Chapter 1 : Gringotts (Prologue Part 1)
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AN: This story begins (and ends) just before Harry’s final confrontation with Voldemort but the story proper is actually about Harry’s recollections of the summer after Year 6 (HBP) just before they set out to hunt the Horcruxes.
This story was originally posted on Portkey in November 2006. Minor corrections and edits for language only.
Gringotts (Prologue Part 1)
It is almost a year since they set out to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes …
Harry Potter just sat there grinning stupidly. He couldn’t quite believe that he’d forgotten how much fun the exhilarating ride down to his Gringott’s family vault could be. He was almost tempted to immediately beg for another ride through the maze of tunnels deep under London.
The goblin that had accompanied him on the journey had got out from the railed cart and was waiting patiently for Harry to disembark. He didn’t seem to expect Harry to leap out at once and Harry wondered if passengers usually took a moment or two to recover from the break-neck speed of the journey.
Harry wasn’t totally sure that taking such enjoyment out of the simple pleasure of a trip down through Gringott’s tunnels was an entirely good thing. He knew that just lately he had been doing this with so many things he had previously almost taken for granted.
Hermione had noticed it in him too; reminding him that Moody’s advice about constant vigilance was never more apt. That was when she’d caught him watching her writing up her latest findings when she felt he should have been concentrating on the latest Ministry reports she had summarised.
Finally Harry stood up and stepped out onto the wide platform next to the goblin.
“As Sir does not have his key, Sir will need to give me permission to open the vault for you.”
“Oh, right. Um, I give my permission,” Harry said hesitantly, fearing yet another lecture on key security was imminent.
The goblin extended a long finger and stroked it gently down the face of the black metal door. Harry heard a lock mechanism operate and the large door swung open.
“Thanks,” said Harry, stepping inside.
The goblin snapped his fingers and wall lanterns inside the vault sprang into life.
“Thanks,” said Harry again but the goblin was already walking back to the cart.
“I will return for you later, Mr Potter. When you lock the door I will be notified. Your key is inside the vault. I suggest you take care to pocket it before someone decides to lock you inside.”
Harry smiled politely and waved as the goblin rode off.
He turned and re-entered the vault, wondering why the lanterns had been out.
“Sorry I was so long,” Harry said with a smile. “I got to Gringotts within an hour but they insisted upon giving me a lecture on vault security before bringing me down here. I was a little surprised when they contacted me, but it’s a good job they did. I suppose there must be anti-apparition charms around here?”
Ron didn’t answer. He was sitting, hunched up against the far wall of the vault.
“You okay, Ron?”
Ron looked up, but didn’t return Harry’s smile. Harry thought he looked a little shame-faced.
“Don’t worry,” Harry said encouragingly. “No-one else knows you locked yourself in here and that’s the way it’s going to stay as far as I’m concerned.”
Harry walked over to a small table propped against the far wall that had a green velvet cloth draped over it. After pausing a moment to peruse the objects arranged on the table, he dug his hand deep inside his robe pocket and withdrew a small silver cup.
He allowed himself a satisfied smile as his fingers played over the deep scar-shaped crack in the side of the cup. Hufflepuff’s motif was just still recognisable, but none of the artefact’s legendary magical properties remained in the cup now.
Hermione had made it quite clear she thought he had been somewhat irresponsible in the manner in which this particular Horcrux was destroyed. They hadn’t needed to, but Harry wanted to use the method Dumbledore had devised rather than the safer method they had discovered.
He had argued that he was just bored with their solution, although Hermione had seen through this at once. Harry, of course, needed to prove something to himself; he needed to know that he really was finally ready to face Voldemort.
In the event Harry had indeed been both quick enough and powerful enough to despatch the Horcrux single-handedly. His only regret was upsetting Hermione who had left the room muttering about how reckless he had become.
The truth, they both knew, was a little different. Far from reckless, Harry had become cold and calculating over the last year. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d acted on impulse and had spent the entire previous night and that morning making meticulous preparations.
Even so, Harry recognised that as the hour approached the cracks in his façade were growing more evident.
He placed the sixth and final former Horcrux right in the middle of the table and turned to face Ron who was still sitting on the floor.
“We’re eating at your Mum and Dad’s place for lunch,” said Harry, hoping to provoke Ron into saying something. “Hermione wasn’t sure it was wise, but I wanted us all to be together for one last meal.”
Ron began to say something, but his throat caught and he coughed before trying again.
“I wish you wouldn’t talk like that, Harry. You know where he’ll be then?”
“Yes, I think so. Wormtail said he overheard Voldemort telling Snape to meet him at midnight tonight.”
“Are you going to tell us where that will be?”
“No. We’ve been over this. Thanks to you and Hermione, Voldemort is finally mortal again. You’ve given me a chance, and that’s all I’ve a right to expect. Just a chance.”
“I bet Hermione isn’t going to let you go off alone.”
“Well, I was hoping I could rely on you to stop her following; I need to know that you’re safe, at least until the morning.”
Ron sighed deeply.
“Harry, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“Sure, Ron. What is it?”
“I’ve wanted to tell you for some time now, only I was too afraid. No, that’s not right,” he admitted. “I was too ashamed.”
Harry frowned slightly, and then walked over and sat down next to Ron on the cold York stone floor.
“What is it?”
Ron handed him a delicate silver necklace. Harry recognised it at once and he held it up, his tiny Gringotts key spinning around and catching the light.
Harry smiled and immediately offered it back to Ron.
“Here, you keep it.”
“When was the last time you were down here, Harry?”
“I don’t know, exactly. It must be a couple of years, I suppose. Why?”
“Look around you, Harry.”
Harry looked around but didn’t see anything remarkable.
“What am I supposed to be looking for?”
“Why aren’t you wondering why there isn’t more gold?”
“Gold?” Harry said in surprise. “I didn’t think there’d be any left the way we’ve been spending it!”
“Well, there isn’t any left, obviously.”
“I said from the outset that every Knut I had in here could be spent, didn’t I?”
“Yeah, but,” began Ron.
“Look, I know Hermione wasn’t happy about bribing people, but at the end of the day it worked. So what if it was expensive and we were paying off people we would call less than desirable? That gold got us to a position where all the Horcruxes have been destroyed. What’s more, Voldemort still has no clue what we were really doing. You did brilliantly, Ron.”
“Harry, I spent more than just your gold. I even sold off some of the artwork I found buried underneath.”
“They were just old vases and such.”
“Oh, I thought you meant paintings,” said Harry, who had very few reminders of the family he never knew.
“No, there were no paintings.”
“Well, I know you just did whatever was necessary. If we were running short then you were right to sell off whatever you could.”
“I, er,” began Ron again, but Harry turned hearing his voice wavering. Ron looked very red in the face now and Harry thought he knew what Ron would say next.
“Your inheritance is all gone, Harry.”
“I’ve never cared about that money. You know that. Ron, please believe me when I say I’m glad we could afford our campaign. Please don’t feel bad for just doing what I asked you to do.”
“Harry, not all the gold went on Hermione’s researches and my bribes.”
“We must have spent quite a bit on Fred and George’s gadgets,” added Harry. “Those Dark Mark seeking rockets were brilliant once they got the charm right.”
He grinned to himself remembering how the Order had gathered at Hogwarts and launched barrage after barrage of enchanted missiles with Harry opening and closing the protective wards just in time to prevent retaliatory strikes. They had even stopped for a brief interlude to enjoy Ron’s barbeque.
Harry was about to remind Ron about that night when he saw his serious expression. Harry felt the grin slide off his face.
“I used your gold for other things too. I took some for myself.”
“Ron, we all had expenses. I told you to take whatever you needed. You were more than entitled, especially as because of me you’ve been unable to earn any gold of your own.”
“You shouldn’t have given me the key, Harry.”
“No? Just how many of those Horcruxes would we still be looking for if it wasn’t for all your efforts?”
“We wasted so much money on false leads, though.”
“Perhaps, but we had to try. For the record, I think Hermione over-reacted to that set of spoons. After all, they might have been genuine.”
“No, I got conned with those,” Ron admitted, rubbing his hands through his hair. “They switched the real ones on me.”
“But you learned a valuable lesson.”
“Yeah, don’t admit to Hermione how much I really paid for things.”
Harry snorted, but was a little concerned not to see Ron even smile. He knew both Ron and Hermione would be upset at his decision not to take them to the final confrontation, but he’d hoped that at least Ron would be more upbeat.
“I’ve tried to get one thing back, though,” said Ron. “I found a chest in here. It was buried and full of gold coins. They were foreign, though, not Galleons. Anyway, when it was empty I wondered if I could get anything for it.”
“Good idea,” agreed Harry.
“Not really. I sold it to Dung.”
Harry’s face fell. He had never quite forgiven Mundungus Fletcher for stealing Sirius’ things and hadn’t once controlled his temper whenever they had met since. Ron had usually acted as an intermediary between them.
“Anyway,” continued Ron, “a while later I saw another chest just like it. Fred had bought it from somewhere, and he told me that it was enchanted to secretly store papers and such. I had no idea it might contain papers about your family, Harry. I did eventually get it back, but it was empty and Dung wouldn’t admit who he’d sold it to.”
“Wouldn’t he have looked before he sold it on?” asked Harry. “I expect he just burnt any papers he found in there.”
“Yeah, that’s what I figured.”
“You know? We should probably get going or we’ll miss dinner as well as lunch,” said Harry, hoping that the prospect of a little home cooking would cheer Ron up.
“Harry, do you remember last year? When you returned to your Aunt and Uncle’s place last summer.”
“How could I forget?” said Harry darkly, thinking of the Dursleys’ behaviour.
“I’ve been sitting here thinking about that.”
“Um, why?” Harry felt compelled to ask.
“Why? Well, that’s when it all began.”
Harry immediately stiffened, regretting that he hadn’t been a little sharper on the uptake. He had managed, with no small difficulty, to avoid speaking to Ron about certain events of the previous summer.
Instead they had each pretended that nothing had happened.
“No, Harry, that’s not what I mean. Okay, I didn’t believe you then. Of course, I do still sometimes wonder about now.”
Harry sighed deeply.
“It’s still true, Ron. Nothing has-” began Harry, but he was interrupted by Ron.
“I’ve never dared ask if you’re entirely happy about that.”
“Ron, I’m planning on murdering Voldemort later this evening. I know I’m useless at burying my emotions, but I’d rather not give him too much of an advantage.”
“Sorry, Harry. Why don’t you lock me in again and go?”
“Ron, why would I want to do that?”
“Like I said,” said Ron, now staring up at the ceiling. “It really all started when you went back to Privet Drive. Charlie told me he was going over to see you and explain in person. I mean, I was disappointed but part of me thought it would be good.
“Hermione could never relax when you were around anyway and I figured it would be a good chance for us to finally spend some time together.”
Harry relaxed back against the stone wall, accepting that Ron wouldn’t move until he’d told Harry whatever it was that was really bothering him. In truth, he was more that a little irked that the few hours he had left to enjoy the company of Hermione and the other Weasleys would be reduced.
He had accepted Mrs Weasley’s invitation before he learned where Voldemort planned to be that evening, so he had been spared the dilemma of worrying what he should do with regards to Hermione.
He smiled to himself. He was going to face Voldemort but the only thing that really worried him was Hermione.
“I know what you’re thinking, Harry,” said Ron, making him start. He hadn’t been listening to a word Ron was saying to him.
“Um, what’s for lunch?” he offered hopefully, although privately he shuddered at the notion of Ron knowing what he was actually thinking.
Harry turned his head to look at Ron. He had a far-away look that made Harry wonder if he had even heard him.
“I was so angry with you both,” continued Ron in barely a whisper. “It just made it so much easier to justify what I did; what I-”
Harry knew at once what Ron was talking about, and was once again driven back to the same old dilemma: Should he tell Ron the truth?
The answer before had always been an emphatic no; but later tonight he hoped to challenge Voldemort for a final time. If he died, he would only leave Ron feeling anguished. It might even be worse if he lived and had to face Ron again.
Harry consoled himself with the knowledge that Hermione had agreed that Ron should not be told; at least, not yet. Agreed? That was an interesting way to put it, he mused.
He also hadn’t exactly lied to Ron, although that wasn’t quite the same as telling him the whole truth.
As Ron continued to talk, Harry’s thoughts drifted back to the events of previous summer …
“Potter, would you mind telling me why you are pointing your wand at me?”
Harry has returned to Privet Drive for one last time. Professor McGonagall visits him with news about the future of Hogwarts and explains she is carrying a memory Dumbledore intended him to have.
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