“I have always considered myself a forgiving man, Charles. I’m willing to overlook your transgressions. All I require is that you tell me how to find your son,” Voldemort said to Charles Richardson in a seductive tone. Still cowering in the corner, Charles raised his eyes to meet the Dark Lord’s.
“Yes, master. My purpose is to serve you,” Charles pleaded.
“Very good, Charles. Rise.” Charles climbed to his feet and wiped away the tears that streamed down his cheeks. Voldemort strode over to his lounge chair and sat down. Snape entered the room. “What have you to report?” Voldemort asked.
“The Order has sent young Mr. Richardson on a task to prove his merit. He has been sent to track down and retrieve your padlock,” Snape divulged.
“I see. Charles! Now that we know what he’s up to, where do you suppose your son will start?” Voldemort asked.
Having trouble swallowing, Charles wiped the newly formed sweat from his brow. “it’s hard to say, my lord,” he began.
“Then I suggest you force yourself to say!” Voldemort scolded.
“I always told him that if he ever needed help with anything, he should come home. He would begin his search at my manor.”
A malevolent grin surfaced on the serpentine face of Voldemort. “Excellent, Charles. Looks like we’re going to Boston. We leave immediately!”
Never having been in an American dorm, let alone an American room at all, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione found themselves overwhelmed by the dullness of the décor. The walls had no portraits that moved and talked, no fireplace to warm you on cold nights, just blue-painted walls and leather furniture.
Convinced that they had Apparated into the wrong room, Ginny asked, “Did we somehow Apparate into the wrong place?” As they looked around they were all appalled by the state of the room—clothing and books scattered all over the floor, dirty dishes piled up in the small sink in the kitchenette area.
“Sorry about the mess. My roommate moved out last week and trashed the place in the process. He brought heroin into my room, and when I asked him to get rid of it he told me to piss off. So I called the cops and he was arrested. While he was at the police station, the Dean was notified of what had taken place and he expelled my roommate when he got released from jail. He was pissed. I was in the middle of cleaning up when my father abducted me,” Charlie explained ruefully.
“Why didn’t you have your family’s house-elf clean it for you?” Ginny asked.
“America abolished house-elf slavery back in 1863. Besides, this is a Muggle university. If someone were to see a house-elf here, it would expose the magical world.”
“Really? House-elf slavery is illegal here?” Hermione asked with a gleam in her eye.
“Yes, it is. It was outlawed by Abraham Lincoln himself.”
“Abraham Lincoln? You mean your sixteenth President?” Harry asked.
“He was more than just President. Back in the mid-nineteenth century, Abraham Lincoln was the most gifted wizard not entangled with the Dark Arts of that time. All of the Dark wizards feared him, my family the most.”
“So then, he was like our Professor Dumbledore.” Ginny said in a matter-of-fact tone.
“Who’s Dumbledore?” Charlie asked. The entire room went dead silent. “I see. He’s dead. Was it Voldemort?”
“No. Dumbledore was dying. And to save Draco from committing a murder, he told Snape to kill him,” Hermione explained.
“I see. Anyway, when the North and South went to war over slavery of the blacks, the same occurred with the magical community of that time. The northern states went to war with the southern states over the treatment of house-elves. Just like the Civil War, the north wanted to liberate the house-elves and the south didn’t. After the battle at Gettysburg, Lincoln knew that both wars would eventually destroy the country and him with it. So he wrote his Emancipation Proclamation. In it he was able to abolish slavery in all its forms while maintaining the secrecy of the magical world. Since then, house-elves are free to do what they wish when they wish. If they want to work, they get paid equally with humans.”
“I wish house-elf slavery would be outlawed in England,” Hermione said wistfully.
“I’m sure it will be someday. Listen, we haven’t much time so we should get going,” Charlie interjected. Glancing at his wristwatch, he pursed his lips. “The next bus to Middleton Road leaves in twenty minutes. We need to leave now.”
Harry, Ginny, and Hermione followed Charlie out of the room and down the large flight of stairs. Emerging from the dorm room, they were surprised to discover that parts of Boston looked very similar to London.
“Charlie, how far away is the bus stop?” Hermione asked.
“Not far. Just around the corner here,” Charlie replied.
As they turned the corner, they noticed the bus was already there and letting people get onboard. “Damn. Come on or we will miss it!” Charlie yelled. The four them took off running and barely made it onto the bus before it closed its door and took off.
Stepping off of the bus onto Middleton Road, Harry, Ginny, and Hermione all agreed that that was the last time any of them would be riding American public transit. The coach smelled like sweat and smoke and there was an elderly gentleman with no shirt on who kept making passes at both Hermione and Ginny.
“Come this way,” Charlie said as he led them up the street. “I’m sorry you guys had to endure that. We’ll be able to Apparate straight to England from my father’s house when we’re done. Once we get in, the rest will be easier,” Charlie apologized.
They soon came upon a large plantation sealed by a solid metal gate. Resting high above the gate was a coat of arms, divided into quarters. The top left quadrant displayed a serpent coiled around a broadsword. The top right quadrant showed a sun surrounded by four stars. The bottom left quadrant bore just the letter R, while the last quadrant displayed the image of an American bald eagle.
“Welcome to Richardson Manor. Before my family migrated here from England in 1725, we were know as the Richardses. My family wanted to shed the image they had created over in England, so they changed their name and in doing so created that family crest. The sun and four stars represent Thomas Richards and his four children, the first of my kin in the new world. The bold-faced ‘R’ represents the Richards name, to ensure that future generations would remember who we are and why we’re here. The serpent coiled around the broadsword obviously represents my family’s ability to speak Parseltongue,” Charlie explained
“What does the eagle represent?” Hermione asked.
Charlie suddenly grew quiet and after a few moments answered, “The eagle represents a power my family has kept secret for centuries. No one outside my family knows we possess this power.”
“What power is that?” Ginny asked.
Without answering her, Charlie walked past the other three and stared across the street at the woods. Right before their eyes, he transformed into a bald eagle and took off into the air. Soaring high into the air, Charlie circled the manor and then returned to the spot from which he had taken off from, returning to his human form in the process.
“You’re an Animagus!” Ginny exclaimed.
“My family discovered long ago the power of Animagus transformation. They also discovered the tactical uses of it. They knew that to keep it a guarded secret would allow them to have an advantage over their enemies. Thomas Richards was able to transform into an eagle, as am I. When America outlawed Animagus transformation, the secret was kept for our protection. To achieve that kind of power is punishable by life imprisonment. Which is why I must ask that you keep my secret,” Charlie requested solemnly.
“Don’t worry, Charlie. Your secret is safe with us,” Hermione replied, and the others nodded their heads in agreement.
“Thank you.” Turning his attention to the gate, he said, “What do you say we get inside?”
Walking up to the gate, he raised his hands high in the air and spoke out in Parseltongue:
I am the one rightful heir
It is I who claim lordship here
I demand entrance to my sacred lair
So that the world may tremble with fear
With the sound of the limerick being spoken in Parseltongue, the gate shone bright blue, symbolizing the release of the first lock. Taking out his wand, Charlie placed the tip into the keyhole of the gate.
“Protectio Exter!” Charlie exclaimed. This time the gate glowed green with the sound of the reverse incantation. Returning his wand to his pocket, Charlie backed up two steps and once again raised his hands above his head. “To the powerful Richardson line, I beseech you! My enemies are near, they seek to destroy me! I request permission to enter so that I may be safe and secure! To the great Richardson line, I beseech you! Please grant me entrance!”
With these words the gate glowed red and immediately opened with a rusty squeak. The four of them passed through the open gate. As soon as they were inside, the gate shut itself and in reverse sequence glowed red, green, then blue.
“Stick together ,everyone. My father’s manor is huge, and someone who doesn’t know the layout can easily get lost. So no wandering off alone, agreed?” Charlie suggested.
“Agreed,” the other three all said in unison as they continued to the main entrance of the enormous Richardson Manor.