Harry and Ginny got up at about 6:00 AM on Wednesday, and after changing and feeding Teddy, went down to breakfast. To Ginny, but also the rest of the family, Harry said, “I’m going to be back very late tonight.”
Ginny looked a little tired and said, “Maybe I can get enough sleep for a change. I don’t think I’ve had enough sleep since I started taking care of Teddy.”
Molly looked sympathetically at Ginny and said, “You should be able to take a nice nap this afternoon, dear.”
“Yes, Ginny dear, put Teddy down for a nap so you can get some sleep,” a grinning George said.
Charlie jumped in with, “Ginny, Ronny, I don’t care what time it is, it’s time for your nap. You older boys, into your bedrooms right now, and I’m putting a locking spell on them so you can’t get out and get into trouble!”
George looked at Ron and started, “Do-” and Ron joined in with, “-we have to?”
Charlie stood up and put his hands on his hips, took one hand off and wagged it at Ginny, Ron and George, doing his best to imitate his mother as he said, “You get into your bedrooms right now if you know what’s good for you.”
“Yes, Mum,” intoned Ron and George together. Molly was smiling. Angelina was almost falling off her chair, she was laughing so hard.
“You put us down for naps so YOU could rest?” asked Ginny, realization setting in.
“Self-defense, dear. As I’ve always told young mothers, ‘Sleep when the baby does, any opportunity you get,’” Molly said.
It looked like Ginny was beginning to get mad, but then she looked at Teddy and sort of relaxed. There was some good advice in what her mother just said.
“My Mum never ever locked me in my room,” volunteered Hermione.
“What did she do when she needed a nap?” asked Ron.
“She and I took a nap together,” Hermione responded.
“And what if you woke up first?” asked Ron.
“I played nicely until Mum woke up,” Hermione answered. Molly rolled her eyes and shook her head at this answer.
“Wait till you have a bunch of unruly children,” said George to Hermione, who got a horrified look on her face.
Ron looked at Hermione. Hermione looked at George with daggers in her eyes, then back at Ron. “Maybe one,” she said. After a long pause, she added, “Someday.”
Harry kissed Ginny and left for the Ministry with Arthur.
Ginny went upstairs with a sleeping Teddy and took the first of a couple of naps. Her brothers could tease her all they wanted, she just wanted the sleep.
As they arrived at the Ministry, Harry walked with Arthur to his office.
“How is Ginny handling you being gone so much?” asked Arthur.
“She’s not happy, but neither of us can see any alternative,” Harry responded. “She can’t get too mad at me, and it doesn’t do much good to get mad at the situation. She’s a little touchy, but I think she’s always a little touchy.”
“Like Molly after you announced your engagement,” chuckled Arthur. “Marry a fiery redhead, and you’ll always have a little excitement in your life.”
“Was Mum a little upset?” asked Harry.
Arthur wagged his finger in the typically Molly Weasley fashion, and laughing, started in with, “Don’t you Mollywobbles me, Arthur Weasley.” Arthur put his hands in the air and with an amused expression said, “Oh, I’d say she started out more than a little upset. When she found out I’d given you permission to ask Ginny to marry you, she was more than a little upset, but she calmed down.”
“Is that what living with Ginny is going to be like?” asked Harry, imagining proverbial eggshells strewn across the floors of his home.
“Just be calm when she’s mad,” said Arthur, laughing and still in a jovial mood. “She’s a good person, like her mother, just a little touchy sometimes, like her mother.” Arthur patted Harry on the back, saying, “Ah, the joy of living with a fiery redhead.”
At about this time, Bill showed up, and the two soon-to-be brothers-in-law left for their meetings in Europe, along with Kreacher and a witch from the Treasury Department of the Ministry. Arthur also had an Auror from France go with them, explaining, “I was serious when I said that there are witches and wizards who would like to kill Harry or any of the Weasley family. There should be more permanent security for everybody soon.”
Bill said, “We are going to be going through the Ministry Floo to Switzerland, where a lot of the regional Floos come together. From there we are going to a small section of a country that used to be part of Yugoslavia. Wizarding countries are not always the same as Muggle countries, and this is a small section of a small country. We are trying to take care of three estates, all of families killed at about the same time.” As Bill was talking, they were going through the Floo to a very large room with lots of Floos plus what looked like carpets where people were appearing and disappearing.
“What are those?” asked Harry.
“A variation of magic carpet that works sort of like a Floo,” said Bill. “They aren’t legal in England, but they are really common in the Mid-East. Hard to carry a fireplace around in a tent.”
“It’s like a big train station,” Harry remarked.
“It is,” said Bill, as they went through yet another Floo and appeared in what looked like a modest-sized house. They were greeted by a bored looking witch, who briefly glanced at their paperwork and waved them through. Bill looked at a map, walked outside and led them to what looked like a very small branch of Gringotts. When they got to the bank, it was just as tiny on the inside as on the outside, with four goblins tending the bank. The vaults were in what looked like a basement, not under the city like the bank in London.
Harry had to do the spells to open two of the three estates. As usual, once the vaults were opened, Harry really did not have a lot to do unless something else needed opening. While the others worked on financial details, Harry had a chance to look through the vaults, where he could see photographs and other evidence that these were real people who’d been killed.
Finally, one of the goblins said, “Mr. Potter, I can take care of the last estate with you.”
“Why just me?” said Harry. “I thought all of these were complex, and Bill and the others had to be involved.”
“It’s a simple estate,” said the goblin. “They were a nice family; poor, but nice. It was a big family too. Lord Voldemort comes and kills off two small nasty but rich families. And old Shevchenko gets in the way. Voldemort has all four generations; twenty five people assemble and he kills them all. He has his agents get their estates too.”
“Twenty five people?” asked Harry, horrified at the number.
The goblin muttered, “Babies, children, parents, grandparents, he killed them all. He started with the baby and worked up to grandparents. All for what? A puny estate?”
“Is there anything I can do?” asked Harry. He felt slightly ashamed. As awful as he felt about what had happened to the family, he also felt profound relief that he hadn’t watched Voldemort do it in his mind’s eye.
“Take the estate, so that I don’t have to see it any more,” said the goblin, fairly pleading now. He walked over to a wall behind the desks. On the wall were what looked to Harry like shoe boxes of various sizes, with names on them. The goblin went to the section with the smallest boxes and took out one with the name Shevchenko on it.
The goblin then said, “There was no property, no one owned much. Landlords took what little was in the houses for back rent. The cemetery buried them for free. Creditors forgave very few debts. The whole estate consists of one photograph and pocket change.” The goblin opened the box. Inside there was a nice photograph of the whole family, from the baby to the grandparents, all very shabbily dressed but all very happy, waving at him. There was also a small bag of coins. “For out-of-country estates, we’re supposed to charge fifty galleons just for the handling. But goblins can charge less for very small estates.” The goblin counted out four ten galleon coins and then four knuts. “I will charge one knut. Take the estate.” He then gave Harry the bag with forty Galleons, three Knuts and the photograph.
Harry looked at the little bag of coins. He thought, ‘twenty five people, a whole family, died for this?’ There really wasn’t any justification for killing for any amount of money, but to think that twenty five people had died, and that all that was left was one photograph and this little bag of coins was just especially tragic.
Harry had to sign some documents, and the estate was closed.
They were not able to get away from the little bank until after a way too long dinner. On the way back, Harry told Bill the story. “What do I do with this?’ Harry asked, showing Bill the photograph and the small bag of coins.
“It will cost your estate, the people taking care of your money, close to fifty Galleons to record this little estate,” said Bill. “It’s pocket change.”
“It’s twenty five people!” said Harry indignantly.
“These estates and several others had their families killed within two months of your parents’ deaths, Harry,” said Bill. “Not the biggest or the most sensible. It’s like Riddle had gone crazy killing just before he killed your parents.”
“Why is Kreacher along?” asked Harry, not feeling entirely comfortable with the situation but knowing there was little he could do about it. He put the bag in his robes and decided that it should be for something special, something that would be meaningful somehow to someone.
“It’s hard for goblins to lie to the head house-elf of a witch or wizard. Kreacher is your head house-elf, so he keeps the goblins honest,” Bill replied.
“Thank you, Kreacher, for helping Bill,” Harry said. “Keep working for Bill on these estate problems, please.”
Kreacher looked at Harry and then turned away, mumbling to himself, “Subversive, subversive, changing everythings.” The old elf then got a big grin on his face as he looked back at Harry.
Shortly after lunch, Ginny was in her usual place, pacing around next to the Floo in the main hall while Teddy was sleeping nearby. Suddenly two couples came through the Floo. “We are looking for Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley,” said one.
“I am Ginny Weasley,” said Ginny. “I’m engaged to Harry Potter. Harry and my brother Bill are in Europe all day.”
“I’m Jim Shook, and this is my wife Sue,” said Jim.
“I’m David Williamson,” said the other man, “and this is my wife Kim. We are here to keep you and Harry safe.”
“What do you mean ‘keep us safe?’” asked Ginny. “Are we in that much danger?”
“Al VanLente, the head of the International Auror Association, thinks you are,” said David.
“So what are you going to do?” asked a cautious Ginny.
“We’re all Aurors, and one of us is going to guard each of you all the time,” said Sue. “You are going to get to know Kim and me, Sue, very well, and Harry is going to get to know Jim and David.”
“Where did you come from?” asked Ginny, noticing the accents that she couldn’t quite place.
“We’re from North America,” said Sue. “We are different than most of the Aurors in that we are willing to try and blend in with your life and become bodyguards. I understand that the Harry Potter Estates is paying for us, not the Ministry.”
“How old are you?” asked Ginny. “You don’t look all that old.”
“Jim and I are twenty seven, David and Kim are twenty nine,” said Sue. “We’re not all that old. We all attended the Los Angeles School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and even though we were two years apart, we became friends. We both went to the San Francisco College of Witchcraft and Wizardry before becoming Aurors.”
“There is a school like Hogwarts in North America?” asked Ginny, realizing that it probably sounded like a silly question, considering how large the continent was.
“There is nothing quite like Hogwarts in North America,” said Sue. “Los Angeles is really pretty modern, pretty big too. The school in New Mexico is really Indian, smaller than L.A., maybe as big as Hogwarts. The school in Salem on the east coast is real old for North America, but wooden buildings, maybe a little bigger than Hogwarts. And Montreal is sort of old urban, with classes in French as well as English.”
“Four schools?” asked Ginny.
“Well, there is supposed to be one in New Orleans,” said David, “but it’s sort of tied into Voodoo and black magic, and the rest of the schools do not have much to do with it. I understand we kind of know where it is, but the relationship is real difficult.”
“What is Voodoo?” asked Ginny.
David responded, “Bad, dark magic. There is something really evil in the Caribbean. I don’t know too much about it, but I do know that Al and the International Aurors Association are real concerned and that we lose undercover Aurors there on a regular basis.”
“I’m glad that it’s a long way away from us,” said Ginny.
“I don’t expect it will ever cause you any problems,” David replied reassuringly.
“Where are you staying?” Ginny asked. “The dorm is getting pretty crowded.”
Sue answered, “We’ve been told that there is a two bedroom suite at Hogwarts we can stay in. Within a week or so there will be an apartment building in London that will have several magical floors for the foreign Aurors.”
“And you’re going to follow us around?” asked Ginny again.
“Well, sort of,” said Sue.
“What do you mean, ‘sort of?’” asked Ginny, beginning to get a little irritated.
Sue hesitated. The other three Aurors looked at her, and finally Sue started in again, “Well, not into your home, not all the time. Well, we are supposed to guard your homes, but Al is mostly concerned when you go out, like in public, like you are here at Hogwarts but not into your bedroom or anything like …”
“I’m not sharing my bedroom with any Auror!” Ginny exclaimed forcefully, cutting Sue off mid-sentence. She then thought for a moment and said with a smile, “Except for Harry when he becomes an Auror, I guess.” Ginny paused and everybody looked awkwardly at each other. “I guess I’m glad you’re going to be protecting Harry. I guess he is still a target for the Death Eaters. I’m not sure why you have to guard me. It sounds like an awful lot of bother, for me as well as you.”
“Al doesn’t always tell us why he has us doing some things,” Sue said apologetically. “He’s just very concerned with your safety and that of Harry Potter.”
Sue stayed with Ginny for the rest of the day, and even went into the bedroom in the Gryffindor common room to see it but promised that, if at all possible, the Aurors would not go any further than the Gryffindor common room. The other Aurors explored the castle and seemed to be otherwise occupied.
Harry got back very late. He noticed someone unfamiliar awake in the Gryffindor common room but didn’t think much about it. Ginny was already asleep but awoke enough to give Harry a long kiss, before going back to sleep.
Thursday, May 14 Harry woke up at about six-thirty, and Ginny woke up with him. “I got a couple of naps yesterday, Harry,” volunteered Ginny. “I feel rested for maybe the first time since I started taking care of Teddy. I don’t suppose it will last, but it feels pretty good.”
“That’s fantastic, Ginny,” Harry replied. “Now it’s my turn to be a little short of sleep.”
“When did you get back?” asked Ginny, vaguely recalling his arrival the previous night.
“I got to bed at about one,” a slightly groggy Harry said. “And I think I had just gotten to sleep at one thirty when Teddy woke up, and I changed him and gave him to you. I sort of remember changing him once or twice more last night, but I’m not sure.”
“Something is bothering you, Harry,” Ginny said, seeing something in his demeanor other than just the lack of sleep. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“I want to use the loo first,” Harry declared, not untruthfully.
“Teddy is asleep, and I need to use it too. No problem if we go together. The stalls are separate, after all,” Ginny replied. She got some clothes and the supplies she needed to refill the nursing bra and pulled Harry along to the loo. There was a sign on the door that showed if males or females were in the room. “I wonder what the door will show when we are both in here?” asked Ginny, giggling. Hermione had put that charm on all of the bathroom doors, since both sexes seem to be sharing the facilities.
Ginny was in and out of the stall she was in promptly. When Harry came out, Ginny was dressed in her knickers and her nursing bra, doing the charms to fill it up. Harry looked away. Ginny popped out with, “You might as well look at them, Harry. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, and you’re going to see a lot more of me before long.”
Harry went over to Ginny, trying to look her in the face but looking down at the expanding bra as the milk went into it. “They get bigger and heavier as they fill up,” Ginny explained. “Mum says the same thing happens when you are nursing, but the milk fills up inside of you instead of from the outside. I can surely see and feel the difference between the morning when these things are full and late in the afternoon. Can you see any difference?”
Harry had noticed that Ginny was bigger on top the first thing in the morning, both when looking at her and when they were snogging. It was hard not to; she was pretty big first thing in the morning. Her front just stuck out further in the morning. As he was contemplating Ginny’s figure, his pants were getting tight, and he needed to adjust his boxers. As he did so Ginny smiled and said, “I’m glad you noticed. Mum got birth control potions for me just so… Well, she said so that I get used to taking them, but I think it’s actually because she wants me to finish Hogwarts and not get pregnant before the wedding,” then, giving Harry one of her famous snarky smiles, “just in case.” By this time Ginny had finished with the bra, and before putting on a blouse, gave Harry a big hug.
Ginny finished getting dressed, and they left the bathroom. Percy and Ron were standing there waiting to use the loo, and when they saw Harry and Ginny come out together, gave both of them a long, blank stare. Harry was embarrassed, but Ginny just said dismissively, “We both needed to use the loo. It’s not like we were using the same one.” Harry and Ginny then went back into the bedroom, and when they got there other people were stirring, including Teddy.
Ginny took Teddy in her hands to feed him, and he clamped on and started to nurse greedily. Once Teddy was nursing, Ginny looked at Harry and said, “Do you want to tell me about it?”
“I’ll be all right” said Harry.
“Harry James Potter, something is bothering you!” exclaimed Ginny. “You can’t fool me. Out with it.”
Harry took out the photograph and the little bag. “Sometimes I think all Bill deals with is money and legal issues. I have to break the curses, but then all of the high finance is over my head, and I don’t care that much about it anyway. So I get a chance to go through the vaults, and I’m always reminded that these were real people that were killed, whole families that were wiped out.”
“There must have been something especially bad yesterday, Harry,” Ginny responded, with concern on her face and in her voice.
Harry gave Ginny the photograph. “Twenty five people killed because one of them got in Riddle’s way. Twenty five people for what?” Harry dumped out the coins. “Forty galleons and four knuts, with one knut for the bank. The entire estate, forty galleons, four knuts and twenty five people were killed for that! Every family killed is a tragedy, but this is such a terrible waste, so many people killed for what?”
“Oh, Harry,” said Ginny. They looked at each other for a while and then sat side by side touching as Ginny nursed Teddy, and Harry snoozed. There really was not much more to say.
Harry and Ginny walked down the stairs at a little after seven in the morning, with Ron and Hermione following close behind. As they got down to the common room, both Auror couples got up and waved a greeting at Ginny. Jim Shook said, “Good Morning, Harry Potter. I am Jim Shook, and this is my wife Sue. We are North American Aurors assigned to protect you and Ginny. We are going to be watching you today.”
David Williamson then spoke up, saying, “I’m David Williamson, and this is my wife Kim. We are the other Auror couple assigned to protect you. Your Minister of Magic and our boss Al VanLente wanted good twenty-four hour protection for both of you.”
“Why in the world would I need a bodyguard?” asked an irate Harry.
“Maybe because you killed Lord Voldemort?” David responded, stating the obvious.
“Tom Riddle,” Harry corrected. “Call him Tom Riddle, not Lord anything. He’s dead. I don’t need any protection from him.”
“All his Death Eaters are not dead, and there are plenty of other people who might want you dead,” David responded, more gently now.
“Why?” Harry asked, although now that he thought about it, maybe it was a rhetorical question.
David motioned everybody to come over to a corner of the common room. Ron and Hermione followed, and Harry said, “Ron Weasley and Hermione Grainger were with me on all of my adventures, well most of them, not everything, and they know almost everything I know. No secrets from them or from Ginny. Why would people want to kill me or Ginny?”
“Because you killed,” David paused just a moment before saying quite deliberately, “Tom Riddle, and there are plenty of people who want revenge. And because, in some ways, killing or capturing and torturing Ginny would be better revenge than just killing you, Harry.”
Ginny got an astonished look on her face at this. Harry tensed up.
Looking around, David then had everyone come closer, and he said quietly, “Too many people know that Albus Dumbledore had the Elder Wand, and that Harry is now the rightful master of it. Even though no one knows for sure where the wand is, the people lusting after it know that they have to kill Harry to take full possession of it.”
Jim then said, “The Elder Wand and some other things are important, but we don’t know why. Al does not tell us everything.”
“Can we talk at breakfast?” asked Harry. “I need to get to work to get money to pay for all you people, and I’m hungry.”
“I’m hungry too!” Ron exclaimed.
“You’re always hungry, Ronald,” Hermione kidded, laughing. But he just shrugged his shoulders and grinned.
When they got down to breakfast, Harry asked the assembled group, “Who is this Al Van-something?”
Hermione butted in with, “I kept hearing about Al VanLente, and I remember reading that last name in history. So I looked up all of the information I could about the VanLente family. Al’s grandfather and grandmother, his father and mother and father’s brother and his wife all fought in the battle against Gellert Grindelwald and the Muggle World War II. Al’s grandparents, uncle and aunt lost their life. His mother was hurt but lived, although she died early for a witch. His dad Bert is still alive. All of them received the highest awards they could from Muggle and Magical authorities, including Legions of Honor from France, Britain awards of some sort, the Medal of Honor from the US, and other medals from other Muggle countries, Orders of Merlin and a host of other magical awards.
“After the war Bert VanLente became head of the International Auror Association, the group that enforces the Statute of Secrecy among other things. His son Al followed in his footsteps, and Al is here in Britain. There are supposed to be a lot more Aurors here soon.”
Jim said, “All the North American Aurors that are going to be working for the Ministry, forty in total, should be here today. They are bringing a couple of house-elves that work as Auror Assistants as well. By next week, there should be a dozen from France and a dozen from China. We’re not included in that total. I understand that our paychecks are going to come from a Fleur Weasley, paid for by the estates that Harry has inherited.”
Both Harry and Ginny were thinking the same thing. ‘I am glad someone is watching him/her, but I don’t need a bodyguard.’
After Harry left, a young man came through the Floo. Ginny thought he looked like he could almost be her mother’s brother. She was shaken when the man said, “Hello, my name is Patrick Prewett. I’m one of the American Aurors, and I’m supposed to see Minerva McGonagall and Molly Prewett Weasley. Who are you?”
Ginny’s voice caught in her throat and she stared at Patrick as though he’d just turned into a hippogriff. This man’s red hair, slim nose and wide face practically shouted “Prewitt.” She finally choked out, answered “I’m Ginny Weasley, and Molly is my mother.”
Patrick smiled at the baby, who was dressed in clothes that advertised that he was a boy, and asked, “Who is that little man?”
Ginny, warming to the man quickly, said, “Teddy Lupin. His parents were both killed in the Battle of Hogwarts. My fiancé Harry Potter is his godfather, and we are taking care of him right now.”
Patrick got a big smile on his face, looked approvingly at Ginny and said, “Mom said something about you. She saw the Daily Prophet article that referred to you as ‘poor little Ginny Weasley,’ and said, “if she has any Prewett in her, Harry doesn’t stand a chance.’” As he finished his remarks Patrick was laughing.
This caused Ginny to get a huge victory smile on her face and join in the merriment of the moment.
“I’ll take you to Professor McGonagall’s office,” said Ginny, and she walked with Patrick. She didn’t say anything else, but just looked at this man walking along side of her with a great big smile. When they got to the office, Patrick addressed the headmistress and said, “Your cousin Fiona, my mother, gives you her greetings. Once Voldemort was killed, she felt safe letting you know she has been alive and living in the US. All the wards keeping you from talking about her are removed, and you can share with Molly Weasley what you know.’
Minerva said, “Oh dear. We had better go find Molly. I think she is working with Neville and Hanna on fixing some of the grounds that were damaged in the battle.”
They went outside and found Molly. Minerva said, “Why don’t I go first.”
Then she said, “Molly, before your brother Fabian was killed, he married a cousin of mine, Fiona McGonagall. Fabian sent her to safety in the U.S. as soon as he realized that she was pregnant. I am sorry I never told you, but Fiona and Fabian made the few of us that knew swear to secrecy. It looks like this is Fabian’s son Patrick.”
Patrick said, “Hi, Mrs. Weasley. I know that I am probably a big shock to you, but when Voldemort was killed, Mom said it was time to go back and meet my relatives. I am honored to meet you.”
Molly stood there stunned, in fact it looked like she might pass out. Minerva quickly conjured up a chair, and pushed Molly into it. She put her head in her hands, then looked at Patrick and Minerva and Patrick again. “I think too much has happened the last few weeks.” Molly said faintly.
Finally, after a few deep breaths and swiping at a few stray tears, she stood up and said, “Welcome to the family. Welcome back. How long are you staying?” As she was saying this she was giving Patrick one of the big Molly Weasley hugs. This time she let the tears run down her cheeks as she patted her nephew’s back as though to assure herself that he was real. After all of this time, a part of her long-lost brother was here.
When Patrick extracted himself from Molly’s hug, he said, “The Ministry thinks the Weasley family needs protection and who better than a cousin? So you’re stuck with me for a while.”
After a brief conversation, Molly sent Ginny and Patrick back, telling Ginny to fill Patrick in on the family. While she had dozens of first cousins on the Weasley side, she’d never had one on the Prewitt side. It was an amazing way to spend the day and a nice distraction from Harry’s absence.
Late in the morning, Hermione saw Ginny and Patrick, and Ginny introduced them. Hermione then asked, “What do you know about Megan Jones?”
Ginny thought for a few moments and replied, “She wasn’t here last year, but her little sister was. I don’t remember her name, but I think she was sorted into Hufflepuff. Why do you ask?”
“She said she needed to find her sister’s things but also asked about you and Harry. She seemed concerned when she found out that Harry was gone and might not be back until later. She really seemed nervous.”
Ginny thought it seemed odd somehow. She’d never been terribly close to Megan. It was mostly just short conversations about classes and small talk. But she guessed that a lot of people might be asking after her and Harry now that they were engaged. After all, it wasn’t often that a hero of the Wizarding community settled down.
Harry and Bill had the first chance to have lunch alone in some time. “We are going to be done early today,” Bill said. “My work isn’t done, but I don’t need you after one more vault today.”
“Is it getting easier and quicker to get into vaults and find things?” asked Harry.
“It is,” Bill replied. “There are a lot of very difficult-to-break curses that involve things that happen after you die, and Riddle could never face contemplating his own demise. That’s making my work easier. The formal betrothal is helping too, although I have to set up many of the vaults so that when you and Ginny do get married, I will be able to get back into them.”
“Why don’t we just get married now, and then wait to have sex when Ginny turns seventeen? Would that solve your problems?” Harry asked.
Bill gave Harry a puzzled look and seemed to think hard for several moments. “A lot of my curse-breaking has had to do with estates, and because of that I have had to learn a lot about marriages. A Wizarding marriage is not exactly like a Muggle marriage, at least not a British marriage. Once all of the spells are said, it cannot be broken. That’s not completely a good thing; I’ve seen a number of real tragedies because of it.
A valid marriage needs two things. The first is the commitment of the two people. You and Ginny have fulfilled that by signing the formal betrothal papers. It will be better if you go through with the ceremony and have the marriage spells performed. But if a new Riddle showed up on your wedding day and you had to escape with Ginny, you could consider yourself married anyway. Then you could get the spells and ceremony whenever.
The second thing absolutely necessary is sex. If you don’t have sex with my sister you are not married.”
“Why are we waiting?” asked Harry, thinking how bloody difficult it was to sleep next to Ginny every night but not get into bed and, and, and stop being so horny!
“Why ARE you waiting?” asked Bill.
“I promised your mum and dad” Harry said, his face resigned.
“Do your best, Harry, and good luck,” Bill said. “No one would blame you if you could not wait, but it would be better if you did.”
“Are you and your brothers betting on if we can wait or not?” a grinning Harry asked Bill, suddenly suspicious of the turn the conversation had taken.
Bill looked askance at Harry. “If Mum found out one of us bet that you couldn’t wait, can you imagine her reaction? Curse of the Pharaohs’ and Merlin’s tombs, would that be one angry woman.”
Harry was done with his business with Bill and the banks at about 2:00 PM. Bill had an owl directing him to send Harry back to Hogwarts and to wait for A.E. Van Lente and family. Before Harry left, he asked Bill why he needed guarding, and Bill just insisted Harry had to talk to Al.
Harry and Jim Shook went back to Hogwarts, and as they did, Harry asked, “Why is this Al VanLente so paranoid about my safety?
Jim answered, “I have no idea why Al is so paranoid about you except what we shared this morning, Voldemort and all.”
“Riddle,” Harry insisted. “Tom Riddle.”
“Tom Riddle,” Jim replied, smiling at the young man’s persistence.
“Hello, Harry,” Ginny beamed as she saw Harry come through the Floo. “You’re back early!”
“We have to wait for this Al VanLente, who seems to be responsible for people following us around,” Harry said. Harry looked at the list (the Ministry was still sending a list of who was coming through the Floo) and saw Albert E. Van Lente on it.
“You heard Hermione this morning. She gave us a little of his family history, his parents and grandparents, but not much about what he does now,” said Harry.
Jim explained, “Al is the head of the International Auror Association, the group that sends foreign Aurors into troubled regions. He is also the manager of any North American Aurors that are off on assignment and one of the three Associate Heads of Aurors in North America. He and his family are also the best people in the world to go into a troubled region and figure out what is wrong and how to solve it. He’ll find out what has gone on and what needs to be done. Al can be a little overwhelming at first, but he’s a good person.”
This was the first introduction to a family that would be professional and personal friends of the Potters for years, generations actually. A short time later, Al came through the Floo.
He turned out to be a large-boned man, standing a little over six foot tall, with the slightest hint of a middle-age paunch. He was, Harry learned, 60 years old, although he looked younger. He had very light blond hair, which was combed straight back and turning to white at the temples.
Al knew just who Harry Potter was, went up to him and in a loud booming voice said, “Harry Potter! How the hell are you!?”
Harry, somewhat taken aback by the abrupt greeting, said, “Good afternoon, Mr. Van Lente.”
Al shot back, “Call me Al, Harry. Knew your father. Taller than you, one of the best wizards I ever met. He could be an arrogant son of a bitch, though.”
Harry thought that this was not the first time he had heard of his father’s arrogance. No one else spoke of it with such frankness or for that matter, such frank good humor. In fact, it seemed as though the wizard was impressed by James’s arrogance.
Al’s voice softened somewhat as he continued, “Your mother was one of the nicest people I ever knew, and from what I have heard the last week and a half, you’ve inherited her kindness. You have her kind eyes.”
Then he completely changed his manner to be more business-like. “The Ministry is in a hell of a fix, Harry. Still getting vandalism and some attacks on non-purebloods. Goddamn bureaucrats have all these silly rules. Wizarding Britain and especially the Ministry seem to be stuck in the 19th century. You grew up in a Muggle household. Did you have any problem with electric lights?”
Harry shook his head no, wondering what electric lights had to do with anything.
Al continued, “Not a goddamn electric light in the place. Everything dark and dingy. Everyone left over from last year either incompetent or scared. Hell of a fix.
“Harry, I need to hear your story. I listened when you told what you could to the Ministry and others, but you left a hell of a lot out!”
“I really ought to have Ron and Hermione here to tell the story. Hermione has an outline that should help,” said Harry, unsure of how he felt about this loud, brash and more than a little overbearing man.
Jim said he would Floo to WWW to get Ron, and Sue left to find Hermione. Meanwhile, Al kept questioning Harry about his childhood and early years at Hogwarts. Ginny winced at Al’s swearing. Al eventually saw that he was making Ginny uncomfortable. The “God” references immediately dropped, and the “f” word was no longer used, but Al’s language stayed somewhat profane and colorful.
Ron and Hermione eventually arrived, and there were more introductions. Ginny changed Teddy and sat back to nurse him.
Al wanted Harry to start with his first year at Hogwarts, and Harry started to tell his story. Ginny was fascinated by the back and forth. Harry asked Al plenty of questions. Why did he want to know this? What was the significance of that?
When they got to the second year and Riddle’s dairy, Al told Harry, “I need a lot more detail on what happened with the diary.”
“I don’t want to say too much,” Harry said firmly. “Professor Dumbledore indicated that some of what went on should stay confidential.”
“We need to go somewhere where we can be private,” Al indicated, realizing that these young people already had a good handle on security of information.
As they got up to leave, Ginny noticed Megan Jones coming towards her and gave her a huge smile and wave. Megan had a very worried look on her face and took out her wand. Immediately, Sue Shook grabbed Megan’s wand, took it away and was talking to her. Jim was over next to them almost immediately, and then he came over to Al and whispered something.
Hermione said, “Megan was looking for Harry and Ginny earlier.”
Ron said, “Acting suspicious, if you ask me. Really dodgy. Wouldn’t say why she wanted to see you.”
Al said, “The young lady has a problem, but Sue is taking care of it.”
They went into a classroom, and Al secured it so that they were very private. The only people there were Al, Harry, Ginny, Teddy, Ron, and Hermione.
“I know the dairy was a Horcrux, Harry,” Al said, eliciting horrified gasps from all directions. “Albus and I were very good friends. If all else failed, the International Aurors were going to have to try and take out Voldemort, and we had to know he had created a Horcrux to have any chance of defeating him.”
“Call him Tom Riddle,” Harry insisted. He clarified Al’s statement, “If he still had even one Horcrux left you couldn’t kill him.”
Al chuckled. “Albus always wanted us to call him Tom Riddle, at least anything besides ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.’ Maybe we could have captured Riddle, kept him in prison. The dairy is important, Harry. Do you think that if you had not succeeded in getting rid of the Horcrux, Riddle would have come back to life as a young man?”
“Probably,” said Harry. “In some ways, a young Tom Riddle with all of the memories of the old Tom Riddle would really have been frightening. I’m not sure if the figure that came out of the diary would have had the adult Tom Riddle’s memory though. He only knew of my story because of, well because he’d learned of it.”
“There are plenty of things we will never know,” Al replied, more to himself than the others. But he was prepared to take Harry’s word, knowing that he was probably the most knowledgeable about Riddle, certainly more than anyone else, including Albus Dumbledore at this point.
Harry and Hermione went over the things that happened at Malfoy Manor and with Dobby’s death. “You buried Dobby?” asked Al. “And cried over him? And made a marker for him?”
“Of course!” said Harry. “What else would you do?”
“And Griphook the goblin saw you?” asked Al, looking far more interested about a house-elf and goblin than the others would expect, considering their conversation.
“Harry would go out and look at Dobby’s grave, and sometimes even cry a little,” said Hermione, looking sad to remember that period of time. “Griphook could not believe it. I’m not sure Harry noticed how shocked Griphook was as much as I did. And I said that of course Harry would grieve. We all felt that Dobby was a being deserving of respect like any being!’”
“The relationship between wizards and other beings has been under strain for centuries,” Al said. “You burying and crying over Dobby may be one of the little stones that are starting an avalanche in changing the relationships between the different beings in our world.”
“I hope so!” Hermione exclaimed.
“I hope so as well,” said Al sincerely. “But you can never tell how a revolution will turn out, and there can be plenty of problems along the way. I just hope we do more building than destroying.”
“The house-elf revolution is not going to end up hurting them, is it?” asked Hermione, her face a show of deep concern.
“Revolutions are never neat nor easy,” said Al. “But in general it’s a good thing.”
At 7:30, they broke for dinner, and Al ate with the large group that was now eating in the Great Hall. At 9:00, they went back to the story. It was not until 11:00 PM that they were to the final duel, with lots of fill-in bits not mentioned. They would have been there a week otherwise.
“I always knew those ‘things’ you had to destroy must have been Horcruxes,” said Al, with a slightly satisfied tone. “Only thing I know that acts like that. Riddle was a damn fool to think he could safely use those. Can I see the Invisibility Cloak?”
Harry showed him the cloak.
“Where is the third Hallow; the ring that Albus had, the Resurrection Stone?”
Harry looked at Al in silence for some time, and Ron and Hermione glared at him as well. Finally, Harry said, “We will not talk about these.”
Al retorted, “We will and at some length, but obviously not now. I’m on your side.” He looked at all four of them and very clearly said, “And I understand both how powerful these objects are and how dangerous they are. I have no desire to possess them. Remind me of that if I ever ask for them. I don’t think they would be safe in my hands. I just have to warn you that once you do possess them getting rid of them, even if you want to, is not always easy. It’s late. I will see you, Harry, next week, and I want to get together with all four of you again soon.”
“Before you go,” Harry said, “why am I in so much danger?”
“It’s a real complicated question,” Al responded.
“TRY,” said Harry, feeling like he was fifteen again and trying to get Dumbledore to look him in the eye. “What is going on that has you so worried?”
“Let me give you a little history, Harry, Ginny,” said Al. “There are things prophets know and things they don’t know. There are things that can make prophesies not come true. One of the chief problems is hubris, thinking that because good things have been foretold for you, nothing can go wrong. And then you get killed or otherwise do something stupid, making the prophesy impossible to fulfill. Albus thought that you would probably survive, Harry, but the few of us who sort of knew what was going on thought that if you were absolutely confident of your own survival, you would probably do something stupid and get killed.”
“I had to be scared?” asked Harry.
“I still want you scared,” said Al gruffly. “There were prophesies that our family would survive the war against Gellert Grindelwald, and we did, as a family. My father and mother survived, although grandfather, grandmother, my uncle and aunt were killed, and my mother was wounded physically and mentally. We did survive, sort of. And I know of plenty of prophesies that did not come true because of hubris.”
“But why me?” asked Harry.
“Harry, please trust me,” said Al, wincing as he said it. He knew how hard of a life that this young man had already led. “You are at the center of some prophesies and some other threads, but it would take way too long to tell you what and why. Some of what we are dealing with did not appear until you killed Riddle, and a lot of it is still developing. If we can keep you alive and unhurt, there should be good things ahead for you and Ginny, but for now you just have to trust me.”
“That’s not a very satisfactory answer,” Harry replied, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
“Hell, Harry, I’m unsatisfied,” Al complained. “A few prophets and I can see the signs of the times as well as anyone. Albus was an expert at reading them, and we all missed key things and got other things wrong. You want me to tell you what I…don’t…know! Damn it all, Harry, stay safe so we can figure all this out!”
“I don’t believe anyone would try to kill us!” Ginny exclaimed.
Al saw Sue Shook and said to her, “Could you tell our friends what you were doing with the young lady?”
“Sit down, please,” Sue said. “This is real serious, and I am afraid, sad news. The young lady, Megan Jones has a sister that was in the first year at Hogwarts. When the school was evacuated, she was apparently captured. The people who captured her told Megan and her parents that unless Megan killed one of Harry Potter’s friends, (Ginny would be best but any of the Weasley family would do) they would torture her sister Nora and kill her.
To her credit, Megan could not do it. She was glad she was caught. I do not expect she will be punished by the Ministry, although she will be watched.”
“What will happen to her sister?” Ginny asked in horror.
“Unless we find them first, I expect she will suffer unimaginable torture and be killed,” Sue said sadly.
“We need to do something RIGHT NOW to save Megan’s sister!” Ginny exclaimed, pulling out her wand to indicate her readiness for action.
“How?” asked Al VanLente. “We do not know who the kidnappers are or where they are located. We do not know if they are the same people that took Pansy Parkinson or a different group, or even if Pansy was kidnapped. Pansy’s parents are not being very helpful. If you have any ideas, we would be glad to hear them.”
“Boggarts!” said Ginny, and the meeting broke up. As they walked back to the dormitory Ginny turned to the three and said, “We have to do something to rescue Nora Jones, Megan’s sister! We can’t just let her be tortured and killed!”
“I’m going to become an Auror to help take care of just this type of problem, Ginny,” Harry replied, feeling much the same way she was at the moment. “But I’m tired of going off on my own, and I don’t think it’s the safe or the right thing to do. I think it’s better if I’m part of the Ministry with the whole Ministry behind me than if I just flail at the problem.”
“It doesn’t help Nora right now,” Ginny said, knowing that there wasn’t much they could do to help. “Oh, Harry, I’m worried.”
“Blimey, Harry,” Ron said glumly. “You’re in the center of everything again!”
“Well, I’ve been reading up on how the Wizarding community is governed, the International Confederation of Witches and Wizards,” said Hermione. “It really is interesting.”
Ron jumped in with, “We’re guarding the Hogsmeade entrance, and I’m trying to act like a good Auror or at least a good guard, and Hermione has her nose in a book!”
“It’s not like we’re doing much, Ron,” said Hermione. “There are not that many people who come in and out the Hogsmeade entrance, although I suppose we do still need to be down there. All of the spells that protect Hogwarts are not fully functional yet, and Professor McGonagall is still worried. So I thought I might as well learn all that I can about how our world is governed.”
“What does that have to do with Harry?” asked Ron.
“Well, the International Confederation of Witches and Wizards meets in Switzerland, in a whole magical valley,” said Hermione. “The valley is sort of governed by some odd mix of representative government and the family that owns the valley. And now Harry owns the valley. It would be sort of like if Harry owned all of the castles the queen stayed in, and was sort of in line to become prime minister maybe, I don’t know. I’m sure I’m not beginning to describe things right. But Voldemort killed the family.”
Harry butted in with, “TOM RIDDLE! Call him Tom Riddle. He was just a person, not Lord of anything.”
“Tom Riddle,” Hermione, rolling her eyes, continued with, “killed the governing family, but he never became head of the valley, and I don’t know why. But I suppose Harry will or can, and that’s part of why he is so important.”
“I think it has more to do with money,” said Harry. “I’m the only one who can get into the vaults and get all of the money, at least until I’m married.”
“See, it’s a good thing we are engaged, Harry,” Ginny remarked, smiling sweetly at Harry with a come hither look in her eyes and bearing.
Before they went to bed, Ginny shared her observations with Harry. “Al knows a lot more than I thought he knew, and I bet he found out a lot more than you tried to tell him. What do you think of him?”
Harry thought for a bit. “He is very bright, and he knows much more of the history of the war, and the history of all of the objects than we do. When he said that a lot was changing in the elf-goblin-wizard relationship, he was trying to do more than give me information.”
Harry thought some more. “You know, Ginny, in many ways I feel very grown up. I do not feel embarrassed or too young to deal with the financial and estate issues that have been thrust my way. Of course, Bill is doing most of the money stuff, but I can do what I am asked to do. I’m not intimidated by taking care of Teddy. I’ve even resisted your desire to have sex right now, and you’re as intimidating as they come!”
At this, Ginny gave Harry a little shove, and he answered back by kissing her.
Harry then told Ginny, “I thought I could be a good Auror because of how well we did with the DA. But talking to Al is showing me there is a lot more to being a good Auror, or managing Aurors, than I ever thought there was.”
Harry and Ginny both went to bed thinking about the rather imposing Al VanLente, wondering how important he was going to be over the next months.
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