Chapter 22 : A Birthday Surprise
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The Minister’s office was on the very top floor. The office itself was spacious and luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. Prior Minister Fudge had had it decorated elaborately. Several charmed windows showed different places in England. All the other offices could show one scene. Each window used to have lime green curtains and was one of the first things to be changed once the office had been turned over to him. Lime green was not his favorite color for it made him look ill. Instead, he changed the curtains to a rich purple. Expensive tables and chairs from the Carolingian Dynasty were scattered about for those needing to meeting with him. He had made certain they were charmed to not break – they looked far too fragile to actually hold any one person. His desk dominated the room with a matching chair. A Foe Glass stood to one side and differing types of Sneak-o-Scopes had been painstakingly placed around the room.
Minister Scrimgeour sat very still in his chair, ropes keeping him from reaching his wand. He had tried unsuccessfully as the ropes sprang around him. The Death Eaters that surrounded him began laughing and jeering at him while they waited. He had a horrible sinking feeling he knew why they were waiting. His worst fear was confirmed when Voldemort appeared in front of him, negligently holding his wand in his hand as he looked around the ornate office, watching the small man in the muddy background portrait who was trying his best to look as any other Muggle portrait.
Voldemort turned his attention back to Minister Scrimgeour who paled at Voldemort’s undivided attention. Voldemort kept his red eyes boring into Minister Scrimgeour, motioning for one of the Death Eaters to stand beside him then waited for Minister Scrimgeour to realize who stood in front of him.
“Pius,” Minister Scrimgeour forced himself to not shout. Pius showed no reaction to his name, looking through Minister Scrimgeour as if he were not sitting directly in front of him.
“Very good, Minister, or perhaps I ought to say, soon-to-be-dead-Minister.” Voldemort smiled cruelly, his eyes glinted with torture. “You live only because you have information that I require.” Voldemort’s wand dangled in his long fingers.
“What information could that be?” Minister Scrimgeour was pleased he was able to keep his voice steady, even if he was just pretending that he wasn’t scared of Voldemort.
Voldemort chuckled as the Death Eaters shuffled behind him. “Brave, aren’t you?” The Death Eaters began laughing again, cackling with anticipation. “Tell me, Minister, where I might find Harry Potter.” Voldemort asked as if he didn’t care if he was answered or not. Minister Scrimgeour refused to speak – he forced himself to keep his mouth closed. “Now, now, the niceties need be met.” Voldemort spoke over his Death Eaters. “Perhaps a small lesson?” he pointed his wand at Minister Scrimgeour, “Crucio!” Minister Scrimgeour screamed in pain, kept only in the chair by the ropes. Voldemort ended the spell. “Now, perhaps you will give me the answer I seek. Where is Harry Potter?” Minister Scrimgeour shivered from pain. He spat at Voldemort who pointed his wand once more at him – he began screaming as pain rushed through him for the last time. Voldemort ended the spell once more. “Pick him up.” He waited as two Death Eaters hurried forward to right the chair along with Minister Scrimgeour. “Now, where is Harry Potter? I warn you for the last time that my patience wears thin.”
Minister Scrimgeour suddenly understood far clearer than he had before. He had handled the situation incorrectly, Harry had been correct. Instead he had pushed Harry into despising the Ministry, but Voldemort was too late – Harry was already dead and by Voldemort’s hand. Why was he now asking where Harry was? “He’s dead.”
Voldemort considered the supposed broken man in front of him. “Is he indeed? I think not though I suspect you will be.” He turned to the gathered Death Eaters who had fallen silent. “Look at this pathetic man and note his useless attempt to protect a person I want dead.” They laughed. Voldemort carelessly pointed his wand at the Minister. “Don’t worry about your position or about protecting Harry Potter. Minister Thicknesse will take care of both. Not that you will care. Avada Kedavra!” Green light hit Minister Scrimgeour whose biggest regret was that the wizarding world would soon plunge into darkness from which it might never escape.
Voldemort face twisted in disgust for the deliberate obtuseness of people. “Get him out of my sight,” he snapped at his Death Eaters who hurried to comply. He turned to the newly-made Minister Thicknesse. “I trust you know what must be done?”
Minister Thicknesse agreed as he sat in the Minister’s chair to begin dictating new rules and laws to be enacted by his order, stating precisely what would be expected for each situation. He stamped each Order of Compliance as active as he worked his way through the numerous wishes given to him by Voldemort who smiled as he idly changed the curtains green before standing at one of the charmed windows that looked out at Hogwarts. Victory would soon be his after a few loose ends were finished.
Arthur had been surprised when a stack of papers had appeared on his desk detailing out the new regime that had swiftly taken place. He hadn’t said one word but had heard others worrying about it until masked people turned up to discourage the useless talking. Everyone was quickly back to work and, in the unnatural quiet, every scratch of the quill could be heard. He made sure he appeared to be hard at work when one of the masked people opened his door wider. He glanced up in what he hoped was surprise. The masked person sneered before pointing to the stack of papers which had grown larger. “Make sure you know what’s expected of you now,” he chortled as he slammed the door shut. Arthur sighed as he pushed his report to the side and began reading through the new Order of Compliances. He was relieved that it was nearly time to leave according to his Muggle clock.
As soon as the clock pointed to the end of the day, Arthur hurried home with the stack of papers in his hands. No more papers had appeared. He had to hope that Molly or the kids hadn’t unknowingly broken the rules. He opened the door, not bothering with the Ministry suggestions this night. Molly looked up in surprise. He held up his hand. “It’s serious, Molly. Before you say one word, read this. I’ve got to warn the kids.” He handed her the papers. She frowned at the titles. “I mean it, Molly. We’ll talk after you read.”
He hurried out the back door, hoping that the kids were safe. He sent a Patronus to Bill, Charlie, Percy and the twins firmly requesting that they stop by immediately. The next Patronus would be more difficult. He carefully worded his message before sending his Patronus to Ron and Hermione. He had a strong suspicion that they were acting on Professor Dumbledore’s orders and couldn’t tell anyone. They would have his support and that of his family, even if their being in the direct line of danger was wrenching. He pointed his wand in the air, concentrating hard as he sent his weasel Patronus streaking through the sky, hopefully able to find the two he needed to protect the most. He waited at the door until a series of cracks and pops reminded him that his warnings were not yet done.
Ron stared at the shooting star that had fallen into the ruined Potter home. Hermione stood to the other side of it. It morphed into a weasel before speaking. “Ron, Hermione, the Ministry has fallen. Do not speak You-Know-Who’s name. It may be jinxed and saying it will destroy any protections you have put up. Death Eaters will appear.” They listened to the lengthy report of what had crossed Mr. Weasley’s desk as they grew sick to their stomachs. “Send your Patronus back with your understanding. Think what you want to say when creating the Patronus. I cannot emphasis this enough – BE EXTREMELY CAREFUL!” The Patronus disappeared.
Ron exchanged a look of uneasiness with Hermione. She finally nodded as she pulled out her wand. She pointed to the ruined ceiling and concentrated as she flicked her wand. Silver light flowed from her wand to form her otter that swam off through the air towards Ottery St. Catchpole. “I believe he’s a Nitwit and I’m going to call him a Nitwit. I refuse to be scared of a name. Harry wasn’t so I won’t be.”
Arthur felt relief when he saw Hermione’s otter swimming towards him. He held up his hand to needlessly silence his sons as they all listened to Hermione’s reply. “We understand, Mr. Weasley. I promise we will be as careful as we can be.” The otter disappeared. He felt less tense, knowing they would be able to keep in touch by Patronus though not so much to draw attention to them.
He turned back to his gathered family. “I will be the only one to send a Patronus to them and not often at that.” He held up his hand again to silence even Molly this time. “Yes, we can speak with them but we also do not want to draw attention to them. Do you understand?” He looked at each son in turn until they agreed. He turned to Molly, knowing she’d be upset. Tears were running down her face as she nodded slowly. He pulled her into his arms, letting her cry. “We’ll get through this and they’ll be back when they’ve finished their task.” He was pleased when their sons echoed their assurances to their mother, trying their best to comfort her.
Molly sat in the kitchen, hands covering her face, silently crying. When the family had first discovered that Ron and Hermione had disappeared, they were too astounded to say anything. Quietly, Fred and George moved back to the Burrow. They didn’t think that their mother noticed they were living there. They had agreed that they would be there for every meal – even coming home for lunch instead of grabbing something from Diagon Alley. They would do anything to keep their mother busy so she didn’t spend her entire day grieving over Harry and Ginny or worrying about Ron and Hermione.
Bill and Charlie sent notes to them asking them to keep them up-to-date. Fred and George wrote notes each night about how the day had gone, one writing the letter one night and the other the next night. At the close of the letter, each time they promised to write again the next evening. If their mother noticed an increase in owl activity, she said not one word.
Today Fred and George sat in the living room, glancing worriedly at the kitchen. Today Ginny would have been sixteen, and there was no consoling their mother. Not even their fake flower bouquet wand riled her though she jumped in surprise when she tried using it. She only put it back on the table and picked up her wand. There was no yelling or screaming at them about their jokes. Fred had put the wand in the kitchen, hoping that their mother might snap out of it.
George didn’t think it was a good idea and still didn’t, but then George was the one to have found Ginny lying in the clearing, looking as if she had only fallen asleep. She had looked so peaceful, so serene with her eyes closed. At first he assumed she had cried herself to sleep from the tears staining her cheeks. When he knelt to wake her gently – he didn’t have the heart to scare her when she had just lost the love of her life – she was cold. Not just cold from falling asleep outside. He had put his hand in front of her face but felt nothing. He waved his wand for a mirror which he held in front of her, in case her breathing was so shallow, but the mirror remained clear. The others had come into the clearing at that point. Carefully, he picked her up, holding her as he had once held her when she was a tiny baby. Tears filled his eyes, stinging them. He willingly suffered them, refusing to wipe his grief away.
If dinner had been left to Molly, it would have been a disaster that night. Everyone was silently thankful that Fleur had prepared dinner, working around Molly. The entire family had gathered that night. Molly sat next to Arthur with tears running down her face. Fred and George were to their left while Bill and Fleur were to their right. Charlie, Tamsin and Percy sat at the other end of the table. Dinner began silently – no one knew what to say.
Bill was the first to speak. “Remember when she tried to ride a broom for the first time?”
Fred and George chuckled. “We were surprised when she didn’t fall off.”
Arthur gave a small smile as Molly looked up from her full plate. “I was surprised, too.”
“Turns out she had been sneaking our brooms out of the shed for a bit.” Fred shook his head at the memory.
“Remember her Bat Bogey Hex?” George shuddered at that memory. Her brothers shuddered. Each one of them had felt that hex at least once. “Fred and I, we warned Harry about it.”
“I think he took our warning. Never heard one bit about that hex,” Fred played with his food.
“I caught one of her games at Hogwarts.” Bill added. “Wish I had told her how well she played.”
“Which position did she play?” Percy asked.
Bill thought back. “I think she played Seeker that game.”
“I thought Harry was Seeker,” Percy frowned.
“Harry was likely sitting in detention,” Fred muttered under his breath.
“Otherwise, she was Chaser,” George added.
Molly finally spoke in a barely audible voice. “I was so happy when she was born. Finally, after so many sons, I had a daughter.” She gave her sons a watery smile. “Not that I wasn’t happy when each of you was born, but I did also want a daughter,” she looked at Tamsin and Fleur who both nodded their agreement. “She was so tiny and perfect,” she began crying in earnest. Arthur put his arm around her, blinking tears from his eyes. The others looked at each other, not knowing what to do.
Tamsin exchanged a look with Charlie and nodded. Charlie cleared his throat. Fred and George flinched, memories of Professor Umbridge seared into their mind. “Brother, mine,” Fred began and George finished. “Don’t do that.”
Charlie ignored them. “Since the entire family is here, Tamsin and I have good news.” Arthur and Molly looked at them, waiting, remaining silent on their suspicions. “We’re having a baby!” Charlie hugged Tamsin as they both smiled at their news.
Molly started crying again, but this time she was smiling. “When is your baby due? Will you be moving back to England?”
“I know today wasn’t the best day to bring it up, given…” Tamsin trailed off at Molly’s shaking head.
“I think Ginny would understand,” Molly replied, still sniffling. “So come with me while my sons clean up. There’s much to be planned.” Tamsin smiled tentatively as she followed her from the kitchen.
Charlie’s relief was short-lived. His brothers began pressing for details until he pointed out that he would answer not one question unless the kitchen was getting cleaned. Several wands flicked about, setting everything to be cleaned as they once again pressed for details. Every brother agreed that had Ginny been there to see, she wouldn’t have been upset that their mother finally smiled.
Later that evening, Arthur sat in his chair, reading a thick book though in reality he was watching Molly instead. She was sitting on the couch, still crying silently, but busily deciding which baby blanket to make first. Bill, Fleur and Percy had left for home hours ago. Charlie and Tamsin had retreated to their room at Molly’s insistence that Tamsin get enough sleep. Fred and George had retreated to their room on their own after having been asked their opinion on which color or which baby blanket she should make several times.
A slight rapping at the window caught their attention. They looked over to see an owl waiting impatiently. Arthur motioned for Molly to remain where she was and opened the window for the owl. He took the letter and the owl flew away. Arthur opened the note and read through it, hardly daring to believe what he read. Molly gasped as she read over his shoulder. She snagged the note from his numb fingers to read it again. “Can it really be her, Arthur?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Arthur still couldn’t believe what he had read. “It looks like her writing, but with a spell…”
Molly looked again at the note. It contained only two words.
She sat watching over him with mixed emotions. It had been only yesterday when he had opened his eyes and had given her the most wonderful birthday present she could have imagined. Unfortunately, he was awake for only minutes before falling back to sleep.
With a sigh, she walked over to the window to look out at the darkening sky. There was so much to be done and so little time to accomplish it. She had been horrified listening to him worrying about Horcruxes, as in more than one. She had believed that only one could be created, at least that was according to her father. However, she couldn’t deny it after hearing the plural several times.
She turned to look at him. “Yes, Harry?”
“What happened? Where am I?” His expression turned bleak and she knew he thought they might be at Headquarters, especially given the state of the room. She had tried to fix a few things up, but there was only so much that could be done without magic.
“You’re safe.” She told him firmly. “We aren’t at Headquarters. We’re in Hogsmeade.”
He frowned as he considered the information. He looked around the room more before returning his attention to her. “What happened? I remember Vo…”
“Don’t say his name.” she interrupted. “Aberforth told me that the name’s been jinxed. You’ll have to use a different name.”
Now he looked mutinous. “I’m not calling him You-Know-Who.” After a small pause, he asked, “How is it jinxed?”
“Well, from what I understand, the creeps show up within minutes and are able to break through any security measures that you’ve set up.” She explained. “At least, that’s what Aberforth’s been able to piece together from listening to his customers stories.”
“Why’d he jinx it in the first place?” he asked, very annoyed.
She shrugged. “Well, again, this is only rumor, but it seems he wants a bit of respect and he considers that using his name is not respectful.”
This time he snorted his disbelief. “He’s crazy!”
“I know that.” She chuckled. “We’ve known that for awhile, but you still can’t use his name. How about Tom? It’s what I’ve been using and there’s been no visit yet.”
He was silent as he considered her suggestion. It was his name, but he had discarded it for the name he had chosen for himself as it was connected to a Muggle. “Alright, I remember that Tom sending the Killing Curse at me but everything went fuzzy.”
“Well, as I understand it, you got grazed by the Killing Curse.” She explained unnecessarily as he had fallen asleep once more.
Two days later, Harry was able to stay awake for longer.
Aberforth sat in a chair that was extremely uncomfortable, according to Ginny. He showed no discomfort but frowned at both of them. “You’ll be moved soon to a safer location.”
Ginny scowled at him. “I don’t think he should be moved yet.”
Aberforth shook his head. “I’ve spent time fixing up the place and putting all the necessary wards on it.” He looked at Harry as he continued. “You’re still fairly ill and might be for a time, but you’re strong enough now to be moved.”
“We’re safe here.” Ginny protested.
Aberforth shook his head. “Not with Snape in charge around here, you’re not.”
“Where are we?” Harry asked.
Aberforth raised his eyebrow. “Well, you’re in the Shrieking Shack.”
Harry and Ginny started at his information. “What?”
Aberforth nodded slowly. “You’re on school grounds and so any magic done won’t register. With a bit of help, we opened a tunnel from my place to here.” He eyed Harry carefully. “And I wouldn’t suggest you be using the tunnel to that Willow, either.”
“Why can’t we use that tunnel?” Harry asked, his own frown turning dark.
“Snape,” Aberforth replied.
Harry took a deep breath as he fought to calm down. Finally, he nodded. “You’re right.”
Aberforth chuckled. “I see you’re gaining a bit of control on that famous temper. Good. You’ll need it.”
“Do you know why I’ve been so ill?” Harry asked, deciding to change the subject.
Aberforth rubbed his chin, thinking. “You remember being hit with that Killing Curse?”
“Well, I’ve got to apologize for that. Should have been faster, but you were grazed with the Killing Curse.” Aberforth said slowly.
“Why hasn’t anyone come to check on us?” Ginny asked. She had been more worried about Harry.
Aberforth shook his head. “Now I want you both to keep your tempers while I explain.” He frowned at both of them until they nodded. “Everyone believes you both to be dead. They held a funeral service and everything a couple weeks back.”
Harry exchanged a horrified look with Ginny before turning back to Aberforth. “What? Why?”
“Because I left a transfigured leaf in your place,” Aberforth groused then looked at Ginny. “After you agreed to come with me, I transfigured a stick.”
“Why?” Harry demanded, not liking the look on Ginny’s face.
Aberforth shook his head. “Well, Himself wouldn’t be leaving you alone if he thought you were alive, now would he?”
Harry frowned, but nodded slowly. “I suppose so.”
“Now that he believes you’re gone, you have some measure of safety to think of a plan.” Aberforth explained grumpily. He looked at Ginny, trying to ignore the tears running down her cheeks. “What would your family do if they believed you to be missing?”
Ginny eyed him as she thought. She felt comforted when Harry took her hand. “They wouldn’t stop looking for me.”
“Exactly,” Aberforth stated. “What if Himself had people following your family and discovered Harry while he couldn’t defend himself?”
“Where will we be going?” Ginny asked. It still hurt that her family believed both of them to be gone, but she could see Aberforth’s point as much as it upset her. Harry had started looking angry. “Harry, I’m not happy, but even if I could go back in time, I’d make the same choice.” Harry didn’t look completely convinced, but he settled for glaring at Aberforth.
He took his time answering, as if he was trying to decide whether to say or not. “Godric’s Hollow, where I grew up.” He watched as Harry’s eyes lit up. “You’ll be staying put in that house. What do you think will happen if people see you running about?”
“I have my Invisibility Cloak.” Harry pointed out.
Aberforth shook his head. “That’s not here. It’s likely at the Burrow.”
Harry was puzzled, “My things?”
“I’ve got your wand here but had to leave everything else.” Aberforth was getting grumpy. “I know your house and your parents’ graves are there, but you can’t be seen right now. Wait until Himself’s not around.”
Harry took a deep breath. “Alright,” He wasn’t about to waste the small chance he’d been given, however it had come about.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter. I suspect it might be safe for people to use Voldemort’s given name, Tom, as he’s discarded it once he had created his new name that had no attachment to his Muggle relatives.
Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!
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