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Chapter 24 : Second Chances
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Hermione poked Ron in his shoulder. “Ron, it’s time to get up. Now! We’ve got to go look at Way’s End today.”
She had already been up for what seemed like hours as she thought about their plan. She worried if they needed to make any changes to their story. It was risky telling people who they were looking for, especially with the jinx on his name. Neither of them knew if the jinx covered only the name he created or if it also covered his given name.
“What are you doing?” Ron’s sleepy voice cut through her thoughts.
“Going over our plan again,” Hermione replied with only a small amount of irritation. Why would she be thinking about anything else right now?
Ron made a strangled noise when he remembered their plan – or the plan that she had devised for them to follow. Her eyes narrowed. He hadn’t been acting like this before.
“Get up, Ron. Now,” Hermione repeated herself, now becoming genuinely irritated with him. “We’ve got a lot to do today.” She watched as he grumpily got out of bed and headed to the water closet to get ready for the day. She pulled a roll of parchment from her small bag and began to read through it, marking it here and there as she waited with only the most veiled patience. She wondered if Nitwit was watching his Horcruxes even though Harry didn’t believe he would be. He had been pretty sharp where Nitwit was concerned.
Ron sat across from her waiting for her to put the parchment down. She continued to look at it just to spite him for taking so long getting up, “Hermione?”
“What?” She put the parchment back in her bag.
“When do we eat?” he grumbled.
She rolled her eyes. Nitwit and his Death Eaters as well as the Ministry were looking for them and all he could think about was food. Which reminded her – how did Harry know Draco was a Death Eater? How could they not have believed him? Why did they spend all that time ignoring him or telling him flat out he was wrong? He had even tried telling Professor Dumbledore to no avail.
“Hermione?” Ron sounded concerned. “What’re you thinking?”
She shook herself free of the memories, “Draco being a Death Eater.”
“I remember.” Ron’s shoulders sagged. “I remember Harry telling us how Professor Dumbledore already knew that Draco was a Death Eater.”
“Do you think that Draco would have accepted Professor Dumbledore’s help in hiding him and his parents?” Hermione asked. She wasn’t too sure if Draco would have or if he was trying to catch Professor Dumbledore off-guard.
Ron was silent for a very long moment. “I don’t know. Harry was the one who saw it and I want to say he wouldn’t, but then I don’t like the creep.”
Hermione shook her head. There was too much they should have asked Harry more about. “Another good question is why Nitwit would make Draco a Death Eater?”
This time Ron shook his head. “That one’s simple. Draco’s dad messed up big time during that battle. He messed up Nitwit’s plans horribly. He didn’t get the Prophecy for Nitwit. He got a dozen Death Eaters captured by Ministry officials and the biggest mistake of all? The Ministry saw Nitwit and began to take measures against him. A little too late, but they tried.”
Hermione nodded slowly. “Are you ready?”
“Ready for what?” Ron frowned in confusion.
“To eat!” Hermione rolled her eyes.
Ron’s eyes widened in surprise, “Where are we going this time?”
“I heard about a small breakfast place just down the road.” Hermione made sure they had everything they might need. She passed him a few Muggle bills. “Those will pay for breakfast. Let’s go ahead and change how we look.”
After a leisurely breakfast, they walked to Way’s End Orphanage. The outside looked as if he had been recently painted white. The shutters were a dark green. The lawn was evenly clipped and not one weed was seen. Again, there was no actual evidence of children. No toys were left here or there, forgotten in the rush to hurry inside when called.
“You remember our story, Mr. MacArthur?” Hermione muttered under her breath as she linked her arm in Ron’s.
He nodded, looking slightly ill. “Yeah, I remember, Miss Thomas.” She smiled at him, earning a small smile from him.
At the door she nudged him to knock. It turned out to be more of pounding the door instead of knocking, but it worked. A young lady who looked the part of a harried secretary opened the door with a scowl. “What?”
They took a step back in surprise. “We were looking for my grandfather’s brother. He told us he had been placed in an orphanage but couldn’t remember which one.” Miss Thomas said slowly, looking around as if unsure if she was in the right spot.
The lady’s scowl didn’t change, “And your names?” She demanded rudely.
“This is Miss Thomas and I am Mr. MacArthur.” Mr. MacArthur snapped back at the lady. His frown began to change to mirror her scowl.
This time the lady stepped back. “I’m terribly sorry.” She looked around. “But Mr. Connors has been in a right foul mood this morning.”
Miss Thomas looked sternly at the lady before enunciating slowly. “My grandfather doesn’t have much longer to live and wants to see his brother. I understand this is an orphanage?”
The lady nodded, wondering if these were Important People or ones who could have the door shut in their faces.
“Then I must insist on speaking with Mr. Connors.” Miss Thomas spoke regally, adding to the lady’s confusion, “Today at this moment.”
The lady glanced at Mr. MacArthur who was looking very upset with being kept on the doorstep. It was starting to take everything she had just to look them in the eyes. Finally she looked down. “On your heads be it. Follow me.” She took them to Mr. Connors’ office. She pointed to a pair of plush chairs for them to sit and found two mugs she filled with a weak tea before handing them to the unwanted visitors.
They accepted the mugs of tea. Miss Thomas took one polite sip and put it on the table in front of them, content to wait. Mr. MacArthur drank a large swallow, nearly gagging on the odious taste. Miss Thomas took his mug, placing it on the table next to hers. She had to wait while his face changed several different shades of red and purple. Finally it turned pale and he sank in his chair a little. “Blimey, that was foul.”
His face had turned its normal color by the time Mr. Connors finally opened his door, permitting them to enter his office. “Miss Thomas? Mr. MacArthur?”
They stood and followed him into his office. Mr. MacArthur looked around the office in amazement while Miss Thomas contemplated exactly how a state-run orphanage would be able to support Mr. Connors’ extravagant tastes.
“Please, sit,” Mr. Connors gestured towards another set of plush green chairs. “What may I help you with today?”
Miss Thomas explained once more, trying to keep her annoyance from her voice. “My grandfather is terribly ill and he just mentioned a few days past that his brother had been placed in an orphanage. The only problem was, he couldn’t remember which orphanage it was.”
Mr. Connors leaned back, interlacing his fingers. “I take it you are checking all the orphanages in the area?” Miss Thomas nodded once. He remained silent as he considered the two young people in front of him. Neither fit a particular type which made them dangerous. He hadn’t missed the young lady’s appraising his office. Nor had he missed the young man’s amazed look at how well he had done for himself. He suspected the young man at least had grown up in circumstances very similar to his orphans. Until he knew better, it might be better to play along with these two young people. “Exactly who are you looking for?”
“I believe his name was Thomas.” Miss Thomas answered after pulling a small book from her bag and pretending to look up the name. She wasn’t worried that Mr. Connors would see it was blank. It held a small charm to make it appear written in.
Mr. Connors frowned. “Thomas Thomas?” He asked, starting to think he was having a rather bad joke played on him.
Miss Thomas shook her head. “Did I say it was my father’s father?” She looked at the young man who shook his head. She turned a baleful look on him. “No indeed I did not. I merely stipulated that it was my grandfather’s brother.”
Mr. Connors held up his hands. “I beg your pardon, Miss Thomas. It was an honest mistake.” He turned to his computer sitting on his desk. “No doubt you’re wondering about why we don’t have paper files here.” He waited for a nod before continuing. “We do, but they’re kept at a different location. I decided we should upgrade to a better way of storing files.” His fingers typed across the keyboard quickly. “I’m sorry, there are many with the name Thomas. Perhaps you have another name?”
Miss Thomas looked at Mr. MacArthur with a questioning look. Mr. Connors suspected that something was definitely not as it seemed. Mr. MacArthur nodded at her unspoken question. She turned back to him. “Would any of them have been born about sixty years ago?”
Mr. Connors raised an eyebrow as she deftly dodged his question. He turned back to his screen and typed in another query. “I’m sorry. No one named Thomas was born between fifty-five and sixty-five years ago.” He gave them a long look. He didn’t dare call them on their tom-foolery quite yet. There was still the outside chance they were telling him the truth and didn’t have the last name. Many children didn’t have last names at the orphanage. There were several here that had no last name. “If you find out more information, don’t hesitate to call. Here’s my card.” He pushed a small cream card towards them. He pushed a button on his desk, “If that is all? My secretary will see you out.”
Miss Thomas took the card without looking at it before sticking it in her bag. The two stood as the young lady entered the room. “Thank you for your time, sir.” Miss Thomas said distastefully.
“Miss Haldings will take you back to the foyer.” He waved to the lady waiting at the doorway as if she had been forbidden to step further into the room. He turned his attention back to his computer while they followed her out of the room. After the door closed with a snick, he looked around his office, wondering if they had been checking on his handling of finances instead of looking for a relative. There were many odd things about them, least of which was how the young lady did not even look at his card before taking it. Finally he decided it really didn’t matter if the county started asking questions. He was more than ready to disappear. He even had piles of ready cash.
Ron and Hermione sat in a nearby park near a small pond. They watched the ducks swimming about aimlessly.
“Should we go to another orphanage today?” Ron asked.
Hermione shook her head. “I don’t think so. It’s already past noon right now and if we want to search the place, we’ll need more time.”
“Where do you think he’s hidden it?” Ron didn’t look at Hermione, he stared at the ducks.
Hermione remained silent for a long moment. “I doubt it would have been inside the orphanage. Didn’t Harry say something about him having done something in a barn?”
Ron frowned, thinking back to the night when Harry had told them everything. “I think so, something about some orphan’s pet?”
“And the locket was in the cave where he scared those other two orphans.” Hermione added.
“So we’re going to look in a barn at an orphanage?” Ron asked, glancing at Hermione.
Had they looked over, they would have seen him. Draco frowned as he watched Ron and Hermione sitting in front of the lake talking. Unfortunately, they were speaking too softly for him to hear their conversation. He glanced in the direction they had come from and he wondered where they had been. Would their actions be of interest to the Dark Lord? Or would he be giving himself up for no good reason? For all he knew, they had run away together and had left their families wondering what had become of them.
There was only one thing that stopped him from calling the Dark Lord right at that moment.
He was still uncertain. It was becoming more apparent that he was not like his father at all and serving the Dark Lord wasn’t what he had thought it to be. He hadn’t been able to look away as Professor Snape had done what he couldn’t do. What would happen if he fought against the Dark Lord? Could he be the first to turn? The information he knew was still valuable but it was difficult to find someone who would listen to him before hexing him for his past actions.
He couldn’t blame them.
So many of his bridges had been broken before he knew what had happened. His friends had turned out not to be his friends. Many of them were willingly following their parents’ orders. Others simply ignored him since his father’s imprisonment, though the Dark Mark earned the slightest bit of respect.
He shook his head. Neither Ron nor Hermione would listen to him.
Harry looked around blearily. What was that noise? He lifted his head from the table and blinked, trying to remember what happened. Was it Dudley? He frowned as the knocking continued. What had happened to his cousin? What had Tom done to them? He shook his head. Maybe Ginny would know, but right now he had to deal with another situation. He crossed the room and opened the door. “Ron?”
The young man looked at him oddly. “Nay, my name be not Ron, ‘tis Bilius.”
Harry nodded. “Right, Bilius.” He rubbed his eyes and looked again. The young man still looked like Ron, even to the bright Weasley hair.
“Thou hast slept away half the morn!” Bilius said with some surprise.
“I got here after the gates were closed last night.” Harry replied. “It was difficult to sleep.”
Bilius nodded with understanding. “I remember well my first days here. There be changes, but thou wilt find thy place soon enough.”
Harry blinked. If he needed any more proof that Ron was not standing in front of him that was it.
“What manner of clothing art thou wearing?” Bilius asked curiously. “’Tis most curious.”
Harry looked down and rolled his eyes. “I was traveling and was curious myself, but I find they are not comfortable.”
Bilius shook his head. “Well, thou wilt find proper clothing in the wardrobe.”
Harry wasn’t surprised when Bilius followed him into the room and kept up a running dialogue of what had been happening recently. He listened with one ear to the ramblings as he changed into the wizarding robes and fed his other clothes to a fire to Bilius’ dismay.
Soon they were walking through the corridors to the Great Hall. “How is it that thou do not get lost?” Harry asked.
Bilius stopped at looked at him with surprise. “Why, ‘tis part of Hogwarts! How dost thou not know this?”
“I arrived just last night.” Harry reminded him.
Bilius nodded. “Aye, thou didst say that. If thou wilt look carefully upon the wall?”
Harry looked, but still didn’t see anything. “What is it that I look for?”
Bilius reached out and touched a portion of the wall. “Look thee here. Dost thou not see the light?”
Harry looked closer and at first believed he was just seeing things. “I think so.”
“If thou art lost, Hogwarts knowest the way.” Bilius told him firmly. “Thou needs only to see.”
Harry watched as the light became stronger. “I see it better now. So this leads to the Great Hall?”
“Aye, for this moment,” Bilius agreed. “Now shall we break our fast before our day begins in earnest?”
Harry was taken by surprise because that sounded too much like Ron, “Aye.” He kept watching the light as they made their way to the Great Hall. “Is it because of this light that there are not many hangings?” he asked.
Bilius glanced at the wall and considered. “How many more hangings dost thou need? I daresay there are enough.”
How could you argue with that statement? Harry finally nodded his agreement.
“Look thee there!” Bilius interrupted Harry’s thoughts. “My fair Elspet sits with a lady I knowest not.”
Harry looked over to see Ginny sitting with an unknown lady, talking quite animatedly, “’Tis Ginny.”
“Then thou knowest the lady?” Bilius asked, impressed.
“Aye,” Harry replied.
Bilius all but pulled Harry over to the table where Elspet and Ginny were sitting, “Good morrow!” he called out.
Elspet smiled brightly. “Good morrow, Bilius. How dost thou fair this morn?”
“I have found a new student.” Bilius clapped Harry on his shoulder. He turned to him. “What be thy name again?”
“Harry of Godric’s Hollow,” He replied.
Bilius looked at Ginny. “What is thy name?” he asked in a pleasant tone that had Harry frowning.
Ginny chuckled at the look on Harry’s face, “Ginny of Ottery St. Catchpole.”
Bilius and Elspet looked at each other, troubled. “We are not overly familiar with those locations. Perhaps ye have another way to name yourselves?”
Harry considered. “Dost ye know of Surrey?” he asked. They nodded their agreement. “Then I be Harry of Surrey.”
“Knowest ye of Devon?” Ginny asked, after giving Harry a look he couldn’t interpret. Again, they nodded. “I be Ginny of Devon then.”
The three Founders watched Harry and Ginny. “We have heard that ye have amended your names?”
“Aye,” Harry said. “We realized not that the locations were unfamiliar.”
Godric nodded slowly. “That was then most wise. Be ye ready then for your examinations?”
Harry and Ginny nodded. Both had already sat their O.W.L.s, but neither expected these tests to be any easier.
“We have chosen a few of the magical arts for your tests today.” Lady Rowena said calmly. “The trials are in total a number of three days.”
Lady Helga gave them a sympathetic look. “There be no need to worry. What ye knowest not, you will learn. What ye dost know, you will learn again.”
Harry and Ginny exchanged a look.
“If thou wouldst, Harry, sit at yonder table.” Godric motioned to the table near the wall. “As well, if thou wouldst sit at thine own table, Ginny.” He pointed at the table against the other wall. “Then we mayest begin.”
Harry and Ginny moved quickly. He looked in front of him and saw that there was no parchment or quills. He didn’t even have his wand! How did they expect him to do magic? Then he had to concentrate when Godric began asking question after question concerning the topic of Transfiguration. When Godric took a break, either Lady Rowena or Lady Helga began to ask their own questions. Harry was glad when the questions finally ended.
“Take ye a small break for refreshment ere we begin the art of Charms.” Godric stated, waving his hand at the tables. A small plate of food and a glass of juice appeared.
By the end of the day, Harry was exhausted. They had not only covered the subject of Transfiguration in depth, but also Charms, Potions, Astronomy and Herbology. Harry had grimaced at his performance in Potions, but was surprised at how much he did know considering that Snape didn’t like teaching anyone not in the Slytherin House.
Ginny sat next to him, looking as tired as he felt. “Two more days of this?” she asked.
“Aye,” he replied. At her look of disbelief, he shrugged his shoulders. “I’m trying to fit in.”
She chuckled, “Aye.”
“How didst your trials be?” Bilius asked as he and Elspet sat across from them. “Ye appearest tired.”
“’Twas a challenge,” Harry agreed. “There is much my teacher covered not.”
“That I am able to understand.” Bilius agreed. “Though ‘twas my teacher left ere I was finished.” At their confused look, he clarified his statement. “He be not well at the time.”
Elspet shook her head slowly. “I learned not beyond what I have studied here. I be sent away from my village after there be a storm of stones.”
Ginny winced at the thought.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this chapter. In the interest of readability, I have chosen to use Middle English in lieu of Old English which would have been used in the time of the Founders.
Thank you very much for your constructive criticism!
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