Chapter 18 : The Party
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Lord Voldemort stood at the castle window looking out at the surrounding grounds and the dark woods beyond.
The castle was a recent acquisition and while comfortable enough and nicely located high in the Carpathian Mountains. It was no Hogwarts. That was the one castle he really wanted; the one castle that still held many of his darkest secrets. In time. he thought to himself, All, in time.
He glanced far to the distant west at the surrounding peaks. He was waiting, and it was something he was not very good at. He adored keeping others waiting, but waiting himself he just couldn't ever be comfortable with. And, yet he had been waiting. Waiting for years; waiting for opportunities. They had come; people whose bodies he had possessed, lives he had influenced toward his long term goals. His years as a spirit had actually taught him much more about human nature than he had previously comprehended.
He had achieved a great deal while waiting. Then the idiot Quirrel had come and he was finally able to start acting on his plan; returning to Hogwarts in search of the Philosophers stone. Unicorn blood had helped him achieve the beginnings of a corporeal rebirth. But then there had also been the boy. He hissed angrily at the memory; Harry Potter, who should have died by his hand; the boy who had lived. Harry had grown, and through some unknown magic had managed to thwart him a second time. Dumbledore had always theorized that the unknown magic was 'love', but he had never seen any evidence that 'love' was anything more than a desperate man's fantasy, a trap for the weak minded.
He had returned to the East, reuniting with the one creature that had never disappointed him, his familiar, Nagini. After two more years of waiting the most unexpected of his servants had found him, and he was able to once again act on his plan. With very careful planning and the help of a more capable servant he had been able to achieve the goal of corporeal rebirth. Again, the boy had to be involved and again the boy should have died, but always there were surprises where the boy was concerned. It was then that he had learned about the relationship between the wands; two wands, each with a core from the very same creature, a very fortunate coincidence for the boy, one that had saved his life yet again.
Next had come the plan to retrieve the Prophecy, a plan again thwarted by the wildcard that was Harry Potter. It had caused him to regroup, to rethink, and to return again to the East. One thing was clear, his triumph was coming, his plans were falling into place, but none of it would be complete until he himself could kill Harry Potter. That day too was coming, but it would require a little more waiting.
None could know the full extent of his plans. Even Dumbledore, who had uncovered the most could never have realized the full extent of his conviction. Or the lengths to which he had gone to guarantee ultimate success. The Diary, he had learned, had been destroyed, but it had only been one; one of six. Even Dumbledore, he thought, could not have guessed the number, let alone uncovered the objects themselves. And even if he had told the boy, Harry Potter had never been able to achieve anything on his own, and Dumbledore was gone now. The boy himself posed only a minimal threat.
There was a knock at the chamber door. "Enter." Voldemort commanded.
Severus Snape walked tentatively into the dark room. The snake Nagini slithered toward him, hissing lightly in the darkness. "Master," Snape dropped to one knee, bowing deeply. "He has been located."
"Very good," Voldemort said, still looking out the window. "Then we shall proceed."
"Yes Master," Snape answered quietly.
"Fetch the crucible, Severus," Voldemort said, his cruel voice dripping with sadistic mirth.
Voldemort drew his wand pressing the tip to his forearm were his own master mark darkened upon contact. It took only a moment for him to locate the Death-eaters at the desired location and centering on them, he Apparated.
A moment later, Voldemort appeared among a small gathering of his newest Death-eaters. Cold wind wiped about him. They were high up in the mountains, near a jagged peak, with only a very narrow passage allowing them entry. There was a level area of crushed stone before the mouth of a dark cave. Voldemort smiled a cruel smile through his narrow lips.
Snape appeared behind the Dark Lord. He was carrying a large ceramic pot with a flat lid. He remained stern and silent, both arms supporting the ceramic container.
"Excellent, Severus, it looks large enough," the Dark Lord hissed.
"Yes, Lord," Snape responded, head remaining bowed.
Voldemort turned to the small group of Death-eaters. "You are certain this is the one?" Voldemort asked in a commanding tone.
One of the Death-eaters stepped forward and bowed. "Yes, Lord, he is the oldest... and most deadly."
"Your work here will be aptly rewarded," Voldemort said off-handedly as he stepped anxiously toward the cave mouth. He turned slightly, facing the Death-eaters. "This is a turning point my friends, one more step on the great path that shall lead to my victory; the dawn of a new age for Wizard kind." Voldemort drew his wand and turning strode purposefully into the cave.
The Death-eater who had spoken moved closer to Snape. "Can he really do this?"
Snape cut the man off, "Do you doubt your Master?"
"No... No not at all, sir," the Death-eater responded defensively. "It's just that, well that is the oldest known Romanian Longhorn in there. And I have never seen a man face a dragon before without lots of extra magical gear." The man paused, listening intently. "Our Lord is truly great and powerful," he said, somewhat apprehensively.
"Terribly powerful," Snape said quietly, giving the man a sidelong glance.
An unearthly, gurgling roar split the silence and the mouth of the cave exploded in hot flame.
There were quick flashes of colored light punctuated by more roars, and more flames. A loud clamoring of what sounded like huge stones crashing into the cave walls and the whole mountain seemed to shake.
Snape set down the large pot drawing his wand. The others followed his example. Despite themselves they stepped nearer the cave mouth.
For long agonizing minutes they witnessed the battle of lights and flame as it illuminated the cave opening; and kept their feet as the mountain shook with fury. Then, there was silence. Great billows of smoke rushed from the cave mouth flowing into the clouded sky.
They stood in excited anticipation, waiting for what if anything would emerge.
Lord Voldemort came slowly into view his blood soaked cloak smoldering and steaming about him. In his hands he held a gruesome bloody heart, large as a Christmas ham. The thing undulated and pulsed still, glowing with rivulets of magical power as blood dripped from torn veins. "The crucible," Voldemort demanded.
Snape picked up the ceramic pot and rushed it to his Master, setting it before him and removing the heavy lid.
Voldemort eased the dragon heart into the pot, his hands thick with dark red blood. "The beast is defeated, the prize is mine," he said, his lips slithering into a smile. "Severus, take this to the wand maker."
Snape gathered the heavy pot and Apparated away without a word.
"Gather all that is of value my Death-eaters," Voldemort commanded with unabashed revelry. "I leave you now to finish your work." With a loud implosive "pop" the Dark Lord was gone.
Voldemort appeared back in the castle chamber. He was drenched in Dragon blood, his cloak still smoldered sickeningly. "Attend me!" he bellowed.
A young woman entered from a side door, she was a beautiful blonde girl dressed in a thin, sheer robe that revealed much of her form beneath. She bowed to one knee, barely able to hide the fear on her face. "Yes, my Lord," she said tentatively. Two more, similarly dressed and equally beautiful woman, one raven haired, the other with long auburn locks, appeared behind her and bowed low.
Voldemort kicked off his boots with a blood soaked sloshing sound and opened the front of his robe casting it off his shoulders revealing a few nasty burns on his arms and shoulders. Dragon blood dripped down his face chest and back as he revealed the fullness of his waxy white form before the attendants. "Heated water," he commanded, "I wish to be bathed of this dragon foul."
The woman quickly turned and left the room returning moments later, the first carrying a large basin on a tray, filled with a cake of soap and two large sponges. The second carried a stack of thick towels, which she set carefully on a side table, and the third carried a fresh heavy robe, which she also laid on the table. A procession of haggard looking Elves appeared carrying a large round brass tub and several large steaming ewers of water. The tub was fully a meter and a half wide. They set them down before the Dark Lord and quickly scurried from the room.
Having performed healing spells on his burns, the Dark Lord stepped into the center of the tub. The first two women dropped their sheer robes to the floor and stepped into the tub, setting the basin at the Dark Lord's feet. The third woman gathered the first of several ewers of water and filled the basin from outside the tub, then handed the ewer to the raven haired servant. The blonde gathered a sponge and soaping it prepared to wash her Master as the other, stretching to reach, slowly poured water over Voldemort to rinse away the bloody filth.
Voldemort stood silently, eyes closed as the two servants carefully attended to him, obviously enjoying their soapy caress.
There was a knock at the door. "Enter," Voldemort commanded exultantly.
Snape entered the room, casting his eyes down hastily at the sight of the three naked bodies before him. "I am sorry, my Lord, I did not intend to disturb your cleansing," Snape apologized hastily, bowing low.
The women made no attempt to cover themselves, despite obvious expressions of embarrassment. They continued washing their Lord.
"Nonsense, Severus, there is no need for apology," Voldemort responded unabashedly "Do not tell me you are embarrassed by the scene before you?"
"No Lord," Snape raised his head, not quite meeting Voldemort's gaze. "I wished to report that the heart has been delivered. Mr. Ollivander has already begun harvesting the heartstrings."
"Excellent," The word practically slithered from the Dark Lord's lips.
"Lord," Snape continued, "I wondered if you remembered that today is the whelp's Birthday?"
Voldemort chuckled sadistically. "I have not forgotten. Did you hope I would include you in some plan to attack Potter?"
"One can hope, my Lord," Snape bowed low again.
"Rest assured, Severus," Voldemort said sardonically, "I have arranged an appropriate gift for 'the whelp' as you so like to call him." There was an uncomfortable silence, as a couple of Elves returned, quietly spiriting away the soiled boots and robe from the floor and banishing all traces of blood including the filthy rinse water from the tub.
The raven haired woman began pouring water over Voldemort again rinsing away the soap from his sickly looking flesh.
"You may go, Severus," Voldemort said commandingly, "I have my bath to finish." Voldemort reached for the blonde beauty and roughly pulled her body against his, chuckling darkly. The young woman gasped.
Snape turned abruptly and hastily exited the room.
Harry rolled off the couch onto the floor and began buttoning his shirt. Ginny smiled at him from the couch. Her clothes were crumpled and her hair was a mess, but she had never looked more beautiful to him.
They had talked for a while after their incident in the bedroom and it had not surprised Harry that their views on the matter had never been far out of tune. They talked about the impending dangers of the Horcrux search, the need for Harry to eventually face Tom Riddle, Ginny’s parents and what concerns they might have, as well as their personal views, fears and hopes for a long wonderful life together. They agreed that while the passion between them was undeniable, they did not need to be in any sort of a hurry to push their physical relationship in any particular direction. There were a lot of unknowns in their future and they felt that they didn’t want to act because of them, or in spite of them. What they both wanted most of all, is that when it did happen, it would be for all the right reasons, and free of any sort of reservations.
That heartfelt conversation had led finally to a long unreserved snogging session there on the couch both of them confident in their mutually agreed limits.
Harry pulled himself up and crossed the room to the desk. He retrieved the iron lock box and brought it back to the couch where Ginny had sat up and was straightening herself.
"More of my inheritance," Harry said as he set next to Ginny indicating the lock box with a gesture. "I was thinking I should probably open it."
Ginny looked at the non-descript iron box with an intense curiosity. "Any idea what could be in this one?" she asked.
"I've no clue," Harry responded, "but, Mr. Prächt seemed to feel its contents might be important, and probably magical." Harry paused, "I was thinking we should get Ron and Hermione, and then head down to my Grandfather's study and I'll open it there."
"Okay," Ginny smiled, "but give me a chance to straighten up a little," she said as she stood and headed into the bedroom and through to the dressing rooms.
She emerged a few minutes later, clothes straightened and hair brushed. "Alright," she said, "Now I don't look like we've been snogging for the last hour." She raised her wand and hit Harry with a quick de-wrinkling charm. "There, now, neither do you."
Harry chuckled, smiling at her.
Harry and Ginny headed down the hall to Ron's room where they knocked, but it was clear that Ron was not there.
"See, I told you," Ginny giggled as they headed to the North wing.
They arrived at Hermione's door, Harry raising his hand to knock when Ginny grabbed his arm and pulled it down. "Wait, Harry, what if... what if they are?" Ginny blushed scandalously.
Harry looked momentarily puzzled. "Ginny! They are my best friends in the whole world and I really do not want to think about such things," Harry paused, seemingly unable to raise his arm again. "Still..."
"They are a couple now, Harry, and they are both of age," Ginny said, biting her lip.
"That doesn't mean they..." Harry looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Ginny, why does it matter? We should still knock as if we assume nothing, because we know nothing."
"I know, but I can't help but wonder, Harry," Ginny blushed again. "I don't really care, but I can't help it."
"You are terrible, Ginny," Harry teased.
"Oh, come on, Harry, you are wondering too," Ginny said, putting on an innocent face.
"Only because you keep bringing it up," Harry admonished her playfully.
"Okay, knock then," Ginny challenged, "but what if they are, doing it?"
Harry raised his hand to knock but they both were stuck in the moment staring at the door before them.
"Doing what?" Ron's voice cut the momentary silence.
Harry and Ginny turned, startled, frozen by Ron's sudden presence.
Ron was standing behind them in the hallway. He had a rather large sandwich from which he had obviously taken several bites, as he was still chewing.
"How long have you been standing there?" Ginny demanded guiltily.
"Long enough to know you two are nutters," Ron said, taking another large, appreciative bite of his sandwich.
Harry and Ginny were both red with embarrassment.
"Go on in, it's not locked," Ron said through his mouthful. "Don't worry; I won't tell Hermione, you two have lost your minds." He pushed between them and opened the door, stepping into the room.
Harry and Ginny followed sheepishly, remaining near the door.
Hermione was sitting cross legged on the bed pouring over a book laid out in front of her. She looked up. "Hey you two," she said. "We wondered if you would be around before this evening."
"So, what's with the new box, Harry?" Ron asked, diverting conversation before it could begin.
"Another lock-box from Mr. Prächt," Harry stated. "This is the final piece of my inheritance. We were just going down to my Grandfather's study to open it." Harry held the box forward so they could see it better. "We thought you two might like to come along?"
"Oh, yes," Hermione said, "wouldn't miss it. Just give me a minute." She placed a book mark in her book and climbed off the bed heading for the dressing room.
There were a couple of minutes of silence. Harry and Ginny fidgeted uncomfortably still recalling the scene in the hallway. Ron just tucked in to his sandwich as though he was oblivious.
Hermione reemerged and they all headed from the room making their way toward the Library.
From a window at the landing of the northwest stairs, Ron caught a glimpse of Lupin and Tonks crossing the outer courtyard toward the carriage house. He paused, "Wonder what they are up to?"
Harry and the others joined Ron by the window and watched as the two disappeared into the carriage house. "Oh, nothing to worry about," Harry said quietly. "It is the full moon in a few days, that's all."
The others looked at him wide eyed, their expressions begging further explanation. Harry sighed lightly, not really wanting to bring it up.
"There is a passage beneath the carriage house that leads to a special, secure cell. I made sure they knew about it when I invited them to move in. I expect they are just making sure everything is ready should Lupin need to use it during the full moon."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny all nodded in slightly apprehensive understanding. Harry turned and headed down the stairs.
"Will it really be safe, Harry," Ginny finally asked as they descended the stairs.
"Yes, I expect," Harry said, not stopping. "I didn't have to tell the Elves about Lupin's condition, they just somehow already knew, and they will look after him." Harry paused, "Jarvy tells me that the Manor has accommodated werewolves in the past, and he is not the slightest bit worried about it."
They reached the door to his Grandfather's study and Harry opened it with a master key.
The room was all wood panels, lined with built in shelves and glass fronted cabinets. It was a bit reminiscent of the Headmaster's office at Hogwarts, with lots of wondrous objects in the cabinets that moved on their own. The shelves were packed with books, which Hermione began to examine immediately. There was a large oak desk which dominated one end of the room, and a comfortable reading/sitting area by the single broad window.
Harry crossed the room to the desk and set the lock box on it as he stepped around and seated himself in the comfortable leather desk chair.
Hermione and Ron each took seats in the heavy chairs opposite Harry, Ginny pulled up a third chair from against the wall. Harry removed the Dumbledore card base from his pocket and set it on the desk, producing a card to set in it. After quick greetings, birthday wishes, and a short explanation, "Mr. Prächt said to open this in a secure location, and I expect this is about as secure as the Manor has to offer," Harry said.
The others nodded their agreement, as Harry dug the iron key from his pocket. He pushed the key into the lock and turned it to no effect. Harry sighed, "I guess this one is like the other."
Harry opened the center drawer of the desk looking for something to prick his finger. He found a small box of map pins and used one to perform the task, drawing a small drop of blood on his left index finger. He dabbed the end of the key into the drop of blood then slowly slid it into the lock. As with the previous lock-box there was a slight momentary glow of golden light; an audible ‘click’ and the lock clasp fell open.
Harry opened the top of the box. Inside was a thick set of folded sheaves of parchment. Harry removed the parchment revealing a dozen small crystal vials beneath, set in neat dividers.
Setting the parchments aside for a moment, Harry picked up one of the vials holding it up to examine the contents. Inside was a silvery liquid. Harry recognized it as a memory at once.
"Is that a memory?" Ron asked. "You've told us about them, and about using the pensive, but I've never seen one before."
"Yes, yes I think that's exactly what it is," Harry replied, holding the vial out farther for everyone's examination. "But, whose?"
"That is an excellent question," Dumbledore responded, "your family, and your history seems to be filled with surprises, Harry."
"Here," Hermione said, reaching into the divider slot from which Harry had drawn the vial, and pulling up a small paper tag. "It says, 'Caractacus Potter, c. 900 - Potter curse'."
"Curse?" Harry said chuckling gravely, "just what I need." He set the vial back in its slot hastily.
He turned to the parchments and picked them up unfolding the top sheets and pulling them away. It was a letter from his Grandfather. Harry read it aloud.
To my Grandson,
Congratulations, you will have come of age now and your legal inheritance is complete. Great pains have been taken to ensure that your inheritance has remained intact and your financial interests have continued to grow. It is my hope that this will help you on the dark journey you have before you. Mr. Prächt has done a great service to the Potter family and I am certain he will continue to assist you in whatever legal way you may need.
Having received all legal rights and responsibilities it is now important that certain magical matters be attended to as well. Most urgently, as the head of the Potter family you will need to claim and re-enforce the charms and wards that protect the Manor and our family name. I have left detailed instructions for doing so in the parchments you have now received. This must be done within forty-eight hours of your legal inheritance or you will run the risk of the magic fading to dangerous levels.
Through your Grandmother's gifts we have been able to see only glimpses of the darkness that you must face; enough to concern us gravely, and cause us to take drastic measures to protect the family. Still, we could not protect your parents, or shield them from the tragic roles they had to play in the unfolding of the Potter fate. For this we are sorely grieved.
Knowing some small details of their roles in these overall events, and as a birthday gift for you, I was able to commission a portrait of your parents. If the artist has upheld her portion of the contract, it should have been painted shortly after their wedding without their knowledge, appropriately charmed to receive their life impressions, and sealed away for safe keeping by the artist herself. Instructions for retrieving this portrait are included in the enclosed parchments. It is my sincere hope that this will make up in some very small way for you being denied your parents presence in your life.
You will not lack for financial resources, and there are many magical objects and devices collected at the Manor which may or may not be of help to you. Lacking specific details, attempting to prepare a way for you was very likely beyond our grasp, but we have tried none-the-less.
Deep beneath the lowest cellar of the Manor is a treasure room where we have preserved the greatest object of the Wizarding world. An artifact so often sought after that it has passed into Wizard myth. An artifact I do not dare name in a letter. It is our hope that it may be of help to you.
Unfortunately, we can not know if any of our preparations will be of any help at all, they may not be. Therefore we have also left you a magical record of your heritage, in the form of these family memories, so that you may come to know who you are through the lens of your ancestry.
The history of the Potter family is shrouded by its own curse, a curse we have come to suspect is connected to all that is unfolding in your lifetime. Find the answer to the Potter curse and you have found the key to all.
We wish that we could have done much more and given you exact clear answers to the many questions that you must have. The path before you is yours to travel, and we have every faith that you will traverse it with courage and conviction, we hope that we have helped in some small way.
Know that you are loved and have always been loved, before, during, and beyond your lifetime, and that no matter the outcome of your journey in this life, that bit of magic will never change.
With deep and abiding love,
Harry set the letter down. There was silence, as though everyone in the room were holding there breath.
"Well, it seems, Harry, that your life is even more complicated than any of us ever suspected," Dumbledore said in what sounded like a slightly troubled tone. "This is certainly beyond the scope of anything I ever imagined.
"Yes, Professor," Harry agreed dubiously. "But, it does not change the tasks at hand. We still need to focus on our search for the Horcruxes. We will investigate this artifact that my Grandparent's have left, and hopefully it will prove useful. And, I would like to find out more about my family and whatever this 'Potter Curse' is, but I cannot let it distract me from the here and now."
"Quite right, Harry," Dumbledore replied, "But let me encourage you, as it is your Birthday, to take the time to enjoy your day. The most urgent matter seems to be the Manor wards, which you have been given forty-eight hours to address. I suggest that we can determine to deal with this first thing tomorrow, as well as the other matters in your Grandfather's letter. Today, let us focus on the party yet to come."
Ron, Hermione, and Ginny all nodded in agreement. Harry was still and seemed to be looking at the lock box as though he were making a difficult decision.
Harry reached forward and picked up the additional folded parchments and handed them to Hermione, who began to unfold them curiously. He placed the letter on top of the memory vials and closed the box. "No, Professor," he said finally. "While I appreciate your trying to focus on some fun for my birthday, I think we should take care of the wards immediately." He exhaled a slight sigh. "The artifact, these memories, and even the portrait of my parents can wait a little, but starting tomorrow there will be more people in the Manor, so I think we should take care of security first." He gathered the closed lock-box and opening a lower drawer of the heavy oak desk he set the box in and slid it closed.
"I think you're dead right, Harry," Ron said supportively, "better to see to security while you can."
Ginny nodded her head in agreement.
"Well, I will not disagree, Harry," Dumbledore said, "In fact; I commend you on your consideration of the matter."
Harry turned to Hermione who was reading through the parchments. "Well, what does it say I have to do, Hermione?" He asked.
"It all looks pretty simple, Harry," she replied. "Your Grandfather's instructions say that all the Manor wards and protections, including the Fidelius charm are focused through an ancestral blood stone." She continued to scan the instructions "It looks like you simply cast whatever wards you desire on the stone."
"What is a blood stone?" Ginny asked.
Dumbledore spoke in answer. "A blood stone is a magical stone that uses drops of a family's blood to bind and reinforce magic. It is a very old, and very powerful way to do this. It is not surprising; given everything we have learned about the Potters, that one of Harry's ancestors would have created such an object to protect this house." Dumbledore seemed very pleased. "I have never seen one myself."
"Harry," Hermione spoke, "It says here that the stone will accept blood not only from your family, but from any of your maternal ancestors' families as well." She paused, and looked up rather excitedly. "There is a list here of six names. The family names of your male ancestor's wives." Hermione paused, "The first name on the list is, 'Weasley'." She looked up at Ginny whose eyes had grown wide.
"Excellent," Dumbledore exclaimed, "That would mean that any directly descended Weasley could add their charms and wards to the stone to reinforce its power." He paused, "what are the others?"
Hermione looked back down at the parchment, finding her place hurriedly and read the list. "Weasley," she repeated, "Fenrimore, Trelawney, Soronen, Lovegood, and Evans."
Harry chuckled loudly. "Well, I guess that answers the question of whether or not my Grandmother is Luna's lost Great Aunt."
Ginny, joined Harry's laughter.
"Since when have you suspected that?" Ron asked, beginning to chuckle himself at the thought.
"It was something Luna said at the Ministry the day of the escape attempt," Ginny said, "I guess with all the excitement about the to-do with those Death-eaters, we just sort of forgot about it."
"This is all very interesting," Dumbledore cut in seriously. "It seems that if you chose to, you could include Miss Lovegood and her father, as well as Professor Trelawny in reinforcing the wards," he paused, "I am afraid the other names are unfamiliar to me."
"Soronen, is the name of the woman who took over Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor, do you suppose she is somehow related?" Ginny asked.
"It doesn't matter," Harry said, "The only name on that list that I trust is 'Weasley', I am not about to ask any others for assistance. I suppose maybe Luna, but I don't think it is worth trying to contact her right now."
"Very good, Harry," Dumbledore said, "It would be extremely important that you trust anyone you would ask to participate."
"I think we should do this now, with who we have on hand." Harry paused, "Bill and Charlie are in the Manor now, they could participate if they are willing and we can add wards from the twins and your Father, later." Harry said turning to Ron. "Ron, would you go find your brothers and ask them if they are willing?" Harry turned to Hermione, "The instructions must say where to locate this blood stone?"
Hermione was still reading through the parchments. "Um, yes," she said, "they say that Jarphred knows the location of the ward room and will lead you there." She looked up from the parchments again. "Harry, this also instructs you to reinforce the Fidelius charm, and change secret keepers, so that Jarvy can be returned to his position as your House-elf." She looked slightly defeated. "I assume this means you are supposed to recapture him."
Harry nodded, but didn't open the matter to discussion. He turned back to Ron "Go find your brothers, and meet us in at the central stairs in a few minutes."
Ron nodded, and turned to leave the room, "be there in a few," he said as he left the room.
Harry turned to the Dumbledore card. "I'm sorry Professor, but if we are going to keep you secret, you won't be able to come for this."
"I quite understand, Harry," the little Dumbledore conceded, "You will of course tell me all about it later, I hope?"
"Of course, Professor," Harry said, he reached out to remove the card, but stopped. "Later, Professor, if you would like, I can leave you somewhere in the sitting room, so you can witness the party. I don't think my having your card out at my birthday party would arouse any suspicion. If you behave like a regular Chocolate Frog Card, I think it would be fine."
"I would like that, Harry," Dumbledore said, "I think you are right, everyone would simply see your having my card there, as a sentimental gesture. And, I thank you for that."
Harry leaned forward and reached to pull the card from the base, "See you later then, Professor."
Dumbledore nodded with a smile, and Harry pulled the card, pocketing the card and base.
Harry, Hermione and Ginny left the room making there way to the central staircase. They arrived well before the others.
Harry called for Jarvy and Dobby and both elves appeared at once.
Harry knelt to address them directly. He turned to Dobby first. "Dobby, I want you to go to Hogwarts now, and find Hagrid. Tell him, if he would come to The Burrow an hour early, I have a favor to ask him."
"Yes, Master," Dobby squeaked, and snapping his fingers disappeared with a 'pop'.
Harry turned to Jarvy. "Jarvy, I have received instructions from my Grandfather," I must reinforce the Manor wards. I will need you to show me to the Blood Stone."
Jarvy's eyes widened. "Yes, Master Harry," Jarvy said calmly.
Ron arrived, with Bill and Charlie in tow, along with them came Lupin, Tonks and Alex Burgestikoff.
Harry let Hermione give a brief explanation of what they were going to do, and why Bill and Charlie were to be included, and then Jarvy lead them up the stairs to the highest level of the Manor.
On the fifth floor landing of the main staircase there didn't, at first glance, appear to be any doorways, just a wrap around, wide, banistered walkway. There was nothing there accept a fresco covered ceiling, and the walkways only purpose seemed to be so that interested observers could get a closer look at the ceiling above.
Jarvy lead them to the side wall and pointed to a small latch set in the wall.
Harry pulled the latch and a section of the wall swung open silently. Inside was a, narrow, steep, wooden stairway that led up the inside of the wall. Harry looked at Jarvy who just smiled and waved him inside.
Harry drew his wand and said Lumos, holding it before him he climbed up the stairs. The others lighted their wands and followed.
At the top of the stairs was an open attic. The rough timber structure of the roof line was clearly visible. At the center of the attic was a mechanical, hand operated winch that's clear purpose was for raising the massive chandelier which hung below. Everyone looked a bit confused as there didn't seem to be anything else in the large attic room.
The hairs at the back of Harry's neck bristled and he felt flush with goosebumps. He was certain there was a very powerful source of magic nearby.
"Doesn't appear to be anything up here, Mate," Ron said casually.
Ginny took Harry's hand. She whispered, "What is it Harry?"
"Oh, there is something here," Harry said, "Something very powerful."
Harry turned around to face a wooden wall. It appeared to be very solid. He stepped up and touched it. It felt unyielding. He closed his eyes and stepped through, pulling Ginny with him.
"Okay, that was interesting," Lupin said, unperturbed.
"It must be like the barrier to the platform at King's Cross," Hermione said. She took Ron's hand and together they stepped through.
Bill looked over at Charlie and smirked mischievously.
"Cool," Charlie responded, and the two brothers stepped through the wall.
Lupin took Tonk's hand and they stepped to the wall, crashing into it.
Alex approached and cautiously swept her hand over the solid boards. "Vell. It vould appear that the tree of us are not velcomed by diss barrier."
Tonks rubbed her noise gently. "Apparently not."
"But Hermione went through," Lupin observed, "and she is not a Potter, or a Weasley?"
Tonks banged on the wall loudly. "Can you hear us in there?" she yelled at the wall.
They turned to Jarvy, who just shrugged his shoulders. "Jarvy cannot cross the barrier, now that he is a free elf," he squeaked.
Inside the hidden room, at its center, stood a marble pedestal; on top of it were a large half globe stone, and a small, golden, ceremonial dagger. The stone was blood red and so highly polished that it looked like it might have been an oversized drop of blood. The room seemed to be illuminated by a dim pinkish light with no obvious source, and around the pedestal was a ribbon of ruby light that floated and undulated just above the floor at a radius of about two meters.
Harry seemed to be transfixed by the stone as they crossed the barrier, he and Ginny stepped into the room a few paces. Harry released Ginny's hand, dropped his wand and proceeded through the ribbon of light, right up to the stone. Ron and Hermione appeared next to Ginny and stepped to the side allowing for others to follow. Bill and Charlie appeared next. They watched as Harry reached out and placed both his hands on the stone.
There was no time for a reaction as the stone pulsed bright and fluid light moved up Harry's arms quickly engulfing him. Bill raised his wand, but Ginny thrust her arm out to stop him. "No, he's okay," she said.
The light seemed to fade, absorbing into Harry and when it was gone, he turned, a huge smile broad on his face. "It is fantastic," he said, "truly fantastic. I don't believe I'll need those instructions anymore, Hermione."
Hermione looked down at her free hand; she was clutching the parchments so hard she had crushed them. She hastily released Ron's hand and tried to smooth them.
Harry chuckled, and suddenly they could all hear Tonks yelling from the opposite side of the wall.
Harry stepped from the pedestal and picked up his wand. He waved it wordlessly at the wall and Tonks stumbled through the barrier. Lupin, Alex and Jarvy followed her.
Both Lupin and Alex moved toward the ribbon of light, moving around it in opposite directions curiously. "This is amazing Harry, I've never seen anything like it."
"It is indeed a spectacle," Alex said, "I too have never seen its like."
"What needs to be done is very simple," Harry directed. Each of you that is willing and of proper blood, pass through the ribbon, to the stone, cast whatever protective wards you know and then seal the spells by drawing the dagger across your hand, enough to draw blood, and placing your hand on the stone."
"Simple, but a bit intimidating, Mate," Ron said.
Alex raised her hand curiously and reached out. The air around her hand, above the ribbon, sparked and crackled.
"Ouch!" she pulled her hand back hastily. "Obviously, I am not of de proper blood." She stepped back to the others clutching her hand.
"Are you hurt?" Ginny asked.
Lupin was moving to Alex's side to examine her hand.
"No, I do not tink I am injured, but my hand is now, how you say? Numb?" Alex said.
"That will pass," Harry said calmly, "There is no permanent damage."
"Well, I'll give it a go," Bill said stepping forward. He moved to the ribbon and tentatively reached in front of him. The air sparked and undulated, but made no crackling sounds and he stepped beyond the ribbon. "It is amazing, Harry," He turned to face the others, "If feels like... well, sorta like a great big hug from Mum."
"So, all the wards I know?" Bill asked, as he stepped to the pedestal.
"Anything that will protect the grounds and Manor, including, wards, detection spells, anti-Muggle charms, anything you can think of. Then seal it all to the stone with your blood."
Bill nodded. He turned back to the stone and began casting spells. As a Curse-breaker, his knowledge of wards was perhaps the most extensive in the room and they all watched for a while as he cast spell after spell.
Hermione began to coach Ron on various wards, and Lupin, Tonks, and Alex came over to help as they quietly reviewed various wards and protections with Charlie, Ron and Ginny.
Harry watched Bill quietly.
After about twenty minutes of spell casting Bill quietly picked up the dagger and drew its sharp blade across his palm. He laid his hand over the stone and it glowed momentarily. He drew his hand away looking at it. No evidence of the cut remained. He turned smiling and returned to the group. "Who's next?" he said, he was obviously invigorated by the process.
Charlie went next. Afterward, Ron went, with Hermione and the others coaching him through several spells from outside the ribbon. When Ron was finished, he stepped back across the ribbon of light and Ginny moved forward.
"Ginny," Lupin cautioned, "you are not yet seventeen. The protection may exclude underage Wizards," he said as kindly as possible. "I just don't want you to be surprised, if it excludes you."
Ginny nodded her understanding, but proceeded undeterred. She reached out toward the air above the ribbon and it shimmered spectacularly but she passed inside without rejection. She boldly stepped up to the stone and began to cast spells. She too had to be coached through several spells she had never cast before, but she got through the process brilliantly. When she was finished she stepped back and went to Harry giving him a big hug.
"I guess that just leaves you, Harry," she said smiling as she examined her healed hand.
"I am not so sure about that," Lupin interrupted, "I think we should let Hermione give it a try."
Hermione looked shocked. "Me?" she stammered, "but I am not related to the Potters, or the Weasleys,"
"Perhaps, but you listed five additional family names that could possibly contribute," Lupin reminded, "Perhaps you are in some way related to one of them?"
"You did step right through the first barrier," Tonks said, "remember?"
Hermione looks surprised, "I guess I did, but I was holding Ron's hand, I thought that was the reason."
"Go on, Hermione," Ron encouraged gently, "Give it a go."
Hermione stepped up to the ribbon, looking very unsure, and pulling a face reached out forward. The air shimmered and she stepped through. She turned, excitedly, "I'm... it... it let me inside!"
Harry chortled quietly. "That means you are somehow related to one of the families on the list," he paused, "cousin." He smiled at her.
Hermione grinned and turning began casting spells on the stone.
When Hermione was finished she turned and practically skipping came to Harry giving him a big hug. "No wonder, you've always felt like family to me, Harry."
"Me too, Hermione," Harry said returning her hug.
Harry then stepped through the ribbon and approaching the stone, trance-like, began casting spells. The others waited to see if he would need any coaching, but he did not. In fact, he seemed to cast several spells that were unknown to any of them.
Finally he paused, and turning he approached the ribbon. "I need to recast a family variation of the Fidelius charm. It is the main protection of the Manor and the family name, but it required a secret keeper." He paused again. "Jarvy is currently that secret keeper, but he had to be freed to assume that role." The proud little elf stepped forward tentatively. "Leaving him a free elf entails a certain amount of risk to both him and the Manor, so I would like to change keepers."
The others looked about at each other curiously.
"Nymphadora Tonks," Harry said, "Would you be willing to serve as my secret keeper?"
"Harry? Me?" Tonks said surprised.
"Yes, you, Tonks," Harry said confidently. "Ginny, Ron, Hermione, and all the Weasleys are obvious targets. Lupin, was a best friend of my father, which makes him a target as well." Harry turned to Alex. "Alex, you have become a member of the order and you are obviously trusted by its leader, Alastor Moody. We welcome your help, and I welcome you to my home, but I am sorry, I have simply not known you long enough to trust you completely in this matter."
Alex nodded, "You need not explain, Harry, I understand completely."
"Tonks?" Harry turned back to her, "You are a cousin to my Godfather and you have proven your devotion to me and to the cause of the Dark Lord's defeat. You are also a fully trained Auror, and well aware of the risks, can I trust you with this?"
Tonks stepped forward, "Yes, Harry, I would consider it a very great honor."
Harry smiled at her.
"If you would step forward and take Jarvy's hand?" Harry said.
Tonks stepped next to the elf.
Jarvy reached his hand up, looking very apologetic that a Wizard would have to hold his hand.
Tonks smiled at the elf reassuringly and took his hand in her own.
Harry stepped around the pedestal so he could face them and began to cast the spell. As he spoke Tonks felt great warmth build up in Jarvy's hand and it began to spread into her. Suddenly, she knew the secret of the Manor's location.
Harry finished the incantation and drawing up the dagger sealed the stone with his blood. The glow of the stone flashed blindingly bright for an instant.
When everyone's vision cleared, Harry was standing up from kneeling next to Jarvy; the elf smiling up at his Master a faint golden glow fading around him.
Harry led them all through the wall and down the narrow wooden steps to the fifth floor landing. There, he instructed Jarvy to serve tea in the drawing room, and the elf disappeared with a 'pop'.
They all made their way down the stairs to the drawing room rather silently.
They all seemed to recover quickly from a sort of daze, and none seemed to be aware of the change of secret keeper, but they were discussing the various wards they had each contributed to the Manor's protections. They enjoyed tea and sandwiches the elves served and the conversation grew lively.
Fleur and Helena joined them and the others explained excitedly about the magical blood stone and how they had reinforced the Manor's wards.
At six o' clock, Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione returned to The Burrow to await the arrival of the rest of the Weasleys, and a few members of the Order of the Phoenix.
As requested, Hagrid arrived early and was there at The Burrow when they returned. After greetings and a hearty 'Happy Birthday' from Hagrid, Harry told him about Mr. Eeylop's questions regarding Hedwig and Kyne, and asked if he would help them determine if the two owls had indeed nested.
Hagrid excitedly agreed, and in no time at all they had walked out past the orchard and called for Hedwig and Kyne. The two birds came, each to the arm of their respective owner, but they were clearly anxious. Harry explained to Hedwig that they wanted to know if she'd been nesting, and she lit into the air circling a patch of ground not far to the west, closer to the Otter River. After a few minutes slogging through the underbrush they found a nest and a clutch of seven good sized eggs. Hedwig and Kyne hooted proudly.
After performing a silent examination of the area and the nest sight, Hagrid recommended that they cast a few nest sight protection wards and then leave the owls to their business. He said that it would be possible to move the eggs, but better to just leave the Owls to nature and let it take its course.
Harry and Ginny each congratulated their birds and nuzzled them affectionately before telling them to find them at Hogwarts once the hatchlings had left the nest. The birds seemed to understand and Harry left them each a handful of treats on the ground near the nest.
Hagrid cast a few wards around the nest that would protect it from unwanted attention and from any predators. They returned to the house happy at the thought of a nest full snowy hatchlings.
On the way back to The Burrow, Hagrid explained that the hatchlings could be born with a residual magical enchantment and follow their parents when they returned. Or, they might simply choose to follow their natural instincts and adopt purely natural behavior. He promised he would return to check on the clutch and keep Harry and Ginny informed of their progress.
They arrived back at The Burrow in time to greet Mad-Eye Moody and the twins, who were Apparating in for Harry's party. And a short time later, Percy and Penelope arrived, as well as Kingsley Shacklebolt, and Oliver Wood.
Harry smiled as he tore into the shiny wrapping paper covering the small box in his lap. He quickly pulled the last of the ribbon away and nodding at Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, whose gift it was he was opening, pulled the top from the box. In the box, on a cushion of soft cotton padding was a beautiful pocket watch. Harry pulled the watch from the box by its chain and held it up.
"It is Wizard tradition that a male child is given a watch on their seventeenth birthday, Harry." Mr. Weasley said in explanation.
"Usually it would be a family heirloom, Harry, but we asked your Grandparents, and... well, there isn't a family watch remaining for you, so we asked if we could give you one," Mrs. Weasley said a bit apologetically. "We hope you don't mind, dear."
Harry nodded approvingly. The whole body was intricately worked. The front of the watch featured a running stag against a forested backdrop. As the watch was turned the trees and leaves swirled into a backdrop of endless space filled with stars and comets and planets. Harry opened the cover to examine the face. Instead of numbers there were moons waxing to the right and waning to the left, and in the center a blazing comet that changed its direction so that its fiery tail blazed toward the correct time, all against a magnificent backdrop of twinkling stars.
"Thank you so much!" Harry grinned, "It is fantastic!" he enthused.
His party was turning out brilliantly. Once everyone was assembled at The Burrow they had come through the pantry door to the Manor, where a little explanation was required for those making their first visit to the Manor. A little time was spent on a quick tour for Hagrid, Kingsley, Oliver Wood, and Percy and Penelope.
The Elves had served an exceptionally delicious feast of all of Harry's favorite foods in the formal dinning room, and Harry had felt a stirring of pride at being able to share his home with so many people he considered friends. Ginny, despite side glances from her parents was acting every bit the hostess, sticking to Harry's arm, sitting at his right side, instructing the Elves and generally conducting the evening.
After dinner, with everyone groaning in satiated pleasure, they had adjourned to the sitting room were the chairs had been set in a large circle, and Harry's gifts were set on a low table at its center. Glancing around the circle Harry couldn't help but smile as everyone was encouraging him to open his gifts.
He had torn into them with pleasure. As he had opened each one, Winky was there to spirit away the scrap wrappings and carefully take each gift to a side table to set it neatly on display, after it had made its way around the circle for everyone's examination and approval.
The little Elf was amazing Harry had thought, attentive and discrete, and beamingly happy, not a hint of the bedraggled, drunken, sullen, creature that Dobby had presented with earlier that day.
Harry handed the beautiful watch to Ron, on his left so that it could be passed around.
"I guess that's everything," Harry said, as no more presents seemed to be before him.
"No," Ginny interrupted, "one more." Ginny handed Harry what seemed to be a Birthday card in a silver and gold envelop with a small glittering bow. "This one's from me," she smiled, "though, I do have to credit Fred and George for finding it." She nodded to her brothers a few seats along the circle to Harry's left.
Harry opened the envelope and pulled the card out.
At first it appeared to be a Muggle style greeting card, but there was only a patch of blue sky surrounded by an elaborately gilded border. Words formed along the bottom. "Here's hoping you capture the snitch of your dreams." A golden snitch flitted into the patch of sky, followed abruptly by an excited, illustrated seeker, which clearly was meant to resemble Harry in his Gryffindor colors. The illustrated Harry reached out and snatched the snitch.
Harry opened the card and the illustrated Harry, hovered above the card opening the golden ball. A miniature volley of fireworks burst out of the snitch and flew toward the center of the gathering were they burst into an explosion of color. "Happy Birthday Harry" formed in the bursting lights and glittered away as it fell toward the floor.
Everyone cheered and clapped at the spectacle. "The first of our new line of personalized greeting cards." George called triumphantly.
"That's brilliant," Ron said appreciatively.
Ginny was ignoring the fireworks display and watching Harry intently as he looked down at the card in his hands and noticed a second smaller envelope setting there within it.
Harry handed the card to Ron and picked out the smaller envelope. Opening it he pulled out a lone Chocolate Frog Card. Harry stared at it in disbelief.
"What is it?" Oliver Wood asked, first to notice, as the fireworks ended.
"That there is a rare, first edition, Dumbledore, Frog card," Fred explained, "Ginny said you had to have it, so George and I tracked one down," he explained.
"Wasn't easy either," George finished.
Harry held the little card in front of him. The image of a considerably younger looking Dumbledore appeared on the card standing in front of the desk in the Headmasters office at Hogwarts. The figure smiled and bowed politely and then turned out of the image. Harry noticed that what could be seen of the desk included a familiar glass candy jar of sherbet lemons. Harry smiled broadly at Ginny. "Thank you, Ginny," he said simply leaning over and giving her a quick kiss.
Intentionally not fussing over the card too much, Harry handed it to Ron who gushed over it, explaining to Hermione how rare the card was and what a prize it was to any Chocolate Frog Card collection.
Harry snuck a peek at the mantel over the fireplace where, as promised he had left another Dumbledore card sitting in the enchanted base to overlook the festivities. He thought he saw the little figure wink at him, but it was too far away to be sure.
"Thank you everyone for such very wonderful gifts," Harry stood, "I could not have asked for better." Harry bowed politely to the company before him. "Now..."
"Vait!" Alex interrupted, "In Romania, it is an important tradition when a Vizard celebrates deir comink of age Birthday, dat each friend in attendance tell de story of how dey first met," She looked around the circle, "Dis is not also tradition here?" She asked.
"It is indeed," Moody interjected, "but one that has fallen largely out of practice. I think however, in Harry's case it would be a pleasant tradition to revive."
"Okay," Alex nodded. "As I am, I hope a new friend to Mr. Potter, I vill begin."
Alex described first meeting Harry upon her entrance into The Burrow only a few weeks before, she flattered him by calling him a determined and able looking protector, standing there with his wand out ready to defend the Weasley's home. She managed to make him sound very noble. Harry nodded and smiled as she finished.
Alex turned to Charlie who was seated next to her in the circle.
Charlie told a story about meeting Harry when he came to Hogwarts with Dragons for the Tri-wizard Tournament.
Helena was next, and her impressions echoed her mother's.
Fleur told of meeting Harry in the confusion of his being chosen as a Tri-wizard champion.
Bill described a simple first meeting at The Burrow.
George and Fred told of meeting an eleven year old Harry on the platform at King's Cross and helping him into the Express with his trunk.
Hermione and Ron talked of meeting Harry that same day on the Express.
Ginny, sheepishly described first seeing Harry that same day on the platform, but she maintained that they had really first met the following summer when her brother's had rescued him from the Dursley's and brought him to the Burrow.
Remus Lupin, told a marvelous tale of meeting Harry on the day of his birth. Of being there with his parents and Sirius at the Cottage in Godric's Hollow as the St. Mungo's Mid-wife had presented the black haired babe, gurgling and cooing, to his spell stricken parents and a proud Godfather.
Tonks talked colorfully of bursting into Harry's bedroom at Number 4 Privet Drive to rescue him, and take him to Grimmauld Place.
Hagrid told of frantically arriving at the ruined Cottage and finding the young Harry, sitting stricken in his cot. Hagrid described him in much the same way he would have any lost or wounded animal, as he gathered Harry up from the wreckage and secured him comfortably inside his mole skin coat and spirited him away to safety.
Mad-eye told a tale of going with Dumbledore to visit the Potters at their home some months after Harry's birth and being amazed that the infant was allowed to play so roughly with what he thought at first was the family dog, a huge black dog he described, with paws as big a the babe's head. He described how the dog curled in front of the fireplace and gently nuzzled the infant Harry who clung to its thick fur and drifted to sleep in the warmth of the animal's patient attendance. If he'd had his magical eye then, he would have known, he proclaimed, that the dog was actually Sirius Black.
Kingsley echoed Tonk's tale of retrieving Harry from Privet Drive.
Oliver Wood, told of his introduction to Harry by Professor McGonagall, proclaiming proudly that she had found his Quidditch team a new seeker.
Penelope described a meeting Harry had not remembered, of directing a lost looking first year toward the dungeon classrooms for his first potions lesson.
Percy told of a brief introduction at the Gryffindor table just after Harry had been sorted.
Arthur, told of finding an extra child seated at his breakfast table one morning and eagerly discussing Muggle objects. When he finished his short tale he turned to his wife Molly, who was the last around the circle.
Harry was amazed at the tales he had heard around this circle of friends, and was filled with wonderful warmth, as he anticipated a simple story of introduction from Mrs. Weasley.
Molly Weasley, cleared her throat and looked across the circle at a waiting Harry. She glanced at Ginny and then at Arthur, who took her hand and nodded to her.
"I have a tale to tell you, Harry, that only a few in this room are remotely aware of," she paused glancing at Hagrid. "It is the story of how I first met you, and it will shed some light on why I have oft thought of you as part of my family. I apologize if it may embarrass you a little," she paused again.
"On the night that your parents were killed, I was at home. Arthur and I had joined the Order of the Phoenix but as I had Ron, who was a twenty month old toddler, and only recently weaned, and Ginny who was not even three months old, not to mention a houseful of then young children," she glanced around at the twins and Percy, I had not been asked to do anything of particular service to the cause."
"On that dreadful night I was knitting in front of a comfortable fire, the children having gone to bed, when a Phoenix Patronus swept into the room. It was Dumbledore's Patronus and it informed me that my services to the Order were needed immediately. It said that Arthur was to arrive home directly to care for the children, but that I should gather myself and my youngest to go to a safe house in Wales."
"I nervously gathered Ginny from her cot and threw together a few supplies for her care before Arthur arrived. He explained that your parents had been killed, and that you were being taken to a safe-house and someone was needed to look after you until permanent arrangements could be made. Arthur gave me a Portkey, I kissed the boys in their sleep and off I went, babe in arms, to do what I could for the Order."
"I arrived at what appeared to be an unused cottage in a dark and lonely wood. I had barely time to start a fire before Hagrid arrived on that awful, noisy, motorcycle of your Godfather's. Hagrid ran up to the door and thrust you in to my arms, saying he had to keep going in case he was being followed . He took off like a flash leaving me alone with you, and a thankfully sleeping Ginny."
"You were so small, Harry," Molly began to tear a little at the memories. "You were nearly a year and a half old, but smaller than any of my own at that age. You must have been in some sort of shock, and the fresh wound on your forehead was red and inflamed. I tried healing charms, but nothing seemed to make a difference. You whimpered and shook in my arms, but you never wailed," Molly paused again leaning on Arthur for emotional support. "I couldn't imagine then, what you had witnessed and what you had survived. Even today, I can hardly image it." She composed herself with a deep breath and continued. "I didn't know how long you had been unattended, your were soiled and covered in small bits of debris, so there was nothing for it but to give you a warm bath, wrap you in one of Ginny's fresh blankets until I could get a chance to wash your own things, and rock you in front of the fire."
"You settled some but you were understandably fussy. When Ginny woke for her nightly feeding, I realized that you must be hungry too. I don't mean to embarrass, you dear, but I had nothing else to feed you, so I did what any compassionate Mother would do, I nursed you right along with Ginny, rocking you both by the fire, until you had each had your fill and fallen asleep in my arms."
"I have never known a night of fear like that night, thinking that any minute; Death-Eaters would burst in and carry you away. I was up the whole night holding you and Ginny, singing to you both and keeping watch. When the dawn came, I conjured a cot and laid you both together whilst I attended to washing your things. I must have dozed off in the rocker after that, but later I woke up and found the two of you awake in the cot, just watching one another intently. You babbled on at Ginny so expressively and she gurgling back at you, smiling and giggling."
"We spent that whole day together, just the three of us in that little cottage, and I must say you were a little angel, you were so gentle with Ginny, and seemed to want to attend to her. The only time either of you cried was when I tried to pick one of you up without the other."
"Getting on toward evening, Dumbledore's Patronus appeared again and told me to get you ready for Hagrid to retrieve you, and take you to where you would be living permanently. I must say, by that point I had determined that you should just come home with me. And, years later when I got an inkling of what your life with your Aunt and Uncle had been like; I truly wish I would have just taken you."
"Hagrid arrived quite late and I gave you to him. You woke up then and started to cry, and to this day I think it was more because you were being taken from Ginny than anything else. After that, I gathered Ginny and Apparated home." Molly retrieved a kerchief from her robe and dabbed at her eyes.
"I have never told that story to anyone but Arthur. So, you see Harry, I will always consider you like one of my own, and you will always have a bit of home in my heart."
Hagrid sniffled loudly and Harry found that his own eyes were a bit moist.
Harry got up from his chair and crossed to Mrs. Weasley, giving her a big hug. "Thank you so much for telling me," he said.
Harry released Mrs. Weasley who sat back in her chair turning to her husband.
"So, I think perhaps it is time for cake?" Harry said turning to the others in the room.
Instantly a large cake appeared on a table in the center of the circle and Harry moved to pick up the serving knife as the others gathered around taking up dessert plates.
After gorging themselves on Harry's birthday cake, the room broke up in to smaller conversational groups, with some playing games, or just visiting.
Harry got in to a game of exploding snap with the twins, Ron, Hermione and Ginny, which went on for some time.
About eleven o' clock Harry found himself sitting back contentedly in a large leather chair before the smiling portraits of his Grandparents, thinking that this had been the best Birthday he had ever had.
Suddenly, something deep in Mad-eye Moody's coat began to wail. He fished the object out and looked at it intently. He looked up at the surrounding company and said, "Death-Eater attacks, multiple locations! Those of you, who are Order members, follow me. He started to move to the door, toward the hallway, but Jarvy had produced the Portis Omnibus and set it to a doorway leaving the room. The blue lattice of light glowed faintly as he opened the door.
"This way to The Burrow," Jarvy announced.
Moody turned and nodded to the little Elf. Others were already heading through the door.
Harry rushed up to Moody, drawing his wand. Everyone here is in the Order except Ron, Hermione, Ginny and I, and we all want to come fight.
"Drawing you out, is the most likely reason for these attacks, tonight, you are safest if you remain here," Moody retorted.
"I agree completely," came Arthur's voice over Moody's shoulder. Arthur was pulling on his travelling robe and stepping to Moody's side. "Ginny, you are to remain here at the Manor until we can come to retrieve you," Arthur turned to Harry. "I know you want to fight, Harry, but I would appreciate it if you would watch over Ginny tonight." Arthur's eyes were deeply intense as they met Harry's.
"Yes sir," Harry said finally.
Everyone rushed through the doorway leaving Harry, Ginny, Ron and Hermione standing there, a bit defeated.
Jarvy closed the door.
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