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Harry Potter and the Heart of the Hero by jeograph
Chapter 17 : Happy Birthday Harry
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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Chapter Sixteen
Happy Birthday Harry

Harry stood before the bathroom mirror rubbing his chin and examining his reflection. He did not look any different than any other morning. Nor did he feel particularly different. The stubble on his chin was an every morning occurrence and had been now for a couple of years. He reached in to his toiletries case and drew out his shaving kit. With his wet shaving brush he worked the tub of shaving soap building up a rich lather before applying it to his face. His beard was still quite thin and sparse in spots but it was certainly enough that he required a morning shave. He knew that there was a hair removal spell that had been developed by some Wizard somewhere for dealing with this daily ritual. As he stood there stropping his blade, he recalled the morning a few years before when he had asked Ron about it.

“Yeah, Mate, there is a spell, but some things are just more satisfying without magic,” Ron had said sagely, as he dragged his own razor along his chin.

It was Ron who had taught him this skill. Ron who had helped him pick and order a shaving kit by owl post. And, as Harry pulled the straight razor across his cheek, enjoying the smooth feel of the hard edge through the creamy lather, he thought, it was Ron who deserved credit for passing on a lot of knowledge that he would have lacked without the presence of a father in his life. Harry wondered briefly if Ron could use a new shaving kit for Christmas. It was a way off, but it might be a nice gift and a veiled “thank you” that Ron would understand.

Harry finished off his chin and upper lip and wiped his face, admiring his whiskerless appearance. He hopped in the shower and emerged a short time later, refreshed and ready to face the day. He had a full agenda, he knew, but he suspected there would be a few surprises as well. He hoped nothing he would need to be too on guard for, but that was also a possibility.

As the days had been warm Harry pulled on a short sleeve button down and pair of cargo shorts so that he would not be too hot.

Dressed and ready, He made his way down the hall, noting the silence of all the rooms. It occurred to him that even Ron had gotten up before him and that was a bit odd. It was very seldom that Harry was the last down to breakfast. He crossed the sitting room and pushed the kitchen door not giving it another thought.

“Happy Birthday, Harry!” came a chorus of voices in the kitchen. Harry smiled broadly and joined everyone at the table.

“Feel any different, Harry?” Charlie asked.

“No, I can’t say that I do,” Harry replied, “but, maybe that’s just because I have so much to do today.”

“So, presents now, or later?” Mrs. Weasley asked, making a sweeping gesture toward a pile of brightly wrapped gifts on the counter under the window.

Harry thought about it for a moment. “I am thinking, later, if you all don’t mind,” Harry replied as he leaned forward and stabbed at a couple of sausages from the platter in front of him.

“That’s it Harry, wonderful resolve,” Mr. Weasley said, chuckling a little, “business to attend to first aye. Are you two ready for your apparition testing?” he asked, including Ron in the question.

Harry grinned and nodded his mouth too full of breakfast to reply. Ron was doing the same. In fact they had been practicing for the test during the past week and a half. That was the wonderful thing about being in the Weasley household; even though underage magic use was in principal forbidden, the trackers at the Ministry couldn’t tell if magic in such a large home was cast specifically by the underage Wizard. Consequently, both he and Ginny were relatively free to use magic while there, without fear that the Ministry would come to investigate. Still, Harry was glad that sometime during the day he would be free of the underage restriction.

Breakfast turned out to be as loud and boisterous an affair, as any time you gathered that many Weasleys around a single table. Usually, there were not so many questions directed toward Harry, but it being his Birthday, today was a bit of an exception. Mostly everyone wanted to be on the same schedule, so that was the main topic of conversation. After breakfast Harry was going with Ron, Mr. Weasley, Charlie and the Burgestikoffs to the Ministry where he and Ron would complete their apparition tests. The testing had been arranged by the Minister for Harry's Birthday at Harry's request. The Burgestikoffs had an appointment at the Wizarding Immigration Office, part of the Department of International Magical Cooperation. After finishing their tests, Ron would go on to the Twin's shop and Harry had arranged to meet with Reinhold Prächt, to formally complete his inheritance. As there were some papers that Harry would have to file with the Ministry, he had asked to have the meeting there and had been granted use of the Minister’s conference room.

Assuming that all of that went as quickly as Harry hoped he was planning on meeting Ron, Hermione and Ginny for lunch in Diagon Alley. This idea had been met with some security concerns, but Harry had insisted that it was his Birthday, so eventually all had agreed. In the afternoon Harry intended to transfer his belongings to the Manor and settle in. Lupin, Tonks, Hermione and Ron, who would also be moving into the Manor, were to meet at the Weasley’s at three o’clock.

As Bill and Fleur’s wedding was in ten days, Fleur had convinced Harry that she and Bill should stay at the Manor as well so that she could oversee final wedding preparations.

Harry had invited the Burgestikoffs to stay in his home as well, at least until they could make more permanent living arrangements. At the Manor, at least, everyone would not be living on top of one another, and Harry sincerely hoped that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley would appreciate a bit more calm at The Burrow as that would leave only them, Ginny and Charlie. The final plan was for everyone to come to the Manor around seven o’clock for Harry’s actual birthday party.

With the days plans all laid out to everyone’s approval Breakfast was concluded and they all moved to the sitting room for departure to the Ministry. They were determining floo order when there were two distinct “pops” and Dobby, and a completely intoxicated looking Winky were standing there. Dobby was carrying a small brightly wrapped package complete with a ribbon and bow.

Dobby looked around the room sheepishly; he had obviously not anticipated so many people. He held out his gift, “Dobby has come to wish Harry Potter a most wonderful Happy Birthday,” he said.

Harry knelt down to Dobby’s height and accepted the gift. “Thank you, Dobby,” Harry said. He looked over at Winky who wobbled a little and “hiccupped” quietly. “Is Winky okay?” Harry asked.

“Dobby does not let her out of his sight anymore,” he smiled apologetically. “She is very unhappy in her freedom, and Dobby worries for her.”

Harry nodded and proceeded to unwrap Dobby’s gift. It was a pair of matching knit socks, purple with a pattern of gold stars and crescent moons. Harry smiled; Dobby was obviously getting quite good at knitting. “Thank you, Dobby, these are wonderful,” he said.

“There is something else Dobby would like to ask Harry Potter,” Dobby said, as he shuffled nervously.

“What is it Dobby?” Harry asked.

“Dobby is very worried about Winky, and he thinks he has come up with a way to save her from herself,” Dobby said quietly stepping closer to Harry, and wringing his hands anxiously.

Harry was catching on and though the thought had not occurred to him previously, it suddenly seemed that it could make sense. “Dobby, are you trying to ask me if I will make Winky my house-elf?” Harry questioned.

Dobby nodded, “Harry Potter is seventeen now and Dobby thinks that he will be having a place of his own, and since Kreacher is very old, Dobby thought, if Harry Potter were to take another house-elf things would be easier for him,” Dobby’s eyes grew large and pleading, “also, Dobby does not want to leave Winky alone," he paused, looking embarrassed, "Dobby cares for Winky so much that Dobby hopes that Harry Potter will accept him as well, and Dobby and Winky can be together.”

Harry was surprised at this. “But, Dobby, you are a free Elf. Why would you give up your freedom?” Harry asked.

“Dobby likes being free of his former Masters, and Dobby enjoys working at Hogwarts School,” Dobby said quickly, “but, Dobby knows that it is part of an Elf's nature to be a servant. Being free elves makes Dobby and Winky a dishonor in the eyes of their own kind. Perhaps if there were more free elves... perhaps if other elves felt differently, being free would not be so hard.”

“You are certain of this, Dobby?” Harry asked as he rubbed his chin in thought.

“Harry,” Hermione piped up, “you can’t really be considering this?”

“Actually, Hermione, I am considering it,” Harry said, “especially if it is the best thing for Winky.”

“Actually,” Mr. Weasley spoke, “It is probably a good idea for Dobby as well. After all he may be a “free” Elf, but there is always the possibility that he could be captured and forced back into servitude... And, well, Dobby knows a bit too much to be allowed to fall in to the wrong hands.”

Hermione looked rather aghast, and she stood shaking her head at Harry.

Harry looked around the room. Hermione was the only one that seemed to be having a difficult time with this turn of events. While Harry really didn’t like the idea of forced Elf servitude he knew enough to know that it had been that way long enough that the Elves themselves had adapted to it. And, further, Winky was clearly not adapting to her freedom.

“Hermione,” Harry said, “I really think that I can offer them a better life. I understand your objections, and in principal I agree with you, but in this case I have to think about security.”

Hermione looked terribly sad, but she nodded to Harry in reluctant agreement.

“Dobby,” Harry said, turning back to the anxious Elf, still fidgeting nervously in the center of the room. “Answer my question. Are you certain?”

“Dobby, worries, that what Mr. Weasley says is true. While Dobby can never be enslaved again by his former Master, or any member of the Malfoy house, the danger of being captured and returned to forced service is real,” Dobby stopped wringing his hands, gesturing to Harry with open palms. “Dobby would not like to serve just anyone, but to be the servant of Harry Potter... that would truly be an honor, and Dobby knows that Harry Potter would be a good Master and allow Dobby and Winky to stay together.”

Harry looked over to Winky, who didn’t seem to be particularly aware of what was happening. “Winky,” he said loudly, snapping his fingers in her face to get her attention. “Winky!” he said a little louder, “do you wish to have a new Master?”

Winky’s eyes got big as she focused on Harry. She wobbled a little but kept her feet. “No one wants Winky,” she said with a slur, “Winky has no one to call Master.”

Harry took that as a yes.

“Well, can someone tell me how it’s done?” Harry asked.

“It is really very simple,” Alex said, “Just grab them by the ear, but it must be firm enough that they cannot pull away. Then simply say “I capture you in the name of the house of Potter, and claim you as a servant from this moment onward, for all time,” she said.

“But, Harry,” Mister Weasley added, “You have to speak with conviction and you must really mean it.”

"It cannot be that simple," Harry replied a bit confused, "don't I need my wand or something to cast a spell?"

"Not at all Harry," Alex replied, "You have to understand, this is part of what makes the whole issue of House-elf slavery so complex. The binding magic does not come from the Wizard at all, it comes from the elf. It is part of their nature."

Harry nodded.

Dobby looked suddenly like he might run away. Harry wondered for a moment if it might be some kind of instinctive response. Dobby reached for Winky and his free hand began to rise like he would snap his fingers and Apparate away. But with practiced seeker reflexes, Harry was faster and he reached out with both hands and snatched each Elf by the end of an ear. Dobby jerked reflexively but Harry’s grip was firm and though Dobby winced, he was suddenly smiling a broad smile that eased Harry’s heart. Winky, seemed to become suddenly sober, but made no effort to free herself, she too looked happy in a slightly confused way.

“I capture you in the name of the house of Potter, and claim you as servants from this moment onward, for all time,” Harry said in a loud firm voice.

Both house-Elves fell to their knees as a faint glow began to emanate from their ears where Harry held them tightly, the glowing grew golden as it spread through their little bodies until each Elf shined brightly for a moment, and then the effect was gone. Harry released them.

“Excellent,” Alex said aloud, “you don’t often see that sort of a golden effect. It means you have two very devoted servants.”

Harry smiled at the two Elves who were slowly getting to their feet looking expectantly at their new Master. Winky appeared to be free of her intoxication and she was grinning and straightening herself, suddenly aware of her disheveled appearance. Dobby seemed to be examining himself, not as though he had lost himself, but as though he had discovered himself anew.

“Master Potter,” Dobby spoke rather delightedly, testing the new way of referring to Harry, “Shall we go to your home at Grimmauld place and make it ready for you?”

“No,” Harry said perhaps a bit more firmly than necessary, “you two will not be living at Grimmauld place.”

This brought a frown of confusion to the Elves who never-the-less stood ready to be commanded.

“Jarphred,” Harry called.

With a “pop” Jarphred appeared next to Harry. He seemed to take in the whole scene before him without a hint of surprise or confusion.

“Jarphred,” Harry said pleasantly, “I have just secured you a bit of help with the Manor, even though I am quite sure you don’t really need it,” he said intending to flatter the devoted Elf. “This is Dobby and Winky,” he gestured to the two Elves whose eyes had grown wide at the sudden appearance of another Elf. “Dobby, Winky, this is Jarphred,” The Elves nodded to one another. “He is in charge of my household, where the two of you will now live; you are to follow his orders as though they are my own.”

Dobby and Winky looked a little confused, and a bit excited, and nodded their understanding.

“Jarphred, you will take them home now and assign them living quarters, and duties,” Harry said, “and please see that they are properly groomed and attired for their new home, I do not wish to see ragged tea towels on any servant of mine.”

“Yes Master Harry,” Jarvy replied as he bowed deeply.

Harry turned back to Dobby and Winky. “Go with Jarvy now, he will tell you all that you need to know. Everything you learn and see is to be kept strictly secret; you may tell no one about your new home do you understand?” Harry didn’t pause for an answer, “I will see you both later today.”

 “Yes Master Harry.” They bowed deeply.

Jarvy stepped forward and with a “pop” the elves disappeared.

Harry stood up.

“Well,” Ron stepped forward, clapping Harry on the back, “Happy Birthday, Master Potter,” he teased.

Harry gave Ron a quick elbow to the ribs grinning at the teasing, leaving Ron rubbing his side.  Harry turned to the fireplace. “I suspect we should get going. Very sorry for the interruption,” he said.

“Not at all, m’boy,” Mr. Weasley said as he motioned the other travelers toward the grate, “I suspect Moody will be quite pleased with this turn of events.”

Mr. Weasley took a handful of floo powder from the canister mounted on a bracket near the hearth, and stepped into the grate. He threw the powder at his feet and said “Ministry of Magic” in a firm clear voice.  With a swirl of green smoke he was gone. Harry went next, followed by the others.

Upon arrival at the Ministry they had all gone to security were they had been put through wand checks and received their visitor badges. Afterward they had each gone to their separate appointments’.  Mr. Weasley walked Ron and Harry to the Apparition testing room before going on to work.

Harry had been pleased to find that the Apparition testing was conducted by Wilkie Twycross, who had been the instructor at Hogwarts. The test proved to be rather simple. Mr. Twycross had asked him and Ron to make several Apparitions to various spots marked around the large room. They had practiced so much that the requested apparitions were quite easily done. Mr. Twycross seemed quite pleased and congratulated them on making each successfully. He had left long enough to process their licenses in another room and then unceremoniously presented them. The whole ordeal had taken about half an hour.

After completing the test Harry walked with Ron down to the atrium. They congratulated each other happily and then Ron headed for Diagon Alley using one of the public fireplaces. Harry turned on his spot and headed toward the Minister’s office in anticipation of his next meeting.

Harry arrived at the last hallway, where he could see the very prim; rather severe looking young Witch sitting at her desk. As before, when she noticed him she leaned down and touched whatever it was that she appeared to speak into. The Security guards snapped to attention on either side of the hall. The Witch motioned Harry forward.

The oak door of the Minister’s office opened and Rufus Scrimgeour stood in the doorway. “Good to see you again Harry,” he said pleasantly.

Harry nodded greetings to the Minister and stepped into the outer office. Scrimgeour directed him to a side door. They stepped through the door into a large conference room. Inside Harry recognized Mr. Prächt and his associate Heinrick, who had been at Privet Drive, and he knew Minister Scrimgeour, Arthur Weasley and he noticed Percy sitting at the table, but there was a woman he did not know and couple of goblins at the far end of the table, which surprised him. Mr. Prächt stepped forward to greet him. 

“Welcome Mr. Potter,” Mr. Prächt said pleasantly, “let me first wish you a happy birthday,” he smiled and motioned Harry toward a seat at the near end of the table.

“Thank you, sir,” Harry replied as he stepped toward the chair.

“If you will take a seat, we can get through all these formalities as quickly as possible and free you to enjoy your celebrations,” Mr. Prächt said, “I hope you don’t mind, I have asked the Minister and Mr. Weasley to stand witness for the verification of your identity?”

Harry nodded his consent.

“Let me quickly make introductions before we begin,” Mr. Prächt said as he stepped to the chair just to Harry’s right.  “Starting from your left Mr. Potter,” he motioned as he spoke, “This is Ms. Weiss, she is from the firm and she will be handling documentation.” The woman seated near him was very kind looking with a nice smile, blonde hair and bright blue eyes. She had a large filing attaché case in front of her. She smiled congenially and nodded. “Next we have Mr. Weasley, head of Ministry filing, who is also here to process documentation.”

Percy was sitting there with an official looking stamp and pad in front of him, “Happy Birthday, Harry,” he said quietly, nodding.

Harry nodded back.

“Across from you are Mr. Gnarggbok, Senior Vice President of Gringotts U.K., and his assistant Mr. Keklorm,” Mr. Prächt gestured to the two goblins at the opposite end of the table. Both looked as though they were frowning deeply, but Harry imagined that was as close to a pleasant expression as they were capable. Harry nodded across the table, but it was hard to tell if the goblins reacted at all.

“Alright, then,” Mr. Prächt said, “Let’s proceed with the verification of your identity, shall we?”

Mr. Prächt motioned to Ms. Weiss who pulled a multi-colored crystal from her case and set it before Harry. It looked like a natural crystal formation cut clean across the bottom so that it would sit flat. It reminded Harry of a paper weight he had once seen at Mrs. Figgs’ home.

“This is a Revealer stone,” Ms. Weiss explained, “It will reveal any deceptive magic or spoken untruth.” She tapped it with the tip of her wand and it glowed softly. She set out a quill and inkwell before Harry and then produced a one page document which she handed to Harry.

Across the top of the page in plain unadorned lettering it read CERTIFICATION OF IDENTITY.

Harry did not read the whole document, but scanning it understood that it simply certified that the recipient of legal action was correctly identified in the presence of a Revealer stone, and before witnesses. He took up the quill and at Mr. Prächt’s direction filled out the document in the appropriate places. Then both the Minister and Arthur Weasley signed the document as witnesses, and the document was handed to Percy who stamped it with his official seal and signed and dated it as received.

After that The Minister and Arthur Weasley were politely excused from the room. The remainder of Harry’s inheritance meeting was actually rather monotonous. It consisted of a lot of being handed documents by Ms. Weiss, having each explained to him briefly by Mr. Prächt, signing them in the appropriate spaces and handing them to Percy for Ministry processing. Harry was actually rather confused by all the real-estate and business interests he was inheriting and as the meeting proceeded he asked that the arrangement with the legal firm for management of the business dealings of the estate simply remain as it was for the time being. This seemed to be acceptable to Mr. Prächt who apparently had devoted a large part of his career to managing the estate, and no doubt owed the majority of his apparent wealth to doing so. It also triggered the signing of a new set of documents.

The two Goblins from Gringotts were there to propose a streamlining of Harry’s wealth. First they presented Harry with a set of papers which was a detailed accounting of the contents of his three vaults. Then they proposed that his vault, the Black family vault which he had inherited earlier and his Grandparents’ vault which he was inheriting today all be consolidated into a single vault.  Harry agreed to this, which brought forth a new set of documents from the Goblins. Mr. Prächt insisted on carefully reviewing the Goblins forms before allowing Harry to sign them, which seemed to provoke some consternation from the Goblins, but was clearly part of his job as Harry’s representative. 

Next the Goblins produced all of the Bank paperwork to give Harry access to the various accounts that were set up for different purposes and reviewed the allowances which were currently being paid. There was a household allowance set up for the Manor, which they referred to vaguely as “the Potter main residence”. There was another for Grimmauld Place, as well as an allowance set up for Harry’s personal use. Harry was given a check book for his personal use account and some brief instructions on how to use it.

A final accounting was made of the funds Harry had given to the Dursleys, and he was presented with notice of the accounts closure. Harry then asked that accounts be set up for each of the Elves under his keeping. He requested a small monthly stipend be deposited on an ongoing basis into an interest bearing savings account to be held until such time that each Elf might be given their freedom. This seemed to be a very puzzling request to everyone present and even received objections from the Goblins, but as Harry was quite insistent his request was met, and he was issued appropriate ledger books for all his accounts.

After the banking business was concluded the goblins thanked Harry for his continued patronage and were excused as well.

Once all the paperwork was in order and properly processed, Percy performed a duplication spell which provided a set of copies for the firm and a set of copies for Harry. Afterward he gathered everything together for filing and excused himself.

Once Harry was alone with Mr. Prächt and his two associates from the firm, Henrick drew up a large leather bag from the floor at his feet and revealed another lockbox which he set on the table before Harry. This one was considerably smaller than the first and was not decorated. It appeared to be a simple iron box with a brass locking mechanism similar to the other.

Mr. Prächt spoke, “Mr. Potter that concludes all the legal aspects of your inheritance and brings us to this one final bit of business. This box is the final item left for you by your Grandparents in my care. I have no knowledge of its contents, but I would guess that it pertains to certain magical aspects of your inheritance. I am aware that your Grandparents took great care to magically protect themselves and your interests, so I recommend that you open this box in a private and magically protected place. By handing you the key to this box I will be releasing myself from a magical vow to protect it until such time as it could be given to you.” He reached into his vest pocket and produced an iron key which he handed to Harry. There was a faint flash of light as it dropped into Harry’s open palm.

“Unless you have any questions,” Prächt concluded, “our business today is done. I continue as your legal representation and you may contact me at any time regarding any matter.” He stood and offered his hand to Harry.

Harry shook Mr. Prächt’s hand and thanked all three of them for there time. They each likewise thanked Harry and quickly gathered their things, congratulating him, wishing him happy birthday and disappearing out the door.

Harry looked at the large stack of paperwork, left on the table and wished that he had brought some sort of a bag. He pocketed the iron key and reached for his new checkbook, pocketing that as well. After a minute it occurred to him to call Jarvy to retrieve the box and the stack of papers, but when he called the Elf’s name out loud there didn’t seem to be any response. Harry stood there confused for a minute when suddenly there was a “pop” and Dobby appeared. Dobby looked like he had been scrubbed from head to toe and he was wearing a maroon robe with a Potter family crest embroidered on the chest. He seemed very pleased with his appearance as he stood before Harry.

“Dobby,” Harry said, “why didn’t Jarvy come?”

“Jarphred regrets that he cannot come to Master Harry. Only an indentured Elf may Apparate to his Master through all magical protections,” Dobby said, bowing apologetically “Dobby was glad to come in his stead.”

The concept had not occurred to Harry, but it did seem to make sense. “Very well,” he said, “Dobby, please take these things directly to my private room and leave them on my desk. Thank you.”

“Yes Master,” Dobby squeaked. Dobby quickly gathered the stacks of papers and the iron lockbox and with a faint “pop” was gone.

Harry smiled. Despite how he felt about, or perhaps, what he thought he should feel about it, he was enjoying having devoted servants to perform such tasks.

In the outer office, Minister Scrimgeour was waiting for Harry and invited him for an impromptu discussion, which Harry obliged. They spoke for about thirty minutes, mostly regarding the progress establishing a Wizard Army. And much of that discussion centered on where to establish a base for the growing organization. As it happened the Minister had a few ideas and was seeking Harry’s help on the matter. The two came to an agreement very quickly and Harry promised his full cooperation.

His business at the Ministry complete, Harry made his way to the atrium. Hurrying toward the public fireplaces he paused recalling the events of his last visit. There was no evidence anywhere to be seen of the escape attempt, or the resultant conflict, but upon reflection Harry got a feeling of unease. The Ministry was a large and complex organization and Harry doubted very much that all potential threats had been eliminated. He would just have to trust that the Minister’s strong stance on security was enough to keep it safe for the time being.

Harry emerged from the public grate into Diagon Alley. The sun was warm and he felt a surge of satisfaction at the little independent movement he was enjoying. He imagined that there were very likely security personnel from both the Ministry and the Order tracking his movements, but that was understandable as long as he was in such a public place. Harry resolved to ignore all such thoughts as long as they kept their distance and allowed him the freedom to enjoy his day. The public awareness and reaction to his presence, and the possibility of reporters was another matter.

Harry walked quickly toward the twin’s shop in the hope that a brisk pace might help him avoid being noticed. He arrived within minutes, and pushed through the door. The spring bell sounded as he entered Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. Fred and George appeared from the back of the shop. “Happy Birthday, Harry,” they said in unison. “Pick anything you like, Harry, consider it a bonus birthday gift,” Fred said smiling. “Within reason of course,” George added.

Ron appeared on the stairs from the upper level. “You made good time, Mate, Hermione and Ginny aren’t supposed to arrive for half an hour yet,” Ron said as he came to the bottom step and wove his way through the displays to meet Harry.
Harry grinned happily. “Do you think Ginny would be upset if we snuck off to Quality Quidditch Supplies without her?” Harry asked.

“Well, I know Hermione wouldn’t mind,” Ron responded, “but Ginny might feel a bit left out.”

“Oh, Ginny will understand,” George said, “you two should go ahead.”

“The girls will get here before long, and we’ll send them to catch you up,” Fred finished.

Harry and Ron didn’t need any more encouragement. They were out into the alley and on their way.

Quality Quidditch Supplies was quite a large store. There were two stories of open space filled with everything Quidditch. One whole wall was filled with nothing but brooms on display hooks, and the mannequins, wearing brightly colored Quidditch attire were all mounted on brooms in dramatic poses and suspended from the ceiling. Toward the back of the store was an enchanted set of carved figurines on a miniature pitch that played match after match of Quidditch, to the delight of watching customers and several snitches zoomed freely about the store. Best of all, was that everything smelled of fresh broom wax. Harry loved coming in the store and he could hardly believe it had been so long since his last visit.

Ron was drawn immediately to the broom wall where he stood in awe. Here were all the latest models from the best manufactures. There were Cleansweeps, and Nimbus, Comets and Firebolts, as well as numerous others by lesser known creators. Ron was examining a Nimbus 2004.

A man approached them; he was wearing the mock referee robes that served as the uniform for the QQS sales associates, a badge on his chest read ‘Gideon’. “How are you this morning? In the market for a broom are we?” Gideon asked.

Harry turned to face him and Gideon did a double take, clearly recognizing who he was serving. To his credit, and Harry’s relief Gideon managed his reaction well, and made nothing of it. “Yes, in fact, we are looking to replace some old equipment so we’ll be placing a large order today,” Harry replied.

Gideon smiled broadly.

Ron turned to see who had approached and immediately recognized the man. “Gideon Brock?” he blurted out and extended his hand. Gideon returned the gesture and Ron shook his hand vigorously. “Harry, Gideon is a beater for the Tutshill Tornados,” Ron exclaimed excitedly.

“Former beater,” Gideon corrected, “took my twelfth injury last season, and league rules dictate retirement after a dozen,” Gideon replied. “So, I took a job here.”

Harry shook his hand as well, “Well, then I guess you are well qualified. It is very nice to meet you.”

“And, you as well, Mr. Potter,” Gideon said. “So what can I interest you in today?”

“Well, as I said we are replacing some old equipment, and I would like to get the best available, we’ll be needing a bit of everything,” Harry said, “two teams worth,” he added.

“Well, let’s start with brooms.” Gideon began, turning to the broom wall, “Do you have a preference?”

“I’ve been flying a Cleansweep Eleven, and Harry here has a Firebolt,” Ron blurted out.

“Very good,” Gideon said, “Cleansweeps are a good choice for Beaters and Keepers, very stable, but not as fast. For Chasers and especially Seekers, I usually recommend the Nimbus series, now up to the Nimbus 2004, or if you can afford it the Firebolt.”

“I recently read in Which Broomstick that Firebolt Inc. has come out with new models?” Harry asked.

“Yes, we have several,” Gideon responded. He led them down the wall to the Firebolt display section. “Here is the newest entry, the Firebolt XT, XT stands for extreme. They have also come out with the model ‘B’ and the model ‘K’ for beaters and keepers specifically. Model ‘B’ is slightly heavier and more rugged so that it can withstand bludger hits, while the model ‘K’ is quite thick designed so that the broom handle can be used to bat away incoming quafles.”

Ron was examining the brooms closely. “How are they rated?” Ron asked, “There are not a lot of reviews yet.”

“Early reviews are, so far, quite positive,” Gideon said, “I understand the Arrows, and the Falcons have already ordered full team sets for the start of next season.”

“What do you think Ron, should we go for all Firebolts to replace those Moontrimmers?” Harry asked.

Ron looked like he’d been hit with an excitement charm. “If you think that would be okay, Harry,” he said tentatively, clearly disbelieving.

“Did you say you have Moontrimmers?” Gideon asked.

“Yes,” Harry replied.

“I’ve never seen a working Moontrimmer,” they are worth quite a lot on the collector’s market.

“Really?” Harry asked.

“Certainly,” Gideon said, “Moontrimmers were the preferred Quidditch broom for a long time and they were usually only replaced once they had been broken or worn out. Finding them today is unusual, especially in working condition.”

“There is one in the Quidditch Museum,” Ron chimed in.

“Yes, but even that one has been restored, and is no longer flyable,” Gideon offered, “If you have such a broom, I’ll bet the owner would love to acquire it for the store. It would be quite a find.”

“I was planning to donate my old equipment to the Quidditch Museum, but I think we could work something out,” Harry replied, “I’ll need at least two full team sets of Firebolts, plus a few reserve brooms, if you can manage such an order?”

Gideon beamed, “I think we can accommodate you Mr. Potter, let me just go check with my Manager?”

Harry nodded and Gideon turned away quickly.

Just then the shop door opened and Hermione and Ginny strode in, Ron waved at them, and they made their way quickly to the broom wall. Ron met Hermione with a kiss, which caused her to blush slightly, though she didn’t complain at all.

Ginny, likewise kissed Harry, “You couldn’t wait for me?” Ginny teased.

“Harry just ordered two full team sets of new Firebolts,” Ron blurted out.

Ginny looked at her brother surprised. “Of course he did,” she smiled at Harry, “did you think he would settle for anything but the best?” She took Harry’s arm. “Have you looked at pads and accessories yet?” she asked.

They all started looking through the store. Gideon returned with news that he could have such an order delivered in a matter of a few days. They spent the better part of an hour going through the store and adding items to the order. Gideon was very informative and politely shadowed them the whole time offering tips and recommendations. When they were finished Harry had ordered brooms, beater bats, pads, three full sets of regulation play balls, additional snitches, broom servicing kits, broom wax, and two teams worth of ready-chant Quidditch robes, which were made of specially enchanted fabric to adopt the color scheme of any team, with a simple coded spell.

Harry summoned Dobby and instructed him to bring a Moontrimmer, for Gideon’s inspection. Gideon was very impressed and brought the broom to the Manager, who was astounded by the find. In the end Harry traded one of his antique Moontrimmers to offset a small portion of his order.

Gideon tallied it all up and threw in a couple silver referee whistles and subscriptions to Which Broomstick and The Quidditch Questioneer free of charge. Harry happily wrote out his first check after agreeing on delivery at The Burrow within three days.

With everything finalized they left the store and made their way further up the Alley to Mrs. Scheffelgroober’s Tea & Cakes, where they had a very pleasant lunch. As usual, Mrs. Scheffelgroober doted on Harry and brought out a special birthday cake to end the meal. They managed to fill their time with conversation of the impending wedding, speculation about Charlie and Helena, and Percy and Penelope, and returning to Hogwarts at the end of the summer. Harry was very pleased at how easy it was to spend time with his friends and not dwell on Horcruxes, prophecies and Lord Voldemort; it made his birthday, so far, a very special day.

Once they had completed lunch they popped into Eeylops to pick up some owl treats. Mr. Eeylop recognized Harry and Ginny, and this time realized just who they were. He asked about their owls and thanked Harry for sending Hedwig to visit him when Harry ordered Ginny’s owl. He went on and on about what a special owl Hedwig was and how perfectly suited she was to him. Finally, as they were about to leave, he asked Harry if the two owls had become a mated pair and expressed great interest in any chicks that might result. Harry had to admit that he had noticed a particular bond between the owls, but he wasn’t sure if they had nested or not.

“I was quite certain when they were together in the shop that they would develop a bond in time,” Mr. Eeylop said, “but, it was a bit early in the season and sometimes the enchantments will prevent service owls from mating, but I had a good feeling about those two.”

“Mr. Eeylop,” Ginny asked, “if they were nesting, how exactly would we know?”
“Oh, well, Snowys are ground nesters, so they would seek a high spot, in an open area. If they have been together for long enough in the right sort of habitat they would have chosen a site nearby. Simple observation could alert you to a nesting site.” He paused, “Let me think, Snowys can have clutches anywhere from three to fourteen eggs depending on the availability of food and hatching would begin after about thirty days and be spaced out one or two days apart.”

Ginny clutched at Harry’s arm. “It is possible, don’t you think?” she asked Harry, “we haven’t asked them to carry a lot of post all summer. They have mostly been alone outside the house and they haven’t been coming in at night.”

“Sounds like we’d better look into it,” Harry agreed.

“Well, please let me know what you discover,” Mr. Eeylop said concernedly, “If you need any assistance or have any questions, feel free to contact me. I will gladly do anything I can to help.”

They thanked Mr. Eeylop for his time and information and agreed to let him know what they discovered. Then they left the shop and made their way leisurely through the alley taking time to browse at window displays. Eventually they ended up back at the Twin’s shop and went in long enough to talk to Fred and George for a few minutes and remind them to show up at The Burrow before Seven o’clock.

After leaving WWW, they made their way back to the Alley centre, where the public floo grates are located. Harry was sorely tempted to Apparate back to The Burrow, having obtained his license that morning, but he was not certain he wanted to try a side-along with Ginny just yet, so flooing back seemed easiest.

They were back at the Burrow about two-thirty and began packing up their things in preparation for transfer to the Manor. Harry was quickly packed and summoned Jarvy to take his things to his room. Afterward Jarvy returned with Dobby and Winky and they transferred Hermione’s trunk as well. Ron took a little longer as he had his entire room to pack, and Harry had told him he could bring everything, including his Chudley Cannon’s posters. Dobby turned up to help him and before three o’clock, Ron, Hermione, Harry, and the Burgestikoff’s things were all neatly installed in their rooms at the Manor. Bill was ready as well, but they had to wait a bit on Fleur who had managed to assemble several trunks, and baskets full of things in preparation for the wedding.

Lupin and Tonks showed up right at three o’clock and in no time everyone was assembled in the kitchen as Harry installed the Portis Omnibus on the pantry door and deftly turned the appropriate combination, opening the door to the now familiar lattice of blue light.

Mrs. Weasley was giving out hugs to the kids as though she might never see them again, even though they would only be a doorway away. “How will it work to contact you all now if the Any-door Knob will be with Harry?” she questioned.

“Oh, yes,” Harry said, “we almost forgot. Hermione and I worked that out.”

Hermione produced a small pouch and from it began passing out fake galleons. “These coins are similar to the ones we used to arrange meetings of the DA at Hogwarts. They are lighter than actual galleons, so they should be easy to identify. Each of these is linked to one that has been given to Jarphred. If you give it a squeeze in your hand his coin will alert him and he will come to you. That way you will always be able to communicate back and forth, or he can facilitate passage to or from the Manor,” she explained. She gave a coin to everyone who was coming to the Manor to live, as well as giving one to Mrs. Weasley for the Burrow, and one to Ginny. “The pantry will remain the only way to get to the Manor for the time being, so Harry and I thought this would be a good way to maintain security.”

“Good thinking,” Lupin commended, as he turned the coin over and over in his hand. “This is all there are?”

“Yes,” said Harry, “We didn’t want to make too many, we figured one for The Burrow would be enough, one for each of you that will be living at the Manor, and well, Ginny was the only exception,” he smiled, reddening a little in the cheeks.

Ginny smiled, joyfully embarrassed, and took Harry’s hand. She turned the coin over in her free hand and without thinking gave it a happy squeeze.

There was a “pop” and Jarvy appeared. “Yes Mistress Ginny,” Jarvy said with a bow.

“Oh!” Ginny said surprised, “I am sorry, Jarvy, I didn’t mean to summon you. I just...”

They all began to laugh.

“Well, at least we know they work.” Tonks interjected with a chortle.

Jarvy looked a bit confused, but maintained his composure.

“It’s alright Jarvy,” Harry said, “thank you for responding so promptly. Would you please take Lupin and Tonks things to their rooms?”

Jarvy nodded and turned to the last trunks and with another “pop” he and the luggage disappeared.

The assembled company made their way through the pantry door and into the Manor. Charlie and Ginny came along to spend the afternoon, and with a quick “See you soon,” to Mrs. Weasley Harry shut the door behind them.

Dobby and Winky were waiting in the hallway to lead everyone to there respective rooms.

As they were all making there way down the hallway, Lupin stopped Harry with a hand on his shoulder.

“Harry,” Lupin said, as Harry turned to face him, making Ginny stop as well as her hand was still firmly in his. “Harry, I was wondering how you would feel...  Well, I don’t know how you stand on propriety, but Tonks and I wondered if we could share a room?”

Harry noticed that he and Tonks were holding hands.

“If you would rather we not, we’ll understand,” Tonks said.

Harry thought for a moment. “Well, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have asked that Bill and Fleur maintain separate rooms until after the wedding,” he said, “but nobody has said anything about the two of you. I take it this means you are officially a couple?” Harry asked.

Lupin looked a bit embarrassed, Tonks smiled brightly, and they both nodded. Ginny giggled lightly and squeezed Harry’s hand.

“Very well then, you are both adults. I have no objection,” Harry said.

“Thank you Harry,” Tonks said, as she leaned into Lupin, smiling.

“I had you put in one of the suites in the North Wing, Tonks, so I guess the larger room would be the better to share,” Harry said as he turned and started away, pulling Ginny with him.

On the second floor landing Jarvy was handing out keys to the rooms. The four suites in the north wing had been assigned to Hermione, Fleur, Tonks, and Helena. Ron had chosen the first room in the South Wing nearest the stairs and Bill was in the room next to that. Alex had elected to give Fleur and her daughter the larger rooms until after the wedding, and so she too was in the South Wing in the room across from Bill. The room across from Ron had been intended for Lupin, but Harry bent down and whispered to Jarvy the change in arrangements and the Elf produced a second key to the appropriate suite.

Harry took a moment to formally welcome everyone and assure them that they should feel at home. He told them that they were free to go anywhere in the Manor and make use of all of it’s accommodations, accept that he would prefer they stay out of what had been his Grandfather’s private study on the first floor off the Library. As nothing was planned for the afternoon he suggested that everyone get settled in their rooms, and use the time to relax and get familiar with their new surroundings.

“Jarvy assures me that he, Dobby, or Winky will come when called by anyone within the Manor, so if you need anything, don’t hesitate,” Harry finished.

Jarvy disappeared with a “pop”, and everyone hurried off to their rooms, leaving Harry standing there on the landing with Ginny.

“I thought you would go to Hermione’s room and help her get settled?” Harry said.

“Hermione is a big girl, she can handle things alone. Besides, I suspect Ron will turn up there in short order.” Ginny responded, “Besides, I was kind of hoping to see the elusive master suite?” She said with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes.

“Oh, you were, were you?” Harry smiled, “very well then.” Harry took her hand and led her down the hallway toward the last door.

Inside the door was a private sitting room, all wood paneled and finished in amber chestnut. To the right there was a large marble fireplace flanked on one side by a deep leather, wing backed reading chair and on the other by a very comfortable looking lounge. In front of the fireplace was a beautiful Victorian sofa. To the left were a couple of built in book shelves on either side of a large wooden writing desk. Atop the desk were the iron lock box and the papers from Harry’s inheritance meeting earlier in the day. Across the room was an open door through which could be seen the bed chamber.

Ginny kicked off her summer sandals and scrunched her toes in the deep carpet. Harry followed suit leaving their shoes in a heap near the door.

“This is beautiful, Harry,” Ginny exclaimed as she took a turn around the room, giddy with excitement. She bound into the bed chamber eagerly exploring the space. The elaborate woodwork continued into the bed chamber, though the walls here were finished with silken fabric of Griffyndor Maroon. There was a king sized four poster bed that dominated the room and chairs finished in gold silk each with a side table of polished chestnut.

Ginny kept exploring passing through a curtained arch into his and hers dressing alcoves with separate closets that were each larger than her bedroom at The Burrow. Beyond was a short hallway, off of which were the water closet to one side and a large shower room to the other. The hallway lead into a bathing chamber similar to the one she had bathed in, only this was much larger with an octagonal sunken bath that had stairs leading down into it. Ginny thought it could have been a small swimming pool. The bathing chamber was finished in shimmering gold tile with maroon curtains across a broad window, and an open alcove filled with fluffy maroon towels, soaps, shampoos and bath oils.

Ginny came racing back through the curtain into the bedchamber where she had left Harry, he was standing there, chuckling at her. “Not much different than the guest chambers,” he said.

“I guess not, but it’s larger,” Ginny responded.

Ginny crossed to Harry and took his hands entwining their fingers. “So, do you think it will be different living here?” she asked.

“Different? Definitely, but I think I am going to like it,” Harry said, “It feels good having a place to really call home.”

“Won’t you miss knowing I am just down the hall?” Ginny pouted.

“Of course I will,” Harry pulled her close against himself, “but you will be here everyday, won’t you?”

“Every second Mum and Dad allow, I will.” Ginny released his hands and hugged him close pressing her face to his chest. “But, I’ll miss knowing you are sleeping down the hall.”

“I’ll miss that too,” Harry said with a wistful sigh. He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight.

They stood in their hug for a long moment, content in the warmth of one-another.

“I’ll bet your bed here will be more comfortable,” Ginny said finally. She turned her face up to his.

Harry chuckled. “You are right about that,” he said, “I will not be missing that cot.”

Ginny pulled away from Harry moving to the side of the bed and sitting up onto it. She spread her arms to her sides and ran her hands over the soft down comforter. “Ummm, nice,” she purred.

Harry followed her, standing against the bed between her knees. He leaned down and kissed her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled at him as their tongues entwined. Harry’s heart was pounding as he leaned into Ginny and she pulled herself fully onto the bed, Harry with her. They kissed more passionately than they ever had their mouths hard and frantic against one another. Harry kissed at her neck; the smell of her hair was intoxicating as he nibbled at her ear eliciting a slight moan.

“Harry,” Ginny called pleadingly, as she reached for his face pulling their lips back together.

His hand slipped down her side pulling at her blouse, un-tucking it from her shorts. Ginny’s hands slipped from his face moving to his shirt buttons deftly popping each one top to bottom to reveal his bare chest.

In kind Harry worked the buttons of her blouse in the opposite direction. The backs of his fingers brushed the smooth flesh of her belly beneath and each touch tingled causing him to fumble the buttons.

Ginny’s hands on his skin felt electric as she caressed his sides beneath the open shirt reaching behind to his shoulders and pulling him tight, again bringing their mouths together in a rush of breath-defying passion.

They fell back onto the bed entangled, she pushing his shirt from his shoulders and he slipping her blouse from hers.

The imagined creature in his belly roared as Harry, dizzy with desire, pulled at Ginny, devouring her lips with his, pressing his bare flesh to hers. He couldn’t breath, he couldn’t think, his hands moved to the clasp of her bra, and she willingly arched her back from the mattress allowing him access.

Their mouths parted, both gasping for air.

Harry released his hold on the unopened clasp and pushed himself up. “Ginny!” He panted, realization frantic in his voice, “what are we doing?”

Harry threw himself off the bed, his heart pounding in his ears.

Ginny raised herself on her elbows, she too breathing harsh frenzied breaths. “Giving in to desire,” she stated unabashedly, “its okay, Harry, it’s your Birthday and I have nothing greater to give you than me.”

“Oh, Ginny,” Harry exclaimed, his breath returning, the pounding in his ears subsiding. He returned to the bed and pulled her up in to a deep hug, “Ginny, I want you so badly, I really do, but not just because we can and not just because it’s my birthday.” Harry kissed her again, but more calmly and softly. “Ginny, I don’t know if this will make sense to you, but I want you for a lifetime, not just for the moment.”

Ginny collapsed against him tears welling in her eyes. “I do understand that Harry,” she whispered, as she pressed her head on his shoulder and nibbled at his neck.

Harry, felt her tears against his neck slip down along his collar bone.

“Ginny? Are you alright?” Harry questioned.

“Yes, Harry, I’m happy,” she whispered.

Harry held her still for a long moment, before easing her blouse up her arms and back over her shoulders.

Ginny nuzzled his neck and turned her face up to his to collect another kiss, which grew from sweet to passionate. Harry returned each kiss, but eased himself forward off the bed leading her until they were standing next to it in a tight embrace. He peeled himself from her arms and retrieved his shirt throwing it on over his shoulders.

Ginny pulled him back to her, kissing him again, deeply. “You... Really... Do... Want me..., Harry?” she asked in staccato gasps between darting kisses.

Harry pulled back again and met her fiery eyes with his. “Are you kidding? You know I do...” he took a deep breath, “it’s just that... Ginny... I love you... and I don’t want to do anything that is not right for us, and for everyone around us.”

Ginny frowned slightly, “My Dad made you promise didn’t he?” she said wryly.

“Well... he made me promise I would behave myself at The Burrow... But that has nothing to do with it. It’s just the way I feel about it... about you...” Harry’s voice trailed away. He didn’t know what more to say. He pulled her back into another kiss. After a long moment he parted the kiss and turned, taking her hand and pulling her toward the sitting room, away from the bed.

“Harry,” Ginny said innocently, “You really do want me though?” she moved with him hesitantly.

“Madly,” Harry said.

She stopped at the doorway, tugging him back. “You’re sure? We probably have a couple hours before anyone will look for us,” she said enticingly.

“Don’t tempt me,” Harry said teasingly, pulling her forward and kissing her yet again. He turned her and stepped her out of the bed chamber with a barrage of kisses. “You’re not upset with me?” he asked, as he backed her against the couch.

Ginny sat, pulling her legs up beneath herself. “No!” she exclaimed, “how could I be mad at you for proving to me that you really love me,” she smiled giddily, clutching at a throw pillow. “Of course, either way, I would have taken as proof,” she batted her lashes at him.

Harry smiled, “you’re terrible Miss Weasley,” he said teasingly. 

Ginny blushed, “Besides, Hermione predicted you would react something like this... I’ll bet Ron is not nearly so noble.”

“Ginny!” Harry exclaimed, “You didn’t discuss this with Hermione?”

“Of course I did,” Ginny said matter-of-factly, “Where else was I going to learn the appropriate charms?” she blushed again.

“And, Hermione? She’s not planning to... with Ron?” Harry asked with disbelief.

“Oh, no!” Ginny responded, “at least I don’t think so... but, maybe.” Ginny was clearly enjoying Harry’s expression.  “It’s none of our business either way,” she giggled.

Harry shut his eyes and shook his head as though banishing the thought, “You’re quite right about that,” he said, “nothing I want to know.”

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Chapter Seventeen
The Party


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