Chapter Twelve The Most Noble and Honorable House of Potter
Ron’s bedroom was lit only by the beams of moonlight streaking through the upper pane of the solitary, broad window. Harry lay in bed tossing and turning. He had not been able to sleep. He listened to the steady rise and fall of Ron’s snoring in the bed across the room, but he knew that after so many years as roommates at Hogwarts, it wasn’t the snoring that was keeping him up. It was something else. It was, thinking… thinking about the Manor.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Once the sun had set, and they had said their “good evening” to Dumbledore and removed the card from its base, they had sat around talking a little about when they could try to investigate the Manor, and then they had fallen into a hushed discussion about the Horcruxes. Hermione, of course, had started pre-planning a research agenda, thinking what books she might be able to acquire to help her investigate the problem.
Soon however, the darkening sky, and twinkling lights in the branches of the oak tree had worked their spell and the two couples had fallen into a lazy cuddling and snogging session at opposite ends of the rug.
Mrs. Weasley proved to have some sort a sense about youthful romance and she was very quickly out in the garden calling them down from the tree and into the house for the night.
Harry had clasped shut the lock-box and levitated it right across the garden and into Ron’s bedroom window, but he had kept out the case with the brass knob. Now, he reached beneath the camp bed and retrieved the case. It was smooth and cool in his hand and he sat up in bed, fetching his glasses from the night table.
He opened the case and dumped the knob into his hand. It was warm to his touch, as it had been before. His mind raced at the idea of Potter Manor; he imagined it to be something like Hogwarts, with stone walls and broad corridors. But, then maybe not... As much as he loved Hogwarts, it was an old, often drafty, castle. When he thought of a house he pictured Privet Drive, but he knew he wouldn’t want to live in such a place ever again. He realized that what he was imagining kept shifting and he had no real idea of what might await him there.
Whatever it was – it was his home. Really his home – not Grimmauld Place, or Privet Drive, or The Burrow, or even Hogwarts, but Potter Manor, a place where his family had very likely lived for generations. Even if he hadn’t shown it, the idea of a place where he was truly meant to be had had a profound effect on him and he was extremely anxious to see it.
On impulse Harry threw the covers off, swung his feet to the floor and stood. Turning, he peered into the shadows toward Ron’s bed, thinking, together, they might enjoy a late night adventure, but then there was a particularly loud snore. Ron was obviously rolling in his sleep, and Harry thought he might enjoy this adventure on his own. It was, he thought, a little like visiting the Mirror of Erised during his first year at school; this was something that would have unique meaning, just for him.
Harry grabbed his old robe and threw it on over his T-shirt and pajama bottoms, then he collected his wand, and slowly opened the bedroom door. Quietly he crept down the dark hallway toward the stairs, and, freezing at each creak of the floorboards, slowly made his way to the sitting room. He crossed the room and stepped into the kitchen thinking that a glass of pumpkin juice would be a plausible excuse should anyone catch him up at this hour.
He sat at the kitchen table and drank his juice, listening to the quiet house, and looking intently at the various doors to the room. There was the one back to the sitting room, on a simple two-way spring hinge with no knob, the one to the garden with a heavy iron latch and handle… and then there was the pantry door, a simple four-panel door with a plain wooden knob. That was the door to use.
Harry crossed to the pantry door and opened it, checking that it swung easily, and quietly. He carefully twisted the inner and outer knobs until he was able to remove the knob from the kitchen side. He set the wooden knob on the counter and pulled the Portis Omnibus from his robe pocket, fitting it in the former’s place. A ribbon of soft, blue light emerged from the catch and stretched itself along the edge of the door in both directions. Harry pushed the door closed gently. It appeared as though the door were brightly lit from the opposite side.
Behind him there was a very soft gasp and Harry swung around, leveling his wand at the intruder.
“Going somewhere?” Ginny asked quietly “Without any of your friends?”
Harry lowered his wand. “I couldn’t sleep… I… well… I want to see the Manor, just for a minute. I didn’t want to wake anyone.”
Ginny smiled and shuffled up to Harry. “I understand, Harry, but would you mind very much taking me with you?” She wrapped her arms around his waist, inside his robe, and pulled herself close to him. “I couldn’t sleep either, and I heard you on the stairs. Only Ron and I know where to step to avoid the creaks.”
Harry chuckled as he hugged her close, enjoying the sheer feel of her satin pajama top, and breathing the scent of her hair. “Of course you can come with me, but we’d better be quick… And we don’t even know if this knob works yet.”
Ginny looked up at the blue glowing outline around the pantry door, so prominent in the dark kitchen. “Oh, I suspect it works,” she said playfully. “Do you remember the combination?”
“I think so.” Harry took her right hand in his left and entwined their fingers. He pocketed his wand and reached for the brass knob. He turned it a half turn to the right and it sprang back to center, just as a normal door knob. He turned it again to the right and then three times to the left. One last time he turned the knob to the right and as he did so he said “Potter Manor” and pulled gently on the door. The door swung open easily and the whole doorway seemed to be filled with a sheer fabric of soft blue threads of light.
Ginny gasped excitedly.
Harry pulled the knob free and pocketed it in his robe, drawing out his wand. “Ready?” he whispered.
“Ready,” Ginny confirmed, as she squeezed his hand reassuringly.
Harry stepped through the threads of light, Ginny a half step behind him, and they emerged into total darkness. The only significant changes that Harry detected were that the air was cooler, and he could now feel a soft plush rug beneath his bare feet, where before there had been the cool stone floor of The Burrow kitchen.
There was a soft thud as the door closed behind them.
Ginny clung to Harry as he whispered “Lumos” and lit the tip of his wand.
They were standing in a wide hall, longer than they could see in the wand light. The walls and floor were a light color and a thick carpet runner stretched beneath them. Harry quickly turned back to the door that had closed behind them and opening it discovered a large cloak closet.
Above they discovered a vaulted ceiling covered in an elaborate fresco, depicting a wizard standing at a castle window. The wizard had a long, white, braided and bound beard, which nearly reached the floor. His hair too was white and long, flowing down the man’s back from beneath a traditional pointed hat. The depicted wizard carried a gnarled staff and wore a thick purple and gold robe.
“That’s Merlin,” Ginny said in a whisper that sounded of awe and respect. As she spoke, the painted figure turned its head slightly and gave a small nod, but made no sound.
There was a sound of footsteps behind them and a soft panting breath, and Harry spun around abruptly, shining his wand light on the hallway.
“Master?” The word sounded odd to Harry, spoken as a question in a voice very much like Dobby’s, only a bit lower. “Young Master Potter?” The voice broke a little, a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
Harry found the source with his wand light. It was indeed a house-elf, a rather tall, skinny elf compared to the others he had seen. Or, perhaps it was only the fact that the elf was fully dressed that made it appear taller.
This elf, somewhat like Kreacher, had no hair on its head apart from a number of rather thick grey hairs protruding from its high, pointed ears. Its eyes were large, bulbous and a rather pale, aqua-green and its narrow nose hooked downward. Harry had the distinct impression that this was a very aged elf, as old, if not older, than Kreacher.
“Harry,” Harry said. “I’m Harry Potter.”
“Master Harry,” the elf squeaked joyfully, and stepped forward. The elf was wearing a perfectly tailored suit of clothes that looked like it had come from the eighteenth century, complete with leather shoes with polished buckles, white stockings, knee length trousers and a dark blue velvet coat with narrow tails.
“Jarphred, at your service, sir,” the elf said as he made a small dignified bow. “But please, Jarvy, if you prefer. You were not expected at so late an hour, sir, and not with company.” Jarphred looked Ginny up and down apparently quite approvingly, as he was smiling broadly.
“Wait a moment… You are the house-elf of this place?” Harry asked. The elf nodded confusedly. “But hasn’t this house been sealed, like the lock box?”
“Yes sir, Jarphred himself was asleep under an enchantment.” Jarvy bowed again. “Jarvy begged for the honor, awaking only hours ago; my apologies that there has not been time to properly clean the Manor.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it, Jarvy,” Harry responded.
“Master is too kind.” Jarvy snapped his fingers and lights flickered into being all along the hall. These were not the flickering torches of Hogwarts, but neat, gas-light sconces placed at even intervals along the hall and the light was much more bright and consistent.
“You served my grandfather, Jarvy?”
“Every day of his life,” the stout elf said proudly.
Jarvy motioned toward the open hall. “This way, sir and madam; you will wish to see more of the manor?” Jarvy turned and began to walk slowly down the hall.
They emerged from the hall into a great cavernous foyer. Opposite them across the foyer was another short hallway much like the one they had stepped from, ending in a set of double doors. To their right were two hallways flanking a broad marble staircase that went up to a second level and, from the look of it, split into two and continued up for at least another two stories. A crystal chandelier hung down into the space to light the foyer.
Across the space, on the wall between the entry and hallway, above a beautiful Victorian side-board was a large life-size painting of a very handsome couple, dressed in formal dress robes. At first Harry thought the man could be an older version of his father, but then he realized it must be his grandfather.
“These, Harry,” Jarvy said, gesturing up at the portrait, “are your grandparents, Deyton and Philomena Potter.” The couple in the portrait, upon hearing their names, turned from their rather formal pose and bent down as though to get a closer look. The woman burst into happy tears. The man took her hand and patted it gently.
“Its okay, Mena, we knew this day would come. It is only our grandson.” The elderly man spoke softly and reassuringly to the woman. Then he turned and looked questioningly at Harry.
“Harry, sir, my name is Harry James Potter,” Harry spoke slowly, and stood straight. His grandmother sobbed happily in response to his name. Ginny was standing a bit behind him, nervously biting at her thumbnails, her hands clasped against her chin.
Harry realized suddenly that he was standing there in his pajamas, his robe hanging open, and Ginny, behind him, was in her satin, sleeveless, pajama top and pants, without a robe at all. He quickly pulled off his robe. “I am sorry to come so late,” he said apologetically. “I didn’t plan it; my curiosity got the better of me.” He moved to put his robe around Ginny and gently pulled her forward. “Grandfather, Grandmother, this is my friend… my girlfriend, Ginevra Weasley.”
Philomena clutched at her husband’s arm anxiously and smiled. “Ginny? Weasley?” she asked as though she knew the names already.
“Yes, ma’am,” Ginny said as she gave an awkward curtsey. “It’s such a pleasure to meet you.”
Philomena smiled so wide at Ginny that Harry was sure she would have grabbed her up into a huge hug if she had been able to get out of the painting.
Deyton produced a painted handkerchief from his robe pocket and handed it to Philomena. “You have to forgive your grandmother, Harry. We’ve been waiting such a long time for you to arrive. She is just quite overjoyed.” The elder Potter smiled down at Harry and Ginny. Harry suddenly felt a sort of comfort that he had never known in his entire life, and realized now, that he did not know how much he had craved. It was the real love of family that exuded from this portrait like splashes of bright sunlight through a stained glass window. He knew he was grinning at his grandparents like a fool. He didn’t care.
“Jarvy,” Deyton said kindly. “Would you show Harry and Ginevra to the drawing room and set them in front of a fire? They’ll catch a chill in the hall.”
“Yes, sir,” Jarvy squeaked.
“But I want to talk more,” Harry protested.
“We want to talk too, darling,” Philomena said, still wiping her swollen eyes. “Your Grandfather and I each have another portrait in the drawing room.”
“Oh.” Harry continued to grin.
To get to the drawing room, Jarvy led them through the double doors into a huge lounge where there were several clustered seating areas, then into another long hall filled with dozens of portraits. Many of the portraits protested as the lights flickered to life, but they quieted to awed murmurs as Harry and Ginny passed. Harry slowed almost to a stop, studying the images as thoroughly as they seemed to be studying him. But Jarvy spurred him on, “Come, young Master, now is not the time for meeting the paintings.” Ginny squeezed Harry’s hand and gently tugged him forward.
At the end of the hall they emerged into another large room. This room seemed to be dominated by a huge fireplace, where a roaring fire burst into crackling life at Jarvy’s command. The walls were wood panel, floor to ceiling, and thick wine-colored curtains hung along the entire expanse of one wall.
As promised, on each side of the fireplace was a large portrait; these however were simple images of empty wing-back chairs that looked like they had been painted in the room. As Harry watched, his Grandparents came into the frames, Deyton on the right and Philomena on the left. Each sat in their chair completing the portraits.
Harry fell into an easy conversation with his grandparents, at first learning all about his father’s life, before and during his time at Hogwarts. He also told them about growing up with the Dursley’s, before his own Hogwarts years. Ginny listened intently as Harry recounted more details of his life than even Ron and Hermione knew – Harry had always been reserved about his times away from school and friends.
Jarvy had left them in front of the roaring fire on a plush, comfortable sofa. Later, he returned with a procession of floating trays. He poured out tea for them with milk and sugar, and offered them an array of treats that easily rivaled the baking case at Mrs. Scheffelgroober’s, in Diagon Alley.
As the hours passed, Harry learned that there had been seven generations of Potters in the time since the construction of Hogwarts School and that from that time, there had only ever been a single child born in each generation - always a dark-haired son.
After listening for a couple of hours, Ginny succumbed to sleep, cuddling up close to Harry on the soft couch beneath his comforting arm. Despite his interest and excitement, Harry too eventually could not hold sleep away and drifted into a contented slumber, listening all the while to the soft voices of his grandparents’ portraits.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
“Wake up, Ron!” Hermione shook him roughly, her voice invading his lingering dream of her. “Do you know where Harry is?”
Ron lifted his head and tried to focus his blurry eyes on the camp bed across the room. “Isn’t he in his bed?” he said with a stifling yawn.
“No Ron, he’s not… And Ginny is missing too!” Hermione sounded frightened.
Ron sat up quickly, knuckling his eyes hard as if he could press away sleep. “Are you sure they aren’t already up, and down to breakfast?” he asked through yet another yawn.
“I’ve been down to breakfast already and Ginny wasn’t there.” She exhaled heavily, exasperated. “I said I would come up and wake you and Harry, but Harry isn’t here.” There was a growing look of panic on Hermione’s face.
“Well, don’t jump to conclusions, Hermione,” Ron said doubtfully, “They’ve just got off somewhere together is all.”
“But, where, Ron - and what are we going to tell your parents? They’ll be furious,”
Ron, looking over at Harry’s bed, suddenly noticed the small polished Portis Omnibus box lying open on the bed, mostly obscured by the tossed covers. He got up from his bed quickly and crossed to Harry’s, where he pulled away the covers retrieving the empty box and cover. He held it out for Hermione to see. “The Manor… They’ve gone to the Manor.”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “Oh dear… Why would they go without us? And why haven’t they returned? And still, what are we going to tell your parents?”
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Ron and Hermione entered the kitchen with looks of apprehension on their faces. They went directly to the table and sat down. Mr. Weasley was buried behind a copy of the Daily Prophet, his free hand searching aimlessly for the cup of coffee just inches from his finger tips. “Morning, children,” he said automatically. Bill smiled at them both and nodded, as he reached for a platter of bacon. Fleur was next to him, fiddling with the edge of the tablecloth and picking at her breakfast with a fork.
Ron pulled a plate from a stack and began filling it with food from large serving dishes laid out across the table.
Mrs. Weasley looked over at them from the kitchen stove, smiling. She looked expectantly at the sitting room door and spoke, “What’s keeping Harry and Ginny? Aren’t they right behind you, dears?”
Ron conveniently shoveled a fork full of food into his mouth just at that moment and shrugged in response to Hermione’s elbow and pleading face. With Mrs. Weasley’s questioning gaze upon her, Hermione stammered, “Um… well… you see… Harry and Ginny aren’t coming to breakfast…” Mr. Weasley lowered his newspaper suddenly and fixed an expectant look upon the already uncomfortable Hermione. “… Because… you see… they… they aren’t here.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous Hermione, of course they’re here,” Mrs. Weasley said dismissively. “Harry, Ginny!” she called suddenly at the top of her voice, looking up at the ceiling. “Come down to breakfast!”
“No, Mum, Hermione’s right,” Ron said, finding his voice after a thick swallow. “We think they’ve gone to Harry’s house.”
“Harry’s house?” Mr. Weasley said, becoming increasingly distressed. “Grimmauld Place? Why and how would they get there?”
“No, Dad, not Grimmauld Place, Harry’s house… Potter Manor.”
“Potter Manor?” said Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Bill and Fleur, nearly in unison.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
A sense of panic was now pervading the kitchen as Ron and Hermione were questioned repeatedly. Mr. Weasley had insisted on contacting Grimmauld Place, which had brought Moody, Lupin, and Tonks hurriedly to The Burrow. For perhaps the third time Ron and Hermione were explaining about opening the lock box the night before and finding the Portis Omnibus. But, having an idea of where Harry and Ginny had gone didn’t seem to calm any of the others particularly.
Moody kept going on about foolishness and irresponsibility; Mr. Weasley kept agreeing, but looked a bit more worried than upset. Lupin was examining the small polished box closely, and Tonks kept coming up with more questions to ask of Ron and Hermione, rooting out every small detail she could think of. But they simply didn’t know when Harry and Ginny had gone.
Mrs. Weasley, Fleur and Bill, after searching Ron and Ginny’s rooms, concluded that the only things missing were Harry, Ginny, and the night clothes they were wearing, which seemed to particularly agitate Mr. Weasley.
The whole scene in the kitchen was rapidly deteriorating into a heated argument about what exactly was to be done.
A small voice cleared its throat near the Pantry. “Eh hem.” And though the sound was not particularly intrusive it none-the-less captured everyone’s attention immediately.
The whole group, suddenly silent, turned to see the very peculiar sight of a clothed House-Elf standing just inside The Burrow kitchen, before the pantry door, which was filled with a bright lattice of blue light.
The elf casually ran a finger along the under edge of the kitchen counter and looked disdainfully at the dust left on his finger tip. Then, realizing that he had everyone’s attention, he smiled broadly. “Master Harry bids you all join him for a late breakfast,” Jarvy announced.
“Master Harry?” Ron repeated breaking into a low chuckle.
Hermione, elbowed Ron in to silence, and standing, gave voice to everyone’s question. “And… You are?”
“Jarphred, Chief Manor-Elf of the House of Potter. You may call me Jarvy.” The elf bowed low to the surprised company. Jarvy then turned a crisp half turn and gestured to the pantry doorway, bidding them silently to enter.
Moody found his voice. “Now, I’m not so sure we should be trusting some strange House-Elf… constant vigil--”
Tonks cut him off mid proclamation, “Oh, don’t be ridiculous Alastor, some things are exactly what they seem.” She was up from the table, pulling Remus by the hand, and, smiling at the elf, stepped into the web of light.
Ron smiled at Hermione and taking her hand in his, followed Tonks and Lupin through the door.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The small group of awed witches and wizards stood huddled in a group in the broad hall, with the fresco of Merlin smiling down upon them.
Jarvy was the last through the door and he shut it silently behind him, removing the polished brass knob and replacing it with a polished ivory one with a snap of his fingers. He turned to the group and said, “If you would all please follow,” before proceeding down the hall briskly.
Jarvy lead them down the hall and into the entry where the large portrait of Deyton and Philomena Potter stood. He had to hurry them a few times as they were walking a bit slowly, talking in whispers, and pointing at the frescos above and the various decorative appointments of the hall.
He led them to the portrait and introduced them. “Master Harry’s grandparents, Deyton and Philomena Potter, welcome you to Potter Manor.” There were polite introductions all around and each guest was formally greeted by the two beaming figures in the portrait, Remus, receiving special attention, as the only one of them to have met the elder Potters while they were alive.
“Now, if you will follow me, I will take you directly to Master Harry,” Jarvy said.
As the group followed the elf away, Philomena addressed Molly Weasley from the portrait. “Molly?” Mrs. Weasley turned; the others didn’t seem to notice and were proceeding away. “I do hope I may call you Molly?”
“Of course, Mrs. Potter,” Molly responded.
“Oh, please call me Philomena… I wonder if I might have a word with you… without the others?”
“Yes, yes of course Philomena,” Molly said a bit curiously.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
The bright sunlight had woken Ginny slowly from a contented, comfortable sleep. She reached out, hoping to find herself still leaning against Harry, but found a deep, soft mattress and thick comforter as far as she could reach on either side. She sat up and opened her eyes.
The room was bright, the high walls covered in cream-colored silken wallpaper. The lush furnishings were white with gold trim, the curtains and hangings were of various shades of wheat and yellow. She was in a huge four-poster bed and heard water running somewhere nearby. She didn’t know if the sound was new or she just hadn’t registered it before then.
Crawling from the bed she followed the sound, marveling at the lovely room and the thickness of the soft carpet beneath her feet. She came through a large dressing room with deep alcoves lining one wall, opposite a beautiful Victorian dressing table. She found a water closet just beyond in a short hallway and finally located the source of the running water as she stepped into an octagonal room with a deep sunken bath set in its center.
She didn’t hesitate to remove her pajamas and slip into the warm water. When she emerged refreshed and clean from the scented, bubbling, water she found a warm towel on a stand and wrapped herself in it.
Back in the dressing room she sat at the dressing table and looked at herself in the mirror. To her mild surprise a brush and comb leapt from the table and on their own began to brush her hair. A sudden rush of warmth dried it and soon various ribbons and jeweled clasps had managed to appear from drawers and joined together to do her hair up in a beautiful lattice of binding silver/white ribbon, and flowing red ringlets. She smiled at herself.
She got up and turned to discover a beautiful pale blue silk and velvet dress floating out of one of the alcoves; behind it a set of silver/blue, laced over-robes bobbed on a second hanger. A drawer of silks opened in a nearby wardrobe and lace slippers stepped over by themselves. Ginny drew her hand across the soft fabrics gleefully.
As she dressed she wondered if Harry was experiencing the same sort of morning.
*** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
Harry sat quietly on the pristine patio, just outside the drawing room in which, only the night before, he had learned so much about his family and met, through their portraits, the grandparents he had never even dreamed of having.
Jarvy had served him a breakfast of toast and a soft-boiled egg in a silver egg cup. He hadn’t touched it. He felt odd in his, he thought, overly formal slacks and pressed shirt, with dress robes. He had declined the vest, starched collar and bow-tie when they had bobbed toward him from the closet in the dressing room, off the elaborate bedchamber he had awoken in. He had to admit, though, that it was much better than facing the Weasleys still wearing his pajamas from the night before.
He had been worrying about the reaction Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would have to the fact that he and Ginny had been away and alone all night, from the moment he had roused that morning. And, he was overwhelmed by the discovery of his family history and the elaborate Potter Manor. His mind was a blur of questions and emotion.
He tried to sort his mind and wished that he had the Dumbledore card at hand to solicit its opinion. With a deep sigh a line from his grandparents’ letter came to him. 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.
And there it was… the undeniable truth that, despite all of this discovery, despite the wonder of this place, despite the revelation that he was of a truly noble wizarding family… his fate was irrevocably tied to the life of the most feared and horrible wizard ever known. His destiny was wrapped up with Lord Voldemort and he just couldn’t allow himself the luxury of looking beyond that.
He crossed to the stone patio railing and looked out across a swan-filled reflecting pool to a great clearing surrounded by dense forest. There was movement there, and looking closer he could see a herd of deer grazing on the succulent grass shoots of the open meadow. Doe were feasting, ever aware of their surroundings, their heads popping up to look to and fro. Harry thought of Moody, “ever vigilant” in the fight against dark magic. There were many fawns prancing joyfully about and Harry was struck that this was the very sort of peace he was destined to sacrifice his life, if need be, to protect. He pictured in his mind the faces of all those he had come to love, Hermione, Ron, Lupin, the Weasleys, the members of the Order, Neville and Luna and other friends from Hogwarts… and of course Ginny.
Harry sighed again, momentarily unsure of himself. And then another movement far in the distance caught his eye. It was a huge stag, strutting majestically at the edge of the forest, strolling out to survey its charges in the meadow. It turned, and though Harry knew it to be impossible given the distance, he swore that the stag met his gaze. In an instant the stag shook its huge head and the whole herd leapt from the meadow to the cool cover of the forest. The stag remained, turning slowly, despite real or imagined danger, and strolled back into the shadows of the trees, disappearing entirely.
Harry knew then, that he was where he belonged, and that he would do whatever was required of him to protect his friends and his world from the twisted, greedy, ruthless desires of Tom Marvolo Riddle, the self proclaimed Dark Lord, Voldemort.
Ginny embraced him from behind pressing her head to his shoulder. He had not heard her come out onto the patio, but he was filled with joy at her presence. He turned and held her at arms length, taking in her beauty in the gorgeous robes.
“Good morning,” she said. Harry held her by one hand as she turned to show off her dress and robes, and he smiled wide.
“Not exactly my usual comfort wear, but it will do, don’t you think?” she said, playfully.
Harry looked at her hungrily. “Yeah… I guess its okay,” he teased.
Ginny smiled at him, blushing, and cuddled up close to his chest. “You are looking quite dapper yourself, ‘Master’ Potter,” she grinned.
Harry reached up and raised her chin gently with his hand; his eyes met hers and everything was forgotten as he leaned forward and gently pressed his lips to hers. Her arms slid up beneath his to his back and she deepened the embrace and the kiss.
When they broke apart a minute later, “Good morning, Ginny,” was all Harry could think to say.
Ginny blushed and giggled as she turned to the finely set patio table, her eyes fixed on a porcelain coffee service, and Harry’s untouched egg and toast. “Aren’t you hungry?” she asked.
“I wasn’t,” Harry replied, as Ginny helped herself to his toast and poured out a cup of coffee. “I’ll eat when your parents arrive. Jarvy has gone to bring them.”
Ginny stopped still, a sudden look of panic coming upon her. She dropped the toast and swallowed hard. “Oh Merlin… My parents! They’re not going to be happy, Harry.”
Harry couldn’t help grinning at her, dressed beautifully in her formal dress, one foot up in the chair under her, a bit of jam at the corner of her mouth and the fearful look on her face at the mention of her parents’ arrival. He crossed to her, picked up a napkin from the table and dabbed the jam from her mouth. “It will be fine,” he said. “Eat my breakfast.”
Ginny smiled again, the fear disappearing, and reached to finish the toast.
Just then there was a clamor of voices inside the drawing room.
Hermione appeared at the doorway followed closely by Ron. “Harry, it’s magnificent,” she said.
“Better than magnificent, mate, it’s bloody brilliant,” Ron added enthusiastically.
Next to appear was Tonks, dragging a thoroughly delighted-looking Lupin by the hand, followed by an awed-looking Fleur, leading a smiling Bill. Tonks caught her toe on the door jam, and would have fallen had it not been for Lupin’s hand in hers. “Wotcher, Harry,” came her familiar greeting, “quite the digs you’ve been hiding.”
“Oh, I haven’t been hiding… I just discovered….” Harry stammered.
“She’s just teasing, Harry,” Bill interrupted. “We know very well that you didn’t know about any of this.” Fleur did a turn in place, taking in the bright patio. “But you might have given us some warning before you ventured off on your own. And, I expect dad is none to happy that you brought Ginny with you.”
Lupin glanced at Ginny and gave her a fatherly, yet understanding, look.
“I know… I’m sorry about that. None of it was planned.” Harry looked at his feet awkwardly.
Ginny, set her coffee cup down. “I didn’t give him a choice,” she said, a little defensively.
“Where are Mr. and Mrs. Weasley?” Harry asked, a hint of determination rising in his voice.
“They’re here,” Tonks said, smiling, still looking about a bit in awe. “So’s
Jarvy stepped through the patio door at that moment. “Your guests have arrived, Master Harry. Shall Jarvy serve breakfast here on the patio?”
Harry smiled at the elf. “Yes please, Jarvy.”
Ron’s face brightened at the prospect of food.
With a snap of Jarvy’s fingers the patio table cleared itself and filled with a selection of steaming silver serving trays making the whole table a spectacular buffet.
Harry smiled. “Well, I hope at least you’re all hungry?”
Ron crossed to get a plate and started filling it.
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Ron, you just ate at The Burrow.”
“And?” Ron said, as he popped a sausage in his mouth with a delighted expression.
As everyone started moving toward the table, Harry stepped toward the patio door. “Thank you, Jarvy,” he said as he passed the excited-looking elf.
In the sitting room, Moody and Arthur Weasley were standing near a cluster of chairs, talking in rather hushed tones. Harry crossed toward them. Neither man looked particularly happy.
Moody’s magical eye found Harry first. He turned as Harry approached. “Totally irresponsible, Potter, wandering to an unknown place on your own right now.” His gravelly voice sounded disappointed.
“Yes.” Harry conceded the point. “But I am certain sir, this place is completely safe.”
“We shall have to make certain of that,” Moody croaked back.
“Alastor, could I have a word with Harry?” Arthur spoke, “Alone.” Mr. Weasley’s tone was grave and Harry could feel the disappointment in his words and in his stance.
Moody looked from Arthur to Harry. “Very well,” he said, “I’ll join the others on the patio.”
“I’m very sorry sir,” Harry said as he stepped up to Mr. Weasley, his expression apologetic, “It all just happened… and I didn’t intent to spend the night… and…”
Arthur Weasley raised his hand to silence Harry. “Harry,” he paused, exhaling heavily, “I thought I made clear my concerns about your seeing my daughter, and now first thing you wander away with her to an unknown place – and you spend the night away, and alone.” His eyes were intent on Harry’s and his voice was growing louder, a finger raised menacingly.
“Arthur!” Molly Weasley’s voice carried across the room from the doorway where she was stepping into the room. “You will not be upset with Harry. I’ve just had a nice talk with Mrs. Potter and she explained that the kids simply fell asleep. Harry is not at fault and they were properly chaperoned the entire time.”
“But, Molly, still they should have told us they were leaving,” Arthur rebutted his wife.
“True, but under the circumstances I think a little understanding is in order,” Molly replied.
Harry stood there as Mr. and Mrs. Weasley exchanged looks that he knew were filled with some sort of understanding based on a long, loving relationship.
“Harry, dear, you go on and join the others and don’t you worry about last night.” Mrs. Weasley smiled at him. “I would like a quick word with my husband.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Harry responded confusedly and turned away to return to the patio, feeling a bit as though he had been saved, but not really understanding why.
Out on the patio, the others had filled their plates and were happily eating between comments about their surroundings. Ron and Hermione were sitting with Ginny in happy conversation. Tonks, Lupin, Bill and Fleur were together at the opposite end of the table, and Moody was in a chair talking intently with Jarphred.
Ginny got up and crossed to Harry hurriedly, slipping her hand in his, looking concerned. “Was dad hard on you?”
“No actually… he wasn’t,” Harry responded, “Your mother stopped him.”
“Mom?” Ginny now looked confused. “Well, I’ll tell them I made you bring me.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary.” Harry squeezed her hand in his.
“So, what are we going to do about this place?” Moody’s voice broke the moment.
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked.
“I mean, from what this elf tells me this whole place has been hidden from the world since nineteen twenty. But, I still think this could all be a trick of the Dark Lord.”
“Nonsense,” Lupin interjected, “Voldemort has tried some elaborate schemes, but this is too much to set up. He hasn’t had the time.”
“I’m certain this is all exactly what it appears to be,” Harry responded.
“Of course you are, Harry, which would be exactly the point.” Moody said dismissively. “If this place is hidden from the Wizarding and the Muggle worlds by, what would have to be the most complex and powerful Fidelius charm in all of history, it would have to be held in place by a secret keeper… So, just who is the secret keeper?” The whole group was taken back by the question and thrust into silence – including Mr. and Mrs. Weasley who had appeared in the doorway.
“I am,” Jarphred stated, rather quietly.
Moody turned on the little elf, who stepped back reflexively. “Impossible!” Moody stepped forward menacingly. “An elf can’t be a secret keeper. A secret keeper has to have a free will, and an elf’s will is bound to its Master’s.”
Jarphred stepped back further, clearly afraid of the larger man and looking suddenly a bit ashamed. “Moody!” Harry’s voice was strong and clear. “Leave Jarvy alone, he‘s not part of some plot.”
Moody spun around to face Harry, his scarred face a study in angry concern. “How can you be so sure?” he said gruffly.
“I don’t know – I just am, and you’ll have to take my word for it!” Harry retorted, his voice rising in response.
Lupin was up from his spot at the table his hand on Moody’s shoulder pulling the older man back. “As there seems to be no immediate threat to any of us here, perhaps we should give Jarphred an opportunity to explain himself.”
All eyes were riveted on the little elf, as he gulped nervously. “Master Harry, is the Master of this house, but he is not my Master. Jarvy is a free elf.” Jarvy gestured to his clothes. “Jarvy was made free by Deyton Potter, in order to become the secret keeper. No will commands him but his own.” Jarvy looked thoroughly ashamed at having to explain himself. He rushed forward to Harry and fell to his knees. “Please do not ask Jarvy to leave your service sir, Jarvy is sorry to dishonor you with his freedom, Jarvy is sworn to serve your family of his own free will. Jarvy will never betray you!” Great tears were welling in the elf’s large eyes as he looked to Harry pleadingly.
Harry glanced around, his eyes falling finally on Hermione, the one person in the room beside himself with no lifetime indoctrination toward the servitude of House-elves. He did not need to say anything. She was up from her seat quickly and coming to his aid.
Hermione knelt next to Harry taking Jarvy by the shoulders and pulling him to his feet. Her voice was gentle, full of kindness. “Jarvy, there is no dishonor in what you have done… in fact it honors us all that you care enough to serve from your heart,” Hermione paused. She looked up at Harry, her concerned expression becoming a smile. “Harry would never make you leave.
Jarphred looked back to Harry his eyes wide. “No, Jarvy, I will never make you leave,” Harry assured him.
“That’s all well and good, Harry,” Moody interrupted again, “But we still haven’t determined the security of this place.”
Harry paused, looking from Jarphred around the patio, his eyes coming to rest finally on Moody who still looked as though Death Eaters might appear at any moment. “I‘m convinced that the Manor is nothing more that what it appears to be. My inheritance, my house, and I’m staying.”
“No, you’re not,” Moody growled. “Not until I’m convinced that it’s safe.”
“Talk to my Grandfather’s portrait, I’m sure that he can provide all the answers to all your questions,” Harry snarled back, his voice tense with rising anger.
“How about a compromise,” Lupin suggested, stepping into the space between them. Everyone looked at him, questioningly. “Harry, you’re not of age yet, not until your birthday.” Harry began to protest, but Lupin gestured for him to wait. “So, until your birthday, or until Moody is satisfied, you may explore this house during the day, accompanied of course by an adult wizard - someone of us here, I suppose - and you will spend your nights at The Burrow.”
Harry was silent, his temper urging him to protest. But the slight pressure of Ginny’s hand in his made him think the situation through. “Okay,” he said finally.
Lupin turned to Moody. “Well?” he said rather insistently.