looked at the huge castle clock, which read 9:30. He was sure that no one would be there at this time of night, with everyone just about ready to turn in. He wouldn’t get much time before lights out, but it would at least be something. He tried to run there to hurry things along, but his aching muscles and raw posterior wouldn’t let him do more than an awkward looking canter. He gave up after just a few uncomfortable footfalls, more from the fear of someone seeing him than from the pain.


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  #17  
Old February 22nd, 2006, 6:49 am
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

A little more of Chapter 17...

Harry was relieved to see that the prefects bathroom was unoccupied. He turned on the taps, which shuddered and clattered. His heart jumped a bit because he did not want to alert Filch or possibly Mrs. Norris to his presence there. After a few seconds, though, the rattling stopped. Harry couldn’t hear anyone rambling up the stairs to inquire about the noise, so he slipped off his clothes and submerged himself up to his neck in the hot water slowly.

The heat seemed to penetrate his skin, going directly to his muscles, almost massaging them as he sat there, motionless with his eyes closed. The fragrant bath oils also filled his nostrils, soothing his mind.

Harry peered through the large, bay window, this time looking in on the scene of the young boy playing on that same multi-colored rug. His mother was knitting, as before, as well as his father, at his newspaper. They all seemed content, peaceful, happy. Harry allowed himself to smile at the boy, who hadn’t seemed to have noticed him, content with his little toy truck.

But, suddenly, the little boy rose and looked out the window, curiously, right past him. Harry then heard it again, the buzzing of hundreds of flapping wings behind him. Harry spun around. First they were faint, like pinpricks on the horizon; then, quickly, they moved across the sky, headed directly in their direction. They came closer than before, close enough to see his reflection in their black, lifeless eyes set in their dragon-like, fleshless heads. Harry closed his eyes tight and ducked down. Wind rustled around him like a tornado. Their screams forced him to clasp his hands over his ears.

Then, the next second, the wind and the shrieks were gone. Harry shot up and opened his eyes.

The cottage was gone, along with the family. All that remained was a heap of crushed lumber and shattered glass contained in a burnt-out circle in the clay. He started to dart forward, hoping they were still there, still alive. But something stopped him.

A small rat scurried from underneath the rubble to the edge of the burnt circle. Then, to his amazement, the rat sprung up and, in a crack, Peter Pettigrew stood where the rat had just been. Harry tried to move, but he was unable. He tried calling out, but nothing crossed his lips. It was as if he were contained in a vacuum, like he wasn’t even breathing. He stood there, transfixed, as Pettigrew started to sift through the rubble, all the while muttering to himself rather animatedly. After a moment, Pettigrew stopped and scooped up a short twig. Then, with another CRACK, he was gone.

Pettigrew’s exit seemed to release the vacuum containing Harry, and he ran to the pile. He could now hear a faint noise coming from it. It was the muffled cry of a small child. He stepped carefully, listening intently for the child. Then, he picked up a large piece of wood. Beneath it lay the child, who was dressed in a night gown.

As Harry leant over to pick up the child, their eyes met. The child stopped crying as Harry cradled the child in his arms. Harry’s stomach fell as his eyes moved to the child’s forehead.

Then, in the distance, Harry heard the rumbling of an engine overhead. He snapped his head skyward and saw what looked like a motorcycle flying through the air toward them.

“Hello, Harry.”

Harry’s eyes snapped open. His eyes met a girl’s wisping gaze, which was no more than an inch from his face, looking forlorn and dreamy.

“Must have been an AWFUL dream you were having," she said playfully through a drunken smile.

Harry then realized that Myrtle was laying directly on top of him, floating just above his body in the bath.

“Myrtle!” Harry cried out, as he splashed over to the opposite side of the bath, “I’m naked here!”

Myrtle seemed not the least bit put off by his reaction; rather she seemed to be quite pleased with the start she had given him.

“It’s been a long time since you’ve come to see me,” she said, her smile turning to a coquettish pout. “Don’t you like me anymore?”


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  #18  
Old February 25th, 2006, 2:06 am
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 17 (continued)

Memory from the U-Bend


Harry had realized after his first meeting with Myrtle why people, both during her life and afterward, went to lengths to avoid her. She was a sullen girl with the emotional range of a pendulum, which seemed to swing as often as well. Her appearance was dreadful, unkempt and shoddy, and she was continually playing with a nasty blemish on her chin while she spoke. More than a dozen times throughout their meetings over the years, she seemed unconcerned about others seeing her relieve her itches, no mater where they occurred. At present, it seemed as though she had developed a rather uncomfortable rash based on the vehemence of her scratching.

In a pitiful way, though, Harry had always felt a little sorry for Myrtle. She hadn’t asked to die. And it probably wasn’t her fault she was the way she was, either alive or dead.

“Well, I have been rather busy,” Harry said, trying not to sound rude, fearful that an outburst from Myrtle may draw the attention of anyone who might be close by.

“Oh, I’ve heard,” she said with an excited look. “All the ghosts have been talking about it. That business with Dumbledore at the end of last year. Rumor has it you saw it all happen!”

Harry didn’t quite understand her change in mood, but then again, he rarely had. “Yes, I did,” he said quietly. He didn’t like where he thought this was going.

“What did it look like!?!” Myrtle excalimed with a look of obscene curiosity which further unsettled Harry.

“What did what look like?” Harry said with trepidation.

“When he died,” she whispered anxiously, “What did it look like, the dying part?”

Harry felt disgust and revulsion shoot through his stomach. Why would anyone want to know what it looked like when someone died! But Myrtle kept on.

“I only ask because… well, because…,” Myrtle paused for a moment as a tear fell from her transparent cheek, “…because that’s why I came back. Well, of course to haunt that revolting Olive Hornsby as well. But I wanted to see it, know what it was like, when I died.”

“It was horrible, okay,” Harry said abruptly, wanting desperately to change the subject. He felt as if he would vomit there, right into the bath. He had heard of people having morbid curiosities, but a ghost having them seemed a bit preposterous and pretentious.

“I imagine it was GHASTLY,” Myrtle said, taking no note of Harry’s obvious discomfort with the subject. “I imagine mine was as well.”

“I imagine so,” Harry said. He would have left already if he hadn’t been naked.

“I came back that night to see it, but I was already dead, lying on the floor in my bathroom,” she continued, the pout returning to her face. “Plus, that rude boy was there. I tried to shoo him away, but he wouldn’t leave. He wasn’t afraid of me. I hid from him and peeked at him from my stall until he had finished.”

Harry’s face flushed with realization. He sat up quickly in the bath.

“Boy?” he said. “What boy?”

Myrtle sighed with exasperation. “I thought I told you before. Don’t you remember? Before I died, I had locked myself in my stall after that awful Olive had teased me. Then I heard a boy’s voice, which made me come out.”

Harry had always known that it had been Tom Riddle who had released the basilisk from the Chamber of Secrets that night. But had her death been an accident?

“What do you mean,” Harry asked her, “you waited until he finished?”

Myrtle’s words picked up now that she had Harry’s rapt attention.

“Well, I must have been gone only a few seconds. When I returned to my bathroom, I saw that the sink was apart, which was strange. But even more strange, it was moving slowly back together. Then, I saw him…Tom, I think was his name. He was a sixth year…standing over my body.

“He didn’t see me at first. He was looking down at my body. I figured he had just found me. I think he was a prefect, so I figured he would go find someone right away to come collect my body.”

Then, Myrtle’s mood changed again. She was becoming angry.

“But he didn’t! He just stood there. He was SMILING!”

Harry could see fury welling up in her face as she continued, “He even started to chuckle! I shouted at him ‘GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE, YOU MURDERER!’ But he didn’t go away. He pointed his wand at me and a green light passed right through me. If I had realized at the time he couldn’t hurt me, I wouldn’t have hidden. But I did.”

Harry was transfixed. He never imagined that he would ever hear an account of one of Voldemort’s murders from an actual witness, let alone from one of his victims!

“I’m very sorry, Myrtle,” Harry said.

This seemed to calm her a bit. She paused a moment, then a look of fear came across her as she continued.

“What he did next was horrible, though, and very odd as well. I was peeking through the slot in the door of my stall, watching him, hoping he would go away and leave me alone. But he still didn’t leave. He looked back down at my body again, smiling and chuckling again.

“He took out his wand and chanted something. Then, he pointed it at his chest...” Myrtle was miming what it must have looked like to her at the time, “and very slowly, he pulled his spirit out of his body! I didn’t know what it was at the time, but it looked just like him, but had my form.

“He didn’t pull it completely out, though. No, he would have died if he’d gotten it all out. It floated in front of him, dangling from his wand with just a sliver still inside him.”

“That does sound awful,” Harry said, amazed at what he was hearing.

“Oh, that wasn’t the awful part,” she said. “That came next! He took his wand, like this,” Myrtle made a violent slashing motion with her hand in front of her, “and TORE it, right in half! Both of them screamed horribly when he did this. Then when it was done ripping, which was a horrible enough noise in itself, one half slowly sunk back into his body, and the other half was sucked up into his wand.”

Harry couldn’t speak. He could only stare at her, his mouth hanging open. After all his searching, after having to coax Professor Slughorn to give him that memory last year to learn about horcruxes, after all of Hermione’s research to no avail, he was hearing a first hand account of the horcrux spell.

“Then, after all the screaming and ripping was done, he pointed his wand at a ring on his finger. He chanted something else, and I could see his spirit go from his wand into his ring.”

“Then what happened,” Harry said, as if he was listening to a ghost story.

“He left,” Myrtle said. “He seemed rather pleased, the filthy murderer. He obviously didn’t tell anyone I was there, lying in the bathroom floor, dead. It was hours before Olive showed up and found me and told someone.”

Harry was astonished with what he had heard, but thrilled none-the-less, but he still hadn’t heard the most important thing.

“Myrtle, do you remember what he chanted,” he asked, “what the spells were.”

“Oh, it was soooo long ago,” she said. “And I never was good with Latin, you know.”

Harry was disappointed that she couldn’t remember, but he was probably being a bit greedy given what she had already shared with him.

“But why would you want to know what those awful spells were?” she asked. "You aren’t into dark magic, are you?” She said with curiosity.

“No, Myrtle, I’m not,” he said, thinking quickly, “But I’m sure the Ministry would want to know about such an awful spell so no one could ever use it again with out being detected.”

“Oh, I understand. You are quite right,” she said. “I certainly wouldn’t want to see it done again. It is a horrible memory. I wish I could get rid of it.”

Upon hearing these words, Harry had a revelation. “Could it work? Would it work on a ghost?” he thought. “I’ve never even thought of trying it. Could I do it? Does it require a spell? I never heard Snape or Dumbledore, or even Slughorn chant a spell when they did it. They just pointed their wand at their temple…”

“Maybe you can, Myrtle,” Harry said slyly. “Or, more to the point, perhaps I could get rid of that memory for you!”

“Oh, really!” Myrtle said joyfully. “How? Do you know hypnotism or something like that?”

“Better that hypnotism,” Harry said as he jumped out of the bath. He didn’t care anymore about modesty. And neither did Myrtle, who stared at his naked body as he moved toward his clothes and started to dress quickly. “I may be able to just pluck it out of your head.”

“Well, will it hurt?” she asked fearfully. Then, she said rather inanely to herself, “Of course, it won’t hurt, Myrtle. You’re dead!”

Harry finished dressing and looked around the bathroom. He spotted a nearly empty bottle of bath oil and grabbed it. He dumped it out into the bath, filled it with some water and shook it to make sure it was clean. He dumped it out again, then, he turned to Myrtle.

“Now, Myrtle, I know it was horrible, but think of it again,” Harry coaxed. Myrtle smiled, thrilled with all the attention Harry was giving her. “Don’t think of anything else, just that memory, right before you died until Tom left the bathroom. Put it right in the front of your mind, nothing else.”

“Okay, Harry,” Myrtle said, still looking a little fearful, but also excited and bashful at the same time. “And, Harry, even if it doesn’t work…thank you for trying.” Myrtle leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. Harry didn’t feel it, but it didn’t matter. He felt the meaning of the kiss in his heart.

“Your welcome, Myrtle,” Harry said quietly. “Now, close your eyes.”

Myrtle obliged. After a moment of silence, looking at her face, Harry asked, “Do you see it? Is it there, in the front of your mind?”

“Yes,” whispered Myrtle.

Harry moved his wand to Myrtle’s temple and rested it just a hairs breath from the skin. He held it there for what seemed like minutes, but he was sure that it had only been a few seconds. Nothing was happening. The seconds ticked away, but still nothing. Then, Harry concentrated on Myrtle instead of his wand. He looked at her, in her face. Then, he saw it begin.

Long, bright-white, fiber-thin tendrils began to caress the end of his wand, still clinging to Myrtle’s temple. Then more, and more, the tendrils began to grasp onto Harry’s wand, the way that a baby wraps its tiny fingers around its parent finger, and they grabbed hold. Harry gently pulled his wand away from her temple. The brilliant strand followed it away, but kept its grip tight to the wand. Then, after a few seconds of pulling, the other end of the strand fell away from her face, leaving it dangling from Harry’s wand. Harry quickly, but carefully, placed it into the oil bottle and stopped it with its cork.

“There,” Harry said, as Myrtle opened her eyes. “It’s done. I think I got it.”

“Got what?” Myrtle said. “And who are you? What are you doing in the girls…Wait a minute! This isn’t the girl’s bathroom,” Myrtle said, and a panic crossed her face. “I’ve never seen this place before? And what were you hissing just then, when you came in?”

Myrtle was angry, but Harry could tell she was also scared. Harry thought that possibly he had done it wrong, taken much more memory than he meant to. But then he remembered what Dumbledore had told him once, when he asked him about the time-turner and how it worked.

“Harry, there are many moments in life that, if you had the power to do so, you could go back in time and change the outcome,” he had said, “chances are great that there would be no change in the future because of it. However, there are those things that, if changed, could change the whole of the world’s future events. The problem with time travel is you never know which event is the former, and which events are the latter.”

Harry felt as if this was what had happened to Myrtle. She had come back to say goodbye to her body, to bid it farewell and be on to her next great adventure, as Dumbledore had once called it. But Tom had ruined that, and she didn’t know how to get back. The memory of what he had done, to her and to himself, had kept her there, all these years, destined to spend eternity in a bathroom. He had not only killed her, he had also prevented her soul from going forward. Now, that memory gone, the memories that followed had no basis, no starting point.

Harry was snapped out of his thoughts. Another ghost had appeared. But this ghost was not like any he had seen before. The ghosts at Hogwarts were white, to be true, but they were a muddled white, almost a melancholy white.

This ghost, however, was a brilliant white, the brightest white Harry had ever seen. A ring of gold encased her head. She floated over to Myrtle, who was still staring at Harry with the same look of panic.

“Myrtle, dear,” the woman whispered to her. Myrtle whipped around. Her face turned instantly. Harry could see Myrtle, the whole of her, turning more and more white. Her faced beamed with a smile as wide as Harry had ever seen.

“Mother!” Myrtle exclaimed. She rushed to her and grasped her tight by the waist.

“Yes, Myrtle. It’s me,” the woman said quietly. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t come before now. However, there are certain things that one must do on their own, places where we can not interfere.”

Myrtle beamed up at her mother. “Are you here to take me with you?”

“Yes, Myrtle,” she said, her smile now matching Myrtles. Then she turned to Harry.

“Harry Potter, Thank you for your kindness. Myrtle never received any all these years. It was that, as much as the memory, that allowed me to collect her. We are forever in your debt.”

“You know my name?” Harry stammered. “How…”

“Harry Potter,” she said coyly, “your fame is not confined to the living.”

With that, they floated, together, up to the ceiling. As they reached it, Myrtle smiled back at Harry and mouthed, “Thank you!”

Then, she turned to her mother and asked, “Will I ever see Harry again?”

“One day, dear,” she said softly, as she stroked her daughters hair. “One day.”

With that, they passed through the ceiling.

“Well, no time soon, I hope,” Harry thought to himself, as he wiped a tear from his cheek. He stuffed his wand in one pocket, the bottle in the other, and bolted for the door to return to Gryffindor Tower. It had to be late, very late. He had fallen asleep, and he had no idea how long he had been out. And he had been there, with Myrtle, at least an hour.

Harry rushed out the door to the prefect’s bathroom, thinking only of getting to his pensieve, and turned to bolt down the stairs. But something solid met him.

“Well, well,” Filch muttered through his yellow and black teeth, as Mrs. Norris ambled between his feet, rubbing against his pant legs. “Not only out of your tower at…” Filch paused to look at his pocket watch, “two in the morning…that’s one violation…I don’t see a prefect’s badge on your robe…that’s a second. Anything else you want to confess, seeing as it wouldn’t effect your expulsion?”


End, Chapter 17

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  #19  
Old March 1st, 2006, 11:21 pm
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

First part of Ch. 18...more to come



Chapter 18

Remember All

Neville peered around the corner, down the stairs which led to the Gryffindor common room from the dormitory that he had shared with Harry, Ron and Seamus since they arrived at Hogwarts six years hence.

“No need for that,” said the black, greasy haired man that had introduced himself to Neville two months ago, “This map is amazing! I can only dream of what I could have done with this years ago…Let’s just keep an eye on it. We’ll know if anyone is coming back. I never thought Peter would have ended up being so useful. I wouldn’t know how it worked unless he had told me.”

Neville was still unsettled that his toad had been a man all along. He also wasn’t sure why he trusted him, or Snape. But Neville did as this man said. If it were true that he and Snape could help his parents, he was willing to do most anything, even obey a Death Eater. And Trevor, as Neville still called him, because he wouldn’t, or as he out it couldn’t, tell him who he was in reality, had helped him immensely. For the past two months, he had taught him things that he never imagined possible, how to read peoples minds, how to control his patronus, and how to unlock his mind, even his subconscious, so that it and his conscious mind worked together to formulate answers to questions that Neville knew he couldn’t have figured out before.

Neville didn’t know how this man had found out about Harry’s map. Neville had wondered why they had never seen Trevor on the map before.

“How is it that you don’t show up on it?” Neville asked, as he pointed at the Marauders Map.

“Neville, there are so many aspects of magic that remain hidden to most wizards,” he said with a smile, realizing that Neville was coming into his own. “There is an extremely complicated spell called the Fidelius charm…If there is a thing, or person, or place even, that you want to keep a secret, keep hidden to all that don’t already know, one wizard becomes this secret’s keeper by means of this spell. The secret is now unable to be revealed by anyone other than the secret keeper. They can tell it henceforth to anyone he chooses, but no one else can divulge it.

“This is how I remain hidden. Dumbledore hid me eighteen years ago. Actually, he did more than that. He actually facilitated my death.”

Neville jumped a bit. “You m-mean,” Neville stammered, “you’re a ghost.”

“No, Neville,” the man said, barely containing a chuckle, “I didn’t really die. Other than the fact that I, myself, am a secret, I hold another secret that Voldemort doesn’t want anyone else in this world to know about. I discovered this secret purely coincidentally. Or, rather, through the lips of a very boastful and absent-minded professor here at Hogwarts. Professor Slughorn.”

The man’s eyes darted over to the map and, assured that no one was nearby, he continued. “You know I was a Death Eater. But when I found out what the Dark Lord wanted to achieve, something so vile and against nature…It went much further than dislike or distain for muggles. Even went further than wanting them all killed off. No, that wouldn’t do.”

The names voice was becoming a little louder, escalating from the whisper from which it stared. He began to flail his arms as he spoke more passionately, “It was control. He wanted, and still does, to control muggles, and wizards alike. He thinks he can do it, too. Slytherin just wanted to live a life of peaceful co-existence with Muggles. Separate lives, parallel to each other, but separate. But not him. He wanted to be able to stand in front of them, any one of them or all of them at once and say, ‘Look what I have achieved. I have attained the unattainable, and can not be vanquished. Obey me, or suffer what I now can not.’”

The man looked at Neville, and could see he was growing uncomfortable with his tirade.

“But, I digressed from your question,” the man said, reigning in his enthusiasm. “I never really died. Only Dumbledore knew that it was a hoax. Until last year, when he told Severus. However, it needed to be. He would have killed me when he found me. He found out it was me. I was betrayed by my accomplice. She went straight to Voldemort and told him what I had done. Then…he killed her.”

He paused for a moment, and looked away from Neville. Neville could see the regret etched in the man’s face, as fresh now as it was then. Then, he continued.

“After that, I abandoned all hope that he would show me any mercy if he found me. I had no choice. I knew that Dumbledore was the only one who could help me.. I told him that I had changed, that I was done following Voldemort. He didn’t believe me at first. I didn’t blame him for that. Given what we had done…what I had done serving him…I wouldn’t have believed me either. I tried to tell him what I had found out, give him the information that he needed to perhaps defeat the Dark Lord, and also to prove to Dumbledore that I was done with him.

“But I couldn’t. It was as if I had no air in my lungs when I tried to speak of it. It was at that moment that I, and I believe Dumbledore as well, realized that Voldemort had made this his own secret, made himself the secret keeper of it, so that no one else could learn, first hand from the lips of another, the abomination he had created. The mere fact that I attempted to speak it seemed to convince Dumbledore that I was genuine in my regret. He created the Draught of the Living Death potion. He sent word to the Daily Prophet of my demise, saying that I was found somewhere in London, found dead with no apparent mode of death, suspects or motive.

He knew, of course, that most in the wizarding world would believe that I had come to my end at the hands of the Death Eaters, or possibly at the hands of Voldemort himself. Then, after my funeral, he dug me up and gave me the counter-potion. It was then that we performed the Fidelius charm so that no one would know I was still alive. He kept me in hiding, in his office, where he knew the Dark Lord would never dare enter again after being rejected by Dumbledore years ago. He taught me the animagus spell over the next two years. However, he gave me only three choices, toad, rat or cat, the only three pets allowed at Hogwarts. That way, I could roam about Hogwarts without scrutiny.

“Then, about eight years later, he came to me with my penance, which I was more than willing to serve. He delivered me to your uncle. He instructed him to care for me until you were ready to take care of me yourself.

“I was indebted to Dumbledore for my life. My repayment was to protect you, to keep you from harm, to cause attention to be deflected from you until the time was right. The time when the Confundus charm could be lifted and you could possibly remember.

“Dumbledore came to me last year. He told me that he thought he had surmised what the Dark Lord’s secret was. When he told me, I, of course, could not confirm his suspicions, but the fact that I could not deny them was evidence enough for Dumbledore that he was on the right path. He came to me the next day and said that he would be gone from Hogwarts a good deal, investigating his hunch. He also told me that he had told Severus about me and, that since he was the secret keeper, Severus would be unable to tell anyone else. In his absence, I was to follow Snape’s instruction to the letter.”

“Is there anyone else who knows about you?” Neville asked. “I mean, knows your still alive?”

“There is one other,” the man said. “But, when he discovered me just as we arrived to begin this year, rummaging around the kitchen…flies and worms really are not fit for consumption, even for a toad…he realized that he could not speak of my presence.” Trevor could see the look of concern on Neville’s face. “Don’t worry. He is of no danger to us, I promise. He was quite thrilled to keep the secret of my resurrection. It has made his life much easier. And though he is not bound by the Fidelius, he is bound in other ways…

“But, we could discuss these matters over a butterbeer, afterward. What is of paramount import now is your past, not mine. Back to the issue at hand…”

“But, I still don’t understand,” Neville said, feeling as if he had disappointed this man, disappointed Dumbledore. “I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to remember.”

“Well,” the man said, shrugging his shoulders, “neither do I. But it’s up to us to figure it out. Dumbledore left it to Snape to know what it was about. All Severus would tell me is that it is a memory from the night the Death Eaters tortured your parents.”

“But, I don’t remember anything about that night,” Neville said.

“Yes, but we will get to it,” the man said. “We just have to work at it. We’ve gotten back as far as when you were two,” the man paused for a moment, then said, “Perhaps we should focus on place, not people or times as we have before. We have focused enough on people. Can you remember ever seeing your parents outside of St. Mungo’s. At your old home.”

Neville closed his eyes and tried to remember it. He had memories of the house. But the longer time went by, the more Neville questioned whether he was remembering it, or if he was just imagining what it might have looked like. None-the-less, he did as he was told. He thought of it.

He saw a small cottage. It had a white picket fence around it, which was lined with flower beds of different colors. Even their smells filled his memory. Some were sweet, some acrid.

“Do you see it?” the dirty man said anxiously.

“Yes, I see the outside,” Neville said, as he allowed himself to walk up the path to the front door. “I’m walking up to it now.”

“Now, open the door,” the man said, trying to conceal his excitement, as this was as far as they had gotten before.

Neville imagined opening the door. But inside, he saw no one. It was just a room, filled with small bits of paper flying about. They danced around his face, tickling it as he walked through the empty room. He couldn’t make out what they were. But what amazed him was not what he saw, but what he smelled.

Gone was the lingering beckoning of the flowers from outside. Now, what met his nose was the overpowering smell of peppermint. It filled the room and stung his mind.

Then, in a flash, his mother appeared in front of him, the papers flying all around her as well, but seeming more to be coming from her. She looked into his eyes and said, clearly and sharply.

“The key is in the gum box.”

In an instant, the memory was gone. His eyes burst open. He knew this was what he was supposed to remember, but he had no idea what it meant. What gum box? What did that even mean?

“You’ve seen it, remembered it, haven’t you?” the disheveled Trevor said to him excitedly. “What was it?”

“But, it doesn’t make any sense,” Neville said.

“It may not to you, but it may to me,” the man said, barely able to conceal his anticipation. “Tell me.”

“I saw my mother. She said….she said,” but he couldn’t finish it. He had no idea why, but the words would not come. Neville thought he may have been struck ill, or developed some sort of laryngitis. He cleared his throat, then started again, “She said…” But still, nothing came.

“Brilliant!” the man said, as much out of frustration as out of wonder. “Your parents were indeed very clever. They’ve made themselves the secret-keepers. I would venture to guess that, whatever it is, it’s what we are looking for, or it’s the way to it. And you’re the only one who knows. This just means your work is far from done.”

Far from done! Codswallop, Neville thought. He had done as Snape had asked that morning in his bathroom. He had remembered what he was supposed to!

“But what about my parents!” Neville said. “I’ve done what Snape asked! He said he could fix them, cure them.”

“Neville, you must understand,” the man said, showing compassion for him, “Your parents are in their current state because they chose to be this way. Be glad they are alive. Once we have retrieved…”

“You *******s!” Neville shouted. “I’ve done what you asked! I’ve done it all! It’s not my fault I can’t tell you what this secret is.”

“Neville,” the man said, his voice shaking nervously, glancing back at the map. “Don’t lose your head, now. Once we’ve figured it out, know what it is we should do now that you remember, then they will be safe. Then we can fix them, because they won’t need to keep their secret any longer…”

“Fine! But what do I do now!”

“Does it make any sense at all? Is there anything in the memory that could be a clue…something that doesn’t make sense? Anything that could mean something different than it seems, anything that could mean something more than it appears…”

“None of it makes sense,” Neville said. But the, he calmed himself and began to concentrate. Gum. His mother was constantly giving him gum wrappers at St. Mungo. Was she trying to tell him something?

Gum box. Neville had never known gum to be kept in a box. It was kept in wrappers.

Gum, what on earth…

Then, it clicked! It wasn’t gum, it was GUMM. She was talking about her mother’s jewelry box, the silver one that now sat on his Gran’s dressing room table, which had her maiden name, GUMM, engraved on the top.

“You’ve gotten it, haven’t you?” Trevor said, excitedly.

Neville smiled at him wryly as he passed on his way to his dresser. Trevor jumped up, whispering cries to himself of “YES! YES!” as he pumped his fist in the air. Neville looked at his face in his mirror. Never before had he seen a smile looking back at him. He still didn’t know what it all meant, but Trevor sure was happy about it. He felt as if he was close, that he had succeeded, had done what his parents set in motion, what they had suffered all these years to protect.

Neville saw, out of the corner of his eye, on his dresser the remembrall, the one that his Gran had sent to him his first year at Hogwarts. With confidence, he grabbed it. He looked down at it, and saw what he had hoped. It was clear. No longer did it glow with the red clouds of forgetfulness.


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  #20  
Old March 4th, 2006, 2:58 am
MerlinBlack2  Male.gif MerlinBlack2 is offline
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Re: Harry Potter and the Gift of the Founders

Chapter 18 (continued)

Remember All



“Harry! What on earth!” Neville heard Molly Weasley cry from the floor below. “Argus, unhand him this instant!”

Neville whipped back around, but his eyes met no one. He looked in the floor to see Trevor back to his usual, warty self. Neville grabbed the Marauders Map and tapped it with his wand. “Mischief managed,” he whispered. He hurriedly folded it up and placed it back into Harry trunk.

“Caught ‘im in the prefect’s bathroom, I did,” Filch said with a broad smile. “Out of bounds, especially at this time of night. An’ he’s no prefect. I’m sure the headmistress will be interested to…”

“See here, Argus,” Molly cut him off. “Harry’s Gryffindor’s quiddich captain. Gives him all the rights of a prefect.” Harry grinned a bit and he saw Filch’s mouth turn south. Harry reversed his smile and hung his head, however, when Mrs. Weasley cut him a disapproving gaze. “As for his being out of the tower after hours, as head of his house, I have authority.”

At this, Filch drew back, defeated, “Yes, of course.” As he made his exit, Harry saw Filch snarl at him. He thought he heard him mutter “On of these days…” under his breath before he passed back through the Fat Lady’s portrait hole and into the corridor.

Mrs. Weasley stared through Harry until the portrait shut firm, then let loose, “Harry! It’s nearly two in the morning! What were you thinking! I hate to take points from my own house, but it’s my duty…”

Just then, the Fat Lady swung open again, and shut. No one, however, walked past.”

“Ronald Weasley!” Mrs. Weasley cried out. Harry thought that he heard a faint squeak ahead of him. He looked toward the sound, and he saw the bottoms of four sneakers, one of which was without its laces.

“Well, we’re nicked,” he heard Seamus’ voice say from underneath Harry’s cloak. With a wave of her wand, Mrs. Weasley disrobed the pair, the cloak settling just at Harry’s feet, to reveal Ron and Seamus, their hands on either end of a large, silver tray upon which sat a full roasted turkey.

“Oh, come on mum,” Ron pleaded with a guilty lilt. “Nothing wrong with a little midnight snack! Oh, hi’ya Harry.”

“First of all,” she returned at Ron, her voice shaking, unable to contain her rage, “it’s not midnight. It’s two in the morning. Secondly, there is plenty wrong with sneaking out of your dormitory after lights out, what with a” she stopped short of mentioning that here was an undetected Death Eater at Hogwarts, a fact that Harry was sure Seamus was happily ignorant of, “well, you know. And Harry’s just returned too, from the prefect’s bathroom, of all places…50 points each from Gryffindor!”

“Mum, we’re in the lead!” Ron said, astonished she would take that many points from Gryffindor. Immediately, Ron knew he should have held is tongue. So did Harry and Seamus, as they bowed their heads in unison as if they had just been instructed to ready themselves for prayer.

“Oh, so how much in the lead is Gryffindor,” Mrs. Weasley said with a smug grin as she crossed her arms threateningly. She tapped her pink-bed-slipper adorned foot, waiting for a response.

“Well, before or after the 150 you just took,” Ron said sheepishly.

“AFTER!” she exclaimed.

“Up 120 points then,” Ron said, his head still bowed, but his eyes peering up at his mother.

“Then it will be another 150 points,” she said rather calmly. Harry swore he could hear the ruby’s rushing out downstairs. “Now, perhaps the admonishment of your house mates for the foreseeable future will give you pause the next night your stomach grumbles. Now, off to bed.”

Ron and Seamus started up the stairs, still clutching the bird-ladened tray.

“WITHOUT THE BIRD!” she shrieked. They stopped in their tracks, then their eyes darted around for a suitable place to lay it. Molly sighed exasperatedly, then flicked her wand and it vanished, tray and all.

Ron and Seamus headed up the stairs. Harry stooped down and picked up his cloak, then started after them.

“Not so fast, Harry,” Mrs. Weasley said, grasping him by the arm. Ron and Seamus looked back at Harry, then vanished up into their dormitory.

“Harry, what were you thinking?” Mrs. Weasley said, but not threateningly. She was obviously concerned. “There is a Death Eater here! You know that! Chances are he, or she, is here lurking, just waiting for you to do something foolish. Like traipse up to the prefects bathroom after hours, alone. What were you thinking?”

“I was just having a soak after my quiddich training with Madame Hooch,” Harry said. “My muscles were aching. But, I fell asleep in the bath. I woke up and tried to hurry back, but Filch caught me leaving.”

Mrs. Weasley looked at Harry without speaking, as if she were searching for the right words. Then, she seemed to have decided. “Look, Harry. You are an Order member now. True, you are still a Hogwart’s student and you must obey the rules. However, I know what you are up against. With Dumbledore gone, I know you feel the weight of the world on you now. But don’t let your courage become foolishness. Now, I want to help you, and you owe it to the Order to be honest, as honest as you can, about what you, and in fact we all, are up against.”

Mrs. Weasley was speaking to Harry differently than ever before. More like a friend, an ally, like the way McGonnagall had spoken to him earlier in the year. He didn’t like her speaking this way to him any better, either.

She drew in a long breath, “Now, Harry. We all know you were with Albus just before he died, off grounds. Minerva told me you promised Dumbledore you wouldn’t reveal what you two were up to that night. But, Harry, don’t do this alone. Let us help. The Order has the same mission. To defeat You-Know-Who. Your operating in secrecy only hinders things. Everyone knows that Albus wouldn’t have been gone so much last year if he wasn’t on to something he could figure out here. If we all know what we’re up against, what it was he died for…If I knew what it was you were up against, what rules needed bending and when, I could help. And I could protect you from the other professors, McGonnagall, even Fudge. Cover for you, if you will.”

Harry couldn’t say that to himself that he didn’t agree with her. He had promised Dumbledore that he wouldn’t tell anyone other than Ron or Hermione. But, on the other hand, they had told Ginny and nothing disastrous had happened. And, as tonight had shown him, sneaking around past Mrs. Weasley wasn’t going to be easy. And there wasn’t anyone, other than Ron, Hermione and Ginny, that Harry trusted as much as Molly Weasley. Then, he had a thought.

“Mrs. Weasley, do you know how to perform the Fidelius charm,” Harry said.

Mrs. Weasley looked at him with hesitancy, but then realized what he meant. “Yes, Harry. I do.”

“Then, I will tell you,” Harry whispered. “But, only on the condition that you make ME the secret keeper of what I am about to tell you. And, only that you trust me when I say I have to do something. After all, Dumbledore did.”

She thought a moment, then said, “I agree.”

They sat on the couch behind the fire, which was at full tilt, as it had finally turned cold this night before all Hallow’s Eve. He told her everything, about Dumbledore’s lessons the previous year, about Riddle, the Gaunts, the horcruxes, which one’s had been destroyed, and which one’s remained. He told her about the cave, the inferi, as she listened wide-eyed in astonishment. About the potion and it’s effects on Dumbledore, and, finally, about how Dumbledore called for Snape and Snape alone to help him, only to be struck dead by the only one that he thought held his salvation. He did not, however, tell her that Ron, Hermione and Ginny knew as well.

When Harry was done, Molly Weasley could only stare back at him. Then, finally, she hugged him and whispered in his ear, “You poor boy. You poor, poor boy. So much to handle, and so much yet for you to do.” She released him, and said, “You were right to tell me. I will help you all I that I can.”

Then, she clasped one hand in his, lifted her wand, and began to chant. It sounded like many different languages all at once, and she chanted for at least ten minutes. Ribbons of wafting red and gold encircled their hands first, then their entire bodies. Then, a cold breath of air was expelled from Harry’s mouth. Molly caught it on the tip of her wand, then pointed it at Harry’s chest. It seeped into his chest and disappeared.

She released her hand from his, then hugged him again. “Now, let’s get some sleep. What with the festivities tomorrow, or later today, we will need our rest.”

“I’ll go up in a minute,” Harry said back to her.

Harry watched her climb the stairs, concern and dread in her countenance. Harry sat for a moment, still unsure whether he had done the right thing. He did feel better, though, now that someone who had been through much more than any of them had ever been through knew. And knowing that she couldn’t tell anyone else. Neither could Ron, or Hermione, or Ginny. Only he could.

Then Harry stood and stared into the fire, which burned with a green glow for a second. He smiled and thought of Sirius, whether he would have been proud of him. He missed him still.

Harry turned to climb the stairs, but stopped quickly to avoid stepping on something just in front of him. Harry looked down. He knelt down and scooped Trevor up off the floor. Once upstairs, he gently placed Trevor on Neville’s head board and climbed into his bed.

“Get the riot act as well?” Ron said quietly, sitting up a bit.

“Yeah,” Harry said back. He paused for a second, then said. “Goodnight Ron.”

“Night Harry” Ron said back, who then started to snore.

End, Chapter 18

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