The Burrow was a profound change from Privet Drive. For one thing, everyone there was happy to have Harry among them – some of course a bit more than others, as Ginny would barely leave Harry’s side after his arrival.
The open grounds beyond the Burrow’s low-walled garden were an inviting expanse of calm in contrast to the crowded boxy houses of Little Whinging. And in the adjoining field there was a roughly marked Quidditch pitch, which would certainly be put to much good use over the remainder of the summer.
The morning of his arrival there had been an impromptu welcome party. The twins had dropped by for breakfast, Lupin and Tonks had stayed, Moody had shown up with Oliver Wood and Kingsley Shacklebolt, and of course Fleur was there with Bill, who came awkwardly down the stairs to join the party.
Bill’s face was much healed, though the ragged bite marks across his left cheek and the claw marks from above his right eye to his chin still looked wet and unclosed. He leaned heavily on a wooden crutch under his left arm and had Fleur for support at his right side. He waved and said “Welcome” to Harry from the steps, his smile a gross recollection of his former handsome appearance. Fleur had settled him into a chair near the stairs and come to give Harry a hug.
Mrs. Weasley had of course provided a huge meal and everyone wanted to know how Harry’s time with his aunt and uncle had gone. The matter of the Gringott’s account, and the fact that Harry had given his relatives the money seemed to be common knowledge, but not everyone was aware that the Weasleys too had been given a portion of the account, which was of course their business to reveal, to Harry’s way of thinking.
Harry simply smiled and tucked into his second breakfast in order to answer as few questions as possible, keeping his answers limited to, “It was fine. There were no problems.” And, “I’m just happy to finally be here.”
By eight o’clock an impromptu game of Quidditch had been proposed by the twins and they had moved the party to the pitch were Oliver and Harry were chosen as opposing captains. The teams consisted of Harry, Ron, Ginny, and Fred, against Oliver, Tonks, George, and with considerable persuasion, Fleur, with Remus agreeing to conjure goal hoops for either side of the field and to act as the referee.
They had to modify the rules so that the Beaters could also act as Chasers, and they played with only one Bludger, but they had a lively pick-up game that carried them through the morning, with the rest of the guests cheering them on from time to time as they came and went from the edge of the field. Even Bill managed his way out to the field and appeared to be very happy to cheer on his fiancé.
Harry captured the snitch just after noon through a spectacular bit of flying in the sloth position. He snatched it away right when Tonks was inches from nabbing it herself, winning the game for the younger team and causing a loud round of cheers from the rest of the guests.
They lunched on sandwiches in the garden and after everyone had been afforded an opportunity to clean up and change out of their soiled game clothes, Harry returned to the sitting room where he found everyone lounging about, apparently waiting for him. Harry stood at the base of the stairs, looking at the expectant faces, and knew what they wanted to know.
As if he had read Harry’s mind, Lupin spoke, “We all know about the Gringott’s money, Harry. Everyone in the Order knows at least that there was a mysterious account, but no one beyond will ever know if you wish it. We are just curious.”
With a deep sigh, Harry told them why he had given the money to his relatives. He then explained about Mr. Prächt’s visit during the last afternoon at Privet Drive. Everyone in the room sat in rapt attention at this new information.
“So that is what that new lock-box you have is all about?” Lupin asked finally.
“Yes,” Harry responded quietly.
“This is an interesting development,” Moody croaked in his gravelly voice. “I want to take a look at this lock-box. Have you opened it?” His magical eye, Harry could see, was clearly focused on Harry’s belongings up in Ron’s room.
“No, I haven’t,” Harry said.
“And Dumbledore never hinted at anything about a larger inheritance… while he was still with us?” Lupin asked, his voice trailing off quietly, aware that the subject might be sensitive so soon after the Headmaster’s death.
“I don’t think Dumbledore knew about any of this,” Harry said flatly, trying to hide any indication in his voice that this thought was anything but speculation.
“I’ll need you,” Moody interjected, “to bring the box down and let us examine it before you attempt to open it?” He held Harry’s gaze for a moment, almost as though he were trying to will Harry to agree. Harry could feel somehow that it was a deep concern that was driving him. The older man’s face softened – in as much as Alastor Moody’s face was capable of softening – and he seemed to find his next words of assurance. “We won’t open it, I promise. We’ll only examine it for dark magic.”
Before Harry could respond a voice cut in, perhaps the one Harry would have suspected the least of having anything to say. “Eet is doubtful, I sink, zat zumthing from Appenzeller, Gutzwiller, Lienhart & Prächt, would have any dark magic azzociated with eet,” Fleur stated matter-of-factly.
All eyes turned toward Fleur, who looked somewhat confused by the sudden attention.
“You know about this law firm?” Lupin asked.
“Yes,” Fleur replied with slight surprise. “Zey are very well known in France, and most of zee continent “None of you ‘az ever ‘eard of zem?”
“No, missy, we have not,” Moody said gruffly.
“Perhaps zey are not known because zey are… oow you say? A Squib law firm? I ‘ave seen zat in zis country zere is much more prejudice against Squibs and half-wizards and Muggle-borns zen zere is in most of Europe.”
There was a long pregnant pause.
“I still want to examine that box, Harry,” Moody broke the silence. Most everyone else in the room seemed to agree as heads were nodding all around.
Harry turned without a word and went back up the stairs. He returned a minute later carrying the lock-box. Moody and Shacklebolt accepted it from him at the bottom of the stairs and took it to the kitchen.
“This goes with it.” He handed the key to Moody who looked at it as though it might be a dangerous object. “I don’t feel like hanging around for the examination.” The men nodded to him. “Don’t open it?”
“We promise,” Shacklebolt assured him. “We only want to be sure it is safe.”
Harry nodded and turned to head out the door. Ginny, and then Ron, trailed out behind him.
Harry was heading down the garden path toward the small dock at the pond. Ginny had caught him up and they were now walking hand in hand. “Wait up, mate,” Ron called after them. Harry and Ginny turned their heads together to look at Ron, and Harry cut their pace so that Ron could catch them. “Hey, aren’t you worried about letting them tinker about with your box?”
“No… not really, I’m certain it’s safe,” Harry responded nonchalantly. “I figure it’ll give them all something to do for a while so we can talk by ourselves. I just wish Hermione was here, so I didn’t have to tell everything twice.”
“You don’t,” Ginny said emphatically. “Whatever you want to talk about can hold for a couple of days.” Ginny’s expression was stern, and amazingly like that of her mother when she was in full-on mother hen mode. “Hermione will arrive in a couple of days. I think we should just have a few days of relaxation to ourselves.” She smiled then. “Some time to just be ourselves and not worry about the future.”
Harry looked at Ron who shrugged in typical Weasley fashion. There was the same resignation in his expression that would have shone were it his mother making a similar proclamation.
After a couple moments consideration Harry responded, “Okay, Ginny… You’re right,” He knew he was being handled, that it was her way of looking out for him, trying to keep him from worrying or fretting too much, and he was content to let her assume that role. “So what do we do till then?” He smiled mischievously.
“Well… there’s Wizard’s chess, and Exploding Snap. I expect we have a set of Gobstones around here somewhere, and you two will probably want to compare and trade Chocolate Frog Cards.” Ginny smiled teasingly. “Or, you could help me study?”
Harry hugged her to his side, Ron conveniently noticing something in the other direction that very likely wasn’t there.
Ginny hugged him back, laying her head against his neck. “I’m just happy you’re finally here,” she whispered.
“Me too, Ginny, believe me… me too,” Harry spoke breathily into her soft, wondrously floral-scented hair.
Together, the three of them sat at the end of the low dock, took off their shoes and socks, and dangled their feet in the water. Ron filled Harry in on all the “goings on” at the twins’ shop, all the new products, inventions, and plans for expansion.
Ginny went on and on about her new owl, about how loyal and affectionate he was, and how he would be so much help when the wedding invitations were to be sent out. She had been pouring over her History of Magic text to find a name for him, as she knew that was how Harry had named Hedwig, and had finally settled on the name “Kyne” after an ancient member of Muggle royalty who had turned out to be a wizard.
The air was warm, the pond cool, and the hours meandered by as they lazed on the dock, watching the clouds roll overhead, pointedly not talking about anything of consequence. Harry realized that he was, in that moment, as happy as he had ever been, and more carefree then he had ever allowed himself to be.
Harry gave Ginny’s hand a soft squeeze, and was immediately rewarded with a gentle return. He rolled his head away from the sky and faced Ginny who had just turned her own head to face him. He felt he could become safely lost in the depth of her soft, brown eyes.
They returned to the house a little before supper, as measured by Ron’s increasing proclamations that he was getting hungry. Mrs. Weasley was busy preparing what smelled like a feast, and Fleur was directing most of the guests in the task of setting up tables in the garden.
Ginny was beckoned away to help her mother and reluctantly released Harry’s hand to do so.
“You two take Harry’s box back up to your room and get down here to help in the garden,” Mrs. Weasley said, as she turned from a pan to bend and check something in the oven.
Ron and Harry obeyed, taking the lock-box off the table and hurrying up the stairs.
Harry visually inspected the lock-box as they went, but could not detect any evidence of the magical examination. They arrived in Ron’s room and tucked the lock-box beneath Harry’s bed.
“Will that be okay there?” Ron asked, gesturing to the lock-box.
“I think so,” Harry replied, “very few people know that it even exists.”
“So,” Harry smiled, “tell me about you and Hermione – I know she’s been away – but how’s it going?”
Ron blushed furiously, a broad grin spreading across his face. “Harry, I think I’ve read more this past couple of weeks than I did the whole last term at school.” He didn’t look at all upset about it. “She’s written me nearly every other day.”
“So things are good then?”
“Yeah, mate, things are good.”
“I’m happy for you both,” Harry grinned. “It was about bloody time, you know.” They stood in silence for a few moments enjoying their mutual happiness through an unspoken bond that had been theirs since nearly the day they met in the station, first year. Then, as one, they turned toward the door.
In the garden they helped with the folding chairs and greeted new arrivals. More members of the Order had arrived, Minerva McGonagall, Hestia Jones, among others that Harry had only ever seen coming and going from meetings. Hagrid arrived looking, more than anyone, still a bit devastated by the recent loss of Dumbledore. Ginny tried to cheer him up by introducing him to her new owl, Kyne. This did seem to work a little as Hagrid smiled and cooed, with Kyne on one arm, Hedwig on the other, and Pig settling into the mass of hair atop his head.
Mr. and Mrs. Diggory arrived from the village and were quick to seek out Harry for a warm greeting.
Mrs. Weasley served up an elaborate feast worthy of the Hogwarts House-elves, and the group ate and drank, and talked well into the evening at their tables around a roaring fire. Everyone in turn extended their welcome to Harry, as his arrival seemed to be the excuse for the gathering.
Before he excused himself to leave, Moody returned the gold key to Harry and informed him that they could find nothing amiss about the lock-box. Harry took the opportunity to ask Moony about setting up the promised interview with Imani Nowell, the Daily Prophet reporter he’d encountered in Diagon Alley, and Moony agreed to make arrangements.
As the evening progressed a dark undercurrent emerged in the conversations. Speculation and concern for the future flowed through the gathering.
The twins had been doing their best to cheer up Hagrid and in the process had gotten him quite drunk. By the time most of the guests were leaving, Ron had joined in the Hagrid-cheering with his brothers and the core of the Weasley clan were gathered at a single table, sharing stories of youthful adventures and, in Hagrid’s tales, strange beasts.
No one seemed to notice when Ginny and Harry slipped away into the house and took up seats on the sitting room sofa before the crackling fireplace. They had shared words all day and so wasted no time on them now, but fell together into one another’s arms, their lips pressed together with an urgency created by the desire to have been in this place and this position far earlier.
After nearly an hour of intense snogging they lay together on the couch, Harry’s arms wrapped about Ginny as they watched the fading glow of the fire’s embers. Mrs. Weasley was shooing everyone toward bed and instructing the twins to see Hagrid home before returning to their own apartment above their shop in Diagon Alley. Bill and Fleur, Mr. Weasley and Ron all marched toward the stairs dutifully. Harry and Ginny were perfectly still, barely breathing as they listened to the footsteps creaking up the stairs and Mrs. Weasley casting quiet cleaning spells and humming conspicuously in the kitchen.
The dishes made quiet clinks as they floated in from outside and washed themselves in the sink. In barely fifteen minutes the sounds were slowing and Harry knew that the kitchen was ready for breakfast in the morning.
“All right, you two,” Molly Weasley called from the kitchen, “Off to bed already.” She had obviously known he and Ginny were there all along.
Ginny rolled up reluctantly and stood, straightening her rumpled jumper. Harry rose as well. “Yes, Mother,” Ginny said in a voice that dripped with reluctance. She dragged Harry toward the stairs by the hand.
“Good night, Mrs. Weasley,” Harry said with strain as he was pulled away.
“Good night Harry… Ginny,” Molly said.
At the door to Ginny’s bedroom they kissed again. Harry held her tight, reluctant to say goodnight, but worried that her mother would be trailing them up the stairs at any moment. “Ginny,” he whispered through their pursuant lips.
“I know,” she said, as she reluctantly released him, “time for sleep.” She smiled up at him. She backed into her door, easing it open with her hip. “See you in the morning.” She winked, and disappeared into the room, the door closing slowly behind her.
Harry exhaled heavily and turned toward Ron’s room. Ron was already snoring so Harry slipped in quietly, got quickly into his bed and soon fell asleep himself.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The next day Ron went into work for the twins. Harry and Ginny had a wonderful day together under the watchful eye of Mrs. Weasley. Tuesday morning, despite not planning to work, Ron was up at the crack of dawn. He fidgeted his way through the morning, not wanting to eat. Harry tried to engage him in a game of Wizard Chess about nine o’clock, but after he took Ron’s knight in three moves, he knew that Ron would just not be good for anything until Hermione arrived.
After lunch he and Ginny drug Ron down to the pond for a swim, but he was just no fun at all.
As they were returning to the house they heard the distinct sound of Apparition and Ron brightened up immediately.
They came to the gate in the stone garden wall and saw immediately that Hermione had arrived. She looked wonderfully tanned as she stood next to her Hogwarts trunk. She was wearing a bright floral sun dress which tied up the back, and something in her posture looked a little tired to Harry. Ron had stopped at the gate, his mouth agape. Hermione had not seen them yet as she was standing facing the house.
Ginny called out to her and ran to give Hermione a big hug. Hermione turned, a huge smile crossing her lips at the sight of her friends and the exuberant red-head bounding toward her. Crookshanks leapt from Hermione’s arms and padded toward the flower beds. Harry noted Ron’s sudden hesitance and couldn’t help thinking that the wrong Weasley was rushing forward. Harry clapped Ron on the back and shoved him ahead.
“Your girlfriend’s arrived Ron, get over there and show her how much you’ve missed her,” Harry said.
“But… but what if she’s changed her mind?” Ron asked in a whisper.
“You git, she hasn’t changed her mind. Just look at her,” Harry responded, also at a whisper, as the girls were now stepping toward them. Harry shoved Ron hard again. “Now is not the time for hesitation, Weasley. If you’ve missed her, show her.”
Ron gulped hard and his cheeks flushed; he stepped forward, bold in his action once he made eye contact with Hermione. They stepped toward each other, neither saying a word, their eyes locked. Ron caught her up in a fierce hug and kissed her. Hermione wrapped her arms around Ron’s neck and seemed to melt into him.
Ginny came back to Harry smiling, and took his arm. “What did you say to him?” she whispered.
“Nothing really… he just needed a little push.” Harry smiled.
Ron and Hermione broke their kiss and Ron pressed his forehead to hers. “So… how was Greece?” he stammered, short of breath.
“I’ve missed you too,” Hermione breathed back. “And Greece was fine.”
“Hey, do I get to say hello, too?” Harry interrupted. Hermione peeled herself out of Ron’s embrace and hugged Harry.
Ginny took Hermione’s hand and pulled her away. “Let’s go tell Mum you’ve arrived.” They turned and Ginny practically skipped toward the door, pulling Hermione all the way. “And I’ve got so much to tell you.” A moment later Ron and Harry heard Molly’s excited greeting.
“Thanks mate,” Ron said quietly.
Harry looked over at him. “Anytime — So, I expect we ought to take Hermione’s trunk up to Ginny’s room?”
Ron nodded and they each took an end.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The twins returned that evening for supper and spent a good portion of the evening expounding teasingly about their younger siblings’ new relationships. Ron blushed furiously through the whole meal.
Despite frequent warnings and admonishments from their parents, and looks of disdain from Fleur, there was no holding Fred and George back from the golden opportunity of having the two, new, young couples right there at hand.
Harry and Ginny held hands beneath the table and laughed through the whole thing. Hermione scowled so much that she looked as though she would wear a permanent frown. Fleur looked rather affronted by the twins’ behavior, as she was clearly supportive of the relationships, and Bill chuckled, used to his brother’s antics.
Before the meal, Ginny had whispered to Harry that she was prepared for this and had shown him a pair of Weasley Brand Invisible Hot Foot Fuses. Together they had agreed to retaliate if the situation got too uncomfortable.
While Mrs. Weasley and Fleur were up getting pudding, Ginny slipped the fuses to Harry and he carefully levitated them to the twins’ shoes beneath the table. He was excited to actually use magic again after a few weeks without it, and was surprised at how easily he accomplished the task with a silent spell and a flick of his wand. He was not worried about the decree of underage magic use, being now in a magical household.
At the twins’ next silly questions about dual weddings and multi-child prams, Hermione’s scowl turned into a blush as deep as Ron’s and Ginny finally spoke up. “Haven’t you two got anything else to talk about?” She stared them into silence. “I’m telling you to leave off.”
The twins immediately turned on their sister. “Oh, is our widdle sister upset by a widdle teasing?” George said, practically folded over with laughter. “Of course she’s not,” Fred said. “She’s got Harry to protect her.”
“Fred! George! Enough!” Mrs. Weasley admonished in a low shout for perhaps the twelfth time.
Harry calmly looked up from his plate and caught the twins’ eyes. If he hadn’t been smiling so widely they might have actually taken him seriously, but he couldn’t stop his grin. “That’s right, you know. Ginny does have me to protect her… and don’t forget that Ron and Hermione are my closest friends as well.”
The twins looked at each other for a silent moment and then roared with laughter, literally falling from their bench. “What are you going to do Harry, hex us?” Fred said. That wouldn’t be very guest-like,” George finished.
Harry and Ginny were laughing too. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley looked rather confused and upset, and Ron and Hermione were still blushing with embarrassment.
“Hex you? No…” Harry was grinning and laughing still. “Why would I hex you when you two make it your business to invent more incredible means of revenge in your very own shop?”
The twins stopped laughing immediately, as did everyone at the table but Harry and Ginny. Ron and Hermione’s embarrassed looks turned to wide-eyed anticipation. The twins got up from the floor and began patting themselves down looking hurriedly for anything hidden in their clothing. They were like characters from an old silent slap-stick as they searched for some offending object. Finally they stopped and looked at each other, everyone at the table was roaring with laughter. They turned toward Harry. “Are you just having us on?” George said. “Good one, Harry, suggesting you’d use one of our own inventions against us.”
Harry, who had calmed himself down and was eating his tart again, just smiled up at them as everyone watched him. “Who said it was just a suggestion?” He pulled his wand up from his lap and waved it silently toward the twins’ feet.
Immediately the twins began dancing up and down as though they were suddenly standing on a bed of hot coals. They were yelling and stomping and together ran out the kitchen door to the garden.
Even Bill, Fleur, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were roaring with laughter now, as everyone got up from the table and followed the twins outside. Ron clapped Harry on the back and smiled at him.
“Serves them right,” Hermione said, a bit more judgmentally than Harry would have expected.
For a couple of minutes the twins danced around the garden, rapidly kicking up their knees, their legs flailing; they tried desperately to remove their shoes, but apparently the Hot Foot Fuses were so ingeniously made that they included both sticking and perpetual lace-tying charms.
Finally the dancing stopped and the twins stood there looking at one another, horrified. They turned to the others watching them. “Harry, were these the Purple Toes, Blister Blaster or Stink Foot Fuses?”
Harry turned to Ginny, who was hanging on his arm. She was laughing too hard to answer.
There was a loud explosive “pop” and foul green-gray smoke began to issue forth from the twins’ shoes. They turned to one another and in unison said, “Stink Foot Fuses!”
“This round goes to you, Potter,” George warned, a large grin broad across his face. “But don’t think this is the end of it,” Fred stated matter-of-factly. “Guess we’ll be off now. Mum, Dad, thanks for a wonderful meal.” Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, who were both still giggling heartily, waved goodbye to their prankster sons. The twins gave a slight bow and Apparated away.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Later in the evening Mr. Weasley got called away on Ministry business, and Mrs. Weasley went up to help Fleur with Bill’s treatments and medicinal exercises, leaving the quartet alone on the ground floor of The Burrow.
Hermione sat in the sitting room on one end of the couch, book in hand, her feet curled up beneath her. It seemed she had recently taken to reading Muggle fiction, and she was deep into something titled Wuthering Heights by an author named Emily Brontë.
Harry sat across from her, nearer the fireplace, in a sturdy oak rocker that creaked a little as he tipped to and fro on his toes. He watched her carefully and couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something weighing on her… something she wasn’t telling them.
Ron and Ginny, in a rare occasion of voluntary sibling cooperation, were in the kitchen preparing tea for the four of them.
Harry sat up a little and Hermione, sensing that there was a question, glanced up from her book. In that instant Harry felt an impression from her, like a tickle in the back of his mind that seemed to be saying, “Please… please don’t ask.” He hadn’t done anything but meet her eyes, but the impression was there very clearly. It only caused in him even more questions, but before he could put voice to anything, Ron and Ginny were returning, laden with a large tray each.
Over tea and biscuits, Harry began to tell them everything that had happened over the past two weeks. At first it was mostly bringing Hermione up to speed on the major events, the Gringotts account and the visit from Mr. Prächt. Then he began to explain his discussions with the Dumbledore card, his meditation, and finally determined that it was time to let Ginny in on the secret of the Horcruxes.
Harry paused. “I think we should find another place to talk,” he said.
“I know a place,” Ginny said, “a place where Mum can see us if she’s looking for us. But we can still talk with some privacy.” She was up and headed through kitchen toward the garden door.
“Where, Ginny?” Ron questioned.
Ginny didn’t answer but continued across the garden toward the huge sprawling oak tree at the far corner of the garden. She proceeded right to the base of its trunk, negotiating the thick roots with ease, and disappeared around it. On the far side, between the broad tree trunk and the stone garden wall were a series of boards forming a rough ladder. Ginny had already disappeared up the ladder and through a small trap door in the underside of a platform some fifteen feet up into the tree.
Harry followed and emerged onto an open railed deck surrounded by thick leaf cover above. He had of course been up in the tree on previous visits to The Burrow, but it was different now, much larger.
As if she had heard his unspoken thought, Ginny spoke. “Fred and George have been up here lately, I caught them practicing spatial-expansion charms. They have managed to make it much larger than it was.”
Harry moved to the rail and looked across toward the house. There was a clear view of Ron’s, open bedroom window. Harry raised his wand and summoned the lock-box and a card from his trunk with a simple “Accio.”
Ginny was at the trap door looking down through the opening and giggling. “Cut that out and get up here, you two,” she said, grinning. Harry shot her a puzzled look. “They’re having a quick snog down there,” she said. A few moments later Hermione and Ron emerged from the trap door, both blushing slightly.
“This should be private enough for talking,” Ginny said.
“It’s wonderful,” Hermione said as she turned around slowly, looking at the expanded space. “It could use a few touches, though.” She began waving her wand and speaking spells. A thick rug covered the decking and cushions appeared in clumps, creating a conversation area. Small points of flickering light appeared scattered throughout the surrounding branches, slightly visible in the shadow of leaf cover, even in the still bright evening.
“If you cast a ‘Leaf Whisper’ charm, anyone who tries to listen in will only be able to hear the rustling leaves,” Ginny told Hermione as she looked approvingly at the conjured comforts. Hermione nodded.
Harry stepped onto the rug and set the lock-box down. He emptied his pockets, pulling out the gold key, the pewter base and the locket, and set them on top of the box. The others gathered around and each took seats around the lock-box, as Harry set the card in its base.
The little image of Dumbledore came to life, smiling kindly. “Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger,” he said. “How wonderful to see you all together again… and Ginny Weasley as well.” He seemed very pleased, as he turned to Harry. “I take it then that you have arrived at The Burrow without incident?”
Harry nodded, smiling, feeling Ginny leaning into him and peering excitedly over his shoulder at the animated photo. “Sir, as we discussed earlier, it’s time to fill Ginny in on everything,” Harry said.
“Ah… very well,” Dumbledore said with an expression of calm. He began then to tell the tale of the Horcruxes, beginning with the memories and details about the life of Tom Riddle, and ending with the destruction of Marvolo Gaunt’s ring and the uncovering of the Cave.
Ron and Hermione had of course heard the entire story, but none of them had heard it recounted by Dumbledore and they sat in attention to hear the familiar kindly voice again.
At that point Harry had to take up the tale of how he and Dumbledore had journeyed to the cave and found the false Horcrux, on the night of the Death Eaters attack.
When that tale was done Harry recounted for Ginny the events on the train when Fawkes had delivered the Chocolate Frog Collector’s Base.
“And so, now everyone has heard everything,” Harry said, as he sat back into a plush cushion.
Everyone was quiet for a long minute as the recounting of events settled in their minds. The light evening breeze rustled the leaves of the oak tree and the multitude of lights danced like bright, slow-motion fireflies in the branches above.
Ginny leaned against Harry and he wrapped an arm around her reassuringly.
Across the rug Hermione looked as though a million questions were playing across her mind and she was desperately attempting to select just one.
Ron on the other hand looked as though he didn’t have a care in the world as he was watching Hermione closely with an expression of complete contentment.
Finally the quiet was broken by the Dumbledore card. “You have shown remarkable restraint, Harry, in not yet opening the lock-box, as I asked.” The little visage looked out at them curiously from the card. “But, as it has now been examined, I think perhaps, there is no reason to wait any longer.”
Harry sat up from the cushion, pulling Ginny with him.
Hermione quickly conjured a small table and Harry moved the Dumbledore card there. Ginny had picked up the faux Horcrux and was turning it over and over in her hand. Harry pulled the lock-box closer to him and pushed the gold key into the lock. He tried to turn the key but it wouldn’t budge.
“Hmm.” Harry frowned questioningly. “Well, I guess I should have thought it wouldn’t be that easy,” he said, looking around at the others, silently soliciting suggestions.
“It’s got to be something to do with you, Harry,” Hermione said, “Some way of telling the box that you are a Potter.”
“Maybe if you just command it to unlock?” Ginny offered hesitantly.
“Doubtful,” the Dumbledore card cut in politely. “Magical seals usually require a more concrete form of identification… a lock of hair, or a fingerprint, or…”
“Blood,” Ron said. “It needs a drop of your blood.”
They all turned to look at Ron who was still looking at Hermione and seemed as though he had not been listening to a word the whole time. “Excellent, Mr. Weasley,” the card said in a proud instructional voice.
“Harry, you said that that Prächt guy told you the box would ‘only be opened by one who is of the blood of the House of Potter,’ and what with the blood seals on the proof of identity, it just follows that the lock-box needs a drop of blood, too.”
Hermione beamed at Ron and gave him a big hug. “Of course,” she exclaimed.
“Well if we need a drop of my blood, I’ll need something to cut myself with,” Harry said. “Perhaps we can summon something from the house?”
“No need,” Ron said sheepishly, “I’ve got just the thing.” He dug into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out a well worn, discolored badge. On its surface were the letters S – P – E – W; it had obviously been carried in his pocket for a very long time. “Every once in a while the pin of this thing pops free and gets me in the leg, so I know it’s sharp enough.”
Hermione stared at Ron in complete disbelief, her mouth fallen slightly open. Ginny was giggling at Harry’s side and Harry reached out and took the badge from Ron’s outstretched hand.
“Oh, Ron,” Hermione said with a crack to her voice as she practically tackled him into another huge hug and kiss.
Harry unclasped the badge pin and quickly jabbed the tip of his index finger. With a little coaxing a drop of blood formed there. He picked up the key and dabbed the tip of it into the drop of blood. He lined the key up with the lock and slowly pushed it into the slot. “Here goes,” he said, as he turned the key, which he was able to do quite easily. There was a slight momentary glow of golden light; an audible ‘click’ and the lower portion of the lock clasp fell open.
Everyone was watching eagerly as Harry slowly lifted the lock-box lid. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was expecting… but what he found inside elicited a slight sigh of disappointment from himself, Ron and Ginny. Hermione on the other hand gasped with excitement and if the Dumbledore card reacted at all, Harry didn’t hear it.
The lock box was filled to the top with a very orderly collection of tightly rolled scrolls. On the very top was a neat square of folded parchment with a wax seal. Harry picked up the note and examined it. The wax seal was a miniature replica of the coat of arms on the lock-box.
Harry had an odd feeling, not a bad feeling, but the sort you get when you know that you are about to do something that will change your life forever. Like sensing that something hugely significant is poised ready to jump out at you, and even though you don’t know what it is, you are anxious for it to happen anyway. He looked around him and couldn’t imagine not sharing everything about himself with these three people… well four, if you included the Dumbledore card. Using the nail of his thumb, he popped the wax seal loose and unfolded the parchment.
He stared down at the crisp white parchment and the fine-lined cursive writing that he saw there. He began to read aloud; everyone was still and quiet, listening intently.
To our beloved grandson,
It is our most profound regret that we will not be alive to know you. We feel so much that we already do.
You will not be aware that your Grandmother was a very gifted Seer and Prophetess; it is a vein of magic that we have seen greatly diminished in our lifetimes.
For many years, through your Grandmother’s gifts, we have pieced together a most troublesome future. We have foreseen the coming to power of a terrible dark force, and we have seen the way in which our family will be irrevocably affected by this rising evil.
If we are correct, our son and his bride will fall at the hand of this terrible Wizard in an effort to protect you. And you yourself will be branded by this Wizard in an act that will nearly destroy him.
We have seen that this evil will return and its life will be intertwined with your own, but you possess the gifts necessary for this evil’s final defeat. And though we cannot be with you, we have tried very hard to prepare for your future beyond this time of trial, which we are confident is yet to be.
As a consequence of our fore knowledge we have made the decision to place our lives and possessions under a unique protection. We have saved out enough resources to provide ourselves and the son we know we shall soon conceive with an adequate lifestyle. The rest, our wealth, our properties, and Potter Manor, have all been hidden under a particularly powerful Fidelius charm, along with many other enchantments powerful enough in fact that no one would ever give the Potters a second thought.
You may wonder now why even you yourself have had little curiosity about your family beyond your parents. This is all the effect of the charms that have protected your family name from consideration by the curious and particularly from the rising evil that has intensely pursued the well-to-do and ancient Wizarding families among which the Potters have long been prominent.
Thus, we have protected everything for your benefit, in the hopes that our resources will not be diminished over time, or by attack, and will be available to you as your true inheritance and birthright as the sole remaining son of the House of Potter.
In this lock-box you will find papers documenting your wealth and possessions, as well as the means to travel to Potter Manor, where you should find resources that we hope will be of great help to you.
The very act of unlocking this box will have broken certain enchantments protecting the Manor and awakening its long sleeping caretaker.
Know that your Grandmother and I have done all of this out of love for you… to give you the greatest advantage possible in facing what you must face. Know also that the Potters have always been protectors, and we have great faith that you have already honored our family in so many ways.
You will be expected at the Manor.
With deep and abiding love,
Deyton and Philomena Potter.
Harry set the letter down. The others were all looking at him with questioning expressions. Harry turned to the Dumbledore card. “Did you know my grandparents, Professor?” Harry asked.
“My only memories of your grandparents are of meeting them a few times while your father was at Hogwarts,” Dumbledore said gently. “If I ever knew more about them, knowledge that might have been unlocked by the learning of these enchantments, I am afraid such knowledge was lost by my death, and can no longer be retrieved.”
“So, what’s this ‘means’ to get to Potter Manor?” Ron said suddenly. “If you’ve got a house bigger than Grimmauld Place, I’d sure like to see it.”
“I don’t know,” Harry said as he leaned forward and began pulling scrolls from the top of the box and dropping them haphazardly across the rug. “Must be something more in here besides old scrolls.”
Hermione picked up one of the scrolls and slowly unrolled it.
“Here’s something,” Harry said excitedly as he pulled a small wooden case up from the bottom of the lock-box. It was perhaps five inches square, and just as deep, making it an almost perfect cube, smooth on all sides and of a darkly stained and polished hardwood. Harry pulled at the top and it came off quite easily. Inside, encased in a cutout, lined with red velvet, was a rather plain looking brass door-knob. He held out the opened box, showing it to the others. “Suppose it’s a portkey?” he asked.
“Harry…” Hermione said in a voice they all recognized to mean she had just discovered something… something important. She had one of the scrolls completely unrolled in front of her. “Harry… according to this document you own… well, you own nearly all of the land that is Diagon Alley!”
“What?” Ron blurted out. “How can that be?”
“Well, it says here that management of all the properties is handled through a company named ‘Lot and Glebe, Asset Management LTD,’” Hermione added in response.
“The twins deal with a man named Alphineus Lot, to rent their store,” Ginny offered.
“Harry, that’s only one scroll, there are at least two dozen more here.” Hermione said with awe. “How wealthy do you suppose you really are?”
“I don’t know,” Harry responded, in a rather disappointed voice. “And I really don’t care right now… wealth is not so important to me. As exciting as all this is, it doesn’t make me forget that Voldemort is still out there… and that apparently, I’m the only one who can defeat him.”
Hermione nodded and rolled the scroll up quietly.
“Do you want to check out that door-knob then?” Ron asked. “At least find out what this Potter Manor is all about?”
“Do you think it would be okay?” Harry replied. “Wouldn’t your Mum be awfully worried if we all just disappeared suddenly?”
“She would indeed,” the Dumbledore card interjected. “I think it would be wise to at least tell Mr. and Mrs. Weasley before you venture off. There may not be any particular safety concerns, but they still feel responsible for all of you while you are at The Burrow.”
“Yes, sir,” Ginny said with a sigh. “You’re right.”
“And as for that door-knob being a portkey,” Dumbledore continued, “I suspect it is a much more powerful magical portal than a portkey.”
Harry looked down at the box and tipped the knob into his other hand. It was warm to the touch and smooth in his palm, but there was no sudden transportation as there would have been with a portkey. He handed the knob to Ginny who looked at it with wide eyes.
Hermione was gathering the scrolls and setting them back in the lock box.
Harry looked up and noticed that the sun was setting; brilliant gold and ruby light was washing through the leaves all around him. He looked down at the case, still in his hand, and saw a small slip of parchment in the depression where the knob had rested. He fished it out and turned it over to read it.
Home is the heart of each man’s soul
The place where his peace is found
To return to his home is every man’s goal
No matter for where he’s been bound.
Twice right and thrice left is the turn of the wrist
If it is home to the Manor you seek
Once again for good measure to open the twist
And be sure of the place that you speak.
Harry read the simple lines a second time then passed it around, finally reading it out loud to the Dumbledore card. Once he had spoken the words, to his great surprise, the paper ignited in a flash of flame and was gone.
“That, I am quite certain was your combination,” Dumbledore said softly, “I am sure that between us all we have managed to memorize it.”
To be sure, they all recited the lines quickly in unison.
“So you know what this door-knob is, and how to use it Professor?” Harry asked.
“I suspect Harry, that that it is a Portis Omnis,” Dumbledore said. “Or what is commonly referred to as an Any-door-knob.”
“I’ve read about those,” Hermione said excitedly, leaning over to Ginny to get a closer look. “They used to be quite common, before the development of the floo network. Basically it is door-knob that can be used to open any doorway into any other doorway, wherever the turner chooses.”
“Yes, Miss Granger,” Dumbledore said approvingly. “Though it is not quite as simple as that; you can put that knob on any door, tell it where you want to go and it will open a corresponding door in that place - provided that there is an enchanted doorway to accept.” He paused. “And, as evidence by the poem, some doorways will be protected by a combination, so that even though they are appropriately enchanted, they still will not allow access to anyone.”
“So with this I can travel instantly to Potter Manor?” Harry asked.
“Yes, Harry, as long as you use the right combination.”
Ginny handed the knob back to Harry who held the warm brass object in both hands, as though he was offering it for everyone to see. He looked at it with intense curiosity and smiled.