A/N: it's been far too long and I apologize. The holiday break through me all off. This will not be abandoned though and I'm already working on the next chapter. Thanks to those of you who have been reviewing it is very motivating to know there's people enjoying what I'm writing!
Professor McGonagall entered the common room around 9 that night to retrieve them. As soon as they made it out of the portrait hole Ginny sidled up beside Harry and took his hand in hers despite being less than pleased since finding out about him going to Godric's Hollow alone.
No one had a whole lot of baggage so they were able to move quickly through the castle despite having to navigate debris the whole way. The amount of damage was incredible. Almost every window was broken, chunks of the ceiling lay in the corridors and entire walls were knocked down.
They walked down the exact 7th floor corridor where Fred had been killed and the room of requirement destroyed. The debris that had done the job still littered the area. He cast a look in Ron's direction but his friend seemed determined to look anywhere but at the rubble where his brother had died even ignoring Hermione's concerned attempts at catching his eye. Percy seemed to have lost all color in his face and looked like he might be sick. Unlike Ron his eyes seemed glued to the scene as if picturing the broken body still lying there.
He realized nobody had spoken of Fred at all in the last couple days. It was a bit odd maybe but he assumed everyone grieved in their own way. Perhaps for now it was easier to focus on the tasks at hand and the good things that had come from the end of the war.
The group was silent the rest of the way through the school until they exited the front doors to the grounds. Professor McGonagall explained the travel plans to them as they walked down the path towards Hogsmeade.
Hermione and her parents would be taking a special train to King's Cross Station where they would take a muggle taxi to their home. The Weasley's would be apparating directly to the Burrow from Hogsmeade; Ginny going side along with her father. And Harry with Professor McGonagall would be taking a portkey to within the wards at Godric's Hollow.
"Kingsley has managed to procure this off the books for us Harry," she showed him a pure white quill that reminded him painfully of Hedwig and was apparently their portkey. He would have liked to have had the owl's company tonight.
As they got closer to the gates a hunched figure could be seen shuffling up the path towards them. Argus Filch appeared in the light of Arthur's wand shielding his eyes to them.
"All clear then Professor." He mumbled, "Nobody's lurking about the gate that Mrs. Norris or I could see." The cat circled around its master's legs purring up at them all.
"Thank you Argus. Has the train arrived yet?"
"No Ma'am. Scheduled in at 9:30, got about 4 minutes."
"Very well, why don't you and your family go first then Arthur."
"Right then," he turned to his wife and children. "We'll go out in pairs and apparate home. Stay alert, there have been people hiding around here trying to get in since the battle. They may not be death eaters but let's just try to avoid any unnecessary attention."
Everyone nodded their agreement and Molly stepped forth with Percy as the first two to go. Wands out they opened the gates slightly and within moments there was a soft Crack! and they were gone.
Ginny turned to look at Harry as Ron and Charlie approached the gate Ron threw the two of them a dirty look. "I still can't believe you don't want me to come with you." she whispered pleadingly.
"Gin, you know it's not a matter of me not wanting you to come. How would your parents feel about you coming to spend the night with me alone at my house?"
She glanced at her father who was taking care to allow the couple a private farewell by engaging the Grangers in a conversation about dentistry as Bill exited the gates alone. "They love you though! I don't think they'd mind." but her voice gave away the truth. Though Harry was like a son to them he was also a teenage boy and he knew that they wouldn't think it appropriate for Ginny to be in the house alone with him.
Harry leaned in close to Ginny's ear and whispered teasingly, "They would if they've got in mind what I have." He kissed her neck just below the ear and she shivered slightly. "There'll be plenty of time," he continued. "We've got our whole lives now Gin."
He leaned back out and she smiled resignedly up at him. "Okay, write me though once your settled. Let me know what it's like." She hugged him fiercely and planted a quick kiss on his lips before turning and walking to her father's side.
"Ready love?" Mr. Weasley asked.
Ginny nodded so Arthur took a step towards Harry and shook his hand. "We'll see you soon Harry. Take care of yourself." then he put his arm around Ginny's shoulder and they walked out the gates and disappeared.
Even as the crack from their disapparation still echoed a train whistle sounded in the distance.
McGonagall looked to the Grangers silently inquiring if they were ready. They all nodded and Hermione came over to give Harry a hug.
"Remember what I said Harry. If you need anything at all just let me know. We'll be there for you."
"I know, thanks Hermione." she released him and walked back towards her parents who waved as they exited the gates following closely behind Filch and Mrs. Norris down the path towards the train station.
As they walked out of sight he already began to feel lonely. Professor McGonagall was watching him appraisingly as if trying to read his thoughts.
"All ready then professor?"
"Certainly Harry, whenever you are." she held the feather out at arms length and Harry reached up to touch it.
The all too familiar feeling of being dragged by his navel took over and the next thing he knew he was laying on the ground in some very tall grass. As he got to his feet and looked around he saw a very overgrown lawn littered with branches, bricks and bits of wood: debris from the house all covered in moss and most of it rotting away. The last time he'd visited the house the snow had cast a beautiful facade over the damage. Now the sky was clear and the moon nearly full so he could see the grounds clearly. With the mess in the yard it looked to be in much worse shape than he remembered.
The front door was broken off the hinges and laying in the hall. He wondered if Voldemort had done it or perhaps Hagrid when he came to retrieve Harry. The thought of Hagrid squeezing through the tiny doorframe might have been comical had Harry not felt so overwhelmed.
Almost every window was broken as if a great force inside the house had blown them all out and there was that gaping hole in the top right corner that was blown completely away.
Professor McGonagall cleared her throat politely. She had been wandering around the yard with her wand in the air checking on the wards but also clearly giving Harry his time to adjust. "Mr. Potter, would you like a bit of help fixing the windows and doors so you'll at least stay warm?"
Harry realized that the only spell he knew for this situation was Reparo and he wasn't sure that would do the trick on all of the damage. "Sure Professor, thank you."
She began waving her wand in wide circles and a dust seemed to float off the ground to hover in front of them. Harry noticed a few larger pieces of what looked like broken glass before she pointed suddenly at the house and all of the dust shot forward reforming itself in the window frames good as new.
Next she walked up to the front door and flicked her wand at it. It jumped to attention in front of her despite being nearly bent in half. Another wave of her wand fixed the door and she then guided it back into the frame. The screws for the hinges flew up off of the floor and out of the grass tightening themselves into place.
"There you are Potter, now it will take more time to do the major repairs but a quick sealing charm will insulate the top corner off from the rest of the house and stop the draft from coming in. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"What's the spell for the sealing charm? I think I'd like to go upstairs before sealing it off."
Professor McGonagall nodded but looked worried, "The incantation is Signum and you must clearly visualize the boundaries you want sealed. Otherwise you could trap yourself in somewhere. The un-sealing charm is Solvo Signum just in case."
Although Harry heard every word he was not looking at his professor. He was still staring intently at the house trying to picture what it must have looked like new. He could almost see himself as a little 1 year old zooming around on the toy broomstick, chased closely by his father his mother watching from the front step. A single tear escaped his eye but he wiped it quickly and turned to his professor.
She had never given him a more motherly look. "Thank you Professor. Signum you said?"
"Yes Mr. Potter. Now I know you said you'll be alright on your own but we will be monitoring the village. Your guards will not be able to access the house but will keep an eye out for suspicious behavior nearby."
Harry nodded at her again. Suddenly she rushed over to him and pulled him into a tight hug. "Good luck Harry," she whispered. Then, just as suddenly, she turned and walked toward the iron gates. As soon as she stepped through them she vanished with a Crack!
Harry stood still for a moment not knowing exactly what to think. He'd never seen Professor McGonagall express that much affection towards anyone. It warmed him up a little to know that she cared for him. After his moment of reflection he turned back to face the front door of the house. Steeling himself he approached and opened it.
The first thing he noticed was how intact most of the downstairs was. The windows allowed enough natural light in that he might not have needed his wand but he lit it anyways. The railing on the staircase was broken and lay on the floor. To the right he could see a small living area with a sofa, coffee table and fireplace. A large wooden radio stood against the wall and there were still a few books out on the table. He could see through a doorway to the kitchen where dishes sat in the sink and a rusted knife and cutting board lay on the counter.
Everything had a good thick coat of dust covering it and in some cases showed signs of decay. As he slowly moved into the room he began to notice more signs of the house's lack of inhabitants. One of the couch cushions was ripped apart in the center and from the looks of the droppings had housed a family of mice for many years. a blanket that had hung over the back was moth eaten and holey. It appeared as though something had gnawed one of the legs of the coffee table down a couple of inches making it wobbly and unbalanced.
He approached the table but hesitated before picking up one of the books. This place had been left so well preserved since that last night, did he really want to move anything? He realized that eventually it was going to have to happen if he were to stay here so bending down he wiped some dust away from the cover of the book. As his finger brushed the cover a fleeting image flashed in his head of the book being held in front of his face by a pair of slender female hands he assumed were his mother's. But as quickly as the image came it was gone.
A bit startled he looked down st the book. It was a children's book entitled The Muggle and the Moose. Another tear escaped his eye as he pictured his parents sitting on the couch reading him a book. His life would have been so different, so happy. Why had it had to be him? It could've been any other child in the world. Why had he been the one to lose everything?
He picked the book up but when he tried to open it the pages were all stuck together and the binding cracked as he pulled. He wondered if there was a way to restore it so he could read it. Setting it back in its place he walked over to the radio. Searching for a power switch or plug he realized it was magical so he tapped it with his wand. The radio came to life puffing some dust out of the speakers. It was all static though and as he attempted to adjust the station he began to wonder if the magic could run out on an object like this. Or perhaps a lot of the old radio stations were not back up and running after the war. He tapped it again to shut it off.
Turning back to the room he decided to explore the kitchen, delaying the time when he would venture upstairs. As he walked across the room more and more dust began to fill the air. His eyes began to water and he coughed a few times then had a minor sneezing fit. He decided that he should try to get rid of some of the dust to start if he could. He tried to remember Mrs. Weasley using a spell at Grimmauld Place to clean up dust but couldn't come up with anything.
"Wait a second," he said out loud to himself. "Kreacher?" thinking of Grimmauld Place had brought the elf to mind again.
With a faint pop the old house elf appeared at his feet and gave Harry a low bow. "Yes master Harry."
"Hello Kreacher," Harry had to smile at the change in the elf's demeanor since their conversation about Regulus and the locket. "How have you been?"
"Kreacher does not understand the question master."
Harry decided to be a bit more precise. "Are you still working with the elves at Hogwarts?"
"Yes sir, since there is not as much kitchen work to do the elves have been tasked to help repair the castle in preparation for the school year."
"Oh," Harry frowned, "a lot to be done then?"
"Yes master, but I am here to serve you if you need me." Kreacher looked around as if already planning how to clean the place up.
"Well I kind of wanted to work on the major stuff alone you see. This house is very special to me."
"Kreacher takes the utmost care in his work master. Nothing would be harmed if master allowed Kreacher to help." The elf sounded a bit offended.
"I know Kreacher, that's not it," he wasn't sure exactly how to explain his feelings. "I want to do it myself so I can see everything here just as it was before. I don't want anything to be different."
Still looking a bit confused and frustrated Kreacher replied, "How can Kreacher be of service then master?"
"Well I was hoping you might know a spell to remove all of the dust from the house without disturbing anything. I don't want to be sneezing the whole time I'm here."
"Certainly master, elves do not use spells as wizards do but I can remove the dust."
"Thank you Kreacher. Shall I stand back or leave the room?"
"That will not be necessary master." Kreacher began walking about the room waving his hands over the floor and the dust seemed to vanish into nowhere. He waved them over the coffee table and the dust disappeared, then the couch and the radio. He continued to move around the room using his hands like silent vacuum cleaners as Harry watched with interest. He wondered briefly how elf magic worked without spells.
Kreacher moved off into the kitchen and Harry walked across the room to follow him. Stepping onto the now spotless tile floors he found himself in a small but cozy looking kitchen. There was a small dining room table with three chairs and a highchair situated around it. A sippy cup lay on the floor surrounded by a dried brown spot that must've stained the tile before evaporating.
Kreacher exited a thin closet door on the far side of the room and shuffled back past Harry towards the living room again. The closet turned out to be a small pantry still stocked with food, some good, some not so good. It smelled awful and Harry closed the door quickly.
"Master Harry sir!" Kreacher called from the other room. "There is a room that Kreacher cannot enter."
"What do you mean?" Harry called as he moved back through the house searching for Kreacher. "Where are you?" he called as he entered the sitting room and didn't see the elf anywhere.
Harry jumped as Kreacher appeared in front of him from nowhere. "This way master." He led Harry down a hall behind the staircase that Harry hadn't noticed before. It brought them into a small study that had clearly been used as an office space.
There were wanted posters and news clippings covering the walls, rolls of parchment and books on the desk and boxes of files in the corner. A bottle of ink had spilled and been left to run onto the floor. It occurred to him his father may have run from this very room the night he died.
"This door here master. Kreacher cannot open it." He was pointing at the left hand wall of the office where a relatively plain looking wooden door was set into the wall. In the light of his wand Harry barely make out a carving on the door about eye level. He stepped closer and leaned in to see the Gryffindor crest etched in great detail into the face of tge door. The handle looked much older than the rest of the house. It was bronze and worn looking with a very old fashioned key hole below it.
Harry approached the door and tried the handle but it wouldn't open. He pointed his wand at it and spoke "Alohomora." Nothing happened. "Have you tried opening it by your magic Kreacher?"
"Yes master, very old spells locked this door. It needs the key."
Kreacher gave him a slightly derisive look. "The key for the key hole master."
"Oh right," he said. "I wonder where it could be."
"Kreacher does not know master. Should I continue to dust the second floor now?"
Harry was running his hand over the wood of the door. He realized on his closer inspection that the door itself was very old and worn as well. He was a bit entranced by it for some reason.
"Master?" Kreacher broke him from his trance.
"Oh yes, let's go upstairs and see it." He followed slowly behind the elf who dusted each step as they went. Harry began to grow more anxious as the higher they climbed forgetting about the door altogether. At the top of the stairs was a hall leading in both directions. Kreacher began to turn right heading towards the part of the house where the explosion occurred but Harry stopped him.
"Would you mind doing the other rooms first Kreacher? I'd like to go this way on my own first."
"Of course master." and he turned left instead vanishing dust all the way until he moved out of sight through a door at the end.
Harry looked towards the other end of the hall on the right but there was no door. Instead there was a large hole in the wall where a door must've once stood. He couldn't see into the room from the hall though so he moved closer. Just outside of where the door frame must've been the floor gave a loud creak below him. He stopped short hoping that the damaged floor would support his weight. Inching forward slower now he crossed the threshold and for the first time in person he saw the place where it had happened. He had envisioned it so many times and as he looked upon the broken crib and the demolished walls a tear came to his eye. He walked cautiously over to the crib and reached out to it. As soon as he made contact a flashing memory hit him so hard he swayed on the spot. He was standing in a crib as his mother burst into the room slamming the door behind her. A blinding green light shone around the edges of the door and a loud explosion broke the wood apart. He saw for the first time the memory of Voldemort coming through the doorway and his mother moving between him and the wizard from his own point if view. Without realizing it he fell to his knees. He didn't hear the cracking of the floor through the noise in his head.
He could hear the voices of the adults but couldn't understand what they were saying. And then there was the scream, the scream he'd heard so many times and the bright flash of light he'd dreamt of since he was a child.
His mother fell to the floor and Voldemort stepped right over her his wand pointing at his face. Then it was gone and he was falling, he'd broken right through the weakened floor and he saw the kitchen table zooming up towards him. He closed his eyes preparing for an impact that wouldn't come. He felt like he had been caught in a net and was suspended in midair. Opening his eyes he saw the wooden top of the table just inches from his nose.
"Are you ok master?" Kreacher spoke from somewhere above him.
Harry struggled to turn over but couldn't move, the muscles below his neck seemed paralyzed. "I'm fine Kreacher, what happened?" Harry felt himself slowly lower towards the table until his face and chest touched the surface and Kreacher released him. His knees banged down hard as he was released and he rolled onto his side wincing.
"Kreacher heard master yelling from the other room. When Kreacher came he saw master fall through the floor and Kreacher caught him."
"Well, thanks for that." Harry rolled onto his back only to be jabbed by a sharp piece of wood. With a bit of effort he managed to sit up on the edge of the table instead. He couldn't believe what he had just seen. It had been similar to when he touched the book but much more clear and much more intense. He wondered if other objects in the house would bring about similar flashbacks.
"Should Kreacher fix the floor master?"
"No that's ok Kreacher. I'll take care of it tomorrow. You should be getting back to Hogwarts now."
"As you wish master." And he disappeared.
Harry was once again alone in the house. He sat on the kitchen table looking up through the hole he'd made in the ceiling. He'd wait until it was light out to venture back up there and explore some more. Standing he felt an ache still in his knees. He decided to attempt the sealing spell Professor McGonagall had told him about as he now felt the cool breeze entering through the hole above.
He pulled his wand from his robes and pointed it at the ceiling focusing hard on the space above. He pictured the broken doorway, the edge of the floor he'd seen leading off the edge of the house and finally the hole he'd just made in the floor. Signum he whispered and the breeze stopped.
He could see no barrier but he was sure it had worked. Just to be sure he bent to pick up the sippy cup from the floor. A flash of himself drinking from the cup while sitting in the high chair across from him nearly knocked him off balance again. When he stood up he could nearly taste pumpkin juice in his mouth from the memory.
These memories were very strange although they didn't trouble him as much as interest him. It seemed he had some sort of memory link to everything he'd touched here as a child. He wondered what else he'd discover in his cleaning.
He tossed the cup up at the hole in the ceiling but before it passed through it veered off and rattled to a stop in the corner of the room. This was proof enough for him that his spell had worked.
Walking stiffly back into the living area he realized he had no way of telling what time it was but thought it couldn't be later than 10:30. He hobbled down the hall behind the staircase and into his father's office once more.
He shone the light of his wand on the Gryffindor seal in the mysterious door then onto the desk up against the far wall. "That seems like a logical place to hide a key", he thought out loud. He walked across the room to the desk and pulled out the chair his father had once sat in. It was a dark heavy wood like the desk and didn't look very comfortable. He sat down anyway and began shuffling through some of the things on the desk.
Most of the papers were reports of some kind either written by his father or another auror. He didn't try too hard to read them in the dim light but he was soon able to distinguish his father's handwriting from the rest. Not finding the key anywhere on top of the desk he began rifling through the top drawers.
Inside he found was even less organized than the desk's surface. It was full of all kinds of knick knacks including decks of muggle cards, an old snitch, empty potion vials, and a half knitted scarf. His dad had knitted?
The one thing he did not find was a key that looked like it would fit the door. Exhaustion finally began to creep up on him as he rested his elbows on the desk and his head in his hands.
The house was completely silent, it was eerie in a way. He missed the constant din that was the burrow. Even the ghoul in the attic, there was always some background noise to fall asleep to. It made the place feel lived in. Thoughts of the burrow eventually led to Ginny. He was sure she'd be asleep by now and he wished he was there with her.
His eyes drooped and his forearms and head slid down to the desk top. He drifted off into a peaceful sleep a broad smile on his face with happy thoughts replacing the nightmares that had plagued him in the past.
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