Thanks so much to Gynnyfan4life for the wonderful chapter image.
A week or so after Dobby's gift, Harry went downstairs into the kitchen and found, to his surprise, Mr. Weasley, who should have been at the Ministry, avidly perusing a copy of the Daily Prophet. He stood by the step by the door and waited, as he had a feeling that there was something abnormal going on.
"Rubbish!" shouted Arthur, presumably to himself, as he was on his own.
"Mr. Weasley? Are you all right?" asked Harry frowning with concern. “I though you’d gone to work…”
“Sit down, Harry, sit down. I take it that you haven’t heard the news yet, then?” started Arthur Weasley, his eyes chuckling sparkles.
“News, what news, Arthur?” asked Mrs. Weasley, who was coming from upstairs, in a hurried tone.
“Scrimgeour's disappeared. Well, he is most likely dead, although The Prophet
would have it that he has resigned because he is too frightened. Umbridge is the new Minister for Magic!” he announced.
“Oh, my…!” was Harry’s reaction. His pupils locked into Mr Weasley’s grey eyes, as he distractedly begun to run his fingers over the scars on the back of his right hand.
“It’s all a farce, if you ask me,” added Mr. Weasley looking and sounding impotent and defeated.
Molly didn’t quite know what to make of all that and started to conjure mugs and set the kettle to boil.
"When did you hear that?" asked Molly with a worried expression.
"First thing this morning, at a departmental meeting. It's all over The Prophet
, well in Skeeter's style, anyway."
"The Order doesn't know yet, I don't think," she continued. "Where is Shacklebolt?"
"That's another good question, he hasn't appeared yet. Shacklebolt would have been a much better choice, well, for us anyway, but I guess she was second in command..." reasoned Arthur. "I think we better have a meeting. This change in leadership is likely to bring about some, well, changes."
"Sorry to be negative, Mr. Weasley," started Harry "but if you want my opinion, she is a complete psychopath. She tried to use an unforgivable on me back at Hogwarts when she took over Dumbledore, not to mention making me write lines with my own blood for a detention!"
"Well, there is something else I think I need to warn you about, Harry. I have heard some rumours at the Ministry, although at the moment they are just that, rumours, that she is been trying to pass a very obscure Inheritance Tax Act where any assets received over 10 years after the date of death of the testator revert back to the Ministry, regardless of whether the beneficiary was of age or not after those 10 years." Arthur paused to draw breath. "I think she may have had someone in mind when she came up with this, don't you?"
Harry's eyes opened up more in anger than disbelief.
"Yes, and I'm sorry to say, Harry, that she intends for this to have retrospective effect." Arthur said with a sad expression in his eyes.
"This is just not on, Arthur, you got to do something, they can't deprive the kid of what is rightly his, after all he's been through!" exclaimed Molly enraged, patting Harry in the back as if wishing to protect him.
"Oh, she's got it in for me alright, but of course this is going to affect other people; she can't just screw them all up because she wants to get at me! What about Neville, or Luna? Ok, Neville's parents are still alive but legally incapacitated, so this will have an impact on him too and on lots of people we don't know, I'm sure!"
"It may be wise for you to have a word with Bill, since he works at Gringotts. Get there before she gets this through, take out what you can, open a Muggle bank account or something, I don't know." Harry could tell that Mr. Weasley's brain was working overtime.
"Anyway, it's only money, to hell with it!" replied Harry in a temper.
"Only money that could be put to a much better use than financing Umbridge's little schemes. Well, with her track record on other species and Muggleborns, Merlin only knows what she use the galleons for!"
"And what about blood-traitors, Mr. Weasley? Is your job secure? I mean, no offence, but if we manage to get the money out in time, well, you needn't worry, you have always treated me like a son..." offered Harry blushing. "And, anyway," he continued "she can't touch the Black estate under that law, Sirius only died two years ago."
"Ah, she has found a way around that one as well. Maybe she is convinced you will use your wealth to raise an army or something. Beneficiaries who are not blood relatives must pay a 90% death duty and, that too, is meant to be retrospective, and, by the way, thank you, Harry, for your kind offer, but I will try not to let it come to that," Arthur concluded with the same determined look that was so characteristic of Ginny.
"Well, she must see me as a threat if she is so desperate to make me penniless!"
"She is a greedy woman, Harry, very greedy and the taxation system is just the top of the iceberg, I fear." Mr. Weasley looked now extremely constraint. "She is also planning to test all Muggleborns on their magical skills before they can obtain employment or be treated if they're sick. No need to say that these tests are bound to be tough."
"How long have you known this, Arthur?" enquired Mrs. Weasley.
"Well, there were only rumours, stuff she was trying to push through, but that was... before she became the Minister!" Mr. Weasley explained.
"I definitely think we have to summon the Order, Arthur," said Molly looking serious. "We can't let her get away with all this, and as you said, this is just the beginning. You'll have to use whatever contacts you've made over the years, something has to be done! And think of Remus, goodness, and Hagrid and the rest!"
"Yes, Molly, just let me gather my thoughts for a few minutes," he replied burying his head in his hands.
Molly now proceeded to offer them both a warm mug of tea and a toasted scone and sat at the table staring into space. Harry finished it quickly and decided to go and tell his friends.
Harry found Ron upstairs in his room reading a book on Quidditch.
"Ron, I have bad news I'm afraid..." was his opening phrase.
Ron gazed straight into Harry's eyes bracing himself to hear of a death; he was sure there must have been a death for Harry to start like that.
"Umbridge is the new Minister for Magic!" Harry announced biting his lip.
"You, what! What about Scrimgeour?" asked Ron unwilling to take this in, still glancing at the book.
"Let's go and find Hermione, see what she makes of it," Harry suggested.
"Bet you she's a Dead Eater, mate. I don't trust her a bit!" spat out Ron.
"I wouldn't put it past her, but come on, let's see what can be done, if anything at all..."
Hermione, as predicted, was reading in the library. Harry recounted very quickly what Mr. Weasley had told him. She just looked horrified.
"Sorry, Ron, but I must say that I'm a little worried about your father's job, although I guess Percy perhaps could put a good word in..." Hemione timidly suggested.
"And, why would Percy do that? Come on, you know what a jerk he is!" replied Ron unconvinced.
"Well, Harry, first things first, I bet you anything you are related to the Blacks in a way or another, most pure-blood families are," Hermione reasoned.
"I think you may have a point" said Harry "but who cares about the money when… Well, I find this very worrying, unless somebody sacks her, a lot of people's lives are probably not going to be worth living, I mean, Remus and well..."
"God knows what she'll do to house elves!" cried Hermione "I know you are not materialistic but what she is doing to you goes totally against the wishes of people who loved you who have died, Harry, you can't allow for this..."
"Let's go and see the tapestry!" suggested Ron in an attempt to come up with a solution.
"Not a bad plan at all, Ron. Come on, Harry," said Hermione encouragingly.
They walked up to the drawing room, ignoring Mrs Black's portrait's screaming remarks as best they could.
They proceeded towards the wall where the tapestry hung. Hermione was the first to notice.
"Look, Harry, I told you!" she exclaimed feeling satisfied. "Here it is, Charlus Potter. According to this he married Dorea Black (1920 - 1977). Dorea was the daughter of Cignus and Violetta. They had one son but it stops there. Now, Harry, let's think about it, when was your father born?"
"1960, yes, definitely," replied Harry trying in his mind to work out when his grandfather may have been born.
"Ok, 1960 and your grandparents were, what would you say, about 40, when they had him?"
"Sorry, Hermione, I've never found out for sure," he said a little sadly. There was so much he'd never learnt about his ancestors, so much his own parents could have told him if they had lived...
"Ok, let's work it out at about that, provisionally. Did Dumbledore not tell you that they weren't particularly young?"
"That's right, but that's all he said," answered Harry still looking a bit lost in thought.
"But there have to be records somewhere, we will find out for sure!" Hermione was now getting excited at the prospect of further research.
"As if we didn't have enough puzzles in our hands already!" commented Harry feeling a bit worn.
"But Tonks, Lupin or someone is bound to know. And look, say he was 40, he would have been born in 1920 or thereabouts. Now, you don't think this Charlus Potter might have been your grandfather?" Hermione proceeded.
"It's silly, I know, but the truth is I haven't got any information but if that was the case, I guess, Sirius would have told me at some point, especially because Sirius went to live with my grandparents. I'm sure if they had been related... I mean, if this had been in my mother's side, we could have tried Petunia, maybe."
"So you would be willing to trust her again, then? I think you should, Harry. I know she was mean to you but, come on, she is not in with the Death Eaters!" argued Hermione.
"I don't know, Hermione, just leave this Petunia issue for a moment. Every day seems to bring us a new mystery to solve!" complained Harry playing with his ever untidy hair.
Harry's eyes' now wandered towards the left side of the tapestry, towards the burn-like mark caused by the removal of his godfather's name. Suddenly, his sullen expression became animated.
"I think I've just had an idea!" He said, smiling rather cheekily.
"Yes, mate, what is it?" asked Ron.
"Just a theory on RAB," Harry continued to smile.
"Ah, but of course!" Hermione almost shouted taking her hand to her mouth, looking at the very same spot Harry was looking at. "Regulus Black! It makes sense, Harry, perfect sense. He was a Death Eater and got killed for defecting, I mean, he might have been killed because of ..."
"You're a genius!" shouted Ron.
"Slow down, guys, we have no proof of this," Harry said thinking it would be just too easy.
"It was your idea, mate!" protested Ron as if saying, Don't come up with the stuff and then chew our heads off for agreeing.
Since Harry received the gift from Dobby, the four teenagers had made relentless, yet fruitless attempts at deciphering the identity of RAB and yet Hermione had always had a feeling that, somehow, the answer was staring at them in their faces. If Kreacher had the locket, he must have surely got it from either Grimmauld Place or from the Bellatrix, Narcissa side of the family.
'There was a connection with Kreacher, for sure. Hermione could not get this idea out of her mind. "Harry, how do you think Regulus, if it was Regulus, took the locket out of the cave? I mean, it did require two people to do this, didn't it? I would bet he took Kreacher!" she said as enthusiastically as she had just hit the jackpot. "His magical power probably didn't register!"
"But it's obvious," Harry exclaimed feeling almost victorious, "we have handled this locket before, remember? How can we've been so stupid! When we cleaned up the house!"
"Yes, Harry, I remember, but, are you sure it was the same locket?" enquired Hermione.
"Positive." Harry was now convinced. "The locket Dobby gave me is definitely the same one as the one we found when we were cleaning. It's got to be, it's like I can feel it!"
"Harry, sorry to disappoint you, but how about the Slytherin symbol, the engraving...? You said that the locket in the memory had this engraving..."
"Damn, when things were looking up!" muttered Harry defeated, his bubble having burst.
"Now," contributed Ron "what if it's been enchanted?"
"That's a bloody good point, to look different, yes!" agreed Harry feeling again on top of the roller-coaster.
"There are several things we must do though," rationalised Hermione. "We ask someone discreetly about Regulus' middle name..."
"Yeah, as discreetly as when you went into Borgin & Burkes," rebuffed Ron. "I mean, we just tell them we are curious, do we?"
"We'll just have to make it casual, that's all," she said a bit defensively. "Then we get Harry to summon Kreacher to tell us what he knows and then, we work out a way to test the locket for incantations. Simple."
"I'm going to tell Ginny," said Harry walking towards the door. "She'll kill us if we don't share this with her! And I'm dying to tell her anyway."
"Well, it's a start, isn't it?" Ron admitted.
"Only if we are right on every count though," retorted Harry, still feeling positive but not wishing to count his chickens before they were hatched.
"Hiya, Tonks, hi, Remus, has anyone seen Ginny?" Harry asked with a grin, having just gone into the kitchen looking for her.
"Goodness, Harry, you look cheerful! I never thought you were a fan of Umbridge," said Lupin a bit puzzled.
Harry realised his excitement was giving him away and tried to look contrived.
"Did I look happy or something?" He asked dropping himself even deeper in it. "I can assure you I have had enough bad news today!"
"Yes, we're not too impressed either. Now, there is something we need to ask you, Harry," Remus proceeded.
"Well, this house belongs to you after all," he started.
"Not, for long, if Umbridge has her way!" he pointed out.
"Yes, sorry, Arthur just mentioned...But it is something else." It was obvious that Lupin was trying very hard to come up with the right words.
"Draco Malfoy is at my parents, Harry," Tonks took the lead. "He's been there a week!"
"How come, I mean...?" Harry looked surprised but still he couldn't understand where he came into this.
"It would appear that Voldemort has killed Narcissa."
"Oh, my ...!" Harry exclaimed surprised. "Let me take this in, sorry, it's just one of these days."
"How, why?" asked Harry not knowing how he felt. "And, when you say, this house belongs to me...?"
"Look, he is putting my parents in danger by being there, he has nowhere to go, Voldemort is obviously after him, he can't live at Malfoy Manor," argued Tonks.
Harry's smile had now been wiped out of his face for real "So, you want me to invite him to live here!"
"Well, that's for you to decide, Harry," Remus went on. "I think he is likely to be a lot more humble now, he's in such a mess!"
"To be perfectly blunt, he would never have been my idea of a house guest, but well, I can't really say no, can I? I mean, if he gets killed or something, and of course, if he is putting your parents in danger by default... but bear in mind that this is Headquarters. I would be very careful about what we say in front of him, come on, he is a bloody Death Eater!" What a nightmare!
"I doubt he'll ever be a Death Eater after this, Harry, Voldemort having killed his mother," reasoned Tonks.
"You're probably right, though I would still tread carefully around him, look what happened with Snape!" Harry wasn't too convinced.
"Snape, well, on the subject of Snape..., he took the boy to my parents, in fact. My mother thinks he is still on our side that we don't know everything..." said Dora not knowing what to think herself.
"Not another one!" said Harry angrily. "Draco, maybe but... just let me go an clear my head, ok? I'm sorry," he added and left the room.