Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 20 ~ Longbottom's Surprise
Moments later, they tumbled out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron.
"Harry, my boy! Won't you and your friends come and have a drink? My treat," exclaimed Tom the barman, overjoyed to see Harry again.
"Maybe later, Tom? We have to go and meet some friends," answered Harry apologetically.
"Of course, of course! Bring your friends too!" Tom beamed as he bowed them out of his pub.
Hurrying down Diagon Alley, Harry noticed how everything was starting to go back to normal. At the height of Voldemort's reign, witches and wizards were too scared to shop alone, preferring to stay huddled in groups or not risk going out at all. Many wizarding shops had been boarded up and nobody lingered for very long. Now, nearly all the shops were open again, and there were people everywhere; sitting outside Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, gossiping outside the Apothecary, young witches and wizards with their noses pressed against the window of Quality Quidditch Supplies and an endless stream of mischief-doers went in and out of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes with bulging shopping bags. Countless people nodded and waved to Harry, Ron and Hermione as they passed by.
"I could get used to being famous, you know," remarked Ron happily, as a very pretty group of teenage witches waved at them, giggling flirtatiously.
"I bet you could," said an amused Hermione, tucking her arm into Ron's. It wiped the smiles off the girls' faces, but caused Ron to beam from ear to ear.
"I see you two are getting on better," said Harry with raised eyebrows.
Ron glowed magenta, but he and Hermione simply smiled at him. Harry laughed and shook his head.
They had come to a stop at 142 Diagon Alley. In front of them was a brand new wizarding shop, its windows covered in brown paper.
"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Hermione, releasing Ron's arm and taking a step forwards.
"Longbottom's Magical Plants and Vines," read Ron in awed tones.
"Magical plants, herbs and roots for all occasions," continued Hermione.
"If we don't have it, you don't need it," added Harry.
"That part was Gran's idea," Neville was standing behind them, beaming with pride.
"Neville - what is this?" asked Hermione, thoroughly confused.
"My shop! Gran and some of the family put the money up for it. I'm going to run it!" he grinned at them in excitement, "You know that the Ministry give us a sort of pension - you know, for Mum and Dad?" he added in a low voice, his expression darkening for a moment. "That's how we could afford it...at least I can put the money to good use now..."
"Wow, Neville! This is wicked!" said Ron, still staring up at the shop.
"Yeah, congratulations! But why didn't you say anything?" asked Harry.
"Well, I didn't realise it would happen so quickly. One minute I was mentioning it to Gran, and the next..." he trailed off, gesturing to the new shop.
"So you'll work here full-time?" asked Hermione.
"Yeah!" said Neville happily, "Come in and have a look." He pulled a golden key out of his pocket and opened the door.
"Wait for me!" they turned around to see Luna running towards them, her dirty blond hair streaming out behind her. "Sorry I'm late," she gasped, smiling widely at each of them, "Daddy and I were planning our next expedition - we're going Dingle-Poppy spotting in the Himalayas!"
Deciding it to ignore that comment completely, the others carried on their conversation as though Luna hadn't spoken. They entered the shop and Hermione gasped again.
"Did you enlarge it?" she said staring around in wonder.
"Yeah, it was the only way to get everything in," said Neville, grinning.
Though the shop looked small from the outside, inside it was a vast dark cavern, filled with rows and rows of magical plants of all varieties, neatly laid out in alphabetical order. Every magical plant was there, from Abyssinian Shrivelfigs to Wormwood plants. At the far end of the shop was a counter made from a dark coloured wood. Upon it were eight sets of brass scales ranging from the tiny to the enormous, and tucked away in the corner was a small cash register. An arched doorway was behind this, hung with a black curtain.
"What's behind there, Neville?" asked Harry curiously.
"I was waiting for you to ask," said Neville happily, drawing back the curtain and allowing them to pass through. They entered a smaller room, lined with fewer plants, but these looked much more interesting.
"This is where all the most dangerous plants are kept," Luna informed them.
"How do you know?" asked Ron.
"I'm going to be working here part-time!"
"Neville!" cried Ron, clutching his chest in mock-hurt, "how could you keep this from us?" Neville laughed as he led them up and down the aisles, pointing out the different poisonous plants.
"This is the Devil's Snare ... this is a baby Venomous Tentacular - it's not too dangerous yet ... Mimbulous Mimbletonia, that's my favourite ... and if you come over here, I think you'll be very interested in these,"
Standing back, he revealed a row of tiny trees tucked away in the furthest corner.
"What are these?" asked Ron, reaching out to feel one of the delicate branches when-
"Ouch!" he yelled. The innocent looking little tree had whacked his hand.
Harry and the others laughed. Wiping his eyes, Neville said,
"They're baby Whomping Willows! This is the only supply of them in the world."
"Wow Neville, these are amazing!" praised Hermione, deeply impressed. They all looked at the miniature Willows, that were now all waving around, disturbed by Ron's yelling. Tearing her eyes away, Hermione continued to stroll about until she came to stop in from of a small, glowing plant.
"Neville - what's this plant? I don't think I've ever seen anything like it before." The others came over to where Hermione was standing, to get a look at the new plant. Instead of green stems, it was jet black, with tiny orangey red blooms that seemed to be flickering.
"This is the most dangerous plant in the entire world," said Neville, completely serious now. "I'm not going to actually sell it to anyone - that why I keep it back here."
"But what is it?" asked Hermione in a hushed voice.
"It's a Hellfire Plant. They're extremely rare. See how the flowers look like they're glowing?"
The others nodded, staring intently at the plant.
"That's because each petal is actually a tiny flame."
They leaned in for a closer look.
"Wow," breathed Hermione. On each black stalk was a minute flower, made up of eight tiny flames that looked like petals from afar.
"Try and blow it out," suggested Neville.
"No thanks," said Ron, rubbing his hand where it had been slapped by the baby Whomping Willow.
"I'll try," said Harry, leaning in further and blowing gently on the plant. It barely moved. He blew harder, but still the miniature flames didn't move.
"What's it used for?" asked Harry, straightening up.
"It's the deadliest poison in the world. Nothing can save you from it, not a Bezoar, not antidotes - nothing. If you know how, you can use the fire to brew a poison that literally melts your insides."
"Urgh, Neville - that sounds awful. Why do you have one?"
"Because they're so rare! It's an amazing plant, as long as you don't use it for bad things."
"Well, I'm not sure it's a good idea to have one at all," she said with a frown.
"Well don't worry - it's not like I'm a master potion maker," he said, smiling.
"Okay..." she said reluctantly, still frowning.
"So when do you open?" asked Ron, as though this exchange hadn't taken place.
"A week tomorrow! I'm still waiting for a few more plants to come in. Luna's going to help out next week - before she goes back to Hogwarts-"
"-helloooo? Anyone here?" a voice called from the front of the shop.
They left the curtained area and found Mrs. Weasley and Ginny smiling in the front doorway.
"Neville dear! What a surprise!" gasped Mrs. Weasley, looking around at everything.
As Neville and Luna gave the new arrivals a tour, Harry, Ron and Hermione wandered around the less dangerous plants.
"You know," said Hermione thoughtfully, "we could get a lot of potion ingredients from here, like the pus for the exploding potion."
"Good idea," said Harry.
"D'you reckon Neville'll give us a discount?" asked Ron hopefully.
"That's hardly the point, is it?" asked Hermione crisply.
Ron smiled at her and to Harry's amazement, she backed down and returned his smile. Restraining himself from rolling his eyes, Harry said;
"Why don't we take up Tom's offer and take Neville for a celebratory drink?"
"Are you feeling okay?" asked Hermione, surprised by this sudden carefree attitude.
"Hey - you only live once - let's go!" Harry took Ginny by the hand and led the way out.
Ron and Hermione stared at each other, shocked but pleased by this relaxed Harry. Calling to the others, they followed Harry out of the shop.
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 21 ~ A Gaunt Prospect
They travelled under the cover of darkness.
“Why is this taking so long?” hissed Bellatrix, as they made their way stealthily through the wooded area.
“We must take care. The Ministry Auror’s are after us! It’s not much further.”
He was leading the way, tearing easily through hanging branches and vines out of their path with his magical silver hand.
Eventually they came to a small clearing. Just ahead, enormous dark trees waved ominously in the thin moonlight.
“What?” she snapped.
“I didn’t say anything,” Wormtail replied, looking confused.
“Just be quiet!” she hissed.
He shook his head. Obviously insane, he thought to himself.
Aloud he said; “It’s just behind those trees. We must be careful. The Ministry could know about this place.”
They proceeded forwards, climbing carefully over fallen branches and dead leaves. Everything here seemed dead, and the sweet stench of decaying plants hung heavy on the air.
“What?” She said through clenched teeth.
“I didn’t say anything!” he cried indignantly.
Turning sharply to look at him, Bellatrix pointed her wand at him, breathing hard.
“Stop playing games, Wormtail.”
“For the last time; I DID NOT SAY ANYTHING!”
“Well who keeps calling my name? Mystical fairies?” she asked sarcastically, “Now can we just get a move on? Where is the house?”
“Just through those trees,” he replied, annoyed.
“No Bella … nooo …”
“It was your idea to come here, you imbecile! Why are you saying no now?”
“For the last time woman – I said nothing!”
“Oh really?” she sneered, “well who did”- she gasped, all colour draining from her face. “No,” she breathed to herself, stumbling over the hem of her robes and staring around, seemingly possessed.
“B-Bella?” asked Wormtail, confused.
“No! Go away, Cissy!” said Bellatrix in a hoarse whisper. “Leave me!”
“Cissy?” repeated Wormtail, “Bella, what are you talking about?” he laughed nervously, watching Bella, who was now retreating back into the woods, her lit wand held aloft.
“I’m not going to listen to you, Narcissa! Do you hear me?”
“Bella, be quiet!” squealed Wormtail, “Have you lost your mind? We must be quiet – we must be careful”-
“She is trying to stop me,” she said in a low voice, her eyes darting left and right, “can’t you hear her?” she grabbed onto Wormtail’s robes, falling to her knees, looking up at him though anguished eyes, “Can you hear her?” she asked again, desperately.
“Bella,” Wormtail began hesitantly, “I hear nothing. Come now; let’s go to the house. You are tired – you need rest,” he helped her to her feet, and held her steady with his silver hand.
Leading her through the clearing, he made low soothing noises, trying to clam her down. Bellatrix continued to mutter to herself. All Wormtail could make out was odd words – Narcissa’s name came up several times. He was worried. Without a powerful witch like Bellatrix Lestrange, the Dark Lord’s final plan could not work.
Finally they came to the Gaunt home. Gathering herself together, Bellatrix stared, her eyes wide in shock.
“This is it? This is the home of the last descendants of Salazar Slytherin?”
“You must understand that this house has stood empty for a long time, Bella. Don’t be fooled. It is imbued with magic. I think we are in luck. It doesn’t look like anyone knows about this place.”
Together they crossed over the threshold.
“This is fantastic news,” said Fred, slapping Neville on the back.
“Yeah, so you’ve mentioned,” said Neville, wincing slightly.
Fred and George had joined them in the Leaky Cauldron after they had shut up shop for the night. They were thrilled about Neville’s new shop as it meant they could buy supplies for their joke shop recipes without having to travel too far. The two of them had Neville trapped by the bar, trying to strike deals with some extremely fast-talking.
“This is the life,” said Ron lazily, taking a large gulp of his Butterbeer. He, Hermione and Harry were sitting at a table in the corner to avoid the endless stream of witches and wizards who wanted to shake Harry’s hand.
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione.
“Well, we’re grown-ups now, aren’t we? We can stay out if we like, hang out with our friends – it’s great,” he sat back in his chair contentedly, smiling at his friends.
“Oh yeah? Try telling that to Ginny,” said Harry, sheepishly.
An hour earlier, Mrs. Weasley had insisted that she and Ginny return to the Burrow. Needless to say, Ginny had not been happy about this, especially when her mother had told her loudly enough for all to hear, that she was far too young to be out so late. Harry had offered to go home with them, but Mrs. Weasley had declared that he should stay and enjoy himself, leaving him no room to argue. His last glimpse of Ginny was her flicking her fiery hair in anger as Mrs. Weasley chivvied her towards the Leaky Cauldron fireplace.
Ron chuckled to himself. “She’ll get over it.”
“I hope so,” said Harry with a small smile. He was still a bit worried. He had so far escaped the wrath of an angry Ginny. He wondered what she would have in store for him when he got home.
“Don’t worry, Harry,” said Hermione reassuringly. “Ginny knows it’s about time you got out and enjoyed yourself. She won’t be angry with you. And as for you,” she said, turning to Ron, “I’d think you’d have a bit more understanding for Ginny. You know what it’s like when your mother treats you like a child.”
“Yeah, fair point, but that’s all about to change!” He grinned knowingly at Harry.
“What are you talking about?” she demanded.
“Well, we were talking”- Harry started.
“- and we decided”- interrupted Ron.
“…that it might be a good idea”-
“-it’s a totally wicked idea”- enthused Ron.
“Ron! Will you let me speak?” said an exasperated Harry.
“Oh, yeah – sorry.”
“We thought - if you’re interested that is - that the three of us should move in together.”
Harry and Ron looked at Hermione expectantly. Her eyebrows shot up into her hairline.
“Are you serious?”
“Well, yeah. ‘Course – why – don’t you want to?” asked Harry, perplexed.
“Well of course I do! Oh my goodness – this is so exciting! When? Where?” she looked at them with shining eyes. Suddenly her expression clouded over, “Oh, wait,”
“What’s up?” Ron frowned.
“Well, have you told your mum yet? I can’t see her being too happy about it,”
Ron looked ill for a moment, before brightening. “Yeah, but I’m eighteen – that’s a whole year older than Fred and George when they bought their shop – that’s got to count for something, doesn’t it?” he looked at them hopefully.
Neither Harry nor Hermione seemed keen to meet his eye. Hermione cleared her throat.
“Anyway!” she said, in a cheery voice, “where did you have in mind?”
“Grimmauld Place,” said Harry quietly.
Hermione looked at him with concern, “Ooh, Harry – do you think you’re ready for that yet?”
“Yeah, I am,” he replied firmly. “Sirius wanted me to have it, and now the Order don’t need it, I think he’d be glad that we were getting on with our lives.”
“Well this is so exciting! Of course, we’ll have to draw up rotas – you know, and a cleaning schedule, and take it in turns to cook – I can make up a timetable of what and when things need doing. I think it’s the fairest way to do it, so the workload is spread evenly, don’t you? Who wants another drink?” she asked, jumping to her feet excitedly, “I’m buying! This is going to be so brilliant!” and she hurried off to the bar.
Ron looked at Harry with a miserable expression.
“Perhaps we should have thought this through a bit more?”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 22 ~ Farewell to Ginny
With only a few days left until Ginny’s return to Hogwarts, Harry put his Map writing on hold to spend some time with her. They played one-on-one Quidditch in the Weasley’s orchard, visited Florean Fortescue at his ice cream parlour, stuffing themselves silly on enormous chocolate sundaes and went for long walks through the country side, always taking picnic baskets full of Mrs. Weasley’s wonderful food.
“I wish I didn’t have to go back,” sighed Ginny on one such afternoon, lying side-by-side with Harry, looking up at a vivid blue sky. They had just eaten a huge amount of sandwiches and cake and had extremely full stomachs.
Harry propped himself up on an arm, a smiled down at her. “Me too, but wouldn’t you miss Hogwarts?”
“Yeah, I s’pose,” she replied, with an exaggerated sigh, “but I’ll miss this too.”
“What, getting fat on cake?”
“Ha ha,” she said, punching him lightly on the arm, “no, not just getting fat. Believe it or not, I’ll miss you, you idiot.”
Smiling, Harry leaned forward and gave her a long kiss. When they finally broke apart, he said gently:
“Ginny, I have to tell you something…”
“Uh-oh. Let me guess: Bellatrix Lestrange has an evil twin?”
“Er, no – and you shouldn’t joke about that by the way,” he frowned, trying to look stern, but couldn’t quite manage it.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she said apologetically, struggling to sit up, “what is it? Should I be worried?”
“Well… it’s about my living arrangements.”
Ginny said nothing but continued to look at Harry with a suspicious expression.
“Well,” Harry rushed on, trying to get it over with quickly, “Ron, Hermione and me are moving in together – to Grimmauld Place. Now before you say anything – we’ll be back here every Christmas and Easter and you can come and stay with us, if your mum agrees to it of course, and there are tons of bedrooms so you can have your own room, and decorate it however you like and”-
“- Harry,” Ginny cut in, patiently.
Harry paused for breath. He hadn’t realised how fast he had been talking.
“Yeah?” he asked reluctantly, bracing himself for a Bat Bogey Hex.
“When were you thinking of moving?” she asked calmly.
“I dunno – not ‘til Lupin and Tonks are sorted with somewhere to live. I wouldn’t want to chuck them out.”
“Well I think it’s a brilliant idea. Why else would Sirius have left you the house if he didn’t want you to live in it? Or maybe sell it,” she added as an afterthought.
“So, you’re not angry?” relief spread through his chest.
“Er, no – why on earth would I be angry? I’d save your worry for mum. You should be okay, but I don’t think I can say the same for Ron!”
All too soon, it was time for Ginny to return to Hogwarts. On the morning of her departure, mayhem once again ruled the Weasley household.
“I thought things would be calmer, now that you’re the only one going to school!” Harry exclaimed, narrowly missing being hit in the head by Ginny’s bewitched trunk.
“Yes, you would have thought so,” said Mrs. Weasley darkly, before Ginny could respond. She was busy folding Ginny’s school robes, trying to get everything into the already full trunk.
Turning to her daughter, she rattled off the list of school things needed:
“Have you got your cauldron?”
“And all your books?”
“What about Arnold? Have you got him in his cage, ready to go?”
“Yes, Mum!” Ginny covertly rolled her eyes at Harry, who hid a smile. He, Ron and Hermione were seated at the kitchen table, munching on toast and marmalade, trying to keep out of Mrs. Weasley’s way.
“You know,” Hermione sighed, wistfully, “part of me wishes we were coming with you.”
“Me too,” said Ginny, her expression saddening for a moment. “It’s going to be so weird being at Hogwarts without you lot there – not that you were around that much last year.”
“Yes,” said Mrs. Weasley, “well even though they weren’t there much, they still managed to get their NEWT’s young lady, so you just mind you study hard this year.”
“Mum! I work hard! Besides, Harry didn’t get his NEWT’s!”
“Thanks a lot!” said Harry indignantly; “I was busy with other stuff at the time, Ginevra!”
Ginny shot him a wicked smile, making Harry realise she was simply trying to get her mother off her back.
“Well never you mind about Harry. I’m sure he’ll get his NEWT’s yet.” Mrs. Weasley bustled out of the kitchen to call to her husband:
“Arthur? The car will be here any minute! Are you ready?”
“Yes dear!” came his reply, as he hurried down the stairs, tucking his wand into his inside pocket as he went.
No sooner had he replied, than a car came trundling up the driveway, driven by a Ministry wizard.
“Right, come on you lot – anyone who’s coming to the station to see Ginny off, get in the car now.”
Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, Ron and Hermione piled into the car, while Mr. Weasley and Harry loaded Ginny’s trunk into the boot. Once they were all settled inside, the driver hit the Invisibility button, and they took off towards London. Mr. Weasley beamed excitedly about the car, bombarding the driver with questions on how it handled, and where he felt improvements could be made. It went on for quite awhile until Mrs. Weasley snapped.
“Arthur! Will you leave the poor man alone! Let him concentrate on getting us there in one piece!” she tutted loudly, pulling her seatbelt tighter.
“Right-o Molly, dear,” said Mr. Weasley sheepishly.
“Mum’s not keen on Muggle Mobiles,” whispered Ginny to the others, “she still doesn’t think you should tamper with Muggle stuff – especially after you two crashed that one in your second year!”
Harry and Ron’s shoulders shook with suppressed laughter, but Hermione looked stern.
A few moments later, they could see the rooftops of London. Touching down in a dark alleyway, they climbed out of the car, and crossed the street to Kings Cross station. Harry dragged Ginny’s trunk behind him while she carried Arnold’s cage, covered in a cloth so no Muggles would see the bright pink, humming creature within.
Once through the barrier, Harry and the others greeted their friends who still had time to go at Hogwarts. Naturally, everyone wanted to talk to Harry about his battle with Voldemort, but he managed to avoid most of it through the help of Ginny, Hermione and Ron, who stuck close to him, ready to get rid of anyone too pushy. Ginny’s Bat Bogey Hexes were now the stuff of legend, putting her right up there next to her older twin brothers, Fred and George, for their great escape from Hogwarts.
“Hi, Harry! Hi, Ginny!” called a dreamy voice. They turned to see Luna Lovegood glide towards them.
“Hi, Luna. Are you looking forward to your last school year?” asked Hermione, smiling in welcome.
“Yes, I suppose I am,” she replied, her eyes staring in the opposite direction to Hermione. “But I’ll miss seeing Neville around,” she smiled, sadly.
“Ah well,” said Ron bracingly, “you’ll see him at the shop, won’t you?”
“Yes.” She said, brightening suddenly. Turning to Ginny, she asked, “ Shall we go and find a compartment then?”
“Umm, okay – just let me say goodbye to everyone first.”
Luna wandered off to kiss her father goodbye as Ginny turned to her parents.
“Goodbye, Ginny dear,” said Mrs. Weasley, hugging her tightly, “look after yourself.”
Mr. Weasley followed suit, offering more words of advice. Hermione was next, promising to write often. Once Ron had given his sister a gruff, one-armed hug, Hermione and the rest of the Weasley’s busied themselves with talking to Mr. Lovegood who was still standing on the platform, to allow Harry and Ginny a moment of relative privacy to say goodbye.
Wrapping his arms around her tightly, Harry dipped his head so their foreheads were touching.
“Have a good term. Send me an owl as soon as you get there.”
“I will,” Ginny replied, her voice husky.
“And let me know what weekends you’ll be going to Hogsmeade – I’ll come and visit you on every one.”
Ginny sniffed, “Okay… And let me know how it goes with the Map – and if there’s anything I can do to help, let me know.”
Harry leaned in to kiss her. A shrill whistle rang out, signalling that the students had five more minutes to board the train. They pulled apart, laughing slightly.
“I think I have to go…”
“Okay.” Said Harry, not loosening his embrace.
Ginny giggled. “Harry! I’ll miss the train!” though she didn’t seem in too much of a hurry to get away.
He sighed deeply, reluctantly letting go of her. Holding Ginny’s hand, he walked her to the compartment door and helped her inside. He took a few steps back and was rejoined by Hermione, Ron and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. Ginny stuck her head out of the window and waved to them as the train began to pull away.
“Bye!” she yelled madly, as they waved back furiously.
“Goodbye dear! Don’t forget to write!” called Mrs. Weasley, becoming slightly misty-eyed.
“I won’t! See you at Christmas!” called Ginny, as her carriage disappeared from view.
Mrs. Weasley sighed deeply. “Ah well. We’ll be seeing her soon enough.”
Mr. Weasley Apparated to the Ministry while Harry and the others went back outside to travel home in the Ministry car. Harry was very quiet during the ride.
“Cheer up, mate,” said Ron brightly. “I bet the first Hogsmeade weekend isn’t far away. You’ll see Ginny before you know it.”
Hermione nodded. Harry smiled at them, reassuring them that he was fine. He missed Ginny already, that much was true, but his mind was still on something Mrs. Weasley had said earlier that morning: that he would “get his NEWT’s yet”. He hadn’t considered the possibility of doing his exams. Ron and Hermione had been at school for enough of their seventh year to manage the Correspondence Course, with Hermione doing significantly better than Ron, but still – there was no getting away from it – without his NEWT’s he wasn’t really a fully-qualified wizard – something he hadn’t even considered until this morning. The question was, what could he do about it?
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 23 ~ The Violence of Hermione
The next few weeks passed in a blur of Map writing and potion checking. They continued to work in the kitchen of 12 Grimmauld Place, which allowed them to keep their plans a secret from Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, though Harry wasn’t sure how long they could keep it that way. Apart from his brief conversation with Kingsley Shacklebolt in the Weasley’s fireplace some weeks ago, he hadn’t discussed what he had learned from Dumbledore with any Ministry official. For Harry, it was simply because he knew the Ministry would bungle the job, and forewarn Bellatrix that he was after her. If Scrimgeour caught wind of what Harry knew, he would demand to know where the information had come from, something Harry was definitely not prepared to reveal. The last thing he needed was Ministry warning posters plastered all over the place, alerting everyone to Bellatrix’s return. The only purpose that would serve would be to drive her further underground, making her all the harder to find.
So, they continued to work in private, asking only Lupin for help. Hermione had invented some rather useful concoctions of her own during this time, including a potion that emitted a thick grey smoke when thrown, allowing a quick getaway from enemies and an ominous looking black potion.
“What does this one do?” asked Ron one afternoon, holding it up to the light and peering at it interestedly.
“Don’t touch that!”
“Why?” he asked fearfully, putting it quickly back on the kitchen table.
“It’s highly volatile! I brewed Stinksap and Doxy eggs with a few other things. If I’m right, it should release a gas on impact that chokes whoever breathes it in.”
“What? Blimey, Hermione – that’s a bit vicious!”
“It won’t choke you to death, but it’ll certainly make you pass out. I thought it would come in handy. Why?” she asked, looking from Harry to Ron with a worried expression, “I thought we were adopting a ‘take no prisoners’ attitude with Bellatrix Lestrange – is it a bit too much?”
“No,” said Harry, admiringly, “we’re just constantly amazed by how violent you are.”
“I am not violent,” she sniffed haughtily, while Harry and Ron laughed, glad of a distraction from the painstaking work they were doing. “I happen to be taking this very seriously, that’s all. Besides,” she said, gazing at them frostily, “I got the idea from your girlfriend – your sister.”
Harry and Ron’s mouths dropped open in surprise.
“What?” they asked in unison.
“Don’t you remember? When we were fifth years and trying to sneak into Umbridge’s office – Ginny and Luna created that diversion saying that someone had let off Garrotting Gas? Well at the time I just assumed that it was one of Fred and George’s inventions, but when I asked Ginny about it later, she said the idea had just popped into her head.”
“Quite the inventor is my little sister,” said Ron, with a mixture of pride and amusement.
“Er, yeah - remind me not to get on the wrong side of her,” said Harry, chuckling as he imagined the antics Ginny would be getting up to in her final year of Hogwarts.
“I reckon you’ll be all right,” said Ron, a bit grudgingly. Although deep down he was thrilled that Harry and Ginny were together again, there would always be a big brother part of him that would be wary of any boy involved with his sister. “But Hermione, why can’t we just cast those spells with our wands? Why do we need to bother carrying these little bottles around with us?”
“Well I thought they would be useful if we lost our wands,” she looked at them both hesitantly, “don’t you think?”
“When it comes to Bellatrix Lestrange I’ll take all the extra help I can get, thanks,” Harry replied firmly.
Ron and Hermione shifted uncomfortably, and for a moment, nobody looked at each other. The atmosphere had definitely taken a dark turn as the enormity of hunting down Lestrange dawned on them. Harry found that he could think of it quite clinically, but he could understand why Ron and Hermione were afraid. Although the three of them had faced many dangers before, there was something distinctly different about deliberately setting out to find trouble.
After a few more moments of uncomfortable silence, Harry broke it by suggesting a lunch break.
“Good idea,” said Ron quickly, “what do you fancy? Lupin said to help ourselves.”
After a quick rummage in the pantry, they came up with a lunch of vegetable soup and a crusty loaf of bread. They ate their meal in silence, broken by an occasional request to pass the bread. The kitchen clock ticked loudly. Harry scooped up the remainder of his soup with his spoon, then pushed his bowl away. Hermione and Ron looked up at him expectantly.
“Why don’t we go to Neville’s shop? We could do with a bit of fresh air, and we can collect your other potion ingredient while we’re there.”
The three of them quickly cleared away the lunch things and hurried to tidy up their potions and parchments.
Moments later, they were strolling down Diagon Alley, brushing soot from their robes.
“You know,” said Harry, “I’ll be really glad when I get the all-clear to Apparate again. This soot gets everywhere.”
Hermione smiled sympathetically, performing a quick charm to clear the black dust from their clothes and hair.
“Thanks,” Harry grinned gratefully, as Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines came into sight. Ron pushed open the door and a small brass bell announced their arrival. There were several witches and wizards browsing the myriad of magical foliage, and a line of people were at the counter, waiting to pay for their goods. Neville, wearing a green apron, was behind the counter, weighing leaves and wrapping plants in brown paper, and was very red in the face. Looking up, he spotted his friends:
“Oh good! You couldn’t come and give me a hand here could you? I’m swamped!”
Harry and Ron looked at each other, not sure what to do. Tutting loudly, Hermione hurried behind the counter and began to help, taking payments and dispensing change.
“Thanks!” said Neville, when the queue had finally dispersed. “Since Luna went back to school, it’s been manic!”
“Couldn’t your Grandmother help out?” asked Hermione, coming out from behind the counter.
“Gran? No way – she says I’m old enough to handle this on my own. I don’t suppose any of you three are looking for a job are you?” he asked hopefully, “it’s not hard work if you know your plants – and the pay’s good.”
“Er, sorry Neville, magical plants aren’t really my thing,” began Harry.
“Yeah – I was never that keen on Herbology…” said Ron.
They looked at Hermione. “You know,” she said, with a thoughtful expression, “it wouldn’t be a bad idea if one of you did work here. That way, we could make all the potions we needed – you wouldn’t mind that, would you Neville?” she whipped around to look at him.
“Well, no –but what potions are you talking about?”
Exchanging a quick glance with Harry, who gave her a small nod, Hermione quickly filled Neville in on their work so far. His eyes widened and his jaw set determinedly.
“In that case, feel free to come here and use as many ingredients as you need – no charge. I can find someone else to work here.”
“Wicked! Thanks Neville”-
-“Ron!” said Hermione impatiently, “What happened to all that talk about moving out, and being ‘grown-up’? There’s no way you can do all that without earning your own money. And you Harry – your inheritance won’t last forever.”
“Oh yeah?” said Ron, looking annoyed, “And what about you?”
“Look,” said Harry, cutting in swiftly, “Hermione, you’re right, but the truth is, me and Ron were never great at this sort of stuff, and I don’t want any distractions from making the Map.” He took a deep breath, “I think it makes sense if you worked here!”
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but once again, Harry interrupted:
“Think about it; you need a job just as much as we do, Neville needs help, we need you to make our potions and if you work here, you’ll have access to everything you’ll need – plus, you got top marks in your Herbology NEWT so this job will be so easy!”
“It’s fun too,” said Neville, finally daring to speak after these outbursts. “And you can use the space in the back to make all your stuff… I’d like to be a part of stopping her.” He couldn’t bring himself to utter Bellatrix’s name. “What do you say?”
Harry, Ron and Neville looked at her beseechingly. “Please?”
She looked at each face and finally threw her hands up in exasperation.
“Oh, okay! I’ll do it!”
“Great!” exclaimed Neville, sweeping Hermione off her feet in a huge hug and planting a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks Hermione – you’ll love working here. Let me get you an apron!”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 24 ~ Lollygagger's Inc.
“Harry, dear – an owl came for you from St. Mungos this morning.”
Mrs. Weasley handed a scroll of parchment to him as he and Ron sat by the fireplace that evening, immersed in a game of Wizard’s chess. Hermione had decided to go home to tell her parents about her new job, and to broach the subject of moving in with Harry and Ron. Tapping the scroll lightly with his wand, Harry read the official looking letter out loud:
Dear Mr. Potter,
I hope you are well!
I am writing to inform you that you are due for your next check up on the 31st of October. This examination will determine if you are ready to begin Apparating again.
Please report to the Welcome Witch at 11 o’clock. I shall meet you in the reception area.
Looking forward to seeing you soon,
St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies & Injuries
“Well that’s good, isn’t it?” Ron said cheerily, “you’ll be Apparating in no time,”
“Finally!” Harry said, relieved. “I was starting to think they’d forgotten about me,”
“What? The famous Harry Potter?” joked Ron, “I don’t think so!”
“Boys – dinner’s ready!” called Mrs. Weasley from the kitchen, just Mr. Weasley appeared at the back door.
“Evening lads,” he said wearily, as they took seats at the kitchen table.
“Evening, Mr. Weasley – how was work?”
“Tiring. We’re still rebuilding – you wouldn’t believe the mess”- he looked at Harry sheepishly, -“ah, yes, well, I suppose you would believe the mess…”
Harry shifted uncomfortably on the spot, “I’m really sorry about that, by the way,” he began.
“Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t think I’d prefer You-Know-Who being alive to shifting a bit of rubble, do you?”
“Don’t mind him, Harry.” Said Mrs. Weasley, setting her husbands dinner down a little harder than necessary.
Mr. Weasley smiled at Harry apologetically. “So…where’s Hermione?” he asked, obviously trying to change the subject.
“She’s gone home to tell her parents about her new job,” smirked Ron, a fork loaded with shepherd’s pie halfway between his plate and his mouth.
“New job?” asked Mrs. Weasley, sitting down to her own dinner.
“Yeah,” Ron looked highly amused, “we went to Neville’s shop today and he was desperate for some help and ended up giving Hermione a job.” He tipped ketchup all over his shepherd’s pie.
“Well! I must say I’m surprised – with Hermione’s NEWT results I would have thought she’d have gone for something a bit more challenging,” mused Mrs. Weasley. “Still,” she continued, “at least she’s doing something with her time.”
Harry and Mr. Weasley looked furtively from Mrs. Weasley to Ron, who didn’t seem to notice that his mother was looking at him pointedly.
“Perhaps you should take a leaf out of Hermione’s book, young man,” she said, frowning at her youngest son. “What do you two get up to all day anyway?”
“Mum! We’re just enjoying the first bit of free time we’ve had in ages!”
“All I’m saying is that now you’re out of school, you should start planning for the future – Neville’s got his shop, Hermione got herself a little job and who was that from Ron’s year that’s just started to work at the Ministry, Arthur?”
“Eh? Oh, his name’s Ernie Macmillan. He’s just started in the Department of Magical Transportation.”
“You see?” said Mrs. Weasley. “And I’ll bet the rest of your year all have jobs. What are you going to do with yourself? You did very respectably in your NEWT’s, Ron – you could go far.”
“Perhaps your father could ask if there’s a job going at the Ministry?” she said, looking hopefully at her husband.
“Well, we could certainly do with more help on the clean up – what do you think Ron? I’m sure Scrimgeour would agree.”
“Oh, that sounds like a good idea! What do you think Harry?”
Harry nearly choked on his shepherd’s pie. He could see Ron glowering at him out of the corner of his eye.
“Mum, don’t drag Harry into this! I don’t want to work at the Ministry – no offence Dad – I’ll find a job in my own time.” He scowled at the remainders of his dinner.
“All right! No need to get shirty about it! And what about you Harry?” she said, turning to face him, albeit with a softer expression than she had used with Ron.
Harry blinked at her for a moment. The Weasley family didn’t know it, but Harry didn’t actually need a job. His combined inheritance from his parents and Sirius, plus the fact he wouldn’t have to pay any rent if he lived in Grimmauld Place, had left him fairly comfortable. Of course he would get a job, but wanted one hundred percent of his concentration focussed on stopping Bellatrix Lestrange. He didn’t want to mention it to the Weasley’s as money had often been the cause of conflict between he and Ron. His family had often struggled, and a part of Harry had always felt guilty for having so much when they had next to nothing. Now that he was older, he understood that there was nothing he could do about this – the Weasley’s would never accept any money from anyone, let alone Harry, and it wasn’t Harry’s fault that his loved ones had died and left him a small fortune. Even though he had come to this conclusion, he didn’t think it would be a good idea for Ron to know too much. He didn’t want to rub it in his face. Having said that, the Weasley’s were much better off recently; Mr. Weasley had been promoted a couple of years ago, and now that there was really only Ginny and Ron to look after, there was a lot more money to go around.
“Er, I’m going to have a go at getting my NEWT’s first, Mrs. Weasley. I think that will keep me busy enough for now.”
Ron’s eyebrows shot up, but Mrs. Weasley beamed with pleasure.
“Oh of course, dear – oh I’m so pleased! It really makes sense in the long run. Have you spoken to Professor MacGonagall yet?”
“Er … no. I only just decided today.”
“Ah well. There’s plenty of time to organise things yet. You just concentrate on getting yourself all better first. You don’t want to rush anything.”
They had finished dinner, and she got up to clear away their plates.
“Shall we wash those, Mrs. Weasley?” asked Harry, starting towards the sink. Ron pulled a face at Harry behind his mother’s back.
“Oh you are sweet, dear – but no thank you. You two go and finish your chess game. Arthur and I will clean up the kitchen. We’ll have dessert in a while – the cake’s still in the oven.”
The two of them went back into the living room, and settled back into their game. It was a lot safer to play now that Hermione had taken Crookshanks home with her – they were able to leave the pieces out without fear of him trying to eat them.
“So… are you really going to take your NEWT’s?” Ron asked, incredulously.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“But why? You could get a job anywhere, doing anything – you’re famous!”
Harry simply shrugged. Several minutes later he said: “So, are you really going to try and get a job?” in a low voice so Mrs. Weasley wouldn’t hear.
Ron heaved a deep sigh, even though he had just taken another of Harry’s chessmen. “Yeah, I s’pose. It would be good to have some money of my own – but,” he lowered his voice so much, Harry had to strain to hear, “we need all our free time to work on you know what.”
“Could you give it a different codename?” asked Harry, “That sounds way too much like You Know Who for my liking.”
“Oh, yeah – sorry. I guess we can say ‘map’, can’t we?”
Harry nodded and watched with satisfaction as his knight dragged one of Ron’s pawns off the board. Though Harry had never won against Ron, it was still fun to try.
“Not bad,” said Ron, looking mildly impressed. “Anyway, about the job, I was thinking of asking Fred and George if there was any work going at the joke shop – that way, I’ll earn some money, I’ll just be down the road from Neville, Hermione and all the potion making - and we’ll get a discount on everything!”
“Excellent idea!” said Harry, happily.
“Yup,” said Ron, as his chessmen stormed the board, wiping the floor with Harry and winning the game in one move. He chuckled as Harry groaned. “You see,” he said gathering up all the pieces, “you may be The Boy Who Lived, but I am the Boy Who Wins!”
“Well, well, well…” said Fred, leaning back in his chair and smiling at George with a smug expression. “Look who needs our help!”
“We don’t hire just anyone, you know. We have rigorous standards to uphold, young man”- said George pompously, not unlike his older brother, Percy.
-“Yes, I’m not entirely sure you meet our requirements”-
-“Plus we have a huge waiting list of people just clamouring to work here.” Added George airily, examining his fingernails.
Harry, Ron and the twins were standing at the counter in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes the next morning and Ron’s face was steadily turning red.
“Keep calm,” muttered Harry in his ear, “they’re just trying to rile you.” Aloud, he said, “surely it would be better for you to keep it in the family? Who can you trust better than your own brother?”
Fred and George looked at each other, weighing up Harry’s words. “He might have a point,” conceded George after a pause.
“Yeah – plus any slip ups and we can always report ickle Ronniekins straight to Mum – she’ll keep an eye on him for us.” Said Fred thoughtfully, twiddling one of their fake wands between his fingers.
Harry suppressed a laugh, which was a good idea, as Ron looked like he was about to explode with rage. “You know what?” he said, through clenched teeth. “Just forget it!” and turned to storm out of the shop. He nearly made it to the door when his arms were suddenly locked to his sides by a bright pink rope.
“What the?”- He struggled for a moment before falling onto his backside. Fred, George and Harry erupted into hearty laughter.
“Do you like it?” asked Fred, delightedly, “They’re new! The Lollygagger Lasso! Only a Galleon a-piece!”
“Doesn’t matter if your aim is as poor as Hermione trying to play Quidditch,” George joined in, “just whisper the name of the one you want to catch and it’ll follow them ‘round until it gets your man! Available in several different colours,” he gestured to a rack of innocent looking, multi-coloured ropes.
“What do you think?” they asked in unison, as Harry offered Ron a hand up.
“Cool!” said Ron, a smile finally breaking over his face. Harry gave a quiet sigh of relief as Fred and George took Ron through to the back. “Come on little bro, let’s talk money. Harry, why don’t you have a look around? Remember – your money’s no good here – help yourself to anything you want.” And they disappeared through to the curtained off area.
Harry wandered slowly around, gazing at the merchandise, but not really taking anything in. He was too busy thinking about his NEWT’s. Mrs. Weasley had asked if he had contacted Professor MacGonagall yet – did that mean that he would have to go back to Hogwarts to do his exams? He didn’t really like the idea of that – especially as Ron and Hermione were now working – the thought of going back to school seemed like he would be taking a step backwards somehow. Plus he didn’t want to distract Ginny from her own NEWT studies – he didn’t think Mrs. Weasley would appreciate that, and there was no way he could see himself back in school robes, following a timetable and living in Gryffindor Tower with no friends of his own age there. Since the battle with Voldemort, he felt a great deal older and groaned inwardly at the thought of fending off the Creevey brothers for another year. No, he decided, there must be another way. Maybe I can talk to Lupin about it, he wondered, as the twins re-emerged.
“Right, Harry,” said Fred, rubbing his hands together briskly, “what’ll it be? Our newest addition to the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes team will be glad to assist you,” he stepped back with a flourish, to reveal Ron, wearing his brand new uniform; purple robes with a matching wizard’s hat and a slightly glum expression.
“Right Ronniekins, we’re off for some breakfast at the Leaky Cauldron – watch the fort. Any problems – we’re just an Apparate away.” And they disappeared with a pop.
“What’s up?” asked Harry, as Ron began to straighten up boxes of Wildfire Whiz-Bangs fireworks.
“I’m just wondering if this was such a good idea,” said Ron, moving onto the shelf of Headless Hats, “Fred and George can be a real pain in the backside and now I’m going to be stuck with them, day in, day out.”
“They’ll settle down soon enough,” said Harry, reassuringly.
“I suppose,” said Ron. He brightened, “But they pay really well! I’m getting twenty galleons, thirteen sickles and seventeen knuts a week!”
“Cool!” said Harry, happy at his friend’s financial independence at last.
“Yeah! I wonder what Hermione’s getting over at Neville’s?”
“Good question,” he said, as two middle aged witches entered the shop, “you’ve got customers. I think I’ll go and visit Hermione, see how she’s getting on with her latest fatal brew…”
The brass bell tinkled as Harry entered Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines. Hermione and Neville were behind the counter, sipping tea from mugs and reading through a piece of parchment. They were both wearing green aprons, with a large L embroidered in gold in the centre of the chest. There were no customers in yet and the plants sat in their neat rows as if waiting to be bought.
Looking up, Hermione smiled. “Morning, Harry!” said Neville cheerily, “What are you doing here so early?”
“Just seeing Ron to his new job.”
Hermione’s mouth fell open in surprise. “Ron’s new job?” she echoed, “Where’s that?”
“The joke shop – Fred and George just agreed to take him on.”
“My goodness! I’m impressed – he’s really grown up recently.”
“Yeah, well I suppose he has to, seeing as you’re, what was it? ‘Getting married one day’?” he quoted, highly amused.
“What – you and Ron are getting married?” said Neville, his eyes as wide as saucers.
Hermione blushed a deep beetroot colour. “No,” she said defensively, suddenly busy with polishing the brass scales. “Harry, I don’t know what you’re talking about! Besides, that was a private conversation – Ron had no right – not that I actually said that – it’s just he’s taking so long – oh never mind!” she threw the cloth down, glaring at Harry furiously. He held his hands up, laughing as he backed away. Neville mumbled something about checking on his Mimbulus Mimbletonia and hurried out the back.
“What do you want, Harry?” asked Hermione, taking a steadying breath, both hands on the counter, as if she would like to jump over it and throttle him.
“I just came to see you and to find out how your new job’s going,” he replied, examining a tray on the counter that contained small bundles of pre-cut Murtlap tentacles. Looking more closely at her, he said, “Hey – your hair looks really nice – did you do something different with it?”
Hermione softened slightly. “Well, if you must know,” she smoothed a hand over her exceptionally shiny hair, “this place is so humid it would have made my hair puff up beyond control, so I thought I’d use some Sleekeazy this morning. Do you really think it looks nice?”
“Yeah, ‘course. Anyway – got any more potion ideas?”
“A few, but I haven’t really had a chance to try making them yet – I’ve been a bit busy here to be honest. I’ve come up with a new way to keep track of all the stock – I really think it’ll save Neville lots of time,” she smiled at Harry with shining eyes.
“So what about you? When are you going to get a job?” she asked, as Neville returned, carrying a fresh mug of tea for Harry.
“Not yet, actually, but I have made a decision.”
Neville and Hermione looked at him expectantly as he sipped his tea.
“I’m going to have a go at getting my NEWT’s”-
-“Oh Harry! That’s fantastic!” squealed Hermione, running around the counter to where he stood and hugging him tightly.
“Hermione! I can’t breathe!” he gasped, pushing her away as gently as possible.
“Sorry! I’m just so pleased for you!” Harry could see Hermione formulating revision schedules in her mind, even as they spoke.
“Yeah, well it’s not definite yet – I’m not even sure how I go about it.”
“I’m sure the Examination Board will make allowances for you Harry, after all, you had a really good reason for missing your last year.”
Harry was about to reply when the bell over the front door rang and the morning customers began to trickle in.
“Customers!” Hermione trilled excitedly, “Sorry, Harry,” she said, taking his mug from him and hurrying to put it away, “listen, why don’t you come back at lunch time? Then you, me and Ron can talk about this some more.”
“Yeah, okay – the Leaky Cauldron?”
“Okay! One o’clock.” And she hurried off to help Neville wrap a particularly large plant in brown paper.
“Bye,” he said, but he might as well be talking to himself. Hermione wasn’t listening.
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 25 ~ Another Near Kiss
Harry whiled away the time until one o’clock by doing a spot of window-shopping. He went into Quality Quidditch Supplies to check out the latest racing brooms, but there still wasn’t one on the market that was better than the Firebolt he already owned. He continued down Diagon Alley, nodding greetings to witches and wizards on the way, when he arrived at Ollivanders – or rather, what used to be Ollivanders. Mr Ollivander himself, the renowned wand maker, had disappeared mysteriously two years ago, never to be seen again. The shop had been found abandoned and now, it looked like someone else had taken over. The old sign had been removed and replaced by one bearing the legend: Croceus. The once dusty window was now sparklingly clean and showed a breathtaking display of jewellery; golden charm bracelet’s, jewel encrusted rings and glittering tiaras, each nestled in rich purple velvet. Harry couldn’t help but stare as the jewels winked at him in the morning sunshine. Tearing his eyes away, he continued down the street, stopping at the Magical Menagerie to pick up a box of Owl Nuts for Hedwig, which the owner wouldn’t let him pay for. Looking at his watch, he was surprised to see that it was almost ten minutes to one. Turning around, he began to walk leisurely towards the Leaky Cauldron to meet Ron and Hermione.
As he drew closer, he spotted Ron’s flaming red hair. He and Hermione had already arrived, and had taken seats at an outside table. Harry smiled as he saw that they had saved him a seat by placing Ron’s purple hat on a third chair. Harry hesitated for a moment; there was something about the way Hermione and Ron were leaning towards each other that made him want to hang back. Harry’s smile broadened – were they finally going to kiss? It felt a bit odd to be watching them like this, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away – this would be an historic event! He saw Ron reach out and brush a stray lock of Hermione’s ultra glossy hair back from her face, and she smiled shyly. Do it! Thought Harry, holding his breath. Ron leaned in closer… closer…
“What can I get you?” asked Tom, the barman.
Ron and Hermione jumped apart and Harry slapped his forehead in frustration. He saw Hermione snatch up her menu and stammer her order to Tom, who was beaming down at them, completely oblivious to what he had just interrupted. Ron had also grabbed his menu, but didn’t seem to realise he was holding it upside down, a dark red blush creeping over his face. Harry decided it was time to join his friends. Strolling over nonchalantly, he greeted them, ignoring the awkward atmosphere and chatted briefly with Tom, who always adored having Harry visit his pub. Their food arrived ten minutes later, and they began to eat amid stilted conversation.
“So,” said Harry, desperately casting around for a topic of conversation, “what did your parents say about us all moving in together?”
Hermione sighed, stirring her pumpkin juice with her straw. “Well, they weren’t exactly thrilled. I mean they always suspected that I’d move out eventually, but I don’t think they thought it would be so soon – and with two boys.” She smiled crookedly at Harry.
“But they’re still going to let you, aren’t they?” Ron asked, looking worried.
“Yes, but I think they might feel better if they could come and see the house, which means you have to give them the address, Harry.” Harry had become the Secret Keeper for the Order when Dumbledore had died. He nodded as he took a large bite of his sandwich.
“No problem,” he mumbled. “So,” he said, turning to Ron, “Hermione’s told her parents, I’ve told Ginny – that just leaves your parents.”
“Don’t remind me,” Ron replied glumly. “Dad’ll be fine, but Mum?” he shuddered as he imagined his mother’s reaction. “And don’t think you’ll get out of it lightly – you’re the seventh son she never had, remember?”
“I think you’re underestimating your mum, Ron,” said Hermione, not quite meeting his eye. “I think your parents might be very pleased to get the Burrow back to themselves – after all, it won’t be too long until Ginny leaves Hogwarts – this might be a good opportunity for them to have some peace and quiet for a change.”
Ron looked highly doubtful, but Harry thought she might have a point. They finished the rest of their lunch in silence, each immersed in their own thoughts until Harry decided it was time for him to go. The three of them tried to pay, but as usual, Tom wouldn’t hear of it. Ron and Hermione headed towards their respective shops and Harry decided to use the Leaky Cauldron’s fireplace to get to Grimmauld Place. It was time to get on with the Map.
“… well that’s settled then! Oh Remus, I’m soooooo excited! I love – Harry?!”
“You love Harry?” Lupin asked Tonks, a confused frown upon his face. Looking up, realisation dawned on his face, “Oh! Harry – h-hello!”
“Lupin - Tonks! Hi!” Harry stammered awkwardly, standing up quickly and bashing his knees on the kitchen table.
Harry had been working diligently on the Map, so engrossed that he hadn’t noticed Lupin and Tonks arrive. Evidently, they too had been so engrossed in each other that they had failed to notice that Harry was in the kitchen.
Lupin and Harry grinned at each other, embarrassed, but Tonks seemed to get even more excited, her hair changing rapidly from pink to green to amber, not unlike a set of traffic lights.
“Er… what?” asked Harry, shifting on the spot uncomfortably.
“We’ve set a date for the wedding!” she squealed, hopping up and down on the spot, now with scarlet hair.
“Excellent!” Harry exclaimed - all trace of embarrassment forgotten, crossing the room to shake Lupin’s hand and kiss Tonks’s glowing cheek. “When? Where?” he looked at them expectantly.
“The thirty-first of December – a winter wedding!” Tonks twirled around the kitchen, tripping over her own feet. Harry reached out and caught her by the elbow just before she hit the ground, but she went on, unconcerned. “We’re having the ceremony in this tiny meadow, just outside of Hogsmeade village – magically heated of course - then a reception at The Three Broomsticks! We’ve just confirmed it with Rosmerta.” She grinned at Lupin, who was watching his bride-to-be with smiling eyes.
“Brilliant,” Harry said, very pleased for them both, but especially for Lupin, who had been looking a great deal younger recently.
“Actually, Harry, I’m glad you’re here. There’s something I wanted to ask you,” said Lupin, pulling up a chair. “Now, I realise that being eighteen means you don’t have much use for me as your legal guardian, but I hope you agree that you and I are family.” Harry nodded, wondering where this was leading. “So…I would be honoured if you would be my best man.”
“Of course!” Harry replied, feeling suddenly sad for some inexplicable reason. Something must have shown on his face, because Lupin reached out and put a hand on Harry’s forearm.
“I miss them too, Harry,” he said in a soft voice, his eyes brimming with understanding.
Tonks muttered something about sending an owl to her mother and for once, slipped quietly out the room.
“I was just thinking about that photo – the one of my parents wedding – where Sirius was best man,” Harry said, suddenly incredibly interested in the tabletop. “They should be here, y’know?”
Lupin nodded. “They will be, Harry. With all that you have seen and done, I’m sure you know that.”
It was Harry’s turn to nod. He took a deep, steadying breath and met Lupin’s eye. “So… what exactly does a best man do?”
Lupin laughed. “Just be there on the day and look after the wedding rings!”
“Er, right. I think I can manage that.”
“I’m sure you will do admirably. Now,” he said, putting on his reading glasses, “how are you getting along with this Map?”
Harry updated him on all he knew, informing Lupin about Hermione’s amazing progress with inventing potions, both her and Ron’s new jobs and his own desire to pursue his NEWT exams. Lupin remained quiet, allowing Harry to talk himself out.
“Well, Harry, I don’t think there will be a problem arranging tutoring for your NEWT’s outside of Hogwarts. I’m certain there will be any number of willing Professor’s who would only be too happy to help. I for one would be pleased to work on Defence Against the Dark Arts – though I’m not sure that you’ll really need any help in that area. Why don’t you let me speak with the head of the Department for Education at the Ministry? I think I’ll also send a letter to Minerva, and find out what she thinks. Is that all right with you?”
“Yeah – thanks, Lupin! I would just feel a bit weird, going back to school…”
“No need to explain, Harry,” he said reassuringly. “Now, what’s the latest with you and Ginny?”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 26 ~ Mabel
Bellatrix paced back and forth, clouds of dust puffing up with each step, as she waited restlessly for Wormtail to return. Her mind was reeling – could it really be possible? Could they help the Dark Lord to return? If they could, she would be the most rewarded of all his Death Eaters! Her lips curled into a cruel smile, as she thought of the revenge the Dark Lord would wreak upon those fools in the Order of the Phoenix – particularly Potter. Her stomach tightened momentarily as Narcissa flashed into her thoughts. No, she thought angrily, stay away Cissy – you are a figment of my imagination! She shook her head as though to rid herself of the haunting echoes. When they had first arrived at the Gaunt house, Wormtail had forced her to drink a foul concoction that had sharpened her mind and helped her to banish the voices from her head while he whispered plans to her. She felt energised and alive for the first time since she had leant of the Dark Lord’s defeat. There could not be a more perfect time – the Mudbloods and imbeciles were so busy celebrating the Dark Lord’s demise that they would not notice his resurrection, right under their very noses! She sighed with deep satisfaction. They would need assistance; witches and wizards of strength, who believed in the Dark Lord and all he could bring them. Wormtail was spreading the word at that very moment, seeking out only those who could be trusted; Lucius and Draco and…She cursed to herself – she no longer knew who was left. Many Death Eaters had fled once they heard of the Dark Lord’s fate – others were still locked up in Azkaban, and the most loyal servants had laid down their lives for their cause.
Idly, she considered Crabbe and Goyle, two men she knew were still alive, but on the run from the Ministry. True, they were stupid beyond belief, but they were easy to manipulate and would do whatever she ordered. Incredibly, they were still at liberty – it seemed the Auror’s didn’t consider them too great a threat as they were still successfully in hiding. Pouring herself a goblet of elf-made wine, she wondered how Wormtail was progressing, if he had managed to persuade Lucius to return. He had been gone for a week now, but took care to send Bellatrix parcels of food and drink. They had decided it would be unwise for her to perform too much magic until they could be certain that they were safe from detection. Draining her glass, she sighed deeply again, setting the goblet down on a filthy table. Soon… soon… if she planned everything with meticulous detail, the Dark Lord would rise again…
“Okay… bacon and egg?”
Harry chucked a sandwich wrapped in wax paper to Ron.
Another sandwich flew through the air to Hermione.
Harry handed one to Neville.
“So… that leaves the egg, bacon and sausage for me.” Harry unwrapped a very thick sandwich and took an enormous bite, ketchup squirting everywhere.
“Eurgh, Harry! That is re-volt-ing!” Hermione wrinkled her nose in disgust, her sandwich as yet untouched. “Are you sure you don’t mind being our delivery boy?”
They were seated at stools around the counter of Neville’s shop. It was very early on Thursday morning and Harry had called a meeting to update everyone on the latest news. There wasn’t really that much to report, but it was a good way to air out new ideas without being overheard. Through a full mouth, Harry shook his head: “No – ‘specially if it means we can have a meeting without interruptions.”
They were beginning to find Tonks’s constant clumsiness a little bit annoying – they all adored her and were thrilled about the upcoming wedding – but sometimes they just wanted to have a cup of tea without having to repair it three times - and there had been a few too many close calls with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley walking in at awkward moments. Harry was sure that Mrs. Weasley knew something was going on and was surprised that she hadn’t had suspicions earlier. As the mother of seven children, she was usually faster at scenting out secrets than anyone else Harry knew. Although some in the wizarding world might be shocked to hear that Harry Potter was delivering sandwiches to his friends most mornings, he found it was the perfect excuse to get out of the Weasley house without arousing the suspicions of the eagle-eyed Mrs. Weasley.
Neville finished his sandwich and knelt down behind the counter, rummaging amongst bottles and jars until he re-appeared, dumping a large tub on the counter.
“Right – breakfast time for the Venomous Tentacular!”
Hermione gave him a hard look. “Neville…”
Neville gave a small shudder and sighed. “Sorry – I forgot – breakfast time for Mabel.”
Harry and Ron burst out laughing. “Mabel?!” they asked in disbelief.
“Hermione has named all the plants in the shop.” Neville said, through clenched teeth with a very fixed smile on his face. Hermione beamed at him, then shot a scowl at Harry and Ron.
“What?” she said defensively, “It is a well known fact that talking to plants is very nurturing – the Prince of Wales does it!”
Harry laughed, nearly choking on his sandwich, but Neville and Ron looked confused.
“Who’s the Prince of Wales?” asked Ron with a frown.
“Ronald Weasley!” Hermione was outraged, “Do you mean to tell me you don’t know who the Royal family are?” Hermione demanded, her eyes wide with shock.
“Royal family?” repeated Ron, still bewildered, “Nope, never heard of them!”
“They’re the Muggle Royal family, to be fair Hermione,” Harry pointed out, reasonably, “how do you expect this lot to know about them?”
Hermione sighed and shook her head.
“Anyway,” said Harry, deciding it was high time the meeting got back on track, “the Map is nearly ready. Lupin says there’s an incantation we have to recite over the parchment, then it should be ready to go.”
“Wow,” said Neville, eyes bulging in awe, “so, we’ll really be able to see where she is?”
Harry nodded solemnly. Hermione and Ron looked very serious, their sandwiches lying forgotten on the counter.
“And are you sure you got the layout of the house right?” Hermione asked.
“Yes,” he replied firmly, “I used the Pensieve twice – there is no way I could have got it wrong.”
“And there’s still no sign of Dumbledore?” asked Ron with an anxious expression.
“No, none. But I wouldn’t worry. Dumbledore always turns up when we need him.” But the others did look worried.
Harry had visited Dumbledore’s portrait several times over the past few weeks, and each time, he had found the golden picture frame empty. He had hoped that Dumbledore would visit him again in his dreams of the mysterious golden room, but that hadn’t happened either. Normally, Harry would have been very concerned about this, would have taken it as a snub from Dumbledore, but now he knew differently. Dumbledore trusted him to do this right, to follow his instincts, and knew that he wasn’t needed to watch over Harry’s every move. He looked at his friends calmly.
“Don’t worry,” he repeated. “This Saturday is Halloween – that’s when we do it.”
“And do you think you’re ready for that kind of magic?” Hermione asked, frowning.
“I’ve got my check up at St. Mungo’s tomorrow – and I feel fine.”
Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Neville, who had been listening to this exchange so far in silence, cut her off: “If Harry thinks this is the way to do it, we should trust him.” As he spoke, he prised the lid off the tub of food for the Venomous Tentacular. The contents of the pot stopped Hermione from any further arguments; inside, great, slimy things wriggled about.
Harry and Hermione stared, too revolted for words, but Ron gasped:
“Hey! Are those flobberworms?”
“Yeah,” Neville laughed, breaking the tension, “Hagrid finally found a use for them. He sells them to me – watch this…” He disappeared out the back, and returned with the plant, staggering slightly under its weight. Setting it carefully on the counter, he plucked a wiggling worm from the tub with brass forceps. The Venomous Tentacular’s vines suddenly stood to attention: Neville held out a worm and in a flash, the plant had gobbled it up.
“Whoa – Mabel likes her flobberworms, doesn’t she?” remarked Ron, nose wrinkled in disgust.
Neville grinned, looked at the plant with adoration in his eyes. Harry, Ron and Hermione rolled their eyes as one.
“Right you lot – I’m off to Lupin’s,” Harry chuckled, sliding off his stool and balling up his sandwich wrapper. “See you later.”
Harry strolled back down Diagon Alley, thinking anxiously about Saturday. Not only would he be Apparating again and activating the new Map – but it would be Ginny’s first Hogsmeade weekend. Harry had planned to spend the whole day with her, before she returned to Hogwarts to the Halloween feast and before he made his way to Grimmauld Place to perform the incantation for the Map. He hoped the weekend would go well – the separation had been quite hard on both of them, even though they kept Hedwig extremely busy with daily letters. He smiled to himself as he thought of her last letter. Ginny was equally as excited about their date as he was. He had the whole day planned out; he would meet her at the Hogwarts gates then go exploring in the village. From there, they would go to the Three Broomsticks, being very careful to avoid the hideously ruffled Madam Puddifoot’s – though this wouldn’t be too much of a problem as Ginny despised the place as much as he did.
He was brought out of his pleasant daydream by the sight of a familiar figure up ahead.
“Lupin!” he called, hurrying further up the road.
Lupin turned out the sound of his name and smiled: “Hullo, Harry! What are you doing here?”
“I just came from Neville’s shop – we were having a meeting…” he gave Lupin a significant look. Lupin nodded, giving Harry a discreet wink. “What are you doing here?”
Lupin grinned and pointed to the shop he was about to enter, Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions. “I thought I’d get my dress robes for the wedding early – I took the morning off from work. Actually,” an idea dawned on Lupin, “it’s a good thing we ran into each other – we could get your best man robes too…” he looked eagerly at Harry.
“Er… well, I really should be”-
But Lupin was already ushering him into the shop. Madam Malkin greeted them warmly, patting Harry on the shoulder for so long that it grew numb. After an hour spent trying on robes, they settled on a pair of midnight blue dress robes. Harry marvelled at the change in Lupin, as he watched him laughing happily – totally at ease. If Tonks has this affect on Lupin I suppose I can put up with the clumsiness, he thought, smiling to himself.
As they left the shop, Lupin suggested they have drink together before he returned to the Ministry. They walked to the very end of Diagon Alley where the Leaky Cauldron sat. Tom spotted them from the window and rushed outside.
“Harry! Remus! Come on in – the special of the day is ready – Nogtail stew!” he rubbed his hands together, looking at them expectantly.
“I’m afraid we can’t stop that long, Tom” said Lupin, leading the way to the bar. Harry hung back for a moment – Nogtail stew?
Looking disappointed, Tom ushered them to a table.
“Just a pot of tea please, Tom.”
“Right you are Remus – and what have you gents been up to this morning?”
“Shopping for wedding clothes,” said Lupin, indicating their bulging shopping bags.
“Oh that’s right!” Tom crowed with delight, “Finally going to make an honest woman of our Tonks then?” he beamed from Remus to Harry.
“I hope so,” said Lupin quietly, “er… sorry to be a pain Tom, but I’m due back at the Ministry soon…”
“Oh yes – of course! Forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on! One pot of tea coming up!” He shuffled away, shaking his head to himself.
Turning to Harry, Lupin said, “Harry, there’s one thing I forgot to mention the other day.”
Harry looked at him questioningly, as Tom reappeared with a teapot, two teacups and saucers. Once he had ambled away and was out of earshot, Lupin resumed what he was saying:
“Tonks and I have found somewhere to live.”
“Wow – that’s great, Lupin! Where?” Harry grinned as Lupin poured them each a cup of tea.
“We’ve found a lovely two-bedroom cottage in Hogsmeade, not that far from the Shrieking Shack, actually.” He smiled wryly.
“Excellent – when are you moving in?”
“As soon as possible. We’ll need to do some work on the place, and decided it would be best to get it done before the wedding. Between you and me,” he lowered his voice so Harry had to lean in closer, “I’d like to get as much done as possible while Nymphadora is busy at work.”
“Ah, yes. That might be a good idea.” Said Harry diplomatically.
“You may have noticed that my bride-to-be is a little clumsy?” Lupin’s eyes twinkled.
Harry nearly spat out his tea. “Er, yeah, I might have noticed a thing or two.”
Lupin burst out laughing. Harry grinned sheepishly. Wiping his eyes, Lupin asked:
“So, now that we have a home, we would love it if you would come and live with us. I’m sure you love it at the Weasley’s but Nymphadora and I feel that your place is with us.”
Harry suddenly realised that Ron wasn’t the only person who still had people to inform of his moving. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, fiddling with his teacup as he did so.
“Actually,” he began, “the thing is Lupin, I was planning on moving myself. To Grimmauld Place.”
Lupin looked surprised. “Well! Why didn’t you say so?”
“I dunno – busy I suppose. The Map has been the biggest thing on my mind recently.”
“Understandably so,” said Lupin, looking at Harry calmly. “But are you sure you want to live in that huge house alone?”
“Oh I won’t be – Ron and Hermione are moving in with me too.”
“I see. Er, does Molly know anything about that?” Lupin frowned.
“No, not exactly. Hermione’s told her parents, but we’re still waiting for Ron to tell his.”
“And he hasn’t quite got around to it?” asked Lupin shrewdly.
“No, not yet. But now we know when we can move in, he’ll be forced to get it over with – oh – not that I’m rushing you out the door or anything”-
-“That’s quite all right, Harry – I can perfectly understand how exciting it must be for the three of you to live together. Once Lily and James got married, Sirius, Peter and I often talked of getting a place together…” he trailed off. He and Harry looked at each other for a moment, each sipping their tea. Lupin cleared his throat. “Well that’s enough doom and gloom for one day! I think you’re making the right decision, Harry – it’s time the three of you got out and started to live your lives. I’m sure Molly will come round to the idea.”
Harry slurped the remainder of his tea. “We’ll see…”
Harry decided to retrace his steps and tell Ron and Hermione that their move would be happening a lot sooner than they had originally anticipated. He hurried to Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines, dragging Hermione away from an elderly wizard who wanted to know more about the best way to deal with bouncing bulbs.
“Harry! I was just about to make a sale!” she hissed as he directed her towards the back room, leaving the wizard to delve into the tray of bulbs alone.
“Yeah, sorry – look – can you come to the Weasley’s for dinner tonight? Lupin and Tonks are moving out in a week, so I think it’s time we made Ron tell his parents about Grimmauld Place.”
Hermione gasped: “Oh Harry! You mean we can move next week?” she hopped excitedly on the spot, grabbing Harry’s hands, all thoughts of selling bouncing bulbs vanished.
Harry grinned: “Yeah! But if we want Ron to join us, we have to make sure he tells his parents.” There was a loud crash from the front of the shop. Hermione peered through the black curtain to see the old wizard knock the tray over. She groaned, turning back to Harry.
“You’re right,” she said quickly, “okay – I’ll come for dinner tonight – but how are we going to make Ron talk? You know what he’s like when he gets nervous!”
“How could I forget? Don’t worry - I’m going to tell him right now. See you at dinner.”
Hermione nodded as she hurried back to the bulbs, which were now bouncing all over the shop. Harry narrowly avoided being hit in the eye by one and slipped out the front door. His last thing he saw before the door clicked shut was Neville and Hermione running up and down the aisles, Stunning bulbs in midair, while witches and wizards took cover. Harry was still laughing to himself as he entered Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes.
“Hiya Harry,” chorused the twins, who were chatting to a customer, demonstrating Headless Hats. “If you’re looking for young Ronald, he’s out the back,” they smirked at Harry, who wondered what they had poor Ron doing now. His question was answered moments later, when he found Ron in the stock room, surrounded by tottering piles of magical tricks, and a thoroughly miserable look on his face.
“Hi Harry,” he said morosely.
“What are you doing?” Harry asked, picking his way carefully through the heaps of stock.
“Fred and George have got me doing a stock take,” he said bitterly, “though why I have to do this in October I don’t know.”
“How do you do a stock take?” asked Harry, taking a seat on a large crate full of Skiving Snackboxes.
“I have to count every single piece of merchandise, and write it down here.” He held out a sheaf of parchment. Harry saw that it contained a list of every single magical mischief item that Fred and George had in the shop. Ron had only managed to get about quarter of the way down the first page; there must have been at least ten pages in total.
Ron sighed loudly and resumed counting boxes of Extendable Ears.
“Er, Ron – have you been counting all of these by hand?”
“’Cos I know a much better way – look…”
Harry pulled out his wand and carefully drew an invisible line around the pile of Extendable Ears. “Duco!” he muttered. A thin line of grey smoke appeared where he had traced around the boxes. It hovered there for a moment, before twisting into a number: one hundred and eight-five. The number lingered there for a few more seconds then vanished.
“Excellent!” roared Ron, snatching up the parchment and writing the number down. “Where did you learn to do that?”
“Where do you think?”
Ron scrambled to his feet and tried the charm on a heap of Spell-Checking Quills. Once again, a smoky number snaked its way into the air, lingering just long enough for Ron to record it on his list. He grinned cheerfully at Harry.
“This’ll show those two – I’ll have this done in no time.” He was just about to start on the packets of Canary Custards when he asked, “So what are you doing here anyway? Got more news on the Map?”
“No,” Harry began carefully, “I just saw Lupin – he and Tonks are moving out next week.”
“What?” Ron dropped his wand in surprise. Blue sparks shot out the end, setting a packet of Canary Creams on fire. Harry extinguished the blue flames with some water from his own wand.
“…So that means we can move next week? Cool!” Ron beamed. Harry waited, looking at Ron, waiting for realisation to dawn.
“Oh wait,” Ron frowned, “That means I have to tell mum, doesn’t it?”
“Oh no,” murmured Ron, sinking back down to the floor.
“It’ll be fine,” said Harry bracingly, “I just spoke to Hermione – she’s going to come to dinner tonight, then the three of us can tell her – together.”
“Yeah, okay… I suppose the sooner we get it over with the better?” he looked at Harry, eyebrows raised.
“Exactly. I’ll see you later.” And with that, he left Ron alone with his stocktaking and worries.
“You three are quiet,” remarked Mr. Weasley, spooning more potatoes onto his plate.
Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged glances. They had been eating in near silence for five whole minutes, a record in the Weasley household. The only sound was the clink of cutlery against plates, as they avoided the subject that had brought them there.
It was Mr. and Mrs. Weasley’s turn to exchange a glance. “What’s going on?” demanded Mrs. Weasley suspiciously.
Ron swallowed, looking to Harry and Hermione for help, but they had suddenly become very interested in their steak and kidney pie. Taking a deep breath, Ron looked at his mother.
“Well… the thing is Mum – Dad,” he looked at Mr. Weasley beseechingly, “Harry is moving out – to-to Grimmauld Place.” Harry choked slightly on his dinner.
“What?” said Mrs. Weasley, looking shocked, “but Harry dear, why on earth do you want to go and live there all alone for?”
Harry remained silent, but gave Ron a hard look.
“Er… he won’t be living alone… Hermione’s going to live there too…”
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked from Harry to Hermione with raised eyebrows. She turned bright pink and Harry noticed that comprehension was dawning on Mr. Weasley’s face.
“Well,” continued Mrs. Weasley, “I know you kids want your independence, but I’m not sure you’re ready for”-
“Ah, Molly dear?” said Mr. Weasley hesitantly, “I don’t think Ron is quite finished yet.”
Mrs. Weasley turned her gaze upon her youngest son. Ron gulped.
“I’m moving with them.” He scrunched his eyes up and leaned as far away from his mother as possible.
Mrs. Weasley stared at him for a moment. Carefully, she placed her knife and fork either side of her plate and plucked her napkin from her lap. Dabbing her mouth with it, she took a deep breath-
-“Well I think that sounds very exciting, don’t you Molly?” asked Mr. Weasley quickly, eyes wide with fear, obviously trying to smooth over what was coming…
“Exciting?” she asked, with a tight smile, “EXCITING? I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT THINK IT’S EXCITING!” she bellowed, making Harry and Hermione flinch, “He is far too young - there is no way Ron is ready – he will NOT be leaving - Arthur! SAY SOMETHING!”
Mr. Weasley heaved a deep sigh, taking his time to pull a handkerchief from the inside of his robes and mopping his face before he answered his wife.
“Molly,” he began gently, “Ron is eighteen years of age. He’s working now and it’s only natural that he wants his independence, a-and if you think about it,” he rushed on, seeing his wife puff up furiously again, “Grimmauld Place is the safest place he could live – what with all the protection charms and its Unplottable location”-
-“He’s too young!” she sputtered, “and so are you two!” she rounded on Harry and Hermione. Harry looked desperately at Mr. Weasley for assistance while Hermione looked like she wanted to dive under the table.
“Now Molly,” Mr. Weasley began again, “You can’t have a go at those two – I’m sure they know what they’re doing”-
-“’Know what they’re doing?’” sputtered Mrs. Weasley, very red in the face now, “They’re just children, Arthur! They can’t possibly”-
“Mum!” All eyes swivelled to Ron as Mrs. Weasley fell silent. “We are old enough – I’m old enough! Fred and George were a year younger than me when they moved out! I’m not a baby! I got my NEWT’s, I got a job – what else do I have to do to be treated like a grown up?” he stood up furiously, his chair hitting the kitchen floor with a clatter, his turn to have a scarlet face.
“Well for a start,” cried Mrs. Weasley, also rising for her chair, “You don’t say ‘grown up’ if you are a grown up! Ron,” she said, calming down but looking thoroughly distraught, “who’s going to cook your dinner? What about your washing? Are you sure you want to start doing all that for yourself?”
Harry thought it was time he spoke up. He looked to Hermione for help, but she looked like she had been Petrified.
“Mrs. Weasley – we’ll look after Ron – we’ll look after each other, won’t we?” he added tersely, kicking Hermione under the table. Mrs. Weasley sat back down, looking defeated.
Hermione snapped out her stupor. She nodded quickly. “Y-yes! Mrs. Weasley, we understand that you’ll miss Ron, a-and Harry,” she said hesitantly, “but we won’t be far away! You can visit us, we’ll visit you – I bet you’ll hardly notice that they don’t sleep here.” She reached out carefully and patted her on the arm, ready to snatch her hand back if necessary.
Mrs. Weasley heaved a teary sign. Mr. Weasley took her other hand. “We had to expect this day would come, Molly,” he said gently. Ron righted his chair and sat back down, his face slowly turning back to its normal colour.
“I know! I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon! I can’t imagine this place with no kids – and soon Ginny will finish school and then she’ll want to leave me too!”
“Mum,” said Ron, leaning in, “it’s not that we want to leave you! We just want our own lives.” Mrs. Weasley nodded, a tear running down her cheek.
“I know, I know – it’s just I can’t remember a time when we haven’t had at least one of you lot running round the house.” She took a deep, steadying breath, reaching out for Harry, Ron and Hermione’s hands. “But I’ll miss you terribly,” she let out an odd, watery sort of chuckle, “but I suppose your father’s right. I can’t keep you here forever.”
Hermione gently extracted her hand from the pile, and got up to get a box of tissues. She offered it to Mrs. Weasley, who blew her nose loudly. Nobody spoke for a moment, anxious not to upset Mrs. Weasley any further.
Finally, Ron dared to speak: “If it makes you feel better,” he said brightly, “you can come over and do my washing any time!”
Harry awoke early the next morning. Today was the day of his last check-up with Healer Smethington and he didn’t want to be late. Pulling on some jeans and an old t-shirt, he hurried out of his room to the kitchen, where Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were sitting together quietly, sipping tea.
“Morning, Harry,” said Mr. Weasley, while Mrs. Weasley gave him a wan smile. Harry returned the greeting with a pang of guilt – he knew that the reason Mrs. Weasley looked so drawn was because of him and Ron leaving next week. He quietly set about making some toast, painfully aware that Mrs. Weasley had not jumped up to offer as she usually did.
“What wakes you up so early this morning, Harry?” asked Mr. Weasley brightly.
“Got to go to St. Mungo’s – Healer Smethington wants to check me out before I can Apparate by myself again.”
At these words, Mrs. Weasley stood up suddenly, hastening to the stove. “Why didn’t you say so dear? You’ll need more than toast this morning – let me make you some eggs and bacon to go with it – would you like a cup of tea?”
Relief spread warmly through him. It didn’t matter how cross Mrs. Weasley got with him or Ron – if they needed her, she would be there. Mr. Weasley tipped him a sly wink from behind his newspaper, whose headline bore yet another rehash of the story of the great Harry Potter and his defeat of Lord Voldemort. Two pieces of toast flew out of the toaster. Harry’s arm shot out and caught them on a plate with expert reflexes.
“I see we don’t need to test your reactions,” said Mr. Weasley admiringly. Harry grinned, spreading butter on his toast as Mrs. Weasley slid six rashers of bacon and three fried eggs onto his plate.
“Now you eat up dear – you don’t want to get to your check-up feeling light-headed.” Anxiously, she felt his forehead and peered into his eyes.
“I’m fine, Mrs. Weasley, really.” Said Harry, secretly relishing her mothering, as Ron entered the kitchen hesitantly.
“Morning,” he said, looking at his mother uncertainly.
“Morning, Ron dear. Sit down and I’ll get you some breakfast.”
Ron took a seat opposite Harry, looking at him with raised eyebrows, obviously relieved that they were off the hook.
“Got your check up today?” he enquired.
Harry nodded. “Hopefully I’ll be Apparating home.”
“You’ll be fine dear, don’t you worry.” Mrs. Weasley reassured him, absentmindedly smoothing down his hair.
Moments later, after bidding farewell to Mrs. Weasley and Ron, Harry (with Mr. Weasley’s assistance) Apparated to the London street leading to St. Mungo’s. After melting through the cool glass in the entrance, he found himself in the busy waiting area. Looking up, he saw Healer Smethington pacing up and down at the far end of the room. Ignoring the Welcome Witch who was trying to catch his eye, Harry strode to meet him.
“Harry, my boy!” Healer Smethington shook his hand heartily. “How are you feeling?”
“Good thanks,” Harry said quietly, flattening his fringe down. Healer Smethington’s booming voice was beginning to attract the attention of other witches and wizards in the waiting room.
“Good, good! Right this way,” he ushered Harry down a long corridor, lit with floating orbs and showed him into a large room. It contained an antique-looking wooden desk that was overflowing with sheaves of parchment, quills and inkbottles, and magical medical books were stacked higgledy-piggledy on the bookcase. There was a long examination couch, upholstered in red velvet with a matching chair and several lethal looking medical instruments hovered in midair, waiting to be put to use.
“Right, young Harry. If you’ll just hop up onto the couch, I’ll take a look at you,” he peered good-naturedly at Harry through small spectacles. Hoisting himself up, Harry lay back and tried to relax. Healer Smethington listened to his heart, gently felt his ribcage and checked his eyes and ears, muttering inaudibly to himself. The room was quiet, save for the tick of an ancient gold clock that sat in the middle of the mantelpiece.
“Right then!” rumbled Healer Smethington, shattering Harry’s reverie, “This all looks top-notch! Now, if you wouldn’t mind standing up, I should like to see you try and Apparate from here to the far end of the room – no need to panic, just take a deep breath and concentrate on where you want to go.”
“Right,” said Harry, casting his mind back to that odd little man who had taught them to Apparate at school. What were those three things again? Destination, determination and-
-“Anytime you’re ready, Harry,” said Healer Smethington again, invading Harry’s memories.
“Oh, right.” Harry mumbled, trying to focus. He screwed his eyes up and turned on the spot. Opening his eyes again, he was delighted to find himself on the other side of the room.
“Excellent!” roared Smethington, “How did that feel?”
“Er, weird,” said Harry, “but Apparating always has felt weird to me.”
“Don’t like that squeezy feeling, eh?” chuckled Smethington knowingly, “you’re not the first, certainly wouldn’t be the last. Lots of wizards prefer travelling by Floo powder. I think a few more try’s should do it…”
By the time Harry was ready to leave, he had the beginnings of a headache. Healer Smethington had made him Apparate first to different points in the room, and then, with mounting excitement, had asked Harry to Apparate all over the hospital. He had startled a fair few Healers by suddenly appearing out of thin air, but overall, he was very pleased with his progress. Thanking Healer Smethington, Harry exited the hospital and made his way down a secluded alleyway. Concentrating his mind upon the kitchen of the Burrow, he turned on the spot and-
“Harry!” cried Mrs. Weasley; dropping the silver she had been about to polish. “You did it! How are you feeling?”
“I’m fine thanks,” Harry grinned, dropping into a chair and picking up the piece of silverware. “Want some help? I’m an expert at cleaning.”
“Oh no, that’s okay dear. You look a bit tired. Why don’t you go and get some rest?”
Harry yawned. He was feeling a bit done in. With thoughts of cleaning out Hedwig’s cage, he trudged up the rickety staircase to his room. Peering at himself in the mirror, Harry lifted his fringe to examine his scar. Since the demise of Voldemort, he hadn’t experienced so much as a twinge of pain, and - apart from a mild headache from Apparating too much - his head had been free of pain ever since. Sinking onto his bead, he closed his eyes, ready for a long nap, thinking that Hedwig’s cage could wait a bit longer, when there was a sharp crack.
Harry’s eyes flew open and he automatically reached for his wand, but there was no need.
“Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby stood in the centre of the small bedroom, gazing up at Harry adoringly.
“Dobby!” Harry moaned, “What did you do that for? I nearly hexed you into oblivion!”
Dobby dropped to the floor, pressing his nose into the worn out old rug.
“Dobby is sorry, Harry Potter! Dobby is only wanting to visit Harry Potter t-to see how he is, sir! Shall Dobby go now?” Harry could hear a quaver in his voice; meaning Dobby would soon burst into tears.
Sighing, Harry reached down and pulled Dobby to his feet.
“No, Dobby. Don’t go. I’m really pleased to see you, but next time you should come to the front door and knock first, all right?”
Dobby nodded, his great ears flapping, orb like eyes surveying Harry’s every move. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, Harry cast around for a topic of conversation.
“So, er… how are you Dobby?”
“Dobby is very well, Harry Potter sir! But,” here his ears drooped slightly, “Hogwarts is not the same since the great Albus Dumbledore is gone…” he trailed off sadly, eyes swimming with unshed tears. Head snapping up sharply, Dobby added fearfully, “But I is not speaking ill of my mistress, sir! Headmistress McGonagall is very kind, and she is still paying Dobby one Galleon a week – just like Albus Dumbledore – but – but”-
-“But it’s not the same as having Dumbledore around, is it?” Harry replied, taking note of the fact that Dobby was plainly itching to grab something and punish himself with it. “It’s all right, Dobby,” he said kindly, trying to think of a change of subject, “Do you want to hear my news?”
Dobby nodded in ecstasy, all sadness forgotten.
“Me, Ron and Hermione are moving in together! We move out next week and”- he stopped abruptly. Dobby looked like Harry had stuck a knife in his side.
“What’s the matter?” Harry asked, perplexed.
Dobby gave a great sniff. “Harry Potter is moving to his own house?”
Dobby broke out into loud wails, falling to the floor again and beating his tiny fists on the floor.
“Dobby – what is it?” asked a bewildered Harry, reaching for Dobby’s flailing arms.
“Harry Potter is moving to his own house, and he is taking Kreacher with him! Dobby isn’t liking Kreacher! He is a bad house elf! Kreacher won’t look after Harry Potter properly!”
“Wait! Don’t be daft, Dobby! I’m not taking Kreacher with me! He can stay in the Hogwarts kitchens where the other elves can keep an eye on him!”
If Harry had thought this would calm Dobby down he had been severely mistaken. If anything, his wails increased in volume. Worried that the noise would bring Mrs. Weasley on the run, Harry carefully but firmly lifted Dobby into a sitting position on the edge of his bed.
“Dobby - be quiet!”
Dobby ceased his wailing almost immediately, hiccoughing as tears continued to trickle down his face.
“What on earth is the matter with you?” Harry asked incredulously.
“Harry Potter is moving out and Dobby is not happy! Dobby wants to look after Harry Potter and his most noble friends! Dobby is working very hard and is not wanting any money or any days off and is making a treacle tart for Harry Potter every night!”
“What? You-you want to come and work for me?” Harry hadn’t been expecting this. “But what about your job at Hogwarts?”
“Dobby will leave, sir! Dobby wants to look after Harry Potter, the bravest, cleverest most fearless”-
-“Dobby stop! Hermione would kill me for having a house elf!”
“Is the most knowledgeable Miss Hermione not liking Dobby, sir?” He looked distraught.
“No, no – it’s not that. Hermione likes house elves, in fact, she thinks they aren’t treated properly and she’d go mental if she knew I was letting you work for me without paying you! She reckons house elves should all be set free – and get paid holiday and pensions.”
Dobby was speechless for a moment. Then in a whisper, he asked: “Is Miss Hermione not right in the head, Harry Potter?”
Harry burst out laughing. “Well, we do wonder sometimes, Dobby. Look, let me talk to Ron and Hermione about it. Ron would love you to work for us,” at these words, Dobby hopped up and bounced on the bed with glee, “but like I said, Hermione is another matter.”
“Harry Potter! You is the kindest, most gallant wizard in the whole world, and Dobby is working for you even if it means wages and paid holidays and pensions!”
At half past ten the next morning, Harry carefully Apparated to the gates of Hogwarts. He was due to meet Ginny at eleven o’clock, but was so anxious to see her he decided to arrive early. Pulling his cloak tighter against the cold breeze, he squinted through the gates, waiting to catch a glimpse of her. It was a Saturday, so she was probably enjoying a late breakfast in the Great Hall. Stamping his feet to keep warm, he glimpsed a flash of fiery red. Harry’s stomach flipped over and his heart rate sped up: Ginny! Smiling into the collar of his cloak, he watched her walk gracefully down the driveway, laughing with her friends, hair fluttering behind her. All thoughts of the plans he had made for their day evaporated: he wanted nothing more than to find a secluded spot and kiss Ginny until the sun set. Looking up, she saw him. Pausing for a moment, her eyes lit up, her mouth curving into a soft smile.
“Harry!” she squealed, breaking into a gallop and racing the rest of the way to the gates. Harry laughed as she threw herself into his arms. He swung her around and their lips met, kissing her deeply, ignoring the catcalls and whistles of the Hogwarts students who were watching with amusement. When they finally broke apart, they were both grinning insanely.
“What do you want to do today?” asked Ginny, eyes sparkling.
“Well, I thought we could go and explore Hogsmeade and do some shopping, go to the Three Broomsticks and have a drink… or we could just stay here and do this,” he dipped his head to kiss her again. Giggling, she pushed him gently away.
“C’mon,” she said, tugging his arm, “this is my first Hogsmeade weekend – we have to see everything!”
Sighing contentedly, Harry allowed himself to be pulled down the lane, thrilled to be with Ginny again.
“So you told mum about moving out?”
“Yeah – at first she went a bit, well, er”-
-“Mental?” Ginny suggested.
Harry laughed. “Yeah, something like that. But I think she’s all right with it now.”
Hogsmeade village came into sight. Hogwarts students were milling about everywhere, calling out greetings to Harry and Ginny as they strolled along the cobbled street, looking in the windows of Dervish and Banges and Scrivenshafts, firmly avoiding the lane that led to Madam Puddifoot’s. Reaching Zonkos, the wizarding joke shop, they were pleased to note the sign in the dark window:
Coming soon! Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes – For all your Hogwarts mischief making needs, look no further! 10% discount to all students (excluding prefects and Head Students)
Harry and Ginny chuckled to themselves. During the war, Zonko himself had shut up shop and fled the country. Fred and George had wanted to buy the place for a long time, and now that life in the wizarding world was almost back to normal, they were anxious to open a branch close to Hogwarts.
Hand in hand, Harry and Ginny entered Honeydukes next. The rich smell of chocolate surround them, and they inhaled deeply.
“Ooh,” sighed Ginny, eyes closed in appreciation, “I love chocolate – let’s get one of everything!”
Giggling conspiratorially, they grabbed a basket and began to load it with supplies for Ginny, to tide her over until her next Hogsmeade weekend. While Ginny debated whether she should buy the Fudge Flies or the Chocoballs, Harry perused a shelf heaped with chocolate covered fudge, when he felt a tug on the back of his cloak. Turning around, he wasn’t sure if he was amused or dismayed to hear:
Little Dennis and Colin Creevey stood very close to him, gazing up and waving frantically at him, forcibly reminding him of Dobby.
“Hi Colin, hi Dennis – how are you?”
“Harry – what are you doing here?” asked Colin excitedly.
“Well, I’m just doing a bit of shopping with”-
“Oh! You’re here with Ginny! Hiya, Ginny!” Colin and Dennis waved their miniscule arms madly at Ginny.
“Hi boys,” she smiled as she turned back to the Fudge Flies. Harry noticed that Dennis, the younger of the two brothers, had turned a deep crimson colour when Ginny looked at him.
“Hey, Harry – we read all about what happened at the Ministry, with You-Know-Who!” said Dennis.
Before Harry could answer, Colin interrupted again, rummaging in his robe pockets. “Look, Harry!” he produced a camera, “Can we have a picture?”
“Well, now’s not really a good time…” he trailed off, gesturing to Ginny.
“Oh that’s all right, Harry!” said Ginny brightly, “In fact, why don’t I take the picture for you, Colin? That way you can all be in it!” she gave Harry and evil grin, while Colin and Dennis excitedly scrambled into position either side of Harry.
“Okay – everyone say ‘Fizzing Whizzbees’!” instructed Ginny. With a loud pop and a puff of black smoke, the picture was taken.
“Wow! Thanks Ginny, thanks Harry!” exclaimed Colin, still rooted to the spot, gawping at Harry.
“Er, right – well, we’ve got things to do Colin…” Harry raised his eyebrows at the brothers, wondering how he could get rid of them.
Ginny came to the rescue; taking each brother by the elbow, she steered them to the door of Honeydukes:
“Right, I’ll see you later then, make sure you get us a copy of that photo, won’t you? Bye!” and with a charming smile, she ejected them from the shop before they could tell what was happening. Turning back to Harry with a laugh, they took their sweets to the counter, but Ambrosius Flume, the owner of Honeydukes wouldn’t let Harry give him a penny.
“Harry, lad – your money is no good here”-
“But”- Harry stammered, beginning to feel very uncomfortable about not being able to pay for things nowadays.
-“No buts! If it weren’t for you, I would never have been able to re-open. I would have been ruined! Now you take this lot – no arguments!” he thrust a large Honeydukes bag into Harry’s arms.
“Er, well – okay, thanks Mr. Honeyduke.”
“My pleasure, Harry, my pleasure.”
They stepped out into the cool afternoon air. Deciding he had had enough of crowds for the time being, Harry took Ginny to a peaceful meadow down on of the winding lanes. Once he felt they were far enough from prying eyes, he conjured a thick blanket for then to sit on, nestled in the long grass.
“This place is pretty,” Ginny said, leaning back into Harry, who wrapped his arms around her.
“Mmm,” he murmured, breathing in the flowery scent of her hair. “This is where Tonks and Lupin are having their wedding ceremony.”
They surveyed the meadow together in companionable silence for a few moments.
“So how’s the Burrow without me?” she asked after a while.
“Quiet!” Harry grinned and leaned in to kiss her. Quite some time later, when they finally pulled apart, Harry began to fill her in on all that they had been up to, including his hospital check-up and the strange visit from Dobby.
“I think Dobby is sweet,” said Ginny, who thought it was a great idea that Dobby should work for Harry.
“Er, yeah. Sweet is one word to describe him, I suppose. But Hermione won’t be happy.”
“But Ron would love it – no washing, no cleaning – he’ll be in heaven! I’m sure between the two of you, you can convince Hermione.”
“Maybe… Dobby will have to wait though. Tonight we’re going to activate the Map.”
At these words, Ginny sat up straighter, looking very serious.
“And then you’ll go after her?”
Harry nodded solemnly. “I just wish I could talk to Dumbledore – he hasn’t been around for ages.”
“Maybe it’s not time yet? You know – to go after her. Dumbledore said you would know when the time was right.”
“I dunno. We’ve done everything we can with the Map, at least, Lupin and Hermione say we have, so it must be time.”
Ginny remained silent but looked troubled. Not wanting to worry her, Harry looked at his watch.
“It’s getting late – we should get a move on if we want to fit in a drink at the Three Broomsticks.” He Vanished the blanket with a flick of his wand and they hurried towards the pub.
There was only time for one Butterbeer before Ginny realised she would be late for the start of the Halloween feast. Throwing a Galleon down on the table before Madam Rosmerta could refuse, Harry and Ginny gathered her bags of sweets and chocolate and hurried out of the pub. Telling Ginny to take a firm grip on his arm, Harry performed his first Side-Along Apparition in a long time. Re-appearing perfectly at the gates of Hogwarts, they kissed several more times, between promises to write, and pledges to miss each other terribly. Finally, they could delay their parting no longer. Ginny turned and made her way reluctantly towards the castle. Harry watched her until she disappeared through the huge front doors, with a heavy heart. Concentrating on the Burrow, he Apparated home to meet Ron and Hermione. From there they were going to number twelve, Grimmauld Place to activate the Map...
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 27 ~ Smokius, Chokius
A large tawny owl swooped through the woods as dusk stole over Little Hangleton. It landed on the window ledge of the Gaunt house and tapped its beak on the filthy window. Roused from her sleep, Bellatrix Lestrange swept her matted black hair from her face and listened intently. Tap, tap, tap – what was that? She stood, silently making her way to the source of the noise, releasing an inaudible sigh of relief when she realised it was only an owl. Inching the window open, she removed the letter, keeping her eyes alert and trained on the darkening woods surrounding the house. Once the letter was in her grasp, she slammed the window shut, causing the owl to hoot indignantly before it took off into the gathering gloom.
Tapping the parchment with her wand, her eyes scanned the letter, an irritated look spreading across her face. The letter was from Wormtail:
I have found what we need most. However, I think it might be wise for you to take a look, in case of mole damage. Please meet me in the clearing. Come as soon as you can.
Bellatrix sighed, igniting the parchment with her wand tip. This was clearly Wormtail’s attempt at a discreet letter, even though he had used her name – the dolt. He had obviously found the remaining Death Eaters, but was unsure if he could trust them, and as usual it would be up to her to ensure that things ran smoothly. She poured herself a goblet of wine, emptying the bottle in the process, but no matter – that good-for-nothing Wormtail would see to it that she had enough food and drink. Sipping her wine slowly, she thought about what lay ahead. Wormtail had proved surprisingly useful, she had to admit, but soon she would be reunited with more worthy comrades who would help fulfil the Dark Lord’s wish. She smiled to herself, running a hand over her face, down her chest and over her stomach. She hoped fervently that the Dark Lord would realise that she was a worthy vessel, and prize her above all others as he once had. Pulling on her travelling cloak, she cast one last glance around the dilapidated house. Noting that everything seemed in order, she swept from the house without a backwards glance…
“Where is he?” asked Harry impatiently, pacing back and forth in the drawing room of Grimmauld Place.
“Calm down, Harry,” said Hermione soothingly, “It’s not even eight o’clock yet.” She indicated the clock above the fireplace.
“Oh,” he conceded, sinking in to a squashy armchair.
“So how was Hogsmeade?” asked Ron, tossing Fudge Flies into the air and catching them in his open mouth. “Thanks for these by the way, Harry.”
“No problem. Hogsmeade was excellent,” Harry replied, a smile chasing away the frown that had been gathering on his face. He missed Ginny already, and had replayed their day out several times in his head since they parted.
He reached out and grabbed the next Fly Ron was about to eat. Popping it into his mouth, he turned to Hermione:
“What are you up to there?”
Hermione was sat cross-legged on the floor, counting out small glass bottles of her new potions and lining them up on a low table.
“Just making sure we’ve got enough of these – once we know where Bellatrix is, we’ll be needing them. I just don’t have a name for them yet.”
“Er, how about potions?” said Harry, munching on his Fudge Fly. Ron snickered, tossing Harry a few more of the fudge covered treats.
“Ho ho,” said Hermione, not bothering to look up from her counting. “No, I mean a real name – you know, like Scintillation Solution, or Babbling Beverage – I want my potions to have real titles.”
“What do they do again?” asked Ron, putting the bag of sweets aside to look at the potion bottles.
Hermione sighed in a put upon way. “This one creates smoke,” she waved a bottle containing a swirling grey liquid under Ron’s nose, “and this one makes you choke.” She pointed to the bottles filled with jet-black liquid.
“Right,” said Ron, furrowing his brow. “So… a title… a title…” he sat upright. “I’ve got it!”
“This I’ve got to hear,” laughed Harry. Hermione raised her eyebrows, distrust radiating from her very being.
Ron plucked a bottle of smoke potion from the table. “Well, it creates smoke right? And you’ll want a Latin slant on the name, like all the best potions, so… let’s call it Smokius!”
Harry doubled over with laughter. Hermione frowned.
“What?” Ron demanded, “I think it’s perfect! Shut up Harry!” he threw several chair cushions at his friend. Harry emerged from beneath the pile with his glasses dangling off one ear, still chuckling.
“And what should we call the other one? Chokius?”
“Yeah! What d’you reckon Hermione? Can Lestrange handle a bit of Smokius Chokius?”
He and Harry were both in fits now, but Hermione was not to be moved. Muttering something under her breath about ‘idiot boys’, she gathered up her potions and stormed across the drawing room. Pausing in the doorway, she turned:
“When you have quite finished,” she said in a dignified voice, “I will be waiting for Lupin, in the kitchen. You can join me if you think your tiny minds can cope.” And head held high, she swept from the room, leaving Harry and Ron howling with laughter.
An hour later, as the clock struck eight, Harry heard Lupin calling him downstairs.
“Harry? Ron? I’m home!”
They jumped to their feet and hurried down the stairs
Lupin was sitting at the long kitchen table with Hermione, the Map between them, countless candles flickering on the countertops, lending a spooky atmosphere to the room.
“Hi, Lupin,” they chorused, anxious to get started.
“Have you two calmed down yet?” asked Hermione, tartly.
“We’re perfectly calm – we just want to get on with it!” Harry looked at Lupin impatiently. “How do we do it?”
“Well, I will teach you the incantation, then we each hold our wand to the parchment, recite the words, and the Map will activate.”
“What, just like that?” asked Ron, disbelievingly.
“Well, yes. It is magic, after all,” Lupin smiled patiently. “But before we do this, I want to know more about what you intend to do when you go after her…?”
Harry, who had anticipated this, had his reply at the ready. “We go to the house, using the Invisibility Cloak or a Disillusionment Charm, throw in Hermione’s potion, Stun Lestrange and Apparate her to the Ministry.”
Ron continued: “Yeah – then we let the Ministry cart her off to Azkaban – end of story.” He made a dusting action with his hands.
Lupin raised his eyebrows. “That’s your plan? I had hoped you would involve the Auror Squad once Bella is located.”
“Yeah, well maybe – but my first concern is finding her.”
Lupin looked uneasy but said nothing. “Well, perhaps we should learn the incantation,” he cleared his throat, “It’s a little tricky. Repeat after me: Aperio exigo locus domus, femina vel compleo vel bestia penitus specialis.”
“What does it mean?” said Ron in hushed tones.
Lupin looked to Hermione, who was frowning.
“Something about revealing the exact location?” she asked, looking at Lupin, who nodded. “And femina and compleo – that’s woman and man?”
“Correct – and bestia, as you may have guessed, means animal or beast. We want the Map to reveal the house and any man, woman or beast that resides within its secret location.”
“What language are you speaking?” asked Ron, confused.
Hermione tutted. “Smokius and Chokius the only Latin you know, Ron?”
“Ah,” he said, nodding wisely at Harry. “Er, what was it again, Lupin?”
Lupin recited the incantation several more times until they had it memorised.
Looking at them with a sombre expression, Lupin exhaled deeply: “I think we’re ready. We each place a wand tip at a corner of the parchment.”
They pulled out their wands, and touched them to the Map. Harry noticed that Hermione’s hand was trembling. She looked up at him with apprehensive eyes. Harry tried to smile reassuringly but couldn’t make his mouth move in the right direction. Lupin gave a small nod, and the four of them began to recite the incantation:
“Aperio exigo locus domus, femina vel compleo vel bestia penitus specialis.”
As the chant died away, the parchment glowed a sudden, brilliant white, making them turn their faces sharply to shield their eyes. Harry recovered first, and leaned in to look at the parchment. Black lines were blurring over the page, rapidly travelling outwards. Hermione, Ron and Lupin, blinking hard, also leaned in.
“Whoa…” breathed Ron, as the black lines grew in definition, until the Gaunt house was clear. Each room was represented and Harry stared at it intently, waiting for a tiny label to appear marked ‘Bellatrix Lestrange’. Hermione and Lupin looked on eagerly. Ron was so close his long nose was nearly touching the parchment. They waited. And waited. And waited. After a few more moments of silence, Harry tore his eyes away and looked at Lupin.
“What’s happening? Why isn’t it working?”
Lupin snatched up the Map, studying intently.
“I don’t understand – it all appears to be working.”
Harry tugged the Map back from him and did the same, eyes squinting, frantic for a sign of her. “Where is she?” He felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach.
Lupin rubbed his face with his hand and sighed. “She’s not there, Harry.”
“What?” Harry barked, gripping the parchment so tight his knuckles were turning white. Hermione and Ron were staring at him, open-mouthed, disappointment etched on their faces – or was that relief Harry could see?
“She’s not there,” Lupin repeated gently.
“That’s impossible!” Harry stormed, making Hermione wince. “It’s got to be the Map! It can’t have worked properly! Let’s try the incantation again”-
-“Harry! The spell worked – Bella is not there!” Lupin spoke with clear, hard words.
Harry was steadily getting angry. How could she not be there? Ron and Hermione were still staring at him, but Harry couldn’t read their expressions.
“Harry,” Hermione began tentatively, “are you sure Dumbledore said that this is the place she would be?” she pointed a trembling finger at the Map, still clutched in his fist.
“Of course I’m sure!” Harry could feel a towering rage building up within him. Swearing loudly, he threw the parchment down and stormed from the kitchen. Hesitating for a moment, Hermione, Ron and Lupin hurried after him.
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 28 ~ A Hellish Fire
Harry ran up the stairs and stormed into an empty bedroom. He slammed the door, anger coursing through his veins and aimed a kick at the dustbin. What was going on? Where was she? Harry needed to speak to Dumbledore, but how?
“Dumbledore?” he yelled, “Dumbledore! It didn’t work! She’s not there – show yourself! I need your help!” Ringing silence followed this out burst, followed by the footsteps of Ron, Hermione and Lupin in the corridor, but there was no sign of Dumbledore.
There was a hesitant tap on the door.
“Harry, mate – can we come in?” Harry didn’t reply, embarrassment and frustration gluing his mouth shut.
The door opened, and the three of them entered cautiously.
“Harry…” Hermione began uncertainly.
“Maybe she’s just gone out for a bit?” suggested Ron.
Harry felt a surge of irritation. “Gone out? What’s Lestrange going to do, Ron – pop out to the shops?”
Ron’s face flushed angrily. “Why are you getting angry with us? It’s not our fault it didn’t work!”
“I’m not saying it is! I just”-
-“I think we all need to calm down,” said Lupin trying to appease the situation. “We won’t get anywhere if we lose our tempers. Now, I am going downstairs to check the Map – I suggest you take a few minutes to cool down, then come and join me.”
He left the room. When his footsteps had died away, Hermione spoke up again.
“Harry, are you sure that you understood what Dumbledore said? Maybe he didn’t mean the Gaunt house? Maybe he meant the one where V-Voldemort’s father lived? Or maybe,” she glanced fearfully at Ron, “maybe he didn’t mean for us to make a Map at all…”
The last of Harry’s patience disappeared. “Get out,” he said flatly, pointing to the door.
“But Harry”- she tried again, “you’ve bee through so much – no-one would blame you for”-
“For what?” Harry demanded hotly. “I did exactly what Dumbledore told me to do! You both believed me ten minutes ago!”
“Oh for goodness sake! We do believe you! We’re just trying to work out what went wrong!”
Harry remained silent, his hands balled into fists at his sides. Hermione looked at Ron, who was still red in the face.
“Come on,” she said, taking his arm. “Let’s go.”
They made their way out quietly, leaving Harry to his troubled thoughts. He hadn’t meant to blow up at his friends, and as his anger dissipated, he felt ashamed by his outburst. He knew he should go straight downstairs and apologise, but he couldn’t make his feet move. Sinking onto the bed, he put his head in his hands and sighed. Why wasn’t Bellatrix there? Could he have misinterpreted Dumbledore’s advice? He had been so sure, but now… Heaving himself reluctantly from the bed, Harry left the room and headed downstairs. As he drew closer to the kitchen, he heard muffled voices and paused to listen.
“Calm down, Ron,” he could hear Hermione saying in soothing tones. “I’m going to go to the shop – I left a few books there that might be of use. Maybe we can find another way of locating her.”
“Hermione, it’s Saturday night and it’s Halloween and the shop’s closed!”
“I know, I know – but I don’t think we can salvage the rest of this evening, do you?”
Harry squirmed guiltily in the hallway. He had ruined everyone’s night. Ron and Hermione’s conversation continued:
“D’you want me to come with you?”
“No, you stay here and try and talk some sense into Harry. I won’t be long.” Harry heard the burst of flames in the fireplace, followed by Hermione’s cry of “142 Diagon Alley!”
He took a deep breath and entered the kitchen. Keeping his eyes trained on the floor, Harry took a seat at the table, opposite Ron. Lupin was keeping his distance at the far end of the long room, pretending to be busy making tea.
“I’m sorry,” Harry muttered, fiddling with one of the candles.
Ron grunted an inaudible reply.
“I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to be such an idiot.”
Ron looked at him, a small smile playing grudgingly on his lips. “You were more of a git, actually.”
Harry laughed, feeling some of his frustration and anger slip away. “All right – I’m sorry for being such a git – happy now?”
“Yeah, I suppose.” Ron’s smile broadened.
“Do you think Hermione’ll forgive me?”
“Yeah. We’re used to your gittishness by now.”
“Cheers,” said Harry, not sure that he liked that label too much. “So when is she coming back?”
“Not long – she just went to pick up a couple of books. I think she misses the school library more than she lets on.”
A sudden whooshing noise came from the chimney, and a tiny soot-covered owl landed in the embers of the fire. Hooting in alarm, it flapped its tiny wings, its tail feathers smouldering slightly. Lupin rushed to it and doused it with a gently spray of water from his wand, while Ron removed the note attached to its leg. His eyes widened in horror.
“What is it?” asked Harry, peering over Ron’s shoulder to read the parchment out loud. The words were very crooked, as though someone had written it in a hurry:
Come to St. Mungo’s immediately – Hermione is here. I’ll explain everything when you get here.
“I-I don’t understand,” stammered Ron, “she was just going to get some books”-
-“Don’t worry about that now,” said Lupin, swiftly handing each of them their cloaks, “Let’s get to St. Mungo’s. Harry, are you all right to Apparate?”
Harry nodded numbly, pulling on his cloak. He glanced at Ron who seemed frozen to the spot.
“Come on,” said Lupin urgently. Harry snapped out of his confusion - they had to get to Hermione. He shook Ron lightly and the three of them rushed from the house. Looking around to make sure no Muggles were watching, they Apparated to the hospital.
The waiting room was in chaos. For an insane moment, Harry thought that Death Eaters had been on the rampage, before he realised that the injured witches and wizards seemed to be suffering from Halloween induced damage. He barely had time to glimpse several wizards with pumpkins for heads, as Ron pushed to the front of the queue, demanding to know where Hermione was.
The Welcome Witch, normally extremely brusque when asked for help, saw Harry and sat up straighter.
“Shut up, you lot!” she yelled at the witches and wizards, grumbling about Ron cutting in front of them.
“Yes sir, how can I help?” she was totally ignoring Ron and Lupin, addressing only Harry.
“Hermione Granger – she was just brought in – where is she?”
The plump blonde witch consulted her parchment. “That’ll be third floor – Potion and Plant Poisoning,” she gave Harry a bright smile.
Harry, Ron and Lupin exchanged a confused look. What had happened to Hermione to put her there?
They raced frantically along the third floor corridor, Ron leading the way.
“Ron! Harry – over here!”
Neville was standing outside the door to a private room. He was very pale, and had tearstains on his face.
“Neville! What happened? Where’s Hermione?” demanded Ron, rushing over to him.
Neville bit his lip, “She’s in there,” he indicated the door.
Ron and Harry burst through the door, to find five Healer’s crowded around a hospital bed.
“Who are you?” demanded a stern looking witch, frowning at them both.
Ron ignored her and pushed through the crowd. What he saw made him gasp. Hermione was lying in the bed, a terrible shade of grey and deathly still. Harry joined him at the foot of the bed and stared open-mouthed at her lifeless form.
“Now really!” hissed the Healer in a furious whisper, “you can’t just push your way in here! This young lady is very sick – are you family?”
“What happened to her?” asked Ron, looking like he was on the verge of being violently ill.
“I cannot reveal any patient information until I know who you are.” The other Healer’s continued to tend to Hermione, muttering spells and administering potions.
Harry tore his eyes away from Hermione, and for the first time in his life, brushed his fringe back, revealing his scar. He stared at the Healer and repeated Ron’s question, “We’re her friends, and we’re not moving from this room until you tell us what happened to her.” His heart was thumping and he felt sick to the pit of his stomach.
Her eyes were glued to the scar. “I-I – this is highly unorthodox,” she stammered, suddenly flustered, “Mr. Potter, Mr…?” she looked questioningly at Ron.
“Weasley,” Harry stated.
“Of course, Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, if you’ll step outside with me, I shall tell you as much as I can. Perhaps your friend Mr. Longbottom can assist me.”
Harry and Ron followed her out into the corridor. Lupin was talking in low, soothing tones to Neville, who looked awful, wringing his hands.
The Healer turned to face all four of them. Her name badge read Healer Orion.
“Mr. Longbottom brought Miss. Granger in about twenty minutes ago,” she looked at Neville, who was staring at the floor, tears running off his nose and dripping onto the floor.
“Neville,” asked a confused Ron, “what’s going on? What happened? I-I thought she was going to pick up some books…” he trailed off, staring at Neville.
Neville took a deep, faltering breath. “I was in the back room at the shop – I-I was experimenting with a p-potion. I went to the front to get some more ingredients, a-and I didn’t hear Hermione arrive,” he looked at Ron and Harry with desperation in his eyes. Lupin gripped his shoulder, his lips set in a grim line.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” asked Ron, perplexed.
“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, hanging his head in shame.
“What for?” Ron exploded, causing Neville to shrink back.
“Well… I was making a b-bad p-potion, really strong. I-I think Hermione arrived saw the cauldron a-and she must have tasted it or something. When I went back to it, I-I f-found her p-passed out, on the floor,” he lost all composure, and broke into sobs. Harry could barely understand Neville’s next words, but he felt a terrible sense of foreboding.
“I-I tried to bring her round, but nothing would work! S-so I brought her here…” he wiped his puffy red eyes miserably.
“What potion you were brewing?” asked Harry, his throat dry, praying that it wasn’t what he suspected.
Neville whispered something inaudible.
“What was that?” asked Ron, in a hard voice quite unlike his own. Harry saw that his ears were turning steadily red.
“Hellfire. I was brewing a Hellfire potion”-
Before he could finish the sentence, Ron violently slammed him against the wall.
“Ron, no!” shouted Harry.
“YOU IDIOT! WHAT DID YOU THINK YOU WERE PLAYING AT? I WAS THERE – WE WERE ALL THERE WHEN YOU SAID IT WAS THE DEADLIEST POISON IN THE WORLD”-
Harry, Lupin and Healer Orion were trying frantically to pull him off Neville, but in his rage he was too strong. Neville didn’t fight back, he just cried harder.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t know she was there – I would never have done it if I thought someone was around!”
“THAT’S IT? YOU’RE SORRY? WHAT IF SHE’S DIES BECAUSE OF YOU?”
-“No Mr. Weasley, that won’t happen!” shouted Healer Orion, trying to yank his arm away and break his chokehold on Neville. “She is still alive, we think she only inhaled the steam from the potion.”
Ron loosened his hold on Neville a little, turning his head sharply to look at the Healer.
“What difference will that make?” he was breathing hard.
“It’s the difference between life and death, Mr. Weasley,” she said gently, “because she only inhaled the vapour, there is still a chance that she will make a full recovery.”
“And if she doesn’t make a full recovery?” Ron asked, his voice breaking, furious tears filling his eyes.
“We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. Now please let your friend go. This was a terrible accident.”
Without looking at Neville, Ron released him.
“But how do you know she didn’t taste it?” he asked.
“Come on, Ron,” said Harry, letting go of his arm, “there’s no way Hermione would go tasting some random potion she just found – especially one that Neville was brewing – no offence, Neville.”
Neville sniffed and nodded his agreement. Healer Orion excused herself and went back into Hermione’s room.
“Harry’s right, Ron. Now why don’t you go and sit with her? I think I had better go and notify her parents.” Lupin clasped Ron’s hand for a moment, before turning and walking swiftly down the corridor.
Ron nodded numbly, and turned to face Harry, acting as though Neville didn’t exist. “What if she dies, Harry?” he whispered hoarsely.
“She won’t die,” said Harry firmly, appearing more hopeful than he felt inside, “we’ve all been through too much to lose someone now. Hermione’s tough - and she’d give you a right ear bashing for talking this way. Let’s go in and see her.” He wanted to say something reassuring to Neville, but couldn’t find the words. How could this be happening?
He opened the door, but Healer Orion stopped them.
“I’m sorry, but I can only permit one of you in at a time,” she looked apologetically from Harry to Ron.
“That’s okay,” said Harry, “you go,” he nodded to Ron. As the door closed behind Ron and the team of Healer’s, Harry turned around.
-“Don’t say it, Harry – I know it’s my fault,” tears were streaming silently down his face.
“No, I don’t think that! It was an accident – but… but maybe you should go home. There’s nothing more you can do…” Harry wasn’t sure how long Ron would leave him be – it would be safer all round if Neville gave him some space.
“No! I have to stay! I have to know that she’s okay! Harry, if anything happens to her-“
-“Don’t talk like that! All right, stay if you want to, but I think it might be a good idea if you weren’t around when Ron comes out.”
Neville nodded, the pain in his eyes intense and walked slowly away. Harry wished he could say something more comforting, but a new and very unpleasant thought was now buzzing around his head. The last thing he said to Hermione had been rude and sarcastic. What if she died and those were the last words he ever said to her?
The hours crawled by. Mr. and Mrs. Granger had arrived earlier, and rushed to their daughter’s side. Healer Orion had insisted that Ron leave Hermione’s room to make space for her parents. Ron had been reluctant at first, but one look at Mrs. Granger’s stricken face had been enough to make him move to the corridor where Harry waited fretfully. Lupin had gone to the Burrow to inform the Weasley’s, and was due back soon.
“D’you want some tea?” asked Harry, numbly. They were sitting side-by-side on a long wooden bench in the hallway. Every time a Healer or Medi-Witch appeared, Harry and Ron raised their heads hopefully, but they always walked straight past them.
Ron, head in hands, didn’t respond. Harry decided not to ask again.
“Where’s Neville?” Ron asked suddenly, looking at Harry with a frown. His eyes were bloodshot and ringed with dark circles.
“Dunno,” sighed Harry, rubbing his own eyes wearily.
“If I see him I will kill him,” Ron stated darkly.
Harry saw no point in arguing with Ron right now, he was too angry to see sense. His stomach was churning with guilt and worry, but he knew he couldn’t voice his fears to Ron. He looked around, wishing for Lupin to reappear, but the corridor was empty, the glowing orbs burning brighter as it grew ever darker outside. Sighing again, he got to his feet and walked to the door of Hermione’s room. He could hear a faint murmur of voices within but couldn’t make out actual words. Ron looked at him questioningly,
Harry shook his head. Ron heaved a choked sighed and put his head back in his hands. Harry paced the corridor - he hated feeling this feeling of helplessness but didn’t know what he could do about it. Hearing footsteps, Harry turned to see Lupin and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley hurrying towards them.
“Ron! Harry – how is she?” demanded Mrs. Weasley, enveloping Ron into a hug.
“We don’t really know anything yet,” said Harry, when Ron remained silent.
“What the devil was Neville doing brewing a Hellfire potion?” asked Mr. Weasley, sinking onto the bench next to his son.
“Dunno,” said a very subdued Ron.
Mr. and Mrs. Weasley shook their heads.
“Why don’t I get us all some tea?” suggested Lupin.
“Thank you, Remus, that’s very kind.
As Lupin left to fetch tea, the door to Hermione’s room opened and Mr. Granger appeared, looking thoroughly done in. Mr. Weasley jumped up to talk to him.
Mr. Granger shook his head wearily. “Perhaps we should be taking her to a-a normal hospital?”
“I’m afraid that won’t help,” said Mr. Weasley kindly, “they’re just not equipped to cope with this sort of illness.”
“Arthur’s right, Mr. Granger,” said Mrs. Weasley gently, “Hermione will be well again in no time – you’ll see. St. Mungo’s is the best wizarding hospital around.”
They stood in silence, no-one sure of what to say, until Lupin reappeared, carrying a large tray full of tea and sandwiches.
“I thought perhaps you might be hungry?” he said, levitating the tray in mid-air and passing around cups of tea. Mr. Granger took two and returned to his wife in Hermione’s room. Harry accepted the sandwich that Lupin handed him and began to eat, chewing automatically, not remotely hungry but glad to have something to do at last. Ron’s food and drink sat untouched by his side.
“Ronnie – why don’t you and Harry come home for a bit? It’s late – you could have a nice little sleep and come back in the morning…”
Ron and Harry shook their heads. They weren’t going anywhere until they knew Hermione was all right. Sensing this, Mrs. Weasley didn’t push it any further. About an hour later, they gathered their cloaks and prepared to leave; Mr. Weasley had to go to work and Mrs. Weasley was going to let the twins know that Ron wouldn’t be at work.
“We don’t want to leave you…” said Mrs. Weasley fretfully.
“Don’t worry, Molly. I’ll stay here – I’ve already told Nymphadora so she’s not expecting me home.”
Mrs. Weasley nodded. Looking at Harry, she said, “Do you think I ought to let Ginny know? I don’t want to worry her but she and Hermione are so close – I think she’d be very upset if she heard about it from someone else,” her mouth twisted with indecision.
“Tell her – she would want to know. You can use Hedwig if you like.”
The Weasley’s nodded before Apparating home, leaving Harry, Lupin and Ron to sit in silence, waiting, waiting for news of Hermione.
Harry was dreaming; he was squashed inside the giant cauldron at Hagrid’s hut, and Fang, Hagrid’s beloved boarhound was licking his face with a rough tongue.
“Harry Potter, sir?” Fang was saying, in an oddly squeaky voice.
Harry was confused – since when could Fang talk? The calling became more insistent, now accompanied by shaking.
“Mmm – geroff me…” he mumbled sleepily.
“Harry Potter, you is waking up now, sir!”
Harry’s eyes opened grudgingly, realising he must have fallen asleep on the hospital bench. His whole body was stiff and he had a terrible crick in his neck. Swinging his feet on to the floor, he saw that Dobby was standing in front of him, gazing at him with worried eyes. By his side stood Winky, another house elf that worked at Hogwarts.
“Dobby – Winky? What are you doing here?” he rubbed his eyes blearily, feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach as the events of last night came rushing back.
“We is here to visit Miss Hermione, sir!” said Dobby, who held a small bunch of flowers in one tiny hand.
“What? How did you know she was here?”
“Dobby is keeping a special eye on Miss Ginny. Dobby is knowing she is Harry Potter’s most favourite thing in the whole world so Dobby is looking after her so Harry Potter need not fret, sir! Dobby was in Gryffindor Tower when Harry Potter’s owl brought a letter. Miss Ginny was very upset Harry Potter! Dobby has promised her that he will check on Miss. Hermione straight away, so Dobby and Winky is here!”
“Oh,” Harry thought he had got the general gist of what Dobby was trying to tell him. “Is Ginny okay?”
“Miss Ginny is telling Dobby to say she is visiting as soon as school will let her, Harry Potter!” Dobby’s eyes glowed in the reflected light from the overhead orbs.
“Right. Have you seen Ron?” he asked, realising that his friend was nowhere to be seen.
“No, Harry Potter sir. Is you wanting Dobby and Winky to find him?”
“No, it’s okay,” he replied, massaging his sore neck.
Winky, who had remained silent so far finally spoke up, “Is Miss Hermione going to d-die, Master Potter?”
Harry looked at the little house elf. It had taken almost two years, but Winky had finally come to terms with being set free by her original master, Bartemius Crouch. Hermione had worked very hard to make her see that she was better off, and while Winky still didn’t quite agree with elves being paid wages and getting the same rights as wizards, she had come to revere Hermione as Dobby did Harry.
“No, Winky,” he said tiredly, “Hermione won’t die, but she’s very sick,” his stomach tightened as he recalled how Hermione had looked last night. She had to be all right. He rubbed his neck again, wincing as he felt something clunk.
“Is Harry Potter all right, sir?” Dobby looked at Harry with concern.
“Yeah, just slept funny,” he replied with a grimace.
“Dobby will fix it, Harry Potter, sir!”
And before he could stop him, Dobby had hopped on the bench and placed one of his little hands on Harry’s neck.
“Er, Dobby”- Harry began, remembering Dobby’s other attempts to ‘help’ him in the past.
His neck suddenly grew very hot, and he felt all the knots in his neck and back disappear. Dobby took a tentative step back and looked at Harry with giant eyes.
“Is you better, Harry Potter?”
Harry rolled his head from side-to-side.
“Yeah! Thanks, Dobby! Look, I’m going to check on Hermione,” he indicated her closed door, “you two wait here.”
He opened the door quietly, to see Ron sitting at Hermione’s bedside, holding her lifeless hand in his own.
“Hi,” he said softly, coming in and sitting on Hermione’s other side.
“Hi,” said Ron numbly.
“How is she?”
“Oh. Where are her parents?”
“Gone for some breakfast. I said I’d stay with her.”
Harry looked at Hermione’s pale face, framed by limp hair and gently brushed a lock from her forehead. It was slowly losing the sheen from the hair potion she had used for work.
“Er, Ron – Dobby and Winky are outside. They came to visit Hermione. Is it all right if they come in for a second?”
Ron looked up, looking as though he had forgotten that Harry was in the room.
“Huh? Oh, yeah – okay.”
Harry went to the door and beckoned to the elves; they were huddled quietly together on the wooden bench. As they entered the room, they let out a cry.
“Oh, Miss Hermione!” sobbed Winky, staring at Hermione from the foot of the bed. Dobby’s ears drooped sadly as he conjured a small vase for the flowers he had brought.
“Hello, Master Wheezy, sir,” he said quietly.
Ron gave Dobby and Winky a weak smile. They produced a homemade ‘get-well’ card that all the other Hogwarts house-elves had signed. Dobby had also made what Harry could only assume was a woolly hat, with the letters S.P.E.W embroidered on the front. Harry and Ron exchanged a glance; Hermione’s dream was to set all house-elves free, but so far, Dobby was her only convert.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger returned from breakfast a few minutes later, just as Dobby and Winky were preparing to leave. They stared at the elves with a mixture of fright and fascination; though they had heard much about house-elves from their daughter, they had never seen one before and Harry could tell that seeing two at once was probably a bit much for them. Hurrying them out of the room, he bid farewell to Dobby and Winky, handing Dobby a hastily scribbled note for Ginny.
The afternoon wore on, bringing more visitors. Lupin had returned to check on everyone, bringing flowers and a promise that Tonks would visit later in the evening. Mrs. Weasley arrived at lunchtime with more flowers, plus sandwiches and a change of clothes for Harry and Ron. Mr. Granger emerged from his daughter’s room in the late afternoon. He and his wife were both dentists and he had to go and perform an emergency root canal. Ron took his place in Hermione’s room, watching over her with Mrs. Granger. Left on his own, Harry decided to go and find Neville. He had a sneaking suspicion about the Hellfire potion and he wanted answers.
Harry finally located Neville downstairs in the main waiting room. He was slouched over, head down, cloak drawn tightly around him. Taking a deep breath, Harry approached him.
Neville jumped, relaxing slightly at the sight of his friend.
“Harry! What is it? Is she”-
-“There’s no change,” interrupted Harry, as gently as he could, “let’s go and have a hot drink – it’s freezing down here.” A stiff November breeze followed every time someone entered or exited through the magical glass entrance.
-“Don’t worry, Ron’s with Hermione.”
Neville nodded and following Harry, they climbed the staircase to the fifth floor visitor’s tearoom. Once they were settled with a strong cup of coffee each, Harry cleared his throat:
“Neville, why were you brewing a Hellfire potion?”
Neville fiddled with his coffee cup for a long moment. Looking up, he said, “I think you know why, Harry.”
“To use on Lestrange.” It was a statement rather than a question.
Neville looked at him defiantly. “Is it a crime?”
“Only when it puts my best friend in the hospital.”
Neville looked down, tears filling his already puffy eyes. “I never meant for that to happen! I thought I was alone – I had no idea she would come to the shop!”
“I know, I know,” Harry relented, feeling guilty. He knew it was nobody’s fault, but the image of Hermione’s corpse-like form was at the forefront of his mind.
“But Neville,” he said, leaning in and gripping Neville’s arm, “you’ve got to be careful! Ron’s parents are already asking questions about why you were brewing it, and they won’t be the last! No-one can find out about Lestrange!”
Wiping away the tears that were threatening to spill from his eyes, Neville nodded. “I understand, and don’t worry, I’ll explain everything – I-I’ll think of an excuse.”
Harry said nothing, sipping his coffee. Deciding to let Neville off the hook, he changed the subject.
“What are you doing about the shop?”
“I closed it. It doesn’t seem right to keep it open while Hermione is…” he trailed off sadly, not making eye contact with Harry.
“She’ll be okay,” he said, for what felt like the millionth time, “and don’t worry about Ron – he’ll calm down eventually. I’m going to go and see if there’s any news.” He drained his coffee cup and left Neville alone with his guilt.
Trudging back down the stairs, he found Ron pacing back and forth outside Hermione’s door.
“There you are, Harry! I’ve had a brilliant idea!”
Perplexed, Harry allowed himself to be dragged down the hall, and into what appeared to be a supply cupboard. Slamming the door shut, Ron turned to him, a triumphant look in his eyes.
“I know how we can save Hermione!”
“It’s so simple – I can’t believe we didn’t think of it!”
“Ron! What are you talking about? I hope it’s not a Bezoar, because that won’t work”-
-“No! It’s better than that! Harry,” he clutched his friend by the elbows, “we have to get Fawkes! His tears can heal her!”
Harry gaped at Ron. “Of course!” he slapped his forehead, “I can’t believe we didn’t think of it!”
Bursting out of the cupboard, they dashed back to Hermione’s room, skidding to a halt in front of Lupin.
“Harry, Ron! What’s the matter?” Lupin looked at them in alarm.
“We need Fawkes!” they chorused loudly, earning them a disapproving look from a passing Medi-Witch.
“What are you talking about?” comprehension dawned on Lupin’s face, “Ooh. I don’t know if that will work”-
-“Of course it will!” said Ron confidently. “It worked for Harry!”
“Yes, but Dumbledore’s will specifically stipulates that only Harry can call on Fawkes in times of great need.”
“So tell me how to call him,” said Harry, urgently.
“Well, you simply say his name, Harry, but I warn you – it might not work”-
-“Thanks, Lupin!” they hurried to Hermione’s door.
After suggesting that Mrs. Granger go and stretch her legs for ten minutes, they closed the door firmly. Standing either side of Hermione’s bed, they looked excitedly at each other. Harry took a steadying breath, his heart thumping loudly in his ears. He cleared his throat:
“Fawkes!” he said, in a clear, confident voice.
They waited with bated breath. Nothing happened. Frowning at Ron, Harry tried again:
“Fawkes?” this time his voice was more insistent, and an edge of panic was creeping in. Still nothing happened.
“I don’t understand,” said Ron, biting his lower lip, “why won’t it work?”
Harry’s frown deepened as he opened the door. Poking his head out, he hissed to Lupin:
“It’s not working! We need your help.”
Sighing, Lupin stood and joined them in Hermione’s room. She lay still on the bed, the miniscule rise and fall of her chest the only clue that she was still alive.
“I was afraid this might happen,” Lupin began, carefully studying his shoes. “Harry, I believe that Dumbledore left Fawkes to you to help you in times of need – I don’t think that he can be called into service for anyone else. Either that,” he went on quickly, as Ron opened his mouth to protest furiously, “or Hermione doesn’t need the life-saving help that Fawkes can provide.”
His words hung in the air. Harry felt guilt stab at his chest. He could use Fawkes but his best friend couldn’t? His eyes darted to the other side of the bed, where Ron was standing. He was staring at Hermione, white as a ghost, his last hope dashed.
One week turned into two, two turned into three and before Harry knew it, it was nearly the end of November. Hermione continued to lie motionless in her bed, but she was no longer the deathly shade of grey she had been when Neville had first brought her to St. Mungo’s – a distinct flush of pink had returned to her cheeks. Two weeks prior, Healer Orion had sat Mr. and Mrs. Granger, Harry and Ron down in her office and explained:
“When Hellfire potion is ingested, it causes all internal organs to melt,” she paused as Mrs. Granger gasped with horror, clutching her husband’s hand.
“However,” Healer Orion spoke again, “from what Mr. Longbottom tells me, and from how Miss Granger is responding to treatment, I would say that she definitely did no more than inhale the vapour. As I explained before, this is tremendously preferable to actually swallowing the potion, but there is still significant damage to repair. When the vapour of Hellfire potion is inhaled, the steam lingers in the body, slowly strangling the internal organs.”
Mrs. Granger burst into tears; Mr. Granger leaned in to comfort her while Harry and Ron stared at Healer Orion with horror.
“Well what are you going to do about it?” Ron demanded, half out of his chair.
“Mr. Weasley, please let me finish,” she replied sternly, reminding Harry for an instant of Professor McGonagall. Ron sank back down, but was so tense he looked as though poised for flight.
“As I was saying,” Healer Orion continued, turning to the Grangers’. “We are administering specialised potions to your daughter around the clock. The reason it has taken us so long to find a solution is that we have very little experience with poisoning from a Hellfire plant – I don’t know if you are aware that the plant in question is a Class A Non-Tradable Substance?” she raised her eyebrows imperiously at Harry and Ron. Mr. Granger frowned at them too, causing Harry to sink lower in his chair.
“No, we didn’t know that,” he replied simply, unwilling to get Neville into trouble. Ron gave him a quick look but remained silent.
“Well,” the Healer continued, with a hard look, “the Ministry will have to be informed, and they will probably want to talk to you and your friend Mr. Longbottom.” Harry and Ron said nothing.
“I hardly think Harry, Ron or Neville are involved in anything illegal,” Mrs. Granger spoke up sharply, “Now if you don’t mind Healer, can we please get back to my daughter? What exactly do you intend to do for her?”
Harry and Ron exchanged a surprised look. They had never really had much to do with Hermione’s parents, as nearly all their holidays were spent at the Burrow with the Weasley family, so they were startled to hear Mrs. Granger sticking up for them.
“As for your daughter,” Healer Orion continued in a slightly softer tone, “it is my opinion that she is responding very well to treatment,” Mr. and Mrs. Granger smiled at each other with relief, “and it is my hope that she will be returning to consciousness within a matter of weeks.”
“Weeks?” exclaimed Harry and Ron.
“Please do not underestimate the severity of her condition,” the Healer reverted to stern tones. “Miss Granger is lucky to be alive – if Mr. Longbottom had not brought her in when he did…” her words died away, as she looked delicately to Mr. and Mrs. Granger. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have patients to see.”
It was a slightly happier group that left the office. Harry felt as though the knot in his stomach had loosened slightly, though now there was the added worry that the Ministry would get involved, and possibly ask questions that could lead to Bellatrix Lestrange, and get Neville in trouble to boot. Deciding to worry about that later, he turned to Ron as the Grangers’ hurried back to Hermione’s bedside:
“Well, that’s good news isn’t it?”
Ron nodded glumly, “Yeah, but still – how bad must it be if she takes weeks to come round? The only other person I know that’s been that badly off was you – and that was after you fought You-Know-Who and the Ministry of Magic collapsed on you! All Hermione did was inhale some steam!”
“Yeah, well Neville told us that that plant was bad news,” Harry replied, ignoring Ron’s glower at the mention of Neville’s name. “Listen,” he began again, slightly hesitantly, “Lupin and Tonks moved out a fortnight ago,” Ron looked at him questioningly. “So I was wondering if you still wanted to move your stuff to Grimmauld Place?” Ron stared at him as though he was mad.
“Before you go yelling at me,” Harry rushed on, “Yes, I do know that our best friend has been lying in a hospital bed for weeks now,” his words were tumbling out in his anxiousness to get to his point, “but I thought it might be a nice surprise for Hermione if we had the house ready for her when she wakes up…” he looked at Ron, hoping he wasn’t about to get punched.
For the first time in weeks, a smile broke out over Ron’s tired face.
“Harry, that is a brilliant idea!”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 29 ~ To SPEW Or Not To Spew?
“Are you out of your minds?” gasped Mrs. Weasley.
Harry had managed to drag Ron home from the hospital for the first time since Hermione had taken ill, and they were having a quick dinner at the Burrow before returning to St. Mungo’s. They had begun talking about the best way to move their things to Grimmauld Place when Mrs. Weasley had dropped her fork in astonishment.
“How can you think of moving out now? Hermione’s in the hospital, you’ve not been to work for weeks and Harry hasn’t even begun his studies for his NEWT’s! You need to stay here – you don’t want to be fussing over running a household with all that’s been going on!”
Ron was about to answer when Harry intervened.
“Er, actually Mrs. Weasley,” he began, pushing his haddock around his plate, “we have someone to look after the house for us.” Harry looked up at her sheepishly.
“We do?” asked Ron in surprise.
“You do?” asked Mrs. Weasley at the same time.
Wisely, Mr. Weasley remained quiet, deciding he would be better off helping himself to more potatoes than to get involved.
Harry cleared his throat. “Yeah! Dobby’s going to work for me – us.”
“We’re getting a house-elf?” Ron crowed in delight, momentarily forgetting his worries about Hermione.
Harry nodded, pleased to see his friend so happy.
“You’re getting a – do you mean to tell me – a house-elf?” sputtered Mrs. Weasley. “How on earth did you manage that?”
Harry shrugged. “Dobby heard that we were moving out, and he said he wanted to come and work for me, so…” he gave Mrs. Weasley a lopsided grin, hoping that a bit of charm would get him out of trouble.
She took a deep breath, about to retort when Mr. Weasley hastily stepped in.
“Well! I think that sounds like a fine idea, don’t you Molly? Now we don’t need to worry about the boys not eating properly,” he speared a piece of broccoli onto his fork, “and I suspect that they will always have clean underwear.” He nodded solemnly at his wife, whose lips were pressed into a tight line, eyes narrowed, obviously not in agreement with the situation, but knowing when she was beat.
“Well,” said Ron, hastily gulping down the last of his supper, deciding it was time to hotfoot it out of there, “thanks for the food mum. I’m going back to St. Mungo’s – you ready?”
Harry nodded, pushing his chair back and quickly getting up from the table. Within minutes, they had Apparated to London and were sliding through the entrance to the hospital.
They checked on Hermione, who was still lying quietly in her bed. She reminded Harry of the Muggle story, Snow White – not that Aunt Petunia had ever read it to him, but he had flicked through it once when the Dursley’s were out and had forgotten to lock him in his cupboard. Flanked by her sleepy looking parents, Hermione’s room was now overflowing with flowers and get-well cards, and a light floral perfume hung in the air. Tugging Ron out of the room, Harry reminded him that they were due to start plans for the redecorating of Grimmauld Place.
“… and Dobby’s coming to meet us,” he consulted his watch, “in five minutes! We’re meeting him in the tea-room.”
As they climbed the stairs, Ron looked troubled.
“What’s the matter?”
“Harry,” Ron frowned, ignoring the portraits that were trying to get them to stop and tell them the story of Voldemort’s defeat, “maybe it’s not such a good idea to have a house-elf…”
“Eh? Why?” Harry asked, perplexed by Ron’s sudden change of heart.
“Come on, Harry! Have you forgotten that we’ll be living with the great elf crusader?”
“How could I forget? Don’t worry, I’ve explained to Dobby that Hermione’ll want him to have good wages, holidays and all that stuff.”
“How did he take it?”
“Well, he reckons Hermione is mad,” Ron snickered, “but he says he'll do whatever’s necessary.”
“Harry Potter, sir! Master Wheezy! Dobby is here sirs!”
Giving a slight wave of acknowledgement, Harry and Ron wove their way between the tables in the tearoom, to where Dobby was bouncing up and down on his chair. Keeping his eyes averted from the curious stares of other witches and wizards, Harry hissed at Dobby:
“All right, Dobby! We see you! Sit down!”
Obediently, the little elf dropped into the chair, his eyes barely able to look over the top of the table. Harry sighed to himself, wondering if this was in fact such a good idea, while Ron collected a stack of trays for Dobby to sit on, elevating him so he could participate in the discussion.
“Thank you, Master Wheezy!” Dobby exclaimed, his ears waggling in excitement. “Is you wanting Dobby to fetch you some tea, sirs?”
“Nah, that’s all right Dobby, you sit tight – I’ll get them,” said Ron, guessing correctly that Harry didn’t want Dobby attracting any more attention than he already was. Dobby gasped and leant in towards Harry, who had taken a seat opposite.
“Harry Potter! Your greatest friend Master Wheezy is so kind, so generous, so”-
-“Calm down, Dobby – he’s only gone to get some tea.”
But Dobby was positively trembling with excitement, wriggling about in his seat.
“Look,” said Harry, as Ron returned with a tray of tea and biscuits, “you need to get used to the fact that we’re not like your old masters – we’re not even your new masters! We’re going to pay you to work for us, because we like you”-
At these words, Dobby let out a cry of happiness that he quickly smothered with his little hands, staring at Harry, his eyes growing ever larger the longer he sat there.
-“And you don’t have to call us master, or sir; Harry, Ron and Hermione will do.”
“Oh no, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is never calling you that! It’s not befitting the most righteous, selfless, noble heroes! Dobby might be taking wages and p-p-pension,” he wrinkled his nose in distaste at this dire thought, “but you must be addressed rightly, sir!”
Harry sighed and poured three cups of tea. “Come on, Dobby! We’re only eighteen – we’re too young to be saddled with titles!”
“Well, I don’t mind…” said Ron nonchalantly, popping a biscuit into his mouth whole.
“Ron! You were the one that said Hermione would go spare! How do you think she’ll feel if Dobby’s running around calling us master?”
Ron paled slightly. “Oh yeah, good point. Ron will do just fine, Dobby.”
“Now, let’s get a few things straight, Dobby,” Harry continued firmly but not unkindly, “No masters, no slavery, ten Galleons a week,” Dobby looked nauseous at this, “every Sunday off and a proper bedroom – no sleeping in a weird nest or anything like that.” He stared hard at Dobby, who had tears leaking from his eyes.
“What’s up, Dobby?” asked Ron, who didn’t have as much experience with elves as Harry.
Wiping his watery eyes, Dobby took a shaky breath. “Dobby is not taking all of Harry Potter’s money! I is getting one Galleon a week at Hogwarts and even that is more than Dobby needs! And I is not taking every Sunday off! People will think Dobby is a bad elf! Dobby is a good elf!” his squeaky voice was attracting attention again.
“Dobby,” Harry whispered urgently, reaching out to pat the elf’s spindly arm, “We don’t mean to insult you – but you are very good at your job,” he paused while Dobby gave a watery sniff, “and you deserve to be paid properly. Besides, you know that Hermione will insist on it, and trust me, you don’t want to get into an argument with her. You’ll only get me and Ron into trouble if you don’t accept our terms.”
Ron nodded his agreement vehemently. “If it makes you feel any better,” he added, “you can have the smallest bedroom,” Harry nodded at this suggestion, “and you can make me breakfast on Sunday mornings – you know, so the day’s not totally wasted…”
“Oh thank you, Master Wheezy! You is a great and”-
-“Before you get going again Dobby,” Harry interrupted quickly, “here is the address.” He handed the elf a small piece of parchment. “Once you’ve memorised it, destroy it. I still want the location of the house kept a secret.”
Dobby nodded solemnly, swallowing the parchment without another word. “Dobby is proud to keep Harry Potter’s secrets, sir!”
Harry stared at the elf for a moment. “Er, good. Well, are you ready for your first job?”
“You just names it sir!” Dobby’s eyes were alight with excitement.
“Right! I want you to get over to the house and clear out every last remaining bit of horrible furniture, Dark wizard stuff and Kreacher’s bed. It’s in the boiler cupboard, and I don’t want any traces of it left. Me and Ron are going to go shopping for some new stuff.”
“Yes sir, Harry Potter!” cried Dobby happily, leaping to his feet and saluting them both.
“And pick yourself out a bedroom – there are at least eight to choose from.”
And with that, Dobby disappeared with a sharp crack, leaving a bemused Harry and Ron to finish the biscuits.
“So if you have this room, I’ll have this one, and Hermione can have that one?”
Harry and Ron were sitting at Hermione’s bedside in the little hospital room, a large blueprint of Grimmauld Place between them. The Grangers’, a bit more relaxed now that they knew Hermione would be okay, had gone home to get their first good nights sleep in four weeks. Loathe to leave her alone, Harry and Ron had been making plans for the house at her bedside, relaying ideas to Dobby who had taken up the challenge with great gusto. The house was nearly ready now, and as a surprise for Hermione, they had transformed the large drawing room into a miniature version of the Gryffindor common room. It contained four overstuffed, squashy armchairs, (one for each of them and one for a visitor) each with its own scarlet and gold covered cushion, made lovingly by Dobby; a wide basket, lined with fluffy blankets for Crookshanks and a tall stand with a perch each for Hedwig and Pigwidgeon. They had covered three of the four walls with floor to ceiling bookcases, and with Mr. Granger’s help, had transported Hermione’s considerable book collection, plus Harry’s more modest selection and one or two Chudley Canons books that belonged to Ron, so every inch of the bookcase was full. Fred and George had contributed by building them a levitating ladder that would enable Hermione to reach even the highest book. Above the welcoming fireplace, Harry had placed framed photographs of their families and pictures taken of the three of them throughout their years at Hogwarts. Dobby had surpassed himself by knitting an enormous scarlet and gold rug that reached to the far corners of the room, matching his woolly cushion covers and in keeping with the Gryffindor theme. Dobby had also framed Ron and Hermione’s NEWT certificates and, to his great embarrassment, Harry’s Order of Merlin First Class.
“Dobby, is this really necessary?” Harry had whined, when he saw what Dobby was intending to do.
“Yes Harry Potter! Dobby is very proud of his new master! Dobby wants all Harry Potter’s visitors to know what Harry Potter did!”
“I’m not your master, Dobby!” Harry sighed, snatching a cutting from the Daily Prophet out of Dobby’s hand. “And no newspaper cuttings! I know Hermione still reads it, but I don’t have any time for this paper – they printed nothing but lies about me when I was at school.”
Dobby’s eyes widened in surprise. “Then Dobby is having no time for it either Harry Potter, sir!” He balled up the article about Harry defeating Voldemort and threw it in the bin, but remained resolute in his insistence that the Order of Merlin go on display. Harry had given in rather than argue the point further – sometimes there was no winning with Dobby. Despite a few more disagreements with the elf, who would happily have plastered the house with pictures of Harry if he could, he and Ron had managed to have fun fixing up the old house. Even Mrs. Weasley had come round to the idea now, and had gone shopping with Dobby to make sure they had practical things, like new bedding and kitchen utensils. And so, a few days later, Harry and Ron found themselves at Hermione’s bedside, whispering ideas back and forth, torn between worry for Hermione and impatience; when would she wake up and see all their hard work? Harry had tried to broach the delicate subject of Neville, but Ron determinedly feigned deafness every time the name was mentioned. Harry had reluctantly decided to leave it alone for now, until Hermione awoke, whenever that would be, and instead, brought up the other issue that was troubling him.
“She’ll kill me, won’t she?”
“Harry, we’ve been over this a million times!” Ron hissed softly, “Will she kill you? Probably, but I reckon Dobby’s doing all right out of us! Ten Galleons a week is not to be sniffed at! Plus, we already decided; Hermione gets to set up a little pension fund and mum told me his room is really nice – we’ll just have to convince Hermione that Dobby is the role model for all aspiring house-elves who’ve lost their minds and are in love with spew!”
Harry smothered a laugh. “I know, can you imagine? We’ll probably have elves coming and going at all hours of the night, popping in for the latest spew t-shirt”-
-“Yeah, and getting all sorts of spew-ing advice from the queen of all things spew”-
-“Telling her how spewtiful she is”-
Ron snorted with laughter, causing the pumpkin juice he was sipping to squirt out of his nose, while Harry wiped hysterical tears from his eyes. They had had so much pent up worry over Hermione for so long, that it was a relief to laugh now, albeit quietly.
-“Or how spewpurb her organisation is”-
This was too much for Harry and Ron. They cracked up, forgetting to keep their voices low. At first, neither of them noticed the murmur from Hermione’s bed.
Harry and Ron stared at each other in astonishment; had Hermione just spoken? Ron dropped to his knees by the side of the bed, clutching her hand, while Harry looked on anxiously.
“It’s not…” her voice was growing sturdier.
“Hermione, are you in pain?” asked Harry, alarmed. He and Ron leaned in as close as possible, to try and catch what she was saying. “Shall I get the Healer?” Harry asked, nervously. Hermione groaned, and Harry and Ron froze. She spoke again, in a stronger voice:
“It’s not spew it’s S.P.E.W!”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 30 ~ A Convincing Contract
“…And that’s all I remember really. I took the Floo Network to the shop, saw the cauldron – I thought it was odd that there was a potion brewing, so I leaned in and sniffed it. Next thing I know, I wake up here - are you sure it’s December? It feels like only a minute ago it was Halloween!”
Hermione was propped up by pillows, speaking is a slightly slurred voice, as though she’d been drinking Firewhiskey. Around the bed stood her parents, Harry, Ron and Healer Orion, who was pouring a potion solution into a goblet for Hermione to drink.
Harry and Ron could only grin while Hermione continued in a raspy voice. “One thing I do remember is hearing voices… I could hear you,” she looked at her teary parents, “and Healers and Medi-Witches, but it was all really vague, like…like I was underwater.” Her eyes drooped as a wave of exhaustion hit. Suddenly her voice hardened. “But eventually it got clearer – then I remember hearing you two,” she flicked a stern look at Harry and Ron, “making fun of S.P.E.W – I heard you”-
-“That’s enough now,” said Healer Orion, thrusting the glass under Hermione’s nose, and tipping half of the contents into her open mouth, preventing Hermione from finishing her sentence, much to Harry and Ron’s relief.
Hermione choked down the potion while Healer Orion refilled the goblet.
Coughing slightly, Hermione fixed her friends with another fierce look, although her voice was weak, “Is it true that Dobby is working for you – for us?”
Harry and Ron nodded meekly.
“Don’t you worry your head about that now, Miss Granger,” instructed Healer Orion, trying to get her patient to swallow another glassful of potion.
“Yeah, Hermione,” Ron piped up; seizing the opportunity to defend their actions while Hermione couldn’t talk. “We’re paying him ten Galleons a week, and he gets every Sunday off – it’s a better job than a lot of wizards have! Besides,” he added, looking beseechingly at Harry to help him out, “he begged Harry for the job – practically stalked him!”
Harry nodded quickly. Healer Orion cleared her throat.
“Excuse me - do you mean to tell me,” she asked incredulously, “that you are paying a house-elf wages?” she looked from Harry to Ron to Hermione as though they were mad.
Hermione looked furious, but was prevented from spitting out a savage retort as Healer Orion tipped another load of potion into her mouth. All Hermione could do was blink angrily as she swallowed. A moment later, her eyes closed heavily and she was sleeping soundly, a gentle snuffling snore emitting from her.
“Whew! That was close!” Ron exclaimed, as he and Harry quietly exited, leaving the Grangers’ alone with their daughter.
“Yeah – I thought she was going to drag herself out of bed just to wallop us”-
Harry stopped abruptly. Ron was about to ask what was wrong, when he looked up and saw what Harry was looking at.
“Neville!” said Harry, looking quickly from him to Ron. Neville was standing at the end of the corridor, shifting uncertainly from one foot to the other. From his sheepish expression, it was clear that he had sneaked up with the hope of checking on Hermione undetected.
A hard looked crossed Ron’s face. Neville stepped forward hesitantly. “How is she?”
“What’s it to you?”
Harry rolled his eyes. “She’s doing much better, really – she’s awake and already telling us off – at least she was until the Healer gave her a Sleeping Potion.” He ignored the furious looks Ron was shooting at him.
“Oh thank goodness!” cried Neville, sliding down the wall to a sitting position. He buried his head in his arms and let out a muffled sob. Harry looked at Ron pleadingly.
“Can’t you let it go?” he hissed. “You heard from Hermione herself – she turned up at the shop when Neville thought he was alone – how was he supposed to know she’d go sniffing the potion?”
Ron’s jaw remained set as he stared at Harry. Neville’s relieved sobs increased, until his expression softened. He walked slowly to where Neville was crouched and nudged him with his foot. Neville looked up, the light from the overhead orbs making his tear stained face glisten. Ron held out his hand, which Neville took hesitantly, obviously unsure as to whether Ron was helping him up to make it that much easier to thrash him, or simply to help him up. Once he was standing, they stared at each other for a long moment.
“I’m sorry,” whispered Neville, “I never meant for this to happen – if I could have swapped places with her, I would.”
Ron continued to stare for a moment longer, before his face relaxed. “I know,” he muttered, “I’m sorry for being such a prat – I just”-
-“It’s okay – I completely understand – I would have done the same”-
-“All right you two!” Exasperated, Harry interrupted this exchange. “Can we please go and get something to eat? I’m glad you’re friends again, but I’m starving!”
That evening, Harry and Ron returned to the Burrow to let Mr and Mrs Weasley know the good news. Using their fireplace, Harry, or more precisely, Harry’s head, informed Lupin and Tonks of Hermione’s recovery.
“Wotcher, Harry!” Tonks had screeched from their new sitting room, “That’s excellent news! Tell Hermione I’ll pop by to see her tomorrow.”
“Will do,” said Harry, his head revolving as he returned it to the kitchen of the Burrow. He and Ron wrote a joint letter to Ginny, who had not been allowed to visit Hermione so far, due to the huge amount of NEWT homework she had to do, and sent Pigwidgeon to Hagrid to let him know the good news. They decided to spend the night at the Burrow, and return to St. Mungo’s first thing in the morning. Following a hasty breakfast of bacon sandwiches and cups of tea, they were on their way. After a quick nod to the Welcome Witch, they were soon outside Hermione’s room. The door was slightly ajar, and as they approached, they could hear Hermione talking.
“…It’s a standard contract, Dobby – nothing to worry about! It merely states that you will be paid ten Galleons a week, and if for any reason we default on that payment, you have the right to take action against us”-
Harry and Ron heard a whimpering noise that sounded like it came from Dobby.
-“There’s really no need to look like that Dobby! This is purely to look after you. Now, if I can draw your attention to Clause B: Duties, you’ll see that you are perfectly at liberty to refuse to wash certain items, for example”-
“Hermione!” Harry had pushed through the door, surveying her with a mixture of amusement and annoyance. She was sitting up in bed, looking much better than she had the previous night, a large sheaf of parchment on her lap, and a quill and ink on her beside table. Dobby was sitting at a chair by her side, looking terribly upset.
“What are you doing?” he asked, knowing full well what she was up to.
“It’s just a little something I put together - I’m just making sure everything is above board – if we’re going to have Dobby working for us then it’s vital that we do right by him!”
“But Hermione,” said Ron, who had followed Harry into her room, “we already are doing right by him!”
Dobby nodded emphatically at this, his eyes swimming with tears. “Dobby isn’t wanting all this Harry Potter! Dobby is happy to be cooking and cleaning – and Dobby does want to wash your underwear, sir!” he indicated the pile of parchment on the bed. “Dobby is a good elf!”
Harry reached over and patted him kindly on the arm. “I know you are, and so does Hermione, don’t you?” he gave Hermione a stern look, who looked surprised.
“What? Oh, Dobby! Of course I do! I just want you to have fair and equal working conditions – I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that you’re not excellent at your job!”
Dobby’s ears perked up slightly as he wiped his eyes with a little hanky.
“Why don’t you get back to the house? I bet there’s still stuff to do before we take Hermione home…” suggested Ron, steering Dobby out of the room. Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Harry cut her off.
“Now before you go saying anything, Dobby is officially on the clock, and very keen to get home, aren’t you Dobby?”
“Oh, yes Harry Potter! You just waits ‘til you see the house, Miss Hermione! You will love it – and then you will know Dobby is a good elf!”
“Oh, Dobby, that’s quite all right”- Hermione started to say, but Dobby disappeared with a sharp crack, leaving her looking a little abashed. “I didn’t mean to suggest that he wasn’t a good housekeeper,” she began looking worried, “I just”-
-“Don’t worry about it,” said Ron, soothingly, “Dobby is wicked though, isn’t he Harry? It takes him like two seconds to clear stuff up – just like that!” he clicked his fingers for effect. When Hermione rolled her eyes, Harry thought he had better change the subject.
“Anyway, how are you feeling?” he perched on the end of her bed, while Ron took the chair that Dobby had vacated.
“Much better! Well, I suppose I couldn’t feel anything while I was in the coma, but compared to yesterday, I feel great! But never mind that! What’s happening,” she lowered her voice, even though they were quite alone, “with Bellatrix Lestrange?”
Harry and Ron exchanged slightly sheepish looks.
“Er, well, the thing is…”
“When you were taken to hospital…”
“We came as soon as we heard, and”-
-“And we haven’t really been home since.” They trailed off lamely.
Hermione looked from Harry to Ron with an incredulous expression. “Do you mean to tell me that for the past month, you’ve done nothing to find Lestrange?”
They each gave a tiny nod.
“So for the past month, you’ve done nothing but sit in this hospital, waiting for me to get better?”
They nodded again. Then, to Harry’s great surprise, Hermione burst into tears and threw her arms wide open. He exchanged a mystified glance with Ron, before moving forwards to accept her embrace. She hugged them tightly, still sobbing like a loon. Ron caught Harry’s eye over her shoulder and mouthed the word mental. Whatever Ron said though, thought Harry, he looked awfully pleased right now. Harry on the other hand felt like he was being strangled, so gently disentangled himself from Hermione’s grip.
Taking the hint, she also let go of Ron, and gave a shuddering laugh. Wiping her eyes, she looked at Harry. “You two – oh!” She hiccoughed and asked, “So what about the Map?”
Harry’s face darkened for a moment. “Don’t mention that Map – it was a complete waste of time.”
Deciding not to push the subject, Hermione turned the conversation back to Dobby. “So, what’s Dobby doing at Grimmauld Place?”
“Just clearing up some random stuff – we wanted everything perfect for when you came home.” Ron picked absently at a bunch of grapes on Hermione’s bedside table. Hermione beamed at him.
“Yeah,” Harry chimed in, “we asked him to make sure everything was tidy.” Little did Harry realise that at that very moment, Dobby was in the kitchen of Grimmauld Place, carefully folding up a piece of parchment he had found down the side of the kitchen table. If Harry had told Dobby what the piece of parchment was, he might have noticed that at that very moment, a little dot labelled ‘Bellatrix Lestrange’ had appeared…
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
I'd love to hear what people think about this story so far. I just added a link to my feedback page in my first post on this thread but I will also put in on here in case people missed it.
Feedback: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 31 ~ The Gift
“Father, I don’t like this – I think we should leave, now.”
“Draco, I grow weary of your constant whining. You will remain with me until I say so, is that clear?”
Draco Malfoy stared at the floor, his face slowly turning pink with anger, fists clenched at his sides. He nodded stiffly, breathing hard and continued to tramp through the woods until they reached the clearing in front of the Gaunt house. Throwing his arm out, Lucius Malfoy brought them to a halt.
“This is it,” he surveyed the house with a beady eye.
Draco sneered, taking in their dilapidated surroundings in disgust. “This is it? This is the place where we”-
Lucius turned swiftly; Draco hardly saw it coming. In one fast movement, he had seized his son by the throat and pinned him against a nearby tree. Several startled crows took flight, disturbed by the impact.
“You will lower your voice, boy,” he hissed, baring his teeth like a wild animal, “or are you trying to ruin this? You have caused me nothing but embarrassment and I will not have you destroying this opportunity – do I make myself clear?”
Hot, angry tears filled Draco’s eyes, as he tried to prise his fathers hands from his neck. “Yes, Father!” he choked. With a shove, Lucius released him, watching with scorn as Draco stumbled and fell to his knees. Scrabbling up quickly, shame burning his face a dull scarlet colour, he hastily brushed dead leaves from his travelling cloak.
“Come,” Lucius called, striding towards the door of the Gaunt hovel. “Auntie Bellatrix is waiting for us.”
“Can I open my eyes yet?” Hermione edged tentatively through the house in Grimmauld Place, Ron and Harry each holding an arm to stop her from falling over.
“Not yet – nearly there!” said Ron, steering her towards the drawing room.
Hermione had been home for a day; her parents, Harry and Ron had brought her home from the hospital early. She was so fed up with lying in bed all day, that she had begun to investigate the situation with house-elves that worked at St. Mungo’s, causing all sorts of mayhem. Sensing that their daughter was ready to leave, Mr. and Mrs. Granger had gone to Healer Orion and suggested they take her home. The Healer had quickly consented - thanks to all the potions she had dutifully drank, Hermione was nearly one hundred percent better. The only thing she needed now was feeding up – her prolonged coma had caused her to lose a fair amount of weight. So, she was ensconced in her brand-new bedroom at Grimmauld Place, surrounded by the dozens of flowers sent to her whilst in the hospital, with Crookshanks curled up at the foot of the bed, until she had insisted that she be allowed to explore the rest of the house, and see what Harry and Ron had been up to in her absence.
“Okay, you can open them…now!”
Harry and Ron stood back to watch her reaction. She turned slowly on the spot, her eyes taking in the comfy armchairs, the photographs and her enormous book collection. A hand flew to her open mouth.
“Oh…my…. goodness! It’s – it’s just like the common room! Oh my!”
“D’you like it?” asked Ron, a bit bewildered.
“Like it? I love it!” she screeched, hugging first Harry, then Ron, very tightly. “Oh! Thank you! Did you really do all this for me?”
“Course,” said Ron expansively, taking a seat in one of the armchairs. “Only the best for you,” he continued, then, realising what he had said, turned a deep shade of puce. Hermione also went a delicate shade of pink but said nothing, choosing instead to sink gracefully into the nearest seat, tucking her legs beneath her. Harry stifled a laugh and sat in one of the remaining two chairs. The three of them grinned at each other for a moment, enjoying their first taste of independence, when Hermione said,
“Christmas will be coming soon – in three weeks time in fact!”
“Yeah, then we’ve got Lupin and Tonks’s wedding!” added Ron.
“And we still have someone to find…”
The atmosphere in the room darkened. Nobody spoke for a moment, until Dobby appeared in the doorway to announce that dinner was ready. They stood up and hurried down the stairs to find the table set with gleaming cutlery, fresh cut flowers in the centre of the table and Dobby, who had beat them to it, smiling happily at them, a tea towel draped over one little arm like a waiter.
“Dinner is served!” he squeaked.
Grinning, Harry and Ron took seats at the table, but Hermione stayed where she was, a small frown on her face.
“What’s up, Hermione?” asked Ron, his plate already half loaded with spaghetti and meatballs.
“I think it would be nice if Dobby joined us for dinner, don’t you?”
“Oh no, Miss Hermione!” Dobby squeaked at once, “Dobby is not disturbing Masters’ Potter and Wheezy, nor Miss Hermione!”
“Don’t be daft, Dobby!” said Ron, pulling out a fourth chair, “Even house elves have to eat, don’t they?” Hermione directed a one hundred watt smile in Ron’s direction.
“Yeah, come on Dobby!” Harry chimed in, summoning a plate and dishing some spaghetti onto it.
Dobby’s eyes swam with tears and he climbed into the seat. Knowing full well what was coming next, Harry decided to nip it in the bud sooner rather than later.
“Eat!” he commanded, before Dobby could start effusing about how wondrous they were to work for. Dutifully, Dobby picked up his fork and began to eat, listening intently to their conversation.
“You know,” said Hermione, adding some more meatballs to her plate, “you’ll have to give a speech at Lupin’s wedding. Had any ideas about it yet?”
“Er, a speech?” Harry echoed, lowering his fork, “Lupin didn’t mention anything about that!”
“Well it’s tradition – the best man always says a few words at the beginning of the reception.”
“Never mind that!” Ron interjected, “His first worry should be Christmas shopping for Ginny!”
Harry looked from Ron to Hermione, who were chortling.
“Why should I worry about that?” he demanded with a slight frown.
“Because,” said Hermione, adopting an air of someone thoroughly in the know, “this will be your first Christmas together, won’t it? You have to get her something special!”
“Yeah, and knowing my sister, you’ll be in trouble if you don’t!”
Harry continued to look at them, a bewildered expression on his face. “Blimey – I hadn’t even thought about that – what should I get her?”
“Oh I know Harry Potter, sir!” Dobby piped up, “I bet Miss Ginny is loving a pair of socks! Socks is Dobby’s most favourite present in the whole world!”
“Er, yeah, maybe,” Harry replied, absentmindedly popping a meatball into his mouth whole, a knot developing in his stomach at the thought of this new, and quite frankly very pressing matter; a special Christmas present for Ginny? What on earth would he get her?
The next morning, Harry woke early. Spurred on by the previous nights discussion, he had decided to get the ordeal out of the way. There was nothing else for it; he would just have to brace himself, and hope that by the end of the day, he would have a Christmas present for Ginny. Once that was out of the way, his mind would be clear to look for Bellatrix. Well, that’s what he was telling himself anyway. Very deep down, he was harbouring a hope that, having not heard from Dumbledore recently, the threat of Bellatrix Lestrange had somehow resolved itself. Hey, it’s possible, he thought wryly, creeping down the stairs before either Ron or Hermione awoke. Greeting Dobby, he sat at his favourite place at the kitchen table, and allowed the elf to ladle a huge portion of porridge into his bowl.
“Thanks, Dobby,” he said, as he poured brown sugar over the top.
“You is not needing to thank Dobby, Harry Potter. Dobby is so happy here – Dobby has never had such wonderful masters. Why, if Harry Potter knew what Dobby’s old masters used to do…” he trailed off and looked around nervously, as though someone from the Malfoy family would appear and make him punish himself.
“I can imagine what they were like, Dobby,” said Harry, “if it makes you feel any better, my family are horrible too – well, my living relatives are. They kept me locked in a cupboard until they got wind that Dumbledore might know what they were up to”-
Dobby’s ears flattened against his head in horror, a little hand clutching at his chest.
-“But you and me both have to remember; our lives are different now. We are in control of our own destinies. No-one can lock me up in a cupboard anymore, just like no-one can make you do anything you don’t want to do. And if you make a mistake here, nobody will be angry and no-one will hurt you.” Harry continued to spoon porridge into his mouth.
Dobby beamed at him, and hurried back to the stove. Harry was pleasantly surprised; perhaps this was the end of Dobby’s over the top emotional outbursts? A moment later, the thought was pushed firmly from his mind, as Dobby returned with a cup of tea and, after placing it carefully in front of Harry, he wrapped his spindly arms around Harry’s legs and hugged him tightly. Smothering a laugh, Harry patted Dobby on his tea-cosy clad head, neither of them saying a word. He suddenly realised that he had become very fond of the little elf, despite his odd ways, and was very glad to have him here. After a minute, Dobby let go without another word and continued about his work, while Harry quietly finished his porridge, each enjoying the companionable silence. When his spoon hit the bottom of the bowl, Harry pushed back his chair and grabbed his travelling cloak.
“Dobby, I’m going shopping. Er, if Ron and Hermione ask, tell them – just tell them I went out and I’ll see them at dinner.”
Dobby nodded his head knowingly. “Dobby hopes you find a nice present, Harry Potter.”
Harry grinned, slightly embarrassed that his motives were so transparent and chucked a handful of Floo powder into the fireplace. “Diagon Alley!” he cried, and disappeared from Dobby’s view in a spinning blur.
Clambering out of the fireplace at the Leaky Cauldron, Harry greeted Tom who was washing glasses and hurried out of the pub. It was a beautiful morning; the crisp December weather was cold enough to bring tears to his eyes, but the sky was a pleasing shade of blue, dotted with perfect puffs of white cloud. So far, Diagon Alley was peaceful, with only the vendors of the various shops about, opening their doors, putting their magical wares outside and pulling out awnings. Harry waved to them as he passed, stopping here and there to exchange a few words with those he knew well. Florean Fortescue invited him into his ice-cream parlour for a sundae, but Harry begged off:
“It’s a bit early Mr. Fortescue! Maybe later?”
Florean nodded and laughed, waving Harry on his way. He had thought long and hard since he went to bed the previous night, and thought he might know the perfect shop from which to buy Ginny a present. It came into view as he strolled further down the street. Croceus, the jewellery shop that had taken over from Ollivanders stood nestled innocently between the larger shops, its window stuffed with gleaming jewels and glowing gold. After a quick glance around to make sure no-one he knew was watching, Harry pushed open the door. The interior of the shop was very dark compared to the brightness of the morning, and it took a moment for Harry’s eyes to adjust to the gloom.
“Good morning,” said a husky voice from behind. “Welcome to Croceus, purveyors of fine jewels. May I help you?” Harry turned and found himself facing a tall, honey blonde witch, swathed in deep pink robes, jewels adorning her ears, throat and fingers, an air of great importance surrounding her.
“Er, morning. I’m looking for a present…” Harry said awkwardly, shifting his weight from one foot to another.
“Oh yes?” she asked imperiously, coming out from behind the counter. “Well, I’m not sure we carry the type of thing you’re looking for”- she stopped abruptly, her wide, heavily made up eyes spotting Harry’s scar. –“You!”
Harry felt the heat rise in his cheeks, and loosened his heavy woollen scarf.
Her haughty tone evaporated. “Harry Potter! Well I’m sure we can find something suitable! Please, take a seat!” with a wave of her wand, a velvet covered stool shot out from behind the counter and stopped neatly in front of Harry. “Please forgive my behaviour, but I get a lot of witches and wizards in here who are just looking – never buy anything. Looky-loos I call them – or just people wanting to know what happened to old Ollivander.”
Harry didn’t know what to say to this, so made do with, “Oh,” and perched himself on the stool.
“Oh, where are my manners?” She beamed at him and extended a slim hand. “Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mirabelle Emerald. Now,” she said, conjuring a second stool for herself, “why don’t you tell me a little more about this present; who it’s for, what’s the occasion, that sort of thing. Would you care for some tea?”
“Um, no thanks. I want to buy something for my girlfriend – something special, for Christmas.”
“Oh! How lovely!” she clasped her hands together, looking as though nothing could please her more. “What a lucky girl! Now how old is she?”
Harry answered as many of her questions as possible, from Ginny’s favourite pastime to the colour of her hair, amazed that Mirabelle needed so much information to select one piece of jewellery. Finally, she stood up and disappeared behind the counter, reappearing with a large, velvet lined tray. She placed it on the counter and beckoned to Harry to take a look. Inside lay a collection of delicate pieces of gold jewellery, fine chains, dainty bracelets and very pretty rings.
“As you will see,” said Mirabelle, “these items are simple and streamlined, allowing Miss Ginny to wear the piece at all times, whether she is at school, playing Quidditch or,” she grimaced slightly, “de-Gnoming the garden.”
“Wow,” breathed Harry softly, admiring the glinting gold, “I bet Ginny would love any of these – how do I choose?”
Mirabelle chuckled and patted Harry on the arm. “That I’m afraid, is entirely up to you. If you will excuse me, I have some things to attend to.” She slipped through a small doorway that led to the back of the shop, leaving Harry alone with his decision. He stared down at the selection, thinking hard. What would Ginny like best? She wore no jewellery at the moment, in fact, he couldn’t remember having ever seen her with any. Did that mean she didn’t like jewellery? No, he thought to himself, something tells me that she would be very happy to get one of these. He carefully plucked a fine chain with a heart pendant and held it up to the light. Too girly, he thought, smiling to himself. He replaced the necklace and moved to a charm bracelet. It was nice, but a bit too flashy - Harry could imagine Professor MacGonagall confiscating it if she caught sight of it. Wishing he had thought to ask Hermione to come, Harry continued to study the trinkets. Finally, his eyes fell upon a small gold ring. Easing it out of the velvet with his little finger, Harry felt a rush of excitement. Its band was barely a millimetre thick and in the centre, a tiny, heart shaped diamond was set, edged in silver. It was perfect, and would look beautiful on Ginny.
“I’ve found it!” he called to Mirabelle. She hurried out of the back room, an excited look on her face. Harry held out the ring and she smiled knowingly.
“Ah! I thought you might choose that! Excellent choice, excellent! Very discerning indeed.” She took the ring from Harry, and placed it in a velvet-covered box, lined with thick gold satin. “I’m sure your girlfriend will be thrilled, Mr. Potter!”
Harry grinned, parting with a hefty amount of gold, but it would be well worth it to see the look on Ginny’s face come Christmas morning.
“Do come again!” cried Mirabelle, shaking his hand enthusiastically.
Slipping the box into his robe pocket, Harry stepped from the shop, and out into the winter sunshine.
As he walked down Diagon Alley, it occurred to Harry that he should go and visit Neville. Changing direction, he headed towards 142 Diagon Alley and to his surprise, found Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines open. Neville was behind the counter as Harry entered, weighing up a large quantity of Mandrake leaves for a plump witch.
“That’ll be ten Sickles please,” said Neville, placing the leaves in a brown paper bag.
“Here you go dear,” said the witch, handing over the silver coins. She turned and waddled out of the shop, narrowly missing the tray of Bouncing Bulbs. Harry caught the edge of it just in time to prevent another spillage.
“Thanks, Harry,” said Neville, hurrying over and taking the tray out of his hands. “Maybe it’s time I found a new place for these,” he looked at Harry with apprehension. “How’s Hermione?”
“She’s great – a bit skinny, but other than that she’s fine.”
Neville nodded silently, and placed the tray of Bouncing Bulbs on the counter.
“How are you?” asked Harry, concern in his voice.
“I’m okay. The Ministry have dropped their investigations about the Hellfire plant. I think my Gran dropped some hints about you and me being friends,” he looked at Harry sheepishly, “so they said that my part in the ‘downfall of Voldemort’ meant they would lay off, but they did come and do a search of the shop – just in case I had anything else stashed here.”
“And did you?”
“No,” Neville muttered, wiping the soil from the Mandrake leaves off the counter top. “How about you? Any news on Lestrange? What about the Map?”
“We’re still working on it, but it looks like I was wrong about her location,” the knot had returned to Harry’s stomach. “Look, why don’t you come for dinner tonight? I know Hermione would love to see you…”
Neville looked up gratefully. “So – so you’re still my friends?”
“Course we are, stupid. We’ll expect you at eight o’clock.”
“Thanks Harry!” called Neville, looking much happier.
“See you later.” Harry replied, exiting the shop.
Once outside, he felt inside his robe pocket to make sure the little velvet box was still there. Now that he had been out of the jewellery shop for a while, he was starting to have doubts about his gift. What if it was a bit too much? What if Ginny thought he was being over-the-top? Looking up, he saw that he had arrived outside Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes. Struck with sudden inspiration, he hurried inside. Ron was due to return to work the following day, so both twins were behind the counter.
“Harry! What brings you to our fine establishment this early in the morning?”
“Just getting my Christmas shopping out the way,” Harry replied, grinning, looking around.
“Now young Harry, Christmas shopping is a pastime to be enjoyed, not something you ‘get out the way’,” admonished Fred, waggling a finger at Harry.
“My learned colleague is right, Mr. Potter. Now, may we make some suggestions?”
Harry consented, and twenty minutes later, left with just one shopping bag. Normally, he would have got Ron an array of magical stuff, but as he now worked there and received an employee discount, it wouldn’t be the same. Instead, he had chosen a Lollygagger Lasso for Hagrid – he thought it would come in handy if any of his magical creatures got out of hand during his lessons, and, to balance out the lovey-dovey-ness of the ring, had bought Ginny a large bag of Dungbombs. That way, if she found the first present too much to bear, he could even things out with something a bit less intense. Satisfied, he moved along Diagon Alley to Flourish and Blotts bookshop. After a long search, he finally found the perfect book for Hermione: The History and Origins of House Elves. In Quality Quidditch Supplies, he found a bright red Chudley Cannons t-shirt for Ron, and picked up some socks for Dobby. Finally satisfied, he decided to go home – it would probably be a good idea to let Dobby know they were having a guest to dinner, and he supposed he should probably let Ron and Hermione know too. But first, there was a chocolate sundae waiting for him at Florean Fortescue’s…
Later that evening, after finishing dinner, Harry, Neville, Ron and Hermione made for the drawing room. Dobby was preparing hot chocolate and marshmallows for them, and as they climbed the stairs, Harry caught Hermione by the elbow.
“I need to talk to you for a sec,” he muttered in a low voice. Neither Ron nor Neville noticed, and continued up the staircase.
“What is it?” asked Hermione, concern on her face.
Harry reached inside his pocket and withdrew the velvet box. “I wanted to get your opinion…” he opened the box, and Hermione gasped.
“Oh, Harry! It’s beautiful!”
“Do you think Ginny’ll like it?”
“She’d be mad not to! But it must have cost you a fortune!”
Harry shrugged, thrilled with her reaction. “What’s the point in having money if you can’t spend it?”
“Well I think it’s spectacular. I’m very impressed! Come on, Ron and Neville will wonder where we got to,” and they hurried to the drawing room, Harry stowing the little box back in his pocket.
Neville and Ron were just settling down as they arrived. Once Dobby had served the hot chocolate and dished out the marshmallows, he took a seat on a little footstool next to Crookshanks, who was sprawled happily in his basket, basking in the heat from the fireplace. Hedwig was out hunting, but Pigwidgeon had his little head under one wing, asleep on his perch.
“Your house is so cool,” said Neville, looking around wistfully, “I’m still living with Gran.”
“What about that flat over your shop? Why don’t you move in there?” asked Ron, dropping four marshmallows into his drink and prodding them impatiently with his finger, waiting for them to melt.
“I doubt Gran would let me,” Neville replied gloomily, “but I’d love to have my own place.”
“Come on Neville!” Ron exclaimed, “You’ve just got to go to you Gran and say ‘Listen, Gran, I’m not a kid anymore, I’m moving out, and if you don’t like it – tough!’ It’s the only way.”
“Ha!” snorted Hermione, “I seem to have a different recollection of how you told your mother you were moving out, Ronald.”
Ron flushed, “Yeah well that was different,” he muttered, embarrassed, “my mum’s mental!”
Dobby let out a sudden giggle, and then covered his mouth nervously. Everyone laughed except Ron, who was still pink in the face. After allowing a moment for the laughter to pass, Hermione fixed Harry with a determined look and said,
“Harry, I think we need to talk about Bellatrix Lestrange.”
Dobby let out a horrified gasp, and Ron and Neville sobered up immediately.
“Not now, Hermione”- Harry began, but was cut off.
-“Yes now, Harry! We can’t give up just because of one setback!”
“I’m not giving up! I’m just not sure what we do next – the Map didn’t work and”-
-“How can you be so sure it didn’t work? I haven’t even seen the Map since I came home from the hospital – have you looked at it recently?”
Harry frowned, furious, “Of course I have”- he stopped short. Hang on, when was the last time he had seen the Map? Seeing the change in his expression, an incredulous look spread over Hermione’s face.
“Oh my God – what about you?” she demanded, rounding on Ron.
“Don’t look at me – I’ve been at the hospital the whole time!”
“So, neither of you have even looked at the Map since our first attempt at Halloween?”
Harry and Ron looked at each other in surprise. How had they let that happen?
Hermione stamped her foot in frustration. “Well where is it then?” she screeched.
Harry and Ron exchanged another look:
“Don’t you have it?” they asked each other simultaneously.
“No!” they cried in unison.
“Oh for goodness sake!” cried Hermione.
“Let’s not panic!” said Neville, clearly a heartbeat away from panicking, “Let’s just find it!” They jumped out of their seats and hurried back down the stairs to the kitchen, Dobby close at their heels.
“Okay, let’s be rational about this,” said Hermione, panting slightly after their mad dash down the stairs. “Where did you see it last?”
“It was here,” Harry thumped both hands down on the bare kitchen table, “then we got Neville’s owl and went straight to St. Mungo’s.”
“Okay – Ron, Neville, you look here, Harry, check your room – maybe you put it away and forgot about it. I’ll ask Lupin if he has it.” She took a pinch of Floo powder, and crouching on the kitchen floor, stuck her head into the green flames and spoke to Lupin in his fireplace in Hogsmeade. Neville and Ron started turning out drawers, searching frantically for the parchment. Dobby had followed Harry up to his room.
“Harry Potter, sir,” he said, struggling to keep up.
“Sorry Dobby – not now, okay?” said Harry distractedly, rummaging through his trunk, knowing that it couldn’t possibly be there.
“But sir”- Harry abandoned the search of his room, and hurried back to the kitchen which was in disarray. Hermione was just pulling her head out of the fire, a disappointed look on her face.
“Lupin didn’t take it home,” she said, brushing soot from her hair.
“Harry Potter, sir,” Dobby tugged on the hem of Harry’s robes.
“Not now, Dobby!” said Harry impatiently, joining Neville and Ron in their search, using wand light to look behind the cupboards.
There was a sudden flash of red light. Everyone stopped what they were doing. Dobby had clambered onto the kitchen table, trembling slightly, red light emanating from the palms of his hands.
“Forgives me, sirs, miss,” he said, bowing respectfully to them all, “but is this what you is looking for?” he clicked his fingers and a piece of parchment appeared in his hand.
Harry practically sprinted over to him, taking the parchment out of the elf’s hand. “Yes! Thank you Dobby! You are the best”- he stopped suddenly, a look of horror spreading rapidly over his face, as he studied the Map.
“Harry, what is it?” asked Hermione faintly, rushing over to his side, Neville and Ron following suit.
Harry remained silent, but raised a trembling finger to the Map. Leaning closer, Hermione let out a nauseated cry. Where the Map had once been blank, there now floated several little dots; Lestrange, Crabbe, Goyle, Malfoy and Malfoy…
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,” Hermione fell into a kitchen chair, hyperventilating.
Harry could only stare at the Map, the hair rising on the back of his neck, Neville trembling at his side.
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!” Ron hurried over to Hermione, gently smoothing a hand over her back, muttering to her in low, calming tones. Dobby rushed to pour her a glass of water.
“Here!” he squeaked, “Drink this Miss Hermione!” She took the glass with a trembling hand, choking down a small sip before handing the glass to Ron.
Harry was stunned; how could he have been so thick? She had been there the whole time! When she wasn’t visible on the Map, it was probably because she had gone to round up the others! His stupidity had bought her the time to contact the remaining Death Eaters! He felt a ripple of fear as he watched the dot labelled Lucius Malfoy move about the Map. He was not afraid of Draco, but knew that his father was much, much worse. Hadn’t he stood by while his own wife was tortured to death? Harry’s eyes flicked to Crabbe and Goyle; they were the huge Death Eaters they had battled with at the Ministry in their fifth year – not cunning like Lucius, but each had more than their fair share of brute strength. And then of course there was Lestrange. Voldemort’s most faithful follower, and insane to boot – she thought nothing of murdering innocent people or comrades alike. And she was the one with the power to resurrect him…
He was forced out of his reflections by Ron’s insistent voice.
“What are we going to do?”
Harry stared at his friend for a long moment. “I don’t know,” he admitted, chewing his bottom lip. He took a seat at the table, closely followed by Ron and Neville. Hermione had dropped her head into her arms and was taking deep, steadying breaths and Dobby padded over to the stove and put the kettle on.
“Well, we have the potions, we know where she is – why don’t we storm the house?” Ron suggested, a slightly manic glint in his eye.
Hermione sat up sharply, “No!”
Ron sighed and slumped back in his chair.
“We need more information,” said Neville quietly. The three of them looked at him. “We need to know what they’re up to”-
-“Like reconnaissance work,” said Harry, sitting up straighter, desperate to make amends for his earlier stupidity. “We know what her aim is, but how do they plan to do it? What do they need?”
“I don’t know, Harry,” said Hermione wearily, “Maybe we should just tell the Ministry”-
-“No!” said Harry, Ron and Neville simultaneously. Dobby quietly set mugs of tea in front of each of them. “Hermione, you know they’ll only screw things up,” said Ron. She sighed heavily.
“Miss Hermione?” enquired Dobby timidly.
“Yes, Dobby?” she replied, surprised.
“Dobby is not wanting to talk out of turn, but the masters is right, miss,” he squeaked, fiddling with the waistband on his shorts, “Dobby has been around for a long time, miss, and he is seeing his old masters get away with all sorts, right under the Ministry’s nose. Harry Potter and his most noble friends will know what to do,” they all blinked at him, shocked by his words. He stared back, fearful that he had overstepped the mark.
“You know what,” said Hermione sitting up slightly, “Dobby’s right!” she banged her hand down on the table. “And so are you, Harry!”
All the males in the kitchen looked at her in astonishment.
“Er, Hermione, are you feeling okay?” asked Ron.
“Of course! Look, we’ve always known that Harry is the one to get things done – no-one at the Ministry is communicating with Dumbledore, are they?”
“And no-one else was the ‘Chosen One’, were they?”
“Er, Hermione, do you have a point?”
“Yes! Look, there must be a reason that Dumbledore chose to visit you, Harry. He never trusted Scrimgeour and neither should we”-
-“But it was your idea that we go to them!” Ron said, indignantly.
“Well I was wrong!” cried Hermione, jumping out of her seat. “We’ve got the power – don’t you see? Bellatrix and the others don’t know that we know what they’re up to!”
Ron leaned over to Harry and whispered, “Are you following this?”
Harry merely shrugged, staring at Hermione, her cheeks flushed, eyes blazing.
“I’m not saying we don’t need any help, but we should find out as much as possible – it’s what Dumbledore taught you Harry – know your enemy.”
Harry’s mind was buzzing. Hermione was right! He took a deep breath, trying to get his thoughts in order. Everyone was staring at him, waiting for him to do something. He took another deep breath and looked at them.
“Hermione, sit down,” he said quietly. She obeyed, staring at him expectantly. “Neville’s right – we need to know more – I think we should split up; Ron, Neville and me should go and try and dig something up, you should stay here Hermione, you’re not well enough to go anywhere right now, Dobby can stay with you, make sure you’re okay.” Hermione looked like she wanted to protest, but just nodded. “Besides,” he added, “we’ll need someone here to report to Lupin in case… well, just in case…”
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 32 ~ The Kiss
At eleven thirty that evening, Harry pulled his Invisibility cloak out of his trunk, and made for the kitchen. They had agreed that they should Apparate to Little Hangleton at midnight, when they hoped Bellatrix and her cronies would be sleeping. Hermione would keep watch on the Map, and alert Lupin at once if they weren’t back after one hour.
“Will that be enough time?” Ron had asked.
“It doesn’t matter,” replied Harry, “If we can’t find out what we need to after an hour, we should get out of there – I’m not risking anyone’s life for her.”
As he made his way down the long corridor that led to the kitchen, Harry discovered Neville standing uncomfortably outside the kitchen door, looking extremely guilty.
Neville shushed him, hopping about as though he needed the toilet. “Sssh!” he whispered, “I was about to go in there,” he jerked a thumb at the kitchen door, “but I heard Ron and Hermione talking. I-I wasn’t eavesdropping – I just didn’t know what to do.”
“Well why don’t you just go in?” asked Harry, perplexed.
Neville turned a funny shade of magenta, “Er, they’re having a private chat…”
Realisation dawned on Harry, “Ooh!” He thought he understood what was going on, and was about to lead Neville away when Ginny popped into his head; she would never forgive him for not supplying her with details of Hermione and Ron’s excruciatingly slow burning romance, but would he be able to stomach it? Smiling to himself at the thought of Ginny’s delight at the pair getting together, Harry eased closer to the door, peering through the narrow crack. After a moment’s hesitation, Neville shrugged and joined him.
“These two have got to get together someday!” he hissed softly to Harry.
“We’ll only look for a second,” whispered Harry, primly.
Neville nodded emphatically. “Of course.”
Inside the kitchen, Hermione and Ron were standing very close together.
“I’m worried,” Hermione was saying, in such a soft voice that Harry and Neville had to strain to hear.
Ron placed both hands on her shoulders and stared deep into her eyes. “I know, but we’ll be fine – you heard Harry – we’ll be back within an hour.”
“But she’s so dangerous – I don’t know what I’d do if something happened to one of you,” she looked up at Ron, her eyes shiny with tears. He shifted a little closer to her, moving his hands from her shoulders to her face.
“Hermione,” he whispered, voice husky, “I promise we’ll come back in one piece.”
Hermione continued to look unsure, her lower lip trembling.
“Have I ever lied to you before?” he asked, smiling slightly. She gave a small, watery laugh, inching even closer to him, tilting her face upwards, “I don’t think so…”
“Hermione…” he began, seemingly lost as to how to proceed.
“Ronald Weasley,” she said in a low voice, “if you don’t kiss me now I will use the Bat Bogey Hex on you.”
“I, er, but you don’t know the Bat Bogey hex,” he mumbled stupidly.
Hermione sighed, still staring intently up at him, “You are such an idiot,” and rose onto her tiptoes, kissing him gently on the mouth. After a second’s hesitation, Ron wrapped his arms tightly around her, kissing her back with all his might.
Out in the hallway, Harry and Neville were doing a silent victory dance, punching jubilant fists into the air.
“Harry Potter sir! What is you doing?” Dobby had appeared with their travelling cloaks, unbeknownst to the dancing duo. The sudden appearance of this loud voice caused Harry to jump with surprise, and Neville, who had been doing a sort of one-legged jig, tumbled over onto Harry, who fell through the kitchen door and onto the floor, Neville on top of him, Dobby hopping agitatedly, trying to help them up, succeeding only in tripping himself over, cloaks everywhere. Hermione and Ron jumped apart suddenly, shocked and highly embarrassed.
“Harry!” Hermione cried in a scandalised voice, “What on earth – were you spying on us?”
“No, not exactly! We were just about to come in when Dobby, er tripped and knocked me and Neville over – right?” He looked beseechingly at Neville and Dobby.
They nodded fervently, untangling their limbs and getting to their feet. An awkward silence hung in the air as they dusted themselves off, finally broken by Neville.
“Shall we get going then?” he asked, looking at Harry then Ron.
“Yeah,” said Harry, desperate to get away from Hermione’s angry glare.
Ron plucked his cloak from the heap on the floor, handing Harry and Neville theirs. Hermione’s stern expression dissolved, and she hurried to hug Harry and Neville goodbye.
“Don’t worry,” said Harry, patting her reassuringly on the arm, “we’ll be back before you know it.”
She nodded, biting her lower lip. She gathered some small bottles from the counter and handed two to each of them. “These might come in handy,” she said quietly.
“Thanks,” said Harry, pocketing his. Looking at Neville and Ron, he said, “Let’s go.”
Neville followed him out the kitchen. Ron lingered to give Hermione one last hug. “Good luck,” she whispered.
Ron said, “See you in a while,” and followed the others outside, leaving Hermione and Dobby to stare anxiously after them.
With a soft pop, three figures appeared at the top of the winding lane that led to the Gaunt house. Silence hung heavy in the air, broken only by the occasional hoot of an owl and Neville’s nervous breathing.
Harry pulled the Invisibility cloak out of his pocket and shook it out.
“We’ll approach the house under this,” he whispered, “but it won’t cover our feet.” Pulling out his wand, he tapped first Ron, then Neville over the head, performing a Disillusionment charm, before turning his wand on himself and doing the same. They nodded and huddled together, as he swung the cloak around them. As Harry had predicted, the cloak barely covered their shins. Ron was just over six foot tall now, while Harry and Neville were only a few inches shorter. Stealthily, they approached the house, taking care not to step on any twigs that lay underfoot.
“What’s the plan?” whispered Ron.
“We need to check the house for weak points – find out how we can get in, if we can,” Harry replied, under his breath, “If we make it inside, we need to find out how they plan to bring Voldemort back.”
“What if we can’t get in?” hissed Neville softly.
Ron said, “Then we find out what we can and get the hell out of there.”
Harry nodded. “Stop,” he breathed, “we’re here.” The ruined house sat before them, windows dark, though Harry couldn’t tell whether that was because the lights were out or because the glass was covered in filth.
Ron gulped loudly. Neville took a shaky breath, visibly steeling himself for what lay ahead. Harry was about to move closer, when Neville grabbed his elbow.
“Wait,” he murmured, reaching down to pick up a small bit of gravel. Straightening up, he said, “we should check that they haven’t put up a protective shield,” and threw the tiny stone at the house. It hit a pane of glass quietly, and fell to the floor. “Coast’s clear,” he muttered, and as one, the three of them inched closer to the house.
Ron, noticing a worn pathway down the side of the dwelling, nudged Harry and breathed, “This way.” Harry and Neville whispered their agreement, and made their way quietly down the path, being careful to stay close. There was a tiny window that looked into the kitchen. Harry motioned to Ron and Neville to get down, while he peered in. If possible, this window was even grubbier than those at the front of the house. Very carefully, Harry raised his wand and muttered scourgify! The glass cleared suddenly, allowing him plain view into the house and right through to the living room. A horrified gasp rose in his throat. At the far end of the room, he could see Bellatrix Lestrange talking to someone just out of sight. Sick hatred flooded through him, quickly replaced by frustration; he couldn’t hear a word she was saying. He crouched down besides Ron and Neville. It was very weird to be able to talk to them but not see them, so well blended with the ground due the Disillusionment charm.
“Bellatrix is in there,” he hissed softly, “she’s awake and talking to someone, but I can’t hear her!”
He sensed rather than saw Ron’s excitement. “Here Harry,” he whispered quickly, placing something stringy in his hand.
“Excellent idea!” Harry exclaimed quietly. Ron had handed him an Extendable Ear. Standing up again, still covered by the cloak, Harry fed the little flesh coloured string through a tiny crack in the window sill and ducked back down, holding the other the end out so they could all hear. Suddenly, Bellatrix’s voice came through loud and clear, as though she was crouching under the cloak with them.
“… And see that you send more wine, you oaf. The last supply hardly lasted a week, and now we have guests we’ll need even more.”
“Yes, Bellatrix,” came a whiny reply.
At the sound of this second voice, the hair on the back of Harry’s neck stood up with shock: Wormtail! He would know that snivelling voice anywhere. It took all the strength he had not to burst in there and start firing hexes.
“Have anymore Death Eaters been located?” she was asking now. Harry could hear the arrogant sneer in her voice. The three of them listened in hard – this could be valuable information.
“I believe Amycus and Yaxley are still at large, Bella,” came Wormtail’s oily reply. “They are next on my list to seek out.”
“Ah, yes… I bet dear Amycus would like to get his hands on young Potty,” Bellatrix mused injecting venom into the last two syllables, “Didn’t he kill his sister?”
“I believe it was a fluke,” said Wormtail bitterly. “As I recall, he was aiming for me at the time.” He was referring to the battle that had taken place moments before Harry had Apparated to the Ministry, and killed Voldemort. Wormtail had deflected Harry’s curse with his silver hand and it had killed Alecto instead, though Harry was still hazy on the details of that fateful night.
“No matter,” said Bellatrix, “a vengeful Death Eater is even more useful to me, though I think it advisable for Amycus to go after Potter’s little girlfriend…” she sighed contentedly, savouring the thought, “yes, I think he deserves a little revenge, don’t you?”
Harry’s blood ran cold at the mention of Ginny. Someone, he didn’t know whether it was Neville or Ron, gripped his arm tightly.
“But, first things first,” Bellatrix was saying now, “as much as I look forward to Potter’s death, we must concentrate on the Dark Lord’s return. Come Wormtail, it is time you were leaving.”
They heard the rustle of a cloak and footsteps. Jumping up quickly, Harry reversed his cleaning spell on the window, returning it to its filthy state, then pulled Neville and Ron up.
“Let’s go!” he hissed, and pulling the cloak off, he stuffed it into his pocket in one swift movement. Ron and Neville’s outlines were becoming clearer; the Disillusionment charm must be wearing off. He waited until first Neville then Ron had Disapparated, before following them with a soft pop, and not a moment too soon. Wormtail had just exited the house, and had stopped outside the door, looking around for the source of the noise. Lingering a moment longer, he shook his head, deciding it was just his imagination, and made his way towards the clearing…
They reappeared in the middle of Grimmauld Place. Harry’s heart was hammering inside his chest, Lestrange’s words still echoing inside his head. Nobody spoke as they watched number twelve appear in front of them. Following Harry, they trudged through the front door.
“You’re back!” came a shriek from the end of the hallway. Hermione hurtled towards them, hugging all three of them at the same time, Dobby at her heels, fat tears of relief leaking from his eyes. “Are you all right? We were watching the Map – we saw Peter Pettigrew moving towards you! I was so worried!”
“We’re fine,” said Ron quietly, not quite meeting her eye, as Harry led them to the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” she asked fearfully.
“Let’s go and sit down,” said Neville. Hermione looked at Harry, who still hadn’t spoken.
But Hermione persisted, “Did she see you? Did Pettigrew?”
Dobby took their cloaks and they sat at the kitchen table. “Shall Dobby get you a nice drink, sirs? Miss?”
“No, Dobby – no drinks until I know what happened!” cried Hermione, eyes flashing angrily.
“Sit down, Hermione,” said Neville quietly. She sank into the chair that Dobby pulled out for her, staring from Neville to Ron to Harry intently.
When it became clear that neither Harry nor Ron were about to volunteer any information, Neville took a deep breath and haltingly, repeated what they had heard. Hermione’s hands flew to her face in horror and Dobby wept openly.
“But-but Lestrange didn’t actually say they were going after Ginny, did she? She was just making a sick joke…” she trailed off lamely.
“It doesn’t matter if she was joking or not,” Harry spoke up, “they know Ginny’s my girlfriend, they know that going after her is the best way to get to me.”
“Well they can’t have her!” she replied shrilly.
“Too bloody right,” said Ron, his voice hoarse.
“But don’t you see?” asked Harry, rising out of his chair and pacing up and down the kitchen, “If they know about Ginny, then they have information on us – all of us. How can we be sure Ginny, or any of our families are safe?”
“You’re forgetting that we have information too, Harry,” said Hermione, also standing and waving her wand, conjuring a blackboard on an easel. “We need to look at all the information we have; what were those Death Eater names again?”
Between them, Harry, Ron and Neville repeated all that they had heard again, as Hermione recorded it on the blackboard:
Peter Pettigrew – Lucius Malfoy – Draco Malfoy
Crabbe – Goyle
“These are the immediate threat,” said Hermione, pointing to the names with her wand.
Harry was struck with sudden inspiration. He took the chalk from Hermione’s hand and began writing other names:
Amycus & Yaxley
“If we can find these two before Pettigrew – we can have them in Azkaban before Lestrange and her cronies know what’s happened.”
“Exactly, Harry!” exclaimed Hermione, “A good defence is what we need. Right now we know where this lot are,” she pointed again to her list, “and we can keep an eye on them via the Map. If what you heard was correct, Lestrange and Pettigrew have no more idea about the whereabouts of Amycus and Yaxley than we do – plus we aren’t in hiding – we can search for them openly, and maybe even get the Auror’s to help…”
“But what about our families?” asked Neville nervously, “we need a way to protect them – not just Ginny, but my Gran, and your parents and brothers.” He looked at Hermione and Ron as he spoke.
“Well… how do you feel about a big Christmas?” asked Ron, an idea dawning.
“What d’you mean?” Harry frowned.
“Why don’t we get everyone over here for Christmas? We’ve still got four spare bedrooms – the twins could sleep in the attic, and this place is magically protected, isn’t it? No-one would know they were here unless you told them,” he looked pointedly at Harry.
“You know,” said Harry slowly, “that’s not a bad idea! What do you think, Dobby? Can you handle a few extra guests?”
“Oh yes, Harry Potter, sir! Dobby is ready and waiting! It is Dobby’s honour to serve the noble house of Potter!”
And the four of them sat up until the early hours of the morning, plotting and planning their next move…
Gryffindor on Pottermore & COS
PhoenixLumos17470 on Pottermore
Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 33 ~ A Very Harry Christmas
When Harry finally awoke the next day, he entered the kitchen to find Dobby making a huge shopping list. After pouring himself some tea, he asked,
“Where are Ron and Hermione?”
“Master Wheezy and Miss Hermione has gone to work, Harry Potter, sir!”
Harry was surprised; he had forgotten that normal life was continuing amidst all the drama in their lives. “Did they leave me a message?”
“Miss Hermione says to meet them for lunch, Harry Potter – at Master Longbottom’s shop.”
“Right,” Harry muttered, his mind on Ginny. After talking into the small hours of the morning, Harry had finally gone to bed, tossing and turning fitfully, Bellatrix’s voice ringing coldly inside his head. Ginny had two more days of school before the Christmas holidays began, and his main concern was getting out of Hogwarts without incident. After arguing back and forth for what felt like hours last night, Harry and the others still hadn’t decided whether Ginny should be told or not. Harry and Ron thought it best she didn’t know, as she was likely to want to charge head first into battle, but Hermione had disagreed, saying that Ginny would be furious if she found out they were keeping things from her.
“Besides,” she had said, exasperated, while Neville had resolutely stayed out of the debate, “isn’t it better that Ginny knows? Then at least she can be prepared if something happens!”
“Yeah, well hopefully it won’t come to that,” Harry had replied, darkly.
He still wasn’t sure what to do. Hermione had a good point; Ginny would be furious if she found out he was keeping secrets from her, but he didn’t want to worry her – this would be their first Christmas together, and Lupin’s wedding was just around the corner too – he didn’t want to ruin everything. Stomach unsettled because he had yet to make a decision, Harry spent the rest of the morning helping Dobby plan for their ten guests. Hedwig and Pigwidgeon had been sent out with invitations, leaving Dobby to sort out which rooms they would stay in, how much food was needed and of course, the Christmas decorations. Harry thought this might be a good moment to have a word with Dobby.
“Yes, Harry Potter, sir?”
“About the decorations…” Harry searched for the best way to broach the subject; “I think it might be nice if we go with a-a more, er… traditional theme this year…”
“Yeah, you know – gold, silver, red – plain things – no faces on baubles, or stuff like that…” he was remembering the time Dobby had decorated the Room of Requirement at Hogwarts with banners wishing everyone a 'Very Harry Christmas', and had charmed the decorations so Harry’s face was on everything – Harry had only just torn them down before his friends saw them, saving him from a highly embarrassing situation.
Dobby looked disappointed, his ears drooping slightly, “Is you sure, Harry Potter, sir? Dobby is having a good idea this year”-
-“Ah, if it’s all the same, Dobby, I think we should stick to something a bit more conventional – besides, you’ll be busy enough with all these guests – are you sure it won’t be too much trouble?”
“Oh no, Harry Potter sir! Dobby is having to do much more work when he is at Hogwarts! Dobby is very excited we is having guests, sir!”
“Oh, well good. I’d better go. Got to meet Hermione and Ron.”
“So who else has confirmed?” asked Hermione, “My parents are definitely coming – they’re thrilled – it’ll be their first magical Christmas.”
She was sitting on a stool at the counter of Neville’s shop, Ron almost glued to her side, Harry and Neville sitting opposite, a large bag of crisps between them. They hadn’t been hungry enough for lunch, worry for Ginny and their own families clouding the day.
“And you haven’t told them?” asked Harry, munching half-heartedly on a crisp.
“No way,” said Hermione, frowning slightly, “There is no way they would let me stay at Grimmauld Place if they had any idea what was going on.”
“Yeah, and I’m not telling mum and dad, either,” said Ron emphatically, snaking a hand around her waist, a move no lost on Harry or Neville. They exchanged a faintly amused glance.
“So… are you two official now, or what?” asked Harry, cracking his first genuine smile since returning from Little Hangleton.
Hermione and Ron flushed a matching shade of magenta, but Ron did not, as was customary, jump away from her. If anything, they seemed to morph even closer, grinning sheepishly at Harry and Neville.
“Yes, thank you,” said Hermione crisply, “but you didn’t answer my question – who else is coming for Christmas?”
Harry took her hefty hint not to push the matter of her and Ron’s fledgling relationship, and instead, ticked off his fingers as he listed who would be where for Christmas:
“Yeah, your parents, and yours,” here he nodded at Ron, “plus the twins, Charlie and Ginny, of course. Bill and Fleur are going to visit her family in France, and Hagrid’s going to go and stay with Madam Maxime”-
-“And Gran’s confirmed too,” Neville interjected. Harry raised another finger in acknowledgement.
-“Plus Lupin and Tonks – but I haven’t told Lupin anything about what happened.”
“Ooh, Harry – don’t you think you should?” asked Hermione, frowning.
‘Yeah,” he replied tiredly, rubbing his eyes and stretching, “Let’s worry about fitting everyone in first, eh?”
Hermione nodded, but still looked troubled. Not wanting to be pressed further, Harry rose from the stool. “I think I’ll go back home and help Dobby get the attic ready for the twins.”
“Why don’t you wait ‘til we get home? We’ll help you.” Hermione was peering at his pale, exhausted face with concern.
“Nah, I’m fine – see you later.” And before she or anyone else could push the subject any further, Harry hurried out the door, the brass bell ringing him on his way.
Much, much later that evening, Ron and Hermione returned home, to find the house decorated from top to bottom, each guest room made up beautifully and a kitchen full to bursting with food for Christmas dinner. Harry and Dobby were sitting, exhausted, at the kitchen table, grinning happily, bits of pine needles and sparkly remnants of tinsel stuck in Harry’s hair and Dobby’s ears.
“This is wicked!” said Ron, as he and Hermione dragged the tired Harry and Dobby to the main sitting room, where they envisaged their guests would spend most of their time. At the far end of the room stood a ten-foot tall, lush green Christmas tree, decorated (much to Dobby’s dismay, who had made several last ditch attempts to have Harry, Hermione and Ron-themed decorations) with shimmering gold stars, pearly silver baubles and intertwined strands of silver and gold tinsel. At the top of the tree sat a miniature, golden replica of Fawkes the Phoenix, whose wings fluttered up and down and emitted gentle squawks. Every single banister and mantle piece was draped with fresh green garlands, fat red candles nestled within, making the house as fragrant as a forest and casting a gentle golden glow wherever they went.
“Oh, Harry, Dobby! This is so beautiful!” exclaimed Hermione, eyes wide as she tried to take everything in. “I can’t believe you got this all done in a day!”
Harry grinned, reaching down to pat Dobby on the shoulder, “You’d be amazed at what elf-magic can do,” he said.
“And Harry magic too, miss!” squeaked Dobby, wiping a happy tear from his eye, beside himself with joy that his ‘masters’ were so happy with the decor.
“You know, Dobby,” Hermione began, with a quick look at Ron, “we were wondering if you had someone you wanted to invite for Christmas?”
Dobby’s jaw dropped, “You mean, Dobby is allowed a guest?”
“Yeah, why not?” added Harry, though he couldn’t for the life of him think whom Dobby would want to invite.
Dobby jumped up and down on the spot. “Dobby is asking Winky to come then!” he gasped happily, “Winky is Dobby’s best friend in the world, after his Masters Harry and Wheezy and Miss Hermione!”
“Oh, of course Dobby! We’d love to have Winky to visit!” said Hermione, beaming down at the little elf, while Harry and Ron looked on with frozen smiles. Harry dared to cast a look at Ron behind Hermione’s back, and knew his friend was thinking the same thing; two house elves? Blimey…
The next two days passed in a flurry of last-minute shopping, Christmas present wrapping, and agonizing hours spent studying the Map.
“Come on, Harry,” said Hermione wearily, the night before the Weasley’s were due to descend upon them, “let’s go to bed. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult day.” They were seated in their favourite armchairs in the drawing room, the fire slowly waning, empty Butterbeer bottles littering the table.
“Why’s that?” asked Ron, eyes narrowed as he took his turn to examine the Map. They had decided for now to keep watch over the Death Eater’s activities, making sure that no new names suddenly appeared. So far, nothing had happened, with the exception of Wormtail coming and going at all hours. Right now though, his little dot was floating in place on the Map.
“Because Harry’s going to tell Ginny what’s going on,” she replied quietly, tugging him by the hand and forcing him to get to his feet. They both looked at Harry, Hermione defiant, Ron apologetic. Harry sighed, pulling his glasses off and rubbing his tired eyes. As much as he hated to admit it, Hermione was right; Ginny would have to be told, if for no other reason that to be on her guard at all times.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. I’ll tell her tomorrow.”
“It makes sense, mate,” said Ron, who, as Harry suspected, had changed his tune since Hermione had been on about it almost non-stop since they returned from that eventful evening.
“Yeah,” said Harry, privately thinking about how angry Ginny would be that he hadn’t told her sooner, “Well, I’m going to get some sleep. ‘Night.”
As he climbed the stairs to his bedroom, he heard the faint click of the drawing room door, and smiled to himself. Ron and Hermione, still self-conscious about their relationship, had taken to having secret trysts whenever they thought Harry wasn’t around. In the past, this would have made Harry feel very awkward, but now he was nothing but happy for his two friends. Rather than feeling like the third wheel, the three of them, if it were possible, were getting along better than ever, due mostly to the fact that Hermione and Ron had ceased their constant bickering, replacing it instead, with lingering looks and lots of kissing. If only they’d got together earlier, Harry thought, reflecting that Hermione and Ron could have saved themselves a lot of hassle and arguments had they realised their feelings earlier. He dropped onto his bed and thought about the following day, looking forward immensely to having a house full of guests, seeing Ginny again, anticipating her reaction to her Christmas present that now sat wrapped in crimson paper under their magnificent Christmas tree, and eventually drifted off to sleep, dreaming of a beautiful red-haired girl.
At eleven o’clock the next morning, Harry and Ron were pacing up and down the square outside Grimmauld Place, waiting anxiously for the Knight Bus to appear: it would be carrying Ginny and Mrs. Weasley. The twins, Charlie and Mr. Weasley were due to arrive later that evening, and Neville and his Grandmother would arrive when Neville shut up shop for the Christmas break. Hearing a screeching sort of pop, Harry and Ron looked up just in time to jump out of the way of the purple monstrosity that was the Knight Bus, a popular if nausea-inducing method of magical transportation. Mrs. Weasley and Ginny were the only passengers to climb out at this location. Harry and Ron rushed to help them with their luggage.
“Oh Ron! Harry! It’s good to see you!” cried Mrs. Weasley, wrapping Ron in a bone-crushing embrace, allowing Harry and Ginny a moment to smile at each other, eyes sparkling with excitement. This was the first time they had seen each other since Halloween, and Harry was loathe to spoil even a minute of their precious time together with talk of Death Eaters and revenge. This thought had barely entered his head when Mrs. Weasley had launched herself upon him, kissing his cheek and fussing over how thin he was, while Ron and Ginny hugged. Casting a furtive look around, Harry disentangled himself from Mrs. Weasley’s arms and hurried them inside.
“Oh my!” gasped Mrs. Weasley, walking around the house, staring at everything in awe, Ginny close behind. “This is marvellous! I can’t believe it’s the same house!”
Dobby appeared at the top of the hallway to greet the new arrivals, scurrying to take their cloaks, hats and gloves.
“Thanks, Dobby!” Ginny beamed down at the little elf, whom she adored.
“Oh, Miss Ginny is most welcome!” Dobby gave them a little bow and hurried to put them away.
“Do we get a tour?” asked Mrs. Weasley.
Ron and Harry spent the best part of an hour showing them around, and after settling them into their rooms (Ginny would share with Hermione and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had their own room), they sat down to a pot of tea and a freshly baked sponge cake in the kitchen.
“Oh, Dobby! This is delicious!” said Mrs. Weasley, accepting a second slice of cake, her worries about Dobby not being able to look after her boys evaporating on the spot. “You must give me the recipe!”
Ron stood up and announced that he was due at work. When he had left, Mrs. Weasley and Dobby sat immersed in a book of his recipes, exchanging ideas and tips, leaving Harry and Ginny time to catch up. They quietly made their way to the drawing room, everyone’s favourite place in the house and settled into one of the armchairs.
“I have missed you so much,” Ginny murmured, between kisses, a sentiment that Harry returned with interest. After a good thirty minutes of this, they finally pulled apart long enough for Harry to hear about life at Hogwarts, although he knew most of what had happened due to letters exchanged almost daily. In turn, Harry filled Ginny in on all that was happening at Grimmauld Place, and of course, the highly exciting news about Ron and Hermione.
“She kept that one quiet!” Ginny exclaimed indignantly, as Harry toyed with a strand of her silky red hair. “I just got a letter from her two days ago!” But Ginny was too happy about the news to stay annoyed for long. “Anyway,” she said, once she had digested this news, “what about all the Map stuff? What’s been going on?”
When Hermione had been rushed to hospital, Harry had stopped writing Ginny letters about the Map, concentrating instead on Hermione’s progress, and had yet to tell her that the Map actually worked. He took a deep breath and looked at his girlfriend, wishing that there was a way around this, but knowing it was futile. He began to talk, slowly at first, then faster and faster, the words tumbling out of him. Ginny listened in silence, her face expressionless, even when he got to the part about Lestrange sending Amycus after her. When he had finally finished, Ginny stood up, and slowly walked to the fireplace, her back to Harry. He did not push her for a reaction, knowing she would talk when she was ready. After a full five minutes of silence, she turned on the spot until she was facing him. She wore that same, blazing hard expression he had seen before, in times of great trouble, when she had been perfectly in tune with his thoughts, but did it mean the same this time?
She asked, “What do you plan to do about it?”
Harry felt a sudden rush of intense love for her, so much so it surprised him. She had not, as he feared, cried, or insisted that he tell the Ministry, or demanded be allowed to fight. She understood that it was his battle and was prepared to do whatever was necessary, even if that meant staying out of the way until the fight was over. His heart in his throat, he returned her fiery look and said,
“I’m going to kill her.”
Ginny nodded, rooted to the spot. In a flash, Harry had bounded from his chair and swept her into a tight embrace. He could feel her heart hammering against his chest, the passion and love he felt for her so strong he did not trust himself to speak. They stood like that for an age, neither speaking – they did not need to. All they needed was each other.
By the time Christmas Eve night had arrived, number twelve Grimmauld Place was heaving with guests. Following a wonderful dinner, cooked by Dobby and Winky, (who, although she had been invited as a guest, could not sit by and watch Dobby do all the work) the Weasleys’, Longbottoms’, Grangers’, Harry, Lupin and Tonks all sat in the main sitting room, the only room other than the kitchen, that could accommodate all fifteen of them comfortably. As an early surprise, Harry, Ron and Hermione had received a joint Christmas present from their parents, and, in Harry’s case, Lupin and Tonks. The card read:
Dear Harry, Ron & Hermione,
Congratulations on your new home & Merry Christmas! We hope you find these very useful in the years to come.
It was signed by Mr. and Mrs Weasley, Mr. and Mrs. Granger and Lupin and Tonks. The present was a set of three magnificent sofas that ran wall-to-wall in the sitting room. They were the most comfortable things they had ever sat on, and the best feature was that they changed colour on demand, and now, everyone was settled on them, with the exception of Mrs. Longbottom, who had found it too soft for her bad back and had conjured herself a wooden rocking chair. The clock above the mantle piece struck half past eleven, and people began to make their way to their bedrooms, wishing each other a merry Christmas as they went, until eventually, only Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville were left. With a wide yawn, Neville excused himself and made his way upstairs. After nudging Ron and giving him a meaningful look, Hermione stood up and held out a hand to him. As they left, Hermione tipped Ginny a broad wink, not unnoticed by Harry.
“What was that all about?” he asked when they were alone.
Ginny grinned. “I think it means she and Ron are going to enjoy the privacy of her room for a while.”
“Oh,” Harry replied, deciding not to let his mind linger on that for too long. Instead, his thoughts turned to the present waiting for Ginny under the tree and he smiled to himself in anticipation of her reaction.
“What are you grinning at?” she asked in a teasing voice. She was clad in pale blue pyjamas, her hair bound in a thick plat and looked extremely pretty.
“Nothing much,” he grinned, “I just think you’re going to like your Christmas present…”
“Oh yeah?” she smiled broadly at him.
“Yeah!” he replied, enjoying the way the firelight turned her brown eyes a deep shade of mahogany. He waved his wand, extinguishing all the lamps in the room, so the only light came from the fire, intensifying the shine in her eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment, when suddenly, the clock struck twelve, making them both jump a little. They laughed and Ginny jumped to her feet.
“Do you know what that means?” she asked, moving towards the Christmas tree.
Harry shook his head. Ginny knelt down and plucked a rectangular box from under the tree, turning back to face him.
“It means, it’s Christmas Day, and you’re allowed to open your present.” Smiling, she handed the parcel to him. Harry grinned, and also went to the tree, rummaging amongst the presents until he found what he was looking for. Holding out the tiny box, he said,
Ginny gave a tiny yelp of excitement, and settled herself back on the sofa. As she did so, Harry caught the tiniest glimpse of her delicate collarbone, and felt his breath catch in his throat. She’s not pretty; he thought to himself, she’s beautiful. Ginny, unaware of the affect she was having, said,
“You go first,” and watched him eagerly as he tore at the gold paper to reveal a burgundy leather box. He looked at her for a second, a questioning look on his face. He eased the box open and gasped: inside lay a watch, but not just any old watch. Instead of numbers, it was edged with the following words: at home, at work, travelling, in trouble, unwell and mortal peril. Its golden arms were each engraved with a name: Ronald, Hermione, Remus and Ginny. Right now, all the hands pointed to at home.
“It’s…” Harry trailed off, lost for words. It was the best present he had ever received.
“It’s just like the one mum has, but this one has your family on it. And it’s a bit smaller,” she smiled nervously, not sure if he liked it or not. He looked at her and she sighed with relief. Without another word, he crossed the room and kissed her. When he pulled away, he whispered in a slightly hoarse voice,
“Thank you – I will never take it off,” and immediately fastened it to his wrist. “Ginny – this must have cost you a fortune!”
She smiled wryly, “Well, I saved up – and I won’t be getting any pocket money from mum and dad ‘til next Christmas, but it’s worth it.”
Harry grinned, sitting on the floor at her feet. “Now open yours!”
With an excited giggle, Ginny carefully unwrapped the crimson wrapping paper, letting out a low “Oh my!” when she saw the velvet box. Biting her lower lip, she opened the box. Her jaw dropped as she stared at the ring. Her eyes flicked to Harry, then back to the ring, as though she couldn’t quite believe it was real.
“Harry,” she breathed, “Is this really for me?”
Harry laughed, delighted with her reaction, all thoughts of handing her the bag of Dungbombs forgotten. “Yes it’s for you! Do you like it?”
She blinked rapidly, tears welling up, and nodded, unable to tear her eyes away from her present.
“Well put it on then!” Harry exclaimed. Ginny gave a watery laugh, and plucked the ring from its satin cushion, and slipped it onto the fourth finger of her right hand. It fit perfectly.
“Oh, Harry,” she sighed in a low voice, “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my whole life.” Pushing the box and its wrapping aside, she leaned forwards and kissed him, very slowly. Harry felt his heart skip a beat. Every time they kissed was brilliant, as far as he was concerned, but there was something different about this; the intensity of it was making him very hot, and suddenly, he had the insane urge to feel his lips on that delicate collarbone. Gently, he pulled away from her and looked into her eyes, seeing the same longing there. With trembling fingers, he reached up and undid the first button of her pyjama top, her eyes burning into his. Slowly, he eased the pale blue material down until just her shoulders were exposed. Leaning in, he placed a line of soft kisses along her collarbone. Ginny gasped softly, eyes closed. Harry rested his head there, breathing in her flowery scent, marvelling at how soft and warm her skin was. It was the sweetest moment Harry had ever known. After an eternity, he slowly slipped her pyjama top back into place, and stared deeply into her eyes once more. She smiled shyly at him as her fingers coiled in his hair.
“Ginny,” he whispered softly, not wanting to break the spell, “do you remember what you said to me when we got back together?”
She nodded wordlessly. Harry could hear her heart beating rapidly.
“Well, for some reason, I didn’t say it back. But I do.”
“You do what, Harry?” she whispered back.
“I do love you.” And as he said it, he realised with a burst of pride, that he wasn’t going red, squirming inside or feeling any sort of embarrassment. He felt great! Fleetingly, he wondered if this was what it meant to be a grown up?
An enormous smile spread over Ginny’s face. “I knew it!” She placed a kiss up in his forehead, “I knew it!”
“Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!” Dobby was running up and down the corridors of Grimmauld Place, swinging sleigh bells above his head, his wake up call rousing everyone in the house. Tousle headed, sleepy eyed faces poked out of their doors, looking slightly bewildered.
“Wuh?” said Ron blearily, his eyes half glued shut with sleep, Charlie peering over his shoulder, “Dobby, whassgoingon?”
“Wake up Master Wheezy, sir! It’s Christmas Day!”
“Oh yeah! Excellent!”
Everyone was in the corridor now, the older people looking slightly grumpy, everyone else cheerful. Ginny and Hermione, wrapped in dressing gowns, stood giggling in their doorway as Harry and Neville chased Dobby down the hall, trying to relieve him of the sleigh bells. The scent of smoked ham and fresh bread wafted up the corridor. George sniffed the air,
“Mmm! Something smells good!”
“Breakfast is ready, sirs and misses!” squealed Dobby as he darted past, resolutely shaking the bells, hotly pursued by Harry and Neville, who were laughing heartily. Everyone followed, clattering down the stairs to the kitchen, where Winky stood, beaming at them all, a large red bow affixed to her head.
“Whoa!” said Fred and George as one, looking at the long table in awe. It was set with seventeen places, gleaming cutlery, fresh wreaths of holly, white poinsettias and heaps of wizarding crackers.
“Merry Christmas!” she squeaked, frowning at Dobby. “Dobby! You ought to behave!” her comment distracted Dobby just long enough for Neville to seize the sleigh bells and stuff them in the nearest kitchen drawer. Dobby’s ears drooped and he looked at Harry with an uncertain expression. Harry just grinned at the little elf,
“Merry Christmas, Dobby! And you too Winky!”
“Well, Dobby, Winky – this looks marvellous!” said Mr. Weasley appreciatively, pulling out a chair for Mrs. Weasley before taking his own seat. Mr. and Mrs. Granger voiced their agreement as they sat down, looking a little shell-shocked – they were still trying to get used to the colour-change sofa, never mind a houseful of wizards and house-elves. Lupin and Tonks sat opposite them, and smiling reassuringly, Tonks held out a wizard cracker to Mrs. Granger.
“Ah, I should probably warn you”- Lupin began, but too late. Mrs. Granger gave a yelp as the cracker tore apart. Out flew a set of Gobstones, a shower of Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans and four yellow canaries. Mrs. Granger clutched at her chest in surprise, but Mr. Granger chuckled in delight.
“Oh I’m sorry!” gasped Tonks, accidentally knocking Mrs. Weasley’s water goblet over in her attempt to comfort her.
“That’s quite all right!” said Mrs. Weasley, staring at Tonks’s hair, which was rapidly changing from short blonde curls to long red waves, due to the excitement.
“Nymphadora is a Metamorphmagus,” explained Lupin, mopping up the spilt water with his napkin, “it means she can change her appearance at will, but lately, her control over it has been a little…” he trailed of and looked to Tonks for help.
“It’s been a bit random since Lupin proposed,” she beamed at her fiancé, “We’re hoping it’ll settle down after the wedding.”
“Oh,” said Mrs. Granger faintly, ducking slightly as a canary swooped by. Crookshanks was watching the bird’s progress with a keen eye. Spotting this, Lupin waved his wand and the canaries vanished. Crookshanks slunk away disappointed, but soon cheered up when Dobby heaped his food bowl full of ham. Winky was busy dishing up food for everyone, while Ron, Harry and Hermione filled glasses. Finally, when everyone’s plates were full and they were all seated, Mr. Weasley tapped his goblet with his knife, quieting the chatter.
“Before we dig in to this delicious looking breakfast, I think I speak for us all when I say how thankful we are to Harry, Hermione and Ron for inviting us into their lovely home for Christmas,” here everyone roared their agreement, Fred wolf-whistling his approval, “and of course, to Dobby and Winky for the wonderful food!” Dobby’s eyes leaked with happy tears and Winky buried her face in her napkin. Mr. Weasley continued, “So happy Christmas everyone!”
“Happy Christmas!” they chorused, raising their glasses happily.
“Dig in!” said Ron, his mouth already half-full with ham, and everyone laughed, tucking into their breakfast. Harry, sitting next to Ginny, reached for her hand under the table, feeling the ring on her finger, and leaned over to kiss her cheek.
“Good morning,” he murmured so only Ginny could hear. She beamed back at him, eyes sparkling.
“Morning,” she replied softly, squeezing his hand.
“Harry,” said Mrs. Weasley, interrupting this exchange, “Ginny showed us the ring – it’s absolutely stunning!”
“Nice one, Harry,” Fred joined in, “didn’t know you had it in you!”
“Yeah, can’t wait to see what you got me,” said George, fluttering his eyelashes and puckering up his lips.
“Shut up, you two,” said Ginny, tartly, swatting each of them around the head, the tiny diamond in her ring glinting in the candlelight.
“That’s enough you two,” said Mrs. Weasley, frowning at her twins until they turned their attention back to their plates. Lowering her voice, Mrs. Weasley leaned in a little closer to Harry and Ginny and whispered, “I only hope Ron has something nice for Hermione!”
Ginny and Harry exchanged a troubled look: would Ron have even thought to get Hermione something nice?
After breakfast, Harry, Ron and Hermione led their families to the main sitting room. Sometime during the night, Dobby and Winky had dotted live fairies all over the beautiful Christmas tree, creating miniature, magical dots of lights that fluttered and glowed softly. Mr. and Mrs. Granger moved closer to admire them, Mr. Weasley following them, explaining more about fairies. He had been beside himself with excitement since the Grangers’ had arrived. The last time he had seen them had been at the hospital when Hermione was sick, so it hadn’t been an appropriate time to talk to them about all things Muggle, but now, he was in seventh heaven asking about everything from taxes to electric food mixers. He was particularly fascinated with the tools the Grangers’ used in dentistry, who in turn were just as intrigued by the magical world that their daughter lived in. Normally, Mrs. Weasley would have stepped in and stopped her husband, but she was currently engaged with a conversation with Mrs. Longbottom about Neville’s shop.
“…It’s just wonderful, Augusta – so useful and always packed!”
“Yes, my Neville’s doing a roaring trade! Why only the other day…”
Harry moved past this conversation to Ron, who was chatting to Neville about the Chudley Canons.
“Can I have a word?”
Ron raised his eyebrows questioningly. “What’s up?”
Harry glanced around and saw that Ginny was keeping Hermione busy for the time being. “Er, well, me and Ginny were wondering if you had”-
-“Harry!” Tonks called his name and hurried over to him, “I just wanted to thank you for inviting us, we’re having such a lovely time!”
“Oh, you’re welcome,” said Harry, wishing she would go away for a minute. He wanted to make sure Ron had got Hermione a ‘suitable’ present. Personally, he wasn’t sure if it would be such a big deal if hadn’t, but Ginny and Mrs. Weasley had both urged him to find out. Just as he turned to talk to Tonks, George and Fred cornered Ron and started a conversation about the shop.
“…So we think you’re ready to start inventing your own products. What d’you say little bro?”
“Cool! Do I get a raise?”
“Steady on, young Ronald. You need to impress us first.”
“Yeah, now speaking of impressing us, is it present opening time yet?”
“Yes!” said Ron happily, striding over to the Christmas tree and grabbing the first parcel he saw. Reading the tag, he called, “Harry! Here’s one for you from Hagrid,” and tossed the present to him. Laughing, Harry caught it and tore off the paper, as Ron dove back under the tree and pulled out a gift for Mrs. Longbottom, from Neville, though he handed rather than threw this gift. Ginny settled next to Harry as he unwrapped his present; it was a handmade leather satchel, roughly sewn by Hagrid himself. The card read:
Happy Christmas! Hope you find this useful. Fang and me will miss you this Christmas but hope to see you at New Year.
Say hello to Ron, Hermione and the rest.
“Did you ask Ron?” whispered Ginny, examining the stitching on the satchel.
“No, I tried, but got sidetracked…”
Ron continued to pass out the presents, stopping every now and then to open one of his own gifts. “Wow! Thanks Harry!” he exclaimed as he unwrapped his new Chudley Canons t-shirt. There was still no sign of a gift for Hermione.
“No problem, mate.”
“Ooh, Ginny – another one for you from Harry!” Ron sent the package flying through the air, causing Lupin and Tonks to duck. “Oops, sorry you two!” Ron apologised.
Ginny giggled as she caught the small package. Opening it, she laughed out loud, “Dungbombs? Thanks, Harry, but I think I prefer the ring!”
Harry blushed slightly, laughing along with her, shrugging at Hermione who was watching him with amusement. “I thought they might come in useful!”
Eventually, the pile of presents dwindled, until there was just one small box left. Plucking it from the floor, Ron handed it to Hermione, who accepted it with trembling hands. Sighing inwardly with relief, Harry thought that this might be a good moment to cause a distraction, and give Hermione a Ron a tiny bit of privacy. If the twins saw anything mushy, they wouldn’t let Ron or Hermione hear the end of it. Standing, Harry called loudly to Dobby, who was busy showing Winky his new socks.
“Hey Dobby! How about some drinks? What would everyone like?” Ginny caught on to what he was trying to do and also leapt to her feet.
“And maybe some mince pies?” she added.
Dobby nodded eagerly and disappeared with a crack, returning five seconds later with a large silver tray (a gift from Neville and his Grandmother) loaded with mince pies and Christmas cake. Winky carried a huge flask of pumpkin juice, conjuring up glasses as they were needed.
As everyone turned to take some cake, Harry saw Hermione open her present and lift out a small silver locket. She gasped and gave Ron a tight hug, planting a quick kiss on his cheek. Ron took the locket and fastened it around her neck. Harry nudged Ginny, indicating this scene. She heaved a sigh of relief.
“Maybe he’s not so useless after all?”
Later in the day, when all the gifts had been opened and everyone was dressed, Harry and Ginny managed to get Ron on his own.
“Ron! That locket is really pretty - Hermione loves it!” Ginny smiled at her brother, impressed.
“Yeah, I thought she would,” he replied, adjusting his new t-shirt which clashed terribly with his hair.
“When did you get it?” asked Harry, still amazed at Ron’s good taste.
“Huh?” said Ron, looking up in surprise, “oh ages ago – when she was in hospital actually – why all the questions?” he frowned at them, suddenly suspicious.
“We’re just surprised, that’s all,” whispered Ginny, “it’s so unlike you to be all romantic!”
“Oh I see, nobody thought I had taste, is that it? Harry’s not the only one who can buy a girl a nice present, you know!”
Ginny looked like she was about to disagree with him, when Harry held up his hands hastily, “No, no, nothing like that! We’re just pleased that’s all.”
Ron scowled at the pair of them. Harry, deciding not to wind him up any further, grabbed Ginny’s hand and muttered something about checking on the Christmas dinner, and giggling, they hurried to the kitchen. Dobby and Winky were sitting at the now empty kitchen table, playing with the set of Gobstones that had fallen out of Mrs. Granger’s wizard cracker.
“Ha! Dobby, I is winning!” Winky was saying gleefully, prodding one of her stones diagonally across the board, her red satin bow wobbling on her head.
Dobby, who was wearing his new socks and a bowler hat (which had also come from a cracker) was frowning in concentration, studying the little stones intently, when he heard Harry and Ginny enter.
“Harry Potter, sir! Miss Ginny!” Dobby jumped out of his seat guiltily, whipping the hat off his head, “Dobby is sorry, sir! I-I”-
-“Dobby, it’s okay! We were just coming to ask what time dinner will be ready?” Harry smiled at the pair of elves, who were staring at him as though they’d been caught doing something awful.
“Harry Potter, sir – everything is in the oven, just one more hour, sir!” he bowed low.
“Great!” Harry replied, “Dobby, get up!” Dobby straightened up, but kept his eyes on the floor. “Now, I order you two to keep playing Gobstones and having fun – it’s Christmas!”
Dobby and Winky looked at him, then at each other, as though they couldn’t believe their luck. “Thank you Harry Potter, sir!” they chorused as one, bowing and waving until Harry and Ginny had left the kitchen.
As the door closed behind them, Harry distinctly heard Winky say, “You is a very lucky elf, Dobby!” then they erupted into laughter as one of them, Harry wasn’t sure which, got squirted by a Gobstone.
After a sumptuous Christmas dinner of roast turkey, Yorkshire puddings, chipolatas, stuffing, vegetables and every kind of potato imaginable, plus more helpings of Christmas pudding, Harry, Ginny, Ron, Hermione and Neville retired to the drawing room, while the adults enjoyed a glass of sherry on the colour-change sofa. The twins had gone to challenge Winky and Dobby to a Gobstones tournament, something nobody else really felt like watching. Harry pinned the Map to the wall, while Neville conjured himself an armchair, and the five of them settled down to talk over what they planned to do next.
“Personally, I want to know where Pettigrew goes every time he leaves the Map,” Neville commented, his eyes trained on the dot labelled Bellatrix Lestrange. She, along with the other Death Eaters were still in the small house, and never seemed to go anywhere, with the exception of Wormtail who left for long periods of time, always seeming to return alone.
“Well he’s obviously trying to recruit others,” said Hermione thoughtfully, toying with the small silver locket around her neck, “but the question is, how do we get to them before he does?”
Harry was about to answer when there was a tap at the door.
In unison, they called out, “Come in!” and the door opened to reveal Lupin, standing with a glass of sherry in one hand.
“May I join you for a moment?” he asked.
“Sure, come in, but you’ll need to conjure your own chair,” Harry smiled tiredly at his guardian.
“I don’t suppose I need to guess what you’re all talking about,” Lupin commented lightly, studying the Map before magicking a chair for himself out of thin air. “Tell me Harry, have you had anymore thoughts on how your plan will proceed from here?”
“Well, actually, I was just about to suggest that we go to the Ministry for help.”
Five astonished faces looked at him. Ginny cleared her throat and said, “Um, Harry, are you sure you want to do that?”
He smiled at her before answering, “Lupin, there are two Death Eaters that I reckon the Ministry should be searching for: Amycus and Yaxley.”
Lupin took a sip of his drink and placed the glass down carefully before answering. Finally, he looked up and said, “I see. And are you going to tell me how exactly you came by this information?”
“Er,” Harry and Ron exchanged a shifty glance, “not right now, no. Sorry…” came Harry’s sheepish reply.
Lupin sighed, rubbing his face with his hands. “Harry – all of you,” he said now, looking around at each of them, “so far I have gone along with your instincts because you have shown remarkable aptitude for getting the job done, not to mention defeating Voldemort, but I must voice my concerns now. I understand your reluctance to confide in the Ministry, I really do! But you must admit, you might just be out of your depth here, and perhaps Nymphadora and I can help in more… official ways? I also wonder how your parents feel about what you’re getting up to,” he said, looking first at Hermione, then Ron and Ginny, “And before you say it, I realise you are of age, but Ginny, you haven’t even finished school yet – I’m sure Arthur and Molly would have something to say about you being involved in plans to apprehend Bellatrix Lestrange, don’t you?”
“I’m not doing anything, Lupin – honest!” said Ginny, “what can I do, stuck at school anyway?”
Lupin looked like he wanted to say something, but chose not to, turning instead to Harry again. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt – any of you.”
“I understand that, Lupin,” said Harry, rising out of his chair, “but you have to understand that this is what I’m meant to do. Why else would Dumbledore have chosen to visit me? And as for Ginny,” he flashed her a quick look, “there is no way I would let anything happen to her, and she’s right, there’s no way she can get involved while she’s at Hogwarts. And you said it,” he countered, stopping at the fireplace, “we are of age, so you can’t stop us. This is just something we have to do; the Death Eaters have damaged all our lives – Bill’s injuries, Neville’s parents, and Hermione’s not exactly on their Christmas card list being Muggle-born, is she? And don’t even get me started on why they’re not too fond of me.”
Lupin sighed deeply. He too stood up, and crossed the room to where Harry stood, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I want you to promise that you will come to me, Harry, if you need anything – anything at all, do you hear me?” Harry nodded solemnly. “My God, you are a lot like your father,” said Lupin with a faint smile, and turning to look at Ginny, he continued, “and sometimes, seeing you two together reminds me so much of Lily and James, it’s uncanny.” He sighed again, and collected his glass, “Well, I’ll leave you now, and I’ll see what I can do about Amycus and Yaxley.”
The drawing room door closed behind him and Ron let out a sigh of relief; “I thought we were in for it then!”
Neville nodded his agreement and turned to say something to Hermione, but stopped at the curious look on her face. “Hermione?”
But she didn’t answer. She got up and moved to the fireplace, looking at something on the wall.
“Hermione? What’s wrong?” asked Ginny, a slight tremor in her voice.
Hermione still didn’t answer, but plucked two photographs from the mantle piece. She studied them, then turned and smiled faintly at Harry and Ginny.
“Look at this,” she held out two photographs, one old and worn, the other taken just months ago.
Harry and Ginny moved closer to take a look. When no one said anything for a moment, Neville and Ron went to look too.
“Whoa!” exclaimed Ron, “That’s spooky!”
In her hands Hermione held two separate photographs of two different couples; one was James and Lily on their wedding day, the other was of Harry and Ginny, taken the night they had all gone for dinner at the Leaky Cauldron. With the exception of a few details in the girls’ faces, they could have been looking at two different pictures of the same couple.
“Wow!” breathed Neville, smiling at the similarities. Ron and Ginny grinned at him, but Harry was looking at Hermione. He saw a flicker of something on her face, and as their eyes met, he knew they were thinking the same thing: I hope history doesn’t repeat itself. The moment passed after a split second, and no one else noticed, not even Ginny, but Harry and Hermione maintained a slightly uneasy silence, until Dobby appeared to summon them to a round of turkey sandwiches being served in the kitchen. The others followed him happily, but Harry and Hermione hung back for a moment.
“We really have to keep Ginny out of harms way, Harry,” she whispered anxiously.
“Of course!” Harry retorted under his breath. He wasn’t really annoyed with Hermione, just very shaken by the similarities in the photograph, and not just the physical ones. Although he and Ginny were a good few years younger than his parents had been when they got married, there was no escaping the fact that his parents had been all the things that he and Ginny were right now; happy, in love, with their whole lives ahead of them, and look what had happened.
“Don’t go getting all defensive – I know you would never willingly put her in danger, but surely you realise that we can’t really do any more about the situation until she’s safely back at Hogwarts?”
Harry nodded grimly. “Yeah, you’re right. We’ll stay put until she’s back at school. But what if more Death Eaters show up?”
“Then we go to Tonks and Shacklebolt,” Hermione said firmly and without hesitation.
Harry sighed. “Okay. Whatever it takes.”
Neville suddenly reappeared in the doorway. “Come on you two! Ron and the twins will have eaten everything if you don’t get down there soon!”
Gryffindor on Pottermore & COS
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Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 34 ~ Magical Matrimony
In next to no time, the few days between Christmas and New Years Eve began to slip away. With Harry unable to think of an excuse worthy of keeping all the families under one roof, the Grangers’, Weasleys’ and Mrs. Longbottom had each returned to their respective homes. With Lupin’s help, Harry, Ron and Hermione had put their heads together and come up with some protective shields that would last about a week at a time, placing them around each family member’s home. Every week, they would take it in turns to revive the spell. It wasn’t ideal, but they wanted everyone to have as normal a life as possible. Neville had remained at Grimmauld Place for the time being, making it easier to concoct their plans. After much persuasion, Mrs. Weasley had reluctantly consented for Ginny to remain there too, until Lupin and Tonks's wedding on New Years Eve, on the strict promise that she share a room with Hermione and only Hermione, and had made Ron promise to ‘keep an eye out’, causing Harry and Ginny to laugh, not because they were mocking Mrs. Weasley (or flouting her rules) but because it was really Hermione and Ron that needed keeping an eye on. Love was definitely in the air.
They enjoyed these few days together, interrupted only by Harry receiving a surprise visitor in the form of Professor McGonagall, who arrived at Grimmauld Place two days after Christmas, with a stack of reading lists and course work for Harry’s NEWTS.
“…Now, of course no-one expects you to complete all of this work alone. I will be delighted to assist you in matters of Transfiguration, and no doubt you have already discussed with Lupin a tutoring plan for Defence Against the Dark Arts,” Harry gave a sort of noncommittal nod. In truth he and Lupin had done no more than mention the possibility of him tutoring Harry in passing. Professor McGonagall went on, “Professors Sprout and Slughorn are also keen to offer their assistance with Herbology and Potions, and I see no reason why you can’t get the bulk of your work done via owl correspondence. Are there any questions so far?” she peered at Harry over the top of her spectacles.
“Er, what about History of Magic?” he asked, hoping silently that she would say it had been abolished.
She cleared her throat, and looked at him somewhat awkwardly. “Ah, well, I have been meaning to talk to you about that, Potter. As you may or may not know, in your seventh year of study, the History of Magic course centres around modern wizarding times,” she looked at Harry to see if her words were sinking in. Harry stared at her, nonplussed. She cleared her throat again. “What that means is this: the main course material would be about the most important event in recent magical history… in other words, the rise of You-Know-Who and those involved in his downfall…”
Harry had not been expecting this. “Oh,” he said, not sure what to feel. On one hand, he would hate being the subject of his own essays and writing about his archenemy for a school project, but on the other, surely this was something he could achieve an ‘Outstanding’ mark in? No way, he thought hastily, even for you that is too weird. He shook his head slightly to rid himself of these thoughts, while Professor McGonagall watched him with concern. “Er, right. I see,” he said, sitting up a little straighter, “I think I’ll give that one a miss then.”
“Of course. I understand completely. And let us not forget that you received a dismal mark for your OWL in History of Magic too. Now that just leaves Charms,” she shuffled briskly through a sheaf of parchment, “Due to the nature of the subject, this one will also be supervised by Lupin, though Professor Flitwick will be on hand to you at the weekends should you require further help. Is that all quite clear?”
“Yes, Professor, thank you.” They stood up and she shook his hand. “I can’t tell you how pleased we all are that you are continuing your studies, Potter – a very wise move. Well, good day to you. I expect I’ll see you at the wedding.”
Ron and the others reappeared in the kitchen once the coast was clear. He picked up a stack of parchment, shaking his head. “You know, Harry, you really don’t have to put yourself through this!”
“Ron!” gasped Hermione in a scandalised voice. “How can you say that?” she turned to Harry and said, “Completing your education is the smartest thing you could possibly do, Harry, and I’ll help you as much as I can.” She didn’t notice Ron roll his eyes behind her back.
However serious Harry was about continuing his education, he wasn’t about to let it interfere with his last couple of days with Ginny. They soaked up every possible moment together. For Harry, it was like storing up some wonderful potion that he hoped would see him through the bleak times ahead, but he couldn’t help but let his mind wander to those photographs and the similarities between his parents and them. Still, the five of them managed to have fun together, and it felt just like the old days in Gryffindor Tower, although someone always had their eye trained on the Map. So far nothing new had happened, even Wormtail hadn’t gone anywhere recently, and before they knew it, the day of Lupin and Tonks’s wedding dawned. Chaos ensued in the Potter-Granger-Weasley household that morning.
“Aargh!” Hermione clattered into the kitchen, wrapped in a dressing gown, her hair bushier than Harry or Ron had ever seen it. “Dobby! Have you seen my shoes?” Dobby, who had just been about to pile scrambled eggs and toast onto Ron’s plate, stopped what he was doing immediately. Ron, stomach rumbling loudly, tugged the frying pan out of Dobby’s hands and served himself.
“Which ones, Miss Hermione?” he asked anxiously. Harry, Ron and Neville exchanged an amused glance as Hermione hopped agitatedly about, trying to tame her hair with one hand, clutching her robe closed with the other.
“Oh, those green ones – to match my dress robes for today – I can’t find them!”
Dobby was just about to dash upstairs when Ginny burst through the door, also clad in a robe, her red hair done up in huge curlers, clutching a pair of shoes. “Here they are!” she gasped, short of breath “Under my bed – no idea how they got there!”
“Blimey Ginny – what’s going on with your hair?” Ron goggled at her, eyebrows raised, as Hermione took the shoes gratefully.
“Don’t start,” Ginny warned her brother menacingly, “I have to do it this way – I’m not allowed to use magic outside of school yet – remember?”
“Couldn’t Hermione help...?” Harry asked hesitantly.
“Don’t look at me!” Hermione burst out, gulping down some coffee, “I can barely manage the Sleekeazy potion!”
“Yeah, and that only leaves you three,” Ginny continued, smiling wryly at the three young men seated at the table, “I don’t suppose any of you know how to do curls?”
“Er, not really our area of expertise,” Harry mumbled, as he, Neville and Ron busied themselves with their breakfasts.
“Just as I thought,” Ginny replied, shaking her head, her curlers wobbling slightly.
“Aren’t you three ready yet?” Hermione demanded, staring at the three of them, still in their pyjamas.
“We’ve got loads of time!” protested Ron, adding more eggs to his plate and squirting ketchup over them. “All a man needs to do is jump in the shower for five minutes - not an hour,” he looked at the girls pointedly, “throw on dress robes and hey presto! Ready to go! Hermione, you need to learn how to relax.”
Hermione and Ginny watched him shovel eggs into his mouth, unimpressed.
“Urgh, Ron, you are so revolting sometimes, you know that?” said Ginny, though she smiled as she spoke. Ron grinned at her, cheeks bulging with food. Ginny shook her head with a laugh, “Harry, did you get your speech done?”
Harry nodded. He had been up half the night attempting to write something. At first, Ginny and Hermione had tried to help him, but with each discarded draft, they had grown more and more tired, until eventually, they abandoned him to get their beauty sleep. Finally, Harry had decided on a short and simple speech that congratulated Lupin and Tonks and thanked the guests for coming. Luckily, it was going to be a very small wedding, with only Tonks’s family, the Weasleys’ and a few work friends attending. Harry was the only family Lupin had left, making the guest list shorter still, so Harry wasn’t too nervous about standing up in front of everyone.
“Yeah, all done, and the rings are in my robe pocket.” Harry had stowed the gold wedding bands safely in his pocket the night before, ensuring they didn’t get left behind.
“Good,” said Hermione, slamming her coffee mug down on the table and grabbing Ginny’s arm, “we’ll go and finish getting ready then.” Talking rapidly, the pair of them hurried back to their rooms, leaving Harry, Ron and Neville to ponder the mysteries of females.
Finally, all five of them were bathed, dressed and ready to go. Hermione, her hair now sleek and shiny, was dressed in robes of the softest green colour, her silver locket complimented by two small silver clips that drew her hair back and away from her face. Ginny, having rid herself of the curlers, wore her hair in soft, tumbling curls that framed her face prettily. Her robes were a pale blue colour that went very well with Harry’s midnight blue dress robes and she wore a wreath of tiny white flowers in her hair.
“Whoa!” Harry had gasped when he saw her, heart beating a little faster, “you look amazing!”
Ginny blushed and reached up to kiss him. “You too!”
Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick kiss too, Ron whispering something in Hermione’s ear that the others couldn’t hear, but caused her eyes to sparkle happily.
“Great,” sighed Neville glumly, observing the two happy couples, “I’m the only dateless wonder.”
“Don’t be silly, Neville!” said Hermione, moving away from Ron slightly, “we’re going to the wedding as a group!”
“Yeah, I know,” he gave her a small smile, but still continued to look slightly morose.
As they headed out the door, Ron asked, “Got your eye on anyone, Neville?”
“No. Between running the shop and the latest… stuff going on, I don’t really have time to meet anyone. The youngest customers in the shop are at least fifty years old – not exactly girlfriend material! It would just be nice not to be the third wheel once in a while” he said wistfully.
Ron persisted, “What about Luna? I always thought you two might… you know…”
“What? No way, we’re just friends! I like Luna a lot, but she’s not really my type. She’s, um… very unusual.” He grinned sheepishly.
Outside, the coast was clear. Hermione Apparated first, followed closely by Ron and Neville. Ginny grasped Harry’s arm and they disappeared together with a loud pop. They reappeared in the tiny meadow in Hogsmeade, where the wedding would take place. Twenty golden chairs were arranged in front of a raised white dais. It should have been freezing cold, but the small meadow had been magically heated for the occasion. Tiny fairies fluttered here and there, and a witch wearing purple robes sat to the side of the dais, a large golden harp in front of her, playing a beautiful, haunting tune that Harry had never heard before.
“There you are!” Mrs. Weasley came rushing over to them. “Oh, don’t you look nice everyone!” She eyed them all approvingly, reaching out to straighten Ginny’s flowers and adjust Ron’s robes. She was just about to start in on Harry’s hair, when he spotted Lupin waving at him.
“Er, I think Lupin needs me, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry gave Ginny’s hand a quick squeeze before escaping.
“Harry! Perfect timing,” Lupin reached out a shook his hand warmly. He too was wearing midnight blue robes, and had a look of excitement upon his face that Harry had never seen before. “Got the rings?”
Harry felt in his pocket and held out his hand.
“Good, good! We’ve still got about half an hour to go, so can you organise Ron and Neville to help you get everyone in their seats? I just want a quick word with the Minister,” he indicated a portly man, dressed in silvery robes who stood at the top of the dais.
“No problem,” he smiled reassuringly and went back over to where the others were standing. Once they had settled Hermione and Ginny in seats, the three of them approached the other guests that were milling about, until the rest of the golden chairs were full. Leaving Ron and Neville, Harry made his way back to the dais where Lupin stood, beginning to look nervous.
“Are you all right?” asked Harry.
Lupin smiled. “Yes…” he replied quietly, “I just can’t believe this is happening. I never would have believed that someone like me would be here today – about to get married!” he looked at Harry wistfully, “I just wish that Prongs and Padfoot were here to see it – who would have thought that Moony would be getting married!”
Harry smiled at him, hiding the twist he felt in his stomach as his mind automatically flashed back to the photo of his parents again. Would Ron, Hermione and Neville someday be looking at a picture of he and Ginny, wishing they were still alive? Stop it! He told himself sternly, this is Lupin’s day. Don’t ruin it for him. He smiled again, relieved that it felt genuine this time and reached out to shake Lupin’s hand. He pulled Harry into a brief one-armed hug.
“I’m very glad you’re here, Harry,” he said, his voice breaking slightly.
“Me too,” Harry replied quietly. The harpist had stopped playing and the guests began to murmur excitedly. Looking around, Harry and Lupin saw that Tonks had arrived. She wore stunning ivory robes, carried a bouquet of golden flowers and her hair (platinum for the wedding) was piled on her head in an elegant bun. She paused for a moment at the top of the aisle. The harpist began to play the wedding march and Tonks, accompanied by her father, began to walk gracefully down the aisle. Well, almost gracefully. She had nearly made it all the way to Lupin without incident, beaming at her guests, when she tripped on the hem of her robes. Luckily, Lupin seemed to be expecting this, as had Harry, and they both reached out and caught her by an elbow each. The spectators gasped, and Tonks giggled nervously. Once he was certain that she was secure on her feet, Harry let go of her elbow and moved to the side, winking discreetly at Ginny who was smothering a laugh.
The Minister stepped forward and touched his wand to his throat. “Sonorous!” he muttered. “Friends, family,” he said in a rumbling voice, beaming around at the assembled guests, “we have gathered here today to join in magical matrimony, Remus John Lupin and Nymphadora Tonks.”
Lupin reached out and took Tonks’s hand.
The Minister continued, “We are here to affirm their love in its many varied forms, and to witness the making of a covenant expressed in solemn vows and promises, with the love of family and the support of friends.” Looking up, the Minister asked, “do you have the rings?”
Harry started slightly and stepped forwards, holding the rings out on the palm of his hand. Lupin took them and Tonks beamed at him.
Turning to Lupin, the Minister said, “Do you, Remus John Lupin take Nymphadora Tonks, to be bound in magical matrimony, and promise to love, protect and cherish her as long as you both shall live?”
With a trembling hand, Lupin slipped the slim gold band onto Tonks’s finger and said, “I do.” As he spoke, the ring glowed magically.
The Minister repeated the same words to Tonks.
“I do!” she cried happily, causing the audience to titter. She placed the slightly wider gold band onto Lupin’s finger and again it glowed.
“And now,” the Minister said, addressing the guests, “I pronounce you husband and wife! Ladies and gentlemen; may I be the first to present Mr. and Mrs. Remus Lupin!”
The audience burst into appreciative applause and Fred and George let off some specially made fireworks: a million pink hearts and gold stars erupted into the sky as Lupin and Tonks shared their first kiss as a married couple.
“Beautiful ceremony!” cried the guests as Lupin and Tonks, strolled hand in hand into the Three Broomsticks where the reception was taking place. For the occasion, Madam Rosmerta had closed it to the public, and vanished all the usual tables and chairs, replacing them instead with more golden chairs and matching tables, each with a small vase of gold and white flowers in the centre, plus one long table for the bride and groom to sit at. The bar itself was festooned with more of the same, and additional fairies fluttered all around. An enormous, twelve-tier wedding cake, frosted with thick white icing and decorated with sugar flowers took pride of place in the centre of the bar. Huge beeswax candles glowed invitingly and there was a large space cleared for dancing. Tonks’s favourite band, the Weird Sisters, had joined the harpist on a tiny makeshift stage, as a personal favour to Harry. He had asked them to play as part of his wedding gift to the happy couple, and they had willingly consented, thinking Harry to be “a top bloke”.
Harry was once again busy getting everyone into his or her seats, trying not to collide too much with Mr. Weasley, who was the self-appointed photographer for the day. There were six people at each table: the twins, Neville, Ginny, Ron and Hermione were together, a group of Auror’s at another, some of Tonks’s relatives next to them, and Hagrid, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Professor MacGonagall and a couple of people Harry didn’t recognise were at another. He was to sit at the top table with Lupin, Tonks and her parents. Finally, people stopped throwing their confetti and chattering long enough to hear his polite but insistent instructions to settle down. He too sat down, satisfied that all was going smoothly until he realised every eye in the pub was on him. He felt Lupin give his a small nudge under the table and mutter, “speech!”
“Oh! Yeah, sorry!” clearing his throat, Harry stood and faced the guests. His mouth went dry and the simple speech he had planned went clean out of his head. Taking a quick sip of water from his goblet, his eyes sought out Ginny. She was smiling at him reassuringly and he felt himself relax a little. He cleared his throat again, “H-hello everyone.”
The audience chorused back, “Hello!” The twins waved at him.
Harry grinned, feeling better. “I’m Lup- er Remus’s best man, and would like to say a few words,” he paused for a moment, overcome with the insane urge to shout: nitwit, oddment, blubber, tweak! Stifling a laugh, he continued, “I’ve known Remus for a long time, and can honestly say I have never seen him happier than when Tonks is around. He’s a changed man and he and Tonks deserve all the happiness in the world. Let’s raise a glass to the happy couple!”
Everyone raised their goblets and toasted loudly.
“And thank you all for coming!”
Everyone laughed and clapped as Harry sat down, relieved that the ordeal was over. Tonks’s father, Ted, stood next, and invited his daughter and son-in-law to lead the first dance. Eagerly, Tonks stood up, grabbing Lupin’s hand, and half dragged him to the dance floor. The harpist began to play a pretty waltz, and the two of them danced to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the watching guests. Tonks’s parents stood and joined them, quickly followed by the other guests. Grinning, Harry watched Hermione and Ron begin to dance, extremely impressed that Ron seemed to know what he was doing. Mrs. Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt cut a path across the dance floor next, closely followed by Hagrid and Professor MacGonagall. Feeling a tug on his hand, Harry turned to find Ginny smiling at him.
“Well done!” she said, “Feel like a dance?”
“Er, okay! But I don’t really know how to waltz…”
Laughing, Ginny pulled him onto the dance floor, where he discovered it wasn’t as hard as it looked. Looking over Ginny’s shoulder, Harry was pleased to see Neville approach one of Tonks’s cousins, a pretty girl with light brown hair, asking her to dance. She accepted, and they moved into the swell of dancing couples. The waltz finished and the Weird Sisters took to the stage, kicking the pace up several notches. When the lead singer cried out, “Everybody switch!” Harry found himself dancing with Hermione. Ginny partnered with Lupin and Ron with Tonks.
“Everything has been so lovely!” Hermione cried over the loud music, taking Harry’s hands.
“Yeah, it has!” he replied happily, glad that everything was going so well so far. “You look really pretty, Hermione,” Harry grinned, and twirled her under one arm.
Laughing, she thanked him, “How’s everything going with Ginny?”
“Perfect! What about you and Ron, eh? I thought you’d never get together!”
Hermione blushed. “Well, I admit it took us a while, but I think it was well worth the wait! Can you believe we made it this far, Harry? Who would have thought all this would have happened!”
“Yeah, the three of us living together, and you with a house-elf! I never would have believed it if you’d told me in our first year!”
Chuckling again, they hugged briefly before switching partners again. Harry watched her go, thinking about getting back to Ginny, when a platinum blur flashed in front of his eyes.
“Wotcher, Harry!” Tonks seized his hands and began to dance frantically. “Thank you so much for getting the Weird Sisters here!”
“You’re welcome! Are you enjoying your wedding?”
“Oh Harry - it’s been the best day of my whole life!” and she performed a funny half pirouette, half leap on the spot, miraculously landing on two feet with a triumphant flourish. Nevertheless, Harry thought it might be time to beat a hasty retreat. He danced with Tonks for a few minutes more, and then said something about going to find Ginny, who was now dancing with one of the twins, he couldn’t tell which. His timing was perfect; a slow song had just come on. Taking Ginny’s hand, he steered her away from her brother (who turned out to be George) and wrapped his arms around her, feeling a lot more confident now: slow dancing was easy, you just sort of swayed about on the spot – nothing to it. As was his habit, he dipped his head to inhale the smell of flowers in her hair. Sighing contentedly, she wrapped her arms around him a little tighter and they stayed like that until the end of the song. As the last chords faded away, Lupin tapped his goblet with his knife and announced that it was time for wedding cake. A large cheer went up, led by Fred and George as everybody crowded around to watch Lupin and Tonks cut the huge cake, levitating slices through the air to the guests. They returned to their tables, but Harry took a seat with Ginny and the others, taking advantage of the twins’ empty seats (they were off preparing another firework display). Neville was now sitting with Tonks’s cousin, who Hermione informed them was called Emily, and Hagrid had joined Harry too.
“Beau’iful, jus beau’iful,” he sniffed, mopping his eyes with one of his giant hanky’s.
“How was your Christmas, Hagrid,” asked Ron, not realising there was a smudge of white icing on the end of his nose. Hermione wiped it off for him with a giggle.
“Smashing, thanks fer asking! Olympe’s doing very well. Oh, and thanks fer that Lollygagger Lasso, Harry! It’s bin dead useful!”
“No problem – thanks for the bag,” Harry replied, grinning.
“So, I take you two are back together then?” Hagrid smiled mischievously at Harry and Ginny, who just beamed back. “And wha’ about you two? Do I detect a bit o’ romance in the air?” Hagrid had turned his gaze to Ron and Hermione.
“Well, it is a wedding, Hagrid,” said Ron, leaning back in his chair, grinning.
“Huh! So when’ll we be ‘aving a wedding fer yeh?” he raised his eyebrows at Harry who swallowed hard. The truth was, the moment he had witnessed Lupin and Tonks’s wedding vows, he had pictured he and Ginny in the same place, with Ron as best man and Hermione as bridesmaid. It was an extremely appealing thought, but he didn’t dare voice it now. He was sure Ginny would think him quite mad and Mrs. Weasley would probably flip out.
Aloud he said, “Er, not just now, Hagrid!”
“Yeah, let us finish our NEWT’s at least!” added Ginny, laughing.
Hagrid chuckled, shooting Harry a knowing look that went unnoticed by the others. Harry squirmed in his seat for a moment, covering his discomfort by taking a giant bite of wedding cake. What was he thinking? He was far too young to get married, but he knew he could never feel the same way about another girl as he did about Ginny. He allowed his thoughts to drift pleasantly, imagining being able to wake up with Ginny everyday, taking holidays together somewhere sunny, seeing her belly fat with pregnancy, grinning as he imagined the frenzied booty knitting Dobby would undertake. He was just wondering whether their children would have black or red hair when –
Ginny was giggling as she waved a hand in front of his face. “Where did you go?”
“Huh? Oh, nowhere,” he smiled, “just thinking about… getting more cake!”
Ron and Hermione laughed, but Ginny gave Harry a searching look before pushing her half eaten cake towards him. “Here, you can have the rest of mine.”
“Thanks,” Harry began to eat, not really hungry but not wanting to reveal what he had really been thinking about.
“Well, Ginny! How about a dance?” Hagrid stood up and held out a hand. Ginny took it and followed him onto the dance floor.
“I hope Hagrid doesn’t squash her,” said Ron, grabbing a bit of cake off Harry’s plate, watching Hagrid and Ginny move around the dance floor. Neville was up and dancing again, with Tonks’s cousin, Emily.
“Want to have another boogie, Hermione?” asked Ron, standing up and stretching.
“Yes please! I’ll just be a second.”
Ron nodded and made his way to the edge of the dance floor. Hermione leaned in to Harry.
“She wants the same thing. It’ll happen when the time is right.”
And before Harry could respond, she had made her way to the dance floor. Harry smiled to himself, shaking his head: was I that obvious?
The last of the wedding guests finally dispersed at midnight, after waving Lupin and Tonks off on their honeymoon. They were going to spend a week in the south of France, visiting Bill and Fleur while they were there. After they had thanked Madam Rosmerta for the lovely reception, Harry and the others Apparated home. Grimmauld Place was dark and deserted, the silence broken only by their hushed chatter. Ron and Harry were teasing Neville about Emily, wanting to know what had gone on, while Ginny and Hermione defended him. They had all shared a large bottle of oak matured mead towards the end of the evening and were now in very high spirits.
“Mind your own business!” laughed Hermione, taking Neville’s arm protectively, “I’m sure Neville doesn’t want to talk to you two about Emily, do you Neville?”
Neville stammered something about just dancing with her, blushing furiously in the light of the street lamp, and waited desperately for number twelve to materialize. Giggling, Ginny took his other arm and marched him through the front door. Dobby was waiting up for them.
“Is you having a good time at the wedding?” he asked eagerly, taking their travelling cloaks and Vanishing them.
“Yes thanks, Dobby!” Hermione replied, as they made their way up to the drawing room. Sighing, they settled into their favourite armchairs.
“Can Dobby get you anything, sirs? Misses?”
Ron yawned widely, “No thanks, Dobby, we’re stuffed!”
Dobby nodded, “Well Dobby is just leaving this pot of tea here,” he clicked his fingers a teapot and five cups and saucers appeared on the table, “just in case you is changing your minds. Dobby is going to bed then – but you can wake him up if you is wanting anything else!”
“Thanks, Dobby!” they called, as the drawing room door closed behind the little elf.
Ginny eased her shoes off and wiggled her toes, “Aaah! That’s better – anyone want tea?” she stood up and busied herself pouring steaming cups of tea for everyone. After handing them round, she settled back in her chair. “Well I don’t think the wedding could have gone better!”
Everyone agreed, and chatted happily for a while about the magnificent firework display provided by Fred and George, the delicious wedding cake and, of course, how happy Lupin and Tonks had looked. Ron had pressed Neville for more information on Emily, but he remained resolutely tight-lipped, saying only that she was a very nice girl and he had enjoyed dancing with her. When the clock on the mantle piece stuck two o’clock, Hermione insisted they all get some sleep. Harry extinguished the fire as they made their way up to bed when Neville stopped him quietly.
“Look,” he whispered, his jovial mood replaced by a sudden intensity.
“What?” asked Harry, following him back into the drawing room. His eyes followed the direction that Neville was pointing in.
“He’s gone again – Peter Pettigrew – he’s left the house again!”
“Yeah… he’s been doing that a lot, Neville…”
“But where does he go?” Neville burst out, sounding very frustrated.
“I dunno! Look, it’s late. Let’s discuss it in the morning.”
He ushered Neville out into the hallway, practically dragging him up the stairs.
“I’ve just got a bad feeling about him…” Neville said, biting his lower lip, a frown creasing his brow.
“Yeah, well you should,” Harry stated firmly, “he’s bad news, but right now, there’s nothing we can do about it. Get some sleep and we’ll talk in the morning.” He gave Neville a shove in the direction of his room, then turned and entered his own bedroom, closing the door before Neville could continue the conversation. He was thoroughly exhausted and wanted no more talk of Death Eaters, just as much sleep as possible.
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Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 35 ~ The Death of a Matriarch
It was a bleary-eyed group that met at the breakfast table late the next morning. Dobby was cheerfully frying sausages, humming a little tune, not noticing that Ron was shooting daggers at him.
“Can’t he keep it down?” he hissed, eyeing Dobby balefully.
“Oh stop it! It’s not his fault you drank half a bottle of mead last night!” Hermione whispered back, an amused look on her face.
“I did not! We shared that bottle between all of us, didn’t we Harry?” Ron said, indignantly.
Harry grimaced, stretching widely, his eyes closed. “Mmm.”
Ginny giggled and passed her brother a cup of black coffee. “Happy New Year to you too!”
“Huh?” Ron looked up after taking a deep slurp of his coffee.
“I said, happy New Year! Did you forget that yesterday was New Years Eve?”
Harry and Ron exchanged a surprised look; in all the excitement of Lupin and Tonks’s wedding, they had clean forgotten that it was New Years Day today.
“Oh yeah!” Ron brightened a little, and took an enormous bite of his sausage sandwich. “Where’s Neville?”
“Must still in bed,” said Harry thickly, through his own sandwich, “he was a bit stressed out last night.”
“Probably all the excitement of meeting that girl,” Ron added four heaped sugars to his coffee and took another deep slurp.
Hermione fixed him with a stern look and went to retrieve the Daily Prophet from the counter. Settling back into her seat, she took a large gulp of orange juice and unfolded the paper, choking suddenly.
“Oh no!” she cried, her face turning an odd shade of grey.
“What is it?” Harry demanded, as he, Ron and Ginny dropped their sandwiches, gaping at her in surprise.
Hermione cleared her throat, and in a choked voice, read aloud from the paper:
“Last night, notorious Death Eater, Amycus Carrow and an unknown accomplice invaded and rampaged through a New Years Eve party held at the popular wizarding inn, the Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley…”
Ginny cried out too, and Harry quickly stood up, his chair falling over in the process.
“… They terrorised guests, who defended themselves against Unforgivable Curses and other Dark Magic, but tragically, one witch was killed in the crossfire. Sources report that several Ministry officials were busy attending the wedding of known werewolf, Remus Lupin and Auror, Nymphadora Tonks, causing a delay in help when the alarm was raised in the early hours of the morning…”
“Oh, come on! It was their wedding!” - gasped Ron, indignantly, before Hermione’s other words had sunk in fully. “Wait… who-who was killed?”
Hermione faltered. Ginny picked up the paper and read on in a hoarse whisper:
“… The injured witches and wizards were rushed to St. Mungo’s Hospital for emergency treatment and Ministry officials are refusing to name the deceased witch until her family have been contacted. The Minister for Magic, Rufus Scrimgeour said of the attack: ‘We are devastated by the senseless act of these evil doers and will not rest until they are brought to justice.’ The Minister went on to say that he would personally oversee all aspects of the hunt for Carrow…”
She lowered the paper, a horrified look upon her face. Looking down, Harry’s eyes strayed to the last line of the article: “On a related note, Harry Potter, hero of the wizarding world was also in attendance of the Lupin/Tonks wedding, as best man.” He stared at the words numbly, but had no time for annoyance.
“She must have sent them.” He stated coldly, staring at Hermione.
“Who?” she asked, confused, “oh! Well, maybe…” she bit her lip.
“Lestrange?” asked Ginny, who was shivering despite the warmth of the fireplace. Harry nodded. Dobby righted his fallen chair and pushed it under his legs, forcing him to sit back down. Something was nagging at him – why would Lestrange stir up trouble now?
Hermione interrupted his thoughts, obviously thinking along the same lines, “But why would she, Harry? It doesn’t make any sense – she needs to keep a low profile right now – what would be the point in drawing attention to herself?”
“’Cos she’s an evil psycho!” exclaimed Ron; gripping his coffee mug so tight his knuckles went white.
Hermione shook her head. “No – I mean, yes - she’s an evil psycho, but she’s not stupid, is she? How does attacking a group of witches and wizards fit in with her plan to resurrect Voldemort?”
Harry stared at her, willing his mind to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Hermione was right – it was very risky of Lestrange to have sent Carrow to do that.
“Well Lestrange might not be stupid, but Carrow certainly isn’t winning any prizes for intelligence is he?” Ginny piped up.
Harry turned to her, “What do you mean?”
“Well, maybe he did it all off his own back? I mean, how thick is it to burst into a pub full of people who think you might be dead or at least long gone, and announce that you’re alive and well? He’s totally blown his own cover! And as much as I hate to say it, Bellatrix Lestrange is too sophisticated to burst in somewhere and start firing off hexes. If anything, I bet she’ll be furious when she hears about this – just as everyone was starting to think the threat of Death Eaters was over, Carrow bursts in and puts us all on our guard again!”
Harry sat back in his chair and pondered her words. They made perfect sense. He nodded slowly and said to Ron, “Go and wake up Neville,” Ron nodded and clattered out of the room. “Dobby,” said Harry, looking down at the little elf who had, so far, kept a fearful silence, “could you get the Map? I think you’re both right, but let’s make sure. If Carrow isn't on the Map, we need to go out and find him.”
Ginny and Hermione nodded their agreement as they watched Dobby scurry out of the room. Harry glanced at his watch, relieved to see that the hand for Lupin read “on holiday”. What would Lupin think when he returned? He was startled out of his reverie by a burst of green flames in the fireplace. Coughing, Mr. Weasley stepped from the flames, brushing soot from his robes with one hand, and clutching a copy of the Daily Prophet in the other. As he opened his mouth to speak, Ron thundered back down the stairs:
“Neville’s not in his room, or anywhere upstairs!” he panted. Looking to the fireplace, he said, “Hey, dad! What are you doing here?”
“Neville’s not here?” asked Mr. Weasley, a grim expression on his face. Spotting Hermione’s copy of the paper he said, “Ah. I take it you’ve heard the news?”
“Yeah,” said Harry anxiously, “What happened?”
“Well, the Prophet’s pretty much got it right, for once. Carrow and an unknown Death Eater barged in on a party – knocked old Tom clean out. Luckily the injuries aren’t serious. It was a party for everyone who runs a business on Diagon Alley… to celebrate getting back on their feet after You-Know-Who was defeated… I just thank goodness the twins weren’t there.”
Harry nodded, “It’s awful – any idea who she was…? You know, the witch that died?”
“Well, I, uh…” Mr. Weasley turned an odd shade of red, in exactly the same way that Ron did when he was nervous. Looking down at his hands he asked, “So where exactly is Neville?”
“I dunno, maybe he went for a walk,” said Ron, sitting at the table and massaging his temples. “Could this day get any worse?”
When Mr. Weasley didn’t say anything, Ron looked at his father. “Dad – what’s up?”
“Look, I really need to talk to Neville – can you go and find him?”
“Why, dad? What’s going on?” Ginny demanded, exchanging a worried look with Hermione.
“I really can’t say – I must speak with Neville!”
“Mr. Weasley…” Hermione began, tears flooding her eyes. Harry felt something icy seize his heart and he and Ginny stared at Mr. Weasley in horror.
“Hermione, what’s wrong?” gasped Ron, jumping out of his seat and moving to her side, “Harry… Ginny? What’s the matter?” he looked to his father for help.
“Sit down, son,” said Mr. Weasley, also pulling up a chair. “I really should be talking to Neville about this first, but it seems you’ve worked it out…”
Perplexed, Ron looked from his father to Hermione, tears trickling slowly down her face.
“Ron,” said Mr. Weasley gently, “the witch who was killed this morning… it was Augusta Longbottom…”
“But that’s”- Ron stopped short, shock written all over his face.
Mr. Weasley spoke as though with a heavy heart, “Neville’s grandmother.”
One hour later, and still Neville had not returned. Harry paced the kitchen, while Ginny and Hermione sat quietly together. Ron was helping Dobby make some tea and Mr. Weasley had gone to Diagon Alley to see if Neville was at his shop, firmly instructing them to stay put. Nobody spoke: they were too stunned – how could this have happened? How would they break the news to Neville?
Harry, desperate for something to do, had checked the Map a thousand times, hoping to spot Carrow or anything that seemed suspicious, but so far, nothing new had happened. He kept thinking back to last night – Neville had seemed so intent on finding out what Wormtail was up to – was it possible he had gone looking for him? An idea occurred to Harry suddenly, and he bolted from the kitchen without a word. He ran down the hallway to the coat cupboard, yanking the door open and rummaging through the assortment of cloaks in there. As he feared, his Invisibility cloak was missing. Swearing loudly to himself, he hurried back to the kitchen. Hermione and Ginny looked up at him in surprise, the stains of recently shed tears on both their pale faces.
“My Cloak’s gone – my Invisibility Cloak.”
“What?” gasped Hermione, standing up, “what do you mean ‘gone’? Gone where?”
“Neville must’ve taken it. Last night he was going on about Wormtail disappearing from the Map – I think he might have gone to look for him!”
“Oh no,” sighed Hermione, clutching her chest. “You don’t think he’s already heard about… about what happened do you?”
“I hope not.” Harry resumed his agitated pacing, “We’ve got to find him! What if he’s hurt? What if he’s gone and done something stupid?”
“No need to worry! I’m fine!”
Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione jumped about a foot into the air. Neville was standing in the doorway of the kitchen, a small smile on his face, the Invisibility cloak clutched in one hand. Dobby dropped the teapot in his nervousness, letting out a slightly hysterical squeal.
“Oh good – tea! Could I have one please, Dobby?” Neville took a seat next to Ginny, who quickly scooped up the paper and hid it on her lap.
“Neville,” said Hermione faintly, “where have you been?”
“It’s a long story, but I did manage to track Wormtail down! It”- he suddenly noticed the expressions on the girls’ faces and stopped short. “What’s wrong?”
The four of them exchanged uneasy glances. Dobby placed a steaming cup of tea in front of Neville and hastily excused himself.
“Harry?” Neville asked, a bemused smile on his face. When still no one spoke, he said again, more forcefully, “Harry?”
Taking a deep breath, Harry sat down opposite Neville. His eyes flicked to Ron, who gave him a small nod: tell him.
“Neville,” Harry began quietly, taking another deep breath, “last night, there was a Death Eater attack.”
“What?” Neville said in a loud voice, “Oh my God! Who was it? Was anyone hurt? Was it Lestrange?”
“It-it was Amycus Carrow – him and some other Death Eater attacked at a party, really early in the morning, probably just as we were going to bed,” his voice cracked a little, “It was a party at the Leaky Cauldron…”
“Oh no,” said Neville, worry etched over his face, “Wait a minute,” he frowned, “My Gran was at that party! Is she okay?”
Harry stared at Neville for a moment. How can I do this to him? He thought, agonizing over the words.
“Harry,” said Neville, in a voice quite unlike his own, “is she okay?”
“We-we don’t know all the details, but Amycus was shooting hexes all over the place and your Gran… your Gran got caught in the middle of it… Neville, I-I’m so sorry. She… she’s dead.”
The silence that followed this statement seemed to spiral on forever. All the life seemed to go out of Neville, and he stared glassy-eyed at Harry, as though he expected him to say it was all a big mistake. Ginny and Hermione sat either side of him, clutching his arms and whispering consoling words in his ear.
There was another burst of flames in the fireplace, and for the second time that morning, Mr. Weasley stepped out onto the stone kitchen floor. One look at the scene that greeted him told him all he needed to know. He quietly asked the others to leave he and Neville alone for a moment and took a seat at the table. They obeyed, silently filing out into the hallway and went to the drawing room. Once the doors closed behind them, Hermione sank into her armchair and wept openly.
“Poor Neville!” she sobbed, “I just c-can’t believe it! What should we do?” Ron knelt down in front of her, looking and feeling helpless.
Harry sat down too, a numb feeling washing over him. Was this his fault? Had he been moving too slowly, thus providing an opportunity for Death Eaters to cause the death of another loved one?
“No, Harry – it’s not your fault.”
Harry looked up in surprise to see Ginny looking at him with those blazing hard eyes.
“I know what you’re thinking and it’s not true. There is no way we could have known what would happen! Even the Ministry didn’t know where Amycus was hiding out.” She brushed away a couple of tears and perched on the edge of Harry’s chair. He slipped an arm around her waist, hoping fervently that she was right.
“What do we do now?” asked Ron, his voice shaky.
“I suppose we just wait and see what Neville wants us to do,” said Harry, staring at the floor.
“Maybe we can help contact his relatives – you know, lend him Hedwig and Pig,” said Ginny, stoking Harry’s hair back. He nodded at this suggestion.
“You don’t think that Carrow meant to burst in on Lupin and Tonks’s wedding reception, do you?” asked Ron darkly, “I mean, we know Lestrange was going to send him after Ginny,” he looked seriously ill as he said this, “and I bet he would love to take down a few Auror’s, not to mention you, Harry. Maybe he went to the wrong party?”
Harry, Hermione and Ginny pondered this for a moment.
“I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions right now,” said Hermione hollowly, “we’re in a state of shock. The best thing we can do now is be here for Neville.”
The others nodded in silent agreement, and sat, waiting for their friend.
Gryffindor on Pottermore & COS
PhoenixLumos17470 on Pottermore
Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 36 ~ If Only...
Outside it had grown dark. Dobby prowled Grimmauld Place, lighting lamps and stoking fires, bringing warmth to the huge old house. After Mr. Weasley had departed, Neville had gone quietly up to his room and closed the door. Mr. Weasley had asked them to leave him be, until he felt like talking to them. They sat at the kitchen table, picking listlessly at dinner; nobody was hungry, and the enormous steak and kidney pie that Dobby had carefully prepared sat in the middle of the table, growing steadily cold.
Hermione sighed and pushed her plate away. “Do you think he’s all right up there?”
Nobody bothered to answer; they had had this conversation for what felt like a million times since hearing the awful news. They all knew that Neville was anything but all right.
“This is insane!” cried Ron, startling them all. “I mean, she was here in this house just the other day, and now she’s-she’s”-
“If only we had made everyone stay,” said Harry, voicing the guilty thoughts that had been plaguing him since receiving the tragic news.
Hermione reached over and placed a comforting hand on his arm, “Harry, there was nothing we could have done – Mrs. Longbottom, the Weasleys’, my parents – they all have their own lives to get on with – I doubt they would have stayed even if we had told them everything…”
Harry nodded numbly, but Hermione’s words did not ease his guilt. He felt so helpless, just sitting there doing nothing. An idea occurred to him suddenly. Muttering something about putting his Invisibility cloak away, he left the kitchen and hurried to the drawing room. Closing the door firmly behind him, he studied the Map intently. Still no sign of Wormtail or Carrow yet, but as usual, Bellatrix and her cronies were congregated in the main room just off the kitchen. Harry sank into an armchair and thought through what he was about to do, running a hand distractedly through his hair. He heard the floorboards creak outside the drawing room door and hastily stuffed the Map down the side of his chair. Ginny opened the door and looked at him questioningly.
“What are you up to, Harry?”
“Nothing!” he replied, a little too quickly.
Ginny eyed him suspiciously, “Uh-huh. Let’s try that one again shall we? What are you up to?”
Harry sighed, pulling the Map out of its hiding place and smoothing it out. “Okay, okay – but you aren't going to talk me out of it.”
“Out of what?” she asked, looking at the Map.
“I’m going back to Little Hangleton – but I don’t want to take anyone with me,” he looked at her pointedly as she opened her mouth to protest, “Something’s been bothering me about this whole thing.”
“What?” she asked anxiously.
“Well, if Lestrange has the Malfoys’, Wormtail and the others, why hasn’t she done anything yet? What are they waiting for? I mean, when the three of us went there last time, we did find out about Amycus and Yaxley, but we couldn’t stay long enough to find out anything else. There has to be more to it.”
Ginny paced the room, very agitated, “Maybe they’re brewing something? You know, some potion that takes months to prepare? Or they need a certain number of Death Eaters for some sort of ritual? Or they’re waiting for a full moon?” she threw her hands up in exasperation, “ Who knows, Harry! How will you be able to find out without getting caught?”
“How will I know I can’t find something out if I don’t at least try?” he countered, crossing the room and grabbing her hands.
“Harry!” she cried, “That doesn’t even make sense!”
“Yes it does! Look, Ginny,” he sat back in his chair and pulled her onto his lap, “I understand why you don’t want me to go, I really do, but this is something I have to do.” He stared intently into her eyes, willing her to see things his way. She stared back, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. Neither spoke for the longest moment, then finally:
“Okay,” she whispered, “but I want to come with you.”
“Harry, please. I can help you, I know I can.”
“No! Look, you can help me, but you can do it by staying here. If we go together, I’ll be worrying about you and I might slip up – and if something happened to you I would die,” he cupped her face in his hands, “I need you to stay here – I’m not telling Ron or Hermione – I need to do this alone. You stay here and keep an eye on the Map. If I’m not back in time, go straight to Kingsley Shacklebolt. Okay?”
Ginny heaved a deep sigh before giving a reluctant nod, “Okay.”
He leaned in and kissed her, feeling her tears on his own cheek. They broke apart and he smoothed her hair. Lifting her hand, he admired the tiny diamond in her gold ring. “When this is over, I’ll buy you a bigger one, I promise.”
“You can’t do that,” she sniffed disconsolately, “everyone will think it’s an engagement ring.”
They stared at each other, and for the first time that day, smiled with genuine happiness.
Harry appeared once more at the top of the clearing leading to the Gaunt house, his Christmas gift from Hagrid, the leather satchel, slung over his chest. Ginny had insisted that he take several of Hermione’s smoking and choking potions along with him, and they clinked together quietly as he moved stealthily towards the house, under the relative safety of the Invisibility cloak. The woods behind him were still but for the odd sound of an owl – there was not a breath of wind tonight, though it was bitterly cold. He was just congratulating himself on having chosen a good time to raid the house when behind him there was the sound of heavy, trampling footsteps. Harry froze: he didn’t dare turn around to see who the interloper was, gripping his wand tightly in his hand, ready to fight. The footfalls grew closer… closer… closer… Harry held his breath, heart hammering in his chest, as Wormtail stomped past him, an enormous sack over one shoulder, muttering to himself.
“If this lot doesn’t keep her happy I don’t know what will…”
Harry waited until Wormtail was a few paces ahead of him, falling into step just behind him, being careful to tread lightly. If he timed his movements just right, he might be able to walk straight into the house with Wormtail. Wormtail himself shifted his burden, and Harry heard the distinct sound of glass bottles tapping together. Before he had time to wonder what they contained, they were at the threshold of the Gaunt house. Without pausing to think, Harry marched right through the door in Wormtail’s wake, careful to keep his Invisibility cloak tight around him. Inside it smelled dank and the sweet stench of rotting wood stung Harry’s nostrils. Wormtail moved towards the small, filthy kitchen, Harry close at his heels, and deposited the sack. Short, stubby candles were lit, casting flickering shadows about the small room. There was no sign of Lestrange or the other Death Eaters here, and Harry wondered nervously where they were. As though in answer to his unspoken question, there was a noise behind them. Wormtail whipped around sharply – Harry did the same – to see Bellatrix Lestrange framed in the doorway, the faint glow from the candles casting weak light onto her misshapen face.
“Finally!” she said harshly, sweeping into the kitchen, forcing Harry, still under his Invisibility cloak to move quickly to avoid a collision. She reeked of sweat and stale alcohol, and it took all his might not to throw up. Gritting his teeth, he moved silently to the far corner, careful not to disturb the dust that lay thick upon the kitchen floor and crouched down, out of the way.
“Forgive me, Bella!” simpered Wormtail, rummaging through the sack. “There were so many people about – New Years Eve is not the best time for sneaking around!”
“I don’t care about that you dolt!” she screeched, “Have you seen this?” she threw down a worn copy of the Daily Prophet, whose headline proclaimed the return of the two Death Eaters.
Harry listened to this exchange with interest: So Hermione had been right – Lestrange didn’t seem too pleased by the turn of events, so couldn’t have sent Carrow. Wormtail peered at the paper, gasping in shock.
“I-I heard nothing about this!” he exclaimed, trembling slightly as Lestrange advanced on him, “I swear it, Bella!”
“What was that fool thinking?” she screamed, changing direction and pacing back and forth, the dust kicking up in puffs. Harry sank a little lower into the floor, praying that she didn’t cause such a draft that his cloak moved. “How can we use him now? The entire Ministry will be baying for his blood – I see no way of bringing Carrow here undetected.” She stopped her pacing abruptly and dropped into a rickety chair. It groaned beneath her weight, as she watched Wormtail scan the article.
“Who did he kill?” asked Wormtail, interestedly.
“Who cares?” Lestrange replied carelessly, running the palm of her hand over her matted hair.
Harry felt his blood boil as he thought of Neville, poor, devastated Neville, all alone in the world, while these two monsters discussed Mrs. Longbottom’s death as though it were nothing. Harry’s jaw clenched for a moment and a couple of sparks shot out of his wand. Luckily, they were well hidden by the cloak, but he knew he had to get control of his emotions. He focussed his mind on the diamond ring he had promised Ginny, and the future they had together. He needed to get back home safely to her. Feeling slightly calmer, he turned his attention back to Wormtail who was putting away bottles of wine and trying to sooth Lestrange.
“Do not fear, Bella! We will find a way to bring Amycus here. The most vital thing is the”-
Wormtail was interrupted by the arrival of another cloaked figure.
“Wormtail! At last – did you bring any food?”
Harry stared open-mouthed as Draco Malfoy entered the kitchen. Although his customary sneer was firmly in place, Harry was shocked to see how thin his old enemy had become. The eyes that usually glittered with malice were now dull and ringed with dark, puffy circles and he had a desperate, animalistic quality about him that Harry had never seen before. He watched Wormtail hold out a small loaf of bread that Draco snatched at hungrily, gobbling half of it up in a single bite.
“Draco!” shouted an angry voice as yet another person entered the tiny kitchen. “Don’t behave like a savage.” Lucius Malfoy eyed his only son with contempt. Draco wiped a few crumbs from his mouth, head hung in shame. Lucius pushed past his son and sat at the table opposite Bellatrix.
“Well?” he demanded, looking at Wormtail, “Did you hear anything of Amycus while you were away?”
Wormtail shook his head, as the three adults plunged into a heated conversation about where to go from here, while Draco listened with a twitchy expression, gnawing non-stop at his fingernails, eyes darting to the remainder of the food.
“I see no reason why we cannot proceed without others!” Lucius was saying now, banging a fist down on the table. “Surely the most important element is the full moon?”
Harry’s ears pricked up at this – the full moon? He wondered frantically when the next full moon would be, willing Lucius to say more. He was not disappointed:
“I say we continue as planned – it is too risky to attempt to bring Amycus in now!”
“But we need as much Dark power as possible!” replied Bellatrix, a furious expression fixed upon her face.
“If we waste time looking for Amycus, we risk missing the full moon and will put the entire plan in jeopardy!” Lucius took a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself down, “Bella, don’t you see? If we miss our opportunity this month, we will have to wait for another full lunar cycle before we can resurrect the Dark Lord.”
Harry’s heart was pounding like a jackhammer now. Finally! he thought, some answers! Now how do I get out of here without getting caught? His legs had steadily been growing numb since he had crouched down in the corner and it was extremely uncomfortable.
“Lucius! This is my plan and I won’t have you dictating to me! Have you forgotten that I alone remained true to the Dark Lord? I stand above all in his esteem? I”-
-“Yes, Bella, so true that he saw fit to melt your face!” Lucius smirked in his condescending drawl, “I can really see what you meant to the Dark Lord.”
Bellatrix leapt to her feet in a fury. She stared at Lucius with eyes full of loathing, hand twitching towards her wand.
“No, Bella!” shouted Wormtail, reaching out as though to stop her. “Remember – no magic. Do you want the Ministry to find us?”
Bellatrix’s arm went slack, though she continued to stare at Lucius. Turning on her heel, she stormed from the small kitchen, Wormtail following hurriedly. Lucius sneered at her retreating back, muttering something about foolish women, then turned to his son:
“Come, Draco – let’s make nice with Auntie. The Dark Lord will not be pleased if he returns to in-fighting and backstabbing.”
“But I wanted something else to eat”- Draco began, moving towards the heap of dried meats and bread on the counter. In one swift move his father stood and pinioned Draco’s arm behind his back.
“Do you think your needs come before that of the Dark Lord?” he snarled into Draco’s ear.
Draco was breathing hard, his face steadily turning a dull pink colour. Harry couldn’t believe it. The last time he had seen father and son together, Lucius had given in to Draco’s every whim. Now it seemed that he hated his only child. Despite his best efforts, Harry couldn’t help but feel something like pity for Draco, as he heard him mutter an apology to his father. Releasing his son, Lucius stalked into the living room, closely followed by Draco, who was massaging his shoulder. Now that the kitchen was quite empty, Harry slowly stood up, limbs creaking. With the front door firmly shut, and the Malfoys’, Crabbe, Goyle, Lestrange and Wormtail all in the way, his only hope was climbing out the kitchen window, but he would need a distraction. Suddenly inspiration hit: Hermione’s Smokius potion! Harry thought excitedly, reaching carefully into his satchel and extracting a bottle filled with smoky white liquid. He edged silently to the doorway of the kitchen and eased the tiny cork from the neck of the bottle. Taking a deep breath, he poured the potion onto the floor. Immediately, a thick, dense, pure white smoke appeared, completely blocking the kitchen from view. Heart in his mouth, with no time to be impressed at the speed with which the potion worked, Harry sprinted to the kitchen window, slid it open and climbed out, falling onto the damp earth beneath. Just as he levered the window closed, he heard the surprised cries of the Death Eaters. Without waiting to hear anymore, Harry Disapparated back to the safety of Grimmauld Place, anxious to tell Neville and the others his news…
Gryffindor on Pottermore & COS
PhoenixLumos17470 on Pottermore
Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 37 ~ Hermione's Huff
“Don’t bother creeping in! We know where you’ve been!”
Harry turned reluctantly on the spot.
Hermione was glaring at him, her face red with anger, the Map held tightly in her hand. Ron who looked bewildered, and Ginny who looked like she had just had a fight flanked her; Ginny’s face was bright red too and she was breathing heavily as though she had just been shouting. Dobby was weaving between their heels, alternating between wringing a dishcloth one moment, then wiping his leaky eyes with it the next.
Harry had been attempting unsuccessfully to sneak unseen down the hallway to the kitchen, where he had hoped to have a few moments to himself before informing the others of what he had learnt - his head was beginning to throb and his eyes were burning with tiredness. Instead, a very irate Hermione, who was now ranting about something else, had ambushed him halfway. Everyone started talking at once:
“…What were you thinking? Going off by yourself? Now of all times! What if something had happened to you? What if”-
“Harry Potter, sir! Is you all right? Is you wanting Dobby to get you anything sir”-
“What happened, Harry? We saw them all scrambling about and you climbing out the window – did they see”-
“How about a nice sandwich? Dobby is going to make you one right now! Is you wanting him to cut the crusts off, Harry Potter, sir?”
“I can’t believe you could be so stupid”-
“Shut up!” said Ginny loudly, shocking them all into silence. She continued in a slightly more hushed voice: “Let’s not do this in the hallway! We don’t want to wake Neville up do we?”
Hermione stood rooted to the spot for a moment, mouth bobbing open and closed like a goldfish, then relented, muttering “Oh all right!” following Ginny and Ron into the kitchen. Harry trailed after them, thoroughly exhausted by his adventure, and eager to explain his way out of trouble. Dobby tugged his Invisibility cloak from his hands and hurried to put it away, before reappearing in the kitchen with a platter of ham sandwiches and a pot of tea. They all sat at the table, gazing at him expectantly, not a trace of fatigue visible upon their faces. Harry rubbed his eyes and took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you,” he began, trying to pacify Hermione and Ron who both looked extremely miffed. “I wanted to get inside the house and there was no way we could have done that together.”
Hermione crossed her arms and glared, but Harry was relieved to see that Ron seemed to find this reasoning acceptable. He took a few long sips of tea. This was too much for Hermione.
“Is that it?” she sputtered, face like thunder.
Harry replaced his teacup in its saucer and looked at Ginny quickly. He could have sworn her lips twitched with amusement, and suddenly, he had the insane urge to laugh out loud.
“I’m really sorry?” he said, raising an eyebrow tentatively.
“No you – not is that your apology – I meant is that all you’re going to tell us?” Hermione was screeching now, causing Dobby’s ears to flatten against his head.
“Oh! No, that’s not it! I managed to follow Wormtail right into the house,” he said, leaning forward and speaking quickly, while Ron’s eyes widened like dinner plates. Harry continued, “I was under the cloak of course, and managed to hide in the corner while they were talking”-
-“What’s going on?”
Unbeknownst to them, Neville had entered the kitchen; still wearing his day robes that looked wrinkled and slept in. His hair stuck up all over the place and his eyes were bloodshot and puffy. “I thought I heard shouting in the hallway.”
Hermione jumped up and hurried to his side, putting an arm around him and leading him to the table. “I’m so sorry Neville – we didn’t mean to wake you. Do you want some tea?”
He shrugged stiffly, so Hermione poured him a cup and Dobby placed a tall stack of sandwiches in front of him.
“Harry,” Neville looked at him with empty eyes, “what’s going on?”
Ignoring Hermione’s signals to stop talking, Harry plunged back into his tale, while the others listened in complete silence, the tea and sandwiches forgotten on the table. Once he had finished, fierce debate ensued.
“So, what does it mean?” asked Ron, picking up a sandwich and gesturing with it. “Do they need a pack of werewolves to bring You-Know-Who back?”
“No…” said Hermione quietly, brow furrowed, “that wouldn’t make any sense at all. A ritual to resurrect a spirit would require the utmost calm and concentration. A load of werewolves would only get in the way – and probably kill them all too. It’s widely thought that the full moon has other magical properties besides turning people into werewolves… there are loads of potions that you can only brew at the height of a full moon, or certain ingredients that only flower then…” she bit her lip and looked at Harry. “I just don’t know what… Are you sure that’s all they said about it?”
“I’m positive,” he stated firmly.
“Well, perhaps they’re brewing something, like Wormtail did the night Voldemort got his body back – m-maybe they need the full moon for it to work?” Neville looked only at Harry as he spoke, as though he could not bear to see the compassion and sympathy that was pouring so openly from Hermione and the others. Harry had instinctively shied away from such candid displays, remembering only too well how hard it was to stand when you felt like your insides had been hollowed out. He knew the others meant well, but none of them could understand the full impact of losing so much. He looked at Neville now, and nodded.
“I think you’re right, but how do we find out what it actually is? Lestrange was all for getting more ‘Dark power’, but Lucius Malfoy thought that the full moon was the most important part.”
“It doesn’t make sense!” Hermione burst out, extremely frustrated.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter what the specific spell is,” Ginny spoke up, “isn’t it more important to stop it? Shouldn’t we be more worried about when the next full moon is?”
Hermione leapt to her feet at once and practically sprinted out of the room. Neville, Ginny and Dobby looked bewildered, but Harry and Ron remained composed. Ron glanced at his watch one minute later and said,
“Three, two, one…”
Hermione burst back into the kitchen, a pile of scrolls under her arm. Ginny looked at her brother. “How did you know?” she asked, impressed. Ron merely shrugged and looked expectantly at Hermione.
She opened one of the scrolls, weighing the curling ends down Ginny’s teacup and the edge of the sandwich platter. It was a lunar chart. “This will tell us when the next full moon is!” she ran her finger along lines of equations and tiny, moving diagrams of the galaxy. Everyone else waited with baited breath until finally she looked up:
“Ten days,” she said faintly, looking like she was about to be sick, “we have ten days until they try to bring Voldemort back.”
By one o’clock in the morning, they had checked and re-checked Hermione’s calculations more than a dozen times. It was irrefutable: the full moon would be upon them in ten days time. A kind of quiet intensity descended upon the household, and combined with Neville’s silent grief for his grandmother, it was like being in a pressure cooker with the volume turned off. Harry made several decisions. Firstly, it was time to put aside his differences with the Ministry: he would send word to Kingsley Shacklebolt telling him the whole story. Then he would inform Lupin and Tonks of Mrs. Longbottom’s death and ask them to return home immediately. He knew that Lupin could not help once the moon reached its peak, but Tonks was an Auror and would be useful in their fight. Ginny was going back to Hogwarts, as the term was due to start in two days. He did not want her anywhere near once the fight broke out. The others had agreed with his line of thinking so far, but he had not counted on one thing: Mrs. Longbottom needed a funeral. Neville approached Harry quietly after the others had gone to bed.
“Harry,” he whispered hoarsely, eyes downcast, “I got a letter from my Great Uncle Algie. He and my aunt want to have the-the funeral on the fourth. That’s in three days.”
Harry didn’t know what to say – he hadn’t even considered a funeral and it certainly didn’t fit in with his plans for the coming days. It must have shown on his face because Neville continued.
“Don’t worry – they want to have it in the morning. I-I don’t think it would take more than a few hours… we can get back here and carry on… carry on what we need to do… But you don’t have to come at all… I-I‘ll understand. ”
Harry felt awful. “Neville, I’m so sorry – of course I’ll be there – we all will. I just hadn’t considered – I mean I was so wrapped up in – I-I”- he stammered, not sure what to say next.
“It’s okay,” Neville said softly, “What we’re about to do is the most important thing, isn’t it?”
“So is the funeral,” Harry replied, feeling ashamed of himself. What if it had been Lupin they were discussing? Of course the funeral of his grandmother would be at the forefront of Neville’s mind. “Is there anything you need us to do? You know, write to anyone, or help organise anything?”
Neville shook his head numbly. “No, thank you. Ginny’s written to Luna, and there’s only really my Great Uncle Algie and my Great Aunt Enid… no other family to tell. I’ll go to St. Mungo’s and tell mum and dad, but I don’t know if they’ll really understand…” his words trailed off and he stared at the floor hopelessly.
Harry had never felt so dreadful in his whole life. He stood and looked at Neville, wishing that he could do something for his friend, but knowing there was nothing. He reached out and gripped Neville by the arm. “We’re your family too – me, Ron, Hermione and Ginny – don’t forget that.”
Neville gave a tiny nod, and then murmured something about going to bed. Harry watched him go with a heavy heart, sinking into his chair. After a few moments he turned his attention back to the letter he was writing to Lupin. After re-reading it, he signed and sealed the scroll carefully, then pulled another piece of parchment towards him and began to write a second letter to Shacklebolt. Once he was finished, he attached Lupin’s note to Hedwig’s leg, and the other to Pig’s. Opening the front door to Grimmauld Place, he watched the two owls soar out into the chilly sky, a determined look upon his face. He felt a small hand slip around his waist, and turned to smile tiredly at Ginny. They closed the front door together and moved back down the hallway.
“You need sleep,” Ginny chided gently, peering into Harry’s drained face. He nodded, and hand in hand they climbed the creaking staircase to their bedrooms. After kissing Ginny goodnight, Harry collapsed on his bed, fully clothed. He couldn’t be bothered to brush his teeth or put on pyjamas. Instead, he slipped his glasses off and got under the covers. His headache had not lessened, and his legs were aching from their prolonged crouch in the kitchen of the Gaunt house. He closed his eyes but it did nothing to sooth the sting he felt behind his eyelids. He tried taking a few deep breaths and before he knew it, he had fallen into a deep sleep.
“Harry…?” a questioning voice roused him from his slumber, just moments later.
“Mmm… sleeping,” he murmured, snuggling deeper under the covers, hoping that if he had to be woken, it would be by Ginny in those blue pyjamas.
“Harry…” the voice came again, rumbling deeply. Wait, thought Harry abruptly, Ginny’s voice doesn’t rumble. He opened his eyes reluctantly and blinked rapidly, astonished to find that he was sitting in the beautiful golden chamber, Dumbledore smiling gently at him.
“Professor!” he gasped, hastily clearing thoughts of Ginny from his mind. He remembered all too well that Dumbledore could hear his thoughts in here.
Dumbledore’s lips twitched with ill-concealed amusement, and Harry’s face flushed red. His embarrassment quickly turned to anger though, as he wondered where his former headmaster had been for the past few months.
“Forgive me, Harry,” said Dumbledore with a small bow, “I did not think it would be wise for me to interrupt you on your path.”
“Interrupt me on my path?” Harry echoed incredulously, “Things have gone from bad to worse! Hermione nearly died, Lestrange wants to torture my girlfriend, and Carrow killed Neville’s Gran!” Despite the calming effects of the strange golden room, Harry was furious. “Now we’ve got ten day until Voldemort comes back and no plan! Ten days! Where have you been?”
Dumbledore did not answer immediately. He made a steeple with his long fingers and let his chin rest upon them, a serious expression on his face. Harry faltered in his anger: he knew it was not Dumbledore’s fault, but the weight of all that had happened had fallen on his shoulders and he wasn’t sure how much more he could take.
“Feel better?” Dumbledore asked quietly.
“No,” Harry muttered, hoping he wouldn’t suddenly wake up and find himself back in his bed at Grimmauld Place.
Dumbledore gave a deep sigh. “Harry, as trite as it may sound; everything happens for a reason. Do you think your friend Mr. Weasley would have realised his true feelings for Miss Granger had he not been so close to losing her?”
Harry gaped at his former headmaster. “I’d like to think that it wasn’t necessary for Hermione to almost die for Ron to realise he fancied her!”
Dumbledore inclined his head slightly. “Perhaps. And what about you? When you overheard what Bellatrix had in store for Miss Weasley, did it not spur you on to end her planned reign of terror?”
“Yes but I would have wanted to do that anyway!”
When Dumbledore did not respond, Harry jumped to his feet, “Well what about Neville and his Gran?” he demanded, “How is that meant to be for the best? What possible reason could there be for Neville losing the last family member he has? Isn’t it enough that he lost his parents to Lestrange? How much more do you think he can take?”
To his utter astonishment, Dumbledore smiled again. “Ah, Harry. You are still so young. That is not a criticism,” he continued, seeing the furious look creep back onto Harry’s face, “but even after all you have been through yourself, you still care more for those you love. Have you not lost just as much as Neville? Your parents, your guardians… a loving home? Of course you have, yet right now, all you care about is helping your friend in whatever way you can. And when you find that there is nothing you can do for him, you feel as much pain as he does. You are remarkable.”
This took some of the wind out of Harry’s anger. He sat back down in his armchair, but could not stop himself from asking, “But what’s the reason behind Mrs. Longbottom’s death?”
“I am afraid that is something that Neville will have discover for himself, Harry,” Dumbledore replied seriously, a faint echo reverberating around the room.
Harry knew better than to push when Dumbledore used that tone of voice, so sat expectantly, waiting to hear why he had been brought here again. He was not disappointed:
“Now Harry,” Dumbledore began again quickly, urgency in his voice, “please listen very carefully. We have very little time. You sent two letters tonight, if I am not mistaken?” Harry nodded silently.
“In the morning, you will discover that no help will be gained from writing those letters. Amycus has been sighted, far from where you expect him to be. Shacklebolt will not be able to assist you. Lupin will not be able to come to your aid, though I trust you already considered this possibility,” he paused while Harry attempted to digest this information.
“Do not fear though, Harry.” Harry restrained himself from leaping out of his chair and demanding some clarity. Dumbledore went on, but his words were beginning to echo even more and the golden room was fading fast before Harry’s eyes.
“Mrs. Longbottom must be laid to rest, Harry. Neville must be allowed to pay his final respects. Follow your heart and follow the signs…”
Harry gasped as Dumbledore disappeared completely, and he found himself sitting up in bed, his blankets twisted about him. He stared around in shock, gasping for breath, heart thundering in his chest, beads of sweat dotted along his brow. What on earth did all that mean?
He sprinted down the hall and burst into the third bedroom on the left.
“Hermione!” he hissed, yanking her covers away.
“Go ‘way,” she murmured, reaching out a hand and groping blindly for her blankets.
Harry scooped up her dressing gown and threw it at her sleeping form. “Hermione! Wake up – now!”
She let out an aggrieved sigh then sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “Harry?” she asked, sounding confused. “What’s going on? What time is it?”
“I need to talk to you – get your dressing gown on and meet me in the kitchen. Don’t go back to sleep.” He slipped out of the room and padded quietly down the stairs, mindful of waking the others.
Hermione appeared a moment later, hair standing on end and with a thoroughly baffled expression. “What’s this all about?” she demanded, pulling her robe tighter against the chill in the room.
Harry poured them each a cup of coffee and instructed her to sit down. She obeyed, pointing her wand at the fireplace as she did so, bright cheery flames bursting into life there and warming the whole kitchen. He began to talk, relating everything Dumbledore had told him, word for word, but it was made very difficult by Hermione interrupting him every few minutes with questions.
“But what does that mean?” she asked when he had finally finished, all traces of sleepiness gone, “Why won’t Shacklebolt help us?”
“I don’t know! Dumbledore said I would understand in the morning.”
“Well what time is it now?”
Harry glanced at the clock over Hermione’s shoulder. “Six a.m.”
“Well it’s morning then,” she said thoughtfully, frowning in concentration. “What normally happens in the morning around here?” she wondered aloud.
Harry was just about to respond with comments about Ron stuffing his face with breakfast, when they were startled by the arrival of Dobby, who jumped about a foot into the air with surprise.
“Harry Potter, sir! Miss Hermione! W-what is you doing up so early? Has Dobby been over-sleeping?”
“No, Dobby!” said Hermione reassuringly, “we were just talking.”
A look of immense relief crossed Dobby’s face. “Oh Miss Hermione! Dobby is very pleased!” he headed towards the stove, depositing a copy of that morning’s Daily Prophet on the table in front of her. “Is you liking bacon and eggs for breakfast?”
But Dobby did not get a response. Hermione was gaping at the cover of the Daily Prophet, her hand pressed tightly over her mouth.
“What is it?” asked Harry, pulling the newspaper towards him and reading its headline.
“Wanted murderer Amycus Carrow spotted in the South of France!” it declared. Harry gasped, his stomach plunging as he thought of Lupin and Tonks on their honeymoon there.
“What else does it say?” whispered Hermione.
He scanned the article quickly, trying to separate the facts from the Prophet’s nonsense. “It says he was spotted late last night… they’re not sure exactly where he was but Shacklebolt and some other Auror’s have gone to try and catch him,” he looked up at Hermione, “That’s what Dumbledore meant! That’s why Shacklebolt won’t respond to my letter – he’s not here!”
Hermione stood up and began to pace the long kitchen. Dobby, well used to their dramatic outbursts by now, quietly set about making breakfast, keeping his sobbing down to a thoughtful whimper so as not to disturb them.
“But what about Lupin?” she asked, chewing her bottom lip nervously, “I mean, I assumed that Dumbledore meant he couldn’t help because he’ll be a werewolf any day now, but if Carrow really is in France…” she trailed off, looking at Harry hopelessly, “You don’t think he went after Lupin and Tonks do you?”
Harry looked at his watch. Lupin’s golden arm still pointed to on holiday. He held out his arm for Hermione to see. “Well at least they’re okay for now. Why would Carrow be after them though? It doesn’t make any sense…”
“Maybe to get to you?” she asked quietly.
Harry shook his head. “No, Ginny was right – Carrow isn’t that smart, and we know he’s not taking orders from Lestrange - she’s furious with him and doesn’t know where he is. Can you sit down? You’re making me nervous.”
“Well maybe he’s just on the run and happens to be in France?” Hermione suggested, dropping into the seat opposite from him.
“Maybe…” Harry couldn’t really think of anything else that made sense right now.
“Well you can be sure that if the Auror’s really have gone to France, they would have let Tonks know – she’s one of them – they’d probably ask her to help. And Carrow won’t want to tangle with Lupin once he’s transformed.”
Harry nodded. “Should we wake the others up? Neville should know about this”-
-“No, Harry! Dumbledore said Neville should be allowed to bury his grandmother and pay his respects in peace – how’s he going to do that if he’s all worked up over her killer?”
Harry began to argue, but stopped short at the look on her face. “All right,” he relented finally, “but as soon as the funeral’s over I’m telling him everything. You’d better hide that paper,” he said as they heard footsteps coming down the stairs.
She squeaked and jumped up, paper clutched in one hand, looking for somewhere to put it. She finally yanked opened a drawer and stuffed it in hastily as Ginny, Neville and Ron entered the kitchen.
“Morning,” they said sleepily.
“Morning. How are you feeling, Neville?” asked Hermione with concern, peering into Neville’s pale round face.
“I’m fine,” he replied tersely, watching Dobby as he placed large plates of bacon and eggs in from of them.
Deciding to change the subject, Harry turned to Ginny. “All ready to go home?” he enquired. He was to accompany her to the Burrow today, so she could get all her school things ready for her return to Hogwarts the following day.
She nodded glumly. “Yeah. Back to school – urgh,” she looked at Neville with sympathetic eyes. “But Luna and I have permission to go to the funeral. Professor McGonagall sent an owl.”
Neville nodded numbly, pushing his food around his plate with his fork. The others ate in silence. When they were finished, Ron and Hermione excused themselves and got ready to go to Longbottom’s Magical Plants and Vines. Although the shop would be shut until after the funeral, the plants still needed tending to and several hundred condolence cards had been sent there, now waiting to be collected. Harry and Ginny prepared to leave a few minutes later, Harry lugging her trunk to the fireplace so it could be sent to the Burrow.
“Do you want to come with us?” he asked Neville, while Ginny was upstairs double-checking that she hadn’t left anything behind, “I bet Mrs. Weasley has a cake ready for us when we get there…” he smiled at his forlorn friend.
Neville shook his head. “No thanks. I’m going to go to St. Mungo’s later… visit mum and dad.” He did not meet Harry’s gaze, keeping his eyes trained on his hands.
“Well, if you like, I can come with you. I’ll be back soon.”
Neville shook his head again. “No thanks,” he said firmly, “this is something I want to do by myself.”
“Okay,” said Harry, as Ginny reappeared with a pile of clothes in her arms.
“I knew I’d forgotten something,” she said quietly, stuffing her things into the trunk and sitting on it to shut it. Harry pointed his wand at the lock and it clicked loudly. Ginny moved to Neville’s side and gave him an awkward sideways embrace. “Goodbye, Neville,” she said softly, pecking him on the cheek, “I’ll see you in a couple of days. Come over if you feel like it.”
“Thanks Ginny,” he whispered, tears threatening to spill from his eyes. She gave him one final squeeze before stepping into the fireplace, a pinch of Floo powder in her hand.
Throwing it in, she cried, “The Burrow!” and stepped in to the green flames, disappearing in a flash.
“You know where I am if you need me,” said Harry, taking his own pinch of the magical powder.
Neville nodded again and gave Harry a small smile. “I’m okay.”
Harry said goodbye, then vanished into the fire, reappearing suddenly at the Burrow. He stepped out into the kitchen, coughing slightly from a mouthful of ash, when he heard a muffled cry.
“Oh, Harry dear!” sobbed Mrs. Weasley, engulfing him in a tight embrace.
“Mrs. Weasley!” he stammered in alarm, “What’s wrong?”
-“Mum’s just sad for Neville,” said Ginny gently, leading her mother to a chair at the kitchen table and pushing her into it gently.
“How is he? I wanted to come over but Arthur said it would be best to leave him be – I hope he doesn’t think we’ve all forgotten about him! I’ve been baking for him since I heard,” she indicated an enormous pile of cakes, pies and biscuits, causing the counter top to groan slightly. Harry covered a small smile.
“He’s not great,” said Harry, “I definitely think he wants to be left alone for now.”
Mrs. Weasley sniffed deeply and nodded. “Maybe I can go round later?”
“Er, maybe,” he replied, exchanging a look with Ginny. He doubted that Neville needed such intense scrutiny right now, but didn’t have the heart to tell Mrs. Weasley that.
“Oh, it’s just so awful,” she went on, shuddering slightly, “just when we all thought it was safe to get back to normal… Arthur’s been run ragged at the Ministry. Scrimgeour’s desperate to catch Carrow.” She dabbed at her eyes with a lace-edged hanky.
“That’s good isn’t it?” asked Harry, noting the slight edge to her voice.
“Oh, of course, but it’s an election year – he’s also trying to make sure he stays Minister.”
Harry wasn’t surprised. He had met very few Ministry officials who didn’t want something for themselves. It was part of the reason he didn’t harbour the ambition to be an Auror anymore. He offered to take Ginny’s trunk upstairs while she made Mrs. Weasley a cup of tea. When he came back down, he saw that she was trying to coax her mother into eating something.
“Come on, mum,” she wheedled, “you’ve spent all this time baking it, and there’s no way Neville can eat all this lot on his own!” she placed some homemade biscuits on the table, then noticing Harry, she said, “Harry, you’ll have some won’t you?”
“Er, yeah!” he sat down and accepted a cup of tea from Ginny. “So, how’s the Burrow without us, Mrs. Weasley?”
She sniffed again and gave a watery chuckle, “Well, it’s not that I don’t miss you all terribly, because I do, but I have to say it is nice to have a bit of peace and quiet. At least until my first grandchild comes along, that is.” She took a bite out of a chocolate biscuit, not noticing that Harry was choking on his tea. Ginny patted his back, with a little more force than was strictly necessary.
“Calm down, Harry,” she said dryly. “Mum’s talking about Bill and Fleur, aren’t you?” she added quickly.
“Of course! Who else would I be talking about?” she gave them a small smile, then got back onto the subject of Mrs. Longbottom’s funeral. After a few minutes of this, Harry stood up.
“I have to go,” he said, in a would-be casual voice, giving Ginny a significant look.
“Oh,” said Mrs. Weasley looking glum, “all right dear. But we’ll see you tomorrow, won’t we?”
He nodded: he was due to ride the Knight Bus to Hogwarts with Ginny and Mrs. Weasley, though she thought he was only going along to keep Ginny company. The truth however, was that he wanted to make sure that Ginny made it to Hogwarts without incident.
“I’ll see you out,” said Ginny, jumping up and dragging Harry out the kitchen door and into the garden. Once she was sure her mother was out of earshot, she turned and wrapped her arms around Harry’s neck. He circled her waist with his and leaned in to kiss her.
“Stay in the house until I come to collect you,” he instructed, pulling away for a moment.
“I will,” she murmured, reaching up to kiss him again.
“And if you see or hear anything suspicious, bring your mum and dad straight to my place.”
“Mm hmm,” she was gently kissing his neck now, making his insides flip over.
Extremely reluctantly, Harry pulled further away and lifted Ginny’s chin until she was looking at him. “Ginny, are you listening to me?”
Her expression sobered immediately, “Of course I am, Harry,” she said softly, “but I don’t know when I’ll be able to do this again. You don’t have to worry about me – I can look after myself - I’m not stupid.”
He sighed, releasing her chin and running his fingers through her silky hair. “I know that,” he said, “but the next few days are crucial – anything could happen. I won’t be able to relax until this is all over.”
“I feel the same way,” she said seriously, “And don’t forget that as worried as you might be about me, I feel ten times more worried for you. I’ll be safe and sound at school, but how will I know if you’re all right?” her eyes sparkled with tears. Harry pulled her into a tight embrace.
“I’ll be fine,” he promised. He kissed the top of her head, then pulled away once more. “I have to go – I want make sure Neville’s okay.” She nodded as he wiped a tear from her cheek and kissed her hand.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” He disappeared with a quiet popping sound.
Ginny stared at the spot where he had been for a long time, then turned and walked sadly back to the house.
Gryffindor on Pottermore & COS
PhoenixLumos17470 on Pottermore
Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 38 ~ A Welcome Return
Harry returned to Grimmauld Place to find Neville gone, but a very welcome sight sitting in the drawing room.
Lupin turned around and smiled at him, crossing the room to embrace him briefly. “Harry – it’s good to see you – are you okay? I came as soon as I got your letter.”
“I’m fine – well, sort of… things are pretty bad here. Where’s Tonks? Have you see Neville?” He peered at Lupin’s face with ill concealed shock; his guardian looked awful – pale, thin and not at all like he had just returned from his honeymoon.
Lupin gave him a small smile as they each settled into a chair. “Nymphadora has joined Shacklebolt and the other Aurors’ in the search for Carrow,” he grimaced a little as he said this, “I saw Neville very briefly as I arrived. I believe he was on his way to visit Alice and Frank?” Harry nodded and Lupin continued, “and please don’t be concerned about my appearance – it is quite common for me to look like this so close to the full-moon. But what about you, Harry? What progress have you made?”
Harry began to fill him in on everything that had happened since New Years Day; including his heart-stopping trip to the Gaunt house and his sleeping visit from Dumbledore. Lupin listened earnestly, nodding where appropriate and looking suitably shocked at the right moments.
“Well, Harry,” he said, when the story had finally come to an end, “it seems you’ve all had quite a time of it.” Lupin rubbed his face tiredly. Harry waited for him to say more but was disappointed.
“So… what do you think I should do?” he asked finally.
Lupin sighed and put his head in his hands. After a while he looked up and said, “I honestly don’t know. With Nymphadora, Shacklebolt and the others chasing Carrow, and that rather cryptic message from Dumbledore, I must confess I am at a loss as to how to proceed. I’m sorry that Dumbledore feels I will be of no help to you…” there was a slightly bitter note to his voice.
“I think he meant that you’d be – well – you know – indisposed when the full moon comes, not that you wouldn’t want to help,” said Harry, feeling slightly irritated. He needed Lupin’s help right now, not this fed up, self-pitying nonsense. He decided to try a change of tact:
“How was your honeymoon? You know, before you got disturbed by a load of owls?” he grinned weakly, but Lupin brightened a little.
“It was wonderful. I cannot recommend marriage enough. But now of course my wife is off chasing a vicious killer and I’m here, of absolutely no use to her or you.” He looked like he wanted to rise and pace the room, but was too weak. Instead he sank back a little further into his chair, a dejected look upon his face. “It’s just so disquieting – to not know what she’s doing or if she’s all right…”
Harry understood perfectly. “I do know what you mean,” he said, “I feel that way every time I have to let Ginny go back to school. I’m just glad I have this,” he held his arm up and shook back his sleeve, revealing the watch Ginny had given him for Christmas.
Lupin nodded, but Harry wasn’t sure if he was really listening. It was unnerving, but he supposed he should face facts: he was no longer the number one priority in Lupin’s life anymore, Tonks was. He wasn’t too upset about it though – wouldn’t he be the same way if Ginny were off in dangerous situations and he was unable to come to her aid? Deciding that yes, he would be acting the same way if not worse, Harry suggested that Lupin go up to bed and get some rest.
“Really, nothing’s going to happen around here until the funeral,” Harry reassured him, “at least Dumbledore was clear on that.”
So Lupin consented, dragging himself wearily up the stairs. Harry asked Dobby to go and check on him and sat waiting for Ron and Hermione to return.
They did finally, each carrying an armload of cards for Neville. After putting them in his room, the rest of the evening passed in a blur of repetitive conversation about Lestrange, while Hermione filled Ron in on Dumbledore’s latest visit to Harry. Neville came home very late from his trip to the hospital, and avoided all conversation by going straight to his room. The next day was much of the same and Lupin also kept to his room – feeling too ill to come downstairs. Harry felt as though their lives were shrouded in grey gloom; everything seemed linked to Mrs. Longbottom’s funeral. He knew he couldn’t do anything until it was over, and tried very hard to heed Dumbledore’s words about following his heart. This was the most difficult thing to do because his heart wanted nothing more than to follow wherever Ginny went. He had accompanied her to Hogwarts without incident and returned to Grimmauld Place with a feeling of deep emptiness, deciding to take his mind off her by trying and failing to cajole Neville out of his room. Next he tried Lupin, but he was fast asleep. Hermione and Ron had gone back to the Longbottom shop to do some more pruning and watering, leaving Harry to dig out his black dress robes for Dobby to iron. The funeral was to be held the next day in Blackpool and Harry was dreading it. The only bright spot was that he could see Ginny again for a few hours.
The day of the funeral dawned bright, despite the January chill. Thick frost lay upon everything in the square outside Grimmauld Place while its inhabitants sat quietly around the breakfast table. Even Lupin had made an extra effort and was sitting with them, across from Harry. As had become customary in their household, no-one spoke as they toyed with their uneaten food. They were each dressed in formal black robes, starched to perfection by Dobby, who himself was wearing a tiny black suit that he had sewn himself. The clock struck nine and Neville jumped a little – it time to go. Dobby straightened his little tie in the reflection of the toaster, as the others stood, one-by-one to follow Neville out the front door. When they were sure the coast was clear, they Apparated, arriving simultaneously on the pier at Blackpool beach. Looking around, Harry saw that several witches and wizards were already congregated at the end furthest from the sea. He didn’t blame them; the water was a steel grey colour, choppy and menacing, spraying freezing cold foam across the pebbles on the beach. Despite his warm travelling cloak, Harry shivered, craning his neck to see if Ginny had arrived yet. She hadn’t, so he concentrated on Neville who had wandered away from everyone else, staring into the unfriendly sea.
“All right?” he asked quietly.
Neville’s gaze didn’t leave the water. “Yeah,” he replied numbly, hands shoved deep into the pockets of his cloak. Out of the corner of his eye, Harry could see Hermione make her way over to them. He shook his head slightly at her and she caught his signal, backing away to where Ron and Lupin were standing close by.
“Did your Gran like it here?” Harry asked, feeling stupid and awkward.
“Yeah,” said Neville again, “she was born in Blackpool. Said the seaside was her favourite place when she was growing up. Great Uncle Algie thought she would have liked this…” he jerked his head to indicate the pier and sea. Harry nodded. Neville continued, “We’re going to scatter her – her ashes into the water… You know… when it’s over…”
Harry did not know what to say to this. “Right,” he replied after a while. “Well, it sounds like she would have liked that.”
Neville nodded, and continued to stare out to sea. They heard multiple footsteps on the wooden planks of the pier, and both turned to see a vast amount of redheaded people walking towards them. A blonde girl clutching a small bunch of what looked like spring onions trailed behind them, looking like she wasn’t sure how she had got there. Harry smiled inwardly: Luna.
“Neville, dear,” said Mrs. Weasley as she pulled him in for a hug. His arms remained at his sides, but she didn’t seem to notice. Behind her, looking slightly embarrassed were Mr. Weasley, Charlie, the twins and Ginny. Mrs. Weasley released Neville, and one-by-one the other Weasleys’ stepped forwards to shake his hand and offer words of condolence. Ginny stepped forward to give Neville a hug, which, to Harry’s surprise, he returned. She gave him a small smile, then moved away and took Harry’s waiting hand. Luna who had hung back until now, moved to embrace her friend and whispered something comforting in his ear, the spring onions still clutched in her hand. When they pulled apart, she thrust the odd bouquet at Neville, saying something quietly that only he could hear. Harry and Ron exchanged a quick look over the tops of Hermione and Ginny’s heads, both hiding smiles. What on earth are those things? Whatever they were and whatever Luna had said seemed to have meant the world to Neville though, who, upon accepting them, gave a small, watery chuckle, even as tears leaked from his eyes. A throat cleared behind them, and the group parted to reveal Professor McGonagall, dressed in austere robes, flanked by Professors Flitwick and Sprout.
“Neville,” she said gently, moving forwards to take his hand, “I am so terribly sorry for your loss. Augusta was a fine woman.”
Neville murmured words of thanks as Professor Sprout said some kind words next. Professor Flitwick also shook his hand, eyes brimming with tears, and Neville nodded awkwardly. Eventually, they melted back into the ever-increasing throng of mourners, who stood talking quietly, waiting for the funeral to begin. Noticing a familiar face walking along the beach towards them, Harry nudged Neville and gave a small jerk of his head. Neville looked up and turned the faintest shade of pink: hurrying towards them was Emily, the pretty cousin of Tonks whom they had met at the wedding. Lupin walked forwards to greet her, leading her up the pier to the group. She was wearing a plain black suit and coat and carrying a large umbrella. Ginny looked at Harry, confused.
“She’s a Muggle,” he explained quietly.
“Oh!” exclaimed Ginny quietly, understanding why Emily was brandishing an umbrella and not in dress robes or cloak.
“Is she?” hissed Mr. Weasley, staring at Emily with excitement.
Mrs. Weasley tapped him sharply on the chest. “Not now, Arthur.”
“Right-o dear.” Rather too obviously, Mr. Weasley rearranged his features from fascinated to sorrowful, while his wife watched him with a beady eye.
Lupin and Emily made their way over and she greeted Neville quietly before Lupin addressed the others. “Everyone – you remember my wife’s cousin, Emily?”
There were murmured greetings as she nodded back shyly. From the far end of the pier, a spindly looking fellow dressed in shiny midnight blue robes approached them, followed by an elderly wizard and witch who had to be Neville’s Great Uncle Algie and Great Aunt Enid.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced the wizard in a deep, mournful voice, “I am Minister Pringle. If we are all here,” he looked questioningly at Neville who gave a small nod, “then I ask you all to accompany me to the far end of the pier.” He pointed slowly in the direction of the sea, his sleeve billowing out majestically. Neville and his great aunt and uncle led the way, closely followed by the rest of the crowd. As they edged further along the pier, Harry could see an enormous silver urn, inlaid with turquoise and quartz standing on a wooden dais. He shuddered slightly as he realised that it must contain Mrs. Longbottom’s ashes. Ginny held his hand a little tighter until they came to a stop, forming a semi circle around the urn, facing out to sea. The wind whipped hair and cloaks, chilling everyone to the bone. Harry didn’t know if the area was not magically heated because it would be impossible to do near such a cold sea, or because it was inappropriate for a funeral. Either way, the cold greyness suited the day well. When everyone was quite still, the Minister cleared his throat and looked around at the group sadly.
“Friends, family, loved ones. We have gathered here on this sad day, to celebrate and remember a life once lived. Augusta Longbottom was a proud woman, a strong woman, a woman who had known much loss and sorrow in her long life. After losing her husband, and then her beloved son and daughter-in-law, Augusta single-handedly cared for her grandson Neville...”
Some members of the crowd looked over at Neville, who was staring determinedly at the ground, tears coursing down his cheeks. Luna linked her arm through his and the two of them huddled together like that, slightly apart from the crowd. Seemingly unaware of how uncomfortable he was making Neville, Minister Pringle continued in his slow voice, his shiny dark robes flurrying in the wind.
“… Augusta raised dear Neville, and watched proudly as he became a man; graduating from Hogwarts, starting his own business and of course, being a key part in the downfall of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. She was a force to be reckoned with, and it is only fitting that she died fighting the good fight…”
Harry grimaced. This Minister is an idiot! He thought to himself. How can being murdered be a fitting way to die?
He glanced at Hermione and Ron who both looked rather aghast at the Minister’s choice of words. He was not finished:
“… And of course, being singularly disciplined, Augusta had already made provisions for her funeral. I should now like to read a poem that she herself requested be read, if ever such an occasion as this arose…” He cleared his throat and shuffled through a sheaf of parchment.
“Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond that glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush,
Of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft star’s that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there,
I did not die.”*
The mourners stood in silence following these words. Harry glanced around and saw that half of them were openly weeping. Neville and Luna clutched each other, faces wet with tears. Dobby was choking on his sobs and looked up at Harry.
“Oh it is so sad, Harry Potter, sir!” he whispered loudly. Harry patted him on the shoulder, shushing him gently. Dobby nodded and hiccoughing, turned his attention back to the Minister.
“… And so, Augusta Longbottom, we scatter your ashes into the sea, so you may be at one with your birthplace and favourite location,” he nodded to Neville and his uncle, who stepped forwards tremulously and took the urn by either side, tipping its contents into the water. A bright shimmer of royal blue sparks went up as the ashes hovered in the air for a moment, before settling on the water. Great Uncle Algie moved back to comfort his wife, who was crying softly into a white hanky, but Neville remained at the waters edge, staring at the ashes as they dissolved into the sea. Stretching out an arm, he threw the strange flowers that Luna had given him into the water and watched as they swirled around. Signalling that the ceremony was over, the Minister ushered the mourners away, allowing Neville a moment of privacy. Great Uncle Algie quietly informed everyone of where to Apparate for the reception and Harry told the others to go on without him so he could wait for Neville. They began to disappear, a few at a time, while Harry and Luna, (who had retreated back to the beach) watched over Neville. He stayed at the end of the pier, shoulders sagging dejectedly, oblivious to the cold and staring out to sea, until no-one else was left but Harry and Luna.
An hour later, Harry, Luna and Neville Apparated to Great Uncle Algie’s home. As they entered the dusty old Victorian house, Harry noted that almost every surface and piece of furniture had been draped with black cloth. Neville led them through the dimly lit hallway into what would normally be the dining room. A large vase of white lilies sat in the centre of a round table that was heaving with food. Mrs Weasley and Neville’s Great Aunt Enid were busy adding even more dishes, while Great Uncle Algie circulated the room quietly with a tray of goblets filled with pumpkin juice and mead. While Neville went to introduce Luna to his uncle, Harry spotted Ron, Ginny and Hermione standing awkwardly in the corner.
“There you are!” said Hermione quietly as he approached.
“How’s Neville?” asked Ginny, handing Harry a glass of mead.
“I don’t know,” he said, taking a sip of his drink, “he just stood there, staring at the water for ages. Me and Luna stayed on the beach until he said he was ready to go.” He gave a small shrug.
“Oh, the poor thing,” clucked Hermione.
“What about that Emily girl showing up, eh?” whispered Ron. Hermione shot him a look that went unnoticed. “Did you know she was coming, Harry?”
Harry shook his head. “Lupin didn’t mention it.”
“Look,” said Ginny softly, watching Emily make her way over to Neville, who was now standing alone in the corner. The four of them watched with interest as Emily put a comforting arm on Neville’s, causing him to turn a faint shade of pink. “She seems very nice,” Ginny commented.
“Oh she’s lovely,” said a dreamy voice behind them. Startled, they turned to see that Luna had floated over to them, eyes a little puffy but otherwise, looking as normal as Luna could. “I really think Neville is pleased she’s here.” She smiled at them and drifted away to talk to Professor Flitwick.
“Where’s Lupin?” asked Harry, eyes searching the room. They all looked, then suddenly, Ginny pointed to the far corner, where Lupin was slumped in a chair, looking very ill. Dobby stood next to him, holding a glass of water. Excusing himself, Harry crossed the room.
“Lupin, are you okay?”
Lupin nodded weakly, but Dobby frowned.
“Mr. Lupin is not all right Harry Potter, sir,” he said, the glass of water trembling slightly in his hand. “Dobby thinks he ought to be in bed!”
Lupin winced, “I’m all right, Dobby, really.” He attempted to stand, but dropped immediately back into his chair. Beads of perspiration were dotted along his brow and his breath rasped. “On second thoughts, perhaps I should return to the house…”
Ron, Hermione and Ginny made their way over, looking very concerned.
“What’s going on?” asked Ron.
“I’m going to take Lupin home,” said Harry, helping his guardian to his feet. “Dobby, will you come too? I might need some help.”
“Yes sir, Harry Potter!” Dobby snapped to attention, hurriedly gathering Lupin’s cloak. Noticing the slight commotion, Neville crossed the room.
“Harry, Lupin – what’s wrong?”
“Lupin’s not well. Do you have a fireplace we can use so I can take him home?”
Neville nodded, and the group, shielding Lupin as best they could, made their way slowly to a small kitchen. A grey stone fireplace was at the far end, and Neville hurried to take some Floo powder out of a bowl on the mantle, throwing it into the flames. With one arm firmly around Lupin’s waist, Harry carefully climbed into the green flames.
“Number twelve Grimmauld Place!” he said clearly, watching Ginny and the others disappear in a spin. Dobby gave a click of his fingers and vanished in his own magical way.
Clambering out of the fireplace at home, Harry guided Lupin to the foot of the staircase where Dobby stood waiting. Together they took him upstairs to the guest bedroom.
“Harry,” said Lupin in a strained voice as he collapsed onto the bed, “I’m fine now, really. I just need some sleep. You should return to Neville’s.”
Harry looked uncertainly from Lupin to Dobby.
“It’s all right, Harry Potter, sir, Dobby is staying and looking after Mr. Lupin.”
“Okay,” he said uncertainly, “do you have your Wolfsbane potion?”
Lupin nodded and closed his eyes. “It’s in my bag – Dobby, could you get it for me, please?” Dobby nodded, conjuring a blanket first and covered Lupin with it carefully. He scampered to Lupin’s travelling bag and pulled out a corked bottle. Clicking his fingers, a goblet appeared in his hand and he filled it to the brim with the potion, which began to smoke. Holding it to Lupin’s lips, Dobby gently tipped the goblet until Lupin had swallowed the lot. Coughing slightly, Lupin lay back down.
“Thank you, Dobby. Now Harry, you see there is nothing else for you to do, so please, return to Neville.”
Sighing, Harry nodded. “I shouldn’t be too long. Dobby – come and get me if you need anything.”
Dobby nodded solemnly. Harry hurried down the stairs, and back into the fire.
Reappearing back at Neville’s house in Blackpool, he waved his wand to clear the soot from his clothes and face and re-entered the dining room. Ginny hurried over to him.
“How is he?” she asked anxiously, kissing him swiftly on the lips.
“I’m not sure. He’s taken his potion so I think he’ll probably just sleep for the rest of the day.”
“Miss Weasley,” interrupted a voice behind them. Harry and Ginny turned to find Professor McGonagall and Luna approaching.
“I am afraid it is time to return to Hogwarts. You have five minutes to say your goodbyes. I shall meet you by the fireplace. I arranged a special Floo connection to the school so we can get back swiftly.” Ginny nodded as Professor McGonagall strode away, leaving Luna with Harry and Ginny. Ginny sighed and went to say goodbye to her family. Neville, Ron and Hermione moved to talk to Harry.
“How’s Lupin?” hissed Ron quietly.
“He’s okay,” Harry repeated, eyes following Ginny who was now hugging her mother and father goodbye. “Ginny and Luna have to go back to school,” he said glumly.
“Don’t worry, Harry,” said Luna blithely, “you’ll see us again soon.”
“Er, yeah, thanks Luna.”
A number of other guests were leaving too, and Neville went to say goodbye to them. Having bid farewell to her parents, brothers and Neville, Ginny returned to where Harry and the others were standing and gave Hermione and Ron a quick hug each. Harry grabbed her hand and led her to a secluded corner.
“Well,” he sighed, pulling her into an embrace, “I’ll see you soon.”
She nodded against his chest. Pulling away slightly, she looked him square in the eye. “Harry, I know you’re about to go and do something dangerous, and I know you won’t tell me exactly what it is, but will you promise me you’ll be careful?”
He stared back at her and said, “I promise.”
She looked like she didn’t quite believe him, but nodded, kissing him once more before she and Luna headed for the kitchen where Professor McGonagall was waiting.
When they had gone, Harry surveyed the room: the only guests left were the Weasleys’, the Minister, Emily and Hermione. Noting that Algie and Enid Longbottom were deep in conversation with the Minister, and Emily was talking politely to Mr. Weasley, he decided it was time to talk to Neville, who was staring out of the window, apparently deep in thought. Just as he made to move in Neville’s general direction, Hermione spoke:
“Not now, Harry.” Her voice was stern and she folded her arms across her chest, eyebrows raised. “It’s too soon.”
“Hermione, we have six days left. It is not too soon.” He started out towards Neville again, when, in a flash, Hermione had blocked his path.
“It is too soon.” She said through clenched teeth, her whole being bristling with irritation. Ron watched them, not keen to voice an opinion either way.
Harry shook his head and was about to move around her when she took a step forwards and held his arms.
“Look, Harry – I didn’t want to have to say this, but do you remember when Sirius died?” Harry stared at her with mounting anger. “You were a wreck – angry with everything and everyone. If someone had told you where Lestrange was, what would you have done?”
“I would have gone after her!” he hissed hotly.
“And what do you think would have happened?” she asked quietly. Ron was staring at Harry, looking very nervous.
“I dunno! What’s your point, Hermione?”
“My point is that at the time, you weren’t able to think straight. You would have gone off half-cocked and probably got yourself killed. It was too soon. If you tell Neville everything right now - right after his grandmother’s funeral – he’s going to go straight after Carrow, or Lestrange, or whoever and probably get himself killed. Do you want that to happen?” she held his hands tightly in her own, her eyes brimming with tears. They stared at each other for the longest moment before Harry finally dropped his gaze. Ron let out a huge sigh of relief.
“Fine,” Harry said quietly, knowing deep down she was right. “But he has to know sometime Hermione. I’m telling him tomorrow.”
She nodded and brushed a tear from her cheek. “Okay.”
“Look out,” whispered Ron, “Mum’s coming over.”
The three of them hurriedly tried to look casual, as Mrs. Weasley bore down on them.
“Ron, dear, we’re going to be off now.” She hugged her youngest son, then turned to embrace Harry and Hermione too. “Now you take care of yourselves,” she said sternly, as Mr. Weasley, the twins and Charlie said their goodbyes.
“Yes, Mum,” said Ron, wiping the spot on his cheek where she had kissed him, leaving behind a trace of lipstick. As they went to speak to the Longbottoms’, Emily approached them slightly nervously.
“Um, Harry?” she said, tentatively.
“Hi Emily. Are you leaving now?”
“Yes, I am. Remus was supposed to take me to the train station, but I can’t seem to find him – where did he go?”
Harry, Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick look. Had Tonks told her cousin that Lupin was a werewolf? Perhaps it was a bit much for a Muggle to understand.
“He wasn’t feeling very well,” said Hermione swiftly, “he went home. But I’d be happy to take you. Have you Apparated before?”
“Well, Tonks has taken me a couple of places that way. It’s very weird but I’m getting used to it.”
Harry and Ron smiled sympathetically. “Don’t worry – a lot of wizards find it weird,” said Harry reassuringly. “Hermione, if you take Emily to the station, me and Ron can stay here and help Neville clear up.”
With that decided, Hermione and Emily went into the back garden to Apparate, but not before Hermione had given Harry a stern look, reminding him not to talk to Neville. He gave her a nod and began to summon the goblets and plates towards him. Ron was covering the leftover food up and levitating it towards the kitchen. The Longbottoms’ had moved to the front parlour, where Minister Pringle was attempting to comfort them. Neville was nowhere to be seen.
“Blimey,” sighed Ron, “what a day.”
“Yeah,” Harry agreed, “and it’s only one o’clock.”
“I can’t believe we only have six days left until…”
Harry grimaced at him as they entered the kitchen. With a flick of his wand, the sink filled with water and bubbles and the dishes began to wash themselves. Ron placed the leftover cakes into the pantry and they quietly discussed the funeral, both agreeing that Minister Pringle was very annoying. They heard the garden door bang shut and moments later Hermione appeared.
“Need anymore help?” she asked, looking around the kitchen.
“Nah, we’re done,” said Ron, tucking his wand back into his robes. “How did it go with Emily?”
“Fine,” she replied, sitting at the small square table. “I got the impression that she has no clue about Lupin being a werewolf though - it’s a good thing we didn’t say anything.”
With the clearing up done, Harry left Ron and Hermione in the kitchen and went in search of Neville. He wasn’t on the ground floor, and seeing that the Longbottoms were still talking to Minister Pringle, Harry quietly climbed the stairs, wandering down the carpeted hallway and peering into rooms, until he came to a large bedroom. Inside, perched on the edge of an old-fashioned looking four-poster bed was Neville, his back to the doorway. Harry knocked lightly and pushed the door open.
“Neville?” He looked around the room, realising it must have belonged to Mrs. Longbottom.
Neville jumped slightly and turned around. “Oh, hi Harry. Has everyone gone?”
“Yeah. Hermione and Ron are in the kitchen. Your aunt and uncle are still with the minister.”
“Right.” Neville was holding something Harry could not see.
“Er… can I come in?”
Neville nodded. As he walked around the bed, Harry saw that Neville was holding a hat, topped with a stuffed vulture. He took a seat on a small stool that belonged to an ancient dressing table.
“What will you do with her things?”
Neville shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said numbly. He looked up at Harry, who was relieved to see that his tears had dried up. “I suppose I should give them to a charity shop, or something.”
Harry nodded, at a loss for another suggestion.
“My uncle is talking about selling the place, you know, to move somewhere a bit smaller.”
“What do you think about that?”
“I don’t really know. I feel like there’s no reason to keep it, but it feels a bit soon to be deciding.”
“Well I think you should come and stay with me, Ron and Hermione. For as long as you like.”
“Thanks, Harry. I-I think I will. For the time being, if you’re sure?”
“Of course I am. Why don’t you get some of your things together? Unless you want to stay for a while?”
Neville studied the hat a moment longer. He looked up and said, “No, I think I’m ready to leave now.”
Harry stood up and nodded, “We’ll wait for you downstairs.”
Harry was up very early the next day. The sun was several hours from rising but he was too anxious to sleep. He decided to check on the Map and write a letter to Ginny. He crept down the stairs to the drawing room, shooting sparks into the fireplace, causing a roaring fire to burst into life. There was nothing new to report at the Gaunt house: its residents were all present and correct, so he settled into his favourite armchair with parchment and quill. He wasn’t sure what to write: he had only seen Ginny the previous day, but hadn’t really had the chance to say anything of great importance to her. What if something did happen to him, and Mrs. Longbottom’s funeral was the last time he would see her? He stared into the flames, trying to think of the right words to say, without being too morbid and worrying Ginny for no reason, but still conveying his feelings for her. Finally, he put quill to parchment and began to write:
I bet you didn’t think you’d be hearing from me so soon. Isn’t it weird how much I miss you, even though I just saw you? I hope your return to Hogwarts was fun (with McGonagall and Luna as travelling companions, how could it be anything but?) We didn’t really get much of a chance to talk yesterday, even though that was all I wanted to do. I know I promised you that I would be careful, and I will, but we both know that anything could happen when we go after Them. I suddenly worry that I haven’t said enough, or done enough for you and need you to know that being with you is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I have never been happier, even with all the bad stuff that’s going on around us. Please, please try not to worry - I just want you to know how much you mean to me. I know when you read this you’ll probably go crazy, but try not to.
He read his words over and over again, debating the wisdom of sending such a letter. It would do nothing but cause Ginny to worry frantically. He decided to amend his words, making it more to the point. After a few more drafts, the new letter, which was now really more of a note, simply read:
I didn’t get a chance to tell you yesterday, but I love you.
He surveyed this sentence, and even though his face still burned slightly at the mention of those three words, he meant them. Throwing his previous attempts into the fire, he folded the new note and sealed it with a tap of his wand. He went down the hall to the sitting room where he waited at the window for Hedwig or Pig to return from their hunting. The sun began to rise over London as the darkened figure of Hedwig swooped towards the window. He opened it and called softly to her, stepping out of the way just in time to allow her entry. She had what looked like a small rat clamped in her beak. Harry gave her a dismayed look.
“Urgh, Hedwig – that’s disgusting – mice I can handle, but rats?” He sighed while Hedwig devoured the rodent, figuring that as long as they lived in London, that’s what Hedwig would hunt. When she was finally finished (and he had vanished the remains) he gave her the note for Ginny. “Make sure she gets this – in private if possible.”
Hedwig hooted her understanding and soared out the open window. Harry watched her go, until the sound movement upstairs broke his reverie. Knowing that Dobby would appear at any moment and make a fuss about him being up too early, Harry hurriedly made his way back to his room to dress. He was about to open his bedroom door when-
Harry turned to see Neville standing, fully dressed in the hallway.
“Neville – what are you doing up so early?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“Couldn’t sleep”- they said at the same time.
Harry smiled. “Well, Dobby should be up by now, so breakfast will probably be ready soon. Hungry?”
Neville nodded, and Harry was pleased to see that he seemed to be clear-eyed and alert – hopefully that meant that he hadn’t been up crying all night.
“I’m just going to change – I’ll be down in two minutes.”
Neville nodded again and made his way downstairs. Harry joined him moments later, and found Neville and Dobby deep in conversation about the correct care of Flutterby bush, Dobby’s favourite plant.
“Dobby is saving up his wages to buy a whole window-box full of them, Master Neville, sir – they is so pretty.”
“As long as you make sure they have plenty of shade though,” Neville was saying, “they get nervous if they’re exposed to too much sunlight. Oh, and you should always use Mooncalf dung to plant them in. I’ve got some at the shop, you can help yourself.”
Dobby’s little face lit up. “Oh thank you, Master Neville, sir!” turning to Harry, Dobby said, “Dobby is going to get some new plants, Harry Potter, sir!”
Harry raised his eyebrows, “Yeah? What about this dung – is it going to stink out the whole house?”
Neville shook his head. “Don’t worry – Mooncalf dung doesn’t smell like dragon’s – you won’t even notice it”-
-“Won’t notice the smell of dung?” interrupted Ron loudly, walking into the kitchen, red hair sticking up in all directions, “why don’t I believe you, Nev?”
Dobby, clearly thrilled that some semblance of normalcy had returned to mealtimes, happily levitated a large platter of kippers onto the table, as Neville once more defended his beloved dung. Harry caught Ron’s eye, silently conveying the message to keep the conversation going. There had been so much silence and gloom in the house recently that it was a joy to see Neville talking normally. If they could just keep it going…
"Morning!" Hermione stood in the doorway, Crookshanks cradled in her arms. She looked at little surprised that everyone was up and chatting, but made no comment, and for the first time since Mrs. Longbottom had died, did not ask Neville if he was all right. She gave Crookshanks a quick kiss on the nose, then plonked him down near the fireplace, where he stretched out luxuriantly, purring loudly. After filling his food bowl with kippers, she took a seat and poured herself a cup of coffee.
"How's Lupin today?" she asked Harry, while Ron regaled Neville and Dobby with a story about how the twins tried to trick him into eating a dragon dung pie when he was four.
"Haven't seen him yet. I thought I'd let him sleep in."
"He looked absolutely terrible yesterday. Isn't it a bit unusual for him to feel so ill this soon before a full moon?"
Harry shrugged. "I dunno – you're the werewolf expert in the family."
She rolled her eyes and sipped her drink thoughtfully. "Maybe we should take a tray up to him?"
"Don't worry, Miss Hermione," said Dobby, wiping tears laughter out of his eyes, (caused by Ron's story) "Dobby is doing it now!"
He hurried to fetch a tray, filling it with food, tea and a tiny vase containing a single flower. As he left the kitchen, Ron said admiringly, "You've got to love the effort that elf puts in."
Harry chuckled and Neville smiled, but Hermione looked stern. Ron held up his hands. "Hey – he's getting paid, Hermione – no-one's abusing his elf civil rights."
She stared at him a moment longer, then her lips twitched into a reluctant smile.
Harry stood up. "I think I'll go and see how Lupin is," and left the kitchen. As he ambled up the stairs, he wondered if Ginny had received his letter yet. Lupin's door had been left ajar by Dobby, so he pushed it open, tapping lightly as he did.
Lupin was sitting up in bed, tray on his lap, looking dreadful. Dobby was once more administering his potion, a concerned look on his face.
"Morning, Harry," he said weakly. "Thank you, Dobby," he took his potion gratefully, its smoke circling his head as he drank deeply. Handing the empty goblet back to Dobby, he said, "Thank you for the food, Dobby, but I'm really not very hungry."
"You is ought to be eating something!" replied Dobby, fretfully.
"Perhaps I could manage a little something at lunch time," he pushed the tray away and Dobby picked it up.
"All right, Mr. Lupin – Dobby is coming back later to check on you."
As the door closed behind him, Harry pulled up a seat at Lupin's bedside.
"Any news on Carrow?" asked Lupin in a strained voice, eyes half closed.
"No, nothing yet. How are you feeling?"
Lupin gave a short laugh, "How do I look?"
"Oh. Is there anything I can get you?"
Lupin shook his head.
Harry gave a small sigh. "I feel so useless. How come your symptoms are so bad so early?"
Lupin raised his eyebrows. "What do you mean, early?"
"Well, you've got five days 'til the full moon – how come you're so sick now?"
"Harry, it's three days until the full moon."
Harry stared at him. "No – Hermione worked it out – there are five more days…"
Lupin grimaced. "Harry, there is no-one more capable than Hermione, but I assure you that when it comes to lunar cycles, I know what I'm talking about. Wait…" he said sharply, "when you said you had ten days until the ritual, you were working from Hermione's calculations?"
Harry nodded, his palms suddenly sweating.
"Oh my God, Harry," said Lupin, struggling to stay awake now that the potion was taking effect, "I'm sorry – I was so caught up with worrying about Nymphadora that I didn't think – I didn't realise… There are only three days left until the full moon!"
Without another word, Harry stood, heart thundering in his ears. He didn't remember leaving Lupin's room, but suddenly found himself sprinting back to the kitchen. Ron, Hermione and Neville looked up at him in shock.
"Harry, what's wrong?" asked Hermione fearfully.
"The calculations – they're wrong – lunar chart – mistake"- he panted, feeling like he'd left his stomach back in Lupin's room.
"What?" asked Ron, thoroughly confused.
"The calculations were wrong! We don't have five days until the full moon – we have three!"
Hermione stood up, face as white as a sheet. "No – no that can't be! I checked it!"
Ron and Neville looked from Harry to Hermione, mouths open.
"Hermione – Lupin just told me – the full moon is in three days! That's why he's so sick! Who would know better than him?"
She took a step towards him, eyes wide, "No!" Pulling her wand from her robes, she gave a hasty wave and the lunar charts appeared on the table. She pulled them open and pointed to the calculations. "Look – this clearly says that we have five more days!" her voice rose with hysteria. Harry, Ron and Neville peered at the scroll. There was a full minute of silence, panic and fear thick in the air. Finally, Ron spoke.
"Hermione," he said faintly, eyes bulging from their sockets "look."
They followed his trembling finger – he pointed to the year. Hermione and Neville gasped.
Harry spoke softly, "These charts are from last years lunar cycles. That means"-
-"That means I – I was wrong," stammered Hermione, who had turned an odd shade of green. She looked up at the other three with a horrified expression. "Lupin was right – there are only three days left."
Harry stared at Hermione, trying to resist the urge to throttle her. She slumped into her chair and burst into sobs.
"Oh no! I-I'm so sorry! I didn't realise! Oh, this is all my fault! What do we do?"
Harry's anger faltered somewhat. Why did she have to cry? It made it so much harder to shout at her. Ron moved to put his arms around her, while Neville sat looking thoroughly bewildered. Harry's brain was racing. Dumbledore's words echoed in his mind: "Follow your heart, follow the signs". Suddenly, he could see very clearly what needed to be done: they had to move now – today, there was no more time to waste. But first, he needed to talk to Neville.
"Hermione," he said sharply, "pull yourself together – we don't have time to fall apart now. I need you to get every single potion, charm and spell we have. And the Map and Invisibility cloak. Ron, go to the twins; take two of everything you think might be useful – Extendable Ears, fireworks, even one of those portable swamps – tell them I need them and we'll settle the bill later." Hermione and Ron each nodded, and quickly departed. "Neville," Harry said quietly, "let's go to the drawing room. I need to talk to you."
Closing the door firmly behind them, Harry turned to face his friend.
“I think you should sit down.”
Neville did so without question.
“There are a few things you don’t know,” Harry began. Neville stared at him, his expression unreadable.
Harry took a deep breath, feeling a calm clarity surround him. It felt like someone was writing the words for him now; all he had to do was follow the script. “I know where Carrow is.”
Neville’s lips trembled but he remained composed. It was as though he too knew that he had to allow events to unfold.
“Where is he?”
“In the South of France – Shacklebolt, Tonks and the other Auror’s have gone after him.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me before now?” asked Neville, hollowly.
“We didn’t want to upset you anymore that you already were.”
Neville nodded. “And?”
“I haven’t heard anything so far.”
It was Neville’s turn to sigh. He rubbed his face with both hands tiredly. Looking up he asked: “You said there were a few things? What else?”
“I had one of my… talks with Dumbledore, just after your Gran – you know.”
“He said that all these things were happening for a reason – that I overheard Lestrange talking about going after Ginny to make me want to stop her… that Hermione being in hospital made Ron realise how he felt… and that your Gran died for a reason that only you could discover. He told me to make sure I let you go to the funeral in peace, to make sure you paid your final respects before telling you anything. So…”
Neville’s eyes opened wide with surprise. “Dumbledore said that – about me?”
Harry nodded. “Does it mean anything to you?”
Neville bit his lip, frowning, “No… I don’t think so.”
“Well, can I tell you what I think?” Harry glanced at the door to make sure it was still closed. A dark theory had been festering in the recesses of his mind ever since Dumbledore’s last visit, one that he had not wished to discuss with anyone, not even Ginny. Leaning in towards Neville, he began to talk in a low, urgent voice.
“There are other things you don’t know, about that prophecy we went after in the fifth year – it’s not important now, but you need to know that I haven’t just pulled this idea out of thin air. Dumbledore knows I’m not a killer, but the one person I care about – love - more than anything else in the world is Ginny. I think Dumbledore knows that if anyone threatened Ginny, I would want to stop them – even kill them if I had to. And with someone like Lestrange, it might be the only way,” he paused and looked at Neville, who seemed to be agreeing with everything so far, “And Lestrange is the one who killed Sirius,” his voice cracked for a moment before he continued. “I haven’t told anyone this, because I don’t think they would understand, but something tells me you might. And I think Dumbledore thinks so too.”
There was an extremely long pause while Neville digested these words.
“I think you were right to keep this to yourself, Harry,” he said finally, in a deadly calm voice. “Hermione and Ron won’t understand – nor the Ministry, but I do. I think everything is quite clear now. Lestrange killed your godfather and took away my parents lives – I want her dead too,” his eyes burned into Harry’s, “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“Then we’re agreed?”
Neville nodded solemnly. “Agreed. But what about Carrow?”
Harry had been prepared for this. “If we make it out of this alive, and the Auror’s don’t catch him first, we’ll go after him and deal with him ourselves.”
They gripped hands for a moment, sealing the deal, then left the drawing room to meet the others.
“Okay, Extendable Ears; one each,” said Ron, having just returned from Weasleys' Wizards Wheezes, dropping brightly coloured boxes onto the kitchen table, “one portable swamp, two basic blaze boxes, a bunch of Decoy Detonators – in case we need to create a diversion – a Shield Hat each, and… a bag of Dungbombs.”
Harry stared at him.
Ron shrugged, “You never know, they might come in handy. Oh!” he exclaimed, digging into his cloak pocket once more, “and a large bag of Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder – just in case.”
Eyes downcast, Hermione carefully placed at least twenty small bottles on the table.
“Well, I’ve got, for want of better descriptions, the Smokius and Chokius Potions,” she grimaced slightly, “and my exploding potion – it’ll create a blast on impact. As for spells and charms, I’ve made a list of the ones I think would be most useful if going into battle,” she laid a long piece of parchment on the table, covered in her neat handwriting.
Harry ran a finger down the list.
“Excellent – does everyone know these?”
Ron and Neville leaned in to study the list, then nodded.
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Most of them.”
“Good. Where’s the Invisibility cloak?”
Hermione held it up.
“And the Map?”
Ron patted his pocket. “Here.”
Harry nodded and scooped the items into his leather satchel. “Right. Well… I think it’s time to go.”
Ron and Neville moved to leave, but Hermione stopped them.
“Harry – we can’t just go – shouldn’t we tell someone?”
Harry indicated a small scroll on the counter top. “I’ve left a letter for Lupin and Dobby.”
Hermione hesitated again, “Maybe we should try the Ministry again?”
Harry was about to reply when Ron cut him off.
“Hermione, this is something Harry has to do. He’s going to go regardless of the Ministry, or us so we’re going too. You don’t want him facing Lestrange alone, do you?”
Hermione bit her lip and shook her head.
“Exactly. We’re in this together – again. The Ministry are busy elsewhere and we’re running out of time,” he stared at her intently, “Are you with us?”
She stared at him, then threw her hands up in exasperation. “Oh! Of course I am!” she slipped her own travelling cloak on and followed him out of the kitchen, Neville close behind. Suddenly, Hedwig swooped down the chimney, a scroll attached to her leg. Moving quickly, Harry crossed to the fireplace and removed the letter. Opening it, he read:
I love you too.
He smiled to himself, tucking the letter inside his robes.
“Come on, Harry!” called Ron.
He cast a final glance around the kitchen, then hurried to the front door.
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