Chapter 21 : Secrets Revealed
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Bill whistled to himself as the imposing main doors to Gringotts closed behind him. The sun was beginning its track behind the tall, colorful buildings. He held up his hand to shield his eyes as he looked around. Even though he’d been back in England for a couple years now, it just seemed as if the slanting sunlight was brighter than it had been in Egypt, though most of the buildings here had been created out of quartz or granite.
He was looking forward to getting home for dinner. He knew that Fleur had spent most of her day working on their new house, even though he wanted to help get it set up. She had told him that she’d leave a few things for him to do, but she wanted to have the house in a particular way. Her eyes had snapped brightly at him and he had given in after a few more offers to help. The cottage itself was small, but it was all they needed at the moment. He’d look into enlarging it as their family grew. Both of them had been surprised when Bill’s Auntie Muriel had given them her cottage as a wedding present, claiming she wasn’t going to be spending any more time on the beach because she didn’t like the silt.
He smiled as he walked along with his wand by his hand ready to be grabbed watching for danger, or more specifically, the known Death Eaters that had escaped from Azkaban yet again. He only glanced at the colorful Diagon Alley with its banners and larger than life posters as he hurried through the crowds of people. Just a few more steps and he’d reach the authorized Apparation spot that the Ministry had installed just a couple days back.
There would have been only one thing to stop him in his hurry to get home and he encountered it when a flash of bright red hair passed him. He stopped to turn around to see who it was. He knew Fred and George lived above their shop now and neither would have left their business as their building was always packed to the rafters with people wanting whatever they could get their hands on. He didn’t think it was Charlie, as he’d have said something this morning when Bill had stopped by the Burrow. It could be Ron, though. They were still no closer to finding either Ron or Hermione which gave them hope that the Death Eaters were unable to find them either. But if there was a chance of it being Ron and he let the opportunity slide by, he’d not be able to show his face at the Burrow for a long time without his Mum rightfully yelling at him.
He didn’t give the Ministry-approved Apparation point another look as he turned and hurried after the bright red-haired man, hoping with all his heart that it was Ron so that he could take him to task for worrying their Mum like they had.
It was a complete surprise to discover that it was Percy and not Ron hurrying in the opposite direction. There were many questions that occurred to him at the same time, the very first being why Percy was at Diagon Alley when he supposedly only went between the Ministry in London and the Burrow. Not that it was suspicious in of itself, but why would Percy lie about going to other places? And why would Percy feel like he needed to lie about something as simple as going to Diagon Alley?
He began following Percy at a distance, not wanting his brother to see him. He knew he was tall and with his dangling earring, Percy would be able to tell at a glance which brother followed him. He went into one of the side alleys that Bill knew led to a special wizarding community though not many people knew about the small areas just off of Diagon Alley. And that was how most of the people who lived there liked it. They wanted their secrets and it had become a higher secured area with a Magical Law Enforcement person or two that would walk the streets to keep them safe. Bill turned into Slant Ways to see a flash of red hair going into one of the houses.
Bill considered for a long moment about the situation. He really wanted to confront Percy, but he didn’t know what the situation was and he would be an idiot of the first rank to go in right now. It would be different if it was just himself like when he lived in Egypt as a curse-breaker, but it was different now - Fleur had to come first.
What he could do was take note of the location so someone from the Order could research the situation. He flicked his wand at himself to change his hair color and used a glamour charm to alter his face. When he felt he had transformed enough, he walked casually by the house and took note of the number without looking directly at it. Once he walked to the end of the street, he Apparated home heedless of any Ministry-approved Apparation points.
Hannah frowned as she studied the newspaper in front of her. It wasn’t the Daily Prophet, but one of the Muggle ones that her father insisted on having delivered. On the whole, it was a waste reading it because it said nothing about what she wanted to know. Something that Neville had written in his last letter about his concerns of what trouble it might spell. At first, she had only glanced at the major titles and tossed the newspaper aside until her father had asked why she didn’t read the entire paper. Her reply and his answer led to her aching back right now as she pored over every story, no matter how big or small. Even the obituaries had to be read.
“Did you find anything?” her father asked, somehow knowing when she would finish reading the papers. He folded his paper calmly, claiming that he always learned exactly what he wanted to know.
“No, I don’t understand why nothing’s being said about it,” Hannah shook her head in dismay. How could no one report about all the strange things happening? Were all the newspapers in on the conspiracy to hide any useful information?
“You’ve read between all the lines, then?” her father had trouble hiding his slight smile at her scowl. He placed his paper on the table next to him as he waited for her answer. These last few weeks, he was pleased she had started to get annoyed and cross. When he’d had to pull her from Hogwarts the year before because Death Eaters had killed her mother, she had hidden every last bit of her personality to become the perfect child. He wanted his sometimes contrary and stubborn daughter back.
“Read between what lines? All this has is junk!” Hannah sighed, not wanting to yell at her father. He was the only parent she had left since her Mum was killed and she didn’t want to worry him about what was happening in the wizarding world, even though it looked like it had turned into a war between the good wizards and witches and the bad ones.
“Hannah, the reporters must be having difficulties telling the news they are seeing. You tell me that there haven’t been hurricanes or faulty bridges but rather giants and Death Eaters causing all the damage, or the stray dragon or two, and you want the reporters to report that?” her father waited for a moment to see if she would respond. When she didn’t, he continued, “If they reported anything close to what you’ve told me, they’d be laughed out of their jobs! The public doesn’t want to hear about that. They want to hear about scandal and all that rot.”
Hannah’s expression changed to one of contemplation as she considered what he had explained. With a weary sigh, she picked up the stack of newspapers to begin reading through them once more time.
Headquarters was silent when they entered. They had been counting on the hope that the Order would have changed locations since Snape had killed Professor Dumbledore and as Secret Keeper could then tell Nitwit where Headquarters was. They had decided to find Kreacher’s nest first as it was more than possible that they would find the locket there, if Mundungus hadn’t stolen it.
They tiptoed through the house, not knowing if the Order was there or not. Until Harry had proven he was the rightful owner of the house, the Order had moved out. Even after Harry had demonstrated that he owned Grimmauld Place, they hadn’t moved back in. And now they wouldn’t because the secret was too free. Another question that Hermione had been wrestling with was who owned the place now since Harry didn’t have a Will. Harry was the last Potter and so it wouldn’t have continued down his line. Perhaps it had changed to the closest relatives he had which weren’t really known.
Hermione didn’t expect to see Kreacher since Harry had given him the command to live at Hogwarts. But she also knew that Kreacher hated Harry. She wouldn’t be surprised if Kreacher suddenly appeared just to disobey an order given by Harry should he have found a loophole.
She led Ron up to where she had found his nest before. They were both relieved to find it still there and still full of items that he had taken. Hermione’s old Christmas present lay unopened to one side of the nest. They waved their wands and while the stolen items wiggled around there was no silver locket.
“That would have been too easy,” Ron cursed. The entire house gave him the creeps and he really didn’t want to be there. Too many memories of cloaks that threatened his life and tea saucer-sized spiders haunted him.
The faint sounds of someone walking on the first floor reached them. They looked at each other with shock, realizing they had ignored any sounds of the front door opening. “We need to hide.” Hermione looked around frantically.
“Where?” Ron asked, gesturing at the room. There was nothing in the room except for Kreacher’s nest and only one of them would fit there if they wanted to chance catching any number of unwanted pests.
Hermione cautiously looked out the door and motioned for Ron to follow. He followed her to another room where she softly shut the door, carefully releasing the latch before locking it. They looked around at the room they were now hiding in. Unsurprisingly, it was done in Slytherin colors. Quietly, they moved around looking at various items. Ron found a picture of a young man who was waving and smiling brightly. Hermione pulled it from the tarnished silver frame to see who it was - Regulus Arcturus Black.
“That’s him!” Ron whispered loudly, “The one who took the real locket.”
Hermione nodded slowly, “Which means we’ll find the locket here if it hasn’t already been stolen.”
They carefully searched through the dresser and the cabinets. No locket. They searched the drapes and the molding mattress. No locket. They searched under the furniture. No locket.
Only when they heard the front door slam did they leave the room, hoping no one else was there. “Had to have been Mundungus,” Ron muttered, not bothering to hide his dislike of the person who had nearly cost Harry his life.
“Possibly,” Hermione replied, “But don’t let your guard down.”
They passed the painting of Sirius’ Mum, who was sleeping at the moment with the curtains open. Hermione stopped Ron and began to study the painting. There was no doubt that this woman would never have made Mother of the Year, but there was something strange. She put her finger to her lips and then pointed at the background. Ron frowned as he looked closely then nodded slowly.
Hermione looked at the name plate to see what her name was, but there was only a phrase. When she whispered the phrase to herself, Sirius’ Mum opened her eyes, staring balefully at them, “Never.”
Hermione exchanged a look with Ron. They walked to the front door and shut it behind them. Ron took Hermione’s arm as she Apparated them back to Godric’s Hollow.
Once they were safe inside the decaying Potter home, they sat at the table. “How are we going to get past that bat?” Ron demanded as he leaned his head on his hands, shaking his head.
“It is obvious now why no one was able remove her portrait,” Hermione shook her head. “She’s a portal!”
“That doesn’t explain how we’re going to get by her,” Ron reminded her. “You saw last year how she treated my family and those who aren’t Pure Blood.”
Hermione slumped in her chair, “There is that.”
“I’ll say it again,” Ron muttered darkly, “We need help.”
“I agree,” Hermione replied, surprising Ron. “What? I’ve had time to think it over and you’re right. We need help. Neither of us will be passing through that portal. Only a Pure Blood she considers worthy will pass through.”
“And of those she would let through, who would help us?” Ron snorted. “They all support You-Know-Who!”
“Not all of them,” Hermione reminded him. Suddenly, her face lit up, “She’ll only open for those on the wall!”
“What wall?” Ron demanded, starting to lose his patience. Why did it have to be so difficult to find the stupid Horcruxes? And once they were able to find them, they still hadn’t figured out how to destroy them.
“You know - the tapestry in the drawing room that Sirius couldn’t remove!” Hermione pointed out.
“But there’s still the fact that they blasted off those who didn’t support You-Know-Who.” Ron reminded her. He glanced over at the enchanted box holding one of the Horcruxes. Harry had used a Basilisk fang to destroy one of them.
Hermione chuckled, “Not all of them were blasted off the Tapestry. What about the Longbottoms?”
Ron considered for a long moment, “I think I saw them on there.”
“She was probably the one who was in charge of it,” Hermione thought out loud. “Didn’t she die before Nitwit’s first defeat?”
Ron shook his head, “No, it was after You-Know-Who fell.”
“Are you certain you saw the Longbottoms on the tapestry?” Hermione pressed the question. Ron nodded, knowing that Hermione was thinking furiously to create a plan. “Didn’t Harry say that Neville could have been the one to defeat Nitwit also?”
Ron looked at her in amazement, “He did! We need to talk to Neville!”
“I think Neville stands a good chance of getting through that portal,” Hermione agreed.
Bill entered Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes after he left Gringotts that evening. He had told Fleur before leaving for work that he was going to stop by to talk with Fred and George for a little bit. He had timed his visit near the end of the day so that Fred and George would be able to go upstairs to their small apartment without worrying about their employees being completely taken over by their customers.
Fred saw him when he entered and waved, “Be right there.”
Bill waved back as he walked over to George standing behind the counter, “I need to talk with you both.”
“Talk to us?” Fred asked from behind him.
Bill nodded, “I found an interesting tidbit that I need to talk to someone about before speaking with Dad.”
Fred and George exchanged a look. “You have an interesting tidbit?” Fred asked, “One that we’d be interested in?”
“What is it about?” George asked.
“Can we go upstairs?” Bill asked, “I need to tell you in private.”
Fred and George exchanged another look before agreeing. “Lee!” George called out, “Watch the merchandise!” Lee looked up and nodded as Fred motioned they were going upstairs for a bit.
Bill followed the twins up the stairs into their apartment. Bill shut the door behind him before waving his wand and Sealing it for good measure, surprising the twins for the first time.
“Looks serious, Gred,” Fred looked at his twin.
“It is,” Bill interrupted before they could pick up steam. He began pacing.
“What is it?” George asked, beginning to look a little alarmed. “Is it something to do with the Order?”
“What do you know about Percy’s movements since he came back to the Burrow?” Bill asked instead.
“Hasn’t he just been going to work and coming home?” Fred asked.
“He’s been rather duller than when he was Prefect and Head Boy,” George added.
“Duller?” Bill gave a mirthless laugh, “I daresay that your opinions will change when you hear.”
“Hear what?” Fred asked.
“I saw Percy in Diagon Alley yesterday,” Bill told them.
“Diagon Alley?” George frowned.
“Why didn’t he stop by to say hello?” Fred asked.
“That’s just plain rude,” George agreed.
Bill waved his hand, “Be that as it may, it gets stranger. Percy went down one of the side Alleys that lead to the secret homes.”
“How would he know about the secret homes?” Fred was indignant.
“He’s too fussy to know about those,” George agreed.
Bill chuckled, “He does know about those homes because he went into one.”
Fred and George stared at him in shock, “Are you certain you’re not just seeing things?”
“I wish,” Bill finally sat in one of the chairs. “I even have the address. I changed my hair color and face just enough to walk by to get the number.”
“And?” Fred and George waited impatiently for his answer.
“I was planning on asking Dad to look into it, but I’ve noticed Dad’s had more than a little bit of tension since Fleur and I’ve gotten back from holiday,” Bill explained, “Perhaps with your, devices shall we say, could look into the situation without alerting Percy that we know about his subterfuge?”
Fred and George exchanged a look then looked at Bill, “You’ll be the first to know.”
A/N: As always, I hope you have enjoyed this next chapter. Please let me know what you thought about this chapter, especially if you have constructive criticism! I am always looking for ways to improve my writing! Thank you very much!
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