Summary: A novel of three books. Which is basically a Romantic, Action/Adventure story. Note: also episodes of rather dark violence.
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to JK Rowling, and this story and it's original characters are mine. Contact before reproduction.
Pairing: Harry/GW and Harry/OC and possibly some other OC pairings for other characters – sorry you'll have to read.
Rating: M for adult themes and content.
Time-line: Story starts a month after the battle of Hogwarts has ended the war.
Author's Note: Previously this story was advertised as compliant to canon. That claim has been retracted.
The Twelve Gates
1. 12 Grimmauld Place
Harry Potter sat at the end of a log by an open campfire. Staring into the fire revealed nothing but it's ability to mesmerize. As warm as the fire was in front of him, the cold Romanian mountain air behind him was nipping at his backside. They had been scouring the Carpathians mountains for three days looking to find a dark wizard of the worse kind. Ron and Lance were seated at the opposite end and would occasionally glance his way but made no effort to include him in conversation. Everyone was tired and cold. The log he was sitting on was not the easy chair back home, but then few things on this trip had been comfortable. Somehow he felt comforted by that thought, as the harsh conditions were a constant reminder of why he was there. The dark wizard they were chasing was out there somewhere and they were growing desperate to find him. They had come tantalizingly close several times only to have the wizard disappear by apparition.
At first Harry thought he would be a perfect shoe-in for this mission, but then Kingsley decided he wasn't ready. He thought Harry had not sufficiently recovered, and he might rush in and get himself killed, leaving his team members in danger. Harry was suspicious this view was also shared by Ron and Lance. This was grim business, wizard hunting, and Harry was going about it the only way he knew how. This would be no weekend camping trip and friendly chit-chat wouldn't help with the business at hand. A dark wizard had taken someone he loved and Harry intended to capture or kill him. The darker side of him hoped it would be the latter.
Viktor Krum said the wizard would be nearly impossible to kill – let alone capture. When the dark wizard was identified, an information search over all of Europe quickly followed. Durmstrang, of all places, had the records they needed. After taking a portkey to the school, Harry followed Viktor Krum into the dark bowels of Durmstrang castle. Trudging past candle scones blackened by soot and coated with wax, they passed several tapestries and entered a well lit reading room extended from the base of an interior tower. Page after page they poured over, describing the habits of this dark wizard that called the Carpathian mountains his home. The wizard and his demonic accomplice was considered extremely dangerous and all efforts to contain him had, so far, produced only tragic results.
He had to face the wizard first. This had to be. Ron and Lance could back him up. If he fell, Ron and Lance could apparate away. They would be in no danger.
Looking deeply into the fire, he was almost in a trance now. Remembering how bored his summer had been a few months ago he felt like laughing. A little boredom would be a welcome relief about now. Soothed by the yellow firelight, his thoughts drifted back to the lonely summer and the morning paper about the Hogwarts project. It seemed so long ago....
About Four Months Earlier
Morning light was streaming into the window at 12 Grimmauld Place. With consciousness tugging at his sleeve, Harry was about to wake up. The battle of Hogwarts had ended the war a month ago, and the worst of the bad dreams were behind him. There were a few that wouldn't go away; and when they did come back, like this morning, he'd wake up shivering with the covers on the floor. No matter how bad the dreams, the wizarding world was free of Voldemort and that was something to be happy about.
Gently rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Harry could hear sounds around him. Kreacher could now be heard rattling pots and pans. When the war was over, Kreacher and Harry sat down for a long talk. Harry offered Kreacher his freedom and explained that his obligation to the house was no longer mandatory. The old house-elf teared up and asked if it would be possible to stay. Kreacher explained that he had never known any life other than being a house-elf for the Black household. Harry consented to let him stay, and ever since that day, Kreacher's attitude had improved remarkably. Kreacher had taken the news of Dobby rather hard. Harry had explained that without the brave and heroic help of the little house-elf all might have been lost, and Kreacher appeared to enjoy hearing this explanation.
Harry struggled to sit up – yawned deeply and began to wheel his feet away from the bed and on to the floor. He had taken a room on the second landing of Grimmauld place. It was the room he and Ron had shared a couple of years earlier when Sirius donated the use of the house to the Order of the Phoenix. It had taken Molly and the Weasleys several weeks of cleaning to get the house livable. For some reason this morning, he noticed the wooden floor was bare and very cold. A new rug for the floor would make a good excuse to go into Diagon Alley today. Of the many improvements Harry had planned for Grimmauld Place, he and Kreacher had installed a shower. It was an amazing convenience and so far, he loved it. Kreacher had placed a new bar of soap and fresh white towels beside the black basin to wash. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he looked at the stubble and decided he could wait a day for a shave. Not particularly thinking of himself as good looking, he did notice improvement. His jaw line was a little deeper and the chin was a little stronger these days. And glasses, while still a necessity, were better fitting and looked molded to the shape of his head. A few years ago they looked like flying buttresses on the end of his nose. That troublesome patch of hair that was always sticking up had been magically enhanced to lie flat.
Feeling refreshed after the shower, he was digging around for something to wear. Besides cooking, Kreacher was taking care of the laundry. This was a luxury indeed, since they had spent months camping in the tent without the ability to regularly change into fresh clothes. Hermione had used a cleansing charm on dirty clothes that was moderately effective but a good washing was much better. Now, over a month after the battle, normalcy was pulling at him from all directions. Slipping into comfortable jeans, a tee shirt and his old Chuck Taylor All-Stars, he was ready for breakfast. The smell of food cooking on the hob was wafting upstairs.
"Master Potter, breakfast is ready sir."
"Thank you Kreacher," replied Harry, and he could hear the elf's footsteps trailing off down the stairs. Harry wondered what Kreacher had prepared for breakfast this morning. The old house-elf was out of practice but his cooking was getting better. Many of the shops in Diagon Alley were re-opening and Kreacher could now freely apparate into the alley for groceries and back without fear of being watched or followed. He had gone with Kreacher on quite a few trips to Diagon Alley and the Leaky Cauldron. This had been his only contact with others since the battle of Hogwarts had ended the war.
Grimmauld Place had the look and smell of a work in progress. It was a curious mixture of decaying wallpaper and fresh paint. Trudging down the stairwell to the first landing, the carpet on the stairs was almost threadbare and some of the brass stair rods were loose or missing their finials. The walls still had a dingy appearance and the paper was cracked and peeled. Continuing around the corner and down a few steps to the kitchen, one came upon a completely different experience. Kreacher had painted everything bright and shiny. The long table had been polished to a reflective sheen. Some time after the loss of Dumbledore, Mundungas Fletcher had come to Grimmauld Place and taken the silverware and the beautiful china with the Black family crest. It had been replaced with a substitute that, while serviceable, was not as nice as the original. The pots and pans hanging overhead had been polished bright and some had been replaced with shiny copper ones.
Kreacher had made a setting for him at the head of the long table. The aroma of coffee was very strong and a pot of coffee with a cup was sitting next to a small plate of pastries. As he sat to the table, Kreacher was getting ham and eggs ready to serve.
"Kreacher, this smells great!"
"Kreacher always tries to please," Kreacher replied in a monotone croaky voice.
He slowly poured a cup of coffee and unfolded a copy of the Daily Prophet Kreacher had laid on the table. He began to sip the coffee while he read the headlines on the front page.
McGonagall to Oversee Reconstruction of Hogwarts
Head Mistress Minerva McGonagall has been appointed to manage the reconstruction of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry starting this July. McGonagall, who distinguished herself bravely at the battle of Hogwarts was overwhelmingly approved by the governors to oversee the reconstruction. Some sections of the castle, which are reported to be over 1000 years old will require castle historians and detailed research to effectively monitor and repair. The Interim Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt has gone on record to say. "The Ministry feels complete confidence in the abilities and devotion of Head Mistress McGonagall to manage all aspects of the reconstruction project to begin at Hogwarts." All wizards and witches who would like to make a donation or contribution of time to this project, please contact Imelda Pickersgill, Department of Historical Artifacts, Ministry of Magic.
"Hmm," Harry murmured reflectively. There had been rumors the castle could regenerate itself and he wondered how that would affect the reconstruction effort. On the back of the front page was Rita Skeeter's new column, "Quick Quotes Corner". Wondering what new fabrications she had written today, Harry briefly read the section.
Wizarding World Threatened as Never Before
Recent events threatening to expose the wizarding world were released today by a source deep inside the Ministry. For his own protection the source is unnamed but went on record to say that "Illegal trafficking of magical artifacts has reached an epidemic proportion". Risk of complete exposure of the wizarding world has climbed to a level not experienced in over one hundred years, the source explained. It appears that magical artifacts are turning up in curio shops around the world. Many of the items considered completely innocuous in a magical environment would be earth shaking when found in a Muggle owned curio shop. Last week, it was reported Dragon eggs were found in a storeroom of a downtown department store. As of this writing there are no clues as to how or why the items are showing up in non-magical establishments...
Reading all he could stand, he threw the paper down to concentrate on breakfast. It was difficult to know how much of Rita's stories to believe, but many accepted her completely, and Rita always seemed to have some new crisis to report on.
"Kreacher, let's plan on going to Diagon Alley today," he said while munching on a pastry.
"Yes sir," he said nodding. "What is it we need from Diagon Alley sir?"
"I think we'll be looking for a rug. My bedroom floor feels like ice in the morning."
Kreacher had a puzzled look on his weathered face and walked off mumbling something under his breath.
"We'll go around noon," Harry yelled as Kreacher disappeared around a corner.
When noon rolled around Kreacher was nowhere in sight. He turned up in the cupboard off the kitchen sound asleep.
"Kreacher!" Harry said, with no response. "Kreacher – let's go!"
"Yes sir," he said rubbing the sleep from the huge glassy eyes. They walked out to the yard behind Grimmauld Place where he took Kreacher by the hand. Harry focused his attention on the yard at the Leaky Cauldron. Like a rubber band being pulled back and let go, they were shot through what felt like a long rubber tube to the Leaky Cauldron.
"Kreacher I'll be in here for a while. Try and find a rug, and anything else we need, and come back and get me a little later. Oh, and find yourself a new pillowcase to wear – that thing's filthy."
Kreacher mumbled something under his breath while Harry tapped the bricks to open the passageway to Diagon Alley. Harry watched Kreacher disappear into the Alley before the passageway closed and turned toward the dining area of the Leaky Cauldron.
Tom had retired from the Leaky Cauldron, and Hannah Abbot had taken over as landlady. Hannah was working behind the bar today and looking very nice. There was a small table in the corner that looked somewhat appealing. Hearing Harry pulling out the chair, Hannah snapped her head around to see him.
"Hello Harry," she said, and picked up a courtesy copy of the Daily Prophet and slid it down on the table.
"All right Hannah?"
"Very good, and what can I get for you today?"
"Ah, let me have the soup and sandwich special – and a butterbeer I guess."
"Coming up," she said smiling and disappeared behind the bar. More out of politeness than anything else, he thumbed through the paper. She returned a few minutes later with the food and butterbeer on a large tray. She sat down the food and beer and held the tray down by the edge.
"Seen much of your friends Harry?" she asked. Harry looked up at Hannah and motioned toward the empty seat. She nodded and sat down.
"No, haven't see anyone really. I think they dropped off the edge of the earth," he said and reached for the beer. "How about you?"
She shook her head and clinched her lips, "except for the regulars in here, almost no one."
"I've gotten an Owl or two from Ron, but that's about it. You may have heard – Hermione left for Australia."
"I heard something about that. She's trying to find her parents – right?"
"Yeah, she had nowhere else to go really. She'd been staying at the Burrow, but that couldn't go on forever," he said and tested the soup.
"No, I don't suppose it could," Hannah said with a grin. "So how's Ron taking it?"
"Not well, from what he mentioned in the letters, but I need to get together with him. Can't believe it's been a month, you know."
"Yeah, so how are the Weasleys? It was terrible about Fred."
"I think Molly and George are taking it pretty hard. From what little Ron has said, Ginny and him have been staying close to home – to help the family 'mend'."
"Oh, I see," she said nodding slowly. "And Ginny – nothing from her?"
Harry shook his head. Hannah paused for a second and jumped up.
"Well, better be getting ready for the evening crowd - catch you later Harry," she said and tapped him affectionately on the shoulder before leaving.
The bread on the sandwich was a little dry, but moist enough when chased with a spoonful of soup or butterbeer. There was Doris Crockford coming in the front door and footsteps could be heard behind him.
"Afternoon Harry." Harry quickly turned to see Dedalus Diggle coming his way. Dedalus had always been friendly to him – ever since he was a child. After Hagrid, Dedalus and Doris were the first two wizards he'd met as a child on his first trip to Diagon Alley. It looked like Dedalus was still wearing the same suit and top hat by the condition of his clothes.
"Hello Dedalus. Getting started early today?"
"You eating alone again?"
"Your friend Ron - still stuck in the Burrow huh?"
"He's helping his dad with the garden gnomes. They've been ruining their garden for years," Harry said and Dedalus chuckled.
"What about the Dursleys, have you talked to them?"
"No, I don't know where they are at the moment," Harry said after a swallow of butterbeer. "They never told me where they were headed when they moved out."
"You never wanted to go back there anyway – did you?"
"No, that would have never worked. I'm lucky Sirius left me Grimmauld Place."
"Well you need to stick around here, we'll have a lively crew coming in later," Dedalus said coaxingly.
"I don't know. I told Kreacher to find some things, and I'd get back with him later."
"Ah Harry, don't worry yourself about a house-elf. You ought to be hav'n a good time. Stick around."
It went back and forth like this for a while before Dedalus convinced him to stay. The Leaky Cauldron evening crowd was one Harry tried to avoid. After he was able to rid the wizarding world of Voldemort, he'd become a bit of a local hero. People he didn't know would stop and offer to buy him drinks. Once you got started it was almost impossible to get out. And so it went. Harry stayed until late and never saw an empty glass until late in the evening. Amid many protests, he excused himself for the evening and left for Grimmauld Place. Thinking it unwise to apparate after having so much to drink, he walked all the way home. During the walk home, he thought about Ginny. He had asked Ron about her, but Ron was never a lot of help with Ginny. His summer was not looking to good right now. He never told anyone the whole story about Hermione. In truth, she came to him to borrow money. There was no portkey from the UK to Australia and she needed money for an airline ticket. He hadn't heard from her and was getting a little worried.
The next morning Harry slept a little later than normal. Kreacher prepared a very small breakfast and made little noise in doing so. Kreacher was mono-syllabic over breakfast and obviously not very happy with Harry.
"Kreacher, I'm sorry I lost track of time. Did you get a chance to look for the rug?"
"Kreacher looked for the rug all day sir, but Master never came as he promised," he said with a dull croaky voice.
"I'm sorry Kreacher. I'll make it up to you," Harry said pouring a cup of coffee. Harry reached for the new morning paper, paused a moment, and put it down to reach for yesterday's paper. Carefully he re-read the column on the first page about the reconstruction project at Hogwarts. The summer was going nowhere. There was no idea what was going on with Ron and Ginny and no word from Hermione. Maybe a summer project at the castle would be just the thing. It was obvious he couldn't keep spending his evenings at the Leaky Cauldron. He would go to the Ministry and talk to Ms. Pickersgill today.
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