Chapter 7 : Diagon Dalliance
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Harry could barely breathe as his uncle’s sedan motored down the road toward London. It was all so unbelievable; he was actually on his way to Diagon Alley, accompanied by none other than his Aunt Petunia. And, perhaps most unbelievable of all, he was actually sitting in the front seat.
It had all happened so quickly, and Harry was still processing it in his head. After learning about his Aunt Petunia’s account book from Gringotts Wizarding Bank, and the Dursleys’ need to access the money, Harry had rushed to his room and told the Dumbledore card all about it. Dumbledore was as surprised as Harry about the existence of the account, and had no idea where it had come from.
Arranging to make a trip to Diagon Alley had proven a bit circuitous, but it had all finally come together. The Dumbledore card seemed to feel that such a trip would be safe enough, if the Order would be willing to provide discreet security, though he stressed that some safety measures were definitely warranted.
Harry and Dumbledore were in agreement that Voldemort had gone to ground, revising his plans, building power and preparing for future attacks. Harry proposed that the cause of the Death Eaters’ inactivity was fear of backlash over Dumbledore’s death. The card was somewhat self-effacing regarding this theory, and humbly discounted it as the reason behind the lull. Dumbledore felt that Voldemort was purposely creating a period of calm in order to encourage more normal, unguarded activity. After some discussion, the card base and Harry agreed that things would be relatively safe for a while, and though they knew that they should spend this time on planning and preparation, there was still time to take advantage of the opportunity for a relatively safe trip to Diagon Alley. Plus, the card had said, it might be good for the general morale of the wizarding world if Harry Potter were to be seen out in public.
In order to make arrangements for the trip, Harry first considered sending Hedwig with a letter to Mr. Weasley, but he knew that it would take her a few hours to make the flight and he figured there must be a way to send a message more quickly. Besides, he felt the person to contact was really Mad-Eye Moody, and he had no idea where or how far away he was. He then considered sending her with a note for whatever Order member was nearby on watch duty, but thought that might arouse undesired attention. As he sat on the edge of his bed considering the problem, Dumbledore reminded him that he did own a house-elf who could be used to deliver a message almost instantaneously. Harry retorted that he owned a house-elf, but one that he would never trust with anything. Then it occurred to him; there was one house-elf that he would trust. Still sitting on the edge of his bed, he uttered a name that rolled off his tongue with a bit of disdain: “Kreacher.”
After a few moments there was a “pop” and the decrepit and dirty little house-elf was standing before him. “My master calls and I am forced to obey,” Kreacher’s grumbling voice came. The little elf was clearly unhappy with having to respond to Harry, but all-in-all, Harry thought that he looked healthier and a bit cleaner for having been with so many other elves, working at Hogwarts for the past year.
“Kreacher,” Harry said clearly and authoritatively, “I want you to find Dobby and send him to me immediately. And you are not to communicate of this to anyone — ever.” Kreacher looked up at Harry with an expression that might have been disappointment, or just as easily disgust. “Kreacher will do as his master demands,” the old elf intoned, and then he disappeared with a “pop”.
Within two minutes there was another “pop” and Dobby appeared in Harry’s bedroom. “Harry Potter wants to see Dobby?” came the familiar squeaky voice. “Dobby is honored to come at Harry Potter’s summons. Dobby will do anything for Harry Potter; Harry Potter has but to ask.” The little elf’s large eyes shone with anticipation as he paced the room excitedly.
“Dobby,” Harry said, smiling at the effusive little elf, “I just want you to take a simple message for me.”
“Dobby would be honored, of course, Harry Potter.” Dobby grinned widely, the stack of knitted hats wobbling precariously upon his head.
Dobby had quickly located Alastor Moody and informed him of Harry’s need to speak to him. Moody had arrived in the back garden a short time later beneath his invisibility cloak, and though he wasn’t all that keen on the idea of Harry leaving the house, Harry insisted that he would make the trip regardless, so Moody agreed to arrange security through the Order. After supper that evening, Dobby had come with a final confirmation; Harry was to travel with his aunt to the Leaky Cauldron — accompanied by a broom guard, who would be camouflaged by Invisibility Charms — where they would meet with an escort and proceed to Diagon Alley.
Harry had not been told specifically who the escort would be, only that it would be someone he would know. Harry was also quite certain that Moody, being who he was, would have arranged for further protection, rather than leaving him with just one minder; he was sure that the camouflaged guard would not stop following them just because this leg of the trip was concluded. Knowing Moody, there would be sentries and lookouts all throughout the alley. He leaned back into the plush seat, relaxed, and tried to enjoy the ride.
Aunt Petunia had been very quiet so far, but her mixed excitement and trepidation showed in her manner as she steered her husband’s precious automobile into the busy streets of London. Harry thought it was greed and financial worry that was driving her against her fears, but as long as it got him out of Privet Drive and into the relative comfort of the wizarding world, even for a short while, he was prepared to take advantage of the opportunity; he was determined to have a good day.
It was proving to be a beautiful, sunny morning, with light, fluffy clouds punctuating the sky, and Harry felt better and better as they arrived in London and turned into a multi-storey car park, where Aunt Petunia was given a paper ticket. Once free of the car, they went on foot the short distance toward the Leaky Cauldron. Harry tried hard to quell his growing excitement as they rounded a corner and he recognized how close they were to their destination. He found himself wondering suddenly who their escort would be, and hoped whoever it was had the sense to dress like a Muggle to set his aunt at ease.
As they turned onto Charing Cross Road, Harry knew they would be less than a hundred feet from the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron, and he scanned the people on the street carefully, looking for anyone he might recognize. He noted rather absently that the large bookstore was still there, as he remembered from his very first visit to Diagon Alley all those years ago with Hagrid. But it appeared that the record shop had given way to a coffee shop of some kind, as the smell of freshly brewed coffee was wafting down the street and there seemed to be a steady flow of Muggles going in and out.
Then, with a breath of relief, Harry spotted their escort: Molly Weasley. She was standing next to a postbox right in front of the grubby little pub window. As he got close, she turned and saw him and smiled a broad, friendly smile. She must have been very well coached, he thought as he noticed her tasteful, khaki skirt and plain white blouse. Combined with a knit shawl, also of a single color, and with a canvas handbag, Molly looked like she could have been any Muggle unobtrusively waiting for a bus. Harry was grateful to whoever had helped dress her - not that he personally had any objection to her usual multicolored jumpers and otherwise eccentric wizard wardrobe, but for this meeting, looking like a normal Muggle was definitely a plus.
As Mrs. Weasley turned, smiling, Harry was hugely surprised to see a flash of familiar red hair on the other side of her, and before he could quell the sudden summersaults of the creature in his chest, Ginny stepped back from her mother’s side and came into full view. This day has just become brilliant, Harry thought to himself as he took in the vision of her standing there in hip-hugging flared Muggle jeans, and a simple form-fitting olive green jumper over a white singlet. Her hair was straight and loose with only a narrow braid from the front on each side pulled back and gathered with a simple hair band. He smiled at her and fought the urge to sprint toward her and gather her up into a huge hug.
As the two Weasleys approached, Harry stepped forward and carefully presented his aunt to each of them in formal introduction. “Aunt Petunia, I would like to introduce you to Mrs. Molly Weasley, and her daughter, Ginny,” he said, speaking clearly and politely. “Mrs. Weasley, Ginny, this is my aunt, Petunia Dursley.” Harry swallowed hard and hoped that the drive to become rich would be overriding his aunt’s usual fear of anything to do with the magical world. She had said that she had been here before as a girl, so Harry assumed that she could at least see the door and pub window, and was somewhat prepared to face her fears.
Molly extended her hand to a doubtful Petunia, who took it mechanically and with somewhat less-than-polite brevity. “Very nice to meet you, Mrs. Dursley,” Molly began in a cheerful, tempered tone. “We are good friends of Harry’s; as you know, he has spent considerable time in our home, and I have been asked to serve as your escort today, if that is acceptable to you?”
Petunia took in Mrs. Weasley suspiciously, and for a moment Harry feared that previous encounters between the Dursleys and the Weasleys would color this meeting. Both women, despite Molly’s carefully maintained smile, and Petunia’s expression of neutrality, seemed very uncomfortable to him. There was a long moment of tension clear upon his aunt’s face, but it seemed to be overridden by her desire to see this through and, to his relief, she replied, “It is nice to meet you as well, Mrs. Weasley. We have seen one another a number of times at King’s Cross, but never been formally introduced. I would be pleased of your company today.” Harry knew his aunt well enough to know that she was falling back on her ingrained etiquette, and that only Molly’s carefully groomed appearance and behavior were preventing her from unraveling. That and her desire to get the money from the bank account.
Harry had had all the previous night to think about it, and he had concluded that the money simply was not important to him. He did feel a slight bit of resentment, when he dwelled on it, that the money had been set aside to provide for him, but Dumbledore had told him once that it did not do to dwell on the past, so as long as the money was in his aunt’s name, he didn’t see any reason that the Dursleys couldn’t have it.
He had to admit, he felt some small hope that it would change their attitude toward him, but it was a very small hope. So far it had not been an unpleasant stay at Privet Drive, and if this money helped the Dursleys and bought him a continued pleasant final visit, so be it. Harry would be moving forward anyway once he turned seventeen. He glanced over at Ginny, whose bright eyes met his happily. For now, he decided, he was prepared to concentrate on this day, to make this day something special, and he could feel himself smiling.
“This, as Harry says, is my daughter, Ginny. She’s my youngest.” Molly was still addressing Petunia, and Harry realized his mind had been wandering and he had been staring at Ginny, who now stepped forward and shook Harry’s aunt’s hand, adding the slightest polite bow. “Ginny is at school with Harry and my son, Ron; she’s a year behind them,” Molly finished.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Dursley,” Ginny said sweetly.
“You are a very beautiful girl,” Petunia said, almost wistfully. “You remind me a little of Harry’s mother when she was your age. She had red hair, as well - did Harry ever tell you that?” Harry stared at his aunt, his jaw dropping slightly. He had never in his life heard his aunt utter a favorable word about his mother, and now to hear her compare his mother to Ginny was a little unsettling.
“Yes, Ma’am, Harry has mentioned it,” Ginny replied, blushing at what she obviously regarded as a huge compliment.
“Well,” Harry interjected, “I suppose we had best be getting on to Gringotts.”
“Now, Harry,” Molly said with the slightest frown. “We don’t want to rush your aunt. Diagon Alley can be an overwhelming place for non-magic folk, and Gringotts especially, so perhaps…” she had turned to Petunia now and was smiling reassuringly, “…If you have any questions, Mrs. Dursley, we would be glad to answer anything before we proceed.”
Mrs. Dursley regarded Mrs. Weasley then, with wide eyes, and Harry saw something in her demeanor change. It was as if this small display of understanding had cracked something in Aunt Petunia’s facade of frightened distrust, and she seemed to visibly relax slightly. “I’ll tell you what,” Molly continued, “Why don’t we go on through the Leaky Cauldron and into Diagon Alley - just a little way in is a very nice café, where I have arranged for us to have tea, and we can answer any questions there, and relax a bit before we proceed to the bank.” Aunt Petunia looked a little overwhelmed, her knuckles whitening as she clutched her handbag, but she nodded her acceptance, and moved forward stiffly.
As they walked through the Leaky Cauldron, Harry noticed his aunt had lost the usual haughtiness to her step and instead appeared quite timid. She was looking everywhere in wide-eyed, perhaps fearful, anticipation, but it didn’t really look much different to a quaint, old, smoke-filled country pub. Yes, the very few people there were dressed funnily by Muggle standards, but all-in-all it couldn’t be too unsettling.
Ginny led the way through the tables, away from the bar and toward the back courtyard. As they stepped past, Harry caught sight of a cloaked man in a small, shadowed alcove that he could tell would have a clear view of the courtyard exit. As Ginny pulled open the courtyard door, she seemed to be careful not to stand in the passage, and Harry noticed quick movements from the man. When he turned his head to look, he realized that it was Alastor Moody sitting in the alcove at a small secluded table, and it occurred to him that Moody had just opened the Alley archway from where he was sitting. Harry silently mouthed a thank you, and Moody winked at him with his natural eye.
Ginny continued to hold the door as Harry led his aunt and Mrs. Weasley outside and through the open archway, right out onto the sun-filled, twisting, cobblestone street that was Diagon Alley. Petunia looked as though she expected something to jump out at her as she hesitantly stepped through the archway, but she proceeded when he motioned her forward. Harry was grateful to see that the normally bustling alley he remembered was today only sparsely populated by tight groups of shoppers, though that was still enough to give a feeling of life to the street.
Harry hung back then, as Mrs. Weasley led his awestruck aunt down the street toward a small café. Harry wasn’t sure what his aunt remembered, but he imagined that she had twisted the memory into something nightmarish, and the reality around her, while strange to her idea of normal, had to be much less frightening than she had expected. Harry relaxed a little himself, suddenly aware that he had been a bit nervous. He was quite pleased when he felt Ginny’s hand slip into his own, and turned his head to smile at her as they followed the adults.
They passed the cauldron shop and the Apothecary, and just beyond was a small bakery/café called Mrs. Scheffelgroober’s Tea & Cakes. Harry remembered eating there a few times the summer before his third year, and had fond memories of treats from the bakery case at the front of the store, but all-in-all he had come to prefer Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlor for both the ice cream and the homework help.
They stepped into the white-tiled bakery area and the wonderful smells of fresh bread and pastries flooded into Harry’s nostrils. Ginny pulled him over to the pastry case and began pointing out all her favorite tortes and biscuits. A jolly looking, heavy set, gray-haired witch appeared on the other side of the case. She bent to see what Harry and Ginny were looking at and upon seeing them – or rather, Harry – for who he was, through the glass, began waving excitedly. She came quickly out front through a set of counter height swinging doors, smoothing her white baker’s apron as she moved. She smiled and clasped her hands together excitedly. “Mr. Harry Potter, it is such an honor to have you in my little café once again! It has been years, and you have grown so much,” the gray haired witch said effusively.
“It is very nice to see you again, Mrs. Scheffelgroober,” Harry replied, blushing, as Ginny elbowed him in the side teasingly.
Mrs. Weasley cleared her throat loudly enough to capture Mrs. Scheffelgroober’s attention, saving Harry from any further embarrassment. Mrs. Scheffelgroober regarded Mrs. Weasley and Harry’s aunt and immediately assumed a more formal demeanor. “Oh yes, Molly, so good to see you. I have the table you requested ready; everything is prepared.” Her voice was that of a kindly grandmother. Mrs. Scheffelgroober ushered them through an archway to the side, directing the two women into the beautifully appointed dining area. The room was all done in Victorian decoration with paintings and tapestries up high on the walls and delicate tea tables scattered about the room with flowery upholstered chairs surrounding each. Even Aunt Petunia seemed impressed with the décor as she glanced around the room, taking in the delicacy of the small kick-knacks here and there, and the fine artistry of the tapestries and paintings. Harry noted that none of the paintings were moving, and he thought this must have been arranged beforehand.
Almost immediately upon their being seated, a young man arrived pushing a wheeled tea service trolley with a steaming kettle, fine china tea service and a tiered tray of succulent biscuits, cakes, tortes and tarts, enough to make Aunt Petunia’s eyes widen, and everyone smack their lips a little in anticipation. The young man began setting out sugar and cream, individual plates and forks, and set the pastry tray in the center of the table. Then he began spooning raw tea into a ball infuser, which he set into a porcelain teapot before pouring steaming water from the kettle.
Ginny was first to recognize the young man as Terry Boot, a Ravenclaw from Harry’s year. He was neatly dressed in a crisp, white, tab collar shirt, a floral print vest, obviously intended to match the room, and dark slacks covered by a long white apron.
“Terry, nice to see you,” Ginny said with a smile. “How long have you worked for Mrs. Scheffelgroober?”
The young man looked up from the trolley, obviously unaccustomed to being recognized at work. “Ginny!” he exclaimed, perhaps a bit more loudly than he intended. “And… and, Harry… it’s nice to see you as well.” He paused before continuing, “Oh… Um, just started this week…Got my Apparition license, and Dad thought it would be a good idea to get a summer job.” Terry smiled a bit sheepishly and reached to shake Harry’s hand.
“Terry, this is Ginny’s mother, Mrs. Weasley, and my aunt, Mrs. Dursley,” Harry said, gesturing with his hand as he introduced the two women. Mrs. Weasley smiled warmly, and Petunia seemed just a little taken aback. “Mrs. Weasley, Aunt Petunia, this is Terry Boot. Terry is in my year at school, though he is in a different house,” Harry finished.
“It is nice to meet you, Terry,” Mrs. Weasley said as she smiled. Terry bowed politely to the two women. Petunia did not speak, but somewhat hesitantly nodded recognition.
“It’s great to see you having a nice start to your summer.” He smiled. “I’ll just pour out now, and leave you to your tea.”
With that, the tea was served and Mrs. Weasley started passing round the treats from the center tray. After a few minutes, Harry noticed that his aunt seemed much more comfortable. He felt the change was pronounced and had happened rather quickly, but as Ginny’s foot bumped his beneath the table, he let the thought pass.
Aunt Petunia seemed very interested in the delightfully delicate pastries and was bending Mrs. Weasley’s ear about what a civilized tradition it was to take a proper tea. Both Harry and Ginny had tucked right into the treats and were soon finished with their tea as well.
Mrs. Dursley had finally become bold enough that she had begun to ask tentative questions about the wizarding world and its customs, and Molly Weasley was treating her with the warmth of an old friend and answering as best she could.
As Mrs. Weasley was pouring out a second cup, Ginny suddenly asked if she and Harry might be excused so that they could go visit the twins. Harry, who had become content to simply sit there nudging ankles with Ginny, brightened at the suggestion. “I should very much like to go round to see Fred and George quickly, if that would be okay?” he said with a hint of excitement in his voice.
“Well, Harry, I expect that is up to your aunt,” Molly said, smiling and turning toward a rather calm and relaxed Aunt Petunia who was preoccupied with looking at all the pretty things which populated the room. In fact, Harry couldn’t recall ever seeing his aunt looking so comfortable. Mrs. Weasley explained quickly that two of her sons owned a shop down the street, and that Harry and Ginny would like to go there until she and Petunia were done with their tea. To Harry’s great surprise, his aunt agreed, and he and Ginny didn’t hesitate to excuse themselves for a moment, but were up from the table, out past the bakery case, and through the door in a flash.
They practically sprinted through Diagon Alley, passing Flourish and Blotts, Madam Malkin’s, and Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. Harry came to a stop abruptly; a very surprised Ginny, not letting go of his hand, was spun round to face him. He was standing only a few feet from a low post and chain barrier that marked the limits of the outdoor seating for Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor. The area was filled with white furniture; what looked like round picnic tables with attached benches and a brightly colored umbrella above each.
“What is it, Harry?” Ginny asked him curiously after a moment of trying to figure out just what Harry was looking at. People at the tables had begun to notice them — some were pointing, and it was obvious that Harry had been recognized.
“Didn’t Fortescue go missing?” Harry finally uttered, still taking in the area with an expression of fondness.
“Oh,” Ginny responded, tugging at him and getting him moving again. “Yeah, Fred and George said that some relative showed up a couple of months ago and re-opened the parlor. An Irish woman named Slaine Soronen.” The effort of talking while walking so quickly was obvious in Ginny’s breathing. “Apparently she has a very attractive daughter… Otherwise, I am sure they wouldn’t have taken notice.”
Harry didn’t give it another thought as they breezed past Gringotts and were quickly on down the alley, past its many other stores until they reached Number ninety-three, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. The windows were filled with wondrous displays of colorful new products, and a new line of serious items intended for self-protection. Ginny had not let go of Harry’s hand the whole way, and she practically pulled him into the shop.
There was the clatter of a spring bell as they entered, and Fred and George both appeared, on opposite sides of the shop, from behind the dizzying array of displays. They were both hailing him with some sort of salutation when Harry realized that Ginny not only had not let go of his hand, but was pulling him forward past her brothers, and the spattering of customers, toward the back of the shop. Harry waved at Fred and George and followed Ginny through a door into what he assumed was Fred and George’s office, judging by the two desks and the general disarray. Ginny released his hand finally, closed and locked the door behind her and threw herself into Harry’s arms, wrapping her own arms around his neck and kissing him.
Harry was not about to object as he felt the lips he had so missed pressed against his own, and he hugged her firmly against himself. After what must have been a couple of minutes of sound snogging, Harry finally, reluctantly, pulled away smiling. “I’ve missed you, too… But, aren’t your brothers likely to have my head now?”
Ginny grinned up at him. “Sorry, Harry, but I just couldn’t wait another second. Don’t worry. The whole family knows we’re a couple now, and no one is going to hex you – at least, not over a bit of harmless snogging. I suppose you can talk to my brothers now.”
“Well, that’s a relief.” Harry grinned teasingly, his eyebrow rising curiously at her statement.
Once they were back out in the front of the shop, not a mention was made of their short use of the office. Instead, the twins were keen to ask how tea had gone. Harry quickly picked up that taking his Aunt Petunia to tea was part of the plan, and that the twins had supplied some sort of powdered calming draft which Mrs. Scheffelgroober had arranged to put in the bottom of the cup given to Harry’s aunt. Harry began to object, but the twins were quick to assure him that it would not impair her judgment in any way, only calm her fears, so that she could be talked to reasonably.
“It’s really very safe, Harry,” Fred chimed in. “We’ve tested it extensively.”
George continued, “Originally we developed it for witches and wizards who have trouble controlling their nerves when they go out. It seems many people don’t like to leave their homes, what with You-Know-Who and all.”
“Helps people maintain their composure is all it does, really. And it’s selling marvelously,” Fred finished.
“They call it Weasleys’ Remarkable Keep Calm Powder,”
Ginny broke in. “And it was really Ron’s idea to slip some to your aunt.”
George picked up the conversation again. “Yeah, he was just sitting there last night at the dinner table when Mad-Eye came by and was telling us how you were going to make a trip to Diagon Alley with your aunt. He just looked up from his fifth roast chicken leg and said, pretty as you please, ‘Not Harry’s aunt, she’ll be wound so tight that she’ll explode; wish we could slip her some of your new calming powder, that would level her out.’,” George finished with a decent enough impression of Ron, complete with a pantomime chicken leg in his hand.
Harry was about to ask where Ron was when the cellar door burst open and someone emerged carrying a large stack of variously shaped and colored boxes. “You lot wanna give me a hand?” came Ron’s familiar voice. The twins hurried over and took the boxes, each heading for different displays. “Harry!” Ron exclaimed as he hurried over, smiling. “We’ve been wondering if you were really going to show up.”
“Oh, I’m here, right enough,” Harry replied with a smile, shaking Ron’s hand and clapping him on the shoulder. “Bet you never thought you would see me so soon?”
“Well, that doesn’t make us any less glad to see you, mate.” Ron clapped Harry on the back in return. “Now, what’s all this about your aunt having a Gringotts account?”
“Apparently, it was set up when I was a baby,” Harry began. “My aunt said that there was a letter from a barrister, but my uncle burned it, and tried to burn the account book as well.” He looked around to see if the twins were listening and when he was satisfied that they, and the few customers in the shop, were busy and out of ear-shot, he continued in a whisper so only Ron and Ginny could hear. “Dumbledore couldn’t tell me anything; he was just as surprised as I was to hear about it.” Harry paused, then continued normally again. “And what’s funny is that it’s a Gringotts account, but it has accumulated interest all these years. I’ve never heard of that.”
“Oh,” Ginny chimed in, “Gringotts has interest bearing savings accounts; you can ask Fred and George all about them. But most wizarding families don’t trust the goblins enough to give them control of their money, so they just use the vaults instead.” Both Ron and Harry looked at Ginny in surprise. “What?” Ginny said in response to their expressions. “I learned a long time ago to pay attention to Fred and George and not just discount their ideas.”
“Well, if the Galleons were coming out of my vault every month, then Gringotts would have had to tell me, or send me some sort of statement,” Harry continued on, giving Ginny’s hand a light squeeze. “And I have never, ever received any such thing. So, I have no idea where the money is coming from. It’s all part of the mystery.”
Fred and George returned to the conversation and shared their knowledge about the wizarding banking system. “Interest accounts have always been available through Gringotts, but people just plain didn’t know it because in Britain, the vault system is available to every witch and wizard at no charge,” Fred explained. “That’s due to an ancient Ministry decree,” George chimed in. “In other countries, savings accounts are the norm.” Fred continued seamlessly, “Gringotts makes investments and loans, and does lots more than just keeping everyone’s money locked up in the vaults.” This made all sorts of sense to Harry; he had just never given it any thought before.
“How much money are we talking about here?” Ron questioned somewhat tactlessly.
“Oh… I don’t recall exactly, something over eight-hundred-thousand Galleons.” Harry replied, nonplussed. “What does it matter?”
The spoken number seemed to hang in the air as each of the Weasleys appeared to be stunned into silence. Finally, Ron’s voice returned following a hard, pronounced gulp. “Harry, that’s a fortune!” he exclaimed.
“Is it?” Harry said with a distinctly Luna-ish air.
“Sure it is,” Fred chimed in. “Harry, most wizards don’t make more than four or six thousand Galleons a year.”
“And the Ministry doesn’t even pay that,” George added, not bothering to hide his disdain, and quite obviously referring to his father’s income.
There was a long pause as Harry tried to take in what they were saying. He realized that, because he had never had to think about money — before attending Hogwarts he had simply accepted that the Dursleys would never give him spending money, and after he’d turned eleven and learned of his Gringotts vault, he’d always known he had plenty — he was sadly unaware of how important it really was to nearly everyone else.
Since first meeting Ron, he had known about the Weasleys’ financial struggles, but Mr. and Mrs. Weasley had always dismissed any discussions about it and refused every offer of help he had ever extended. In Harry’s mind, the Weasleys were rich in every way that seemed to matter, so he had always completely overlooked their financial reality.
Ron’s words broke through Harry’s thoughts. “It’s a fortune, mate – and you’re just going to let the Dursleys have it?” Ron looked completely scandalized.
“Well…” Harry began, taken aback by Ron’s reaction. “I don’t think it’s really up to me; the money is in my aunt’s name.”
“But what if it wasn’t?” Ginny asked quietly as she squeezed his hand. “Would you just give them that much money?”
Harry contemplated this twist of the issue. He had already determined to himself that he didn’t care about this money… It didn’t seem to be his money, and besides, he had more Galleons than he would care to count in a vault just down the alley and who knew how far beneath the ground. And that was before his inheritance from Sirius. But this was a way of looking at it that he hadn’t considered. After a moment, he responded, “Probably not, but I don’t think I can really answer that. I can’t think of many reasons to just give the Dursleys anything. But if they really needed help, despite everything, I don’t think I could just turn my back on them.”
Ginny squeezed his hand and leaned into him, but Ron and the twins just stared at him rather blankly. Finally, Ron sighed heavily. “Harry… most people just aren’t that forgiving.”
“Oh, it’s not forgiveness, really. I was thinking about it, and the thing is… the Dursleys have been afraid of me all of my life, yet they still abided by what Dumbledore asked.” He paused and looked Ron directly in the eye. “Ron, what would you have done if someone had dropped an Acromantula baby off on your doorstep and said you had to take care of it for the next seventeen years, or it would most likely be killed?”
Chuckling loudly and nudging Ron hard with his shoulder, George spoke up. “After he was done screaming and flailing, he’d have come and got one of us to stomp on it.”
“But you’re not an eight-legged hairy monster, Harry,” Fred concluded.
“To the Dursleys, I am — or perhaps something even worse.” Harry’s voice was beginning to rise, so he took a deep, calming breath and continued, “My very existence threatens their way of life. All they ever wanted was to be normal Muggles, but instead they had to carry around the knowledge that something else existed. A world of which they could never be a part, and that held the potential of great dangers. If not for having me, they might have been able to convince themselves that our world simply didn’t exist. And they would have been much happier.”
Harry could feel Ginny clinging to his arm, and holding his hand firmly, completely in support of him. Ron and the twins were staring at him, as though what he was saying was taking time to sink in.
“The whole point is — they could have just chucked me into an orphanage and been done with me, but they didn’t. However they treated me, by keeping me in their home and allowing me to return each summer, they provided me with magical protection, and in a way I owe them my life for that. I don’t have to like them. And I am not holding out hope that they will suddenly like me. But don’t tell me I should begrudge them this money. I have more important things to think about.”
Everyone was silent for a few moments before Ron spoke up. “I wish Hermione was here… She always seems to know what to say in these situations… and somehow I think she would agree with you.” He smiled weakly, and shrugged his shoulders.
A few customers entered the store and the twins immediately went to help them.
Slowly, conversation resumed and Ron was soon telling Harry all about how crazy it was at The Burrow, and how he had finally agreed to come work for the twins just to get away, and to put a few Galleons in his own pocket.
Harry was taken through the shop and shown the many new products that the twins were introducing. Amidst all the conversation and between products Harry learned that Ron had received several letters from Hermione and, according to Ginny, enthusiastically replied to each one.
After about forty-five minutes Terry Boot came into the shop. After greetings all around, Terry delivered the message that Harry was to meet his aunt and Mrs. Weasley in front of Gringotts in five minutes. Terry quickly excused himself to return to work, but not before placing a small order with the twins.
Five minutes later, Harry and Ginny arrived at Gringotts, meeting Mrs. Weasley and Aunt Petunia at the foot of the white stone steps leading up to the heavy bronze doors. Harry, at first, was quite surprised to see the two women chatting pleasantly and his aunt looking very comfortable. He reminded himself about Weasleys’ Remarkable Keep Calm Powder and smiled appreciatively.
Once they were all together, Mrs. Weasley excused herself and Ginny so that Harry could take his aunt into the bank. They promised to be waiting at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor when Harry and his aunt were done.
As they ascended the marble stairs, Aunt Petunia commented how much she had enjoyed tea with Mrs. Weasley, and wondered aloud why she had been so dead set against her in principle for so long. “She’s filled me in quite a bit about your doings at school, Harry; I had no idea that you have been doing so marvelously. Of course, the assessment system is completely unacceptable by any practical standards, but all the same, I am pleased to hear that you have not been squandering your education.”
Harry braced himself for the moment that his aunt finally noticed the goblin guard at the outer door, but the moment came and went, uneventfully. Aunt Petunia was all business as they entered the bank entrance chamber, and she didn’t slow down enough to bother reading the inscription on the second set of silver doors. Harry was pulling such an astonished face at this point that it caught his aunt’s attention. “What is your difficulty, boy?” his aunt said, abashed, finally sounding a bit more like the aunt he had always known. “Stop making that face; I have been here before, I have an idea of what strangeness to expect, and I am an adult. And somehow none of it seems all that disturbing, anyway.” The two goblins at the inner doors bowed them through.
The main hall was bustling with activity, the many goblins busy on their stools, others pushing carts of coins and gemstones from one location to another, and still others escorting witches and wizards in and out of the many side doors toward the various vaults. They paused as Harry looked around for a goblin at the forward counter that didn’t seem to be with a customer.
From the corner of his eye, Harry noticed an odd movement. Well, not really an odd movement, just an out of place movement, as from behind the long side counter where the many goblins were weighing and counting, and writing in their ledgers, a full-sized man got up from a stool and moved with some haste toward he and his aunt. This, momentarily, struck Harry as strange, but then he reminded himself that so far the Order seemed to have planned the whole trip rather neatly, so he figured that this man was likely pre-arranged for his aunt’s benefit as well.
The man approaching them was middle-aged, quite tall and thin, with a long neck and prominent Adams-apple. His hair was thinning, and graying at his temples, but otherwise nearly black. He was a kindly looking man, but Harry noted that he had rather large ears, which stuck out from the sides of his head, and his nose was quite long and thin as well. His gray eyes seemed to be smiling, contributing to his overall benevolent appearance, and he wore a dark charcoal, crisply pressed, Muggle-style suit with a white shirt and red silk tie.
“Mr. Potter,” he said with the same sort of excited politeness that Harry had heard from many adults in the wizarding world when they first had the opportunity to meet him. “So very nice to have you here. I am Edwin Garron, Assistant Director of Muggle services.”
Harry took the man’s extended hand and shook it. “And this would be your aunt, Mrs. Petunia Dursley?” Edwin continued, turning to Petunia and shaking her hand as well. “One of our employees, Bill Weasley, informed me that you would be visiting this morning; I am so pleased to be of service.”
Mr. Garron took them from the main hall down an adjacent hallway and into a large office, clearly decorated and furnished in Muggle fashion. Once they were seated at a large, polished wood table, he asked Aunt Petunia for her account book and, upon examining it for a curiously long couple of minutes, went to a wall of large, thick, leather-bound books, pulled down one of the many identical-looking volumes and paged through it until he found whatever it was he was looking for, whereupon he made some small, curious noises common to recognition and understanding, and looked up at Aunt Petunia. “Very well, Mrs. Dursley, how exactly may I help you today?”
“I would like you to tell me about this account, where the money is coming from and whether it can be converted into money that is useful to me.” Petunia was quite business-like now and did not seem overly anxious, or even greedy.
Mr. Garron cleared his throat importantly. “Well, I will tell you what I can, Mrs. Dursley.” He consulted the large book once more, looking away only briefly. “This account was set up as a fund to provide for Mr. Potter’s care, just after he was given into your custody some years ago. I cannot tell you where the money comes from, as I do not have that information, though I can tell you that it does not come from Mr. Potter’s vault on these premises. The account originates from our bank location in Switzerland, and yes, the funds can be converted into British pounds for your use.” Mr. Garron paused. “However, there are some stipulations on the account.”
Aunt Petunia’s face dropped into a disappointed frown. “What sorts of stipulations?” she asked pointedly.
“Firstly, the funds were intended to be withdrawn on a monthly basis for ongoing use. As they have remained untouched all this time, they were not, and can no longer be, used for their intended purpose. Under the terms of the account, any accumulated interest and unused balance is to be held in trust for Mr. Potter and added to his vault upon his seventeenth birthday. Further, the deposits will end once Mr. Potter comes of age, so that means that there will be one more deposit of two hundred Galleons on July first, and one more interest payment calculated on the balance on July thirty-first. Thereafter, the account will be closed and the remaining balance placed in Mr. Potter’s vault.” Edwin took a deep breath, looking quite sympathetic. “I can cash out this month’s deposit for you, and convert it into pounds, but that is all the funds that I am allowed to disburse.”
Aunt Petunia’s head had dropped and Harry thought he saw a tear forming at the corner of her eye. “If I had clearly known that this was real money, I would have seen that it was used as it was intended,” she said with a slight break in her voice. “All these years, we believed that my nephew was left with us without any provision for his care, even though we knew that his father had been wealthy…” she paused, sniffling slightly. “I know you do not understand this. When Harry started school and he obviously had money from an inheritance, it made my husband even more bitter than he had been. When that account book originally came, we assumed it was a joke because it wasn’t anything we recognized.”
Mr. Garron offered Petunia a handkerchief, which she took gratefully. “I understand, Mrs. Dursley, but the terms of the account are quite specific, and it is not within my power to alter them.”
Harry interrupted then, speaking for the first time since entering Mr. Garron’s office. “However, would I be correct in assuming that it is within my power?”
Aunt Petunia looked at Harry with shock and surprise; Mr. Garron, too, looked over at Harry, though his expression was far less specific. “I would guess that would be true, Mr. Potter,” he said after a long moment. “What is it you have in mind?”
Harry looked over at his aunt. “What I have in mind is that I don’t care about the money.” Harry felt his emotion rising, and his voice caught a little in his throat. “It was no secret that I was resented in your home.” He was focused now on his aunt and was speaking directly to her. “I was never loved. You and Uncle Vernon were anything but kind to me, and certainly not once generous. You lavished gifts and affection upon your own son and allowed him both to flaunt his possessions, and tease and taunt me endlessly. I only ever had Dudley’s hand-me-down toys as a child, and have always had to endure his old clothing. Once in a great while I got something from a charity shop, and was constantly reminded of how much extra it cost to look after me.”
Harry paused to regulate his quickening breath; he was getting angry and he could hear it in his own voice. Edwin Garron was now looking with a rather horrified expression at Petunia, who herself was staring, wide-eyed, at her nephew, and turning several shades of flushed pink with embarrassment and shame.
Harry couldn’t help feeling that he would be justified to be hateful and bitter toward the Dursleys, but that was not what he felt. He wasn’t entirely sure what he felt, except that he understood somehow that they had been an obstacle that he had survived, and he had become the young man he was today in spite of them — perhaps even because of them.
They had done all they could to crush his spirit and to prevent him from learning he was a wizard; when that had not worked, they had belittled him and insulted him and continued to act as if he had been a total burden upon them his entire life.
He should hate them… instead… he pitied them, for the narrow, rigid and ultimately frightened lives they had led together at Privet Drive. Money was not going to make them any better; they would still be frightened, prejudiced and narrow minded. Harry’s victory over the Dursleys would be complete when he walked out their door on Privet Drive for the last time. It had been a silent, patient and determined battle that he had won, not by conscious action, but by becoming who he was. To have been loved in their household and simply become another Dursley…to have turned out anything like his cousin, Dudley, from his point of view, would have been the worst disservice imaginable.
“No one would blame me if I hated you,” Harry began again in a solemn, determined tone. “But I don’t. The truth is… despite everything, I never have hated you.” Harry looked away as his aunt began to sob into the handkerchief she held. “You, Aunt Petunia, are my only biological family, and even if it has pained you and embarrassed you greatly, I am your only link to a sister you must have, at some point in your life, loved. We share blood, and that alone has protected me thus far through my life; that means something to me.” Harry paused. “You may have feared and resented your sister, and despised the life she chose, but you did so out of the worst kind of prejudice, based on ignorance and irrational fear… But she was your sister, and I know in my heart that she never stopped loving you.”
There was a final long pause in which Petunia sobbed again heavily, and Mr. Garron just stared unbelievingly at Harry. “You can have the money; I want nothing to do with it. Just consider it the inheritance you thought you deserved and never got. But… I think… since there is apparently quite a bit of it, I would like to see some of it, say at least a quarter of it, go to the Weasleys. I know they wouldn’t want it, and if you asked them they would refuse it, but they have been more of a family to me in the last six years than you have cared to be for my lifetime and longer. The Weasleys have made a place for me in their family, and offered me love for no other reason than that they had it to give. So I think they deserve the money as much as, probably more than, you do. But, it is in your name. So, take it, and you decide.” There was no hint of bitterness in Harry’s voice, just a clear expression of sadness and disappointment. He had grown up, and he no longer accepted the position of disappointment to the Dursleys — instead, they were now only a disappointment to him.
There was a long, awkward silence. Finally, Mr. Garron straightened up in his chair and looked down at the large book with a sort of wonder. “Is that your final word, Mr. Potter?” he asked without looking up.
“Yes,” Harry replied.
“Very well, then,” Mr. Garron said, smiling at him, and he closed the large book and pushed it to the side of his desk. “I must say, Mr. Potter, you are a most remarkable young man, and I mean that beyond your fame and the speculation regarding your role in the future of the wizarding world.”
“Thank you, Mr. Garron,” Harry responded automatically. He was suddenly feeling a little embarrassed at the mention of who he was in the wizarding world. His aunt was looking at him with a confused wonder, as if she had only now seen him for the very first time.
“If you please, sir,” Harry interrupted, before Mr. Garron could say whatever he was about to. “If there is no further need for my presence, I should like to go and wait for my aunt across the street at Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor.”
Edwin nodded graciously. “Of course, Mr. Potter, it should not take long now to arrange the transfer of funds, provided that Mrs. Dursley has brought information concerning her regular banking arrangements?” He looked over at Petunia with the question, and she nodded affirmatively and reached for the purse at her feet. “I will personally see that your aunt is escorted to find you when we are finished.”
“Thank you, sir,” Harry responded, and got up from his chair. He dug a small slip of paper, a thin leather coin purse, and a golden key out of his front pocket. “Finally, sir, if it would not be too much trouble, I wonder if you could have some Galleons retrieved from my vault for me and some of it converted into Muggle notes? I have written the amounts down here.” He handed the purse, key and note to Mr. Garron.
“Of course, Mr. Potter, I will see to it immediately and have it for you when I bring your aunt.”
Harry nodded his thanks and quietly left the room, finding himself moments later standing in the sun, on the bright marble steps of Gringotts, feeling as though his life had just turned a pivotal corner.
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