Staring at the piece of parchment that McGonagall gave him, Charlie was at a loss as to where to begin. All of his life he had flaunted his abilities. Never has anyone challenged him before. He was both terrified and flattered at the fact that it was McGonagall, herself, who had challenged him. Still, how was he to find this artifact? Where was he to begin his search?.
“So, where do we start?” Harry asked as he, Hermione, Ginny, and Ron sat down near Charlie. The darkened den of the shack was the perfect place for Charlie to gather his thoughts.
“I don’t know.” Charlie responded.
“You don’t know! You said that you could find one of these Horcrux! That was a lie, wasn’t it!” Ron ranted suspiciously.
“I did not lie! Everything I said, I meant. It’s just…” Charlie replied.
“You never thought you would have to live up to your word.” Hermione interjected.
Charlie looked up into Hermione’s eyes and nodded. “What have I gotten myself into? Truth be told, I’m afraid. Growing up and seeing what kind of wizards the dark arts produce, I have always feared that side of my family. I thought that once I left my father’s house I would be rid of it. I thought I was finally free. I…”
Harry, impressed by Charlie’s honesty, places a comforting hand on Charlie’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Charlie. We all fear the dark arts. It’s perfectly natural to feel the way you do.” Harry comforted.
“Not for me, okay. Not for a Richardson. We are the most powerful wizards in the New World. We do not fear anything. But I fear. Maybe that is why my father hates me so.”
At a loss for words, everyone in the room remained quiet. Charlie returned his attention to the parchment Minerva gave him. I never would have thought that the Dark Lord would have wasted his time messing with such a muggle artifact, Charlie thought to himself. This Horcrux he was ordered to retrieve was a simple padlock. Charlie understood the technical intrigue such a device would have brought to Voldemort. Bewitching this artifact, the Dark Lord could lock away anything his evil heart desired. Magical weapons or artifacts, vital information of his organization, or even memories.
Whatever the Dark Lord locked away behind this enchanted muggle lock won’t be discovered until Charlie retrieves it. The most important question that remains is where to begin.
“May I see that parchment, Charlie?” Hermione asked in her usual sweet voice. Charlie handed the piece of paper over to her and she examined it thoroughly. After a few moments of silence, Hermione handed the paper back to Charlie. “I’m afraid I don’t recall reading anything about this one. Without a library at my disposal, I am afraid that I am at a loss. I’m sorry.”
“You can’t be expected to remember everything, Hermione.” Ron said caringly.
“A library?” Charlie inquired.
“What is it, Charlie?” Ginny asked.
“Arggg!” Charlie slaps his hand to his forhead and closes his eyes. “Why didn’t I think of this before? My father’s house has the most extensive library in the west hemisphere. I can’t believe I forgot that! My father has been obsessed with Voldemort since before I was born. He has collections of information on him in his library. If there is any info on this Horcrux it will be there.” Charlie explained.
“So then we start there.” Harry added.
“One problem. My father’s house is difficult to get to. Floo powder is useless. My father set up a barrier in the house when I was thirteen to prevent anyone from surprising him like that. Portkeys and apparating are also out of the question because of the same reason.”
“Then how are we to get there?” Ginny asked.
“We will have to travel to my dorm room. By either of those means. Once we are in Boston we will have to take muggle transportation to my father’s manor.”
“Muggle transportation? You mean bus? You will expose the wizarding world. What kind of wizard are you?” Ron asked snootily.
“I have just about had enough of your attitude, Ron. Ever since I got here you have given me nothing but resentment.” Charlie rises up from the couch he was sitting on causing Ron to cringe. “If you truly wish to know what kind of wizard I am then step up and find out.” Charlie challenged.
“Guys! We don’t have time for this! If you can’t get along then I will ask you to leave, Ron.” Hermione scolded.
“You are taking his side over mine?” Ron asked.
“Charlie has been given a task by the Order. I’m sorry, Ron. But completion of this task is more important then your bruised ego. If you can’t get along with Charlie then I will ask you to leave. Do you understand?” Hermione continued.
“Yes.” Ron submitted.
“No, I’m sorry. I am on edge. I had no right to challenge you like that, Ron. I am sorry.” Charlie apologized.
“Hermione’s right. I was wrong. It is I who am sorry. Please continue.”
“Once we get to Richardson manor, getting in would still be difficult. My father, ever since my mother’s death, has gotten mentally unstable. He implemented several security spells to keep his imaginary enemies out. I only hope I remember them all.”
“Just curious, Charlie. But, what happens if you fail the security tests you mentioned?” Ginny asked.
“My father put a charm on the gate to the manor. If anyone fails to pass the security tests the gate casts the killing curse on the intruder. There is only one shot. Like I said, my father has gone quite unstable lately.”
“What do you need to do to get the gate to open?” Harry asked.
“Well first I have to say a limerick written by one of my ancestors to the gate.”
“I suppose remembering it all is the difficult part?” Ron asked.
“No, the hard part is remembering it all in parseltongue. After that, I must place the tip of my wand into the key hole and recite the original incantation my father placed on it in reverse. The third test I always forget. Which is partly why I never visited my father once I moved into my dorm.” Charlie sat back down and contemplated the final test.
A funny thought suddenly entered Ginny’s head and she smiled. “ Maybe you need to raise your hands up in the air and say, “Open Sesame!” Everyone but Charlie broke out in an uproar of laughter. In the middle of all of the laughter, Ginny noticed that Charlie was staring at her with a stern look. “I’m sorry, Charlie.”
“No. You’ve just helped me remember the last test.” Charlie replied.
“The final test is that silly incantation?” Hermione questioned.
“No, Hermione. The final test is courtesy. After you knock on someone’s door, what is the first thing you ask?”
Harry’s eyes widened and he smiled. “That’s brilliant, Charlie.”
“What?” Ron asked.
“Oh, I get it.” Ginny added.
“Of course.” Hermione interjected.
“Come on! What is it?” Ron repeated.
“To enter my father’s house, you have to ask the gate if you may enter.” Charlie explained.
“Yes. Do you see why I always forgot that part?”
“Charlie. You are going to need my help when you get to your father’s library.” Hermione informed.
“She has a point, Charlie. No one is better at the books then Hermione here. Time will be an issue and she would help speed up our search.” Harry added.
“I welcome your help, Hermione. However, the Order will only let two of you go with me. I must follow the rules to a “T”, otherwise they won’t help me.” Charlie said.
“Let me deal with McGonagall. You are going to need me.” Hermione restated. With a quick jump out of the chair she sat in, Hermione jetted out of the den.
“She is quite the incorrigible witch.” Charlie observed.
“You have no idea.” Ron added.
“By the way. Is Minerva married?”
“Just curious. So she is not seeing someone?”
“Oh, my god! You are attracted to her aren’t you?” Ginny screamed. The concept caused the others to all gag at the thought of McGonagall and Charlie having a relationship.
“Come on! She is hot!” Charlie defended himself.
“I think I am going to be sick.” Ron stated.
“What can I say. The older the berry the sweeter the juice.” Charlie added.
“Ugh! I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Harry testified.
Hermione returned to the den and immediately noticed the thick aura that was now present in the room. “What’s going on?” She asked.
“Charlie is in love with McGonagall.” Ron explained.
“And?” Hermione replied.
“That doesn’t gross you out?” Ginny inquired.
“Why should it. Minerva is a very attractive woman.”
“Now I know I didn’t hear that.” Ron said.
Turning to Charlie, “Minerva has granted me permission to accompany you to Boston. When do we leave?” Hermione asked. All business.
“We all need plenty of sleep. So get some rest and we leave at five.” Charlie answered.