February 15th, 2008, 3:45 pm
This story is another aftermath story which extends into the Next Generation, beginning the day after the Battle of Hogwarts. But first, the general disclaimer: I own none of the characters, places, spells or potions (unless I invent any of my own) as they are all a part of JK Rowling’s magical world.
I'm sorry to the people who were reading Letters Home from Albus Potter, but quite frankly that story's gone to heck.
The first chapter should be up later. :)
February 15th, 2008, 6:47 pm
The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errand meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
Chapter 1 – True Friendship
When Harry blearily opened his eyes, he could tell from his painfully full bladder, the light streaming through the dormitory window and a glance at his watch that he had slept solidly through the previous afternoon and the entire night, and well into this morning.
His watch reminded him of the people downstairs in the Great Hall and he hastened to get washed and dressed.
When he entered the Great Hall ten minutes later, he saw that he wasn’t the only person to have enjoyed a long nap: mismatched sleeping bags were dotted here and there around the Hall, in between – and even underneath – the four long tables. He remembered the night four years ago when Dumbledore had conjured a hall-full of squashy purple sleeping bags for the students to spend the night in. Harry smiled sadly at the memory.
Many people were eating breakfast, and Harry found it very odd to see so many adults in the Great Hall – it seemed the whole of Hogsmeade had made Hogwarts its temporary home.
The bodies of the dead had been removed from the hall. Looking around for some indication of where they might now be, Harry noticed a door behind the staff table standing open, with candle light flickering in the room beyond and a trickle of people wandering in and out. The door led, Harry knew, to the ante-chamber he’d had to enter after being picked as a Triwizard Champion, over three years ago. It might have been in a previous life.
Harry began to wend his way through the multitude of sleeping bags and breakfasters, towards the ante-chamber. Unsurprisingly, heads turned his way, swivelled around so fast he imagined he heard a multiple cricking of necks. Thankfully, most people had said their “thank yous” and “congratulations” the previous day, so people merely stared, whispered and called to him, rather than ambushing him to shake his hand.
Harry glanced around to try and see the people he did want to talk to but guessed that their absence meant they were in the ante-chamber where he assumed the bodies were, so he proceeded there.
The bodies were laid in four lines across the large room; Harry surmised from the chilliness of the room that the bodies had all had Freezing Charms put on them so that there was no need for their immediate removal to a final resting place.
Two dozen or so people were milling around the room looking sombre or else clustered around a family member or friend. Few had tears left to shed.
Harry felt a lump rise in his throat as he spotted tiny Dennis Creevey huddled in a corner next to his lifeless brother; judging by a nearby sleeping bag, he’d not left Colin’s side. Dennis simply sat, staring, and Harry wondered when he had last moved.
Averting his eyes from the Creevey brothers, Harry spotted the largest group of people in the room, which was clustered around a single red-haired man lying peacefully on the floor, still with an expression of not quite having finished laughing.
Mr and Mrs Weasley stood with Charlie and Percy at Fred’s feet, all holding on to each other and looking weary. Bill and Fleur were at Fred’s head, talking quietly together. But George was lying on the floor next to his twin, as still, silent and pale as any of the surrounding bodies; the look on his face suggested that he half-wished he were truly among his brother and the fifty others around them.
Harry’s eyes sought the remaining two Weasleys. Ron was with Hermione; they were sitting, holding hands in front of Remus and Tonks. They both waved sadly at Harry when they noticed him, but did not move. Harry smiled back, then his eyes found the last Weasley.
Ginny and Neville were standing together in a shadowy corner, away from everyone else, whispering urgently, both frowning. They seemed to both catch a movement in the corner of their eyes – that of Harry moving into the room towards them. They turned to watch his approach, moving – instinctively, it seemed – away from each other, both looking anxious.
Feeling bemused, with an ominous feeling of not being entirely certain he wanted to know what was coming, Harry walked over to join them.
“Hi,” he said. “What’s up?”
They exchanged a glance and Harry felt his unease increase.
“Harry, we need to talk,” said Ginny quietly.
“Okay…” Harry replied slowly, his eyes flickering to Neville. What did he have to do with Harry and Ginny’s relationship?
There was a second, smaller chamber leading off the ante-chamber and Harry followed Ginny into it, with Neville bringing up the rear.
“What’s going on?” Harry asked, beginning to feel slightly alarmed, now.
“The thing is, mate,” Neville began hesitantly, speaking for the first time. “Well, you see…the thing is…we – Ginny and I – have been running the DA this year – well before Easter anyway – and for most of the time it was just us…and well we’ve been working closely together and…um…the thing is…um…” Neville was rambling, now, slurring his words in his hurry – and reluctance – to get them out. Ginny simplified the situation.
“Harry, there’s no easy way to tell you this: we, Neville and I, are together. We’re going out.”
Harry simply gaped at her. He stood stock still, shocked, for a whole ten seconds. Finally forcing himself to believe that he had not misunderstood her, he spluttered,
“I…how…what?!…But I thought we…if I came back…I…” but even as said it, he knew that he had no valid argument – no leg to stand on. He’d broken up with Ginny and not talked to her for months. That was that.
“Right,” he said, trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “Fine”.
He looked at Neville, who was brick red and staring determinedly at his shoes, but looked up in time to catch Harry’s eye.
“Thanks for telling me.”
He turned and almost ran to the door. No one stopped him; Ginny didn’t call him back.
He walked briskly through the ante-chamber, feeling guilty and heartless for not stopping to talk to any of the mourners.
Once back in the Great Hall, he leaned against the wall, put his head in his hands and slid to the floor, where he tried to make sense of what had happened.
Had he expected to get back together with Ginny as soon as he got back? No. In fact, until he had defeated Voldemort, he hadn’t contemplated his future life at all, perhaps because a part of him hadn’t expected there to be a life after Voldemort.
But if he had thought about life after Voldemort, would he have expected it to be spent with Ginny? Yes.
A part of him knew it was selfish to have thought she would wait for him for an unknown period of time. In reality, it had been less than a year, but she hadn’t known that – nor had he – and it would have been wrong for him to expect Ginny to not get on with her life, and just spend it waiting for him.
And what about Neville? Merlin knew, he’d proved himself as good a man, if not better, than Harry – there was no doubt he was just as deserving of Ginny as Harry was. And Harry knew only too well how easy it was to fall for Ginny. He suspected Neville had liked her for even longer than he, Harry, had – he’d always been very protective of her.
Harry pondered for a moment what his own feelings for Ginny were, but it made his overworked brain hurt, so he desisted.
He opened his eyes at the familiar dreamy voice and saw Luna standing over him.
“Hi, Luna,” he said hollowly.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” she asked kindly.
He accepted gratefully and let her lead him out of the hall by the hand. He felt like she was a rock, anchoring him to sanity, strange though the thought was that Luna Lovegood could be even distantly related to sanity.
They crossed the entrance hall and passed through the open oaken front doors, out into the grounds. It was a beautiful warm sunny day and they weren’t the only people outside enjoying it: individuals, pairs or groups wandered around or sat beside the lake, talking or munching on toast. A few were admiring Dumbledore’s tomb – it seemed to have repaired itself, or perhaps Snape had seen to that. Snape’s body had been recovered from the Shrieking Shack the previous day at Harry’s request and was now amongst the bodies of Fred, Remus and Tonks in the room off the Great Hall.
The grounds being large enough to comfortably accommodate several dozen people, Harry expected he and Luna to simply wander the grounds, but to his surprise she steered him towards the gates onto the lane into Hogsmeade. Harry began to protest, saying that he did not want all the residents of the village gawking at him.
“Oh, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about that,” Luna assured him serenely. “They’re all up at the school.”
“Surely not all of them?” Harry said sceptically.
“Yes, all of them,” Luna replied, unconcerned at his contradiction. “I heard Aberforth telling Professor McGonagall, this morning – it’s a ghost town!”
So they continued towards Hogsmeade and only once they were on the lane, and out of the Hogwarts grounds, did Harry bring up the subject of Ginny and Neville.
“How long have they been going out?” he asked, trying not to spit the question in Luna’s face.
She gave him a sympathetic smile, took his hand and said:
“Since the day before the Christmas holidays –”
Harry felt the words go through him like a knife: Neville had been going out with her longer than Harry had.
“ – we – Neville, Ginny and I – had organised a DA Christmas party in the Room of Requirement. We managed to get Butterbeers and Firewhiskey via the house-elves and – well – we all let our hair down a bit…”
“Oh, right,” Harry mumbled numbly.
“Harry, listen to me a minute,” Luna said seriously, coming to a halt in the sun-dappled lane and turning to face him with the least dreamy expression Harry had ever seen on her face.
“Daddy told me about little invisible creatures called Blimpeywomps. They thrive on fear, confusion, but most particularly on rebellion. Neville, Ginny and I must have been surrounded by thousands of them all year, as must many other people. Anyway, Blimpeywomps make people act, think and feel differently to how they normally would. I’m not going to tell you Ginny and Neville won’t work out, because I don’t know, but just bear in mind the circumstances in which they got together and it might not hurt quite so much.”
Harry stared at Luna. Blimpeywomps notwithstanding, there was too much sense in this take on the matter to ignore. Ron’s words floated back to him: “All’s fair in love and war.” Well it seemed, now, that Ginny and Neville’s relationship was more to do with war than love. Though the thought did not cheer him exactly, it did allow him to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Thanks, Luna,” he whispered, giving her hand a squeeze.
They fell silent and walked down the lane, enjoying the warmth of the sun. When they reached Hogsmeade it was absolutely still and silent.
“Where do you want to go, then, if all the shop- and pub-owners are at Hogwarts?” Harry asked.
“Aberforth’s left the Hog’s Head open. I’ve got some money we can leave there, so we can get ourselves some Butterbeers then find somewhere to sit outside and talk.”
Harry thought this sounded like a good plan, so they got Butterbeers (leaving the money behind the portrait of Ariana) and found a bench in the little village square outside the Three Broomsticks, which Harry was surprised to see, was boarded up. When he asked Luna why this was, she said,
“Hopefully it’ll be open again soon, but Madam Rosmerta had to go into hiding when the Death Eaters found out that we knew she’d been Imperioused. Anyway, never mind that. Tell me what you’ve been doing all year, you must need to off-load it to someone.”
Her directness took Harry aback, but he began to talk nonetheless. It was wonderful. He held nothing back at all and found he was experiencing the same feeling of having poison drawn from him that he’d had four years earlier when telling Dumbledore the events that had taken place in Little Hangleton graveyard.
Harry first explained to Luna about Horcruxes. He saw no harm in this, now, for Voldemort was dead and there was no way Luna would abuse the knowledge.
He explained everything in detail. Unlike when he had relived Voldemort’s rebirth for Dumbledore, however, he now told Luna the tale of his own emotions and feelings. It was much less a factual account than the one he had told Dumbledore, and was even more satisfying for it. He didn’t think there was anyone he could be more open and honest with than Luna. She was a brilliant audience, reacting in the right way in the right places and comforting him when he broke down, which he allowed himself to do.
They talked for over two hours before deciding they ought to return to the castle, Harry feeling so much as though he’d had a physical weight lifted from him that it was all he could do not to skip all the way back.
As they walked up the drive, both very hungry and looking forward to lunch, Harry said,
“Luna, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Hope you liked the first chapter...but why don't you let me know? (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=115120)
February 18th, 2008, 6:10 pm
Here's Chapter 2 - I'd really appreciate some more feedback; the link's above!:love:
Chapter 2 – Picking Up The Pieces
Over the next few days, Harry had no trouble avoiding Ginny, and Neville tactfully said nothing to Harry when they were in the dormitory, except to enquire after the water jug, which Harry suspected was just Neville’s way of showing they were still on speaking terms.
However, Harry had so much to think about now, that the issue of Neville and Ginny was pushed to the back of his mind.
The most immediate problem facing those still left at Hogwarts was sorting out the dead. Many of the families of those who had died came to collect their loved one’s body to take away for their own private funerals. Many families wanted their loved ones laid to rest at Hogwarts – there would be a large service held in the grounds for them. But those two options were only options for magical families.
Harry was one of the few people who volunteered for the unpleasant task of breaking the news to muggle parents of muggleborns who had perished in the battle, and of delivering the body to them. His first was Colin Creevey.
Harry was curious as to how two muggles could produce two magical children – the odds on that were surely tremendous – but when he asked Dennis as tactfully as he could, he learnt that Colin and Dennis’ mother was actually a Squib who had been adopted into a muggle family which already contained a muggleborn child. Harry hoped this would make it easier for him to explain her eldest son’s death to her.
He first Side-Along-Apparated Dennis to the suburban, muggle street on the outskirts of Southampton where his parents lived, and followed him to the front door of a small house at the end of the street.
Dennis rang the doorbell and Harry waited with thumping heart for the door to open. He saw a glass-distorted figure growing larger and larger, then the door opened to reveal a very small, mousy woman who greatly resembled Colin.
She caught sight of Dennis and let out a shriek of surprise and joy.
“Dennis! What are you doing here?”
She pulled him into a tight hug.
“Hi, mum,” Dennis said quietly, hugging her back with a brave attempt at a smile.
Mrs Creevey spotted Harry, looked a little startled to see him standing there, and broke away from Dennis to greet him.
Harry held out his hand.
“Hello, Mrs Creevey, I’m Harry Potter.”
Her jaw dropped. Unsurprisingly, her eyes flicked upwards to Harry’s scar – apparently she was as familiar with his story as any witch or wizard.
Once she had recovered from the initial shock of having The Boy Who Lived on her doorstep, she frowned.
“Where’s Colin?” she asked Dennis. “Is he still at school?”
“Actually, Mrs Creevey, that’s why I’m here,” Harry replied gently, trying not to alarm her with any suggestion of bringing bad news. “May I come in?”
She looked a confused and a little concerned, now.
“Of – of course. Come in.”
She stood back to allow him to pass. Dennis led the way into the living room, and Harry heard Mrs Creevey calling up the stairs behind him.
“John? Come downstairs, there’s someone here to see us!”
She hurried into the room and indicated that Harry sit down on the small, saggy sofa beneath the window. She, herself, sat in the wooden armchair opposite Harry and Dennis perched himself on the furthest arm of Harry’s sofa.
Several loud, thumping footsteps on the stairs announced Mr Creevey’s arrival, and a second later he appeared around the doorframe, puffing and panting as though he’d just run a marathon.
He was a short, round, red-cheeked man, with a cheerful face and a springy gait. He positively bounced into the room and gave an exclamation of joy when he spotted Dennis.
Crossing the room in a remarkable three strides, given his rather short legs, he grabbed Dennis round the neck and ruffled his hair fondly.
“What’re you doing here, m’boy?” he boomed jovially.
Dennis didn’t answer, but glanced towards Harry, who stood up.
“John, dear,” said Mrs Creevey quietly. “This is Harry Potter.”
Mr Creevey spun round so fast it was almost comical.
“Well, hello!” he boomed, thrusting out his hand, which Harry shook. “My word, boy we’ve heard so much about you from the boys.”
He paused and looked around cheerfully.
“Colin still at school, eh?”
“That’s why I’m here Mr Creevey,” Harry repeated.
He hesitated and Mr Creevey plonked himself down in a second large, squashy armchair, lookin curious.
Harry remained standing. He took a deep breath and began.
“I’m sure you’ve heard about a Dark Wizard called Lord Voldemort?” he asked.
Mrs Creevey winced at the name and nodded, looking scared. The name was clearly familiar to Mr Creevey, too, who screwed up his face slightly as though trying to work out how he knew it – it didn’t seem to mean that much to him.
“Well, three days ago,” Harry resumed, “Voldemort and his followers attacked Hogwarts. Many of the students stayed to defend the school.”
Harry paused. He didn’t want to continue. His legs were shaking. But he knew he had to tell them.
“I’m really very sorry to have to tell you this, but Colin stayed behind to fight and…he...he was k-killed in the battle…”
Harry had barely finished speaking these terrible words when Mrs Creevey screamed; her hands flew to her face and she rocked forward in her seat looking absolutely distraught. Dennis broke down to tears again and tried to comfort his mother, but she was inconsolable. Mr Creevey’s previously ruddy face had gone chalk white. He gaped at Harry for a moment then, as though hoping he might have misunderstood Harry, he gasped:
Harry nodded once.
Mr Creevey let out a noise of dismay and slowly – without, it seemed, knowing what he was doing – moved over to comfort his wife and son.
Harry murmured, “I’ll give you some space…I’ll just be out in the hall…”
He left the room, closing the door softly behind him.
Out in the hall, he leaned against the wall and closed his eyes against the tears fighting to escape him. He could hear Mrs Creevey’s wails and hated himself for having brought the news that had caused this misery.
He remained outside in the hallway for about half an hour, alternately sitting on the bottom of the stairs and pacing in front of the doormat. He heard a tearful Mr and Mrs Creevey asking Dennis what had happened, and Dennis answering them as best he could, but Harry knew he’d have to explain more fully to them because Dennis had not been present at the battle.
So, half an hour after leaving the living room, when the noise from the room had all but ceased, Harry knocked softly on the door and poked his head inside.
“Can I come in?” he asked gently.
Mr and Mrs Creevey, smothered in balled-up tissues, were hugging each other on the sofa. Dennis beckoned for Harry to come in and Harry sat in Mrs Creevey’s abandoned armchair.
The three Creeveys turned to look at him.
“I really am so sorry about this,” Harry mumbled.
Mrs Creevey waved an impatient hand at Harry.
“Don’t be silly, my dear,” she said thickly. “You’re not to blame.”
Harry felt a horrible, guilty squirming in his stomach at her words. He was at least partly to blame: if he had handed himself over to Voldemort sooner, Colin may not have died.
“Harry,” Dennis said suddenly, “can you tell us how C-Colin…you know…Or about the battle?”
He explained that he did not know who had killed Colin, but that it had been by Avada Kedavra. He emphasised the fact that Colin would not have suffered in the slightest.
He then told them all the relevant points about the battle – who (and what) had been involved, how long it had taken, what had happened at the end – though he could not bring himself to admit that the battle had been fought for his benefit; that Colin had died for him. He felt a coward for not telling them this, for not risking the possibility they may hate him for it, but he could not goad himself into doing it. But he knew they would probably find out anyway, if Dennis did not already know.
They asked him a lot of questions and he answered as well as he could. They all talked for over an hour, during which time everyone shed a few tears. Finally they had to arrange where Harry was to apparate Colin’s body. Harry suggested that he could send them an owl, which they could return to him with details of Colin’s funeral so that Harry could apparate it to the right place at the right time. They agreed to this and as Harry was leaving, Mr Creevey blurted out,
“We’d love it if you could be at the funeral. Maybe…you wouldn’t mind, perhaps, saying a few words? Colin idolises – idolised – you…” he gave a watery chuckle and said, almost to himself, “you should see the scrapbook he’s got upstairs…full of pictures of you and newspaper cuttings about you…” His voice tailed off as he screwed up his face against further tears.
Harry felt a lump rising in his throat.
“It would be…an honour to speak at Colin’s funeral,” he croaked.
He left shortly afterwards and apparated back to Hogsmeade.
“I need a firewhiskey,” he muttered under his breath.
Over the next few days, Harry had to repeat this horrible experience twice. Hermione, Neville, Luna and a few other people also volunteered.
Meanwhile, it was decided that innocent family members of Death Eaters (where they existed) would be permitted to collect their bodies. The rest would be formally buried in whichever graveyard was nearest to their home, or wherever other family members had been buried, and no more was said of the matter.
But it was the body of Tom Riddle that caused the most controversy. Harry heard some quite sickening suggestions but he insisted that Tom Riddle’s body be treated with the respect they anyone else would expect for themselves. He talked directly to Kingsley about the matter.
“He was still a human, Kingsley,” Harry argued. “If we do any of the horrendous things people have been suggesting we’d be sinking to his level. Dumbledore wouldn’t have wanted that. Voldemort was scared of death and hated anything that made him ordinary. It would be a much stronger way to defy him by giving him a common burial, in a common muggle graveyard, next to his common muggle father.”
Harry rather impressed himself with this argument and was not surprised that Kingsley had only one issue with it:
“But, Harry,” he said, “many people really don’t like the idea of Voldemort in the ground and, frankly, Voldemort in the food chain.”
Harry winced at this nauseating image but persevered nonetheless.
“He’s just flesh, blood and bone, Kingsley,” Harry said quietly, “just like you or I. It was his soul that was maimed and evil and foul, and that’s gone where it can’t hurt us.”
There were no further arguments and it was agreed that Tom Marvolo Riddle would be buried alongside Tom Riddle, in Little Hangleton graveyard, when the time came.
The joint funeral for all who were to be buried at Hogwarts – including Fred, Remus, Tonks and Snape – took place two days after Harry visited the Creevey’s
Professor McGonagall had approached Harry the day before to tell him that many of the families and friends of the deceased had requested he be the one to read out the list of the dead, as he seemed the most appropriate man for the job. Harry was incredibly shocked and was not looking forward to it - he would be reading out names of people he had known for years.
The day was very alike to that on which Dumbledore's funeral had taken place a year earlier. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and hundreds of seats were set out surrounding the a large marble memorial that had been erected on the edge of the lake, next to Dumbledore’s tomb.
Harry stood nervously in front of the memorial, absently shuffling the note-cards in his hands. About a quarter of an hour after they had begun to fill up, all the seats were full and an expectant hush fell over the crowd. Professor McGonagall stood to address the crowd. In a voice wavering with suppressed grief she spoke of the bravery and sacrifice of those to be remembered that day. Her introduction to the service lasted five minutes, before she turned to Harry and gave a small nod.
Harry felt his heart quicken nervously as he began.
“We are here to celebrate the lives of the following, wonderful people…” And the list began.
Harry had not been able to bring himself to read the list, not wanting to know how many of his school-mates, his friends, his family, would never grow old. Consequently he received several shocks and had to pause to regain his control on several occasions. …Susan Bones…Padma Patil…Demelza Robbins…the list seemed endless. He broke down three times. Remus Lupin. Nymphadora Tonks. And then the one he’d been dreading the most.
Against his will, he looked at the other eight Weasleys. Ron was sitting with his head in his hands while a pale Hermione stoked his back, her own form being racked by enormous sobs; Bill and Fleur were crying on each others shoulders as were Mr and Mrs Weasley, the latter not restraining a keening wail; Percy and Charlie had their arms around each other and tears were falling in an almost unbroken stream into their laps. But Harry was watching the other two: Ginny, who was sitting next to Neville, looked pale and shocked, pursing her lips together so as not to make a sound, though the tears fell thickly into her lap, but George was beyond any of the usual outward signs of grief. He had not just lost a family member, he had lost a part of himself, his one and only true companion, closer to him than most twins were to each other. Fred had been his best friend and business partner, partner in crime, there from the moment of their birth and never apart. George didn’t cry. He sat staring blankly ahead, so pale he matched the marble of the memorial and the, as yet, empty marble tables. There was a moment in which Harry was about to go on but spotted a sudden movement from George. He half-rose from his chair, looking panicked, as though about to bolt or vomit, then his eyes rolled up into his head and he dropped to the ground in a dead faint.
Harry wanted to run forward and help as Professor McGonagall helped him back into his chair, but he knew he owed it to the other families in the audience to continue with the list.
Two gut-wrenching minutes later he had finished. Now was his turn to grieve. He sank into a chair in the front row and buried his head in his arms sobbing harder than he had ever sobbed in his life.
Now the families of the dead to be laid to rest at Hogwarts left their seats and traipsed up to the castle. Everyone waited in silence. And then, two minutes later, a procession wound its way back down to the chairs. A close family member of each of the dead carried their body, all of which had all been robed in beautiful gowns of purple and gold, up to the front and laid them on one of the twenty-seven tables.
A now weeping George carried Fred to the front, with the other seven Weasley’s following behind. Hermione, who was sitting next to Harry, gripped his hand at this point, as the tears fell silently into both their laps.
Remus and Tonks were carried by several Order members, with a pale-faced, but remarkably tear-free and upright Andromeda Tonks, carrying Teddy in her arms, following behind them. Harry couldn’t haelp but admire her courage – beside Narcissa Malfoy, the little bundle in Andromeda’s arms was the only family she had left now.
There was some muttering as Slughorn carried Snape down the aisle – most people had got the idea that Snape was innocent, but there was still some scepticism and uncertainty. Harry planned to get Snape’s true story out into the wizarding world – he deserved to be remembered as a good man.
The procession continued until all the marble tables were occupied and everyone had resumed their seats.
There was a minute’s silence, broken only by the muffled sounds of grief and the lonely bawling of baby Teddy, who alone seemed unaffected by the atmosphere.
Then, quite suddenly, flames rose and engulfed the tables; a ghostly creature, like a patronus, ascended from each body – a weasel scurried of into the blue; a pair of wolves howled to the sun – and then the flames were gone.
There were now twenty-eight marble tombs and the magnificent marble memorial on one bank of the lake, and the hundreds of witches and wizards sat in silence, held in awe at the sudden tranquillity of the scene.
Then, from amongst the crowd, a voice rose, tremulous at first, but clear and pure, growing stronger and stronger, singing a song of hope known by wizards as well as it was by muggles. And before it reached the end of the first line, Luna’s voice was joined by a thousand others, as those who knew the words sang, and those who didn’t hummed or listened.
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind, but now I see…
Harry did not know it well, but he recognised it and his heart swelled as Luna’s voice and a thousand others rang across the Hogwarts grounds, in one last, echoing defiance of Voldemort.
February 28th, 2008, 8:14 pm
Here's chapter 3 - enjoy!
Chapter 3 – New Beginnings
Two weeks and many funerals later, Harry finally found he had the time to breathe, think and to begin planning his near future. It was amazing how many ideas occurred to him as he lay on his four-poster when the dormitory was deserted – as it often was now, for Dean and Seamus had gone home and Ron was spending a lot of time with his family and Hermione. Neville was a major part of Harry’s new preoccupation.
Neville and Ginny’s relationship was going badly – anyone could see that. They seldom as much as held hands let alone had Harry so much as heard of them kissing (for which he was very thankful). They seemed barely to have altered their friendship at all except that they were awkward, sullen and tense in each other’s presence.
But none of this cheered Harry in the slightest, unlike when Ginny and Dean had been having relationship problems. Now it was a sheer frustration, because not only were Harry and Ginny not together but she was surely aware she needn’t remain in the unhappy relationship she was keeping herself in; there seemed to be no logical reason for them not to be together – if Ginny had been happy, Harry would have had to get over it, but as it was, he was stuck in a kind of limbo between jealousy and anger.
Meanwhile although the mad rush of the immediate aftermath of the battle had died down, there still seemed a lot to do. Just this morning, for instance, Harry had been called to Professor McGonagall’s office:
“Come in, Potter,” came Professor McGonagall’s crisp voice from inside the circular Head’s office.
Harry gingerly pushed open the door and entered.
“Good morning, Prof - ” He stopped dead.
The room was jam-packed with owls. Tiny Scops owls were being crushed as enormous Eagle owls sat on them; barn owls, perching on McGonagall’s desk, gorged themselves on rodents and frogs; others flapped noisily around the room; and amidst the avian chaos (and guano) stood a very bemused-looking Professor McGonagall.
“Er…Professor…wha - ”
“It seems, Potter, that you have quite a large number of grateful fans. These – ” she gestured emphatically at the surrounding pandemonium “ – have all been pouring into the Ministry since He-Who – I mean – V-Voldemort’s defeat. Kingsley didn’t want you bombarded with them straight away so redirected them to the Ministry (also to security-check them). They sent them here, en masse this morning.”
Harry spluttered disbelievingly, then burst out laughing; he couldn’t help it. It seemed he hadn’t had a chance to properly laugh out loud at something for ages. Apparently Professor McGonagall was experiencing the same feeling, for she cracked a smile and, before she could hoist her usual calm, controlled façade back on to her face, both she and Harry were laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the situation, both clutching the desk for support. Harry heard a third voice laughing and looked up, gulping, to see Dumbledore chuckling merrily in his frame, soon joined by the titters of many other portraits.
When at last everyone had hiccoughed themselves back into seriousness, Harry said,
“What should I do with all the owls?”
“Well,” answered McGonagall, “I would suggest we collect up all of the packages, then send the owls home. I do rather need my office, Potter.”
So they set to work untying the various packages from the various legs. Harry was alarmed by the size of some of the parcels – one of them was tied to the legs of five exhausted Eagle owls and was the size of a bath tub.
When at last the owls had all been dismissed, and Professor McGonagall had removed their own personal, and rather messier gifts, there was an enormous pile of letters and parcels in the middle of the room. Harry felt as though it was his birthday, and was secretly quite looking forward to opening the packages.
Professor McGonagall waved her wand and they all disappeared; when Harry looked dismayed she smiled and said,
“They’re in your dormitory. You’d best go and start unwrapping them – it’ll take a while.”
“Thanks, Professor!” Harry called as he left the office at top speed.
Ten minutes later, in the dormitory, Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting amongst the huge pile, which was spilling from Harry’s bed and over half the floor.
“Which do you want to open first, Harry?” asked Hermione. “Letters or parcels?”
Ron was gazing hungrily at the bath-sized parcel, but Harry said,
“Save the best ‘til last, I reckon. Letters first.”
And so they began to open them, Hermione vanishing the envelopes as they did so. There were simple “Thank You” and “Well Done” letters; some people had sent photos; some – to Ron’s astonishment more than Harry’s – had sent money; some had sent cards – some of the cards sang.
It took them over an hour to open and read all of the letters and cards, at the end of which, Harry was a round four hundred galleons richer.
“We’ll split it,” he said. “a hundred each and a hundred to St Mungo’s”
When Ron and Hermione began to protest at his giving them money, he held up a hand and said,
“I couldn’t have done it without you two. You’re taking the money – the only condition is that you take some of the singing cards, too.”
Now was the time to open the parcels. There was enough chocolate to feed an army (the bath-sized parcel turned out to be a crate of Honeydukes best); various bizarre plants and flowers , two broomsticks (both Cleensweep Elevens); food baskets (including fruit, pies, cakes, assorted cheeses and a large smoked salmon); and hundreds of other little knick-knacks.
Harry smiled to himself as he lay reliving this. He had given away most of his gifts – a hundred galleons (which, Hermione informed him, was about equal to £500) was duly dispatched via owl, to St Mungo’s; the food was sent to the kitchens with a request for a feast (Ron thought this was long overdue); the plants were shared between a delighted Neville and Professor Sprout; and everyone in the castle (including the House-Elves) was given some chocolate. This had left only the broomsticks and the smaller presents, which Harry, after a lot of persuasion from Hermione, had decided to keep, for the time being at least.
Harry was awoken from his happy musings at that moment, as Neville entered the dormitory looking disgruntled. Harry turned his head slightly to look at Neville as Neville lay on his back, on his own four-poster, staring up at the ceiling.
“You alright, Nev?” Harry asked, trying to break the silence that so often surrounded their company these days.
Neville didn’t reply. Then, after a minute or so, quite abruptly, he cleared his throat, took a deep breath, then said quietly,
“Ginny and I broke up.”
Harry turned slowly back to look at the ceiling.
For a while neither of them spoke, Harry uncomfortably aware that he should say “I’m sorry to hear that,” but unable to make his mouth form the words – it would taste a lie.
Eventually, Neville broke the silence.
“Who was I kidding?” he burst out miserably. “I mean, come on! Ginny Weasley!…”
Harry had never seen Neville agitated like this before. He seemed to be shouting at himself more than at Harry.
“…how could I ever have expected it to last? It’s obvious who she wants to be with…” Neville half-glanced at Harry, who felt his stomach squirm unpleasantly.
“No – Neville –”
After another few minute’s silence, he sighed, heaved himself off his bed and dragged his feet towards the bathroom.
At the door, he stopped and, turning, looked Harry directly in the eye with a piercing gaze.
“You should know…there aren’t any…any hard feelings…you know…between us. You can do what you want…it’s up to you. Oh, and thanks for the plants, by the way”
Red in the face, and looking confused by his own emotions, he retreated into the bathroom and shut the door quietly.
Harry felt a sudden rush of affection for Neville, and berated himself for not saying more to him: how Neville “deserved” Ginny as much as he, Harry, did; how he, Harry, wouldn’t do anything that would hurt Neville…
And then Harry wondered what he wanted. Did he want to be back together with Ginny? Of course you do, said a voice in his head. But would she want to get back together with him? That was harder to answer. So what should he do?
After several minutes painful thought, Harry had made his decision. He would give it time, let events unfold, or otherwise, by themselves; he wouldn’t impose his company on Ginny; he’d let her decide what to do. With this uncomfortable decision made, he decided to find Ron and Hermione. At least they were in a happy relationship, he thought wryly…
Harry’s resolve with regards to Ginny was tested much sooner than he would have hoped: as he crossed the Common Room towards the portrait hole, he realised, far too late to turn back, that Ginny was sitting in his favourite armchair, staring into the fire, a faraway look on her face.
Gritting his teeth, Harry forced himself to continue walking, hoping against hope that she wouldn’t notice him. Unfortunately, out of the corner of his eye, he saw her head turn.
Keep walking, Harry told himself sternly. Don’t look back, keep walking…
He clambered clumsily out of the portrait hole, and as the Fat Lady’s frame swung shut behind him, blocking out the low murmur of voices in the Common Room, he let out a sigh.
Setting off down the corridor, a battle raged in his head: part of him was relieved that Ginny did not appear to be following him; the other half of him was straining for the sound of running footsteps…the light footfalls he knew so well…a trace of flowery scent…
Then, as he reached the end of the corridor, and had all but lost any hope that Ginny might run out to confront him, he heard the creak of the portrait opening behind him.
His heart froze.
For Agrippa’s sake, Harry thought, what’s wrong with you, Harry? It could be anyone. Just keep walking; don’t look back.
But it was her; of course it was her. As certainly as he had known that Bellatrix was about to die as she laughed at Molly, as certainly as he had known Dumbledore was dead when the Body-Bind curse had lifted, as certainly as he had know that breaking up with Ginny had been the right thing to do, so now he was certain that it was she who approached him hesitantly from behind.
He stopped but did not turn around.
“H-Harry?” came her timid voice behind him.
He sensed her hand reaching out to touch his shoulder, but dodged it as he turned to face her.
“Yes?” he said, far more coldly than he had intended.
She looked momentarily hurt, but then bristled and met his gaze with an icy glare.
“Oh, I’m so sorry to interrupt your thoughts, Mr Potter, but I was wondering whether you might permit me to congratulate you on your recent defeat of He-Who – I mean – V-Voldemort?”
Harry felt the corners of his mouth twitch – really, how did she come up with stuff like this? – but controlled himself: he wasn’t going to let her win this little game.
“Yes, you may,” he replied with equal indifference. “Shall we?” he added, indicating an empty classroom.
Ginny clenched her jaw and he knew she was as determined as he was not to give in. She ducked obligingly into the room, and Harry followed, feeling hopeful, but somehow not wanting this to be easy.
They stood and faced each other, Ginny looking closed and invincible as she stood, arms tightly folded, wearing an expression uncannily like her mother’s.
Harry stared into the pitiless, yet beautiful, chocolate brown eyes, then unintentionally dropped his gaze. He mentally kicked himself for his moment of weakness, but it seemed to have broken their ridiculous role-play.
“Harry,” Ginny repeated softly.
She bent her knees slightly, and took each of his hands in hers, before straightening up again, to draw his reluctant gaze back up from the floor.
They were inches apart now, and Harry stood transfixed, drinking in her familiar flowery scent. Hopefully – tentatively – he leaned forwards towards her, but before he had moved more than an inch, a small hand made swift, sharp contact with the side of his head and knocked him backwards.
Staggering away from her, Harry saw Ginny cross her arms, looking satisfied. She had a cruel smile on her face and a familiar hard, blazing, triumphant gleam in her eyes.
“That was for leaving,” she said forcefully.
Harry glared at her.
“Wha- how can you – you know I had no choice!” he retorted angrily.
She drew her wand, with an air of swelling with indignation. Harry half-raised his hands in surrender, remembering her skill at the Bat-Bogey Hex, but not for a moment wanting to use his own wand against her.
“Ginny, lis- ” he pleaded.
“No, you listen to me, Harry James Potter! You think, after nine months of gallivanting all over the country, nine months of me, terrified out of my wits that you might be dead, that you can come waltzing back here and have me straight back?!”
She looked quite demented, though terrifyingly beautiful, sparks flying from her wand as she advanced on Harry, and he backed into the wall.
“No, nothing like that - ” Harry spluttered. “ – I just thought –”
“You thought I’d be positively throwing myself at the Chosen Boy Who Lived?” she jeered, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
“No, I - ”
Harry was now flat up against the wall, more intimidated by a sixteen-year-old girl than by the Darkest wizard of all time.
She had raised her wand and jabbed it under his chin, forcing his head back.
For a moment, neither of them moved. Ginny’s eye’s bored into Harry’s…
Then, suddenly, something inside Ginny seemed to break. Her wand arm flopped to her side and her face crumpled, as she turned away from Harry.
“G-Ginny?” Harry said, concerned and confused.
“I was distraught!” she sobbed suddenly, making Harry jump. “You just l-left me! I was t-terrified you might never come b-back! I felt so g-guilty when N-Neville and I…when we…I kept thinking – hoping – you were thinking about me…”
“I was,” Harry interrupted soothingly. “All the time.”
Ginny gulped and slowly raised her watery eyes up to Harry’s. He moved slowly forwards and held his arms out, offering a hug. Sobbing, she fell towards him and let him embrace her.
“Shhh…” Harry soothed, his arms wrapped around her as she cried into his shoulder. He kissed the top of her head. “It’s OK…It’s OK…I’m not dead, you’re not dead…we’re fine…”
Slowly she regained control. Taking some great shuddering breaths, she looked up into his face, which was as wet with tears as hers was. They both gave watery smiles.
“What are we like?” Ginny chuckled, thickly, wiping her eyes with her hands.
Harry laughed and hastily ran his sleeve across his face.
Both still smiling, they looked at each other. Ginny’s gaze was no longer fierce, but warm and soft.
Simultaneously, they stepped forwards and kissed. Ginny wrapped her arms tightly around Harry’s neck and he raised one hand to stroke her hair out of her face.
And Harry felt happiness explode inside him such as he had never known: he was home; this was right; this was where he belonged…
Please leave feedback - the link's in the above post. You can't miss it! ;)
March 5th, 2008, 4:51 pm
Here's chapter four - and I warn you...it's long! If anyone cares, it was 25 A5 pages plus 7 1/2 A4 pages, when written as a draft.
Chapter 4 – Leavers ‘98
The walls were bare; the bathroom was spotless; the red bed hangings had been dusted and tied back. Their trunks were packed, and for the first time in seven years, the dormitory seemed lifeless – even though there were four people in it.
Harry was lying on his bed with Ginny in front of him. Ron was sitting on his own bed with his arms around Hermione. Both boys were stroking their girlfriends’ hair and peering around the room reminiscently.
“I can’t believe we’re actually never going to be in here again,” said Ron, sadly. “Like – never,” he added, as if the point needed emphasising.
“I know. I mean, we thought we were leaving for good last year but there was just so much else to think about. I’m really going to miss Hogwarts.”
She looked close to tears.
“You’ll have to come and visit me next year,” said Ginny, looking up into Harry’s face and giving his hand a squeeze.
He smiled and kissed her – at least until Ron cleared his throat pointedly and they looked up, scowling. They grinned when Hermione elbowed her boyfriend in the ribs.
“So what are you all going to do now?” asked Ginny after a moment, while Ron swore and massaged his ribs.
Ron and Hermione exchanged a nervous glance.
“Actually…we – Ron and I, that is – are going to take a little trip. I need to retrieve my p-parents.” She faltered, here, and Ron gave her a one-armed hug.
She continued, “And we decided that instead of taking a portkey straight to Australia we’d apparate in small steps and make a bit of a world tour of it. I’ve got the whole trip roughly mapped out and it should take us around two months, including the time it will take to find my parents and rectify their memories.”
Ron scratched his nose in apparent awkwardness.
“We feel a bit…um…guilty…not asking you to come with us, Harry…” he said apologetically.
Harry waved the apology aside.
“Nah, don’t worry about it, mate. Do you really think I want to travel around the world with my lovesick best friends?” Ron and Hermione both flushed scarlet. “Up and down the country was bad enough, and you weren’t even going out then! Anyway, I’ve got things to do.”
Ginny rolled over quickly, so that she was facing him, and stared into his face, looking worried.
“What do you have to do now?” she asked, a note of fear in her voice.
Harry gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Don’t worry, nothing dangerous. I just want to organise a few things, visit a few people: I suppose visiting the Dursleys might be considered dangerous.” The other three laughed. “And I’d quite like to track down my parents friends, if there are any still alive. Everything over the last few months has made me want to find out more about them. In the meantime, I’m going to move into Grimmauld Place and finish making it habitable – it’ll be easy with Kreacher helping – ”
“You can’t go and live in that house alone!” cried Ginny, cutting across the end of his sentence. “There’s just no point – we’ve got plenty of room at The Burrow – ”
“Ginny, I can’t keep staying there, it’s not fair on your parents –”
“Rubbish! Bill’s moved out, hasn’t he? Ron’s going off around the world with Hermione, and…” she faltered and Harry knew she was visualising the other empty seat at the kitchen table, so gave her another comforting hug. “…and there’re other people missing,” she mumbled to her fingernails.
Harry considered the offer. He wanted with all his heart to go and live at The Burrow – it would mean being with Ginny almost 24/7 for one thing – but (though he would never admit it to Ginny or Ron) he was aware that he had lived off Mr and Mrs Weasley’s money far too often as it was, particularly given that he had a small fortune of his own stashed away at Gringotts.
“OK, how’s this?” he said after a moment’s thought. “I’ll come and live at The Burrow – at least, until you come back to Hogwarts – on the condition that I pay for my keep – I’ll rent a room!” he laughed as an afterthought.
“Or you could share mine,” Ginny giggled.
“Now that’s an idea!” Harry said, mock-seriously.
Ron cleared his throat loudly.
Harry turned to him, frowning.
“I’m going to start coughing and spluttering every time you kiss Hermione, if you don’t stop doing that,” he said.
Ron’s ears turned red as Ginny and Hermione both giggled.
Ron looked at his watch.
“Oh, it’s quarter past ten. McGonagall wants us down in the Great Hall by half past – we’d better go.”
They all stood up slowly, Harry and Ron in particular taking the time to soak up the sight of the familiar dormitory. Ron gave one of his bed-posts a hasty pat and said, “See you, bed.” He then waved theatrically at the other parts of the dormitory and bade them all farewell. Hermione took his hand and muttered, “I want to say goodbye to the Common Room.”
They turned to Harry, who was standing with one hand in his pocket and the other holding Ginny’s, gazing around sadly.
“You guys go on,” he said. “I just need a minute.”
Ron hesitated, narrowing his eyes slightly, as they flickered between Harry, Ginny and the empty dormitory. Harry sensed his mind and said seriously,
“Honestly, mate, I just want to say goodbye.”
Ron accepted this and left with Hermione, who said, “We’ll see you in the Hall, Harry, Ginny.”
Harry paced the room slowly holding Ginny’s hand. He was reliving six years of memories. In his mind’s eye, he could see Ron tapping a stationery West Ham poster; Neville searching for un-burnt pants, having given in to Peeves’ blackmail; Ron dangling upside down by his ankle; Hedwig soaring off out of the window and into the sunset to hunt…
Harry stood gazing out over the Forbidden Forest. He could see Hagrid harnessing up the Thestrals to the carriages, and realised with a jolt that he was no longer in the minority by being able to see them.
“This is so weird,” he muttered distractedly to Ginny. “I haven’t been here all year and now I have to leave it. I mean, this has been my home far more than the Dursleys’ place ever was.”
Ginny squeezed his hand and Harry suddenly had to fight back tears. Really, you’ve got to stop doing this, Harry, he told himself, sternly. You’re turning into a girl.
“We should go down to the Hall, Harry,” Ginny said quietly, giving his hand a little tug.
“OK,” he replied. “Let me just do two more things.”
He broke away from her and took out his wand. Lying down on his bed for one last time, he proceeded, using his wand, to gouge into the wooden headboard the words,
“Harry Potter’s bed – 1991-1998 – Mind the splinters.”
Ginny stuck her head under the canopy to read the message, and laughed out loud. She turned to Harry, grinning, and said, “What was the other thing you wanted to do?”
Harry grinned back then flung out an arm to pull her on top of him.
“Oh, this,” he answered, cutting off her shriek of laughter with a very long kiss.
They got up, both giggling, and decided that it really was time to go to the Great Hall.
“My dear brother might get suspicious,” said Ginny, rolling her eyes.
“With good reason,” said Harry slyly, wiggling his eyebrows at her.
They reached the Great Hall ten minutes later to find that the fifty or so people who were left in the castle were seated along one long house table. Heads turned and eyebrows were raised as Harry and Ginny trotted quickly along the table to where Ron, Hermione and the other Weasleys were sitting.
Harry made a small apologetic gesture to Professor McGonagall, who was on her feet and had clearly been about to start her speech when Harry and Ginny had arrived late.
She cleared her throat now, and heads swivelled back to her.
“Another year gone, as Professor Dumbledore would have said,” she began sadly. “I hope you enjoyed our magnificent feast last night, courtesy of Mr Harry Potter and the Hogwarts House-Elves.”
Hermione beamed as Professor McGonagall motioned around the periphery of the room, where, Harry now noticed, the tea-towel-clad House-Elves were standing, grinning nervously – they had been receiving a lot of recognition, much to Hermione’s delight, since their brilliant contribution to the Battle of Hogwarts. The feast had indeed been the food Harry had provided – the smoked salmon had been duplicated to cater for everyone, as had all the other food.
Professor McGonagall continued.
“There are many aspects of this year,” she said, “which I do not wish to remember. But we must remember. We must learn from what has happened this year and continue to stand strong. Never again do I intend to let such tyranny enter these walls.”
Her eyes flashed rather menacingly as they swept the long table, as though challenging anyone to defy her.
“Although this year has been marked with loss and destruction, torture and death, it is these times that can bring out the best in people. I must say that I was – to use the common phrase – proud as punch to witness the untiring and risky efforts of Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, Luna Lovegood and the other members of Dumbledore’s Army to undermine the evil regime forced upon us by the Carrows.”
Harry beamed at Ginny as she turned scarlet.
“And of course,” continued Professor McGonagall. “Who can forget the culmination of these efforts? Hogwarts stood strong against V-Voldemort and his followers. The bravery and devotion of the students who remained to fight – the support from Hogsmeade and student’s parents and House-Elves – was unprecedented.
“And Hogwarts will remain throughout history the scene of Tom Riddle’s downfall, and also the place where The Boy Who Lived, who I am sure will continue to do good as an Auror, was educated.”
She tilted her glass to Harry, whose turn it was now to turn red.
“Finally,” said Professor McGonagall, “I would like to ask any remaining seventh years to come up to the front, please.”
Harry, Ron and Hermione walked up to the front, to find that they were the only seventh years left in the castle, everyone else (including Neville) having gone home.
Professor McGonagall turned to the three of them, beaming, and they saw that she had a little tear in her eye.
“I’m sorry you didn’t get to enjoy a final year here,” she said quietly, so only they could hear her.
She turned back to the rest of the Hall.
“It seems we have a rather small number graduating this year – all of them Gryffindors,” she added proudly.
She raised her wand and three gold, crest-shaped badges appeared out of thin air. She took them and said,
“First, Miss Hermione Granger, who, I am confident, would have received ‘Outstanding’ in all her NEWTs had she had the chance to sit them. It’s been a real pleasure teaching such a conscientious and talented witch. I’m sure you’ll go far,” she smiled.
She shook Hermione’s hand and handed her the badge. Hermione’s face glowed like hot coals and tears spilled from her eyes and down her cheeks as those watching broke into applause and she beamed at her badge.
“Next, to Mr Ronald Weasley, who once upon a time beat my enormous Wizard Chess set – if I may say so myself, I didn’t think it possible. You have shown immense courage and friendship over the years and are worthy of the Gryffindor colours.”
Harry had never heard Professor McGonagall dish out praise so readily. She smiled at Ron, who glowed even more brightly than Hermione as he shook McGonagall’s hand and accepted his badge. There was another loud round of applause.
“And last, but most certainly not least, Mr Harry Potter. I don’t know where to begin – he has saved countless lives, represented Gryffindor House as the youngest and, in my opinion, best Seeker in a century, represented Hogwarts as an unintentional Triwizard Champion and formed a magnificent Defence Against the Dark Arts society called Dumbledore’s Army – the list goes on. He is already in the history books and I’m sure will continue to earn his place in them.”
The hall broke into further applause and Harry was sure he could fry bacon on his face as he shook McGonagall’s hand and received his badge. It was the Hogwarts Coat of Arms with “1998” in the place where the “H” normally was. Everyone in the seventh year, who had remained in the castle after the Battle, had received one before they left.
McGonagall was talking again.
“…carriages will take you all down to Hogsmeade station for the journey back to Platform 9¾. Parents are more than welcome to accompany their children on the Hogwarts Express.”
As people began filing out of the Hall, she turned back to Harry, Ron and Hermione, and said,
“I really can’t believe it’s time for you to leave. It seems only five minutes ago you were all being Sorted.”
She seemed to be becoming quite choked up, as did Hermione, who said,
“Thank you s-so much for everything, P-Professor. You’ve taught us s-so much!”
“Yeah, thanks, Professor,” Ron added hoarsely.
“Thank you, Professor McGonagall,” Harry croaked.
She gave a watery chuckle and pulled out a handkerchief.
“Come along now,” she said, with a brave attempt at her usual brisk voice, though it shook slightly.
“Good luck, all three of you, I look forward to teaching your children.”
Ron and Hermione determinedly avoided each other’s eyes. Harry bit back a laugh and said,
“Come on, let’s go. Goodbye, Professor.”
“Goodbye,” said Ron and Hermione.
They turned around to find the other teachers waiting for them.
“Miss Granger!” squeaked tiny Professor Flitwick. “I’ll let you know if anyone ever beats your 112% Charms result, though I doubt it’ll be any time soon!”
“Thank you, Professor Flitwick. Goodbye!” Hermione replied tearfully.
Flitwick turned to Harry and Ron.
“Good luck, boys!” he squeaked. “It’s been an honour!”
“Bye, Professor. Thanks for everything!” Harry and Ron replied.
“Harry, m’boy!” boomed Slughorn, thrusting out a hand. “What an honour it’s been! If you ever need a reference or a leg-up anywhere, you know where to find me – I’ve got plenty of contacts at the Ministry!”
“Thank you, Professor,” Harry said, smiling.
“And Miss Granger, Mr Weasley, it’s been a pleasure!” Slughorn boomed, shaking each of their hands in turn.
Hermione then moved off to say goodbye to Professor Vector, as Professor Trelawney glided forwards and regally extended a glittering hand to Harry.
“One should not spoil another’s future for him, when one is all-knowing,” she said in her misty, ethereal voice, “but between you and me, I have seen that you will go far, Harry.”
“Er, thank you, Professor,” Harry replied uncertainly, feeling that he ought to be polite, even if he was inwardly rejoicing at the prospect of never having to set eyes on her again.
Trelawney absently shook Ron’s hand – completely ignoring Hermione – before gliding off to bid farewell to some of her other students.
Professor Sprout sniffled as she shook their hands and presented them each with a small bouquet of exotic-looking flowers.
Even Madam Pomfrey looked a little teary.
“Goodbye, Potter. I must say, my job will be boring without you here – you’ve put a lot of work my way over the years!” she laughed.
Harry, Ron and Hermione thanked her from the heart.
Mr Filch and Madam Pince merely shook the trio’s hands briefly, and only after a stern glance from Professor McGonagall.
Last of all was Hagrid, who had been standing as inconspicuously as was possible to one side. He shuffled forwards, tears falling into his beard as he twisted his giant, spotted handkerchief in his hands.
“I’m – gonna – miss – yeh – three – so – much –” he sobbed.
They all ran forwards and enveloped him in a group hug. He patted the tops of their heads, making their knees buckle. Blowing his nose noisily, he detached himself from them and sniffed,
“I’ve got presents fer yeh. Lemme get ‘em, a mo’”
He bustled off to the side of the Hall where his moleskin overcoat was covering some lumpy objects. He beckoned to Harry, Ron and Hermione and they hurried over to him.
“Here yeh go, ‘Mione,” he said thickly, extracting and enormous leather-bound book, entitled “Beasts, Beings and Spirits: The Laws That Govern Magical Creatures.” There were pictures of House-Elves, Goblins and Centaurs on the cover, and Hermione gasped,
“Oh, Hagrid – this is brilliant!”
Hagrid beamed, then bent down to extract the second present from under his coat.
“Ron, this is fer yeh,” he said, handing Ron a polished mahogany box, emblazoned with golden letters spelling “Wandworthy’s Wizarding Chess.” Ron stared at it and lifted the lid of the heavy box, gaping at the intricately carved stone chessmen inside.
“Wow, Hagrid!” he breathed.
Harry looked at the last bulge under the coat. It seemed to be tall and dome-shaped. What on earth had Hagrid bought him?
“An’ here yeh go, Harry,” Hagrid said, concealing the last present from view behind his back. Harry held his breath and Hagrid, beaming, pulled the present from behind his back.
Harry gasped. It was a Snowy Owl in a cage.
Harry felt numb. He reached out to take the cage and felt a lump rise in his throat as the beautiful bird turned large amber eyes on him.
“Oh, Hagrid!” he croaked.
“Is it OK, Harry?” Hagrid asked nervously. “I know she’ll never replace Hedwig, but…”
“She’s a female?” Harry asked, his eyes snapping up to Hagrid’s face.
Harry poked a trembling finger through the bars of the cage and the owl nibbled it. It was such a familiar sensation that Harry felt his eyes burning.
Suddenly, an image of Hedwig, lifeless at the bottom of her cage, swam to the front of Harry’s mind and he fumbled feverishly with the clasp on the cage, hating the sight of the imprisoned bird. The door opened and the owl hopped obligingly onto his offered arm. She flapped and transferred herself up to his shoulder, where she nibbled his ear. He sighed and raised a finger to stroke her soft underbelly.
“She’s beautiful, Hagrid,” he whispered.
“Oh, isn’t that owl gorgeous, Harry?” said Ginny, drifting over from the rest of the Weasleys who were waiting for the trio by the door to the Entrance Hall. She reached up to stroke the owl with a small, “oh!”.
“We’d better be going, Harry,” Hermione said, quietly. “We don’t want to miss the train.”
Harry looked around and saw that everyone except they and the Weasley’s had left.
He turned back to Hagrid and said, “Hagrid, thank you, she’s…amazing…Thank you…”
Hagrid grinned tearfully, then burst into tears and sobbed, “G’bye, Harry, k-keep in touch!”
He gave Harry a rib-cracking hug and Harry patted his elbow.
“I’ll send you an owl, Hagrid,” he promised, then laughed out loud when he realised what he had said.
They all traipsed out of the Great Hall, across the Entrance Hall and out into the grounds – Harry, Ron and Hermione for the last time as students. Turning around, they peered up at the many turrets and towers and said,
Hagrid accompanied Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys to the gates where three thestral-drawn carriages stood waiting for them.
“Are – are they – th-thestrals?”
The Weasleys were all gaping at the skeletal, black, winged horses, too.
Harry nodded, then, because Hermione was looking a little frightened, said,
“There’s nothing to fear from them – look!”
He took her hand, then seeing Ginny looking nervously at the thestrals, reached for hers as well, and guided them towards the horses. Reluctantly the girls reached out to stroke them.
“These were what we flew to the Ministry on?” asked Ginny, in awe, and Harry nodded.
They split themselves between the three carriages: Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione climbed into the first carriage; Mr and Mrs Weasley, Percy and George took the second; Bill, Fleur and Charlie took the third.
Harry, Ron and Hermione hung out of the window to wave to Hagrid and Hogwarts, then, as the carriages trundled off around the corner and the winged-boar-topped pillars were lost from view, they leant back in their seats and smiled at each other.
“That’s it,” Hermione whispered. “We’ve left Hogwarts!”
Ron nodded, looking pale.
Harry’s owl was perched on his lap and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her – he felt that if he did so, she would vanish…like Hedwig…
“Looks like I’ve got competition,” laughed Ginny.
Harry looked up and smiled.
“Oh dear; jealous of an owl?” he said, then kissed her before she could reply.
They reached Hogsmeade station, where impatient students and their parents were hanging out of the Hogwarts Express’ windows, wondering what the delay was.
Quickly, Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys exited their carriages, and boarded the train. It began to move off as they found an empty compartment – which wasn’t difficult as there were so few people on the train.
It was only now that Harry realised that none of the Weasleys, other than Ron and Ginny, knew about, or had commented on, his and Ginny’s relationship. He wondered whether Ginny might have mentioned it to them, because it seemed strange that no one had asked them why they were holding hands. His musings were answered in seconds, however, as Mrs Weasley, who was sitting directly opposite Harry and Ginny, beamed at them and said,
“Well, then? Are you going to tell us why you two are holding hands or are we just going to have to assume you’re dating – you know us: we’ll wheedle it out of you!”
Harry felt his face burn, but couldn’t help grinning back at her.
Ginny groaned and said,
“Well you can’t just sit there holding hands – having already run into the Great Hall late and holding hands, might I add – and expect us not to notice anything,” said Mrs Weasley, in a superior, motherly voice.
“Yes, Ginny and I are going out,” Harry said quickly, as Ginny stared daggers at her mother. “If that’s OK?” he added hurriedly.
Mrs Weasley looked absolutely delighted.
“Of course it’s OK, Harry dear, don’t be silly! I’ve been waiting for it to happen for years!”
Harry and Ginny both stared at her, dumbfounded.
“You have?” asked Ron, looking equally astonished.
Mr Weasley, Bill, Charlie and Percy all laughed.
“Oh, come on!” chuckled Mr Weasley. “Even I noticed. Ginny’s had a crush on him since she first met him at King’s Cross, haven’t you dear?”
Ginny’s face was now the same colour as her hair – she looked like her head was on fire.
“Dad, shut up,” she said through gritted teeth.
“Oh, yeah, come to think of it, I do remember you sticking your elbow in the butter dish just because I talked to you, the first time I was at your house.”
Ginny glared at him.
“Whose side are you on?” she hissed.
Before Harry could answer, he noticed George look up from the window, out of which he had been staring morosely. For the first time since the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry saw a small smile beginning to play across his face.
“What is it, Georgie?” asked Mrs Weasley kindly.
“I’ve just remembered something,” he said quietly, in a voice that was cracked and strained through lack of use. “A singing dwarf…”
“No! Don’t you dare, George!” shouted Ginny, half-rising from her seat in panic.
Mr and Mrs Weasley, Bill, Fleur and Charlie were all watching this in bemusement, but George ignored them and looked, in increasing glee, between Harry – who felt sick with embarrassment at what was to come – and Ginny – who looked ready to kill.
“How did it go again?” George asked Ron, Hermione and Percy.
“ ‘His eyes are as green as a fresh pickled frog – ’ ”
“ ‘Toad’ ” corrected Ron.
“Oh, that makes all the different, Ronniekins,” George shot back sarcastically. Mrs Weasley looked absolutely delighted at George’s new-found enthusiasm.
“What was the next line?” she asked, prompting him.
“Something about his hair wasn’t it?” he said.
“Blackboard,” said Ron suddenly. “Something about a blackboard.”
“I remember,” piped up Percy. “It was ‘His hair is as dark as a blackboard’ ”
“ ‘He’s really divine’!” cried Hermione gleefully.
“ ‘I wish he was mine’ ” said George in a mock-romantic voice, while pretending to bat his eye-lashes at Harry.
“ ‘The hero who conquered the Dark Lord’!” finished Percy triumphantly.
Mr Weasley, Bill and Charlie were crying with mirth. Ginny looked mortified and Harry, though intensely embarrassed, was also quite amused.
“We really must keep a record of that,” he laughed.
Ginny cracked a reluctant smile and said, “I don’t know how I came up with those lyrics – it’s quite tempting to blame it on Riddle’s diary, but I don’t think for a moment that you’ll believe me.”
“I am not sure zat I understand what ‘as just ‘appened,” said Fleur, suddenly. “Was zat a poem?”
“Yeah, when was this?” asked Charlie.
Ron, Hermione, George and Percy proceeded to explain about Lockhart’s Valentines “services” of five years previously, to much laughter from all in the carriage including a reluctant Harry and Ginny – at least until Ron began a rousing chorus of the song. He stopped rather abruptly when Harry casually brought up the subject of Ron and Hermione going out, to more delighted squeals from Mrs Weasley.
The journey continued in much the same cheerful mood, although George soon returned to sullenly staring out of the window. Periodically, one of the other Weasleys would notice this and would invariably drift off into the same unhappy state.
After a while, Harry bought up the subject of where he was going to stay – it seemed that the other Weasleys, like Ginny, had taken it for granted that he was simply going to stay at The Burrow, as usual. They refused point blank for him to pay for his keep, until he threatened to move into Grimmauld Place instead.
Around midday, the lunch trolley arrived. Mr and Mrs Weasley, Bill, Charlie and Percy all gazed at it reminiscently but all the Weasleys gloomily held up squashed sandwiches when the witch asked if they wanted anything.
Harry, on the other hand, said, “We’ll have…let’s see…” He performed a quick head-count. “…eleven pumpkin pasties and all the sweets, please.”
The witch looked stunned but began handing out pasties and sweets nonetheless.
“Don’t be silly, Harry!” cried Mrs Weasley. “You don’t need to waste your money on us!”
“I don’t have much use for cold piles of gold, to be honest, but I am hungry, so I do have a use for food.”
The Weasleys seemed to have no counter-argument, so accepted their pasties, albeit reluctantly and with many thanks.
After they had all amused themselves swapping chocolate frog cards, Ron beat everyone at Wizard’s Chess, using his new set; Percy bored them all with his future Ministry career plans; Charlie talked a lot about dragons. Overall, it was Harry’s best trip on the Hogwarts Express, but it was over far too soon – before long the train was pulling up at Platform 9¾.
Mr Weasley pulled Harry’s trunk down from the luggage rack, as Harry still had his new owl on his shoulder.
“Are you sure you don’t want to put her in her cage, Harry, dear?” asked Mrs Weasley, gently. “You wouldn’t want her to fly off.”
Harry shook his head.
“I just can’t, Mrs Weasley, not after what happened to Hedwig. If only I’d let her fly…” he trailed off regretfully.
Mrs Weasley made a sympathetic noise and hugged him.
“You know that that would have put you all in more danger, Harry, you mustn’t dwell on it,” she said firmly.
They all climbed off the train, emerging on the smoky Platform 9¾, and heaved their trunks through the magical barrier to the muggle King’s Cross. Outside the station, in a muggle-free alleyway, Bill and Fleur shook hands with, and hugged, everyone, before disapparating to Shell Cottage.
George looked even more troubled than he had on the train – he looked undecided about something. Mrs Weasley had clearly guessed the reason for this because she said firmly,
“No, you’re coming back to The Burrow with us, George. I won’t let you go back to that flat by yourself. We all need to stick together.”
George nodded with his mouth clamped shut, as though fighting tears. Mrs Weasley hugged him tightly.
“How are we getting home?” asked Ginny. “I can’t Apparate.”
“I can Side-Along-Apparate you,” said Harry.
During the extensive discussions with Kingsley, following the Battle of Hogwarts, it had been agreed that neither Ron nor Harry need take their Apparition tests. Harry had explained about all their Apparition-related escapades, emphasising the fact that Ron had apparated successfully several times, that both of his splinchings had occurred in desperate circumstances and that the first splinching had not been his fault.
“OK,” said Ginny, nervously. “What do I need to do?”
“Just cling on to my hand,” Harry answered, grinning.
“Ready, everyone?” asked Mr Weasley. “OK, let’s go!”
As one, the nine of them spun on the spot and disapparated, Harry concentrating harder than ever because he didn’t want to splinch Ginny.
They arrived, all of them in different parts of the lane, leading up to a familiar red-roofed house.
Please leave feedback (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=115120)!
March 19th, 2008, 9:08 pm
OK, here's part one of chapter 5. I suppose it could be a chapter by itself, but I like a theme to be covered wholly in one chapter and this one isn't finished. Anyway, here it is:
Chapter 5 – Part One
A week had passed since Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys had returned to the Burrow but everyone still seemed to be finding their feet.
George, of course, was finding every day a struggle without his twin: he would begin a sentence and stop, then look crestfallen when no one finished it off for him; he would say “we” when he meant “I”; when he walked into a room he seemed incomplete, as though he had lost his shadow. The other Weasleys were also quiet and would play with their food during the almost silent mealtimes, whilst shooting glances at the chair that had always been Fred’s, and which no one had had the heart to take.
Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione spent hours cooped up in Ron’s room “making plans for their world tour.” Harry and Ginny would take advantage of these times by taking long walks up to the Weasleys’ orchard, perhaps with a broomstick each, in order to play one-a-side quidditch. Harry had given Ginny one of the Cleensweep Elevens he’d been sent, as an early birthday present, because she’d been flying Ron’s old Shooting Star, which hadn’t given her abilities a free rein.
It was during one of these outings that Ginny brought up the subject of Harry’s plans.
“Didn’t you want to go and check up on the Dursleys, Harry?” she asked lazily, as she sat leaning against Harry’s chest, while he in turn leant against an apple tree, both of them eating their way through a brown paper bag of plums.
“Yeah, I did,” Harry replied, stroking Ginny’s hair, and spitting a plum pip into a nearby hedge.
“Well? When are you going to?” she said briskly, sitting up straighter to look at him, with her hand on his chest.
“I suppose I could go today,” Harry answered reluctantly.
Ginny jumped up.
“Yes, let’s go now,” she said enthusiastically.
When Harry looked surprised, she said defensively, “Well, I’ve never met them before.”
Harry brightened. The prospect of visiting the Dursleys was much nicer if Ginny was involved. So he agreed to visit the Dursleys that day, and he and Ginny returned to The Burrow to inform Mrs Weasley of their whereabouts.
Having done this, Harry side-along-apparated Ginny to the back garden of number four, Privet Drive. Dedalus Diggle had owled Harry shortly after his arrival at The Burrow, informing him that the Dursleys had been moved back into their old house, once it had been deemed safe. Apparently, the house had shown signs of having been searched by Death Eaters, but had been secured by the Order.
Harry let out a sigh of relief that no one was in the garden to witness their arrival. Ginny was clinging onto his arm a little tighter than could be excused by inexperience with apparition. When Harry looked down at her, he saw that she was surveying the house a little warily.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
Ginny gulped and mumbled, “I’ve…um…never been in a muggle house before…”
Harry laughed and said, “Brave Gryffindor you are! Don’t worry, they don’t bite…much…”
Ginny smiled but continued to look a little nervous.
Harry approached the back door, leading Ginny by the hand, and rapped a few times on the window. He heard sounds of voices inside, then the unmistakable noise of the front door opening and Vernon Dursley’s loud swearing about “ruddy kids”. Ginny gripped Harry’s hand tighter, and, exasperated with his Aunt and Uncle’s stupidity, he knocked more persistently on the door. At the same time, he thought he heard his uncle’s car pulling out of the drive.
After a few moments, Aunt Petunia’s bony figure appeared at the kitchen window.
She caught sight of Harry (who waved) and stopped dead, her white face registering nothing but shock.
Harry rolled his eyes at Ginny, who giggled, then turned back to Aunt Petunia and mimed being let in. She hesitated for a moment then moved reluctantly to the door and opened it.
“Hi,” Harry said awkwardly.
Petunia said nothing, and her wide eyes travelled from Harry to Ginny.
“Oh,” Harry said, turning to Ginny. “This is Ginny, Aunt Petunia.”
“Hello,” said Ginny timidly.
“Er…can we come in?” Harry asked, starting to feel a little annoyed at Petunia’s unwillingness to say or do anything.
She nodded once and muttered,
“I suppose so.”
She stood back and Harry and Ginny stepped into the spotlessly clean kitchen. Remembering Petunia’s mania about cleanliness, Harry kicked off his shoes and Ginny followed his lead.
Just then, Harry’s enormous cousin Dudley came shuffling into the kitchen, his piggy eyes fixed on the fridge. Harry grinned at Ginny, who looked slightly alarmed that anyone could be so fat.
“Hi, Dudley,” Harry said loudly.
Dudley yelped like a puppy and spun comically around to gape at Harry.
“H-Harry!” he gasped.
His eyes travelled to Ginny and visibly widened. Harry tolerated this, fully aware that this was most boys’ reaction to Ginny. However, when Dudley’s gaze began to wander downwards, Harry felt a stab of annoyance and put his arm protectively around Ginny’s waist. Dudley noticed the gesture and quickly waddled out of the kitchen, sidling sideways through the door with his chubby hands clamped over his stout buttocks.
Inwardly smirking, Harry turned back to Petunia and said, “I…er…just wanted to…um…drop by to see how you are…”
“We’re very well, thank you,” said Aunt Petunia stiffly.
There was an awkward silence, then Ginny said, in a forcefully bright voice, “You’ve got a lovely…um…clean kitchen…”
She tailed off with a nervous glance at Harry, who was beginning to feel that this was a totally pointless exercise.
“Well, if you’re all OK, then…then I suppose we’ll just…erm…yeah, we’ll just go…”
Petunia made an odd gesture and a small noise, as though about to protest. Feeling that he ought to make a bit of an effort, Harry said, “Is Uncle Vernon home?”
He didn’t really care – Vernon was the one member of this family with whom he felt no connection whatsoever.
Petunia seemed to bristle a little, and she said stiffly, “No, he was leaving for a meeting when you knocked the first time.”
“Oh, right,” answered Harry calmly, gazing around the familiar kitchen. “In that case, can we speak about the Wizarding World?”
Petunia winced but said, “You can come into the lounge.”
Smiling reassuringly at Ginny, whose hand he was holding, Harry followed Petunia into the living room, where he was unsurprised to find Dudley inches from the television. He swivelled around at his mother, Harry and Ginny’s entrance, but when he caught sight of Ginny he turned a little pink and returned quickly to his programme.
Petunia jerked her hand in the direction of the sofa, indicating that Harry and Ginny could sit there, then perched herself stiffly on the very edge of her armchair. Ginny was staring, open-mouthed, at the TV, obviously never having seen one before.
Harry turned to face his aunt,
“I take it you’ve heard about Voldemort dying?” he asked; Ginny twitched a little at the name.
“Obviously,” replied Aunt Petunia coldly, “or we wouldn’t be back here, would we?”
Harry felt a prickle of anger. What kind of reception was this?
“That’s it?” he asked indignantly. “I’ve been risking my life for the last year to keep everyone – including you – safe and you’re talking to me like I’m a criminal or something. Not so much as a thank-you-for-getting-rid-of-the-most-evil-Dark-wizard-of-all-time-and-allowing-us-to-return-to-our-cushy-bubble-wrapped-lives!”
Harry wasn’t sure why he was saying this – after all, he hadn’t come here for thanks – but even his modesty wouldn’t allow him to accept Petunia’s icy manner.
Petunia seemed to soften slightly.
“Oh…well…” she mumbled, clearly a little flustered. “I suppose…well…yes…thank you..”
Dudley had managed to un-glue his eyes from the telly; Harry suspected that Ginny’s presence in the room had made this (normally impossible) feat considerably more easy. Harry’s eyes almost fell out of his head when his cousin turned the TV off; it was astonishing enough that Dudley actually knew where the “off” button was.
Petunia was obviously a little shocked at this uncharacteristic behaviour, too, and said, “What is it, sweetums? Don’t you feel well?”
Dudley ignored her, and instead looked curiously at Harry.
“Wh-what were you doin’…y’know…when you were away?”
Harry gaped at Dudley’s apparently genuine curiosity, but consented to give a (much abridged) account of the events of the previous months. Dudley seemed to trying to hide how impressed he was by Harry’s adventures and by the end of the story, Petunia seemed considerably more relaxed.
Harry felt that now was the time to breach another subject: leaning towards Petunia, he said, “Does the name ‘Severus Snape’ mean anything to you?”
Her eyes flew wide and her face drained of colour as she clapped a hand to her mouth. Harry decided to let her recover. She slowly lowered her hand and gulped a few times, then spoke in a low voice.
“He-he lived…in the area where-where…Lily and I grew up. He-he was…horrible…but she liked him…” she gave a tiny ironic smile. “A lot of good it did her…Dumbledore said he – Snape – was the reason…V-Voldemort k-killed her…”
She broke off, her face crumpling as she sank into a well of miserable memories, and Harry said gently, “There’s a lot I need to explain, then. Firstly, Snape’s dead – ”
“ – Voldemort killed him. Just before he died, Snape left me some memory…”
Harry saw Petunia frown, confused, and realised that she wouldn’t know about Pensieves. He explained the essentials then continued.
“Snape left me some memories, and I went into them in the Pensieve. The first one was of the first time you and Mum met him. Mum jumped off a swing and flew then freaked you out by making a flower dance, d’you remember?”
She nodded, wide-eyed.
“There were memories showing Snape and Mum’s time at Hogwarts, including their first time on Platform 9¾. You were there.” He paused and he could see tears in his aunt’s eyes. “I know that you wrote to Dumbledore, asking to get into Hogwarts,” Harry said quietly.
Dudley gasped. Petunia slumped back in her chair with her face buried in her shaking hands. But Harry hadn’t finished and felt it best to get Petunia’s pain over and done with in one go, so pushed on relentlessly.
“The memories showed Snape and Mum falling apart, because he was too interested in the Dark Arts. Perhaps you didn’t know they stopped being friends?” Petunia shook her head almost imperceptibly and gave a tiny sob. “After that, I saw the adult Snape finding Dumbledore and telling him that he had passed information to Voldemort, who had interpreted it in a way that caused him to hunt my mum. Snape was distraught.”
Petunia raised her head and gave a hysterical, derisive laugh.
“Distraught? He didn’t give a damn about her! He didn’t have a heart. He couldn’t feel pain or distress. He was a slimy, evil *******, who – ”
“ – was in love with my mum,” Harry finished quietly.
Petunia simply stared at him for a minute, then snorted loudly.
“Loved her, did he? Don’t be ridiculus! What do you know about love? You don’t know what you’re talking about…”
“I do,” Harry replied calmly, though he was a little stung by this comment.
He then explained, as best he could, all that he knew about Snape – his love for Lily and his quadruple-agent role, all the while watching Ginny out of the corner of his eye, as she had got up to examine the TV as soon as Dudley had left on a food-hunt.
When Harry finished speaking, Petunia was looking pale and confused, but seemed – just about – to believe him.
To give his aunt thinking time, Harry turned to Ginny, who was tapping the muted figures on the TV screen, with a bemused expression on her face, and said,
“There aren’t really people in there, Gin. I used to think there were – and so did Dudley – when I was younger.”
Petunia awoke instantly from her distant daydreams and said, in an unnecessarily derogatory tone, “How can she never have seen a TV before? You haven’t brought some illiterate street urchin into my house, have you, Harry?”
Ginny, understandably, looked quite affronted. Harry felt a ripple of anger pass through him and jumped to her defence. He stood up and took Ginny’s hand, glaring at Petunia.
“Don’t talk to Ginny like that!” he snapped. “She’s a witch and there aren’t any TVs in the wizarding world – they have lives.”
“Harry, leave it,” Ginny muttered.
Petunia looked a little shocked at Harry’s sudden outburst, but at least had the decency to look embarrassed. Harry thought he heard her murmur something like an apology, and felt his anger abate slightly.
“I…er…think we’d better be going, Ginny. I’ve done what I wanted to.” He turned back to Petunia. “If you ever need to contact me, Mrs Figg will be able to send me an owl. She’s a Squib,” he added, when Petunia looked confused. “It means her parents were magical but she’s not.”
Petunia stood up to see Harry and Ginny out (the latter looking quite relieved to be leaving. On the way into the kitchen, to collect their shoes, they bumped into Dudley, who was returning to his beloved television with a chocolate bar.
“Are…are you leaving again, Harry?” he asked, looking disappointedly at Ginny.
Harry nodded, wondering what awkwardness might occur this time he left. They all wandered to the front door, Ginny lagging behind, distracted by the many muggle wonders in the house, and Dudley shooting covert glances at her.
At the front door, Petunia folded her arms, looking at the floor in apparent embarrassment. Dudley looked even more embarrassed than his mother as he reluctantly raised a hand to shake Harry’s.
“Hey,” he muttered, so only Harry could hear. “Are they all that hot?”
“Excuse me?” asked Harry, uncomprehendingly.
Dudley nodded past Harry’s shoulder at Ginny, who was gazing, bemused, at a motionless photo of a five-year-old Dudley.
“Witches,” Dudley said, quieter still. “Are they all that hot?”
“Hey, hands off, she’s my girlfriend,” Harry said, smiling and forgetting to keep his voice low. Ginny looked over, eyebrows raised, and came over to hold Harry’s hand.
“Sorry, Big D, but Ginny’s special.”
And with that, and a final wave to the two Dursleys, Harry and Ginny departed. They walked to the end of Privet Drive in silence then rounded a corner, caught each other’s eye and burst out laughing.
“No offence,” gasped Ginny, clutching onto a sign-post for support, “but your cousin’s a creep!”
“Nah, you’re just stunningly beautiful,” Harry replied, grinning.
Before Ginny could come up with a smart reply to this, Harry had grabbed her hand and disapparated.
“Harry, that was cruel,” Ginny mock-scolded, massaging her ears due to the sensation of apparition.
“Oh, I’m sowwy,” Harry said in baby talk.
He reached out to hug her, but with a shrill giggle, she started running down the lane towards The Burrow. Harry laughed and followed at a sprint, catching her around the middle and swinging her around so that she shrieked with laughter.
“Harry – put – me – down!” she screamed.
He did and they fell against each other, laughing.
April 5th, 2008, 6:12 pm
OK, here's the second part of the 5th chapter - it's not really a continuation of it, it's just a similar theme. Thanks to all who have left feedabck. Warning: this is a looong chapter!
Chapter 5 – Part 2
When Harry and Ginny returned to The Burrow, they found Fleur sitting at the kitchen table, attempting to teach Ron and Hermione French, as France would be the first stop of their world tour.
“Oh, hi, Fleur,” said Ginny in a passable imitation of genuine delight.
Harry smirked inwardly, fully aware that, although Fleur was now Ginny’s sister-in-law, and although she had helped accommodate a lot of people during the war, Ginny still considered her a bit of a cow. Fleur greeted them, then returned to her teaching.
“Nous cherchons le Ministère de Sorciers, s’il vous plait?” Hermione asked flawlessly, albeit with a frown of concentration.
“Très, très bien! Et Ron?” said Fleur happily.
Ron screwed up his face with the effort of it.
“Gee – m’apple – Ron.”
Fleur looked confused and turned from Ron to Hermione.
“Zat was not Français, I theenk?”
Hermione sighed and turned to Ron with an exasperated air.
“No, Ron, listen,” she said patiently. “Je – m’a – ppelle. It’s not “gee”, it’s “juh” – like the sound you’d make if you were explaining to a small child the sound a letter “g” makes in English. And it’s “ah-pelle” not “apple”. Je m’appelle Hermione.”
Harry grinned at the scene, which so resembled many a lesson at Hogwarts.
“Much as I’d love to stay and witness this – believe me – I can think of a gazillion better things to be doing, can’t you?” he muttered in Ginny’s ear.
She giggled and they left. Out in the yard, Harry voiced his thoughts.
“Visiting the Dursleys has reminded me of another thing I wanted to do – track down one of my mum’s friends.”
“One of them?” asked Ginny, looking Harry curiously in the eye.
“Well for the time being. I know Hagrid is still in contact with a few because he managed to get pictures of my parents from them during my first year at Hogwarts,” Harry replied, absently, as he gazed off into the distance picturing those whom the Resurrection Stone had brought back.
He shook himself back to the present and continued.
“No, there’s someone whose name came up in Snape’s memories a couple of times and I’m guessing she was in my mum’s dormitory. Mary Macdonald – does the name mean anything to you?"
Ginny shook her head.
“No…I don’t think – wait! Macdonald, did you say? Well, it might not mean anything because it’s such a common name, but there’s a Natalie Macdonald in Dennis Creevey’s year, and she’s a Gryffindor. They might be related.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Harry replied, distant again. “But it still doesn’t help me track her down…”
“We could try sending her an owl,” Ginny suggested, with an irritated glint in her eye at Harry’s use of the word “me” instead of “us”, which he barely registered.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” said Harry thoughtfully. “But will that work if I don’t know where she lives, or if she’s even still alive?”
“Worth a try. I mean you didn’t know where Sirius was hiding a few years ago, yet you still managed to contact him, didn’t you?”
Harry was surprised by the coldness in her voice, not to mention her uncharacteristic tactlessness in throwing Sirius so unexpectedly into the conversation.
“What’s got your wand in a knot?” he demanded defensively.
She folded her arms coldly and Harry cowered slightly.
“Harry, why, after everything that happened last month – everyone who gave everything to help you – are you still determined to do everything alone?”
“But…what are you…what are you talking about?” Harry spluttered, non-plussed.
Ginny actually growled in her frustration.
“You don’t even realise you’re doing it! It’s just that you keep talking as if I’m not here, or as if I’m just a wall for you to bounce ideas off. You keep saying “I” and “me” - never “we” or “us”! And earlier you seemed absolutely astounded that I would go with you to the Dursleys; I’m trying to help you, Harry! You don’t have to do everything by yourself – you’re not the “Chosen One” in everyday life,” she finished on a sadder note.
Harry stared at her but was too shocked by this outburst to formulate a response. Ginny sighed.
“It’s not just that,” she continued quietly, staring at her feet. “You’ve changed since V-Voldemort died and it’s a bit unnerving, particularly because it’s just tiny things that shouldn’t bother me – “
“Like what?” Harry whispered hollowly, with an ominous feeling.
“I mean…like earlier, when we got back from your Auntie’s, and you were chasing me up the lane: I mean, it was fun, but it occurred to me that I’ve never seen you…play…like that before – let alone use baby-talk! And the other day, when we had treacle tart for dessert – you didn’t say anything, but I could see you weren’t enjoying it – what was that about? Treacle tart’s always been your favourite! I know it doesn’t matter, but on top of everything that’s been happening recently, it’s a bit disconcerting.”
Harry nodded, understandingly: he, too, had been a bit surprised by his sudden dislike of treacle tart, but hadn’t expected it to trouble anyone else.
“I think that’s partly because I’ve got less on my mind now, but I also think it’s got something to do with the…the bit of Voldemort that was in me – “ He shuddered as he said it because he still felt a sense of shame at having carried something so evil for most of his life. “I think that a lot of my old…characteristics…when I had that inside me, were actually Voldemort’s.”
Ginny’s expression cleared somewhat of the confusion it had previously been registering, to be replaced by an involuntary look of repulsion that she had been attracted to some of Voldemort’s characteristics. Harry felt as though a stake had been thrust through his heart.
But the moment passed and Ginny gave a reluctant smile.
“Are you saying that Voldemort’s favourite dessert was treacle tart?”
“Looks like it,” Harry laughed.
Then he placed his hands on her shoulders and gazed sincerely into her chocolate brown eyes.
“Listen, about the “me, me, me, I, I, I, self, self, self,” thing: I’m sorry, OK?” He gave a hollow laugh and ran his hand through his hair. “I’m at least as confused by all this as you are.”
“I know,” Ginny murmured. “And I’m sorry, too.”
Harry hugged her and they shared a quick, mutually-comforting kiss.
“Come on,” Harry said brightly after a moment. “We have an owl to send.”
I was absolutely delighted to hear from you – I had intended to contact you some time but thought you might have a lot to be dealing with at the moment.
Anyway, to answer your first question, yes I am alive! To answer your second question, I am related to Natalie Macdonald – she’s my niece, but now lives with my because her mum and dad (my brother and his wife) were killed by Death Eaters last year (they were aurors). To answer your third question, I was in your mum’s dormitory – I was actually quite good friends with her.
Anyway, you are more than welcome to visit me. I’m connected to the Floo network, or you could apparate (I don’t know whether you have a license?). My address is 8 Main Street, Upper Flagely, Yorkshire. If you apparate directly to the house, you’ll have to do it very accurately into the back garden because I have muggle neighbours, or you could apparate somewhere outside the village. Let me know if you can come and visit, and when.
Awaiting your owl (she’s beautiful, by the way!)
Harry received this reply to his owl within a surprisingly short time of sending the initial letter – having sent several to Hagrid with his new owl, he had learnt the she was very fast at delivering post and he had already become very fond of her, although he felt incredibly guilty for Hedwig’s memory – as though he was cheating on her.
It had taken him a week to decide on a name for his new owl. He had asked Ron, Hermione and Ginny for suggestions and Hermione had asked him how he had chosen Hedwig’s name.
“It was in “A History of Magic”,” Harry replied sadly.
“Well, why don’t you look in there for a name for this owl?” Hermione suggested gently.
Harry groaned a little.
“I’ve had enough of scouring historical textbooks for titbits of information, thanks. Don’t you know it off by heart?”
This had been Hermione’s cue to begin researching as thoroughly as if she had NEWTs coming up, but it had paid off because merely a day after she had begun looking, she produced a name that Harry loved: Artemis.
Harry had corresponded with Mary – via Artemis – a few times since her first letter, to arrange an appropriate time for a visit.
Today was the day of Ron and Hermione’s departure on their world tour and Harry and Ginny had decided to visit Mary today in order to give Mr and Mrs Weasley and George some much needed space and alone-time.
They were all now assembled in the front yard, Hermione clutching her beaded bag in one hand and Ron’s hand in the other. A tearful Mrs Weasley pulled her youngest son into a tight embrace.
“Oh, I can’t believe I’m sending my little Ronniekins off around the world with his girlfriend! You’re all grown up…”
She dissolved into happy tears, which was thankful because it meant she didn’t spot Ron and Hermione’s scarlet faces, nor George’s half-hearted mock-vomit behind her back and Ron’s subsequent obscene hand gesture. While Mr Weasley was hugging his wife, Harry stepped forwards and shook Ron’s hand then hugged Hermione and gave her a quick kiss on the forehead.
“You guys are going to have a great time,” he said.
He fished in his pocket and removed a small, square mirror.
“I want you to take this, so you can stay in touch – owls won’t be able to make the distance. If you need me, just say my name into the mirror then yell a bit to get my attention. I got it from Aberforth,” he explained.
“Harry, this is brilliant!” Ron and Hermione exclaimed together.
“Enjoy yourselves, and good luck finding your parents, Hermione,” he said.
Ginny hugged them both and when everyone had said their farewells and good lucks, the couple walked to the gate, where they waved, before turning as one and disappearing with a loud pop.
“I think we should go, too, Ginny,” Harry suggested, checking his watch.
“Alright,” Ginny said, nodding.
They relayed this to the others and ten minutes later were turning together on the same spot as Ron and Hermione, Harry concentrating with all his might on the outskirts of Upper Flagely.
Unfortunately, due to Harry’s non-existent knowledge of the area, he unwittingly took them onto the side of a very steep hill. He and Ginny fell over on landing and rolled a little way down the slope, Ginny landing sprawled across Harry’s chest. They looked at each other, covered in grass-stains, and burst out laughing.
“Sorry!” Harry gasped as he jumped up and extended an arm to hoist Ginny up.
“You prat, Harry” Ginny laughed. “Now we’re in no fit state to visit anyone! You’d better know how to get rid of this because I’m not allowed to do magic for almost another three months.”
“OK, OK, don’t nag!” Harry replied, grinning.
He pulled his wand out of his pocket and pointed it at Ginny.
“Tergeo,” he muttered, and began vacuuming off the grass stains.
“Give us a twirl,” he said, and Ginny obliged, turning with her arms outstretched as though she was being fitted for a dress, so that Harry could clean the back of her clothes.
“Harry, I’m quite sure my arse wasn’t covered in enough grass stains to require that much cleaning. Behave yourself!”
Harry laughed then said, “done.”
Ginny inspected her clothes.
“Well, you are quite useful occasionally, aren’t you?” she said grinning.
Harry quickly used the same charm to remove the stains from his T-shirt and jeans.
“Oh, damn, I can’t reach the back,” he muttered.
He quickly removed his T-shirt to clean the back, and was surprised when Ginny gasped.
“What?” he said, looking up. “You’ve seen me topless before!”
He winked but Ginny didn’t smile. She looked horrified.
“It’s not that,” she gasped. “I haven’t seen you topless since you came back and…oh, Harry, you’re covered in scars!”
She raised a shaking hand and gingerly touched the oval where Hermione had had to sever the locket horcrux from his chest, then stared at the slightly raw-looking scar tissue a little lower down, where Harry had been hit by the Avada Kedavra curse.
Harry looked down, then moved quickly away, hastily pulling his T-shirt back on. He suddenly felt self-conscious and as though his good mood of a moment before had all but evaporated.
Ginny caught sight of his expression and flushed a little.
“Oh, Harry, I’m sorry, I-I didn’t mean…It-it doesn’t matter…I was just surprised…”
“It’s fine,” Harry said quietly, not looking at her. “Come on let’s go.”
He took her hand and they descended the hill in silence, Ginny still looking a little embarrassed and cross with herself.
They reached what was unmistakably the main street through the very pretty village. There was a small church at the end of the street, with benches and hanging baskets, full of bright flowers, arranged around the small square outside it. Harry heard faint music issuing from a distant café and could smell freshly-baked bread wafting out of the baker’s a little way down the street. A little elderly lady was picking her way along the cobbled pavement, cheerfully chatting away to the golden retriever plodding along in front of her, its tongue lolling in the heat of the day. The hum of a muggle lawnmower brought them the scent of just-cut grass. Harry and Ginny’s awkwardness vanished on the spot.
“Isn’t this a gorgeous place?” Ginny sighed.
“Mmm,” Harry agreed.
They began looking at the numbers on the cottages, trying to discern the various ivy-covered signs on gates and doors.
“I think it’s odd numbers on the left and even on the right,” Ginny observed.
Harry looked to his immediate right and peered through a thick clematis, just making out the number two through the dense foliage. Turning to his left he saw that there was a rusting number three on a spindly black iron gate.
“Yeah, you’re right. So Mary’s house should be…let’s see…two, four, six…the other side of that bakery.”
They proceeded down the street, contentment stealing over them as they smiled at the sights, smells and sounds of the beautiful village. They passed the bakery, Harry wishing that they he or Ginny had muggle money on them because the Danish pastries he could see were making his mouth water.
Number eight was, as Harry had said, just the other side of the bakery, a small cottage set back from the road, with a wide path wending its way through the flourishing front garden.
Harry and Ginny made their way to the front door and knocked. They seemed to be waiting a long time. Harry turned to Ginny.
“You don’t think she’ll have gone out, do you I mean, she knows we’re coming today.”
The words had no sooner left his mouth than Ginny pointed at the wavy glass of the door and Harry saw a figure approaching them. He thought Mary Macdonald must be quite short and fat, judging by her silhouette, but when she opened the door, he saw that she was actually in a wheelchair. He felt a little ashamed of his assumption, though, in his own defence, that he had never seen a witch or wizard in a wheelchair – in fact he reckoned he might not have seen a wheelchair since before he began Hogwarts. And this clearly wasn’t a muggle wheelchair, because Mary did not seem to be pushing herself along or using any means of steering. It must work like a broomstick Harry thought.
Before Harry could introduce himself or Ginny, Mary let out a shriek.
“James and Lily!”
Harry stared at her, wondering if she was a little crazy, but then she blushed and raised a hand to her mouth.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said. “You must be Harry and Ginny? You look so like your dad, Harry, except – “
“ – I have my mother’s eyes; so I’ve been told,” Harry laughed.
Mary smiled and turned to Ginny.
“Just for a moment – the red hair, you know?”
“Well, come in, do!” Mary said cheerfully, her wheelchair turning magically and setting off down the hallway. Harry shut the door behind them.
Mary lead them into the living room and invited them to sit down.
“Is Natalie here?” Ginny asked brightly.
“No, she’s out with her boyfriend. I don’t know whether you know Dennis Creevey?”
Harry and Ginny exchanged a surprised glance.
“Yes, we do,” Harry answered. “That’s a bit…well…surprising – “
“Hmmm,” Mary said, pursing her lips. “’Unhealthy’ some would call it. It’s not really my place to say, but with poor Dennis losing his brother last month and Natalie losing her parents last year, I think they’ve just been drawn together…”
Harry was starting to feel a bit uncomfortable with this discussion so was relieved when Mary said, “Anyway! I was just getting a tray of biscuits ready when you arrived. Let me see…Accio biscuit tray!”
Within seconds, a tray, followed by dozens of flying biscuits, came zooming into the room and landed on the coffee table in front of Mary with a clatter.
“Help yourselves!” she said.
Harry leant forward to take a ginger newt.
“So, Harry,” Mary said. “How did you come to hear my name?”
Harry gulped a little. He didn’t want to have to explain about Snape.
“Um…well…your name came up in a conversation I can’t really repeat…you know – it’s not for me to tell people about…”
Mary looked surprised and a little worried.
“It’s nothing to worry about,” Harry assured her. “Your name only came up in passing.”
She seemed to accept this, albeit reluctantly, and changed the subject, much to Harry’s relief.
“Now, since you first owled me, Harry, I’ve been looking through my old Hogwarts things to see if I have anything that might interest you, and I found my old leaver’s book. Hang on. Accio leaver’s book! ”
There was a whooshing sound as a dark red, leather-bound book extracted itself from a pile of pile of books stacked precariously on a table, and flew towards Mary. She rifled quickly through the dog-eared pages.
“Here we go,” she said, turning the book around and passing it to Harry.
Harry looked down and felt his heart skip; on the page in front of him were two photos. The first was situated in the top-left of the page, set at an angle and surrounded by swirls, stars, hearts and signatures, all in colour changing ink. The photo was moving and showed four girls in Hogwarts robes, their arms around each other and laughing at some long-forgotten joke. Harry spotted his mother immediately: Lily Evans was by far the most striking of the girls, with her deep auburn hair and vivid green eyes that gazed out at Harry as if to say “I know you”. On her chest was a gleaming Head Girl badge. Next to the photo was a caption: “Me with the girls on our last day. About to go down to the feast.”
“I’m furthest on the right,” said Mary, watching Harry closely.
Harry would not have recognised her if Mary had not pointed herself out, though now that he looked more closely, he could just about see that this was the same person. The younger Mary Macdonald was not in a wheelchair and was slimmer than the one who sat in front of Harry now.
“Who are the other two girls?” Ginny asked interestedly, peeping over Harry’s shoulder.
Mary’s face fell slightly.
“They-they’re both d-dead now. They were killed during the first war. The one on the left was called Mandy and the one between your mum and I was called Carol.”
Harry felt a kind of humbling sadness settle in him, which was expressed in Ginny’s small sigh, as he gazed down at the four young, giggling girls who had been cut down to one, staring up from a picture without any knowledge of their real counterparts’ fates.
The second photo, in the bottom-right of the page, also showed four people, and someone had written the words “Moony”, “Wormtail”, “Padfoot” and “Prongs”. across each of the boys’ chests. Harry smiled at the photo for a moment but had one almost identical to it in his own photo album so did not spend as long contemplating it as he had the first. He looked up at Mary, who smiled.
“That’s not all,” she said, quietly, holding out her hand for the book.
Harry handed it back and she flipped a few more pages before returning it. Harry looked down saw writing filling the page, written in various colours and surrounded by many of the same doodles that had decorated the photos. As he began to read, Harry felt another little skip of his heart, because he recognised the writing as his mother’s.
I can’t believe it’s been almost seven years since we met: in one way it seems as though it was only yesterday but in another it seems like I’ve known you forever! I don’t really know what I can say except “Thank You” for being such a wonderful friend and listening to all my many ramblings about James (who is breathing down my neck as I write this –
Here the handwriting changed to far less even scrawl:
Oh, come on, Lily, I don’t want Mary to remember me as the monster who breathed down people’s necks! I want to be remembered as the kind, wonderful, brilliant, amazing, fantabulous, arrogant, immature, arrogant, cocky, arrogant, stuck-up, arrogant smart-arse you are – yes, James, I was getting to that.
Anyway, Mary, I just want to say “Thank You” for always being there for me and good luck in whatever future you may choose!
(and Moony, Wormtail and Padfoot say “Hi!”)
As Harry finished reading and let his eye’s drink in his mother’s writing, which he had seen before, and his father’s writing, which he had never laid eyes on, he realised (to his intense embarrassment) that there were tears on his cheeks. For a moment, he hoped neither of the others had noticed but then Ginny put her arms around him from behind and kissed his temple. Glancing up, he saw that her eyes, too, were full of tears.
Harry looked at Mary.
“This is…wow…could I – could I make a copy of these pages?”
Mary nodded happily.
Harry held the page of his parents’ writing in his left hand and pointed his wand at it with his right.
“Geminio!” he said.
He repeated this for the page with the two photographs, and folded the two resulting pages into his pocket.
He and Ginny remained at Mary’s house for over two hours during which they discussed Mary’s memories of Harry’s parents at Hogwarts and how they had begun their relationship. They talked about the original Order of the Phoenix and Mary told them that it had been during a battle with Death Eaters that she had lost her ability to walk.
“It was Dark Magic – a curse that even Dumbledore couldn’t fix. They were never sure what it was exactly that I was hit with but Dumbledore suspected that a Death Eater used the Avada Kedavra curse non-verbally or in some other way that would stop it working properly. So it didn’t kill me but it killed my legs…”
When he and Ginny finally left, Harry’s head was full of new information about his parents – entertaining little anecdotes from every year of their time at Hogwarts, memories of their wedding and their joy at becoming parents, their loyalty and devotion to the Order of the Phoenix…
When they returned to The Burrow, Harry sighed and turned to Ginny.
“Can you ask everyone to leave me alone for a couple of hours? I need some time to digest all that…”
May 10th, 2008, 4:09 pm
Woot...an update! I'm sorry it's been so long, but I've been writing an incredibly, ridiculously, unbelievably, -ably, -ably, -ably long chapter and it was only last night I realised how ridiculous it was getting, so I'm splitting it into at least two, most likely three parts. Thank you to my devoted feedbackers - Paige (Dandinigirl13), I think, has actually posted in the feedback thread more times than I have! :lol:. Anyway: enjoy!
Chapter 6 – The Ministry, Take Three - Part 1
WAR TRIALS TO BE HELD
In an anticipated speech yesterday, Temporary Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt, announced that war trials shall be held in the Ministry over the coming months, in order to bring to justice all who were in any way involved in upholding the Dark Lord’s regime.
As was reported in last week’s Sunday Prophet, all known Death Eaters were arrested and have remained in custody since Voldemort’s death. An official from the Department of Magical Law Enforcement spoke to our Daily Prophet reporter:
“The Death Eaters shall all be tried individually, and it is anticipated that, on the minimum charge of being a Death Eater, they will be sentenced to six months in prison. The majority of them will face additional charges of, for example, torture or murder.”
However, Death Eaters comprise only a small percentage of those to face trials. Ministry workers, who, in the last year, were involved in the so-called “Muggle-born Registration Committee” and related anti-muggle and anti-muggle-born movements, will also face charges.
Prominent among these is Ex-Hogwarts High Inquisitor, Dolores Umbridge, 54, who (it has been rumoured) has already been on the receiving end of much muggle-style abuse: the Prophet has received a great deal of mail from readers who witnessed Miss Umbridge being doused in raw egg as she was escorted through the Ministry last Thursday.
Meanwhile, questions have been raised about where prisoners shall be held. A spokeswizard from the Department of International Magical Co-operation addressed this issue following the Minister’s announcement yesterday.
“There are still a limited number of low-security cells at Azkaban – with the removal of the Dementors these will be guarded by a number of spells and other undisclosed means. For the rest of the prisoners, we have received support from several European, American and Australasian Ministries, who are willing to donate some wizarding prison space.”
The news of the trials has been greeted largely with enthusiasm from the wider wizarding community, who showed open appreciation of the Minister’s words.
“We have fought for the freedom of muggles, muggle-borns and all who have supported them. And now those who fought against us shall pay the consequences. They shall not be free.” (The Minister’s speech, yesterday).
It was morning, and Harry was reading the Daily Prophet while absently sipping his tea, his brow slightly furrowed as his eyes slid down the page. Artemis, who had delivered the paper, was perched on the kitchen table in front of him, helping herself to the cornflakey dregs at the bottom of Harry’s breakfast bowl. Mrs Weasley hummed as she made out a shopping list; Mr Weasley was at work; Ginny and George were still in bed.
Harry finished perusing the front page and the corresponding inside article and threw the paper onto the table with a small sigh of grim satisfaction and a little sadness. On the table next to the newspaper lay a two-inch-long, roughly triangular fragment of mirror, at the moment simply reflecting the various angles of the kitchen.
It was a week since Ron and Hermione’s departure on their world tour and they had communicated with Harry via the two-way-mirrors twice since then – the day they left, to say that they had reached France safely, and two days later from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
“It’s amazing, Harry!” a breathless Hermione had jabbered, while Ron, literally hopping with excitement, bobbed in and out of view behind her. “I mean, I’ve been here before with Mum and Dad, but I never knew the French Ministry of Magic is under the Eiffel Tower! It’s similar to getting on to Platform 9¾ - you have to walk through the back of the lift when you’re at the top to get into a magical lift which takes you all the way down to below ground!”
Harry had heard nothing from them since then, though he had kept the mirror on him at all times in an attempt to minimise Mrs Weasley’s anxieties about her youngest son travelling around the world so soon after war. According to the detailed itinerary Hermione had left at The Burrow, the couple should now be in Liechtenstein for a brief stop over between Switzerland and Austria.
Mrs Weasley turned round at the sound of Harry putting the newspaper down.
“Anything interesting in there, dear?” she asked, nodding towards the folded Prophet.
Harry nodded, unfolding the paper and holding the front page up for her to see.
“Yeah, Kingsley’s said they’re going to hold war trials.”
Inexplicably, this news seemed to be quite disturbing to Mrs Weasley, who raised a hand defensively to her throat. She quickly pulled out a chair and gestured for the paper. Harry handed it to her, concerned by her reaction. He watched her fearful eyes slide along the text, her face becoming increasingly pale – he hated to see such fear in those eyes…they looked so like Ginny’s.
When she had finished reading, she dropped the newspaper from her trembling fingers. One white-knuckled hand grasped the edge of the kitchen table whilst the other clutched at her heart.
“Mrs Weasley, what’s the matter?” Harry asked, alarmed.
She took several gasping breaths and Harry was terrified, for one horrific moment, that she might be having a heart attack.
“Oh no, oh no, oh no…” she sobbed wildly, her eyes darting around the kitchen, as if trying to spot an escape route. “I’m going to be arrested; I’m going to be locked up; I’m going to…”
“Mrs Weasley!” Harry said loudly to get her attention. “What on Earth are you talking about?”
His mind was reeling – what did Mrs Weasley have to fear from war trials?
She buried her face in her hands, shaking with fear.
“I’m going to be arrested, I know it. I killed someone, I killed someone…”
“You-you mean…Bellatrix Lestrange?”
Harry almost laughed with relief that her fears were unfounded. He stood up quickly and hugged her awkwardly from behind. He could feel her shaking. Quickly pulling the chair beside her out, and sitting on it, he took one of her hands in his and waited for her to look up at him, feeling completely out of his depth and wishing more than anything that Hermione was here to do this in his stead.
“Mrs Weasley, listen to me,” he said gently, once she had made eye contact with him. “You are not going to be arrested. You’ve done nothing wrong and you are not a Death Eater or anything to do with the people who are being held on trial – “
“But I’m…Harry, I’m a…I’m a murderer.”
The last word seemed to be wrenched from her against her will and Harry felt his own face drain of colour.
“No,” he croaked quietly. “No, you’re not a murderer.”
It seemed a stupid thing to say; the least convincing argument. Mrs Weasley let out a tiny cry of despair and slumped forwards onto the table where she continued to sob. Harry looked on helplessly.
To his intense relief, at that moment he heard hurried footsteps on the stairs, and, looking up, he saw Ginny appear around the doorframe looking worried.
“What’s going on?” she demanded, crossing the kitchen quickly and kneeling beside her mother.
“The Ministry’s holding war trials and she thinks she’s going to be arrested because she mur- killed Bellatrix Lestrange,” Harry replied quietly.
Ginny rose to the challenge magnificently. She said nothing but flapped a hand at Harry to make him give her his seat.
“Mum…mummy…listen,” she said, hugging her mother. “I haven’t read the paper, but there is no way Kingsley is going to have you arrested. You haven’t done anything wrong – “
“Killing’s wrong!” Mrs Weasley interjected.
“Not in war, Mum! You were defending people and you didn’t even use an unforgivable, did you? And what’s more,” Ginny added, a fierce glint appearing in her eyes and making her voice resonate around the room, “Bellatrix Lestrange would have rotted in Azkaban and then in Hell anyway for the atrocities she’s committed. You didn’t take an innocent life – you probably saved a lot. You did. If you hadn’t interfered, Hermione, Luna and…and I would probably be dead.”
“But…but I still killed someone…I could have just…just captured her…or…or…”
“Mum, I’m certain you weren’t the only person on our side to kill or seriously injure someone – and many of them will have used unforgivables, I’m sure!”
Mrs Weasley let out a shocked sob and looked up at her daughter with wide eyes. Ginny appealed with her eyes to Harry to say something.
“Um, yeah. I…I used the…the Cruciatus curse and so did Professor McGonagall,” Harry said quickly, hating the sound of the words he would never have expected to be truthfully saying. “And when Ron, Hermione and I were running around the castle, two Death Eaters caught up with us at the top of a staircase. Hermione turned it into a slide and once we were through the tapestry at the bottom, she turned the tapestry into stone. It sounded like the Death Eaters could easily have broken their necks when they hit it.”
“Exactly,” said Ginny, sounding a little nauseous. “I’m pretty sure I blasted someone out of a window, as well – “
“What?” gasped Harry unintentionally.
Ginny silenced him with a desperate look.
“Mum, they’re not going to arrest people who killed Death Eaters – there’s no point. Kingsley has far more sense than someone like Fudge, and knows that it would make the Wizarding World very unstable if he imprisoned everyone who helped to save it!”
They carried on in this vein for about five minutes, at the end of which, Mrs Weasley had calmed down considerably.
“Being silly,” she muttered, wiping her eyes.
Harry suddenly had a horribly vivid image of Mrs Weasley, years before, confronting a boggart in Grimmauld Place. Harry remembered its impersonation of the dead twins, and felt his throat restrict with a sick feeling, as he mind fast-forwarded to the image of the real Fred Weasley, lying dead amongst the rubble at Hogwarts. Harry shook himself and the feeling passed.
"Anyway, Harry," Ginny said suddenly, standing up, clearly finished comforting her mother, "I haven't said good morning yet."
While Mrs Weasley busied herself about the breakfast, occasionally sniffing but otherwise alright, Harry and Ginny spent the next few minutes surreptitiously kissing each other.
“Oh, look, we’ve got an owl!” Mrs Weasley said suddenly, pointing out of the window.
Ginny and Harry broke apart, and the latter was surprised to find the owl landing in front of him, having soared through the open window.
Harry didn’t recognise the owl, but thought that its official air suggested that it was from the Ministry. On removing the letter from the leather thong around its leg, the seal on the envelope proved him correct. He slit it open and read:
I’m sure you have read in the Prophet that we are holding war trials over the coming weeks. I am writing to you because I suspect you may have valuable evidence, and reliable, unbiased witnesses are proving hard to find. We were intending to try the Death Eaters first, but it seems that the only thing on a lot of people’s minds is the dismemberment of Dolores Umbridge. Much as I’d love to witness that (between you and I), we’ve decided to hold her trial first followed by the Death Eaters. You are welcome to attend any of these trials you wish to and to present any evidence you might have (for the prosecution or defence).
Let me know whether you would be interested in this.
Harry re-read the letter and couldn’t help laughing out loud when he reached Kingsley’s comment about Umbridge.
“Who’s it from?” Ginny asked curiously.
“Kingsley,” Harry replied. “Here, you can read it.”
Ginny and Mrs Weasley both read the letter, becoming increasingly wide-eyed.
“Well?” Ginny demanded as she finished reading.
“Well what?” said Harry.
“Well, are you going to go to the trials?” she asked impatiently.
“Yeah…yeah, I suppose so. Actually, I definitely want to go.”
“Umbridge, to give evidence against her. And the Malfoys.”
Ginny’s eyes narrowed a little suspiciously.
“To give evidence against them, right?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably.
“Against Lucius Malfoy, yeah,” he replied evasively.
“What about the others?”
Harry considered for a moment, then answered her slowly.
“Draco’s a Death Eater – technically – and according to the Prophet, Death Eaters are going to be getting six months just for being Death Eaters. But he was forced into it so I don’t think he should be charged with that. Everything he did was under threat of death. And the same goes for Narcissa Malfoy. I don’t think she’s been a death eater for that long anyway, because she wasn’t in the graveyard when Voldemort came back, or at the Ministry. And she lied to Voldemort about me being alive or dead. I know she only did it for Draco, but I still owe her my life, and it shows that her loyalties weren’t with Voldemort – she knew it could mean the end of him.”
Ginny gave him a funny look – it was almost sympathetic and reminded him of Remus’ expression when Harry had stated his reasons for not attacking Stan Shunpike.
“Harry, I understand about Narcissa, but are you seriously going to defend Draco, too? He let Death Eaters into Hogwarts! If it weren’t for him, Bill wouldn’t have been completely mangled by Greyback!”
Harry and Mrs Weasley winced.
“Like I said, it was under threat of death – “
“So it’s alright to put hundreds of people’s lives at risk as long as you yourself are safe, is it?” Ginny interrupted, her voice rising angrily.
“No, of course not!” Harry returned, stung. “But it wasn’t just his own life at stake – it was his parents’, too. He’s suffered enough for getting involved with Voldemort. I’ve seen him a lot this year and he was miserable and scared and unwilling to do what Voldemort wanted.”
Ginny seemed to have no response to this and eventually shrugged.
“Fine,” she said, huffily. “You do what you think is best.”
“Anyway,” said Mrs Weasley airily, after a moment, looking a little anxiously between her daughter and Harry. “Breakfast?”
Thank you for your prompt reply! It shall certainly be alright for you to present evidence against Umbridge and Mr Malfoy and in defence of Draco and Narcissa Malfoy. Conveniently, these trials are being held on the same day – Umbridge’s, as I told you, shall be first, at 8am, followed by the Death Eaters in alphabetical order, the Malfoys being the last that day at 9pm. The rest shall be tried the following day. The date of the Umbridge and Malfoy trials is the 5th June. You will need to arrive before 7.30am, I’m afraid. We shall provide lunch and there is something I need to talk to you about, which will hopefully prevent the day being too drawn out for you.
Owl me if you have any queries.
Harry checked the letter for the hundredth time, yawning while a dressing-gown-clad Mrs Weasley attempted unsuccessfully to flatten Harry’s hair with a wet comb, and repeatedly brushed non-existent dust from the shoulders of his jacket.
“You seem nervous, Harry, dear,” Mrs Weasley said gently, apparently surrendering the losing battle with his hair. “There’s nothing to worry about – you’re not the one on trial this time!”
“No, no, I’m just wondering what it is that Kingsley wants to talk to me about.”
Mrs Weasley smiled warmly.
“I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, dear. Now eat your eggs while they’re warm – you’ve got a long day ahead of you. Are you sure you don’t want me to get Arthur up? He really won’t mind taking you there.”
“No, seriously, Mrs Weasley, there’s no point him getting up an hour earlier than he needs to. I’ll be fine apparating.”
Harry checked his watch. Quarter past seven.
“I’d better be off, Mrs Weasley. Thanks for breakfast,” he said, as he got to his feet.
“Oh, don’t be silly dear, it’s nothing. Now, you know exactly what you’re going to say?”
Harry nodded, patting his breast pocket where his notes were, and after saying goodbye, he left.
It was a fairly warm morning and Harry strolled briskly to the fence surrounding The Burrow, marking the end of the Anti-Disapparition charm. Concentrating hard on the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry of Magic he had used twice before, he spun on the spot and experienced the familiar feeling of compression.
When Harry felt his feet hit solid pavement, and he looked around him, he thought he had apparated to the wrong place – he had expected the dingy street with the single phone box to be deserted, but instead, he found a dozen or more people queuing. In fact, the numbers of witches and wizards who had turned up, all, apparently, for the war trials, had necessitated the addition of two Obliviators keeping an eye out for muggles.
Harry joined the queue behind a tall witch in an emerald green cloak. He started when she turned round and he realised who it was.
McGonagall looked equally startled.
“Potter! You gave me a fright!” she said. “I assume you are also here to give evidence against our friend Dolores?” she added with relish.
“Of course! I’m sure you’ve been looking forward to this?”
“I’ve been counting down the days!” McGonagall replied, in the brightest tone of voice Harry had ever heard from her.
The queue shifted forward quite quickly, four or five people squeezing into the phone box at a time. In less than a minute, Harry and McGonagall found themselves squashed in with three other people, two wizards and a witch. One of the wizards, the tallest in the phone box, picked up the receiver and dialled six, two, four, four, two.
“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic,” said the cool female voice Harry had heard before. “Please state your name and business.”
The tall wizard peered around at the top of everyone’s head, before clearing his throat and speaking.
“Scott McDouglas, here as a witness at the trial of Dolores Umbridge.”
The second wizard almost cut off the end of Scott McDouglas’ sentence – it seemed he was afraid the lift might not realise that there was more than one person in it.
“Oswaldo Stoutly, here to give evidence at the war trials,” he jabbered; Harry couldn’t help feeling that “Stoutly” was a very appropriate name for the short, rather round wizard.
After glancing around to see who else was left to state their name, McGonagall spoke.
“Minerva McGonagall,” she said crisply. “Here to give evidence against Dolores Umbridge.”
The young witch, who was heavily made up, with curled blonde hair and a general air of unintelligence, looked up from the notebook Harry had not noticed she had been scribbling on. She threw a rather fake, fluttery smile around at the other occupants of the lift, none of whom returned it with much enthusiasm.
“Oh, um, I’ll go next then shall I?” she asked in a pathetic, girlie voice. “Um, Arenaria Piper, Daily Prophet reporter, here to report on the war trials.”
Harry groaned inwardly: revealing who he was in front of a Daily Prophet reporter in a very cramped lift, did not seem very inviting.
“Is that everyone?” Scott McDouglas asked bossily.
“No,” Harry replied glumly. “Harry Potter, here to give evidence at the war trials.”
As he had expected and dreaded, all the other people in the lift, bar McGonagall, gasped and stared at him, three pairs of eyes simultaneously darting from his face up to his forehead and back again. Arenaria Piper’s quill – which Harry now recognised as a Quick-Quotes Quill, for it was scribbling of its own accord - looked like it might explode with excitement.
However, before anyone could make any comment, there was a clatter and five small, square badges came flying out of the chute that would normally return change. Scott McDouglas distributed them, never once taking his eyes off Harry, and handing him his badge with something like reverence.
“Visitor to the Ministry,” said the cool female voice. “Please attach your badge to the front of your robes. You are required to submit to a search and to present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium.”
The phone box shuddered and with a great clattering, descended through the ground. Harry was grateful for the momentary darkness as it prevented the wizards and the Daily Prophet reporter gawking at him like a freak in the circus.
After a minute or two, a bead of light appeared through the bottom pane of the phone box door, illuminating five pairs of feet. It quickly rose up through the phone box, blinding everyone after the blackness. The lift screeched to a bone-jarring halt and the doors jangled open.
Harry left so hurriedly that he tripped and stumbled. Scowling at the fact that he had drawn even more attention to himself, he marched away to the other side of the Atrium, trying to lose himself amongst the witches and wizards milling around the hall.
It was only now that Harry was able to register the changes that had taken place in the Ministry since his last memorable visit; the most notable was the removal of the “Magic is Might” statue. There was now a simple water fountain, adding its tinkling melody to the early morning hum of half-asleep Ministry workers. As Harry looked around he noticed another massive, yet more subtle, change; that of the general mood and atmosphere. No longer were the majority of people looking terrified and keeping their heads down whilst others strutted around intimidating them. People were smiling or laughing groups, whilst others were confident enough to walk alone. And as if to make this all the more obvious, when, to Harry’s surprise, McGonagall caught up with him, she was wearing a hint of a smile and walking remarkably fast for a relatively elderly lady. Indeed, she seemed to be in such a good mood that Harry could have sworn he heard her humming under her breath. It was infectious: he smiled, too.
As they passed the fountain, Harry dropped a few galleons into it. They proceeded to the desk marked “security” where Harry was surprised to see the same watchwizard who had been here on his first visit. Harry remembered that his name was Eric. He looked just as bored as the last time Harry had seen him, though the shock of seeing Harry Potter walking towards him seemed to liven him up a little. Harry indicated that McGonagall could go first.
“Thank you, Harry,” she said, then turned to Eric. “Hello, I believe I need to register my wand?”
Eric nodded without taking his eyes off Harry, before opening a drawer and removing from it a Secrecy Sensor in one hand and a Probity Probe in the other.
“If you could stand over here, please,” he said in a flat monotone, indicating vaguely to the side of the desk.
He performed a routine security check on a slightly indignant McGonagall then placed her wand on the scale-like device he had weighed Harry’s on before, and out of the base shot a receipt-like piece of parchment.
“Ivy wood, twelve inches with a Phoenix feather core, been in use sixty-two years, and you are an Animagus, transform into a tabby cat, correct?”
McGonagall nodded curtly then stepped to the side and watched while Eric performed the same task on Harry. The latter was quite anxious about handing over his wand – he had become a little over-protective of it since its repair by the Elder Wand. But he consented to its registration, nonetheless.
“Holly and phoenix feather, eleven inches, been in use eight years, right?”
Harry nodded and held out his hand for his wand, but to his annoyance Eric seemed to be more interested in examining it.
“Is – is this the wand that – that k-killed You-Know-Who?” he asked in a reverent whisper.
“Voldemort,” Harry said shortly, making the watchwizard jump. “And, no, that’s not the wand – it was the wand in his own hand that cast the killing curse. I wouldn’t carry such a wand.”
Looking a little surprised by Harry’s cold tone of voice, Eric quickly returned the wand, then, as though unable to restrain himself, blurted out,
“Can I have your autograph?”
Harry, who had already half-turned round to walk away, closed his eyes to stop himself getting angry then turned to face Eric.
“No, sorry, I’m not a celebrity.”
And he walked away.
Harry and McGonagall marched in silence to the golden-grille-fronted lifts at the end of the Atrium in silence, squeezing into a lift full of people, just as the grilles were beginning to close.
“I can see you enjoy fame, Harry,” McGonagall said, smirking.
“Oh, yeah, I love it,” Harry replied sarcastically, smiling.
“Good morning, Harry!” said a cheery familiar voice just behind him, suddenly.
Harry turned and saw Percy Weasley in his immaculate work robes looking particularly pleased with himself. Although Percy came to The Burrow every day for dinner, he had been living in his flat in London, apparently unable to leave his work too far behind him. He was holding out his hand for Harry to shake – a rather complicated manoeuvre to accomplish in such a cramped space.
“Are you in the trials today, Percy?” Harry asked, already knowing the answer.
“Oh, yes,” replied Percy, loudly and importantly. “As an official interrogator. The Wizengamot and most of the main Ministry departments are still in complete disarray, so the Minister is relying on all those who have proven themselves loyal to the Ministry, to uphold our laws.”
Harry pretended to be listening, whilst mentally rehearsing the points he was going to make at Umbridge’s trial. However a thought suddenly occurred to him and he turned abruptly to Percy, cutting off his monologue.
“Percy, what’s become of Fudge?”
“Fudge?” repeated Percy, looking momentarily confused. “Good Lord, Harry, don’t tell me you haven’t heard about him? He hasn’t been seen since Scrimgeour’s death; fled the country, rumour has it – he could hardly expect to find any friends on either side here.”
Before Harry could reply to this, the lift rattled to a halt and the cool female voice said, “Department of Mysteries.”
Harry felt a shiver pass up his spine at the sound of the words and at the sight of the long bare corridor stretching away in front of the lift, ending in the all too familiar black door. Everyone in the lift set off along the corridor, towards the black door, which Harry could not bear to look at. They turned left and descended a flight of steps into the stone, torch lit passageway Harry had visited before.
The door to courtroom seven was standing open, and a wizard was ticking off names on several pieces of parchment attached to a clipboard, as people entered.
“Name?” demanded the wizard, without looking up, as Harry reached the door.
The wizard dropped his clipboard with a yelp, while the surrounding wizards and witches (with the exception of McGonagall and Percy) gasped and began whispering excitedly.
“Yes, yes, it’s Harry Potter,” said McGonagall sharply, catching sight of Harry’s exasperated expression. “Leave the poor boy alone. Chop, chop, we’re holding up the queue…”
Harry smiled gratefully to his ex-Transfiguration teacher and followed the witches and wizards into the courtroom. The room was a little bigger than the one in which Harry had had his disciplinary hearing, and in which he had seen Bellatrix Lestrange and Barty Crouch junior sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban, in Dumbledore’s Pensieve.
Witches and wizards in Wizengamot robes were directing people to the terraced benches around the large circular room. Harry soon found himself in the third row of seats next to McGonagall, and a little to the left of Kingsley, who was seated in the middle of the front row. By quarter to eight all the benches were fully occupied.
Kingsley stood and turned to face the buzzing crowd. He had to shoot purple sparklers into the air from his wand in order to get everyone’s attention. The room fell silent.
“Good morning, and I apologise for it being such an early one,” he said, in his deep, calming voice. “Firstly, I’d like to say thank you for all being here to offer your support to the Ministry during this complicated process.
“There will be a fifteen-minute to half-hour interval, depending on the length of the preceding trial, between the trials and refreshments will be available in Courtroom Ten. Lunch will also be there between twelve and two for those who will be here at that time.
“On a more serious note, I must stress that these trials, today and over the coming weeks, are sensitive in nature, and as such, we will not be tolerating any disregard for the proceedings. Anyone attempting to do so, in any way, will face severe consequences.”
There was a general murmur of understanding. During the next ten minutes, Kingsley ran through the order of the proceedings and answered any questions. Then, at eight o’clock, a bell sounded.
The room waited in a silence so intense that when the door to the courtroom opened, the bang echoing around the room, everyone jumped as a single entity.
Harry felt his heart rate quicken as the horribly familiar, short, squat, pink-robed, figure of his ex-Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher entered, flanked by two wizards, each almost twice her height and gripping each of her upper arms firmly, her tiny footsteps echoing sickeningly around the chamber. She was guided in silence to the chain-adorned chair in the centre of the room. The two black-robed wizards stood either side of, and a little behind, the chair, feet slightly apart and hands clasped behind their backs like muggle bodyguards.
Umbridge gulped – as if she had just swallowed a rather bitter fly, Harry thought – and slowly raised her toad-like face to the assembled crowd of witches and wizards. Harry thought she blanched slightly when her eyes fell on him and McGonagall, whose lips had become a dangerously thin line.
“War trial of the fifth of July,” Kingsley’s authoritative voice rang out suddenly, “into offences committed by Dolores Jane Umbridge, over the course of three years.
“Interrogators: Kingsley Hamlin Shacklebolt, Temporary Minister for Magic, Percy Ignatius Weasley, Junior Undersecretary to the Temporary Minister; witnesses for the prosecution…”
There followed a considerable list. Umbridge scowled. The room broke into excited mutters when Harry’s name was mentioned, but Kingsley quickly silenced them.
“Witness for the defence: Argus Philbert Filch. Charges: that the accused did knowingly, deliberately and in full awareness of the illegality of her actions, commit the following crimes: used torture as a punishment for petty or non-existent crimes committed by students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry; chaired the Muggleborn Registration Committee; stole wands from muggleborn witches and wizards; used unforgivable curses on innocents.”
Kingsley peered down at Umbridge.
“Can you please confirm that you are Dolores Jane Umbridge?”
Umbridge nodded and said, “Yes, I am,” in her most girlish voice.
“And how do you plead to the aforementioned charges?” Kingsley asked.
“Not guilty,” Umbridge replied immediately.
There were noises of outrage from most of the assembled witches and wizards, combined with several distinct cries of “liar!”
Kingsley again held up a hand for silence.
“Firstly I must ask whether there are any additional charges that any of the witnesses feel should be brought to the Wizengamot’s attention.”
Harry felt his heart thumping out a violent samba against his rib-cage as he got to his feet.
“Harry Potter,” Kingsley acknowledged formally.
Harry took a deep breath and, in a loud clear voice, recited the notes he had committed to memory.
“Miss Umbridge confessed in the presence of myself and five friends, as well as members of her so-called Inquisitorial Squad, that it was she who sent two dementors into the muggle suburb where I lived, three summers ago, in an attempt to silence me while the Ministry denied Voldemort’s return.”
There were many more noises of outrage and Umbridge looked absolutely murderous.
“No!” she shrieked. “He’s lying! He’s using his fame to try and destroy me!”
Kingsley silenced her with a raised hand and turned back to Harry.
“Do you have any proof, Harry?”
“I can contact Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, right now, and you can speak to them. They were two of the five friends I mentioned who heard Miss Umbridge’s confession.”
Kingsley looked confused about how Harry might contact Ron and Hermione, as did many others in the courtroom, so Harry pulled the two-way mirror out of his pocket. He held it up and explained briefly what it was. Kingsley gave his permission for Harry to contact Ron and Hermione.
“Hermione Granger!” Harry said clearly into the mirror.
“Harry?” came Hermione’s surprised voice after a few moments as her very tanned face appeared in the mirror.
“Hi, Hermione, I’m in Umbridge’s trial,” Harry said quickly before she could embark on a long-winded description of the magical community of Indonesia.
“Oh,” she said, taken aback.
“Is Ron there? I need the two of you to give evidence.”
Hermione called Ron into view and Harry passed the mirror to Kingsley.
“Hello, can you first please confirm that you are Hermione Granger and Ronald Weasley?” Kingsley said, smiling despite the formalities.
Ron and Hermione both confirmed it.
“Can you please state for the benefit of this court, what you know about the dementors which attacked Harry Potter and his muggle cousin three years ago?”
Ron seemed to be trying to figure out what this had to do with Umbridge, but Hermione caught on immediately and said,
“Oh, um, well we know that Umbridge sent the dementors after Harry because she wanted to stop him telling the Ministry that Voldemort was back…”
“Yeah,” interrupted Ron, cottoning on. “The silly co- I mean she actually told Harry in front of me and Hermione. And who else was there?…my little sister, Ginny Weasley…”
“…Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood,” Hermione finished for him.
“That totals five friends I believe,” Kingsley said to the room at large, a note of triumph in his voice. “Thank you, Ron , Hermione. Don’t let us keep you from your travels!”
They smiled and their faces disappeared to be replaced by the reflected ceiling of the courtroom.
“I now ask the Wizengamot to decide whether, on this charge alone, they believe Miss Umbridge should be sentenced to two years in Azkaban.”
Kingsley gave the whispering purple-robed jury a minute before silencing them.
“Those in favour of convicting the accused?”
Every hand was raised. Kingsley made a note on the parchment in front of him, looking as though he was suppressing a smile.
“Onto the second charge, then – that of torturing Hogwarts students. Could any witnesses with evidence pertaining to this charge please stand.”
Harry and McGonagall stood at once, the latter positively leaping out of her seat, as well as, to Harry’s surprise because he had not noticed his presence in the room, Lee Jordan. Argus Filch, too, had clambered to his feet from his front row seat near the door, wearing his Sunday best – the ancient, patched-up tailcoat which reeked of mothballs. Kingsley nodded to each of the witnesses to show that he had noticed them.
“What information do you have, professor McGonagall?” he asked.
McGonagall to a nervous breath and said,
“I can merely testify that Dolores Umbridge, during her time as a “teacher”…” McGonagall actually drew air quotes around this word “…she put into detention any students who showed support for Harry Potter or Albus Dumbledore, and used inappropriate methods of punishment on them and on Harry, who she put into detention on numerous occasions simply for voicing his views about the Ministry’s denial of Voldemort’s return.”
“Thank you, professor,” said Kingsley and McGonagall sat down. “What does the witness for the defence have to say?”
Filch cleared his throat and nervously shuffled the note cards in his hands.
“Um…Professor Umbridge didn’t do nuffin’ wrong. I mean to say, the little blighters deserve a bit o’ discipline…knock some sense into ‘em…teach ‘em their place, don’t it? And when she signed the Approval for Whipping – “ Umbridge turned a blotchy, boiling red as she spun round to glare at the caretaker, while the witches and wizards around the walls broke into agitated whispers.
Filch soldiered on.
“…I mean the Weasley twins…never such a pair of bloody troublemakers as them two…right rotten they was…deserved a good whippin’…all they was good for-“
Harry couldn’t restrain himself.
“How the hell can you talk about the Weasley twins like that when both of them fought against Voldemort, and one of them died in battle?” he shouted.
Kingsley leapt to his feet.
“Silence,” he said in a loud, deep, though calm, voice, which reverberated around the walls and silenced the tutting, muttering crowd. “Mr Filch, I’m afraid your evidence is not satisfactory as a defence of Miss Umbridge – you have, on the contrary, potentially doubled her sentence for this charge. Harry, I must ask you to control your temper, or you will have to leave the courtroom before you can present your, no doubt valuable, evidence.”
“Sorry, Minister,” Harry said, feeling ashamed of his outburst, though still red with anger at Filch’s disregard for Fred’s memory.
“Alright,” Kingsley said, calmly. “What evidence or information do you have?”
Harry felt the scars on the back of his hand tingle.
“During several weeks’ worth of detention, Professor Umbridge made me write lines with a quill which did not use ink but my own blood, etching the words into the back of my hand. At first my hand healed itself but every time I used the quill it etched deeper and deeper into my skin and stopped healing, to that point that I would return to the common room after each detention with it openly bleeding.”
There was a slight commotion as an elderly lady in the audience fainted.
“And as proof,” Harry continued, “I still have the scars on the back of my hand.”
Harry held up his clenched fist so that the words “I must not tell lies” stood out clearly against his skin. The surrounding witches and wizards leant in to inspect them more closely. Looks of outrage appeared on many faces, and whispers carried the truth around the benches like a violent ripple. Kingsley indicated that he wanted to see the scars so Harry leant forwards and showed him. Kingsley looked disgusted and when he next spoke to Umbridge, his usually composed voice was full of contempt.
“Madam Umbridge, are you aware that such quills are illegal and considered to be Dark objects? I can only assume that you purchased such a weapon in Knockturn Alley.” Kingsley turned to Lee Jordan, as Umbridge’s toad face stretched into a taut leer. “Mr Jordan, what do you have to add?”
Lee unconsciously massaged the back of his hand as he spoke.
“I can only second what Harry has said. I also had detention with Professor Umbridge a few times, though not as many as Harry so my scars aren’t anywhere near as bad as his.”
Lee held up his fist anyway to show the faint white scars on the back of his hand.
There was then another vote and again every hand was raised against Umbridge, adding a further two years to her sentence.
The remaining charges were dealt with in much the same way, with many muggleborns recounting the stories of their suffering at Umbridge’s hands. To Harry’s delight, he recognised Mr and Mrs Cattermole, who had clearly survived the war and had come to testify against Umbridge.
When all the evidence and testimonies had been given, the Wizengamot voted again and it was another clean sweep.
“Dolores Umbridge,” Kingsley said loudly at the end of the trial. “I hereby sentence you to eight years in prison, and I believe you will be spending that time in a Turkish jail.”
Umbridge rose, looking more like an overgrown toad than ever as the witches and wizards around the walls applauded the decision.
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May 11th, 2008, 7:20 pm
As promised, another update!
Chapter 6 - The Ministry, Take 3 - Part 2
Everyone left their seats and descended the steps from the benches, filing from the courtroom and chattering excitedly about the result of the trial. Harry waited for Kingsley, unsure whether the latter wanted to talk to him now.
“Harry!” Kingsley called as he caught up with him. “Well done, you presented your evidence marvellously!”
“Thanks,” Harry replied, smiling.
“I suppose you’ve been worrying about what it was I’ve been wanting to discuss with you, that I mentioned in my letter?”
“Um…yeah…yeah, I have,” Harry admitted nervously.
Kingsley didn’t divulge anything but grinned and said, “Follow me.”
Harry obeyed, feeling slightly reassured by Kingsley’s warm manner, and followed the latter up to the Department of Mysteries corridor and into a lift. They travelled up and up, and try as he might, Harry could not work out what Kingsley had in store for him.
“Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services.”
Kingsley left the lift, with a bemused Harry following him. However, after a few moments of walking down a familiar corridor, something of the truth began to dawn on Harry, though he hardly dared to believe it.
“This way, Harry,” Kingsley said, leading him through a door which Harry was sure had not been there on his last visit, when he had come to Mr Weasley’s office.
The plaque on the door read:
AUROR HEADQUARTERS. AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY.
“This is different to the last time I was here – the corridor just opened into a load of cubicles then,” said Harry confused.
“Yeah, we’ve had a bit of a re-vamp,” replied Kingsley.
They stepped into a large circular hallway, which reminded Harry (though he tried not to let it) of the Department of Mysteries downstairs. However this room was not black: the floor was of polished wood and the walls bare stone, with many plaques laid into them near the ceiling, bearing engraved names. Harry counted seven doors around the room, each of which bore a plaque with the name of the room: to his left were the Auror Academy, Locker Room and Staff Room, while to his right were the Healer Room, Conference Room and Administration. Directly ahead of him was the Duelling Room.
“Wow,” Harry breathed.
Kingsley glanced at him.
“Yeah, but this is all new. You should have seen it a couple of months ago…absolute wreck.”
“Why?” Harry asked, perplexed.
“Why?” Kingsley repeated. “Harry, the Auror Department was the first to be hit by the Death Eaters.” His normally cheerful voice became uncharacteristically sombre as he continued.
“When Scrimgeour was assassinated, he wasn’t the only one. The head of the Auror Department, Gawain Robards, and the other Aurors, were all targeted. Aside from myself, only three others survived. The others were…disposed of…when the Ministry was infiltrated.”
Harry’s jaw dropped.
“There are only four Aurors?”
“Well, three full-time Aurors, plus me doubling as Head of the Auror Department,” replied Kingsley solemnly, a note of desperation in his voice. “So that’s why you’re here: we need to recruit new Aurors – fast.”
Harry felt his heart race.
“You…you want me to be an Auror? But I don’t have any NEWTs.”
Kingsley burst out laughing.
“Harry, you’re better qualified than most people are when they finish Auror training! NEWTs are only to show that you’d be up to the job, because people rarely have practical experience in this field on which we can go by. You have plenty of that.”
“But what about Potions and stuff – the NEWTs that are asked for to begin Auror training?”
Kingsley stared at him bemused.
“McGonagall told me your ambition was to be an Auror – you seem to be putting up a very good fight against it,” he said, laughing.
“No, no, I’m just…I wasn’t expecting…”
Kingsley waved a hand.
“Yeah, I know, but don’t worry, you’ll learn on the job. And now that the Death Eaters are all safely rounded up, we shouldn’t have too much to have to deal with for the time being, so that should give you time to train up. Anyway, beggars can’t be choosers. So, do you want the job?”
“Yeah, definitely!” Harry replied, without hesitation.
Kingsley looked delighted.
“Brilliant! Then I’ll quickly introduce you to Williamson – he’s the only one on duty today – and he can show you the ropes while I’m at the trials. He’s going to be your trainer.”
Without further ado, Kingsley led Harry through the door marked “Staff Room”.
It was a spacious, homely room – a kind of kitchen crossed with a living room. Around the edge of the room was a simple kitchen worktop – there was a wizard stove (almost the same as a muggle one except that it had no knobs and did not run off gas or electricity), on which stood a gleaming copper kettle; a vast, blue-patterned fruit bowl held several apples, oranges and bananas as ell as an enormous pineapple; one section of the worktop was covered in neat rows of upside-down mugs. In the middle of the room was a low, glass-topped coffee table smothered in various editions of the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly and even a few Quibblers. The table was surrounded by several large, squashy armchairs. The whole room had clearly been furnished with the expectation that there would soon be a lot of new Aurors; or perhaps it was an attempt to disguise the loss of so many members of one department.
When Harry and Kingsley stepped into the room, there was only one other person in it: a tall wizard, whom Harry vaguely recognised from his first visit to the Ministry, was lounging in one of the armchairs, his feet jiggling slightly upon the coffee table on which they rested in time to the almost inaudible music issuing from the wireless in the corner. He was wearing deep, wine-red robes and had a long brown ponytail, tied with an equally deep red ribbon. The brows over his Caribbean-sea-blue eyes were slightly furrowed as he sucked the end of a sugar-quill, a crossword from the Daily Prophet resting on his slightly bent knees. He had a sharp-featured, handsomely-tanned face which suggested an alert yet laid-back personality. His general air was that of a professional but kind leader.
He looked up as the two other wizards crossed the threshold, and casually discarded the crossword on the table as he stood up to greet them. His eyes lingered on Harry for a moment before his face split into a wide, boyish grin.
“Hey, you really weren’t joking, Kingsley!” he said brightly.
Kingsley chuckled and patted a hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“Well, I guess Harry needs no introduction then, does he? Harry, this is Joshuak Williamson – “
“But just call me Will – everyone does,” said Williamson cheerfully to Harry, extending a hand which the latter shook. “My parents couldn’t decide between Joshua and Zack so made a less-than-successful compromise.”
Harry smiled. He liked his trainer already.
“Anyway, Harry,” Kingsley said, checking his watch. “I’ve got to go back to the trials, so I’ll hand you over to Will. See you later.”
With that, Kingsley left and Harry turned to Williamson, his brain trying to catch up with everything that had happened in the last minute.
“So, Harry, how much has Kingsley told you?” Williamson asked.
“Um…nothing except that the Auror Department was attacked and has been re-vamped, and that you’re going to be my trainer,” Harry replied nervously.
“Well, in that case I’ve got a lot to tell you. Firstly, Kingsley heard you wanted to be an Auror from Professor McGonagall. Secondly, if you want the job, it starts on the first of August. As a trainee you get a starting salary of seven hundred galleons per month. And today, Kingsley wants me to help you fill out a lovely pile of paperwork. What d’you think?”
Harry gaped at the Auror, then smiled as the realisation of what was being offered hit him.
“Well I can’t quite believe how quickly this is happening – I only came here today for the trials! – but, yeah, this is great!” Harry laughed.
“Great!” Williamson repeated, clapping his hands together. “Then let’s go!”
They left the staff room and crossed the circular hall to Administration. It was a plain room, as might be expected of one called “Administration”, about twice the size of Mr Weasley’s old Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, though with only one desk. Williamson crossed to the desk on which sat a rather uninviting pile of parchment.
“OK, sit down, Harry, this might take a while,” he said indicating one of the two cushioned chairs behind the desk and taking the other himself.
They then spent a good hour and a half filling in the essential paperwork: Harry’s details, including information about his wand, qualifications, emergency contacts; he had to read and agree to the terms and conditions of being an Auror – his right to a private, emergency bed in St Mungo’s and a Ministry broomstick (although, as he pointed out to Williamson, he already had a Firebolt), and to use necessary force against Dark wizards, etc. Harry filled it out in a daze, struggling to comprehend the fact that he’d had his dream career thrust upon him.
“Oh, thank Merlin, that’s finished,” Williamson yawned, stretching back in his chair as Harry finished signing the last piece of parchment. “Kingsley really isn’t one for paperwork normally, but that lot is necessary, unfortunately.”
He glanced at his watch.
“What time do you have to be back at the trials?”
“Nine o’clock tonight,” Harry replied dully – that was a lot of time to kill.
Williamson, on the other hand, looked thrilled.
“Great! I can properly show you the ropes…hey, we could even have a duel, see what standard you’re at!”
Although a full-grown, muscular Auror, he seemed like a little boy as he considered this exciting idea.
“Yeah that sounds like fun!”
Williamson suggested that he should probably show Harry the Healer Room before they started a duel.
“If you blow me into smithereens, you’ll need to know where the mop is,” he said.
He showed Harry the room, which resembled the Hogwarts hospital wing except that there were fewer beds and that there was an enormous glass-fronted cabinet covering the length of one wall, full of various sized, shaped and coloured potions in bottles.
“We don’t have a resident Healer – this is just for First Aid or minor problems which we can deal with ourselves, normally just cuts, bruises and minor side-effects of spells, caused during training. Anything more serious goes to St Mungo’s. Of course, this is all new; before, only the Auror HO was here at the Ministry, and it was just a load of cubicles – “
“Yeah, I saw when I was here before.”
“ – and the Academy and Training Centre were in a separate building, but the Death Eaters crushed them.”
Grief flitted across his face and he thrust his hands deep into his pockets.
“All the Aurors who were killed…they were all my friends. You know, in this profession, you have to be prepared to lose friends – one or two at a time is to be expected. But over ten, as well as your supervisor…that’s tough. There they are, up there,” he said suddenly, as they re-entered the circular hallway.
Harry peered up at the plaques that Williamson was indicating, and realised with a jolt that each bore the name of an Auror who had died fighting Voldemort. On closer inspection, Harry picked out several familiar names: Nymphadora Tonks, Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, Frank Longbottom, Alice Longbottom…
“They’re all the Aurors who have given their lives, or their sanity, for our cause,” Williamson said quietly, as he paced the room reading the names.
They spent a few minutes in silence, reading the plaques, before Williamson seemed to shake himself. Harry fully understood the feeling of needing to escape the grief, of not wanting to remember, after having paid your respects.
“Come on, then, “ Williamson said in a slightly hoarse voice; he then grinned and put on a forcefully bright voice. “There’s no point showing you the Locker or Conference Rooms – they’re both self-explanatory and boring – and the Auror Academy is just a load of bare rooms at the moment – it’ll begin to take shape as we start to use it. So, how about that duel?”
Harry nodded enthusiastically, and Williamson put a hand on the handle of the door marked “Duelling Room.”
“Brace yourself – this is quite something,” he said, before slowly and dramatically opening the door.
Harry took a single step into the room then stopped dead and gasped.
It wasn’t so much a single room as a small village. He seemed to be standing in a village square, although he could see the stone ceiling high, high above him, which informed him that he was still indoors, as well as the stone wall, behind him, in which the door was set. The “village” was deserted. There were houses of various shapes and sizes, a church and graveyard, and a small park with trees and benches.
“Whoa,” Harry said, stopped in his tracks.
“Told you,” Williamson said, grinning like a Cheshire cat. “You didn’t expect it to be just a room, did you? How unrealistic is that? Round the corner there, behind the graveyard, is a forest and beyond that there are some hills, sloping down to a beach – we get to practise duelling on a wide variety of terrains and environments this way.”
“How does it all fit?” Harry gasped, awe-struck.
“Well, in the simplest terms, it’s an Undetectable Extension Charm – er, quite a big one.”
“I can see that!”
Williamson laughed at Harry’s expression.
“You should be thankful I’ve given you the chance to have a good look at it – we had something similar to this at the old Academy, and Mad-Eye used to open the door, shove the trainee inside then start hexing the b-Jesus out of them. He’d then give them a half-hour lecture about “constant vigilance!””
“Yeah, I can imagine!” laughed Harry, grasping his wand in his pocket, suspecting that Williamson might subject him to such a test. He wasn’t disappointed.
The strength of Harry’s shield charm threw Williamson onto his back, which was perhaps lucky, because it removed him from the path of the reflected stunner, which instead smashed a window in the house behind them. The glass instantly leapt back into the frame, good as new.
“Bloody hell!” panted Williamson, hauling himself to his feet, wide-eyed. “That’s one heck of a shield charm, Potter! And Seeker’s reflexes, I see!”
“Thanks,” Harry replied, feeling his face redden.
Williamson was staring at him impressed.
“You know,” he said thoughtfully, after a moment. “I don’t think I’ve ever known a trainee beat their trainer at their first unexpected attack…”
“Constant vigilance,” Harry responded, smiling. “You tend to develop it when you’ve had Voldemort after your blood for half your life.”
“Well, why don’t we have a proper duel? I’ll leave the room and give you thirty seconds to find a starting place, then it’ll be a duel to defeat your opponent – in other words, render them incapable of fighting back. The only rules are: no killing, Unforgivables, torture, maiming, crushing, et cetera. Any questions?”
“Um, yeah: can you apparate in here?”
“Yeah anywhere within this room – and I’ll not change that, because I don’t think you’ve learnt how to perform or undo Anti-Disappirition Charms yet, have you? But you can’t apparate from this room to somewhere outside the room or vice versa. Ready?”
Harry nodded, already formulating a plan based on what little he had seen of the room. Williamson turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him with a snap.
Harry sprung into action at once, and apparated onto the roof of the church, so that the steeple was between him and the door.
Think, he told himself, having completed the only part of his plan, be unpredictable. Disillusionment Charm? Nah, I don’t know how to do that…
He sat there, perched on the slates, thinking for about ten of his valuable thirty seconds, looking around him for inspiration. Suddenly it came to him: the benches.
“Wingardium Leviosa!” he whispered, pointing his wand at one of the benches, which hesitantly began to rise from the ground. Harry had to focus every ounce of his concentration on raising the bench, and slowly, laboriously, it rose. Within a few seconds of the thirty at which his time would be up, the bench was floating, albeit a little wobbly, twenty feet off the ground, with a red-faced Harry directing his wand at it.
The door was suddenly flung open and Williamson leapt into the room, wand at the ready. He aimed it all round him, the edged into the room. Harry waited, deciding to keep him in suspense. Then, when he himself could bear the tension no longer, Harry jerked his wand upwards and the bench crashed to the ground. Williamson jumped backwards with a cry of shock, at the same time that Harry leapt from the church roof, yelling “STUPEFY!” before landing cat-like behind the wreckage of the bench.
Harry’s stunner soared over the older wizard’s left shoulder causing him to leap to his right. Harry crouched behind the pile of splintered wood, which had begun to reassemble itself, his heart beating madly as he considered his next move.
“Reducto!” came the shout from Williamson, and the bench exploded in a shower of sawdust.
Harry dived out of the way of the flying splinters.
“Expelliarmus!” he cried desperately, but with a lazy flick of his wand, his opponent deflected it.
Williamson shot a firework-like shower of multicoloured sparks into the air, and Harry, despite the voice inside his head, screaming that it was a diversion, looked up. His reflexes saved him. Williamson’s Body-Bind Curse grazed Harry’s cheek, numbing it, as he quickly dodged to the left.
He needed an escape and remembered what Williamson had said about a forest so, concentrating hard in the general direction of “behind the church”, turned into the compressing darkness, disappearing just in time for Williamson’s Tickling Jinx to miss him.
Harry arrived in the middle of forest clearing, and for a moment felt a sense of security in the environment which had sheltered him for a large part of the past year. Knowing that he had only moments before Williamson found him, he thought fast. Height seemed to have given him an advantage at the church, so he apparated onto a wide branch of the nearest tree. Before he had time to formulate a plan there was a pop and Williamson appeared right at the base of Harry’s tree.
Levicorpus! Harry thought, and to his delight, the Auror didn’t see it coming and was subsequently hoisted into the air by his ankle. However, he had had a firm grip on his wand so managed to keep a hold of it.
“Finite!” he said immediately and fell out of the air.
For a split-second, Harry thought he’d be able to attack Williamson while he picked himself up off the ground, but the wizard managed to flip gracefully over as he fell, and landed upright on his feet.
“Protego!” he yelled, clearly anticipating an attack, and still unaware of Harry’s whereabouts.
Unfortunately, at the first sign of Williamson uttering a spell, Harry had, almost instinctively, also cast a shield charm. It was wasted and he had given away his position.
“Tarantallegra!” cried Williamson triumphantly, and Harry, who had been silently berating himself for his mistake, was caught off guard. His legs flew into an uncontrollable tap-dance and he lost his footing on the branch. He crashed painfully to the ground, thankfully somewhat cushioned by grass at the base of the tree. His flailing legs fortunately made him a moving target, buying him time, whilst spells flew around him.
“Finite!” he gasped, out of breath and winded, and his legs stopped moving.
“Mobilicorpus!” Williamson shouted and Harry felt the most peculiar sensation as he was lifted off the ground, ten feet into the air. The utterly bizarre feeling robbed him of his aiming abilities and Williamson barely had to move to avoid the spells Harry attempted to throw at him.
Williamson began directing his wand ahead of him, walking forwards to stay within range of his target who had begun to move through the air above him. Harry knew a moment of joy as he began flying weightlessly, without broomstick, Thestral, Hippogriff or Ford Anglia to support him – but it was replaced almost immediately by dread as he realised he was headed for a large duck pond.
When he reached quite a speed, and built up a lot of momentum, so that he felt like a human missile, he saw Williamson jerk his wand upwards, breaking the spell. Harry was free-flying – and falling. The surface of the pond water zoomed up to meet him…
“Duro!” cried Williamson, and Harry saw, to his horror, that the water had turned immediately to ice.
He had barely had time to register this fact, before it hit him: solid and slippery. His arms had flown up instinctively to shield his face, but his limbs went flying as he landed sprawled on the ice. His low angle of landing minimised the impact but caused him to go skimming over the ice. He lost his grip on his wand and it skittered away from him over the frozen pond. The muddy, reedy bank sped towards him and he hit it with and anticlimactic squelch.
Harry’s sore limbs snapped to attention. It was over. He had lost.
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Williamson retrieve the Holly and Phoenix feather wand with a Summoning Charm, then make his way around the bank towards Harry. His grinning face loomed into view above Harry, who felt humiliated at his defeat and the undignified position which he was now in – on his back, his robes soaking up the water which was melting beneath him, one foot stuck in the muddy bank.
Williamson removed the jinx and Harry clambered to his feet and onto dry land.
“Thanks,” he said, accepting his wand from Williamson.
“No problem. That was brilliant, Harry! You’re a natural!”
Harry gaped at him.
“But I lost!”
Williamson burst out laughing.
“Of course you did: I’m a fully trained Auror. But you showed some good skills and initiative – the bench thing for example – and at the same time I was able to pick up some of your weak points which will be a starting point when we begin training. Before I tell you what they were, did you notice anything odd about my side of the duel?”
Harry was taken aback by the question and he had to consider it for a minute or two before he had any kind of answer, and he then had to find a way to word it without sounding arrogant.
“Um…well…you didn’t use any spells that I’ve never come across before. I mean, you managed to outsmart me with spells I know, when I’m sure you know a lot of more advanced spells that I don’t.”
“Very good, yes, that’s part of it. Basically, I was duelling at your potential level – I was using spells that you will at least have heard of before and I was using them all verbally – though you seem to be familiar with non-verbal spells already. When you start training we’ll work on particular skills and you’ll learn new spells then we’ll put them into practice. If we started with you at Hogwarts-Graduate-level and me at Auror-level, I’d just keep beating the jelly out of you and you’d never learn anything.”
Harry nodded in understanding, registering vaguely that Williamson had managed to say this without patronising him. Williamson continued.
“Anyway, those weaknesses I mentioned: firstly, you have a very loud apparition noise, as can be expected of someone who hasn’t been doing it for long. It gave you away in the forest but it can be practised down to an almost inaudible pop, so it’s not a problem. Secondly, using “expelliarmus” was a complete waste – I know it’s a useful spell!” he added hurriedly as Harry opened his mouth. “But you’re so famous for using it that people will be expecting you to use it and will therefore respond to it quicker than they would to any other spell. Until you’ve been in a few duels and lost your reputation for using it, you’ll have to avoid it altogether. The other main weakness was one that every new Auror faces. Did you notice how quickly you got out of breath? One of the downsides of magic is that it is used to perform a lot of the tasks that muggles would do manually – in short, most wizards and witches are less fit than muggles. So as part of your Auror training, you’ll have to do a lot of physical exercise – it improves your reflexes and your natural resistance to spells. Now then, there were a few basic mistakes you made which I’m sure you picked up on yourself. Can you think of any?”
“Um…yeah. I fell for your trick with the sparks, which was stupid of me, ‘cause I knew full well it was a trick. Then when I gave myself away with that shield charm in the forest, I wasted time telling myself off and didn’t react when you shot another jinx at me. I’m not sure if there were any more…” Harry trailed off thoughtfully.
“Good, yes they were both mistakes. Falling for the sparks trick wasn’t too problematic – I doubt you’ll do that again, and with practice it’ll become second nature to ignore diversions. And dropping your guard to tell yourself off for making a mistake can make you vulnerable, as you found out. That can also be rectified through practice. There was one other mistake, and I think you’ll kick yourself when I tell you what it was: you had already used finite once or twice when I hoisted you up into the air, so I know you know that spell. But you were so surprised by mobilicorpus that you forgot about finite, which could have saved you from defeat – “
Harry smacked himself on the forehead.
“That’s so obvious! Why didn’t I think to use finite?”
“Because you allowed yourself to be interested and surprised by the spell that was on you rather than staying focussed. And also, in order to vary the spells we use, we tend to automatically write-off any spells we’ve already used in a duel. That, again, is something that can be adjusted by practise.”
“Anyway, Harry,” Williamson said, checking his watch again. “Why don’t we go and take advantage of that free lunch down in the courtrooms?”
Hope you liked it! Why don't you let me know? The link to my feedback thread is in my signature. :tu:
May 22nd, 2008, 12:10 pm
Here's the last part of chapter 6! I'm afraid this is a bit of a messy, hard-going chapter towards the end, but hopefully you'll like it. Feedback is as always appreciated - the link's in my sig! Enjoy!
Chapter 6 – The Ministry, Take Three – Part 3
Down in one of the larger courtrooms, which wasn’t being used for the trials, Harry and Williamson found a sumptuous buffet. Harry loaded his plate high; the two-hour-long trial and energetic duel had given him quite an appetite.
Lunch passed very happily, with many people catching up with Harry for a chat. He managed to steer clear of Arenaria Piper, the Daily Prophet reporter, who kept trying to catch his eye. He wanted to thank Professor McGonagall for recommending him as an Auror, but it seemed she had left after Umbridge’s trial – no doubt, Harry thought, to celebrate…
Having finished his lunch, Harry decided the next seven hours, before the Malfoys’ trials, were best spent at home, and he was, in any case, desperate to share the news of his becoming an Auror with the others.
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“You’re going to be an Auror?!” Ginny squeaked excitedly, Harry having just imparted the news.
“Congratulations, Harry!” beamed a teary-eyed Mrs Weasley, as she pulled him into a hug.
“I’ll have to watch my step now, won’t I?” said George, smiling a little sadly. “No more illegal trading?”
Harry gave them a description of Williamson and a blow-by-blow account of the duel, before remembering the original reason for his visit to the ministry.
“Oh, I haven’t told you about Umbridge’s trial yet, have I?”
It was true; on arriving at The Burrow, the first words out of Harry’s mouth had been: “Guess what!”
So Harry recounted the trial for Ginny, George and Mrs Weasley, the last of whom greatly appreciated the news that Ron and Hermione had been contacted without problem. Harry couldn’t resist calling them via the mirrors to tell them about his becoming an Auror, too.
“Harry, that’s brilliant!” Hermione shrieked.
“Yeah, nice one mate!” agreed Ron, sounding awestruck. “Blimey, Harry, Aurors are like…the best!”
Harry and Ginny whiled away the afternoon playing one-on-one quidditch in the small paddock the Weasleys owned. When Mr Weasley arrived home at five o’clock (his new, temporary job was to rebuild the wizarding world, the same as many other former Ministry workers), he, too, was thrilled with Harry’s news. They all ate supper in the garden before Harry had to return to the Ministry for the Malfoys’ trial.
He arrived at ten to nine and quickly made his way to the correct courtroom. Once seated, a quick glance around showed him that he didn’t know anyone else in the courtroom, bar Kingsley and a few people he knew by sight. At nine o’clock, Harry heard again the bell which signified the start of a trial, and the doors creaked open.
Six wizards flanking three pale people entered, their combined footsteps echoing around the courtroom – Lucius, the tallest, on the left, holding his wife’s hand across the two wizards separating them, while Narcissa in turn clutched onto her son’s wrist, her face deathly pale, while those of her husband and son registered nothing – they were blank, expressionless.
The three Malfoys were seated in the three chained chairs and the two men raised their faces to the Wizengamot; Narcissa stared at her trembling fingers and did not look up. After a moment, Draco, too, lost his nerve and averted his eyes to his own hands, clasped in his lap.
“Trial of the fifth of July,” Kingsley said suddenly, and Harry thought he saw the Malfoys jump a little, “of Mr Lucius Abraxas Malfoy, Mrs Narcissa Lysandra Malfoy and Mr Draco Lucius Malfoy.”
Kingsley’s voice sounded strained and a little bored, clearly having repeated words to this effect umpteen times that day. He quickly ran through the list of those involved in the trial.
“…witness for the prosecution of Mr Lucius Malfoy, and for the defence of Mrs Malfoy and Mr Draco Malfoy: Harry Potter.”
The heads of the Malfoys snapped up, quickly scanning the benches to find Harry. Draco and Narcissa’s mouths were hanging open slightly while Lucius’ face remained mask-like, though his grey eyes glinted.
Kingsley finished the list, then continued the trial.
“As the charge you are all facing is that of being Death Eaters, could you please display your Dark Marks?”
Draco turned his nervous face ever so slightly towards his father; his mother had resumed her intense examination of her fingers.
Mr Malfoy let out an almost inaudible sigh, then, sitting up straight in his chair, his face indifferent, shook back his sleeve with the air of a man struggling to muster what little dignity he perceived himself still to possess.
The murmuring assembly of witches and wizards leant forwards in unity to peer at the ugly black mark etched onto his forearm.
“Very well,” said Kingsley, making a note on the pad in front of him. “And the others?”
Mr Malfoy nodded encouragingly, impatiently at Draco, who turned his head away and screwed up his face as he revealed his own mark, like someone who is afraid of needles submitting to a blood test.
There was a further murmur and some scribbling of quills before every face turned expectantly to Mrs Malfoy. She looked up anxiously, her pale face turning to every face in the room as though searching for help, then shook her head almost imperceptibly.
“Mrs Malfoy,” Kingsley said in a slightly exasperated tone. “I am only asking you out of politeness; if you don’t show you Dark Mark voluntarily, we shall have to use force.”
She glanced nervously at the black-robed wizards on either side of her then gulped and whispered,
“I don’t have one.”
Harry noticed a dull flush creeping into Mr Malfoy’s face as he turned it away from his wife as though ashamed. Perhaps it was the fact that he was no longer looking at her which gave Narcissa confidence; she gulped again, then in one swift motion, as though ripping off a plaster, she whipped back her left sleeve to reveal the bare, white, unblemished skin of her forearm.
There was an outbreak of muttering. One of the witnesses for the prosecution of Narcissa Malfoy leapt to his feet and Kingsley held up a hand to indicate the witness should wait for the crowd to fall silent. When it did, Kingsley said,
“How can you be sure she’s not concealed her mark?” the man asked; his upturned nose and sneering manner made Harry wonder if he was related to Zacharias Smith.
Kingsley gave a non-committal nod.
“Very well. Mrs Malfoy, will you consent to some checks for concealment?”
Narcissa nodded once, though her eyes were wide and fearful. Kingsley nodded to Percy, who thrust out his chest importantly as he descended the steps and marched towards the Malfoys.
“Could you please stand, Mrs Malfoy?” he said loudly, and she rose hesitantly to her feet.
Percy held out his hand and Narcissa presented her own, her forearm still exposed.
“Specialis revelio!” said Percy impressively.
There was a small flash from the end of his wand but nothing else happened. Harry saw a few of the witches and wizards around the walls nodding in satisfaction; Mr Smith looked more stuck-up than ever as his lips became a thin white line.
However, Percy had not finished so Harry averted his attention back to him. Percy removed from his pocket what looked like a bright red eraser. Harry recognised it as a revealer – he had seen Hermione use one when she was suspicious of Riddle’s diary. Percy took hold of Narcissa’s wrist then gently rubbed the revealer on her forearm. Nothing happened.
Mr Smith returned determinedly to his feet.
“I am not satisfied with this evidence. Don’t you think You-Know-Who might have had slightly more advanced methods of concealing things than can be discovered using a cheap revealer and a meagre spell?” he said irritably.
“Firstly, Mr Smith, I am afraid it is not up to you to be satisfied, or otherwise, with the evidence – you are a witness, not a member of the Wizengamot,” said Kingsley coolly, wearily, fixing Smith with a steady stare. “Secondly, this court no longer recognises “You-Know-Who” as an identity – Voldemort or Tom Riddle are perfectly adequate. However, the point you raise is valid. We do not have the capacity to perform more complex checks here, nor do I wish to delay the proceedings, so, for the time being, we shall accept the evidence already given. More thorough checks will be performed on Mrs Malfoy after the trial and whatever decision we reach may be revised should any new evidence come to light.”
There was a smattering of appreciative applause for Kingsley, and Smith sat slowly down, wearing an expression appropriate to having swallowed a bitter lemon.
Kingsley turned back to the Malfoys but spoke to the room at large.
“Do any of the witnesses have any more evidence relating to Mrs Malfoy’s Death Eater involvement?” he asked, his voice uncharacteristically monotonous.
Harry was the only one who stood up.
“Harry Potter,” Kingsley said flatly.
Harry waited for the mutters to die away before speaking.
“Firstly, just to reinforce what her lack of a Dark Mark has already shown, I know that Mrs Malfoy is not a Death Eater, or at least that she wasn’t one at the time of Voldemort’s return to a body, because she was not among the Death Eater’s present at his rebirth – Mr Malfoy was. Secondly, I would like to state that Mrs Malfoy actively opposed Voldemort towards the end of the Battle of Hogwarts – she lied to Voldemort, which was a risk to her life, and told him that I was dead, in order to be able to return to the castle and find her son.”
Narcissa turned a little pink as Mr Malfoy turned an incredulous face towards her. Draco looked a little stunned and Harry wondered whether it was admiration and respect he saw in the cold, grey eyes which were fixed on Narcissa’s face.
“Thank you, Harry,” replied Kingsley. “I now ask the Wizengamot to decide whether to clear Mrs Malfoy of the charge of being a Death Eater.”
The Wizengamot immediately formed a kind of huddle, whispering frantically, brows furrowed. Harry wondered what the verdict would be – surely she’d be cleared as she definitely wasn’t a Death Eater, but the urgent whispers did not bode well.
Finally Kingsley held up a hand; however, before he could ask for the Wizengamot’s decision, one of the purple-robed witches stood up.
“Yes?” said Kingsley.
“Many of us feel that, although Mrs Malfoy is clearly not a Death Eater, she has obviously been quite involved in Death Eater activities,” said the witch hurriedly. “Given that this is most likely due to the influence of her husband and V-Voldemort’s blackmail, we do not think she should be sentenced to jail. However she has made some bad decisions and has been amongst Death Eaters for many years, so I propose a vote on a sentence of community service.”
The witch sat down. Kingsley looked thoughtful for a moment and his eyes flickered from Narcissa to Harry, who unintentionally gave a tiny nod.
“Very well. All those in favour of sentencing the accused to one month of unpaid work?”
About three-quarters of the Wizengamot raised their hands.
“Mrs Malfoy,” said Kingsley, sounding a little relieved that a decision had been reached. “I hereby sentence you to one month of unpaid work, helping to rebuild communities destroyed Voldemort’s followers. You may leave the courtroom or you can stay and watch the remainder of the trial, it’s up to you.”
Narcissa stood up shakily and chose the latter option, taking a seat in the front row of benches. Kingsley now turned to the two pale men still sitting in the middle of the room.
“Now to Mr Malfoy,” he said. “We have seen proof that you are a Death Eater, and this has been verified by previous records, but before we pass judgment, do any of the witnesses for the defence have anything to say?”
Harry was surprised to find himself standing up.
“Harry, you’re a witness for the prosecution,” said Kingsley, looking surprised, though no where near as much as Lucius Malfoy, who was staring at Harry in complete bewilderment.
“I know,” replied Harry nervously, unsure whether this was allowed. “But I have several things to say, both for and against Mr Malfoy, and I think it is only fair that the Wizengamot hears it all before they convict him.”
He waited for Kingsley to nod, then continued.
“Firstly, I’m sure the court is aware that Mr Malfoy broke out of Azkaban – he was already serving a sentence for being a Death Eater – and I’d imagine he needs to complete that sentence. However, although I know it is not my decision, I do not think he should face any additional charges because of what he has suffered this year. Last summer, Voldemort took Mr Malfoy’s wand from him to use against me – when my wand broke his, Voldemort would have been angry and I know him to have tortured most of his Death Eaters at some point. The Malfoys have been in disrepute amongst the other Death Eaters so I’m sure they’ve been tortured more than most. Voldemort and the Death Eaters have been living in Malfoy Manor since around the time of the unpublicised Azkaban breakout. Altogether, I know that the Malfoys have been treated almost as badly as muggleborns this last year, just because Draco failed to kill Dumbledore.”
This last statement resulted in an enormous outbreak of mutters and gasps.
“I also,” Harry continued loudly. “Know that Mr Malfoy did not fight at all during the Battle of Hogwarts – he spent much of it being tortured by Voldemort and the rest of it searching for Draco with Mrs Malfoy.”
Harry sat down, feeling he had done all in his power to make this a fair trial. Kingsley held up a hand to silence the remainder of the mutterings.
“Thank you, Harry. Mr Malfoy,” he then said more loudly. “Is it true that you had your wand removed from your possession last year?”
Lucius turned his head slowly from Harry to Kingsley.
“It-it is, Minister,” he replied, in what could be construed as a brave stab at confidence.
“Then whose wand was removed from your possession when you were taken into custody?” Kingsley asked.
“A – a replacement, Minister,” Lucius replied croakily. “The Wandmaker – Mr Ollivander – was being held prisoner in my manor – “
There were a few raised eyebrows.
“ – I-I mean, V-V-the Dark Lord was keeping him prisoner and he was forced to make replacement wands for Death Eaters who lost theirs. After a few months, the Dark Lord forced the Wandmaker to make replacement wand for his most favoured Death Eaters, in case they lost their original. Several Death Eaters did indeed need their replacement wand – my wife’s sister, Bellatrix Lestrange, for example: Potter and his friends took her wand when they escaped from the Manor, taking the Wandmaker with them. Apparently the Granger mud- I mean girl had Bella’s wand when they broke into her vault at Gringotts.”
Harry felt himself going a little red as every eye in the room turned to him, but he nodded in confirmation nonetheless when Kingsley turned to him questioningly.
“Mr Weasley,” Kingsley said after a moment’s thought, and Percy sat up straight in his chair, adjusting his robes and throwing out his chest importantly. “Could you please go quickly and see whether you might be able to bring Mr Ollivander in for questioning.”
“No need,” came a very weak voice, before Percy could leave his seat. “I’m already here.”
Harry turned and saw a very frail-looking Mr Ollivander struggling to his feet from the audience. He had acquired a walking-stick since the last time Harry had seen him, but although he still appeared thin and fragile, there was no doubt that he was in better health.
“Mr Ollivander!” exclaimed Kingsley delightedly. “Well this simplifies matters. Would you mind giving a statement relating to what Mr Potter and Mr Malfoy have just said?”
“Not at all,” croaked Ollivander. “But you’ll have to forgive me, my voice is not very strong.”
A wizard in the row behind Ollivander leant forwards and said something to him, the Wandmaker nodded and the man pointed his wand at Ollivander’s throat and said “Sonorus!”
Mr Ollivander thanked him, and his voice was loud enough for all to hear, then he took a moment to collect his thoughts, before beginning, hesitantly and wheezily.
“I was kidnapped from my shop last June by three masked Death Eaters. I was stunned and taken to, what I later found out to be, Malfoy Manor. When I regained consciousness, I found myself in a cellar. When V-Voldemort eventually came down, he forced me to make a wand for Peter Pettigrew, which I did. He also needed information about wands – what that information was is now irrelevant and would take me ages to explain. The only relevant information I gave him related to his and Harry Potter’s wand: there is a reason why V-Voldemort’s wand could not beat Harry Potter’s – it’s the boy’s business, so I won’t tell – so I told V-Voldemort that the way to counter this would be to borrow another’s wand. I was tortured many times by V-Voldemort and by many of the Death Eaters, though never by the Malfoys. The boy was sent down quite often to torture me, I think as a punishment to him more than to me, but he wouldn’t do it. The poor boy was terrified, so I agreed to scream loudly whenever he came to the cellar, so that he would not suffer too much. In exchange, as well as not torturing me, he brought me small morsels of food – the meals I was being provided were barely enough to keep me alive.” Mr Ollivander paused for breath then continued. “I lost track of time, but I suppose it must have been a month or so after my imprisonment that V-Voldemort came down to the cellar with Mr Malfoy. He was absolutely livid because the wand he had borrowed from Mr Malfoy, at my suggestion, had been easily broken by Harry Potter’s. He tortured me for apparently being a liar and seeking to destroy him, when the truth of the matter was that I did not know how Harry Potter’s wand had beaten Mr Malfoy’s. He also tortured Mr Malfoy in front of my eyes, not only with the Cruciatus curse, as was used on me regularly, but by magically flinging him against the walls of the cellar. When he had finished, and Mr Malfoy was a bleeding wreck on the floor, V-Voldemort turned to me and told me to make Mr Malfoy a new wand. Over the next few months I was forced to make many more replacement wands, though I was almost too weak to stand.”
The old man paused again and shifted his weight. Harry was grateful to him for not telling the court about the twin-cores connection, though it hardly mattered now. Mr Ollivander then told of Luna’s capture and how she helped him keep his spirits up, and then about Harry, Ron, Dean and Griphook’s addition to the cellar and the rescue. When Kingsley asked him, he confirmed that Bellatrix Lestrange’s wand, along with Peter Pettigrew’s and Draco Malfoy’s, had been taken by Harry.
“Thank you, Mr Ollivander,” Kingsley said when the Wandmaker finished his story. “You have been a great help.”
Kingsley quickly read the notes he had been taking.
“Mr Malfoy,” he said again. “Do you agree with everything that has been said?”
Lucius looked surprised at being asked his opinion at his own trial but gave a curt nod nonetheless.
“Even Mr Potter’s suggestion that you ought to complete your previous sentence?”
There was silence. Mr Malfoy’s eyes were on Harry’s face but his expression was impossible to read.
“Yes,” he whispered softly after a few moments.
Narcissa let out a little gasp but the room remained otherwise in a stunned silence.
“Percy,” Kingsley said quietly. “Do you have the record of Mr Malfoy’s last sentence?”
“Yes, sir,” replied Percy excitedly, rifling through a file of parchment in front of him, pages flying everywhere in his eagerness to do his job well.
Kingsley took the proffered parchment and read it quickly through to himself.
“Unfortunately,” he said, looking up, “your first sentence was not fixed. It says here that the sentence was life but that it would be revised in the event of Voldemort’s death. If we take that to mean that you were to be released at Voldemort’s death, then theoretically you would have been freed in May. You broke out of Azkaban in early July last year, I believe, which was…let me see…ten months before Voldemort’s death, and what would have been your release.”
Kingsley paused to allow the struggling audience to catch up with what he was saying. Mr Malfoy looked pale but composed.
“Having heard Mr Potter and Mr Ollivander’s testimonies, I believe the extent of your suffering has been great, so I would be willing to reduce ten months to six, plus four of community service.”
He stopped again, in order to gauge the Wizengamot’s reaction. Many of them were nodding slightly.
“Very well then. I ask the Wizengamot to make their decision.”
It took less than thirty second’s for the Wizengamot’s whispers to die away.
“All those in favour of convicting the accused as previously stated?”
Just about every hand was raised.
“Mr Malfoy, I hereby sentence you to six months in jail followed by four months community service.”
The black-robed wizards flanking Lucius’ seat gripped his upper arms as if to haul him away but he shrugged them off.
“At least let me have my dignity!” he hissed. “I have no wand; I can’t escape.”
And with that and an apologetic glance at his wife, Lucius Malfoy strode from the courtroom.
There were a few moments of silence before all eyes turned to the one Malfoy remaining. Draco looked nervous but, perhaps due to his father’s bravery, resigned to whatever the Wizengamot had in store for him.
“Now to Mr Draco Malfoy,” said Kingsley. “Again, your Dark Mark proves that you were technically a Death Eater, but Mr Ollivander’s testimony seems to suggest you did nothing to help them and helped a hostage. Do any witnesses have evidence pertaining to Draco Malfoy’s Death Eater activities?”
Harry stood, as did a red-cheeked man on the far side of the courtroom, who looked vaguely familiar.
“Mr Abbott?” said Kingsley, confirming Harry’s suspicions.
Hannah’s dad cleared his throat.
“Um…my daughter returned to Hogwarts a few weeks before what would have been the end of the school year (having been pulled out of school when…when her mother d-died). I am talking about early last summer when Dumbledore was killed. The night that he died, Death Eaters had been let into the castle by Draco Malfoy. He put hundreds of students’ – and teachers’ – lives at risk.”
Mr Abbott sat down abruptly.
“Thank you, Mr Abbott,” said Kingsley. “And Harry?”
“It’s true that Draco let Death Eaters into Hogwarts, but he did not do it as a voluntary Death Eater act – he and his family were under threat of death. No innocent deaths occurred because of his actions and there was only one major injury, which was caused by Fenrir Greyback, whom Draco did not know would be coming – “
“What about Dumbledore?” someone in the audience called.
“Dumbledore was already dying. He knew that Draco had been given the task to kill him – Voldemort did not expect him to succeed; it was merely a punishment for his parents because Mr Malfoy had been captured and had not managed to carry out Voldemort’s orders the summer before. Draco got Death Eaters into the castle to lure Dumbledore onto the astronomy tower. Draco did not kill Dumbledore, though he had the chance. He lowered his wand. Snape killed Dumbledore on Dumbledore’s orders. Dumbledore had made him swear to kill him to save Draco from becoming a murderer and himself from pain. Snape made an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy, ensuring that he would help Draco and would kill Dumbledore in Draco’s stead. And that’s what happened. Draco did not lead to Dumbledore’s death at all.”
Harry paused to allow the fidgeting audience time to discuss this.
“And this year,” Harry continued, “Draco didn’t want anything to do with the Death Eaters, except when he was desperate to save himself or his parents. When my friends and I were captured and taken to Malfoy Manor, Mr Malfoy asked Draco whether we were who they suspected we were. Draco went to school with us and would definitely have recognised my friends – I didn’t look like myself because Hermione used a Stinging Hex to swell my face up. He didn’t give us away. He refused to identify us and seemed very reluctant to look at us. Admittedly, during the final battle, he did try to stop my friends and I attempting to beat Voldemort, in order to try and win his family back some honour. His interference lead to the death of his friend, Vincent Crabbe.”
Draco looked down at his feet in shame, and Harry sat down.
“Thank you, Harry,” Kingsley said automatically, then fell silent for a minute to consider what to do.
“Having heard all the evidence,” he said slowly, “it seems Draco Malfoy has suffered a lot for his involvement in the Dark Arts, but he has nevertheless made some wrong decisions: family honour and pride seem to have been more important to him than doing what is right. However, his becoming a Death Eater was a punishment for his father, not his own choice. For this reason, it would be wrong to sentence him the same as those who did become Death Eaters by choice.” He paused. “I ask the Wizengamot whether they believe Draco Malfoy should be sentenced to two months in jail.”
The Wizengamot needed quite a few minutes to decide, and Harry found himself hoping that they would not agree with this sentence. He could understand Kingsley’s reasoning but, perhaps for Narcissa’s sake more than Draco’s, he did not think jail was a good idea.
The vote was taken, and unfortunately, though it was by no means a large one, the majority was in support of the two months jail sentence. Kingsley confirmed the sentence and Draco was escorted out of the room. Narcissa leapt up with a cry and ran out after him, her black-robed guards not far behind.
Harry turned towards the voice as he left the courtroom. The three Malfoys were standing with their guards at the far end of the courtroom corridor, the two men with their hands magically bound behind their backs. It had been Draco who had hailed Harry.
Harry walked over to them. Draco looked incredibly uncomfortable and spoke to his feet.
“Um…thanks…for defending us,” he mumbled. “And…and I never thanked you for…for saving my life…in the Room of Requirement.”
Harry was surprised that the boy who had been his arch-enemy since the age of eleven was thanking him. He could think of no reply so merely nodded.
“I’m…er…I’m sorry you were convicted,” he said awkwardly after a moment. “I didn’t think that was right.”
Draco looked up, surprised, but before he could say anything, the black-robed guards were saying it was time to leave.
Draco looked quickly at his mother, who was crying silently into a handkerchief, then at his father, who did not meet his eye, his face impassive, before turning back to Harry.
“Yeah, I…er…I guess I’ll see you around, Malfoy.”
And with that, the three Malfoys were led away.
June 2nd, 2008, 3:55 pm
Chapter 7 – The Wizards in Oz
“Ron. Ron, wake up!”
“Ron! Get up! It’s time to go!”
Ron drearily opened his eyes to find Hermione’s bushy-hair-framed face a foot above his own. The ceiling fan, which was almost directly behind her head as he looked up at her, made her look like some kind of humanoid helicopter.
“Blimey, Hermione! How early is it if you’re waking me up before crazy-singing-muggle-man does?”
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Good morning to you, too. And for your information the Call to Prayer was two hours ago and you snored all the way through it.”
Ron grinned sheepishly.
“Anyway, you’re not going to have to put up with that anymore – we’re going to Australia today! So hurry up and get dressed.”
“No good morning kiss?” Ron asked, pretending to be hurt.
Hermione smiled and leant down to kiss him, but pulled away quite quickly, making a face.
“Yuck, I forgot we had onions last night. Brush your teeth,” she ordered.
“Yes, mum,” Ron yawned.
Half an hour later, the couple were enjoying their breakfast – avocadoes – outside a little local café.
“It’s a good job we’re leaving today,” said Hermione, examining the contents of her purse.
“What are you talking about? It’s lovely here!” exclaimed Ron incredulously. “The weather, the people, the food…”
“Yes, but due to the food, or rather you eating so much of it, I have hardly any Indonesian money left – barely a Sickle’s worth.”
“Oh. So where exactly are we going next, then?”
Hermione got out her detailed map.
“We’re going to have to do some island hopping along to a place called Timor, then down to somewhere called Pulau Roti,” she replied, examining her miniscule notes. “From there we’ll have to fly down to a group of tiny, uninhabited islands called the Ashmore and Cartier Islands. There’s absolutely nothing there except a bit off sand but we’ll be able to stop and swim to cool off before we fly to mainland Australia.”
“Brooms? Again? Even after Sicily to Africa? I swear I still have the blisters!”
Hermione smiled wryly and rolled up the map.
“Sorry, but it’s the quickest way – unless you’re prepared to spend fifty galleons on a muggle plane flight?”
Ron gaped at her.
“No way. There’s absolutely no way I’m going in one of those muggle contraptions, especially not for fifty galleons.” He sighed. “OK, brooms it is. How far?”
“About one hundred miles to the Ashmore and Cartier Islands,” she said matter-of-factly. “And two hundred from there to Australia.”
Ron buried his face in his hands.
“Oh my poor arse,” he muttered. “And we’re meant to do this all in one day? It’s already gone half-eight!”
“Yes, and that’s why we’re going now,” Hermione said brightly, jumping up, throwing some money onto the table, grabbing her little beaded bag in one hand and Ron’s hand in the other. “We don’t know how long it’ll take us to get to Pulau Roti, but if we average fifty miles per hour on the brooms, it should take two hours of flying to get to the Ashmore and Cartier Islands and four hours from there to Australia!”
It took them two hours of chain-apparating, stopping for a few minutes at each place to get their strength up to apparate to the next, to get to Pulau Roti. Once there, they found a deserted backstreet in which they would not be seen.
“Right,” said Hermione, pulling two Cleansweep Elevens out of her undetectably extended beaded bag – one was Ron’s and the other was the one Harry had been sent after Voldemort’s death, and which he had let Hermione borrow. “There’s only one cloud in the sky so we’ll have to meet up there.”
The plan was to disillusion themselves for take off, meet up above the cloud to remove the disillusionment charm so they could see each other and then to fly high enough not to be seen by anyone else. Hermione frowned with concentration and muttered the spell, pointing her wand at Ron. Ron shuddered as the tingling sensation crept down his back. When he looked down at his hands, he could barely see them.
“Nice one, Hermione,” he said appreciatively, now firmly into the habit of complimenting her at every opportunity.
She smiled then performed the spell on herself. Now all anyone would be able to see of them if they came into the alleyway was a slight shimmering, like a heat haze.
“Okay, here’s your broom,” Hermione said anxiously, handing Ron one of the Cleansweeps.
“No, mine’s the other one.”
“No, mine’s older; the twigs aren’t as neat.”
When at last they each had a broom, Hermione said,
“Alright, I’ll see you in a minute.”
Ron quickly kissed her, knowing that she wasn’t a very confident flyer, then mounted his broom and kicked off. Hermione followed, not as fast, but unlike Ron shot straight upwards to gain height sooner so there was less chance of being seen.
A minute later, Ron, who was hovering anxiously above the cloud, saw a shimmering blob speeding towards him and a moment later had to dive out of the way to avoid a collision.
“Oh, Merlin, I’m sorry, Ron, I didn’t see you!”
“Never mind. Take the spell off us, will you? It drives me nuts…”
She complied and they could see each other again.
“That’s better,” she said weakly, as Ron hugged her to calm her nerves – he knew that take-off was her worst part and that once they got going, she would be fine.
“Which way now, then?” Ron asked.
Hermione took out her wand, balancing it carefully on her palm, her other hand poised to catch it should it try to escape to the Earth, half a mile below.
The wand spun round and Hermione gasped as it almost fell off her hand.
“Alright, that way’s North,” she said, pointing to her left, in line with the wand. “And we need to head a little South of South-East, which will be that way.” She pointed ahead to the right.
They set off. Every ten minutes or so, or whenever there was sufficient cloud cover for Hermione to believe they couldn’t be seen (even though they were over open ocean), they stopped so that Hermione could check they were still heading in the right direction. After two hours, Hermione began to worry that they might have missed the islands.
“They’re so tiny and we don’t know how far we might have drifted off course!”
“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find them,” Ron said, trying to calm her, even if inwardly he, too, was beginning to panic – the prospect of continuing without a break for another four hours was not an inviting one, particularly given the size of the blisters he could feel in places most unwelcome.
“Wait a minute,” Hermione said suddenly, an idea striking her. “Harry told me that last summer when we were rescuing him from his Aunt and Uncle’s, when Hagrid fell off the motorbike, Harry used a summoning charm on him and because Harry is so much smaller than Hagrid, he got pulled towards Hagrid, rather than the other way round. So if you summon something heavier than you, you go to it!”
“So…” said Ron, struggling to see how this applied to their situation. “So you’re saying that we should try to – to summon the islands?”
Hermione nodded slowly, weighing up in her mind the pros and cons of this plan. She finally decided it was worth a try.
“We’ll have to hold on to our brooms really tightly because we don’t know how fast we might go. The islands are called the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, but I think it’s best if we just summon Cartier Island, otherwise we could end up on the reef.”
“Alright,” Hermione said, raising her wand as Ron did the same. “On three. One…two…THREE!”
“Accio Cartier Island!” they both shouted together.
They both felt an irresistible tug and began speeding off towards the horizon. Ron went with it, flattening himself onto his broom so that he wasn’t battered by the air rushing past him. But Hermione, in a panic, leaned back, trying to slow her broom down. Ron heard her scream and twisted his head round quickly, terrified that she might have fallen, but he saw that she was merely panicking at the speed at which they were travelling.
“Hermione! LEAN FORWARDS! LEAN FORWARDS!” he yelled over the thundering air pounding his eardrums.
Slowly Hermione did as he said and within seconds, as she was lighter than Ron and now as aerodynamic, she had overtaken him.
It was a minute later when Hermione, to her intense relief, spotted a white speck on the horizon. Ron saw it, too, and let out a whoop which was lost in his slipstream.
The speck grew bigger and bigger then began to speed upwards to meet them. Suddenly, Hermione, with a gasp of shock, realised the trouble they were in: they were speeding towards very abrasive sand at nigh on seventy miles per hour. Despite her wish to keep both hands firmly on the broom, she had to let go with her right hand so she could reach her wand. She waved it towards the sand speeding alarmingly towards her, and yelled the spell in the nick of time.
There was only one inevitable way of finding out if the Cushioning Charm had worked: Hermione screamed as the beach came close enough for her to pick out individual grains of sand and she flung up her arms to shield her face, causing her to fall off her broom. But with a feeling of having been engulfed by a marshmallow, she floated to the ground on soft, squidgy air.
A split second later there was a yell and Ron landed sprawled beside her, shocked but otherwise unhurt, due to Hermione’s charm.
“Merlin’s nose, Hermione!” Ron exclaimed. “You’re a bloody genius! Well,” he laughed as an afterthought, “thankfully not bloody, but it was a near thing!”
Hermione smiled back weakly.
“Oh my God, that was…so…scary…” she squeaked, burying her head in her bent knees.
Ron laughed warmly then crawled over to her and put a comforting arm around her shoulders.
They spent a good hour on the little island, swimming (Ron was a little disgruntled that Hermione had had the foresight to bring swimming costumes, negating the need for skinny-dipping) and trying to get rid of the sores and blisters caused by the two-hour-long broom-flight.
Eventually Hermione insisted that they carried on to Australia.
“If we take four hours, like I predicted, then we should be there before seven, Australian time.”
“Why can’t we stay here overnight then carry on tomorrow?” Ron pleaded, unconsciously massaging his sore backside.
Hermione looked mortified.
“Because we’d be behind schedule! And anyway, I don’t know whether this island gets covered by the sea – it could be dangerous to stay here. And the sooner we get there, the sooner I can find my parents…”
“OK, OK, I get the idea! Let’s go, then.”
So they did. This time, as there was no one to see them, they did not need to use disillusionment charms, and took off comfortably, gaining height gradually as the Timor Sea slid by beneath them. They flew side by side, chatting to keep their minds off their discomfort.
“So, when we get to Australia,” said Ron, after a few minutes silent flying, “how are we going to find your parents and put their memories right?”
Hermione was silent for a moment and Ron wondered whether he’d been tactless in bringing up the subject.
“Tonight, we’ll have to stay in a Youth Hostel,” Hermione answered suddenly after a minute or two. “We’ll need to find an Owl Office, so I can send a long-distance owl to the Australian Ministry. We’re exempt from Muggle immigration and visa laws, but we have to let the Ministry know we’re here.”
She fell silent again and Ron wasn’t sure whether she was purposely avoiding answering his question. But she continued.
“Then tomorrow,” she said with a sigh. “we’ll head down to Perth, which is where my parents are. I have the address they moved to. I summoned the information about where they moved to from their – my – old neighbour’s house,” she added in reply to Ron’s unanswered question.
Ron stared at her in admiration.
“I don’t know how you manage to think of everything. How could you possibly organise all this?”
“Oh, it’s easy, really; you just have to –“
“It was a rhetorical question!” Ron laughed quickly.
“Anyway,” Hermione continued as if her recital of their plans had not been interrupted. “The memory charm on my parents is a personally voice-controlled one –“
“I mean I’ve set it so that the charm will be lifted by only one voice and one set of words: me, saying “I’m your daughter.””
Her voice had grown smaller and smaller, and as she spoke the last few words, her lower lip trembled and the tears beginning to gather in her eyes spilled and flew of behind her.
Ron carefully manoeuvred his broom nearer to her and put an arm around her shoulders.
As they neared the Australian coast, the sun setting almost directly ahead of them blinded them to such an extent that they were forced to painstakingly tack left and right like a sailing boat against the wind, to avoid flying directly into the sun.
Finally, almost five hours after leaving Cartier Island, they arrived. Ron touched down first, “ow”-ing with every step his momentum forced him to take before he could stop and get off his broom. Hermione landed next to him, letting out a hissing noise between her teeth as she clenched them against the pain. Ron cast aside his broomstick and collapsed onto the hard, dry grass with a moan of relief.
“Never again,” he murmured. “Next time I’ll brave a muggle plane.”
“Good,” muttered Hermione, lying on her back with her hands over her eyes. “Because if you didn’t agree to it, I’d Imperious you onto it, regardless.”
They remained lying on the still ground for a while. Ron looked around him and took in the stunning scenery. They seemed to be in a similar place to the Savannah in Africa which they had seen during their whistle-stop tour of the continent. But the most striking feature Ron noticed was the complete lack of any human life.
“Hermione, where exactly are we?”
Hermione groaned and slowly sat up, taking out her map of Australia as she did so.
“I think we’re somewhere on the Kimberley plateau. I really can’t believe I didn’t consider where we’d be arriving – there I was, saying we’d find a Youth Hostel and an Owl Office and here we are in the middle of nowhere.”
“Fine by me,” he yawned. “I’m so exhausted, I could sleep on knarl quills.”
They set up camp in much the same way as they had searching for horcruxes with Harry. They put many of the same protective spells around themselves, mainly to guarantee them some privacy while their defences were low, and to ensure a good night’s, much needed sleep.
The next day, they packed up early so that they could begin the journey South, to Perth. They apparated in small steps, stopping for an hour in a small Aboriginal wizarding village so that they could send an owl to the Australian Ministry. However when Hermione relayed this wish to the Aborigines, the couple received some very peculiar looks, and were led into the local magical post office, which contained not a single owl, but a very large number of noisy, brightly-coloured birds.
Once a pretty pink and grey Galah had been sent on its way bearing their letter, and Ron and Hermione had had a small tour of the village, they left and continued South, arriving in Perth at four o’clock in the afternoon.
“You know,” said Ron, surveying the skyline from a high point just outside the city. “Even after all the cities we’ve seen on this trip, it still amazes me that muggles could build those – whatdidyoucallems? – sky-scratchers?”
“Sky-scrapers,” Hermione corrected, rolling her eyes.
Ron, never having been to a large modern city, as such places were mostly avoided by the wizarding world, which had largely set up residence in older or more rural places, had never seen sky-scrapers before their world tour, and had found them to be quite a muggle masterpiece.
They descended from their viewing point, homing in on an area of large houses, with wide roads bordered by eucalyptus trees.
“Number twenty-one, Kings Street, is what we’re looking for,” said Hermione, taking a deep breath and clutching Ron’s hand for comfort as they neared the residential area.
“Hey,” Ron said gently. “Are you OK?”
“Yes, of course, I’m just…well, I haven’t seen Mum or Dad for a year. I suppose I’m a little nervous. You know; what if Mum’s got a new hair-style? Or what if Dad’s developed a liking for board-shorts and has one of those silly Australian hats with corks on?”
“Come on, that won’t matter, Hermione. They’re your parents, and I’ll be on hand with a silencing charm in case they’ve got Australian accents, don’t worry.”
Hermione smiled weakly and took both his hands in hers.
“I’m glad you’re with me,” she whispered, standing on tip-toe to kiss him.
They broke apart after a moment and Ron said,
“Aren’t we supposed to be on a parent-hunt?”
“Yes, I suppose we are,” Hermione replied sheepishly, so they resumed their search.
It didn’t take them long to find Kings Street. They strolled along the pavement, through patches of brilliant sunshine reflected on the clean white pavement, and patches of cool shade provided by the neat row of trees, reading the numbers on each of the houses they passed. Hermione felt weak at the thought that she was maybe thirty seconds away from a reunion with her parents. What if she was unable to lift the memory charm? What if they never recognised her again, and she had made herself worse-off, perhaps, than an orphan? She remembered Neville, a few years previously, in St Mungo’s, visiting parents who barely recognised him, and a dry sob rose to her lips. Ron looked at her, but said nothing and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Come on,” he said softly, a few seconds later, pulling Hermione to a halt as she had not been paying attention. “This is it.”
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat as they stood facing the large white house with a balcony and a veranda. This was it. The walk to the front door seemed to take a lifetime and by the time they got there, Hermione was almost hanging off Ron’s arm. She looked at him and he nodded encouragingly, so taking a deep, calming breath she reached out a hand and pressed the door bell. They waited. Why was it taking so long? Fear strangled Hermione as the awful thought struck her that the Death Eaters might have managed to track her parents down despite her precautions…
But then the door opened and Hermione looked up into the face of her father.
“Oh, hello,” said Mr Granger politely, leaning comfortably on the doorframe – and thankfully not wearing an Australian cork hat. “Can I help you?”
Ron shot a sideways glance at Hermione. Come on, Hermione, he thought, you can say it, just say that you’re his daughter. But Hermione had gone white. Her mouth was slightly open but she seemed unable to talk. Mr Granger’s cheerful smile faltered to be replaced by a look of concern.
“Are you alright, love, you look awfully pale?” he said.
When a few more moments passed in agonising silence, Mr Granger turned and called into the house.
“Monica? Come here a moment, dear.”
There were footsteps in the hall behind him and a moment later Mrs Granger appeared at his shoulder.
This was too much for Hermione, who actually stuffed her fist into her mouth to prevent herself crying out.
When Mr and Mrs Granger, or Wilkins as they clearly still thought they were called, exchanged a worried glance, Ron thought it was time to speak up.
“Um…I’m…I’m sorry if we’ve alarmed you, but…um…”
What cover story could possibly excuse their odd behaviour? He turned helplessly to Hermione and gave her a little nudge in the small of the back. The reminder of his presence seemed to have steadied her. Slowly, she lowered her hand. She gulped, looked down, looked up, then back down to her hands which she had begun to twist together. She cleared her throat.
“I –“ It came out as a croak.
She cleared her throat again.
“I’m…I’m your d-daughter. I’m your daughter.”
A dreamy expression passed over Mr and Mrs Granger’s faces, quickly replaced by a look of clarity but confusion. They stared at Hermione.
“Her-Hermione?” whispered Mrs Granger.
Hermione broke away from Ron and flung her arms around her parents.
They had the bewildered look of people who have woken from a vivid and realistic dream and who spend a few moments distinguishing what is real and what is just dream, but they hugged her back looking overjoyed nonetheless.
Hermione released them, wiping her eyes.
“Do you…do you remember what’s happened over the last year?” she asked anxiously.
“Yes,” said Mr Granger slowly, frowning with concentration as he tried to work out what was going on. “But it’s like remembering someone else’s life. You put one of those memory charm things on us, didn’t you?”
Hermione nodded apologetically.
“And,” interjected her mother, sounding tearful, “we’ve been thinking we’re called Wendall and Monica Wilkins and haven’t known of your existence. I’ve got that feeling…you know when you wake up from a dream that hasn’t made any sense, but in the dream itself, you didn’t realise that? And when you wake up, you suddenly realise how stupid you were not to know it wasn’t real?”
Hermione nodded again, her lips firmly together as though she didn’t trust herself to speak, for fear she might vomit if she did.
“Yes, I can remember everything, I think,” said Mr Granger, who clearly hadn’t been listening to his wife, looking very relieved. “Yes, my name is Paul Granger and I am married to Jean Granger and have a daughter called Hermione Granger who is a witch and has a lot of explaining to do.”
He smiled, raised his eyebrows and looked down at Hermione who looked weak with relief. They seemed to be perfectly happy to continue this conversation on the doorstep, so Ron interjected, feeling (because his arm had gone numb) that Hermione could soon faint.
“Er…can we come in…to do the explaining?” he asked, trying his hardest not to sound rude.
The Grangers jumped and turned to him in astonishment, as if they hadn’t noticed his existence. Hermione, too, seemed to have temporarily forgotten what was holding her off the ground, and blinked as she came back down to Earth.
“Oh…Mum, Dad, this is Ron.”
“Oh, right,” said Mr Granger. “Yes, we’ve heard a lot about you. Nice to meet you, Ron.”
He stuck out his hand and a blushing Ron shook it, before Mrs Granger clapped her hands excitedly and said.
“Well…why don’t you come in? Hermione, you look ill. We’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do, I think.”
It was three hours later and Ron, Hermione and her parents were sitting around the dining table, digesting the knock-up meal they had just finished, during which time Hermione had gone over the main points of the year and her reasons for putting the memory charms on her parents. They had been a little indignant, though Ron suspected it had been only his presence which had prevented them from being angry.
It fell silent. Ron had a sudden awkward feeling that the other three people in the room, or at least two of them, were hoping he’d leave for a few minutes, so he quickly stood up.
“I…um….thank you for dinner, Mrs Granger…”
“Oh, please dear, call me Jean.”
“Um, OK. I…er…think I’ll get some fresh air in the garden, if that’s alright. I’ll just let you catch up a bit…”
He squeezed Hermione’s hand under the table and left the room, his ears scarlet.
The garden at the back of the Grangers’ house – or rather, Ron thought, the Wilkins’ house, for it was no doubt in their name that the house had been purchased – was for the most part an enormous lawn, sloping down into a patch of scrub, and separated from the gardens on either side of it by a Bougainvillea-smothered fence. Only the lights from the city illuminated Ron’s way onto the crisp grass in the darkness. He stuffed his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath of the chilly night air, before lowering himself onto the grass.
“I’m in Australia,” he muttered to himself, smiling slightly. “I’m in Australia with the girl I…with Hermione.”
He laid back on the grass, his hands behind his head, and sighed. The day, despite the lingering sores from the broom ride, had gone very well. He relived the tour around the Aboriginal village and the cheerful, if quiet, coffee he and Hermione had shared for lunch. But most of all, he was thrilled by the fact Hermione had found her parents, alive and well and able to remember her. A small, selfish part of him had hoped for this just because he wanted to be introduced to his girlfriend’s parents – almost to get their consent. But now, that wasn’t important. Hermione was happy, so he was, too…
He must have fallen asleep, though he wasn’t aware of it, because the next thing he knew, Hermione was there beside him, lying down and smiling into his face.
“Oh, hello,” he said, returning her smile.
They sat up and put their arms around each other’s shoulders, staring out at the city lights.
“Where are your parents?” Ron asked after a moment.
“They’ve gone to bed; they were really tired. It’s just a side-effect of the memory charm. And anyway, it’s gone midnight…”
“Midnight?” Ron yelped, staring at his watch.
“Yes, you fell asleep,” Hermione replied, grinning - she seemed to be radiating happiness.
“Ron,” she said quietly, after a moment.
“Thank you for coming with me. I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Well, I wasn’t going to be left behind, was I?”
Hermione leant forwards and kissed him, and he was surprised to feel a tear trickling down her cheek.
“Hey, what’s the matter?” he asked, pulling gently away.
Hermione gave a watery chuckle.
“Nothing. I’m really, really happy. Ron…I…I love you.”
She said it so suddenly and with such sincerity that it took a few seconds for the meaning of the words to sink in. And when they did it was like an explosion. She loves me, said a stunned voice in Ron’s head. She loves me!
“I love you, too, Hermione.”
And surrounded by an aura of happiness, they fell asleep in each other’s arms on the cool, dry grass of Australia.
Squeee...hope you liked it! Please leave feedback - link in my sig. :tu:
June 17th, 2008, 5:37 pm
OK, here's the next chapter. It's not brilliant but it's an update. Make sure you've read the last chapter because I think some people missed it. Yours for the dismembering:
Chapter 8 – Birthday Surprises Again
“Harry. Oi, birthday-boy, wake up!”
The first thing Harry was aware of when he woke up on the thirty-first of July, was a pillow hitting him in the face. He sat bolt upright and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. Without his glasses on, all he could discern in the sunlight-flooded bedroom was the bright red mop of hair which belonged to whoever had thrown the pillow at him.
“No it ruddy well isn’t!” said a cheerful male voice. “What would my sister be doing in your bedroom, might I ask?”
Harry quickly jammed his glasses onto his face.
“Ron! You’re back!” Harry exclaimed. “Where’s Hermione? What time did you get back?”
“Whoa, slow down!” Ron laughed. “We got back about four o’clock this morning but Mum wouldn’t let me wake you up until eight. And Hermione’s downstairs in the kitchen with the others, ‘cause we’re all waiting for you to come down.”
“Why – oh, it’s my birthday!”
Ron rolled his eyes.
“Duh! Happy Birthday, and hurry up!”
Five minutes later, Harry entered the kitchen to find all the Weasleys and Hermione standing around the kitchen table underneath a large, scarlet and gold banner which read:
HAPPY 18TH HARRY!
“Happy birthday!” everyone cried, a little out of time, waving their arms in the air and all looking rather daft.
“Thanks. And hi, Hermione. Good journey back?”
“Yes, thanks!” beamed a very tanned Hermione. “I actually managed to force Ron onto a plane to come back, which is why we’re so much earlier than we thought we’d be. Mum and Dad are coming back in two weeks, once they’ve organised everything.”
Hermione had already told Harry all about finding her parents, via the mirrors.
“Come and sit down, Harry,” said Mrs Weasley happily, a little flustered, while everyone fidgeted around, looking very excited. “Presents!”
Harry sat down, blushing. He knew why they were making so much fuss about this birthday: it was his first since Voldemort’s defeat.
Ron took the seat next to Harry and thrust his present under Harry’s nose. Harry ripped off the paper to reveal a simple, but beautiful, wooden box. He lifted the lid curiously to find a muggle chess set – the pieces were all brightly coloured with spots of red and yellow paint.
“Hand painted by Aborigines,” Ron informed him proudly.
“Wow, thanks!” Harry said, examining a beautifully carved knight, which was a kangaroo instead of a horse.
Hermione then leant forwards and handed Harry an ominously book-shaped package. Harry tore off the wrapping-paper to find that it was, indeed, a book: “The Auror Academy Handbook.”
“Brilliant! Thanks!” Harry said flicking through the pages.
“I’m not sure how closely it follows the actual Auror training course, because it hasn’t been published by the Ministry, but hopefully it will be useful anyway,” she said.
Percy, too, had given him a book, though it was slightly less interesting: “Staying Within the Law: ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s for the Ministry Worker.”
Mr and Mrs Weasley gave him a hamper of homemade cakes and pies. Charlie gave him a moving model of a Hungarian Horntail, which almost set fire to Percy’s law book. Bill and Fleur gave him a large box of assorted Honeyduke’s confectionary. Then George stood up from the table, looking a little pale. Harry had been dreading this, because he knew how hard this was going to be for George: he and Fred had always given joint presents. He handed a lumpy package across the table with a small smile. Harry pulled the paper away and a white T-shirt fell out. Holding it up, Harry read the flashing, colourful letters stamped across the chest:
Now an Adult Muggle!
Harry and Hermione laughed, but everyone else still seemed to be trying to figure it out. Something clicked in Mr Weasley’s mind, and he, too, chuckled.
“Oh, I see,” he laughed.
“I don’t,” said Ron, looking thoroughly non-plussed.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Muggles come of age at eighteen, so Harry’s now an adult in the muggle world as well as the Wizarding world.”
Everyone made noises of understanding, and there were a few laughs, but the joke had all but worn off. George looked very disheartened that his present had been a bit of a flop, so Harry laughed again and pulled the T-shirt on over his robes.
“Well,” said Mr Weasley with a yawn. “I think that’s everyone. Oh, Ginny, what about you?”
Ginny blushed a little.
“Harry can have mine after breakfast, in private” she muttered, throwing an embarrassed smile at Harry.
Mrs Weasley cocked one eyebrow, but seemed to decide against enquiring.
“Well, in that case, you’ve still got cards to open, Harry.”
And to Harry’s astonishment, she summoned from the draining board a washing basket filled to the brim with envelopes.
“These were all delivered by a flock of owls, this morning,” said Mrs Weasley in an amused voice. “Apparently word has got out that it’s your birthday today.”
Harry gaped and slowly began slitting open envelopes. The others all watched him for a moment.
“Shall we…?” said Ron, gesturing towards the mountain of envelopes.
“Please,” said Harry, nodding, so everyone dived towards the washing basket and began opening cards.
The first few were simply birthday cards, carrying birthday wishes, but then George unearthed one which lit up, leapt out off his hands and began dancing on the table in time to the out-of-tune version of “Happy Birthday to you” which it was singing. Harry stood the fruit bowl on top of it with a grimace. There were many other instances of singing cards, all treated in the same manner. One particularly large specimen yelled “BIRTHDAY BEATINGS!” and began whacking Harry around the ears, before Hermione shot a freezing charm at it.
“Mum, this one’s addressed to you,” Ron said, handing Mrs Weasley an envelope as they neared the bottom of the wash basket.
Mrs Weasley slit open the letter and read the first few lines.
“Oh, it’s from Andromeda,” she said absently. “She can come to the party…”
“Party?” said Harry. “What party?”
Everyone else groaned and threw Mrs Weasley irritated looks.
“That would be your surprise party, Harry,” Mr Weasley chuckled.
Mrs Weasley made a guilty face. Harry felt himself going red.
“You didn’t have to organise a party for me!”
“It really wasn’t any trouble, Harry,” said Mrs Weasley fondly. “We’ve just invited a few people…”
“Neville, Dean and Seamus are coming,” said Ron.
“And Luna,” said Ginny.
“I think most of the DA and all your old quidditch team are coming,” said Hermione.
“And some order members…” added Mr Weasley.
Harry blinked. Mrs Weasley suddenly remembered Andromeda’s letter and continued to read.
Andromeda had been invited round to The Burrow several times previously so that Harry could get to know his Godson, and perhaps as a comfort for Andromeda, now that her husband, daughter and son-in-law weren’t there. Harry was already very fond of Teddy and was glad to hear that he’d be paying a visit on his birthday.
“Well I never…” Mrs Weasley muttered suddenly, frowning at the letter in her hand.
Everyone paused, with hands still in the washing basket, to look at her.
“What is it?” asked Ginny.
Mrs Weasley glanced anxiously round the table then said,
“Well, Andromeda’s asking whether she could bring another guest to the party: her sister.”
“Her sister?” repeated Ron, looking confused. “But Bellatrix is…OW!”
Hermione had kicked him under the table. Harry suddenly understood.
“You mean…Narcissa Malfoy?”
Mrs Weasley nodded slowly.
“Malfoy’s mum wants to come to your party?” Ron said with something half-way between a smirk and a grimace.
“Here, Harry, you can read the letter, and see what Andromeda says,” said Mrs Weasley, handing it across the table. “You can decide.”
Harry took the letter and read:
Thank you for your invitation and yes, I would be delighted to come to Harry’s party. I think Teddy already knows who Harry is, because when I told him about the party he turned his hair jet black and messy!
I’m sorry that it’s such short notice, but I was wondering whether I could bring another guest? You see, ever since Bella’s funeral, I’ve been trying to patch things up with my other sister, Narcissa. We’re never going to be close friends, I’m sure, but it would be nice to at least acknowledge each other as sisters. After her husband and son were imprisoned, she actually paid us a visit, apparently feeling the same way, and I suspect just seeking anyone she can call family, even if that person is one she once accused of being a blood traitor.
Anyhow, we managed to have a civil conversation, and when I happened to bring up the subject of Harry’s party, she did show a little interest and mentioned that she hadn’t thanked him for defending the three of them at their trials. It seems she’s making every effort to make amends, and I’d like to help her if I can. Obviously, I understand that there has been some animosity between her family and yours, so I completely understand if you’d rather she didn’t come – I wouldn’t want to spoil Harry’s birthday celebrations!
Awaiting your owl, and wishing Harry a “Happy 18th!” (Again, I’m sorry I’ve sent this owl on the day of the party, but I couldn’t make up my own mind about Narcissa until this morning).
p.s. Feel free to show this letter to Harry – it’s his party after all.
Harry finished reading and looked up to see the others all staring at him curiously. He swallowed to give himself thinking time.
“Well,” he began slowly, “I’ve got no objection to Narcissa coming as long as you don’t mind.”
He directed his words to Mr Weasley above the others, because he knew it to be he who had been on the receiving end of the majority of Lucius Malfoy’s taunts.
“You realise,” interjected Ron. “That she’s probably just going to be judging how small our house is?”
“Ron, be quiet,” snapped Ginny. “I think we should give her a chance.”
Mrs Weasley said nothing but appealed with her eyes to her husband, who returned her gaze thoughtfully. He removed his glasses delicately and wiped them on his robes.
“Although I can’t help agreeing with Ron,” he said slowly after a moment, “I’m willing to allow her to come.”
This seemed to settle the matter and Bill, Fleur and Charlie looked quite relieved for this, because they had all been struggling in vain to follow the conversation.
When all the cards had been opened, the envelopes and wrapping paper vanished, Mrs Weasley began handing out full English breakfasts. Harry wolfed his down, Ginny having reminded him by a pointed glance that he still had her present to receive. When the last scrap of bacon had been devoured and Ron and Charlie between them had finished off the leftover scrambled egg, everyone rose to set about their tasks for the day and Ginny caught Harry’s eye.
“Your present’s in the orchard, Harry,” she said.
Harry saw Mr and Mrs Weasley exchange an uncertain glance, and Ron and George’s eyes darting suspiciously between their sister and Harry. He began to feel a little hot about the collar, and was even more embarrassed when Ginny turned, hands on hips, to her mother, fixing her with a level glare, and said,
“Why are you all looking at me like that?”
“Well, dear,” Mrs Weasley began hesitantly. “I know the mind of a sixteen-year-old girl, and saying that you’re going to give Harry his present in private is rather suggestive that you…um…”
Harry saw a very slight flush creeping up Ginny’s cheeks and hoped that no one else would notice this.
“Mum, we’re not stupid, and you trust Harry, even if you don’t trust me.”
Ginny turned on her heel and marched out of the kitchen door across the yard. Harry hovered uncertainly, meeting every eye in the room, but then curiosity and being an eighteen-year-old boy got the better of him and he hurried out of the door after her.
Ginny must have been walking very fast, because Harry only caught her up when they reached the orchard.
“So,” he said, as Ginny turned round, smiling, and they took each other’s hands, lacing their fingers together. “How are you going to top last year’s present, I wonder?”
Ginny laughed and said,
“Well perhaps this year, we’ll finish what we started.”
Harry felt a tingling creeping up his spine and leant in to kiss her, but, giggling, she pulled away and said,
“But I do actually have a present for you this year, as well, so restrain yourself!”
Harry laughed, and watched her cross to a small shrub on the edge of the orchard, lean into it and straighten up with a neatly wrapped present in her hands. She came back and handed it to him.
Harry didn’t open it straight away but felt and weighed it, trying to guess what it was.
“Just open it!” Ginny said impatiently.
Harry ripped off the paper. It was a simple chunky photo-frame, wider than it was tall and curved lengthways so that it could be stood up without a stand, and there were three separate spaces for photographs, displaying three photos. Harry stared at them. On the left was a photo he had never seen before of his parents. They were laughing, their faces close together and it was clearly snowing, for their cheeks were bright red and their shoulders were covered in white powder. His mum’s vivid red hair was partly obscured by a stripy woollen bobble hat, and his dad’s seemed to be catching the snowflakes. The photo on the right looked incredibly similar, for it too depicted a couple, she with bright red hair and he with jet black messy hair and glasses. Harry remembered Colin Creevey eagerly consenting to take this photo of Harry and Ginny, underneath the beech tree next to the lake at Hogwarts, during those few short weeks they’d had together before Dumbledore’s death. In the photo, Harry was leaning against the tree with his arms draped over Ginny’s shoulders in front of him. They were both laughing at something Harry had whispered into her ear, though the real Harry could not now remember what it was. But Harry’s eyes were drawn to the biggest photo which was in the centre of the photo-frame. A large female snowy owl surveyed him through amber eyes, turning her head for a moment to preen her feathers, before taking off from her photo-frame perch, one vast white wing obscuring the photo as she soared out of sight.
“Hedwig,” Harry breathed, unconsciously reaching out to touch a solitary feather floating serenely to the bottom of the frame.
He looked up.
“Ginny, this is…wonderful,” he murmured.
Ginny had been watching him anxiously to see whether or not he liked it.
“It’s alright? I wrote to Mary MacDonald and she had another look to find photos and found that one. And the others – “
“Ginny, stop talking,” Harry interrupted hoarsely, and she was given no choice in the matter as he pushed her up against the nearest apple tree, kissing her fiercely.
Ginny responded, throwing her arms around his neck and it was several minutes later before they finally broke apart, both scarlet-faced and dizzy. Harry looked down into Ginny’s eyes as they rested their foreheads together, smiling, and his next words rose easily to his lips.
“I love – “
“No, Harry, don’t say that!”
Harry pulled away and stared at her, startled by the desperation in her voice.
“Wha – why?”
Ginny bit her lip as he stepped back, then took his hands again and said,
“I – I don’t want to hear that…until I can…honestly…say it back.”
Harry felt his stomach plummet, and unconsciously ran his hand through his hair, now feeling stupid, though he was not sure why.
It was all he could think of to say. Ginny gazed into his eyes and he could see that somewhere in their depths she was pleading with him to understand.
“I did,” she said quietly. “I did…before you left. And I will…I want to…but right now, the pain of you going away, and of losing…so many people…and of coming so close to losing you, too…I just don’t have the emotional capacity to spare on l-loving you.”
Harry looked at his feet, trying to digest what she was telling him.
“But what about me?” he replied, quieter still. “Haven’t I suffered just as much, and I still love you?”
“What do you want me to say, Harry?” Ginny cried, flaring up unexpectedly. “I’m not going to tell you something that isn’t true. If you hadn’t gone away…”
“Oh, so it’s my fault, is it?” Harry interjected heatedly. “It’s always my fault, isn’t it?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying! But you went away, that’s the truth, and that hurt me too deeply…”
“Hey, if it hurt that much, why didn’t you come?”
“Because there’d be no way you’d let me!”
“Oh yeah, and you’ve got a great record for doing as you’re told, haven’t you?” Harry threw back sarcastically.
“I respected your decision! You’d explained why we couldn’t be together…believe me – I wanted to come. I would have, but I knew it was only a matter of time before someone in our family was killed...”
“And you didn’t want it to be you, is that it?”
“NO! I’m not a coward, Harry! I was thinking of other people – my parents! I was in just as much danger as you at Hogwarts! I did my bit! I did what I could!”
“And got cosy with Neville in the process – I bet that helped!”
Harry regretted the words as soon as they left his mouth. Ginny threw him a livid glance then strode away from him, pacing in a large circle around an apple tree, before turning to face him, glaring at him in anger.
“I can’t believe you’d use that against me,” she said in a low, fierce voice. “After what I told you when we got back together.”
Harry tried back-tracking.
“I didn’t mean that. I’m – “
“No, Harry! You can’t just apologise and everything will be fine again! It doesn’t work like that!”
“Then how does it work?” Harry shot back, firing up again.
“Right now, I don’t think it can!” Ginny yelled, and there was a hint of a sob in her voice.
Harry was going to reply, but stopped when he saw Ginny brandishing her wand in front of her.
“Ginny, you wouldn’t…?”
But Ginny seemed beyond reason now and screamed something indecipherable. The next thing Harry knew, he was lying flat on his back with pale-winged globs of mucus launching themselves at his face.
“Ow…OUCH…get off…Ginny, take this hex off me!”
But the only reply he got was a sarcastic “Happy birthday!” from somewhere above him, followed by the sound of Ginny’s fast-retreating footsteps.
Swearing, Harry painfully managed to extract his wand, the great flying bogies scratching at his hands and forcing him to keep his eyes shut.
The winged globs fell immediately to the ground, vanishing on contact like snow. Harry pulled himself slowly to his feet. The Bat-Bogey Hex did not seem to have caused any lasting injury (except perhaps to his pride), although he did feel a little sore where they had hit him. The photo-frame Ginny had given him was lying in the grass where he’d dropped it (though he had not been aware of doing so), and he crossed to it, picked it up and gazed for a moment at the photo on the right.
He roared in frustration and threw a kick at the nearest tree.
Ten minutes later, Harry was crossing the yard towards The Burrow, but was stopped in his tracks by a short figure standing in the kitchen door, wand aimed straight at him. Having just been hexed by Ginny, the sight of Mrs Weasley glaring at him in such anger was alarming.
“What on Earth have you done to my daughter?”
Harry noticed Ron staring at him coldly over his mother’s shoulder, Hermione hovering anxiously in the background.
“I haven’t done anything!” he replied indignantly, with far more heat than he’d intended. “We’ve just had a fight, that’s all! If it’s any consolation, I definitely came off worse!”
Mrs Weasley looked as stunned as he felt by his outburst.
“Sorry,” he muttered, ashamed. “I didn’t mean to shout at you.”
Perhaps Mrs Weasley could see that he was close to tears, because she visibly softened and stood back from the door.
“Come in, dear; come and sit down.”
Harry gratefully obliged, stumbling in and falling into a seat at the kitchen table. He kept the photo-frame in his lap.
“Where’s Ginny?” he asked absently.
“She…um…ran in, swore at us all then sprinted up to her bedroom,” Mr Weasley answered, blinking rather rapidly as though struggling to keep up with the turn of events.
Harry nodded a little, not knowing what to say.
“Why are you covered in leaves and dirt, Harry?” asked Mrs Weasley seriously.
“Um…” Harry replied, not particularly wanting to admit what had happened, but seeing no way to evade the question without arousing suspicions. “I’ve just been Bat-Bogeyed.”
Ron’s snort of laughter was hastily silenced by the glares he received as well as Hermione’s foot making contact with his shin, under the table. Harry couldn’t help smiling a little in spite of himself. Everyone continued to watch him curiously, to the point that he felt even more uncomfortable than he already was.
“Look, I’d…er…rather not talk about it…”
“Maybe it’d be a good idea if I go and talk to Ginny?” suggested Hermione quietly. “She’s confided in me before.”
Harry nodded slowly.
Hermione leaned across the table and gave his hand a quick, sympathetic squeeze, before leaving and heading upstairs to Ginny’s bedroom.
“Well,” said Mrs Weasley breezily, all of a sudden. “Now that you are in on the secret of your surprise party, Harry, perhaps you wouldn’t mind lending a hand to help set it up – to take your mind off things? I don’t think anything can really be gained by sitting here moping – these things just have to run their course, I’m afraid…”
The sudden change of subject – not to mention Mrs Weasley’s giving good advice on a situation she knew very little about – took Harry by surprise, but he nodded in agreement anyway, and followed Ron outside to de-gnome the garden.
“Listen, mate,” said Ron, once they were alone. “What happened just now?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Harry repeated.
“Yes, but this is my sister we’re talking about, here, and she seemed pretty upset.”
Harry called him a nosy git, but consented to give him a general overview of the argument. When he had finished, Ron was silent for a moment and threw a gnome into the field before making any comment.
“Ouch,” he said. “Even I haven’t ever been Bat-Bogeyed by her.”
“Cheers, that helps,” replied Harry dully.
“I don’t understand girls at all, mate. I don’t see how she can claim to have run out of emotions – I’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon, remember? And I haven’t run out of emotions to spare for Hermione.”
“Still not helping.”
“Who said I was trying to help?” asked Ron, turning to Harry with a frown. “I never said I was on your side in this. Bringing Neville into it was harsh, Harry. Ginny didn’t deserve that.”
Harry was taken aback by the reprimand, but knew Ron was right.
“I know,” he said quietly. “But she was telling me how much I’d hurt her, when she had just told me she didn’t love me – how was I supposed take that?”
Ron looked uncomfortable.
“I don’t know. I can imagine that hurt, but it’s outside my experience.”
Harry looked curiously at his best friend.
“You and Hermione – have you said…?”
Ron smiled – it was a warm smile which Harry had never seen before, and it told him the answer immediately.
“Yeah,” Ron replied simply.
Seeing Harry’s dull expression, he quickly elaborated.
“But we’re older than you and Ginny and have kind of been together for longer, even if it wasn’t formal.”
Harry nodded, but said nothing, and instead vented his feelings by throwing a gnome as far as he could into the field.
“Nice one,” Ron said uncertainly.
Harry cracked a smile, and they continued the de-gnoming in silence.
Harry managed to steer clear of Ginny for the rest of the day. For the first couple of hours, she refused point-blank to leave her bedroom, despite Hermione having told the others she was okay. It was only when Mrs Weasley forced her way into Ginny’s bedroom and yelled at her to come out and help (Harry distinctly caught the words “selfish”, “immature”, “stubborn” and “self-centred”), that she consented to grace anyone with her presence. She was huffy with everyone, and shot evils at Harry whenever she got the chance, to the point that it became almost comical.
By five o’clock, Mrs Weasley had had enough, and managed to blackmail the two of them into two seats around the kitchen table.
“Right, listen to me, you two,” she said warningly. “I should not be having to do this – in less than a fortnight you will both legally be adults! I don’t know what happened earlier, and I don’t want to know, but this is ridiculous. It is Harry’s birthday and the party begins in an hour. Ginny, you need to drop the attitude, young lady. Now, either make up or break up, but for heaven’s sake be done with this nonsense before the guests arrive or I’ll turn you both out of the house.”
And with this dire warning lingering behind her, she left them alone in the kitchen. Harry looked at Ginny and she stared coldly back, and for several minutes, neither of them spoke. Finally, Harry broke the silence.
“Well, which is it? Make up or break up?”
Ginny considered for a moment, and Harry could imagine she was formulating some smart-alec reply about simplicity, but none came.
“Mum’s right: this is ridiculous,” she said eventually. “Let’s drop it for tonight and not let it spoil your birthday.”
“Really?” Harry said, hardly able to believe his luck. “So we’re OK?”
“I said we’ll drop it for tonight. We’re friends again. We’ll talk it over tomorrow when you get back from Auror training.”
Harry had a feeling this wasn’t all good – having the situation hanging over his head during his first day of Auror training did not seem to be a good idea – but decided it was better than nothing. They said nothing more and left to continue with the various chores which still needed to be done.
Quarter to six arrived and there was a knock on the door. First to arrive were Luna and Dean, who to everyone’s surprise were holding hands, closely followed by Seamus, Parvati, Neville, Hannah Abbott, Ernie Macmillan and Justin Finch-Fletchley in one large party. Lee Jordan and Angelina Johnson were next, with Oliver Wood, Katie Bell and Alicia Spinnet not far behind. Slowly, the majority of Dumbledore’s Army arrived, though, as Neville told Harry: “We’re not the DA any more, we’re the PA – Potter’s Army”. Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout and Slughorn arrived with Hagrid, Buckbeak, Grawp and Firenze, the four of whom stayed outside. To Harry’s relief, no one had thought to invite Trelawney. As the stream of arriving guests grew to a flood, Charlie and George took it upon themselves to act as bouncers. This proved to be a good plan, because not far behind the Hogwarts party came two all-too-familiar Daily Prophet reporters: Rita Skeeter with Arenaria Piper in tow.
“I’m sorry, Rita,” Harry heard Charlie saying, in a mock-friendly voice, as the two bouncers stood, arms folded, blocking the doorway. “But no invite, no entrance.”
Rita gave a false, though slightly threatening laugh.
“Oh, don’t be silly, darling, Harry and I go way back, I’m sure he’d be delighted to see me! And I’m training young Arenaria here – what a treat it would be for her to report on the Boy-Who-Lived’s birthday party, and on the eve of his Auror career, too!”
“No, I don’t think so. If you’d like to leave? I think you’ll find we’ve got some more guests arriving…”
Harry caught a glimpse of Rita’s sour expression and felt his glee increase when Hermione, who was passing with a tray of drinks, called over Charlie’s shoulder,
“And no buzzing around here for stories – we’ve got a just government now and I won’t hesitate to do what I told you before. You know what I mean.”
Rita forced a smile, but Harry distinctly saw her nostrils flare.
“The last time I checked, Little Miss Perfect, blackmail was still against the law,” the reporter hissed.
Hermione smiled but did not grace her with a reply, so Rita turned on her heel, crocodile-skin handbag whacking Charlie around the stomach, and strode away. Arenaria Piper trotted after her like a little lost puppy.
By six o’clock, the party was in full swing. This was confirmed by the arrival of Aberforth with several crates of Firewhiskey and Butterbeer, and Madam Rosmerta with two large barrels of her famous mulled mead. The latter arrived on the back of a large horse-drawn cart, and the removal of the barrels revealed a group of hitch-hiking Hogwarts’ house-elves, who were all looking quite sheepish, but were soon invited inside by a delighted Hermione.
The last group to arrive were the miscellaneous Order members – Dedalus Diggle was wearing a particularly exuberant violet top hat with a sign sticking out of the top, proclaiming “Happy 18th, Harry!” – with Andromeda Tonks bringing up the rear.
Andromeda’s arrival with Narcissa caused quite a stir, because many of the other guests were familiar with Mrs Malfoy’s connections. She kept her head down and said nothing to anybody, and nobody said anything to her. Harry saw Mrs Weasley hovering near the door as they arrived, and suspected she wanted to say something by way of a welcome to Narcissa, but couldn’t quite manage it. Harry, on the other hand, was far more interested in seeing Teddy again. Teddy was lying in an old-fashioned pram, which Andromeda was pushing, and when Harry ran out to see them, he saw that his Godson was largely obscured by a present. Mrs Weasley quickly took this away to be added to the growing mountain of presents in the laundry room.
“Hello, Teddy!” Harry said, grinning into the pram.
Little baby Teddy’s tuft of hair immediately turned coal black, and his eyes went vivid green. However it seemed he was unable to control the metamorphosing and with his next shrill giggle, his nose sprouted an extraordinary amount of fluorescent pink hair. He sneezed and burst into tears.
“Oh, dear,” said Andromeda, ignoring her sister, who had turned her head away in apparent disgust. “Teddy, come here and say happy birthday to Uncle Harry.”
Andromeda lifted Teddy out of the pram and he hiccoughed himself calm, the nose hair having disappeared with his sneeze, then started squirming and clutching his tiny fists in Harry’s direction.
“I think he wants you to hold him, Harry,” said Andromeda.
Harry laughed a little nervously and carefully took the tiny baby in his arms. He had held Teddy several times before but was still very unsure about it – never having been allowed in contact with any young relatives of the Dursleys or children at his primary school, Teddy had been the first baby he had ever properly seen.
“Hello, Teddy, you’ve grown, haven’t you?” he said as he bobbed his Godson up and down.
Teddy giggled again and blew a raspberry, causing his hair to turn ginger. Harry laughed and started carrying him indoors. It was only now that he noticed Ginny watching him from the kitchen window. She had a strange expression on her face, as she observed the little red-haired baby in his arms, which he couldn’t quite work out – it was somewhere between a sad smile and confusion. But as soon as she realised he had spotted her, she disappeared from the window.
The evening was very pleasant and before long the party had moved outside into the yard and garden. Lee Jordan, to everyone’s joy, had brought with him a magical gramophone and several records, mostly of The Weird Sisters. Mrs Weasley, with the help of several guests, began heating up and arranging the food she had prepared earlier in the day. The house-elves seemed unable to restrain themselves and were soon to be seen weaving in and out of the chatting guests bearing trays of food and drinks. There was one slightly awkward moment in which Kreacher, who had arrived with the other house-elves, came face to face with Narcissa. The latter stared at the house-elf, who gave a jerky bow and croaked “Miss Cissy,” before disappearing off into the crowd, leaving a stunned Mrs Malfoy behind.
Harry, after a word from Mrs Weasley, decided he ought to thank Mrs Malfoy for coming, so, bracing himself, made his way through the crowd to the corner of the garden where she was standing alone. She seemed to have missed out on a drink, so Harry quickly grabbed a butterbeer from a passing house-elf’s tray, and proceeded to where she was standing, wondering dimly why he was extending her the hand of friendship, when the last time they had talked had been in Madam Malkin’s robe shop and Narcissa had been none to pleasant to him. As he reached her and silently offered her the bottle of butterbeer, she seemed to be thinking the same thing. She accepted the bottle, murmuring what Harry supposed was a word of thanks.
“Um…thanks for coming,” Harry said quickly after an awkward pause.
Narcissa just nodded, looking as uncomfortable as before.
After a moment, she cleared her throat quietly and looked as though she was about to say something. Eventually she seemed to find her voice and spoke to the slightly shaking bottle clasped in her hands.
“I-I suppose I ought to…thank you, for…for defending us at our trials,” she muttered.
“No problem,” Harry said casually.
She looked up, and he was surprised to see she had tears in her eyes.
“Why are you being so nice to me?” she whispered. “Why don’t you hate me, like you should? I’m a horrible person…why haven’t I been hounded out of the country?”
Harry stared at her, and took a sip of his own butterbeer before answering.
“That’s the difference between our side and…and your husband’s side…Voldemort’s side.” She shuddered at the name. “We give people second chances.”
They said nothing more and eventually Harry decided to mingle with the rest of the crowd to thank them for coming. As he walked away from Narcissa, she said,
“Can you…could you…please…thank the Weasleys for letting me come here?”
Harry nodded and left.
Later in the evening, Harry was sitting in the warmly-lit living room with most of his Hogwarts friends, all trying to hear each other talking over the thumping music issuing from Lee’s gramophone. Neville was sitting on one of the sofas with Dean and Luna, who had been the topic of much gossip throughout the party. Ginny was sitting on the seat by the window, behind and to the left of Harry, who was on the other sofa with Ron and Hermione. Harry suspected Ron and Hermione had quickly spread the word amongst the others not to comment on Harry and Ginny’s lack of affection, because no one brought it up.
“So, Neville, what have you been doing lately?” Harry asked after having endured a ten-minute monologue from Ernie Macmillan on who-knew-what.
“Not a lot, really,” Neville replied modestly. “I’ve been popping back to Hogwarts and helping Professor Sprout re-plant all the greenhouses, ‘cause they were flattened in the battle. Gran’s still in St Mungo’s – you know she was hit in the chest with a few Stunners? But she’ll be alright. She’s tough, my Gran,” he added proudly. “And once she’s better, I’m going to Holland – “
“Holland?” Ron yelped.
“Yeah. Professor Sprout reckons I could be a professional Herbologist, but she doesn’t recommend the training in this country. So she’s put me in contact with the Herbologist College in Holland where she trained. I guess I’d better start learning Dutch,” he laughed.
“That’s great, Neville!” Harry grinned, patting Neville on the back, genuinely delighted for his friend, despite the lingering feelings surrounding Neville which had been unearthed during his and Ginny’s argument. “Ron, Hermione, did you go there?”
Hermione shook her head.
“No, we went down through France and through Switzerland and Austria.”
“I’m going to Sweden,” piped up Luna suddenly. “To look for Crumple-Horned Snorkacks.”
Everyone determinedly avoided each other’s gaze, though several questioning eyes found Dean. Harry, however, could see why Dean liked Luna – although he himself had never looked at her in that way, he knew she was a wonderful person, and, thinking back, seemed to remember something of a spark between Luna and Dean when they were staying at Shell Cottage.
At that moment, the music was cut off, and turning to the gramophone, everyone saw a determined Mrs Weasley removing the Weird Sisters’ record and replacing it with Celestina Warbeck’s. She straightened up to see everyone staring at her and raised her eye brows as if to say “what are you going to do about it?”
The slow music came on and Ron, laughing, leapt to his feet and with one hand behind his back, bowed to Hermione, offering a hand.
“May I?” he asked in a mock-posh voice.
“Yes, you may.”
Everyone laughed as the couple started prancing around the living room, but before long, many others had joined them. Bill magicked the furniture up stairs onto the landing so that the entire living room could be given over to dancing. Luna, Dean, Seamus and Parvati soon started a conga around the house, and as more and more of Aberforth’s Firewhiskey was consumed the dancing became more and more erratic. Professor Sprout and Neville made everyone laugh by tripping over each other’s feet and landing in a sprawl on the floor. Professor Flitwick struggled to find anyone his own size to dance with until he bumped into Winky the house-elf. The other house-elves watched open-mouthed as Flitwick asked Winky for a dance, then started dancing with her, without waiting for an answer. Hermione then took it upon herself to pair up all the house-elves and encourage them to dance. At first they were very reluctant, but it seemed they didn’t want to disobey her, and soon seemed almost to be enjoying themselves. House-elf laughter was something which few people had ever heard, but plenty of it sounded that night – no doubt the butterbeer helped it along.
Harry managed to avoid dancing for the most part, although he consented to dance with Hermione, Luna, Fleur and Professor McGonagall. It wasn’t the dancing he was trying to avoid, but the obligation of dancing with Ginny. So for most of the evening Harry just sat in a corner enjoying people-watching. He was happy to see that even Narcissa got involved – Slughorn was inclined to be slightly fond of her as she had once belonged to his house at Hogwarts. It was really quite entertaining to see the tall, slim figure of Narcissa Malfoy being twirled around by the short, fat figure of Slughorn.
At around ten o’clock, Mrs Weasley called the dancing to a halt so that Harry could cut his birthday cake. He had barely had time to turn red before ten or so house-elves emerged from the kitchen bearing the most enormous cake Harry had ever seen. It was a square cake with a giant picture of Harry’s head set into the icing on top, and the words “Happy 18th and Congratulations on becoming an Auror” stamped across his forehead. Around the edge of the cake were eighteen red and gold candles. Hagrid, who had been watching proceedings through the window while consuming most of the mulled mead, began a rumbling, slurred version of “Happy birthday to you” which was soon picked up by the rest of the party. When it had finished, several people shouted “Make a wish, Harry!”. Harry glanced at Ginny, then screwed up his eyes and made his wish, before filling his lungs and blowing out all the candles in one go. There was a cheer and Mrs Weasley handed Harry a knife, saying,
“Just make a cut, Harry, and I’ll do the rest – I know how many guests there are…”
With the cake returned to the kitchen, the dancing resumed and it was even more exuberant than before. Angelina managed to coax George out of a corner where he had been moping all evening and before long, the entire party was dancing.
It was inevitable, really, that at some point during the evening, it would become too ridiculous to put off dancing with Ginny any longer, and perhaps due to the amount of Firewhiskey he had drunk, Harry found himself not wanting to continue avoiding her. It was nearing midnight before he saw her without a partner, and as soon as he did so, he made his way over to her, not quite in as straight a line as he would have liked. She saw him coming towards her, but to his surprise didn’t try and move away. The reason for this became apparent as she giggled and almost fell over.
“You’re drunk,” Harry laughed, almost bumping into her.
“So are you!” she giggled.
Harry grabbed her hand and led her into the centre of the room. They danced in silence for a while, receiving several smiles from the rest of the party. The room was becoming emptier as people began drifting home – Andromeda, Teddy and Narcissa had left straight after the cake had been cut – and more than one couple left to find somewhere more private. Harry saw Mr and Mrs Weasley exchange uneasy glances as George and Angelina disappeared.
With the room now less crowded, Harry twirled Ginny around, causing her to scream in laughter. They came back together and sobered up a little, resting their foreheads together as they danced.
“I’m sorry,” Ginny whispered, wrapping her arms around Harry’s neck. “For what I said earlier.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Harry whispered back. “It was my fault.”
Ginny laughed then leant up to kiss him.
“I must be drunk,” she said, suddenly. “I was going to give you another earful tomorrow, but I don’t think I can be bothered.”
Harry laughed and kissed her again.
“This makes far more sense.”
“Let’s go outside,” Ginny suggested quietly, taking his hand and leading him towards the door.
They left the house and made their way towards the garden, which was thankfully deserted – Harry had been rather worried that they might find George and Angelina there.
It was dark and much quieter outside; a great relief from the stuffy room indoors. Ginny turned to Harry again and took both his hands in hers.
“This is better,” she muttered, before leaning up and kissing him again.
“I know you don’t want to hear this, Ginny,” Harry murmured. “But I do love you.”
Ginny gazed up into his eyes and bit her lip. Harry took it as a good sign that she made no objection to what he had said, and kissed her again.
“Harry, I was wrong this morning…”
“You don’t have to say anything,” Harry interrupted, putting a finger over her lips.
“But I’m going to. I love you.”
The familiar creature in Harry’s chest might have done a few back flips, such was his excitement.
“I love you, too.”
Please leave feedback! Link's in my sig.
July 21st, 2008, 1:30 pm
Finally, an update! This one has been soooooo hard to write - it's gone through a lot of pruning. Anyway, enjoy! (Btw, for those who don't know - Marks and Spencers is a large British chain of clothes shops - you'll see the relevance of this later ;))
Chapter 9 – Auror Training
Arriving by apparition into the Ministry Apparition Station the next morning, Harry was relieved not to have splinched himself, given the large quantities of alcohol he had consumed the previous night, as well as the serious lack of sleep. He owed this to Slughorn, who (it had been revealed after the party) had brought with him a vat of Anti-Hangover Potion for anyone who would require it, and a phial of Sleeping Draught for Harry so that he’d be suitably refreshed for his first day of Auror training.
The Apparition Station was an ante-chamber of the Atrium; un unremarkable room, but one which left any users jumpy, due to the unpredictable appearance of co-workers amidst various pops and cracks. Harry left it as quickly as he could, dodging around people who were materialising out of thin air, so as to avoid any collisions.
Somehow, walking through the Atrium as a Ministry of Magic employee felt very different to when he had just been a visitor: perhaps it was simply because he did not have to present his wand for registration at Eric the Watchwizard’s desk, or maybe it was because, at this time of morning, the only other people around were other Ministry of Magic employees, clutching briefcases and half-eaten bagels, copies of the Daily Prophet folded under their arms.
Harry made his way to the lifts beyond the fountain, dropping into the water a few galleons as he passed. The bubble of happiness which had been residing in his chest since his and Ginny’s conversation the previous night was now being tickled by the butterflies in his stomach. This was it: he was about to begin his career as an Auror. He concentrated on Ginny to keep from being too nervous.
“Level two, Department of Magical Law Enforcement, including the Improper Use of Magic Office, Auror Headquarters and Wizengamot Administration Services,” said the familiar cool female voice after a few minutes of ascent, breaking into Harry’s happy musings about Ginny.
He stepped from the lift and had started hurrying along the corridor towards the door marked “Auror Headquarters: Authorised Personnel Only”, when a voice rang out.
“Harry! I wasn’t expecting you to turn up!”
Harry blinked as Williamson strode towards him.
“Why? I have got the right day, haven’t I?” he asked, worried by Williamson’s reaction to him.
The Auror laughed.
“Yeah, you’ve got the right day,” he assured Harry. “But I hear you had quite a party last night?”
Harry gaped at him.
“How did you know that?”
“It’s all over the papers, haven’t you seen?”
“What?” Harry spluttered.
Williamson looked bemused.
“Come on, I’ll show you. You’re a bit early so we’ve got time.”
Harry followed Williamson through the door to the Auror Headquarters and across the circular hallway to the Staff Room. A female Auror whom Harry hadn’t met before was sitting reading an old edition of Witch Weekly. She glanced up as Williamson and Harry entered.
“Oh, hi, Will,” she said. “New trainee?”
Before Williamson could answer, she did a double take at Harry and her eyes widened in astonishment.
“Yeah, it’s Harry Potter,” said Williamson, with a definite note of boastfulness that he was training The Boy Who Lived. “Harry, this is Vanessa Savage.”
Savage stood up, looking quite stunned and silently shook Harry’s hand. Her face was sharp and well-defined and her calculating eyes sucked you into them like miniature black holes. Harry had the distinct impression that she was appraising his every feature as her eyes moved swiftly and unblinkingly over his face. However her speech sounded cheerful and pleasant.
“Will, how did you manage it? You were the only one of us to get a trainee and it just happens to be Harry Potter!”
Williamson laughed then explained to Harry:
“We normally have around ten hopefuls wanting to train to be Aurors, but this year, because of all the disruption at Hogwarts, you’re the only one. We’re desperately looking for new recruits at the moment –“
“That’s my job, currently,” said Vanessa, a little irritably. “Recruitment.”
Williamson searched the coffee table for the Prophet, and Vanessa, after checking her watch, reluctantly left the room to begin her day’s work. Straightening up, Williamson said, “Here’s the paper, Harry.”
Harry took the proffered Prophet and gaped at the front page. There was a large, black-and-white photograph of himself and Ginny, kissing fiercely in the garden of The Burrow and clearly completely oblivious to their having their photo taken. The headline above the photograph read:
MISS WEASLEY’S CHOSEN BIRTHDAY BOY
Harry felt anger rising in him like vomit – he was used to being written and lied about in the papers, but dragging Ginny into it was taking it too far. He searched frantically for the name of the reporter: if it was Rita Skeeter, he would go straight to Kingsley and reveal that she was an unregistered Animagus. Hermione had warned her – why would she be stupid enough to write this story anyway? But then he found the name and his heart sank. Arenaria Piper. Harry swore under his breath, then read the article. It wasn’t particularly well-written and he hoped this would rid the article of any credibility or interest. Having finished reading, he flung the paper onto the table and took a deep breath. Save it ‘til later, said a voice in his head. Hermione will know what to do. Concentrate on Auror training, you don’t want to mess up your first day.
“OK, Harry,” said Williamson briskly, oblivious to, or simply choosing to ignore, Harry’s indignation at the newspaper article. “It’s nine o’clock and as I think we should start as we mean to go on, let’s get cracking.”
Harry dragged his gaze away from the newspaper on the table and forced himself to concentrate on nothing but Auror training.
Williamson led Harry out of the Staff Room and into the Conference Room. It was a high-ceilinged room with a large, oval-shaped dark-wood table in the centre. The far wall was given over to a completely un-used blackboard, and a three-legged board, with several large sheets of parchment attached to the top with a bull-dog clip, stood in another corner. Williamson strode over to stand next to the blackboard, whilst inviting Harry to take one of the seats around the table. Harry couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the smart and stylish room, with all the brand new furniture and the slightly nauseating smell of new carpet and paint. It felt for a moment as though he had entered a high-rise muggle office-block. Williamson seemed quite at his ease.
“OK, Harry. Today’s going to be a bit of a mish-mash and I’m going to give you a lot of information,” Williamson said briskly. “Firstly, I need to explain the training programme to you.”
He waved his wand and a sheet of parchment, a quill and a bottle of ink appeared in front of Harry.
“For notes,” he explained simply. “Now, what you need to know first is that you are going to be following a unique course – we’ve had to make alterations because of the circumstances. Normally, before beginning the training, a potential trainee would have to undergo a series of stringent Character and Aptitude tests. They would have to come in over a couple of days and prove that they had the right temperament for an Auror, and enough stamina to complete the training, et cetera. You are not going to have to do this because it’s easy to tell you’ve got the drive and stamina simply by looking at the record of your past achievements. I don’t think it would possible to continually hunt down Voldemort without stamina and loyalty.”
Harry felt a little uncomfortable and was glad when Williamson turned away to tap the blackboard with his wand. The heading “Structure of Course” appeared.
“So, we’re going to start at day one of your training,” Williamson continued. “The only other difference between your course and the norm is that, due to your lack of NEWTs – not the qualifications themselves but the knowledge that is necessary – you are going to have to do an extra year: four instead of three. You alright with that?”
Harry nodded, actually feeling quite relieved – he had thought he’d have to cram all the necessary work into three years, but four gave him some breathing space. Williamson tapped the blackboard again and a spider diagram appeared. The circle in the centre contained the words “Year 1”, and three branches reached out from it into the blank space of the blackboard.
“Your first year, then, is going to involve me teaching you the necessary NEWT-level skills. This will involve me teaching you spells and potions and you will learn how to perform magic non-verbally, for example. You will then sit modified NEWT exams at Hogwarts with the seventh years.”
Williamson tapped the board and “NEWTs” appeared at the end of one of the branches. Remembering the parchment in front of him, Harry quickly copied down the spider diagram.
“You remember I told you before that fitness would be a key element in your training? Well this will begin from today and continue throughout your course and probably into your Auror career. No need to look so worried!” he laughed as Harry involuntarily pulled a face. “I do it every morning – a half-hour jog around the duelling room.”
He tapped the blackboard yet again and “Exercise” appeared at the end of the second branch.
“And the final component of your first year will be general expansion of, and improvement on, your existing knowledge and skills.”
A final tap on the board completed the spider diagram with the word “Practice”. Once Harry had copied this down, Williamson cleared the board and a new spider diagram appeared for the second year of Harry’s training.
The second year comprised two units (Unit 1: Concealment and Disguise and Unit 2: Stealth and Tracking) as well as continued practice of general skills. Year three included a further two units (Unit 3: Interrogation and Information and Unit 4: Poisons, Antidotes and Wandless Skills). Year four brought everything together and included the final Auror exams.
Williamson then talked Harry through the structure of the day: at nine o’clock until half-past they would be jogging around the Duelling Room; following that, they would commence a theory session, which would largely resemble a one-to-one Hogwarts lesson and which would finish at one o’clock, lunchtime; in the afternoon, they would put the morning’s work into practice, applying it to a duelling situation.
This having been explained, Williamson invited Harry to ask any questions he had.
“What do the Aurors do now that Voldemort and the Death Eaters are gone?” Harry asked.
“There’s always going to be Dark Magic, Harry. But no, that is a fair question. For the time being, recruitment and training are mine and Vanessa’s priorities. Once we have a sufficient Auror force, we’ll be able to offer our services to other countries, in particular the ones which have granted us the use of their Wizard prisons. Our only other current Auror is Proudfoot and he’s in charge of Azkaban at the moment – he’s got a group of volunteers and non-essential Ministry personnel (all of the Unspeakables, for instance), rebuilding and guarding the prison...”
Having answered all of Harry’s questions, Williamson then took him to the Locker Room and gave him one of the many free lockers. Harry was glad to be able to dispose of his old school back-pack in which he had brought his Invisibility Cloak, thinking it might be useful.
It was now half-past nine and Williamson insisted that they would begin the as they would throughout the course: with a half-hour jog. Harry could not honestly say that he was looking forward to this, but wasn’t about to complain on his first day. He was taken by surprise when Williamson, without warning, transfigured his shoes into trainers and his robes into muggle running gear, then did the same for himself. They proceeded to the duelling room, where they began their jog in silence, Williamson setting the pace and Harry feeling very much outside of his comfort zone.
He was soon out of breath, puffing, bright red and had a stitch; Williamson – maddeningly – was completely at his ease, and told Harry brightly to breathe in through his nose and out through his mouth.
Thirty gruelling minutes later they had finished and Williamson transfigured their clothes and shoes back to ordinary Wizard’s attire.
“The other good thing about going for a jog in the morning,” said Williamson cheerfully, as though they had just been enumerating the many benefits of the exercise, “is that it wakes you up for the day ahead but works off any excess energy so that you don’t mind knuckling down to work.”
Harry wheezed an indistinct and non-committal reply. Williamson chuckled and assured him he’d get used to it.
They now, for the first time, entered the Auror Academy. It was, as yet, a completely blank corridor, bordered by completely blank doors, leading into completely blank classrooms. They entered the first classroom on the left and Williamson, with a flourish of his wand, added a plaque to the door reading:
Trainer: Joshuak Williamson
Trainee: Harry Potter
“This is home for the next four years,” he said, grinning. “We’ll be doing all your theory work and practice in here – the duelling room is just for authentic duels. Once we have more trainees, we’ll be able to pit you against each other, which should be entertaining.”
He rubbed his hands together enthusiastically, as though he were a devout gambler revelling in the prospect of a forthcoming horse-race.
“Now, take a seat – “ He waved his wand and one appeared, “ – behind the desk – “ A further flick and a desk, too, appeared, “ – and we’ll begin. As I told you earlier, the morning session of every day is for theory. That doesn’t mean you won’t be doing any wandwork, but you won’t be applying it to a situation. It’ll be much the same as an average Charms, Transfiguration or Defence lesson at Hogwarts. In the afternoon you will actually be using the spells against me, if appropriate, or against dummies or other inanimate objects, or you’ll be defending yourself against me using the spells you’ve been learning, et cetera, et cetera. Got it?”
Harry nodded the affirmative and waited eagerly for Williamson to continue, feeling he’d been kept in suspense for long enough and now wanted to do something proper and solid.
“So, to gauge where you’re at in terms of your knowledge of spells, I’ve devised a little task for you,” Williamson said, and he pulled from his pocket a tightly folded up piece of parchment.
He smoothed out the creases with his wand and handed it to Harry. On the parchment were two lists, the first one, which was at the top of the page, with the heading “Offensive Spells” and the second, lower down, with the heading “Defensive Spells”. Next to the list of offensive spells were three columns wit the headings “Heard of”, “Used” and “Been a victim of”. The first two columns continued down next to the defensive spells.
“This is a fairly straight-forward exercise,” said Williamson. “I just want to know which of these spells you’ve heard of, which you’ve used and which offensive spells have been used against you – and I mean the ones you’ve actually been hit with. See?”
Harry nodded and began working through the spells. He knew about half of the offensive spells and had used most of the ones he had heard of. He hesitated when he reached the last three offensive spells – the Unforgiveables.
“Be honest,” said Williamson quietly, having glanced up when Harry’s quill had ceased its rhythmic scratching.
Harry swallowed then put quill to parchment. Tick, tick, tick. That was the easy bit – there’s was nothing wrong with having heard of them. Tick, tick, tick. He’d been a victim of all three. Williamson, who had been watching, gave a tiny involuntary shudder.
“No one’s ever ticked that one before,” he said, leaning forwards and pointing to the tick indicating that Harry had been a victim of Avada Kedavra.
“Yeah,” Harry said, smiling grimly. “Twice.”
He then had to admit to having used the Cruciatus and Imperious curses. Tick…tick…He looked up shame-facedly at his trainer, expecting to see shock or disappointment, but Williamson looked supremely unconcerned. Catching Harry’s eye, he said quite simply,
“So have I. Desperate times require desperate measures.”
Feeling slightly reassured, Harry started on the much shorter list of defensive spells. He had heard of most of them – protego, impedimenta and expecto patronum as well as the spells Hermione had used to keep them hidden whilst searching for Horcruxes. When he had finished, he handed the parchment to Williamson, who quickly skim-read the lists.
“Ah,” he said interestedly. “I’d heard you could produce a patronus, but wasn’t sure if that was true. Normally, you’d only learn that during seventh year…”
“I had to learn it in my third,” Harry explained. “Because of the dementors. But I’m not the only one who could do it that young – in my fifth year I taught it to a group of other students –“
“Dumbledore’s Army? I’ve heard of them!”
“Yeah. Well some of them were much younger – there was at least one second year,” Harry added, remembering Dennis Creevey.
Williamson looked thoughtful.
“Hmm…if it can be taught that young, then I can’t see why it isn’t in the syllabus earlier on,” he said. “Anyway, we’re not here to discuss the running of Hogwarts. Can I see your patronus?”
Harry stood up and filled his mind with thoughts of Ginny. He pictured her face and her mouth forming the words “I love you”.
“Expecto Patronum!” he cried, and the bright silver stag burst forth, more brilliant and better-formed than ever before, fed by the happiest memory of Harry’s life so far.
The stag surveyed the two wizards for the space of a heart-beat then tossed back its antlers and leapt clean over the desk, before cantering once around the room. Reluctantly, Harry ceased reliving the moment in his mind’s eye, and with one final paw of the ground, the stag dissolved into nothingness. In its absence, the room seemed cold and dim.
“Ni-i-ice,” said Williamson, nodding appreciatively.
Harry smiled modestly.
“Do you know how to send messages with your patronus?” Williamson asked.
Harry shook his head.
“I’ve seen it done – I mean, I’ve received messages that way – but I’ve never done it myself.”
“No problemo. It’s a fairly recent development in magic, in any case. Dumbledore apparently invented it for the Order of the Phoenix, and Kingsley taught it to us. So I’ve only been able to do it for about a year. It’s useful, though, so you’ll be learning that.”
They spent the rest of the morning working slowly through the list. Williamson wanted to know the exact circumstances Harry had used the spells in; whether they had worked; what had happened to his opponents; how the spells had been used against him; how he’d defended himself from the spells. Williamson was particularly interested to learn that Harry could resist the Imperious Curse.
“It seems to me,” he said thoughtfully, “that one of your strengths is using will-power – you clearly have a lot of it. Producing a corporeal patronus after just a few attempts, at the age of thirteen; throwing off the imperious curse at fourteen; the strength of your shield charm – they all demonstrate enormous will-power as well as magical power.”
Harry also had to demonstrate many of the spells, so that Williamson could judge his technique.
“You definitely know what you’re doing there,” Williamson said, Harry having just stunned a plastic dummy “borrowed” from a muggle clothes shop. “Although, where possible, you must try not to aim close to the heart – you need to hit the head or torso to guarantee the spell will work, but if you hit the heart, there’s a risk of killing your opponent. You could stun their heart, you see.”
By lunch-time, Harry was feeling quite exhausted by the repeated spell-casting and having to recall the various situations he’d used spells or been subjected to them. He was extremely relieved when he reached the bottom of the list and Williamson, looking at his watch, said, “Excellent, we’re bang on time. Lunch!”
The Ministry canteen was one of a number of facilities specifically for the Ministry workers’ use, and although Mrs Weasley had insisted on packing Harry an enormous lunch, he decided to go with Williamson to the canteen so that he’d know where it and the other facilities were.
The canteen was part of a kind of street off the Atrium. To its left was a small shop selling spare parchment, quills and ink, useful books, magical devices, Daily Prophets, and a number of magazines. To its right were the bathrooms and further along the “street” was another shop selling and lending the various coloured robes which made up the Ministry uniform. The canteen itself was a spacious hall containing a number of long tables, all of which were slowly but surely filling up as Ministry workers from all departments filed in for lunch.
Spotting a flash of red hair in the corner of his eye, Harry scanned the heads of the lunching workers and saw Percy, who was carrying a food-laden tray, sitting down next to Mr Weasley, who was digging into a lunch box of Mrs Weasley’s cooking. With a word to Williamson, Harry left the queue for the serving hatch and wound his way between the tables towards Percy and Mr Weasley.
“Oh, hello, Harry,” said Mr Weasley as Harry dropped into the seat the other side of Percy, and began unwrapping the sandwiches Mrs Weasley had prepared for him.
Mr Weasley looked distinctly the worse for wear; he had dark rings under his eyes and was yawning after every other mouthful.
“Hi,” Harry replied. “I didn’t see you this morning – what time did you get in?”
“Half ten,” Mr Weasley answered shortly, before being cut off by a yawn.
Percy gave his father a slightly disapproving look.
“I was in before nine o’clock, as usual,” he said pompously. “I wouldn’t allow frivolities to cause me to be late to work.”
“Yes, but you left the party before ten o’clock, Percy,” Mr Weasley retorted irritably, scowling. “I had to see everyone off the premises and go out in the dark to find George before he fell asleep in the broom shed. I didn’t get to bed until gone four.”
Percy seemed to have no retort, so continued eating in snooty silence.
“Anyway, Harry,” Mr Weasley went on wearily. “How has your first day been so far?”
Harry spent the lunch hour recounting the morning’s events. With a pang, he remembered Arenaria Piper’s Prophet article, but didn’t have the guts to ask Mr Weasley if he’d seen it.
When two o’clock arrived, Percy had already darted off to begin his afternoon’s work. Harry and Mr Weasley left the canteen at a more natural pace, and Harry headed for the lifts while Mr Weasley set off along the Atrium towards the Official Entrance, where a large group of other workers was assembled.
Some of the destruction to muggle infrastructure, caused by Voldemort’s giants, had been too enormous to repair in one go, and it would not have been possible, therefore, to wipe the incidents completely from the muggles’ minds. So the Obliviators had worked round the clock, immediately after Voldemort’s death, modifying muggles’ memories so that the devastation would be attributed to natural disasters, gas explosions, accidents and arson attacks. The Ministry, bearing the responsibility for the damage, as it represented the world which had spawned Voldemort, was now sending groups of its employees, masquerading as aid workers, to help the muggles repair the damage. Mr Weasley was part of a team helping to rebuild a seaside village in Scotland, which, as far as the muggles knew, had been flattened by a freak tidal wave.
Harry, meanwhile, spent the afternoon in the duelling room. He almost fell over laughing when he entered the room to find himself face-to-face with a highly comical scarecrow, wearing a squashed, beige top hat and a rather lop-sided grin.
“What happened to the dummy we were using earlier?” Harry asked, smirking.
“Marks and Spencers missed it,” Williamson replied sarcastically. “No, it’s just easier to transfigure a scarecrow to act as a living thing than a rigid plastic dummy. We can use it to represent an innocent bystander, you see – with a little imagination.”
“Anywho, let’s crack on,” Williamson continued. “I want to test your reactions to different situations, with the help of Sam, here.” He slapped the scarecrow on the shoulder so that its head wobbled dangerously above its chequered necktie. “So, for this first exercise, I’m going to be acting as a cornered Dark Wizard, Sam is going to be an innocent muggle, and you are going to be an Auror who’s been sent to apprehend me. We’ll keep this strictly in the village part of the room, and let’s pretend the Ministry’s already put an Anti-Disapparition charm on the area, so no apparating. Go out of the room and give me one minute before you come back in. OK?”
Harry nodded and left the room. A minute later, wand clutched in front of him, he pushed open the door so that it swung back against the wall and slowly walked inside. Seeing that the main street was deserted, he instinctively looked up at the roof-tops. His hunch had been correct – Williamson was standing on the roof of the building opposite the church, with one arm clutched around Sam the Scarecrow’s neck, whilst the other held his wand against the straw man’s temple. Sam, who had been transfigured so that he moved, was struggling against Williamson’s powerful headlock to no avail. Harry moved slowly into the room. He could not remember ever having dealt with a hostage situation, except when Bellatrix Lestrange had threatened Hermione in Malfoy Manor. But the situation was different – then, his objective had been to get Hermione to safety, but now, his job was to catch Williamson, though no doubt he’d earn himself some kudos by getting Sam out “alive,” as well.
As Harry approached the building, Williamson suddenly shifted his feet and, in a very good imitation of a desperate fugitive, called, “Don’t come any closer, Ministry scum, or I’ll kill the muggle!”
Harry stopped walking. Think, he thought, What did they do in those corny American police shows Dudley used to watch? It definitely seemed as if that was what Williamson was basing his act upon – his knowledge of muggle sports gear and a muggle chain of shops suggested that he was a muggleborn, or at least a half-blood, so it would be perfectly reasonable to assume he would have watched one or two muggle TV programmes. Harry decided to lower his wand ever so slightly, feeling that this would lessen the probability that a Dark wizard would crack. He then called up to Williamson, in a calm but firm voice he might use if trying to persuade a child to hand over a beloved teddy bear.
“Alright, I’m not coming any closer. Do you think you could release the muggle for me, please?”
“Do you think I’m stupid,” Williamson sneered. “The second I let him go, I’ll have a Stunner in the chest, won’t I?”
Harry could think of no reply to this, so decided that diplomacy wasn’t going to work and the time for action had arrived. Get Sam to safety and you’ll be able to duel, said a voice in his head, breaking his necessary course of action down into moves as though this were a quidditch match and he had to get an opponent out of the way before attempting to catch the Snitch. Slowly, so as not to cause Williamson to think he was attacking, he moved his wand so that it was pointing down the street, and, concentrating hard on Sam, muttered “Accio scarecrow!. Williamson must have involuntarily slackened his grip out of interest in what Harry might try to do, because the hostage very nearly escaped its captor. Williamson came very close to falling off the edge of the building in his struggle to maintain a grip on the scarecrow. Taking advantage of his opponent’s momentary instability, Harry thought Levicorpus! and flicked his wand at Williamson and up. Williamson did not see it coming and was wrenched up into the air by his ankle. But Harry had created a new problem – Sam the Scarecrow, the innocent muggle hostage, was tumbling from the roof. With quidditch-sharpened reflexes, and without stopping to think, Harry took the only course of acting which came to him. Levicorpus! he thought for a second time, and the unfortunate victim was also hoisted above the road like a flag. Harry didn’t have time to bring the scarecrow to safety, however, as Williamson had lifted the charm on himself and was straightening up on the roof.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Harry cried desperately, but at this distance from his opponent, the spell was easy to dodge.
“Rotatium!” Williamson shot back.
The Spinning Jinx, which caused its victim to spin like a top, was deflected by Harry’s shield charm, but the reflected spell unfortunately struck the scarecrow, who was still dangling by the ankle in mid-air. As he began to spin at a sickening speed, Harry was reminded unpleasantly of the muggle children who had been subjected to this exact torture by the Death Eaters at the Quidditch World Cup.
“Finite!” Harry cried, abandoning the duel as his “saving people thing” kicked in.
The scarecrow ceased its spinning and fell to the ground where it lay still, Harry’s counter-jinx possibly having lifted the animating spell.
Saving the scarecrow had cost Harry the chance to defend himself. He heard Williamson’s shout of “Incarcerous!” too late to respond to it, and found himself a moment later bound head to foot in thick ropes.
“D-diffindo!” he stammered, the wind having been knocked out of him, but his wand had been bound tightly to his side by the ropes, so merely slashed a hole in his robes.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Williamson shouted triumphantly, and within his physical bindings, Harry’s arms and legs became more rigidly restrained.
His opponent well and truly defeated, Williamson climbed down from the roof and approached Harry with a grin plastered across his face.
“Diffindo,” he muttered and the ropes fell away. “Finite Incantatem”
Freed from the Body-Bind curse, Harry slowly sat up, rubbing the feeling back into his limbs where the ropes had cut off his circulation.
“Well,” said Williamson. “I can tell you that the Dark Wizard evaded capture, but that you did at least rescue the hostage, who has no recollection of the incident and will make a full recovery from his minor straw-wounds.”
Harry laughed weakly and accepted the hand being offered to haul him to his feet.
“You said before,” he panted, “that you’d be duelling…at my potential level…so that you wouldn’t…be beating the pulp…out of me. But I think…you’re doing that anyway.”
“If you think this is having the pulp beaten out of you, I find it hard to believe you’re the man who’s faced Voldemort a gazillion times.”
Harry thought about this for a second, then said, “Crucio doesn’t leave any bruises.”
“Not physically, perhaps,” Williamson replied sadly.
Harry felt an awful pang as he recalled that Neville’s parents had been left with far more than bruises by their encounter with the curse. Williamson must have noticed his discomfort, as he continued in a far lighter tone.
“Anyway, as I told you last time, it doesn’t matter if you don’t win, it’s about the techniques you use during the duel. You did get the better of me at one point, and it was only because you dropped your guard to rescue Sam that you lost.”
Harry scowled a little.
“Yeah, my “saving people thing” always seems to be my downfall.”
“Do you think that’s such a bad thing?” he asked. “Don’t you think that just shows your priorities? In my opinion, the fact that you’ll risk your own life, and jeopardise a mission, to save lives, demonstrates a kind of clear-headedness that many Aurors lack.”
Harry considered this, a little confused.
“We’re often called “Dark-Wizard-Catchers”,” Williamson continued. “But I think it’s much more admirable to be an “Innocent-Civilian-Saver”, don’t you?”
Harry stared at him for a minute, amazed that someone else shared his sentiments and was able to voice them eloquently, rather than pitying him what he had come to see as his biggest fault. He could think of no adequate reply to this and would, in any case, have been unable to voice one, due to the inexplicable lump in his throat, so he merely nodded his appreciation of Williamson’s words.
They spent the afternoon acting out several more situations, most of which culminated in a duel. Although Williamson won almost all of them, Harry did manage to better him once or twice, and on one occasion they were both hit by their opponent’s spell at the same time so declared it a draw.
By five o’clock, Harry was barely standing, and, though he had enjoyed the afternoon greatly, he was extremely relieved to be able to go home.
“Great work today, Harry,” Williamson said, smiling. “That’s given me a fairly good idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Tomorrow, we begin NEWTs.”
Harry said goodbye and left for The Burrow, his mouth already watering at the thought of Mrs Weasley’s cooking.
Please leave feedback! :)
September 3rd, 2008, 9:42 pm
Just to let people know, I haven't given up - the next chapter has just hit a bit of a tangle at the moment, but as soon as I get down to it I'll be able to finish it.
I also just wanted to spite the people who didn't leave feedback on my last chapter by making you all think there's an update.:evil:
February 22nd, 2009, 5:42 pm
Well, finally here's an update! I would strongly advise reading back a few chapters, or none of this'll make sense. Please leave feedback, as always (the link's somewhere above). Thanks and enjoy!
Chapter 10 – The Beetle’s Trick
Harry decided to floo back to The Burrow, not wishing to use every remaining ounce of his energy apparating and risking splinching. Being rush hour, the queues for the magical fireplaces lining the left-hand side of the Atrium extended almost to the corresponding arrival fireplaces on the other side. Harry joined the nearest queue, keeping his head down so as not to attract attention. Fortunately, the workers around him were too intent on getting home to notice him and, to his relief, he had not been recognised by the time he reached a fireplace ten minutes later.
The flames in the fireplaces were kept constantly green and ready for flooing (as this was their only purpose), negating the need for floo powder. Harry stepped into the emerald flames and felt the familiar, pleasant warmth tickling his exposed skin and causing his robes to flutter slightly. He had already removed his glasses and stowed them safely in his robes. Hugging his bag tightly to his chest, he said “The Burrow!” loudly and squeezed his eyes shut as he began the nauseating spin through the labyrinth of fireplaces and chimneys.
Coughing and spluttering through the mouthful of ash he had accidentally inhaled, Harry fell out of The Burrow’s kitchen fire. Luckily, no one was present to witness this less-than-elegant entrance and he was able to rectify his appearance before Ginny, Ron and Hermione entered the kitchen, all wearing inexplicably excited expressions.
“Harry!” Ginny exclaimed, running up to him and kissing him in greeting. “You’re home! How was your first day?”
“Great. Exhausting, though,” Harry replied, smiling wearily at this enthusiastic welcome and falling into the nearest chair. “What are you lot all so excited about?”
“Three different things, actually,” Ron answered. “Whose would you like to hear first?”
Bemused, Harry nodded at Ginny, who beamed and held up something shiny.
“I’ve been made Gryffindor Quidditch captain!”
Harry was speechless for half a second, having long forgotten that Ginny still had a year left of school, but then grinned and stood back up to give her a congratulatory hug.
“Well done! I knew you’d get that! Or…I would have if I’d remembered you were going back to Hogwarts,” he added sheepishly and Ginny mock-pouted.
Harry turned curiously towards Ron and Hermione, who were both clearly about to burst with their news.
“Go on, Hermione,” said Ron, ever the gentleman.
“I’m going back to Hogwarts!” Hermione cried without preamble.
“Wha-…how?” Harry stuttered, non-plussed.
Hermione flourished a piece of parchment under his nose and he caught a glimpse of the Hogwarts crest.
“The Hogwarts letters arrived today,” Hermione elaborated excitedly, “which is when Ginny got her badge, of course. And Ron and I both got letters as well! Here…”
She handed Harry the parchment and he read:
Dear Miss Granger,
I am writing to offer you the chance to return to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in order to complete the seventh year of your magical education. You do not have to commit to the full course and can attend whichever lessons you wish to, providing you inform the relevant teachers of your intentions at the beginning of every week. You may also return to use the school library for private study. Regardless of study-method, all students in your year are entitled to enter the NEWT exams in June, which you would sit with the seventh years.
Should you wish to stay in the castle and follow a full timetable, you will be integrated into the seventh year, taking the same lessons and sleeping in your appropriate seventh-year dormitory (your former dormitory having become the new first year dormitory). However, eighth-year students will have certain privileges (no curfew and unlimited Hogsmeade access, for example) although we do ask that you still wear the appropriate school uniform whenever on school grounds. Unfortunately, but for (hopefully) obvious reasons, you will not be able to participate in inter-house competitions such as the Quidditch Cup.
If you wish to accept your place, please complete the attached form, making it clear whether you will require accommodation, and return it by no later than 31 August. A list of necessary books and equipment is also enclosed.
PLEASE NOTE: this school year shall commence on the later date of 11 September. The Hogwarts Express will leave Platform 9 ¾ at 11 o’clock, as per usual.
Wishing you luck in whichever course you choose,
Professor M McGonagall
“So, you both got these?” Harry asked Ron and Hermione once he had finished reading, trying to hide the slight disappointment and sadness he was feeling that his two best friends had been invited back to Hogwarts, while he, it seemed, had not.
Ron and Hermione clearly read his mind, as they exchanged an uneasy glance.
“We think almost everyone in our year who fought Voldemort will have got one,” Ron answered a little apologetically. “But obviously McGonagall knows you’re training to be an Auror, so didn’t bother writing to you. Don’t take it personally,” he added, smiling.
“Anyway,” Hermione interjected, “I seriously doubt many people will accept the offer – there are so many job opportunities at the moment that people will think it’s unnecessary to return for NEWTs.” She glanced sideways at Ron. “I’d imagine it’ll mostly be Ravenclaws – and me.”
Harry looked curiously at Ron.
“So why aren’t you going back, then?”
“Because we also got another letter,” Ron replied. “It’s from someone called Vanessa Savage from the – “
“ – Auror Department!” Harry finished for him, cottoning on. “She’s in charge of recruitment.”
Harry suddenly realised the implications of this.
“You’re going to join the Auror Academy? When do you begin?”
“Hold your Hippogriffs, I haven’t read more than the first sentence yet!” Ron laughed. “The post only came five minutes before you did and Hermione was jumping up and down like a wingless fairy because of the Hogwarts letters. Let’s see…”
He picked a folded letter off the table, opened it out and read aloud.
Dear Mr Weasley,
I am writing on behalf of the Auror Department, Ministry of Magic. As you may be aware, we are currently searching for new Aurors to fill our many vacancies. I have been informed that you are one of a number of seventh year Hogwarts students who participated in the battle against Voldemort and his followers at the school, and would therefore like to invite you to apply to join the Auror Academy.
This is an excellent career opportunity which could earn you a large salary and widespread respect from the wizarding community.
The training course we are currently offering for full-time Aurors has been designed bearing in mind the disruption at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. To this end, the course shall last four years instead of the usual three, to account for a lack of NEWT level knowledge.
However, we understand that not everyone wants to commit to a full-time Auror career. If this describes you, but you would still like to contribute to our cause, you may like to consider a job as a part-time or reserve Auror. These are both flexible jobs, with training lasting as little as one year.
To apply to be either a full-time, part-time or reserve Auror, please read the enclosed pamphlet, fill out the attached forms and bring them, along with your OWL results (if possible), with you to the Conference Room, Auror Headquarters, Ministry of Magic, at 9 o’clock on the first possible working day.
Hoping to see you soon,
Auror Recruitment Officer.
Ron finished reading and glanced at the pamphlet.
“It’s just that pamphlet we saw before our careers advice,” he said dismissively. “But with a line through the NEWT requirements.”
Hermione took the letter from him and skim-read it.
“ “First possible working day”,” she muttered, before looking up at Ron. “That means you could start tomorrow! They must be really desperate for recruits if they haven’t even set a date.”
Ron gaped a little at the prospect of being an Auror the very next day.
“D’you really think I could do it?” he asked rhetorically. “I dunno; maybe I’m thinking too big. I’ve already promised George I’d help him get Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes back on its feet, so it’s not like I’m in need of a job. D’you really think I’ve got what it takes to be an Auror?”
Harry and Hermione looked at each other and burst out laughing.
“Not if you keep asking stupid questions like that, you haven’t,” Harry grinned.
“Come on, Ron!” said Ginny impatiently. “What have you got to lose by applying? And you can work for George at the weekends – you don’t have to choose one over the other.”
This point of view seemed to clear all doubts from Ron’s mind, and he beamed at his sister.
“I’m gonna be an Auror,” he breathed disbelievingly. “I’m gonna be an Auror!”
“You’re what?” asked Mrs Weasley, making everyone jump as she came into the kitchen followed by George.
It transpired that Mrs Weasley and George had spent the afternoon at Shell Cottage, not yet having visited Bill and Fleur’s house, despite their having lived there for a year. So everyone imparted their news at once, causing Mrs Weasley to cry with happiness (“Second quidditch captain in the family! Oh my goodness, Ginny, I would never have guessed!…My little Ronniekins – an Auror!”). So, when Mr Weasley arrived home at half-past five, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione took it as an opportunity to escape upstairs to Ron’s attic bedroom.
It was only now that Harry remembered Arenaria Piper’s article in the Prophet.
“Did you see the front page of the Prophet this morning?” he asked the others nervously.
Hermione bit her lip, Ginny blushed crimson and Ron’s ears turned scarlet, informing Harry that they had, indeed, seen it.
“Harry,” Hermione said in a low voice. “I think it’s time I reported Rita Skeeter – “
“But she didn’t write it!” Harry interjected angrily.
“No, but she’s training that Arenaria Piper woman, isn’t she?” Ginny reminded him coolly.
Harry stared at her for a moment.
“I forgot that,” he mumbled, abashed.
“Anyway,” Hermione continued, adopting the purposeful voice Harry and Ron associated with complicated homework explanations. “I’ve known about Rita being an unregistered Animagus for too long. I can’t even justify not having spilled the beans on her already. I suppose I’ve just continued with the immature plan I formed at the age of fifteen – using the information as a means of controlling her Quick-Quotes Quill. But I can do that just as easily by telling the Ministry about her, because even if she’s not banned from reporting, she won’t be able to find a story – she’ll be warded off left, right and centre. The fact is, I’m essentially helping her at the moment by keeping the knowledge to myself. What she’s doing is illegal, full stop,” Hermione finished defiantly.
“So, are you gonna report her, then?” Ron asked, apparently having not listened to more than a few words before switching off.
“I want to be there if you do,” said Harry quickly.
“Yes,” Hermione said patiently to both of them, though looking a little disgruntled that her impressive monologue had not been received by a stunned silence. “But we can’t just march up to Kingsley and declare that she’s breaking the law, can we? We need proof.”
Ron pulled a face of mock astonishment.
“You mean you haven’t already stalked her to learn all you possibly could about her and sorted your findings into colour-coded, cross-referenced filing cabinets?!”
Hermione gave him a withering look, though Harry was sure the corners of her mouth twitched.
“Oh yes, that was what I had planned on doing this year,” she retorted sarcastically. “None of that saving the world nonsense. How could I have got my priorities so very wrong?”
“Alright, alright,” Harry interrupted quickly, breaking off the joke that could so easily become bickering. “What are we going to do about Rita Skeeter? What kind of proof can we collect?”
Ron and Hermione caught each other’s eye, smiled sheepishly and fell silent. The four of them thought for a while without speaking.
“I don’t think you’re going to be able to get proof, Hermione,” said Ginny after a minute. “Kingsley will just have to take your word for it, which he will. You’ll just have to explain how you figured it all out last time and then caught her. Kingsley won’t need proof. He trusts all of us.”
Hermione looked troubled as she contemplated Ginny’s words.
“But, Ginny – it’s not just Kingsley we’ll have to convince,” she said helplessly. “Being an unregistered Animagus and using that as a means of spying and trespassing can land you in prison, which means she’ll face trial by the Wizengamot. They’ll need proof.”
“Maybe we could catch her again,” suggested Ron without any real hope.
“Don’t be silly, Ron,” snapped Hermione. “It was a fluke the first time and there’s not a chance in a million she’ll let it happen again.”
“Well, if she went on trail,” Harry thought out loud. “Wouldn’t they be able to use a spell to reveal whether she’s an Animagus? Kind of the opposite to what Remus and Sirius did to Scabbers…Wormtail.”
Hermione shook her head.
“You can force an Animagus who is in their animal form to assume their true human form, but not vice versa,” she explained. “No one’s ever managed to invent the spell. The only way you can make someone become an animal is to transfigure them or feed them a potion, but obviously that wouldn’t help us prove anything.”
They continued brain-storming, but each and every suggestion either wouldn’t work or was illegal, so in the end, Hermione was forced to concede that collecting proof by themselves would be impossible. So they decided to go ahead with Ginny’s plan of simply telling Kingsley, in the hope that he might know of some loop-hole or other which would overcome their problem. They agreed to meet up during Harry’s (and now Ron’s) lunch break and find Kinsley then.
“Kids! Dinner!” came Mrs Weasley’s voice suddenly from downstairs, while they were speculating uneasily about whether Kingsley would mind their visiting him without an appointment.
“Kids?” Ron repeated in disgust. “Honestly, I’m going to be an Auror tomorrow, yet in that woman’s head, I swear we’re all still wandering round in nappies.”
Harry and Ron arrived at Auror headquarters at exactly nine o’clock the next morning – the process of waking the latter up had required no fewer than three bucketfuls of ice-cold water and a tickling jinx.
“Bit posh,” Ron muttered as Harry led him into the circular hallway in the Auror Department and gave him a brief explanation of each of the rooms leading off it.
“Well, it’s all just been refurbished ‘cause the department was destroyed by Voldemort’s lot,” Harry told him. “But if you think this is posh, wait ‘til you see the Conference Room…”
They entered the Conference Room and Harry stopped in his tracks, taken aback by the number of people in the room.
Williamson and Vanessa were sitting at one end of the long table talking quietly with a wizard who had short dirty-blonde hair and a thick, grey scar running from the middle of his forehead, over the bridge of his nose, across his right cheek and down his neck, disappearing beneath the collar of his plain black robes. Harry guessed that this was Proudfoot, the only Auror he had not yet met. Further down the table, nearer to the door, a familiar group of nervous-looking young adults were perched on the edge of their seats, clutching pieces of parchment. They all looked up as Harry and Ron entered, and Neville, Seamus, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Anthony Goldstein all waved in greeting, while the two girls just smiled. Harry vaguely recalled that one had been a Ravenclaw at Hogwarts and the other a Hufflepuff.
Before Harry could express his surprise that several of his school mates were sitting in the room, Williamson spoke.
“Harry! You’re very nearly late. And is this another new trainee?” he added disbelievingly to Ron, whose ears turned pink as he nodded the affirmative. “Well then,” Williamson continued. “I suppose, seeing as it’s nine o’clock, that we should begin. Welcome to Auror HQ! My name is Joshuak Williamson, but anyone who calls me Joshuak will be hexed into next week – “
“Will!” Vanessa reprimanded sternly.
“ – so, as my charming colleague here has just demonstrated, I’m more commonly known as Will. This is Vanessa Savage, who sent all of you the letters you received yesterday, without realising, it seems, that so many people would take her up on the offer so quickly. And this –” he indicated the scarred wizard “ – is Tiberius Proudfoot, who we have nabbed from Azkaban, which he has been guarding, so that he can help train you lot. We three are the only full-time Aurors at this moment in time.” Harry saw the alarm on some of the others’ faces.
The next few minutes were spent collecting the names and application forms of the new trainees and making introductions. The Ravenclaw girl was called Morag McDougal and the Hufflepuff was called Megan Jones.
“OK, then,” said Vanessa, after having checked the new recruits’ documents which they had all brought with them. “As Will has already hinted, I sent those letters out, not realising that we’d have so many keen people taking up the offer so soon. I realise now that not setting a date for signing up is going to cause some confusion – any trainees signing up after today are going to have to be integrated into the training groups we form today…”
“Now,” picked up Williamson, looking at his colleagues, “Tibs, Vanessa and I need to go and have a chat with the Minister to see what he reckons we should do with you lot with regards to Character and Aptitude tests – Kingsley is also the head of the Auror Department, if you didn’t know. Just chat amongst yourselves for five minutes…”
He, Vanessa and Proudfoot left the room and the trainees all turned to each other and smiled nervously.
“On top of things, aren’t they?” commented Megan Jones, in good humour.
“Neville,” exclaimed Ron, not paying attention to her. “I thought you were off to the Netherlands to do plant stuff? What are you doing here?”
Neville shook his head ruefully.
“I’m not going until Gran’s better, and the Healers at St Mungo's told me yesterday that it could be six months yet, and then she’ll need looking after at home. She’s had three heart attacks, because one of the Stunners she was hit with collapsed a coronary artery and another damaged one of her lungs. So I’m putting Herbology training on hold for the moment. The Auror letter yesterday couldn’t have come at a better time, to be honest. I’m going to be a reserve Auror I think. And it might be useful to have an Auror on the continent when I do go to Holland.”
Everyone gave Neville their well-wishes for his grandmother’s recovery, then Harry turned to Seamus.
“What have you been up to – you disappeared from the party the other day before we could catch up?”
Seamus turned scarlet at the mention of his disappearing from the party and mumbled something in which the word “Parvati” was clearly discernible. Ron, who was standing nearest Seamus and had obviously heard more than the others, wolf-whistled and clapped his old class-mate on the back. Seamus scowled and attempted to answer Harry’s question.
“Well, mostly I’ve been recovering from the bumps and bruises the Carrows gave me, and I’ve been helping Dean pull through.”
“What d’you mean?” Harry and Ron asked together.
Seamus grimaced slightly.
“The poor guy’s not slept for months; keeps having nightmares about when he saw Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell and that goblin murdered – “
“Wait…he saw it?” Harry gasped.
“He almost had it, too,” he replied darkly. “He hasn’t told me exactly what happened, but from what I’ve gathered, from him talking in his sleep when I’ve stayed over his place, it was pretty traumatic. Luna’s helped a lot though. Kept his spirits up, y’know.”
Their conversation was cut off by the return of the Aurors, who were all looking strangely relieved.
“Right, sorry to mess you all around like this,” Williamson said, smiling. “But we’re not going to be doing character and aptitude tests on you – your recommendations are enough. That’s not to say you are unconditionally accepted onto the course, because I’m afraid that during the training period, i.e. the next four years for most of you, you can be dismissed at any time if your trainer does not feel you are up to the required standards. But that’s all politics – I’m sure you’re all dying to get on with the fun stuff?”
The new recruits all nodded nervously and Williamson beamed at them, winking at Neville, whose face had fallen at the Auror’s warning.
They split into groups: Ron and Neville joined Harry with Williamson; the two girls were marched away by Vanessa Savage; and Seamus, Justin Finch-Fletchley and Anthony Goldstein trotted after Proudfoot, who without a word had turned to stride out of the room.
“Guys,” Williamson called. “Don’t let him bully you – he’s a big softy really!”
Proudfoot turned and gave a sharp-toothed grin before leading his trainees out of the room.
Before they did anything else, Harry, Ron and Neville, of course, had to join Williamson on his half-hour morning jog. Harry was sure that Williamson was setting a slightly slower pace than the day before, and he suspected that the Auror was tactfully ensuring that Neville, who was out of breath before any of them, did not fall behind. As they ran, Williamson asked them all about themselves, and was thrilled to learn that they had shared a dormitory, along with Seamus, at Hogwarts.
“It’s always very handy to have a tight-knit group of Aurors who have known each other for a while,” he said. “If you are fighting with people you have developed bonds with, you fight better. We’re quite lucky in that respect: most of our trainees come from Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, and, being in the same year, a lot of them will have shared dormitories like you three – well, four, including whatshisname…Seamus.”
Following the jog, Neville and Ron were given the mountain of paperwork Harry had had to fill out when Kingsley had first introduced him to Williamson. Theirs was a slightly smaller pile, as they had brought their qualifications and application forms with them. Harry and Williamson, meanwhile, went to the Duelling Room, where they played something like a wizarding version of paintball, in which the only spell they were allowed to use was Stupefy, and the real skill was in hiding, dodging, running and stealth.
“There’s no point starting NEWT stuff without the other two – it’s best you’re all kept up to speed.”
Although Harry enjoyed any duelling practice, the morning was rather dull, and he was pleased to reach lunch time, when he and Ron met up with Hermione and Ginny for lunch.
“Are we really going to just march up to Kingsley’s office and demand to talk to him?” Ron asked dubiously.
“No,” replied Hermione. “I got an appointment for half-past-one. I owled him last night and he replied this morning.”
So when the time came, they made their way up to Level one and knocked on the ornately carved, mahogany door, bearing a plaque announcing:
TEMPORARY MINISTER FOR MAGIC
“Come in,” called a familiar voice, and they entered.
Harry was initially taken aback by the size of the room: he had bizarrely been envisaging a study vaguely resembling the Head teacher’s at Hogwarts so was shocked that this room was nearer to the size of the Great Hall. The highly polished floorboards were lined on either side by marble plinths, supporting large, carved stone busts, presumably of former ministers, regularly spaced and forming a wide aisle up to the end of the room. Here the statues ended and the walls of the room bulged out, forming a circular space (in which Kingsley and his desk sat), so that Harry had the odd impression that they were looking down the length of a giant thermometer. These round walls were, on the left (as Harry and the others looked at them), covered by a floor-to-ceiling bookcase, displaying massive leather-bound tomes. The right wall was more angular, less circular, rather semi-octagonal, with portraits and framed documents displayed on the faces. Directly ahead, where the curved walls formed the very bottom of Harry’s “thermometer,” there was a wide enchanted window, from which could be seen rolling hill-sides bathed in sunlight. Harry snorted disbelievingly to himself.
As the four visitors approached, Kingsley rose from his desk and conjured armchairs for them. He greeted them and enquired after each of them then asked what he could do for them. Hermione brought him up to speed on the “Rita Skeeter back-story,” as she called it, piling Prophet after Prophet on the Minister’s desk, and speaking in a brisk business-like manner, as she made her seemingly well-rehearsed speech.
“…many of these incidences involved not only an utter lack of regard for people’s privacy, but illegal activities such as trespassing, examples being her continued visits to Hogwarts during the Tri-Wizard Tournament, when Professor Dumbledore had expressly forbidden her entrance to the grounds…”
Kingsley let her speak, interrupting occasionally with a question or to clarify a point, while Harry, Ron and Ginny gradually lost interest and spent a while inconspicuously examining the room. Finally, Hermione finished her monologue, with an admittance that she thought her accusations un-provable, and Kingsley stood silently for a moment staring “out” of the enchanted window, hands clasped behind his back in thought. He eventually sat down facing them with a slight frown.
“These are serious accusations, Hermione,” he commented slowly. “But I believe you and agree that it’ll be difficult to prove that she’s an animagus.” Hermione’s face fell. “As for the trespassing, I know that she has already been fined for the Hogwarts instances, which were at the time reported by Dumbledore.” Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny exchanged surprised glances. “So that charge has already been dealt with.”
Hermione looked confused about something.
“But, Kingsley…if it was known that she was trespassing, because of her reports being so obviously from inside Hogwarts, did no one wonder how she’d managed it? Wouldn’t it be one of the most important things to consider, because any means of spying like that are likely to be illegal?”
Kingsley thought for a moment.
“I can’t remember exactly, but I believe that she claimed in her hearing to have used an invisibility cloak,” he answered. “Didn’t you say that you ruled that out, when you were trying to figure it out yourselves, because who you thought was Mad-Eye said he hadn’t seen her?” Hermione nodded, realisation clouding her face. “By the time of her hearing, Barty Crouch had been subjected to the dementor’s kiss, and would in any case have been an unreliable witness, so her word was accepted. There’s no way now that we can prove otherwise, as far as I can see.”
Harry’s heart fell. It looked as though their case was lost.
“I hate to say it, Hermione,” said Kingsley. “But if you’d handed her over to the Ministry when you had her captured as a beetle, you would have been able to get her. Waiting all this time was really quite a mistake…”
“I know, I know,” said Hermione in frustration.
“Yes, a mistake indeed,” came a clipped voice from their right, making them all jump.
Harry peered at the wall and realised that one of the portraits of an ex-Minister had spoken.
“I think you’ll find,” continued the portrait, “that Miss Skeeter is in fact a registered Animagus, in any case…”
“No she’s not,” snapped Hermione. “I’ve seen the list.”
“Naturally,” replied the portrait coolly. “But you are a bit behind the times, my dear. You see, Rita Skeeter completed her registration and safety checks just a week ago. Rita Skeeter is a registered animagus.”
November 13th, 2009, 5:39 pm
Please don't all die of shock but here is an u-u-u-update!!!! I'm sooo sorry that it's been sooooo long, and realise that you've probably all forgotten the story so I'd suggest you read back two or three chapters if you have time, because it'll be a lot easier to understand. Just to sum up where we left off: after an immensely embarrassing article by Rita Skeeter's protogee, Arenaria Piper, about Harry and Ginny appeared in the Daily Prophet the day after Harry's 18th birthday party, the trio + Ginny (the quad? :hmm:) decided to reveal Rita's true nature to Kingsley. However on doing so, they discovered that Rita had recently registered herself as an animagus, so they have no case against her. Hope that's enough for this to make sense...
As always, feedback is always appreciated (link at the bottom)! This is part one, which I've had for ages; there's an unfinished second part and I only realised about one minute ago that I could split the chapter and that this part is still longer than the 4000-word extended essay I've spent the last six months on...:scared:
Chapter 11 - Part 1
Predictably, Hermione was in the foulest of moods for the remainder of the week, constantly reprimanding herself and cursing Rita Skeeter under her breath, despite the other three’s reminders that Rita would be finding it hard to get a story now, anyway, as everyone would soon know she was an animagus. Harry and Ron were grateful to be able to escape to Auror training every day, and Ginny earned everyone’s gratitude by dragging Hermione to Diagon Alley to buy their Hogwarts things near the end of the week. Harry and Ron followed in their footsteps on Saturday to search for birthday presents for Ginny, who would be celebrating her 17th the following Thursday.
Neither of them had any idea what to get her, though Harry was acutely aware that he had missed her last birthday, had never bought her a present and that this would be her 17th, so whatever he got her had to be extra special.
Once they had visited Gringotts, they stood blinking in the sun, clueless as to where to begin looking. They eventually came to the conclusion that walking down the street and looking in some shops might actually help. Quality Quidditch Supplies yielded nothing, as did Flourish and Blotts. But as they meandered uncertainly down the street, Harry gave a yell of delight, for he had just spotted Florean Fortescue serving customers outside his newly re-opened ice cream parlour.
The man who had once given Harry free Sundaes and helped him with his History of Magic homework looked somewhat thinner than Harry had ever seen him, but otherwise in good health (and alive – which, Harry thought, was the bottom line). He shook Harry’s hand vigorously and insisted on giving both he and Ron six free scoops of ice-cream. Through questioning him as he wound his way amongst the tables, they learnt that his disappearance two summers before had been due to his trying to publish pro-muggle-born and anti-Death-Eater leaflets in the cellar of his ice-cream parlour. He had been found out and dragged off to Azkaban, from where he had not been released until Voldemort’s death.
Having finished their ice-cream mountains, Harry and Ron gave Fortescue their final congratulations on his return to business and continued on their own. It was then that Ron spotted Eeylop’s Owl Emporium and snapped his fingers with a shout.
“I’ll get her an owl! She’s always wanted one!” He suddenly grimaced and turned to Harry. “The she’ll be able to send you love letters whenever she wants to – yuck.”
“You’d better replace Pigwidgeon then,” he said, smirking. “You know how much Hermione writes.”
He clapped a scowling Ron on the back and lead the way into the Owl Emporium.
“Oh shut up,” Ron retorted, his ears burning, following Harry into the shop.
They spent a good quarter of an hour searching amongst the rows of perches for the perfect owl. Ron was tempted to get her a male snowy owl so that they could breed him and Artemis and sell the chicks, but Harry discouraged this vehemently, feeling that this would be far too suggestive for his liking. The excuse he made Ron was that if both his and Ginny’s owls were indulging their breeding instincts they probably wouldn’t be much use as post owls.
They eventually found the most beautiful pale Tawny owl, which had a clever face and red streaks in his feathers, which Harry thought would suit Ginny well. Ron arranged to pick him up straight after Auror training on Ginny’s birthday, as it would be difficult (and potentially cruel) to hide an owl from Ginny for that long.
This sorted, they then resumed Harry’s search. It led them, somewhat inevitably, to a jewellery shop, but nothing caught Harry’s eye (although he was sorely tempted to buy Ron a larger, flashing version of the “My Sweetheart” necklace Lavender had once given him). Having exhausted all possibilities in Diagon Alley, they decided to try Hogsmeade, Ron grumbling that Harry was being too picky.
Although he had returned to Hogsmeade on a couple of occasions since the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry still felt a leap of excitement in his chest at the sight of the winding lane, the familiar shops and inns, and, most of all, the castle that had been the first home he could remember.
The atmosphere in Hogsmeade was so much more relaxed than Harry had ever felt it before. The village was almost fully-functioning again; everyone had finally settled back into his or her niche. Granted, there were still a few boarded-up shops bearing “To Let” or “For Sale” signs – a sad reminder of the still recent events – but the previously omnipresent threat had lifted. In Harry’s third year at Hogwarts – the first in which he visited the village – everyone had believed themselves to be at danger from an escaped mass murderer; Dementors were swooping around and, moreover, Harry was not even meant to be there. In his fourth year, mysterious events unfolding in the wider wizarding world, the pressure and enmity created by the Triwizard Tournament, fear for Sirius, and trying to avoid Rita Skeeter, had seemed like lingering rain-clouds over the village. His fifth-year visits had been nothing short of depressing, between the disastrous date with Cho and the whispers of his instability following him wherever he went. In fact their only redeeming qualities were the conception of the DA and giving a rebellious interview to the Quibbler. The atmosphere in the village in his sixth year had been very similar to that during his third: an overwhelming sense of fear and confusion, not to mention the horrible incident in which Katie Bell had been cursed.
So to find himself in a village now relaxed and peaceful brought an enormous smile to Harry’s face, and he didn’t mind that it took them over an hour to find something.
They had, once again, resorted to a jewellery shop, and this time, Harry struck gold. Or rather silver. Sitting on a cushion in one of the glass-fronted cabinets was a plain silver chain with a simple silver pendant in the shape of a letter. But unlike such a necklace in the Muggle world, every few seconds the letter would morph into another, and then back again a few seconds after that, so that it was in a constant cycle between two letters. Had the chain and pendant not been so simple and understated, it would have been corny, but as it was, Harry thought, it would suit Ginny perfectly. So he had one made with the letters ‘H’ and ‘G’. However, he still felt that this wasn’t enough, that he owed Ginny something special.
As they left the shop, Harry’s thoughts wandered back inexplicably to his own seventeenth birthday, when Scrimgeour had come to The Burrow to deliver the items Dumbledore had bequeathed them…
Inspiration struck him suddenly and forcefully. He awoke from his day-dream to find himself gazing absently up at Hogwarts castle, perched on the mountainside – exactly where he needed to go.
Ginny’s birthday did not get off to the greatest of starts. Harry, Ron and Mr Weasley had not expected to see her in the morning, knowing that they would be celebrating in the evening once they had all got back from work, but as they came down to breakfast, they found both Ginny and Mrs Weasley sitting at the kitchen table, looking tearful. In the middle of the table was an unmoving feathery mass.
“It’s…Errol,” explained Mrs Weasley thickly, blowing her nose. “He d-died during the night.”
It was a blow to everyone. Of course, they had known he was on his last legs – in fact, he had been for as long as Harry had known him, which was as long as he had known the Weasleys – but Errol was a part of the family, and a constant in their lives, so to lose him so soon after their recent tragedy was horrible.
So it was somewhat half-heartedly that Harry, Ron and Mr Weasley wished Ginny “Happy Birthday,” before they left for the Ministry.
“Looks like I couldn’t have got her a better present,” Ron muttered to Harry.
When they returned to The Burrow in the evening (via Eeylop’s), the mood was much improved. Percy, Charlie, Bill and Fleur were all already there, and Luna and Xenophilius arrived at the same time as Harry, Ron and Mr Weasley. Mrs Weasley quietly informed the last three that they had buried Errol in the little flowerbed below the kitchen window, as this was where he had so often lain unconscious in life. This had been George’s suggestion.
Mrs Weasley announced that they would have dinner before Ginny opened her presents. She had, of course, created a masterpiece of a meal, so Ginny didn’t complain about this decision, and once everyone was filled to bursting point, three courses later, the table was cleared and presents piled on.
“You’d better open mine first, Ginny,” said Ron anxiously, pointing to the cloth-covered lump near the edge of the table; no doubt he was worried that the owl might suffocate under the cloth.
Wearing a bemused expression, Ginny unveiled the cage and gave a cry of delight.
“Oh my goodness, Ron!” she squealed. “An owl! Thank you!”
“No problem,” muttered Ron, looking embarrassed but pleased by her reaction.
Ginny hugged him and spent some time fussing over her new owl, then turned to her other presents. From her parents she received a plain black witch’s hat with a wide brim – a coming-of-age tradition for witches, as they explained to Harry and Hermione – and a large box of “Honeyduke’s Liqueur Chocolates and Champagne Truffles”. Bill and Fleur gave her two beautiful dresses, one of which she immediately changed into, making it almost impossible for Harry to take his eyes off her. From Hermione, she received a signed photo of the Holyhead Harpies, which Hermione had apparently written off to Gwenog Jones for; from Percy, a Quality Quidditch Supplies gift voucher; from Charlie, a headlamp-like attachment for her broomstick, which would make playing in foul weather easier; and from George, a small box of magical fireworks, which he had made himself. Mrs Weasley looked over the moon to see that he was trying so hard to regain his creativity and everyone clamoured to see the fireworks. They all stood outside, shivering a little, and George set them off, one by one. They were not quite as complex or long-lasting as the old Weasley’s Wildfire Whizbangs, but they were beautiful and astonishing nonetheless, exploding into enormous shapes above The Burrow – a phoenix which preened its feathers before bursting into flames; a tree which grew up, up, up into the sky before dropping giant, glittering red apples on them from its branches; a flock of bright yellow canaries (Hermione caught Ron’s eye at this point and blushed furiously) which dived in formation and flew once around The Burrow before exploding in a shower of feathers…
George seemed to be genuinely happy as he was setting them off and grinned properly for the first time since the Battle of Hogwarts, as he returned to the others by the house, who were all clapping and whooping.
“They were prototypes for a new range I-I’m developing,” he explained. “For – for the shop.”
Mr and Mrs Weasley exchanged ecstatic glances and Ginny hugged and thanked him, Harry noticed, with tears in her eyes – it seemed that everyone was (understandably) much weepier since the events of the last year.
They all filed back into the house and everyone looked expectantly at Harry. He pulled his present to Ginny out of his pocket, and held it in his fist so that no-one could see it.
“Close your eyes,” he said softly to Ginny. “And hold out your hand.”
She looked intrigued and did as he instructed. Everyone crowded forward to see. He paused, grinning, for dramatic effect, then dropped into her hand…a snitch.
Ginny opened her eyes and looked down at it. She raised her eyebrows in surprise, then looked up and smiled expectantly at Harry. He could see Ron and Hermione, who were in on this, smirking at each other out of the corner of his eye.
“That,” he explained to Ginny, “is the snitch you caught during the Quidditch Cup final during your fifth year – the one I missed.”
Ginny gasped and blushed as their eyes locked for a moment. It was this very match which they had celebrated with their first kiss.
“And if you remember,” Harry continued, “snitches have a flesh memory – they are only used once (except for the practice ones), then stored in one of the Hogwarts dungeons. So this one remembers your touch.”
Ginny nodded, and looked more closely at the little ball. As she had been holding it, words had spread over the surface. She read them in a murmur.
“To the girl I love. Happy 17th. x”
Ginny bit her lip, smiling, then looked up at Harry. He could see the familiar blazing look in her eyes, and felt a pleasant swooping in his stomach.
“Harry,” she sighed. “This is…really special. Thank you. You’ve put so much thought into this…”
He distantly thought he could hear Hermione whispering the significance of this particular snitch to those who didn’t know, but he didn’t really register it, or care. In fact, he wasn’t really aware of anyone in the room but the beautiful girl in front of him.
“Have another look at the snitch,” he murmured to Ginny. “You don’t think that’s all I got you?”
She looked happily surprised, and examined the little ball again. She found the hairline crack running around the sphere and dug her nails in to prise the two hemispheres apart. Inside was the necklace Harry had bought in Hogsmeade. She lifted the fine silver chain out of its protective cushion, and Harry moved around behind her to fasten it beneath her sheet of red hair. The pendant sat perfectly on her bare skin, above the neckline of her dress, morphing effortlessly between their initials.
“Oh, Harry, this is wonderful,” Ginny breathed, fingering the pendant, then leaning up to kiss Harry.
He beamed. He forgot that they weren’t the only two people in the room, so kissed her for much longer than he would ordinarily have done in front of her parents and brothers. He was, in fact, quite grateful for Ron’s pointed cough reminding him that they weren’t alone. They broke apart, flustered.
Mr Weasley was conscientiously wiping his spectacles; Mrs Weasley was pretending to supervise the frying pan, which was washing itself; George was clearly trying not to laugh as he pretended to tinker with some of the remaining fireworks, while Luna was diverting everyone else’s attention by waving her arms about and exclaiming that the room was full of wrackspurts.
Harry and Ginny caught each other’s eye and grinned sheepishly, then, to their relief, the awkward silence was broken by an entirely unfazed Xenophilius, who said:
“Ginevra, dear. Here is our present.”
The parcel he handed her was wrapped in such a bright shade of yellow paper that it made Harry’s eyes water.
“I think you will find this most useful,” Xeno continued dreamily. “They are very handy for warding off gulping plimpies, as I’m sure you know, and of course red-heads are the most susceptible to attack. This is a particularly fine specimen.”
No one caught anyone else’s eye as Ginny unwrapped what was unmistakably an enormous Gurdyroot and thanked Luna and her father as though it were a precious gem.
Now that Ginny’s birthday was over, the “next big thing” (as Mrs Weasley put it), aside from the return of Hermione’s parents, was the two girls’ return to Hogwarts. Harry became uncomfortably aware that he had promised himself that he would move out of the Burrow before Ginny went back to Hogwarts, and that, as yet, he had made no gesture towards moving himself into Grimmauld Place. He wanted to make the place properly habitable before he moved in, and as he had not brought himself to visit the place since they had been forced to leave it almost a year previously, he suspected the Death Eaters may have made the task somewhat more difficult. So two days after Ginny’s birthday, Harry announced his plan of action over the breakfast table, where he was eating with Mrs Weasley, Ron and George.
“No, Mrs Weasley,” he said firmly, holding up a hand as she showed every sign of wanting to protest. “Not this time. I am going to move into Grimmauld Place.”
Mrs Weasley looked upset, and very much as though she had not given up, but George (who had become noticeably more cheerful since the success of his fireworks on Ginny’s birthday) laughed.
“Mum,” he said in an exasperated voice, “Bill and Charlie would be so offended if they saw the fight you’re putting up against Harry leaving. I’m sure you never tried this hard to stop them leaving.” He turned to Harry and Ron and added. “Of course, no one tried to stop Percy leaving, let’s be honest.”
Harry laughed, but Mrs Weasley seemed to be seriously contemplating George’s words.
“You’re right,” she said finally, surprising them all. “I’m sorry, Harry, dear. I suppose I’ve just got used to making sure you stay here when ever you’ve been determined to leave and do something silly – ” Ron smirked. “ – but V-Voldemort’s gone now; I should be chasing you out of the door with a broom – making you go and enjoy your freedom, now you have it.”
She smiled at him and he grinned back, then hoisted an expression of mock worry onto his face.
“You’re not really going to chase me out of the house with a broom, are you?”
The other three laughed. At that moment, Ginny arrived in the kitchen in her dressing gown, her hair still in an untidy plait.
“Morning,” she said sleepily to the room at large, slipping into the chair beside Harry and giving him a quick morning kiss.
“Morning,” Harry replied, smiling. “And don’t worry – your mum’s agreed to let me leave, so you’re not going to have to Bat-Bogey her.”
Ginny looked fleetingly surprised, then turned to her mother.
“Oh, well done, mum,” she said very seriously. “That’s a big step for you!.”
Everyone grinned and Mrs Weasley chuckled “cheeky!”.
“Well,” exclaimed George suddenly. “If you’ve decided you can let Harry go, mum, maybe I can try my luck now.”
Everyone fell completely silent, staring at him.
“Wh-what do you mean, George?” asked Mrs Weasley sounding almost frightened.
“I mean,” said George patiently, “that I think I’m ready to go, too – ”
“Oh, but – ” Mrs Weasley began to protest.
“And there’s no point arguing,” George continued more loudly, “because I’ve already committed myself to it. I’ve bought a place in Hogsmeade.”
Ten seconds of ringing silence followed this astonishing announcement, then Mrs Weasley burst into tears. George’s stubborn and determined smile faltered, and he looked worried that he’d upset his mother. But then Mrs Weasley leapt to her feet and flung her arms around her son’s neck.
“Oh, well done, Georgie!” she cried, kissing him all over his face.
George gave a nervous chuckle and patted the top of his mother’s head. She finally let him breathe and stood back to look at him, her eyes darting between each of his, as though searching for any flicker of uncertainty. Apparently she couldn’t find any.
“So…what…? I mean…how…when…? Oh tell us everything!” she demanded, sitting back down.
George smiled at them all, then took a deep breath.
“Well, it was – ” he hesitated for a fraction of a second “ – Fred’s idea, initially, to get a Hogsmeade branch of the shop. You see, we’d inadvertently driven Zonko’s out of business – ”
“Inadvertently?” he repeated sceptically. “So it was nothing whatsoever to do with ruthless business, then?”
George gave him a withering look.
“Successful though we were, little brother, we didn’t forget our humble beginnings as little Hogwarts students, visiting the joke shop at weekends. Zonko’s was our inspiration – we owed them a lot, even if they didn’t know, so it was never our intention to kill their business. On the contrary, we thought we’d have a hard time getting into the industry with such fierce competition. But anyway, that’s not how it worked out, and they went bust. So we decided to have a look at the building – that’s what we were doing on Ron’s birthday, the day he got poisoned, remember?”
“Of course,” everyone said.
“But we realised, then, that because of the Katie Bell incident, our main consumer group – Hogwarts students – had been barred from the village. So we decided to wait and see whether the situation would improve, and then, if it was meant to be, the shop would still be available.” He paused and looked round at everybody; Harry was impressed by how calmly George had managed to say all this – it was the first time he’d really talked about Fred in months. “Well, that’s what’s happened now, really. The situation…improved…and the shop was still available. So I got it. Last week.”
Mrs Weasley was watching him talking with mostly happy tears in her eyes.
“So, what are you going to do now?” she asked in a shaky voice.
George looked straight at her, then down at the table.
“I – I’ve been developing our business plan for a few weeks, and I’ve got my ideas in order.” He hesitated, as if trying to make up his mind about something, then went on. “For the moment, I’m just going to open the Hogsmeade branch; get it up to scratch. It’s smaller than the Diagon Alley shop so it’s not going to have the full range – just all the joke stuff, Snackboxes, love potions, some of the fireworks, and the like. And then the other shop will have some of that stuff as well as the more practical things that people want to buy in Diagon Alley. Like the defence line.” He smiled suddenly. “And Headless Hats. D’you know, over ninety percent of them were brought by men in the twenty to thirty-five age bracket – they’re perfect for stag parties, you see, but not much else. But anyway, I’m not going to re-open the Diagon Alley branch yet. I’m not…I’m not…ready…yet…” he faltered, still examining the surface of the table, frowning slightly.
Mrs Weasley stood back up and hugged him.
“It sounds like a brilliant plan,” she said quietly. “And I think it’s a good idea to just start with the Hogsmeade branch. It’ll be a-a blank canvas, won’t it?”
George nodded. Mrs Weasley watched him, proudly, for a moment, then looked slightly nervous. She sat down once more and put her hand on his arm.
“But, George,” she said slowly. “You’re – you’re not going to do it…on your own…are you?”
She bit her lip, clearly hoping against hope that her words wouldn’t cut him too deeply. Harry thought that George’s face paled ever so slightly, but other than that, perhaps for his mother’s benefit, rather than because he really wasn’t screaming inside, he displayed no signs of being in mortal agony. Harry again admired his courage.
George seemed to be contemplating his answer, but before he could reply, Ron spoke up.
“No,” he said suddenly. “He’s not gonna be doing it alone.”
George stared at him.
“I said I’d help you, didn’t I? Months ago.”
George looked surprised.
“Yeh, although…” Ron faltered. “Well…it was just after…I mean, you probably didn’t register…”
“Right,” said George quickly, nodding, as if to prevent Ron blundering on and saying something stupid.
“So…well, the offer’s still there,” Ron continued, his ears red. “I’ll do whatever you want. I can fit it round Auror training. If you want my help, of course,” he added quickly.
George just looked at him. Mrs Weasley bit her lip anxiously. Harry and Ginny exchanged a nervous glance and Ron muttered “If you want…” to his fingernails.
Then, suddenly, George’s face split into a wide grin, and he thrust his hand across the table.
“Absolutely!” he exclaimed. “Welcome to the business, Partner!”
Ron gaped at him, then shook his hand, grinning disbelievingly.
“Really? I-I’ll be your business partner, not just a shop assistant?”
“Of course. I can’t do it alone. And you can be part-time manager of one of the shops when they’re both open, if you like…”
Ron looked stunned.
“How does a thirty-three percent share in the business sound to you?” George continued, unfazed, with the unmistakable air of a man revelling in his contemplation of business plans.
This was too much for Ron, who spluttered and then actually pinched himself.
“Ow! It sounds bloody brilliant!” he cried.
Ron looked almost beside himself with excitement; Harry thought he could see galleons and dragon-skin jackets flashing behind his eyes. Not one person wasn’t beaming now.
“What are you all so happy about?” asked Hermione, who had just appeared in the doorway, making them all jump.
“Yes,” came Mr Weasley’s voice as he arrived just behind her, looking around at them all in bemusement. “And why were you yelling, Ron?”
“Because George has just made me his business partner! I’m going to help him run Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes!” Ron exclaimed excitedly.
“That’s great!” said Hermione, beaming at both Ron and George; there seemed to be a searching look in her eyes as they fell on the face of the latter.
Harry saw Mr Weasley raise his eyebrows at Mrs Weasley, with a significant and questioning little nod at George. Mrs Weasley spread her hands slightly and shrugged, smiling bemusedly and shaking her head as if to say “I know, I don’t know what’s got into him either. It’s a miracle.”
“Yes,” George was saying in the meantime, oblivious to his parents’ silent conversation. “But it’s only because I want access to your brains, Hermione.”
Harry and Ginny laughed.
“But anyway, Ron,” George continued in an ominous tone, turning back to his younger brother; he was wearing such a familiar, and painfully missed, evil grin on his face, that Mrs Weasley put her hand over her mouth and a tear rolled down her cheek; Harry felt Ginny twitch beside him. “Don’t think you’re going to be having fun. I think it’s my right, as one of the founders, to delegate all the nasty tasks to you. And that includes doing your fair share of testing.”
Ron’s smile slipped a little, making George laugh.
George spent the rest of a drawn-out breakfast expounding on his plans.
“I need to settle into the flat above the Hogsmeade shop, before I even think about getting the shop ready to open,” he was saying as Mrs Weasley dished up the third pan-full of bacon. “It’s ready to be moved into, the estate agent said; bit of dusting, perhaps, and furnishing, of course.”
Mrs Weasley paused, a piece of bacon dangling from the tongs in her hand, dripping fat onto the table cloth; Ginny discretely slipped a slice of bread under it, with a wink at Harry.
“You-you’re leaving soon?” Mrs Weasley asked George.
George looked slightly apologetic, but defiant once again, as he answered her.
“I want to be in by Monday. No, mum, don’t look at me like that!” he said quickly as Mrs Weasley gaped at him and dropped the piece of bacon (to Ginny’s delight). “I want to get the shop up and running by the time Hogwarts starts again, and it’s going to need a lot of planning. From on-site,” he added firmly.
“You seem to have it all planned already!” objected Mrs Weasley.
George shook his head.
“I mean arranging where stock is going to go, how much of everything we’ll need – actually building up stock,” he explained. “The first thing we need to sort out is getting some sort of storage, or warehouse, for it all – and for making and testing everything. I mean, we don’t need more than a large room, really, but it’s not fair for us to keep using our old bedroom here, which isn’t really big enough anyway – ”
“You can have the attic at Grimmauld Place, if you like,” Harry suggested suddenly. “It’s a huge room, and it’ll be empty once I’ve got rid of all the Black’s rubbish that’s up there.”
George accepted this offer gratefully, and, once it became clear that under no circumstances would Harry charge rent for the room, told Ron that his job (at least until the holidays were over) was to help Harry bring Grimmauld Place up to ship-shape, by way of payment. Ron looked slightly crestfallen.
“I don’t get to actually help you with the shop?” he asked.
George grinned evilly.
“Told you you wouldn’t be having fun,” he said slyly. “But if you have any fantastic product ideas, you can come back and help me design them,” he added, with a faint air of dangling a carrot.
“In that case,” said Ginny, looking at Harry, “we’d better get started on the house. Who knows what the Death Eaters have left behind…”
Feedback :D (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=115120&highlight=road)
November 22nd, 2009, 9:21 pm
NOTE: if you are looking in this thread not having seen an update sincle February, the post above has only been added in the last few days, so please check it out. :)
I still haven't finished this chapter, but the next part was nearing 6000 words, so I decided to split it. There wasn't any particularly good place to do so, so don't be surprised that this post ends rather abruptly.
Chapter 11 - Part 2
When Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny entered the shadowy hallway of number twelve Grimmauld Place that afternoon, the distant scurrying of rats along dust-covered passageways served only to heighten their nervousness. Like Ginny had said, who knew what the Death Eaters had left for them? The very air seemed to be darkly oppressing them, so that when Harry summoned the courage to step forward and light the lamps, their feeble glow penetrated only small spheres in the blackness. It saddened Harry a little to see the place they had called safety, and even home, during those few short weeks the previous summer returned to much the same state of sombre hostility which it had oozed the very first time he had been there.
He looked round at the others and forced a smile.
“Looks like we have our work cut out,” he said, in a falsely bright voice which he knew the others would see straight through. “Come on, it’ll be lighter in the kitchen.”
They each lit their wands and made their way along the passageway, almost on tiptoe, towards the staircase which led down to the kitchen. Halfway along it, Hermione stopped and looked over her shoulder.
“The jinx has broken,” she commented interestedly, frowning.
“What jinx?” asked Ginny, bewildered; unlike the other three, she had not been in the house since the Christmas holidays following Mr Weasley’s snake attack, and was all the more anxious about it.
“A deterrent for Snape,” Harry replied quietly, so as not to wake Mrs Black. “Maybe it broke when Snape was killed,” he suggested to Hermione.
“Yes, that seems likely,” she said, looking strangely relieved. “I can’t imagine that any jinx which Moody had put into place could be broken by Death Eaters.”
They continued to the kitchen, which, as Harry had predicted, was far less sombre than the bleak upstairs passageway. The work they had done the previous summer had never been more apparent, despite the clear inch of dust on the flagstone floor and the cobwebs clinging to the tarnished pots and pans.
“It’s only skin-deep,” said Hermione breezily, looking around unconcernedly at the dirt, and with two waves of her wand she vanished the dust and cobwebs and restored the metal to its original shine.
“Third time lucky, then, d’you reckon?” asked Ron cryptically.
“What do you mean?” Harry and Hermione said at the same time.
“Well, this’ll be the third time we’ve tried to make this place inhabitable. The first time we had to contend with the massive piles of junk the Blacks kept here – not to mention Kreacher – and last time we only had time to properly clean the kitchen – and Kreacher. So do you think maybe this time we can finish the job?”
Harry could sense that the other three were, like him, wondering where on earth they’d start. He opened his mouth to say “Let’s get cracking,” but Ginny had a much better idea and interrupted.
“I think,” she said, “that we’re going to have to make a plan – ” She flicked her wand at the copper kettle on the stove, “ – over a cup of tea.”
It took them the remainder of the weekend to clear all the surface rubbish, dust and grime from the house. It felt to Harry as if they were brushing away soil to uncover the rocks surrounding a precious diamond. It would take months, maybe years, to properly polish up the diamond that the house was, but for the rest of August, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Kreacher hacked away the rocks, with occasional, but valuable, help from George, Arthur and Molly.
Every weekend was spent at Grimmauld Place, while during the week, Ron and Harry would Apparate there directly after Auror Training. Hermione, too, was busy during the day, frantically sorting out the endless legal problems (both magic and muggle) with her parents’ house, nationalities, jobs and belongings before their return a week after Ginny’s birthday, then spending most days with her parents, catching up and helping them settle back in and develop their cover-stories (for their neighbours and colleagues). Once Mr Weasley had managed to install a much more adequate lighting system in Grimmauld Place, Ginny felt happy enough to spend a few hours there each day, working alone, with only Kreacher for company, despite Harry’s insistence that this wasn’t necessary.
The kitchen required no work, except for Kreacher’s cupboard: Hermione insisted on placing upon it an undetectable extension charm, so that the house-elf would have a decent-sized bedroom, and conjured for him a little, elf-sized wooden bed to replace his rag-nest. Kreacher was so overcome with gratitude that he squashed his nose against the floor, bowing to her, croaking “kind, kind lady!”.
Before embarking on the daunting task of cleansing the many rooms in the house, Harry and the others spent a week purging the hallways and passageways of the unpleasant items still displayed in them. The portraits – most of which displayed in some form or another the oppression of muggles – were the first onto the pile in the small yard behind the house, where all of the unwanted items which Harry did not wish to re-home were to be burned. These were followed by the gruesome house-elf heads. Hermione was a little distressed by this until Ron pointed out that they were essentially cremating them and, if anything, doing the poor creatures’ souls a favour.
They blitzed the dingy corridors. Serpent-shaped vases, corner tables, chandeliers – all were disposed of. There was only one item which Harry allowed to remain…
“What are you doing with that?” he asked Ron, pointing at the troll’s leg umbrella stand which the latter, puffing and panting theatrically, was struggling to drag down the hallway.
“I’m taking it out to join the rest of that God-forsaken junk,” Ron answered irritably, straightening up with a groan.
“Leave it,” Harry said. “I’ve grown rather fond of it.”
Ron even forgot to pant dramatically.
“You’re not serious?”
“It reminds me of Tonks,” he explained. “In fact, put it on its side – I’m sure she’d laugh at that.”
Ron evidently thought that Harry had lost his gobstones, but shrugged, and, with many theatrics, began to drag the umbrella stand back the way he had come.
The only problematic aspect of the hallways was Mrs Black’s portrait. Nothing could possibly be done to remove the permanent sticking charm which was keeping it firmly rooted in the wooden wall. But Harry had no desire whatsoever to give in to the old hag’s wishes and have to tiptoe past her every time he went down the hall, so Hermione did her best to silence her. After much research and experimentation, she managed to concoct and then transfer a tumbler full of a Draught of Living Death into the portrait, explaining (over Mrs Black’s screeches), “the Fat Lady and her friend Violet managed to get drunk, remember? So a potion should work on Mrs Black, and the Draught of Living Death never wears off without an antidote.” Once Mrs Black had been force-fed the potion, and had slumped, comatose, against the side of her frame, Hermione, with a slightly shocked and revolted expression on her face, drew the curtains across with her wand and applied a Permanent Sticking charm to the join, preventing them from ever flying open again.
Most of the bedrooms, too, were relatively unproblematic – a simple matter of cleaning, tearing down curtains, emptying wardrobes and capturing the large number of rodents which had taken up residence behind the rotting skirting boards. It seemed that, despite everyone’s initial anxiety about the Death Eater’s having had access to the house, the place had been deserted after Yaxley’s unfortunate entrance – no doubt the Death Eaters had found Malfoy Manor to be much more comfortable and secure headquarters, or maybe Moody’s deterrent had spooked them. Though the thought was not voiced aloud, Harry knew that Hermione and Ron were, like him, feeling quite depressed that their months of near-starvation and hardship in forests and caves had been unnecessary – Kreacher had been alone in the house, quite able to have made them delicious meals, if only they had been there to ask for them.
Amongst the nasties that the house itself provided them, were two boggarts, a new, but not too developed, doxy infestation, and an ant colony, which had all but devoured one of the bedroom floors, so that when Ron entered the room, he disappeared in a cloud of dust and ants and nearly broke his ankle, landing on the drawing room floor below. Molly and George put paid to the doxy infestation in all of ten minutes and two bottles of Doxycide. Hermione brought an ordinary muggle vacuum cleaner from her parents’ house to quickly and efficiently gather up all the ants and dust, before vanishing the whole lot of them and giving the vacuum cleaner to an ecstatic Mr Weasley.
Harry took on the boggarts, as it was he who was unfortunate enough to discover them. The first was lurking in the bottom of a chest of drawers, in a bedroom on the first floor. It was the most horrible shock of his life to open the drawer and find Ginny’s dead eyes staring up at him from her pale, cold face. He had kicked the draw shut with a yell of terror before his wits caught up with his senses and he realised it was nothing more than a boggart. Apparently, he was no longer most afraid of dementors, and he thought that his many encounters with, and triumphs over, them, as well as their banishment to an ice island somewhere up in the Arctic, had probably contributed to this. He was nevertheless terrified of the boggart and it was only his pride which prevented him from delegating the task to one of the others. He therefore spent several minutes trying to figure out how to possibly make the creature humorous, before clamping his eyes shut against the grisly sight and pulling open the drawer.
“Riddikulus” he shouted, pointing his wand at it, eyes still firmly shut.
The boggart, whatever shape it had now assumed, let out a stream of entertaining noises, as Harry had intended, until a particularly bad joke about a hag, a leprechaun and a troll caused him to snort with laughter, and the boggart vanished. Armed with this new technique, it was no trouble at all for Harry to dispatch the second boggart, which he stumbled across, lodged in a crack in a wall.
On the last day of the summer holidays, Ron and Hermione were alone in the drawing room, carefully rolling up the threadbare carpet, which had been the source of much of the dust even before half of the ceiling had collapsed onto it. This process was making Ron increasingly jumpy, and Hermione both amused and exasperated, as each newly uncovered spider sent him skipping into a corner until it was got rid of. Despite this, Hermione couldn’t help but notice that Ron was unusually quiet.
“Ron, what’s wrong?” she said suddenly, sitting back on her feet, after ten minutes of complete silence. “You don’t seem yourself.”
“It’s…just the spiders,” Ron answered far too quickly.
“No it’s not,” Hermione replied shortly. “Something’s on you mind. What is it?”
Ron could feel the tops of his ears burning, so knew there was no getting out of it. He sighed and cast his eyes about for a more comfortable place to sit.
“Can we…can we go and sit on the stairs…y’know…have a chat?” he asked awkwardly.
“Of course,” replied Hermione softly, looking concerned, and following him across the landing to sit on the bottom of the stairs, one step above Ron.
“What is it?” she repeated gently.
Ron hesitated, clearly trying to work out how to word what he wanted to say.
“Are you bored?” he blurted suddenly, then turned bright red. “No, that’s not what I meant to say…I-I mean, d’you-d’you feel as if we’ve kind of…fallen into a bit of a boring routine; we’re not doing anything new?”
Hermione frowned, completely at sea.
“Cleaning the house, you mean?” she ventured, struggling to understand (which she found to be quite disconcerting).
“No, no,” Ron said helplessly, waving this aside with his hand. “I mean…us. I mean, every morning, when I see you, we kiss good morning, and at the end of the day we kiss goodbye, and that’s it.”
“I still don’t see the problem exactly,” Hermione said, taking his hand. “I’m sorry.”
Ron examined their entwined fingers as he took a deep, thoughtful breath.
“Maybe I’m just being stupid,” he sad slowly, half to himself, “But I feel as though nothing much has changed between us since we were just friends – or rather, that we’ve gone back to how we were then. I mean – ” he gave a small laugh, and a sad lop-sided smile, looking up into Hermione’s eyes and absently fiddling with her fingers. “ – at first, we were all over each other.” Hermione blushed, and when Ron continued it was at an accelerating pace that became almost comical “And I thought that that would be how it would always be, but now I think we must have got bored of that, and I’m terrified that…that we’ll…you know…fall out of love, or something,” he finished in an embarrassed mutter. “I’m not feeling the same excitement I felt the first few weeks…and in Australia,” he added, the last word in a whisper, and Hermione knew that he carried as fond memories of that trip as she did.
She slid onto the same step as Ron, putting her arm around his shoulders and leaning her forehead against his.
“You’re right,” she said, smiling slightly, and Ron blanched, clearly having hoped that she’d contradict him. “You were just being stupid.” Colour flooded Ron’s face again. “And I’m glad you’ve got that off your chest, because I’ve been worried about you all morning. I see what you’re saying, but I don’t think we’ve gone backwards – this is just our relationship moving forwards!”
“Yeah?” breathed Ron, relieved (though inwardly slightly unnerved by the word “relationship”). “What do you mean?”
Hermione frowned for a moment, then said,
“You know when we were helping clear up Hogwarts? Well Professor McGonagall gave me the task of putting the school archives back together, and while I was doing it, I found a huge collection of Dumbledore’s notes. There were random snippets of philosophy, critiques of magical literature (including a full commentary of The Tales of Beedle the Bard), diagrams for magical inventions and fully written-up treatises, which looked ready to be published.”
“Right…” said Ron slowly, wondering what on earth this had to do with their love life.
“Well, one of these was entitled ‘A Personal Theory of Love’. It was one of a number of his notes which I asked Professor McGonagall permission to copy. She said that anything in the school archives is in the public domain, and under no protection laws, so I could. Well, Dumbledore’s Theory of Love is extremely interest- What?” she demanded suddenly, because Ron was shaking his head in bemusement.
“It just never ceases to amaze me, how much you can manage to get out of books,” he explained. “You live on food, water and books, Hermione!”
Hermione rolled her eyes, then nudged his shoulder with her own.
“You see? I’m still amazing you, so you’re not that bored of me!”
“I never said I was bored of you!” objected Ron, looking stung.
“No,” conceded Hermione, “But you know what I meant. Anyway,” she hurried on with a smile, “I’m dying to tell you an analogy that Dumbledore used in his ‘Personal Theory of Love,’ so shut up and listen.”
Ron clamped his mouth shut and listened intently like a good little student.
“Dumbledore said that a relationship is like a cooking fire,” Hermione began explaining slowly. “When the fire’s first lit, it is very touch-and-go – it could go out at any time and might not develop into a real fire. Well we got through that stage a long time ago, I think.”
“Then,” Hermione continued, “when the kindling catches, that’s when the fire starts picking up pace. The flames are bright and dancing and exciting. But it’s unpredictable, and underneath, it still hasn’t really taken hold – it’s not likely to just fizzle out, but wouldn’t take much water to extinguish it. And although the fire’s bright and lovely to look at, you can’t yet cook on it – you can’t get anything really important out of it, except short-term enjoyment, and memories of its brightness. I think that’s where we were when we first got together, before Australia.”
Ron nodded, surprised that he was following this without too much trouble.
“But then,” Hermione continued with a warm smile, “After a while, the tinder and kindling – the starter fuel: necessary to begin with but superfluous once the fire’s going – run out, and you’re left with the main fuel, burning consistently. The exciting, dancing flames may have died down, but the fire has a firm hold underneath. It’s strong and fills all the gaps and radiates so much more heat. You’d need much more than a bit of water to put it out. And that’s when you can start cooking crumpets,” she finished, with a touch of Dumbledore’s twinkling mystery.
They fell silent for a minute or two, Ron digesting this take on the matter. He felt a warmth spreading through him, as though Hermione had turned over a coal in the metaphorical fire to reveal that it was still burning brightly underneath. He looked up to find her watching him uncertainly. He didn’t know what to say, but smiled and nodded and kissed her forehead, and Hermione looked relieved.
After a few minutes, a deeply thoughtful and sad look came over Ron’s face, as if he were contemplating something quite humbling.
“I wonder…It seems strange,” he said softly, staring at nothing in particular, “that Dumbledore was so obsessed with love, and seemed to know so much about it, and yet I never heard of him having a wife or kids or anything.”
At this Hermione turned faintly pink and shifted a little uncomfortably.
“Well, no, I used to wonder about that, too,” she replied. “But since he died…everything that I’ve read about him – yes, even Rita Skeeter’s for-want-of-a-better-word “book” – and especially his Personal Theory of Love, it occurred to me that maybe he…wasn’t that way inclined.”
Ron blinked once or twice, clearly non-plussed, then suddenly cottoned on.
“Oh!” he said simply, his eyes widening momentarily, before he arranged his face into an I-am-totally-comfortable-with-this-because-I-am-stylishly-open-minded expression. “Well, yeah, I suppose that figures.” He thought back through all of his memories of Dumbledore, reflecting on the latter’s gentleness and sensitivity, and wondered why it had never occurred to him that Dumbledore might be homosexual.
“Yes,” said Hermione, frowning sadly; she sighed. “I wonder whether he ever fell in love again after Grindelwald…”
Ron looked at her sharply.
“You think he…?”
But any further discussion of Dumbledore’s sexuality was at that moment cut off by the sound of footsteps on the stairs behind them, and they both leapt up guiltily, suddenly aware that they had been sitting talking for a good quarter of an hour and had not yet got rid of the carpet or finished clearing up. While Hermione dashed off to do just that, Ron relieved Ginny of the pile of rubbish she was carrying, which was obscuring her face and threatening to overbalance her and make her fall down the remaining steps.
“Thanks,” she panted, clapping dust off her hands. “Well, everything upstairs is done – well, not Sirius or Regulus’ room, ‘cause Harry wants to take more time over them himself. But all the others are empty and dust-free!” She jumped the last step happily, practically skipping into the drawing room. “We’re finished!”
Ron grinned, and couldn’t help feeling light-hearted too. It felt like they had overcome a monster task which, once upon a time, had seemed impossible. Granted, it wasn’t exactly defeating Voldemort, but they had conquered the house of murderous cutlery, asphyxiating dust and grisly artefacts, and the relief was enormous. And they were bang on Harry’s deadline – the girls would be returning to Hogwarts the very next day.
Feedback! :D (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=115120&highlight=road)
December 3rd, 2009, 10:00 am
Right, here's part three. I feel like I should warn people that there's quite a lot of innuendo in this chapter...it's still within the family-friendly rules as far as I'm aware...:scared:
Chapter 11 - Part 3
As Ron re-entered the drawing room, he saw that the carpet had vanished, leaving only the Black family-tree tapestry in the otherwise empty room.
“Harry’s just coming,” said Ginny, her voice echoing, no longer dampened by carpet or furnishings. “To de-brief us, or something, I suppose. Oh, speak of the devil!”
Harry smiled as he came into the room, and they all saw that he was carrying one of his remaining birthday barrels of Rosmerta’s oak-matured mead.
“I thought we could have a drink to having more or less finished this place, and to our last night all together, before you two go back to Hogwarts,” he explained, nodding towards Ginny and Hermione as he set the barrel down and conjured four glasses out of thin air – a useful trick he’d finally got the knack of. “Actually…” he added, conjuring a fifth, smaller glass. “Kreacher!”
The house-elf appeared, holding cutlery – he was clearly half-way through laying the dinner table, and looked startled at having been interrupted during this task.
“Put those down, Kreacher,” Harry said, taking the knives and forks out of the astonished elf’s hands and instead giving him the glass. Kreacher looked at it as though he had never seen such an item before. “You deserve a drink, too – your help’s been invaluable. And don’t cry, bow or kiss me!” Harry added quickly, foreseeing Kreacher’s usual, slightly embarrassing, show of gratitude.
The astonished house-elf held his glass out numbly, jaw gaping open and eyes threatening to fall out of his head, as Harry poured a small amount of the mead into it.
While they sat on the floor all feeling rather proud of themselves, Harry’s eye was drawn to the tapestry on the wall. Although his heart was bursting with pride from having finished Sirius’ work, he couldn’t help feeling that he’d somewhat let Sirius down by failing to get rid of the family tree which his Godfather had found so offensive.
While the others chatted quietly behind him (Kreacher had snuck surreptitiously out of the room at the first opportunity, to carry on preparing dinner), he got up and wandered over to the family tree. He was reliving that time, a million years ago, when he and Sirius had stood on this exact spot. He remembered the bitterness in Sirius’ voice as he’d contemplated the tapestry, and felt once again that hollow place inside him where Sirius had once been, and which he thought would never heal…
“Hermione,” he said suddenly, turning around; he was suddenly jumpy, as though the tapestry was a bomb that might explode if he didn’t destroy it as soon as possible. “Is there any way to get rid of this?”
Hermione looked up, surprised, then stood and joined him by the wall.
“Harry, I’m sorry, but I don’t think there is,” she answered sympathetically, after examining the tapestry for a minute or two. “Permanent sticking charms are more than a permanent join between two surfaces – if you try to remove the whole wall, for example, with the intention of removing the family tree, you won’t be able to.”
“You could just cover it up,” Ron suggested behind them.
Harry turned to him and shook his head.
“No, that’s not good enough,” he said, a little more savagely than he’d intended. “It’s a reminder of everything Sirius hated, and to leave it in tact is practically condoning its message.” He pointed to the writing above it: Toujours Pur. Always pure. “I won’t have it my house.”
Hermione and Ron looked a little shocked, but Ginny – who alone seemed to be immune to Harry’s occasional outbursts – was still staring intently at the tapestry. Harry could see her eyes darting all over its surface, and knew that her brilliant, inventive... “Fred-and-George-ish”... brain was determinedly searching for a solution.
“Then we’ll get rid of it,” she said simply, turning to look Harry directly in the eye.
“I’ve told you, Ginny,” said Hermione, a little impatiently. “It’s impossible.”
Harry saw Ginny’s mouth twitching at the corners, and suddenly suspected that she already knew what to do.
“I’ve told Harry before, Hermione,” Ginny said, her eyes twinkling. “When you’ve grown up with…F-Fred and George, you begin to think that anything is possible.”
Hermione threw up her hands with the same kind of exasperation with which she had once greeted Luna’s wilder claims.
“Fine,” she said. “If you know better than the scores of wizards who’ve tried to remove permanent sticking charms, then you go ahead,”
“Oh, I’m not claiming to be able to break the charm,” said Ginny, now openly grinning, clearly enjoying the feeling of holding a winning hand in the face of an over-confident opponent. “Just the tapestry. We could burn it.”
She pointed to each of the little black marks where the names of blood-traitors had been blasted off.
Harry laughed at Hermione’s astounded expression, then hugged Ginny.
“Why didn’t I think of that?” he heard Hermione mutter behind them.
“Because you’d already decided it wasn’t possible!” laughed Ginny over Harry’s shoulder.
Hermione scowled, but in a good-humoured way.
“I do hate it when you’re cleverer than me Ginny,” she said.
Ginny laughed, but Harry saw that she also turned a little pink at what she obviously thought was very high praise indeed.
“So, now you two have finished having a geek-off,” Ron injected, causing both accused “geeks” to narrow their eyes at him, “are we going to burn this thing or not?”
Harry nodded and pulled out his wand. He took one last look at the tapestry, his eyes lingering for a moment on the black dot that represented his Godfather, then raised his wand.
“Harry, no!” Hermione cried, panicked, grabbing his wrist and forcing his wand upwards upwards. A tiny flame sparked and died at its tip.
“Hermione! What was that for?” Harry demanded angrily. “I could have blasted the ceiling apart!”
“I’m sorry, Harry! But you can’t just set fire to it!”
“That is generally how you burn things, isn’t it?” said Ginny calmly, eyebrows raised.
“Yes, but we can’t just use ‘incendio’ like that,” Hermione explained. “This house is full of thick wooden beams, and there’s one in the wall behind the tapestry. If you set fire freely to it, you could start a fire smouldering in the beams without realising it. It could smoulder for days, maybe even weeks, and the first thing Harry would know about it would be when the house started collapsing and burning!”
The other three stared at her for a few moments, all wearing expressions appropriate to having just witnessed a madman raving about the Apocalypse. Hermione turned a little pink.
“Don’t look at me like that!” she said. “I read something – ”
“(Of course...)” muttered Ginny, in Harry’s ear; he fought to keep a straight face.
“ – in a muggle book – ”
“Sorry,” interrupted Ron, guffawing. “But in a muggle book?”
“Yes, Ron, a muggle book,” replied Hermione, haughtily. “Wood burns just the same in the muggle world as in the wizarding world, you know. In ‘My Family and Other Animals’ – which is a true, autobiographical account – a fire smoulders in a beam all night...”
“OK, OK, we believe you!” exclaimed Ron, as if he couldn’t stand the talk of muggle literature. Harry was forcibly reminded of Uncle Vernon (which was rather unsettling).
“So how do we burn it then?” Harry asked quickly before Hermione and Ron could start bickering.
Hermione smiled and didn’t answer but held out her empty glass in her left hand, pointing her wand at it with her right. She obviously performed a spell non-verbally, because suddenly the bluebell flames she had often conjured during their early years at Hogwarts to keep them warm when standing outside – and to save Harry and Ron from Devil’s Snare – erupted from her wand, filling the glass to the brim. She held the glass right next to the tapestry, allowing the tip of the flames to lick the bottom of the tapestry; Harry watched the threads begin to curl and smoke.
“This fire can’t smoulder,” she explained. “It’s not really hot enough to burn wood, but it’ll be able to get rid of this tapestry no problem.”
It took about five minutes for the tapestry to be completely destroyed, leaving a large black rectangle on the wall, which Hermione carefully transfigured to (more-or-less) match the surrounding wall colour. They all stood back and stared at it for a moment. Harry felt as though something sacred had just been done – like destroying the evidence of a crime.
“Well,” said Hermione after a moment, looking at her watch, “Ron – we’d better be going...”
“Where are you two off to?” Ginny asked, suprised.
“Yeah, I thought you’d be staying here tonight,” Harry added, a little disappointed.
Hermione hit Ron playfully on the arm.
“I thought you’d told them?” she said, exasperated, before turning back to Harry and Ginny. “We’re going to my parents’ for dinner, and then staying there. Mum and Dad want to see me off to Hogwarts tomorrow – it’ll be the last time – and they’ve hardly had a chance to get to know Ron, so they invited him over, too. You know: suss out the boyfriend, as it were...”
At this, Ron stopped rubbing his arm where Hermione had hit him and turned scarlet. Ginny turned her face into Harry’s shoulder and snorted with laughter.
“Yeah, let’s go...are you going home, Ginny?” Ron demanded suddenly, and very pointedly.
Ginny raised her eyebrows and Harry saw the corners of her mouth twitch.
“Not unless I’m no longer welcome here,” she replied, smiling sideways at Harry. “I don’t think I have to leave just because you aren’t here to, uh, ‘keep an eye on us.’”
Harry tried not to look too excited at the suggestiveness in her voice, though he of course had no plans whatsoever of sending her home. Ron looked disgruntled, and didn’t move, even though Hermione was tugging on his arm.
“Come on, Ron,” she muttered. “Ginny doesn’t need you to babysit her.”
Ron turned (if possible) even more scarlet, and moved his eyes from Ginny’s – which were twinkling fiercely – to Harry’s. It was normally at this point, in conversations such as these, that Harry would say something to reassure Ron that he and Ginny would be doing nothing more than sharing polite conversation in Ron’s absence. But this time he caught himself, and joined Ginny in staring Ron down – denying nothing, and refusing to acknowledge any need for he or Ginny to justify themselves. They were both, after all, adults.
Ron teetered uncertainly on the balls of his feet; he looked at Hermione, who was still tugging on his hand. He clearly wanted to go with her, but the thought of leaving his baby sister alone in a house with his best friend was apparently too difficult for him, and he still refused to move.
Ginny sighed, still smiling, rolled her eyes at Harry, then drew her wand. Ron paled slightly as the thin stick of wood was aimed at a region near his midriff.
“Ron,” Ginny said pleasantly, “Go and have a nice evening at Hermione’s and let us have a nice evening here. Go on! It’s the last evening either of us –” she indicated the two separate couples “– are going to have together for a while, and I would hate for Hermione to have to escort you to St Mungo’s with your ability to produce children in dire jeopardy.”
Ron winced (as did Harry). He swallowed – apparently with some difficulty – then shrugged, the tops of his ears practically on fire. Ginny smiled, satisfied, and returned her wand to her pocket.
“Er...we’ll see you out,” said Harry breezily, thinking that Ron’s gesture constituted surrender, and seeing that Hermione was impatient to leave.
It was in a somewhat awkward silence that the four of them descended the stairs to the front door. It felt to Harry as though this was something of a turning point. Ron’s continual over-protectiveness of Ginny had been starting to wear on him, too, though he had not said anything to Ron because he knew that he only had Ginny’s best interests at heart, and Harry knew that this was an occupational hazard of going out with your best friend’s sister. But Ron would, at some point, have to accept that Harry and Ginny were in a serious relationship, and that Ginny was perfectly capable of taking care of herself. Now seemed to be that time.
At the front door, Harry decided it would be best to act as if nothing uncomfortable had happened at all, and smiled at his two best friends as he opened the door.
“Thanks for all your help with the house,” he said. “I suppose we’ll see you at King’s Cross, tomorrow?”
“Yes, you will,” replied Hermione, beaming – she was clearly ecstatic about the prospect of returning to Hogwarts.
Ron nodded, still looking somewhat apprehensively at his sister.
“Um...have a nice evening,” he muttered.
Then he did something unexpected: he stepped forward and hugged his sister tightly, shook a bemused Harry’s hand and stepped back with his face set, his eyes averted downwards in embarrassment. The significance of his gesture was unmistakeable; Ron was finally releasing Ginny from his clutches – he was standing back and allowing Harry to replace him as Ginny’s “knight in shining armour”. It was only then that Harry realised how very much Ron loved his sister.
“Have a good time at your parents, Hermione,” Ginny said; there was an odd quiver in her voice – almost a break – and Harry realised that she had been touched by Ron’s gesture, and was trying not to show it.
Finally, Ron and Hermione left and Harry closed the door behind them. He turned round and Ginny immediately stopped wiping her eyes; she tried to make it look as though she had been brushing away a strand of hair, but Harry could see her eyes sparkling. He decided not to comment.
“Well!” he said uncertainly after a moment’s pause, swinging his hands uncertainly. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.” He glanced at his watch. “And no wonder – it’s gone eight! Shall we go and see what Kreacher’s got for us?”
He knew the cheeriness in his voice sounded false, but wanted he and Ginny to do exactly as she had demanded of Ron: to enjoy their evening together. So he took her hand and they began to slowly amble towards the stairs down to the kitchen. Ginny smiled a little nervously – because, Harry sensed, she was contemplating exactly what Ron had been: that she and Harry were alone together.
“Ron can be such an idiot sometimes,” Ginny said suddenly, as they neared the kitchen – she was apparently still preoccupied by her brother’s actions.
“You know it’s only because he cares about you,” replied Harry fairly. “You’re his baby sister – of course he wants to protect you.”
Ginny punched his shoulder and he laughed, cowering with his arms across his face.
“Protect me from what, exactly?” Ginny enquired mock-indignantly, smiling innocently.
Harry grinned, lowering his arms.
“Oh...I dunno...maybe he’s worried I might...for instance – ” he paused, looking thoughtful, and Ginny narrowed her eyes suspiciously “ – tickle you to death?”
Before Ginny could react, Harry grabbed her around the middle and began tickling every part of her he could reach. Shrieking with laughter, Ginny tried curling into a tight defensive ball, but one of her legs kicked out reflexively and caught Harry round the ankle; they tumbled, laughing, on to the floor, where Harry continued his ruthless attack, until Ginny, gasping for breath, with tears of laughter rolling down her face, gasped, “HARRY!....Ha! Ha ha ha!...STOP, STOP....”. Harry, lying on his back, almost equally breathless, released her, and she immediately seized her chance, pinning him to the floor by lying on him and holding his wrists down.
Gasping, Harry looked up at her flushed face and messy hair and realised that his elevated heart-rate would not be decreasing any time soon.
“Well, Mr Potter,” Ginny said sweetly – gazing down at him, her nose barely an inch above his – once she’d got her breath back. “It seems I have you pinned down. And you are so going to pay for that.”
“Mmm?” mumbled Harry unconcernedly, losing himself in the chocolate depths of her eyes and wondering what kind of horrible punishment she might have in store for him. “Just watch where you’re putting your knee, there,” he added quickly, not intending to suffer any punishment in that area.
Ginny laughed and leaned her head down to kiss him. She left a trail of tiny light kisses all along his top lip and then his bottom lip. Harry could feel his mouth burning where she barely touched it. Unable to bear her teasing, he lifted his head and kissed her as fiercely as was possible when contending with gravity and Ginny’s hands pinning his wrists to the floor. Ginny pulled away and smirked triumphantly, her eyes blazing; Harry’s mind went blissfully blank. Ginny closed her eyes and leant back down to kiss him properly, making his head spin. As they deepened the kiss, lips merged seamlessly, Ginny released his wrists, so that Harry was now fully supporting her weight (which he didn’t mind in the slightest, of course), and entwined her fingers in his hair. Harry brushed a loose red lock of her hair behind her ears, then gently ran his hands over her shoulders...
At that moment, the kitchen door opened, and a clueless Kreacher entered the hallway, stopping dead in his tracks when he caught sight of Harry and Ginny on the floor. Harry jumped so violently that poor Ginny was thrown off him and almost rolled into the wall.
“Oops, sorry,” he mumbled, disorientated, as he scrambled to his feet and extended a hand to pull her up.
Ginny – as red in the face as he knew he must be – giggled as she straightened up, and they both turned reluctantly towards Kreacher.
Evidently, part of a House-Elf’s conditioning involved averting his eyes when he accidently walked in on his Master in an embarrassing situation: Kreacher unconcernedly studied the skirting board whilst Harry and Ginny, grinning sheepishly, adjusted their clothes and hair.
“Er...sorry Kreacher,” Harry muttered, embarrassed, as the house-elf finally looked up with a completely straight face (though Harry thought he saw the old elf’s eyes sparkling amusedly). “Were you looking for us?”
“Dinner is ready, Master,” Kreacher croaked, bowing. “Unless Master would prefer it later?” he added, somewhat slyly, his eyes flicking to Ginny and then back to Harry.
“No, no,” said Harry hurriedly, smiling nervously at Ginny. “We were actually on our way down to dinner. We just got a little bit...uh...sidetracked...”
Ginny giggled again, and they followed Kreacher into the kitchen to find two plates piled high with spaghetti bolognaise.
“Mmm, that smells delicious, Kreacher, thank you,” said Ginny, and they took their seats.
Kreacher bowed to her then turned back to Harry.
“Does Master require anything else?” he asked.
“No, thank you, Kreacher,” replied Harry, smiling affectionately at the elf. “That’ll be all for today.”
Kreacher bowed one last time and turned towards his cupboard.
“Actually, Kreacher,” Harry backtracked suddenly, an idea striking him. “I’ve just thought: Hogwarts is re-opening tomorrow and the house-elves are probably being run off their feet. Why don’t you...er...go and give them a hand?” he suggested pointedly.
He was sure that the corner of Kreacher’s mouth twitched knowingly before Kreacher disapparated with a loud crack. Harry winked at Ginny, and she smirked.
“Cheeky devil,” she muttered to her plate as she began to mix her spaghetti and bolognaise sauce together.
“Me or Kreacher?” Harry asked through his own mouthful of spaghetti.
Ginny rolled her eyes and refused to reply.
They ate in companionable silence for a while, until Harry asked Ginny whether she was looking forward to returning to Hogwarts. She nodded fervently.
“I can’t wait!” she answered earnestly, putting her fork down. “I’m desperate to get back on the Quidditch pitch, to tell you the truth.”
“Let’s see if that lasts once the NEWT work starts piling on,” Harry said. “I can’t believe my luck – getting out of full-course NEWTs by training to be an Auror. I bet you won’t have time to sleep, let alone play Quidditch,” he teased.
“I’m not too worried about NEWTs, really,” she said.
Harry was surprised – he knew she wasn’t bookish like Hermione, but there was no denying she was clever, and NEWTs were important, so he’d imagined she’d take them seriously.
“Why? Are you that confident?” he laughed.
Ginny laughed, too.
“No, I’m not worried because I’m not hoping to have a particularly academic career – although I have no idea what I do want to do – so I’ve just opted to carry on with subjects I enjoy,” she explained.
Harry suddenly felt very guilty.
“Ginny, I’m so sorry,” he said anxiously. “I can’t even remember what subjects you took for your OWLs.”
Ginny rolled her eyes again.
“That’s probably because you were too busy snogging me during my OWL year to find out,” she joked; neither of them pointed out that it was more likely Harry’s preoccupation with Voldemort, Horcruxes and Draco Malfoy’s activities in the Room of Requirement that had resulted in his lack of attention to his girlfriend’s studies. “So anyway,” she continued after a pause in which they both mentally relived those romantic meetings in hidden niches of the castle. “I’m taking Charms, Defence, Potions and Muggle Studies.”
“Muggle Studies?” Harry repeated, surprised. “I never knew you took that!”
Ginny raised her eyebrows.
“I’ve been studying it since third year, Harry!”
Harry blushed guiltily again, and mentally resolved to pay far more attention to what Ginny did.
“Sorry,” he muttered, but Ginny laughed.
“I was kidding, Harry!” she said in an exasperated voice. “It’s not your job to know every little detail of my life. Stop being so...so...diligent...all the time!”
“OK, OK!” Harry laughed, raising his hands defensively. “So...why did you take Muggle Studies, then?” he hurried on. “Don’t tell me you’re secretly as much of an anorak as your dad...”
“Definitely not!” she said indignantly; but Harry couldn’t help noticing that she’d blushed when he’d asked why she took the subject, and his curiosity was aroused.
Ginny caught his inquiring smile and fidgeted uncomfortably before saying, “Isn’t it obvious why I took Muggle Studies, Harry?”
Harry blinked once or twice, but couldn’t fathom her meaning. So he shook his head, bemused. Ginny sighed, and turned a little redder.
“Well – bear in mind I was only in my second year when I chose it, so I was, what, twelve?” she said.
“Yeah...” said Harry slowly. “So?”
“And when I was about that age – if you remember – I did such stupid things as sending singing dwarfs after a certain someone, to get that certain someone to notice me.” Harry disguised his snort of laughter as a cough. “Well, wasn’t that same certain someone raised by Muggles? My genius twelve-year-old logic led me to believe that the way to understand him would be to learn about Muggles. And that’s the only reason I signed up for the course.”
Harry grinned widely and leaned back in his chair, quite comfortably, enjoying watching Ginny squirm with embarrassment.
“And...ah...did it help at all?” he asked smugly. “This grand scheme of yours?”
Ginny laughed evilly.
“Nope, he’s still as unintelligible as ever,” she replied without hesitation, and Harry, who had just taken another mouthful of food, almost choked on his spaghetti, laughing at the wit he loved so much.
They chatted about Muggle Studies for a few more minutes, Ginny explaining that she’d come to genuinely enjoy the subject, and wondering who their new teacher would be, now that Alecto Carrow had been got rid of, and her predecessor, Charity Burbage, was presumed dead.
The continued eating in silence again, but after a few minutes Harry suddenly remembered that Ginny was now Quidditch Captain. He asked her whether she had any plans for how she was going to go about running the team.
“Well, I think I need to actually get a team together first,” she replied,her face falling slightly. “Hopefully, Coote and Peakes will still be able to play beaters, but I’ll need to hold tryouts for every other position: obviously you and Ron have left so I’ll need a new Seeker and Keeper...and Katie’s left, too, of course. And,” Ginny went on in a more sombre tone, “Demelza...Demelza...”
Ginny’s lower lip trembled, and Harry suddenly felt a horrible pang in his gut: Demelza Robbins, a lovely girl who had been Ginny’s co-Chaser during Harry’s sixth year, had been killed during the Battle of Hogwarts.
Ginny hid her face in her hands, and Harry suddenly realised how difficult this next year was going to be for everybody at Hogwarts.
“Hey,” he said softly, wishing he hadn’t ruined the mood by bringing the subject up, and quickly dragging his chair next to Ginny’s so that he could hug her. “Hey...it’s OK...”
Ginny wasn’t crying, but her face had gone pale and she looked miserable. Harry held her and kissed the top of her head and just let her cling on to him. Then she gave a great sniff and pulled her head away from Harry’s chest.
“’m alright,” she mumbled, looking down at the table and gripping his hand tightly. “I...I just...haven’t let myself think about...about any of this,” she explained, fiddling with Harry’s fingers. “To be honest, that’s the real reason I’ve been insisting on coming here every day while you were at Auror training,” she admitted, glancing up at him with a small smile. “It wasn’t actually anything to do with me being helpful. I was just being a coward, not wanting to face any of it...”
“No, Ginny,” Harry said firmly, taking her shoulder in one hand and tilting her chin up with the other to look into her eyes. “You are the last person I’ll ever believe to be a coward; you know that. There’s nothing wrong with not being ready to face something as...as terrible as what happened in May. At least you got on with things – you could’ve sat around moping for months, and that wouldn’t’ve made the situation any easier to deal with.”
Ginny nodded slightly, seeming to take some comfort in Harry’s words, but looked as if she needed to voice a worry, now that the subject had been breached.
“Demelza shared my dormitory, you know,” she said quietly, frowning, after a moment or two. “And I never really got on with the other two girls in there...”
“Well, Hermione’s going to be in your dormitory now, remember,” Harry reminded her.
Ginny had apparently forgotten this, because she visibly brightened.
“Of course!” she exclaimed. “Oh, good. I don’t know if I could stand being alone in there with only those two for company. I’d be lonelier than if I was actually alone, I think...”
Harry suddenly had an idea.
“Give me my arm back a minute, Ginny,” he said with a smile. “I want to get something for you.”
Ginny looked curious as Harry stood up, kissed her forehead, and Disapparated. He returned just ten seconds later, and placed two objects on the table in front of Ginny: a small square mirror, and a fragment of an identical mirror. Ginny (who knew about the two-way mirrors, because Ron and Hermione had stayed in contact via them during their world tour), stared at them for a second and then grinned up at Harry.
“This year won’t be so bad after all,” she said simply, looking somewhat relieved and picking up the mirror fragment (Harry was secretly very glad that she left him the intact mirror – he’d be able to see her whole face whenever they talked).
“You know you can contact me whenever you want to; day or night,” he assured her, lovingly tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I think we’ve already withstood the “being apart” test, so now I don’t want you out of my sight,” he added jokingly.
Ginny smiled, looking at the mirror, then put it down on the table, got up, and moved to sit on Harry’s lap, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing his forehead.
“I’m still going to miss being able to do this,” she whispered as she leaned down to kiss him sweetly on the lips.
Harry smiled against her lips as he wrapped his arms around his waist and pulled her closer to him.
“Well, then,” he murmured, momentarily pulling away, “Let’s make the most of this evening...”
Ginny grinned and leaned back in to kiss him, but the chair they were sitting in overbalanced, and they once again landed in a sprawling heap on the floor. Laughing, Ginny pushed Harry over as he tried to get up and tickled his face with her hair.
“Hmm,” she said thoughtfully, smirking down at him evilly, “This seems like a somewhat familiar situation, doesn’t it?”
She was the only thing that existed for Harry in that moment, and all thoughts of parting were forgotten as she kissed him once more. This time, there was no house-elf to interrupt them...
August 11th, 2010, 8:48 pm
Once again, there has been far too long an interval between my last post and this, and once again, i have had to split a chapter which was meant to be relatively straightforward but became remarkably overcrowded with ideas once written. So here is part 1 of whatever chapter I'm now on...Ah, chapter 12...:D
Chapter 12 - Part 1
“I can’t help wishing that I still took Muggle Studies, you know, Ginny,” sighed Hermione melodramatically, sitting opposite the redhead at the Gryffindor table and gazing somewhat longingly towards the staff table.
It was a Saturday morning – Halloween, in fact – but the talk of the school was not the gargantuan dimensions of Hagrid’s pumpkins, the usual bizarre rumours about hired vampire bands, or even the day’s Hogsmeade trip – it was the new Muggle Studies professor and the excitement he had brought to the subject. Professor Sturmfels, a muggleborn who had been living in New Zealand for over twenty years, having fled Voldemort’s first reign of terror, was proving to be the biggest hit in the staffing department since the almost legendary Remus Lupin, and a likely recipient of more Valentine’s cards even than Professor Lockhart.
“Hermione, we’ve been through this,” replied Ginny, in a mockingly patient voice. “You’re a muggleborn. You don’t need to do Muggle Studies!”
“Yes, yes, I know,” said Hermione, smiling. “But I don’t care what subject he’s teaching – I want to be studying it!”
“I’ll tell Ron,” Ginny teased. “He’ll be jealous.”
“Very funny. But don’t,” Hermione added for safe measure. “No, it just sounds like he’s making the subject so interesting. I think he’s really going to move Hogwarts forwards!”
What had caused such a wave of sensation through the school had been the novel approaches the new professor had brought to the job. Never before in Hogwarts history had it occurred to a teacher to arrange a school trip of any kind, for example, but just two weeks into the term he had taken his third year class to muggle London for a day-trip, and the day before Halloween, five seventh year Muggle Studies students – Ginny among them – had been told that they’d each get the opportunity to spend a week living with a muggle family, in order to do some hands-on research (Professor Sturmfels had found the host families amongst muggleborns in the school, as this would not be a breach of the International Statute of Secrecy).
“I really don’t see why you’re green as Gillyweed, Hermione,” said Ginny. “The trip’s going to be fascinating for me because a muggle household is a completely alien environment for me, but you grew up in one!”
“Yes, I know,” Hermione repeated, “But like I said when I first signed up for the subject, it’d be really fascinating to study them from a magical point of view. All those aspects of their life that you’ve got to observe, and all those tasks you’re going to have to do – it’s going to be really challenging, but I’m sure it’ll be really eye-opening, too.”
“Down-right terrifying, though, some of it,” countered Ginny, pulling out the list of tasks that she would have to complete during the week with the Muggle family, which would be in the last week before the Christmas holidays. “ ‘You must purchase a muggle notebook and a pen or a pencil in which to write a daily journal during the week, and also in which to complete the written tasks’, ” She read. Then she looked up at Hermione, with something like terror on her face. “I’ll have to use muggle money, and not give away that I don’t have a clue about muggle currency – ”
“You could try learning about it before then,” suggested Hermione, smirking.
“ – and I’ve never used a pen or a pencil before! My handwriting will be terrible!” She continued reading: “ ‘Alternatively, if your host family has a computer (sometimes called a PC), you may wish to word process some of your work (ask for the family’s assistance)’. I’ll need the family’s assistance just translating that sentence into plain English!”
Hermione’s laughter was drowned in the clatter of the post owls as they soared into the hall, many of them dropping fake pumpkins on their addressees which exploded in showers of sweets in black and orange wrappers – this was George’s latest best-selling product at Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Three owls made their way towards the two girls. One, which resembled a grey, gravity-resistant tennis ball, was Ron’s Pigwidgeon, and so enthusiastically did he hurtle towards Hermione that he actually crashed into her face, making her yelp. The other two owls landed more gracefully in front of Ginny, and affectionately preened each other. The female snowy owl was Harry’s Artemis, while the marginally smaller male tawny, with striking red streaks in his plumage, was Ginny’s own owl, Flynn. Only Flynn was carrying a letter – Artemis and Pig had evidently just dropped by to say “hi” – and Ginny removed it quickly and read it.
“Oh!” she said, smiling happily. “It’s from Harry. He says that he and Ron are waiting outside the Hogwarts gates right now, so as soon as we’re allowed out we can go and meet them. That’s why these two are here, I suppose,” she added, indicating the two other owls. “It can’t have been a very good party then,” she laughed.
Harry and Ron had spent the previous night at a party to celebrate their Auror trainer Williamson’s fortieth birthday, and, suspecting that they would be subsequently very tired and most likely hung-over the next day, had arranged to meet the girls at about eleven o’clock in Hogsmeade. Mrs Weasley had also invited all of them to The Burrow for Halloween lunch.
Hermione glanced at her watch.
“Well, it’s almost nine o’clock now,” she told Ginny. “So if we quickly finish off breakfast and head to the entrance hall, we might be the first people for Filch to sign out...”
Ron yawned loudly and indelicately as he and Harry stood in silence, hands in pockets, next to one of the pillars which were topped by winged boars. Artemis and Pigwidgeon, who had returned from the school a few minutes earlier, were perched on their respective owners’ shoulders. Although it was dry and clear, the air was cold, and Harry hoped (as he resisted his own reflexive yawn) that Ginny and Hermione would not be too long – not just because of the weather, of course, but because he and Ron had not seen their girlfriends for almost two months.
No sooner had he thought this, than the distant oak doors of the castle opened, but to both men’s disappointment, it was a gaggle of third years which appeared, eagerly hurrying down the drive for their first Hogsmeade visit. However, Harry and Ron didn’t have to wait long before a distinctive duo appeared on the doorstep – Ginny’s red hair could be spotted a mile away – and waved energetically towards Harry and Ron. The girls hurried down the drive, and as they neared the wrought iron gates, a beaming Ginny broke into a run so that her vivid hair streamed behind her. Wrenching open the gates, she flung her arms around Harry’s neck, and kissed his face all over. Laughing, he picked her up around the waist and returned the kiss. A few metres away, Ron and Hermione were saying an equally enthusiastic and non-verbal “hello”.
“Your hair’s grown,” Harry commented, smiling, as he set Ginny back down on the ground, and buried his hands in her long hair.
“It’s not even been two months, Harry!” Ginny laughed, tapping the tip of his nose with her finger, as if telling him off for being so silly.
“Well, I can detect even an extra inch!” Harry replied defensively, gathering her hair into a loose ponytail over her shoulder and kissing the last inch of it to emphasise the point. “I love your hair.”
Ginny blushed slightly, but snaked her arms back around his neck.
“And I love you, and have missed you, and am very glad to see you again,” she whispered, before kissing him sweetly on the lips.
Ron coughed slightly, but not (Harry realised from the tone of it) to express any discomfort with Harry and Ginny kissing, but simply to get their attention because he wanted to say something.
“Hermione and I are going to go and do some shopping on our own,” he explained. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Not at all,” Harry replied, pleased that, so far, Ron seemed to be sticking to his decision to be OK with Harry and Ginny being together without his brotherly supervision.
They agreed to meet in the Three Broomsticks at twelve, in order to apparate to The Burrow together, and Hermione, having briefly said hello to Harry, dragged Ron off towards Scrivenshaft’s, while Harry and Ginny ambled down the high street more slowly, fingers laced together, heading for nowhere in particular.
“So, was the party not very good then?” asked Ginny.
“No, no, it was good, but Ron and I both decided that we would actually rather spend as much of the day as possible with you two than get too drunk or tired, so we didn’t drink too much, and left before midnight,” Harry explained.
“Well, that’s sweet,” said Ginny, smiling. “But won’t your colleagues think that you’re really boring?”
“It was a fortieth, Ginny, not a seventeenth,” he said reasonably. “And we hardly knew anybody there.”
As Harry had been at the party the previous night, Ginny had not yet told him about the Muggle Studies placement, and so gave him an overview as they wandered around.
“But I’ll save the details until we’re at The Burrow,” she said. “Otherwise I’ll be repeating myself all day...”
So they talked about other small, inconsequential things for several more minutes, simply enjoying being in each other’s company once again. Ginny, whose first match as Gryffindor quidditch captain was in two week’s time, wanted to get some new chaser’s gloves, as the match was likely to be in poor weather and the pair that she currently owned had been bought second-hand, several years previously, and were still too big for her. So they headed to the new Hogsmeade branch of Quality Quidditch supplies, which had only opened a month previously.
There were many new shops in Hogsmeade, as many of the owners of previous shops had been killed or seriously injured during the War. Although some of these shops were brand new – opened by enterprising young wizards and witches who had sensed the opportunity – most of the buildings had been bought by existing businesses, creating chains of shops, which the Wizarding world had previously lacked somewhat. Quality Quidditch Supplies had taken over what had previously been a robe shop, for example. This was also, of course, what George had done; opening up what had previously been Zonko’s as the Hogsmeade branch of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. He had finally re-opened the Diagon Alley branch at the end of September, knowing that Halloween was a crucial time for business, and Ron had been put in charge of the Owl Order service, having set up office and warehouse in the attic at Grimmauld Place. Business was, predictably, booming. Ron only being a part-time employee, George had hired several extra sales assistants for both shops – Verity, the young witch who had previously worked in the Diagon Alley branch, happily returned to the job and was promoted to Senior Sales Assistant, and took on the training of three other full-time employees, and two weekend staff; two of the sales assistants who had been made redundant by the closure of Zonko’s were given full-time jobs at the new shop, and Dean Thomas was one of two young people taken on as weekend staff there.
About half an hour before they planned to meet Ron and Hermione - having found a suitable pair of gloves for Ginny, restocked supplies of owl pellets and indulged in some mass sweet-buying at Honeydukes – Harry and Ginny decided to brave the crushing crowds of students in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes, as neither of them had visited it since it had properly got up and running. Eyes watering from the fluorescence of the outside of the shop, they squeezed through the door into the place where one’s personal bubble became non-existent, and grinned at the familiar sight of Skiving Snackboxes (the range now extended to include Hay-Fever Hazelnuts and Dragon-Pox Doughnuts), fireworks, trick wands and love potions. Some fourth-year Hogwarts students, in a corner of the shop given over to “Halloween Havoc,” were interestedly examining tiny little bottles of “Essence of Vampire” (which carried some miniscule small print explaining that this was just a brand-name and not an accurate description of the product – a potion which gave the drinker a realistic set of fangs and a noticeably pallid hue for up to three hours), while a couple of sixth-year girls pored with an air of desperation over the violently pink range of love potions, furiously debating in whispers the advisability of using one of them.
As more and more Hogwarts students poured into the shop behind them, Harry and Ginny were jostled helplessly towards the counter. At least, it seemed to be the counter – it was difficult to tell, smothered as it was in brightly-coloured sweets, trick wands and a bizarre assortment of toys.
“Hello!” said a familiar voice behind Harry and Ginny suddenly, and, turning, they saw Dean (complete with vampire fangs and a pumpkin hat). He was trying to make some space amidst the clutter (and people) to place a new stand, which displayed a selection of comical posters for sale, including the old “U-No-Poo” poster, which, it seemed, was already a collector’s item. The other posters, however, were all new designs, mocking everything from the Chudley Cannons to high-ranking Ministry officials, and bearing hilariously witty slogans, and Harry could very easily envisage dormitory walls plastered in them.
“Did you do all these?” Harry asked his old classmate, nodding at the posters, and remembering Dean’s artistic talents.
“Yeah,” replied Dean, with a modest shrug of his shoulders, setting the display down, then turning to face Harry and Ginny. “So...how’re you two, then?” he asked, a little awkwardly, eyes travelling rapidly between Harry and Ginny as though unsure who – out of his ex-classmate and ex-girlfriend – he should pay the most attention to.
“Er...good, thanks,” replied Harry, suddenly caught up by Dean’s awkwardness, and wondering how it could be so difficult to talk to someone he had shared a dormitory with for six years.
“George told us he’d hired you last month,” said Ginny, after a moment’s silence, quickly looking up at Harry and then at a point slightly to the side of Dean’s face. She was holding Harry’s hand with her left hand, and her right was nervously plucking at the sleeve of her left. “How’s...how’s the job going...?”
Harry couldn’t help (though he was concentrating all his efforts on resisting the territorial instinct) moving fractionally closer to Ginny, as Dean’s eyes finally rested solely on hers.
“Really well,” Dean answered quietly. He continued watching Ginny – who didn’t return his gaze – for a moment or two, and Harry thought he saw a muscle working in Dean’s jaw. Expecting the usual unavoidable stab of jealousy, Harry was surprised to find himself just feeling a little bit sorry for Dean, who, after all, had never shown any hostility towards Harry and had had a very traumatic war.
Dean drew in a small breath suddenly, smiled, swung his hands and looked instead at Harry.
“Yeah, the job’s going really well,” he repeated breezily, a little more loudly. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do after Hogwarts, but I’ve always liked charms and quill-work, and stuff, so this seemed like a really good place to start.”
“Well, you...you seem to be doing a great job,” he said, a little lamely, waving at the posters again.
“Well, I’m enjoying it, but it won’t be forever. I think once I’ve kinda got a bit of stability, and got over...y’know...the war and stuff, I’m going to apply to the Wandlore academy in London...”
“Wow!” said Ginny, surprise causing her to finally meet Dean’s eyes. “When did you come up with that idea?”
Harry suspected from her tone that she had very nearly added “You never mentioned an interest in wandlore when we were going out,” and shifted a little uncomfortably.
“When I was at your brother’s house, actually,” Dean answered, smiling. “You know, after we’d all escaped from Malfoy Manor. Mr Ollivander seemed to enjoy telling me and Luna all about wands. Luna kept asking him if he’d ever considered using the rear, left-leg tendon of a blibbering humdinger, or something like that, as a magical core...”
Harry and Ginny both laughed at this, very easily imagining Luna saying this.
“I don’t think he minded one bit, though,” Dean added. “But he also told me lots about wandlore, and said that he thought I’d be good at it...”
“Not slacking, are we, Dean?” a cheerful voice interrupted suddenly, and turning, Harry saw George edging expertly through the crowd. “I won’t pay you your Halloween bonus if you are...”
Dean grinned at Harry and Ginny, then put on an extremely serious face and smartly saluted his boss, clicking his heels together.
“That’s more like it,” said George, winking at Harry and Ginny. Like Dean, he was sporting vampire fangs, and had dyed patches of his vivid red hair black, on the back of his head, so that from behind, his head resembled a carved pumpkin.
“You’re coming to The Burrow for lunch, aren’t you, George?” Ginny asked her older brother.
“I was just on my way there, actually,” said George. “I bet I’ll be there before you two.”
Harry, checking his watch, suddenly realised that they were meant to be meeting Ron and Hermione in The Three Broomsticks in about two minutes, so he and Ginny hurriedly said goodbye to George and Dean, and left the shop.
“It was...nice...seeing Dean again,” said Ginny in a carefully measured voice, as they started down the high street at a brisk pace.
Harry noticed that she was watching him out of the corner of her eye, and realised that she was testing him – she was trying to determine whether Harry was still susceptible to irrational jealousy. Feeling a little indignant at her suspicion, he replied:
“Yeah, I’m pleased he’s OK. I think he’ll be good at wandlore.”
To his bemusement, he seemed to have passed the test with flying colours, because Ginny beamed at him, and they said nothing more until they entered the Three Broomsticks.
Ron and Hermione had clearly walked in only moments before, as they were only just arriving at the bar when Harry and Ginny spotted them. They made their way up to the bar to join the other couple. Having collected four butterbeers, the four of them found a table near the middle of the heaving pub, and sat down.
“I’m so glad I’m not a Prefect,” said Ginny, smirking at the several underage Hogwarts students who were surreptitiously sipping firewhiskey under their tables.
Ron laughed at Hermione’s slightly disapproving expression. Being an honorary eighth-year student, Hermione technically no longer had Prefect authority, either, and was clearly resenting the fact, as she observed the students in question.
They had almost an hour until they were due at The Burrow, and used it to catch up on what they were all doing. Harry and Ron told Hermione and Ginny about their Auror training, and compared notes about what they were learning – Harry and Ron were, after all, studying for a variation of NEWTs as well, during this first year of their training. Ginny and Hermione in turn talked about the phenomenon that was Professor Sturmfels, and Ron expressed a slight disgust that his sister had taken such a keen interest in muggle studies. Hermione raised her eyebrows at this point, turning to stare at him indignantly, her arms folded.
“Why, exactly, do you have a problem with Ginny learning about Muggles?” she demanded, in a dangerous tone.
Ron looked confused for a second, then his eyes widened and he reddened slightly.
“No, no, no!” he spluttered. “I don’t mean...I’m not against...obviously I’ve got nothing against muggles or Muggle Studies. Just...Ginny’s starting to sound like Dad!”
Poor Ron seemed to shrink by about a foot, as Ginny, too, turned to glare at him. He looked desperately at Harry, only to find his best friend shaking with silent laughter at his predicament. Looking back at his sister and girlfriend, he saw them exchanging a smirk, and realised he was not really in any danger of being jinxed.
Hermione smiled at him, pityingly, and patted his arm.
“It really would have been worth you taking the subject, though,” she said seriously. “Let’s be honest, you’re hopeless when it comes to muggles...”
“Perhaps all pureblo-...I mean – students from all -wizarding backgrounds, should have to study it,” suggested Ginny pensively. Harry noted her avoidance of the word “pureblood”, and hoped that this was part of a more widespread linguistic revolution, brought about by the end of the War. “It’s definitely opened my eyes,” Ginny continued. “I mean, even if we’re brought up to not be anti-muggle, we do tend to talk about muggles almost like they are children – or even animals – rather than people. I suppose it’s this ignorance that leads to real anti-muggle feeling in a few people. But we all tend to think about them as “others,” if you see what I mean. And because of this, some of us really underestimate them. Ron being a prime example...” she finished, with a sideways glance at her brother.
“All right! All right!” Ron conceded grudgingly, raising his hands in surrender and reddening once more. “I know zilch about muggles so I occasionally say things about them which come out completely wrong! Blimey...It’s not like I’m a Death Eater!”
There was a sudden awkward silence, as the other three had no idea what to do with this exclamation, and the point, though made in jest, struck a poignant chord in all of them, but which none of them could quite express. Since the end of the War, witches and wizards everywhere were finding that the subject of the divide between the magical and non-magical world had simultaneously become one of the most talked about, and the most difficult to talk about. Harry had got an impression, from listening to conversations at the Ministry, that many people were reassessing their opinion about the subject, and wanted to discuss it, but were finding themselves tiptoeing around it like a religious debate, paranoid of inadvertently saying something which might be interpreted as anti-muggle. While the war against outright discrimination against muggles and muggleborns had been won, there was still a long way to go as far as the collective magical psyche was concerned.
Hermione quickly looked down at her watch.
“Um...we’d better get going,” she said, in a quieter voice. “Your mum’s expecting us in five minutes.”
Grateful for an excuse to not continue the discussion, which was getting far too political for a lunchtime get-together, they all stood up and made their way out of the pub, and apparated to the end of the lane leading to The Burrow.
Please leave feedback (http://www.cosforums.com/showthread.php?t=115120&highlight=road&page=2) - it is always much appreciated! :D
September 22nd, 2010, 9:26 am
Chapter 12 - Part 2
Since moving into Grimmauld place at the beginning of September, Harry had spent far less time at the Weasley household than he was used to. He was still invited over for dinner several times a week, but he and Ron would often enjoy Kreacher’s cooking at Grimmauld Place, instead, and he had been sure to invite Mr and Mrs Weasley over to Grimmauld Place for a couple of Sunday lunches. The Burrow seemed to no longer be the thriving “base-camp” for the Weasleys, Harry and Hermione that it used to be: Bill was obviously living in Shell Cottage with Fleur; Charlie was renting a small flat in London, as he was now working for a dragon charity trying to help the Gringotts dragons (the ones that Harry, Ron and Hermione had not stolen...); Percy was also living in his old flat in London; George was living in Hogsmeade, above the shop; and Ginny and Hermione were obviously at Hogwarts. While Ron still “officially” lived at The Burrow, the absence of any siblings made this less appealing than treating Grimmauld Place as his and Harry’s “bachelor pad,” as he called it, and Harry was glad of the company.
So they were all rather looking forward to today’s Halloween lunch, to which everyone had been invited, and hurried towards the house in good spirits.
When, however, they entered the kitchen, they did not find the cheery atmosphere they had been expecting. George, who had indeed arrived before them, was sitting at the table with Mrs Weasley, and they were both staring, ashen-faced, at an object sitting on the table in front of them. Harry noticed that Mrs Weasley had tear-tracks down her cheeks, and felt a stab of alarm. What had happened?
Harry and Hermione exchanged a worried glance as Ron and Ginny rushed forward.
“Mum?” Ron said tentatively, putting a hand on her shoulder. Mrs Weasley just gave a great sniff and reached up to take his hand. Ron opened his mouth to ask again, but then examined the object on the table, and froze, with a strangled noise.
Ginny looked over George’s shoulder at the object on the table, studied it, frowning for a few seconds, then, with a gasp of horror, turned white.
“What? What is it?” Harry asked desperately, rushing forwards, heart pounding with dread.
He looked at the object, and realised, to his surprise, that it was just the old clock Mrs Weasley had, which had a hand for each of the members of the family, and showed each family-member’s current location or condition. Confused as to why this would cause the reactions of Mrs Weasley, George, Ginny and Ron, he studied it more closely...and felt a bucketful of ice cascade into his stomach.
Each of the hands was, indeed, showing each family-member’s location...all except one. The hand which had previously borne Fred’s grinning face was no longer straight, or pointing in a particular direction – it was blackened and mangled, almost into a ball of metal, his tiny photograph barely recognisable, and the hand was rotating ceaselessly, restlessly around the face.
Harry heard Hermione’s small intake of breath behind him, as she too saw the clock.
“How...how have we not seen this already?” she asked after a moment, in a quiet, timid voice.
No one answered for a few seconds, and Hermione bit her lip anxiously. But then Mrs Weasley choked a reply.
“I-I got fed up...it was so depressing...seeing all our hands pointing to ‘Mortal Peril’ for months and months...so I hid it in a cupboard months ago...and forgot about it. But just now...just before George came in...I was looking for some extra dishes...and...it was in there...and...and...”
She gestured helplessly at the clock-face as her eyes brimmed with tears. Ron hugged her awkwardly from behind, seemingly unable to tear his eyes away from the symbol of his brother’s death. Hermione put a comforting hand on George’s shaking shoulder.
Harry met Ginny’s tear-filled gaze. She wiped the moisture rapidly from her eyes, and Harry saw a muscle working in her jaw as she struggled to retain her composure. She took a deep breath, then, leaning over her mother’s shoulder, picked up the clock in trembling hands and returned it to a high cupboard. Then she turned back and faced the accusatory stares of Mrs Weasley and George.
“What good can come of staring at that?” she asked them gently.
No one answered. There was a loud scraping sound as Ron pulled out the chair next to George and slumped into it. Hermione gave George’s shoulder one more comforting pat, then wound her arms around Ron’s neck from behind.
Ginny looked round at them all a little helplessly, and Harry could sense her feelings. She didn’t want Halloween – the first meeting of her entire family for months – to be spoiled by something that none of them could change; but nor did she want to seem heartless or callous. She met Harry’s gaze once again, with a plea in her eyes. Harry took a few steps around the table towards her, and took her hand.
“Ginny’s right,” he said quietly, trying to stave off the feeling that he was speaking out of turn. “Fred...Fred wouldn’t want you to let this spoil Halloween...”
Harry was shocked to his core by the look of hatred in George’s eyes, as they rose at Harry’s words.
“Don’t tell us what Fred would or wouldn’t have wanted,” George growled in a terrifying voice. “He wasn’t your brother!”
“George!” Ginny snapped. “Fred was my brother, so I can tell you he wouldn’t have wanted you to speak to Harry like that. He wouldn’t want us to fight over this either.” She lifted her eyes and looked at everybody else. “That clock is a horrible reminder of his d-death, but nothing more. For goodness sake – I feel horrible saying it, but you all know that if Fred could see that, he’d be laughing at it!”
Harry winced at the cold truth of what Ginny had said, and Mrs Weasley, George and Ron all made noises of outrage, but Ginny didn’t relent.
“What kind of memorial is it for Fred if we get angry and upset at any reminder of him? If we start fearing the topic to the extent that we’ll avoid it?”
Mrs Weasley was deathly pale as tears flowed down her face. She was glaring at her daughter as if at a stranger.
“Will you not let me grieve for my son?” she demanded in an ice cold whisper.
Ginny flinched, and silently moved around behind her mother. She wrapped her arms tightly around Mrs Weasley’s stiff shoulders, and laid her cheek on the top of her head.
“Of course you can grieve,” she whispered, and Harry felt his heart ache as her face crumpled. “We can all grieve. But it is so much more important that we keep his laughter alive. If we think about him without laughing, we’ve as good as forgotten him.”
A silence which seemed to last an eternity met Ginny’s words. Mrs Weasley, crying silently, clung to her daughter’s arm, and whispered an apology. George, face set and eyes dry, got jerkily to his feet and moved over to the window seat, staring out at the distant gate. Harry’s eyes met Hermione’s across the table, and she gave a small one-sided smile as if to say “What else can we do?”
“Ginny...Ginny’s right,” said George croakily all of a sudden, turning back from the window. “We have to keep laughing. Fred said to me when we first set up the shop: ‘I just love making people laugh.’ He’d hate to think that we’re all crying and arguing over him.”
George took a deep breath then smiled shakily, first at his sister, then his mother. Ginny beamed back, only the corner of her mouth twitching downwards, and Mrs Weasley, with a depth of bravery that Harry could only envy, gave a small shaky laugh. Ron nodded silently, making a small noise in his throat which may have been an attempt at laughter. Harry saw that Hermione had a hand over her mouth and tears in her eyes as she observed this scene of familial solidarity against all odds.
“OK then,” said George shakily, a tiny sparkle in his eyes. “To Fred and to laughter.”
He raised an invisible glass, and the others all followed suit, their smiles and small laughs becoming easier and more natural by the second, until all enmity of a few minutes previously had disappeared. With an expression of something like contentment, George turned once more to look out of the window.
“Oh look,” he said, suddenly in a cheerful tone. “Charlie and Perce are here.”
This news seemed to dissolve the reverie which had taken over all of them, and Mrs Weasley got to her feet.
“Oh, it’s going to be wonderful having everyone here again,” she said with genuine warmth. “I feel like I haven’t cooked a decent sized meal for ages.”
She moved over to the oven and summoned from its depths the most enormous Shepherd’s Pie that Harry had ever laid eyes on. The smell made his mouth water.
“I hope you’re all hungry,” Mrs Weasley said, smiling in an almost mischievous way, not unlike the expression so characteristic of the twins and Ginny. “Ron, can you run out to the garage and fetch your father. He’s tinkering with some muggle rubbish – a write-typer or something.”
Harry and Ron both had to work extremely hard to hide their laughter as Ginny’s eyes widened and she hurriedly said, “I’ll get him.”
As she hurried enthusiastically out of the kitchen, Mrs Weasley, watching her daughter, groaned.
“Not another one,” she muttered, and Harry, Ron and Hermione laughed, remembering their earlier conversation.
At that moment, Percy and Charlie’s voices floated through the window, and Harry saw Mrs Weasley beaming to herself, as she set some vegetables to boil with a wave of her wand. Clearly, the reconciliation of Percy with the rest of his family was still a great source of happiness for her.
“Hello all,” said Percy loudly, as he came in first through the kitchen door.
Mrs Weasley hurried over to hug her third eldest son, then turned to Charlie as he too stepped through the door.
“Hi mum,” he said, grinning, and leant down to kiss her on the cheek.
“Charles Gidgeon Weasley,” Mrs Weasley said sternly, pulling away, hands on hips. “I can hardly bear to call you my son when your hair is in that dreadful state.”
Charlie grinned, and ran one large calloused hand through his hair, which was brushing his shoulders.
“It’s great to see you, too, Mum,” he replied grinning.
Mrs Weasley shook her head in mock despair.
“Honestly, I cannot believe how fast your hair grows; all you kids,” she said, looking around at all her children.
“Funny,” said Ginny, returning suddenly with her father in tow. “Harry was commenting on that very phenomenon this morning.”
She winked at Harry who fought very hard (and unsuccessfully) not to blush, but the moment was private, and none of the others seemed to notice.
Mr Weasley greeted Charlie and Percy and they all found seats around the table, chatting and catching up. Harry’s heart swelled at the prospect of a big chatty Weasley dinner, with the whole family (well, he thought, as whole as it could be) squeezed into the little kitchen, perched on various different chairs. Catching Ginny’s eye, he saw that she was experiencing the same emotion, and he grinned at her, as he took the seat opposite her.
“Should Bill and Fleur be arriving soon?” Mr Weasley asked Mrs Weasley.
Mrs Weasley looked at her watch and frowned.
“Well, I asked you all to be here ten minutes ago,” she said. “It’s not like Bill to be late, especially for a meal. I wonder what they’re up to?”
She couldn’t have chosen a worse way to phrase her question, Harry thought, as a smirking Charlie muttered a suggestion in George’s ear, which was overheard by Ron, and the three of them fell about laughing. Percy and Mrs Weasley both gave them a disapproving look, while Mr Weasley, Harry could see, was desperately trying not to laugh as well.
“Boys, don’t make crude remarks at the table please,” she said sternly.
Charlie looked up innocently.
“Crude? Would I?” he asked indignantly. “I was simply speculating as to what innocent diversion might have caused our brother to be late for a Weasley meal.”
“Peut-être une diversion française?” suggested Ginny slyly.
“Ginny!” said Mrs Weasley, looking scandalised.
At that moment, the room was suddenly illuminated as a sleek cheetah patronus leapt clean through the window, and landed on the table amongst the dishes, making every one jump back in alarm, though the crockery was not at all disturbed. The cheetah looked around at everyone then spoke hurriedly in Bill’s voice to Mrs Weasley.
“Sorry we’re late, Mum. Will be there soon. Start without us. Sorry.”
The patronus vanished amid the exchange of gleeful expressions by Charlie, Ron and George, and Mrs Weasley frowned.
“Well, that’s very odd,” she said, looking more than a little bit irritated by her eldest son’s inexplicable tardiness.
“Well, you heard the man,” said George, miming drooling as his eyes feasted on the shepherd’s pie. “He said start without them.”
Mrs Weasley shook her head, as her family all gazed longingly at their dinner, hands poised on cutlery. Smiling she handed out great portions of pie, and everyone helped themselves to the various vegetables and sauces on the table, then there was silence for five minutes or so while they all savoured the fantastic meal.
After a while, chatter began to break out, Mrs Weasley conversing quietly with George, Percy chatting animatedly about the new discrimination policies with the only person who might possibly care (Hermione), and Mr Weasley pressing Ginny for details about her Muggle Studies course.
“You’ve mentioned this new Professor...Sturmfels, is it?...in just about every letter you’ve sent home!” he laughed, and Ginny reddened slightly.
“Well, he’s a good teacher!” she said defensively. “And on that subject...I haven’t told you yet: he’s given us a fantastic opportunity to do some hands-on research. He asked around muggle-born students in the school, and managed to find five muggle families who’d be happy to have a muggle-studies student living with them for the week before the Christmas holidays, and I’m one of hte lucky students that get to take part!” Ginny finished excitedly.
Predictably, Mr Weasley looked about to burst with jealousy. Everyone else around the table had cut off their conversations to listen to Ginny.
“You’re going to spend a week living with a muggle family?” asked Mrs Weasley, sounding nervous.
Ginny nodded, grinning.
“And I’m really looking forward to it!”
She proceeded to tell them about the tasks she’d been set while she was there – Ron looked frankly horrified at the thought of having to make purchases in a muggle shop, use a computer and get by without magic for a whole week.
“You will be allowed your wand, though, won’t you?” asked Mr Weasley said, frowning.
“Of course,” Ginny replied, reassuringly. “They couldn’t force us to leave our wand behind. But we’re not meant to use it except in extreme circumstances – I suppose it won’t be much different to doing things before you turn seventeen.”
“Do you know anything about the family you’ll be staying with?” asked Percy.
“Yeah,” Ginny replied. “They live in Cornwall, their daughter’s a fourth-year Ravenclaw – I’d never met her before – and they also have a 20-year-old son, who’s a muggle, obviously, who apparently goes to Uni...uni...”
“University?” Hermione supplied, helpfully.
“Yes, that’s the one!”
“What’s Universe City?” asked Charlie, looking confused (as did the rest of the family).
Ginny frowned, and looked to Harry and Hermione for help. Harry didn’t know all that much about university, so shrugged his shoulders, but Hermione smirked and explained about higher education in the muggle world. She was just giving the example of her parents, explaining about each of their degrees and where they’d got them, when the sound of hurried footsteps could be heard approaching the kitchen.
“Here they are,” said Charlie, rolling his eyes.
The kitchen door sprang open, and Bill and Fleur entered, looking flushed and holding hands (George almost fell on the floor laughing).
Mrs Weasley frowned at her eldest son.
“Bill, you’re almost half an hour late,” she said, standing up with her hands on her hips and looking disappointed. “I hope you have a reasonable excuse?”
Charlie, George and Ron all had tears of mirth running down their cheeks, and Harry and Ginny smirked at each other. But Hermione, Harry noticed a second later, was studying Fleur shrewdly. Her eyes widened slightly and her mouth parted, as if she had just understood something incredible. Harry caught her eye questioningly, but Hermione just shook her head, clearly trying not to smile.
“We’re really, really sorry, Mum,” Bill apologised, quickly leaning forward and kissing her on the cheek. For some reason, he was grinning. “We’ve just...well, we’ve got some news...”
He looked at Fleur, who, Harry noticed (as Ron clearly had, as he was gawking at her almost indecently) was radiating a natural beauty to rival her wedding-day, and was smiling with more genuine warmth than Harry had ever seen. He heard Ginny’s small intake of breath next to him, and turned round in time to catch her and Hermione exchanging excited expressions.
“We are going to ‘ave a baby!” Fleur exclaimed, apparently confirming Hermione and Ginny's suspitions, and even waving her hands in her excitement.
There was a shriek as Mrs Weasley flung herself around the necks of her son and daughter-in-law, bursting into tears, and a massive scraping of chairs and general exclamations as everyone else leapt to their feet to congratulate them.
“I’m going to be a Grandad,” Mr Weasley breathed to nobody in particular. “I’m going to be a Grandad!”
Bill, beaming from ear to ear was thumped on the back by his grinning brothers and Harry, and even Ginny hugged Fleur tightly. Harry laughed to see Ginny desperately wiping her eyes so no one could see her welling up. Hermione and Mrs Weasley had no such reservations and were laughing and crying freely. Bill and Fleur seemed utterly elated, and Mr and Mrs Weasley, who were now hugging each other, were both ecstatically exclaiming “We’re going to be Grandparents!”
There was a great deal of laughter as Charlie began summoning Firewhiskeys for everyone, before realising that Fleur wouldn’t be able to drink.
As things calmed down somewhat - Mrs Weasley dabbing at her eyes with the edge of the tablecloth as she sank back into her seat - Hermione asked Fleur when the baby was due.
“Ze end of April,” Fleur answered, still beaming widely. “I am two months pregnant.”
Harry couldn’t think of anything more wonderful that could happen to the Weasley family, and was filled with the same excitement as everyone else at the thought of a new addition to the family. As he thought this, he turned to Ginny, who was sitting next to him and caught her eye. Her hand enclosed his under the table. She was grinning, and had tears in her eyes, and as he looked at her he thought: “One day, it’ll be us making this announcement”. From the way she smiled, and the sparkle in her eyes, he could see that she was thinking the same thing.