Ginny sat curled up on the sofa in the drawing room, watching a show on the telly Harry had introduced her to when Hermys came trotting into the room with a clay colored dove on his shoulder. He stopped before her effectively blocking the TV as he executed a perfect, sweeping bow.
“A message for you Miss,” he announced.
“Thank you Hermys,” Ginny said sitting up, glad of the interruption. The show wasn’t that good anyways. The only reason she watched it was that it made her think of Harry and the odd muggle humor that sometimes made him laugh. The dove flew to her hand and allowed her to untie the note attached to its leg.
“Thanks Rosie,” she told the bird. “Go visit with Rudy for a while. I’ll send him back to Harry in a bit.”
The bird bobbed her head, seeming to understand and flew out of the room up the stairs towards the attic where she shared a perch with her mate.
“Is Master going to be late?” Hermys ventured to ask.
“Yes. He’ll be gone at least until noon tomorrow. I’m supposed to let Hermione know,” she said getting up to stretch. She watched as Hermys hovered watching her from the doorway of the drawing room.
“Was there something more?” Ginny asked.
“Is Mistress Ginny wanting anything else?” Hermys asked.
“No thanks. You can go on to bed if you’d like.”
“Not to bed Miss. Hermys needs to study!”
Ginny’s head jerked up somewhat startled by his explanation.
“Oh of course. I know we did talk about that. Have you started to study to be a healer Hermys?” Ginny asked curiously.
“Yes. I’s is got lots of assignments!” Hermys announced sounding very pleased with himself.
“And you like it?” Ginny asked.
“Yes M’am, Very much. I’s is grateful you’s is letting me do the training,” he told her seriously.
“You are welcome Hermys. Why don’t you go study. I need to go to the kitchen to have a word with Hermione.”
The little elf nodded, bowed happily then hurried from the room, following the dove up the stairs. Ginny sighed stretched again and went down the stairs to the kitchen and the floo.
“How late did Harry say they’d be?” Hermione asked when Ginny called her.
“They won’t be back until at least noon tomorrow,” Ginny confirmed with a sigh.
Hermione frowned at the change in plans. “Did he say why?” she asked worriedly.
“He said they’d managed to rescue that scientist but they didn’t have time to question him, so they want to talk to him again before they come home,” Ginny explained.
“Oh,” Hermione said thoughtfully, sounding relieved the reason didn’t sound dangerous in any way. “Ginny, is it okay if I come over for a while? My flat is so lonely with Ron gone…unless of course you were going to bed. I know it’s late.”
“No, I couldn’t sleep right now anyways. Come on over,” Ginny invited, “and I’ll break out the ice cream.”
The bushy haired girl grinned and a moment later she stepped into the kitchen. She grabbed a spoon from the drawer, a pint of mint chocolate chip from the cooler and together the two young women went upstairs.
“I think I’m beginning to understand how you felt last summer,” Hermione lamented as the two friends took up places on the opposite ends of the sofa, curling their feet beneath them as they dug into the smooth creamy treats. “Ron is gone so much since he joined the force. I thought it was just going to be for a while, until Harry got promoted, then maybe they could all work regular hours for a while.”
“I know,” Ginny agreed as she licked her spoon. She sighed. “It’s better with the doves. Harry’s right, they do help, but he really does need to learn to spread the work out some so he can come home.”
“He does have a tendency to think he has to do everything himself,” Hermione agreed.
“I wonder if that’s because for so much of his life, he was the only one that could bring the baddest of the bad guys down…now he’s just gotten used to thinking that way,” Ginny mused.
“No, I don’t think so,” Hermione told her. “Harry never did think he could do more than other people…but it’s never been easy for him to ask for help either. I know he’s getting better at it. Ron’s been telling me how he’s been training a bunch of them to do so much more, pulling more and more of them in, getting more squads involved especially those with old DA members on them, so I think he’s trying, but I think he still struggles with that sometimes.”
Ginny nodded with a smile as she let another spoon full of ice cream dissolve in her mouth.
“I know he does. He feels so responsible, all the time. That’s what I love about him though, the way he fights to save people, just like he and Ron did for that scientist tonight.” Ginny’s smile broadened at the thought. “And at least this time he did come home first and ask Ron for help, so maybe he is getting a little better.”
“And he does come to me quite often these days to help him figure things out,” Hermione related.
“So you already knew what they were doing then?” Ginny asked.
“You did too,” Hermione pointed out. “And at least you knew they were safe when they were doing it.” Hermione shot back looking pointedly at the tapestry.
“It doesn’t always help Hermione,” Ginny told her with a somber expression on her face.
“The tapestry?” Hermione asked rhetorically. “Of course it does.”
“No it doesn’t,” Ginny argued. “Yes, okay. I suppose I do like having it…even when I have some idea what he’s doing I suppose it does help me know that he’s safe…but sometimes it’s good to have a diversion,” Ginny confided seriously. “Thanks for coming actually. I can use the distraction tonight.”
“How do you mean you can use the distraction?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Because it drives me bloody crazy to keep watching that wall night after night, even when I do know what they’re about.”
Hermione’s expression grew strangely curious. “What do you mean…do you know what they’re doing?” she asked.
“Of course I do. Harry’s been telling me stuff these days.”
“So what do you know?” Hermione asked curiously.
“I know that after they went to help the muggle, Harry has them hanging out in this cave, trying to time the muggle transport rugs. They’re doing basic research before they go in,” Ginny explained.
“Are you’re sure that’s what they’re doing?” Hermione asked.
“Yes, look,” Ginny slid the copy of the parchment Harry had left on the table over to Hermione. On it was a list of times. “Harry’s symbol changes from black to green whenever one of those rugs appears.”
“Show me,” Hermione demanded.
Ginny looked at the parchment again. “The next one is due in fifteen minutes. Let’s watch. I’ll show you.”
The two women took their spoons and their cartons of ice cream and went to stand by the wall to examine the tapestry. Sure enough, a grey dark mark was displayed beside both Harry and Ron’s names.
“It will stay like that until one of those rugs appears. Then it turns green for about a minute, then goes back to this,” Ginny explained.
Hermione nodded, glancing at her watch then back at the tapestry again. Though it had almost been forgotten, the carton of ice cream was still in her hand.
“There,” Ginny said sharply the moment the change came. “See?”
Hermione looked at the wall, checked the parchment and then the time once again.
“Right on schedule,” she commented. “Harry knew about this one.”
“Yeah he did. They’ve been getting photos of the muggles too. He told me about that last night,” Ginny explained.
“You two really are talking more, aren’t you?” Hermione asked.
“Yeah we are…about everything. Things are good again Hermione. We still have our moments, and I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to move back to the dormitory again for the season, but for now…it’s good,” Ginny sighed as she took up her well worn spot on the sofa once again with her feet curled under her.
“But with Harry gone so much, it really won’t be that different, will it?” Hermione asked.
“Well it wouldn’t be, but I won’t even have the tapestry when I’m with the team to help me know how he’s doing. I know I complain about it sometimes, but you have no idea just how much it helps…really.” Ginny paused to take another bite. “I know I used to tease Mum about carrying her clock about with her all the time, but I think I’m beginning to understand why she did that,” Ginny lamented.
Hermione nodded. “It really would be good to have one of these,” she agreed.
Ginny nodded, thinking about how only a few days before Harry had made a comment like that too, and it gave her an idea.
“I don’t suppose Kreacher could duplicate it,” Ginny mused. “That way we could each have one.”
“We could, but it would be hard to carry around a wall,” Hermione said jokingly.
“Well maybe he could shrink it, you know, then restore it to size just when we need to look at it,” Ginny offered in a similar vein and they both laughed at the thought.
“Wouldn’t it be even better if we could have a tapestry we could carry around though?” Hermione mused. “Something more practical than a wall?”
Ginny looked at her friend in surprise. “What kind of a tapestry could we carry around if not on a wall?”
“How about a purse?” Hermione suggested. “Tapestry purses are really fashionable right now among muggle women. In fact my Mum has one of those. She showed it to me last weekend when we were there talking to her and Dad about the wedding.”
Ginny stared at her. “A purse? Your mum has a tapestry that’s a purse?”
“Not an enchanted one, just a regular one,” Hermione explained. “I was just thinking though, wouldn’t it be brilliant if we had an enchanted one like that we could carry around? It wouldn’t even stand out much if it was a purse.”
Ginny sat upright on the sofa again staring at her friend. “I wonder if they could do that.”
“The house-elves,” Ginny said. “I wonder if they could enchant a tapestry on something else to do what this one does.”
Hermione frowned. “I doubt it. Didn’t Kreacher tell Harry that the magic is really old?”
“Well so is he. Kreacher is really old Hermione, and if he wanted to, I bet he could do this,” Ginny said half to herself. “And I bet he would too, if he thought it would help keep Harry safe…I’m sure he would.”
“Why do you think that?” Hermione asked anxiously.
“Because, Kreacher will agree to anything if he thinks it could help Harry. He’s really devoted to him these days,” Ginny explained.
“I know he is,” Hermione agreed. “He has been ever since the war.”
“I know, but it’s more than that though,” Ginny said vaguely.
“Why, what’s he done?” Hermione asked.
“I don’t know what you mean Hermione,” Ginny said.
“What has Kreacher agreed to that would make you think that way?”
“He’s agreed to let Hermys train to be a healer,” Ginny told her evenly.
She expected that Hermione would be surprised by the news, possibly even upset, but she was neither.
“I know. I signed the permit just before Christmas,” Hermione agreed. “He should be able to, according to the new legislation our department just passed. But what does that have to do with this? Or with Harry for that matter?”
“Isn’t it unusual for a house-elf to want to be a healer?” Ginny ventured.
Hermione shrugged. “No more so than anybody else. Ginny why do you think Kreacher would do that for Harry?”
Ginny shrugged. “It’s like I said. Hermys told Harry he wanted to be a healer and Kreacher didn’t really want him to because he didn’t think it was proper for a house-elf, until I reminded Kreacher what a dangerous job Harry has and how much having a healer in the house would probably help. Now he’s willing to take his potions to get better and to do what he can around the house so that Hermys has time to study and attend classes.”
Hermione looked at her friend in surprise. “Kreacher agreed not because he thought it was Hermys right to become what he pleased, but because he thought it would help Harry?”
“Yes. He said it’s time house-elves found new ways to help their house.”
Hermione considered that thoughtfully. “Maybe he would then.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to try it,” Ginny agreed. “So Hermione, where did your mum get her tapestry purse?”
Hermione grinned. “I don’t know, but I bet she’d love to go shopping with us. Do you want to come with me tomorrow? I’m taking the day off to check on some things for the wedding. We were supposed to get together for breakfast then do some shopping while we’re waiting for the dress shop to open. I’m trying to decide on bridesmaids dresses for the wedding. You could start looking for yours too while we’re there.”
Ginny grinned too. ‘I’d love it Hermione. Shall I have Harry tell Ron we’ll be gone the whole day?”
“Let’s!” Hermione agreed. “I think it’s their turn to be home alone!”
“We really do need another squad to help us with this,” Harry commented for the second time that day as he and Ron navigated through the copse of trees at the top of the bluff just before midnight.
“I was just thinking that,” Ron said as they made their way down to the cavern below. “Weren’t you going to meet with Robards about that after you got home this morning?”
“I did. I mean I tried to but he was in meetings all the day, or so his welcome witch said.”
“Did you believe her?” Ron asked.
Harry shrugged. “I didn’t have an appointment so he made me wait. I expect that’s all there is to it.”
Ron nodded. “Dad says he can be petty that way. So when are you meeting with him?”
“In the morning,” Harry answered.
“In the morning? I thought we were meeting Dudley in the morning,” Ron said.
“After that. Robards rarely gets into the office before nine Ron. We’ll be done with breakfast long before that.”
“You know, I think I’m beginning to make out how it is you put in such long hours last year,” Ron commented.
Harry ignored him as they came to the chamber entrance and Justin and Smith emerged from the blind.
“Any change?” Harry asked.
“None. They come and go like clockwork Harry. There is very little variation that I’ve noticed here,” Smith reported.
Harry nodded. “Good. That’s what we want, nice and predictable. I’m meeting with Robards in the morning. I’ll get another two squads trained to take over here.”
“Then do we go in Harry?” Justin said eagerly.
“In a bit,” Harry assured him. “We still need to be careful, and we need everyone to understand what we’re dealing with. I don’t want a fight until we know what we’re facing, so I don’t want anyone getting caught. The spaces are much more confined here than they were on that farm.”
Smith smiled. “You are learning Harry: thorough planning before rushing in.”
Harry grinned. “Did you get the photos?”
“Right here. I’ll get them to Rupert in the morning,” Justin assured him.
“A transport is due in five minutes. We’d better be going. See you next shift,” Smith commented and he followed after Justin who was already on his way out.
Harry and Ron stepped into the blind just as the other two Aurors disappeared. As Smith had predicted, the rug transport appeared five minutes later, right on schedule.
“If only the London Underground were this regular,” Harry quipped as they settled in to watch.
Ron just started at him. “What does the underground have to do with anything?”
“Nothing. It’s just that these carpets come and go from underground according to a schedule and the trains do too…never mind Ron,” Harry added when Ron just looked confused.
“Do you think we’ve found another way in?” Ron asked after a while, while they waited for the next rug to appear.
“Yeah, I think we might have. If we can get a map of this place from that scientist, I think that would be good though,” Harry commented.
“But he said the caverns reach below what his instruments can read,” Ron reminded him.
“Yeah he did, but a partial map is better than none at all. Also…I’m wondering if we could do anything to help the range of his instruments. I mean it might not work if they’re electrical, but if it’s just sonic waves they use...” Harry sat deep in though as he considered the point. “I wonder if Hermione would know how they work.”
“Probably,” Ron agreed. “I can ask her tomorrow.”
“Or we can ask Dr. Summerby in the morning.”
Harry sighed as he settled back, trying to keep his mind on the task at hand, just so they wouldn’t miss anything important.
“You ready Ginny?” Hermione called through the floo the next morning.
“I’ll be there in a sec. Are you sure you don’t want to have breakfast first?” Ginny asked. Going out without breakfast was almost unheard of for a Weasley.
“I’m sure. We’re going to meet Mum for breakfast then go from there,” Hermione reminded her.
“Okay,” Ginny agreed.
She gave a final pat to her outfit, set the note for Harry on the table, grabbed her purse and stepped through the floo. Hermione helped to clean her off at the other end then together they set out for muggle London, using muggle transport the entire way.
“You know, I always thought of muggle transportation methods as being slow, but it does have its advantages,” Ginny commented as she watched the parade of stores with their display windows from the window of the bus. There was an outfit in the window of one of the stores she thought she’d like to look at later.
“Yes it does,” Hermione agreed as her eyes followed where her friend was looking. “And look, that store next to it has those purses I was telling you about.”
“Not only purses Hermione, but they have other things too…” Ginny observed. “Oh let’s look!”
“I thought you wanted breakfast first!” Hermione teased.
“Yes I do, but oh! Those are really cute!” she lamented as another window with an attractive display went by. “You know, I think I’m going to enjoy this. Mum should have come along.”
“Maybe next time,” Hermione agreed. “Come on, this is our stop.”
Ginny followed eagerly as Hermione led the way to the shop where she’d agreed to meet her mum.
“Hello darling,” Mrs. Granger greeted her daughter with a hug. “Hi Ginny.”
“Hi,” Ginny said with a grin. “Hermione and I took the bus all the way here. It was really interesting!”
“Oh… “ Mrs. Granger looked questioningly at her daughter.
“Usually we apparate Mum,” Hermione explained in a low tone.
“Oh yes, of course. I should have realized. So are you ready for breakfast?”
“Of course we are Mum,” the two young women answered.
“Okay then. Let’s start with a good breakfast and then get down to some serious shopping!”
“Then are we really visiting the bridal shop?” Ginny asked.
“Just before we go home,” Hermione told her. “I want you to see the dresses I’ve chosen.”
“Hello again Mr. Potter. I presume you are here to join Mr. and Mrs. Dursley and their guest for breakfast this morning?” the hostess for the Inn’s dining room inquired as Harry and Ron waited to be seated.
“Yes. I think they’re expecting us,” Harry assured her.
“Right this way.”
“Who?” Ron asked over Harry’s shoulder as they followed her.
“Dudley and Esme. They’ve registered that way,” Harry explained.
Ron grinned. “And you said they’re getting married right?”
“Yeah I think they will, though it’s not official or anything, so don’t say anything about it.”
“Right,” Ron agreed.
“Harry! Good to see you! You too Ron,” Dudley said as he rose to greet them.
“Good morning Dud. Hi Esme, Dr. Summerby,” Harry greeted them all at the table. “Esme, this is my friend Ron. He works with me. Ron, this is Esme, Dudley’s girlfriend…”
“Fiancée,” Dudley corrected. “We made it official last night,” he said with a grin.
“Fantastic!” Harry said with a broad smile as he and Ron sat down.
“Yes, congratulations young man!” Dr. Summerby added.
“Thanks!” Dudley beamed.
“Have you told your mum now too?” Harry asked as the waitress poured them all coffee and handed out menus.
“What? Err…no, not yet,” Dudley said with a flush. “She thinks I’m too young Harry. Dad does too. We thought we’d wait a bit to announce it to our parents. Rupert knows though.”
Harry nodded with a glance at Esme as he opened his menu, noticing for the first time that she was staring at Ron.
“You must be a Weasley,” she said once she realized both Harry and Ron had noticed.
“Err…yeah I am. How did you know that?” Ron asked in surprise.
“My brother, Rupert told me about you. He’s right. You do look a bit like Grand-mum’s fourth husband.”
“The accountant?” Harry asked.
“Yes, I think he was,” Esme agreed.
“Well, it sounds like you two may be cousins, eh?” Dr. Summerby asked genially as they all studied their menus and gave their orders. “So Mr. Potter…”
“Please, call me ‘Harry’,” Harry invited.
“Okay Harry, I understand you have some questions for me?” Dr. Summerby prompted.
“Yes. We want to know more about what you were doing when you came to be trapped inside that chamber,” Harry explained.
“I was on my hands and knees, working on the burial next to it. I’d been there all day, collecting more of those sticks see, the ones we keep finding everywhere? I had two of them in my pocket, when I leaned back to straighten my legs…they were getting stiff from kneeling so long…and then I just fell through and I couldn’t get back!”
“But you had your back to it before you fell through?”
“Yes. I wasn’t watching what I was doing obviously,” Dr. Summerby lamented.
“Then what happened?” Harry prompted taking this in.
The scientist frowned. “What do you mean, then what happened? I stood around in the dark, waiting for someone to rescue me. I kept hearing voices though, so I kept thinking someone would come after me, eventually.”
“And someone did, eventually,” Esme reminded him. “Thank you Dudley. Our entire team really is grateful to you,” she purred.
“Not me, it’s Harry that got him out, Harry and Ron,” Dudley reminded her.
“Well we’re grateful to you Harry, and Ron too, but it was Dudley who knew who to ask for help! And we only lost two days on the dig! It could have been so much worse!” Esme exclaimed.
“Two days and two very important artifacts. I was so certain that those sticks I had in my hand when I fell through were somehow different from the others,” Dr. Summerby commented.
Harry considered this, remembering the sticks Dudley had described to him at Christmas. They’d sounded suspiciously like wands to him.
“Ah Dr. Summerby, do you know where exactly you dropped the sticks? And when?” Harry asked.
“I dropped them trying to catch myself when I fell through. I was crawling around trying to find them again. That’s when I heard the voices.”
“Can you describe them to me?” Harry queried. “The voices I mean?”
“There were two of them at first, later joined by a woman. It sounded like Lolita, though I knew it couldn’t be her, so I thought it might be you Esme,” he explained.
“Who’s Lolita?” Ron asked.
“She’s one of the scientists that went missing just before Christmas,” Esme explained.
Summerby nodded. “I really missed her after she disappeared. Could never really imagine what happened to her until I fell through myself. That’s why at first I thought it might be her…until Mr. Dursley explained to me that her body had been found. Such a pity what’s happened to her. I just couldn’t believe it when I heard,” he commented to Esme.
“I know Charles. I could hardly believe it myself when Dudley told me they’d identified the body as her.”
“What body?” Harry asked in a professional sounding tone.
“A group of fishermen pulled two bodies from the ocean off the coast a bit north of here,” Dudley explained. “We just got the report from the coroner’s office this morning. Rupert called me to let Esme know. Lolita was a friend of hers.”
“I’m so sorry,” Harry told her earnestly.
Esme nodded. “Me too Harry. Lolita was a very sweet girl.”
“And very pretty,” Dr. Summerby said. “Long dark hair, curvy figure, deep chocolate eyes… “ he sighed. “If I’d been younger and she hadn’t been my student…but shame on me for having such thoughts after her death.”
Harry nodded sympathetically. “So this woman you heard, whoever she was. Did you hear what she was saying?”
“Yes actually. She seemed to be checking up on something she thought had been handled by the men. She sounded angry at them and said something about having turned the wrong way. It sounded to me like they were lost, which to me made it clear that they couldn’t have been in the burial mound. I mean, how could you possibly get lost in there?”
“Not easily,” Harry agreed.
Summerby nodded. “Exactly. So that’s when I began paying more attention. I found the carvings above one of the doors with my hand, the one you came through,” he told Harry and Ron. “But the voices were coming from the other direction, so I thought possibly they were spelunkers who had some how found an access point to the cave system beyond. My geologist friend had told me about them. He’d theorized for years that the burial mounds were once connected to them. He was one of them.”
“One of who?” Ron asked in confusion.
“A spelunker,” Summerby said.
“What’s a spelunker?” Harry asked.
“A cave explorer,” Esme supplied. “That’s what Charles’s geologist friend did. He provided most of the maps we have of the caverns around here.”
“Is he still doing that?” Harry asked curiously.
“Unfortunately no,” Dr. Summerby said with a sobering expression on his face. “He disappeared two years ago.”
“Back when all this began,” Harry said half to himself. “And he hasn’t been seen or heard from since?”
“No. There have been random reports from a pub a bit north of here where the proprietor says he’s seen him, but nothing recent,” Dudley said.
Harry nodded. “So these maps he made, he made them by exploration then?”
“No. Actually, he made the maps mostly before going down,” Esme related. “We studied his methods in school as a technique my professor thought might be adaptable to certain underground archeological sites. I’d thought having a go at using them here, especially after Charles told me about the caves, but Dudley didn’t think it was safe.”
Harry stared at her. “How would you do that exactly?”
“We’d set up sensors on the surface then fire a sonic pulse through the ground. The quality of the signal when it bounces back tells us what sort of material it went through. It forms a sort of three dimensional image with any open spaces showing up as blanks,” Esme explained.
“How far down does a map like that go?” Ron asked curiously.
“About a hundred feet. In order to get any readings deeper than that, we’d have to set sensors in the ground,” Dr. Summerby explained. He carefully appraised the two wizards. “I don’t suppose you two would be willing to set a sensor or two back in that chamber where you found me?”
“But that isn’t all that deep, is it?” Harry asked. “Wouldn’t it be better to set them deeper?”
“Deeper Harry?” Dudley asked. “Have you confirmed that there’s more to it than just the part where he was?”
Harry looked evenly at his cousin. “There is a lot more to this than meets the eye. Do you know where Lolita’s body is being held? Is it local?”
“Yeah, they’ll hold it through Friday, then send it off to her family,” Dudley said. “Do you need me to go with you Harry? The local constable’s been cooperating with me on this.”
Harry mulled the offer over, thinking It is the first opportunity we’ve had to openly work together on this case.
“That would be brilliant. Thanks,” Harry agreed. “So what about it Dr. Summerby. Would setting the sensors deeper help? If we could find a way to get them deeper I mean.”
“Yes it would. For every foot below the surface we are able to set the sensor, we gain three times that depth on the map. The sensors also act as boosters for the signal so we can turn up the gain,” he explained.
Both Harry and Ron looked lost at this explanation, but all Harry said was,
“So it helps.”
The conversation lulled as their food arrived and everyone focused on their breakfasts.
“We might have a way of helping you to do that,” Harry commented when they looked up from their meal. “Provided it would be allowed. I know that unauthorized people usually aren’t allowed near your work site.”
Dr. Summerby regarded the young man speculatively. “Have you some interest in this son?” he asked.
“Yes Sir. My friend and I are very interested in the caverns beneath us,” Harry assured him.
“Are you now,” he said looking curiously at Ron.
“Yeah we are,” Ron agreed. “We think there’s more to them than just that room you were in.”
“I think so too,” Dr. Summerby said thoughtfully. “You know, if I hadn’t been back there myself, I’d be inclined to ignore all those old legends. Now I’m not so sure.”
“Which legends are those Charles?” Esme asked him.
“The legends that talk about how the treasure is hidden in those hills. Those sticks we found are supposed to be the key. With them it is said, that the people of Mac can unlock the secrets of the hills,” Summerby told her.
“How would they do that?” Dudley asked curiously.
“I’m sure I don’t know. But I’d always assumed it had something to do with that melted glass we keep finding,” Dr. Summerby answered.
“What sort of melted glass?” Harry asked curiously.
Summerby shrugged. “I’m not a glass expert Harry. That’s why I’ve sent it all off to someone who is. There’s a friend of mind who owns a glass factory in London and also teaches at the university sponsoring the dig. He’s an artisan really but he’s also a chemist and knows all about different types of glass. I’ve asked him to take a look at it for me.”
Harry arched his brow but didn’t say anything. He exchanged a look with Ron and the two fell silent, opting to simply let the man talk as they finished their meal.
. “Thank you very much for meeting with us,” Harry commented to Dr. Summerby as they came to the end of their meal.
“Are you leaving?” he asked as the two Aurors got up.
“I’m afraid we have to,” Harry said. “We still have another stop to make before we can go home.”
“They’ve been up all night,” Dudley explained with a nod towards his cousin as he got up too. “I’ll be back in a bit Esme. Then we’ll go for that walk I promised you.” He kissed his fiancée then followed his cousin out to the front of the inn.
“Are we really going to examine a body Harry?” Ron asked in low tones as they waited for Dudley out in front.
“Yeah we are Ron. It’s time to put all that training you’ve had into practice,” Harry replied.
Ron nodded. “So what do I do?”
“Just follow my lead and stay alert,” Harry said as Dudley joined them again. “Where to?” Harry asked.
“You want to see Lolita?” Dudley confirmed.
“Yes. I want to confirm her cause of death,” Harry said.
“Shark bite is what they are saying,” Dudley told him.
Harry arched his brow. “She died from a shark bite? Really Dudley? I thought she disappeared inside a cave.”
“Well…that’s what they’re calling it,” Dudley told him. “That story sounds fishy to me, no pun in tended. Sort of like that bit about the tree falling on our house.”
Harry did a double take. The damage done to the Dursley’s house during the war had been handled by the Muggle Worthy Excuse department at the Ministry of Magic as a tree falling and causing damage to the structure, when in truth there had been no tree large enough in the area to even begin to cause that amount of damage. Most of the muggles in the area accepted that excuse without question. But at Harry’s request, Dudley and Aunt Petunia had only received a very light application of the memory modification charms applied to him upon their return to the house, and so the discordance inherent in this excuse had been obvious to his cousin. At Harry’s recommendation, Dudley had simply gone along with it, but it had become a point of reference between them whenever he detected another gap between the reason given for things and what seemed to make sense. This was apparently what was happening this time.
“Good to know Dud,” Harry told him. “I’ll let you know if our investigation agrees.”
“Thanks,” Dudley responded. “This way.”
The three young men made their way through the town until they came to a low, unremarkable building. Dudley was about to push open the door to go in when Harry stopped him.
“How do you want to work this?” Harry asked.
“How do you mean? You’re here as part of an investigation, aren’t you?” Dudley asked.
“Yeah we are, but usually they don’t remember it after we’ve been here,” Harry told him.
“Oh, I see what you mean. So you’ll handle that part, right?”
“Yeah, absolutely. Just tell me what you want them to believe.”
The three of them came up with a plausible reason why Dudley might come back as part of his own, ongoing investigation, then agreed that whoever they encountered would believe that only the muggle constable had been there. Dudley was to keep the staff busy in their office while Harry and Ron conducted their investigation in the back. Ron watched wide eyed as Harry smoothly and subtly modified the clerk’s memories, even going so far as to making him believe that Dudley had called ahead first, making everything about his visit ordinary and above board. They left his cousin engaged in conversation with the clerk while they made their way un-noticed to the back.
Having had some experience with muggle morgues before, Harry conducted his examination and collection of data without hesitation, instructing Ron on the finer points of the body’s magical examination. Less than an hour later, with everything they had touched returned to its previous state, they were ready to leave, taking Dudley with them. Once again Harry flicked his wrist on the way out. The clerk’s eyes slid briefly out of focus before focusing again on Dudley’s broad form.
“Thanks again Constable Dursley! Thank you so much for answering my questions!” he called.
Dudley looked at Harry in surprise as they stepped out the door. “He thinks it was his idea for me to be there?”
“Yep. He had some questions for you and you went out of your way and on your day off, just to answer them. Well done Constable,” Harry said with a smirk.
“Right,” Dudley said with a sly grin as they walked back down the street. “I’m just glad I’m on your side this time.”
Harry snickered at his comment.
“So what did you find out?” Dudley asked.
“She did die from a bite, but not from a shark,” Harry confirmed. “And her burns weren’t from the engine of the fishing boat either.”
Dudley digested this, noting how his cousin had been careful not to say what exactly had bitten her. “So…would you say she died from the same thing as those other bodies you examined? Last summer?”
“I think the same influences contributed,” Harry agreed. “I think this woman must have been a very strong person though. It looks like she fought it, at least to some degree.”
“She probably did. Esme and her were roommates in college. She was always telling me how stubborn her friend Lolita could be. Is that all you can tell me Harry?” Dudley queried.
“Actually I have a lot more I need to tell you, but not here. We need to have a meeting of the AMASS, all of them and soon,” Harry explained.
Dudley nodded. “I would Harry…I actually do need to get back after this week, I’ve almost run out of time I can take off…but who’d watch over Esme? I hate the idea of leaving her here with no one looking after her.”
“And she’s determined to stay?” Harry asked.
“She says it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. They’re supposed to seal up those mounds again by the end of the year.”
Harry nodded. “You could do it from my house,” Harry offered.
Dudley looked at him quizzically.
“She got added to the tapestry when you asked her to marry you Dud,” Harry added.
“Ah. How did you do that?” Dudley asked him curiously.
“No idea. That’s elf magic. It’s different,” was all Harry would say. “So you’ll come?”
“And you’ll help me watch out for Esme?”
“I’ll ask my house-elf to help,” Harry assured him.
“Okay then. I’ll stay through this week though. Why don’t we plan to get together again on Monday?”
Harry grinned. “Agreed. Let’s plan for seven. I’ll send you a dove if there’s any change.”
“See ya Harry!” Dudley said recognizing the turn in conversation that usually meant his cousin was about to leave.
“Take care,” Harry told him. “And send me a dove if anything unusual happens, okay?”
Dudley grinned and gave a small wave, walking directly out in front of Harry towards the inn alone. He heard two sets of footsteps walk behind a small hedge then a soft pop. When he turned back as he’d expected, his cousin and Ron were gone.