Chapter Ten Appenzeller, Gutzwiller, Lienhart & Prächt
Ginny awoke Tuesday morning to the smell of sausages wafting up to her bedroom. She contemplated pulling her pillow over her head and trying to go back to sleep, but when the scent of fresh coffee hit her she knew that it was futile. She turned in her bed and looked out the window at the depressingly clear sky. Why did the weather have to be so marvelous when she felt so miserable?
She reached over to her night table and clutched the torn half of a set of Muggle photographs from the shopping center photo booth. The sight of Harry and her giggling together made her heart leap, but just as quickly reminded her of exactly why she was feeling so bad. It had been three days since they had been together at the shopping center and she still hadn’t heard anything from him. She wasn’t sure if she should feel neglected, or worried – after all, her boyfriend was none-other than the famous Harry Potter.
Then, yesterday, she had received the letter she had been dreading. The letter she knew was inevitable, but had hoped would be forgotten until next term. It too was on her night table. She picked it up and re-read it for perhaps the tenth time.
Dear Miss Ginevra Weasley,
As you know, the O.W.L. testing of all Hogwarts’ fifth year students was postponed, due to the tragic and untimely death of the Headmaster.
The Ministry has set a special testing schedule to accommodate students during the summer holidays.
You have been scheduled to sit your exams at the Ministry for Magic on July 3rd and 4th. You are to report to the testing rooms of the Wizarding Examinations Authority Offices, level six Ministry of Magic, London, promptly at 8 a.m. each morning of testing.
Testing by subject will follow according to your term schedule at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please be prepared for both written and practical exams at time of testing.
If you have questions, or need transportation assistance to and from the Ministry, please contact this office.
May I personally wish you great success with your examinations.
WIZARDING EXAMINATIONS AUTHORITY OFFICE
Ministry of Magic
Ginny set the letter back down on her night table with a frown and swung her legs out of the bed. She stood up, pulled on her pale blue bathrobe, stuffed her feet in her matching fluffy slippers and flopped out the door toward the kitchen.
“Morning, dear — sausage and eggs?” Even in the darkest of times, Ginny’s mother never failed to be cheerful in the morning, particularly when serving a meal.
“Just coffee, Mum,” Ginny responded blankly. She moved sluggishly toward the percolator on the stove as her mother flicked her wand, summoning a heavy mug from a shelf, which managed to fly beneath the stream of dark liquid as the pot rose up off the stove and tipped itself.
“Thanks,” Ginny said with subdued gratitude. She plopped down at the kitchen table where her brother Ron was finishing a plate. Knowing Ron, it was neither his first nor his last.
Ginny spooned a heap of sugar into her steaming mug and reached across to nab the cream, which she tipped in until the swirling, tanning liquid danced dangerously at the lip. She leaned in and blew across the surface, then settled her lips to the mug and slurped tentatively, drawing off the first potentially burning swallow of the hot, life-giving liquid from the over-full mug.
“Honestly, you need something more than coffee, dear,” Molly’s words displayed a concern that went beyond breakfast. “How I ever let you children start drinking that vile liquid, I’ll never know – but your father does love his first morning cup.” Molly continued talking as she loaded more eggs onto Ron’s plate. Ron beamed at his mother, but said nothing, as his mouth was too full of food to speak.
With a flick of her wand, the pan of eggs flew back to the stove and an iron skillet swept into her hand. Molly stabbed out a half dozen more sausages onto Ron’s plate. She turned to Ginny and speared the last few. A plate full of eggs glided to a halt in front of Ginny just in time to receive the proffered sausage. A few moments later, Molly joined Ginny and Ron at the table with her own plate of food.
“Going to work at the shop again, Ron?” Ginny asked, already knowing the answer.
“Yeah,” Ron responded after a heavy swallow. He took a big gulp of orange juice, and continued speaking. “Why else d’ya think I’m up so early? Fred and George are expecting a shipment of felt hats today. They’ve been going crazy keeping up with the demand for protection-charmed clothing, and they were thinking they’d try to make Disillusionment hats with this shipment.”
Mrs. Weasley sniffed in apparent disapproval, but neither Ginny nor Ron gave any indication of noticing. The entire family knew that it was all an act; Molly was fiercely proud of the twins’ success – in fact, it had been she that had suggested the tag line Fred and George now used with their top-selling line of serious protection and security items: “If it’s a Weasley, it’s worth it.”
“Gonna try to study today, Ginny?” Ron asked.
“Yeah… guess I’ll try.”
He shot her a knowing look as he shoveled another forkful of eggs into his mouth and chewed diligently to a solid swallow. “Don’t worry… When Hermione comes back from holiday, she’ll make sure you study plenty before you have to sit the tests.” He obviously couldn’t keep himself from smiling at the mention of Hermione’s name. “And… you’ll hear from Harry, I’m certain of it.”
Ginny blushed very slightly under her mother’s attentive gaze. “I’d better,” she proclaimed with faux fierceness belying the underlying insecurity of a fifteen-year-old girl anxious to hear from her boyfriend. “Or he’s going to be one sorry…” Ginny’s words trailed into nothing as she noticed a distant speck in the clear sky outside the kitchen window. It was an owl, certainly… but what owl?
Mrs. Weasley got up from the table and moved to open the kitchen window. “Looks like…” Molly hesitated, waiting a few more wing-beats to bring the animal closer. “…Like a barn owl, from the standard owl post,” she said with a hint of chagrin on her daughter’s behalf.
Ginny clutched her coffee mug with both hands and looked down into it, trying to hide her disappointed expression.
The barn owl landed heavily on the windowsill and hooted to announce its presence. Mrs. Weasley untied the leather cord and removed the parchments. The owl turned and leapt back into flight.
“Looks like the usual,” she said. “Oh.” She pulled one of the letters free of the others. “Ron, dear, another from Hermione.” Molly moved to hand the thick parchment to Ron.
“I hope she’s enjoying her holiday and not spending all her time writing to you,” Arthur Weasley said as he stepped into the kitchen carrying his work satchel. He moved directly to the head of the table and pulled out his chair. “What’s that – a letter every other day now?” Mr. Weasley sat, adding his habitual, “Morning, children.”
“Morning,” Ginny responded gloomily.
“Good morning, Arthur.” Mrs. Weasley summoned her husband’s breakfast and moved to give him a quick kiss.
“No Prophet this morning?” Mr. Weasley asked distractedly as he waved his wand, summoning the sugar and cream from across the table.
“Not yet, dear,” Mrs. Weasley responded.
Ginny looked up from her coffee and shook a lazy finger at the open window. “I think there’s another owl coming – I expect that’ll be your paper, Dad.” She looked down at her plate, picked up a fork and began to stab at her eggs.
Mr. Weasley reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a Knut. He got up from the table and moved to the window to pay the approaching bird.
“Um… Ginny?” he said teasingly, “I don’t think this one is the Prophet delivery… It looks like Hedwig… And, she appears to be carrying a rather large parcel.”
Ginny was on her feet in an instant, her mother and brother behind her. They all peered out the window at the approaching owl. “That’s a huge box she’s got there,” Ron commented. “Must be better than half her wingspan.” He turned to Ginny, grinning. “Told’ya you’d hear from Harry.”
They all stepped back from the window to allow the snowy owl to swoop out of the sky and into the room. Mrs. Weasley jerked her wand and the dishes moved aside, clearing a spot on the table. There was a loud thump and a flashing of white wings as the package hit the table and the owl righted itself atop the heavy box. The parcel looked like an oversized, round hatbox wrapped in brown paper and tied up with twine. The owl leapt down off the box and stared at them, seemingly considering each in turn.
“Blimey,” Ron exclaimed. “That’s not Hedwig.”
Ginny was beaming. “No… he isn’t.” She stepped closer, holding her arm out to the bird. “This is the owl from the Emporium! Remember, Mum, I told you I saw another snowy when Harry and I went in to get treats for Hedwig?” The owl trilled happily and hopped off the table onto Ginny’s outstretched arm. “Did Harry send you to me?” she asked. In answer, the owl nipped at her cheek affectionately and hooted with satisfied finality.
Mrs. Weasley nodded, understanding, as she continued to watch the beautiful owl with an awed expression. “Harry… he wouldn’t have… he didn’t? That’s too much to spend…”
Ron had crossed to the box and grabbed the tag. He read it aloud: “Eeylops Owl Emporium proudly presents this owl as a gift to Ginny Weasley, from one: Harry Potter. Yeah, he sure did, Mum.”
Without asking permission, Ron tore into the brown paper, pulling it away from the round box. In a moment, he had the top off of the box and was pulling from it a beautiful metal cage that was considerably taller than the box itself. Inside the cage were more items, feed and treats, dishes, a booklet on care and feeding and a letter addressed to Ginny in Harry’s hand.
Ron opened the cage door and pulled out the things. As soon as he had done so, the owl hopped onto the table and leapt up onto the perch. Ginny moved to pick up the letter. She tore it open hurriedly and began reading silently.
After a minute she looked up at the eager faces of her brother and parents. “He says…” she began, “the owl is an early birthday present. He wanted me to have it now because he thought delivering all the wedding invitations would be a bit much for Errol and Pig.” Ginny clutched the letter to her chest and giggled with unsuppressed glee.
She kept on reading silently, moving back toward the window and pulling herself up to sit on the counter. “He’s planning to leave the Dursleys’ on Sunday the twenty-second and come to stay with us here; he asks if you can make arrangements, Dad? He says as early in the morning as you want is fine with him.” Ginny continued to scan the letter, smiling, occasionally laughing, but not sharing the contents. Finally she looked up at her parents rather confusedly. “He says whatever was in his aunt’s envelope… You are not to even think about trying to return it, he says it’s yours, and that’s the end of it.”
Both Ron and Ginny were looking at their parents now and Mrs. Weasley glanced guiltily at Arthur. “Mum, Dad, what’s he talking about?” Ron asked.
“I remember now,” Ginny said. “Right before they went away in that automo-what’sit, Harry’s aunt handed you a letter. I didn’t even think about it till just now.”
“So what is it he’s afraid you’ll try to return?” Ron blurted out.
Arthur Weasley sighed heavily and left the room; he returned a minute later with two small sheets of parchment; he handed Ron the first. It was a note from Edwin Garron of Gringotts Bank. Ron glanced over it and handed it back to his father.
“Well, what does it say?” Ginny said waving it away as her father moved to hand it to her.
Mr. Weasley, shifted uncomfortably, cleared his throat and began to read:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Weasley,
Enclosed is a deposit receipt to your Gringotts vault. I have deposited this money at the express direction of Mrs. Petunia Dursley, aunt of Harry Potter.
I felt you should know that Mr. Potter suggested to his aunt that your family deserved a portion of the account in question, in recognition of the care and concern you have extended to him during the time he has attended Hogwarts School.
As a third party and, I hope, a family friend, and knowing what little I have been witness to regarding Mr. Potter and his aunt, I encourage you to accept this money.
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF MUGGLE RELATIONS
Gringotts Bank, London.
“It’s quite a bit, isn’t it, Dad?” Ron said knowingly. He did not seem the least bit surprised by this turn of events.
Arthur Weasley leaned forward and handed his son the second slip of paper. Ron glanced down at it and smiled a broad grin. “Of course it is.” Ron handed the deposit slip to Ginny who likewise glanced at it and also grinned.
“Two-hundred-fifty-thousand Galleons!” she blurted out. “Merlin’s beard!”
“But you see… we can’t keep it,” Mrs. Weasley said nervously. “We haven’t done anything to deserve it. It would be wrong to keep it.” She seemed on the verge of tears. Mr. Weasley nodded in agreement with his wife.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” Ron said, his voice rising a little in aggravation. “You can’t give it back. Don’t you get it? Don’t you know anything about him?”
Ron’s parents stared at him, looking slightly offended, but Ron persisted. “Harry would have given you money outright at any moment during the past six years, only you made it clear you didn’t want it from him. He would never insult you by offering you one Knut from his Gringotts vault, but this money didn’t come from there… and even if he had to suggest it to his aunt, she’s the one giving it to you. And I can tell you, that Dursley lot don’t deserve it.”
There was a thick silence. Not even the newly arrived owl made a sound.
“Harry’s been clever about it, son,” Mr. Weasley broke the quiet, his voice flat and uncertain, “but we can’t deny it’s really from him, and I’m just uncomfortable taking such a gift.”
“Harry has to know he doesn’t need to buy our affection,” Mrs. Weasley said between sniffles.
“Come off it, Mum, Harry knows that.” Ginny hopped off the counter and crossed toward her mother. “You do deserve the money… because you gave Harry the one thing he didn’t have… family, and a place he knows he can call home if he likes. And you let him know you love him… can’t you let him do this little thing for you?”
“Two-hundred-fifty-thousand Galleons is no ‘little thing’,” Mr. Weasley said.
“Not to you, Dad… or you, Mum,” Ron said determinedly. “Or to any of us… But to Harry, it is.”
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Life with the Dursleys had become rather interesting now that they were suddenly rich. It wasn’t that they were particularly kind to Harry; in fact, Uncle Vernon and Dudley had seemed to be pretending he just wasn’t there. Aunt Petunia, though, had begun talking to him with more frequency – no truly significant conversations, but congenial, and she was seeing that he was well fed, despite the fact that Dudley was now home.
The days blurred into one big Dursley shopping outing, as each morning they seemed to be off somewhere to look at brand new things that they hardly needed. The first thing Uncle Vernon had done was buy himself a new Rolls-Royce, Silver Spur, and by mid-week Dudley had gotten… well, new everything.
Harry had been spending most of his time quite happily in his room, meditating, reading the daily issues of the Prophet, talking with the Dumbledore card, and planning for his final departure from Privet Drive. His meditation was coming along very nicely and Harry was finding that he rather looked forward to the mental exercise; it had also had the positive effect of making him feel calm and relaxed a good deal of the time.
In contrast to previous years, the Prophet now seemed to hold Dumbledore in the highest regard. Several articles had appeared, dedicated to chronicling the Headmaster’s life and contributions to wizard society. Harry read every one, despite the protestations of the card on his desk.
On Saturday morning, before his aunt and uncle had departed to retrieve Dudley, they called Harry down to an early breakfast. It became immediately apparent that Aunt Petunia had told Uncle Vernon about their activities of the previous day. Uncle Vernon was wearing his best suit and looked about as puffed up as a prize swine before the livestock judging of a regional fair. He informed Harry very matter-of-factly that it was about time he showed them the respect and reward they deserved for feeding and housing him for sixteen long years.
Harry might have lost his temper during his uncle’s speech, but instead he had taken a deep breath and reminded himself that he would be leaving soon. His aunt looked highly upset and embarrassed during her husband’s lecture, and that at least convinced Harry of her sincerity. Near the end of it, Uncle Vernon had uttered a very stifled “Thank you” that certainly had no thanks contained within it, but Harry imagined it was the best the over-stuffed walrus could manage.
Monday morning, Uncle Vernon was eager to go to work, to “… tell those gits at the office just exactly what they could do with their German takeover.” He spent the rest of that day polishing his new car in the drive way, and telling every neighbor that happened by about his early retirement.
Wednesday morning brought Harry his first close encounter with the new owl. It showed up at Harry’s window with letters from Ginny and Ron and a confirmation of travel time from Mr. Weasley. The male owl showed an immediate and rather keen interest in Hedwig, leaping onto the bureau and hooting in what Harry thought was a friendly and enthusiastic tone. After a few minutes of sizing one another up, the two birds flew out of the window together and Harry watched them until they disappeared into a distant line of trees.
Harry wrote return letters to both Ron and Ginny. Ginny’s letter included a post script that read: What have you named him? He and Hedwig seem to be getting along very well. I’m sending her along to The Burrow, as I don’t think I’ll need her for any messages in the next few days. I’ve told her she can stay there with Errol and Pig, and your new owl. So please, watch after her until I get there.
By lunchtime on Saturday, Harry couldn’t believe that the very next morning he would travel to The Burrow and be done with Privet Drive forever. Based on visits from various Estate Agents, it looked like the Dursleys too would be done with Privet Drive very soon as well. Aunt Petunia had confided to Harry that they would not be moving until at least the first of August, and she was hoping for further away from Vernon’s sister Marge, rather than closer.
At a quarter past four Saturday afternoon, there was a knock on the Dursleys’ front door. Harry, who happened to be down in the kitchen peeling potatoes for his aunt, paid it no mind, as there had been more strange visitors and deliveries to the house in the last few days than he had ever remembered in fifteen years.
Something struck Harry, though, as he heard the grumblings of his uncle in the sitting room — an odd sensation, like a slight warm flush along his temples. His uncle was apparently not expecting anyone either, and he suddenly knew that this caller was here to see him.
Harry hurriedly finished up the last potato as he heard his uncle’s heavy footsteps tread toward the front door. He braced himself for an explosion as his uncle confronted some eccentric member of the wizarding community… but none came. He couldn’t make out the conversation exactly through the kitchen door, but it sounded congenial enough.
Harry wiped up and dried his hands as his uncle approached the kitchen, and as the door swung open, his uncle’s voice bellowed “Boy!”
When Vernon saw that Harry was right there at the sink he lowered his voice considerably. “Boy, there are a couple of men here from a legal firm who say they have business with you?”
Harry shook his head in confusion, but his uncle held the door open wide and two men stepped into the kitchen.
The first was a small, balding man no taller than his uncle with glassy, sky blue eyes behind rectangular spectacles. His hair had once been very blonde but now had hints of gray throughout. He was dressed very neatly in a charcoal-colored, Muggle style suit, and wore a conservative tie. He carried with him a smart-looking, leather brief case.
The other man was much taller and broader and wore a dark suit coat, with black slacks and an open-collared shirt. This man’s hair was white, thick and slicked back on his head, though he hardly looked old enough for white hair. His eyes were also blue, but not as light and brilliant as the first man’s. He was holding what looked like a rather heavy metal lock-box which was decorated in intricate etching that appeared to depict a forest. The box had bronzed handles on either side and it seemed that the man was required to hold it by both to support its weight.
The first man spoke, his voice kind and calm, his accent, seemed to Harry, Germanic. “You are Harry James Potter; son of James and Lily Potter?” Harry nodded affirmatively, unafraid, but unsure of whom these men were and what they might want.
The man turned toward Aunt Petunia. “And you are Petunia Dursley, sister of Lily Potter, the boy’s mother?”
“I am,” Petunia squeaked out, obviously unsure as well of what this was all about.
The man reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a silver business card holder. He flipped it open and drew out a card to hand to Petunia. He in turn handed one to both Harry and Uncle Vernon as he introduced himself. “My name is Reinhold Prächt, of the Swiss legal firm Appenzeller, Gutzwiller, Lienhart & Prächt. I represent the estate of the boy’s grandparents, Deyton and Philomena Potter.”
At the mention of the names – names he had never, to his knowledge, heard before in his life – a torrent of questions burst forth in Harry’s mind, as though a floodgates had opened. His very first thought was ‘why?’ Why had he never heard the names of his grandparents before, and moreover, why had he never even wondered about them?
Harry’s mind filled with questions. Were those really his grandparents’ names? Why had no one ever told him anything about them? Why had he never asked? What did this man mean – he represented their estate? Why was a Swiss law firm representing his grandparents and why was this the first time they had attempted to contact him? What was the lock-box? What was in it?
Harry suddenly realized that Mr. Prächt was watching him closely. He looked up, his questions playing across his face. “What is this all about?” Harry asked deliberately.
“It is, young sir, specifically about your inheritance,” Mr. Prächt replied, smiling, “an inheritance that the firm has been the guardian of since before you were born. Actually, since before your father was born.”
The meaning of the conversation seemed to be dawning on Uncle Vernon; he appeared to be holding his breath and he began turning a rather deep violet. “You…” Vernon blurted out, “You’re the man that sent my wife that account book when this one…” he wagged a thick purple finger at Harry, “…was left on our doorstep?”
Mr. Prächt turned to Vernon and rather crisply replied, “Yes, sir, that was I… though I was a great deal less experienced then in wizarding law. That account is one of the matters I wished to discuss with Mr. Potter.”
“Well, you can’t have it back!” Vernon blurted out angrily, a panic-stricken expression distorting his face, making his mustache wave with his heavy breaths.
Mr. Prächt calmly removed his glasses and began cleaning them with a handkerchief he produced from within his jacket. He looked up at Vernon, whose breathing was gradually slowing. “I assure you, Mr. Dursley, that if Mr. Potter wished it, I would and certainly could have it back.” He replaced his glasses upon the bridge of his nose.
Vernon’s face bunched up in anger, the deep violet of his cheeks spreading across his forehead, and Harry would not have been surprised if steam had issued from his nostrils. “Get out!” Vernon yelled. “Get out of my home! I’ll not have you lot come into my home and threaten me in this manner…”
Suddenly, Vernon stopped in mid-rant. In fact, he more than stopped; he froze completely, as though he had been hit with Petrificus Totalus.
“Thank you, Heinrick,” Mr. Prächt said to the larger man, who nodded calmly. Harry noticed then that the larger man had produced a wand from within his jacket; he’d obviously cast a non-verbal spell upon Uncle Vernon. The lock-box appeared to be floating in front of him, supported now by only one hand.
Aunt Petunia gasped. “What have you done to Vernon?” she asked fearfully, as she tried to back away against the kitchen counter.
“I assure you, Mrs. Dursley, your husband is quite unharmed.” He held out a hand toward Harry’s aunt. “I simply could not abide his irrational interference. Now perhaps we should all have a seat at the table and conduct our business?”
Petunia glanced at her petrified husband with a look of fear, but allowed herself to be led to the dinning room table.
Once Harry and his aunt were seated, Mr. Prächt set his briefcase down on the table and opened it. “Now the first order of business is to establish your identity, Mr. Potter.”
“Before we begin,” Harry interrupted, “I have to ask you and your friend to do something for me.” He watched the two men carefully. Neither seemed at all fazed by Harry’s words. “I will need to see your forearms.”
Both men removed their jackets without question and drew up their sleeves to show Harry their arms. If this struck Aunt Petunia as odd, she seemed to be too frightened still, to ask any questions.
“All right…” Harry said after closely examining each man’s left arm for any traces of the Dark Mark. “Well then, you wanted to confirm my identity?”
Mr. Prächt withdrew a linen scroll from his case. It had a wax seal and a ribbon tied around it. “This scroll will accomplish that.” He snapped the wax seal, pulled the ribbon, unrolled the scroll and set it in front of Harry, turning it so Harry could read the elaborately written words.
I, _________, affirm my identity by blood as the sole surviving member of the House of Potter.
Beneath these words was a beautifully drawn family crest, and beneath that a place for him to sign, and a space for a witness.
Harry looked up at Mr. Prächt.
“The process is very simple.” Mr. Prächt pulled what appeared to be a thick Muggle fountain pen from his case and handed it to Harry. ”First you fill in your name in the blank.” He produced a small, thin, extremely sharp looking dagger. “Then you prick your thumb to draw a drop of blood and press it to the family crest. If your identity is accepted then you sign the document.” He motioned to the signature line as he set the dagger down next to the scroll. “Then if your aunt would be kind enough to witness the document, we will be able to proceed?”
Harry looked over at his aunt, who still seemed to be quite frightened by all of this, but had obviously been able to follow the conversation as she nodded at Harry.
Harry gripped the pen firmly and wrote his full name carefully in the blank space provided. Then he set the pen down, took up the dagger in his left hand and pressed the sharp tip to his right thumb. The blade was so sharp that it easily and quite painlessly cut his flesh, allowing a drop of blood to swell there. He set down the dagger and pressed his thumb to the illustrated crest. At once he felt a warm sensation move through his body, and the ink, where he had written his name, was absorbed by the linen and re-emerged as though written by the original scribe in the same hand.
Harry pulled his thumb away and took up the pen once more, signing and dating the document at the signature line. Then he turned the scroll and pushed it toward his aunt, who signed and dated the witness line.
At Mr. Prächt’s instruction, she pricked her finger with the dagger and let a drop of blood fall onto her signature; at which point both signatures glowed for an instant with a faint light.
“Very good,” Mr. Prächt began. He leaned forward and retrieved the scroll, coiling it back up and tying it with the ribbon. “I am pleased to inform you, Mr. Potter, that upon the event of your coming of age in just over one month’s time, you will legally inherit all real properties, assets, and business interests of the House of Potter. Until such time you may explore your inheritance through the contents of this lock-box, which has remained unopened since it was sealed by your grandfather in nineteen-twenty.”
Heinrick stepped forward and placed the box on the table in front of Harry.
Harry peered at it closely. On the top was a gilded, etched and painted crest of the family Potter. Harry traced the design with his fingertip. He immediately recognized the animal symbols of the four Hogwarts founders in the quadrants of a broad shield, behind a rearing stag. Above was a wand and dagger crossed, and below a banner with the words Servator, Patronim, Defendo.
Heinrick produced his wand from his jacket once more and touched the tip to Petunia’s finger. There was a faint glow of golden light and it was healed completely. He did the same for Harry’s thumb, before stepping back from the table.
Mr. Prächt produced a small, gold key and handed it to Harry. “This key will open the box for you when you are ready,” Mr. Prächt explained, “but remember that it will only be opened by one who is of the blood of the House of Potter.”
Harry was dazed by all of these revelations; he wanted to push the key in the lock and throw open the box… but then again, he was not so sure that he wanted to do that in front of his aunt. He fingered the key, and then slowly dropped his hand to his side and pushed the key into his pocket. After a moment, he looked up at his aunt and then at Mr. Prächt. “You said that you also wished to discuss the account which was set up in my aunt’s name?” Harry said finally.
“Ah… well, yes,” Mr. Prächt said quietly, seeming now a bit embarrassed. “It was the news of unexpected activity regarding the account that prompted my early visit. I wanted to apologize for any confusion concerning the account. I was informed only a few days ago that the monies had been withdrawn from the account on your authority.” Mr. Prächt smiled warmly. “And, that you allowed your aunt to keep the funds despite the fact that none of the money had been used on your behalf as intended?”
Harry frowned slightly. “Yes, sir. That was my decision to make, wasn’t it?”
“Of course, Mr. Potter,” Prächt responded quickly. “However, you were unaware at the time that the money was coming from your inheritance. I have it within my authority at this time to offer you an opportunity to reverse that decision.”
Harry glanced over at his aunt, who was completely pale with fright. “May I ask, sir? If I allow the Dursleys to keep the money, have I given away my inheritance… have I given them all of my grandfather’s money?”
Mr. Prächt broke into a sudden, hearty laugh. He was still laughing as he answered. “Oh… no… Mr. Potter… not at all. The deposits made into that account were hardly noticeable against your grandfather’s wealth. Most of the accumulated funds were the result of interest.” He paused to catch his breath. “As the legal guardian of your inheritance I was merely attempting to provide something for your care. I never imagined that your aunt and uncle would leave it untouched for so long.”
“If this money only represents a small portion of the inheritance, then, there is no reason to reverse the decision.” Harry said with finality.
“Very good then, Mr. Potter, in that case, I believe our business for the evening is concluded. I will contact you again upon your birthday for a few more formalities but, as your identity is confirmed, there are no obstacles to your inheritance becoming official at that time.” Mr. Prächt gathered his case from the table and extended his hand to Harry, who stood and shook it. “You have your key, and lock-box, so you are free to explore your inheritance any time.”
“Thank you,” Harry said, not knowing what else there was to say.
“If you have any questions before we contact you again on July thirty-first, you may contact me by owl, or by telephone using the information on my card.” With that, Mr. Prächt turned toward the door to the hall.
Petunia stood up abruptly, still looking pale and frightened. She pointed at the still frozen form of Vernon in the kitchen, next to the doorway, and blurted out, “What... What about my husband? You’re not going to leave him like that?”
“I assure you, Madam-” Mr. Prächt turned to face Petunia, “-your corpulent husband will be himself again within minutes of our departure. And, he will have heard everything that has happened here tonight.” He and his white-haired associate gave formal bows, and made their way down the hall to the front door. Harry followed them to the door and watched them leave, in what looked liked a perfectly conventional Muggle car.
Harry returned to the kitchen, where his aunt was fussing over the Petrified Vernon. Harry couldn’t suppress his smile as he crossed to the table and looked again at the heavy lock-box. He grabbed it by the handles and hefted it off the table, then quickly made his way to his room and set the box on his bed.
The bellowing voice of his uncle reached his ears, indicating that the spell had lifted. He could tell that his uncle was ranting and that his aunt was trying to calm him, but he was not at all surprised to hear heavy, hurried footsteps up the creaking stairs, and his uncle yelling “Boy!” at the top of his lungs.
Harry crossed to the doorway and stood in the opening to the small bedroom. “I’m here,” he said calmly.
“What do you think you’re up to, bringing those men in here and having them do magic in my house?” Vernon shouted, his bushy moustache waving furiously about his lips.
“I’m not up to anything, and I didn’t invite those men,” Harry retorted, still composed, but reacting to his uncle’s fury with a rising temper of his own.
“How dare you,” Vernon spat, “allow them to put a spell on me!” His face was a deep purple, his fists balled up in anger. “Thought you’d cheat us out of our share, did you… Well, I’ll just have a look in that lock-box they gave you. Now move aside!” Aunt Petunia, who was behind her husband on the stairs, looked absolutely horrified, though this time, Vernon seemed to be the cause.
Harry stood his ground, his temper, which he had been calming through meditation, pulled taught as the skin on a drum at his uncle’s words, and he knew if he attempted to hold it back it would only burst. Instead he leaned forward, certain that a fury equal to his uncle’s shown in his eyes. “No!” he shouted at a volume that surprised him and froze his uncle in place just as surely as the spell had done earlier.
“Listen to me, you greedy, narrow-minded git. You will never have a ‘look at’ my lock-box!” Harry could feel the weight of his years of misery at the hands of the Dursleys, particularly his uncle, boiling to the surface. He made eye contact with his uncle and the emotion… the repressed rage… seethed through his vision. He could feel the older man’s will failing under the onslaught of his anger. “You have already gotten all that you’ll get from me, and if you aren’t content with it then I will call those men and have them take it back. Is that quite clear?”
Vernon took a step back looking horrified and quite wounded.
Harry stepped forward, keeping the gap between them narrow. “All you care about is that shiny new car in your driveway, and that your lawn is greener than your neighbors’. You’re a stupid, petty, self-centered buffoon, and I pity your son, who’s growing up to be the same. You’re a foul, evil man who has tried to make me into something weak and small, simply because you’re afraid of what you don’t understand. Well — what you don’t understand would fill a library!” Harry breathed hard, surprised that the words were simply pouring out of him. “And you have failed to keep me down! So, if you take a step toward that lock-box, or anything that is mine, or breathe an unkind word in my presence until I leave in the morning, I won’t need magic to make you regret your cruelty toward me for the rest of your lifetime.”
Harry paused; he glanced at his aunt, who was staring at him with a sort of dazed wonder. There was no fear apparent in her expression, just confusion at seeing her husband so thoroughly cowed.
Harry turned back to his uncle; he seemed to be trying desperately to formulate a response, but Harry was not about to give up his advantage. “Now, you’re going to go back downstairs and tinker with that ridiculous new telly of yours and be grateful for what I’ve already given you. You’re not going to speak with me at all for the rest of the evening. I’ll come down to dinner when it’s ready and we’ll have a civil last meal together. I expect you to keep your lump of a son in check as well. Tomorrow morning I’ll be leaving your home forever and I think it’s best if you sleep in until after I’m gone.” Harry stopped and stepped back toward the bedroom doorway.
The blood was drained from his uncle’s face, leaving him pallid. He had backed up completely against the opposite wall and looked weak, frightened and defeated.
“Have I made myself quite clear?” Harry said, finally returning to a rather calm voice.
Uncle Vernon nodded fearfully, glancing desperately to where Petunia stood on the stairs as though looking for a means of escape.
“Good!” Harry turned abruptly and stepped into his room, slamming the door closed behind him.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The next morning Harry awoke before five o’clock and gathered his few things, placing them in his trunk, and strapping his Firebolt to the side. He put the false Horcrux in his left front pocket and the Chocolate Frog Card Base, along with the key to the lock-box in his right; he carried his trunk down to the front hall as quietly as possible and then brought down the lock-box, and Hedwig’s cage. He went up to have a last look around, checking the secret place beneath the loose floorboard just to be sure he was not forgetting anything.
He went back down to the kitchen and was surprised to find his aunt there, pulling bacon and eggs from the refrigerator and preparing to cook them. Harry got himself a glass of orange juice and sat at the table to wait. Soon his aunt brought him a plate of eggs and bacon with toast.
Harry ate in silence, listening impatiently for a knock at the front door.
“Will we ever see you again?” Aunt Petunia said finally, breaking the silence.
“I don’t know,” Harry responded quietly. “Do you think you’d ever want to?”
An odd expression passed across Petunia’s face; Harry was unsure what it was. “Yes… at least, I think I should like to know that you’re well from time-to-time,” she said.
Harry’s expression softened. “Well… if you ever want to contact me, just get in touch with Mrs. Figg. I expect she’d be able to get me a message… Or, would it be okay with you if I sometimes sent a letter with Hedwig… at Christmas maybe?”
“I suppose that would okay,” Petunia said, though she looked a bit apprehensive.
Harry nodded in response and after a moment, she stood and gathered away his empty plate.
At a quarter of six, there was a soft knock at the door and Harry went quietly to open it. There on the stoop were Mr. Weasley, Remus Lupin, and Nymphadora Tonks. Harry waved them in quietly.
“Ready to go, Harry?” Mr. Weasley asked in a jovial whisper.
“Yes, sir,” Harry replied quickly.
“Wotcher, Harry!” Tonks said happily. She was clinging to Lupin’s arm and pushing him forward. “We’ve come to help with your luggage. Is this it here?” She pointed at the trunk with the cage and lock-box atop it.
“Yes, that’s everything,” he said.
“What’s this?” Lupin asked, looking curiously at the crest on the lock-box. He glanced up at Harry with a questioning expression.
“I’ll tell you all about it later, I promise. Just now I’m anxious to get going, if you don’t mind.”
Lupin nodded understandingly and he and Tonks pulled the luggage out the front door and down the drive toward the street.
Harry and Mr. Weasley turned toward the door, and Harry heard a soft noise behind him. He turned to see his aunt in the kitchen doorway. “Goodbye, Harry,” she said softly.
“Goodbye,” Harry said, as he stepped out and closed the door of number four, Privet Drive behind him.
Harry walked silently next to Mr. Weasley as they followed Lupin and Tonks up the street. Ahead of them a little way, the two turned behind a large hedgerow and Harry heard the familiar soft popping sound of Apparition. A moment later he and Mr. Weasley reached the same spot themselves.
“You’re going to have to Side-Along, Harry,” Arthur said. “I know you’re familiar with it.” He offered his arm and Harry reached to take hold of it. “Before we go… I wonder if I might have a quick word?”
Harry looked at Mr. Weasley, a little confused. “Sure, Mr. Weasley,” he said questioningly.
“Well, Harry… You know Molly and I think of you as one of our family.” Harry blushed and nodded. “And now that you are… well, involved with Ginny… I just want your word that you will conduct yourself appropriately while you are staying with us at The Burrow.” Arthur smiled kindly. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, Harry… I do… It’s just that, well… I am a father, Ginny is my only daughter… and well…” Now it was Arthur who was blushing. “I was a young man once myself… You understand?”
Harry flushed with embarrassment, but he nodded just the same. “You have my word, sir,” Harry said.
“That’s fine, Harry, very fine.” Arthur smiled again. “Let’s get home then... Everyone’s waiting for you.
Harry grabbed Mr. Weasley’s arm firmly. There was a sudden “pop” and a familiar swirling implosion, like being wrung through a rather small tube, and then they were there outside the front door of The Burrow.
The low morning sun was casting long shadows across the garden lawn and the sweet floral smells of The Burrow’s garden flooded Harry’s nostrils. He couldn’t help but feel wonderfully happy to be there.