Chapter 1 : Harry and the vault
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It was hot.
My shirt stuck to my back, restricting the extend of my movement and yet, there was nothing I could do about it or else that huge boulder would fall down and crush us into pulp. Literally.
Not one month had gone by since Hogwarts was the scene of that horrifying and destructive battle and already, the reconstructive plans had been laid down. It wasn’t noon yet, on the first day of real reconstruction and I felt drained.
Next to me, I could hear Ron cursing under his breath; apparently he was having just as much difficulty holding his concentration as I was. We were working on Ravenclaw Tower, and it was going to take forever to fix. There were gaping holes in the structure and the only reason it hadn’t collapsed yet was because of the magic holding it straight. Fixing it therefore required working around the enchantments or else, if we broke them, the tower would crumple and the work load would only get worse.
“You ok there, Harry?” a voice asked, coming up from behind Ron and I.
“Hun hun,” I breathed as I finally managed to place the boulder on the right spot without breaking it.
“You look dead on your feet,” Neville smiled when I turned around to greet him. “Come guys, lunch is ready in the Great Hall.”
“About time,” Ron mumbled grumpily. “Broke that last rock; dropped it just a bit too hard on the wall so those last 20 minutes of work were for nothing, I’ll have to do it over again after lunch.”
“Bummer,” I shook my head, understandingly. “It’s going to be even worse the afternoon; with the sun up and burning.”
“Did you guys learn nothing over your six years here?” Hermione said as she joined our march to the Great Hall. “Ever heard of a cooling charm?”
“We can use a cooling charm on ourselves?” Neville asked her curiously.
“Of course we can,” she rolled her eyes dramatically, making us laugh.
“What would we do without you?” Ron asked, kissing Hermione’s hair.
“Exactly what you are doing now I expect; look like wet dogs and smell like that as well,” she pinched her nose in disgust.
“How’s work on the wards going?” I asked her as we sat down at the Gryffindor table where Dean, Ginny, Demelza and Parvati were already sitting.
“It’s going quite slowly I must say. The spells are very complex and some of them come from a different kind of magic that isn’t used anymore. We’re considering creating new ones instead; I think it would be easier than to try and cast those enchantments without knowing what might happen if we fail.”
“Right,” Ginny piped up, joining our conversation and flashing me a cheeky grin, “who’d be stupid enough to try a spell without knowing what it does?”
“You say stupid, I say adventurous,” I shrugged playfully, knowing that she was absolutely right and acknowledging that I have definitely learned my lesson about that.
We ate in silence for a while, enjoying the moment of peace and relaxation before we had to get back to work. Slowly small conversation picked up around me. Ron and Hermione were bickering about something or other; Ginny, Dean and Demelza were discussing the idea of creating a fantasy Quidditch Pool for the coming season and Pavarti looked lost in her thoughts. Neville, who sat right in front of me, seemed to be pondering a difficult question. He finally appeared to have reached a decision and leant forward to talk to me.
“Say Harry, you never told me if you found your present,” he asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.
“What present?” I asked, slightly confused by his question.
“Your coming of age present, in your parents’ vault?” Neville said in a questioning tone when he noticed I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Err, sorry Nev but you lost me. How would you know that anyway?”
“Well, you and I have a similar history with our parents and considering I received full access to the Longbottom vault when I came of age, I expect the same goes for you with the Potter vault, right?”
“I guess,” I frowned; no one had told me that though. It’s not like I had much time to go after I turned 17, I tried to reason with myself. Bill probably knew but he must have been too overwhelmed with his wedding to pass on the information, which was totally understandable. “Hang on, what makes you think I’ve got a present waiting for me there?”
“Well…,” Neville began looking around him. Doing the same, I noticed quite a few people seemed to be listening to our conversation, “say, if you’re done eating, want to go for a walk?”
“Lets,” I answered with a smile, pushing away my empty plate.
“You know, sometimes, when I stop and think about our lives, I consider I was luckier than you,” Neville said, “at least I’ve got Gran to tell me about my parents and the life we had before. There’s something I’ve known for ever but never told you. I hope you can understand but it was just, well, I didn’t want to add this to the total of things you’ve already lost.”
“Neville, you’re not really making sense mate,” I chuckled nervously.
“Right,” he blushed slightly, “see our parents, they knew each other.”
“I know, they were in the Order together and went through Auror training together did they not?”
“Yes, they did but, they knew each other more than that, especially our mums. They went to school together and were really good friends. Such good friends actually that they chose each other to be godmothers of their kids.”
“You mean, you mean my mum was your godmother? And yours was mine?” I asked, taken aback by this information. Once again, why did no one ever tell me that?
“They were, yeah. Sorry I didn’t tell you before, like I said, I didn’t know how to bring it up. How do you tell someone that your crazy mother is their godmother but it’s worthless information because you’ll never get to know her anyway?” Neville said trying to sound light but he couldn’t hide the longing and pain that this situation made him feel.
“Don’t worry, I completely understand where you’re coming from,” I said, thinking hopelessly that this was one more person who should have meant something to me. Then again, I told myself, Neville didn’t get that chance either considering this was his mum we were talking about and that his godmother was the woman I never got to call ‘mum’.
“Anyway, I had practically forgotten about it until Gran told me I was entitled to go inside my parents’ vault and that’s where I found a present from my godmother; from your mum,” he said in a small, uncomfortable voice.
“My mum left you something?” I asked, unable to hide the longing in my question. Neville didn’t seem to find it strange though and then I realize that if there is one person in the world who understood, it was him.
“She did,” he smiled happily, “a letter and a small gift for my coming of age. It was also implied that your godmother did the same for you so, that’s why I was curious. You know, if my mum had left you something too.”
“I have no idea,” I whispered quietly, looking at the ground so Neville didn’t see the tears that formed in my eyes. I think it was more the fact that my mum had left something to Neville that shook me; I wondered if she had also left something for me too, for her son, in the vault.
“Take your time Harry,” he said quietly, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder, “I know how hard it was for me to go there and have to go through my parents’ stuff. Wait until you’re ready to face it.”
“Thanks Nev, I will,” I said, looking up to him, “and I’ll let you know if I find something from your mum.”
“Thanks,” he smiled in relief. “When you’ve read your letter, if you wish to read the one I received, well, we’ll talk about it, ok?”
“Right,” I smiled. As much as I would have loved to read the letter my mum wrote to Neville, I could understand his desire to keep this one gift for himself. Who knows, I might even feel the same when I come across my own letter as well.
Since the war ended, I had been feeling a bit shaky and lost. I couldn’t explain it but little things were hurting me more than they had before and most of the time, I really couldn’t understand why I was being so emotional. I wasn’t an emotional guy! I was Harry, the tough guy that keeps his emotions bottled up and for himself, not the guy that has tears to his eyes thinking about his mother!
I felt ... weak. I was seen as a War Hero by the wizarding world but personally, I considered myself a useless shadow of a man. This is what I had become now that all the action and excitement was over; I was left only with the feeling of emptiness. I had lost so many people I loved or should have loved; it felt like the nothing could fill this void anymore.
Three days had gone by since I had this conversation with Neville and it was still very present in my mind. I could think of nothing else but couldn’t summon the courage to go to the vault for a couple, very different reasons. First, I had not gone back to Gringotts since our infiltration and I had a feeling I wouldn’t be welcome there for some reason. Second, well, I had to admit I was not really emotionally stable these days. I hadn’t dealt with the losses yet and everyday was a struggle to me; getting up and facing the world, walking through the destruction, seeing the broken families and friendships… Every once in a while, I found myself lost in thoughts before I felt a sudden need to scream or laugh or cry; I didn’t even know myself, didn’t even know where it was coming from.
Knowing how emotional going through my parents stuff would surely turn out, I really wasn’t convinced this would be the best thing for me. And yet, I couldn’t take it out of my head, this desire, this need to go find out what this was about. Neville has gotten me intrigued about this coming of age present. Maybe I could only go and look for that? Go back for the rest when I feel a bit stronger?
That night, I finally admitted that I was overwhelmed; it was a first for me to admit that but the achievement didn’t make me feel any better. As I walked in the Gryffindor common room, I found Ginny sitting alone by the fire. She appeared to be reading a book but I could see her eyes were glassy and still; I knew this expression all too well; I think it was permanently etched on my face by then.
“Hey, Gin?” I asked as gently as possible in order to not startle her. It didn’t work of course. Ginny dropped her book and instinctively reached for her wand before her eyes settled on me and she stopped her motion.
“Oh Harry, you scared me.”
“Sorry about that,” I said as I sat down next to her. “You looked quite far away.”
“Aren’t we all?” she sighed, shaking her head quietly.
“That we are,” I nodded. We were silent for a moment, once again caught up with our personal thoughts and that reminded me why she had been the one person I had sought. “Ginny, you remember how I said I wanted to take it slow, right?”
“How could I not?” she asked in a highly sarcastic tone although the sweetest, most understanding smile on her lips told me I could go on and not feel ashamed of my decision.
“I still think it was the right thing, I mean, I’m so overwhelmed with all these memories and emotions and thoughts that, I don’t feel like I could be a full time boyfriend right now. I’ve got things to deal with about and by myself before I can give you all the love and attention you deserve; does that make sense?”
“It does Harry, don’t worry, I’ve got stuff I need to work out on my own too although the selfish part of me refuses to take it slow.”
“The selfish part of me is feeling the same, trust me,” I smiled at her. “Here’s the thing though, with everything I’ve already got going around my head, Neville actually managed to add something else and, I’m just so confused Gin; I’ve got no idea what to do.”
“What’s the matter? Maybe I can help you.”
“A couple days ago, Nev asked me if I went to my parents’ vault the day I came of age.”
“Right, you’d have access to it now,” Ginny nodded knowingly while I could do nothing else but drop my jaw.
“You know that too? Why am I the only one who didn’t know that? Don’t answer that!” I hastily added before she answered, “It’s not the point anyway. The point is, when he went to his vault, he found a present from his godmother.” I paused for a second before another thing poped in my mind, “Oh, did you also know that my mum was his godmother?”
“No, I didn’t know that,” Ginny frowned.
“Yeah, apparently our mothers were friends at Hogwarts and they are godmother to the other’s son.”
“So, Neville’s mum in your godmother,” Ginny slowly whispered.
“Uh-huh, something else no one bothered to tell me,” I said, bitterly before going silent again. I could tell that Ginny wanted to make it better but there wasn’t anything to say; it had been done and I had to accept it. Finally, as she put a comforting hand on my arm, I sighed and gave her a smile I knew looked fake. “Anyway, can you imagine that this isn’t even what’s troubling me?”
“You mean there’s something worse?”
“No, not worse,” I shook my head, trying to organize my thoughts once again and working up the courage to admit what really bothered me. That was a huge step for me, no matter how comprehensive Ginny could be, she was still another human being to whom I was telling opening my heart! “This really isn’t so bad you know? I mean, I understand why Nev never told me and it’s not like it changes anything to her situation.”
“Still,” Ginny said, “it must be tough to find out about your relation to her and how she could have been more important to you, had she been healthy and all.”
“Yeah but that’s alright; so many people should have been important in my life but were incapable of being there and I have accepted it. I’ve accepted that I wasn’t meant to have parental figures,” I said, “but I don’t know, finding out about it so suddenly, learning that I have the chance to go through my parent’s stuff, that there is something in that vault my godmother left for me; I feel a bit overwhelmed. Like, I’m afraid of how this will hit me,” I finished awkwardly, blushing slightly at the admission.
“What do you mean ‘hit you’?”
“Emotionally. I don’t know if it will make me happy and fill the void a bit or if it’s going to be too much and, well, I’ll crack and, you know, break down completely.”
Next to me, I heard Ginny sigh. I couldn’t look at her, it was horrible to voice out my fears and even though I knew Ginny would never judge me for it, I didn’t want to see the pity in her eyes. I felt her getting up and she crouched in front of me, taking my hands in her small ones, forcing me to look at her.
“Look at me Harry,” she said in her sweet yet decided voice. “So what if you break down? If it has to happen, it will, no matter when or how it does, something will eventually trigger it. You’ve been through so much in your life Harry, that if it has to be a step in your recovery, then you’ll go through it and come out stronger.”
“So you think I should just go to the vault and deal with the consequences it’ll have?”
“When you are ready to face those consequences,” she specified, “Like you said, there can be a good and easy outcome to this just like there can be a harder one. You have to be ready to face both possibilities.”
“How do you make it sound so easy?” I asked her, desperate to learn her tricks.
“You’re not the only one faced with those thoughts,” she simply said as she got up and back to the seat she sat on before. “After everything, pretty much all of us fear that moment where we will either break down or make a giant step forward. I’ve been thinking about it for a while too; wonder if I should come back next year when I’ve lost such a big portion of my friends. How can I come back and have a normal, happy school year without Colin and Jack and Socha?”
“I’m sorry Gin, I hadn’t realized,” I stuttered uncomfortably; mentally kicking myself for not having considered how she was doing. Well, I thought, at least it confirmed my view on not being able to be a good boyfriend at the moment.
“That’s ok,” she shook her head dismissively, “like I said, we are all so taken by our own choices, it’s normal that we don’t feel all that receptive the others’ hardships.”
“Yeah, it still doesn’t excuse my behavior. I shouldn’t have come to you with my problems, you have enough of your own.”
“Actually,” she laughed, “you gave me a break for a couple minutes; it was good to think of someone else’s problems instead of brooding over mine constantly.”
Ginny’s laughter lifted the tension and comforted me. I felt lighter after our conversation. It had been extremely difficult to admit how scared I was, but the way she rationalized everything helped me see things from a different angle. If I was going to break down at some point, well so be it. It could be a visit to the vault that triggered it, just like it could be of meeting a dead friend’s relatives or stepping in a corridor where someone lost his or her life. Would I chose to stop living completely in order to avoid a possible emotional break down or just be ready for it when it comes and accept it?
I mulled over this decision for three days, reflecting on whether I was ready now to face the possibility of a break down or if I wanted to wait. I realized however that with all this reflection I was doing, I really wasn’t productive with the re-building of the school. I felt completely cut from my friends and practically didn’t sleep.
Finally, on Thursday exactly one week after Neville had put this worm in my head, I made my decision. I would go to the vault the next day and get it over with.
“Take all the time you need Mr. Potter; we will be waiting outside the vault,” the small goblin told me. I only nodded, unable to form words of agreement though I had to admit I was relieved he was giving me some privacy to do this. Before coming here, I was a bit scared the goblins wouldn’t trust me and follow me everywhere – and it would have been fully deserved considering my last visit in this place. So I felt quite glad of the little goblin’s confidence when I stepped inside the vault. As soon as I put a foot inside it though, a giant cloud of powder dropped on me and numerous alarms started ringing all around. A cold wave of terror washed over me when I realized I couldn’t move.
“Sorry Mr. Potter,” the little goblin said in such a light and almost happy tone, I could tell this had all been planned in order to make me pay. They had not forgiven me after all....
I tried to move, take out my wand, block my ear from the numbing alarms or at least take my eyes of the goblin’s evil smirk but it was worthless; I was frozen in place. I was obligated to watch the goblin move ever so slowly around me, giving me sideway looks of gloating before he finally released me from my statue-like position. I didn’t thank him, simply walked into the vault and ignored him. The goblin made a chair appear from nowhere and sat down, taking out a magazine from inside his coat, getting ready for a long wait.
Looking around me at the museum like pieces scattered everywhere, I felt my lungs constrict; an unbearable pressure kept me from breathing for a moment. I felt like I had an impossibly huge and harrowing task to deal with once again, although a much more personal and emotionally heavy task than the last one I had to deal with. I kept asking myself, would I be able to handle going through all the belongings and memories of not only my parents but also all the crap from my parents’ parents, and their parents before that. Sure they were unknown to me, not many tangible memories were associated with these objects but that fact alone seemed to hurt even more. They had left these things behind, had left me behind, and I felt like I should at least have memories to hold on to.
By this point in my life, I was getting used to just gritting my teeth and taking care of the task at hand, however appalling it may be, but this was a big one. I started slowly, looking at chairs and furniture dating back to king Henry Viii; entire shelves holding genealogy books and writings that went back several generations; boxes of family photos and films, all of people I never knew. There were occasional moments when I was overcome with grief and had to stop what I was doing. Those happened when I unexpectedly fell upon pictures and artifacts of my parents and I knew, deep down, that these things should have been part of my life growing up. But they hadn’t been.
As soon as I had entered the vault, a small red box had caught my attention but I didn’t go to it instantly; I knew what it was and wanted to have a look around before I stopped. After about half an hour of looking around and feeling like my heart was about to break, I decided it was time to stop avoiding it and just take the box. It was what I came for after all and I felt like I had seen enough for one day.
The deep red, velvet box shimmered slightly and gave a low humming sound when I took it. There was a letter pined to it and I decided to read it before opening the box.
My dear Harry,
Finally you come of age; I hope this is a great day for you and that you are enjoying yourself to the fullest.
I write this letter while you sleep in the cot next to me, cuddled with my own boy (yeah, you boys cuddle; you are also 6 months old so it doesn’t count, okay?). I hope I got to know you, see you grow up and become a man but I can’t lie, I sadly don’t believe I will be there to get pissed with you on the glorious day you turn 17.
I hope you are happy Harry; that you had a great childhood being loud and spoiled to the core. I hope you didn’t turn like your father at school though; looking like him is enough, are we clear?
All joking aside, I hope you did turn out like him. He’s a great guy your father, such a big heart, passionate and a bit too smart for his own good! It took a while before I warmed up to him you know? I think you will find that, considering the number of times he snapped my bra, lifted my skirt in front of the whole school, turned my hair olive green and so on, I had a right to be cold toward him. This is something I sincerely hope he did not pass on to you. But one day, he grew up and let his heart and maturity take over and he became downright irresistible. Not for me though, I already had my Frank, but for the rest of the school’s female population and especially for your mum.
Ah your mum. One of my best friends in the whole world. A sweet girl, kind, so smart it’s infuriating, fierce and terrifying when she’s got something on her mind (read here : hate your dad). I really hope I got to know you so I could tell you a bunch of sordid stories about your mother because, trust me; she isn’t the saint she looks to be!
But with everything that is happening around here at the moment, I fear my hopes will not become reality. That you and Nevy might never get to know your parents and the loving entourage that comes with them.
Fun fact my dear boy: did you know your mother is the worst cook in the world? Strange considering how good she is at potions but anyways, cooking is something yours truly is a genius at. So good actually that I was called in by a distressed Lily the first night she invited your dad over for dinner. To this day, I kept my promise and James is in the dark as to why his pot roast was so great that night and that the one he had last night didn’t taste half as good. Didn’t pipe a word like I promised. She never said I couldn’t tell you though...
Here you have it. A small glimpse into our lives. Oh how much do I hope you hated that letter, read it and thought what the heck? I know all that stuff already; Alice has lost it...
How I hope this war will not touch you after all and that you will grow up carefree and oblivious to danger.
I give you, for your coming of age, a pendant. If you had the great and shiny life I hope, this will only look cool. But if something happened; if you have known the worst, the charm it holds will be activated upon meeting Neville’s pendant.
You boys are everything to us; I hope you at least got to stay together, if not with your families. Love, your godmother, Alice
Man, I wished I had known that woman.
Edit : Special thanks to my amazing Beta!!
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