Chapter 28 : Trials and Tribulations
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Malfoy took off the cloak just as they were about to re-enter Muggle London and stashed it in his pocket. It was a hot summer day. He had been left out of the round of drinks at the Leakey Cauldron, as he had then been invisible, and now felt somewhat thirsty. The first place they stumbled across was a popular pub exhibiting colourful parasols in its large outdoor garden. They decided to join the crowd and sit outside.
Father McKenna, who had, to put it mildly, had an eventful day, thought that there was no harm in ordering a pint of beer each. When he returned with the drinks, neither of them spoke immediately. Malfoy was beginning to feel slightly uncomfortable, as well as a little wary of what his companion might have thought of their world, but decided not to pursue that topic just yet. Instead, opened the conversation by asking casually: “What did you think of Harry, by the way?”
“I like him, actually, “ McKenna replied, but Draco noticed that he looked as he was mulling something over. “I hope you don’t mind me prying, but why do I get the impression that you weren’t always friends?”
This was a rather direct comment, or worse; a rather direct question. How the hell had he worked that one out? After all, they had acted like old mates in his presence.
Draco shrugged but said nothing.
“Look, son, I come across many people your age all the time in my work, I just can tell these things. There’s no need to be secretive with me, is there now?” Father Sean said encouragingly.
“Well, he didn’t want to be my friend from the beginning, that’s why, “ Draco blurted out defensively, telling only half the story.
“Why? I wonder… After all, he seems happy to help you out now.”
Draco shrugged again, beginning to feel a little exasperated. He knew the priest was likely to take to Harry, but then again, that had been the very reason why he had engaged Potter’s help in the first place. He could have merely related to him that they had been in rival houses at school, and that there had been animosity between those two houses since time immemorial. However, he sensed that Father Sean had an incline that there had been something more personal; hence he replied: “I’m not sure. We first met just here, in Diagon Alley, in a shop and, even after it had become clear that he’d been raised as a Muggle, I still tried to befriend him when we met again on the train to school. He just wouldn’t have any of it!”
McKenna frowned sensing that there had to be more to it than that. “Draco, although I’m not familiar with your world, I don’t like your tone or the sound of the terms you’re using. Raised as a Muggle? Muggles are simply people without magical abilities, aren't they? I mean, people like myself . Why should it matter that Harry had been brought up that way?”
Draco wasn't sure what was the best way to reply to that. "Well, he didn't seem to know about Quidditch or anything. I could see that we had very little common ground. I guess that wizards from pure-blood families like mine find it difficult to relate to Muggle-borns," he added not wanting to go into the fact that they actually considered them plainly inferior.
Despite Malfoy's efforts to conceal the fact, Father Sean realised that his kind saw themselves as the elite . Now, without having gone looking for it, he almost had the answer to something that had been bothering him. That was it! That was possibly one of the reasons why Harry had thought it irrelevant whether Jesus Christ was a wizard or not. It would appear that the youngster had been subjected to prejudice for potentially being either. His relatives had rejected him for being able to do magic and, some people in his own world, for having been raised outside of it. Naturally, he had grown to hate such distinctions. Of course, the kid was very misguided. Jesus was the Son of God, neither Muggle nor wizard but, who could blame him really from thinking like that? After all, his aunt and uncle had banned him from attending Church as a small child; his religious instruction was not likely to have been very comprehensive. He had probably just taken a simplistic approach and made a quick mental connection between miracles and magic. He thought it was in order for him to explain the core of his beliefs to these boys properly, but in due course; further trust needed to be won first.
Draco realised that McKenna was now deep in thought but let him be. It was the priest who finally re-established the conversation: “Now, tell me the truth, did you make any comments about him being a Muggle or something? Is that why he didn’t want to be your friend?”
“Not really, I only asked him if his parents had been wizards and he said that they had,” Malfoy replied dispassionately, “but you see, he chose other people, riff-raff, actually,” the teenager let it escape.
“Riff-raff? McKenna repeated in a tone of voice that conveyed that he awaited an explanation.
“Umm…” Draco was now at a loss as to how to get out of that one.
“Look, son, you probably mean poor people or something. Well, I work with poor people; I come from a humble background myself. I don’t dream of riches, or glory, or of being at the Vatican. I believe it’s my path to help out, best I can, those in need. Also, even if you mean people who have made mistakes; Jesus didn’t mind what people’s pasts were. He accepted former prostitutes and ruthless tax collectors. Many of my parishioners had taken the wrong path at some point; I get young girls who got pregnant at a very young age, people who have thieved even … I don’t make excuses for them but all I can do is try and point them in the right direction. I don’t turn them away, just as I didn’t shut the door on you either.”
That had been some speech, Draco thought as he stared at the ground. He was now running out of ammunition. “Ok, it’s also that Harry’s always had this martyr complex about him and he always manages to get what he wants; like playing in the Quidditch team in his first year, when no-one else at his age was allowed!” he exclaimed in sheer frustration.
Father Sean now smiled. “Son, I think you’ve been jealous of the wrong person,” he said in a kind and patient voice, sincerely trying to grasp where Draco was coming from.
Malfoy frowned feeling rather affronted, “I’m not jealous of him, why should I be? What’s made you think that?”
Father Sean gave him a knowing smile. “Look, Harry ain’t always right, of course not. I’m sure he has many faults but, don’t we all? Both of you seem mischievous to me, prone to rule-breaking, but what I see in him is that he hasn’t got a malicious bone in his body. I don’t know how to explain this, but I think there is a lot of warmth and openness in that kid; which, I must say, I find amazing after what he’s been through. Don’t get me wrong, Draco, I don’t prefer him to you, I make a point of treating people equally. Also, I know you’ve lost your mum too, but he’s been an orphan since he was one and he wasn’t particularly loved or pampered by his relatives, from what I can gather. How can you envy him?” McKenna asked, shaking his head and ignoring Malfoy’s non-verbal protests. “At least, you can remember your mother’s love, he can’t. What’s more, imagine what it must have been like for the darkest wizard ever to be after your blood since you were a baby. Ok, I know you yourself are in serious danger now, but at least you hadn’t always lived like this. Anyway, this ain’t a competition about who’s had a rougher time. You’re staying in his house now; if you didn’t get along before, he must have a good heart to had allowed for this, don’t you think?”
Draco was now searching his memory high and wide for a counter-argument. He could explain that the Dark Lord had fallen out of power, which even Potter had mentioned, and hadn’t been a danger to him until he’d entered Hogwarts. However, he had to concede that Harry had not been able to relax much from that moment on. Of course, he remembered well the time when he had almost killed him with the Septumsemptra spell. Yet, again, he had tried an Unforgivable on him and, it was true that Potter was helping him now. He guessed that, perhaps, they were now even and replied in a really tired tone: “All right, Harry and I are trying to be friends now. Can we please let it rest?”
Father McKenna simply nodded. At least that seemed like a step in the right direction.
“Miss Weasley! Another surprise from your family today!” exclaimed Tom enthusiastically from behind the bar of the Leaky Cauldron. “Your mother and her cousin were in here earlier.”
“Yes, I know,” replied Ginny with a knowing grin.
She ordered a Butterbeer and waited for some twenty minutes. Something must have cropped up, she thought. It was not like Bill to be late. She waited for another ten minutes, anxiously sipping her Butterbeer and constantly checking her watch.
When Bill finally arrived, he seemed in a rush and looked completely worn out. She didn’t expect her brother to be particularly cheerful. The murder of his wife and unborn child less than two months before had had a truly devastating effect on him. Yet, there was something else, something more; Ginny just knew it.
Bill ordered a single Fire-whiskey, which he downed almost at once. It appeared pretty clear to Ginny that her brother had not desire to linger around.
She followed him without questioning through Diagon Alley until they arrived at the back of the twins' shop, where a staircase led to the flat above. Bill hadn’t been able to face living in the apartment he had bought with Fleur and had been staying with Fred and George for a while now.
The twins didn’t close the shop particularly early. Although business was slow in comparison to what it had been before the events at the Astronomy Tower, it was one of the few establishments that managed to put a much needed smile into people’s faces; thus it had still some custom late into the afternoon. That meant that Bill and Ginny were on their own and could talk very much on a one to one basis.
The flat was only a two bedroom one, as it had only been intended for Fred and George at first. To accommodate Bill, they had magically extended the living room area and created a separate space that now served as their brother's provisional bedroom. The whole place was decorated in bright and vibrant colours and it reminded Ginny a bit of a bachelor’s pad. The walls were covered with posters of their favourite Quidditch team, moving images advertising the latest broomsticks and bill-boards promoting concerts of rock bands such as The Weird Sisters.
The living room itself was relatively untidy. It appeared smaller than it was since it was cluttered from top to bottom with all manners of prototypes for new novelty products. The kitchen, although not dirty per se, was in clear need of a diligent house elf. Despite all this, the overall feeling was that of a fun and welcoming place.
Ginny’s eldest brother offered her a drink. She followed him into kitchen automatically.
“Ok, do the twins still have some of that goblin wine that Mundungus smuggled?” she suggested trying her luck, aware that the occasion, although not precisely a happy one, was special.
Bill smiled at Ginny cheekily but reminded her that she was only sixteen.
“Com’on big bro, you know the twins would let me have a glass.”
“Ok, but only one glass and don’t tell Mum,” he replied adopting a semi-parental role.
He conjured up two glasses, picked up the said bottle and they both sat on the sofa.
“You look really worried,” Ginny started taking a small sip of wine.
Bill, at this point, avoided direct eye contact but she could perceive the fiery Weasley temper taking hold of him. “Ok, I guess you are all going to find out sooner or later, “ he said, taking a gulp of his own drink. “Well, I don’t know where to begin, really. I’ve just resigned from Gringotts.”
“Resigned! But why?” she exclaimed. “I knew there was something,” she muttered to herself.
“Well, it’s the Ministry’s doing. It’s not safe for me to work there anymore. They have sent me an owl summoning me for an inquiry, so that I can prove that I’m not a werewolf. As you surely know by now, they are forcing all werewolves to come forward…”
“Bill! she started horrified, “but you are not a werewolf, for Merlin’s sake! Fenrir wasn’t transformed when he bit you!”
“Yes, I know, but I have all these scars on my face, don’t I? It’s not as if I can hide having been bitten. Anyhow, it makes very little difference to Umbridge and her cronies.”
“Damn the bloody Ministry! Oh, Bill!” she was now almost crying partly out of pure anger. She gave him a tight hug and brushed his long ginger hair softly with her slender fingers. Bill had been her favourite brother as a child. He was the eldest, her big protector. Now, he was the vulnerable one and she couldn’t help but feeling oddly motherly towards him.
“You can’t continue to stay here in that case. They’ll find you here! An inquiry! This is all a gimmick, if you ask me. We all know that there is no such a thing as a fair trial if Umbridge is involved,” Ginny said in a very urgent tone. “You must come to Headquarters. This place is not nearly as protected. Everyone knows who your family is and, let’s face it, having a brother like Percy as Umbridge’s right hand is not going to help matters either!” she added, pronouncing her estranged brother’s name with utter spite.
“I know…” Bill conceded resigned. “The last news that Mum needs, especially tonight when we’re having the meeting…”
Ginny closed her eyes for a split second and shook her head. “You see, they are in with the Death Eaters, Bill, that’s why they’re doing all this; persecuting other species, taking Harry’s money, everything. We got to defeat them, Bill, no bloody matter what or how!" she cried out, her alert brown eyes blazing. "Also, sorry to bring this up now, I know you’re not having a good day, but it’s just dead important. If Voldemort gets Harry’s mum’s wand, he’ll find out what she did and our cause will be as good as lost. You’ve got to help us!” She curled her lips and gazed at her brother waiting for a response.
Bill sighed. “The wand, yes, I’m well aware of that. I’ve tried to find out what I could but, in all truth, I don’t think the task is really doable,” he told her sullenly.
“Look,” she said softly as she stroked his hair once again, “you know Harry well enough to realise that he’s going to do this with your help or without it. You have worked for the bank since you left Hogwarts. You even went to Egypt to train as a code-breaker; you must know lots of stuff that can help him,” she concluded, resting her head on her knuckles, expectant.
“Harry, yes… Ginny, he worries me, you know. Seriously! You’re going out with him, aren’t you?” Bill asked preoccupied.
“Yes, Bill, and please don’t give me that look. Harry is a really nice person, actually. He can have his moments, but don’t worry, I can handle him,” she added with a twinkle.
“Gin, I’m not trying to tell you how to live your life or whom to date or not, but look, you have picked probably the most dangerous guy in the wizarding world.”
“Dangerous? Harry?” she shook her head in disbelief, but then she immediately realised that many people had died trying to protect either his life or his cause, including Fleur.
“Don’t get me wrong. We all like Harry. Mum all but adopted him as soon as he set foot on The Burrow. I feel for him too, Ginny, but his luck will run out sooner or later and it doesn’t help either that he’s one of the most reckless people I’ve ever come across. More skilled wizards than him have died attempting lesser feats.”
“It’s not a question of being reckless. If Voldemort gets held of the wand, all he has to do, as I said, is do Priori Incantatem and that’ll be it. You’re in the Order too, for crying out loud! If the goblins won’t co-operate, we’re left with no choice!”
“I take that Ron and Hermione are in this too, and you, yourself.”
“Bill, of course they are, yes. Also, surely, you don’t expect me to sit on the fence like a coward and let the others risk their lives when in fact is in everyone’s interest, including mine, that Voldemort and the Ministry be overthrown?” she retorted, feeling again like the relegated child everyone thought she ought to be.
“Sis,” he said moving closer to her and taking her hands in his, “listen to me. I’m not trying to patronise you, but the lot of you should leave this to the grown ups; you just don’t have sufficient training or resources. You must understand also that your involvement with Harry is likely to lead to one of two things; either he’ll get killed, and you’ll be completely devastated or you yourself will be targeted, just like his aunt was. Imagine what that would do to Mum!”
“Bill, the three of them have accomplished amazing things already. I honestly think that people underestimate them because of their age and besides, I love him. I can’t help that. He finished with me at the end of last term because he was thinking like you do; because he wanted to keep me safe, but look, I’m a blood-traitor’s daughter and Harry’s best mate’s sister; nothing will keep me safe.” She paused for a moment and then added: “Ok, sorry for reminding you but, with your hand on your heart, would you have stopped seeing Fleur if you had known how it would all end?”
Perhaps she had gone too far with this question, however she felt that it was something that needed to be said. Bill now gave her a sad and almost resigned smile. This was the same person who, aged four, had taken it upon herself to borrow and old broom and had taught herself to fly.
“Ok,” he conceded: “tell me what the plan is exactly and I’ll try to tell you the obstacles that I know you guys are likely to encounter.”
Ginny smiled relieved and kissed her brother on the cheek.
Draco had explained to Harry that, of late, customers had been allowed to Apparate straight into Borges & Burkes, as the owners understood that many wizards were not longer keen on being seen entering the premises. They had sophisticated anti-theft devices in place, so they didn’t need to fear people taking items from unmanned areas of the shop undetected.
Harry had been forced to take a further dose of Polyjuice only recently, as the hour the potion allowed had been almost up before they left the apothecary. Thinking back, he should have escorted Draco and the priest back to the Muggle world and taken the cloak back with him. Why did he have to always act first and think later! But it was too late for that now. All he could do, at that stage was to try to clear his mind and concentrate on landing on the basement. It wouldn’t do to pop out of thin air in the shape of Mrs. Weasley in front of a shop-attendant!
As he was experiencing the uncomfortably familiar feeling of compression, he became aware that, even if he managed to turn up somewhere where there was no-one in sight, Apparating entailed making a loud popping noise. Before this thought had a chance to leave his mind, he realised to his horror, that the popping sound had been indeed louder than he had anticipated.
The place was in almost complete darkness and most of the objects there were covered in at least half an inch of dust, which added to the eerie atmosphere and to his feeling of unease. He took a tentative step to ensure that nobody was about and as he did so, he trampled over something.
The object in question had been hanging from a wall and it appeared to be a large, in fact very large, human skeleton, probably that of a half-giant. To make matters worse, Molly’s colourful robes had got entangled with it. Harry tried, best he could, to disengage himself from the sordid thing. As he did this, he heard footsteps coming from the direction of the staircase, which was located at an approximate forty-five degrees angle from him, from what he could vaguely make out.
His heart almost stopped. He hid, as quickly and silently as he could, behind a large chest of drawers, taking care not to come in contact with a suit of armour which stood next to it, as his intuition told him it was likely to be cursed. He crouched as close to the ground as he was able to, trying to contain his breath, wand at the ready.
To his relief, the footsteps became fainter and, after a few moments, disappeared altogether. Maybe he had been lucky this once, but he had to act quickly as someone was bound to come down looking for something at some stage. He was now trying really hard to locate the Vanishing Cabinet but to no avail. Had it been moved after all? It was hard to tell since he could hardly see anything. Of course he could always cast the Lumos spell but he was afraid of the light being visible from the top of the stairs. He walked around very slowly, very carefully…as he wasn’t particularly keen on making any more noise and also realised that most of the stock stored in that basement was likely to be dangerous. That place did certainly put most Muggle horror films’ sets to shame.
Finally, as he was beginning to despair thinking that the cabinet wasn’t there, he saw the black and gold trunk-like artefact from the corner of his eye. Not wanting to waste another second, he swiftly took the lid off the object, climbed inside it and placed the top back on.
Although he realised he was just being silly, Harry found hard to shake off the spooky feeling of being inside a coffin.
Meanwhile, Bill and Ginny had started to discuss the possibilities - or more like it, the problems - Harry and his friends would encounter at Gringotts. In the strictest of confidence, Bill had begun to explain to her some of the secrets he had learnt whilst training in Egypt. Ginny suspected that there may be a connection between the bank and the ancient world of the pharaohs, but had never dreamt that some of the secret passages at the wizarding bank had been modelled on the Great Pyramid of Giza.
“Okay, Ginny, let’s start from the beginning. Lily Potter’s wand is considered to be a high security item, an object of state importance, yes?”
“I cannot be one hundred per cent certain, but my guess is that it is likely to be kept in Garbhan’s - the Chief Banker - own vault,” continued Bill. “The Ministry has its own treasury vaults at Gringotts too and, surely, they would have preferred for Lily’s wand to be placed in one of them. However, it’s not in the goblins' nature to hand over such a sought after piece to the wizarding authorities just like that; especially since Umbridge has never made a secret of her abhorrence of all other species. Only the highest-ranking officer at Gringotts would be allowed to host this, under their own regulations. I also know that Garbhan himself has tried to protect Harry’s wealth from the Minister’s clutches in a roundabout way. Yet, he cannot be seen as conspiring with Harry, or the Ministry would step in and take over.”
Ginny nodded and listened very attentively.
“There is also a protective mechanism in place that gets activated at a certain depth into the entrails of the tunnel system. This is known as the thief’s downfall. It makes the carts come off their railings and any magical concealment disappear. Now, Harry is the legitimate owner of his mother’s wand. This was also reinforced by Dumbledore’s will, who was its previous custodian. He and he alone can go that far down without the bankers’ co-operation,” Bill explained.
“Yes, Harry has already guessed that,” Ginny assented. “He mentioned the poem at the entrance, where it says that some misfortune would come your way if you seek treasure that was never yours.”
“Very well thought, Harry, I must say. So, he’s been planning this for some time?” Bill asked.
“Well, since shortly after his birthday really, when he discovered that the goblins would let him have neither his money nor the wand,” she expanded.
“Okay, Gin, I can see that he’s bright and extremely courageous. I can understand why you’ve fallen for him. Also, yes, he has almost grown up in our house; he’s a bit like a brother to me, too. Obviously I'm not against him. I know I sounded harsh earlier, but I just think that his chances of surviving what he’s planning to do are very thin on the ground.”
Ginny would have normally thought that Bill was exaggerating, being overly zealous; but this time her instincts told her that her brother was just being realistic.
“Yes, but in Harry’s first year at Hogwarts, the bank was successfully broken into, was it not?” she retorted, trying to remain hopeful.
“Well, we believe You-Know-Who himself had a hand on that, but it’s still hard to know for a fact what really happened then. Anyhow, going back to our main topic, since I’m going to have to leave soon for the Order’s meeting, let me add one more thing. I don’t think he should enter the bank as himself. He also shouldn’t try to use concealed magic at the door, since there are Probity Probes to spot that.
“How is he supposed to get in there, though?”
“Well, that’s a very good question. Has he not thought of that?” enquired Bill wondering whether the kids had a proper plan at all.
“Well, I suppose one of us could create a distraction, cause some kind of commotion. I dunno,” she argued a little agitated. “Anyway, why can’t he just turn up there as a customer and, once inside, use the Invisibility Cloak or something.”
“Let’s see. The Ministry is aware that Harry was given that credit card. This happened before the new legislation on inheritance tax was passed. After that, however, Garbhan has had to pretend that Harry’s been using it without Gringotts’ authorisation; in fact, that they, themselves, have been the victims of fraud. The Ministry has access to the figures, so they must know by now that Harry has deposited large amounts in Muggle bank accounts. Tracking these is more complex, as Muggle financiers are bound by their own laws. In particular, by what they call the Data Protection Act, which forbids them from giving away customers’ details to anyone other than their own authorities.”
“So, Umbridge has been outsmarted, in other words?” Ginny commented cheering.
“I wouldn’t get excited, Gin. If Harry were ever to show his face in there, the goblins would have no choice but handing him over to the Ministry. Doing anything else would seriously implicate them.”
“Well, yeah, there is that. How else can he get in, though? What about the Confundo spell, for instance?” Ginny suggested thinking aloud.
“Either that or the Imperius Curse could work, but how effectively can one of you do this? It’s not the easiest magic.”
“I’m pretty sure that either Harry or Hermione can cast either of those spells pretty easily. They’re both really good at this sort of thing.”
Bill sighed. “Ginny this isn’t Hogwarts. There is more at stake here than failing an exam. I know that Hermione is very talented and that Harry’s best subject is DADA but still…”
Ginny now butted in, “I know you’re just concerned but, please try to think of something because Harry is determined to get the wand before the Ministry does. You know about his vision, don’t you?” she said, thinking of Percy but without wanting to mention him directly.
“Yes, Ginny, don’t we all! Now, okay, assuming that Harry manages to get in safely, there is another problem. Only Garbhan can open his own vault, by the touch of his own hand.”
Ginny now felt totally dejected. “Ok, can we not put the Imperius curse on him too?”
“People often forget that goblins are very powerful magical beings, in many respects, more so than wizards, and Garbhan hasn’t got to such high position for no reason. I’m certain that he’d overpower Harry by a long shot. Also, it is possible that he may chose to turn a blind eye to the whole wand business, but only if he wishes to. Antagonising goblins by casting Unforgivables on them cannot bring about happy endings. They would seek revenge. If Harry who, to many, embodies our cause were to make an enemy of them, they would never side up with us. This would probably turn them the opposite way. The consequences could be disastrous,” Bill explained.
“So, in short, nothing other than his personal collaboration can do the trick?” summarised Ginny, sounding crestfallen.
“Well, I think I may know one of his little secrets. The Ministry only allows humans to carry wands, however, it was always his ambition to own one too. There is a rumour, which I believe well founded, about Garbhan having commissioned one from Ollivander years ago. It’s quite possible that this wand can open his vault. Now, where does he keep it and how difficult this is to steal is another question.”
“Umm…” Ginny assented deep in thought. “How about one of us gets a job as a cleaner there and takes a proper look?”
“Under Polyjuice, maybe. As you can well imagine, there is no way that the bank is going to give a friend of Harry Potter’s a cleaning job in there. They are not that stupid. Everyone knows that he’s after the wand.”
“Okay, supposing that we manage to find a way around these obstacles. Where is this vault and how can it be reached?” asked Ginny pressing on.
“First of all, don’t even dream of using the carts. The security is far too high.”
“But if he doesn’t use the carts, how else can he get there? Please, Bill, there has to be some way,” Ginny asked, almost pleading.
“Well, alright,” Bill conceded. “Maybe there is another way, but no one’s ever tested it, as far as I know. It’s purely based on theory and supposition.”
“Bill, com’on, please. What is this other way?”
“If I’m correct in thinking that the tunnels at Gringotts are based on the Great Pyramid, there should be ascending and descending shafts with Garbhan’s vault at its deepest point. The structure was carved on rock in the shape of an inverted pyramid but, unless I’m much mistaken, to reach it he will have to follow instructions written on the stone in hieroglyphics.”
“And how the hell, Bill, is Harry going to learn hieroglyphics overnight?” Ginny protested. “Could you decipher them, if we could get you back in there somehow?”
“First of all, it takes years and years to become an expert on these. I’m certainly not one. Also, I’m no longer an employee of the bank. I’d face the same problems entering as Harry. If I went in as a customer and one of Umbridge’s people was around, I would surely get arrested. I can try and teach him the basics but it won’t be an easy job or something that he can learn quickly. Now, he speaks Parseltongue, does he not?
“Well, yes,” answered Ginny unsure as to where this was heading.
“I believe there is a live cobra at the entrance of one of the descending shafts. It represents the Ancient Egyptian goddess Meretseger, which was supposed to protect the royal tombs of the Valley of the Kings. Harry may be able to persuade the snake to let him in by somehow proving that he is only seeking something that belongs to him. However, he must be careful not to get bitten, as its poison it's lethal without the antidote. This type of snake seldom bites if not in danger or unprovoked but I don’t know exactly how this one in particular has been trained. Of course, he’s also going to have to deal with the dragons, if he ever gets that far, but of course Charlie is the expert on this, not me.”
“Okay, one last question and I’ll let you go,” said Ginny. “Do Muggle artefacts work at Gringotts? I mean, they don’t at Hogwarts.”
“Muggle artefacts?” Bill enquired blinking in surprise.
“It’s a bit of a long story, Bill. All I need to know is if something like a mobile phone would work inside the bank.”
“Well, I’ve certainly never heard anything for or against. I guess one of you could try this beforehand and see what happens.”
“Thanks so much for all this. I’ve arranged to meet up with Harry in a little while, so I’ll let you be on your way to Headquarters,” concluded Ginny feeling truly grateful.
“You mean here, in Diagon Alley, on his own? He’s got even less sense that I thought!”
“Ok,” Ginny told him smiling, “he’s taken Polyjuice and is looking like Mum.”
Bill now couldn’t contain a grin. “This boy is completely crackers. Trust you to be dating him! What a pair!” he said shaking his head.
Before they parted, Bill scribbled something like a map on a piece of parchment and concluded, “tell him that he may be able to use a broom to ascend and descend the shafts but he will only have about half an hour before the vapours in the secret passages suffocate him. If he encounters anything unexpected and he’s delayed, he will die. Please, please make sure that he bears that in mind.”
Harry found the Room of Requirement looking exactly like it had done when he went in there in a panic, a few months prior, to hide the book he was now seeking. The ceiling did also look like that of a large cathedral, with tall and elegant windows beneath which was a city completely made of objects that Hogwarts’ students and staff had been placing there for probably hundreds of years.
He found this familiarity comforting and proceeded swiftly to recover his past Potions aid. That ought to be easy. He remembered exactly where he had left this item; inside a cabinet on top of which he had placed the bust of an ugly warlock that he had covered with a wig and a tattered tiara. He turned left and recognised the cupboard at once. With a slight trepidation he opened its doors and picked up the volume. He was still unconvinced in terms of Snape’s loyalties and this made him eye the book with a certain disgust, memories of how Dumbledore had been murdered flowing fast to his brain.
He decided to be gone from the room as quickly as possible, saving his allocated time there for taking a short walk through the castle, as his nostalgic feelings were too hard to appease. However, the door just wouldn’t open no matter what magical or non-magical means he engaged. The obvious thing to do, Harry thought, was to get himself into the twin Vanishing Cabinet to get back to Borges & Burkes. To his shock, this didn’t work either. It was possible that he had not imagined the footsteps in the shop and that someone had actually heard noise coming from the basement, had become suspicious and had done something to the Cabinet to put an end to the connection between the two.
He didn’t have a clue as to how or why any of this had happened but the worrying fact was that he was trapped.
Ginny had gone back to the Leaky Cauldron to wait for Harry, as arranged. As a barmaid poured her a glass of pumpkin juice, she felt an overwhelming need to touch the bracelet that Harry had bought her as a birthday present. The instant she held it with her right hand, her heart did a somersault; Harry was in trouble.
He had told her quite clearly that if something did happen she must contact Malfoy, but how? She didn’t even have an owl with her. Granted she could always fly back to Grimmauld Place and do that from there but, then again, Harry could be in serious danger. She just couldn’t waste time. She knew the Slytherin boy had gone into Muggle London with Harry earlier that day and suspected that whatever they were up to it had something to do with Narcissa’s ghost but she didn’t have the faintest idea as to where about in London he might actually be. Thinking on her feet, she asked the pub landlord’s very politely if she could use his own owl.
Tom was a bit puzzled by her request and asked in turn: “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, sure,” she answered with a feigned smile, “I just need to owl my mother. Merlin knows where she’s got to!” she added trying to sound casual.
She wasn’t entirely sure that trusting Malfoy with this was actually a good idea; yet Harry had been adamant, so she decided to follow his instructions and wrote on a piece of parchment:
Harry told me to get in touch with you if something did go wrong. I have a connection with him and I’m sure that he is stuck in the Room of Requirement. He said that you knew why he went there and may be able to help. Please, do not let him down.
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